Sunday 31 May 2015

May Wrap-Up.

I'm pretty proud of how many books I managed this month, considering as well that I went on a two week holiday and didn't necessarily have a whole lot of time for reading (especially when I went to Paris). In the end though, I got through 5 of my 7 chosen reads and have started number 6, so I think I made pretty good progress. Hooray!

  1. 'The Rosie Project'; Graeme Simsion. I borrowed this book from my Mum, having heard only good things about it. Despite the fact that fluffy romance is not normally my thing, this one was eye-opening and hilarious. The characters were likeable and the plot felt really well-written. It felt like a fresh perspective on Mental Illness as well as a light-hearted, fun read that was perfect for my holiday. Despite the slightly rushed ending, I couldn't not give this book fantastic marks. 5/5 Stars.
  2. 'Going Bovine'; Libba Bray.I was given this book quite a while back for my birthday by a friend, and attempted to read it straight away but didn't get into it. I thought it was about time I tried again and felt that I could appreciate it's message a lot more than I could then. There was a whole lot of symbolism and reading between the lines and I enjoy these kinds of reads. However, I honestly felt like I was on drugs while reading it to, and the complete craziness confused me a bit from time to time. Not to mention that the characters were completely unsympathetic. 1.5/5 Stars.
  3. 'Midnight Crossroad'; Charlaine Harris. There really wasn't a huge amount about this book that I enjoyed other than the mystery element to it that is introduced far too late into the book. The characters were not in the least bit likeable and spent far too much time living their lives and spying on their neighbours to do anything of real importance. The writing was very wordy too and took a long time to get to the point, and I really didn't understand the need to focus so much on the physical attributes of every woman in town. Not only that, but the conclusion to the mystery felt random and had no build to it, and I completely did not agree with their method of dealing with the problem either. 1/5 Stars.
  4. 'Between The Lives'; Jessica Shirvington. This book had such an interesting plot concept and I'm pleased to report that it completely exceeded my expectations. Firstly, the characters were really likeable and I became a big fan of Ethan and Sabine's relationship. The differences between Sabine's two lives made for a very interesting plot-line and I became totally invested in what would happen next. Also, this is the first book ending to make me cry in quite a long time. 4.5/5 Stars.
  5. 'Good Kings, Bad Kings'; Susan Nussbaum. This book blew me away on so many different levels. The characterisation was the best I have read in a while, and I loved reading from so many different insights. It had a tremendous level of detail about the lives of both disabled children and the staff working at the nursing home, and my thinking is this is because Nussbaum has so much personal experience to draw from. At times I laughed out loud, and at others the story broke my heart. There wasn't a huge amount of plot in this one, but everything else more than made up for it. 4.5/5 Stars.
This month I have read three physical books:

- 'The Rosie Project'
- 'Going Bovine'
- 'Good Kings, Bad Kings'

This month I have read two Netgalley/Edelweiss reads:

- 'Midnight Crossroad'
- 'Between The Lives'

And here is my Bookish Bingo update!

Murder Mystery: Child 44; Tom Rob Smith.
Forgotten Fridays Pick: Going Bovine; Libba Bray.
Aussie Author: The Rosie Project; Graeme Simsion.
April, May, June Release: Fractured Dream; K.M. Randall.
Rain Or Storm In Title: A Storm Of Swords: Blood & Gold; George R.R. Martin.
Parental Relationships: The Winner's Curse; Marie Rutkoski.
Freebie: Midnight Crossroad; Charlaine Harris.
Thieves, Assassins, Pirates: Moonlands; Steven Savile.
Parallel Universes: Between The Lives; Jessica Shirvington.
#WeNeedDiverseBooks: Good Kings, Bad Kings; Susan Nussbaum.

Book Review: Good Kings, Bad Kings; Susan Nussbaum.

You guys all know that I'm pretty behind on my Goodreads 'First Reads' wins, so I thought it was about time I got round to one. I picked a really good one too, because this book was excellent.

