What I’ve been reading – August 2016

August 16

I haven’t managed to complete that many books this month but looking at the list I think I’ve sort of managed to break the hold that conventional murder / thriller stories have had on me for a while. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child was of course good, Fellside was brilliant once I finally managed to get into it (and although on the face of it, it was a ‘girl in trouble’ sort of thriller, it had a marvelous spooky twist) and The Oversight, which was a bit meh. Other than those three, I read a little more of Urban Watercolour Sketching and have started Travelers Rest.

I abandoned Travelers Rest pretty quickly, it’s terrible, I know I shouldn’t be influenced by reviews, but I’d had Travelers Rest in my to-read pile for a while and when I finally picked it up to start to read and of course added it to my ‘currently reading’ on Goodreads, I noticed that the Goodreads score was 2.83! I don’t think I’ve ever seen a book on Goodreads before with a score below 3, so instantly my hackles were up and I was already thinking “this can’t be a good book”. And so far, a few chapters in, it isn’t, although how much of my opinion is coloured by that score, I don’t know. I think maybe if it had had a higher score, even with a clumsy start, I would be maybe willing to give it more of a chance but at the moment, I have very little desire to pick it up again.

So, in the meanwhile I’ve been reading another book I abandoned ages ago and having picked it up again (and restarted it and giving it a little bit of a leeway as I got into it), I’ve fallen into book love with. It’s not madly passionate book love (it’s not a top five sort of book – or even close) but it has totally absorbed me. The book? Heresy, the first in the Giordano Bruno series by SJ Parris. I had abandoned it ages ago because the prologue of a bookish monk escaping the Inquisition, somehow didn’t interest me and the opening chapters of lots of characters standing around having conversations designed to fill the reader in with background information, excited me even less but as I discovered, once you wade past all that first bit, it’s actually rather good. I’ve actually nearly finished it and there will be a review either much later today or probably tomorrow. I am rather excited to have found a series with another four more books to get my teeth into!

The Lost Palace

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Queen Mary’s steps, that would have once lead down to the river

Me and the kids haven’t done that much this summer holidays, as I’ve been recovering from my surgery (still another 6 1/2 weeks official recovery, although apparently in 2 1/2 weeks time I will be able to play competitive sports, which always makes me laugh because I couldn’t before!). I’d spotted The Lost Palace at The Banqueting House at the beginning of the holiday but there was no way I could have done it then and even at the end of the holiday now, I was pushing myself a little – although it was mainly the stairs on the Golden Jubilee bridge on the way home that made me puff). The Lost Palace is an interactive audio tour of the lost palace of Whitehall. The only bits of the palace that survive today are The Banqueting House and a wine cellar under what is now the Ministry of Defence but it was once the biggest palace in Europe.

The tour takes about an hour and you walk around with this device, a bit like an unlit wooden torch and you touch various ‘burnt’ things around Whitehall and it tells you stories about things that happened in that area. I listened to the children’s version (so I was in sync with what my kids were to listening to) and it was rather good (I think the children’s version was probably a lot more fun). You do have to be prepared though to look a little odd as you’re waving this wooden thing around in public!

Girl Lacer (nearly 13) liked it, Boy Lacer (nearly 11) liked it at first but got quite bored about 45 minutes in. I think younger children may have also not found the experience that entertaining and very sensitive younger children may find it a little upsetting, with talk of fire and chopping people’s heads off. But it certainly was a fun way to see a part of London that we don’t normally go to and if it sounds like something you might be into, it’s on until 4th September.

5 things I liked this week – 26.8.16

  1. Getting out to see some Welsh countryside last weekend.

    Near and at Barmouth plus Snowdonia

    2. Appreciating my own ‘countryside’ when I got back (and the fact that it was a lot sunnier!)

    Home Park

3. Whilst I was away (and the kids were at the mother-in-law’s), Mr. Lacer started the very long process of swapping ours and the kids’ bedrooms around. We live in a tiny two bed flat and can’t afford to move, for the past 12 years, me and Mr. Lacer have had the ‘big’ bedroom (it’s not that big, particularly when both kids were babies and took their turns sharing with us) and the kids had the little bedroom, sleeping in bunk beds eventually (they originally shared the room in a toddler bed and a cot). Both kids need a lot more privacy now and really should have their own separate bedrooms but we can’t afford to move to a three bed place in our area and we desperately don’t want to take the kids out of their schools, so we’ve swapped bedrooms. Now technically our flat is a two double bedroom flat but the second bedroom really is a stick a double bed in it and not much else room but you know what, I think it’s cozy.

Photo 25-08-2016, 22 27 25

I do have a hell of a lot of stuff to sort out chuck out though (and also a lot of storage solutions that require sewing).

4. The Great British Bake Off is back!!!!!

5. I have a new dangerously favourite shop, The Journal Shop, do not, I say do not, click on that link if you have any predisposition towards stationary, particularly vintage or Japanese, because it is bloody gorgeous, sigh (and I thought Present and Correct was dangerous).


The Oversight 

The Oversight (Oversight Trilogy, #1)The Oversight by Charlie Fletcher

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hmm, this book only just made it to three stars, saved largely due to a much stronger ending which even made me tempted to read the next book in the trilogy and I had spent most of the book swearing I wasn’t going to. On the surface this should have been a book I loved, it’s plot set in early Victorian London, about a group of five, The Oversight, who police the ‘supra-natural’, is right up my street but I didn’t get on with the writing style. There was far too much tell not show and even when there was ‘telling’, in the form of endless conversations between characters, which were basically setting up the rules of this universe, it just felt too obvious. I realise that it’s difficult when writing fantasy, particularly a first book in a trilogy, to have to get the basis of the world you’re writing about down, without overwhelming or boring the reader but I’ve read plenty of fantasy books where it has been done more successfully.

