Book Review: No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay


No Time For Goodbye was recommended to our parent book group by one of the librarians. I wanted a non-gruesome page turner and Linwood Barclay delivered.

Out of nine mums, one hated it complaining it was too sad, two loved it and the rest of us were left confused.

We all agreed it was a fantastic plot that has the potential to be a blockbuster hit – should it ever be made. The problem lay in the writing style.

The story revolves around the disappearance of a 14 year old girl’s family. It very quickly jumps to 25 years later and a final attempt to solve the mystery.

It is written from the perspective of the husband of the now married girl.  As strange things happen he wonders whether she is responsible and starts to doubt his wife’s innocence.

We debated for some time the cause of our disappointment. We agreed the writing lacked something. It isn’t badly written. In fact the very last page was brilliant. And this might be the key. Apart from the very last page, it isn’t a very emotional read. For a group of mums reading a book about a child’s family going missing we expected more emotion.

That said, we ended up with an average score of 3 to 3.5 out of five. But the majority of us couldn’t hand on heart recommend it to friends as a ‘you must read this book’. Worse still, we wouldn’t jump at the chance to read his other books.

Have you read No Time For Goodbye by Linwood Barclay? Have you read any of his other books?

I borrowed this book from my local library.

Sister by Rosamund Lupton

Book CoverSister by Rosamund Lupton is a tear inducing page turning who dunnit. I have recommended it to friends and I will at the very least read the sample of her next book Afterwards which is due out in June 2011.

However, whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I can imagine that some people might find the it too emotional. It is intense but isn’t scary or graphically violent.

Without giving away too much of the story, it covers the following topics: murder, sisterly love, loss, babies, cystic fibrosis, prejudice and genetic engineering.

I read the Kindle version which is £1 more than the paperback version (boo hiss). Included are book group suggested questions, and I can see why, this would make a great book group book.

It isn’t a book I would re-read simply because the fun was in the mystery of not knowing. All the way through the book I found myself trying to figure out the bad guy and finding it harder and harder to stop reading. I just needed to know.

But it is perhaps the ending that I loved the most and why I give this book four out of five stars.

I bought this book myself after downloading the free Kindle sample.

Peppa Pig World @ Paulton’s Park Geeky Tips & Theme Park Comparison

The Geeky Mummy family had a very exciting Saturday. Thanks to winning a competition on Mummy From The Heart‘s blog, we had special Golden Ticket’s to Peppa Pig World at Paulton’s Park. Not only were we getting in for FREE but we also got to go a week before it officially opened.

Despite living only an hour away, this was our first ever trip to Paulton’s Park and the very quick answer to what we thought of it was quite simply BRILLIANT. At least Pepper Pig World is brilliant, can’t tell you much about the rest of Paulton’s Park as we didn’t get to anything other than Pepper Pig World because we only had a few hours thanks to Geeky Son keeping us up most of the night before thus preventing our planned early start.

The kids loved the playground the best. It is beautiful and well thought out, with play frames for all ages, including for Geeky Son who is only 14 months, which is a rarity.

The rides are all very tame and Geeky Daughter (Age 6)  loved that she was able to go on them by herself, but Geeky Son wasn’t big enough to go on all of them. I liked that we were able to go on some rides like Daddy Pig’s Car Ride and Grandpa Pig’s Train rides as a family.

Miss Rabbit’s Helicopter Ride was a big mistake though as it is essentially a mini Ferris Wheel and this means a lot of time is wasted waiting for people to get on and off the ride before it can even begin, so the queue moves very slowly.

You may be pleased to know that the The Muddy Puddles does not contain mud. It is a water play area – similar to the one at Legoland. So if you want your kids to join in, I suggest you pack swim wear/change of clothes and a towel.

So how does it compare with Legoland, Thorpe Park and Chessington?

