Monday, 30 January 2012

It's snowing!

It has been snowing in Cardiff today. Not enough to settle, but it was definitely white stuff falling from the sky.

I had a quick panic when I saw it that I was going to be snowed in, mainly as Monday is the day I do my Asda big shop, so there was the chance I may have been snowed in with only 2 cartons of Um Bongo, some coleslaw, prawn cocktail and a tin of shortbread left over from Christmas.

My panic was shortlived when I saw that it wasn't even sticking to the cars or shed roof, so I knew it was going to be ok.

I haven't had the best luck with food over the weekend to be honest. Saturday we had planned to get a Chinese for tea and were really looking forward to it. We hadn't had one for ages and were starting to run out of those little plastic boxes the food comes in, so planned to have a treat!

We walked over as the Chinese is only in the next street to us. I even had a carrier bag in my pocket to avoid the 5p charge. As we got closer we noticed there were no lights on and the shutters were down. It had been closed down. As we trudged back I realised we couldn't even go elsewhere and pick one up as Steve had had a few beers and I had drunk a cheeky Pina Colada (which was pretty disgusting) while the football was on. So we ended up with a pizza. It would normally be a treat, but was disappointing when we were so looking forward to a Chinese.

It didn't get much better yesterday. I had planned to make a chicken and red wine casserole. I realised yesterday that I had forgotten to buy everything for it, apart from the chicken. Luckily, we had a spare bottle of wine and some veg in the freezer, so it wasn't a total disaster. It just goes to show how stressed I am at the moment.

Oh, and a final rant. Goodreads has ended its contract with Amazon, which means it doesn't use book data, including covers from Amazon any more. For me, this means that basically all of my book covers and page numbers have disappeared, making my shelves look very untidy! I'm not pleased. When I get over it a bit, I will have to spend ages sourcing all the info. Grrrr!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Book review: Horse Play

Horse Play

I've just finished reading the latest installment in Jo Carnegie's Churchminster series and enjoyed it, although I wouldn't say it was my favourite in the series.

It's another chick lit style bonkbuster (I love this term!) where we meet some new characters and get reunited with old friends in the village of Churchminster.

I like the fact that this series is so enjoyable and can be read at face value. And the fact that Heat magazine has described it as "the new SATC - Sex and the Countryside".

The new characters were fun, although I found this book a little harder to get into than the rest of the series, and at around 600 pages it was a tiny bit long for this type of book. But both minor things as I still enjoyed it and am looking forward to Jo Carnegie's next book (which I have read is set in a new village with new characters).

I would recommend this book to chick lit fans who don't mind books being a bit sexy (but don't worry, it's not a full on graphic Mills and Boon style novel!). In places it was hilariously funny and in others I had a tear in my eye. A good book for a bit of escapism from the normal day to day stuff!

Friday, 27 January 2012

4 day weekend!!

Woohoo!! I have just had day 1 of my 4 day weekend. And I am loving it.

So far I have been to get some treats from Waitrose and Asda (and panic buy my mother in law's birthday present as someone forgot it it next week!), read some of my book and napped with Bruce.

My plan for this evening is to eat my treats from Waitrose, drink Prosecco and maybe watch some crap TV that I have missed out on over the last week. I'm also looking at the Cath Kidston website as I want a new bag and can't decide which one I want as they've stopped doing the one that I loved!

Oh, I also bought 3 books in Asda (it was rude not to, they were so cheap!) and 2 CDs which were on offer.

What is everyone else doing this weekend?

Thursday, 26 January 2012

My life in 100 words

Another creative writing class task. This is the story of my life in 100 words. It's not a conventional autobiography, but I hope you like it!

It started with Spot the Dog. Then came Ladybird. Then I found Enid Blyton and the wonderful Roald Dahl. On I flew to Jacqueline Wilson, followed by Judy Blume. I discovered Sue Townsend and Adrian Mole. Then Harry Potter was born. It all changed with Zadie Smith. I laughed with Helen Fielding and cried with John Boyne. Had fun with Marian Keyes and learned with Alexander Cordell. Now I spend evenings with Alice Hoffman and time travel with Michel Faber. Go detecting with M.C. Beaton and get thrilled by S.J. Watson.

