Tuesday 30 July 2019

TTT: Books That Are Linked to Specific Moments In My Life



This week is a freebie week on Top Ten Tuesday and I've decided to use a previous topic that I've never answered: Books That Are Linked to Specific Moments In My Life.

I thought this would be a really hard one - and it is if I push for 10 - but it actually isn't for there are a  moments that I'll always remember because of the mark they left on my soul (for want of a better way to word it) and the book I was reading at the time - or associate most with that time - is imprinted along with all the other details. 
Some are happy, some are sad. All evoke feelings...

Come Together

This is a book linked to a very specific memory.

It's strange because I remember next to nothing about the book but I remember this was the book I was reading when I got the call to go to the hospital to say goodbye to my grandfather as he wasn't going to make it through the night. 
My grandfather was the only father figure I ever had, he raised me alongside my mum and my grandmother, and that phone call aged twenty changed everything in my life. 
I remember picking the book back up on the lead up to his funeral hoping for distraction (as I had been enjoying it) but it suddenly felt so shallow and meaningless that I couldn't enjoy it anymore. I put that book down and never picked it up again. 

Last Sacrifice

Another one linked to a specific memory.

I was six months pregnant when this book released and I remember getting the bus into town on my day off work to get it despite the fact I worked in town and could have just waited an additional day to pick it up, saving me the extra trip!
It was freezing cold and icy and when I finally got home I bundled up in PJs, got a hot drink and snacks and then curled up to binge read undisturbed.
I was quite a few chapters in when my tiny, timid, cat who completely shied away from human affection crept out from wherever she was hiding and climbed into my lap.
She sat there purring and getting stroked until she fell asleep and I sat there happily for hours with my book and my cat feeling absolutely privileged and unbelievably content.
Although this marked a change in her (she'd snooze in the same room you were in, let you stroke her etc), she only ever sat on me one other time in her life and the other time I was reading The Summer of Jake by Rachel Bailey

Dead Until Dark 

This one (and the series, I guess) is linked to a specific period in my life.

We moved down to England after we graduated from university as my husband got a job here. 
It meant he started work on the Monday after we arrived (we arrived the Friday before) and I was left with no job and nothing to do (around job hunting) after unpacking the house. 
So, I joined the library and discovered the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris. 
This series - not just book one - kept me sane that first month as I applied for job after job and generally felt low because I wasn't working, money was tight and I'd left my family and friends behind and moved to the other end of the country... In a weird quirk of fate, I got a job offer the day after finishing the last available book in the series (which was book eight). 😊

Kiss of The Night

This one is linked to a moment of realisation. 

This was the book that introduced me to Sherrilyn Kenyon's Dark-Hunters but it was more than that. It was the book I read while recovering from the flu the last Christmas I was home after starting university. It was while reading this book I realised how much everything had changed... How much I'd changed. I was home and in my bedroom but I was struck with the feeling that it wasn't really home. Home was the city. Home was with my other half. I wasn't a kid anymore and I knew that that Christmas would be the last I'd spend at home without him.
I wasn't wrong. Every Christmas has been spent together since. 

Tabby McTat

This one is forever linked to my son.

This was one of the little dude's most favourite books when he was little. I cannot count the number of times I've read it nor the number of times I've sat smiling while the professor read it. I'm incapable of seeing the cover or hearing someone speak of it - or, you know, thinking about it - without thinking of how he was when he was younger and how we always used to read bedtime stories and he'd cuddle up and be full of sleepy giggles and loveliness. 
We never had any problems with bedtimes when he was young. He had his stories and off he went with no dramas... And he slept all night. (I know how rare that is, believe me.)

🌻

Do you have any books forever linked to specific moments in your life?
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Monday 29 July 2019

Let The Summer holidays begin! Longleat Adventure Park


So, this may be strange to those of you who are stateside but my son only just broke up from school on his summer break on Thursday 25th July
Yep.
The 25th of July. 
It's bloody stupid. 
Back home in Scotland, school holidays begin in June and the kids go back in August. But down here in England they're off school until the beginning of September and by then I'm so done with summer it's not even funny... However, it is what it is and we try to make the best of it. 
Thankfully the weather tends to be good right into autumn but that's not always the case. I guess we'll see how it goes this year!


