Monday 29 June 2020

4 New Additions To My Bookshelf

It's not even been that long since my last book haul but due to lockdown I've been reading way more than usual and I'd pretty much got through everything on my bookshelf and on my kindle. There have definitely been weeks where I've read absolutely nothing and been in some major reading slumps but luckily I seem to be out of that now and some of the books I've read recently have just been brilliant. If you haven't seen, I recently spoke about my love for The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid and also Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams so feel free to read those if you want to know more! I had quite a few books in mind that I wanted to get next but I was pretty restrained and ordered myself 4 so I thought I'd share them with you.
4 books stacked on desk shelf in front of musical programs

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank

'A deeply moving and unforgettable portrait of an ordinary and yet an extraordinary teenage girl. First published over sixty years ago, Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl has reached millions of young people throughout the world. In July 1942, thirteen-year-old- Anne Frank and her family, fleeing the occupation, went into hiding in an Amsterdam warehouse. Over the next two years Anne vividly describes in her diary the frustrations of living in such close quarters, and her thoughts, feelings and longings as she grows up. Her diary ends abruptly when, in August 1944, they were all betrayed.'

Just writing the synopsis out made me feel a bit emotional so I'm sure this will be a hard read at times. I do think I might have read Anne Frank's Diary when I was younger but I definitely don't have a copy so I really wanted to grab one for myself to keep. One of the things I really wanted to do on our trip to Amsterdam next week which is having to be re-scheduled, was visit the Anne Frank museum so I thought now was a good time to read the diary before hopefully going some other time. Have you read her diary?
The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank laid on top of 4 other books

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

'Despite their differences, sisters Viann and Isabelle have always been close. Younger, bolder Isabelle lives in Paris while Viann is content with life in the French countryside with her husband Antoine and their daughter. But when the Second World War strikes, Antoine is sent off to fight and Viann finds herself isolated so Isabelle is sent by their father to help her. As the war progresses, the sisters' relationship and strength is tested. With life changing in unbelievably horrific ways, Viann and Isabelle will find themselves facing frightening situations and responding in ways they never thought possible as bravery and resistance take different forms in each of their actions.'

I've seen a lot about this recently and with each positive review, I've found myself more and more intrigued. I've read quite a few books centered around the second world war so this is a book I'm really keen to get started on. I've seen it mentioned several times how emotional this book is though so I fully expect to cry a lot!
The Nightingale by Kristin Hanna on desk shelf in front of musical programs. Ornament of Eiffel Tower next to book

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

'Frances is twenty-one years old, cool-headed and observant. A student in Dublin and an aspiring writer, at night she performs spoken word with her best friend Bobbi, who used to be her girlfriend. When they are interviewed and then befriended by Melissa, a well-known journalist who is married to Nick, an actor, they enter a world of beautiful houses, raucous dinner parties and holidays in Provence, beginning a complex menage-a-quatre. But when Frances and Nick get unexpectedly closer, the sharply witty and emotion-averse Frances is forced to confront her own vulnerabilities for the first time'

This seemed impossible to get hold of until recently! As I've said quite a few times recently I adored Normal People by Sally Rooney so as soon as I finished the book and the TV series, I wanted to see what her other novel was like and of course it wasn't in stock anywhere or the places it was, were charging ridiculous prices. It was reduced to just £4.50 on Amazon a few weeks ago so I had to get it and I can't wait to get stuck in. I hope I love it as much as Normal People though I have no idea what to expect with this.
Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney book on top of 4 other books

Daisy Jones and The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

'Everybody knows Daisy Jones and the Six. From the moment Daisy walked barefoot on to the stage at the Whisky, she and the band were a sensation. Their sound defined an era. Their albums were on every turntable. They sold out arenas from coast to coast. This is the story of their incredible rise: the desire, the rivalry - and the music. Then, on 12 July 1979, Daisy Jones and the Six split up. Nobody knew why. Until now...'

I can't wait to get started on this! I never expected to love The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo so much and as this seems like a similar premise, I have high hopes. I'm obsessed with the cover too, it's so pretty! Have you read anything by Taylor Jenkins Reid?
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid on desk shelf in front of musical programs. Ornament of Eiffel Tower next to it
So that's four new additions to my bookshelf! I'm definitely going to struggle to find room for them but they were all books I'd been tempted by for a while and I now I just need to decide which one to start first.

Have you read any of these books?

