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As I am saving at the moment I am trying to find lots more things to do that don't cost me the earth, plus as I am also on a diet plan this also cuts out my eating out with friends so I am having to be a bit inventive with my days out.
My parents invited me along to one of their favourite National Trust properties with them last weekend and I thought it would be something a bit different so happily joined them at Tyntesfield.
On arrival at Tyntesfield we drove down through the grounds towards the car park which is well sign posted, we were met at the entrance to the car park by an attendant who showed us where to park and offered a little information on where to go and what there was to see, but obviously due to my parents having been to visit before this information wasn't needed in our case, but I did think that was a nice touch.
We then walked down to the ticket office area where there is also a National Trust shop, a cafe/restaurant and toilets. I thought the toilets were interesting as they were built in the old stable block and the trust had made a feature out of the old hay feeders where they had put in the sinks, the original beams were still there which was something different from boring day to day toilets.
My parents are both members of the National Trust so for them the visit was free, but for me access to the grounds and house was £13.50, the cashier did explain to me that if I joined the National Trust they would refund today's money, sadly at the cost of just over £50.50 for a single person it's not something I could afford, but I did think that was a good idea.
We had booked to look around the house and as it gets busy at Tyntesfield they only allocate a certain amount of tickets per day and these are allocated in blocks so as not to have the house crammed full of people. Ours were 11.30 to 12.30 which gives you more than enough time to see everything in the house, although it is fairly extensive.
William Gibbs originally bought the original Tyntes place in 1843, but it was in 1863 that he had work begin on making the house the design of gothic splendour that it is now, with it's large windows and fantastic stone carvings.
The house belonged to the Gibbs family until 2001 when Lord Wraxall the last member of the family passed away and it was bought by the National trust. I think they have done a fantastic job with the restoration works that have been done and they have managed to keep the house looking fantastic. They have recently begun more restoration works on the garden's orangery, the scaffold has been erected ready and these works are due to commence at the end of April, these will be fully viewable to visitors of the gardens so that they can see exactly how much work goes into the restoration projects, the works are also being carried out by some of the National Trust's apprentice stonemasons.
The first thing I noticed about the house was in the entrance hall where there are lots of carvings along the walls in Latin which I thought were beautiful and on the entrance to the door of the library, which was my favourite room I found out from a guide that the carving there meant 'the written word remains, the spoken word fades away' which I loved.
For those who are into Art the house still houses some impressive art work, mainly paintings of the Gibbs family through the ages, but well worth viewing, we were lucky enough to see some original portrait painted of the family on Ivory which are normally kept covered due to being very sensitive to light.
Another room I really enjoyed is the billiard room, the main attraction here being around ten deer heads mounted on the wall, along with various animal skins. The guide happened to being doing a talk as we entered this room and I was amazed to find out that the largest of all the mounted heads in the room, a rather humongous moose head was not shot by any of them men of the Gibbs family but instead by Via one of the ladies of the house, who's portrait is hanging on the main staircase of the house where she is depicted in a stunning yellow flowing gown much at odds to the image of her shooting Moose in Canada.
The other rooms in the house have been kept to a brilliant standard, as can be seen in the kitchen and bedrooms and this was largely helped by the fact that the Gibbs family were hoarders. Not fond of throwing anything away some of the older rooms were used for storage and this has been a large help to the National Trust in being able to help them piece together how the house would have looked through the years.
The Gibbs family also had a private chapel on the grounds of the estate and this is also open to visitors. While not religious myself I do enjoy viewing churches when I can and this small family chapel is a beautiful example of why, very well maintained the chapel has the capacity to hold around sixty people and despite being small is wonderfully light due to the wonderful stained glass windows.
The Tyntesfield estate also has beautiful grounds which are well worth checking out, including a kitchen garden which as well as the vegetables and herbs that are growing there; they also have greenhouses growing a wide range of flowers. As we went on what turned out to be a brilliantly hot day the grounds were packed with families picnicking on the grass, but thanks to the size of the estate they never seemed to be too cramped on spaces to relax and for the children to enjoy a game.
Tyntesfield estate also has holiday cottages on the estate that can be rented which include the chaplain's house, chaplains lodge and summerhouse cottage, this can be done online at www.nationaltrustcottages.co.uk
For something different to do on a Sunday day I would fully recommend a visit to Tyntesfield estate, learn something new in every room of the main house and then enjoy a homemade picnic in the grounds or have lunch in the cafe/restaurant.
If you are wanting to visit the house at Tyntesfield I would advise you to arrive early as the places are limited and do sell out quickly.
If you are taking children to Tyntesfield there is plenty to keep them entertained as in most of the rooms around the house there are boxes where they can find out more about the house in fun ways such as dressing up which I did see a lot of children enjoying.
The opening hours are 10.00 until 18.00 with the house and chapel closing slightly earlier at 17:00.
Gift aid admission prices : (Standard Admission prices in brackets) House, chapel and garden: adult £13.50 (£12.20), child £6.75 (£6), family £33.75 (£30.40). Garden only: adult £10 (£9), child £5 (£4.50), family £25 (£22.50). £2 off admission when arriving by bicycle, on foot or public transport
For any more information please see the National Trust website at www.Nationaltrust.org.uk
Laura has a fantastic career as a very gifted astronomer, a husband who loves her even if he is a little distant, and a beautiful carefree daughter, life is good in the Brandon household.
