Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Favourite Historical Fiction ǀ Books & Reading

I was asked a number of times over on my 1K Q&A video to recommend my all-time favourite reads and although it seemed like a slight cop-out, I said that it was too tricky to simply pin down one or two books which were my ultimate favourites.

This is mostly because I read so widely and I have books I adore in each different genre which I would want to recommend.  It was for this reason that I was inspired to create a series of posts in which I talk about my favourite books and this week I am starting with one of my go-to genres: historical fiction.

Hopefully some of these books you won't have come across before, although I know I have mentioned a couple here previously.  But I have tried to choose from a variety of time periods and each one holds something special which has made it stand out to me:-

Emperor Series - Conn Iggulden
The first book you see here, The Death of Kings is actually not the first book in Conn Iggulden's 'Emperor' series but I appear to have mislaid the first book and I didn't want to not include it as I think that Iggulden is a real master of historical fiction.  I have read two of his series now, this one which is about Julius Caesar and one about Genghis Khan and both times I have been utterly blown away but the depth of his research, the scope of his story-telling and the way he makes me feel about infamous figures from history.  I would highly recommend reading any of Conn Iggulden's books and I'm excited to read his next series which is focused around the War of the Roses.

Taliesin - Stephen Lawhead
This is the first book in a series which is part fantasy and part historical fiction and, again, Stephen Lawhead is an author I consider to be a total master with words.  His books tend to be very character driven with lots of Gaelic and Celtic influences throughout and his Pendragon cycle is based on the myth of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table with a dash of magic thrown in for good measure.  Each book follows the story from a slightly different perspective with one character at the centre and I just adore them.  I have to add that I think the new covers are stunning and I will be replacing my copies at my earliest opportunity!

The Last Runaway - Tracy Chevalier
Jumping hugely forward in time now to The Last Runaway which is set during the 1850s.  This tells the story of a young girl called Honor Bright who moves from Dorset in England to Ohio in America.  Honor comes from a Quaker family and she moves with her sister when she decides to get married.  The story focuses around Honor coming of age but is set against a backdrop of slavery in America and how Honor becomes caught up with the Underground Railroad.  As a Quaker she is naturally against slavery and becomes entangled when a runaway slave turns up at the farm of her new family.  This was a period in time I hadn't really come across before in terms of fiction and I thought it was really well written and a very moving story.

The Nightingale - Kristin Hannah
Now on to a book which I know I have waxed lyrical about before as it was one of my favourite reads of 2016; The Nightingale.  This is a book set in the Second World War and we predominantly follow two sisters who live in Occupied France.  The two sisters are very different in personality but both choose to resist the occupation in very different ways.  This book was so moving and so beautifully written.  It's high up there as one of my all-time best books.

The Greatest Knight & The Scarlet Lion - Elizabeth Chadwick
This duology was the first Elizabeth Chadwick I ever read and I suppose for that reason it holds a nostalgic place in my heart because I've actually enjoyed every Chadwick book I've picked up.  It begins in the 1160s and follows the story of William Marshal, a young knight who is plucked from obscurity when he saves the life of Eleanor of Aquitaine.  He goes on to become the Earl of Pembroke and eventually the Regent of England and these two books follow his life story; largely based on real events and history.  I thought it was fantastically done and these are often the first books I recommend if asked for historical fiction set during this time period.

Pillars of the Earth - Ken Follett
At first glance the sheer size of this book would put many people off, especially when you learn that there are actually two books in the series but oh my it is worth the effort and honestly, it reads so, so, so quickly.  It is a story set in 12th century England and focuses around the construction of a cathedral.  It sounds quite uninteresting when you read the blurb but if you like strong character development in your books then you will fall head over heels for this story.  There is love, conflict, family drama, ambition and a whole host of characters.  There's a reason this book is considered a masterpiece and I would say if you've ever thought about reading it, then I would highly recommend just jumping straight in.

Do you have any favourite historical fiction books?  I'd love to know!

