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I picked up this book in a bargain bookstore - more for the cover truthfully - but once I started to read it the story just flowed along naturally. The story centres around a character called Scarlett who lived her life through the movies but was bored with her non-movie life and had begun to doubt her impending nuptials. Securing a house sitting job in Notting Hill for a month, Scarlett decides to give herself time to think about what she really wants.
Whilst in Notting Hill she appears to be living in a film set - walking past THAT blue door, bumping into someone who pours his drink on you, finding yourself in THAT bookshop - you get the message?
Truthfully this is never going to set the literary world alight but if, like me, you like chick flicks, you will spot every movie reference before it is signposted to you and will enjoy the detective nature of the game. Furthermore it is an easy read with a satisfactory ending - one that leaves you with an ahhhh! That can't be bad for a book!
I have had this book on the shelf for some time - why, I am now wondering, did it take me so long to read? The basic plot is that a lawyer called Matthew Shardlake is sent by Thomas Cromwell to investigate a death in a monastry. Once Shardlake arrives he susepcts everybody but can find no evidence. Every time he gets close to someone who may be willing to help they die!
Set against a backdrop of Henry V11 and his dissolution of the monastries this is 439 pages of intrigue and mystery. If work had not got in my way this is a book that I would have read cover to cover in one go. Shardlake's appearance challenges our personal views whilst his inner emotions draw you to him. The author, C.J. Sansom, uses descriptive writing to paint an intricate picture of monastry life in the depths of a harsh winter whilst the monks are a collective community which include the usual mix of characters.
I found myself routing for some of the characters and then being dissapointed as their foibles emerged. This is a page turner, plot twisting novel and I cannot wait to start the next in this series.
May I say from the start that I was a flying virgin and therefore have nothing to compare British Airways with. However my companions were far more experienced than me and were amazed at the service we recieved.
We booked on the internet and the whole process was easy to do. Costwise there may have been cheaper options but we did not want a week's package and were happy with the £195 cost for a five day holiday. This was then followed up by a number of emails from BA keeping us informed and eventually inviting us to book our seats and check in on line. For £10 extra each way we reserved our seats on the emergency exit rows (fantastic leg room) and then checked in 24 hours before our flight - this saved all that queueing at Gatwick. We thereforefore strolled through the whole process effortlessly with just the minimum of queueing to drop our bags off (generous allowance of 23kg) - leaves more time for that duty free shopping airside.
The flight was called on time and departed on time. The plane was clean and the attendants were both friendly and professional. Even the tone of the pilot was reassuring and the take off was smooth. Whilst on board we were offerred complimentary drinks and snacks - it was only a short flight to Italy - and the eventual landing was smooth.
As I said I was a flying virgin but would certainly fly BA again - in fact I am thinking of going to Salzburg with them next year. My more experienced companions commented on how smooth the flight was and how they would prefer to fly with them rather than some other operators - one of our party is terrified of flying and has never had such a good flight.
The return flight was just as uneventful. I was told lots of horror stories about BA but also that I was going on the best airline. I tend to agree with the latter.
Now I love reading but there is always the problem at holiday time - how do you take enough books away with you without incurring baggage charges. Holidays aside my other problem is reading in bed - one side of the book is always heavier than the other and therefore more difficult to hold when laid on your side.
Enter your knight in shining armour - the sony e-reader holds up to 160 ebooks and comes in a range of colours - mine is a stunning red. The menu is easy to follow - allowing you to change the orientation from portriat to landscape (useful for propping the book up at the breakfast table) and with the option to go straight to the last page you read (who needs a bookmark?) The e-books are easily purchased and downloaded and are collected together by title, author or date.
Having said that - and I am gadget girl - this is not my first choice of book. Apart from the unique feel of a book the e-books are, at best, the same price as the book version - what do you do when you finish one - you can't give an e-book away. I am used to an ipod but found the whole downloading books / uploading onto the reader difficult to suss and, recently, I dropped the e-reader and nearly had to throw it away when it refused to work for a while.
My advice - if I didn't have one then I wouldn't bother. This is one gadget too far for me.
I love Maron Keyes and, in this book, you can just hear her voice coming through loud and clear. The basic premise is that Rachel is an Irish girl in New York living the high life with Bridget and Rachel's boyfriend Luke.. However she has returned to Ireland and her family following a supposed suicide bid and the family have placed her into rehab in order to help Rachel kick her drug habit. The book then alternates between Ireland and Rachels attempts to deal with the situation and denials that she is drug dependant, and New York and the history of Rachel's life leading up to the suicide bid.
As you would expect from Marion Keyes this is real chick lit - easy to read with self depricating characters and a sense of humour. However it also has a depth of knowledge - most notably the wonderful counsellings scenes in rehab.
I wont spoil the ending but I was fascinated by the different characters within rehab and their personal stories. Having never experienced rehab myself I can only presume that the treatment details are authentic but they certainly resonated with me.
Reading any Marion Keyes is a delight and like the author talking directly to me. Rachel's holiday really confronts the social issues of addiction without ever preaching to the reader.
