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.

QBic London – East London cool in a cube


A couple of weeks ago we took a Monday off work after a grotesquely stressful week and stayed in QBic London on a Sunday night. 
I’d read rave reviews of the Amsterdam branch and since that wasn’t quite a viable option, we hopped on the tube to the other side of town and checked in here, just by Aldgate East station. I was expecting bright and colourful and bold from what I’d seen online and the reality didn’t disappoint. If you need cheering up and a think a cheerful room, gigantic squishy bed and rain shower might fix things, head here. 



Keeping on East London message, everything is cool. The reception, the lifts, the bar, the retro games and even the water glasses. The rooms are built in cubes, all slotted together with lots of eco nods such as the showers, the toiletries, swapping your room cleaning service for a drink at the bar and the way the hotel was made- economically and environmentally friendly. 

The rooms aren’t huge but that’s all part of the cube idea, everything fits nicely from the quirky furniture to the light controls and bedside storage.

If I go to a hotel, I want the bed to be stupidly big. I want a delicious breakfast menu. I want a massive shower and good TV and good places to eat close by and with Brick Lane a stones throw away this place ticks all those boxes with a good price to boot. 

Spending a Sunday night drinking wine, playing Battleships, sinking into pillows and a duvet and consuming Brick Lane burgers is a good way to do life. 

The best thing about this hotel was the zero fuss. Everything was easy and the staff were brilliant. I’ll definitely be making a beeline to stay at QBic when I go to Amsterdam later this year. 

5 times the internet has been good lately #9

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I haven’t done this in a while because I’ve been busy stressing over mortgages and then Christmas happened and now it’s nearly mid-January. Time really does scare me. I’ve been doing loads of reading since Christmas, but it’s mostly been on my kindle as I got a Goodreads account and am determined on hitting my ‘read 40 books’ target for 2017, which is probably a bit of a push, but we have to aim high don’t we?

Anyway, other reading including blogs I love and articles that I’ve seen on Twitter and loved are below, should you find yourself with some spare time and somewhere comfy to lay (or a packed train carriage with your phoned wedged in someone’s spine #London).

A recipe for happiness – Sophie Cliff

I read this just this morning and it was the last pose I needed to complete this. It’s as good as ever from Sophie. I love her blog and everything she’s written in this post.

When it comes to motherhood, career and, well, life, I’m a late bloomer – The Pool

I absolutely loved this. It’s a short read (my favourite thing about The Pool is the fact they give you an estimated read time on articles!) and makes me feel much calmer about the life targets I try and impose on myself. It’s a nice little reminder that there is no ‘good time’ for life’s big milestones, you just have to let them happen.

8 things every girl did when she went shopping in the 00s – Cosmopolitan

This is a little lighthearted nostalgia which I thought I was mostly over reading, but clearly am not. It mentions meeting at a designated bank and Bay Trading, so you really should have a little look. I laughed.

My predictions for blogging in 2017 – Hannah Gale

I really like reading stuff like this, as I work in social/digital media I often go looking for predictions on how the landscape of these things will change and I’m invested in blogging now, so really am intrigued. Plus, let’s be honest, Hannah’s probably right about all of it.

A look back at 2016 travels – Suitcase and Sandals

I like being nosy in regards to where people travel to and this little round-up on Hannah’s blog made me remember to get back into researching another trip to Scotland and also made me want to be on a beach quite badly.

Pulling the good out of 2016

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It feels weird to try and say anything about 2016 in a general context. It’s been a very odd, often sad year and also one that I’ve found confusing and frustrating. I know I’m not alone in that though. I was talking to my colleague yesterday while we hovered in the kitchen making tea and we were talking about the good things that have happened this year.

It was mostly sentences formed of ‘well 2016 has been quite shit but…’ and the but is important. There’s got to be some good to pull out of times we find hard, even if it is just on a personal level. My good bits are a weird mixture of stuff, some of which sounds very insignificant but has been important to me.