Don't forget you can purchase any of the books mentioned here using my affiliate links (it won't cost you anything extra and it helps support my book buying habits!!):-

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Happy Reading!

Currently reading:- 1984 by George Orwell

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Learning to Drive with Admiral ǀ Review

Sometimes an opportunity comes along which is just too intriguing to pass up.  When Admiral got in touch to ask whether Meg and Eli would be interested in coming along and trying out the new Firefly; a car designed specifically for children aged 5-10 year old, these cars feature independent suspension, disc brakes, twin electric motors, rack and pinion steering, indicators and headlights.

Admiral Young Drivers have been offering driving lessons to children aged 10-17 years old successfully for a while and wanted to extend these lessons to those under 10, not only because it's great fun and worthwhile to introduce them to the concept of driving but also from a road safety perspective as well.

So one afternoon we headed to the Etihad Stadium in Manchester for Meg and Eli's 20 minute lessons. 

There was a course laid out using plastic cones, which featured a number of different routes, stop and one way signs and even a little roundabout.

The instructors spent a lot of time talking with Meg and Eli about general road safety, how to use a steering wheel properly, the safe ways to approach junctions and roundabouts and how the car actually worked.  Both of them walked away with fantastic knowledge which will only help them the next time; maybe even when Meg is old enough to drive the bigger car!

After 10 minutes putting their newfound skills to the test, parents are then invited along for a drive for the remaining 10 minutes of the lesson.  It was funny watching how different Meg and Eli were when it came to their approaches to driving; Eli treated it like a mini race course whereas Meg was much more diligent, making sure she turned every corner carefully, feeding the steering wheel through her hands.  If anything that makes me feel like these lessons will be good at building confidence as I can almost see Meg being a hesitant learner when she gets to 17, whereas with these lessons she can already have a basic grasp of road safety.  

Lesson prices start at £19.95 for a 20 minute Firefly lesson and there are locations all over the UK.  I don't know whether it is something I would arrange regularly for the kids at this stage but definitely something to think about as they get closer to being ready to start driving lessons.

Research shows that early driving experience can cut road accidents by 40% which is a staggering figure, especially when you consider that 1 in 5 young people crash within 6 months of passing their test.  For that reason alone, this concept is so unique and such a great idea if you want to gradually build up road safety knowledge in your children whilst allowing them to have fun.

Thank you to Admiral for inviting us along for the day.  Both Meg and Eli really enjoyed themselves.

All thoughts and opinions are our own.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Why You Should Learn the Local Lingo When Travelling

Having recently just returned from a trip to Italy, I was surprised at myself when we landed in Pisa and I realised I had forgotten to even look up a few of the basic phrases we might need.  Cue a quick hop onto Google and some screenshots of the most commonly used phrases!

Actually, in the end, we were pretty lucky as our Airbnb host took the time to go through some words we might need and how to pronounce them properly but it's actually the first time we have visited a country without knowing at least some basic words.  It comes back to something which my mum drilled into us at an early age, to at least attempt to speak the local language, even if you make a mess of it and end up speaking English in the end anyway!

It doesn't actually surprise me that this isn't a very common attitude though.  Recent research by Holiday Autos suggests that around 27% of Brits make no effort to learn the local lingo when travelling, assuming that everyone speaks English and of those who do make the effort, on average, they only learn six or so words.  

I find this completely fascinating because to me, there is nothing which makes me feel more on the back foot than the thought that I might not be able to communicate when abroad.  I dislike the assumption that 'everyone' speaks English, as this simply isn't true.  It might be the case if you are going to a resort but if you've ever stayed somewhere remote or off the beaten track then you will quickly discover that simply being able to say 'hello' or 'goodbye' just isn't going to cut it!

