Thailand adventure [& what I read]

I recently got back from an incredible trip to Thailand. I flew out to Bangkok and joined a Thaintro + Phi Phi tour, from 23rd January to 4th February. I then stayed a couple of extra days and flew home to the UK very early Saturday morning.

I had the most amazing time and completely fell in love with Thailand. I’d happily go back to Thailand to go to the many parts I didn’t get to see on this trip, or anywhere else in Asia… and the rest of the world!

Here’s what we did, and of course what I read too 🙂

Day 1: I arrived quite late in the day so today was just arriving at the guest house in Bangkok and meeting the group for a meal. We also went out to see a bit of the Bangkok nightlife, but only for a drink or two.

Day 2: Today included visiting two Bangkok temples (Wat Pho [Temple of the Reclining Buddha] and Wat Mahatat). They were both beautiful, and there are SO MANY more temples to see in Bangkok! I wish we’d had more time to see more of them. We also went on a long boat down the Chao Phraya river in Bangkok and saw some amazing sights including a huge lizard on the banks of the river!

Big lizard!

That evening we went out to Khao San Road, a truly crazy stretch of shops and nightclubs that is pretty normal by day but really comes alive at night! We tried some ‘interesting’ cuisine including fried insects and went on to a club called ‘The Club’ to really experience some Bangkok nightlife!

Day 3: I absolutely loved the cookery course we did today, during which we learnt to make a Thai soup, Pad Thai and Massaman curry- so delicious! We then got our stuff from the guesthouse and headed to the train station where we boarded the 6.30pm overnight train which would take us down south!

The train was a really unique experience. It’s definitely not luxury- you’re in a bunk bed along the legnth of the train, and they come around about 8pm to pull down the top bunk beds so they’re ready for when you head to bed- not that you’re likely to get much sleep! I was on the top bunk but found it al;most impossible to sleep with people walking up and down the carriage and the long trek to the toilets- which are really hard to balance on when the train is swaying and moving! Still, it’s an experience I won’t forget!

Day 4: Today we arrived early off the train at Surat Thani train station and travelled by taxi to Khao Sok National Park, where we boarded a little boat that took us over to our floating bungalows, where we’d be staying for the night. It was truly amazing there, and the views were incredible! They don’t have electricity here apart from between 6.30 – 11pm, as it’s all run off a generator, and it was pretty nice not to be able to charge phones or anything. We had an amazing time chilling in floating rubber rings and enjoying a truky delicious lunch and dinner!

Day 5: We got the ferry over to Koh Phangan. It was absolutely tipping it down as we travelled and the ferry was an interesting experience! My stomach was really cramping up for some reason so I can’t say I enjoyed the traveling too much! It was all worth it when we got to our incredible beach bungalows though at Sarana resort!

In the evening we then headed out to a beach party, complete with fire skipping, fire jugglers and… buckets!

Day 6: I was so excited for our Thai massage; it was amazing to have a really great massage on a hut on the beach, with the sound of the waves in earshot! It was a really nice, chilled day and a good opportunity to work on my tan (I ended up with really bad tan lines, which I hate, but oh well!)

Day 7: Today we took a boat trip around the islands and got to visit some amazing beaches! We also went snorkelling, but the visibility around here wasn’t amazing so i didn’t really see much (we got to snorkel again a few times after this, later in the trip, so all was not lost!).

Afterwards we had a BBQ on the beach with a bonfire which was really nice!

 

 

Day 8: Today was the day many of us had been waiting for- seeing the elephants! It was so lovely to feed them bananas and go for a trek with them through the jungle! I chose not to ride them but those in our group who did, all rode without a basket or anything like that, which are supposed to be uncomfortable.

That night was our last evening as a large group (only 8 of us were going on to Phi Phi to do the add on tour) so we had a farewell dinner at a delicious Thai restaurant (I’ll try and remember the name!) and out after for some drinks and to another beach party.

Day 9: Today we traveled to the Phi phi islands by car and ferry today, it took 8 hours of traveling but we made it! The island is very busy and touristy and seemed quite a party island.

Day 10: We had a sunset, half day boat trip around the islands and visited Mosquito island and Monkey island where I finally got the meet a monkey, something I’ve wanted to do forever! The monkeys in Thailand are supposed to be quite diseased though so I made sure I didn’t touch them- didn’t fancy catching rabies!

There wasn’t anything planned for the evening so me and another girl on the tour went out to a bar to watch some Muay Thai boxing, which was really good fun!

