2019 Reading Challenge | Books 1-5 Round-up

In the tail end of 2018, I decided that I wanted to get back into reading. I read a lot as a child and teenager but I found that I obviously had less time after becoming a parent and dealing with newborns and toddlers. Now that C and E are 6 and 4 they are more independent so I get more time to myself, especially in the evenings when they are in bed. I started using my Goodreads account (feel free to add me as a friend) and noticed that I could set a Reading Challenge for the year. I didn't see the point of setting one so close to the end of the year so I decided to wait until the beginning of 2019.

I have decided to push myself a bit and have set my 2019 Reading Challenge to 80 books. With only 52 weeks in a year, it'll be no mean feat but I am determined to try. I do share my reads as I go along on my Instagram stories and you can see them in my Highlights too. After every five books I read, I will do a little round-up on the blog about what I've been reading, rate them and give a brief review. 
Here's what I've read so far:

Anatomy of a Scandal by Sarah Vaughan - 3/5

"A high-profile marriage thrust into the spotlight.
A prosecutor who believes justice has been a long time coming. 
A scandal that will rock Westminster.
And the women caught at the heart of it."

I bought this book because I'd seen it on the shelf of a few supermarkets and kept being drawn to it so I had really high hopes that it would be good.

The book started really slowly and I didn't feel myself liking any of the characters at all. The jumping between narratives and timelines confused me, I don't usually get too confused by this but it just happened too much.

It took the twist to happen, around halfway through, to pique my interest but then it sort of went downhill again. The story itself was generally good but it felt a bit too unrealistic and the cliffhanger style ending irked me a little.

A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult - 4/5

"The Center for women's reproductive health offers a last chance at hope - but nobody ends up there by choice.
It's very existence is controversial, and to the demonstrators who barricade the building every day, the service it offers is no different from legalised murder.
Now life and death decisions are being made horrifyingly real; a lone protester with a gun has taken the staff, patients and visitors hostage.
Starting at the tensest moment in the negotiations for their release, A Spark Of Light unravels backwards, revealing hour by urgent hour what brought each of these people - the gunman, the negotiator, the doctors, nurses and women who have come to them for treatment - to this point.
And certainties unwind as truths and secrets are peeled away, revealing the complexity of balancing the right to life with the right to choose."

I won this copy from a web giveaway at NB Books and I couldn't wait to get stuck in after reading the blurb even though it probably isn't a book I would choose myself.

A Spark Of Light is a very, very good book centering around a women's reproductive health centre and tackles the topic of pro-life and pro-choice. I wasn't a fan of how the story was told backwards chronologically at first (I think I like things more linear), but those two twists that I didn't see coming at the end made more sense that way and I knew instantly why it had been written in that style.

Beautiful Bad by Annie Ward - 5/5

"Maddie and Ian's romance began when he was serving in the British Army and she was a travel writer visiting her best friend Jo in Europe. Now, sixteen years later, married with a beautiful son, Charlie, they are living the perfect suburban life in Middle America.
But when an accident leaves Maddie badly scarred, she begins attending therapy, where she gradually reveals her fears about Ian's PTSD; her concerns for the safety of their young son Charlie; and the couple's tangled and tumultuous past with Jo. 
From the Balkans to England, Iraq to Manhattan, and finally to an ordinary family home in Kansas, the years of love and fear, adventure and suspicion culminate in The Day of the Killing, when a frantic 911 call summons the police to the scene of a shocking crime.
But what in this beautiful home has gone so terribly bad?"

This isn't the actual cover as I won this uncorrected proof copy from the publisher, Quercus Books, in an Instagram giveaway.

