Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #64

Whoop, happy Friday! I hope you’ve all had a wonderful week so far and have awesome plans for the weekend. I’m heading down to Windsor Castle for the day and then I will be alternating between Netflix on the sofa and reading on my bed. The pretty perfect plan if you ask. But enough about my weekend plans. Let’s get down to the real reason we’re here, my Friday favourites list. It’s been a pretty awesome week so there are lots of lovely things to talk about today.

First up on the Friday favourites list is the sunshine. The blue sky, sunshiny starts and the warmth this week have all been wonderful. I’d forgotten how nice Spring feels. That sounds a bit ridiculous doesn’t it? But what I mean is I don’t have an issue with Winter and never really have a desire for Spring to arrive asap. Mainly because it means the year is flying by. But now that Spring is arriving I’m quite enjoying it and I’m realising how nice it is when it’s warmer and only a light jacket is needed.

Friday Favourites - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

Also on the list for this week’s Friday favourites post is having the house to myself. Lau’s been back at the parents’ for a few days, puppy sitting the lucky thing, so I’ve been left to my own devices. And it’s been nice. Not that Lau’s annoying to live with, far from it. But having no one else there is quite nice. I’ve been able to leave the dishes for a few days, put mushrooms in everything I cook, watched whatever I’ve fancied (West Wing again obvs) and I’ve even spent an evening lazing in bed reading rather doing anything else (namely the washing up and proper cooking). It’s a nice change.

Last weekend definitely makes an appearance on the list of good things. Actually it could take up three or four spaces quite easily, it was just that good! We had a friend to stay and in our 20 hours together we did so many awesome things. There was all the nattering, cocktails at the Booking Office, Cinnabons for a midnight feast and sharing platters of Chinese food from the best spot in Chinatown. That was followed up by an epic brunch at The River House Cafe, a cultural trip to the V&A for the Lockwood Kipling exhibit and coffee, coffee and more coffee. What a truly epic weekend. Even last-minute, super-speedy catch-ups with friends are awesome.

Friday Favourites - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

The final item to make it on to the Friday Favourites post is the arrival of my new bed and mattress. I’ve been meaning to spend my Christmas money on a new bed for ages and just couldn’t make a choice. Finally after much deliberation I settled on this grey beauty from Time4Sleep and a brand new mattress from Amazon. A new bed means it’s essential to rethink the layout of the room, right? So after four hours of bed dismantling, bed building and furniture moving I have a new look bedroom. And I love it! The new layout has made such a difference and I’ve since spent hours chilling out in there. Normally I’m only in my room pre and post sleep, so this is making a nice change. It’s just all super comfy. I love it!

So tell me, how’s your week been? What’s made number one on your Friday favourites list?

-Fi x

Wishlists: Sportswear Must-Haves

Recently I’ve been relatively good about not buying anything for myself unless it’s on the approved ‘house update must buys’ list. So that’s meant minimal book buying (just three this year – that’s a big deal for me), no new clothes since January – unheard of for me and no buying random tatt in Tiger. I fear this is all about to change as I have severe lust for so much lovely exercise clothing. There’s just so much nice sportswear out there right now. Not to mention accessories that I really, really want to buy. So today’s post is all about my current sportswear must-haves.

Before I dive straight in to all the new things I want let’s just pause on the following sentence

Four runs and ten half hour sessions on the stationary bike.

That, right there, is the extent of my exercise regime so far in 2017. It’s a big rubbish isn’t it? I don’t know what happened and how this came to pass. A big reason is my lack of willpower, obvs. And the cold weather. Possibly the biggest factor is that I didn’t sign up for the Surrey Half Marathon this March. I’ve completed that race for the last three years and the training plan for it means that I would normally be exercising five or six days each week. But I genuinely have been meaning to do more exercise each week and now it’s March and I’ve not. Where has time disappeared too?

