August

august

Starting my couch to 10K programme. 

Discovering a love for historical romance novels. 

Challenging myself to bake more bread. 

Exploring Ilkley and visiting their indie bookshop. 

Celebrating the return of the Great British Bake Off 

Getting addicted to cream cheese frosting. That stuff is delicious. 

Going even blonder than before. 

Partying the day away at the Engage Summer Social

Painting late at night to make sure our house was ready for guests. 

Welcoming our first overnight guests to our new home. 

Cooking up a storm in my new kitchen. 

Enjoying staying in, here and at our friends’ houses. 

Stocking the wine fridge with Prosecco and the bar cart with whisky. 

Listening to the full back catalogue of the Witch, Please podcast

Putting up art and laying down rugs and finally feeling at home. 

Loving the fresh flowers we’ve had around the house. 

Fangirling over the new Ghostbusters movie. So. much. awesome. 

Buying some jeans that actually fit me. It’s a revelation. 

Making my autumn bucket list. Yes, I know it’s early, but I’m already excited. 

How about you? 

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August Book Reviews

august books

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee*

In 2118, Manhattan is dominated by a thousand-floor tower which contains everything that used to make up the city. The privileged live the luxury life at the top of the tower – and on the thousandth floor, Avery Fuller, a girl genetically designed to be perfect. The book opens in rather a shocking style with a girl falling to her death from the top of the tower, before taking us back to the beginning and showing us how she got there… I was expecting a much more dystopian tale than the one I got; this is Gossip Girl set in the future. Teenagers with typical beautiful-rich-people problems – drug addiction, money woes, forbidden love. This is scandalous escapism at its best, and definitely left me wanting more (which is good, because it’s the beginning of a series). 

How Hard Can Love Be? by Holly Bourne

This book is the second in Holly Bourne’s ‘Spinster Club’ series; I loved the first one which I read earlier in the year, and found the second just as enjoyable. Amber is hoping that spending the summer helping out at her mum’s summer camp in California will change their relationship after two years apart, but it becomes clear pretty early on that Amber’s mum isn’t going to be able to give her what she needs. But the summer camp has other perks, including new-best-friend Whinnie (who is just a gorgeous character) and stereotypical all-American prom king, who just might be interested in Amber. A sweet story peppered with some pretty hard-hitting emotional stuff and a heavy dose of feminism (my favourite). I said it when I read the first one earlier this year, but I wish these books had been around when I was in school – I would have loved them even more if I was the intended target market, I’m sure. 

 

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson 

If you’ve been around the Internet long enough, you’ll probably be aware of Jenny Lawson a.k.a The Bloggess. Her hilarious blog is one of the best on the web, and her first memoir was chock full of poignant moments mixed with snort-out-loud funny ones. In Furiously Happy she shares more anecdotes from her more-than-unusual life to similar effect. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as her first, which felt like it had more narrative thrust, but this is still a very enjoyable book to dip in and out of. Jenny has a particular skill to make you go from laughing at the antics of her taxidermied animals to tearing up at her portrayal of her mental health problems. It’s not hard to see why she has an army of fans – if there is anyone who makes you feel less alone and odd, it is Jenny Lawson. 

Nina is Not OK by Shappi Khorsandi*

This book took me by surprise; I’ve enjoyed Shappi Khorsandi’s stand up in the past and expected some of the same themes in her debut novel but this is something so much more. Seventeen-year-old Nina has a drinking problem, and her life begins to unravel after a rather traumatic evening that she doesn’t quite remember. This book is listed under humour, but although there are some darkly funny parts, it wasn’t all that funny. It was, however, very powerful, emotional and brave. Nina is a fantastic protagonist; although she acts like a bit of an asshole to her family and friends, she goes on a real journey and you are rooting for her all the way. This book pulls no punches when it comes to the reality of alcoholism, and there are some pretty big roadblocks for Nina to overcome that feel very realistic for young people today. Shappi Khorsandi handles a sensitive topic in a very uplifting but raw way, and I’m already excited to read what she writes next. 

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS, WHICH MEANS THAT IF YOU CLICK ON ONE OF THE PRODUCT LINKS AND BUY SOMETHING, I MAY RECEIVE A SMALL COMMISSION. BOOKS MARKED WITH A * WERE PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. 