At least it was until one day when Laura comes home to find her daughter Emma screaming at the bottom of the stairs and her husband nowhere to be found until her search takes her to their bedroom where she finds him dead from a single gunshot wound to the head.
The police rule the incident as suicide which seems logical to Laura as although she never thought Ray's problems were so serious it would cause him to kill himself, especially in the house with his young daughter she knew he had been suffering from depression. The worry for Laura now is that the screams Emma made on the afternoon of her fathers death were the last noises ever to leave her mouth. Her wonderful chatterbox daughter had been mute since that terrible day and nothing Laura did could coax the words from her.
What secrets is Emma hiding from her mother? What horrors caused a once bright child to literally become mute overnight?
After reading another of Diane Chamberlain's novels I picked this one up at my local bookshop in a 3 for 2 offer hoping I would enjoy it as much as I had the other, and thankfully I did, possibly more so.
One thing I find fantastic about Chamberlain's writing is the way she really brings the characters to life. I found myself wishing that Laura would be able to help heal herself and her family. I wondered what I would do in her situation and how hard it must be to deal with a child who was mute, especially one who had seemingly been such an outgoing and chatty child previously.
I also love the way that Chamberlain doesn't shy away from characters who might shock the reader, and I find that she deals sensitively with the issues of mental illness which are a large part of this novel. I never found that she was being patronising of making light of what is quite a serious subject.
The character of Sarah who plays a large part in the novel was one who I really found myself caring for, she suffers with Alzheimers disease which is something my grandmother suffered with before she passed away and the character of Sarah reminded me of her and the way that Sarah is written is done very well and was obviously very well researched.
Breaking the silence was an interesting mix of drama, thriller and romance but strangely it worked very well. I found myself hooked on the story from the very beginning first wanting to know if Emma would ever talk again, then if Laura was going to find love after losing Ray, then trying to decide who I thought the mysterious old lady Sarah was. There was more than enough to keep you enticed throughout the book, and I was always trying to think one step ahead to figure out the information before it was fed to me which definately kept me on my toes, especially the two major reveals towards the end of the novel which I have to say I didn't see coming.
Another fantastic novel from Diane Chamberlain and one I would highly recommend, an interesting storyline filled with characters you will really find yourself bonding with.
Plus if you have a mother who enjoys a good book, this would make a great mothers day present.
Also posted on Ciao under my username emsi
After upgrading my old mobile for an all singing all dancing iphone4 I decided I would once again try out selling my phone online and after checking out the price differences between the two main companies I decided to go with Mazuma.
So what I am sure you all want to know upon reading this review is how easy was it to do? And how quick was the payment?
The whole process from start to finish couldn't have been easier. You begin by searching for your mobile by entering it's IMEI number, this is to be found near the battery and sim card in most mobile phone models, once this is done you then add how many of each phone you have to sell which with most people would probably be one, then you have to let them know if it is working or not working.
Mazuma's specification for working phones is...
Each mobile phone should:
Turn on and off
Be fully functional (normal cosmetic wear and tear is acceptable)
Have a working screen
Include its battery (you can keep memory card, charger, etc)
Be healthy - not crushed or water-damaged.
Once this is done you will be given the price that Mazuma will offer you for your phone, and you will be given a choice of payment option. These are Cheque, Argos voucher and bank transfer, I personally chose the bank transfer and the reason was because they are processed the same day of receipt. If you do decide to choose the Argos voucher they are worth an extra 10% more on the value of your phone than the cash or cheque option.
Once you have gone through these steps you are nearly done, all that needs to be done now is to provide your bank details (if requesting payment via bank transfer) and your address. Mazuma will either send you a freepost envelope or you can download the freepost information to add to the front of your own envelope.
Once you have completed your order all you need to do is pop your mobile phone into an envelope protect it from being overly jostled in the post with a little bit of bubble wrap and wait for your payment.
As I mentioned at the beginning of this review I decided to choose the bank transfer option this was because I was looking to buy a new outfit and the cash would come in useful.
I put my selling order in with Mazuma on the 13th March, I received my freepost envelope on the 15th March and I headed off to the post office the next day with my old mobile all safely tucked up in it's freepost envelope. I then waited to hear from Mazuma and was very happy when I received an email on the 18th March to say that my mobile had arrived and had passed all the tests and my payment was due to transferred into my account by midnight that night and after a quick check of my bank account I can report it was done at around 10pm.
All in all I was very satisfied with the service I received from Mazuma, they kept me updated with the progress of my order every step of the way, I also think that £46 for an 18 month old mobile was a great price. I cannot find any faults with this company and I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them to anyone.
Also posted on Ciao under my username Emsi
The summer of 1962 was no different to many for the Bauer family, they were spending it together at their summer cottage in Bay Head Shores, a place that they all cherished as a place to get away from everything. The canal that ran behind the house was a great place to fish or take a trip in the boat, the bay was a wonderful place to swim or sunbathe with friends. What young girls wouldn't enjoy spending time here.
