February reads: Four brilliant books


I started this year really well in the reading department after signing up for a Goodreads account, but it’s fallen to the wayside a bit over the past couple of weeks. In an attempt to kickstart things again and boost my total reads for 2017 so far, I downloaded a couple of books this weekend and put about 58 in my amazon basket (and about 58 pairs of shoes in my ASOS basket to match). I intended to read loads on Sunday but life (including a balance of work and sticky toffee pudding) scuppered that plan.

The stuff I have actually gotten around to reading (shoutout to Thameslink for all the delays recently giving me time to read on freezing platforms) has been really bloody good. The best are listed below and I’d highly recommend them all.

Hold Back the Stars – Katie Khan 

This is Katie’s first novel, and I ordered it after following her on Twitter for a long time. She heads up digital at Paramount and after always enjoying her work and personal life tweets I felt like I needed to read this. Also the cover is gorgeous and will do your bookshelf a pretty little favour when you’re done.

Behind Closed Doors – B A Paris

This is brilliant. A proper page-turner and if you love Girl on the Train and Gone Girl style books this is a must. I gave it to my mum to read for her holiday last week and ended up reading the start again afterwards and it’s just as good second time around. It’s essentially about a glamorous, happy marriage that is actually far from. Just the right amount of grit.

The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-Time – Mark Haddon

Yeah I know, so late to the party there are people asleep on the stairs and the wine ran out three hours ago. I had been meaning to read this for so long and when I found it on my boyfriends kindle I finally did it – in just under two days. If you haven’t gotten round to this, seriously do. It’s pretty short, very sharp and really interesting. I’ve never read something like this and found it so clever and inspiring and actually pretty moving.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

I mentioned this in the pub at work on a Friday and a couple of people whipped round to chime in on how bloody good it is. It took me a while to twig exactly what this was about but that, in my opinion, makes the book. The way the story of Rosemary and Fern is told is like thinking back to childhood with your own sibling, but then you learn it really isn’t like that. I absolutely loved this, probably one of the best books I’ve read in years.

Books and Netflix shows you should get involved with

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At the start of January I signed up for a Goodreads account, in the hope it would push me to read more and so far it’s working. I’m on my fifth book of 2017 already, and I’ve read some seriously good ones so far.

I’ve been spending much more time with a book (or the Kindle app) in hand, which has meant less Netflix viewing, but still enough to recommend some good stuff available on the UK version. If you’re spending time indoors with your duvet and Netflix or if you’re looking for new reading material, I give all of the below many shiny stars.

READ The Vinyl Detective by Andrew Cartmel

I read this because my boyfriend had downloaded it to Kindle and I liked the cover. That was it. No other reasons, but I’m so glad I did. I enjoyed this book from cover to cover. It’s a properly good novel with some mystery, likeable characters, a few laughs and a lot of is set on the streets of London which I love. It’s about a guy who tracks down rare records for people, and gets hired by a secretive Japanese man which leads to a wild goose chase all over the country and eventually to the US. The next book is out in May and I will 100% pre-order it.

WATCH Hunt for the Wilderpeople

It’s worth getting a Netflix account solely to watch this film. It’s an indie New Zealand flick and I laughed myself stupid watching at the cinema last year. It’s heartwarming, hilarious, brilliantly acted and extremely feel good. One of the funniest thing I’ve watched at the cinema ever.

READ Before the Fall by Noah Hawley

This book gets rave reviews all over the place and for good reason. The story follows a group of people who are brought together during a disaster and delves into what their lives were like before and how they change drastically after.

WATCH Curious and Unusual Deaths

Another documentary recommendation to add to my many (find more here) but this is something a bit different. It’s really weird. When I saw the title I immediately thought yes, this is me all over (not that I’m really into death just FYI, I just find this stuff interesting), but it’s very odd. Odd in a way that after one episode- only 20 minutes, you’ll feel like you have to watch more. From the cheesy narration to the comical/disturbing re-enactments, take it with a pinch of salt.

READ The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes

I didn’t think I would last through this when I first started. I found it hard to get into but after about 25 pages I got there. It’s far from my usual type of novel but it’s written to perfection and you feel like you’re being made more intelligent as you read. It’s set in Russia under Stalin rule, and is definitely one for any history lovers or those who like the arts and a good gritty life story. It’s also quite sad and shocking to think life was really like this for people.

A few autumn reads

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In the past few weeks I’ve been reading like it’s 2012. For context, I read all of Game of Thrones in 2012 along with 6 other books, so it was a strong year for page turning. I don’t know why I’m suddenly so desperate to read as much as possible, but I’m not complaining. It’s also seems like a good time to get stuck into something a bit more gritty. Winter is coming, after all.

