For a really long time I've wanted to go on an American roadtrip! I would love to take a year off and just travel around starting in New York and going in one huge loop around the continent until I am back in New York, for the time being though I just have to read about it.

This was a book that got on my radar through the worthy heights of the 'Gilmore Girls' and I've heard the phrase 'Kerouacing around' a few times to describe someone going on roadtrips and experiencing the 'real America'. I did enjoy it and as I write my review, a couple of weeks after finishing it all I have in my head is the song 'Hit the Road Jack' ... better stop singing and get on with the review!

I thought it was unusual, that's the best way really for me to describe the book. The main character Sal Paradise who is effectively Jack Kerouac pinged across the country eating apple pie and ice cream, listening to jazz, sleeping with women and reflecting on philosophy and literature with his companions and friend. His most notable friend Dean Moriarty ended up having been married three times, living with his second wife Camille and with four or so children. It was a chaotic book but I enjoyed the glimpse it gave me into their lives and the time.

I actually really liked the introduction. Often it's tempting to skip reading the chapter of introduction that classic books tend to give you but if you buy the Penguin Classics version then I would recommend taking a look at the introduction which was written by Ann Charters. It basically explains a little bit of the thought process behind the book, it gives you a view into the real Sal Paradise (Kerouac himself) and of the 'beat generation' which he describes. The beat generation it turns out is not the wild lifestyle that the newspaper reporters then wanted it to be, but more of a religious reflective concept. I'd definitely take a look at Charters explanation, I thought a lot about it as I read the book.

What did you think? Did you warm to Sal Paradise? Did you think Camille was the right choice for Moriarty, and what did you think about the concept of the 'beat generation? I'd love to know your thoughts so don't hesitate to comment below.

Have a wonderful week,

Since the song is still in my head I thought I'd include the link:

Title card for 1971's Persuasion.pngThe main story is set eight years after her rejection of Wentworth's proposal (at Lady Russell's request I might add) and their subsequent relationship (or lack thereof). It is such a sweet book and it is impossible not to get engrossed in the language and the beauty of England during the Regency period. One of the things I always like about these books is that there's always moments where you think 'I think that too' and you realise that for all the huge changes since the 1800s there are still many similarities, particularly when it comes to the people and their thoughts.

It's Christmas (well almost) and I chose this book to review specially as it is one of my very good friend's favourite books and now I think, one of my own!

Image result for persuasion jane austen
I have to say that for an English Literature student, I am lacking in Austen (having only read two or three of her novels)! However, this was recommended to me, and it was on my reading list anyway so I thought I would give it a whirl! I really loved it, it is the perfect escapism when you've got stresses or if you just want a relax, so basically a really great book read around the Christmas time, I would one hundred percent recommend it!

After a few chapters (or even a few pages) you can see why the book is called 'Persuasion' as Anne Elliott is constantly persuaded into doing things. She goes with the flow, she does what people ask and she's genuinely just a nice person trying to do her best. I always wanted to be Elizabeth Bennett but I think if I'm honest with myself I'm probably more of an Anne Elliott.

Did I watch the film? Yes I did, but I waited until after reading the book to do so. I watched the Sally Hawkins version from 2007. I enjoyed that as well, I did find some of Anne's hesitations a little irritating but it didn't really detract from the overall thing. I have to say (and I'm sure there's lots of people who would disagree), that I think the film added to the book, rather than taking anything away.

So that's all for this week! Have a wonderful week,

Image result for persuasion jane austen
Isn't he lovely!

Photos: (1: Title Card for 1971 ITV TV Series) (2:Goodreads) (3: Still from 2007 film 'Persuasion' produced by Clerkenwell Films and WGBH Boston released on ITV)
Image result for carmen capuano split decisionThis month I am doing an extra book review because one just isn't enough this month!

I recently read Carmen Capuano's new book 'Split Decision', this is the second of Carmen's books that I have read; the first being 'Ascension' (and you can read that review here: To be honest I wasn't sure what to expect from Split Decision, particularly, as a Young Adult novel, it was so different from the dystopian chaos of Ascension. Nevertheless, overall I really enjoyed it, and couldn't put it down until I had finished it. 

