Monday, 30 September 2013

Book Review: The Shack ★★

theshack1

As far as I can tell this is a real marmite book, some love it, some hate it, I'm not going to go so far as to say I hate it, but I didn't really enjoy it as much as I could have and it took some effort on my part to get through it.

The Shack tells the story of Mack, a man whose daughter Missy is abducted while the family are on holiday, and Mack's journey into dealing with Missy's abduction and apparent brutal murder.

Now, I want to start off by stating that I am not religious, and that if you will be offended by opinion of this book purely because i do not share a religious stance then please stop reading. My opinion on this is for the open minded, as I was prepared to be open minded and did not refuse to read the book because of its religious content.

That out of the way lets get down to the review. I describe it as Mack's journey with dealing with Missy's abduction because that is exactly as it is written. Unfortunately Young tried to sell the story like it was true, a friends memoirs. In my opinion he should have just treated it as fiction, without the preamble about telling someone else's story which immediately put me off.

The story though is essentially about one man's method of coping with loss through reaching out to his God and asking why. Young doesn't just have Mack speak to God through prayer however, he has Mack interact with God in his three forms at The Shack, where evidence of Missy's murder has been found.

I loved the idea for this story, and actually feel that it could have been stronger with a better, more organised writing style. I found it confusing and messy, with far too many similes and metaphors throughout that made the read a struggle. I did however like the portrayal of Mack's grief, and his loss as to how to deal with life after the abduction, it felt honest.

I found the three God characters were interesting to read, though they were clearly designed to shock the reader. They may have shocked a devout christian (an African American female God with a love for freshly made pancakes) they didn't surprise me and in fact reminded me of many twists on the idea of God in fiction today making it a cliche and a half.

I was pleased we had some resolution to the crime as for a good chunk of the book I really thought it would go unresolved in order to ram the idea of forgiveness down the readers throat, but I am happy we had some resolution. It wasn't enough for me, and wasn't enough to balance out the airy fairy bits in the middle, but I am glad that we were given that, even if I do think that the abduction of missy was merely tacked on to allow the author reason to preach a bit.

Bottom line is that this was a great idea for a story, but that it should have been presented as a balanced piece of fiction, and edited better. I actually feel that it was a bit of a waste of potential.

★★

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Lazy Sunday: Autumn

It is officially autumn in my small part of the world, know how I know this?

pumpkin

Isn't that cute? I do love a pumpkin with a face.

Anyway, this past sunday it may have been autumn but I tell you it felt like summer. We had some really warm weather and decided to take advantage of it.

My other half has been trying to get me to go for more bike rides, and I have to admit once I am on them I do enjoy myself, I just have to be dragged away from my book in the first place.

We hopped on our bicycles and set off through the countryside. We had to stop to cross a field so I thought I would snap the view for you.

fields

Those there are sugar beet fields, apparently a speciality of ours. I tried a nibble, it was indeed very sweet.

Eventually we got to our destination, a friend of ours invited us to pick apples from his tree. Check out the spoils.

apples

I really enjoyed the ride even though it was a very long one for me (we usually only do little trips) and it is inspiring me to get a new bike. I have been looking at them for a while and have decided that a 'sit up and beg' dutch style would be more suited for me comfort wise. I have a very upright posture and leaning forward for the handle bars really hurts my neck and back.

I have been admiring these ones, number 3 is my absolute favourite.


bikes
1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5

But I think actually I would like to get a vintage one second hand and repaint it so that it is the same shade of turquoise as the blog. It is my favourite shade, and these bikes are all very expensive and not quite perfect.

Did you have unusually hot weather last sunday? How did you spend the day?

Friday, 27 September 2013

Review Double Whammy: Some Feel Good Fiction


It is cold and autumny outside, and that makes me want to read one kind of book, some warming stories that don't require too much brain power, so here are a couple of reviews for you!

ivegotyournumber1


I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella is the story of how Poppy Wyatt deals with a disaster. After a bit of a drunken night with friends, Poppy discovers she has lost her engagement ring, a family heirloom, and knows her new fiancee will be furious. Instead of fessing up she decides to hide the loss and try to get it back. However a second disaster has struck, Poppy has also lost her phone, the modern lifeline. Happening to find a phone in a rubbish bin in the hotel she had been partying at, Poppy takes the opportunity and grabs it and begins to use it as her own, much to the annoyance of the previous owner. Enter Sam, a busy businessman who does not appreciate Poppy rifling through his life and sticking her nose into his business. As you can imagine hilarity ensues.