But that has to change and this week I’m back on the exercise wagon. I have grand plans of doing at least three session of exercise, either running, swimming or the stationary bike, each week from now on. Something that’ll help me achieve this? New exercise stuff, naturally. And that’s where my lovely list of sportswear must-haves comes in. Surely treating myself to lovely things will make me want to wear them more and therefore get me to the gym more often. Right?

sportswear must-haves - wishlists - This and That Blog

So what’s first up on the sportswear must-haves list? Well I’m in severe need for new running leggings, especially ones with a decent sized pocket at the back. My favourites are the blue palm tree ones from Sweaty Betty, but the £80 price tag is putting me off somewhat… So I’ll probably settle on one of the other pairs all of which are lovely. Top wise I want to go for something more interesting – hence the pink, patterned and gold lettering options. So nice!

All self-respecting gym person needs a fantastic bag and these two are beautiful. I can’t choose between the rucksack or holdall versions as they’re both equally nice and suitably practical. They also both have special pockets for wet costumes or trainers – necessary, right? And surely a nice new sports bra and a fancy schmancy new water bottle is a must. Surely with so many lovely new sporty things I’ll make it to the gym multiple times a week. Won’t I?

The other thing I’m hoping that will help with that? Buying a new set of mini toiletries to use post swim or exercise class. There’s something about miniature sized items in a fancy new gym bag that give me hope that I’ll drag myself to the local sports center more often. I suppose we’ll have to watch this space to see if that is the case or not…

-Fi x

In the Kitchen: Carbonara Cake

Carbonara Cake - In the Kitchen - This and That Blog
Carbonara is one of my favourite go-to pasta dishes. Obviously it is delicious and super-simple to make, but the real reason I make it so often? I always have the ingredients in the cupboard. If we ever run out of essentials like eggs, bacon, mushrooms and pasta then I don’t want to live in that world. And no, I’m not exaggerating. carbonara is king. But you know what I’d never heard of until recently and which has forever changed by carbonara loving life? The existence of a carbonara cake.

Yes that is a thing. A real, actual – not to mention delicious -thing. What is it I hear you say. It’s essentially a pasta bake that tastes like carbonara and which can be sliced like a pie. As in you get a triangular slice of carbonara pie that is an amazing solid mass of loveliness. I bet you like the sound of a carbonara cake now, don’t you?
Oh and bonus – it’s super simple to make. Because, duh, life’s too short for recipe faffing and slaving over a hot stove. Throwing everything in and baking it is the way forward.

So behold the carbonara cake recipe. This recipe is courtesy of that loveable chap Jamie Oliver, although we did make a few small amends.


Carbonara Cake – Ingredients

half a pack of chestnut mushrooms / eight rashers of bacon / 300g of spaghetti / three eggs / 250ml double cream / black pepper / 10g parmesan / 90g extra-strong cheddar

Carbonara Cake – Recipe

Lightly oil a loose bottomed cake tin (approx 20cm in diameter)
Sprinkle the parmesan into the cake tin so it sticks to the oil
Fry your mushrooms and bacon, then cut the bacon into chunks
Cook your pasta and then drain
Throw the cream, eggs, cheddar cheese, bacon and mushrooms into a large mixing bowl and mix well
Add the cooked spaghetti and mix thoroughly
Tip all the ingredients into the loose bottomed tin
Bake in the over for 35 minutes on 140℃
Slice into segments and enjoy with salad


See, I told you it was easy! And what makes the carbonara cake even better? It is almost better the next day as a leftovers lunch. The flavours have strengthened and it perfectly keeps its shape. Just perfect for a mid-week lunch that’s more interesting than a soggy sandwich. And I don’t know about you but having pasta lunch fills me up for the rest of the day and results in minimal snacking.

Tell me, are you intrigued enough by the idea of a carbonara cake to give it a whirl? I think you’ll love it. Plus you could definitely throw in ham if that’s what you had in the fridge, or you could bung in spinach or broccoli or even artichoke hearts as well. The possibilities are endless!

-Fi x

Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #63

Oops! So Friday Favourites #63 is just a tad late. Normally I’d be totally organised and have this written and scheduled by Thursday night. But this week I knew that I had the day off on Friday, so I decided to leave any writing until then. It’s currently 1pm and I’m only just thinking about getting this done. I’m on the sofa with some silly US TV programme on in the background and the temptation of the biscuit tin. Someone stop me!