The plot of this story I thought I'd guessed, but as I read on, I realised that I wasn't such a good detective as I had thought. The key part of this book is the split element. At chapter six the book splits into two halves telling two parallel stories: one on a date with Rhys, the other on a date with Nathan, and how the two pan out - it reminded me of Gwyneth Paltrow in 'Sliding Doors'. I would love to go on and talk more about the twists and turns of the book but I find I cannot do that without spoilers! 

I think one of the most important things about any book is the characters, whether you warm to them and whether they feel properly three dimensional and not just words on a page. As far as characters go in this book, I thought they were written well. The main character, Natalie, had a strong voice and personality, and I felt she developed a lot over the book whilst remaining true to character. The male characters is difficult for me to review without spoilers, as it is not until nearly the end where you get told which date is which. Cleverly Carmen kept it unclear throughout which guy was which, by playing with what you, as the reader, thought you knew about them, and how you thought each guy would act. What I would have liked to have known at the end perhaps, is why she made the decision that she did. In this book, which also reminded me of the film 'Taken', there were clear good characters, and bad characters, and whilst I am fully aware that eighteen year olds can be villainous, I think they could have done with having a couple of the 'bad' characters being a little older than teenagers. I did however like the drama, the high stakes and I think what is done best with the book is how at the end of each chapter you're left wanting to know more. 

I thought this book was super readable; it kept a really good pace, and kept the mystery and drama throughout. There were some cliche moments, but they were also sweet and I could imagine a sixteen year old doing and saying those things. It was a clever book that played with what the reader thinks they know, the important word there being thinks. It was such an interesting premise the split chapters and it was very enjoyable to read! 

Have a wonderful week,
This week my word is:

It's been a very poetry themed week, even for an English literature student. I'm currently writing two essays on different poems and when I'm not studying other people's I'm writing my own for another part of my course - all fun and games!

If you follow me on Twitter (@theclumsyword) then you may have seen a poem that really made my day, and I thought I'd share it here - to spread the joy! I hope it makes you smile! It's by Carol Ann Duffy from her collection 'The World's Wife' which I would totally recommend for anyone looking for a literary Christmas gift.

In one of my classes quite a few people said they didn't like poetry, that their parents didn't like it, that they didn't ever pick up a poetry book which surprised me, although I must admit that I'm far more likely to pick up a fiction book than anything else. What I think is sad though, is that some people have already written it off, because of some bad or pretentious poetry they had to study at school, or because of some dull teacher. I think there's definitely bad poetry out there, but there is also some that just speaks to you, everyone has a poem or poet they like, the poem that was read at their wedding or at a christening or whenever. Don't give up on poetry I would say.

Well I had better keep this short as I still have those essays to complete!

Hope you all had a wonderful week, are there any poems that you particularly like? Any you would recommend, or alternatively that you really hated?


The Reading Residence

Image result for murder on the orient express

Firstly can I say that when I booked the tickets I was disappointed to see Wikipedia had named this as an 'American mystery film'. I would be prepared to compromise with Anglo-American but I think a film based on a British book, with a British director and some great British actors cannot simply be called American because the screenplay was written by one. Now if anyone knows how to change a Wikipedia page (I tried once and it was a bit of a disaster), then greatly appreciated.

Now, the actual film I thought was great and I am going to try really hard not to say any spoilers so I'll try and avoid too much plot and talk mainly about the film and actors (not necessarily an easy feat)!

Image result for murder on the orient expressSo how can a film with Judi Dench not just be the best film ever! I have to say I am a bit of a Judi fan! I've seen her in some of her golden sitcoms such as 'As Time Goes By' and 'A Fine Romance' and I have to say even writing those titles is making me sing the theme tunes (bit of an old sitcom kind of gal) and she is amazing in everything. So, imagine her in a cast with Derek Jacobi, Kenneth Branagh... or perhaps I should have led with Johnny Depp (not such a Willy Wonka character in this though) and the endlessly funny (although again not so much in this - role didn't quite permit that) Josh Gad (or Olaf from Frozen). Plus of course Daisy Ridley, whose name did not at all make it confusing when they kept referring to the poor child character Daisy in the film. How could I forget, I've actually had to come back to this paragraph, but there is also Olivia Colman, Penelope Cruz... and Michelle Pfeiffer, and... many many other brilliant people!!

