Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Merry Christmas

I can't believe I haven't written a blog post since August! Well, actually, I can. I've been dithering for months about whether to carry on with this blog. My heart just doesn't seem to be in it any more, which is why it's been reduced to just the odd film or blog review.

Everything is fine here. Family life just continues as normal - being a mum is still the best thing that's ever happened to me, and my little boy is my whole world. But since I decided to keep that part of my life fairly private, it doesn't leave much else for blogging.

Crochet is still my main hobby, though I have to just fit it in when I can, which is not very often. I did start another blog, HookyHare, which was to run alongside my Folksy shop and Ravelry. I've since opened an Etsy shop, but stocking it is quite a slow process! In 2017 I'd like to just keep making things and popping them in there to (hopefully) sell, and I'd also like to have a serious attempt at dyeing some of my own yarn. I also want to focus on using my luxury yarns to make things for myself - probably shawls. And maybe next year will be the year that I learn to knit socks? (It was supposed to be this year, but, erm, yeah, that didn't happen!)

My reading plans for this year didn't work out how I'd hoped, but I intend to continue ploughing through my paperbacks and whittling them down to just favourites - the rest will be donated to charity. In fact, I'm thinking of putting myself on a bit of a Kindle ban until I've read some 'proper' books.

Similarly, I didn't do so well with my DVD watching - it was a lot harder than I thought it would be to make time to watch films, although in some ways I'm glad that I haven't been a complete telly addict all year! Again, I'll continue to work my way through the list and only keep the films that I really enjoy watching over and over again, the others will also be donated to charity.

I never did finish writing about all my New Year Resolutions Things On My To-Do List, but I suppose if I try to think positively, I didn't do too bad with them...

Obviously I didn't get all the way through my book and dvd lists, but I made some headway.

I'm not sure if I did more crochet, but I have done some over the year.

Have I learned a new skill? Erm, no I don't think I've managed that one.

Declutter and be more organised? I've donated lots of things to the charity shop, and I've sold quite a bit on ebay, so there has definitely been some decluttering going on, but not as much as I would've liked. And I treated myself to a new planner, a Kikki K, although I'm not sure if it's made me more organised. I'm constantly searching for the fabled 'planner peace'...

Improve my health? Well, in July I started doing the Couch to 5K running plan from the NHS. I kept up with it for about three months, but then a nasty chest infection kind of knocked me right out of my routine, and I never got back into it. BUT, I started it. And if I did it once, I can do it again. And I know that the best time to start is Now, rather than saying, I'll get back into it next year, but... I'm going to try and get back into it next year.

So, 2017. How am I feeling about it? Well, this time of year, between Christmas and New Year, always makes me feel a bit down, but a bit reflective too. 2016 has been a bit bonkers to put it mildly, what with certain political decisions, and the constant barrage of death, destruction and general bad news. I can't quite put my finger on how I'm feeling at the moment. I think, like so many people, I've got that niggling sense of wanting to do something to help, but not really knowing what, or how. Selfishly, I guess, there is also a part of me that wants to ignore all the horrible stuff - turn off the news, stop reading Twitter - and just focus on being happy with my little family.

I never wanted to abandon this blog half way through the year, which is why I intended to keep writing my book and film reviews. However, the ones that are still in the drafts folder never made it to the blog, and never will now. As I said, my heart isn't in it any more, so I think now is the time to call it a day.

If I do decide to carry on blogging, it will be over on Hooky Hare; I still read my favourite blogs, and will continue to do so from there. In the meantime, I can be found on Instagram @HookyHare24.

Thank you for reading and commenting over the years.

Have a very happy 2017.

Lots of love

Michelle  xx


Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Fargo


Next on my list was Fargo, a film set in snow-covered Minnesota. It follows Marge, a heavily pregnant police chief, who is investigating the deaths of a state trooper and two members of the public, which she discovers is linked to a bungled kidnapping, arranged by the debt-ridden husband of the kidnap victim.

There is a lot of bleak humour throughout the film, but a lot of violence too - it's not for the squeamish. I've seen it before and I enjoyed it then, as I did this time around. However, I feel as though I've become a bit more sensitive to excessive violence - I know the film is a work of fiction, and it's all just special effects etc, but it kind of upsets me a bit. I don't sit there crying or anything like that, I think I just have a vague feeling of unease, like I shouldn't be enjoying it (I can't really explain what I mean without giving away any spoilers).

It's still a good film though, with a great cast, and I probably would watch it again, despite my slight discomfort at some of the violence.


Evita


Chris bought me this a few years ago for Xmas, at my request, but I've never watched it until now, in fact it was still in it's cellophane wrapping!

I was only very vaguely aware of the storyline, Argentinian politics not being a specialised subject of mine, but I did quite enjoy this. I was familiar with one or two of the songs, and I have to say I think Madonna was great in this. I think she got criticised and praised in fairly equal measure for her performance, but I thought she did well, and I was impressed to read that she took extra singing lessons and really threw herself into the role.

Antonio Banderas as Che was really good - I liked the way he popped up as a different character throughout the story (or the same character in lots of different jobs!), but I was never totally convinced that it was him singing, probably because I haven't heard him sing anywhere else (whereas Madonna's voice is unmistakeably hers). I was surprised to see Jimmy Nail had quite a significant part too, and his voice was also recognisable.

