Sunday, May 29, 2011

Sunday Snippet

I may have to reconsider posting something different for the next few 'Sunday Snippet's', because I'm sure you're getting bored of hearing about Ken Follett's 'The Pillars Of The Earth'!

Last week
, I said that the novel was a little slow but now, I'm really getting into it. It just took a little patience on my part, but now it's paying off.

Ken Follett's writing, is like Kate Atkinson's in some ways in my opinion. His writing is not full of the subtle humour as Atkinson's is, but they both are able to seamlessly weave many threads of story together without the plot becoming confusing.

I'm still making good progress with the novel, but I'm still only about a quarter of the way through this book! Here's this week's snippet:

Page 267: ' If the Devil really were at work in here tonight, there was no telling what might happen.'

'The Pillars Of The Earth'- Ken Follett

I hope that you are having a good weekend so far and if you're lucky enough to have a bank holiday, enjoy the extra day off.

I've been out catching up with friends over the last few days, which has been lovely, but has meant a few late nights. So I'm looking forward to a relaxing day today, before the week begins again!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Barry M 'Instant Nail Effects' Nail Varnish- Product Review

A while ago, I posted about having discovered 'Barry M' beauty products, particularly their 'Instant Effects' Nail Varnish.

This product promises to create an amazing 'crackle effect' on your nails. To see a demonstration of this, check out the tutorial video.

When my friend took a trip to England recently, I asked her to pick up a couple of the Instant Effects' varnishes for me and I was excited when she brought me these:

I couldn't wait to try this product, so I spent yesterday painting my nails and I'm very impressed with the results.

In order to use the 'Instant Nail Effects' nail polish, you have to firstly paint your nails, in your choice of normal nail varnish (I chose pink).

Then once that has dried, you paint the 'Nail Effects' over your nail, making sure that you don't overlap the coat. The polish is slightly difficult to put on, especially because the consistancy of the polish is rather thick. Almost instantly though, the varnish does its work and creates fantastic patterns over your nails.

Despite spending a long time trying to take photos of my nails, I have not been able to take a decent photo to show you the results. Take my word for it though, this product is definitely worth buying, if you like your nails to stand out.

The video is an accurate description of what the product looks like and at £3.99 (about 4 Euros) per bottle, the price of this product is reasonable.

Overall, I'm very happy with the Barry M 'Instant Nail Varnish' and I would definitely buy more from this range in future.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

(Not So) Wordless Wednesday- Art Exhibition 2011

For the past 4-5 years I have been going to an art group twice a week, at a local education centre. I failed art at school, but I have always been interested in creative things. Then a few years ago, I saw a programme called 'Star Portraits'.

It was a programme presented by one of my art heroes Rolf Harris and involved a panel of completely different artists, creating a portraits of a different celebrity each week. Each celebrity would choose the portrait they liked best and that would be displayed in an art gallery and also go on to hang on the walls of their home.

Observing the wide variety of styles, mediums and techniques the artists were using, I began to realised how flexible art really was and it amazed me how people could make a people or object appear on canvas or paper. It was like magic.

Despite my previous failings with producing anything good at school, by seeing this programme, it made me think that i'd like to give art another go. So, I bought a cheap set of pencils and a sketch book and began to draw. The things I were doing were not any good, but I was enjoying myself so I continued.

Cut a year or two later and during a conversation with a good friend I mentioned that I would like to join an art class. It was a good thing that I mentioned this, because my friend said that there was a art class at the local school twice a week. The only catch, was that everyone in the class (including the teacher) was Spanish. I had some reservations about joining this class, but as I had some Spanish, I thought not only would the class help me to learn more about Art, but it would be a good opportunity to practise my Spanish.

I found the class difficult to begin with, I found that I could not draw or paint very well, but I was determined to keep going. I'm glad I did, because 4-5 years on, I'm in a class I love and my painting/drawing is slowly improving. I may not be the best in the class, but the people in it, no matter what level they are, are so encouraging and friendly.

Towards the end of each year, all of the art classes (they have evening as well as morning classes) have an exhibition of their painting at La Casa De Cultura (Culture House, which is open to the public for a week. This is nice because we can show people what we have been doing over the year and it's great for the pupils to see each other's work. Here's a taster of this year's exhibition:

The painting above is my entry for this year's exhibition. My niece is a massive fan of 'Gone With The Wind' and so this is my interpretation of the two main characters Scarlet O'Hara and Rhett Butler. This will be winging its way to my nicece, after the exhibition.

The piece above was done my my friend and fellow blogger Aguja (who writes the excellent blog 'Wordstitcher'). My photography does not do this painting justice, as it's full of wonderful detail.

As you can see there have been some fabulous pieces on display and I'm looking forward to seeing what will be in next year's art exhibition.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Commenting Problems

It has been brought to my attention, that some of you are having problems commenting on my blog lately. I would like to apologise for the problem.