Friday Favourites #63, wine in Surrey

First up on the Friday favourites #63 list are the bookshelves in my living room and bedroom. We finally finished painting these last week so over the weekend we spent a good few hours organising everything. It feels so good to actually unpack everything and get rid of all the piles. The alcoves in our house are lovely and deep which means that there is plenty of space on the shelves for all the books, pictures and other bits and bobs.

Also at the weekend I nipped back to Surrey for the day on Sunday. There was board games, dog walks, wine, a roast chicken, puppy cuddles and Mario Kart on the Wii before a tediously long train journey back to London. Someone tell me this one thing, why are trains on a Sunday so useless?

Friday Favourites #63, Sheepleas

This week it finally feels that spring has sprung. On Thursday morning I opted for an iced coffee instead of my normal hot filter coffee because the weather just called for it. There was a moment holding my coffee, walking through the park, with the sun shining when I broke into a smile as I realised that spring was finally here. I’m so excited for this new season to begin.

Friday Favourites #63, Spring

So my day off today is also going onto my Friday favourites #63 list. I had holiday days to use up and I needed to get my loft boarded so that was today’s plan. Apart from a lot of banging and sawing my day has been pretty relaxed. I’ve been for a run and I’ve got baking plans for this afternoon. Plus my dinner is going into the slow cooker soon and I’m pretty excited about that. It’s my favourite chicken pilaf and the smell will be haunting me for the next 4 hours or so!

So there you have it, Friday Favourites #63. The little thins that have made my week. What about you, what has got you through the last seven days. And what are your plans for this coming weekend?

Laura x

The Book Corner: February Reading Update

Hello team! How are you all today? Here’s hoping your week is going amazingly! I’ve finally gotten round to writing my February reading update, despite the fact we’re well into March. Oops! Let’s pretend I was so busy reading and that’s why I’m late updating you all. It had nothing to do with a Gilmore Girls marathon, honest…

Fi's February Reading Update - The Book Corner - This and That Blog

February saw me reading six brilliant books, three teen reads, two thrillers and one brilliant beach read. So a lovely mix of titles this month. I’m really pleased I decided to alternate the genres of books I read this year as it’s ensured I’ve not got stuck in a rut and have read a good mix of books. In fact I think I’ve already read more books aimed at adults this year than I did last year.

February Reading Update #1 – Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

To be honest I didn’t love this book, don’t get me wrong I really enjoyed it and I’d definitely reread it. But it wasn’t a book I adored, which I assumed I would as I LOVED Six of Crows, the first book in the series. I think I just felt like it was going through the motions at times. Having said that it was a good story, I loved being back in that world and I adored seeing favourite characters again. So this is a four star (out of five) book and not the five star book I’d anticipated.

February Reading Update #2 – Sometimes I Lie by Alice Feeney**

This book was super twisty, honestly I don’t think I’ve read anything as twisty and full of surprises as this before. It was also really well written and the characters were fascinating – I also loved that they were all complicated and lacking in likability. All of these things meant I absolutely raced through this book. However I think the twists went too far at times. I’m all for twists and surprises, but this book felt like it had two or three too many and it would have been a far better book if the twists would have been spread across three books and not packed into one.

February Reading Update #3 – Show Stopper by Hayley Barker*

Show Stopper  is the tale of a young girl, Hoshiko, who is forced to perform as a trapeze artist in a deadly circus. The ringmaster is truly evil and makes the kids perform deadly acts night after night. All for the entertainment of the ruling class. When Ben, one of the ruling class kids, goes to the circus, and sees Hoshiko perform, he realises that maybe the world needs to change. Maybe the country his mother is helping to rule isn’t good and what’s being done at the circus and across the world isn’t right. But can he, with the help of Hoskiko, find the courage to act and rebel against this cruel world?