Evita is more of an operatic musical (or rock opera) meaning that the dialogue between the songs, which would normally be spoken, is also sung - there are no spoken lines at all. I'm not usually too keen on that, I prefer musicals that have 'talky bits' then a song, then more 'talky bits', if you see what I mean (like Chicago, for example)! But as I said, I did really enjoy this, though I don't think it's a film I'd want to watch again now that I've seen it.

Dirty Dancing


This is one DVD in a box set that I've got, hence the photo of the disc itself. What can you say about Dirty Dancing? It's just one of those feelgood films, with great music, great dancing (obvs) and Patrick Swayze at his most gorgeous (which also makes me a bit sad now).

I was crocheting whilst watching it, and couldn't resist putting this photo up on Instagram (excuse the dodgy reflection):

She really did carry a watermelon!
and then later:

"Now I've... had... the time of my life...."
Bet you're singing along, aren't you?

I'm watching all my dvd's with a view to donating most of them to charity, and only keeping the ones I watch regularly. If this had been just a Dirty Dancing dvd I might've kept it, but since it's a box set I'll probably give it away. As much as I love the film, I can't say I've actually chosen to watch it before now; it's one of those I've seen loads of times, because it's always on tv, so I don't think I'll miss not having my own copy.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Dark Star



Not my DVD but one I inherited from someone else. I'm not really into sci-fi, but I was determined to watch it with an open mind. I got about ten minutes into it before abandoning it.

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Chicago



I flippin' love this film! I love every song in it and I have a massive girl-crush on Catherine Zeta Jones who I think is just completely amazing in this. I've never seen it on the stage, and I'm sure some people would say that that's far superior and I'd completely understand that, but since this is the only version I've seen, this is my favourite.

And all that jazz.

Monday, 18 July 2016

Cats


Next one on the list, this is the Cats Ultimate Edition, released in 1998.

Cats is one of my favourite musicals, I've seen it three times at the theatre, where it's a really magical experience. Obviously, watching a dvd on the tv in the living room isn't quite the same thing; I started off on the sofa watching it, and then kind of started doing other things whilst just listening to it in the background.

I can't listen to Elaine Paige singing Memory without crying though...

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Review: This House is Haunted

This House is Haunted This House is Haunted by John Boyne
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

It definitely is about a haunted house. An enjoyable read, but I guessed a couple of the main plot points quite early on. Not a book to send a shiver up your spine...

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Saturday, 16 July 2016

Review: Never Binge Again: Reprogram Yourself to Think Like a Permanently Thin Person

Never Binge Again: Reprogram Yourself to Think Like a Permanently Thin Person Never Binge Again: Reprogram Yourself to Think Like a Permanently Thin Person by Glenn Livingston
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I really thought I'd cracked it when I read this book. I thought I'd found 'the one', the one that was going to finally help me get some of my bad eating habits under control. But... no.

I've only read a few self-help books, on various topics, but I always find that they basically state the obvious, and tell you what you (kind of) already know. And yet, quite a lot of the time, that's what you need - you just need someone to say it, maybe in a slightly different way to how you've thought of it before.

This book pretty much states the obvious, and the author sort of admits that himself, at one point basically saying that you don't need to read the book. His basic premise for never bingeing again is "just never binge again".

He uses the idea that you have a Pig inside you. Not a cute little pink oinky pig, but a big ugly nasty grunting Pig-with-a-capital-P, and it's this Pig that has all the cravings, not you. So the next time the Pig says "ooh, lets eat a whole tube of Pringles" you are supposed to say "shut up Pig!" (or words to that effect) and lock it in it's cage and ignore it. And don't eat the Pringles.

I didn't like the idea of being horrible to a pig, or even a Pig, so my internal craving voice belongs to a Troll. "Yeah, shut up Troll!"

The thing is, this method did work for a while with me. I stopped snacking during the day, and I didn't have anything else to eat after our evening meal (I have a bad habit of having a bowl of cereal for 'supper' at around 9pm, even when I'm not hungry and I know I shouldn't eat that late). I managed to avoid all these bad habits by shutting down my Troll, and telling myself that I didn't need the snacks etc.

But, after a while, the ideas in the book just started to slip from my mind, and the snacking and eating when I didn't need to slowly crept back in. Occasionally I still think about my Troll, and I ignore it's pleas, but sometimes it gets it's own way.

So obviously it takes more than just reading a self-help book to change bad eating habits. Personally, I need someone to follow me around, and slap my hand away from my mouth every time I'm about to eat something unhealthy, I think that's the only thing that will work for me.

The book does make some good points though, and it did give me another way of thinking about my eating habits, and another method of dealing with them; just because it didn't work out for me the first time, there's no reason I can't try it again.

After all, you know what they say?

"Don't feed the Trolls!"

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Friday, 15 July 2016

Review: The Thirteenth Tale

The Thirteenth Tale The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield
My rating: 4 of 5 stars





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I saw an adaptation of this on TV a couple of years ago, starring the brilliant Olivia Colman, but as I have a memory like a sieve I'd forgotten a lot of the plot, so it didn't spoil my reading of the book (I'm not even sure how closely they stuck to the story anyway).

Margaret Lea is investigating Angelfield House, and the March family who once lived there, as the dying request of a famous author. Margaret has her own troubled past, which is part of what draws her into the history of the house and it's occupants.

There were quite a few names and dates to keep up with throughout the book, and I think I sometimes got a bit confused about who people were, and when did this or that event happen. A very enjoyable book though, nonetheless.

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Review: Dragonfly in Amber

Dragonfly in Amber Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Just loved it!

