Tag Archives: See & Do

Book Review | I Let You Go

Book Review I Let You Go

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh is very typical of the kind of book I’ve been reading a lot recently – a fairly classic psychological thriller – but this one brings it’s A-game, making it a must read if you are a fan of the genre.

It’s hard to sum up without spoilers, so I’m just going to let the blurb do it for me:

A tragic accident. It all happened so quickly. She couldn’t have prevented it. Could she?

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world descends into a nightmare. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of a cruel November night that changed her life forever.

Slowly, Jenna begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating…

The book is split between two points of view – Jenna’s, a traumatised and grieving mother, and DI Ray Stevens, the lead investigator on the tragic hit and run that we see happening in the opening chapter. I really enjoyed this split perspective – you saw Jenna’s emotional journey trying to recover, while through Ray, simultaneously seeing the intricacies of disentangling the case. The author spent 12 years on the police force so this side of the book has an element of authenticity which is often lacking in these kinds of stories. Yes, there is a bit of a clichéd female rookie cop/male senior going on, but it’s not terrible.

If you pick up this book, you’ll see praise on the cover for the “big twist”. If you can resist trying to guess it, it is pretty good. It comes around half way through the narrative and prompts the plot to pick up pace massively. I really liked the twist and how it was handled. Despite what the cover suggests, it’s not the be-all and end-all of the novel – it still holds it’s own after the big reveal and  keeps you hooked until the end.

Overall, I highly recommend I Let You Go if you enjoy thrillers, domestic dramas and crime books – it ticks all three boxes.

I Read the F*@#ing Books | Jaws

Jaws Book vs Film

Here’s a film that I’m sure most people will be familiar with – Steven Spielberg’s Jaws. For, me, it’s one of my all time favourite films. It’s one of the ones I watch repeatedly – whatever time of day, if it comes on TV, I’m hooked again within minutes. I was vaguely aware that it was adapted from a book but never thought about reading it until I happened to see it on offer in Fopp (2 for £5 I think it was). However, as I am interested in book – film – tv – games etc. etc. adaptations I thought I would give it a fair go.

Peter Benchley’s Jaws was first published in 1974, just one year before the film was released as the producers had bought the rights before publication. The overall story arc of the book is the same as the film so will be familiar to most. When a young woman is fatally attacked by a great white shark on Amity beach at the start of the summer, the local police, mayor and business owners are hoping it’s a one off. As a small resort town relying on the summer trade, Police Chief Martin Brody is convinced not to allow the news to go public – believing that it was a one off, a freak accident. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case, the shark continuing to terrorise the beach. When it becomes obvious that the shark isn’t going to move on to more ‘natural’ feeding grounds, Brody teams up with ichthyologist (fish scientist to you and I) Matt Hooper, and pro shark hunter Quint. They head out on to the open water on Quint’s boat Orca to face the great white at sea.

The main difference between the book and the film are the various extra sub-plots in the book and the characterisation of the three main characters. There is also an additional main character – Ellen Brody, the police chief’s wife, who we do see in the film, but don’t get to know her so well. She is an interesting character and although I don’t think this is absolutely necessary, stops the book being entirely male dominated as the film is. Ellen feels like an outsider on Amity island, she is from a wealthy background and used to be part of the holiday crowd so even when she marries the local police chief, she never really feels accepted as a resident. When Matt Hooper arrives they realise they knew each other in their high school years and it triggers a restlessness in Ellen. Their pursuant relationship is uncomfortable, slightly shocking, but adds an element of ‘domestic thriller’ to novel as well as an interesting debate on class and status. It doesn’t redeem Hooper or Ellen to the reader, but instead focuses down Brody’s character more as a consequence. Brody has always suffered with an inferiority complex – from his wife’s wealth. Hooper’s intellect, even Quint’s masculinity – and we see how the fear of being right about this prevents him in confronting his wife about what is going on in their marriage. This also gives you an understanding of many of Brody’s motivations and actions, for example, his reluctance to stand by his convictions and how he allows the mayor and even the local news reporter to dictate how he does his job.

What I found to be lacking in the book was the development of the relationship between Brody, Hooper and Quint while on the Orca. However, I realise this is me looking at it through Spielberg tinted glasses – the scene where they compare scars, Quint makes his Indianapolis speech and they all sing “Show Me The Way To Go Home” is one of my favourites. And, Brody becoming friendly with Hooper just ain’t gonna fly with the whole Ellen affair debacle, BUT, it does mean that all three of them are pretty unlikeable and stay unlikeable for the duration. For this fundamental reason, I have to say that the film is miles, leagues if you will, better than the book.

That said, it’s a good book, even if it doesn’t match up to its, frankly, outstanding film counterpart. If you’re a bit of a sharkophile, you’ll cringe when the shark is described as a mindless killing machine, but because you’ll mostly dislike the human characters you’ll be pleased when he’s doing a good job of munching his way through them.

Have you read Jaws? Let me know your thoughts on it in the comments.

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.

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.

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


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!

Days Out | Legoland Windsor

Bit of a different post as I don’t have much to say. Just wanted to share some photos for my trip to Legoland Windsor recently for all you LEGO geeks out there. It’s mostly for younger kids (especially the rides) but it’s still fun to go and see all of the amazing creations.

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DINO SAFARI20150523_133127

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We went on a couple of rides – the river rapids style one in the Land of the Vikings, the Dino Safari and the Atlantis Submarine Adventure (in an Sea Life aquarium with non-LEGO sharks) but mostly we were happy to wander about and look at stuff.

And we had to visit the shop! David got himself the Ghostbusters car, think it’s the best set we have. Really fun day.