So after reading this research, I was pondering over reasons why I think it's a good idea to make some attempt to learn the local lingo when travelling:-

1. It can save you time and stress
Knowing a few key words and phrases before you travel can help you to save time and money.  This can be anything from asking for basic directions to understanding menu options in a local restaurant.  You won't have to worry about whether anyone speaks English wherever you go either meaning you can be more confident, and have a more enjoyable trip from the get-go.

2. It can save you money
Depending on how much of the local language you speak, you can find the best deals at restaurants or with travel arrangements, you can negotiate for a bargain at the market, you could spot if you are being sold a dodgy deal based on the fact that you are a tourist...the list is pretty endless.

3. It can give you independence
This is a real must for anyone who doesn't want to rely on only going to resorts or sticking with tour guides.  If you want the opportunity to blend in with the locals and head off the beaten track then you will need a basic understanding of the local language.  Heading away from the main tourist spots can be a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the culture of a country which is ultimately very rewarding.

4. People will warm to you
I have made enough bumbling attempts to communicate in a foreign language to be able to tell you, hand on heart, that locals almost always warm to someone who attempts to speak their language.  I am confident that they can spot I am British a mile off and 9 times out of 10 will simply reply to me in English but starting out in the local language opens another kind of dialogue and one which often sees people offering recommendations and advice on the best places to go, longer lasting conversations and an all-round sense of having made an effort.

So next time you are planning a trip abroad, consider learning a few key phrases at the same time.  It will only help to make your holiday that much more rewarding.

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Wednesday, 14 June 2017

May Reads ǀ Books & Reading

May is typically our busiest time of the year so I was surprised to find that I had managed to read so much this month.  I had obviously needed to escape a little more than unusual from the every day stuff!

I actually had a pretty good reading month too, enjoying most of what I picked up:-

I've mentioned a few times now about my re-read of the Harry Potter books and this is just a continuation of that.  I just have the final book to go now and I am really enjoying the re-read so far.  There are so many details which just can't be included in the films which I had forgotten all about and it's almost like reading them for the first time in many ways.

Half of a Yellow Sun - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This was my second Adichie book and I really enjoyed it, if enjoyed can be the right word.  It is about the war in Uganda in the late 60's when Biafra was struggling for independence.  We follow five different characters in various stations of life and how they were affected both in the run up to the war and during the war.  There were parts of this story which were a little over dramatic and soap-opera like for me but it's a period in history that I knew next to nothing about before picking up the book and for that reason alone, I think it was a very important read and one I'm glad I picked up.

Wintersong - S. Jae-Jones
This is a YA fantasy book which I picked up believing it was a re-telling of the much loved Labyrinth story.  I actually discovered after picking it up, that it was originally written as an adult fantasy but was changed and a lot of the more graphic content was cut out which was certainly interesting to know.  This is a very, very loose Labyrinth re-telling and I would say that if you are a big Labyrinth fan that you might want to go in knowing that it only takes its inspiration from the film in the vaguest sense.  

This was probably my least favourite read of the month; it was a little stilted and some of the interactions were very odd, particularly between the Goblin King and our protagonist Liesl which I think stems from the adjustments made to the book as above.  I also thought that the Goblin King was a little bit of a let-down.  I had imagined him as a much darker and mysterious character and he fell flat for me.  Don't get me wrong, I will be picking up the second instalment as I am intrigued enough to see where the story goes and I am hoping the writing will develop into something a little more as the story continues.

Wonder - R.J. Palacio
Then onto what was probably my absolute favourite read of the month: Wonder.  This is a middle-grade story about a young boy called August, who has a severe facial disfigurement.  This facial disfigurement has meant August has been home-schooled up until the book begins when he is about to join a mainstream school.  We read from many different perspectives in the book which I adored and I fell into this book so hard I read it in one sitting.  This is a story about friendship, acceptance, family, forgiveness and ultimately kindness.  I would highly, highly recommend it.

