Thursday, 29 December 2016
December is the month of favourites with my yearly round-ups of books and theatre having already gone up on the blog this week, and my 2016 in review to follow next week. That doesn't mean that I'll skip my monthly round-up though as there has been lots I've enjoyed this month and I want to share with you guys, including Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, RENT the Musical, Hygge, Vlogmas, The Netherlands, and Boxing Day sales!
Wednesday, 28 December 2016
What an amazing bookish year 2016 has been. I read a total of 103 books and managed to hit my Goodreads challenge once again (though, in fairness, it was lowered considerably from my usual target as this year has been far busier for me working wise and blogging wise and so I knew that elusive 125 books was out of reach early on. This is the year I discovered my love for beautiful non-fiction books, redisovered my love for young adult fiction, and I started collecting beautiful hardback to prettify my shelves. My favourite books of the year are mostly YA and non-fiction titles, though there is general fiction in there too, as well as a children's series I reread and fell head over heels in love with again. So without further ado, here are my 16 favourite reads in 2016!
Tuesday, 27 December 2016
With the year drawing to a close it's time to look back on all my theatrical outings of 2016 and which were the very best of the best. I've had the pleasure to see a fair share of mostly great productions and so narrowing it down to just 10 favourites wasn't an easy job, but I got there in the end. The final list is a decent mix of West End and fringe shows, with even a UK tour thrown in. The majority are musicals because I do tend to see more of those, but there are a few plays in my favourites too. So without further ado, here are my top 10 favourite theatre shows from 2016!
Friday, 23 December 2016
When Lisa Dickenson won the Novelicious Debut of the Year for Twelve Dates of Christmas, it propelled her into Hollywood stardom and she now spends her days hosting dance parties with Beyoncé and meeting up for regular coffee dates with her friends in Central Perk. Well, not quite. But she has written a host of fabulous books since, including You Had Me At Merlot, Catch Me If You Cannes and the brand-spankin' new Mistletoe on 34th Street, which brings Lisa back to her festive writing roots.
Thursday, 22 December 2016
I was so excited when last year I discovered that Pushkin Press had brought out English translations of Dutch children's classics The Letter for the King and The Secrets of the Wild Wood by Tonke Dragt, because – finally – more people could discover the incredible words and illustrations from an author who was a big part of my childhood in the Netherlands. And Pushkin Press didn't stop with her most famous duology either. Together with translator Laura Watkinson they published another work by Tonke Dragt: standalone adventure The Song of Seven.
Tuesday, 20 December 2016
I'm absolutely loving racing through the festive titles from my Bookish Gift Guide for the Holidays. The beautiful Christmas Stories anthology by Scholastic Classics was a particularly seasonal read that started to get me excited about the upcoming holidays. I mean, with words by Charles Dickens and Hans Christian Andersen within the pages, how could it not?
Monday, 19 December 2016
For the last bookish event of 2016, I was delighted to join the Walker Books team for their very Chrismassy evening last week. They revealed some of their most exciting Spring/Summer 2017 titles with authors Katherine Webber (Wing Jones) and Non Pratt (Truth or Dare), and a very special cover of Lauren James' upcoming novel The Loneliest Girl in the Universe, which sounds so very amazing.
Friday, 16 December 2016
Billy Cullum (Mark) and Ross Hunter (Roger). Photo credit: Matt Crockett
On the surface, a contemporary musical about a group of young people struggling with poverty, AIDS, addiction and prejudice in New York doesn't sound particularly enticing, but with a powerful story, an incredible cast of characters and a super catchy rock score this loose retelling of Puccini's opera La Bohème is one of the very best musical theatre has to offer. And the 20th anniversary production, touring the UK after it finishes its run in London at the end of January, is an absolute must-see.
Wednesday, 14 December 2016
Sometimes a book comes along that is so stunning in design that the only logical response is to stroke the cover upon first laying eyes upon it. The Twelve Days of Christmas, using intricate patterns from the Victoria and Albert Museum's William Morris collection with new illustrations by Liz Catchpole, is one such a treasure. This is not a book that evokes emotion through carefully crafted words, instead it does just that with its beautifully designed pages.