This book is AMAZING! I adored it and raced through it. Each chapter is told from different perspective, Ben or Hoshiko, and the chapters are short so it’s easy to read a whole chunk of the book without even noticing. The circus performances are perfectly described, so much so that you feel like you’re there watching these deadly acts. The world is brilliantly realised and you’re invested in these characters within the first two pages. I defy you not to love this book.

February Reading Update #4- Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay by Jill Mansell

Jill Mansell has also been my go-to author when I’ve been in a reading rut or need the book equivalent of a big hug. Her books are just perfect. They’re easy reads, have interesting characters with unusual backstories and are set in the most beautiful parts of the UK. If you’ve not read her books you must, pick one up next time you’re feeling down or are headed on holiday. Thankfully Meet Me At Beachcomber Bay was no different to Jill’s other books and I adored it. It was just what I needed and I could read it again and again.

February Reading Update #5 – Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee by Mary G Thompson

What can I say about Amy Chelsea Stacie Dee? Well firstly it’s unputdownable. Seriously I read this in two days, it hooked me in from page one. It’s the disturbing tale of two girls who go missing when their 10 and 12, many years later one of the girls returns home but won’t talk about where she’s been and where the other girl is. Are you intrigued yet? It’s a brilliant teen thriller that will have you guessing from start to finish. It’s definitely got echoes of Room thanks to the subject matter, the love portrayed between the characters and heartbreaking nature of it. You must read it.

February Reading Update #6 – The Breakdown by B. A. Paris

I was the biggest fan of B. A Paris’ first book, the brilliant Behind Closed Doors, so couldn’t wait to get my hands on book two. And it didn’t disappoint at all. It’s a brilliantly written thriller with the most appalling characters. The story slowly twists and turns until you don’t know who you can trust. I found this one more of a thriller as you didn’t know who was evil in the tale, unlike in Behind Closed Doors where it was clear from the off. I basically read a third of this from behind my hands as I was worried about what was going to happen. A sign of a good book if you ask me!

So there we have it, that’s February’s reading update done! Another good reading month under my belt. If I keep reading like this I’ll smash through my 2017 goal of 52 way before the end of the year. Whoop! Check back next month for the next 2017 reading update and don’t forget to read last month’s post too. There were some brilliant books in there too!

What are you reading right now? What’s your favourite read of the year so far?

-Fi x

* I work at Scholastic, who publish Show Stopper, so this book was completely free for me. But my thoughts on this book are entirely my own.

**I was gifted Sometimes I Lie  by the publisher (super kind of them) but these thoughts are all mine!

In the Kitchen: Five Quick Week Night Meals

Top 5 week night meals

As much as I love cooking, I have to admit that the last thing I want to do after work is attempt a new, long or complicated recipe. Instead I want something quick and easy but also delicious. Admittedly sometimes I’ll just have beans on toast or a baked potato but most of the time I stick to my favourite week night meals. These are the handful of recipes that I have in my arsenal, which are based on store cupboard ingredients, are easy to make and taste delicious. Basically the trifecta for week night meals.

Chicken & Kale Stir Fry

This is a relatively new discovery and one that I think I’ve made at least four times in the last 2 months. Which I think is as good a recommendation as any. It takes just 25 minutes to make and is basically made from store cupboard and fridge ingredients. Normally I pick up the kale on my way home from work and then get cooking. I love this with noodles, but it works just as well with rice or even a pile of warm naan bread. Yum, I’m hungry already!

Chicken Satay

I’ve been making this chicken satay for the last four or so years and it never ever gets boring. Hence it’s inclusion on this list of favourite quick week night meals. The peanut satay sauce is utterly divine and tastes just like the kind you can get at any good Thai restaurant. When making this we tend to use a whole can of coconut milk instead of the required 100ml and make extra sauce (obviously we multiply the other sauce ingredients too). The sauce keeps well in the freezer and allows this meal to be super speedy at a later date.

