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Book Corner – Latest Reads April 2017

It has been a little while since I wrote some book reviews but on holiday I devour books (about one a day) so I have a couple of good ones to share today.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett

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This book was one I chose for my book club to read. I have to admit that I did feel the pressure to choose a decent title for us but this went down quite well and it was an interesting read. The book follows two characters who meet at university and we then follow three different versions of their future, both together and apart. I always wonder ‘what if’ and this book follows that idea of making decisions and the consequences they have. Each chapter was from one of the three versions and I have to admit that in places it was quite hard to follow and it was one of the only times I have ever wished that I had a Kindle title in hardback so I could flick back a little easier to remind myself who all the characters were. After a while, I stopped getting hung up on not remembering every little detail and just read it although I found the ending a little unfulfilling. An interesting yet quite tricky read.

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

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I first heard about this book on Woman’s Hour (and here is the link if you are interested) and this fascinating story stuck with me. It was an incredible read and it even prompted me to tweet the author who actually replied! The book follows the tragic stories of dial painters in America during World War One who worked in factories painting luminous dials using a radium-based paint. Amazingly, at the time radium was seen as some sort of wonder product and was added to drinks, cosmetics and toothpaste, often called ‘liquid sunshine’. Many of these factory girls were earning more than their fathers so it was seen as an attractive and glamorous job and the girls would encourage their sisters, cousins and friends to join too. They were all encouraged to ‘lip point’ which meant putting the radium-covered paintbrushes in their mouths, inadvertently ingesting this element.  There were no safety precautions and the women would literally glow in the dark as they walked home in the evening. Years later, the women gradually started to get ill. It would often begin with losing a tooth but soon would leave them in horrendous pain with appalling and crippling illnesses. The book follows two factories and the brave women who decided to take on these huge corporations and not stop until justice was served. This was brilliantly written, moving and one of the best books I have read in years.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler

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I really wanted to love this book and while it was an easy read, I was just left a little underwhelmed. It was very funny in places but almost identical in style and content to the Mindy Kaling and Tina Fey books I have read. It did make me realise that Amy is really good at what she does and that she has slogged away and worked incredibly hard to get to where she is now. I haven’t seen Parks and Recs so the chapters on that were a little irrelevant to me. Some chapters were really interesting whereas others were really shallow, especially the really blasé one on drugs. I think my favourite thing that I will take away with me was her motto of ‘good for you, not for me’ which is applicable in so many situations!

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Ten Friday Favourites #14 and #15

I’m back, both from holiday and from my accidental blog break! And without sounding too smug, I feel great. We had five blissful days where all we did was read, lie in the sun, walk along the beach, eat amazing food and indulge in a fair few cocktails. I feel so refreshed and really inspired to blog and get a few things around the house and garden finished this week. Seeing as I missed last week’s favourites, I thought I would kick things off this week with a bumper edition from the past fortnight.

Sun

In top position has to be our break in Tenerife. It was so lovely to feel the sun on my face again, speak some Spanish, eat churros and paella every day and enjoy doing absolutely nothing without any guilt.

Braces

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After almost a year, the braces I have had to straighten up my bottom teeth are off! I am so pleased I went ahead with this, despite the aching jaw and sore mouth, and plan on writing a blog post soon with a few before and after pictures.

Eyelash tint and lift

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I have written before about how much I love these beauty treatments and it was lovely to not have to bother with mascara or curling my eyelashes all week. In fact, I spent most of the time make-up free which was lovely and I think my skin is better for it.

Ballet

The day before our holiday, I went to watch Matthew Bourne’s production of The Red Shoes in Bristol with friends from work. It was a great way to spend an afternoon and my second time watching this art form.

The Radium Girls

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I read this book on holiday and it was incredible. Moving, brilliantly-written and shocking in equal parts, I will be recommending this to everyone. I even got a reply to my tweet from the author which makes me love it even more.

Travel Pillow

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I bought this for our trip to Japan later this year but decided to test it out this holiday. I’d never really rated travel pillows before but this was lovely. For once, I actually napped on the flight without my neck swinging about and I even used it through the day on the sunbed and it was a gamechanger – I actually had 3 naps one day!

Striped Top

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I have been loving this top I picked up in Primark a few weeks ago. I feel it ticks off a couple of trends (flared sleeves, stripes, embroidery) but it also just feels great to wear.

Chai Shower Gel

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This Body Shop shower gel smells of my all-time favourite drink – enough said.

Fish Pedicure

I know these were a craze a few years ago but I never had one and when I saw this little spa, I decided to have a go. I actually quite liked the nibbling sensation and I have to admit my feet were lovely and smooth afterwards. Ian however, having very ticklish feet, found it torturous!