Really enjoyed the book, and just finished watching the second series on Amazon Prime. I'm basically emotionally drained by it all, but will be downloading book 3 onto my Kindle very soon, because I HAVE TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENS NEXT!!!!

I don't know if I'd be enjoying the Outlander novels as much if I hadn't started watching the tv series, I don't even know if I would've started reading them again. It may well be the Sam Heughan effect, but whatever it is, Diana Gabaldon has a new fan, and it's so exciting to think that I have about 7 more books in this series to read, so far (I don't know how much longer she can keep it going!)



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Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Calendar Girls



Another off my list, the tale of the ladies from the WI who made a nude calendar to raise money for charity. I think everyone knows this story by now. It's an enjoyable film, a bit sad in places, but with a lot of humour (I'd like to say, Yorkshire humour ;-) ). It's got a good cast, but once again, as much as I love Julie Walters, I think her character is a lot like a lot of other characters she portrays.

Hiatus

I've reluctantly come to the decision that I'm going to put this blog on an indefinite hiatus.

I feel as though I don't have time to write any more, or rather, I'd prefer to spend what little spare time I have doing something else (crochet, mainly). I also feel as though I don't have as much to write about. Even though I'm probably busier now than I've ever been in terms of doing 'family' things - days out, holidays, fun days at home etc - the fact that I want to keep that part of my life fairly private means that it's actually quite hard to write about any of it.

As I said, I still love doing crochet, although I seem to have lots of WIPs and not many finished objects to show. I mostly crochet after Junior has gone to bed, but not every evening - a lot of the time I'm too tired, or occasionally I might decide to have an evening of reading instead (or I might have some boring but necessary admin or houseworky stuff to do). I've been trying to get into using Instagram to take photos of my crochet, but my posts on there are very few and far between at the moment. There's no denying it's a lot quicker than blogging though.

I think I will continue to record my 'books read' and 'dvds watched' in 2016 on the blog, if only for the sake of completeness - I've started it, so I might as well finish it. My reviews aren't great by any means, but I think it would be a shame to just abandon them half way through.

There are still a few favourite blogs that I enjoy reading, and I'll make sure I have them bookmarked (I usually get to them through the list in the sidebar, but if I don't visit my own blog as much, I'll need another way of finding them). But really, I'd like to spend less time on my computer, even if that means less blog-reading. Even though I've talked about wanting to use Instagram, there's a part of me that is increasingly feeling like I want - need - to take a big step away from all social media. I've tried quitting Twitter and Facebook in the past, but only ever for a month or so at a time. I kind of want to stay connected, but at the same time I want to shut out all the bad news, all the nastiness, all the inane showbiz stories (I'll read something about a Z-list celeb and then think "that's five minutes of my life I won't get back, why did I bother to read it?"). I'd love to just switch off from it all, and immerse myself in my spare time in crochet and reading. But then, when you're, say, in the dentists waiting room and you've got a few minutes, it's handy to just have a quick scroll through Twitter on your phone, isn't it? Soooo, I don't know if I'll ever be able to give it up completely...

If I do feel the urge to start blogging again, I think it will be on my other blog HookyHare, and the focus will probably be mainly crochet/crafts (plus it's the same name as my Instagram, and I quite like the idea of having one 'identity'). Or maybe one day I'll come back to this blog? Never say never.

But for now, bye bye xxx


Monday, 11 July 2016

Review: White Nights

White Nights White Nights by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars



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I enjoyed this, but as it was a while since I read it, I can't remember the story now! A great review, I know! ;-)

Monday, 11 April 2016

Checking In...

... Oh dear, my little blog is being a bit neglected just lately. Apart from the book and film reviews, I don't seem to be finding much time to write any posts. In fact, at the time that I'm writing this I've got my settings on private, because I didn't think there was much point having it 'out there' when I wasn't saying a lot. Although, of course, if you're reading this, I must have changed them back to public ;-)

I've started using Instagram lately. I signed up to it a couple of years ago, but I hadn't really used it much. I'm now trying to use it more regularly, mainly just for crochet-related things. A few of the bloggers who I follow, who used to post quite prolifically, have migrated to Instagram, stating that they find it so much easier than writing a blog post and uploading photos, and I'm beginning to understand what they mean. I've really enjoyed writing my blog over the years, and as I saw other bloggers moving away from it, I always thought "nope, not me, I'll keep blogging". But now? Hmm, I don't know...

Although I'm still not posting very often on Instagram, I'm trying to get into the habit, and I can definitely see the appeal of it. But where does that leave my blog?

I could just have a break, I guess, but if I did that and then came back to it, I think I'd always regret those missing weeks or months where I hadn't blogged. And I probably would want to come back to it at some point.

I suppose I could just carry on as I have been, but maybe try to at least use some of my IG photos and do, say, a monthly catch-up post relating to whatever I've been up to on Instagram.

Last year, I started another blog, Hooky Hare, which was going to be all about my crochet, but I haven't been updating that either. Having two blogs is a bit tricky to keep up with, especially because I also want to mention my crochet on this one, so there is quite a lot of cross-over.

I did wonder if I should just call it a day with this blog, and start afresh on Hooky Hare? I really don't know how I feel about ending this blog though. It doesn't seem right to just stop, part-way through the year - I feel like I should wait till the end of the year, or something like that, a more appropriate time to wind it down. And if I moved to HH, would it just end up the same as this blog? Or would I stick to mainly yarn/crochet-related chat, and leave out more of the personal news?

