28 October 2015

Pumpkin Carving


These are the results of this year's pumpkin carving efforts. We don't really go in for scary or jack o'lanterns as you can see, but it's a fun thing to do in autumn, and any excuse for pretty lights!

Paul's are always so much more artistic than mine - I was feeling pretty proud of my cat face until I saw he'd carved Pikachu and the alien from Toy Story! I put it down to him having been a professional chef, he's got the knife skills. As for me, I think I'll stick to the basics!
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26 October 2015

Feuillemort


Feuillemort (n.) [French]: the colour of a dying leaf.
I happen to think leaves look beautiful when they're dying.
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23 October 2015

An A-Z of Unread Books


In the interests of reminding myself why I shouldn't be buying any books right now, here are the all the books I currently have sitting at home waiting for their turn. And I'll still tell you I have nothing to read...

The Girl Who Chased The Moon - Sarah Addison Allen
A Man Called Ove - Fredrik Backman
A Song For Issy Bradley - Carys Bray
The Skeleton Cupboard - Tanya Byron
All The Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
Dream A Little Dream - Giovanna Fletcher
Sister Noon - Karen Joy Fowler
Christmas at Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
The Girl Who Just Appeared - Jonathan Harvey
Etta and Otto and Russell and James - Emma Hooper
The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly - Sun Mi Hwang
The Snow Child - Eowyn Ivey
The Tea Planter's Wife - Dinah Jeffries
The Beginner's Guide to Acting English - Shappi Khorsandi
Summertime - Vanessa Lafaye
I Let You Go - Clare Mackintosh
The Land of Decoration - Grace McClean
The Infatuations - Javier Marias
Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty
Her Fearful Symmetry - Audrey Niffenegger
Touch - Claire North
The Storyteller / Nineteen Minutes - Jodi Picoult
Secrets of the Tides - Hannah Ritchell
The Rosie Effect - Graeme Simsion
Breakfast of Champions - Kurt Vonnegut

Have you read any of these titles? Because I'm gonna need some help deciding where to start!
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22 October 2015

The Girl on the Train


Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. She knows it will wait at the same signal each time, overlooking a row of back gardens. She's even started to feel like she knows the people who live in one of the houses. 'Jess and Jason', she calls them. Their life - as she sees it - is perfect. If only Rachel could be that happy. And then she sees something shocking. It's only a minute until the train moves on, but it's enough. Now everything's changed. Now Rachel has a chance to become a part of the lives she's only watched from afar. Now they'll see: she's much more than just the girl on the train.

Rating: ★★★★

I've wanted to read this for ages and I finally borrowed it from my local library a couple of weeks ago. I was quite surprised I moved up the reservation list so quickly because I was quite a way down when I joined the queue, but that was before I read it. Now I can only assume all the previous readers raced through it in the same way I did! In case you're wondering, I didn't buy it only because I don't really like to have hardback books, but the paperback doesn't come out for a while yet...

I'm sometimes a little wary of a book that's had so much hype in case it doesn't live up to my expectations but I can definitely see why The Girl on The Train has been such a hit. It's been a few weeks since I read a book that I wanted to pick up every chance I got! It was an unpredictable story with plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing all the way through.

None of the characters are remotely likeable, which I think was the real strength of the book. They're all completely horrible and definitely not the sort of people you'd like to know in real life, but as characters they were all so complex and well developed, they were really interesting to read about and I still really wanted to know what happened to them. The story jumps between past and present and the narration is shared by three female characters, none of whom are at all reliable. I didn't know who to believe or trust, which meant it wasn't so easy to spot the red herrings. I liked that - for me, the fun of reading a thriller comes from the guessing, but not necessarily figuring it all out before the end.

One thing I'm unsure about is why The Girl on the Train has been so closely compared to Gone Girl. For me, Gone Girl was a lot darker, more tense and more of a psychological thriller. There are some aspects of psychology involved in TGOTT, particularly memory, but I didn't feel like it was quite on the same level. Having said that, I would definitely recommend this if you're looking for a page turner!
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19 October 2015

5 Favourite Disney Songs

If there's one thing guaranteed to put a smile on my face, it's a Disney singalong. I can often be found walking to work with my carefully curated Disney playlist in my ears so today, I've done the impossible and narrowed it down to just 5 of my all time favourite Disney tracks. In ascending order...

Poor Unfortunate Souls (The Little Mermaid)
This one is so much fun to sing along to! I often think that actually, the villains get some of the best numbers.

Zero to Hero (Hercules)
Altogether... 'Who put the glad in gladiaaaator?' LOVE The Muses.

I Just Can't Wait To Be King (The Lion King)
The Lion King arguably has some of the best Disney music going but this one is definitely my favourite of them all.

Friend Like Me (Aladdin)
I'll always feel a little bit sad listening to this now that Robin Williams is no longer with us, but I think it's because he sings it that I love it so much. It's so full of his personality!

I'll Make a Man Out of You (Mulan)
Mulan is one of the most underrated Disney films in my opinion and this is without a doubt my favourite ever Disney song. It's also excellent motivation in the gym... BE A MAN!

