Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Book 5 of 2015: The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel

In between reading books for the Popsugar Reading Challenge, I've also been non-challenge books as well. These are the ones I've lined up on my bookshelves to read in the future. My aim was to read two books a week; something I stuck to fairly well at the beginning of the year, and which I've been a bit hit or miss with in recent months.

I took The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel away with me to Wales, in the optimistic hope that I would plough through Pride and Prejudice as quickly as I got through Emma. As it happened, it took me longer to read Pride and Prejudice than I'd expected, so I went straight on to The Book Thief, making The Clan of the Cave Bear my return journey reading material.

The Clan of the Cave Bear tells the story of Ayla, an orphaned Cro-Magnon child who is adopted by a tribe of Neanderthals. She looks and acts completely differently from them, but her adoptive mother, Iza, teaches her the ways of the Clan, including their language (a form of sign language as the Neanderthals have a limited ability to vocalise). Despite her attempts to fit in, Ayla struggles as innate skills come to the fore, such as her ability to hunt; a dangerous pastime for a female, who should never touch a weapon. Even though Iza trains Ayla to take over from her as Medicine Woman, it is clear that Ayla will not be able to remain with the Clan forever.

I've read this book several times before and my copy of the series (up to the fifth one, I'm yet to pick up a copy of the sixth) belonged to my Grampy. It's one of those books I like to go back to because it reminds me of him; I can still smell him between the musty pages.

I started it on the day we left Wales and read it on and off all the way up the motorway but my progress slowed down somewhat when I got home. The world in which the story is set is incredibly detailed and I suspect that's part of what slowed me down in the reading. As Ayla grows we learn more and more about the world she lives in. On the one hand, I love this. I love that the story puts me right in the middle of that historical period. Each time I read it, I picture things the same way, and you get so much information about the setting that it's easy to imagine.

On the other hand, Auel is obviously really knowledgeable about her subject matter and wants to include everything. That means that sometimes sections read a little bit like encyclopaedia entries rather than as bits of a story. It's something which gets worse as the series progresses as well and I've noticed on occasion I'm skim-reading sections rather than paying attention to them properly, because I want to get on with bits that feel relevant to the story.

Although my progress on the book slowed down once I got home, I sped through the last chunk of the book. It seems as though the action moves along quite quickly once Durc is born. Throughout the book there are leaps forward in time, but they seem to come quicker and span larger periods than earlier in the book. At some of those bits at the end I would've liked a little more detail about what was going on socially in the Clan.

It's only really in writing this review that I've realised how slowly I'm moving through this series. I read The Clan of the Cave Bear in January, The Valley of the Horses in March, and The Mammoth Hunters in May, but I've not touched The Plains of Passage yet. Part of that's because it's on the bottom shelf of my bookcase which I keep skipping when I get to it; partly it's because it's a massive book physically, it's a full inch and a half taller than the first three in the series and about twice as wide, meaning it's entirely impractical to carry around with me; and partly because the encyclopaedic descriptions only seem to get worse as the series goes on, reaching a peak in The Plains of Passage.

That said, I'll probably try and squeeze it in before the end of the year.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Reading Challenge: Another Update

It's been a couple of months since I last shared my 2015 Reading Challenge list so I figured it's time for another update to show how I'm getting on.

I'm still trying to stick to reading at least one book a week, normally starting the next one on Thursday though I'm not worrying too much if I'm a little bit late starting. At the start of the year I was really religious about following the list exactly and starting and finishing each week running Thursday to Thursday. I've relaxed a bit now because there's no fun in reading under pressure; some books need to be read slowly and savoured, some can be whizzed through dead quick.

If you're not sure what Challenge I'm talking about, it's this one:

From Popsugar.
A list of fifty genres or prompts, totalling fifty-two books; one for each week of the year. I'm using it to try and become acquainted with more of the 'classics' and other books that I've not read before (though I'm not getting too hung up on avoiding rereads if they match that week's criteria).

Instead of just listing them, as I did before, I'm breaking them down by number of stars. Just to be different.

1 Star
Nothing yet

1.5 Stars
Filth by Irvine Welsh (a book with a one-word title) 1st time read

2 Stars
Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier (a book set in another country) 1st time read

2.5 Stars
Miramont's Ghost by Elizabeth Hall (a book published this year) 1st time read
The Game
by Laurie R. King (a book by a female author) 1st time read
The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists
by Robert Tressell (a book more than 100 years old) 1st time read
Her Majesty's Wizard
by Christopher Stasheff (a book published the year you were born) 1st time read

3 Stars
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (a classic romance) 1st time read
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
by Jules Verne (a book with a number in the title) 1st time read
by Mary Wollstonecroft Shelley (a book by an author under the age of 30) 1st time read
The Pickwick Papers
by Charles Dickens (a popular author's first book) 1st time read
Unfinished Tales
by J.R.R. Tolkien (a book from an author you love that you haven't read yet) 1st time read
A Strange Eventful History
by Michael Holroyd (a book based on a true story) 1st time read
Terrifying Tales
by Edgar Allan Poe (a book that scares you) 1st time read
Becoming Bindy Mackenzie
by Jaclyn Moriarty (a book based entirely on its cover) 1st time read
Tess of the d'Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy (a book you should've read in school) Reread/1st time read

3.5 Stars
Tales of Terror and Mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (a mystery or thriller) 1st time read
Gone Girl
by Gillian Flynn (a book a friend recommended) 1st time read
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood
by Rebecca Wells (a book from the bottom of your to-read list) 1st time read
Vet Behind the Ears
by Christopher Timothy (a memoir) 1st time read
The Death and Life of Charlie St. Cloud
by Ben Sherwood (a book with antonyms in the title) 1st time read
The Awakening and Selected Short Stories
by Kate Chopin (a book with bad reviews) 1st time read
The Time Machine
by H.G. Wells (a book set in the future) 1st time read

4 Stars
Emma by Jane Austen (a book with over 500 pages) 1st time read
by J.R.R. Tolkien (a book with a non-human character) Reread
The Island
by Victoria Hislop (a book your mum loves) 1st time read
How a Ghastly Story Was Brought to Light by a Common or Garden Butcher's Dog
by Johann Peter Hebel (a book you can finish in a day) 1st time read
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
by Deborah Moggach (a book set in a country you've always wanted to visit) 1st time read
The Fellowship of the Ring
by J.R.R. Tolkien (a trilogy) Reread
The Two Towers
by J.R.R. Tolkien (a trilogy) Reread
by Roald Dahl (a book from your childhood) Reread
Never Let Me Go
by Kazuo Ishiguro (a book with a love triangle) Reread
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
by Stephen Chbosky (a book set in high school) Reread

4.5 Stars
The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde (a funny book) 1st time read
The Tales of Beedle the Bard
by J.K. Rowling (a book of short stories) Reread
The Return of the King
by J.R.R. Tolkien (a trilogy) Reread

5 Stars
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (a book that became a movie) Reread
To Kill A Mockingbird
by Harper Lee (a Pulitzer Prize-winning book) Reread

As you can see, I'm doing well and I'm generally reviewing my books pretty favourably. I'm down to the last few weeks now. It's been fun working my way through all these books, especially as there are so many that I've never read before. I'm discovering new authors and being reminded of some old favourites.

Next week I'll share some of the books I'm planning to read during the rest of the year.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Weekly Rundown: A Loose Screw

I'm writing this under the influence today. As usual I'm writing my Weekly Rundown post on a Saturday, because usually by Saturday enough has happened in the week that I have something to say about it. I started this Saturday with breakfast in bed; scrambled eggs, toast and nearly two glasses of buck's fizz.

Apparently I'm a lightweight because it took me four attempts to spell 'Weekly Rundown' correctly. Even now I keep typing 'rundwon'!

It was because we needed to use up the bottle of buck's fizz. Plus on Friday I finished my training and we were out at a local celebration of Rothesay Pavilion, which is closing to undergo refurbishments shortly. A whole host of local community groups got together to put on a show taking a trip back through the history of the Pavilion. And what a show it was!

You can actually watch the highlights of the night on our local paper's website, The Buteman.

Picture from buteman.co.uk
The Pavilion's always going to have a bit of a soft spot in my heart because it was where Mr Click and I spent a lot of time together when we first met (in the local drama group). It seemed somehow fitting that we should be there this weekend.

