Summer Reading 2012 – The Trilogies and more

2012 definitely seems to be the year of trilogies for me. I started the year reading the final instalment in the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, which took some wading through I tell you!

Our recent holiday to France saw me stocking up with my book collection several months in advance. I had promised myself I wouldn’t buy any new books and try to get my To Be Read pile down to just a few shelves – but never mind, there’s always next year for that.

Dermot was slightly concerned about how heavy the van would be to tow due to all the clothes – Ahem, should I have come clean about my ‘secret’ piles of books? An argument for a Kindle perhaps? Not sure, I’m still of the school of loving the feel of books.

Anyway, what did I get through? Not as many as I’d planned – a one year old doesn’t appreciate the joy of seeing her mum stuck in a book and quite frankly, I enjoyed talking a bit too much too!

Before I went, I had just completed the infamous Fifty Shades. At a 3 out of 5 Goodreads rating, I wasn’t exactly overwhelmed but I’d bought the whole set so plodded on.

The second book in the series, Fifty Shades Darker was a better read. Whether I had got used (or bored?) with the saucy bits, I’m not sure but there definitely seemed more of a story and I got through it really quickly. There were thrilling moments when the story really picked up and the writing seemed to flow much better. I’m sensing E.L.James enjoyed writing this book more than the other two – it just seemed more natural. I’m going to be generous with a 4 out of 5 here.

After being pleasantly surprised, I moved onto the third in the series, Fifty Shades Freed. I’m afraid to say, I think this was one book too many for me. I’m starting to suspect authors of profiteering slightly when producing trilogies – my personal opinion is that its far better to finish a series of two left wanting more, than get to the end of three wishing I hadn’t invested so much time. This book very much reminded me of the Danielle Steel books I read as a teenager – Nothing wrong with them for me then but there’s a reason I stopped. I just felt everyone was too pretty, too rich, too lucky – where are the average, sometimes slightly boring, sometimes let you down, sometimes late people that we all come across in real life? Back to a 3 out of 5 here.

My next read was one I’d heard a lot about from friends, JoJo Moyes, Me Before You – I expected it to be sad as it was all over Twitter that people were in floods of tears – I thought it best not to to take to the Olympics with me so saved it for after we got back…And I didn’t cry! Have I got a heart of steel? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the book. An easy read but it held my attention. A lady who has walked past our pitch for the past 2 years without us speaking even stopped to tell me how much she had enjoyed the book. After that we became good friends – the joy of books again, eh? A solid 4 out of 5 for Me Before You.

And then it was back to the trilogies. I saved the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins until my hols deliberately and it seemed liked everywhere I went, people were engrossed. Originally I thought they were a ‘boys book’ – yep, I know, never judge a book by its cover and all that. It was my sister who persuaded me to give them a go – she finished all 3 in just over 2 weeks which is good going with 2 kids.

I completely loved the first book, The Hunger Games. The idea of the tv show and a killing arena was just brilliant. I had that sense of doom at the beginning and was really nervous that it would be too gory for me but just had to know how it progressed. I passed this book onto 3 other people on my holiday and all 3 were as hooked as me. Definitely a contender for book of my year – 5 out of 5.

I quickly moved onto the second in the series, Catching Fire wondering how on earth the story could continue. There is something really clever, I think, about an author that can make a book seem to finish so perfectly but yet make you NEED to carry on to another in the series. I really wanted to know what happened to the characters so wanted the story to hurry up so I could get some answers. Another great read – I gave this a 4 out of 5.

At the end of the second Hunger Games book there is a cliffhanger that again makes you need to continue to book 3, Mockingjay. I will admit to wanting by now to move onto a different type of book. For me, 3 books was one too many for me again. I did persevere until the end but I had lost the passion for the Hunger Games by the end. Nearly a month on, I’m actually struggling to remember how the book did end. 3 out of 5 sadly for this instalment.

And so back home we came – armed with several books I didn’t even pick up. I’m 1/2 way through Victoria Hislop’s The Thread and really enjoying it and next I start on Kate Lord Brown’s The Perfume Garden that I won a copy of on Good Reads. So what has been your book of the summer? Have you read any trilogies that kept your interest right until the end? Recommendations welcome!

