Friday, 20 January 2017

The Rhine Valley [My Travels]

Hi everyone! Good morning :3

My travels is a series here on Olivia's Catastrophe where I talk about the places I have been to, and what they were like. I want you all to come on my trips with me!


This post is going to be about our trip to Germany in the summer of 2016. We went to Efe, which is also known as the Rhine Valley. It was absolutely beautiful there We stayed in a little apartment kind of house, surrounded by all this greenery and nature. In fact, everywhere we went, we were surrounded by blue skies and lovely green. It was absolutely beautiful.






At one point in our trip we decided we would do a little hike, and walk. My younger sister is in a wheelchair, so when it got to the muddy parts it required a bit more arm strength than I think us girls expected. It was tough going and we didn't complete the trail (we double backed at one point.) It was fun, but very very exhausting as well. My family is the type to usually go on hikes when it comes to holidays as well, so this was something new to us!





We also went to a castle. It's kind of tradition in my family that whenever we go on a holiday altogether, that we do stop by some sort of castle. This one was nice, pretty quiet, and we could climb a lot and take nice pictures from a high up place. I enjoyed it. :3



We took a day trip to Cologne as well, so we could see some of the sights there. I really loved discovering the cathedral and everything it had in store for us. It was absolutely breath taking. The stain glass windows were gorgeous, the floor artwork had me wanting to take pictures every time I took a single step, and it was just... it was just so lovely and magnificent! If you go to Cologne, make sure you stop by there!




 Of course, that wasn't the only thing we did in Cologne. We wandered around and admired the view. We managed to find a bridge with locks, and if you know me, you know how much I love the idea of leaving locks on bridges as memories. So I took quite a few photos there as well. 





There were also quite a few trips to eat out. So of my favourites included a smoked salmon and egg bagel which I loved, and some pork which I had for dinner one day. Food always makes me happy :3


We visited a zoo, and I have to admit - not all the owls looked very happy to be there. There were museum trips, boat rides and even a beach trip. (Fun fact: even though I look happy in that beach picture, it is actually freezing...)





That's all I have to say about my trip in Germany with the family! It was a lot of fun :3 Even though we have been to Germany a few times because it's so close to the Netherlands, we'd never been to this place before and it was so nice to explore. Thanks for joining me by reading this blog post!

If you want to follow my travels and stories as they happen to me, then all you need to do is add me on snapchat. Just steal my code from down below:


New Video! My video review of The Tunnel by Helene Louard!



Olivia's Question: Have you ever been to Germany before? Would you like to go?

Olivia-Savannah x 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

The Bourbon Thief [Book Review & Giveaway!]

Hello there!

Title: The Bourbon Thief
Author: Tiffany Reisz
Publisher: Mira
Published Date: 28th June 2016
Rating: 4 Stars

*Thanks to the publisher for the review copy*


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Synopsis: From the internationally celebrated author of the Original Sinners series comes a brand-new tale of betrayal, revenge and a family scandal that bore a 150-year-old mystery

When Cooper McQueen wakes up from a night with a beautiful stranger, it's to discover he's been robbed. The only item stolen—a million-dollar bottle of bourbon. The thief, a mysterious woman named Paris, claims the bottle is rightfully hers. After all, the label itself says it's property of the Maddox family who owned and operated Red Thread Bourbon distillery since the last days of the Civil War until the company went out of business for reasons no one knows… No one except Paris. 

In the small hours of a Louisville morning, Paris unspools the lurid tale of Tamara Maddox, heiress to the distillery that became an empire. But the family tree is rooted in tainted soil and has borne rotten fruit. Theirs is a legacy of wealth and power, but also of lies, secrets and sins of omission. The Maddoxes have bourbon in their blood—and blood in their bourbon. Why Paris wants the bottle of Red Thread remains a secret until the truth of her identity is at last revealed, and the century-old vengeance Tamara vowed against her family can finally be completed.

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Review: The Bourbon Thief is definitely not going to be an easy novel to review, so please bear with me as I try to do my best with this. This novel was unlike anything I have ever read. Honestly, if you asked me what book I could see as comparable to this one, there really isn’t any. I would even struggle to describe it to you. Nonetheless, I am going to try.

