Monday, 20 February 2017

Book Review: Cemetery Candles


25798192



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. 


(https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25798192-montenegro-book-one)

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; http://www.chocolate-cafe.co.uk






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)


Monday, 16 January 2017

Book Review: The Power of The Dark

The Power of Dark

Hi readers,

Today I'm reviewing the last book I read in December and the final one of 2016. My mum was given this book by a friend who likes to send her interesting novels. She gave it to me knowing that I was a fan of the author. Robin Jarvis wrote my favorite trilogy - Tales From The Wyrd Museum, which is about three sisters who own a museum of historical objects and some of them have supernatural powers. I've not read anything by Jarvis in awhile so I was excited to read his latest and first in a new series novel.   

The Power Of Dark is a children's book but it's similar to Darren Shan novels in that teens and adults will enjoy it too. The plot is a simple one of good verses evil, but aren't all the best stories themed around that? The story is set in the seaside town of Whitby which is one of my favorite places and famous for being the setting of Bram Stoker's Dracula. There's a lot more to Whitby then just that though. It's the home of the very well known Whitby Abbey, the only place to find Whitby jet stone and one of the oldest fishing and whaling industries in England. There's also a lot of myths and legends involving Whitby. So, it does seem the perfect setting for a book centered around the supernatural.    

The two main characters, Lil and Verne, are best friends growing up in Whitby. Lil's parents own a goth themed shop and Lil makes things to be bought in the shop. Lil's parents believe they are witches, However, Lil doesn't believe that, but she still goes along with it. Verne's parents are into Steampunk and are busy making costumes for the up and coming Goth Weekend. I was nicely surprised and pleased that steampunk got a look in here and actually fits in nicely with the finally events at the end of the book. Also, the Goth Weekend is a real event held in Whitby every year. 

One of the other main characters is actually a witch. Her name is Cherry and she the guardian witch of Whitby, of which there has been a long line of. The witch's job has always been to protect and guard the town and people from the myths and legends that surround Whitby, including the plot one of the novel.

This legend involved another witch called Scaur Annie who fell in love Melchior Pike. Tragically though they couldn't be happy together as Pike was working on magical device called the Nimius which needed the tears of a magical creature which Annie knew about. Annie breaks her witch agreement to get Pike the tears and thus comes to realise that Pike never loved her in the first place. Though it turns out they were both set up by Pike's male servant called Dark who wanted the Nimius for himself.

 Now though, they have all come back in ghost form to complete their missions as the Nimius has been found and they all want it. However, it means that Whitby is about to be torn apart by the supernatural forces and Lil, Verne and Cherry must help to stop it. Which of course they do as most good verse evil stories end.

I really enjoyed the plot and the characters, finding it easy to get into the story. The pacing and dialogue was good too, making you want to read on to the end. My favorite part of the story was when a really bad storm hits Whitby and the cliff top graveyard is torn part and comes crashing down into Lil's house. A skeleton flies into her bedroom and seems to attack her. This is actually Annie trying to posses Lil. It's wonderfully described and though it's scary, it's the kind of moment kids really enjoy reading.

Overall, this is a good book for young people and adults a like. The plot and characters are enjoyable and the supernatural elements have a refreshing edge to them. I'm looking forward to reading the next in the series now.

Thanks for reading and see you all next week! 

  

(Image from Goodreads)

Monday, 9 January 2017

Book Review: Hauntings; True Stories Of Unquiet Spirit

Hauntings

Hi readers, 

I'm kicking off this year's book reviews with a non-fiction book. I don't think this is a first for me, but this year, I want to expand my reading and try some different books out. Also, I'm trying to read 50 books this year! I read 20 last year of which this true ghost stories book was the second to last. 50 books might not be a big ask of some people, but for me it is a challenge due to being dyslexic, but I'm hopefully I can achieve it. 

I do enjoy reading non-fiction supernatural books and have read a few of them now. There's something interesting about this mysterious 'other world' of unnatural happens. Some books do set out to convince you it's all real which can sometimes make it hard going, this book does have a bit of angle towards that, but it's let down by bad writing. That's the main reason why I choose to review this book! 

At first, Hauntings comes across as a factual book, listing the different kinds of ghosts and paranormal activity that has been record over the years. This is okay, but for someone who's read a few ghost books, they'll know most of this information. There's no added details or sense of new information about these ghosts. Then there's the true stories of hauntings and ghosts which come from across the world and different people, but these accounts are not well written.     

The chapters are divided up into the different kinds of ghosts and paranormal activity; Haunted Homes, Highways To Hell, Poltergeists. This does work though you get a bit of over lapping. There's introduction from the author about his experiences with ghosts then the first chapter lists the different kinds of ghosts and an explanation about what ghosts actually are. 

The second chapter focus totally on the city of Edinburgh which is claimed to be the most haunted city in the world. The stories listed here though are about well known haunted places and ghosts. There is an interview from a local ghost tour guide about the experiences he and visitors have had. This is interesting and does show that ghost tours can be more then just historical walks around. 
        
Then in the other chapters, we get a lot of 'true stories' about different ghosts. Some of these are just like a paragraph or two of eye witness accounts of supernatural sightings. Others include quotes from people and some of the stories are complete accounts. This mixture of writing is a bit jarring and there's no flow. Also, the bulk of the stories/accounts just suddenly stop; there's no ending/conclusion, which makes the writing worse. I realise in some cases there might not be a solid ending, but it would be easy enough to round up the story. 

