Monday, September 29, 2014

Sweet as Cane, Salty as Tears by Ken Wheaton Book Review

sweet as cane This is another book who’s cover intrigued me! I know you’re not supposed to judge a book by it’s cover, but sometimes others just stand out and call to you. After reading the book review by Sharon from Miss Green Eyes, I decided to give it a whirl.

Katherine 50, divorced, lives in New York and has a job in media. But Katherine, or Katie-Lee, is still hiding from her Cajun roots, despite being in New York for about 30 years. Katie-Lee avoids Louisiana and her family as much as she can, choosing to spend Thanksgiving and Christmas abroad as often as she can. But when Facebook addicted Katie-Lee sees a story about how her younger sister has been seriously injured by a rampant rhino, she has to face up to her family (especially her strong willed older sister Kendra-Sue) and the demons she left behind when she ran away from Louisiana.

I really liked this book, it’s a slow build and it jumps back and forth between the past and the present, slowly building up to the story of why Katie-Lee left Louisiana 30 years ago. I did guess what happened before finding out, but I didn’t mind that as I liked the narration and the characters. I like how Wheaton uses Cajun words and sayings when Katie-Lee and her family are talking (but how Katherine doesn’t when she’s with her New York friends!), it added to the characters. Katie-Lee is one of 6 and coming from a big family myself, I liked seeing the large family dynamic pan out. This book certainly has some funny moments, but I wouldn’t classify it as a comedy. It’s sort of a coming of age novel for a 50 year old, if that makes sense? Coming to terms with the past, trying to figure out what to do with the future but also trying to cope in the present. I guess we’re all trying to cope with those situations in a way but what I liked was the fact the protaganist is 50 years old, it’s refreshing to have characters slightly older and to see that they can feel the same way as you do in your 20s. I especially liked the relationship between Katie-Lee and Kendra-Sue. They seem like the strongest out of the 4 sisters, essentially both sides of the coin who’s lives turned out differently, Katie-Lee escaping her small hometown to live it up in the Big Apple, while Kendra-Sue becoming a teenage mother, living in a trailer and never venturing much outside Louisiana.

I definitely recommend giving this book a go, it’s another quick read that I finished in a day. I found it entertaining and at times even a bit heart breaking. And from the looks of other reviews, if you have Southern roots, then you’ll definitely appreciate this book!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Autumn Blaze Nails

I love autumn! Everything about it, the leaves changing colours, the wind whipping through the trees with the sun shining, hot chocolate, Halloween, scarves, nights getting longer. Oh I could go on! So I wanted to do a nail look that was inspired by this love of Autumn.

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For the base, I used Essence in Dare It Nude, which I love. Then I layered up different glitter nail polishes in gold and copper. Polishes used are Maybelline Color Show Nudes in Bronze Me Up, NYC Top Gold Top Coat, Essence in Time For Romance and Art Club Gold Glitter Nail Art Pen. I love how this turned out and I am in love with coppery/bronze colours at the moment!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Gin Glorious Gin by Olivia Williams Book Review

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The second I saw this on NetGalley I knew I wanted to read it. The history of gin is something I’ve wanted to read about for a while, I’ve known a small bit about it’s sordid history but it’s such a rich history I wanted to know about the highs and lows of gin.

This book is heavy on the history. Well, gin does have a 400 year old history so there’s bound to be a lot! The book does however start with modern artisanal brands in London, instead of leaving it until the end, which was a nice touch. The book then starts on gins Dutch origins as ‘genever’, the introductions to Britain (they think the term ‘Dutch Courage’ comes from British soldiers fighting alongside with Dutch men in the Thirty Years’ War and adopting the Dutch tradition of using a shot of genever to fortify themselves before battle). Genever is still considered a national drink in the Netherlands and the book explains how the distinct London Dry gin developed from genever (a process that was helped due to the invention of the Coffey Still, by Irishman Aeneas Coffey).