Well, once we’ve had autumn.

These are books I’ve devoured recently and really, highly recommend. They also seem to have a bit of theme- end of the world or dark, so sorry about that, but they’re all rather brilliant.

The Passage- Justin Cronin

I read this simply because it was already downloaded on my boyfriend’s kindle and I needed something to pass time on a flight after forgetting my own book. I thought this was going to be some sort of coming of age story because of the title, but it’s actually about a secret government medical experiment that goes wrong and changes the world forever. If you like books with apocalyptic vibes, this is a must. It’s set in the US, but an entirely different US, where children grow up in a sanctuary because real life is to harrowing to inflict on their little brains. Think undead cults, a child who seems to be living forever, complicated relationships, love, death and survival.

Also, this book came to be after Justin Cronin’s young daughter told him his books were boring and he wanted him to write a book about a girl who wants to save the world, so they started planning it together on walks.

The Twelve- Justin Cronin

This is The Passage follow up, which I started reading about five seconds after finishing number one. Queue some space for this story- it’s a triology and number three came out this year. I didn’t find myself as wrapped up in this but if anything it invested me even more in the characters, so you finish absolutely having to get the third one under your belt.

The Fireman- Joe Hill

Carrying on with the theme of illnesses that are pretty bad for the human race, The Fireman is about a spore which causes humans to catch fire and burn to death. Those who catch it, get a scale on their skin, but not a lizard-type scale, a more delicate tattoo like pattern. The story follows a nurse called Harper who goes from well behaved wife and Mary Poppins loving child healer with a nice little house and a husband, to a kick ass nurse in the woods after the spore burns half the planet down. This is one of those stories where you’re never exactly sure where it’s going, and it changes pace a lot, so although it’s long, you don’t notice it too much. The detail also kind of made me feel weird when it comes to talking about what the spore, ‘dragonscale’, does to people because the detail is so good.

The Virgin Suicides- Jeffrey Eugenides 

This is an old book, and a bit of a cult classic so you might have already got to it, but I re-read it recently after first getting it in 2011 and it was just as brilliant second time round. It follows five tragic sisters and is told from the perspective of a group of boys who grew up obsessing over them and their sad, complicated actions. They become fascinating to the local community who can’t work out what’s wrong with them, or why they behave and act the way they do, and tells of how the family became more and more isolated as the parents lose grasp of their daughters. It’s not a lighthearted story in any way but it’s captivating, especially to read as a woman.

If anyone has read any apocalyptic stories lately I am now very much in that market, so do tell.

Image: Pixabay

London’s Hidden Walks

We’ve had this at home for about a year now and when we moved in December, it was one of the only books that didn’t get shoved in storage. I’ve lived in south London all my life, but hadn’t visited barely any of the places the walks in here have taken me, because they are what the cover says- hidden.

It’s amazing how much I still haven’t seen of a city I spend almost all of my time in, so even if you are a Londoner, I highly recommend this little gem. If you’re a tourist in the city it’s easily as good. It’ll get you out of tourist traps, show you stuff that’s tucked away well out of site of the big attractions and teach you some stuff along the way.

We’ve done almost all of the walks in volume 1 now, but theres two more books full of maps and history to get through. Another thing this has proven really good for is cheap days out. While we’ve been saving we’ve used it to spend whole days wandering around London with a camera, spending barely anything and feeling like we’ve done loads.

We did the Notting Hill walk this week weekend, a place I’ve drifted through over the years, and worked on top of for a couple, but never really gotten to known. This is definitely one of the prettiest in there, and the best for a full day out as it takes in Portobello Road so you can hit the market for lunch.

Volume 1 covers Mayfair, Fitzrovia, Soho, Westminster and Whitehall, Inns of Court, Hampstead, Notting Hill, Southwark and Bankside, East Rotherhithe, Docklands and Spitalfields and Whitechapel. My favourite so far was Rotherhithe, mostly because of the gorgeous little streets full of flowers and flats that overlook the river and all of London, but are so quiet and quaint they feel a million miles away from it.

All of the walks are listed by distance, so you can work out which to do on how much time you have. There are a couple of really long ones, like Hampstead and Nottinghill which could easily fill up hours, and shorter ones like Westminster.

One thing isn’t so good for though, is giving you serious real estate lust. The houses hidden away in some of the Notting Hill mews almost look too perfect to be real. If you ever needed inspiration to make your first million, this book has you covered. You can get all three volumes on Amazon.