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Friday 26 June 2020

Mini Film Reviews #8 - The Invisible Man, The Gentlemen & More

It's been a long, long time since I last shared some mini film reviews, since January actually! Whilst in lockdown, it's safe to say I've been watching many films and boxsets. George and I are loving having movie nights, usually at the weekend with a pizza and of course a load of snacks because what is a movie night without popcorn and sweets? There are a few more films than usual this time as there were so many I wanted to talk about.
collage - The Invisible Man, Endings Beginnings, Trolls World Tour, The Hunt, The Gentlemen, Birds of Prey, Ready or Not

The Invisible Man - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

This was one of the films that was released online and available to rent around the time we first went into lockdown so luckily we had something new to watch that we'd originally been hoping to see in the cinema. I love anything that's a thriller or a horror and this seemed like a bit of both, something that would have genuinely creepy moments in and also leave you in suspense throughout. This also had elements of science fiction thrown in too. This stars Elisabeth Moss as Cecelia, a woman who is convinced she is been stalked by her abusive ex boyfriend who recently 'apparently' committed suicide. When the police refuse to believe her story, she has to take matters into her own hands. I was really impressed by this and genuinely couldn't work out what was 'real' at times and what wasn't. Really like how different it is to many other horrors that have been released recently.

Ready or Not - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Another horror as we watched quite a few during those first weeks of lockdown. Ready or Not is about newlyweds Grace and Alex. Grace couldn't be happier to finally have a proper family of her own but unfortunately she finds out there's a catch. Everyone who marries into the family has to play a game and it just turns out that Grace picked hide and seek. She is sent to hide and believes it really is just a simple game but unfortunately she actually has to try and stay alive from midnight to dawn whilst her in-laws hunt her down with guns, crossbows and various other weapons. I thought this was a really good horror despite quite a few gory moments and there was definitely some humour thrown in too. I thought the ending had quite a good twist even if it was maybe a little silly.

The Hunt - ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Yep, another horror, though this came across as more of an action movie to me for the majority of it. This starts with twelve strangers waking up in a forest with no idea where they are or how they got there. Turns out there's a group of ruthless elitists who gather at a remote location to hunt humans for sport and these twelve are the unlucky ones this year. Quite a few big names were included in the trailer for this so I was very surprised with just how many are killed within about 5 minutes but that definitely kept me intrigued as everything I thought I knew about the movie, changed. The trailer now seems very different to the actual film so it really has the shock factor.

Trolls World Tour - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I love love love Trolls. The first film is probably one of my all time faves, I can put it on at any time and I know I'm guaranteed a few hours where I just feel happy, it's just that sort of film. I've looked forward to the sequel since the first film was released so I was just glad the time had finally arrived. Whilst I don't think this was quite as good as the first film, I still REALLY enjoyed it and I can't wait to watch it again. Yeah it's a film primarily aimed at kids but there's something for the whole family I think. It's funny, it has a nice story and the music is great. Please let there be a third film.

Endings, Beginnings - ⭐⭐⭐

Ah I was so looking forward to this as who doesn't love a bit of Jamie Dornan and Sebastian Stan but it wasn't quite as good as I hoped it would be. Endings, Beginnings follows Daphne, played by Shailene Woodley as she is going through a bad break up and trying to navigate the single life. Whilst vowing not to get involved with a man anytime soon, she meets both Frank and Jack at a party, best friends too and polar opposites. One is a bad boy that drags her into scenes she doesn't really want to be in but she can't stay away and the other is an intelligent and sensitive man who really cares for her, but is that enough excitement? I did like this and I think the acting was brilliant but the ending just let it down for me.

Birds of Prey - ⭐⭐

I was SO disappointed in this! I absolutely loved Suicide Squad in 2016 and Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn was definitely one of the stand outs so I had high hopes for her standalone movie, Birds of Prey. Unfortunately I feel like it was just a bit of a mess. I'm sure they'll be people who love this and I'm really glad if you're one of them but I personally sat there thinking 'what is going on?' the majority of the time. I felt that Harley's break up with the Joker was brushed over pretty quickly, there was no real plot and then several other 'superheroes' come into the movie to form the Birds of Prey but they don't really get together as a gang til towards the end.We didn't really know much about them so I couldn't connect to any of them. Like, one randomly had this power too that had not been mentioned beforehand or after so it was just a bit 'oh okay this is happening now!' It felt thrown in for the sake of it. Can you tell I didn't enjoy this?! I think they could have done so much more with it.

