Thursday, 28 November 2019

9th Annual Book Bonanza!



I must admit that I avoid the shops like the plague on this weekend because people!
Scary, angry, non-festive festive shoppers out for all the bargains (that every year are becoming less bargain-y) and ruining the shopping for everyone else.



The only civilized way to shop this weekend is online.



So let me enable one of you lovely bookish people with some shopping!


I'm giving away a $10 Amazon giftcard to one winner so they can treat themselves OR you can choose a book (up to the value of £/$15) to be delivered via The Book Depository.

Giveaway is open internationally (but Amazon/Book Depository must be accessible to your country).

Entrants over 18 years only.

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

Family Adventures: Hampton Court Palace & Tower of London


I don't think that anyone could argue that the UK is packed with historical sites. 
Having lived at various points throughout the UK, I can honestly say it feels like no matter where you live you could visit a castle or former palace in under an hour if you were inclined to do so. 
However, there are comparatively few that are so steeped in history that they are known throughout the world but I'd say that the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace definitely qualify!
And we've visited both this year. 

Hampton Court Palace we visited this summer as part of our summer adventures and we visited the Tower of London during the October half-term. 

It wasn't the first time the professor and I have visited these places but it was the first time the little dude had visited Hampton Court (that he remembers!) and the first time that my mum had ever visited the Tower so both visits had a new feel as we experienced them through a set of fresh eyes each time.


The day we visited Hampton Court Palace was a soggy summer day, sadly. 
It didn't affect the visit to the Palace but it did hamper the exploration of the gardens which, from a previous visit, I can tell you are huge, very pretty, and not something you'd want to miss.
However, it was just too wet to properly appreciate them so we spent most of our visit indoors walking around the palace.   

The Palace offers an interactive tour guide and the children's version has challenges for each room. As you wander around the palace you have to look for the information you need and seek out the details highlighted in order to move onto the next challenge.
At the end of each time period, there was a quiz and for each quiz passed you could claim a prize (which were pin badges) at the visitor centre when handing the guide back. 
It was a brilliant way of imparting information to kids in a way that engaged them. 


The professor and I are history lovers so it's maybe not surprising that that love and fascination has been inherited by the little dude so he was all on board with completing the challenges. 

Visiting Hampton Court Palace is a little bit like stepping back in time and I could almost see the stories of past Kings and Queens coming to life for him as we walked the halls. 


From the Tudors to the House of Hannover, every room has a story to tell but it was the Tudor rooms that held the most interest for us. 

How could they not? Henry VIII was quite the character and his story and that of his wives are embedded into the very fabric of this place. 


From Catherine of Aragon to Anne Boleyn, then Jane Seymor through to Katherine Parr, I feel that each woman has left a mark on the collective psyche of this country and all haunt this opulent monument to the past in their own way.

One of the most spectacular things to see is the Royal Chapel but you're not allowed to take pictures of that one so you'll need to trust me on this... It's amazing. 


The post-Tudor rooms somehow feel grander than those of the Tudors but the history contained within the walls feels diluted... This is probably because I don't really care much for the later Stuart monarchs nor do I have much interest or historical affection for the House of Hannover. 

The only thing I can say is that they were some twisted puppies with a serious penchant for infighting and that the exhibits detail it all in a simple and family-friendly manner. 😉


For those spending the full day onsite, which would be super easy to do and not get bored, there are a couple of onsite cafes, plenty of bathrooms with baby changing facilities, and free wifi. 
They also do everything they can to ensure that the palace is fully accessible to disabled visitors. 
Basically, you have everything you need at Hampton Court to enjoy a full day out which is suitable for the entire family!
They even run special seasonal events to give you more to do and make every visit a little bit different.

If you have any kind of interest in history, especially that of good ol' Henry, then Hampton Court Palace is a must-see.

🌻

The Tower of London is one of those sites that once you've seen it, you've seen it. 
It doesn't change much and while it's interesting and well worth a visit don't expect it to occupy a full day.

Having only visited in summer 2018, I wouldn't have gone back so soon but, as I mentioned above, my mum had never seen it and it was one of her 'bucket list' items, so off we went!


When I think of the Tower of London, I think of political prisoners, torture and executions, the Princes in the tower... I think of the Tower as a symbol of Royal power, of military might. 
Basically, I think of it as a military garrison, prison and haunted pile of wtfery. 

