6 books I have on pre-order

Don’t you just hate that feeling of finishing a book and knowing you have to wait months before you can find out what happens next? That’s been happening to me a lot recently. 

When I pre-ordered The Cursed Child the other day, I realised that I’d got six books on pre-order in total. SIX BOOKS ON PRE-ORDER! That has never happened before. It seems that there are so many books coming out this year that I just cannot wait to get my hands on.

Warning: I’ma mention the word ‘love’ a hella lot in this blog posts. Sorry, not sorry.

 

Kindred Spirits – Rainbow Rowell | February 25th, 2016

Kindred Spirits is a 96-page release for World Book Day 2016 that follows Star Wars fangirl Elena as she queues up to watch the latest Star Wars film.

I absolutely adore Rainbow’s writing; her characters are so detailed and real. I always finish her books feeling like I actually know the characters. She is an autobuy author for me.

After reading and loving Fangirl, I’m looking forward to see what she might do with a Star Wars fangirl.

 

The Glittering Court – Richelle Mead | April 5th, 2016

This has been described as a mix between Elizabethan and frontier worlds; what is not to love about that? The Glittering Court is a kind of finishing school for for ‘impoverished girls’ – you guys know how I feel about books that involve boarding schools. (I’m just assuming it’s a boarding school here.)

I’ve read and enjoyed the first three Vampire Academy books, so I’m sure that I’ll enjoy this.

 

The Crown (The Selection #5) – Kiera Cass | May 3rd, 2016

This is the second book in The Selection reboot (fifth book overall), and I WANT TO READ IT RIGHT NOW! The cliffhanger at the end of The Heir was cruel and I need to know what happens next.

A lot of people seemed to find Eadlyn irritating, but I quite liked her; it was nice to read a character who was unashamedly imperfect.

 

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany | July 31st, 2016

I’m not sure I even need to say a lot about this.

The play has been advertised as ‘the eighth installment’ in the series, but I’m going to try not to think about the book like that since it isn’t actually a novel, it’s a copy of the script that will be used when the play is first shown later this year. That said, I’ve been waiting to find out what happened to Harry, Ron and Hermoine for years, so I’m sure I’ll love it.

 

The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3) – Marie Lu | October 11th, 2016

With each book I read by Marie Lu, I fall in love with her even more. When I didn’t think she could beat the Legend series, she released The Young Elites. When I didn’t think that could be beaten, I fell harder for The Rose Society.

Her world building is so wonderful; she creates these wonderful and elaborate places, that you just sink into like a cosy bed at the end of a long, hard day.

The Rose Society took a very dark turn and I’m looking forward to seeing how the series comes to an end.

 

Aerie (Magonia #2) – Maria Dahvana Headley | November 3rd, 2016

I almost hyperventilated when I saw how stunning the cover for Aerie is. LOOK AT HOW BEAUTIFUL IT IS! I have fangirled about Magonia enough on my blog, Twitter, and Instagram for you to know that it is one of my favourite books, so I am on tenterhooks to get my paws on Aerie and hold it in my hands. And love it, and date it. I’m definitely going to date it – where shall I take it? Is Nando’s too informal? What shall I wear?

Magonia was one of those books that stood alone solidly, but I am desperate to return to the world of Magonia and find out what happens next. Every time I hear Bird Set Free by Sia I can’t help but think about Magonia – I’ve had to remove it from my Spotify playlists because I keep thinking about Magonia and I don’t think it’s wise to be quite that distracted when driving.

 

Have you got any books on pre-order?

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Sacre-Couer

After missing out the first time around, Sacre-Coeur was top of my list of things to do when I returned to Paris at Christmas.

Metro by Moulin Rouge

I missed out the first time around because it was so far away from where we were and I refused to take the Metro. This time around, I built a bridge and got over it, and took the Metro. We got off a couple of stops early by mistake and popped out by the Moulin Rouge, which was cool to see.

We walked the rest of the way to Sacre-Coeur, through cobbled streets full of street gamblers trying (and succeeding) to scam tourists.

Sacre-Coeur is beautiful, unfortunately it’s ruined a little by gangs of men who line the pathways up to the basilica and try to stop you passing, grab you, and put a string bracelet on your wrist. It left me feeling intimidated and a little on edge, which ruined my experience a little.

Band playing outside Sacre-Coeur

That said, there was a really good band outside playing covers of Tracy Chapman.

