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Book Review: Where The Light Gets In

Plot:

It was Betty, defiant to the end, who sent Lorna back to Longhampton. If Lorna’s learned one thing from Betty it’s that courage is something you paint on like red lipstick, even when you’re panicking inside. And right now, with the keys to the town’s gallery in her hand, Lorna feels about as courageous as Betty’s anxious little dachshund, trembling beside her.

Lorna’s come home to Longhampton to fulfil a long-held dream, but she knows, deep down, there are ghosts she needs to lay to rest first. This is where her tight-knit family shattered into silent pieces. It’s where her unspoken fears about herself took root and where her own secret, complicated love began. It’s not exactly a fresh start.

But as Lorna – and the little dog – tentatively open their cracked hearts to old friends and new ones, facing hard truths and fresh promises, something surprisingly beautiful begins to grow around the gallery, something so inspirational even Lorna couldn’t have predicted the light it lets into her world . . 

Review:

I liked the overall story of Lorna and Joyce’s friendship and, as always, I liked the dogs. However, I found the story was too meandering and without depth. In addition, the Sam element was supremely tedious. The ending just did my head in.

I love the meaning of the story however I did find this novel to be a bit slow for my liking.

2.5 / 5 Stars

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Vegan Friendly Recipe – Cinnamon Cookie Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 280 g (2 cups) all-purpose flour (dip and sweep)*
  • 185 g (3/4 cup and 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into cubes
  • 105 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350°F(177C°). Line baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Set aside.
  • Put flour and sugar in a medium bowl and mix well.
  • Add ground cinnamon and mix until combined well.
  • Add butter to the flour mixture and knead well until the dough becomes together.
  • Take small pieces (25grams- a little bit more than 1 tablespoon can take) of the dough and roll them into balls. Alternatively, as this recipe makes 22 cookies, you can divide the dough into 22 pieces and roll them into balls. Press the balls preferably with a flat-bottomed glass or a measuring cup to flatten them evenly or with the palm of your hand and finally give a shape with a fork.
  • Bake for 14 minutes or until the edges are lightly brown.
  • Remove the cookies from the oven and let the cookies cool for 10 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring them to a wire rack to completely cool. They will be crunchier as they cool.  When they are cool, store the cookies in an airtight container to keep their freshness.
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Book Review: Passion on Park Avenue

Plot:

For as long as she can remember, Bronx-born Naomi Powell has had one goal: to prove her worth among the Upper East Side elite—the same people for which her mom worked as a housekeeper. Now, as the strongminded, sassy CEO of one of the biggest jewelry empires in the country, Naomi finally has exactly what she wants—but it’s going to take more than just the right address to make Manhattan’s upper class stop treating her like an outsider.

The worst offender is her new neighbor, Oliver Cunningham—the grown son of the very family Naomi’s mother used to work for. Oliver used to torment Naomi when they were children, and as a ridiculously attractive adult, he’s tormenting her in entirely different ways. Now they find themselves engaged in a battle-of-wills that will either consume or destroy them…

Filled with charm and heart and plenty of sex and snark, this entertaining series will hook you from the very first page.

Review:

I did like Naomi and Oliver but it was such a light, slow burn romance with nothing major happening that I never really felt their connection. I liked their interactions, they could be sweet, but it was lacking that want and need.

It took me a while to get into the story and I spent the first half wondering if I shouldn’t finish it. However, I was invested enough that I wanted to know what would happen so I stuck with it. It’s not super descriptive and some thing’s felt like a footnote or glossed over. I didn’t warm up to Naomi until the end, she’s a pretty brash character that could hold a major grudge and it almost felt over the top. Towards the end, she softened and I liked her much more. That’s when her personality shined.

2/5 Stars

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Book Review: Unexpected Lessons In Love

Plot:

Jeannie always wanted to fall in love, and now she’s finally got the whirlwind romance she dreamed of. Dan’s gorgeous, he’s a successful young vet, and he flew her to New York and proposed on Brooklyn Bridge. Jeannie has to remind herself this is actually her life. It seems too perfect, too magical, to be real. Yet it is.

But now she’s on her way to the wedding she can’t shake off the tight sensation crushing her chest. Is it just nerves . . . or is this all happening a bit too fast?

Jeannie has one last chance to shout, ‘Stop!’ But just as she grabs it, a twist of fate throws everything she knows into the air like confetti. What Jeannie learns about Dan, about her own heart, and about the power of love itself, will change her world for ever . . .

Review:

Unexpected Lessons in Love filled me with so many different emotions. Tears were spilled, smiles were given, and love felt. As much as Jeannie irritated me at the beginning of the novel, by the end her journey warmed my heart and I felt myself routing for her. The story itself is so character driven, full of friendship, heartbreak and love. In all honestly I knew what would happen in the end, however I definitely didn’t expect there to be such a twist! The part I loved most about this book though (not that there was much I disliked) was all the dogs. This aspect simply made the story for me. Love love love!

I highly recommend this novel if you’re a lover of contemporary fiction, or just want a bit light in the dark. I’m very much looking forward to reading more from Lucy Dillon as always!

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Book Review: David Copperfield

Plot:

David Copperfield is the story of a young man’s adventures on his journey from an unhappy and impoverished childhood to the discovery of his vocation as a successful novelist. Among the gloriously vivid cast of characters he encounters are his tyrannical stepfather, Mr Murdstone; his brilliant, but ultimately unworthy school-friend James Steerforth; his formidable aunt, Betsey Trotwood; the eternally humble, yet treacherous Uriah Heep; frivolous, enchanting Dora Spenlow; and the magnificently impecunious Wilkins Micawber, one of literature’s great comic creations. In David Copperfield – the novel he described as his ‘favourite child’ – Dickens drew revealingly on his own experiences to create one of the most exuberant and enduringly popular works, filled with tragedy and comedy in equal measure. This edition uses the text of the first volume publication of 1850, and includes updated suggestions for further reading, original illustrations by ‘Phiz’, a revised chronology and expanded notes. In his new introduction, Jeremy Tambling discusses the novel’s autobiographical elements, and its central themes of memory and identity.

Review:
This novel reads like a soap opera. However, even though I don’t watch many soap operas I can say that many that I have glanced at always seem to involve upper middle class and upper class people. Australian soap operas tend to only deal with the upper middle class (see Neighbours and Home & Away) where as the US ones tend to deal with the uber-rich (Dynasty). What sets Dickens apart is that he deals with the poor and poverty stricken.
Despite my dislike of Dickens’ work, as I have suggested before, they are actually quite helpful and insightful because we see a side of 19th Century England that we do not see in a lot of the other novels. Say for instance Jane Eyre, or the writings of Jane Austin. In these romances we are always dealing with the landed aristocracy. In Dickens we are not. We are dealing with the poverty stricken masses of England. It is especially important because Dickens is writing from experience. While it is very much an ‘oh woah is me’ type experience, if we can step away from that we can see and experience a part of England that we very rarely get to experience. Moreso, we tend to see it in all is dark and dirty unpleasantness.

2/5 Stars

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Book Review: The Old Curiosity Shop

Plot:

The archetypal Victorian melodrama, as heartfelt and moving today as when it was first published, Charles Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop is edited with notes and an introduction by Norman Page in Penguin Classics.

Little Nell Trent lives in the quiet gloom of the old curiosity shop with her ailing grandfather, for whom she cares with selfless devotion. But when they are unable to pay their debts to the stunted, lecherous and demonic money-lender Daniel Quilp, the shop is seized and they are forced to flee, thrown into a shadowy world in which there seems to be no safe haven. Dickens’s portrayal of the innocent, tragic Nell made The Old Curiosity Shop an instant bestseller that captured the hearts of the nation, even as it was criticised for its sentimentality by figures such as Oscar Wilde. Yet alongside the story’s pathos are some of Dickens’s greatest comic and grotesque creations: the ne’er-do-well Dick Swiveller, the mannish lawyer Sally Brass, the half-starved ‘Marchioness’ and the lustful, loathsome Quilp himself.

Review:

Curiosity Shop weaves between the travels of Little Nell and her grandfather and the doings of characters like Kit Nubbles and Dick Swiveler in London. I find that the novel reads more like a literary experiment. I love thinking of it as a “modern” fairytale for the age in which it was written. Certainly, angelic, innocent, ethereal Nell has many strange experiences on her journey through the novel, meeting both the benevolent, the malevolent, the grotesque, and the unusual.

3/5 Stars

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Book Review: Outmatched

Plot:

What happens when a boxer finds chemistry with a geek?

Parker Brown can’t believe she needs to hire a fake boyfriend. When she landed her dream job in renewable energy, she thought she’d be entering a world at the forefront of progressive thinking. But the head boss prefers to promote employees who are “settled.” Thankfully, she’s found the perfect candidate, a fellow intellectual looking for some quick cash. What Parker gets is his protective big brother—Rhys Morgan. The tall, muscled ex-boxer with a foul mouth shows up just as her boss does, and now she’s stuck with the manipulative jerk.

Responsibility weighs heavily on Rhys. Now permanently out of the ring, he’s trying to hold together his late father’s gym and keep his younger brother, Dean, on the straight and narrow. To save Dean from himself, Rhys takes his place, ready to give this society girl a piece of his mind. Instead, he finds an opportunity. Even though they can hardly stand each other, posing as Parker’s boyfriend is a win-win deal. She gets to keep her job, and he’ll charm her star-struck boss into sponsoring his gym.

Problem is, they can barely keep their hands off each other. And what started as an easy deal isn’t so easy anymore. Because what future can a rough ex-boxer, afraid to open his heart, and a polished society geek, who has sworn off real relationships, possibly have?

They say opposites attract. These opposites are about to combust on impact.

Review:

This was a good novel. I was really excited about it, I thought I was gonna love it because this a ‘Fake Dating’ romance book and I’m a sucker for it but in the end I didn’t love it as much I thought I would.

I liked the novel, I liked the characters but there was something about the novel that didn’t make me connect too much with it.

Parker was really adorable, I liked her so much. There were times were she made me laugh and that was one of the reasons why I liked her. The connection between Rhys and Parker was great and you could see from the first time they met that there was attraction between them.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book but I expected something more, and even though it wasn’t what I expected, I still enjoyed it and I would still recommend it. 

3/5 Stars

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Book Review: Penguin’s Poems for Life

Plot:

Taking its inspiration from Shakespeare’s idea of the “seven ages” of a human life, this new anthology brings together the best-loved poems in English to inspire, comfort and delight readers for a lifetime. Beginning with babies, the book is divided into sections on childhood, growing up, making a living and making love, family life, getting older, and approaching death, ending with poems of mourning and commemoration. Ranging from Chaucer to Carol Ann Duffy, via Shakespeare, Keats, and Lemn Sissay, this book offers something for each of those moments in life – whether falling in love, finding your first grey hair or saying your final goodbyes – when only a poem will do.

Review:

The most difficult thing about a novel full of poems is what is in them. The person who has the job to decide and compose a novel of good poems to everyone’s tasting is a very hard job indeed. This book of poems is set on life and the seasons of life. From the the first memories to the last breath. This book has a well sort out theme of poems with very famous and mind breaking poets. Though a good book of poems and that has exactly what you want is very hard to find. In every book you have a problem with the plot or character or in some circumstances you absolutely love it.

I believe it is a decent novel and contains good old poetry. Sylvia Plath, Shakespeare, William Wordsworth and many other poems to relate to!

3/5 Stars

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BookClub Reads: A Room Of One’s Own

Plot:

A Room of One’s Own is an extended essay by Virginia Woolf. First published on the 24th of October, 1929, the essay was based on a series of lectures she delivered at Newnham College and Girton College, two women’s colleges at Cambridge University in October 1928. While this extended essay in fact employs a fictional narrator and narrative to explore women both as writers of and characters in fiction, the manuscript for the delivery of the series of lectures, titled Women and Fiction, and hence the essay, are considered nonfiction. The essay is seen as a feminist text, and is noted in its argument for both a literal and figural space for women writers within a literary tradition dominated by patriarchy. 

Review:

This novel is a great read that I think all women should read, especially when you are in the mood to gain from an insightful read.

My favourite parts about this essay were when Woolf talked about the struggles of classic female authors – Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Shakespeare’s hypothetical sister. It’s easy to think “I’m sure those women had a hard time writing!” without stopping to think about the times they lived in and how they’d just recently won the right to vote. Woolf scattered in plenty of details about women’s daily lives for context, though I got the impression that the women she talked about were already fairly well off anyway.

If I ever find myself in the mood for feminist non-fiction in the future I’d probably re-rate this higher, but for now I have to be honest and say I just didn’t totally love it. It read more like a quick historical anecdote to me.

3/5 Stars

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Book Review: Stress Less, Accomplish More

Plot:

In Stress Less, Accomplish More Emily Fletcher shares an ancient meditation technique designed for busy lives. The focus of the practice is stress relief, mental clarity and improved productivity, so it’s perfect for the fast pace of modern life. This style of meditation was developed specifically for people with a lot of demands on their time – those with busy jobs, lives and families – and so it has been designed to work anywhere, anytime. All you need is somewhere to sit, a little training and a few minutes to yourself.

Review:

The author spends a good chunk of the book explaining why stress is bad. This isn’t all that interesting. We all know why. We hear it all the time and what are we supposed to do with this information? If you’re me, you tend to stress about being stressed. The author also spends a great deal of time explaining how her method will not only help you feel better, but can also actively make you richer! And if you don’t believe her, let’s read all these inserted testimonials from “actual” clients!

The entire “secret” is about four pages long. It’s just one chapter out of the entire book and it’s smack bang in the middle. So we had all this build up for this teeny, tiny actual bite of information. But I was on board so I went with it. I started meditating her way. Which is to say, you don’t really meditate. And this is fantastic, because I don’t know about you, but I’ve tried meditation before and I can’t sit still that long. I’m thinking of how my feet hurt or what if someone sees me meditating and what does meditation mean? What does life mean? What is life?

But this method of meditation is really just sort of “thinking”. You focus on your surroundings. The loudest things you can hear, smell, taste, feel, etc. And then also the smallest things. I already knew a lot of this, so this felt like a bit of a lecture for something so small that could have been summed up in a blog post.

So I think this novel would suit those that have absolutely no clue on the topic.

2/5 Stars

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Road Trip: Fort Dunree

This place is a great place for a walk, with the jaw-dropping views from different angles. It can be a bit of a walk at times as it involves a steep hill however it is definitely worth the visit! There is a little cafe on sight, a visitor centre with toilets and you can see what wildlife is like in the area. It has a lot of history, as it has military items. There is also a museum which has old army uniforms, pictures, guns and knives etc to view. The museum and seen the viking stuff and old army kits etc. Was very interesting looking at the old artillery that was used on the fort in its day. Very much recommend it for a day trip!

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Book Review: Us by David Nicholls

Plot:

Douglas Petersen may be mild-mannered, but behind his reserve lies a sense of humor that, against all odds, seduces beautiful Connie into a second date and eventually into marriage. Now, almost three decades after their relationship first blossomed in London, they live more or less happily in the suburbs with their moody seventeen-year-old son, Albie; then Connie tells him she thinks she wants a divorce.

The timing couldn’t be worse. Hoping to encourage her son’s artistic interests, Connie has planned a month-long tour of European capitals, a chance to experience the world’s greatest works of art as a family, and she can’t bring herself to cancel. And maybe going ahead with the original plan is for the best anyway. Douglas is privately convinced that this landmark trip will rekindle the romance in the marriage and might even help him bond with Albie.

Narrated from Douglas’s endearingly honest, slyly witty, and at times achingly optimistic point of view, Us is the story of a man trying to rescue his relationship with the woman he loves and learning how to get closer to a son who’s always felt like a stranger. 

Review:

The novel is largely told by Douglas Petersen, a middle-aged Englishman leading what to him is a comfortable, ordered life in the countryside with his wife Connie and their son Albie, who will be going off to University in the fall. Faced with the looming prospect of being “empty nesters”, Douglas’ sense of self and solidity is rocked to their roots by his wife’s admission one night that she wants out of their marriage. Douglas is at a total loss. His reply: “I was looking forward to us growing old together. Me and you, growing old and dying together.” But Connie’s perspective on marriage is not as absolute. “Douglas, who in their right mind would look forward to that?”

Prior to Connie’s disclosure, Douglas had planned for the family what he hoped would be a fun and rewarding family summer holiday in Europe. The Grand Tour, the last that he, Connie, and Albie would likely share together. He hoped that through this shared experience he and Connie would grow closer together and rediscover what it was that brought both of them together almost 25 years earlier. (With some considerable persuading, Douglas gets Connie and Albie to go along with his plan and the 3 of them set out for Europe, with Paris as the springboard.)

Nicholls is a very clever writer and uses his paragraphs well, introducing through them subtle time shifts throughout the novel that show the beginnings, the progression, and the ups and downs experienced by married couples.

There are some unexpected twists that come up in the novel, which made it deeply compelling at times. Any reader who loves stories about people struggling and persevering against life’s slings and arrows will find solace in reading this novel. Love David’s writing [especially One Day]

3/5 Stars

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Happy New Years!

