Split, Croatia

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Following on from our stay in Dubrovnik we went onto Split. The drive from Dubrovnik to spit took about 4 hours and that’s with stop offs for snacks and pictures. The roads are mostly new and large so the drive was quite comfortable. One thing to be aware of is that Croatia is actually divided and if you wish to drive from Dubrovnik to Split or anywhere north you will have to drive through Bosnia and Herzegovina. The passport control is very quick, no need to get out of the car and you are in and out within 5mins. When we rented the car we were told to pay an extra 60eu for the passage through Bosnia, which was a completely lie since no paperwork was requested other than our passports.

Split itself is coastal surrounded by mountains. The city centre is a palace completely walled in without any roofs. The city is known for its promenade and its beaches. We had only stayed in Split for one night but did spend an extra day before heading back to Dubrovnik at the end of our holiday.

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The palace makes up most of the old town of Split. Inside you will find a number of different museums, roman structures and plenty of shops and café’s. You can also explore the underground basement levels of the palace as a paid tour. The palace and its basement is well known for being the filming location of game of thrones and many of the market stalls contain souvenirs related to the show. The palace grounds are full of small streets and amazing architecture such as towers. One of the most popular is the bell tower of St.Dominus where you can climb to the top for a birds eye view of the city. You can Outside the walls of the palace you can find more markets and café’s. The main promenade is just outside the walls facing the water.

Marjan Forest Park

Just north of the palace is the park Marjan. Even if you don’t have the time to explore the full park and all its sites I would recommend taking a walk up the hill and stopping for some lunch at Vidilica. You will get a beautiful view of the whole city and the port.

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Overall split is a relaxed atmosphere with plenty of beautiful views and ancient architecture. I enjoyed the time I spent in the city. The prices were much lower than those of Dubrovnik or Hvar and if you are looking for a beach holiday this is definitely a place to go. There are constant ferries that leave Split, day trips to different islands, krka waterfalls only an hour away and loads of other day trips. Although we did not visit the Krka waterfalls since we went to much bigger Plitzvic lakes, the Krka waterfalls are the ones were you can swim unlike the Plitzvic which are a national park.

 

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Lord of Shadows

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Young Adult / Romance
Publisher : Walker Books

Summary

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By Cassandra Clare

 

Emma Carstairs has learned that the love she shares with her parabatai, Julian Blackthorn, isn’t just forbidden—it could destroy them both. She knows she should run from Julian. But how can she when the Blackthorns are threatened by enemies on all sides?
Their only hope is the Black Volume of the Dead, a spell book of terrible power. Everyone wants it. Only the Blackthorns can find it. Spurred on by a dark bargain with the Seelie Queen, Emma; her best friend, Cristina; and Mark and Julian Blackthorn journey into the Courts of Faerie, where glittering revels hide bloody danger and no promise can be trusted. Meanwhile, rising tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders has produced the Cohort, an extremist group of Shadowhunters dedicated to registering Downworlders and “unsuitable” Nephilim. They’ll do anything in their power to expose Julian’s secrets and take the Los Angeles Institute for their own.
When Downworlders turn against the Clave, a new threat rises.As dangers close in, Julian devises a risky scheme that depends on the cooperation of an unpredictable enemy. But success may come with a price he and Emma cannot even imagine, one that will bring with it a reckoning of blood that could have repercussions for everyone and everything they hold dear.

 

Review

This is a sequel I’ve been eagerly anticipating after reading the first of this series Lady Midnight. I have read a few of her books and although I wouldn’t call it my favourite series this was definitely a far more up to date take on the familiar story.

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This book started off and flowed through very well but I didn’t expect it to get so dark. The ending was such a shock that I felt like I needed a light-hearted book asap to get my mind off the story and that doesn’t happen all that often with me. There was some humor of the modern times and modern world but not as much as the first book did.

As before here are plenty of love triangles and complicated feelings to keep you eager for your favourites to just end up together already. However as it went on the eagerness soon was replaced by feeling annoyed. There is only so much you can stretch an angle and I think that she stretched it quite enough at this stage. I really felt that for the size of the book and the potential the love triangles took over completely, I mean what even happened in the story?

