Friday, 28 June 2013

May through the eyes of a bookworm


Only two tomes for your delectation this month (is that a phew I hear you sigh!)

Angel Falling Softly by Eugene Woodbury
Rachel Forsythe's daughter is dying of cancer, and neither God nor science can offer her a cure. Milada Daranyi, chief investment officer at Daranyi Enterprises International, has come to Utah to finalize the takeover of a medical technology company. When a chance encounter brings the two women together, Rachel makes an unexpected and dangerous discovery: Milada is a vampire. Fallen. And possibly the only person in the world who can save her daughter's life.

My Verdict - I'm not a massive fan of reading vampire and/or zombie based books, although I have been getting through a few freebies on Kindle and yep I've seen a couple of the Twilight films although never read the books, so this is a bit of a new genre for me. Quite an interesting theory behind this story and the book was fairly well written, although not strongly so. Don't know if I would be quite so calm when Rachel finds out Milada is one of the great undead, but maybe that's more of a common occurance in Utah you tell me! Without spoiling it too much, if Milada 'can' cure Rachel's cancer, then how come other illness and disease are still rife? An easy read if you like your vampire/zombie type literature 5/10

Fractured by Dani Atkins
Rachel's life is perfect. A handsome boyfriend, great friends and the prospect of starting at university in a few weeks means she's never been happier. But in a single heartbeat her world falls apart forever. Five years later, Rachel is still struggling to come to terms with the tragedy that changed everything. Returning to her hometown for the first time in years, she finds herself consumed by the thoughts of the life that could have been. But when a sudden fall lands her in hospital, Rachel awakes to discover that the life she had dreamed about just might be real after all. Unable to trust her own memories, Rachel begins to be drawn further into this new world where the man she lost is alive and well but where she is engaged to be married to someone else...

My Verdict - An interesting story with a real twist at the end that I really didn't see coming. Makes you question many things whilst reading this, but one of the questions I thought of when Rachel is trying to compare which is her true life, was 'why don't you look in the mirror at the scar you had in one life and see if it's still there in the other?' The scar is a MAJOR issue in one part of the story but it is never addressed in the other side of the story, which I feel lets this book down a little, also slightly rushed towards the end but all in all a pretty good read for a Kindle freebie. 6/10  

So what's books have been gracing your bedside table during May?

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

End of the 100 day spending ban!

My 100 day spending ban finished on 10th April, and what did that little exercise teach me? Simple really, I spend far too much money on far too many (mostly) unnecessary 'things'.

I had seen the 100 day spending ban challenge all over twitter and blogs at the end of 2012 and although I didn't 'officially' join any spending ban lists going, I had already decided that we (read that as I) can be a bit too frivolous with the cash and had decided come 1st January 2013 I would really cut back.

My 'rules' were simple:
  • Don't buy any new clothing/shoes, make-up, beauty and hair products, have takeaways, meals out, nights out, buy books/DVDs/CDs/magazines. Basically don't buy anything!
My exceptions were:
  • I could get my hair cut and coloured, I could keep my Glossybox subscription (although I did use my Glossydots for two of the boxes - result!), I could accept gifts and I could buy gifts for others (as I had a number of birthdays which fell during the 100 day period). I could also replace like for like. So if I ran out of say a face powder and didn't have a spare to fall back on, I could replace with one to the same (or lesser) value.
So how did I get on? Not too bad I think, this is what I spent:
  • Essie polish £3 (a discontinued colour from The Original Factory Shop)
  • Candle £1.50
  • Dress £46.05 (I got this for an interview - I rejected the job, but kept the dress!)
  • Necklace from Primark £2.50 (my excuse was it was half price in the sale AND it was a necklace I had been after but it had been out of stock in my local Primark so I just had to buy it!)
  • Candles £21.99 (Went a bit downhill at this point and splurged on a medium jar and 4 tarts from Yankee)
  • Hot Choc £1.50 (got this when we were walking around a National Trust property, but I did share it with Mr B.P.!)
  • Takeout £18.95
  • Another takeout £18.20 (got both takeaways in the same week - lets just say it was a bad week hey!)
  • Marie Claire £3.80 (my excuse was it came with a full sized free Bee Lovely hand cream from Neal's Yard Remedies worth £10, so in my book was money well spent. In fact I saved myself money as I had run out of hand cream and I would have spent more than £3.80 buying some more)
  • Essie polishes £15.98 (but they were on 3 for 2 in Boots!)
Grand total - £133.47

I am pretty impressed with myself, and to be honest £75.12 of that was spent in the last 3 weeks of the ban. So I give myself a pat on the back!

