A Weekend in Budapest

My four days in Budapest seem like a long time ago now. In actual fact it was over a month ago! I honestly don’t know where the time has gone. But I’m here now to finally share my thoughts on this Hungarian city.
To start with let me say that I didn’t know what to expect from Budapest, we booked this trip four months in advance and yet I did very little research. I maybe spent an hour browsing online to get some ideas and then asked some friends their thoughts. Which, while helpful, really wasn’t how I wanted to prepare for this Budapest trip. But that’s just the way it goes.
Luckily we had three and a half days in Budapest so we spent the first afternoon wandering around and getting our bearings, and then had a lazy first morning making plans for the rest of the time. If you’re travelling with a group of people to a new city it’s nicer to make plans once you’re there, rather than having one person dictate everything to everyone. Or at least that’s what I’m going with!
  
Rather than share everything about our trip I thought I’d highlight my favourite places. These are the parts of Budapest that I would recommend to other people if I knew that they were planning a visit.

The House of Terror Museum

The House of Terror contains exhibits relating to the communist and fascist regimes of twentieth century Hungary. It’s also a memorial to the victims. The museum is housed in the same building that the secret police used during these regimes. The museum takes you through different rooms detailing what the victims of these regimes went through. I’m not going to lie, it’s a sobering visit. But I think it’s worth visiting to understand what Hungary went through in the not so distance past. I would say that the communist regime takes up a huge chunk of this museum, which while absolutely fascinating did have me questioning the unbalanced split.
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Castle Hill and Buda Castle

Buda Castle sits high on a hill on the Buda (west) side of the city, the whole area around the castle is called Castle Hill. You can take a funicular up to the castle or you can buy a ticket for a hop on hop off trolley bus that has stops going all the way up Castle Hill. This means you can jump on and off and fully discover the castle area. This is what we did. We also walked back down the hill once we’d finished as we couldn’t be bothered to wait for the bus or funicular. Castle Hill is filled with winding streets and colourful building. Along with Buda Castle there’s also the stunning Matthius Church and Fisherman’s Bastion. The views from the Bastion are stunning, you can see across the river to Pest and further afield. We spent a good two hours wandering the cobbled streets of the hill area and discovering all the marvellous things.

Margaret Island

 Margaret Island sits in the middle of the Danube River which splits Budapest in two. With Buda to the west and Pest on the East. This island has only one road so it’s pretty much closed off to cars. Instead you can only cycle or walk around the paths of the island. There’s a thermal bath complex, a ruined chapel and plenty of parkland to uncover, if you do decide to explore. We visited when they were setting up for a half marathon the next day, so some of the paths were blocked. But we did find delicious ice cream, the ruins and plenty of blossom trees. Next time I think we’ll hire bikes and explore the island even further.

Parliament

Hungary’s parliament building sits on the Pest side of the river. It’s a stunning gothic inspired white building with a red roof (the picture above!). Apparently it’s based on the British Houses of Parliament which makes sense when you compare the two. We didn’t go into the buildings but you can join guided tours to see the interiors.

City Park

City park is a giant green space in the Pest part of the city. Right next to Heroes Square it has miles of tree-lined paths, a lake, a zoo, museums and also houses the Széchenyi thermal baths. It’s the perfect place to visit on a warm day. We ate lunch in the park overlooking people rowing around the lake on our first full day.

Jewish Quarter

The Jewish quarter of the city is a warren of roads filled with eateries and pubs. It’s an excellent way to spend an evening. We ended up eating in this area on two of our three nights in the city. The area is also well known for it’s ruined bars, basically abandoned buildings or lots, that have been turned into bars. The oldest and most well-known is Szimpla Kert, which also has a Sunday market which we stumbled into on our last day. We had planned to visit the ruin bar decorated with junk on Saturday night but on our way there we stumbled across Karavan street food and ended up eating and drinking there instead. I highly recommend you give this place a visit. So much good food.

