Wednesday, 27 November 2013

Review of My Cousin Rachel by Daphne du Maurier

One of my all time favourite books by this author is the classic, Rebecca.  I've always wanted to read more of Daphne's books but never got around to it but after reading this one I will definitely be seeking out more of her works.

Like Rebecca this book has a haunted feel to it.  You are never quite sure of exactly what is really going on.  behind the fa├žade of the characters there's a whole host of lies and deceit unfolding, many of which are never fully revealed and a lot is left to the readers imagination.

Phillip Ashley is orphaned at a young age and goes to live with the life long bachelor relative, Ambrose.  They enjoy each others company and Ambrose revels in his relationship with the young Phillip regarding him as his own son.  When Ambrose embarks on a trip to Florence little did he know that he would meet and fall in love with his cousin Rachel.  Little did he also know that he would never return and would fall seriously ill with a brain tumour and meet his end. 

Phillip is devastated when he receives a letter from a sick Ambrose and departs immediately for Florence.  Regrettably he arrives to late and his uncle and passed away and Rachel has packed up the villa and disappeared.

In time she contacts Phillip and arranges to come to the family home and bring Ambrose's belonging back to their rightful place.  Phillip is prepared to hate the woman however upon meeting her however his opinions begin to change and could he possibly be falling in love with her.

Ambrose has left a trail of letters that Phillip uncovers and they all point towards Rachel not being the woman she portrays.  Was Ambrose really ill or was his illness caused by poisoning?  When Phillip falls ill not long after her arrival is he really ill or are there more sinister goings on.  Is Rachel trying to get her hands on the inheritance that she missed out on on Ambrose's death.

This was a brilliant read and the storyline twists and turns and even right to the end the truth is never fully uncovered.  Can't wait to read more of Du Maurier's work.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Christmas at Sundown

I had a magical day out with the kids, my sister and my nephew yesterday.  With the weather forecast dry and bright it was a trip to Sundown to their amazing winter wonderland.  I've visited Sundown on numerous occasions and loved every visit but despite my best intentions I've never managed to visit at Christmas. It was superb and everyone loved every second of the day.

We were all wrapped up cosy and warm and first things first was a trip on Santa's Sleigh Ride to see the big man himself.  It was fab.  The kids had to knock on the big red door which was opened by an elf and then they had to knock on Santa's door which was answered by Mrs Claus.  It was very special and it was smiley faces all round until that was we got outside and Charlie sulkily announced that he didn't like his present from Santa.  He wanted an Angry Birds pen like Faye.  Kids there's no pleasing them sometimes.

Next up was picnic time in the nice heated marquee.  The kids tucked into their sandwiches whilst watching a magic show and getting to meet the Snow Queen.  I think meeting the Snow Queen was Faye's highlight of the day and she told me,  "I loved her because she had such a beautiful dress and tiara she announced and lovely shiny blond hair." 

We had a wander around the park and as darkness start to creep in hundreds of little fairy lights lit up the place.  It was my little nephew's first visit to Sundown and he had a wonderful time running riot and getting up to all sort of mischief with the biggest grin on his face.

To complete the day it was back into the marquee to warm up and the kids had a dance with Honey and Sunny Bear.  All the Christmas songs were belting out and everyone kids and grown up alike were singing and dancing and getting into the festive spirit.  The cherry on the cake was the fake snow that fell onto the kids heads as they danced to the closing track.

I definitely feel in the Christmas spirit now and it was a day that I will certainly never forget.

Thursday, 21 November 2013

It can only happen to me.

So,  Tuesday came and I excitedly thought yes, today is the last day that I will have to mop up dripping water.  The engineer arrived at 1.30pm and got stuck straight in. A few hours later, job done, and thankfully very little mess to clear up.  I happily paid my money and off he went.

