Days Out | The Kelpies

Days Out | The Kelpies

I’ve been dying to visit the Kelpies at The Helix ever since they were unveiled early last year so I was really pleased when we were able to squeeze in a trip on our last holiday home. Placed at the entrance to the Forth and Clyde canals, the 30-metre tall sculptures by Andy Scott pay monument to the horses who powered Scottish agriculture and industry for so many years.

Days Out | The Kelpies Days Out | The Kelpies Days Out | The Kelpies Days Out | The Kelpies

Like it’s mythical namesake, the Kelpies have a shapeshifter like quality to them with the stainless steel cladding transforming with the sky or lighting up at night. I’d love to go back and see them on a bright sunny day, at dusk, for the lights at night… they are an endlessly fascinating addition to Scotland’s waterways. Have a look at more photos here.

Bow down your strong heads to taste the water,

Stretch up your long necks to face the sun.

– Jim Carruth

 

What do you think of the Kelpies? Let me know your favourite public sculptures around the UK – I love building lists of art I must see.

July Wishlist | Shark Week

July Wishlist Shark Week

It’s Shark Week! TBH every week is shark week to me, cos I freaking’ love sharks, but it’s the time of year when everyone else gets excited about them as the Discovery Channel starts their annual Shark Week programming this Sunday. So this month’s wishlist has a distinctly toothy feeling in honour of the top of the food chain.

Clockwise from top left:

Great White Shark Embroidery Art from Art for Animals (£6.50 with 10% donated to animal charities)
I’m having a great love affair with embroidery art at the moment – my Instagram is loaded with great artists and I am in awe of the craft. I love this simple stitch which I think captures the softer side of the Great White (still wouldn’t cuddle ’em though!)

Shark Bag by The Rodnik Band (£79)
Absolutely love this novelty bag with a cheeky grin! It looks like the perfect bag for a night out, holding just the essential.

Ocean Cologne by The Library of Fragrance (£15)
Well what else would a sharkie smell like?

Hammerhead Shark Necklace by Honoloulou’s (£21 with £3 donated to Sharks4Kids)
I adore these handmade (in Bristol) necklaces, available in multiple shark silhouettes and a range of patterns and colours. The charity supported by Honoloulou’s works with kids in Florida to educate them about sharks and all the great things they do for our planet to foster the next generate of shark advocates and help protect them in the future. Great cause!

July Wishlist Shark Week

Suede Fringed Shark Tooth Backpack from River Island (£45)
If the Rodnik bag is a bit OTT, this RI offering is far more subtle and hits the fringing trend for the summer. I do love a good backpack too.

Shark vs Mermaid Swimsuit by BlackMilk (£45 depending on AUD exchange rate)
I’ve wanted this swimsuit for ages and ages, I’ve seen countless knockoffs but I’ve no doubt that the genuine BlackMilk one will be worth the wait and the dollars. It’s two of my top films in one glorious mash up! (Sorry Ariel).

Shark Print Vest by Illustrated People at Topshop (£25)
I know that sharks aren’t mindless eating machines like this vest might suggest, but you gotta respect that gob! Pure summer cas’.

Shark Attack Platform Heels from Sour Puss (£32 depending on USD exchange rate)
Yeah… don’t think I’d be able to walk in these but I’d look fierce as f*ck and that’s all we really want from Shark Week.

If you love sharks as much as me tell me why in the comments and let me know about any cool discoveries!

Book Review | I’ll Give You the Sun

Book Review I'll Give You the Sun

I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson follows twins Noah and Jude who were once super close, but jealously, mistrust and family tragedy tore them apart. The narrative is interesting with alternate chapters being told by 13 year old Noah and a 16 year old Jude. At 13 Noah was socially isolated, desperate to find his place in a local art school and quietly falling deeply in love with the boy next door. Meanwhile his sister was going through a rebellious phase – having gained herself a reputation as a bit of a daredevil, she was gaining an altogether different reputation hanging out with the popular crowd. Signs of rot were beginning to creep in with the twins becoming distant, mostly due to competing for their parents attention, but could easily slip back into their bond. Three years on and we learn from a 16 year old Jude that they don’t talk. Their roles have completely reversed and laden with guilt, Jude has isolated herself completely while Noah has turned his back on his artwork. Both Noah and Jude are holding on to so many burdens, secrets and lies that it seems almost impossible that they’ll reconcile, however desperately they may want to.

