Sunday, 31 July 2016

Book Review: Rachel's Holiday by Marian Keyes

I figure writing a blog post can be like writing the first chapter, or first sentence to a book - intimidating, but once you start you're onto a good thing. Well I try to convince myself of that. A blog post is a lot easier though; it is easy to get it published, and it's easy to write a short blog. There is no word limit like a book, but no pressure to keep to the same theme or story. Each post can be different if you wish. I've tried a few times to write a book with little success.

It's only recently I've started to enjoy reading again. During university, I thought it was important to read every book on my reading list. Spending a lot of time taking books back to the library, speed-reading things that were relevant...long story short and my love for reading faded. However with free time on my hands, I've started reading again. I can't believe how much pleasure it can give. I always read before bed and sometimes during the day. It's nice.

Two days ago I finished reading Rachel's Holiday written by Marian Keyes. It was an amazing read. I bought the book maybe two years ago, maybe less. I got it from a charity shop; I tend to get most books from charity shops or they are books that family members buy me for birthdays. Books I've asked for.

At the time I remember seeing an interview with the author, and thinking, "She sounds interesting. I want to read one of her books!" So when I'd visited Aberdeen's Oxfam, I just got the book, not really realising its context. I assumed it was a nice book about going on 'holiday.' How wrong I was.

It tells the story of Rachel Walsh, who is known for her love of recreational drugs. Her ex, Luke Costello says of her: "If it's a drug, Rachel will have taken it. She's probably taken drugs that haven't been invented yet."

Living in New York with her best friend, Brigit, she is known as the Walsh daughter who loves to party. However before long she is 27, unemployed and being mistaken for a drug addict. Her parents hear of a recent hospital stay and have her back in Ireland. They even pay for her stay at the Dublin's answer to the Betty Ford clinic, Cloisters. Rachel happily agrees as she thinks of it more of a holiday (hence the book title). She thinks it is the place that all the rock stars go cold turkey with jacuzzis, gymnasiums, massages and lots of luxury. Without giving away too much, Rachel learns a lot about herself while at Cloisters. I don't think I'm meant to, but I find this book to be hugely uplifting with a side of humour and intrigue. I started off reading it slowly and before long I was spending most of my days reading it.

Researching into the Irish writer, Marian Keyes and her other publications, I discover that she has written about the Walsh sisters with other books including: AngelsWatermelonAnybody Out There and The Mystery of Mercy Close. Apparently Marian is known to tackle hard-hitting issues such as domestic violence and mental illness. I know she tackles addiction well, and reading inside I learn that like any dedicated author, researched many treatment centres to learn how they differ. I want to read more of the adventures of the Walsh sisters, and these books will definitely be on my birthday wishlist. 

Now that I've finished, I've stacked up quite a list of books to move onto:

1. Dexter in the Dark by Jeff Lindsay
I've read the first book, when my kind friend lent it about a year ago (give or take). Loved it. I adore the series, but love how the book differ in some ways. For example, some characters are killed off sooner and some parts happen later than they did in the series. Nevertheless it was written brilliantly and I can't wait to read this one.

2. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov 
I've been trying to read this classic for quite some time. I can't remember when I first got it, but find the subject matter difficult to get to grips with. It is very descriptive, and the books I like most have a lot of dialogue and things actually happening. There seems to be a lot of discussion of feelings in this, as the main character is stepfather to Lolita who he is physically attracted to. It feels like you're invading a disgusting family's nightmare. I feel like a bit of a trespasser when I pick it up, if that makes sense. I'd be interested if anyone else has read it. I just can't warm to it!

3. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
This is another book I've had for a fair few years, and not got to read. I only started the first page this week. With over 1,000 pages it is maybe a bit intimidating to get started.

4. Black & Blue by Ian Rankin
I've heard a lot about the writer and thought it seemed interesting when I came across it in East Cowes' Age UK charity shop. I'm not sure if I've read an Ian Rankin book before. I seem to remember reading a crime book on a long journey back from Glasgow to Aberdeen...Aye well! Either way I will let you know what I think of this.

