Monday, May 22, 2017

New Vlog and Society6 Explorations~

Hi all!

For those that have followed this blog for a loooong time, you will know that I used to have a youtube (or booktube) channel. Very recently, I filmed a few bits of footage and decided to stitch them together for a vlog! It was an interesting process, and actually quite fun overall, and I have started working on another vlog already. Please check it out if you have some time!

Also, I have been exploring areas to share my photography and artwork, and decided to try out Society6 for a little while. Please take a look at my page if you can, too :)

I will try and keep updating when I have things to update, but that's it for now!

Love to all who read!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Book Reviews: River Cottage: Easy, and River Cottage: Light and Easy by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Title: River Cottage: Easy, and River Cottage: Light and Easy
Author: Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Publication Date: Both re-issued May 2017

Synopsis: River Cottage: Easy - "How often have you wished there was a magic formula to make cooking easier? Well, there is. Put just three food things together on a plate and, somehow, the whole is always greater and more delicious than the sum of its parts. Looking back over nearly two decades of professional cookery, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has worked out the winning combinations. Salty, sweet, crunchy. Sharp, rich, crumbly. Hot, bland, crisp. Think scones with jam and cream, fish and chips with mushy peas, or porridge with golden syrup and cream.

Hugh has used this simple formula to create more than 175 inspiring recipes, both well-loved classics and brand new ides, based on trios like squash, ricotta and ham; aubergine, tomatoes and chickpeas; clams, tomatoes and garlic; chicken, tomatoes and tarragon; pork, potatoes and apples; pasta, courgettes and mozzarella; strawberries, cream and shortbread; and chocolate, ginger and digestives... The list goes on.

With sumptuous photography from Simon Wheeler, this book will unlock a whole new world of fantastic food. Easy cooking with three delicious ingredients. It really is that simple."

River Cottage: Light and Easy - "Ever lack the time or inspiration to cook a nourishing meal after a hectic day? Delicious, health-giving food doesn't have to be time-consuming and complicated.

In River Cottage: Light and Easy Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall delivers wholesome delights with zero compromise on taste for all occasions - from brilliant breakfasts to goodness on the go, from crunchy salads to simple roasts and hotpots, from nutrient-packed fish dishes to lighter breads, baking and treats (we all need those!). Each recipe is dairy-free and wheat-free, and all are guaranteed to bring a fresh energy and vitality to your everyday cooking and eating.

The 170 flavour-hitting recipes include: pumpkin seed drop scones, savoury buckwheat galettes, wheat-free spinachy wraps, rye grissini, fragrant Asian broth, speedy fish and tomato curry, fish-rizo with broad beans, spiced beef with bashed beans, aromatic nutty chicken, easiest ever storecupboard fishcakes, lamb and cashew curry. smashed roast Jerusalem artichokes, beetroot burgers, peach and orange sorbet, chocolate and avocado mousse, chestnut marmalade muffins and life-loving brownies...

With striking photography from Simon Wheeler, this beautiful book provides solutions to creating the most nourishing and healthy of meals as quickly and easily as possible."

My thoughts: I decided to review these two together because they complement each other really well, and plus cookbooks can be quite expensive and maybe, this way, you can get an idea for which one you would prefer!

Both of these are re-issued cookbooks of earlier releases. Easy was originally published in 2012 under the title Hugh's Three Good Things, whilst Light and Easy was published in 2014 under a similar name. Now that I have informed you of those facts, on with the reviews!

I have actually had some experience with Easy before, under its old name, as this is one of the cookbooks that my parents own, so I have made a couple of things out of there. I am a fan of River Cottage - the place, the people, the tv series, the books... I love all of them. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall is quite a character, and whilst others may groan at his use of puns and wacky names for food, I tend to laugh. As is implied in the synopsis and in its old title, Easy centres around the idea that you can make lovely food out of just three ingredients. A lot of the recipes have meat in them (my husband is vegan so I tend to notice this sort of stuff), but there are also a lot of lovely recipes without meat, focusing more on fruit and veg. It is clear that Hugh has done his research and taste-testings to full effectiveness - the flavour combinations he uses in this book work so well and the recipes are generally short without sacrificing any flavour.

