Thursday, 31 March 2016

On my Needles

Allow me to introduce you to Bertie…

He doesn't look like much at the moment, does he? But in a little while he should look something like this:

Photo from Jean Greenhowe's website
I have spent the last three months in a bit of a knitting funk. Everything I seemed to start seemed to take me ages and slow projects suck the fun out of knitting for me so I kept on setting it aside and occupying my time with other things.

Then when we went to Ayr I picked up Jean Greenhowe's Red Nose Gang booklet and I was reminded of how much I like Jean's patterns. They're so simple but the effects are great. No fiddly knitting in the round, no complicated design techniques, just the basics and it always works so well.

And the clowns in this pattern book aren't particularly creepy looking either. As I flicked through the book I couldn't help but think that one of the clowns would make a nice little gift for my Father-in-Law. I knitted a Grandma Humpty Dumpty for my Mum-in-Law several years ago and have been meaning to make something he would appreciate ever since.

And I think Bertie Bloomer fits the bill. And I have all the colours I need.

And he's knitting up so quickly.

I can't wait to finish him off.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Books 36 & 37 of 2016: Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells & Olalla by Robert Louis Stevenson

One of the best things about the Reading Challenge I took part in last year was that it gave me a reason to read a bunch of books which I'd had on my list to read for ages but for one reason or another, never managed to get around to. Book 37 was one of those; Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood by Rebecca Wells.

This ticked the box for Week 20: a book from the bottom of your 'To Read' list; it had kept on getting pushed to the bottom of the list mainly because whenever I would resort my bookcase, I'd inevitably end up pushing it down my list by sorting my books into alphabetical order (by author).

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is the story of two women; Siddalee Walker and her mother Vivi. The pair have fallen out following an interview in which Siddalee described her mother in a less than favourable light, so Vivi's friends send Siddalee a scrapbook about their youthful escapades which helps to shed some light onto the events that shaped Vivi into the woman she became.

I'd caught bits of the film years and years ago, though it had been so long that I really couldn't remember anything about the story, other than the fact that Ashley Judd was in it. I keep on meaning to track down a copy of the film to watch it again, but I'd wanted to read the book beforehand. On one day trip off the island I saw the book in a secondhand bookshop, I didn't buy it but it was still there when I went back again, so it seemed like a scene.

It took me a while to get into this book, but after the halfway point I got really into it. The more I read, the more I wanted to know and it became one of those books that you really don't want to put down.

Part of the appeal of it was the way that the story was revealed gradually. You had some idea of the things that might have happened to lead to the events in the story, but it took time for your suspicions to be confirmed or denied. It's one of those techniques which doesn't always work, but in this case it did. I liked that you didn't get the fully straight away.

I also really liked the way that things were described in the book. You got a brilliant sense of the setting:

As the smells of sweet woodruff and alder burning and lake water wafted about her, so did the essences of her mother's stories. Not in the way that Sidda wanted, but in the way of hidden things that mysteriously reveal worlds unsuspected and longed for.

I felt as though I could almost feel the Louisiana heat. I love that in a book.

When I finished up this book I decided I needed something short and kind of bitesized to see me through to start the next week's Reading Challenge, so I went for one of the Penguin Little Black Classics; Book 19, Olalla by Robert Louis Stevenson. It's one of his short stories about a man who goes to visit an old castle in Spain, only to find that there's something a wee bit weird about the family who live there.

I'd picked up this book from the collection because I'd studied Robert Louis Stevenson during my OU course and I'd read several of his short stories. I'm glad I read this one because I really enjoyed the South Sea Tales book as well as the other Robert Louis Stevenson books that I read; it sort of feels like I'm completing a set by reading all the books by an author.

It was kind of a creepy story. It had a slow build up and in a way it reminded me of Dracula. It wouldn't have been out of place in the South Sea Tales book which had a bit of a mix of the supernatural and more realistic stories.

This was a nice quick read. It was perfect to finish off a Reading Challenge week and see me through to the beginning of another week of reading.

Monday, 28 March 2016

TV Series Review: Morecambe & Wise

Last Christmas I got Mr Click the complete BBC box set of Morecambe and Wise. I also managed to track down the Thames Years DVD and as a little stocking filler I got him the dramatization 'Eric & Ernie'. Post-Christmas, Mr Click picked up a box set of three of their films and we already had a fourth one which we'd picked up years ago.

Right after Christmas, we decided to go right ahead and watch the whole shebang. It took us a while but we made it through them all.

Most of the early episodes are 'lost' so the first couple of series are pretty short. I also found them quiet sketchy in quality compared to the later episodes. I've watched odd episodes of Morecambe and Wise over the years, usually on UK Gold and usually at Christmas. I was most familiar with the Christmas episodes which are repeated almost every year on certain channels.

Some of the routines are a little bit dated now, but the majority of them rely on visual gags or wordplay which gives it something of a timeless quality. I started out sort of half-watching the series, as I so often do with the things that Mr Click chooses to watch, but then as time passed I found myself seeing familiar skits and getting more into the series.

One of the things I like most about the series was their ability to carry a running joke. Like the Ernie wears a wig thing, or the 'Arsenal!' thing every time anyone coughed, or the way the Peter Cushing kept on cropping up, asking to be paid. Perhaps most impressively, they managed to carry these over when the series moved to Thames. That was a little unexpected.

I was expecting there to be a big change between the format when the series switched from BBC to Thames. Instead it stayed pretty much the same. So much the same, in fact, that they reused a lot of the jokes. That was the main thing that frustrated me about the Christmas episodes and the Thames ones; with the exception of a couple of standout sequences, it felt like they were mostly rehashing old ground. I think it was probably more noticeable to us because we were watching them all back to back.

The films were okay, but I preferred the TV series. Then again, I imagine we'll probably rewatch the films at some point sooner than the series. They make good Saturday afternoon viewing material.

And then, not technically Morecambe and Wise, but heavily inspired by them, there's Eric and Ernie. A dramatization of their early time together and their start at the BBC. We saw it when it was originally on TV as well as a couple of years ago when it was repeated at Christmas. I picked it up on DVD as a stocking filler for Mr Click way back around September last year and nearly brought it out to watch several times before Christmas.

I didn't and we finally watched it a couple of weeks ago. It's just as good as I remembered it, except this time I think I appreciated it even more than on previous viewings because there were lots of clever little nods to the TV series which I'd missed before.

I'm really glad that I got the series for Mr Click and I'm sure we'll watch it again in the future. Right now we've moved on to watching Dad's Army and we're getting through it pretty quickly, so expect to see a review of it in the very new future.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Weekly Rundown: Ayr Shopping

Happy Easter!

Hope everyone is having a nice long weekend. This is actually my second long weekend in a row, having had a three day weekend last week for taking the car in to Ayr (plus I had a four-day week the week before with my hospital appointment). We decided to treat Friday as an extra Saturday so I spent my time knitting, writing letters and watching The Battle of the Five Armies for my film review posts.

Back to last Monday though. We've almost had Bluebell for a full year so it was time for her to make a return trip to Arnold Clark in Ayr for her MOT and service. We took advantage of the day out to indulge in a little retail therapy.