SOURCE: Goodreads Giveaway
TYPE: Paperback

TITLE: Good Kings, Bad Kings
AUTHOR: Susan Nussbaum
PUBLISHER: Oneworld Publications
PAGES: 336
GENRE: Young Adult, Literary Fiction, Contemporary

RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

Told in alternating perspectives by a varied cast of characters, Good Kings, Bad Kings is a powerful and inspiring debut that invites us into the lives of a group of teenagers and staff who live at the ILLC. From Yessenia, who dreams of her next boyfriend, to Teddy, a resident who dresses up daily in a full suit and tie, and Mia, who guards a terrifying secret, Nussbaum has crafted a multifaceted portrait of a way of life that challenges our definitions of what it means to be disabled. In a story told with remarkable authenticity, their voices resound with resilience, courage and humour.

What I Liked:
  • The characterisation was what made this book. The story is written from a number of viewpoints in the juvenile disabled centre 'ILLC', staff and residents alike. Each of them had a distinct voice, an interesting backstory and most importantly felt like they were human. None of them were perfect, but none of them were awful people either. They were opinionated and totally believable and I fell in love with them all.
  • Nussbaum's writing really wowed me. It was so honest and handled some really sensitive topics extremely well. I loved how much research and own experience had clearly gone into the novel too, because I'm a sucker for decent world-building and I definitely got it in this book. It simultaneously made me laugh and broke my heart and for that, I am forever i Nussbaum's debt.
What I Disliked:
  • At times, I felt like there wasn't enough of an overriding plot-line. The book mostly consisted of a series of incidents that kept the characters interesting and busy. It did work in it's own way, but it meant I was left hungry for more at the end. Still, the little plot that I read was brilliant.
Overall Conclusion:
I really did adore this book for so many reasons. The characterisation and world-building were absolutely phenomenal and the writing was so beautiful that I would have happily read on about all of these characters. It was honest, brutal at times, and hear-wrenchingly gorgeous at others. The plot could have done with a tiny bit more adjusting perhaps, but I honestly didn't mind a chronology of events rather than a proper plot-line because character-driven novels like this are too interesting to miss.

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Top Ten Tuesday: My picks for 'Books I Plan To Have In My Beach Bag This Summer'.

This is the kind of topic that I love because it gets me so excited for Summer! I think I have said before that I mostly associate light, contemporary reads with the beach. I have no idea why that is, maybe the warm weather changes my taste in books for a while? I don't know how often I'll be getting to the beach, but if I were to go then these are the books I'll be taking!

1) 'The Rosie Effect'; Graeme Simsion.

Having read and fallen in love with 'The Rosie Project', it seems only right that I get round to reading the next one in the series, and the beach feels like the perfect place to do that! I read the first book while on holiday and found it the perfect beach read, so I have no doubt that the same will be true of 'The Rosie Effect'.

2) 'More Than This'; Patrick Ness.

It may shock some of you to know that I have never read a book by Patrick Ness. I have wanted to for a very long time, but just haven't found the time or shelf space to buy one of his books. Thanks to my recent birthday, I'm now the proud owner of this one and I am hopping with excitement! I've read the synopsis and it looks like it's certainly will be an interesting read!

3) 'Garden Spells'; Sarah Addison-Allen.

I talked about how Beach Bags feel like they should be light reads, and you don't get much lighter than Sarah Addison-Allen's books. I have only read one of her books of course, but I felt like I was reading candy floss while doing so, and really enjoyed the book! This is actually the first book in a series, and I would be interested to see how it differs from a stand-alone novel.

4) 'Neverland'; Shari Arnold.

Everyone knows I have a penchant for re-tellings, and this one has a contemporary twist to it that I think I would enjoy. I was watching 'Once Upon a Time' yesterday, and the show put quite a sinister pin on Neverland which I found interesting. While I don't think that this book will necessarily do that as well, it has reawakened my fascination for the story of Peter Pan enough for me to really want to read this book!