I find it hard to review Sophie Kinsella books because they are essentially chick lit, they don't require a huge amount of effort to read, you know how they are going to end pretty much, and they usually leave you feeling warm and fuzzy. I could easily just give each of Kinsella's books the same review and just change the names. But, that doesn't mean I don't enjoy them immensely, fluffy characters and all.

I would like to say about Sophie Kinsella's books that they all have very funny moments in them, and I've Got Your Number didn't disappoint. It made me chuckle and the predictable ending came about in a very sweet way. The women in her stories always stand up for themselves in some way too, and I like that we see them grow some backbone as they discover themselves, and Poppy was no exception to this rule.

I think this book is perfect for a cold autumn day when you just want to curl up with a good girly read! Absolute feel good fiction :)

★★★


  mobilelibrary1

First things first, this book is about a library, there is no way I could have resisted this one. It is the first in a series too so I was even more excited to find it.

The Case of the Missing Books by Ian Sansom starts when Israel Armstrong arrived in Ireland expecting a shiny new career to be awaiting him in a lovely library, only to find that in fact he is destined to be the new mobile library driver. Israel is a fairly positive chappy, and sets about to make the most of a situation that involves a mucky barn to sleep in and a somewhat unsympathetic girlfriend back home, his mission is somewhat impeded however by the lack of books in his mobile library van. Israel makes his new mission finding all of the missing books, and in doing so encounters some quite funny and slightly ridiculous characters along the way.

I am not going to lie to you and say this is a great book, because unfortunately it fell a little short of the mark when it comes to humour, it tries but only elicits a little chuckle rather than a guffaw. The characters are stereotypical village folk, but I found that comforting as I too am a village librarian and am used to encountering these strange personalities. Israel is a strange character, one you sort of sympathise with but also don't really like because as a city boy he needs to get some country life experience anyway. We laugh through his mishaps.

For me the winning part of this story was the ending, it took me by surprise, though it maybe shouldn't have with the closures being proposed left right and centre, and it really made me smile. It was a happy little conclusion that made up for the other little negatives along the way, and sold the message that you should love your library.

Definitely leave you with a warm glowy feeling as you turn the last page, and the wonderful descriptions of the gloomy Irish countryside certainly makes a bit of an autumn breeze feel positively balmy.

★★★

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Two C's

A couple of months ago, around my birthday, I made a trip to Lincoln with one brand on my mind. I had saved my birthday money and desperately needed some prescription sunglasses so I popped to the optician where I got my spectacles the year before intending to purchase a lovely pair of Chanel sunnies with bows on the sides.

I was disappointed. My optician has stopped stocking Chanel of all kinds (I had to check while trying not to hyperventilate that they would still be able to re-lens my specs, they can. Phew)

Needless to say that I was really rather disappointed by my Chanel-less trip to the opticians, and what do disappointed Chanel-less girls with a wad of birthday cash burning a hole in their handbags do? Why they nip into House of Fraser.

chanel1

Not to be dissuaded I went home with two things I had been lusting after for a loooong time but which didn't really fit the impulse buy bill. Vitalumiere Aqua foundation in 20 and Powder blush in Rose Initial (I have been steadily using up all my foundations so that I could buy that one, it has taken me a year, and don't even get me started on that blush, I first saw someone using it on a bus when I was 16 and I may have drooled)

I had a lovely consultation, but I was yet again disappointed. I had heard of the oh so elusive Les Beiges, the lovely counter girl tried it on my skin and it felt amazing with the fancy kabuki brush and looked wonderful. I would treat myself I thought! Oh but of course it was not in stock. She would add me to the list, they were expecting some in August.

August isn't so long to wait I thought, and it could be a late present to myself! So I happily handed over my details and skipped from the store with my two long sought after products.

