Wednesday, 26 April 2017

April Life Update: Where have I been?

Hi readers,

So I didn't stick to my plan of blog posts. This is for a few reasons. I've been really busy with my other blog and work. I've three jobs now, just in case you didn't know! So, I'm working 6 days a week then juggling my family, friends, boyfriend and writing. Which means that things have been slipping.

I also have a back log of books to review, so I need get writing that up too! When I find the time.... Some of the books I'm going to group together though because it'll be easier. So, in the next two months I plan to have reviews about: JoJo's Bizarre Adventures, Vampire + Rosario, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, The Sookie Stackhouse/ True Blood series and Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman. Then I'l have caught up on book reviews!

I really wanted to get this post up this week, despite all my business because I wanted to share the good news that I've brought a car! My first car and it's so cool. I'm picking up in a few days time and then I want to do some posts about driving.

There's also a few other things I wanted to share, but they'll have to wait for next week now, because I didn't take any photos. I so need to do that soon.

Hopefully, I can now start finding the time to write more of this blog. I think my other blog has taken over with the A-Z Challenge! That's worth checking out, here's the link:

That's it for now. Time to work on some reviews. Thanks for reading! 

Monday, 6 March 2017

March Life Update: The Many Faces Of a Receptionist

Hi readers,

Today I'm celebrating a month into my new full job. This means I now have four jobs! Luckily, they are all with the same company at the same place, but it's been keeping me very busy. So, briefly, last year, I started volunteering on reception at the youth centre. I just wanted to do more and gain some experience in the hope I could then get a second part-time just somewhere else. 

Then though, there was an opening for a zero-hours casual receptionist, just to cover the holidays and sickness of the four full and part-time receptionists. I totally aced the interview and started a few days later. The extra money was useful and I enjoyed actually getting paid for work I'd been doing for free before. 

In late December of last year, one of the part-time receptionists left. Her hours were Saturday evening; 6pm-10pm and I was asked to pick up her shifts, but now I'm contracted to work that shift permanently.  I felt a lot about this because it was steady money! And I didn't mind giving up my Saturdays because I don't do much anyway at the weekends now. 

Then a month ago, my new manager phoned me to say that the daytime receptionist had left and could I come in to do 9-3pm Monday to Friday? I agreed, but I only have a temp contract which finished at the end of this month. I'm hoping that this will turn permanent but nothing has been decided it.

Most people think that working on reception is like a 'cushy' job. All receptionists seem to do is sit behind a desk and answer phone calls, greet people, give directions, information and sit there looking pretty. Well, being a reception at a youth centre is different. I have what is the normal tasks of a receptionist and front of house, like the above, but I also do many admin tasks; signing in/out sheets, time sheet checking, register for visiting young people groups, date input, filing, money handling and the supplying of door key cards which we use throughout the building. 

To be honest, I don't mind taking on admin tasks because sometimes there are time periods were there's not much going on- mostly from 9-12. Plus, these are great skills and experience to have! I have a more to learn and add to my list though, but I enjoy learning new things, so it's fine. 

The other difference being front of house at the youth centre is that you have to deal with children, teenagers, disabled people and parents. Most receptionists just deal with adults and adult problems, but me I also have to deal with issues young people and parents might have which means my communication skills have to be top notch. I have to be able to handle anything; from an angry or upset parent making a compliant, to a child refusing to leave the building, or a teenager who has a disability and needs simple wordings. 

At this moment in time, I'm also training four volunteers to be receptionists! Even though it's hard to juggle that and my other tasks, I'm finding it fun. I love teaching and passing on my skills and knowledge. That's part of the reason I started volunteering at the youth centre in the first place. I'm training them how to deal with phone calls, greet visitors and use our database. 

Two of the volunteers are hair and beauty college students, who want some experience of reception as part of their course in case they need it. The third person is in uni and doing a health and social course, she has no real interested in reception or admin but is just here to get more hours for the completion of her uni placement. The fourth girl, reminds me of myself as she is claiming job seekers and looking for work. She wants a simple job to fit in around her daughter. She's taken to being a receptionist really well too.   

Being a receptionist isn't just all that though as I'm learning. You've also got to the flag of the ship. You are the first person people see and hear, you have to be professional and polite then friendly and chatty too - though not too chatty, no one wants to hear your personal issues or problems! Sticking with the normal topics helps; weather, traffic, lunch etc. I'm also a big representative of the youth centre, even though most people don't think about it when they are phoning to ask for information or coming in for a meeting, but I have to create the first impression with these people and get across my knowledge and passion for the company.