I've mentioned it before here, but I love visiting Ayr, especially for the charity shops. I've noticed that some places seem to have a better quality of goods in their charity shops and Ayr seems to be at the upper end of the scale. My wardrobe has been in need of some updating and my 30th birthday is fast approaching, so Mr Click suggested that we turn the charity shopping trip into an extension of my birthday treat, in order to pick up some goodies for me.

And that we did!

Our first stop was The Works, where he spoiled me with some new colouring pencils (did I say I was 29? I'm actually more like nine!), some butterfly stickers (ages three and up) and a pack of washi tape I'd looked at in Glasgow the week before and decided against getting, then regretted it.

Through the course of the day the main aim was to get some stuff for my wardrobe so that I can retire some of my smart casual tops to the casual drawer, and actually get some stuff I can wear for work. Also, something warm and snuggly to replace my favourite hoodie which is slowly disintegrating, much to my disappointment (though not to my surprise, since I pretty much live in that hoodie and only really take it off to wash it).

And boy did we score!

I think the major bargain of the day was a snuggly grey jumper with 'WILD ONE' splashed across the front of it, which cost a grand total of 50p!

I've also got a zip-front top to replace the above mentioned hoodie, a brand new white work shirt (still has the tags on), black jeans, black pin stripe trousers, a dressy up top, a long-sleeved top and a pink top with rainbows and butterflies on. Oh, and we found a book about Dad's Army (perfect timing as we just started watching the TV series last week), plus a book which caught my eye (and was only 20p).

Our final stop was the Red Cross shop.

Every time I visit a charity shop I check out the inevitable basket/folder/pile of knitting patterns. I've always looked in hope of finding a Jean Greenhowe pattern booklet and until last Monday I've never been successful. As I flicked through the contents of the basket, something bright and colourful caught my eye, which stood out against all the dingy eighties patterns in the bunch. It was the Knitted Clowns booklet. And it was only £1!

While I was celebrating my good find, Mr Click had his eye on a Casio digital watch. We purchased my booklet and left the shop. Mr Click couldn't stop talking about the watch. We got about a hundred yards down the road and it was clear that he was regretting not picking it up. And he'd spoiled me rotten.

So I treated him.

Cue one really happy husband.

And one happy wife too.

I've cast on for Bertie Bloomer already. He's a gardening clown so I think he'll make a good birthday present for my father-in-law. After losing my knitting mojo and struggling through a project I wasn't enjoying, I've got it back and I'm steaming through my work on Bertie.

Hopefully I'll have photos to share soon.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Film Review: The Battle of the Five Armies, Part 2

Last week we started watching The Battle of the Five Armies, the final film in the Hobbit trilogy. I've been planning on spending this Easter weekend finally watching some of the special features on these blu-rays, since I've had this one since Christmas and still haven't even dipped my toe in the water. I think it's because I don't want the journey to Middle-earth to be over!

Last week was pretty much all about the whole of Laketown being taken out by a dragon, with a bit of a reunion amongst the Dwarves. Now we'll catch up with Gandalf and see just what the Laketowners are up to now.

54. And back to Gandalf.

55. He seems to be delirious.

56. Or he's communicating with Radagast through magical means. On or the other.

57. Some ugly bugger's shown up to harass Gandalf into giving up his Elven ring.

58. Isn't that typical? You start harassing someone for one Elven ring and then three show up at once?

59. My personal headcanon for these films is that when Galadriel was a rebellious young Elf she and Gandalf had a fling and this bit of the film only solidifies that suspicion.

60. Man, Galadriel is strong.

61. I love that we get to see Galadriel doing battle at Dol Guldor because in the book it kind of gets glossed over. I like video evidence of how awesome she is.

62. "I am not alone!" Yeah, I've brought my son-in-law and an old guy with me.

63. To be fair, the old guy is a pretty good fighter. Look at Sauruman go!

64. I wonder how Celeborn feels about Galadriel and Gandalf. I bet in The Fellowship of the Ring he was secretly glad that Gandalf fell in Moria. Brings a whole new meaning to the line 'Tell me, where is Gandalf? For I much desired to speak with him.' doesn't it?

65. And now Gandalf's basically asking Galadriel to run away with him. Or something.

66. Looks like the guys have taken care of the Nine. Now it's just Sauron to deal with.

67. Looks like a job for Samara!Galadriel. Seriously, doesn't she look like something out of The Ring here.

68. This flashing Sauron thing is kind of seizure inducing.

69. Well done Galadriel, you've just sent Sauron into Mordor. Perfect place for him to build up a stronghold to prepare to for a really big battle.

70. Oh dear. Leaving Sauron to Saruman may be a bit of a mistake.

71. Gandalf's not about to let Radagast use his strange medicine to nurse him back to health.

72. And now comes the moment I've been waiting for since the first film; Radagast gives Gandalf his staff (warning him 'it can be a bit dicky sometimes, you have to twiddle the top'), hehe.

73. Back to Erebor and Balin, Dwalin and Bilbo are trying to talk Thorin down. Thorin's having a temper tantrum about the lack of Arkenstone in his possession.

74. Poor Balin. I just want to give him a hug. Especially because I know what's going to happen to him between now and The Fellowship of the Ring.

75. Bilbo asks Balin what would happen if they let Thorin have the Arkenstone. I love the way he does it like he's not asking for him, oh no, it's for a friend, called uh, Blilblo.

76. Thorin is so suspicious that he practically does a pat down search on Bilbo, only to discover that Bilbo was looking at an acorn from Beorn's garden.

77. News has reached them that the Laketowners are approaching.

78. And look, there they are, in Dale. Apparently this is where they will live now. It's a bit of a fixer-upper, but there are walls and some of the buildings have roofs so it's better than Laketown which has neither roofs, walls or floors. And a dead dragon on top of it.

79. Back in Erebor, the Dwarves are putting up defences.

80. Kili tries sticking up for the Laketowners. He's sticking up for them, but not so much that he's going to stand up against Thorin.

81. Gandalf's off riding towards Erebor.

82. Bard's doing a pretty good job of keeping everyone organised but he did make the mistake of putting Alfrid on watch duty so no one actually saw the host of Elves arriving.

83. There are a lot of Elves in Dale now.

84. Here's Thranduil. It looks like he's being noble and helpful, but he's not really. It's basically just so he can further his own ends and get his jewels back.

85. And now it looks like there's going to be a battle. Thranduil's determined to get his shinies back, any way possible.

86. They've obviously decided that the best person to send to discuss the situation with Thorin is Bard. Sensible move, I'm not sure Thranduil and Bard would be able to have a civil conversation.

87. I remember how cool this bit looked in 3D in the cinema, looking down the tunnel to talk to one another. It actually felt like we were looking down a long tunnel.

88. Bard has a very persuasive argument. Thorin's pretty much just going back on the agreement though and he's definitely beyond reason now.

89. Needless to say, the conversation does not end well.

90. Bilbo helpfully points out that Thorin's plan has a slight flaw, considering there are a lot of Elves and fishermen basically sitting on their doorstep and only a handful of people in the mountain defending it.

