Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Monthly Tea & Coffee Subscriptions


As a customer of a monthly beauty subscription, I started looking at what other monthly subscription boxes are around. What really appeals to me are tea and coffee boxes. I'm a big tea drinker, although I don't drink 'normal' tea but rather green tea or other herbal and fruit teas.



Bluebird Tea Co. do a 6 month tea subscription at a cost of £59.70 (which works out at £9.95 per month). For this, you get 3 new blends delivered to your door every month. This is 20g of loose tea in each of the 3 monthly flavours. I've only come across Bluebird Tea Co. today but I'm guessing I'll be spending quite a bit of time (and money!) on this site in the coming months.


Charbrew also have Monthly Tea Club subscription service. The cost starts at £24.99 for 3 months, for which you get 2 packs of their specialist teas delivered every month. Each pack contains 15 x bio-degradeable pyramid tea bags.




Whittards do both tea and coffee clubs. Starting from £10 per month, you get 2 packs of either tea or coffee per month.



Kopi have a Coffee Explorer Club at £7.95, which gives you a 250g bag of different-origin coffee every month. The coffee will be either beans or ground.


Finally, another new site that I've come across today is Book and a Brew. For a cost of £12.99 per month, you get a hardback novel and a pack of either tea or coffee from stockists such as Teapigs and Taylors of Harrogate. This is a fantastic idea, however I read a lot and would have some concerns that I might receive a book that I already own.

I should point out that I have not personally tried any of these subscription services and, as such, I cannot say if they are good value or not. However, I would be interest to hear if you are signed up to these or any other tea or coffee subscription boxes.

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Tuesday, 18 November 2014

A Quick Look at Advent Calendars for 2014



The gorgeous Mr GC surprised me with a Yankee Candle advent calendar this week.  It's temporarily out of stock on the official website, however it is currently available elsewhere online. At a cost of £21.99, it's significantly more expensive than a usual chocolate advent calendar, however I definitely appreciate it! I may be one of the only women who has not tried Yankee Candles before. I always stop to smell them when shopping but have not treated myself to one before. Containing 5 or 6 Christmas-themed scents, I cannot wait until 1st December arrives!

Bearing in mind how excited I am about my advent calendar, I thought I would have a quick look around and see what else is available this year.




My favourites (other than my Yankee Candle advent calendar) were Not on The Highstreet's tea advent calendars. There's one from Posttea at a cost of £38 and one from Victoria Mae Designs at a cost of £19.50. I love my tea and I think these are a great idea. I hope that my favourites, Teapigs and Beanies, will consider doing advent calendars next year!

Benefit are doing an AMAZING advent calendar containing 24 mini beauty treats. It can be found on their website or at Debenhams, however at a cost of £60 it's more than I can justify for a pre-Christmas treat. 


Tesco are doing their first ever beauty advent calendar. At a cost of £50, it contains brands such as Nip+Fab, Korres, Katy Perry, Dr LeWinns, Bayliss & Harding and Tanya Burr behind every door.

Masters of Malt are doing unique vodka, tequilla, whiskey, rum and cognac advent calendar, costing between £99.95 to £279.95. These are well beyond my means, however if I ever win the lottery, my dad and husband would love one of these!

Topshop appear to be doing a jewellery advent calendar at a cost of £25.00. According to the write up, it contains 12 pairs of stud earrings, 4 bracelets and 8 necklaces.

The big shops (Asda, Tesco, Toys-R-Us and Argos) all appear to be selling Lego advent calendars containing 7 mini figures and accessories. The cost varies from £14.97 to £20.00.