So as you can see, I'm having a bit of a bloggy dilemma, and I just wanted to put my thoughts down here.

We'll see what happens...

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Calamity Jane

Google Images
Calamity Jane was the next film on my list, and I watched it back in February.

I've seen it several times already; usually I'll just come across it whilst flicking channels on tv, so I might have missed the start, although I have seen it in it's entirety before.

What can I say? It's just a pleasant, fun film with a great soundtrack, starring the very watchable Doris Day. One of the things that often strikes me is just how fit she must have been in some of those dance routines, jumping on tables and leaping over the bar, and all whilst singing and acting too (I know, she's a professional, so she should be able to do all that, but still... ). I Just Blew In From The Windy City is probably the best example of this, especially:

"Press a bell and a moment later,
Up you go in an elevator..."




Amazing choreography!




Review: Raven Black

Raven Black Raven Black by Ann Cleeves
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I didn't know about the Shetland series of novels until I started watching the BBC series starring Douglas Henshall, and I've been trying to get my hands on a copy ever since.

It's hard not to compare the two; as is often the case, there is (of course) a lot more detail in the book that has either been left out, or completely changed for the tv, but thankfully neither seems to have suffered for this. I love watching the series, even if certain things are different from the novel, but I also really loved this book, and the changes for tv didn't affect my enjoyment of it.

Possibly the biggest star of the book is Shetland itself. Ann's descriptions of the scenery, the weather, the way of life are so evocative that you really feel like you're there. As this is the first in the series, we're introduced to Detective Jimmy Perez, and we learn a little about his background. As well as investigating the murder of a 17-year old girl, he is also struggling with a personal dilemma of which direction his life is going to take - should he stay on Shetland, or go back home to Fair Isle?

Some of the characters from the book have been portrayed quite differently in the tv series. Perez doesn't seem to think much of Sandy in the book, whereas tv Sandy comes across as much more capable and professional, and I actually prefer this 'version' of him. Tosh isn't in the novel at all, unless she's meant to be 'Morag'. And Jimmy meets Fran for the first time (Duncan's ex-wife, mother of Cassie) in Raven Black, whereas in the tv series she's already passed away.

So quite a few differences, but like I said, I still really enjoyed the novel. Jimmy Perez is a very interesting character, and I'm looking forwards to finding out more about him in the later books, and seeing how his blossoming friendship with Fran develops.

It's probably a bit lazy to call it a 'page-turner' - all books are page-turners, I guess, unless you give up on them. But that's what it was - the plot really raced along and I just wanted to keep reading to find out what happened next. (I could vaguely remember the tv two-parter, which is actually about to be repeated, so it was kind of a race to finish the book before it's shown again, as I'll definitely be watching).

I've got the next book in the series, and I can't wait to read the rest (apparently Ann Cleeves is up to number six now!)

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Thursday, 24 March 2016

Review: The Small Hand

The Small Hand The Small Hand by Susan Hill
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I love a good old-fashioned ghost story, and so, it seems, does Susan Hill, as I believe this is the fourth one that she's written.

I think I've read the other three, but it was some time ago - they might all be due a re-read in the not too distant future.

Anyway, this book tells the story of Adam Snow, an antiquarian book dealer, who takes a wrong turn one evening and stumbles across a derelict Edwardian house. Unable to resist, he wanders into the overgrown garden, and as he stands there, he feels the unmistakable sensation of a small hand creeping into his own. However, he is completely alone....

The language and writing style made me think that this story was perhaps set in the late 19th/early 20th century, certainly 'in the past', so I was surprised at the first mention of email! Other reviewers have said that this kind of ghost story doesn't quite work in the modern age, and I can kind of understand that.

However, I still really enjoyed it, and I finished it the day after I'd started it (although it is only a short book). I like my ghost stories to leave a lot to my imagination, to have a kind of "less is more" approach - "the fear of fear itself". The sensation of a child's hand creeping into your own when you are completely alone is far more chilling than looking down and actually seeing a ghost there.

So yes, maybe not the best ghost story I've ever read*, but certainly not the worst.

*I still think the best one so far is Dark Matter by Michelle Paver.

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Monday, 21 March 2016

Review: The Phantom Tollbooth

The Phantom Tollbooth The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I first read this book when I was young, probably around 10 years old, and I can't remember if I finished it or not. I suspect not, because I think a lot of the clever word play was a bit lost on me at the time.

I acquired this copy a few months back, and was actually really eager to read it again, to see if it made more sense to me now that I'm older and wiser. As you can see though, it took me a couple of months to read it. That is, I started it, got a bit bored, didn't pick it up for ages, then eventually decided I really needed to continue with it, picked it up again, actually started to enjoy it, and finally finished it.

There's no doubt that it's a well written book - the wordplay and the deeper messages about learning are very clever, and often brought to life by the illustrations of Jules Feiffer. Did I love it? Has it become an instant classic (to me)? No not really. However, I think I'm going to hang on to this copy (as it's a very nice 50th anniversary edition) and hopefully one day I'll read it with my son as I think there are a lot of good lessons in this story for children.

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Thursday, 18 February 2016

Before You Go...

