Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Garden progress

When John and I first came to look at our house before we bought it, I loved the garden but I think it was a case of rose tinted glasses. Our garden is really big and it did have loads of plants, a gravel path leading to the shed, a sunken patio and a pond which resulted in loads of cute frogs. I thought it was really cute and I was excited about finally having a garden. Below is what it looked like before, minus the workshop to the right on the first picture. The previous owners took that with them. 

Last year when my Mum came to stay we started working on clearing the garden as we discovered that it was all pretty much overgrown and dead underneath. Not quite the pretty garden I thought it was. We did a hell of a lot of work last year and went through 3 skips to get rid of all of the waste but we still weren't finished. Last year was a year of filling so many garden waste bags, giving away the gravel for free on Facebay and killing ourselves. 

This is what it looked like last summer:

Not quite the pretty garden it was before!! So, this year we are making a start on making the garden nice again. Last weekend one of our neighbours came round with his chainsaw to cut down the trees for us and get the stumps as close to level as he could which was a massive help. We've also had a new fence put in on the side we're responsible for. We've nearly got the sunken patio filled and only one area of plants left to clear as well as filling in the pond. It's getting there... slowly. Now that we have a dog I really want the garden to be more friendly towards him instead of just being a garden full of mud and not much else.

We're planning on using artificial grass and decking in the middle part of the garden. I then want to section off the back part of the garden with a picket fence and archway/ gate so I can have nice plants in there that Jackson can't eat. Also it will mean being able to have one part of the garden closed off and usable without really having to worry about the rest for a while. 

Maybe this summer I'll finally have a section of the garden I can sit in and read when it's sunny!

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

New Adult Review: Saving Quinton by Jessica Sorensen

Title: Saving Quinton
Author: Jessica Sorensen
Series: Nova and Quinton #2
Acquired: Bought
Genre: New Adult
Publisher: Forever
Release date: 3rd February 2015

It has been almost a year since Nova Reed has seen Quinton Carter. He was the boy who made her finally feel again and realise that being empty is no life at all. Now that she's finally fixing herself, Nova knows Quinton needs help as well and she's determined to track him down before he spirals out of control. 

As Saving Quinton is the second book in a series this review will contain spoilers for the first book, Breaking Nova. 

Nova Reed has only just started really living again. After the death of her boyfriend she struggled to cope, struggled to live. Quinton Carter saved her from that, although he doesn't know that. Now that Nova is on the mend, she knows Quinton is out there somewhere and he needs someone to help save him in return. This book takes us to Las Vegas where Quinton has ended up with Tristan, Delilah and Dylan. 

In the previous book Nova was quite a weak character. Not weakly written mind you, but weak because of everything she had been through. She struggled to carry on living, struggled to feel anything and just didn't know what to do from day to day. In Saving Quinton she has come a hell of a long way. She's stronger now, determined and hell bent on pulling Quinton out of whatever hole he's put himself in. Nova knows there is something special about Quinton and refuses to let him lose himself to whatever he is going through. 

I really loved Nova's development in this book. She's a real firecracker and stands up for everything she believes in. When she finally tracks down Quinton she finds him in a really bad part of Las Vegas in a really shady apartment building. She's terrified but she doesn't back down. Even when Quinton says and does things to make her leave she keeps her feet firmly in place and doesn't go anywhere. Her determination and strength was pretty amazing and I was happy to see her in this kind of situation. 

Quinton. Poor Quinton. It was pretty impossible to not feel for this guy. In Breaking Nova we learn of his past and why he struggles with life so much. He had turned to drugs to forget and numb out his emotions. Before it wasn't anything too hard but now it's worse. A lot worse. He lives in a crack house addicted to some pretty bad stuff. He's a ghost of his former self and has pretty much given up on everyone and everything, including himself. 

Reading about Quinton and his current situation is not pretty at all and some of Jessica Sorensen's writing is extremely hard hitting and raw. This book is written in such a way that it was kind of depressing for me. It put me in a massive downer reading it but yet I couldn't stop. This is far from being a bad thing though. The way in which this book is written makes is easier to feel some of what Quinton feels. The writing drags you down as Quinton continues to fall. 

