A Little Kitchen Inspiration…

So, after all my whining about houses over the past few weeks, it seems that we’ve only just begun. We put an offer on a house this week, which was accepted! It’s an exciting and scary place to be – not least because the house needs *a lot* of work. More than I was anticipating when I started this process – but that’s the price we have to pay if we want a decent-sized house in our area. Whilst it’s a little daunting to be looking at weeks (maybe months) without a kitchen or proper floors, it does give us the opportunity to make the house our own straight away. Always look on the bright side, right? And in this case, the bright side is spending hours pinning pretty pictures of kitchens and dreaming of what ours will look like in a few months… I know that it might not come to pass, but a girl can dream. 

kitchen inspiration

[Photo Sources (Clockwise): SF Girl by Bay / My Scandinavian Home / My Scandinavian Home / Blair Harris / Apartment Kitchen / My Scandinavian Home]

As you can tell, I’m big into the monochrome look. I’m nervous of using black, in case it makes everything seem dark and small, but I just keep coming back to this colour scheme. It feels modern and fun, and it’s the perfect base to start adding art and plants and other fun things. Lots of natural wood, a little bit of metallic, and I think we’d be in business. And is it wrong that I’ve already been looking up where I can get a skull like that one? Because if it is, then I don’t want to be right. 

P.S. You might like my Kitchen Pinterest board

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February Book Reviews

february books

It has been a busy reading month for me. A weekend away in a cottage with no wi-fi will do that for you. Quite a few of the books that I read this month were ones I also listed on my books to pre-order for 2016 list and I’m pleased to note that most of them lived up to my high expectations! 

Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard* 

Sometimes you just need some pure escapism, which is exactly what this book provides. Revenge, class warfare, family rifts, evil masterminds and an on-going search for the individuals that might just be able to bring the war to a close. There are twists and turns that will keep you on the edge of your seat, but I don’t want to spoil too much, since so much of the pleasure in these sorts of books is in finding out what happens and you might not have read the first book, but suffice to say that this book had me hooked all the way through and I already want to get my hands on the next instalment. This was a much bigger novel – the first introduced us to Mare but in this one we travel across her world and watch her grow even further. She’s no longer quite such a Katniss-alike, which I appreciated, and watching her struggle with herself as she’s caught between two worlds, knowing she can never turn back, makes her very likeable. This isn’t some big, literary masterpiece but if you want something to hold your attention and keep you captivated then this is it. 

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes

You might remember how much I raved about ‘You’ last year – the story of creepy stalker Joe that will literally grab you by the eyeballs and not let go until you’ve devoured the whole novel in one sitting. It is easily one of the best books I’ve ever read, and I was so happy to hear that there was a sequel coming out. I was not disappointed – Joe is still an absolutely captivating and creepy character, who you somehow ending up rooting for despite his actions. However, whilst ‘You’ felt like a complete story that stands alone, this hasn’t quite got that same quality – it isn’t a necessary sequel and although I enjoyed it, it was sort of more of the same. Joe goes to LA to track down a girl who steals from him (and tramples on his heart) but finds himself in a all-encompassing relationship with a sweet rich girl, whose infuriatingly reckless brother threatens to bring down with him. I still want more of Joe, he’s one of the best characters that I’ve ever read and I love how these books defy genre and always keep you on tenterhooks, but this wasn’t quite as strong as the first.  

The Noise of Time by Julian Barnes*

This was billed as one of the most exciting books to come out in 2016 by the likes of the Guardian, so I was thrilled to get my hands on it. That, however, is where the excitement stopped. What was described as a study in courage, compromise mortality and art felt rather flat to me, with the main character always resisting the reader in a frustrating way that felt more like a history book than a novel. I’m okay with a slow, quiet novel, but the language and atmosphere wasn’t enticing enough to keep me and the plot was almost non-existent. It’s a tough subject to tackle; this is a fictional account of a real person’s life – that of Russian composer, Shostakovich, who lived throughout the rule of Stalin and beyond. What should have been fascinating and potentially very emotional, was more intellectual. I wanted more from this book than what it could provide. 