Day 11: We got to visit Maya Bay today on a boat trip. The boat we were on had an exclusive arrangement with the island and meant that we got to stay there later in the evening whilst all the other boat tours had to leave the beach at 6pm! We had food and played some drinking games, and then a BBQ later on the beach. Then came one of my favourite parts of the holiday- it was pitch black when we headed back onto the boat but we went snorkeling and saw thousands of glow-in-the-dark plankton, a truly amazing experience!

We then stayed on the boat overnight which was a really cool experience, but again I didn’t get a huge amount (if any) sleep, what with the wind and the boat rocking!

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Day 12: We got back to Phi Phi and then got a ferry to Phuket where me and another girl got somewhere to stay and spent our last evening exploring. We went to a few street markets and then chilled at the hotel.

Day 13: I had a wander around Phuket one last time, then got a flight from Phuket to Bangkok and then from Bangkok on to Heathrow. Home again! 😦

Here are the books I read:(I try to read a book set in the country I’m visiting but I failed to adequately prepare for this trip, so just ended up reading books I had on my ‘to review’ list. I didn’t have a huge amount of time for reading really as we were so busy, but there was plenty of travelling time so I could get a fair amount of reading done in the 2 weeks)

The links to each book’s review are below:

 

Do let me know if you’ve been to Thailand recently- or anywhere you’ve enjoyed visiting, I’d love to hear about it and find new places to add to my travel list!

I’m also interesting in what you’ve been reading lately- I’m always looking for new book recommendations!

Even The Dead - Benjamin Black

Upcoming books I’m excited to read!

Here are some of the novels I’m most excited about reading over the next few months!

Quite a few (well, most) are advance copies from publishers/ Netgalley (these are marked with a *) so I’ve included the UK release dates below too, so you know when they’ll be available to buy!

Even The Dead - Benjamin BlackThe One In A Million Boy - Monica WoodThe Girl You Lost - Kathryn CroftA Book For Her - Bridget Christie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

They’re all on my reading list so expect to see reviews coming soon 🙂 Continue reading

No Longer Safe by A.J. Waines

No Longer Safe [review]

No Longer Safe by A.J. Waines
Hello everyone! I’m really excited to be part of the blog tour for AJ Waines’ fantastic new novel, No Longer Safe!

No Longer Safe blog tour

[Synopsis]

She was your best friend. Now she’s your deadliest enemy – and there’s nowhere to run…

When Alice receives an invitation from Karen, her charismatic University friend, to stay in a remote cottage in Scotland, she can’t wait to rekindle their lost friendship. But two more former students arrive – never friends of Alice’s – and as the atmosphere chills, Karen isn’t the warm-hearted soulmate Alice remembers. Barely is the reunion underway before someone is dead and the fragile gathering is pushed to breaking point.

As the snow cuts them off from civilisation and accusations fly, Alice finds herself a pawn, sinking deeper into a deadly game she can’t escape.

NO LONGER SAFE is a chilling Psychological Thriller that delivers a delicious sting in the tail.


No Longer Safe



[My Review]

No Longer Safe really made my head spin- in a good way!

I really enjoyed reading one of AJ Waines’ other novels, Dark Place To Hide, [review here] so was really hugely looking forward to starting this one, hoping it would live up to the first….

It definitely does! It’s a hugely riveting novel of deceit and mystery, where you’re never quite sure who’s being truthful and who’s got their own agenda- my favourite sort of story!

You can tell early on that Karen definitely has something to hide, and wonder what her interest in Alice is about. The story slowly unwinds this mystery (along with murder and plenty of questionable actions to go with it) in a brilliantly teasing way, just giving away enough so that you are completely engrossed but holding something back to keep you guessing!

The ending is brilliant and I felt almost like I needed a good nap at the end, after all the revelations and developments! Waines’ writing is spot on and her imagination must be full of ideas to keep coming up with such great storylines.

The story is never cheesy or cliched (a pet hate of mine!) but really left me guessing – I didn’t want to put this down, and I didn’t really…I read it in 2 sittings!

I’d highly recommend No Longer Safe (and Dark Place To Hide, too!) if you want to discover a fantastic new author who offers an exciting mix of a fast-paced narrative, questionable characters and lots of intrigue!

[Rating: 5/5]


 

Many thanks to the author for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

No Longer Safe is available to buy now in the UK!

