Saturday, 22 April 2017

Reading My Books - Summer at Shell Cottage

I am really on a roll at the moment with my reading!  Although this one enticed me in and I completed it in just a few days.  Other than the Norwegian Wood book which was my last review - you can see all of my reviews by clicking the Reading My Books link in the sidebar - I can't remember the last time I read a book so quickly.

What was this book that had me reading so quickly?  Summer at Shell Cottage by Lucy Diamond.

This is what the cover has to say about the book - as well as that it is a Sunday Times bestseller...

"It should be the perfect holiday...

A seaside holiday at Shell Cottage in Devon has always been the perfect escape for the Tarrant family.  Beach fun, barbecues and warm summer evenings with a cocktail or two - who could ask for more?

But this year, everything has changed.  Following her husband's recent death, Olivia is struggling to pick up the pieces.  Then she makes a shocking discovery that turns her world upside down.

As a busy mum and GP, Freya's used to having her hands full, but a bad day at work has put her career in jeopardy and now she's really feeling the pressure.

Harriet's looking forward to a break with her lovely husband Robert and teenage daughter Molly.  But unknown to Harriet, Robert is hiding a secret - and so, for that matter, is Molly..."

The blurb doesn't give much away, other than appalling grammar which I have noticed seems to be a theme in book blurbs.  Starting sentences with "But" is just one example.  However, I digress!  Says the person with exclamations sprinkled like schools of tadpoles...

The book tells the intertwining stories of the members of the Tarrant family.  Alec the novelist has died and the family are getting used to life without him.  Freya is deemed to be capable of dealing with anything, but that isn't the case.  Robert has never been capable of dealing with anything and is trying to prove that he is better than his family think.  Katie isn't mentioned in the blurb, but she has her part to pay too.

There are many twists and turns in this book, in theory to keep us all guessing, but in reality you can see where things are going and where they will end.  That doesn't mean that this is a bad book, it just doesn't manage to hide things as well as it thinks it does.

Overall I enjoyed this book, I read it in just a couple of days and for me to crack on and read a book that quickly means that it must have been a good read.  I liked the characters, they were all likeable people, it was a light read, overall a light story, not totally believable, but not beyond the bounds of reality either.

If you are looking for a pleasant summer read this one could be for you.  I do feel that I have to mention a few sexual references which are part of the story and I can see why they were there.  I wasn't offended, but you might feel differently so I want to warn you.  There isn't a lot of bad language and the sexual bits are very brief.

So, what happens to this book next.  Well, it is off to the charity shop, I would read it again, but I am in clear out and need the space mode so this one is off.  If I saw another book by this author I would certainly read it though, so please don't feel it is off because I didn't like it.  I give the book an 8 out of 10 overall.

Summer at Shell Cottage isn't great literature and will not set the literary world alight, and it might not light your reading fires either, but it was a nice story and sometimes that is just what you need isn't it!

Now I am off to get on with another book as I am behind on my target, but am managing to read more books this year than I have for a long time, so excuse me, I have to go and keep up with myself!

Happy reading!


p.s. you can find my other reviews by clicking here or the Reading My Books page in the sidebar.

Thursday, 20 April 2017

In the garden

At the weekend this was how our garden looked.

It needs a lot of work this year as it got very neglected last year with one thing and another.  The fence has been replaced - the one that we own, the other two owned by two other people are not in too bad a condition thankfully, so our boundaries are all secure now that we have replaced our fence!

Quite a few things have died or disappeared in one way or another so we are taking the opportunity to downsize things a bit.  We have found that we no longer feel the need to keep ourselves occupied and that it is alright to just sit and be.  I am reducing my crafting and the stuff that we have in the house and we are trying to make the garden lower maintenance as well.  I don't mean by covering it concrete or anything, just by taking a few things out here and there and making a slightly larger lawn that we can mow instead of having to weed flower borders. We have a large - by UK standards for the average house - garden so there is still plenty of room for plants and wildlife, but just a bit less work for us.  After all there is no point having a garden stuffed with plants that you cannot care for and having to spend all of your time chasing after and never have a moment for anything else is there.  It is all about balance!

So where things have died we have cleared the space and will be doing some more of this, taking plants out and putting them in other gaps.  As I said already, making the lawn just a little bigger.  We will also not be having lots of pots of things.  They take a lot of time and watering - which isn't always the best for the environment is it to be watering the garden endlessly - and don't always do well, so it isn't the best use of our money either.  I think that things in the border will do better than in pots so I would rather concentrate on them.  We will still have a few pots, just not lots of them.