I read quite a few heavy books this month so The Hundred-Year-Old Man made a welcome change.  It was an amusing and enjoyable read literally about a Hundred-Year-Old man who climbs out of the window of the old people's home on his 100th birthday and subsequently gets up to all kinds of high jinks.  We follow the present time and then the man's past where he was supposedly involved in some of the world's biggest political events.  There are some laugh out loud moments, some interesting political observations and although I feel it could have been shorter and was a little long-winded in places, this was very much a 'does what it says on the tin' type of book for me.

Seas of Snow - Kerensa Jennings
I was sent a copy of this book for review
This is a psychological-drama about a young girl called Gracie, who lives in the North East of England with her Mam.  Gracie's life is thrown off course by the arrival of her mum's brother, Joe.  Joe is a psychopath who begins a long torment of Gracie and her mother for many years.  Gracie finds relief through the discovery of poetry and her friendship with their neighbour, Billy.  There are definite trigger warnings in this book for domestic abuse, sexual abuse and child abuse and this is a very dark story.  However, the writing is also incredibly uplifting in places and Gracie's friendship with Billy is very charming. 

Pacing was something of an issue for me, as you flick between past and present and read from a number of different points-of-view.  I also wasn't a huge fan of the ending and I guessed the big 'twist' way before it was revealed but there was definitely something about the book which drew me in and kept me returning again and again.

Don't forget you can purchase any of the books mentioned here using my affiliate links (it won't cost you anything extra and it helps support my book buying habits!!):-

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Happy Reading!

Friday, 9 June 2017

The Italian Edition... ǀ Little Loves

Happy Friday from Italy!!  I can only apologise that this week's Little Loves post is going to be pretty much focused around one thing but we have had a lot to love this week and I am excited to share a snippet with you.  Of course there will be vlogs and blog posts in more detail to come but this is just a little insight.  By the time you read this, I will no doubt be landing back on English soil but it has been good, no, it has been amazing whilst it has lasted and Tuscany truly has a place in my heart now.

I haven't had as much time to read this week as I thought I would as we have really tried to eke out every hour we've had.  I picked the first book in a new trilogy to bring along, Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb; one of my all-time favourite fantasy authors.  With the book being almost 900 pages I had hoped to make a fair indent in it, but I'm only 200 or so pages along!  Robin Hobb is truly the queen of epic fantasy and I have yet to pick up a book by her that I haven't fallen head over heels in love with.

On Sunday we got to watch two amazing people get married at my brother in law's wedding.  It was such a beautiful day in Liverpool and the kids behaved so well.  Meg had to walk down the aisle first (and there were a few tense moments when the music started and she didn't appear!) and then Eli followed with his cousin, holding a sign for their Uncle.  There were a lot of tears, let me tell you!  It was just an all round fantastic day and I am so thrilled to welcome his new bride into our family.

Well, there is really only one option for this and that is that we made the trip to Tuscany.  We came for five days as a combined birthday and anniversary trip and although I have missed the kids like crazy, we've just had a brilliant time.  We sat and tried to think about our favourite moments from the holiday last night and just couldn't pinpoint one thing.  From the food to the people, the sights to the weather, it's just been one of those trips which we will always remember with fondness.

I shared my favourite outfit from the trip over on Instagram last night but it is this playsuit from Oasis.  I love the bright colours and the high neck detail, and it is so light that it was perfect for the 30 degree plus weather we have had.

We didn't get around to making a play list for our trip but we couldn't have come all the way to Italy and not enjoyed a little Il Divo.  We've done a fair amount of driving over the last five days so we've managed to make our way through quite a few of their albums!

And Lastly...
I just cannot put into words how fantastic our trip has been.  There were definitely times when we didn't think we were going to be able to get away and then times of worrying about leaving the kids for so long but I'm really glad we came.  It was so lovely to be able to spend some quality time with each other, and to celebrate 10 years of being married in style.  I'm really looking forward to seeing the kids again and giving them a big squeeze and I'd love to bring them back here one day as there is just so much to see and do, and I think that they would absolutely adore it.

But there...I will stop gushing now enough to wish you all a wonderful weekend!

