books, Christmas, gift guide

Under the Tree: coffee table books from Thames & Hudson

I don’t own a coffee table but I do have a few hard to buy for relatives. Books like these can suit those with tricky tastes. I can imagine a few family members who might appreciate these. As do I.

The Face and The Bestiary are produced in conjunction with the British Museum. Containing images of some of the intriguing artefacts housed in one of Britain’s oldest and most eclectic museums.

I can spend a whole day wandering the galleries and still have only seen a fraction of the treasures it houses. These books are a great way to see some of the artefacts that you might have missed.

If I hadn’t been very kindly sent these books to share with you in the run up to Christmas, personally I’d be really chuffed to receive them as they’re beautiful objects as well as fascinating reads.

To buy your copies, you can order direct from the publishers or contact your local book shop. Priced at £16.95 each.

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Review: Defense of an Other – Grace Mead

Written by a practicing lawyer this novel is very heavy on the legal details and arguments, which at times made it a struggle to read.

However it was at least an interesting case to build a story around.

Matt is a young lawyer in New Orleans who after visiting a gay bar is attacked by three thugs. Defending a new acquaintance, he kills one of the thugs and is arrested for murder. The plot follows his trial and time in Angola state prison, notorious for its human rights abuses and extreme violence.

There is a lot of legalese used throughout, having so many of the characters be lawyers means it seems natural for them to speak like that, but harder for the lay person to understand. Especially the verbatim Supreme Court transcript.

Set in 2007 before several changes in law and culture, including marriage equality, Matt’s chances of leaving prison rest on arguments around whether or not a gay person can be sentenced by a bias jury; or should be a protected characteristic like gender and race (you can’t have an all white jury if there’s a black defendant for example).

Most of my legal knowledge is, like many people’s, based around watching a lot of crime shows and hours of Law & Order. The author however went to law school and works for a large Miami firm, having done similar jobs as her character.

Overall I found this book a little hard going at times (must watch more L&O) but certainly interesting. I would suggest reading it but not when you’re a bit sleepy, you need to be wide awake to follow the legal arguments being made.

This review is part of a blog tour, check out the rest of the tour.

books, reviews

Book Review: The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna – Juliet Grames

I was very lucky to get a copy of this proof, it’s not due to be published till next May.

Stella Fortuna is born in a small village in Calabria, Italy, the second child of Assunta and Antonio, but the first to survive childhood.

Named after her deceased sister, and possibly haunted by her, Stella leads a life marked by the seven (or eight) almost tragedies.

A mix of family saga, immigrant story and a sprinkle of magic realism; this book was a brilliant read. I was completely hooked.

Stella’s familial relationships are key to her story, especially that with her younger sister Cettina – who serves as the secondary protagonist. These are beautifully written and the characters come to life on the page.

I highly recommend pre-ordering this one because it is excellent.

blog tour, books, reviews

Book Review: Skyward – Brandon Sanderson

Spensa dreams of flight, soaring past the debris that litters the skies above her home on Detritus, into the open stars. Like her father she wants to be part of the Detritus Defence Force and protect her people from their enemy the Krell. Only her father was branded a coward and the admiral doesn’t want her anywhere near the DDF.

Spensa gets into the training program and starts to uncover the truth about her father and in doing so finds a few things out about herself too.

Sanderson is a well known and rather prolific writer of fantasy and science fiction, I first read his Final Empire trilogy, enjoying his strong world building and well written characters, something Skyward shares.

I really enjoyed this book, Spensa is a strong protagonist and it is easy to empathise with her story. The plot is pacy and even all the flight school simulation bits are enjoyable and fluid. Some of it is also very funny.

The ending is quite open and this book feels like the beginning of a series, fingers crossed I’m right.

This post is part of the blog tour for Skyward – check out the rest of the tour.

blog tour, books, reviews

Blog Tour: Book Review – The Caged Queen by Kristen Ciccarelli*

Ideally read The Last Namsara first as some of the events and characters appear in this book. There may be some slight spoilers in this review, the unavoidable ones.

Set in the kingdom of Firgaard after the overthrow of a tyrannical king, The Caged Queen chronicles two stories, the lives of sisters Roa and Essie, and the story of the king and queen of a changed kingdom.

Roa, now queen as part of her pact that won Dax his throne must find a way to reconcile her feelings for her husband and her scrublander loyalties, while finding a way to save the twin she once thought lost forever.

Having only recently read The Last Namsara, so it was fresh in my mind, meant I found it quite easy to slip back into Ciccarelli’s world. I could see the three groups quite clearly from her descriptions but also from how I pictured them in the previous book.

I felt that the characters of Roa and Dax were fully fleshed out as not being the focus of the previous book they’d felt rather thin before. I quite enjoy a series where you meet the different characters in their own stories, while also encountering them elsewhere, as Tamora Pierce has done for years; building up a sort of map of all the conjoined stories, deepening the world created within.

I liked this book, I enjoyed learning more about the kingdom, going to the scrublander homes and seeing their lives as well as the extreme wealth and privilege of some Firgaarders.

The writing is strong and absorbing, the characters well written and empathetic, the world building excellent. My only complaint was that there weren’t as many dragons in this one. I like dragons.

Check out the rest of the tour below.

*this post features sponsored or gifted items but all words and opinions remain my own.

jewellery, life

I still want Bernard’s Watch!*

But doesn’t every 90s kid? The power to stop time would be incredible. I’d certainly get more done. Although I remember Bernard being quite annoying.

I don’t wear a watch in my day to day, mostly because there are clocks in every room but I have noticed that I’ve started to get annoyed having to scrabble around in my bag for my phone whenever I want to know the time.

