Sunday, 29 December 2013

My Christmas Present | What to do with your turkey leftovers! | Turkey and Rice Casserole

So here we are, the end of 2013, Christmas is over, and I await with baited breath for the rubbish men to remove the mountain of packaging, wrapping paper and other rubbish that has accumulated in my house over the last week year.

In amongst all of the boys toys there were a few presents for myself and moors-daddy, not much but a few bits we had requested and mine was a slow cooker from my parents.  I have heard people harping on about them for ages and like the idea of putting something on in the morning and leaving it whilst I got on with other things, for it all to be ready in the evening.

So yesterday I deceided to use it for the first time, I followed the instructions, washing the crock pot and the lid in warm soapy water before using it, and then the decisions what to cook.  I had also been given the M&S Slow Cooker cook book so after browsing through I decided on the turkey and rice casserole. Perfect for finishing off the last of the Christmas turkey.

I followed the recipe with the exception of adding mushrooms, as I had  none in the fridge, but basically the recipe is

2 carrots, chopped.
2 celery sticks, chopped,
1 onion, chopped
6oz rice ( I used long grain, and it works out to be just under a mug full)
place all of this in the slow cooker and the add the turkey on top.
The recipe says 4 turkey breasts pre fried but I just stripped what was left of the turkey and put that in.
Then add a pint of chicken stock and cook on high for 2 hours.

After two hours I found the carrots hard and the rice uncooked, I phoned my mum!  She said she had found this with her first try of hers and said that the stock should have been boiling.  I topped the pot with boiling water and left it until moors- daddy returned from work an hour later.  It was lovely and so easy to do and the best bit for us was that moors-daddy was late home from work so I dished up for me and the boys and left moors-daddy's cooking on low until he arrived home. There was plenty for us to, though my little two aren't the greatest eaters they both had some, and there was even enough left for moors-daddy to take to work with him today for lunch!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Winter Weekend Walks

We are extremely lucky to live where we do, rolling countryside on our doorstep, Dartmoor National Park a 30 second walk from our front door.  But sometimes I know we take this for granted. This summer moors-daddy and I vowed that we would get out more with the boys, we have no excuse really it's there, a stones throw away and yet we managed to walk the same walk every day, so this summer we decided we needed more adventures, more walks and so this weekend we did just that.  As the dog started to get restless, moors-daddy suggested a new adventure. So, the dog and three boys, wellies and coats were loaded into the car and off we went. We drove for about 5 minutes across the golf course to a little river at the end of the course. We parked up, the sun was shining and so we left the coats in the car!

We started down by the road, the dog straight in the river, followed by the boys! No coats, no waterproofs and yes they did get wet!

Beanie walking right across the river to the other side!

All the boys finding sticks for Stanley to retrieve from the water, laughing as he puts his whole head under!

And then we went for a wander, across the road and along a track, not really knowing where we were going but following the river. Stopping every now and again, to throw stones and sticks into the river for Stanley to chase!

A rare opportunity where all 3 are looking at the camera!
And one of Beanie alone, growing up so fast, hard to believe my little premmie will be 10 in two weeks time!

We walked further along the track, getting higher and higher until we were looking down on the river.

The terrible two!  They love being outside!

More stick throwing!

And river jumping!

Linking up with Coombe Mill's Country Kids

Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Monday, 25 November 2013

I love Christmas but bah humbug to Amazon

Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, I love the preparation, the decorations, seeing the joy on the boys faces but there is something that really gets to me at Christmas time and it is only at Christmas that it bothers me.  Whether that's because I do more research at Christmas looking for presents, price checking and watching toys over a number of weeks.

It was a few years ago when we first noticed what Amazon do.

We had looked at something at the end of October decided that we would get it in November and couldn't believe the difference in price over a month.  It had rocketed. A blip maybe a mistake, but no on other items the same had happened. The following year we checked in October again, prices were low, we bought and then watched as the raised them over the coming months in the lead up to Christmas.

This year, I checked again at the end of October.  Beanie's Christmas list contains mostly Lego Star Wars and so we started watching. We have managed to buy a few things at really good prices but mainly for Monkey but it appalls me at how they change their prices not just week in week out, or even day to day but sometimes they change hourly too, and rise and fall throughout the day.  If items are low in stock the prices seem to rise, when there are plenty they lower them.