5) 'The Storied Life Of A.J. Fikry'; Gabrielle Zevin.

I love a good heart-warming story, and this really seems like it's going to be one of them. Books like this are perfect for reading on the beach because they have you totally transfixed on what is going on, and smiling all the way through. I honestly hope that this one is as good as it looks, because it does look so good!

6) 'The Ruby Slippers'; Keir Alexander.

This is one of those books that I really should have read quite a while back, that I would to get into. It looks like a really good, fun beach read too so would definitely make the beach bag if I decide to go this summer. This one is not really a re-telling as such (or at least, not from what I can tell) but has received such good reviews from those that have read it that I am intrigued to see if I can spot any 'Wizard Of Oz' references.

7) 'The Unlikely Pilgrimage Of Harold Fry'; Rachel Joyce.

Something about Summer makes me want to journey to far away places, so this is the perfect read! The titular character certainly looks like he will be going on a rather intriguing journey, and the plot itself looks to be packed to the brim with funny moments, and to be a light enough read that I'll enjoy it without too much heartache to handle.

8) 'The Help'; Kathryn Stockett.

Okay, so I know I specified light reads that were contemporary, but I can't help but be drawn to this one. It's still important to keep a mix of books to keep my beach reading interesting and I can't help but think this will be a good one for the beach. I've never watched the film either, which I'm glad about because I always like to read the books first when I can!

9) 'Stealing Phoenix'; Joss Stirling.

I really liked the first book in this series, 'Finding Sky', when I read it. I actually feel a little in shock that I haven't gone on to read this one yet because it sounds like it will have an even more interesting plot than it's predecessor! Hopefully I will get a chance to grab this one on the way to a day by the waves!

10) 'Red Ink'; Julie Mayhew.

Okay, I so have to read this one by the beach! Looking at the synopsis, there's a mention of Crete, and my recent holidays mean that I can now only think of reading this story on a hot sunny day, sprawled out on a lounger by the glittering ocean. Man, I already miss being on holiday! Maybe this book will get me back in the sunny spirit?

Monday 25 May 2015

Last Week's Shenanigans (18th May - 24th May)...

This week actually got off to a pretty rocky start because I fell ill on the very first day! It was my day off of work, but it did mean that my last Birthday treat was a little more tiring than I had planned it to be. I went to go and watch 'War Horse' with Mat at the Theatre. The show itself was fantastic and I absolutely adored it, apart from the fact that I felt so ill. If anyone gets the chance to see it, I thoroughly recommend it!

I had Tuesday off because I still felt rough but went back to work on Wednesday. It was so strange, but really nice to see everyone again! Work was of course tiring and a little busy, but I learnt some new things and am so glad I'm back now! I definitely needed the holiday though! Sunday I spent a really nice day with my flat mates and Mat. We played monopoly among other games and watched some TV together. It was a really nice end to the week!

I Read:


Top Ten Tuesday: Books Set In France That I Want To Read

Sunday 24 May 2015

Book Review: Between The Lives; Jessica Shirvington.

I can't believe how long it actually took for me to get round to reading this book, but I'm glad I finally did! There were so many great elements to this story, and part of me wishes there would be a sequel, though I know there won't be. I won't be entering this book into any challenges though!

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Between The Lives
AUTHOR: Jessica Shirvington
PUBLISHER: Orchard Books
PAGES: 339
GENRE: Paranormal, Romance, Young Adult, Contemporary

RATING: 4.5/5 Stars

For as long as she can remember, Sabine has lived two lives. Every 24 hours she shifts to her 'other' life - a life where she is exactly the same, but absolutely everything else is different: different family, different friends, different social expectations. In one life she has a sister, in the other she does not. In one life she's a straight-A student with the perfect boyfriend, in the other she's considered a reckless delinquent. Nothing about her situation has ever changed, until the day when she discovers a glitch: the arm she breaks in one life is perfectly fine in the other.

