Monday 30 June 2014

A june book round-up

So this month I managed to read five absolutely brilliant books and I'm about halfway through another book that I know will be a firm favourite of mine for years to come. I love it when every book I read is amazing, don't you?

First up this month was The Fallen Angel by Daniel Silva. This is the latest book in a series about Israeli intelligence agent Gabriel Allon (who also just happens to be a brilliant art restorer). Just like the other eleven books in this series, it's a real page turner and from the off you are pulled into Gabriel's world of intrigue, mysteries and spies. It's a brilliant yarn and fascinating to boot, so if you love books about spies, undercover plots and mysterious deaths, which are packed with action and murder attempts, then this is definitely worth reading!

I was lucky enough to beg a proof copy of Rainbow Rowell's new book, Landline, from a friend and it was so good that I ended up reading it in 48 hours. So a definite must read if you love Rainbow's books! The book is a realistic look at one women's struggle to juggle marriage, work and kids and the characters are brilliantly written. Oh and there's also a magic phone in it, which allows the protagonist to talk to her husband before he's her husband. I know it sounds weird but it's brilliant and a good look at what's important in life, if we deserve second chances and how things can get out of hand without you even realising it. READ IT!

The book that I enjoyed the most this month was E. Lockhart's We Were Liars as it totally blew me away and I could not stop thinking about it once I'd finished it. I'd heard quite a lot about it so I knew there was a big twist and I thought I was prepared for it. I was not. The story follows Cadence as she recounts the summers she spent with her three cousins (collectively the four are known as the liars) and family on an idyllic island off Cape Cod. Cadence is returning to the island for the first time in two years and it's her first visit since a terrible accident that she can't remember. Cadence's story is mesmerising and is so wonderfully written that you have to keep reading until you reach the conclusion. And wow does the truth hit you in the gut. I did not imagine that was the twist, I was half there but I was definitely not prepared for the truth. I now need to reread to see how I missed what was coming. I mean wow it's an example of storytelling at it's best. Amazing.

So I was the biggest fan of Gillain Flynn's Gone Girl which makes it weird that it's taken me almost two years to read any of her other books. Thankfully Dark Places was worth the wait as it's excellent, although it's not quite on par with Gone Girl. You're quickly sucked into the world of Libby the sole survivor of a massacre 20 odd years earlier that killed her two sisters and mum. Her other sibling, her brother Ben, is found guilty of the murder thanks largely to her confession. The book switches between present day and the time of the murders and is seen through the eyes of Patty, the mum, Libby and Ben as Libby starts to investigate what happened on that fateful day. As per usual nothing and no one is quite as it seems and you'll start to realise that some people are just bad and there's nothing that can be done about it. I now need to read her third book, Sharp Objects to see if it's as good!

Fans of Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver series need to read my next book (Sinner) as it looks at the story of Cole and Isabel two of the peripheral characters in the story of Sam and Grace. It's a really good read and it answers all the questions you had when Forever finished about these two brilliant characters. As per usual with Maggie's books you are gripped from the off and you can't help but keep reading and it's great to have this book set in LA unlike the other three books. I mean what an idea - wolves in the middle of the city, how will that work?, will that work?, will Cole's secret stay a secret for long? 
*I should say I work for the publisher of this book, so clearly I'm biased on it, but seriously you'll love it!*

So what about you, what have you read this month and any recommendations for me?

Thursday 26 June 2014

Things are looking up!

Does it ever happen that all the exciting things seem to be creeping closer at the same time as you're booking more fun things into the diary? That's been the case for me recently and whilst my credit card and bank account aren't amazingly appreciative of this, I could not be more excited! Honestly I'm like a kid myself at Christmas, everything is all exciting, there's squealing and many emails are full of exclamation marks!* I love it! So anyway, what are these exciting things I've got coming up I hear you cry...

First up, summer working hours are about to start - wahooo! This is one of the perks of working in publishing (that and free books sometimes). During the summer we get Friday afternoon off if we make up the time during the week - how ace is that? Obviously we have to have a few people in the office each Friday afternoon, it's not a complete free for all, but we do get most of the Fridays in July and August off, starting next week. I have grand plans for these days. Things like meeting up with (publishing) friends in the park, visiting newborn babies, explore London and getting an early start on weekends away. Ooh it's going to be blissful!

Before that though I'm off to see a Wakey!Wakey! gig. The gig next week will be my second of the year and I can't wait to see them live once again, if you've not heard of this awesome band you're missing out. The music is lovely, the lyrics are so beautiful plus they are amazing live. Honestly if you knew them you'd be super-jealous of me. Promise.

