Sunday, 20 December 2015

An alarming discovery

an alarming discovery
We've always been really careful to make sure that we have working smoke alarms. The children all know what to do if there was a fire. We've talked about how to get out safely, where to meet, who to call. They've learnt the same at school. Our kids are firewise; they know to get down, get low, get out.

Except, they don't. If you'd have asked me a week or so ago, then I would have said that it wasn't a problem. I was wrong. Fortunately, we didn't find out the hard way, but we had a bit of a wake up call all the same.

Just the other day, the kids were all in their rooms. The youngest having a nap, the others chilling out, reading books and relaxing. I was in the kitchen cooking lunch and I set the smoke alarms off. Now this isn't a regular occurrence in our house, but it has happened before. Even so, not one of the children came out to see if there was a problem. Not one of them left the house, just in case. They assumed it was a false alarm and did nothing.

Are you firewiseThe problem is of course, that it's human nature to assume that all is well. That the worst won't actually happen and that everything will be ok. If there was a real emergency, then of course we would get the kids out, shout them to leave their rooms, make sure that they were safe. But that's not really the point. An emergency is just that, anything could happen meaning that we weren't able to do that. We teach the kids what to do in an emergency so that they will actually do it.

You can teach your children what to do, but until it actually happens, there's no way of knowing if they really will do it. We talked to them, explained that if they hear the alarm they must always act as though it's a real emergency, just in case it is. Even so, I'm less confident than I was. Some day soon I'll be testing them though, setting off the alarm and seeing what happens, making sure that this time they really do get out. 

How would your children react? Would they really act as though it were real? Or just assume that it was a false alarm? It's worth finding out, so that you don't have to learn the hard way.

An alarming discovery about our smoke alarms

Monday, 30 November 2015

Murder on Black Friday - P.B.Ryan

Murder on a Black Friday - P.B.Ryan
I have to admit, one of the reasons I love this series this much, is because I'm slightly in love with Will. I know that it might sound a little strange to be in love with a character in a book. But, believe me, it's quite normal and this isn't the only character that this has happened with. Of course, it's the whole relationship that's developing between Will and Nell, and Murder on a Black Friday has plenty of that.

I couldn't resist starting the fourth book, even thought I've been trying to spread them out a bit more this time. I did read a few other things between the last Nell book and this one though.

This time, we find that Will hasn't been off on one of his jaunts, but is instead working at Harvard. It's through this position that they find another mystery that needs solving. Will has been doing the odd autopsy here and there on suspicious deaths and finds himself doing two seeming unrelated deaths, that both appear to be suicides. Looking into them a little closer though, just to make sure that this is the case, it soon becomes apparent that there is a link between the two deaths and that they are not as straightforward as may have first appeared.

The historical setting of this murder, was a market crash caused by the collapse of the gold market in September 1869. It's not something that I've heard of before, but market crashes and people loosing everything overnight have certainly not been unheard of since then. I thought that using this as the beginning of the mystery was really interesting and helped paint a picture of a period, I don't really know a great deal about.

Nell and Will work well together to get to the bottom of what has happened and the relationship between then continues to grow and deepen. Will begins to push for more than Nell is able, even if she is willing, to give. If you're enjoying the development of the relationship between them, then you'll both love and hate the end of the book, but that's all I'm going to say about that, for now...

Saturday, 28 November 2015

The bad review

As much as I love reading, every so often I'll come across a book that I really don't like. Obviously, in some cases it's just not to my taste, but with the easy access to self publishing that the ebook revolution has brought about, sometimes it's just that a book isn't very good. When I come across a book like that, I'm always left wondering if I should write a review or not? Is it fair to write the bad review?

It would be pointless of course, if every review I ever wrote was completely glowing and only pointed out the good stuff. I'm not interested in that, but when it's the case that I really struggle to find anything positive at all to say a book, I'm really left wondering if I should write a review? Is it really fair? 

The thing is, someone has spent hours, days, weeks, months, working on their book. Then I, who can't seem to actually manage to write anything of any length, come and attack and destroy in one fell swoop. Not that I have ideas that what I have to say will influence people that much, but for the writer I'm sure that bad reviews can be soul destroying.

If you're a business that receives a bad review, then you can at least do something about it, make sure that the problem doesn't happen again, sort it out for the unhappy party. But a writer won't have that opportunity. They could always learn from the comments of those who don't enjoy their book. But, that bad review is still out there, about a book they've already published.

I suppose the answer is, that if you're a writer you've got to develop a thick skin, to realise that not everyone will love your work and that not every review is going to be glowing. But, for the time being at least, I don't really want to be writing the bad review. So I'm going to just stick to the books that I either really like, or at the very least have got something positive to say about them. I'll leave the ripping apart of writers work to someone else.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Death on Beacon Hill - P.B.Ryan

For some reason, this review has taken me quite a while to get around to writing. It could just be because we're heading into silly season and as a result I just seem to be so busy. Or it could, of course, just be that I've been being a bit lazy. Either way, it's certainly not because I didn't enjoy the book. 

This is book three of the Nell Sweeney mysteries, which, if you've read the other two reviews (here and here) you'll know I love. One of the great things about this series is the slowly developing relationship between our two main characters; Nell and Will. Yet again, Will has been off, indulging, we can only assume, in some of his seedier pass-times, earning his living gambling. Although, he does seem to have said goodbye to his drug addiction. 

With each story, Will becomes more settled and stable, his demons seem to trouble him less, and he makes more steps back to returning to respectable society. In this third book, this is more evident than ever before, with him showing every sign of sticking around a little longer than he has in the past. The deepening relationship between Nell and Will, continues to simmer quietly, just beneath the surface, will either of them ever take any step to take it further? Can they?