My reading secret – The unfinished books

I love books and I love reading. That much is pretty obvious when you visit our house. There are loads of them EVERYWHERE – What started with a couple of shelves of books has quickly grown into a cupboard, then more cupboards, then rooms – now we have little piles of books in practically every room (including a couple at the bottom of the stairs that I can’t bring myself to move – You know, just in case I’m ever stuck at the bottom of the stairs with nothing to do ;-))

I have developed a bit of a problem though. I had a reading drought last year. Reading and Pregnancy do not work well together for me – I felt sick and just could not concentrate. Unfortunately though, Pregnancy and Buying Books work really well together for me. I only have to hear a conversation about a book and immediately I NEED to read it and that’s where the problem lies.

I started tons of books but became easily distracted by the other books on my To Read list. I now have loads of books that I got part way through but can’t remember if I stopped reading them because they were not my thing or I fully intended to carry on and life got in the way.

This is just part of the list – My question to you is ‘Have you read any of them and if so, which ones do I persevere with?’ I really need to create a bit more space (yep, for more new books) so please help me out …

  • Perfume – Patrick Suskind
  • The Second Coming – John Niven
  • Started Early, Took My Dog – Kate Atkinson
  • The Ladies’ Detective Agency (Got to book 4 but sort of lost momentum) – Alexander McCall Smith
  • The Poisonwood Bible – Barbara Kingsolver
  • The Snowman – Jo Nesbo
  • The Hand That First Held Mine – Maggie O’Farrell
  • Finding Home – Roisin McAuley
  • Her Fearful Symmetry – Audrey Nifenegger
Some of them I started for book groups but could not complete on time. Some were recommended by friends – I hate having to admit I couldn’t get through their recommendations.
So which, if any do I make sure to finish? Go on, you can throw a few recommendations of your own in too if you like that might get me started on a new reading frenzy!

Book Review – Marian Keyes – The Brightest Star in the Sky – Book 3 of 100 before I’m 40

Hurray – finally I have completed number 3 in my list of books to read before I am 40! At this rate I might be better off reading 40 books before I am 100. No, I will plod on …

I am a massive fan of Marian Keyes both reading her books and seeing her on chat shows etc. I never want to get that feeling of being disappointed in one of her books but have to admit that about a quarter of the way through this one, I started to feel a bit jaded. No need to panic though. the book definitely got better as it went on.

The brightest star in the sky is a long book at 612 pages and I do feel like I have been reading it for ages – If I had one request it would be that the book be a little shorter.

The stories are set in a Georgian house that has been turned into flats. I did take a while to get to know the characters in each flat as it was very ‘short story-ish’.

My favourite characters were Matt & Maeve that I thought were really well thought through and had depth to their characters. I felt both Lydia and Katie changed as the book went on – they both started off very feisty but were less so by the end.

This is a book that got some depth to it – it is not a read and completely switch off book. I don’t want to give any spoilers but need to warn that there is a scene towards the end that makes for difficult reading.

Overall, I would give The Brightest Star in the Sky a 3 out of 5.

Now onto Water for Elephants which from the feedback I have heard from others should be a fascinating read.

Reasons to be cheerful – There’s going to be a baby!

Reasons to be Cheerful at Mummy from the Heart

That got your attention didn’t it?

No, not me… blimey I’ve got my hands more than full with these 3 but there is going to be a baby…

Reason to be cheerful 1: I’m going to be an Auntie again
My youngest sister is going to have a baby (eek!) in December – so excited! Rachel has asked if she was going to be mentioned in my Reasons to be cheerful list – hell yes! Ray is even planning on starting a blog about her baby journey – She has even shown me work in progress so far and it looks fab.

Another cousin for my girls – We already have 9 nieces and nephews (good catholic family and all that!) but another one is just as exciting. My mum will have doubled her grandchildren to 6 in the space of 12 months – Christmas is going to be interesting this year!

Reason to be cheerful 2: Another wonderful niece
My eldest niece found out this week that she is going to be Head Girl in her school next year. We already knew that she had been nominated in the last 5 out of 200+ but she really did not expect to get it as she thought others would be chosen. She is lovely and a godmother to my youngest daughter – all 3 of them adore her. Well done Becky – really proud of you!