Saving Quinton is a book that is not easy to read. It's emotional, hard hitting and extremely raw. Yes, the subject matter is dark and not a happy ending kind of fairy tale. The ending wasn't at all what I was expecting but Jessica Sorensen always manages to throw in some curve balls so the reader doesn't know what to expect. I thought I had this one figured out but I didn't. This series is seriously addictive and I NEED to get my hands on the third book. 

Friday, 27 February 2015

New Adult Review: Harder by Robin York

Title: Harder
Author: Robin York
Series: Caroline and West #2
Acquired: Bought
Genre: New Adult
Publisher: Piatkus
Release date: 1st July 2014

Ever since West left Caroline hasn't been able to stop thinking about him, dreaming about him. But, when she wakes up the reality of him not being there hits her. Hard. Then one night West calls out of the blue and Caroline knows what she has to do. She has to go to the one place West never wanted her to see and help dig him out of whatever mess he's in. 

The first book in this series, Deeper, has been one of my favourite New Adult book to date and I instantly ordered to sequel after finishing it. Harder was a book I also read in one sitting. 

Harder takes place a little while after the end of Deeper, when Caroline is now all alone after West left her to go back home. She doesn't understand why he had to go and why he couldn't trust her with whatever was going on so she's left heartbroken and confused. On the night West calls her with desperation in his voice, she knows she has to go to him or she'll regret not trying to help him. 

West is a really stubborn character who doesn't want to accept help. His home back in Silt is far from perfect and he's not proud of where he's from or his upbringing. He has secrets about his past and he's been trying to protect Caroline from those things. When she does arrive in Silt he isn't the same guy anymore. Things have changed and he's harder than before and angry at the world. 

Due to West's situation in Silt we get to see a completely different sides of both characters. West's life has completely changed and he's doing something he feels like he has to do. Caroline is desperate to help but when West pushes her away, she has no idea what to do or what to say. I really enjoyed seeing West and Caroline in a different situation other than the getting to know you phase they were in before. This book is the true test for them both. 

One aspect of Harder that I really enjoyed was discovering more about West's family, his little sister Frankie in particular. She's the reason West is back at home and doing things he doesn't really want to do but as her big brother, sometimes he doesn't see exactly what's best for her. Caroline is a great influence when it comes to Frankie and I loved seeing her dig her heels into West's problems. 

Both West and Caroline's development is immense in Harder. In Deeper Caroline had a lot going on with ex-boyfriend Nate and the naked pictures he spread of her and before, she was quite a reserved and quiet kind of girl, not ready to face the world. Harder gives Caroline the chance to fight for something she believes in. She learns to find her own voice instead of letting others speak for her and she really came into her own. 

Harder is a fantastic sequel in an amazing series. The whole series is a roller coaster of emotion, it's hard hitting, emotional and beautifully written. I cannot recommend this series highly enough and I cannot wait for Robin York's next release. 

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

New Adult Review: Near and Far by Nicole Williams

Title: Near and Far
Author: Nicole Williams
Series: Lost and Found #2
Acquired: Bought
Genre: New Adult
Publisher: Nicole Williams
Release date: 28th July 2013

Jesse Walker had no doubt that he could make it work with Rowen Sterling even if they were living in different places but he soon comes to realise that long distance relationships are not easy and he had planned. Rowen is away studying art which is her dream while he's left back at home working on the family ranch. 

While Jesse spent all summer working on saving Rowen from her demons, he didn't bank on his own resurfacing. With space and time separating him and Rowen, Jesse has far too much time to think and the thoughts in his head could mean the end of everything... if he lets them! 

Near and Far is the second book in this series so this review may contain minor spoilers for Lost and Found (book 1). 

Jesse and Rowen went through quite a lot in Lost and Found before they could find their happy place together. However, at the end of that book Rowen was about to head off to college and follow her dream of being an artist, leaving Jesse back at the ranch working with his family. 

Long distance relationships are hard work but Rowan and Jesse are doing their best to make it work. Either he will go and see her in Seattle or she will go back home to see him. Although they get to see each other quite often it's not as much as either of them would like. They don't like being apart and soon the cracks in their relationship begin to show. The distance apart and time spent away from one another takes its toll on them both. 