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Friday, 2 June 2017

Sunsets, Tuscany & Jumpsuits... ǀ Little Loves

Happy Friday everyone!  We are enjoying the first week of our half term break and although the weather has been a little hit and miss, not having to get up and out to school has been a welcome break.  Best of all, we still have one more week to go!

As always, I am joining in with Morgana's Little Loves this week so here are mine:-

I have been reading two books this week; Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier.  I got a whole load of new books for my birthday which was amazing and I had a bit of a debate over whether to abandon my current TBR and pick up a new book or stick with it.  In the end I decided that I've wanted to read Cold Mountain for the longest time so I'd stay with my original plan.  CM is beautifully written with a very poetic and lyrical flow that I just fell right into.  I would highly recommend it and I'm intrigued to watch the movie now.

Despite living by the coast for the last 3 and a half years, we've never actually stayed out on the beach until sunset but last Friday we met up with some friends, grabbed some chippy chips and settled ourselves in.  It was absolutely stunning, helped of course by the gorgeous weather and I'm really glad we watched the sun set.

This is tentative at best but we made some progress with a possible house.  I don't want to say too much at this point as a lot is still up in the air but we might actually have somewhere to live by the end of July.  Thank goodness.

That jumpsuit.  We went into Liverpool last night to celebrate my sister-in-law's 21st birthday and it was the perfect excuse to finally wear it.  I didn't manage to get a full shot (there was a lovely mixer of champagne and sangria flowing...) but you hopefully get the idea.

We went a little old school this week and have been enjoying some 'classic' tunes.  This includes such diamonds as Ridin' Solo by Jason Derulo and Umbrella by Rihanna.  It actually boggles my mind that so many of the songs I remember so well are 10 years old or more.  Where did the time go?!

And Lastly...
This time next week I will hopefully be bringing you my Little Loves post from Tuscany.  Please keep your fingers crossed for beautiful sunshine and lots of opportunities to relax!  This is our first break away without the kids and we are going to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary.  Hopefully everything will go smoothly for us.

*This post contains an affiliate link.

Wednesday, 31 May 2017

Favourite Holiday Reads ǀ Books & Reading

You can't beat a good holiday read.  Whether you want to get lost in an epic fantasy world or pick up a quick and easy read for whilst you are lying on the beach...there are so many different types of books which would be perfect for your next holiday.

As we go to Italy next week I have been planning out some of the books I want to read and looking back over some of my favourites which I thought would be fun to share with you and hopefully inspire your next holiday read:-

The Little Shop of Happy Ever After - Jenny Colgan
Jenny Colgan is the queen of light-hearted reads for me.  Her stories are usually heart-warming with a little romance and a whole lot of self-discovery.  They tend to follow the same format (woman moves somewhere new to change up her life, finds it tricky and then finds love interest) but her books are so easy to read and perfect if you don't want to have to concentrate too much on the plot.  They do leave you feeling a little fuzzy inside too.

The Beachside Guest House - Vanessa Greene
Another great beach read, which falls into the category of 'chick lit' alongside Jenny Colgan, Vanessa Greene's books are easy to read and the two I have read so far have a strong female friendship element which I really appreciated.  There was a love interest or two but I didn't feel like this was the main focus of the Beachside Guest House and again, although they are fairly formulaic, for a quick read you won't find much better.

Blood Count - Robert Goddard
I've chosen Blood Count for this one but I could have just as easily chosen any Robert Goddard book if you want a fast-paced, uncomplicated psychological crime thriller.  Robert Goddard manages to strike the perfect balance for me of spine-tingling but not too scary and books which I can become completely absorbed into for the duration.  I very rarely guess the outcome and they are just the ideal length for reading on a plane.