Conclusion

Although this review may be short but I guess this is fitting to the book in question. The first book was exciting, the second although had adventure was much darker and not a lot of humor, although the story unfolded it happened at a snails pace. In the end after reading the full book I was left feeling almost “is this it” in regards to the story itself. I’m not as excited to get my hands on the next installment but perhaps it will be different to this one. In the meantime I give this a 2 out of 3, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you read the first book and wanted to finish the series.

2stars

Plitzvic Lakes, Croatia

To say that this place was incredible would be an under statement. One of the things I wish we done different was that we actually stayed in the area over night and were able to spend more than one afternoon at the National Park. The park is located about 2 and a half hours drive from Split and thankfully we had our own car so we were able to head up there in our own time. Highly recommend wearing comfortable footware as there is a lot of ground to cover, sightseeing both upper and lower lakes will easily take you 3-4 hours and thats not including snack stops, toilet breaks or even photo/video time. Unlike Krka lakes you cannot swim in these so dont worry about bringing a swimsuit, you wont need it.

There are two entrances to the lakes, we had started at entrance 1. You can buy the ticket on arrival and will cost you about 34-35eu for an adult with all day to spend at the lakes.

Entrance 1 brings you out to the lower lakes, highest waterfall and wooden board walks along crystal clear lakes. As you make your way north stick to right handside and cross the water to get to the electric boat. The boat itself is super cute, the ticket is included in your entrance ticket to ride. There are two boats running across the wide lake every 15mins so you wont have to wait long, there is also food and toilets near the boat station. When you arrive at entrance 2 STAY ON THE BOAT as it will continue across a small stretch of water to bring you directly to P2 which is the upper lakes.

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If you thought the lower lakes are incredible you are about to be blown away by the views of the upper lakes. Make your way up along the wooden paths, take it all in and at the very top you can catch a train that brings you back down to entrances 1 and 2. Stay on the train until the end, you will have a short walk back to the actual entrance 1 but along that walk is the best view point of the lakes which is the main photo always posted of the lakes.

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We went at the end of may and arrived there in the late afternoon which actually ended up being an advantage as we were almost alone for a lot of the treking, giving us time to go at our own pace without bumping into people and to take plenty of photos without anyone else in the shot. I would love to go back there during autumn as the fallen leaves and changing colours would probably be even more spectacular. Perhaps even go back at every season. I really fell in love with these lakes and I think anyone who loves nature would too.

Big Little Lies

Genre: Mystery / Womans Fiction / Contemporary
Publisher : Corgi

Summary

Liane Moriarty
By Liane Moriarty

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one.
Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare.
New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

 

Review

I decided to give this book a read after the success of the show, and since the book is always better than the movie (or T.V. show in this case) I decided to go straight to the source. I enjoyed reading this book and was interested in the story as it was unfolding from the different angles and perspectives however I wouldn’t go as far as saying that this was a book I couldn’t put down.

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Reading from the perspective of different characters is definitely a way to keep things fresh and moving along. The characters themselves were each different and unique, interesting to read about and easy to relate to or compare to someone you know.

The story had everything to keep you entertained, it was funny and light-hearted, it was also serious and scary at times too. The story unfolded at a good pace which kept you guessing but not giving it away entirely. I saw part of the ending before reaching the end of the book but there were definitely more shockers thrown in there too which I didn’t expect both humorous and serious.

As a stand alone book it seemed like a very good story but I don’t know if it captured me enough to go buy the second one.

Conclusion

I enjoyed the book and the storyline. I wouldn’t put it up with my top favourites but definitely recommend to friends. This book is definitely a 4 out of 5 even if my review was played down a bit.