Love Sick by Cory Martin*

I find it hard to review memoirs, because it doesn’t really feel right to pass judgement on somebody else’s life – that is, after all, how they experienced something and who am I to say that it should be otherwise? This is the true story of a woman who, in her mid-twenties, discovers that she is suffering from MS, a condition that will debilitate her life and impact her in ways she can’t even predict. Sort of. She’s never really properly diagnosed with the disease, constantly going back for more inconclusive testing which, I’m sure, was very frustrating to go through and is therefore very frustrating to the reader. It makes it a little bit confusing, because she’s so sure of the diagnosis at first and begins to prepare for a life blighted by MS, before, seemingly, jumping backwards and leaving everything up in the air. This is half sickness memoir and half dating stories, as Cory, a yoga-loving, independent TV writer, struggles to find love whilst coming to terms with her health problems. There are moments of humour and moments of poignancy, as well as a rather schmaltzy ending (which I didn’t think took too much away from the feeling of the overall book). It certainly makes you think, and be glad for your good health but I didn’t find it as powerful as I think the author was hoping me to find it by the end. 

One More Day by Kelly Simmons*

Carrie’s son Ben was snatched from her car more than a year ago, leaving her and her husband absolutely devastated. It’s clear that he is never coming back… until he does, for just twenty-four hours, leaving all eyes on Carrie as rumours start to spread about her. The premise had me totally hooked, and I was so interested to see what happened to Ben, but I found myself slightly disappointed by this book. Sinister goings-on lead to nothing, and the true perpetrator was rather unbelievable to me. There were some supernatural elements which just didn’t gel with the rest of the story for me, and I felt like more could have been done with the set-up that drew me in in the first place. That said, I liked the character of Carrie, and some of the secrets that were revealed definitely added some extra twists that I enjoyed, but I just wanted something slightly meatier. 

Bird Box by Josh Malerman 

Sometimes, the unknown is the scariest thing of all. Which is exactly what makes Bird Box so terrifying. Honestly, do not read this if you are of a sensitive disposition. Or, if you’re in a holiday cottage with no street lighting nearby and a long, dark walk to the bathroom… There’s something outside that’s causing people to kill themselves and others – to see it, whatever it is, is to go mad, but no one knows what it is. Only a handful of survivors remain, including Malorie and her two children, who have never seen the outside. Now, they must flee to a place where they might be safe, taking a treacherous journey down river, blindfolded. This book will have your heart racing – at times, I was holding my breath without even realising it. This is a perfect horror tale, truly. 

Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert 

I thought that I would hate this book. Like Big Magic, which I read at the end of last year, I had a lot of pre-conceptions about Elizabeth Gilbert’s work and the kind of book that this would be, which were blown away when I actually read it. Never judge a book by its movie trailer. I think this book could stray into the pretentious and the ridiculous very easily, but it is saved by the warmth and humour of Elizabeth Gilbert’s wonderful writing voice. You immediately like her and want her to succeed. As she travels across Italy, India and Indonesia, meeting a wonderful cast of characters and working through her issues, she regales you with tales of eating pasta, finding enlightenment and experiencing love. I absolutely adored the Italy section (so many descriptions of gorgeous food!) and the Indonesia section (the friendships she makes also make for beautiful anecdotes – I was crying from happiness at one point) but the India section was a little bit too earnest for my liking. It is saved by the great voice of Richard from Texas, but if you’re a sceptical person then I think you might find it the same as I did. Overall, however, I loved this book and I’m sure I will return to it. I also want to post it to some of my friends with passages highlighted, and, as I’m sure everyone who reads this book is, to plan my own yearlong sojourn across the world. 

American Housewife by Helen Ellis 

If you’re looking for a short, enjoyable read that will have you cackling with laughter then this is the one for you. This book is made up of short stories and snippets in a Southern (American Southern, that is) voice capturing moments of domesticity with a sharp sense of humour and observation. You have housewives that commit murder for prime real estate, celebrity treasure hunters on a doomed reality TV show, and a very sinister book club, and that’s just for starters. They were as deliciously dark as I expected.

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Champagne Thursdays at Norse, Harrogate

Norse Harrogate Menu

A little bit of decadence never did anyone any harm, right? Especially when that decadence involves champagne tasting, Nordic cuisine and a bill of only £40 per person. You would be a fool to turn such an evening down, would you not? 

