Zi71bFS9nQHnivtvUJquhejTHIQ The Story Factory Reading Zone: March 2013

Sunday, 31 March 2013

Reflection on 'Spring Green'

The last post of Spring Green March

 March has been very interesting this year. I decided to mark the beginning of spring on my blog by taking about nature and the environment. But here in Britain, whilst some of nature has begun to think of the new season, many of us are still stuck in the throws of winter.

Over the past week the South of England (where I live) has seen smatterings of snow. Elsewhere in the country people have been less lucky, seeing snow storms that I haven't seen the like of before. People have become trapped in their cars. I even heard tell of one family who were forced to burn their furniture for heat. And yet, this is officially spring!

The daffodils and blossom are out! The animals are making plans for their new families! Last weekend I took part in a Passion Play and Easter's on its way! The schools are on their Spring holiday! And so, despite the weather, in some ways we are welcoming new life!

Here, on my blog, cold temperatures and a busy lifestyle have meant few posts that weren't scheduled. For that I apologize! But, over the last couple of days I've tried to share with you some of what I've been thinking about this month.

I've been busy reading 'A Life Stripped Bare' by Leo Hickman! And its really inspired me to think again about my impact on nature. I've brought out my Good Shopping Guide from the shelf and started trying to avoid those really nasty mass-market producers. I've used my ice card (designed for ethical shopping) for the first time and forked out on ethical products from online stores. I've also looked at how I can combine local shopping within the busy lifestyle I've become accustomed to. 

Over the Easter holidays my hope is that I'll be able to reduce my reliance on my car, thereby also helping myself to keep fitting through walking. Now if only I could shake off my current cold!

What have you been up to this month?

Saturday, 30 March 2013

Hidden Dangers

Renee soon drifts away to carry on rummaging through our cupboards. She lets out a little shriek. Oh God, has she found one of the mice that seem to have signed a new tenancy agreement on the space behind the kitchen sink? But no, she lifts up a bottle of bleach she's found under the sink.
"Look," she says. "There's also Cif cream, limescale remover, Bold laundry liquid, Sainsvury's dishwasher tablets and Milton sterilizing tablets for "complete protection from germs". Here's proof that as a nation we're obsessed with completely eradicating germs from our lives."
Now all three of them are looking through our cleaning products.
"Why keep so many poisons in a room where you prepare food, Leo?" asks Hannah, holding up a can of oven cleaner. The auditors are all in agreement- this cupboard is highly toxic and its contents need an urgent ethical overhaul.
Bleach is a particularly evil substance to be releasing into our sewers, states Mike. "You evidently use a bleach product to clean the floors are the loo. Bleach contains some very effective toxic chemicals, which is why it kills germs. It's powerful stuff and should be used sparingly."
 From A Life Stripped Bare by Leo Hickman

How do you deal with germs?

Friday, 29 March 2013

A Life Stripped Bare by Leo Hickman (Review)

Goodreads Summary:

It is hardly news that a growing number of people want to step back from the brink of western consumerism and find a way to live an all-round cleaner existence - one that is not only easier on the physical body but one that is lighter on the conscience too. So how do we go about it? Most people fight shy of giving up their cars, or their toxic household products, their cheap washing machines, or dodgy, unethical bank accounts in order to make the world a better place but Leo Hickman, resident consumer expert of the Guardian, reckoned he should give it a try and report back on whether it is possible to live a life that is western but aware.

My review:
I started off this book wanting to do something more to help the world that we all live in, and needing a little bit more guidance. What I found was an amusing tale of a man who wants to do the same, and comes across the same kind of stumbling blocks that I've found in the past.
When I read a book I always bookmark passages that I've found useful, inspiring, or just simply think I might want to look back on again. This book must certainly come close to the record number of tags that I've placed. Whilst a lot of the advice is outdated, it really made me think about the way I live. The result was that, last week, I went shopping with a much shorter list which was accompanied by which companies I felt I could no longer buy from. The list was not directly from this book, but the author did point me in the right direction.
Read this book if you want to be inspired to help the world you live in! Read this book if you dare to know how your everyday life can affect nature and other people! Read this book if you want to have some fun amidst the struggle of your own ethical journey!

Action Reader's Action: Look carefully at the labels on products next time you go shopping. Try to buy goods showing the fairtrade, organic, vegetarian society, or FSC marks. 

What do you do to help our world?

