Sunday, 31 May 2015

What I've read this month (May)

Two trips away, to Wiltshire and then camping in Hastings, plus an illness has meant that blogging hasn't been a priority this month. To be honest I'm giving myself a little break, over two years of regular posting has left me feeling burnt out, and as I began to see it more as a chore than a hobby, the quality of the content was suffering. 

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Therese Anne Fowler, hardback, photo, book cover, UK, book, review
I'm going to Istanbul on Thursday, so my hiatus is going to carry on for at least another week. Hopefully when I return I'll have the time and motivation to start posting regularly again. 

Anyway, here's what I've read this month-    
  1. Robin Hobb, Golden Fool
  2. Therese Anne Fowler, Z; A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald
  3. Chibunda Onuzo The Spider King's Daughter
  4. Lauline  Paull, The Bees 
  5. Rene Denfeld The Enchanted 
  6. Anthony Doer All the Light we Cannot See (I was 2 chapters from the end when this was mistakenly taken back to the library) 
There wasn't a dud among this month's books. The weakest was The Spider King's Daughter, and that was still readable. it's sparse writing style just meant it was slightly confusing sometimes about what was going on, but it was still interesting. I know very little about Lagos, so it was good to find out more more about the city and Nigerian culture. 

Most of these books are deserving of a full blog post to themselves. The Bees - who would have thought that a novel about a hive would be so gripping? Yes it is about actual bees, but it is so much more than that,  it is a dystopian novel about oppressive regimes and power structures. I was cheering on Flora 717 just as hard as I did Katniss or Offred. 
picture source

The Enchanted is almost Kafkaian. A novel set on death row, it is psychological tract on criminal responsibility, mitigation and the American justice system. Odd, but provoking. 

I devoured Z in a day. If you haven't got a holiday book sorted yet, you may want to add this to your pile. A fictionalised account of Zelda Fitzgerald, the 1920's 'It girl' married to one of America's most famous classic writers, F. Scott. The real Zelda was complex, infuriating and glamorous, and this characterisation shines just as bright.

All the Light we Cannot See would probably be my monthly top pick - but alas due to a mix up I haven't finished it yet- so it may well have a poor ending! I'm betting it doesn't though. Books about World War II are available in abundance, but rarely are they this good, or this original. Once I've got it back from the library (I'm 9th in the queue) I promise to do a full review. 

Actually - once I got down to it, writing this blog was fun, I'm still going to take a break but I'll be back before you know it! xxx

Sunday, 10 May 2015

library haul

It was my birthday on the 8th, and as well as doing lots of other lovely things, one thing I was also keen to do was visit the big library in town. Usually I just go to my local, which is round the corner from house, but the selection has been poor recently, and because of the occasion I thought I should do it probably.

Some people might be a bit dismissive about looking forward to a birthday visit to the library, but for me its the little things that make the day enjoyable.

Anyway, here's what I picked up:-

1. The Spider King's Daughter, Chibundu Onuzo. A story of star-crossed lovers in Lagos. Abike Johnson lives a privileged life, but an encounter with a street hawker changes her life when they strike up a tentative romance.

2. Silver, Scott Cairns. When a young woman has to identify her dead father's body, she uncovers a shocking secret that makes her question her own identity. The blurb on the back makes me thing think this novel will cover trans issues- but I could be wrong. I'm not sure how I'll get on with reading this one- in this edition the pages are incredibly white- which can cause me difficulties because of my dyslexia, it would be a shame to miss out on a potentially good story for this reason though.

3. Written on the Body, Jeanette Winterson. I want to give Winterson more of a chance after really enjoying Weight. This is a love story, and a meditation on the body.

4. Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald, Therese Anne Fowler. A fictional account of the worlds first flapper and her author husband  

5. Grimm Tales, Philip Pullman. Love fairy-tales, love Philip Pullman.

Monday, 4 May 2015

wish list

I've just come back from a mini-break to Wiltshire- so expect some photos of some historical properties and pretty gardens coming up in the next few days.