Firstly Cost. Paulton’s Park (which includes entrance to Peppa Pig World) is significantly cheaper than the other three. However, you can use your Tesco clubcard to buy entrance tickets at  less than half price for Legoland, Thorpe Park and Chessington making Paulton’s Park slightly more expensive if you are a Tesco shopper with vouchers to spend (remember you have to convert your clubcard vouchers into entrance tickets in advance).

Thorpe Park is definitely the place to go if you want super fast thrill seeking rides. Whilst there is a paddling pool and a very young children’s part to the park, the lack of family rides that we could all go on places Thorpe Park as my least favourite of the four theme parks.

Chessington on the other hand has a lovely mix of rides. It has the added bonus of a well designed aquarium with walk through tunnel and a little zoo area with tigers, gorillas and few other animals. We have frequently visited Chessington at weekends as we have found the family and kids rides aren’t too busy. Geeky Hubby would buy a Fastrack (i.e. jump the queue) ticket so that he could nip off every now and then to get his adrenaline kick.

Legoland is only round the corner from us and used to be our favourite theme park with lots of family friendly rides. However, it is a lot busier than it used to be and, in what has caused outrage in many regulars, they now charge for parking. This means you have to spend some of your day out paying for your parking ticket and worse still completely slows down leaving the park with the feeding in of parking tickets and waiting for barriers to lift.

This means that Paulton’s Park could well be our new favourite and we are definitely planning to go back.

Other than winning tickets to Paulton’s Park I have received no incentives to write this blog post.

Libraries Are A Mummy’s Best Friend

FREE is lovely word. BOOKS, FRIENDS and KIDS are big favourites too.

What a wonderful world we live in when we can combine all four words.

Yes there is such a place, it’s called a library.

I am one of those annoying people who is constantly coming up with ideas and making suggestions.

Fortunately my local library have embraced my ideas. Read my guest blog post for WAHM-BAM for Book Week about setting up reading groups for parents and kids.

But libraries aren’t just about books, they are also a great night out. So my latest project is helping the library to find great authors for their author nights. If any lovely authors happen to be reading this and would be interested in visiting a central Berkshire library, please let me know.

Are you making the most of your library?

A Geeky Guide To Buying A Mobile Phone

I am completely dependant on my mobile phone. It is for this reason that I can award it the grand title of ‘My Favourite Gadget‘. I text, email, tweet, Facebook, blog and shop on it, to the extent that I hardly ever use my computer. I can browse the web, but for specific tasks like my online shopping, news, social media I prefer to use apps, most of which are free.

I love my mobile because it is pretty, easy to use and allows me to do all of the above wherever I am. There would be big tears should it end up out of commission.

My mobile is a smartphone and if you haven’t got one yet I can tell you that when you do, you are in for a real treat. But choosing which phone to buy is no easy task with so many different choices. Friends will usually recommend their own phone but will it be right for you?

It is true I am a geek but that doesn’t make me an expert, I just get rather more excited by gadgety things than the average bod. But I do have some information that you may find useful.

Think of a Smartphone as a little mini computer. If you were buying a computer you have two main choices, will you buy a PC or a Mac? If you buy a PC you have a wide range of different manufacturers to choose from, but if you choose a Mac your only option is to buy an Apple machine.

Buying your mobile phone you will be faced will similar choices. First you have to choose between the type of phone. The main players are iPhone, Android, Blackberry, Symbian or Windows. The iPhone is a fairly straightforward choice as your options are to buy the earlier version, iPhone 3, or buy the newer iPhone 4 and then decide how much storage for all your photos, apps, messages etc. If you decide upon an Android phone you not only have a choice of manufacturers but also a choice of phone design – for example with or without a physical keyboard.

Now for the biased part. I have an Android HTC Desire. I bought this phone on contract, well actually it came free, and I can whole heartedly say I throughly recommend it. I didn’t buy an iPhone because they are far more expensive and the HTC Desire does the same thing. Some will argue it does more, others will argue it does less. I guess it depends on exactly what you are trying to do with your phone.