However, it's none of those things... But it's also all of those things. 
As you can imagine it's history is long and very nuanced so just portraying it as I think of it is oversimplifying things. 

The initial parts of The Tower of London - i.e the White Tower - were built back in the days of William the Conquerer as a symbol of military might and authority. Good old William whacked towers up all over the country, so it's not surprising that he had one built in the capital of England as a method of keeping his newly conquered subjects underfoot!

However, over the years, the Tower - due to being heavily garrisoned I imagine - has been the location of the Royal Mint, a royal palace, the treasury, a menagerie, and is currently the location of the crown jewels (and still a military garrison).
But let's not forget it was also a prison and it was the site of many a notable execution and a little bit of torture which was never actually a legal thing under English law...


My mum predominantly wanted to see the crown jewels and, like every time I've visited the Tower, the queue to do so was insanely long. It moves fast, but it still took us 30 minutes of queuing in the cold to get into the building. 

The crown jewels are pretty amazing if you like lots of sparkly things. 
My mum loves all the sparkly things so was in her element. 
They don't lose their wow factor no matter how many times you see them but it always makes me sad that I can't take pictures of them and share their prettiness! 😟 
(It also makes perfect sense that you can't.)


My mum also enjoyed the stories of the Royal Menagerie especially the story about the polar bear they used to keep on a super long chain so it could go swimming in the river Thames! 
(The little dude was outraged by the very concept, lol.) 

We spent about half a day at the tower exploring all the buildings before moving on into the city to show mum some of the other sites. 
The nearest tube station is only a 5/10 minute walk so it's easy to move on to something else. 

🌻

Entry prices are the same for both the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace as they are part of the Historic Palaces of London. Adult entry will set you back around £21 per person and children (aged 5-15) are roughly half that amount. They do offer family tickets (which work out cheaper) as well as membership to the Historic Palaces, which if you are visiting two or more, would work out the best deal as the Historic Palaces pass gets you into them all and you can visit as often as you like! 

We got free entry to both due to a corporate membership to the Historic Palaces (which we're lucky to have) but even without it I wouldn't have begrudged paying the entrance fee as both are well worth seeing, at least once. 😊

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Thankful, Festive Shopping & Shattering The Earth


I love participating in weekly bookish memes, answering questions and making lists, but sometimes the answers are not enough to make a decent post... On their own!
So, on those weeks, I'll be combining rather than skipping!

The meme graphics below link back to the hosts with the weekly topics if you'd like to join!

🌻


I always find these thankful topics a bit weird (blame it on being British) so I struggled to work out what to do and did this... And decided to go for the random things I'm genuinely thankful for instead of the usual list of family, a roof over my head blah blah blah.

So here are some things I'm thankful for.

Chris Evans as Steve Rogers/Captain America







Because he is beautiful and Steve Rogers' Captain America will always be my favourite Avenger.
And yes, he deserves three gifs. He deserves so much more than three gifs. So. Much. More.

Cat Memes/Videos/Gifs



They just make your day better.

Tea



It solves all of life's problems... Apparently.
There is also a tea for every occasion and situation and I drink a lot of it.

My dishwasher



Because there is no household chore I hate more than washing dishes.
When my dishwasher broke a couple of years ago, I cried. Actually cried. My husband came home and I was sobbing... Over the broken dishwasher and the massive pile of dishes sitting there.
He bought me a new dishwasher that weekend.
That's one of the very many reasons I love him.

The Killers



Because their music brings me joy.
This one is one of my favourites.

What random thing are you thankful for?


Now that Karen Chance is self-published her books are coming faster!
As a reader, I take that as a win!

Shatter The Earth should arrive sometime near the end of December (but there's no firm date as yet) and I couldn't be more excited!



Ironically for the time traveling, chief seer of the supernatural world, time has never been on Cassie Palmer’s side. There has always seemed to be too much to learn, too much to master, and never enough hours in a day. But the tables have now turned, and the fluctuating timelines of earth and faerie are diverging, slowing time in faerie relative to earth, and giving humans an advantage for the first time in their war with the fey. It is one they desperately need, for a literal war of the worlds is about to take place.

To win, or even to survive, Cassie and her allies, the powerful vampire senator Mircea Basarab and the formidable war mage John Pritkin, will have to pull off their greatest feat yet. And find a way to become more than the sum of their parts.