Monday, 12 December 2016
I wasn't certain that I was going to be able to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child this decade. The theatrical continuation of arguably the biggest book franchise in history, has been so popular that not only tickets are completely sold out, but when the next batch will go on sale they will be for mid-2018! Luckily for me, the producers have set up the Friday Forty in which fans have the chance to win tickets to both parts of the play the following week for just £20 each (so £40 in total). While demand for that too was through the roof, after months of trying my friend was lucky a few weeks ago – and we got to see both parts of the play two Saturdays ago from the centre of the Stalls. It was a magical experience.
Friday, 9 December 2016
It's been a while since I've highlighted some yummy food on here, but today I have a good one for you: Indian and British fusion restaurant Salaam Namaste. Located in Bloomsbury, this eatery has recently updated their a la carte menu for the winter season and I was delighted to try a selection of their dishes, which mix East and West not only in flavours and ingredients, but also in presentation.
Wednesday, 7 December 2016
One of the books from my Bookish Gift Guide for the Holidays I was particularly keen to dive into, purely from an aesthetic point of view, was A Christmas Cornucopia. The cover design is beautiful, and printed in hardback this makes for a very lovely stocking filler. Not only that, but when I actually started reading it I was instantly hooked on the words hidden within this pretty little festive tome too, which were insightful and hilarious in equal manner.
Monday, 5 December 2016
First I don't mention Harry Potter for ages and then I can't stop talking about it! This past month has been completely taken over by the Wizarding World as I attended the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them premiere (squee), saw both parts of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in theatre (double squee), and I was recently invited to a special event at the Warner Bros Studios in Leavesden to see the glorious festive additions to the Harry Potter sets for Hogwarts in the Snow. It was a truly magical experience. Do sit back as I take you on a Christmassy ride through Diagon Alley, the Great Hall, the Gryffindor Common Room, and more.
Friday, 2 December 2016
After the awesomeness that was October, filled with autumn fun and Canada, I though most of November would be me longing to go back on holiday or looking forward to my visit to the Netherlands for the holidays. While there was certainly some of that, November has been an unexpectedly brilliant in its own right. This month's favourites are pretty heavy on the TV, film and Harry Potter related fun with a special event at The Harry Potter Studios, the Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them premiere, Moana, Gilmore Girls, and Planet Earth 2.
Wednesday, 30 November 2016
With the start of December nearly upon us (yes really, better start planning that Christmas shopping!) I thought it was the perfect time to start reviewing the more festive titles from my Bookish Gift Guide for the Holidays. And I couldn't have picked a better novel than the I'll Be Home for Christmas anthology from Stripes Publishing. Not only is it jam-packed with a wide array of great stories from some of the hottest voices in British young adult fiction, but at least £1 from every copy sold goes directly to homelessness charity Crisis.
Monday, 28 November 2016
In my previous posts on Vancouver and wider British Columbia I talked about the best touristy things to see & do, hiking in Joffre Lakes Provincial Park, and even a shopping haul at Metrotown. While all of these were great fun to experience, the majority probably pop up in any good guide to BC. That's why in today's blog is all about lesser known activities that can be enjoyed in the city, or are just a short drive away, with a themed mystery game on the street of Vancouver, an Indiana Jones inspired escape room, and a corn maze.
Friday, 25 November 2016
One of the most exciting things about reviewing books, is getting the chance to discover new voices long before they go mainstream. Can you imagine reading award-winning novels such as The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce before these authors are widely known to the public? It's a real privilege.
Wednesday, 23 November 2016
I love a good detective and no-one does young adult murder mystery quite as well as Sara Shepard, author of Pretty Little Liars, The Lying Game, The Perfectionists and many more ace series with kick-ass teenage characters outwitting most of the adults around them. The Amateurs introduces a whole new cast of seemingly unlikely young super sleuths, who take the reader on a roller-coaser ride filled with twists and turns.