What are your resolutions for this year I suppose is the thing to ask everyone?

I think it’s good to set out goals for the year ahead you hope to achieve. 

However upon reflection of the last year, so much happens that you didn’t plan or expect. So by setting goals for the full 366 days ahead this year is a little unrealistic. 

You can not possible plan each moment. 

For example, you may have not drove in years after getting a licence and you suddenly impulse purchase on a car half way through the year which came out of the blue but later becomes a decision you never regretted in the first place. 

The point is, I think it’s good to set some goals. Of course the main aim being to succeed in your current lifestyle you have set in place. 

Goals appear when you start taking action which is usually achieved within half a year. 

I achieved so much during 2019 without setting any goals or resolutions and it was the best way possible. 

Each season I reflect because I seem to experience a lot each few months since the last half of 2018. You can only grow by reflecting. 

Travelling, experiencing all sorts of events such as jobs and your own goals you never expected to do – just because life happens as it does is the best way to live. 

Happy beginning of 2020! 

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Book Review: The Christmas Party

Plot:

When Declan Lorne, the last remaining knight in Ireland, dies suddenly, an ancient title passes with him. But his estate on Ireland’s rugged south-west coast is left to his three daughters. The two eldest, Ottie and Pip, inherit in line with expectations, but to everyone’s surprise – and dismay – it is the errant baby of the family, Willow, who gets the castle.

Why her? Something unknown – something terrible – made her turn her back on her family three years earlier, escaping to Dublin and vowing never to return. So when Willow quickly announces she is selling up, her revenge seems sweet and the once-close sisters are pushed to breaking point: in desperation, Pip risks everything to secure her own future, and Ottie makes a decision that will ruin lives. It’s each woman for herself.

Before moving in, Connor Shaye, the prospective new owner, negotiates throwing a lavish party at the castle just days before Christmas – his hello, their goodbye. But as their secrets begin to catch up with them, Ottie, Willow and Pip are forced to ask themselves which is harder: stepping into the future, or letting go of the past? 

Review:

This was a great novel! It wasn’t a traditional Christmas story full of fluff. This one had a deeper story and actually, Christmas was only mentioned near the very end of the novel. The story focused more on the time leading up to the holiday.

What I really enjoyed was the characters, and in particular, the relationship between the three sisters. When their father, the last remaining Knight in Ireland died suddenly, the ancient title passed with him, but everything including the castle was left to his three daughters.

What follows is a story of love and family secrets. If you are looking for classic Christmas romance, cookie baking, tree decorating and everything else festive, you will not find that here. But this novel definitely had a lot of heart, took place in a fabulous setting and had some great characters! I really enjoyed it and would recommend it as part of your holiday reading!

3/5 Stars

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Book Review: The Return Journey

Plot:

A secretary’s silent passion for her boss meets the acid test on a business trip….A man and a woman’s mutual disdain at first sight shows how deceptive appearances can be….An insecure wife clings to the illusion of order, only to discover chaos at the hands of a house sitter who opens the wrong doors….A pair of star-crossed travelers take each other’s bags, and then learn that when you unlock a stranger’s suitcase, you enter a stranger’s life. In their company are many more, whose poignant, ironic, often humorous stories–unforgettable slices of life–make up The Return Journey, a spellbinding trip into the human heart.

Maeve Binchy was born and educated in Dublin. She is the author of the bestselling books Evening Class, This Year It Will Be Different, The Glass Lake, The Copper Beech, The Lilac Bus, Circle of Friends, Silver Wedding, Firefly Summer, Echoes, Light a Penny Candle, and London Transports, three volumes of short stories, two plays, and a teleplay that won three awards at the Prague Film Festival. She has been writing for The Irish Times since 1969 and lives with her husband, Gordon Snell, in Dublin.

Review:

The stories are quite short, tiny snippets of people’s lives dealing with very particular situations, sometimes covering a mere few hours, with the plot in mind at the back of the novel I thought this was about one main story. They introduce you to these characters, tell you a bit of a plot, then just as you are about to get into it, it’s finished. I found this to be pointless as there was no message to each story. Not satisfying at all.

1/5 Stars

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Book Review: Love and Lies at The Village Christmas Shop

Plot:

Blast the Michael Bublé, wrap your hands around a cinnamon latte and enjoy this warm, hilarious Christmas novel!

Ivy loves Christmas. As owner of Christmas Every Day, the year-round festive store, you’d expect nothing less!

The only thing missing in Ivy’s life is a dash of romance – something her twin sister Holly will not let her forget…

When her mother passed away, Ivy vowed to take over the running of her mother’s store and keep the Christmas spirit alive in the idyllic seaside town of Marram Bay.

But all this changes when an enigmatic businessman moves to the town, threatening to bulldoze her beloved shop to make way for holiday complex.

Review:

First novel I am reading of Portia MacIntosh and I must say that I really loved this book!

This very festive novel, and I found it fun to read. There are a few situations happening in the book that made me laugh out loud. I also liked the fact how Ivy never gives up her dream to keep her Christmas shop alive even when this beautiful business man wants to destroy it although at times she did annoy me with how naive she is when it comes to business transactions. This novel is also about family love. And finally to top it all, there is a beautiful romance happening in the novel.

Ivy and Holly, sisters live in a household that loves Christmas and that runs the Marram Bay village Christmas Shop all year long.  Ivy shares her love of the holiday with her late mother and Holly hates the season.  After their mother’s death, Ivy has decided to take over the Christmas shop.  One day, while not expecting it, a handsome man named Seb comes into the shop.  He is charming and the two end up under the mistletoe.  Later, Ivy learns that Seb is a developer and is in the market for the property the Christmas Shop sets on.  As Ivy tries to figure out a way to keep her beloved shop and not become a bad person during the holidays, she develops some friendships including one that could be more if it wasn’t for the current situation.

This book is such a feel-good little book.  There is so much tied up into it including lost relatives, family legacies, new friendships, new romances, family editions, the power of love and family at Christmas, and community which makes it an excellent combination to find a theme that relates to you at the very least.  There isn’t a sad ending in this book at all, and even at points where the plot did hint to something negative or could have turned towards that, it didn’t. 

I will say that perhaps my favourite element of this book is the character of Ivy because she isn’t your typical woman looking for a man for the holidays.  She is strong-willed and self-sufficient, and even hard-headed most of the time.  Even when Seb makes fun of her Yorkshire accent, she faces him and doesn’t let that bother her.  In fact, she tries to brush off and ignore Seb for a while because he threatened her village, even though she did feel attracted to him.  I really admired her attitude and how she lived her life for herself.  A strong female character is always a plus in a book!   

4/5 Stars

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Road Trip: Ulster Museum

This place which is right next to Botanic Gardens is interesting! It is inspiring and a good place to reflect or grab some food and walk about the local area of Belfast.

There is constant new refreshing paintings I am told as well which can be inspiring. I love visiting museums, it brings inspiration, peace, and just that feeling you get when you are learning and reflecting upon history. (It is also free to get into I might add)

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Book Review: The Gravity Of Birds

Plot:

Sisters Natalie and Alice Kessler were close, until adolescence wrenched them apart. Natalie is headstrong, manipulative—and beautiful; Alice is a dreamer who loves books and birds. During their family’s summer holiday at the lake, Alice falls under the thrall of a struggling young painter, Thomas Bayber, in whom she finds a kindred spirit. Natalie, however, remains strangely unmoved, sitting for a family portrait with surprising indifference. But by the end of the summer, three lives are shattered.

Decades later, Bayber, now a reclusive, world-renowned artist, unveils a never-before-seen work, Kessler Sisters—a provocative painting depicting the young Thomas, Natalie, and Alice. Bayber asks Dennis Finch, an art history professor, and Stephen Jameson, an eccentric young art authenticator, to sell the painting for him. That task becomes more complicated when the artist requires that they first locate Natalie and Alice, who seem to have vanished. And Finch finds himself wondering why Thomas is suddenly so intent on resurrecting the past.

In The Gravity of Birds histories and memories refuse to stay buried; in the end only the excavation of the past will enable its survivors to love again.

Review:

I thought The Gravity of Birds was interesting and was quite strong at the beginning in presenting the two storylines: that of the Kessler sisters and the arrival of Thomas Bayber in their lives, and the contemporary story with an elderly Thomas seeking out the sisters. It left me wondering what what happened to the Kessler sisters, what was really going on between them as the rift was palpable even at the start, etc. The book was also interesting on touching on themes of art, the drive to create, and art criticism, all of which were pretty strong early in the novel. I loved that the main theme of family and the notion of how strong the bonds of blood are when faced with illness and personal tragedy, disappointment and resentment.

The story of Alice and Natalie and Thomas had me completely enthralled, as well as Dennis and Stephen’s attempts to find out what happened back then. Speaking of which, the Dennis and Stephen dynamic was quite interesting to read at first especially as their road trip started off rather hilariously. But I felt like their respective character stories weren’t as strong as they could be (though Dennis’ personal backstory was much more interesting and fleshed out), probably just because the main story was very intriguing to digress to other characters that weave in and out of the main story. I would recommend The Gravity of Birds to readers of historical fiction.

4/5 Stars

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BookClub Reads: Peter Pan

Plot:

Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie Peter pan, the mischievous boy who refuses to grow up, lands in the Darling’s proper middle-class home to look for his shadow. He befriends Wendy, John and Michael and teaches them to fly (with a little help from fairy dust). He and Tinker Bell whisk them off to Never-land where they encounter the Red Indians, the Little Lost Boys, pirates and the dastardly Captain Hook. 

Review:

Growing up is scary. But so is not growing up. There’s a fine balance between finding the time to be free and open, enjoying life and staying away from one’s fears. But you must also learn what is necessary to become a good, solid and functioning citizen of the society.

What I love about this story is the amount of interpretations you can absorb from the story, the characters, the setting and the action. Just when you think you’ve got them all down, another view point comes into play – and you have to re-think what the moral purpose of the book is about.

This is a great read for all ages! Highly recommend.

5/5 Stars

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Book Review: Encore Valentine

Plot:

As Encore Valentine begins, snow falls like glitter over Tuscany at the wedding of Valentine’s grandmother. Meet the Roncalli and Angelini families, artisans of handcrafted shoes in Greenwich Village since 1903. Valentine’s dreams are dashed when her grandmother names her brother and nemesis Alfred her partner at Angelini Shoes. A long-distance romance with the sexy Gianluca who lives in remote Tuscany seems impossible so Valentine tries to devote herself to her work. A once-in-a-lifetime business opportunity takes Valentine to Buenos Aires, where she finds a long-buried secret hidden deep within a family scandal. Once unearthed, the truth rocks the Roscallis, but Valentine is determined to hold her family together. More so, she longs to create one of her own, but is torn between a past love that nurtured her, and a new one that promises to sustain her.

Review:

This is the second instalment in the Valentine series. Valentine Roncalli is a 35-year old single woman living in New York City. She recently inherited her family’s custom shoe business with the caveat that her brother will take over the business management side of things. Her best friends are Gabe, a gay man who has a flair for decorating, and Bret, her ex-fiancee. She has a love interest in Italy who writes amazing letters to her, but she isn’t sure how committed she can get to someone who lives so far away. The business is struggling to expand and Valentine takes a trip to Argentina where she meets a long lost cousin and learns more about her family.

Valentine is just not likeable enough character. I find Valentine to be immature and tiresome. I could not for the life of me figure out why an older, and presumably wiser man like Gianluca would want anything to do with her.

Trigiani had a tendency to throw in little life lessons along the way that really annoyed me. I literally rolled my eyes during some of the more trite parts. Trigiani also tries to wax lyrical in a forced and unnatural way. She had an obsession with using unique color words to evoke a mood–chocolate, eggshell, ruby, saffron, pumpkin, emerald, etc. But it didn’t flow well and it just got overbearing for me.

1/5 Stars

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Book Review: Ariel by Sylvia Plath

Plot:

When Sylvia Plath died, she not only left behind a prolific life but also her unpublished literary masterpiece, Ariel. Her husband, Ted Hughes, brought the collection to life in 1966, and its publication garnered worldwide acclaim. This collection showcases the beloved poet’s brilliant, provoking, and always moving poems, including “Ariel” and once again shows why readers have fallen in love with her work throughout the generations.

Review:

I find poetry hard to review. I’m not much of a poet myself: I dabble now and again but I wouldn’t call myself one. I don’t feel like I have enough knowledge of the craft to fully appreciate poetry, and so I can’t really comment on how good it is.

Sylvia Plath is a poet I do like, but I don’t love all of her poems. This collection in particular was a little bit of a mixture, but I feel like I’ll appreciate it more and more on subsequent readings – and I will most definitely be returning to it. The majority of the poems have a strong focus on death, at least for me, which does not make for light reading. I think with a different headspace I will find a lot more to love in this collection.

If you are looking to get into poetry, I would say Plath is a good place to start, as her poetry is more accessible than most. I’d read The Bell Jar first though.

3/5 Stars

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Tuesday Thoughts

“If it’s something you’re really passionate about , you’ll find a way to make it work

In that moment, I realised I did have a choice. My life wasn’t something that happened without my input. I guided my life where I wanted it to go. There were two paths stretched out in front of me: the safe, sensible, no-nonsense plan and the wild, risky, un-chartered territory. I only knew where one of those paths ended up, and it definitely wasn’t in a place that would make me happy. 

Passion is worthless without the courage to see it through. So I pushed past all my fears and found a way to make it work. 

That’s what courage is. Doing what you need to do even when you’re scared out of your mind. Changing your plans when they’re no longer working for you 

Stop being so afraid to fail that you never allow yourself to succeed. 

Success means being happy. As long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters.”

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Book Review: A Tree Grows In Brooklyn

Plot:

The beloved American classic about a young girl’s coming-of-age at the turn of the century, Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a poignant and moving tale filled with compassion and cruelty, laughter and heartache, crowded with life and people and incident. The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience

Review:

Betty Smith’s classic novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is a rather odd book in the sense that it has no real plot. There wasn’t a build up to some significant event or events; it’s simply the story of Francie Nolan growing up in Brooklyn, New York during the 1900’s. That about sums it up. Of course, the Nolan family go through their share of hardships. Francie’s father has trouble finding work, and he’s the town drunk but in Francie’s eyes, her papa can do no wrong. They have a special connection. Personally, I took an instant liking to Francie especially in the second chapter when she talks about her love of books and shares with us her special reading spot. Being a book lover myself and someone who enjoys a little peace and quiet now and then, I can relate.

Did I like this novel? It wasn’t too bad. The pace is slow—like a turtle walking backwards slow. The plot was rather plain, but I enjoyed Francie enough to want to finish our journey together. I felt a little detached while reading. It might just be the author’s writing style, but I didn’t feel pulled into the story like I have with other books. Sometimes you read a book, and you’re there with the character but other times you’re There There; when they’re upset, you cry; when they’re angry, you want to punch a wall. I lacked those feelings. I’m not saying don’t read it. I’m just saying I didn’t connect as well with this novel.

2/5 Stars


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Recipe: Vegan Almond Coconut Cake

This time I wondered, what would almonds taste like in a cake, I haven’t really had any that are almond flavour unless it has the flakes and such throughout them when I want to enjoy a smooth non-nutty snack but with the taste only.

Ingredients:

2 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour (220g)

1/2 cup (100g) sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup (240ml) soy milk

1/3 (80ml) vegetable oil

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2.5 tsp almond extract

Instructions:

Mix the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, baking soda and salt. 

Then add the soy milk, vegetable oil, vinegar, vanilla, almond ingredients. 

Stir briefly with a hand whisk to combine properly and remove any lumps

Line a cupcake tray with cupcake liners and divide the batter between them

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Then, bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick or knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.

I prefer the Almond Cupcakes I made the most!

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Book Review: Winnie-the-Pooh: The Complete Collection of Stories and Poems

Plot:

A. A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh is nothing less than a true children’s classic. Winnie-the-Pooh may be a bear of very little brain, but thanks to his friends Piglet, Eeyore and, of course, Christopher Robin, he’s never far from an adventure.

This very special collection will delight fans of Winnie-the-Pooh young and old. Relive all your favourite episodes from the Hundred Acre Wood, brought stunningly to life with the iconic illustrations from E.H. Shepard.

Pooh ranks alongside other beloved character such as Paddington Bear, and Peter Rabbit as an essential part of our literary heritage. Whether you’re 5 or 55, Pooh is the bear for all ages.

Review:

Winnie-The-Pooh, a wonderfully charming, kind, caring, very clever and funny bear; it’s very interesting to read the original source, especially in my edition which is a 75th Anniversary hardback edition, fully illustrated with colour pictures drawn from E.H. Shepard.
The familiar characters, Pooh, Eeyore, Owl, Piglet, Christopher Robin and the sparse appearances of Tigger are solid complex characters. Of the many surprises I encountered, the two that stood out were the dark undertones at the start of the story which introduced Kanga and Roo to the forest, which also presents the dark side of Rabbit’s character, this turns up again in a second tale.
This is a gem that every serious collector should have in their library, it’s a treasure to be unveiled when in the company of an unsuspecting wide eyed child with an insatiable appetite for adventures and lessons on the importance of friendship and kindness to animals and the environment.

