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Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Reading Round-Up: July/Aug 2016

Well that's another two months gone, which means it's time for my July/August reading round-up. If you missed the May/June post, you can find that here.

What is reading round-up?

Reading round-up is a simple way for me to keep track of everything book-related, and a fun way to show my readers what I've been reading over the last few months!

Out are the books I've read in July and August.

In are the books I've acquired during that time.

And wishlist are the books I've found out about and want to buy but haven't managed to get my hands on yet!

Out
In
  • Rogue Agent by Kellie Wallace
  • Desecration (London Psychic #1) by J.F. Penn
  • The Assassins' Village (Diana Rivers Mysteries #1) by Faith Mortimer
  • Rafferty & Llewellyn British Mystery series books #1-4 by Geraldine Evans
  • The Oyster Catcher by Jo Thomas 
  • Broken Heart Syndrome by Susie Tate
  • How Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss 
  • Death of a Charming Man (Hamish Macbeth #10) by M.C. Beaton 
  • The Seal Summer by Nina Warner Hooke 
  • The Ghost by Robert Harris
  • Selected Poems by W.H. Auden 
  • Chomsky by John Lyons
  • Psychology by George A. Miller
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke 
  • On the Other Side by Carrie Hope Fletcher
  • Songs of Love and War (Deverill Chronicles #1) by Santa Montefiore
  • Daughters of Castle Deverill (Deverill Chronicles #2) by Santa Montefiore 
  • The Jamie Quinn Mystery collection books #1-3 by Barbara Venkataraman 
  • Quiet by Susan Cain
  • The Potion Diaries by Amy Alward
  • The Potion Diaries: Royal Tour by Amy Alward
  • Ace of Harts by Dani Rene 
  • Devastation Road by Jason Hewitt 
Wishlist
  • My True Love Gave to Me, edited by Stephanie Perkins
  • Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
  • The Great American Whatever by Tim Federle 
  • Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
  • Pointe by Brandy Colbert
  • Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between by Jennifer E. Smith
  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith
  • The Theseus Paradox by David Videcette 
  • The Murdstone Trilogy by Mal Peet 
  • The House of Trembling Leaves by Julian Lees 
  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
  • This Modern Love by Will Darbyshire 
What have you been reading recently? Have you read a book I should know about? Let me know in the comments below!

Friday, 12 August 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 11

August blog challenge day 11: What's in your make-up bag?

I know I'm a day late with this again (oops!) but 4.15am starts coupled with family birthdays and a day of training for a new job apparently don't mix well with keeping on top of blogging!

But anyway - on with the post.

Despite the fact that I very rarely wear make-up, I seem to have rather a lot of it hoarded! My collection consists of the few staples I always use when I go out, plus a load of make-up I'm not entirely sure where I got it from and I've never actually used, but I can't quite bring myself to get rid of it because it just looks so pretty.

I don't care about buying from a particular brand - on the rare occasion I do buy make-up, I buy it because it's practical, cheap, and more often than not, the first brand I happen to pick up.

I'm not pretending to be a beauty blogger, (not least because I'd be the worst beauty blogger in history) so I'm just going to leave you with a few photos of my make-up stash.

Image: Lorna Holland
I'm a complete sucker for colour, which may go a little way towards explaining why I've got a range of eye pencils in colours I'd never be bold enough to wear out.

Image: Lorna Holland
For that matter, I even have a bunch of lipsticks despite never having worn lipstick in my life.

Image: Lorna Holland
Now, make-up aside, I'm much more of a nail varnish kind of girl. I got rid of a lot of my nail varnishes fairly recently, but I still have a good variety of colours (it's that colour obsession again...). I love to experiment with mixing different colours and patterns - painting all my nails the same plain colour is not my thing at all!

Image: Lorna Holland
Glittery nail varnish adds that extra layer of sparkle!

Image: Lorna Holland
What's in your make-up bag? Let me know in the comments below!