I did prove myself to be a bit of a hero this week when I got a call from my husband to let me know that I needed to drop what I was doing that evening, grab the spare car keys, retrieve his spare glasses, and then take a taxi to deliver them to him since the lens had popped out of the ones he was wearing and they'd lost the screw so they couldn't get them back together again.

Of course, I answered the call and delivered the back up glasses to him (lucky he had them, otherwise we would've had a long walk home). A few hours later, Mr Click and his friend were down on their hands and knees having another look for the offending screw, when I happened to glance at the floor about three feet away.

Guess what I saw?

On Friday he was able to take the glasses to our local watch shop (since the Optician's is only open occasionally) and they were able to put the offending glasses back together. And all is right with the world again.

I may or may not be using this against my husband by constantly reminding him how wonderful I am for finding that teeny tiny screw that had camouflaged itself on the floor so well. He's been serving me tea in my Wonder Woman mug ever since so I think he appreciated it.

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Film Review: The Return of the King, Part 2

Time for the next part of The Lord of the Rings film trilogy, it's the second part of The Return of the King today. Aww, the beginning of the end.

48. Last week we kind of recapped on what each separate group was doing; Frodo, Sam and Gollum are in enemy territory and things aren't going well for them; Merry and Pippin were reunited with Legolas, Gimli, Aragorn and Gandalf; we also saw the end of Saruman. It was a bit messy.

49. This week Pippin is causing trouble, prompting Gandalf to cart him off to Gondor.

50. Sleepover in Rohan.

51. Well, almost everyone's sleeping. Aragorn's wandered into the room where Éowyn is sleeping alone to make sure she's properly tucked in. Watch it Aragorn, people will talk.

52. Éowyn's had Faramir's dream. Perhaps that's a subtle way of saying they're meant to be together. Quick fact: That's also a dream that Tolkien and one of his sons also had.

53. I like Éowyn's dressing gowny-robe thing.

54. Aragorn's not the only one up. Legolas is outside looking at the sky. He's talking in riddles which basically mean Sauron is looking for something.

55. Actually, lots of people are up. Pippin's got up now as well. And Merry's awake too.

56. It looks like Gandalf is awake, but it turns out he just sleeps with his eyes open, a little like my crazy labrador. It's so creepy when she does that.

57. Pippin's got his hands on Gandalf's giant marble. Unfortunately when he starts playing with it he discovers that Sauron's eye is looking out at him. Then the ball erupts in fire and everything goes into slow motion.

58. That is until Aragorn grabs it off of him and Gandalf yells at Pippin.

59. Aww, poor Pippin.

60. Pippin got a vision of a dead white tree in a burning city and Sauron spoke to him.

61. Time for a counsel about what has to happen next. And Gandalf finally mentions the name of the big marble; it's a Palantír.

62. And that means it's time for another roadtrip. Everyone's got to go to Minas Tirith.

63. Except Aragorn has to go a different way to everyone else.

64. And Pippin's going with Gandalf.

65. But he doesn't get everything so Merry's having to spell it all out to him. Oh, I just want to give Pippin a big cuddle. He's just a very young Hobbit. He didn't even understand that Gandalf was just taking him and he was being separated from Merry.

66. Poor Merry too. He's feeling a bit lonely now. At least he's got Aragorn to help him feel better.

67. Meanwhile, the Elves are slowly leaving Middle-earth. Really slowly. They're just sort of walking ethereally through the woods.

68. That is until Arwen is interrupted by the vision of a little boy and Aragorn.

69. They could not have picked a better child to play Aragorn and Arwen's son. He looks just like he could have been Liv and Viggo's child, it's something about his eyes, nose and lips. He's actually the son of one of the guys who plays a Dwarf in The Hobbit.

70. That's enough for Arwen though, she's off, she's got a bone to pick with her father. Strangely none of the other Elves do anything to stop her or even accompany her back.

71. Turns out Daddy didn't want Arwen to have that future, he wanted to take her away to the Undying Lands with him. Elrond is a bit of a dick sometimes.

72. I love Arwen recitation of the poem. She says it's time to reforge the sword.

73. Elrond had better get it done too because he's just realised that she's given up her immortality. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

74. So he might be a big of a dick, but he does love his daughter really, since he gets the sword reforged so her husband-to-be has something to go into battle with.

75. Back to Gandalf and Pippin, who are now in Gondor.

76. Apparently some people were trying to raise money to build a real life Minas Tirith. I would live there. You'd get plenty of exercise walking from top to bottom.

77. I think it looks an awful lot like a whiter version of Dale from the Hobbit films.

78. And look, there's the white tree.

79. I know they're serious guards but the Gondorian soldier's helmets are kind of funny looking.

80. I love how Gandalf starts giving Pippin advice about what he should and shouldn't say and then is jut like, 'you know what? Don't say anything.'

81. Denethor's not really interesting in what Gandalf has to say though, because he's got Boromir's broken horn, so he just wants to know what happened to Boromir.

82. Pippin promptly forgets everything Gandalf said to him, tells Denethor just how Boromir died and pledges his service to Denethor. Gandalf is not impressed. He actually whacks Pippin with his staff!

83. Gandalf wants Denethor to light the beacons to call to Rohan for him. Denethor's not keen to do this though, he seems to know an awful lot about what's going on in the wider world, like the fact Aragorn is on his way.

84. He's really not happy about Aragorn coming back.

85. Oh look. Gandalf just said the title of the film. Subtle.

86. By the way, Aragorn is the King of Gondor. Just make sure you've got that.

87. Gandalf's really not happy but he's answering Pippin's questions about the city so that's okay. He's telling him all about the fall of Gondor and how the line of kings came to an end and why the White Tree is still guarded. It's clear from the way he says about the rule of the city being handed over to 'lesser men' that he means Denethor.

88. Looks like a big storm is brewing. It's being conjured up to allow the Orcs to travel in the dark.

89. It's sweet the way that Pippin thinks they can go now. That's a bit of a shock for him.

90. Back to Frodo, Sam and Gollum. Frodo has a feeling. He's just realised that Sam probably doesn't need to worry about the rations since they won't be coming back.

91. Sam says they'll be going 'there and back again, just like Mr Bilbo'. I love that line and it makes me smile all the more for the Hobbit films.

92. And I like that they included the statue crowned with flowers. It's one of the bits that I always look forward to in the book.

93. Back to Pippin and Gandalf again. Pippin's realising that maybe putting himself into the service of the Steward wasn't the smartest of ideas, not least because it'll mean doing as he's told, something he's not so good at.

94. Oh, I love this little bit about waiting on the edge of battle. Billy Boyd is awesome.

95. And there's a brief cameo from Peter Jackson as Gandalf talks about some of Gondor's enemies who are heading towards them as they speak. It's not looking so good for Gondor now.

Let's leave it there for now.

Next week we'll see more of Pippin and Gandalf in Gondor, where they engage in some light pyromania.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: Twilight, Summary

I thought I'd do a quick wrap up post on my general thoughts on Twilight before we move on to the next book in the series, New Moon. Oh yes, I'm definitely going on to the next one. This should be fun.



Obviously, Bella is the main character in the story, the whole thing being told exclusively from her point of views. What did I think of her? Well, to be honest, I didn't like her very much. My two overwhelming character traits for her are the fact that she's pretty damn miserable and she falls over a lot. Later in the story she develops a pretty obsessive love for Edward. And that's it.

I'm sure she's described in the story. I know that several times her outfits warrant a good mention and that she has pale skin. Other than that, I don't know what she looks like. I'm not sure if I just missed those descriptions or if I'm building my entire mental image of her on pictures of the actress who plays her in the film.


He is one seriously weird guy. I mean, I'm fairly certain that being turned into a vampire when you're not even out of your teens is going to mess you up a bit, but he needs serious psychiatric help. Number one creepy thing is the fact that he crept into Bella's room to watch her sleep, unbeknownst to her. Watching someone sleep is creepy at the best of times, unless the person sleeping is an adorable newborn baby or a cute animal which is dreaming; otherwise, even for the nicest person, it crosses into serious weird territory.

His mood swings also did nothing to endear him to me. I was not at all impressed by the way that he swung from happy and loving one minute to snapping and irrationally angry the next. Often this seemed to be without warning. People like that scare me and so that was definitely not a point in his favour.