4stars

Dubrovnik, Croatia

I fell in love with the idea of Croatia when I seen pictures from a school friend on Facebook. The place looked absolutely stunning and with so much to do and see I felt like this is definitely the sort of place myself and him would love. I booked it a week later…or 8 months ahead to be precise. I like to plan wayyyyyy ahead. What I had realised after our trip to Lanzarote in comparison to Italy (Part 1) and Italy (Part 2) was that I definitely preferred to keep moving. The plan was to start in Dubrovnik, drive to Split and get a ferry to Hvar. By far one of my best decisions.20170527_144622

We had rented a car for the whole week that we were staying in Croatia, at the time I booked the only direct flight was to Dubrovnik, since then they have added Split however our plan was to drive back to Dubrovnik at the end of the week (or 10 days to be precise). Renting a car and driving the coast is one of the best ways to see Croatia. The airport was only a 20min drive to Dubrovnik with plenty to see on the way.

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You need to dedicated a full day at the very least for the old town. The walled city not only looks amazing from the outside but its spectacular on the inside. Going for a walk along the walls is an absolute must, you will get to see all the best scenery from there. The terracotta rooftops of the old town, the mountains and the sea. Down on the ground of the city it can get very hot very quickly as the space is so enclosed and busy (one of the reasons we opted to stay in a hotel outside of the old town). The little lane ways and street lamps are very exciting to explore. Make sure to take the time to have a drink or a meal along the lane ways up the steps, you might even spot a nice restaurant while you’re on the wall. Be prepared to climb a lot of steps in fact especially if you want the best view.

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Outside of the old city there is still plenty to see. As far as seeing goes, getting the cable car up to the top of the mountain is a great way to start. The panorama restaurant offers great view especially if you decide to visit at sunset (although it will be busy and you might need to make a reservation).
You can get a boat over to Lokrum Island. The island is very peaceful to visit with plenty to see, between the Dead Sea pool and the fort royal you will find plenty to do.20170604_074628

As far as day trips go there are plenty of other towns along the coast that you can get a water taxi too if not renting a car. One I would recommend would be Cavtat, a very beautiful and relaxing town. You could even stay there and travel to Dubrovnik if a more chilled out holiday is something you are after. We had stayed on the Poluotok Lapad which as the name suggest (well maybe not so suggestive) a peninsula just off Dubrovnik, the views of the sea and surrounding islands was truly incredible. The hotels on the peninsula can be quite pricey but they are top notch quality. There is a bus availbale from there to take you to the city center or else a taxi will cost about 10-15eu.

Over all Dubrovnik offers a lot of great views, history, architecture and good food. The only downside I found was the high cost, even the locals say that Dubrovnik is the most expensive city in Croatia so If you are planning to go all out be prepared to dig in deep but there are always cheaper alternatives to everything its only a matter of finding them.

The Couple Next Door

Genre: Mystery / Thriller / Fiction
Publisher : Corgi

Summary

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By Shari Lapena

Anne and Marco Conti seem to have it all–a loving relationship, a wonderful home, and their beautiful baby, Cora. But one night when they are at a dinner party next door, a terrible crime is committed. Suspicion immediately focuses on the parents. But the truth is a much more complicated story.
Inside the curtained house, an unsettling account of what actually happened unfolds. Detective Rasbach knows that the panicked couple is hiding something. Both Anne and Marco soon discover that the other is keeping secrets, secrets they’ve kept for years.
What follows is the nerve-racking unraveling of a family–a chilling tale of deception, duplicity, and unfaithfulness that will keep you breathless until the final shocking twist.

 

Review

I bought this book from Book depository, one of my new favorite sites for books. Aside from the free delivery and awesome free bookmarks they also give you book suggestions. This book happened to be one of the suggested books and the plot seemed appealing so I went ahead with the order.

 

Its a pretty good who done it story. The beginning is very quick to capture your attention where it only takes a few pages to get into the main part of the story rather than giving you a whole load of unnecessary background. The story is narrated through the different characters which gives you a better idea of what everyone is thinking but also makes it harder to figure out the twists coming. The story unfolds at a good pace, it doesn’t sway off track and doesn’t bore you either. Little by little more is revealed through the whole book.

