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Posts from the ‘Review’ Category

Review: Holly&Lil collars

If you have a dog and you like collars (who doesn’t?), you might be interested to read my review of Holly&Lil collars over at my other blog, Living With Rory.


Review: Why I’m in love with my Kindle Paperwhite

I like real-life books as much as the next compulsive bookshop browser. There’s something amazing about sorting through piles of books and deciding which you’re going to take home. I love how old books smell and I love how new books smell. I like the feel of paper under my fingers. What I definitely don’t love is finding somewhere to put them. At my last count, I had over 600 real-life actual space taking books in my house… and my house is not big – it doesn’t have its own library. I also begrudge having books on my shelves that I bought, thought I’d love and now feel ‘meh’ about. They were fine but I don’t need a copy of them. Yes, I know I can take them to charity shops (and I have) but, as I only have limited time to sort them, I haven’t really got around to doing a proper clear out.

Sony PRS 650

So in an effort to prevent myself becoming one of those obsessional hoarders off of the TV, I asked for an ereader for my birthday a couple of years ago. The idea was to buy ebooks and then if I loved any of them to buy nice, pretty hardback copies for my shelves. The Sony PRS 650 came into my life and my reading experience was changed forever. I loved how light it was to carry around and how I could switch from book to book whenever I felt like it. It’s no secret I love tech, but what I loved about this tech was how simple it was and, very importantly, how the e-ink didn’t strain my eyes. The only slightly annoying thing was that I had to plug it in to download books through a slightly complex system. When it inexplicably died, I was not happy to move my reading to my iPad. Although I love it, it’s not built for reading for long periods of time and after being on a computer at work all day, the last thing I wanted to do is to look at another back-lit screen.

Kindle Paperwhite

My Kindle Paperwhite came into my life in December. My eyes are so happy to be reading e-ink again. Although it does have a back light, it’s really easy to turn up and down so I haven’t had any headaches since I’ve used it.

Instant access to the Amazon bookstore has meant that when I see book recommendations I can be reading them five minutes later. A huge bonus for me is that I can email documents to a dedicated Kindle email address – this means I can send my PDF course materials to it (I’m completing a distance learning course at the moment around my full-time job), read them, highlight important sections and make notes on the go. I used to do this on my iPad, but due to the weight lugging an iPad everywhere is not ideal. And, realistically, sometimes I just want to take a normal-sized handbag out with me – the Kindle Paperwhite easily fits into all my handbags, my iPad 2 does not. Compared to a large hardback book, like Christopher Paolini’s Eldest (see below) it’s a much more practical option to carry around. Even when compared to a small paperback (Neil Gaiman’s Stardust), it’s still the most practical option.

Kindle Paperwhite

Although it probably won’t be a problem for me, I also like that you can have books and documents stored off the device to download to it when you need them, but not on the reader all the time taking up space. On the Kindle itself, the menus are easy to navigate with single touches and you can create collections to keep documents or books together.

Battery life is good. I’ve charged it once since I got it just before Christmas. Amazon claims it will last eight weeks on one charge (reading for 30 minutes a day with the wireless off) but even with quite heavy use the battery seems to hold up well. And, to be honest, for someone who lives or works somewhere with electricity (that’s you) it’s not that big a deal to plug it in every few weeks is it?

Kindle Paperwhite home screen

I bought the official Kindle Paperwhite Leather Cover and it has been surprisingly hardwearing. It holds itself shut with a magnetic closure, which even when chucked in my handbag every day still stays closed. The outside of it hasn’t scratched or dented. I particularly like that the front can be folded right back flat so it can be held in one hand.

All in all, I love my Kindle. I know that the Paperwhite has been a little overshadowed by the sexier Kindle Fire, but I already have a colour tablet. What I needed was a lightweight, easy-on-my-eyes book replacement and the Kindle Paperwhite does that very well.


Rainy day purchase: Orla Kiely Acorn Cup Notebook

There is no avoiding it, it is definitely autumn now. So in the spirit of embracing the season, I did my favourite wet weather thing. I went to hang out in a local bookshop. Shopping always cheers me up, but I have no desire to be changing in and out of rain-soaked clothes on a dull and dismal day. The local bookshop I visited is a Waterstones – we have no independent bookstores left in our area – but I like it just the same. The staff are lovely and chatty, and it’s a small intimate store in a historic building in a historic pedestrianised yard. With some smaller Waterstones’ stores disappearing, my mum had told me that she’d been worried when she’d visited recently and everything had been in disarray. However, it turns out the store had been doing so well they’d be granted a refurbishment!

On my wet weather day visit, the new layout was set, the shelves were up and almost all the stock was in place. And, to my delight, they had a new stationery section. (Woo!) To celebrate, I bought a Moleskine Passions Style Journal, an incredibly soft and lovely notebook (review to follow) and an Orla Kiely Acorn Cup A4 Notebook. The Orla Kiely Notebook is my new favourite thing. I was instantly gratified in my choice at the till, where the sales assistant told me she’d ordered one herself. It’s always good when the person looking at books and notebooks all day likes something you’ve purchased.

At £14.99, it’s not a bargain buy, but is cheaper than buying it direct from the Orla Kiely website (£3.01 cheaper, in case you were wondering). The cover is cardboard and light coloured, so it’s not one for being thrown about or carried in your bag unless you like the slightly worn look. I’ve barely moved mine about at all and I’ve already rolled one of the corners a little.