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Book Review: Tamar by Mal Peet

When her grandfather dies, Tamar inherits a box containing a series of clues and coded messages. Out of the past, another Tamar emerges, a man involved in the terrifying world of resistance fighters in Nazi-occupied Holland half a century before. His story is one of passionate love, jealousy, and tragedy set against the daily fear and casual horror of the Second World War -- and unraveling it is about to transform Tamar’s life forever.

From acclaimed British sensation Mal Peet comes a masterful story of adventure, love, secrets, and betrayal in time of war, both past and present.

Image: Mal Peet / Walker Books
I first read this book way back in 2005 when I took part in a school library scheme to assist with choosing the year's Carnegie Medal winner. I read the entire shortlist for that year, but Tamar was one of the two books that stood out to me the most. 

Tamar has always been one of those books which is always there in the back of your mind. Although I read lots, this is one of the few books I've never forgotten. So, when I was organising my extensive book collection a few months back, I decided it was high time I bought a copy and reread the story.

Unflinchingly honest

Although you don't get quite the same effect reading it the second time around (mainly because you already know the big twist) it's still a fantastic read. I've always been drawn to World War Two era fiction, and Tamar is still one of my favourites. I love that Peet approaches the subject from a YA point of view, but still keeps it completely realistic. The horrifying nature of the war and the constant terror that gripped Europe at the time are not dumbed-down or desensitised for the younger audience. With Tamar, you get an unflinchingly honest and true-to-life account of the atrocities of the war. And what's even more horrifying is that many of the terrible events in the book are based on things that actually happened during the war. It's almost impossible to imagine what life must have been like, yet Peet manages to capture both sides of the coin impeccably. 

The fact that the story switches between the past and the present day should be confusing, but it actually works really well. The story of the past progresses as present-day Tamar finds out more and more about her family through the cryptic clues her grandad left to her. Both periods are united by the common themes of love, betrayal, and secrets, and this only serves to make the story even more effective, and ultimately, heartbreaking. Honestly, I just can't recommend this book enough.

Rating: 5 stars

Tamar is available to buy now.

Have you read Tamar? Let me know in the comments below!

Monday, 8 August 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 8

August blog challenge day 8 - A song to match your mood.

Just a quick post today! I wouldn't say I'm in any particular mood right now, so completing today's challenge is proving a little problematic...

Instead, I'll leave you with a few songs that sum up my day:

'Perfect Strangers' by Jonas Blue featuring JP Cooper



This was playing on the radio in my car this morning, and now I've got it stuck in my head. Don't you hate it when that happens? It's a good thing I like the song!

'Eye of the Storm' by Bullet For My Valentine



Some vintage BFMV pretty much sums up a lot of my day. For various reaons, I haven't really been in the greatest mood for a good chunk of the day, and 'Eye of the Storm' is a great song to listen to when you're angry.

'Hosanna' from Jesus Christ Superstar



Going from one extreme to the other! I went to see the musical Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent's Park open air theatre in London at the weekend, and ever since this song has been going round and round in my head. I love musicals, and regularly listen to musical soundtracks, but once you've heard the song once it's stuck in your head forever!

What song sums up your day? Let me know in the comments below!

Sunday, 7 August 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 7

August blog challenge day 7: Your dream wedding.

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Today's challenge is a difficult one for me to write about. Unlike most girls, I've never really put much thought into my dream wedding. I know girls who have had their future weddings planned out right down to the tiniest detail from the age of 10 - but I'm not one of them.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against marriage or weddings; I would like to get married someday. But the way I see it, there's no point thinking or daydreaming about the specifics until that time arrives. You don't know when you'll get married, or to who, or what your life and financial circumstances will be like at that time in your life. If you have your heart set so firmly on one specific type of ideal wedding, you're almost guaranteed to end up being disappointed by one thing or another.

Traditional wedding

Having said that, there are a few things I would tentatively say I'd like for my 'dream wedding.'

Firstly, I'd like a traditional wedding. I want to get married in a church in front of my family and close friends. I'm not into all these weird and wacky wedding ideas; simple and traditional will suit me just fine.