On the other hand, we definitely knew what he looked like; shiny, marble, cold skin; magical colour changing eyes (dependent on mood, of course); nice smelling breath. I'm slightly disturbed by how much about Edward's appearance I have retained. Clearly it was mentioned fairly frequently!

Other characters:

Oh, I wish we had seen more of Alice. She was the most interesting, likable character in the whole book. I want to know more about her background and I want to just see more of her in general. I'm also fairly certain that she has a thing for Bella, and personally I think I'd rather read about Bella/Alice and than Bella/Edward.

The other Cullens. Uh, I'm kind of 'meh' about them. Emmett and Jasper seemed to be fairly interchangeable. Rosalie's main feature is the fact that she doesn't like Bella. Esme seemed pretty okay and Carlisle had an interesting history but other than that I wasn't really interested in him. Well, aside from the fact that it's kind of weird how he wanted to 'collect' all these vampiric teenagers.

Bella's parents. I liked Charlie. I felt kind of sorry for him for being stuck with Bella, especially towards the end when she was being horrible to him. Renee is basically a teenager herself. I don't think she's all that worried about her daughter. I can't imagine a woman whose daughter is in hospital itching to get away to speak to her husband, especially after being separated from her daughter for months.

The Story:

Writing Style

I was not a fan of the writing style. Perhaps it's just because I've gotten used to reading more classics this year, or books by people who are so totally different to Stephenie Meyer's style. It reminded me of some of my early attempts at fanfiction; a good marker for people who are new to writing fanfiction, they refer to eyes as 'orbs'.

There were several times where I had to reread a sentence a good couple of times to figure out just what was being said in it. And a lot of the time there were things that Bella and Edward said to each other that I just didn't understand. I'm not sure if that was just not something I didn't get in the actual conversation, or if it was the way things were worded that meant I missed the point.

That's not to say that there weren't some nice turns of phrase, but they were surprises rather than the norm. I talked about The Book Thief in my book review this week; I first read that during a 'book tree' where we wrote in a copy of a book and shared it with other people. With The Book Thief I easily could've underlined half the lines in the book just because I loved them all so much. In Twilight I could've maybe underlined about half a page. It just didn't grab me.


Eh. It was okay.

I can't really say that much about it because I think I said most of it during the course of the reviews. It was interesting but not much of it took me by surprise. It seemed easy to figure out which way the story was going and then it went there; there wasn't really anything in the way of twists or turns. In fact, the chapter titles meant that it was pretty easy to figure out what was going to happen.

To start off with I was hoping that there would be a double meaning in the chapter titles. There wasn't. It's a shame because I was hoping that there would be another level of meaning to the story. There wasn't.

Final thoughts on Twilight:

It was a mindless fluff kind of book. The sort of thing I'd expect to maybe read if I was away on holiday and didn't want anything that would ask me to think too much. Of course, I did end up thinking because I just couldn't fathom what was going on, or why, or what the attraction towards Edward was, or why he was that interested in Bella, and a hundred and one other questions.

I don't think that Edward and Bella's relationship is the finest example of a love story ever known. Edward is weird and Bella is boring. I don't think they should be held up as a fine example of young love.

Next week I'll take a look at New Moon, the cover, the blurb and what I'm expecting from it.

I'm guessing, more of the same.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Colouring In: Colour Me Calm

I've mentioned that I've been doing quite a bit of colouring in in the last few weeks. I figured that since I tend to share my crafty endeavours here, and one could argue that colouring in is a kind of arty endeavour, that I might as well share some of my colouring pages here as well.

On the overnight journey down to Wales I carefully packed a book to read, my Kindle (completely with audio play to listen to), my mp3 player, and obviously I had my phone for internet surfing (my downfall on the journey home as I almost went over my data limit and had to turn it off for almost a week to avoid getting a large bill, oops). But that stuff wasn't quite enough for me, so when we stopped at a service station (and I couldn't find the neck pillow I'd wanted to buy) I looked at the magazines and books.

I considered getting a crafting magazine or two but changed my mind when I saw that they had colouring books on 'buy one get one half price'. One of these was Portable Colour Me Calm, a small scale version of a much larger colouring book. It's just the right size to carry around in a shoulder bag for those moments when you need a quick hit of colouring in. I got a cheap pack of colouring pencils and now I regularly stick it in my bag when I might want to do some colouring in on the go.

It's designed with the focus on 'mindfulness' and suggests that one can use it as a sort of meditative activity, even going as far to recommend colours that you might want to use based on whether they encourage calmness or energy. So in theory, if you need a bit of help getting going at the beginning of the day you could colour using reds, oranges and yellows, whereas at the end of the day when you want to unwind you could use blues and greens. The introduction also gives the reasoning behind the different pictures that are featured, citing repetition and natural scenes as being conducive to relaxation.

It's all very interesting.

The book is divided into six sections, each one featuring a different style of picture to colour in (though I see some overlap between some of them): Mandalas, Water Scenes, Wooded Scenes, Geometric Patterns, Floral & Fauna, and Natural Patterns. At the beginning of each chapter there's a couple of sample ones which have been coloured in (presumably to show you how to do it) or partially coloured in (which you could complete, if you felt that way inclined).

My approach to all of the pictures was pretty much to just use whichever colours I felt like, as you can see.

I think the fish are my favourite with the geometric pattern a very close second. The fish is slightly rough because I worked on most of that one on the motorway coming home. The blue took me from Birmingham to Scotland to get done!

One thing I like about this book is that because of the way it's bound, it lies flat easily. The pictures don't run to the edge of the page, but it makes it better for colouring in close to the left hand side of the page. The facing page of each picture is just a pattern of swirls or or flowery shapes which you could also colour in if you wanted to (it's the same two patterns which alternate in each section). If not though, it means you could probably take completed pictures out of the book to display (should you want to).

Expect to see more pictures from this book again in the future.

Right now I'm working on Enchanted Forest and I've still got my Gardens and Art Therapy colouring books that I got for my birthday. I'm working in rotation so I don't get bored with any one style of book because they're all different in their own ways. Definitely something I'm going to have to add to my list of hobbies.

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Book 4 of 2015: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Many of the books that I read this year were contributions towards the Reading Challenge I'm working through. I didn't really impose any strict restrictions on myself for this challenge, but I aimed to read books I'd never read before and especially books which could be classed as 'classics'; my particular favourites were ones which could be gotten for free via Project Gutenberg.

Of course, that wasn't always the practical option, and I always wanted to try to read books which were near the bottom of my To-Read list. I've got books which always end up on one shelf or another, that get shunted to the end of my pile and so even when I rearrange my bookcases they don't move further up the list. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak was one of those; as I sort my books by series, genre and author (usually), no matter where I put it, it always ended up at the end of the group. When I had to read a book that had been turn into a movie, this seemed like a good excuse to bump it up my list.

The Book Thief tells the story of Liesl, the titular book thief, during the Second World War. It's narrated by Death, who first meets her the night that her brother dies whilst they are travelling across the country to live with foster parents. Through the war Liesl learns some harsh realities about the world she lives in, makes and loses friends, and is forced to grow up. Death oversees all, telling the story in the way only Death could tell it.

I read this as part of a 'book tree' several years ago; my one and only time I'd read this book previously. I picked up my copy from a charity shop a few years ago when I was attempting to read a book by an author for each letter of the alphabet (I never got around to this one). I remembered the book really fondly and could remember loving it; I though I remembered the story really clearly but once I got started on it, I realised just how little I remembered. There were bits of it that I'd forgotten completely, even though I remembered the general story; at times it felt like I was almost reading it for the first time.

I love the way that it's written. When I read reviews of The Book Thief it seems like a Marmite thing; people either love the way Death sees the world of the living, or they hate it. I'm firmly in the love camp. It makes perfect sense to me. I mean, Death isn't human. He (It?) doesn't see the world that we do, so why should things be described in a human way? Death smells colours, tastes feelings, and all senses seem similarly interchangeable. It creates a really beautiful style and yet it makes sense as well; I know exactly what is meant when something like a 'yellow feeling' is mentioned and as the story progresses I notice them less and less.

