Sunday, 22 September 2019

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Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Welcome to New York #bookreview

Author: Luana Ferrez
Publisher: Independently published
Published: January 17, 2018
Genres: Romance
Date read: September 10, 2019
Number of times read: 1
Format: E-book
Source: Book Sirens









Summary

Harry has a secret.
He led a well-planned life and knew exactly what he wanted. Until...
Something chased him away from his hometown in England. He arrives in New York wishing to erase his past, eager for a fresh start. A new life. Everybody here was someone else before.

Alana has a secret.
She left her small town in the Midwest chasing a dream. She arrives in New York determined to see her name flashing in bright lights on Broadway billboards. Everybody here wanted something more.
She was on the right path, but then...

When Harry and Alana meet, they recognize each other’s scars. They bond over the things they don’t say. They find comfort in long silences. But as they learn how to deal with life’s plot twists, they find out the Big Apple has its own plans for them.
For how long can they hide? How long can they keep everyone else at a distance? How long until their past catches up with their present?
Their lives are about to get irreversibly intertwined. Do you want to know how?

First of all, welcome to New York!-- via Goodreads


Review


What a wonderful adventure through New York, Oklahoma, London and Oxford.  Both Harry and Alana are wonderful characters, both troubled by their pasts yet find themselves drawn to each other, revealing more and more about themselves as they get closer and closer.  Just when you think the mystery has been solved, something else is revealed to keep you reading.

Yet this story never seems to be drawn out or over padded.  The pace was just right, the surprises just with the right amount of credibility, never far fetched and always neatly rounded out with the right level of realism.

New York is somewhere I have longed to visit and this book encourages me to go all the more.  The bright lights of Broadway, the hustle and bustle of the streets and the beautiful scenery of the parks and commons.

Thank you to Luana Ferraz for Welcoming me to New York, I look forward to exploring more of this authors work in the future

I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.


A very warm welcome to the Big Apple and a real temptation to stay


Overall Rating

5 out of 5


Saturday, 7 September 2019

The Cornish Cream Tea Bus #bookreview

Author: Cressida McLaughlin
Publisher: Harper Collins UK
Published: August 8, 2019
Genres: Women’s fiction, romantic comedy
Date read: September 5, 2019
Number of times read: 1
Format: E-book
Source: Netgalley









Summary

Next stop, Cornwall! Hop on The Cornish Cream Tea Bus for a delicious, romantic adventure…

Baking fanatic, Charlie Quilter, is surprised when her late uncle bequeaths his vintage bus to her in his will. Keen to give the bus a new lease of life, Charlie thinks it will be the perfect mobile cafĂ© for afternoon tea, and when her friend, Juliette, suggests Charlie comes to stay with her in the picturesque Cornish village of Porthgolow, she’s thrilled at the chance of a new start.
Charlie and her cute dog, Marmite, make new friends wherever their bus stops – except for the sexy but reclusive owner of the posh spa up on the hill, Daniel Harper, who isn’t very pleased that her bus is parked outside his lovely hotel.
Has Charlie’s Cornish dream developed a soggy bottom? Or can she convince Daniel that her bus could be the start of something wonderful for the little village – and for them?-
- via Goodreads


Review


As a huge baking fan, I was drawn to this story straight away.  I'm also a big fan of Cressida McLaughlin after reading her Canal Boat Cafe series.  This had a similar premise, a cafe or eatery set on an unusual setting.  In this case, it's an old Routemaster bus left to our heroine Charlie by her late uncle.  After a bit of a disastrous start to her cream tea bus, she relocates to Cornwall for a fresh start.

Not all the locals are pleased with the idea, they don't like the idea of someone new coming in and taking over and Daniel, the owner of the Crystal Waters Spa seems intent on rubbing her up the wrong way.  But with the help of her friends and some of the more affable locals, Charlie takes her bus 'Gertie' on the road.

The setting is beautifully described, Cornwall is a place I really want to visit one day and this book only helped fuel that desire. The village of Porthgolow is a sleepy town, almost a ghost town but still such beautiful scenery. With Charlie's help, the village comes alive and brings more tourists in and helps the villagers and their businesses, despite some initial objections.