The truth is the Bauer sisters were never happier than when they were at the summer house. Isabel, 17 is surrounded by a gaggle of girlfriends who spend their time on the beach soaking up both the sun and the adoration of the summer boys. Twelve year old Julie loves the chance to sneak over and hang out with her new coloured friends on the other side of the river, and collecting clues that she keeps in a box hidden in the back yard in the hope that she might solve a mystery just like her heroine Nancy Drew. Finally young Lucy who is terrified of everything that moves and most of the things that don't as well, even she manages to enjoy her summers in Bay Head Shores, as long as they don't involve her getting any further into the water than knee height.
All those fond summer memories were lost one night when the news came to the family that beautiful seventeen year old Isabel had been found dead in the Bay. There are so many questions to be answered. Why was Isabel out in the bay in nothing but her swimsuit alone at night? Who could she have been meeting? Why did she tell no-one where she was going? And most important of all who had caused the marks on her body and ultimately killed this young girl?
What happened in the Bay at Midnight?
I spotted this book in the 3 for 2 offer at my local bookshop and was enticed in by it's cover as well as the fact that it mentioned one of my favourite author's Jodi Picoult as someone similar to Diane Chamberlain. I was very glad I picked this one up as although due to training commitments it has taken me a long time to get into this one, I have just spent a week off my regime due to inury and had two night where I couldn't bear to turn the light off because I needed to know what was going to happen next with the bay at midnight. Not wanting to sleep is always a sign of a great novel.
I loved the way that the story was told from different perspectives, mainly Julie and Lucy the two remaining sisters as their mother Maria. I found this way of writing really helped to bring out different aspects of the story, especially as it developed further and you found out more about the family secrets, especially from Maria who's looks back to the past really made her character more real for me. It also made me empathise with her a lot more when the final secrets came out towards the end of the story.
I found the relationship between Julie and her teenage daughter Shannon very interesting because it showed how a tragedy in your life can affect your relationship with those close to you, even if it happened a long time ago. Shannon had never known her aunt and also had never know a time when her mother was carefree and afraid of nothing. She only knew her mother as someone she classed as uptight and over protective. But in reality Julie was made the way she was because of her reaction to Isabel's death, it made her afraid to let Shannon have too much freedom in case she would lose her too.
Another thing that made this book great for me was the fact that I never saw it ending the way it did and this is something that I relish in a good mystery novel, as I do seem to be pretty adept as figuring out the twists that no one else sees, but I have to admit this one defeated me and I did swap my could it be killer at least three times throughout the novel. I loved that Chamberlain managed to keep me guessing right until the end.
Definitely a five out of five from me, one to watch out for if you haven't already read one of Diane chamberlain's novel get out there and find one trust me this one is worth it. I have already bought two more of her books on the strength of this one, here's hoping they are just as good.
Also written on ciao under my username emsi
House Rules is the latest offering from Jodie Picoult, who I have to admit is one of my favourite authors. She is also the best selling author of seventeen books in total. The most well known being my sister's keeper which in 2009 became a popular film staring Alec Baldwin and Cameron Diaz.
Picoult always picks very interesting and sometimes difficult subjects for the heart of her novels and house rules is no exception.
It is the story of Jacob Hunt an eighteen year old who is diagnosed with Aspergers, a condition at the top most end of the autism spectrum. This leads Jacob and his family to have to live life a little differently to most other familes. Jacob's aspergers traits are wide ranging and many things can cause him to have a meltdown, which to outsiders can look similar to a childish tantrum, complete with screaming and lashing out.
These traits range from his inability to look you in the eye, hatred of the colour orange, an oversensitivity to noise, light and touch and a problem dealing with any changes in his routine. These include having to watch his favourite tv show crimebusters at exactly 4.30pm sharp every day and having colour coded meals on certain days.
Despite his issues in communicating with others, Jacob is a bright young man with a high I.Q and a photographic memory. He also has an obsession with crime Scene investigation, how the work is done and what it takes to solve crimes.
Jacob's mother Emma has taken to working from home so as she can be there full time for Jacob as well as for his brother Theo, who unintentionally is often pushed into the background while allowances are made for Jacob.
One day Emma's life is set to spin when she hears that Jacob's social studies tutor Jess has been reported missing, but this is only the beginning of the problems for the Hunt family. When Jess's body is found and there is irrefutable evidence that Jacob was somehow involved with her murder.
Is there any way Emma could imagine Jacob being guilty? What can she do to help her vulnerable son?
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and found myself devouring it in three long sittings. As someone who has some knowledge of Asperger's I found that Picoult handled this issue very well.
I loved the parts of the book written from Jacob's perspective, where you do get an insight into how someone suffering from Asperger's deals with the differences between their way of seeing things and how others see them.
The family dynamic was interesting and I really felt sorry for Emma as she did what she thought was best for her son and even though she had given up a lot to make sure he had the best help she could get to have as normal a life as he could. She never got any thanks for it. She also never once complained about what life dealt her and to me that is the true love of a parent. One who loves and supports their child regardless of any differences they may have to other children.
The more I read about Jacob I personally couldn't believe he was involved in Jess's murder, I found myself hoping that things would work out and couldn't stop reading as I wanted to know how the Jury would decide, I wanted to know what would happen with Jacobs future. I think that's the sign of a fantastic book, when you relate so much to the characters in it that you can't stop reading as you want to know what happens to them.
