10 tips to pass your driving theory test

Learning to drive is a massive step towards becoming independent, so understandably it can be a stressful time, no matter how old you are when you take the test. The theory test is the first hurdle for learners, so it can be a very nerve-wracking experience. But having been there and experienced it first-hand for myself, I thought I'd share some of my acquired knowledge with you. Here are my top 10 tips to pass your driving theory test!

Image copyright: Lorna Holland
  1. Don't panic. Nerves are understandable, but getting worked up and being too nervous or anxious will only do you more harm than good. Being nervous can cause you to make stupid mistakes and forget even the most simple things you've spent days learning. Take deep breaths and focus on what you know. If you're in the right mindset you're guaranteed to give yourself a much bigger chance of success.
  2. Don't leave it to the last minute. If you leave it to the last minute and try to cram everything the night before, you won't remember anything. Plus you'll be overtired and you'll start to panic. See tip 1.
  3. Don't compare yourself to others. Who cares if your brother/sister/cousin/best friend passed with flying colours? Trying to live up to precedents set by other people only puts more pressure on you. It's not worth it.
  4. Check out where your chosen test centre is in advance, especially if you have to travel or it's in an area you're unfamiliar with. Make sure you know exactly where it is and how to get there. That way you won't be late on the day and you won't get stressed trying to find the building 5 minutes before your test is due to start. 
  5. Ask your driving instructor any questions or things you're not sure about in advance. Don't be scared of asking seemingly obvious questions - it's their job to help you pass, after all!
  6. Make sure you know all the stats and numbers. Even if they seem boring or irrelevant, you still need to know them. Don't neglect the stopping distances!
  7. Use all the resources available to you. Study the highway code, use apps, websites and any specialist tools you can get access to. Do plenty of practice tests too. A few free sites I found useful were Top Tests and Theory Test Online.
  8. Get family members or friends to ask you questions and test your knowledge. Learning in different ways can help to reinforce what you know in your head. It will also prepare you for the test, as some of the questions are likely to be worded in a slightly ambiguous way to really test you.
  9. Don't neglect the hazard perception test. Don't be fooled into thinking it's easy; at the end of the day it still makes up half of your result. You'll really struggle to pass without practicing the hazard perception side at all.
  10. Remember it's not the end of the world if you fail. You can always try again, and no-one will think any the worse of you if it comes to that. Good luck!
Have you passed your theory test? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review & Giveaway (CLOSED): An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo

* I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

The powerful new novel from the master storyteller - inspired by the true story of one man who might have stopped World War II.

1940. The train is under attacks from German fighters. In the darkness, sheltering in a railway tunnel, the stranger in the carriage with Barney and his mother tells them a story to pass the time.

And what a story. The story of a young man, a young soldier in the trenches of World War I who, on the spur of the moment, had done what he thought was the right thing.

It turned out to have been the worst mistake he ever could have made – a mistake he must put right before it is too late…

Image credit: The Big Shot PR
Michael Morpurgo is one of the biggest names in children's literature. And for good reason. He's written over 100 children's books, from picture books right up to YA, So understandably, I was looking forward to reading his latest offering, An Eagle in the Snow. 

An Eagle in the Snow is classic Morpurgo. It's well-written and well-researched, fiction and history interwoven in the way that Morpurgo writes best. It's easily split up into sections and chapters, each focusing on a different part of the story. This makes it ideal for children becoming more confident at reading on their own.


The ending is also a big surprise, it comes with a great twist that even I wasn't expecting! This is one of those books that really makes you think, and I have the feeling it will be sticking with me for a while. Morpurgo has that style of writing that just draws poignancy from the most everyday of scenarios, and the beginning of this book is a perfect example of that.

The book deals with big themes like war and consequences by breaking them down into smaller, memorable chunks. The idea that a regular soldier had the opportunity to kill Hitler but saved him with compassion is particularly memorable. If the soldier had pulled the trigger, history would have been completely different. I think moments like these really make you think about how things turn out, and how easy it is for one small event to change the lives of millions of people.

Rating: 3 stars.