I waited, I checked every counter in Meadowhall when I visited at the end of July, I waited some more, August had been and gone.

And then two weeks ago I got a call from a withheld number. I considered just sending it to voicemail, at the time me and my mum were battling a hall wardrobe, it was an inopportune moment.

I'm glad I didn't!

lesbeiges4

lesbeiges3

lesbeiges2

lesbeiges1

Isn't it pretty!? I picked it up on my next trip into the city, and absolutely love it!

The brush is so soft and in no way, shape or form the sort of brush you would just throw away, the plastic protector cap will be staying firmly on during travel thank you very much, and the powder just sinks into my skin looking like it isn't there, but providing a nice light coverage which can be made fuller when paired over the top of my Vitalumiere aqua.

I haven't been using it long enough to say wether I think this is going to be a favourite of repurchasing status, but so far I really do love it. I am also tempted by the fancy kabuki brush, it was just so. damn. soft.

Have you tried Les Beiges?

Monday, 23 September 2013

Book Review: The Knife of Never Letting Go ★★★★

knifeofneverlettinggo1

The Knife of Never Letting Go is a teen dystopian novel with a bit of a difference, there aren't many dystopian novels for teens with a male protagonist, but here we have one who could inspire boys to make mopre of themselves. The story follows Todd, who lives in Prentisstown in New World, where there are no women, and the men can hear each others thoughts. Todd is the last boy, having been told that all the women were killed by an infection released by the planet's native inhabitants. Todd however makes a discovery, a girl, and after all Todd has been told is revealed as false, he and Viola go on the run along with Todd's dog Manchee.

This book is a heart breaker, just to warn you, and don't let the simplistic language fool you, this story is fairly intricate for often being lumped in with children's fiction. There are instances where things almost didn't make sense, but where it felt intentional like it was there to confuse the reader. There is plenty of discription to assist the reader with imagining New World, and it says something for Ness's imagination that he has managed to come up with such a twisted place.

I love the idea behind this world, and think it has incredible potential, but I have to admit I didnt find myself connecting well with some of the characters, especially Viola, and I much preferred Manchee as Todd's companion. Even though I enjoyed Todd's character, I found him to be underdeveloped at the end of the book. For all of the trials and tribulations he has experienced in such a short space of time he still felt very child like. I did admire the way that Ness showed the difference in maturity levels between boys and girls though, as Viola felt much more mature by comparison.

The book is the first in a triology, and leaves the reader with a great cliff hanger, so I hope we will see some more of Todd's development in the stories to come, though if you have read the book you will know what I mean when I say I feel there will be a little something missing from them (I did shed a tear!)

I can't wait to read the next one.

★★★★


Friday, 20 September 2013

Book Review: The Red Queen ★★★

theredqueen1

This review is so hard to write because I love this series of books but the character in this one is so awful it made the story a struggle.

This is the second book in Philippa Gregory's The Cousin's War series, and follows Margaret de Beaufort, the mother of King Henry VI as she makes it her mission to get her son on the throne of England.

Margaret is incredibly devout and believes that it is God's will to have her son on the throne, and spends much of the book on her knees praying that it will be so. She is also quite cunning and I would even go so far as to say a little evil in the lengths that she will go to bring it about, believing that her involvement in anything which would normally be classed as sinful will be pardoned by God because it is all in aid of getting Henry on the throne. It is this obsession with religion that made this such a hard read. Margaret's mad chattering, often attempting to liken herself to Joan of Arc, can only be read for so long before it gets very tiring.

I wish we had seen more of her wilfulness in a positive light instead of it only appearing as treachery, as I think for a woman so devoted she could be an inspiration to some. Ultimately she had a goal and she achieved it by any means necessary.

For me I read this because it was the next book after The White Queen which I loved, but I wouldn't choose to read it again, and it did put me off carrying on the series for a while. I recommend that you do read it if you want to complete the series because as always Philippa Gregory's writing of the period is fascinating to read and she researches well, but be prepared for it to take a while.

★★★

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Lust List - September

lustlist

Just a few things I have been drooling over online lately. By the time this goes up I might already have the Chanel and the Essie Nail polish as I am popping into Lincoln tomorrow, but the others will probably take a back seat for a while!

