Casa Katy – Some of my favourite things

I’ve been in my little house now for over 7 months! That seems like such a long time, but I have to confess, it’s still a work in progress. With the nice weather, I’ve been focusing on my garden a lot, but that doesn’t mean to say I’ve neglected the rest of the house!

It’s funny how your priorities can soon shift. Before I got my little house, most of my spendies went on a combination of clothes, music and books. But beyond an outfit for the races and a bit of a sales-splurge in New Look (which was uncharacteristic anyway!), I’ve not spent that much on clothes (and to be honest, I need to…) Why? Because I would much, much rather spend money on Casa Katy! Continue reading “Casa Katy – Some of my favourite things”


Music review – Tarja ‘The Shadow Self’ and ‘The Brightest Void’

I don’t often do reviews of stuff, but I am a huge Tarja Turunen fan, and this double-release of two full length albums really deserves a place on my blog. If you’re not into metal, or opera, or the two together, maybe give this a miss, but if you have an open mind and are able to appreciate truly outstanding artists, I implore you, give these a go!

Tarja, Tarja Turunen, music, review, metal, symphonic metal, The Shadow Self
The Shadow Self against the special edition of Colours in the Dark

A bit of obligatory background: Tarja Turunen is a classically-trained soprano hailing all the way from Finland, and was for a long time the singer and (as these things so often turn out) “face” of Finnish symphonic metallers Nightwish. Coincidentally my absolute favourite band (though Epica come a very close second). Tarja no longer sings with Nightwish, and they’re on their second singer since her departure. I think I maybe reviewed Endless Forms Most Beautiful when it first came out. But this is about Tarja, who has forged a very successful and very good solo career since that creative combination broke. My Winter Storm, What Lies Beneath and Colours in the Dark are all fab albums, and What Lies Beneath probably ranks up there as one of my favourite all-time albums, if not in the number one spot. Just freaking listen to Naiad, Anteroom of Death, In for a Kill.

Now this year Tarja released two albums, which is a fair feat. And I don’t mean this rubbish of re-released a CD with a couple of extra weak bonus songs tacked on the end (every Top 40 artist, I’m looking at you). There are a couple of repetitions, but they are reimaginations of the same song.

When The Brightest Void came out, I was a little underwhelmed. I made the mistake of watching the video for No Bitter End for my first listen, and the hair-metal-esque performance didn’t fit right with the song (alas, in metal, so often the videos jar with the songs themselves, but I mean, anything is better than grinding up in the club). I listened to the album on Spotify for a while, and the rest of the songs were decent; I absolutely love Eagle Eye, that really stuck with me long afterwards, and Shameless was a good little rocking number. The more atmospheric, spacey songs, An Empty Dream and Witch Hunt, merit more attention – as background noise (I listen to music while I’m writing) they sort of just blurred into one. Overall, it was OK, but not quite what I was expecting.

Then came The Shadow Self, and oh my freaking god. This woman has blown it out of the park.

Tarja, Tarja Turunen, music, review, singer, symphonic metal, metal

Tarja, Tarja Turunen, Finnish singer, metal, symphonic metal, music, review, The Shadow Self

Tarja, Tarja Turunen, new album

Tarja already has a sensational vocal range, and she just blasts it out here. If you listen to Innocence, the second single, good Lord, the chorus sends shivers down my spine, and the insane piano work accompanying – including the sublime solo in the middle – is just sensational. Love to Hate feeds amazingly into Supremacy, a cover of the Muse song, which had Matt Bellamy hitting those high notes – alright, OK, so his falsetto is you know, fair, but Tarja, a proper soprano, hits that note and soars miles above anything else. Diva is exactly as the name suggests; it’s like a more sinister, more cutting, and I imagine more personal version of Primadonna from Phantom; minus the cheese and the pantomime. A reviewer on Amazon speculated about the song’s focus on the painful split from Nightwish. I don’t want to go into too much about that, but I mean, the parallels are there. (Though: I Walk Alone, come on! Even Anteroom of Death, Dark Star – they could easily all have roots in that. And, dare I say it, as a fellow ‘artist’ I completely get that inspiration comes from personal experience, and what better pot of ideas is there than the one created by a post-break-up, be it romantic or professional or whatever.) Undertaker has a wonderful vocal line in the verses, and is dead catchy, and not quite as far along the inventive/creative/out-there track as something like An Empty Dream or Witch Hunt.