With this new knowledge, Sabine begins a series of increasingly risky experiments that bring her dangerously close to the life she's always wanted. But if she can only have one life, which is the one she'll choose?

What I Liked:
  • I really liked the characters in this book. There was such a mix for me to love or hate! Sabin was a really great heroine, with a cool head and fantastic ability to deal with such a confusing situation, I really admired her. Ethan was a wonderful, appealing character too. His inclusion added a whole new level to the story's plot, and there's a big twist near the end that I saw coming, yet still blew me away emotionally. The people found in both of Sabine's lives each had their own little back-story too that made them interesting.
  • The plot itself was really good, especially after things started going downhill in Sabine's Roxbury life. Despite the constant travelling around from place to place, I never once felt confused as to where I was. I was so gripped by and invested in what was going on, that I couldn't believe how quickly the story was over and how much I wanted more! There were plenty of twists and turns that kept me guessing, and none of them felt like they were there for the sake of it.
  • Due to the weird nature of Sabine's situation, Shirvington had to deal with some tough issues in this book. Namely identity, freedom, illness and heartbreak. Suicide is frequently mentioned as Sabine's desperate plan to live one life without fear, but it is certainly in no way condoned by the author. I liked that Shirvington let her readers travel with Sabine, being first of all struck by the appeal and glamour of Sabine's Wellsley life, only to later become more attached to her situation in Roxbury. I liked that it wasn't a clear-cut, easy choice.
What I Disliked:
  • The pacing at the beginning felt a little too fast. As a reader, I was totally thrown into Sabine's predicament, and before I had time to get my head round it, I was suddenly aware of a rule change in the way it worked. I felt like the 'broken arm' revelation happened a little too fast and I didn't get a complete picture of Sabine's desperation and misery before she found out about a possibility for change. Also, the reason for her constant life-switching was never really explained and that was a tad aggravating.
Overall Conclusion:
There were so many aspects of this story that I enjoyed, despite a slightly shaky start. The concept was a really good one, the idea of one girl trying to manage two completely seperate, parallel lives remained wholly original compared to anything I have ever read. The plot was really intriguing too, and kept me wanting more the whole way through. I liked the pacing and development of Ethan and Sabine's relationship, and best of all, the ending was heart-breaking but well-written. There remains a few unanswered questions and part of me wishes for a sequel. However, the way the story concludes does give a very 'blank slate' feel which is almost a happy ending for Sabine. I strongly recommend this read!

Tuesday 19 May 2015

Book Review: Midnight Crossroad; Charlaine Harris.

I actually feel quite disappointed with how little I enjoyed this reading experience. Whenever I have heard Charlaine Harris' name in the past, I've heard good things, and yet this book frustrated me on so many levels that I almost gave up on it. I am using it as an entry for this month's 'Key Word' challenge however.

SOURCE: Netgalley
TYPE: E-Read

TITLE: Midnight Crossroad
AUTHOR: Charlaine Harris
SERIES: Midnight, Texas (#1)
PAGES: 315
GENRE: Mystery, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult

RATING: 1/5 Stars

Welcome to Midnight, Texas, a town with many boarded-up windows and few full-time inhabitants, located at the crossing of Witch Light Road and Davy Road. It’s a pretty standard dried-up western town.

There’s a pawnshop (someone lives in the basement and is seen only at night). There’s a diner (people who are just passing through tend not to linger). And there’s new resident Manfred Bernardo, who thinks he’s found the perfect place to work in private (and who has secrets of his own).

Stop at the one traffic light in town, and everything looks normal. Stay awhile, and learn the truth...