Image result for murder on the orient expressHowever, you could read the cast list on Wikipedia (although as we've already ascertained Wikipedia is not always the best source) so what else can I tell you without giving anything away?! Well, the scenery is incredible, it almost makes you want to go and find the Orient Express to get on it, and yet there are moments (including but not exclusive to the murder) where you really think it would be best to give train journeys a miss!

There's also the matter of Branagh's moustache. I am not sure where that came from, it is a masterpiece of hair engineering not previously before seen on any man, anywhere. It was unique, and I think that was the point. From the moment Branagh appeared on screen he was a new incarnation of Poirot, making a discerning effort to be separate from the marvellous David Suchet who appeared for so long on our screens.

I really enjoyed it, and I went to see it at the brilliant Art Deco Tyneside Cinema!! I would totally recommend going to watch it, and if you can see it in a characterful picture house!

Have a wonderful week,

P.S. I'm usually pretty good at guessing these 'whodunnit' things, but didn't manage to with this! Let me know if you've been to see it, and if you guessed!


All 20th Century Fox images

I enjoyed 'Falling' but I did feel a little cheated.So the blurb of the book made out that it was going to be (hold your breath for true chick-lit plotline) basically the story of a woman (Emma Montague) leaving New York and moving to a small town by the coast in America where she (can you guess) meets a man (her landlord) and fall in love. That's what this book was sold to me as. It sounded light and breezy, perfect to counter the heavy reading (of what I like to call 'worthy books') I'm doing for my course.

What happened then? Now if you don't want spoilers skip this paragraph and move on to the next one because I'm about to reveal a biggie!! It was all going well. Emma and Dominic were in love, they fell in love within the first hundred pages or so which I thought was quite quick considering they had only really just met each other and everything was going well. This got my alarm bells ringing - I was reading this happy cheery story and the plot line on the back had already been fulfilled, she had moved, settled in, and was in love, but I was still holding a meaty chunk of book in my right hand. Then it happened. Very swiftly Jane Green, in a snowy setting as they were all having fun, killed off Dominic. Shock. Gasp. Cry. Anger. This was not what I had been sold. I was not wanting a cry when I bought the book, I wanted an easy read, a nice gentle summer holiday type book. It then became a book more focused on Emma as a stepmother and the love and bond between parent and child. It was good and the ending was satisfactory, my big issue though was that it was not what I had thought I was going to be reading.

I later found out that the three quotes on the front cover including Sophie Kinsella's 'Warm, witty, and sharp' and Marian Keyes 'A truly gripping read' was actually printed on all of Jane Green's books printed by Berkley Books - sneaky eh!
Can you spot the same reviews as on 'Falling'?

So overall would I recommend it? Well it wasn't badly written, in fact I did like a lot of it but it wasn't a book that I would rush to read again. Sometimes I am just in the mood for a bit of 'easy reading', some nice, warm, chick-lit type read and if you're in the mood for that kind of book then maybe take a look. I would have to say though that I struggled a bit with the third person narrator and I was upset by the surprise in the last third of the book. What did you think? Did you enjoy it, would you recommend it?

I'd love to hear your thoughts so please don't hesitate to leave a comment below.
Have a wonderful week,

I first heard about this book when I was reading an article written by a literary agent, she described it
as her favourite ever book. I then forgot all about it until later when my Grandma gave me 'Rebecca', I loved it and then I went looking for more books by Daphne De Maurier. 'Jamaica Inn' was dark, gloomy, and murderous so I once again shelved 'My Cousin Rachel' for another time. Then I heard it was coming out in the cinemas and I decided once and for all to give it a go.