Any Cassie Palmer fans out there?


Did you go shopping on Thanksgiving Night, Black Friday, or on Cyber Monday?

Thanksgiving doesn't exist here. Thanksgiving night is just... Thursday. 
😉

Black Friday I avoid like the black plague! 
I struggle with crowds sometimes (not little crowds but big pushy aggressive crowds) and the level of crazy radiating off people on Black Friday makes things even more difficult. There's also the fact that the types of items I'd be buying aren't often the ones that have the super sales: So what's the point? 

Cyber Monday? Well... That one is a bit different. 
If there is something I need for the house or if there's something I have in mind for someone as a gift, I get googling and check out prices and if I find a good one, I snap it up. 
I don't buy things I don't need but it seems silly not to take advantage if something that'd work as a present for someone is on sale, you know? 

What about you? Do go shopping mad this weekend?


Monday, 25 November 2019

Review: Red Winter by Annette Marie (Red Winter Trilogy #1 - Audiobook)



Emi is the kamigakari.
In a few short months, her life as a mortal will end and her new existence as the human host of a goddess will begin.
Carefully hidden from those who would destroy her, she has prepared her mind, body, and soul to unite with the goddess-and not once has she doubted her chosen fate.

Shiro is a yokai, a spirit of the earth, an enemy of the goddess Emi will soon host.
Mystery shrouds his every move and his ruby eyes shine with cunning she can't match and dares not trust. But she saved his life, and until his debt is paid, he is hers to command-whether she wants him or not.

On the day they meet, everything Emi believes comes undone, swept away like snow upon the winter wind. For the first time, she wants to change her fate-but how can she erase a destiny already wrought in stone? Against the power of the gods, Shiro is her only hope... and hope is all she has left. 



Audiobook

Narrated by: 
Emily Woo Zeller


Audiobook:
11 hrs 21 minutes


First-person, single pov.


No, I don't believe so.


No, book one in a series.


No, but this is a single story that spans the three books of the trilogy.
To complete the story, you'll need to read all 3 books.
This book sets the scene, creates the world and introduces the characters: bad guys and good.
There is no resolution to anything here so it may not be a cliffhanger but you need to continue to find out what happens if that makes sense?


N/A
I imagine that would happen in book 3?


No.


Yes.
Magic, monsters, swords and fighting.
But there's not too much of it.


I've heard a lot of hype about the Red Winter trilogy but I held off reading it as I wasn't sure it'd be for me and oh how wrong I was!

The book gets off to a slow start.
There is a lot of world-building and even though the information is woven through the story I still struggled, in the beginning, to absorb what everything was, who was who and why things were as they are. I even struggled to work out what time period we were in because life at the shrine is so removed from what is normal.
Maybe this all would have been easier for me if I was actually reading the book rather than listening to the audiobook but maybe not.
The world-building is complex (or was to me as I had no prior exposure to Japanese mythology) and I feel that no matter the format it probably would have still been a lot to absorb.

The action picked up about a third of the way in and by the time we hit the halfway mark I was hooked! This is the first time I've ever dipped a toe into the world of Japanese mythology and it was utterly fascinating!

I want to say that Emi was such an interesting character but honestly? She was so bland!
In the beginning anyway but it wasn't her fault.
She'd been marked to be the physical host of a goddess since she was a child. She was cut off from her family and raised in a very strict way so she'd be pure and prepared for her duty.
For the past 10 years, she'd been so sheltered that she has no real grasp of who she - Emi - is!
She's just been the kamigakari and has had next to no thought for herself.
However, she isn't weak. She isn't a coward. She is thoughtful, honourable, and determined.
The events of this book are like an awakening to Emi.
Her world is shaken to its very foundation and she begins to discover who she is as a person and over the course of the novel becomes ever more interesting.

Shiro, however, has an almost magnetic pull from the very first encounter!
The combination of the mysterious yoki and the sheltered kamigakari is pure gold.
I loved their dynamic and the potential that lies between them and I have no idea how things are going to play out - their attraction seems pretty doomed! - but I'm here for it.

The second half of the novel was so action packed and addictive that I'm bouncing on the edge of my seat for more!
Nothing is as it seems and I can't even begin to guess how things will unfold after the shocking revelations but I know it's going to be awesome!


The cover is stunning!
All of Annette Marie's covers are stunning.
I'd happily frame them and put them on my wall to just stare at.