An Eagle in the Snow is available to buy now. You can find out more about the author, Michael Morpurgo, and his books on his website.

If you're feeling lucky, I've also got a copy to give away! Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


NOTE: Everyone who tweeted about the giveaway BEFORE 22/11/15 - the message in the tweet was for an old giveaway but your entries will still count. The message has now been changed.

Terms and conditions:

1. Giveaway closes on 30th November 2015 at 11.59pm (GMT).
2. The prize consists of one copy of An Eagle in the Snow by Michael Morpurgo.
3. Upon confirmation of the winner's address, the prize will be posted to the winner by The Big Shot PR, NOT The Writing Greyhound.
4. This giveaway is open to UK residents aged 13 and over.
5. The winner will be randomly generated by Rafflecopter once the giveaway has ended.
6. The winner will be informed by email once the giveaway has ended.
7. The winner will have 72 hours to claim their prize. If the winner has not responded by this time, another winner will be announced.
Will you be reading An Eagle in the Snow? Let me know in the comments below!

Interview: Mia Hoddell

This week I'm participating in the blog tour for Not Enough by Mia Hoddell. As part of the tour, I've had the opportunity to interview the author. You can also read my review of the book here.

Mia Hoddell is the Amazon #1 bestselling author of books including The Seasons of Change series, False Finder, the Chequered Flag series (coming next year from Limitless Publishing) and now Not Enough. She lives in the UK with her family and two cats, and writes mainly YA and NA romance.

How did you first become interesting in writing?

I can’t remember a time when I haven’t been writing. I had my first poem published at the age of fourteen and after that I started to take things more seriously. I published my first novel at sixteen and since then I haven’t stopped. It was something I fell into and I realised quickly I loved it.

How do you get inspiration for your books?

I ask a lot of questions or I’m always observing things and thinking ‘what if’. There’s no exact way I get inspiration, it can come from anywhere, but the biggest thing I draw on is life. Sometimes themes hook me and I build on those, or a dream conjures an idea… anywhere something intrigues me there’s potential for ideas.

What draws you to writing romance?

I think it’s the escapism. Although there are struggles in most romantic novels, I like writing about people falling in love and getting their HEA. However, I will write in any genre as long as the idea intrigues me enough.

Tell me about Not Enough

Not Enough is a full-length standalone contemporary romance aimed at the Upper YA and NA markets. It’s an emotional novel about an introverted girl searching to find peace with who she is in a family of extroverts. The book deals with themes such as conflicting personalities, the consequences that come from society’s pressure to conform, and learning that it’s not worth changing who you are to please others.


What inspired you to write Not Enough?

I wanted to write a book introverts could relate to. Personality conflicts and not being afraid to be the real you are things I’ve always been interested in, and after speaking to many people in the book industry I found a lot of us shared similar experiences and thoughts. There's a common view in society that being an introvert is a bad thing and introverts should become more out-going. I wanted to challenge that view since not compromising who you are for the sake of others is something I strongly believe in.

What’s your writing process?

It really depends on what stage of the process I’m at. I write full-time so I tend to pick it up whenever the mood strikes me rather than have a structured day. Normally, I spend a few weeks planning and then once I’m writing I do a minimum of 3000 words a day until I’ve finished. That usually takes me a month and after that I start on edits and it goes to my betas, editors, etc.

What’s the hardest thing about writing?

Each book brings its own challenges so the hardest parts are always different. Sometimes they're emotional hurdles I need to get over, such as with Not Enough because I had to go to dark places to get inside Neve’s head. Other times they're research or character based challenges.

Which authors inspire you?

I look up to and admire all authors who started out as indies and have gone on to become traditionally published. That doesn’t mean I don’t admire others, these have just started off like me and made it work. To name a few: J.A Redmerski, Jennifer L Armentrout, Rachel Van Dyken, Colleen Hoover.


Image credit: Mia Hoddell

Do you have any tips for aspiring writers?

Don’t think things are going to happen overnight. Writing is a slow process and so is publishing. Take the time to develop your craft, learn about the industry, and get involved in the community. Most of all I’d say enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy what you’re writing it’ll be infinitely harder.