Anyway, to kick his summer break off with a bang we visited Longleat Adventure park

Longleat Adventure park is located near Warminster in Wiltshire. 
This puts Longleat about an hours drive from where I live which isn't too bad especially when the drive is so pretty.

The park comprises of a Safari park, a majestic Elizabethian manor house (home to the Marquess of Bath and his family), and 'the square'
The Square is made up of various other attractions such as more animal zones (bats, koalas, monkeys, meerkats, snakes, crocs, birds etc), a massive kid's play area, some small rides, a hedge maze, the Longleat Railway and the 'Jungle Cruise'.

Putting it simply, they offer a lot for the price of your entrance fee which at a little over £50* for just myself and the little dude is pricey however it is well worth the price, unlike many other attractions.  

We had a busy day but we managed to fit everything in without feeling harassed or stressed which we were very happy about.



Be warned!
Wear comfy shoes because you will do a lot of walking throughout your day and you may want to bring some snacks and drinks (maybe even a picnic) for the food stands and restaurants will quickly add up... For example, it was £5.10 for two 99' Ice-cream cones! πŸ™€

We arrived at the park not long after it opened for the day so it wasn't too busy and we got parked in the car parks closest to the square instead of the overflow parking which is a bit of a hike away!

The Main Square is the central part of the park. There are lots of food and drink stands there as well as restaurants and gift shops and it is the central thoroughfare to all the things the park offers.


We headed straight towards the Jungle Kingdom to check out some of the animals. 

Wandering through the Jungle Kingdom can be as long or as short a time as you want it to be. It's open air, and you just walk through the curving paths taking in all the interesting animals this part of the park has to offer.

The Jungle Kingdom progressed into the 'Monkey Temple' section of the park but it's a bit misleading really as you have to go on the Jungle Cruise to see Monkey Island and the Gorilla Colony so that is what we did!


The Jungle Cruise is a boat ride on the lake.
You sail past monkey island and get to check out the monkeys clowning around and you get to see the gorillas looking all majestic on their turf but it's all from a distance as you are on the boat.
The lake is home to a seal colony and there's an opportunity to feed the seals which is fun.
They swim alongside the boat barking away at you and they're lovely.
The lake is also home to two hippos but they're pretty hard to see as they're typically hiding over at the edges amongst the vegetation.
This isn't my first year of visiting Longleat (think it was my 4th visit) but it was the first time I've ever actually seen them! And it wasn't a great view! Just a big greyish body under a low hanging tree!
However, one of the heads came up so I saw a head shape and ears so I call it good, lol. I've finally seen the hippos!


From past experience, the queues for the Jungle Cruise can get quite long so I was super pleased that it was effectively one of the first things we did and we only had to wait about 10 minutes while the boat returned to shore unloaded one group and then loaded ours on!
While you wait, you can view Red Pandas (OMG they're so cute!) but I imagine the novelty of the pandas would wear off waiting for up to an hour which is what people were doing later in the day.

After disembarking from the Jungle Cruise we followed the paths round to the newly opened Koala Creek!


Koala Creek is Longleat's new Koala enclosure.
They are the only Koala's in England (Scotland has some at Edinburgh Zoo but that's it for Koala's in the UK) so they are pretty special.
They have four and all four were visible snoozing in the indoor part of their enclosure at that time of the day.

We ended up visiting Koala Creek three times throughout the day as the little dude is obsessed with Koalas but at no point was the enclosure too busy to enjoy just looking at them.
On our third trip just before closing one of them had headed outside to chill on a different tree which was cool.


After visiting the Koala's we went back into the central square and the little dude rode the Rockin' Rhino. It's suitable for kids from about 0.8m and is really basic as rides go (you ride a lion or a rhino around a track) but the little dude still finds it amusing.