For example on Beanie's wish list is the Lego Star Wars At Te. When I first saw it it was on Amazon for £47.99, a bargain I wish I had bought there and then, since then it has risen to £63.99 and then to £72.99, £74.87, £78.99 and the the other day it was advertised as below. Great i thought back down to £47.99.

I clicked on it to go through to the item page to find, no not £47.99 but £74.32!!

A quick screen shot and I return to screen shot the previous page too!

I know they have to make money but they are seriously putting me off buying from them when they treat their customers (and their staff if you're watching BBC1) the way they do. If they can afford to sell it at the lower price then why don't they leave it there and get customers who would usually go elsewhere. The At Te is now cheaper elsewhere so I won't be getting it from Amazon unless its back to £47.99 which I doubt it will be with only four weeks till Christmas!

Another of my bug bears with them is that now that they stock everything you can imagine, they really need to find a way of filtering what appears in the search terms.  I was looking for some stationery for the boys for Christmas, a search I would think children would look for when I came across the following. You can see in the address bar my search was for stationery stocking fillers so I am not really sure where the Willy Apron fits in!!

Monday, 11 November 2013


View from the bar at Fistral Beach Hotel and Spa.

RA Update

Well it's been a while....  my RA hasn't been that bad, part of that I feel is not working, not standing on my feet all day and running around like a loon at school.  Joints still hurt on a daily basis but I haven't had any major flares since the end of April.  My fingers have been bad for the last couple of months and I struggle with simple things like opening bottles and jars, gripping things and doing things like getting the little two dressed. Nappies are a bit of  a bug bare. Some days I really feel quite helpless as I battle to undo the sticky tabs on disposables. We are desperately trying to get Worm to use the potty or toilet, and he does when he feels like it but he is too inconsistent to put in pants just yet.  I also struggle to do things like hold their pants and trousers whilst they put their feet and legs into them, and it's these simple things that annoy me more than any other.
I saw my GP on Friday, my last consultant appointment was in January and I was told they'd see me in three months. I phoned in May and was told to wait my turn, I think I have now waited more than long enough and I need to know what is going to happen to me, long term. So the GP is now going to chase the hospital and so I am hoping that I am a little nearer to getting some answers.

This weekend I went away without the boys, a hen do of a close friend. We went to a spa in Newquay and it was lovely, all girls together, fab food and I had a back, neck and shoulder massage, which was heaven. However, by 11 o'clock in the evening,  I could feel my shoulders tightening. I struggled to get out of my dress and into my pyjamas and even after a lovely relaxing weekend, I feel like I have majorly over done it.  Today I have spent the day under a blanket on the sofa with pain nearly everywhere, nodding on and off throughout the day. Tomorrow I will do the school run and return to my sofa where I will finish off my website copy for my tutoring business and probably sleep a little bit more!


Thursday, 24 October 2013

A bit quiet!

Okay so my good intentions didn't last long!

I have posts waiting to be written but two weeks ago I had a small accident whilst cooking dinner.
I had lit the two outside pans and was cooking away, and had left the milk in the milk pan on the middle back burner ready to make my white sauce.
Anyway I lifted the pan and the pain was instantly there, burning! Obviously the heat from the other two saucepans had heated the milk pan handle and I held it and moved the pan forward before my brain clicked into action and told me it was hot! I put the pan down and went straight to the sink, turned on the cold tap but instantly knew it wasn't good. I left the cold tap running but the heat that was coming from it was intense and so I grabbed the nearest thing I could find (the Easi Yo Yogurt maker) and filled it with water and plunged my hand in.  Moors-daddy was upstairs whilst all this was happening, oblivious to it all and when he returned downstairs I told him what I'd done. Ever sympathetic he said it didn't look too bad! (I later remembered that to a policeman who has seen horrific burns and had to identified people who have burnt to death - in comparison it probably wasn't that bad!) But when I removed my hand from the water the intense burning pain returned immediately.
Beanie had a swimming lesson at 7:30pm and so I had to go out. I couldn't drive so moors-daddy had to come too, with Monkey in tow. I took 2 cocodamol knowing that if they ease RA pain then they must work for this. (It didn't) By the time we left, my hand had been in the water for an hour and a half! At the swimming pool, my fingers were throbbing, getting redder and redder and swelling, the pain was becoming unbearable. So after the lesson we went to our local minor injuries. I saw the nurse, who told me my hour and a half in water was the best thing I could have done for it! She plastered it in Vaseline, put gauze dressing on and then bandaged and tapped me up with orders to return the next day for a redressing! the next day the difference was amazing, the pain had eased but i had some big blisters. It was redressed and I was told to leave it a couple of days and to see how it was and return if needed.  After two more days the blisters had dried out and the dressing came off. I had one massive blister at the top of my middle finger that wouldn't heal, and it peeled and cracked and was painful for a couple of days but now two weeks on my hand looks fab! You can't really noticed the blisters at all except they have all now peeled and the skin is slightly redder than the rest of my hand. I am so amazed at how well it has healed! And from now on I will be using the oven gloves for everything!
First Night! 

