Tuesday, 21 May 2019

Tuesday Titles 172: Kingsbane Blog Tour


It's been such a while since I read something on schedule and took part in a book blog tour, but I'm getting back on track and this is an exciting tour to jump back onboard with.

Throw yourself into a world of queens, angels and kingdoms at war. Kingsbane is the long-awaiting sequel to Furyborn, the first in a trilogy of books billed as fiercely feminist fantasy. So, of course I was intrigued. 

Kingsbane intensifies the legacy of Furyborn, building on the threat and thrills, lust and romances, whilst reigniting Claire Legrand as a trailblazing voice in the fantasy genre.

Rielle Dardenne has been anointed Sun Queen, but her trials are far from over. The Gate keeping the angels at bay is falling. To repair it, Rielle must collect the seven hidden castings of the saints. Meanwhile, to help her prince and love Audric protect Celdaria, Rielle must spy on the angel Corien—but his promises of freedom and power may prove too tempting to resist. Centuries later, Eliana Ferracora grapples with her new reality: She is the Sun Queen, humanity's long-awaited saviour. But fear of corruption—fear of becoming another Rielle—keeps Eliana's power dangerous and unpredictable. Hunted by all, racing against time to save her dying friend Navi, Eliana must decide how to wear a crown she never wanted by embracing her mother's power or rejecting it forever.

The pace is fast and each chapter pinballs back and forth between the queens: Eliana and Rielle. We know that they are living hundreds of years apart and yet that there's a strong connection between the two of them, and the book unravels this connection neatly by the end. I'd hoped for a little more progression between their worlds, which seemed to jump between centuries and yet be described very similarly, but I think that's just me being a little picky. 

There's a lot of magic at force in this series and some incredibly strong characters - my only flaw is with Rielle, who we know has abundant magical power, and yet seems to turn to jelly when her beau, Prince Audric is around. Having said that, I love the dynamic between these two and Ludivine and the way that they played off one another. 

There are a couple of characters in here who I loved to hate as well (Simon, Corien) and some downright evil behaviour - it's funny how people's behaviour can be so driven by greed and their longing for power. 

But, time is running out and Rielle has some huge decisions to make which could change her life forever: the Gate which is holding back the Angels (not good) is beginning to fall and it's up to her to protect her kingdom.

If you can bear to fall deep into this world, Kingsbane is available today. 

Kingsbane Blog Tour Final

Monday, 20 May 2019

Dior: Designer of Dreams (part 1)


A few weekends ago, we hopped on a train (well, several trains!) to London for an overnight trip. We had tickets to the Albert Hall to see a friend perform, and decided to try and make the most of a rare weekend "off" from working on the house and spend some time in the Big Smoke. 


One of the things I was desperately hoping to go to was the Dior: Designer of Dreams exhibition. It's being shown in a separate wing of the V+A museum, and it's opening times are extended past that of the museum, but even so it's been sold out since tickets were released. However, I discovered that a few more tickets are released around the 15th of each month, for the following month so I stalked the website in mid-April and managed to nab us two. They sold out like hot cakes, so I think I was pretty lucky. I'd have ideally liked to get an earlier time slot, but we ended up with 17:15, which I was hoping would be enough time to see the exhibit, then make our way to the Royal Albert Hall for the 19:30 concert start time. 


Arriving at the entrance to the queue at just after five, we were told to come back in ten minutes as we wouldn't be allowed access to the queue until our ticketed time. This filled me with a little panic, but we hovered around the courtyard for ten minutes and then were allowed to join the queue. Where we waited to be allowed down the stairs. At around 17:20 we were allowed through the rope to descend the staircase and...join another queue, where our tickets would be checked at a second desk. We were then informed that there would be a short wait before they let any more people in, as the rooms were getting crowded. Once in, there is free reign and the tour guide at the queue said that people often spend upwards of two hours in the exhibit. The other thing which wasn't helping numbers, was that although all tickets had been sold out, people who sign up to become V+A members, are able to access the exhibit on that day, so there was an extra queue for those which was being merged in with the timed tickets. There were a LOT of these people, so I guess they have a lot more visitors than ticket sales would suggest. 


Fiiinally, at 17:35 our tickets were scanned and we were able to enter the first room, which gave us a potted history and timeline of Christian Dior's life and career. Thankfully, as this is something I'm fairly clued up on already, I opted not to spend too much time reading up on all of the information on the walls, although there was a lot. 