For my colleagues, it's a different face. I'm a listener, agony aunt, a reassurer and a bit of gossiper (which I probably shouldn't be!) I do enjoy a good chat, just not first thing in the morning as I'm still half asleep! I'm also getting use to people sounding off with me and just wanting someone to hear them out about a work or personal issues. Sometimes visitors do that too! Maybe it's my personality and nature, but I think other receptionists can relate to being these things too. 

For the people I train, I've to be teacher. I'm actually fine in this role and I'm not scare to admit to them that sometimes even I don't know what I'm doing! My teaching is very friendly, casual and hands on, which is how I like to learn myself really. However, this doesn't work for others, so one of my tasks is to write some clear instructions for how to use the phone and switchboard on Wednesday as a further aid. 

I also have to be learner myself as there's a lot more admin training I need. I'm currently learning how to check time sheets and find cover for staff. Tomorrow, I'm going to learn how to do the reception team route, which should be an easy task. I also need to learn how to do room bookings and such things. So, yeah it's a busy job! 

Anyway, I'm glad to be home tonight chilling and this Friday I'm off to my boyfriend's for a weekend at his as I'll get a small break then. I just need to survive the rest of the week!   

Thanks for reading and if you want to leave a comment please do, I'd love to hear from other receptionists! Also check out my other blog; Have a good week! 

Images from: a free stock photos.

Monday, 27 February 2017

Book Review: Greaveburn

Greaveburn by [Hallam, Craig]

Hi readers, 

I can't believe another month is over! Well, February has been very short this year. Spring all ready has arrived which given the few storms and cold weather there's been recently seems a bit strange! Anyway, today I'm reviewing another self-published novel and it's by an author I've meet! It was way back in December 2015 at a Steampunk fair and I brought one of his other books; Not Before Bed. You can read that review here;

I did see Greaveburn at the time but it didn't really interested me and I didn't want to commit to a full novel. I did put it on my reading list and a few months back I brought it but it's only a few weeks since I actually read it. 

It sort of was and wasn't my kind of book. I've been saying for ages I need to get more into fantasy novels and steampunk novels, I enjoy them both and thought this, which combines the two would be a nice read. I think part of the problem though is that it feels very novice like. Yeah, I know first time writers' books often are and I did try to set that aside. Hallam's writing isn't that bad, but he totally over uses similes and metaphors which stops the narrative flow and makes it seem like he's trying to hard! There is a good level of description though and the dialogue isn't that bad.   

I think though, the steampunk elements mixed with the fantasy genre didn't work for me. I blame myself to be honest! For me, steampunk is Victorian setting and I find it hard to look further out the box with it, but actually fantasy and other settings/genres would work well with steampunk, it's quite a versatile theme. Perhaps though, if this book had solidified itself in fantasy then it might have worked better. 

The other problem is that this is a stand alone book and it's short which means that there's not enough time to create the fantasy world or really develop anyone but the hero. I could have seen this working as a series and actually I would like to read more books set in the Greaveburn world. It wouldn't have to be about the same characters either. I don't know. For me, the creation of a fantasy world takes time and why just use it in one short book? Most of my short stories, barely started novels and characters, are base in or inspired by the world of Dungeons and Dragons or Tolkien to save time. 

Maybe, I'm being too mean this morning? 

I did enjoy reading Greaveburn and I liked the hero. He did do that stereotypical fall and rise of a hero though. His name is Darrant and he starts off in a high position as guard to the princess, but he is almost killed and ends up recovering in the sewers. He is taken care of by the 'broken folk' a group of the lowest of the low, who have all been rejected by Greaveburn. Darrant is determined to save the princess, the people and Greaveburn, so he leads a revolt to take back power. He is a likeable character and I did get into his story.   

The Princess Abrasia has only a little role to play and I would have liked her to be more involved and powerful. She comes across as a classic Disney princess really. She has lost all of her family but is too young to become queen, so a duke - I think it was, don't have the book to hand- is ruling in her place, but his family really wanted to take full control. We get to see the beauty of Greaveburn through her and she is very symbolic of freedom and new hope. However, she is 'killed' off under orders of the duke's family. She ends up being saved by a scientist guy - where most of the steampunk stuff comes in- and put into a death like sleep until she can be awoke safely. 

There are a few other characters who we get to spend sometime with, but they all seem to be supporting and background figures, so we learn very little about them. It would have been nice to have had a sub-plot maybe or some other story line to make things more interesting and longer. 

