I first heard about this book when I was reading an article written by a literary agent, she described it
as her favourite ever book. I then forgot all about it until later when my Grandma gave me 'Rebecca', I loved it and then I went looking for more books by Daphne De Maurier. 'Jamaica Inn' was dark, gloomy, and murderous so I once again shelved 'My Cousin Rachel' for another time. Then I heard it was coming out in the cinemas and I decided once and for all to give it a go.

'Was it worth it?' you might be asking after those many years of indecision - well yes in the end it was. The writing style was very similar to 'Rebecca', the mystery was there, the uncertainty. The gentle romance was more implicit than explicit which is so different from a lot of the things you read and I really appreciated it. The titular Rachel was an imposing figure, an enigma who had poor Philip twisted round her little finger in no time. As it was written in first person it was like being caught up in Rachel's spell yourself, you knew logically that what was happening wasn't right or at least wasn't the best thing to do but you couldn't help but want to go along with it - which shows the power of her writing.

So I thought I had it all figured out... I thought I knew what the situation was, I thought I had it sorted in my mind, basically I thought I knew who Rachel was. Then De Maurier did a twist and suddenly I wasn't certain about anything except for Rachel's fate. I don't think I've read the last few pages of any book in recent times quite as quickly. Compared to the opening which was perhaps a little slow (in order to set the scene properly) the ending was quick and eventful.

Don't read it if you don't like ambiguity. If you like books to be clear cut, if you like characters to be definitively good or evil then this is absolutely not the book for you. I'm usually one of those people but there was a satisfaction to the ending which you don't often find with ambiguous endings. I know I'm not being particularly clear here but even though the book is decades old I still don't want to share spoilers! Basically the ending (and I won't tell you what it is) made me question a lot of things that I had learned, and this reminded me that things are not always black and white, things are often more in the grey area.

This book is similar to Rebecca and there is ambiguity in that book as well but the ending in Rebecca seems to clear a lot of the mysteries up for readers. We will never know what Phillip does next, how he acts, if he marries Louise or continues building and growing Ambrose/Rachel's garden. That is all left to the imagination, we are left feeling as confused as Phillip, and I think that's good. What do you think? Do you like the way the book was ended? Did you like Phillip as a character?

I'd absolutely love to know what you think! I'm hoping to get a chance to watch the film at some point - have you seen it, what did you think? The next book I will be reviewing is 'Falling' by Jane Green so I'm excited to get started on that!

Have a wonderful week,
Isabelle



This week I had my first week at university. It was exciting don't get me wrong, but there were also a lot of homesick lonely hours, as well as a lot of small talk and a late night fire alarm.
               
People always talk about Freshers as the best week of university, the new room, the new friends, basically just the general newness. The new stuff is good don't get me wrong but it's also really scary. It was scary the moment I sat in my room all alone and thought 'I am totally alone here'. It's a weird feeling to be completely by yourself, and it wasn't helped by the fact that everyone else seemed really chipper (after a few days though, when we had settled in a bit, it seemed that most people felt the same).
               
So how did I cope. Now you might think that cope seems like rather an extreme word, but to be honest it did feel a lot like coping, and now at the end of this week, I'm getting to the good bit - where I'm actually starting to enjoy it. Back to my original point, I coped basically through ping meals (microwave meals), chocolate digestive biscuits, cups of tea, and my favourite shows. I also did a bit of napping (but that was more because I had a case of Fresher's Flu - not a myth).
               
Was it the best method? Would I have done something differently if I could do it again? You know what, other people might be better at it, but for me it seemed to work and I made it, I'm still here one week in (although I do have a countdown to my Christmas holidays - 73 days if anyone is interested). I went to society fairs and picked up about a million leaflets and signed up to a lot of things I'll have to unsubscribe to later. I went to comedy evenings (one which was really good, and the other which was a bit tragic to be honest), and I did things weird and wonderful like Yogalates and going on a tour of the BBC.
                 