The Champagne Concept Harrogate

I am certainly no fool, so I happily took myself off to Harrogate last Thursday for a magical evening at The Champagne Concept and Norse – two next door neighbours who have combined forces to make your February that little bit more sparkly for just £36 per person. Now, if you’ve been around these parts a while, you might have heard of Norse. By day, a Scandinavian-inspired coffee shop called Baltzersen’s, which is very pleasant indeed. But by night? They transform into a bijou restaurant serving seasonal, experimental Nordic food that will blow your mind. Truly one of Yorkshire’s greatest foodie assets, and one you absolutely must try. The Champagne Concept are newbies on the block, a little tasting bar and shop serving up champagne made by small producers. It’s a match made in heaven, let me assure you. 

The Champagne Concept Harrogate

We stopped at The Champagne Concept first to try their signature flight of champagne (what else?). Since Valentine’s Day is on the horizon, they were all pink champagnes, which was a lovely little touch (and would make a sweet little Valentine’s outing if you’re Harrogate-based). They were expertly described to us, and then we were left to our own devices to try them out at our leisure. The first was a Chardonnay, light and clean as you’d expect, the second, a Pinot Noir with wonderful berry flavours, and the third a rich Pinot Meunier. The Pinot Noir was surprisingly my favourite – I usually prefer a dry wine, but the strawberry notes were just delicious. The champagne tasting on its own would be a wonderful treat, and with the signature flight only £12, I have no doubt that I’ll be back for more! 

Norse Harrogate

However, that wasn’t all we had in store for the evening. We quickly nipped next door and took our table at Norse, immediately drooling over the menu. It really is like nowhere else, and I can assure you that everything on the menu is wonderful. It was almost impossible to pick out of the options, so we ordered two between us for each course and swapped half way through each dish. It was a wrench to do so, as each plate was impossibly perfect, but it was worth it to experience as much as possible of the menu. We started with two delicious shots of schnapps – one was beetroot (surprisingly good for something so savoury) and an apple (which was like drinking an American apple pie!). 

Norse Harrogate

It feels a waste to describe each dish to you here; because the menu is seasonal, you may discover something if you are to visit. However, I have never had anything there that I didn’t love. Each one is a riot of flavours, textures and colours (in the best way) with inventive, surprising touches that make the whole thing incredibly special. My favourite dishes this time around where the pig’s head terrine with crayfish and crispy lentils, and the gin-poached rhubarb with toasted coconut sorbet and cardamom meringue, but every time I go, I look forward to something new. It’s mind-blowing food in a setting so simple and friendly, I have no doubt that you’ll fall in love. 

Norse Harrogate

And all for just £36 (not including the extra drinks we had at Norse). The offer is on Thursdays during February, but I really hope that it’s something that they extend because I’d absolutely love to go back and I really want you to have the chance to experience it, too. 

Norse Harrogate

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Weekend Link Love

letters

[Photo by Joanna Kosinska]

Hey pals, how’s it going? Last weekend we were squirrelled away in a North Yorkshire cottage with a hot tub and a log burning stove, and everything was right with the world. It was *so* nice to have a few days relaxing and not having to worry about ‘to do’ lists. Of course, as soon as we got back, all that started right back up again and I’ve been shooting around all over the place ever since. On Tuesday we were having dinner with our sweet friends Joe & Cheryl (I made vegan brownies – recipe coming soon!), on Wednesday I was ice skating with the Guides (only one major injury occurred…), on Thursday I was drinking champagne with Emma at the new Champagne Concept in Harrogate and dining next door at Norse (which may be the best way to spend an evening ever) and by Friday I was collapsed in a heap. Remind me to give myself a few more breaks, okay? I hope that you have all had amazing weeks – let’s do it all again on Monday, shall we? 

P.S. I’ve got some really great links saved up for my newsletter subscribers, including a fantastic guide to NYC, and some real talk about letting people pay for you. Get yourself signed up now!  