Times have changed, but books will always be there.

Creative writing: Homework Week 1

Ok, so I'm feeling brave at the moment as my homework went down well with the arty types in my creative writing class. I've decided to publish it here and put it out there for the world!!

The task was to write an opening page which would grab interest and make you want to read more about the character. So here goes....

Well, that settles it. There is no way I can show my face in work ever again!

I have surpassed myself in the humiliation stakes. The time I did the full routine to Michael Jackson’s thriller (including crotch grabbing!) in the Hilton a stakeholder conference and the time I accidentally spilt a drink over myself and then ripped a sink off the wall in the ladies’ whilst trying  to balance on it to reach the hand dryer are nothing compared to this.

I don’t know how I’m going to show my face. And how can I ever explain that it was worse than it looked? How did I know that my trousers were going to split down the front, under the zip, right down to the centre seam, when I crouched down to pick up my pen after the meeting? And why did it have to happen on the one day when I was wearing flesh coloured pants? I can never look people in the eye again. I know what they were thinking.

Let me know what you think! I have a couple of short stories to share too, so watch this space!

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

No offence

How was everyone's weekend? I had a lovely girly satrurday with good food and good company. Sunday, not so much though.

Two of our fence panels blew down in the high winds the other week and it took until last week to get new ones delivered. So Sunday was the f-day. F obviously standing for fence (although I could think of other things!).

I nominated myself project manager for this task (naturally) and after a quick phone call from Steve, we doubled our man power (to two men) and got one of the boys to come and help, with the promise it would only take 10 minutes to slot the panels in.

Five hours later they were finished! During this five hours Steve had to get onto a trampoline to make himself taller, his mate suffered vertigo on a step stool that was about, ooh, a foot and a half off the ground, a trip had to be made in search of more manly tools to get the job done and there was an injury when a hammer came into contact with a finger.

This all made me think, why are we so obsessed with doing it ourselves and why do men suddenly think they are invincible as soon as they are within 10 feet of a tool bag?

I have to clarify here, that all the tools we own were not brought into our home by man. Oh no. They were all brought by me, a 5ft1 girl. When I was younger I was always involved in the DIY and built up a fair collection of tools as my Dad liked to buy me random gifts (the axe for my 18th birthday was a classic, but fair play, it's come in handy!).

On the plus side, we now have a fence instead of two gaps, and Steve feels a sense of pride every time he reverses into the drive. I, on the other hand, feel a sense of dread as I know we need to do a huge redecorating project this year and I don't know how I will cope with a whole house worth of painting, wall papering and DIY, plus the bickering and empty crates of beer which will become inevitable.

The TV DIY shows of my teenage years made it look so easy. But where are Alan Titchmarsh and Anna Ryder-Richardson when you need them now eh? Filming chat shows and running a zoo, that's where. And what use is that to me?

I have a couple of months to build myself up to the decorating project. Maybe a DIY book for a Valentines Day will be the way forward...

Book Review: The Skeleton in the Closet

The Skeleton in the Closet
I got this book for 99p over the Christmas period for my Kindle. I've only ever read one non-Agatha Raisin book by M.C. Beaton and didn't really like it, so I was a bit apprehensive about this book.

I started reading it on the train on the way back from London as I needed an easy read after a long day and got into it really quickly.

This book still has a mystery element to it, as well as an underlying romance. I found the story interesting and I always like a story about the underdog, so enjoyed this.

The book is fairly short and easy to get through, but I enjoy that type of book in between others as it's nice to clear your mind sometimes and just enjoy sailing through the story.

I would recommend this book for a nice bit of light reading, or something to read on public transport.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Book Review: The Red Garden

The Red Garden by Alice HoffmanI enjoyed this book, but also found it a little hard going.

It is really a collection of short stories which make up the history of a small town in the USA. They are best read in chronological order, as they are in the book but I suppose they could be read as stand alone short stories.

I think that the main reason I found it hard going was that I found it hard to keep up with all of the different characters and the references back to their ancestors. However, I thought it was well written and would read more by Alice Hoffman

My favourite part of the book was the beginning as I enjoyed reading about the town being founded and the historical aspects which reflected the hardships they faced. I don't think I didn't enjoy any of the stories, I just liked some more than others.