The plot of this novel definitely is a whirlwind. We have the modern day, where Levi and Tamara’s story is being told to a millionaire because a woman wants him to hand over a bottle of priceless bourbon. The story is supposed to make him give it to her for free, and is a true story. So we alternate between the present day and the past, where we are hearing about Levi and Tamara. The novel starts and ends in the present day, and we have very short intervals where we are put back into the right timeline from time to time.


But when it comes to Tamara and Levi’s storyline… now. This one starts from when Tamara is very young, and she is in love with her stable manager. However, he is just a lowly man, and he is also black. This is set in the past, so of course it cannot be. Her family are the Maddox’s and own a very large and flourishing bourbon company. They have no male heir to be able to continue the line… and Tamara’s grandfather is hooked on making sure there is a male heir. One day, Tamara and her grandfather are left alone in the house… and you can probably imagine what happens next.

But a lot more happens. Somehow, her grandfather ends up dead, there is a flood, and Levi is gone… I’m not going to mention anything more about the plot other than it is certainly twisted and there is a lot of blood, sex, betrayal, lies and plot twists in this one. Just when you think the character’s might be able to be happy at certain points in the novel, something happens to throw them right off of that happy path.


As for the characters, the majority of this centers around Levi and Tamara. Levi was mostly a calm man, who just wanted the best for himself and his family. He didn’t want to get tied up in too much trouble (as most men of colour from that time period would have wanted as well.) So when Tamara blurs into his life, he is faced with a lot of challenges he didn’t expect to have to face. I have to admire the calm face he puts on throughout the whole novel though.

And as for Tamara… a third of the time I thought she was incredibly clever. The other third, I thought she was insane. And for the rest of it, just a young woman/teenager trying to get by in life. A lot of horrible things happen to her, and a lot of time she loses sight of what she needs to keep hold of in life. But she is a very driven and determined little lady, and she will stop at nothing to get revenge at those who have wronged her. She may be spoiled, and used to getting what she wants. But even when everything is taken from her, when she aims for something, she gets it. Even though I didn’t always understand her, I always felt for her.


This novel is very graphic. It has a lot of sex in it, and it is not a clean romance. There may be some themes you wouldn’t agree with or don’t want to read about, such as rape. In that case, this wouldn’t be a book for you. It’s a very adult read and despite the fact that I review young adult all the time, this is not a YA read.

I still don’t know what to make of this book. When I think about it, I don’t know whether I should laugh or cry or scream. It definitely felt realistic though, and that’s for sure.

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Gif Summary:

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Giveaway! Enter to win an advanced copy of Reisz's next novel, The Night Mark. Open to Northern Americans only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


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Links: Goodreads and Amazon!

Olivia’s Question: Do you prefer standalones or series?


Olivia-Savannah x

Monday, 16 January 2017

Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast [Yogi Dragoness & Giveaway!]

Hello everyone!

"Sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast." - Alice in Wonderland, by Lewis Carroll. 

That's one of my favourite quotes from the book (even though I didn't really like the book), but I'm not sure how much truth there really is in that. I don't know about you, but I don't really wake up much before breakfast. The most I can do on a school morning is have my bible study. On the weekends, sometimes I can do my workout and yoga practice. But that it's at the most. Not six impossible things for me. 

On my clean eating journey, I started to follow a lot of healthy bloggers and instagram accounts. Almost every single one was talking about 'overnight oats,' or 'the best things to put in your oats,' or pretty much anything to do with oats. If it wasn't for smoothie bowls and avocado toast, I would believe it was the only thing they ate for breakfast!


But alas, I decided I was going to give oats a try myself. And while overnight oats aren't really my thing because I'm much more a fan of warm milk than cold, I have fallen in love with oats. It takes a little bit of mastering to know just how much oats to include with the right amount of milk, but once you have that, I'd recommend a few different things.

First of all, I don't add any sugar myself. But some people like a bit of sugar. I substitute with honey. And a requirement for me? Bananas. Bananas in oats is simply the best combination, and it's really quick and easy too.


Another thing I like to have in my oats is warm apples and cinnamon. I usually just dice up an apple, sprinkle the bits with cinnamon and warm them in the microwave for 30 seconds. You can leave them in a little longer if you want them warmer. If you put those in your oats it's bliss. Especially if there are bananas as well as the apples and cinnamon. 

