Monday, 22 December 2014

The Christmas Tag.


I've been tagged by my lovely friend Courtney over at Cupcakes & Cateyes to do The Christmas Tag and as Christmas is absolutely my favourite time of year I am totally up to answering some questions about it. Let's do it!

1. Do you stay in your PJ's or dress up for Christmas?
PJ's all the way. If you think I'm putting a bra on on Christmas day then you are very much mistaken, my friend.

2. Do you open your presents Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?
Christmas morning.

3. What's your favourite Christmas meal or treat?
Gingerbread lattes. They count, right?

 4. What's your favourite holiday movie (or specials)?
I love Christmas movies (the cheesier the better) but I might have to go for the Gavin and Stacey Christmas special. I'll watch it any time of year and never get sick of it. In fact I think I've already seen it about three times in 2014.

5. Have you ever made a snowman?
A couple of very little ones. We don't get much snow around here and when we do it's usually in January or February, never at Christmas.

6. Show us an embarrassing Christmas card photo!
Is this a thing people actually do? I've never known anyone actually do one of these things. I'm pretty sure this is something that only exists in American TV shows and films.

7. What holiday tradition are you looking forward to most this year?
We don't really have any traditions that I can think of? Does watching the Doctor Who Christmas special while we eat dinner count?

8. Is your Christmas tree real or fake?
Fake. We've never had a real one. I don't totally see the point in them to be honest when you could just get a nice fake tree and reuse it year after year.

9. Be honest: do you like giving or receiving gifts better?
Both! Obviously I love receiving gifts but I also really like choosing the perfect presents and wrapping them up nicely. IDK I just love Christmas.

10. What would be your dream place to visit for the holiday season?
Probably Germany. From what I've seen and been told it sounds like Christmas is amazing over there.

11. Does your family have a special holiday recipe you like to help make?
Not really. I'm making a yule log this year and I've done that before but mum and dad usually take care of all the Christmas and Boxing Day cooking and we don't really have any special Christmas recipes or anything.

12. Most memorable holiday moment?
I honestly can't think of one. My Christmases are super fun, I promise! I'm just completely blanking.

13. What made you realise the truth about Santa?
I don't really know. There wasn't like an event or anything. I think I just figured it out gradually.

14. Favourite Christmas songs?
Let's just say White Christmas, Fairytale of New York, Merry Xmas Everybody, 'Zat You Santa Claus, and Stop the Cavalry. And we'll leave it there or else we'll be here all day. I'm very passionate about Christmas music.

15. Do you make New Year's resolutions? Do you stick to them?
I don't really make New Year's resolutions precisely because I know I won't stick to them.

16. What makes the holidays special for you?
I don't know! There's lovely food and Christmas music and decorations everywhere and Christmas markets and everyone's running around trying to find the perfect presents for their friends and family and it's just nice? I don't know, the whole thing is just still magical to me.

I'm not going to tag anyone specifically but if you want to answer these questions then go for it and let me know so that I can see your answers!

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Tuesday, 16 December 2014

stasialikesbooks | Book review: Vivian Versus the Apocalypse by Katie Coyle.

Vivian Apple never believed in the Church of America - unlike her fanatical parents. And as for the so-called impending 'Rapture', she knew she'd believe that when she saw it. But then Vivian wakes one day to a New World, and all that's left of her parents are two empty spaces. The Believers have been taken, it seems. And for those left behind, the world is a desolate and eerie place. All Vivian has now are her memories and her volatile friend Harp.

Faced with society on the brink of collapse, Vivian and Harp embark on a journey across America, in search of any family they have left, and determined to expose the truth about the Rapture. Three thousand miles through floods, fog and heat waves, Harp and Vivian and a boy with the bluest eyes and the kindest heart are driving on to their future.

But will this be a coming-of-age road trip with no return?
(x)

The premise of Vivian Versus the Apocalypse had me from the start. How many times over the past few years has the apocalypse been predicted in America? And every time we all take it the same way that Vivian and her friend Harp do at the start of the novel, like it's all a big joke that'll never happen. But in Vivian Versus the Apocalypse it actually does happen. Maybe.