Actually, thinking about it now, this book does remind me of Les Miserables! The rise and fall of the characters, the fighting for power and justice, the poverty most of the characters have to live in and the cruelty of human nature. That all sums Greaveburn up too. 

Overall, this novel isn't bad. There's a mix of steampunk and fantasy, interesting characters and a plot that is simple but effective. I would say if you're interested then give it a read and see what you think. 

Thanks for reading. 

Monday, 20 February 2017

Book Review: Cemetery Candles


Hi readers, 

Today, I'm reviewing a book I read in early January. I can't remember how I heard about this book, maybe it was on a list of good vampire novels or I just stumbled across it whilst looking for something else. Anyway, the price tag of this book was high and I don't know why really, maybe it's self-published? but I had to wait till it was reduced to get it anyway and I'm glad I did. 

Candles is far from a typical vampire romance novel. Actually it's a little confusing because it starts with a vampire, Victor, - though he does a god job of hiding it - hiring a tutor for his young nephew and we get introduced to Victor, his nephew, Teo and their world through the eyes of the tutor, Valentina. It becomes clear that Victor and Valentina are falling in love but then Valentina sees Victor with another woman, Suzette, and they appear to be very close. 

Then there's a total switch in the story and we leave the 'present' with Valentina and Victor to go back into the past - 1700's-where we get most of Suzette's story. This is a really nicely told historic tale and it also has typical tragic events. Suzette meets and falls in love with Ivan who is a vampire. Ivan turns Suzette, who has a good job working as a doctor, into a vampire. Years later, Suzette and Victor met and fall in love. Sadly, the novel ends before we get to see Suzette make Victor into a vampire though we are aware it will happen. 

Whilst reading this book I wasn't sure what to make of it. The style of writing is a bit odd because its' third person present tense which isn't often written in. The flow though is fine and it doesn't jump around the years too badly. I don't think that being divided into two different time settings works though and I think it would have been better to take out the first part with Valentina and just expand the second part with the vampires. Clearly, it's been written like this to draw more people in and to set things up for later books. Yep, this is the first in a series. 

The one thing that really made me like this book was the different portraying of vampires. There is hardly any violence and fighting and love making that is very often attached to serial vampire books. I do enjoy all of that but its nice to read something different and see vampires in a different light. The real conflict in this novel comes from a strange problem to do with true love. A vampire can fall in love and be with a mortal, but when the vampire turns that lover into a vampire, the lover no longer feels true love for the vampire. 

So, there's a load of heartbroken vampires trying to be with other vampires who can't love them back. A good example of this goes; Ivan and Suzette fall in love but then when he makes her into a vampire, Suzette finds she can no longer love him so deeply back. Then she falls in love with Victor. She actually puts off making Victor into a vampire because she knows that will change the love between them. 

I do understand the workings of this, but for me and especially as this is supernatural romance, it doesn't sit that well with me. However, I do like the originality of this but I feel that being a vampire is cursed enough and not being able to be with your true love is just frustrating!    

The characters are very interesting and you do get a lot of development. I wish more time could have been spent with Valentina though, I feel she got pushed to the side by Suzette's story. I do feel like more work was needed on these characters and maybe because it's the first book the characters will grew further. 

Overall, this is a nice different vampire novel and once you get into it and over the style of writing, it does draw you in. It's a quick read too and interesting enough to keep you turning the pages. Am I going to buy the second book though? It's on my list, but until next year and when the price has really come down! I won't be getting it. I've far too many books and manga on my list right now that unless - like with with Miss Peregrine - I find another book I'm seriously addicted too! 

Thanks for reading and see you all next week. 


Monday, 6 February 2017

February Life Update: Spa Weekend Away!

Hi readers,

I've just got back from a really nice weekend away with my boyfriend. We went to a little village called Ramsbottom in Bury which is just up the motorway from me. A few months back, I saw on Wowcher this deal for a two night weekend spa there at the Old Mill Hotel and we decided it would be a nice Valentine's weekend away.

Unfortunately, even though I tried to book two months before hand, the hotel was booked for a wedding that weekend and the week after they only had rooms on Saturday night. The weekend after that- the last in February they were also fully booked due to the Chocolate festival. So, we had to go with this past weekend as there was a time limit on the deal.

We still had a great time though. We arrived Friday afternoon and just chilled out the room. I wanted to go swimming but my boyfriend wasn't feeling that great- something he'd eaten the day before- so we had a nap and just enjoyed having alone time together. The room we got was really nice and the bed comfy.  Later, we had tea in the hotel restaurant which was okay but could have been better. We were both really hungry though. Then we spent the evening and early night watching movies and chilling.

