Hot on the heels of my introduction to my journey towards mindful money management, last week was the week I spectacularly fell off the wagon.  Part of me doesn't want to admit it but then a big part of me would feel like a huge hypocrite if I wasn't honest.  Plus there's a certain friend no doubt reading who will definitely call me out if I'm not.

I got sucked in to online shopping again.  A pair of shoes I'd been lusting after for months went into sale.  So I bought them in two sizes to try on.  Then decided the colour wasn't right so re-ordered a black pair.  Then decided I simply *must* own a tea dress so went on a hunt for one.  The dress I ordered wasn't a tea dress (nor was the second one I added to my bag to qualify for free delivery), but please tell me I'm not alone in falling down a black hole and buying for the sake of buying?  Oh, and to round things off I ordered a pair of trousers because they're the perfect autumnal shade and I think we can all agree that summer 2017 is pretty much over, right?

I'm ending the week on a small high though because (with the exception of the black shoes (which were always going to be keepers) and the second dress (only a tenner in the sale, too))...I took everything back.  I'm feeling pretty proud of myself right now, and also pretty disappointed when I add up what I spent in total.  Just goes to show how easy it is to get carried away.

But anyway, besides seven days of shopping, what else happened last week?

On Wednesday we had our monthly book club meet up and the book we'd read was Rebecca.  I'd heard a lot about it online so thought we decided to give it a go and ended up all feeling positive about it.  It generated a lot of discussion and it's funny to look back at when we started and veered towards YA literature for ease, but now we're opting for classics!  I think it works particularly well because there are more discussion questions available online for the older books so gives us a chance to really get to the deeper layers of whatever it is we've read. Next month...Pride and Prejudice!

On Saturday I took myself off to Costa for another writing session.  I always thought that sitting alone in a coffee shop would feel odd and that I'd get far too distracted with people watching to concentrate but actually being away from my home comforts is perfect for focus.  I take a notebook with me and scribble out posts by hand and I think that alleviates some of the writer's block I can tend to get whilst sat at my computer.  Oh, and this photo isn't as random as it seems....my local Costa sits inside Next so I couldn't resist checking out their homeware section on my way out.  Didn't buy anything though!

Mum's been on holiday for the past few weeks so on Sunday to Guildford with her and my sister.  Sundays always feel like much less of a frenzied shopping experience and it was nice to stop for lunch before heading off to browse return the bulk of my online orders.  And full disclosure, I may have bought my perfect AW coat but it was a bargain in TK Maxx and we all know what happens if you don't buy things you like there and then!

Week 33 In Moments

21.8.17

Hot on the heels of my introduction to my journey towards mindful money management, last week was the week I spectacularly fell off the wagon.  Part of me doesn't want to admit it but then a big part of me would feel like a huge hypocrite if I wasn't honest.  Plus there's a certain friend no doubt reading who will definitely call me out if I'm not.

I got sucked in to online shopping again.  A pair of shoes I'd been lusting after for months went into sale.  So I bought them in two sizes to try on.  Then decided the colour wasn't right so re-ordered a black pair.  Then decided I simply *must* own a tea dress so went on a hunt for one.  The dress I ordered wasn't a tea dress (nor was the second one I added to my bag to qualify for free delivery), but please tell me I'm not alone in falling down a black hole and buying for the sake of buying?  Oh, and to round things off I ordered a pair of trousers because they're the perfect autumnal shade and I think we can all agree that summer 2017 is pretty much over, right?

I'm ending the week on a small high though because (with the exception of the black shoes (which were always going to be keepers) and the second dress (only a tenner in the sale, too))...I took everything back.  I'm feeling pretty proud of myself right now, and also pretty disappointed when I add up what I spent in total.  Just goes to show how easy it is to get carried away.

But anyway, besides seven days of shopping, what else happened last week?

On Wednesday we had our monthly book club meet up and the book we'd read was Rebecca.  I'd heard a lot about it online so thought we decided to give it a go and ended up all feeling positive about it.  It generated a lot of discussion and it's funny to look back at when we started and veered towards YA literature for ease, but now we're opting for classics!  I think it works particularly well because there are more discussion questions available online for the older books so gives us a chance to really get to the deeper layers of whatever it is we've read. Next month...Pride and Prejudice!