 

[About AJ Waines]

Author A.J. WainesAJ Waines has sold over 100,000 books worldwide and topped the UK and Australian Kindle Charts in 2015 with her number one bestseller, Girl on a Train. Following fifteen years as a psychotherapist, she is now a full-time novelist with publishing deals in France, Germany (Penguin Random House) and USA (audiobooks).

In 2015, she was featured in The Wall Street Journal and The Times and was ranked in the Top 20 UK authors on Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). She lives in Southampton, UK, with her husband.

Visit her website and blog, or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough

13 Minutes [review]

13 Minutes by Sarah Pinborough[Synopsis]

I was dead for 13 minutes.

I don’t remember how I ended up in the icy water but I do know this – it wasn’t an accident and I wasn’t suicidal.

They say you should keep your friends close and your enemies closer, but when you’re a teenage girl, it’s hard to tell them apart. My friends love me, I’m sure of it. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to kill me. Does it?

13 Minutes

[My Review]

I’m really impressed at just how much I enjoyed 13 Minutes. I’m not usually a big YA reader (although I have enjoyed various books from this genre in the past, I do tend to read adult fiction in general), but I do love a good thriller regardless of what age it’s aimed at, and this novel was so gripping and intriguing that I just couldn’t stop reading!

The writing is very engaging and really drew me in. As the novel is aimed at the YA market it is, at times, a little teenage in its language and style- but then that of course makes sense, considering the age of the characters narrating the story is mainly around 16. From the synopsis you think you’ll be hearing everything from Tasha’s, the girl who was found in the river, point of view, but we actually are told a lot of the story from Becca.

I cringed at various points reading the girls’ immature views on things, and the bitchy behaviour of Tasha and her friends, but I know that’s exactly what Sarah Pinsborough intended. Becca is a nice enough girl but shows herself to be just as bitchy as Tasha, Jenny and Nicola (aka. the ‘Barbies’) in certain situations. However we can see why she’s like this, and as a reader understand that she’s just trying to navigate the tricky and tempestuous world of teenagers. Pinsborough has conveyed this really well, plus also created characters that you can wholly believe are today’s teenagers. She’s written a story that effectively comments upon their social interactions, and the impact of social media on young lives today, but in a really entertaining and gripping way.

I raced through this book, really curious to know what really happened. There are surprises along the way, along with some turns of events that I could see coming for a while, but on the whole I am hugely impressed with this novel. I now hope to read many more of her books!

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

13 Minutes is released in the UK on 18 February 2016.

The Defence - Steve Cavanagh

The Defence [review]

The Defence - Steve Cavanagh

[Synopsis]

The truth has no place in a courtroom. The truth doesn’t matter in a trial.

The only thing that matters is what the prosecution can prove.

Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different.

It’s been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter Amy.

Eddie only has 48 hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial – and win – if wants to save his daughter.

Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible?

Lose this case and he loses everything.

The Defence

[My Review]

The Defence by Steve Cavanagh is a fast paced and tense legal thriller which follows lawyer Flynn as he tries to save his daughter’s life. This may sound like a pretty run of the mill ‘thriller’ storyline, but this novel felt to me a lot more cut throat and tense than others I’ve read. Firstly, the stakes are really high- his ten year old daughter has been kidnapped andthreatened with death. They even specify the horrific things they’ll do to his daughter if he doesn’t succeed in his ‘mission’. It made me feel pretty sick thinking about it to be honest! Secondly, the way he must save her is by grtting the head of the Russian Mafia, Volchek, off a murder charge (and he is defnitely guilty!) which poses an interesting and challenging mission for the lawyer.

The story begins with Flynn himself being bundled into a car and told what he must do; there’s no easing into it! The story moves very Quickly and there are seems to be some really clever moves played by Flynn in the courtroom to pick legal loopholes in the case against Volchek.

The characters aren’t particularly believable, and some seem very cliched. At times I started to lose track of what was actually going on, which I supposed affected my enjoyment a little, and at some points you definitely need to suspend your disbelief as a lot of lucky occurrences take place which didn’t really ring true to me. Despite these points, though, The Defence was certainly a well-written and action-packed read!

[Rating: 3.5/5] 

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review

PS- Yes, I know there have been a lot of really postive reviews recently. If I don’t like a book I won’t mark it very high, I just tend to pick books that I think I’ll enjoy, obviously, and luckily a lot of them don’t disappoint! 🙂

 

 

 

The Glittering Art of Falling Apart - Ilana Fox

The Glittering Art of Falling Apart [review]

The Glittering Art of Falling Apart - Ilana Fox

[Synopsis]

1980s Soho is electric. For Eliza, the heady pull of its nightclubs and free-spirited people leads her into the life she has craved – all glamour, late nights and excitement. But it comes at a heavy cost.