Whenever I National Trust property I always make sure to pop into their secondhand bookshops, as they do paperback for 50p and hardbacks for £1.50, which is incredibly good value. There wasn't anything that grabbed my fancy this time though, so I'm currently at a bit of a loss of something to read.

I do have a rather extensive wish list however.....

picture source

Friday, 1 May 2015

what I've read this month (April)

Sorry I've been m.i.a again this month, I've just been extremely tired. I have managed to get a fair amount of reading done;- 

  1. Chris Abani, Song for Night
  2. Charlaine Harris, Dead Ever After 
  3. Irvine Welsh- Sex Lives of Siamese Twins
  4. George R.R Martin, A Clash of Kings (re-read)
  5. Laila Ibrahim, Yellow Crocus 
  6. Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive (memoir) 
  7. Susanna Kaysen, Girl Interrupted (memoir)  
I read the bulk of my bumper library haul, but just couldn't get into In Praise Of Hatred and I haven't even started The Kingdom of Bones. I'm a couple of chapters into The Seven Sisters, and so far so good, the reason I haven't progressed further with it is because it's rather chunky. Far too heavy to be carting around on my commute. 

Anyway, out of the books I have finished this month, Yellow Crocus is the shinning star. A powerful historical novel told from the perceptive of a wet nurse and her charge. I completely wore myself out as I stayed up half the night to finish it. Highly recommend. My mum loved it too. 

Song for Night  is an interesting one, a tiny novella but every word has a big impact. Inspired by Dante's Inferno, it is the story of a child solider who wakes up to find himself alone after a bomb blast. There is so many horrific things about this story, the nameless boy has had his vocal cords severed, so he won't cry out and forewarn the enemy, but it is also beautifully written. This juxtaposition makes for a memorable novel. 

I also read two memoirs about mental health. Girl Interrupted is closer to a novel, and Reasons to Stay Alive more like a manual, so they are not directly comparable. Both however are inspiring and honest accounts of mental health and recovery.  

Monday, 27 April 2015

Betty Blythe tearooms

We've been to Betty Blythe tearooms before and had such a fabulous time, we decided to go again. The tearooms are located inbetween Kensington Olympia and Shepard's Bush train stations, they can be slightly tricky to find, so make sure you bring a map.

Betty Blythe, London, tearooms, afternoon tea, review, Kensington, photos, dressing up box, 1920s vintage, celebration, pictures,
More pictures under the cut:-

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Laila Ibrahim, Yellow Crocus

I borrowed this book from the library, but after I finished reading it I wished I owed it, because I can already see it's the kind of novel I'll want to read again and lend out to other people.  
Laila Ibrahim, Yellow Crocus, historical fiction, slavery, mammy, black wet nurse, literature, review, book review

The Plot: Mattie, a slave living on a Virginian plantation, is taken from her baby son and forced to be a wet-nurse to her newly born mistress. Mattie comes to care for Lisbeth, though she never forgets her son. As Lisbeth grows she is forced to confront her position in society, and her complicity in a system that dehumanises and brutalises her surrogate mother. 

Rating: 4/5
*Spoiler Alert*

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Wimpole Estate & Farm at Easter

Spring has well and truly sprung at Wimpole Estate and Farm, we spent the day there on the Easter Monday, the house was all done up with Easter eggs, lambs and goats were gambolling and the daffodils were turning their faces to the sun.

Wimpole Estate & Farm, visit, Spring, Easter, lambing session, interior, inside the house, photos, pictures, photographs, historical, National Trust, property

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Penguin, Little Black Classics

I'm at little bit late to the party on this one - as they were published back in March, but thought I'd still do a quick post to bring these marvellous little books to other people's attention:-

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Penguin Little Black Classics are  80 slim snippets of novels, collections of short stories, essays or poems all newly packaged and on sale for a mere 80p each. They have been released to celebrate the imprints 80th Birthday.  Authors include Karl Marx (who is currently selling the best), Jane Austin, Edgar Allen Poe and Samuel Pepys. As they are 64 pages long,  authors that some people might find intimating are made manageable.