I bought this trilogy intending to read it across the summer holiday after I heard everyone raving about it. About fifty pages into it I nearly gave in - but don't!. For me the start of the book was really slow and full of swedish names which just seemed to confuse me. However if I can give one piece of advice it would be to persevere for the first 150 pages - after which you will not be able to put it down.
The story starts with a financial journalist, Mikael Blomkvist, being convicted of falsifying facts and sentenced to jail for three months. Meanwhile the story jumps to Lisbeth Salander, who is a loner with a troubled past but who is an excellent researcher. Then the story jumps again to Henry Vanger (see what I mean about being difficult to follow) who is troubled by the unexplained dissapearance of his neice back in the sixties and wants Mikael to investigate.
At first the events all seem disjointed but the story really gets moving when Mikael and Lisbeth get together and start the investigation. The story is well writtain and really moves quickly - at times to places which can be a little uncomfortable to read. Whilst I love to read it does tend to be just before bed. This book kept me outside in the garden for 2 1/2 hours just to see how it finished and I can't wait to start the sequel "The girl who played with fire".
I picked up "Me and Mr Darcy" by Alexandra Potter for the value price of £2 in this years Tesco Summer Book sale and being a Jane Austen fan I settled down for a nice read.
The basic premise is that Emily Albright manages a New York book shop and adores "Pride and Prejudice". Working alongside her is the younger Stella who is both man mad and a good time girl. So when Stella invites Emily to a 18-30 holiday in Mexico over the New York break some quick thinking is needed to come up with an excuse. Thus the handy flyer that has just appeared advertising a Jane Austen tour in England comes in handy and Emily books herself a place.
The tour bus turns out to be full of pensionable ladies - along with Emily and Spike - a journalist who deeply resents being sent to write a review about the tour.
As the week unfolds Emily begins to imgaine that she keeps bumping into the real Mr Darcy and imagines herself to be falling in love with him - albeit she realises that he is not everything he appeared to be in the book. Rather cleverly the author reveals the story along the plot lines of "Pride and Prejudice" with Spike becoming the representative of the Darcy character.
This is an easy read and, as a lover myself of P & P, I found it interesting to predict which part of the plot line was being covered next. The story moved along easily and it is definitely a feel good story.
I have always sworn by a Dyson vacuum cleaner (perhaps its the fascination with seeing the dirt coming out of your carpets and up into the cylinder) and having two dogs I couldn't wait to buy the animal version. I was already convinced of the Dyson quality and appreciated the need to buy no hoover bags in the future so the decision was a "no-brainer".
Delivery was quick and the packaged arrived safely and on time. On first use, hwoever, I was a tad concerned - there seemed to be a high pitch whine which, to this day, has never gone away. However, I reasoned, the most importnat point was does it do its job properly - does it clean up after the animals? The answer is a resounding YES.
One of my dogs is a retreiver who drops blonde hairs everywhere. As I look down along the hall carpet I can usually see a layer of blonde hairs which the Dyson makes short work of. I have a cleaner who insisted that I buy a Hetty as she couldn't get to grips with an upright - yet this does not remove much of the animal hair. The Dyson animal cleaner puts the other competition to shame.
Just like other Dysons, this cleaner is an upright cleaner whose handle quickly extends to reach those awkward spots.
An added bonus is the quality of aftercare that you recieve from Dyson. When I lost one of the attachments that most cleaners come with then a replacement was quickly sent through for a small payment. When I stepped back on the long handle / pipe and snapped it - again a replacement part was sent out the next day.
If I ever need to replace this hoover - it will certainly be another Dyson!
Small and quaint - isn't that what every visitor says? Louth, in Lincolnshire , nestles amongst the hills of the Lincolnshire Wolds and is that rare thing - a small town populated with independant shops and eclcted tastes. Walk up and down the main streets and you will come across interesting little shops - full of intriguing gifts and little hide aways. There are few national chains - Country Casuals and Wilkinsons being examples - and many a well stocked charity shop to tempt the passer by. Even the cinema is an independent one!
Within the town centre there is also a market place - with a market every friday and saturday and a farmers market every fourth week. There are a number of cafes, bars and pubs to dine in - with plenty of car parking spaces available.
Moving further afield there is Hubbards Hills - a wonderful parkland - poplular in the summer for picnics and a lovely artists' trail of sculptures around the town. Add in a wonderful array of historic buildings - churches such as St James and houses such as the one where Lord Alfred Tennyson one lived - and you have a magical town within which to spend a few dasy. Add into the mix facts such as the town lies on the meridian line and that the first ever Currys opened in Louth and you can begin to see the towns history. Complete the picture by pointing out that Louth is just twenty minutes from the sea - Cleethorpes, Mablethorpe and Skegness (albeit a little further out) - and you can see why Louth is a poular tourist attraction.
Outlet shopping parks are springing up all over the country. This one - situtaed just outside Spalding in Lincolnshire - is allied to a garden centre and children's amusement park. Deep in the heart of bulb growing country the alliance with a garden centre is a useful one - although I found the centre to be expensive.
