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October Reads

October is my favourite month of the year. It's the time when autumn really starts settling in. The leaves start turning and creating beautiful orange and yellow landscapes before falling and creating that familiar crunch under our feet. The air is crisp and it has that fresh bite that warns us the seasons are changing. It's the time when all my boots come out of hiding and I get to dig out my favourite scarf. 

Oh and it's also the month of my birthday and Halloween so what's not to love about this time of  year?

As it was my birthday mid-way through the month, I asked for a few books to be knocked off my amazon wish list - it was growing at an exponential rate as I am a sucker for seeing a review online or in a magazine at the hairdressers and instantly feeling like I have to read that book!! So here are a few of the books I have acquired this month and am really excited to read!

Kate Atkinson One Good Turn - I have heard so many great things about Kate Atkinson's books. I've bought a couple of her books before on recommendations from friends so I have quite a collection growing but I especially can't wait to dig into this one. The One Good Turn synopsis promises a deep, touching detective story, beginning at Edinburgh Festival when a bunch of people witness a road-rage incident and become involved in the drama. Their stories and lives unfurl through this mystery and I can't wait to find out what happens (the reviews promise a great ending!)

Nora Ephron | Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble - In an attempt to improve my writing I have been reading lots of Nora Ephron lately, apart from the books that amazon and goodreads reviews have warned me won't be appreciated unless I'm a middle-aged woman with concerns about getting old (not yet, not yet). This particular book is a collection of her essays about women and about the media. I've delved into a few of the essays about women and I just love the tone and wit of her writing. I can't wait to read more of this one.

Joanna Cannon | Three Things About Elsie - When I went back to work in September I spoke to a lovely lady about our mutual love of Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine. After we gushed about how sweet a book it was, she then asked if I'd read Three Things About Elsie. I hadn't but I went out and bought it even after being told it was a bit of tear-jerker. It's about an elderly lady, Florence, who becomes obsessed with a man who appears in her life again after apparently dying over sixty years ago. Who is he? What does he want? I don't know but I want to find out!

Jodi Picoult | A Spark of Light - I can't help but love a Jodi Picoult book and I was going to wait a while to read this one but I ummed and ahhhed and in the end just decided why not? It's about a gunman who takes people hostage at a women's reproductive health centre and the big questions surrounding the idea of the right to chose. It touches on so many hot topics and relevant issues that have been in the media lately so I'm really hopeful that this will deliver.

Also on my birthday book binge this month I bought Feminists Don't Wear Pink (and other Lies) by Scarlett Curtis, Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, Lock In by John Scalzi and Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. I don't know how many of these I'll be able to get through during November but I am going to give it a good go! 

What are you reading at the moment? Have you read any of these books?

September Reads

To say that September saw me back at work and beginning my next module of  university work, it has been a good month for reading! It seems to have been the month of books-I-can't-put-down. It has been a long time since I've stayed up until the early hours of the morning reading books because I wanted to read just one more chapter but I've been doing that almost every weekend since the start of the month. Here's what I've been reading:

Notes on a Nervous Planet  Matt Haig
The first of this self-help/self-care duo is called Reasons to Stay Alive; a book I read in one sitting a couple of summers ago. They are both full of little pieces of advice, anecdotes, wisdom and stories that help pick you up when you're not feeling so strong. Notes on a Nervous Planet is particularly relevant if you're mega invested in social media and the online world as it has lots of advice and information about taking the internet with a pinch of salt. Something we all need to do every now and then! 

Normal People | Sally Rooney
I loved loved loved loved loved this book. As soon as I had finished it I wanted to go straight back to the beginning and start all over again. The story follows two main characters - Marianne and Connell - as they move from a small Irish town to a university in Dublin. I loved them both and was invested in both of their stories and I so badly wanted things to work out for both of them. Every day I was desperate to get home to find out where the story was going to take them next. This book deserves every bit of praise it has had and I cannot recommend it highly enough. 