What’s your all-time favourite book?

Dragonfly by Julia Golding. Her books were the ones that got me hooked on reading at the age of 14, and Dragonfly is one I find myself returning to constantly. It has a little bit of everything in it.

Where’s your favourite place to write?

It changes with the seasons. In the summer I love writing outside, but in the winter I have to be curled up somewhere warm and bright.

If you weren’t a writer, what do you think you’d be doing? 

I’d like to do something creative. I also design book covers on the side so that’s probably what I’d do. I’m only 20 so I have plenty of time to change my mind.

What are you currently working on?

Back in September I signed my third contract with Limitless Publishing LLC for a new romance series called Chequered Flag. The books will be interconnected standalones that follow a group of racing drivers as they fight for love and the first book, Chameleon Soul, is releasing February 2nd 2016. I have also finished the first draft of the second book.

As well as that, on December 1st, I have a short story included in a mafia anthology titled Men of Mayhem. This is a prequel to another full-length novel I will be working on next year that will be a dark contemporary romance. It could be read as a standalone story, though.

Do you prefer e-books or traditional books?

I prefer traditional books. Nothing can beat a paperback in my opinion. I love being able to hold, bend, and see the cover and pages. However, because I also review the majority of books I read are in ebook format. My bank account also prefers ebooks.

Having used both, do you prefer self-publishing or traditional publishing? 

They both have their benefits. I’m a bit of a control freak with work so self-publishing gives me full creative control. However, I’m slowly getting used to handing control over to my publisher and it’s nice to be able to just focus on writing my books while they do all of the bits I don’t like e.g formatting. Limitless have been great at including my ideas so far so that we get a product both of us are happy with.

What are you reading at the moment? 

I finish a book nearly every other day so by the time you read this I’ll have moved by quite a few books. However, at the moment I’m reading Rip by Rachel Van Dyken.

To find out more about Mia and her work, you can visit her blog, find her on Goodreads, or like her on Facebook

Have you read any of Mia's books? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review & Giveaway (CLOSED): Not Enough by Mia Hoddell

* I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Neve Colvin isn’t good enough. As an introvert, her life is a never-ending list of labels and criticism. Pressures to change come from everyone - including the one person she thought would love her unconditionally... her mother. All Neve wants is acceptance, but surrounded by extroverts it’s a wish that’s nearly impossible to fulfil.

For Neve there’s only one solution: anyone disapproving must go. Even if it means only one person will remain.

That person is her lifelong friend Blake Reynolds. He’s seen the fights with her mum, the breakdowns caused by attacks on her personality, and the battles for acceptance. Each time she is left shattered and questioning who she is, he’s the one to collect the pieces of her broken heart. Shielding her from the cruelty is his only concern. But how can he protect her when Neve is concealing a secret so dark?

Blake thinks he knows everything about her, and with their relationship developing, he assumes Neve trusts him fully. However, there is one memory Neve is too ashamed of to share. Revealing it will test Blake’s loyalty beyond what she could ever ask, and Blake is the only friend she can’t afford to lose. He’s the one person capable of dragging her from the darkness plaguing her, but with pressures to conform increasing, even Blake may not be enough to pull her back this time.

Image credit: Mia Hoddell
I'll be honest, I started this book a little dubiously. In my experience, indie authors can be very hit and miss. Don't get me wrong, I support indie authors all the way, it's just that sometimes the best indie books can get overshadowed by the minefield of mediocrity that is the world of indie publishing.

However, I was approached by the author, Mia Hoddell, with a view to participating in Not Enough's blog tour. As part of the blog tour, I also conducted an interview with Mia, which you can read here. Never being one to pass up an opportunity when it comes to books, I agreed, and got stuck into reading the book.


The thing that struck me most was how much I could relate to Neve, the main character. Neve is an introvert, a shy, quiet individual who prefers the company of herself and a select few individuals. In many respects, Neve is a lot like me. We tend to deal with things in a similar way, we react much the same, and our personalities are also similar. In short, I saw a lot of myself in Neve.

