Tuesday 31 December 2013


Book review: Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas

My edition: Paperback, to be published on 2nd January 2014 by Atlantic books, 513 pages.

Description: His whole life Danny Kelly's only wanted one thing: to win Olympic gold. Everything he's ever done - every thought, every dream, every action - takes him closer to that moment of glory, of vindication, when the world will see him for what he is: the fastest, the strongest and the best. His life has been a preparation for that moment.

His parents struggle to send him to the most prestigious private school with the finest swimming program; Danny loathes it there and is bullied and shunned as an outsider, but his coach is the best and knows Danny is, too, better than all those rich boys, those pretenders. Danny's win-at-all-cost ferocity gradually wins favour with the coolest boys - he's Barracuda, he's the psycho, he's everything they want to be but don't have the guts to get there. He's going to show them all.


Saturday 28 December 2013


Theatre review: American Psycho

Synopsis: Living the high life in 1980s Manhattan, Patrick Bateman has it all – looks, money, style and status. He and his entourage buy the most expensive designer clothes, eat at the most exclusive restaurants and party at the hottest clubs. But privately, Patrick indulges in another kind of transgression. And people - including those closest to him - keep disappearing.

Rupert Goold directs this musical adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis's iconic novel, from the composer of Spring Awakening, which casts Patrick Bateman centre stage as an anti-hero for our time.

Cast: Matt Smith as Patrick Bateman. Ben Aldridge, Charlie Anson, Jonathan Bailey, Katie Brayben, Cassandra Compton, Holly Dale Spencer, Susannah Fielding, Simon Gregor, Holly James, Lucie Jones, Tom Kay, Gillian Kirkpatrick, Eugene McCoy and Hugh Skinner.


Tuesday 24 December 2013


Book review: Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop by Jenny Colgan

My edition: Hardcover, published on 7th November 2013 by Sphere, 432 pages.

Description: Rosie Hopkins is looking forward to Christmas in the little Derbyshire village of Lipton, buried under a thick blanket of snow.

Her sweetshop is festooned with striped candy canes, large tempting piles of Turkish Delight, crinkling selection boxes and happy, sticky children. She's going to be spending it with her boyfriend, Stephen, and her family, flying in from Australia. She can't wait.

But when a tragedy strikes at the heart of their little community, all of Rosie's plans for the future seem to be blown apart. Can she build a life in Lipton? And is what's best for the sweetshop also what's best for Rosie?


Tuesday 17 December 2013


Dinner at Léon de Bruxelles

Léon de Bruxelles started its life 120 years ago in the heart of Belgium's capital, Brussels, and eventually made its way across the pond with its flagship eatery to England. Based in London's West End it attracts culture lovers, locals, tourists and mussel connoisseurs with a plethora of mussel dishes, crispy fries with mayonnaise and Belgian beers.

As soon as we sat down at our table and were given our menus we knew we were in a restaurant that specialised in mussels. Not only did the variety of seafood offerings comprise a large portion of the menu, but the menu itself was shaped like a mussel shell, which was a nice and quirky touch and certainly whetted our appetites for what was to come.

For a starter my guest opted for the calamari fried in breadcrumbs and served with tartar sauce, which she was very pleased with. It was a generous portion on the plate and while the little taste I had was slightly too greasy for my liking, my friend disagreed with me and was very satisfied with her first course.

I myself chose the wild mushroom croquettes, which was one of three flavourings on the menu, and they were very good indeed. As soon as I bit into the first croquette an intense mushroom flavour exploded in my mouth, which reminded me of a good creamy mushroom soup but with a little more bite. It was a very pleasant start to the evening and set the bar high for the rest of the meal.

My friend, who I believe is somewhat of an expert when it comes to the taste of shellfish (opposed to myself, I am much more of a novice), choose the fairly basic mariniere mussels as her main, reasoning that the simple sauce of white wine with parsley and shallots wouldn't distract from the overall taste of the course.

She was very satisfied with the flavour of the dish, which was served in a heavy iron bucket to keep the meal warm. It was a large portion however, so despite it being very tasty she was unable to finish it in its entirety. As with all the mussel mains, hers was served with the well-known large and crispy fries known as Belgian frites, which were delicious and complemented the seafood flavour well.

I haven't had mussels on many occasions in the past and so my eyes did wander back and forth between the wealth of other options on the menu, especially the grilled salmon with pesto sauce and the entrecote sounded very appealing, but eventually I decided that when in Rome (or Belgium in this case), I should really try one of the restaurant's specialties.

