Thursday, 28 March 2013

Q and A: Books!

I definitely love books a lot more than the average person does. I've always loved having my head in a book for as long as I can remember, and reading is my favourite form of escapism. I had a Kindle for Christmas, which has possibly made me even more enthusiastic about reading new books. However, rest assured that I won't be getting rid of any of my hundreds of paperbacks. The Kindle is just adding to my reading experience, rather than replacing my books.

I read this book Q and A on the lovely Cocktails and Teacups blog, and couldn't wait to fill it in myself. So here goes...


What are you reading right now?
The Bubble Gum Thief, by Jeff Miller. Amazing book so far!


Do you have any idea what you’ll read after you’ve finished this book?
Probably The Vow, by Kim Carpenter.


Five books you’ve always wanted to read but have never got round to?
A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
The Great Gatsby, F.Scott Fitzgerald
Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
The Magus, John Fowles
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne Bronte


What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now?
The Marketer, the magazine I get through my Chartered Institute of Marketing membership. I don't really like magazines and think they're a waste of money... probably not a popular opinion.


What’s the worst book you ever read?
I don't tend to dislike many books, but I thought P.S. I Love You by Cecilia Ahern was awful. I couldn't wait to finish it, and reading it felt like a real chore towards the end. I kept hoping it would get better, but it just got worse! I think Ahern used the word 'giggled' a minimum of three times on every page. Extremely irritating.


What book is really popular but you really hated?
See above...!


What’s the one book you recommend to everybody?A Place of Execution, by Val McDermid. It's difficult to choose one favourite book to recommend, but this one is definitely up there.


What are your three favourite poems?
I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud, William Wordsworth
All of Shakespeare's sonnets, the man was a genius.
Don Juan, Lord Byron


Where do you usually get your books?
Amazon and charity shops mostly.


Where do you usually read your books?
I always read a few chapters in bed before going to sleep.


When you were little, did you have any reading habits?
I used to read at the table, on the toilet, when I was walking around the house, in the car, in other people's houses, in church, on holiday... I was constantly reading something or other. I used to aspire to be an authoress when I was younger, and would always try to write a chapter or two of my own after finishing a really good book.


What’s the last book you stayed up half the night to read?
Catching Fire, the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. Brilliant book.


Have you ever ‘faked’ reading a book?
No... why would I fake it? I love reading!


Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?
No, but I've bought several books just because I like the sound of the blurb on the back. I don't usually take much notice of the cover.


What was your favourite book as a child?
So many to mention... the whole Chalet School series by Elinor M. Brent Dyer, every single Enid Blyton book ever written (especially The Magic Faraway Tree and the Five Find-Outer books), the Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene, the Babysitters' Club books by Ann M. Martin, and George's Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl.


Which book changed your life?
Difficult to think of just one book... all Enid Blyton's books had a huge influence on me as a child and sheltered me from reality for a while!


What is your favourite passage from a book?
I'll have to get back to you on this one... too many to mention!


Who are your top five favourite authors?
Val McDermid
Ben Elton
Louisa May Alcott
J.K. Rowling
Margaret Atwood


What is your favourite classic book?
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott.


Five notable mentions?
The Vanishing Point, Val McDermid
The Web, Jonathan Kellerman
To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
Silence of the Lambs, Thomas Harris
Blue Sky July, Nia Wyn

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Song of the month

I haven't bought any music for ages as I never seem to have time to listen to it any more, but I just had to download 'When can I see you again?' by Owl City a few weeks ago,  inspired by hearing it on the Wreck-it Ralph soundtrack. As you'll already know, I absolutely loved Wreck-it Ralph, and the soundtrack was excellent. I hadn't even heard of Owl City before hearing their song on the soundtrack, but 'When can I see you again?' is very promising. This song is upbeat and catchy... as a McFly and One Direction fan, I obviously enjoy these qualities in a song. Well worth 99p! I'm now considering buying an Owl City album as they're pretty cheap on Amazon, but haven't decided which one to buy yet. Any suggestions/recommendations would be greatly appreciated!

