Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Goodbye 2013...

What a year it has been!

2013, you were pretty good to me, allowing me to do some great things
during your 12 months, a few of which I'm gonna share with you now
in a shameless attempt to get more hits on some of my favourite posts...

my resolution to take one photo every day for all 366 days of 2012.

and we had an awesome time.

We made pancakes on Pancake Day.

I signed up to do the A to Z Blog Challenge.

compared to 2012.

I ended the month by announcing my theme for the A to Z Blog Challenge.

I did it - I completed the A to Z Blog Challenge and 
welcomed a bunch of new followers to my little corner of blog-land!

My blog got a little makeover.

I introduced the monthly 'Laura Cooks' series.

I spent the weekend as a Supernatural geek...

I blogged about my top pet peeves.

We paid a wet visit to Drayton Manor.

Hubby and I got our geek on at Harry Potter World.

We got our groove on 'cross the Mersey.

We visited the 100 Aker Wood and I regressed to the age of five.

I blogged about MY choice to not eat meat.

I begged the world my readers
to put down their cameras and enjoy life.

with my real-life buddy, Mandeep.

We commemorated three years of wedded bliss!

I crafted this autumn garland.

I celebrated my 29th birthday...
...and shared a few words of wisdom.

We ended the month with a great Halloween.

I had a rant about over sharing online.

I finally bought a dSLR!

I got all sentimental
and shared with you the five things I can't live without.

I told you more about what I'd learned about life,
but this time from watching Supernatural and Dawson's Creek.

By the end of the month, I was feeling very festive,
so I showed you how to make my 2013 Christmas tags,
as well as playing you my all-time festive playlist.

I put the trimmings up around the house,
which included our first ever real Christmas tree.

We had a fun and festive weekend in London.

I introduced my weekly Word Vomit Friday,
which I plan to continue into 2014!

And we finished the year with a fantastic Christmas.

As you can see, 2013 was a pretty good year.
There were a few lows and some unforgettable highs, both providing memories that I will
carry with me for a lifetime - some cherished, some not so much! But, as we enter another
new year, I'm grateful to be where I am, with people who truly care for me.

Bring it 2014 - I'm ready for you!
post signature

Monday, 30 December 2013

2013 book recap

At the beginning of 2013, I decided that this was the year that I was going to read more, I was going to
make time to read as many books as I could get my hands on. So, to start simple, seeing as I'd only read
about four or five books each year for the last decade, I set myself the task of reading 13 books in 2013
(I do not know how I come up with these genius ideas - I amaze myself sometimes).
By the time my two-week holiday from work rolled around at the end of June, I was onto my 10th book
so I was well on my way six months in. In fact, as of today (30th December), I have read 14.5 books! So,
although the second half of the year was much slower than the first, I'm pretty proud of my achievement.
I wish I hadn't let things slip in the second half of the year, but I guess life just got in the way a bit!

I thought I'd share with you the books I managed to read this year (in order)
and a little of what I thought of them, in case you wanted to read them too...

The Gift by Cecelia Ahern - this was my second Cecelia Ahern book (I'd previously read Thanks For The Memories) and it was kinda Christmasy themed so it was the perfect book to kick start 2013 (in fact, I'm pretty sure I read the first few chapters in 2012, but who's checking). I really enjoyed this book and it definitely makes you think about how you're spending your time and what/who your priorities should be.

Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Adorm - I was drawn to this book by the title and loved all 208 pages. It's funny to wonder who your own five people might be if this really did happen after you die and it's even crazier to wonder how simple actions you didn't give a second thought to at the time went on to affect someone else's life.

Fresh Meat (Supernatural) by Alice Henderson - I read this because I was sent a free copy by Titan Books. In fact, I published my review here.

Wonder by RJ Palacio - I simply cannot heap enough praise onto this book; I loved it. I loved Auggie and I actually struggled to read another book for about two weeks after finishing Wonder (in six hours, I might add). It's such a beautifully written book about such a delicate and almost taboo subject; I would snap up a sequel in a second because, honestly, I miss Auggie like I'd miss a real-life friend.

The Fault In Our Stars by John Green - a few friends recommended this book to me because they'd loved it so much, however, they are all approx 10 years younger than me, so I didn't seem to connect with the book as much as they did. I enjoyed it and it's an engaging read that made me cry but I didn't love it as much as my 18-year-old friends. I believe the book is being made into a film for those of you who are like my Hubby and live by the mantra "I'll wait for the film".

Memoirs Of An Imaginary Friend by Matthew Green - this is such a unique concept; it's the story of Max, told from the point-of-view of his imaginary friend, Budo. I truly admire the imagination it must have taken to create this world and the rules of imaginary friends. Initially, the ending confused me, but I think Matthew Green wanted to leave his reader full of hope, that there's more to life, and death, than meets the eye.

The Silver Linings Play Book by Matthew Quick - I love Pat! I love Tiffany. I love their relationship. I just loved this book. It was great to read something from a man's point-of-view (it would be a totally different book had it been written the easy way, aka from Tiffany's POV) and although I could see the 'twist' coming, it didn't leave me with the feeling of cliché. I cried at the end and I think it's down to the feeling of hope that the characters leave you with; their lives have been pretty bleak, yet, through it all, they've come out the other side, stronger and they've found one another; in my opinion, there's nothing more valuable in this world than finding a kindred spirit, someone who understands you totally! I have since watched the film, starring Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, and, as usual, the book was better than the film. The film totally re-wrote Pat's relationship with his father, as well as Pat and Tiffany's FRIENDship, to the point where I'm wondering if I read the same book that David O Russell (the film's director) read!