First things first: the writing style is not for everyone. The prose tries frantically to be poetic and profound but, for me, falls flat. My main problem was all the metaphors. So many metaphors! To use a metaphor myself, Nelson’s writing is like a 1st year student who has just learnt about metaphors. Some of the imagery that Nelson uses is genuinely beautiful, but it’s so diluted by all the other superfluous metaphors that you barely notice it after the first dozen pages. The first chapter was from Noah’s POV so I would have understood this from him (as the artist who constantly imagines paintings in his head), but it was soon clear that this is just how Nelson writes, not an attempt to give the twins their own voices. I found this to be very disappointing.

I have read quite a few YA books and I usually find their romantic story lines overblown and unrealistic but I felt that I’ll Give You the Sun took this to the next level and actually made me deeply uncomfortable. The two main characters meet the loves of their lives at the ages 13 and 16 and it’s so intense. There is a particular scene with Noah and Brian where Noah’s mum walk in on them that made me feel a bit ick, bearing in mind that they were 13 years old at the time – still children in my mind, not young adults. I thought this was a shame as I did really like Noah and Brian’s relationship and the slow build up, but it seemed as though Nelson suddenly hit the accelerator and it got way too fast way too quickly.

The ending also got the accelerator treatment. Perhaps too much time was spent on all the damn metaphors but the last chapter was incredibly rushed. Incredibly vicious lies and actions (and sabotages) are revealed and forgiven in the space of the same page and this just didn’t ring true at all. It didn’t make sense for characters who were previously quite sensitive and brooding to be like “ach well shit happens” (paraphrasing obvs).

All that said, I honestly didn’t completely hate this book. The characters are really unique and well imagined. The image of a tortured artist may be a bit of a well-worn cliché but they did feel authentic in the book. I also liked the plot and the story arc up until the very end for the reasons above. I thought that the way that the story was split between Noah and Jude at different times was really clever as you were getting this fragmented story which worked well with the overall concept of each twin having their own half of the story and misunderstanding/assumptions about the other. So it’s not a complete write off, and if you like a bizarre writing style you might actually really love this book, many people do if Goodreads is anything to go on.

If you’ve read this book, I’d love to know what you think. I’m also interested if anyone else has the same issues as me with romance and sex in YA novels?

I’ll Give You the Sun was the June read for the #sassybooks book club by Water Painted Dreams and Colours and Carousels.

The Fragrance Shop Discovery Club | Summer 2015

The Fragrance Shop Discovery Club | Summer 2015

I signed up for the Fragrance Shop Discovery Club back in April for the Spring edition and to be honest, I then forgot all about it. So it was a very pleasant surprise when the Summer edition landed on my doorstep last week. Firstly, I love the packaging  – the yellow and blue feels very beachy and I always appreciate a letterbox friendly parcel! It was also stuffed with 8 perfume samples – five for me and three for the man. Here’s what was included:

The Fragrance Shop Discovery Club | Summer 2015

 

  • Hugo Boss Boss Ma Vie – green freshness from cactus blossom with floral at it’s heart and cedarwood to warm. I love this one!
  • Paco Rabanne 1 Million Cologne – a citrus explosion with masculine leather and spicy tonka been that will transport you to memories of heady summer nights.
  • Givenchy Dahlia Divin – soft, almost powdery peach with jasmine and vanilla musk. A very feminine scent.
  • 007 For Women – black pepper lends a spicy hit to blackberry and jasmine with a rich base of vanilla, musk and cedarwood. More unique and classy than you might expect for a ‘novelty’ choice.
  • Dolce and Gabbana Light Blue Sunset in Salina – Similar to the Paco Rabanne but fresher and lighter with vine leaves, freesia and orange flower with an amber base.
  • Prada Luna Rossa Sport (for men) – an energetic blend of ginger, juniper berries and lavender.
  • Dolce and Gabbana – Intenso (for men) – again featuring lavender, this one is woodier and deeper with basil the companion.
  • Loewe Solo Loewe Cedro – a woody fragrance with cedarwood, amber and gayac wood, this one is freshened with citrus and spicy pink pepper.