You can watch the Disney-esque video here:



Has anyone else downloaded this song? Are there any other similar bands I should be listening to?

Monday, 25 March 2013

March's shopping haul

January and February were very tight months due to the financial hangover from Christmas and having to pay for my annual car insurance, so I decided to treat myself to a few things after March's pay day. My haul isn't very big compared to other similar posts I've read, but I'm not very good at spending money and far too good at saving it. Most of these items were either reduced or on offer too... I'm always on the look out for a bargain.

The summery items are in preparation for my holiday to Florida in September. I'm well aware that I probably won't get the chance to wear them in this country if this weather carries on!

So here's what I've bought lately:



Roxy and Animal flip flops - £5.75 each from Play. 
These would have been £16 each at full price!



Black shorts from Asda, £6
Vest from Asda, £6
Wrap over top from New Look, £12.99



Tshirt from Superdry, £19.99. I know it seems like a lot to pay for a 
tshirt, but they're very flattering and comfortable!



Rimmel powder and Barry M nail varnish, 
£8.98 for the lot due to a 3 for 2 offer in Boots



£1.99 each from Tesco for big 400ml bottles... 
I love Herbal Essences but I've never tried this one before!


So there's my haul... the only extravagant purchase by my standards is the Superdry tshirt, but I'm in love with their tshirts after my boyfriend's parents bought me one for Christmas. The make up, shampoo and conditioner are essentials, and I do need some more summer clothes so those purchases are justified too. This is what I do when I spend money... I have to justify every single little thing. I should rename this blog 'Little Miss Sensible'. 

Has anyone else been shopping in March? Feel free to leave me some links to your haul posts!

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Bloglovin'...

I'm pretty sure you'll all have read countless posts about Bloglovin' lately due to the Google Reader fiasco, so I'll keep this one short. I'm gutted about the demise of Google Reader because the name is much more grammatically correct than Bloglovin', which is quite frankly an awful name for a website on so many levels. However, I do find it a lot easier to navigate than Google Reader. It's also much easier to keep track of which posts you've read or haven't read, so it's not all bad. I also enjoy the fact that you can 'like' blog posts, which is actually a good way of bookmarking the ones you want to read again.

You can follow me on Bloglovin' here: http://www.bloglovin.com/en/blog/4542633

You can also follow me on Twitter here (I'm all for a bit of self promotion): http://www.twitter.com/pinkbeth86 

Does anyone else cringe whenever they have to say or type Bloglovin'? There must be other pedants out there!


Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Wales are the champions!

I wrote a blog post just before the Six Nations tournament started and stated my predictions for the final table. Here's what I predicted:

1. Ireland
2. France
3. England
4. Wales
5. Scotland
6. Italy

My predictions couldn't have been much further from the final outcome! I was pretty pessimistic about Wales' chances before the tournament started, and even more so after we lost our first game to Ireland. However, after we won three away games in a row and seemed to be improving with every game, I dared to hope that we could actually clinch the championship against England. We decided to watch the game in my flat so that we'd actually have a decent view of a TV... I'm very short so am never guaranteed a good view when I watch games in the pub.



Pre-match fuel!


I'm not going to attempt to describe the game, except to say that it's probably one of the best Welsh games I've seen in my lifetime. Every Welsh player put in 110% and played with pride, composure and pure determination. It still hasn't quite sunk in, and probably won't for a while. The final score was 30-3, so we retained our championship title with plenty of points to spare!