ISBN - 9780340979075
PAGES - 603
The first thing I noticed about this fragrance is the bottle. It's an interesting ridged glass bottle, which turns slowly more orange towards the bottom. The sides of the bottle are mirrored glass which give it an extra something and make it stand out on your bathroom shelves.
The smell is very summery and one I would say is either a day fragrance or one for the summer evenings. It reminds me of warm summer nights on the beach with friends, which is why it has found a home among my favourite perfumes.
Hugo Boss say this perfume has orange blossom, sandalwood, tuberose and vanilla, which I have to say have all blended brilliantly to create a fruity and fresh fragrance that will suit women of all ages.
The only slight let down for me with this fragrance was it's staying power, which I found to be a little bit lacking. I did find that by around lunchtime the scent had begun to wear off. I personally do carry a small atomiser of this around with me so it's not too much of an issue for me, but for others this could be a problem.
I was lucky enough to be given this for christmas as part of a gift set but you can buy it for £26 for 30ml, £36 for 50ml and £46 for 75ml.
The Help is a story based in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 and it tells the story of the differences between the lives of Black and white women.
In Mississippi in the 60's the whites and blacks were still segregated, they still have seperate stores, seperate buses and even seperate libraries. But the white women relied on the black women for some very important things mainly to clean their homes and raise their children, while they were off at bridge club or being part of local societies to raise money for poor children in the third world.
We learn more about the lives of the women of Jackson from the book's three main characters...
There is Aibileen who has raised her fair share of white babies, seventeen to be exact. She is now tending to her latest white child young Mae Mobley while she tries to work out her own hurt brought on by the tragic death of her son.
Minny who prides herself on her cooking, but can't seem to learn when to keep her mouth shut. She is married to Leroy and is raising her ever growing family seemingly single handedly as Leroy spends more time staring into the bottom of a bottle than at home with his family.
Finally white Miss Skeeter who is home in Jackson after four years at college and searching to find out what happened to the maid Constantine she had always adored as a child. She is also battling to find her place in her hometown where social standing is everything and unless you are in with the in-crowd run with an iron fist by Miss Hilly Hollbrook you are nothing.
The three women's paths are drawn together when Miss Skeeter realises that there is more to life than being one of the popular girls who spends their days attending society luncheons and trying to hook the prize husband. As she strikes out to make a stand for her beliefs and never mind the consequences, but she has both Aibileen and Minny along for the ride, who would have ever thought that the words of a few black maids and one white woman would encourage such interest from the people of Jackson, Mississippi.
- - - - - OPINION - - - - - -
I found this book on a charity book stall for a pound very recently and after reading a few reviews on it previously I had to snap it up and I am glad to say it was the best pound I have spent in a long time.
From the first page of the book I was captivated by the language and the way the character of Aibileen is written, I could almost hear her Mississippi accent speaking the words aloud to me. I found her character's parts of the book very enjoyable to read, although at times they were often sad especially the sections about her feelings over the death of her son I found her a fantasticly emotional character who was very easy to relate to.
Miss Skeeter was a character it was a little harder to take to for me, but I found as the book went on that I was rooting for her to come through and achieve her goals. Her relationship with her mother was one that although I have always been close to my mum I saw bits within it that I think most women may have experienced growing up which gave her a real likeability.
A part of the story that did really touch my heart were the stories that Aibileen used to tell Mae Mobley about Martian King an Alien who came down to earth and was mocked because he was green and looked different. I thought what an interesting idea to show a child that just because we are all different in looks we are all the same good people inside.
The way Kathryn Stockett has written The Help is excellent, she has managed to write from the prespective of both white and black women well without it sounding in any way tacky or stereotyped. She also has a great gift for characters, I found myself loving her main characters, although sometimes for different reasons than I think I was maybe meant to and disliking characters such as Miss Hilly and Minny's drunken husband Leroy just as much as I was supposed to, mainly because they were so well written.
Whatever you do don't forget to read the extra piece at the end of the book entitled too little, too late it's a small story of why Kathryn Stockett felt compelled to write The Help.
An excellent story that shows us how times have changed and how we should remember that although we are different in skin colour underneath we are all people who hurt, love and feel just the same.
PRICE - £7.99
PAGES - 444
If anyone is wondering why there seems to be a fair amount of teen fiction being reviewed by me at the moment it is due to the fact that I am in the planning stages of writing my own novel for the growing young adult fiction market and I am currently researching the genre.
For those who haven't heard of Sarah Dessen she is a writer of teen fiction based in North Carolina, where she now lives with her husband and daughter.
She has written seven books to date and they have proved hugely popular in America and now in the UK as well.
To the outside eye Macy Queen is perfect, she is pretty, smart, lives in a gorgeous house and has an oh-so-perfect boyfriend. But inside Macy is suffering the heartbreak of losing her father to a heart attack. She is working so hard to maintain the outside perfect appearance that she has lost her way in life. She quit running that she loved as that was what her father was doing when he had a heart attack, she keeps telling everyone she is ok, even though her and her mother are spending their time skirting the issue of her father's death. With her mother consumed with her work, running the familie's real estate business and her boyfriend off at Brain camp she starts to question her perfect life.