On Saturday I took myself off to Costa for another writing session.  I always thought that sitting alone in a coffee shop would feel odd and that I'd get far too distracted with people watching to concentrate but actually being away from my home comforts is perfect for focus.  I take a notebook with me and scribble out posts by hand and I think that alleviates some of the writer's block I can tend to get whilst sat at my computer.  Oh, and this photo isn't as random as it seems....my local Costa sits inside Next so I couldn't resist checking out their homeware section on my way out.  Didn't buy anything though!

Mum's been on holiday for the past few weeks so on Sunday to Guildford with her and my sister.  Sundays always feel like much less of a frenzied shopping experience and it was nice to stop for lunch before heading off to browse return the bulk of my online orders.  And full disclosure, I may have bought my perfect AW coat but it was a bargain in TK Maxx and we all know what happens if you don't buy things you like there and then!
You may be aware that I started my own personal finance journey blog a month or two ago.  It's something I spoke about in my mission statement post and is one of the things I'm going to incorporate on here.

You see, years of involvement in the blogging community has seriously effed my finances up.  I take me share of the blame (it's accurate to say I am categorically bad with money) but there's no doubt I was never this destructive before blogging.

In fact, I remember a time pre-blogs when I treated myself to a pair of boots from River Island.  They weren't particularly expensive (£45 or less) and it was around my birthday so I likely used birthday money to buy them.  I debated it for over a fortnight.  And when I walked in and put my money on the counter to pay I felt both guilty and thrilled at the same time.  But unlike in recent years and with recent purchases, the guilt faded and the excitement stayed the same.

I loved those boots and and would genuinely put it down to the fact that they were a treat at a time when pacifying myself through purchases didn't happen often.

But blogging has brought with it a new wave of spending habits.  Living vicariously through a favourite blogger is something we all do, but for me the trouble comes when I start to spend* like them too.  Fashion is fast and social media makes it faster.  The latest lipstick craze?  I'll take one in every colour.

Years of this mindset has left me in a mess.  I've had moments of cold panic looking at my bank balance a week after payday and wondering how I'll make very little last the next few weeks with birthday presents still to buy and social events yet to attend.

Blog now, get into debt later.

I hit breaking (and flat out broke) point.

But why am I telling you this?  The simplest reason is to explain my shift in values and introduce a new feature here.  But the why behind that shift is that I think it's a conversation which needs to be had.

We're prudes about money (unless it's an "I dropped £500 on Cult Beauty" video.  Just no.)  Money management isn't something I was taught in school and the general feeling I'm getting online is that I'm not alone.

I'll go back to my earlier statement: I am bad with money.  But in the two months since I've had my head in the personal finance game I've built my savings from nothing to a target sum which I'm proud of and I've stopped going overdrawn to boot.  But don't come here looking for advice because no doubt I'll stumble along the way.  It won't stop me sharing my journey and talking about money though.

Come here if you want to see an average millenial working towards mindful money management.

Come here for tips and tricks I've learnt and resources I think are useful.

But most importantly, come here if you think conversations around money are of value to you and you want to be part of a community of people who feel the same.

*(debatable with the abundance of undisclosed PR freebies)

Conversations Around Money: An Introduction

17.8.17

You may be aware that I started my own personal finance journey blog a month or two ago.  It's something I spoke about in my mission statement post and is one of the things I'm going to incorporate on here.

You see, years of involvement in the blogging community has seriously effed my finances up.  I take me share of the blame (it's accurate to say I am categorically bad with money) but there's no doubt I was never this destructive before blogging.

In fact, I remember a time pre-blogs when I treated myself to a pair of boots from River Island.  They weren't particularly expensive (£45 or less) and it was around my birthday so I likely used birthday money to buy them.  I debated it for over a fortnight.  And when I walked in and put my money on the counter to pay I felt both guilty and thrilled at the same time.  But unlike in recent years and with recent purchases, the guilt faded and the excitement stayed the same.

I loved those boots and and would genuinely put it down to the fact that they were a treat at a time when pacifying myself through purchases didn't happen often.

But blogging has brought with it a new wave of spending habits.  Living vicariously through a favourite blogger is something we all do, but for me the trouble comes when I start to spend* like them too.  Fashion is fast and social media makes it faster.  The latest lipstick craze?  I'll take one in every colour.

Years of this mindset has left me in a mess.  I've had moments of cold panic looking at my bank balance a week after payday and wondering how I'll make very little last the next few weeks with birthday presents still to buy and social events yet to attend.

Blog now, get into debt later.

I hit breaking (and flat out broke) point.