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda | Becky Albertalli
Super cheesy YA fiction is my guilty pleasure. I had seen the trailer for this film and liked the idea of it so picked up the book in WHSmiths. Simon, who is gay but has not yet found the courage to tell anyone about it, begins an anonymous email relationship with a boy from his school. At some point someone finds out about the emails and threatens to spread them around before Simon has even had a chance to tell anyone his secret. Disaster. I loved Simon, I thought he was such a loveable character and bits of the story made me laugh out loud. Plus, I think I smiled through the whole of the last quarter of the book so if you need something to make you smile, this is the one. 

Summer Reads

It feels like it has been a really long summer. The weather was so beautiful for so long and as I finished my university work in June, I've had so much time to read. And believe me, I have ploughed through so many of my books. Here are a few I've read over the past months!

This History of Bees | Maja Lunde
I have moments where I obsess over certain things. For a minute or two this year that obsession was bees. I researched everything I could about bees and their potential extinction, I obsessed over the idea of bee-keeping and added bee book after bee book to my wish list. The History of Bees tells three different stories in three different eras, each revolving around bees in someway. Although not all of the three stories were that relatable (I'm looking at you, 1852), the most interesting was the story told in the future, when the bees had died out and the world was trying to adapt to the plight.

Leaving Time | Jodi Picoult
I've read a few Jodi Picoult books now but this one has to be my favourite, purely because I did not see the end coming. I love a book that I can get absorbed in and keeps me guessing. It tells the story of Jenna, a thirteen year old whose mother is missing (presumed dead) after an accident at an elephant sanctuary when she was only really young. She makes it her mission to find out what really happened and along the way we get to meet a whole host of interesting characters. It had so many twists and turns and revelations that I could not put it down!

How Did You Get This Number | Sloane Crosley
It was reading Crosley's I Was Told There'd Be Cake years ago that really made me fall in love with reading and writing personal essays. Her stories are so engaging to read and even though I didn't love this one as much as the first, the Paris story made the purchase of this book worthwhile. It was funny, cringey and relatable in some obscure way. She is my writing idol. 

Nineteen Letters | Jodi Perry
This is definitely one to fill in the Nicholas Sparks shaped whole in your reading life. It's a story about a girl who loses her memory in a car crash meaning that she barely remembers her mum and dad, doesn't recall the beach house she loves so much as being her home and has no recollection of her husband. It's a sweet story and a perfect distraction from turbulent plane journeys from Tenerife!!

May Reads

It does not matter how many times I tell myself that I am not going to buy any new books until I've read all the books on my shelf, it just doesn't happen. So here is mix of all the new and old books I ready in May!

The Keeper of Lost Things: This was a quick, easy read. The story centres around a man who collects all of the lost things he comes across day-to-day. Then, when he dies, he leaves the collection to his housekeeper, who then has to figure out what on earth to do with a room of lost and unclaimed artifacts. There are nice elements to the story and characters that are likeable but the back stories that are linked to the belongings are tedious to read and don't add much to the overall story. It was okay but it's not one that I'll be passing along.

No Dream is Too High: I've been on a bit of an all-space book diet over the past year or so. If an astronaut has written a book, chances are I've read it recently. But I didn't enjoy this book so much. I think that because it was more focused on giving life advice rather than the ins and outs of being an astronaut, it just read like an obnoxious cover letter. Some of the stories that are told just seem to be in the book for the sake of it, to add an element of Buzz Worship where it didn't belong. 

Pigeon English: I don't know why I left it so long to read Pigeon English. It's one of those books where nothing really significant happens so you find yourself half way through the book with no idea where the story is heading (but in a good way). The story is about a family who move to London from Ghana and live on an estate rife with drugs and gang culture. It is told through eleven year old Harri who gets caught up in the whirlwind of a recent murder. It's a slow build-up but worth it for the ending!