Another thing I've booked recently is a trip in November to the Harry Potter Studio Tour, when it'll hopefully be decorated for Christmas. This will be my third trip to the wonderful world of joy that is the tour and I can't wait! This time I'm going with four publishing friends who are just as geeky as me about the books. And some of them haven't even been - crazy people! I can't wait to explore everything again and know I'll have a total blast, eek!

In other news I've decided to book a Portugal holiday for September and I cannot wait. We're off for nine days and I can't wait for sunshine, beaches and nothing to do but swim, read, repeat.

Am I the only one who hasn't seen The Fault in our Stars movie yet? I'm finally seeing it today and whilst I wasn't super-keen on the book (I felt like I'd missed the point of it and that I was really stupid for doing so) I am intrigued by the film. I've heard such brilliant reviews (mainly from huge fans of the book, which is unusual) so I can't wait to give my opinion of it.

Finally I'm overexcited about the fact that I'm heading to see The Crucible at the Old Vic next month. I've never seen it performed before so it'll be brilliant to finally tick it off the list! Oh and it stars the hugely talented and rather gorgeous Richard Armitage, who I may (or may not) have a bit of a crush on. I am obviously super excited about this occurring, I mean Thornton** will be in the same room as me - dreams do come true.

The Crucible

So yes a few things to look forward to over the coming months, what about you what are you excited for?

*I had to cut so many '!' out of this post - it was getting insane I tell you!

**if you don't get this reference I'm not sure we can be friends until you watch this epic TV adaptation of North and South. It's the TV equivalent of a cup of hot chocolate and marshmallows or being wrapped in a duvet. Seriously it is. Watch it.

Tuesday 24 June 2014

A wonderful weekend in London town

This weekend just gone was one of the best in a long while, not just thanks to the glorious sunshine but the company I was in and the things I got up to. As well as house hunting there was a movie night (the Princess Diaries 2 - I'd forgotten how much I love that film!), family catch ups, a summer fete on the Common, lots of attempts at new recipes, {Let's not discuss the failure of these sweet potato brownies, FYI cacao nibs can't be used instead of cacao powder, just in case you were wondering!}, football watching and LOTS of sisterly fun. Here's a round-up of my weekend in pictures... 

Early morning Starbucks stop with the favourites

Watching a mini dog show on Clapham Common

All of the pugs!

Little donkey


Yummy lunch

Making hummus

The finished article - delicious roasted red pepper hummus

Dinner - turkey burgers, salad and baked potato fries. Soooooo good!

Sunday morning family run - we were at the back taking selfies. Obvs.

Running past The London Eye

Running towards St Paul's

Tower Bridge and The Shard in the sunshine

Granola at the Delaunay. I wasn't that healthy that I just had granola, there was toast, coffee and croissants too!

First attempt at overnight oats. Seriously where have these been all my life?! So easy, so filling and so yummy. 

So what about you, what did you get up to? 

Saturday 21 June 2014

My proudest running moment

So the subject for today's runners tell all link-up is your favourite or proudest running moment. For me there's only one answer to this one: completing my first half marathon. I've never enjoyed a run more and I've never been prouder of a running achievement. That race was the accumulation of three months of solid training and boy did it feel good when I was running it - I had such fun! And to finish it and be able to say, I've done it! You can find out about my thoughts on the race here and here!

I've collected a few medals since becoming a runner two years ago and I can safely say that the one above is the one I'm most proud of!

 Now I just need to find that willpower and love for running again as since that race it's gone missing. Any suggestions as to how I find it again?

Sunshine to the Square Inch

Thursday 19 June 2014

Things I wish were mine

So summer is on it's way, finally, and I'm officially in the mood to buy all the things. Rather than buying all of the things (lets be clear I've bought a few things - oops) I thought I'd share some of them here. That way I can feel like I've enjoyed them without spending a fortune. I'm a genius, I know.

I honestly would kill someone for both of those skirts, I love the hint of fluorescent green on the top one and the colour combo on the other is dreamy. Also you can just tell that it would fall wonderfully when wearing it and when you do a twirl in the park it would fly up perfectly - I can dream right? You can't go wrong with a flowery top so this one is definitely inching closer to the checkout...

I have a bit of a flamingo obsession, so far I have a flamingo iPhone case, canvas bag and lampshade and this make up bag would really complete the set. And these sandals? I can't choose between the two, it'd be like Sophie's choice, aren't they both just lovely. I bet they're super comfy too! 

