Friday, 30 December 2011

Book Review: My Life: A Coach Trip Adventure

My Life: A Coach Trip Adventure
I love watching Coach Trip (You may remember my love of crap TV). Not just for the nutters, but mainly for Brendan. I love him. He's so funny and seems like a down to earth nice guy.When I found out he had a book out, I knew I had to read it and luckily, Father Christmas brought it for me!

I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to fans of Coach Trip and also those who enjoy reading about other peoples' travels.

I found the first third a little slow. This section focussed on Brendan's childhood and his faith and I found it a little hard going. After this it picked up and I really enjoyed reading about his adventures.

I really liked the style of writing as it was easy to read and I felt like I could hear Brendan's voice in my mind when I was reading it.

As a warning, about three quarters of the way through you need to keep the tissues handy! Brendan is a lovely person who has led an amazing life and worked hard for it. Well worth a read.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Book Review: Miracle at the Museum of Broken Hearts

Miracle at the Museum of Broken HeartsThis Christmas novella was a freebie on Kindle and my first foray into e-book reading.

The story being set in a new museum really grabbed me as anyone who knows me knows how I love museums. I used to work in an open air museum with about 50 buildings set out as if the people who lived there had just popped out so I loved the ideas for the exhibition in this book. I digress!

The main character Rose is really likeable and she becomes the assistant curator at the Museum of Broken Hearts, even if she was the last choice of the owner, Heath.

Even though this was only a short story, it is written in the way that the story could easily be turned into a full novel or be used a prequel for further stories about these characters.

It was heartwarming and enjoyable without being over the top romantic and I really enjoyed it! I will definitely read more by Talli Roland and have downloaded another of her books to make a start on in the New Year.

Tales of Christmas and the days that followed

I may be a little bit late but have some pictures from Christmas to share and tales of what we did!

On Christmas Eve Father Christmas paid a special visit to Cardiff to drop off all of our presents and even fill a little cat sized stocking for Bruce.

We then had a special Christmas eve dinner of hot dogs and watched lots of Only Fools and Horses!
Christmas Day is always a bit of a mad rush for us as we open our presents in our house in the morning and then go to my mum's for lunch in Cardiff and then up to visit my other half's family in Aberdare.

This is what Father Christmas bought me to read and watch.

Father Christmas also brought me Bridesmaids on DVD, the obligatory Beano and Dandy annuals and Brendan Sheerin's autobiography (which I am currently reading!).

We had a hearty breakfast of bacon sandwiches and then set off on our journeys laden down with presents. It was just Steve, my mum and I for Christmas dinner this year as my nanna wasn't very well and mum cooked us a big turkey dinner. The downside to this was that I don't like roast turkey, so I had mainly a vegetable and gravy based dinner to get over this one! It was the first time that mum had bought turkey for about 15 years as dad didn't like it either, so I couldn't really complain!

After pudding we started making the long journey up the A470 to Aberdare via Hirwaun. We spent some time with Steve's parents (his dad had drunk a few too many in the traditional morning pub visit in the village so was particularly chatty and pretty funny too!). We then went down to Steve's grans. When we arrived, his aunty and uncle decided we hadn't quite travelled enough that day and that we should all decamp to their house! By this point we were pretty tired so stayed just long enough to be polite and then I had the pleasure of the long, drizzly and dark drive back down!

We got back in our house about 8pm and I don't know what Bruce had been doing all day as this was how he ended up after about half hour of us being home!

This picture is a little bit like where's Brucie as we hadn't had time to tidy up our presents and quite frankly by the time we got home couldn't be bothered!

We had our more relaxed Christmas Day at home on Boxing Day. I cooked us a big chicken dinner (I like roast chicken and so do Steve and Bruce!) and we had a toffee pudding for afters.

We then watched one of Steve's action films from Santa and I read my book. We had a few drinks though the day and it was really relaxed and lovely. And I didn't have to leave the house apart from to take the bins out!!!

On Tuesday I defected to the dark side. I bought a Kindle with my Christmas money. Some of you may have read my post about e-books and be a bit shocked at this or think I'm going back on my word, but hear me out. I have recently got back into reading and after reading some of my friends reviews on Goodreads felt I was missing out on the big world of free books and cheap e-books. Also, as the money was a gift, it wasn't my money so was the perfect opportunity to satisfy my curiosity. (This is my excuse and I'm sticking to it!).

Things didn't go as well as planned from here. I went to my local large electrical superstore and bought a Kindle there so I could have it straight away and my experience started badly as the shop assistants weren't interested in me. As I was only spending £89 on an e-reader and not £3billiion on a 70ft LED 3D television, it took me ages to ask a few questions and then got greeted by them trying to sell me a Kindle cover for £40. No thank you!