The Gentlemen - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Now this was a fantastic film, one of the best I've watched in lockdown. I actually want to watch it again soon as I think each time it would just get better and better. This has an outstanding cast and I was so impressed with every single one of them. It stars Matthew McConaughey, Charlie Hunnam, Michelle Dockery, Hugh Grant & Henry Golding, just to name a few. It follows Mickey Pearson, an American expat who has built himself a highly profitable marijuana empire in London. When it gets out he's looking to sell off his business, it triggers an array of plots, schemes and blackmail from various characters who want to steal his domain. Just from the synopsis and even the trailer, it wouldn't usually be the sort of film I'd rush to watch but I thought it was fab. Really funny at points and Hugh Grant and Michelle Dockery especially stood out to me.

I think that wraps this post up and I hope you enjoyed hearing about some of the films I've enjoyed (some not so much) over the last few months. Have you seen any of the movies in this post? What did you think to them?

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Monday 22 June 2020

The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo By Taylor Jenkins Reid Book Review

I thought I had an idea of what my top book of the year might be come the end of 2020. After reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, I'm now not so sure. I truly did not want this book to end.
The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo By Taylor Jenkins Reid Book held up over flatlay of various other books
'Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jump-start her career. Summoned to Evelyn's luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the '80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very clear connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn's story nears its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique's own in tragic and irreversible ways.'

My Review

I was really intrigued in how this was going to be set out and part of the reason I'd put off reading it for so long was because it almost came across as quite old fashioned just from the cover and the synopsis and I wasn't sure if it was going to be something I'd really get stuck into. It's not like anything I've read before but I can say now that it is one of the best books I have ever read, and I have read quite a few books over the last few years.

This story really gets going just after Evelyn requests Monique Grant, a journalist, to write her biography. She wants no one else and is adamant than only Monique must put her words on paper and tell people of the real Evelyn Hugo, not the one everyone knows from the big screen. The story is told from two different timelines and points of view. One from Monique interviewing Evelyn and piecing everything together for the biography and the other timelines from all of the different times throughout Evelyn's life from early childhood to going on to have seven husbands throughout her career. We also find out the true reason for Evelyn requesting Monique and her reasons for why now is the time she has to come clean about everything she's ever wanted to. Each chapter just flows seamlessly into the next and whilst there have been many books recently that have held my attention, this was like no other. I never, ever wanted it to end. I just wanted more. The plot is constantly evolving and changing and it just works like a dream.

Whilst I wasn't completely sure of Evelyn at the beginning, given almost immediately she comes across as quite cold and almost manipulative, I really warmed to her over time. As we uncover more about her early marriages, it becomes clear she was a woman that could never truly live the life she wanted to. She became famous very young, wasn't always surrounded by the best people and for a long time had to hide who she truly was. I felt for her and other characters in the book who were living lives that weren't always as they seemed in fear of what people might think otherwise. It showed that fame isn't always as spectacular and glamorous as you might expect and showed that during the 50's and later years too that if you put a foot out of line, it would be very hard to come back from it.

I'd never read anything from Taylor Jenkins Reid before this, despite hearing lots of praise about her because of this and also Daisy Jones & The Six, something else I'm keen to read now, but I'm so impressed by her writing. The whole book played out like a film in my head. I could imagine every single thing so vividly. I don't think there's a book that I've read before that has had such a way with story telling. It was genuinely like I was in each scene watching it play out, it was crazy at times how believable it all felt. I was lost in the lives of these Hollywood stars.

As I said at the beginning of this review, I wasn't expecting too much from this but it really surprised me when it went down a certain route. Whilst I don't want to spoil anything because I genuinely just want everyone to go and read this for themselves, I think it represented the LGBTQ+ community beautifully, just with such ease. In fact I think Taylor has approached each subject perfectly including race and misogyny too, just to name a few. Whilst the title leads you to believe it's all going to be about Evelyn's 7 husbands, it's so much more than that. When we dig deeper, we find out not all the marriages were as they seemed. Some were out of lust, some out of love and some out of convenience and much of the book was about just pure love for many other people in her life, not just the men.

I was utterly obsessed with Evelyn Hugo and everything about her life. This book will stay with me for a long time and I know I'll be re-reading it one day and loving it just as much as the first time. It's going to be tough picking my favourite books of the year when 2020 ends but I know this will be one of them, maybe even in the #1 spot too.

Have you read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo?

