September Recap

september

Invested in a new make up brush. | Went on a hot chocolate date. | Visited three new towns. | Visited Harry Potter Studios. | Bought a souvenir. | Bought myself a special piece of jewellery! | Reached 500 followers on TQP! | Made pizza (stromboli, actually). | Completed a 3 day detox. | Read 10 retellings. | Gave away all my unwanted books. | Had a no-spend week. | Baked cupcakes. |

Goals Achieved: 119/366

In terms of my September to-do list, I think I was fairly successful. I gave in to the PSL craze, but then remembered that I hate Starbucks so made my own, homemade syrup (recipe probably coming soon!). We’ve got a whole load of quotes for our new boiler, and PB used some of his new-found spare time to paint the landing. I’ve started my 30 day yoga challenge and am mid way through my ‘eat breakfast everyday’ challenge. I’ve made apple crumbles and blackberry turnovers, and I’ve kept up to date with all of my Bake Along bakes. I thrashed my September TBR with a total of 12 books (4811 pages, thank you very much). September wasn’t what I had expected – it’s been in turns heartbreaking and joyful – but at least it’s been productive.

 

How was your month? What was your favourite thing/event/happening in September?

Mini Reviews | September 2016

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The Last Boy and Girl in the World | Siobhan Vivian | **
I won’t lie, I picked this up because a) the cover was nice, b) I liked the premise and c) I thought it was based in Scotland. Scottish based YA is few and far between, my friends. Anyway, it took me a good few chapters to work out that actually, it’s not set in Aberdeen, Scotland; but rather set in Aberdeen, somewhere-in-the-USA.

Aaaand… I didn’t really like it. I think the pacing was off; I felt like I’d read hundreds of pages but NOTHING HAPPENED. I can’t count how many sleepovers/parties/proms we went through, and it just bored me. Add to that a cliche romance, a tiiiiny bit of possible insta-love, and a not-very-nice MC, and let’s just say it wasn’t for me.

Under Rose-Tainted Skies | Louise Gornall  | ****
I REALLY ENJOYED THIS! As I mentioned in my library haul, URTS reminded me of a cross between Holly Bourne and Nicola Yoon’s novels, and HOW CAN THAT BE A BAD THING? Yes, there were a few areas that I think were underdeveloped – the whole self-harm vs scratching yourself instance, for a start – but on the whole I enjoyed it. Mostly I ADORED Norah’s relationship with her Mum, they were best friends and each other’s life lines and that was cute. I think the representation of agoraphobia and panic disorder were pretty awesome – I mean, I don’t have agoraphobia, so I wouldn’t know how truthful that part is, but there were parts of Norah’s explanations of anxiety that I just wanted to highlight and thrust in PB’s face and say ‘that is me’!

Yeah, I’d thoroughly recommend this to anyone. The only problem is, it’s such an insanely quick read (I’d finished within two hours… and that was with breaks for blogging and to make PSL syrup!)

Paper Butterflies | Lisa Heathfield | *****
Oh. This book. I KNEW it would be an uncomfortable read. It’s about child abuse, ffs. I didn’t realise it was the sort of book that I’d want to DNF before finishing the first chapter – not because it’s poorly written, but because it’s horrendously traumatic. Some of the scenes turned my stomach. Some of them made me cry. Some of them made me angry beyond belief. But they were all brilliant. I stated this at 8pm on a Friday night. I’d finished it by quarter past nine (even I’M impressed with that!!); it was just THAT readable. Horrendous and traumatic and brutal, but so unbelievably compelling. It just hurts my heart that so many children go through the things that June did. And Blister… oh Blister.

The Accident Season | Moira Fowley-Doyle | *****
To start with, I didn’t get the hype about this. But after the first fifty pages, I was hooked. The Accident Season is unlike anything I’ve ever read – it’s part ghost story, part romance, part mystery, part fairytale. Family is really the main theme of the book, along with the idea that secrets hurt. It’s one of those stories that sort of haunts you, and will probably stay with me for a long time. I REALLY don’t want to have to return this to the library!

Oh, and one more thing: IT’S SET IN OCTOBER. Essentially The Accident Season is THE most perfect Halloween read I’ve ever come across. READ IT READ IT READ IT!

