Yeah, so perhaps 'hate' is a strong word - 'annoy' is more apt - but I couldn't resist a catchy title.

Image found via pinterest

I watch a lot of YouTube and my 'watch later' list is currently 200+ deep.  And whilst I enjoy 95% of what I see, and I'm definitely not a person who watches just to pick holes, there's no denying there's some irritating stuff out there.  I could probably write a small novella on this, but for now here's my top ten:

Loud backing music
Dependent on my mood, that over-used whistling backing music can be annoying enough on it's own.  But cranked up so I can't actually hear what's being said....did you even watch the video back before you uploaded?  Do people think I can lipread?! And inconsistent volume which jumps up and down throughout....why???

Children's TV presenter persona
This is one that I control and I fully embrace that there's a space for everyone online.  But when I've subscribed to you for ages and you suddenly regress back to a child-like character, I just don't get it.  Perhaps that's where the money is and I'm no longer your target audience.  Perhaps I'm cynical.  If you're in your mid-twenties please behave as such - or at least talk to me like I'm an adult!

"If that makes sense..."
You're describing a lip gloss.  This is not rocket science.  Please don't insult my intelligence, of course it makes sense.

Careoke
The quickest way to get me to click off a vlog.  I won't even scroll ahead I hate it that much.  You are not the next Bieber (or a much more current internet-discovered singing superstar, I won't even pretend to be down with the kids) and I do not want to hear you wailing along in the car thinking you're the shizz.  We all do it, we just don't all film ourselves for the world to see.

"I love you guys"
You don't know me, of course you don't love me.  We're quick to judge trolls and internet weirdos....some of them could be watching your videos.  Do you still love those guys? 

Fake laughter
There are two strands to this one.  First, the nervous laugh which accompanies every other sentence.  I could've hit the nail on the head, it may be a nervous thing but the majority of the time nothing funny's even being said and the laughing is irksome.  Second, pretend laughing in lookbooks.  Especially when you're on your own in your room....and I know you are because I can see the tripod's reflection in your oversized Quay Australia sunnies....I'd much rather a resting bitch face lookbook than a fake one.

Bloopers
Similarly cringey for me to watch are bloopers.  They're not funny, they're rarely natural and I don't need to see you pouting and preening for the camera.

Non-disclosure
This one's slightly more bothersome than just annoying - in fact it's downright sneaky.  Whenever I see a product suddenly get mentioned in a positive light across multiple channels my suspicions are raised.  I'm strong enough in my thoughts and tastes to not get sucked in, but my respect and trust in those YouTubers gets chipped away slightly and it turns me right off the product too.

"Looks a little something like this...."
Right, so you're describing the new top/trainers/lipstick/whatever you've just bought and then proceed to hold it up, saying "and it looks a little something like this...".  Well which is it - you're either showing me what you actually bought, in which case it is this, or you've described something and then decided to hold up a similar item instead.  To avoid confusion, can we just go with "this is what I bought"?

"Super"
There are more superlatives (how ironic/unfortunate that that's the grammatical term for it) out there than 'super'.  "Super cute" is by far the most overused description I hear; I once counted at least 20 occasions it was used in one video.  One!  Please expand your vocabulary and start experimenting with a few different adverbs.  'Very' and 'really' are good starting points!  

It's unfortunate that after compiling this list, I watched a video in which a popular YouTuber did at least one of the above, and in the context I mention it.  This post isn't angled at anyone in particular....it's all of them!  I joke, but probably should make it clear that there is absolutely no shame or hate intended.  

10 Things I Hate About You(Tube)

23.8.16

Yeah, so perhaps 'hate' is a strong word - 'annoy' is more apt - but I couldn't resist a catchy title.

Image found via pinterest

I watch a lot of YouTube and my 'watch later' list is currently 200+ deep.  And whilst I enjoy 95% of what I see, and I'm definitely not a person who watches just to pick holes, there's no denying there's some irritating stuff out there.  I could probably write a small novella on this, but for now here's my top ten:

Loud backing music
Dependent on my mood, that over-used whistling backing music can be annoying enough on it's own.  But cranked up so I can't actually hear what's being said....did you even watch the video back before you uploaded?  Do people think I can lipread?! And inconsistent volume which jumps up and down throughout....why???

Children's TV presenter persona
This is one that I control and I fully embrace that there's a space for everyone online.  But when I've subscribed to you for ages and you suddenly regress back to a child-like character, I just don't get it.  Perhaps that's where the money is and I'm no longer your target audience.  Perhaps I'm cynical.  If you're in your mid-twenties please behave as such - or at least talk to me like I'm an adult!

"If that makes sense..."
You're describing a lip gloss.  This is not rocket science.  Please don't insult my intelligence, of course it makes sense.

Careoke
The quickest way to get me to click off a vlog.  I won't even scroll ahead I hate it that much.  You are not the next Bieber (or a much more current internet-discovered singing superstar, I won't even pretend to be down with the kids) and I do not want to hear you wailing along in the car thinking you're the shizz.  We all do it, we just don't all film ourselves for the world to see.