Sacre-Coeur

Sacre-Couer is a stunning building, both inside and outside. We weren’t allowed to take photos inside, which is fair enough, and there was a service going on at the time, which was interesting to hear. I think not being able to take photos inside made it more special because there were no distractions.

View over Paris from Sacre-Couer

View over Paris from Sacre-Coeur

You can go up to the top, but the view over Paris from just outside were stunning enough that we didn’t see the point in going up.

If you have chance, I definitely recommend a trip to Sacre-Coeur but do keep your wits about you on the walk from the main road up to the basilica.

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Since so many of you lovely people were interested in how I’m getting on at university, I thought it would be good to reflect on completing my first semester back at university.

In case you have no idea: I began a Forensic Science degree five years ago and left university after completing a year and a half because I had no idea if it was what I actually wanted to do – instead of doing it because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. For three and a half years, I worked at a small marketing company (yep, completely different) I went back to university (a different one) to finish my degree because I missed science so much.

A few weeks ago, we switched to our semester two timetable, but I wanted to wait until I had all my exam results in to reflect on how the first semester had gone.

I’ve found it both easier than expected and harder than I expected.

The easiest part has actually been living on a part-time wage. I was very worried about this, but it just turns out that I was clearly very wasteful before. By actually monitoring what I spend money on, I’ve not had an issue with money at all. (So far.)

The hardest part has been getting back into the swing of learning, which I thought would be the easiest part. The course I’m currently on is a little different to the first one, and I’m glad because this one contains more of the things I was interested in. For example, we had about six lectures on fire investigation, which I don’t think was even timetabled on my old course. We’ve also had lectures on the more environmental side of forensic science, which is what I want to go into.

I was pretty stressed in the run up to exams, and I know that I’ll definitely do revision a little different for my May exams. That said, I did really well in my exams and got firsts in all three – so that makes me so happy.

On top of that, we had practical reports to write-up, which I was so worried about when I was writing them. They felt like huge, insurmountable tasks at the time and I was convinced that I was going to fail – to my delight, I just missed out on a first for those, which made me happy.

We’re now a few weeks into semester 2 and I’m just so happy.

My Dad tells me that he wishes I’d not left in the first place, but I’m glad that I did.

To start with, I didn’t know if university or forensic science was what I wanted the first time around. I went because that’s what everyone else was doing, it’s what I thought I should do, and I didn’t really know what to do instead. I’m glad that I did leave, because this course is much more suited to my interests in forensic science, and I think I needed the perspective and time to realise that it was what I wanted.

If you’re thinking about going back to university, don’t ever think you’re too old or it’s too late. If you don’t take the leap (and I know it’s scary), you’ll always find excuses as to why you can’t do it yet.

How’s life with you at the moment?

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Did I Mention I Need You - Estelle Maskame

Yes! That’s what I’m talking about; I got my reading mojo back and really sunk my teeth into Did I Mention I Need You?

Towards the end of last year I read Did I Mention I Love You; the first book in the DIMLY series. You may remember that I had mixed feelings about the book because I really liked the main characters, but had some other niggles. However, I’m pleased to report that I flat out loved Did I Mention I Need You and my previous annoyances are no longer.

We pick up a year after the end of DIMILY (I know I could copy and paste, but I’m being lazy and abbreviating) and Eden is excited about the prospect of heading to New York for a few weeks because:

  • A: it’s New-freaking-York (I doubt that’s correct use of hyphens)
  • B: Tyler is living there

From the get go, you know there’s only one way this is going to go:

  1. Eden will cheat on Dean, and Eden and Tyler will get back together
  2. The whole stepsiblings thing will be an issue (a non-issue for me)
  3. Family and friends will probably find out

Aaaaand that’s exactly what happens. DIMINY was never going to be anything but predictable due to the storyline, but that doesn’t make it a bad story at all. Don’t get me wrong, a predictable book can be a bad book, but that just wasn’t the case here. Estelle Maskame sucked me into Eden and Tyler’s lives and I feel like I actually know both of them. I am unequivocally hooked on their lives.

It was nice to explore New York through Eden’s eyes, and it’s made me really want to go back. I must also add that my shoe-envy over Eden’s white Converse finally gave me something to spend a gift card on. (Thank you Estelle, you terrible enabler, you.)

Some characters from the first book make an appearance, though no where near as much as in the first book. We also meet two new characters, who I really grew to love and I think they’re stronger and more interesting supporting characters than the supporting characters were in the first book.

I don’t think it’s a spoiler for me to tell you that Eden and Tyler end up getting back together, and there are mixed reactions to their relationship when people find out. Of course, Dean is less than thrilled and despite that I couldn’t help but want Tyler and Eden to be happy.