What I Liked:
  • Quite a portion of the way through the book, there is quite a twist that I wasn't really expecting that causes the plot pacing to pick up a bit. I only wish that firstly, the entire book had been like that, and secondly it had at least continued to intrigue me until the end of the book. It was a pretty well done moment, but not enough to save the book.
What I Disliked:
  • Dividing this up is really hard because I want to go on a really big rant, but I'll start with Harris' writing. Certainly at the beginning, it felt a little wordy and simplistic. She took a long time to get to the point in many cases, and I felt rather bored through quite a lot of it. While I'm talking about Harris' writing style, when it came to describing characters I found myself getting particularly frustrated. Especially with the women, she felt the need to really describe their physical attributes, weight, curviness, everything. I don't know if this was just being overly-descriptive or an attempt to be empowering somehow, but it made me feel a little uncomfortable.
  • The character's were the biggest flaw, because in a book with not much going on they ought to be likeable. Manfred especially, as he is supposedly in the same position as the reader: not knowing anybody. However, I found him the worst of the lot. He supposedly had psychic abilities yet openly ran a false business conning people, had a hypocritical attitude towards Fiji's witchcraft yet instantly believed in the random vampire that showed up, and worst of all had an awful fixation on women. Despite the fact that Harris frequently reminded us that Manfred and Creek were only a few years apart, his thoughts on her were cringe-worthy. None of the characters appealed to me at all and most of them just made me angry.
  • So I mentioned in the last point that there wasn't a huge amount of plot. Most of the book is made up of characters peeking out of their windows and being suspicious of their neighbours. They whinge about their lives a lot, how hard it is to keep secrets and how awful it is that he chose such a horrible woman when they are totally in love with him. It grew old and didn't seem to develop the plot. As well as that, huge plot events seem to brushed over by them and swept up into their mundane lives. Like I said, it had the potential to get interesting, but sadly didn't.
Overall Conclusion:
It is probably pretty clear that this book wasn't for me. A lack of real plot with a really awful ending that didn't quite fit the story, unappealing and even irritating characters and way too much description and wordiness for me to handle. There were some little moments in the book where I thought it would pick up, but I remained disappointed. I think that Harris' knowledge of the South and the way it's communities work did help to make the world-building a little more impressive but there were just far too many mistakes for such a well-established writer.

Top Ten Tuesday Freebie: My picks for 'Books Set In France That I Want To Read'.

So in honour of my two week hiatus abroad, I have decided to do a post on books that are set in France, one of the places that I visited. There aren't a huge amount of books set in Crete that I know of, which is why I picked France!

1) 'The Phantom Of The Opera'; Gaston Leroux.

This story has always fascinated me for a huge number of reasons. I'm a huge fan of the musical, and the film that came out later, and the plot itself is totally fascinating. A ghostly masked man obsessed with a young member of the chorus. I'm desperate to read the book that started it all and see if there are any interesting differences! 

2) 'The Hunchback Of Notre-Dame'; Victor Hugo.

Being a Disney fan, I adore the premise of this story. Of course I know that the two things are completely different. The book, or so I hear, is a lot more tragic and violent. I would just love the chance to read it for myself and see the similarities (if there are any). Do Phoebus, Esmarelda and Frollo even exist in the book? I'm guessing they must, but very differently! I think it was visiting the Cathedral that really put me in the mood for this one!

3) 'Les Miserables'; Victor Hugo.

Yet another favourite musical of mine. The recent film is phenomenal too and I really want to read the book, as with my other chosen books so far. The story behind this is so interesting: a revolution that ends tragically in almost every way possible, and a decades long game of cat and mouse as an ill-fated criminal is chased by a no-nonsense man of the law. Throw in a lot of love and heartbreak and it sounds like the perfect story to tackle.

4) 'The Da Vinci Code'; Dan Brown.

My boyfriend adores the 'Robert Langdon' series by Dan Brown and this is actually the second one in the series. But actually, having been to the Louvre, I would be interested to read a book about a mystery surrounding the Mona Lisa. I've actually never seen the film either, so it would be good to read the book first and hopefully really enjoy it!

5) 'Interview With The Vampire'; Anne Rice.

Man, I have wanted to read 'The Vampire Chronicles' for so long! I actually bought the book last year while I was in Wales and it's still sitting on my shelf waiting to be read. I seriously take so long to get round to books, but when I do read this one, I sincerely hope I enjoy it!