In looking into this subject, I've barely scratched the surface. I've also come across advent calendars from Bodyshop, Jo Malone, Selfridges, Ciate and Primark amongst others. There really seems to be something for everyone out there.
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Book Review: Difficult Husbands by Mary de Laszlo (*review copy*)



Title: Difficult Husbands
Author: Mary de Laszlo
Published: 31 October 2014
Publisher:  Bookouture
Twitter: @adelica
Blog/website: http://www.judithmurdoch.co.uk/our-authors/mary-de-laszlo/


Synopsis 

Three friends. One surprise inheritance. And the perfect plan to deal with troublesome husbands at Christmas time…

Newly divorced Lorna is struggling to adjust to life on her own. When she discovers that her beloved godfather has left her the grand (and crumbling) Ravenscourt House in the heart of Sussex, she soon has a project on her hands.

Nathan sells delicious goodies at Mulberry Farm. When he meets Lorna at a Christmas market, neither of them can ignore the chemistry. But as they get to know one another, Lorna wants to know one thing – is he after her or the house?

Together with Gloria – whose marriage to alcoholic Adrian has hit rock bottom, and Rosalind – struggling to deal with her womanising husband Ivan, the three friends hatch a plan. They’ll ditch their difficult husbands at Ravenscourt House and enjoy stress-free Christmases with their families. But nothing is ever that simple…

An entertaining story of family, friendship and new beginnings that will delight fans of Trisha Ashley, Carole Matthews and Katie Fforde.

Review

Thanks to Bookoutre and Net Galley for sending me a free review copy of this book.

This is a tale of family, friends and new beginnings. It deals with some difficult subjects such as marriage breakdowns, alcoholism, adultery, financial difficulties and death, whilst emphasising the importance of friendship, support and family.

I first want to say that this book was okay. Whilst the start of the book felt a bit slow going, it started so pick up half way through. It is an easy read and the story had potential. However, I also found some parts of it incredibly irritating.

Lorna, the main protagonist, seemed somewhat feeble to me. Married young to a much older man, she feels understandably betrayed when he enters a mid-life crisis and leaves her for a younger woman.

Gloria, a supporting character, is in a similar situation, except that her older husband is an alcoholic, refusing to seek help for his problems.

Finally, there is Rosalind, whose older husband is ignoring his wife and children whilst focusing his attention on worthy causes. We learn very little about Rosalind and it feels as though she is only there to add another 'difficult husband' to the mix.

The ladies feel as though their husbands (and ex-husband) are ruining and endangering their relationships with their children, so when Lorna inherits a large country house they come up with a plan to leave the husbands stranded in the countryside for Christmas.
Unfortunately, whilst the story had potential, there are areas where the story could have been improved, such as going into more depth about their lives before the problems and by considering the husbands' point of view. No mention is made of any fault on the wives’ part in contributing to the failing marriages or that upon retirement the men may have realised that they have simply grown apart from their younger wives and need to find something new in their lives. There are always two sides to every story and this book very clearly only presents one side of the coin.

I didn't feel that I could really empathise with the characters, maybe because I am younger and have never been in a similar situation to them, but also because I did not like the way in which they reacted to their difficulties. Why, when informed of her daughter's premature labour, did Lorna become hysterical to the extent that she was unable to continue with the call or have a coherent thought? I did not understand this.

In additon, the author seemed to feel the need to keep re-emphasising the theme of the difficult husbands and not in a very subtle fashion. This inserted a degree of repetition into the story which felt unnecessary.

In addition, I felt as though the author was not just telling a story, but also putting forward her own strong views about subjects to the point that I felt this book to be almost a piece of propoganda. She obviously has quite a strong dislike of anti-depressants, referring on a number of occasions to how Lorna's husband went off the rails after being given medication by his doctor. She also appears to be opposed to age differences within marriages. The story contains numerous digs at older men marrying younger women, with mentions of impotence and disgust at the idea of an older man fathering a child with a younger woman. The author really seems to be intent on showing a stereotypical view of older men going though mid-life crises and what women should expect when marrying an older man. It has an odd feeling of bitterness to it.