5. The People V. O.J. Simpson: The Run of His Life by Jeffrey Toobin
It's an interesting case that I've wanted to learn about. Unfortunately I missed watching the TV series so I'm looking forward to reading this instead

Thursday, 28 July 2016

The Netflix Film Review: 10 films I've watched this week

I've been watching a lot of films lately, so thought I'd write about them! Anyone who has met me should know of my love of films - new and old (old mostly).

Someone asked me the dull and unimaginative question, "what you up to?" I said watching a film (insert which one here). They asked if it was on Netflix. I instantly said "Of course!" I've forgotten what the world was like without it. It has the best series. The films might not always be the latest releases, but that's fine with me; I tend to prefer older films anyway (at least ten years old). That's when it occured to me that I could write ten mini reviews about the films I've watched on Netflix. Here are ten films I've watched in the past week (yeah, I have too much time on my hands).

1. Once Upon a Time in America (1984)

Robert De Niro is always the mark of a good film, so I knew this would be great. However I wish it hadn't gone on for quite as long (it was almost 4 hours which I think was too overstretched). I felt I lost track of some of the key plot and that there was too much happening in just one film. It might have worked best if it was in two films or something.

That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I couldn't help compare it to other Italian-American greats such as the Godfather and Goodfellas. Even though it never featured a horse's head or anything as graphic, it was still gritty. Best described as a complicated story of the lives of New York gangsters growing up. As main character, "Noodles" (played by De Niro) returns for a reunion, he looks back on how he and loyal childhood friends turn to crime, which can only ultimately end in tragedy. It is a must-watch.

Rating: 8/10

2. That Touch of Mink (1962)

I am generally a hater of romantic films or the "rom-com", and not because it's ridiculously cheesy (everyone needs something happy or fairytale-like to watch as a pick-me-up every so often). No, it's because every love story is the same. Girl meets boy, boy or girl do something bad, they make up and realise that they have found the love of their life. Fifteen minutes in and you can usually guess how it will end.

This story is still predictable, but I love the sense of old Hollywood glamour that comes to the film. For those who hate old films, it is still in colour! The story follows Cathy, who I instantly warmed to. Her character is so relatable as she seems so strong and independent with a hint of vulnerability. As a sign of the times, women seemed to be looking for one thing...marriage. However she didn't seem immediately interested in that; she wanted to find the RIGHT man to marry.

By chance, when on route to a job interview a car driving ruthlessly charming, Phillip covers her in mud. When going to confront him, she instantly falls for the businessman. This follows the conflict as she wants something serious, and it appears he doesn't. Travelling together they appear to find that they might actually be the perfect match! I love it and would definitely watch again.

Rating: 9/10

3. A Mighty Heart (2007)

A Mighty Heart is an adaptation to the memoir of Mariane Pearl. If you don't know, this follows the true story of Mariane as her husband is unfortunately captured by terrorists. It follows the twists and turns as the pregnant wife worries and looks for a way to get him home.

It was a film adaptation that makes you want to read up into the true story. From there, I discovered that the real Mariane Pearl had specifically asked for Angelina Jolie to play her, and I can honestly say it was the best choice. She was convincing in playing the half-Cuban and half-French international journalist. You felt for her every step of the way in the most difficult time of her life. Disappointingly, from reading reviews it seems that some of the story was inaccurate such as the fact that her husband, Daniel Pearl was treated badly for being Jewish apparently this wasn't a huge factor.

Unlike other political films I've seen, it is easy to understand. If you want to find out more about this heroing story, I would definitely recommend it.