I’m very happy with this box, I like all of the women’s fragrances and I know that David also likes his. I love getting these little perfume samples – perfume tends to last me a really long time so it’s nice to mix it up without breaking the bank (or overloading my dresser). The club costs £5 per quarter but you can also get a one off box whenever you like. You will also receive money off vouchers for all of the featured fragrances. Good deal in my book.

Film Review | Jurassic World

Film Review Jurassic WorldJurassic World | Dir. Colin Treverrow | 2015 | 12A | USA/China | 124 mins

Jurassic World is possibly the most highly anticipated sequel of recent times, smashing box office records and massively reigniting the 22 year old franchise. Personally, I was really looking forward to seeing it – so much so that we went on the release date. School day though it was. The original Jurassic Park is genuinely one of my all-time-favourite-films, so I was so prepared to be disappointed… but I wasn’t.

Film Review Jurassic World

Jurassic World is set in current times but Isla Nublar has gotten itself a super talented PR team and the previously doomed dino theme park has now been open for 10 years. Boatloads of tourist make the trip to the Five Deaths everyday, but they’re starting to get a bit jaded. Dinosaurs are fast becoming run-of-the-mill, and definitely not scary. Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the park manager is facing huge pressure to keep the guest, sponsors and owners happy and luckily her new genetically modified beast should tick all boxes – scary, scientifically advanced and by all accounts, a real visitor draw. However, she has the misfortune of having Dr Wu (BD Wong) as her Chief Geneticist and we all know how his understanding of frog reproduction screwed the whole thing up in the first place. “All the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park are female” my arse!

At the same time, Claire’s nephews have arrived to visit park/become the primary targets for the Indominus Rex (from the Avatar school of naming stuff) when she inevitably escapes. Claire is forced to enlist the help of lovable rogue Owen (Chris Pratt) who is the park’s velociraptor trainer. ‘Cos that’s something every park needs. However, Owen has his own problems in the form of the park’s Head of Security wanting to weaponise the velociraptors. Yeah.

Film Review Jurassic World

OK, so the plot is completely ridiculous… but it works. Despite the impending dino-disaster, the concept of the park is not that dissimilar to current theme parks. Mosasaurus (above) is for all intents and purposes, SeaWorld’s “big splasher” Tilikum (free Tilly), while the general concept of constantly needing attractions to be bigger and scarier rings uncomfortably true in relation to current theme park rides. Owen plays the role of the doom-sayer – lamenting on the lack of respect that the powers that be have for the animals, but still training them for no foreseeable purpose. This again mirrors the role of the SeaWorld trainers and the way the ex-trainers spoke in the documentary BlackfishThey know that it’s not a matter of if something bad will happen, but when.

So the kids are annoying, the whole “uptight working woman” cliché is eye-roll worthy and the science is way off (although Dr Wu’s argument that the owners wanted the dinosaurs “look cool” makes me forgive them for this), but all things considered, it’s a great film. I definitely think that is more than a brainless summer blockbuster. It doesn’t quite hit the highs of the original Jurassic Park, you couldn’t expect that sans Richard Attenborough and Jeff Goldblum, but it sits pretty evenly with The Lost World. OK, maybe just below, but nowhere near the third film. Thumbs up from me.

What did you think of Jurassic World?

Dinosaurs Return at Edinburgh Zoo

Dinosaurs Return at Edinburgh Zoo

Last week I went to another of Edinburgh Zoo‘s Zoo Nights – after hours access for adults only with extra food, drink and entertainment. As with the one I went to last year it was a fantastically organised night and we did enjoy a cheeky tipple, but the highlight was the Dinosaurs Return exhibition.