This is a 2002 film starring Julie Walters, Joanne Whalley and Victoria Hamilton as three sisters who come together for their mothers funeral.

from IMDB

Julie Walters is Teresa, the eldest, who seems to be the most 'together', but it turns out she's having her own issues with henpecked husband Frank (Tom Wilkinson).
Middle sister Mary (Joanne Whalley) is a doctor who is having an affair with a married colleague (Mike, played by John Hannah), who has been promising to leave his wife for the past five years. A secret from her past comes back to haunt her, as does the ghost of her recently departed mother.
Catherine (Victoria Hamilton) is the youngest sister, a stereotypical joint-smoking, vodka-swigging, emotionally unstable mess.

I really like Julie Walters, and I know she's a bit of a national treasure, but sometimes it feels like she's playing the same character over and over again - a bit grumpy, a bit scatty, a bit quirky... However, there was a scene in a pub where she's very drunk and spouting a few home truths which was very funny.

The storyline of Mary's affair with Mike was just boring, it was obvious that it was going nowhere, and for an intelligent woman you wondered why she'd stayed with him for so long. Her other story was far more interesting, and very moving (although I was frustrated by what I felt were some factual inaccuracies).

Catherine was just plain annoying and unlikeable.

As you'd expect from a film about death, and a funeral, there were some sad moments (it may have brought a tear to my eye once or twice), but there was also some humour too. I watched it on my own one evening, when I was trying to wind down in the hope of getting a good night's sleep, and it was just the right kind of film for that, nothing too taxing, just a warm, gentle, mostly feel-good movie.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Review: A Lifetime Burning

A Lifetime Burning A Lifetime Burning by Linda Gillard
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A Lifetime Burning is described as "a complex family drama" which is putting it mildly!

I'm a big fan of Linda Gillard, and I have every intention of reading all her novels (this was my 3rd), but I have to be honest - if this book had been written by anyone else, I'm not sure I would've persevered with it. Or maybe I would, I don't know. That's the thing, I don't really know how I feel about it.

I never really warmed to any of the characters, apart from maybe Hugh. That's not to say that they weren't interesting or well-written, because they were, but personally I didn't take to them.

I suppose I had the fairly predictable reaction to 'that' particular theme that runs through the book; I found it a bit uncomfortable, a bit hard to digest. I never really thought of it as wrong though, or perverse, which I put down to the fact that it was written about in an unapologetic, matter-of-fact way. Love is love...

The other thing I struggled with was the constant shifting back and forth over the years. I can usually get the hang of it eventually, but I seemed to be permanently confused throughout this book. Again though, that is 'my problem', rather than a problem with the novel.

So, I definitely didn't hate it, but I didn't love it either. I'm hoping that this is going to be my least favourite Linda Gillard book, so that I can look forwards to really enjoying the rest of them!

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Thursday, 11 February 2016

TV Dramas

These were kind of an 'add-on' to my list of DVDs to watch in 2016.

I'd recorded 'And Then There Were None' and 'Harry Price Ghost Hunter' over the Christmas period, and I managed to watch them both a couple of weeks ago.

Harry Price Ghost Hunter was based on the real life skeptic of the same name, who investigated the supernatural and paranormal in the 1920's and 30's. In this TV adaptation, we first see Harry Price conning a family by pretending to exorcise a spirit from their house, and seemingly these aren't his first victims. A tragedy linked to one of his previous clients forces Harry to acknowledge that what he was doing was wrong, and instead he retreats into more serious psychical research. Later, he reluctantly agrees to try and help the wife of an up and coming politician, who has been behaving in a peculiar way since moving to a new house with her husband.

I enjoyed this, but I seem to think I got a bit confused with the storyline at times, and the twist at the end was unexpected (to me, because I can never see these things coming) but not necessarily an OMG moment.

A couple of days ago I was looking through my wishlist on Read It Swap It, and I had a book listed on there called The Ghost Hunters by Neil Spring. It turns out that this book is a fictionalised account of a real-life investigation carried out by Harry Price at Borley Rectory, so-called "the most haunted house in England". I'd added it to my wishlist months ago, and hadn't made the connection until the other day.

* * *

And Then There Were None is a mystery novel by Agatha Christie, considered by many to be a masterpiece. I haven't read the book, but the trailers for this tv adaptation intrigued me, so I recorded it and then watched all three episodes in one evening! I had no idea what the story was about other than the very basic premise that they were all going to die, one by one, so there really was a sense of mystery about who was going to be next, and how they were going to meet their end. And speaking of endings, I didn't see that one coming! In fact, despite the obvious clue in the title, I was sure at least one of them was going to survive, which I realise now was a bit naive of me!

This was a really enjoyable adaptation, although it hasn't tempted me to read the book (I've just read the synopsis on Wikipedia, and it seems that they changed quite a lot of details).

Monday, 8 February 2016

2016 To Do List... Declutter

One of the items on my to do list this year was to Declutter. To be fair, this is an ongoing, never-ending project, but I thought I might try and keep track of my progress throughout 2016, in the hope that it might keep me motivated.

I've made a decent start already, selling a few items on Ebay, and Freecycling some other things. I'm going to try to remember to keep a list of both so that I can see what I've sold/given away, and how much money I've made in the case of Ebay.

As always there were a lot of 'Resolution' articles around at the beginning of January, and I read a comment on Twitter where someone said that she was going to try and declutter 2016 things, in 2016. I thought this was a great idea! So each time I get rid of something (not including general rubbish, of course) I'm putting it on a list (another list!). I'm not sure if I'll make it to 2016 items, but I don't suppose it matters really, as long as I keep decluttering.

I'm up to No.25 so far... ;-)

Thursday, 4 February 2016

America's Sweethearts

This was the second film on my list of DVDs to watch this year. I actually watched it a few weeks back, so I might not be able to remember it very well.