Rating: 6/10

4. The Unforgiven (1960)

I think my main reason for watching the film was that my favourite famous woman, Audrey Hepburn was in it. I love her! The many reasons why are too long to list, and would probably bore you to death. She was well-played and for the first half hour to an hour I enjoyed it; the first western that captured me, but some way I lost what was happening. If you like westerns, watch it, but like me and you watch it for her, don't. She's not in it enough to keep your interest. My favourite Audrey Hepburn films are vast, but if I had to I'd narrow it down to Sabrina and Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Rating: 5/10

5. All over the guy (2001)

Like I've already mentioned, I love an unconventional rom-com and this had it. It wasn't a must-see but it was a film you can't help but love...Or like, maybe. It revolved around the relationship of two men. We live in the 21st century with people of different genders, sexual orientations and races yet, how often are homosexual relationships actually represented? It started with Jackie and Brett meeting and hitting it off, and they each thought to get their two best friends to hook up. Jackie is the straight woman friend of Tom, who is the typical player who sleeps with someone different and gets bored easily. He was raised by two alcoholics, which later explains some of the masculine mask he puts on and the insecurities he has regarding relationships. Brett is the straight man friend of Eli, who is a pretty geeky character and generally neurotic. He has the embarrassing therapy parents who partially remind me of Meet the Fockers. Will Tom and Eli work it out in the end? It is a beautiful and unpredictable story of finding true love.

Rating: 7/10

6. Men in Black 3 (2012)

So when I saw this, I wasn't sure whether I'd seen the first, second or both of the films; I just knew I'd not seen the third. It was quite a while I'd seen them and anyone who knows me knows I have no concentration span for anything remotely Sci-fi or action. However I love Will Smith (not like that, but there is something about the films he stars in) . Most of all I enjoyed the time travelling element to the plot. I was hooked in every part and would recommend it for easy viewing.

Rating: 8/10

7. The Fault in our Stars (2014)

Firstly, I have to say I've not cried watching a film since I last watched one of my favourites, My Girl. It was truly an emotional rollercoaster of a film to watch; it felt almost like I was part of the experience. I know that sounds dramatic to say.

I have been a fan of actress Shailene Woodley, who plays main character, Hazel Grace Lancaster since I watched the Secret Life of the American Teenager. Woodley has found success since then with the Descendants and Divergent Series. She continues to shine in her role as Hazel, who is a 16-year-old cancer patient. Hazel's life appears to be all about doctor's appointments and staying at home; there is little joy in her life, which is sad when you think she hasn't got long left. All until she meets, Gus Waters who has an infectious lust for life. With a shared passion for books, they embark on an adventure neither of them will forget, and that will change their lives forever.

I don't think I could emotionally take watching it again, but it is a beautiful story, which I recommend to anyone to watch. I know I will be going on to read the book.

Rating: 10/10

8. Double Indemnity (1944)

I loved this film noir thriller which has the character of insurance salesman, Walter mostly narrating the film as he describes falling for married woman, Phyllis. He meets the attractive Phyllis, who is intent on killing her husband for the insurance money. After falling for her, he helps her to come up with the perfect plan to get his own company to pay out! It seems to me like the black widow character of Phyllis before Basic Instinct! Obviously not as erotic, but Phyllis is later revealed to be more than appears. I would love to watch this thriller again and even loved watching the general fashion of the women in the film.

Rating: 9.5/10

9. I know who killed me (2007)

This is very easy viewing, and you wouldn't get confused with what is happening. It was so bad that it was good and I couldn't stop watching. It was almost laughable. Lindsay Lohan was the best part of the film. Even Lohan slagged off the film in tweets. One fan tweeted, "Can you tweet me I seriously watched I know who killed me twice last night". To which Lindsay responded with: "two times too many."

Audrey (Lohan) is a typical girl at school who hasn't got life figured out, except not every girl lives somewhere that girls are going missing and murdered. When a curfew is set for all teenagers, she unfortunately goes missing and is victim to the sadistic kidnapper. When she is "lucky" and her ordeal is over, Audrey has a shocking surprise for her worried parents; she claims to be stripper, Dakota who was raised by a drug-addict who died a few months back. A bit far-fetched right? The film follows her on the recovery as we try to unveil whether she is mentally ill, intentionally lying or if there is much more to the story. I don't want to ruin the ending for you incase you're silly enough to watch it like I was, but it sees her unveiling a secret that Lohan has acted before.