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A New Challenge: 40 Loaves

Bread Making Challenge - 40 Loaves // Amy Elizabeth  

Baking bread brings me the greatest joy. Partly, that is due to the unparalleled flavoursome goodness of freshly cooked bread spread liberally with salted butter. But the other part is very much the process. The kneading. The waiting. The shaping. Bread dough feels so much more satisfying than any other kind – it springs back when it’s pushed, it reshapes as you pull. But, whilst I can knock up a loaf of white bread pretty easily without worrying, I am nervous to try other kinds of bread for fear of failure. Bread is tricky business, although the pay off is worth it. 

Bread Making Challenge - 40 Loaves // Amy Elizabeth

One thing I have learnt from my years in the kitchen is that nothing is ever as hard as it seems, and failure is never as bad as it can appear. Perhaps this is a lesson I could well do with learning in other arenas of my life, but where usually I am an anxious perfectionist, in the kitchen I can relax a little. Never tried something before? Give it a go. The stakes are pretty low when all you waste is some time and flour. Time and again I have felt daunted by a new kitchen skill only to find it not as difficult as I first imagined – as long as you find yourself a good recipe or guide and actually pay attention. 

Bread Making Challenge - 40 Loaves // Amy Elizabeth

So, with all of that in mind, I am setting myself a challenge. A bread-making challenge. 40 different loaves in (hopefully) 40 weeks. This is supposed to be a fun challenge, so I’m not setting too many parameters. I’m just going to bake a bunch of bread and eat a bunch of bread and be happy about it. So if I find a loaf particularly tricky, I might remake it the following week. If I have a particularly busy week, I might do two the next week, or just skip that week entirely. Bread-making can be therapeutic and relaxing, so I see no reason to change that and make it pressured and exhausting. It takes time to make a good loaf of bread, so if I haven’t got the time for whatever reason, then 

Bread Making Challenge - 40 Loaves // Amy Elizabeth

I started off with my go-to bread recipe – the basic white loaf from James Morton’s Baking Bread book which I’m pretty sure will become my Bible during this project. As luck would have it, I also spotted this video from Betty’s today with a few top tips that I’ll be taking on board (that home-made proving drawer in the sink is genius!). 

Does anyone else have any top tips or foolproof recipes to share? 40 loaves is a lot of loaves, after all… 

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Weekend Link Love

blue

[Photo by Charlotte Coneybeer

Hey pals! How’s your weekend been? This has been the first time in months that we’ve had a simple, pottering sort of weekend. I’ve had a little bit of work to do, but it’s been interspersed with reading, baking and blogging, which is basically my favourite way to spend the time. Paul’s gone around the house and put up some prints so the whole place looks a whole lot more like home, now. And Tuna… well, she’s found a new sunbathing spot, and managed to vomit all over my yellow armchair which was unpleasant for everyone (except her, she has no respect for interior design). I’m feeling ready for the week ahead, and the last Bank Holiday weekend before Christmas! I am both dreading and looking forward to autumn – I have so many lovely plans, but I feel like we never really got a summer and it would be nice to have a little bit more sunshine before the downhill slide into winter, don’t you think? Either way, let’s make the most of it! 

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5 More New Places to Try in Leeds

Stories Cafe Leeds

Stories 

Who doesn’t love a pretty local coffee shop? No one, that’s who. Scandinavian-inspired design, cakes from Noisette Bakehouse, cold pressed juice and Instagrammable scenes for days. We went to Stories on their opening weekend for coffee & cake, but I was very jealous of the dippy eggs being eaten by the couple next to us so I am definitely going back for brunch sometime very soon. 

Mr Nobody 

We ended up in Mr Nobody on a night out recently, and their Wye Valley Spritz is the cocktail that I’m now dreaming about on warm days. There’s a lovely little garden outside if the sun is shining, and the inside has some fun little pods to sit in. We just went for drinks, but apparently you can grab a pizza with your drinks and (most excitingly of all) they serve up a tasting menu downstairs that sounds pretty amazing. 

The Old Red Bus Station Leeds

The Old Red Bus Station 

This aptly named bar is right by my bus stop, and my daily peek in the window definitely makes me want to visit. Unfortunately, circumstances haven’t conspired to get me through the doors yet but I know it will only be a matter of time. It’s a multi-purpose venue serving up food and drink alongside art and music. The building is really unique, and it’s so nice to see it being used at last! 

I Am Doner Leeds

I Am Doner

Kebabs get a pretty bad name. Usually the foodstuff consumed on a night out to satisfy drunken cravings, I Am Doner is giving the kebab a makeover and making it the dish every foodie is going to be talking about. Their house special combines slow-cooked lamb, super juicy chicken, falafel and halloumi with salad, feta and various pickles and other deliciousness all wrapped up in the softest bread. It was a flavour sensation and I already want another one. 