Monday, 21 November 2016
Did you know that the town of Drumheller in the Canadian province of Alberta is known as the dinosaur capital of the world? Or that its surroundings are filled with fascinating rock formations that are called Hoodoos? When I went to Edmonton we also made a day trip to Drumheller, which is located in the heart of the Canadian Badlands and about a three-hour drive away (it is closer to Calgary if you're going there as well) – and it was brilliant. The Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology was an incredibly fascinating place to visit and the landscape of the area unlike anything I've ever seen before.
Friday, 18 November 2016
Another week, another festive event! Last weekend I hopped on the tube for the Country Living Christmas Fair at the Business Design Centre in Islington. This is the seasonal fair I've been frequenting the most these last few years (previously covering it with my Woman's World hat on) and it's still one of my favourites. The exhibitors at the event really get that Country Living brand feel across, and so browsing the stalls feels like walking into the pages of the magazine. And this year the quality and diversity of the products on offer was even higher than before, with exhibitors ranging from very affordable to the much more luxurious end – and everything crafty, fun, tasty, quirky and unique in between.
Wednesday, 16 November 2016
Books are the perfect gift for the holidays (though they're not just for Christmas, guys!), however it can be a challenge finding just the right title for the right person. I've done the hard work for you this year by researching recent releases that are especially seasonal or gifty, making them the perfect present for your friends and family members (or yourself, of course). I've divided the guide by adult non-fiction, adult fiction and children's/young adult fiction, so you can skip straight to the right section if you already have some idea of what you'd like to get. I've also linked to my reviews if they've been published already and if they haven't yet, keep an eye on them in the next few weeks. Enjoy!
Monday, 14 November 2016
I've spoken about Vancouver a lot already, but on my recent trip to Canada I also ventured into a for me entirely new province: Alberta. This wasn't one high on the priority list before, but I went to visit friends and I ended up really enjoying the places I explored. One of them was Edmonton, the base of my flying visit to Alberta and in this post I'll talk about some of the city's highlights, including the North Saskatchewan River Valley, West Edmonton Mall and Old Strathcona Farmers' Market.
Friday, 11 November 2016
The first Christmas event of the season, House & Garden's beautiful Spirit of Christmas, has already finished and I'm feeling properly festive now! The fair was filled with tasty brands and unique crafts & decorations, and I had a wonderful time browsing the stalls to pick up gifts for friends and family members. I won't share pictures of my purchases as to not spoil the surprise, but I did want to highlight some exhibitors that particularly stood our to me with beautiful and high quality products. The fair may have already finished, but I included the website links for those where I picked up a business card, so you can still buy your own presents for the holidays from these talented British businesses.
Wednesday, 9 November 2016
Firebird by Claudia Gray is one of my most favourite young adult series. The books are innovative, exciting, constantly take me by surprise and the world-building is on another level – it's absolutely stunning. A Thousand Pieces of You was its highly imaginative opener that got me hooked, Ten Thousand Skies Above You was the sequel that blew me away, meticulously plotted and possibly even better than the first book, and A Million World With You provided an explosive conclusion, even bigger and more epic than its precedents.
Tuesday, 8 November 2016
Photo credit: Scott Rylander
St James Theatre in Victoria is an underrated performing space. Tucked away just behind the much flashier Victoria Palace, which for many years housed family favourite Billy Elliot and will be home to Broadway hype Hamilton next, they often put on new or lesser known musicals but with an incredible cast and creative team behind it. From Miss Atomic Bomb to Urinetown and You Won't Succeed on Broadway if You Don't Have Any Jews to two-hander The Last Five Years starring Samantha Barks (Les Misérables) and Jonathan Bailey (Broadchurch).