The good news is, is that I have been in my settings and I think that I have rectified the problem. If you still have difficulties commenting, then send me an email (you can find my email address on the top right hand corner of this blog)and I will try to figure this out.

Thanks for taking the time to visit the blog and I hope that normal commenting service will resume shortly.....

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Snippet

My progress with reading 'The Pillars Of The Earth' by Ken Follett is going well. The story is gripping and the characters are very well crafted. The only problem I'm having with this novel, is that the pace of it is slow. This may because I'm not used to reading such a huge novel (it has over 1000 pages) AND I don't have much patience. Nevertheless, I'm still enjoying this book and will continue to read on.

Here's this week's snippet:

Page 211 'William Hamleigh and his father had set off in the middle of the night, with almost a hundred knights and men-at-arms on horseback, and Mother in the rearguard.'

'The Pillars Of The Earth' by Ken Follett

Whatever you're up to, enjoy the rest of the weekend. Today, voting takes place for who is going to run each town. Over the last few weeks, my town has been a hive of activity, with cars blaring out each party's campaign announcements and the local theatre sporadically being taken over, to hold political meetings.Today will show the fruits of their labour and a new mayor will be announced later on this evening.

After much thought, I have decided not to vote in the elections this time. As this is the first time that I have been aware of elections since living here, I feel that I don't have enough knowledge of the political system here to make an informed decision. In general, I find the subject of Politics confusing and, through past experiences with the political system in the U.K, my views on the whole thing are cynical. So I'll leave it until next time. All I can hope for, is that the candidate chosen for the mayor is a good one.

Happy Sunday!

Friday, May 20, 2011

When I grow up....

As well as new posts, I'm also going to post a few things which have appeared in my now, defunct blog 'Life As A So Called Adult'. Apologises to those who have already read this:

When I was a lot younger, adults would ask me 'What do you want to be when you grow up?' to which I would answer, that I wanted to be either a singer, dancer or a vet.

Looking back, all of these choices were totally ludicrous. I'm a terrible singer, I only inflict my toneless voice on people at karaoke when I've had far too much to drink. I cry at any programme with an injured animal in it and as for dancing, I have two left feet and the grace of a baby elephant!

However since I could remember, I've always loved to make up stories. At first, it was only for fun. Due to the fact I have a disability, I wasn't really able to run around and play with other children much. So creating characters and story plots was my form of entertainment. I'm not telling you this for any sympathy, that was just the way it was and I loved being able to use my imagination. I actually feel sorry for those people who say that they don't have an imagination, life must be so boring for them!

Anyway as I have matured, I have dabbled with a few ideas for a career. For instance for a while, I worked at home as a nail technician. However, this didn't feel very 'me'. The idea of becoming a writer, niggled at the back of my mind and I had quite a battle with myself, as to whether I should follow my heart and admit that I was a writer, or find a 'proper' job.

Since turning thirty though, I've realised that life is too short to not do the things that I really want to do. I have the fear that none of the words that I write will ever be published (that's partly why I love blogging, because I know there is a good chance that someone out will read the words I type), but writing is something that I am passionate about. So I'm going to cease the opportunity to do what I want now, rather than regretting having not tried in the future.

I'm still in the process of completing the first draft of a novel and at times, I find the whole process frustrating and terribly slow. However, getting words down on the computer or paper feels brilliant. I may not have released a hit single or joined the Russian Ballet but being a writer, is so much better.

What about you? When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up? Did you follow those dreams in later life, or did you end up doing something completely different?

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Exciting Changes to 'The Oliva Reader'

In a recent post, I blogged about whether or not to merge this blog with my more personal blog 'Life As A So Called Adult'.

Those of you who commented, suggested that both book related posts and general talk would combine together successfully. By knowing this, it confirmed the ideas already in my head. So I have taken the plunge and given 'The Oliva Reader' a make over.

Not only does the blog have a different look, but I'm going to feature the 'Wordless Wednesdays' and the general talk, that featured on 'Life As A So Called Adult'. By doing this, I hope that diversity of topics, will make the new 'The Oliva Reader' more interesting.

I do plan to keep 'Life As A So Called Adult', open, so that you can see my catalogue of 'Wordless Wednesday's' but over the next few days, I'm going to post some of the main discussions that have featured on 'Life As A So Called Adult'. I apologise to those who have read these posts before and promise that new content will appear soon.

I'm excited about what's to come on the new, and hopefully, improved 'The Oliva Reader' and I hope that you like it.

What do you think of the blog's new look? Apart from book talk, what topics would you like to see featured on the blog?

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Blogging Query

As some of you know, as well as 'The Oliva Reader', I have another, more general blog called 'Life As A So Called Adult'.