There’s two volumes of poetry which didn’t really do it for me, I’m not an appreciator of poetry but it doesn’t really tarnish the book because the strength of the tales with Christopher Robin and co are story enough to keep anyone happy, and yes, as expected, the conclusion of the tales was very sad.

5/5 Stars

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Book Review: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Plot:

Japanese cleaning consultant Marie Kondo takes tidying to a whole new level, promising that if you properly simplify and organize your home once, you’ll never have to do it again. Most methods advocate a room-by-room or little-by-little approach, which doom you to pick away at your piles of stuff forever. The KonMari Method, with its revolutionary category-by-category system, leads to lasting results. In fact, none of Kondo’s clients have lapsed (and she still has a three-month waiting list).

With detailed guidance for determining which items in your house “spark joy” (and which don’t), this international best seller featuring Tokyo’s newest lifestyle phenomenon will help you clear your clutter and enjoy the unique magic of a tidy home – and the calm, motivated mindset it can inspire.

Review:

This book had a magical effect on me alright, although not quite the magic the author had intended. The issue I had with this book was that I did not enjoy reading it. Every time I picked it up all I could think about was how I would much rather be tidying up than reading about tidying up, so I would put it down, making for a very lengthy read of a very short (and repetitive) book.

However, something sparked a change in me as a result of reading this book. I have become obsessed with throwing things out! I cannot profess that her specific method changed me because I found much of her advice impractical for me. She has some interesting ideas if you have the time or lifestyle. I did take the one–and in my opinion only–piece of advice I needed from this book, which was to ask myself before discarding something whether it “brings me joy”. All I can say is it struck a chord in me. Since finishing this book two weeks ago I’ve discarded/donated/recycled more junk that was tidily tucked away and had become out of sight, out of mind.

In a short time I’m a changed person and it’s a freeing feeling. So lo and behold there was some magic in this book after all, and for that it was worth the read. That, and I found it mildly entertaining if not comical. At the very least it was thought provoking, but felt more like a chore when I would have rather been reading for pleasure. Recommended if you need a little de-cluttering inspiration, but I might have preferred the audiobook so I could have killed two birds with one stone and saved some precious reading time.

3/5 Stars

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Meal Recipe: Pasta and Tuna Bake

Love love love this meal!

Ingredients:

  • 600g pasta
  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 600ml milk
  • 250g strong cheese, grated
  • 2 x 160g cans tuna steak in sunflower oil drained
  • 330g can sweetcorn, drained
  • large handful chopped parsley

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.
  2. Boil 600g rigatoni for 2 mins less time than stated on the pack.
  3. To make the sauce, melt 50g butter in a saucepan and stir in 50g plain flour.
  4. Cook for 1 min, then gradually stir in 600ml milk to make a thick white sauce.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in all but a handful of the 250g grated cheddar.
  6. Drain the pasta, mix with the white sauce, two 160g drained cans tuna, one 330g drained can sweetcorn and a large handful of chopped parsley, then season.
  7. Transfer to a baking dish and top with the rest of the grated cheddar.
  8. Bake for 15-20 mins until the cheese on top is golden and starting to brown.
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Road Trip: Magilligan Point Beach

Magilligan Point guards the mouth of Lough Foyle and is home to Lough Foyle Ferry and Martello Tower.

This short beach walk through a National Nature Reserve provides opportunities for visitors to explore the beach or spot birdlife and sealife.

When there is decent weather it’s good to take a nice stroll along this beach, it is right next to a bar however, it would be a short quick walk, and you would have to be careful as this beach does not seem to be taken care of as other beaches in this area.

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Recipe: Vegan Friendly Banana Coconut Cake

Ingredients:

Firstly to make Almond meal: 1 and 1/2 cup of almonds raw in a blender for 15 seconds to ensure fluffy-ness

1/2 cup desiccated coconut

Pinch of salt 

3/4 cup of light brown sugar

1.5 medium bananas mashed

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3 tablespoons of lemon juice.

1 cup of coconut oil

Instructions:

Mix together to form and put in a baking container [with baking paper out]

Add Almond Flakes  to top it off

Pre-heat oven to 180C.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 35-45 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through the middle.

Remove from oven and cool for 15-20 minutes before slicing and serving warm.

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Thursday Thoughts

Quote I really enjoyed:

If it’s something you’re really passionate about , you’ll find a way to make it work

In that moment, I realised I did have a choice. My life wasn’t something that happened without my input. I guided my life where I wanted it to go. There were two paths stretched out in front of me: the safe, sensible, no-nonsense plan and the wild, risky, unchartered territory. I only knew where one of those paths ended up, and it definitely wasn’t in a place that would make me happy. 

Passion is worthless without the courage to see it through. So I pushed past all my fears and found a way to make it work. 

That’s what courage is. Doing what you need to do even when you’re scared out of your mind. Changing your plans when they’re no longer working for you 

Stop being so afraid to fail that you never allow yourself to succeed. 

Success means being happy. As long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters. 

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BookClub Reads: The Professor

Plot:

The Professor was the first novel by Charlotte Brontë. It was originally written before Jane Eyre and rejected by many publishing houses, but was eventually published posthumously in 1857. The book is the story of a young man, William Crimsworth. It describes his maturation, his loves and his eventual career as a professor at an all-girl’s school. The story is based upon Charlotte Brontë’s experiences in Brussels, where she studied as a language student in 1842.

Review:

The Professor is the first novel Charlotte Bronte ever wrote, but the last to published. I feel like Charlotte was still searching for her own style when writing this story and I found it a bit less accomplished than the other novels I’ve read from her, but that’s to be expected.
The main character being male brought a new view point to the novel’s setting as I’ve pretty much only read about it from the women’s point of view. It was interesting to see how it might have been for a man to live in the 18th century England, and in this case The Netherlands as well.

The story is straight forward and quite simple, what plot twists Charlotte tried to create were easy to foresee. But that didn’t matter. What I enjoyed most about The Professor is it’s atmosphere, descriptions of the time and place, relationship struggles and in the end, a lovely, heart warming romance.
Though something that did bother me somewhat is when Charlotte over described things, or people to be more precise. There are painfully long descriptions of people we would never hear from again. I understand that Charlotte has the skill for writing about the way people look, but enough is enough. Especially for such a short novel.

3/5 Stars

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Tuesday Thoughts

i don’t think you should ever have to compromise your happiness

i decided to do what I always did at work when i had to make a critical decision

but the main choice was not immediately clear: i weighed the pros and cons

i think it would’ve sucked more to never know though.

to always wonder what might have happened if i’d been brave enough to take the chance. 

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Vegan Friendly – Cinnamon Rolls

I LOVE these so much, they’ve become my speciality too.

Here is an updated recipe. Less sugar, more healthy, whilst still delicious.

Altogether the duration including waiting for flour to rise can take up to 4 hours.

Ingredients for dough:

  • 2 cups almond milk (room temperate) (480 ml)
  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil (melted)
  • 1/4 cup Sugar (ensure vegan friendly)
  • 1 packet of Yeast  
  • Self-rising Flour (read below)

Mix the above ingredients together in a bowl, then let it sit for 5 whole minutes for the ingredients to combine and mix well. 

Next, add 5 cups of flour (690g) to this mix and 1 teaspoon of salt. Then mix!

Once it has all formed together as one whole, whether you need to add more milk or flour. 

Cover it with a towel and place in a warm place as best as you can to allow it to have the best chance of rising as high as it possibly can.

During this hour wait, prepare your filling:

  • ¾ cup coconut oil (170 g)
  • ¾ cup brown sugar (165 g)
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon

Then once its rolled up slice it in the middle, then in the middle’s middle and so on until you have your 10-20 slices. 

Roll each slice to the side, put in container or oven tray, put cling film over it and let it rest for 30 minutes. 

Then they are ready for the oven!

Bake them for 350 F or 180 C for 25-30 minutes, you will know by the colour of them when they are ready or if they need more time depending on your oven type. 

Now! Towards the end of them cooking, if you would like to make some icing: 

  • 1 cup of powdered sugar [half cup of granulated sugar, half cup of corn starch, blend it together until smooth kind of texture]
  • 2 tbs of almond milk
  • 1/2 ts of vanilla extract

Mix with a fork 

And add on top of your rolls when they are ready. 

Viola! I did use the icing method but they are delicious whether you choose to make them with or without !

Hope you enjoy!

C

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Road Trip: Mussenden Temple

This is a lovely place to see, as well as walk and oversee the beach. It used to be free entry however now it is much overpriced than what it is actually worth! Like for the price you might as well go to the Giant’s Causeway instead (even then that is even more overpriced) and they try to rail you in with a cheap deal of gaining a monthly subscription to visit every national trust place in Northern Ireland as a cheaper alternative.

Apart from the NT becoming money grabbers for the history that lay in Northern Ireland this place is a nice place to visit to walk along. (If you can get in for free) as it is far from worth the price they are charging.

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Book Review: Other Voices, Other Rooms

Plot:

Published when Truman Capote was only twenty-three years old, Other Voices, Other Rooms is a literary touchstone of the mid-twentieth century. In this semiautobiographical coming-of-age novel, thirteen-year-old Joel Knox, after losing his mother, is sent from New Orleans to live with the father who abandoned him at birth. But when Joel arrives at Skully’s Landing, the decaying mansion in rural Alabama, his father is nowhere to be found. Instead, Joel meets his morose stepmother, Amy, eccentric cousin Randolph, and a defiant little girl named Idabel, who soon offers Joel the love and approval he seeks.

Fueled by a world-weariness that belied Capote’s tender age, this novel tempers its themes of waylaid hopes and lost innocence with an appreciation for small pleasures and the colorful language of its time and place.

This new edition, featuring an enlightening Introduction by John Berendt, offers readers a fresh look at Capote’s emerging brilliance as a writer of protean power and effortless grace.

Review:

Capote was only 23-24 when he wrote it, and yet he exists in two of its autobiographical characters — Joel, the young teenager, and his uncle Randolph, the theatrical, narcissistic, unstable alcoholic that prefigures the role Capote would play in his own life. Or so it struck me.

Other Voices, Other Rooms is a coming-of-age novel but I felt there was no real plot or point; I struggled to understand what was happening for half the novel. I’d finally feel I got to grips with it and understood what was happening, only to turn the page and feel lost all over again. I feel like this novel was meant to be a profound piece of literature but it felt a bit like Capote tried too hard, tried to be too poetic and mysterious and totally lost me, as a reader, along the way.

1/5 Stars

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Book Review: Hinch Yourself Happy

Plot:

Transform your home — and your life — with cleaning, tidying, and decluttering tips from British housekeeping sensation Mrs. Hinch.

Cleaning (aka “hinching”) doesn’t have to be a dreaded chore — not when Mrs Hinch is here to show you her sparkly ways!
Often called the “British Marie Kondo,” Mrs. Hinch is a domestic guru who has taken the world by storm with her infectiously addictive charm, clever tidying tips, and passionate belief in the healing power of cleaning. In Hinch Yourself Happy, she makes cleaning glamorous and fun, and explains how it’s a brilliant way to taper anxiety and manage your mental health.
Inside you’ll find out: How cleaning can soothe anxiety and stress Mrs Hinch’s must-have cleaning supplies Step-by-step guides to hinching your home And so much more! With the help of her favorite tools and products — including Dave the Duster and Shannon the Shark (her trusty vacuum cleaner) — Mrs Hinch will show you how to truly make your house a home. Whether you’re a daily scrubber or simply looking for a monthly household makeover, Hinch Yourself Happy will help you create a cleaner house and a calmer you.
If you want your kitchen to sparkle like Meghan Markle, then this is the book for you!

Review:

Firstly, I did not know who this woman really was until I started reading it.

In one of my jobs [as I currently write this review], I have seen her or heard about her everywhere and always rolled my eyes as all these fans are very obsessed with a woman who shows herself cleaning around the house.

I didn’t read the blurb for this book nor did I do any research on the author. I just went in with my assumptions that this novel is probably about cleaning tips that’s about it. I finally went on Instagram after I started the book and was surprised to see a young woman with an exceptional, modern and carefully decorated house!
I feel like my lack of prior knowledge about the author worked in my favor as I got to see her vulnerable, behind the camera side in this novel first.

She comes across as a really sweet, honest and genuine woman who doesn’t shy away from talking about the difficult parts of her life. Her cleaning tips sound great in theory and maybe I’ll even try a few out in one of my non lazy days when I get my own place.

I’m totally one of those people that wants a clean house but can’t be bothered to break my back doing it.

The only ‘negative’ part for me in this entire book is Mrs Hinch’s excessive use of plastic and non environment friendly packaging for all the cleaning products. I appreciate that she’s addressed and even tried to create a sense of responsibility to recycle what she recommends.

3/5 Stars!

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Vegan Friendly Breakfast – Tofu Burrito

Essential Ingredients:

  • Flour tortillas (lightly warmed) – 4
  • Vegetable oil (or another kind of cooking oil) – 3 tbsp 
  • Garlic (minced) – 1 clove 
  • Onion (diced) – 1/2 
  • Firm or extra-firm tofu (drained, then chopped into 1-inch cubes) – 4 oz / 100 g 

Ingredients to your taste:

  • Mushrooms (sliced) – 1/2 cup 
  • Turmeric – 1/8 tsp
  • Salt and pepper to taste
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Book Review: The Book Ninja

Plot:

Frankie Rose is desperate for love. Or a relationship. Or just a date with a semi-normal person. It’s not that she hasn’t tried – Frankie is the queen of online dating. But she has had enough.
Deciding to embark on the ultimate dating experiment, inspired by her job at The Little Brunswick Bookshop, Frankie places her hope in her favourite books to find her the perfect man… Secretly planting copies on trains, trams and buses, Frankie hopes to find the man of her dreams through a mutual love of good books.
But one spontaneous kiss later and Frankie begins to fall for a guy called Sunny. There’s just one tiny problem – Frankie is strictly a Jane Austen kind of woman and Sunny is really into Young Adult. Seriously, obsessively into it…
Can Frankie overcome her book snobbery for the man of her dreams? Or will she be left searching the trains for her modern-day Mr Darcy forever?

Review:

Frankie is a character we all aspire to be [book lovers], she’s a lover of books, she works in a bookstore with her best friend and she’s hilariously witty. Frankie is also unlucky in love and creatively devises a plan to find a partner by dropping her favourite books on different trains with her contact information in the back.

It sounds like a great way to meet people until she finds out there can be some pretty strange encounters but while she’s conducting that experiment she happens to stumbles across a gorgeous guy [not met from the experiment itself] that loves to read but seems to be all wrong for her because he only read Young Adult novels! As a strong lover of Young Adult, I was totally in love with Sunny from the start and I knew she would come around at the end of the book once she realised how diverse and creative they are.

I basically breathed this novel in as it was such a quick read and the characters were so outrageously funny and loveable. Frankie had a real charm to her and she was constantly making me laugh, while Sunny made you swoon as a great guy and her best friend and other characters were always making my eyes widen with the crazy things they would say and do.

This novel is definitely a feel-good romcom right off the pages. Frankie’s best friend Cat also had a pretty interesting and slightly scandalous storyline and I think they could easily write a whole novel about her character too with some appearances from Frankie and the gang after these events.

4/5 Stars

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Meal Recipe: Marinated Chicken Salad

Similar to the other recipes!

Essential ingredients

  • Chicken breast – 170 g / 6 oz
  • Garlic Clove [minced] – 1,5 tbsp
  • Soy sauce – 4 tbsp
  1. In a large, nonporous bowl, combine the garlic and the soy sauce.
  2. Add the chicken and turn to coat well.
  3. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  4. Grill chicken over medium-high heat for 10 to 15 minutes per side, or until internal temperature reaches 80 degrees C
  5. Discard any remaining marinade.
  6. Add some salad, some rice too your liking and viola a very tasty meal.
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Road Trip: Antrim Castle Gardens

As you stroll along this beautiful setting you pass the Large Parterre, Her Ladyship’s Pleasure Garden and Yew Tree Pound.

They have won awards a year years ago.

There is so much to see here as you can see however on this occasion I did not get to explore.

I think I was more concerned about visiting as many road trips as possible in a short space of time!

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Book Review: You, Me and Other Things

Plot:

A witty, coming-of-age, romantic comedy about friendship, unrequited love and betrayal.

Declan’s a tad annoyed; not only has the love of his life run off with ‘Superman’ but she’s also unwittingly caused his current hostage status.

‘You, Me and Other Stuff,’ is about Sarah Quinn and Declan Murphy and the other stuff that gets in the way of their relationship. Mostly the fact that Sarah is engaged to another man and Declan is being held as a prisoner. Both of which would be huge obstacles in any normal relationship.

Find out what Sarah did to cause this unusual situation.

Can Declan overcome his hatred for Sarah and can Sarah overcome her doubts to end up with the right man?

Review:

Look at the cover. It’s dark, vibrant and colourful all at the same time. 

This is the story of Sarah and Declan who do not realise they are meant for each other. 

Warm, light romantic comedy read. 