The book then moves into the big Gin Craze that swept the nation for years. Gin was often a lot cheaper than beer and many poor people used it to cope with their terrible lives. Houses were often subdivided into many slums, that often became minighettoes of filth and poverty for different ethnicities. From the book I learned that there were Irish tenanments in London, nicknamed Holy Land and Little Dublin. Hogarth’s Gin Lane painting is such a famous depiction of the filth and debachary that gin was associated with. If people think binge drinking is bad these days, it is NOTHING compared to what happened during the Gin Craze! It took a long time for gin to shake off that imagine but it did, something the book of course guides us through, talking about how big name gin companies like Gordon’s, Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire came about. The book also talks about the equipment used, such as the stills, many of which were made 100 odd years ago or so and are still in use. In fact, when Beefeater’s number seven still turned 100 years old in 1998, the staff through a party for it (I wonder if it got a letter from the Queen?). And no gin story would be complete with it’s partner in crime, tonic water, which also gets a chapter dedicated to it. The book rounds out with a look at the botanical flavours associated with gin, most important being juniper of course and from that I learned that London Gin’s second strongest flavour should be….coriander! And that the main citrus flavour in gin actually comes from coriander.

Like I said, this book is big on the history side of things, with the book mainly composing of that, so if you’re not a huge history fan then this might not be the book for you. It is packed full of interesting titbits though, I have so many bookmarks and just couldn’t tell you all the things I’ve marked as interesting. You’ll find out who once called someone a ‘dung-cock’ in the witness stand and why (what a fantastic insult though!), why the National Gallery was founded, the stories behind the big gin brand’s logos, the connection between gin and MI6 building, who recently suffered from the antiquated condition of cinchonism (too much quinine, found in tonic water) and the other Pimms’ Nos that were available besides Pimms No.1 (the gin based one). I think that even if you’re not a huge gin fan, you can still really enjoy this if you have a thirst for knowledge (Ya, I went there!).

This copy was requested from NetGalley, with no obligation to produce a review. All opinions are strictly my own.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Liebster Award Part 2

So a few months ago, Orla tagged me for a Liebster Award and then last month I got two more tags. One from Fluffy Owl’s Adventures and one from A Book Lover’s Blog, so thank you ladies. I’ve just so busy that I’m only getting around to doing this now but I’ve been really looking forward to it!

First off you’re supposed to do 11 random facts about yourself. I needed to make sure that I didn’t repeat any from the last time I did this!

1. I used to be able to put my foot behind my head but I haven’t tried it in a while.

2. Even though I’ve known how to knit since I was seven, I never really graduated from anything better than a scarf. But thanks to the knitting group I’m going to, I’m slowly trying new things!

3. I have quite a morbid side to me. Nothing creepy but I love books, documentaries, podcasts and TV shows that deal with death. These include Ask a Mortician series on YouTube, CSI and Stiff: The Curious Life of Cadavers and ‘The Death Suite’ series of podcasts on Stuff You Should Know.

4. I once got up on stage in Trabolgen (Pontins) when I was younger and sang Hit Me Baby (One More Time) by Britney Spears.

5. I once got a bronze medal for Under 12s Clare Community Games in draughts. Ya, I was a cool kid. I still have the medal!

6. Celebrities that I’ve met include Michelle Smith, Sienna Miller, Stephan Daldry, Suggs from Madness, some of the original Billy Elliot actors in West End musical, Dana, Marty Whelan, various Irish comedians and seeing Sonia O Sullivan run for a Cork flight at a London airport.

7. My friend and I used to have an email address set up purely for sending out tree related facts to people. I recently told some people about it and was told that it should be revived!

8. Except for my current phone, which is a hand me down iPhone, the only phones I’ve used are Nokias. Actually I still use one as I have one phone for my English number and one for my Irish number.

9. I’ve owned 3 cars. A Toyota Corolla, a Seat Ibiza and a Volkswagen Polo. I miss having a car, it’s been almost year since I’ve driven! I was on my boyfriend’s insurance but he has this ‘thing’ where he hates anyone driving his car.

10. My family has had themes when it’s come to naming our cats. We once got a cat that was already called Woody when we got him. So the next cat we got we called Jessie, who recently died so one of the cats my parents adopted after that has been called Dolly (after one of Bonnie’s toys. I think Bonnie, Molly or Trixie might have been better names). We’ve also had cats named after Taoiseachs (Irish Prime Ministers). First one was a girl called Bertie, who we named after Bertie Ahern but only because we were fans of Bull Island (a political satire show) at the time (we later found out that Bertie was not a she, but a he, which meant the name was slightly naffer). When my parents adopted Dolly, they also adopted an older tom cat which my brother named Enda, after our current Taoiseach Enda Kenny. My boyfriend thinks my family are bonkers for the names we give our cats!