Still thinking about the grilled salmon on the next page I chose the salmon and basil mussels, which ended up being the perfect combination of flavours for me. There was a generous amount of salmon mixed in with my mussels, though I've come to realise that while I enjoyed the dish as served I'm not much of a mussel fan in general. I am pleased I gave it a try though and with a delicious dish at that.

My main too was served in a heavy iron bucket which kept it warm for the duration of the meal, even though I was taking my time as opening the mussels is quite a slow process. Another reason I didn't rush the main course is that it was a very large portion, and despite my best efforts I too wasn't able to polish off my plate in the end.

While we were both unable to finish our main courses, we of course couldn't resist the temptation of a sugary sweet dessert and as such we asked for the menu once more, before spending a fair amount of time salivating over all the options. My friend opted for the Belgian chocolate fondant because, again, when in Rome, and you can hardly go wrong with chocolate - especially from Belgium. It was a dense and very chocolatey cake, complimented well by the gently flavoured ice cream on the side.

I myself had made up my mind as soon as I laid eyes upon the dessert titled La Coupe Spéculoos. Most of you are probably not familiar with this, but I am from the Netherlands and speculoos is a well known spicy shortcrust biscuit - and a smooth and gooey bread spread, which I admit I sometimes eat straight from the jar with a spoon. So of course the idea of an ice cream flavoured with something I'm very fond of was too hard to resist.

The coupe was served with caramelised apple compote in the bottom of the glass, speculoos ice cream in the middle and a very generous wallop of Chantilly cream on top, which was decorated with some speculoos biscuit crumbs. It was an amazing combination of sweet and warming flavours and for me this delectable dessert alone made the visit to the restaurant worthwhile. Not that any of the other courses weren't well presented, cooked or flavoured, but this one was particularly enticing and memorable.

With more varieties of mussels on the menu than can be counted on two hands, and other Belgian specialties such as frites and beers to compliment their main speciality, Léon de Bruxelles has a lot to offer to those who love fresh, well-seasoned seafood and a good brew.

And even if those options don't particularly tickle your fancy you'll be sure to find something of interest on the diverse menu, which also includes other seafood dishes as well as meat and vegetarian options. My particular favourite and recommendation would be the dessert La Coupe Spéculoos, which is a slightly tart but mostly sweet and spicy little piece of heaven.

Léon de Bruxelles, 24 Cambridge Circus, London WC2H 8AA.


BLOG TOUR - Book review: A Cinderella Christmas by Holly Kingston

My edition: ebook, published on 15th November 2013 by Novelicious Books, 101 pages.

Description: Lucy Tilley dreams of a career in show business. But this isn't quite what she had in mind...

This year's Cinderella pantomime is the hottest production in town. What's more, Lucy is starring alongside Ryan Aspall: famous TV actor, sex symbol and potential love of her entire life. One teeny problem - Lucy is tripping the light fantastic as... the back end of the comedy cow. Surely nothing kills a flirty moment quite like wearing a massive set of udders?

At least she has the support of glamorous (if potentially flammable) Charmaine; a reality star diva of a Cinderella, who Lucy is completely fascinated by. But behind the fame and beauty, Charmaine is not all she seems.

With more drama off the stage than on it, and everyone wanting to be star of the show, will Lucy find the confidence to make it out of the cow suit and into the spotlight this Christmas?


Monday 16 December 2013


Naturally Made For You body butters

Naturally Made For You products are exactly what they say on the tin: naturally made. The brand's owner Kadifa Jones sees it as her mission to provide a collection of products are completely natural and actually work too. For this review I tried two products from the range: the Whipped Shea Butter with Nutmeg and Orange (which is naturally rich in vitamins A and E) and the Whipped Mango Butter Red Mandarin, Cinnamon and Ginger (which is high in antioxidants and rich in vitamins).

From its core ingredients I expected the Whipped Mango Butter Red Mandarin, Cinnamon and Ginger to have a heavily spiced scent, but instead it was much more nutty and earthy and admittedly not a fragrance I instantly fell in love with when opening the lid. However, once I started using the body butter I was surprised by how much the scent changed on my skin and it became more zesty and pleasant the more I rubbed it in. even more enticing on the skin and pleasantly lingers lightly long after use.

The cream initially was incredibly thick in consistency yet as soon as I applied it to my body it became more oily and was easy to spread out making a small scoop go a long way. Unfortunately it wasn't instantly absorbed. meaning that it left my skin feeling a bit sticky and I had to wait a little while before I could use my hands again. It was worth it in the end as it definitely helped patch up dry areas on my skin, but I don't generally like to wait for a cream to be absorbed.