From IMDB


It stars Catherine Zeta Jones, Julia Roberts, Billy Crystal and John Cusack, and was released in 2001.

CZJ ("Gwen") and John Cusack ("Eddie") were one of Hollywood's power couples, both on and off screen, but after she had an affair with a co-star there followed a very acrimonious split which left Eddie in therapy.

Their last film together is currently in the hands of the director, who is refusing to hand it over until they and the press are assembled at a screening. Billy Crystal is the movie publicist whose job it is to bring them back together, and make it look as though they still care for each other, helped by Gwen's sister/personal assistant, Julia Roberts ("Kiki").

I wasn't sure if I was going to like this film, but to be fair it wasn't bad, if a little cheesy and predictable. There were some funny moments and quips, mostly courtesy of Billy Crystal of course, although Gwen's new Spanish boyfriend Hector (played by Hank Azaria) was pretty funny too. It was hard to imagine that Julia Roberts (surely the bigger star of the two?) would play second fiddle to CZJ for long, and sure enough, her role in the film kind of took over from about halfway through.

Overall, I did enjoy this film - it was fun and light-hearted, but not something I'd be in any hurry to watch again.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Review: The Lifeboat

The Lifeboat The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wanted to read this book as I was quite intrigued as to how someone could write a novel about people sitting in a lifeboat for three weeks. Obviously, there was a lot more to it than that, and it was a really enjoyable read.

Set in 1914, a magnificent ocean liner suffers a mysterious explosion and sinks, but not before several of it's lifeboats have been launched. In one such boat is Grace, whose place was secured at the last minute by her husband Henry, whom she had to leave behind in the hope that he would make his way onto another one.

Also on the boat is a crew member from the liner, who immediately takes charge, his first instruction being to put some distance between themselves and the sinking ship, and more importantly the victims floundering in the ocean. When he refuses to even stop to help a young child, stating that the lifeboat is already over-capacity, we get our first glimpse of the lengths that people will go to for their own survival.

The story is narrated by Grace, in the form of her writing a journal of the events, so we know that she survived. However, it's revealed right at the start that she is on her way to court to stand trial for her life along with two other women, so it is then a matter of waiting for her journal to reveal just what exactly happened during those three weeks on the lifeboat.

This was a really enjoyable page-turner of a book, one of those that really makes you think "what would I do, in that situation?"



View all my reviews

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Review: The Lewis Man

The Lewis Man The Lewis Man by Peter May
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

We're back on the Isle of Lewis, and so is Fin McLeod. Now divorced, he decides to return to the place of his birth, and renovate the old croft house where he grew up.

Meanwhile, an unidentified body is recovered from a peat bog, the only clue to it's identity being a DNA match to one of the islanders. This islander, and elderly gentleman suffering from advanced dementia, happens to be the father of Fin's first love, Marsaili. Despite handing in his notice with the police force before leaving the mainland, Fin feels duty bound to help solve the mystery, and calls in the odd favour from DS Gunn, who he worked with on his previous visit to Lewis.

This was another great read from Peter May. The plot races along, enhanced by the wonderful descriptions of the stark beauty of the island. The chapters that were in the 'voice' of the man suffering from dementia were incredibly moving, as were some of the flashback chapters.

The Lewis Man (the corpse from the peat bog) is eventually identified in a shocking and emotional climax.

Thoroughly enjoyed this book, can't wait to read the third part of the Lewis Trilogy.

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Thursday, 28 January 2016

Review: The Greatcoat

The Greatcoat The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book is described in one review as "a perfect ghost story", so I had very high hopes. It was a ghost story, yes, but I wouldn't say it was a perfect one.

It's winter, 1952, and Isabel Carey discovers an RAF greatcoat hidden in a cupboard. She lays it over her bed for warmth, and then there is a knock at the window. A pilot. And he wants to come in...

I liked the idea of the story, but I think I just got a bit lost when it came to who was haunting who, and which memories were real or not. I wasn't too keen on Isabel's character either, or her husband.

Overall, I enjoyed this book, but the story wasn't quite what I wanted it to be.

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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Another Year on Planet Earth

It was my birthday today. Some people don't like getting older, but I love it, because let's face it, what's the alternative?

I bought some of my presents myself this year, although Chris gave me the money for them afterwards, and wrapped them for me.

I've decided that I want to learn to knit socks, so my main gifts were some circular knitting needles, some DPNs, and some stitch markers. (I also got a hot water bottle and handwarmer (another!), and some chocolates and biscuits which I didn't photograph. And some birthday money too, which will probably be spent on yarny-related things).


I was really impressed with my stitch markers from CharmedKnitting


They were beautifully wrapped, and when I opened them they were enclosed in a cute little card


I'd ordered some little black cat stitch markers, which were in a lovely little black mesh bag, but they'd also included some extra ones as a free gift.


how sweet!

free gift
It might seem like a minor detail, but I think nice, thoughtful presentation really makes a big difference, and I would've been impressed with the package even without the free gift, which was an added bonus. I'll definitely keep their details and shop with CharmedKnitting again.


My mum came over for a couple of hours this morning, and this afternoon Chris, Junior and I went for a walk in the park.

Another lovely birthday!

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Review: The Little Stranger

The Little Stranger The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Although it's taken me a long time to read this book, that is no reflection on my enjoyment of it; rather, it just had to take a bit of a back seat to Christmas preparations.