Photo from www.bbc.co.uk  


So this is what the final table looked like:

1. Wales
2. England
3. Scotland
4. Italy
5. Ireland
6. France

As you can see, not one of my predictions were correct. Scotland and Italy had a great tournament... France and Ireland, not so much. Judging on my awful predictions, I don't think I'll be taking up gambling any time soon. 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Book review: The Little Women series

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott is a classic, and one of my favourite books of all time. I must have read it about thirty times during my lifetime, and first read it when I was 9 or 10 years old as it's one of my mother's favourite books too. Alcott also published three sequels: Good Wives, Little Men, and Jo's Boys. The first two books are the best in my opinion as they focus on the core characters introduced in Little Women whereas the last two books do branch out into other areas, but the whole series really is an outstanding quartet overall.

The books centre around the March family and their various trials, celebrations, family gatherings, travelling adventures and careers. The family consists of the lovely Mr and Mrs March (who remind me of my own parents), and four sisters called Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. Jo is my favourite sister, closely followed by Beth, as I have a lot in common with both of them. I share Jo's love of reading and writing, and share Beth's name, quiet temperament and love of the piano! Alcott is careful not to introduce too many characters into her novels, in order to develop the ones she's already established, which I think adds to the appeal of these four books. There is nothing worse than getting lost in a web of characters and feeling no affiliation with any of them.

Let's just get one thing straight... if you're an ardent atheist or a staunch feminist, you won't enjoy these books. The books are old fashioned due to the period in which they were written, and still abide by the idea that women should stay at home and look after the house and children while their husbands go to work. However, the women really are the cornerstone of every household in the book. Also, the March family are devout Christians and consequently there are many Christian messages and morals displayed throughout the four books. Some readers would find the moral element of the books to be quite pious, but I grew up with moral stories like these so they remind me of a simpler time! I genuinely find it refreshing to read books with a simple heartfelt message, where everything turns out alright in the end. The books have their fair share of grief and sadness, and I'm guaranteed a good cry at least four times per book, but the March family always battle through their trials and come out of their tribulations as stronger people. Yes, the messages in the books are simplistic and not always reflective of the drudgery of real life. However, a bit of idyllic escapism never hurt anyone.

Has anyone else read the Little Women series and loved it? I can't be the only young fan of these books, surely!

Friday, 15 March 2013

There's no surprise quite like a McFly surprise

Regular readers of my blog will know that I love McFly. A lot. I've seen them seven times, I own every album and DVD they've ever produced, and I also own four McFly tshirts. When I first heard that they were touring in Cardiff in May, I didn't have enough money to buy tickets as there were only a few weeks before Christmas. I decided to wait until after Christmas and buy the tickets then. Bad idea... they sold out within a few weeks. This resulted in some angsty grumbling, which my boyfriend listened to very patiently while making sympathetic noises. I then tried to put the gig and the tickets out of my mind because I knew there was no way I could pay £100 for a ticket from Ebay.

In the meantime, I sat two exams at the beginning of December and I'd been eagerly waiting for the results ever since. Well, I use 'eagerly'  in the loosest sense of the word... I was convinced that I'd failed so I wanted to get the initial disappointment over and done with so that I could start preparing for the resits. I've never failed an exam in my life, but I genuinely thought I'd failed those two. Three hours before we were due to fly to New York, I received an email on my phone with my exam results. If I'm honest, I was in two minds whether to open the email or not. On one hand, I thought it would put a dampener on the whole holiday if I found out that I'd failed, On the other hand, I knew I'd just be thinking about the results for the whole time if I didn't open the email. So I bit the bullet and opened the email. Aaaaaand... I passed! I was massively relieved, and danced over to tell my boyfriend the glad tidings. He congratulated me and said he knew I would, then showed me an email confirmation from Ticketmaster... he'd bought two tickets to see McFly back in December in preparation for my results! I did a bit of squealing and waved my hands around, and couldn't quite believe what a brilliant Monday morning I was having. Best surprise ever!

So, on 10th May, I'll be singing along to McFly in the CIA. I'll obviously be wearing one of my many McFly tshirts, and will be hoarse after the gig if I'm true to form. Can't wait!

Is anyone else going to see McFly on this year's tour? What's your favourite McFly song? I can't actually choose one favourite but I'll leave you with one that's definitely close to the top of my list:


Enjoy!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

New shoes!