I was busy pottering around and sorting the kids for bed when I came downstairs and I thought it's cold in here.  Oh joy of joy, I had no heating.  It can only happen to me.  OK, I've dealt with this before, my boiler is fairly temperamental at times and I've had a fair bit of practice at getting it back up and working.  Yes, my boiler engineering skills were once again put to the test but after two hours I gave in and admitted defeat.  There was nothing for it but to go get tucked up nice and warm in bed. I just hoped and prayed that it would all kick in in the morning as it has done on previous occasions.  As you can guess on this occasion it was not to be.

My house was more like an igloo.  In fact, I think an igloo would have been warmer.  The poor kids got up put on their school uniforms and completed the look with their dressing gowns and sat eating their breakfast with icicles dripping off the end of their noses. I've never seen two kids so eager to get to school and into the warmth.

Another phone and another engineer and eventually after a bit of playing around with my heating system, result! Yeah, I now have heating, hot water and no leaks.  Phew, what a palaver.

To add to my troubles my dad has been taken back into hospital for more treatment. It's been a very worrying few months and this week has been especially tense especially after the last treatment he had that went badly wrong and resulted in him spending a week in intensive care.  A treatment he's never recovered from.

I got a phone call to say that the treatment had been started and after ten minutes had to be stopped after another bad reaction.  Your mind races.  What now?  Eventually it was re-started and the good news is so far the signs are positive.  I just hope that this time the treatment does more good than harm. 

As if all that wasn't bad enough I then get a phone call from Charlie's school to say that he has been attacked by another child during the lunch hour.  I was told not to worry he was OK but that he had a big red scratch on his face.  They wanted to let me know before I collected him so I wasn't shocked by it.  I don't know whether that just made me more anxious.  To be told I wasn't to be shocked, my God, how bad was it?  What have they done to my baby?  I counted down the seconds until I could collect him and give him a hug.  Thankfully, the mark wasn't as bad as I feared although it is a very angry looking scratch.  I'm just thankful and feeling a little re-assured that that child in question has been severely dealt with.  I know boys will be boys and that Charlie, at times, is no angel but I won't have him being attacked at school.  He doesn't receive that sort of treatment at home and I don't expect it to happen at school.

After all that drama it was time for some nice family time.  The kids have been so well behaved during the more insane moments of the week when I felt like I was going mad and have been desperate to go to the nearby toy shop and spend their birthday money. There just haven't been enough hours in the day to make that possible.  Last night, I made the time and it was the much longed for trip followed by a teatime treat at MacDonald's.  It was two happy little children that I kissed goodnight and tucked into bed. 


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Review of Lone Wolf by Jodi Piccoult

I'm a big fan of Jodi's books and she didn't let me down with this one.  A family torn apart by events in the past and reunited in the wake of an accident but are they really reunited or is the divide to widen further with the life and death decisions that lay ahead.

Luke Baxter lives with his seventeen year old daughter Cara and his pack of wolves.  He's a conservationist that goes to the extreme and leaves his young family to try and go to the next step and integrate himself with a wild pack of wolves in the Canadian wilds.  Having survived the challenge he re-enters the human world and a changed man and ultimately loses his wife and son.  His ever faithful daughter chooses to make a new life for herself with him.  One fateful night the truck they are travelling in goes off the road and Cara has serious injuries but Luke has a major head trauma that leaves him battling for life on a ventilator and deep in a coma.

Luke's son, Edwards immediately flies back from Thailand where he has spent the last six years avoiding all contact with his father.  The prognosis for Luke's recovery are not good and a decision has to be made as to whether the life support machine should be turned off.

A decision that Luke and Cara and unable to agree on.  Whilst Edward knows his father would never, if ever, return to any sort of life.  Cara believes that miracles can happen and fights tooth and nail to keep her father alive.  Circumstances get out of control and decisions are taken that lead to more hurt and heartbreak.

With neither party still in agreement the pair find themselves locked in a tense courtroom battle, fighting to get the title of Luke's guardian but who will win and how will Luke's fate be decided.

This was another tense book and I found myself at times feeling pain for each character and siding with one and then the other.  How would I deal in a situation like that? The answer is, I really don't know.  At the end of the day, what is the right decision?