But why am I telling you this?  The simplest reason is to explain my shift in values and introduce a new feature here.  But the why behind that shift is that I think it's a conversation which needs to be had.

We're prudes about money (unless it's an "I dropped £500 on Cult Beauty" video.  Just no.)  Money management isn't something I was taught in school and the general feeling I'm getting online is that I'm not alone.

I'll go back to my earlier statement: I am bad with money.  But in the two months since I've had my head in the personal finance game I've built my savings from nothing to a target sum which I'm proud of and I've stopped going overdrawn to boot.  But don't come here looking for advice because no doubt I'll stumble along the way.  It won't stop me sharing my journey and talking about money though.

Come here if you want to see an average millenial working towards mindful money management.

Come here for tips and tricks I've learnt and resources I think are useful.

But most importantly, come here if you think conversations around money are of value to you and you want to be part of a community of people who feel the same.

*(debatable with the abundance of undisclosed PR freebies)
Last week was good.  I've started going back to Body Balance classes, taken time for self-reflection and feel as though I'm connecting with myself a little better and making positive changes.

I also got some of the boring, behind the scenes blog stuff in hand and it's actually given me a lot more motivation.  I've been making an effort to engage more on Twitter as well, so if you don't already follow me (@lornaliterally) come over and say hi!

I started the week by making these chocolate chip cheesecake bars.  The base of this is to die for (and so easy to make!) but Nick and I aren't sold on the texture and flavour of the cheesecake layer so I took the majority in to work.  They were a hit at the office, but I think if I were to make them again I'd substitute the cheesecake for a layer of caramel.  Sounds heavenly, right?!

I also started experimenting with my style a bit more last week.  I still use a capsule wardrobe system but it was all starting to look a bit muted and tonal, plus I feel as though I'd gotten into a rut with the combinations I was wearing.  This top was a new addition from the week before last and I would normally have played it safe with a plain belt.  I know adding a leopard print belt isn't anything too outrageous, but it's a step in the right direction and has inspired me to keep playing with pieces I already own.

On Saturday I met with Lizzie for a catch up.  We chatted a little about blogging, made some future plans and then browsed M&S for a bit.  Maybe it's a sign of my age but I quite enjoy looking for good quality basic items in there!  The day was even better because I managed to sneak in a quick trip to the library prior to our meeting.  I didn't emerge with arms weighed down by books but I always find that time spent in the library is good for the soul.

And finally, on Sunday, I went for a quick shopping trip with my sister.  We're quite lucky that our local town is big enough to house everything we'd need but not so big that you end up going overboard with spending.  The main reason for our excursion was to collect this Gucci-inspired belt and we also managed to squeeze in a cake whilst making plans for our upcoming trip to Amsterdam.

Speaking of which, if you have any recommendations for activities please leave them down below!

Week 32 In Moments

14.8.17

Last week was good.  I've started going back to Body Balance classes, taken time for self-reflection and feel as though I'm connecting with myself a little better and making positive changes.

I also got some of the boring, behind the scenes blog stuff in hand and it's actually given me a lot more motivation.  I've been making an effort to engage more on Twitter as well, so if you don't already follow me (@lornaliterally) come over and say hi!

I started the week by making these chocolate chip cheesecake bars.  The base of this is to die for (and so easy to make!) but Nick and I aren't sold on the texture and flavour of the cheesecake layer so I took the majority in to work.  They were a hit at the office, but I think if I were to make them again I'd substitute the cheesecake for a layer of caramel.  Sounds heavenly, right?!

I also started experimenting with my style a bit more last week.  I still use a capsule wardrobe system but it was all starting to look a bit muted and tonal, plus I feel as though I'd gotten into a rut with the combinations I was wearing.  This top was a new addition from the week before last and I would normally have played it safe with a plain belt.  I know adding a leopard print belt isn't anything too outrageous, but it's a step in the right direction and has inspired me to keep playing with pieces I already own.

On Saturday I met with Lizzie for a catch up.  We chatted a little about blogging, made some future plans and then browsed M&S for a bit.  Maybe it's a sign of my age but I quite enjoy looking for good quality basic items in there!  The day was even better because I managed to sneak in a quick trip to the library prior to our meeting.  I didn't emerge with arms weighed down by books but I always find that time spent in the library is good for the soul.

And finally, on Sunday, I went for a quick shopping trip with my sister.  We're quite lucky that our local town is big enough to house everything we'd need but not so big that you end up going overboard with spending.  The main reason for our excursion was to collect this Gucci-inspired belt and we also managed to squeeze in a cake whilst making plans for our upcoming trip to Amsterdam.