Book reviews - Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams // Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG

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Friday 19 June 2020

My Current City Break Bucket List

I had high hopes for 2020. I'm sure most of us did, but it's fair to say this year hasn't really gone the way anyone expected. When January was dragging along as it always does, I never would have thought that just two months later we'd have our lives put on hold, be in a global pandemic and be forced to stay indoors for the foreseeable. If I'd known, maybe I wouldn't have wished so many days away and would have realised just how special the little things we could do before really were. Luckily there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel now and whilst lockdown has made me appreciate so much more than before, I'll be glad when this is a thing of the past. One of the things I've struggled with the most over the last few months is the fact that pretty much all of the exciting plans we had for Spring & Summer had just gone in an instant. 
collage - Trevi Fountain Rome, Main Square Krakow, Budapest, Colesseum Rome, Prague
Of course there's bigger things to worry about than holidays and everyone's circumstances are different but we're still allowed to be sad about these things. Due to my anxiety, I'm someone who needs things to look forward to. I can get very negative, very quickly so I'm forever planning things for the future, something to aim for and look forward to. This year George and I really wanted to travel a bit more. By that I don't mean go backpacking or anything, I'm not that adventurous but we wanted to tick off some of the places on our city break bucket list. We also wanted to see a number of shows in London (when I am ever not planning a trip to see a musical?) and we also had a few trips to other cities in the UK planned. Whilst all of those things can be re-scheduled, I struggled at first to accept that for time being those things were no longer happening. As the weeks go on and more and more restrictions are eased, we're starting to get back out there again and as I've said in a few posts recently, I'm hopeful we might be able to claw back some of these trips by the end of the year but I'm just taking each week as it comes for now. Talking about travel is something that makes me really happy at the moment and planning for future trips, whenever they might be is something that has really kept me going so today I wanted to share some of the places on my current city break bucket list. 


The first place I had to mention and the place we should be heading in a matter of weeks is Amsterdam. This is a city we've wanted to visit for years and it was a contender for our honeymoon before we decided on Paris instead. We had planned to go for our anniversary in July and as that date is getting closer and closer, the sadder I'm starting to feel about it being cancelled. I just got so invested in planning this trip but I know we'll get there eventually. I think it would be beautiful in Autumn and I'm kind of pinning my hopes on that at the moment, it helps me get through the day okay, but if that's not possible then hopefully next Spring will be do-able. I want to eat allll the crepes, go to the Anne Frank Museum, visit the markets - just take in the city and see all it has to offer. I just want a few days in a pretty city, away from normal life for a while.
Image by Liam Gant on Pexels


Whilst there are other cities we'll probably aim to visit beforehand, Prague is definitely on my city break bucket list. Every photo I have ever seen of it just looks stunning, regardless of the time of year. It's known for it's Old Town Square and it's Gothic style churches and buildings so I think it would be a real sightseeing trip. Prague Castle, Charles Bridge, the Astronomical Clock and the Dancing House are just a few of the places I want to see whilst there.
Photo by Jeshoots on Pexels


Budapest has been pretty high on my bucket list for a few years now. A place I'd love to visit in the Summer one year maybe for an extended weekend break. I don't actually know loads about the city but it's one of those places I'd love to just figure out as we go and see what we find. A few places I've seen online though that are a must are - The Hungarian Parliament Building which looks insanely beautiful from the other side of the Danube for the full view, Heroes' Square, Margaret Island and the Danube Promenade.


The more I think about our possible trip to Krakow at Christmas, the more excited I get. Maybe I've got my head in the clouds thinking that travel will be a possibility in the not too distant future but I've got everything crossed that that's going to be the case. I'm not giving up on 2020 just yet. Krakow has been on my travel bucket list for so many years and I was insanely jealous when George got to visit with work a few years ago. We've always said that we'd go back together one year and I'm really hoping 2020 can still be the year that we get there. I love visiting Christmas markets but so far we've not got abroad for any so I'd love for Krakow to be the first one I get to go to in a different country. It looks magical. I'm also really keen to go on the Auschwitz tour too. I've mentioned in many book reviews that Auschwitz is something I'm always wanting to learn more about and given I've read so many books about it, I feel like it's something I need to see for myself one day. We have so much planned for our trip so let's just hope we get there some time soon.


