Monday, 28 July 2014

Book review: Landline by Rainbow Rowell


My edition: paperback (proof), published on 18 June 2014 by Orion, 354 pages.

Description: Georgie McCool knows her marriage is in trouble. That it's been in trouble for a long time. She still loves her husband, Neal, and Neal still loves her, deeply — but that almost seems besides the point now.

Maybe that was always besides the point.

Two days before they're supposed to visit Neal's family in Omaha for Christmas, Georgie tells Neal that she can't go. She's a TV writer, and something's come up on her show; she has to stay in Los Angeles. She knows that Neal will be upset with her — Neal is always a little upset with Georgie — but she doesn't expect to him to pack up the kids and go home without her.

When her husband and the kids leave for the airport, Georgie wonders if she's finally done it. If she's ruined everything.

That night, Georgie discovers a way to communicate with Neal in the past. It's not time travel, not exactly, but she feels like she's been given an opportunity to fix her marriage before it starts . . .

Is that what she’s supposed to do?

Or would Georgie and Neal be better off if their marriage never happened?

Rating:

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Dinner at Happenstance



Right on the doorstep of the majestic St Paul's Cathedral is a very different but equally impressive destination: The Happenstance. The restaurant's interior is a mix of straight lines and industrial touches, mixed with organic materials and fresh pots of herbs on all the tables, which creates an eclectic yet inviting atmosphere.

Both our waiter and the mixologist on the night we visited were very knowledgeable as we asked them about the wide selection of food and cocktail items on the menu. In fact, the latter even went so far as to create a special cocktail based on the flavour preferences of my friend, which she was delighted with.


The choice of our starter was an easy one as it was the dish that was both recommended by our server and the one that instantly popped out at us from the menu: the warm grilled Mediterranean flatbread with hummus, baba ganoush and roasted marinated vegetables.

This gorgeous and very generous platter was perfect for sharing with two, or even three people. The vegetables were cooked to al dente perfection and were matched wonderfully with the hummus and baba ganoush (an eggplant, onion and tomato-based dip) it was served with. Both my friend and I loved this dish, the flavours of which instantly swept us away to warmer shores, and could've happily eaten it all night long.


Picking my main course was a more difficult decision as there were plenty of tasty items on the menu that caught my eye. In the end I once again trusted the recommendation of the waitress and chose the chicken in a basket with chips - though I opted to swap my ordinary chips for the more interestingly sounding cowboy fries with honey, chilli & garlic from the side menu.

When my chicken arrived, I had to stop myself from going "awww" as it looked so cute in its own little basket. It was unfortunately served with normal chips, rather than the cowboy fries I'd ordered with it, but upon seeing the size of what was supposed to be a small chicken I realised that I'd probably eat very little of the chips anyway so this wasn't an issue.

The meat was beautifully succulent, practically falling off the bone as I was attempting to eat it delicately with my knife and fork. Once again, as with the starter, it was a very generous portion and try as I might I wasn't able to finish my main - even though I really liked it.


My friend did a better job with her halloumi and hummus burger with red pepper, roast mushroom & tomato chutney (and most of my chips too, I might add). All the elements of her burger were cooked and seasoned very well and she loved the tasty combination of the halloumi with the peppers in particular.

She also ordered a side of potato and sweet potato wedges and she was particularly enthusiastic about the sweet potato ones, which were crispy on the outside and soft in the middle. The presentation of all parts of the meal was very fun and reminiscent of an upmarket diner, which suited the dishes we had ordered very well.


After two very large courses already both myself and my guest were quite satisfied at this stage, but as soon as our eyes fell on the chocolate brownie with vanilla bean ice cream on the desserts menu we knew we had to have a taster. Sharing one dessert and savouring it in very small bites was the perfect way to consume this gorgeously crunchy on the outside and melt-in-the-mouth on the inside cocoa treat. It provided a wonderful finish to what had been an excellent meal.

