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.

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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.

79300-3stars2b252812529

Brussels

For Christmas last year I got a 3 day trip to Brussels for my partner. Although some would say that this is as much a present for myself than him but this is something we seemed to do regularly. 20161227_173515.jpg

Brussels was a wonderful city and great to visit during the Christmas break since the Christmas markets are still around, plenty of Christmas villages with other fun attractions and of course the grand place lights show has to be the most spectacular to visit.

We were staying very central, but even if you are not the metro system is a good one and doesnt cost a fortune either. The city isnt huge so you will still have plenty of time to visit everything you want. Obviously the main attraction is the Grand Place and this is one amazing place. The architecture all around you will have your head spinning. This place is has to be visited both during the day and at night. From the Grand place its only a short walk to Manneken Pis (pissing boy) which is a lot smaller than what I had expected it to be. With another short walk you can get to the royal palace. Another place of interest is park Cinquantenaire with its impressive looking arch as well as millitary and auto museums. 20161228_105542.jpg

A little outside of the main city (by metro) you can find Atonium and Mini Europe with is great fun. You can buy a ticket to go to both or separately when you get there its up to you. Mini Europe is a great photo opportunity where you get to see the miniature versions of all the best European destinations, even in motion. 20161229_125305.jpg

After this city break my legs definitely needed a day or two to recover. As i said its not small but despite that there is still plenty of walking involved and taxi’s arent cheap if you wanted that as an option. As for food, the mussels and fries are their specialty and are available at any corner and why not try the Belgian waffles with toppings of your choice for dessert. You’ll also be delighted if you are a craft beer lover as there is plenty of that in Brussels.

Hell’s Horizon

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Horror
Publisher : Harper Voyager

Summary

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

In the City, The Cardinal rules, and Al Jeery is a loyal member of his personal guard. But when Al is pulled from his duties at Party Central to investigate a murder, an unexpected crime scene discovery leads him to question all his loyalties and beliefs. Al is drawn into a terrifying mystery that features a series of corpses, the City’s Incan forefathers, the imposing figure of The Cardinal, and the near-mythical assassin Paucar Wami.

Wami is a law unto himself. A shadowy, enigmatic figure of astoundingly graceful skill, he kills anyone he chooses without fear of punishment or retribution. And Al is about to find out that he has a lot more in common with Wami than he could ever have imagined…

Review

Following on from the first book in The City Trilogy “Procession of the Dead” I just had to pick up this book. The first book still stands as my all time favourite so it was a tough act to follow.

Screenshot_20171022-173454.jpgBefore I started reading this book I expected it to follow on from the story in the first, as a book series typically goes however Darren Shan is far from typical. This book takes on a whole different storyline and different characters. Although its still set in the same city as the first book it takes on a whole different angle almost like “Meanwhile on the other side of the city”. This book tilts far more towards the crime and gangster side than the last book, there is still supernatural sci fi details in the background but they are not as obvious as they were in the first book. I can see how this book would appeal to a far bigger audience than the first.

The storyline is full of twists and cliff hangers, you’d expect nothing less from Darren Shan. The story is exciting  and easy to follow, has a who done it sort of feel to it. You get more Inca background story and the plot seems to lead in the direction that the last book will pull the first two together for a grand ending (review to follow). I didn’t feel for the main Character as much as I did for Capac Rami in the first book, he didn’t seem to me as developed and almost a little robotic.

Conclusion

The second book of the series is far more a dark crime investigation novel than the first book which is more of an eerie horror violent book. For this reason alone it just wasn’t as much my cup of tea to call it as good as the first book. I think this book would work even if you didn’t read the first and I would still recommend this book and Id say far more people would be interested. Although this was for a wider audience, im part of the smaller creepier audience hence why a 4 out of 5. Perhaps this book would have gotten the 5 out of 5 if I didn’t have the first book to compare it to.

4stars

 

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Horror
Publisher :

Summary

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

Quick-witted and cocksure, young upstart Capac Raimi arrives in the City determined to make his mark. As he learns the tricks of his new trade from his Uncle Theo he’s soon on his way to becoming a promising new gangster. Then he crosses paths with The Cardinal, and his life changes forever.

Review

As a fan of Darren Shan books both the Demonata and the Saga of Darren Shan from the age of 14 there was no way I was going to pass on the chance to read one of his first Adult novels. Ive heard about the book coming out way before it did so as soon as it hit the shelves I was there to get it. Although I liked his books and writing style in the past, this book blew my mind. It still stands firmly as my all time favourite book by a mile.

The level of twists and excitement is immense. There is more cliff hangers than you can imagine which makes it so much hander to put the book down. The story is interesting with a bit of a gangster edge, along with some science fiction future-esqe feel to it too. The city in the story reminds me of the likes of Gotham or Sin City. Let me just say that this book would make a great and exciting movie.