The Whipped Shea Butter with Nutmeg and Orange smelled absolutely divine and was definitely my favourite out of the two I tried on this occasion. As soon as I opened the packaging the heavenly fragrance was released, and the warm and spicy tones that emerged instantly put me in a wintery and rather festive mood, which is of course perfect for this season. Scent aside, once applied it was very similar to the first body butter I tried; thick in the pot, oily during application, and leaving my skin feeling soft and supple.

As a body butter both do the trick very well (if you can be a little patient and wait for the cream to be absorbed completely that is), but fragrance wise my preference definitely goes to the nutmeg and orange scented body butter which not only is a very appealing fragrance when still in the pot, but becomes even more enticing on the skin and pleasantly lingers lightly long after use.

Monday 9 December 2013


Biscuiteers event with Lindsey Kelk

Last Wednesday my friend and I got to attend a special baking event with the lovely Lindsey Kelk in celebration of her latest release, I Heart Christmas (which is brilliant by the way, read my review here), which was a super fun night!

"Bake with Lindsey" was held at the Biscuiteers boutique and icing cafe in West London (just off Portobello Road Market), which I'd never been to before but I definitely want to return to. They sold the most exquisitely iced biscuits, from ones shaped and coloured in like dragonflies and dogs to a whole advent calendar of different figures. And they also carry a lot of super cute baking supplies, perfect for those people who have been bit by the baking bug since the last series of The Great British Bake Off.

Before the biscuit icing fun commenced we were welcomed with delicious Prosecco and canapes (I particularly loved a salmon one that came on a mini crumpet) and got a chance to mingle with the other women in attendance (where we mostly talked about books, of course!).

And before we knew it it was time to head downstairs where tables were laid out with festively coloured icing and ginger biscuits shaped like Christmas baubles and Christmas trees, which we could paint to our heart's content. There was a contest for the prettiest one and mine, unsurprisingly, didn't make the cut, lol. I really enjoyed icing them but they pretty much looked like a child had been let loose on them :p

Our supplies, there was gold paint!

A blank canvas...

My wonky biscuits >.<

After the icing there was a Q&A where we got the opportunity to question Lindsey about her writing process and novels. My friend wanted to know if it was difficult to write a seasonal novel while it wasn't anywhere near December and Lindsey said that while it was slightly challenging she also found it a lot of fun to do because she loves Christmas. She also explained the differences between celebrating the holidays in the UK and America and how in the US Christmas was put on hold for Thanksgiving (cue a hilarious story regarding her organising Thanksgiving dinner for her friends in New York).

Someone else asked how it was to tackle a new series and Lindsey said that initially she was worried that Tess (from About a Girl) would be very similar to Angela but when she started writing this wasn't the case at all. She also said that if I Heart New York had been written with Tess in the lead it would've been a completely different novel.

There were a lot more questions after that, but my memory is rubbish and it has been five days since the event, so... After the Q&A we all got a chance to get our books signed and pose for photos before heading off with a lovely goodie bag (which was the icing on the eh... icing event). In all it was a brilliant evening, I mean there was booze, biscuit icing and book chat, what is there not to love? Many thanks to Lindsey, Katie, Lucy and everyone else for making this such a fab event!

Photo with the lovely Lindsey (who was wearing an awesome Christmas jumper!)

Fab goodie bag we received at the event, including an I Heart Christmas
advent calendar, nail file and Oyster card holder.

My signed copy of I Heart Christmas :)

Sunday 8 December 2013


Sunday post #17

Sunday is when I sit back with a lovely cup of tea and write about all the wonderful new books I've received and purchased in the past week. This post participates in fab memes Showcase Sunday and Stacking the Shelves.

After I Left You by Alison Mercer (review copy)
Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas (review copy)
It Felt Like a Kiss by Sarra Manning (review copy)
The All You Can Dream Buffet by Barbara O'Neal - ebook (review copy)

I have had an awful few weeks at work so thank heavens for lovely book post and literary events as a distraction! Two weeks ago my colleague (who is also my friend) and I were told that our jobs are at risk of redundancy and only one of us will be kept on going forward. We're now in the process of reapplying for the job but whatever happens it's an awful situation... Either I lose my job this Wednesday or my friend will and I'm going to feel terribly guilty for being the one to "win". It's horrible and stressful and I really wish we weren't put in this position, and just before Christmas too :(

Anyway, as I said, thankfully book post and events have been able to distract me somewhat. Now I have a Kindle I've finally signed up for NetGalley and I had my first request approved this week! Fingers crossed this is going to help me against the everlasting battle of books vs shelf space (I doubt it though, I can still not walk past a charity shop without buying new books...). Not pictured above but something cool I also received this week was a personalised Christmas card from the one and only Sophie Kinsella! That definitely cheered me up :)

Finally, friend and I had a brilliant evening on Wednesday at the Biscuiteers in London where we had booze, biscuits icing fun and book chat with the always lovely Lindsey Kelk! I'll try to put up a proper post about the event and some pictures (including of my wonky biscuits...) early next week.