A Step Towards Falling | Cammie McGovern | ***
I… am just not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, I really loved the fact that this is a YA novel about people learning to live alongside peers with disabilities. I LIKE that. I really don’t think that there are enough light-hearted but poignant fiction books out there that involve people with disabilities (or if there are, I haven’t read any). I really like Belinda’s narration – I loved seeing the world through her more simplistic, rose-tinted voice – but I have no idea how authentic it is. And as for Lucas and Emily… they completely bored me. I actually disliked Emily, although I can’t explain why. Maybe we were supposed to warm more to the lovely girl with disabilities than the ‘normal’ one? IDK. Anyway, I feel like very little happened in this. I know it’s more about a moral transformation, but… yeah.

 

Did you read anything wonderful in September?

Series Review: A Song of Ice and Fire | George RR Martin (Part 1)

Yes, I know. Years ago, I swore never to get on to the GoT bandwagon because it was just mindless violence and sex and crimes against women.

Turns out, the books AREN’T quite so bad as the series. And they’re much more readable. (Let’s just save moaning about how convoluted the story line is until part two, yeah?

If you’ve never read one of my reviews before (hello influx of new followers!! Welcome!) I don’t actually tell you what happens in the books. I just… sort of moan about them. Okay?? Here goes!

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A Game of Thrones
So I read this and really, really enjoyed it. If you watch the series, the story line is essentially identical to the book, which is great. It’s probably the simplest book in the series – there’s a lot of time spent on background and introducing the character and their relationships with other characters; and there’s actually not that many narrators, which is wonderful – but the story is still there. In this instance, we’re introduced to the big bad beyond the wall; focus on Ned’s discovery that Joffrey is not a legitimate heir; and see A LOT of Danaerys’ transformation from weak and feeble child to the mother of dragons. It’s action packed, infuriating and at times, heartbreaking, and I would thoroughly recommend A Game of Thrones to anyone.

However, you will become hooked, and that’s not always a good thing…

A Clash of Kings
The sequel is much longer than A Game of Thrones, and that can be off putting. Again, though, I REALLY enjoyed A Clash of Kings. So much so that I can’t really remember what happened… I think there was a much bigger emphasis on Westeros – particularly Kingslanding – than in the other books. There’s the introduction of Stannis and Renly, and more importantly, Brienne of Tarth (FAVE CHARACTER). Things happen. Quite a few of them are a little bit dull, tbh, but then some of them are heartbreaking (Theon, I’m looking at you) and some of them are downright terrifying (Poor little Arya). A Clash of Kings is one of those books that is SO RIDICULOUSLY COMPLICATED you only really understand it as you read it. As soon as you stop and try to explain it to someone, you’re full of ‘Oh! I forgot this person… he does x, y, z. And oooh, did I mention…’ you know?

A Storm of Swords: Steel and Snow
Again, I liked this. Honestly, I thought all of the first books in the series were awesome. I think this one centred around John Snow and the Wildlings (in the series, I didn’t like him and Ygrette. In the books, I ship it.) I think my favourite thing about this book was Jaime’s transformation from dick to kinda nice guy ALL BECAUSE OF BRIENNE. They get kidnapped and maimed and nearly raped, but they get through it together, and that’s lovely. Oh, and the horrible bad guy meets his comeuppance, so… that’s good too. I can’t remember much happening to Danaerys though, which is a shame, because she really was set up as the most amazing character in book one.

A Storm of Swords: Blood and Gold
Yeah, the book is so big it’s split into two. And as far as I can remember, most of the drama is in this part… An awful lot of the characters die. And not necessarily the bad ones. Tyrion (how have we come so far into a review and not mentioned TYRION???) gets basically no screen time until the end. John Snow and Ygrette say their sad goodbyes. It’s all actually quite close to the TV show, to be honest. It’s scary and stressful and painful, but in a comforting kind of way.

‘Cause that doesn’t sound perverse at all.

 

Have you read and of the A Song of Ice and Fire books? Which was your favourite so far?

Bake off Bake Along #5: Blackberry Turnovers

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This week’s Bake Off Bake Along offering was another accident! I’d made blackberry turnovers as a quick, indulgent Sunday morning breakfast a few weeks ago, and was sort of planning a post along those lines. But when Pastry week aired and I had a choice of making filo tartlets, a Bakewell tart or Danish pastries, I… basically couldn’t be bothered to make something new, so now you get these rather-simplistic looking but so delicious turnovers instead.