The characters are well written and not all is revealed about their personalities from the beginning which allows you to learn more as the story unfolds so do the characters at an equal pace which makes for a easy read. There is also an Inca angle in this book which I havnt come across before but found very interesting, its definitely a refreshing angle to take in this day and age.

The book is fast paced but clear to follow with a good flow. There is no slow parts to the book that would want you to skip ahead, but then again I always thought this about his works and main reason I became such a fan. The ending was different to what you might expect and to be honest could be left as the stand alone book for me, not that I didn’t enjoy the other 2 books of the trilogy (review to follow).

 

Conclusion

Im pretty sure I already made it quite clear just how much I loved this book. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone though, as I think only sci fi enthusiasts would truly enjoy this book. That said I think if this book did ever see the silver screen it would definitely gather a wider fan base if directed properly. A solid 5 out of 5.

5stars

Washington DC

My last stop on my america adventure was Washington DC and the main reason was the Smithsonian for my love of museums and science. DC did not disappoint, between all the museums and monuments there was plenty to keep you busy. Click on the links to bring you straight to the site for more info, price and opening times.

Capitol building and Smithsonian

One of the very first things that i noticed when it comes to Washington DC was just how easy it was to get around, and im not talking public transport, Im talking the streets layout. A,B,C and 1, 2, 3 its as simple as that. In no time at all i found my way to the Capitol building, which i used as my starting point for my museum tour. The capitol building itself is free to enter but if you want a tour you need to book in advance. There is also a list of things you cant bring in so make sure you read that before you decide to go.IMG_0051

First up on the left is the botanical gardens, I just happen to wonder over there without any plans and it was beautiful. Sections where you feel like you’re walking through the actual rain forest. I definitely spent more time there than i intended but not everyone would think of going there.

From there I just headed down to every museum along the road including the native american museum and hirshhorn museum and sculpture park but the real gem was the air and space museum with its life size airplanes handing from the ceiling, the planetarium and so much more. I felt like I had spent a full day there despite only being there for an hour or so. I was completely engulfed.IMG_0068.JPG

Across the green was the national art gallery, despite the fact I’m not a huge art fan I was still fairly interested when walking around this museum. Beside the art museum is the national history museum, this was another gem of a place. Aside from the different exhibits and learning there was the butterfly pavilion. One of my favourite experiences was being in a dome full of butterflies some of which were as big as much face. It really was awe inspiring to be there. The entry to the butterfly pavilion is only every few hours and you have to get a ticket in ahead of time. If you’re doing a museum day, plan your time well and check out the websites for all the up to date information of the exhibits to make sure you don’t miss out on something awesome.

Monument & Memorials

Well as far as monuments go DC definitely has its fair share starting with one of the most famous ones the Washington monument which unfortunately was under renovation when I was there and still is until 2019. I recon the view from the top is definitely worth a second visit to the city. IMG_0100.JPGFrom the Washington monument its straight ahead towards the Lincoln memorial with the world war 2 memorial and the Lincoln reflective pool along the way. Like many people there I had brought a lunch with me and sat on the steps of the memorial under Lincoln’s feet. The view from the top of the stairs is beautiful and I’m not just talking about Lincoln himself. To the right of the Lincoln memorial was the Korean war veterans memorial and one of both saddest and heartfelt memorials I had ever visited. Staying in that direction you eventually get to the Martin Luther King memorial and the tidal basin with a perfect view of the Thomas Jefferson memorial. Across from the Potomac river is the famous Arlington cemetery which is the grave site of John F Kennedy and also the tomb of the unknown soldier.

White House & City

The main attraction of course for most would be getting a glimpse at the white house. There was always a crown at the park anytime I walked past but I wont lie I did stand with the crowd at one stage too even got a thrill to see the helicopter land just outside the house, although nothing even happened. The rest of the city has loads to offer, attractions and museums such as the international spy museum or madame tussauds which I love no matter how many times I go.

All in all Washington DC has so much to offer you will walk the feet off yourself. Definitely take a few days if visiting as you will need it and I’m glad that I spent 3 days in this exciting city full of things to do. I think this city was the perfect ending to my 4 months spent in the states.

 

Processions of the Dead

Genre: Fiction / Fantasy / Horror
Publisher : Harper Voyager

Summary

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

Quick-witted and cocksure, young upstart Capac Raimi arrives in the City determined to make his mark. As he learns the tricks of his new trade from his Uncle Theo he’s soon on his way to becoming a promising new gangster. Then he crosses paths with The Cardinal, and his life changes forever.