As they're from Penguin they are beautifully, and simply designed. I can't wait to get my grubby little hands on them.

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My top choices would be:

  1. A Pair of Silk Stockings, Kate Chopin
  2. Circles of Hell, Dante
  3. The Yellow Wallpaper, Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  4. Woman Much Missed, Thomas Hardy
  5. The Fall of Icarus, Ovid 
  6. Anthem for Doomed Youth, Wilfred Owen
  7. Gobin Market, Christina Rossetti
  8. Come Close, Sappho
  9. The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent Tongue
  10. Wailing Ghosts, Pu Songling   

*hint hint* it's my birthday next month

Monday, 13 April 2015

Charlaine Harris, Dead Ever After

I have a friend how is obsessed with True Blood and The Southern Vampire Mysteries the tv programme is based on, she was so enthusiastic about it, I thought I should give it a go as well. A couple of years ago I binge watched the programme and binge read the books.

However, after we'd moved further away from each other, and she wasn't there to remind me when a new book/programme was out I gave up on the whole thing.  Until I spotted the final book in my big library visit and thought I might as well see how the story ends.

Charlaine Harris, Dead Ever After, Sookie Stackhouse, True Blood, The Southern Vampire  Mysteries, book review, 12 book in series, final, review,

The Plot: Telepathic waitress, Sookie Stackhouse has had a fair share of drama; she's discovered she's part fairy, her brother has become a were-panther, her boss is a shape-shifter, she's had relationships with 2 vampires and a were-tiger, survived Hurricane Katrina and made a ton of supernatural and human enemies. This is the last book of a 12 part series, will Sookie get her happy ending?

Rating: 2/5

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Irvine Welsh, The Sex Lives of the Siamese Twins

I'm a fan of Irvine Walsh (see my reviews of Filth and Skagboys) but if I ever got the opportunity to meet him I think I'd be a bit scared, his novels are so dark and violent that I'd be worried that he'd be a bit of a bruiser. His author photo in he inside cover doesn't hep, he looks tough.


Irvine Welsh, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins, hardback, book cover, picture, review, book review, blog, fitness, obesity, fiction, trainspotting,

 The Plot: Lucy Brennan is a personal trainer in Miami, she has no patience for obesity or laziness and is obsessed with her own calorie count. When she disarms a gunman, she is touted as a have-a-go-hero by the media, and the publicity attracts offers of a tv show. Lena Sorensen witnessed Lucy's heroism and in a bid to emulate Lucy and improve her own life, the overweight and reclusive artist becomes her client.

Rating: 3.5/5

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Monday, 6 April 2015

Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train

If you haven't already ready read this (after all it's had a fair bit of hype) your summer holiday, beach book is totally sorted.

I read this last month, but I thought it worth me still reviewing it.
Paula Hawkins, blog, The Girl on the Train, review, hardback, popular book review, front cover, photo, picture, thriller, must read, phenomenon
rather annoyingly I've had to start watermarking my pictures
as I've noticed a couple of websites/blogs stealing them and not giving me credit 

The Plot: Rachel commutes past her old house every morning, the house where her ex-husband now lives wife his new wife and baby. As her train waits at stop signal she is able to peer into the garden of two strangers, who she nicknames 'Jason and Jess', she fantasies about their lives and she starts to feel like she knows them. One day she sees something shocking out of the window, and feels the need to intervene, soon she is embroiled in missing person's investigation, and is no longer just a passive observer.

Rating: 4.5/5  

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

library haul

I usually go to my local library, and although it is fanatically convenient it is also rather small, so I've found the shelves rather inspiring recently. So whilst I was in the town centre I was in town I popped into the main library and got a little bit carried away.......