The big one- saving enough to buy a house The whole process of house buying has been long and stressful and not something I’m keen to repeat any time soon, but it’s also momentous and I feel relieved we’re nearing the end of it.

Running my first 10k This didn’t seem like it would be possible a few years ago due to my joint issues and Ehlers Danlos syndrome, but I actually did it. To me running a 10k felt like running marathon in terms of achievement, because  I didn’t ever expect my body to be able to run 3k let alone 10.

Changing my health and fitness This has been a long and not always successful journey but I feel like enough has changed for me to be happy and to know what I need to focus on to keep up the much improved wellness I’ve been feeling.

Falling in love with New York City This has been a relatively quiet travel year for me because of saving, but before we moved and started putting away our money like real adults I saved up for a trip to NYC for Dan’s birthday as a surprise and we LOVED it and can’t wait to go back.

Watching loved ones fight back aganist cancer My mum and best friend have both fought cancer in the last couple of years and while they’re now in the clear they’re both still fighting the long-lasting effects of treatment and mentally overcoming the journey. They’ve done a lot this year to kick cancer in the backside and make everyone proud.

Spending time at home I thought moving home for the year would feel weird and be suffocating as taking Dan with me has meant we’ve been tight on space, but it’s actually flown by and been nice. It’ll feel strange to be away again once we finally move.

Two weeks of glorious sunshine I spent two weeks in August soaking up the sun and relaxing with my family in Cyprus and it was so lovely. I spent a lot of time there when I was young and it was nice to go back and see the village we stayed in and the people we  know there. Oh and the amazing Greek fusion food.

The weirdest trip to Wales ever My friends and I go on an annual trip where we rent an Air Bnb house in the middle of nowhere, stock up on food and wine and become recluses for a few days. This year we went to Wales and it was a disaster. Two of us had horrific colds, one person got ORAL SHINGLES, we went to A&E, an emergency dentist, we bought burn cream, we drank Lemsip and we still had a good time. Proof that my friends are probably for life.

You have been awful 2016, but there has been fleeting moments of life being beautiful and all that jazz.

Mercato Metropolitano- London’s Italian market 


It’s rare to find a place in London that has that ‘wants to be really cool’ look and the whole pop-up vibe that actually works and isnt just an overpriced gimmick. I’m a sucker for all the seasonal city events and anything themed, but I never go back more than once. Places like that rarely live up to expectations and are often gone before you get the time to visit. 

Mercato Metropolitano looks like a pop-up, looks cool and I’ve been back three times now. It’s essentially a big indoor/outdoor Italian market nestled behind the Elephant and Castle roundabout. It’s permanent and open from 11am to 11pm. There’s fairy lights, stalls selling cocktails, £5 sourdough pizzas, fancy wine, incredible gelato and loads of craft beer. 

If you don’t want Italian food, you can also grab Vietnamese bowls, massive cheese burgers, fries topped with shredded steak and as much cheese and bread as you could ever hope for. 

The gelato is to die for- you need to try the sesame and the caramel as a matter of high importance. And while you’re at it, try the red wine from the Italian wine stall, they’ll let you sample as many as you like. If you don’t want to sample wine, sample beer. There’s beer for everyone- raspberry beer, sharp Italian beer, Camden ale, pale ale and you can also get fresh lemonade, mulled wine and bottle of fizz.



It’s at it’s best in the evenings after six but don’t be alarmed if you get there and the outdoors is empty- it’s all moved indoors after dark for winter. If you find yourself in the area during the day, you can get coffee and churros, big grilled sandwiches or a pizza to go. 

It’s 100% worth a trip for dinner- good for dates, good for after work drinks, good for lazy hungry Sunday afternoons- just good generally. There’s also a jungle themed cinema you can only access through a secret entrance and a cosy little wine bar with twinkly lights. Put it on your London to do list- and take a scarf while it’s winter, it’s a market after all. 