"I love you guys"
You don't know me, of course you don't love me.  We're quick to judge trolls and internet weirdos....some of them could be watching your videos.  Do you still love those guys? 

Fake laughter
There are two strands to this one.  First, the nervous laugh which accompanies every other sentence.  I could've hit the nail on the head, it may be a nervous thing but the majority of the time nothing funny's even being said and the laughing is irksome.  Second, pretend laughing in lookbooks.  Especially when you're on your own in your room....and I know you are because I can see the tripod's reflection in your oversized Quay Australia sunnies....I'd much rather a resting bitch face lookbook than a fake one.

Bloopers
Similarly cringey for me to watch are bloopers.  They're not funny, they're rarely natural and I don't need to see you pouting and preening for the camera.

Non-disclosure
This one's slightly more bothersome than just annoying - in fact it's downright sneaky.  Whenever I see a product suddenly get mentioned in a positive light across multiple channels my suspicions are raised.  I'm strong enough in my thoughts and tastes to not get sucked in, but my respect and trust in those YouTubers gets chipped away slightly and it turns me right off the product too.

"Looks a little something like this...."
Right, so you're describing the new top/trainers/lipstick/whatever you've just bought and then proceed to hold it up, saying "and it looks a little something like this...".  Well which is it - you're either showing me what you actually bought, in which case it is this, or you've described something and then decided to hold up a similar item instead.  To avoid confusion, can we just go with "this is what I bought"?

"Super"
There are more superlatives (how ironic/unfortunate that that's the grammatical term for it) out there than 'super'.  "Super cute" is by far the most overused description I hear; I once counted at least 20 occasions it was used in one video.  One!  Please expand your vocabulary and start experimenting with a few different adverbs.  'Very' and 'really' are good starting points!  

It's unfortunate that after compiling this list, I watched a video in which a popular YouTuber did at least one of the above, and in the context I mention it.  This post isn't angled at anyone in particular....it's all of them!  I joke, but probably should make it clear that there is absolutely no shame or hate intended.  
I'm loving the fact that my job (I promise I'll stop banging on about it soon!) now leaves me with enough time in the evenings to have a bit more me time, and have more or less been trialing a new baking recipe each week.

This round's fare? Salted caramel flapjack.

Confession time, I very rarely cook flapjack.  In fact, I'm not sure I've done it since a teenage attempt resulted in Dad having to throw the baking tray, complete with irremovable flapjack, straight in the bin.  And I'll admit that the flapjack component of these isn't quite there - I'm sharing the recipe that I followed here, but in future I'd add either more syrup or more butter to counteract the crumbly nature of it.  That salted caramel though....spot on.

For said flapjack base, just melt together 2 TABLESPOONS OF GOLDEN SYRUP with 200g SALTED BUTTER (or more of either, which I'll do next time!) in a medium to large pan.  Once it's all combined, whack in 350g PORRIDGE OATS and mix to make sure they're all coated, before transferring into a medium rectangular baking tray, pressing down flat and popping in the oven at 200° for about 15 minutes, or until they're a golden brown.  Flapjack done!  Now, remove from the oven and leave to one side (in the baking tray) whilst you make your caramel.

The salted caramel requires a little more effort, and I'd actually liken it to a true fudgey consistency, unlike my quick fudge recipe from a few weeks ago.  Take a CAN OF CONDENSED MILK, 2 TABLESPOONS OF GOLDEN SYRUP, 225g LIGHT BROWN SUGAR, 125g UNSALTED BUTTER and 2 TABLESPOONS OF GLUCOSE SYRUP and melt over a low heat in another large(ish) pan.  You'll need to stir this often until the sugar's melted but without letting it reach the boil.  Then after about 10 minutes, bring it to the boil and then simmer for 8-10 minutes but stirring all the time.  This is really important as otherwise you'll end up with burnt, darker flakes floating throughout the mixture if you get it too hot/don't stir enough.  The mixture should start to really thicken up in the last few minutes as it reaches the right consistency.  Take it off the heat and throw in 175g CHOPPED WHITE CHOCOLATE, mixing it all together before pouring over the flapjack,  Use a palette knife to smooth the top over and finally sprinkle SEA SALT across the top, pressing gently down with your fingertips....but be careful not to burn yourselfPop in the fridge to set for a few hours and try to resist taking out of the baking tray to taste it too early - otherwise you'll end up with the cracked effect you'll see on the top of mine!
 
And that's it, the recipe which I'm told has shot straight to the top of the "Lorna Bakes" list.  The amount of caramel is truly indulgent, so feel free to up the volume of flapjack if you want to make it a slightly more proportionate ratio.  Or, as I'm planning, skip the flapjack altogether and just make salted caramel!

And credit where credit's due, I'm paraphrasing from this original recipe in this post.

Now the big question is....what shall I make next?!   

Recipe: Salted Caramel Flapjack

18.8.16

I'm loving the fact that my job (I promise I'll stop banging on about it soon!) now leaves me with enough time in the evenings to have a bit more me time, and have more or less been trialing a new baking recipe each week.

This round's fare? Salted caramel flapjack.