But, like I said, the ending was quite strong, making me actually intrigued about the next book and there were other strong bits too. I liked one of the sets of villains, two black robed lawyer brothers with a legion of adopted sons / henchmen and I also liked the thing with the mirrors (I won’t spoil what it is), I thought that was a clever idea and also, well, it IS a book featuring magic in London and Victorian London at that, which I am a sucker for. So, I probably will read the next book but put it this way, I’m not in much of a rush.

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5 things I liked this week – 19.8.16

1. There’s a fantastic Neil Gaiman documentary on Vimeo, it’s about his last ever signing tour and why he writes etc. Although Gaiman obviously talks about writing, a lot of what he says resonates about being creative in general.

2. I loved this piece from Tom Cox about wild swimming. I initially started reading Cox’s stuff through his cat twitter accounts but he writes so funnily and poignantly about other stuff too.

3. I love how well Team GB are doing in the Olympics at the moment, okay I’m not actually watching the Olympics but to see so many happy, joyful faces on the news and on my twitter stream is lovely. Particularly considering I remember the first Olympics I particularly took notice of, Atlanta, 20 years ago, we didn’t even make the top 20 in the medal table and I remember all the hand ringing about why we were so rubbish. As I write Team GB is second on the medal table, we’re beating China and considering how small our population is relative to the other countries in the top three (US and China), wow! I think the London 2012 effect is definitely paying off! 

4. Girl Lacer has got making shortbread down to an art, she’s memorised the recipe and the result is delicious.

5. The last episode of The Living and The Dead! Wow, even the baby was a good actor (okay, presumably lots of raw footage and excellent editing, as the facial expressions of the baby, such as ‘Are you really going to leave me with this ghost, mum?’ were excellent. I can’t believe that the BBC have not commissioned another series though!

5 things I liked this week – 12.8.16

1. Converse Thunderbolt Modern trainers, let me just drool a little and mourn that I can’t afford them.

Image credit

2.  A relaxing bench in the sun, with the rather clever feature of being part of a series of benches, where each bench gets progressively bigger. I was on the second biggest bench and my feet couldn’t touch the floor, making me swing my legs and feel happily like a little kid.

I’m also quite fond of Prisma

3. I keep reading stories about this weird star that is baffling astronomers, one possible explanation is that some alien civilisation is using the sun for something (as an energy source presumably) or has some giant megastructure orbiting around it. Of course there could be some scientific explanation (that doesn’t involve aliens) that we just don’t understand yet but aliens would be cool (as long as they’re nice aliens). But then again (and I’ve lost the link to this article), I read another article this week that reckons life on Earth may be premature compared to the rest of the universe, that conditions aren’t right yet elsewhere but will be eventually. Now, in a way that would be even scarier than face eating aliens, if we’re the oldest civilisation in the universe, you know the sort of species that goes round looking all wise and bearded in cloaks, god help the rest of the universe.

4. We’ve had The Living and The Dead on our DVR for ages, some of it is still on iPlayer (although the first few episodes have already disappeared). Me and Mr. Lacer watched the first episode and we were like “hmmm, is it worth watching or is not worth watching?” (leaving aside the pure attractiveness of this man).

Merlin, you’ve all grown up! (Image credit)

I was  also a bit dubious as it’s quite scary and I am most definitely not into scary things. But we did some looking around at the reviews (whilst trying to avoid spoilers) and everyone was raving about it, so we kept it on the DVR. Meanwhile there were other things to watch and I’m still at the recovery stage where going to bed at 8pm is still very attractive sometimes, so it wasn’t getting watched. But me and Mr. Lacer made a concerted effort this week and ooh it’s good. It’s still scary but sigh, Colin Morgan. My perving aside, it’s a fantastic story, sort of a traditional ghost story with a twist, set in a working country estate. I have quite a fondness for the farming bits in particular because on my dad’s side, there’s a whole branch of the family tree who were farm workers doing the harvest, just as they’re doing in The Living and The Dead, for centuries, staying in the same village for generations.

The Living and The Dead also has the extra added bonus of being filmed in some absolutely stunning scenery, it must have been quite familiar for Morgan, as the episode we’ve just watched, featured lots of running in and out of crevices and caves and they’re exactly the same ones they used for Merlin. They filmed The Living and The Dead in the Forest of Dean, somewhere I’ve never been and is now on my holiday destination wish list!

5. I try and have a set mental list in my head of clothes I want to add to my wardrobe, that way I’m less likely to make impulse purchases and I will admit, there’s a certain thrill of the chase when I find ‘the’ perfect whatever that I’ve been after, especially as the perfect whatever has to also be affordable. So I was really please to find this skirt in M&S, the label in the shop said it was an a-line (although I note it doesn’t say that on the website) but it isn’t really, it’s much more like a pencil skirt, which is what I was after, it’s got just the right amount of cling (so it’s really comfy) and it’s just the right length, result!


FellsideFellside by M.R. Carey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book, at first it took me a while to get into but I gave it another go and it was so worth it. The main character is Jess, a drug addict who wakes up in hospital suffering horrific burns, she can’t remember what happened but is told that she is under arrest for murder. An extremely remorseful Jess ends up in Fellside, a remote prison with a drug problem of it’s own; throw in a ghost and an alternate world and it is certainly a very unique book. I particularly loved how even though I think it’s quite a ‘literary’ book, the action pretty much doesn’t stop, with two interweaving plot strands and a whole cast of additional, well fleshed out characters, one of the best books I’ve read in ages.

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