I've never been to Italy and it's always somewhere I'm lusting over in the Summer months. I just want to sit in a cute restaurant with a glass of prosecco and a big bowl of pasta taking in the views. Venice is also somewhere I'd love to go one day but I find myself drawn to Rome every time I start looking for a holiday. Maybe it's the amount of times I've watched the Lizzie McGuire movie! Of course the Colosseum is one of the main attractions to visit but I'd also like to see the Pantheon at night, St. Peter's Basilica, the Spanish Steps and obviously I'm going to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain (Is that still allowed? I think it is!).
So, that's the 5 main cities on my current city break bucket list. I could go on for ages, I definitely want to visit places like Barcelona, Stockholm, Vienna and Dublin too. We'd also love to head back to Paris one day too as we loved it so much yet it still feels like there's so much we didn't see.

Where are you hoping to head first when travel is allowed again? Have you visited any of these cities and have any recommendations?

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Monday 15 June 2020

The Mid Year Book Tag 2020

HOW ARE WE IN JUNE?! Given how dreadful the majority of this year has been so far, I'm quite glad it's going so fast and the sooner we enter a fresh year, the better but another part of me wants it to slow down. I don't want a whole year to be wasted even if it is necessary. Anyone else understand what I mean? I really do think Summer will be over before we know it though given the speed at which the weeks are going by at the moment! As we're already in June, it's officially time for the mid year book tag! I first took part in this in 2018 and as I enjoyed it so much I did the same last year, and as you can see I'm doing it again this year. As I've been reading more and more each year, this has felt like a nice way to document where I'm at with my reading challenge and go over my thoughts on some of the books. I don't know if anyone will be particularly interested but I love writing these up so why not carry on the tradition? Let's get started.
books laid next to one another, camera tilted diagonally

1. Best book you've read so far in 2020?

At the moment I'm really torn between Normal People by Sally Rooney and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I mentioned in my recent favourites that there seems to be one book every year that I bang on about for months and so far it seems Normal People is the one for 2020. I know it's a book that divides opinion and I can see why but I'm in the club of people who utterly adored it. When I finished The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo last week though I realised it's not going to be so easy picking my favourites come the end of the year. It blew me away.

2. Best sequel you've read so far in 2020?

I've not read many sequels so far this year but I think it has to be A Murder Of Magpies by Mark Edwards. The Magpies series is absolutely brilliant and it's what has made Mark become one of my favourite authors. Whilst I did prefer the first book, The Magpies, I thought this was a great follow up.

3. New release you haven't read yet, but want to?

Ooh there are so many! One that stands out to me which I think came out earlier this year is Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I'm seeing that all over Instagram at the moment and I'm really intrigued.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year?

Kind of cheesy but I can't wait for Midnight Sun by Stephanie Meyer to be released in August. I was a HUGE Twilight fan when I was a teenager so when she announced recently she had written Edward's point of view, I knew I was going to have to read it. I also can't wait to grab The Minute I Saw You by Paige Toon. It was due for release in May but due to Covid-19 it's been pushed back to August. I think the kindle version is available but I love that I have a little collection of Paige's books on my bookshelf so I'm going to wait it out and add to that.

5. Biggest disappointment?

Probably The Chain by Adrian McKinty. I had such high hopes for it and to be honest, I hated it. It had an amazing premise but I just didn't get along with it. I was also a little underwhelmed by The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. Another book that seems to get rave reviews but I felt was a bit meh.

6. Biggest surprise?

Half A World Away by Mike Gayle. It broke me at times but also made me incredibly happy at other points. I'd read reviews of this beforehand and I had a feeling it was going to be good but I never expected it to go where it did. The story of siblings being separated and adopted by separate families then being reunited years later was always going to be heart-wrenching but Mike Gayle throws in a twist that meant I couldn't put it down. I also want to mention Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG. I found it started a little slow but at one point it's like something switched. The more I think about it, the more I realise what a great book it was (in my opinion anyway).
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG on top of 4 other books

7. Favourite new author?

K.L. Slater. I've read two books of hers now, The Apartment which I rated 5 stars and Little Whispers which I rated 4 stars. I was really impressed with both of these and The Apartment especially had me gripped! I'm so excited to read more from her in the future.

8. New fictional crush?

It's got to be Connell from Normal People. I fell in love with his character whilst reading the book, despite his flaws and Paul Mescal's portrayal in the TV adaptation is just perfect. I'm someone who LOVES the Irish accent too so that probably helps.

9. Favourite new character?

Probably Laura from The Longest Holiday. I've got so many favourite books from Paige Toon but The Longest Holiday just made me really happy. It had everything you want in a romance and I loved getting to know Laura as the story went on. This is sort of a follow up to Chasing Daisy and though we don't get loads with Laura during that, I wasn't particularly her biggest fan, so it was nice to get a book just about her and where her life went after the first book.