Progressing to the first display-case filled room, you're met with several dresses, at eye level and ceiling height. In the central glass case, the dress designed for Princess Margaret's twenty-first birthday takes centre stage, and it's clear to see why the princess deemed it her "favourite dress of all". Such detail. This one is on loan from the Museum of London, so if you miss it at the Dior show, it will be visible there once again, come September. 


Honestly, the level of detail was amazing on this, but the general staging of the room was also great -for the two rows of dresses on the far wall there were printed information cards at the side of the room which gave more detail on each of the garments, which was a nice touch. People took their time, but this room didn't feel crowded or slow to progress through. 


As someone who makes dresses, I was super interested to see some of the construction details, as well as (of course!) the famous New Look shape. It's easy to see how much these designs have had an impact on today's fashion trends and I loved being able to take in so many of the details. In order for this post to not become photo-heavy and never-ending, I'll split the rooms up into several posts. 

Thursday, 16 May 2019

Gin and tonic, endless cups of tea.


A few weekends ago, I boarded a plane from Liverpool with the rest of my THFC crew and hopped across the Celtic Sea to spend the weekend in Belfast. Although the weather had some funny ideas, we refused to let it rain on our parade. 


One of our stops on the itinerary was to visit the Botanical Gardens and we did this on Friday afternoon after we'd checked into our lovely city centre apartment. It was a short walk from there and we managed to locate and have a nose about in a couple of super indie bookshops as well (No Alibis and Books Paper Scissors were both great).


We'd been told about the Tropical Ravine and had planned to visit that to see the banana plants, but it happened to be closed for repairs on the day we visited, so that was a shame. The palm house was open though, so we had a lovely explore around there.


The palm house is one of the earliest examples of a curved iron-framed glasshouse: it was built in the 1830s, with the curved dome being added about two decades later and it's still used today to grow a range of plants. I'm unsure whether these are then used for the park around- there was a beautiful flower bed full of all kinds of blooms outside the front of the glasshouse when we visited: an absolute riot of colour.


I find greenhouses and glasshouses a bit like libraries - they're generally pretty quiet and seem to be places where you can just go at your own pace and explore as you like, without being hassled. Everyone's in their own little world of appreciation and discovery, and generally people only tend to be there because they wish to, so they always seem like a happy and contented place to be.


I'm not great at plants, although I'm trying my best with my annual veg-planting endeavours (and incidentally, this year it's going better than most, since I now have a greenhouse of my very own!), but I was pleased to see that many of the specimens in the glass house were labelled. I like to note down the name of things which I see in the hope I'll be able to find myself one for the garden next time I'm at the garden centre..


We spent a very enjoyable hour or so exploring the glasshouse, avoiding the drizzle and generally taking in the planty goodness. I'd definitely recommend. Do you have any nice glasshouses nearby?


Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Tuesday Titles 171..

Ask again, Yes
Ask Again, Yes: Mary Beth Keane 

One of the books I've most enjoyed recently: you know you've enjoyed a book when you're still thinking about it weeks after reading, right?

This one focuses on two families who move into a suburban New York neighbourhood in the 1970s to raise their families. Although both men are police officers, they don't really know each other to begin with and their lives slowly begin to overlap as they have kids in the same school and time passes.

Starting off with the fast passing of time, as things begin to settle into a slower pace, we learn more and more about some of the characters and witness a love story unfold, with some dramatic consequences. Suddenly on one night, everything changes and the families are left dealing with the fallout from this tragedy for the rest of their lives.

I don't know how much more I can share about this one as I don't want to give away the major event, so I'll just implore you to read it and leave it at that. Happy Tuesday!

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Tuesday Titles 170..

I've been falling behind with my reading of late. Not that I have a schedule for reading exactly, bur I know that I used to devour more books than I seem to have been recently. I'm not sure why that is, other than this tiredness fog which seems to claim most of my evenings and spare moments at home, lately. But, here are my thoughts on a couple of books I've read over the past few weeks.

Tha Frank Business
The Frank Business

When Frank drops down dead suddenly at Heathrow airport on Christmas Eve, his estranged daughter Jem heads to France to try and understand exactly why Frank may have been travelling to London, with only his passport and wallet on him. She pieces together some of the clues and suddenly jumps to the conclusion that she may in fact have a brother which she didn't know about. To add a little more complication to the matter, she needs to track him down as Frank's cause of death was a heart condition which could be hereditary. So, it's only right that she finds the family and warns them....right? 

There are a few strange characters in this and I have to admit I didn't find any of them particularly relateable, but I enjoyed the parts of the story where the flashbacks pieced the backstory together of that fateful summer and we find out more about the mysterious Frank.