But it also has secrets.  Who is maintaining the Instagram account, anonymous beautiful images of the town and no-one will admit to sharing them?  What is Oliver, the bartender of the Marauding Mojito, hiding?  Is there really a mermaid living in the little yellow house? Who is trying to sabotage Charlie and shut her bus down? All signs point to Daniel, but is it really him? And how can she be attracted to him if it is?

With equal parts of romance, intrigue and baking, this cake is meant for sharing.



A double-decker ride of laughs and misunderstandings served up with tea and scones



Overall Rating

5 out of 5


Monday, 26 August 2019

The Accidental Life Swap #bookreview

The Accidental Life Swap


Author: Jennifer Joyce
Publisher: HQ Digital
Published: September 1, 2019
Genres: Women’s fiction, romantic comedy
Date read: August 22, 2019
Number of times read: 1
Format: E-book
Source: Netgalley






Summary


Sometimes one moment can change your life forever…
Rebecca Riley has always been a bit of a pushover. When her glamorous boss, Vanessa, asks her to jump, she doesn’t just ask how high… she asks if her boss would like her to grab a coffee on the way back down!
So whilst overseeing the renovation of Vanessa’s beautiful countryside home, the last thing Rebecca ever expected was to be mistaken for her boss – or that she would even consider going along with it! Far away from the bustling city and her boss’s demanding ways, could she pretend to be Vanessa and swap lives, just for a little while?-- via Goodreads



Review



I could not stop giggling my way through this book. Whilst some of the characters are a bit stereotypical, I still enjoyed this tale of mistaken identity.

Rebecca was the complete opposite of Vanessa so seeing her behave like her tyrant boss was hysterical and how she managed to avoid anyone finding out.

The board game battles with Oliver were great and the fact the decider was Hungry Hippos was brilliant. I can't think of a better way to spend an evening, to be honest.

The Animal Sanctuary was lovely, and I especially liked the escaping donkey tag team, and the territorial chickens (Chicken Chow-Mein, what a wonderful name).

The only thing that irked me a bit was Rebecca’s flatmate. If someone was that disgusting to live with, and he really was disgusting, there must have surely been other places to live. Even if she was on a really low budget, there had to be other slightly less awful places to live then to put up with a Neanderthal like Lee. But as this wasn’t a major part of the story, I could get over it.

The ending was slightly predictable but most rom-coms and chick-lit are so that didn’t bother me in the slightest, the story is in how the hero and heroine get from strangers/enemies to that happy ever after.


A hilarious tale of mistaken identity leads to you finding your real self.


Overall Rating


5 out of 5


Sunday, 25 August 2019

The Beekeeper’s Cottage #bookreview

The Beekeeper’s Cottage


Author: Emma Davies
Publisher: Bookouture
Published: August 6, 2019
Genres: Women’s fiction
Date read: August 17, 2019
Number of times read: 1
Format: E-book
Source: Netgalley






Summary


Comforted by the gentle hum of the beehives at the bottom of the garden, Grace drains the last of her tea and walks slowly back towards the little hillside house she adores. Her marriage is over, but is it too late to start her life again?

Beekeeper Grace thought throwing out her cheating husband would be the hardest thing she ever did. But when she opens the door to a property developer one morning, it’s clear that keeping the beautiful home and garden – her only sanctuary throughout her miserable marriage – will be the greatest challenge of all…
Fleeing to her best friend at the flower farm next door, Grace blurts out all her problems, only to be overheard by Amos, a handsome, free-spirited visitor in bright red Doc Martens. Fascinated by Grace and her bees, Amos offers to stay in the village of Hope Corner, to help turn her home into a guest house in return for lessons on beekeeping.

