The Book Corner: Recent Reads 2017, Part 5


Today’s recent reads post marks the reading of fifty books in my GoodReads challenge. I’ve been doing the GoodReads challenge for a few years now and I really enjoy it. Yes I like the achievement but I also like the record of what I’m reading, and the way that I think about books now. I used to always finish whatever book I was reading, I would never stop halfway through. But with this challenge I’ve realised that life is too short to continue read something that you’re not enjoying. There are so many wonderful books out there, books that will take you on an adventure and challenge the way you think. Those are the books that I want to be reading. So now if I come across a book that I’m not into then, as long as I’ve given it a chance, I’ll give up on it. This has happened to me a few times this year and I’ve embraced it. Who knows I may one day go back to those books and finish them, but for now they can sit on my couldn’t finish shelf.

Behind Closed Doors by B. A. Paris

I had very high expectations for this book, as I remember it being a highly talked about book a couple of months ago. And I think that is probably the issue here, I was expecting too much, and it just didn’t live up to my expectations. It’s a psychological thriller, but it really didn’t work for me, it was a little too much I think. That being said do give it a go if that’s your sort of thing.

The Seven Sisters by Lucinda Riley

Next up on my recent reads list is the first in a series of seven(!) by Lucinda Riley. This one has been on my Kindle for a while and it seemed like the perfect gentle read after the events of Behind Closed Doors. Seven Sisters focuses on Maia D’Apliese as she gathers with her five sisters at their family home after the death of their adopted father. From there we follow Maia on her hunt for her biological family. We visit Paris and Rio de Janiero in the late 1920s to learn the story of her heritage. It’s a great read and a wonderful tale that weaves through history. The remaining books in the series follow the other sisters in their own journeys to discover who they are.

 

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King’s Cage by Victoria Aveyard

This is book three in the Red Queen series and a grieving Mare is being kept prisoner by Maven. Meanwhile the red rebellion is regrouping and preparing to fight. This is another epic tale from Aveyard and it had me wishing to have book four in my possession. If you’re looking for a YA novel with adventure, superpowers and war then this is the series for you.

The Girl Who Takes an Eye for an Eye by David Lagercrantz

I spotted the next book in The Millennium series in the airport on my way to Faro, so of course I had to purchase. I’m a huge fan of this series and Lisabeth Salander as a character. We need more characters like her with an unshakeable search for truth and justice, and without a need to please people. As with the other books I raced through this one in no time at all. It’s my favourite kind of beach read. I don’t want to say too much more here, as I don’t want to ruin anything if you haven’t read The Hornet’s Nest. But basically go read that and then this and then we can talk about what happened and why I’m a little heartbroken….

Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas

Following along on the YA theme of King’s Cage is another epic YA series with a powerful female lead. With this book we are well into the series now and I can’t explain how excellent this series is. I would absolutely love them to create a TV series of this as I think it would work so well on screen. I firmly believe that if the main protagonist in this book was male, instead of female, then the series would be far more lauded than it is. Honestly the level of storytelling puts it way above something like Game of Thrones, and we all know how obsessed everyone is by that book series and show.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Before this book I’d only read Matt Haig’s Christmas books, because I’m a Christmas book person! That’s not to say that I haven’t wanted to read others, I’ve just not gotten around to it.

Anyway, How to Stop Time was another airport purchase. Yes, I took my Kindle and two other books with me and I then bought two more at the airport. That’s just how I roll! How to Stop Time follows history teacher Tom who seems to be your average 41 year old. Except he’s actually been alive for centuries, from witch hunts to befriending Shakespeare and playing the piano in 1920s Paris. Tom tries not to fall in love and tries to keep his secret, all while searching for someone he lost a long time ago. I thought this was a beautiful book, and I implore you to read it. I’m definitely planning to read more from Matt Haig, so look out for his other books in future recent reads posts.

 

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Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend

This book completely deserves the hype that it’s getting. It’s a children’s book about Morrigan Crow, a cursed girl who is set to die on her eleventh birthday. But then just before her birthday Morrigan meets the mysterious Jasper North who whisks her away to Nevermoor. Adventure awaits as she competes to enter the mysterious Wundrous Society. This book is chocked full of magic, mystery, suspense and adventure. Jessica Townsend has created an enchanting world of magic and I cannot wait to read the rest of this series.

You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris

Anotine Leiris’s wife died at the terror attack on the Bataclan Theatre in Paris. This book is how he coped with that tragedy, it’s really a long essay that takes us through that time and shares how he coped. It’s an unforgettable memoir that shows one man’s response to hate.

The Storm Sister by Lucinda Riley

So this is book two of The Seven Sisters series that I mentioned near the beginning of this very long recent reads post! The Storm Sister follows the same timeline as book one but follows Ally, Maia’s younger sister. Ally’s search for her family takes her to Norway and to the history of one of Norway’s most famous composers. Just like The Seven Sisters this one weaves wonderfully through history to create a fascinating story and a gripping read.

Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie

This is a classic who dunnit set on the Orient Express. A murder takes place overnight while the train is in the middle of a snowdrift. This is possibly/probably my favourite Poirot book of all time. The characters, the story, the setting, the big reveal, I loved it all. It’s so clever! There’s a film version of this one coming soon so I’m excited to see how this works on the big screen. Plus the cast list is amazing. As always I am reminded just how much I love Christie’s writing, I will read all of her stories one day.

 

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Nomad by James Swallow

This is book one in what I know is going to become one of my favourite series. It’s a dark twisty thriller set in the world of government agencies and counter intelligence. Marc Dane is a MI6 field agent who survives an attack during an operation. Suddenly he’s on the run, trying to prove his innocence and attempting to stop an attack on a major city. He gets help from Lucy, a member of the mysterious Rubicon Group, and it becomes a fast-paced hunt to find the truth. This is exactly the kind of thriller I love. It reminded me a little of I am Pilgrim with all the different paths, and people that the book encounters. If you are a fan of those sorts of books then you must add it to your TBR pile.

If You Tell Me to Come, I’ll Drop Everything, Just Tell Me to Come by Albert Espinosa

This book had been sat on my desk for a few weeks, when I finished Nomad and needed something thin to take with me on my commute one evening. Basically I was meeting people for dinner and I knew I’d be early, so a new book was needed. But I didn’t want anything too big. One because I’d have to carry it! But also because I wanted to get started on The Midnight Peacock as soon as possible!

Anyway, cue this one from Albert Espinosa making its way onto my recent reads list. It opens with Dani’s girlfriend leaving him, and him receiving a phone call about a missing child. Dani has spent his life searching for missing children so is soon on his way to Capri to help the distraught father. The trip to Capri also starts to stir up memories from Dani’s own childhood. This book is very different to anything else I read. And I think that’s why I liked it. The way the story weaves from the present day to Dani’s past is really well done, and each chapter seems to move seamlessly into the next. I also like the chapter names as it gives a glimpse into what’s to come in that section.

The Midnight Peacock (Book Four in The Sinclair’s Mysteries series) by Katherine Woodfine

So my final recent reads for this post is The Midnight Peacock which is the final book in The Sinclair’s Mysteries. Set in Georgian London we follow detectives Sophie and Lil as they solve mysteries surrounding their workplace; Sinclair’s department store. I mentioned this in my last Friday Favourites post, which tells you how much I love it. This series is just wonderful. It’s the sort of thing I would have absolutely loved to read when I was younger. I mean I love it now, but it would have been magical to read it as an eight or nine year old! Anyway the way this book wrapped up the mystery of the midnight peacock and the overarching mystery of the four books is perfect. I really can’t sing its praises enough. My only issue is that it’s now all over!

 

Phew! That’s a lot of recent reads for me over the last two months. I guess that’s what happens when you have a week in Portugal. Followed by Autumn hitting and suddenly snuggly sofa evenings are the best way to pass the time. Tell me about your recent reads. Do you have any recommendations for me? As always you can keep up to date with my what I’m reading over at GoodReads here. Also catch up on previous 2017 recent reads posts at the following links (post one, post two, post three and post four).

Laura xx

Life Rambles: Current Favourites on Netflix

I think we can all agree that Autumn is here in full force. I checked by looking out of the window and all the trees are orange or red, there are leaves everywhere and it’s incredibly overcast at only 1pm. So yeah, hi Autumn. About time you arrived! Oh my previous Autumn bucket list post I talked about all the things I had planned for Autumn – one of which was sofa time, and a lot of it! After all Autumn is the perfect time to snuggle on the sofa with a blanket and hot chocolate for a few hours. And while I still want to tick off my Harry Potter rewatch, as discussed, I also want to use Autumn to power through some of my current favourites on Netflix. And hopefully develop a few more favourites.

Current Favourites on Netflix - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

So if you’ve got the same plans here are a few current favourites on Netflix to inspire you. I swear these shows really can’t be beaten and will be perfect for some lovely Autumn sofa snuggle time.

Timeless

The besties were down at the weekend and we watched three episodes in a twelve hour period. Since then I’ve watched another five. So I think it’s safe to say I’m so on board with this show! Here’s the premise: A time machine has been stolen and a mysterious criminal is going back in time to change history. So our three heroes – a historian, a scientist and a soldier – are tasked with following him back in time to stop historical events from being changed. As even the smallest change in history can have catastrophic results.

So far the team have visited the Alamo, the Apollo landing and the day of Lincoln’s assassination. I can’t comment on much of the historical accuracy as I don’t have the knowledge. But the show is fascinating and has the perfect mix of peril, intrigue and comedy. The dynamic between the trio is perfect and the unanswered questions about which side is really the evil one adds a good level of second guessing and has you needing to watch the next episode!

Riverdale

I admit I was sceptical about this one, after all I’m in my 30s should I really be interesting in a comic book adaptation set in a high school with a jock, a bad boy, the preppy perfect girl and the new rich kid? Well I’m glad I gave it a chance as Riverdale is way more than a teen show. It’s a brilliant written mystery show with a real dark side. I genuinely care about what’s going on and I’m intrigued to see what’s going to happen next. Series two opened really well and just when you thought things were going one way they’re not. So if you’re looking for a show about real friendship but set in a dark and twisty town where you can’t trust any of the adults, then this is the show for you.