Aside from learning that I spend too much, the other important points that I gleaned from this little exercise is, that although it is great to get that buzz from picking up a new polish, or eyeliner or those must have boots; I really don't need that buzz to make me happy and complete. I have also loved using up my stash of samples rather than rushing out and buying a new product. I've been teaming different pieces from my wardrobe together to make new outfits, rather than buying something new to stuff in my already bulging wardrobe. I've started wearing jewellery languishing at the bottom of my jewellery box which I had forgotten I had. I downloaded loads of free books onto my Kindle and I found some great new blogs to read.

So in all honestly this spending ban came at just the right time.

And now a little over 2 months since my spending ban ended, and how am I fairing? Pretty darn good actually. OK I'm not as good as during the ban, but I have really really thought about whether I really need something before I purchase it or whether I just want it and I am amazed at how many times I have left a shop empty handed. Plus I am also still using up all the dregs from the ends of my beauty/makeup products where normally I would have ditched them as soon as they appeared empty. But by cutting off the end of the tubes you would be amazed how much product is actually still left in the tube. (Popping a snipped tube in a freezer/sandwich bag, keeps that opened product lovely and fresh so you can use every last drop!).

Would I recommend doing the spending ban? Absolutely. If you think you would struggle with 100 days, why don't you start small and gradually build up. Promise yourself a week to begin with, then a fortnight or a month and move on up from there. Also if you find you fall down on spending say during your lunch break, instead of a wander round the shops, how about reading a book, a few blogs, or going on pinterest and setting yourself up a board with all the things you'd like to buy when the ban ends. Also if you grab lunch from a shop or your favourite latte on the way to work. How about making a packed lunch the night before and at the same time putting the pennies you would have spent in a jar. Not only will you feel virtuous but at the end of your spending ban you will have some money saved to buy yourself something you really want AND need.


Monday, 17 June 2013

April through the eyes of a bookworm

unread books 

I know, I know, I know, this is really late. But better late than never huh?! If you read this post An Apology you will understand why I haven't been posting lately.

So for April, I read five books.

It Rains in February: A wife's memoir of love and loss by Leila Summers
On the 24th February 2007 my husband, Stuart, drowned himself at sea, leaving me widowed with two young daughters aged six and four. I knew it wasn't an accident, even though the medics and police never suspected suicide. Stuart had been talking about ending his life for a year. His most recent suicide attempt had been only three weeks earlier. Afterwards he explained that day as the most peaceful day of his life. Sitting next to the dam, he smoked his last cigarette. He drank a hundred sleeping pills and did a final check to make sure everything would look like an accident. The last thing he remembered was swimming out into the crystal clear water. He said that he was no longer scared of dying, that there was nothing scary about it. Living was the scary thing. It Rains in February is the true story of a husband's depression and obsession, not only with another woman, but also with ending his life. Leila Summers weaves a compelling tale of the year that led up to Stuart's suicide and the grief, profound loss and self discovery that followed.

My Verdict - This book is not for the faint-hearted, it obviously deals with some very raw issues and emotions. Leila Summers is not the true name of the author, but I don't want to say why it is written under a pseudonym as that all becomes clear towards the end of the book. This is a beautifully written memoir and the emotion of 'Leila' is clear to see on every page. How she got through life trying to raise two small children and, sometimes during financial hardship, whilst dealing with an unfaithful mentally ill partner is incredible but as the old saying goes "women are like teabags you never know how strong they are until you put them in hot water"and I guess 'Leila' had to do what she had to do for herself, her children and her husband. Highly recommend this if you can deal with the subject material. 8/10

The Lost Ark by J.R. Rain
In a lonely bar in eastern Turkey, ex-National Geographic photojournalist Sam Ward is hired to find an eccentric professor who disappeared high atop Mount Ararat, fabled resting spot of Noah's Ark. Accompanied by the professor's beautiful daughter, archaeologist Faye Roberts, Sam soon stumbles upon a secret stronghold - a base of operation for unleashing hell on earth. Now running for their lives, Sam and company are about to come face-to-face with the greatest archaeological discovery of all time......

