A Year in Books 2019 – January to March

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A Year in Books

Welcome to 2019’s A Year in Books. This is my third year following the initiative run by Laura at Circle of Pine Trees, and I have decided 40 books in a year is achievable for me.

A new year means a new batch of books to read. For the first quarter of 2019 I managed to read a total of eight books.

Here’s my reviews below.

Almanac – Lia Leendertz (January/February/March) ✩✩
I don’t know what I expected from this almanac but some of the content in Lia’s compilation just doesn’t inform me enough. I particularly like the history behind the naming of months, stellar events and information from a bee hive but I feel I want more than what I am reading. Do you know of any better almanacs?

The History of Mary Prince – Mary Prince ✩✩
I don’t even know how this book got on my Kindle! It’s a recount of the life of a slave Mary Prince, in the 1800’s. Some of the accounts of torture are difficult to read. Mary finally escaped her brutal enslavement and took up residence in England. She is the first woman to present an anti slavery petition to parliament.

Into the Water – Paula Hawkins ✩✩✩
From the author who gave us Girl on a Train. Into the Water is billed as yet another thriller but it felt more of a detective novel. Just days before her sister drowned, Jules ignored her call. Now Nel is dead, and Jules must return to her sister’s house to care for her daughter, and to face the mystery of Nel’s death. But Jules is afraid. Of her long-buried memories, of the old Mill House, of this small town that is drowning in secrecy. From the reviews on Amazon not many people enjoyed this book, but I enjoyed it even though it was hard to get a grip of all the characters (there were a lot of them!)

The Turn of Midnight – Minette Walters ✩✩✩
I quite enjoyed this book. I didn’t rate the first installment of Minette Walter’s historical plague novel but I found that the pace got better in this second book. Character development seemed more progressive and the novel concluded satisfactorily.

Three Things About Elsie – Joanna Cannon ✩✩✩✩
By far the best book I have read this quarter. I found some of the passages were written so profoundly! 84-year-old Florence has fallen in her flat at Cherry Tree Home for the Elderly. As she waits to be rescued, she considers the charming new resident who looks exactly like a man she once knew – a man who died sixty years ago. His arrival has stirred distant memories she and Elsie thought they’d laid to rest. Lying prone in the front room, Florence wonders if a terrible secret from her past is about to come to light … Even though I had second guessed the third thing about Elsie, the narrative and how the story slowly developed had me gripped. The final chapters left me aching with sadness. Have you read a book that left a lasting impression on you?

Still Me – JoJo Moyes ✩✩✩
The third and final installment of the Louisa Clark series. Louisa relocates to New York for a job as a Personal Assistant. During her time in the Big Apple she meets many colorful and zany people. However these people are what save her from disillusionment and a miscarriage of justice. At the end of Still Me, Louisa Clark finds her true self worth and ultimately, happiness. I think this was the second strongest novel of the trilogy after Me Before You. Have you read any of these books or anything by JoJo Moyes?

The Tattooist of Auschwitz – Heather Morris ✩✩✩
I had read good reviews about this book so when I saw it in Asda, I decided to buy it. Though the novel is in third person narrative it is told from the viewpoint of a survivor of the Holocaust. In 1942, Lale Sokolov arrived in Auschwitz-Birkenau. He was given the job of tattooing the prisoners marked for survival. Waiting in line to be tattooed, terrified and shaking, was a young girl. For Lale – a jack-the-lad, it was love at first sight. And he was determined not only to survive himself, but to ensure this woman, Gita, did, too. I found the writing style was easy to read but being third person I felt a lot of the descriptions of death were a little matter of fact, but perhaps living so close to extermination on a daily basis made you see death like that? The Tattooist saw a lot of the Nazi’s Final Solution, of the gas chambers and crematorium to the final destruction of records before the Russian’s arrived. In a time of death it was a story of determination and survival.