The paper inside is a really nice quality, features a tiny Orla Kiely logo at the bottom of each page and each sheet is perforated – great if you like to tear out, hole punch and file notes from a day of lectures or meetings. It is worth bearing in mind that the pages do not come ready hole punched. It would ruin the overall aesthetics if it did and this way you can keep it as a whole notebook if you wish, but it might be a deal breaker for some. The whole notebook is held closed with an elastic strap in a brown that compliments the autumnal acorn design. When the notebook is closed the outer edges of the pages are a bright orange, which I really like.

Inside the front and back covers the paper is squared. These are separated from the main lined pages by a tracing-paper type page featuring a large Orla Kiely logo. I assume this has just been included for design purposes and it does make the notebook feel a bit more high-end than your average A4 notepad.

Overall, it’s the nicest A4 pad I’ve bought in a while and it represents autumn nicely with its colours and acorn pattern. I shall be using it for blog and freelance planning this winter.

Orla Kiely makes everything from clothes to bags to body lotion to garden trowels. Check out the website here.

Holiday Diaries 2: Thirst (57)

vampire, fiction, book, christopher pike, alisa perneI have to admit it. I’m a sucker for vamp-fiction. Now let’s get this clear before I go any further, I read Twilight before it was a phase. I loved it way before the film and RPatz, and in fact, although he is nice and everything, neither of the two films released so far do the books justice. If you haven’t read the books, read them. They are good.

I’ll give you that they sound stupid. The number of times i’ve started to describe Twilight along the lines of ‘Well it’s this story about this teenage girl, who’s, like, in high school you know. And she, well she falls in love with this vampire boy, who is a good, vegetarian vampire, from this good vegetarian vampire family, and then stuff happens, and then she realises an old friend from her childhood can turn into a wolf…’ I can see the incredulous looks on those people’s faces now, in my head. But really, you have to read it to understand. It’s a love story with magic to it. The films do not do it justice. I can not say that enough. I cried at the start of New Moon, cried, my eyes out: that does not happen to me very much.

I’m a total fan girl. Did you know that Stephenie Meyer was writing the whole story again from Edward’s point of view? The first book in that series was called Midnight Sun and was leaked on the internet. Stephenie then published an up-to-date version on her website, and stopped writing it. She was too hurt and angry to continue at the time.

Anyway I totally digress, what I actually wanted to write about today was Thirst by Christopher Pike. I was browsing Virgin Megastore in a mall in Dubai, (I forget which one, they have a whole lot of malls) when I spotted this series on the side. I say series because although it is two physical books, it appears they were actually written almost as six shorter stories with section names and updates on what happened last time.

Without giving too much away, because if you like vamp fiction you should totally read these too, the story centres around Alisa Perne – the oldest vampire on earth. She is beautiful, smart, funny, rich, impatient and deadly. She is scared of no-one. That is until she discovers her maker is seeking her…

The story dips in and out of history, blurring fantasy with reality and making you doubt what is real and what is not – the earmark of a good storyteller. It’s not one for the squeamish as there is a fair bit of killing visual description, but then again I enjoyed it and I don’t particularly enjoy reading about brain splatter.

Christopher has reintroduced the idea of deadly vampires into my brain. Alisa is not safe and friendly, she has no qualms about killing someone if they are a risk to her or her identity, in fact sometimes she kills just because people have annoyed her. She is no Edward Cullen or Bill Compton. She is what she is, with her own rules of correct behaviour. She’s real. I kind of love her.

So, if you like a whole lot of adventure with your blonde haired, blue eyed, five thousand year old vampire, I would whole-heartedly recommend Thirst, parts 1 and 2. Did I mention the covers feel all funny and special? Well they do.

Thirst part 1 is available for only £6.64, and Thirst part 2 is £5.97 on Amazon.

Holiday Diaries 1: Julie and Julia (56)

Dear Diary, No really I won’t be starting with that. I’m just kidding. But doesn’t that pink diary writing remind you of that electronic diary/ personal organiser you could get in the 90s? No? Just me then. OK.

However, I did think it made sense to start at the beginning of my journey. Well almost. The very beginning of my journey involved a whole lot of wine because I hate flying. What i’m referring to is the second beginning: the flight. And more specifically, the in-flight entertainment.

I watched a whole lot of films during my four flights including Up, The Private Lives of Pippa Lee, An Education and (500) Days of Summer – reviews to follow. Julie and Julia was the first film I watched, and you know what, it was great.

I didn’t really know much about the film before I watched it. I knew it had good reviews (that I had never read) and that it was about cooking (which I never did) but still it appealed to me. What I discovered by watching it is that its centered around blogging. Julie sets out to blog her way through Julia Child’s first cookery book, while at the same time you are following the beginnings of Julia’s career when she starts writing the book.

The story is interesting and engaging, and the characters are all likable, even Julie with her self-absorbed flaws. What it does show, clearly, is the stress and challenges faced by those blogging every evening after spending the whole day working in a job they do not enjoy. I can relate. I have been there. I love the job I have now but I haven’t always been as lucky.

The story running alongside Julie blogging is the story of Julia herself. It is told in a way that makes you love straight-talking Julia, and helps you see how she achieved. The ties between the past and present through the food is clever and the story flows well.

I enjoyed Julie and Julia. It made me want to get blogging, and maybe even cooking (the lack of cooking equipment has stalled me a little in that regard). I’d recommend it to bloggers, foodies, and anyone who just feels like a bit of a diversion by following the flow of a true story.

Speaking of it being a true story, the original blog is here. Check it out.

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