North and South

I’m a huge fan of this BBC adaptation of one of my favourite books. In fact it’s one of my favourite BBC adaptations ever. Everything about it is perfect. So it’s no surprise that it’s defintiely a Netflix favourite and one I think has to be watched at this time of year! It’s so true to the book, the casting is perfect and the story is wonderful. Plus the four episodes are perfectly weighted – there’s enough time for the story to develop and for each episode to be good in and of itself. No episode is a set up for the next one. They’re all full of meaty story, great characterisation and the most wonderful, and realistic, love story. If you’ve not watched it, do.

Designated Survivor

So yes this is a show about Kiefer Sutherland becoming president when the Capitol is blown up during the President’s State of the Union speech. On paper it sounds weird right, Kiefer Sutherland AKA Jack Bauer as president? But it totally works having him saving the world behind a desk rather than out in the world with a gun and with the clock against him. The show has a great cast, including the magnificent Maggie Q as the lead investigater on who bombed the Capitol. The show is full of twists and turns. But perhaps my favourite part is that it focuses on the idea of becoming President without seeking it. So how do you deal with the power and does it actually make you the best person for the job? So worth a watch!

The Good Place

A recent discovery for me, despite it being a few series’ in. The premise for this show is that Kristen Bell’s character, Eleanor, wakes up in the afterlife to find that she’s arrived in the ‘Good Place’ the part of the after life when the most morally and the best humans end up. The only problem is she wasn’t so morally good in her own life and her existence in the good place keeps ruining things for everyone. Cue giraffes destroying things, a tornado, and much worse. The show is about her learning to be ‘good’ while also investigating why things are going wrong. All without anyone finding out she’s in the wrong place. It’s really good fun and hilarious. Plus with only 2o minute episodes it’s the perfect no-brainer after a busy day at work or a sleepless night. I highly recommend it!

There we go, my five current favourites on Netflix. I do also want to give Mindhunter a whirl as that looks super intriguing. We’ve also watched a couple of episodes of Power, which I’m enjoying. I do need to watch a few more before it’s a definite favourite. I think it’s got potential though!

What are your current favourites on Netflix, anything I need to add to the list for this Autumn? Send me your suggestions!

-Fi x

Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #91

Greetings one and all. Happy Friday! I hope everyone has had a good week? I for one feel like I have finally recovered from my half marathon race. It no longer hurts when I move and I don’t cry at the sight of stairs anymore. So that’s good! As for this week there have been a whole host of wonderful things worth talking about. So grab a coffee and settle down to read about my highlights from this week.

<>Brunch at The Railway Tea Rooms is always a favourite and Saturday’s visit was no exception. Fi and I had visitors for the weekend and they all arrived in time for brunch o’clock. I went for my ‘usual’; flat white and a vegetarian breakfast bap with added bacon (I like the veggie patty, but also BACON). We sat outside and did all the talking. Plus we wanted the tiny toddlers practice their french and waddle around the courtyard.

brunch-table

<>I finished The Midnight Peacock this week. It’s the fourth and final book in the Sinclair’s Mysteries series and it’s a wonderful end to the collection.

<> On Wednesday night Fi and I made salmon faijtas for dinner. So good! We even remembered to pick up soured cream so we were totally winning that night. It’s been a highlight of my week since!

london-theatre

<>The next highlight to talk about is a night at the theatre on Saturday. After feasting at Wahaca my friends and I he headed into the National Theatre to Jane Eyre. Yes, this is the second time that I have watched this, and yes it’s just as good as I remember. Unfortunately we had irritating people sitting behind us who talked through practically the whole thing. But even that couldn’t dampen our glee at the brilliance of the play.

<> I read the following quote in Homegoing (which is my current read) earlier this week and I wanted to share it here. The family is like the forest: if you are outside it is dense; if you are inside you see that each tree has its own position. 

<> Food again! I discovered a new favourite eatery near my office. On the Bab is a Korean street food place and the food is absolutely delicious. I opted for fried chicken on the buns and apart from a bit too much kimchi it was so good. I’m already thinking about heading there again soon.

<> And finally I started a new Netflix series this week and I am utterly hooked. Has anyone else watched Timeless? Not only is there time travel, but it’s stuffed full of mystery, lots of laughs and also all the interesting history to learn (and understand).

So there we have it. A list of highlights from my week. Looking back it’s been quite a good one I think. Who knew!

Laura xx

Life Rambles: Making the Most of Autumn

autumn-time

Now that we are officially in autumn I am trying to make the most of it, basically I’m attempting to reach peak levels of autumn each day. You see I’m a fan of all four of the seasons we get to experience in the UK. To me each have their own special moments. From the balmy long days of summer, to the new life that spring brings. The dark winter nights that are made for curling up under a blanket with a good book or the cooler bright days of autumn. Every season has its own uniqueness that is totally necessary.

I always discuss the different seasons with family and friends in Australia – it’s what I know I would miss if I didn’t live here. As each new season arrives I like to embrace it and experiencing it fully. Each one seems so fleeting, I swear you blink and suddenly you’re in the following season. Anyway, I’ll stop waxing lyrical about my love for all four seasons and jump into sharing how I go about embracing autumn fully.