Speaking of which, if you have any recommendations for activities please leave them down below!




I said at the start of the year I wanted to explore simple and intentional living.  Well, I want to kick things up a notch.  I'm not the same make up obsessed early 20-something that I was when I started blogging.  Owning the latest MAC release no longer appeals to me, nor does wasting money on fast, Primark fashion.  My tastes have changed and adjustments must also be made here.

A month or so ago I set up a second finance-focused blog but before long found myself wanting to talk about more than just money.  The waters got muddied and I felt like if I added too much to the mix I would lose direction and clarity.

Then it dawned on me that I already have a blog where I'm free to share anything and everything I like.  A blog which is relatively undefined in terms of content with space to cover a broad spectrum.  And that's this blog which you're reading right now.

It's time to create a mission statement of what I want my site to be about.  The areas I'll explore, the conversations I'll have and the thoughts I'll share. My values, if you will.  I've been thinking a lot lately about the things I value and want to prioritise in my life....

growth + experiences + understanding

It's a small step away from the blogging style you may have become accustomed to on here, but I'm hoping you'll stick with me.  I've been feeling overwhelmed by the amount of noise, consumerist influence and unrelatable content I've been faced with online.  If you're feeling the same, let's ride this one out together and create a new, quieter and more intentional space.

Mission Statement

10.8.17





I said at the start of the year I wanted to explore simple and intentional living.  Well, I want to kick things up a notch.  I'm not the same make up obsessed early 20-something that I was when I started blogging.  Owning the latest MAC release no longer appeals to me, nor does wasting money on fast, Primark fashion.  My tastes have changed and adjustments must also be made here.

A month or so ago I set up a second finance-focused blog but before long found myself wanting to talk about more than just money.  The waters got muddied and I felt like if I added too much to the mix I would lose direction and clarity.

Then it dawned on me that I already have a blog where I'm free to share anything and everything I like.  A blog which is relatively undefined in terms of content with space to cover a broad spectrum.  And that's this blog which you're reading right now.

It's time to create a mission statement of what I want my site to be about.  The areas I'll explore, the conversations I'll have and the thoughts I'll share. My values, if you will.  I've been thinking a lot lately about the things I value and want to prioritise in my life....

growth + experiences + understanding

It's a small step away from the blogging style you may have become accustomed to on here, but I'm hoping you'll stick with me.  I've been feeling overwhelmed by the amount of noise, consumerist influence and unrelatable content I've been faced with online.  If you're feeling the same, let's ride this one out together and create a new, quieter and more intentional space.
Wow, week 31 already.  Not going to lie, it got off to a rough start when I thought I was due a 3 day weekend this week coming.  Damn you iPhone calendar for listing Scottish Bank Holidays as well!

I'm feeling rested after a slow but steady week and a chilled out weekend.  I think I mentioned it, but we don't have Ella and Dylan throughout summer and although I miss seeing them every Saturday it's also nice to have a slower start to the mornings and the luxury of doing whatever takes my fancy.


My orchid bloomed again this week. It's the third round of flowers even though this time I thought I'd killed it off for good.  I'm not known for my green fingers so having nurtured this through various life cycles I'm actually quite attached to it.  It's brightens up my kitchen windowsill and makes me smile to see it.


Speaking of slow Saturdays, Nick is notorious for the length of time it takes him to get ready and leave the house.  So much so that I've resorted to telling him all social events start at least 30 minutes before they actually do...and even then it's hit or miss.  But rather than getting frustrated whilst waiting for him, this weekend I decided to take myself off to Costa for a Me Date.  Armed with a notepad and pen, I plugged myself in to a couple of podcasts and drafted out a couple of blog posts.  I wrote much more than I'd ever anticipated and really enjoyed the process of putting pen to paper.  Definitely something I'm going to repeat more often.


I finally got round to selling a few bits on eBay and made a little more than I'd hoped to so decided to treat myself to this top.  I know, I know....defeats the object of scaling down my wardrobe by selling clothes if I'm just going to add more but this one ticked all the boxes for me.  Lately I've felt inspired to inject a bit more colour into my everyday outfits....it doesn't get much more vibrant than this!  It'll be a good piece for work and was a bargain as well.