Hope you guys had a wonderful bookish week ♥

Friday 6 December 2013


The Scottish Fine Soaps Company winter range 2013

As a lover of all things Christmas - I'm one of those people who will start decorating before December has even started and if I can get away with it I will leave some cute reindeer figurines dotted around the house all year around - so I was excited to be trialling bath and body products created by The Scottish Fine Soaps Company specifically with the holiday season in mind.

The Scottish Fine Soaps Company is a Scottish based manufacturer established in 1974, which creates products that promote well-being for the mind and body. Now, 40 years down the line, the company produces a variety of bath and body items, including a special Christmas range, which is inspired by the smells and themes of the festive December feast.

There are a lot of gorgeous scents I associate with the rapidly approaching festivities; the smokiness of chestnuts roasting on an open fire, the warming qualities of ginger and cinnamon used to spice up dishes and hot drinks, and of course the zesty mandarins and satsumas which are in abundance this season - and I was keen to see if the Scottish company was able to replicate these Christmas scents within their winter range.

For this review I tried the products in the Spiced Apple Pamper Tin (which includes a 75ml body butter, 75ml body wash and two 100g luxury soaps) and the Gingerbread Luxurious Essentials Drum (which contains a 75ml hand & nail cream, 75ml body wash, 75ml body butter and a 40g soap). Both gift boxes come in festive green and red colours, the tin even has a luxurious golden touch to it, making them a perfect addition for underneath the Christmas tree - and they don't even require battling endless amounts of wrapping paper and sticky tape to look the part.

The contents were equally fun and festive. With a snowflake pattern on the packaging they perfectly represent the wintery theme that became eminent as soon as I opened the boxes and I was enveloped in the warm and homely scent of Christmas. The soaps in particular emanated the holiday feel as their strong fragrance broke free without even having to open their packaging, though all the products when used had a strong festive scent that pleasantly lingered after application.

I really enjoyed trying the various products within the gift drum and tin. The scents complimented each other well and so it's perfectly fine to mix and match them by for instance using the sweet Spiced Apple body wash, followed by the spicy but still gentle Gingerbread body butter. Both the body butter and hand & nail cream were easy to apply and were instantly absorbed, leaving my skin feeling velvety soft and smelling gorgeously like a bundle of Christmas sweets.

I thought that both the Spiced Apple and Gingerbread fragrances were absolutely lush and highly addicting as I often found myself opening the tubes of cream just to get a whiff of the enticing scent within. It did make it impossible to pick a favourite so I have resorted to using them in alternating order and disappear in a cloud of Spiced Apple and Gingerbread, spreading the smell of Christmas wherever I go.


Book review: Make My Wish Come True by Fiona Harper

My edition: Paperback, published on 1st November 2013 by Mills & Boon, 384 pages.

Description: Family-orientated and Christmas-dinner cook extraordinaire Juliet is trying to keep it together in the wake of her marriage breakdown two Christmases ago, but the cracks are beginning to show.

Bright and vivacious Gemma was always the favourite daughter... So she has no qualms about leaving Christmas in her sister Juliet's capable hands; and escaping the pressures of her glamorous job, and the festive madness by jetting off to somewhere warm.

When Gemma shirks responsibility once too many and announces she’s off to the Caribbean (again!); Juliet finally snaps. Gemma offers her sister the perfect solution - to swap Christmases: she’ll stay home and cook the turkey (how hard can it be?) and Juliet can fly off into the sun and have a restorative break.

In the midst of all the chaos, there’s Will, Juliet's dishy neighbour who's far too nice to float Gemma's boat and may secretly harbour feelings for her sister; and Marco, the suave Italian in the villa next door, who has his own ideas about the best way to help Juliet unwind.

Will the sisters abandon caution and make this a Christmas swap to remember?


Wednesday 4 December 2013


Book review: There's More to Life Than Cupcakes by Poppy Dolan

My edition: ebook, published on 10th October 2013 by Novelicious Books, 295 pages.

Description: Ellie Redford has a husband, a job and a home. According to the rest of the world, it's baby o'clock already. Shame life doesn't come with a recipe...

Ellie knows that starting a family with lovely husband Pete would be an amazing adventure. Pete would make a brilliant dad and she'd have an excuse to eat shed loads of Cherry Bakewell. But Ellie's bestie would rather she was up at 3am with a bottle of Malibu, not formula. And with redundancies looming, Ellie's boss isn't exactly going to throw her a shower if she disappears for a year, with pay.