We then noticed that the train was in at the Longleat Railway so we took a chance and joined the end of the queue just as it was beginning to load, hoping we'd fit on the train that was currently in the station as it would be a half-hour wait on the next one and honestly? From past experience, it's not worth the wait. 
Luckily, we got on the train and only had to wait the five minutes before loading.

The railway trip takes you around the park and you get to see a few animals but mostly it's just the park grounds. If you miss it off your visit you're not missing much.
However, it is a nice 10 minutes off your feet!
As I said, the queues for this can really build up so it's best to hop on it was early or as late in the day as you can.


After the train, we had lunch. We'd brought a picnic and chilled at one of the tables before heading to the car to drive to the safari!

The drive-through safari is an opportunity to see lots of wonderful animals up close including lions,  tigers, wolves, leopards, giraffes, elephants, deer and lots of other creatures that I've forgotten to mention! You have to keep your windows closed through most of the enclosures - for obvious reasons - so I was particularly grateful for the car's AC considering it was a hot and humid day despite being overcast.

They say the safari takes an hour but it doesn't, it takes longer. Allow for at least 1.5hrs.


You first park up and walk around the 'African Village' part of the safari where you will find giant tortoises, lemurs, giraffes, zebras and the like.
There's a gift shop and it's the last opportunity you'll have to go to the bathroom before you enter the main part of the safari.

Once back in the car, you drive through the main gates and make your way at your own pace around the various habitats.

You can stop in the deer enclosure to feed the dear but if you do be warned that they shove their entire head inside your car, are quite pushy, and cause chaos!
They really freaked out the little dude so I ended up feeding them the feed (that your purchase for £1 as you enter the enclosure) and got covered in deer slobber - gross.
The little wipe they give you along with the feed gets the worst off but you may want to ensure you have baby wipes and hand sanitiser handy too!


After the deer, we drove into the monkey zone which you can bypass if you're worried about your car. The monkeys are not phased by vehicles and will happily climb all over your car, hitch a lift and try and pull off whatever they fancy.
Luckily, my car got out unscathed but I did watch one chew on the car in fronts aerial for a good few minutes...

It's not long before you enter the first 'air-gapped' portion of the safari and come face to face with the big cats! They have tigers, two lion prides, and leopards.
They also have a grey wolf pack.


For each section of the safari for these animals, you have to wait while one gate opens, drive into until you reach another gate, wait while the first gate closes and then drive through the newly opened second gate. It all makes perfect sense but it is time-consuming and causes most of the time delays in the safari.

The safari is enjoyable and seeing those animals is amazing but there is no guarantee you'll see all that there is to offer. The animals aren't there for entertainment and they do as they please. If they don't feel like coming out, or they feel like hiding somewhere in their massive enclosures then tough luck. Be prepared for disappointment. If you get lucky though, it is awesome.


Once we finished the safari, we visited the manor house which really is something to appreciate but I imagine won't be of much interest to little kids. I enjoyed getting out of the sun for a while learning more about the history of the house, the estate and the family that still lives there. There are knowledgeable members of staff throughout the open rooms to answer questions and provide detail.
No photography is permitted inside the house but you can take pictures aplenty outside it.

We finished off our day with the remaining activities off the main square.


There was the Bat Cave where you get to check out the fruit bats.
It smells in there but I found the bats oddly cute.
It takes less than 5 minutes to wander through but I guess if you're really into bats and can handle the humidity and the smell then you can stay as long as you like!

We lost ourselves in the mirror maze for five minutes but managed to find the sword in the stone easily enough! (The finger marks on the mirrors make it kinda easy, lol.)

We lost ourselves in the hedge maze for 15 minutes or so and I'd probably still be in the maze if left to my own devices (for I have no sense of direction!) but the little dude has his father's in-built GPS and I don't think he took a wrong turn! The time spent in the maze wasn't from getting lost, it was just the time it took us to complete it but you could seriously spend an hour wandering in there...


We spent some time in the Nature Kingdom looking at poisonous frogs and various reptiles. The little dude handled a python and a Chilean rose tarantula while I died inside.