11. When we were younger we used to have an Amiga computer. I still miss playing some of those games, such as Zool, Switchblade, Rick Dangerous and James Pond! (I did get James Pond for the DS though).

 

Now to answer the questions that came with the tags. First up are Fluffy Owl’s!

1. If you could be an animal for the day, what would you be and why, and is this the same as your favourite animal more generally?

Hmm, I’m not sure. I think some kind of bird, just to know what it’s like to fly. As for favourite animals, I don’t really have any, unless you count cats!

2. Favourite colour? Is this constant, or does it change depending on mood, time, etc?

Red is my favourite, though I’m loving aqua, orange and raspberry shades at the moment. I’ve loved red since I was a child though, it’ll always be a favourite.

3. Just to let you know, I'm coming round for dinner tomorrow.  What are we going to eat and drink?

Well first I’d see if you were vegetarian or not! I’d probably make this Spinach and Gnocchi Bake (with bacon if you’re so inclined) or if you wanted some lighter this Wagamama Yaki Soba. As for drinks, I have a stash of Captain Morgan’s you can help me get through! I’m sure we can whip up some cocktails.

4. I'm actually coming to stay for the whole weekend.  What we are going to do?

If the weather is nice, bring you to local water park to feed the ducks! Or a day visiting museums. When my brother first visited me in Manchester, we went to hockey game and then saw a TV show being recorded in Media City UK. There’s plenty to do! And you can bring me out for dinner for changing your mind and staying for whole weekend!

5. Now that exam results are out, what would you like to tell your 16 or 18 year old self?

You don’t need everything set in stone, things constantly change and you’ll find your way eventually, there’s no pressure on how long it takes, as long as you’re happy in what you’re doing. And if you’re not, change something!

6. What size feet do you have?

4.5 UK. I can fit some size 4s and I wear size 5 in trainers.

7. Describe your dream house.

Lots and lots of book shelves, a nice reading nook, a big kitchen which comes witha  KitchenAid or Kenwood K Chef, with plenty of room to create stuff. A beautiful bathroom with a nice large bath.

8. To dunk biscuits in tea/coffee, or to not dunk biscuits in tea/coffee?

Dunk of course!

9. Is it wrong to drink cold drinks out of ceramic mugs?

No, I often do it.

10. Do you have a particular mug for use at a particular time of day, or is a mug a mug?

As I don’t drink hot drinks regularly at home, I don’t have a particular mug I like. But then again seeing as I collect them, I love all the mugs I have.

11. Blue ink or black ink in a pen?

As black as my soul please!

 

And now for The Welsh Librarian’s Questions!

1. What are your obsessions apart from books?

Nail polish, flamingoes and taking pictures when out for the night.

2. List your top 5 authors.

This is hard as I don’t think I have top authors! And I’m sure they’d change all the time even if I did. Let’s see, authors who I always look forward to reading include Mary Roach, Ben Aaronovitch, Danny Wallace, Dave Gorman, Jenny Colgan, J.K. Rowling, Marissa Meyer, Rainbow Rowell, Jon Ronson and Marian Keyes. Ya, I know it’s more than 5, what are you going to do about it?!

3. A book that didn't live up to the hype.

Allegiant. Not so much the hype once the book was out but more the hype before it was released. It was disappointing. Then there’s The Dinner by Herman Koch. So much hype before I read it and it’s such an interesting idea but oh boy did I just want to punch all the characters!

4. A book that exceeded the hype.

Rivers of London series. Now, I had seen the book on my aunt’s shelf and borrowed it, forgot about it and then when I noticed it again I thought it was a non-fiction book. So I was disappointed to discover it was not only a fiction book but a fantasy one. But I had heard so much good things about it so I gave it a shot. SO glad I did, I just love the series.

5. A book you would love to see as a film.

The Faraway Tree series by Enid Blyton! Seriously, make it some Tim Burton stuff and it’ll be amazing! Just not Johnny Depp for Moonface, but then again he could make it work.

6. Something about you that no one else knows.

I’ve already given loads of facts up above! There’s not much about me that others don’t know. I suppose the fact that I anthropomorphise the stuff I bake at work. There’s some apple and blackberry turnovers that are made and when some of the jam seeps out during baking, I always think it’s like the turnovers are sticking out their tongues.