I enjoy updating both blogs, because I feel that they show different parts of my personality. However lately, I've felt that maybe it was time to combine both blogs. This though, poses a problem.

I don't know whether it is more beneficial to blog readers to have clearly defined subjects for each blog, or whether readers would find it interesting, to read blog posts about all sorts of subjects. I don't want to put off you, my loyal readers, by posting content that you don't to read, but I also think that it would be neater to put all of my writing in one place.

I have also been thinking about transfering my blogging over to somewhere like 'Wordpress' which allows bloggers to have separate sections for different topics on one blog. The problem with using Wordpress, is that my computer skills are fairly limited and I'm not sure if using this blogging device, would be too complicated.

So, this is where you come in. Do you prefer to read blogs with clearly defined topics, or do you like read blogs which have a bit of everything? Also for those who use Wordpress, how does it compare to Blogger?

Any feedback would be much appreciated!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Sunday Snippet

Every Sunday, I said that I would give you an update on how I'm getting on with 'The Pillars Of the Earth' by Ken Follett. So far, I've read 175 pages and I'm only on chapter 3, however I'm finding this book to be easy to read and compelling. So it seems that reading this book was worth it.

Here's the snippet:

Page 175: 'He was tense with excitement at the thought that he might wipe out the humiliation he and his family had suffered.'

'The Pillars of The Earth'- Ken Follett

Whatever you're doing for the rest of the weekend, enjoy yourself. I'm off out to lunch this afternoon and I hope that the rain clears before I have to leave the house!

Happy Sunday!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

'Tin Toys' by Ursula Holden

Publisher: Methuen Modern Fiction

ISBN: 0-413-15850-0

Length: 132 Pages

What the blurb says:

'At seven Ula stands apart from the other children. Home is turbulent and lonely; her two sisters are aloof, and her baby brother is the apple of his nurse's eye. Ula herself, odd, sharp, irreverent, tends to shock rather than please. When tragedy strikes just before Christmas the household is turned on its head, and Ula is sent to Ireland- where a series of nightmarish events make that winter the turning point of her life.'

Opening Line: 'I could be certain of happiness on Saturday mornings because of my dancing class.'

What's right about this novel?

I enjoyed the way in which Ursula Holden introduced the characters within this novel. They are dynamic and have the observation style of such writers as Edith Wharton. I felt a connection with the main character and the voice in which Holden gives Ula is authentic.

What's wrong with this novel?

Even though Holden sets her characters up really well, I felt that she could have explored them more fully. I was particularly intrigued my Ula's mother as she is quite complex. However, I felt disappointed that Holden didn't delve more into her character. As a reader, if Holden had expanded on her character's stories, I feel that I could have learnt more about the reason why Ula's mother, was the way she was. I also found the progression of some characters, particularly Maggie, to be jarring and unrealistic. Maggie was shown as one type of character and then without warning, changed into some one else. People do change personality depending on their situation, but in real life this process is subtler in my opinion.

Although I felt that Holden had a similar writing style as Edith Wharton, I didn't feel that she was as successful as a writer. In fact, I felt that the overall tone of this novel was rather sinister and the ending of this novel made me feel rather uncomfortable. The reason was because I wasn't sure of the message that the writer was trying to convey throughout the novel. I felt like the novel had a rather macbre conclusion, which wasn't satisfactory.

I also wasn't impressed with the overall concept of the novel. I enjoyed reading 'Tin Toys', but having read such writers as Edith Wharton, who in my opinion is a superior writer to Holden, 'Tin Toys' felt like a novel that I had read before.

Is this novel worth a read?

In general I think that 'Tin Toys' is worth a read, if only to make your own mind about the ending. However, I would recommend Edith Wharton's novel 'The Vet's Daughter', over this one.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Sunday Snippet

I've just embarked on a literary voyage. In the past, I have debated whether or not to read 'The Pillars Of The Earth' by Ken Follett. Due to it being a massive 1076 pages, the prospect of reading this novel intimidated me. I wasn't sure that I could hold my attention for the time it would take to finish it.

Last year, I started to watch the television adaptation of the novel and really enjoyed it, but a friend of mine told me not to bother with the series and read the book instead.

So I've finally taken the plunge and bought 'The Pillars Of the Earth'. Due to its size, there won't be a review of this for some time, although a review of 'Tin Toys' by Ursula Holden will appear on the blog shortly. I may blog from time to time, to tell you how I'm progressing with this novel and any other book related chat.

Here's the snippet:

Page 120: 'The idea was ludicrous: the earl would put him in a dungeon and throw away the key.'

Even though 'The Pillars Of The Earth' is a lengthy read, I'm finding this surprisingly easy to get through. What the longest book that you have read?