I also liked that there was a slight paranormal aspect to this book with the mention of ghosts in the town and I also liked how as the book went on, some of the earlier stories became part of the town's folklore and became a common link throughout the book.

I would recommend this book, although I would advise to take into account that the book is made up of short stories, rather than having one story throughout.

Ladies that lunch

Well my trip to London yesterday wasn't particularly exciting, although I did get to see Big Ben and walk through Parliament Square, and see a policeman with a very big gun!

Today has been very much more exciting though as I met my friend for some lunch and shopping in Cardiff and have had a loveley time.

We went to TGI Friday for food and decided to go all cosmopolitan and have some non-alcoholic cocktails to drink to feel like we were in Sex and the City. Although there were only two of us and we were in rainy old Cardiff. We had a brilliant waiter who presented us with a rose he had fashioned from a serviette.

He very much earned his tip, especially as he managed to wangle us a free dessert, which although we were full, we managed to find a little bit of room for!

By the time we had finished eating, I was convinced I would explode!! But I knew the best way to counteract all of the calories of the food (the cake had no calories as we didn't have to pay for it!) was to walk them off in the shops!

Town was rammed with people as there was some sort of pop concert planned with a band off X Factor (No Direction or something) so there were a lot of excitable screaming teenagers, who of course are my favourite type of people!

I didn't really get a lot, but it was nice to have a bit of a wander and a gossip with my friend and do a bit of window shopping!

I'm now home, still feeling pretty full and am wondering how late I can leave it before making a pie for tea!

I have a quick reading update, I have made a start on The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo but haven't really been able to concentrate on it to get into it, but I am also reading The Skeleton in the Closet by M.C. Beaton to have a bit of light reading even when I can't concentrate. I have a couple of book reviews to write too, so will post those when I am finished.

Tomorrow isn't going to be quite so exciting as I have my homework from creative writing to do and also a job application to finish, but these things must be done!

Friday, 20 January 2012

Big city adventures

I'm currently on the train to London for a big city mini adventure. It's not as exciting as it sounds but I am going to get a quick glimpse at Big Ben and Westminister Cathedral.

Will keep you posted on how it goes!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Creative is as creative does

I started my creative writing course last night (hence my paraphrasing of Forrest Gump!) and I think it went quite well. I enjoyed the exercises I did and reading the front page of a few books to get an idea of what makes a good book.

Ok, I didn't actually contribute to any discussions, but I took a lot in and it definitely made me think. I felt a bit intimidated by the group I was in as some of the others were quite vocal and liked to use words that I didn't really understand. Also, we did a free-writing exercise and I thought I did ok by just writing the first things that came into my head (like we asked), but when we had to read some out, some people seemed like they were going for the Booker Prize on week one!

It's a ten week course which covers a different aspect of creative writing each week. I'm not looking forward to week 5. Poetry. I hate poetry and have no interest in writing it, so the exercise I get given that week may be interesting.

I also have to write a short story to be assessed. So maybe if I feel good about it at the end of the course I'll consider publishing it here on my blog.

The last few days I have been mad busy and have to go up to London tomorrow for work which is going to be pretty tiring. But on Saturday I am meeting my friend for some lunch in town and a bit of shopping, so that will be a nice change. I also need to write a job application, so will probably have to spend some time doing it on Sunday to make sure I meet the dealine. I will let you know how that goes!!

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Lazing on a saturday afternoon

I have had a nightmare of a week this week. Work has been really stressful and I've had to work some long hours and I started off the week being ill, so it hasn't been great.

I have decided that today is the day of me and am not going to do the housework I should be doing, but instead I am going to make the most of my Saturday football widow time and do things that I want to do!

So far I have spent some time over on Goodreads, catching up with discussions and book reviews. I also had a nice lunch and a cup of tea and read the latest story of a certain Welsh sportsman who can't keep it in his pants!

My plan for the rest of the afternoon is to cwtch up on the sofa with Bruce and a duvet as it's freezing and watch a DVD and read some of my book.