Six of Crows - Leigh Bardugo
This is very much down to personal taste but I love reading a good fantasy book whilst I am on holiday.  I think it is partly because I very rarely have long stretches of time in my day to day life when I can let myself get completely wrapped up in a fantastical world and holidays just lend themselves to that perfectly.  For this I am recommending my favourite fantasy book of last year: Six of Crows.  If you like morally dubious characters and a world you can just fall into then this is the book for you.

The Island - Victoria Hislop
If you aren't able to travel abroad this year but you still want to discover an exotic location then I would highly recommend picking up one of Victoria Hislop's books.  They often mix foreign countries with historical fiction and The Island in particular is one book which has stayed with me for many years.  It is based on true events and focuses around the leper colony of Spinalonga in Greece. 

Do let me know if you pick up any of the books I have mentioned, or if you have any holiday reads you always love to reach for!

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Friday, 26 May 2017

The Importance of the Small Things ǀ Little Loves

I have to admit that I didn't know whether I could write a Little Loves post this week. With the horrific events of Monday evening happening so close to home, my week has been taken up with worrying about the world we are raising our children in, comforting and talking with people in the village who knew some of the victims and trying to think of ways to explain to Meg and Eli what happened.

But then I realised that the whole point of a terror attack is to stop you thinking of the positives, to think the world is a bleak and awful place and to fill your mind with doubt and worries; to let that overshadow everything else would be wrong. Yes, there is a time for grieving but there is also a time for finding the beautiful moments amongst the dark ones so that is what I am going to do.

I am currently reading The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson. It's a ridiculous story about a man who, quite literally, climbs out of the window of the old people's home on his 100th birthday and gets up to all kinds of high jinks. You read about the present day and you also read about his past, when he was supposedly involved in all kinds of major world acts. It's laugh out loud funny, if you can suspend your disbelief and is actually very poignant and political in places as well.

If you saw my social media posts over the weekend you will have spotted that I was pretty ill from Friday night onwards. So poorly in fact that we had to cancel my big birthday party which I was gutted about. What that meant was a lot of days spent lying on the sofa (trying hard not to feel sorry for myself) and I basically binge-watched the entire first season of Melissa and Joey. It's random but quite amusing and as each episode is only 20 minutes you can cram a lot into a day!

A recovery? I think that is about the only thing I can legitimately claim to have made this week but thank goodness because I did not enjoy being ill in the slightest. We have pretty much all had this stomach bug now so I'm hoping that it is finally done and dusted in our household.

It wasn't the jumpsuit but Friday evening before the sickness hit, James and I went a little old school and went bowling on a date. I tried to shake things up a bit and chose some red lipstick to wear which I would never normally go for and it seemed to be quite well received. Or, at least, I forgot to worry about how obvious my lips were after ten minutes or so!

Two of the victims of Monday evening lived in the village which is connected to ours and school held a beautiful memorial for them yesterday just before the end of the day. One child from each class released a pink balloon and we held a moment's silence for them. Each child was then given a balloon which we were asked to tie outside our homes in remembrance. It was, obviously, something I would rather not have had to attend as I would rather it hadn't happened but I thought that it was done really well, in a respectful way and it was good for the kids to be told what happened in a way which was relevant and helped them to understand.

And Lastly...
I reached 1,000 subscribers on YouTube just recently and since then I've been steadily climbing up which is just incredible. I seriously value every single person who watches my videos and comments on them. To celebrate I am doing a Q&A and running a little giveaway. I'd appreciate anyone popping over and leaving me a question (I'm nervous I won't get very many!) and if you wanted to enter the giveaway as well then that would be fab.

Have a wonderful bank holiday weekend all.

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Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Upcoming Book Releases ǀ Books & Reading

Sitting down and looking at all the upcoming releases for the rest of 2017 makes me hyper aware that there are so many books I want to read before the end of the year and that's before I even contemplate the 80+ books already lounging, unread and untouched on my bookshelves.

I've made good headway this year with my TBR pile and have tried really hard not to start any new series I can't finish (i.e. they haven't finished being written yet) or buy books unnecessarily (you can see how well that is going here...) but there are always going to be books which I am particularly excited about getting my hands on throughout the year and so I thought that today I would share some of those with you.