Another thing lots of readers don't seem to like is the way that the story jumps around. You'll be introduced to a character and told that they die later all in the same sentence. Again, that makes sense to me because why would Death experience time in the way humans do. Death is omnipresent and I imagine would experience all times all the time, so why shouldn't Death look at a person and know their whole life story. Beginnings and endings only matter to people because that's the order we experience them in; Death's all about the endings, so obviously that's going to be important when people are introduced.

I really like that approach. It's different and unexpected from a story because that just. not. how. things. are done. I like stories that do things differently. Besides, although to might know that a character is going to die, you don't actually know how you're going to get to that point. It's a spoiler, but not a total spoiler because you don't really know the whole story.

This time around the end of the story had an unexpected effect on me too. I cried.

I can count on one hand the number of times I've cried during a book. The Time Traveler's Wife does it to me, without fail. The Fault in Our Stars is one of the more recent ones to make me cry. I don't remember The Book Thief making me cry on my last read of it. I'd like to say that part of the reason was because I was reading it in bed at night before I left my Mum's house after visiting staying there for a week, but I think a good chunk of the reason for the tears were because the book touched me in a way not many books do.

It's one of only two books to have been awarded five stars in my book journal so far this year. I'm pretty hard to please when it comes to five star reviews!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Review: Teisseire Grenadine-flavour Syrup

I mentioned last week that I got lucky with my BzzAgent products to review recently. Well, the Teisseire syrup was one that I wasn't expecting but which is probably one of my favourite things to review.

I don't really do squash drinks. I mean, I might add a dash of blackcurrant to some lemonade occasionally but I don't think I've ever really gotten over the trauma of those terribly weak cups of squash you used to get as treats at school or at birthday parties. You know the ones, where they'd got one bottle of juice and had to stretch it out to at least sixty children. Everyone got a tiny trickle of juice which was so watered down that you could barely taste it; it just made the water taste funny.

Even today I prefer plain tap water over diluting juice. At work everyone's got a bottle of diluting juice on their desk and I'm the one with a couple of packets of hot chocolate floating around.

All the same, I'm always willing to try something new, so when the Teisseire campaign came up I figured I'd give it a go. It was advertised as a drink flavouring syrup, to be added to cocktails, water or lemonade. I'm not really a cocktail drinker but if I can like something you add to water to make it taste differently, then it has to be a hit.

And it was!

I'm actually really sad that I ran out a couple of weeks ago and haven't had a chance to get any more since then.

When I signed up for the campaign I was told I would have the choice of two flavours, pineapple and grenadine. As it happened, there was no pineapple left so grenadine it was. I had to look it up to see just what flavour that would be, but I'm glad I got that one. I'm going to have to try the other flavours at some point, but the grenadine is just lovely.

The stuff comes in a massive bottle that says it does enough for about fifty or sixty litres of drink. I was half expecting to receive a little sample bottle so this was a pleasant surprise. It lasted for weeks and that includes taking a generous sample in to share at work.

As it's a syrup and not a juice, it's really thick, so you just don't need as much as you would with a regular diluting juice. My first few glasses were maybe a little stronger than it needed to be until I got the hang of just adding a small splash; a little goes a long way. It's got a wonderfully strong flavour, something which Mr Click and the girls at work all agreed with.

I never did try it as a cocktail, as I said, I'm just not really a cocktail sort of person. I did however add it to water and lemonade. I don't often add flavour to lemonade but it made it feel like a nice treat, especially in the warm summery weather we had (right at the end of the summer)!

I'm planning on picking up some more as soon as I can because, if nothing else, I did notice it made me drink more during the day at work. I stay hydrated by keeping a water bottle on my desk, I'll top it up during the day but once the water starts warming up, I drink less. Over the course of some days I'll maybe drink a bottle to a bottle and a half; on the days when I added a splash of Teisseire grenadine flavour syrup to my water bottle I'd drink twice that.

If you get a chance to pick up a bottle of this, I'd definitely recommend it. It's slightly more expensive than your average bottle of diluting squash, but it goes a long way, has a fantastic flavour, and is a little bit more grown up and decadent than a basic bottle of Ribena!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Weekly Rundown: Work & Welsh Cawl

This week has seemed to mainly revolve around work for me. I don't tend to say too much about work here because that's work and this isn't and it seems like a good idea not to cross the dividing line. But this week I have spent rather a lot of time there so I can't help but mention it.

I volunteered to do some overtime this week. Now if I'm doing overtime I like to do it at the beginning of the day because there's nothing worse than the feeling of watching (what feels like) all of your colleagues leaving at the end of the day and knowing that you can't go for another hour; even when you're staying on willingly, even when staying late was your idea. I much prefer going in an hour early and somehow it helps to make the day go quicker.

It seemed like a good idea.

Until Tuesday morning when the alarm was going off nearly an hour earlier than usual.

As you can see from this blog post, I survived.

I'm also not sure if I mentioned it here a few weeks ago, but I went for a new position at work and I got it, so a fair chunk of this week has been spent in training ready for that. I'm learning loads but I'm also coming home at the end of each day with my head spinning. Suffice to say, I've been unwinding with a lot of colouring in and not doing a whole lot else.

Except reading.

I've finished The Dwarves by Markus Heitz, started and finished The Time Machine by H.G. Wells, and now I'm onto The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. The Dwarves took a lot time to get through (about a week and a half) so I think that spurred me on to read everything since there quite quickly. I'm just not sure what to read next!

As it was such a busy week, we took it easy yesterday. Mr Click whipped up a lovely Welsh Cawl (while I was away in Wales I instructed him to find a new recipe to try, he chose something that he thought was appropriate) and we spent the day watching the theatrical releases of The Hobbit films.

We didn't start watching them until nearly 11am so I thought we'd be pushing it to fit them all in, but we managed it, finishing up a little before 9pm. Very good going considering we had breaks for Tara, cooking, the loo and dishing up food. I've already pencilled in an epic marathon viewing of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings Extended Editions for next Easter. What can I say? I like to plan in advance!

This week coming I've got more training so I foresee more evenings spent colouring and reading. I keep saying I need to get on with my knitting as well. I was so wonderfully ahead with my Nativity figures, I don't want to fall behind now. I may have to get Mr Click to hide my colouring books for a while!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

Film Review: The Return of the King, Part 1

All set the for the final film in the Lord of the Rings trilogy? I am. I'm not actually sure how long this is going to be. I'm aiming for six parts, like all the others, but it may wind up being a little bit longer; it's a very long film.

In this part we catch up with all the remaining members of the Fellowship, some of whom are reunited. Things seem to be going quite well for Merry, Pippin, Aragorn, Legolas, Gimli and Gandalf. Things do not go so well for Saruman and Wormtongue. And things are on a definite downhill slant for Frodo, Sam and Gollum.

1. Final film in the trilogy. I still remember all the feelings sitting in the cinema watching this opening. Well, not this exact opening since I'm watching the Extended Edition, and obviously I saw the theatrical version.

2. Actually the Sméagol and Déagol bit was in the theatrical version, wasn't it? Was it?

3. I really need to rewatch the theatrical versions some time.

4. I like that we get to see Andy Serkis out of his inksuit costume.

5. I always think the perspective looks slightly off when that fish is pulling him along.

6. How different would this story have been if Déagol kept the Ring instead of Sméagol?

7. If Déagol hadn't hooked that fish, he never would've found the Ring and the pair of them would've just had a happy day fishing instead of everything that happened afterwards.

8. I like the way there's a sort of pulse in the background of this scene. It's really oppressive and stressful.

9. I imagine anyone who stumbled into the cinema not having seen the first two films would be wondering what the hell they'd walked in to!

10. Oh and I love how they do the transformation from Sméagol into Gollum.

11. Does kind of look like his face is melting though.

12. It's cool how that flashback is then sort of carried on with the way Frodo is looking at Sam and the Ring. They could almost have had big flashing words on the screen saying 'LOOKIT! IT'S THE SAME THING!"

13. Everything is very grey. And oh look, rumbly ground. This is not a pleasure trip.

14. I love that Sam is carefully conserving food so they'll have stuff for the way home. I'm not sure if he's really optimistic and just can't see the bad or just genuinely wants to be prepared for everything. I love Sam.

15. And now we get to see Théoden, Gandalf, Aragorn and the gang. They're wandering through a forest that wasn't there before.