As Grace shows Amos how to nurture a hive and harvest honeycomb without getting stung, he is charming but secretive. He never stays long in the same place after an incident in his past involving a mysterious woman named Maria. But as their eyes lock over a jar of homemade honey, Grace can’t help feeling that she’d really like him to stay…
Determined to dispel her growing suspicion that Amos is running from something serious, Grace goes in search of the truth about Maria. But when she finds it, will she still want Amos to put down roots in Hope Corner, and will they still have a house to return to? -- via Goodreads



Review


The first thing I loved about this story was the setting. The way both Grace’s cottage and Flora’s flower farm were described made me feel so happy and so at home, I immediately warmed to the characters within.

I had no idea this was the second book in a series, the first of which was Flora’s story. I shall definitely be looking that one out as even though this book has their story all wrapped up and thriving, it will be nice to read the story of how they got there. I also believe there was a short novella which introduced us to Amos, one of our main characters here so I will also be looking that up.

Speaking of Amos, I liked him right away. He had a way of knowing just where and when he was needed, not asking for anything in return, other than a place to lay his head, be it under a roof or under the stars. The image of him sleeping in Grace’s garden made me feel just as safe and content as it did Grace herself.

I loved how Grace interacted with her bees. Such misunderstood creatures but so beautiful and hard-working, they are just like Amos. They don’t bother anyone unless annoyed and they work so hard for their queen. I especially liked the way Grace talked to them, seeking advice and solace from her wretch of a husband, I’m so glad he got his comeuppance.

I like Emma Davies’ style of writing, her descriptions are spot on, so much so I can picture everything and everyone in such details, right down to Amos’ red Doc Martens.

I also enjoyed the fact the main characters were slightly older than the usual romantic novels featuring couples in their twenties or thirties. It just proves life and love don’t end at thirty-five.

I hope to see more from Emma Davies in the future.

Buzzing with a hint of mystery, this lovely tale of moving on is a delight to read.


Overall Rating


4 out of 5



A Clockwork Orange #review #bookreview

A Clockwork Orange


Author: Anthony Burgess
Publisher: William Heinemann
Published: September 6, 2012 (originally published, 1962)
Page count: 352
Genres: scifi, dystopian, speculative, horror
Date read: August 9, 2019
Number of times read: 1
Format: audiobook
Source: Audible









Summary

A vicious fifteen-year-old droog is the central character of this 1963 classic. In Anthony Burgess's nightmare vision of the future, where criminals take over after dark, the story is told by the central character, Alex, who talks in a brutal invented slang that brilliantly renders his and his friends' social pathology. A Clockwork Orange is a frightening fable about good and evil, and the meaning of human freedom. And when the state undertakes to reform Alex to "redeem" him, the novel asks, "At what cost?"

This edition includes the controversial last chapter not published in the first edition and Burgess's introduction "A Clockwork Orange Resucked." -- via Goodreads

Review

This is not a book you read for pleasure. 

This is not a book you "like" in the way you like Harry Potter or ice cream.

You don't "enjoy" it...but you do respect it for what it achieves as a piece of writing. It is a very well constructed piece of writing. Linguistically marvelous for sure. Burgess's NADSAT is up there with Tolkien's elvish in terms of language creation, which makes sense when you read that Burgess, like Tolkien, had a background in linguistics. The melange of Russian and British with NADSAT points to influence by Russia onto the British youth culture in the novel's dystopian alternate timeline. Even though it's not an influence that is ever explored, probably because our extremely unreliable narrator is a 15-year old boy who couldn't give a flying fuck about the influence of other countries on his own, it's an interesting thread for the reader to consider alongside everything else Burgess presents. 

A Clockwork Orange is a disturbing book from the outset. From the very first sentence you know you're in for a brutal "what the fuck is Burgess thinking?" ride. There's such an extreme level of violence and depravity that the narrator engages in that Burgess coined his own NADSAT phrase for it, ultra-violence, which has seeped into popular culture to describe random acts of violence simply for the sake of violence. Because Alex is the narrator, the reader is treated to a first-hand journey into the depth of his depravity. He spares no expense describing what he does in lurid detail, I think the linguistic oddities of NADSAT are the only reason I could actually get through reading the book. If it had been written in plain English the level of description would have been far, far too much for my overactive imagination. It was hard enough with the NADSAT. It's not a take I've seen often in fiction, where an author fully immerses the reader in the mind of a deranged teenager and sends them down the rabbit hole of their darkness. I can think of only two other times I've experienced it. Stephen King's novella Apt Pupil and Christopher Pike's TheWicked Heart, both of which eerily enough involved Nazi influence on the narrators.