There were some other aspects within the story which I found difficult to relate to. For example, Lorna’s children expecting that their divorced parents would be spending Christmas together. In a world where divorce now seems, regrettably, to be the norm, I do not know any children of divorced parents who would expect those parents to still come together at Christmas. For the children in this story to make such an issue of their mother refusing to contemplate this idea, seems unlikely and unrealistic.

On a positive note, the book seemed (other than a couple of typo's) to be well edited and I quite liked De Laszlo's style of writing, however the story would have been more enjoyable for me had is focused more on the story of the inherited house and Nathan, rather than the depressing storyline involving the husbands.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5

The book is released in electronic format and is currently priced at £0.99 on Amazon UK.  

About the Author


Mary De Laszlo


Mary de Laszlo worked for Queen Magazine in the 1960s. She also worked in Paris, in the fashion department of Jardins des Modes. She now lives in London and writes full time.
 





 
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Book Review: Tagged for Death by Sherry Harris (*advanced review copy*)


Photograph taken from www.goodreads.com


Title: Tagged for Death
Author: Sherry Harris
Published: 2 December 2014
Publisher:  Kensington Books
Twitter: @SHarrisAuthor
Blog/website: http://sherryharrisauthor.com/

Synopsis 

Starting your life over at age thirty-eight isn't easy, but that's what Sarah Winston finds herself facing when her husband CJ runs off with a 19-year-old temptress named Tiffany. Sarah's self-prescribed therapy happily involves hitting all the garage and tag sales in and around her small town of Ellington, Massachusetts. If only she could turn her love for bargain hunting into a full-time career. 

One man's junk is another man's treasure

But after returning from a particularly successful day searching for yard sale treasures, Sarah finds a grisly surprise in one of her bags: a freshly bloodied shirt…that undoubtedly belongs to her ex, CJ, who now happens to be Ellington's chief of police. If that's not bad enough, it seems Tiffany has gone missing. Now it's up to Sarah to prove that her cold-hearted ex is not a cold-blooded killer…

But finding that treasure can be murder.

Review

Thanks to Kensington Books and Net Galley for sending me a free review copy of this book.
According to Sherry Harris' website, this book is the first in the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series and I am pleased to say that I found this cozy mystery thoroughly entertaining read.

The main character, Sarah, is a former military wife who's ex-husband is now head of the local police force. Despite her ex-husband having cheated, almost everyone has taken his side following the divorce leaving Sarah living in an area with few friends, no ties and continuing to volunteer on the base. When her love-rival goes missing and evidence points to her ex-husband, Sarah is faced with the dilemma of whether to take her problems to the local police or whether to stand behind her ex-husband and prove that he is not a cold-blooded killer.

I wasn't sure about the beginning of the book. It seemed unlikely that the local police would be harrassing their chief's ex-wife without good reason and without him knowing about it. I also fail to see the point of the 'gun shot' telephone calls and didn't really feel that those added much to the story, although this makes a bit more sense towards the end of the book.

I thought the writing was good and there was good detail about life on the military base. These insights were interesting, although as a non-military person myself I cannot say how accurate those refernces were.

I wasn't hugely keen on some of the supporting characters as they seemed, to me, to be quite nasty individuals. I was also not overly keen on her ex-husband, CJ. I felt he lacked backbone in not fighting for his marriage when he obviously did not want it to end. There was little indication that he had fully explained the circumstances of his indiscretion to his wife. I also found it odd that CJ did not appear to be doing a great deal of investigating into the missing girl even though all evidence pointed to him having been involved in the disappearance. Surely, as the police chief, he would be doing more to ensure that he was exonerated?

I am pleased to say that I did not guess who the killer was and that, for me, is a huge bonus in a mystery story. I like there to be an element of surprise at the end when I discover 'who dunnit'.

I thought this was an enjoyable cozy mystery story and I'm looking forward to the next book in this series.