Light and Easy I hadn't encountered before, and so this was a lovely education for me. I liked that this one has a focus on removing wheat and dairy, and still having really lovely foods. I have recently discovered that my reactions to wheat/gluten are not imagined (I had some tests done and an allergy has been officially found) and, while many of these recipes still use gluten, there are a lot that don't and substitute things like buckwheat which I can eat. Like Easy, the recipes are quite short and use ingredients that are familiar and easy to obtain, and they make me excited to start cooking. Some of the sweets in particular already have me salivating.

The new covers for these books are absolutely gorgeous - simple (like the recipes within), yet charming. The photography throughout is stunning, and I am quite taken with the little illustrations that accompany the recipes. All-in-all, these books have been delightfully re-packaged, and they are a wonderful addition to my collection.

{I received review copies of these books from Bloomsbury in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!}

A favourite recipe from the book: Easy: Potato, Mushrooms, Curry. Light and Easy: Strawberry Cashew Ice Cream.

You would like this book if: You like anything River Cottage, like me; you enjoy simple recipes with few ingredients, but no skimping on flavour!

Rating:  8/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Book Review: The Little Breton Bistro by Anne George

Title: The Little Breton Bistro
Author: Nina George
Publication Date: March 2017

Synopsis: "Marianne Messman longs to escape her loveless marriage to an uncaring husband - an artillery sergeant major named Lothar. On a day trip to Paris, Marianne decides to leap off the Pont Neuf into the Seine, but she is saved from drowning by a homeless man. While recovering in hospital, Marianne comes across a painting of the tiny port town of Kerdruc in Brittany and decides to try her luck on the coast.

In Kerdruc, Marianne meets a host of colourful characters who all gravitate around the restaurant of Ar Mor (The Sea). It is this cast of true Bretons who become Marianne's new family, and among whom she will find love once again. But with her husband looking to pull her back to her old life, Marianne is left with a choice: to step back into the known, or to take a huge jump into an exciting and unpredictable future."

My thoughts: I'm not sure why, but at the start of this year I went through a bit of a reading slump. I was reading quite a few books at the time, stopping and starting things regularly, but I just couldn't settle to anything and I found I was getting little enjoyment out of anything. This is when my mum pressed a copy of The Little Paris Bookshop (George's first book) into my hands. I was sceptical at first, but the characters quickly won me over and I found myself thinking about the book even when I wasn't reading it.

My reading of The Little Breton Bistro was very similar to that experience. Though I will say that I probably enjoyed this one even more, as I found I related to the characters, particularly Marianne, even more. (I am not, by any means, in a loveless marriage, but things that Marianne thinks about later in the book pulled on a thread inside me.)

George seems to have this fantastic ability to write really wonderful characters that you want to know more about - she also writes pain, and the vast measures needed to be taken to move away from that pain, superbly. This is a book of deep feeling, and I can't help wanting to pick it back up and read it again (in fact, I had that impulse immediately upon finishing it) just because I am thinking about it. George's writing is so beautiful and a wonder to read, and just ever-so-slightly on the edge of magical realism at times, that you feel as if you are being drawn into a different world.

I have a feeling that if I keep trying to write about this book I am just going to regress into childish gushing of noises rather than words. Basically, please give George's work a go. I hope it strikes a chord within you, too.

[I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!]

A favourite line from the book: 'When she glanced up, her eyes met a smiling face. This woman could bounce back from failure, that much was clear; her big bright eyes sparkled. Their gazes met, and Marianne snapped her eyelids shut again. She couldn't understand why the woman was staring at her like this. But she also wanted to store it away in her memory - the faint glimmer in her eye, the mauve cheeks, the sun playing in her hair.'