The mystery this time comes about when one of Nell's few allies in the Hewitt household, the coach driver, Brady finds that his niece has not only been shot and killed at her employers house, but that she is blamed with the murder of her employer, the actress Virginia Kimball. Nell willingly starts to look into the murder and find out what happened, she soon finds that Will is happy to assist as he knew Ms Kimball when he was younger. Between them they get to the bottom of what really happened.

For me the mystery worked well, it wasn't obvious from the beginning who was involved, but the final solution made sense and didn't feel forced. I love the relationship between Will and Nell, it may be somewhat predictable in some ways, surely we all have an idea where it is going eventually, but I don't think that it makes the series any less enjoyable, and the development of it is great.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

The write idea

Every year, at New Year, I make some resolutions. Things that I want to do in the following year, things that I want to change. This year I was a little more vague than I have been in previous years, knowing, as I do, that it's rare for me to actually achieve all of these big plans. I've already started to think about what I'd like to achieve in the next year and it occured to me that I didn't really need to wait until the New Year. Of course, I don't in any case, you can decide that you're going to do something at any point, but, more importantly, a birthday is the start of your own personal New Year, and seeing as mine was two days ago, this seems to be as good a time as any.

The write idea, keeping a diary
One of my birthday gifts this year was a five year diary or journal, I've kept these before, as a
teenager I had a five year diary that I wrote in every day, religiously, for, well, five years. After that I had A5 sized, day to a page diaries that I filled with my hopes and dreams. As time passed though, I became less good at keeping them, days became weeks and blank pages opened up. It's some years now since I kept a diary. This one is a little different though, each page is headed with a question and each year you answer it, seeing how your thoughts change over time. On the first entry the question was about your biggest dream, which tied in quite well with my recent thoughts about what I want to achieve in the next year or so.

I have been talking for along time now about writing and although I've made some movement in that direction, I still have a long way to go, but it remains a goal. I've notes jotted down, ideas started, my main problem isn't a lack of inspiration, but the ability to focus on one single story long enough to get it written down. I need to keep on with that. Something that did occur to me though, was that I used to write letters, lots of them. I can't remember now the last time I wrote anyone a letter, which is a bit sad really. I thought, along with my attempts to actually get somewhere with my first book and writing a diary again daily, I perhaps also ought to start writing letters again. I did wonder about trying to write one a week, or perhaps one a month, but they seemed either too frequent to keep up, or not quite frequent enough. I'm going to aim for one every two weeks and see how I go. I think I shall find some nice writing paper and envelopes and go from there. Once I get started with the write idea, who knows where it shall lead.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Murder in a Mill Town - P.B. Ryan

Murder in a Mill Town - P.B. Ryan
After reading the first of the Nell Sweeney mystery books the other day, (you can see my review here) I couldn't resist moving onto the second in the series. I didn't go straight into it, but I'm not reviewing every book I read at the moment, so it is the next one that you are going to hear about. 

Murder in a Mill Town picks up some months after the end of Still Life with Murder, and Nell hasn't seen Will since. The story opens with Nell in her governess role, playing the Mad Hatter's tea party from Alice in Wonderland with Gracie. Not only does this show Nell in the position that she holds in the Hewitt household, but it also gives Gracie the opportunity to proclaim 'How dweadfully savage' something is, with great comic timing, a little further into the story.

Nell is called downstairs to listen to the plight of a couple who's daughter is missing. She had been working at the Hewitt family Mill, run by the third of the Hewitt son's, Harry. Having already appealed to him for help and getting nowhere, they have now turned to his mother, Viola, for assistance. Nell finds herself sent off on an investigation for a second time, to attempt to find out what has happened to the missing girl. Before long she runs into Will again and the two of them begin to investigate together, particularly when it becomes clear that Will's younger brother, Harry, is caught up in the affair one way or another. 

In the first book we learnt a little of Will's past, his experiences during the civil war and how he came to be an opium addict and a gambler. In Murder in a Mill Town we are shown much more of Nell's back story and her life prior to becoming part of the Hewitt's household. Nell and Will become closer and work well together, but as the past is revealed their growing relationship comes under increasing strain.

The first time I read this book I didn't work out who done it and the end came as a surprise, that may of course have just been me being a bit slow, but either way, I did think that the mystery worked and didn't leave big unanswered questions. I have already mentioned that I love this whole series, so it will come as no surprise that I love this book and highly recommend it, (but read Still Life with Murder first).

By the end of Murder in  Mill Town, you may well find that you're a good way to being in love with Will, if you're the type that does fall for fictional characters, I certainly was. I'll try to hold off reading the third in the series, for a few days at least. 

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Lacking motivation

At the moment, I'm in a bit of a slump and feeling rather sluggish. That's an attractive thought, I hope that I'm not looking sluggish too and giving off sluggish vibes. Although, if I'm honest, I haven't really got the energy or the inclination to care either way, so I don't suppose that it really matters. 

I'm not really sure what the reason for this feeling is, it's possibly just the time of year. Winter has been long and cold this year, at least for New Zealand it has, it's been much more like a UK winter. Although with a distinct lack of central heating and double glazing, it's slightly less tolerable than a UK winter. Everyone being sick hasn't really helped matters either, it's seemed to be one thing after another for the last month or so now, and, to be honest, I've had enough.

Half of the problem is that I've got so much to actually do, there's all the work that I need to get on top of, and then of course there's all the things that I'd like to do but don't have time for. I had such big plans for when A started going to daycare, so much that I was going to get done. But of course, it doesn't actually work like that. I think in the time since she started about two months ago, I've probably only had a handful of full days at home to get things done. 

I really would like to think that as summer comes, I might have a bit more energy and a bit more chance to get things done. The weather keeps teasing me at the minute, one day it will be warm and beautiful and then next cold, wet, grey, and miserable. Just the other week I went for a drive after dropping the kids off and took the photo below. It was stunning, the next day was a completely different story, wet, windy, and generally horrible. Still it at least gives me hope that there's something better on the way.