On Saturday, we got up had breakfast which had been included, then went out to see the village. There are only like two main streets which are lined with interesting shops. There's also a train station which also has steam trains running on it. We did look at going on one but it was expensive and we had other things we wanted to do.

After walking around the village, we went to The Chocolate Cafe and had some lunch. Even though it had only just gone lunch time it was worth getting early because minutes after we sat down it got so busy people were having to queue for tables! The food and drinks were really good. I had a jacket potato which was one of the best I'd ever had and also a hot chocolate that was butterscotch and banana flavour. My boyfriend had a cheese toasty and a chocolate milkshake which he said was the best he'd ever drunk.

We were too full to stay for cake and the cafe had got super busy, so we went back downstairs into the shop and brought some chocolate for later. we've not eaten the bars yet but we shared the buttons which were awesome! They were so melt in the mouth and thicker then normal chocolate buttons. I so will be buying them again as you can order online;

We were then going to walk up to Peel Tower which was about half an hour and said to have good views of Ramsbottom and the surrounding area. However, I had a bad asthma attack and I really wanted to go swimming. So we went back to the hotel room for a bit and when I was feeling better, we went down to the spa. The pool was really small and you couldn't fit more then 6 or 8 people in it. However, when I was alone in the pool, it felt like this was my private swimming pool because it has that feel to it!

We couldn't use the Jacuzzi because a sign said it was too cold outside and so it wasn't working. I don't get that but we went in the sauna and steam room. I do love steam rooms because they are good for my asthma and I try to stay as long as possible. Saunas though with their dry heat, I can only go in for a little while. I really enjoyed it thought it was nice to swim after walking.

For tea, we had decided to go out and we picked a Chinese restaurant that we had walked past in the morning and checked the online reviews of. However when we arrived less then hour after they had opened, we were told it would be an hour and half wait as they were fully booked! I couldn't wait that long, so we went to a Chinese and English takeaway which seemed really good. We ordered and as we sat down to wait the place filled up with like twelve people coming into order or collected food. So it was really popular. The food was really nice, but we got far too much! I had bbq ribs to start with and there was like 10 good size meaty ribs in the box. That meant I couldn't eat my chow mein which was really big too!

We went to bed early, stuffed and tried. Then though we realised we could hear the music and people from the wedding party which was happening in the bar/restaurant area which was opposite our room. We got through that only then at about 1am we were awoken by a drunken arguing couple in our corridor. They were slamming, knocking and kicking their door and shouting at each other. It seemed to be mostly the man doing all of this as he seemed to be locked out by her. Whatever was going on, they kept us awake for an hour and a half or so. We watched a movie on TV and did thing about phoning reception to complain.

We didn't phone in the end and just went back to bed. We slept through breakfast even though we did get up to go but we both decided we were too tried. We went to checkout and I did complain then. The receptionist said other people had phoned the night porter and he had been up a few times but nothing has been resolved and there was little they could do. She then give us the receipts and tried to charge us for drinks we'd not had! We had already paid for the drinks we'd had with the meal and we'd not brought anything else. She did try hard to make us pay but when we really refused, she tried to find the bar receipt. Of course, she never found it so she didn't charge us.

Overall, it was a good weekend though and it was nice to spend alone time with my boyfriend. Ramsbottom is a good place to escape for a weekend away and if we do visit again I'd like to go on the steam train and walk to Peel Tower.  

That's all for today. Next week it's back to book reviews.

(All photos belong to me)

Monday, 30 January 2017

Book Review; Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Original Screenplay

Hi readers, 

It's another short book review today, as I've now got a cold! Good job there's actually not a lot to talk about with this book. So, carrying on from last week with the Harry Potter theme, I thought I'd take a look at the script for the new movie. Many fans will know that this was based on a small book Rowling wrote for Comic Relief and it's title was the same only it had Potter's notes in and is the actually book that Newt wrote. I think that's a really nice tie in. 

The movie, which I have seen and enjoyed, is meant to be the first in a four or five movie series. I guess the other movies will follow in the same vein as this one and I'm looking forward to seeing them. I know that some of the more die hard fans had issues with the movie and the critics did too. I have a friend who refuses to see the movie because it has got nothing to do with the Harry Potter. I can understand that but actually this movie is totally different. Hogwarts and Dumbledore are said like once or twice just to further ground this story in with the magic world of Potter. Even if you have somehow escaped reading and seeing any Potter and you've decided to see this movie it is perfectly watchable without that knowledge.  