Rating: 5/10

10. The Rules of Attraction (2002)

This is the worst of them. Do not watch it. It isn't boring, but it isn't good. Not one bit. Quite simply I thought it was a worse version of Cruel Intentions without the bitchiness and lies. No grit or anything really happening. Things were happening, but they weren't really!

I thought that none of the characters were even likable. Lauren was ok, but the fact she wasted her time with guys not worth her time just bored me. James Van Der Beek played bissexual character, Sean Bateman who they tried to make complex, but really wasn't. He was just annoying, arrogant and consumed by his own self-importance. I just kept thinking Dawson wouldn't do that! Maybe he had the same haircut as he did in Dawson Creek, but he'll always be Dawson to me! It is pitched with a love triangle but really it was a group of people who have mainly all slept with each other at some stage.

Rating: 3.5/10

I hope you liked my blog. I'm not sure if it's a bit long...either way, please let me know what you think of any of the films.

Monday, 25 July 2016

Sun, Fundraising and Good News

Ok, so I tried the daily posts, but thought that might mean not every post is as interesting as the next. Therefore I will be posting at least once a week, but aim for 3-4 posts in a week. I'm glad that I've stuck to blog-writing. From a young age I've loved writing, and english was always my favourite subject at school. I'm delighted to see that I've nearly had 500 views to the blog, and hope it will continue to grow. If you like the posts, feel free to share, follow and give tips on continued success. Enough of the blog housekeeping, and onto describing what was a lovely weekend!

So the good news!
I'd like to share that on a personal note, things haven't been ideal as I'm still not in permanent employment. However I've been lucky to not have one friend, not two, not three but four friends get engaged this year! Two in February, one in June and one this month. I'm also Maid of Honour to one and Saturday saw me become bridesmaid to a second. Over the moon doesn't seem to fit it. I'm so excited! I think I'm probably rivaling on the same excitement levels they might be feeling (probably not, but I'm ecstatic all the same). What could be more great than realising you've found someone you trust and love enough to promise to spend your lives together? It's very powerful. Most girls dream of their wedding day; not me. I always dreamt of being a bridesmaid. Not sure why. Maybe I never wanted the attention on me, but now I think it shows the ultimate honour as a friend. It shows that someone wants you to be part of one of the happiest days of their lives. Here are the announcement pictures:

Barton Manor
Yesterday I went to a fundraising event by Earl Mountbatten Hospice. As a fundraiser, I've been to many amazing charity events.I went thinking this will be a big family event for children on the most part, but left thinking it was great and that there was something for everyone involved. Here are my pictures from the day, and a little bit more about what was there.

These are some of the pictures I took of the beautiful scenery at the open garden event. We had a little walk around the grounds, but looking at the programme of things, they had English Heritage's historical tours of the grounds. It might have been nice to know a little more about the historic grounds, but I'm happy with the experience I had all the same! 

This was 19th year that Earl Mountbatten Hospice were able to fundraise with this incredible open garden event, which boasted a range of activities for kids including: children's arts, crafts and entertainment by Starlight Boutique and Creation Station IOW. There was much more for kids as well, but I also bouncy castle and balloon animals been made. Unfortunately my parents said that a woman, who has had Pimm's can't also ask for a balloon animal! Maybe I will have children on the false pretense that the animal is for them...

My parents argued that I was only there for the Pimms Summer garden bar. This was the first time that the garden bar had featured at the event, and think it was a big bonus as it added something nice for adults too. The two men who served added extra comedy to proceedings from joking that they'd sell the jug to us for £12 and the stirrer for £1. Only yesterday, but I've already forgotten their funnier jokes which had one parent in stitches! The Pimm's was lovely and the first time I'd tried it! (that I remember at least).

The event also included the Big Sing, which we weren't too interested in seeing as a family. I might have liked to see what the music was like, but not sure if it would have been my taste. It was led by acclaimed music director and choirmaster, Hannah Brear. Brear is known for her work with the BBC and with West End directors and individuals including Fatboy Slim and Russell Watson.