You are drawn straight in with a main character who is obviously struggling, mentally, and then a murder. The chapters flit between the Day of the Killing, the week's leading up to the killing, Maddie's therapy sessions and from the early 2000's to present day - all focusing on Maddie and Ian, how they met and how their relationship develops. It has a fantastic twisty ending and everything is tied up very nicely. A very good read! It will be published on March 21st and I would really recommend getting your hands on a copy.
Apple Of My Eye by Claire Allan - 4/5

"Eliana Hughes should be over the moon. She has her dream job, a loving husband and a baby on the way.
But when a threatening note arrives at the hospice where she works, Eli's life begins to spiral out of control. As the person behind the note escalates their campaign to expose Eli's husband as a cheat, Eli finds herself unable to trust even her own instincts. And as pressure builds, she makes a mistake that jeopardises her entire future.
Elsewhere, someone is watching. Someone who desperately wants a baby to call their own and will go to any lengths to become a mother - and stay one..." 

I had Apple Of My Eye on my Goodreads 'want to read' list for months leading up to it's publication date and I found it on sale at Tesco a few days after it's release and couldn't leave without buying it. It is a really fantastic thriller told from the perspective of Eli (Eliana), her mother Angela and a third unknown woman, "Louise". It is so creepy the whole way throughout and I liked that it was locally based (Belfast/Derry). I was kicking myself that I didn't see "it" coming!
Believe Me by JP Delaney - 4/5

"A British drama student in New York without a green card, Claire takes the only job she can get: working for a firm of divorce lawyers, posing as an easy pick-up in hotel bars to entrap straying husbands.
When one of her targets becomes the subject of a murder investigation, the police ask Claire to help lure their suspect into a confession. But it Patrick Fogler really a killer... Or is there more to this set-up than she's being told?
And that's when Claire realises she's playing the most deadliest role of her life..."

One word to describe this book would be: bizarre. But not in a bad way. The book that you start reading seems completely different to the book that you finish reading. 
Claire, a British actress in the USA, starts working for a divorce firm trying to catch out straying husbands via hidden camera in a bar. A murder occurs and she helps the police out, trying to trap the suspect but it completely spirals. It's a book full of murders that all seem to be based on an obsession with Baudelaire's 'Les fleurs du mal' poetry. 
It is so twisty that you don't know which way the book is going to go and I actually sat in disbelief at the end and I already feel like I need to read it and enjoy it again.

Have you read anything good lately or have any recommendations for me? 

What I Won - January 2019

In my first blog post of the year, Hello 2019, I mentioned that I wanted to bring back my 'What I Won' series. If you are new here, comping is my main hobby and I love winning things that myself and my family can use. At the start of each month, I'll be writing a blog post detailing what I won the previous month. I'm going to change the format slightly though. Beforehand, I would just write what I won chronologically but I think this time round, I will separate them into Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and web wins to see which method has worked best. So without further ado, here's what January 2019 brought me!

Facebook Wins
£50 Love2Shop gift card from Smart On Cartons

£20 Costa Coffee gift card from Costa Coffee Ireland 
1.5ltr box of Echo Falls Summer Berries from Nisa Locally
Kids GPS Watch from KidsNav

Instagram Wins
USA Beauty Bundle from A Life With Thrills 

Sriracha and Beef Jerky bundle from The Curators

L'Occitane Almond Hand Cream from L'Occitane 

Bundle of Swizzels Matlow sweets from Swizzels

Twitter Wins
A copy of 'Believe Me' by JP Delaney from The Book Matchmaker

'Learn Mandarin Chinese by Paul Noble' set from Collins Dictionary
A set of five books (the Costa Book Award winners) from Costa Coffee

Web Wins 
A copy 'A Spark of Light' by Jodi Picoult from NB Books

Runner up prize of two sachet refills of cleaning products from Eco.3

January was a decent enough month with some fab wins. I like voucher wins so I can spend it what I what and book wins are becoming my favourite things to win at the moment so I was very pleased with the amount of books that came my way in January.

Did you win anything nice last month?

Planning a Weekend Trip to London

If you are a regular follower of my blog or social media accounts, you'll know that we live in Northern Ireland. I keep seeing other bloggers and Instagrammers posting about their "staycations" or short UK breaks and it's something that I really want to make sure we do in the near future. Our children are a little bit older now so we do have the option of going as a family or just as a couple's break.