Within the retail park, the shops are arranged in a cross formation with well known names such as Marks and Spencer, Tula, Past Times and Julian Graeves. The Works had one of their biggest shops that I have seen whilst Klass and Roman Originals represented more unique fashion.
Springfields is just over an hour away be car from me and we certainly had a nice day out. The weather was fine (it is not enclosed), there were plenty of cafe's and toilets, and everywhere was clean. My only concern was that there was nothing unique there - nothing that would inspire me to make a regular jaunt to the centre. Just as well really - the car park was not free - around £2 for the day) and there were plenty of cars outside - we had to queue to get in. However, once in, the shops did not feel crowded and it turned out to be a pleasant experience. I would certainly go again - just not every week!
Ooh the luxury of shopping at Waitrose - if only we had one near enough to shop at each week! My nearest one is in Lincoln, but truthfully the experience is pretty much the same whichever branch you go to. Many people think that it is expensive to shop at waitrose but I would dispute that - many items are comparable with other supermarkets. There may not be the same width of range but Waitrose is wonderful for finding that something special - their fish range, for example, is wonderful.
But, down to basics, their shops are alsways wonderfully clean and spacious. No tussling with other customers for a right of way down the narrow aisle here. Shopping here is leisurely and enjoyable. Assistants are helpful and the produce is tempting.
When you fnish your shopping you are given a token - at the store entrance there are three local chariies / projects to choose from and you place your token in your chosen charity. At the end of each month the winner recieves funding from Waitrose.
At our branch there is also a cafe - with the most delightful and reasonably priced food. A sausage sandwich, for example, is the largest I have ever seen with a huge cumberland sausage laying between the two halves of a crusty roll.
My only complaint - they don't deliver to my area. perhaps thats just as well - then I can enjoy the whole shopping experience for myself as a treat
Now I know that I should make gravy from scratch - using the meat juices from the pan and so on - but lets be honest, most of us can't make a nice gravy this way or don't have the time to always cook from scratch. enter the Bisto gravy granules. In two different sizes, this red cardboard tube topped with a plastic lid to keep the contents fresh is a storecupboard essential and a life saver.
To make simply put four heaped teaspoons of granules into a jug and then make up to half a pint stirring all the time. I also use the granules in casseroles and stews to thicken up the gravy. The granules contain a number of ingredients such as potato starch and soya. Suprisingly, however, there is no mention of meat so I would guess that the gravy may suit a vegetarian.
All I can say is that the gravy is delicious and, cooking for one as I often do, the recipe is highly adaptable. The granules mix smoothly and leave no lumps without leaving that slightly false chemical stain to the garvy boat. The smell is exactly what you would expect to experience from real garvy - get the taste of roast dinner every day!
when you are on a diet you crave sweet foods - even if before the diet you didn't have a pudding as a rule. Enter Harrtley's Sugar Free Raspberry Jelly crystals.
The instructions are clear - just sprinkle the crystals onto half a pint of boilung water, stir until dissolved and then make up to a pint with cold water. Then leave to set - its as easy as that.
Where's the catch you ask - well there's not much to talk about. In fact the only one that I can think about is that the instructions are only printed on one of the double packet - make sure that you do not throw this side away before making up the second jelly!
I tend to make the jelly up in order to leave overnight to set. With only eight calories per serving (one packet = 32 calories) thi s is a treat that everyone can enjoy - oh and it tastes yummy. You don't feel as if you are sufferring!
The tesco value range can often throw up some surprises - and their bread is just one of them. Not surprisingly the loaves are much cheaper than other ranges and they are not trying to be Tiger loaves or any other type of specialist flavours.
The value range is just that - but I would ask - if you are going to taost a slice of bread do you need to pay full price? We have a large family and can go through more than a loaf of bread a day. The Tesco value range is a godsend in keep the cost of the shopping bill down. The thick slice loaf tastes good and I would challenge you to tell the difference when it is buttered and has marmalade on.
The downside is that I am not so keen on the bread if it is not toasted. It has a slightly grey tinge which can make sandwiches look less appealing and I find that it tastes stale sooner than I would hope. However they loaves keep well in the freezer so I always have several in.
I first came across Bejeweled Blitz through facebook. So when I got my iphone and came across an application called Bejeweled 2 I just had to download it.
The basic premise is the same - there are a number of different coloured jewels which you have to try and line up by simply swapping two at a time. Line up three as a minimum but to maximise your points you should aim for five. Each time the colours are lined up, the points are added and the jewels blown up - thereby making room for new ones and for rows to collapse.
Within Bejeweled 2 there are three versions of the game - the classic version which is time limited and goes through a range of levels, action - where you have to beat the descending bar , and endless which isn't time limited at all. My iphone application also allows you access to the facebook blitz version.
This is such a simple concept yet utterly compelling. Hours of my life have been wasted on this little game by popcap - yet I will still try to beat my score every day - sad eh?