I also loved the other main character. Blake is the perfect guy to counterbalance Neve. He provides her with much-needed safety and security - he is the rock to anchor her amongst the confusion of her life. From the very first time we encounter him it's obvious where the story is going to end up, but it's still great to follow Neve on her journey to acceptance throughout the book.

Sadly some of the other characters fell a little flat - Neve's mum in particular was very one-sided and undeveloped, but one other character I'd like to hear more of is Blake's roommate Robbie. Despite not playing a major part Robbie was always there in the background, and I felt like he had a lot more to give even though he was just a minor character. Perhaps the author should do a spin-off starring Robbie? I for one would be very interested to read it!


Another thing I liked about Not Enough was the fact that it was set in England. This was a major surprise - I can't actually remember the last time I read a YA/NA book set in England, and I hadn't realised how I much I missed the subtle cultural differences until I read this book. So thank you to Mia Hoddell for not giving in to America's dominance of the genre!

I really enjoyed Not Enough for all these reasons. If you're an introvert and you need a dose of confidence, I really recommend this book to you.

Rating: 4 stars.

As part of the blog tour, the author is running a giveaway to win a $5 Amazon giftcard! Enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Not Enough is out on November 16th, and is only 99p on Kindle for the first week! You can buy it here.

Will you be reading Not Enough? Let me know in the comments below!

Book Review & Giveaway (CLOSED): The Person Controller by David Baddiel

* I received an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Fred and Ellie are twins. But not identical (because that's impossible for a boy and a girl). They do like all the same things, though. Especially video games. Which they are very good at. They aren't that good, however, at much else - like, for example, football, or dealing with the school bullies.

Then, they meet the Mystery Man, who sends them a video game controller, which doesn't look like any other controller they've ever seen. And it doesn't control any of their usual games. When the twins find out what it does control, though, it seems like the answer to all their problems. And the key to all their wildest dreams. At least it seems like that...

Image credit: The Big Shot PR
I first heard about this book when I was on the way to Cambridge to see Rae Morris perform there a couple weeks back (you can read my review of her show here). We had the radio on in the car, and who should come on for an interview but David Baddiel, the author of this book! In the interview Baddiel talked at length about The Person Controller, and, of course, my interest was piqued.

When I was offered the chance to review this book a week or so later, I jumped at the opportunity. When it arrived though and I started reading, I must admit my feelings changed.

What originally attracted me to The Person Controller was the plot. It sounded like a completely new and inventive idea, and one that hooked me just from the description alone. That's just as well though, as in the end the plot was the only thing that kept this book going for me. It was fast-paced with plenty of action, packed with all the special moves from popular video game characters.


I knew this was a children's book, but I will admit that I thought it would be edging more towards the lower end of YA. As a general rule of thumb I don't tend to review purely children's books (with some exceptions of course) - after all, I don't have children so there's not much point in me reviewing it without being able to run it past its target audience first! So with that in mind, reviewing The Person Controller has been quite a struggle.

The book is funny, with the humour obviously targeting the younger audience, though it is very literal - perfectly encapsulating Baddiel's trademark brand of humour. However, the humour is too childlike for my taste, though of course that's just my personal opinion.

Image credit: The Big Shot PR
No, the biggest problem lies with the characters. The Person Controller is full of unoriginal stereotyped characters, completely at odds with the uniqueness of the plot. From the various sets of peas-in-a-pod twins, to the busy and preoccupied parents, to the big, mean opposition in Fred's football match.

But the worst example of this is the bullies, Isla and Morris (more twins). Morris, being the boy, is the muscle behind the operation. He's strong, but slow and incredibly stupid. Then Isla, as the girl, is the brains. She's clever, yet tends to leave the physical side of things to Morris. And of course, they're the headmaster's children. I don't think it's possible to get much more stereotypical than that.

Despite all its flaws, I think this would still be a good book for children - especially if they're gamers! The Person Controller is available to buy now.

Rating: 2 stars.