Loved it from the beginning. 

Through love and hate, empathy and hurt moments. This novel keeps pulling you in every time you are finished a chapter to do other things. There’s always a hook, which is the best type of novel. 

When the author originally sent me the plot to review in exchange I thought I am going to love this because why wouldn’t you? The plot is interesting and it reminds me of One Day which I adore. 

Getting to see these characters grow and develop into young adults and seeing all the big moments that define who you are. 

5/5 Stars

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Book Review: The Little Bakery On Rosemary Lane

Plot:

Growing up in a quiet Yorkshire village, Roxanne couldn’t wait to escape and find her place in the world in London. As a high-powered fashion editor she lives a glamorous life of perennial singlehood – or so it seems to her sister Della. But when Roxanne gets her heart broken by a fashion photographer, she runs away, back to Della’s welcoming home above her bookshop in Burley Bridge.

But Burley Bridge, Roxanne discovers, is even quieter than she remembered. There’s nothing to do, so Roxanne agrees to walk Della’s dog Stanley. It’s on these walks that Roxanne makes a startling discovery: the people who live in Burley Bridge are, well, just people – different from the fashion set she’s used to, but kind and even interesting. Michael, a widower trying to make a go of a small bakery, particularly so. Little by little, cupcake by cupcake, Roxanne and Michael fall into a comforting friendship.

Could there be a life for Roxanne after all, in the place she’s spent 46 years trying to escape?

Review:

Roxanne works for “Your style”- A high end fashion magazine as their fashion director in London. Her background is Yorkshire. 3 hours and a million miles away from the life she now leads and enjoys. Her bubble is burst when changes are a foot at the magazine and Roxanne decides to get away from it all, especially as her relationship with Sean is rather wobbly to say the least. This is a well written book that took me awhile to get into, probably as from the title I was expecting the bakery to feature early on. Once I accepted that is wasn’t, I enjoyed the lighthearted story and Roxanne’s character. A feel-good read for any time of year.

3/5 Stars

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Quick Vegan Friendly Meal: Seared Sesame Tofu with Noodle Salad

Before you freak out, this is actually so quick to make, the portion may look big however I ate half for breakfast, it is quite filling and nutritious!

Essential Ingredients:

  • Tofu – 50g / 2 oz
  • Sesame seeds – 1 tbsp
  • Noodles – 70g / 2.8 oz
  • Onion (finely chopped) – 1

Ingredients to your taste:

  • red chili (seeded and chopped) – 1
  • soy sauce – 2 tbsp
  • Salad

Preparations:

  1. Wrap the tofu in heavy layers of kitchen paper then, press gently to remove as much excess water as possible. Repeat a couple of times.
  2. Slice the tofu in half horizontally into 2 flat pieces. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds.
  3. Mix the chili with the soy, and one tablespoon of water.
  4. Cook the noodles in salted boiling water until al dente and drain.
  5. Sear the tofu for about 2 minutes each side or until golden and crisp. In the frying pan
  6. Put the noodles on two plates, top with the tofu and pour the dressing over both. Finish with onions.

This quick and tasty meal took me 10 minutes to make!

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Recipe: Pasta & Tuna Bake

This is so delicious, I forgot to take the image before I began preparing this meal to eat!

Ingredients:

  • 600g rigatoni
  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 600ml milk
  • 250g strong cheese, grated
  • 2 x 160g cans tuna steak in sunflower oil, drained (whichever tuna you prefer)
  • 330g can sweetcorn, drained
  • large handful chopped parsley

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C
  2. Boil 600g rigatoni for 2 mins less time than stated on the pack.
  3. To make the sauce – melt 50g butter in a sauce pan and stir in 50g plain flour.
  4. Cook for 1 min, then gradually stir in 600ml milk to make a thick white sauce.
  5. Remove from the heat and stir in all but a handful of the 250g grated cheddar.
  6. Drain the pasta, mix with the white sauce, two 160g drained cans tuna, one 330g drained can sweetcorn and a large handful of chopped parsley, then season.
  7. Transfer to a baking dish and top with the rest of the grated cheese.
  8. Bake for 15-20 mins until the cheese on top is golden and starting to brown.

This can feed 6 people. Defrost it, or save it in the fridge, it makes a handy and delicious meal when you are constantly busy.

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Book Review: London Shortlist

Plot:

Time Out’s Shortlist pocket guide selects the very best that London has to offer. Our expert local authors introduce London s past and present with their trademark appreciation of contemporary culture and in-depth coverage of the city s architectural and artistic treasures. The guide provides insight into the most compelling attractions and listings that are bang up to date with cafes, restaurants, shops and the pick of venues to visit after dark. The book s easy to use format, suggested itineraries, selected listings, coverage of main sights and detailed mapping make it the perfect pocket-sized companion for a visit to the city.

Review:

The city of creativity.

I really enjoyed learning about the areas of London. What to see, where is most affordable and so on.

So much information was packed into this.

Alongside were little itineraries to follow if you were looking for a cheap, expensive, or quick weekend away.

It had a bit of everything for everyone.

4/5 Stars

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Thursday Thoughts

Happy Halloween to those that celebrate it.

Now, today’s thoughts are:

words shape your world,
may even change your world.
they are powerful things.
and you’re just at the beginning of your journey with them.
ease yourself in gradually.
learn how to express how they make you feel.

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Tuesday Thoughts

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset

purpose of life

what is the actual purpose of life?
is it to aspire to be a mother?
is it to stay in education for as long as possible?
to find a career that pays a lot?
to find happiness?
to give back?
to travel?
i think the purpose of life is to find happiness in everything you do.
to make a difference, a good difference

Featured

Meal Recipe: Paprika Chicken

Ingredients:

  • Chicken breast – 190 g / 6.7 oz
  • Paprika – 1/2 tbsp
  • Garlic – 1/2 tsp
  • Vegetables – handful

Preparations:

  1. After cooking the chicken from frozen at 250 degrees for 45 minutes [using a dash of paprika and garlic powder]
  2. Fry some mushrooms, peppers, and whatever else you may like with it until it turns a brown colour.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Add some salad as well for a delicious meal!

The given recipe is for lunch and dinner so that you don’t have to cook twice. Consume the bigger part of the meal at lunch and leave the remainder for dinner.

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BookClub Reads: Pet Sematary

Plot:

The road in front of Dr. Louis Creed’s rural Maine home frequently claims the lives of neighborhood pets. Louis has recently moved from Chicago to Ludlow with his wife Rachel, their children and pet cat. Near their house, local children have created a cemetery for the dogs and cats killed by the steady stream of transports on the busy highway. Deeper in the woods lies another graveyard, an ancient Indian burial ground whose sinister properties Louis discovers when the family cat is killed.

Review:

Well, this was certainly the creepiest book I’ve ever read. It was an intense, brilliant thriller full of scary stuff brought straight out of nightmares.

Louis Creed, his wife Rachel and his two kids Eileen and Gage move to a new house. We get a little insight into the family’s past and we just realise that they are all nice people. Bad things start happen when they discover the Pet Sematary, their cat dies and everything starts going to hell.

This book is based around the idea of death and how some people are afraid of death. We see how people who are afraid of death react towards it and how people who are supposedly fearless of death cope with it. The problem is no one is ever ready for death, we may be accustomed to the idea of it but we are certainly not ready and not brave enough to face the death of people we hold dear in our hearts.

This novel is also about how people are genuinely pulled by things they can’t control, how they pretend that everything is alright when it most certainly it’s not. Louis let something control him, he kept it all to himself and he didn’t trust those he loved when he should have. It all ended bad for him and everyone else in his family.

However, with all of this in mind I did find it to be a slow read at times which took me forever to push through.

3/5 Stars

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Meal Recipe: Zucchini Chicken

Ingredients:

Chicken Breast – 180 g

Zucchini/Courgette – 75 g

Onion – 2 tbsp

Garlic Powder -1/2 tsp

Black Pepper – 2 pinch

Preparations:

  1. Season both sides of chicken breasts with garlic powder and black pepper.
  2. I cooked my chicken from frozen so this took 45 minutes
  3. Add onion and cook and stir until onion is browned, 5 minutes, add vegetables, salad, courgette etc. in to your tasting.
  4. I made one chicken breast for lunch and one for dinner.
  5. Heat rice in a rice cooker to have a little bit for lunch and dinner.

You can also add some sauce for taste as I did

Enjoy!

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Road Trip: Portrush

A little snippet from early this year. I like visiting here, it makes great little seaside visits.

I wouldn’t like to live in that type of small town forever.

I mean, what kind of life is that?

To have your entire life in a small little town, yes it can be modern in its own ways to some extent.

But I’m the type of person that craves adventure, I am capable of a lot. So why settle for less?

C

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ARC Book Review: The Broken Canvas: Good Woman Gone Bad

Plot:

Natasha Bishop has come a long way from painting pictures of landscapes in her Caribbean homeland to being a successful Hollywood Screen writer. Fame and popularity however do not fit the mold of the life that Natasha yearns for and though she finds solace and sincerity with her swooning younger boyfriend Andrew Kingston, she finds herself hopelessly drawn to Brody Banister, the ruggedly handsome playboy Scottish actor who starts igniting new feelings of raw passion for the Screen writer.

Tormented by her thoughts of infidelity toward Andrew, while harboring a deep and surfacing secret from Brody, Natasha finds herself navigating through the contours of her life, each time racked by new challenges. She soon finds out that the greatest challenge of all is yet to emerge, and with its imminent manifestation will test the mettle of Natasha like nothing else she has ever experienced.

Review:

ARC Book Review:

Thank you for this ARC review copy I received, now here’s my voluntary review:

The Broken Canvas by Stacey Facey portrays Natasha Bishop as a strong,  independent, Hollywood screenwriter, whose vocation brings her in contact with arrogant actors. Brody Banister is one of the worse.

The cover of The Broken Canvas looked pretty however I did not like the writing style at all. I’m sorry to say however I cannot lie for reviews.

It was not consistent at all. The themes from the beginning I was thinking can this be over already because it was not consistent, the thoughts where everywhere and it was immature. For example, when the Vernon went back to Louisiana, or when it was it was supposed to be Brody speaking, or even Michael or Lauren, it was Natasha speaking and describing events when she wasn’t even present. Natasha was also very immature for someone over 40.

Also, the fact Natasha had 3 children from 3 different men was a bit disturbing. Then after all of that nonsense, Natasha dies. I am not sure where the witchcraft themes fell in. This book was a mixture of different topics like it wanted to be everything however it has not had a proper edit. Also there was a LOT of grammatical errors.

1/5 Stars

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Road Trip: Malin Head

Malin Head lies on the Inishowen Peninsula in County Donegal, at the most northerly tip of the island of Ireland.

It is the start (or end, depending on your point of view) of the Wild Atlantic Way and has long been renowned for its epic coastal scenery, thriving birdlife and historical curiosities.

This place is so pretty to walk by therefore I highly recommend as it is. It’s also quiet and peaceful to walk on 😊

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Book Review: Riders

Plot:

Set against the glorious Cotswold countryside and the playgrounds of the world, Jilly Cooper’s Rutshire Chronicles, Riders, Rivals, Polo, The Man Who Made Husbands Jealous, Appassionata and Score!, offer an intoxicating blend of skulduggery, swooning romance, sexual adventure and hilarious high jinks.

Riders, the first and steamiest in the series, takes the lid off international showjumping, a sport where the brave horses are almost human, but the humans behave like animals.

The brooding hero, gypsy Jake Lovell, under whose magic hands the most difficult horse or woman becomes biddable, is driven to the top by his loathing of the beautiful bounder and darling of the show ring, Rupert Campbell-Black. Having filched each other’s horses, and fought and fornicated their way around the capitals of Europe, the feud between the two men finally erupts with devastating consequences during the Los Angeles Olympics.

Review:

Some could argue that the book is a product of its time. However, I don’t think that’s sufficient. This reads as a: racist, sexist, homophobic, classist soap opera with horses.

The plot meandered so much I had no sense of where it was going or which characters would be the final focus.

And there is a rape scene. It is never acknowledged as such. It was extremely upsetting, not just because of the content but because of the flippant way it was handled and also because of the absolutely natural way it developed from the atrocious attitudes towards men, women, and relationships throughout the entire book.

I had to give this a rating sadly.

1/5 Stars

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Book Review: Five Years From Now

Plot:

What if you met the right person at the wrong time?

Nell and Van meet as children when their parents fall in love, but soon they are forced worlds apart.

Five years later, they find each other.  Their bond is rekindled and new feelings take hold, but once again they must separate.

For the next two decades, fate brings Nell and Van together every five years, as life and circumstance continue to divide them. Will they ever find true happiness? And will it be together?

‘One day, maybe five years from now, you’ll look back and understand why this happened…’

Review:

Nell and Van met when they were 5-years old, sharing bunk beds in her father’s cottage. They became the best of friends and over the next few years, they have adventure after adventure together. Sadly, when they’re 10-years old, a tragedy tears them apart, sending Van to Australia to live with his father, leaving Nell behind to live with hers in England.

5-years later, Nell and Van are reunited and it’s like all the years between them have melted away. But in the place of their once strong friendship is a budding romance. They’re madly in love like teenagers usually are, but once again they’re torn apart, living on opposite sides of the world.

The story follows their journey every 5-years. Countless times, Van and Nell are brought back together, only to live separate lives, again and again. But one thing remains: their unwavering love for each other.

This is Van and Nell’s love story—but not every love story has a happy ending.

This novel reminds me of Love Rosie and a bit of One Day.

Five Years From Now is an emotional, soft-spoken story about love.

Paige Toon has done it again—she’s written a story that had me tearing up.

I enjoy books that span over decades, where we see bits and pieces of the main character’s lives every few years. This story had me thinking about how people come into our lives for a reason, but not all people you care about are meant to stay. Life is inconvenient and tears apart even soulmates, as we get to see firsthand here. While the ending was bittersweet, it felt right. I’ll leave it at that, as I don’t want to reveal too much here. Yet another heartfelt book from Paige Toon

4/5 Stars


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Road Trip: Benone Beach

Benone Strand is one of the most popular beaches in Northern Ireland because of its location, activities and easy access. This seven mile stretch of sand incorporates three beaches in one; Downhill Beach, Benone Strand and Magilligan Beach.

However, when I visit it I tend to visit one at a time.

As you can see from the video I decided to take a peaceful zen approach.

Those little zen gardens you have can create a nice peaceful activity however I took the task to the beach this time and it was relaxing 🙂

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Road Trip: Dark Hedges

This is originally a road which people still intend on driving fast on when it is now a big tourist spot!

The trees remain a magnificent sight and have become one of the most photographed natural phenomena in Northern Ireland. In fact, the iconic trees have been used as a filming location in HBO’s epic series Game of Thrones®, representing the Kingsroad.

It’s a nice walk when it is quiet. Including the walk from the car park at the hotel as they have little lights from the trees next to it.

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Thursday Thoughts

“From my lips
And kissed you in a way
That begged to reverse ownership
But instead it sellotaped my wrists
Together tight around your hips
Whilst my internal monologue screamed
You’re hopeless at this
You don’t want to do this
You always do this
You don’t have to be this
Person
You don’t have to quench your thirst on
Him
Tell your body it’s anxiety isn’t a passion to burst on
Him
Don’t try and fill the void with empty consumption
This moment in time that youllbliebajdbsay was sweet seduction
Was another episode of you orchestrating a personality reduction
Into a girl you have no business being
No pleasing being
Stop teasing feeling
From an inner drought
That only dried to be that way
Because you gave all your kindness out
Instead of spending it on yourself. “

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Book Review: She must be mad

Plot:

She Must be Mad explores coming-of-age: the pain and beauty of love, the relief and the agony of turning from girl to woman, the isolation of an untethered mind and the power and subjugation of the body.

Charly captures the formative experiences of today’s young women from the poignant to the prosaic in writing that is at once witty, wry and heartfelt. Wayward nights out that don’t go as planned; the righteous anger at those men with no talent or skill or smarts who occupy the most powerful positions in the world; the strange banality of madness and, of course, the hurt and indecision of unrequited love.

For every woman surviving and thriving in today’s world, for every girl who feels too much; this is a call for communion, and you are not alone

Review:

Some of the poems were brilliant, but after a few poems the themes were quite repetitive. I really liked the writing style though, with a bit more variety to the centric topics of the single poems this could have been a favourite. I didn’t like the main topics of these poems compared to other authors. All she goes on about is sex.

2/5 Stars

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Tuesday Thoughts

phases

life comes in phases
you grow in each phase
sometimes begin to wonder
what is each one supposed to teach me?
not to make the same mistakes again
or to continue doing things the way you have been
the people you meet on these journeys
help you grow into the next phase

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Road Trip: Buncrana

This short little walk is a traffic free walk, along the shore of Lough Swilly between Buncrana and Stragill Strand. It passes along the quiet beaches, old forts and numerous sites of historical interest. I find the views to be quite peaceful.

It’s a simple walk as well apart from some stone areas.

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ARC Book Review: Welcome to New York

Plot:

Harry has a secret.