The first part of her life to change is her relationship with the ever perfect Jason who doesn't want his life goals corrupted by being tied down in a relationship with Macy, even though she has been holding down his job in the library that she hates with two girls who hate her and can't do enough to try and get rid of her. She wonders what exactly is happening to her life until a chance encounter with Delia and her rabble of helpers at a party they are catering hosted by Macy's mother.
There is heavily pregnant Delia who is scattered but always manages to pull things around at the last minute, the ever loud and definitely different Bert, Madcap fashion forward Kristy and her sister and polar opposite quiet and shy Monica. But the icing on the catering cake is the sexy artistic Wes, who despite a shy start Macy gets closer and closer to. Spending time with her new friends Macy begins to come out of her shell, but can she really shed her old skin and finally become comfortable in the skin of her real self?
This was definitely a book I would have loved to have had around when I was a teenager and I loved it even at the age of twenty six, I found it to be a real coming of age story and the strong message about finding your real self and not just becoming who you believe others want you to be was written in a way that makes you think rather than feel that it's an adult preaching about what you should believe or want from life.
My favourite part of this novel was the blossoming relationship between Macy and Wes, two very different people realising how much they did have in common and this was all done in an interesting way through an on going game of truth. This was used to mask Macy's discomfort of being in Wes's presence, which I thought was an interesting touch and a way for not just the character's to get to know each other but also for us as readers to find out more than we normally would about them.
The only character I didn't really warm to was Monica as mainly throughout the whole book she communicated using the same five words. This I found to be a bit painful to read. I know teenagers react this way to each other and it is good that Dessen shows different sides of teenage life but I personally found Monica very difficult to relate to.
PAGES : 391
ISBN : 9780141322926
PRICE : £6.99
Also posted on ciao under my name emsi
Whether you went to public or private school, most of us can recall stories from our school days. Whether it was five years ago or fifty they are always there, the memories good and bad.
Prep is the story of the school life of Lee Fiora. Lee is from South Bend, Indiana and is fourteen years old when she decides that she is worth more than her local public high school and applies to leave home for boarding school. To both her own and her parents shock and surprise Lee is accepted at Ault, a prestigious boarding school in Massachusetts on a scholarship. After some pleading with her parents, Lee heads off to what she imagines to be her dream school.
Lee quickly realises that there is more to Ault than the stunning grounds, grand buildings and beautiful chapel and that although it may look exactly like the pictures in the brochure that there was a lot more to Ault than meets the eye.
We follow Lee through her four years at Ault in some interestingly titled chapters of the book such as All school rules are in effect, assassin and kissing and kissing. She realises very soon into her time at Ault that nothing is going to come easy to her including friends, there was the roommates from first year who never really turned into friends Sin-Jun the quiet Asian girl who kept herself to herself and Dede the archetypal wannabe, who trailed around campus after the school's pretty popular girl Aspeth. That is until the second year when she meets Martha, a girl with a sense of humour as quirky as her own and things seem to brighten for Lee.
Is there a chance that with Martha by her side that Lee could come out from the shadows on the school and stop being what she refers to as a nobody? Will she ever get a chance with her high school crush the gorgeous, sporty and popular Cross Sugarman. (Yes the lad's name is Cross - I guess money can't buy you taste huh?) Most of all will Lee even managed to graduate from her dream school?
I found Lee a really interesting character to follow through this story, as the book is written from her perspective but there are the occasional times during the novel where the voice of Lee from the future provides her input, almost as if the story was being told looking back on her high school years from a time around ten years later.
I found myself relating very easily to certain things that Lee thought about and went through and it's that that really made Prep a great book for me. Curtis Sittenfeld really captured the essence of the teenage girl. Sometimes happy and laughing when out with friends but then when alone at home or in your dorm room wondering about how you are viewed by those around you. I liked the fact that although a lot of issues surrounding high school teens today were shown in the book it wasn't an over the top angst ridden account like some books I have had the misfortune to read in recent years.
Sittenfeld for me is one to watch and I am glad I stumbled across this in my local bookshop while on the hunt for something new. I will definitely be looking for her other books on my next trip.
Also if you are looking for a stocking filler for an older teenage daughter or even a daughter or friend of any age then this one is sure to make you a firm favourite in their eyes, and for those with teens this choice will definitely push up in the cool parent stakes.
PAGES - 478
ISBN - 9780552776844
PRICE - £7.99
** Also posted on ciao under my username Emsi **
- - THE PLOT - -
The beach hut is the story of a group of people who choose to spend their summers on the beach at Everdene, a seemingly tranquil if busy beach in Devon.
The families who spend their summers at Everdene have become friends over the years and the story shows just how their lives have intertwined, and how the place seems to have worked its way into the lives of each and every member of the various families.
Life is good and the living is easy at Everdene but that's because it's an escape for most of those who come there to the pretty coloured beach huts for their summer get aways.
There's gorgeous young Harry, who on the brink of manhood feels the flush of first love when he finds himself falling for a very much grown up and changed Florence. Dan and Kirsty who have returned to Everdene to get married, but is it going to be all plain sailing or will the waves rock their happy relationship?