Building on that, I wouldn't want anything too ostentatious at my wedding. I know how ridiculously expensive the average wedding is, and anything unnecessary that drives the cost up even higher should really be avoided. I'm not saying I want to be a bride on a budget, but wedding spending can quickly get out of hand before you even realise how much you've spent.

Disney dress

I don't make a habit of searching out ideal wedding themes, outfits, or decorations, but I did come across a wedding dress I absolutely loved a few years ago while researching an art project. It's a bit frilly for my tastes now, but at the time I thought it was the greatest dress I'd ever seen. Plus it was inspired by Disney - what could be better?

Tiana Gown
Image: disneyweddings.com 
However, during the wedding planning process, I think a lot of people end up losing sight of the real reason they're getting married in the first place. I'm a firm believer in true love, and I honestly think that if you're willing to make that commitment and marry someone, you shouldn't need all the extravagance of a modern wedding. At the end of the day, marriage is, or should be, an incredibly personal thing between two people, and I think some weddings often detract from that.

If I am lucky enough to end up getting married in the future, I will plan my wedding at that point, with the man I'm going to marry. But until then, I'll leave the wedding daydreaming to all the other girls.

Tell me about your dream wedding in the comments below!

Friday, 5 August 2016

Miss Jean Louis: The Kale Years

Image: Twitter / @MissJeanLouis
Every gisher worth their kale has heard of Miss Jean Louis. They've heard tales of how she managed to corner a lone Misha in the wild, how she took him to Gish HQ and over a period of many years managed to teach him to understand the basics of human living. Admittedly he still wears pineapple shoes and will only eat from a dish weaved from the stems of fresh flowers, but it's a credit to her extraordinary stamina and determination that he is even able to integrate into society at all.

But most gishers only know about Miss Jean Louis after the Misha incident. What did this elusive character get up to before she had to care for Misha? How did she spend her days before she had to save the world from the hideous plight of normalcy? 

Well, in her newly-released and long-anticipated biography, Miss Jean Louis reveals all. And the most shocking aspect of her formative years? The Kale Years.

Long before that momentous day when Miss Jean Louis first stumbled across Misha, she was but a young and carefree girl. As explained in the first chapter of her scintillating biography, From Ages 3 to Abnosome, Miss Jean Louis grew up on a space station on a small satellite orbiting Mars, with only Elopus and an uncommunicative alien for company. But I digress - you surely know all about that already, as you're here to read about what happened after MJL mastered the secret of the artichoke, harnessed the power of the seven almighty platypuses, and saved the world from imminent destruction - at least three times in eight days. 

We still know very little about the dark days that followed. We only know what we've managed to glean from the little snippets Miss Jean Louis has subliminally planted in gishwhes items during past hunts. However, these next three years came to be known as The Kale Years. 

Almost every expert and scholar of Gish agree that The Kale Years played a vital role in the eventual creation of gishwhes. The things MJL saw during The Kale Years cannot be named, for things as boring and mundane as the things Jean Louis saw during those dark years deserve only to be banished to the deepest, darkest recesses of that one mouldy trunk in your grandma's attic. 

Completely alone in a Peruvian forest, surrounded by kale, it was then, and only then, that Miss Jean Louis realised her true purpose in life - to rid the world of normalcy. And thus, the seed of gishwhes was sown.

* Please note: This post was written as a submission for Team Shiola for gishwhes 2016, the international scavenger hunt. The information contained within the post may or may not be true - I couldn't possibly tell you. 

Guest Post: When Only Cupcakes Will Do by Daisy James

Today I'm delighted to welcome author Daisy James to the blog. Her latest novel When Only Cupcakes Will Do was released just yesterday, and she's kindly taken time out of her schedule to write up a guest post for TWG.

Enjoy!

Image: Daisy James
When life gives you lemons, make lemon drizzle cake!”

I’m an avid baker. One of the best parts of researching my brand new novel - When Only Cupcakes Will Do - was experimenting with new recipes and exotic ingredients. A rainy afternoon spent in the kitchen, elbows deep in flour and sugar, brings back many happy childhood memories of doing exactly the same thing with my grandma during the school holidays. My sister and I would stand on a little wooden stool mixing, stirring and beating - and then came the best bit - being allowed to lick the bowl. Are we even allowed to do that nowadays?