91. Luckily Thorin has a trick up his sleeve.

92. I'm kind of sad that the Dwarves are destroying all the pretty outside carvings and decorations to build up their defenses.

93. I like the parallel of the Laketowners and the Dwarves preparing themselves for war. Balin does not look thrilled at the prospect.

94. Neither is Bilbo.

95. Thorin has a gift for Bilbo. I have a funny feeling we'll be seeing that shirt again some time in the future.

96. It would appear that Thorin has decided that Bilbo is the only trustworthy one in the group. Ironic considering that Bilbo is actually the one who has taken the Arkenstone.

97. Thorin keeps on doing this weird thing where he talks in a low slow voice. Apparently this is a symptom of dragon sickness because he sounds a little like Smaug when he does it.

98. Let's take a moment to catch up with Legolas and Tauriel.

99. If Legolas is trying to win Tauriel over to his side, he's going about it the wrong way. He's brought her to Gundabad to tell her about how his mum ended up dying there. I guess he's going for the sympathy vote.

Next week, Alfrid will have a new nickname for Gandalf while Bilbo and Thorin have a bit of a falling out.

Friday, 25 March 2016

Chapter-by-Chapter: New Moon, Chapter 11

Has everyone taken advantage of Good Friday and indulged in a little lie-in? As this post is going live, I'm probably just crawling out of bed. I think a few lazy days every once in a while are good for you.

Last week Bella gave up on waiting for Jacob to be well enough to join her again, so she made an attempt to find the meadow by herself. She succeeded, but also managed to come face to face with a vampire who decided that this would be the perfect opportunity for some payback. Luckily a pack of giant wolves showed up to chase him off. Perhaps Bella will be over her reckless streak now.

Probably not.

This chapter is number 11: Cult.

What Happens?

Bella resumes her Jacob stalking with little success at first. Jacob finally agrees to speak to her and announces that they can't be friends anymore. This then escalates into an argument between Billy and Charlie. Just fallouts all over in this chapter!

Thoughts as I read:

My guess is that Bella is going to stumble across some sort of weird cult that the guys Jacob hangs around with will be involved in. Except it isn't really a cult; it's werewolves!

Each time that I opened my eyes to the morning light and realised I'd lived through another night was a surprise to me. After the surprise wore off, my heart would start to race and my palms would sweat; I couldn't really breathe again until I'd gotten up and ascertained that Charlie had survived as well.

So I'm guessing this means that Laurent doesn't try getting any closer to Bella then. Meanwhile, time passes, Bella still doesn't see Jacob and Charlie blames Bella's weird mood on Jacob.

We actually then get a run down of what Bella expects and what does or doesn't happen on Monday through Thursday. The gist of it is; Bella waits for Jacob to make contact but he doesn't, and so she resorts to things like handing outside her house debating whether or not to go over to his place. Bella's also kind of worried about the vampires getting her dad and doesn't know how to get him out of the way to somewhere safe should Victoria or Laurent come over for a snack.

It's not until Friday that Bella realises the obvious answer to the missing Jacob thing. He's joined Sam Uley's cult, that's why he's not allowed to contact her. So Bella decides to take matters into her own hands and go rescue him or something.

It was worth the danger of the secluded forest road. This was no idle visit to see what was going on. I knew what was going on. This was a rescue mission. I was going to talk to Jacob – kidnap him if I had to. I'd once seen a PBS show on deprogramming the brainwashed. There had to be some kind of cure.

Because she's watched a TV show, she's obviously an expert!

Also, has she not noticed that Billy is being just as evasive, if not more than Jacob. Looks like Billy's in on the cult thing as well.

All the same, Bella calls Charlie to voice her fears about the weirdness out on the reservation. At first Charlie listens but as soon as Bella mentions Sam her dad starts telling her what a good guy he is. Then he shoots her down by telling her a couple of tourists have gone missing on another trail. I'm guessing that's why the vampires haven't come after Bella; they've eaten their fill for the time being. A week to a vampire has got to be like a few minutes to us; they're happy to wait.

So Bella moves on to calling Billy who is quick to tell her that Jacob isn't around. She pushes to get him to tell her just who he's with but eventually she gets him to tell her he's with Embry. This is actually like a secret code though because Bella knows that Embry is part of Sam's gang, so if Jacob's with Embry he's also with Sam Uley.

And now for the next bit of Bella's plan. She's going to go lurk outside Jacob's place until he shows up. She's actually prepared to miss school in order to see the guy. Obsessive much?

The person who shows up while she's on her way there isn't actually Jacob at all; it's Quil. Bella picks him up and we learn that Billy wasn't lying, Jacob has been hanging around with Embry. And now Jacob's as bad as the others, always hanging around Sam. None of the adults seem bothered so it's unlikely that they're involved in drugs, but whatever it is, Quil's not happy about it. He does also describe the group as a cult so at least Bella's not the only one thinking along those lines.

Once she's dropped Quil off, Bella parks outside Jacob's place to wait for him. Billy sees her but doesn't do anything. It's not long before Jacob's knocking on her truck window. And he's huge. And different.

It was his expression that made him almost completely unrecognisable. The open, friendly smile was gone like the hair, the warmth in his dark eyes altered to a brooding resentment that was instantly disturbing. There was a darkness in Jacob now. Like my sun had imploded.

I actually kind of like that last line.

There's a group of guys behind him as well, one of whom is Embry and another is Sam, though we've never met any of the others. Bella would quite like to kill Sam, which I'm not sure is the most rational response considering she doesn't actually know what's going on here. Sam gives Jacob permission to talk to Bella alone so the two of them take a walk. He's quick to let her know that it's not what she thinks it is but he can't tell her what it is.

Things are different, Jacob's not her friend any more and Sam is actually being really helpful. Bella gets distraught so Jacob blames the 'bloodsuckers' she loves. This is a bit of a surprise for Bella because she didn't think anyone else knew about their dirty little secret. Jacob is quick to clue her into exactly who he is talking about. Bella's baffled because there aren't any vampires in Forks any more to need a gang to protect them all against, except, y'know, Laurent and Victoria who have been hanging around the area, because of Bella.

It would appear that Billy's superstitions might not be as weird as Jacob thought they were. Jacob's angry with the Cullens for simply being alive and it would appear that Sam's gang have some sort of plan, though Jacob's not about to share that with Bella. It's at this moment that Bella hears Edward's voice again. The conversation is killed, though not before Bella tells Jacob that all the weirdness has Quil scared. Jacob assures Bella that Quil won't be next and then has a little temper tantrum, taking his anger out on a small defenceless tree.

Jacob tells Bella that whatever they had is over now, it's time to move on. Because Bella has to believe that everything is about her, apologises for not being able to kiss him or go out with him or whatever it was that was brewing between them. Now it's Jacob's turn to be all sad; he's bad news, apparently, though he can't tell her exactly why he's bad news, just that she's better off without him.
Jacob heads inside so Bella does the sensible thing; she hangs around outside the house until Billy comes out and tells her to bugger off. Okay, so maybe he doesn't say it quite like that, but that's what it boils down to.