1. Chanel Les Beiges in 20. £38 from Boots
I went for a consultation for this back in May just after my birthday and of course they were out of stock, the girl took my name for the waiting list and told me that it would probably be early August before it came in, we are in September and I finally got a call about it last week! Looking forward to this one.

2. Where Chef's Eat. £10.32 from The Book Depository.
 I really want this book, it is basically a restaurant guide with the reviews written by top chef's. I think this is definitely a must have for a foodie but every time I see it in a book shop it has a scuff or a mark on it, and I like to make all of the marks on my books.

3. MuuBaa Nido Leather Jacket. £380 from ASOS.
I am not sure about this one, as it is green, and really I want a black jacket, but I am definitely after a black leather jacket and have been for a long time now. I love the MuuBaa jackets, but they are definite investment pieces.

4. Mulberry Long Locked Purse in Dark Blush. £295 from Mulberry
I have wanted a Mulberry bag for a long time, and until things are looking a bit better at work I will be holding off buying one, but a purse might be a little splurge that I could stretch to for a special occasion like Christmas. I like how different this colour combo is, a warm toned pink with the rose gold coloured postman's lock is distinctive.

5. My Future Listography.  £10.07 from The Book Depository
I have seen this mentioned on a few blogs and had a nosy online and it seems like such a cute idea. I love lists, I'm not that big on writing full diary entries out, but lists I can do! Jotting ideas down into each future planning list as they occur to me sounds like a great idea.

6. Essie Tea and Crumpets Nail Polish. £7.99 from Boots
I have had my eye on this colour for so long, but I have so many nail polishes I have been trying not to buy any lately. Essie is currently on offer at Boots though so I think I shall pick up this one and a creme nude that is slightly warmer than the nudes I currently have. Either that or a warm red for autumn!

Monday, 16 September 2013

Book Review: The Crossing Places ★★★★★

crossingplaces1

Lets cut to the chase people, I loved this book. It is the first in a series that has become a definite new favourite of mine. I pretty much read The Crossing Places in one sitting, and then went straight out and ordered the next three.

Elly Griffiths' novels are are about Ruth Galloway a thirty something slightly plump forensic archaeologist who lives in the middle of nowhere in Norfolk. She gets dragged into a police investigation following her discovery of human bones on a sacred worshiping site which turn out to be considerably newer than the sacred site they are being associated with.

It sounds like any other crime novel doesn't it? But there is something about the characters in this series, they are incredibly down to earth and believable, which sets them apart from similar modern crime novels.The plot isn't especially shocking or twisty, but you don't mind because it is genuinely the characters that make this story tick. Be it Ruth for her clumsiness, DCI Nelson for his gruff nature or Cathbad the local druid for his weirdness, all of the characters have a quirk that makes them stand out from the crowd, and makes you love them.

Another beauty of the story is its simplicity, it is about forensics and archaeology, which adds a context that keeps the story interesting, and it has police procedure and there was a murder somewhere, but it is so easy to grasp. None of the science makes your brain hurt like certain crime authors I don't care to name, and the police behaviour finds a balance between feeding our stereotypes and still feeling like it is genuine. The coppers in these books have to do their paperwork, and they don't dash about in flashy cars, entering crime scenes without the proper precautions.

I was genuinely left content and smiling when I finished this book, until the craving for the next hit, and the next, and the next. I have read all in the series and will no doubt review them in time, but even five books down the line I still want more. hurry up Ms Griffiths! I need my Ruth fix!

P.S. You can currently buy The Crossing Places for only £2.32 at the Book Depository!

★★★★★


Sunday, 15 September 2013

Lazy Sundays

I did some snapping last sunday while me and the boyfriend were having a lazy day at his parents' home. They have a lot of animals, and they made for some great shots!

hi

He's always the first to say Hi!

happyfuss

He's an attention hog.

newcollar

He's got a shiny new collar

pounce

They are brothers who love to play

tooquick

She goes a bit doolally when there's a tennis ball

diva

She's a diva with a mane to match

puppylove

They love each other

apples

Not animals, but...

victim

They do fall victim to them!!