I don't generally buy many shoes, but I'm in love with the pair I bought on a whim last weekend. I saw them on an outdoor display as I was walking past Bank, which is a shop I've never been in to in my life. However, I made an exception on this occasion as the shoes were so pink and beautiful, and they were Converse which was an extra bonus. They were reduced to £29 from £47, and were absolutely perfect for me as I love pink, I love stars and I love Converse! Unfortunately, they only had the shoes in a size 3 and a size 6 in store, so I went straight on to Bank's website to see if they had the shoes on there in my size. They did! I snapped them up straight away, which is very fortunate as my size sold out on the website later that day. The shoes got delivered to my nearest store within two days, and they fit perfectly.

Look how beautiful they are!






These shoes will be perfect for my jeans and hoodie days, and for my trip to Florida in September. If you're a size 6, you can still buy these shoes on Bank's website. Hurry up!

Monday, 11 March 2013

Book review: Bright Young Things

I recently read Bright Young Things by Scarlett Thomas as I managed to download it for 20p for my Kindle. I hadn't read anything by Scarlett Thomas before, but I thought it was worth a try as it was so cheap and I liked the sound of the synopsis. The initial concept was very clever and I got engrossed in the book straight away. I won't give too much away, but the plot centres around six young people who respond to a vague job advert looking to recruit 'bright young things'. The characterisation is vivid and the reader really does get a feel for each of the six characters. A couple of the characters are likeable and some are extremely irritating. However, I secretly enjoy it when characters are irritating as it's a sign of good characterisation when they play on your emotions.

I would argue that the book is a critique of the rather pushy modern culture where everyone is encouraged to go to university and get a degree, regardless of the costs involved. None of the characters have jobs which are connected to their degrees, which is a very accurate reflection of my own generation and is most likely a deliberate dig by the author towards the current job market. The frustration of the characters in this area is evident, and a few of them are keen to move away from their degree discipline altogether. This is yet another symptom of the modern generation, where studying for a degree can actually put people off the subject they chose to study in the first place. The conversations between the characters are deliberately vacuous at times even though they're all 'intelligent' people with first class degrees. Therefore, in my opinion, the book was partly written to mock the modern degree culture and also to challenge the idea that people with degrees are automatically more clever than those without and have more stimulating debates and conversations.

The characters talk obsessively about TV programmes, celebrities, films and gaming. I think this is another reflection on modern society as these things are shoved down our throats and you can't escape from reality shows, TV soaps, celebrity culture and so on. These characters are all unhappy with their own lives, for very different reasons, and this is reflected in the way they cling to their various escape routes even when they're separated from them in the new ambiguous situation they find themselves in. I'm well aware that it's easy to get immersed in various escapisms when life is a bit rubbish (reading is my own personal escape route), and it's easier than ever to do that in modern society with all the technological resources available to us.

Some of the conversations in the book were dull, drawn out and bordering on the sublime, but I kept reading as I was intrigued about how things would turn out in the end and if the characters would come to a mutual solution. Consequently, I was massively disappointed by the book's finale. It genuinely felt as if the author wasn't sure how to end the book so decided not to put any effort into it at all and conveniently left it to the reader's imagination. I appreciate it when some aspects are left to my imagination and I don't ask to be spoon fed, but I also like to have a vague idea about what happens to the characters, especially after getting so involved with a book. I felt dissatisfied after finishing the book and almost felt as if the previous 341 pages had been a waste of my time. So, unfortunately, I wouldn't recommend this book as the ending is such a disappointment and doesn't build on the promising suspense built up earlier in the book.

Has anyone else read Bright Young Things? What did you think?