You are very unlikely to regret buying either. I believe some of the earlier Android phones aren’t as good as the HTC Desire, and since I bought my phone I know that newer models have been released. Also HTC are not the only manufacturer of Android phones.

I know that some people say that the iPhone is best as it’s really easy to use, and they are right, it is really easy to use, but so are Android phones.

So what about the other options, Symbian, Blackberry and Windows? They are the less popular choices, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be right for you. Blackberry has a messenger feature that is making it very popular with kids. My sister bought a HTC Windows phone as at the time it was the only phone that had a particular app that she wanted. Die-hard Nokia fans will no doubt swear by their Symbian phones, and let’s be honest, they really are great when it comes to sound quality.

So my geeky recommendation to you is that you do your research. If you are signing up to a contract you could be tied in for two years. That’s a long time with a phone you hate, find frustrating or doesn’t meet your needs.

As for whether to buy a contract or pay as you go and choosing a network, you need to choose what works for you. But I can tell you that if you have chosen wisely, you will be tweeting and blogging from the supermarket queue and will end up paying through the nose if you don’t have unlimited web usage (or what is effectively unlimited, most have an upper limit but providing you use your Wireless connection when at home you would have to do some serious surfing to exceed it).

Is your mobile phone your favorite gadget? How did you choose which smartphone to buy? What do you think of your choice of phone? Would love to hear from you.

This blog post was written for Notes From Home’s Friday Club Geek Carnival: A Favourite Gadget.

Helen at Cheeky Wipes tells us about her favourite gadget in And the award for best gadget goes to…..

Cara at Freckles Family writes about a gadget she loves.

Bibsey writes about her favourite gadget, my ‘precious’.

Merry at Patch of Puddles tells us about her clay sculpture tool.

Jax at Live Otherwise gives us her favourite gadget and it’s not what you think.

Cass at The Diary of a Frugal Family posts Gadgets – I love you….. .

Clare at Seasider in the City gives us Tech her family can’t do without.

Jacq at Mymumdom tells us about her backing camera.

Katherine at Living and Learning tells us about the fizz in her favourite gadget.

Maggy at Red Ted Art posts about her digital camera.

Ella at Notes From Home tells us about her home media centre.

Personalised Nursery Rhymes

Mymumdom recently posted about her hubby changing the words of Wind The Bobbin Up for nappy changes. It made me laugh because I do this all the time. So I thought I’d share with you my personalised songs:

For sleeps we use the theme for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star:

Twinkle twinkle little star
Look how tired that you are
Close your eyes and go to sleep
If you need to count some sheep
Twinkle twinkle little star
Look how tired that you are

For teeth cleaning we use Here We Go Round The Mulbery Bush:

This is the way we clean our teeth
Clean our teeth
Clean our teeth
This is the way we clean our teeth
To make them nice and clean

Got to do it twice a day
Twice a day
Twice a day
Got to do it twice a day
First thing and last thing at night

This next one is a use anytime song that I perhaps overused after Geeky Son was born and now Geeky Daughter hates it. It is based on What Shall We do with the Drunken Sailor:

What shall we do with the grumpy **
What shall we do with the grumpy **
What shall we do with the grumpy **
Early in the morning

Hugs and kisses and lots of cuddles
Hugs and kisses and lots of cuddles
Hugs and kisses and lots of cuddles
To make him feel much better

I would replace ** with his name, and vary the grumpy to tired, lovely or whatever took our fancy and sometimes use loving instead of cuddles.

I also have changed 10 Green Bottles Hanging On A Wall to 10 Dirty Bottles Waiting To Be Washed,  for doing the washing up and many more that would turn this into a very long post.

So what do you think? Did I miss my calling in life as a song writer? Do you also change the words to songs? Would love to hear from you.

A Geeky Guide to Losing Weight & Getting Fit?

Geeky Son has recently celebrated his first birthday, so the whole ‘I am fat because I just had a baby‘ excuse is wearing a bit thin – well at least something is. So along with a large percentage of the population, my New Year’s Resolution was to get back to my pre baby no 2 size with a stretch goal of shrinking to my pre kids size.