1. Stephen Gallagher, The Kingdom of Bones 
2. Chris Abani, Song for the Night 
3. Irvine Welsh, The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins 
4. Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive 
5. Lucinda Riley, The Seven Sisters 
6. Charlaine Harris, Dead Ever After  
7. Khaled Khalifa, In Praise of Hatred 

Bank Holiday plans sorted! I'm going to eat those Easter egg and read, read, read.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Jackie Collins, Sinners & Jacqueline Susann, Valley of the Dolls

As promised - I've managed to finish one of my draft posts, sorry for being such a flaky blogger.

I read Valley of the Dolls last month but I thought it made sense to review it alongside Sinners as they are both similar.

Jacqueline Susann, Valley of the Dolls, Sinners, Jackie Collins, book review, book cover, comparison, trashy, pulp, sex and scandal, Hollywood, bonkbuster, photo

The Plot (Valley of the Dolls) Anne, Neely and Jennifer are young and beautiful and trying to make it in the entertainment industry, Anne as a model, Neely as a singer and Jennifer as an actress. They become friends, when they are naive and idealistic, but the depravity of Hollywood begins to effect their relationships, appearance and self-worth. The higher they climb, the more they sacrifice. 

The Plot (Sinners) Sunday Simmons is on her way to stardom, but she is struggling the maintain her integrity, as directors push her into performing nude scenes. Charlie is a leading man, featuring in popular comedies, but his private life is a mess; his ex-wife is remarrying, so distract himself he is sleeping with multiple wannabe actresses. Herbert is a chauffeur to the stars, he also likes to send them anonymous explicit post and has started to target Sunday. 

Rating: Valley of the Dolls, 4/5. Sinners 2.5/5 

what I've read this month (March)

Time for my monthly round up:-

  1. Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip 
  2. Kitty Hart-Moxon, Return to Auschwitz  (non-fiction)
  3. Jackie Collins, Sinners 
  4. Mary Roach, Stiff  (non-fiction)
  5. George R.R Martin Game of Thrones (re-read)
  6. Paula Hawkins, The Girl on a Train 
mini review under the cut:-

Thursday, 26 March 2015

The British Museum

I had a half day of annual leave yesterday (plus I'm off for the rest of the week) so I treated myself to a jolly around London doing a few of my favourite things. I got a hair cut, ate a ridiculous amount of Korean food (at Bibimbap, 37 Museum Street) and visited The British Museum.

The Egyptian mummies tend to grab all the glory, in fairness the displays are fantastic, but they are also very overcrowded. I wandered in for a quick look and was soon irritated by the hordes of inconsiderate school groups. Thankfully the museum has plenty of interesting exhibitions that were practically deserted.

Monday, 23 March 2015

Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip

This was the first book I read this month and I'm only just now reviewing it. Partly because I've been busy, partly because I'm lazy and partly because it wasn't a book that I read and then immediately felt the need to share with anyone. 

It is overall average and I can't say it's made a memorable impression on me, a couple of weeks after reading and I'm having to struggle to remember the details. 

Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip, Bouganville, paperback, book review, fiction

The Plot: Matilda is a young girl living in Bougainville, during the island's struggle for independence. Civil war and the blockade have drastic consequences for Matilda and her classmates, their education is disrupted until Mr Watts becomes the self-appointed teacher of their tiny school. Mr Watts is the last remaining white man, he was previously mocked for his eccentric appearance and behaviour, but the students begin to appreciate his efforts as he teaches them the best he can using the only textbook they have - Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. 

Rating: 3/5 

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

library haul

Quite a small haul compared to my usual standards, but I only really popped in quickly to pick up some books that I'd reserved:-