For total transparency, the links here are affiliate.  Using them means I (at no cost to you) get a small commission which keeps me in my book buying habit is always gratefully received.

Godsgrave (Nevernight #2) - Jay Kristoff
This is one of the twistiest (yes, it's a word) books I read in 2016 and I am so excited about the sequel!  It's hard to go into too much detail without spoiling anything but it bascially picks up the story of our protagonist Mia Corvere who is at the Red Church, a school of assassins.  It is vicious and graphic and diverse and utterly fascinating.  I did a full non-spoiler review of the first book which I have shared below, if you are interested:-

Released 5 September 2017

Origin (Robert Langdon #5) - Dan Brown
Dan Brown is like wine for me.  I know I shouldn't keep having another glass and yet sometimes I just can't help it.  Don't get me wrong; I loved Angels and Demons and even the Da Vinci Code ticked the boxes for me but since then his books have wandered a little too closely to the predicatable and formualic side of the tracks.  Yet there is something which keeps me reaching for the next one when it comes out nevertheless.  They aren't difficult to read and I appreciate the attempts he makes to twist storylines and imbue them with a hint of mystery.  Although allowing Tom Hanks to be cast as Robert Langdon is something I don't think I'll ever get over...

Released 3 October 2017

And now two books which have technically already been released but which we are excited to get nonetheless:-

Assassin's Fate (The Fitz & The Fool #3) - Robin Hobb
This has been released in the most beautiful hardback cover but as I already have the first two in paperback I am patiently waiting until March next year when it will be released *sob*.  Robin Hobb is one of my all-time favourite fantasy writers and this series is just as good as her others.  She has two other trilogies which feature Fitz and The Fool and are well worth reading before you begin this trilogy as we pick up where there stories left off.  And I honestly can't go into much more detail than that except to say that if you like strong character-led, adult fantasy books which rich description and the ability to get lost in another world...then Robin Hobb is an author you need to try.

The Dark Prophecy (Trials of Apollo #2) - Rick Riordan
Okay so technically I'm putting this is for James rather than for me as I'm still gradually making my way through Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series but I know that we will be purchasing it pretty soon after the release date as Rick Riordan is undoutebdly one of our favourite authors.  His books are middle-grade (age 8+) but they are absolutely hilarious and so well written that you really don't notice they are actually books for children.  Honestly.

This current series is about the god Apollo who has been cast back down to earth after upsetting his father, Zeus and trapped in the body of a teenage boy.  Of course, he still thinks of himself as a god and not as an awkward teenager so the calamity, and hilarity, that ensures after that is pretty much guaranteed.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

5 Simple Family Home Improvements ǀ Home & Interiors

Home improvements come in many forms and yes they can be fun! The mistake many people make is to try and do too much at once, but with some simple home improvements you can really enhance your family home in just a few simple steps.

From kitchens to bedrooms, living rooms, hallways and everything else you can think of with our simple family home improvement tips you can revolutionise your household. Simple things like using artificial turf samples to spruce up your home office can add a unique twist to your home, so let’s take a look at our amazing home improvement tips below.

Artificial Turf 
Artificial turf is great for gardens but it can also be used indoors as well; it makes a quirky and interesting flooring choice for one thing! But if that’s not to your liking then there’s plenty more you can do with artificial turf.
Nothing really brings the beauty of the outdoors indoors like artificial grass. The synthetic surface is a great home improvement tool and really lets you add a touch of nature to your home.

Make Your Home Inviting  
The first thing many people will see when they face your property is the front door, and that’s your key to making your home look like an inviting and happy place. We don’t really think about our front doors often, do we? Which is odd when you consider how much we use them in our day to day life.

A simple coat of paint can work wonders and really make your home stand out; try using a unique or unusual colour to really make your home stand out from the crowd. If you want to add to that home improvement then you could also add some outdoor lighting to frame the door or even add a new door handle or knocker.