After the redressing!
So what to do if you burn yourself or if someone near you gets burnt. (Minor burns!)
  • Immediately get the person away from the heat source to stop the burning.
  • Cool the burn with cool or lukewarm water for 10-30 minutes. Do not use ice, iced water or any creams or greasy substances, such as butter.
  • Remove any clothing or jewellery that is near the burnt area of skin, but do not move anything that is stuck to the skin.
  • Make sure the person keeps warm – for example by using a blanket – but take care not to rub it against the burnt area.
  • Cover the burn by placing a layer of cling film over it.
  • Use painkillers, such as paracetamol oribuprofen, to treat any pain.
Advice taken from NHS Direct (which is where I Googled to find out what to do - it says leave hand it water for 10-30 minutes but I left it in for longer as it hurt so much every time I took it out and so it went straight back in! If it still hurts keep it in water and if so leave it there until you seek medical help - I am sure this is why mine have healed so well!)

Friday, 11 October 2013

Welcome Assembly

Beanie and Monkey go to a lovely little school in our town. It has one class per year and has a friendly, family atmosphere. They both love it. Beanie is in year 5 and is very 'unique' as his year 4 teacher put it! But he thrives on this little school, the routines, the familiarity and his friendship group.  I worry about next year and the decisions that have to be made, but we have started the process by visiting the 3 secondary schools that we have as options and I think we know where we want him to go but the final decision will be his, and that worries me!

Monkey on the other hand has just started here. He is now full time, they did a week and a half of half days and he needed that slow break in to it, he was asleep most afternoons by 12:30 in those first two weeks. He has now adjusted and is getting used to it, but there are still days when he cries when I leave him. His teacher and TA are lovely, and his TA has a bit of a soft spot for him. The other day he came home saying he'd had 10 cuddles with her, and it's probably true.  Today the school did something that they do every year with the foundation stage children and that is they had their 'Welcome Assembly'.  It is the most adorable thing ever. Parents/Carers and grandparents are all invited into assembly and we all sit at the back and watch as the whole school walks into the hall. The last class to enter is the little ones, who instantly stop to look for their parents and wave!  You can hear the ohhs and ahhs from the older ones. The children then sang a welcoming song, written by the music teacher whilst all the foundation children stood at the front, some grinning, some quite shy in front of the school, Monkey sucking his fingers.  Then the year 6 house captains take to the front of the school and read out the names of those children in Foundation who are in their house. Each child in turn goes up to the house captains to be Welcomed to the school, they are each given a certificate and a teddy bear who wears the schools t-shirt. Monkey has taken his to bed with him tonight and has this evening proclaimed to nanny and granddad that he "loves his new school". Beanie still has his bear too, somewhere in his bedroom and it really is such a sweet thing for them to have to remind them of their time at primary school.

Thursday, 10 October 2013

For the love of Flat Pack!

For two days last week I assembled flat pack furniture for the two little boys' room!
It is something that has needed to be done for such a long time. Monkey is now 5 and has just started big school and yet for the last five years he has been unable to access his books. They have been stored in a huge under bed basket that even I have struggled to pull out. He and Worm have also been sharing four drawers in Beanies old chest. I have dreaded ironing clothes, knowing that they wouldn't fit in the drawers, the frustration of not being able to fit them in getting to me time and time again and so consequently leaving the ironing and having piles of it around the house.
Last week my parents came to the rescue. Firstly they have given us their old wardrobe. A triple one they couldn't fit into their new house, perfect for the little two. On top of that they have paid for and I ordered the little two a chest of drawers each, a bookcase each and a bed shelf each. And so for the last two days I have screwed, banged and nailed the furniture together.