Monday, 18 November 2013

Tough Love

My little man had a lesson in tough love over the weekend.  These last few months he hasn't wanted to go and spend any time with his dad.  He will go for a few hours and then start kicking off and wanting to come home.  This weekend he decided that he wasn't going to sleep at his dad's.  Now that's normally not a problem but this weekend I had plans to go out on Saturday night. Plans which annoyingly I had to cancel.

I'm beginning to think it is all just a game to him.  He's a clever little boy and he has realised that if he kicks up a fuss and demands to come home, we bend and he gets his own way. Resulting in him spending one to one time with mummy and getting all the attention he wants.  That's not fair on my little lady.  I very rarely get to spend quality one on one time with her but that is going to change.

It is a fine line with Charlie as his behaviour over the past few months hasn't been great and this past couple of weeks he has really settled down and there has been a massive improvement.  The anger he's displayed just lately has calmed right down and I feel like I have my lovely little boy back again.  Therefore, I am very wary about pushing the issue and putting things back to square one.

On the other hand, he can't totally control my life and put an end to the rare few nights out I have or the spare time that I so much need sometimes.  Being on your own your time is precious.  There is no one coming home at the end of the day to relieve the pressure when you've had a bad day.  I am mum and dad all rolled into one 99% of the time. I wouldn't change it for the world but I do treasure the few hours I get to myself.

Although me and his dad don't see eye to eye on a lot of things the one thing I do know is that he does want to see the kids and spend time with them.  That's something I encourage as I don't want my kid's growing up and not knowing their dad. Whatever has gone on in the past I want him to play a part in their life.

So, I gave up my night out, reluctantly.  Come Sunday he point blank refused to go back to his dad's.  He wanted me to sit and build in Lego with him.  I told him in no uncertain terms that I had a busy day with lots to do and that didn't involve playing Lego.  "I don't care,  I'm not going and I'm staying with you." he shouted.  "OK," I agreed, "but you are going to have a very boring day." I told him.

After the food shop, came the ironing and lots of other little jobs I had to do.  He moaned and whinged and had to basically occupy himself.  Once the jobs were completed I decided that as this was technically my time I would sit and read my book for half an hour.  That didn't go down well with him at all.  He kicked off and screamed but I told him in no uncertain terms that this was my weekend off and he would have to get on with things.

Come half past two he was begging to go to his daddies,  Telling me how much he loved his daddy and how much he missed him.  "Too late," he was told.  You made your choice this morning and your plan for my undivided attention has backfired and now you have to live the consequences.  I was told in no uncertain terms that I was the worst mummy in the world. To add salt to the wounds when my little lady came home she's had a lovely day with a trip to the park and then a visit to see Santa's reindeer.  "It's not fair" he screamed.  "I've been nowhere but boring asda shopping."

He was in a right strop last night and this morning but he has to learn that he can't always have his own way.  Seems like my little plan has worked.  He may not be so hasty to rush home now when he should be spending time with this dad. 

Saturday, 16 November 2013

The Drama Continues

And Relax.  The kids are at their dad's for the weekend, hopefully! The house is nice and tidy.  The water situation is under control if not resolved.  This will be fully sorted on Tuesday.  I've finally managed to get a good few nights sleep.  I felt like a zombie for the first half of the week and was functioning on auto pilot. There's nothing left for me to do but to chill out and look forward to my girlie night out tonight.  I think a bit of pampering is on the cards for this afternoon. 

This week has been manic. I've found myself running around like a mad woman, just for a change, and I even saw myself going backwards on a few occasions.  I'm having to control my water situation by turning my water on and off to the house on a need to use basis.  It's not ideal when you have two kids and loads of washing to keep on top of.  That and a little by whose mad about being in the shower.  I've had numerous kicks off from him not having his morning shower.  I just wonder if this will last when he is a teenager.  Probably not.