Top tips for Budapest

Now we’ve got the places out of the way here are a few other things worth mentioning.
Walk, walk, walk. It’s a great way to see the city and Budapest is actually pretty easy to get around on foot. We did over 22,000 steps each day and that was with plenty of cafe stops and a chilled out morning/afternoon nap. Also, if you’re up for it then go for a run around the city, my dad and I went for an easy 2.8 miles on Saturday morning and it was a lovely way to see the city. We headed out just after 9am when the city was still waking up. Which meant hardly any cars and no people on the streets. We ran along the river, which is my favourite thing to do, and obviously stopped for pictures along the way. My Dad got so used to waiting for me that he even started pointing out good photo opportunities!
It’s cheap. Like super cheap. For example a ticket to the House of Terrors museum is 3000 HUFs (Hungarian Florints) which is about £8. And I know that London museums are all free but £8 is a lot less than other museums I’ve visited over the years. Transport is also really cheap and you can buy batches of tram or bus tickets.
Street food. There is so much street food in Budapest. From chimney cakes on street corners to organised areas in the Jewish Quarter. The highlight for me was the langos. This is what I went for on our last night when we visited the Karavan street food area. It looks a little like a pizza with a fried bread base and then lashings of sour cream and cheese on top. It may sound a little odd but it’s absolutely delicious and definitely worth trying if you visit.
So there we have it, a very long post all about our Budapest tips. I hope that these were useful
Laura xx

Friday Favourites #119

 

Happy Friday team! I hope you’ve all had the loveliest of weeks in this glorious sunshine? Hasn’t it been the dream? I’ve had a bit of a week, which I think was made worse by the fact that it was my first full work week for six weeks. I honestly don’t know how I’ve coped! *winks* Anyway, let’s not dwell on the rubbish, let’s jump straight in to all the good stuff, it’s a Friday favourites post after all!

So first up on the Friday favourites post is that this week I tested myself a little and decided to be vegetarian for the week. And actual it wasn’t too bad and not nearly as bad as I thought it would be! I did have one slip up, on Thursday when I didn’t pack lunch and promptly forgot my veggie plan and bought a ham and cheese baguette! But other than that one blip I’ve eaten no meat this week and I’ve not even missed it that much. I will do a proper post about what I’ve eaten instead, but really the main thing was about making salads more interesting and not just lettuce leaves!

In other foodie news, Lau treated us to doughnuts on Wednesday and it could not have been more needed. Or more delicious. I love that I live with someone who gets what I need after a bad day. FYI if you’re ever near Doughnut Time then you MUST try their party ring inspired doughnut. It looks like a party ring biscuit and even has two of them decorating it, plus it’s vegan. How cool is that?!

Also this week, the blossom has been insane. I Mean, just look at the pretty!

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Lau and I made a bit of a pact last weekend, which is that we need to get back into exercising regularly. We’ve talked about it loads and have been meaning to start it for like the last six months, but for whatever reason (let’s say laziness hypothetically…) it just hasn’t happened. But this week we’ve made the concerted effort to get up at 6am and do some form of exercise before work and it’s worked three times this week we’ve been jumping around to a HIIT workout or swimming in the pool by 6.30. And I feel so much better for it! Yes I’ve been achy, but also I’ve been reminded of what my body can do!

Another thing making the Friday favourites list this week: catch ups with lovely people. Firstly with my old work colleagues, who I first met ten years ago. We spent saturday afternoon feasting on a delicious veggie (and cake) spread and catching up on all the things. We’ve started to make this a yearly catch up and it’s so nice just to natter away for the whole afternoon. I am so lucky to have met them in my very first ‘proper’ job! Also in the lovely catch ups category this week we have an evening in North London with a friend who’s over from the States. We caught up, met her two kids (and got cuddles) and all while eating yummy food.Seriously, if anyone has need for a delicious pizza place in Hornsey let me know. We found an incredible place!

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This weekend I’m finally getting my first barbeque of the year and I’m beyond excited about it! Obviously I’m looking forward to the company and the people, but also ALL THE FOOD! Lovely salads, lamb burgers, ice cream, grilled prawns and Bombay sausages. Yeah for Sunday! But first I have a day of shopping, lunch and catch ups with a friend. I can’t wait to!

What are your weekend plans team, tell me all about them!