I have to admit I have shocked myself and my ability to use tools and power tools at that! But I loved it too!
So now, with a few finishing touches and moving clothes around, bagging those that are too small up for charity, they can finally get to their own things, find their own clothes and select their own stories for bedtime!
It has been an absolute godsend, to be able to sort their clothes out - I have a black bag full to hand down to their little cousin, but the best bit is seeing them going to their books and jigsaws and watching as they play and read.  The other morning I even came down to find all 6 Hairy Maclary books on the floor in their toilet - it's such a boy thing!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

Tavistock Goose Fair

The second Wednesday in October, people from far and wide flock to Tavistock. Coaches drop people off, roads are closed, the children are off school and the fair comes to town. This isn't just any fair this is Tavistock's Goose Fair. Dating back as far as the 12th century, Tavistock hosts the Goose fair on what used to be Michaelmas Day (29th September) where geese were bought ready to be fatten for Christmas. Now held on the second Wednesday in October, it draws hundreds if not thousands of people to the town. The farmers market still has geese for sale at its auction but the main draw is the stalls and fair ground rides that cover Plymouth Rd and Bedford Square.

So today the boys are off school, all local schools close. And as ever we go for a wander. This year we went into the cattle market for the boys to look at the animals, sheep, alpacas, chickens, ducks, turkeys and of course geese. There are a few stalls around the market too, some local produce and some craft. Then we headed down town! As we walked down the road coaches from Dawlish and Tiverton were dropping people off. As you come to Abbey Bridge you hit the chaos of people, stalls on either side of the roads, selling everything you could ever imagine and quite a lot you can't! 
The older I get the more I grow to dislike Goose Fair. It's the same every year, the same stalls, the same stall holders selling the same 'tat' and this really annoys me because Tavistock is such a beautiful market town and has so much to offer. If this fair was really thought through it could be amazing. There are so many people in and around the area that could very easily come to sell their products and produce, instead of the 'stuff' that is sold year after year. The number of crafters and artists that could come here could make a huge difference to this day. Instead we end up doing the same thing, we don't want fake flowers or dogs beds,    and so the boys go on a ride (they are not a fan so it's usually only one) and then we spent an hour in the park!! We bought nothing! Next year I'm going to do what many others do, take the boys out for the day, aquarium, zoo somewhere nice that they'll like! 

I know it brings a lot to Tavistock but I can understand why moors daddy hates working on this day too! It would be nice to get it back to what it used to be and bring the locals back to Goose Fair and not just the tourists!

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Our Summer...

When I think back to this summer I realise how quickly it flew and how much we didn't do!

Nothing ever seems to go to plan, but we have also had some amazing times in the beautiful weather that we had.

Most of our summer was spent at home, the paddling pool has been out to the point that it is now wrecked, punctured beyond repair.  The boys have each spent some time at the beach house with their grandparents but I have only been over there a handful of times this year and have only stayed there once. The reason being that my parents moved out of their house in February and lived with my Nan until July but spent as much time as they could at the beach house. Then from the beginning of July it was all go, getting them into their new house.

However in August, the moors family did what we do best. We packed our bags up and headed off Camping in France for two whole weeks.  We booked through our website Go Camp France, and went with the same company that we always travel with, Canvas.  In the past we have only really ventured to Brittany due to having very young children, but this year with Worm, our youngest now 3, we decided to travel further south and so this year we headed for the Vendee, and stayed at Le Clarys Plage in St Jean de Monts.  The reasons I chose this campsite were; great pool complex, (always high on our agenda), swimming pool, lazy river, slides, indoor pool and splash park; a great play area for the children and near to a beautiful beach.

We took the overnight ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff. We had anticipated that the boys would be in their pjs and would fall asleep on our half hour drive to Plymouth ferry port arriving there at 10:15pm. How wrong we were, all 3 wide awake with excitement!  Boarding the ferry was quick and we were soon in our cabin. (We also had to book a reclining chair as there are 5 of us but the little two topped and tailed in the bottom bunk!) After the announcements had finished, (an hour) we finally settled down and all the boys slept really well to be woken at 5am by the ferry's alarm system. The crossing was good (and I really don't travel well) and we will definitely be doing the night crossing again.  When we reached Roscoff we set off on our journey to the Vendee.  We knew it was a good 4-5 hour drive but when we hit Nantes we weren't expecting the amount of traffic we encountered.  We later found out that the weekend we travelled was the French bank holiday and so everyone was on the road!
We knew the direction we were heading and with the help of a map of France we made our way down to St Jean de Mont.  We drove along the esplanade and were amazed by the size of the beach here. Many campsites were sign posted from here but we couldn't see ours.  At this point we got to try out our own app, having been telling everyone how great it is, it was now time to test it for ourselves.  We had to use 3G as we were in the car but the app located us really quickly on the map and then as we drove we followed the blue dot (us) moving on the map until we reached the campsite.  It took us 4 and a half hours in total to drive down, and we arrived before the check in time, but our reps were ready for us and showed us straight to our caravan.

