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.

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(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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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


... a 2016 pocket diary.


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.


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.


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. 


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.


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
Dark Star (abandoned)
Dirty Dancing
Firefly (didn't bother)
Fried Green Tomatoes At The Whistlestop Cafe
Gosford Park
Grease 2
Great Balls Of Fire
Guys And Dolls
Jonathan Creek Series 1-4 + Christmas Specials
Ladies In Lavender
Moulin Rouge
My Fair Lady
Notes On A Scandal
Outlander Series One
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

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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