 

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Rhubarb & Pistachio Blondies

Rhubarb & Pistachio Blondies

These blondies were the work of a flash of inspiration, a moment of pure recipe genius. Rhubarb is one of my favourite ingredients – prettily pink and perfectly tart – and it’s just come back into season. The rhubarb available at this time of year is forced rhubarb, grown in the dark in sheds and picked by candlelight in a rather romantic setting that leads to tender, delicate fruit. Happily, much of this rhubarb is grown in the ‘rhubarb triangle’, right here on my very doorstep. This forced rhubarb is only available until March, when outdoor-grown rhubarb takes over, so I like to make the most of it whilst it’s around.

Rhubarb & Pistachio Blondies

These blondies came to me whilst I was ruminating over the stalks that I’d just picked up at the greengrocer – the tart flavour of the rhubarb paired with the crunch (and wonderful green colour) of pistachios and the creamy white chocolate. For something dreamed up in my head and pulled together last minute, these blondies were a big success. I say as much, because at least two of my colleagues declared them to be the best thing I’ve ever baked. I’m not sure if they’ve cottoned on to the fact that the more praise I get, the more likely I am to spend my evenings whipping up sweet treats for them, but either way, it is the rhubarb that is the star of this show. 

Rhubarb & Pistachio Blondies

Rhubarb & Pistachio Blondies
Yields 12
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Ingredients
  1. 200g white chocolate, roughly chopped
  2. 125g unsalted butter
  3. 150g golden caster sugar
  4. 2 large eggs
  5. 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  6. 200g plain flour
  7. 200g rhubarb, cut into 1cm chunks
  8. 50g pistachios, chopped
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C and line a square baking tin with baking paper.
  2. Place a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water and gently melt 150g of the white chocolate and the butter together.
  3. Remove from the heat and mix in the sugar.
  4. Beat in the eggs and vanilla extract - don't worry if the mixture looks like it is splitting at this stage.
  5. Sift in the flour and stir together until just combined. Throw in the rhubarb and most of the pistachios (save a handful to scatter on top) and fold into the batter.
  6. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth over with a knife. Scatter over the remaining chocolate and pistachios.
  7. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The blondies should be firm and golden brown on top, but don't worry if a skewer doesn't come out completely clean.
  8. Leave to cool and cut into chunks to serve.
Amy Elizabeth http://amyliz.co.uk/

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4 Newsletters You Need In Your Inbox

newsletter

[Photo by Olu Eletu]

Maybe I’m a little bit biased since I started my own newsletter to share my favourite links, recipes, shows & books with you on a weekly basis, but I really think that 2016 is the year of the newsletter. It feels a little strange, maybe, to go back to email as a medium for sharing after everything we’ve gone through on the Internet, but I’m really excited about where newsletters are going. It’s time to get in on the action – here’s a few of my current favourites: 

Lenny Letter

Wherever Lena goes, we shall follow, right? Lenny Letter is like a little online magazine filled with smart, insightful journalism delivered straight to your inbox. Some of my favourite online writers have been featured, and they’ve covered everything from interviews with female senators and trans models to personal pieces about learning to swim and experiencing endometriosis. Given that Lena Dunham is at the helm, you can expect a thoughtful, feminist leaning to all of the pieces but other than that, you never know what stories might make their way to you. It’s a joy to pause in your work day and read a little bit of this newsletter.  

Girl Lost in the City 

Emma Gannon knows what’s up when it comes to the online world. She’s a journalist and writer (her first book, a memoir about living your life online is out this year) and her newsletter is stuffed full of links to the best stuff you need to be reading from across the Internet. With a focus on awesome women, feminism, blogging & life as a millennial, there’s so much to discover in just one of her newsletters – it’ll keep you busy for hours. She also shares book recommendations and an inspirational quote to set you on your way for the week. You’re gonna want to get in on this. 

The Ann Friedman Weekly 

Ann Friedman is one of my favourite writers on the Internet. Her podcast with bestie Aminatou Sow, Call Your Girlfriend, is a total must-listen, trust me. It will change your life, in the best way. In her newsletter, she shares her favourite reads of the week – they tend to be feminist, political and/or economic in focus but in a way that’s approachable and easy to read, which still being smart and thought-provoking. As well as some stuff that’s just for fun, obviously. If you want to stay clued up about the world, this is a great place to start. 