I prefer the mellower version of Eagle Eye on The Brightest Void, but I much prefer the version of No Bitter End here. And Demons in You parallels nicely against Your Heaven and Your Hell, though I love the unusual intro for Demons in You, and while Alissa White-Gluz’s growling vocals aren’t going to be to anyone’s taste, they are on-point here, and her clean vocals are lovely (plus she has great hair, but that’s nothing to do with anything). I’m not sure about the weird end bit at the end of Too Many: it’s a fab closing track, but it’s a huge pet peeve of mine when bands and artists put “hidden tracks” at the end of songs – what even is the deal with that? It sounds naff on my car stereo, I have to listen through silence, I very rarely like both of them… and this one is just a bit random.

The Shadow Self is an excellent album. Colours in the Dark got a bit experimental in the middle, and sometimes the songs Tarja chooses to cover are a bit, uh, out there (I did quite like the Peter Gabriel cover, Darkness). But Supremacy is like something else, and sits so well on this album (here’s looking at you, Goldfinger). I think this well definitely be getting some serious listens for a good long time now!

Also, see the lady herself in concert! She blows my mind; I mean, she covered Vermilion by Slipknot, which despite being the only Slipknot song I like, is one of my favourite songs. Come on!!!

*Disclaimer: I’m totally in no way sponsored or endorsed by Tarja, I just think she’s freaking amazing. If you want to give her a listen, I think you’d enjoy! My favourite songs are: Our Great Divide, Anteroom of Death, Dark Star, Naiad, Victim of Ritual, Eagle Eye and I think every song on The Shadow Self.

MFB – How I find time to write

Writing a book is a huge investment in time and energy, and sometimes it’s hard to find time to dedicate to the chief principle behind it all: that is, to write.

I’m embarking on a quest to finish my first book, in at least what I deem to be a standard of completion to offer up to agencies. See my previous blog post for history on MFB, here:

How I find time to write

At the moment, I’m juggling this above quest with this (somewhat neglected) blog, running my own little household, including keeping an eye on two naughty pusscats and all the scrapes they get into, and of course full-time work. You might remember, if you’re a seasoned follower of this blog (and I like to think there maybe are one or two!), that before Christmas last year I was working in Hull, working long days and coupling those with a long drive there and back. Well I work on the outskirts of York now, so the drive is much improved, and my working day is a little more flexible, so some days I can be sat at home with a brew at 4.45pm, instead of not getting back till nearly 7! Saying that, I still managed to charge through a big chunk of the first draft, so making time may be a problem, but if you’re determined, you’ll get it done. Continue reading “MFB – How I find time to write”

Happy Paper Club – a mystery parcel

So, as you may (or may not) know, it was my birthday a couple of weeks ago. I got lots of lovely things and did a wee little post about them here #MyStyleWednesday – Summer baby

The other day I came home to a mysterious box posted through my letterbox! I was very confused as I was pretty sure (though naturally not 100% confident) I hadn’t ordered anything, and it all looked very professional and proper. I was meant to be racing out that night so I quickly made short work of the protective tape fastening all up, and was very surprised to find a tissue wrapped box of goodies, from my best friend Amy (who coincidentally also has a blog too, and I’d love it if you gave her a little nosy! She can be found here: In bed with Amy). Amy is big on subscription parcels, and knowing me to be the stationery nerd that I am, she knocked the ball out of the park with getting me a Happy Paper Club subscription! Continue reading “Happy Paper Club – a mystery parcel”