While Ellie juggles her feelings (and everyone else's) as competently as a drunken clown, she finds herself signing up for a baking class, alongside the young, free and sizzling hot Joe. As they work buns and shape tarts, is there more to their friendship than a shared appreciation of Paul Hollywood?

Ellie's soufflés may be rising, but her personal life is one big soggy mess. If she doesn't make a decision soon, she may just lose everything that matters to her. Maybe it's time to take off the pinny and face up to the truth: there's more to life than cupcakes...


Monday 2 December 2013


Book review: The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

My edition: Paperback (proof copy), to be published on 27th February 2014 by Penguin Books, 436 pages.

Description: One single mum
With two jobs and two children, Jess Thomas does her best day after day. But it's hard on your own. And sometimes you take risks you shouldn't. Because you have to...

One chaotic family
Jess's gifted, quirky daughter Tanzie is brilliant with numbers, but without a helping hand she'll never get the chance to shine. And Nicky, Jess's teenage stepson, can't fight the bullies alone. Sometimes Jess feels like they're sinking...

One handsome stranger
Into their lives comes Ed Nicholls, a man whose life is in chaos, and who is running from a deeply uncertain future. But he has time on his hands. He knows what it's like to be lonely. And he wants to help...


Friday 29 November 2013


Naturalmente yogurt and millet conditioner & rosemary and lavender shampoo

It's easy to take your luscious locks for granted and only really notice them when they don't do what you want. I often find myself complaining about a bad hair day when it's just too frizzy that no matter how much product I put in it in the morning, it simply won't stay in place. What we usually forget though is that it isn't just a good hair cut or a lot of styling products that can make or break a look, it's also how you take care of your locks on an every day basis.

Humid weather, exposure to a lot of sunshine, intense cold, pollution, styling products and even stress can have a negative effect on your scalp and hair from the roots to the very tips. It's important to nourish your hair so it stays healthy, strong and properly protected from all these elements.

Naturalmente is inspired by the healing powers of aromatherapy with its main ingredients derived from certified organic botanicals. The bio dynamic haircare brand originates from the heart of the Tuscany Hills and its products are petrochemical-free and created from plant-based formulations. For this review I put the rosemary and lavender shampoo as well as the yogurt and millet conditioner to the test, to see if the products really do help nourish hair and scalp in the testing weather conditions that accompany the change of seasons.

The rosemary and lavender shampoo has purifying and detoxifying qualities which helps restore the hair to its natural state. The essential oils of rosemary, lavender, eucalyptus and sandal, cleanse and restore the delicate acid mantle of the scalp. After using the shampoo with its refreshingly different scent my hair felt extremely clean and so it certainly achieved what it set out to do. I did find it difficult to apply it to my long hair as the product doesn't lather and so I struggled spreading it out over a large area, but it certainly was worth the effort in the end.

Important to note is that you shouldn't use this shampoo on two consecutive washes. The first wash has already stripped the hair of unwanted elements left behind by styling products and pollution and so using it again would risk getting rid of the hair's natural protective oils as well.

The yogurt and millet conditioner aims to restore dry, damaged and dull hair. Essential oils of mint, lemon and eucalyptus combined with the yogurt proteins revitalise and intensively nourish the hair and enhance its natural shine. I usually condition my hair after shampooing it, but the products I've used in the past pale in comparison to this one. It started as soon as I opened the bottle as I fell in love with the conditioner's amazingly enticing scent and I really had to force myself to not lick my fingers while I was using it.

It was easy to apply, smooth to the touch and massaging the product into my hair and scalp I felt like I was treating myself to a luxurious mask. After washing it out of my long locks they instantly felt thick, healthy and very soft. In fact, while I am used to brushing out my hair after washing it this wasn't necessary after using the conditioner as there were no tangles left at all. And when my hair had dried completely it felt smooth and silky, a pleasant sensation which lasted for several days after use.

Thursday 28 November 2013


Book review: Pivot Point by Kasie West

My edition: Hardcover, to published on 16th January 2014 in the UK by HarperCollins 360 in paperback and ebook, 343 pages.

Description: Addison Coleman's life is one big "What if?" As a Searcher, whenever Addie is faced with a choice, she can look into the future and see both outcomes. It's the ultimate insurance plan against disaster. Or so she thought. When Addie's parents ambush her with the news of their divorce, she has to pick who she wants to live with—her father, who is leaving the paranormal compound to live among the "Norms", or her mother, who is staying in the life Addie has always known. Addie loves her life just as it is, so her answer should be easy. One Search six weeks into the future proves it's not.