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Reading list- books you’ll probably love (well I do, anyway)

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Not that you would know it’s summer due to the solidly grey sky, endless rain and the need for a coat, but since it is, hopefully most people will have some sort of escape planned. Even if that involves a few days off at home with the heating whacked up and many cups of tea. Good old British summer time. I’ve done a lot of reading lately, and I’m currently building a new reading list, but these are a few tried and tested winners that you should consider reading. They’re all very different too, as I have zero ‘type’ when it comes to reading. I love all sorts. And these also aren’t new releases or anything, I just really bloody love them, and they’re all on Kindle or in paperback on Amazon if you feel inclined to try them.

Also if you’ve fallen off the reading bandwagon like I had at the start of this year, do try and get back on. I don’t care how lame it might sound to some people, because I don’t think it’s lame at all, the joy of reading a good book is hard to beat.

The Cormoran Strike books- Robert Galbraith:

So this is kind of a three-in-one recommendation and as we all know by now, these are written by JK Rowling. Since this lady is basically my literary hero thanks to HP, I don’t know why it took me so long to read these. My boyfriend read them first then kept telling me how good they were, and they are. They’re the kind of books where you invest in characters straight away and the clever writing style leaves you curious about some of the information you’ve been fed about their lives. I’m on the third at the moment, but absolutely ploughed through The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silk Worm. If you like detective stories and trying to solve a puzzle as you read, you’ll thoroughly enjoy these. They make you want to sack off your day job and become a detective and buy some mirrored aviators and a wig. I also love how they’re set in London and mention so many places I know well.

White Girl Problems- Babe Walker:

The funniest book I have ever read, without a shadow of a doubt. I howled with laughter reading this. It’s so crude and so outrageous but so bloody hilarious. It basically takes on every rich girl cliche characteristic you can imagine, adds in Los Angeles and multiplies it all by a million. There’s sex, outrageous money, fashion, surgeons, boyfriends, many diets and lots of cocaine. It touches on loads of issues girls struggle with growing up, but makes a sort of welcome relief mockery of them through this ridiculous character Babe, who you can sort of relate to in a disbelieving way. Seriously, this is the ultimate holiday read. The follow up is equally as hilarious, if not more.

Belle- Lesley Pearce:

An entire world away from the above books, this is not a read to take lightly. But if you really like losing yourself in a long read, I highly recommend this. it’s about a teenager who’s abducted into the sex-slave trade, but it’s set in 1910, so there’s lots of period descriptiveness that I wouldn’t normally go for, but loved in this book. It’s also a story you struggle to forget. I’ve read it twice, the first time about 5 years ago and still think about it sometimes. It’s also frightening when you remember this actually happened and still happens to real people.

Amy Poehler- Yes Please:

I love funny women and Amy is one of my favourite. I loved her from the very first seconds of Parks and Recreation and from snippets of her doing Saturday Night Live bits on YouTube. Her book goes into how she became as successful as she is, how the ins and outs of the comedy circuit work and all the weird and wonderful experiences her amazing career has led to. It’s funny too, obviously.

Nice is just a place in France- How to win at basically everything- The Betches:

I’ll let this book sum itself up: ‘LOOK, MAYBE YOU’RE A NICE GIRL, but we’re guessing you’re more like us or you probably wouldn’t have picked up this book. Not that we have a problem with girls who are nice people. But being nice is just not the way to get what you want. And this book is about getting what you want.’ This book is flipping hilarious and I love it dearly. It turns the world of self-help on its head with advice like ‘don’t be ugly’ and ‘don’t be poor’ and I’ve never enjoyed taking reading with a pinch of salt more.

June recommendations

 These are all my favourite things from the past month that I think you should seriously considering bringing into your life. You deserve it.

1) The Bees

This book is like nothing I have ever read. It is quite literally set in a hive, and the concept is beyond cool. It’s the kind of book that makes you miss your tube stop and walk around still reading it when you should be going up some stairs to find your office. Ahem. Guilty. If you need a holiday read, I couldn’t recommend this highly enough. It’s also bright yellow so that’s nice and cheerful.

2) Lily O’Brien’s chocolates

So my sister got me these for my birthday last month and only this week did I delve in and LITERALLY DIE OF HAPPINESS. These are insanely delicious. The caramel macchiato chocolate is everything that is right with the world. I’m also considering eloping with the sticky toffee and zesty orange. If you want to please someone or just treat yo’self, get a box of these babies. Sorry Milk Tray, but these walk over you.

3) The Body Shop brown brow kit

I think I have found something I will use forever. Please never discontinue this Body Shop. PLEASE. I’ve always mostly used pencils on my unruly eyebrows, before dabbling in powder for a while, but everyday they looked different and I was never thrilled by them. This is a game changer though. The brush is really good, the colours are perfect and it stays on all day without smudging. You will get a bit of loose powder on your face though, so don’t overload the brush. This is like, my beauty crush of a lifetime.

