40 Book Challenge (part 1)

OK, so there is a bit of a backlog as I have not written a book post in 2016, but on the plus side, thanks to my re-reading of a lot of nostalgic books from my childhood I am already 45% done with my challenge for this year. Thanks, Sweet Valley High. Sorry if the earlier reviews aren’t very detailed, I’m struggling to remember my thoughts on some of the books. Anyhoo, here’s what I’ve read in 2016 so far –

Sanctuary Bay by Laura J Burns & Melinda Netz (5/10) – This was a book provided to me by Netgalley, and to be honest it was something I probably wouldn’t have picked up if it wasn’t free. Having said that I didn’t mind this book (from what I can remember), it was suspenseful, interesting, and had it’s share of creepy moments.

Nantucket Sisters by Nancy Thayer (4/10) – I remember this being an easy “beach read”, and really enjoyed the setting of Nantucket. Maybe because I am obsessed with the idea of holidaying in the Hamptons?

If You Dare by A.R. Torre (5/10) – This is the third book in the Deanna Madden series, and my least favourite of the series so far. I love the idea of the Deanna Madden character (my inner introvert loves the idea of being locked away from society and never having to leave the house), but she lost a bit of her shine in this book. I won’t say too much about the plot as it ties in with the rest of the series, but I will say I’ll definitely be reading the next book even though this one fell a little flat for me.

Petals On The Wind by Virginia Andrews (8/10) – I am obsessed with the Dollanganger series, it’s my number one go-to for an easy/juicy/trashy read. This is the second book in the series and is chock-full of the kind of incest/ballet/menstration/murder plot lines that I’ve come to know and love from Virginia Andrews books. Cathy is a self-centred egomaniac and I love her. Too many men in this book have moustaches.

Bazaar Of Bad Dreams by Stephen King (7/10) – Like any collection of short stories, this had it’s ups and downs for me but as a whole I really enjoyed it. The story about the kid in the helicopter hat will haunt me forever.

The Night She Disappeared by April Henry (3/10) – The themes of this book are genuinely horrifying – abduction, assault, survivor’s guilt – but despite all of the ingredients being there, the book didn’t quite hit the mark. I tried to suspend my disbelief while reading this re: teenagers trying to solve a crime, but in the end that’s what let the book down for me.

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes (9/10) – This was my most anticipated book of 2016/all time, as I loved ‘You’ by Caroline Kepnes and it was my favourite book of 2015. Again this is book 2 in a series so I won’t go into too much detail, but if you’re looking for a book that has an evil protagonist please check this out. Joe, I just love to hate him. (PS: thank you SO MUCH to Tonile for sending me the ARC of this, I am still so grateful!)

The Runaways by Ruth Thomas (7/10) – This is one of my childhood favourites, and it still holds a lot of it’s charm for me. Two unlikely friends discovering a large sum of money running away and going on an adventure across the English countryside? Yes please.

Goosebumps Book #14The Werewolf of Fever Swamp (5/10) – If you were a fan of the Goosebumps books growing up and you haven’t yet listened to Welcome To Deadcast, please remedy this immediately. I got the itch to re-read the Goosebumps series after falling into a hole of nostalgic bliss recently and this was the first book I ordered off Ebay. This is one of the books from the series that I have the strongest memories of, as it was the first episode of the TV series that I can remember watching. The cover is perfect and the story is a Goosebumps classic.

Sweet Valley High Book #73Regina’s Legacy (4/10) – Sometimes the fashion on the Sweet Valley High book covers could fit into today’s style, and Elizabeth’s backpack is definitely 2016 worthy. The story in this book is typically stupid, Elizabeth decides to solve a crime with (yawn) Todd rather than call the police and Jessica is her usual sociopathic self who gets everyone in trouble.

Sweet Valley High Book #41Outcast (3/10) – First things first, the hairstyles featured on this cover are a crime. I was never a fan of the books that didn’t revolve around the twins, and this was no exception. Following Regina Morrow’s drug overdose at her party, Molly Hecht falls into a depressive spiral and nobody seems to care or offer her any support. Jessica does something unselfish for once, and at one point people smoke pot. Scandalous.

This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (5/10) – This book is told from a collection of character viewpoints over the course of a couple of hours as a school shooting takes place. There were a few things I didn’t like about this book, but overall I enjoyed it. I loved how diverse the cast of characters was, but I wish the story went more into detail about the shooter’s background, and I would have liked the scene to be set a bit more in-depth prior to the shooting. Despite it’s flaws this was a gripping read, and I sped through it in a day or so.

Blindfolded Innocence by Alessandra Torre (5/10) – Having loved Alessandra Torre’s Deanna Madden series so much I decided to pick up a book from another of her series. This was an easy read, and although it was a lot fluffier (and raunchier) than what I’m used to, I really enjoyed it and I’ll be reading the rest of the series sometime this year.

Risk by Fleur Ferris (7/10) – I picked this up on the recommendation of Kirsti from Melbourne On My Mind, and I’m really glad I did. It follows the story of Taylor, who’s friend Sierra goes to meet up with a boy she’s been talking to online, and doesn’t return. If you have any young women in your life who have any kind of online presence (who doesn’t these days?), this is an important book to read and share. The story is all too real, and is genuinely chilling.

Sweet Valley High Book #56Lost At Sea (5/10) – Jessica is stunning on this cover, despite being a bit sulky about being wet even though the sun is clearly shining in the background. I hate that the outfit she’s wearing doesn’t match what is described in the book but ANYWAY. A handful of students from Sweet Valley High go on a boating trip for a science project and a big storm hits, Jessica and Winston end up deserted on an island (with a bear?), and everyone else for the most part keep living their lives despite the fact the pair could be dead. Jessica is on the brink of redemption at one point in the book, but at the end goes back to being an awful person and all is right in the world.