A friend of mine in work has lent me the DVD of The King's Speech so I am going to watch this. Steve won't want to watch it as it has no guns in it and isn't a comedy so I'm going to make the most of this opportunity! I also have an episode of Midsomer to catch up on as I was too tired to watch it when it was on the TV on Wednesday, so I need to fit that in at some point this weekend too.

I hope you all have a great weekend and take this opportunity to be lazy and have a rest if you need to like me!

Book Review: Before I Go To Sleep

Before I Go To SleepI bought this book from the Kindle store after much deliberating, as although I quite liked the sound of the story from the blurb, I wasn't sure it would be my type of book as I have never read anything like this before. EVERYONE needs to read this book as it was amazing.

I am so glad I bought it though as I honestly thought it was fantastic. I was hooked right from the beginning. I liked the style of writing and also the main character, Christine, was really believable and not annoying as I feared she may be as the victim.

I have never been as gripped by a book as I was by this one. I managed to totally block out everything else whilst reading (including Steve trying to have a conversation with me – oops) and every twist of the story had me gasping and on the edge of my seat.

When I got to the end of the book I literally had nothing else to say other than wow and was left reeling by it for a few hours.

I would seriously recommend this to anyone, whether they like thrillers or not. Although, don't start it if you have something important to do, as that thing will never get done! I have never read a thriller before this book, but would like to try some more. Any recommendations on where to start would be gratefully received!

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

My name is Sheli and I have a problem...

This is what my to read pile could look like!

Ok, so I think I may have a problem. An addiction if you like. My name is Sheli and I am a bibliophile.

I have bought far too many books this year and we are only ten days in! Some people buy shoes or handbags, I buy books. So far this year I have bought 17 real books and 12 for the Kindle. Although, to be fair, some of the e-books were free.

So what am I to do? I spend more time on Goodreads than I do on Facebook. I pore over The Book People catalogue when it comes as if it were something sordid. I am worried that as a hobby this may be going too far. Although, this may be more down to me only recently realising that reading was a hobby and not just something that people do for fun! (Do not ask me how my mind works and how I had decided what a hobby was!) The more I read, the more new books and authors I find that I want to read so it's a bit of a vicious circle for me. But I suppose it's a better vice than crack cocaine or a bottle of whiskey a day!

I'm thinking I may set myself some kind of book budget. By doing this I can still make sure I have money to do other things I need to, like buy clothes and do fun stuff. And I am also saving towards two things at the moment, redecorating my house and the possibility of going on my first ever holiday abroad this year!! 2012 could be a big year for me!

This is how I picture my holiday. I think I may have watched too many Carry On films.

Although in reality it will be more like this!!

Anyway, enough of my ramblings. I am starting a creative writing course next week so I am feeling pretty nervous about that. I feel a bit like it's going to be like my first day at school and have got a new pen and notebook in honour of it. I just hope that there will be some nice people on the course and even if I don't get a multi-million pound publishing deal out of it, then I hope to make some new friends.

I'll keep you updated on my book purchasing progress and on any developments relating to our holiday decisions!

Saturday, 7 January 2012

Book Review: Are We Nearly There Yet?

Are We Nearly There Yet?: A Family's 8000 Miles Around Britain in a Vauxhall Astra

I came across this book by chance. In fact, the only reason I downloaded it was because it was 99p in the Kindle store and I quite like reading about people's experiences of travel and tourism.

I'm so glad I gave it a chance though as I really enjoyed it. Ben and his wife Dinah embark on an 8,000 mile journey around Britain with two children under the age of 4 in a Vauxhall Astra, all in the name of writing a guide book on family friendly accommodation and attractions. This book is like a travel diary which sits behind the published guidebook and gives a frank and personal account of both the journey around Britain and the emotional journey Ben embarked on.

It was really well written and easy to read. I loved reading about the family's experiences in places I know and the stories about the children were really funny and made me glad I have a cat and no small children!

This book made me laugh and parts of it made me cry. This is a real person's account of the ups and downs of real life. How families and relationships really are. None of this rose tinted glasses and romance malarkey. I would definitely recommend this to anyone that likes reading about other people. Just brace yourself to laugh, blink back tears and go on a whistle-stop tour around Britain!!