Lacking motivation

With any luck, I'll be out of the slump soon too, and any resemblance to a slug (be it mentally or physically) will be long gone.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Still life with murder - P.B.Ryan

Still life with murder P.B.Ryan
I think I've said before that as much as I love reading real books, I wouldn't be without my kindle. One of the many great things about it, is that it has allowed me to find books and authors that I would have never come across in a million years. The self-publishing phenomenon which has grown alongside the popularity of e-readers, has it's downsides, there are stories out there that probably should never have been published. On the other hand, there are some wonderful writers who are publishing their own books and reaching an audience that they would never have encountered before. 

One of my favourite books (and authors) to have discovered this way is Still Life With Murder by P.B.Ryan. Actually, I would go a lot further than that, the Nell Sweeney books are some of my favourite books anyway, not just from those I've discovered via my kindle. Reading some of P.B.Ryan's other novels (under the name Patricia Ryan) actually made me realise that I do actually like romance books. Or at least some romance books, there is still a lot of rubbish out there. Modern technology and social media have also helped me find quite a few other authors I enjoy, as self-publishers seem to be quite good at promoting one another. Enough about all of that though, this is supposed to be a review of Still Life with Murder, not some ramble about self-publishing and kindle books.

Still Life With Murder is set in the late 1860's in Boston, America. Our heroine is Nell Sweeney, an Irish girl who has survived a rough beginning to find herself as governess to a wealthy, Boston family. She has become close to her employer, Viola Hewett and when the black sheep of the family, Will Hewitt, who was presumed dead in Andersonville during the American civil war, turns up having been arrested for murder, it's to Nell that Viola turns.

We're taken into the dark underbelly of Boston where whores, drinking, and opium smoking are the order of the day. Nell is in a unique position, being a member of a respectable household, but also having grown up around the darker side of life herself, she is not as delicate and shockable as other members of more respectable society might be. She also has more freedom to visit some of these places and do some investigating. One of the huge draws to this book is Nell, her character is very likeable and well-drawn. I did wonder slightly about how plausible her becoming a governess was, the first time I read this, but it works so well for the story, and I really don't mind suspending belief slightly, it really is a small thing.

The other main character in Still Life With Murder as Will Hewitt. A broken man, dependent on opium and not really caring if he lives or dies. There is something about him that really draws you to him, despite all of his faults. Somewhere hidden under all of the emotional turmoil and mess, is really a good, decent, caring, person. 

I do love a good murder, or, as I should perhaps quickly clarify, a good fictional murder, then trying to find out who-done-it, ideally before the end of the book. This being the third time that I've read Still Life, I already knew who the guilty party was, but it didn't stop me from enjoying the book all the same. The first time I read it, I was kept guessing until the end, but in the spirit of all good murder mysteries, the final reveal worked and didn't leave me thinking 'huh?' 

Even though I've now read this three times, I doubt it will be the last time I read it. I'm looking forward to moving onto the next in the series.

Friday, 4 September 2015

To snack or not to snack

To snack or not to snackI've never really been one for snacks between meals, I might very occasionally have a little treat, or if someone's offering me some chocolate, I'm never going to turn that down, but I don't tend to regularly eat between meals. I've also never been really one for offering my kids snacks outside of meal times. I don't know if it's a British thing, or a me thing, but since living in New Zealand, I've certainly noticed that most people here do tend to feed their kids between meals.

Most children, small children in particular, are grazers. Rather than eating three fairly substantial meals a day, they are happier with a lot of smaller meals, or opportunities to eat throughout the day. I have read that even adults might be better off eating like this, rather than the three main meals in the course of the day too. For some reason though, I struggle with the idea of eating between meals, and as a result, tend not to bother or offer the kids extra food.

When we first came over here, I was really quite surprised to find that most kiwi parents will take a stocked lunch box out and about with them for their children, even when it's only a couple of hours and not over a meal time. It's not something that has ever occurred to me, and I don't remember people doing it back home. 

For most New Zealand children and adults, morning and afternoon tea, a break time with food, is a part of every day. (Slight side issue here, morning tea? How can you have morning tea, tea is by definition in the afternoon, but that's a debate for another day.) A mid-morning snack was not something that I ever had at school and the idea of eating as soon as I got in from school would have immediately have been questioned by my Mum, as I'd probably not eat all of my tea that evening.

It's true that we do have a term for  mid-morning snack, elevenses, and that high tea is generally a small meal in the late afternoon in Britain, but I'd always dismiss these as something that maybe the rich do. I wonder if there's more to it than that though? 

Certainly historically speaking, the poorer end of society might not have been able to afford snacks between meals, but perhaps there's a bit more to it than that. I wonder if the impact of the second world war and rationing has had more of an impact on modern life than we realise. If you look at some pre-war books, the likes of Enid Blyton's famous five for example, they do nothing but snack and eat. 

When the war arrived, rationing meant that food was hard to come by, there wasn't this huge amount available anymore. Rationing lasted until nine years after the war, food rationing was lifted in 1954, which in the scheme of things isn't that long ago. I can't help but wonder if that has altered the way that we think about food in Britain? It would definitely have impacted on my parents experience, which they would have passed onto me. 

Maybe that's not the reason at all, maybe I just don't do snacks, I might try to embrace the idea of snacks, I doubt I'll find it too hard.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Fear of the frizz.

Fear of the frizzWhen I was little, I loved the idea of having curly hair, sadly my hair is straighter than straight. If you needed to draw a straight line and you had a ruler or my hair to use to mark it out, my hair would probably give a straighter line, it really is that straight. It wasn't like I didn't try, I remember being a bridesmaid and having my hair in rags all night, to give me ringlets. Ha, ha, ha, of course in the morning I woke up with hair as straight as ever. It just wasn't going to happen. I even had a perm at one point, (oh the shame,) but curly hair was never going to be for me.