Camping Holidays in France

The site isn't actually in St Jean de Mont but just outside, it is classed as a medium sized campsite and is split by a road. We were grateful that we were on the side with all the amenities, pools restaurant, bar etc. The pitch size was smaller than the one we had at Les Mouettes, where we had been before, but this time we had a deck which took up most of the room but the pitch was small enough that the car was practically parked in the hedge and there was no room for the boys to have a kick about!.  The rest of the camp site was brilliant.

The swimming pool was busy, every day, and it was a case of get there early if you want a seat or lounger but to be fair we spent most of our time in the water with the boys! The boys all did the slides even Worm who went down all of them with moors-daddy! The pool is split into two, a section for the little ones with their own slides and then the big pool with bigger slides. The lazy river was separate and the splash park was amazing. Dragons squirting water from all directions, hopscotch with water spouting up through the numbers, water canons being aimed at you as you walked past! The boys loved it.
Le Clarys Plage campsite in the Vendee

And on top of that, the beach is a 500m walk down the road, but to be honest we never walked it! Why? Because the French do some things so much better than us Brits! The short drive to the bottom of the road leads to a car park at the top of the beach. A free car park, as all car parks are along the coast in this part of France, and with the amount of stuff you take with you to the beach, you may as well drive! The beach was beautiful, golden sand, stretching for miles.  The part we were at was also lifeguarded which was great, though having said that the sea was flat every day we were there. It seemed like a very safe beach, the sea shallow for quite some way out, people on inflatables, swimming, surfing and bodyboarding. I loved this beach, it's the kind of beach you wish you had on your doorstep at home, one you can pop to after a day at work!

We spent most of our holiday in the pool or on the beach.

We ventured to the local supermarket (on the other side of a gate leading from the campsite), the local hypermarket (used the app to find it!) as well as taking a trip further south to Bretignolles Sur Mer to the market (couldn't park anywhere) so carried on and found a great rock pooling beach!

We took a day trip to Noirmoutier de Ile, and had a walk around the chateaux.

On all our French holidays there is something that we notice and that is the children's play areas are so much better than what we have here in Devon.  This campsite was no exception. The play area was fantastic and the boys loved it - we went every evening after dinner and before our drink in the bar!

 The range of equipment is amazing, at Le Clarys Plage there were two sections one for the under 5's and one for 4 -14 year olds.  Worm (3) needed help at first getting up onto the bigger equipment but after a few days had mastered how to get himself onto the steps and was off and gone down the massive slide!  (I'm in white to the left of it!!)

 He also mastered the climbing wall quickly much to the annoyance of his older brothers!

We had an amazing two weeks there, the drive was definitely worth it, the weather fantastic for all but two afternoons. What I also liked about this part of France and one of the reasons we will be returning at some point in the future was how flat it was and how the area was made for cyclists. The Vendee, unknown to us, has over 1000km of cycle paths, from outside the campsite you can get on your bike and pedal for miles, though forests, along the coast, wherever you fancy.  I wish the little two could ride, they need to learn and we will be back, with our bikes in tow!

On our last day we had to be out of the caravan at 10am, with our ferry leaving Roscoff at 11pm, we had a day to kill! So instead of taking the main roads back, we drove up along the coast into Brittany and around the coast of Brittany, stopping off at Carnac to see the standing stones (an amazing site and so much bigger than you think -fields of them!)

Our return ferry crossing wasn't as good, as the one who gets sea sick, I did struggle to sleep because of the ferry rolling but managed to remain in bed for the duration of the crossing.  The boys slept through it! It was by far our best French holiday to date and next time we are thinking of going even further and possibly doing a split break, one week in the Dordogne and another in Brittany or the Vendee!