16. Oh, and this film is called The Return of the King, just in case you weren't sure.

17. Yay! Merry and Pippin!

18. I love Billy Boyd's interview about this scene and how they did loads of different takes with them drunk, stoned, really drunk, etc.

19. Aww, half the Fellowship have been reunited.

20. Of course, at the end of the day, it all boils down to food.

21. I can't help but notice how Théoden's horse has to answer the call of nature as they all walk towards the tower of Isengard.

22. Weird fact: Word puts a squiggly red line under Theoden, but doesn't put one under Théoden.

23. No one could have done the Voice of Saruman bit as well as Christopher Lee. He's also the voice I hear in my head when I read Death in Terry Pratchett's Discworld books.

24. Gandalf is kind of the Samwise Gamgee of the Istari. He's so optimistic that he can bring Saruman back to the good side. It's too late, mate.

25. And Saruman's got a big shiny marble. Everyone's shocked by this revelation.

26. Saruman does have a fair point. Frodo has kind of been sent to his doom, especially as no one actually told him how to get into Mordor.

27. Gandalf's just like, 'oh fire, please, I did battle with a Balrog, man.'

28. He's kind of casual the way he says 'Saruman, your staff is broken'. It's not like a spell, it's just like it's something he's noticed. Gandalf has serious power!

29. Yeah, I'm not sure I'd want Gríma back. That's why I'm not King of Rohan.

30. I am kind of disappointed that we didn't get The Scouring of the Shire and I can see why Sir Christopher Lee was pissed about his death scene, but this film is neverending enough already. Cinematically it works.

31. Moment of appreciation for the fact Christopher Lee's character has been killed with a stake through his heart.

32. Oh and he's lost his marble.

33. 'S okay, Pippin's picked it up.

34. Ooh yay! Rohan music. And Éowyn's waiting.

35. I would totally live in Rohan. If I couldn't live in Bree. Actually, I think Dale would be quite nice (post-dragon eviction).

36. Théoden totally ships Aragorn and Éowyn.

37. "It's the Dwarves that go swimming with little hairy women!" O.o

38. This scene makes me wonder just how much wine the Elves in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug must have drunk to knock them out. Unless Dorwinnion wine is a lot stronger than Rohirrim ale.

39. Woo hoo! Hobbit drinking song. I'm so sad, I can't help singing along with them.

40. Aragorn is so confident that Frodo is still alive and making his way to Mordor. Gandalf isn't so sure at first, but Aragorn bolsters his spirits.

41. Bit of contrast to go from happy celebrations in Rohan to another Gollum/Sméagol conversation.

42. I like how they used the same formula from The Two Towers, but then did it with Sméagol having a conversation with his Gollum reflection. Didn't they have a bit like that in the first Hobbit film?

43. Have to add that right now my rat, Yoda, is really interested in the TV. Apparently he likes Gollum... or Sméagol. It must be the voice.

44. Uh oh, turns out Sam's heard the conversation.

45. Unfortunately Frodo's on Sméagol's side.

46. I also think that perhaps shouting the way they are isn't the best course of action when they're in enemy territory.

47. Ooh, Gollum's so evil. Poor Sam.

Check back next week when things get dramatic in Rohan. Fool of a Took!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: Twilight, Epilogue

Woo hoo! We've made it to the end of Twilight. There were a couple of times when I thought we'd never actually get here. But now we've arrived and it feels fantastic.

The last chapter saw Bella getting caught up to speed in the hospital, seeing her Mum and establishing that Edward has no intention of turning her into a vampire. That last bit was news that Bella didn't take too kindly to. Oh, and Bella's announced she's staying in Forks.

On to the Epilogue: An Occasion.

What Happens?

Edward and Alice get Bella all dressed up. She's disappointed to find he's taking her to prom and not to be transformed into a vampire. Jacob shows up to pass on a warning from Billy as well. With that out of the way Bella and Edward are able to get back to enjoying the prom and discussing Bella's desire to be with Edward forever.

Thoughts as I read:

I have no idea what could possibly happen in this chapter. I guess it's asking too much to find out more about Alice and all that stuff with the tracker. Perhaps it's just Bella getting out of hospital, that might be an occasion. Hell, walking from one side of the school to another without injuring herself would be an occasion for Bella!

Oh wow! This chapter doesn't begin with Bella waking up! I'm shocked. I have no idea what to expect at all from what follows!

Edward helped me into his car, being very careful of the wisps of silk and chiffon, the flowers he'd just pinned into my elaborately styled curls, and my bulky walking cast. He ignored the angry set of my mouth.

So she's out of hospital… and she's really annoyed about it?

Okay, I'm kind of with Bella on the surprises thing. It's find if it's a genuine surprise, but these 'I've got a surprise for you but I'm not going to tell you what it is' surprises are really frustrating. Edward's also dressed up. My first thought was that he was going to take her out for a meal (not like that) but then I remembered Edward doesn't eat so that would be kind of pointless.

Seriously? She's wearing a stiletto heel and a cast? Has Stephenie Meyer ever worn an ankle cast? That would so not work. It's either sensible flats or trainers and if you're in a cast for any length of time the pair will be ruined because you'll wear one down and not the other. And when you consider how clumsy Bella is it just seems like another broken leg waiting to happen!

"I'm not coming over any more if Alice is going to treat me like Guinea Pig Barbie when I do," I griped.

Hehe, I love Alice.

I'm glad to see the Charlie issue is being address, however briefly. He's convinced Edward is a problem so now Bella has curfews and visiting hours but despite this he's currently phoning Edward. It's because Tyler has shown up at Charlie's ready to take Bella to the prom. So that's where they're going. As you can imagine, Bella is thrilled.

This actually makes Bella cry. They're not happy tears. They may smudge her make up. The horror!

It seems as though Bella has just now realised that wearing one show might be a bad idea:

"I'll go quietly. But you'll see. I'm way overdue for more bad luck. I'll probably break my other leg. Look at this shoe! It's a death trap!" I held out my good leg as evidence.

No, Bella. It's a plot point.

Edward's response is to perv at Bella's leg. He's such a gentleman.

We also get an update on how Bella's getting on with the other Cullens. Generally good, except Rosalie. Not so much there. Emmett seems entertained by Bella's predisposition towards falling over, so she's got that going for her at least.

Once at school Bella pretty much refuses to get out of the car. Edward does make a valid point:

He sighed. "When someone wants to kill you, you're brave as a lion – and then when someone mentions dancing…" He shook his head.

Bella's still not impressed by the whole prom thing when she gets inside. The only people who are dancing properly are the vampires, everyone else is sort of pushed off to the sides of the dance floor. Of course dancing in a cast isn't easy so Edward has Bella stand on his feet. Classy.

This romantic scene is interrupted by Jacob showing up. Rather strangely he asks to cut in and he's grown since the last time we saw him. Edward lets him take over and walks away. Billy sent Jacob to tell Bella to break up with Edward. This is all because of Bella getting hurt and Billy thinks Edward had something to do with it. Which would make Billy right.

That's not all Jacob was sent to tell Bella though. She's being warned 'we'll be watching'. Bella thanks him and Edward returns in a bit of a snit. Part of the reason for this latest mood swing is because Jacob was the reason he had to let go of Bella, after he promised not to let go of her all evening. Oh look. Edward made a funny. And Jacob only called Bella 'pretty' when she's clearly 'beautiful'. D'oh.

Bella asks to know why Edward's gone to all this trouble for her because, after saving her from a vampire who wanted to eat her, taking her to the prom is a really big deal!

He ignored me, staring up at the moon.
"Twilight, again," he murmured. "Another ending. No matter how perfect the day is, it always has to end."

What he says next kind of makes sense. He doesn't want Bella being with him to stop her having a normal human life. Bella points out that his idea of normal isn't so accurate; she never would've gone to the prom anyway.

Turns out that Bella was hoping the fancy outfit was going to be because Edward had decided to change her into a vampire. Because one should always look one's best when having one's blood drained in order to become the Undead.

Edward says as much as this. He's sad that she'd be that happy to give up life and all the alive people things he's no longer able to do. Like eating. And breathing. And having a pulse. He misses them all so much.

For a moment he makes out like he's going to do it. Then stops and reminds her he will stay with her. It's not quite enough for her though.