What about the people? Well I went to a pretty large sixth form college where I didn't know a single person, so I thought I was a little prepared. It was still really tricky - especially when you don't get to go back home and have someone else cook for you, and you have all your stuff around you. I dread to think what it would have been like if I hadn't had that experience at sixth form - that half way house. The other thing I think it's useful to remember is that I've only been here a week, and just like Rome wasn't built in a day, friendships aren't built in a week. Now here is where the custard comes in. I was just finishing up my first week, and I'm starting to get to know my flatmates, and I told one of my favourite stories about my inability to make custard. I get a knock on my door, and there's one of my new flatmates with a nice tin of custard which I currently have on my shelf to enjoy later.

I have a whole year to get to grips with student life, and to be honest it's going to be hard, and there are going to be tricky days, but it's going to be good too. It's going to be really good (although I haven't started the work yet so maybe ask me again in a week).

Have a wonderful week,
Isabelle


This week my word is:


I've just started university (my student post is coming out tomorrow so check it out), and I am really enjoying all the 'newness'.

That's not to say that it's been an easy week, on the contrary, its actually been really tricky. I've felt homesick, I've been unwell, and someone dropped a stand on my leg (promoting unicorns no less), and I now have a large bruise! However, I am getting there, things are getting easier, I have friends and some plans, and I'm getting used to my entire life effectively existing between four walls.

It's crazy meeting all the new people, I think that's been the hardest, well that and cooking! The good thing is that everyone has been very friendly, the difficulty is that we are all in and out at different hours, and though I'm not opposed to going out, when they're not returning until 5 am I take a rain check (what can I say, I like to sleep)!

There are a few things that are not new, and that's little things I've taken from home (and big things I guess like a lot of my clothes and bedding). All of that makes it a bit more comforting than a blank room with a water stain across the ceiling.

It's new, and sometimes new things are bad, and at a few points this week it felt like that, but overall I think it's going to be good. I'm looking forward to next week, when my lectures begin.

Hope you all have a wonderful week,
Isabelle


The Reading Residence
This week my word is:

I am nearly there with packing up all my stuff (although I haven't really started on going through clothes). Apparently I don't need all my best dresses as they aren't 'everyday wear'. I am enjoying getting bits and pieces together but there are so many things that I've never really thought about that I suddenly need to find room for!

It's nearly time for me to say goodbye to some of my closest friends. The Scottish universities start a couple of weeks earlier than mine so the goodbyes come round a bit earlier for them. This week I have been trying to catch up with as many friends who are leaving next week as possible. I'm hoping I might even squeeze a coffee with a few of them next week (as long as they've done their packing)!

I'm also nearly finished teaching piano (at least for the moment). I've had a lovely year doing the best job. It's been lots of fun (although stressful when exam season comes) and it's been a learning curve for me too. It's weird when phrases that my teacher used to tell me (like scales are very important and useful) which I previously didn't believe have come out of my own mouth with the realisation that they are true!

Each day this week I've been trying to do yoga - and I am unable to believe quite how inflexible I am! However I am pleased to report that after a few months of trying I am nearly able to do the poses. This is one 'nearly' that I'm looking forward to changing the status of, fingers crossed in a few weeks time I will be a bit better at yoga than just 'nearly'.

Finally, I have nearly finished my book (Lucinda Riley's 'Seven Sisters'). I would like to say that I nearly spilt coffee on it but I cannot and so now it has a nice dark coffee stain all along the bottom of the pages! With quite a lengthy summer reading list (of my own making) I'm pleased that I'm on track to finish all the books (both classic and summer holiday reads) that I wanted to. I'm trying to learn to read quicker too, a skill that will be helpful for all those books I need to read next year on my course!

This week has been a good one and it's nearly over. I hope you have all had a wonderful time.
Isabelle
The Reading Residence
I was in the mood for some summer reading. I spoke to one of my really good friends about what to read. My criteria was 1. happy ending, and preferably some romance. I've been caught out in the past with a surprise upset and I didn't want to be caught out again! I got my friend's seal of approval and having read some of Cecelia Ahern's other books I felt safe to take the plunge and have read.

Now for what I thought about it.

It was awful, horrible, the worst book I've ever read. As I read it the wind howled around me and the windows flung open making the pages stick together and in the end I just couldn't be bothered anymore... Okay I lied (and you need to read the book so you get the reference!) Cecelia Ahern used this ploy a number of times, and each time I fell for it until it got into the realms of fantasy (running towards each other in a floaty dress through wavy grass  - think the opening of Bridget Jones Two). It was funny and entertaining, it was light and breezy. It was the perfect book for a summer holiday (or for a any day really).