He led a well-planned life and knew exactly what he wanted. Until…

Something chased him away from his hometown in England. He arrives in New York wishing to erase his past, eager for a fresh start. A new life. Everybody here was someone else before.

Alana has a secret.

She left her small town in the Midwest chasing a dream. She arrives in New York determined to see her name flashing in bright lights on Broadway billboards. Everybody here wanted something more. She was on the right path, but then…

When Harry and Alana meet, they recognize each other’s scars. They bond over the things they don’t say. They find comfort in long silences. But as they learn how to deal with life’s plot twists, they find out the Big Apple has its own plans for them.

For how long can they hide? How long can they keep everyone else at a distance? How long until their past catches up with their present?

Their lives are about to get irreversibly intertwined. Do you want to know how?

First of all, welcome to New York!

Review:

First of all, long plot.

Secondly, thank you for this ARC review copy I received, now here’s my voluntary review:

At first it was a bit slow, the characters could be more developed at the start instead of taking a long time to understand them. Eventually the novel became interesting. Although it was like Harry and Alana were being forced to be together based on its writing. I do like the way it is set in New York. It is a good start for a novel. However more editing could have been done to make this novel grab my attention more.

I do appreciate that the characters were very developed in the end as it did have you invested in the characters. This novel inspires love, family and following your dreams. 

3/5 Stars

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Book Review: Start To Lead

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Plot:

Leadership is like beauty, hard to define but you know it when you see it. And sadly, we are rarely seeing it. We have thousands of books, hundreds of speakers and much training in leadership – yet we are still crying out for it. In the chaotic and turbulent world we live in, we need the emergence of truly great leaders to sort things out. So, what does the leadership journey look like? How do you become a leader? How do you successfully lead people and organisations? How do you become a truly great leader? Simple. Read this book

Review:

I enjoyed that this novel was written in the point of view from a person who’s been there, done it and wants to share the lessons he’s learned to help others. I find it difficult to finish a lot of business books, they bore me with people who take a simple message and spin it out endlessly repeating the same point until it’s something that will enable them to sell a book. Philip’s book from start to finish is packed with real stories and advice for how to handle different situations and different people in different types of company. I finished it in a matter of days.

4/5 Stars

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Tuesday Thoughts

accomplish everything you set out to do
whether it’s desires or career goals
do not live wondering what if
or having that kind of regrets
open-minded
exploring all your options
pros and cons
of every option available to you
especially when it dictates your next goal in life
for me, it’s the next chapter after university
like when you’re young you’re told to work hard as you need good grades to get to good schools then; to get to university so you come out with a great degree.

that’s always been the goal. after that, what’s next?
you realise you’ve been too focused on that one goal that it can be overwhelming deciding what the next goal is since this is your goal usually for the first 21-22 years of your life.

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Lush Face Mask Review: Don’t Look At Me

To Apply:

Smooth a rich layer of this vibrant blue mask over the skin and allow it to sink in for 10-15 minutes before gently removing with fresh water.

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Thoughts:

I love this face mask, the brilliant blue colour makes it so different and eye catching, and I just love the smell. Because it has to stay in the fridge, it always feels really refreshing and cool on my oily skin, and I’m also encouraged to used a good amount at a time because it will go out of date otherwise. The salt acts as a really nice natural exfoliant too!

5/5 Stars!

Ingredients:

  • Kaolin
  • Fresh Lemon Juice
  • Glycerine
  • Rice Syrup
  • Ground White Rice
  • Organic Silken Tofu
  • Murumuru Butter
  • Bentone gel
  • Rice Milk
  • Grapefruit Oil
  • Neroli Oil
  • Water (Aqua)
  • *Limonene
  • *Linalool
  • Perfume
  • Colour 42090
Featured

Road Trip: Giants Causeway

The historic Giants Causeway! So much to see and do, the walking trails, stories, the history it holds, and what a great walk it makes, although it is a bit on the expensive side compared to a couple of years ago which I still find is not worth the price. if you are like me you find a way in as it is the biggest marketing scheme that they are doing / getting away with charging the amount they are for walking along the coast and rocks.

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Thursday Thoughts

eyes

it’s the way they seem to naturally shine
especially when you look into my eyes
so captivating

comforting and nerve wrecking.
like the ocean when waves are crashing against the shore
beautiful and calm

drawing me in,
i don’t want it to stop
your pretty eyes

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Book Review: Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit

Plot:

In this heartfelt tribute to his mother, Sean Hepburn Ferrer offers a rare and intimate glimpse into the life of one of Hollywood’s brightest stars. Audrey Hepburn, An Elegant Spirit is a stunning compilation of nearly 300 photographs, many straight from the family album and never before published; archival documents, personal correspondence, and mementos; even paintings and illustrations from the actress herself.

Sean tells Audrey Hepburn’s remarkable story, from her childhood in war-torn Holland to the height of her fame to her autumn years far from the camera and the crush of the paparazzi. Sean introduces us to someone whose grace, charm, and beauty were matched only by her insecurity about her appearance and talent, and who used her hard-won recognition as a means to help children less fortunate than her own. With this unique biography, Sean celebrates his mother’s history and humanity—and continues her charitable work by donating proceeds from this book to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund.

Review:

I love anything and everything about Audrey Hepburn and this book was definitely an enjoyable and worthwhile read. I loved getting to read about her life from her son’s perspective. He spoke of her with such love and adoration. I especially loved the tons and tons of family photos that he shared. 

His writing was all over the place and not very organised at times just to point out. I wanted a glimpse into her life from someone who knew her and this book fit the bill perfectly. I especially loved his emphasis on her humanitarian work at the end of her life. Reading about her passion for children and her work with UNICEF was inspiring and just made me love her more.

3/5 Stars

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Exercise Routine

So, I thought it would be an interesting addition to add, I do three (well, try to) different types of exercises per week alongside my swimming 3-5 times a week. This week, this was the first one.

Do the following in these steps, then repeat another 2 times so, in total it is 3 rounds

  1. Box hip thrusts | 20 times


2. Side to side squats | 24 times

3. Narrow squats | 20 times

4. Donkey kick back | 20 each side


5. Standing leg abduction | 15 reps each side

6. Clams | 20 each side


7. Pulse sumo squats | 20 times

First exercise post that actually belongs under the fitness category of my blog so I would appreciate if you would like more of these posts or sticking to recipes 🙂

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C’s Coconut Buns – Vegan Friendly

Ingredients
– 1 cup of desiccated coconut
– 1 cup self-rising flour
– 1/2 cup caster sugar
– 3/4 cup non-dairy milk
– 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
– 1 tbsp lime juice
– 1 tsp vanilla extract

After mixing the above ingredients together, bake at 180C for 30 minutes.

If you fee like making your own icing:
– 250g vegan butter
– 400g icing sugar
– 1 tbsp non-dairy milk
– 1 tsp vanilla extract

Feel free to add a bit of fruit to your delicious cupcake!

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Road Trip: Dunluce Castle

I don’t know about you, but living in this castle right next to the ocean seems pretty exciting but scary at the same time!

It was first built on the dramatic coastal cliffs of north County Antrim by the MacQuillan family around 1500, the earliest written record of the castle was in 1513.

It was then seized by the ambitious MacDonnell clan in the 1550’s, who set about stamping their mark on the castle under the leadership of the famous warrior chieftain Sorely Boy MacDonnell during an era of violence, intrigue and rebellion.

It has so much history, but I really went to enjoy the views it contains.

I was told the Golf course in this place is quite expensive too, between the views and the championships that goes on around here I still think it isn’t reasonable to charge a-lot of money just to view this place below.

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Thursday Thoughts

Quote that came to mind recently as it applied so much to me earlier this month:

“Travelling is brutality.
It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends.
You are constantly off balance.
Nothing is yours except the essential things – air, sleep, dreams, the sea, the sky – all things tending towards the eternal or what we imagine of it.”

Cesare Pavese

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BookClub Reads: The Little Book Cafe

Plot:

Tash, Emma and Amy couldn’t be more different.
A successful estate agent who has her life pretty much on track, Tash has ticked all the boxes. Hasn’t she?

Emma is a budding writer who yearns to flex her writing skills and shake up her life that has become, well, a little stale…

And then there’s Amy, the manager of The Little Book Café, a hopeless romantic who had her heart broken, but quietly refuses to give up on love.

Brought together by their love of books and delicious cake from the café next door, they are in for a year of romance, crime and classic novels that will help them get through all that life will throw at them…

Review:

This is the first book I have read in a while where I have taken a disliking to a specific character’s personality, I am talking about Adrian he’s manipulative and possessive but it does make Tasha’s story a lot more interesting (if it’s even possible to get more interesting)

I am really drawn to Tasha, you want her to do well from the beginning, I won’t go into specific parts as I don’t want to spoil it for everyone. However, her relationship with Adrian does add a lot of drama to the storyline. I have to put my hands up to Georgia for putting issues like domestic violence in her writing. It was brave! Does Tasha get her happy ending?

Well what can I say about Emma…she is totally different to Tasha yet they are best friends. It took me a few chapters to get into her story but again I persevered and I’m glad I did. Emma is a strong independent woman, she is determined to fight for what she wants and stands up for herself if she needs to. You really get a sense of Emma’s feelings in parts and you want her to get the happy ending she deserves.

Amy literally has my dream job I am so jealous, she manages a quirky bookshop with tea and delicious cake on tap! I was hoping she would at least stand up for what she believes in, you will have to read about Amy to find out.

Overall, I enjoyed the book as a whole and I would have enjoyed them equally had I of read them separately. I found this to be such a lovely, feel-good book full of anticipation and I won’t hesitate in reading more of Georgia’s creations.

One quote I really enjoyed: “Words are important. They can change you. They can change the world”

4/5 Stars

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Tuesday Thoughts

Life

life is about finding a purpose
and things in life have to be built by people to create the purpose
always strive to do something with your life that has a real purpose
because otherwise what is the point in existence if you are not contributing?
it would drive me insane if i lived like that, without a purpose
because i think that is the purpose of life,
finding a goal, an ambition to work towards something every time
a goal is completed.

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Road Trip: Glenveagh

Every time I am here I will always be seen taking pictures of its beautiful scenery!

Glenveagh is a pretty place, whether you are viewing it for walking, cycling or going for a stroll.

It’s a great place for taking pictures, whether you are posing or for sight-seeing as well.

I have yet to cycle using their own cycling gear.

I find it intriguing how this place used to be someone’s home, imagine living like this with all the space and beautiful scenery. It’s one of my favourite spots to go back to, time and time again. It’s that big that I always discover something new each time I visit.

Below is a video capturing some of its beauty. Enjoy.

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Book Review: The Sun Also Rises

Plot:

Paris in the twenties: Pernod, parties and expatriate Americans, loose-living on money from home. Jake is wildly in love with Brett Ashley, aristocratic and irresistibly beautiful, but with an abandoned, sensuous nature that she cannot change. 

When the couple drifts to Spain to the dazzle of the fiesta and the heady atmosphere of the bullfight, their affair is strained by new passions, new jealousies, and Jake must finally learn that he will never possess the woman he loves.

Review:

Hemingway’s writing is superb, pared to the bone however this paints a vivid picture of his life/friends/actions. Unfortunately, most of these are completely unsympathetic to the extent of being irritating. I longed to tell some of the characters to have a look at reality, get outside themselves and take part in the real world. There is an in-built arrogance in most of them which seems to allow them to view everything from a position apart, nothing really matters. I just could not really get into this

1/5 Stars

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Sunday Thoughts

summer

feel the sun shining on your skin,
glistening and giving you heat whilst
a cool breeze refreshes your skin.

the whole day is ahead of you.
sunny walks along the beach with loved ones.
nature walks in the forest in this happy season.

travels are all around you.
the feelings of adventure and freedom
are alive more than ever.

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Book Review: Return to the Italian Quarter

Plot:

The Di Napolis may have been raised in England, but their souls are Italian… Charismatic, irascible and defiantly Italian, Cesare presides over his large family much like his Roman namesake. But when a journalist begins asking questions about his allegiances during the war, Sophie realises how little she really knows her adored grandfather. She embarks with him on a journey of discovery through turn of the century Naples, 1920s Clerkenwell and the war years, in the course which she learns something else: whom it is that she really loves.

Review:

I found this novel to be confusing as the story switched from Cesare to Sophie quite quickly throughout the entire novel, leaving me wanting more from each point-of-view.

The story between Sophie and Antonio/Guido lacked any real emotion with not much of a background of the characters for each of their relationships. It was hard to follow at times however, Cesare’s description of the past was intriguing, which kept me entertained most of the time.

3/5 Stars

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Tuesday Thoughts

What do you want out of life?

I want to see the world. I want to travel and actually live the stories that are told to me throughout the novels I read. 

That novel Wild Woman’s Guide to Traveling the World has made me hungry for this desire. 

I want fun and adventure in travelling. 

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Book Review: Mr.S: The Last Word On Frank Sinatra

Plot:

An insider’s account of life with Sinatra during the heady years of the Rat Pack that’s as cool, original and dazzling as the man himself. George Jacobs is generally considered ‘the last of the Rat Pack’, a member of the exclusive club that has fascinated us for decades. He worked as Sinatra’s valet and confidant from 1953, when Ava Gardner had just left him until the end of his marriage to Mia Farrow in 1968. Racy and revealing. Mr S, is a record of one of the longest and most outrageous mid-life crises ever as George helped Sinatra juggle his multiple mistresses – women like Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, Grace Kelly and Peggy Lee. And it wasn’t just women: Hollywood stars and Mafia bosses, the Kennedys and European royalty all have a part to play in Frank’s glory years. But above all there was the Rat Pack who accepted George as one of their own. Dean Martin tried his comedy routines out on him and Peter Lawford did his drugs in front of him. Mr S gives an insider’s view of the highs and lows of life with the Rat Pack – the spectacle, the sex, the unrecounted brawls, violence, tensions and hatreds among the revellers at the wildest moveable feast of the century

Review:

Jacobs has written a memoir of his time as valet to the super star of the 50’s and ’60’s, Frank Sinatra. Every movement he made was chronicled by the press.

In this, we’ve learned that George lived with Sinatra longer than anyone. He can tell us from the inside. Everyone else is telling it from mostly the outside. The stories in this is told with love.

Another difference of this novel is the way the story is told. It is like George is your friend and he is just having a casual conversation with you. It seems he is confiding in you, showing his vulnerability, showing you his heart. He tells us of all the sides of Sinatra, and even when it is less than flattering,

This novel is an easy, quick read. If one loves to read about pop culture this novel is for you.

2/5 Stars

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Book Review: The Art of Thinking Clearly

Plot:

Have you ever:
• Invested time in something that, with hindsight, just wasn’t worth it?
• Overpayed in an Ebay auction?
• Continued doing something you knew was bad for you?
• Sold stocks too late, or too early?
• Taken credit for success, but blamed failure on external circumstances?
• Backed the wrong horse?

These are examples of cognitive biases, simple errors we all make in our day-to-day thinking. But by knowing what they are and how to spot them, we can avoid them and make better choices-whether dealing with a personal problem or a business negotiation; trying to save money or make money; working out what we do or don’t want in life: and how best to get it.

Simple, clear and always surprising, this indispensable book will change the way you think and transform your decision-making-work, at home, every day. It reveals, in 99 short chapters, the most common errors of judgment, and how to avoid them.

Review:

There are many examples which are explained in other texts by other authors. It’s a nice book if you want a detailed description of the cognitive biases. I found this novel to be a little too aggressive mostly the way Dobelli explains “his” point of view, words well executed but not much statistics were shown and maybe that’s the part that dragged for me. It could have been better with facts and numbers that only stories, felt like he was trying to defend something and trying to show the era of communication and technology as the bad guy.

2/5 Stars

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Recipe: Almond Cupcakes – Vegan Friendly

Another delicious recipe!

This time I wondered, what would almonds taste like in a cupcake, I haven’t really had any cupcakes that are almond flavour unless it has the nuts and such throughout them when I want to enjoy a smooth non-nutty snack but with the taste only.

Ingredients:

1 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour (220g)

1/2 cup (100g) sugar

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup (240ml) soy milk

1/3 (80ml) vegetable oil

1 tbsp cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2.5 tsp almond extract

Despite how the icing looks, these are very tasty!

Instructions:

Mix the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, baking soda and salt. 

Then add the soy milk, vegetable oil, vinegar, vanilla, almond ingredients. 

Stir briefly with a hand whisk to combine properly and remove any lumps

Line a cupcake tray with cupcake liners and divide the batter between them

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Then, bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick or knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.

I found these cupcakes to be far more tasty than lemon. Have you tried these, which do you prefer?

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Antrim Castle Gardens

This beautiful place has four centuries of culture and heritage.

You can easily get lost here as there is plenty to see in terms of walking about; parterres, canals, castle ruins and a very pleasant walk to the shore of Lough Neagh along Six Mile Water. I was most interested in the little book posts as it had books where you can borrow.

I loved visiting these beautiful 17th century gardens. I wish I had time to visit the Oriel Gallery’s range of stunning art exhibitions as well as the cute little garden coffee shop.