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes - I have to admit, I tried to read this book at some point in 2012, but I have a feeling I started it too soon after reading a really great book, and so was not ready, mentally and emotionally, to let new characters into my life. I made it to chapter seven and gave up; I totally should have stuck with it. This is a heartbreaking book of life, love and loss. Lou and Will and their supporting cast are such realistically written characters, I can totally see them as real people, so I mourned their loss from my life for about a week before picking up my next book.

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker  - I enjoyed this book, however it wasn't the connection to the characters that kept me reading like with most other books. It was the events that take place - the earth's rotation starts slowing, so the days start getting longer, at first by minutes, but then by hours. It's hard to imagine what would actually happen and how people would react if this event ever did come to pass, but Karen Thompson Walker presents the events in such a way that I believed every word and, man, I hope it never happens in my lifetime!

Ways to Live Forever by Sally Nicholls - I read this book really quickly because it's classed as a children's book (which I didn't find out until later!). It's a sad book and kinda made me think about how unfair life can be for some. I really liked the character of Felix, who is the main character's (Sam) best friend. This book made me cry (this seems to be a running theme with me and books!) so if you're planning to read it, have a tissue handy.

The Last Time I Saw You by Eleanor Moran - it took me a while to get into this book, but once I did, I couldn't put it down (even reading for 15 minutes after my lunch hour had finished just to complete the book)! What I liked about this book was not the sappy 'love conquers all' message running through it, but that the characters were relate-able and realistic. Reading about the characters and their fall-outs was totally believable and I could see just how Sally's untold version of events could be different to Olivia's (our narrator). I got the sense that Olivia always assumed she had been in the right when the main characters fell out 10 years ago, but upon having all the facts (no spoilers, again) she could see how she had her own part to play in everything.

Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson - Wow! What a great book. I was hooked after about 30 pages and could not put the book down (so much so that I read it in under 48 hours). Christine is such a vulnerable and endearing character and her situation is so unbelievably sad! I hear there is a movie of this book coming out in 2014, with Nicole Kidman as the lead - which I totally do NOT see, but hey ho - so if you're not much of a reader, you can wait for the movie to come out although I'm sure the moviemakers will find a way to ruin it!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling - I know, I know, I'm late to the whole Harry Potter phenomenon but having seen, and loved, the films and having visited Harry Potter World this summer, I decided my 13th book should be a Harry Potter one. Having read The Philosopher's Stone at the end of 2012, I was looking forward to seeing how the book differed to the film. I was kinda disappointed because I don't think it was all that different - credit to the film makers - there was just a little more detail, especially at the end, which meant that it took me about five weeks to actually get through the book because I knew what was going to happen.

Facing The Music and Living To Talk About It by Nick Carter - now, you don't know me until you know that I love the Backstreet Boys, I have since the age of 12 and I'm pretty sure I always will. So, when I discovered that Nick had written a self-help autobiography I was intrigued. My little brother bought me this book for my birthday and I read it in three days. I don't think I would necessarily recommend this to a non-BSB fan but, as a fan, I appreciated Nick's honesty, especially in regards to his childhood, his destructive behaviour patterns and his drug and alcohol abuse. Whilst I have never suffered anything like he has, it was interesting to read about his darkest times, which I'm sure must have been hard to confess, and to read about how he managed to get happier and healthier, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

The Bookstore by Debroah Meyler - I'm not sure why (life, I think) but it took me much longer than it should have to read this book. I haven't actually finished it yet, despite starting at the beginning of November, so I have set myself the challenge to finish it by this weekend (4th/5th January 2014) so I can start a new book on the 6th :) I don't think reading it towards the end of the year when I just wanted to be doing things for Christmas was the wisest decision. However, the 18 chapters I have read so far are good, if not a little slow.

I think I am actually going to take part in (the majority of) Bonnie's (The Life Of Bon) Book Club for 2014 as there are some awesome sounding books on there. There's still time to sign up and get the first January's book (The Husband's Secret by Liane Mortiary) so if you're interested visit her blog here.

As I've read a whole host of books this year, some better than others, I'd like to share with you my top three recommendations, so maybe you'll pick them up at some point in 2014:
1. Wonder - I still miss Auggie and his buddies!
2. Me Before You 
3. The Silver Linings Playbook 
(You're welcome)

Did you read any good books this year?
post signature
If you enjoyed this post, could you please share it with others via your preferred social media, thanks!

Saturday, 28 December 2013

We had a holly jolly Christmas

What an amazing few days it has been. 
It went so quickly, I ate way too much and didn't sleep anywhere near enough,
but, unfortunately, Christmas is over again for another year.

Thanks to my pretty, new-ish camera, I took over 600 photos over three days.
I'm not going to bore you with them all, but here are a few of my favourites.

It all started with a walk around Bradgate Park on Christmas Eve...
It was a bit windy!

Then we went over to my parents' house, where it was beautifully festive,
for some delicious food and to watch movies...

Christmas morning saw us opening some presents from Santa...

Christmas Day was spent at Hubby's mum's house with family...
It's not really wine, but don't tell him :) 

Dinner - mmmmmmm!

Time for a game of dominoes to help Leighton with his counting...
What is it about boys and their granddads?! #cutestChristmasphotoof2013

Boxing Day (December 26th to my non-British readers) is my Grandma's birthday.
This year happened to be her 80th, so we made our usual family meal a bit special...

One of my cousins is in a band, so he, and his younger brother, headed to 
a studio a week before Grandma's birthday and recorded three of my 
grandma's favourite songs and had them put on CD for her. 

He also had a commemorative CD plaque made for her...

We're all actually off to a photography studio this afternoon to have some photos taken to capture 
what our ever-growing family looks like as my Grom turns 80. There will be about 20 of us
and we only have one hour - wish us luck; I anticipate the good kind of chaos :)
post signature