My girls though, are different. No doubt when they're older they'll be desperate to have straight hair, it's always the way, you want what you've not got. But I think their hair is beautiful, those lovely curls. It may not be as long as some other girls their age, I may not be able to tie it up very easily, but it's still fantastic hair.

There is, sadly, a huge downside to such lovely hair. Frizz and birds nests. Beautiful curls can, overnight mass together into a solid mass of tangle. It becomes so knotted and tangled that in one night a whole section of the hair just becomes one solid mess that you can't do anything with. Of course, I can't leave it like that. 

Dealing with the curls
The temptation is to get the sheep shears out, clip the whole lot off and start again, well, sort of temptation, I'd never actually do that. No really, I wouldn't... So the alternative is slowly combing it out. I have a tangle teezer, which does make it a bit easier, but it's still a nightmare. Of course, if you brush it too much, then boom, frizz city. There are lots of detangling sprays and products that can help you un-mess these tangles, but I don't really like to use lots of products on their hair, I still don't really use shampoo on any of the kids if I can help it.

I never realised that my hair was so easy to care for. It may just hang there, no matter what I do with it, (and believe me I've tried just about everything). In fact, I've even been known to go out in public without even brushing it in the morning, just because I can. The girls curls are stunning, but they are difficult to care for. I have fear of the frizz!

Monday, 6 July 2015

The haberdashers series - Sue London

I read the first three in the Haberdashers series by Sue London recently and decided that rather than doing one review for each I'd do a bit of a joint review. I should start by saying that regency romance is not something that I'd normally pick. I have a natural aversion to historic fiction, a hangover from my degree, which means that I usually tend to see the faults in it, rather than enjoying the story. In recent years I've got over this a bit, two of my all time favourite romance novels are historical novels, and one of these is actually set in the regency period. Recently I've found myself reading a few regency romances, including this Haberdashers series.

The basic idea behind the series is that as young girls, three friends formed a boy's club and called it the Haberdashers, not realising what it actually meant. Now we join them as young ladies, learning about love and romance...

Trials of Artemis

Trails for Artemis - Sue LondonThe first story starts with us meeting our first haberdasher, Jacqueline, or Jack as she is known to her friends. She finds that her reputation (that most highly guarded virtue for all Regency heroines) is called into question when she is found in the library (quite by accident, wrong place, wrong time) with a devilish rogue. He does what any honourable man would do and they find themselves married in no time at all.

What starts out as a marriage of convenience, turns slowly into true love, with some misunderstandings along the way (this is a romance novel after all). There is a little difference with this novel, compared to others with a similar theme, our heroine is very keen on weapons, and even finds time for a little swashbuckling adventure. It does add a little colour and interest to the story, but I did find it a little far fetched. Of course that's the joy of a novel, it doesn't have to be true to life.

Our hero, Gideon, is a very likeable character, which always helps. He might have a 'colourful' past, but he is more than willing to put that behind him for the woman he loves.

Athena's Ordeal

Athena's Ordeal - Sue London
Of the three in the series that I've read so far, Athena's Ordeal has been my least favourite. There are some good parts to it, but, and unfortunately this is a big but, I didn't really like either of the main characters. Our haberdasher, Sabrina, or as she likes to be called Sabre, (really??) is annoying in the extreme and far too forward for a woman of her time. Our hero, Quincy, is in many ways the stereotypical idle rich boy. He spends far too much time being remote and detached for my liking and the rest of the time he's just down right lazy.

There are a number of sex scenes in this one, which rather that being 'hot' or entertaining are a bit awkward. I suppose it's refreshing in some ways to have a romance novel hero who fumbles and doesn't brandish his 'throbbing love stick' (haven't actually come across that in a book, tend to avoid ones that have the silly euphemisms in them, but you know what I mean) like a master swords man. The main problem though, is that in this case, he's again too lazy and detached and doesn't really even put the effort in.

As I said, this was my least favourite of the three, but it's still worth reading if you've going to give the others a try.

Fates for Apate

Fates for apate - Sue london
Our third haberdasher, Georgiana, or, yes you've guessed it, George as she likes to be known is a spy. She finds herself in Vienna and falling in love with Prussian possible spy Casimir. 

I was a little unfair with this one, scoring it only 3 stars on my kindle, (I know I've been here before, but the whole out of five mark is next to useless in any case) I think it was worth more than a three, but not quite up to a four. Anyway, I did enjoy this much more than the last, which would have been a three.

Again there was a bit of a suspension of disbelief, would a woman have really been a spy? An unmarried woman at that? I really don't know, this is after all a world where a lady found alone in the library with a gentleman has had to marry him, only two books ago...

Our hero Casimir is lovely and George is very likeable, so far so good. The only downside with this one is that is suddenly stops. I was happily reading, turned the page expecting... well something more, some kind of conclusion and there was nothing, it was over. 

I am going to read number four at some point and possibly the novellas, of which there are a number, but perhaps not just yet. I'm a bit haberdashered out right now. I would recommend them as a good, escapist series though, with a little different on offer than your usual Regency Romance novel.

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Time to get to work

The crazyness that is having kidsFor the first time in over eight years, I had a day at home, without any children to look after or entertain. Actually, I had three days at home without any children. For the first time since K was born, I had everyone out at school or day care, as A started at daycare three times a week on Monday, now that she is three.

My first thought, when faced with this sudden, time to myself at home, was that what I really wanted to do, was make the most of this new luxury and just sit around, maybe reading or doing nothing. Sadly, I have got far too much to do.

