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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!

What I've Been Reading Lately | April

I set myself a Goodreads challenge to read thirty books this year. So far I've only read 6 so I don't think I'm exactly on track but the good news is that I have a mammoth pile of unread books to sink into over the Easter holidays! Here are a few I've been reading in April:

The Tobacconist by Robert Seethaler | This one I haven't read yet but I can't wait to delve into this book. The story centres around 17 year old apprentice Franz and his boss, Otto, a tobacconist. It is set in Austria and tells the story of how Hitler's Third Reich affected the lives of so many across Europe. This one definitely spoke to the historian within me and sounds like a touching read. This one is next on my list.

Shtum by Jem Lester | I'm in two minds about this book. I liked the idea of it - two parents battling to get their autistic, mute son into a school that would allow him to explore and learn in a way that best suits him. But for the most part of this book I just couldn't get past how much I disliked the father. And the mother for that matter. They were both selfish and unlikable and it kind of tainted the story for me.

Bridget Jones's Diary by Helen Fielding | Need I say more?

March by John Lewis & Andrew Aydin | I've been wanting to read a graphic novel for the longest time now but I couldn't seem to find one that I thought might be worth it. I can't remember how I stumbled across March but it jumped out at me immediately. It's about Congressman John Lewis and his involvement with the Civil Rights Movement (which one one of the most interesting topics I studied at A-level History). I bought the first one and read it all in one sitting so now I'm waiting for book 2 to find out what he did next!

Now that this blog post has been written I'm going to make a cup of tea and finish the last couple of chapters of Bridget Jones.

What have you been reading lately? What's been your favourite so far in 2017?

Books to Love: Graduates in Wonderland

There's a huge part of me that loves writing and receiving letters. When I was younger, whenever I met a new friend on holiday, as we said goodbye on the last day we always exchanged addresses so we could send each other a letter. It's not something that often happens anymore. Now when we meet someone new, we exchange numbers and spend the next 10 years of friendship texting each other our favourite quotes from Harry Potter and memes about having to wait so long for the next series of Pretty Little Liars.

So, of course, the inner letter-writing, 19th century lady within me loves to read letters by other people too. I spend a bit of time every year reading Letters of Note and watching the video clips of Letters Live. I read and reread Love Letters of the Great War and bookmarked all of my favourite letters. There's just something so beautiful and honest and warm about writing a letter.

When I first heard about Graduates in Wonderland I knew it would be a book I would enjoy. Best friends Jessica and Rachel have just graduated from Brown university and are headed off on separate adventures around the globe. They keep in touch by email, sending each other lengthy commentary on their day-to-day lives, including all their mistakes and mishaps, as well as the beautiful moments that happen during their travels. 

This book was so easy to read, it just felt like I was catching up with old friends. The stories were laugh out loud funny on occasion and their friendship was truly lovely to read about. It also made me feel better knowing that at some point they were both half-way across the world also worrying about the same things I worry about and they were out there making the same mistakes I've made since leaving university. 

I'd recommend this book to anyone that is just about to leave university or has just left. But just so you're warned: side effects include a huge dose of wanderlust and a desire to write letters to absolutely everyone.