Hope you have a great Sunday.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Bucklers Hard, Poole, and a trip to Bournemouth

So after our trip to The Motor Museum at Beaulieu, we had a whole day and a half left to explore Dorset. When we were in the Beaulieu attraction we noticed a few posters for Bucklers Hard an old ship building village further down the river. It looked interesting and seemed to fit nicely with the easy going ethic for our trip so we hopped back in the car and pootled along the road a bit. If we had known how close it was we really could have walked and enjoyed the sunshine as it is only a couple of miles. Next time I think that will definitely be part of the plan!

On arriving at Bucklers Hard, we were greeted at the gate, parked up and went inside. We had a quick wander around the exhibit telling us all about the history of the village and the sort of life the people would have lived there, but it was really the harbour that appealed the most. we walked round into the main stretch of village that leads onto the harbour and oh what a view!
  bucklershard

We wandered down until we were about level with the pub and just sat on the hill for a while enjoying the peace and quiet. After a while we went for a wander along the actual harbour path and admired all the fancy yachts, even having a look at the ones in the ship yard through the gates (you can't go in there for obvious reasons) I don't think I have ever really seen lots of boats out of the water before, I found it quite interesting to look at.

dog
(If you'd like to see the whole of Bucklers Hard from the hill at the bottom of the village I have uploaded some panoramic shots to Flickr here and here but I can't figure out how to put them on here as a slideshow, if anyone does know please say!)

We chose not to go on the boat tour as we would have had to rush to catch the next one, and instead just enjoyed the scenery along the walk towards the village (where you can see the old duke's bath house, which is oh so cute!) but I think the tour is a great idea and a tempting part of the attraction as it only lasts 30 minutes so doesn't swallow up the whole trip, it is something I would like to do next time.

After a peaceful afternoon we wandered back to the car (I had to have a quick look in the shop first, lots of cute little items) and headed back to the B and B having thoroughly enjoyed the whole Beaulieu excursion.

Of course while we were staying in Dorset we had to find places to eat, and boy did we eat. Our first night went to a local curry house Mango on recommendation of the owner of the B and B, she said try the Onion Bhaji, so we went along and ordered it. This football of onion arrived and it was delicious!

onionbhaji

We didn't finish it, but couldn't waste it either so took it with us for the car journey home, I think it may be worth going back just to buy another!

On the second night we found a lovely pub in Broadstone called The Goods Yard, which has mixed reviews on trip advisor but which was lovely when we were there. The staff were polite and friendly, and the dining room was beautifully furnished. It had the potential to be closed off from the actual bar to make it more private too, but on a monday night the bar wasn't too rowdy so it wasn't necessary.

pate
springrolls

I had the Pate to start, he had the Wasabi Spring Rolls. The portions were generous and beautifully presented for all courses.

fishpie

And then I had the best fish pie I have ever tasted. I don't honestly know what made me choose it because I normally hate fish pie, but this had an amazing parmesan crust and I just couldn't stop eating it, even when I was about to burst I just had to have one more bite! We went back to the B and B very satisfied but struggling to walk up the hill.

The next day was our last, as we were heading home that evening, and there was only one thing we wanted to do. The weather had held out and we were on the south coast so of course we had to go to the seaside!

beachfeet

Initially we went to Poole which we were nearer to, and enjoyed the famously beautiful sandy beaches at sandbanks, where we had a wander and a cake from the cafe, and then embarked upon our favourite seaside past time, crazy golf!

minigolf

I actually sustained a painful toe injury by having to walk on the rocky bits not the path when my ball went off course, but I won't show you that. It really hurt.

After we had had a wander along the sea walls at Poole we decided to head to Bournemouth for our other favourite seaside past time, the amusements. It just isn't a seaside trip without wasting some 2p's if you ask me.

bournemouthpier

After a nightmare trying to park, and ending up parking on the other side of the main shopping square, we wandered down to the actual beach and took in the atmosphere. Although the pictures look cloudy it was very warm and really quite busy on the promenade, so we wandered up the steps of the cliff to the very top to take some pictures and get away from the hustle and bustle.

candyfloss

Before we left I had to get some Candy Floss. Right at the entrance to the pier is a little shop where they make it fresh for you and put it on a paper cone like you see on american shows when they go to the fair. The seaside near us you can only get it in bags so I was very impressed. I was even more impressed by the size of this thing, it was bigger than my head. I have comparison shots but I look a bit like a loon so you will just have to imagine it, suffice to say my grin stretched wide when the sugar ran out and instead of handing it over he added more to the machine!