In one potential future, Addie is adjusting to life outside the Compound as the new girl in a Norm high school where she meets Trevor, a cute, sensitive artist who understands her. In the other path, Addie is being pursued by the hottest guy in school—but she never wanted to be a quarterback's girlfriend. When Addie's father is asked to consult on a murder in the Compound, she's unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game that threatens everything she holds dear.

With love and loss in both lives, it all comes down to which reality she's willing to live through... and who she can't live without.


Tuesday 26 November 2013


High Chai afternoon tea at Cinnamon Soho

Cinnamon Soho is the third modern Indian restaurant from Vivek Singh of The Cinnamon Club and Cinnamon Kitchen. The establishment is just a stone's throw from the cobbles of Carnaby Street in London and besides lunch, dinner and takeaway it now also offers afternoon tea... with a twist.

Most people will associate the quintessentially British meal with delicate and creamy cucumber finger sandwiches, large hot scones generously topped with Devonshire clotted cream and home made jam, and an array of finger-licking cakes and pastries. I admit that that was my first thought too, so when I heard about the Indian afternoon tea I initially felt sceptical about the concept.

I needn't have worried as High Chai offers an inspiring and delicious combination of flavours that had both my guest and myself oh-ing and ah-ing all throughout the meal.

To accompany the sweet and savoury treats on offer we opted for two very different teas, both of which we thoroughly enjoyed. Whereas I chose Indian Masala Chai, which is freshly brewed in-house using ginger and cardamon, my friend ordered the delicate silver needle. I particularly loved how well my choice complemented the spicy flavours of the rest of the meal.

As the tea was served we were presented with three plates of enticing canapes and we started with the inviting Bombay potato bonda and green chutney. It was made up of a beautiful combination of flavours and we loved it so much that we put half of the little ball of delight to the side of our plates to save for later. But when the same happened with the Bangla Scotch egg and spicy kasundi relish, which had a funky pinkish colour on the inside and managed to make us actually like Scotch eggs, and the tandoori chicken and chutney sandwich, we realised that there was no point in saving half of the delights as they were all incredibly appetising.

At this stage we decided to mix things up a little bit and move on to the sweets on the plate. The ginger and garam masala cake was not as spicy as we initially feared and its scrumptiously gooey texture and sugary sweet aftertaste went really well with small sips of my Indian Masala Chai. The scones were tiny, much smaller than the regular British ones, but perfectly sized for us as at this point in the meal as we started to feel quite satisfied. The scone itself was lightly spiced and worked really well with the apple and fennel chutney, which is a combination I had not tried before but I can definitely be tempted by again.

Finally we sampled the Bhangra lamb slider, which had been the part of the afternoon tea I'd been looking forward to the most and it didn't disappoint. The meat was juicy and plenty and combined with the spices, relish and the sweetness of the brioche bun it was a perfect finish to an already lush meal.

I love afternoon tea and have visited a wide selection in the past as it's always the go-to meal when I have friends and family visiting. And despite having sampled the meal at posh restaurants and high-end hotels, the excellently executed version at Cinnamon Soho is one of my favourites yet. The savoury and sweet treats on offer are delicious, diverse and plenty, and we thoroughly enjoyed sampling them all.

The Indian twist makes it especially great for those who have grown a bit bored of cucumber sandwiches and scones with clotted cream, and its close vicinity to the bustling streets of Regent Street and Oxford Circus makes this a great location to take a well-earned break after a long and tiring day of (Christmas) shopping.

The High Chai is not only very tasty but at £20 for two people it's also great value. And for an extra £5 per person you can start your afternoon tea with a Cinnamon Bellini cocktail, made with Prosecco and a home-made cinnamon syrup which is infused with Earl Grey. Prosecco is already an alcoholic drink I am very fond of and the enticing cinnamon twist suited both the cocktail and the overall theme of the afternoon tea very well.

Cinnamon Soho, 5 Kingly St, London W1B 5PF.

Sunday 24 November 2013


Sunday post #16

Sunday is when I sit back with a lovely cup of tea and write about all the wonderful new books I've received and purchased in the past week. This post participates in fab memes Showcase Sunday and Stacking the Shelves.

A Cinderella Christmas by Holly Kingston - ebook (review copy)
A Merry Little Christmas by Julia Williams (bought)
Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop by Jenny Colgan (review copy)
Fractured by Dani Atkins (review copy)
It's Now or Never by Carole Matthews (bought)
Make My Wish Come True by Fiona Harper (review copy)
The Magic of Christmas by Trisha Ashley (bought)
Welcome to My World by Miranda Dickinson (bought)

There is such a festive theme running through my books this week, I love it! I've been waiting on Christmas at Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop for a while now and unfortunately I have a few review books on the go at the moment that I have to finish first, but I'm very excited to start reading it. I'm also really looking forward to Fractured which sounds like a poignant read and has received fantastic reviews in the blogosphere so far.