As the end of the day approached we visited the Adventure Castle. 
Is a massive kid's playground built from wood that they can climb all over and burn off all their excess energy while their tired parents read for 10/15 minutes... And I did.
You could lose hours in this part if you chose because the kids seem to love it!
There is also another play park beside it for much smaller children but we didn't go in there as the little dude was much too old.


After that, we'd pretty much done everything the park had to offer.
We had one last peek at the koalas and returned to the main square to see the end of day performance.
Every summer, they have some themed event and I guess in celebration of the koala's arrival, this year's theme is Australian summer.
The little dude loved the didgeridoo and dance performance.
(There will also be an indoor beach opening for the Australian summer event but it opened a few days after our visit so I can't comment on it.)

All in all, a visit to Longleat makes for a very long but enjoyable day and as I said up top it is worth every penny.
If you're in the area, kids or no kids, I'd recommend a visit.



*I mentioned that entry for the little dude and I would have been over £50 and this is true. However, we didn't pay that for this visit as we traded in Tesco Clubcard vouchers for free tickets.
(For those who don't know what Tesco Clubcard vouchers are, they are free rewards given for shopping with one of our national supermarkets. You shop, you scan your card, you collect points. Points are converted to vouchers and can be traded for various things including days out to participating locations.)
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Saturday 27 July 2019

Review: Lies by Kylie Scott



Betty Dawsey knows that breaking things off with Thom Lange is for the best. He’s nice, but boring, and their relationship has lost its spark. But steady and predictable Thom, suddenly doesn’t seem so steady and predictable when their condo explodes and she’s kidnapped by a couple of crazies claiming that Thom isn’t who he says he is.

Thom is having a hellish week. Not only is he hunting a double agent, but his fiancΓ© dumped him, and thanks to his undercover life, she’s been kidnapped.

Turns out Thom is Operative Thom and he’s got more than a few secrets to share with Betty if he’s going to keep her alive. With both their lives on the line, their lackluster connection is suddenly replaced by an intense one. But in his line of work, feelings aren’t wanted or desired. Because feelings can be a lethal distraction.



ebook


~ 242 pages


First-person, single pov.


 Not unless you've been kidnapped.


No


No


Yes


No


No


Yes. Guns, explosions, kidnapping, knives, bombs...


I - I just don't know where to start.
To say I finished this book feeling a big pile of wtf is an understatement and I read each chapter waiting, hoping, for something to make it all okay but just when I'm about to get over my initial issues with Thom he serves up a whopping big pile of shit that I just couldn't ignore and it left me wondering why the hell Kylie Scott thought that this would fly?

It is safe to say that Lies is an epic disappointment.
If this had been my first Kylie Scott, I'd never buy another.
I hate saying this because I usually adore Kylie Scott. She's an author I can rely on to deliver a fun contemporary romance. This? This was too ridiculous and maybe I should have known better when the book is called LIES but sweet mother Mary... 

It's hard to state all my problems without spoilers, so I'm going to state the things I did like and then I'm going to list all my issues in their spoiler glory but hide them so you can read if you like.

Things I liked about Lies:
- A spunky heroine who calls Thom out on his bullshit and lays down what is and what is not acceptable with regards to his job, his need to protect her and the lies.
- Crazy supporting characters who made me laugh.
(Sadly, I must admit that I'd read follow on books about them.)
- Action! Explosions. Gunfights and over the top shenanigans.
- Thom actually really does seem to love Betty, he's just a little whacked.
- Kylie Scott has a light and fun 'voice' when writing and I enjoy it. Her writing is very good no matter what direction she takes the story in.