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The characters are well developed, each with their own style and personality. Just like before there is nothing unnecessary to the story discussed about the characters. You get to know what you need to know and that can either be a good thing or a bad thing, personally its something I like.

You wont have to wait till the end of the book to find out the big reveal however the story doesn’t just end there as more details emerge as how its all led to this. The reveal I wasn’t expecting just as some of the more minor plot twists throughout the book. The ending on the other hand I seen coming a mile away, this made the last few pages a bit dull to read. This however has an ending within an ending, just as you think its all over the last short bit of shock is served up to you. Although this was an interesting way to finish a book I didn’t find it as shocking as I probably should have had but it also seemed that not much effort was put into writing that last bit to be honest more like it was thrown in for the fun of it.

Conclusion

I enjoyed the read and did go through it within a couple of hours, however I think that was more so from lack of something to do rather than the book was a page turner. Its a decent thriller with plenty of good twists and an interesting storyline, however the ending was a little bit of a let down as a result Ill only give this 3 stars. I would tell friends and family about it but i doubt it would be with much enthusiasm.

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El Teide, Tenerife

Although to most the canaries is a guaranteed sun holiday to lounge by the pool I absolutely love the Island Tenerife for a whole lot of different reasons. You will notice many posts on Tenerife because this is one of those places that I would go back to year after year. One of the biggest attractions of Tenerife is El Teide.

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El Teide is an active volcano which stands as the highest peak in Spain. It last erupted in 1909 and you can get a full history and details on the eruption in El Portillo Visitor center. The El Teide national park offers something for everyone, volcano education, breathtaking views, hiking trails and those great selfie opportunities.

There are plenty of stop off and scenic routes along the road up to Teide through various national parks which include hiking trails for those interested. To get to the peak itself I would advice to go early and book in advance. The cost for return trip on the cable car is 27euro each but despite the steep price for just an 8 min journey up the mountain the experience is worth it. At the top the temperatures drop to zero degrees or lower so be prepared before you go up so you can take your time without shivering every time you go to take a photo. Dont forget the sunscreen too, as you are above the level of the clouds the sun is almost guaranteed all year around.20180403_141206. You get an hour at the top with your ticket and cable cars run continuously so you can get the next available one whenever you feel like it. From the top of cable car station there are 3 routes to go for a hike and get more scenic views. One of these routes brings you up to the very peak however this requires a permit to be obtained beforehand. You can get all information here.

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A trip to El Teide is definitely worthwhile however expect to give this one at least a half day if not a full day. You can also go up there at night for some stargazing. One bit of advice I would give is to rent a car and do it all yourself rather than going on a tour, you will get much more out of it. Keep an eye out for more Things to do in Tenerife as there will be plenty of them.

 

The Star of Kazan

Genre: Fiction / Adventure / Fantasy
Publisher : MacMillian

Summary

324_img1Eva Ibbotson

Annika has never had a birthday. Instead she celebrates her Found Day, the day a housemaid and a cook to three eccentric Viennese professors found her and took her home. There, Annika has made a happy life in the servants’ quarters, surrounded with friends, including the elderly woman next door who regales Annika with stories of her performing days and her countless admirers – especially the Russian count who gave her the legendary emerald, the Star of Kazan. And yet, Annika still dreams of finding her true mother. But when a glamorous stranger arrives claiming to be Annika’s mother, and whisks her away to a crumbling, spooky castle, Annika discovers that all is not as it seems in her newfound home…

Review

I was handed this book by one of my primary school teachers when I was just 10 years old. Why am I writing about this book 15 years later? Well because it made such an impact on me I had re-read it since and to this day would say what a great book it is.

Screenshot_20171022-173620.jpgThe book is full of exciting adventure but at the same hardships and happy moments. Eva’s ability to transport you into the scene she is describing is amazing, she paints the picture so vibrantly you feel like you’re there along with the characters. This is one of the reasons why I will always have a huge respect for the author and her work and why I continue to talk about her books 15 years down the line. For me books are an escape and she makes it so easy to escape.

