taketimetoshine: (Winter Warmth)
Louis Sachar
Stanley Yelnats is under a curse. A curse that began with his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather and has since followed generations of Yelnatses. Now Stanley has been unjustly sent to a boys’ detention center, Camp Green Lake, where the boys build character by spending all day, every day digging holes exactly five feet wide and five feet deep. There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. But there are an awful lot of holes.

It doesn’t take long for Stanley to realize there’s more than character improvement going on at Camp Green Lake. The boys are digging holes because the warden is looking for something. But what could be buried under a dried-up lake? Stanley tries to dig up the truth in this inventive and darkly humorous tale of crime and punishment—and redemption

My rating: 3/5
Tagged: 101 things in 1001 days, adventure, childrens, mystery
Date I started this book: 31/05/16
Date I finished this book: 01/06/16

What did I think? While reading this book, it didn't really appeal to me. Although I really loved the characters like Stanley and Zero, I still don't get what the big deal was. This story of a boy named Stanley Yelnats gets into Camp Green Lake because he stole a pair of shoes. He then makes friends that have weird nicknames and eventually he gets a weird nickname too. He was 'Caveman'.

I really liked Zero's and Stanley's friendship because Stanley risked his life to go and look for Zero. And they did things for each other. Stanley teaches Zero how to read, and Zero digs a part of his hole every day. And they didn't even have a problem with that, only the other kids did. I thought it was really awesome when the lawyer and Stanley prove that Zero is clean and he can leave the camp.

I think both Zero and Stanley are underdogs, as well as losers and outcasts. I think both of them are underdogs because I didn't expect them to survive. And if they did, I thought the Warden would do something really bad to them. And they're losers because being a loser is to have bad luck in life, to be unpopular and/or unsuccessful. Well they did have bad luck because they got into Camp Green Lake. They aren't popular either. When Stanley was in school, he didn't have any friends and he was bullied. Zero is a loser because he doesn't have friends and he basically almost died. And they are outcasts because they both don't fit in with other kids. Stanley has no friends and he gets made fun of for being fat. And Zero gets underestimated and everyone thinks he's stupid.
taketimetoshine: (Believe In Love)
Gillian Flynn - Gone Girl
The blurb:On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media—as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents—the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter—but is he really a killer?

My rating: 4/5
Tagged: 101 things in 1001 days, contemporary, crime, mystery, thriller
Date I started this book: 26/05/16
Date I finished this book: 30/05/16

What did I think? I am very late to the Gone Girl party. Despite the rave reviews, the movie and the office colleagues' discussions, I have managed to steer clear of any spoilers and came to the book with no idea about the plot twists.

I enjoyed it - I found it an above average thriller. I particularly enjoyed going on the ride when one of the protagonists goes to the cabins and the oh-oh feeling you get when a story takes an unexpected turning. I even found certain phrases quite resonant eg. "My value has decreased" in one of Amy's diary entries. I don't know why it struck me but it encapsulated her thoughts then about that particular subject.

Yes it does not have a conventional ending but even that made it interesting for me - though I would have found it more satisfying if it had.

All in all, a decent page turner which I enjoyed but will probably not be rereading for some time


May. 24th, 2016 09:48 pm
taketimetoshine: (Fall)
I am a big fan of the NHS, in more ways than one.

As an organisation, they are my employer and I find them utterly wonderful to work for. It could just be the department I'm in but I've never been able to fault them. I get a good wage, ample annual leave a year and I've always been able to take the time I need to continuing my studies - even though they're only vaguely related to the role I do.

As a health service provider - like any there are flaws in the system but when you consider the vast magnitude of services they provide combined with the ever lessening numbers in the work force.. it's pretty damn amazing. I'm privileged to have them in my life. Free healthcare for all - hard to argue with that, even though some are trying to... and of course it's people who probably don't even use their services. But that's not what I'm about, I'm not going to get political if I can.

I am a full supporter of our NHS and a member of Keep Our NHS Public. I will defend it to my dying breath. Yes it has its faults. Yes there are issues with some of the services. It's not a perfect system but it's the best damn one we've got and I do NOT agree with it's privatisation. Healthcare, as Aneurin Bevan stated in 1948 should 'be based on clinical need, not ability to pay'.
It sickens me that there are countries where people will be turned away from necessary medical treatment because they cannot pay. Basic healthcare should be a right!