Monday, 7 November 2016
One of the things I was excited for on my trip to Canada was... shopping! I'm not a massive shopper usually but I do have the occasional urge to treat myself, and where better than somewhere where they have a host of shops unavailable to me in the UK? I didn't end up buying loads for myself (partly because on my very first day I had to buy a new charger for my MacBook, which was a hit to my funds, and partly because most of what I bought were actually gifts for my family), but I did find some things I loved for myself too. I mostly browsed while in Vancouver and then made my purchases in Edmonton as there is a much lower tax rate there (and the West Edmonton mall is also the biggest shopping mall in North America so I had easy access there to everything in one place). Check out my purchases below, divided by beauty, clothes, homeware, food and souvenirs.
Friday, 4 November 2016
October was when two of my favourite things in life collided: autumn and Canada. Autumn is my favourite time of year; I absolutely love the colours, smells and cosiness of the season, and this year has thus far been particularly great with barely any rain in the UK. *knocks on wood* And then there was my long-anticipated holiday to Canada which was everything I wanted it to be and then some. I'm doing a weekly travel blog on my adventures so won't go into too much detail here, but of course couldn't let it off my favourites. As for tangible things I enjoyed this month, they include stunning non-fiction books, beautifully smelling products from Bath & Body works, fluffy fox socks, the best hand cream for dry autumn hands from Cath Kidston, and comfy flannel shirts I picked up in Bluenotes.
Thursday, 3 November 2016
Photo credit: Konrad Bartelski
I love the National Youth Music Theatre. Not only does it remind me of my own time going to a theatre school in the Netherlands, but these kids are so incredibly talented and the NYMT is deservedly the stepping stone for many onto the West End stage and beyond. From Ben Barnes to Sheridan Smith, some of the biggest names in entertainment have made their debut at the NYMT during the 40 years it has been going. And last Sunday night alumni, fans, friends, family and current company members all came together to celebrate some of the greatest productions and people in NYMT history at Encore: 40 Years of NYMT.
Wednesday, 2 November 2016
With the start of November this week and the clocks having gone back last weekend, the noticeably darker and colder days have settled in, which means it is now totally okay to dive into my first festively themed reads, right? There May Be a Castle isn't an obvious seasonal read, but it does take place on Christmas Eve and so I found it to be the perfect novel to kick-off the festive period with. And not only does it feel suitably wintery, it's also an incredibly imaginative and beautiful novel of two young children's courageous journeys throughout one day – a must-read for young and old alike.
Tuesday, 1 November 2016
Photo credit: Pamela Raith
Side Show tells the story of real-life conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton, from growing up in a seedy freak show in Texas to being propelled into the Hollywood spotlight. Along the way they struggle with identity and being seen as two individuals, alongside every day problems such as romance woes and naivety when shown kindness when they least expect it. It makes for an engrossing and, despite the subject matter, a very relatable premise.
Monday, 31 October 2016
Even though I lived in Canada for a full year before, one thing I didn't do enough of was exploring outside of the cities I was living in; especially when I was in Vancouver, where I didn't venture much further than Whistler. I was keen to finally change this and I got this opportunity when my friends planned a hiking trip to the amazing Joffre Lakes, which are located about a 3-hour drive from Vancouver. It was stunning, it was exciting, it was fun, and it was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.
Friday, 28 October 2016
Photo credit: Marc Brenner
When I'd just moved to London in 2010, not a month went by without me visiting the National Theatre, but with an increasingly busy social and work life (not to mention an entire city of theatres to explore) I don't go to the NT as often anymore as I'd like. So when I do get a chance to pop by my favourite haunt on the South Bank, it's always feels like a treat. The most recent productions I've reviewed there were the excellent Jane Eyre and Three Days in the Country, but since those were over a year ago already, needless to say a visit was long overdue. And I couldn't have had a more memorable reunion with the NT than with the spectacular and riveting Amadeus.
Wednesday, 26 October 2016
I had the pleasure of meeting author Beth Garrod at a Scholastic blogger event earlier this year where she spoke about her then upcoming novel Super Awkward. Approaching it from the perspective of being a "super awkward author", she was absolutely hilarious and so needless to say I was super keen to get my hands on her book after that.