Confession time, I very rarely cook flapjack.  In fact, I'm not sure I've done it since a teenage attempt resulted in Dad having to throw the baking tray, complete with irremovable flapjack, straight in the bin.  And I'll admit that the flapjack component of these isn't quite there - I'm sharing the recipe that I followed here, but in future I'd add either more syrup or more butter to counteract the crumbly nature of it.  That salted caramel though....spot on.

For said flapjack base, just melt together 2 TABLESPOONS OF GOLDEN SYRUP with 200g SALTED BUTTER (or more of either, which I'll do next time!) in a medium to large pan.  Once it's all combined, whack in 350g PORRIDGE OATS and mix to make sure they're all coated, before transferring into a medium rectangular baking tray, pressing down flat and popping in the oven at 200° for about 15 minutes, or until they're a golden brown.  Flapjack done!  Now, remove from the oven and leave to one side (in the baking tray) whilst you make your caramel.

The salted caramel requires a little more effort, and I'd actually liken it to a true fudgey consistency, unlike my quick fudge recipe from a few weeks ago.  Take a CAN OF CONDENSED MILK, 2 TABLESPOONS OF GOLDEN SYRUP, 225g LIGHT BROWN SUGAR, 125g UNSALTED BUTTER and 2 TABLESPOONS OF GLUCOSE SYRUP and melt over a low heat in another large(ish) pan.  You'll need to stir this often until the sugar's melted but without letting it reach the boil.  Then after about 10 minutes, bring it to the boil and then simmer for 8-10 minutes but stirring all the time.  This is really important as otherwise you'll end up with burnt, darker flakes floating throughout the mixture if you get it too hot/don't stir enough.  The mixture should start to really thicken up in the last few minutes as it reaches the right consistency.  Take it off the heat and throw in 175g CHOPPED WHITE CHOCOLATE, mixing it all together before pouring over the flapjack,  Use a palette knife to smooth the top over and finally sprinkle SEA SALT across the top, pressing gently down with your fingertips....but be careful not to burn yourselfPop in the fridge to set for a few hours and try to resist taking out of the baking tray to taste it too early - otherwise you'll end up with the cracked effect you'll see on the top of mine!
 
And that's it, the recipe which I'm told has shot straight to the top of the "Lorna Bakes" list.  The amount of caramel is truly indulgent, so feel free to up the volume of flapjack if you want to make it a slightly more proportionate ratio.  Or, as I'm planning, skip the flapjack altogether and just make salted caramel!

And credit where credit's due, I'm paraphrasing from this original recipe in this post.

Now the big question is....what shall I make next?!   

ALL SORROWS IN LIFE STEM FROM THE LACK OF CAKE


This post could have also been named "Photos I Love But Have Nothing To Write About", because that's exactly the case here.

In the effort to become a Better Lifestyle Blogger, I'm trying to get into the habit of taking my camera out and about me.  And when me and my best friend arranged a shopping date in Guildford, my camera was the first thing I put in my bag.

You see, not only is she an amazing friend in general (they all are) but she's also incredibly supportive when it comes to my blog.  She's not the only one, but she is the only non-blogging friend I have who actively encourages me to shake off my insecurities and awkwardness and not only take photos in public places but to actually put myself in the frame and just go for it!

But let's focus on the important stuff; that cake you see pictured up above.  Guildford is a goldmine for independent cafes and eateries, with hidden gems nestled down many of the cobbled side streets.  On this occasion we headed for Carcoli, sat on the third floor of a cook shop atop Guildford's hill.  It's a modern glass building which you can't miss, and really catches your eye whilst bucking the stereotypical coffee shop facade.

Speaking of which, neither of us drinks coffee so the drinks were wasted on us.  The cakes though.  Wow...

In the end we chose this delicious chocolate-y, biscuit-y, tiffin-y wonder.  I've found my taste buds have changed over this year, and while I still have quite the sweet tooth it's rare that anything treat-wise actually lives up to my expectations.

This though.  This was something else.

Worth.  Every.  Bite.


Now in the hope of bringing this post back to what I'm trying to angle it towards (a weekend recap FYI, rather than an ode to cake), I'll finish with this.

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but not only are the weekends more precious to me now that I don't have the luxury of school holidays, but I really feel like I get so much more out of them.  I tend to book in things to do, places to visit and people to see just to be sure that I don't waste a second.  Sometimes I'm exhausted, but for the most part it's incredibly fulfilling to create memories and build stronger relationships.

I want these weekend posts to be a reflection of that.  In many ways I already use my blog as a way of documenting things that matter to me, and I'd like to extend that more to the little moments that make me happy.

This weekend was one of those occasions.  My bestie and I don't always get the chance to see each other as often as we'd like, but a day in each others' company is always a good thing.  I came home with a lighter purse, a pair of culottes that finally work for me and more make up on my face than when I left in the morning....and a huge smile of contentment on my face.


And I can't ask for more than that.

The Weekend #2

16.8.16

ALL SORROWS IN LIFE STEM FROM THE LACK OF CAKE


This post could have also been named "Photos I Love But Have Nothing To Write About", because that's exactly the case here.

In the effort to become a Better Lifestyle Blogger, I'm trying to get into the habit of taking my camera out and about me.  And when me and my best friend arranged a shopping date in Guildford, my camera was the first thing I put in my bag.