Lastly, one day we had leftover apple crumble from a party. And yes, I did put apple crumble in my oats. But really, when I made the apple crumble it is basically the apples and cinnamon with the crumble on top. The crumble is made from sugar, flour and butter. Only two of those ingredients sound a bit weird when it comes to including it in oats. But I dare you to give it a try. You might just love it. Even better? Apple crumble banana oats. 


I think you realise by now, I just really love banana :D

Giveaway: Remember that book review I wrote of Some Writer by Melissa Sweet? Well, you can win 1 in 10 bookmarks! US only!

Olivia's Question: What do you usually eat for breakfast?

Olivia-Savannah x

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Freeks [Book Review & Giveaway!]

Hello there!

Title: Freeks
Author: Amanda Hocking
Publisher: St Martin’s Griffin
Published Date: 3rd January 2017
Rating: 3 stars

*Thank you to the publisher for the review copy*


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Synopsis: In a world of magical visions and pyrokinesis, Mara just wants to have a normal life. But is that possible?

Mara has become used to the extraordinary. Roaming from place to place with Gideon Davorin’s Traveling Carnival, she longs for an ordinary life where no one has the ability to levitate or predict the future.

She gets her chance when the struggling sideshow sets up camp in the small town of Caudry and she meets a gorgeous local guy named Gabe. But before long, Mara realizes there’s a dark presence lurking in the town that’s threatening the lives of her friends. She has seven days to take control of a power she didn’t know she had in order to save everyone she cares about—and change the future forever.

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Review: I am very, very reluctantly giving this book three stars. It is more like a 3.5 star rating… but I stopped awarding half stars over a year ago now. Even though I was tempted to go back on my decision just for the sake of this book, I’m not going to. Because while it was good, and had its moments, it was a bit of a stretch to say it was wonderful. I did enjoy reading it though. Allow me to elaborate…

The novel was set in a circus, where a lot of the members had powers. I really liked the idea of that – of the carnival truly being magical and having its own intrigue to it. I think the author handled the atmosphere really well too. I really felt like it was a circus, and the aspect of living in a small traveling home, which never stayed in the same place for too long. Also, there is an eerie undercurrent to the whole story which has to do with the plot. I really felt it, and liked that it was so present.


However, I had some issues with the main character. I did like Mara a lot, and I think she was a very brave and fun character to read about. She also really wants to stick up for her friends and family, and truly shows her loyalty to them. But… she could be quite hypocritical. There is a romance interest in this novel, and she worries about letting him know she is a member of the circus because he might treat her differently because of it. I understand that. And it must be difficult if that reaction has happened countless times before. But despite Gabe only being understanding of everything, she doesn’t let herself trust him… and that bothered me a little. Or she would expect something from him, but if the situation flipped she didn’t understand how/why he would expect the same of her. Which bothered me again.

But the romance in itself was pretty sweet. It was fairly clean, and not too intense. The best way I can put it is nice. It was a nice romance.


The pace of the novel was slow, but not in a bad way. Never was I bored, or wanted to put down the novel. More so, I felt at the same level of suspense all the time, and I just steadily kept reading my way through. I think the atmosphere was what really kept me turning the pages, and wanting to know how things would be resolved.

Although… the ending feel mediocre? It was over all too quickly. There were consequences, but I feel like it was rushed. We never got to feel the full effect of those consequences and what they meant for the characters, because the story finished pretty soon afterwards. The darkness and creepiness all came to a peak, but it crumbled down far too quickly for me.


I really liked the descriptions and how it added to the imagery I felt in my mind. On the other hand, I did notice one word being used quite a lot… ‘flesh.’ I don’t know about you, but that word is not the nicest description of things? But the author used it as if it was. He touched the soft flesh of her stomach… or her mother patted the flesh of her arm… or his flesh was torn from being attacked… flesh this, flesh that. I’ve just seen that word a little too much :D

A slow and steady story, but enjoyable in its own right.


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Gif Summary:

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Giveaway: Enter to win a hardcover copy of FREEKS! US only!


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Links: Goodreads and Amazon!

Olivia’s Question: If you were an act in a circus, what act would you be?

Olivia-Savannah x

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Books for Mesothelioma Patients and their Loved Ones [Guest Post]

Morning everyone!