Special mention must also go to Be Our Guest, Under The Sea and Prince Ali, I practically shed a tear leaving them off the list! If you're in the mood for a Disney singalong, below is my full playlist. Enjoy!


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17 October 2015

Yesterday

Yesterday, I caught up with a friend I haven't seen for a while and had a little cuddle with her beautiful new baby girl. Then in the evening, I had dinner with my best friend to celebrate her birthday, washed down with a couple of glasses of yummy sangria, and we went to see The Intern, which was lovely.

Yesterday was pretty good.
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15 October 2015

Look Who's Back

The blurb: Berlin, Summer 2011. Adolf Hitler wakes up on a patch of open ground, alive and well. Things have changed – no Eva Braun, no Nazi party, no war. Hitler barely recognises his beloved Fatherland, filled with immigrants and run by a woman.

People certainly recognise him, albeit as a flawless impersonator who refuses to break character. The unthinkable, the inevitable happens, and the ranting Hitler goes viral, becomes a YouTube star, gets his own T.V. show, and people begin to listen. But the F├╝hrer has another programme with even greater ambition – to set the country he finds a shambles back to rights.


Look Who’s Back stunned and then thrilled 1.5 million German readers with its fearless approach to the most taboo of subjects. Naive yet insightful, repellent yet strangely sympathetic, the revived Hitler unquestionably has a spring in his step.

Rating: 2/5 stars

I started reading this book not really sure what to expect. It's a brave choice of topic but I wasn't put off, as some others have been, because I knew it was supposed to be a satire. I thought it sounded quite interesting, but I did wonder what on earth could be funny about Hitler. It was funny, but I felt only in the way it would have been funny to see what kinds of observations anyone who was used to life in the 1940s would make about modern society, technology and lifestyle. One of the funniest parts to read sees a secretary trying to teach Hitler - who everyone thinks is an excellent method actor, definitely not the real thing - how to use email. Apart from that, I didn't find much to laugh about.

Quite often while reading I had the feeling that Vermes just wanted to write about Hitler in the modern world, maybe just wanted to write something a bit shocking, but didn't really have a plot to go with it. Hitler finds himself the subject of a lot of media attention and this was an interesting look at 'celebrity', highlighting how easy it for potentially dangerous individuals to gain an audience in today's society, especially due to the media. Unfortunately, the story didn't really develop past this point and by the end, I was struggling to stay interested.

The author did a good job of capturing Hitler's sense of self-importance, however his inner monologue forms most of the book - this contains quite a lot of racist thought which wasn't the easiest to read. I didn't find it uncomfortable to read as such, as I can appreciate that it was probably exactly what Hitler's opinions of society would be and it's important to remember that the author isn't championing these views. However, I think the same effect could have been achieved with only a few such comments in discussion with other characters, rather than pages and pages of thought process.

Overall, I can see why this book has achieved controversial status and it's definitely an interesting concept, but I wasn't overly impressed. In fact, I'm a little annoyed I spent so much time on it.
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14 October 2015

Happy birthday Winnie the Pooh!

The more it snows (tiddely pom),
The more it goes (tiddely pom),
The more it goes (tiddely pom),
On snowing. 
And nobody knows (tiddely pom),
How cold my toes (tiddely pom),
How cold my toes (tiddely pom),
Are growing.

- The House at Pooh Corner (1928)

Today's post is dedicated to a very special literary birthday. A.A. Milne's classic children's book Winnie the Pooh was first published on this day in 1926, which makes that silly old bear the grand age of 89! To celebrate, here are a few of my favourite quotes from the Bear of Very Little Brain, who knows that all you need to make a song more 'hummy' is a few tiddely-poms.
  • "Just because an animal is large, it doesn't mean he doesn't want kindess; however big Tigger seems to be, remember that he wants as much kindness as Roo."
  • "Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold rather a large amount of Gratitude."
  • "If ever there is a tomorrow when we're not together, there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we're apart, I'll always be with you."
  • "It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn't use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like 'What about lunch?'"
Have you read any Winnie the Pooh recently? I used to have an audiobook that was voiced by Stephen Fry and Judi Dench amongst others, I remember that I loved listening to the Outdoor Hum for Snowy Weather! I love Disney, but I definitely prefer the traditional illustrations by E. H. Shepard. What about you?
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10 October 2015

The One Where We've Got A Whole Week Off

I practically skipped out of work yesterday because I now have a whole week off! Paul is also off at the same time which has been practically unheard of in the past when we did shift work. Here are some of the things I want to tick off my to do list while I've got this free time. I'm listing them here on the blog to help me get my priorities in order, along with a few other fun things we're getting up to:

Sort out my iTunes: My iPod hasn't been updated in about three years because all my music is stuck on my old dinosaur laptop, and I haven't wanted to plug my iPod into my new one because it will erase the whole thing. I haven't moved any music across to my newer laptop because I think that's what essentially broke the last one. Last week I bought a hard drive, so this week off is the perfect time to move all the songs over to external storage and finally start using my iPod more! I get a bit tired of Spotify cutting out all the time depending on signal and I can fit so much more on there anyway.