'Was it worth it?' you might be asking after those many years of indecision - well yes in the end it was. The writing style was very similar to 'Rebecca', the mystery was there, the uncertainty. The gentle romance was more implicit than explicit which is so different from a lot of the things you read and I really appreciated it. The titular Rachel was an imposing figure, an enigma who had poor Philip twisted round her little finger in no time. As it was written in first person it was like being caught up in Rachel's spell yourself, you knew logically that what was happening wasn't right or at least wasn't the best thing to do but you couldn't help but want to go along with it - which shows the power of her writing.

So I thought I had it all figured out... I thought I knew what the situation was, I thought I had it sorted in my mind, basically I thought I knew who Rachel was. Then De Maurier did a twist and suddenly I wasn't certain about anything except for Rachel's fate. I don't think I've read the last few pages of any book in recent times quite as quickly. Compared to the opening which was perhaps a little slow (in order to set the scene properly) the ending was quick and eventful.

Don't read it if you don't like ambiguity. If you like books to be clear cut, if you like characters to be definitively good or evil then this is absolutely not the book for you. I'm usually one of those people but there was a satisfaction to the ending which you don't often find with ambiguous endings. I know I'm not being particularly clear here but even though the book is decades old I still don't want to share spoilers! Basically the ending (and I won't tell you what it is) made me question a lot of things that I had learned, and this reminded me that things are not always black and white, things are often more in the grey area.

This book is similar to Rebecca and there is ambiguity in that book as well but the ending in Rebecca seems to clear a lot of the mysteries up for readers. We will never know what Phillip does next, how he acts, if he marries Louise or continues building and growing Ambrose/Rachel's garden. That is all left to the imagination, we are left feeling as confused as Phillip, and I think that's good. What do you think? Do you like the way the book was ended? Did you like Phillip as a character?

I'd absolutely love to know what you think! I'm hoping to get a chance to watch the film at some point - have you seen it, what did you think? The next book I will be reviewing is 'Falling' by Jane Green so I'm excited to get started on that!

Have a wonderful week,

This week I had my first week at university. It was exciting don't get me wrong, but there were also a lot of homesick lonely hours, as well as a lot of small talk and a late night fire alarm.
People always talk about Freshers as the best week of university, the new room, the new friends, basically just the general newness. The new stuff is good don't get me wrong but it's also really scary. It was scary the moment I sat in my room all alone and thought 'I am totally alone here'. It's a weird feeling to be completely by yourself, and it wasn't helped by the fact that everyone else seemed really chipper (after a few days though, when we had settled in a bit, it seemed that most people felt the same).
So how did I cope? Now you might think that cope seems like rather an extreme word, but to be honest it did feel a lot like coping, and now at the end of this week, I'm getting to the good bit - where I'm actually starting to enjoy it. Back to my original point, I coped basically through ping meals (microwave meals), chocolate digestive biscuits, cups of tea, and my favourite shows. I also did a bit of napping (but that was more because I had a case of Fresher's Flu - not a myth).
Was it the best method? Would I have done something differently if I could do it again? You know what, other people might be better at it, but for me it seemed to work and I made it, I'm still here one week in (although I do have a countdown to my Christmas holidays - 73 days if anyone is interested). I went to society fairs and picked up about a million leaflets and signed up to a lot of things I'll have to unsubscribe to later. I went to comedy evenings (one which was really good, and the other which was a bit tragic to be honest), and I did things weird and wonderful like Yogalates and going on a tour of the BBC.
What about the people? Well I went to a pretty large sixth form college where I didn't know a single person, so I thought I was a little prepared. It was still really tricky - especially when you don't get to go back home and have someone else cook for you, and you have all your stuff around you. I dread to think what it would have been like if I hadn't had that experience at sixth form - that half way house. The other thing I think it's useful to remember is that I've only been here a week, and just like Rome wasn't built in a day, friendships aren't built in a week. Now here is where the custard comes in. I was just finishing up my first week, and I'm starting to get to know my flatmates, and I told one of my favourite stories about my inability to make custard. I get a knock on my door, and there's one of my new flatmates with a nice tin of custard which I currently have on my shelf to enjoy later.