Add Some Art to the Walls
This is one home improvement the whole family will enjoy getting involved in, simply adding a splash of artwork to the wall of any room will help give your home some more personality. You could get out some canvas or paper and some paints and even make a family occasion of it, creating your own artwork will be a fun activity the whole family will enjoy.

But if you prefer to buy your own artwork, traditional paintings or photography, that’s just as good. You could follow a theme or just go with the flow there’s no right or wrong way to do it, it is art after all.

Get Some House Plants
House plants don’t just add a dash of colour to the family home they also help keep the air clean and healthy. Having a few house plants is also great for teaching young children about the responsibility of looking after flowers and plants.

Don’t be put off if you’ve heard about the troubles of keeping house plants alive either, house plants come in many different types and some are surprisingly hardy. So do some research and find out which plant is best for you.

Add a Feature Wall
Feature walls can really breathe new life into a room! The great thing about this family home improvement tip is it can be used in any room as well and it’s quick and easy. First choose a bold colour and decide which room you want to freshen up and then paint one wall.

It might seem a little crazy at first but once you see the impact a feature wall has, we think you’ll agree that it’s an amazing home improvement. If you’re not too keen on painting then wallpapering a single wall is also a great alternative. 

*This is an advertorial guest post*

Friday, 19 May 2017

Panoramic 34, Jumpsuits & New Books... ǀ Little Loves

Happy Friday!!  I won't lie, we are into the second day of my very exciting 30th birthday bonanza so I'm feeling very chipper indeed, even if the weather here in the North West has decided to truly let me down.  I've had to cancel my cocktail garden party for this afternoon but hopefully will be going out with James instead so all is not lost!

But as it's Friday that means time for my Little Loves of the week:-

I am currently reading Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.  It is set during the 1960s in Nigeria and about various people in different stations of life and how they were affected by the civil war.  It's a period in time which I knew nothing about before picking up the book and although it is fictionalised I have found it utterly fascinating and horrifying at the same time.

As you might expect, I quite a few new books for my birthday so I'm having a hard time deciding what to choose next.  I'll pop a birthday haul up soon and hopefully that will get me some advice and recommendations!

We have just discovered Taskmaster on Dave and have been loving that this week.  It's the most random concept; basically four comedians do various tasks set by Greg Davies and compete to be the winner.  The tasks are things like painting whilst riding on the back of a horse and throwing an egg the furthest without it breaking...just the most random stuff but completely hilarious.  I think it is on to its fourth season now and I don't know how it passed us by but we think it's brilliant.

This week we headed into Liverpool and made the climb (well, we went up in a lift...) to the 34th floor of West Tower for afternoon tea.  Meg had decided she didn't want a party this year but she wanted to go shopping with her best friend so we did a bit of clothes shopping and then went for afternoon tea at Panoramic 34.  I should have a vlog going up about it on Sunday (7pm GMT!) but it was amazing.  Everything from the staff to the view was just fantastic and I think we may have set the precedent for birthday treats now!

So, big surprise this is birthday related!  We are going out for a meal with family and friends tomorrow night and I've bought a jumpsuit to wear.  I have never worn anything like this before and I really wanted to try something different so hopefully I won't chicken out at the last minute and stick to my skinnies and a nice top.

I have been enjoying listening to Rag'n'Bone man this week.  I've heard his music on the radio a few times but Spotify recommended his album to me and I decided to give it a go.  I've found it makes great music when the sun is shining and I'm sitting in the garden.  Erm..I mean when I'm busy working!

And Lastly...
I was talking to some friends yesterday about turning 30 and realising that I still feel as clueless as ever.  Is there an age when you think 'right now I'm really a proper adult'?  I always remember thinking that 30 was so old and being sure I would have everything together by this age and yet I still feel like one day someone is going to come and knock on my door and say they've come to take over!  It's such a strange one.  

Have a good week all!