Whenever I indulge in a baking session in my own kitchen now, the fragrance of warm caramel and melted chocolate sends my thoughts zooming back to those carefree times of butterfly buns and jam tarts made from left-over pastry from my grandma’s apple pies that she made with fruit from the garden.

For When Only Cupcakes Will Do I tested out a more contemporary selection of cupcakes such as coconut flavoured sponge with chunks of dried pineapple topped with rum-infused buttercream, raspberry cakes with prosecco icing and edible petals and blackcurrant sponges with vodka-tinged toppings. I also experimented with a twist on the carrot cake recipe and made beetroot cupcakes with cream cheese frosting - a sort of red velvet version. I wasn’t sure about those, but they still disappeared within minutes of coming out of the oven. There’s never a shortage of willing samplers in my house!

As the main character, Lucie Bradshaw, is an Italian pastry chef by profession I also had to create a number of Italian desserts, so I called in the experts - my friends Gino and Kate. My favourite was Cannoli - a thin, crispy shell made by wrapping the biscuit around a broom handle - crammed to bursting with sweetened ricotta cheese which can be flavoured with whatever takes your fancy. I added fresh cherries and white chocolate chips to mine.

If I haven’t already whet your appetite here’s a lemon drizzle cake that’s just come out of the oven.

Image: Daisy James
Fancy a slice?

About the book

The delightfully heartwarming romantic comedy from Daisy James!

When life gives you lemons, make lemon-drizzle cupcakes…

Lucie thought that proposing to her boyfriend in Tiffany’s would be the best day of her life. Until he said no. In just a few seconds, her whole world is turned upside-down! And when she accidentally switches cocoa powder for chilli powder at work, she finds herself out of a job, too…

Baking has always made life better in the past, but can Lucie really bake her way to happiness? Starting her own company, selling cupcakes out of an old ice cream van might just be the second chance that Lucie needs!

Of course, she never expected to find love along the way…


To find out more about Daisy James and her books, visit her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter

When Only Cupcakes Will Do is available to buy now.

Do you enjoy baking? Let me know in the comments below!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

August Blog Challenge - Day 3

Day 3 of the August Blog Challenge, and time for an update. In case you missed my post explaining what the August Blog Challenge is all about, you can find that here.

Just a quick note that days 1 and 2 were Instagram days, so make sure you're following me on Instagram so you don't miss out on all the future Instagram days!

Day 3 - Your favourite store

Image: Twitter / @baddabyng
This one is easy. I don't have a favourite store, but I have a favourite type of store. Bookshops, specifically. Take me to any shop that sells books, and I'll be your friend for life. You can't beat the excitement of browsing a decent bookshop, or a well-stocked second-hand bookshop.

Although I don't have a specific favourite, I do have several favourite bookshops, although of course stumbling across a new bookshop is always brilliant!

Waterstones, St. Margaret's Street, Canterbury

For starters, any town which has not just one but two Waterstones' is always going to be a hit with me. Locally referred to as the 'old Waterstones', it is apparently the 15th best bookshop in the UK (according to The Independent) and can boast that its former employees include best-selling novelist David Mitchell.

It's based in a lovely old building right in the centre of Canterbury and is full of character. It even has Roman remains (conveniently right next to the history section) in the basement and is said to be haunted.

Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London

I stumbled across Foyles' flagship shop by chance a few years ago while I was exploring Soho, and have returned virtually every time I've visited London since. It's by far one of the largest bookshops in the country, boasting (apparently) 200,000 different titles across a staggering four miles of shelving. A book lover's paradise if ever there was one.

As the large sign above the stairs proclaims as you walk in: "Welcome book lover, you are among friends."

Harrowden Books, Finedon

Harrowden Books of Finedon is my favourite local independent bookshop, and claims to be the best in Northamptonshire. The shop is crammed full of reasonably-priced and good condition new and second-hand books, and (surprisingly for a second-hand bookshop) it's actually really well organised. I've picked up some great finds there in the past.

