May 2018 Books

May-2018-Books

Love Simon by Becky Albertalli

When it comes to YA, I am just so far behind. I mean, I’m 35, I don’t think it’s the most important thing in the world for me to read all the latest books as soon as they come out, but Instagram can give you a pretty big inferiority complex when it comes to reading! Love Simon, or Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda has been on my radar for ages, but then the film started to pop up everywhere, and I wanted to read it before I saw it. I failed at this, but even reading it after I saw the film was a joy.

For anyone who doesn’t know, the story is quite a simple one; Simon is a teenager with a big secret – he’s gay. Simon exchanges emails with Blue, another gay teenager at his school, and they talk about everything without knowing exactly who the other one is. The book is a quite straightforward high school YA book, but it’s full of charm and wit, and characters who you just want to be around forever. I want Simon and his group of friends to be my friends; they are cool, and fun, and decent people for the most part. I loved the book, and then I loved the film, and now I have to read Leah on the Offbeat so I can get a further fix of these people.

Chilling Adventures of Sabrina #1 by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, Robert Hack and Jack Morelli

The second in the series that I started in April, this moves the story on and focuses on Madam Satan, who is the big bad for this series. She’s going to be played by Madam Satan in the new Netflix series, and I am so excited, because Michelle Gomez is godlike to me due to her portrayal of Sue White in Green Wing. I am yet to read the next in the series, because I moved on to other things, but given that they take me no time at all to read, I should probably get on with it and find out what happens!

First Term at Trebizon by Anne Digby

I received this book as a gift in my Send Someone Awesome a Book swap that I took part in earlier in the year. Some of the wonderfully bookish people that I follow on Instagram (Alex at Odd Socks Alex and Gwen at Shutters and Letters, specifically) came up with the idea of SSAAB Day when they realised that many people don’t have random days of the year on which they are plied with gifts (outside of their birthdays), and because books are so great, wouldn’t it be wonderful to send a random person a book to celebrate their being awesome. This kind of thing was made for the likes of me, and I packaged up my books and sent them off, and received three perfect books to read.

The lady who sent my books (@delightfuldevon) clearly did her research, as I got two boarding school books, and I haven’t read either of them before! I love Malory Towers, so was excited to start the Trebizon series with this one. It’s more or less the same sort of story as Malory Towers, though it’s a little more up to date, being set in the 70s (!). The cast of characters are equally as engaging, with girls to root for and girls to hate, and I’ve passed it on to my niece who appears to be turning into a voracious reader as well. I just need to collect the rest of the series now!

Movie Geek: The Den of Geek Guide to the Movieverse by Simon Brew

I’ve had this on my Kindle for a long time, and I’ve been dipping in and out of it ever since I downloaded it. If you’re a fan of the Den of Geek website, you’ll know that it’s a well-written, well-researched resource for films, television, games, comics, and entertainment in general. Simon Brew, the editor of the website, has ensured that this book has a similar ethos; it’s full of interesting tidbits about the movie world, some of which I’d heard before, and some of which was news to me. It’s the right mix of entertainment, analysis and sheer movie geekiness.

Girl in Snow by Danya Kukafka 

The now sadly defunct Radio 2 Book Club first alerted me to Girl in Snow, when its author, Danya Kukafka, was on Simon Mayo’s show to talk about her debut novel. It’s the story of a murder in a small Colorado town; popular teenager Lucinda is killed, and the story is told from three perspectives. There’s Cameron, a neighbour of Lucinda’s who had an obsession with her; Jade, her childhood friend whose own life couldn’t be further removed from Lucinda’s, and Russ, one of the police officers on the case. It’s a very slow moving book; the action only seems to take place over the course of a week or so, but it’s more about the secret and inner obsessions of the main characters than about the murder itself. We aren’t invited to learn too much about Lucinda, aside from how her life, and death, have impacted our three narrators. While the action isn’t scintillating, the prose is beautiful, and it wasn’t a story that I wanted to gallop through to find out who the perpetrator was; I was more than content to read it slowly and enjoy it.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

Although I’m not a YA superfan, I do like to dabble, particularly in American YA, and particularly in the summer (I think it’s nostalgia for my teenage years, though I’m not really sure where the summer bit comes in). Somehow these books by Jenny Han (there are four in the series), had completely passed me by; they were on my radar, without me ever having picked them up before, or even knowing what they were about. When I spotted the first two in a charity shop, I grabbed them, and devoured them.