A few weeks ago I was approached about a guest post position on my blog. It's been a very long time since my last guest post, and because I usually don't accept them, I said no. But then thinking back, I realised I was going to change my mind. Because although this guest post is about books, more importantly, it is about raising awareness about an illness. I hope you'll find the blog post as informative and helpful as I did! Handing things over to Ashley now :) Olivia x

Books for Mesothelioma Patients and their Loved Ones

What is mesothelioma? Mesothelioma is a form of cancer where malignant cancer cells form and develop on the thin layer of the tissue that lines the abdomen, lungs or chest wall. These cells can also form on the tissue that covers the testicles and the heart.
The type of mesothelioma that a patient has depends on where in the body the cancer forms.  There are three types of mesothelioma:  

  • Pleural mesothelioma:  This is the most common type of mesothelioma where the cancer cells form on the lining of the lungs. This type accounts for nearly 75% of all mesothelioma cases.
  • Peritoneal mesothelioma: This is the 2nd most common type, which affects the protiective tissue lining of the abdomen.  This type accounts for 20-25% of all mesothelioma diagnoses.
  • Lastly, pericardial mesothelioma:  This type is very rare which affects the tissue lining that covers the heart. The reason this is very rare is because asbestos fibers are either swallowed or inhaled.  In order for the asbestos fibers to reach the lining of the heart, they need to first miss being lodged onto the lungs or the abdomen and then they need to travel to attach itself to the lining of the heart.  This only occurs when mesothelioma is in it’s worst stage and has already metastasized throughout the body. 

As briefly mentioned earlier, mesothelioma is caused by the exposure to asbestos. The only way to develop it is if a person either inhales or ingests micro asbestos fibers that are hanging in the air.  After initial asbestos exposure, it takes 20+ years for a person to start showing mesothelioma symptoms.  Here is a great video that talks about the symptoms of mesothelioma.


What is asbestos? Asbestos refers to six fibrous minerals that occur naturally. These are: crocidolite, chrysotile, amosite, tremolite, anthophyllite and actinolite. Asbestos has microscopic fibers that are extremely resistant to breakdowns, chemical reactions and fire. These properties made it very popular in the past and it was used in different industrial and commercial applications. It was a preferred material for the manufacture of products like roofing shingles, ceiling materials, floor tiles, textile products, automotive parts and textile products among others.

Today, asbestos is strictly regulated following the discovery that exposure to it is scientifically and directly linked to mesothelioma and asbestosis.  

Books about mesothelioma and asbestos

Whether you or a person close to you has been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you might want to learn more about this disease, asbestos, as well as your options on how to fight/treat this rare form of cancer.

Here are some of the books that have been written about mesothelioma and asbestos:

      Defending the Indefensible
This book is authored by historians Jock McCulloch and Geoffrey Tweedale. The duo has written other books on mining and health topics. This particular book cites different journals, official documents, letters and studies. It provides details of how companies that used asbestos defended themselves and how the media, mesothelioma victims and medical practitioners challenged the industry.





ü  Malignant Mesothelioma
This mesothelioma and asbestos book is authored by Harvey I. Pass, Michele Carbone and Nicholas Vogelzang. It provides information about innovative treatment options for mesothelioma. It also gives an account of pathology and science behind this disease while discussing clinical and latest medical advances about treatment and diagnosis of mesothelioma. The book touches on multimodality mesothelioma treatments.


      

      Lung Cancer and Mesothelioma
This book by Howard Gutman provides guidance and insights into issues facing mesothelioma patients and their loved ones. It covers a wide range of topics including development of different cancers, clinical trials, medications, treatment options and management of grief and strong emotions that are associated with mesothelioma.







ü  100 Questions and Answers about Mesothelioma
This book by Havey I. Pass is a detailed guide on issues that relate to mesothelioma. It provides practical and authoritative answers from patients and doctors.






ü  The Official Patient’s Sourcebook on Malignant Mesothelioma
This book by Philip Parker, M.D and James Parker, M.D is a detailed sourcebook for patients. It is a researched reference manual that provides important information about mesothelioma. The book cites different clinical trials and studies.

These books provide information that enables patients and their loved ones to understand what they might go through, what they need and how to prepare themselves after a mesothelioma diagnosis.

Resources
Thanks Ashley!

Olivia's Question: What's one disease you think more people should know about?

Olivia-Savannah x


Monday, 9 January 2017

Small Admissions [Book Review & Giveaway]

 Hello there!