You see, not only is she an amazing friend in general (they all are) but she's also incredibly supportive when it comes to my blog.  She's not the only one, but she is the only non-blogging friend I have who actively encourages me to shake off my insecurities and awkwardness and not only take photos in public places but to actually put myself in the frame and just go for it!

But let's focus on the important stuff; that cake you see pictured up above.  Guildford is a goldmine for independent cafes and eateries, with hidden gems nestled down many of the cobbled side streets.  On this occasion we headed for Carcoli, sat on the third floor of a cook shop atop Guildford's hill.  It's a modern glass building which you can't miss, and really catches your eye whilst bucking the stereotypical coffee shop facade.

Speaking of which, neither of us drinks coffee so the drinks were wasted on us.  The cakes though.  Wow...

In the end we chose this delicious chocolate-y, biscuit-y, tiffin-y wonder.  I've found my taste buds have changed over this year, and while I still have quite the sweet tooth it's rare that anything treat-wise actually lives up to my expectations.

This though.  This was something else.

Worth.  Every.  Bite.


Now in the hope of bringing this post back to what I'm trying to angle it towards (a weekend recap FYI, rather than an ode to cake), I'll finish with this.

I'm sure I've mentioned it before, but not only are the weekends more precious to me now that I don't have the luxury of school holidays, but I really feel like I get so much more out of them.  I tend to book in things to do, places to visit and people to see just to be sure that I don't waste a second.  Sometimes I'm exhausted, but for the most part it's incredibly fulfilling to create memories and build stronger relationships.

I want these weekend posts to be a reflection of that.  In many ways I already use my blog as a way of documenting things that matter to me, and I'd like to extend that more to the little moments that make me happy.

This weekend was one of those occasions.  My bestie and I don't always get the chance to see each other as often as we'd like, but a day in each others' company is always a good thing.  I came home with a lighter purse, a pair of culottes that finally work for me and more make up on my face than when I left in the morning....and a huge smile of contentment on my face.


And I can't ask for more than that.
 Image found via pinterest

Last time I had a huge backlog of books I promised it wouldn't happen again.  But it has.  As I said here, settling in at work scuppered my blogging plans for a while....but not my reading ones!  I've been reading more than ever, so for this post I'll (try to) keep my mini-reviews even shorter - there's a lot of them!

#24 - MIDDLESEX // Jeffrey Eugenides
Hermaphrodite Calliopes (or Cal) is the lynchpin of this epic novel.  It's a part coming of age, part family history tale which I wasn't quite expecting.  Spanning right back to our main character's grandparents lives in Greece, I really enjoyed learning lots about historical events I previously knew nothing about.  It's a fairly gentle ride with a lot going on.  It divided our book club, but I loved it.
Rating: 5/5

#25 - BRAIN ON FIRE: MY MONTH OF MADNESS // Susannah Cahalan
Now this is the kind of book I wish Girl in the Dark was.  In her earlier twenties Susannah was struck down by a mystery illness which saw her hospitalised and nearly sectioned.  At the last minute she received her elusive diagnosis which has ultimately paved the way for hundreds more to be correctly diagnosed.  It's told in a really captivating way with none of Anna Lyndsey's (Girl in the Dark) bad attitude in sight.Another really good read, and I'm eagerly anticipating the film's release.
Rating: 4/5

#26 - ARISTOTLE & DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE // Benjamin Alire Saenz
This book has won a tonne of YA awards and I foolishly expected it to be a game changer.  Sadly it wasn't for me, and whilst I can see why some may love it, this coming of age love story just wasn't for me in terms of plot.  It was an easy read that I whizzed through however, so all was not lost!
Rating: 3/5

#27 - THE GRACEKEEPERS // Kirsty Logan
I doubt you haven't heard of this yet.  Set in the future in a world where land has predominantly been submerged by the sea, North lives and works on a travelling circus with her bear.  Meanwhile, Callanish is a gracekeeper tending the graves of those who died at sea.  Both have a secret in this whimsical, magical and compelling tale.
Rating:4/5

#28 - THE READER ON THE 6.27 // Jean-Paul Didierlaurent
This was another one I managed to finish in a day or two, but sadly was also one I didn't particularly enjoy.  The "reader" is Guylain Vignolles who turns books into pulp for a living, yet his unusual hobby is reading salvaged pages on the train to work each morning.  Until he discovers a diary and falls in love with its author.  Despite its fast pace throughout, the ending felt really rushed and the insta love was the final nail in the coffin.
Rating: 2/5

#29 - BEFORE WE MET // Lucie Whitehouse
As I sit down to write this post I find I can barely remember a thing about this book, which doesn't bode well.  One thing I do recall?  The author's insistence on calling it "the Berkshires"....as a person who lives nearby, I can assure you the county in the UK which I think she was referring to is "Berkshire".  No plural!  Details like this can make or break a book for me, and I'm disappointed this wasn't checked over more thoroughly.  Besides that, this is the classic "can you ever really know somebody" book, where Hannah begins to question her whole life when her husband fails to come home.
Rating: 3/5