Rating: 3 out of 5

The book is released in electronic format and is currently priced at £2.95 on Amazon UK

About the Author

Profile photo Sherry Harris started bargain hunting in second grade at her best friend’s yard sale. She honed her bartering skills as she moved around the country while her husband served in the Air Force. Sherry combines her love of garage sales, her life as a military spouse, and her years living in Massachusetts as inspiration for the Sarah Winston Garage Sale series. Tagged for Death, first in the series, will be out in December 2014.
 
Sherry is a member of Sisters in Crime, Sisters in Crime New England, and the Chessie Chapter of Sisters in Crime.
Sherry, her husband, and guard dog Lily are living in northern Virginia until they figure out where they want to move to next.
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Monday, 17 November 2014

Book Review: Takedown Twenty by Janet Evanovich

Photograph taken from www.goodreads.com
Title: Takedown Twenty
Author: Janet Evanovich
Published:19 November 2013
Publisher:  Headline Review
Twitter: @janetevanovich
Blog/website: http://www.evanovich.com/

Synopsis 


Stephanie Plum has her sights set on catching a notorious mob boss. If she doesn't take him down, he may take her out.

New Jersey bounty hunter Stephanie Plum knows better than to mess with family. But when powerful mobster Salvatore "Uncle Sunny" Sunucchi goes on the lam in Trenton, it's up to Stephanie to find him. Uncle Sunny is charged with murder for running over a guy (twice), and nobody wants to turn him in - not his poker buddies, not his bimbo girlfriend, not his two right-hand men, Shorty and Moe. Even Trenton's hottest cop, Joe Morelli, has skin in the game, because - just Stephanie's luck - the godfather is his actual godfather. And while Morelli understands that the law is the law, his old-world grandmother, Bella, is doing everything she can to throw Stephanie off the trail.

It's not just Uncle Sunny giving Stephanie the run-around. Security specialist Ranger needs her help to solve the bizarre death of a top client's mother, a woman who happened to play bingo with Stephanie's Grandma Mazur. Before Stephanie knows it, she's working side by side with Ranger and Grandma at the senior centre, trying to catch a killer on the loose - and the bingo balls are not rolling in their favour. 


With bullet holes in her car, henchmen on her tail, and a giraffe named Kevin running wild in the streets of Trenton, Stephanie will have to up her game for the ultimate takedown.

Review

I'm a big fan of Janet Evanovich and have been for about 10 years, when I first read one of the 'Plum' series. Some of the books in the series are better than others, however they always make me laugh more than most other books that I have read.

This book is number 20 in the 'Plum' series and features bounty hunter Stephanie Plum and the regular cast members - her partner in crime and ex-hooker Lula, wrinkly Grandma Mazur, mysteriously sexy Ranger and hot cop, Joe Morelli - along with an escaped giraffe running wild in Trenton.

I've seen a number of reviews, both good and bad, and I have to say that this was not my favourite book in the series. In fact, it is probably one of the weaker ones. The book was somewhat predictable with Stephanie's car problems and klutzy nature, her inability to decide between Ranger and Morelli, Lula's unique dress sense, Grandma Mazur's obsession with dead bodies etc... basically, the books are quite similar just with a different murder scenario and a different killer. Don't get me wrong, I still found a few laughs in this book and I like some of the predictability of the characters, however the book feels rushed, as though written to meet a deadline rather than with a good plot in mind. It feels almost like a 'filler' in the series rather than a stand-out good story.

The main draw for me about the book is the humour and the characters. The story is designed to be silly and fun. There is no pretence to great literature, just laughs and escapism. Unfortunately, there was not quite enough of those moments to make me really enjoy this book.

I thought the earlier books in the series were much better and, being a huge Plum fan, I'm sorry to say that maybe it is time for the author to bring the series to a conclusion or, possibly, to wait longer between the books until some new inspiration hits.

Saying that, I am still a huge Janet Evanovich fan and I'm looking forward to giving her new series a try.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The book is released in electronic format at £3.99 or paperback edition at £6.39 on Amazon UK.