Books Everyone Loves That I’ve Not Read Yet

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Have you noticed that there’s a level of expectation that if you’re a reader then you must have read certain books? Normally the ‘worthy’ books or ones that appear on the ‘must read’ lists. I have and if I’m really honest, it does my head in! I read a lot but it’s usually a mix of new and older books. So there’s just not time to read everything. As such there are some serious holes in my reading – and to be fair a lot of those holes are books that I do really want to read. I just haven’t got to them yet. However there’s always real surprise when I mention I’ve not read something that’s deemed a classic or something that apparently everyone’s read or someone’s absolute favourite book. Here are just a few of the books everyone loves that I’ve not read yet:

The Secret History by Donna Taart

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

Coraline by Neil Gaiman

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

The Lord of the Rings by J. R. R. Tolkein

The Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness

So yes there are some absolute classics in there, I do know that. I will read them eventually – I just haven’t yet and this is for two reasons. One: I get really stubborn when people say I have to read something. And I’ll put off reading that book for a while longer, no matter how much I really want to read the book. and two: I just have so many books on my TBR pile. At last count, and after a big book cull, I had 100 books on my shelves (real and digital) that I still need to read. Crazy I know.

Despite these reasons, I do really need to read some of those books as they just sound so darn good! Also I want to be able to have an opinion about these books and to be able to join in with conversations about them. I also don’t want to have to hide from all the spoilers out there, especially when these books become TV shows!

Tell me, are you like me? Are there any books everyone loves that you’ve not read yet?

-Fi x

Friday Favourites #118

I actually have no earthly idea how it got to be Friday already! Seriously where is the year going? Someone make it stop! Because while I have some epic plans for this year I do also want to savour the year and right now that doesn’t appear to be happening. But I’m not here to complain. Instead let’s discuss happy things. Specifically, the wonders of my week. I have to admit when I say down to write this I was feeling particularly bleurgh as I’ve had a very busy week. But then I started thinking about my highlights of the last seven days and I was automatically buoyed and cheery again. So hurrah for that! And that is the one reason I write these posts, so that I remind myself of those little highlights even in the less good weeks.

A bank holiday. If we are talking about highlights from my week then obviously the long weekend has to factor in. I had a lovely three day break. Did some jobs, saw some people, relaxed. It was the perfect mix.

Bluebells. The bluebells are out in full force right now. On Sunday I was back in Surrey walking with some of favourite people (and dog). We found so many bluebells, and my photos do not do them justice. Also we had a picnic – hashtag goals.

 

 

Slow cooker pulled pork. Possibly my favourite thing. We had this for dinner on Monday night, and then leftovers for lunch on Tuesday and Wednesday. The recipe is here if you fancy it.

Space Spectacular. So this hasn’t happened yet, but it’s tonight’s plan and I’m excited so I’m including it here! I’m off to the Royal Albert Hall for a night of classic music. The only thing each piece has in common is that they have something to do with space. I’m intrigued to hear all the different pieces together.

Meet me at the Museum. I finished this book yesterday and it was the perfect read. It takes the form of letters between two people and it’s a lovely story. Honestly I could have read their letters forever.

 

 

Packed lunches. Old school I know, but I love making a packed lunch for work. This week Fi made a giant batch of this salad and we’ve had it for the last three days with other fridge leftovers. So so good. I think I will always have food as a highlight in these posts!

Catch ups with friends. Last night I met up with an ex-work buddy for pizza and wine and all the talking. It’s the first time we’ve got together since she abandoned me for more exciting work things, so definitely a week highlight.

How has your week gone? Any particular highlights to share as we head into the weekend?

Laura x

Pulled Pork

Hello all. Recently I wrote a blog post about how I felt I wasn’t blogging as much because I didn’t know what to write about. In that post I said I’d start sharing recipes again, so that’s what this is. It’s for one of my favourite meals – pulled pork. Isn’t pulled pork a glorious thing? There’s something so delicious about the pulled meat when it is perfectly tender. It’s something I opt for if I eat out, but until now, it wasn’t something that I cooked. All that changed when my friend suggested it as an easy slow cooker recipe. After all we all know how much I love a slow cooker recipe! So after a bit of a research I’ve come up with this super simple recipe that is guaranteed to get your mouth watering.