The Gap of Time – Jeanette Winterson ✩✩
A baby girl is abandoned, banished from London to the storm-ravaged American city of New Bohemia. Her father has been driven mad by jealousy, her mother to exile by grief. Seventeen years later, Perdita doesn’t know a lot about who she is or where she’s come from – but she’s about to find out. Jeanette Winterson’s cover version of The Winter’s Tale vibrates with echoes of Shakespeare’s original and tells a story of hearts broken and hearts healed, a story of revenge and forgiveness, a story that shows that whatever is lost shall be found. I found this modern retelling of one of Shakespeare’s later plays rather hard to digest. I felt the text rather crude and I cared little for the madness of Leo(ontes). The other characters seemed all rather ineffectual to the angst of Leo whose actions shouldn’t have been so easily forgiven. I had waited a few years to read this book. I really wish I hadn’t now.

I’ve felt this first quarter’s reading has been rather mediocre. Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

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Sunday Sevens #63

It’s Sunday again! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins.)

Earth Hour:
Last night I observed the annual Earth Hour by WWF. For the past seven years I have joined in this world wide movement by turning off my lights between 8.30pm and 9.30pm. Did you take part in the initiative?

Book I’m reading:
I’ve picked up Winter by Ali Smith. Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

Flowers:
Inspired by the lovely Sharon from Sunshine and Celandines, who shared pictures of wild flowers she had seen on a recent dog walk. I decided to do the same and take some snaps of the flowers I see on my walk to work.

Family walks:
This Sunday’s family walk with Riley was a 2.5 mile walk around a spring resplendent Sefton Park.

#Walk1000miles:
My miles this week has been 39. Bringing my annual total to 550 miles.

New Friends:
On Tuesday David surprised me with two more friends for the aviary. Helen a female owl finch and Rize a female Lady Gouldian finch. How beautiful are they?

That was my week, how was yours?
Thanks for reading,
Christine xx

Sunday Sevens #61

I always love updating you all with a Sunday Sevens! It’s been a busy weekend, so here’s a quick update.

RSPB Membership:

David and I had a few days off work this week, so on Monday we headed towards RSPB Marshside near Southport for a few hours walking while overlooking hundreds of wading birds and gulls.

We spotted a few species we hadn’t seen before, like the shelduck and wigeon.

Riley in the Lake District:

Tuesday dawned grey with heavy rain, however we decided to continue up the M6 towards the Lake District with Riley and my brother in tow. Our destination was Grizedale Forest. On our journey we were hampered by car crashes and flooded roads. The rain thankfully stopped when we arrived at Grizedale. We then spent the next four hours walking paths that had turned into streams, losing our route and getting very muddy! It was a fun adventure!

#Walk1000miles:

This week, like last, has been hampered by longer days in work and late buses! My miles this week has been a lowly 36, bringing my annual total to 471 miles.

Book I am reading:

I’ve picked up Jeanette Winterson’s The Gap in Time, a retelling of Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale. Have you read this book? If so what were your thoughts?

Theatre:

Staying with Shakespeare, this Saturday David and I went to Liverpool’s Epstein Theatre to see a production of Macbeth (or the Scottish play). I’d not visited the Epstein, formerly the Neptune before. It is one of Liverpool’s smaller theatres and had a tired quaintness to it. I quite enjoyed the play but was not fussed with the actor (Sean Jones) who played Macbeth. I felt his voice wasn’t very strong.

Have you seen this play? What were your thoughts?

Family walks:

I finish this post after taking a fantastic, yet tiring, wind blown, five mile walk around Formby Beach today. Riley looked like he had a wonderful time! We even spotted a starfish or two!

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading, Christine x

Sunday Sevens is a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins!

Sunday Sevens #60

It’s Sunday! Time for a quick Sunday Sevens!

Cinema:
How to Train Your Dragon 3
It’s been some time since we’ve been to the cinema. To see the last installment of the How to Train your Dragon trilogy, David and I visited the newly opened Cineworld in Speke. The film was a fitting finale to the trilogy and I’m not ashamed to admit that I shed a tear or too.