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

5 documentaries you shouldn’t miss on Netflix

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It’s the weekend (or if you’re reading this and it isn’t the weekend, it will be again soon), so that means only one thing really- documentaries. One of my favourite things to come out of planet earth and another reason to be grateful to Netflix. I love them. The weirder, more obscure and more shocking the better too.

I used to watch a lot of docs on YouTube back in my former life as a student with terrible internet and a laptop constantly on the verge of death, but things have gotten much easier since. I’m becoming more and more aware of how much Netflix has changed my home habits- I watch way more ‘TV’ now, but also way more documentaries, so I’m putting it down as a win.

Here are some you should check out that are currently available on UK Netflix:

Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead

I watched this on the tiny screen of my phone but it deserves more- such a good film. It’s an hour and a half long, so settle in for a good stretch, even though it won’t feel like it. This follows two men who’s bodies have been ravaged by illness and been obese, so are in a bad way. The film follows them through a quest to essentially turn things around and claim back their health. It’s full of the usual ups and downs of a life journey and one of the better extreme health documentaries you’ll see.

Tricked

This a weird documentary. It’s not even one that I would say is good particularly but there’s something about the people involved that’s fascinating. I didn’t think I’d watch past ten minutes but I got glued to it. It’s about pimps and prostitutes and human trafficking. There’s a Denver police chief, a delusional pimp who dresses like Snoop Dogg and has an appalling attitude to women and life in general, and then there’s the women who have taken part to give an idea of life on the inside. It’s interesting, and horrifying obviously, and gives a rather strange look into the world of busting a pimp and pulling women out of prostitution. It also shocked me how easily women can get trapped into a life of selling sex, nothing like I imagined- worth a watch.

Trophy Kids

One of those things that seems so unrealistic it almost appears fake. I can’t comprehend a childhood like the ones these kids have. THE PRESSURE.

Planet Earth

The complete collection of glorious Attenborough flitting around jungles and frozen tundras talking about animals and incredible nature is all on Netflix. I remember spending summer of 2006 watching these and crying over polar bears. Jungles is my favourite for animals and Ocean Deep is my favourite for “is this really real though?”

The Pyramid Code

Are the pyramids much older than we think? Did the Ancient Egyptians know much more about science than we do now? WATCH AND FIND OUT. Prepare yourself for conspiracy theories, shaky camera work and some serious eyebrow raising. I love documentaries like this- wholly unpolished but so enthusiastic.

My friend literally left the pub early once because she wanted to go home and watch more of this. If you like history, this is a must see. Some of it is pretty far out, but that makes me like it more. You’ll also learn some crazy facts about pyramids. Ancient Egypt is fascinating to the point it creeps me out, and this just backs up that feeling. Some of the shots remind me of a retro video game, which adds to its air of geekiness in a really good way. I also find the narrators voice oddly soothing.

Seriously though, how did they build the pyramids? How?

Image is Pixabay

Larnaca, Cyprus – The sunshine island

 If you want guaranteed sunshine and don’t mind baking in heat then Cyprus is as good a location as you’ll get in the summer. The risk of rain is practically nil, as is a cloudy day. I’ve been here five times during my adult life due to family ties so I know it pretty well and the climate is a dream.

The flight is longer than your average European holiday from the UK, taking about 4 and half hours from London, but it’s worth it. It’s known as the sunshine island, and that’s exactly what it is. 

  
My favourite things about it and reasons I’d give anyone to visit are: 

The glorious weather 

The cheese (it is after all the birth place of halloumi) 

The coffee, especially iced Cyprus coffee 

The crystal clear seas

The fact you can drive into mountains and beautiful hills within an hour from just about every town or city

The Greek fusion cuisine

The national parks 

The villages nestled into the hills and mountains

The really, really good beer- Leon especially 

The fact it stays hot until well into October or even November

  
  
  
If you’re looking to book a last minute break to bask in sunshine then I can’t recommend Cyprus enough. The food is good, it’s cheap generally once you’re here, the roads are good to drive and travel around and even though the evenings might grow cooler you can come here in winter and still have bright blue skies and warm days. 