I eventually got out of the shop with my purchase in hand (I had forgotten my bag for life and wasn't going to pay 5p for a bag when I have a large reserve of them under my stairs!).

I got home and unpacked the Kindle (frustration free packaging, my ar*e!) it took both of us around 45 minutes to switch the thing on! I thought there was something fishy with this, but put it down to me being technologically inept. When Steve eventually got it working, I was so pleased (after wanting to throw it through the window!) but my joy was short lived. About 5 minutes later the device froze! This carried on happening until it decided to not let me reset it anymore and Kindle sadly died.

I returned to said large electrical superstore chain yesterday morning and informed them that the device was broken and that I would require a new one. To my surprise, they were obliging and friendly (this came as a shock to me!). I checked it before leaving the store just in case and, hurrah, it turned on within seconds! I wasn't as technologically inept as I thought! This was yesterday morning and it's still working so it's going well!

I am enjoying the (free and cheap) e-book experience and have also downloaded an electronic version of one of my self help books so I can read it on the go without anyone knowing. I promise to stay faithful to hard copy print though and still love the feel of real books and would love to have a library in my house one day. For now, I'm just aiming for a comfy armchair in my study though (there are two bookcases and a desk in there so nearly a library!) and am planning to buy one this year IF I get my promotion on a permanent basis.

So this is what I am doing today.

This is what I will be watching.

And this is what I am wearing.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Xmas fun!

We had our proper Christmas day yesterday as we had to do so much travelling on the real Christmas day to really enjoy it. Here is a picture of the mini remote control car I bought Steve and also a picture of Bruce trying to play with it!

More to come on Christmas soon!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Too late?

The Christmas Cath Kidston catalogue has just arrived and is full of amazing things! Do you think it's too late to place my order with Santa?

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Book Review: Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married

Lucy Sullivan Is Getting MarriedI've just finished reading Lucy Sullivan is Getting Married by Marian Keyes and I really enjoyed reading it.

The book is about a girl called Lucy Sullivan who visits a fortune teller and is told that she is going to get married within the next year. The story that follows this follows Lucy as she goes for the wrong type of men on her quest to meet Mr Right and has to deal with her alcoholic father and her own demons in the form of depression and cripplingly low self esteem.

This part particularly struck a chord with me as how she felt about herself and described her depression was in a way a little too close to home for me. I'm glad that Marian Keyes has written this and that it obviously reflects her own experiences. It's just another small step to showing that it's nothing to be ashamed of and is just an illness which affects a lot of people and you need to learn to live with.

I found the ending of the story a little predictable, but hey, this is chick lit and this is why we love it!

All in all, I really enjoyed the book. The story itself was engaging and the characters were really vivid and easily imaginable, which I liked.

I would recommend this book to any Marian Keyes fans and I can't wait for her 2 new releases in 2012!

Top ten songs of 2011: Part 2

And here is the second part of my top ten songs of 2011. I hope you enjoy as much as me and once again I have linked the youtube videos.

6. Martin Solveig & Dragonette - Hello

7. Laidback Luke and Steve Aoki feat. Lil John - Turbulence

8. Katy Perry - Last Friday Night (TGIF)

9. Swedish House Mafia - Save the world

10. Rihanna and Calvin Harris - We found love

Here's to the music of 2012 being just as good (if not better!) than 2011!!!

Book Swap: Murder mysteries

The postman brought me more book swap goodies today!!

I've got another Agatha Raisin book to add to my collection and A Market for Murder is a murder mystery based in the West Country. After reading the blurb on the back I can't wait to read it!!

I'll keep you posted!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Top ten songs of 2011 : Part 1

After my post about my favourite books of 2011 I thought I should write a post about my favourite songs of 2011 as music is as big a part of my life as books.

I have split this post into two as I am linking the youtube videos for all the songs too.

So this is part one, and in no particular order, here are half of my top ten songs of 2011.

1. Kaskade feat Martina - Fire in your new shoes (Sultan & Ned Shepard Electric Daisy Remix)

2. Chase and Status - Time Feat. Delilah

3. Example - Changed the way you kiss me

4. LMFAO - Party Rock Anthem

5. DJ Fresh ft Sian Evans- Louder

I hope you enjoy as much as I have and I will post another five from 2011 tomorrow. x

Book Swap: Atonement

Look what the postman brought me today! The result of my first ever book swap!

I have read Atonement before but when I was about 20 or 21 and didn't really appreciate the story. I have recently been wanting to give it another go so Read it Swap it gave me the perfect opportunity to give it another go without buying it again!