  1. Save Me the Waltz, Zelda Fitzgerald - I've been waiting for this book for so long! I think I ordered it in the summer of last year, or maybe even before that. F.Scott gets all the glory in the Fitzgerald family, but apparently he not only used Zelda as a muse but also stole ideas from her. After reading Flappers by Judith Mackrell I became really intrigued about Zelda, she was the 'it girl' of her generation, and I want to see if she had any substance. Save Me the Waltz is about a glamorous aspiring ballerina. 
  2. Stiff, Mary Roach - I read Gulp at the end of last year and found it to be equal parts disgusting and fascinating, this time Roach is taking a humorous and curious look at cadavers. From those who donate their bodies to medical science, to cannibalism to dead bodies used as crash test dummies, this promises to be just a grossly fascinating. 
  3. Sinners, Jackie Collins - I might be a little bit too ashamed to read this one on the tube. It is described on the back as a 'jungle of lust and perversity, greed and ambition'. I'm hoping its going to be just as fabulously trashy as Valley of the Dolls

Monday, 16 March 2015

Kitty Hart-Moxon, Return to Auschwitz

When I was at school I had the great privilege to meet Josef Pearl, a survivor of the holocaust, (Faces in the Smoke  is his biography). I don't think it's until you read, or hear the testimonies told by survivors themselves that you can even slightly comprehend the horrors of the death camps.

 Return to Auschwitz is the autobiography of Kitty Hart-Moxon, who managed to live through unimaginable cruelty and barbarism of Auschwitz concentration camp.

Return to Auschwitz, review, Kitty Hart-Moxon, autobiography, holocaust, survivor, paperback

Rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

C J Sansom, Lamentation

C J Sansom's Tudor mystery series always end up on the best sellers list when they come. They are both popular, and well received by critiques and he is highly regarded as an author of historical fiction. Can't help but think he gets more respect that authors of the genre as he as in man in a category dominated by women... but that's a whole other argument and this is meant to be a review post.

C J Sansom, Lamentation, book review, 6, Shardlake series, Tudor, Historical fiction, book review, hardback, book cover, religious reform, Henry VII, Catherine Parr, mystery, detective,

The Plot:   The sixth book in the series, Matthew Shardlake lawyer/investigator returns to unravel plots and intrigues of the Tudor royal court. Henry VIII is dying, and is concerned about his legacy, and religious tensions threaten civil harmony. Catholics, Reformers, Anabaptist and Lollards are all Christians, but their differences regarding the holy communion are leading to unrest, charges of heresy and murder. Catherine Parr, the wife of the king, has had a potential inflammatory and heretical memoir stolen, Lamentations of a Sinner, so she calls on her long-term friend Shardlake to retrieve it, before it is made public.

Rating: 3.5/5    

Monday, 9 March 2015

badass women in literature (part 1)

After getting all empowered at WOW I started to think about awesome and inspiring women in literature, and have put together a small, (but by no means definitive) list of heroines;-

WOW 2015

Hope everyone had a fabulous International Women's Day yesterday!

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I sure did. I went to the WOW festival this weekend and had a brilliant time. 3 days of talks, debates and performances celebrating women and discussing the challenges we face, just had my little feminist heart singing with glee. 

Thursday, 5 March 2015

World Book Day

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Happy world book day! Sadly, I'm far too old to receive world book tokens, but I still remember dressing up when I was at primary school, I went as Red Riding Hood. I've just seen some rather depressing news that a lad in Manchester was sent home from school for his 50 Shades of Gray costume. He's only 11, so I have no idea what his mum was thinking.

If you are small enough to receive tokens I've got a couple of suggestions of where to spend them:-

Monday, 2 March 2015

Where's Wally? National Literacy Trust Fun Run

If you're London based and fancy getting some good karma by raising money for a brilliant charity, please sign up for the National Literacy Trust fun run.

One in six adults in the UK struggle with literacy - the National Literacy Trust aims to help rectify this.

 If you're a follower of this blog, I'm assuming you like to read- now imagine you can't.Without basic literacy skills your're chances of employment are greatly reduced, how can you get a job when you can't fill out an application form? Or imagine if reading a bus time table was a challenge or writing an email? Literacy has an impact on every aspect of lives.

With your help we can help improves the lives of adults and children in the UK. Please sign up for either 5 or 10K, and join the other Wallys doing their bit!