The Dolly Mail 

This is a new newsletter that’s already being talked about all over the Internet. Sent by Dolly Alderton, the Sunday Times Style dating columnist, expect stories and articles, features from other funny people around the Internet, some shopping recommendations and a recipe to top it all off. This is a delightful newsletter – this week’s story about learning to be tough had me nodding in recognition and laughing out loud at my desk – and the different sections mean you can dip in and out depending on how you want to be distracted at that moment. Just lovely. 

Which newsletters are you loving right now?

Other newsletters I subscribe to and love: Those Who Wander / Lemon & Raspberry / Eat Me with Jessica Valenti / Buzzfeed Books & Buzzfeed Longform / XO Sarah / The Friday Wishlist / That’s What She Said: Works and Words

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Weekend Link Love

seascape

[Photo by Joseph Barrientos

Hey, friends! How are you getting on? As you read this, I’ll be snuggled up in a holiday cottage in North Yorkshire – hopefully ready a book in front of the log fire, or maybe taking a nap after a pub lunch. Either way, it’s going to be glorious. I’ll still be sending my newsletter this afternoon, so subscribe now if you want in on the action – there’s more of this good stuff in there!

This week, I’ve been celebrating turning 26 with dinner at one of my favourite restaurants in Leeds, viewing even more houses in the hopes that we find one to buy, baking lots of brownies & blondies, and making lots of plans for February. It’s been a good one. I feel like I’m finally finding my feet in 2016 – I’m ready for the rest of the year to be full of even more celebrations, baking and planning. 

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January

january

Wearing giant scarves, all the time. 

Practising yoga as much as possible. 

Sending presents through the mail. Anything to bring a smile in January! 

Knitting snoods and baby blankets. 

Hunting for a house. 

Eating the best ice cream at the Ice Cream Farm.  

Hanging out with my siblings, which is one of my greatest joys. 

Starting my next reading challenge – 101 books, here I come! 

Dreaming of interiors and pinning pretty pictures

Watching Pretty Little Liars, and getting addicted like everyone else! 

Baking with rhubarb as much as possible. 

Fussing over Tuna, who had a traumatic vet visit. 

Drinking cocktails late into the night at Headrow House. 

Walking through the snow. It was brief, but beautiful. 

Feeling incredibly lucky to have such a wonderful family of friends. 

Playing with plastic fruit and dollhouses with Martha & Lydia. 

Praising the sun whenever it makes a brief appearance.

Celebrating my 26th birthday with steak and cocktails. 

Getting away from it all in North Yorkshire. 

How about you? 

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26

birthday cake

[Photo by Sheelah Brennan

Tomorrow is my 26th birthday. It’s an odd number to type, 26. It’s not a neat and tidy number, like 25. Maybe that’s just my anxiety about getting old. 26 is not old, it’s really not (even if I will have to tick the next box up when I fill out official forms) but I feel more aware of time marching on now than ever. Maybe it’s all of those nostalgic Buzzfeed articles about our favourite childhood TV shows that have surfaced over the last year. I’m officially in my mid-twenties now, and I’m finally understanding why my Grandma always says that she still feels 18. Things move forward is so gradually, it feels like nothing can have changed and yet almost everything has. The days are long and the years are short. 

I read so much about being a twenty-something. The think pieces abound, telling us what every twenty-something is thinking, doing, feeling. Like all things on the Internet, there are parts that have me nodding in agreement and other parts that feel completely alien to me. I feel like there are a lot of pieces out there reassuring us that it’s okay that we haven’t got it all together, which is an important message for sure. There are days when I really need to read that. But other times? I kind of feel like I’m doing okay as an adult. I pay my bills on time. I’m married and have responsibility for a small & grumpy cat. I know about property prices and I have an ISA. Those aren’t the hallmarks of adulthood, of course, but they feel like something. Something solid that shows how much time has passed.

I’ve always felt old before my time – something about being an anxious perfectionist and a first-born, perhaps. Or maybe I’m just a stick-in-the-mud. I’ve not given myself much of a leeway for mistake-making, partying and playing. All those articles seem to insist that it’s an essential part of the twenty-something experience but I’m naturally cautious and I like to plan things out. I’m not one for jumping in feet-first. I spent so much of my University and post-University years trying hard to reach the next thing, filling all my spare time and constantly crossing of to-do items. There were no gap years, no summers travelling Europe, no ‘finding myself’. I know myself pretty well, and I don’t really feel like I’ve missed out all that much from not doing all that – that’s just not who I am. The grass is always greener, though. Right? Life is so full of infinite possibility that we could never do it all, no matter how hard we tried. 