I've had yet more drama when I went out to the car only to find that the lock on the drivers door has decided to pack in.  Just Great!  More expense.  For now, I'm having to unlock the passenger side and reach across to let myself in.  It's not ideal when my drive way does not allow the passenger car door to open more than a few inches due to my garden fence.  Luckily, my little skinny 5 year old managed to squeeze in the first day and with much shouting of which button to press he managed to let me in.  That is definitely my three bad things for this month so in hopeful anticipation I have bought a lottery ticket or two this week.  Well, my lucks got to change sometime and I can live in hope that tonight will be the night.

As predicted in my last post Sunday was a great day.  It was Charlie's fifth birthday and he had a fantastic time.  He was so excited that he had me up at 1.30am, 2.30am and 5am but finally we got up at 6.30am and he was able to rip open all his presents.  His new train set is the favourite so far.  Along with his batman dress up and scooter.  I keep seeing this little batman fly past my living room window as he scoots up and down.  He's so cute.

Then it was party time.  His first proper party and he loved it.  He sat there at the head of the table like the king and revelled in all the attention.  It was one tired but very happy little boy that crawled into his bed on Sunday night and one happy mummy that we'd had such a fantastic day.  I just can't believe where the years have gone.  He's grown up so fast.

With the forecast of snow imminent I though I'd better dig out the kids wellies and get them all tried on in preparation.  Surprise, surprise, neither pair fits. More expense.  It was a trip to the shops to purchase a new pair each yesterday.  Faye has fallen in love with hers.  She put them straight on and has not taken them off since.  She even got showered last night, put on her nightie and completed the look with her wellies that stayed on her feet all night whilst she watched Children in Need, which incidentally had me in tears.  They were left at her bedside last night like a pair of slippers and as soon as she got up this morning they were straight back on and have remained there ever since.

After all the drama of the last couple of weeks watching Children in Need really hit home that actually my problems are quite insignificant.  I have two wonderful, healthy, happy little children and at the end of the day that's all that matters.  What's money and a little inconvenience.  It pales into significance.  Hearing those heart breaking stories of families that have been torn apart with death and illness makes you realise that actually I am one of the richest people in the world.  My heart goes out to those families and others like them, that would do and give anything to have what I have.

Saturday, 9 November 2013

And it gets worse!

I hardly slept a wink last night.  All I could dream about when I closed my eyes was bloody dripping water.  I was up every hour or so constantly checking that nothing had got worse and changing wringing wet towels in an attempt to contain the water.  I feel like a zombie today and cannot wait to crawl up to my bed tonight.

I rang a local company first thing this morning that had been recommended to me last night and spoke to a lovely guy. Although he couldn't promise he could get anyone to have a look at the leak, he was snowed under with work and his engineers were already over-booked with jobs, he did give me some really helpful advice on how I could slow matters down.  He pulled out all the stops and had a guy out to me by 12.30 lunchtime.  A really nice engineer had a good look at it all and unfortunately confirmed that it is the tank and it does need replacing.  This can't be done until next week and therefore my options were to either seal off the hot water, and survive for a week without.  I can't do that.  I can't function without my morning shower, or try to continue managing the problem.  I opted for the second.  He's shown me exactly what to do if the leak gets any worse.  How to drain off my tank and best of all, at the moment, it's working.  Not a drop of water has escaped for the last few hours so at least tonight I can sleep like the dead.

As if the day could get any worse, I went to feed and clean out our little guinea pigs this morning only to find that our little Lily Pig had died.  The kids are devastated.  I spent the next few hours consoling and wiping tears and giving out big hugs.  After a while they started to bombard me with questions about heaven.  How will Lily get to Heaven if she's buried in the garden?  Why did she die? and can we get another one? were all questions I had to find answers to before digging out the spade from the back of the shed and laying her to rest.  There is now a little shrine in my garden made by the kids to the lovely Lily Pig.  It's all so sad she was such a lovely, cheeky little guinea and I'm as devastated as the kids but in answer to the last question, are we getting another one? The answer is no.

Anyway, tomorrow will be a good day.  I can feel it.  It's my baby boys fifth birthday and he is mega excited tonight.  The countdown is finally ending and he has only one more sleep before it's presents and party time.  I just have to sit and wrap all his presents now, which I really don't have the energy for but needs must.  Maybe a glass of wine may help.