I swapped this book for The Sense of An Ending by Julian Barnes so am pleased with the outcome! I'll let you know when I read Atonement again to give it my second time around verdict.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Most disappointing books of 2011

Following my post on my favourite books of 2011, I thought it would only be right and flip it on it's head and write a post about the most disappointing books I've read this year. It has been an amazing year for books this year, so there are only two books in this list.

So, in no particular order:

1. The Sense of an Ending - Julian Barnes

The Sense of an EndingI am really disappointed to have to put a book from the Man Booker shortlist on this list, let alone the winner. This was the third book I read from the shortlist and I was hoping for great things, following reading Pigeon English and Jamrach's Menagerie. Unfortunately, it wasn't meant to be.

I really didn't enjoy this book. I found the characters and writing style pompous and the story was pretty boring. Even though it was such a short book, I had to force myself to get through it. I knew there was no point in me putting it to one side and trying again another time as I just didn't like it!

However, I put it onto Read It Swap It and managed to swap it the very same day for Atonement. I have read Atonement before a long time ago, but think I was too young to appreciate it, so a fair swap I think!

2. A Tiny Bit Marvellous - Dawn French

A Tiny Bit MarvellousI was given this book for my birthday and was really looking forward to reading it as I had heard good things about it. I really wish I could say I had enjoyed it, but I can't. I thought it was badly written and the characters had no depth, were terrible stereotypes and were totally unlikeable.

The story itself was pretty poor and didn't grab me at all. I won't read this again and will probably try and swap it.

I have Dawn French's Dear Fatty on my to read list so I'm hoping it is better than her stab at a novel!

Vintage decorations

This glass bird was given to me by my grandmother and it was her mother's before that. It's from around the 1920's and has a little metal clip to attach it to the tree. It's so old it has lost the hair that it used to have as a tail and is very fragile. It is my favourite decoration and each year I lovingly wrap it up in tissue to keep it safe. I've seen some similar birds in the shops this year but would never replace my little bird!

This is one of a pair of 1950's trees also given to me by my Nanna. They are both starting to look a little sorry for themselves, but I still love them. I used to work in an open air museum and there was a pair of these trees in the collection there and were used to decorate one of the houses at Christmas time. I was given these as a child to decorate my bedroom, and even though I am now in my mid twenties and own my own house, they still come out every year.

I'm not sure how old this Father Christmas is, but I got him from my Nanna, via my Mum. I used to hang him up in my bedroom at home and he is made of a moulded, hollow plastic. I've now got him hanging up in my kitchen and love the vintage feel that he gives the room. I love old decorations, they somehow feel more Christmassy than new ones. Maybe this is because they remind me of the magic of Christmas as a child.

It's starting to feel a lot like Christmas

I've been busy today preparing for Christmas (only 7 more sleeps to go! Eeek!) and thought I'd post a few pictures.

I've been preparing my pigs in blankets which I have frozen ready for the big day, and have also been baking mince pies. They exploded a bit in the oven but at least I know they are deep filled!!

I have also finished wrapping all my presents, including presents for my cat, Bruce. He always has a little stocking so he doesn't feel left out of the celebrations. Look at the cute cat nip filled gingerbread man he has this year.

I've also taken a few photos of my favourite Christmas decorations. I have quite a few vintage decorations that I have inherited, but I have saved these for a separate post.

Sunday brunch

As I've got a lot to do today I thought I would have a hearty Sunday brunch!

I decided on a sausage and cheese omlette and I reckon it looked pretty good! More on what I've been doing today later! X

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Baby it's cold outside

Brrrr it's a cold one today! My plan for the day is to stay indoors, watch TV and read! Here is my reading pile for the day:

I obviously don't expect to get through all of it, but I have a good selection to keep me happy!

I have this weeks celebrity magazines, including the Christmas bumper edition of Heat (eek!), a few self help books which I am reading a bit of now and again, the Agatha Raisin book I am currently reading and a Marian Keyes book which I intend to read next! So quite a selection.

I have decided that there is nothing to be ashamed of with my self help books, and will add them to my "read" list on Goodreads when I finish them, although I won't add them as "currently reading".

I am also having a bit of a rest from reading the Dovekeepers as I am finding it quite hardgoing. I have been enjoying it, I am just finding it quite hard to follow. I may read a bit now and again and read it over a long period, or just put it to one side and try it another time. I have had to do this with a few books which are now my favourites. I suppose that's just the way it goes sometimes!

Friday, 16 December 2011

My favourite books of 2011

As it's fast approaching the end of 2011 I thought it would be a good opportunity to think of the books I have read this year and which ones were my favourite.

