November Roses and Coziness

Mara by the fire

We are slowly settling into our winter routines lighting the fire every time the temperature drops into single figures and enjoying the coziness of our home, but this weekend we spent a little bit of time out in the garden as well.

All through the summer and well into the autumn, the roses in our front garden have been a constant source of colour and loveliness welcoming us home each day.

A few months ago, I paid a visit to the David Austin website with the innocent intention of buying a couple of hybrid tea roses to fill in the gaps in our rose border, but quickly seduced by the range of colours, varieties and fanciful names, I ended up buying three roses for the front garden and another three for the back. All of which were delivered last week and have now been planted, though they look like little more than thorny twigs in the ground at the moment.

Inspired by an episode of Gardeners’ World, I’ve also taken cuttings from one of the roses we inherited from the previous owners. It has the somewhat dubious distinction of being the only rose in garden that only flowers once during the summer, and yet it is truly lovely while it blooms.

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I will miss spending time in the garden over the winter, which has been a place to immerse ourselves in nature, as well as a place to sit in quiet contemplation gathering our thoughts and appreciating the flow of one season into another, but until spring rolls around again, I’ll enjoy the warmth and comfort of our home on these long, dark evenings. Have a lovely week! X

 

 

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

A Darker Shade of Magic

It took me a while to get into A Darker Shade of Magic as almost the first third of the book is spent setting the scene, introducing the two magicians, Kell and Holland, the last of the magical race known as the Antari – easily identified by having one entirely black eye – and explaining that there are four parallel Londons. There is Grey London where magic is waning; Red London, where magic is comparatively ordered and balanced; White London, where magic is chaotic and cruel; and finally the ruins of Black London, where magic became corrupted, and the city eventually had to be sealed off to prevent the corruption from spreading. One aspect of the story that I really enjoyed was that magic is not just a force to be used as in most fantasy stories but had a will of its own and could be downright dangerous to those who came into contact with it.

The story follows Kell, who acts as a messenger carrying correspondence between the rulers of each London until he is tricked into transporting a forbidden relic from one London into another. Along the way, we’re introduced to Kell’s counterpart and rival, Holland, who serves Astrid and Athos Dane, the tyrannical rulers of White London, and Lila Bard a thief from Grey London, who reminded me of the Artful Dodger in the best possible way. It takes around 100 pages for anything interesting to happen, but after that this tale becomes a gripping adventure as pretty much everything that possibly could go wrong for Kell and Lila does. The rest of the story is so full of suspense, action and humour that it more than made up for the slow start.

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The ending wraps up most things neatly, but there’s an almost throwaway comment about part of Lila’s appearance that hints towards the possible direction of her character development and somehow I don’t think we’ve seen the end of the antagonist Holland, I can’t wait to find out how the rest of this trilogy unfolds. Have a lovely week! X

Happy Halloween!

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A few weeks ago we were in Perthshire for the Enchanted Forest, but this week we visited a lightshow closer to home at the Glasgow Botanic Gardens, which have been illuminated for Halloween.

The designers made great use of the space and existing features, and it was wonderful to see the grass meadow where locals flock to picnic and sunbath during the summer transformed into a sea of lights, as well as the ferns in Kibble Palace all lit up, and a few spooky effects scattered around the gardens.

As much as we love the cosy autumn and winter months, my husband and I are outdoorsy types and we’re always grateful to have an excuse to wrap up warm and get outside to stretch our legs at this time of year, and “Glasglow” at the Botanic Gardens was a delightful way to spend a cold, dark October evening.

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Tonight and tomorrow we’ll try to eke out the Halloween festivities a little longer watching Dia de los Muertos themed films (Coco and The Book of Life) and eating leftover sweets we bought for the local kids out guising (or “trick or treating”). Happy Halloween and have a lovely week! X

The Garden in Autumn

Autumn Anenome

The weather this month has been changeable and it was cold enough to light the fire this evening, but there are still a few plants growing and flowering in the garden as we edge towards winter.

In the back garden, I’ve pulled up the self-seeded nasturtiums, which had been making a nuisance of themselves in the back border sending vines out in every direction, while Salvia, Calendulas and Asters have been providing some colour in the flower borders.

We lost almost a third of our squashes to slugs, but we still harvested a few for ourselves, though I didn’t realise that they could cross-pollinate and we’ve ended up with some slightly bland hybrids, so next year I’ll grow fewer varieties. Wool pellets have protected the kale and chard from the slugs in the adjacent raised bed.

We’ve been filling up the bird feeder every week and watching our feathered friends has been a whole family activity with our cat Mara chittering away while my husband and I try to identify the different birds that visit our garden, and we all enjoy watching the squirrels’ acrobatics.