About the Author

Image of Janet Evanovich 
No. 1 bestselling author Janet Evanovich is the recipient of the Crime Writers' Association's John Creasey Memorial, Last Laugh and Silver Dagger awards, as well as the Left Coast Crime's Lefty award, and is the two-time recipient of the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association's Dilys award.

She lives in New Hampshire, where she is at work on her next Stephanie Plum adventure.








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Saturday, 8 November 2014

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

http://boatsagainstthecurrent.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/sisterhood-of-the-world-bloggers-award11.jpg

I was recently nominated for the Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award by Laura from Boats Against The Current. Thank you for the nomination! Here are the rules: 

1. Thank the blogger that nominated you, and link back to their site.

2. Post the award’s logo onto your blog.

3. Answer the 10 questions you’ve been asked.

4. Nominate 10 bloggers.

5. Set 10 new questions for your nominees.

So here goes!

Laura's Questions

1. Which book character would you like as a best friend?

    Stephanie Plum from Janet Evanovich's series of books. Her life is a comedy of errors but I 
    certainly wouldn't get bored!

2. Is there any genre of book that just doesn’t interest you at all?

    Whilst I will give anything a try, I'm really not that interested in Si-fi books or non-fiction books 
    about wars. I'm sure there are some that would fall into those categories which I would enjoy but, 
    in general, they really don't interest me.

3. How did you name your blog?

    Early on in our relationship, before we were married, my husband sent me a very funny drunken  
    text in which he called me his 'Ginger Cat'. I wanted my blog to be anonymous when I first started 
    it and it seemed like a good name to use - me, but not recognisable by anyone else.

4. How often do you re-read books?

    There's not many books I re-read but I have a few favourites which I could read over and over   
    again. There are so many books published and so little time. I probably re-read a book once or 
    twice a year and the rest of my reading list will be books brand new to me.

5. Have you ever abandoned a book series half way through?

    No. There are a few books that I've abandoned half way through, but never a whole series (or at
    least not that I can remember). 

6. If you had to be trapped in an elevator with three book characters, who would they be?

    My first choice would have to be one of the Harry Potter wizards, maybe Mrs Weasley, who could 
    magic us out of the lift. My second choice would be Jeeves from PG Wodehouse, as he would 
    certainly have a clever idea about how to get us out of the lift (if magic didn't work!). My third 
    and final choice would be Helena Henry, the ghost from Jana De Leon's hilarious Mudbug series. 
    As a ghost, she would be able to walk through the doors and go looking for help to get us out!

    As you can tell, I'm a hugely practical person, so rather than thinking who I would rather spend 
    time with, I've chosen 3 people who might help get me out of the lift quicker!

7. Is there any song that reminds you of a certain book?

    This is a difficult question! I'm going to say 'All By Myself' when I'm re-reading Bridget Jones' 
    Diary. Since seeing the film, the soundtrack plays along in my head whilst I'm reading it!

8. Where is your favourite place to read?

    Easy question - snuggled up in bed with my old-lady-style V-shaped pillow behind me and a cup  
   of tea on the bedside table.

9. Have you given any books negative reviews, and why?

    I've only be reviewing books for a very short time and I have not yet had to write a negative 
    review. I try to appreciate the positives in every book and understand that whilst I might not like it, 
    others will do, so I hope that if I ever do write a negative review, I will be objective and not be too 
    negative unnecessarily.

10. If you could write your own memoir, what would the title be?

      This is an incredibly difficult question. It would probably be my most often-used saying "Give 
      me one more minute, I just need to finish this chapter..."


My Questions

1. Can you name 3 books that you would recommend to everyone?

2. Who is your all-time favourite character from a book?

3. Do you prefer paperback, hardback or E-copy?

4. What is the next book on your 'to be read' pile?

5.  Is there any book which completely surprised you? If so, why?

6.  Do you prefer to watch a film adaptation before or after you read a book, or not at all?

7.  If you were offered a free book of your choice right now, which one would you pick and why?

8. What is the last book you read that you could not finish and why?

9. What book have you re-read the most times?

10. Whay book, if any, did you have to read for school but ended up really enjoying?


My Nominations

I am not sure who has or hasn’t been nominated for this, so the list is shorter than it’s supposed to be, and I may still be re-nominating, so don’t feel obliged to participate!