2011 has been a good year for books for me. Although I didn't have much time for reading at the beginning of the year I have so far managed to read 30 books, none of which were re-reads and I discovered loads of new authors.

So in no particular order...

1. The Crimson Petal and the White - Michel Faber

The Crimson Petal and the WhiteI bought this book after watching the BBC adaptation, which I loved. This was a huge book and took me ages to read but I absolutely loved it. Faber's writing style hooked me completely from the word go. I enjoyed the way it was told and the descriptions in the book which made the story and it's characters come alive. The book brings the seedy side of the Victorians to light and is graphic in places, but what is the point in writing a book about prostitutes if you don't write about their job?

I would recommend this book to those who love historical fiction and reading about the less discussed side of life!

2. A Spoonful of Poison - MC Beaton

A Spoonful of Poison (Agatha Raisin, #19)This is one of my more recent reads, but was the book to introduce me to MC Beaton and Agatha Raisin.

I am a huge fan of Midsomer Murders and the way it has weird and wonderful murders in the idyllic countryside. This is also captured by the Agatha Raisin series. In this book, Agatha investigates murders caused by LSD being put into the jam at a village fete. For me, there is nothing not to love!

I am now ploughing through this series and hope to buy more of the books in 2012. I also intend to try the Hamish Macbeth books, also by MC Beaton as they sound right up my street! Lovely easy reads with enjoyable stories!

3. Jamrach's Menagerie - Carol Birch

Jamrach's MenagerieWhen I started reading this book I didn't know what to expect. And what the few expectations I did have were totally blown out of the water.

I loved the way this book was written and it easily drew me into the story, even though it wasn't a normal choice for me. The story was descriptive and had strong, likeable characters.

This book really suprised me as I could not have predicted the turn that the story took. I was shocked but equally desperate to find out what happened to Jaffy and the others.

This book will stay with me for a long time and I have already recommended it to others.

4. I Capture the Castle - Dodie Smith

I Capture the Castle (Vintage Classics)I only found out about this book by chance after reading about it on a blog. Since joining Goodreads I have found that this is a really well loved book and is at the top of many people's favourite book list.

I truly loved reading this book and totally understand why people describe it as a "cosy" read. I had never heard this term before but now I have my own "cosy" list!

I wish I had found this book earlier and am already looking forward to a future re-read!

5. The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern

The Night CircusAs soon as I read the reviews of this book, I knew I had to read it! I'm not really a fan of fantasy books generall, apart from Harry Potter, but this book just appealed to me.

I loved the physical book itself as much as the story. The black and white dust jacket with the dash of red covers a bright red hard cover decorated with mysterious symbols and black edged pages. I was excited about the book before I even opened it!

Even though the story itself was quite slow and very descriptive, I got to know the characters and could really picture the word being described in my minds eye.

A lovely book and I would highly recommend it!

All of the above books have really had an effect on me in some way or another, but I have really enjoyed most of the books I have read this year. 2011 was a good year for reading!!

I am looking forward to welcoming 2012 now and hoping that my to-read pile will not only get smaller through me reading what is already there, but will also continue to grow as I discover new books and authors!

There are still 2 weeks left of 2011, and I happen to have 2 weeks off for Christmas so heres to reading that little bit more before I completely close the door on this year!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Book Review: Kissing Christmas Goodbye

Kissing Christmas Goodbye (Agatha Raisin, #18)

Another enjoyable Agatha Raisin mystery.

This time, Agatha is approached by the murderee (whilst still alive) as she believes one of her children is out to murder her before she can get a chance to change her will to cut them out.

Lo and behold, Mrs Tamworthy is suddenly found dead and super-sleuth Agatha is put on the case by her daughter in law.

This book is a fun romp to find the wrongdoer and has an impressive body count of 6, although not all are related to the main plot.

My only disappointment with this book was that the title was slightly misleading. I was expecting a festive murder but the Christmas scenes had no relation to the main story and seemed to be tagged on at the end. Still a fun and enjoyable read!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

I pledge to read the printed word

read the printed word!I have taken the pledge!

Over the last few months I have been considering the benefits and disbenefits of a Kindle (or other reading device!) and have come to my final conclusion.

Give me a hard copy book any day!!

I'm not anti-Kindle at all. I can see the benefits of having one. For example, if you go away and you finish a book, you will have another one lined up on your "book shelf". I have noticed on Amazon that a lot of books are cheaper to buy electronically which I imagine is due to less resource being used to produce the book. I have also found out from other people that there are a lot of free books available and that it is a really good platform for self published authors. Another big bonus I see is that no-one can see what you are reading! This can be a good thing if you use public transport or read during your lunch break (I've got my self help books in mind now!) and want to keep embarrassing titles under wraps.