Reason to be cheerful 3: The joy of swimming
I have joined the gym again! Not normally a reason to be cheerful but I have really missed my membership since we left last year. I am sooo not a gym babe but love swimming – however, I am a real snob about which pools I will go in. I have started a 4 month membership at my old gym and have been swimming twice already this week and am loving it – I hope to take Baby T too and of course it all helps towards achieving my goal of being size 14 by the time I’m 40!

For more cheerful news, visit Mummy from the Heart

Book Review – Sweet Valley Confidential

I love the idea of this book – revisiting what the twins, Elizabeth and Jessica are up to 10 years on. There are so many books that I would love to adopt this principle – Gone with the wind for one.

I loved the Sweet Valley High books when I was a teen (much to my mum’s disgust – they hardly helped with my GCSE’s!) I think I wanted to be Jessica (the outgoing, party-going and a bit mean twin) as opposed to Elizabeth (the studious, calm twin). As soon as I opened the book the writing was familiar – I half expected a comment about how beautiful they were with their peaches and cream skin! I was also slightly disappointed straightaway though – I had wanted the writing to have grown up with me. Yes, the characters were now adults and yes there was swearing from time to time but the book did not feel like it was written for an adult.

I won’t give away too much about the story as I suspect there will be a lot of thirty somethings wanting to read this book – it was very easy to work out how it would end though, is all I will say. I was again a bit puzzled that the book was set so much in New York, one thing I do remember from the teen books are the lovely descriptions of the area of Sweet Valley. There’s not much more I can say really without giving away the story – Maybe worth a read if you a massive SV fan – it won’t take up too much of your day. My score 2 out of 5.

I’m glad I read it to satisfy my curiosity – perhaps I’ve just grown up since I was fourteen (and there was me thinking I hadn’t!)
This book also counts as number 2 in my aim to read 100 by the time I am 40 (see the rest of the countdown here)

And guess what? Because I have finally finished something, I can also enter it into Cara at Freckles Family’s Finished it Friday – I am on fire!!!


There are so many Reasons to be Cheerful

Family fun at Ambleside
Week 3 of joining in Michelle from Mummy From The Heart’s blog hop and I’m loving it. However small, when something nice happens during the week I automatically think, there’s a reason to be cheerful. Try it, you might like it!

Reasons To Be Cheerful 1: A bit of a recap

We did it – we went on our first caravan trip as a family of 5 and it was a huge success. I wrote about it here.

Reason to be Cheerful 2: Half Term & Time with the children

I decided to embrace the time off with my children rather than thinking, ‘Oh my god, how am I going to keep the 2 older girls entertained and look after Baby T’ – so far so good!
We had a spur of the moment trip to see my sister in Leeds yesterday which felt rather brave as we live 50 miles away but it was great. The girls love seeing their cousins and we arrived back home at 11pm after a lovely afternoon (and a good feed!)
My MIL looked after Baby T this afternoon while I took M & V to the cinema to watch Hop – They loved it and once I had stopped thinking about payng a small fortune for popcorn and sweets, I loved it too.
Tomorrow, we are off to a soft play area with some friends that we met at V’s nursery.
M has had some good news tonight and is very pleased to be moving up a lane at swimming club – she has worked hard this month and we are really pleased it has paid off for her.

Reason to be Cheerful 3: The Theatre again!

Ooh we are turning into luvvies! We don’t visit the theatre for months and then twice in a fortnight – On Saturday we are going to see The Wizard of Oz at the Royal Court in Liverpool – This is V’s favourite and I can’t wait to see her face.

Reason to be Cheerful 4: The Blanket

We received a wonderful present of a knitted blanket for Baby T from my wonderful friend, Cara. Pics with Baby T to follow but needless to say it is absolutely gorgeous, must have taken forever to knit and we are very lucky. Here is the blanket without the recipient.

Reason to be Cheerful 5: Another Holiday

Yes, we are going away again – My husband could only have 2 days away from work when Tara arrived so we planned for a holiday at Centre Parcs. We are very excited!