The heroine of our story is Lara Jean Song Covey, a Korean-American teenager who lives with her dad and two sisters. It’s a romance, through and through, with the central tenet being that Lara Jean had written a number of never-intended-to-be-posted love letters to all the boys that she loved before, only to find that one day, out of the blue, someone puts them in the post, and all the boys on whom she had previously had crushes are suddenly informed about her until-then secret love.

There’s not a whole lot of stuff going on here that is unexpected or different from the general YA literature that is out there, especially when it comes to the romance side of things, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. What I liked the most was Lara Jean’s relationships with her sisters; her older sister Margot, who leaves for university at the start of the story, and Kitty, her younger sister. Kitty is only 10, and as the Covey’s mother died when they were young, Margot and Lara Jean are like the mothers Kitty never knew. With one of Lara Jean’s crushes being her sister Margot’s former boyfriend Josh, another level is added to that relationship, and all of this comes together to make an engaging and interesting family dynamic.

Books so far in 2018 – 21

Just Jane 003

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A semi-regular series in which I share a fact or three about myself.

I come in pretty handy in any situation where knowing lots of trivial facts will be an advantage. This is mostly just pub quizzes or quiz nights, though if you need someone to obnoxiously shout answers at the television during a quiz show, I’m your girl. I know that this is true of many, many people, so it’s kind of annoying, but I just have a head full of facts. I wouldn’t call it useless information, as such, because let’s face it, most information is useful and will come in handy at some point or another, but I do think it’s important to note that what I possess is not necessarily intelligence, it’s more a propensity for retaining information.

I’ve fractured the same wrist twice. The first time, I was 12, and ice skating for the first time. I was on the ice for about ten minutes before I fell, put my hand down to break my fall, and instead, broke my wrist. The second time, I was 34 (and 364 days), and I was roller skating with my friends for a birthday celebration. I fell over, put my hand down to break my fall, and instead, broke my wrist. It turns out that skating is most definitely not for me, and I will never, ever be doing it again.

I spent a semester of my university time abroad, at the University of Connecticut in the USA. It was an experience, and one that I look back on with slightly rose-tinted glasses, but the truth of the matter is that I was miserable for most of my time there, because I was so homesick. This was in 2009 – not a million years ago, but certainly before I had a phone in my pocket that I could use to just say hello to the ones I loved when I fancied. I had to Skype them, which was fine, but not always the most convenient thing, and everyone just felt so far away. I had some amazing experiences while I was there, but there’s no point dressing it up; by around two weeks in, I was already counting the days when I could come home.

Photo an Hour #50 ~ September 2017

Never let it be said that I don’t lead the most exciting life – here’s a random Saturday from a rainy day in September of last year, that sees me napping, reading, watching Jurassic Park and updating my iPad. I joke, but in all honesty, sometimes this is all I want do on a random day in September. Every weekend might get a bit boring like this, but sometimes it’s just the best.

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9am ~ Well it’s Saturday morning, so of course I’m listening to Wittertainment.

10am ~ Well it’s Photo an Hour, so of course I have a photo of a wing mirror.

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11am ~ Taking a look around my favourite farm shop, and photographing my favourite jam (Tiptree jam is the best).

12pm ~ Reading under a blanket could possibly be the best way to spend time.

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1pm ~ I often end up putting Jurassic Park on just to pass the time; this was an accompaniment to lunch.

2pm ~ Back under the blanket with my book, and adding in a cup of tea.

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3pm ~ I bought a candle from Good Book Hunting, and in case you’re wondering, it does smell exactly how I imagine Stars Hollow to smell.

4pm ~ Still reading. This book was Pax, by Sara Pennypacker (who has a great name), which I reviewed here.