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Book Review: The Bookshop

Plot:

In 1959 Florence Green, a kindhearted widow with a small inheritance, risks everything to open a bookshop – the only bookshop – in the seaside town of Hardborough. By making a success of a business so impractical, she invites the hostility of the town’s less prosperous shopkeepers. By daring to enlarge her neighbors’ lives, she crosses Mrs. Gamart, the local arts doyenne. Florence’s warehouse leaks, her cellar seeps, and the shop is apparently haunted. Only too late does she begin to suspect the truth: a town that lacks a bookshop isn’t always a town that wants one.

Review:

I found this to be a nice quick read about a widow setting up a bookshop in a small village where most of the folks are hostile to her as an outsider. However the biggest problem was the pace and the interest in this novel. I really wanted to enjoy it however I did not find it interesting from how it was told. Especially with the main character, I was never sorry for her as a person or witnessed any emotional developments when some characters gang up on her and use every legal means at their disposal to shut down her bookshop.

2/5 Stars

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Book Review: Whisper Network

Plot:

Four women learn their boss (a man who’s always been surrounded by rumors about how he treats women) is next in line to be CEO—what will happen when they decide enough is enough?

Sloane, Ardie, Grace, and Rosalita are four women who have worked at Truviv, Inc., for years. The sudden death of Truviv’s CEO means their boss, Ames, will likely take over the entire company. Ames is a complicated man, a man they’ve all known for a long time, a man who’s always been surrounded by…whispers. Whispers that have always been ignored by those in charge. But the world has changed, and the women are watching Ames’s latest promotion differently. This time, they’ve decided enough is enough. 

Sloane and her colleagues set in motion a catastrophic shift within every floor and department of the Truviv offices. All four women’s lives—as women, colleagues, mothers, wives, friends, even adversaries—will change dramatically as a result.

“If only you had listened to us,” they tell us on page one, “none of this would have happened.”

Review:

The author introduces us to four female​ colleagues who complain a lot. There’s a lot going on in the narrative, and I appreciated the duality Baker gives to her protagonists, however, the story dragged and, wasn’t that interesting. Even though each chapter includes testimony of the women from a future investigation—further nudging the plot forward—I didn’t really care that much if I ever found out what happened to warrant such an investigation (or even who did the thing they were attempting to explain). In the end, I couldn’t put myself through the additional four and a half hours it would take to finish.

I really could not get through this terrible novel.

1/5 Stars

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Book Review: The Wild Woman’s Guide to Travelling the World

Plot:

Objectively, Sophie is a success: she’s got a coveted job at a top consulting firm, a Manhattan apartment, and a passport full of stamps. It isn’t quite what she dreamed of when she was a teenager dog-earing pages in exotic travel guides, but it’s secure. Then her best friend bails just hours after they arrive in Hong Kong for a girls’ trip, and Sophie falls for Carson, a free spirited, globetrotting American artist. He begs her to join him on his haphazard journey, but she chooses responsibility and her five-year plan. 

Back in New York, that plan feels less and less appealing. As Sophie recalls the dreams she’s suppressed, the brief international jaunts she sneaks in between business trips no longer feel like enough. Carson isn’t ready to let her go either, but as they try to figure out their relationship, Sophie realizes she may have to pursue her passions with or without him.

Review:

LOVE LOVE LOVE!

Just to sum up why I loved this so much, here are some life quotes which I especially agree with in this point in my life right now that were in this novel:

If it’s something you’re really passionate about , you’ll find a way to make it work

“In that moment, I realised I did have a choice. My life wasn’t something that happened without my input. I guided my life where I wanted it to go. There were two paths stretched out in front of me: the safe, sensible, no-nonsense plan and the wild, risky, unchartered territory. I only knew where one of those paths ended up, and it definitely wasn’t in a place that would make me happy.”

“Passion is worthless without the courage to see it through. So I pushed past all my fears and found a way to make it work.”

“That’s what courage is. Doing what you need to do even when you’re scared out of your mind. Changing your plans when they’re no longer working for you.”

“Stop being so afraid to fail that you never allow yourself to succeed.”

“Success means being happy. As long as you’re happy, that’s all that matters.”

There are so many vivid descriptions of the sights and smells of Hong Kong, Macau, and New York City which made me feel like I was traveling the world right along with the narrator, Sophie. Her questions about pursuing “success” as others define it versus success on her own terms definitely is me this summer. The love story satisfying with obstacles that relate to how we merge our desire to love and be loved with our other life ambitions. It might be the case that all vacations must come to an end, but new experiences can shape who we are long after we have returned home.

Overall, this novel’s message is about embarking on new adventures and ultimately doing what it takes to be happy is one that will stick with me for a long time.

5/5 Stars

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Book Review: Recipes for a Happy Marriage

Plot:

“They say there is no such thing as a perfect marriage, but of course there is. A perfect marriage is where two people live together for most of their lives until death separates them. What there is no such thing as is an easy marriage. And when it comes to love, people have somehow come around to equating love with ease”. New York food writer Tressa returns from honeymoon worried that she has married her impossibly handsome new husband Dan out of late-thirties panic instead of love. In 1930’s Ireland, her grandmother, Bernadine, is married off to the local schoolteacher after her family are unable to raise a dowry for her to marry her true love, Michael. During the first year of her marriage, Tressa distracts herself from her stay-or-go dilemma by working on her grandmother’s recipes, searching for solace and answers through their preparation. Through the stories of these two women RECIPES FOR A PERFECT MARRIAGE challenges the modern ideal of romantic love as a given and ponders whether true love can really be learned. ‘This story is written with so much heart, its beat is palpable in every word on every page’ Cecelia Ahern, author of P.S., I LOVE YOU

Review:

I really didn’t want to finish this novel as well as having to write a review for it, so here goes.

The author/main person in this novel annoyed me so very much – she is not affectionate or caring at all. She married a very lovely man who somehow is beneath her standards even though she is nothing special. She was lonely and old enough to be married, so she made it happen. However, she invests nothing into her marriage or relationship – all she does is complain about the things he is not. This ungrateful and conceited woman never realised how lucky she is to have a good man like her husband–as it is obvious when she books a hotel room to have an affair with a loser she finds in a bar.. I truly despise people who would do something like this when they have someone in their life as good as what this person the protagonist showed her husband was.

If I could give 0 I would.

1/5 Stars

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BookClub Reads: A Favourite Of the Gods

Plot:

One autumn in the late 1920s, Constanza boards a train in Italy en route to Brussels and a new marriage. With her is her young daughter Flavia. Through an odd incident Constanza makes a casual decision that changes both their lives.

Review:

This novel opens up in the late 1920’s with Constanza and her daughter Flavia in the French Riviera. Neither of them have any real idea of what they are doing, or indeed where they are. The loss of a ring leads Constanza to make a life altering decision. Then, the story moves back, to Constanza’s childhood, her life with warring parents, a New England heiress and an Italian prince.

This novel I found to be quite confusing at times to follow as you are getting your head around these characters and the time change.
Oh my god, we get it that the parents had an odd relationship however I really disliked Constanza’s point of view of cheating within relationships.

Constanza, when she has an open-relationship point of view about her mother leaving her father when he lied to her for 17 years by having an affair. I disliked this very much as Constanza thought it is okay to have fun and that people are not owned. 

When you commit to someone. Whether it is on paper or you just commit to them before it leads to something like that it is very important because no, you are not owned however you made the commitment to commit to only that person. They do not own you but you committed to only them is what Constanza cannot seem to understand.

However, I did enjoy this novel in terms with how it was written, for the most part however it took me a good while to finish this novel. Constanza marrying for the sake of it – having to be pushed into it then realising she does love him but doesn’t in that way? Oh she infuriates me.

I like that this novel tries to tell it in an elegant way however there are some silly opinions that are supposed to show the younger and fresh generation at that time’s point of view.

After the war and everything that happens throughout, the novel closes with Fascism taking over, where the specter of Marxism causes the Italian aristocracy to make unhealthy allegiances with Mussolini, and the fate of Europe is uncertain by the end.

The only thing that has been consistent in this is that Flavia and Constanza have no real desire to settle down

3/5 Stars

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Book Review: Saturday

Plot:

Henry Perowne is a contented man — a successful neurosurgeon, happily married to a newspaper lawyer, and enjoying good relations with his children. Henry wakes to the comfort of his large home in central London on this, his day off. He is as at ease here as he is in the operating room. Outside the hospital, the world is not so easy or predictable. There is an impending war against Iraq, and a general darkening and gathering pessimism since the New York and Washington attacks two years before.

On this particular Saturday morning, Perowne’s day moves through the ordinary to the extraordinary. After an unusual sighting in the early morning sky, he makes his way to his regular squash game with his anaesthetist, trying to avoid the hundreds of thousands of marchers filling the streets of London, protesting against the war. A minor accident in his car brings him into a confrontation with a small-time thug. To Perowne’s professional eye, something appears to be profoundly wrong with this young man, who in turn believes the surgeon has humiliated him — with savage consequences that will lead Henry Perowne to deploy all his skills to keep his family alive.

Review:

I have mixed feelings about this novel. At times I thought the amount of detail is great however some of the sums of the one-star review this novel up perfectly at the same time! Particularly the ones that went into great detail, hence the mocking of this novel in terms of how it is written in excruciating detail that was difficult to follow at times because it is boring listening to the smallest mundane details.

Henry Perowne judges all of the protestors as being uninformed about the true nature of Saddam’s regime, all due to speaking with ONE person he spoke with who were tortured there. It is a very clumsy attempt to give the character’s opinion in this case.

Perowne’s character is a person with Western values which is clear to see this is really McEwan voicing his own opinions with the amount of boring detail in this rather than a character who simply comes down on one well-defined side of an issue. To me, it is seen as a busy neurosurgeon who has no time to search out other opinions or else truly feels that war is the right move and that it is as his leaders say, for humanitarian reasons.

Later on, we see a different view from Daisy, in the form of an argument in the kitchen. There is a bet where Perowne says that Iraq will be flowering in freedom in five years and Daisy says it will be a mess. I found it interesting that the opposing view is personified by a very young person, implying immaturity, youthful idealism and so on.

The car crash scene with the tough guy was simply farcical. Where the brain surgeon has to think fast, and recognises some horrible debilitating disease in his assailant, who, it turns out, is self-conscious about it.

The talented children I found very annoying: the boy plays the blues from the comfort of his London mansion and the girl is a poet. Some lines of her poetry that McEwan proudly mentions are “watermarks of ecstasy”. Watermarks of ecstasy? She won the Newdigate prize for it. Does McEwan consider that good poetry? The title of her collection is, “My Saucy Bark.” What? It is a bark as in boat but the other definitions work just as well.

One quote I did enjoy, however: “Fiction is too humanly flawed, too sprawling and hit-and-miss to inspire uncomplicated wonder at the magnificence of human ingenuity, of the impossible dazzling achieved. Perhaps only music has such purity.”

Overall, this was a densely written book that took a bit of patience. I enjoyed it at times and found it tedious at others. Although it was well written, the prose was a bit pretentious and the main character’s stream of consciousness narrative could be so boring. At times the family at the center of the story was a little too perfect to believe. The plot and details stretched far too long; you could read from page 2, skip 30 pages and not much has changed.

3/5 Stars

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Book Review: The last Mrs. Parrish

Plot:

Amber Patterson is fed up. She’s tired of being a nobody: a plain, invisible woman who blends into the background. She deserves more—a life of money and power like the one blond-haired, blue-eyed goddess Daphne Parrish takes for granted.

To everyone in the exclusive town of Bishops Harbor, Connecticut, Daphne—a socialite and philanthropist—and her real-estate mogul husband, Jackson, are a couple straight out of a fairy tale.

Amber’s envy could eat her alive . . . if she didn’t have a plan. Amber uses Daphne’s compassion and caring to insinuate herself into the family’s life—the first step in a meticulous scheme to undermine her. Before long, Amber is Daphne’s closest confidante, traveling to Europe with the Parrishes and their lovely young daughters, and growing closer to Jackson. But a skeleton from her past may undermine everything that Amber has worked towards, and if it is discovered, her well-laid plan may fall to pieces. 

Review:

The novel goes through Amber’s mind and her annoying jealousy and though you start to feel bad for gullible Daphne who is being scammed right under her nose – you also feel annoyed that she is missing the signs that are so clear to the reader. 

Throughout the first half of the novel, where we are Amber on the outside looking in, we begin to suspect something is amiss but nothing prepares us for what’s really happening in the Parrish household – and that surprise and the psychology behind it all is where it all lays.

I could talk all day about the psychology of Jackson Parrish, Daphne and Amber – but all I will say is that their characteristics played off of each really well and the topics were well researched.

I had issues of giving this a 3 or 4 because the juxtaposition between Amber’s viewpoint and Daphne’s is so stark it’s like you’re reading a completely different novel. The language and tone changes so distinctively that you are pulled in again with renewed interest just as the novel was starting to lose your interest.

As a newbie in this category of a psychological thriller I would definitely recommend this for an interesting read!

4/5 Stars

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Recipe: Vegan Friendly – Lemon Cupcakes

Finally another recipe!

This time I had a craving for lemon cupcakes since I love lemon related bakery goods.

Above are the ingredients you will need.

Below is the exact amounts needed:

1 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour (220g)

1 cup (200g) sugar

1 tsp baking soda (or 3x the amount of this, if using baking powder)

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup (240ml) soy milk

1/3 (80ml) vegetable oil

1 tbsp white vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tsp lemon extract

Did not have lemon zest (if do, another 2 tsp of lemon zest)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 180 degrees 

Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and add the sugar, baking soda and salt. 

Then add the soy milk, vegetable oil, vinegar, vanilla, lemon ingredients. 

Whisk briefly with a hand whisk to combine properly and remove any lumps

Line a cupcake tray with cupcake liners and divide the batter between them

Bake for 25-30 minutes until a toothpick or knife inserted into the centre comes out clean

And voila.

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Book Review: Losing My Inhibitions – Finally free and ready to have fun

Plot:

A year after leaving her controlling ex, Roxy’s divorce is finally official. She’s got her confidence and career back on track and is ready to start enjoying some no-strings-attached fun.

But just when Roxy thinks she has her dating plan all mapped out, a hot younger single man unexpectedly appears. On paper, he sounds like exactly what Roxy’s been looking for, until she’s warned that he’s strictly off limits. Getting involved with him will put her career, home and everything she’s worked for in extreme jeopardy. There’s a million reasons why Roxy shouldn’t give into his charms. The trouble is, he’s just too tempting…

Will Roxy take a chance and risk it all to pursue a forbidden fling? And if she does, can she find a way to let him rock her world, without turning it upside down?

Losing My Inhibitions is a sexy, laugh-out-loud, romantic comedy with a modern twist, which is about self-love, new beginnings, forging your own path in life and being true to yourself. It can be read as a standalone novel or as a prequel to The Middle-Aged Virgin and Only When It’s Love. Ideal for fans of Sophie Kinsella, Marian Keyes and Lindsey Kelk. 

Review:

First of all, big thank you to Olivia for sending me this novel in exchange for an honest review.

Are you seeking a new, fresh voice of funny, romantic fiction? Here we go.

Losing My Inhibitions was a brilliant read and in some ways, it was spooky the comparisons between Roxy’s life and those in the past.

This book is very understanding as it is about having a new start – at any age.

Roxy is starting a fresh chapter in her life. At forty-one and newly divorced she is finding herself for the first time in years. She is very ready for love and eager to live life to the fullest. Then, life throws her a sexy curveball. However, with all ball sports, there is always the danger of getting hurt.

Colette (boss) has given Roxy her job and put her up whilst she is finding her feet again. Of course Roxy feels she owes her boss for all the help given. She is working flat out on the Northern Beauty Live! Exhibition and when Colette agrees to get her help she can’t believe her luck. But when her boss reveals this to be her son (the baby boy in all the photos on Colette’s desk) Roxy’s earlier happiness quickly dissolves.

Colette’s son, Finn, tries to ‘break into’ his mothers home and comes face to face with a semi-naked Roxy they both know working together is going to be different than expected. Finn is no longer a baby boy instead, he has turned into a ripped, gorgeous and charming man. He is the toy-boy she’s been looking for but the one she can’t have.

In order to keep her job and her friendship with the woman that saved her in a time of crisis Roxy knows she will have to keep focused but can she do that and more importantly does she want to? Is Finn the answer to the fun she needs?

A brilliant and saucy read with cringe-worthy moments captured perfectly and genius comedy that had me laughing out loud. You can really hear the personality coming out throughout the writing which is refreshing. You have been warned if you read this on the bus prepare for funny looks, I am serious.

I can’t wait to see what Olivia Spring creates next! I love that the characters in this novel is relate-able. I cannot wait to get my hands on Olivia’s other novels if they are as good as this one.

4/5 Stars

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Book Review: Something in the water

Plot:

If you could make one simple choice that would change your life forever, would you?

Erin is a documentary filmmaker on the brink of a professional breakthrough, Mark a handsome investment banker with big plans. Passionately in love, they embark on a dream honeymoon to the tropical island of Bora Bora, where they enjoy the sun, the sand, and each other. Then, while scuba diving in the crystal blue sea, they find something in the water. . . .