You would like this book if: you enjoy gentle stories with deep feelings.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I am honestly not sure. I feel like the descriptions of food in parts of this book might make you hungry, so maybe have a meal whilst reading!

Rating:  10/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Book Review: Memoirs of a Polar Bear by Yoko Tawada

Title: Memoirs of a Polar Bear
Author: Yoko Tawada
Translated by: Susan Bernofsky
Publication Date: March 29th 2017
RRP: $27.99AUD

Synopsis: "Someone tickled me behind my ears, under my arms. I curled up, became a full moon, and rolled on the floor. I may also have emitted a few hoarse shrieks. Then I lifted my rump to the sky and tucked my head beneath my belly: Now I was a sickle moon, still too young to imagine any danger. Innocent, I opened my anus to the cosmos and felt it in my bowels. 

A bear, born and raised in captivity, is devastated by the loss of his keeper; another finds herself performing in the circus; a third sits down one day and pens a memoir which becomes an international sensation, and causes her to flee her home. Through the stories of these three bears, Tawada reflects on our own humanity, the ways in which we belong to one another and the ways in which we are formed. Delicate and surreal, Memoirs of a Polar Bear takes the reader into foreign bodies and foreign climes, and immerses us in what the New Yorker has called 'Yoko Tawada's magnificent strangeness'."

My thoughts: This is going to be odd, because I don't normally review books that I have DNF'd. But I want to get my thoughts out on this one, and also note that there is a chance I will return to it at a later date and have a better time with it - who knows.

This book is strong on magical realism. Polar bears walk, seem to talk in some instances, and even write. I had a feeling that Tawada was using the polar bears to make a point, but for whatever reason it was just going straight over my head. I spent much of the book thinking that I just wasn't getting what she was trying to say, and that became frustrating.

When I read magical realism, I find myself enjoying the whimsical nature which can sometimes come crashing back to reality in sudden moments. With this book I just couldn't follow what was happening too well, particularly when I moved into the second section, and my enjoyment of the book kind of diminished when I started to feel like reading this was no longer a joy, but a chore. Occasionally the writing was so beautiful that I would stop and re-read a section a couple of times, but most other times the sentences were short, fragmented, harsh, without beauty and, for me, without sense.

I don't know if other people will have better experiences of this, or if I will return to it someday, but for now I am going to leave it scoreless.

[I received a review copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!]

Rating:  n/a

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Thursday, May 4, 2017


This is actually a really difficult post for me to write, despite my love of the pun in the title. It will hopefully go some of the way to explaining why I have been absent for a couple of weeks. I am going to try and do this short and sweet, and not ramble too much, because otherwise that might just lead into my own neuroses and that's just no fun for anyone.

At the end of last year, Xin and I started talking and we decided to get another cat. We do want a dog eventually, but we agreed that another cat made so much more sense - they could be a companion for Pepper when we were both out, and we already had all the cat stuff so we would mostly be paying the adoption fees and that was about it. So, on January 1st we made an appointment to go to a rescue centre and look at the cats they had on offer. We were looking particularly for a male cat, as we already had Pepper (a female) and had heard that males were generally more affectionate and pairs of separate genders were more likely to bond well.

We met a quiet, curled up kitty - a ginger/white shorthair who was getting picked on by another male cat and so had kind of retreated. I was still a little unsure, and I wanted Xin to pick this time since Pepper was mostly my cat. Xin fell in love. He always had a thing for the underdog (or undercat) and so, after heading home and talking it over, bringing a small towel with the newcat's scent on it to see how Pepper would react (she seemed fine, mostly indifferent), we headed back later that day and brought him home with us. 

We named him Kohaku Furamir (Haku for short) and he quickly came out of his shell, and he loved to cuddle and talk to you. He talked a lot.  So much that it became a bit frustrating sometimes. We set him up in the laundry so he could have his own room, and he seemed happy in there, if a bit bored at times.