Sunday, 1 March 2015

what I've read this month (February)

The shortest month of the year caught me by surprise and I forgot to post my monthly round up on the last day of February, so here it is:

1. Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress
2. Bernadette Barton, Stripped
3. Sarah Waters, Tipping the Velvet (re-read)
4. Vikas Swarup, Q&A
5. C. J Sansom, Lamentation 
6. Jennifer McVeigh, The Fever Tree
7. Jacqueline Susann, The Valley of the Dolls
8. Xiaolu Guo, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers  

I still want to review a couple of these books, but I've been so disorganised recently. Still, I did manage to get reviews up of both the best and the worst of this month reads. The Fever Tree was my favourite, for it's cinematic and engaging love story. Stripped was the poorest as it need to be more academical rigorous and less repetitive.

Another highlight of the month was The Valley of the Dolls a cult-classic about the entertainment industry this book is the good type of trash. Published in 1966 is has surprisingly stood the test of time, and could criticism of Hollywood could easily be applicable for today.

Though not the worst book, perhaps the most disappointing was Q&A, as I had high expectations because I love the film adaptation (Slumdog Millionaire). The novel didn't have the same emotional pull on me as the film, and there were parts that were so poorly written they became dull.

Stone Mattress is written by my hands down favourite author, and though I enjoyed aspects of this short story collection, my dislike towards the medium stopped this from being crowned this months winner.

Tipping the Velvet was a re-read. I've mentioned my love for Sarah Waters before, her novels are so vivid, she really manages to capture a sense of time and place in her historic novels. If you've not read any of her books you really should give her a try, Fingersmith is my personal top pick.

I read a fair bit of historical fiction this month, Tipping the Velvet, Lamentation and The Fever Tree - it's one of my favourite genres so it was really lovely to have a bit of a binge on it.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Jennifer McVeigh, The Fever Tree

I won't be surprised if the The Fever Tree is eventually turned into a film, it has been favourably compared to Gone with the Wind and has been well received.

The Fever Tree, Jennifer McVeigh, book review, fiction, romance, South Africa, 1880, Frances, paperback, book cover, diamond mining, small pox

The Plot: Penniless and orphaned, Frances is forced to emigrate to the Cape to join her new husband Dr Edwin Mathews. On the boat journey to south Africa she meets William Westbrook, a magnetic and well-connected man, who helps his uncle run the Kimberley diamond mines. 1880, South Africa is a dangerous and corrupt land, built by speculation, greed and the blood of the indigenous population. As smallpox threatens the stability of an already unstable country, Frances is torn between an idealist but remote Edwin, and passionate but unpredictable William.  

Rating: 4/5 

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Colchester day trip (part 2)

More pictures to show you from my day trip to Colchester. The sky was conveniently blue and the sun was shining, so I'm pretty happy with how these photos turned out:-

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Vikas Swarup, Q&A

Slumdog Millionaire is one of my favourite films, it make me ball my eyes out but I also find it uplifting. So I thought it about time that I read Q&A the book is is based on. 

Vikas Swarup, Q&A, Slumdog Millionaire, book, fiction, Who wants to be a Millionaire? review, literature, book blog, paperback

The Plot: Ram Mohammad Thomas, a young man with a rough start in life wins the jackpot on the Indian version of the television show Who Wants to be a Millionaire? He is arrested and accused of cheating. With his lawyer, Ram recounts his life-story and the amazing coincidences that enabled him to answer the questions correctly.

Rating: 2/5

Monday, 23 February 2015

book haul

I've blogged about Hylands House before, this weekend we took a rather soggy walk around the grounds. Aside for a blast of fresh air, the main reason I wanted to visit is for the fabulous second-hand bookshop they have in the old stables. 

book haul, second-hand books, book shop, Chelmsford, Hylands House

Paperbacks are £1.50 and 3 for 2, and they are have a good amount of stock neatly arranged. I was talking to the chaps at the till and they said there are plans to double the size of the shop, so it's going to get even better. In my opinion its the best second-hand book shop in Chelmsford. 