 

 

Ingredients:

pork shoulder / four chopped garlic cloves / salt and pepper / 200g barbecue sauce / one can of diet coke

Recipe:

Remove the excess fat from the joint / mix together the chopped garlic, salt and pepper and rub over the meat / place the joint into the preheated slow cooker / pour the diet coke over the meat / cook on high for two hours / after two hours remove the meat from the slow cooker, it should now be falling apart (cook for longer if it’s not) / remove the joint from the slow cooker and pull the meat apart / remove most of the juice from the slow cooker, leaving just one third of it in the slow cooker / return the pulled meat to the slow cooker / pour over the barbecue saw / cook for thirty minutes / remove and serve.

We’ve cooked this so much in the past two months, it’s definitely become a weekend staple. There’s something quite wonderful about pottering around the house on a Sunday as it cooks in the slow cooler. The delicious aromas manage to make their way throughout the house.

Often times slow cooker recipes are quite autumnal or wintry, but this pulled pork recipe is perfect for the warmer months too. As there as so many options for how to eat it. You can have it cold with a salad or piled into a roll with some crispy onions, tomato and guacamole. Or have it warm with some rice, make a burrito bowl or turn it into enchiladas. My current favourite way of eating the pulled pork is just with some soft tortillas and a pile of salad. But I’m sure that will change soon!

What are your favourite slow cooker recipes for spring and summer?

Laura xx

Recent Reads 2018, Part 3

Hello everyone, how are we all today? Welcome to part three of my 2018 recent reads. With the publishing of this post I have read and reviewed 29 books this year. So I am well on my way to reading 50 books in 2018. These last few weeks have seen a slow down in my reading, part one contained eleven books, part two ten, and this recent reads part there is only eight books. I think it’s to do with some travelling and busier weekends now that the sun has started to shine for us.

 

 

Black Cats and Butlers (Rose Raventhorpe Investigates, #1) by Janine Beacham **** 4 stars

This is the first of three books in the same series on today’s recent reads list. Yes they are kids books, and no I don’t care. These are the perfect read while I wait for my favourite mystery writers to get their next books to me. These books are ones that I would have liked to have read when I was growing up. I would have loved to go to the library and hunt out the next Rose Raventhorpe tale. Rose Raventhorpe is the daughter of a Lord and Lady, living in Yorke during the Victorian times. When someone close to her is murdered Rose takes it upon herself to hunt down the murderer. She’s helped by a secret society who are known as the guardians of Yorke and what follows is a delightful romp around the cobbled streets of Yorke.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden *** 3 stars

Fi had been telling me for ages to read this book, so I finally listened! We follow Vasya who lives with her Dad, Stepmother and siblings in the Russian wilderness. Vasya can sense magic and see demons all of which are frowned upon by the church. So in case you couldn’t guess, it’s a Russian folklore/fantasy read with a feminist twist. It took me a little bit of time to get into it, and I wasn’t as obsessed as I had expected to be, but I did enjoy it. I was intrigued by the characters and I do want to read book two soon.

Rubies and Runaways (Rose Raventhorpe Investigates, #2) by Janine Beacham **** 4 stars

Book two in the Rose Raventhorpe series and this time Rose is investigating the kidnap of children from an orphanage. There’s some excellent characters introduced in this story, good and bad. Full of adventure and mystery it was definitely good to be back with Rose and her friends.

 

 

The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green **** 4 stars

Having just finished Sally Green’s Half Bad series and loving it, I jumped at the chance to get my hands on an early copy of The Smoke Thieves via NetGalley. The Smoke Thieves is set in a fantasy world of four kingdoms. We follow the individual stories of five teenagers; a princess, a traitor, a thief, a soldier and a demon hunter across these kingdoms. It’s obvious from the start that these five stories will eventually combine, so I spent a lot of the book trying to figure out just how that would happen. I have to admit that I found this quite slow to start, but in the second half things kick off and I found myself hooked in and wanting more. It’s a great start to the series and I’m intrigued to read the next one.