10. A book that has made you cry?

The obvious one that jumps to mind is Half A World Away by Mike Gayle. Another is A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. That had some really emotional moments throughout and I just wanted Ove to be back with his wife who he clearly adored.

11. A book that made you happy?

The Five Year Plan by Carla Burgess had moments throughout that made me beam. I loved the relationship between Orla and Aiden and the ending was perfect.

12. Favourite review you've written?

I really like the review of People Like Us by Louise Fein, a book I was kindly gifted earlier in the year. The book is set in 1930s Nazi Germany and was inspired by the authors family history and I just found it really powerful and thought-provoking so I hope that comes across in my review. I also really love my review of Queenie which I posted last week. With everything that's going on in the world at the moment, it's very topical and I hope I got across just how much I want to learn and do more to help.
People Like Us by Louise Fein held up in front of bookshelf

13. Most beautiful book you've bought?

Ooh I think the cover of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo is stunning.

14. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

I've got such a long list of books to get through! I really need to read Lost by Leona Deakin, the follow up to Gone which I reviewed last year. I also picked up The Innocent Wife by Amy Lloyd last week which I'm really keen to get started on.

And that wrap's up the 2020 mid year book tag! I can't wait to see come the end of the year how many books I've managed to read and which ones have come out on top. I already have a few in mind that I think will end up in my top 5 but there's still plenty of time left to go so it could all change.

Have you read any of these books? What's your favourite book of 2020 so far?

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Monday 8 June 2020

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams Book Review

What's this? Another book review in less than week? Not something that happens often around here but if you've read my blog for a while you'll know I go months without any and then several come along at once. Last week I shared my review of Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG, a book that has had a lasting impact on me and today I wanted to share my thoughts on Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams.
Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. Flatlay. Book on top of 4 other books
'Meet Queenie. She just can't cut a break. Well, apart from one from her long term boyfriend, Tom. That's just a break though. Definitely not a break up. Stuck between a boss who doesn't seem to see her, a family who don't seem to listen (if it's not Jesus or water rates, they're not interested), and trying to fit in two worlds that don't really understand her, it's no wonder she's struggling. She was named queen of everything. So why is she finding it so hard to rule her own life?'

My Review

I think it's fair to say 2020 will be a year we all remember, but unfortunately not for good reasons (so far). After the murder of George Floyd in America two weeks ago, the justified outrage all over social media and the protests in the streets here in the UK and America have proven to me that I need to be a better ally. Myself and many others I'm sure have realised that not being racist isn't enough, we need to be anti-racist and we need to be shouting about it! Whilst initially I wasn't sure how to put what I was feeling into words and I was afraid of saying the wrong thing, I've realised that I need to do more. Over the last week I've committed myself to signing petitions, having discussions offline and educating myself. I've seen many books by black authors recommended so I have a long list I want to get through but the one that I saw over and over again and had for weeks before this actually, was Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams. Whilst doing the food shop last week, I spotted it and saw it was the last one on the shelf so I grabbed it. I then read it all in one sitting the next day.

As soon as I started this book, I instantly warmed to Queenie. The book has been advertised in a way as a modern version of Bridget Jones and I could see why quite quickly but this book is far deeper than that (soz Bridget). The book starts with Queenie moving out of the home she shares with her boyfriend Tom after they decide they need a break from one another. Despite having many things in her past not dealt with, generally she was happy so this break leads her down a path she never expected. In her mind she was only years from marriage and babies but now she finds herself in a world of one night stands, anxiety and her job on the line. Everything pretty much changes for her in an instant and I couldn't help but feel for her.

This book tackles a variety of topics including racism, mental health issues, childhood trauma, relationships and more and I thought Candice approached each one perfectly. I felt angry on Queenie's behalf everytime a new man she met up with mentioned her race and I just wanted everyone to see her for being so much more than that. She was a character that was bubbly, funny, caring, a good friend, had so much going for her and yet she has to deal with so much crap from people who only see her for how she looks. It was infuriating. Parts of the book like this though really put things into perspective for me and I think that's what is so great about it. As a white person, I'll never experience some of the things she did so I felt this gave me a better understanding and allowed for me to be in her shoes for a while. For other reasons though I could really relate to Queenie. I could understand her want to be wanted, her struggles with anxiety, her ability to self-destruct sometimes. She was frustrating at points but also so honest and believable.