Fun fact: I actually made Danish pastry – from scratch – the night that I passed my driving test. Some nearly-eighteen-year-olds go out and party, I… stayed home and folded a whole load of pastry. But instead of having a hangover the next morning, I had fresh cinnamon swirls, so… who’s laughing now?

Anyway, I’m not ashamed to admit that the pastry in these little puffs is not homemade. It’s also technically not Danish, seeing as how it’s a simple puff. But the blackberries were fresh and hand-foraged, so that makes up for it, right???

I’m not writing out the recipe because it’s just too ridiculously easy, and I don’t want to insult you. I more or less followed these instructions, modified slightly because a) I was using scraps of pastry that I found in the freezer (classy), and b) my blackberries were kind of naff, so I souped them up a bit with some caramel. Yay, caramel!

 

Soooo… what were your thoughts on pastry week? Are you a fan of a Danish pastry (true to form, I am not. I really didn’t think I was fussy until now…!)? What’s your favourite turnover flavour – these blackberry ones are mighty fine, but I think apple is my ultimate favourite!

Currently | September 2016

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Reading: After finding the last two books of the Splintered series in my local library, I’m trying to work my way through the series this week. I’m really enjoying the Alice in Wonderland retelling – it’s good escapist reading! Expect a series review post coming soon!

Watching: Downton Abbey. One of my goals this year is to watch ALL of the series – I’ve seen the first three, and PB bought me the final three for Christmas last year, but I’ve yet to watch them. Right now I’m on series two, which is harrowing and lovely at the same time.

Planning: How to catch up with all my goals! I’m on 114/366 at the moment, and some of them are feeling a little out of reach!

Making: Another unicorn hoodie for PB’s friend’s baby’s first birthday. SO CUTE!

Stocking Up On: Nothing. We’re on a spending ban, so… food. And library books, I guess.

Wishing For: All the stress to go away. Soon, please. Also, I’d really like to be an assassin/fae. That would be nice.

Enjoying: Autumn! We’ve been making the most of my favourite season with lots of Autumnal walks, candles and hot chocolate. Oh, and baths. SOOOO many baths.

Trying: To choose which cake to make for my work’s Macmillan Bake Off! I’m also providing a cake for PB’s work’s version too, and I just don’t know what to bake. Any suggestions?

Eating: Lots of vegetables! We’re trying out a more flexitarian approach to eating at the moment – partly because meat is expensive, but also from a health point of view. I did try a few vegan meals, but I can’t say I enjoyed the experience (coming soon!).

 

Feeling: Muddled. I’m a bit all over the place at the minute; a bit away with the fairies. I’m struggling to focus and have mood swings… not really sure what’s going on, but I’d like it to go away soon please!

 

Your turn! What’s currently going on in your life right now?

Weekly Review #2

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Read this Week:

A Step Toward Falling – Cammie McGovern *** | A Court of Thorns and Roses – Sarah J Maas ***** | A Court of Mist and Fury – Sarah J Maas ***** |

Written this Week:
– It’s been pretty HP themed this week: I showed you a few sneak peaks of our Harry Potter Studio Tour, and then shared our far too expensive and ridiculously nerdy haul, too.
– PB took over my Bake Off Bake Along project by whipping up some Toad in the Hole for Batter Week.
– I continued the food theme with my first Coffee and a Book post!
– I talked about a book I really didn’t enjoy reading, and then ended with a few blog discoveries that I really DO enjoy reading!

Loved this Week:

Pint Sized Beauty | A Rosie Outlook | One Pleasant Day |

Happy Things This Week:
– Costa’s new toffee apple hot chocolate. We had a mini breakfast date yesterday, and OMG this was soooooo good. It’s chocolately, but caramely and slightly tart from the apples… OH.
– I’ve been trying really hard to keep up with my yoga challenge this week, and it’s actually going pretty well. I rewarded myself with a mid-week bath (usually that luxury is reserved for weekends) and managed to finish my book.
– I finished all of my library books last week, so indulged in another library haul! This time I picked up the last two novels in AG Howard’s Alice in Wonderland retelling, along with The Girl from Everywhere and Seraphina. I’m already looking forward to starting them just as soon as I’ve finished ACOMAF!

How was your week? British peeps, have you tried the new Costa hot chocolate yet? AND CAN WE JUST TALK ABOUT ACOMAF???? I’m broken, guys…

Recent Blog Discoveries I’ve Been Loving

^^^ Does what it says on the tin. Title. Whatever.