The next bit of this review is going to be a bit spoilery so I'm adding a jump cut...

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Review - Sock Shop's Bamboo Socks (plus 10% discount code)




Socks.  Such a simple thing, something we just take for granted.  We get up, get dressed and slip those socks onto our feet without really thinking about them.

I wear socks pretty much every day, definitely on workdays and if I need to go out anywhere.  As I rarely wear skirts or dresses and trousers are my outfit of choice, it stands to reason that socks are an essential part of my wardrobe.

I admit I do have a thing for novelty socks, I like patterns and bright colours, not a huge fan of plain white socks although I do have some for the right occasion.  So I was delighted when Sock Shop sent me some of their bamboo socks to try.

I had never heard of Bamboo socks before but I do know bamboo is a pretty popular material these days given its sustainability. 

So I opted to try the LADIES 2 PAIR ELLE BAMBOO ANKLET SOCKS in Pink




The first thing I noticed when putting the socks on is how soft the feel of them was.  This would make them ideal for anyone with particularly sensitive skin as they felt very light on and when I removed them, there were no marks around my legs where they had been.  However this didn't lessen their grip any and they remained up all day, no need to keep pulling them up.  They really didn't feel like I was wearing any socks at all

 I also noticed that my feet didn't seem to smell as much when I took my trainers off as they can do when I wear regular cotton socks.  This was because the bamboo helps feet to breathe more and is also hypoallergenic and contains natural antibacterial properties.

Sock Shop carries a wide range of bamboo socks for everyone, men, women and children as well as many other socks in cotton, wool, cashmere and even Alpaca. 

Take a look at the Sock Shop website for their full range and bag a 10% discount with the code TwoBirds10


And check out my video review here https://youtu.be/-HNhX1WpINw




Thursday, 8 August 2019

The Strictly Class of 2019

It's that time of year once again when the TV suddenly becomes interesting in my house.  As a rule, I don't watch any 'live' TV, I prefer to watch my rather large collection of DVDs, there isn't much that peaks my interest these days television wise.  There are, however, three shows guaranteed to make me switch on or pay attention.  They are Mastermind (although this is only ever watched with my dad to see just how much we don't know about certain subjects), The Great British Bake-Off (it's on its way folks) and finally, the Creme de la Creme, Strictly Come Dancing.



Yes, the sparkles and sequins are being shined once more as fifteen more celebrities line up to take on the challenge for the Glitterball.  And to be honest, this year, it's anyone's to win.

More on the celebs in a moment. First up there are a couple of changes to the professional line-up.  The first announcement was that Pasha Kovalev was not going to return this year.  He did win the show a few years back with Caroline Flack as his partner and last year he partnered Ashley Roberts.  He probably felt if he couldn't win with Ashley then he'd never win it again (my opinion only guys).  So he has been replaced by a female dancer Nancy Xu, who is a former Latin champion and been a finalist in 'So You Think You Can Dance?' in China, as well as appearing in the West End and Broadway show Burn The Floor.


The next big shock came as it was revealed that beloved judge, Miss Nicey-Nice Dame Darcey Bussell would also not be returning to Strictly this year.  As always there was much speculation about who would replace her until it was finally announced that the new judge would be Motsi Mabuse.  If the name sounds familiar then it's likely to be because her sister is one of the pro dancers, Oti Mabuse.  But if you are expecting favouritism then think again. Motsi was the judge on the German version of Strictly when her sister was a pro and was responsible for her being voted out by scoring her a measly 3 points.  So no nepotism here, thank you very much.