Family walks:
Last Sunday we took a four mile walk around Mere Sands Wood nature reserve. Unfortunately the rain put a dampner on any nature sightings but we enjoyed the rain sodden walk anyhow!

This Sunday, with the weather no better, we headed towards Liverpool’s Calderstones Park.

#walk1000miles:
Even though David and I have had a few days off work this week, even taking in a two mile walk around The Countess of Chester Country Park. Longer days in work has meant that my miles this week has been down on previous weeks.

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David looking for otters

My total for this week is 38, bringing my overall total to 435 miles. If you are participating in the challenge, how are you doing?

RSPB Membership:
On Monday, David and I visited RSPB Leighton Moss, near Morecambe. We spent a leisurely four hours walking the paths and taking lunch with hungry robins, tits and pheasants. Among the highlights of the visit was hand feeding a great tit and robin and seeing a marsh harrier hunting. Have you visited this reserve? What were your impressions?

Anniversary:
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Monday was also our 13th year anniversary!

Book I’m reading:
I’ve picked up The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. I’ll let you know what I think of it! Have you read it? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

The Aviary:
On Wednesday David and I said goodbye to Pie our Cut-throat finch. He was five years old and hadn’t shown any signs of illness. It was a shock and a sad loss.

Philharmonic

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The Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra

This Saturday David and I attended an eclectic concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall, featuring music from Vaughn-Williams, Tchaikovsky and Villa-Lobos. I enjoyed it very much!

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading, Christine x

Sunday Sevens is a series devised by Natalie at Threads and Bobbins!

Sunday Sevens #59

I’ve been wanting to update you all in a Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins), for a few weeks now but have not had enough photo content to warrant a post. However I’ve decided to put together pictures from the past two weeks. I hope you enjoy the update?

Family walks:

Sundays have become days when we are joined by members of our family and take Riley on a long walk. Last weekend we visited Lunt Meadows Nature Reserve and walked six miles following the paths overlooking flocks of black tailed godwits and teals.

This Sunday we took a leisurely 4.5 miles walk around Liverpool’s Otterspool Prom and Festival Gardens in thick mist. It made for some atmospheric pictures.

#walk1000miles:

The days are noticeably getting longer! This week I have managed to walk 48 miles, which brings my overall total to 356 miles. I am enjoying every step!

Book I am reading:

I’ve just finished reading Joanna Cannon’s Three things About Elsie. I won’t spoil the plot for you but I found many passages in the novel profound. The last chapter had me in tears! Have you read a novel that has affected you?

For my next read I have picked up JoJo Moyes’s last installment of the Me Before You trilogy, Still Me. Have you read any of these books?

Yarden:

With all the early Spring-like weather we have been having recently in the UK, the plants in the yarden are beginning to wake up! During winter I feared for the raspberry but I’ve recently noticed new leaves starting to sprout! The crocus is giving the yarden a splash of colour and there are bluebells leafing. The greatest surprise was that the camellia which usually flowers in April has already begun to bloom!

RSPB Membership:

Saturday, David and I visited Burton Mere Wetlands. It’s the first reserve we’ve visited with our new membership. We spent an enjoyable three hours and 4.6 miles walking the trails and viewing the pools from the hides.

I love discovering new species and learning about them. We saw a flock of redshank, shoveler ducks and a little egret. I can’t wait to visit another RSPB site in the future. Where do you think I should visit next?

So, that was my week(s), how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2018 – October to December

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A Year in Books

Sorry this post is a bit late. I’m still trawling through the backlog of planned blogs for the end of 2018!

I aimed to read 40 books by the end of the year, and I can happily say I reached my target, by reading 41. Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge. For 2019 I will keep the target at 40, which I think is a manageable figure. Do you fancy joining in?

Below, find reviews of the books I read in the final quarter of 2018. What books have you enjoyed this past year?

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

I enjoyed the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, so imagine my surprise when I found they had rekindled the series. It may be written by a different author but the same cast of characters feature. Although the plot is a slow burn the narrative soon picks up and races through to the end, leaving the reader breathless. I would have loved more Salander in the story but nonetheless it’s a good start to the continuation of the series.

Have you read the two new sequels? What were your impressions?

After You – Jojo Moyes

I enjoyed Me Before You and even laughed/cried at the film. So I purchased the sequel After You. However the story was not as good as the original. It followed Louisa Clark coming to terms with life after Will. There was still moments of joviality interlaced with poignancy but it didn’t pack as much punch as the first book. I will probably read the third installment once it comes out in paperback.

Have you seen the film? Do you think it kept true to the novel?

The Comfort of Strangers – Ian McEwan

Why, why, why do I keep doing this to myself? I keep subjecting myself to the dull, banal writing of Ian McEwan! Again I was disappointed in yet another of his novels. I can’t recall much of the plot which I found rather vague. The third person narrative really detracts from the reader caring a jot about the characters and the horrors that happen to them. The plot, a couple holidaying abroad befriend a man who invites them back to his home where they meet his crippled wife. I had heard a radio adaption of this book in the 90’s which I found deeply unsettling. However the book I just found boring.

Perhaps you felt differently?

The Road – Cormac McCarthy

The bad writing just continues I’m afraid with this depressing post apocalyptic novel. A film was also made starring Viggo Mortensen. If the film is anything like the book, then I’ll pass. The plot is of a father and his son travelling a road to the coast after the world has been decimated by some kind of cataclysm. Anguish and misery pour from this novel in floods. Reading scene after scene of human desperation in a ravaged world devoid of food and warmth is hard to stomach. The conclusion leaves the reader unsatisfied and I wonder if the ulterior motive of the author was to depress his audience? I was shocked to read that the book won a Pulitzer Prize!

Maybe you had a different experience of this novel?

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society – Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer

My choice of books were not going well this quarter. I decided to try another book that has been adapted for film and which again I’ve not seen. The issue I had with this novel was not the plot, which was rather twee but the language. I found that it seemed too modern for the 1950’s. The plot, a writer comes from London to Guernsey to research the German Occupation and in the process finds herself among a colourful cast of characters.

Have you read the book? Seen the film?

One Day in December – Josie Silver

I really wanted to like this book, I really did. The advertisement for the book kept popping up on my Instagram with rave reviews. So I downloaded a copy. The premise, a girl on a bus makes eye contact with a boy whom she looks haphazardly for over a year until she eventually meets him but there’s a catch. I won’t ruin the plot for you if you enjoy rom-coms but I felt rather bored with the characters and the sugary sweetness of it all.

Perhaps you felt differently if you’ve read this book?

9780857056436The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye – David Lagercrantz

I seemed to get into this second sequel to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo trilogy much quicker than the first. The characters were more detailed and the story I felt was much better than the first Lagercrantz uptake of the series. Salander featured much more and the plot was fast paced. Its not a patch on the Stieg Larsson originals but I enjoyed it none the less.

Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

I’m struggling to find books for 2019 that really grasp my interest. Have you any suggestions on books you think I would enjoy?

Thanks for visiting and happy reading!

Christine x

December Photo Challenge 2018 – Day Ten

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One Day in December

Day Ten: Today’s photo prompt is Christmas book. For the run up to Christmas I decided to purchase One Day in December by Josie Silver. I had read many positive reviews of this book and as it’s only .99p on Amazon Kindle at present, I decided to give it a go. I’m half way through at the moment and I can’t really say I am enjoying the narrative much, nor like any of the characters. I’ll keep at it, but will be happy once I’ve finished it and can get back to my Girl Who Takes an Eye For an Eye!

Have you read this book? If so what were your thoughts?

Thanks for stopping by, Christine x

Sunday Sevens #55

I haven’t written a Sunday Sevens (devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins) in such a long time. In fact I’ve not written any type of post in a while. So I think it’s about time I rectified that don’t you? I’ve managed to scrape together a few pictures from the past week for a Sunday Sevens (more truthfully a Sunday Sixes :p). It’s been quite a mixed bag!

#walk1000miles:

This week I’ve been struggling to get my miles up. What with buses running late, low motivation and feeling poorly, all I’ve achieved is a sorry 29 miles for this week. Which brings my overall total to 1,556 miles.

If you are participating in the challenge, how far have you walked this week?

Poppy Appeal:

In commemoration of this years Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal, I decided to buy Riley a poppy to wear. I think he looks grand.

Book I am reading:

For the past week or so I have been reading The Road by Cormac McCarthy. I don’t know why I picked the book up as I don’t like post-apocalyptic stories. The narrative is of a father and son travelling and struggling for survival. It is a very bleak read.

Have you read this book? Saw the film? What were your impressions?

Burst Pipe:

The downside to this week was a burst water pipe in our kitchen. The positive was that it happened when we were at home so we could quickly turn off the water and clean up. We managed to stop the flood encroaching too much into the dining room and thankfully the floors dried out after a day. David luckily was able to replace the pipe and kitchen taps without much cost to us. I don’t know what I would do without him! The pipe itself was rusted in a few places and would have burst at some point. It was a sobering event but we can glean more positives than negatives from the experience.

Beatrix Potter 50p:

I managed to acquire a 2018 Beatrix Potter 50p. A friend kindly found Flopsy Bunny for me.

Celebration:

To cheer ourselves up after the burst pipe incident, David and I joined in with a family celebration. My brother’s girlfriend had recently graduated from Derby University, so we all headed to Tavern Co for a Mexican knees up!

So, that was my week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2018 – July to September

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A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books.

The summer months for me always seem to be the hardest when it comes to reading. Even when we’ve had such a wonderful summer as 2018. This year, I’ve managed to sit in the yarden and sunbathe while delving into a novel or two, but my tally is still low compared to cooler months.

This quarter I have managed to read nine books. Much better than last years quarter but no where near my tally for April to June this year. Here’s what I read this quarter.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

After what seemed like an age, I finally managed to get my hands on this Costa award winning novel and it didn’t take me long to love it! Eleanor is a young woman struggling to cope with a traumatic event from her childhood. She has been mentally and physically scared and her out look on life is shaped by her past. This book is not only about survival but about facing and dealing with daemons. It is funny and sad but ultimately it is about redemption.

What are your thoughts if you’ve read this novel?

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

As a suspense novel, the narrative just didn’t grab me. Perhaps it had a lot to live up to after Eleanor Oliphant? Even so, despite the tension, this Stephen King-esque failed to hit the mark. There were some weird episodes but I couldn’t feel for the characters and was left feeling deflated at the end of the novel. It felt like a poorly written M Night Shyamalan script.

The Ice Twins – S K Tremayne

This was a novel suggested by my mum. The premise was of twin sisters, where one had died. A year on the surviving twin begins to believe she is the dead sister. Did they get the identity of the dead twin wrong? The narrator, Sarah is estranged from her husband and still mourning her daughter. Angus (the husband) inherits a house on a remote island on the west coast of Scotland and moves the family there. This isolation brings the psychological drama to a head. It was a quick read but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Tess Gerritsen’s Playing with Fire.

Animal Farm – George Orwell

Surprisingly I enjoyed this political satire. George Orwell wrote his critique on the Russian Revolution but in theory it could be a reflection of any revolution. The animals of Manor Farm have had enough of being ruled by farmer, Mr Jones and stage their own revolution led by the intellectual pigs. However as time progresses, life under the new regime seems at odds with the origins of the revolution and to stop the dissenting farm stock the pigs unleash a brutal regime which cripples, maims and kills many of the cast. You can’t but be sympathetic to the likes of Boxer and Clover who are ground down by the machine that the pigs enact. The final act of betrayal is when the pigs are seen to walk on two hooves. This can be read that the pigs are just bad as the humans they hoped to replace. It is a piece of writing that makes you think!

Have you read this satire, what were your impressions?

Sarah Millican – How to be Champion

I am not a reader of autobiographies. I only downloaded this book as it was on offer for .99p. It took me a while to get into the narrative but I quite enjoyed it in the end. Sarah isn’t much older than myself and I noticed we did similar things and used the same items when we were both growing up in the 1980’s.

Outlander – Diana Gadaldon

I’m still slogging my way through this tome, and there are several more sequels in the series! Though a good premise, of a woman from the 1940’s travelling back in time to Jacobite Scotland, however I found the narrative boring. I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of the series. Perhaps the TV adaptation is better?

Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

Swim Wild – The Wild Swimming Brothers

I delved into the realm of wild swimming again. This time I quite enjoyed reading about the tales of the three brother’s expeditions, of swimming the entire length of the River Eden and the maelstroms around Norway and Scotland. The narrative is fractured by personal reveries and memories of growing up by the author, Jack Hudson, but I found it a nice book to read none the less.

If you’d like to read more of the Wild Swimming Brother’s adventures, then follow the link to their blog.

Me Before You – JoJo Moyes

I bought this book on the recommendation of comedienne Sarah Millican, from her autobiography (see above). I got into the first person narrative quickly enough and really enjoyed the banter between Louise and Will. Both characters are scared but in different ways. I liked how the writer sculptured their unlikely relationship and the ending had me shedding silent tears. I am a softy sometimes!

If you have read the book? Seen the film? What did you think?

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

I thought I would give this sequel to the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson a go. I really enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the other sequels not so. So far it seems a slow burn. I’ll let you know how I go.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x

Sunday Sevens #52

I’m back to writing a Sunday Sevens, the wonderful series devised by Natalie at Threads and bobbins.

Bees Needs Week 2018

It was George on his gardening blog, here, who alerted me to this annual initiative, coordinated by Defra. The aim of this week (9th-15th July 2018) is to raise awareness of pollinators and help in sustaining their numbers by planting more flowers, cutting grass less and letting your garden grow wild!

The Yarden:

At the weekend we visited Rivendell Garden Centre, Widnes. I bought a beautiful delphinium and also managed to replace my salvia mystic spires. I was so happy, it’s the small things! Among the many bee species that visit the yarden, I spied a male early bumblebee enjoying the cat mint.

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Common Frog

Later on in the week David and I had a surprise in the yarden. I had thought our tadpoles, who had seemed happy in our little urban pond, had sadly passed away. We had not seen any in or around the pond for weeks. However on pottering about the yarden David called me over excitedly and pointed to a frog clinging to the wall. I was amazed! One of our tiny tadpoles had grown and metamorphosed into a frog!

Hoodwinked:

This week David and I visited Nottingham to see their round of robins. (I tried to find the collective for robins, but there were numerous suggestions!) Once we had spotted 17 of the 33 we decided to have lunch at Sherwood Forest. I blogged about the day here.

Book I am reading:

the ice twins

The Ice Twins by S K Tremayne

The current book I am reading is The Ice Twins, a suggestion by my mum. She said it was a page turner. It is billed as a psychological thriller, based around the death of a twin girl, the other claims mistaken identity. Set among the highlands of Scotland, the plot follows a family who have been broken by the death of a child and an affair. They relocate to an isolated island in the hope of a new beginning. I doubt very much that will happen!

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

#walk1000miles:

I broke the 1000 mile mark on 13th July 2018. I celebrated in typical Christine-style by taking a swim at Llyn Dinas, Snowdonia. I will write further on that adventure soon.

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Celebrating at Llyn Dinas

So, that was my eventful week, how was yours?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x