For the last six months, at least, I've been juggling work, trying to fit it in around taking care of children and doing day to day stuff. Much of it has been put off with the thought that come June I'll have the time to actually do some of this stuff, A will be out for the day, and there will be no reason for me to struggle to get things done. 

My tax return is due in next week, Tuesday to be precise, so of course the only thing that I could really do with my 'new' time, was tackle that. Next week the kids are off school, so work will again take a bit of a back seat, but as usual I have so much to tackle that once the holidays are over, I'll have to be back into it with a vengeance.

I have this idea that once I've managed to get back on top of things, I might actually have a bit more time to do some of the things that I don't have time for now, more sewing, actually get some writing done...

I do miss her though, it might be hard to fit in all the work I have to do with a little person running around, but now, when I don't have one at home with me for the first time in over eight years, I can't help but feel a little lost, a little sad that time has yet again moved on and changed things forever.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Uprooting Ernie - Pamela Burford

Uprooting Ernie Pamela Burford
While I'm all for serious books, when I'm in the mood, what I really love is a book that's lots of fun and can bring a smile to your face. A little while ago, I read a book that claimed to be a humorous, murder mystery. Sadly it wasn't very funny (it tried too hard) and the mystery part was quite lacking too.

Fortunately there are authors out there who can produce fun, funny books that also have a good mystery to try and solve. One of these authors is Pamela Burford.

I haven't reviewed any of her other books on here (yet) although I have read quite a few now. Most of her novels fall into the Romance or Romantic Suspense genre, but this fairly new series, the Jane Delaney mysteries are that, mystery stories. I was really lucky to get my hands on a pre-release copy to read and review (which I already have done on Amazon, Goodreads, and now here) before it was released on the 18th.

This is the second in the series, which stars Jane Delaney, also known as the Death Diva, and her poodle Sexy Beast. Jane is known as the Death Diva because of her unusual job, she does things for and to dead people, from visiting people's graves to deliver flowers, to stealing broaches from a corpse (in the first book, although she does say she'll never do that again) to giving a grave a 'drink' of cheap rose from a box. Along the way she becomes involved in some mysterious circumstances, and a once a dead body arrives on the scene, there's a mystery to solve.

The book is great fun and Jane's character is a great creation. She also has her ex-husband to deal with, who she's still sort of hung up on, and the very lovely Martin, or the Padre as she calls him. (If you want to know why, then read the first book, actually, read the first book anyway, it's good.) Both of whom more or less invade her life, for a while at least, on a day to day basis in this book. (Poor thing, two men after her.)

I didn't guess who-done-it until it was pretty much explained at the end of the book, which is usually a good sign, and it all made sense (an even better sign,) the mystery side of it certainly worked for me. I'm not sure if all the clues were there to work it out, I was too involved in the story to have done some kind of 'clue audit' but either way, it worked and I enjoyed it. I might try and read again at some point to see if I can spot the hints that point in the right direction.

I read the first book in the series, Undertaking Irene, last year when it came out, and I've been waiting for book two since. This is of course the main problem with books like this, when you discover the series in the early stages, you have to wait for the next one to come out. This was a great read, which I didn't want to put down, so I read it far too quickly, (greedy reading again) and now I've got to wait for book three...

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

You probably don't want to read this

one of those things that drive me crazy
This is a moan post, one of those things that drives me completely nuts. The worst of it is that I am sort of doing it myself, but we won't worry about that right now.

Lately on facebook (and other places) there have been lots of links shared that say things along the lines of "she went out to do her shopping, but you won't believe what happened next" or "This boy patted his dog, but how he reacted will blow you away!" Except of course, it won't.

I do get it, whoever has written the piece or made the video want's you to look at it, they need you to make that click, but do I really need talking to as though I'm unable to decide what's worth my attention and what isn't. It's called click bating, trying to word things so people will click, which of course makes sense. But please people, enough of the ridiculous claims. If it really was that amazing or mind blowing, or unusual, you probably wouldn't need to tell me in title.

I've reached the point now that I ignore anything that has a crazy claim title. I don't want to know, even if it is just as amazing as the claims, because, let's face it, it probably isn't really. Surely everyone else is sick of them too by now? I'm not convinced that they would still work that well in getting people to read something, but I could be very wrong. 

I do get the desire to get as many people as possible to share and read their posts, I'd love you to share this or any of my other posts about on social media, but I'm not going to resort to cheap tricks to get you to. After all I'm pretty sure that anything I've written, or will written isn't going to blow you away or change your life view forever. 

Friday, 12 June 2015

Five Minutes Alone - Paul Cleave

I'm starting to really like Paul Cleave's novels, this is the third that of the Christchurch novels that I've read. Although there is a common story thread that runs through them, particularly ones such as Five Minutes Alone, that feature Theodore Tate, they also work well in their own right.

The books are all set in Christchurch, although in many ways this is a fantasy Christchurch or one in a parallel universe with a darker and more sinister feel than the 'real' Christchurch. The New Zealand in the book is also a fantasy version of New Zealand; a referendum having reintroduced the death penalty.

Into this dark world, we are reintroduced to two characters who have featured in a number of the previous books, Carl Schroder and Theodore Tate. 

What I particularly love about Cleaves books is the ambiguity, in so many stories, both those that are crime novels, and those that have other main themes, we have a hero and an adversary. Good and bad fight it out. Of course life is not so clear cut and certainly Cleave's novels and characters are not so black and white. This is especially obvious in Five Minutes Alone, the question of who is good and who is bad is not clear cut one. Rather than a fight between good and evil it's a fight between the really evil and the not quite so bad.

The story focuses a lot on revenge, unlike many in the crime novel genre there isn't a question of who-done-it, more a focus on why, and if that reasoning is at all justified. I found myself rooting for different characters at different times and questioning things all the way through.