7. Favourite holiday read.

Which holiday?! I don’t tend to reread anything based on holidays or seasons but I really like Neil Gaiman’s idea of All Hallow’s Read for Halloween. I read Meet Me Under the Mistletoe last year and it reminded me of a novel version of The Holiday and I also read I Heart Christmas by Lindsey Kelk so I would like some more cosy Christmas books to read.

8. Bookbridgr, Netgalley or Edelweiss?

NetGalley, though I have applied to Bookbridgr and will probably check Edelweiss out after this!

9. Would you write a book? If so what would it be about?

I’ve always liked the idea of writing a book but any time I’ve tried it’s been rubbish. Maybe I’d suit a non-fiction book better?

10. Favourite book cover/jacket?

I really like the Fangirl special edition, which I showed in a post here. I’m sure there’s others that I like, I’ll put them in if I ever think of them!

11. Favourite translated novel?

I haven’t read too many books that have been translated. I did really like Perfume when I read it.

I had full intentions to write up some new questions but honestly I’m so brain dead from being sick that I don’t have the energy to think of anything. So here are the questions from my previous Liebster post (And I’ve realised that two of my facts from above answer 2 questions without me meaning for that to happen!)

1. If someone were to hand you a round-trip ticket to any one place in the world, where would you want to go?

2. If you could only use one item of make-up for the rest of your life (blusher, mascara, concealer etc.) what would you pick?

3. Who have you seen play live in concert?

4. Do you have a favourite birthday memory?

5. Do you own any pets?

6. Do you listen to any podcasts? If so, what ones?

7. Have you ever met anyone famous?

8. Worst beauty/fashion mistake you’ve ever made?

9. What’s your favourite thing to cook?

10. Any celebrity crushes?

11. Have you ever won a medal for something?

Also I’m not going to tag anyone. If you want to do this, feel free to do so and let me know, I’d love to read the answers to the questions (I’m so so nosy!).

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Roald Dahl Day!

Today is Roald Dahl Day! Which is set on his birthday. It is also 50 year anniversary of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. With these in mind I thought it would be perfect to write a post about Roald Dahl and the influences his books have had on me.

I think most children are familiar with Dahl, be it through the books or the film adaptations. I remember picking up a Dahl book boxset in a charity shop with my Nana for £1, because one book was missing. I still have those books somewhere! I’m not sure what my favourite book is, though I’ve always had an affinity with book loving Matilda!

Dahl wrote some crazy, wacky stories but they are just so perfect for kids (and adults!), especially kids who are reluctant to read. They’re funny, zany and the story telling is fantastic. There’s always some lesson to be learned from the stories too but they’re not moral or preachy. He writes some good villains as well, those witches are creepy and the film versions of James’ aunts are nightmare inducing!

Buzzfeed recently did a ranking of Dahl’s books and there’s several on there I’ve never read before, which is shameful. There’s also his memoir books, I’ve only ever read Boy and then on top of that his short stories, which I’ve never read before. Looks like I still have some catching up to do!

My own top 5 Dahl books, in no order, are:

1. Matilda

2. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

3. Fantastic Mr. Fox

4. James and the Giant Peach

5. The Twits

They’re pretty much my fave film adaptations as well, except sub in The Witches or The BFG for The Twits.

Dahl has managed to be in the news recently for controversial reasons. The first being that after so many complaints, Aldi in Australia took Revolting Rhymes off their shelves because it contains the word ‘slut’. Then there was this new cover for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory which has caused uproar.

Finally my two favourite Dahl quotes

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Picture from Here Come the Girls

This is from his poem called Television. It’s a great poem.

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This is from The Twits (with illustration by Quentin Blake. Dahl and Blake go together like salt and pepper!). This one has always stuck with me over the years, it’s just a beautiful message.

What’s your favourite Dahl book or film? Let’s celebrate!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Seventeen Polka Dot Nail Polish

So, I’ve mentioned a few times that I’ve been wanting the Model’s Own Microdots ever since I first saw it. But I still haven’t got my hands on it. The stands in the Boots stores in Manchester were seriously under stocked all summer, disgracefully so really. Then it was announced that they were pulling out of Boots (last week when I went to Boots the stand was gone) and going into Superdrug, however even though when you search their website for the closest stockists, that Superdrug does not have a stand in yet (they used to have a small non-permanent stand but even that’s gone). And because there’s not Bottle Shops here either (seriously, why is there no Bottle Shops in Manchester?!), there is a serious Model’s Own drought in Manchester. Yes, I know I could always order online but I like browsing and buying in store.