I'm part of the blog tour for Novelicious' e-novella A Cinderella Christmas so while I've already read the book (spoiler alert: it's very cute!) I won't be posting about it until mid-December. I've just started Make My Wish Come True, so a review for that should be up next week :)

And while I've completely run out of shelf space and promised myself that I wouldn't buy any more books for a while... when I walked past a charity shop yesterday, Welcome to My World caught my eye in the window and it was screaming "BUY ME!" Of course I has to oblige and when I had a look inside the shop I found a few more books from authors I love, plus one I'm unfamiliar with (Julia Williams) but has a super cute seasonal cover so I had to pick those up to.

Since I got my Kindle last week I've also gone a bit crazy with buying heaps of free and 99p ebooks from Amazon, though there are too many to mention them all above. I am nicely stocking up for my Christmas break though.

I hope all of you have read and received some wonderful new books in the past week as well! x

Friday 22 November 2013


Book review: Not Without You by Harriet Evans

My edition: Paperback, published on 7 November 2013 by HarperCollins, 464 pages.

Description: Sophie knows she should count herself lucky. She grew up in modest surroundings but suddenly finds herself catapulted into the A-list after the surprise hit of a budget movie. But surrounded by botoxed assistants, lecherous old directors and a star-struck mother, Sophie just wishes she could be a proper actress, in proper, serious films. And at the tender age of thirty, she already worries she's past her 'prime'.

As Sophie's career begins to decline – slowly and painfully at first, and then all at once – her fate seems to be entwined with that of her favourite actress, Eve Noel. The epitome of 50s Hollywood glamour, Eve suddenly disappeared from the spotlight. No-one knows why. As Sophie receives threatening letters, it seems that the dark secrets in Eve's past are beginning to haunt Sophie, too... With a new film about Shakespeare burying Sophie deep in the English countryside, suddenly Eve herself is close at hand.


Wednesday 20 November 2013


Niki's Organic Balms

In the past week I've noticed that my usually already dry skin has been very affected by the changing weather and it has become tighter and itchier than ever before. Even moisturising twice a day (once in the morning, once in the evening) with the body creams I normally use doesn't seem sufficient anymore. It's very frustrating not being able to find a proper relief for my skin, so I jumped at the opportunity to put some new products to the test.

Niki's Organic Balms is a collection of balms designed to soothe, relax and moisturise. The range features five balms - Original, Lavender and Chamomile, Warming, Rose and Baby Bottom - which are infused with natural ingredients, including cinnamon, sandalwood and rosemary essential oils. The products are all handmade in the UK and do not contain petroleum, parabens or anything else that you really wouldn't want on your skin.

The Original Balm is very zesty and the strong lemony scent is one that stays on the skin long after the balm itself has been absorbed. It worked well as a moisturiser on areas of my body that were very dry. It especially softened the tougher skin on my heels and elbows but I wouldn't recommend it for the face because of its strong smell. The Lavender & Chamomile Balm is very similar to the Original but, unsurprisingly, with a soothing hint of lavender and chamomile running throughout.

The Warming Balm was the one I was most looking forward to trying but it left me a little disappointed. While the deliciously spicy cinnamon scent was certainly wintery and warming, I didn't feel that using the product warmed up my body. It was also the most greasy of all the balms I tried, making it wholly unsuitable for the face. Even after applying it elsewhere, such as my arms and legs, it left an unpleasant sticky filter a long time after use.

Of the products from the range I tried my favourite was the Rose Balm. It was the least oily so I was able to use it on my face without any problems. The product was absorbed quickly and left my skin feeling soft and hydrated much longer than the body creams and lotions I usually use, making it perfect for the current weather conditions. The scent was also very delicate meaning that while it left a pleasant fragrance straight after application, it didn't linger too long.

After trying four of the balms I was surprised by the differences in both scent and use for each, as I had expected them to be far more similar. I struggled a little at first with applying the product as I found it difficult to spread over a larger part of my body but I got used to the consistency after a while and it became an easier task. Each of the balms did leave the hand I'd been using to apply it with very oily, but this was easy to wash off.

Also good to know is that the pots come in a variety of sizes, which is very handy. The smallest of them all, which contains 10ml of the balm, is perfectly sized to fit into any handbag without adding to the weight. I've popped one into each of the bags I regularly use so I have a remedy against (unexpected) dry skin at hand whenever it may be necessary.