Review

As a fan of Darren Shan books both the Demonata and the Saga of Darren Shan from the age of 14 there was no way I was going to pass on the chance to read one of his first Adult novels. Ive heard about the book coming out way before it did so as soon as it hit the shelves I was there to get it. Although I liked his books and writing style in the past, this book blew my mind. It still stands firmly as my all time favourite book by a mile.

Screenshot_20171022-173416.jpgThe level of twists and excitement is immense. There is more cliff hangers than you can imagine which makes it so much hander to put the book down. The story is interesting with a bit of a gangster edge, along with some science fiction future-esqe feel to it too. The city in the story reminds me of the likes of Gotham or Sin City. Let me just say that this book would make a great and exciting movie.

The characters are well written and not all is revealed about their personalities from the beginning which allows you to learn more as the story unfolds so do the characters at an equal pace which makes for a easy read. There is also an Inca angle in this book which I havnt come across before but found very interesting, its definitely a refreshing angle to take in this day and age.

The book is fast paced but clear to follow with a good flow. There is no slow parts to the book that would want you to skip ahead, but then again I always thought this about his works and main reason I became such a fan. The ending was different to what you might expect and to be honest could be left as the stand alone book for me, not that I didn’t enjoy the other 2 books of the trilogy (review to follow).

 

Conclusion

Im pretty sure I already made it quite clear just how much I loved this book. I wouldn’t recommend it to everyone though, as I think only sci fi enthusiasts would truly enjoy this book. That said I think if this book did ever see the silver screen it would definitely gather a wider fan base if directed properly. A solid 5 out of 5.

5stars

Philadelphia

Following on from my last months post, I had taken the bus again from New york down to Philadelphia. I didnt think the city was that big and gave it less than two days on my schedule. Once again just like with new york this proven to be a far more interesting city than I expected.

Once I arrived I set off to go visit the Eastern State Penetentiary. I managed to get there just before closing and got to walk around a mostly empty prison along with my guided headset. Once again I had a lot more fun on my own exploring different cells and reading up on the history of the place.

From there I didn’t really have any further plan so I wondered over to the art museum which happened to be the famous rocky steps location. Watching people running up and down for photos and videos was quite entertaining but I decided to pass on that one.

From the art museum you can walk back along a pretty lane way covered by trees all the way to the city. In the city there is plenty of art installations and mosaics to see. I couldn’t go to Philadelphia and not see the liberty bell of course but that didn’t prove to be too interesting. It is as it sounds just a bell.

After wondering around I came across the burial place of Benjamin Franklin and of course got myself a Philly cheese steak sandwich.
Perhaps Philadelphia doesn’t come across as full of activities as my last post on New York but it was in it’s own way a lovely place to visit. I know for a fact that when I was leaving I regretted now allocating more time to this city.

The Girl in the Ice

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller
Publisher : Bookouture

Summary

Image result for robert bryndzaBy: Robert Bryndza

Her eyes are wide open. Her lips parted as if to speak. Her dead body frozen in the ice…She is not the only one.
When a young boy discovers the body of a woman beneath a thick sheet of ice in a South London park, Detective Erika Foster is called in to lead the murder investigation.
The victim, a beautiful young socialite, appeared to have the perfect life. Yet when Erika begins to dig deeper, she starts to connect the dots between the murder and the killings of three prostitutes, all found strangled, hands bound and dumped in water around London.
As Erika inches closer to uncovering the truth, the killer is closing in on Erika.

ReviewScreenshot_20170927-181414.jpg


This book came up as suggested for me on Goodreads. Brilliant feature of the website to be honest. I was excited to get my hands on it however when I ordered the book online I didn’t notice that the authors name was different and ended up picking the other The Girl in the Ice. Once I started readying it came to a quick conclusion that this is not the book I was intending to read. After a failed attempt I got my hands on this one and glad that I didn’t give up.

The character of Erika Foster is different I found. She is not easily liked but brilliant at the same time. We get some background on her but not too much to end up bored.

The storyline itself starts off intriguing, then draws out a little but picks back up in the end. I found the last few chapters very captivating and exciting. Although you have a feel that the killer is of the characters introduced to you throughout the story it still doesn’t give it away. No that is not a spoiler as its basically spelt out in the book description.

The author tidied up well at the end, which I found some others don’t do. Still leaving you in for more but finishing up all the loose lends in this book.

Conclusion

I really enjoyed this book despite the sometimes slow pace in the middle. I would definitely recommend this book to any mystery lover. I might look into reading some more of this series in the future. I give this a 4 out of 5.