Thursday, 3 October 2013

The start of being Organised

Well this is it, the start of our new lives.  Me, jobless but generally feeling really quite positive about things!
We have to make changes, that part is obvious, and we will start little and hope that by making those small changes we can change our lives for the better.  We had long been stuck in the rut of long days, moors-daddy's shifts, processed food, quick meals before leaving the house for this club and that.
Yes we need to make changes and most of them concern money but also our organisation, our budgeting and what we do with the boys when we are home, what we eat, what we buy and where we buy it.
We are also making changes to the house and garden, nothing majorly drastic, no extensions or anything like that (we dream but have no money), in doing so we are trying to recycle and blag a few things as well as saving our pennies to make things better for us and the boys.

To start us off on our journey, I have invested in something that I already know will become our Bible.  I have wanted something to organise us as a family for a long time, I have looked for nearly two years for something that keeps everything in one place. I have a family calendar, a  meal planner chart etc etc, but I wanted more than that. And so when I had almost given up finding anything (and verging on getting my brother in law to design exactly what I wanted) I found and have bought the Family Life diary. It has everything in it, month to view, week to view, to do lists, shopping lists, meal planner, address book, budget pages. It is fabulous and I love it, everything in  the same place and at hand.
So for the last couple of days I have been pencilling in the boys clubs, practices, birthdays etc  and trying to work out what we can have for dinner and when.  We are getting there. We have had it two weeks now, our food bill has already reduced and meal planner stuck too apart from today when I forgot to take the meat out of the freezer!!

And we have our first free 'blag' - a piano. We just have to get it from Plymouth to Tavistock!! 

Monday, 30 September 2013

Welcome to Dartmoor Diaries

Hello and Welcome to my new home!

From this point on, my moors-mummy blog is no more  :(

It was fun but it was never what I wanted it to be and so there are times when you just have to bite the bullet and start again and so here I am.

I am gradually updating everything, different accounts that you forget about that you have related to the blog and so I hope people can still find me!

So this blog, Dartmoor Diaries, is for the new me, the person I never really was as moors-mummy. But this time I am going to do things a bit differently. Well that's the intention anyway! I am so lucky, I really am blessed to live where I do, in a lovely little town on the edge of Dartmoor and so this blog will show you more of what we do as a family on the moor. It will also more importantly, have another focus.  In July I lost my job as a teacher, at the moment we are living off one income, it can't last and so as I wait for the supply agency to ring, moors-daddy and I will be tightening the purse strings.

We are transforming the garden over winter, we have already taken down the playhouse (rotten) and stored it to burn on the wood burners! The slide and swing have moved to the lawn ready for the 13ft square that was for the boys, to house a greenhouse, a shed and some raised beds so we can grow our own!  I can't wait, I have always grown beans, peas, potatoes and a few other little things in pots and tubs but a proper vege patch was always a dream.  We are currently trying to blag a greenhouse from Gumtree or Preloved, so fingers crossed someone close wishes to part with theirs soon.

We are also transforming our spare room.  Our little two share, leaving us with a small bedroom that until a few weeks ago housed (just) a double bed. My brother in law has just moved to the middle of Dartmoor and we have donated the double bed to him, so at the moment we have an empty room (I say empty - it seems to have things added to it each day!) but the plan is to make it into a den for the boys, with a sofa bed and a TV so our nearly 10 year old isn't forced to watch Peppa Pig on his return home from school!

So I hope, that along with a few other things which I will introduce you to along the way, the new blog will follow us as we save money, cut back and start our new venture of living off what we have and spending very little as well as showing you what lovely little independent shops we have in our town.

I am also hoping to get my camera out a bit more, show you why we love living here and what the south west  and Dartmoor has to offer. 

So that's the plan... 
Welcome to Dartmoor Diaries! 

Wednesday, 4 September 2013







Book Review - One Cold Night by Katia Lief

I started it on Sunday - I finished it on Monday.  That good, I couldn't put it down.

I had never heard of Katia Lief. I discovered her in the Kobo bookstore, a bargain at 98p.  Something caught my attention (the cover again), this time mysterious, dark yet inviting.

I downloaded it.

To be honest my genre of literature has rapidly turned to chick lit, there was a time when I read anything and everything, but lately I hadn't moved from my new found comfort zone.

The story is about Susan and Dave, Susan is a chocolate shop/factory owner  and Dave a detective in the police. They live in New York with Susan's adopted sister, Lisa, who 15 years her junior had come to live with them to attend a singing/drama school in the city.