The premise was super interesting, the main character Lucy Silchester has a meeting with her life who turns out to be a dishevelled clammy-hands man - eek! Slowly her Life (or Cosmos Brown - shout out to all the fans of 'Singin' in the Rain') helps her get her life back on track.

So was there a romantic element? Oooh yes there was and it was good! Although hung up on her ex Blake (major selfish self-promoter alert) she meets Don through a wrong number. Sometimes wrong numbers can turn out to be right, although in my experience it is usually someone thinking that my house is a farm and trying to get me to take an order for horse food and straw.

I would a hundred percent recommend reading this book! I've also read 'How to Fall in Love' which is also amazing. Basically Cecelia Ahern is a genius and very very funny! I also would like to read 'Lyrebird' and some of her other books so if anyone can recommend some to me I'd really love it!

Have a wonderful week,
Isabelle


Biscuit Factory 
I've been spending quite a bit of time in Newcastle recently. Last time I saw some castles such as Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh, as well as visiting the Laing and Baltic art galleries.  This time I got a chance to visit a few more places!

I finally got back to the brilliant Biscuit factory which is a really fab art gallery filled with all different kinds of work from paintings to sculpture. It also has a really lovely cafe (which at this very moment is getting bigger). The artwork in there changes quite regularly so it's always really interesting. 

Biscuit Factory - can you spot the wolf?
Biscuit Factory upstairs





















I went for a meal at Twin Farms, a classic for my family and I, especially as my grandparents used to live really close by. It's owned by the same people who own a delightful cafe in the centre of Newcastle, Cafe Royale where I had one of the best quiches (and caramel shortbreads)! Anyway, at Twin Farms I had a duck salad in chips and sticky toffee pudding (I'm a big fan of their puddings). I would totally recommend it as a place to eat, go on (and let me know what you think)!! 


Can't beat a sticky toffee pudding!

Finally, I went to Gibside which is a little way out of Newcastle it a really nice day out. Sadly, when we went it was raining so we didn't go on that long a walk. We did visit the orangery (and the cafe) but didn't see the inside of the chapel. I was wearing thin fabric shoes so my feet got a little wet, there is a little path on the left of the main grassy walkway down from the chapel so I would recommend using that if its wet. 

Have a wonderful week, 
Isabelle







Everyone loves a good beach and the summer holidays is the perfect time to jump in the car and go, and go we did. My friends and I went to Wells-Next-The-Sea and it was peachy perfect.

One of the things that got me through the exams was going to my the beach with my friends, we set a date and off we went. For the first time ever one of my friends drove the three of us and after trying three car parks we eventually found the right one! You see we wanted to be on Wells beach (not the next door one) and the car park we found was only a short walk from the beach and a short (20 minute) walk to the town.

It was a lovely beach, the sand seemed to go on and on forever - it was glorious to lie down on the beach, to play cards and play tennis. The only thing is it's always harder than you remember to walk along the dry sand - particularly uphill!

We went for a paddle in the sea even though it was awfully chilly - how very British of us! The thing about Wells beach though is that it suddenly gets deep, hence the RNLI presence (yey for lifeguards!).
The other great thing about the beach is that it is really close to the forest. We (my three friends and
I) walked in a little loop. There was a large tree which we all (in a very grown-up way) climbed up for a photo opportunity. There is also apparently a rope swing although we didn't make it there.


The final thing we did on our day out at Wells was to walk twenty-minutes along the path to Wells quayside. We bought postcards (or at least some of us did), sticks of rock (yum, but again not me), and had fish and chips. As we walked back we ate our ice cream, we walked quite slowly but we had to race to eat our ice creams before they dripped down our hands.

The weather was atypical for Britain, what are the chances of picking a day many weeks in advance and it turning out to be brilliantly sunny - so much so I had burnt feet the next day! Next time I definitely needed to reapply my sun tan lotion more often.

Do you have any beaches to recommend or any activities to do whilst on the beach? Do let me know!