Spinach & Chickpea Curry

This Spinach and Chickpea Curry is one of Fi’s go-to recipes and I’m so pleased that’s the case. It means I get to eat this curry all the time without actually having to do any of the work – hooray for me! I still amazes me how delicious something as simple as tomatoes, chickpeas, spinach, onions and a few spices can be. But I’m so pleased that the combination exists and that they all work so well together. I love to eat this with just flatbread and a generous dollop of mango chutney. Perfect!spinach-chickpea-curry

Sticky Chinese Ginger Chicken

Next on the quick week night meals list is another quick easy Asian dish that goes perfectly with noodles. Noodles are one of my all time favourite things. I could eat them everyday and not get bored. This was actually a topic of conversation a couple of weeks ago at Wagamama’s in Croydon. Yes, I have great conversation topics, didn’t you know! The sauce in this sticky ginger chicken recipe really soaks into the chicken and tastes so good. It’s also an easy one to throw any veg into.

Homemade Pizza

The final easy week night meal is homemade pizza. You’re probably confused about this one being on the list as making pizza dough is quite a long process. Well here’s why it makes it for me, preparation. You see I like to make a batch of pizza dough at a weekend and then freeze individual bases. This means that on a weekday the base just needs to come out of the freezer and be topped with the toppings before going straight into the oven to reappear 30 minutes later as a piece of pizza heaven.

So there we have it, my top 5 quick and easy week night meals, that save me from eating the same meal, or cereal, every night of the week. What are you go-to recipes on week nights? Do you have a few favourites like me or do you like being more adventurous with week night meals?

Laura xx

The Home Front: The February House Update

The February House Update - The Home Front - This and That Blog

How is it March already? And how am I writing our second proper house update post already? Eek! I’m not sure where the time has gone. Talking of things that have gone missing this week, my desire to do house related jobs is another thing that’s flown away. Oops. I blame the cold and dark evenings, I’m just not motivated to do anything other than sit on the sofa. Oops!

Despite this lack of motivation we have made some progress this week, so let’s dive into the house update.

House Update: What’s been ticked off the list?

The major thing that’s happened this month is that we’ve got three alcoves full of shelves, which are beautiful. I think this is the house update that has made me the most excited! I’m obsessed with how good these shelves look. Shout out to our genius carpenter, Perry, who stayed until 9.30pm on day two to finish them. Anyway after hours spent sanding, priming and painting said shelves we’re now in the exciting stage of shelf faffing. I swear we move things around on a daily basis as we try to get the perfect set up. To be honest it’s actually quite enjoyable!

The February House Update - The Home Front - This and That Blog

Now that the shelves are done it means that Lau’s room is finished and she’s 100% settled in. Well apart from the aforementioned shelf faffing anyway! No more piles of crap important stuff on the floor and shoes with no home. So that’s quite exciting. We’ll have to get a post written for you asap, with specifics about what she’s done in there.

As for other jobs finished and completely ticked off the house update list, well there’s only one other. Oops. But it is an important one. We finally managed to take five boxes of books and other random things to the charity shop. This means our hallway is no longer a dumping ground – this has made a huge difference. So a small, but important job that’s been done.

House Update: What jobs have we progressed with?

Well in very exciting house update news we’ve removed the horrific fireplace. Yippee! This has been a long time coming and makes such a difference in the living room. Without the stupidly massive fiberglass monstrosity ,that was the fireplace, life is much better. However, we’ve not got much further with it yet. While we had grand plans of getting a plasterer in fairly quickly after it was ripped out, that’s not proven quite so simple. Namely because the fireplace needed to be knocked out more than anticipated and isn’t in quite the state we expected it to be. But we’ll get there.

We’ve also made progress on the new kitchen idea after an appointment with Homebase about what we can do. So exciting slash ridiculously scary about all that money. But at least it reinforced what we do want to do in the kitchen and what things we can live with and what must change.

House Update: What’s the plan for March?

One of the big projects we expected to tick off the house update list in February was the boarding of the loft. But alas that’s not happened. But it’s in the schedule for next weekend. So all going well by the end of March we’ll have a loft floor and all sorts of storage solutions for it. Then it’ll be all about the organisation as we move loads of winter clothes and random items up there. Here’s hoping we free up loads of space in the rest of the house with this job!

