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reviews, what I think

Review of the year: 2011 in blog posts

It was a new year, new blog as I moved from Robyn’s Nest 1.0 to Robyn’s Nest 2.0 in January, plus a report on my December 2010 wedding and honeymoon in pictures (yeah, I know, snore zzzz) plus a quandary over real books versus eBooks.

February was less about romance and more about making a complete dick of myself with the After Eight Game. Watch the video and you’ll see what I mean.

Stand out stories in March include THAT pen in the knickers story (funny) and Ralphie’s run in with a non-friendly Alsatian (not funny at all).

In April I attended and reported on the Journalism in a Social Media World Conference and get embroiled in the great cream tea debate following a glorious trip to Bude.

In May my lovely hubby celebrated one year as a freelancer – which is going well as we haven’t had to move out of home and into a shed – and in June I saw what a Saturday morning looks like at 7am, shock horor.

In July myself and my writer buddy Tracy Buchanan (please see pen in knickers story above) attended the Inspire and Mentor: how to get published evening, organised by Marie Claire magazine and I reflected on my mid-year resolution to expand my literary horizons. Who knew there was more than crime fiction out there?! Oh, and I also had a taste of Milton Keynes nightlife, aged 31, which gave me flashbacks from when I was 20. And that’s not a good thing.

In August I tried to split my personal self and professional self in two with different Twitter accounts, and failed. I’m all mixed up and can’t be two interesting people, just one semi (or possibly not) interesting person.

In September I rediscovered why I hate nightclubs, had this hair disaster and started a Masters when I don’t even have a degree. Busy month!

A spoon, a blow torch and a network of editors, the story of, was reported on in October after a trip oop north to Preston, as well as the lack of fiction in my diet.

In November I begged and pleaded for people to take a look at my MA work in progress project Ralphie.co.uk and fell off my chair in shock to discover my husband had spent £50 on eggnog lattes.

And in December I reported on my Tarzan and Jane anniversary experience with husband RPats and shared with you the best ever recipe for mulled wine. Ever.

*Note to self: need to have a more interesting 2012!*

Food, Holidays, Marriage, reviews, what I think

One anniversary, two people, a treehouse and a very posh restaurant…

The 5th December 2010 was bang on perfect and the same day one year later was going to be hard to beat. Let’s face it, wedding days are pretty special. But our first anniversary was blooming marvelous.

The walls around us were made of wood and we bathed in a copper bath for two before pulling on our Sunday best (or Monday in this case) and trekking across a muddy field, arm in arm, the wind in our hair, torch in hand; our only light against the black of night. As we reached the old country house, a dark shadow appeared and opened the car door with a creak, guiding us in. And away we went, down winding roads, sliding around corners as a frost began to take hold.

Harptree Court treehouseAs we reached our destination, warm smiles greeted us, the glow of Christmas lights and festive decorations and a very comfortable sofa. We’d just travelled from the treehouse at Harptree Court (which gets a great write up in The Guardian) to The Priory in Bath for dinner. The treehouse was my idea but full credit goes to hubby for planning the meal out – I had no idea until we’d arrived where we were even going and he’s usually rubbish at keeping secrets! I was so hungry a Macdonalds would have done but this had to be the best meal I have ever tasted. We plumped for executive chef Michael Caines’ signature tasting menu… scallops, pate, seabass, beef, cheese, sorbet and fruit salad and a chocolate dessert, followed by anniversary-themed petit fours and a fair bit of wine. Between the eating we sere served by really helpful and attentive staff, not snooty and in your face, just friendly and informative and genuinely interested in which was our favourite course. To be honest, they were all amazing but the pate and beef were probably top. Lush!

Petit fours at The PrioryThe sommelier was fantasticly passionate about his wine and helped us try some new ones, not intimidating with his knowledge and passion and not snooty about my lack of refinement when it comes to fine wine either. His lessons in wine were enjoyable. And the chap who served us our cheese course had a genuine glint of excitement in his eyes when we asked for his recommendations. Masterchef winner Sam Moody is the head chef at The Priory and between him and Michael Caines, they produce some food to be very proud off. There was literally a party in my mouth that night!

After the meal – which lasted over three hours! – we headed back to the treehouse, the perfect tonic to a busy existence. It boasts all mod cons as well as a character copper bath, heated flooring, a much needed hot water bottle , log burner, and a huge helping of Linda’s homemade lemon cake which is to DIE for. The torch was much needed, we’d have been sleeping in a wet field without it, but that added to the experience and isolation of our three-day retreat. Harptree Court is nestled in tranquility between Bath and Bristol, near to Chew Valley Lake, and it’s a pretty drive to the Park and Ride which took us to Bath’s Christmas markets, Harptree Court Treehousehugging the town’s Abbey and luring visitors to its core with the smell of mulled wine, cheese and chutneys.

On our second night at the treehouse we braved the dark and wet again and strolled around 200 metres to the local pub, the Waldegrave Arms, where we were met with smiles, cosy Christmas lights and music and a good home-cooked festive menu. And as we wandererd home, our bellies filled with roast turkey and beef stew, we saw the local phone box filled with novels. Locals use the box to house their book swap shcmee – what a lovey idea.

Linda and Charles run Harptree Court and welcome people into their home like old friends. At 10am check out time, Charles was there with the 4×4 to help us take our luggage across the field to the car and we left feeling utterly relaxed and smug. Our first anniversary was everything we’d hoped it to be and more, and we couldn’t have asked for a nicer place to spend it.