I thought Jake had been healing the hole in me – or at least plugging it up, keeping it from hurting me so much. I'd been wrong. He'd been carving out his own hole, so that I was now riddled through like Swiss cheese. I wondered why I didn't crumble into pieces.

Because people don't work like that, Bella.

Charlie's waiting for Bella when she gets home, having been warned in advance that Bella and Jacob had a fight. Bella's very quick to correct him; Sam's told Jacob they can't be friends any more. That makes it sound like they're about six! And so this then prompts a fall out between Billy and Charlie. Looks like Charlie phoned Billy and the whole Bella/Jacob thing created a massive row. So the madness escalates.

That night Bella has a variation on the old dream; this time it features the new and improved Jacob, this time one who turns into Edward and then disappears. She wakes in tears and then hears a scraping noise on the window outside.

I wonder who that could be…

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Flow Book For Paper Lovers

Last week I shared a photo of a book that I had just received. At the time it got to me I didn't have time for a proper post. Since then I've had time to look (and drool) over my Flow Book for Paper Lovers and I've decided that the time has come to share in a little more detail.

Flow is a Dutch magazine which is printed quarterly. I've never actually gotten my hands on the magazine, but from what I understand it focuses on creativity, mindfulness and papery goodness. They have so much papery goodness that a few years ago, to celebrate an anniversary, they released their first Flow Book for Paper Lovers. It was such a hit that it soon sold out and they have made two more versions of it.

The one which Mr Click ordered for me a couple of weeks ago is the third iteration (the one decorated with a pattern of oranges). And it is exactly what it says on the cover; a book for paper lovers.

I'd seen someone showing off their copy on Facebook and immediately fell in love with the idea. It's not got a whole lot of writing in it, but what it does have are a variety of different sorts of paper and paper crafting bits and pieces. It appealed to me because of the writing paper, envelopes and stickers that come with it; since looking through it I've falling in love with some of the other things in it too.
The book boasts over 300 pages of goodies and they're not lying. When Mr Click handed me the package I wasn't expecting the size and the sheer weight of it. It's a big, bulky book and I am still amazed at the quality of it. This isn't some cheap collection of writing paper and stickers; this is good stuff.

Just inside the front cover is a little vellum pocket with a set of five little cards; they're like trading cards with pictures and text on them. I think that some will be used in my Bullet Journal and others (like the 'Thank You' one) will be used for my pen pals.

The book is then divided into three; A Little Snail Mail, A Little Happiness, and A Little Crafting. I suspect that the first section will be used up first. A whole host of artists have contributed patterns, sketches, drawings and prints which have been used in a variety of ways throughout the book. I won't go into everything that you'll find here because part of the joy of unwrapping this book was the discovery of all the little treats and surprises within the covers.

The Snail Mail section includes a lot of pretty writing paper (plain with a picture on one side, patterned on the other), there's also tags, postcards, a dress up postman doll and lots of funky stickers. I'm going to have a lot of fun with this stuff. At the moment I'm using up a fairly boring lined pad for my letters, but as that comes to an end I'm going to start using this paper for my pen pals.

The Happiness section is a little more random and has a mix of patterned paper (I suppose you could use this for scrapbooking or writing, it's plain on the other side), pictures with quotes, wrapping paper, tags, pictures, and posters (including one with a dial you can spin to decide what sort of day you're having). Many of these are designed to be framed or pinned up but there's no instructions for what you're supposed to do so really there's no limit to what you can do with them.

The final section is Crafting supplies (though as you can see, there's an awful lot of overlap between the different areas). This one has the things that actually need to be made and don't have the same flexibility in their use (though just because something's meant to be used in one way, there's nothing stopping you from using it in whatever way you want). It begins with a lot of bunting (I have plans to use some of this for my birthday, I've been missing the paper chains we put up for Christmas so maybe some garlands and bunting will fill the gap), then there's a French street scene with stick on characters, a collection of houses to put together, more stickers and colouring pages.

There's even a little pocket (with another garland tucked into it) where you can stash the stuff you are working on, pages you've pulled out of the book and odds and ends which you don't want to use.

This was a gift so I don't know exactly how much Mr Click paid for it, but it came all the way from the Netherlands in under a week! This would make a brilliant gift to anyone who enjoys cutting, sticking, writing, or pretty much any other hobby involving paper. The only thing I have to get over is tearing out the pages (which are helpfully perforated to make that task easier); luckily I've had plenty of practice at treating books in ways they should be treated with my Wreck This Journal, otherwise I might not be up to the job!

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Books 35 & 36 of 2015: A Modest Proposal by Jonathan & A Strange Eventful History by Michael Holroyd

The size difference between this week's two books could not be more different. On the one hand there's the Little Black Classics A Modest Proposal which clocks in around 60 pages; and A Strange Eventful History which is a massive 620!

A Modest Proposal by Jonathan Swift is book 8 in Penguin's Little Black Classics collection. This features the title essay 'A Modest Proposal', along with a couple of other satirical essays.

Book cover
I found this to be a quick and interesting little read. I read it all in one day and on the whole I enjoyed it. That said, I did find it a little tricky to read in places, purely because of the style of the writing. When I read Gulliver's Travels I was slightly surprised by the fact that the language was so easily understandable; in some of the essays in this book, that wasn't the case.

My favourite bit of the book was probably 'A Modest Proposal' itself. It was probably the easiest of the essays to follow. It's a satirical essay suggesting that in order to solve the problem of hunger in the population, the richest people should eat the one-year-old babies of the poor. Strangely, Swift does actually make a fairly compelling argument for eating babies.

Second to that I like 'A Meditation Upon a Broomstick' best. It's a parody of a writer named Boyle who would write essays on everyday things and link them to man's relationship to God. I didn't really get the humour in it at first but as it went on I enjoyed it more.

The one that I really struggled with was 'An Examination of Certain Abuses, Corruptions, and Enormities, in the City of Dublin'. I just found it a difficult read and it wasn't as entertaining as 'A Modest Proposal'.

Despite my mixed feelings towards the essays in this book, I suspect that I will visit Jonathan Swift's essays again in the future. I'm really glad that I chose this Little Black Classic; I mostly picked it because I recognised Jonathan Swift's name and have enjoyed most of what I've read by him.

My next book was for Week 19 of my Reading Challenge: A book based on a true story. I should maybe have gone for a more fictionalised book than A Strange Eventful History by Michael Holroyd, but this one was on my shelf and had kept on getting passed over in favour of other books, so this was a good excuse as any to crack it out.

This book looks at the lives of two of the acting greats from the Victorian era; Ellen Terry and Henry Irving. I picked it up in Oban's Oxfam when we went up there for my birthday a couple of years ago, purely because I saw Sir Henry Irving's name. Irving's real name was John Henry Brodribb; my Nan's maiden name was Brodribb, and I'm distantly related to him (via his brother). It's enough of a link to make me pick up the book, but wasn't enough to make me actually read it.

On the whole it was an interesting book, but there was an awful lot of information to cover. The sort of relationship that Irving and Terry had makes it easy to see why Holroyd chose to tackle the subject of them together, but I think that it could almost have been two or even three books. It literally goes right back to the birth of each actor and then follows them through their lives, including their work together, up to their deaths and a little afterward to look at their families.