All the reasons this book can go do one: 
Highlight between the sunflowers but be warned of spoilers!
(hee hee, apparently emoji's don't hide.)
🌻

- Thom lies to Betty for a year about who he really is, what he does for a living, and pretty much everything she thinks she knows about the guy is a lie! Even his behaviours and mannerisms when he is with her was a calculated charade! When I read the blurb, I assumed there'd be a whole load of explaining to do but I never expected him to essentially have been deceiving his fiancee with a completely contrived personality! 
- Thom undertook extensive surveillance on Betty before deciding she was safe to approach romantically. By extensive surveillance, I mean he basically stalked her for a while before making his move. He then keeps up the surveillance throughout their relationship because he just wants to make sure she's safe...
- Part of his research on 'normal' relationships made Thom have sex with Betty (pre-events in lies) on average once a week and he deliberately failed to make her orgasm more often than not because research suggested that was the norm... You know, because having frequent sex with your future spouse and making it good is suspicious. She may think you're some mercenary who works for 'the good guys'. πŸ™„
- Thom works for some underground organisation that monitors world events and intervenes under the radar to keep things on an even keel. They're the good guys. But who are they?! They can have shoot outs in public and leave hotel rooms full of bodies with no questions because people turn out and clear it up and deal with the authorities... Yet it's essentially three wealthy people's own militia? How many people do they have in cahoots to pull this off, exactly? 
I'm all for suspending belief for a good story but the organisation Thom and his cohorts work for seemed very poorly worked out and required constant suspension of belief. 
I.e every time something completely implausible happened, and you wanted to scoff, you remind yourself it's fun and its fiction so just let it go. Just accepting this once isn't enough.
- HE FAKES HIS OWN DEATH AND LETS HIS FIANCEE BELIEVE HE WAS KILLED ON THEIR WEDDING DAY! This is after the kidnapping and big bad threat has mostly resolved. After Betty knows everything and they are supposed to be being honest with each other. But he does it without communicating with her because it's for the best. His enemies might continue to target her. He believes it's for the best and her opinion on the matter is irrelevant.
Oh! And as a reader, you knew he had to have faked his death because it's Kylie Scott, it's a contemporary romance, not a tragedy, so he has to be alive and you wait and wait and wait some more for him to reveal it as a lie so they can start afresh somewhere (now his enemies think he's dead) but nope... You get a funeral and grief. 
- And when Betty tricks him into confirming he's alive (by making him save her because guess what folks! He wasn't going to let her know he was actually alive!) she just gives him a metaphorical smack on the nose, informs him they're back together and he's not to pull his shit again oh and by the way, they're having a baby because he knocked her up before faking his own death. WTF?! Not only did he lie, he faked his death on their wedding day, let her believe he was dead and it's all cool?!
 (Okay, the him getting shot was real but the hell he put Betty through by making her think he was dead for four months?!) And more than that, his convictions on keeping Betty safe broke under her verbal dressing down, all worries forgotten? Lovely! Let's live like a happy family somewhere... But oh shit, everyone thinks I'm dead! No worries, we'll just move away and tell only your BFF and parents. 
*smashes head into table*

🌻

So yeah.
This book just makes me feel sad. It took me four days to read it because it hurt my soul.
I hope the next one is better.


I do love the cover... It has Keanu Reeves vibes. 

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Friday 26 July 2019

Book Blogger Hop: Do you always have a book with you?



Do you always have a book with you?

Yes, absolutely.
I always have either my Kindle or I have my phone that has the Kindle app and the audible app.
Sometimes, but rarely, I also have a paperback.
I don't like lugging paperbacks around anymore though.
They take up too much space, they get damaged as I throw things in and out of my bag, they're awkward while trying to read and eat/drink, and everybody can see what you're reading.
I want to read in peace!
I don't want to deal with questions, comments, snark, smirks or even fangirl/boyish excitement while I'm reading... I just want to read. In peace. Thanks.

I must admit that even though I always have books on me, I don't often read while out and about. This is pretty much because if I'm out, I'm out to do something and reading isn't it.
Even lunchbreaks have turned into catch up with friends breaks instead of escape into a book breaks.
Reading on the train or in a coffee shop are things I very much love but just don't get much opportunity to do... My reading time tends to be housebound and in the house, I have all my books.
😊
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Thursday 25 July 2019

Mini Reviews: Hidden Sight by Simone Pond & Broken by S.J. West


Sometimes you read a book and don't really have a lot to say when finished... That's where a mini review comes in handy!

Both books borrowed via Kindle Unlimited.