Dinosaurs Return at Edinburgh Zoo

Neatly coinciding with the release of Jurassic World, the Dinosaurs Return exhibition features realistic and almost life-size animatronic dinosaurs. It features well known dinos like the Triceratops (top) and lesser known beasts such as the… er… whatever the above one is called! Sorry!

Dinosaurs Return at Edinburgh Zoo

The Parasaurolophus had a whole nest of hatchlings – so cute! The zoo had gone to the extra effort of making sure that the plants used in the exhibitions were as close as they could get to what the animals would have really had. I think that was such a great touch, especially for a temporary exhibition.

Dinosaurs Return at Edinburgh Zoo

 

Our Canadian friend who was with us was excited to learn that there was a Canadian dinosaur there – the Edmontonia. The zoo also gave information on similarities to non-extinct animals, the obvious comparison here being an armadillo.

Dinosaurs Return at Edinburgh Zoo

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The T-Rex was always going to be the star of the show and this one looked awesome! Even if it didn’t have feathers. 

Dinosaurs Return at Edinburgh Zoo

It was also pretty fun to run around taking #SelfieSaurus pics.

I really recommend heading down to Edinburgh Zoo before 1st November to check out the exhibition. It’ll go down a treat with all kids – young and old! It by far exceeded expectations and if I was still in Edinburgh I’d definitely go again before it closes.

Dinosaurs Return at Edinburgh Zoo

Not a dinosaur, but a bonus pick of one of the adorable penguin chicks at the zoo. As if you need another reason to visit!

I Read the F*@#ing Books | Game of Thrones/ASOIAF

Game of Thrones/ASOIAF

Welcome to a new series on AlleyHope – a monthly comparison between books and their on-screen adaptations. As the title suggests, this is inspired by Axis of Awesome’s song/rant so I thought it most appropriate to start this with George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire saga, commonly known through the HBO adaptation, Game of Thrones.  A disclaimer here – I am not at all of the belief that “the book is always better”. Let’s face it, it’s not always. Yes, it’s the original, but that doesn’t always mean it’s best.

SPOILERS AHEAD (don’t say I didn’t warn you!)

I read the ASOIAF series in between seasons 4 and 5 of GOT so  was up to date until A Feast for Crows and the two A Dance with Dragons books. I was already quite invested in the characters and their storylines but there are a number of differences – good and bad. Obviously, the books go into a lot more detail, but for me, the huge benefit is understanding the characters motivations a bit better. Each chapter is from a selected characters POV (in the third person), meaning you get an insight into their minds. For example, I feel that I have more understanding of Cersei’s character – disappointments throughout her life and her struggle against a patriarchal society – from the books than from the show. Lena Headey does an incredible job of portraying this in Cersei, particularly in season 5, but you do get more of a sense of Cersei’s backstory in the book. Similar with Bran and Summer – their relationship is incredible and the medium lends itself far better to describing Bran’s experience of warging into his direwolf.

However, I do prefer some of the plot changes that the show has made. New characters are introduced far more readily into the books and it’s difficult to identify with a lot of them (let alone remember them all). The show has made some huge changes but producers promise that it’ll end up in the same place as the books when it concludes. The most major changes seem to have happened in season 5. For me, the smartest change has been to Sansa’s storyline. Rather than being set up to marry some random, she’s back in Winterfell with one of the worst villains ever and in the middle of the Theon redemption storyline and she knows that Bran and Rickon may be alive. Brilliant. In the book, it’s her friend Jeyne from book/season 1 pretending to be Arya – so don’t care if something bad happens to her. Sorry ’bout it.

So which is better? Impossible to say I’m afraid. It’s the first fantasy series I’ve read and watched and actually like – I think it’s the huge drama and scandal element that hooks me in – but it has made me more open to the genre in the future. I think that all fans of the series will love the books, and fans of the books should get something from the show. Go into either with an open mind regardless.