But we had a problem. Although we followed all the instructions for a gentle introduction, Pepper and Haku didn't get on. Pepper would hiss and make herself really small around him, and he, seemingly wanting to play, would leap at her. These little incidents started to get worse and worse, until Haku managed to rip Pepper's collar off. "Perhaps we introduced them too fast?" we thought, so we went back to the start, keeping them separated and trying all sorts of things to get them used to each other, perhaps even to like each other.

But any chance Haku got, he would run at Pepper and leap on her. In the first few weeks of April we watched as Pepper began to retreat from us, from everything, and it was heart-breaking. We were still spending time with both cats, just individually, and seeing Pepper curl up in the tightest ball she could on the far side of the bed, away from the door, behind my soft toys and pillows so she couldn't be seen from the doorway... it was awful. Haku was lovely when he was just with us - social and funny and cute, and he was beginning to be comfortable with sleeping in our laps and he already sought us out for pats and loved going out on the lead and harness to sit in the garden. He was the perfect cat (if a bit chatty). He was just making our other cat's life a living hell.

At the end of April we made a decision. We had tried for four months, and things weren't getting better. In fact, Pepper wouldn't even engage with us if we were trying to introduce them through a crack in the door anymore. She wouldn't come anywhere near. We have had Pepper for a year and a half now, and even though she is neurotic, she has warmed up to us (to me in particular) so much that we felt we owed more to her than to Haku. And, ultimately, no one was happy in this situation. Most of the time Haku was confined to his room - it was no way for an energetic cat like him to live.

We decided to take Haku back to the rescue centre.

It has been a few days now since we took him back and I am still grieving, honestly. I still cry, and seeing him listed on the website today was pretty hard. But this is giving him a chance to find a family where he can access the whole house whenever he wants, and be loved. I miss him a lot, and this whole experience has made me realise how quickly I get attached and how much I consider pets as part of my family - this feels like the right decision, but it also feels so awfully wrong. We tried so hard, but ultimately sometimes cats just don't get on. 

I am feeling so drained by the whole experience, and still crying regularly, but eventually I will adjust, I think. Sometimes we have to make really hard decisions.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Reading // April 2017

Books read:
~ Accidentally on Purpose (Heartbreaker Bay #3) by Jill Shalvis (review)
~ Sweet Little Lies (Heartbreaker Bay #1) by Jill Shalvis
~ A Writer's Diary: Being Extracts from the Diary of Virginia Woolf, edited by Leonard Woolf
~ The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn #1) by Renee Ahdieh
~ The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
~ Animal Magnetism (Animal Magnetism #1) by Jill Shalvis (re-read)
~ Animal Attraction (Animal Magnetism #2) by Jill Shalvis (re-read)
~ The Little Breton Bistro by Nina George (review)

Currently Reading:
~ Badgerlands by Patrick Barkham
~ The Dark Circle by Linda Grant
~ Etched in Bone (The Others #5) by Anne Bishop

Ohh man. April was intense. I'm not going to mention the emotional stuff that happened, because this is a blog post about books and reading, but you can get an idea by heading to my instagram (link on your right if you're reading this on the blog) if you want.

ANYWAY. I was really getting ahead with my review books this month, so *pats self on the back*. I ended up going on a bit of a Jill Shalvis kick, because those books are fun and give me time to just ignore the rest of the world for a bit. After reading Accidentally on Purpose to review, I decided to go back and read the first one of that series. That then prompted me to go find whatever old ones of hers I read in the past at my library and have a bit of a re-read. I highly recommend the Animal Magnetism books if you like fun, simple romance - these ones even have cute animals in them! Right up my alley.

Virginia Woolf's Writer's Diary really blew me out of the water. I love the way she writes, and seeing the writing process of a few of her books was so inspiring and interesting and she just seems to have a knack for getting across the experience of writing books, getting feedback, and dealing with being bookmarked (if you will) as a certain kind of writer. I loved reading this.