My Verdict - I'm not sure if I read too much into the description of this book or whether it just failed to deliver for me. When I read 'a base of operation for unleashing hell on earth', I wrongly assumed this was going to be some 'other worldly' hell, not a man made one, so this book didn't stack up for me and left me slightly disappointed. 4/10

A Dark Kiss of Rapture by Sylvia Day
Of all the Fallen, Raze's hungers are some of the darkest and most insatiable. His brazen seductions cost him his wings, leaving him soulless and immortal, the most dangerous of seducers. He has roamed the earth for eons, hunting the rogues of his kind and protecting the humans who provide him with blood and sex. He is content with his life and the transient pleasures that flow through it...until one night and one woman change everything. Kimberly McAdams is smart, beautiful and wealthy. She can have any man she wants, but the moment she sets eyes on the lethally stunning Raze she knows he's the man she needs. As one searingly erotic night burns into something deeper and far more vital than either of them expected, an adversary from Raze's past sees a chance for revenge. Twisted by hatred, she will take from Raze what was taken from her - the precious gift of love.

My Verdict - Firstly just to say, this is obviously book 1 of a series, which I didn't realise when I downloaded it as a freebie from Kindle, stupid of me really as it's only 72 pages long, what was I thinking?! But if you like anything to do with vampires mixed with erotica then this is a read for you. The story was fairly gripping and the ending had you wanting more which makes sense as it continues in book 2! Although did it grip me enough to want to go and purchase book 2?, ummmm currently I'm not sure. Maybe I will have to leave that up to you to decide! 7/10

Homesong by Misha Crews
In a small town, everyone knows everything about everybody. Or do they? For twenty years, Kate Doyle has been haunted by the night when she was forced to flee from her tiny Virginia home town and abandon her childhood sweetheart, Reed Fitzgerald. So when Kate, now in her mid-30s, escapes her unhappy life in Washington, DC and takes a much-needed vacation, the last thing she expects is to be reunited with Reed. Now, under the warm clear Caribbean sun, amid ancient churches and pink flamingos, Kate and Reed seek to revive the love that they thought was gone forever. But will small-town secrets ruin their last chance for happiness? Woven into the modern tale of Kate and Reed are the tales of those who came before them. Their mothers: teenagers in the chaotic 1960s, best friends who are in love with the same man, although only one of them knows it. Reed's grandmother; already a bitter old woman by the 1930s, she would do anything to carry on the family name...and would drive away anyone who came between her and her grandson. And even the founder of the town: in 1865, what guilty secret drove one man to bring his own daughters across the ocean from Ireland and settle in the dark Virginia hills? At its heart, Homesong is the story of a small town: its lies and truths, its beginnings and endings. It's about proud secrets, unrestrained joy, and the old adage that you may leave your home, but it never really leaves you.

My Verdict - I was initially drawn to this book as I usually really enjoy novels which span the ages and have entwining stories running through them. I totally loved the parts of the book which focused on Kate and Reed's mothers and Reed's grandmother, but for me these parts where just not large enough and too much focus was on Kate and Reed in the present day. Plus, in my opinion, the parts written on the mothers and grandmothers was written more eloquently than those parts on Kate and Reed which was a great shame. Left me disappointed as I felt author let the book down. 4/10

Playing the Genetic Lottery by Terri Morgan
At fifteen, Ava ran away from home and changed her name to Caitlin to escape the chaotic childhood of having two schizophrenic parents. However, she lives with the constant fear of what lies in her DNA. Will she succumb to the disease that robbed her of a normal childhood? Will her children be the next victims of the family curse?

 My Verdict - Oh this book looked soooooo good, but just totally failed to deliver. It started good and the ending wasn't bad, albeit a little rushed but at 388 pages long it was bulked out with writing which just shouldn't be there and I feel the story which could have been there just failed to materialise. Also the style of writing had a very monotone quality to it which became mind numbing after a while. Total fail for me this one 2/10

So that's it for my April round-up and it's not hard to see that Leila Summers memoir was my read of the month.
So what have you been reading this month?
(May's reads are coming up shortly!)