Could the life of your dreams be the stuff of nightmares?

Suddenly the newlyweds must make a dangerous choice: to speak out or to protect their secret. After all, if no one else knows, who would be hurt? Their decision will trigger a devastating chain of events. . . .

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to dig a grave?

Wonder no longer. Catherine Steadman’s enthralling voice shines throughout this spellbinding debut novel. With piercing insight and fascinating twists, Something in the Water challenges the reader to confront the hopes we desperately cling to, the ideals we’re tempted to abandon, and the perfect lies we tell ourselves.

Review:

I first discovered this novel when looking up Reece’s bookclub books. Otherwise, this would not be my usual cup of tea.

I never really got into thrillers when I have attempted reading them. So, I guess there is a first for everything. I enjoy when novels are from the main character’s point of view. This novel has been thoroughly researched which you can clearly tell when you are reading it, from learning how to use guns, investment banking, the art world, the list goes on.

It took me a little while to get into this novel, which I think was due to me not having read much of thrillers.

A little background into the newly weds; Erin and Mark: Erin writes documentaries for a living, whilst Mark is an investment banker for the first few chapters of the novel. The author makes it very clear that he is handsome and loved by everyone. Newly weds going on their honeymoon, so much in-love – or so it seems from Erin’s point of view. Erin goes on about having a family. Later, whilst scuba-diving in Bora Bora, they discover something in the water that has the potential to change their lives forever. It becomes clear fairly quickly that they have gotten themselves into a boat-load of trouble.

One decision after another, they seem to have it all planned out. The problem is that sometimes Erin’s curiosity gets the best of her (more like her naviety as you soon learn) and it was times like this where I just want to scream at her. I couldn’t take it! There were parts in the novel where I just couldn’t stand her character and wanted to shake the idiot. It’s these events, however, that move the plot along and make it interesting. Not only that, Mark can be a jerk when he wants to be and I had a hard time figuring him out in the beginning. This novel had me questioning and suspecting everyone for something at some point. I had many theories.

After the first big introduction, the novel starts out slow and boring and gradually just keeps getting better. It takes me age when I first read a novel that’s what I hate about beginnings like that, although you’re left to wonder about Erin’s character throughout because of it. I don’t like when it shows you the future then it goes back. I’ve noticed that in last year’s Reece’s bookclub choices. Although by the end, the ending was fairly predictable and I could see where it was going, need something new.

The author spent a lot of time rambling Erin’s idiotic thoughts at times, of course when you use a gun without a safety option it won’t be safe – I don’t need remindings of this for another 20 pages. However there are some quotes I did enjoy and found interesting:

“I feel like people place too much emphasis on where we come from and not enough in where we’re going to”

You don’t sign up for certain things without knowing the rules, Erin. And if you’ve signed up for the game, then you can’t complain when you lose. You got to lose with dignity is all; a good sportsman always lets people lose with dignity

Personally, I found that the last one to be a dig at Erin, even if the theory isn’t correct on that one, it still applied to her. Especially when reflecting upon this novel.

There were too many details at times as it was not relevant, especially towards extra characters. With that said, I did still enjoy the book and there were a few times where I was on edge. I was very anxious a few times in the story. If you like thrillers, I would recommend you give this one a try!

4/5 Stars

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Book Review: From Scratch

Plot:

It was love at first sight when Tembi met professional chef, Saro, on a street in Florence. There was just one problem: Saro’s traditional Sicilian family did not approve of him marrying a black American woman, an actress no less. However, the couple, heartbroken but undeterred, forges on. They build a happy life in Los Angeles, with fulfilling careers, deep friendships and the love of their lives: a baby girl they adopt at birth. Eventually, they reconcile with Saro’s family just as he faces a formidable cancer that will consume all their dreams.

From Scratch chronicles three summers Tembi spends in Sicily with her daughter, Zoela, as she begins to piece together a life without her husband in his tiny hometown hamlet of farmers. Where once Tembi was estranged from Saro’s family and his origins, now she finds solace and nourishment—literally and spiritually—at her mother in law’s table. In the Sicilian countryside, she discovers the healing gifts of simple fresh food, the embrace of a close knit community, and timeless traditions and wisdom that light a path forward. All along the way she reflects on her and Saro’s incredible romance—an indelible love story that leaps off the pages.

In Sicily, it is said that every story begins with a marriage or a death—in Tembi Locke’s case, it is both. Her story is about loss, but it’s really about love found. Her story is about travel, but it’s really about finding a home. It is about food, but it’s really about chasing flavor as an act of remembrance. From Scratch is for anyone who has dared to reach for big love, fought for what mattered most, and needed a powerful reminder that life is…delicious.

Review:

I dislike novels that are heavily promoted and tend to only be famous due to their marketing. As they tend to lack in quality.

Tembi Locke definitely has a way with words. With the opening beautiful prose, she weaves a tale of love and loss, jumping back in forth in time from when she first meets Saro, to the present day when she is learning how to live without him. She discusses the obstacles overcame as Saro’s traditional Sicilian family disapproved of his relationship with an American black woman, and the long, painful fight they endured as Saro battled cancer. She describes the joy they felt as they adopted a baby girl, and the paralysing grief as she watched him take his last breath. She details the growth of her relationship with Saro’s mother, and how Sicily became a second home to her.

I found this to be such a touching story. One about love and loss, family, and learning to move on in the wake of insurmountable grief. Tembi makes us fall in love with Saro and mourn his passing. She makes us feel anger at his family for being so incredibly narrow-minded and traditional to the point of losing their son. She also educates us on Italian and Sicilian culture and perhaps most obviously, makes us hungry for the authentic Italian cuisine.

This is the first memoir I have read, and although at times I thought this novel felt a bit repetitive it was still an interesting read.

3/5 Stars

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Book Review: The second chance teashop

Plot:

Following the tragic death of her beloved husband, Anna Hemingway decides it’s time for a fresh start. So Anna and her three-year-old daughter Ellie move to a picture-perfect cottage in the beautiful village of Little Somerby, and when she takes over the running of the village tea shop, Ellie and Anna start to find happiness again.

But things get complicated when Matthew Carter, the owner of the local cider farm, enters their lives. Throughout a whirlwind year of village fetes and ancient wassails, love, laughter, apple pie and new memories, life slowly blossoms again. But when tragedy strikes and history seems to be repeating itself, Anna must find the strength to hold onto the new life she has built.

This beautiful, life-affirming debut novel marks the beginning of the Little Somerby series, and promises to make you smile, cry, reach for a cream tea, and long for a life in the perfect English countryside.

Review:

I loved Anna, Merry, and Ellie most in this cute little read! Matthew, on the other hand, I was going back and forth between loving and hating. The hating was sealed for me after the “mistake” he supposedly made and made worse for the way he treated Anna. This man was not good enough for caring Anna. 

However, with that being said this is a light, sweet romance story set in a cosy little village, it is good for a summer read with an adequate ending. The characters are real and believable. Overall, the story was entertaining enough, but the story is too predictable and a bit too much sex for this light read.

3/5 Stars

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Book Review: When Sally Comes Marching Home

Plot:

In 1945, World War II is ending. For Major Sally Honeychurch the war is just beginning.

Major Sally Honeychurch has spent two years as an agent behind enemy lines. Now the war is over, the women who risked their lives are no longer needed. Sally is back in civvy street, haunted by the French Resistance lover who died in her arms. 

When terrorists smuggle an atomic bomb into London, the Head of MI6 urgently summons her for one more mission. Sally has inside knowledge few possess. She was there when the first atom bomb was assembled and detonated. 

Sally is the only woman among hundreds of soldiers and intelligence agents hunting the terrorists. And she uncovers a clue to their identity that will rock the establishment to its foundations. To save London, she must not only track down the conspirators, she must also battle the prejudices of the men in charge.

Review:

Major Sally Honeychurch had fought in World War 2. Then, as it was coming to an end she like all women did get dismissed. Settling into normal life again she gets recruited for a new task. Again degraded for being a woman she is given a job she is overqualified for but she’s not a woman to do what she’s told and follows her own leads finding her very own evidence regardless of being ignored, shun and dismissed.

This isn’t my usual cup of tea if you see the fluffy books I tend to read however I found this to be an intriguing read. It took me a little while to get into due to this however, from the start I enjoyed the main character, Sally. She is not afraid to do as she pleases and is great at what she does which are qualities I really admire. For example, when a threat is in her city she does not stop to put herself forward to really fight for her city.

This novel is set during a male-dominated era therefore with this novel being focused on a woman’s point of view, the author wrote this in a powerful, strong point of view from a woman. I found this novel to be intriguing because you are being put through this era with a few cliffhangers after enticing chapters.

Therefore, I would recommend this novel to anyone that is into historic reads, or if you want to read from the perspective of a female lead.

Thank you to the author Richard Milton for sending me a free copy for an honest review.

4/5 Stars

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Book Review: Next Year in Havana

Plot:

Havana, 1958. The daughter of a sugar baron, nineteen-year-old Elisa Perez is part of Cuba’s high society, where she is largely sheltered from the country’s growing political unrest – until she embarks on a clandestine affair with a passionate revolutionary… Miami, 2017. Freelance writer Marisol Ferrera grew up hearing romantic stories of Cuba from her late grandmother Elisa, who was forced to flee with her family during the revolution. Elisa’s last wish was for Marisol to scatter her ashes in the country of her birth…

Review:

New favourite author alert!

I really learnt a lot reading this book. I’m not going to lie, it is pretty political and I wish I spent more time researching a few things to help my understanding however at this time I did not have the luxury of time. That’s another thing I love about reading, it educates you.

The story is a mixture between the Havana of the late 1950s with Cuba on the brink of revolution, and modern-day Havana following the death of Fidel Castro. It centres around two women; nineteen year old Elisa who is forced to flee Cuba during the 1959 revolution; and Marisol, Elisa’s granddaughter who returns to modern-day Cuba to scatter her grandmother’s ashes following her death only to discover deep family secrets.

Elisa is the daughter of a sugar baron and sheltered from the political unrest sweeping her country until she falls in love with Pablo, a revolutionary close to Castro. Marisol is a Cuban-American, who grows up hearing the romantic stories of Cuba from her grandmother and clearly identifies herself as distinctly Cuban; that is, until she experiences first-hand the personal, political and sometimes dangerous struggles of Cubans today.

I loved how this novel was written I found it so compelling and insightful. It have a beautiful and romantic cover which I loved! This, is a gripping read that gives the world an authentic insight on what it is to be Cuban. Thanks to Reece’s Witherspoon’s Book clubs reads.

5/5 Stars

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Book Review: The Seduction Expert

Plot:

She’s the seduction expert.

Women contact her to take over their love lives. She steps in when they’re lost, she’s supposed to succeed where they failed. She handles their single status, their relationships, their breakups, and very often their partners’ affairs. Her job is a life priority, she spends most of her time at the office or between two flights in business class and the fact of having a sports car that can reach one hundred kilometers in less than six seconds often make her feel like a superheroine in service to women.

Anyway, take her card.

You’ll see, it’s much better than spending holidays in St Barts.

Review:

First, big thank you to VSP publishing for sending me this read in exchange for an honest review.

The Seduction Expert, The Baroness, is a powerful and very conceited woman who has designed her company and services in favour of the rich, yet poor women of Paris. Lately, I have been seeing novels and tv shows alike in favour of being a dominatrix. This woman is very happy to spy, humiliate and destroy, the husbands of Parisian wives who do not treat the women in their lives nicely, all for a very high price, of course.

I initially went into this novel a little unsure as I had a feeling it would be an interesting read and I was not disappointed. The Baroness’s personality is quite strong which is easy to see based on the words she uses, you can sense that strong-ness. This novel is a Parisian romance with its target audience being towards feminists.

As the Seduction Expert, she has expertly captured the attention of a man named Louis Beaumont, who is from one of the wealthiest families in Paris. Not long they are due to marry, her mother in law, gives her an ultimatum; ditch Louis and her climb up the social ladder or her mother in law will destroy her.

Even though she’s not in love with Louis, The Baroness has carefully formed a meticulous plan on how her marriage to Louis will bring about her reign of the world. Giving him up is simply not an option.

I definitely recommend this interesting read if you are looking for something new to read with a great way of writing.

One of the quotes I enjoyed:

“You will get a new lease on life, you’ll be full of joy and energy, you’ll become more beautiful, more fulfilled, more assertive, and you’ll thank me because you will then experience the most beautiful moment in your entire life”

The only thing I didn’t like was the ending. The conclusion was rushed considering the build up that was set from the beginning it made the finishing touches a tad disappointing. However I would enjoy to see that happens next in this series.

4/5 Stars

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Book Review: If you could go anywhere

Plot:

Angie has always wanted to travel. But at 29, she has still never left her small mining town in the Australian outback. When her grandmother passes away, Angie finally feels free to see the world – until she discovers a letter addressed to the father she never knew and is forced to question everything.

As Angie sets off on her journey to find the truth – about her family, her past and who she really is – will enigmatic stranger Alessandro help guide the way?

Review:

In the mood to travel? Well, get into it because you are coming across many cultures in this one. Perfect summer read! 

I decided to really take in this novel. Every single chapter, short or long. Contained important elements to the story that made you stop to think and really take it in. To take in this adventure Angie (Angel) embarked on. 

This novel has been thoroughly researched and it was overwhelming at times with the amount of characters mentioned on a regular basis in this novel however I really enjoyed it. 

At the start, I was trying to get used to reading “Dugout” as I continuously thought “cave” in my head. 

I really enjoyed the soap opera banter between the restaurant staff and how Angie came in to save the day. Theresa and her dagger stares. Oh the hissy drama was entertaining. Stefano and Alessandro. Her relationship with her new father and his side of the family. Exploring Rome with Alessandro the lone wolf was very exciting as we got to see a soft side to him. 

Overall I think this novel is different from the majority of Toon’s other novels as they usually have the girl meets guy, girl travels to guy, dilemma. Yes I hear how this sounds and you’re thinking this is the same. But it’s different this time. Or is it? I feel like it is. Apart from the fact this novel is based about Italy there is something about this novel that is more different in comparison to the rest of Toon’s novels (the majority I have read) because I didn’t get the vibe of: give me something different. Instead, I found myself reading this book all the time whilst trying to slow myself down so I enjoy this journey to Italy for longer. 

Favourite quote: “I can go anywhere now. I’ve never felt more lost.”

5/5 Stars. 

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Book Review: Molly’s Millions

Plot:

Hard-up florist Molly Bailey has just won £4.2 million pounds in the National Lottery. And she needs to get rid of it – fast!

Tom Mackenzie is on the verge of losing his job. He needs one hell of a story if he hopes to secure his future in journalism.

With Ebenezer Scrooge for a brother, and a strong belief that sharing her good fortune is the only way forward, Molly unwittingly becomes the most sought-after person in the country as, in true Robin Hood style, she distributes her wealth to the masses.

With only her terrier pup, Fizz, for company, Molly embarks on the journey of her life, crossing the country in her trusty – or should that be ‘rusty’? – yellow Beetle. But with Tom Mackenzie hot on her heels and the nation on the look-out for her, Molly must outwit them all if she’s to achieve her grand finale.

Will she succeed before her family and the media catch up with her? And with Tom leading the pack, would that really be such a bad thing…?

Review:

What would you do if you won the lottery?

This novel has been on my TBR for quite a few months! 

I was not sure what to expect. Initially, I was reading and I was like: okay, enough of the story, let’s get to when you’ve won it since it is the plot. 

I like the contrasts: how Molly has came from a very stingy family. Yet, as soon as she got into this money her first actions was to get a companion; a dog from the shelter. Then, off Fizz and Molly where to the roads. Stopping by places in desperate need of a godsend of money. It’s amazing how peoples’ lives can be changed by some money. How happy it can make them. Molly realised this and wanted to spread her wealth as she believed there is a certain amount needed: to cover yourself, family and friends. However, the rest was excess and she wanted to get rid of it quickly before her family found out!

That is, until a reporter catches tail of this and manages to track her down and follows her trail!

I found this story to be an adventure with all the characters involved. Seeing the different points of views and dramas that are in everyone’s lives. It can be entertaining at times and I found it difficult to put down as I kept wanting to find out what happens next. 

Although, with fortune comes fame. With fame comes scandals! You would expect Molly to try to avoid this however, with some people she just spread herself a bit too easily which made her private life easy for the nation to find out about too. 

Yes, she is young and is doing no harm however, after drinking too much you lose your concentration and sleep with people you didn’t even intend on sleeping with and of course drinking too much was the blame to Molly. Well, if that is the case, don’t drink so much if you do not want your story of your personal life in the papers. Just pointing out the fact that her naivety of trusting someone to not steal, gain fame from her shouldn’t be used as an excuse to complain after accepting her decisions. Don’t drink if you’re going to make idiotic decisions that lead to consequences like that. 

Apart from that, I enjoyed the message of being kind. Truly kind of not expecting anything in return. All she wanted to do was spread her wealth to those that really needed it without asking. 