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6pm ~ The 5pm photo is missing (I suspect I fell asleep), but by 6 o’clock I was watching Pointless Celebrities and updating my iPad.

In case you’d like to play next time around, June’s day is set for 16th June – tomorrow. It’s really easy to join in, just take a photo each hour and upload it to Instagram using the hashtag, or save them for a blog post (or do both, like I try and fail to do in a timely manner). More details can be found here.

My Vegan Diary ~ Temple of Hackney, Dough Society and by Chloe

Vegan food is the best. I know that it has this reputation for being awful, but I think even if you’re not immersed in the world of all things vegan as I am, you can’t have missed the quiet revolution in mainstream vegan food that has been happening in the last year or so.

I often think that if you’ve been vegan for decades, and you’re used to being scoffed at when you go to a restaurant and ask if there’s a vegan option, you must be bemused by the way things have changed. Seriously, it’s astounding. There’s barely a week goes by without an announcement about a new product on supermarket shelves, or a restaurant launching a new vegan menu. It’s a good time to be a vegan.

With that in mind, while I don’t plan to make this a vegan blog, I am going to share some of the amazing food that I get to eat, because food is great, and when nothing has had to suffer or die for me to eat it, it’s even better.

Earlier in the year, my friend Hannah had a birthday, so we decided to head into London and eat lots of yummy vegan food. London is, of course, the place to be when it comes to vegan eats; Colchester, which is my nearest town, is actually quite good, but the choice available in big cities is always going to be better. Our plans involved vegan fried chicken, vegan fish and chips, and vegan doughnuts.

First of all, we headed to Temple of Hackney to pick up some popcorn chicken (please know that I’m not going to constantly refer to the vegan versions of food with their ‘code name’, nor am I going to qualify everything by putting the word ‘vegan’ before it. If I’m talking chicken, you know that I mean ‘chicken’.) Temple of Hackney makes fried chicken out of seitan, and it tastes AMAZING. Going vegan when I have means that I did it knowing that there was a KFC alternative out there – I know how lucky I am!

Temple-of-Hackney

Temple of Hackney is a tiny little establishment, and both times I’ve been there it’s been super busy, but it’s worth the wait. I’ve had their fillet pieces and their popcorn bites now, and next time I go I am definitely planning on trying a burger. They also have a branch in Camden, and have recently announced a third location, also in Hackney, at Hackney Downs Market. The popcorn bites are £4, and two fillet pieces are £5.

Dough-Society-Hackney

Also in Hackney, we found Dough Society, selling all vegan doughnuts. I found it using the Vanilla Bean app, which I highly recommend if you’re vegan. You can see all the places near your location that have vegan options, whether they are fully vegan, vegetarian or omnivores places. Dough Society is a couple of minutes walk from Temple of Hackney, and it has a wonderful selection of 100% vegan brioche doughnuts. We grabbed a Peanut Butter Pretzel and the Homer (a perfect pink, strawberry flavour doughnut straight out of The Simpsons), and they were delicious. Dough Society doughnuts are £3.00 and £3.50

Vegan-Doughnut

Finally, we went along to by Chloe, which, as far as I know, is London’s first vegan fast food restaurant. It’s in Covent Garden, though they too have recently announced a new location, and have opened in Tower Bridge this week.

by-Chloe-Fish-and-Chips

The menu at by Chloe is amazing, with burgers, Mac ‘n’ Cheese, salads, and brunch all available. We decided to have fish and chips, the fish being made from tofu, and then battered, and the chips being air baked, and delicious. The restaurant itself is great; it’s a really nice atmosphere, because it’s fast food but great quality, and the decor is fabulous. We were there around 2.30pm on a Wednesday, and it was busy, but not so packed that we couldn’t easily get a table. Fish N’ Chips at by Chloe is £7.80, and we added a cheeky cookie for £2.40.

There are no shortage of delicious vegan eateries in the capital, and Temple of Seitan and by Chloe are two of the biggest and best known. They are definitely worth a visit, whether you are vegan or not, but there’s plenty of other places out there, and I’m hoping to try lots of them!