I used to wear a watch every day, I’ve been through several over the years, from the pinchy banded one my mum gave me aged 10, through a succession of cheap fast fashion ones that broke or fell apart to a sporty waterproof one from the Science Museum (I think I lost that one). I bought a rather nice rose gold one from ASOS, but I don’t think it’s even been on my wrist and I’m not entirely sure where it’s ended up.

The tiny mechanism inside a watch is fascinating

A few months ago I married a man with a penchant for pocket watches, like someone from the 1900s, he loves nothing more that to clip one of the five or six he owns to his clothes. He even gave his best men personalised ones as thank you gifts. On our wedding day he wore his Grandad’s one and his Grandpa’s cuff links, to show that even though they’re no longer here, they’re here.

Watches can be potent memories, my dad had his grandfather’s gold watch, until it was stolen in a burglary. I curse the thieves, may they never have enough time!

I remember the heavy chunky watch my dad wore in his corporate life, he’d take it off after coming home and put it on the arm of the chair. I liked slipping my much smaller wrist in and feeling the heavy links of the band against my arm. It was a reassuring thing, as long as the watch was there my dad was home with us. He travelled a lot for work and the watch being gone meant he was too.

The only person I can think of that still wears one every day is my mum, she’s worn the same one for years, although both the band and the batteries have been replaced several times. Maybe she should get a new one for Christmas?

There’s something quite satisfying about wearing a watch, sometjing that says “I am in control”. Which I never am.

There was a little girl playing with her brother in the park the other day, she had a kids plastic watch on, and was telling her brother quite loudly that it was home time, showing him her watch. Now that is the kind of watch I need, home time, tea time, nap time.

Unfortunately I couldn’t find any watches like that here but I did spot lots of bargains if you were planning on treating yourself or someone else to some new arm candy. This site collects all the best bargains and even gives you tips on how to decide which watch suits you best.

*this post contains gifted or sponsored content but all words and opinions are my own.

films, fun stuff, lifestyle, movie night, tv

Favourite Films for Cold Nights*

“Winter is coming” (in my best Sean Bean voice)

In winter I am even more of a homebody than the rest of the year and that’s saying something for this little couch dweller.

One of my favourite things to do when the wind is howling and it is inevitably raining, is to cosy up under a snuggly blanket with a supply of Diet Coke and snacks to watch some of my ultimate favourite films, most of which my husband has shockingly not seen. I will admit that these predominantly date back to my late 90s early 00s teen years, but that’s how a favourite is formed.

Obviously the best way to watch films like these is on a nice big TV screen (or at the cinema) with a bowl of popcorn and other snacks. If you’re thinking of upgrading your TV and making things more cinematic in time for winter, maybe have a look at the Oled Televisions from Panasonic. 

1

This is the best Shakespeare adaptation there is, I will brook no argument. It is also most people’s introduction to Heath Ledger, who gives an amazing energetic performance. It’s funny, a bit naughty, silly, passionate and just so entertaining. It’s also highly quotable. I have fond memories of the first time I watched this, and it’s tied very tightly to my teenage years.

2

Damn the man, save the Empire! A day in the life of an independent record store in a typical middle American town, staffed by teenagers and manager Joe, played by Anthony LaPaglia, who just wants to get through it. Superstar Rex Manning is due in, and Corey (Liv Tyler) is planning to seduce him, Debra’s life is in freefall, Eddie just wants to play records and smoke weed. All of the teen angst is fully on display here. But there are some hilarious scenes, such as when they wrangle a shoplifter, touching moments and a top notch cast. I quote bits of this all the time, and sing the various very 90s soundtrack hits while cleaning my flat

3

I have long classified this as a Christmas film – it starts on Christmas Eve and covers a year in the lives of a group of friends living in New York City’s Alphabet City, dealing with careers, relationships and AIDS. It’s also a musical. My husband hates it and makes me watch it alone. I have no idea why. I am a Rent Head and try to see it on stage regularly, which is tricky as it’s a bit of a cult hit in the UK and not many places seem willing to stage it. I bloody love it. I will sing along to every song, always cry at the saddest bit and can quote whole chunks of it. Oh, wait, maybe that’s his problem with it. I also wrote my MA dissertation to the soundtrack, thankfully none of the lyrics made their way onto the page, that would have been deeply confusing. No Day But Today!

4

This is a super cheesy ballet movie – I think I must have watched it hundreds of times but I couldn’t tell you the names of most of the characters. There’s a lot of dancing, Zoe Saldana plays that stereotype ‘the sassy black friend’, Peter Gallagher (Seth’s dad in The O.C) plays the grumpy ballet company manager, Amanda Schull plays the heroine who’s “too fat” according to some of the dancers, and a lot of the other characters are played by actual ballet dancers. There’s lovely Charlie, who she should fall for and ‘Big Nose’ as we called him aged 15, the bad boy of ballet who breaks her heart but also makes her an amazing dancer. The soundtrack is cracking, and the finale is choreographed to Michael Jackson. It’s a total B movie but it has a special place in my heart.

5

This is my official favourite film ever (Center Stage is my actual favourite) and it is the absolute sum of screwball comedies – Katherine Hepburn, Cary Grant, a leopard, witty crackling dialogue – who could ask for more? I don’t really think it has a plot, just lots of snappy talking and craziness involving big cats. I adore it. Plus Katherine Hepburn looks amazing in all her outfits.

6

I was born in the 1980s, so films like this weren’t exactly on my radar when they first appeared. But when I was at uni I watched this classic teen movie and fell in love. The smart writing, the characters, everything about John Hughes movies makes me feel safe and happy. Despite the occasional struggle the characters always resolve everything by the end of the film and the soundtrack is always amazing.

What are some of your favourite movies to curl up on the sofa and watch? Let me know in the comments.

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*This post contains sponsored or paid for content but all words and opinions are my own.