I have a whole year to get to grips with student life, and to be honest it's going to be hard, and there are going to be tricky days, but it's going to be good too. It's going to be really good (although I haven't started the work yet so maybe ask me again in a week).

Have a wonderful week,

This week my word is:

I've just started university (my student post is coming out tomorrow so check it out), and I am really enjoying all the 'newness'.

That's not to say that it's been an easy week, on the contrary, its actually been really tricky. I've felt homesick, I've been unwell, and someone dropped a stand on my leg (promoting unicorns no less), and I now have a large bruise! However, I am getting there, things are getting easier, I have friends and some plans, and I'm getting used to my entire life effectively existing between four walls.

It's crazy meeting all the new people, I think that's been the hardest, well that and cooking! The good thing is that everyone has been very friendly, the difficulty is that we are all in and out at different hours, and though I'm not opposed to going out, when they're not returning until 5 am I take a rain check (what can I say, I like to sleep)!

There are a few things that are not new, and that's little things I've taken from home (and big things I guess like a lot of my clothes and bedding). All of that makes it a bit more comforting than a blank room with a water stain across the ceiling.

It's new, and sometimes new things are bad, and at a few points this week it felt like that, but overall I think it's going to be good. I'm looking forward to next week, when my lectures begin.

Hope you all have a wonderful week,

The Reading Residence
This week my word is:

I am nearly there with packing up all my stuff (although I haven't really started on going through clothes). Apparently I don't need all my best dresses as they aren't 'everyday wear'. I am enjoying getting bits and pieces together but there are so many things that I've never really thought about that I suddenly need to find room for!

It's nearly time for me to say goodbye to some of my closest friends. The Scottish universities start a couple of weeks earlier than mine so the goodbyes come round a bit earlier for them. This week I have been trying to catch up with as many friends who are leaving next week as possible. I'm hoping I might even squeeze a coffee with a few of them next week (as long as they've done their packing)!

I'm also nearly finished teaching piano (at least for the moment). I've had a lovely year doing the best job. It's been lots of fun (although stressful when exam season comes) and it's been a learning curve for me too. It's weird when phrases that my teacher used to tell me (like scales are very important and useful) which I previously didn't believe have come out of my own mouth with the realisation that they are true!

Each day this week I've been trying to do yoga - and I am unable to believe quite how inflexible I am! However I am pleased to report that after a few months of trying I am nearly able to do the poses. This is one 'nearly' that I'm looking forward to changing the status of, fingers crossed in a few weeks time I will be a bit better at yoga than just 'nearly'.

Finally, I have nearly finished my book (Lucinda Riley's 'Seven Sisters'). I would like to say that I nearly spilt coffee on it but I cannot and so now it has a nice dark coffee stain all along the bottom of the pages! With quite a lengthy summer reading list (of my own making) I'm pleased that I'm on track to finish all the books (both classic and summer holiday reads) that I wanted to. I'm trying to learn to read quicker too, a skill that will be helpful for all those books I need to read next year on my course!

This week has been a good one and it's nearly over. I hope you have all had a wonderful time.
The Reading Residence
I was in the mood for some summer reading. I spoke to one of my really good friends about what to read. My criteria was 1. happy ending, and preferably some romance. I've been caught out in the past with a surprise upset and I didn't want to be caught out again! I got my friend's seal of approval and having read some of Cecelia Ahern's other books I felt safe to take the plunge and have read.

Now for what I thought about it.

It was awful, horrible, the worst book I've ever read. As I read it the wind howled around me and the windows flung open making the pages stick together and in the end I just couldn't be bothered anymore... Okay I lied (and you need to read the book so you get the reference!) Cecelia Ahern used this ploy a number of times, and each time I fell for it until it got into the realms of fantasy (running towards each other in a floaty dress through wavy grass  - think the opening of Bridget Jones Two). It was funny and entertaining, it was light and breezy. It was the perfect book for a summer holiday (or for a any day really).