Karen @ My Reading Corner

Courtney @ Confessions of a Book Blogger

Amanda @ Chocolate Pages

Dot @ Dot Scribbles

These are all blogs that I enjoy reading and would love to see their responses!


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Book Review: But I Said Forever by Jennifer Gilby Roberts (*advanced review copy*)




Title: But I Said Forever
Author: Jennifer Gilby Roberts
Published: 15 November 2014

Publisher:  CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Twitter: @GilbyRoberts
Blog/website: http://www.jennifergilbyroberts.com/

Synopsis 

Expect little, forgive much?


After a whirlwind courtship, Brittany Beresford married her Prince Charming and looked forward to living happily ever after. Five years later, she’s been reduced to a not-quite-desperate housewife, with a husband who spends more time flossing his teeth than holding meaningful conversations with her. 

She braves his disapproval by turning working mother and, other than feeling far more drawn to a handsome baker she works with than him, things seem to be looking up. But then Brittany discovers that her husband’s “hobbies” include something even worse than golf - and he expects her to put up and shut up. 

Fairy tale illusions shattered, but still believing marriage is for life and wanting the best for her son, Brittany has a choice to make: should she follow her heart, or her conscience?

Review

I read this book after receiving an advanced review copy from the author in return for an honest review. This is the first of JGR's books that I have written and I can honestly say that I really enjoyed it.

The book follows the story of Brittany Beresford who always believed that her path in life was to be a wife and mother. She married young and was brought up to believe that marriage lasts forever. After several years of marriage, Brittany finds herself  playing the part of the dutiful wife, with a small child and a husband who has become a virtual stranger to her and who takes her for granted. Brittany is slowly coming to the realisation that she needs more in her life, however she is conflicted between her duties towards her family and her own dreams. The discovery of a nasty little secret that her husband has been keeping spurs Brittany into action and she resolves to make big changes in her life.

Throughout the book, we see Brittany transform from a down-trodden unhappy housewife to a confident and independent woman. Against her husband's wishes, she takes a job in a bakery where she flourishes and starts to find her own path in life, realising that whilst her marriage vows are important, happiness is more so. I enjoyed watching Brittany develop and grow into her new self, throwing off her previous shackles and planning her future.

Whilst the story focuses on Brittany, the supporting characters are well thought-out and believable, with the dependable Carly, interfering Lauren, attractive Luke and, adding a real element of humour into the story, ditzy Abby and her love interest, Tom.

This was a story about love, marriage, happiness and second chances.

'But I Said Forever' is an enjoyable chick lit book and I would be happy to recommend it to other readers.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The paperback book was released on 7 November 2014 and is currently priced at £4.50 on Amazon UK

About the Author

Jennifer Gilby Roberts has a degree in physics and a postgraduate certificate in computing, so a career as a chick lit author was inevitable really. She was born and grew up in Surrey/Greater London, but now lives in Richmond, North Yorkshire with her husband, small daughter, two middle-aged cats and a lot of dust bunnies.


Taking care of her daughter is now her main job, but previously she worked many thrilling jobs in administration.  In these she learned the real truth of business: that every successful executive would be lost without their PA.


She can also be found getting red-faced at zumba class, reading historical porn (as her husband calls it – Regency romance to the rest of us) and humming nursery rhymes while going round Tesco.  Her current obsessions include toffee crisp bars, Costa fruit coolers and the TV show Torchwood.


JGR writes chick lit novels and short stories featuring sweet (occasionally sexy) romance, dry humour and things going tits-up.  They will especially appeal to fans of Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes and Jane Costello.
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