I was moderately restrained and only bought 4 books:

book haul, second-hand books, book shop, Chelmsford, Hylands House

  • Xiaolu Guo, A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers
  • Jaqueline Sunsa, Valley of the Dolls
  • Lloyd Jones, Mister Pip
  • Armistead Maupin, Tales of the City 

Admittedly I still have those Man Booker books to get through  (so far I've read 2 and 2 halves) but these where so cheap I couldn't resist. Plus in my defence - the Man Booker's are all hardbacks and they're a bit heavy to lug around in my work bag. 

What do think of my haul? Have you read any of them?

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Colchester Castle

I've taken some annual leave this week, so we popped over to nearby Colchester for a wander and a look around the castle. Of course, it's school half term at the moment so it was pretty busy.

Colchester, Castle, visit, photos, photography, pictures, Roman, Norman, Celt, review, day trip, entrance, Essex, things to do

Monday, 16 February 2015

Bernadette Barton, Stripped

I always thing I need to read more non-fiction. I listened to a fair number of pod-casts, and watch a lot of documentaries so feel I expose myself to a decent range of opinions, facts and debates, but I really need to step up my game when it comes to reading about topics that interest me. 

 With this mind, I've just finished Stripped an investigative look at the lives of exotic dancers. 

Stripped, exotic dancers, experience, life story, Bernadette Barton, review, book, American, exotic dancers, sex workers, memoir, sex industry

Rating: 2.5/5

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Diagon Alley

Finally getting my arse in gear - I've started to edit the pictures I took on my visit to the Harry Potter studios

Harry Potter, Warner Brothers Studio Tour, Diagon alley, shop fronts, photographs

'Hagrid, meanwhile, was counting bricks in the wall above the dustbin. "Three up...two across..." he muttered. "Right, stand back, Harry.' He tapped the wall three times with the point of his umbrella. ' 
- Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, J.K Rowling 

Monday, 9 February 2015

Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress

As soon as a Margaret Atwood novel comes out it goes straight to the top of my must read list.

Stone Mattress, Margaret Atwood, collection of short stories, Torch the Dusties, I dream of Zena, hardback, review, book, modern literature,

The Plot: Collection of short stories including: A retirement home under a siege by pro-youth activists. A murder committed to avenge a crime. A poet ponders his failing charms and talent whist been interviewed by a hopeful phd student.

The Rating:   3.8/5

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

air through autumn leaves

'Gigglings come from the two of them, or what would formally have been gigglings. Closer to squawking, or clucking or wheezings: sudden gusts of air through autumn  leaves. The vocal cords shorten, Wilma thinks sadly. The lungs shrink. Everything gets drier.' 
- Margaret Atwood, 'Touching the Dusties', Stone Mattress 

She's not extravagant

'She's not extravagant or greedy, she tells herself: all she ever wanted was to be protected by layer upon layer of kind, soft, insulating money, so that nobody and nothing could get close enough to harm her.'
- Margaret Atwood, Stone Mattress    

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Pecan Pie recipe (with spelt pasty)

It is National Carrot Cake Day (who knew this was a thing?) but my carrot muffins were sad, flat little things and far too sorry to show on this blog. But, I did have have some success in the kitchen, with a Pecan Pie! 

It's my first attempt at making one,  as it's more of an American tradition and pastry scares me, but I'm chuffed with how it's turned out. 

home-made, pecan pie, recipe, UK, gluten free, baking, photo
recipe under the cut:-

Monday, 2 February 2015

Warren FitzGerald, The Go-Away Bird

Not going to lie, the reason I picked The Go-Away Bird up was because of its cover.
The Go-Away Bird, Warren FitzGerald, Rwandan Genocide, literature, book review, London, Immigration, modern fiction,

*Trigger Warning* murder, death, genocide, rape, mutilation, self-harm, violence, child-abuse

The Plot: Clementine's mum is Tutsi, her dad is Hutu, when the genocide begins in Rwanda, Clementine and her family are in perilous danger. Ashley had a troubled childhood, to cope with the memories he self-harms. When these two damaged people meet in a derelict London flat, their growing friendship and shared love of music, gives them both the opportunity to heal.  