So with the rest of the judges and pro dancers the same as last year, it's time to move onto the celebs themselves.   This year, there are no obvious stand out dancers, no pop stars or stars with an obvious dance background. So as I say, it's anyone's guess who will lift the Glitterball, and we will have to wait and see in the first couple of weeks, who the ones to watch will be.  Also unlike the last couple of years, I have no obvious favourite.  Last year Danny John-Jules was my pick, obvious really given he's one of the stars of one of my all-time favourite shows Red Dwarf but this yeat?  Nothing.  Yes, I know some of the stars, by name really rather than by being a fan so again, I will wait and see how the first couple of dances go before I nominate my champion.


So here is the line up for 2019

Alex Scott -  Ex England footballer, she represented Great Britain in the 2012 London Olympics.  She is now a well-known football commentator, recently appearing as a pundit for the 2019 World Cup.
 Anneka Rice - Now a BBC radio presenter, Anneka is probably most well-known for the two tv shows she appeared on in the 80's, namely Treasure Hunt, where two members of the public in the studio had to solve clues which sent Anneka to various locations in the UK via helicopter to locate the prize, and Challenge Anneka where members of the public would challenge her to complete a charitable project of some kind within a specific deadline, by gathering volunteers and various organisations to help her for free, both of which I remember watching.

Anneka Rice


Catherine Tyldsley - Actress, most notable roles are Iris Moss in 'Lillies' and Eva Price in 'Coronation Street'



Chris Ramsey - South Shields born comedian, Chris is a regular panellist on various comedy quiz shows and well known on the comedy circuit.

James Cracknell - Now a sports presenter, James represented Great Britain in rowing events in Junior World Championships, World Championships and the Olympic in both 2 men and 4 men teams, winning 2 Olympic gold medals along the way.


Emma Barton - Eastenders actress playing the role of Honey Mitchell, she also has theatre credits to her name so probably a bit of dance experience here.


Dev Griffin - Actor and DJ, is probably more well known for presenting the weekend afternoon show on BBC Radio 1

David James - Ex England footballer and goalkeeper, David achieving 572 appearances in Englands premier league (only 3 players appeared more) and was capped 53 times for England, being their number 1 goalkeeping choice in both Euro 2004 and World Cup 2010 campaigns.  He is now a regular pundit for BT Sport.





Jamie Laing - A few minor TV roles, Jamie is most well-known for appearing in reality TV show 'Made in Chelsea'.




Karim Zeroual - Currently a presenter on CBBC (Children's BBC)






Michelle Visage - American singer, TV host and radio DJ, Michelle is most well known these days for her role as a judge on Ru Paul's Drag Race



Mike Bushell - Sports presenter on BBC, he currently holds the world record for trying the most sports in a bid to encourage more people to get active and find a sport for them. His record is over 350 different sports.


Saffron Barker - Hoping to emulate Joe Sugg's popularity, Saffron is another social media star



Viscountess Emma Weymouth - a Viscountess through marriage, she has had various jobs including modelling, brand ambassador, owns a lifestyle website and is a Huffington Post contributing editor





Will Bayley - British Paralympic table-tennis champion, ranked World number 1, Will was born with Arthrogryposis, which affects both his arms and legs.  He won silver in London 2012 and gold in Rio 2016 Paralympics.







So there they are, the full line-up.  Only Emma Barton really has any noticeable dance in her CV. The rest appear to be total novices.  So now we await the launch show where each celeb will meet their partner and teacher in their bid to be Strictly champion 2019.

Until then, Keep Dancing










All images except my name tag courtesy of BBC

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

The Perfect Dress #bookreview

The Perfect Dress


Author: Louisa Leaman
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Published: October 17, 2019
Genres: romance, contemporary
Date read: August 7, 2019
Number of times read: 1
Format: E-book
Source: Netgalley






Summary


Fran’s wedding dress shop isn’t like any other. A treasure trove of history, filled with gowns from every decade for every type of bride. But not as you’d expect.

Something bold for the shy and retiring.
Something simple for the woman who is unafraid to stand out.
And something dazzling for the bride who wouldn’t normally dare to be different.

No matter your expectations, you’d never guess your own perfect dress. But Fran knows… she feels the wisdom woven into every gown, a gift from the previous owner waiting to be handed down to the next bride.