Coconut Chips

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I always grab a packet of these at the till in Primark and I love them. They are delicious to snack on their own but are also a great addition to overnight oats or porridge for a bit of a crunch. I think they also have chocolate covered ones which I need to try.

Five Friday Favourites #7

Despite this week being a bit of a write-off, there were a few highlights:

BBC Dramas

Although I love Netflix and American TV series, I think we can sometimes forget just how flippin’ great our home grown dramas are! This week, Ian and I have watched ‘Moorside’ and ‘Apple Tree Yard’ both of which were gripping and contained brilliant casts. We have just started watched ‘The OA’ and although I am getting into it now, it is so stylised and quite slow-moving – give me a gritty British drama any day!

Hanjie

Quite a niche favourite but I love these Japanese picture puzzles. They do tap in to the whole mindfulness colouring book craze yet they actually make you think a bit too which is perfect for me.

Tea

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I don’t think I would have made it through this week without copious cups of the good stuff. For me, it has healing qualities.

The Versions of Us

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I finished reading this book earlier on in the week and really enjoyed it. It was actually my choice for my book club and was written in a really unique way. Funnily enough, it was the first book I’ve ever read on my Kindle that I wish I had in paperback as I had to keep flipping back to remind myself of certain details of the plot. I will do a proper book review soon.

The First Signs of Spring

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As I type this, I can see some little purple crocuses in the garden and I also have a bunch of bright yellow daffodils on the table. These little glimpses of spring make me really happy as I’ve just had enough of dark mornings, wet afternoons and grey skies!

 

Latest Purchases #106 – Two Urban Outfitters Books

I really like browsing the homeware and gift section of Urban Outfitters. I think they have some really original products and we have a few of them dotted around the house. I was looking through the book section and found these two.

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The first is ‘Bringing the Outside In’ by Val Bradley. This is a guide to growing cacti and succulents with sections on how to display hanging planters and terrariums.

My parents got me a beautiful copper terrarium for Christmas but I’m a bit clueless on how to start it off so this is ideal for knowing which plants to use and how to best care for them.

As well as having lots of handy hints and tips for all things plant-related, this is a really beautiful book and I really like the photography throughout.

The second book I bought was this lovely Daily Journal. I have to admit it was the marble green cover that pulled me in but the content is pretty great too. I am constantly making to-do lists to keep me on top of things and this has several sections to work through. I really like the fact that the pages aren’t dated so I can use it as and when I want to.

So, hopefully these two books will get me organised and green-fingered in no time! x

Book Corner – Latest Reads July 2016

I’ve finished another three books so here are my thoughts on them:

Before I Go to Sleep by S J Watson

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This thriller was a gripping read. Centred around a woman who loses her memory overnight, it follows Christine as she wakes up confused and tries to piece together her life every morning. She begins to keep a journal behind her husband’s back and the reader is never quite sure whether or not her husband can be trusted. Although slightly disjointed and repetitive in places, I did enjoy this and loved the twist at the end. This is very similar to other female-based psychological thrillers like Gone Girl and Girl on the Train so if you liked those then you will really enjoy this.

Only We Know by Karen Perry

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I read this for my book group and did enjoy it. Set in Kenya and Dublin, the book follows the lives of three grown-up childhood friends who are living with the secret of something terrible that happened in Africa until events bring them back to the scene of the crime. I found out after reading this that ‘Karen Perry’ is actually a writing duo which I find a fascinating writing process. They each write a chapter independently from a character’s point of view and then send it to the other for them to continue. I’m not sure who wrote what but I definitely identified more with the female character in this novel and struggled to understand the male ones. I actually guessed the twist that comes near the end of the book but it didn’t ruin it for me. The idea behind this book was excellent and although it took a little while to get moving, I feel it was quite well executed.

The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad

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Not a story per se but a collection of mini tales about one family’s lives observed by a journalist. I absolutely loved this book and really enjoyed the insights into daily life in Afghanistan. I do have quite an interest in Afghan literature, having read quite a few books set there or by Afghan writers, and this is part-history book part-story as it documents life before, during and after the Taliban through weddings, daily life and work. You cannot help but feel shocked and saddened at the lowly role of women throughout the book as well as empathetic to Afghans who have seen their country undergo brutal regime changes. There is no happy ending here but this journalist managed to give a fascinating insight to daily life in a country that is still detached from the rest of the world. One of the best books I have read this year.

Sunday Summary #22

Life

This week seems to have flown by!