Reason to be Cheerful 6: The Countdown to 40

Now I have published this list, I have an renewed enthusiasm for getting things done.
Progress so far includes:
Doing very well at drinking G & T’s – To be fair this isn’t the hardest item on my list but you need to start smal! I now like the taste and feel rather grown up!
Gardening – Time willing, I intend on planting some lily bulbs in the next 2 weeks. We have had an acknowledgement from the allotments saying they have received our application and expect we will get a plot within the next 2 years!
The Reading Challenge – Our weekend away helped me to find my reading mojo – I am now reading The Slap and quite enjoying it – My To-read list is growing – Any book suggestions are very welcome!

For the rest of the countdown to 40 list click here.

A long post, I know – It will probably be very short next week but I hope you all have a good week and look forward to reading your reasons to be cheerful.

Countdown to 40!

Eagle-Eyed regular readers of the blog may have noticed the countdown to 40 icon on the right. This is something I’ve been meaning to address for ages now – not because I am desperate to turn 40 but because I see it as time to cross a LOT of things off my to do list. There are a lot of blogs who have done similar lists before a significant birthday – the first one I came across is by Janette Jones, whose list of 40 items to complete before she is 40 terrifies me.

So this is the plan of what I’m to do before the Big 4 0. I plan on doing regular updates of how the list is coming along – more items may be added if I have forgotten anything. My list is in no particular order – some items may require another one to be completed first.

1. Sing Karaoke

I am probably one of only a handful of people on the planet who have not sung at Karaoke (slight exaggeration I know!) This has become such a big thing now with so many people knowing that I have yet to do it that I don’t think I could get away with any old song and not much fuss – believe me, I am no singer!

2. Learn to Knit/Crochet/Sew and ultimately own a sewing machine

I come from a crafty and arty family and am fairly creative myself (well maybe slightly more than fairly considering what I do for a living) This does not mean though that I can turn my hand to any craft – My mum is an amazing sewer (?)/crocheter but I think the gene passed me by – well I’m going to catch it up…hopefully!

3. Read the whole series of Harry Potter Books

For some reason I own them all but have never got round to reading them.

4. Finish the ironing pile

The word ‘pile’ does not do justice to how big our ironing pile is – We each have a huge box of ironing which takes over the whole of the office – I will photograph it as evidence before and after the task.

5. Own and use 200 ‘good’ Baking/Cooking/Sugarcraft books

I have already started this and own 100+ but need to have a sort out (and a mighty good shop!). The rules of this are that I have to have cooked/made something out of each one for it to be classed as good. I also need to post a short review of these books.

6. Be on time with cards and presents for a whole year

7. Visit Hay-on-Wye Book Festival

8. Be a size 14

I am currently a size 16 (I can’t believe I’ve jsut told the whole of the internet that!)

9. Regularly cook nutritious family meals

I’m sure I’m not alone in finding our family in a rut of eating the same meals over and over – I cannot justify owning so many cook books if I don’t use them. It is said that the average family eats from a repertoire of only 10 meals regularly – not any more for us!

10. Register as a tutor with The British Sugarcraft Guild

Its a bit terrifying this one!

11. Make homebrew/homemade wine

God Bless my liver!

12. Conquer the art of G & T drinking

I have always thought that it seems so much more grown up to drink G & T than other drinks and as I have got to as certain age I need to grow up bit in my choice of drink. I am pleased to report that so far this task seems to be going well – Its a hard life!

13. Become better at Gardening

When I say better, I really mean learn something about gardening – This will involve me overcoming my phobia of creepy crawlies. I hope to grow veggies and have put our name down for an allotment. Unfortunately, there is a substantial waiting list which means we might not be in the plot before the big birthday but I can still learn in the meantime.

14. Have a go at surfing

I spend a lot of time watching dear husband and his passion for surfing and want my girls to see that their mum is game for anything too. One requirement of this task though is to succeed at Task 8 first!

15. 100 books read and reviewed between now and then

This is approximately one every 9 days which for some people might not be much – Having 3 daughters, running my own business and everything else that I fit in though means that this will be quite a challenge.

I feel quite nervous now that I have put my list ‘out there’ – It is something I have been thinking about for over 2 years and it being public knowledge means that I have to do it…watch this space and follow the journey!