The story is cleaver and well written, without trying to be too cleaver. I enjoyed it and really must track down some more of Cleave's books.

Monday, 8 June 2015

My baby is three

My baby is threeIt's such a cliché that time goes so quickly when you have children, but like so many clichés it's actually true. Birthdays always serve to highlight just how fast that time is passing, especially ones that mark rights of passage, like going to school. 

For the youngest and oldest child in the family though, every birthday makes that passage of time all the more obvious. With your oldest child, it's the shock that they've reached such an 'old' age already. With your youngest, it's the realisation that you'll never again have a baby, toddler, pre-schooler and so on again. Today marked the end of the toddler years in our house.

Of course it's not really a sudden thing, little Miss A hasn't really been a toddler for a while now, but yesterday her age was still officially two. Toddler time. Today she turned three.

It's hard in many ways to get my head around the idea that she actually is three years old already, my baby, how has that happened. As is often the way with these things though, in other ways, it seems like her birth was much longer than three years ago. Time has this magical ability to fly and to stretch, while covering the same period. Has it really only been three years since we became a family of four children? Is it really only just over three years ago that I hadn't met her yet? 

Grub zombie birthday cakeOf course children are completely oblivious to all of this, time passes in a completely different way when you're small. Three years is forever, when you've only been around that long so far. All that having a birthday really means is that people make a fuss of you and you get lots of presents. Which of course we did. Saturday was fish and chips with the family and a birthday cake with candles (this year a 'log' with grubs all over it, because she loves her grub) and then today, the actual birthday was presents from us.

I think she's had a good day, she's gone pretty much straight to sleep, so either way the excitement of being another year older, has worn her out.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Runaway - Sandy James

Runaway - Sandy James
You may have noticed, that this is the second book by Sandy James that I've reviewed in the last week or so, (if you didn't notice then, you might want to check out the first review here). Seeing as I got the three 'Safe Havens' books in a three book set, and I enjoyed the first one so much, I couldn't resist diving into the second one almost straight away. That shouldn't really surprise you, as I have admitted to being a 'greedy reader' once or twice before.

There are a couple possible problems with books in a series. Either they quickly become samey, and you get bored of the story repeating, or you want to know more about the characters in the original book, so the whole thing is a let down. Neither of these things happened with Runaway though.

It's set in the same place as Saving Grace and features many of the same characters, although this time we have another member of the Shay family, this time running from her evil relatives. Our hero is a bit character from the last book, Ty Bishop (short for Tyrone maybe?) Of course, it is a romance books, so there's secrets to be kept, misunderstanding and lots of chemistry between our main characters.

The supporting cast of characters, who are mostly from the previous book add to the richness of the story and it's great to see what's happened next with them too. The books follows on from the last with enough information to help satisfy the 'what next' curiosity without being repetitive.

The main love story was great, with lots of chemistry between the two  main characters, you wanted them to get together and sort everything out. 

I've just got the last in the series to go now, looking forward to reading it, but trying to resit temptation to read it took quickly.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

There were ten in the bed

There were ten in the bedWhat is it about small children and taking things to bed with them? I can understand the soft toys, teddy bears, and even the security blankets that small children want to snuggle up with. Dolls and other toys you can cuddle also make sense, but it's all those other random items that children taken to bed with them.

When M was two I once went into his bedroom to check on him and found him cuddled up with a plastic fire engine. On another occasion it was a toy digger. Over time I've found him in bed with everything from boxes to tractors, trains to books and even once an old (clean) tin can.

With A, it's not so much what she takes to bed, but how much she takes to bed. Some times, when I go in to check on her at night, it takes me a few minutes to work out which head to kiss. The other night for example we had A (obviously) two dolls, a teddy bear, a soft toy and a pile of books. I've been in on other nights and found a whole flock of penguins tucked up in bed next to her, (not real ones of course).

Children and odd sleeping habits
It can't be comfortable surely? There are times that I really have to wonder how they manage to fit into the bed themselves.

I think all four of them have gone through this everything in the bed with them stage. I have no idea if it's a comfort thing, or just a way of making sure that the favourite toys are on hand the second that they wake up, (and of course that no pesky brother or sister has chance to make off with them).

Have your children gone through this phase? Or are mine just a bit odd?

Sunday, 31 May 2015

A look back at the May Challenge

May 2015 blog challengeAs you may remember, at the beginning of the month I started a month long blog challenge. One post a day for the whole month of May. Well, here we are at the end of May, and here is the end of the challenge. So how have I done?

Well, the first and most obvious thing is that I've managed to do a whole month of blog posts, one a day for the month. I did cheat a little bit in the middle, while we were away, and had to catch up because I missed a few days. But I don't think that really matters, I did them all in the end. 

Was it worth doing though? Did I enjoy it? Yes and yes. It hasn't always been easy to come up with new post ideas every day, I'm not sure if I would have written on all of these topics had I not needed to come up with something new every day, but it's been a good way to get the creative juices flowing and actually commit to putting something down in writing. (I was going to say put pen to paper, but clearly that's not the case these days.)

I would like to think that I can keep this up, although the idea of having to come up with a new blog topic every day for the rest of the year seems a bit much. If I can keep writing more regularly though, that would be a good thing. I usually try for once a week, but maybe two or three times a week. Writing the book review will certainly help with that.

It might even help me actually write something else, this book that I keep starting and not really getting much further with. If I could write some of that every day, even just a little, I might even find that I manage, over time to write the whole thing.

Either way, it's been fun doing this May blog challenge, I may try another one some time in the future, watch this space...

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Moving stress

Moving stress
There are few things more stressful than moving house, I should know, I've done it enough in the last ten years or so. 

A couple of years ago now, I worked out that we'd moved about ten times in the previous ten years. 

Fortunately, since then we've stayed put, and in the last three years we've not gone anywhere. I dislike moving so much, that I've said that's it, I'm not moving again.