So far I have lost 7 lbs which I am really pleased about, though I do confess that 2.5 lbs was thanks to a sickness bug that was no fun at all, but I am pleased that it has managed to stay off, so I must be doing something right?

Being a bit of a geek, the way to get me to do anything is to throw gadgets at me (not literally as I really can’t catch). Whether this approach is going to work, only time will tell, but in the mean time, feel free to point out the errors in my assumptions or applaud my geeky methods.

Food

Everyone knows that getting rid of the flab is a two-pronged attack, watching what you eat and exercising. Eating better has been my starting point. I have read numerous books, from the Food Doctor to Paul McKenna. My research has led me to create the following guidelines for myself – not rules, as that implies they have to be followed, guidelines mean that when I break them I don’t have to feel guilty:

  1. Eat when hungry – otherwise apparently you can screw up your metabolism and starving myself would, well, I like my food way too much.
  2. Stop eating when no longer hungry – I tend to edge more to the before I am full, but the point is, clearing my plate is not the objective. Too many times I have eaten way too much because I like the taste or feel like it is too much of a waste not too.
  3. Only eat what I want to eat – there are a lot of foods I don’t like, for example I love broccoli and carrots but can’t stand peas, I am not big on fruit and whilst I can eat it, I would rather stay away from lettuce. If eating healthier means I have to eat grapefruit then quite frankly I would prefer to be mistaken for expecting no 3.

To keep an eye on what I eat I decided I needed to keep a food journal, and this is where we get to the gadgety part. I did consider joining Weight Watchers Online, I love the idea of a points system and I know quite a few people who have had great success with them. However whilst looking at phone apps for my Android HTC Desire I came across WWPoints. It isn’t affiliated with Weight Watchers but I found a number of reviews by people saying that they had compared it with the official Weight Watchers calculator and it seemed to be spot on. So for a few quid as a one off payment, I have been kind of following a Weight Watchers Pro diet.

I don’t use the app religiously, but I find it useful to help me make good choices, like I very rarely now have cheese as that uses up an incredible amount of points, but if I am careful about what I have eaten, I can squeeze in some naughties to satisfy my chocolate addiction.

Exercise

So that’s food covered, what about exercise? I am signed up to a Pilates class which I love, but as Geeky Son is currently being either ill or a monkey about going to bed on time I am only managing about once or twice a month which is so infrequent that it almost isn’t worth it. Something I can do at home is the only practical solution.

After some lovely conversations with @clare_anderson and @R2UK I was recommended EA Sports Active. I checked the reviews on Amazon and, whilst it might offer good value for money in comparison to a gym membership that is never used, £40 is still £40. But this is the exciting part, the lovely Fairy Hobmother aka @ian_goodall from Appliances Online sent me a tweet telling me that he wanted to give me a gift. Well it made my Monday. An Amazon voucher for £15 was perfect timing and I swiftly ordered my latest new toy – EA Sports Active 2 for the PS3.

We also have a Wii, but it was clear from the reviews that people found the PS3 version much better. It comes with 3 strap on sensors, one of which is also a heart rate monitor.

I have only had time to set it up and have one workout, but I can confirm that it is a lot of fun. There is a lot of running on the spot, jumping up and down and squatting, but they incorporate it into fun games. It really does feel like you have your own personal trainer. I feel that it deserves its own review post, which I might do once I have used it in earnest – presuming I do manage to put it to geeky good use.

So there you have it. A phone app and PS3 game are hopefully going to be the secret of my geeky success to good health.

If you want to read more stories of weight loss I suggest you check out @kateab as she has on her blog The Five Fs My Fitness Story where you will find exactly that, people sharing their journeys for a healthy life.

Do let me know what you think and if you have any tips for me as I am determined that I will succeed.

Appliances Online sent me a £15 Amazon voucher to spend on whatever I wanted in return for a link to their website. No other incentives have been received from any of the other companies or products mentioned in this post.