Tuesday, 25 October 2016
With only one week to go until November it's safe to say I've gone into full Christmas mood. Yes, I am one of those people but who doesn't love the season of fluffy socks and cosy jumpers, the crispy sound and smell of open fires, the beautiful twinkling lights, and seasonal film rewatches (I'm looking at you The Muppet Christmas Carol and Curly Sue)? It's also the time of year I am reunited with my family so that homely feeling is definitely a big part of it for me too. However, before I leave for the Netherlands I always like to make the most from Christmas in London. One of the things I especially love about the city is the abundance of fairs, which are perfect to buy unique gifts from independent British brands and to gather inspiration for festive crafts and decorations.
Monday, 24 October 2016
Even though I'm in denial, I've been back from Canada for a week already. However, I'm determined to make the holiday feeling last for a few more months by treating you to a weekly blog post in which I'll be telling you about all the fun I had! I have a lot of different blog posts planned – from one on our hike to the stunning Joffre Lakes to a shopping haul – but for the first one I'd like to highlight some of the most awesome touristy things I enjoyed in Vancouver (some will get dedicated posts in the coming months too), including Stanley Park, Vancouver Aquarium, FlyOver Canada, VanDusen Botanical Gardens, Grouse Mountain, Capilano Suspension Bridge, Library Square, Commercial Drive and Vancouver Lookout.
Friday, 21 October 2016
Photo credit:Scott Rylander
After the epic production of Titanic over the summer, artistic director Thom Southerland is continuing his winning streak at Charing Cross Theatre with Ragtime. This musical adaptation of the 1975 novel by E.L. Doctorow brings together three different stories, each representing a group of people prominent within the US at the turn of the 20th century when Ragtime was at its height. And the new production is filled with heart and rhythm, just like the musical genre it's named after.
Wednesday, 19 October 2016
Hygge is a Danish word that encompasses the feeling of cosiness and living well. Denmark is often called the happiest country on earth and the concept of hygge is one of the main attributions to this. With the darker winter months settling in and people's working and social lives being more busy and stressful than ever before, we can all use a little hygge in our lives. And this gorgeous book by the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen can help you do just that.
Wednesday, 12 October 2016
I love Cath Kidston and I love Disney, so when the two brands announced their collaboration I couldn't have been more excited. I signed up for the newsletter and pre-sale, and even cheekingly emailed the PR office to see if there would be a press viewing I could attend so my blog about the products could go live the same day it launched in shops. Sadly my emails went unanswered, so on Monday 26 September I counted down the hours until my lunch break instead to rush to the shops for an impromptu photo shoot of the collection that was absolutely flying off the shelves.
Monday, 10 October 2016
Since it's mid-October that means it's safe to say the C-word, right? And by that I, of course, mean Christmas. I always like to be very organised and start thinking about gifts for the holidays around this time and I already know that the absolutely gorgeous Other-Wordly, with words by Yee-Lum Mak and illustrations by Kelsey Garrity-Riley, will be my go-to gift for friends and family this year. It is quirky, insightful and one of the most stunning non-fiction books I've had the pleasure to read in a very long time.
Friday, 7 October 2016
I've said it many times before but it bears repeating: absolutely love Lindsey Kelk's books. She is hilarious in real life and her witty humour really shines trough in her writing. On top of the I Heart... and About a Girl series, she's also started writing some excellent stand-alone novels and We Were on a Break is her latest one, perfectly personifying her fun style. Also, how genius is the title of this one? I dare you to read it and not think of Ross and Rachel from Friends. (Let's say it all together: WE. WERE. ON. A BREAK!)
Wednesday, 5 October 2016
I've really been getting into reading more children's books again lately, not in the least thanks to the stunning The Girl of Ink and Stars by Kiran Millwood Hargrave, published by Chicken House Books earlier this year. So when the same publisher reached out to me to tell me about The Secret of Nightingale Wood I couldn't have been more excited to read it. The novel sounded like a future children's classic in the making, along the lines of The Secret Garden and The Railway Children.