I've also got a copy of The Person Controller up for grabs, just in time for Christmas! If you fancy your chances, you can enter via the Rafflecopter widget below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions:
1. Giveaway closes on 23rd November 2015 at 11.59pm (GMT).
2. The prize consists of one copy of The Person Controller by David Baddiel.
3. Upon confirmation of the winner's address, the prize will be posted to the winner by The Big Shot PR, NOT The Writing Greyhound.
4. This giveaway is open to UK residents aged 13 and over.
5. The winner will be randomly generated by Rafflecopter once the giveaway has ended.
6. The winner will be informed by email once the giveaway has ended.
7. The winner will have 72 hours to claim their prize. If the winner has not responded by this time, another winner will be announced.

Will you be reading The Person Controller? Let me know in the comments below!

Gig Review: Imagine Dragons at The O2

When American rock band Imagine Dragons first announced details of their 2015 Smoke & Mirrors tour, I was gutted to miss out on tickets to one of the dates on the UK leg of the world tour. Luckily for me, as the first London show sold out, they added another date on the 4th November. Even luckier for me, I was right in there to grab tickets as soon as they went on sale.

Imagine Dragons are a band still riding on the success of their debut album. Night Visions, first released in 2012, propelled the boys to international fame. Since its release, the album has sold more than 2.5 million copies in the US alone, earning double platinum status. Their second album, Smoke & Mirrors, debuted at number one in both the UK and US, despite receiving somewhat less acclaim than Night Visions.


Smoke & Mirrors is more experimental than Night Visions, which was a lot more pop-rock focused. Experimental albums have a tendency to be loved by the artist and the critics, but hated by fans. Luckily for us, Smoke & Mirrors maintained enough of the sound that we love to make it a worthy follow-up album.

So, of course, along with many other fans, I was very interested to see how they transferred two massive albums into 90 minutes of live show.

Considering Imagine Dragons are primarily a rock band, you expect a loud gig. Lots of drums and guitars and headbanging fans are par for the course. Now, I'm usually more of a pop kind of girl, so without a doubt this was the loudest gig I've been to yet (if you don't count the ear-splittingly shrill screams of teenage girls at a boyband's show). Most of the crowd were standing, so it was quite nice to be in the seated section - still near the stage, but with a seat, room to breathe, and probably a better view.


The opening act were fellow rock band Sunset Sons. For a support slot they played quite a long set, which really helped get the crowd going. Although they resembled a bunch of long-haired Aussie surfers, I liked a couple of their songs. However, I don't think the backstage team had got the sound mixes right as lead singer Rory's voice was distorted and quite hard to distinguish. Still, I'm sure this wouldn't be a problem on the studio versions.

After a short wait, it was time for the main event. For once a band actually came on stage at the time they were meant to - so kudos to them for that!


Exploding onto the stage, which predictably was decked out with mirrors and smoke machines a-plenty, the band launched straight into their set. They played a mix of the biggest hits from Night Visions alongside, surprisingly, some of the lesser known tracks from Smoke & Mirrors. Some of the songs were performed as stripped-back versions which was nice to hear, yet others included the full sound you expect from Imagine Dragons.

Lead singer Dan Reynolds also did a quick solo cover of an excerpt from Alphaville's 'Forever Young' in-between songs. However, the song everyone wanted to hear was 'Radioactive', which is their biggest single over here in the UK. The band kept us in suspense, leaving it to the very end to play... though it was definitely worth it when they did. Full of solos, additional drums, and sing-along's from the crowd, it was an undeniable highlight.


I was a little bemused by Dan's wardrobe choices - he was wearing a cropped shirt that was probably a fashion statement but I just thought it looked weird! He also gave a rather long-winded speech about the current migrant crisis before performing their charity single 'I Was Me,' which I'm sure is all for a good cause but isn't exactly what you want to hear at a gig (hence the mass exodus for a trip to the toilets at that point!) However, I did think it was nice that he recognised two superfans in the audience and pulled them up to the stage to meet the rest of the band. It shows how grateful they are to their fans, a message that was repeated throughout the night.

Are you a fan of Imagine Dragons? Have you been to see them live? Let me know in the comments below!