Unfortunately I'm not completely missing out on the stress of dealing with house sales though, We've currently got our little house on the market. Back when we first moved to New Zealand, we moved into a tiny two bedroom (although the second bedroom is so small that it doesn't really count) by the time we'd got three children, it was clearly far too small for us.  For a while we rented it out and then did it up read to sell.

It's taken a bit of time, but a few weeks ago, we finally got to a position where we could put it on the market. Yay. So now we have to wait and see what will happen, it's not the greatest time of year for selling houses, being so cold and all, but hopefully...

With any luck we can finally start doing the things we want to do to our own house, getting it done how we want. Phase one, the new fire has just been done, but there's quite a way to go yet...

Friday, 29 May 2015

In the midst of life - Roger Silverwood

I have read a lot of crime and murder mystery books, they are one of my favourite genre of books, and if I want some kind of relaxing entertainment then I often turn to a murder mystery either in book form or on the tv. 

They come in many different styles and are written with varying degrees of success. I have to start by saying, that for me, this was not one of the better ones.

The lead detective, Inspector Michael Angel just didn't ring true. The book was apparently written about ten years ago, it mentioned mobile phones, computers, modern forensic techniques, but he seemed of a different age.

There was quite a bit of talk about his wife being away and his cats needing milk, but it didn't add to the character or the story and just seemed pointless.

The writing struggled to flow in parts and I really struggled with some of the dialogue, it didn't really sound natural or lifelike enough. There was far too much grunting of things too.

As for the mystery itself, which is of course why you read these things, it didn't really do it for me. There weren't the little clues hidden along the way to help you solve it all, although our detective seems to have worked it all out himself (although we're never told how and the secret behind the solution isn't really shared with us). Some of the relationships between principal suspects are never explained, and there is a whole section about a video tape which really makes no sense. (Surely the police would watch a piece of evidence like that, not just keep it in a draw?) 

When the final 'big reveal' came about, I'd actually didn't really care who had done it or why. I don't think I'll be reading any more in this series, it just wasn't for me.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Waiting for the post

They say that a watched pot never boils, the same could be said for a letter box, it never boils either.It also doesn't receive the post that you want it to. Why is it, when you're waiting for something specific, it seems to take forever to arrive?

On Monday I paid some customs charges on a parcel that I've been sent from America. It's been in the country since last week, which is longer than it took to reach New Zealand from the US. As yet though, no sign of it arriving here.

Back home in the UK, most post, letters at least, are pushed through the slot in the door (which is still called a letter box, even though it's not a box). For most houses in New Zealand, it's a case of walking to the letter box that sits at the end of your driveway. It's not a long walk, but when you're waiting for a delivery, it's a bit annoying to keep going and checking. 

Not that my parcel will be arriving there, but it's the same when you are waiting for something small to arrive. 

I remember when I was a teenager, waiting and waiting for something I'd ordered. It took weeks, when I eventually managed to get to the bottom of it all it had actually been lost on route and another had to be sent out. I really hope that hasn't happened this time.

Come on Mr Post man, where are you? 

With look the post box will boil tomorrow, I'll just try to stop looking at it first.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Saving Grace - Sandy James

Saving Grace - Sandy James
The other day, when I wrote about how I hate the star rating system that Amazon and Goodreads use, I could have been talking about this book. I certainly was talking about books like this one. I gave this book a five star review on both, but it wasn't perfect, it certainly deserved more than most four star books though, so five stars it was.

I really enjoyed the story line, unlike some romance books, there was far more going on here than the usual boy meets girl. Of course there was that element too, which is what you want from a romance really. 

There were a number of elements to the story here, I don't want to give everything away, but I'll give you a basic outline of the storyline. The story starts with a woman turning up on the doorstep of a ranch, she collapses and is nursed back to health by the owner and his daughter.

The two 'main' characters fall in love, although there is clearly much in Grace's (the female lead's) past that she is keeping hidden. Much of the story line revolves around her past and what she is running from, as well as the love that's developing between Grace and Adam. There's also a lovely love interest between two secondary characters, Victoria (Adam's grown up daughter) and Matthew (Grace's brother).

The only thing that really let the story down, was that because there was so much happening, the characters and their growing relationships and interactions weren't fully developed, there could have been much more written and said about all of this. It would have made the book much longer, but I for one, wouldn't have complained about that.

It was a lovely story, which reached a good conclusion at the end, where both we, and the characters in the book found out all that had been hidden as the story progressed. There are two more in this series which I'll be reading, particularly as I got this as a three book bundle for my kindle for only 99p. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Sports time

I have to admit that I've never been particularly good at sports. I spent most of my PE lessons
avoiding getting too involved and I was always one of the last ones to be picked for teams.

I had two major obstacles when it comes to playing sports, I tend to do day dream ("Quick, catch the ball! The ball!") and even if I am trying to catch said ball, my hand eye co-ordination isn't the best. I enjoyed swimming, I was even quite good at that, but other sports, I struggled with.

I enjoyed playing badminton and tennis, but I wasn't very good, my racket tended to develop a huge, invisible hole. Hockey I didn't mind, if it wasn't too cold, (which it usually was) but netball I hated with a passion.

Now that L is at school, she's been introduced to sports for the first time really and tonight she had her first go at hockey. I have to admit, she's not a natural, although given her mother, that's hardly a shock. But, what she lacks in natural ability she make up for in enthusiasm, and as she's only five, there's plenty of time to learn and maybe get quite good.

I hope that she continues to remain keen and enjoy it. It would be good if she got quite good. I'll certainly encourage her to give it a good go and get involved in any case.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Snow time like today

Snow time like todayAs I sit here typing this, my fingers are freezing, I can hardly feel them. I'm also wearing two pairs of trousers. Not in some bizarre fashion statement kind of way, but just because it's so flipping cold. It's cold outside, we had snow this morning, and it has kept snowing for most of the day. I'm really cold though because we don't have a fire at the moment.