To be honest, I found the bits about Sir Henry Irving most interesting. I suppose this was because of that personal link for me. Perhaps if I was more interested in Victorian theatre, or Ellen Terry, or productions of Shakespeare plays, then I might have been more into the other aspects of the book, but the stand out bits for me were about Irving.

There was a lot in the book which I think could have been done away with, or perhaps covered in another book. There was loads of information about the Terry and Irving children; what they did (or didn't do), their business ventures, acting attempts, successes and failures. On the one hand it was somewhat interesting, but on the other, I wanted to read a book about Terry and Irving not about their kids. There was loads on Donald Craig after Ellen Terry died, just reading about him annoyed me and I didn't see the relevance because by that time Ellen Terry wasn't even in the book any more.

The main thing that surprised me was the sheer number of illegitimate children. Ellen Terry wouldn't have been out of place as a modern actress today, but that really surprised me considering the era they were living. The same goes for her daughter who had relationships with other women; it just wasn't something I was expecting.

I'm glad that I've read this book and I think it's one that I might refer back to in the future. Next time I think I'll dip in and out of it, just picking up on the bits that appeal to me and skipping over the rest.

Monday, 21 March 2016

Bullet Journal: March Pages

I didn't share my Bullet Journal last month so I thought I'd post a little overview of the pages I'm using this month. You might get some inspiration for your own BuJo.

I actually began the month by looking back at February. I started off looking down my February month planner and then my habit tracker, writing down a little review of the things that happened last month. As with January, I used a traffic light system to highlight the good, the not-so-good, and the bad. I like the fact that if I'm having a bad day I can scan over the review page and see immediately that February was a pretty good month; I'm fairly certain that March will look pretty similar.

When I'm writing something in red, I always try and follow it up with something in orange as a potential positive for the month ahead as well. I also do it the other way if there's something I've written in green but I have a less positive comment to make about it; like my food log.

March saw the start of the grid lined section of my notebook. I've been looking forward to getting to this bit because it makes lining things up much easier and neater than in the straightforward lined section. The grid lines are also much narrower than the lines so I can fit a whole month onto one page.

This month I used the original format for my month overview:

But I'm planning on changing it next month.

This format worked well for me during January and February when things were fairly quiet and I had maybe one or two things to keep track of for a day. This month the social calendar has picked up a bit and also my schedule at work has changed as well (technically it changed last month, but I've finally started plotting it out ahead in my BuJo to make planning appointments easier).

Next month I'm planning on doing something across two pages with columns separating it into different areas. I'm not totally settled on exactly what the columns will be but I suspect it'll be along the lines of work, AM, PM, and notes (or possibly goals for the month since I missed those out this month). I've seen others do this and I think that now I'm on the grid paper it might be slightly more practical.

Of course, I could be posting in a month's time to say it's a complete disaster but that's the beauty of the Bullet Journal. If in a month's time it's not working for me, I can change it. Hell, if it's not working in a week's time there's nothing stopping me from relocating it to the next available page and starting afresh. It's easily my favourite thing about my planner.

The change in paper format also allowed for a change in Tracker layout. A benefit of moving my month overview to a double page spread will be that I'll also have a double page spread for my tracker. I like my current format on the grid paper but I'm missing having my month's goals beside it as a reminder:

As you can see, I'm adopting a rainbow theme at the moment. I'm hoping that 2016 will be the Year of the Rainbow for is, so I decided to start as I meant to go on. I love the effect that this colour scheme has given the page, but some of my targets are a little bit vague. I have discovered that I need a reminder of my target (e.g. 'groom Tara every three days' would probably be a lot more effective for me than just 'groom Tara' is being). If I move this to a double page, I'll have space to list my goals as well as the tracker. I think I'll keep the rainbow though, it's so pretty.

I'm still using my Food Log:

This is another one I'm thinking I might change. Back when I was using lined pages a list like this seemed like the most practical option but on the grid I'm not so impressed with it. I'm thinking I might make a month overview page next month and then do it as a single page for each week. It'll mean some overlap between the beginning and end of the month but it'll give me a little more space and will probably look better too. I just haven't yet decided the form that the month overview should take (perhaps something like my habit tracker but with a traffic light system for how good I think I've been).

One thing I will keep is the colour coding system I use for when I've eaten; black is home (or homelike places, e.g. my in-laws', my Mum's), blue is work (where I eat most of my snacks so have forbidden my husband to put any chocolate in my lunchbox in an attempt to cut down), green is out and about (that can mean lunch in a cafe, dinner in a restaurant, of a meal at a non-family member's house), and I use red to highlight when there have been no snacks (with a smiley face) or a missed meal (with a sad face, skipping meals is bad). It works well for me and as much as anything is about making me more aware of what I'm eating.

This month I've still not bothered with weeklies. While my month overview schedule can look pretty hectic, my weekly overview is rarely alarming. I tend to have the same things on the same days (Mr Click is out on this day, I call my Mum, I finish work early, we're at my in-laws' house) so I don't feel the need to add them to a weekly overview.

I have worked to pretty up my dailies a little though. During January I had a subtle blue theme, February was pinks and reds, and for March I've gone with the rather generic 'Easter colours' theme. And that's where this notebook lets the side down slightly; the grid pages are blue and pastel colours don't show up so well. It'll all look much better when I move into April and everything goes green.

I'm still tracking my fluid intake, but I've been a bit lax in it since mid-February, I suspect this may wind up on my April tracker to help me get back into the habit. I like to write a little review of my day. In the past it's just been a line or two, but as the lines are more closely spaced so sometimes I'm writing a mini essay.

I'm also using it a little like a scrapbook. While I was in Wales I got into the habit of sticking in tickets from the places I had been, it's something I've continued to do now I'm home:

It's just a nice thing to look back on and remind me of what I've been up to (and it saves me collecting random bits of paper in my purse or phone case for purely sentimental reasons).

As I mentioned yesterday, I made a spread for when I went to the hospital. I think I'll do this again for future hospital appointments. I'm also trying to come up with a layout for keeping track of all my IVF stuff. I might end up doing it all on separate pages but making an FET index which helps to tie it all together.

The final page I'll share here is one which has been seeing a fair bit of use recently and is way back in the middle of January, but it's cool seeing how it's changing as we watch the episodes in the series; my House tracker:

Sunday, 20 March 2016

Weekly Rundown: Hospital Appointment for FET #2

This week saw the beginning of a trio of weeks where I'm not actually spending a full week at work, thanks to a combination of appointments, Easter and sneaky little days off.

Remember last year when I did a whole Frozen Embryo Transfer and got pregnant and didn't tell any of you about it? Well, we're giving it another go and I've decided I'll maybe be a little more forthcoming this time around.

Last Wednesday our appointment finally rolled around and as it wasn't until 2:15pm so the boats meant we either had a few hours to wander around Glasgow, or next to no time to wander around Glasgow. We opted for the former and spent a chunk of the morning looking around the shops.

