Tuesday, 30 July 2019

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

What is Top Ten Tuesday?

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.

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?

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
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! 🙀

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.)

Sunday, 28 July 2019

Weekly Update #70

The Sunday Post is a weekly meme hosted by Kimberly @ Caffeinated Reviewer
It’s a chance to share News. A post to recap the past week, showcase books and share news about what is coming up for the week on our blog.

Now that's explained, it's on to my weekly recap!

The kid is finally on summer break! Woohoo! 6 weeks of fun stuff and 3 day work weeks.
(I know I keep saying that but I'm so excited! lol)
It may be a late finish to the school year here but summer is in full swing!

We had ridiculously high temperatures for the UK this week... Well over the 30c mark. On a couple of the days, we were at 33c and 36c. The highest recorded temp was 38c. That's, what, around the high 80s to mid/high-90s in f? That's just not something we see all that often over here! Plus, homes don't have air conditioning. It's 50/50 on whether shops and public buildings have it so it has been near unbearable.
When the temps cooled to the nice and toasty mid-20s on Friday, I was doing the happy dance.

The little dude and I had our first summer trip, to Longleat Adventure Safari Park, on Friday and we had a great time. I've decided to do something a little bit different this summer and write up the family adventures on the blog so if you want to know more about Longleat visit tomorrow! 😊
If not, here is a picture of one of the cute Koalas.

Two of the four Longleat Koalas

For those that asked, the migraine meds were making me feel like the walking dead and I was barely able to function until around noon each day so they had to stop. I'm just waiting to speak to the doc about a lower dose or something different for I can't go on like that long term... I have a young kid and a full-time job. I need to be functioning. A few days of drowsiness would have been ok but I just wasn't adapting, if anything it was getting worse. Sigh. I'll get it sorted eventually.


I was so disappointed with this book I could have cried.
I won't say any more as I've already reviewed it and ranted.
(Link below in "this week on the blog.")


No improvement on the first book in the series but it hasn't gotten worse.
I'm still interested so I'll continue reading with book three.

Kylie Scott is usually a dead cert for a good read for me so, of course, I bought her new one on release week. I've read it now and wish I hadn't.


I am not so secretly trash for a good and cheesy festive hallmark movie and this book has promised to be a hallmark movie in a book so I have expectations people.
(And yes, it felt slightly perverse requesting this while the sun is beating down but apparently I can be deviant like that.)

A feel good, heart-warming novel about about first loves and second chances?
Yes please!

From the Author

I got an eARC of The Bar Next Door by Katia Rose but the cover hasn't been revealed yet so I have nothing to show on here... Just didn't want to leave it out.

Sam's "Not a Romance" discussion had me giggling with my morning cup of tea. I share these feelings. All these feelings.


On a more serious note, even though I didn't know her well, I'd like to pause and acknowledge the passing of our blogger friend, Grace, who passed away this past week.
She fought hard and my thoughts are with her husband, kids and family.
Nicole pays a wonderful tribute. if you'd like to check it out.

It's a beautiful instrumental until 2.5min in then the singing starts... The lyrics are absolutely beautiful.

There were no watchings this week. I've been a TV-free zone.

Review: Lies by Kylie Scott
Book Blogger Hop: Do You Always Carry A Book?
Mini Reviews: Hidden Sight by Simone Pond and Broken by SJ West
Cover Reveal: Unearthed by Cecy Robson

Blitz: The Good Guy by Kate Meader
Family Adventures: Portchester Castle and Fort Nelson!
Reading Challenge: July Update
Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Are Linked to Specific Moments In My Life
Family Adventures: A Trip to Longleat Adventure Park!

Have a great week all!