For me, the step sibling thing hasn’t really been an issue because they weren’t raised together and don’t live together as siblings. Of course, both in real life and in the book, there are mixed reactions to that and it was interesting to see how it unfolded.

And the ending. THE ENDING! Estelle is a cruel lady. I re-read it a couple of times because I couldn’t believe what happened. I need to know when the third book is coming out because it is one of the cruellest cliffhangers I have ever encountered.

Did I Mention I Need You is exactly what I needed after the past couple of books I read didn’t really do much for me. Estelle had me hooked from the first page and I kept turning the page to find out what would happen next. It was one of those books that you groan about having to put down, and end up thinking about the characters in between reading and after you’ve read the final word.

In short: A gripping forbidden romance-fueled angst-fest set in New York.

What was the last book you read that had you absolutely hooked?

*I received a free copy of Did I Mention I Need You in exchange for an honest review – this does not affect my opinion and I would never fangirl about something I didn’t honestly enjoy.

Did I Mention I Need You - Estelle Maskame book rating - new favourite

 

Did I Mention I Need You Book Cover Did I Mention I Need You
Did I Mention I Love You
Estelle Maskame
Young adult, contemporary, romance

It's been a year since eighteen-year-old Eden Munro last saw Tyler Bruce: her stepbrotherā€¦ and her secret love. Although they called time on their forbidden relationship for the sake of their family, Eden can't help but feel excited when Tyler invites her to join him in New York City for the summer.

Anyway, Eden is happy with her boyfriend Dean, and surely Tyler has moved on too. But as they spend a long, hot summer in the excitement of the city that never sleeps, it soon becomes obvious that they aren't over each other. But can they resist temptation?

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Peanut butter and jelly cupcakes

That’s it! My 30-day vegan challenge is over, but don’t you dare go thinking that I’m going to go back to my old diet.

When I began this challenge, I would say that my diet was about 50% vegan to start with, but I was daunted about what it might mean to try to be as vegan as possible for a month. To my surprise, it wasn’t hard at all.

Changing your diet is really about changing habit, so eating vegan at home is easy as pie so long as you plan your meals and snacks to make sure you have what you need in the house. As I mentioned in my previous weekly updates, eating out is where it’s difficult to eat entirely vegan.

Some restaurants / cafes / eateries are really easy to eat vegan at, a couple of examples I’ve experienced are:

  • Costa Coffee – their soy lattes and fruit crumbles are delicious
  • Handmade Burger Company – they have a good selection of vegan main courses, and their rosemary salt chips are out of this world

However, some places make it impossible for me to eat vegan because they either have no option, or one option, which usually seems to be salad, which I hate.

All in all, I’ve found it easy. I will be doing a post over the next week or two about what I’ve learned from being vegan for 30 days. In short though:

  • I’ve discovered new food and I actually feel inspired by food, which is something I’ve struggled with for a long time
  • I’m taking an interest in what’s in my food and feel I’m eating a more balanced diet for it
  • I feel more energetic, and I think that’s a result of eating a more balanced diet
  • I’m cooking meals, instead of just dessert
  • My Mum and I are having a lot of fun talking about food and cooking together

I’m glad I took this challenge because it finally gave me the push to kick the cheese to the curb. Aside from one meal out, I’ve not eaten cheese for a month – something I considered unthinkable before, and I haven’t even missed or craved it.

I definitely will not be returning to my old diet and I’m looking forward to discovering so many more tasty vegan recipes.

In keeping with the other updates I’ve done for this so far, here are a couple of recipes I’ve really enjoyed this week:

  • Peanut butter and jam cupcakes – these went down a real hit with everyone
  • Spicey falafel and roasted veg naan-wich – after seeing this pin, we decided we had to try it. We used the falafel recipe from Mayim Bialik’s Vegan Table, made our own avocado sauce, and it’s not hard to roast your own veg

If you’ve got any questions about becoming vegan, or need some tips, let me know because I want to put a blog post together helping people switch to a vegan diet.

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Whiskey burns the back of my throat, as a tear threatens to sting my eye,

How has it been two years already, since your premature goodbye,

The wounds form scars, the marks you left on our lives,

So we’ll raise a glass as we remember you tonight.

 

People worry about leaving a legacy, but you’ll never be forgotten,

You’ll live on through hundreds of stories, everyone who knew you has got one,

Truly, no one has a bad word to say and they speak about you with a smile that reaches their eyes,

And there a little bits of you in all of us; you’re our family tie.