Title: Small Admissions
Author: Amy Poeppel
Publisher: Atria/Emily Bestler Books
Published Date: 27th December 2016
Rating: 4 stars

*Thank you to the publisher for the review copy*


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Synopsis: For fans of The Nanny Diaries and Sophie Kinsella comes a whip-smart and deliciously funny debut novel about Kate, a young woman unexpectedly thrust into the cutthroat world of New York City private school admissions as she attempts to understand city life, human nature, and falling in love.

Despite her innate ambition and Summa Cum Laude smarts, Kate Pearson has turned into a major slacker. After being unceremoniously dumped by her handsome, French “almost fiancé,” she abandons her grad school plans and instead spends her days lolling on the couch, watching reruns of Sex and the City, and leaving her apartment only when a dog-walking gig demands it. Her friends don’t know what to do other than pass tissues and hope for a comeback, while her practical sister, Angela, pushes every remedy she can think of, from trapeze class to therapy to job interviews.

Miraculously, and for reasons no one (least of all Kate) understands, she manages to land a job in the admissions department at the prestigious Hudson Day School. In her new position, Kate learns there’s no time for self-pity or nonsense during the height of the admissions season, or what her colleagues refer to as “the dark time.” As the process revs up, Kate meets smart kids who are unlikable, likeable kids who aren’t very smart, and Park Avenue parents who refuse to take no for an answer.

Meanwhile, Kate’s sister and her closest friends find themselves keeping secrets, hiding boyfriends, dropping bombshells, and fighting each other on how to keep Kate on her feet. On top of it all, her cranky, oddly charming, and irritatingly handsome downstairs neighbor is more than he seems. Through every dishy, page-turning twist, it seems that one person’s happiness leads to another’s misfortune, and suddenly everyone, including Kate, is looking for a way to turn rejection on its head, using any means necessary—including the truly unexpected.


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Review: I wasn’t entirely sure what I was going in for when I decided to read and review Small Admissions. But I was pretty pleased and satisfied by the time I finished reading this book. Although it is centered around a school and the admissions process, it really is about family. Friendships, love, break ups, recovering from a funk… this book really covers it all.

What I had to like most about this novel was the brilliant character development we get to see from Kate. At the beginning, we really see her as someone who is hopeless and helpless. I have to admit – I criticized her a bit for wallowing so much when it came to a break up. A whole year is a really long time! But we steadily get to see a bit more of the bigger picture and what truly went on as we get further into the story. I started to blame Kate less and less. It helped that we were getting to see her beautiful transformation as well.


I also really liked how present the secondary characters were in this novel. We see things from all of their perspectives, and really get to see their story going in tandems with Kate, even though it might not really have to do with her story directly. I’m someone who really thinks minor characters all play their own role, and we really get to see this in the book. Because indirectly, things that the minor characters do, eventually end up effecting Kate’s journey and life in certain ways. So it was pretty nice to see that reflected in the story.

The style of writing was pretty nice and easy to read. At times some of the story is told through letters, emails and correspondence which was a nice change. I didn’t feel anything particular for that in either way. There was also quite a lot of point of view switching, which worked at times and didn’t work at others for me. I really liked to see all the different perspectives, but it was also a bit of brainwork trying to figure out whose perspective we were seeing things from after a chapter break.


I was expecting to not be able to appreciate any of the parts which had to do with the school. I know a bit about running a school because my mum is a head mistress, so I was prepared. But the author actually managed to make it interesting, and I found myself strangely invested in what was happening there. Yeah, it surprised me.

I have to admit though, in the middle the story dragged a bit. Not because it was boring, necessarily, but because I think Kate reached a plateau moment in her life and that slowed down the story. It’s the reason I couldn’t give the book five stars.


Most of all, this book make me think about what it means to leave things in life behind. Let go, move on. It made me think about rejection – in the sense of school admissions and from other people. And it also made me really think about whether there are really bad people in the world, or just bad mistakes or bad situations that some people can’t handle…

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Gif Summary:

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Giveaway: Enter to win 1 of 3 signed copies of Small Admissions. Check terms and conditions to see countries valid for entry!


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Links: Goodreads and Amazon!

Olivia’s Question: What do you think is a difficult topic to discuss in books?

Olivia-Savannah x