Sunday, 27 April 2014

Book Review: The Cuckoo's Calling

It was really nice to have a little bit of time off work over Easter, and somehow I managed to coincide this with gorgeous weather! Which meant it was the perfect opportunity to sit in the garden and read.


This book had been on my list for a long time... I downloaded it on my Kindle once it went down to a reasonable price, and then it sat there for a few months. Obviously, I wanted to read it because it's JK Rowling under a pseudonym, and because I am a massive Harry Potter geek. I have also read The Casual Vacancy, and whilst I enjoyed it, I wasn't overly impressed.

I like to think I started this book with an open mind, but the first few chapters I found pretty painful and I wasn't hooked. I actually started reading this on the SEVEN hour ferry journey to the Hook of Holland so I had major cabin fever and a boredom of the brain that was impossible to rid, so this might have contributed to my lack of interest. Once I got to about 10%, the book got better, and then by the time I reached 25%, I knew I was in!

I really enjoyed the mystery that was woven throughout the book. There were a lot of characters and thus a lot of suspects, but once I got my head around them all it wasn't that difficult to follow. The main characters were likeable, realistic (to a point), and the detective's assistant had an awesome name ;-). Also, the assistant is a strong, resourceful female character, and I am all about women power. Every time I thought I had the book figured out, there was another curve ball, another viewpoint to consider, and in the end I was completely wrong about whodunnit. And normally I am pretty good. I think I also enjoyed this because most mystery books I read are based in America, whereas this one was in London and therefore easier for me to visualise and relate to.

I was really happy when I read that there will be a second book, and I will definitely be downloading it. Although I think it is a shame that JK Rowling got 'outed', I am really glad she did because I really enjoyed this book and I probably would never have found it otherwise. I'm pretty sure my enjoyment of this book would not have been any different if I had not known who had really written it. This was a gripping, well executed book that I would thoroughly recommend to anyone! And, it's probably the best book I have read so far this year. Four stars.

Does anyone have any other mystery recommendations for me?

Monday, 21 April 2014

It's Official, I Love Gardening

I hope everyone had a nice Easter weekend... I worked Good Friday and Easter Monday, spent Saturday with friends and Sunday with family so I had a busy but mostly enjoyable one. 

We have been very lucky recently to have had some nice weather, and I have been itching (literally for weeks) to get out in the garden and do some tidying. When I bought the house the garden was basically lawn with holes in (from the previous owners' dogs) and a couple of small trees. I have created a small flowerbed at the back of the garden where there is the most sun. Recently I have spent some time weeding and digging, and Mutti has given me some plants from her garden.

This is next to my apple and crabapple trees... In the pot there is a Jasmin plant, then next to it is a rosebush that was already in the garden. I transplanted it to this fence last week as it will get more sun there and it was annoying me where it was (I also want to put a compost bin there at some point), but I'm not 100% sure it will survive as digging it up proved both tedious and painful so I may or may not have snapped some roots rather than digging them all up. The plant got it's own back though by stabbing me with a thorn. When I woke up the next morning the cut was full of pus (TMI? Tough! I love pus). Next to the rosebush is a peony (I think).

Round the corner (past the snail sanctuary - to entice birds, you know) there is a right hodge podge of plants I have acquired over the past year. Clockwise, from top, there is a golden leafed fern that has a proper name I've forgotten, a peony, daffs that have yet to flower (I swear half of them never emerged), purple geranium, an unknown orange flower, michaelmas daisy, unknown pink flower, rudbeckia, and something else Mutti gave me that I can't remember. Clearly the lawn needs some attention too.

Along the back fence (from R-L) there are more unknown pink flowers and rudbeckia, hollyhock, unknown orange flower, more rudbeckia that has yet to come back to life, buddleia, daffs, and unknown orange flower.

As you can see there is a lot of space to add more, and lots of things that have yet to sprout and grow to fill in the bed. But oh my word, the overall effect when I look from the kitchen window is a million times better than a few weeks ago. Some things may need to be relocated too... Mutti said the daisy can get very tall so may need to get moved closer to the fence, but we'll see what happens. This is my first foray into gardening and I must say I have found it to be rewarding and therapeutic. Even mowing the lawn is not as painful as it used to be.

I have a few pots on the patio too, but at the moment these are mostly full of dead things or weeds, so they will be requiring my attention soon (you know, in all that free time I have). One thing that is doing very well, however, is my kiwi plant. A little bit of feed and it has flourished in the past couple of weeks. Apparently I am guaranteed to get fruit from it this year!

I haven't had much luck with my mint plant either, but it is starting to grow back. I weeded it (it was sharing it's pot with some grass, a dandelion and some of the unknown pink flower mentioned earlier) and this is how it looks:


Next on my list: buy a big pot for the strawberry plants Mutti has given me, and I also want a blueberry bush. I'm undecided as to whether or not to grow any veg this year, as the pumpkins last year sort of took over the patio and then grew into the lawn.

Has anyone else been gardening in the sunshine? Any tips for me?

Friday, 18 April 2014

Book Review: Wicked

So I had a little break from the internet. I didn't blog, I didn't read any blogs, I didn't check my emails. It was nice. Until I had hundreds of things to catch up on. We had Ofsted visit us at work. Ofsted are basically the official body that inspect educational establishments and gives us all a grade, so it was truly a terror-turd inducing time. And, I needed a break and a breather.

Whilst I was taking a break, I read. I mentioned a few weeks ago I am now obsessed with Wicked. Seriously, still obsessed. This musical is the best thing since sliced bread. I may or may not have also found the time and money to secretly go to London and watch it on the West End. But yeah, the book...


Oh my, it was hard going. I had periods where I would devour large portions in one sitting, and then there were times when I literally could not read more than a page without becoming tired and confused. It took me a loooong time to finish it, but I was glad when I did. I wonder what I would've thought if I'd have read it before seeing the musical? The book is very, very different to the musical. The characters are different, the storyline is different, the ending is different. I found it to be very strangely written, with a lot of words that seemed overly long, complicated and unnecessary for the actual means of the story. I'm not going to lie, I had to look up the definitions of a lot of words (I haven't had an English lesson since I was 15 though).

The character of Elphaba was not as likeable nor relatable as in the musical (I feel as though musical-Elphaba is a kindred spirit), and I was not as invested in her as I thought I would be. I was also disappointed by her relationship (or lack thereof) with Ga/linda. But I did enjoy the whole section with Fiyero... if only it would've been longer. I was hoping that this would literally be a book of the musical, and it's not. Still, I am glad that I read it, and I will probably read the sequels, in time. And I will probably reread this one to see if it improves with a second reading. I did enjoy the way it raised issues that are also issues here, in the real world, and the way it examined relationships.

I think I would give the book 2.5 stars. I can't recommend the musical enough, and if you love the musical you will probably feel drawn the the book too.

To finish, listen to the clip below for the reason why I fell in love with Wicked (also, this is exactly how I imagine I sound when I sing this song). Skip to 4:45 for the good stuff. I'll be back soon to update you on what I've been up to in the garden. And how I went to the Netherlands for free.