*I received a copy of this book from the publishers in exchange for an honest review*

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweer by Jamie Ford ***** 5 stars

This book was sent to me by an Instagram friend as part of a book exchange. She lives in Seattle and wanted to send me her favourite book which happens to be set in her city. The book follows Henry, a Chinese-American boy, and Keiko, a Japanese-American girl, during the internment of WWII. It’s a period of history that I really don’t know much about, but I found it utterly fascinating, and also devastating. If you haven’t read it, run and find a copy now. It’s my favourite book of the year, no contest.

 

 

Run Riot by Nikesh Shukla **** 4 stars

I’m a big, big fan of Nikesh Shukla. I devoured The Good Immigrant and I’m patiently waiting for the imminent arrival of The Good Journal later this year. So when I heard that he had written a YA book centred around people living in a block of flats, set in real time and involving teenagers standing up for themselves and their community I was instantly intrigued.

The book starts with friends Hari and Jamal witnessing the murder of a local man, soon Hari and Jamal are on the run from the police alongside Hari’s twin sister Taran, and Jamal’s girlfriend Anna. The book becomes a race to save themselves from their hunters and share what they witnessed with the rest of the world. I raced through this book in just a day and I would happily have read more if it was available.

Hounds and Hauntings (Rose Raventhorpe Investigates, #3) by Janine Beacham *** 3 stars

Rose Raventhorpe again! I picked this up as I couldn’t get into my other book and I knew that I had an hour train journey to get through. Which is the great thing about these books, at 280 pages they are an easy read, and I was over halfway through by the time I reached my destination.

In Hounds and Hauntings we follow Rose as she investigates whether it’s really a ghost dog that is attacking people in the narrow cobbled streets of Yorke. Once again I really enjoyed this story, however it’s only a three stars because there was some bad editing in the book. At the final showdown we suddenly see a character that had previously been confined to a hospital bed. Somehow they made a miraculous recovery for the big explanation before promptly being back in hospital in the next chapter. So yeah, that’s irritating. But other than that, I’m a fan!

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood **** 4 stars

So I completely recognise that this is considered a modern classic which means it’s a little bit of a travesty that I am only now reading it. There’s no excuse as to why it’s taken me so long to pick it up. It just never happened. But when it was book of the month at work I grabbed a copy and then used the latest bank holiday to read it.

And wow is this disturbing?! I mean I knew it would be but knowing it and reading it are two very different things. The Handmaid’s Tale follows Offred and her life as a handmaid in The Republic of Gilead. In this dystopian world handmaid’s have only one purpose, to breed. Offred must supply the Commander and his wife Serena Joy with a child. If she succeeds she will move onto the next Commander, if she fails she will hang on the wall or be pushed out to deal with the radiation clean up. What a choice! This book is devastating and hideous and also utterly unputdownable.

So there you have it, my recent reads from the last four weeks. What have you all been reading recently? Have you read any of the books in this post, if not which ones are you most intrigued by? Don’t forget to join me over on GoodReads if you want a more up to date look at what I am reading.

Laura xx

Where to Brunch in Streatham

It’s a bank holiday weekend which makes today’s post the most perfectly timed ever. Today I’m talking about brunch, more specifically my favourite places for brunch in Streatham. Brunch is my favourite meal, whoever invented it is probably my favourite person of all time. Yes, really! Brunch to me is a meal worth taking some time over. It’s an opportunity to refuel, to spend some time catching up with friends, to just pause and enjoy life.
But why do I love brunch so much? There are two reasons. First it’s because on weekdays I am rushing to work and then eating at my desk so a long lazy weekend brunch is pure decadence. And the second? I think it’s because I’ve been having Sunday brunch for as long as I can remember. As a child we often had a proper cooked breakfast for Sunday brunch, it would be the one day that everyone took it a little slower. We’d have bacon, poached eggs, breakfast saute and beans mid-morning and then a roast dinner in the early evening. In between the two meals there would be gardening, or a family walk in the woods, hockey matches or shopping trips. Talk about the most perfect (food) day. And also an excellent memory, so of course I want to try and recreate that feeling as often as possible.
I’ve lived in Streatham for almost three years now so I’ve eaten a lot of brunches in this area! The following list is my current favourites. Although if feels like there’s constantly somewhere new to try, so don’t be surprised if there’s a new version of this list out before the end of the year! So without further ado let’s dive into Streatham’s best brunch places.