The Little Stranger is quite a chunky book, and the story is something of a slow-burner. The significant events that occur are fairly spread out, although they become more frequent as the novel progresses, but that's not to say that the bits 'in-between' are boring, or just 'filler'. There is a good pace to the story, and a constant feeling of some kind of impending drama or menace which keeps you turning the pages.

The book centres around Hundreds Hall, a decaying (but still lived-in) grand Georgian house in the Warwickshire countryside. The events that take place in the house suggest that it may be haunted, but all the way through the book I was never really sure if that was the case, or if there was going to be some other explanation. Even when I'd finished it, I was still undecided about what had really happened, and about the motives of one character, in particular.

I read some other Goodreads reviews after I'd written mine, and I'm pleased to see that I'm not the only one who found the ending quite ambiguous.

I enjoyed The Little Stranger very much, despite the long gap I had between starting and finishing it.

View all my reviews


(P.S I did give it 4 out of 5 stars, but it was after the review had been posted to my blog, which is why it says 0 out of 5 here)

Saturday, 9 January 2016

The Twelve Days of Christmas Present Swap (Part Two)

As promised, this is a post about the presents that I sent to Cheryl. I thought I'd written down the order that I put them in, but I can't find it, but I think I took the photos in order as I wrapped each gift, so I hope this is right.

First


A glass Xmas decoration. From reading her blog, it seems Cheryl really loves Christmas, so I hope she likes this and manages to find a home for it amongst all her other trimmings.

Second


Some jingly earrings. I don't have pierced ears, but if I did I think I'd indulge in this kind of thing at Christmas, just for a bit of fun.

Third


From reading Cheryl's blog, it's seems she enjoys having a go at different arts and crafts, so I hope these fairy stickers will come in useful in one of her projects one day.

Fourth


Some really lovely hand cream (I bought one of these for myself too)

Fifth


Another Xmas decoration, I know Cheryl will be opening this after the 25th, but hopefully she can find a home for it for a few more days.

Sixth


A set of coloured pens - they might come in useful with her crafting, or perhaps she could use them with...

Seventh


... a 2016 pocket diary.

Eighth


I hope I haven't overdone it with the craft stuff, but I picked up from Cheryl's blog that she likes ribbons, so I thought I'd add to her collection! I liked the colourful stripes on this one.

Ninth


I know Cheryl has done some cross-stitch in the past, so I thought I'd buy this kit (I think she likes fairies too). It's only small, so it shouldn't be too time-consuming.

Tenth


I remember reading a post about Cheryl's nail polish, so I thought these nail polish remover pads, and nail files, would come in useful. 

Eleventh


I hope Cheryl didn't mind that one of her gifts wasn't actually for her, but I know she loves her dogs and cats, so I thought I'd send them a treat. I hope they liked them.

Twelfth


A little wall-hanging plaque, I just really liked the sentiment (almost bought one for myself!) for those days when you feel like you need a little bit of encouragement. 


So those were the 12 gifts that I sent to Cheryl - I really hope she liked them!









Friday, 8 January 2016

"About Last Night..."

Picture from IMDB
About this film... it was the biggest load of drivel I have ever seen in my life!!!

It's one of three DVDs in a 'Brat Pack' Box Set that I got years ago, the other two being The Breakfast Club and St Elmo's Fire. They must've been desperate to stick this one in there!

Demi Moore and Rob Lowe are Chicago yuppies who have a one-night stand, but then start a relationship, she moves in with him, it doesn't work, she moves out, they're both miserable, they decide to try again. The dialogue was appalling, and the acting wasn't much better. I know it's from the 80's (1986, I think) so obviously it's going to be very dated but honestly, it was utter rubbish! I'm so glad I've got it out of the way first, because I can't imagine that I've got any other films that are going to be as dire as this one!

On the plus side, I got a bit of crochet done while I watched it, so that's something.

The List

2016 To Do List... The DVDs

I'm not really a big film fan, and apart from a few favourite series (such as The Bridge, Broadchurch, Last Tango In Halifax), I don't really watch all that much on tv. So I have quite a small collection of DVDs on the shelf, some of which I haven't watched for ages (and a couple which I believe are still in their cellophane wrapper!).

Chris recently put loads of his DVDs in the attic, but I didn't want to do that with mine because I knew I'd probably never see them again.

Instead, I decided that in 2016 I would make a point of watching them all again (or for the first time). I'm going to list them here, and cross through them as and when I've watched them. This will be the first time in ages that I've even looked at what's on the shelf (I'd better get a duster...)

About Last Night
America's Sweethearts
Before You Go
Calamity Jane
Calendar Girls
Cats
Chicago
Dark Star (abandoned)
Dirty Dancing
Evita
Fargo
Firefly (didn't bother)
Flashdance
Footloose
Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Cafe
Gormenghast
Gosford Park
Grease
Grease 2
Great Balls Of Fire
Guys And Dolls
Jonathan Creek Series 1-4 + Christmas Specials
Labyrinth
Ladies In Lavender
MirrorMask
Moulin Rouge
My Fair Lady
Notes On A Scandal
Outlander Series One
Perfume
Pretty In Pink
Real Genius
Return Of The King (LotR)
Seven Brides For Seven Brothers
Sleepless In Seattle
St Elmo's Fire
Star Wars - A New Hope
Star Wars - The Empire Strikes Back
Star Wars - Return Of The Jedi
The Breakfast Club
The Dark Crystal
The Fellowship Of The Ring (LotR)
The Krays
The Lord Of The Rings
The Nightmare Before Christmas
The Phantom Of The Opera
The Proposition
The Thing
The Two Towers (LotR)
The Truth About Cats And Dogs
Top Secret
Twin Peaks Box Set
Willow


Wow, so there are a lot more than I thought!! And this isn't all of them, because I've left out the music DVDs (like concert tour footage), and a few kids films like Shrek and Monsters Inc, which I'm happy to watch with Junior one day (if he's interested) but not so bothered about sitting through on my own.