4stars

New York

Following my two days in Boston I got on a bus to New York City. I had stayed with my cousin in jersey but was pleasantly surprised how easy it was to get into the city via public transport. I didnt think New York would be my favourite stop however that quickly changed. I had decided to spend 4 days in New York given that there was so much to see and do.

Manhattan

Times square was an obvious one to visit, and I went in the evening just to be even more impressed by the lights off all the screens. Its got so much happening, so many people there its busy but yet not too crowded. Around the times square there was a few places to visit, like the wax museum and the Ripleys believe it or not. Those two places I went on my own and still enjoyed it so much. There was plenty of shops, bars and restaurants all around there to keep you entertained.

Another must see was a Broadway show. Although I hadn’t intended on going before I arrived my cousin had talked me into it. It isn’t cheap but the experience is definitely worth it. Just one of those things you should experience in your lifetime I think and I’m not even that big on plays or musicals.

One of the places I was told about was the Chelsea Market and the highline. The highline was one of my highlights of New York. A park stretching above the city along an old rail line, I mean if that alone doesn’t catch your interest I don’t know what will. When I reached the end of the park near Greenwich I walked down towards the bottom of the island where I discovered a sweet memorial for all those who immigrated from Ireland during the famine. The memorial looked like a small piece of Irish country side places in the middle of New York.

The famine memorial turned out to be only a short walk towards the twin towers memorial. Be warned the queue is long and a passport is required to get in. I found the memorial to be quite sad to be at, kind of like the Titanic museum in Belfast.

I could not resist going up the empire state building. Despite being told that you can go to the top of the rockafella instead and the views would be just the same but less queue I still didn’t care. I tried to go early to beat the traffic of tourists however there is no avoiding it completely at such an attraction. I enjoyed going up, learned about the building and the views of course. This was one of the experiences I wish I had someone to share it with though.

Central Park, well lets just say I underestimated the size. There was way more to it then I had imagined and you can spend hours in it. I seen loads of animals and performers. It was very relaxed. You can take boat rides on the lake there however I felt like rowing romantically by myself was a little weird.

Surroundings

Despite the shear size of Manhattan and all the things to do there I did manage to see some of the surrounding area’s. I walked across the Brooklyn bridge of course and then doubled back along the Manhattan bridge where I got some brilliant photos of the Brooklyn bridge from the distance.

I went out to Brighton beach which is little being transported to Russia. The amount of Russians living there is insane but to top it all off most of the shop names aren’t even in English. A walk along the beach and a visit to the fair made me completely forget I was even in New York.

One of the things I was told from the start is to not waste your time or money going to the statue of Liberty but instead to take the free ferry over and see the statue from the waterfront. This is exactly the advice I followed and I was very glad I did, the trip wasn’t long and the views were pretty cool.

 

Overall I really enjoyed New York and got to see a lot in my short stay. Im sure there would be loads to see again the next time Im back. I would definitely recommend to go with a friend. Its not lonely to spend the time on your own there but some parts are more enjoyable shared with someone.

The Widow

Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller
Publisher : Transworld

Summary

Fiona BartonFiona Barton

We’ve all seen him: the man – the monster – staring from the front page of every newspaper, accused of a terrible crime.
But what about the woman who grips his arm on the courtroom stairs – the woman who stands by him?

Jean Taylor’s life was blissfully ordinary. Nice house, nice husband. Glen was all she’d ever wanted: her Prince Charming.
Until he became that man accused, that monster on the front page. Jean was married to a man everyone thought capable of unimaginable evil.
But now Glen is dead and she’s alone for the first time, free to tell her story on her own terms.

Review

I came across this book as one of those; if you liked The Girl on the Train then you will definitely like this one. Yes fell for that one ill admit. I feel like the book may have done better if it wasnt compared to those other books. Now its not a far fetch I guess but most similarities only lie in the layout of the book rather than the plot.

Screenshot_20170927-173630.jpgFirst of all the main thing that this book has in common with the girl on the train is that each chapter keeps jumping between characters and timelines. Felt a little jumbled up at some parts but for most of it fairly ok to follow. The desire to get on with it was huge with this one and dull at some parts too. A lot of eye rolling going on while reading this if you know what I mean.

The characters were described but not in enough detail to make you feel for them or enjoy reading about them to be honest. They were more like the second cast than the main characters.

The ending was the good thing about it, wasnt an obvious one which is always a win with mystery thrillers. The actual act of crime was the interesting part in this book and although the idea was to look at the marriage and how the wife of a suspect, I think this book could have been just as good from the police investigation angle. Hence the marriage angle wasnt that deep to capture the reader.

 

Conclusion

Didnt really impress to be honest. Some parts were interesting and some were dull. The ending was good but i would hesitate to recommend this book to anyone. Thats 2 out of 5 for me.

2stars