Have a wonderful week,

Isabelle






As you may know if you've read some of my other recent posts, I have been up in Newcastle! Whilst there (taking advantage of some relatives for free food and beds) we took some day trips to areas around Northumberland including (can you guess?) quite a number of castles.

Now I'm sure that most people would call ruined castles 'ruined' or decrepit or somesuch, but as an English student I quite fancied a bit of alliteration so there you go. We visited three castles whilst we were in Northumberland.

NUMBER ONE - Bamburgh (big castle)
This castle is the setting for some scenes in the new Transformers movie, to be honest though that wasn't particularly exciting news for me (but for some it would be so there it is). It was right on the coastline and I could just imagine curling up in an alcove with a good book. There was a magnificent hall with a beautifully carved roof and sprung flooring for all the dancing. It was a rabbit warren of rooms, some were laid out as they would have been used (one with a particularly nice grand piano that I spotted) and others were more museum like. It's privately owned and some of the Armstrong family, who also own Cragside and are featured in Edexcel's British History of Warfare A Level course (who said it wouldn't be useful?) still live there. What I thought was entertaining was that to get the title 'Baron Armstrong' you had to have the surname Armstrong which meant that one unfortunate man named William Henry Armstrong Fitzpatrick Watson, had to change his surname to Armstrong-Watson. What a mouthful! I'd hate to be him filling out any forms!



NUMBER TWO - Dunstanburgh (ruined castle)
We drove to Craster (were we have previously been to their annual summer fair) and walked along in the wind towards Dunstanburgh castle. It was a nice walk, lots of cows and sheep (and poo so watch out) and due to the wind the sea was foaming. It felt very Jane Eyre! We walked all the way there and all the way back (not too long a walk really) and stopped only for a photo by the castle. As we are not English Heritage members we couldn't go in but it was nice all the same.



NUMBER THREE - Lindisfarne Castle (out of action castle)
This castle is also ruined and has recently been taken over by the National Trust. They have immediately started doing repairs and protecting it so you can't currently properly see it. As it was though we went to the beach and had a look at St Cuthbert's Hermitage, then we clambered over some rocks and had a picnic whilst watching the seals bobbing their heads out of the water.

Do you have any favourite castles that you like to visit (not necessarily in the north of England)? If you do, let us know in the comments below!!

Have a wonderful week,

Isabelle
Dystopian fiction is on the rise and here is a new recommendation for you. If you liked Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale', then you'll be sure to like Carmen Capuano's new novel 'Ascension'.


Here's what I liked... I liked the characters, I empathised with the protagonist Jessica Stone who can incidentally see whether people are good or evil by the colour of their breath. This mystical element felt like a 'breath of fresh air' (excuse the bad pun) to the now well-known genre of dystopia. Carmen kept each chapter ending in suspense, usually she revealed an answer that led to a million more questions. I thought it was suspenseful and interesting - just what you want for an enjoyable read.

What I also really liked was the way Carmen approached religion. The ultra-religious concept where the government backs up their oppressive policies with biblical quotes seems not to far-fetched in the current political climate, and is seen in a lot of dystopian fictions. What I particularly liked was the fact that Carmen didn't attack religion, it wasn't the root of the problem, it was just exploited to become a problem.

The religion might fall but it didn't make them 'Godless' - I really liked the way Carmen wrote about religion,  I thought it was very reflective and well done.

The plot was interesting. Jessica Stone is pulled into action when her friend, an unmarried woman called Sarah falls pregnant and is therefore doomed to a life of misery. There was an element of predictability about it but there were also a number of twists that kept it exciting. What I really wanted to know was how 'Ascension' as a religion in the novel took hold, how did it come into prominence and when is the novel set? This wasn't a major issue though, it wasn't necessary for the plot I just would like to have known.

I would recommend 'Ascension', especially if you have enjoyed other dystopian novels. I haven't read any of Carmen's other novels but they're available on Amazon and I'm sure that I'll be taking a look. Take a read and enjoy! Let me know what you think and if you have any other dystopian recommendations!
Have a wonderful week,
Isabelle




Disclosure: I was invited to read this book by Carmen, I did not receive any compensation for writing this review. All opinions are my own.
Photos from: Female First and courtesy of Uncial Press


When I was up in Newcastle I went to two art galleries - the Baltic and the Laing. I'm really hoping that next time I get up there (in a couple of weeks time - I know I really can't stay away!) that I'll get to go to the Biscuit Factory too (great art, no biscuits).