Tomorrow the new fire is getting fitted, so of course the cold weather and snow arrived today. Isn't that always the way? I have got heating, electric heaters, on in the lounge and the bedroom, but as I'm cooking tea, I'm in the kitchen. I'm hoping that the heat from the oven will start warming this room a bit more soon.

Of course come about Thursday, when our new fire will be with luck, fully operational, we'll probably have a heatwave, not that I'd be disappointed about that of course. Just warning those of you in the South Island of New Zealand that this weather may well be on the way out.

I had hoped to get a few photos of the lovely snow covered hills this morning. Sadly by the time I got around to it, much of the snow had melted. I took a few anyway. It has continued to snow for most of the day, but it hasn't been settling, so much of what we have left is just slush, we are coastal after all, I'm amazed that we get as much as we do.

I'm not sure what the weather is like for tomorrow, I just hope that it doesn't stop the man installing our fire from making it round here. Brrr. What's the weather been like for you today?

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Real books v kindle

When kindles and the like first came out, I couldn't imagine that I'd ever want an ereader, what would be the point. I love books, I love the smell of them, the feel of them, pretty much everything about them. Then I got a kindle, and I was hooked. I tend to use my kindle more these days, but still read quite a few real books, so I thought I'd do a bit of a comparison, real books v kindle.

Real booksReal books

  • Look good on the book shelf
  • Can be shared with friends
  • Can be read in the bath without worrying about the water stopping them working
  • Can be bought second hand
  • Don't smash if you drop them
  • Don't need charging
  • Feel nice in your hands
  • Smell nice
  • Need nice book marks
  • Can be given as gifts

Kindle and other ereaders

KindleIs lightweight

  • Can go everywhere with you.
  • Can carry hundreds of books on one device (great for holidays)
  • It's really easy to add new titles, as the touch of a button
  • Is easier to read a page or two when you only have a few seconds
  • Keeps your place for you
  • Can read the same book on your phone, tablet and ereader
  • Has lots of free and cheap books
  • Makes finding new authors easy
  • Is easy on the eyes when you're tired.

They both have advantages and disadvantages, so for now I think I'll stick with both. Using the kindle for everything that I can download without costing me a fortune, and real books from the library, when I get them as gifts and when I make second hand purchases. What do you prefer, real books or an ereader, like the kindle?

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Happy hens

Happy hensI've always quite liked the idea of keeping hens, having fresh eggs on hand every day and the like, but
I wasn't that bothered. Just over six months ago though, we were given three for the boys birthday. One each for the boys and a family hen. I soon discovered that they are mad as mad can be and not all that intelligent either. 

Our hens are called Matilda, Kakapo-Zombie (both named by the kids) and Tegal, (which might not mean much if you don't live in NZ, but it's a name of a brand of chicken that you eat, poor thing). I don't think that they actually know their names in any case, so it does't really matter.

Fresh eggs
They are rather stupid, if two of them are outside in the run, and the other is inside when you give them food. Then the one inside will run up and down the inside of the cage trying to get out, rather than actually coming out of the house and into the run where the food is. If you give them three different bits of bread, then they all try and eat the same one, rather than taking one each.

So far we've had a few escapees, we clipped their wings to stop them flying off, but they still manage to get out sometimes.

To begin with the eggs were really small, which was quite cute, but now that they're all into the swing of laying, we're getting three good size eggs nearly every day.

Having three hens in the family is lots of fun.

Friday, 22 May 2015

A Southern Star - Anya Forrest

Often when I finish a book I sigh, it's usually because I didn't want it to end, or because the ending was so good. This time, sadly, it was because it just didn't quite get there.

I really really wanted to like this book. A kiwi author, in the South Island, and even visiting Dunedin at one point. It should have been all there. But somehow it just fell a bit short.

It didn't really help that I didn't like either of the main characters to begin with. We meet them both in the opening chapter on a ferry crossing to Stewart Island. She's as wet as a soggy stack of newspaper that's been left out in the rain. He's domineering, overbearing and arrogant. 

I know that the charge taking, alpha male, is a stock 'hero' of many romance books. But he needs to have a balance to his character. He does develop this later in the book, but in the open stages, he demands to know things about her, cancels her food order and seems to get angry over nothing. She worries that she's upset him by not sharing things. But honestly, if this were real life, I'd get out of there now love, controlling, abusive relationship alert.

He does get better, in parts, but the rush into his needing to know everything, before they've in any way got to know one another seems forced. I did keep reading, and I did want to know how it was going to turn out. (Yes I know, it's a romance, you know where it's going really, but still). 

I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but I struggled with much of their relationship, and felt that the not talking about some of the issues was a bit forced. There were a few other things that just didn't do it for me. Once or twice we were told that one of them made a comment or said something that the other one reacted to, but not what it was. Very very odd, it certainly didn't help the flow of the story. Other aspects of the story line and people's assumptions were introduced in a way that didn't feel natural and didn't really flow.

I was also irritated by a section of the story that dealt with child birth. Despite being in New Zealand, the whole thing was handled by a doctor, which, unless there are serious issues, is pretty much unheard of over here. It seemed to be based entirely on tv shows, and ones set somewhere else at that.

I really did want to enjoy this, but didn't. It was almost there, but not quite. With a bit of polishing it could probably be much better. The author, Anya Forrest has another book out and another on the way. I may give them a go, just to see if with a bit of experience they pick up, as I really would like to 'like' this Kiwi author.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

10 Years On

Today is my tenth wedding anniversary, so rather than a big 'wordy' blog post, I just thought I'd share some photos. Enjoy :)