Earl Mountbatten can be admired for collaborating with other Island organisations, Haven  Falconry and the Donkey Sanctuary. The Donkeys were there and were loved by many children who queued to brush the donkeys. A big kid at heart, I loved to see this well-loved creatures and see how looked after they were by the Sanctuary. As I want to go to the sanctuary as I continue to learn about the island, I was delighted to see them.

Any of my friends and family will tell you that birds creep me out. I can't explain why. Maybe it's the fact that Aberdeen seagull attacked me for my sandwich, or the fact that I've seen the Hitchcock film, Birds. Either way I don't like them. I could think of nothing worse than holding them, but looking at and admiring the beautiful birds is great. I think it's something else that many children loved, but adults too! Here are pictures of the two owls and two birds they had.

The event had beautiful stalls inside the premises and outside. From pop-up shops, activities to get involved in and stock I suspect from the hospice shops. They also had the fun activity of encouraging visitors to add to a watercolour painting. You were then to sign it and make a bid in the silent auction. I got to do it, so the winner gets my beautiful signature from the person who nearly painted the house with blue instead of the sky. I've never been that good at Art! Annoying since I've always loved going to craft stalls, going to art galleries or doing arty things. It just doesn't amount to much when I get involved...

We ended the day with some lovely food from their BBQ and returned to the dogs who I missed. I'm not used to being at outdoor events and not being able to take them. I missed them!

The Hospice Major Event Fundraiser said prior to the event, "Barton Manor really has become a firm family favourite and has grown every year. This year looks set to be bigger and better than ever, so we are hoping that support from the Island community will be just as fantastic as usual." I can promise you it was! It was so great that I would encourage anyone on the island to visit the open garden as it is truly beautiful and all for a good cause. I know I want to go back next year. I've not heard if they have made the £10,000 they expected from the event, but will update the post with the total when I know.

Hopefully I can update you with more good news as I have two job interviews this week, and a few blog posts on films I've been watching to pop up.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Isle of Wight life

Recently I moved to the Isle of Wight and feel like I'm still adjusting to it. It's very different to any of the Northern part of the UK. It's funny how much. I thought I'd dedicate this post to showing you a bit of the sights I've seen on the island, and describe some of the key changes and adjustments to living here. Hope you enjoy!

1. It is so hot!

Some of the pictures don't do it justice, but it's mostly bright blue skies with no clouds in sight. Even when it rains, it's like rainforest showers. I moved in April, and my parents moved in January; they said even in the winter it was warm. My mum got sunburn then, and has even had sunburn with clothes. This week will experience temperatures like 34 degrees. Nothing I wear at the moment is sun friendly. I'm prepared for warm, but this is like being in France or Spain. As my mum kindly reminded me, we are closer to France than Scotland now. I'm not moaning really. I want to enjoy it, but I think my holidays will be cooler climates. Maybe Norway? Iceland? North Pole? At least my ghost white complexion might change!

Picture: 1) The sun outside my garden 2) I got my hair done today, so thought I'd model in the fine weather! 3) Nearby park in the fine weather 4) My phone's hourly temperatures yesterday, although I think it's highest was 34.

2. Big on using Wight or island in every item

From businesses to products made here, the majority of things include island, isle or wight in the name. Island roads, Wight bay, Wight drones...these are just a few that come to mind. They can also refer to the mainland as the big island.

Picture: Gin that I spotted in Osborne House.

3. Different parts of the island are big on farming

When I first moved to the island, my parents were living in a part called Gurnard, which felt very remote. It is a town outside of Cowes. There wasn't much pavements where we lived, and I often went on walks with my mum and the dogs; this is where I'd take lots of pictures from the nearby farms and fields. I have lots of pictures of cows, el pacas, and anything I could come across.

Pictures: 1) Cow I named Priscilla 2) Alpacas that cared for chickens nearby 3) Raven the cow, who appears to be up the duff! 4) Tractor

4. The pub grub

Here is a picture from a nearby pub when I was living in Gurnard. I had macoroni which is one of my favourites, but it had fish in it too. It was quite nice, but my favourite macoroni to date is in Dundee! Ham is popular here instead of gammon which I love to have when I go to pubs.