Friday, 8 November 2013

When things go wrong they certainly do it style.

Yes I'm in rant mode again tonight.  I need to rant to take my mind off the leak that's sprung up from the cylinder in my airing cupboard. It's been leaking since the weekend, very slightly and I had an engineer out yesterday, who kind of looked at it, scratched his head, shone the light from his mobile phone around the area of the leak and said, "Well it could be a fixing, which would have to be ordered in or it could be a crack in the tank, which again would need to be ordered in. I'll have to have a word with my boss tomorrow and we'll get the office to give you a call." and promptly left.  I wasn't too happy at that.  For starters I had a routine appointment booked in two weeks ago for a routine service of my boiler so I rang up on Monday and added the request for them to look at the leak.  "Not a problem," I was told, "the same guy can look at it for you.  It's booked in for Thursday as a morning appointment.  So, I waited and waited and waited and received a phone call at 12:30, "Very sorry but the engineer is running late."  That's the second time they have done that to me now.  Eventually he arrived at 4.40pm.  A full day wasted for ten minutes of nothing.

Ok, I thought.  It's not leaking to badly and it can wait a couple more days.  You can imagine my horror tonight when I walked in from work to find water dripping all the way down my hallway from the tank upstairs to the bottom of my stairs. I Immediately called the engineers, who I hasten to add had not bothered to make any attempt to contact me today and was told they'd get in touch with the engineer and call me back.  Surprise, surprise an hour and a half later and no phone call.

So, I rang back again.  Explained who I was only to be told oh yes your waiting for a quote, I'll get onto it.  No, I'm not waiting for a quote.  I pay a policy that covers repairs, replacements etc etc.  Oh ok, came the reply.  We are waiting for the engineer to come back into the office and we'll call you back.

This time they did call me back.  They've disregarded the idea of a replacement fixing and have gone straight to replacing the tank.  At a cost of £500 to me.  "But I pay a policy for this," I said.  "Oh no, came the reply.  This isn't covered under the policy."  Arggghhhh.  Now, I'm no plumber but how can a quick look with a mobile phone establish that the problem is definitely a crack in my water tank.  When the tank is covered in thick insulation and you can't even see.  Maybe the engineer has a crystal ball.  Or maybe they are just trying to rip me off!  A closer inspection of my own and I clearly see that the connection from the pipe to the tank is actually cracked.  Could that in fact really be the problem.  Quite possibly.

I told them non too politely where they could shove their £500 charges.  I'm going to get a second opinion of their so called diagnosis before I part with a penny.  So, I have spent tonight clearing up water and replacing towel after towel to soak up the water.  I even resorted to hanging off ladders and blasting the hair dryer down the back of the tank in an attempt to dry up the water.  So far I have succeeded and just keep replacing the wet towels and trying to contain it.  It's going to be a long night.

On top of that I went for my interview on Wednesday and unfortunately or fortunately I didn't get the job.  when I received the answer no, I politely e-mailed and asked for some feedback.  For future reference I need to know where I went wrong.  Well, the response I received was less than polite to say the least.  If that's the way they treat people I'm now pleased I didn't get the job. 

 The last nail in the coffin and more expensive was my oven decided to go pop.  So I have spent the week without a cooker and struggling to cook meals that could be made easily.  More expense that I could do without at this time of year.  At least my new cooker is here and I managed to rip the old one out and under the guidance of my good old dad managed to wire in the new one.  The place I ordered it from wanted to charge me £85 to do that. 

Hmm, maybe there's a career change for me there.  Maybe I should go into plumbing and electrics.  I'm certainly getting a fair amount of practise and judging by the prices these guys charge I could be making a bloody fortune.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Review of White Bones by Graham Masterton.

This book is a real page turner and a brilliant read. It is very gruesome in parts and extremely graphic leaving chills down your spine.  I wouldn't read if you are on the squeamish side but if you like plenty of blood and gore then it's fabulous.