The premise was super interesting, the main character Lucy Silchester has a meeting with her life who turns out to be a dishevelled clammy-hands man - eek! Slowly her Life (or Cosmos Brown - shout out to all the fans of 'Singin' in the Rain') helps her get her life back on track.

So was there a romantic element? Oooh yes there was and it was good! Although hung up on her ex Blake (major selfish self-promoter alert) she meets Don through a wrong number. Sometimes wrong numbers can turn out to be right, although in my experience it is usually someone thinking that my house is a farm and trying to get me to take an order for horse food and straw.

I would a hundred percent recommend reading this book! I've also read 'How to Fall in Love' which is also amazing. Basically Cecelia Ahern is a genius and very very funny! I also would like to read 'Lyrebird' and some of her other books so if anyone can recommend some to me I'd really love it!

Have a wonderful week,

Biscuit Factory 
I've been spending quite a bit of time in Newcastle recently. Last time I saw some castles such as Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh, as well as visiting the Laing and Baltic art galleries.  This time I got a chance to visit a few more places!

I finally got back to the brilliant Biscuit factory which is a really fab art gallery filled with all different kinds of work from paintings to sculpture. It also has a really lovely cafe (which at this very moment is getting bigger). The artwork in there changes quite regularly so it's always really interesting. 

Biscuit Factory - can you spot the wolf?
Biscuit Factory upstairs

I went for a meal at Twin Farms, a classic for my family and I, especially as my grandparents used to live really close by. It's owned by the same people who own a delightful cafe in the centre of Newcastle, Cafe Royale where I had one of the best quiches (and caramel shortbreads)! Anyway, at Twin Farms I had a duck salad in chips and sticky toffee pudding (I'm a big fan of their puddings). I would totally recommend it as a place to eat, go on (and let me know what you think)!! 

Can't beat a sticky toffee pudding!

Finally, I went to Gibside which is a little way out of Newcastle it a really nice day out. Sadly, when we went it was raining so we didn't go on that long a walk. We did visit the orangery (and the cafe) but didn't see the inside of the chapel. I was wearing thin fabric shoes so my feet got a little wet, there is a little path on the left of the main grassy walkway down from the chapel so I would recommend using that if its wet. 

Have a wonderful week, 

Everyone loves a good beach and the summer holidays is the perfect time to jump in the car and go, and go we did. My friends and I went to Wells-Next-The-Sea and it was peachy perfect.

One of the things that got me through the exams was going to my the beach with my friends, we set a date and off we went. For the first time ever one of my friends drove the three of us and after trying three car parks we eventually found the right one! You see we wanted to be on Wells beach (not the next door one) and the car park we found was only a short walk from the beach and a short (20 minute) walk to the town.

It was a lovely beach, the sand seemed to go on and on forever - it was glorious to lie down on the beach, to play cards and play tennis. The only thing is it's always harder than you remember to walk along the dry sand - particularly uphill!

We went for a paddle in the sea even though it was awfully chilly - how very British of us! The thing about Wells beach though is that it suddenly gets deep, hence the RNLI presence (yey for lifeguards!).
The other great thing about the beach is that it is really close to the forest. We (my three friends and
I) walked in a little loop. There was a large tree which we all (in a very grown-up way) climbed up for a photo opportunity. There is also apparently a rope swing although we didn't make it there.

The final thing we did on our day out at Wells was to walk twenty-minutes along the path to Wells quayside. We bought postcards (or at least some of us did), sticks of rock (yum, but again not me), and had fish and chips. As we walked back we ate our ice cream, we walked quite slowly but we had to race to eat our ice creams before they dripped down our hands.

The weather was atypical for Britain, what are the chances of picking a day many weeks in advance and it turning out to be brilliantly sunny - so much so I had burnt feet the next day! Next time I definitely needed to reapply my sun tan lotion more often.

Do you have any beaches to recommend or any activities to do whilst on the beach? Do let me know!

Have a wonderful week,


As you may know if you've read some of my other recent posts, I have been up in Newcastle! Whilst there (taking advantage of some relatives for free food and beds) we took some day trips to areas around Northumberland including (can you guess?) quite a number of castles.