March Reads

This year is going so fast that I just can't keep up. Without trying to sound like a Game of Thrones character, it has felt like such a long winter. A couple of days into April and it was still snowing. I went out today in three layers and a pair of boots. I think I'm ready for a change in the seasons now. Here are a few books that helped my days feel a bit brighter last month:

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine - As someone who loves Sheldon Cooper for being a bit of an oddball, I love that Eleanor Oliphant is just the same. She has her quirks, her differences and the little things that make everyone else think she's a bit weird. But it goes so much deeper than that and she becomes a loveable character for so many reasons. It's not often I finish reading a book knowing I'll return to it one day but I definitely will with this one. 

James Acaster's Classic Scrapes - Advertisers really have me pegged - I heard a 30 second snippet of this book on an audible advert whilst waiting for a youtube video to load. So I bought it. Almost immediately. Until recently I'd never paid much attention to James Acaster's comedy but he has quickly become one of my favourite comedians. Read this for some laughs (and you will be in complete disbelief that all of these terrible things can happen to one person) and then watch his new stand-up series on youtube - amazing!

Everything I know About Love - I saw this book floating around online for a while and bought it not knowing really what it was. All I knew was that people were loving it. And it is worth a read - it made me laugh all the way through and made me incredibly sad at some points too. It's heartwarming and personal and incredibly easy to indulge in. One of the best memoirs I've read (and believe me I have read a few!)

What is everyone else reading at the moment?!

Review: L'oreal Detox Clay Mask

I don't know about you but I hate Sundays. I always have. There's just no way to beat that back to school/back to work feeling. Thankfully the sun is shining today which already makes everything feel a little bit better. But I always welcome anything that can make Sunday a little bit brighter. 

I've never tried a face mask that I've really loved until I found L'oreals Pure Clay Detox Mask. I've never really been taken with L'oreal's skin care in the past but I'd heard really good things about these masks. Of course it took me a solid 20 minutes in the shop to decide which mask I wanted but in the end I though the detox mask would probably be the best fit.

It's easy to use - layer up the mask and wait about 10 minutes for it to dry. I use a mask brush from Avon which is much less messy and fiddly than using your fingers. The mask lightens in colour as it dries so you can easily tell when it's ready to be washed off.

The first time I used this mask my skin looked so much better afterwards. It looked and felt smoother, cleaner and clearer too. The instructions recommend using this a couple of times a week but I just use it as and when I need to give my skin a boost. It really makes a noticeable difference to my skin and believe me does my skin need some extra TLC.

You can find all three of the L'oreal clay masks here. I'd love the try the brightening mask next!

Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Tasting Adventure

Can you think of a better way to start off a long bank holiday weekend than doing a chocolate tasting? Anyone? No? Me neither. Callum and I had been given a gift card for Christmas and because of various different reasons (read: one reason - I'd given up chocolate for lent. A brilliantly timed decision on my part...) we've only just got around to using it.

So last Friday night we headed into Leeds for an early dinner and a mooch around the shops. At 6pm we made our way to Hotel Chocolat and were taken to a dimly lit corner of the cafe alongside another couple. The chocolatier introduced himself as Dan and then proceeded to pour us all a full glass of prosecco whilst we awkwardly fiddled with our pencils and resisted the urge to scream, "Where's the chocolate!?!"

Dan was amazing. He was funny and engaging and he clearly loved his job. It made a huge difference having somebody there who knew his craft. He would talk to us about certain types of chocolate, where it comes from, how it's cleaned and roasted and used. Then he would let us have a taste and ask us to guess what we thought the flavour notes were. We were on track for about 75% of the guesses, the other 25% came from Callum to which Dan said, "I think you should just leave now..." It was a fun, lighthearted atmosphere and being able to relax and have a laugh with everyone just made it that much more enjoyable.

We had a really lovely evening. We got to try about 12 different types of chocolate and we learnt all sorts about the process of making chocolate. We had a laugh (mostly at Callum, but he's a good sport and laughed at himself too) and discovered a new love for all different kinds of chocolate. Like we needed an excuse to eat anymore. We were also given a goody bag on the way out with some bars of chocolate and vouchers. Again, like we needed an excuse to eat anymore chocolate.

Next on my list is the chocolate making session!