La Casita Horsforth Leeds

La Casita 

A few years ago, I was lucky enough to dine at The Pink Shed, catered by La Casita in Ilkley. The tapas was completely delicious, but I’ve not had a chance to experience it again. Now they’ve moved to Horsforth – just up the road – we’ll definitely be taking a trip for a little Iberico pork cheek and Rioja. 

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Weekend Link Love

building

[Photo by Jason Briscoe

Today, I am horribly hungover, but my heart is so very full. We had our work’s big summer party yesterday, which meant rooftop cocktails, steak & chips, some rather ridiculous dancing, funny photo booth moments and staying up way past my bedtime. I am very lucky to work with a whole bunch of people I actually like (which seems to be a surprisingly rare occurrence in the world) so it was a whole lot of fun. We also had some of my best pals – Amy and Alex – staying this weekend, and it always makes me happy to flex my hosting muscles. Sometimes I think my dream might be to run a B&B so I can constantly be setting out bedrooms with fresh flowers & clean sheets, before cooking up giant breakfasts for everyone. Then I remember that I hate to work weekends. The rest of my plans for the day involve the Gilmore Girls, a curry (home-made for the first time in weeks), and maybe some more naps. Life is good. I hope it is for you, too. 

 

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Things I Have Learned About House Renovation

house renovation

Planning is much more fun than doing.

Everything takes twice as long and costs twice as much as you expect. You will not be the exception to this rule. 

Do the floor last. Then it doesn’t matter if you splash paint around when you’re doing the walls.

Whoever owned your house before was a corner-cutting nightmare. Plastering around the light fitting? Really?! 

Sanding skirting boards is fun the first time. Not so much the fifth time. 

A good partner is essential. I’m very glad I married Paul. He knows how to fix a lot of stuff.

A nervous cat will add to your stress levels.

There really will be dust everywhere. Forever, maybe.

Having guests come to stay will make you get stuff done. All night, if you have to. 

Takeaway takes its toll. 

You can’t renovate a house from scratch and maintain two blogs and a social life. You just can’t. 

*That* episode of OITNB seems so much worse after an exhausting day of stripping wallpaper. 

You will miss your books. They really do make a home. 

Just paint everything white and worry about it later. 

When people turn up to help, your heart will be filled with love and gratitude. Now’s the time to call in favours. 

It will be worth it, like they say. But I’m not doing it again.

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July Book Reviews

Read more reviews at Readers Gonna Read 

july book reviews

The Boyfriend List & The Boy Book by E. Lockhart*

I read these two books in quick succession, so I hope you don’t mind me reviewing them as one. Ruby Oliver is 15, with all the typical problems that being 15 brings. Friends. Boys. School. Her voice is refreshing and hilarious and real, all at once. Too often I read young adult books where the protagonist is either far too self-aware to be a teenager, or so laughably ridiculous to show that they’re young and naive that they lose any realism for me. Ruby Oliver is not either of this – she felt incredibly realistic to me. Ruby navigates the awkward world of her rich-kid school (she’s on a scholarship and her parents are wonderfully eccentric), losing her first boyfriend and her best friends (and finding new love interests and friends along the way) in a way that feels a little close to home for someone who used to be an awkward teenage girl at a rich-kid school. The thing I loved most about these books are the way they introduce feminist themes without being in-your-face – they address sexism and slut-shaming in a way that is totally approachable and perfect for the storyline. Basically, I wish I’d had these books when I was a teenager (and despite not being one anymore, I still really want to get stuck into the others in the series). 

Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan* 

Margot Lewis is the agony aunt for her local paper, but she receives a letter unlike anything she’s ever had before. 

Dear Amy,
I don’t know where I am. I’ve been kidnapped and am being held prisoner by a strange man. I’m afraid he’ll kill me.
Please help me soon,
Bethan Avery

But Bethan Avery had been missing for years. As more letters arrive, they contain information that was never made public. Can Margot save Bethan? And does this have anything to do with Katie, the girl from Margot’s class that recently went missing, too? 

The unusual premise of this book intrigued me, and for the first half I was pretty much hooked, trying to work out how these letters were making it into Margot’s possession. However, after the dramatic twist that reveals pretty much all, it became more and more implausible and there’s only just so far that I can suspend my disbelief. Despite the promising opening, it ended up feeling a lot like other thrillers in this genre, with rather gratuitous descriptions of violence and a perpetrator without a coherent motive or backstory. 