 

Aisling's Beauty Bytes - Irish Lifestyle Blog

Aisling’s Beauty Bytes

I know I mentioned this last week, but I ADORE Aisling’s blog. Although predominantly beauty focused – not my main interest – Aisling’s Beauty Bytes is a concoction of advice, style and book posts… not too dissimilar from my own little corner of the internet! Aisling’s not blogging too frequently at the moment, which is sad, but it has given me the opportunity to read right through her archives, which has made me even more excited for the her return to blogging!

Life Outside London

Life Outside London

Can I just BE Michelle? PLEASE? LOL s probably my favourite lifestyle blog at the moment. From the beautiful Spaniels Betty and Pete to that AMAZING shed, I am envious of Michelle’s world. And, of course, the closest I can get to her lovely life is by living vicariously through her blog, so…

Was that a little bit creepy fangirl stalker-ish? Sorry not sorry!

Hungry Little Bear

Hungry Little Bear

I have such an affection for food blogs, and Hungry Little Bear is no exception. Partly because of the name (how CUTE!!!), but mostly because of the food! A fellow Bake Along Baker, Kathryn’s food always looks delicious (I mean, just LOOK AT THOSE CHURROS!), and I love the little stories she accompanies each recipe with!

(I also really love Kathryn’s instagram, so… go check that out too!)

 

Have you made any recent blog discoveries? Share away! I love finding new blogs to read!

 

When Do You DNF A Book?

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DNF… Did Not Finish. It’s an abbreviation that (I imagine) strikes fear in the hearts of new authors – who wants to be told that their book isn’t good enough for you to finish? – and makes the reviewer feel as guilty as… IDK. Someone in jail, I guess.

I don’t like DNF-ing books. In fact, I think in 2016, where so far I have read 135 books, I have DNF-ed 2. It just feels unfair to me – how can you possibly form an opinion on whether a novel is good or not if you DON’T finish it? – but then I remember my towering TBR pile and the fact that I’d quite like to hit TBR zero, so… maybe life really is too short to read naff books.

Anyway, I recently DNF-ed The Dolls. To be honest, I’m not sure why I bought it, other than because I’d never seen it in a shop before and got excited to spend my birthday money! The general premise doesn’t appeal to me: I know nothing about the Southern states or Voodoo or ‘being a Doll’… but I hoped it might be a bit different. I hoped, guys.

Turns out, I shouldn’t have.

I managed to read up to page 194 before giving The Dolls up as a lost cause. I think it was the sentence: ‘”If you channel a specific herb when you’re using it, somewhere in the world, one of those herbs dies.”‘ Wow. Way to add drama. Surely a herb dies whenever someone eats it too, and that’s KIND OF WHAT THEY’RE MADE FOR!!!

Add to that a sexy, brooding guy that the MC is head over heels with even though HE HAS EXPLICITLY SAID HE DOESN’T LIKE HER; a really, really, REALLY obvious villain (I guessed it was him the first time he was introduced. Why would someone go and knock on a new person’s door, and be so eaily persuaded to take her TO A FUNERAL if he doesn’t have a creepy ulterior motive? He wouldn’t.

And then there’s the ‘creepy’ dreams; the times our MC spies her beautiful ‘friends’ lurking about in a cemetery and DOESN’T CALL THE POLICE; the fact that we’re supposed to believe that these ‘queens’ have enough power to change humanity, but choose to waste it on lust spells and bigger boobs and good hair BUT THAT’S OBVIOUSLY GOING TO CHANGE WHEN EVANY COMES ALONG – Evany being the girl who was persuaded into the cause with a speech that essentially says ‘join us because we’re better than you’…

I don’t think I’ve been as frustrated at a book in a millionty years.

Sigh.

 

So, do you DNF books? Why? Why Not? And what was the reason you DNF-ed your last book?

Harry Potter Studio Haul

We spent A LOT of money. It later transpired that we shouldn’t have, but we did. NO REGRETS.

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Charm Bracelet
I actually intended to buy a time turner or something, but they were SO expensive and I have a soft spot for charm bracelets so… this happened. I bought the Deathly Hallows charm; Ravenclaw crest (and PB insisted that he should be represented too, so there’s a Slytherin crest to keep it company); a Hogwarts letter and golden snitch charm. It’s not the most delicate piece of jewellery (I need to buy some spacer beads), but it’s fabulously nerdy, so I love it.