#1 – Candles

It’s become a habit of mine to get home from work, grab my current read, find a blanket and a sofa and light a candle. It’s a ritual of sorts, one that allows me to relax and chill-out a little before making dinner and getting on with the rest of the evening. Often I find myself casting the book aside and just watching the flickering candle for a few minutes. And just breathing in the delightful flavours of course. My current favourites are a maple syrup one from the US last year and a fresh apple one that I picked up in T K Maxx eons ago.

#2 – Pumpkin

For some reason pumpkins have become synonymous with autumn. I blame America! Anyway, I love all things pumpkin so I’m happy with this and of course am fully embracing it, all in the name of peak autumn obviously! I’ve got pumpkins decorating my house – I have to say they look pretty awesome in the living room, and are making my unfinished fireplace look pretty amazing. I’m also currently limiting the number of slices of Starbucks pumpkin spiced loaf that I am allowed to eat each week. It’s my absolute favourite – those crunchy pumpkin seeds are delicious – but I’m only allowing myself one a week. I probably could eat it every day but my bank and my waistline will not allow it.

 

autumn-my-favourite-things

 

#3 – Autumn Walks

I love a good weekend walk. When I was a child my family would spend Sundays during autumn and winter walking in the woods. We’d traipse through the forest looking for the muddiest puddles and finding the perfect climbing tree or strewn branches to build the best hideout. Now while my activities during these walks have changed, the actually act of going for a walk has stayed the same. Now there’s a dog that bounds along with us/me too, and it’s just as fun. Walks in autumn are particularly special with the leaves changing colour and blanketing the forest floor like a carpet. Plus it’s conker season and it’s also quite mild so there’s no need to wrap up too warmly.

#4 – Recipes

Now in a list about making the most of Autumn there was always going to be a point that involved food. I’m an Evans after all! From apple crumbles to warming soup, crusty homemade bread and pastry topped pies, the food of autumn is what dreams are made of. Over the last couple of weeks I have reignited my love of autumn meals by whipping up some quick pasta bakes, feasting on filling pies and investigating all the new soup flavours that the supermarket has to offer. Plus I have roast dinner plans in the works too. If you want to know some of my favourite warming recipes then check out my top five autumn recipes here.

#5 – Autumn Clothes

New season, new outfits is definitely a thing that everyone should do. Now while I can’t go out on a massive shopping spree until I win the lottery I do switch around the clothes in my wardrobe. You see I used to keep everything in my wardrobe all year round, but it’s all a bit of a squash so now I store clothes in the loft that aren’t weather appropriate. Right now I’m in the process of packing away all my summer clothes and shoes and replacing them with my autumn/winter staples. From winter boots, to thick tights, padded gilets and ginormous scarves, now is the time for all of the best clothing options.

Of course it’s also now that jumpers come into their own. By now everyone knows how much I love a good jumper. So is it really a surprise that autumn is my favourite time of year? And once I’m outfitted in jeans, boots, one of my favourite jumpers and a giant scarf autumn suddenly feels more real. And I, of course, am one happy bunny.

So there you have it. My five top tips for making the most of Autumn. What about you? Do you embrace each season? Or would you rather hide away until certain ones have passed? What are you must dos to ensure that you appreciate the time?

Laura x

In the Kitchen: Making a Pinata Cake

Making a Pinata Cake - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

Let’s talk about cake! I’m a big fan of cake. Firstly because it’s delicious and secondly because there are so many cake variations out there. There’s marble cake, chocolate cake, battenberg, banana bread, cupcakes, lemon drizzle cake and so much more. All of which I could eat right now! Oh to live next to a bakery, but alas I don’t. But when it comes to cake, sometimes a standard yummy one won’t do and you need a showstopper of a cake. Something that will wow people. That was the case a few weeks back when I had a charity cake sale, when in an attempt to make people part with more money I made a glorious pinata cake.

I’ve been wanting to make a pinata cake for ages so this seemed like the perfect excuse. Pinata cakes are such a great idea – so simple but such fun too. I would have loved one as a child – the hidden surprise (just look below!) would have been too exciting for words. Whoever came up with the idea of a pinata cake is clearly a genius.

Making a Pinata Cake - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

I made a pink extravaganza and it went down a treat, and helped me raise a lot of money! Next time I’m going to fill it with fizzy sweets and Haribo, plus make the icing rainbow coloured. That would look pretty cool, don’t you think? Anyway, if you want to make your own, read on for the pinata cake recipe. I promise you won’t regret it!

