Thursday, 31 July 2014

#blog2blogBC: Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

I am the first co-host of a brand new online book club created by my blogging bestie, Kelly.
The first Blogger2Blogger Book Club (which even has its own hashtag #blog2blogBC) book is
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Goodreads Description:
"A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of very curious photographs. It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive. A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows."

The creepy front cover and the fact that this is a New York Times Best Seller made me pick up this book, and subsequently choose it as the first Blogger2Blogger Book Club book :) It took me a little while to get into this book, but I was hooked from about mid-way through chapter four to the beginning of chapter five, once (spoiler alert) Jacob was in Wales and on the island! I think Ransom Riggs does an excellent job of creating a captivating and magical world, with characters that you can relate to, despite their 'oddities'. I was sad once the book was finished, mainly because it ends on a cliffhanger and I wanted to know what happens next. I even checked to see if my local library has the sequel, Hollow City, but alas, it does not, so I will, at some point, find Hollow City and keep reading about Jacob, Emma and co's adventures.

Discussion Questions: chose your own questions to answer here
What effect did the photographs have on how you experienced this novel? In fact, what was your reading experience of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children? How did it make you feel? Were you disturbed... or fascinated... or something else? Did the book hold your interest? 

I loved that the book has creepy and somewhat disturbing photos scattered throughout; it was probably my favourite aspect of the book. I love a good book, but I'm also a very visual person, so this catered to both sides of my brain. Although the book was kinda scary in an entertaining and gripping kinda way, I don't think I ever actually felt scared for Jacob's life while reading this book. There were points in the story that I felt scared for Jacob, most notably when the chest/trunk falls through the floor into the basement and Jacob first catches a glimpse of the 'Peculiar Children', but I was never worried he was going to die.

Are you able to make sense of the 'after', the time loop? Can you explain it? Do you enjoy the way Riggs plays with time in his novel?

Urm, I guess so. I mean, I understand that once the time loop is broken, Jacob is stuck in the 1940s with the other children. I think I also understood why he chose to be with them and leave his family behind; I'm not sure I could have made the same call, but Jacob clearly doesn't share the connection and love that I have with my parents with his rich, almost-absent mother and his indecisive and wavering father.

Talk, of course, about the peculiar children. Which of their oddities and personalities do you find most intriguing?

I liked all of the 'oddities' we came across, but I'd say I felt the most sorry for poor Olive, who floats if she's not weighed down, and Millard, who is invisible when naked! I think you can find positives in everyone else's 'oddities' (being strong like Bronwyn, making flowers grow like Fiona and even creating fire like Emma) but I'd hate to float away or be invisible. I think Horace, who dreams the future, also has a weight on his shoulders caused by his 'oddity' that would be hard to deal with, especially once you realised that what you dream does come true! I think I'd like to know more about how each of the children became peculiar - where they born that way or did their powers surface as they hit puberty?

Does the end satisfy? Are loose ends tied up... or left hanging? This is the first book of a planned series. Will you read future instalments?

I found the end equally satisfying and frustrating; I want to read the sequel, but I cannot get my hands on it anywhere and I don't know that I care enough to buy it! I do want to read Hollow City and will eventually, mainly because I want a conclusion to the whole story; the characters leaving the loop (and safety of the island) and venturing into war-torn 1940's London is not a conclusion I am happy with!

Don't forget to use the awesome hashtag #blog2blogBC on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram 
to see what other readers thought of this book!

You can see the books on the Blogger 2 Blogger Book Club 2014 reading list here
You can even sign up to be a co-host for a future month here - I highly recommend it!

Happy Friday-eve!

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Adios, July...

July is always a pretty awesome month, but July 2014 was extra awesome...

I hope August brings more adventures 
and cooler temperatures; I'm so over this heat!
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Monday, 28 July 2014

My day as a 'spa spy'...

Whittlebury Hall is a magnificent four-star hotel, spa and conference and training centre set in rural Northamptonshire. Hubs and I were recently invited to try out the facilities in The Day Spa and 
to see for ourselves why this hotel and spa has won so many awards.
A stunning location!
We arrived just before 9am and were given our treatment times for the day, as well as a tour of the spa and leisure facilities. As we’d both booked a Top-to-Toe Spa Day, I had a Back Massage, an Energising Express Facial, an Express Pedicure and an Express Manicure to look forward to, whilst Tom had an Elemis Urban Cleanse Facial and an Elemis Deep Tissue Back Massage to help him relax. 
Robes and swimwear donned; we're ready!
After our tour, we spent an hour or so exploring the facilities, which were amazing...
Hydrotherapy Pool
Crystal Steam Bath
Ice Cave                            Pedicure Area
My favourite rooms were the Sanarium® (not pictured) and the Caldarium hot room, which I bravely followed with a visit to the Ice Cave #bbrrrrrMy first treatment, the Back Massage, was at 11am, followed by the Energising Express Facial, both of which were carried out by Emma, who was clearly an experienced and skilled therapist. She spoke to me about the treatments and the products she was going to use and asked if there was anything she needed to be aware of before beginning my treatments. Emma skilfully worked out the niggles in my back before turning her attention to the facial. After both treatments, she recommended some products for me and let me come around from the relaxation in my own time. It was a wonderful way to spend an hour :)

After a spot of lunch from the delicious buffet and another visit to the Sanarium® and Ice Cave, I had a shower and waited for my manicure and pedicure, which were both expertly carried out by Rebecca, who told me her favourite treatment to give was a pedicure because she loved transforming women and seeing their smiles after treatments. Rebecca painted Jessica's Midnight Affair on my toe nails and Tangerine Dream on my finger nails, two colours I chose before she began. Rebecca was really friendly and was happy to answer my questions and chat to me about my recent holiday (which you can read about here, herehere)!