Book review: Yours Truly by Kirsty Greenwood

My edition: Paperback, to be published on 21 November 2013 by Pan Macmillan, 388 pages.

Description: Newly engaged Natalie Butterworth is an easy-going girl. She'll do anything for a quiet life and if telling a few teensy white lies keeps her friends and family happy, then so what? It's not like they'll ever discover what she's really thinking...

Until one night, thanks to a pub hypnotist, Natalie's most private thoughts begin to bubble up and pop out of her mouth. Things get very messy indeed, especially when some sticky home truths offend her fiancé.

Natalie must track down the hypnotist before her wedding is officially cancelled. So along with bad influence bestie Meg, Natalie finds herself in the Yorkshire Parish of Little Trooley - a small village bursting with big secrets, nosy old folk and intriguing Wellington-wearing men.


Tuesday 19 November 2013


DFS' literary event in aid of BBC Children in Need

DFS's flagship store on Tottenham Court Road in central London played host to three brilliant authors (Jenny Colgan, Alex Marwood and Viv Groskop) on Thursday the 14th of November as part of a literary evening in aid of BBC's Children in Need. Colgan is the award-winning author of amongst others the excellent novels Meet Me At the Cupcake Café and Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams, Marwood is the bestselling author of The Wicked Girls and Groskop is a comedian and columnist as well as the author of comic autobiography, I Laughed, I Cried: How One Woman Took on Stand-Up and (Almost) Ruined Her Life.

As soon as my friend and I walked into DFS we were welcomed with a glass of bubbly and as we sat down in one of the comfortable sofas set up for the event we were served some delicious canapes to kill the time before the authors' arrival. From the amount of glasses set up I gather they were hoping for quite a crowd but unfortunately not quite as many arrived in the end, which is such a shame as it was a brilliant evening and people really missed out.

Alex Marwood, Viv Groskop and Jenny Colgan

The authors talked about their work, did readings and answered questions. Particular highlight for me was getting to ask Jenny Colgan some questions as I love her novels and she was very kind and generous with her time. She even signed a book I had brought, despite her having to rush off to another event after. She also delighted us with her first ever reading and revealed that not only is she working on Wedding at the Cupcake Café (to be published in 2014) but she may also release another Christmas Rosie Hopkins book next year. All of that is on top of Little Beach Street Bakery, which is published in March, so fans of her work are in for a treat.

I had heard Viv Groskop speak at another event in the past and she was once again very witty and interesting to listen to as she spoke about her own experiences as a writer and the trials and tribulations of making it as a stand-up comedian. And while I was unfamilar with Alex Marwood's work before the evening (as I am not much into crime/thriller novels, normally) she made her books sound so intriguing that I have to pick up a copy of Wicked Girls now as soon as time allows. What I also loved was that she revealed that she used to write chick-lit but because she kept killing off her characters she turned to crime instead. From all the praise The Wicked Girls has received so far, I'd say she made a good call there.

When the author Q&A was finished there was a little more time for bubbly and mingling and the organisers also had three brand-new Kindle Paperwhites to give away to attendees! It was supposed to be a prize draw but since fewer people than anticipated had showed up they decided to give each group of friends a Kindle instead and let them 'fight it out' amongst themselves. After some back and forth of "You should have it!" "No, you!" between my friend and I, I eventually caved (it didn't take much) and became the very grateful recipient of the Kindle (squeeee!). My previous ereader (a BeBook Mini) is old and has started acting up so this couldn't have come at a better time. I'm also finally able to read all the Kindle books I've purchased from Amazon over the past few years on-the-go as I never got around to reading them from the PC app at home.

Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams signed by Jenny Colgan and my new Kindle!

I want to say a big THANK YOU to DFS and the authors in attendance for making this such a brilliant night of bookish chat with wonderful people and delicious food and drink. The fact that there wasn't a big crowd of people made it quite special and intimate, which was great for the attendees. Though of course it was a real shame from the organisers' point of view as it was a charity night and so more people showing up would have meant more money could have been raised. While me and my friend each purchased one of the lovely charity pillows they had for sale in the store, that's obviously not going to bring in the amount of £££ the organisers were hoping for.

So to gather up some more support for their wonderful efforts I want to urge everyone to have a look at the limited edition cushions on offer (they're not both with Pudsey on the front, there's a cute polka-dotted one too if you rather have a more general print) and part with just £10 in store in support of Children in Need. Or purchase it online, where you pay an additional £3.99 in shipping costs for the comfort of it being delivered to your own front door.