I feel pretty good about being 26 tomorrow. I feel like I’m in a good place in my life.  Not much has changed really – I’m still stacked out with a to do list that never seems to end, with an eye on what’s next – but I feel happy with what I’ve got on my plate for now. I’m ready to coast for a little bit, to just keep the balls in the air that I’m already juggling and not add anything else. But just for a little bit. The best is yet to come, that much I am sure of. So I’ve planned myself a lovely birthday weekend. Last year I was feeling a bit sorry for myself on my birthday – I had a horrible fever which meant I had to call off my plans, and Paul was away with work. This year? We’re going away to a holiday cottage in North Yorkshire (with a hot tub!) and I’m planning on ignoring the Internet for a few days, and reading as many books as I can in front of the fire. Which, when you think about it, is definitely not a bad way to spend a birthday. 

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5 Bookish Podcasts to Listen To

book

A happy side effect of reading so many books last year has been discovering a wonderful online world of bookish fun. Sharing your passion with an online community is one of the greatest joys of the Internet. I’m a big fan of podcasts, so finding all of these wonderful book-themed podcasts was a total win for me. Here are five of my favourites, for all your bookish needs! 

book podcasts All the Books 

This is one of my favourite podcasts full stop. In this weekly podcast, ‘well red heads’ Rebecca and Liberty discuss some of the week’s best new book releases. I always come away from this podcast with a tonne of new books on my ‘to be read’ list, so it’s a dangerous road to go down (that thing is out of control!) but it’s fun to keep up with what’s happening in the book world. I’ve found some great recommendations through this show, and it’s a total delight to listen to – I want Rebecca and Liberty to come and hang out at my house and talk books with me, but this is the next best thing. 

Get Booked 

Get Booked is another weekly show that I walk away from with a list as long as my arm of books to read. On this show, Amanda and Jenn give personalised reading recommendations for listeners who write in. There have been recommendations for teachers who want something to recommend to the teenage boys in their class, for readers bereft after the death of Terry Pratchett and for people looking for new, healthy cookbooks to try. It’s a mixed bag, but whilst they might not always be talking about your favourite genre, Amanda and Jenn make every recommendation sound like a must-read. 

Slate’s Audio Book Club

Every month, a bunch of Slate magazine critics talk about a particular book in a podcast book club that will really make you think. I’ve only listened to the episodes where I’ve read the book (H is for Hawk is my most recent) but what I’ve heard is always interesting, and gives me a new perspective. They tend to read books which are popular at the time, so you’ll probably have heard of most of them even if you haven’t read them. I’ve saved up a few for books I want to read in the future (Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, for example) but they announce the book the month before so you can read along if you fancy it. 

Reading Lives 

In Reading Lives, Jeff O’Neal interviews interesting book-ish people about their life in books. These hour long conversations are part book recommendations, part literary nostalgia and part nerding out about books. I’ve listened to quite a few now, and it’s interesting to see the similarities between book lovers that crop up time and again, and the particular quirks of each interviewee. My favourite interviews so far are with Mallory Ortberg, co-founder of The Toast, Ashley Ford, Buzzfeed writer and all round incredible woman, and Celeste Ng, author of ‘Everything I Never Told You’ but there are plenty of excellent episodes in the archives for you to get stuck into. 

Lit Up 

Lit Up is a podcast about books, writers and all things literary – each episode involves an interview with an author, delving into their work and finding out more about the subject, the process of writing and everything in between. This is perhaps a bit more ‘literary’ than the other podcasts on this list, so it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s the sort of conversations I’d love to have with authors if I ever got the chance. Episodes worth checking out: Stacy Schiff on the witches of Salem, Let’s Talk about Sex with Rachel Hills and Irin Carmon on The Notorious RBG

P.S. You might like my favourite podcasts and 25 outstanding podcasts for readers 

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