With a playfully eclectic atmosphere and excellent service, this is definitely an establishment we'll be returning to soon. If only to once more have the opportunity to taste the beautiful Mediterranean flatbread with hummus, baba ganoush and roasted marinated vegetables (though a second time around we'd probably keep it all for ourselves, rather than share it!).

Happenstance, 1 Ludgate Hill, London EC4M 7AA.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Blog tour: Hot Chocolate and Teacakes by Amanda Prowse (part 9)



Today I'm thrilled to be a part of the blog tour for Amanda Prowse's new novel, Will You Remember Me?, in which over the course of ten days ten blogs each post a part of her short story Hot Chocolate and Teacakes.

Below is the 9th part of the story. Part 8 can be found here and and the final installment will be published here tomorrow. Enjoy!

* * * * *

DAY 9

‘Who’d want a dad like that?’ Dorothea asked before continuing, ‘and it’s true some dad’s are great and they make you feel safe and warm and special.’

Poppy nodded, this was the kind of dad she would like.

‘Did your dad make you feel like that then?’ Poppy had never met Grandad Reg, her mum’s grandad.

‘Sometimes.’ Dorothea nodded and for a second looked far away. ‘But the fact is all you need in your life is someone that makes you feel safe and warm and special and it doesn’t matter whether it’s a dad or a mum or a nan or a friend. So when writing your essay, all you have to do is think about feeling like that and who that person is and just right the word ‘dad.’ Miss West won’t mind. It’s only an essay after all…’ Dorothea reached over and ran her hand through her grand daughter’s hair.

‘I really love you Poppy Day.’

Poppy smiled.

* * * * *

Will You Remember Me is published by Head of Zeus and is out now! Get your copy from Amazon, Waterstones or your own preferred retailer.


How do you say goodbye to your family for the last time?

Poppy Day is looking forward to her best year yet. She's thirty-two, married to her childhood sweetheart, and a full-time mum of two gorgeous children. She loves her clean little house in the countryside - a far cry from the London estate where she grew up. Her husband Mart, a soldier, has just returned safe and sound from his latest tour.

But Poppy is so busy caring for others, she hasn't noticed the fatigue in her body, or the menacing lump growing on her breast. If there's anyone strong and deserving enough to defeat cancer it's Poppy. After all, she's fought harder battles than this. But does life really work like that?


Monday, 21 July 2014

Book review: Written in the Stars by Ali Harris


My edition: Paperback, published on 5th June 2014 by Simon & Schuster, 450 pages.

Description: Bea Bishop is horrible at making decisions. Forget big life ones, even everyday choices seem to paralyse her. She's learned to live with this because experience has taught her that it doesn't matter what you do, no one has the power to control destiny. Anyone who believes they can is a fool.

But as her wedding day approaches, her years of indecision are weighing heavily on her, and she can't help but wonder, 'What if, what if, what if….'

What if she hadn't upped sticks and moved to London? What if she hadn't grabbed the first job that came along and settled down with the first guy who showed an interest? But all of her questions are silenced when she slips while walking down the aisle and is knocked unconscious.

In this split second her life splits into two: in one existence, Bea flees back down the aisle and out of the church. In the other she glides blissfully towards her intended. But which story will lead to her happily ever after?

Rating:

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Book review: The Vacationers by Emma Straub


My edition: Paperback, published on 5th June 2014 by Picador, 293 pages.

Description: For the Posts, a two-week trip to the Balearic island of Mallorca with their extended family and friends is a celebration: Franny and Jim are observing their thirty-fifth wedding anniversary, and their daughter, Sylvia, has graduated from high school.

The sunlit island, its mountains and beaches, its tapas and tennis courts, also promise an escape from the tensions simmering at home in Manhattan. But all does not go according to plan: over the course of the vacation, secrets come to light, old and new humiliations are experienced, childhood rivalries resurface, and ancient wounds are exacerbated.