I think this is the first book I've ever read that can be classified as both contemporary and post-apocalyptic and in my opinion the combination worked fantastically. Coyle makes it so easy to imagine this possibly post-apocalyptic America as her descriptions of the country post-rapture mix easily with scenes that are far more familiar to modern-day.

Another great strength of this novel is its main character, Vivian Apple. It's so refreshing to see a teenaged heroine thrown into a situation like this and to react like a real teenager. Vivian does not immediately leap into her role as heroine. She is reluctant and scared, just like most teenagers probably would be in her situation. Watching Vivian gradually discover her own strength and bravery is definitely part of what makes this novel so great. And don't even get me started on how much I love her best friend, Harp.

The sequel to this book, Vivian Versus America, is out already and I can't wait to get my hands on it and find out what happens next (especially after that heart stopping twist at the end of the first book!) If you're into contemporary, post-apocalyptic, or just really interesting YA with badass female heroines, then I highly recommend Vivian Versus the Apocalypse.

4/5 stars.

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Sunday, 30 November 2014

stasialikesbooks | Book review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater.

There is danger in dreaming. But there is even more danger in waking up.

Blue Sargent has found things. For the first time in her life, she has friends she can trust, a group to which she can belong. The Raven Boys have taken her in as one of their own. Their problems have become hers, and her problems have become theirs.

The trick with found things though, is how easily they can be lost.

Friends can betray.
Mothers can disappear.
Visions can mislead.
Certainties can unravel.
(x)

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys trilogy, which follows the story of Blue Sargent and the Raven Boys on their search for the ancient Welsh king Glendower.

I loved the first two books in the series, The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves, and I can't recommend the series enough. Maggie Stiefvater's writing style is so immersive I always feel like I can't read her books quick enough and she writes teenagers who really act and sound like teenagers, which is always a plus in YA. I enjoyed Blue Lily, Lily Blue because of Stiefvater's style, because of the characters, because of the world, but honestly I felt like not much really happened. I mean, of course things happened, but I spent pretty much the whole book waiting for something big to happen. Waiting for the story to really start.

There are new characters who don't really do anything and a plan that never actually takes place and even the things that did happen didn't really make as much of an impact as the events of the first two books. But this is a Raven Boys book so I did really enjoy it and I would still absolutely recommend the series, even if you aren't normally a fan of fantasy.

One thing Blue Lily, Lily Blue did do fantastically well was to set up the story for the next book in the series and I can't wait to read that one.

3/5 stars

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Friday, 28 November 2014

stasialikesbooks | Would you rather: book edition.

I already typed up this entire post once and then accidentally deleted it and I am Not Happy about it, but anyway... I recently saw this tag on The Book Journal and thought it seemed like a fun bunch of questions. So let's get started! (Again!)


Would you rather read only trilogies or only stand alone novels?
Definitely stand alone novels. One really good book is always better than a trilogy where the story's been all stretched out to fit the extra books in.

Would you rather read only male or female authors?
Female authors. There's still one Raven Boys book to be released and I am not missing out on that!

Would you rather shop at Barnes & Noble Waterstones or Amazon?
I would rather shop at Waterstones but when you buy as many books as I do sometimes you have to go for the cheaper option, you know? I do prefer a proper bookshop though. Especially because there isn't one where I live.

Would you rather books became films or TV shows?
I love TV but thinking about it, if a book is made into a film then yes some things will have to be left out but if it's made into a TV show then eventually whoever is making it is going to run out of source material and have to add things and make up extra story lines and I think for a book I really love I'd prefer having things cut out for a film than have that happen. So I'll say film. Unless we're talking about a one off mini-series... This is a very complicated decision.

Would you rather read 5 pages a day or 5 books a week?
Definitely 5 books a week!

Would you rather be a professional reviewer or an author?
Author.

Would you rather read your favourite 20 books over and over or only read books you've never read before?
I'll say books I've never read before because I may miss my old faves but maybe I would find some new ones??

Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?
A bookseller. Think of me as the female Bernard Black.

Would you rather only read your favourite genre or every genre except your favourite?
Only my favourite genre because my favourite genre is probably contemporary YA and there is a pretty good variety in that genre, I think. I could probably deal with that.

Would you rather read only physical books or ebooks?
My heart says physical books but my rapidly overflowing bookcases say ebooks. (It's physical books though. It's always physical books.)