When Fran finds a dress that seems to be perfect for her she can’t wait to know its complex history which starts with her getting to know the son of the previous owner…. -- via Goodreads


Review


Weddings! I love reading about weddings and all the frippery that goes with it, despite never having been there, done that. So when a book like this comes along that pretty much guarantees nuptials, it’s definitely one for my TBR shelf.

So Fran is a sweet girl, running the Whispering Dress wedding dress shop. She doesn’t sell your usual mass-produced gowns, not worried about a quick sale or big commission. She wants to make sure her brides get the right dress, not necessarily what they think they want but what Fran knows they need. All her dresses are described in so much detail by the author, you can see them. So when she finds a one-of-a-kind exquisite dress in a house clearance, you are drawn into the history of the dress just as much as Fran is.

Of course, it helps that Raf happens to be the guy giving the dress away. Whilst he is gorgeous and captivating, at the same time he is moody, arrogant and very secretive. Both Fran and Raf have baggage, all of which is ensuring that their relationship will not run smoothly. We find out Raf’s secrets first because he lets his guard down first to the point you think it’s all worked out but just then Fran’s emotional luggage holds them back.

Ultimately it all comes down to the dress. It both drives them apart and pulls them together at different points in the story.

Sewn together like the lace and silk of the wedding gowns within, this romance is both beautiful and full of mystery.


Overall Rating

4 out of 5






Copy received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

You, Me and the Movies #bookreview

You, Me and the Movies



Author: Fiona Collins
Publisher: Transworld Digital
Published: April 4, 2019
Genres: romance, contemporary
Date read: July 27, 2019
Number of times read: 1
Format: E-book
Source: Netgalley







Summary


He only speaks in movie references but they make her remember everything...


After a marriage which threatened her entire sense of self, Arden Hall is divorced, doing a lacklustre job and living a quiet, rather unexciting life. But one day, visiting a friend in a London hospital, she suddenly re-encounters her former lover from thirty years ago, charismatic Film Studies lecturer, Mac Bartley-Thomas, who is lying in a bed on the same ward.

Suffering from a brain injury and unable to converse, all Mac can utter is short references to the famous films he and Arden once watched together, back when she was a student and they conducted their affair: Casablanca, Bonnie and Clyde, Some Like It Hot and more...

These movies spark both bittersweet memories of their passionate relationship and the potential for a more reflective Arden to finally fulfil the promise of her younger self. And in the course of her visits to Mac, she starts to reconnect with the world in a way that she didn’t think was possible... -- via Goodreads


Review

For anyone who knows me, they would know that films and movies are one of my big loves. Whereas my reading genres are more or less fixed, my film viewing is a little more eclectic, although I steer clear of horror in any format.

This book really appealed to me as not only was it romance-driven, it also brought several great movies to life.

The timeline jumps back and forth, starting with present-day Arden, who is just drifting along in life, not overly happy in her job and has escaped from a mentally abusive husband and is not looking to find another love. A chance meeting with an old friend leads to her visiting another old friend in hospital and by chance, discovering her one true love and lecturer Mac. This leads to flashbacks to her student days when she and Mac were involved in a passionate affair, based on movies as this was Mac’s vocation.

Present-day Mac is unable to speak, save for a few words which are movie references to ‘The List’, a list of films he was working on for his students, which Arden watched with him during their affair, giving her own insights and opinions.

As their affair continues, you already know it’s doomed to end, given that they haven’t seen each other for thirty years but it’s how the affair ends and it’s the effect on Arden that makes you keep reading. As she visits Mac, gets to know his neighbour James who is also visiting and also searches for Mac’s estranged son Lloyd, Arden starts to blossom and come out of her shell. We also learn about Arden’s family, her parents, who had a huge impact on her life both as a student and an adult.

The ending was inevitable yet satisfying, it was the only sensible conclusion to this wonderful story of love, loss and rebirth that made me both happy and sad at the same time.

For romance lovers and movie lovers, this will capture your heart and soul



Overall Rating


4 out of 5








Copy received from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.