I also think Candice did brilliantly in making all of the characters feel so alive. I hated Queenie's ex Tom at points and he's not even in the book that much! I loved Queenie's friends, Darcy and Kyazike who I genuinely want to be my friends too and I could picture her whole family so clearly. It was such an easy read with each chapter flowing into the next. I also really liked the use of texts and emails throughout which not only broke up some of the bigger chapters but also really meant you got to go into the depths of her relationships with several characters.

Queenie is one of the best books I've read in 2020 and I'd urge everyone to read it. It had me laughing from the first page but also gave me chapters where I just wanted to grab Queenie and hug her. I found it incredibly refreshing to read something so different from all of the other books I've read so far this year and I genuinely feel like it was an education. 

I'm really keen to read more books from black authors so if you have any recommendations, please let me know! 

I'd also love to know if you've read Queenie? If so, what did you think?

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Friday 5 June 2020

Lockdown Snacks With The British Snack Co*

AD - This post is in collaboration with The British Snack Co but all opinions are my own
Life has definitely changed dramatically for us all over the last few months and whilst we're hopefully seeing the light at the end of the tunnel now, things aren't quite back to normal yet. Whilst we've been in lockdown I've had up and down days as I'm sure most of us have. Some weeks I've felt absolutely fine and I've been embracing this extra time with my family and other times I've felt very low and just wanted my life back. I've been trying to find the positives where I can and I'll admit recently I may have treated myself to a few new things just to have something to look forward to (see the amazing brownies we ordered in my recent favourites!). Food is the one thing I've really looked forward to each day, whether that be getting fresh pastries for breakfast at the weekend, having a pizza night on a Saturday or as I just said, treating George and I to something special from small businesses. As food is one of the biggest joys at the moment, I was thrilled to receive a package from The British Snack Co, full of tasty crisps and popcorn to enjoy whilst at home.
The British Popcorn Co popcorn scattered on table, salted popcorn in gold bowl

Who are The British Snack Co?

The British Snack Co are a UK based company who launched in 2013 with a mission to create the tastiest snacks and years later, they're still doing that. They currently produce Awfully Posh which is a range of crispy pork crackling snacks in a variety of flavours, The British Crisp Co which are hand cooked crisps in 5 no-nonsense flavours and The British Popcorn Co which stock the hand-popped treat in exciting flavours you might not have tried before. With more than 5 million bags sold so far and a Great Taste Award too, they're the company to go to for your lockdown snacking needs! 

The British Crisp Co

So what did I think of The British Crisp Co? Well I am a crisp fiend so I was thoroughly excited to get stuck into these! I was sent 5 flavours to try - Sea Salt, Cheese & Onion, Sea Salt & Cider Vinegar, Sweet Chilli and Sea Salt & Black Pepper. You can't beat a classic so the first bag I tried was the Sea Salt and it didn't disappoint. The flavour was really strong and I loved the salty hit I got from every single crisp but it definitely wasn't overpowering. The thick cut of them too meant that they had that super crunch you want from a crisp. Each flavour is delicious and there's something for everyone but I think my favourite would have to be the cheese & onion! I also have to mention how much I love the packaging of these crisps. So unique and just like what you'd find in a pub!
Sea salt and cider vinegar crisps held up in front of bookshelf
Cheese & onion crisps held up in front of bookshelf

The British Popcorn Co

Now onto the popcorn which at the beginning of lockdown became a staple snack for us! It often doesn't feel quite as indulgent as crisps or chocolate, not that there's anything wrong with indulging in those things and it's also the perfect treat for a movie night which is something we've been having lots of throughout lockdown. Hand-popped in Great Britain, these bags of popcorn are inspired by Britain's Great Animals, as you might be able to tell from the packaging. Love, love, love the funky packaging and bright colours. With only 63 calories per serving, they're a great snack for that mid afternoon slump or as I just said, a movie night, or just whenever you fancy really. I received all 4 flavours to try - Caramel & Espresso, Sea Salt, Sour Cream & Black Pepper and Sweet & Salty. I'm always a fan of just salty popcorn, it's my go to cinema snack so this is the flavour I've been going through the fastest! The flavour was a hit with me and incredibly moreish. Even little Bear is partial to a bit of popcorn so it has the thumbs up from him too. Whilst flavours like Caramel & Espresso are a little out there and not usually something I'd go for, the coffee flavour is subtle and worked perfectly with the sweet caramel. An added bonus of The British Popcorn Co is that these all are completely vegan and allergen free too!
Caramel and espresso popcorn held up in front of bookshelf
Sour cream & black pepper popcorn held up in front of bookshelf
George and I both really enjoyed trying out the huge range of snacks available from The British Snack Co and I know if I see them in stores, I'll be picking more up in the future. Whilst all of these products are usually available in stores like Fuller's and Waitrose, they are also available to purchase online which is important for them now than ever. If you're looking for tasty snacks to get you through the next few weeks or you just want to treat yourself to something different, then be sure to check out The British Snack Co website aswell as Amazon where all products are stocked.
bags of popcorn from The British Popcorn Co, salted popcorn in gold bowl on chopping board
What snacks have you been enjoying throughout lockdown?