Books, crime, Just stuff, reviews, what I think, Writing

On expanding my literary horizons…

Until recently I’ve been pretty disappointed with some of the reading choices I’ve made. It makes me cross to invest hours only to be utterly disappointed 80,000 words. There’s some real pap out there, which makes me wonder in a competitive market how it ever made it into print. Last year I decided I needed to pull myself away from the crime fiction I love and expand my reading horizons. What else is out there that I’m missing? And I found it hard to have literary conversations with my writer buddies as my own reading list’s so restricted. And if a crime were to happen on my estate I’d be the prime suspect. Save for notes in the margins and highlighted passages of kill scenes, my bookshelves probably paint a picture of a twisted crime fanatic. Er… yeah, that’s me.

My bookshelf

My bookshelf... or at least some of it

So, not only was I going to try new genres I was also going to try new authors; it’s a habit of mine to find an author I like, read everything they’ve ever written, find another author I love and repeat. So my bookshelf is limited and my knowledge needed growing, especially if I’m to pursue my own hope of one day being a published author. And I don’t think the poem I had featured on page 187 of a poetry compendium really counts, does it?

But this year my reading choices were poor, or at least for me they were. It’s all subjective isn’t it but, for me, I like books like I like my movies; they need to have a point and be believable.

I read some bad chick lit, so bad I couldn’t bring myself to review it (research for my own novel, a genre I have a love-hate relationship with); and some ropey crime-type stuff (I couldn’t help myself  with the crime but the untried authors thing didn’t work for me. Even Patricia Cornwell’s latest, an old fave of mine from years ago, left me disappointed and a little bit angry.

But the last three books I’ve read have left me in awe. Amazing storytelling ability with an emotional depth that not only tugged at my heart strings, it pulled them tort to the brink of snapping.

And I came to realise that books, the ones that are really, really good, aren’t the ones that keep me turning pages because I want to find out whodunnit, or who the serial killer’s next victim is, or what that little bit of evidence is likely to reveal, but the ones that connect with me emotionally, striking a match in me, a warmth, a glow; something that makes me look into my soul and see my life from the inside out. Deep huh? Yeah, sorry, I don’t know what came over me, but these books move me, sometimes to tears, with their true-to-life characters and the stories that unravel around them.

The books I’m talking about – and I’m lucky to have read them back to back – are Before I Go To Sleep by SJ Watson, Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton and The Making of Us by Lisa Jewell.

All three were completely amazing and two of them, the latter, forced tears from my eyes which is a tad embarrassing when reading on a crowded beach. Thank God for sunglasses! The former moved me in another way, in the realisation that the things we take for granted, like our memory, make us incredibly vulnerable if we were ever to lose them. Who could we trust if we lost everything? Who’d have our back?

Anyway, reviews of the above are all in my book review section on this blog but I just felt it worthy of giving them an extra mention.

And am I pleased to be stepping away from the old forensic pathologist/detective with a ‘tude style novels? I’ll always be a crime lover and continue to try new authors and support the ones I love, but it’s been refreshing to read something different and experience new ways of writing and expression. I hope my own writing with improve because I’m better read. After all, variety is the spice of life… and I do like spicy.

Next up on my reading list is Hunter by Tom Wood, The Hating Game by Talli Roland (reading on kindle app and been meaning to get round to for an age) and this Platform Book Club choice, A Balance To Survive by Lisa W.B.

Books, Just stuff, Life in general, Marriage, reviews, Writing

Welcome to my new blog

Well hello there. Hello and welcome. So, this is it… my new blog. And it seems only fitting that now I have a new surname, my blog should have a new name too.

Last year was a big year for me – got engaged, moved house, supported my other half going freelance, adopted a cocker spaniel puppy, got married and had a wonderful honeymoon closely followed by Christmas. It’s going to be hard to top that.

So in planning for 2011 I haven’t made a list of exciting things to do – bungie jumping, move to India, shave my head or join the local choir. Oh no, my plans are much more hi-tech – So, in the spirit of starting 2011 on the right footing, here’s a new blog. A blog I hear you cry? Is that it? Well, not just any blog… er… well, actually it is just any blog so er… have I told you that it’s a new and improved one featuring posts from guest bloggers (not yet but it will) and a host of book reviews (started this one!)?

I slacked off on the blog front at the back end of last year – pre-marital mania consumed me – but this year the blog will keep me busy. And don’t worry, it won’t be serious. I’ll still be climbing up on my soapbox and ranting about things that matter and some that don’t, I’ll still do my Five for Friday posts, and I’ll still be, well, just me.

Aside from blogging bigger and better in 2011, I also have some other literary projects on the go… finishing my novel Resolution and sending it off to agents; and the Mistresses of Trope blog in which me and my three favourite writer buddies chart our journeys to become better writers. Also this year I want to spend lots of quality time with my gorgeous new hubby and intrepid doggy Ralphie, catch up with all the lovely friends I have and generally try to take pleasure in the simple things. So sorry in advance, you may have to hear about some of that in this blog.

Okay, that should do it for a hello and welcome blog post… feel free to comment on any of my posts – I actively encourage you to do so – or drop me a line if you want to suggest some books for me to review. Even better, if you want to buy me books, I’ll send you a link to my Amazon wish list. Laters!