The National Health Service is the largest and the oldest single-payer healthcare system in the world. Primarily funded through the general taxation system and overseen by the Department of Health, the system provides healthcare to every legal resident in the United Kingdom, with most services free at the point of use. Some services, such as emergency treatment and treatment of infectious diseases are free for everyone, including visitors.

Free healthcare at the point of use comes from the core principles at the founding of the National Health Service by the United Kingdom Labour government in 1948. In practice, "free at the point of use" normally means that anyone legitimately fully registered with the system including UK citizens and legal immigrants, can access the full breadth of critical and non-critical medical care without any out-of-pocket payment. Some specific NHS services do however require a financial contribution from the patient, for example eye tests, dental care, prescriptions, and aspects of long-term care. However, these charges are often free to vulnerable or low income groups, and when not free, often lower than equivalent services provided by a private health care provider.

The NHS provides the majority of healthcare in England, including primary care, in-patient care, long-term healthcare, ophthalmology, and dentistry. The National Health Service Act 1946 came into effect on 5 July 1948. Private health care has continued parallel to the NHS, paid for largely by private insurance: it is used by about 8% of the population, generally as an add-on to NHS services.

I am firmly against the threat of privatisation of the NHS. For more than 60 years Britain has enjoyed a National Health Service that strives to be comprehensive, accessible and high value for money. But government reforms threaten both the way in which the NHS cares for people and the values it is founded on.

The threat is based on the creation of a market for profit-driven companies that answer to shareholders, not patients. This makes hospitals and health professionals, who have traditionally cooperated, compete with each other and with the private sector. The private sector is in competition with the NHS and is already breaking it apart.

If this continues:
•Income and profits will increasingly come before what is best for the patient.
•Inequalities in healthcare will get worse. Profitable services and those who can afford to pay for them will attract money at the expense of unprofitable ones.
•Forced competition will stop the NHS working as a network which shares resources and information.
•There will be winners and losers, with some units and even entire hospitals having to close. We are already seeing job losses and bed closures.
•Even more of our money allocated to health will be diverted to shareholders and company profits, and wasted on the costs of establishing and running a market. Which was not voted for, or agreed by the British public.

There is no evidence that these reforms will improve the health service.

The value of our NHS is immense and cannot be mirrored by the private sector. It must be kept in public hands, not given in pieces to the private healthcare industry.
taketimetoshine: (Sam)
Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett - Good Omens
The blurb:According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Agnes Nutter, Witch (the world's only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner.

So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon—both of whom have lived amongst Earth's mortals since The Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle—are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture.

And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist . . .
My rating: 4/5
Tagged: humor, urban fantasy, religion, supernatural
Date I started this book: 17/05/16
Date I finished this book: 20/05/16

What did I think? An angel and a devil who are good friends (after all they've been meeting for 6000 years since the world began in 4004 BC) and who like things the way they are, work to avert a plot to bring on Armageddon, with the help of a number of other unusual characters. I suppose I should have indicated a spoiler alert there, but after all, you know already that Armageddon didn't happen.

A fun read, thoroughly recommended. Mentally summing it up as "Just William meets Dennis Wheatley" (does anybody still read Dennis Wheatley?) I was then amused to discover that the book had had the early working title of "William the Antichrist". I docked a star because some of Terry Pratchett's later books are so good, and I must keep something for even better books that in many ways are similar. In a less clunky system I would give it 4.8 stars.

Wonderfully inventive on every page. The only reason that I wasn't completely bowled over was that I came late to this clever work. I've long admired the surreal comedy of Douglas Adams, which had shown the way earlier, and that plus the influence of this book during the quarter-century since the Gaiman/Pratchett co-operation has made its originality a fraction less startling.
taketimetoshine: (Sam)
Richard Adams - Watership Down
The blurb:Set in England's Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of friends, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.
My rating: 4/5
Tagged: classics, fantasy, animals, childrens
Date I started this book: 12/05/16
Date I finished this book: 16/05/16

What did I think? I want to read more classic books, and older titles that I feel I should've read, and one of these is Watership Down. I had been aware of the book and film and the basic premise, but didn't realised that it was such an adventure story.