Ignoring the fact that I'm in desperate need of some hand cream here...I got my nails done!  It's becoming a habit showing off my latest manicure and when I look back at this post I'm dead chuffed with how much my nails have grown.  I think it's a combination of a more varied diet, the change in shape and the use of a gel basecoat for added strength.  By my next appointment I think I'll be at my goal length!

What were the highlights of your last week?

Week 31 In Moments

7.8.17

Wow, week 31 already.  Not going to lie, it got off to a rough start when I thought I was due a 3 day weekend this week coming.  Damn you iPhone calendar for listing Scottish Bank Holidays as well!

I'm feeling rested after a slow but steady week and a chilled out weekend.  I think I mentioned it, but we don't have Ella and Dylan throughout summer and although I miss seeing them every Saturday it's also nice to have a slower start to the mornings and the luxury of doing whatever takes my fancy.


My orchid bloomed again this week. It's the third round of flowers even though this time I thought I'd killed it off for good.  I'm not known for my green fingers so having nurtured this through various life cycles I'm actually quite attached to it.  It's brightens up my kitchen windowsill and makes me smile to see it.


Speaking of slow Saturdays, Nick is notorious for the length of time it takes him to get ready and leave the house.  So much so that I've resorted to telling him all social events start at least 30 minutes before they actually do...and even then it's hit or miss.  But rather than getting frustrated whilst waiting for him, this weekend I decided to take myself off to Costa for a Me Date.  Armed with a notepad and pen, I plugged myself in to a couple of podcasts and drafted out a couple of blog posts.  I wrote much more than I'd ever anticipated and really enjoyed the process of putting pen to paper.  Definitely something I'm going to repeat more often.


I finally got round to selling a few bits on eBay and made a little more than I'd hoped to so decided to treat myself to this top.  I know, I know....defeats the object of scaling down my wardrobe by selling clothes if I'm just going to add more but this one ticked all the boxes for me.  Lately I've felt inspired to inject a bit more colour into my everyday outfits....it doesn't get much more vibrant than this!  It'll be a good piece for work and was a bargain as well.


Ignoring the fact that I'm in desperate need of some hand cream here...I got my nails done!  It's becoming a habit showing off my latest manicure and when I look back at this post I'm dead chuffed with how much my nails have grown.  I think it's a combination of a more varied diet, the change in shape and the use of a gel basecoat for added strength.  By my next appointment I think I'll be at my goal length!

What were the highlights of your last week?
#37 - THE BELLWETHER REVIVALS // Benjamin Wood
'Bright, bookish Oscar Lowe has escaped the urban estate where he was raised and made a new life for himself amid the colleges and spires of Cambridge. He has grown to love the quiet routine of his life as a care assistant at a local nursing home, where he has forged a close friendship with the home's most ill-tempered resident, Dr. Paulsen. But when he meets and falls in love with Iris Bellwether, a beautiful and enigmatic medical student at King's College, Oscar is drawn into her world of scholarship and privilege, and soon becomes embroiled in the strange machinations of her brilliant but troubled brother, Eden, who believes he can adapt the theories of a forgotten Baroque composer to heal people with music. Eden's self-belief knows no bounds, and as he draws his sister and closed circle of friends into a series of disturbing experiments to prove himself right, Oscar realises the extent of the danger facing them all...'
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 This book felt like a more accessible version of The Secret History.  Campus novel with an eclectic, highly intelligent group of friends culminating in death.  It's all here albeit in a much more digestible format than Donna Tartt's famous work.  If I'm honest, I think I actually enjoyed The Bellwether Revivals a little more; in part because it was easier to read but also because it's set in England and so I could visualise the setting much more vividly.  The fact that it was a much more manageable read doesn't mean in any way that the writing wasn't good...in fact there were points when I found myself re-reading sentences to savour the language a little more.  Ultimately the genre and topic's never going to be my favourite but it was fun to read nonetheless.
Rating: ★
Good if: you found The Secret History a little heavy-going

#38 - THE SHOPPING BASKET // John Burningham
'Steven is sent out for groceries on to the mean street of the city with only a shopping basket for protection. There are several shady characters about who are offering to lighten the load of the basket by helping themselves to his provisions! Steven's having none of it and with the help of some of the city's less attractive sights he outsmarts all of them and makes it home in time for tea.'
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This is a children's book which I've omitted from these lists in the past but in the interest of consistent numbering I decided to include.  Plus Ella and I read it multiple times so it's definitely earned its place here! The story of Steven's shopping trip and the characters he meets was a joy to read and had us both chuckling throughout.  And from an educational point of view it allowed Ella to practice her counting and play more than/less than number games using the illustrations.
Rating: ★
Good if: you want a book for both adults and children to enjoy