Sunday, 10 March 2013

New York #8: Shopping

This is the last in my series of blog posts on New York. As I've mentioned before, I'm not always a big fan of shopping but the shops in New York are legendary so I was looking forward to sampling some of the shops there. Everything is so much cheaper in America than in the UK, so it's always a good opportunity to buy clothes, jewellery and so on. I didn't take a huge amount of spending money with me, but I bought a lot and still brought 40 dollars back with me to keep towards my spending money for Florida in September. I also prefer shopping when I'm on holiday as I've already budgeted for my spending money, so it doesn't feel as if I'm spending real money!

My favourite shops were the Disney Store (predictable, I know) and Aeropostale, as you can see from the theme of the purchases below. I also loved the New York souvenir shops, even if some of them were a bit dodgy.

So here's what I bought!



Postcards, a pink 'I love NY' keyring and a fridge magnet. 
The postcards were 10 for a dollar!



The bracelet on the left is from a bead shop, and the one on the right is 
from the American Museum of Natural History



Shopping bag from Macy's!



Pen from M&M's World - everything else was a bit pricey!



Tshirt from the Rockefeller Center



Tshirts from Aeropostale and American Eagle - 30 dollars in total!



This was a present from my boyfriend... it was supposed to be 45 dollars 
but came up as $19.99 when it was scanned at the till. Bargain!



More from Aeropostale - a lovely hoodie and bag. Ridiculously cheap again



New sunglasses from Aeropostale



I couldn't go to New York without buying anything from the Disney store. 
Meet Bolt and Dumbo!


Hopefully this series of blog posts has conveyed how much I loved New York and what a great place it is. Roll on Florida in September! 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

New York #7: Food!

I love food. This is not news. Consequently, I was massively excited about sampling the food in New York. The food was amazing when I went to Florida last year, so I was expecting great things. My boyfriend was calling me the paparazzi as I took photos of all my meals (and desserts!), but it just had to be done for blogging purposes. I ate cakes I wouldn't dream of eating at home, and some mahoosive main meals too.  Thankfully we did lots of walking to burn off the excess calories.

So here's a summary in photos of what I ate throughout the week... don't judge me!



First night - Chicken and broccoli pizza slices at The Bread Factory




Breakfast at the hotel on our first morning - the bacon and the 
apple and cinnamon cake thing were especially tasty!



Cheeseburger and onion rings at Juniors - my favourite meal!



Carrot Cake Cheesecake from Juniors. It took me three days in total to finish this!



Hot dog from Frankie's in Grand Central Station. 
Baked beans, bacon bits and barbecue sauce.



Thai Green Curry from a little Thai restaurant in the Hell's Kitchen area



Cupcakes from the Crumbs Bake Shop - mine is the 
Cookie Dough cupcake on the left




American pancakes with strawberries from the Tick Tock Diner



Pepperoni stromboli from the Villa Kitchen in Times Square



Steak burrito from Chipotle Mexican Grill. My first burrito!



Giant chocolate chip cookie from The Bread Factory



Oreo Cake Tower on our last afternoon... Sadly, I couldn't finish it all


Don't panic, I (miraculously) didn't come back 5 stone heavier. My favourite meals were the American pancakes from Tick Tock Diner, the cheeseburger and onion rings from Juniors, and the carrot cake cheesecake from Juniors. Can you recommend any other restaurants in New York?

Friday, 8 March 2013

New York #6: Times Square

I couldn't write a series of blog posts about New York without mentioning Times Square. There aren't enough superlatives to describe it though, so I'm not going to write reams about it. We went there for a wander on our first evening, and it was totally overwhelming. Massive buildings, lights everywhere, hot dog vendors, huge billboards, all kinds of shops, and streams and streams of people. Apart from the constant pestering from ticket touts, this was one of my favourite areas of the city and we spent a lot of time there. I'm not even a big fan of shopping, but the shops were irresistible. They're also ridiculously cheap compared to British prices!

Here are some of my favourite photos from Times Square:



Buildings, buildings, buildings...



Yet more buildings, buildings, buildings



Times Square at night - even more amazing!



M&Ms World



Disney store!