Airlines such as Norweigan Air and Cyprus Airways will bring you here cheaply, and there’s also classic EasyJet. If you’re looking for beach resorts try hotels in Mackenzy Beach Larnaca, Fig Tree Bay or Protaras. Happy holiday hunting people. I’m off to soak up more Cypriot rays. 

One to buy- Loreal La Palette Nude

   
 
Loreal’s latest nude eyeshadow palette is about the prettiest I’ve seen in a long time. Nudes so often look the same that it seems almost pointless to buy more, but if you find yourself traveling any time soon this is well worth some of your spending money.  
 

It reminds me of Urban Decay shadow in the way it goes on quite heavily on the first application and doesn’t crumble onto your cheeks. There’s very little loose powder too which means you don’t waste half of the colour blowing it off or dusting it out of the bottom of make up bags. 

The dark grey and warm brown make the palette worth it on their own. For darker colours they don’t crease, they stay bright and they shimmer just the right amount without making it look like you’re trying to channel your inner Mariah Carey. 

This particular boxed palette is a travel exclusive but you can get the set in Boots for £14.99. Honestly the prettiest palette I’ve seen this year for nude hues and for the small price tag, definitely the best quality. It has brilliant staying power, a good, long brush and is really easy to blend for smokey eyes or a light barely-there look. 10/10 Loreal. 

  

Three products that have saved my skin this summer

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I feel weirdly passionate about promoting stuff I’ve found that helps my skin. As someone who grew up plagued by bad skin, I know how it feels to have your confidence knocked by  a blemished face. I’ve never had really obvious acne or suffered with bouts of large spots, it’s always been small, lump, under-the-skin spots, that almost look like rashes and have made my face look like I’ve recently suffered an allergic reaction. I’ve also always struggled to get rid of blackheads and to this day the little buggers remain happily settled on my nose and chin.

Like most people, summer changes my skin completely. Even summers like this year which up until, well, this week, have been pretty awful and mostly a grey, rainy nightmare.  I suffer more with oily red spots and I feel like I need to scrub my skin way more than in winter, which is obviously down to sweat and all that darling pollution that London kicks up for your face to absorb. Really lush.

Since June I’ve been using three different things on my face almost continually, and this is probably the clearest skin I’ve had during hot weather for several years. This isn’t a fancy skin routine and it certainly isn’t hard to stick to.

As my skin is quite oily, I can use foaming products that would be too drying in the winter, and my favourite is La Roche Posay Effaclar cleansing gel. I’ve posted about this before, because it’s been one of my greatest ever skin finds and I love it. It’s affordable, you can get it in most bigger Boots stores and it comes in big bottles which last weeks and weeks. It also makes me feel really, really, REALLY clean.

My other go-to ‘please scrub all the sweat and dirt and woe off my face’ product is Soap and Glory’s No Clogs Allowed self-heating mask. This is really good for sensitive souls. I have skin that hates, well, most things, and has always loathed masks, but this has never caused issues. I use it in the bath usually, which probably isn’t best practice, but it still gets the job done. My skin never feels as good as it does after using this. The hear feeling can be a little strange at first, but stick with it. I cannot recommend it enough. I’ve re-purchased it five times now.

Lastly is the only other mask besides the Soap and Glory I’ve ever managed to tolerate. Elemis Tri-Enzyme Resurfacing Face Mask essentially works to resurface your face and make the surface of your skin clearer and softer. If you stick with this, it makes you feel like you’ve got new skin entirely. It’s more of a splurge but worth it if you feel like you need to start again on a skin routine. I haven’t used this for a couple of weeks as it isn’t advised to use it in periods where you’re exposed to lots of sun, but apart from that it’s a total gem and I really, really recommend it.