And last but not least the matriarch of the Milton household Jane Milton who has been forced to put her much love family beach house up for sale after the death of her husband left her with nothing but debt. Is there any way she can find the money to save the beach hut that has always been a place for her family to escape?
Is Everdene really the happy go lucky safe haven everyone believes? Or is it just a place for people who are running from their problems to escape for a short while?
Grab the keys to the beach hut and find out for yourself....
- - OPINION - -
As a girl who has grown up spending time at the beaches of North Devon with both family and friends, as well as living in Woolacombe for a year I absolutely fell in love with this novel. It brought back so many happy memories for me of times when nothing mattered other than what bikini I was going to wear that day or what the surf was looking like!
Veronica Henry isn't someone I had heard of and I wrongly assumed this was her debut novel, it isn't she has been the author of four other books as well as a series of three novels called The Honeycote Novels and I for one will be going to search out some of her others.
I am sometimes dubious of author's who write their stories from the perspective of a lot of people and in this novel it bothered me a little in the first chapter but as I went through the book I found that although each chapter tells the story of a different family and occupants of different beach huts the chapters flow easily into each other to show the story of the families living together at Everdene.
The back story of Jane Milton really made me smile, it's a story of true love but also friendship that at times was terribly sad but in the end I found myself routing for her to find true happiness with the one man who really fits with her. I found the character really engaging and one that I wanted to read more and more about to find out what happens to her in the end.
Henry has a fantastic way of writing characters that I could really relate to, people who on the surface seem to be happy but are running to Everdene to a little bit of escape from their real lives.
What was also a fantastic touch was in the back of this book Veronica Henry has included what she calls her beach holiday extras which were a cute little surprise you shouldn't miss... these include some cocktail recipes, her recommended beach reads and a gorgeous sounding recipe for Crab and Sweetcorn chowder which I am definitely going to try out. Amongst a few others, so if you do grab a copy of this book don't flick past these little extras at the end of the story.
Anyone who is wanting a beach read for their holidays or for anyone who spent their summer holidays enjoying the rock pools and beaches of a English beach and fancies a trip back in time that will make you smile then definitely check out The beach Hut, it's well worth a read.
ISBN - 9781409119951
PRICE - £6.99
PAGES - 373
Also posted on Ciao under my username emsi
I have read a few of Louise Bagshaw's previous novels so when I spotted this one in store a few weeks ago I thought I would give it a go.
- - PLOT - -
It's California in the 80's and three girls meet at a preppy all girls school for the daughters of the rich and famous. The three girls couldn't be more different but they soon become firm friends.
Helen Yanna, a young exotic beauty from Jordan, Sally Lassiter the All American cutie and Jane Morgan the bookish but pretty English Rose are a strange mix. But that mix works, and it makes them the most popular girls in school.
One night after a huge Party at Sally Lassiter's parents overly lavish home the girls lives begin to unravel, one dramatic stitch at a time. What is going to happen to the friendships they have made? Will they stick by each other in their times of need or will friendship end up meaning nothing in the struggle for survival?
Many years later the girls are top of business tree with their sparkling Glamour chain of stores. They sell designer goods to the hot and wealthy of the biggest and best cities the world over.
So why aren't the women happy? What is it that is causing chinks in their once unbreakable friendship? Could it be men? Or is it just the battling ego's of three overly glamorous divas?
- - OPINION - -
I have to say I read a few reviews of this book on different sites and it seemed that the response was a bit hit and miss. Some were raving about it's characters, others saying it was too shallow and obvious. I thought it was best to give it a go and see for myself.
From the first page I did find myself wanting to know what was going on with the girls, and I did see a little of myself in the bookish but determined Jane. She is one of the characters who has a personality I think a lot of women will be able to relate to.
I found the story of Helen's life a little too surreal for me, without giving away too much of the story to those who haven't read it. Her rise and rise did seem to be a bit too fairytale for my liking, but none the less I found the story enjoyable.
The relationship between the three girls in high school was an interesting one for me as there couldn't have been three more different characters, but it was nice to see that it doesn't always mean you have to be sheep and follow the crowd to make friends.
The way the friendship changes as the women grow older shows that no matter how hard you try, friendships will always need work and I think that's an integral part of the story for the reader, and I have to admit that I was pushed to get back in touch with a friend I don't see as much as I would like. And thanks to that one quick message I sent, I shall be joining her on her hen weekend to Paris at the end of the year.
I was a little dissapointed with this effort from Bagshaw as I have enjoyed her other books a little more, I did find that this book could have been shortened by about 50 pages and that at times I did find myself wanting to skip pages. Plus I found parts of the story a little far fetched even for a fictional novel.
ISBN - 9780755304325
PRICE - £12.99
PAGES - 474
Also posted on Ciao under my username Emsi
- - PLOT - -
Kendra or Kendie as we know her as soon into the story, has arrived back in the UK from Australia with a big secret. One that she has no wish to share with anyone, even her best friend and boss Gabrielle.
She moves into a small flat in the garden of a house owned by a quiet, separated father of two named Kyle. All Kendra wants is a small bit of peace and quiet to call her own, and on first inspection it seems that is exactly what she has found in the suburbs of London.