Making a Pinata Cake - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog

Pinata Cake Ingredients:

  • *350g unsalted butter
  • *350g caster sugar
  • *6 large eggs
  • *350g self raising flour
  • *sweets – I went for Smarties and m&m’s

For the icing: 450g unsalted butter, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 900g icing sugar and food colouring

Pinata Cake Method:

  • *Soften the butter and cream together with the sugar until light and creamy
  • *Beat in the eggs one at a time. For the last two eggs add a spoonful of flour before beating
  • *Fold in the rest of the flour
  • *Divide evenly between three greased and lined tins (20cm circular ones)
  • *Bake on 180C for 25 minutes, or until the tops spring back when pressed with your finger. Leave to cool
  • *Meanwhile make your icing by combining the icing ingredients.
  • *Once the three cakes have cooled cut a 10cm circle through two of the cakes, so you have two donut layers
  • *Place one of the donut layers on the bottom of the serving plate and spread with icing
  • *Place the second donut layer on top and spread with icing before filling the hole with the sweets
  • *Add the final layer of cake on top and cover with the rest of the icing
  • *EAT!

Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #90

Happy Friday team! I hope you’re having a fabulous day and haven’t been struck by any Friday 13th strangeness! I’ve had a perfectly lovely day of life admin, tidying and snuggling on the sofa. Oh the joys of a week off with nothing to do but what you want to! So that’s number one on today’s Friday favourites post – having time off. I’ve got a week off before I start my new job – eek! and I’m determined to make the most of it. In that I’m going to use the time to see friends, sort my life out and just do nothing. So far I’m only two days in and it’s been delightful – I could so get used to this! Roll on next week and another three days of fun stuff.

The fact that I’ve currently appreciating doing nothing is all down to the fact that this week I finished at my old job and that brings me to item two on today’s list – saying goodbye to the lovely team at Scholastic. The first three days of the week were dedicated to this and were packed full of lovely lunches, leaving drinks with lots of the team, plus some old faces, the nicest of speeches, the best card and such thoughtful presents. All of which really reminded me of how awesome my work colleagues, and now friends, are. They really do know how to make a girl feel loved.

Friday Favourites #90 - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

Also making it on to the Friday favourites list this week we have the littlest sisters’ birthday celebrations, which have involved homemade cake, with copious amounts of icing, delicious food and lovely family time. I think perhaps celebrating someone else’s birthday is preferable to celebrating my own. Does that make me weird?

Talking of weird things, or what others think is weird, I did my fourth half marathon over the weekend and loved it. Granted I was full of cold and not feeling great and as such I had to walk every two miles or so but I think that actually helped. I didn’t feel any pressure to get a super-speedy time, I could just enjoy the course and the atmosphere. Both of which were great. There were so many people cheering us on that you couldn’t help but be buoyed on and the course was a mix of glorious green and brown parks and amazing London sites like Trafalgar and Buckingham Palace. So while it wasn’t my speediest half marathon at 2.41 it was definitely not my worst one.

Friday Favourites #90 - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

One of the delightful things about the half marathon was running through the stunning parks, which were full of autumn leaves. The colours really were stunning. Oh how I love autumn. So that’s something else on today’s Friday favourites list – making the most of all the Autumn stuff. So far I’ve ticked off the consumption of Pumpkin Spice Loaf, taking pictures of my feet surrounded by the autumn leaves and decorating the house with pumpkins. Yes really, I’m that person! But just look – so pretty!

Friday Favourites #90 - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

Rounding out the Friday favourites list this week we have one of my favourite past times – book shopping! Last weekend saw the annual celebration of the UK’s independent bookshops and so I had no choice but to go book browsing, and of course, buying! I bought these four beauties. A mix of kids and adult, crime and magic and some decidedly autumnal reads. I’m so excited to get stuck in to them all. I’m half way through The Dollmaker of Krakow and so far it’s glorious. It’s full of magical, fairytales, friendship and hope all wrapped up in a tale set in Poland during World War Two. It really is lovely.

Friday Favourites #90 - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

So there we go, my five Friday favourites for this week! Tell me, what things have brightened your week?

-Fi x

Out and About: Swingers – London’s Best Crazy Golf Experience

London's Best Crazy Golf Experience - Out and About - This and That Blog

If you’d been in London a couple of weeks ago you would have found me wandering aimlessly around the deserted streets on a sunday morning looking for something called ‘Swingers’. And yes, I’m aware this sounds like the start of a ridiculous tale. It is in fact the start of a post all about my latest obsession – London’s best crazy golf experience. Also known as Swingers. I’m a bit of a crazy golf fan, in fact the whole of the Evans family is thanks to multiple games as children. I don’t know why we are particularly obsessed with this game. Perhaps it’s a way of enjoying Dad’s favourite hobby as a family, without having to trek a full 18 holes on a proper golf course. Or maybe it’s just that it works for our super competitive nature. (Let’s be honest it’s point two, clearly).

As a rule I’m not that fussed about where I play crazy golf – any course will do. I’m just as happy playing on a grey and windy Sandbanks beach, in the sunshine of Vale do Lobo or in underground junkyards in London. Or at least that was the case before I was introduced to Swingers. We’d heard about Swingers from a friend and it seemed like the ideal venue for Dad’s (very late) Father’s Day present. I was sceptical, because I’ve been to the other London crazy golf venue, Junkyard Golf, and I found it a bit too cool for it’s own good. It’s in Shoreditch, the music was too loud and it’s quite dark – so not where I wanted for a Father/Daughters day.