#30 - THE LAST TESTAMENT OF MARY // Colm Toibin
This was nothing like I'd usually read and documents the events surrounding Easter Sunday and Jesus' death from his mother Mary's point of view.  It was a really interesting take, placing Jesus as cult leader as Mary offers more rational explanations for the things taking place.  I didn't particularly enjoy the writing style, but it did raise questions about perspective.
Rating: 2/5

#31 - MY GRANDMOTHER SENDS HER REGARDS AND APOLOGISES // Fredrik Backman
After A Man Called Ove I had high hopes for Backman's second novel.  Whilst the charm was still there, this one lacked the magic and spark of Ove.  After her grandmother's death, seven year old Elsa embarks on a treasure hunt of sorts as she learns more about the dynamics of her neighbours living in her apartment block.  Enjoyable nonetheless, but don't go into this expecting to be wowed.
Rating: 3/5

#32 - VINEGAR GIRL // Anne Tyler
Vinegar Girl is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series and is a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, which I'd say most of us know under the guise of 10 Things I Hate About You.  The key traits of the characters were still recognisable, and having never read any of Anne Tyler's work before I found myself really enjoying the pace and skills with which she led the reader through the relatively gentle story. Not only that, it's got a beautiful cover and I managed to finish this within two days!
Rating: 4/5

#33 - THE MARBLE COLLECTOR // Cecelia Ahern
I have to confess, I'm pretty sure I've not read anything by Cecelia Ahern either.  This didn't wasn't a  challenging read and at times felt a bit too much like basic chick lit for me.  As I got further into the story - Sabrina attempting to piece together the mystery of her father's life following his recent memmory loss - I found I enjoyed it more, probably because her father, Fergus, and the characters surrounding him were easier to warm to than Sabrina.  There was an eye-rolling moment towards the end surrounding the creation of a new marble (seriously, who knows anyone who makes marbles?) but overall I liked this one.
Rating: 3/5

#34 - MY NAME IS LEON // Kit de Waal
Not long after Leon's baby brother Jake is born the boys find themselves taken into foster care following their mother's breakdown.  Only it's not long before Jake gets adopted and Leon is left behind....because Jake is white and Leon isn't.  Set in the early eighties and told through Leon's eyes, I finished this in a morning and really enjoyed it.
Rating: 4/5

#35 - A REUNION OF GHOSTS // Judith Claire Mitchell
This is a joint suicide note written by 3 sisters which, similarly to Middlesex, looks back at the family history and the legacy of suicide which has been perpetuated.  It's cleverly written, but at the points where it wasn't looking back in time I found it slightly irritating to not have a clear narrator.  It's written in a borderline over familiar tone which I actually quite liked, and again featured real figures and events from throughout history.  If you like unusual books, this could be for you.
Rating: 4/5

#36 - EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU // Celeste Ng
Despite its tranquil cover, this book packs a punch.  When favourite child Lydia goes missing, all manner of hidden feelings and resentments bubble to the top of the family dynamic.  Set in the 1970s this one covers race and feminism, and isn't afraid to showcase complex, and at times, unlikeable characters.  Reminiscent of The Lovely Bones, this one's turned out to be an unexpected favourite of the bunch.
Rating: 4/5

Read in 2016: May, June & July

11.8.16

 Image found via pinterest

Last time I had a huge backlog of books I promised it wouldn't happen again.  But it has.  As I said here, settling in at work scuppered my blogging plans for a while....but not my reading ones!  I've been reading more than ever, so for this post I'll (try to) keep my mini-reviews even shorter - there's a lot of them!

#24 - MIDDLESEX // Jeffrey Eugenides
Hermaphrodite Calliopes (or Cal) is the lynchpin of this epic novel.  It's a part coming of age, part family history tale which I wasn't quite expecting.  Spanning right back to our main character's grandparents lives in Greece, I really enjoyed learning lots about historical events I previously knew nothing about.  It's a fairly gentle ride with a lot going on.  It divided our book club, but I loved it.
Rating: 5/5

#25 - BRAIN ON FIRE: MY MONTH OF MADNESS // Susannah Cahalan
Now this is the kind of book I wish Girl in the Dark was.  In her earlier twenties Susannah was struck down by a mystery illness which saw her hospitalised and nearly sectioned.  At the last minute she received her elusive diagnosis which has ultimately paved the way for hundreds more to be correctly diagnosed.  It's told in a really captivating way with none of Anna Lyndsey's (Girl in the Dark) bad attitude in sight.Another really good read, and I'm eagerly anticipating the film's release.
Rating: 4/5

#26 - ARISTOTLE & DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE // Benjamin Alire Saenz
This book has won a tonne of YA awards and I foolishly expected it to be a game changer.  Sadly it wasn't for me, and whilst I can see why some may love it, this coming of age love story just wasn't for me in terms of plot.  It was an easy read that I whizzed through however, so all was not lost!
Rating: 3/5

#27 - THE GRACEKEEPERS // Kirsty Logan
I doubt you haven't heard of this yet.  Set in the future in a world where land has predominantly been submerged by the sea, North lives and works on a travelling circus with her bear.  Meanwhile, Callanish is a gracekeeper tending the graves of those who died at sea.  Both have a secret in this whimsical, magical and compelling tale.
Rating:4/5