But all that peace is about to be shattered when two whirlwinds by the name of Jackson and Summer enter Kendra's life. They are the six year old twins belonging to her landlord Kyle, and they are determined to be a part of Kendra's life, whether she wants them or not. The children turn up in her flat unannounced, they leave her gifts on her doorstep and even invite her to breakfast at their house.
Despite her reservations Kendra finds herself drawn into the lives of Summer, Jackson and Kyle and begins to fall in love with all three of them as she learns more about not just the children's lives but also Kyle's.
All seems relatively happy until Kendra bumps into someone from her past who shakes her reserve to the core. Will she ever be able to escape from the mistakes and hurt of her past? Will she ever be happy in the future? And we all want to know... ever become step-mother to the two children she grows to love?
- - OPINION - -
I have heard wonderful things about Koomson as an author but have never got around to reading her books until now, and on reading Marshmallows for breakfast I wish I had done it sooner.
Although I didn't find myself drawn into the story straight away as I have done with other books recently, within the first two chapters I started to warm to Kendra and found myself wanting to know her secrets. Why had she left Australia? Why was she so reluctant to let two children who seemed utter adorable into her life?
I found the way Koomson had written the characters of Summer and Jackson fascinating. She really captured the pain and hurt in a child's mind, the way Jackson reacted to certain things that happened around him is the way I have seen emotionally damaged children behave myself and I thought it really brought some heart and emotion to the book. She also showed that with a bit of help and love children that have had to overcome difficulties in life can learn to deal with things and again become happy playful children. Without a doubt Jackson was easily my favourite character in the book, he really touched my heart with his sweet quiet charm.
I found the relationship between Kyle and Kendra a bit difficult to read sometimes, I just felt that something between them didn't flow as I was expecting it to. But then again, I saw a different outcome happening in the story than what did happen so maybe that tinted my perspective a little.
Without ruining the story at all there is a scene with Kendra watching Kyle and the children together in a park and I found this really emotional to read. The writing was just descriptive enough that in my minds eye I could see the smiles on the children's faces and feel the emotion of the three of them together as a family. It really made me smile.
A must for anyone who likes their chick lit with a bit of underlying family drama thrown in for good measure.
ISBN - 9780751537086
PAGES - 440
PRICE - £6.99 but can be found on Amazon for £5.99
- - PLOT - -
Saira was brought up in a very large strict Muslim family where bringing honour to her family was all important. Any disgrace you brought to the family was severely punished.
When Saira's family find a man they want her to marry, she disagrees and for a while it seems to Saira that this has been forgotten and she innocently at first meets up with the brother of her sister in law. As time moves on their friendship grows to be something deeper and she begins to fall for him, and when one day she is spotted holding hands with him in the street this is the last straw for her brother who very quickly reports his findings to their father.
Thus begins a journey that Saira seemingly has no control over. She is shipped off to Pakistan to the arranged marriage to a distant family member, her family hoping against hope that this will go someway to repairing the disgrace she has already brought on them all. But the worst is yet to come for young Saira, her husband turns out to be a violent man who forces her into unwanted sex with him all hours of the day and night.
Eventually this becomes too much for her and Saira plots a way that she can flee from Pakistan and her awful marriage, even though this will bring her back to England and within reach of her by now maddened with rage brothers and family. After hiding out in hostels and safe houses for time Saira finally starts to rebuild her life and a reasonable relationship with her close family but all is not well with the family and there problems are spiralling out of control along with their ever mounting debt.
Is there anyway that Saira can help her mother and father out of their problems, made worse daily by her brothers and their strictly un-Muslim pastimes of drinking, gambling and drug taking. It seems that there is but it is one way she never saw herself living and that is by selling her body to men for money.
The thing is is there another way to live? Is there a way of seeing whether this will even be worth it? Will Saira's sacrifice ever see her and her family safe and happy?
- - OPINION - -
It may seem as if I have given away a lot of the plot in this review but this is no more than is revealed on the book's cover should you buy it, and as there are so many twists and turns in the story I don't feel it gives too much away so to ruin the story.
I really enjoyed this book in a weird way, it is a harrowing story and does both shock and horrify but it is also interesting to me to see how other religions do live. I know this story is not necessarily typical of every Muslim family living in the UK, but there do seem to be more and more stories appearing about the plight of young women who are forced into arranged marriages.
My heart really went out to Saira as this is a true story of her life, and I cannot imagine what is must have been like to go through what she has in her life, and I love that she shows how strong you can be when you really need to be. Especially as she mentions towards the end of the book, how what she went through has shown her that you can still be a practicing Muslim and do it in a positive way, without the imposition of so many strict rules, and how in her home she is always going to bring her family up to be open and honest with each other.
If you are a fan of true life stories, then this is worth trying, not one of the best books I have read but a suitably gripping story, not suitable for young readers are there are scenes of a sexual nature.
ISBN - 9780755318162
PAGES - 307
PRICE - £7.99 but can be found on amazon currently for £4.96
Also posted on Ciao under my username emsi
- - PLOT - -
Oh dear what have I done?! This is Grace's first thought when she wakes up one Saturday morning in the bed of the newest member of the work's I.T team Bernard O'Malley.