6) 'Labyrinth'; Kate Mosse.

I have actually read a collection of short stories by this lady, and I thought the best part of Mosse's writing was her description work. A few of the stories were set in France and the atmosphere that Mosse built just blew me away. I really want to dig into one of her Historical novels (this being the first in the 'Languedoc' trilogy) and enjoy it.

7) 'Anna & The French Kiss'; Stephanie Perkins.

I don't normally go for romantic novels but I have heard a heck of a lot about this book! The clue that it is set in France is in the title of course, and I am honestly really intrigued to see what all the fuss is about! 

8) 'The Diving Bell & The Butterfly'; Jean-Dominique Bauby.

I saw the cover of this book recently on a list somewhere, and instantly recognised it. Of course, I ran to the synopsis to see if it was a book I had read and somehow forgotten about, but only vaguely recognised the synopsis. The most likely cause of all this is that I picked it up in a Library or Bookshop to see if I wanted it and then put it back again. Having looked at the synopsis now, I desperately want to read this memoir.

9) 'Grave Mercy'; Robin LaFevers.

The 'His Fair Assassin' series continues to constantly elude me, but I want to read it so much! I've seen Bloggers all over my feed go crazy over it too, which only makes me want to read it more. The moment I realised that it was set in France, I just had to put it on this list!

Alright, so I couldn't resist one pick from Crete...

10) 'The Island'; Victoria Hislop. 

During my trip away, I heard various tourists and people who lived there talk about this book. Being an avid reader, my ears always seem to prick up when people are talking about novels, and this was no exception! I've since read the synopsis, and as well as getting the triumphant thrill of recognising the places it talks about, I think it looks like a really interesting read!

Monday 18 May 2015

The Last Two Week's Shenanigans: Part Two! (11th May - 17th May)...

For those that are still sticking with me after Part One, bravo! I know it was a pretty long post, even for me. I'm so excited about all the places I've been however, that I really want to share them with you! So on to Part Two, wherein I visit Paris, France. This was actually a trip that my wonderful boyfriend Mat booked for my birthday, which was on the 13th. It meant that I was in another country for the first time on my birthday, which was a strange experience. We didn't actually leave until the 12th May, so on the 11th we spent a lot of time just recovering from the journey back from Crete, and packing for our next trip. It was nice to spend a day back in our Flat and relax.

We got up on the 12th quite early and left for the station to catch the Eurostar. I couldn't believe how quick the journey to Paris itself actually was, particularly going through the Channel Tunnel. I expected it to feel so much longer! We encountered a little bit of confusing when it cam to grabbing tickets to the Metro/RER Station we needed but we ended up getting to our hotel okay and I was so impressed! Our room was gorgeous, and because the one we had booked had been a little late, they upgraded us! I was so impressed with the service we received from there. 

Of course on the 13th, my actual birthday, I had no idea what Mat had planned. I was so shocked and delighted to find that he had bought tickets to Disneyland, somewhere that I have never actually been to and always wanted to see. Disney films are a huge part of my life, and I absolutely adore them! We started off in the Walt Disney Studios Park which proved to be really interesting. I'm really interested in the process behind films, and the behind the scenes stuff that happens as well as the films themselves. Some of the more enjoyable rides/attractions included 'Armageddon: les Effets Speciaux', 'Studio Tram Tour: Behind The Magic' and 'The Twilight Zone Tower Of Terror'. I chose the first two in particular for their amazing insight into both special and physical effects in films. While there, a wonderful band played and we heard familiar themes such as the '20th Century Fox' theme, 'Star Wars' and 'You've Got A Friend In Me'.