The Blackbird Bakery

So the Blackbird Bakery is relatively new to Streatham. It started out life as an East Dulwich market stall and has grown into seven stores around South London. Once you taste their bread you’ll understand why. As well as a sit-down area you can head to the counter and buy the breads and cakes on display. Something I highly recommend. We often pick up a sourdough loaf and it lasts for the whole weekend.  If you do sit in for brunch then you won’t be disappointed. I can highly recommend the eggs or the pancakes. Plus the juices and coffee are perfect. Also it is always worth checking the special board – I devoured a delicious plate of french toast a few weeks back, which I am still dreaming about!

The Railway Tearooms

The Railway Tearooms is part of the pub with the same name opposite Streatham Common station. This is my local pub/tearooms and brunch spot and it’s a place I visited a lot while visiting estate agents and traipsing around what felt like every house nearby. In fact I distinctly remember sipping iced coffee and sharing a caramel brownie with Fi before viewing our current house. For brunch I always go for the vegetarian breakfast roll, it’s a brioche roll filled with a cheddar & spinach patty, cheese and a fried egg. It’s messy to eat but tastes delicious, especially with a side of bacon and a flat white to wash it all down. In the summer you can sit outside in the beer garden too, which is a lovely way to start the day.

Brickwood

This one is another chain in South London, these cafes are Australian themed and serve brunch classics and Australian favourites. I’ve been to the Clapham one a few times, so when it finally came to Streatham I knew that I would definitely be frequenting it. With my cousin visiting last weekend we popped up to Brickwood and had a proper breakfast feast. All three of us opted for the french toast, mine with bacon and the other two with stewed banana and strawberries. Basically we had to go for the same thing, as no-one wanted food envy! Alongside coffees and juice, we also shared a Tim Tam muffin. Because Tim Tams are an Australian classic and this muffin needed to be sampled.

The Mere Scribbler

This pub opened near the common a few months ago and since then I’ve visited quite a few times. The roast dinners here are so good, the decor is fun and the well-placed TVs are always showing sport. The brunch menu is so good here. The eggs are perfect, and the breakfast wrap looks, and sounds, amazing. Although I’ve not actually had an opportunity to try said wrap yet, I will do soon though!

So there we have it. My top four places for brunching in Streatham. Have you ever visited Streatham? Does this brunch list tempt you? If you’re ever my way then let’s definitely get a brunch date in!

Laura xx

Friday Favourites #117

Happy Friday team – and how are you all today? I’m currently in Manchester getting ready for a wedding, which is making me very happy. So that’s point one on today’s favourites list, that’s for sure!

Also making the cut on this week’s favourites list is a bookish event that I attended this week. It was with the incomparable Louise O’Neill to hear about her latest book The Surface Breaks, one of my favourite books of the year so far. Louise was in conversation with Emma Gannon and it was a brilliant event all about feminism and fairy tales. Plus I got to take home the gorgeous final book – I mean, just look at it!

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Another thing making me happy this week is the lovely sunshine. Yes I know it’s still super cold, but I don’t mind that so much when there’s also blue sky and sunshine for us to enjoy. And in even more exciting news the weather looks set to be incredible over the weekend too. Hooray for that!

Last sunday I headed back to the Surrey countryside to meet up with my oldest friends with a dog walk and all the food and it was just the nicest. I really should do simple things like that more often shouldn’t I? Getting out in the fresh air with good friends and discussing all the things. It’s what weekends were made for I’m sure!

Another thing from the weekend that has made the favourites list today is the most incredible brunch at Brickwood on Saturday. My cousin was staying for Cursed Child (SO GOOD) and so we decided a treat was in order on Saturday morning. Cue a delicious brunch of toasted brioche with caramelised bananas and strawberries. Oh my it was good. I want to eat it all day every day. Is that allowed do you think?