I am also going to clear out the raised beds a bit and replant them with some new herbs - most of the ones there apart from the rosemary which I will try and keep are dead or dying.  The rhubarb will also stay.  Then everything will get a good mulch of chipped bark to try and keep the weeds down

What I need is to reduce the work element where I can.  To keep a garden will always be work and I am glad to do it, but I no longer have the impetus to be doing loads all of the time.  I just need a break!  And after all, just because we grass something over this year doesn't mean we can't take the grass up and plant things there next year does it!

Anyway, after that little ramble, here are some photos, no words, I am sure you can figure out most things for yourselves.

Do let me know how your garden is doing!

Oh, and we bought some new windchimes.  I have been tinkling with them in various garden centres for about 3 years now so and so I gave in and bought them.  I love them and they are so relaxing to listen to while you are in the garden sitting with a cuppa.  Also, don't worry, we will still be doing lots in the garden and I will still share with, just less weeding and watering I hope!


Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Reading My Books - Norwegian Wood

This is a bit of a different book for to review, it isn't a novel, and it isn't a biography!  This book is about what is says on the cover.  If you want to read about chopping, stacking and drying wood - and then burning it and the sort of stoves you might burn it in - then this is the book for you.

It is also the book for you if you are interested in reading about things you didn't know about before, a different way of life in a different country to yours, science, the artistry you can make with wood, tools, or if you are just looking for a calming and interesting read.

Norwegian Wood, Chopping, Stacking and Drying Wood the Scandinavian Way by Lars Mytting is the best book that I have read this year!  For the record - although my review isn't yet finished - I am keeping this one on the shelves, I will read it - or parts at least - again in the future and I give it an 11 out of 10 it was so good.

Lars Mytting starts by telling us about his elderly neighbour Ottar who he sees stacking wood to burn over the following winter.  He writes about what it means to Ottar to have chopped stacked and stored wood all through his adult life and how he cares for his family by doing this.  The process of dealing with the wood also helps Ottar to get his spring back in his step.

Lars becomes intrigued by the whole process of wood burning and the rest of the book tells the factual - the bit about Ottar is factual too - story of wood burning.  The book is in different chapters, telling us about The cold, The forest, The tools, The chopping block, The woodpile, The seasoning, The stove and The fire.  It almost sounds like a recipe book, but instead of a recipe for food it is a recipe for a happy and warm home.

I found everything in this book to be calming and meditative in a way that I would never have expected.  In the foreword Ray Jacobsen writes "In my experience, chopping wood is a personal business.  I've often wondered what kind of chopper of wood I am, whether I am the stoic type, like Kjell Askildsen, a fellow Norwegian writer who can stand there with his ax for hours on end and think just one thought.  Think it all the way through.  Or the more sanguine type, who forgets all his cares as the wood chips fly and the woodpile grows.  Or maybe more like my father, the slightly neurotic type, the hoarder, typical of the generation of Norwegians who lived through the Second Word War, with all its shortages."

It was the part about thinking just one thought the whole way through which really appealed to me.  to have time to just really think about something.  That sounds wonderful to me!

I could go on waxing lyrical about this book, and I am sure that I am not the only one, reports indicate that this book has sold hundreds of thousands - perhaps millions by now - of copies and there must be something in its popularity mustn't there.  I could share with you the details about the fire lighting poem, types of axes, the reason for having a tyre around your chopping block, which wood gives the greatest heat, how to avoid a chimney fire or a hundred other things, but really you should just get your hands on a copy and read it for yourself.  At the very least buy a copy for the man in your life and then borrow it back again.

As I said before, I give this book 11 out of 10 and I really mean it.  I loved it.  I hope that you will too.  It is interesting, tells a good story and is well written and factual.  Go and get a copy!

At the time of writing this I am nearly through my next book which is - so far! - also a great read so I will share that shortly, and then I am back to my diet of murder and light romance for a couple of books.  Norwegian Wood therefore made a great interlude in proceedings.  Thank you Lars for your great work.

Oh and apparently - according to the blurb on the back - Lars is also an acclaimed novelist so if you fancy some more of his work it might be worth looking for them, if they are written as well as this they will be good.  Not being a Norwegian speaker I will wait for now...