I was on the hunt for stationery supplies. I've joined the Bullet Journal Pen Pals group on Facebook and have been writing a lot of letters recently. I've already nearly run out the ink in a set of five biros, and although I bought a couple more Staedtler Fineliners while I was in Wales, I'm not sure how long they'll last either; those pens are expensive. So I treated myself to a pretty fountain pen so I can buy refills instead of whole new pens.

I didn't buy all of these on Wednesday, honest!
I may have developed a slight obsession with washi tape and stickers for my planner as well. I treated myself in The Works as well. One of the things people send with their letters little samples of tape. I have quite a lot of choice now for sending along with my letters, plus a lot of funky tapes to use myself as well.

After gorging at the Chinese all-you-can-eat buffet place that we like, it was time to head on up the road to the hospital.

I'd been psyching myself up for this over the last couple of weeks. I'd even made a page in my Bullet Journal with a short list of questions Mr Click and I had for the doctor. We arrived about three-quarters of an hour early but got in before our time, though we saw a different doctor to the one we were scheduled to see.

Dr R. is one of the doctors we've seen at the hospital, but never actually to talk to but he was fantastic. Seriously, the guy is a mind-reader (or the questions Mr Click and I planned to ask are the questions which most couples returning to use a frozen embryo after a miscarriage tend to ask). Within the first ten minutes of getting into the room, he'd answered roughly half the questions on are list, before we'd even asked them.

Here's a rundown of the questions and answers:

Is there anything we should do differently this time?

Not unless we want to. The sad fact is, one in five 'normal' pregnancies end in miscarriage; the majority of these women go on to get pregnant without any problems afterwards. Had my pregnancy with Elsa and Olaf been a normal one, there's a very strong chance that I would've gone on to get pregnant again by this point; obviously we need a little help in that department so the fact that we successfully got pregnant, however briefly, is a good thing because it proves we can get pregnant. Hopefully the miscarriage was one of those one in fives and the next one will stick around.

Dr R. did say that we could push for a blood test to check my clotting factors or take a couple of extra drugs as a precautionary measure. As with any drug, there can be risks associated with it, which is why it's not given as standard. We're still undecided as to whether we'll go ahead with either the test or the drugs but it's nice to know we've got that option.

Is there an alternative to the Cyclogest pessaries?

My biggest issue with both of our previous embryo transfer attempts have been the Cyclogest pessaries I've had to use. As you're having an 'artificial' cycle, your body needs a little help to produce the hormones needed to sustain a pregnancy. One of the important ones is progesterone, which I took in the form of Cyclogest.

And I hated it.

It's a bullet shaped, waxy lozenge which is inserted (either rectally or vaginally, I went with the latter option) twice daily (twelve hours apart). Following insertion you have to lie down for twenty to thirty minutes and when you move afterwards it leaks out a little. None of that was what bothered me though, what bothered me was the spotting.

I don't for one minute believe that the Cyclogest was the reason for the miscarriage, but I found it really stressful. During the first cycle I put the spotting down to normal post-egg retrieval spotting; during the second cycle I knew that it's just what happens when I use Cyclogest. Not only do I have tangled tubes; I have an irritable cervix too.

Asking to change progesterone supplements was probably the thing was the second most nervous about asking during this appointment; the first being whether or not we would be able to go on with another embryo transfer (I was paranoid they would tell us not to bother or that we couldn't for some reason). I was worried that they would tell us we were stuck with what they prescribed and there was no switching.

But there's another option (thankfully I'm not the only person with an irritable cervix)!

Dr R.'s made a note that we'll be using Crinone gel next time. Having since read online, this gets almost as many complaints from users as the Cyclogest does, though I don't know how many of those people have used both. It's definitely a softer alternative and one that I'm glad to have the option to give a go.

When can we start?

When I asked when we could start Dr R.'s response was 'what day of your cycle are you on?' and I knew that was a good sign. I told him, we did the maths and within ten to fourteen days we should be good to start. The first step being to shut down my system with a Prostap injection.

Another reason why I kind of love Dr R. was the fact that when we told him that we felt ready to start again, he said 'you're comfortable with self-injecting?' and then proceeded to elaborate; to save us from coming all the way back just for an injection. He set it up so that we could take the syringe away with us to do ourselves (or at the local health centre if I chicken out; it's a really big needle).

What next?

I don't need any more tests at the moment. The next step is to wait for my period to show up (it'll be late, it always is when I'm waiting for something like this) and then call the hospital. They'll tell me when to give myself the jab and then there'll be another appointment for a scan (and I think my blood tests). I might dig out my diary from last year to see exactly what happens after than.

So, in the meantime, I'm enjoying my last few days of not being menopausal; then, let the moodswings and hot flushes commence!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Film Review: The Battle of the Five Armies, Part 1

It's been a while coming, but I finally got around to watching The Battle of the Five Armies last weekend. It was fantastic to finally sit down and watch it because I've not watched the extended edition of this film since I got it for Christmas.

So, it's time to begin our final foray into Middle-earth, where things are not going well for the people of Laketown!

1. Time for The Battle of the Five Armies, or as Mr Click calls it (to annoy me) The Battle of the Five Barmies.

2. It's night time in Laketown. Everyone's realised that the dragon is on its way.

3. The Master has his priorities straight; the town is lost, but there's still time to save the gold.

4. Tauriel looks really pained about this turn of events.

5. I like how she is with Bard's children, she gives Tilda her doll. I wonder if she's ever encountered mortal children before.

6. Smaug makes his first pass over Laketown and it isn't pretty.

7. And oh look, there's Katie Jackson again.

8. Alfrid's careful to make sure that the boat doesn't get weighed down by any extra passengers.

9. I love how Bard almost takes out the Master without even trying. No wonder the Master of Laketown doesn't like him.

10. And Bard's got his bow so he's all set to go dragon hunting. Dangerous business when he's flying overhead setting fire to the buildings you're trying to stand on.

11. That's such a sad sight, seeing Laketown all on fire from a distance.

12. It's good that all the Dwarves are affected by it, apart from Thorin. It shows how much of an effect the dragon sickness is having on him. He's just beyong caring about anything else.

13. Meanwhile, back at Laketown, the dragon is still busy with his flame-throwing.

14. Incredibly the dragon has managed to take out most of the town apart from the tallest structure around.

15. I think standing under a big bell like that would give me a headache.

16. Bain's just realised that there's only one thing that'll save his dad; the black arrow.

17. It would've been nice of him to say something to his sisters, rather than just running off like that. Now the girls think they've lost their dad and their brother.

18. Bard wants his son to get out of the place while there's still time.

19. Unfortunately, there's no more time because Smaug's just taken out most of the tower.

20. Smaug should really know better than to taunt people. Villains never win once they start monologuing.

21. I'm never too sure about Bard using his son to shoot the dragon. I always think that he could end up injuring him either with the bow string or the arrow as it flies past.