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Finally, rounding out my favourites list is the long weekend. There’s nothing quite as good as a May bank holiday is there? And when you extend it with the Friday off too you know it’s going to be good! Obviously I’m up in Chester celebrating the nuptials of my lovely friend today and tomorrow and then it’s back down to London for a day of family stuff before Monday arrives and I do a day of absolutely nothing. I can’t wait!

I hope you have something excellent planned for the long weekend – tell me, what are you doing!

Fi x

April Reads

Happy Tuesday team and how are you all today? I’m very surprised that we’re already into May but happy that the first May bank holiday is fast approaching. So you know, it’s all about the good and the bad today! Without further ado, shall we jump straight into my latest book update? This one is all about my April reads. Spoiler, there are some great reads in today’s post!

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April Reads #1 – The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

I’ve been the biggest Katherine Rundell fan for a few years now, ever since I read her first novel The Rooftoppers. A beautiful tale that instantly reminded me of classics like The Little Princess and Eva Ibbotsen’s glorious books. Unsurprisingly I adored her latest novel, a stunning tale set in the Amazon rainforest and following a group of children who have to work together to get back to civilisation after their plane crashes. From page one you’re instantly immersed in this Amazonian world and heading on a glorious adventure. The descriptions are so vivid that you can see the rainforest and Amazon river as if it were right in front of you. And Rundell somehow manages to make the fear and hope palpable on every page. It’s really incredible. I adored this book.

April Reads #2 – The Power by Naomi Alderman

The Power has been out for ages and has received incredible reviews from day one, as such I refused to pick it up until I really, really wanted to read it. As I know what I’m like. If something’s getting amazing reviews and has incredible buzz I invariably hate it! I think that’s because I build it up too much in my head and it can never meet my high expectations. Thankfully I left it long enough with The Power as I really enjoyed it. I did find it slow to start with but at about 50 pages in I was hooked. This is a really timely tale about what would happen if women suddenly came into an incredible power that allowed them to hurt and even kill people with a touch of their hands. How would their power change them, how would they rule the world and what would society be like. It’s such interesting examination of feminism, power and equality and I loved that it was told from multiple perspectives. Definitely worth the hype.

April Reads #3 – A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab

I’ve had book one of this trilogy on my Kindle for ages thanks to a 99p deal a few years ago and I’m so pleased I’ve finally read it as it’s just brilliant. It tells the tale of a thief and a magician trying to save the world as we know it by hopping into lots of different alternative versions of London. Who can they trust and will they have the power to save everything they hold dear? It’s so good, and also hilarious. I definitely had a book hangover after finishing this one. Also, this is the first time I’ve regretted my book buying ban this year as I couldn’t download book two straightaway. Woe is me.

April Reads #4 – Let Me Lie by Claire Mackintosh

I’m a big fan of Claire Mackintosh’s thriller’s and this one was so good. I was hooked from page one and I could not finish it fast enough. I love how you never know who to trust in Claire’s books and that you’re faced with twist after twist after twist. It tells the tale of Anna whose parents both killed themselves within weeks of one another, or did they? A year after their deaths she is sent a letter saying that it was murder. Was it? And if so can she find the truth about what happened? Who can she trust? And is she perhaps in more danger than she could ever imagine? So, so good.

April Reads #5 – Drink, Eat, Run by Bryony Gordon

I love Bryony Gordon and thinks her honesty is so refreshing. Her book about her mental health, Mad Girl, was one of my favourite reads of last year, so I was eagerly awaiting her newest book – out in May – which is all about her journey from non-runner/alcoholic/heavy smoker to marathon runner. Again Bryony’s written a supremely honest and inspiring book. However I didn’t feel like I learnt a lot about her journey that I hadn’t heard about in her newspaper column or podcast, which was a shame. But it’s still super inspiring and reminds me how good it feels to get outside and get running.

April Reads #6 – The Smoke Thieves by Sally Green

I was very excited to start Sally Green’s new series and I was not disappointed. The premise of demons with smoke with special powers is super intriguing. The book is instantly gripping, thanks to an enthralling demon chasing sequence at the start. I raced through this book, I think mainly due to the short chapters from multiple character’s perspectives. The five main characters are all so different – some likable, some not. Annoyingly at times it felt like this book was just a set up for the next book, which I know has to happen at the start of a series, but still I wish it had more of its own resolved story. However this is still a great book and I’d highly recommend. I can’t wait for book two – there’s so much potential for what could happen next!