Some of these are in box sets together, but I've just listed them in alphabetical order to make it easier to see what I've got - I might even watch them in this order. Not all of them are my taste either; I acquired some of them when a relative passed away, so it will be interesting to see what I make of those (most of the 'sci-fi / fantasy' genre).

I've hardly bought any new DVDs for years, so it's interesting to see what kind of films I used to be into - lots of musicals, rom-coms and the odd thriller here and there (Fargo, The Krays and The Proposition are all my own choice).

If I've counted correctly, I make it 53 titles on the list - it was 52, but then I found the Outlander box set which was my most recent purchase, and which hadn't yet made it to the shelf with all the others. I wonder if I'll be able to average about one per week for the whole year? To be honest, I don't think I will, but hopefully I'll (re)discover some good films along the way...

I've also got some dramas that I've recorded off the tv which I need to try and slot in:
And Then There Were None
Harry Price: Ghost Hunter

Both of these were on over Christmas, but I haven't got around to watching them yet.


So I don't know when I'm going to watch all of these films, but I'm thinking I'll try and watch them and crochet at the same time, so that I can be crossing two things off of my to do list.

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

The Twelve Days Of Christmas Present Swap (Part One)

As I've mentioned a few times, back in September I signed up to take part in Jo's Twelve Days Of Christmas present swap. At the beginning of October, she revealed who our swap partners were, and I was paired up with Cheryl, who writes My Little Piece of England. We contacted each other by email to introduce ourselves, and I also started reading Cheryl's blog to try and get to know her 'likes' and 'dislikes'.

I really enjoyed shopping for her presents. The general 'rule' of the swap was to keep the gifts to roughly £2 each, or less, or for the whole parcel to be around £20, but of course it was more about buying some nice, thoughtful presents than the actual cost. I'll write a separate post about the things that I bought Cheryl, but this post is about the lovely gifts that she sent to me. (Apologies in advance for the slightly shadowy photos - I waited until the evenings after Junior had gone to bed, and then took my photos in the living room where the lighting isn't great).


So, without further ado...

On the First Day of Christmas, Cheryl gave to me:



A lovely glass tealight holder. It has a kind of gold speckled pattern on it which hasn't shown up very well in the photo. The star shape makes it seem quite Christmassy, but of course it's something I'll be able to use all year round.

*

On the Second Day of Christmas, Cheryl gave to me:



Some yummy Toblerone chocolate, and two white chocolate coins. I know they were white chocolate, because Chris and I have eaten them already.

*

On the Third Day of Christmas, Cheryl gave to me:



A box of heart-shaped bath fizzers, which were red plum and cranberry scented. I love having a long, luxurious, indulgent soak in the bath, and these have been used already, and very nice they were too.

*

On the Fourth Day of Christmas, Cheryl gave to me:



I love Maltesers, and malt flavour drinks, but I'd never had these before. Chris and I have tried them and they're really lovely.

*

On the Fifth Day of Christmas, Cheryl gave to me:


Erm, excuse me...



Two pretty notebooks - I LOVE stationery, so these are right up my street. I'll have a good think about what I can use them for - writing down my crochet projects, maybe?

*

On the Sixth Day of Christmas, Cheryl gave to me:



A large chocolate coin, and two smaller ones - yum! Amazingly, these haven't been eaten yet!

*

On the Seventh Day of Christmas, Cheryl gave to me:



PENS!!! Spotty, stripey, pretty colourful pens! Have I mentioned that I LOVE stationery? Well, I do, and I LOVE new pens! Can't wait to try them out, maybe in my new notebooks perhaps?  :-)

*

On the Eighth Day of Christmas, Cheryl gave to me:



A pocket diary with a cute kitten on the cover, plus a pen. I must admit, I've been thinking about trying to keep a food diary, where you write down everything you eat during the day to monitor your intake and eating habits*. This could be just the thing, as it's small enough to carry with me when I'm out or at work, as well as keeping it close to hand when I'm at home.

(*Spot the "I've eaten my own body weight in chocolate over Christmas" guilty conscience)


*

On the Ninth Day of Christmas, Cheryl gave to me:



A box of Toffifee chocolates, yum! These didn't last long...

*

On the Tenth Day of Christmas, Cheryl gave to me:



A little handwarmer in the shape of a hot water bottle, complete with knitted cover - so cute!

*

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas, Cheryl gave to me:



Some very tasty chocolate chip cookies!

*

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas, Cheryl gave to me:



A cute hanging heart picture frame. We've got so many photos of Junior, I'm sure I'll be able to find one to fit in here perfectly.

And that's it, the last present opened! They've all been so lovely and thoughtful, and I've really enjoyed doing this swap. I would've liked to have done one final photo of all of my gifts together, but, um, some of the chocolate ones have disappeared already....

Thanks again to Jo for organising the swap in the first place, and of course thank you to Cheryl for my lovely presents - I hope you are pleased with yours too.





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