They also have a range of antique books, which are well out of my price range but still nice to admire from afar!

Old Station Pottery & Bookshop, Wells-next-the-Sea

There are two great second-hand bookshops in Wells-next-the-Sea, North Norfolk. One is located at the top of Staithe Street, and it's where I used to go to buy Enid Blyton books with my pocket money when I was little! The other is a little further inland - the Old Station Pottery & Bookshop and, as the name suggests, it is housed in what used to be Wells' railway station.

The shop boasts an eclectic mix of second-hand books and pottery, which is made and sold on site. It's like a maze inside the shop - another little room is always hiding round every corner, meaning you're always stumbling across hidden treasures.

What's your favourite bookshop? Let me know in the comments below!

August Blog Challenge & Life Update

Image: Lorna Holland
I can't believe it's August already - where has this year gone?

I've been a little lax with my blogging over the last month or so for one reason or another, so this month I've got a great way to make sure you're getting more regular content - I've decided to take part in the August Blog Challenge!

The August Blog Challenge is a fun way to make sure there's a post up every day of the month. Some days (like today) will be blog days with longer posts, other days will be Instagram days where I just share a picture for that day's item.

Make sure you're keeping up with the blog and following me on Instagram so you don't miss anything!

I will be coming back regularly to update this page with links to the days I have completed throughout the month, so keep checking back.

August Blog Challenge

1. A photo of yourself and a description of how your day was - INSTAGRAM

2. A photo of something you ate today - INSTAGRAM

3. Your favourite store

4. Your favourite photograph of your best friend - INSTAGRAM

5. A photo of yourself two years ago – INSTAGRAM

6. A photo of an animal you’d love to keep as a pet – INSTAGRAM

7. Your dream wedding

8. A song to match your mood

9. A photo of the item you last purchased – INSTAGRAM

10. A photo of your favourite place – INSTAGRAM

11. What’s in your make-up bag?

12. A photograph of the town you live in – INSTAGRAM

13. Your favourite musician and why?

14. A TV show you’re currently addicted to

15. Something you don’t leave your house without - INSTAGRAM

16. A photo of you and your family – INSTAGRAM

17. Your celebrity crush

18. Something you crave a lot

19. Another picture of yourself - INSTAGRAM

20. The meaning behind your blog name

21. A photo of something that makes you happy - INSTAGRAM

22. Bullet your whole day

23. 20 facts about you

24. What’s in your purse?

25. Something that you miss.

26. Think back to how you were 5 years ago. How have you changed since then?

27. Put your iPod shuffle and list the first ten songs.

28. Your favourite movie.

29. Something you could never get tired of doing.

30. A photograph of yourself today & three good things that have happened in the past 30 days.

Life Update

As I've already mentioned, my blogging has been a little lacking recently. I've been snowed under with all my various projects and the joy that is job hunting, so blogging often gets pushed to the back of my list of priorities. I went away for a week a fortnight ago, cruising around the Four Counties Ring on a canal boat with my family, which was great. Plus, thanks to my boyfriend, I've also got into geocaching recently. The problem with geocaching is that it's highly addictive - even more so when you have the bright idea of getting into an 'I can find more caches than you' war with your boyfriend!

Image: Lorna Holland
This week I've also been ridiculously busy as it's gishwhes week! This is my 4th gishwhes, and this year I'm part of Team Shiola (Scavenger Hunt International Losers Anonymous). The item list is just as crazy as ever, but it's great fun and the perfect opportunity to be creative, step out of your comfort zone, and meet some equally crazy but lovely people. I can't share details of any items until the hunt ends, but if you follow me on Twitter you may have noticed that I've become BB-8 for the week. Don't blame me, blame Misha Collins! 

Anyway, that's what's been going on in my life at the moment and I hope it explains why my blogging has been so sporadic. I'm doing my best, but hopefully the August Blog Challenge will help get me back into the swing of things and hopefully you will all enjoy reading my daily posts too!

Are you enjoying my August Blog Challenge posts? Let me know in the comments below!