Rating: 2.5/5

Saturday, 31 January 2015

what I've read this month (January)

First round-up posts of the year - feels like the blog has got off to a slow start. I haven't posted as much as I intended, nor read as much as I expected.

But, here is a list of what I have read:-
1. Madeline Miller, Song of Achilles (re-read, review here)
2. Lee Child, Never Go Back
3. Steven Saylor, Roma 
4. Tom Rob Smith, Child 44
5. J.K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone  (re-read)
6. Warren FitzGerald, The Go Away Bird 

The worst novel of the month was undoubtedly Never Go Back racist, sexist and formulaic. I highly suggest you skip this, and read one of the earlier books in the Jack Reacher series.

Of course, I had to read Harry Potter after visiting the studio tour, I'm going to put up some more pictures from my visit next week. I also started the year by re-reading my another one of my favourite books of all time The Song of Achilles, I feel emotionally moved by this beautiful love story every time I read it.

Out of the new (to me) books I read, Child 44 was the best, but to be honest it was out of a rather weak bunch. I found out recently it's going to be turned into a film, and it is part of a series of books. I doubt I'm going to read any of the others though, because it's strength was that it introduced me to a period of Russian history I'm ignorant about, and it would probably be a better idea just to read some non-fiction about this period.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

'comfort women' small webcomic

When I lived in South Korea I had the privilege to go to the House of Sharing and meet the Halmonis (grandmothers) who live there. The Halmonies survived the most horrific abuse during World War II, they were forced into sex slavery during the Japanese occupation of Korea. These remarkably brave women are still campaigning for justice, for the Japanese government to formerly acknowledge, apologise and redress this war crime.

picture source

There is a short webcomic available here, The Story of a Comfort Woman - Tattoo, by Sun-Woong Park I urge you to take a quick look.

I know it's not really something I usually blog about, but its really important to raise awareness.

Please also consider donating to the House of Sharing here

Tuesday, 27 January 2015


Though I far far too many unread books on my shelves at the moment, I'm always browsing books shops and the internet for my next purchase. Here's what on my current wishlist:

1. Maggot Moon, Sally Gardner 

This one sounds really unusual, it's about a totalitarian state, determined to beat it's enemies in the race to the moon. They thing that really grabbed me, is that it is narrated by a young dyslexic boy, this could either work really well- or be a complete disaster.

2. The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr I. Solzenitsyn 

After reading Child 44 I've come to the conclusion that I'm ignorant about the Soviet Union. This is a memoir of the authors experience in a gulag (prison labour camp) for criticising Stalin on a postcard. For reviews, it sound like a pretty harrowing read, but I think its important that these historic events are recorded and widely read.

3. Nervous System: The Story of a Novelist Who Lost His Mind, Jan Lars Jensen 

Another memoir, this time about mental illness. I noticed a trend recently for more fiction and biographies discussing mental health (for example  The Shock of the Fall) which I think is a really positive thing, as it's still such a taboo.

4. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins 
There's so much buzz about this one, it's going to be the next literary phenomenon and is being touted as the next Gone Girl, so I need to read it before I'm left out.

What do you think of my choices? Have you read any of them?

Monday, 26 January 2015

5 top tips for visiting The Making of Harry Potter, Warner Bros. studio tour

For Christmas my sister gave me a brilliant present, a trip to The Making of Harry Potter, Warner Bros studio tour.

top tips, visit, advice, recommendations, d.i.y, costumes, planning, The Making of Harry Potter, World of Harry Potter, Hogwarts, Warner Bros, Studio Tour, day trip, dressing up, photos, photographs, ideas,

It totally lived up to me expectations, and I'll be posting some pictures of my visit in a couple of upcoming posts, but first I wanted to share some tips, so you can plan your own visit.  

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

if there is a book you want to read

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it, Toni Morrison, quotes, inspiration, writing

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.

–Toni Morrison