Picture: Mac and cheese with garlic bread and roast dinner I believe?!

5. Shanklin

This is hugely popular for tourists who visit the island. I've only been once with the folks and had lovely ice cream. Here are a few pictures I took whilst there!

Pictures: 1) Shanklin 2) Shanklin 3) Ice creams!

6. Newport

This is the main town of the island where most of the retailers and businesses can exist. For a small island, it has most of what you'd need - Card Factory, Cineworld, Topshop/Topman, Monsoon/Accessorise, Pandora, Poundland, H&M, New Look, TK Maxx, Next, Peacocks, Boots, Superdrug...They even had a BHS, but that seems to be closing. Islanders are hoping it turns into primark; I hope it does because I think it could do with Primark or a good department store. Newport is also where the Isle of Wight festival takes place.Most activities including crafty things and exercise is good here. As I discover more of the island, I hope you find out more about this bigger part of the island.

Pictures: Only picture I've taken in Newport, and it is of the swans outside Quay Arts.

7. Yarmouth
We visited Yarmouth, but we weren't sure we visited the right places because there wasn't a lot there. I've since seen that there is Yarmouth castle that people might wish to see there.

8. Ventnor/Godshill

This is another popular place with tourists, and is beautiful. I would definitely recommend visiting this lovely part of the island. Here are more pictures that caught my eye. It has a miniature village which I didn't visit in Godshill but had lovely specialist shops including those that sold handcrafted ciders, fudges and chocolate. I got my Dad some lovely cider fudge for his birthday.

Pictures: 1) Cider barn in Godshill 2) Dinosaur outside miniature village, Godshill.

9. The Needles

Again, I've only visited once. It is busy during the summertime/ peak season. I think that is why we will probably choose to avoid it now. I got my lovely sand elephant from it. This is where Queen Victoria collected the different colours of sands. Such good fun to do! Some people got more conventional containers like little pots, heart-shaped pots, but what's the fun in that? There are also bear, cats, rabbits and other animals...I can't remember them all. There are like fairground bits for kids to do. I also missed the time but you can watch like glassblowing being done. There are huge amount of souveirs there to buy because this is popular with tourists too.

Picture: Sand elephant I got from the different colours of sand.

10. Osborne House
This is one of the first places I visited when moving. It is the palatial holiday home on the IOW for Queen Victoria and Albert. It includes a tour of their private apartment, bathing beach, children's play cottage and amazing views. There are often events on, so it's worth going for that too. Food is so overpriced though! (If you're peckish after looking round, I'd suggest going to the Lifeboat which is also in East Cowes. Lovely there). My grandparents wanted to see it, so my mum and I occupied them, while my Dad was working. It is well worth a visit!

11.  Windmill

Little to be said here, as this is only really interesting to me. I love windmills, so I forced my dad to drive and look at the only windmill I'd seen on the island! This is in Bembridge. It is owned by the National Trust, so it will cost you to visit. I didn't get to go inside.

Pictures: Both the best pictures I could get!

12. Ryde

Again I've only visited this place once, but it is lovely. It has a pier and a few shops like Newport in some ways. It has the Liz Earle shop (which originates on the island), New Look and a few independent shops worth giving a look. We went on a Sunday, so a lot were shut. I would recommend a mooch round though!

Pictures: 1) Liz Earle shop in Ryde 2) Ryde and view of the pier.

There are still so many things to see and do, that I haven't and hope to explore here. I'd love to see more animals and wildlife for instance including the Butterfly World, Donkey Sanctuary, Isle of Wight Zoo, Owl & Monkey Haven and perhaps more. There are also arts and crafts I want to try (I love creative stuff but I'm not very good) such as pottery barns and Quay Arts which seem to be popular. I've also mentioned going to the Garlic farm, vineyards and there are  festival or two I wish to see. Cowes week is popular, so I hope to go during that next month.

I will keep you posted if and when I visit anywhere else. Or there might be a more updated post to this in a few months time when again I'm more settled.