#28 - THE READER ON THE 6.27 // Jean-Paul Didierlaurent
This was another one I managed to finish in a day or two, but sadly was also one I didn't particularly enjoy.  The "reader" is Guylain Vignolles who turns books into pulp for a living, yet his unusual hobby is reading salvaged pages on the train to work each morning.  Until he discovers a diary and falls in love with its author.  Despite its fast pace throughout, the ending felt really rushed and the insta love was the final nail in the coffin.
Rating: 2/5

#29 - BEFORE WE MET // Lucie Whitehouse
As I sit down to write this post I find I can barely remember a thing about this book, which doesn't bode well.  One thing I do recall?  The author's insistence on calling it "the Berkshires"....as a person who lives nearby, I can assure you the county in the UK which I think she was referring to is "Berkshire".  No plural!  Details like this can make or break a book for me, and I'm disappointed this wasn't checked over more thoroughly.  Besides that, this is the classic "can you ever really know somebody" book, where Hannah begins to question her whole life when her husband fails to come home.
Rating: 3/5

#30 - THE LAST TESTAMENT OF MARY // Colm Toibin
This was nothing like I'd usually read and documents the events surrounding Easter Sunday and Jesus' death from his mother Mary's point of view.  It was a really interesting take, placing Jesus as cult leader as Mary offers more rational explanations for the things taking place.  I didn't particularly enjoy the writing style, but it did raise questions about perspective.
Rating: 2/5

#31 - MY GRANDMOTHER SENDS HER REGARDS AND APOLOGISES // Fredrik Backman
After A Man Called Ove I had high hopes for Backman's second novel.  Whilst the charm was still there, this one lacked the magic and spark of Ove.  After her grandmother's death, seven year old Elsa embarks on a treasure hunt of sorts as she learns more about the dynamics of her neighbours living in her apartment block.  Enjoyable nonetheless, but don't go into this expecting to be wowed.
Rating: 3/5

#32 - VINEGAR GIRL // Anne Tyler
Vinegar Girl is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series and is a retelling of The Taming of the Shrew, which I'd say most of us know under the guise of 10 Things I Hate About You.  The key traits of the characters were still recognisable, and having never read any of Anne Tyler's work before I found myself really enjoying the pace and skills with which she led the reader through the relatively gentle story. Not only that, it's got a beautiful cover and I managed to finish this within two days!
Rating: 4/5

#33 - THE MARBLE COLLECTOR // Cecelia Ahern
I have to confess, I'm pretty sure I've not read anything by Cecelia Ahern either.  This didn't wasn't a  challenging read and at times felt a bit too much like basic chick lit for me.  As I got further into the story - Sabrina attempting to piece together the mystery of her father's life following his recent memmory loss - I found I enjoyed it more, probably because her father, Fergus, and the characters surrounding him were easier to warm to than Sabrina.  There was an eye-rolling moment towards the end surrounding the creation of a new marble (seriously, who knows anyone who makes marbles?) but overall I liked this one.
Rating: 3/5

#34 - MY NAME IS LEON // Kit de Waal
Not long after Leon's baby brother Jake is born the boys find themselves taken into foster care following their mother's breakdown.  Only it's not long before Jake gets adopted and Leon is left behind....because Jake is white and Leon isn't.  Set in the early eighties and told through Leon's eyes, I finished this in a morning and really enjoyed it.
Rating: 4/5

#35 - A REUNION OF GHOSTS // Judith Claire Mitchell
This is a joint suicide note written by 3 sisters which, similarly to Middlesex, looks back at the family history and the legacy of suicide which has been perpetuated.  It's cleverly written, but at the points where it wasn't looking back in time I found it slightly irritating to not have a clear narrator.  It's written in a borderline over familiar tone which I actually quite liked, and again featured real figures and events from throughout history.  If you like unusual books, this could be for you.
Rating: 4/5

#36 - EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU // Celeste Ng
Despite its tranquil cover, this book packs a punch.  When favourite child Lydia goes missing, all manner of hidden feelings and resentments bubble to the top of the family dynamic.  Set in the 1970s this one covers race and feminism, and isn't afraid to showcase complex, and at times, unlikeable characters.  Reminiscent of The Lovely Bones, this one's turned out to be an unexpected favourite of the bunch.
Rating: 4/5

1 // 2 // 3
4 // 5 // 6
7 // 8 // 9
10 // 11 // 12

After the success of my previous two wallpaper collections (find them here and here), I thought it was time to bring you a summer set.  Simply follow the link to the one you like, press down on it to save the image and then set as your wallpaper or lock screen.  Some of them aren't quite in iPhone format (but were too sweet to miss out!), however with a little cropping once they're saved to your phone they should work just fine.

Which is your favourite?

12 Free Summer Wallpapers

9.8.16


1 // 2 // 3
4 // 5 // 6
7 // 8 // 9
10 // 11 // 12

After the success of my previous two wallpaper collections (find them here and here), I thought it was time to bring you a summer set.  Simply follow the link to the one you like, press down on it to save the image and then set as your wallpaper or lock screen.  Some of them aren't quite in iPhone format (but were too sweet to miss out!), however with a little cropping once they're saved to your phone they should work just fine.