Now I'm sure that most people would call ruined castles 'ruined' or decrepit or somesuch, but as an English student I quite fancied a bit of alliteration so there you go. We visited three castles whilst we were in Northumberland.

NUMBER ONE - Bamburgh (big castle)
This castle is the setting for some scenes in the new Transformers movie, to be honest though that wasn't particularly exciting news for me (but for some it would be so there it is). It was right on the coastline and I could just imagine curling up in an alcove with a good book. There was a magnificent hall with a beautifully carved roof and sprung flooring for all the dancing. It was a rabbit warren of rooms, some were laid out as they would have been used (one with a particularly nice grand piano that I spotted) and others were more museum like. It's privately owned and some of the Armstrong family, who also own Cragside and are featured in Edexcel's British History of Warfare A Level course (who said it wouldn't be useful?) still live there. What I thought was entertaining was that to get the title 'Baron Armstrong' you had to have the surname Armstrong which meant that one unfortunate man named William Henry Armstrong Fitzpatrick Watson, had to change his surname to Armstrong-Watson. What a mouthful! I'd hate to be him filling out any forms!

NUMBER TWO - Dunstanburgh (ruined castle)
We drove to Craster (were we have previously been to their annual summer fair) and walked along in the wind towards Dunstanburgh castle. It was a nice walk, lots of cows and sheep (and poo so watch out) and due to the wind the sea was foaming. It felt very Jane Eyre! We walked all the way there and all the way back (not too long a walk really) and stopped only for a photo by the castle. As we are not English Heritage members we couldn't go in but it was nice all the same.

NUMBER THREE - Lindisfarne Castle (out of action castle)
This castle is also ruined and has recently been taken over by the National Trust. They have immediately started doing repairs and protecting it so you can't currently properly see it. As it was though we went to the beach and had a look at St Cuthbert's Hermitage, then we clambered over some rocks and had a picnic whilst watching the seals bobbing their heads out of the water.

Do you have any favourite castles that you like to visit (not necessarily in the north of England)? If you do, let us know in the comments below!!

Have a wonderful week,

Dystopian fiction is on the rise and here is a new recommendation for you. If you liked Atwood's 'The Handmaid's Tale', then you'll be sure to like Carmen Capuano's new novel 'Ascension'.

Here's what I liked... I liked the characters, I empathised with the protagonist Jessica Stone who can incidentally see whether people are good or evil by the colour of their breath. This mystical element felt like a 'breath of fresh air' (excuse the bad pun) to the now well-known genre of dystopia. Carmen kept each chapter ending in suspense, usually she revealed an answer that led to a million more questions. I thought it was suspenseful and interesting - just what you want for an enjoyable read.

What I also really liked was the way Carmen approached religion. The ultra-religious concept where the government backs up their oppressive policies with biblical quotes seems not to far-fetched in the current political climate, and is seen in a lot of dystopian fictions. What I particularly liked was the fact that Carmen didn't attack religion, it wasn't the root of the problem, it was just exploited to become a problem.

The religion might fall but it didn't make them 'Godless' - I really liked the way Carmen wrote about religion,  I thought it was very reflective and well done.

The plot was interesting. Jessica Stone is pulled into action when her friend, an unmarried woman called Sarah falls pregnant and is therefore doomed to a life of misery. There was an element of predictability about it but there were also a number of twists that kept it exciting. What I really wanted to know was how 'Ascension' as a religion in the novel took hold, how did it come into prominence and when is the novel set? This wasn't a major issue though, it wasn't necessary for the plot I just would like to have known.

I would recommend 'Ascension', especially if you have enjoyed other dystopian novels. I haven't read any of Carmen's other novels but they're available on Amazon and I'm sure that I'll be taking a look. Take a read and enjoy! Let me know what you think and if you have any other dystopian recommendations!
Have a wonderful week,

Disclosure: I was invited to read this book by Carmen, I did not receive any compensation for writing this review. All opinions are my own.
Photos from: Female First and courtesy of Uncial Press

When I was up in Newcastle I went to two art galleries - the Baltic and the Laing. I'm really hoping that next time I get up there (in a couple of weeks time - I know I really can't stay away!) that I'll get to go to the Biscuit Factory too (great art, no biscuits).