London's Best Crazy Golf Experience - Out and About - This and That Blog

Thankfully I needn’t have worried. Swingers could not have been a better option for our morning of fun. The venue is just the perfect mix of quirky and cool, chilled and welcoming. And bonus I didn’t feel like I was too old to be enjoying a morning there! There are two nine-hole courses at Swingers, the Windmill and the Lighthouse and we decided on the Lighthouse course. It probably takes about 40 minutes to get round the course and each hole gets progressively harder thanks to the hazards on each hole. From bridges and slanting floors to holes in the middle of the hills – nightmare! And just to make it a little trickier – the staff will bring drinks to you as you play. Because there’s nothing like a G&T at 12.30pm to ensure you make the best golf shots!

London's Best Crazy Golf Experience - Out and About - This and That Blog

It’s not that expensive either, just £13 each for a slot. Timing wise you get a 90 minute window and then your specific tee off time is allocated once you arrive. If you’re unlucky enough to have to wait a while for your specific slot it’s not a bad thing. This is thanks to the bar and the delicious food options! The bar is filled with booths, sofas and a giant fireplace and across two floors. And bonus, if you get a seat on the upper floor you can spy on others while you drink. Ideal if you’re hoping to pick up some tips. As for the food – it’s so good. There are three street food vendors in Swingers including a Patty and Bun. What more could you want?
So there we go, I can highly recommend spending time at London’s best crazy golf experience – it’s so fun. Even if you come last, like me!
-Fi

Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #89

Morning all! I think that it’s been so long since I’ve written one of these posts that I’ve sort of forgotten how it’s done. Oops! Is that normal? For me it probably is! Before we discuss my favourite things from the week let’s start by congratulating ourselves on making it to Friday. Hooray for that, and for the weekend and all the adventures that it will bring. Sunday is half marathon day for me, so that should be fun! I’m actually not even joking, I’ve really enjoyed the training this year, and I’ve always wanted to run this race, so it should be a good day. FYI – you can sponsor me here if you’re that way inclined (pretty please do, I’m so close to the £600 mark).

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Number one on my favourite things list is the fact that my knee is fixed! I had a mild panic at the weekend because I had hideous knee pain. It was so bad that I couldn’t bend my knee without pain. Anyway, I’ve rested it, iced it and elevated it and everything seems to be back in working order. So it’s full steam ahead for Sunday. I’ve not run since last Tuesday (so that’s almost two weeks) but I’m not going to chance it again until race day. It’s not the way I want to finish my race training, but I think it’s probably the most sensible option. I have managed to fit in a couple of swims this week though, so that makes me feel better. And anyway the main thing is that I can run on Sunday, and this way I think I can.

Next up on the list is a book, because I love a good book and I’m having a great reading run at the moment. I’ve just finished Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie and I was totally hooked. I definitely haven’t read enough Agatha Christie in my life, especially not the Poirot books. I’m trying to rectify that, one book at a time. I started with this one as I know that there’s a film version coming up soon and I always like to read the book before watching the film. Anyway the reason that Murder on the Orient Express has made its way onto my favourite things list for the week is because the plot is amazing! The twists and turns and plotting is excellent and I was hooked from the start. I can’t wait to see how it plays out on the big screen.

Point three on the today’s Friday Favourites list is birthday present buying. I love shopping for other people! With the youngest sisterbean celebrating a birthday this weekend Fi and I have been planning and purchasing all the fun things.

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Now let’s talk about a very belated Father’s Day on Sunday. The sisterbeans and I treated the Fatherbear to an afternoon of mini golf and lunch at Swingers, in the heart of the city. Of course Dad won, he wins everytime – I think it’s because he plays golf each week. But I came second, with only a couple of points more – yes! Honestly, if I could order a G&T at each hole on a normal golf course I would totally take up the game! Until then I’ll stick to visiting Swingers, playing 9 holes and then feasting on Patty & Bun burgers.

The final item on my favourite things list has to be Autumn. Does anyone else think that Autumn has suddenly hit, out of nowhere, this year? You blink and suddenly the parks are awash with autumnal colours. Again, what is with that? Anyway I’m diving right in and doing my best to embrace the new season. From walks in the fallen leaves, searching for conkers, to lighting candles at home and feasting on pumpkin spice loaf.  I have definitely reached peak Autumn. Hooray for that!

What about you lovely lot, are you embracing the Autumn or are you missing the Summer sunshine?

Laura xx

The Book Corner: September Reads

September Reads - The Book Corner - This and That Blog

So the most mammoth bookish post is now live! Forgive me for the extreme length of this post, but I appear to have read a ridiculous number of books in September – that’ll be the joy of a holiday for you! So read on to see what I thought of all my September reads.

The Whitstable High Tide Swimming Club: Part One by Katherine May

My first September read is set in Whitstable and tells the story of a bunch of people, misfits if you will, who all come together to form a swimming club and help each other through a number of personal issues. It’s the first of a three-part serialisation, released in ebook form over a six-month period. It was a good read – I was intrigued by the characters for one – and I did enjoy it.

However, I think it loses something because of the nature of serialisation. As just as you start to understand the characters and get into the meat of the story – so past the scene setting – the book ends. And you really just want to keep reading! It’s a bit of a mistake to be honest as it’s not the kind of in-depth, really intriguing tale that has me pre-ordering the next book. There was no big cliffhanger or anything and I don’t need to know what happens yet. So all in all I’m a bit meh about this ‘series’ now and probably won’t pick up/download book two.