After wandering back to the shops and a small stop at boots for a new nail polish we hopped in the car and headed for home.
We had such a lovely relaxing time in Dorset, and I can honestly say that I would go again in a heartbeat, it is a beautiful piece of the country and I know there is so much more to explore than we managed. I highly recommend a visit!

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Beaulieu


A few weeks ago me and my boyfriend decided to take a trip to the south coast. I had never been before other than to hop on a ferry so I was a bit excited. We packed up the weekend car very early one sunday morning and hit the road heading for Bournemouth. 

We hadn't made set plans for things to do while we visited but knew we would like to do a couple of things if the weather was good, so when we arrived and had an afternoon to kill before we could check into the B and B we decided to tackle one of them. 

My other half is a bit of a car nut, I wont go into how much, but I have to admit I too am fond of a shiny car or two. As we were only a few miles away we popped to the National Motor Museum at Beaulieu.
speedy
jamesbond

Now if you aren't into cars don't disregard Beaulieu as a place to visit as there is a lot to see, the motor museum not only has the history of the motorised vehicle including land speed record cars, F1 cars and more. The museum also currently holds the Bond in Motion exhibition featuring many of the vehicles from the films including Skyfall, and the World of Top Gear, my favourite bit.  

hovervan

oapcar
All of the challenge vehicles were there to see in their often destroyed states, including my favourite the OAP car, and the recently on air Hovervan.

quaintmyrideAlso there was the Leana, the reasonably priced car which is still used for F1 lap times, and one of my favourites of the most ridiculous challenges, the Quaint My Ride projects. I always chuckle when the chairs in this car slide around the floor.
There is also a Stig driving experience simulator if you are so inclined.

After getting the cars out of the way we headed back for the evening, and decided to cover the rest the next day as Beaulieu kindly allows you to enter the estate again for free within six days of your visit.

On the way we stopped at a very posh garage for a chat about a car my boyfriend looks after at work which was purchased there, but found the proprietor to be very rude, so just had a look at the cars.
garage

The next day we headed back to the estate, and explored everything else.

If you aren't into cars it is the Palace House gardens that would make this a must see. They are wonderful, and I am so glad we went back the second day to see them.

Beautiful fountains full of waterlilies and sculptures nestled amongst bushes. It felt like being in Alice in Wonderland, as I stepped through a hedge I half expected to hear "Off with their heads!"

lily

You could wander around the gardens themselves for hours admiring all the plant varieties and pretty flowers, but it was the vegetable garden that had me fascinated.

peas

beans

Tunnels formed by fruit trees heavy with apples and pears, intertwined with broad beans to form a canopy overhead. And then actually in the vegetable patches pumpkins, squash, cabbages and all sorts growing well to good sizes, all labelled for when you are only used to seeing them in the supermarket.

onion
artichoke

These ginormous things (they were much taller than me) are a variety of artichoke, to me they resembled thistles.

Once in the house it felt a bit like being in Downton Abbey. As you wander around the rooms admiring the artefacts there is a very homely feel, and all of the note cards are written by Lord Montagu himself so you get a real feel for his attachment to the objects.

piano

There was faint music playing as you move into what was originally the arches for the gatehouse that house was built around, there was a gentleman playing the piano for us to enjoy.

bells

In the kitchen the board of bells really did remind of the opening sequence for Downton, none of them were ringing though!

HorizontalNoRibbon

All throughout our visit we spotted this car zipping around the estate giving rides to lucky visitors, reminding us of Mr Toad from Wind in the Willows every time, "Poop Poop!"

ponies

After a spot of New Forest Ice Cream it was time to head on for the rest of the day. I couldn't resist snapping a picture of this little fellow as we drove back through the New Forest itself though! They are free to roam wherever they please within the forest itself, which I found wonderful, and a real sight to see.