Which is your favourite?
BECAUSE EVERYBODY NEEDS A SUMMER READING LIST
Like I said last week, a big part of summer for me is the chance for lazy days with my head in a book.  Here are the books I'm planning to read in the next couple of months.

THE GIRLS // Emma Cline
'California.  The summer of 1969.  In the dying days of a floundering counter-culture a young girl is unwittingly caught up in unthinkable violence, and a decision made at this moment, on the cusp of adulthood, will shape her life...'
 Inspired by the Charles Manson cult, I'm anticipating a dark coming of age novel and am intrigued and beguiled before I've begun.  This book has featured heavily on many of the BookTube channels I follow and the reviews have largely been positive.  It strikes me as a book which will spark discussion and could be ideal for a book club.

THE MUSUEM OF YOU // Carys Bray
'Clover Quinn was a surprise.  She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she's not sure.  She'd like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else's story is difficult...'
Carys Bray's 'A Song For Issy Bradley' was, unexpectedly, one of the stand-out books I read last summer. Again, this is a book which has received high praise on YouTube and I'm hoping for a touching family drama with Carys Bray's aptitude for fully fleshed out characters with interesting  yet believable dynamics woven featuring throughout. 

AFTER YOU // Jojo Moyes
'Lou Clark has lots of questions.  Like how it is she's ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places.  Or why the flat she's owned for a year still doesn't feel like home.  Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago.  And will she ever get the love of her life...'
Ok, so everybody knows about 'Me Before You' and whilst the first part of this duology wasn't anything revolutionary for me, I'd definitely like to revisit the characters and see how this narrative develops.  Not only that, every summer reading list needs a good bit of chick lit and I'm sure this one will deliver.

THE SECRET HISTORY // Donna Tart
'Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries.  But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever'
Just as a chick lit is a prerequisite of a summer reading list, so is a mystery.  This book has been sat on my shelf for over a year, just waiting for the right moment to read it.  And I think this summer is it.  Donna Tartt's work seems to divide people, but The Secret History seems to be the safest bet of her books for a really satisfying read I can get my teeth into.

A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD // Anne Tyler
 'It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon... This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer's day in 1959.  The whole family on the porch, half listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before'
I enjoyed reading Anne Tyler's 'Vinegar Girl' (part of Hogarth's Shakespeare retelling series) so much that I'm itching to pick up another of her books.  She writes family dynamics in such a compelling way, and from what I've heard this Manbooker Prize shortlisted book is a gentle, character-driven family saga which will be perfect for summer days.

Are there any books you're looking forward to reading this summer?

5 Books To Read This Summer

4.8.16

BECAUSE EVERYBODY NEEDS A SUMMER READING LIST
Like I said last week, a big part of summer for me is the chance for lazy days with my head in a book.  Here are the books I'm planning to read in the next couple of months.

THE GIRLS // Emma Cline
'California.  The summer of 1969.  In the dying days of a floundering counter-culture a young girl is unwittingly caught up in unthinkable violence, and a decision made at this moment, on the cusp of adulthood, will shape her life...'
 Inspired by the Charles Manson cult, I'm anticipating a dark coming of age novel and am intrigued and beguiled before I've begun.  This book has featured heavily on many of the BookTube channels I follow and the reviews have largely been positive.  It strikes me as a book which will spark discussion and could be ideal for a book club.

THE MUSUEM OF YOU // Carys Bray
'Clover Quinn was a surprise.  She used to imagine she was the good kind, now she's not sure.  She'd like to ask Dad about it, but growing up in the saddest chapter of someone else's story is difficult...'
Carys Bray's 'A Song For Issy Bradley' was, unexpectedly, one of the stand-out books I read last summer. Again, this is a book which has received high praise on YouTube and I'm hoping for a touching family drama with Carys Bray's aptitude for fully fleshed out characters with interesting  yet believable dynamics woven featuring throughout. 

AFTER YOU // Jojo Moyes
'Lou Clark has lots of questions.  Like how it is she's ended up working in an airport bar, spending every shift watching other people jet off to new places.  Or why the flat she's owned for a year still doesn't feel like home.  Whether her close-knit family can forgive her for what she did eighteen months ago.  And will she ever get the love of her life...'
Ok, so everybody knows about 'Me Before You' and whilst the first part of this duology wasn't anything revolutionary for me, I'd definitely like to revisit the characters and see how this narrative develops.  Not only that, every summer reading list needs a good bit of chick lit and I'm sure this one will deliver.

THE SECRET HISTORY // Donna Tart
'Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries.  But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever'
Just as a chick lit is a prerequisite of a summer reading list, so is a mystery.  This book has been sat on my shelf for over a year, just waiting for the right moment to read it.  And I think this summer is it.  Donna Tartt's work seems to divide people, but The Secret History seems to be the safest bet of her books for a really satisfying read I can get my teeth into.