So what about you what are you lusting after right now?

Saturday 14 June 2014

Words to live by

Happy sunny Saturday everyone! I hope you've got some grand plans for the weekend? I'm back at the parentals as my uncle and aunt are over from Australia, I can't wait to catch up with them and natter away after a year of not seeing them. Plus my Mum has decided to celebrate their arrival with a family BBQ, with 30 people. Eek! It sounds like it's going to be an action packed day!

I have helped by baking umpteen numbers of cookies and my next job is the veggie couscous, so I'd best get down to that soon! But first up I thought I'd share some quotes that I need to remember and which I've been mulling over recently.


wise words.

wise words

What about you, do you have any quotes that you try and live by?

Thursday 12 June 2014

Fabulously easy and scrumptious flapjacks!

Greetings chums and how are you this fine day? One of the things I spend a silly amount of time doing is baking, it’s the thing that calms me after a crazy day of manic ridiculousness in the work department. Baking and reading a good book are the perfect tonic after a busy/crap/stressful day, don't you think? Considering the fact that I bake a LOT each month it’s absurd that I barely ever share those delightful recipes with you lovely lot. So here is my latest baking exploits, if you can call flapjacks baking – I’m not sure you can FYI as they aren't a cakey bakey thing but never mind.

They were piping hot but I still nibbled at them!

Before I launch into the actual how to of the recipe I should probably let you in on a little secret…I've never made flapjacks before (despite the fact I adore it and think it’s legitimately a breakfast food – it’s the oats). 'Why?'I hear you cry? Well I’m ridiculously worried I’ll suck at it. The consistency of a flapjack is so vitally important that I fear I’ll never be able to achieve the perfect chewy yet soft consistency that I favour. And I’d be devastated (and not to mention severely pissed off) if I spent all that time making them only to realise as I took that first bite that they actually tasted a bit shit really. So with that concern in mind I've always stayed clear of them.

Until now that is. At the weekend I had a massive flapjack craving and thankfully the ingredients were in the cupboard so I thought I'd give it a whirl...and they were magnificent! Just the perfect consistency, thank goodness. They were chewy and soft and golden and just delicious. There's a chance I might have eaten five in one go...they were that good it would have been rude not to! The recipe's below in case you fancy giving them a whirl - you won't regret it I promise! Flapjacks rule!

A half eaten flapjack

The all important ingredients:
  • 350g butter
  • 1tbsp/15ml golden syrup
  • 225g golden caster sugar
  • 450g jumbo oats
And the super-simple recipe:
  • Melt the butter
  • Add the sugar and golden syrup and bring the mixture to the boil
  • Remove from the heat and add the oats. Stir together well
  • Pour into a lined baking tray and spread out evenly
  • Bake for 25 minutes on 180oC (until the top turns golden)
  • Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 1 minute before cutting into squares
  • Then leave the flapjacks in the pan for another 15 minutes before separating them and moving them to a wire rack to cool
  • Eat and eat and eat until they're all gone - hooray!

Tuesday 10 June 2014

Amsterdam, I adore you

So last month was my long-awaited trip to Amsterdam. Considering how eagerly anticipated it was, I really was shockingly under-prepared by the time it came to getting on the plane. I blame the fact that I was struck ill for the entirety of the week before, but I needn't have worried as my trusty DK Top Ten Guide did its job when I finally opened it on the plane. I suddenly remembered quite how much fun was in store for me and I couldn't wait to get started! I'm so pleased that during our whirlwind 50 hours I managed to tick off most things on my Amsterdam to-do list. Hooray, what a result!