Draft a book: I don't want to make too much of this, or shout from the rooftops 'I'm writing a book!' because I don't know that I definitely am yet but basically, as I mentioned in this post, I've had an idea for something that I think could maybe turn into a nice little children's story. This week should hopefully give me time to think about it in a bit more detail and see if I can actually make it into anything. You never know unless you try!

Venue viewings: We have a couple of appointments with potential wedding venues this week which I'm really excited about! One of them we actually visited once before, but we had accidentally been put in the diary for a day when another wedding was taking place so we didn't get to see it all. Fingers crossed the parts we haven't seen before don't disappoint!

Apart from that, I'll mostly be catching up on sleep and reading as much as I can. I've just borrowed The Girl on The Train from my local library after being on the reservation list for weeks, which happens to coincide nicely with October's Olive Fox book club, so I'm looking forward to getting stuck in to that. I'm also visiting my sister at university and hopefully catching up with a few friends I haven't seen for a while. I can't wait!
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8 October 2015

Happy List #2


Using my best handwriting on the first page of a brand new notebook. Hot chocolate with marshmallows. Baby elephants. Catching up with Coronation Street on a Sunday morning. Tidiness. Flannel pyjamas. Finding new music I love. Adding memories to my scrapbook. Fairy lights. Train journeys. Afternoon naps. Getting home just before the rain starts. Spending time with friends. The smell of baking. A nearly complete Disney animated classics collection!
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7 October 2015

A Children's Literature Wishlist


I'd really like to read more children's literature. I'm currently making my way through the Mary Poppins collection, but there are a lot of other classic children stories that, for one reason or another, passed me by when I was younger. Plus, there are some absolutely beautiful editions around! Here are some of the titles I'd like to add to my collection not just for me, but for my children to enjoy in the future (with supervision!)

1. Black Beauty by Anna Sewell
This book was also featured in my Banned Books Week post. While putting that post together I came across this beautiful Penguin Threads edition.

2. The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen
I was introduced to Andersen's fairy tales earlier this year when I read The Tinder Box, one of Penguin's Little Black Classics collection, which I really enjoyed. I'm familiar with the story of The Snow Queen as I had an audio tape of it when I was younger (yes, a tape!) but I've never owned a copy of the book.

3. The Winnie-the-Pooh Collection by A.A. Milne
I love the Winnie the Pooh stories and there are so many beautiful treasury editions to choose from. The classic illustrations by E.H. Shepard are among my favourites.

4. Grimm's Fairytales by The Brothers Grimm
I haven't really read any of the original versions of Grimm's fairytales, even though they are the inspiration behind more than a few Disney films. I understand that some of them are not for the faint hearted!

5. Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling [Bloomsbury Illustrated Edition]
Obviously my collection of Harry Potter books already takes pride of place on my bookshelf, but the new illustrated edition of The Philosopher's Stone, illustrated by Jim Kay, just looks beautiful and I would love to own a copy. I'm asking Santa very nicely!

6. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Like Mary Poppins, The Wizard of Oz is one of my favourite films, but I've never read the original story.

7. Carrie's War by Nina Bawden
A book I read countless times during primary school but sadly have never had my own copy of!

8. A Children's Treasury of Milligan by Spike Milligan
This is something I would absolutely love to share with my children in the future! We had a copy at home when I was younger and it's wonderfully silly, full of nonsense mostly but I remember it making me giggle! Sir Nobonk and the Terrible Dreadful Awful Naughty Nasty Dragon is particularly memorable. It's also just a lovely hardback book with glossy pages and colour illustrations.

I think I will have to start collecting children's treasury editions!

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4 October 2015

September 2015 Book Haul

To say that I'm trying to not really buy any books at the moment, I'm still doing quite well at accumulating new reads. These are September's new additions to my shelf. The majority of my new reads were sent to me by Penguin UK, so a big thank you to them!







Of them all, I think I'm most excited to read Claire North's newest book, Touch. I really enjoyed The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August which was her debut novel, so I'm expecting good things!
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2 October 2015

Currently Reading - Mary Poppins


Mary Poppins has always been one of my favourite films, but after watching Saving Mr Banks, I decided I really should read the original stories. This beautiful collection by P.L. Travers, which contains all 7 stories, has been sitting on my shelf for a couple of years now and I'm finally getting around to reading it! It's quite a big book, so I've decided to read one of the stories in between each of my other reads until I've finished the whole collection. They come in at around 150 pages each, which is the perfect length for this!

So far I've read the first in the collection, and I enjoyed it. The stories have quite a different tone to them than the film - there is a lot of magic involved, but some of it seems quite sinister in places which I didn't expect! Mary Poppins is also a lot harsher, and very full of herself too - she is always admiring her reflection in shop windows! Still, I'm enjoying reading about the adventures she takes Jane & Michael on that weren't featured in the film as well as the more familiar ones. Speaking of things not featured in the films, did you know there are actually 4 children in the Banks family?

Have you read any of the Mary Poppins stories?
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