It amuses me that we’ve somehow become a couple that listens to Gardeners’ Question Time and watches Gardeners World, and we’ll miss Monty and the gang’s advice over the winter months, but we still have a few jobs left to do before the garden starts to hibernate. Have a lovely week! X

The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

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Dark and stormy evenings in our corner of the world have given me a lovely excuse to stay at home snuggled under a blanket on the couch with candles lit and books to read. I’ve had a few false starts this year – books that I’ve started but lost interest in – and I decided to re-read The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson to refresh my memory before picking up the other books in the Mistborn trilogy, which have been on my TBR list for a long time.

The plot of The Final Empire follows a fairly typical hero’s journey as the charismatic Kelsier leads a daring group of rebels from a subjugated race in an attempt to overthrow the tyranical Lord Ruler and his oppressive empire. Along the way, Kelsier takes a thief called Vin as his apprentice and trains her in allomancy, the magic system Sanderson created and it’s easily one of the most original and well-integrated systems I’ve come across in a long time.

The Mistborn Trilogy

I suspect fantasy novels are often dismissed by many readers because they require too much suspension of disbelief and yet beyond the magic and battles, The Final Empire explores some universal and pertinent themes such as prejudice, persecution and even the injustices and atrocities that ordinary people ignore or accept every day, as well as the redeeming qualities of courage, resilience, loyalty and hope.

The biggest criticism I have of this story is that Sanderson doesn’t so much foreshadow the two major plot twists as shine a spotlight on them, and many readers will probably guess the Lord Ruler’s identity and the source of his power long before any of the characters do, while another character’s death carries a certain sense of inevitability. Despite this though, it’s still a gripping tale and I enjoyed re-reading The Final Empire just as much as I did the first time around, and I’m looking forward to finding out what happens next in the series. Have a lovely week! X

An Enchanted Evening in the Forest

The Enchanted Forest

We’ve been visiting the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry every year since 2011 and it remains one of the highlights of our calendar, and this year was no exception with lights choreographed to music, interactive displays and a stunning projection over Loch Dunmore.

Visiting the Enchanted Forest is one of our favourite annual traditions, and we always enjoy wandering around the woods hand-in-hand, snapping photos and sipping the first mulled wine of the season, but my husband and I still always pause at the spot where we got engaged here and enjoy reminiscing about our many other visits to the Enchanted Forest over the years.

As lovely as it is having a little adventure together, staying in a hotel and not having to worry about cooking or washing up, we’re also happy to be reunited with our cat Mara when we return home. It was just over three years ago that we adopted Mara, and although we don’t know her actual age, a recent trip to the vet to have her teeth cleaned and one extraction reminded us that she is getting older, but fortunately she remains healthy, playful and full of purrs.

Have a lovely week! X

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

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For almost as long as I can remember I’ve been a Star Wars fan, and my affection for the franchise is in no small part due to the sassy, blaster-wielding Princess who bossed her male counterparts around and was always at the forefront of the action.

Carrie was apparently inspired to write The Princess Diarist when she stumbled upon the diaries she wrote while filming Star Wars: A New Hope, and decided that forty years after the event, the public revelation of her affair with Harrison Ford would cause minimal damage to those involved.

The Princess Diarist starts with Carrie recounting her decision to step out of her celebrity parents’ shadows, and how at the age of nineteen she was cast as Princess Leia in a low-budget “space fantasy” simply called Star Wars. I sometimes wonder how faithful her recollection of events is but I can’t deny it’s entertaining to read about some of the changes in the original script, the process of finding that iconic hairstyle and various other behind the scenes moments between the cast and crew. However, for what is ostensibly a kiss-and-tell memoir, Carrie Fisher is remarkably tight-lipped about the details of her love affair with Harrison Ford.

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The mid-section contains poems and direct extracts from the diaries she wrote in 1976, and this part lags a little as the diary entries are rambling, self-indulgent and laced with Carrie’s teenage insecurities.

The final part explores the cultural phenomenon Star Wars became, and some readers might be offended by the way she describes the rabid fans and their sense of entitlement for autographs and selfies, yet I suspect she probably understood why the Star Wars characters are so beloved because she admitted that there were times throughout her own life when she wished she was more like Leia. I also found it interesting reading about the different ways male and female fans respond to her character, and she doesn’t shy away from sharing details of some of her experiences and observations about Hollywood sexism (and ageism).

I suspect that Star Wars fans may be disappointed that she doesn’t share more behind the scenes secrets and people expecting a more linear biography may also be disappointed, but Carrie’s inimitable style, humour and candour still make The Princess Diarist an easy and enjoyable read. Have a lovely week! X