So here's a little run down of what we got up to...
  • Browsed the floating flower markets - the tulips were truly stunning. It's just a shame I couldn't buy any of them! Just look at them, so gorgeous
  • Invested in classy red ponchos thanks to torrential rain for 36 of the hours we were in Amsterdam - it's testament to how awesome this city is that I still adored it!
  • Ate the best pancakes ever created. The toppings - apple, banana and raisins - were embedded in the pancake. Talk about a freaking genius idea!
  • Queued for ninety minutes for a tour of Anne Frank's House. I cannot tell you how fascinating I found this stop on the tourist trail. It was so moving to see where Anne Frank and her family lived while she wrote her diary. It really is an unbelievably moving experience and I recommend everyone visiting it.
  • Visited the Van Gogh Museum. We went to this on Friday night at around 8 and there was a bar and DJ playing in the lobby, so a cool way to be greeted! I always enjoy seeing art up close and I was really surprised as to the number of paintings I knew by Van Gogh, my art knowledge really is dreadful. I think my favourite one was his self-portrait. 
  • Traversed the canals. When in Amsterdam, a trip on the canals is definitely called for, and the one included in the iAmsterdam card that I discussed the other week did not disappoint. We saw loads of the sites from the water and it was nice to sit down after walking all over the city. I had thought the boat trip would help me get my bearings, but that wasn't the case. I had no idea where I was at all in that city - has anyone else found that?
  • Ate the most amazing food, we ate in all sorts of places, from small cafes and cute pubs to basement located Italian restaurants and really trendy bars and the food was ALL to die for! If I could live off their fries and mayo, pancakes and cheesy croquette things forever more I'd be incredibly happy!
  • Threw ourselves into exploring every inch of the city with long and rambling walks all over - and with views like those below it really was no hardship!
  • Visited the intriguing Rembrandt's House. Rembrandt's story really was fascinating and his old house has been restored so that it resembles the house he would have lived in, as a result there were so many interesting titbits to learn. I had no idea how small the beds were back then or that they looked like cupboards and the guest 'bed' would have been in the main reception room - crazy right?
  • Managed not to die thanks to the crazy Amsterdam cyclists - what is with their believe that it's always their right of way?

All in all our trip was ace and I can't wait to go back and visit the bits we missed (the Reijakmuseum and a cycling tour will be the first two items on the agenda!). Have you ever been to Amsterdam, what was your favourite thing to do there?

Saturday 7 June 2014

One month and six books makes one happy reader!

Hello, lovely blog readers, how are you today? As we are now in June it's time to have a moment discussing the books I've read over the last month - that's six for June, go me! I've loved every single one of the books I've read this month - I don't know when I was last able to say that! I hope you've had just as good a month for books, why not tell me all about them?

First up was The Dead Wife's Handbook by Hannah Beckerman. This book got me back into my reading mojo in May as I'd previously been struggling. It's a really fascinating premise for a book: if you died how would you feel watching your family (namely your husband and young daughter) as they started to move on? And how do they even begin to move on? The tale was a moving and beautifully written insight into what people experience far too often and it really made me think about how I would handle such a difficult think or what I would want. I urge everyone to have a read of this book, it's brilliant.

Lost and Found by Tom Winter was a book I'd forgotten I had and therefore I had no expectations whatsoever when I started it. It turns out this is an interesting look at what it is to be lonely and what people will do to feel a connection to another person. Interesting but maybe not one that I'd reread.

Next up was The Son-in-Law by Charity Norman and I LOVED this book, it's soooo good! It reminds me of Jodi Picoult, as Charity Norman tackles complicated family issues and questions how forgiving people can be. All the characters were well written and it's testament to how brilliant an author Charity Norman is that you could empathise with all the characters in the novel, even the ones that were meant to be 'bad'. I loved how this story showed that accidents happen and maybe not everything is black or white.

Another month and another unread Roald Dahl book ticked off my to be read list, May's Dahl book was Rhyme Stew which had me laughing out loud. The rhymes were genuinely funny and it makes me wonder why more people don't adapt well known rhymes and poems. Some if them are damn near genius!

Sometimes when I hear a lot of hype about a book it worries me that I won't get the hype, as a result I wait ages before reading it. That was the case with Maggot Moon, it's one of those books that children's publishing people wax lyrical about and I didn't want to be the only one that didn't 'get' it. Thankfully I adored Maggot Moon and I was hooked by Sally Gardner's tale. Standish's fight to reveal the truth about what happened to his friend and to overcome his oppressors is beautifully written and you can't help but be moved by this story of friendship. I implore you to all read it - it's wonderful.

If I admit that I enjoyed this Longbourn by Jo Baker more than Pride and Prejudice people will probably think I'm crazy won't they? But the truth is I did, for me Pride and Prejudice just didn't live up to the hype - sorry! Longbourn on the other hand did, it was really interesting to learn about the servants in this era - I can't believe I've never even thought about these members of the Bennett household before. They were well written and realistic characters and I found them far easier to empathise with them than I ever have with the Bennetts. It was really fascinating when the stories overlapped and I was thoroughly gripped by the unfolding story of Sarah and James. Plus I loved James, he was just so sweet and I wanted him to end up happy!

So, tell me about your reading month - what do I need to add to my future to be read list?