#39 - CODE NAME VERITY // Elizabeth Wein
'"I have two weeks. You'll shoot me at the end no matter what I do."
Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, Code Name Verity is a bestselling tale of friendship and courage set against the backdrop of World War Two. 
Only in wartime could a stalwart lass from Manchester rub shoulders with a Scottish aristocrat, one a pilot, the other a special operations executive. When a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over France, she is captured by the Gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. 
The story begins in `Verity's' own words, as she writes her account for her captors. Truth or lies? Honour or betrayal? Everything they've ever believed in is put to the test . . .'
-
I'm reluctant to say to much about this one for fear of giving any of the plot away.  I enjoyed reading certain parts more than others but my overall feeling is that this novel was a little dry and too heavy on the finer details of the aircrafts and the logistics of flying.  This felt very much 'YA' so perhaps I would have enjoyed it more had I read it when I was a teenager - somehow I never read the characters as being the ages they were, although maybe that's my own prejudices and awareness of the target audience affecting my overall impression.  The good points?  It raised really interesting questions of morality and the truth and had a strong female friendship as the core of the story.  Not my cup of tea but not terrible, either. 
Rating: ★ 
Good if: you fancy a wartime novel with a feminist twist

#40 - THE LAST DAYS OF LEDA GREY // Essie Fox
'During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the seaside town of Brightland. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey.Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living - now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film.
As Beauvois's muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect. But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality, leaving Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century - until the secrets of her past result in a shocking climax, more haunting than any to be in found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois.'
-
Elijah's Mermaid by the same author is one of my favourite books and although quite similar, this one didn't quite hit the mark for me.  Fox is a talented writer and able to weave rich, evocative narratives but I've found that if you don't gel with the overarching theme then that isn't quite enough.  It's quite a heady, atmospheric book with twists and turns and moments which leave you questioning whether the things you've read are real or not.  I'm still very much a fan of Fox and would read more by her, however this one doesn't go down as a favourite.
Rating: ★
Good if: you like dark yet whimsical historical fiction

#41 - THE SIMPLE LIFE // Rhonda Hetzel
'Rhonda Hetzel feels passionately that living simply leads to a richer, more fulfilling existence. Having made the decision to live frugally, embrace sustainability and opt out of the capitalist consumerist mindset, she set about working out how to achieve her goal, learning traditional skills, reducing her spending and environmental impact and focusing on the simple things that make life worth living: family, friends, and a home-cooked meal.
This is the story of her journey and the lessons she has learned along the way. Rhonda relates why she wanted to change her lifestyle, what simple living means to her, and offers guidance to those thinking about taking the same path.'

-
I was looking for more reading material to do with simple living and decided to give this eBook a whirl.  It started off well, with some take-home consideration about consumerism, but I found myself not really enjoying the 'at home' side of things.  It felt rather dated - living off the land and, ultimately, giving the impression of being the ideal housewife.  Which I'm not against, if that's what someone chooses to be, but I'm sure that the antidote to capitalism could be a little more progressive.
Rating: ★
 Good if: you want to read more about sustainable living

#42 - ALL THE GOOD THINGS // Clare Fisher
'Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn't deserve ever to feel good again.
But her counsellor, Erika, won't give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby's head.
But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.
What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone - even a 100% bad person - deserve a chance to be good?' 
 I read this in one day and it's going to stick with me for a long while yet.  Again, it's one that I don't want to give too much away on, but it was heartbreaking and I felt empty by the end.  Being a similar(ish) age to Beth meant I could relate to her environment and some of her experiences, yet she and I are also so different that it was really eye-opening to read.  It's written in a no-nonsense style which I think would resonate with our generation; like Carys Bray with a bit more grit.
Rating: ★
Good if: you want an up to date contemporary which isn't afraid to tackle more serious topics