He frowned at my tenacity. No one was going to surrender tonight. He exhaled, and the sound was practically a growl.
I touched his face. "Look," I said. "I love you more than everything else in the world combined. Isn't that enough?"
"Yes, it is enough," he answered, smiling. "Enough for forever."
And he leaned down to press his cold lips once more to my throat.

Okay. That wasn't such a bad ending to the book. The very last couple of pages felt like they could've been written by someone else entirely compared to the rest of the book. It was actually a Bella and Edward discussion I quite enjoyed and actually understood what was being said. That was quite novel.

Just two questions to finish up the book:

  • Is Bella annoyed about getting out of hospital? No, she seems to be annoyed about having to get dressed up and not being told what it's all in aid of.
  • Stiletto heel and plaster cast? Seriously?!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Finish This Book: Blind Contour Drawing

It's been a while since I shared my progress through my Finish This Book, mainly because although I've been carrying it around in my laptop bag, I've not opened it for a few weeks. Now I'm trying to get back on track with both it and my Wreck This Journal and hopefully I'll have more to share in the coming Thursdays.

The instructions on the BLIND CONTOUR DRAWING page explain that as an investigator it is important to be able to draw occasionally. You're told to find an object and draw its outline without looking at the paper or lifting your pencil from the page as well as to research 'blind contour drawing'.

As you can see from the photo, I had mixed results with this one, though I did improve after my research.

You're not aiming to create a true to life picture, it's just a simple outline. My last two that I did were the teddy bear and the top of the bookcase and (aside from the poor teddy bear's head) they're pretty accurate.

My research (good old Wikipedia.org) told me:

It's a drawing exercise which involves drawing the outline of an object without looking at the paper. You should track the object's outline with your eyes and follow the movement with your hand. You should also aim to draw one long continuous line without lifting your pencil from the paper.
There are two different people who commented on blind contour drawing. Nicolaides suggested it improved one's drawings by using both sight and touch while Edwards argued it used the right side of your brain over the left.
Seems to improve drawings by getting your hand and eyes to work together, creates more realistic drawings because you learn to follow the actual lines not memorised symbols, you learn to see all the details.
It's often used as a drawing session warm up.

I did improve once I followed the instruction to closely follow the outline with your eyes as your hand traces it. I wish I had a photo of how the top of the bookcase looked at the time I did the above drawing because it is so close. Once I finished it I stopped because there was no way  could get any more accurate than that.

It's an interesting activity though I think you'd need to practice a great deal to see any improvement in your drawing ability.

Have you ever tried blind contour drawing?

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Book 3 of 2015: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

I mentioned in my Emma review a fortnight ago that I'd started the Reading Challenge with the intention of reading more classics and books by authors I'd never really read before. Well, top of my list of authors whose books I wanted to read was Jane Austen and when Week Two's topic was 'a classic romance' there was really no question about it being anything but Pride and Prejudice.

Even if you've never read Pride and Prejudice you're probably familiar with the story since it's one which has been reproduced numerous times for film, TV as well as in other stories and media which are based heavily on the story. Basically Elizabeth Bennet meets Mr Darcy and immediately sparks fly. Her mother is keen to marry off Elizabeth and her sisters, but they need to marry well, and Lizzy has her sights set on someone else. But Mr Darcy keeps cropping up and there's only one way that's going to end.

I have to admit that I didn't enjoy this story as much as Emma and Northanger Abbey. With those stories I felt compelled to keep on reading which wasn't a compulsion I really felt as I worked through Pride and Prejudice. There are a couple of reasons for this though the main one was just the fact that I'm really familiar with the story already.

Although this was a first time read, I already knew the story from the BBC adaptation, the more recent film version, and the host of films which used it as the basis for their own stories (Bridget Jones's Diary, Bride and Prejudice, the more I think about it, the longer the list gets). It just meant that I didn't have same sense of urgency as I read because I already had a fairly good idea of what was going to happen and how.

I did also read it over the week when Mr Click and I travelled to Wales for our 'second Christmas' which meant that I had a lot of other things on. This also didn't help with my speed, though it's telling that it took me from the 8th to the 14th of January (at 291 pages long), whereas Emma clocked in at 514 and I started it on the 1st then finished it on the 4th.

That's not to say I didn't enjoy it. I did. I especially liked the characters of Lizzy and Jane but I didn't like Darcy all that much. He strikes me as a person with really poor social skills which I guess is the time when it was set but an awful lot of hassle could've been saved if the characters had actually spoken to one another. I guess that just made it frustrating.

What also frustrated me were the characters of Lydia and Mrs Bennett. The former just didn't seem to care about anyone but herself or how her actions might affect her family; the latter just wanted her daughters to marry above their station and that was all she wanted, regardless of how they might go about achieving that. Every time their names appeared on a page I cringed inwardly.

It's a book that I am glad to have read, though I'm not sure I'll read it again any time soon. Perhaps the feeling will take me at some point in the future when I've rewatched one of the adaptations.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Review: Jacob's Cracker Crisps

At the end of last year I signed up with BzzAgent which allows members to fill in surveys and receive free products to test and review. They warn you that you may only get one BzzCampaign a year because they'll only send you an invitation if it's something that will be relevant to you, but thus far I've been pretty lucky and received several products to review. They always show up at convenient times as well.

One of my most recent Campaigns was for Jacob's Cracker Crisps.

I'm always excited when I get an invitation for a new Campaign and when I read I would be sent three packs (one of each flavour) of the new Jacob's Cracker Crisps I figured they'd be little sample size packs. I was wrong, I received one of each Sweet Thai Chilli, Sour Cream and Chive, and Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar to try out and report back to BzzAgent about.

As I was looking for some good snackies to pack in my bag on the way to and from Wales, I was thrilled. I mean, who doesn't want to get free edible stuff?

The Cracker Crisps are basically a cross between a cracker and a crisp. Think Mini Cheddars but with a lot more flavour and they're supposed to be a lot healthier than crisps. This latter point appealed to me since, along with the girls I work with, I'm on a health kick. It's a bit of a failing health kick (since as I'm writing this I'm munching on some chocolate) but the intention is there and when I'm choosing snacks I am thinking about what's in them.

I'm not really a fan of spicy food so I knew from the start that the Sweet Thai Chilli ones would probably not be up my street. I did try one or two though, as a BzzAgent it is my duty after all. But I soon passed them on to Mr Click who is far more spicily inclined than I am. I did eat enough to note that they have a really strong flavour and, if you like spicy stuff, they've got a bit of a bite to them.
I made do with the Sour Cream and Chive ones which were much more to my liking. They're incredibly more-ish and it took quite a bit of self-restraint not to eat the whole packet with my lunch. I wanted to save some to take on the picnic walk I did with some of the girls from work. As I have to report back to BzzAgent on the products I try, I like to try and share them with as many people as I can.

They were a big hit. Everyone agreed that the flavour was really strong and that they would probably go well with a dip of some kind. You could stick bowls of them out at a party for people to help themselves to, or have them as a side dish with a sandwich, salad or small snacky meal. They were perfect for a picnic.

I didn't try the Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar ones until I was travelling down to Wales, saving what I thought would be my favourite ones til last. I have to admit though, the Sour Cream and Chive ones are actually my favourite. The Sea Salt and Balsamic Vinegar ones are a little heavy on the vinegar. I wouldn't say it's overpowering but I can't go back to them as easily as I can with the others.

Hopefully they'll increase the range in the future because these are definitely something I'll pick up again in the future.

If you're in the UK and you want to try these, leave a comment below because I have three 50p off coupons for the first three commenters who want to try some. Just leave a comment and I'll send you the link.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Weekly Rundown: Not Growing Up

Is it just me or has it felt like a long week? It's felt like a long week and yet I don't seem to have done a huge amount. Except colouring in. I've done a lot of colouring in this week.

An awful lot of colouring in.

Apparently I've not changed a huge amount in the last twenty years since the main things I've been up to this week are the same sorts of things I was doing when I was nine. What is is they say about growing older but not growing up?

When I was travelling to Wales I picked up Portable Colour Me Calm which is divided into sections with different themes, so you've got designs inspired by nature, water, geometry and mandalas. They're nice and quick to colour in and I spent half the week wandering round with it and a pack of colouring pencils in my shoulder bag for free moments when I felt a little bit of colouring in was necessary.