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Lamb’s Wool Ravenclaw & Slytherin Jumpers
Three things to note about these jumpers: 1. the sizes run large (I’m usually a medium, but the size small is baggy on me); 2. they are itchy as BEEP; and 3. they are ridiculously expensive. I mean, it’s not THAT ridiculous because they seem well made and they’re from Scotland and they’re made of BABY LAMB’S wool, but for me, they were expensive. The Ravenclaw one is mine, so obviously PB needed a Slytherin one to match. He’s a good egg.

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Replica Snape’s Wand
I didn’t buy this. This is all PB’s. Snape is his favourite character (because it’s ALAN!), so of course he needed a pretend wand that he’s never going to use and was immediately relegated to our spare room. I’m not complaining though; I have a free nerdy photo prop!

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Replica Marauder’s Map
You’d better believe this is already framed and in prime position on our staircase wall. IT IS GLORIOUS. Again, this was PB’s buy (he totally bought more than me. Just saying.) and he’s very proud of his pretty piece of paper.

 

 

Soooo… what do you think? Would you be tempted to spend an insane amount of money in the Harry Potter gift shop too?

Coffee and a Book #1

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For an English gal, I am SUCH a coffee drinker.

Except I’m not.

Basically, I realllllllly hate tea. I know, I know: it’s more British and civilised and looks nicer. But I cannot stand the taste, so I drink coffee.

Except, as I said, I don’t really. By ‘coffee’ I think most people think we’re talking about double espressos and beans and expensive machinery. Yeah… I’m talking about some brown stuff in a cup with enough sugar and milk to essentially disguise the taste of the brown stuff.

For someone who lives to eat, my tastebuds aren’t that great. You know all the coffees that are supposed to have cherry notes and undertones of chocolate and cinnamon? Yeah, no. I don’t understand that, myself. Personally I prefer a good ol’ flavoured coffee (yes, I am aware that most of you are probably gasping at my uncouthness) – but I think they’re super underrated.

Sooooo after the longest, most verbose introduction/background explanation EVER, we come to the bit where I announce: I’m starting a new series. A coffee appreciation series for people who only like pretend coffee, if you will.

And what could go better with coffee than a good book, amiright?

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I actually picked up this Tugboat coffee from a food festival we went to a few weeks ago. One sniff of the beans and I was sold, plus there’s the flavour name – who DOESN’T want to drink Sticky Gingerbread? It’s so warm and snuggly!

Essentially this bad boy is Autumn in a mug. Pair with a good ol’ fantasy book (or maybe it’s just me that’s on this fantasy binge?), a blanket, and pouring rain for ultimate cosiness.

Speaking of fantasy, I’ve just finished A Thousand Nights, and I have to say I was a little disappointed. I mean, by rights that book should be GLORIOUS – LOOK at that front cover! And it’s an Arabian retelling! AND it’s written by an archaeologist! But… I just found it really hard work for a book that’s so short. EK Johnston’s writing is very romantic, and yes, it IS beautiful… but it also felt laboured and clunky. The characterisation seemed pretty poor to me too: we don’t even learnt the NAMES of the main character, or any of her family; and at the end (SPOILER BUT IT’S THE MOST OBVIOUS SPOILER EVER IF YOU’VE EVER READ ANYTHING LIKE THIS) she suddenly decides to love the ‘bad guy’ for LITERALLY NO REASON. Other than she likes living in his castle, I mean.

Yeah, I don’t think A Thousand Nights will make it to my re-read bookcase. On the other hand, it is REMARKABLY PRETTY, so…

Read fantasy they say. It’ll relax you, they say. Yeah, right.

 

Tugboat Sticky Gingerbread Latte
Serves 1

1 Cup Milk
2 tsp Tugboat Sticky Gingerbread Coffee (or more, to taste)
Sugar/Syrup, to taste

Pour the milk into your chosen mug, then straight into the saucepan. Over a medium heat, continuously stir the milk to ensure it doesn’t burn. Add the coffee (pause to enjoy that lovely fresh coffee smell, first) and whisk until combined. Add and sugar or syrup at this stage. When the coffee is hot enough (I like mine simmering), remove from the heat and serve. Preferably with some biscotti, ’cause then you can pretend you’re civilised.

 

So, what are your thoughts on coffee/tea/hot drinks? And A Thousand Nights??

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