I found some of the longer ghost stories to be a bit dull. There is one which is taken from a diary but we only get the main activity of the ghost and it's very broken up. Also, there are some interviews which feel like they go on for too long. I get that some of the stories are not to going to be exciting like fiction can make them, but if the writing of these accounts was better written then the stories might come across more interesting. I guess that's the downside to using so many quotes accounts though.    

The other issue with this book is it's size. It's a tall thin book, over A4 size. I think that is because it's a very photograph heavy book and the author/designer/editor decided to give us full page photographs. There is also large photos or collections of smaller photos on every page or next. Whilst this is great for really showing what ghosts and paranormal activity looks like, most of these photographs are not of real ghosts. There's maybe only a handful which are real and those photos are ones that are well-known to be of real spirits because they can't be disproved in anyway. There's also a few drawings which have been either taken from the accounts of people or drawn to go along side them. Even though it's good to have a visual interpretation, I feel this photos help to mask the bad and thinly detailed writing of the ghost stories.      
    
Overall, there are better books of this nature out there. 

Thanks for reading and see you next week. In the meantime, please check out my goodreads book list and my other blog where I write a short story everyday. 

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/7400715-hayley-hardman

https://thestoryfiles.wordpress.com/


(Image from Goodreads)

Monday, 2 January 2017

January Life Update: Welcome 2017!



Hi readers and welcome to my first post of 2017! 

I hope everyone had a good time celebrating the first day of the new year and all the best to everyone. I plan to keep this post short and once again I have no photos, so that should help! I had a quiet night in with my family and my boyfriend. We played board games, watched a few movies and then the fireworks in London on the TV. They always look really good and whilst I do wonder what it would be like to be there one year, I just think it's easier seeing them on TV! 

Beside from that I've had a chilled last few weeks and I've not been doing much really. Though I've read three and a bit books, wrote some short stories, spent time with my family and watched lots of movies. Now though, its back to normal. I was in work today even though it was a bank holiday. The youth centre never closes! It was quiet though, just people ringing to see if we were open and asking to pass on messages. I read my book, wrote some stories, did some colouring, watched You Tube videos and listen to music (I had permission from my supervisor, of course!) I also made a dream catcher, which I'm running as a craft activity tomorrow. They are not that hard to make, though mine didn't turn out right- made a few mistakes, but it turned out okay. I think the kids will like them. 

It was a bit boring just sat there in a building that was empty but for me and one or two other people. But hey, I got paid and I could do what I wanted, so I can't argue with that. Though it didn't help with my sleep problem! For the last three nights, I've been in the living room on airbeds and sofas as we don't have a third double bed in my family home. So, I've not had much sleep and I've been going to bed late too! I'm hoping for a better night tonight! 

So, like everyone else I guess, I've been deciding my New Year resolutions. Though I like to see them as more of goals for the year then just giving up bad habits and other stuff. The typical one of lose weight is on there. I was actually doing okay with that last year, but then ill health, October and December holidays haven't helped, so I'm going to give it a short again. I'm still a member of the gym and I plan to go swimming and to the gym with my mum three times a week. I also want to take my dog out more for longer walks and reduce sugar in my food. All that should help. I've found going on diets, following rules and cutting out foods doesn't work for me. I get cravings for things and I can't fight it easily. Also, due to my ill health, things can be effect by not eating enough or eating too much of certain foods. During last summer it did actually work, so I just need to try harder to stick to it now.   

I've also decided not to buy any books this year beside from ones by J .R. Ward - my favourite author who's got two new books coming out this year- and a manga series called Assassination Classroom. That's because I need those books and I know I'd just break my goal for them. The reason I've decided to try and not buy any books is because I have too many to read and I don't have space any more. Yes, I do have a kindle and a laptop now, but I spend most of my time looking at screens as it is and I like physical books far better. I've added a side rule to this that books people give me or are free are okay to have. In 2015, I went 6 months without buying a book. This year, I hope to go the whole 12! 

That goal fits in with my third one; save more money! I so need to do this if I'm to get my main goal of getting a car this year. I want to make sure I can afford one and though I probably can do, I really want to make sure of it. So, I need to get better at saving money. I plan to try and set a minimum of £100 a month, but to try and set more aside. This means I'll have to work more hours, but that doesn't seem bad if it's worth it. 

So, that's four goals now. I think that's enough to be getting on with. Of course, there are things like write a novel, get the short story collections sorted, look for another part time job or a full one, move out of my family home and into my own place, work on my relationships, spend more time with my friends and travel a bit more too. 

I found lots of different resolutions and goal settings online. I picked out three that I wanted to try myself as they look really good. Here they are;     

This is the first one I found. It's a list of 12 single words that you use to complete sentences with which allow you to create simple or complex goals. For example; give more to the homeless or visit Germany.  http://www.artbarblog.com/create/this-year-resolutions/  

The second is a list of resolutions ideas which is good if you are stuck for ideas, or you want to achieve something different. For example, 'try meatless Mondays' and 'volunteer more.'  
http://easycollegecoupons.com/the-ultimate-list-of-2017-new-years-resolution-ideas/

The third is this monthly guide which has a different goal every month but they are all really useful for. I like this idea because it helps create good habits and since the time line is short things can easily be tried out and achieved more. So for example; in July try drinking more water and in March get organised. http://www.cleverpedia.com/new-you-for-the-new-year-challenge/ 

What are you new year resolutions? 

Happy New Year and next Monday it'll be the first book review of the year. See you there!