My Mum was in New York this week (very jealous!) so my Dad came to stay for a couple of days. Liverpool played in (and lost) the Europa Cup Final this week and we had various friends and family over so my Dad was on cooking duty. He spent all day in the kitchen and produced the most amazing spread which included salt and pepper squid, buttermilk fried chicken, duck in plum sauce, a huge bowl of egg fried rice and curry beef…it’s great having a chef in the family!

I’ve also been going on morning runs. Just a mile or so but I feel amazing afterwards and the views aren’t bad either.

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Last night, Ian and I headed out to watch the All Star Stand-Up Tour with Jarred Christmas, Gary Delaney, Pete Firman and Sean Hughes. All four comedians were very different so it was cool to watch a variety of comedic styles.

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On TV, we finally finished House of Cards (it was great!) so are about to start Scandal soon. Game of Thrones has kept us gripped and one of my favourite American comedies, Veep, has started again.

I’m a few chapters in to ‘Only We Know’ and enjoying it so far – I’m planning on ploughing through a few more chapters on the plane next week, probably with a holiday G&T!

Finally, I made the fatal mistake of looking at the BA flight sale and somehow ended up booking a week in Boston in October! I have always wanted to visit the East coast in Autumn to see the beautiful colours of the trees and Boston seems a really cool city. So…we are off to Berlin next week, a mini-Scandinavian cruise in the summer and Boston a few months later – exciting times!

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Food

My favourite meal this week has to be my Dad’s football feast.

Ian also mastered making perfect margaritas so we’ve had a fair few of those, purely for recipe testing purposes of course.

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I feel like I haven’t cooked anything from scratch for ages so spent a few hours in the kitchen this afternoon making an enormous pot of chili con carne which we will have with tortillas, rice and jacket potatoes for the next few nights, loaded with sour cream and guacamole of course!

Beauty

Ian was at work yesterday so I treated myself to a mid-afternoon pamper session and gave myself a manicure and pedicure. On my feet, I used Essie’s Meet Me At Sunset, a bright orange-red, and on my fingernails I had a play around with some purple foil tips.

I’ve also been testing out the products from the latest Birchbox – there’s a mascara in there I really like.

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Fashion

I’ve decided to give off-the-shoulder tops a go. I’ve always found it hard to find a good strapless bra for a bigger chest so avoided this style. However, I’ve bought a black dress from ASOS (which I was hoping to have a picture of but Ian left the delivery at work!) and this striped top from Primark to try out.

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Sunday/ Monday Summary #14

 

Life

Due to the clock change and the Bank Holidays, I spent most of this weekend not knowing what time or day it was, hence being a day late with my weekly round-up…

I’m writing this from Gatwick Travelodge where we have just had a lovely little M&S picnic dinner in bed. We are flying to Havana tomorrow and I couldn’t be more excited for some sunshine and relaxation.

I only ever take my Kindle away on holiday with me so I had to speed read the rest of this book before we left. It wasn’t the most gripping read, with the most dramatic twists taking place in the last few chapters, over 300 pages in. I have bought a few new titles to read this week which I can’t wait to get stuck in to.

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Ian and I watched the finale of The Night Manager this week which was gripping. We have just started watching the new series of Line of Duty too – British drama really is the best!

One podcast I have been loving this week has been Romesh Ranganathan’s ‘Hip Hop Saved My Life’. In fact, I’ve listened to all 8 episodes in just a few days and laughed at every one of them.

Food

I made it through Lent which means I have gone mad on chocolate these last few days! Ian bought me a Lindt Easter egg and I have devoured a fair few Mini Eggs too.

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I seem to have become mildly obsessed with hot-cross buns this week, having them for breakfast most mornings and even with a slice of bacon. I tried one of Heston’s Cherry Bakewell Hot Cross Buns and Waitrose’s Sticky Toffee Hot Cross Buns too. Both were very tasty but I just don’t think you can beat the original!

On Good Friday, I met up with friends in Bristol for beer and burgers. I had a bacon and peanut butter beef burger which was surprisingly tasty.

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Beauty

I finally had a filling this week on one of my front teeth that had been bothering me for weeks. I also sent off my paperwork for braces along my bottom teeth so no going back now.

I also treated myself to a very indulgent 75-minute full body hot stone massage followed by an eyelash tint and lift this weekend. I was so impressed with the eyelash treatment and you can see from the photos what a difference it has made to my short, straight, blonde lashes!

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Finally, in a pointless-but-pretty purchase, I spotted these nail scissors online and just had to buy them.

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Fashion

Kind of fashion-related is how little I have managed to pack for over a week away. I like to leave myself a day to try things on and pack quite carefully and I know I’ll wear everything I’ve brought with me on holiday (my Mum will be so proud!)

So, farewell for a week or so – I’ll be back soon with lots of pics from our Caribbean jaunt!