So while in Boots last week, I spotted something very similar in the Seventeen stand. There were two different shades but this one caught my eye more. What I love about these confetti style topcoats is that they add interest to the nail but they’re great if you don’t want something sparkly. Seventeen are actually great at coming out with their own versions of nail effects that are big with other brands. For the life of me though, I can not find anything about this Polka Dot polish online. Can’t even find a name for it.

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I’ve layered it over Barry M Gelly HiShine in Coconut, one of my favourite shades this summer! I can’t even remember what the second polish in this Seventeen range is like, colour wise! I should have taken a snap of them really!

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Before Now and After Then by Peter Monn Book Review

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This is another book I’ve received from NetGalley but this time I requested it because Sharon over at Behind Green Eyes recommended it. I decided to give it a shot as it’s a YA book and we all know I like a bit of YA every now and again! I actually did a brief review in my August Reads post but decided to do a proper review post for it too.

Danny and Sam are twin brothers, close but extremely opposite in personality. Sam may be the younger brother but he’s more confident, he is very popular and well loved by all. Danny is quieter, happy living in Sam’s shadow and tagging along. Danny is also gay and gets bullied in school but copes with it, especially since Sam is fiercely protective of him. On their 17th birthday, Sam hatches a plan that will allow Danny to tell his parents about his sexuality. But while on his way to tell them, he over hears them arguing about his father cheating on his mother. The door is opened, everyone looks at each other in shock and all Danny can do is burst out ‘I’m gay’. At that moment, there’s a knock on the front door. Danny expects it to be Sam, as part of the plan, but instead it’s the police and instinctively Danny knows something has happened to Sam.

Flash forward a few months later and some things have changed. His parents have separated and Danny and his mother live in another house across town. His Uncle Alex (really his mother’s friend) is coming to stay with them for a while and Danny is starting a new school. His first day starts off on the wrong foot when he is immediately picked on by a school bully for being gay. Things do pick up though when he makes a friend in Cher, a loud confident girl who is named after the singer. Danny also spots a cute boy called Rusty and he begins to fall for him. The book then centres around the progression of their relationship together.

This is the first YA book I’ve ever read that centres around a gay main character. But besides that, there’s no real difference between this and a YA novel involving a straight couple. It’s not distracting or different that they are gay, it just another teenage romance blossoming. Their sexuality does come up a few times in different ways, in that Danny’s mother is always buying him films where the main character is gay, which Danny hates and never watches. But when Rusty hears of this, he gets mad because he feels Danny doesn’t appreciate how cool and understanding his mother is trying to be and that so many young people don’t have that support when they share their sexuality with their parents. Another time it crops up is when Danny’s mother cautions him and tells him he should be careful because she can tell he’s falling hard for Rusty and that he should take his time. Danny asks if his mother ever had this talk to Sam when he first started going out with his girlfriend and that Sam told Danny he was falling in love with her within the first few days of dating. He points out that it’s a bit of a double standard to be talking to him like this when she didn’t with Sam.

Even though Danny and Rusty’s sexuality does come into it, this book is not about being gay, it is so much more than that. It’s about Danny trying to cope without his brother and his now broken family, learning to be one instead of two, finding out who he is. A coming of age story I suppose. It did kinda remind me a bit of Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. The only thing I had a big problem with is that the story seems rushed. In the sense that the main story, once Danny and Rusty start dating, takes place over just a week or so. That’s not to say some relationships and emotions don’t develop that quickly but I think I would have preferred it over a longer time period, I think I would believed the emotions more if that was the case. But honestly I do think at the same time that until it’s pointed out at some stage in the novel about the time passing, it does feel a bit longer. If that makes any sense?!

It’s a sweet novel, definitely worth a read, especially if you enjoy YA. I think it’s good to try and be a bit more diverse with your reading, be it reading more women authors if you only read men, trying new genres, reading more books written by people of colour or reading books where there are more diverse main characters, whether they are people of colour or LGBT people. And I think this is a great place to start if you’re interested in doing so.

This copy was requested from NetGalley, with no obligation to produce a review. All opinions are strictly my own.

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