Maestra by L.S. Hilton 

This book started out with so much promise. Judith is an intriguing character; she’s smart, ruthless and, at times, incredibly compelling. Having clawed her way out of a Liverpool council estate, she longs for the class privileges of her colleagues in the prestigious auction house where she now works. She feels shut out from the world inhabited by her upper class acquaintances, constantly trying to learn their ways but falling slightly short. Her only solace is her true love of art, which sustains her, and her unusual sexual proclivities, satisfied at the most exclusive of sex clubs. But, what starts out as an interesting and thrilling story of one woman’s rage against the system and desire to infiltrate it by any means necessary becomes slightly absurd as the book goes on.

As time went on and the story plunged deeper in the underworld, with Judith happily going along for the ride, her motivations become murky and her actions nonsensical. The book also had a frustrating way of letting the action happen with no insight as to Judith’s plan, before revealing all in long passages of explanation. Maybe it was my inability to understand the world of art fraud, but I struggled to follow in the later parts of the book and I stopped caring about Judith’s fate about three-quarters of the way in, which took the edge of the ‘thriller’ element of the novel. There are some racy passages and some abrupt twists that will keep you interested, but overall ‘the most shocking thriller you’ll read all year’ doesn’t live up to its moniker for me.

All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood* 

The daughter of a meth-dealer and an abusive mother, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult in her household. One night she witnesses one of her father’s thugs, Kellen, wreck his motorcycle and in the aftermath the two form a bond that spans years. As the two fall in love, things get even more complicated for them and everyone around them. 

Sheesh, this book. I’m going to be thinking about this book and these characters for such a long time. It’s ugly and wonderful, just as promised. As soon as I read the last sentence, I burst into tears. It’s just such an emotional reading experience. It was dark and uncomfortable and questioning and disturbing and occasionally sweet. It’s so confusing to work out your feelings as you watch their relationship develop over many years but they’re so well-formed and well-written than you can’t help but want true happiness for both of them. A truly compelling story and definitely up there as one of the best books I’ve ever read.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware* 

 Lo, a travel journalist, has been invited onto an exclusive cruise ship but on the very first night she sees a body being thrown from the cabin next door into the ocean. But no one is missing from the ship, and no one seems to believe her. Did she make it up? Or are they trapped on the ship with a murderer? Ruth Ware is the queen of the spooky setting – in this case, a small cruise ship in the middle of the ocean – and with a limited number of suspects and a claustrophobic environment, there are some truly tense moments in this book, which had me guessing until all was revealed. However, Lo didn’t feel that well-drawn as a character to me – other than the parts of her which made her an unreliable narrator (drinking, exhaustion, anxiety), I didn’t feel that I left the book knowing anything about her – and there were definitely a few plot holes that could easily unravel if you picked them apart enough. The ending was a little too convenient for me to enjoy, but it’s an easy-read whodunnit for those times when you want to switch your brain off and get stuck into a bit of a mystery. 

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST CONTAINS AFFILIATE LINKS, WHICH MEANS THAT IF YOU CLICK ON ONE OF THE PRODUCT LINKS AND BUY SOMETHING, I MAY RECEIVE A SMALL COMMISSION. BOOKS MARKED WITH A * WERE PROVIDED BY THE PUBLISHER IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. 

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Weekend Link Love

pineapples

Hey friends! How’s your weekend going? I got a haircut, read most of Polo and gloried in the new floor that Paul and his brother very kindly laid downstairs yesterday. It looks great and means I no longer have to wear shoes in the house all the time, which is a winner. We’re busy bees getting the house ready for our very first overnight guests who are arriving on Friday. Cross your fingers that we get everything ship-shape by then, will you? Other than that, I don’t have very much exciting news (other than the new book blog – you saw that, right?). DIY is my life now. 

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Introducing… Readers Gonna Read

blog

Hey pals! As you may or may not know, I’ve been working on a new book blog behind the scenes – and I wanted to show it off to you! Don’t worry, this blog isn’t going anywhere, I just wanted a place where I can share all my bookish thoughts & reviews without bothering those who aren’t interested. Eagle-eyed viewers may remember me taking on a ‘100 books in 2015’ challenge last year and, not to exaggerate, it changed my life. Now reading is a major part of my day and I’m constantly thinking and talking about books, so Readers Gonna Read is just an extension of that. I really hope you’ll follow along as I’m bursting with book-loving ideas and want to share all the very best reads I’ve found with you all. Happy Reading! 

Visit Readers Gonna Read

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