Cassie is fascinated by her family’s history and the abandoned Beaufont Hall. Why won’t her mother talk about it? Offered the chance to restore Beaufont to its former glory, Cassie jumps at the opportunity to learn more about her past.

Separated by a generation, but linked by a forgotten diary, these two women have more in common than they know…

The Glittering Art of Falling Apart[My Review]

I had no idea what The Glittering Art of Falling Apart was really about when I started reading it. The synopsis didn’t give a huge amount away, and I was glad about this, because it meant I could just immerse myself in the book without any real preconceptions about the storyline, which told two different but intertwined stories. One is set in the present day, and follows Cassie who is trying to sort through her late grandmother’s estate, Beaufont Hall, when she discovers some diaries written by a mysterious past resident of the hall. She is drawn into the author’s story and in turn learns more about her own family history. The other storyline is told through the aforementioned person’s diaries, so we learn about what happened from both perspectives, and see how learning about this affects Cassie and her family.

I generally really enjoy books that flick between different time periods, with (sometimes hidden) links between the narratives, and this one was no exception! I love reading books with historical angles to them but which also have elements of the present (or fairly modern) day too. I enjoy trying to figure out what the link is between them, if there is one at all.

The Glittering Art of Falling Apart manages to be both humorous and sad at times, with parts that were quite emotional. The characters were believable and their secrets and life choices are interesting to read about. Cassie was a likeable character, as was Eliza though she often frustrated me as I could see her downfall happening in front of my eyes. The novel really illustrated how quick and easy it can be to end up like Eliza – it just takes some had choices and being surrounded by the wrong type of people who are bad influences. Quite scary when you think about how easy your own children, if you have any, could be led into a very bad place.

The novel was sometimes a little predictable and I found myself guessing some aspects of the story, but it was really enjoyable. There’s an element of romance mixed in with some mystery, and I loved reading the scenes set in 1980’s London. I felt like I could be right there, enjoying the Soho music scene, with them all. A really enjoyable, and at times poignant, novel.

[Rating: 4/5]

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing an ARC of this novel in return for an honest review

The Turning Tide by Brooke Magnanti

The Turning Tide [review]

The Turning Tide by Brooke Magnanti

[Synopsis]

A thriller about secrets and lies, from an author who knows what it’s like to lead a secret life…

Erykah Macdonald has a nice life – the kind of life you’re meant to want. But she’s about to cross a line.

Several hundred miles away in the shallow waters of a Hebridean island, a body is found. It’s been in the water long enough to make identification tricky, but it’s clear this is no accidental death.

Erykah knows she’s about to make a choice you can’t reverse – but she’s lived with secrets most of her life and she thinks she’s ready. The trouble is, there are far worse secrets than her own about to emerge.

If she’s going to keep her head above water, Erykah must leave behind her comfortable life and start breaking rules.

The Turning Tide

[My Review]

The Turning Tide is a gritty and at times quite shocking thriller which has elements of political and social commentary mixed with well-written descriptions of Scottish highlands and the murky world of MPs!

Though I felt this was really well written and felt quite smart and sophisticated to read, the storyline just didn’t pull me in as much as I’d expected. I love crime/ thrillers and hoped I would be helplessly sucked into this, especially as reviews have on the whole been very positive, but I found myself getting a little distracted whilst reading… I’m not 100% sure why. It might be because there was a lot of focus on the political party in question and dialogue between people that I got a little bored reading. Although I’m really interested in politics, I didn’t find this aspect of the story that thrilling. Unfortunately, that is kind of what the entire plot is about!

The characters are all pretty believable, though many I didn’t really like at all. I did like Erykah, though, and preferred the narrative which focussed more on her, before it tied together towards the end- the situation with her husband and home life is complicated but interesting. The story moved along at a good pace and there were lots of action-packed, tense moments that I really enjoyed reading.

Overall, though, I just didn’t find myself hugely taken with this. I think I’ve just read so many incredible novels in this genre that it would have to be excellent to impress me. It does get a solid 3/5 though, as I ultimately did still quite enjoy it.

[Rating: 3/5]

Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for providing a copy of this novel in return for an honest review.