My beautifully manicured hands and feet :)
As we were reviewing The Day Spa for the magazine I work for, I had to get Tom's opinion on our day, to which he said: “I didn’t really know what to expect as I have never been to a spa before; the closest I’ve come to pampering is ten minutes in the sauna after a gym and swim at my local leisure centre. I was pleasantly surprised; I wasn’t the only man there and the different Heat and Ice Experiences were a fun way to spend a few hours. I was also impressed that The Day Spa customers could also use The Leisure Club facilities and, after a delicious buffet lunch, we took advantage of this and headed to the main swimming pool for an hour. I would say that my Elemis Urban Cleanse Facial was more relaxing than my Elemis Deep Tissue Back Massage but both treatments were superb. I was highly impressed with the Heat and Ice Experiences, as well as the buffet lunch and I would recommend Whittlebury Hall The Day Spa to friends, especially couples looking for a relaxing day!”

The Day Spa Top-to-Toe package is currently being offered from just £99 per person; it’s a fantastic treat for the man or woman in your life, pre or even post-holiday. Head to their website or call the Reservations Team on 0845 400 0002 (8am – 8pm, Monday to Friday or 9am – 5:30pm, Saturday and Sunday) to book your Top-to-Toe spa day, or one of the many other packages, now!

Although Whittlebury Hall invited me and Hubby to The Day Spa free of charge, 
all opinions expressed in this post are our own :)
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Friday, 25 July 2014

High Five...

Happy Friday dudes!
What a week it has been; it's been my first week back at work after two glorious weeks off and I don't mind telling you, it sucked! No matter how much you love your job or the people you work with, you cannot tell me 
you wouldn't much rather be having fun at home, or reviewing local spas or even living it up in Barcelona?! 
Anywho, I'm here, linking up with Lauren again to try to find five highlights from the past week...

1 | On Saturday night, whilst still in serious holiday mood, Hubby and I met up with my parents, brother and his partner for a delicious meal; my veggie burger (pictured below) was pretty good, but I know Hubby's steak was amazing because he was pretty quiet throughout, tucking into every last morsel :)
2 | I saw this amazing photo on Twitter this week and immediately ordered said Essie colour (I'm Addicted) from Amazon, so fingers crossed it is waiting for me when I get home from work :)

3 | I've started a new book :)

4 | I have absolutely nothing planned for this weekend, so I can just chill out and try to recapture that holiday feeling, which is disappearing quicker than chocolate at a Weight Watchers meeting!

5 | I've enlisted the help of Emily to redesign my blog and things are coming along nicely - I'm hoping to 'go live' in a couple of weeks, so stay tuned :)

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Have a great weekend!
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Thursday, 24 July 2014

"Barcelona! How can I forget?"

Happy Thursday, dudes!
It's time for the final instalment of photos and facts from my recent trip to Barcelona. In case 
you missed any, you can catch up on part one here and part two here :)

The Columbus Monument 
The Columbus Monument is situated at the lower end of La Rambla and 
was constructed to honour Columbus' first voyage to the Americas.

La Rambla
La Rambla is a 1.2km (0.74 miles) long tree-lined street that runs through the heart of Barcelona. It begins at the Placa de Catalunya and ends at The Columbus Monument. It is full of market stalls, street performers and delicious tapas and paella :) It's also a fantastic starting point to explore the countless tiny bustling side streets in the Barri Gòtic (east Barcelona) and El Raval (west Barcelona) quarters.
I know we're blurry in this picture, but I love it anyway :)
When Hubs and I first visited Barcelona in 2006, this is the street we fell in love with; I'm not sure what has changed but it seemed busier and less impressive than last time. The street performers spread all the way up the street on our first visit but this time they were confined to the first few hundred meters :(

La Boqueria Market
La Boqueria Market is located at approximately the half way mark on La Rambla and boasts some of the most amazing market stalls I've seen anywhere in the world...

Placa Reial
Placa Reial is a square in the Barri Gòtic quarter, just off La Rambla. It's full of restaurants and 
even a few nightclubs. The lanterns in the square were designed by Gaudi! 
During our 10 minutes relaxing in this square, we were serenaded by a homeless women, singing for money!

Placa de Catalunya
Placa de Catalunya is the main transport hub for Barcelona; you can catch bus tours, taxis
and even the bus to the airport from here.

And that's a wrap! That's pretty much all the places we visited in our whistle-stop four-day, five-night break to this bustling city; feel free to comment if you'd like a post on some of the more personal aspects of our holiday, I just didn't want to bore you guys with anecdotes. I've tried to channel my inner-travel-blogger with these posts and figured you much prefer to read about this city; I hope I have inspired you to start planning and saving for your own trip to this spectacular Spanish city :)
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