#43 - THE TIDAL ZONE // Sarah Moss
'"Put your fingers in your ears, lay your head on the pillow, listen to the footsteps of your blood.
You are alive."
Everything you know, the everyday comfort of your ordinary life, can be broken in an instant.
Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man and he is happy. But one day, he receives a call from his daughter's school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, fifteen-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing.
In that moment, he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonising, not knowing. The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and re-told around this shocking central event, around a body that has inexplicably failed.'
I'd heard such rave reviews about this that, honestly, I was a little dubious.  I was wrong!  The writing is so accomplished that within the first chapter I knew it was worth the hype.  The characters are complex, unlikeable at times and through them we explore difficult topics.  I found Miriam downright precocious but enjoyed her character's views on the patriarchy.  Stay-at-home dad Adam's dynamics with his family (and workaholic wife) provided an interesting viewpoint to consider and his father's reflections on him coming of age in America gave further depth to the story.  My only gripe is that I didn't enjoy the focus on Coventry Cathedral - whilst it certainly added another layer, I feel as though it got in the way of the main plot.
Rating: ★

 Good if:  you like beautiful writing with plenty to think about

Read in 2017: July

3.8.17

#37 - THE BELLWETHER REVIVALS // Benjamin Wood
'Bright, bookish Oscar Lowe has escaped the urban estate where he was raised and made a new life for himself amid the colleges and spires of Cambridge. He has grown to love the quiet routine of his life as a care assistant at a local nursing home, where he has forged a close friendship with the home's most ill-tempered resident, Dr. Paulsen. But when he meets and falls in love with Iris Bellwether, a beautiful and enigmatic medical student at King's College, Oscar is drawn into her world of scholarship and privilege, and soon becomes embroiled in the strange machinations of her brilliant but troubled brother, Eden, who believes he can adapt the theories of a forgotten Baroque composer to heal people with music. Eden's self-belief knows no bounds, and as he draws his sister and closed circle of friends into a series of disturbing experiments to prove himself right, Oscar realises the extent of the danger facing them all...'
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 This book felt like a more accessible version of The Secret History.  Campus novel with an eclectic, highly intelligent group of friends culminating in death.  It's all here albeit in a much more digestible format than Donna Tartt's famous work.  If I'm honest, I think I actually enjoyed The Bellwether Revivals a little more; in part because it was easier to read but also because it's set in England and so I could visualise the setting much more vividly.  The fact that it was a much more manageable read doesn't mean in any way that the writing wasn't good...in fact there were points when I found myself re-reading sentences to savour the language a little more.  Ultimately the genre and topic's never going to be my favourite but it was fun to read nonetheless.
Rating: ★
Good if: you found The Secret History a little heavy-going

#38 - THE SHOPPING BASKET // John Burningham
'Steven is sent out for groceries on to the mean street of the city with only a shopping basket for protection. There are several shady characters about who are offering to lighten the load of the basket by helping themselves to his provisions! Steven's having none of it and with the help of some of the city's less attractive sights he outsmarts all of them and makes it home in time for tea.'
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This is a children's book which I've omitted from these lists in the past but in the interest of consistent numbering I decided to include.  Plus Ella and I read it multiple times so it's definitely earned its place here! The story of Steven's shopping trip and the characters he meets was a joy to read and had us both chuckling throughout.  And from an educational point of view it allowed Ella to practice her counting and play more than/less than number games using the illustrations.
Rating: ★
Good if: you want a book for both adults and children to enjoy

#39 - CODE NAME VERITY // Elizabeth Wein
'"I have two weeks. You'll shoot me at the end no matter what I do."
Shortlisted for the Carnegie Medal, Code Name Verity is a bestselling tale of friendship and courage set against the backdrop of World War Two. 
Only in wartime could a stalwart lass from Manchester rub shoulders with a Scottish aristocrat, one a pilot, the other a special operations executive. When a vital mission goes wrong, and one of the friends has to bail out of a faulty plane over France, she is captured by the Gestapo and becomes a prisoner of war. 
The story begins in `Verity's' own words, as she writes her account for her captors. Truth or lies? Honour or betrayal? Everything they've ever believed in is put to the test . . .'
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I'm reluctant to say to much about this one for fear of giving any of the plot away.  I enjoyed reading certain parts more than others but my overall feeling is that this novel was a little dry and too heavy on the finer details of the aircrafts and the logistics of flying.  This felt very much 'YA' so perhaps I would have enjoyed it more had I read it when I was a teenager - somehow I never read the characters as being the ages they were, although maybe that's my own prejudices and awareness of the target audience affecting my overall impression.  The good points?  It raised really interesting questions of morality and the truth and had a strong female friendship as the core of the story.  Not my cup of tea but not terrible, either. 
Rating: ★ 
Good if: you fancy a wartime novel with a feminist twist