As of yesterday morning I've moved on to my Enchanted Forest colouring book. It's so pretty. I'm very keen to get Secret Garden and Lost Ocean (which doesn't come out for a little while yet) but I'm fairly certain Enchanted Forest is going to keep me going for a while yet. Especially as I still have my two colouring books I got for my birthday as well. I think I'm going to need to get some more colouring pencils soon!

It's keeping me from my knitting though. I really need to pick that back up in the coming week. Joseph is currently still armless (though they've been knitted, they're just sitting on my side table waiting to be sewn up. He also needs his hands knitted; once I've done that and his hair it's pretty much done so I have no excuse. Aside from the fact I keep on coming home and getting my colouring pencils out instead of my knitting needles!

In terms of reading, I'm slowly working my way through The Dwarves. It was lent to me by a colleague who thought it would appeal to me. It took a while to get into but now I'm halfway through it, know who all the characters are and more or less know what's going on, I'm enjoying it. It's just it's a monster book and makes my bag really heavy (especially if I've got a colouring book and colouring pencils in there as well). It's also not very comfortable to read in bed. The night before last I was dozing off as I was reading it and kept bopping myself on the nose with it!

It's delaying my next week of the Reading Challenge which I'm hoping to get to by tomorrow. I've got to read a book set in the future, so I'm going with H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, mainly because it's a book I've wanted to read for years but also because it's another one I can get on Project Gutenberg so I can read it on the go on my phone.

I've started seriously gearing up for NaNoWriMo as well. I'm making use of OneNote on my new laptop. It's really handy with the different pages and the fact you can copy stuff from different webpages and it includes the link to where you got it from. It's a little bit like a scrapbook except you can take stuff out and move it around a lot more easily. And it saves on ink from printing things.

Obviously being in a writing sort of mood has put in the right frame of mind for clearing up a little something that was bothering me about my rewrite of Behind the Scenes. That's the story I've been working on since I was about sixteen/seventeen and it's currently in it's third draft (and being heavily expanded). All this time I've had one character always knowing that he was the father of one of my main characters, just this week it occurred to me that maybe he didn't know he was her father.

Suddenly he's become a much more sympathetic character because he's not been hiding this dark secret for the last seventeen years, he's just as surprised as she is when the truth comes out and so they're both muddling around in these new unfamiliar waters together. I'm so proud of my brain for slotting it all into place, even if it does mean that there will need to be changes made in the last ten chapters I've rewritten because I was dropping clue to set up the big reveal that don't need to be there any more.

I'm also a little bit embarrassed to admit that Jeremy Kyle helped with getting those pieces to fall into place. It was on in the canteen at work one day this week and I happened to look up while they were talking about DNA tests. It's been bugging me for a while that my seventeen-year-old character, Abby, would probably have seen her birth certificate naming her actual father. I much prefer him just being 'UNKNOWN' on the paperwork and Jack having his suspicions all along, so deciding to get them tested.

The one problem is, there just aren't enough hours in the day to plan my NaNo, knit, colour in and renew my enthusiasm for Behind the Scenes, so I'm having to sort of prioritise.

At least I'm not short of things to keep myself occupied.

Saturday, 12 September 2015

Book & Film Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Normally on a Saturday I watch a film to review, recently it's been the Lord of the Rings trilogy but as I spent last Saturday making Welsh cakes I didn't squeeze in The Return of the King, so I figured I'd review the film I watched while I was in Wales. And as it's based on a book, I'll review that at the same time and kill two birds with one blog post. P.S. Mum, if you've not read the book yet, you might not want to read this post. There'll be spoilers!

I've had The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Deborah Moggach on my bookcase for quite a while. I was so desperate to read it that I actually picked up the film cover edition of the book in a charity shop (I normally avoid those ones, just in case people think I'm just reading the book because of the film, because I'm a snob like that).

Previously published under the title These Foolish Things, the book follows a group of British pensioners, each with personal struggles from Muriel who is stuck in a hospital waiting for treatment for days, to Evelyn who is suddenly alone and broke, to Norman who doesn't realise just what a burden he is on his family. A couple of cousins come up with an idea to help ship them off to India to a low cost care home there, and so not only do the group of elderly characters collide, but so do two entirely different continents.

As I said, I had this on my bookshelf for quite a while but my opportunity to read it came when I needed to find a book for the Reading Challenge which was set in a country I'd always wanted to visit. I had plenty of choices of countries and I'll admit my top choice probably would've been New Zealand or Canada, but I didn't know if I had any books in my collection set in one of those countries, so I decided to work with what I had. India is one of those countries that fascinates me, so The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ticked that box.

Once I started it, I didn't want to put it down. I started it on the 24th of July and finished it on the 27th, that included a couple of times where I read late into the night because I just didn't want to put it down. It's a fairly gentle kind of story, it builds up gradually. You're introduced to the characters one by one and then each strand joins together to weave the main story. It's a clever way of telling the story because even though there are people you might not care for, you can't wait to see what the other characters make of them.

Obviously this storytelling technique meant that I developed favourite characters. My favourites were Evelyn, Dorothy and Douglas. At first Norman made me cringe but he really grew on me as I went on. I ended up feeling really sorry for him as the book went on.

Given the subject matter, elderly people living in a retirement home, I suppose I shouldn't have been shocked by the fact that people died in the story. But I was surprised. Or rather, the people who died took me by surprise. I thought that all the people in the story would get their happily ever afters in India and that just wasn't the case. Especially Norman, poor, poor Norman.

As my copy had the film poster on the front cover I couldn't help but try and imagine who would be played by whom in the film. I got Judi Dench as Evelyn right, but I think I was wrong for most of the others. Norman struck me as the type who would be best suited to be played by Bill Nighy; I was imagining him as the sort of character he played in Love Actually with hints of his character from The Boat That Rocked. In the film Nighy actually plays Douglas. And the fantastic Maggie Smith played Muriel; I'd imagined her playing Dorothy (who wasn't even in the film at all).

I guessed that there would be changes between the book and the film. It was obvious from the fact that the hotel in the book is run by a fifty-year-old man when from the trailers I knew he was being played by the definitely-not-fifty-year-old Dev Patel. But there were quite a few things that were different.

Some I was expecting. The book has quite a slow build-up. I think the book is about a third of the way through before the OAPs start moving to the hotel, whereas that's glossed over quite quickly within the first few minutes of the film. Dorothy and Graham are merged into the one character and there's a romance for the younger viewers as well. Others came as a surprise to me. I was waiting for Norman to kick the bucket and then Graham hit it instead. Jean was a bit of a cow right from the very start, instead of half of an adventurous couple.

Despite it being a different sort of film to what I might have expected from the book. I still loved it. The different storytelling medium just meant that some things had to be changed. The changes made sense and I very quickly got absorbed into the story. You wound up routing for the characters, for the couples, for the hotel.

The way it was filmed was beautiful as well. There were times when you just wanted to pause the film and look at it like a pretty picture. I've only seen it the once and I've not seen the second yet, though as Mr Click is yet to see both of them, I suspect we'll be getting them on DVD soon.

Yes, it was different from the book, but it was funny and clever and touching. When certain characters hugged or looked at each other it gave me those little butterflies in my stomach which I get when I care about the characters. I laughed A LOT while I was watching it. I didn't even do any colouring in while we were watching it.

So I would recommend both the book and the film. I'd suggest you read the book first, because that's the way that these things should be done, but see the film too. It's the same, but different, and so, so good.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Chapter-by-Chapter: Twilight, Chapter 24

After a brief hiatus (owing to my trip to Wales) I am ready to get on with wrapping this book up. Technically I could have finished it once and for all today, but after slogging through this chapter I just couldn't face another page of it, so I've decided to hold off on the Epilogue until next week.
In the last chapter, which we read a couple of weeks ago now, Bella was found badly injured and Edward had to suck out the venom from a vampire bite inflicted by the tracker. It was a very short chapter which was clearly just building up to this much longer one.

On with Chapter 24: An Impasse.

What Happens?

Bella comes round in hospital to find Edward there. Her parents have been fed a line about a nasty accident and Renee has even come to see her. The tracker has been disposed of, Renee and Phil are moving to Florida and Bella announces her plans to stay in Forks. She has an argument with Edward about whether or not he'll turn her into a vampire though in the end they agree to disagree on this one.