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Thursday 4 June 2020

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG Book Review

It's not often I find myself still thinking about a book months on from reading it but for some reason Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG keeps popping into my head and I felt compelled to finally write a review. I've said in a few of my book reviews recently that I only tend to blog about books which I feel really passionate about or that have stirred up emotions in me and this has clearly done that.
Everything I Never Told You by Celeste NG book on top of 4 other books
'Lydia is the favourite child of Marilyn and James Lee; a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue - in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James's case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the centre of every party. But Lydia is under pressures that have nothing to do with growing up in the 1970s small town Ohio. Her father is an American born of first-generation Chinese immigrants, and his ethnicity, and hers, make them conspicuous in any setting. When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, James is consumed by guilt and sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn devastated and vengeful, is determined to make someone accountable, no matter what the cost. Lydia's older brother, Nathan, is convinced that local bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it's the youngest in the family - Hannah - who observes far more than anyone else realises and who may be the only one who knows what really happened.'

My Review

As I said in my second reading update of 2020, this book really took me by surprise. I'm usually one to go for specific genres, whether that be thrillers, crime or the opposite end of the scale - romance - but this doesn't fit into any of those. It focuses very much on family dynamics and race so I really wasn't sure what to expect or what I was going to make of it. The people are what make this book though and I found each character fascinating.

Despite the initial shocking opening of 'Lydia is dead', I did find the first quarter or so quite a slow start. I had to really push myself to keep picking it up but I'm so glad I persevered as there seemed to be a moment where it just clicked for me. I think as the family dynamics became clearer and each character was developed and explored more, I found myself really connecting with the story. What becomes obvious as the story progresses, skipping from past to present with ease, the seemingly close-knit family didn't really know each other at all and I was so intrigued with where this was going to lead us.

Lydia's disappearance and death, which is the main focus of the book really resonated with me at times. She was clearly extremely sad at times and felt an immense pressure to live upto her parents expectations. Whether it be academically like her mother wished or socially as her father wished, I imagine a lot of us at times will have been able to relate to that feeling.

It becomes quite clear that Lydia was in someway holding the family together so with her gone, everything shatters and this is when I felt things really picked up the pace, when we saw the impact this had on each person for different reasons. The person I found the most intriguing and the one I enjoyed reading about the most was Marilyn, Lydia's mother who is part of another topic addressed in this book, interracial marriage between a white woman and an American Chinese man in the late 1950s, a time where an occurrence like this was rare. She herself had felt pressures to go along with what is expected of you. She was extremely smart, longed to be a doctor (something else that was also very rare at the the time) but due to getting pregnant unexpectedly, she soon realised she was going to have to give her dream up. I felt for her because she had clearly put her all into Lydia's future instead, she was almost living through her, clearly it was unhealthy to do so but when Lydia is gone, what's left? Where does she go next? It was almost as if her life was over too. Whilst every relationship in the book fascinated me, it was the mother/daughter element that really spoke to me throughout.

Everything I Never Told You is sad at many points throughout, pulls at your heartstrings and makes you question your own relationships and views but is beautifully written. It tackles racism, sexism, family dynamics and much more throughout making it extremely powerful and such an important read. I felt for each of the characters in a number of ways. I almost felt like they were all real! Despite it's slow moments at the start, I feel sad that it's over now and all I want to do is urge everyone to read this. I'm thoroughly excited at the news that this is being made into a film so I'll definitely be seeing that when it's out, I'm really intrigued to see how it works on screen and I'm also really keen to get started on Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste which is another book I've heard amazing things about recently!

Have you read anything by Celeste NG before? What did you think to Everything I Never Told You?

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