#40 - THE LAST DAYS OF LEDA GREY // Essie Fox
'During the oppressive heat wave of 1976 a young journalist, Ed Peters, finds an Edwardian photograph in a junk shop in the seaside town of Brightland. It shows an alluring, dark-haired girl, an actress whose name was Leda Grey.Enchanted by the image, Ed learns Leda Grey is still living - now a recluse in a decaying cliff-top house she once shared with a man named Charles Beauvois, a director of early silent film.
As Beauvois's muse and lover, Leda often starred in scenes where stage magic and trick photography were used to astonishing effect. But, while playing a cursed Egyptian queen, the fantasies captured on celluloid were echoed in reality, leaving Leda abandoned and alone for more than half a century - until the secrets of her past result in a shocking climax, more haunting than any to be in found in the silent films of Charles Beauvois.'
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Elijah's Mermaid by the same author is one of my favourite books and although quite similar, this one didn't quite hit the mark for me.  Fox is a talented writer and able to weave rich, evocative narratives but I've found that if you don't gel with the overarching theme then that isn't quite enough.  It's quite a heady, atmospheric book with twists and turns and moments which leave you questioning whether the things you've read are real or not.  I'm still very much a fan of Fox and would read more by her, however this one doesn't go down as a favourite.
Rating: ★
Good if: you like dark yet whimsical historical fiction

#41 - THE SIMPLE LIFE // Rhonda Hetzel
'Rhonda Hetzel feels passionately that living simply leads to a richer, more fulfilling existence. Having made the decision to live frugally, embrace sustainability and opt out of the capitalist consumerist mindset, she set about working out how to achieve her goal, learning traditional skills, reducing her spending and environmental impact and focusing on the simple things that make life worth living: family, friends, and a home-cooked meal.
This is the story of her journey and the lessons she has learned along the way. Rhonda relates why she wanted to change her lifestyle, what simple living means to her, and offers guidance to those thinking about taking the same path.'

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I was looking for more reading material to do with simple living and decided to give this eBook a whirl.  It started off well, with some take-home consideration about consumerism, but I found myself not really enjoying the 'at home' side of things.  It felt rather dated - living off the land and, ultimately, giving the impression of being the ideal housewife.  Which I'm not against, if that's what someone chooses to be, but I'm sure that the antidote to capitalism could be a little more progressive.
Rating: ★
 Good if: you want to read more about sustainable living

#42 - ALL THE GOOD THINGS // Clare Fisher
'Twenty-one year old Beth is in prison. The thing she did is so bad she doesn't deserve ever to feel good again.
But her counsellor, Erika, won't give up on her. She asks Beth to make a list of all the good things in her life. So Beth starts to write down her story, from sharing silences with Foster Dad No. 1, to flirting in the Odeon on Orange Wednesdays, to the very first time she sniffed her baby's head.
But at the end of her story, Beth must confront the bad thing.
What is the truth hiding behind her crime? And does anyone - even a 100% bad person - deserve a chance to be good?' 
 I read this in one day and it's going to stick with me for a long while yet.  Again, it's one that I don't want to give too much away on, but it was heartbreaking and I felt empty by the end.  Being a similar(ish) age to Beth meant I could relate to her environment and some of her experiences, yet she and I are also so different that it was really eye-opening to read.  It's written in a no-nonsense style which I think would resonate with our generation; like Carys Bray with a bit more grit.
Rating: ★
Good if: you want an up to date contemporary which isn't afraid to tackle more serious topics

#43 - THE TIDAL ZONE // Sarah Moss
'"Put your fingers in your ears, lay your head on the pillow, listen to the footsteps of your blood.
You are alive."
Everything you know, the everyday comfort of your ordinary life, can be broken in an instant.
Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man and he is happy. But one day, he receives a call from his daughter's school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, fifteen-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing.
In that moment, he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonising, not knowing. The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and re-told around this shocking central event, around a body that has inexplicably failed.'
I'd heard such rave reviews about this that, honestly, I was a little dubious.  I was wrong!  The writing is so accomplished that within the first chapter I knew it was worth the hype.  The characters are complex, unlikeable at times and through them we explore difficult topics.  I found Miriam downright precocious but enjoyed her character's views on the patriarchy.  Stay-at-home dad Adam's dynamics with his family (and workaholic wife) provided an interesting viewpoint to consider and his father's reflections on him coming of age in America gave further depth to the story.  My only gripe is that I didn't enjoy the focus on Coventry Cathedral - whilst it certainly added another layer, I feel as though it got in the way of the main plot.
Rating: ★

 Good if:  you like beautiful writing with plenty to think about

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