I am visiting Glasgow briefly in March for an overnight stay and would love to do a proper kids holiday like Legoland Windsor with the children while they're still young enough to enjoy that. The very top of my UK bucket list though, is London. I last visited London with my family around 12 years ago when I was 15! I feel like I was completely different person then, I was a child, and now I'm a woman with my own family. I just know that a busy city like London will have changed a lot in that time and I would love to experience it now that the introduction of Instagram and social media has put a lot of places on my radar.

I've compiled a little list of 'must do's' if Chris and I get our London weekend away!

Find somewhere nice for brunch
I am a proper foodie and I'm always thinking about my next meal. Masterchef: The Professionals is one of my favourite TV shows, in fact, any cooking show with a celebrity chef featured. I know a lot of fabulous Michelin starred or very highly rated restaurants are situated in the city of London so I would definitely be hoping to discover the best brunch in London - it has to be brunch too because it's a well known fact that brunch is infinitely better than breakfast or lunch!

Visit the National History Museum
I know this might seem very nerdy but it would definitely be the first port of call for both myself and Chris. On our first date nine years ago, we spent it at a local museum followed by a browse in Waterstones! There is so much on offer to see that appeals to both our interests and I know given half the chance, we'd never leave!

Visit Camden Market
Last time I was in London, I could have spent the entire trip just hanging around Camden. It is completely my scene from the bars to the shops and food. We are massively into that sort of music scene that you'd find in that area and I have never and will never grow out of my "alternative phase".

See a West End show
Okay, this one is probably more my type of thing than Chris's but I truly think I could convince him, depending on the show! It's something I've always wanted to do and I don't think you can visit London without catching a show. It's an activity that you can sit and relax at and take in the wonderful talent of these actors.

Visit the London Dungeon
I am a bit of a scaredy cat and can barely sit through a horror movie without a pillow covering my face but if I'm making Chris go to a West End show, you better believe he won't let us leave London without visiting the London Dungeon. I do like the idea of the recreation of historical events but darkness and loud noises will terrify me. It sounds like a wonderful experience though and definitely appeals to that darker side!

My readers will know that I love entering online competitions and I definitely want to try and incorporate these into my trip planning, so entering for days out in the area when I know I will be there will definitely be something that I'll try to do.  

What would be top of your London itinerary?
This is a collaborative post.

How to Select the Right Car Tyres

I am currently in the midst of learning to drive, and by that I mean, revising the life out of the theory stuff so I can pass the theory test before I even sit in the driver's seat. 

As well as learning the obvious - hazards, speed limits and road signs - I am making sure that I know my stuff when it comes to car maintenance as I know I can't always rely on Chris to help me out like he usually does! 

I am a natural born worrier so I know I'll be constantly checking to make sure that my car is in 100% condition and I’m fully equipped, whether I’m driving on a narrow country road or a busy, bustling city like London. Chris has been driving for around two years now and the one thing he's had problems with the most are his tyres. We've ended up having a flat tyre whilst out visiting family on Christmas Day which needed changing and just last week, we were doing the school run and he said he felt like he needed to just get new tyres altogether. 

Me being me, and wanting to learn as much as I can about cars before getting my own, I am always asking questions about why we do things and Chris is all too happy to indulge me. 

Top Tips for Buying New Tyres:

1. Make sure you are getting the right size for your car and check the measurements. You can find this information in raised lettering on the side of your tyre. This information tells you the width, aspect ratio, rim diameter, load rating and speed rating. Making sure you have a tyre with the correct speed rating is very important as if it is wrong, you can invalidate your insurance.
2. All tyres on sale are safe to drive and meet the standards required. Opting for a premium, mid-range or budget tyre is a personal choice. Whilst mid-range tyres can drive well and have a long life span, budget ones may not and might not do as well in wintry or wet conditions. Premium tyres will be the one that will last you longer, get you more miles and generally give you a better "feel" when driving. You can purchase all of these types of vehicle tyres at DAT Tyres London.
3. Buy for the season. There are no laws against using summer tyres all year round but going for a winter or all-season tyre give a better performance. 

Once you've chosen your tyres, it's really important to keep an eye on them. Change the air pressure when needed and always make sure the tread is okay. No one wants to be driving on bald tyres! 

This is a sponsored post.


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