To be honest, I wasn't that interesting in reading the movie script of Fantastic Beasts, just like The Cursed Child it is better to watch it then to read it. But I got a book gift voucher just before Christmas and knowing I was going to try and not buy any books this year and with nothing else I wanted, I decided to give it ago as it was just out on the shelves. 

I read it in an afternoon because it is short and the layout as an actual movie script. This would be a great study for someone doing script writing at college or uni - just as I did years ago- or someone interested in how movies get written, because you really get a good sense of how to lay out a script and all the apprehensions that are used. 

Just like The Cursed Child  there is a lack of character and settings description. That's understandable because the visuals are more up to the director and film crew then the writer. You can still get a good idea of the settings and characters in reading the script though but it does really help if you see the movie first. 

The plot is a simple one about people in the magic world fearing the unknown magical creatures and one man - Newt, trying to educate them that actually most of the creatures are harmless. The story is set in the 1960's and Newt has travelled to America to meet a breeder of a certain magic creature and also release a creature back into the wild. However, he accidentally switches suitcases - his suitcase is magical and is a portal to a magic creature zoo! -with a none magic person who then opens the case and some animals escape. Then they have to hunt down all the creatures. 

The human characters are really good and they do develop a little throughout. The magic creatures are more enjoyable though and bring the most humour. I actually hope that we get to see the same characters in the next movie as it feels there is more of their stories and development to take place. I guess we'll have to see. 

Overall, this was a nice read but of course the movie was better! 

Thanks for reading. 

(Image from Goodreads)

Monday, 23 January 2017

Book Review; Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)

Hi readers,

Today's post is going to be a little short as I'm not very well. I've an ear infection and this is the third day I've spent on the sofa doing very little. I'm watching repeats of Ghost Adventures on TV in the background and trying to do little bits of things. Hopefully, this book review will get up today. 

There's been a lot about Harry Potter again recently with a new play, new movie and rumours of a new novel coming. I was caught up in it when the books first came out and I'm still a fan but I'm not that big into it. I enjoy the stories and characters for what they are and like the originality of the magic world. To be honest I wasn't that bothered when this new book came out and actually the only reason I decided to get The Cursed Child and read it was because a friend at my Dungeons and Dragons role playing group told me it was rubbish. 

There are two problems straight a way that fans had with this book;  it's not written by J .K. Rowling and it's not a novel but a play script. I think what people really wanted was a new novel to start a new series of Harry Potter. The plot and characters of this play could easily have been in a novel and a part of me does see that the play's writing would have been better as a novel too.   

I forget who said this quote; 'plays are to be seen and not read,' but it's true, I remember all the times I've had to study a Shakespeare play and how watching it on screen or in the theatre made it so much more better and different from reading the words alone. I would love to go and see The Cursed Child but it's still only showing in London and it's so expensive for tickets even if it wasn't almost sold out already! If it does come to Manchester or I get the chance to go to London when it's on then I really do want to see it. I've heard a rumour there's plans to make it into three movies! What is it with people and movie trilogies? Another rumour is that Rowling is writing a new Harry Potter book, but I'm sure there's always a rumour about that! However, the movies would be a good plan. 

Anyway, The Cursed Child is set when all the characters from the books have grown up, got jobs, married and had kids. There was an end scene in the last book which did this and the play seems to fit on to that ending. The plot focuses on Potter's and Malfoy's sons who have become best friends, despite their fathers not wanting them too! The sons decided to travel back into time to stop Cedric Diggory from dying in the fourth book. Of course, things don't go to plan they change history three times with dramatic changes each time. Then they uncover that all really isn't what it seems when they learn it's not actually Diggory who they have been believing they needed to save. 

I found that even though, Rowling didn't write this, it was well written and the characters are realistic. It fits in well with the Harry Potter world too. I found it enjoyable and fun to read though I got through it fast as it's a play script so lacks in detail and description as scripts do. Still, there was enough there to be able to imagine it all and I totally see it working well as a play. The twists do work well and it did feel very much like Rowling's writing. 

I would say that even if you are a die-hard fan then give it a go. Just take it for what it is and enjoy it. I really hope I do get to see it as a play soon. 

Next week, I'm sticking with the Harry Potter theme and reviewing the movie script for Fantastic Beasts

Hopefully, I'll be feeling better too! 

Thanks for reading and see you next week!   

(Image from Goodreads)