A SPOOL OF BLUE THREAD // Anne Tyler
 'It was a beautiful, breezy, yellow-and-green afternoon... This is the way Abby Whitshank always begins the story of how she and Red fell in love that summer's day in 1959.  The whole family on the porch, half listening as their mother tells the same tale they have heard so many times before'
I enjoyed reading Anne Tyler's 'Vinegar Girl' (part of Hogarth's Shakespeare retelling series) so much that I'm itching to pick up another of her books.  She writes family dynamics in such a compelling way, and from what I've heard this Manbooker Prize shortlisted book is a gentle, character-driven family saga which will be perfect for summer days.

Are there any books you're looking forward to reading this summer?
#1 - SETTLING IN AT WORK
June felt like an intense cramming session - learning new skills and procedures in a way I haven't really had to in my adult worklife.  And now July is the practical, hands-on part where I'm getting to trust my instincts and apply the knowledge I've learnt.  I'm trying to rely less on those around me in my team, to own the fact that I'm new and still learning the ropes, and just have a go.  It feels good to complete a task on my own and I'm relishing the sense of accomplishment.

#2 - A TRIP TO CHICHESTER
I blogged about this here, so won't talk too much more about that sunny day we spent exploring the cathedral city.  There's nothing I love more than wandering around a new place, soaking in the views and to have spent time doing that with Nick was all the more enjoyable.

#3 - REALISING THAT I CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS
I won't lie, waking up on the 21st with the overwhelming urge to dive straight back under the duvet, heightened by the knowledge that had I still worked at school it would be the very first day of the six week break was hard.  But d'you know what?  It has got easier!  I haven't ever had a year without the summer holidays and I genuinely don't miss them as much as I thought I would.  I've got a few days booked off here and there throughout August (one to be spent with Lizzie which I'm very excited about!) which is keeping me going, and instead of mourning the loss of my summer I'm reminding myself how lucky I was to have had so many of them and that this just indicates the start of an exciting chapter in my life.

#4 - A LAZY SATURDAY
I tend to spend every Saturday with Mum, helping to look after Ella and Dylan.  And I wouldn't have it any other way, but Mum off on holiday has given me a hiatus and the chance to claim my Saturdays back.  For the most part they've still been hectic, so I look back fondly on the Saturday morning I spent curled up on the sofa, starting - and finishing - a book.  I get a real sense of achievement whenever I manage to race through a book and tick it off my reading list, and it was a the perfect, relaxing start to the weekend.

#5 - BAKING
It had been so long since I'd tested out a new recipe, so having the time to do so throughout July was a real treat.  From the quick fudge I whipped up as a gift, to the Sunday morning batch of congo bars and the chocolatey banana bread....it's been really satisfying to get back into baking.  Not to mention the fact that I managed to make the banana bread one night between finishing work and going to the gym - I *love* that I am now a person who has time to start and complete tasks in an evening rather than coming home exhausted and stressed.


5 Happy Things In July

2.8.16

#1 - SETTLING IN AT WORK
June felt like an intense cramming session - learning new skills and procedures in a way I haven't really had to in my adult worklife.  And now July is the practical, hands-on part where I'm getting to trust my instincts and apply the knowledge I've learnt.  I'm trying to rely less on those around me in my team, to own the fact that I'm new and still learning the ropes, and just have a go.  It feels good to complete a task on my own and I'm relishing the sense of accomplishment.

#2 - A TRIP TO CHICHESTER
I blogged about this here, so won't talk too much more about that sunny day we spent exploring the cathedral city.  There's nothing I love more than wandering around a new place, soaking in the views and to have spent time doing that with Nick was all the more enjoyable.

#3 - REALISING THAT I CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT THE SUMMER HOLIDAYS
I won't lie, waking up on the 21st with the overwhelming urge to dive straight back under the duvet, heightened by the knowledge that had I still worked at school it would be the very first day of the six week break was hard.  But d'you know what?  It has got easier!  I haven't ever had a year without the summer holidays and I genuinely don't miss them as much as I thought I would.  I've got a few days booked off here and there throughout August (one to be spent with Lizzie which I'm very excited about!) which is keeping me going, and instead of mourning the loss of my summer I'm reminding myself how lucky I was to have had so many of them and that this just indicates the start of an exciting chapter in my life.

#4 - A LAZY SATURDAY
I tend to spend every Saturday with Mum, helping to look after Ella and Dylan.  And I wouldn't have it any other way, but Mum off on holiday has given me a hiatus and the chance to claim my Saturdays back.  For the most part they've still been hectic, so I look back fondly on the Saturday morning I spent curled up on the sofa, starting - and finishing - a book.  I get a real sense of achievement whenever I manage to race through a book and tick it off my reading list, and it was a the perfect, relaxing start to the weekend.

#5 - BAKING
It had been so long since I'd tested out a new recipe, so having the time to do so throughout July was a real treat.  From the quick fudge I whipped up as a gift, to the Sunday morning batch of congo bars and the chocolatey banana bread....it's been really satisfying to get back into baking.  Not to mention the fact that I managed to make the banana bread one night between finishing work and going to the gym - I *love* that I am now a person who has time to start and complete tasks in an evening rather than coming home exhausted and stressed.


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