Nightmare Hall Book #4The Wish (4/10) – This series creeped me the f*ck out as a kid, but I don’t remember ever reading this one so I was excited to pick it up. The concept is good – a bunch of college students get their fortunes told and they start coming true one by one in the most horrific ways possible – but the ending fell flat and was kind of lame.

Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (8/10) – This book made me a bit swoony. I love the idea of two people meeting up online and gradually getting to know each other before falling in love. Possibly because that is how Sebastian and I came to be a couple? This is YA contemporary fiction done right.

The Passenger by Lisa Lutz (3/10) – This book was a bit of a hard slog for me, and I struggled to get into the story each time I picked it up. I wish they’d focused more on the back story of the main character rather than her life on the run, because that was the most interesting part of the book for me and had a lot of potential.

2015 End Of Year Book Giveaway – Winners

A big thank you to everyone who took the time to enter the 2015 end of year book giveaway, and congratulations to EmmaBovary and Kellie, who were the lucky winners. I will be contacting you shortly via email to organize your prizes. Thanks again to everyone else who entered, and be sure to keep an eye out for more giveaways on The Belle Lumiere in the future.

Flowers For Every Occasion

Do you like receiving flowers as a gift? I do, in fact it’s one of my favourite things to receive, especially if they’re a surprise. They’re even more special if they come from someone unexpected. I’ve put together a list of bouquet options for every occasion that may arise this year, to help anyone out who needs a few ideas of what to buy. Here’s a handy guide…

Valentine’s DayI’m thinking a nice bunch of roses this year, and this classic Valentine’s bundle would definitely do the trick. “Galantine’s Day” – Who doesn’t want to spoil their closest girlfriend/s on a special holiday like Valentine’s Day? This beautiful rose bouquet would be perfect.
Engagement: I don’t know about you, but there are engagement announcements popping up left, right, and centre in my life. This all white bouquet would be a wonderful way to say congratulations. New Baby: Along with engagement announcements, there are also babies springing to life everywhere I look. I think this little bouquet would be perfect for such an occasion.

Housewarming: Wouldn’t this look absolutely lovely featured in a brand new living area? I know I would be absolutely thrilled to receive an orchid centrepiece like this one. Just because: To be honest, I’d be tempted to send myself this beautiful bouquet. It’s just that lovely.

CHANGES

Ugh, change! My most hated of things. I think it’s been quite a while coming though, and I’m ok with it for now. You may have noticed a bit of a change in layout here at The Belle Lumiere. It is still not 100% finished, and I’ll be chopping and changing things over the next week, so please bear with me. To be honest with you all, I’m still not sure which direction I want to take this blog in. I’ve hit a bit of a roadblock in that regard and have lost a lot of my motivation lately. Any and all feedback is more than welcome, so if you have an idea where you think I should take the blog please let me know. I need some INSPIRATION, people. Help a sister out and leave me a comment if you have any suggestions.

Oh, and P.S. I started a book blog.

Planning A Weekend Away – Checklist

Nothing refreshes the mind like a weekend away, especially one spent out in the middle of nowhere. It’s so much easier for me to relax if I take myself away from all of the things that need doing around the house (15 piles of laundry, anyone?), it’s almost like forced relaxation but I’ll take it in any way I can get it. I thought I’d write a little checklist of the steps I take when planning a weekend away, because nothing takes the stress away from organizing something like a good ol’ checklist.

Start by brainstorming/researching the area you want to visit – I live in Western Australia, and there are a number of country towns that can be explored in our south west region. We tend to stick to the main towns (Dunsborough, Margaret River, etc), but I like to do a bit of research on the area I want to visit to make sure it fits the bill for what I want out of the getaway. If we’re in the mood to do wine tours and eat a whole lot of fancy food, I’ll opt for somewhere like Margaret River. If we want to cut off from civilization and spend time in nature, Pemberton is a great way to go.

Check trip adviser for accommodation suggestions – God bless the internet, because I have no idea what people did to book accommodation before the glory of Trip Adviser. Having said that, be sure to read reviews as well as look at ratings, as ratings can go down if there is too much time between reviews. I try to look out for all of the important things – a comfortable bed, privacy, cleanliness etc.

Write a list of places you want to visit and things you want to see and do – A general internet search of ‘things to do in X’ should give you a general idea of the things there are to do in the town you’re visiting, but there are always some gems tucked away in a more in-depth google search. I don’t like having a set in stone plan of things to do on a trip like this, but having a general idea of what you can do and see around the area you’re staying is always a good idea.

Cover all your bases – You may be staying somewhere with no internet connection or TV satellite, especially if you’ve picked somewhere deep in the country away from the hustle and bustle. I always make sure to pack a deck of cards or board game to make sure we have something to do for entertainment if all else fails.

Plan your meals and write a food shopping list – If you’ve opted for a more relaxing getaway, you may need to think about what you’re going to make for lunches and dinners. As someone who needs to know where her next meal is coming from, I highly recommended thinking about the meals you’ll be having while you’re away, and making sure anything you need to make at your accommodation is covered.

Write a packing list – I will never be someone who can just throw everything into a bag and walk out the door. I will, however, always be the person who has a bandaid/tissue/spare pair of socks if you happen to have forgotten something. I guess that’s a good thing? I like to write out a packing list because it takes the thinking out of packing, and means I can get it done in 10 minutes and I always know I have what I need. Having said that, I like to pack as light as I can.

Confirm your reservation – A simple, but necessary step. You don’t want to drive 5 hours to your accommodation only to discover your booking has been lost in cyberspace. I’ve heard some horror stories like this, so I always double check the day before we leave.

Have I missed a step? Let me know in the comments below!