Thursday, 28 March 2013

Ethical tea-making

"I suppose this might be a good time to talk about your use of electrical appliances," says Renee, watching me spark up our gas hob to boil water in our whistle kettle. Surely they can't criticize this- it doesn't even have to be plugged in. Mike and Renee begin to discuss whether it's more energy efficient to boil water on a gas hob or to use an electric kettle.
After some debate about how much flame should be on shoe beneath the kettle, Hannah interjects, "The inherent inefficiency of conventional electricity production makes gas preferable in terms of carbon emissions. Unless your supplier draws completely on renewable energy sources, in which case I'd recommend a UK-made steel, concealed-element kettle like those made by Russell Hobbs. Steel is longer lasting, won't potentially leach chemicals into the water and you can boil as little as you want. 
from A Life Stripped Bare by Leo Hickman

How do you make your cuppa tea?

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Bloglovin' Code

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Tour Stop: The Persnickety Princess by Falcon Storm (Review & giveaway)

About the book:
High up in the tallest tower of the purplest castle in the Kingdom by the Sea, Princess Lavender awaits rescue. Desperate as she may be, only the most dashing, well dressed, properly mannered prince will do. Oh, and he must stand exactly four and three-quarters inches taller than her. A princess has got to have standards, after all. When, finally, one such prince comes to her castle—not to rescue her, but her younger sister—Lavender refuses to be ignored. Instead of waiting for the next suitor to come along, she devises a plan to put herself in danger, thus forcing the upstart prince to forget her sister and rescue her instead. Well accustomed to getting her way, there is only one thing, unfortunately, that this princess can’t control—her luck. When her plans go awry, putting her in very real danger, will she allow the prince to rescue her as he sees fit? Will he even want to try? And will anyone be able to find a way to rescue Lavender from her persnickety ways once and for all? Find out in this comedic tale of princes, dragons, and dreams that just may come true. The Persnickety Princess is a lower grade chapter book intended for kids 6 to 9 years old (although kids of all ages are sure to enjoy it! Pick up your copy through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords or Kobo Books.  

My review:
An amusing tale. Suitable for children, as well as being a very light and quick adult read. Enter a magical, yet familiar world, which children are bound to relate to.
I found the characters well-rounded and charming. I particularly enjoyed the Persnickety Princess and the moral tale which she bestows. Her preconceptions are sure to make any adult who is familiar with youngsters chuckle to themselves.
A great story for adults to share with their young ones at bedtime.

Action Reader's Action: Consider you preconceptions and how you can challenge them. 

About the author:
I was born in the frozen wasteland of Alaska with the unfortunate stigma of being both a daydreamer and left-handed. Starting from an early age, I've filled my life with stories of every sort from my father's hunting trips to the Holy Trilogy (read: Star Wars). In the fourth grade, I became more interested in telling stories of my own than listening to those of others. Doctors—being doctors—attempted to medicate them out of me, but the best cure has always been a pen, a notebook, and my crazy, unrestrained imagination. I continue to whittle away at these stories in my endless search for the one that will finally bring me back to reality. All the while, I secretly hope such a story will never come along. I hear "reality" is far too boring. Connect with Falcon on his website, Facebook, GoodReads, or Twitter.  

About the prizes:
Who doesn't love prizes? You could win (1) a $25 Amazon gift card, (2) a $50 Amazon gift card, or (3) a Princess Prize Pack, which includes a plush purple dragon, necklace with lavender pendant, The Fairy Godmother's Guide to Being a Princess, tiara and wand party set, and a DVD of The Princess Bride. Here's what you need to do...
  1. Enter the Rafflecopter contest
  2. Leave a comment on my blog.
That's it! One random commenter during this tour will win the $50 gift card. Visit more blogs for more chances to win--the full list of participating bloggers can be found here. The other two prizes (including the awesome Princess Prize Pack) will be given out via Rafflecopter. You can find the contest entry form linked below or on the official Persnickety Princess tour page via Novel Publicity. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

What was your favourite childhood book?


Monday, 11 March 2013

Hannah's Voice by Robb Grindstaff (excerpt and giveaway)