A happy go lucky life until......One Cold Night.

Lisa wants to find her birth parents and Susan offers a revelation (predictable from the onset) and from then on the story changes and moves fast, drawing you in. Lisa vanishes and the story then follows the detectives and Susan and Dave as they piece together what has happened to her.  Dave becomes immersed in the case, due to not having solved a similar one exactly 12 months previous to this one. Exactly the same, a girl similar in age and features to Lisa taken from very near her own doorstep. You know there is a link between the two girls but the authors telling of this story is fantastic and it really does have you wanting to find out exactly what has happened to Lisa and the girl before her and to find out whether Lisa and her survive. There are a few clues,  a trail of blood and a footprint but Dave knows if this case is going the same way as the previous one, then their time is limited before something dreadful happens to her. Even at the end when the outcome is found there are still twists and turns in this story up to the very end that weren't predictable and really had me on the edge of my seat.

It is again another book that is beautifully written and describes the scenes and characters really well, making it feel like you know these places and people.

I really don't want to give this story away, but I will definitely be reading more of this authors books and this is definitely one to be read!

Another 5 Star book on Goodreads from me!

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Book Review - Someone to Watch Over Me by Madeleine Reiss

Someone to Watch Over Me  Another debut novel, and it has to be said another fantastic read.

When I first picked this book up and turned it over to read the blurb, my heart sank. I find stories about parents losing their children heart wrenching and this one was no exception.  It was one of many given to me for my birthday in July, a physical book, something I haven't read in a while, but the feeling of holding a book that I once vowed never to lose, was back, held in my hands and I hated it. The reason, the pain it caused in my thumbs and wrists, holding a book isn't the same when you have RA!

The Blurb from Goodreads:-

She closed her eyes and he was gone - who is watching him now?

When Carrie’s five-year old son, Charlie, disappeared on a Norfolk beach, her world was destroyed. Now, three years on, her marriage crushed by grief and the uncertainty around Charlie’s fate, Carrie keeps herself distracted by running a local gift shop. Persuaded by her mother to visit a medium, Carrie is initially sceptical, but is blown away when he appears to reveal something about Charlie’s disappearance; something that nobody could ever have known except herself.

Single mum, Molly, is worried about her young son, Max. Naturally a sensitive child, Max has been having more of his little ‘accidents’ at school and has recently starting talking again to his imaginary friend.

Reluctant to tell his teachers, Molly knows that Max’s problems stem from his very real anxieties about his father – a violent and unstable man – who they are now in hiding from.

Carrie is desperate to learn the truth about Charlie’s disappearance and Molly will do anything to protect Max from danger. Little do the women know that their worlds are about to converge – and both of them will have to face the thing they fear the most. But will the truth destroy them or will love be their saviour?

The story was fantastic. It follows the lives of two women, Carrie and Molly.  Carrie loses her son Charlie on a day out at the beach, never to been seen again and the story follows Carrie in the years after Charlie's disappearance.  Molly has her son Max with her throughout the book, their lives totally different from Carrie's but you know that there is some connection between them and the author makes this clear at the same time as holding out the real reason.  This is a superbly written book, that crosses many genres of literature within itself but the real story is one that has you on the edge of your seat till the very end.  I finished ready this at the weekend at the beach house. Everyone else had gone to bed but I just couldn't put it down so stayed up to the early hours until I had finished it, and I was so glad that I did.

Another 5 star rating from me on Goodreads  - Ellie Becker-Willett

Monday, 15 July 2013

Book Review - The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

  The Night intriguing title, a beautiful illustration on the front cover and some fab reviews online, both in Amazon and on Goodreads.  I thought this one sounded interesting.........

The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des RĂªves, and it is only open at night. 

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands. 

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus per­formers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead. 

Written in rich, seductive prose, this spell-casting novel is a feast for the senses and the heart.(less)

Well that's what was written in Goodreads and it did indeed entice me into trying this book, but I will admit I struggled from the start.
I found the story hard to get into, slow paced and just too long to get to anything in particular.  Whereas most books I get into quickly even after a few days of attempting to read this one it just did nothing for me and in the end I made the decision to abandon it, knowing that if I didn't       it would sit unread and I would then struggle to get into another one. I am sure if i was to persevere then it would probably get better and the story would develop well but it didn't grasp me enough to get that far!