When human bones are found in a field at the Meagher's farm, the remains are soon discovered to be that of eleven women that disappeared decades ago.  The case is assigned to D.S. Katie Maguire and she certainly gets more then she bargained for.

She quickly established that the women were killed for ritualistic purposes and in the most horrific way.  The thigh bone of each victim has been drilled and a linen dolly decorated in hooks and nails is left dangling.  When a young hitch-hiker is abducted and murdered her remains are found once again at the Meagher's farm and the case intensifies as it would seem a copy cat killer is out to continue the work of the original murders.

On top of that Katie has troubles of her own.  Her husband has slipped into the shady world of criminality but will Katie be able to save him.

This was a brilliant crime thriller and the identity of the killer is only revealed at the bitter end and leaves you gasping with shock. 

I can't wait to read the second Katie Maguire book.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

Review of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

After reading 'Gone Girl' by Gillian Flynn I had to immediately download some of her earlier novels and Dark Places did not disappoint.

Dark Places follows the character of Libby Day as she sets off on a journey to undercover the truth.  We meet Libby as a young woman.  She lives alone and is  severely disturbed and haunted by her past.  Her background is revealed when we realise that Libby's family where brutally murdered in their home when Libby was just seven years old.  She managed to escape and her older brother Ben is imprisoned for the brutal murders.

However was Ben really the killer ? Or is this a case of a difficult teenager being wrongly accused.

This book twists and turns all the way through and doubt is thrown on what happened at every opportunity leading you to suspect numerous characters in the book before what truly happened is shockingly revealed.

Another fantastic book.

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Review of Gone Girl By Gillian Flynn

Wow, is all I can say about this book.

This chilling story follows Nick and Amy a young married couple whose lives have been turned upside down by the loss of their jobs.  Moving back from New York to Nick's hometown of North Carthage, Missouri their lives take on a new route as Nick opens up a bar with his twin sister.  Leaving Amy home alone for most of the time.

When Amy disappears and the house is left in chaos the finger is soon pointed at Nick as the murderer.  However the twists and turns in this book leave you guessing right to the very tense end as to what exactly the ending will be.

This book was more involved with the dark characters of the book rather than the actual crime and page after page you go from hating Nick, yet feeling for him, to hating Amy and discovering the bitter and twisted person she really is.

I've read many thrillers and in the majority of cases you can kind of second guess what is going to happen next but not with this one.  I would never have guessed the ending in a million years which makes a refreshing change. 

This book was brilliant and as soon as I finished I had to immediately download more work from this author.  I would definitely recommend this book.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Time to chill!

It's been a frightfully busy week this week (excuse the pun I couldn't resist)  Yesterday was especially busy with a trip to the cinema with the kids followed by spook night at the nearby park.  The kids went in full dress up and loved every minute.  The ghost walk through the dark forest trail was a little on the scary side with various people waiting to jump out and frighten us all to death.

By far for me, the scariest bit was when I took the kids on the twister ride and whilst waiting for the ride to start we were overlooking the large playing field, which was obviously pitch black, all of a sudden a figure appeared out of the bushes and proceeded to walk slowly to where we were waiting. As he drew closer a shiver ran down my spine because I realised it was Jason out of the Friday the thirteenth films.  Your mind tells you it someone in character but when he proceeded to stand a few feet await still as a statue and stared straight me it was fairly awful and made the hairs on the back on my neck stand up.  To add to that once the ride started he proceeded to remain watching and I kept catching sight of him out of the corner of my eyes.

At least we have the illnesses out of the way.  This last couple of weeks the kids have had everything from the dreadful sicknesses bugs to being streaming with cold.  Typical half term.  The kids have certainly kept me busy and I've done lots of activities to keep them occupied.  Everything from trips to the cinema, a visit to the museum's, pumpkin carving, even playing board games.  I'm shattered and ready for a rest.

So tonight it's going to be a much needed glass of wine, feet up and with the kids at their dads for the weekend it gives me a nice couple of days to de-stress, chill out and enjoy a bit of me time.  It's been a while since I have had the full weekend to myself and I intend to enjoy every single minute.