So what did I see? Well I'm not an art student, and I don't know too much so it really is the layman's view, but that's all right! They both had very different exhibitions on so I really couldn't say which was my favourite. In the Baltic they are running their 2017 Artist's Award which was interesting. We all got a little counter (like the kind you find at supermarket's) and got to vote. I have to tell you that we all voted for Jose Davila who did an unusual boulders and balloons display where the concept was defying gravity - it was wicked (sorry the pun just had to be said). It was unusual and when we watched the short video explaining why he'd done what he'd done and how there was logic too it -hence why he got our vote.

Another thing I'd recommend taking a look at is the Baltic balcony where you can see right along the quayside (it's like the Empire State Building equivalent of Newcastle, but not as busy on Valentine's Day, or any day for that matter, and more seagulls).
The Laing was totally different. There was a gallery filled with paintings of foreign lands called 'Wanderlust' (a lot of Edward Lear) but the best bit was the virtual reality exhibition. If you're in the area you have to go and see it, it is amazing! I've never experienced it before and it was something special! The exhibition is done by the Occasion Collective and it's called Echoes and Outros. I saw a floating bath and a dripping light, the sky swirled and the floor disappeared. There were three different realities to see and we got there early so there was no waiting around for the two headsets (fab). The only downside I had thought would be the headsets smudging my not-to-badly done makeup - luckily it didn't!

I'm probably going to be in Newcastle a lot more as of September and I hope to get round the galleries every so often, let me know if there are any exhibitions I should look out for. If you're an artist I'd love to share your work on my blog, just get in touch (theclumsywordshaker@gmail.com)!

Have a wonderful week,
Isabelle




All photos my own except for the photo of Jose Davila's art which is taken from the Baltic website (linked)

This week my word is:



NORTHUMBERLAND
Holy Island

I've been up staying with relatives in Newcastle, which is incidentally where I am hoping to study next year! It was like looking at the city with new eyes - very exciting!

Not only did we go into the city (and I checked out the makeup concessions so I can paint away, in a loose sense of that word, my results day stress and look fresh-faced for university), we also went out into Northumberland. So it wasn't quite as hot and sunny as weather we've had down south but we managed to find sun so we felt very lucky! We had some windy picnics on beaches, my particular favourite being on Holy Island. I would definitely recommend taking a visit, it's like stepping back in time and you can clamber down rocks to visit St Cuthbert's Hermitage (the tea, coffee and cakes are also pretty yum)!

We also got our fill of castles! I loved Bamburgh which is one of the locations for the new Transformers movie. If you watch my blog then you'll be sure to see a castle orientated post coming soon. The other castles we saw were pretty ruined but we had lovely walks to them such as to Dunstanburgh.

Northumberland was fab! Windy - yes, rainy - sometimes, but there was so much to do, like art galleries and city shops, and right next door was the beautiful countryside!

Hope you had a wonderful, exciting week!
Bamburgh Castle



The Reading Residence
For the first time this week I tried an ice tea and it was delicious, the perfect addition to a sunny day!




The recipe I got was from Twinings and was developed by The Strand Team, and I would totally recommend it. It is cooling and sweet as well as being perfectly refreshing.

So here's the recipe:
Ingredients- 

  • 5 Teaspoons of Twinings Lemongrass and Peppermint loose infusion
  • 200 ml boiled water
  • Lots of ice
  • 1 litre of sparkling lemonade
  • Fresh mint leaves
Method - 
  • Pour the 200 ml of boiled water over the loose infusion and brew for five minutes.
  • Add ice cubes to cool down the brew quicker.
  • Once it's cooled down enough, add the sparkling lemonade and put it in the fridge to chill. 
  • Serve over ice and fresh mint leaves.
Enjoy it and let me know what you think! It's perfect for a summer barbecue or party, or even just an afternoon at home in the sun. I'm looking forward to trying more iced teas over the summer and I'll let you know if I find any others to recommend. 

Have a wonderful week!