4) The West Wing

Now I know this is old and I’m a million years late to the party as per usual, but such love I have for this TV show. I didn’t know anything about American Politics before I started watching this, and I found it a bit difficult to get into at first, but if you haven’t seen it, you need to. It’s amazing, not least because the first four seasons are written by genius Aaron Sorkin, but because the characters are amazing and you actually learn stuff. If you’re looking for something to binge or get stuck into, give it a go. You can also enjoy the transition from computers the size of cars to flat screens and phones that you don’t have to flip open. Oh and 90s fashion LOLZ aplenty in the early days.

5) Bourjois Volume 1 Seconde mascara

My fave mascara will always be by Clinique, but I usually have a more bargain one in my make up bag too, and I got this to take away with me, because I was worried my other one would melt and get ruined in the Asian heat. This is such a good mascara, and these aren’t words I say often. I struggle to like mascara, but this has a good brush, does volume and thickening and one coat makes your eyes look wider and more awake. It also doesn’t drip down your face when you’re facing the tropical heat of the Central Line, so there’s that added bonus.

6) Schwarzkopf Got2b Poweder’ful volumizing styling powder.

That’s a mouthful isn’t it? This was actually originally purchased by my boyfriend, a man who is more obsessed by his hir than any girl I know, and I stole some. I have very flat hair, and I usually use dry shampoo to boost it between washes, but I dabbled with this and it’s really bloody good. You have to put it in your finger tips and rub it around and it kinda vanishes, but then you massage your roots and your hair sort stands up to attention. Magic. It lasts a while too, which isn’t always the way with powders like this.

Reads, wears and skin: Stuff you definitely want to take on holiday with you this year.

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Sooo I’ve already been on two holidays this year and I have another two potentially in the pipeline. I have a problem okay, I said it. This habit will need to come to an end this year when my hardcore saving starts, but I will never ever regret any travel, so screw it.

I got back from an amazing trip to Sri Lanka with my pals a couple of weeks ago and now I’m sitting in bed feeling very ill, so the only logical activity I could think of doing is looking into a trip to Greece, which led to this blog post. I’ve had a pretty good 2015 so far, and I’ve stumbled across some holiday must haves that you should absolutely get involved with if you are going away this summer. Or winter. or WHENEVER.

Reads

White Girl Problems and Psychos- Babe Walker. I cry-laughed at both of these books. I started White Girl Problems on the plane to Sri Lanka and immediately fell in love. If I ever write a book, I want it to be as funny and ridiculous as this. The story behind the books is pretty cool too. You might have seen the Twitter account White Girl problems? Well if you have or haven’t, it was started by three people, who then created a character and built a hilarious, LA based, fake, bitchy, smoothie obsessed world around her. If you like a good laugh you HAVE to read these. Psychos is the follow on and even funnier IMO. These are beach reading perfection. LOVE.

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Wears

Sliders. Maybe the most comfortable holiday shoe ever. I took some with me to Sri Lanka and basically never took them off. I even wore them in the sea once because, well, I don’t know why, but I did. My faves are from ASOS. They’re metallic and really bloody cool and go with anything. They’re £20 which is more than I would normally pay for holiday flats, but these are babes.

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Pop brow sunglasses. I have so much love for these. Urban Outfitters always do amazing sunglasses and these are only £18. I was people watching on a beach in Sri Lanka and saw a French woman who turned into my holiday idol wearing a pair of these. I want to be her, but until then, these will do.

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For years I have gone on holiday, used suncream on my face and immediately broken out in 39398484 spots. Whiteheads everywhere. A gross, zitty invasion. Zitty is a sick word and I will never use it again. Anyway, I was in Thailand this time last year (sob) and I took an SPF 30 face moisturiser with me and didn’t touch above my neck with suncream. What a revelation. I’ve tried this before with other moisturisers but always ended up with a bright red nose or burnt cheeks. This Olay one though, is something else. It’s lightweight and okay to reapply a few times a day without clogging up with your face. I just splash myself with water before I re-use it. Probably my favourite and most-essential holiday toiletry.

My other favourite holiday discovery this year is Tiger Balm. Mosquitos love me. They descend on me and feast upon my blood and leave me with lumpy arms and legs. I also always manage to get other unknown lumps or bites or tiny bits of sunburn pop up to say hi. Tiger Balm is good for like, everything. I had no idea. I also always get a back ache from planes, and guess what, it’s good for that too. It not only makes mosquito bites feel better, it puts the buggers off in the first place. Well worth a purchase, especially if you’re off somewhere tropical.  You can pick it up in Boots and I think once spied it in Primark, so there we go.

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