Although the main character is not the most exciting she is strong and funny which is a common trait with most of Eva’s main characters. You feel for the characters and learnt to care for them so much so that during the twisted plot you worry for them.

Perhaps at my age now the plot twists wouldn’t seem as exciting but they definitely were exciting to the 10 year old me. Exciting enough for me to re-read the book and buy it to keep just like I did with Journey to the River Sea another of my favourites by Eva.

Conclusion

Its a fun adventure and great escape into a different world. I would recommend this to everyone, from a 10 year old right up to 30. I believe you cant be too old to enjoy a light hearted adventure story that can transport you to a different place. Eva’s books are truly magical and unique. 5 out of 5 for this one.

5stars

Ghent, Belgium

Ghent was a stop over trip on the way to Brugge which I got as a gift. The Medieval architecture is a must see in that part of the country and the one main focus point for me was the Gravensteen castle (see below). The castle is 10th Century surrounded by a moat, I mean what more can you want!!

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As well as the main castle itself the rest of the architecture is also worth seeing. We walked from the train station down towards the center along the canal that led us straight to the castle but also giving us great views of Sint-Michielsplein church (see below) which is just off the main plaza in Ghent (top tip the St.micahels birge is great for photo’s). From there you can get great views of bell towers in all surrounding buildings. The main plaza also leads off to the main shopping street if thats what you fancy.

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The cobble locks everywhere gave you a real feel for the age of the city and you do really feel like you were thrown into the past. There is also boat tours available along the canals, however these don’t operate in winter as parts of the canals are frozen solid. Prices for most attractions werent too expensive, Castle being 10 euro and to climb the bell tower at the main plaza was just 8 euro. All prices and opening times can be found at HERE which I for one found very handy.

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The city itself is quite big however most of the main attractions were all quite close together which made it much simpler for us as a stop over. If you like Medieval architecture then this is definitely the town for you. Im sure Id be back to it sometime in my future anyhow.

City of Snakes

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Horror
Publisher : Harper Voyager

Summary

darren-shan-large-354397D.B. Shan

For ten years Capac Raimi has ruled the City. Created by the first Cardinal to continue his legacy, Capac cannot be killed.
Then Capac disappears. His trusted lieutenant, Ford Tasso, suspects the mysterious villacs, ancient and powerful Incan priests. To Ford, only one man has the cunning to outwit such adversaries-Al Jeery, who has taken the guise of his father, the terrifying assassin Paucar Wami.
Al has no love for Capac and no wish to tangle with the villacs. Until Ford promises him the one thing he truly craves-retribution against the man who killed those he loved most and destroyed his life. Lured into the twisted, nightmarish world of the Incan priests, Al will learn more about the City than he ever imagined, and be offered more power than he ever desired.
But in the City, everything comes at a cost…

Review

This is the last instalment to The City Trilogy, following on from the first book “Procession of the Dead” and the second “Hell’s Horizon “. Although I wasn’t as keen on the second book as I was on the first I was looking forward to see how the two came together and everything was tied up. I wont lie, I was fairly disappointed and perhaps if you preferred the first book to the second you would agree with me on this.

Screenshot_20171022-173542.jpgThe third book follows once again Al Jeery as the main character and despite Capac Rami being the main character of the first book he barely graces the pages in this instalment. I had hoped that the two would be in the last book together but it seems more of the same as the second book. This book is by far the heaviest with the supernatural side of things focusing a lot more background explanations and almost felt like you weren’t part of the story anymore but being lectured on all things Inca priests.

The plot twists seem a little too forced, there isn’t as many shocks as you would get with his other books. Its like when you start wrapping Christmas gifts nice and neat and towards the end you really don’t care anymore and just want it to be over, this is the feeling I got from this book which is rather disappointed.

Conclusion

Disappointed with the direction of the book but then again that could be all just a personal preference. Didn’t find this book as engaging and exciting as the others. Perhaps it would have been better to leave Processions of the dead as a stand alone book is my final conclusion on this trilogy. I would give this a 3 out of 5, despite the negative comments it was a way to tie it all together and a decent read however not as good as the previous two.

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