The Swimming Pool
The Swimming Pool

Another book which keeps you guessing. Natalie is intrigued when the local lido is reopened, and soon finds herself spending most of her spare time swimming there in the hope to meet the exotic Lara; local actress and philanthropist. Somehow, Natalie and Lara become friends and their families begin spending more and more time together. 

Chilling and creepy, I found this one rather mesmerising and it's easy to see how Natalie gets swept up in the hoi polloi of her new friends. Lines are blurred between wives, husbands, teachers and students and there's also a secret from the past thrown in for good measure, which Natalie thought she would never have to share with anyone. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2019

3 things I'm loving at the moment..

A little list of things my eyes, ears and brain have happily devoured lately...


001: Things have been a little sparse for me lately in the podcast department, what with the addition of Netflix to my procrastination repertoire. But, with the addition of a new Fitbit which will store music or podcast files to listen to when I'm running, I've recently been on the lookout for something new.
And this is amazing. Alone: A Love Story is the brainchild of Michelle Parise, who talks about falling in love and then having the rug pulled out from underneath her happy Formica dining table, and how she begins to try and pick up the pieces. I love how she uses nicknames for everyone (I've always done this when talking about relationships) and her writing makes it easy to fall right into her story.


002: I went to see the long-awaited Captain Marvel a couple of weeks ago and it did not disappoint. I'm currently so excited for Avengers: Endgame and despite the news that it's going to have a more than three hour run-time, I'm still kinda hoping they'll run them both as a double-bill. 

I loved this movie though: so much great back-story for Fury and some great character development. I'm excited to see how Carol can help in the next instalment. 


003: One for the local folks: I went to the opening night preview of Frankenstein last night and it was so good. 
The Wightman theatre is a tiny venue which you'd easily miss (next to Carluccio's in the town square) but they have a great programme of theatre and jazz and it's such a versatile space. 
This adaptation of Shelley's gothic classic was performed by a relatively tiny cast, but that took nothing away from the show. If you're in the area, it's playing for the next week or so and you can find tickets here

Tuesday, 26 March 2019

Tuesday Titles 169..

Tuesday again?! The one good thing about travelling is that I can use it as an excuse to read my way through just about as many books as possible. Here are a few which I managed to read en route to the chalet last week:

Hard PUshed

I'm not really sure what tempted me to agree to read this one, if I'm honest. As a non-parent, I can't say I've ever been super interested in midwifery or birth stories. Which is mostly what this is. Each chapter is broken down into an anecdotal account of Leah's interaction with a patient and their experience, with her continuing thoughts on all of the complicated feelings associated with her job as a mother and a midwife. 

Although there is of course some medical terminology, she does explain a lot of this with the addition of a helpful glossary and it's not off-putting. Naturally the sections about baby loss were pretty difficult reading for me, but if I'm looking for a silver lining, I'd say that it's almost refreshing to see a topic like that covered in a book whose main focus is the miracle of life and childbirth. 

Obviously, there were several references to the current crisis staffing levels of the NHS and it's failings, but the book didn't go into too much political territory, which I do think kept it more enjoyable than serious.

While you Sleep

I really liked the premise of this book. In typical psychological thriller style, a woman arrives at a tiny, lonely island in remote Scotland to get away from something. She isn't met with a very friendly reception from the locals, as it turns out the house she is renting has a rather unpretty history. So far, so textbook psych. thriller, right?! 

We have jumpy moments as weird things happen when she just wants some quiet time to focus on her art, and nosy locals who don't want to leave her alone. Throw into the mix some local legend, an old diary and some weirdly erroneous sex scenes, along with a wildly predictable twist and a largely improbable resolution, and there we have While You Sleep in a nutshell. I don't know what was lacking, but for some reason I found it hard to fully get into this book. I read to the last page and just kind of thought "oh, right". But, you might feel differently. 

Friends Like These

Friends Like These was definitely better. This one is a book which will have you always checking that you're sending that bitchy Facebook message to the intended recipient in the future. 
Lizzie, who has looked up her ex-colleague Becca online, fails to do just that and instead sends the message to Becca herself. 

Clearly I expected things to get interesting at this point, as Lizzie dealt with the consequences of her error. And interesting they were, to a point. I found that things got a little bit unrealistic at the point where the police got involved. Suddenly there seemed to be a bit of a shift from fairly plausible to rather improbable storyline, with a few little nuggets of information being thrown in to make the plot twists more believable. 

This definitely had promise, I just think it may have benefited from a little more research as it had all the feels of a debut novel. I was surprised to find that Sarah Alderson has a fairly extensive back catalogue, but will be looking up some previous titles in the hope that this was a one-off. 

Have you read anything you'd recommend lately?