I’m also hoping March will see me ticking a few things off the list in my room. Firstly I want to finally order my new bed, then I want to decide if I need to rearrange my room or not and finally put up my pictures. I’ve got quite a few new ones to put up, not least the Minalima prints mentioned recently and the DorkFace ones mentioned over here. But until I know where all the tall furniture is going to live I can’t really put them up.

The other thing I’m hoping to finish in March is the bathroom. We simply need to add a few pictures and my ceramic fish collection and we’re sorted. Hopefully this month we’ll actually get round to doing those bits and ticking another job off the house update list!

I’m also hoping that the fireplace will get sorted in March, it would be rather lovely to tick that off the house update list. We just need to knock a bit more of the rubble out of the gap, build a box around what’s left and then plaster it all. Then we can paint the walls and be done with that room. Simple, right? So yes, come on March we can do this!

Life Rambles: Friday Favourites #62

Morning friends and happy Friday! Gosh it’s a grey and depressing day out there, weather wise, isn’t it? For a moment earlier this week it felt like spring had arrived, but alas it appears we were wrong. Soon though, right? Surely! So let’s jump into this week’s Friday Favourites list and discover what’s made my week lovely.

First up is the fact that this week has been a quiet one and I really, really needed that. It’s been lovely to simple head home after work and collapse on the sofa or cook lovely food or snuggle up with a book. Sometimes a succession of very chilled evenings are just what you need.

Talking of cooking, we’ve made two brand new (to us anyway) recipes this week and I think they’re keepers. The first is a carbonara pie – basically baked carbonara, which is the most delicious thing ever. If you thought, like me, that you couldn’t improve on a carbonara you were wrong. The second recipe is the most delicious overnight oats recipe. I can’t wait to share them both with you over the coming weeks. Yeah for good food!

Number three on today’s Friday Favourites list was a mid-week meeting a hop, skip and a jump away from Liberty and Carnaby Street, which meant I could have a lovely amble around that area. It’s one of my favourite corners of London so having a half hour to kill there is always welcome. Plus it meant I got to snap a pretty picture of the Liberty flowers. They’re so beautiful!

Friday Favourites #61 - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

Talking of beautiful things, we’ve finally painted our new alcove filled shelves and have started filling them. And it’s making me so happy. The teal colour looks wonderful and was an inspired choice – it looks so good! It really does make such a big difference to the room – it’s so lovely. They’ll be photos soon I promise, in fact next week hopefully as the February house post goes live.

Also making the list this week is planning and organising. Boring I know but again, so needed! We’re making progress on house related jobs and we’ve also got a couple of holidays almost planned. Yippee! And in smaller planning news I finally stopped on Sunday afternoon and created my March planner pages, so now I’m feeling ready for this month. There’s something so rewarding about drawing out the pages and filling things in.

Friday Favourites #61 - Life Rambles - This and That Blog

The final thing on the Friday Favourites list was a glorious catch up with friends on Saturday which involved wine, pizza and board games. Talk about the perfect evening. I forget how much fun something so simple can be and really must do more of these nights. Anyway chance I have to show my super competitive side is a good thing!

So there we go, my Friday Favourites from the last seven days – what an awesome list! Now, it’s your turn. Tell me what’s made your week extra special? I’d love to know!

– Fi x

Thought of the Day #105: If a Book…

WorldBook Day Quote - Thought of the Day - This and That Blog
“If a book is well written, I always find it too short” – Jane Austen

Today is World Book Day, a yearly celebration of all the wonderful children’s books. Kids dress as their favourite book character, read their favourite books and just generally enjoy all things bookish. Isn’t that just the best celebration ever? This year it’s the 20th anniversary of World Book Day and I’m completely jealous of all those kids that got to celebrate this glorious day at school!I’m too old to have been able to celebrate it. Woe is me.

As it’s World Book Day, I thought I’d share a glorious quote from one of my favourite writers. A writer who was full of wise words, especially when it came to books! I’d never have learnt to love Jane Austen’s brilliant books if I hadn’t been introduced to so many amazing books as a child. Books like Matilda, Charlotte’s Webb, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, Where’s Spot?, Peter Pan, the entire series’ of Mallory Towers, The Babysitter’s Club and Sweet Valley High and The Little Girl in the Big Freeze. So hooray for children’s books and the wonderful characters and worlds that I grew up with.