Disclosure: This post was not commissioned. All words and opinions are my own.
Related imageLast week I went to a local Vue cinema to sit in comfy, reclining chairs and to see Wonder Woman starring the incredible Gal Gadot.

I thought it was inspiring, and funny, and poignant. Each of the character's was carefully planned and brilliantly acted. I adored Chris Pine and Gal Gadot's chemistry and their relationship. He was so sweet and she was so ... I don't even quite know where to begin with Diana. I think the writers wrote their romance really well. I see why it went the way it did, but I wish it didn't (that might not make the most sense, but I'm trying not to include any spoilers)!

Image result for wonder woman and steveWonder Woman herself is iconic and powerful, she has her beliefs and I think her confidence in herself is something we should all try and replicate. They did a really good job of making her a role model for people, both men and women, everywhere. Her realisation at the end was important too, and even though it has been done time and time again, it fitted with her character and the situation. In today's world with everything that is going on, I think the message of love is extra important.

Image result for wonder woman etta 2017
I think a character that is probably overlooked a lot is Etta Candy (Lucy Davis), Steve Trevor's (Chris Pine) assistant. She is funny, and sweet. When Steve suggests Diana (Wonder Woman) puts on glasses, Etta brilliantly responds "A pair of glasses, and suddenly she's not the most beautiful woman you've ever seen?" She reacts so well to all the weird things that she is faced with, I love her!

Related imageMy one disappointment is that Chris Pine was an American working for the British Secret Service and there was no explanation for that, and there were very few British characters who were actually good. I think it's great that Britain is being used in films and that more British actors are able to break into Hollywood, but a few more good English characters would have been fab.

I have to say that when I watched the previous DC film 'Batman v Superman' I felt it was a bit dark and missing a bit of something, but with this film they reignited my interest in the whole superhero franchise. It was light and funny when it could be, and dramatic at other times - it went through the full spectrum of emotions brilliantly.

If you get a chance to see it, I would take up that opportunity. Even if you're not a big fan of superhero movies I would still go and see this because it's a bit of everything, it's got something for everyone.

Have a wonderful week, let me know what you think!





Films courtesy of DC Films, Warner Bros Pictures
I have to admit that I'm a fan of a good old murder mystery, and I'm in good company with some excellent books coming out! I have to say I'm very much looking forward to JK Rowling's next book in the Cormoran Strike series. If you want, you can take a look at my reviews of the Rowling's series here is the link for the first: (http://bit.ly/2t5FDaj) and the second book (http://bit.ly/2l8DeEA)!

So here are three crime recommendations for you to savour this summer:

1. Miss Fisher Mysteries
Image result for miss fisher mysteries
Miss Fisher's Mysteries (picture from Film Blerg)
This Australian TV series caught my eye recently and I believe you can watch the full series on Netflix, it is set in the 20s and it is a series you can really just settle into. I like the main character - I warm to her inquisitive ways and the confidence that oozes out of her. Essie Davis who plays Phryne Fisher, plays her awfully well. Watch this if you like your murder served with wonderful costumes and comedy.

2. Stephanie Plum
Image result for stephanie plum book
Photo from: Books, Movies, Reviews. Oh my!
This is an old favourite of mine - it's got me through some stressful times as you know it's going to work out in the end (or will it?)! The main character chaotically stumbles into cases as a bounty hunter with the added romantic interest of scary (but protective) Ranger (of RangeMan inc.) and police officer Morelli. A while ago I did an interview with the New York Times author herself which was possibly one of the greatest things I've ever done and you can read it here... http://bit.ly/2sB73S0 Each book is individual and to a certain extent stand alone, but I would recommend reading them in order to get the most of it.



3. Death in Paradise
Image result for death in paradise
Photo from Wikipedia 
So I was caught for this third recommendation, I've recently started reading 'Mystery Man' by Bateman which has had me laughing out loud, but in the end I had to go for Death in Paradise. The sunny island weather makes this program always seem jolly (despite the subject matter). There have been a number of changes in cast, but each new detective has brought their own charm and added to the program. I have to say I was most upset when Camille Bordey left!

So here are my top three recommendations, let me know if you have any recommendations for me - I would love to hear!

Have a wonderful week!