Near and Far is told through alternating chapters so both Rowen and Jesse do get their own voice but I felt like this book was a lot more about Jesse than it was Rowan and the first book was the other way around but this was a good thing. Jesse was seemingly very together before and it was as though he had to be strong for both him and Rowen. However, in Near and Far we get to see more of what he has been through in life and the things he struggles with. Jesse's character comes a hell of a long way in this book but not without going through a lot first. 

This time around it's Rowen's turn to be strong for Jesse. Well, she tries to be anyway. She has a lot going on in her own life and being at art school in Seattle so she's not always completely clear on what the best thing to do is. She knows that she loves Jesse but is torn between following her dreams and following him. Then there are a few other obstacles thrown in her way for her to figure out as well. 

The plot, however predictable at times, was certainly enjoyable. There were enough twists and turns throughout to keep me guessing a little bit and the pace exciting. As I said, there was some predictability but not the whole way through. I also really liked the addition of new characters in Near and Far such as Rowen's roommate Alex. She was hilarious and highly inappropriate most of the time but it made her really fun to read about and she also helped to lighten up some of the more serious moments. 

Near and Far is not only a love story for Rowen and Jesse but a story about coming to terms with life, making good decisions and learning to trust the people around you. I can't say that I liked as quite as much as Lost and Found but it will still a really good read. 

Monday, 16 February 2015

Young Adult Review: What If by Rebecca Donovan

Title: What If
Author: Rebecca Donovan
Series: N/A
Acquired: Review
Genre: Young Adult
Publisher: Penguin
Release date: 22nd January 2015

Cal Logan moved on since high school. He's no longer the skinny, geeky looking kid but now has a new life away at college. The day he sees Nicole Bentley he cannot believe his eyes. No one has seen or heard from her since graduation. 

The girl is not Nicole though, she's Nyelle Preston; daring, bold and everything that Nicole isn't. Cal can't help but want to get to know Nyelle better seeing as he's had a crush on Nicole since they were both children but she's keeping secrets and Cal can't figure out why. 

I'm sure we've all got those friends we went to school with, were pretty close to and then grew apart from. I know I have and I've often wondered what happened to them. What If is a story about friendship and how things can change whether it be due to moving away or just finding different friends. What If tells the story of four childhood friends who live close to one another. As children they are inseparable but due to various things, they drift apart. 

Cal is the main narrator as the story really does have more to do with him. He's away at college and has stayed best friends with Rae since they were children. Richelle moved away and they didn't keep in touch but Nicole is a bit of a mystery. Cal had a crush on her for a long time and it never really stopped, even though he hasn't spoken to her for years. When he sees someone that looks exactly like her but acts differently, he can't help but wonder if it really is her and something happened between graduation and the present day. The girl goes by Nyelle though and is nothing like the Nicole Cal used to know.  

While a large part of the book is spent with Cal and Nyelle in the present, there are also flashbacks to the group's childhood through chapters narrated by each of the four characters. I really liked both aspects of What If as it was important to learn what happened to everyone over the course of many years. Children change, grow, turn into teenagers and learn different things about life that affects who they are and what they do. Cal, Nicole, Rae and Richelle are all really different people with different personalities so I enjoyed figuring out why they all became friends in the first place. 

Another thing I loved about this book was Cal and Nyelle together. Cal thinks Nyelle is Nicole and he can't get the idea out of his head but he has no way of proving it and Rae thinks he's insane. So, Cal attempts to get to know Nyelle to figure out if he's right or not and she has a completely different personality to Nicole. Nyelle is impulsive, daring, fun and crazy and Cal doesn't know what to make of her at all. Both Cal and Nyelle are really fun characters to read about especially as they get to know one another. They get up to some really silly and crazy things and it gave the story a great feel to it. 

What If is a lot more than the things I have written about in this review but writing about them would really spoil the story for others who want to read it but haven't yet. As a fan of Rebecca Donovan's other books I wasn't disappointed at all with this one. What If is super fun coming of age story but a mystery to try to solve added in. I couldn't have enjoyed this one more!