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh was definitely enjoyable whilst I was reading it, and I actually started the follow-up book and got about a third of the way through before I started to feel like the things I found problematic in the first book just caught up with me. It was a little insta-lovey, and there were some scenes where sex was implied but never really discussed and it was just... problematic. I ended up with so many questions circling around my head that I couldn't finish The Rose and the Dagger and returned it to the library.

The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg was absolutely fantastic, I loved it, read it in one sitting and then sat there thinking about it for a while. I think each of the books she puts out just get better and I want more, please.

I requested a copy of The Little Breton Bistro by Anne George because when I was going through a reading slump at the very start of this year, my Mum lent me her copy of George's first book, The Little Paris Bookshop, and I was blown away and connected so deeply with it that my slump was just blown out of the window. The Little Breton Bistro, I think, was even better. And I related to the character more. I will be putting up a review of this soon so I won't gush anymore here.

I am really enjoying everything I am currently reading at the moment, but constant migraine symptoms and some lingering grief over things that happened in April are kind of slowing me down. I am still reading though! 

How are you going? Did you read much in April?

Love to everyone who reads.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Book Review: Accidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis

Title: Accidentally on Purpose
Author: Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay #3
Publication Date: January 31st 2017

Synopsis: "Accidentally on Purpose is the third in New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis's Heartbreaker Bay series, featuring her trademark gift for humour, warmth and romance.

Elle Wheaton's priorities: friends, career, and kick-ass shoes. Then there's the muscular wall of stubbornness that's security expert Archer Hunt - who comes before everything else. No point in telling Mr. 'Feels-Free Zone' that, though. Elle will just see other men until she gets over Archer...which should only take a lifetime...

Archer's wanted the best for Elle ever since he sacrificed his law-enforcement career to save her. Their chemistry could start the next San Francisco earthquake and he craves her 24/7, but Archer doesn't want to be responsible for the damage. The alternative? Watch her go out with guys who aren't him... As far as Archer's concerned, nobody is good enough for Elle. But when he sets out to prove it by sabotaging he dates, she gets mad - and things get hot as hell. Now Archer has a new mission: prove to Elle that her perfect man has been here all along..."

My thoughts: If you follow me on Goodreads, you will know that I make no bones about enjoying romance, particularly romance from Jill Shalvis. I have always enjoyed that she explores both points of view in her books. I also find her female characters to be tough, smart, and believable, which helps a whole bunch. Not to mention, I tend to love the sex scenes in her books!

This one was really quite good. Occasionally, Shalvis' books can come across as a little formulaic, and I find that I can be a bit of a jumpy reader when that happens (that is, read a bit here, skip forward a few paragraphs, read a bit there, just so I get the gist of things before moving on). But in this one, I actually loved the dynamic between Archer and Elle, and how they both had their own versions of a past event that they shared.

Shalvis is so good in this at exploring each character's insecurities and misguided beliefs, so much so that when they do come together, it feels natural and not forced in any way. Her characters are not 2D, and they also aren't afraid to call someone out on their damaging behaviours or beliefs. Having said that, I did have a few small issues with some of the gender roles in this, but they were honestly tiny issues, and hardly worth mentioning (except for just then).

This is a great book to read of-a-weekend when you want to get swept away into a bit of romance. Do recommend!

A favourite line from the book: 'Kylie shook her head, still smiling. "Does the whole world always do exactly as you command?"
She got that question a lot. "When it knows what's good for it," she quipped.
Kylie smiled. "So are you going to laugh at me if I say I really want to believe the wish will come true?"
"Well, not to your face," Elle said.'

You would like this book if: You enjoy romance where the female characters stand up for themselves, instead of swooning all the time; you like Jill Shalvis!

Tea to drink while reading this book: I'd say something nice and sweet. And steamy (sorry, couldn't help myself!). Perhaps some caramel brownie tea from T2?

Rating:  7.5/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!
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