So what did I see? Well I'm not an art student, and I don't know too much so it really is the layman's view, but that's all right! They both had very different exhibitions on so I really couldn't say which was my favourite. In the Baltic they are running their 2017 Artist's Award which was interesting. We all got a little counter (like the kind you find at supermarket's) and got to vote. I have to tell you that we all voted for Jose Davila who did an unusual boulders and balloons display where the concept was defying gravity - it was wicked (sorry the pun just had to be said). It was unusual and when we watched the short video explaining why he'd done what he'd done and how there was logic too it -hence why he got our vote.

Another thing I'd recommend taking a look at is the Baltic balcony where you can see right along the quayside (it's like the Empire State Building equivalent of Newcastle, but not as busy on Valentine's Day, or any day for that matter, and more seagulls).
The Laing was totally different. There was a gallery filled with paintings of foreign lands called 'Wanderlust' (a lot of Edward Lear) but the best bit was the virtual reality exhibition. If you're in the area you have to go and see it, it is amazing! I've never experienced it before and it was something special! The exhibition is done by the Occasion Collective and it's called Echoes and Outros. I saw a floating bath and a dripping light, the sky swirled and the floor disappeared. There were three different realities to see and we got there early so there was no waiting around for the two headsets (fab). The only downside I had thought would be the headsets smudging my not-to-badly done makeup - luckily it didn't!

I'm probably going to be in Newcastle a lot more as of September and I hope to get round the galleries every so often, let me know if there are any exhibitions I should look out for. If you're an artist I'd love to share your work on my blog, just get in touch (!

Have a wonderful week,

All photos my own except for the photo of Jose Davila's art which is taken from the Baltic website (linked)

This week my word is:

Holy Island

I've been up staying with relatives in Newcastle, which is incidentally where I am hoping to study next year! It was like looking at the city with new eyes - very exciting!

Not only did we go into the city (and I checked out the makeup concessions so I can paint away, in a loose sense of that word, my results day stress and look fresh-faced for university), we also went out into Northumberland. So it wasn't quite as hot and sunny as weather we've had down south but we managed to find sun so we felt very lucky! We had some windy picnics on beaches, my particular favourite being on Holy Island. I would definitely recommend taking a visit, it's like stepping back in time and you can clamber down rocks to visit St Cuthbert's Hermitage (the tea, coffee and cakes are also pretty yum)!

We also got our fill of castles! I loved Bamburgh which is one of the locations for the new Transformers movie. If you watch my blog then you'll be sure to see a castle orientated post coming soon. The other castles we saw were pretty ruined but we had lovely walks to them such as to Dunstanburgh.

Northumberland was fab! Windy - yes, rainy - sometimes, but there was so much to do, like art galleries and city shops, and right next door was the beautiful countryside!

Hope you had a wonderful, exciting week!
Bamburgh Castle

The Reading Residence
For the first time this week I tried an ice tea and it was delicious, the perfect addition to a sunny day!

The recipe I got was from Twinings and was developed by The Strand Team, and I would totally recommend it. It is cooling and sweet as well as being perfectly refreshing.

So here's the recipe:

  • 5 Teaspoons of Twinings Lemongrass and Peppermint loose infusion
  • 200 ml boiled water
  • Lots of ice
  • 1 litre of sparkling lemonade
  • Fresh mint leaves
Method - 
  • Pour the 200 ml of boiled water over the loose infusion and brew for five minutes.
  • Add ice cubes to cool down the brew quicker.
  • Once it's cooled down enough, add the sparkling lemonade and put it in the fridge to chill. 
  • Serve over ice and fresh mint leaves.
Enjoy it and let me know what you think! It's perfect for a summer barbecue or party, or even just an afternoon at home in the sun. I'm looking forward to trying more iced teas over the summer and I'll let you know if I find any others to recommend. 

Have a wonderful week!

Disclosure: This post was not commissioned. All words and opinions are my own.