What’s your favourite children’s book?

-Fi x

 

The Book Corner: Recent Reads 2017, Part 1

Recent Reads 2017 Part 1

 

Greeting one and all. Me again, with a little reading update. After sharing the books I read in 2016 I was debating over whether to continue to do this in 2017. I wondered whether anyone read these reading updates or in fact, if anyone liked them at all. But then I remembered that I blog because I want to blog. I write about what I want to write about, and whether anyone wants to read a reading update is actually irrelevant! So I’m going to continue. 

If I’m honest then I think that writing these reading update posts is my favourite thing to do. I enjoy thinking about what books I’ve read recently and putting my thoughts about them onto paper (or screen). So without further ado I’m going to continue along with my Recent Reads for 2017.

The Girl Who Saved Christmas by Matt Haig 

I’ve been waiting for this book since last Christmas when I read the first story in the series, A Boy Called Christmas. The story and characters in both books are truly magical and completely enchanting. I love both Matt Haig’s writing and Chris Mould’s illustrations and I defy you not to love them too. This is a story of hope and magic that filled me with a childlike excitement for Christmas. I’m also really hoping there a third book coming out this December. 

 Another Little Christmas Murder by Lorna Nicholl Morgan

This one is a classic mystery set in the snow, rather than at Christmas. A number of people are stranded in a snowstorm and forced to stay at a house in the wilds of Yorkshire. When they wake up the next morning they discover that their host, who was ill when they arrived, has died in his sleep. Or was it murder? This was a good read for Christmas. There was interesting characters and great descriptions throughout the story and I like Dilys as a character and budding sleuth. However, while I do love a good old fashioned mystery this one seemed overly long before it was suddenly solved really, really quickly. Which was slightly disappointing, I’d still be tempted to read other books by this author though.

The Goldfish Boy by Lisa Thompson

Matthew is 12 and suffers from OCD. He refuses to leave his bedroom and spends his time cleaning and watching his neighbours from his bedroom window. Then a toddler goes missing from the house next door and Matthew could be the key to solving the mystery, if he could only leave his safe place and investigate. I devoured this book in two days. It is full of interesting characters with complex personalities and there’s a good mystery that will keep you guessing until the end.

Recent Reads Goldfish Boy

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

This book was on my ‘To Be Read’ list as soon as I finished Six of Crows, so the fact that I managed to save reading it until now is a modern day miracle. Crooked Kingdom is the follow on, and finale, to Six of Crows, Bardugo’s heist story. That book is full of wonderful worlds, complex characters and an epic story, so it was a pure joy to revisit all of these in Crooked Kingdom. After finishing this one I spent the next week thinking about the story, the ending and the world that Bardugo created. I think I still have withdrawal symptoms for this series, and I don’t really know how my reading life is going to continue and recover. Send help! But seriously, it’s a must read.

Ensnared by Rita Stradling

Next up on my recent reads list is a book I received from Netgalley just before heading to Leeds for the weekend. So it became my train read for the trip. It’s a take on Beauty and the Beast, but set in the future in a world of artificial intelligence and robots. In order to save her father from prison the main character Alainn pretends to be a robot and goes to live in the tower of recluse Mr. Garbhan.

This was an interesting read and I enjoyed the new take on a classic fairytale. While there’s adventure and intrigue throughout, I have to admit that the futuristic and scientific elements of the plot went a little bit over my head, it was almost too much for me to understand. However, it was a quick read and had some interesting concepts, so maybe it’s my inability to understand parts of it that let me down. I’d be intrigued to hear what other readers thought.

See You in the Cosmos by Jack Cheng

See You in the Cosmos is told through a series of podcasts recorded by 11 year old Alex. Alex plans to send his iPod, with the podcasts, into space using his handmade rocket that he is launching at SHARF. Also known as the Southwest High-Altitude Rocket Festival. The book follows Alex on his road trip to SHARF and then onto Las Vegas and LA, as he meets new friends and searches for answers to important questions.