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

New Adult Review: Breaking Nova by Jessica Sorensen

Title: Breaking Nova
Author: Jessica Sorensen
Series: Nova #1
Acquired: Bought
Genre: New Adult
Publisher: Sphere
Release date: 9th October 2014

Nova Reed once had everything she thought she ever wanted but then it was all taken away. Since that day, Nova has struggled. She struggles to live, struggles to feel anything. She doesn't know why it happened and she doesn't understand. 

Quinton Carter has a second chance at life, even if he doesn't think he deserves it. He's sworn to never allow himself to be happy again but then he meets Nova. He knows he should stay away from her, knows he isn't good enough but he just can't help himself. There's something about Nova that makes him want to feel alive again. 

Jessica Sorensen is one of my go to authors. If I'm in a rut with reading or I just haven't had the time for a while, I pick up one of her books and I remember what I've been missing. She did it again for me with Breaking Nova. 

This review is a hard one to write because I don't want to give away too much about the plot. 

Nova once had a wonderful life and she was perfectly happy but her boyfriend Landon was not. The day he goes away is the day that Nova struggles to live. The book begins with her and Landon and the lead up to everything going wrong. The beginning is also an introduction to Quinton and how his life also go to be the way is for the rest of the book. Two major events happen within the first few pages and they're very dramatic. These two things are what shape the main characters and it was a good way of opening the story. 

Nova and Quinton happen to meet through a friend but they soon become inseparable. They become drawn to one another due to the events of their past. Nova wants to get to know Quinton but he is very guarded and secretive. There are things he doesn't want Nova knowing about his past no matter how much she tries to get it out of him. This is only book 1 in the series so as far as character development goes, there isn't as much as maybe some would hope for. It's clear from this book that Nova and Quinton have a lot to work on and that will come later on. However, Breaking Nova gives us glimpses of what each character could become in time. 

Although most of Jessica Sorensen's books have darker themes this one goes that little bit  
further. I have read other reviews of this book that were quite negative about the use of drugs throughout. I actually really liked this about the book. The situations characters were put in were real and not glamourised at all. Never are drugs shown to be a good thing but instead they're used as a way of coping which I can imagine people doing in real life. Quinton especially wants to be able to forget and drugs are his way of doing this. 

As plots go, Breaking Nova isn't the most exciting book in the world but it is deep, meaningful and one hell of a roller coaster of emotion. Both Nova and Quinton are heartbreaking at times because I just wanted to see them both happy. They struggle so much with themselves, life and each other and that's a lot for any nineteen year olds to have to deal with. 

If I had one little niggle about this book it would be Quinton and it really is a tiny niggle. I really wanted him to be able to see things clearly and to see that what he thought was wrong. His 'I'm not good enough' speeches got to be a little too much for me at times and I could have done with a little bit less of this. 

Overall, Breaking Nova was a really good read and I can't wait to see what happens with Nova and Quinton next. 

Friday, 6 February 2015

We're finally getting somewhere

Last April John and I moved into our very first proper home together and since then it's all been a bit manic. It only feels like we moved in 2 minutes ago though and sometimes I can't believe that we own this big, old Victorian house. The previous owners really let things go though and it needs a lot of work and a fair bit of money putting into it. John and I don't have much spare cash but we're saving as much as we can each month to get something done every year. 

Last year I spent a lot of time beginning to clear the massively overgrown garden. I got a good chunk done but I need to do a hell of a lot more this summer. I plan on making my own raised beds out of decking boards and attempting to level out the ground. Oh won't that be fun?

It's only February and we've had some major work done on two of our bedrooms. We have a four bedroom house but one room is going to be a shower room eventually and our bedroom isn't too bad right now so we started on the spare bedrooms. We have had all of the woodwork ripped out and replaced; door liners, frames and doors as well as the skirting boards. We've also had both rooms completely re-plastered and picture rails will be going up next week and then I can start decorating. I'm only going to be doing 1 room at the moment though as I'm not sure what the other one will be yet. 

I feel as though we're really making some progress now with the house even if it in two rooms we don't even use at the moment. 

We also have a new addition to the family. Jackson is our new German Shepherd puppy and he's a bit of a monster sometimes which is why we aren't doing up the rooms we do use yet.