The story begins as young rabbit Fiver has a vision that something terrible to going to happen to the warren, he convinces his brother Hazel to go to the Chief Rabbit and tell him that they need to leave the warren. Hazel is dismissed, but Fiver is so insistent and has had visions before, so he decides that they should leave the warren, taking certain of their trusted friends with them. the Owsla, or council, of the warren find out about this and try to arrest them, but the small band of rabbits is able to escape.

The rest of the first part of the book then describes their journey to finally find a new warren on Watership Down, evading dogs, snares and other suspicious rabbits, but this is by no means the end of the story. Once the band have begun to dig their own warren, Hazel realises that they are going to run into a problem - they are all male rabbits and there are no Does to breed with.

With the help of a seagull, Kehaar, that the rabbits take care of when he is injured, they locate Efrafra and hope to negotiate a peaceful coexistence with them, if some does would like to leave with them, but this is not to the liking of the despotic leader, General Woundwort.

As classics go, Watership Down was not hard to read at all, maybe it's because it's a relatively `modern classic'. It does have some `rabbit language' which can be a bit difficult to decipher, but it's worthwhile to stick with it. What really comes through in the text if Adams' love for the countryside and creatures he is writing about, it's almost a love letter to the English landscape and while seen through the eyes of the rabbits it can be a scary and uncertain place, there is still time in their trek to enjoy their surroundings.
taketimetoshine: (Fall)
Veronica Roth - Allegiant
The blurb:The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered - fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she's known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris's new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningliess. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend to complexities of human nature - and of herself - while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.

My rating: 4/5
Tagged: young adult, dystopia, romance, science-fiction
Date I started this book: 06/05/16
Date I finished this book: 11/05/16

What did I think? I have huge respect for Veronica Roth and how she decided to conclude the series. While the story didn't take the route I was expecting, I'm finally at the place where I can understand why the events transpire in such a way. I will admit I wasn't so rational about the dramatic conclusion the first time I read it! I do now feel as though the events are in keeping with the tone of the book and Tris's story. Sometimes ugly crying is cathartic, and to be honest, I'm happy with the ending.

I remember being frustrated with Four the first time I read Allegiant. His POV was so different to the strong warrior I'd been more than I little obsessed with. What I'll take away with me after sitting down and reading the book properly without rushing to get to the end to see what transpires, is that he's not a superhero, but just a guy in a bad situation. He may be strong, but is prone to mistakes and misjudgement. This is okay, he's allowed to rely on others without being weak.

Divergent will always be the series that made me think it's okay to not have a neatly tied up Happily Ever After
taketimetoshine: (Winter Warmth)
And no, I don't mean 'New York'. I mean York, England. I was born here, I grew up here, I choose to stay here and I love it. I could wax lyrical about this city for hours if you let me, but I'll try and keep it to a decent length post.

York, for anyone who doesn't know, is a historic walled city at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. The city has a rich heritage and has provided the backdrop to major political events in England throughout much of its two millennia of existence. It now offers a wealth of historic attractions, of which York Minster is the most prominent, and a variety of cultural and sporting activities.

The city was founded by the Romans as Eboracum in 71 AD. It became the capital of the Roman province of Britannia Inferior, and later of the kingdoms of Northumbria and Jórvík. In the Middle Ages, York grew as a major wool trading centre and became the capital of the northern ecclesiastical province of the Church of England, a role it has retained.

In the 19th century, York became a hub of the railway network and a confectionery manufacturing centre. In recent decades, the economy of York has moved from being dominated by its confectionery and railway-related industries to one that provides services. The University of York and health services have become major employers, whilst tourism has become an important element of the local economy.

I love walking around the city - along the rivers or the walls (the most complete in England), up the narrow medieval cobbled streets - feeling wrapped up in it's history. I love York Minster (the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe), I love the old architecture, I love the museums. I like the fact we have distinct seasons, and a drier and warmer climate than the rest of the region. We have theatres and music and food & drink, we've sport, we're a founding National Science City, we're part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network as a city of Media Arts.