Next we headed over to the main park, split into four sections (five if you include 'Main Street, U.S.A') and my favourite part of the day. There were so many rides and so much fun to be had here I feel so lucky that I got to be a part of it! In one day I explored Alice's Labyrinth, watched a Disneyland Parade, visited Sleeping Beauty's castle, took a trip on a Star Wars tour (this was definitely Mat's favourite part, he adores that franchise), ate in the Hakuna Matata cafe and had a close encounter with a Dragon. I had a fantastic time and this definitely makes one of the best Birthdays I have ever had!

The day after my birthday, on the 14th, we decided to go back to central Paris and see some of the popular sights! Firstly, we made our way to Notre Dame Cathedral which was absolutely beautiful. I did feel a bit guilty going inside, as there was a service going on at the time, but it was a gorgeous building and it certainly rendered me awe-struck. Our next stop was the Louvre museum, where we saw a whole bunch of Art and Antiquities from various time periods. Of course we made time to see the Mona Lisa, as well as a couple of other famous pieces. I couldn't believe how large the collection (and the queue) was! Our final stop was the Eiffel Tower and I was blown away by just how big it actually was! I was too scared to go up to the top, but we got some lovely photos!

The last day of Paris was spent shopping in the centre and village next to our hotel. I managed to come away with a fair few new tops, and even better, a brand new watch courtesy of Mat! We had lunch, followed by Ben and Jerry's ice cream, and then headed onto the train back home to London. We didn't arrive home until late evening and were quite tired so didn't go to bed too late. That marked the end of a wonderful trip that I am very lucky to have gone on!

As this post runs until the 17th May, on the Saturday Mat and I relaxed a lot. Our holidays were lovely but travelling really takes it out of you and we had done a lot over the last couple of weeks. On Sunday, my parents came to visit and brought with them a whole host of goodies for me from various members of my family. I have already posted a huge great post on what I received, so check that out if you're interested!

I Posted:

The Last Two Week's Shenanigans: Part One! (3rd May - 10th May)...

Here it is folks, a post dedicated solely to my time abroad! I warn you all, it's going to be a long one full to the brim of photos and details of my adventures in Crete during my first week away. If that doesn't sound all that interesting to you (I am fully aware it might not be) then feel free to skip this post and the next. This is of course Part One, and the next Part Two will talk all about my adventures in Paris, which I also look forward to sharing with you guys!

We actually left for the airport on Saturday 2nd May, rather late at night. Mat and I decided that because we had a very early flight, we didn't really have time for sleep so we got to London Gatwick after midnight (on Sunday morning) and had a two hour power nap before starting our journey through baggage drop and security. We left the country at around half 5 in the morning and to be honest, I slept through the entire 3-4 hour flight because I was so tired. When we landed, the transfer to the hotel ended up being a very long wait, so we actually didn't get there until gone 2 o' clock in the afternoon. The driver dropped us off in the wrong place too, so by the time we found the hotel and were given our rooms we had been through quite the travelling ordeal and were totally knackered. We had planned to do a bit of exploring but instead, we slept. We did however find time for dinner and booked the excursions we wanted for the rest of the week!

We purposefully didn't book any excursions for Monday because we knew we would still be really tired, so we took a look around Georgioupoli (the place that we were staying). The village was actually rather nice and had a gorgeous little plaza with plenty of shops and restaurants nearby. While we were having a look around, we decided we would make use of the spa facilities in the hotel so booked some time at the end of the week in the Jacuzzi and a foot massage for myself because I have awful feet and I figured they would be hurting a lot by the time Saturday came around. All in all, a slightly lazy but relaxing day where we got to know the place we were staying a little better.