Book Review: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar ChildrenI had been reading reviews of this book for a while and the time came when I couldn't wait any longer so had to buy it! I loved the idea of the book and had really high hopes for it.

When I started reading the book I got into it really easily and enjoyed what I was reading and loved the way that the creepy old photographs were given characters and also loved the idea of Miss Peregrine, partly as she made me think of Nanny McPhee.

Although I enjoyed the book, there were a few things which I didn't like and spoilt what, for me, could have been an amazing and imaginative book.

The first thing that really bothered me was the spelling mistakes all the way through the book. And I don't mean Americanised spellings, I mean incorrect spellings. This is something that really gets on my nerves. I know as well as anyone how easy it is to make a typo, but I have two words to get over this - SPELL CHECK! If you are going to publish anything, please use it and get the work proof read. Right, rant over on spellings.

The next thing that really bothered me were the constant references to the island being just off the coast of Wales and the people being Welsh. The island did not seem Welsh to me and neither did the people. I think the author would have been better off making it a fictional generic creepy island which could be anywhere off the coast of Britain. It did make me feel as though the author had never been to Wales and just decided it would be a good setting as we have a lot of peculiar people here.

I found the last third of the book hard going. The best way I can describe this is to compare with Harry Potter. Imagine reading the first two thirds of Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone with the last third of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows tagged onto the end. This is what I felt this book was like.

Nonetheless I did enjoy the book and thought the concept of writing a story around old pictures was unique and could have been fantastic. Although enjoyable, it was just a bit of a let down for me.

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Happy 2012!

Happy New Year!! I hope everyone enjoyed whatever they were doing last night to welcome 2012.

We stay in on NYE and have done for the last few days as it's just so expensive to go out and we find that we have more fun at home on our own. Last night we got dolled up (to stay in!) and had a little buffet of yummy food, listened to music, played on the Wii and had a few drinks. When midnight came we watched Big Ben chiming on BBC, cracked open a bottle of bubbly and then lit some sparklers in the garden and watched our neighbours fireworks and lanterns!

We had a lovely evening and I didn't have a bad head when I woke up this morning and that's always a bonus! We had a bit of a mammoth lie in as I wanted to read my book When God was a rabbit by Sarah Winman as I was desperate to know more, so I left Steve sleep for a while and Bruce was wandering round and coming for a cwtch when he decided I deserved one!

I have high hopes for 2012 and really want it to be a good year. I've had a lot of crap ones and feel like this could be the one to be better! I have some things I want to do that are not resolutions as such, more hopes for the year ahead (this may be the same thing, but I'm never sure exactly what a resolution is!).

I really want to go on my first holiday this year and carry on doing new things and achieving things I never thought I was good enough to do. I managed to get over a lot of fears in 2011 and do things I thought I never would, even though they were all small things to other people. They were huge achievements for me though and I want to keep going on this!

I also want to carry on being myself and to stop worrying about whether other people think I am normal or not. I want to do things I enjoy and make the best of my life to do what I want to do.

Basically, I need to learn to be more selfish and look after myself more to avoid getting really ill again and to learn to control the way I think about myself.

So, 2012 is going to be all about me!!!

Ok, me and books. And maybe chocolate. And Steve and my friends. And Bruce.

Maybe I need to work on this all about me thing! 

Book Review: When God was a rabbit

When God Was a Rabbit
This is my first "read" book of 2012 and I loved it! I read it in just a few sittings and have sat up for hours this morning finishing it as I just wanted to know more.
The story itself is split into two parts and centres around the life of our narator, Elly and her family.

 The story starts in 1968 when Elly is born and takes us through her life until about 2002, taking in major events along the way, both in Elly's life and in the world at large.
Some descriptions in the book I laughed at, and there were some events that made me cry. I really liked Elly and in some ways she reminded me of myself as all through her life she felt an outsider. I was also particularly touched by an event in her life that was a bit close to home for me and gave me an idea of what could have been should the life of another not chosen a different path.
Beautifully written and easy to read, I would recommend this book as I enjoyed it so much. Thank you Santa for bringing me this book! An excellent start to the 2012 reading year!