April Reads #7 – The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris

This book was simply incredible. It was equal parts harrowing and hopeful. Beautiful and horrific. It’s a tale of true, incredible love, under the most unimaginable circumstances between two incredible humans. This book was unputdownable. I read it under 24 hours.

This fictional tale is based on the incredible true story of Lale, a hero, who was sent to Auschwitz near the start of the war. While they he fell in love with a fellow prisoner and also become the tattooist of the camp. He was responsible for tattooing every prison on their arrival. Because of this job he was given some perks – extra food, more freedom, his own room and as such he could share some of his good fortune with others. From sharing his food, getting medicine for the sick and even asking favours from the guards. The things he did to help others are incredible and it’s such an inspiring read. To know that people like Lale existed and helped others even when he was going through a horrific time is so inspiring. You must read this book.

April Reads #8 – Monster Orphan Spy by Matt Killeen

Monster Orphan Spy is a YA book about a Jewish teenager who is orphaned and then rescued by a strange spy who turns her into a spy and sends her into a Nazi boarding school. It’s a little far-fetched, but the levels of detail about Nazi Germany is incredible and you can tell a lot of research has gone into this. Sometimes the writing was unnecessarily descriptive and long, but overall it’s a good read. I think this is helped by our main character, Sarah, who is a well written, feisty character. I did enjoy this book, but definitely felt it could have been better.

So there we go, those are the books I read in April. Definitely some very good reads! Tell me, what was your favourite read of the last month?

-Fi x

Thoughts on Blogging: What to Write

thoughts-on-blogging

 

This thoughts on blogging post has come about as I realised that things have been quiet around here recently. There isn’t really a reason to why that is, other than neither of us have felt like blogging. Firstly I think the dark depressive weather that we experienced in the first few months of the year meant that all I wanted to do was read a book or go on a long winter walk. Sitting in front of my laptop for any amount of time was just too much.

Secondly I feel like right now I don’t have much to say. I sit down to write a blog post and my brain is suddenly blank. Like there is absolutely nothing in there! I think I’m over thinking everything. But that means I’m forgetting why I blogged in the first place, which was just to write and to share my favourite things or places I’ve visited or books I’ve read. So this post is a reminder of that, a general brain dump of my current thoughts on blogging if you will.  I’m going to remind myself why I started this blog in the first place, so that when I have these unknown moments I know where to turn to.

Life lately posts. These are the ones where I talk through what I’m been doing recently. They start off as a list of doing words (reading, writing, watching, baking) and they turn into a highlight reel of my last couple of weeks. Not only are they fun to write but they are also easy to throw together and they make me stop and think about what I’ve been up to recently.

Book reviews. I love writing my Recent Reads posts. There’s something calming about sitting down and reminding myself of the books I’ve read. It’s good to sit and form thoughts around each book and pinpoint what it was about each one that I enjoyed, would have changed, would recommend to others. Writing this list has reminded me that I’m due to write another one soon – watch this space as they say!

London posts. I don’t remember the last time I wrote a post about my London adventures so it must have been awhile. I live in such a beautiful city and I have so many wonderful experiences, yet I’ve stopped writing about them! That needs to change as soon as possible.

Recipes. I love talking about food so this is a reminder to share more recipes or restaurant review on here. I tend to hold off on sharing recipes as I am useless at food photography. But actually what does that matter? Who cares if my food doesn’t look good, if I’m writing up a recipe or sharing a good meal on here then the chances are that it tasted delicious and therefore it deserves to be shared.

It’s funny, the act of writing down my thoughts on blogging has given me time to stop and think about things a little, and in doing that I’ve suddenly had a light-bulb moment of loads of posts that I want to write up and share on here. So there we go, maybe all I needed to do was to stop, think and then write about something completely different. Instead of forcing myself to write about a certain thing, a brain dump of what to write about has actually sparked some creativity in my mind. Who’d of thought it?! That should clearly be the first thing every blogger is told. Stop thinking, start writing and everything will become clearer!

Laura xx