What's not to love?


May. 9th, 2016 09:36 pm
taketimetoshine: (Have The Answer)
Oops. I seem to have acquired a second cat. A kitten. Or, I will have her in a few weeks when she's old enough to come home.

One of the ladies at work, her cat has had a litter of kittens. She was showing us pictures of these tiny little fluffy things and lamenting how she didn't know how she was going to home them etc etc. Clearly she was angling towards sympathy/people offering to take one, and even though I knew that was what she was doing... I fell for it.

A little grey short-haired kitty, tentatively called Gypsy, will soon be joining me and Cookie. She's not sure what cat got her 'British Blue' pregnant so she's definitely of a mixed breed but her colouring is beautiful - and I'm curious to see how it changes as she grows.

Introducing them could be interesting, Cookie's been a lone-kitty all her life but I'm reading up on how to do it. Cookie's always been pretty laid back so hopefully she'll just go with the flow
taketimetoshine: (Stitched Heart)
Well, Happy Birthday to me.

Or not, as the case has been. I've spent it curled up in bed with a fever and a bad stomach - napping, reading, running to the bathroom. Just how I wanted to spend the day. I've planned on having a lovely day out at some of the local museums that I love, before meeting up with my parents for a meal.

My mum came round this afternoon though, with a couple of bottles of lucozade, some chicken broth and some crackers. And my birthday presents - a new shower curtain, toilet seat and towels. I'm planning on redecorating my bathroom this summer and hd chosen the accessories I wanted to match my colour scheme.

My friends mostly got me various fun flavoured coffess and chocolates, and giftcards for some local bookstores. Oh, and some information leaflets about how to rent an allotment, since I'm getting into gardening which is difficult when you're in a first-floor flat.

I've spent some time on social media too. I now have a Twitter (although I'm not entirely sure what I'm supposed to do with it) and a Pinterest which I am completely in love with and can see myself losing many many hours too.
I also re-wrote my bio on my profile page.
Exciting, no?

I'm probably going to curl up in bed with my book and some music for the rest of the night.
taketimetoshine: (Make Love Not War)
Veronica Roth - Insurgent

Tris has survived a brutal attack on her former home and family. But she has paid a terrible price. Wracked by grief and guilt, she becomes ever more reckless as she struggles to accept her new future.

Yet if Tris wants to uncover the truth about her world, she must be stronger than ever... because more shocking choices and sacrifices lie ahead.
My rating: 4/5
Tagged: young adult, dystopia, romance, science-fiction
Date I started this book: 02/05/16
Date I finished this book: 05/05/16

What did I think? Insurgent is the second book in Veronica Roth's amazing Divergent series and I admit, I started it the moment I finished Divergent, desperate to know what happened next. Insurgent paints a bigger picture of the world, giving us a chance to learn more about the other factions and their members. Equally intriguing for me was the development of Tris and Tobias' relationship. I loved how Divergent ends with Tobias' confession of love, but just as Divergent wasn't a love story, neither is Insurgent; Roth is not to be distracted by their relationship and doesn't lose focus from the main point of the story.

However, by far the best part of Insurgent is the secret. We learn quite early on that Marcus is keeping a rather large secret that will affect the entirety of the world in which they live and may even be behind the war. The secret generally remains in the background of the story, but Roth brings it to the foreground on occasion, tantalising and tempting, reminding the reader that there is still a lot we don't know. Yet the biggest thing this secret does is differentiate it from similar dystopian books. It makes the Divergent series stand out because there is now more to this series than overthrowing a corrupt leader and therefore also establishes the point of the trilogy.

If you've read Divergent, read Insurgent. It is just as good as the first. Many sequels don't live up to the first book (the Hunger Games trilogy is a good example of this), but Insurgent is different. It isn't repetitive as some sequels are; it has a point all of its own that leads nicely on from Divergent, using Divergent as a solid foundation on which to build. It does take a while to get into it so if it doesn't grip you immediately, don't worry. The second half absolutely makes up for this. It is infectious and impossible to put down.

June 2016



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