Event Review: NFL International Series - Detroit Lions @ Kansas City Chiefs

As a British woman, I'm not exactly your typical NFL fan. But ever since my boyfriend got into the sport several years ago, I tried to show an interest (admittedly begrudgingly at first!) After some late night games and lots of one-sided football conversations, I finally figured out the basics of the game.

So when he asked me to go to one of the 2015 International Series games with him, I said yes. We selected the game we wanted, and after an extremely stressful morning back in early Spring trying to book tickets, we were in.

Image copyright: Lorna Holland
Fast forward nine months, and we're on our way to Wembley Stadium on 1st November. We must have looked a contradictory couple, him in all his Patriots gear and me in my Bears stuff (yes, I'm a Bears fan), but it seemed everywhere you looked in London there was a jersey-wearing fan. Aside from a mean glance from a Vikings fan on the tube (we were due to play them later that day) and being silently judged by a pack of Dolphins fans while waiting for my train, everyone was sharing in the game day atmosphere, regardless of what team they were supporting.


That's the thing about the International Series games. Fans of all 32 teams come along just to watch the sport and share in their love of the game. That's why even frankly mediocre teams are managing to sell out the International Series games - and it bodes well for the future of international football.

But that's a whole other story.

We arrived early to Wembley, which was just as well as it was already starting to get busy. In fact, after a detour to the frankly disappointing on-site shop and a long search for a seemingly non-existent  rubbish bin, we were sitting in our seats almost 2 hours before the game was due to start.

Seats which were, incidentally, far better than I was expecting. We were in the top tier of the stadium's three tiers, but we weren't too far back, giving us a perfect bird's eye view of the action. This was made even better by the fact that we were almost perfectly aligned with the centre of the sideline.

A photo posted by Lorna Holland (@themaxdog) on

Because we were so early, we watched the players warming up down on the field below. As we got closer and closer to kick-off and the stadium filled up, the atmosphere just got better and better.

We were treated to pre-game entertainment in the form of classic English band Madness. They only played a handful of songs, yet managed to squeeze in their biggest hits 'Baggy Trousers' and 'Our House' nonetheless. Followed by a performance from the Chiefs cheerleaders (much to the delight of all the male fans in the crowd), by this point the 83,624 strong audience were more than ready for some football.

On paper, this looked to be a pretty evenly-matched game. Going into week 8, the Lions were 1-6 and the Chiefs were 2-5. Neither team have been having a particularly great season. So as we kicked-off, it's fair to say it was anyone's game.

However, football is an unpredictable sport, and this game really proved that. Detroit were off to a good start with a field goal resulting in the first points of the game. Unfortunately, things could only go downhill from there. Kansas rallied, and by half-time the score was 24 to the Lions' lonely 3.

By this point the crowd were starting to get restless. Football games can last a long time when the play isn't great. But we stuck with it - after all, teams have come back from worse.


Unfortunately, the game continued in the same fashion during the third quarter. A further Chiefs touchdown added 7 more points to Detroit's misery. At the end of the third quarter, the Lions were getting desperate and the crowd were getting fed-up. Even further performances from the KC cheerleaders weren't helping. A lot of people started to leave.

Then, in the fourth quarter, just as everyone had given up, the Lions managed to score a touchdown at last. Even Chiefs fans cheered because everyone just felt sorry for them. Unfortunately, another couple of Kansas touchdowns meant their last hurrah was in vain. The final score was 45-10. Ouch.


The biggest problem was Detroit's complete lack of an offensive line. We joked that they might as well have had a bunch of cardboard cut-outs surrounding the QB, because they would have done the same job. I also heard one of the commentators was saying Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford was Jay Cutler in disguise for Halloween...

The Chiefs, on the other hand, did a great job. Alex Smith proved his worth as a mobile quarterback, and rookie RB Charcandrick West did brilliantly stepping in for the injured Jamaal Charles.

Despite the fact it turned out to be a very one-sided game in the end, it was a fantastic experience. With the announcement of the extension of the International Series, we'll be sure to be back next year!

Are you an NFL fan? Let me know in the comments below!
 
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