Thoughts as I read:

I've heard things about the next book and about Edward not being in it for a fair bit (which is a plus point for several readers) so I'm guessing something will happen in this last chapter which means he has to go. Perhaps sucking out another vampire's venom has done something to him. Or perhaps the tracker isn't actually dead yet and there's some sort of stalemate going on; perhaps he's agreed to leave Bella alone if he gets Alice back or something.

It wouldn't be a proper chapter of Twilight if it didn't begin with Bella coming round:

My eyes opened to a bright, white light. I was in an unfamiliar room, a white room. The wall beside me was covered in long vertical blinds; over my head, the glaring lights blinded me. I was propped up on a hard, uneven bed – a bed with rails. The pillows were flat and lumpy. There was an annoying beeping sound somewhere close by. I hoped that meant I was still alive. Death shouldn't be this uncomfortable.

Did you get that? It's bright. And white. And there are lights. Did we mention it was bright?

She's clearly in hospital. And Edward's there. Do her parents even know what's happened to her yet?

Over the page Edward answers my question. Alice called Renee and Charlie. Of the two of them, Renee came. Does that mean Charlie's not yet forgiven Bella for the way she stormed out? I can't wait to hear how they explain just how Bella came to be lying in a hospital bed with a broken leg and minus several pints of blood.

"You fell down two flights of stairs and through a window." He paused. "You have to admit, it could happen."

Hehe, he does have a point.

Bella, at least, is on the mend now. Despite the blood transfusions that made her smell wrong to Edward. That's a nice touch actually because I suppose if it's the smell of someone's blood that you're attracted to, a transfusion would make them smell wrong. I want more stuff like that in these books. I wonder if that would mean vampires could be like sniffer dogs for things like leukaemia and diabetes.

Bella doesn't find any of this fascinating. She wants to know how Edward did 'it'. I guess she means, how did he not get carried away when he was sucking on her hand. Well, he claims it was 'impossible' and yet he managed it, so clearly now as impossible as all that then.

There's an awkward moment because despite being happy Bella is now conscious and not dead or anything, Edward's kind of peeved that she tried to well and truly leave him by getting all dead and eaten. This doesn't last long because then Bella changes the subject to ask what happened to James, who is the tracker who they've avoided calling by name for something like the last eight chapters!

"After I pulled him off you, Emmett and Jasper took care of him." There was a fierce note of regret in his voice.
This confused me. "I didn't see Emmett and Jasper there."
"They had to leave the room… there was a lot of blood."

Ugh. We're getting answers without any real information. It's all. 'I fixed you', 'we got rid of him' without any of the hows or whys. That's so frustrating. We also find out that Alice knows James created her, but we don't get any of the reaction to that either. I actually wouldn't have minded the book being longer if that could've been included here. I really hope we see more of Alice's story in the future books, though I seriously doubt that we will.

After this Edward mocks Bella for not liking to have a needle in her hand but feeling fine about facing certain death in the form of a vampire who wants to eat her. He does have kind of a point, though when I was in hospital for my egg retrieval I wasn't all that nervous about the actual op, but getting the needle in my hand before it freaked me out, so I can't really comment.

Changing the subject slightly, Bella quizzes Edward on what she's supposed to say to her Mum. It sounds about as plausible as you'd expect:

"I came to Phoenix to talk some sense into you, to convince you to come back to Forks." His wide eyes were so earnest and sincere, I almost believed him myself. "You agreed to see me, and you drove me out to the hotel where I was staying with Carlisle and Alice – of course I was here with parental supervision," he inserted virtuously, "but you tripped on the stairs on the way to my room and… well, you know the rest. You don't need to remember any details, though; you have a good excuse to be a little muddled about the finer points."

Personally it sounds like a cover up, perhaps for something like Edward flipping out and throwing her down the stairs when she refused to get back together with him.

Bella meanwhile is distracted by the lack of corroborating evidence, but no fear, Alice has handled all that.

When Edward touches Bella it makes her heart monitor change. That's kind of a fun game to play next time you're hooked up to one of those monitors; picture different things (I'm talking relaxing scenes, people, not getting felt up by a vampire, but y'know, whatever floats your boat) and then see how it makes your heart monitor change. Personally I've never imagined making out with a vampire. Just as well really because one kiss from Edward seems to stop Bella's heart!

Then he hears Renee coming, so pretends to have a nap. Bella has to reassure he mum everything's okay, because that's how the parent-child relationship should work when you're a teenager. Bella's been out of it for a while which has given Renee ample time to get to know Alice and Carlisle.

Renee has some news for Bella; Phil's been signed for whatever sport it is he plays (is it golf?) so they'll be moving to Florida. Of course Bella now has no plans to move anywhere, she's going to be staying in Forks.

Unsurprisingly Renee is shocked by this news. After all, Bella hates Forks, she said as much to Charlie right before she left. But now she's got Edward back and he's changed her mind. There's a discussion about how Bella loves Edward and he obviously loves her. Renee makes out that she's all worried about her daughter, but then hurries off because Phil's due to call soon. So worried about her daughter, but husband gets top priority. Fair enough.

Before she goes Renee does mention that she's not too keen to go home because there's been an increase in crime in the area; like the dance studio that was burned down. Aha! I was right!

With Renee gone, Edward and Bella can chat again. Edward seems to have changed his tune all of a sudden. Bella tells him he couldn't have gone to Florida because of the whole sparkling in the sunlight thing, but Edward says he'd have stayed away so he couldn't hurt her any more.

Bella makes Edward promise he won't leave, which he does, calms her down and then points out that he's kind of the reason she's in hospital. This is sort of true, though by the same token, what's to say that the tracker wouldn't have found Bella when he came to Forks anyway, and that would've put her in a worse situation because she wouldn't have known anything about vampires. Instead Bella just reasons that he's the reason she's alive, but he's also the reason she needed saving in the first place.

Seriously Edweird, what's with this mood swing? A minute ago he seemed happy and was smiling about Bella coming back to Forks and now he's got his panties in a knot. Part of the problem appears to have been the whole 'sucking Bella's blood to save her life' thing; he wanted to keep going. And that's set off another mood swing.

I have no idea how all of this has escalated. They do keep talking though, presumably because neither of them are in a position to storm off and leave right now.

Bella starts on about why Edward didn't just let her turn into a vampire. There's something here about how they need to save each other. Edward's always saving Bella but he claims Bella has saved him. He's also pissed that Alice actually told Bella so much about how vampires are made.

This is all because Bella has decided that she actually wants to be turned into a vampire so she and Edward can truly be together forever. Needy girlfriend much? I think I sense a break up coming on. She claims that she could handle the pain and fobs Edward off with something about how her parents would deal with it. He's still refusing. Stick to your guns, man! If you turn her, you'll be stuck with her FOR-E-V-E-R!

Now Bella is annoyed because she's getting older. Edward is annoyed because he's not.

Time to try a new approach; Alice might do it for Bella. This just makes Edward angrier. Apparently one of the visions Alice saw was vampire!Bella. Of course it doesn't necessarily mean anything because she also saw dead!Bella and these things can change. Alice's visions have a touch of the Mirror of Galadriel about them, don't they?

And so we come to the title. The pair of them are at an impasse. And just like that the argument is over and Edward is ordering Bella more pain relief. At least they have finally stopped the arguing and despite the earlier conversation, Edward's promising to stay. Still, Bella gets one more dig in before she passes out:

"I'm betting on Alice," I mumbled.
And then the night closed over me.

I'm really disappointed that we didn't get more fall out from the tracker thing, especially with Alice. Unless that comes up in another book, I think Stephenie Meyer missed a real opportunity there.

And also, why do Bella and Edward have to argue about every damn thing?!

And now for today's questions:

  • Do Bella's parents know what's happened to her? Yes, or rather, they know a made up Cullen version of what happened.
  • Has Charlie forgiven Bella for what she said before she left?
  • If vampires can smell changes in a person's blood, could they be used in the diagnosis of cancers and illnesses like diabetes?
  • Just how did the vampires get rid of James?
  • How did Alice react when she found out what James did to her?
  • What sport does Phil play again?
  • Why all the arguing between Bella and Edward?