 

You had a great life, and should be proud of what you did,

A wonderful 52 year marriage, loving kids and grand kids,

So if death is nothing at all, maybe we’ll met again some day,

We can sit around and talk for hours, laugh whatever comes next away.

 

Here’s to you for teaching us that family is strong,

Here’s to you for showing us that love isn’t always perfect, but it’s ours,

Here’s to you for teaching us to unapologetically be who we are,

Here’s to you for breaking all of our hearts.

 

I can’t believe that last Thursday marked two years since my Grandad died. It simultaneously feels like forever and no time at all.

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The view over Paris from Notre Dame towards the Eiffel Tower

Notre Dame

I must admit, the first time I went to Paris I had no idea that you could climb up the towers of Notre Dame.

It wasn’t until I read Anna and the French Kiss where Anna goes up the tower that I ended up googling it to find out that you could go up. I mentally kicked myself for not doing it when I went, and promised myself I would do it the next time I went to Paris.

Tom and I got up early, and caught the train out to Notre Dame, arriving before 9. It’s free to go into the cathedral itself, but the earlier you get there, the shorter the queue will be – and the queue gets long fairly quickly.

Inside Notre DameRose window Notre DameClose up of Rose window Notre Dame

Religious or not, it’s impossible to deny the beauty of Notre Dame – especially the rose windows. They are so beautiful and vast – I’ve seen what I consider to be pretty big stained glass windows before, but they have absolutely nothing on Notre Dame’s rose windows. 

Polish nativity scene Notre Dame 2015

We went a few days after Christmas, and they had a beautiful Polish-style nativity scene, that was mesmerising.

After exploring the cathedral, we exited and turned right to join the queue to go up the towers. Trips up the towers don’t begin until 10am, which gives you time to view the cathedral while it’s relatively quiet first and still have plenty of time to join quite a short queue.

They only allow about 30 people up at a time, which is why the waiting time grows so quickly. We were the second lot allowed up – but we joined the queue at 09:30 and didn’t end up going up until 10:30 because they were late opening. It’s inevitable that you’ll have to queue – to get at the front of the queue, you’ll have to get there early, and if you join it later on, you’ll have to queue. That said, it was worth it – us Brits have a high tolerance towards queuing anyway.

Your trek up stairs begins before you’ve really started the tour – you have to climb up a fair few stairs to get to the ticket room / area where you wait to allow the group up there to come down the stairs. The great thing is that the Notre Dame towers are free if you are under 18 with family or between 18 and 25 living in an EU country. Full priced adult tickets are fairly inexpensive at 8.50 EUROs. (Price right at time of posting.)

Once the stairs are clear, you’re free to start your ascent up 387 steps up a tight stair case. Your thighs will burn, you might get out of breath, and maybe you’ll think you’ll see that croissant you had for breakfast again, but the panorama over Paris at the top is more than worth it.

View over Paris from Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower

View over Paris from Notre DameSacre Couer from Notre Dame

There isn’t a huge amount of space for maneuvering around people at the top, which causes annoying bottlenecks where everyone is just stood there, unable to move until a load of people are let back down the stairs. Though, I don’t suppose they thought about leaving enough space for people to get around people taking photos when they begin building work in the 12th century.

Gargoyles of Notre Dame looking out at the Eiffel TowerGargoyles of Notre DameGargoyles of Notre Dame

Not only does Notre Dame give you a beautiful view over the city, but it also allows you to see the ornate detailing and, of course, the gargoyles up close.

Bells Notre Dame

You also have the chance to see one of the bells up close, and can go up even more steps to the highest point of the cathedral. Again, there’s not much space to maneuver here, but if you’re anything like me and like seeing a city from up high, you’ll enjoy it.

Notre DameZero Kilometre from Notre Dame

That huge building you can see in the right is Tour Montparnasse – well worth a trip up for yet more beautiful views, especially of the Eiffel Tower.

The trip back down the stairs is slightly less painful, though it does feel a bit disorientating after a while.

Point Zero Notre Dame, Paris

When you reach the bottom, I recommend having a hunt around on the ground in front of Notre Dame to find a golden star on the ground. Point Zero is said to be the centre of Paris, and is where all distances from Paris are measured. It’s not as easy as I expected, and I guess that’s because it blends in so easily.

Some people make wishes on the star, or have other little rituals like kissing on it. Finding Point Zero isn’t an essential part of visiting Paris, but it’s one of those really cool little things that seems to make a trip even better.

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