BUT...(and this is a big but)... I just love books! I love seeing them on my (non-virtual) book shelf, I love the feel of opening a new book and seeing how far through your bookmark is (or old Tesco receipt in my case), I love the smell of new books, I love the feeling of accomplishment you get when you reach the last page and more than anything I love the excitement of getting a new book (or 14 if you're lucky).

I'm not saying that electronic books are a bad thing, particularly if they get more people reading. They're just not for me.

Book Review: A Spoonful of Poison

A Spoonful of Poison (Agatha Raisin, #19)

I'm a bit late with the review but I finished reading A Spoonful of Poison by M.C. Beaton on Wednesday and really enjoyed it!

This is the first Agatha Raisin book I have read and am glad that I have discovered the series! As a huge Midsomer Murders fan the series appealed to me when I saw it in The Book People catalogue. And as it was a bargain £9.99 for 10 books I couldn't go wrong!

This book was easy to read and enjoyable with good characters.

In this book Agatha's detective agency is investigating two deaths caused by LSD being put into jam samples at a village summer fair (I love stuff like this!!) and has to spend a lot of time in the village with the local characters to try figure out who would possibly do such a thing in a sleepy Cotswold village.

Although being put off the scent a few time she persevered and got to the bottom of the case!

The book was quite funny and I really liked Agatha herself, even though she is a hard career woman. I can't wait to go through the rest of the series! And if I'm lucky Santa may bring me a few more Agatha Raisin books!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

New look

I've had a nightmare fiddling round with my blog tonight!! I wanted to move it around and was trying to use backgrounds and headers from Shabby Blogs as I wanted more of a vintage look but got in a mess and just tried to get something new from what is available on Blogger.

I'm not the most technological of people, so got pretty frustrated!!

Let me know what you think!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

More Christmas decorations

Here is a picture of the Christmas tree in my kitchen!

It has a little battery pack and lights up so looks quite cute! I wanted this one to have multi coloured baubles as the theme in my living room is red and gold. (I have the same every year as I think they are the most Christmassy colours and don't really like the uber fashionable stuff!) Steven added the string of beads as it was looking a little bare and I think it looks good now!

I have two of these birds hanging in my living room.

I love how cute and rustic they are. I got them in a supermarket but wish I had made them myself!

And on a slightly different note, this picture shows the frosty result of someone (who happens to be called Steven!) leaving two cans of lager in the freezer all weekend! I'm glad they didn't explode but also think they look quite seasonal!

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Book Review: The Night Circus

I finished reading The Night Circus last night and loved it!

The Night Circus

The story follows Le Cirque du Reves and the main characters are Marco and Celia, who involuntarily entered into a competition against each other many years before. There is also a sub plot about various founders of the circus and also a young American boy, Bailey.

Even though this book was not action packed, it was full of wonderful descriptions without being over descriptive. I also enjoyed the fact that although each chapter told you what year it was, there were no major historical details and this gave the story a very timeless feeling.

I also loved the book itself with its black edged pages and black and white cover, which was very inkeeping with the story.

I would highly recommend this book. It is a story of wonderful illiusions and a love story, but also catches your imagination with all of the beautiful descriptions in the book.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

A little update

I've been so busy this week I haven't had much time to do anything, including blog!

My friend came round for dinner and a gossip on Tuesday evening and I missed out on teaser Tuesday and Top Ten Tuesday!

I haven't had much time to read either but have been grabbing time whenever I can to read The Night Circus. I'm nearly 3 quarters of the way through and am really enjoying it. It isn't action packed, but is beautifully written and I am enjoying imagining the circus and reading the unfolding love story!

As The Night Circus is so big and heavy I haven't been taking it to work to read at lunchtime. This is also because I'm afraid of damaging the beautiful cover. So I have started reading an Agatha Raisin book during my breaks and am enjoying it. It is just as fun as I thought and very Midsomer-esque, so just up my street! My to read pile seems to keep growing though and I have an ever growing pile of self help type books on my bedside table which I just can't seem to motivate myself to read!

Christmas tree

We put our Christmas tree up today and this is the finished product!

I've also got a little 3ft tree in my kitchen as we spend so much time in there so I'm starting to feel Christmassy! Particularly as I watched Santa Clause the Movie when sorting out all my decorations!

For the first time ever I will have time off over xmas this year and I can't wait! I'm going to have 13 days off and I'm planning to watch lots of Christmassy tv and read lots!!