Our first excursion was on Tuesday where we ended up waking quite early in the morning to wait for the coach, only to find that it was late anyway. On the way to our first stop, Preveli, we got out for a quick photo stop of a lovely gorge (there are numerous gorges in Crete and it was beautiful). There were two stops in Preveli: the first was a Monastery that was not only very pretty, but kept quite an array of animals, and the second was the 'Palm Beach' where we walked along a gorgeous trail to admire the local flora, then relaxed on the beach for a while. The tour guide also provided us with some local food and drink and taught us a bit of Greek dancing, which was a lot of fun! We then stopped off at Matala, a place renowned for being the home of a Hippie community for a long while, and we found that the town itself has really embraced that history. Phaistos was our next stop, the archaeological ruins of the Palace of King Radamanthis (Minos' brother). It was an interesting site, especially as I am deeply interested in Ancient Greek/Minoan society and Mythology. Spili was our last stop, and we were only there for a twenty minutes or so. There are springs there, where it is said that women must drink a cup from every one if they want to get married!

Wednesday's excursion also involved getting up early, but by this time we had recovered from our all-nighter on Saturday. The bus took us to Heraklion, the Capital City, and we went to the Archaeological Museum. A lot of the exhibits were really interesting and gave a fascinating insight into Minoan History, especially as a lot of the artifacts were really well preserved. We bought ourselves a Minotaur statue while looking around a few shops, then travelled to Agios Nikolaos for lunch, which was a very pretty village indeed. After that, we travelled to Elounda Bay where we could have gone to Spinalonga, a small Island that is famous for the Venetian Settlement later inhabited by the Turks and a Leper Colony. In fact, a fiction work named 'The Island' by Victoria Hislop promises to be a moving read on the subject, or so I am told. Instead of going to Spinalonga however, Mat and I stayed in Elounda and sat on the beach for a while, taking in the gorgeous views of this lovely village. Our final stop of the day was the Palace of Knossos, yet another Archaeological site but this time for the Palace of King Minos himself. The myth 'Theseus & The Minotaur' was obviously in the forefront of my mind here, and the tour guide gave us an interesting and detailed history of the place.

We didn't have to get up quite so early for Thursday's day out which made a nice change. After getting on the bus, our first stop was at Lake Kournas for a little while, where we could take some lovely photos of the view. We were told that at certain times of the year, Turtles would lay there eggs there. After Kournas, we moved onto the town of Chania, where we stayed for quite a while and were allowed to go shopping and take in a lot of this beautiful city. There were markets, and a lovely port here to admire. We took the time to do a bit of souvenir shopping here as well. After a short stop on the bus for bread and olive oil, we reached our final destination: Elafonisi. Often the sand will have a pink tinge because the wind blows coral onto the beach. It's the home to a very shallow lagoon too, with warm water which was nice to wade through.

Onto Friday, our final excursion and this one was less about sightseeing and more about relaxation. The coach took us to two 'paradise' beaches, Gramvousa and Balos. Gramvousa was home to another Venetian Fortress, but Mat and I stayed at the beach mostly. when we arrived inn Balos, we took a smaller boat out to the beach and stayed for a while to relax. Unfortunately both places were very windy, so we spent a lot of the time being buffeted by sand, but the views were well worth it. I got a lot of book reading and puzzle-finishing done too!

Our final full day in Crete was mostly a day of rest for Mat and I. We went to the spa that we had booked into earlier in the week, and I got my feet massaged before we spent some time in the Jacuzzi. It was well worth it, I can tell you! Afterwards, we went back into Georgioupoli to finish our souvenir shopping and look around for ourselves too. I bought another statue, this time of Apollo (I already have Artemis at home from when we went to Corfu) and then we decided to go for a bit more of an explore. We walked further into the village and discovered a gorgeous little dock that was right by a rocky walk into the sea to a mysterious looking chapel at the end. We walked it and found that it was actually a pretty little shrine to Saint Nicholas, who seems to be well honoured by the people of the Island. The rest of the day was spent packing for the next day's trip home.

On Sunday 10th May we made our way back home, and got back to our flat safe and sound. We actually arrived mid-afternoon, so had a little bit of time to sit down for a cup of tea and relax for the afternoon. We had such a lovely time in Crete, and I found it hard to get my head around the fact that I would be off again mere days later to Paris. The temptation to blog was almost too much for me but a hiatus is a hiatus I'm afraid! See you in Part Two!

I Read: