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    Hotel Review Stratford-upon-Avon: Alveston Manor Hotel and Spa

    Stratford-upon-Avon is somewhere that everyone should visit at least once in their lives. It’s a tourist mecca, but for a reason with a history that holds proud and literary links to Shakespeare, making it a great place to spend a little time. We picked Alveston Manor Hotel and Spa for several reasons, and loved every sun-soaked minute that we stayed there.

    Stratford Upon Avon Alveston Manor Hotel Adventures of a London Kiwi

    We’ve visited before, years ago as a day trip from London, but this time it was to rest, relax and explore quietly after a very busy few months.

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    Visiting the National Maritime Museum: The Emma, Lady Hamilton – Seduction and Celebrity Exhibition

    She was the Kim Kardashian of the early 18th Century. No, actually, Kim K wishes she was half the person that Emma, Lady Hamilton became. Rising from a penny-scraping existence on the wrong side of the law, she won the heart of national hero Lord Nelson (that’s where the allegory doesn’t quite match), became friends with Marie Antoinette, developed from a household chattel to a titled Lady, was a household celebrity mauled in the press, saved a Royal Family from danger, was a muse to artist George Romney and sadly died in penury despite her perceived services to the realm.

    Maritime Museum Greenwich Emma Hamilton Exhibition Seduction and Celebrity Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Maritime Museum Greenwich Emma Hamilton Exhibition Seduction and Celebrity Adventures of a London Kiwi

    I’ve long been fascinated by this historical character whom I (and
    about 15 people in my high school at any one time) shared a name with. After reading most of the books published about Emma Hamilton, when I heard that the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich were running an exhibition, I did a typical Londoner thing and made a mental note before forgetting entirely about visiting. Luckily, Twitter came to the rescue, and when the museum ran a special whereby Emma’s could visit the exhibit for free one weekend I managed to lure the lovely Claire into a spot of brunch and a wander through history.

    Born Amy Lyon, to a Blacksmith and his wife in a small Cheshire village called Ness, Emma moved to the bright lights of London to work as a maid before being lured into the seedy world of prostitution. After a few service jobs (one notably in Drury Lane) Emma subsequently
    works as a model, dancer, working girl, hostess and entertainer before
    falling pregnant to Sir Harry Featherstonhaugh.

    Maritime Museum Greenwich Emma Hamilton Exhibition Seduction and Celebrity Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Maritime Museum Greenwich Emma Hamilton Exhibition Seduction and Celebrity Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Cast aside because of the pregnancy, she falls in love with his friend Greville and becomes his mistress. Emma is educated, tamed and domesticated and begins to find
    notoriety posing for the painter George Romney before being sent to Naples (effectively as a chattel) where
    at the age of 26 she eventually marries Sir William Hamilton aged 60, the British Envoy to Naples.

     Maritime Museum Greenwich Emma Hamilton Exhibition Seduction and Celebrity Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Crazy, no? And that isn’t even the tip of her story.

     Maritime Museum Greenwich Emma Hamilton Exhibition Seduction and Celebrity Adventures of a London Kiwi

    As the sun began to set we ambled around the museum, two bloggers amidst hoards of excited kids and distracted parents, solving a few of the world’s problems (us, not the kids) whilst we admired a few of the beautiful displays of the ornate nautical history from the British Empire. Having not visited in years – the last time with my sea-faring Naval Dad – I was reminded just how much easily accessed culture there is in London. As a kid who was armed with a heavy encyclopaedia book set on the other side of the world to most historical happenings, the ability to literally touch history still boggles my mind.

     Maritime Museum Greenwich Emma Hamilton Exhibition Seduction and Celebrity Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Maritime Museum Greenwich Emma Hamilton Exhibition Seduction and Celebrity Adventures of a London Kiwi

    Anyway, usual ramblings aside, we both loved the exhibition. Agreeing that it was just the right length – perfect for an Emma enthusiast (though honestly, who doesn’t love an Emma) like me as well as my lovely companion – her personal story is beautifully delivered through gorgeously arranged sets, original artworks hung in gilded frames and the brilliant use of video nooks draped with flowing chiffon that Emma definitely would have approved of.

    Open until April, even at the full ticket price, the Emma, Lady Hamilton – Seduction and Celebrity Exhibition is really reasonable. Entry to the main National Maritime Museum exhibits is free – though they hope that donations are popped into the usual boxes where possible.

    Maritime Museum Greenwich Emma Hamilton Exhibition Seduction and Celebrity Adventures of a London Kiwi

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    Jean Trumpington, Coming Up Trumps – A Memoir

    As a child I never really found anyone who I wanted to idolise. Pop stars were too stratospheric (even the Spice Girls), iconic designers too bourgeoisie and TV stars simply weren’t 3D. In my late 20s, I have finally found someone – Jean Alys Barker, Baroness Trumpington born 23 October 1922.

    Jean Trumpington, Coming Up Trumps - A Memoir

    Many people live normal lives, loving their families, working as close
    to a 9-5 as they can get away with, holidaying in the sunshine and
    trying to stay out of trouble. That wasn’t ever going to be the case for
    Jean Trumpington. Educated privately to a Major in the Bengal Lancers
    and an American Heiress, she left school aged 15 having never taken an
    exam before being sent to Paris to study art and literature. Her family
    moved in circles of privilege (which included the then Prince of Wales, later the Duke of Windsor, and his paramour Wallis Simpson) before the Wall Street crash dampened their fortunes slightly. By her Mother’s standards anyway.

    She worked as a Land Girl on David Lloyd George’s Sussex arable farm, at Bletchley Park because of her language skills, served as a headmaster’s wife, mayor
    of Cambridge, a government whip and as a health minister. Then, when most people are beginning to settle into their comfortable 80s, she famously flicked a V-sign to her colleague Tom King during a Lords
    debate. To be absolutely fair, he was teasing her about her age and deserved it. She became a minor sensation as the UK media seized upon her inimitable response and relayed it over TV networks and social media sites.

    Jean Trumpington, Coming Up Trumps - A Memoir

    After her stint at Bletchley Park (including an infamous incident being stuffed into a washing hamper and pushed flying down a long corridor to end up on a commanding officers desk) America, the land of her mother beckoned.

    “I had an absolute longing to go there,” she explains. “In the end I
    went with four pounds in my pocket. I had a job but I didn’t realise it
    would take two weeks before I was paid. So I was very much thinner by
    the time the two weeks were ended and full of potato crisps.”

    Jean Trumpington, Coming Up Trumps - A Memoir

    Surviving in a strange land by the skin of her teeth, and the pulling of many cheeky networking strings, work as a Secretary was poorly paid and boring, hanks to well-heeled friends,
    she partied at the Stork Club, knew Walter Annenberg, later to become US
    ambassador to Britain, and tap-danced on a table at a shindig in
    Philadelphia.

    “I think I’ve been incredibly lucky in many ways. I had a fantastic
    time during the war, doing a job that was very worthwhile, having fun
    when I went out on the town in the little time we off that I we were
    allowed and living life to the full whenever I got the chance.”

    “And I still certainly do.”

    As a castaway on Desert Island Discs in 1990 she chose as her luxury item the Crown Jewels in order to maximise her chances of being rescued. Now that is someone to have as an idol.

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    End of Year Book Survey – 2014 Edition

    In the spirit of the New Year, I couldn’t resist repeating this post from last year when I spied it on Bailie’s blog. As she’s got such great taste I couldn’t hold out from borrowing her version of the end of year book survey. Actually, it’s partially her fault I have so many books…


    PS: Amazon are doing LOADS of sale books, both kindle and proper at the moment so if you enjoy reading, go nuts. I won’t tell anyone if you don’t tell my husband that I’m doing the same…

    1. Best Book You Read In 2014?

    Like last year I actually can’t pick this. Call me a coward, but I read so many
    wonderful books that shared “…years of writing, experience and the
    author’s deep desire to put a portion of themselves plus the aspects of
    humanity they admire, hate, aspire to, condemn, onto paper or a screen.”
    +denise greenwood

    2. Book You Were Excited About & Thought You Were Going To Love More But Didn’t?

    A curious history of food & drink, Ian Crofton. Ever wondered where noodles came from? How Worcester Sauce was invented? Or even who the ‘Cucumber King of Burma’ was? I did. The book was good, but it didn’t blow my socks off.

    3. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2014?
    The Forgotten Seamstress – On the brink of both a personal and work crisis, Carolyn Meadows
    discovers a quilt in her Mother’s attic from her childhood. She
    discovers that every stitch of embroidery, every thread of fabric is
    impregnated with the poignant story of Maria Romano; an East End orphan
    from a young age, brought up in a workhouse and ripe with stories of
    Buckingham Palace, royalty, illegal adoption and war. Is it all true?
    Are they simply wild fantasies of a madwoman locked away in an asylum?


    4. Book you read in 2014 that you recommended to people most in 2015?

    Ozzy Osbourne’s memoir is one of the funniest books I have ever read. If anyone ever
    asks me for a recommendation that puts a smile on their face, the first
    book that comes to mind is the surprisingly well written eccentric
    chaos that is “I Am Ozzy“.

    5. Best series you discovered in 2014?
    The Infernal Devices Series by Cassandra Clare. An intriguing mix of fantasy, the supernatural, Victorian values and modern paradoxes.

    6. Favourite new author you discovered in 2014?
    Ian Spragg – From ghost stories to weird items left behind on trains (more mannequins
    than you can shake a stick at), London Underground’s Strangest Tales is
    a light read, an easily dip in and out collection loosely charting the
    history – real and urban fiction – of the Tube. We’ve used it as a
    reference book a few the times that we’ve been stuck out at an obscure
    train stop in order to entertain ourselves, and as a guide whilst
    traipsing around London.

    7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or was a new genre for you?

    Drinking goat’s milk in a yurt, a collection of short stories edited by Monica Nebol. Many stories are flights of fancy, conjouring fantastical narratives
    that may never happen. On a cold windy day in London, I found myself
    drawn into the rich exotic maelstrom that is life as an expat in
    Kazakhstan.

    8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2014?
    My passport. Is that geeky?


    9. Book You Read In 2014 That You Are Most Likely To Re-Read Next Year?

    This is the same as last year – everything by Terry Pratchett. No matter how bad a day I’m having, his writing always makes me smile. I adore his footnotes.

    10. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2014?
    The gorgeous thriller The Haiku Murder by Fran Pickering. Simply glorious!


    11. Most memorable character in 2013?
    Tessa from the Infernal Devices Series by Cassandra Clare. She was an intriguing mix of Victorian values and modern paradoxes.


      

    12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?
    84 Charing Cross Road journals the letter exchange of Helene Hanff, a
    poor New York script writer, and a bookstore employee Frank Doel working
    for Marks & Co. a secondhand bookseller in London. The book is a
    heartwarming narrative of their friendship all the while an ocean apart,
    of 20 years.

    13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2014?
    I knew I’d cry. She was an ordinary little girl, living through an
    extraordinarily difficult situation where one wrong step at the wrong
    time could cost the lives of her whole family. Furthermore, visiting Anne Frank’s home in Amsterdam only served to further emphasise the effect this small girl has had on the world.

    14. Book you can’t believe you waited UNTIL 2014 to finally read?

    The Picture of Dorian Grey, Oscar Wilde. The classic tale of narcissism, casual cruelty and karma.

    15. Favourite Passage/Quote From A Book You Read In 2014?

    “Snapshots, moments, mere seconds: as fragile and beautiful and
    hopeless as a single butterfly, flapping on against a gathering wind.” 

    Delirium, Lauren Oliver


    16. Shortest & Longest Book You Read In 2014?
    The shortest will be Drinking goat’s milk in a yurt, a collection of short stories edited by Monica Nebol, and the longest will the monolithic The Luminaries – Eleanor Catton

    17. Book That Had A Scene In It That Had You Reeling And Dying To Talk To Somebody About It?

    My heart was broken by a weathered, whiskery old Sailor. His
    name was Simon, and served gallantly aboard the HMS Amethyst at times
    under heavy fire in turbulent seas during World War II. 

    Infernal Devices Series - Cassandra Clare - Adventures of a London Kiwi

    18. Favourite Relationship From A Book You Read In 2014
    Running through all the maelstrom of ‘owning’ 7 cats, is the
    heartbreaking story of Tom Cox’s long and chequered relationship with
    The Bear, his oldest cat: a “painfully sensitive” survivor moggy who may
    or may not be an evil genius. 

    19. Favorite Book You Read in 2014 From An Author You’ve Read Previously

    The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern.

    20. Best Book You Read In 2014 That You Read Based SOLELY On A Recommendation From Somebody Else
    Hands down this has to be The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton; recommended to me by the lovely Jess, no doubt helped by our recent explorations of Amsterdam, the author weaves a spellbinding tale of obsession, love, retribution and tiptoes on the darker side of life.

    21. Genre You Read The Most From in 2014?
    Again, like last year it’s Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Classics probably in that order. Oh, and foodie books.


    22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2014?
    We’ve very luckily been to quite a few countries in the last few years,
    and during that time, we’ve whittled down our favourites. Travel
    guides, we’ve tried a few. But there are one or two brands that seem to
    hold their place in our luggage. This book simply a gate-way drug to wanderlust and travel crushes. Yep, you read that right. Don’t download this unless you want to be tempted into booking a fabulous holiday somewhere exotic.


    23. Best 2014 debut you read?

    The Cherry Blossom Murder, Fran Pickering When Tokyo-based Londoner Josie finds a body under the cherry blossom, she sets
    out to track down the killer.

    24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2014?
    Well, technically this is cheating, but watching To Kill a Mockingbird on the Regents Open Air Theatre was hauntingly delicious. Clever, clever choreography, odes directly to the text, engaging actors,
    a fantastically simple set – no wonder they have had rave reviews.
    Whilst we were there we noticed several school groups, learning
    viscerally rather than through ink and page; oh to have had that
    opportunity as a kid.

    25. Book That Was The Most Fun To Read in 2014?

    The latest Rivers of London series installation – Foxglove Summer.

    26. Book That Made You Cry Or Nearly Cry in 2014?

    Again, it’s the The Forgotten Seamstress – On the brink of both a personal and work crisis, Carolyn Meadows
    discovers a quilt in her Mother’s attic from her childhood. She
    discovers that every stitch of embroidery, every thread of fabric is
    impregnated with the poignant story of Maria Romano; an East End orphan
    from a young age, brought up in a workhouse and ripe with stories of
    Buckingham Palace, royalty, illegal adoption and war. Is it all true?
    Are they simply wild fantasies of a madwoman locked away in an asylum?

    27. Book You Read in 2014 That You Think Got Overlooked This Year Or When It Came Out?
    The premise is that an ex-teacher, turned reviewer finds a mysterious disposable camera in a restaurant on Charlotte Street.
    Chaos ensues as he tries to match up the camera via it’s contents with
    the lost owner. This is a humourous, quite pithy tale about friendship,
    romance and making sure you give life a real go.

    28. Did you complete any reading challenges or goals that you had set for yourself at the beginning of this year?
    I joined a book club, I’ve well on the way to reading 60 of the BBC’s top 100 books, and I’ve finished reading critically 5 foodie books, learning SO much on the journey.

    29. One Book You Didn’t Get To In 2014 But Will Be Your Number 1 Priority in 2015?
    Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

    What was your standout book or reading experience this past year?

    What book are you reading right now?

    Did you try any new genres?

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    Infernal Devices Series – Cassandra Clare

    For this particular book addiction, I blame Bailie. Set in Victorian London, the Infernal Devices series is a prequel to the best-selling Mortal Instruments’ series. A surprising subterranean world with supernatural twists holds many secrets for Tessa,
    an American girl who travels to England to meet up with her brother after
    losing her aunt – her nearest family.

    Infernal Devices Series - Cassandra Clare - Adventures of a London Kiwi

    The novels feature Tessa (who on being kidnapped fresh off her boat from
    the US) finds out that she has supernatural powers. It’s a Young Adult series – feeding our seemingly insatiable appetite for Vampires,
    Demons, Shadowhunters, and the inevitable love triangle with angsty angry Will
    and seemingly perfect Jem.

     

    Clockwork Angel

    Infernal Devices Series - Cassandra Clare - Adventures of a London Kiwi

    It’s always interesting to look back at a series once you’ve finished the first book, at how the characters develop – Tessa seems to get out of the way a lot of the time when the action
    hits, but I have to keep in mind that it’s set in Victorian England
    where women and kids were seen and not heard for the most part. My
    interest is most definitely piqued though, and I’m awaiting to get the
    second in the series. 

    Each of the characters, from Charlotte who runs the
    Shadowhunters taking in orphans, to Sophie the precogniscent maid has an
    interesting story to tell interwoven with Tessa’s, and a few intriguing
    twists and turns. I won’t tell you more because I don’t want to give
    away any secrets or plot strands – you’re just going to have to read it.

    Clockwork Prince

    Infernal Devices Series - Cassandra Clare - Adventures of a London Kiwi

    With a slowburning first installation, the second book in the series hots up exponentially. Tessa has
    become more natural and is developing, Will has a reason for being so
    weird and Jem, oh poor Jem’s story is continuing to develop in very
    interesting ways. If you’re a Twihard, Potter-head, Vampire Academy or
    even Sookie Stackh… no wait, it’s not that sexy. But to everyone else
    I’d thoroughly recommended sticking with the first, then snapping up the
    second book. I loved it to the point that I actually couldn’t put the book down to go to sleep

    Clockwork Princess

     

    Infernal Devices Series - Cassandra Clare - Adventures of a London Kiwi

    “You know that feeling,” she said, “when you are reading a book, and
    you know that it is going to be a tragedy; you can feel the cold and
    darkness coming, see the net drawing close around the characters who
    live and breathe on the pages. But you are tied to the story as if bring
    dragged behind a carriage, and you cannot let go or turn the course
    aside.”

    The mystery of the clockwork angel is fascinated me, and I couldn’t
    wait to find out more. Would I recommend it? Definitely – a slow read
    perfect with the cat, in your PJs, hiding from the autumnal rain.

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