Genuine Fraud by E. Lockhart

We Were Liars is possibly one of my favourite books ever. It’s the sort of book you press into others’ hands to get them to read asap and it has a twist that completely bowls you over. So let’s just say that Genuine Fraud, the next book from E Lockhart, had a lot to live up to. And it kind of does! It’s most definitely a twisty page-turner of a read – I finished it in a day or so. Plus it introduces a really interesting character, a con artist that you don’t really like, but who you’re fascinated by! While it was intense and intriguing and, in parts, gripping it wasn’t as good as We Were Liars. So definitely worth reading if you’re a fan of a good thriller!

Shell by Paula Rawsthorne

This book is incredible and I raced through it in one train journey. It tells the tale of girl dying from cancer, which she’s ready for and has accepted. One day she wakes up in another girl’s body and cancer free, all thanks to a body transplant. Freaky, right? I have to be honest the concept really isn’t something I’d usually read, but it’s a work book so I had to give it a whirl. And I was pleasantly surprised!

Within a chapter I was hooked and needed to know what was going to happen to all involved. I loved how the writing drew you in and you felt like you were in the character’s head – you really did feel like you were in the wrong body. The writing was that good. The only bad point is that I probably didn’t agree completely with how some characters acted, especially towards the end of the book. But that’s a small point, especially as the book itself was so blooming gripping with such an incredible concept.

The Light Jar by Lisa Thompson

The next book on my September reads list is The Light Jar and it is a must-read. It’s an incredibly written book about domestic violence, imaginary friends and how we cope when things get scary. It tells the tale of a young boy who flees his home in the middle of the night with his Mum. Once they arrive he makes friends with a little girl who is on a mission to uncover a mystery from years ago and also has to deal with his Mum going missing too. It’s a tale of friendship and hope, fear and loneliness and you won’t be able to put it down. This is such a good book, and not just a good kids book – a good book full stop.

A Change is Gonna Come by various authors

This is a YA anthology written by BAME authors with each story focused on the theme of change. The book is written by well established authors as well as four debut authors and it’s so good, most definitely a must-read. Unusually, for an anthology, I loved every story included. Plus there was some poetry in there, which I also loved. The authors have written about a wide array of topics, from grief and friendship, to dealing with racism and first love. I defy you not to read this book, love it and find a particular story that resonates with you.

September Reads - The Book Corner - This and That Blog

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

This is billed as the best thriller of the year and perfect for fans of The Girl on the Train  and Gone Girl. And while it’s good I think those comparisons go a bit far. Don’t get me wrong it’s twisty and full of flawed characters in the two main female characters, but it’s not as gripping or shocking as those original books, especially not Gone Girl. What it is however is an enthralling and interesting read about how a mother reacts when introduced to her son’s girlfriend for the first time and how small slights or exchanges can be perceived in different ways and escalate into something huge. Definitely a good read – just don’t assume it’ll be as good as some of the big thrillers of the last few years!

From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E. L. Konigsburg

This is such a fun mystery book and one I wish I’d read as a child. It follows two children who run away from home to live in a museum and stumble across a mystery that they then decide to solve. It is such a fun premise, both the museum living (bathing in fountains and sleeping in a four-poster bed from hundreds of years ago), and the mysterious statue that the kids try to solve the mystery of. This really should be a classic that every child reads.

Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Book one in this fantasy trilogy is incredible – it’s the perfect mix of magic and fantasy, rivalry and love, peril and friendship. The world that Kendare Blake has created is so well described that you feel like you’re living in and experiencing it. As for the story – amazing! Law decreed that each generation the three queens are separated as children and grow up in different areas in the kingdom. There the three sisters – an elemental, who can control fire, a poisoner, who can ingest the deadliest poisons, and a naturalist, who is said to control the fiercest beasts and bloom flowers – learn more about the magical gifts they are born with. Then on their 16th birthday the sisters meet again and so begins a fight to the death, and the crown. Seriously it’s incredible!

American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

This book has been on my TBR pile for years, and that’s not even a slight exaggeration! I’ve just been waiting for a longish holiday so that I didn’t have to heft all 650 pages around for weeks – I needed concentrated reading time. So thank goodness for Portugal where I was finally able to read it. And it was amazing, I devoured it in about two days and adored it. It’s just so fascinating.

The premise is a fictional version of Laura Bush’s life. So it takes some of the true facts and imagines what could have happened and the circumstances around her life. I had no idea about any of Laura Bush’s life and I’m now fascinated by her – I had no clue she wasn’t born into an American elite family or that she might not have the same political outlook as her husband and his family. It’s truly intriguing. I definitely need to pick up her autobiography now to sort the fact from the fiction.

I Am, I Am, I Am by Maggie O’Farrell

This is a memoir that tells the tale of 17 brushes with death. From childbirth and a horrendous childhood illness to a potential plane crash and drowning, novelist Maggie O’Farrell explores her life with such honesty and beauty. She wrote the book in response to her daughter being diagnosed with a severe immunology disorder, as a way to find sense in it all – by examining how close we all are, throughout our live, to the possibility of death and the realities of pain. It’s beautifully written – in parts harrowing and in parts uplifting. It’s so beautiful and one of my favourite memoirs ever.