22. If Laketown wasn't ruined before Bard hit the dragon, it definitely is ruined afterwards.

23. I kind of love the way the dragon's fire goes out.

24. And the 'oh shit' look on the Master's face as he realises there's a really big dragon about to land on him.

25. Yay! The dragon is dead!

26. Everyone's going to realise and then head to the mountain to grab a souvenir.

27. Oh yeah, I'd forgotten about Gandalf. Let's see what he's up to.

28. Still hanging out at Dol Guldor by the looks of things.

29. But it's okay. Galadriel seems to know where he is and help is being sent.

30. It's now morning and the Laketown survivors are trying to salvage what they can on the banks of the lake.

31. I like that Tauriel is still looking after the girls. I imagine if she was banished, she'd hang out with the Laketowners to help them get set up again.

32. I know I said I'm not big on the whole Dwarf/Elf relationship thing, but Kili and Tauriel do have some cute moments together.

33. How cool is it that she knows Legolas is standing right behind her? Also it sounds like she's going to cry. Poor Tauriel.

34. And now she looks like she's going to cry as well.

35. You tell him, woman yelling at Alfrid!

36. Yay! Bard survived! And so did Bain!

37. And now Bard's finally being recognised as a hero. Didn't see you all rushing to stand up for him when he was facing down the Master though, were you?!

38. Oh, shut up Alfrid.

39. One of the guys in the crowd in this scene looks an awful lot like one of the Gondorian soldiers in The Return of the King. I'm sure it's just a coincidence. And probably evidence that I've watched the Lord of the Rings films way too many times!

40. Bard's only been leader for a very short time, but he's doing a pretty good job of it.

41. The scenery the Dwarves are walking through looks a lot like the place I went walking a couple of weeks ago. Just with fewer gorse bushes!

42. Inside the mountain is looking like it needs a bit of a tidy up.

43. Turns out that Thorin is getting even crazier. Of course, instead of listening to Bilbo, Fili decides to head in to investigate.

44. And look at all the shiny shiny gold.

45. Thorin's got a kind of Hamlet thing going on here.

46. Bilbo's sneaked outside to go look at his shiny stone.

47. I always forget that in the last film it was left kind of ambiguous about whether or not Bilbo actually got the stone. This is for all the people who haven't read the book.

48. All the Laketowners are busy sorting out the stuff on the shore. Legolas is just standing there watching them. Way to go, Legolas.

49. Oh, not just watching them, offering helpful little hints to Bard about what's going to happen next.

50. And now we get to see what he fears may be coming. I'll give you a clue, there's a lot of them and most of them have their faces bolted together.

51. Bolg's having to tell his dad that he let the Dwarves get away. Azog's like, 'if you want a job doing properly, do it yourself'. Now they're off to war with the Dwarves.

52. Legolas has to fill in Tauriel on what he's seen. Another Elf's also just shown up to let Legolas know his dad wants him home, but Tauriel's not invited.

53. Legolas also basically tells her that he loves her. Bad move, mate, she's not feeling the same way about you.

And we'll finish up here, until next week, when Galadriel will get her gang together to get Gandalf out of a spot of bother.

Friday, 18 March 2016

Chapter-by-Chapter: New Moon, Chapter 10

I've been putting this off most of the week but I've finally gotten around to reading Chapter 10. Let's see what Jacob's been getting up to.

Onward to Chapter 10: The Meadow

What Happens?

Jacob's still out of action so Bella decides to go walking in the woods without him. Miraculously, she finds the meadow without killing herself, but there's someone unexpected waiting for her. Unluckily for the person waiting for her, there's someone there to see him off too.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter is called 'The Meadow' so I'm guessing that perhaps they will finally make it to the meadow, that's if Jacob has recovered from his mystery illness. If not, it'll be about Bella whining about her lack of going to the meadow. One or the other.

When we left Bella last week she was waiting for Jacob to call her back to let her know he was feeling better. Well, he doesn't. Bella gets her stalker on and calls him, but only gets to speak to Billy, and when that doesn't get her anywhere, she drives round. Except the house is empty and there's no one around. And their not at the hospital either, because she stalks goes there too.

Eventually Bella gets Charlie to call some guy called Harry Clearwater who lets her know there's been some trouble with the phone lines and that Jacob's got mono. Oh, and he's to have no visitors. That means you, Bella.

So she does what any normal person in this day and age does, and Googles it. And what she reads online doesn't tie up with any of Jacob's symptoms. She's still pretty suspicious and it doesn't get any better when she discovers that mono can last for a month. That means a month of no Jake. Why is he suddenly being called Jake?!

Anyway, she decides to wait a week and then start trying to worm her way in.
And it's a long week. Luckily we don't have to hear about it because Meyer decides to time skip ahead and then just tell us about how awful it was.

Surprisingly, Jacob doesn't try contacting Bella during this time and the phone lines are still down so she can't get through to call him.

The dreams got hard again. I could no longer see the end coming. Just the horrible nothingness – half the time in the forest, half the time in the empty fern sea where the white house no longer existed. Sometimes Sam Uley was there in the forest, watching me again. I paid him no attention – there was no comfort in his presence; it made me feel no less alone. It didn't stop me screaming myself awake, night after night.

And Bella's mood goes downhill again. Charlie really should've gotten her into therapy or something.
Saturday finally rolls around and Billy answers the phone, only to inform Bella that it wasn't mono after all, Jacob's much better. So much better in fact that he's gone up to Port Angeles with some friends, without even giving Bella a second thought. Way to go, Billy, get your son away from Bella before she can mess him up too much!

Of course, this launched Bella into another angst-fest. Jacob's well enough to go out but has decided against wasting his time on someone who can't have feelings for him back. To be honest, I wouldn't blame him. I'd fake mono to get out of seeing Bella for a while!

There's a funny moment where Charlie reveals he's going out fishing with one of his friends, then has a little 'oh crap!' moment when he realises that perhaps he's supposed to offer to spend time with his lonely daughter instead. She lets him know that she'll hang with Jessica and study instead so he doesn't feel as bad. Which reminds Charlie that he needs to make sure she stays out of the woods; there's a missing hiker and more reports of bears. I suspect that he's got a bit of a motive here since he knows that Bella can't resist doing something once she's been told not to. She'll head into the woods, get eaten by a bear and everyone will have a far quieter existence.

I wasn't really listening to his warnings; I was much more upset by the situation with Jacob than by the possibility of being eaten by a bear.

Being the mature, responsible teenager that we've come to know and love, Bella decides to heed her father's warnings, gathers up the map and prepares to go hunting for the mysterious meadow. Alone. Smart plan, Bella.

Funnily enough, she feels somewhat uneasy on her walk. Can't imagine it has anything to do with the risk of a giant maneating bear being out on the loose in the area. But then she stumbles into the clearing and all that is forgotten in a wave of disappointment. She's actually glad she didn't find the spot with Jacob because otherwise he would've seen how crushed she was when they arrived.

But before she can wallow too deeply in self-pity, someone appears on the other side of the clearing. And it's a vampire!

It's also not Edward.

Turns out Laurent, one of the group of vampires who had included the one who wanted to eat Bella. She's quite pleased because it reassures her that the whole Edward-thing was actually real at some point in the past. Laurent on the other hand is surprised to see her here, not as surprised as she is to see him; after all, he was supposed to be in Alaska, not eating people.