Rating:

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Book review: Seeing Other People by Mike Gayle


My edition: Paperback (proof), to be published on 28th August 2014 by Hodder & Stoughton, 362 pages.

Description: Father of two Joe Clarke, is about seventy-eight per cent sure he's just had an affair. After all that is the hopelessly attractive office intern in bed next to him, isn't it? But then again if he did have an affair why can't he remember anything at all about the night in question?

Mortified by his mistake, Joe vows to be a better man. But when his adored wife Penny puts two and two together and leaves him, things start to take a turn for the decidedly strange.

Joe is told for a fact that he DIDN'T have an affair after all. He just thinks he did.

Which is great news . . . or at least it would be if the person who'd just delivered it wasn't the crisp-eating, overly perfumed and mean-spirited GHOST of his least favourite ex-girlfriend . . .

Rating:

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Crabtree & Evelyn Pear and Pink Magnolia Hand Therapy



I always love browsing in Crabtree & Evelyn when I walk past one of their shops and so I was very excited to be trialling the Hand Therpy from the Pear and Pink Magnolia range.

First things first, the packaging the moisturising cream comes in is gorgeous. The thickness of the paper emanates luxury, and that is exactly what you'd want from a beauty item like this; feeling like you're treating yourself to something special. The simple but elegant drawing of the pear and magnolia the product is named after, heightens the classic and upscale look.

The moisturising cream comes in a vivid eye-popping pink tube, which looks great but I wasn't a big fan of it being made from a thick plastic, which took a little bit away from that feeling of luxury and grandness the outer packaging radiated.

The most important part of the Hand Therapy is of course the product inside of the packaging, and that was wonderful. As soon as I opened the lid I fell in love with the gorgeously refreshing scent. Perfect for the warm summer days laying ahead of us, the both fruity and floral fragrance brings with it an inviting aroma of serenity.

Just a small dot of the cream went a long way when applying it to the skin, instantly making my hands feel softer and smoother. And the lush scent changed from a strong zing of freshness into a delicate perfume that pleasantly lingered long after use.

I was very happy with the effectiveness of the Pear and Pink Magnolia Hand Therapy, which worked both as a rich moisturiser as well as a subtle and refreshing perfume and I'll definitely be checking out Crabtree & Evelyn's other hand therapy range!

Film review: Begin Again



Dan (Mark Ruffalo) is a has-been record producer who hasn't managed to sign a successful artist in years. His career has fallen apart and so has his marriage, and just when he's about to give up all hope he wanders into a bar where he hears Greta (Keira Knightley) sing a charming song she wrote about being alone in the city, which hits all the right spots for him.

Greta's long-time boyfriend and writing partner Dave (Adam Levine) recently broke up with her, and she is about to take the first available flight from New York City that will bring her back to her home country of England. But Dave convinces her to stay just a little while longer and give him the chance to produce her album. Together they embark on a tour of New York City, creating beautiful, soulful music with an eclectic mixture of fellow musicians.


While the summary may make this sound like a cheesy romantic comedy film, don't be fooled into thinking that this is a run of the mill chick flick. Anything but cliché, the romantic elements are subtle and almost disappear into the background, while the love for the beautiful music these people create and the feelings they express through the songs being a much more prominent feature.

From the first moment Knightley takes a reluctant step onto the stage with just a guitar to accompany her performance, she commands presence with a gentle singing voice. This was a lovely surprise as I hadn't expected her to be quite this believable as a singer-songwriter. Ruffalo's jaded Dan balances out Greta's sweetness well, with an appealing backstory involving his wife of eighteen years and a rebelling teenager daughter (an excellent performance by Hailee Steinfeld).

This is a cinematic charmer and with songs that capture the joie de vivre of summer in the city, a surprising musical turn by Keira Knightley and a real feel-good vibe, this is one of our top films of the year thus far.

Begin Again opens in cinemas across the UK on 11th July 2014.