It is probably one that I will attempt again in the future.....but it would be interesting to see what anyone else thought of this book!

My star rating on Goodreads was a 1!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Book Review - The Love of My Life by Louise Douglas.

The Love of My Life

"I miss him with every breath and heartbeat. He should have been my happy ending. Instead, he is the sad beginning to my story."

When I started to read this book my instant impression was that it wasn't going to be that great.  You know when you read the first chapter and it doesn't really do anything for you.....that!  But once I had given it a bit more time the story actually drew me in.

It tells the story of Olivia, who has recently become the widow of Luca.  I think one of the reasons my heart wasn't with it to begin with, is that it is one of those books that jumps every chapter from past to present and that usually throws me.  But after reading a few more chapters I got it! and the story develops well, one chater the past the nest the present.

Olivia and Luca grew up together in their small town, Olivia working in Luca's parent's restaurant in the summer months and their friendship develops but Luca 's mother has plans for him to marry someone else, and in the end he elopes to London with Olivia.  Olivia becomes the one at fault in the eyes of Luca's family and when Luca is tragically killed, Olivia makes the decision to return to their home town, where no one is pleased to see her.

There are parts of this story that are very predicatble, but there is also something about the way that it is written that makes you want to read on. Olivia quickly realises that she and Marc, Luca's twin share their greif and start an affair that has drastic consequences and shows certain moments of similarity between Olivia and Luca's life. Even though they both know the affair is purely based on grief, the results are heart breaking for Olivia.

Louise Douglas writes in a sensitive and beautiful way, and this is again a first class debut novel. I gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads.

Friday, 7 June 2013

Book Review - The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Okay so two things first, I apologize that it has taken me a bit longer than I said it would and secondly how ever many times I say this authors name to myself, my pronounciation of it is always different!!  I have no idea how to say it, I'll see if I can find out how it should be said!

Found it - AYE-oh-win EYE-vee.  There that tells you!

Here is a bit about the author taken from Goodreads

Eowyn LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. She received her BA in journalism and minor in creative writing through the honors program at Western Washington University, studied creative nonfiction at the University of Alaska Anchorage graduate program, and worked for nearly 10 years as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper. This is her first novel.

Learn more:

Blog: Letters from Alaska

So the book.

I have to admit a lot of my book choices are based on the cover and the cover of this book on Kobo, drew my attention straight away. The simplicity of it, but also the girl and the fox, I was instantly intrigued and so downloaded it.

When I read that it was based on a Russian fairytale, I really didn't know what to expect, again a bit of curiousness crept in and when I started to read this book, it grabbed me and didn't let me go.

Set in the 1920's (though it could easily have been any time in my mind), the story is based on the relationship of Jack and Mabel, the two main characters and follows them as they start a new life in Alaska, building their homestead. The authors descriptions of both characters are very good, giving you a real insight into their relationship and their feelings for each other (strained) and the land on which they are now living (bleak). The days are pretty monotonous to start with, Jack out working the land and Mabel in the homestead.  They have moved there to get away from past memories of losing a child and wanting to start afresh even though they are now middle aged.  Darkness plays a key part in this novel, the short darken days in which they live, the darkness of the loss of their child and the wanting of another. The weather is also key, winters after winter of snow, and it is in this snow that Jack and Mabel create a child that comes to life. At first you think that the child (Faina) is in Mabel's imagination and it is not until one day when Jack follows the child into the mountains and discovers her father's body that you realise she is real.  The story follows their lives, winter after winter, the girl vanishing each spring but returning with the first snow.
Parts of the novel are predictable and as you read it you start to wish for things to happen so that Jack and Mabel get their child and even though in a sense they do, there is also a lot of descriptive writing that just takes you with it and compels you to read on to find out who Faina really is and what happens to Jack and Mabel and their new life in Alaska.
I won't give too much away about the end of the story but all I will say is that this is Eowyn Ivey's debut novel and it is by far one of the most beautifully written books I have read in a long time. The ending although it didn't surprise me left me with some questions and I was really upset when the story ended, purely because it was such an easy and lovely story to read.
I can not wait for any subsequent books by this author because if this is what she can offer on her first attempt then the next one should be truly magnificent.

I gave this book 5 Stars on Goodreads and I would recommend it, an easy to read book, beautifully written, a fantasy and the descriptions of the Alaskan winters fill your imagination in a way I could not ever have imagined.