"I'm surprised they left you behind. Weren't you a sort of pet of theirs?" His eyes were innocent of any intended offense.
I smiled wryly. "Something like that."

Unfortunately for Bella, it's not until she's in the middle of conversation with him that she realises what's slightly unnerving about the guy; his eyes are black, not golden. And that means that Laurent is feeling peckish. And Bella's all on her own. With a hungry vampire. And haven't we done this before?

Luckily for Bella, and unluckily for us, this is where Edward's voice pops up in the back of her mind, suggesting that she make out like the Cullens are always popping round for tea and biscuits, and of course, to check on how their 'sort of pet' is getting on. So Bella gets babbling about how everyone's doing and how it's best if she doesn't mention this little meeting to Edward because he probably won't take it too well, what with the whole 'James' thing.

By now Laurent is revealing that he occasionally 'cheat's on the programme. That would mean he takes the occasional snack on a conveniently located human, like, say, Bella is right now. All the same, Bella tries to remain conversational while the voice in the back of her head gives her helpful instructions like 'don't move'. Does this mean that Edward is about to show up again? So far this book has been pretty dull and I'm torn between thinking that'll liven things up, and will kill the story completely.

It takes a few pages to get to the point, but eventually Laurent comes clean about his reason for visiting. He intends to kill Bella. Is it really wrong that I gave a little internal cheer at that moment? Laurent needs to do this for Victoria, who was the other vampire in the last book; the one who was James's mate, the vampire Edward killed. Laurent just showed up to track Bella down, but now that she's walked into his hands so easily, Laurent's not about to pass up a golden opportunity, even if it means disappointing dear Vicky when she doesn't get to do the deed herself.

At least Laurent is a bit of a gentleman about it, promising to kill Bella quickly, rather than the way Victoria has planned. That's something I suppose. It's funny how desperate Bella was to end it all, until she's actually faced with death and then she suddenly very much wants to live.

And it's about to happen, when the bear-monster-thing ambles into the clearing. Except it seems to be rather wolfish as well. Whatever it is, Laurent is scared. And with good reason because two more of these wolves have just shown up alongside the first.

We also get a glimpse of what is still to come in the book, because the eyes of one of the wolves remind Bella of Jacob; they're too intelligent to be animal eyes. I wonder if, in fact, the wolf could actually be Jacob.

Side note here, when we're talking to Tara about wolves or werewolves, we call them woofs and werewoofs. It's taking everything in me not to type 'woof' for 'wolf' here right now.

It's all over in a matter of minutes. The wolves chase Laurent off and Bella is left alone again, in the meadow. Bella's a little baffled about the wolves' decision to leave the weaker option alone and go after the fierce scary vampire. Eventually Bella gets it together enough to head home, which takes a while because she's not got a clue where she's going now.

Back home she has to admit to Charlie that she disobeyed and went hiking. But at least she has something useful to pass on; that the bear isn't a bear at all, it's a giant wolf (and that the missing hiker was probably Laurented, but Charlie's unlikely to believe that one).

"Tell me what happened."
"They didn't pay any attention to me. But after they were gone, I ran away and I fell down a lot."

Charlie also gives Bella a bit of news. He saw Jacob in town arguing with some friends. Oh, and he looks bigger again. But Jacob always looks bigger so this isn't really news.

Then Bella goes to bed, but she doesn't sleep, instead she's struck with horror at the thought of what will happen if Victoria or Laurent come back for her. It isn't going to be pretty, whatever happens.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Sneak Peek

Mr Click treated me to this little beauty last week and a couple of days later it made it to me, travelling all the way from the Netherlands!

Not sure what it is?

Check back next week to see just what's inside.

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Books 33 & 34 of 2015: Velocity by Dean Koontz & To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Last year one of my colleagues at work realised that I would read pretty much any book he gave me, so took it upon himself to recommend me all the books he enjoyed. When Velocity showed up in the charity donation station, he suggested that I try it before putting it back in the box.

Velocity by Dean Koontz is about Billy, a guy who finds a note telling him to make a decision about who lives and who dies; either he ignores it and a schoolteacher is killed, or he goes to the police and an elderly charity worker will meet her end. He treats it as a hoax and ignores it, but then learns that someone fitting the schoolteacher's description on the note has been found dead. When another note shows up, Billy's not so sure this one is a hoax and he soon finds himself drawn into the killer's game.

This was my first Dean Koontz book thought I was familiar with him from a friend at school. He was really into the Dean Koontz books and I remember several trips to the library when he tried to get me to try one, but I wasn't into this sort of genre back then. Now, with my collection of Kathy Reichs books lined up on the bookshelf, it seemed a lot more my sort of thing.

I kind of have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I felt it was very brutal and gory, which I guess is kind of the point with this kind of a crime book. On the other hand, it did wrap up very neatly and it had a fairly happy ending as well (which I was quite glad of).

The character of Billy was interesting; a guy who gave up on pretty much all of his dreams of being a writer after his fiancée, Barbara, fell into a coma. I would have liked to know more about Billy and Barbara; there was obviously a massive back story there but we only got to scrape the very surface of it. By the same token, I think there was more to learn about Billy and his parents as well. Those stories could probably have been a whole book on their own.

Although the story was kind of complicated in places, I found it to be a fairly quick and easy read. I might pick up another Dean Koontz novel some day.

I followed up Velocity with To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee, for Week 18 of the Reading Challenge; a Pulitzer Prize winning book.

It is a classic story about a small town in the American South, told through the eyes of Scout, a young girl. Her father is a lawyer defending a black man accused of attacking a white woman, something which divides the town and opens Scout's eyes to the world around her, while in the background looms the mysterious figure of Boo Radley. I'm completely over-simplifying this book because I just can't summarise it in a few words. Just read it.

I've read this book several times now and it's definitely an old favourite. I think I was lucky that I never had to read it for school. They had already studied it by the time I arrived in Scotland, and they studied it in England after I left. It meant that I have never had to pick it apart and over-analyse it the way that you sometimes have to do in English classes, so I was just able to read it and enjoy it for what it was.

I always try to pick just three quotes to write up in my book journal, sometimes I might stretch to four or five if they are short ones. It was so hard to just select three quotes to sum up the story. I could easily just copy out the whole book.

I love the character of Scout. In a way there are two Scouts in this book. There's the young Scout who is the central character in the story and then there is the older Scout who is narrating it, looking back on the events that helped shape her. Young Scout is so spirited and quirky, she's the sort of kid who you'd just want to be friends with; I'd love a child as cool as young Scout. Older Scout, who narrates the story, has a wonderful way with words; older Scout is the reason why I'd happily copy out the whole book into my book journal.

One of my favourite things about this book is the fact that it marries the day-to-day children's life stuff with the big serious stuff, like the trial. I can't help but remember my own childhood when I read it; the way that I tried to make sense of the stuff the adults did and talked about, and how my own 'stuff' seemed so important by comparison as well. This book captures the sense of that so well.

It's one of very few books that I can happily rank as a five star book, and I always look forward to rereading it. If you've never read it, you really should.