Monday, 3 October 2016
Interview with Freddie Tapner, Founder and Principal Conductor of the London Musical Theatre Orchestra
A few months ago I had the pleasure of attending a gala launch to celebrate the first public season of the London Musical Theatre Orchestra (LMTO). It was an incredible evening, which really showed off the immense talent of the musicians on stage and it got me very excited for their first show this year, State Fair at Cadogan Hall on 6 November. And because this performance is just a month away now, I'm delighted to share with you my interview with Freddie Tapner, who is the founder and Principal Conductor of the LMTO.
Friday, 30 September 2016
I am going to Canada tomorrow! I bet you can guess what will dominate my favourites in October. But let's not get ahead of ourselves and look back at September today instead. This month for me has been all about getting in the cosy autumn mood with new jumpers, slippers and a comforting scented candle. I also enjoyed some new and old TV-shows, including, of course, The Great British Bake Off, and fell head over heels in love with the Disney X Cath Kidston collection.
Wednesday, 28 September 2016
I was thrilled to join my friend Laura at the Chapter 5 Proof Party a few months ago, which was a super fun bookish evening organised by Hodder & Stoughton's YA team where I picked up three amazing proofs. It was hard to decide which one to dive into first, but the stunning cover of Caraval by Stephanie Garber, not to mention the unanimously amazing reviews online, eventually made me pick this one – and what a fantastic choice it was!
Monday, 26 September 2016
I talk about Jewellerybox a lot, both on my blog and in real life. So much so that I had a friend jokingly ask me if I get paid for it. I don't, but when I love something I do tend to tell everyone about it – and this brand is one of my absolute favourites. So when they mentiond their new Karma Moments range at the Bloggers Festival and extended an invite to attend the launch, I of course couldn't say no.
Thursday, 22 September 2016
I do love myself a good read filled with 'golden oldies', from A Man Called Ove to Last Bus to Coffeeville and The One-in-a-Million Boy to The Extra Ordinary Life of Frank Derrick, Age 81. Books with one or more elderly main characters have a certain charm to them, reminiscent of children's classics but with a touch of cheeky humour and foolishness. The saying that the older you get the crazier you become does hold up, in fiction at least, and never more so than among the residents of the We Care For You home in Casting Off.
Wednesday, 21 September 2016
In just 10 days I'll be reunited with my favourite city in the world! Not all of you may know this as I used to have another blog where I captured my travel adventures (RIP Livejournal), but I lived in Canada for a year straight after graduating university and it's been 10 years almost to the day since I left that beautiful country. I had plans to go back many times since but life got in the way and before I knew it a decade had passed. Yes, I feel old now. Anyway, Vancouver is the most incredible city in the world and this post is all about the 10 touristy things I'm excited to see, do or eat there this time around.
Tuesday, 20 September 2016
When author Julie Mayhew spoke about her latest novel, Mother Tongue, at the Hot Key Books Spring/Summer Highlights event I was instantly enthralled by the heartbreaking premise focusing on the Beslan school siege from 2004. She has a knack for taking a pivotal moment within history and creating a story around it with fictional characters that through her impeccable research feels highly realistic – and Mother Tongue is a prime example of this.
Friday, 16 September 2016
I love going on a day trip to Brighton, especially in summertime. The colourful shopping Lanes and vibrant atmosphere make it feel a million miles away from London, and it's only about an hour's journey by train to get there. In addition to the great shops and the beach, one place I always make a stop at on my visits (if only to have a browse in the excellent gift shop) is the Royal Pavilion. It is one of the most interesting buildings within the city and brings a touch of the oriental to the otherwise very British seaside town.
Wednesday, 14 September 2016
With the current popularity of fairy tale retellings within young adult novels, it was only a matter of time before someone would be inspired by the success of Disney's Frozen and create a young adult adaptation of the source material, Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen. Written by Danielle Paige, who has gained international success through her Dorothy Must Die series, which puts a YA spin on the world of the wonderful Wizard of Oz, this is the story of the Snow Queen like you've never heard it before.