4/5 stars 

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Pros and Cons of Having Two Jobs

Last summer, when I originally wrote this post however I never got around to posting it. It was around a few weeks into having two jobs I thought this would be a great discussion!

I had recently came into a full time job, was in the process of quitting my part-time job. Then accepting a new part-time job on top of it as I was applying for everywhere. So, I thought why not? Let’s see how this will go. I was working over 60 hours per week over the summer on average.

Here is the post as it was written during the time, enjoy.

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To make money, you obviously have to work for it. At least, that is how most people see it. So far, from a personal point of view it has only been a few weeks but I’ve already found some pros and cons.

Let’s start with the cons:

  1. Stress comes into everyone’s lives at different times. However, when working two jobs, that stress can build on any other stress you have. Having to deal with two completely different jobs and people at the same time can be overwhelming. Sometimes, it is okay to take a step back and breathe. Knowing you do not have time for many of the activities you were able to do before because of two jobs can also add stress and make you feel overwhelmed, but it is okay. After working two jobs for about a month now, I’m still stressed and overwhelmed with the amount of activities I still need to get done. It’s just a matter of taking it one step at a time.
  2. Less time for yourself. With two jobs, chances are you are going to be working literally every single day, with the exception of requesting days off. You barely have time to do anything you really want to do. You are pressed for time, day in and day out. When I wake up every morning, I only have time to get up and get ready for work. Then, when I get home, I eat my dinner, prepare anything I’ll need for the next day, shower and go to sleep. The odd evening you may have free and find yourself wondering what to do with your time since you’re used to always being busy!
  3. Worn out. Between working everyday and sometimes working doubles, one can easily be worn out. Having two jobs can really drain you of your energy. Standard 9am-5:30pm and late nights will make you lose sleep, causing you to be more tired. The more and more tired you are, the more irritable you may become. It is best to try your hardest to get the most sleep you can every night. 

Pros

  1. Job skills. Not only is this good on a CV, but it will give you a chance to figure out more skills you have in certain areas of work. This will also give you more experience in the work field and help you build your resume. People want to hire others with experience and having said experience will help you overall in getting a well paid job in the area you want to be in.
  2. Money. Everyone wants to make money and with two jobs, it’s just well… double that amount. And let’s be real, everyone wants more money. Having more money will help you be able to pay bills, if any, or really help you save up quicker for something you want.
  3. New people. If you are a person that enjoys keeping yourself busy as well as meeting new people of all sorts this will DEFINITELY be a pro!

Having two jobs has its ups and downs, but as long as you are strong-willed and determined, you will be able to handle both at the same time and love that moment you tap into your bank account every time you get paid. It all really depends on who you are as a person to see if you will be able to handle it and see if it is really worth it.

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BookClub Reads: You are a bad ass : how to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life

Plot:

In this refreshingly entertaining how-to guide, #1 New York Times Bestselling Author and world-traveling success coach, Jen Sincero, serves up 27 bite-sized chapters full of hilariously inspiring stories, sage advice, easy exercises, and the occasional swear word. If you’re ready to make some serious changes around here, You Are a Badass will help you: Identify and change the self-sabotaging beliefs and behaviors that stop you from getting what you want, blast past your fears so you can take big exciting risks, figure out how to make some damn money already, learn to love yourself and others, set big goals and reach them – it will basically show you how to create a life you totally love, and how to create it now.

By the end of You Are a Badass, you’ll understand why you are how you are, how to love what you can’t change, how to change what you don’t love, and how to use The Force to kick some serious ass.

Review:

First, I would like to say that this novel is very positive and helps towards positive thinking, especially if you happen to read it when you’re having a difficult week. This novel like a few self-help / life novels I’ve read this year has captivated my attention and inspires me to question life, actions, and innovation.

Some of my favourite quotes in this read:

Most people are living in an illusion based on someone else’s beliefs

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration

The universe will match whatever vibration you put out. And you can’t fool the universe

Any sort of mental barriers that are holding you back from achieving your goals is who this novel is for. Therefore, it applies to everyone at some stages in their lives. I enjoyed the American language that was clear to see as well as the idea of the universe and how the law of attraction is how you get your way. It is true! despite those that may be narrow-minded and not see that this is the case in how you change your way of thinking to get what you want. Like if you see yourself not living in your current Town and see yourself living a city, your thoughts will make it happen. This novel was more clear in how you get there.

5/5 Stars

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Strawberry Flavoured Water – Underrated

Strawberry water looks so pretty. I’m a sucker for pretty things in general!

It is also so delicious.

I never really thought too much about it until a trip recently. As well as being told it isn’t too strong of a flavour – just an extra element. So I tried it on my trip away since there wasn’t much point buying dilute for a few days away. I also realised there is really good benefits to it as well as its taste!

Immune System / Preventing Inflammation – Even if you have a very strong immune system it does not hurt to continue improving it! The anti-inflammatory properties of strawberries help protect your cells from damage as well as helping the immune system fight off an infection (currently still trying out this benefit as my mixture sore throat type infection I have has not disappeared completely). However, apparently the strawberries help as bacterial or viral infections can cause a high level of inflammation, this slows down your immune system here preventing it from becoming well again. Eating a lot of strawberries can speed recovery. 

Minimise Appetite – High Fibre content. Strawberries can absorb water and slow down digestive processes while expanding the stomach. This sends multiple signals to the brain, reducing cravings. 

Lower Blood Pressure – Strawberries has many benefits for your heart, one being it being that it lowers your blood pressure which could improve on your overall health. 

This drink is now my new favourite for daily use! What type of drinks do you drink for a bit of flavour?

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Book Review: The Library Book

Plot:

On the morning of April 29, 1986, a fire alarm sounded in the Los Angeles Public Library. As the moments passed, the patrons and staff who had been cleared out of the building realized this was not the usual fire alarm. As one fireman recounted, “Once that first stack got going, it was ‘Goodbye, Charlie.’” The fire was disastrous: it reached 2000 degrees and burned for more than seven hours. By the time it was extinguished, it had consumed four hundred thousand books and damaged seven hundred thousand more. Investigators descended on the scene, but more than thirty years later, the mystery remains: Did someone purposefully set fire to the library—and if so, who?

Weaving her lifelong love of books and reading into an investigation of the fire, award-winning New Yorker reporter and New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean delivers a mesmerizing and uniquely compelling book that manages to tell the broader story of libraries and librarians in a way that has never been done before.

In The Library Book, Orlean chronicles the LAPL fire and its aftermath to showcase the larger, crucial role that libraries play in our lives; delves into the evolution of libraries across the country and around the world, from their humble beginnings as a metropolitan charitable initiative to their current status as a cornerstone of national identity; brings each department of the library to vivid life through on-the-ground reporting; studies arson and attempts to burn a copy of a book herself; reflects on her own experiences in libraries; and reexamines the case of Harry Peak, the blond-haired actor long suspected of setting fire to the LAPL more than thirty years ago.

Along the way, Orlean introduces us to an unforgettable cast of characters from libraries past and present—from Mary Foy, who in 1880 at eighteen years old was named the head of the Los Angeles Public Library at a time when men still dominated the role, to Dr. C.J.K. Jones, a pastor, citrus farmer, and polymath known as “The Human Encyclopedia” who roamed the library dispensing information; from Charles Lummis, a wildly eccentric journalist and adventurer who was determined to make the L.A. library one of the best in the world, to the current staff, who do heroic work every day to ensure that their institution remains a vital part of the city it serves.

Brimming with her signature wit, insight, compassion, and talent for deep research, The Library Book is Susan Orlean’s thrilling journey through the stacks that reveals how these beloved institutions provide much more than just books—and why they remain an essential part of the heart, mind, and soul of our country. It is also a master journalist’s reminder that, perhaps especially in the digital era, they are more necessary than ever.

Review:

This novel beings as a memoir in which we learns about the author’s introduction to books and libraries by her mother. As an adult, Orlean was brought to the LA Central Branch library by her son’s school project. During this visit, Orlean learned about the destruction of the LA Central Branch by fire in 1986. She wondered why had she never heard about this event.

The memoir slowly turns into a crime investigation. The fire occurred on April 29, 1986. It burned for over 7 hours. More than twenty people were injured and over fifty firefighters hospitalised. One million books were damaged, some beyond repair and other contents of the library destroyed irreparably. Fire investigators from both the LA Fire Department and the Federal Department of ATF concluded that the conflagration was caused by arson.

This is the story of a library that is more than just places for the storage of books. The LA Central Branch, has become a learning centre for new immigrants, refuge for the homeless and so fourth. It is a place for everyone. Who would want to destroy such a place?

I found myself intrigued by the diversity of the collection of novels it has as well as learning more on how a library is run as it is the place of novels for everyone so of course, as a reader it is interesting to read about.

Another element of this novel is that it is a romance – a love of books. Books not only teach, but transform our worlds. Libraries provide the raw material for our knowledge and transformation be that through hardbacks, paperbacks, e-books and so fourth. I loved this quote: “a library is a place that doesn’t belong to me, but feels like mine…marvellous and exceptional.”

This novel is for all readers alike as you will become captivated by the story and the author’s passion of books which we can all relate to in some way.

5/5 Stars

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Book Review: Daisy Jones & the Six

Plot:

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

Review:

This is a unique book. It is not terribly deep but the story pulls you in and tries to make you care a lot.

The writing is odd. It reads more as a script. This novel is written as a set as a series of interviews years after the events retelling the story of the band. The interviews are stitched together to create the story arc. As for the characters, they annoyed me as they are very cliché. You have the; cool diva star, controlling and flawed band leader, difficult lead guitarist, annoying bassist, and wacky drummer. However despite all of this ,they formed well together as a group.

I don’t really have many thoughts on this novel maybe I am just not a band-reading person. However I will say it is probably a great read for those that love these types of novels.

2/5 Stars.

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New Schedule

So, a little update on how my new current schedule will be as I am currently in the middle of a few things. 

For a student that travels quite often during her final year of her University studies I somehow manage to maintain excellent marks as well as maintaining an online schedule for both my blog and instagrams. As well as undertaking important networking events through my University as well as my part time job and growing as a person in my spare time. 

I have had a good schedule of this so far however, I need some sort of break. Between trying to always read a book within a week and writing detailed reviews it can be difficult to manage all of this that I have going on therefore, there are two solutions, to pack it in for a short while or to minimise my posts. 

After this month I am aiming to read two new books per month as well as discussions on my the topics of my thoughts. Along with the occasional recipe and life post as I have been to quite a few places this season. 

The reason for this now? 

Between, focusing on the beginning of the start of the next chapter in my life which will eventually bring new found freedom in a new place for a good bit of my time currently – I have to put more focus on that as well as my new graduate position which both in itself are new challenges. 

I was going through some of my writings and discovered a post I had made last summer about having two jobs, one being a full time job and another being part-time and the pro’s and con’s so I will be uploading that later on this month. I am also taking time to focus more on my writing which I hopefully can talk about more so towards the end of this year.

What are your goals for this month?

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Book Review: The Night Tiger

Plot:

When 11-year-old Ren’s master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.

Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother’s Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.

As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

Review:

This novel is based on a murder mystery set in Malaya in the 1930s. There is a LOT of superstitions about death which is mentioned in this novel. 

Character wise: Choo has her characters named after the five Confucian Virtues and their stories are brought together by fate. From the start, we are told one of the main characters Ren has a dead twin brother Yi. Ten is the virtue of humanity. Yi is righteousness. Ji Lin is named for knowledge/wisdom. I thought the retelling of dreams would be interesting however I did find the writing style could have been improved for the – not older audience but for those that need attention to detail. 

Ren is orphan who’s master is a dying British doctor who leaves a mission for Ren – to find his lost finger and bury it with the doctor within 49 days or his master’s soul will never be at peace. 

Ji Lin works in a dance hall (moonlighting at night) as she is trying to pay off her mother’s debt. One of the guys she dances with gives her a glass vial with a finger in it. This guy died shortly after. 

Choo’s plot intertwines the fate of these two characters. These characters are interesting the way they are described and written however the length of this novel did put me off at times. The novel shows an overlap of the British colonial rule on an Eastern society at this time as well as an ancient culture in which values are sometimes at odds with modern life. I like how Choo created a detailed environment that shows the ancient superstitions and how they can live with modern medicine and policing. 

3/5 Stars


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BookClub Reads: Sweet Tooth

Plot:

Ian McEwan’s first female protagonist as far as I am aware. This novel is the ultimate seduction. 

Cambridge student Serena Frome’s beauty and intelligence make her the ideal recruit for MI5. The year is 1972. The Cold War is far from over. England’s legendary intelligence agency is determined to manipulate the cultural conversation by funding writers whose politics align with those of the government. The operation is code named “Sweet Tooth.” 

Serena, a compulsive reader of novels, is the perfect candidate to infiltrate the literary circle of a promising young writer named Tom Haley. At first, she loves his stories. Then she begins to love the man. How long can she conceal her undercover life? To answer that question, Serena must abandon the first rule of espionage: trust no one. 

Once again, Ian McEwan’s mastery dazzles us in this superbly deft and witty story of betrayal and intrigue, love and the invented self.

Review:

I enjoyed this novel. With McEwan, the novels are about the; writing, words, and the power of words. It is a lot to take in, but it is worth it.

Serena is a young woman whom stumbles into her new career. By stumbles I mean she is ‘groomed’ into it by an older man, a teacher who has actually brain washed her to do everything he wanted. I did not like that Serena spent a good portion of the start of this novel going on about this creep. Yes, it is naive and easy to see how she was manipulated as she is reflecting upon her younger years at the start of the novel. However, how foolish she was! I wish I could shake her at times.

Later on, she hopes for an assignment that will extend past the usual fate for MI5’s women of secretarial work. 1972, it does not seem too long ago, yet from these descriptions it seems like a much longer time difference. The repeated theme of how women cannot possibly have high-powered careers past filing. Yet, one of the women in the MI5 office is moving up fast through the ranks, and Serena notes that eventually Millie would become director of MI5.

It was interesting to learn that the setting of this novel is not so fictional. There have always been various arms-length or secret funding of arts organisations and individuals that will promote views sympathetic to those of the ruling classes.

Overall, I really enjoyed this read, it was very insightful and gripping. Definite must read.

5/5 Stars

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Book Review: Ivy Lane

Plot:

Tilly Parker needs a fresh start, fresh air and a fresh attitude if she is ever to leave the past behind and move on with her life. As she seeks out peace and quiet in a new town, taking on a plot at Ivy Lane allotments seems like the perfect solution.

But the friendly Ivy Lane community has other ideas and gradually draw Tilly in to their cosy, comforting world of planting seedlings, organizing bake sales and planning seasonal parties.

As the seasons pass, will Tilly learn to stop hiding amongst the sweetpeas and let people back into her life – and her heart?

Review:

Someone that doesn’t know about gardening – be prepared to convert. Even in the slightest. Bramley makes it sound so fun and interesting. To sum it up, gardening is about hard work, reward for patience, accomplishment, peacefulness, and a sense of community. 

Bramley is creating a build up – slow that for some it can be difficult to see. However it is most noticeable when Tilly puts on a dress for the first time in almost two years and is awaiting to tell her best friend about her past (James) however of course there is a sudden delay. 

Cathy draws out all sorts of emotions, annoyance at Charlie at one point for how he behaved towards Tilly. Love towards some for friendship and love. Sadness for some characters. I really enjoy Bramley’s writing style. I cannot find a fault with it. 

I love how the folks at Ivy Lane got judgemental, even Tilly when some people arrive later on the seasons however, following some good advice Tilly learns to trust and not judge after hearing some peoples stories. Even bringing back characters we have not met, with their background story we are reminded to not judge so harshly on people. 

I really enjoyed this book throughout and my journey with Tilly throughout her development. I cannot find any faults with this book, 5 stars and to my favourites it is.

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Book Review: The Sea

Sunset Reads

Plot:

In this luminous new novel about love, loss, and the unpredictable power of memory, John Banville introduces us to Max Morden, a middle-aged Irishman who has gone back to the seaside town where he spent his summer holidays as a child to cope with the recent loss of his wife. It is also a return to the place where he met the Graces, the well-heeled family with whom he experienced the strange suddenness of both love and death for the first time. What Max comes to understand about the past, and about its indelible effects on him, is at the center of this elegiac, gorgeously written novel among the finest we have had from this masterful writer.”

Review:

Max Morden is a recent widower working through his relationship with his wife, Anna, and with his daughter, Claire, whilst trying to understand some events from his childhood. I found myself wading through descriptions in order to get on to the story. This for me was rather annoying as I found myself becoming impatient at the author. However, Max Morden was a man very confused about love. His relationship with his wife was not perfect, nor was it broken. Max loves his daughter, but does not know how to express his love for her.

I did enjoy how the story moves back and forth through time and events, relatively easily. Showing Max’s shifting thoughts and attention. I enjoyed the elegance of Banville’s writing style, although I found it broke up in too many parts therefore, never really found the rhythm in the writing style which is the true enjoyment for me. Overall, I had mixed feelings for my response to The Sea as Max Morden was about love. This was my first by Banville so maybe another novel might help.

3/5 Stars