The giant barn-shaped house out in the country had a couple rooms added on. They'd finished the basement and turned it into a large dormitory-style room for the boys. Daniel slept in there to keep an eye on the boys at night. The girls had three bedrooms set up by ages, each room able to accommodate two to four girls. The bunk beds were regularly taken apart and moved from one room to another as kids of different ages came and went.
For the past two years, I'd been situated in the middle room, always with another girl or two, but close enough to the others so I could hear them cry at night and go check on them.
Ma and Pa were like the grandparents from a TV show or something—gray hair, except for when Ma's was tinged with blue. They'd had a "shotgun wedding," as Ma called it, when they were sixteen. Shortly after the wedding, she lost the baby and never could get pregnant again. They started taking in the occasional stray, and finally got officially certified as a group foster home when Pa finished building the house and they could move out of the trailer.
They never had a harsh word for any of us kids, just, "Here are the rules, and you can stay as long as you abide by them. Break the rules, and you have to leave."
Getting kicked out of the Lyons' place meant going back to the state facility in Raleigh. No one got beat here, but a look of disappointment from Ma or Pa did more good than any whipping. We got home-cooked meals rather than institutional food, and we had a field and a forest to play in, a pond for fishing, and enough chores and homework to keep out of trouble.
Every Sunday, we piled into two vans and headed for Sunday School and church service. Every evening, Pa would read a passage from the Bible and tell us what it meant, and explain how we should apply it to our daily lives, and then we'd have prayer requests and prayer time.
I wrote down the same prayer request every night and handed it to Ma. "Dear Lord Jesus, please help me find my momma." And every night, Pa or Ma would pray and ask Jesus for every child's prayer request to be answered. Except if they asked for a new bicycle or video game or doll. Pa said we shouldn't pray for material or selfish things, but only for the Lord to provide what we need, and for us to learn how to be better Christians, like how to love someone who hates us, or forgive someone who'd done us wrong. And we could pray for other people, so some kids prayed for their mommas or daddies to find a job or quit meth or to get out of jail soon and become good Christians. We could write down prayers of thanks, too, like when kids would thank the Lord for the Lyons and for the food and for not having to sleep with their little brother who wet the bed.
Pa didn't mind praying for me to find my momma every night for ten years. He didn't think it was asking for a material or selfish thing. But after a while, I wasn't even sure I was praying to find Momma, or if not writing it down one night might look like I didn't love her anymore. The first night I didn't make that prayer request might be the first night the Lord Jesus would listen to me.


When six-year-old Hannah's brutal honesty is mistaken for lying, she stops speaking. Her family, her community, and eventually, the entire nation struggle to find meaning in her silence.

School officials suspect abuse. Church members are divided—either she has a message from God or is possessed by a demon. Social workers interrupt an exorcism to wrest Hannah away from her momma, who has a tenuous grip on sanity. Hidden in protective foster care for twelve years, she loses all contact with her mother and remains mute by choice.

When Hannah leaves foster care at age eighteen to search for Momma, a national debate rages over her silence. A religious movement awaits her prophecy and celebrates her return. An anarchist group, Voices for the Voiceless, cites Hannah as its inspiration. The nation comes unhinged and the conflict spills into the streets when presidential candidates chime in with their opinions on Hannah—patriotic visionary or dangerous radical. A remnant still believes she is evil and seeks to dispatch her from this world. 

Hannah stands at the intersection of anarchists and fundamentalists, between power politics and an FBI investigation. All she wants is to find her momma, a little peace and quiet, and maybe some pancakes. 

One word would put an end to the chaos if Hannah can only find her voice.

If you would like to win one of 5 copies of Robb Grindstaff's Short stories then fill in the rafflecopter form below:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

Buy Links 


About the author:
In addition to a career as a newspaper editor, publisher, and manager, I’ve written fiction most of my life. The newspaper biz has taken my family and me from Phoenix, Arizona, to small towns in North Carolina and Texas, and from seven years in Washington, D.C., to five years in Asia. Born and raised a small-town kid, I’m as comfortable in Tokyo or Tuna, Texas. I now reside in a small community in Wisconsin where I manage the business operations of a daily newspaper. The variety of places I’ve lived and visited serve as settings for the characters who invade my head.

I’ve had a dozen short stories published in several print anthologies and e-zines, and several articles on the craft of writing fiction. My first novel, Hannah’s Voicedebuted January 15, 2013, and two more novels are in the works for 2013-14.
I also edit fiction and non-fiction books for authors from around the world. It helps that I’m fluent in five languages: U.S. English, U.K. English, Canadian English, and Australian English, plus my native language, Texan.

Twitter: @RobbWriter

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Happy Mothers Day

Wishing a Happy Mothers Day to everyone in the UK

What did/will you do for Mother's Day?

Monday, 4 March 2013

Music Out of the Pages: Traditional dance

"Pierre approached, listening to the intonations, the songs and cries, the drumming sequence."

from A Name of Her Own by Jane Kirkpatrick

Saturday, 2 March 2013


If you live in (or near) New York, you may be interested in RELit NY

The basic idea is that books are dropped off and then put out in boxes around the subway for others to take. Another great way to get rid of your unwanted books!

Click here for more about RELit NY and how to get involved

Friday, 1 March 2013

Welcome to 'Spring Green' March

March is 'Spring Green' month!

Spring is finally upon us here in the Northern hemisphere, and that means a chance to appreciate nature. 
This month we'll be thinking about all eco-book-related things, including e-books, BookCrossing, and books about the environment and recycling.

As always, I'd love to read your opinions. So please do leave a comment (or two, or more!) telling us about your favourite nature-friendly books, or book-connected activities.
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