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Book two in this Arabian nights style fantasy series is incredible. I raced through it on holiday and this tale of love, secrets, traitors, rebels, revenge, princes and magical powers was the perfect holiday read. It veers from the original desert setting of book one and enters the Sultan’s palace, which was such a welcome change to a lot of other YA books. The characters are intriguing, all with different outlooks and priorities and possibly not quite what you think – all of which makes this a thrilling, page-a-minute read!

You Will Not Have My Hate by Antoine Leiris

Antoine Leiris’ positivity in the face of a horrific event – the loss of his wife during the Bataclan attack in Paris – is so inspiring. The fact that he refuses to let the perpetrators’ hatred turn into hatred that infects his life is such an incredible view. In this long essay he recounts the horror of those initial hours and days and how he handled everything about the attack. From hearing an attack was happening, to discovering his wife was dead, to telling his toddler son his Mummy wasn’t returning, to visiting her body and saying a final goodbye to living each day since that moment without her. It’s beautiful, honest, heartbreaking and, above all, hopeful.

Tower of Dawn by Sarah J Maas

It’s no secret, to anyone, that I adore Sarah J Maas’ Throne of Glass series. I’ve devoured each of the five books in mere days and haven’t wanted to put them down. Book six in the series, Tower of Dawn, was no different. Despite it veering away from Caelena and focusing on Chaol and Nesryn’s story. The new characters and location of the story just meant there was more to discover. More of the world to understand. Plus more characters to be surprised by, to be betrayed by and to fall in love with. It’s just a great fantasy YA book and if you’ve not discovered these books yet you MUST!

So there we go thirteen books in September’s reading pile. All of them so very different and many of them the best books I’ve read for a long while. So if you’re looking for a memoir, a kids book or a new YA read, I’ve got you covered! Tell me though, what have you read recently, what should I read next?

-Fi x

In the Kitchen: Top Five Autumn Recipes

Autumn Recipes - In the Kitchen

I’m back from my holiday and we are well and truly in Autumn now. The temperature has dropped and all I really want to do at the end of the day is snuggle with a blanket and feast on something tasty. I want dinners that will envelope my house in a bubble of warmth and delicious aromas. Quite simply I want comfort food. To satisfy my need for comfort food I’ve been making my favourite autumn recipes on a regular basis. Which is totally putting a smile on my face. So to bring some of that joy to the blog I am going to share my five favourite autumn recipes with you.

Number 1 // Chicken Pilaf

This is a firm favourite in our house. So much so that it’s not just an autumn recipe, for us it’s one that we make all year round. The fact that it’s a slow cooker recipe means that it’s a case of prepping a few things at the start and then leaving it to do it’s thing for the next few hours. Which means more time for napping or reading a book. Or to bake a cake! The slow cooker aspect, plus the delicious flavours is why this recipe has made it’s way onto my list of autumn recipes.

Number 2 // Homemade Baked Beans

Number two on the favourite autumn recipes list is our homemade baked beans. Fi shared this one a few weeks ago, and it’s definitely a firm favourite. Baked beans are a staple in our house, they are the perfect topping for baked potatoes or toast, or they make a great base for a vegetable chilli. And that’s why they are on this list. They are basically the perfect autumnal feasting food. Plus there’s something about making your own beans and knowing what’s in them – as much as I love Heinz these are far superior.

Number 3 // Spinach and Chickpea Curry

This one is a Hungry Healthy Happy recipe that is a firm favourite of ours. It’s simple and delicious and allows us to use up all our store cupboard staples in a quick and simple way. It literally takes 15 minutes, so it’s the perfect recipe for autumn when you want to spend minimal time in the kitchen and still end up with a warm and hearty dish to feast on.

Number 4 // Red Lentil & Cauliflower Korma

Yes, it’s another curry. Sorry not sorry because this vegetarian version of a korma is unbelievably good. If I’m honest I didn’t expect this to be something I would like as I wasn’t always a big cauliflower fan, but this recipe utterly converted me and now cauliflower is one of my favourites. This is the perfect meal for a lazy sunday afternoon, where you can potter in the kitchen and enjoy the wonderful smells of this curry coming together.

Number 5 // Macaroni Cheese

Gooey cheese, lashings of vegetables and salty lardons, what’s not to love? This is an Evans family favourite, and is always a crowd pleaser. This is my ultimate comfort food dish. Every time I cook this it takes me back to evenings when I was growing up, helping in the kitchen and nattering away around the dinner table. The excellent thing about this dish is that you can throw in whatever vegetables you want. We go for mushrooms and artichokes with a topping of tomatoes, but you can bung in whatever. Plus there’s lashings of cheese sauce – did I mention that?

So there you have it, my top five autumn recipes. As you can see I’ve included my favourite slow cooker recipes and Evans family classics. Do you have any favourite autumn recipes? Do share if you do, new recipes are always needed!

Laura xx