The narration from Alex is wonderful and while it’s unusual for me to read a book narrated by an eleven year old boy this is so well done that I soon found myself reading in the voice of Alex. Or at least in the way that I thought Alex would sound. There really is something quite wonderful about looking at the world through Alex’s eyes. I’m so pleased that I picked up a copy of this book at work. It was a lovely, easy read that captured my imagination. 

Recent Reads Carl Sagan

Lion by Saroo Brierley

I totally and utterly fell in love with this story, so much so that I read this book in just a few hours. The book really has two different stories. Story one focuses on how five year old Saroo becomes lost far away from home and survives on the streets of Calcutta, before finding a home with an Australian family in Tasmania. The second part of the story focuses on Saroo, 25 years later, attempting to find his village in India using what little he remembers and Google Maps. Saroo’s story is astonishing and heartbreaking, but it’s also a story of triumph and perseverance and I defy you not to be in awe of it.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

This is one of my favourite books of the year so far. I was totally and utterly engrossed in the story and I couldn’t put the book down. It’s a locked room mystery, when five students, the stereotypical brainiac, beauty, jock, criminal and outcast, all walk into detention together but only four leave alive. Each of the suspects have motives for murder, but the question is, which one did it.

The book is told from the perspective of each of the suspects, so we constantly flick between characters. This method works quite well and after a few chapters it’s easy to tell which character is narrating just by the tone of voice. The mystery is well woven throughout the book, with plenty of twists and turns coming from the story but also from each of the characters. All of who are well fleshed out and more than just the stereotypical versions that they seem at the start. All in all a fast paced, gripping mystery that I would highly recommend to others.

Damage by Eve Ainsworth

This is Eve Ainsworth’s third novel and they all tackle a tough subjects. Damage is no different. As it weaves the themes of alcoholism and self harm into the story of teenager Gabi and her relationships with her parents and grandfather. I really enjoyed this book. I think Eve Ainsworth has a wonderful way of writing about hard topics in a realistic way. Or at least it seems realistic to me as I don’t have first hand experience. This book also had me wishing that I could skateboard – but I think it’s a little too late for that! Seven Days is still my favourite Ainsworth book, but this one is close up there.

The Body in the Library by Agatha Christie

I’m trying to read more Agatha Christie books this year, as I’ve loved the ones I’ve read. The classic crime mysteries are so my thing that it’s almost ridiculous that I’ve not read more! The Body in the Library is my favourite Christie so far, which a friend of mine predicted – she knew I’d love it!

Miss Marple is pulled into this story when a body is discovered in the library of her friend’s house. She sets off with her friend Mrs Bantry to a nearby town to investigate the crime and help save her friend’s husband reputation. It seems that Agatha Christie books are too clever for me because I can never figure out the mystery. Although. in all honesty I love that fact. I think that sometimes you want to play detective and figure out all the answers. But then other times you are happy to read along and let the clues and mystery unfold for you. This was definitely a case of the later for me.

 Recent Reads Agatha Christie
Here I Stand: Stories that Speak of Freedom

The final book on this reading update is a collection from Amnesty International which explores human rights issues affecting the world today. With stories, poems and illustrations from 25 different people, including Sarah Crossan, Matt Haig, Chris Riddell, Neil Gaiman and Sita Brahmachari this is a wonderful collection exploring our world today. Each piece is thought provoking and I will admit that a few of these stories had me in tears at the unfairness of the situation.

What a wonderful group of books I have read so far this year! And those eleven wonderful books mean I’ve completed a fifth of my reading challenge for the year. I honestly didn’t mean to read so many books this quickly. I think two weeks of jury service in February helped a lot, what with all the waiting around. If it had been a normal two weeks then I don’t think I’d have read quite as much!

I’m aiming to read 50 books this year and I’ll be tracking my progress over on my GoodReads account. You can follow along here. If you’re interested in what I read last year then take a look at my 2016 reading update posts; Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart Five.

Laura xxx