Enjoy the rest of the weekend. Happy Sunday!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

'Room' by Emma Donoghue

Publisher: Picador

ISBN: 978-0-330-51902-1

Length: 401 Pages:

What the blurb says:

'It's Jack's birthday, and he's excited about turning five. He lives with his Ma in Room, which has a locked door and a skylight, and measures 11 feet by 11 feet. He loves watching TV, and the cartoon characters he calls friends, but he knows that nothing he sees on screen is truly real- only him, Ma and the things in Room. Until the day Ma admits that there's a world outside...'

Opening line: 'Today I'm five.'

What's right with this novel?

There's a lot right with this novel in my opinion. The plot is original and plausible, even with the extreme situation that Jack and his Ma are in. Although the environment that the two are in is limited, Emma Donoghue is able to create an interesting story all of the way through. I also thought that at no point during the book, did the plot wain at all. I was compelled to read on, to find out what was going to happen next. In fact this book was so good, I finished it in less than 2 days, which is a rarity for me.

The writing in this novel is superb. Donoghue's complex mix of both children's and adult vocabulary, give Jack a authentic voice. I particularly liked how Jack used the names of objects such as 'Plant' and convey them as additional characters within his world. When he referred to something within Room, he would address them as 'He' or 'She' rather than 'it'.

Emma Donoghue has crafted her characters so well, that I believed in Jack and Ma. I felt a connection with Jack, particularly during the second half of the novel. I also felt that by using Jack as the main protagonist, Donoghue successfully describes the horrific events that took place in Room, without being overly graphic, but still creating an impact.

On first glance, you would think that 'Room' is a depressing and disturbing read. There are disturbing parts within this novel, but overall I think that 'Room' is an uplifting, optimistic read. It conveys the strength of the human spirit and, even though Jack's situation is extreme, this novel explores the general experience of how a child discovers the world and finds their independence.

What is wrong with this novel?

Nothing. The only thing wrong with this novel, is that it had to end.

Is this worth a read?

Yes. There are a lot of novels which have undeserved hype surrounding them. 'Room' however, deserves all of the praise it receives.. This is a fantastic read.

Have you read this book? What are your thoughts?

Monday, May 2, 2011

'The Prestige' by Christopher Priest

Publisher: Orion Books


Length: 360 Pages

What the blurb says:

' Two 19th-century illusionists, the aristocratic Rupert Angier and the working-class Alfred Borden, engage in a bitter and deadly feud; the effects are still being felt by their respective families a hundred years later.

Working in the gaslight-and-velvet world of Victorian music halls, both men prowl edgily in the background of each other's shadowy life, driven to the extremes by a deadly combination of obsessive secrecy and insatiable curiosity.

At the heart of the row is an amazing illusion they both perform during their stage acts. The secret of the magic is simple, and the reader is in on it from the start, but to the antagonists the real mystery lies deeper. Both have something more to hide than the mere workings of a trick'

What's right with this novel?

The pacing of the novel is good, I didn't feel that it rushed to the end. I also enjoyed the sections with the magicians diaries. They helped me to connect to the two central characters. The ending was satisfactory also.

What wrong with this novel?

I found the plot to be over complicated. It switched from the present day, to a past narrative, to the diaries of the two magicians. Using this technique in my opinion, made the novel long winded and messy. I found that the subplot in the present day,was totally unecessary. I would have preferred a simpler plot, prehaps only using the magicians diaries, to tell the story. By stripping down the plot, I would have felt even more of a connection with the central characters and I would have cared more what happened to them.

The blub of this novel makes out that 'The Prestige' is sinister and full of intrigue, but I felt that Priest wasn't able to deliver what the cover promises. In fact, I felt that it lacked the tension that I was expecting.

Is this worth a read?

If I hadn't seen the film adaptation of this novel, then I may have enjoyed this. That said, I was expecting more from this.

I don't think that 'The Prestige' is a terrible book, but in my opinion it's disappointing. This may be worth picking up if you haven't anything else to read, but I would suggest watching the film adaptation instead.

Have you read this novel? What are your thoughts?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Sunday Snippet

I've finally finished 'The Prestige' by Christopher Priest hurrah! I must say that there were good elements to this novel, but overall I just found it a messy, disappointing read. More of my thoughts on 'The Prestige' will appear on the blog over the next few days.

My next read, is Emma Donoghue's novel 'Room'. There has been a lot of publicity surrounding this book over the last few months and I deliberately held off from reading this, until some of the hype died down. Even though I have only read 47 pages of the book, I have found it compelling and very well written. I love how the main character Jack, talks about objects as if they are characters.

Here's an example:

Page 47- 'I wake up in Bed and it's raining, that's when Skylight's all blurry.'

'Room'- Emma Donoghue

Have you read this book? What did you think of it (no spoilers please!)?

Whatever you're doing during the last days of the Easter break have a great time.

Happy Sunday!