We spent some time in Times Square every day as we were staying around the corner from there. Again, the photos don't do it justice at all but it gives you a little flavour. Magical!

Thursday, 7 March 2013

New York #5: Circle Line Cruise

The Circle Line Cruise was definitely on my list of things to do in New York after hearing that the Liberty and Ellis Island tour was temporarily suspended due to the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy. I'd heard positive reviews from other people who had gone on the Circle Line Cruise, and everyone said it was a great way to experience parts of the city you wouldn't necessarily see otherwise.

The boat left at 12pm, and we got there just in time after a mad dash from the Rockefeller Center. The weather was lovely when we set off, but it did cloud over towards the end. The cruise lasted two hours and the guide was very informative, which always helps! We saw the amazing skyline from lots of different perspectives, as well as seeing famous landmarks like the Empire State Building, Statue of Liberty and the new 'Freedom Tower' in the context of their surroundings. This is a totally different and more picturesque view than seeing them up close, and I would highly recommend the Circle Line Cruise to anyone who visits New York. We saw four of New York's five boroughs during the duration of the cruise (Manhattan, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island), and also went underneath the Brooklyn Bridge.

The Financial District was one of the more interesting sights on the cruise, especially as we didn't experience that area of the city on foot during our trip. I felt quite overwhelmed when I saw the new 'Freedom Tower' as it brought back poignant memories of what stood in that location before 9/11. The new tower will be exactly the same height as the Twin Towers destroyed on 9/11, and they're also building six other World Trade Center buildings on the site. If we do visit New York again, I'm very keen to visit the Financial District and Ground Zero in particular, as the memorial museum should be completed by the end of this year.

It's impossible to describe everything we saw on the cruise in one blog post, but hopefully this has given you a flavour of what to expect. I've posted some of my favourite photos from the cruise:



Just after setting off. Look at that skyline!



Another great view of the Manhattan skyline



The Financial District - the tall building on the right is the new 'Freedom Tower', 
located on the World Trade Center site



The Statue of Liberty! As you can see on the right, they're busy 
repairing parts of the island after the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy



I forget what this bridge is called, but it's my favourite



Empire State Building on the right!


As you can see from the photos, it did get more cloudy as the cruise went on. And a lot colder! I took about 80 photos altogether as there was so much to see, but you'll be pleased to hear that I refrained from posting them all on here. Has anyone else been on the Circle Line Cruise? What was your favourite part?

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

New York #4: Rockefeller Center

The Rockefeller Center always reminds me of Home Alone 2, which immediately gives it some brownie points. However, apart from the references made in the film, I didn't know much about the building at all before going to New York. I'd never really looked at photos of it, or looked into its history. I just knew it looked nice during the Christmas period! It was still on my list of things to do in New York as so many people had recommended it, but I had no idea what to expect.

The Rockefeller Center is a complex of 19 commercial buildings which spans 22 acres, and the surrounding area is actually just as impressive as the building itself. We visited the area on our third afternoon in New York, after it stopped raining. Here are some photos from the Plaza area outside the main building:








After wandering around the surrounding area for a while and taking in the sights, we decided to go up to the 'Top of the Rock observation deck. Unfortunately, we were told that the visibility at the top of the building was bad on that particular afternoon due to some fog which was hanging around after the morning's rain, so we went back the next morning when the sun was shining. It was a totally different experience to the Empire State Building as it was daylight and showed the city from a different angle and a slightly different height. It also wasn't quite so windy! As it was such a clear day, we could see the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, the Empire State Building (obviously), the new 'Freedom Tower' being built on the Ground Zero site, and everything else within a few miles' radius. 

A few photos from the Top of the Rock:



The classic Home Alone 2 pose!







So even though I didn't have huge expectations about the Rockefeller Center before going to New York, I was massively impressed. I still can't decide if I preferred 'Top of the Rock' or the Empire State Building observation deck... Does anyone else have a favourite of the two?