🌻



Blinded in an accident, only she can see the truth. 
Losing her parents and her sight changes everything for Sibyl Forsyth. Terrified and refusing to accept the gift that she can now "see" into the supernatural realm, Sibyl stays holed up in her backyard, closed off from the outside world. 

When she's plagued with a vision of a catastrophic event, Sibyl knows she can't possibly sit back and watch her California coastal town's ultimate demise. Reluctantly, Sibyl sets out to stop her premonition from coming true. With the help of her shifter guide dog, Vago, the two join forces to save the day as they encounter intensely evil spirits with a vicious vendetta. In a race against time, Sibyl and Vago battle their own demons while trying to save the town from an explosive ending that nobody else sees coming. 


I'd class this book as a mature YA or very young NA urban fantasy.
It starts with a horrible accident that takes the lives of Sibyl's parents, destroy's Sibyl's dreams of going to college on a sports scholarship and leaves Sibyl blind but able to 'see' the supernatural.
After the intro, you're thrust into a one-year later type scenario where Sibyl has become a hermit with only her aunt and dog - who is more than just a dog - to keep her company.
It's slow, it's boring and it's incredibly frustrating that at nineteen years old she's effectively giving up on doing anything with herself... But anyway. 
Sibyl has freaky visions of bad stuff happening and when she foresees a horrific event decimating her little town she - after a lot of wishy-washy annoyance - decides to pull up her big girl pants, brave the outside and try and prevent the disaster while learning more about her powers.
This is when the story picked up. 
Sibyl became a little less annoying and everything got a little more interesting.
That said, the characters and the world all felt flat to me.
Everything was so... Two-dimensional, like if you scraped the surface of the characters or the world you'd find nothing underneath and it made everything just feel pointless. 
It was hard to care about the characters. It was hard to get excited about what was going on.

The book presents a novel twist on the supernatural but everything was just a bit boring and I just couldn’t be convinced to invest myself in the outcome or in what comes next. 
I finished it because it was a fairly quick read but won’t continue with the series. 
The best bit, in my opinion, was the cover. 

🌻



At the tender age of seven, Jess Riley’s parents were ripped out of her life by the Tear, a ripple of white light in the sky which randomly transports people from Earth to alternate realities and distant planets once a year. On the night the Tear first appeared, the Watchers, a mysterious group of men possessing supernatural powers, made their presence known to the leaders of the world, earning their complete trust to deal with the turmoil the Tear caused.
Now twenty-two years old, Jess is an agent working for the Watcher Agency searching for a way to bring her parents back home. When the leader of the Watchers, Mason Collier, recruits her to join his team, Jess quickly discovers she is meant to play a major role in sealing the Tear forever. Mason and Jess instantly find themselves drawn to one another but they both resist their mutual attraction for different reasons. Broken by past events in their lives, they each struggle to overcome their fears and find the strength to take a chance on one another.


This book has an interesting premise in that so many years before this story begun, a giant 'tear' appeared across the sky and lots of Earth's citizens disappeared through it to be replaced by citizens of other dimensions. Every year the tear opens and every year more people are lost.
At the time the tear appeared a mysterious group of individuals stepped forward to help keep order and these were called Watchers. It is not common knowledge who the watchers are or where they come from but the leaders of the world trust them implicitly.

Jess is a young Watcher agent with secret talent.
Through a series of events she gets drawn deep into the world of the watchers and discovers she has a special destiny that must be fulfilled or bad things will happen... Pretty standard fare really but the world created was incredibly interesting.
The author writes about angels and fallen angels without religiously pontificating.
She writes heartfelt characters who you really like and bad guys who you want to know more about. There is a slow(ish) burn romance that romance lovers - like me - can sink into but it doesn't dominate the story and you 100% do not have to have read the sister series (prequel series?) to this one to follow the events and enjoy them.

On a side note, when I borrowed this book via Kindle Unlimited, I also got the audiobook included (on loan). How cool is that?! I ended up listening to the book via audible and the narrator was pretty good! The pace was nice, it was easy to differentiate between characters and it wasn't too long!

At some point, I hope to continue listening to this series for there are a lot of questions unanswered at the end of this book and a lot to do before the story is done!

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