Problem number one being that in the cold light of day Grace wonders what ever possessed her to sleep with Bernard? He was the ultimate is geek, from his nerdy glasses to his mismatching and ill fitting clothes, what was with the trousers that skimmed his ankles to show off his ridiculously garish socks.
Problem two being Shane. Shane is Grace's boyfriend and the sister of her flatmate and Best friend Caroline. Who although he is living in London in an attempt to further his career, and his phone calls have dwindled to next to nothing in recent weeks Grace still believes is 'the one'.
Grace lays the blame solely at the bottle of out of date Baileys her and her colleagues found stashed at the back of a cupboard the night before. I mean what else could have made her forget about Shane and fall into bed with Bernard?
But that ill fated night seems to be only the beginning of the changes that begin to happen to Grace, and it all seems beyond her control.
With her job as chief bridesmaid at her sister Claire's wedding to worry about, their mother's new man, the hiding of her secret romp with Bernard, and worst of all dealing with the guilt of the loss of her beloved brother Patrick. What else could life throw at Grace?
- - OPINION - -
Ireland seems to be the birthplace of many a fantastic chick lit author from Cathy Kelly to Marian Keyes, and now Ciara Geraghty joins their fabulous ranks.
I found myself loving this book from the moment I picked it up, Grace's voice is one that I instantly related to, she has a sharp sarcastic humour which I adored and some of her one liners had me laughing out loud.
You find yourself drawn into Grace's mad world of attempting to diet to fit into her (chief) bridesmaid's dress without it splitting and exposing her to the whole church, trying to hide her growing fears that there may be more than meets the eye to her one night fling with uber geeky Bernard?
The story is helped along by a supporting cast of mad cap friends, from best mate and flatmate Caroline who aside from being gorgeous claims she can't find a decent man and seems doomed to bad blind dates, Laura the office tart who's attitude to men shocks even Grace at times, and Ciaran the quiet gay office security guard who is always there for Grace in times of crisis and who gently seems to nudge her towards the answers to life's problems.
I got through this book in a day working a temp job where the phones barely rang and I was given permission to bring a book work (who wouldn't want that job) and I loved every minute of it. I found it hard to put down even when the phone rang and that is always a sign of a great book, not wanting to be disturbed when you have disappeared into that other world.
I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes their chick lit with a large helping of sass and humour. Grace is character you can't help but love and you will find yourself hoping just like I did that it would all work out in the end.
ISBN - 9780340976548
PAGES - 440
PRICE - £6.99 but can be purchased for £5.49
Having read another of Melissa Hill's books and been hooked from start to finish I was thrilled to spot this one of the bargain shelf in a local supermarket, and it was quickly swept into my trolley.
- - - - PLOT - -
The story begins on an early morning commuter train into Dublin City, which the same as every morning is crammed to the brim with passengers trying to get to work on time. Sadly due to a technical fault the train comes to a horrifying stop, with devastating consequences for some of it's passengers.
Then in nostalgic style we are sent back in time to meet our three main characters, and see exactly what their lives were like before the day of the train crash.
We meet Rosie who is struggling to understand how after she and her husband worked tirelessly to bring their children up to be polite, well mannered and decent adults that they have turned out to be quite the opposite. There's daughter Sophie who wants everything right now, without wanting to work for anything, and son David who has become a person she doesn't know with his violent angry outbursts and the temperament of a bear with a sore head.
Dara who is newly married to the ever wonderful Mark, can't seem to be happy in her relationship. She keeps thinking back to her Mr right, the one who got away if you will. The gorgeous Noah, the first man she ever loved and the yard stick that all previous men have failed to live up to. So why did she marry Mark? This is a question Dara continually struggles with, especially when the absent from the country for over a year Noah, suddenly appears back into her life.
Last but not least of the three main characters is fun loving girl about town Louise. From the outside she has it all, cool friends, a designer wardrobe to rival any IT girl and she is living it up sipping Bellini's in the hottest hangouts in Dublin. She doesn't have problems surely? If only life was so simple, Louise is swimming in a pool of debt that she has no way of scrabbling herself out of before she drowns. That is unless she does something that is totally against her principles.
- - OPINION - -
As mentioned at the start of this review this is the second of Melissa Hill's books I have read, and I am yet to be disappointed.
There is something about her writing that captures you and draws you in from the very beginning, it is very descriptive but without leaving you feeling that you are being bogged down with information.
Also the way the characters are written makes them very engaging, and whether you love them or hate them you find yourself wanting to know what happens in their lives.
I found that Dara was a character who's life I really got caught up in, and I think it may have had something to do with me being in a relationship that I wasn't sure was working because of still having feelings for someone else, and I found it so interesting seeing the insight her characters reasoning gave me. I think that's the beauty of a good character, that sometimes you see a glimpse of yourself in them and relate to their story.
I loved the idea of the story happening somewhat in reverse, as it really kept me guessing through the whole book about who was going to end up injured, or whether one of the women wasn't going to make it at all.
All things considered another fantastic five star effort from Melissa Hill, anyone who likes their chick lit with a little bit of something other than the typical boy meet girls and falls in love romance then definitely one to check out .
PAGES - 373
PRICE - £6.99 can be found on amazon for £4.99
ISBN - 9780340953440
WEBSITE - www.melissahill.info