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

stasialikesbooks | Book review: Love in the Gilded Age by Saruuh Kelsey.

Once in a hidden queendom...

There is an ocean: In the infinite distance, between one hidden world and the next, is an unmeasurable expanse of twenty seas. One sprawling edge of the world to another is filled with waters as beautiful as they are deadly, as miraculous as they are fraught. Treasure and treachery litter their ocean beds, sleeping side by side with adventurers whose travels ended abruptly, lives caught and held under a wave until all breaths fled.

There is a land: Tucked into a corner where four oceans fold together, land rises up illustrious in a jagged slash of mountains and forests, with secrets and wonders as plentiful as any water.

There are chronicles: Not of the twenty savage seas but of the fissure of land and the people who sigh life into it.
(x)

Love in the Gilded Age is the first collection of stories in a series called The Fissure Chronicles, of stories which all take place in the same universe. The stories are all based on classic fairy tales and in this first collection we have; 'Love in the Gilded Age', based on 'Rumpelstiltskin'; 'Xanna', based on 'Little Red Cap'; and 'A Fortress of Thorns', based on 'Brier Rose'.

Each of the three stories takes the source material and turns it on its head. The stories all stray from their original fairy tales but they also all contain enough of those fairy tales to be recognisable. 'Love in the Gilded Age', for example, tells the story of a girl who must spin straw into gold for a king who keeps her locked in a tower, however this is pretty much where the similarities to 'Rumpelstiltskin' end. She does promise her first born child to someone but there's a very clever twist to that promise that I won't spoil for you.

All three of these stories are about young heroines who must save themselves, someone, or something else and although they all need help from time to time that is never portrayed as a weakness. They all remain the heroes of their own stories. The stories also feature characters with disabilities, characters of colour, and LGBTQ characters, which is a lot more diversity than you'll find in most YA books right now.

These stories are all really interesting and unique takes on some of the most famous fairy tales. They're all entertaining and full of adventure and I can't wait to read the next collection!

5/5 stars

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Friday, 21 November 2014

stasialikesbooks | Book review: The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude.

The Reverend Dodd, vicar of the quiet Cornish village of Boscawen, spends his evenings reading detective stories by the fireside - but heaven forbid that the shadow of any real crime should ever fall across his seaside parish. But the vicar's peace is shattered one stormy night when Julius Tregarthan, a secretive and ill-tempered magistrate, is found at his house in Boscawen with a bullet through his head.

The local police inspector is baffled by the complete absence of clues. Luckily for Inspector Bigswell, the Reverend Dodd is on hand, and ready to put his keen understanding of the criminal mind to the test.
(x)

The Cornish Coast Murder was everything I wanted The Norfolk Mystery to be with the added bonus of it being set in my home region (I'll read pretty much anything set in Cornwall.) There's a murder (obvs), a clandestine romance, baffled policemen, a vicar with a keen interest in Agatha Christie novels (why is there always a vicar?), and plenty of suspects. I don't know about you, but that's pretty much everything I would think to ask for from a murder mystery novel.

The Cornish Coast Murder is a little dated in some aspects but I found that kind of endearing in a charming, old fashioned, sort of a way.  The story takes its time as the inspector and the vicar move from theory to theory and dead end to dead end so I wouldn't recommend it if you like your novels fast paced as it's definitely a slow one. It's a very atmospheric read though, perfect for this time of year when the nights are getting longer.

If you're the kind of person who really likes to figure out the murderer for yourself before the detectives do then you might get a little frustrated at just how many red herrings Bude throws into the mix before the murderer is finally discovered but I personally really liked this. I like to be surprised and the nature of the murder in this story lends itself to all sorts of theories.

I've said before that I'm pretty new to the murder mystery genre but The Cornish Coast Murder is pretty much exactly what I expected from it and I wasn't disappointed at all. If you're a fan of early 20th century crime novels then it's a safe bet that you'll enjoy this one.

4/5 stars.

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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Nothing Much To Do.


I made cheesecake brownies yesterday but I don't think they turned out quite right. The brownie part is more melted chocolate than brownie, which you might think would be okay but there's just something not quite right about it...

Anyway, while I was making said cheesecake brownies I also watched the entire of the webseries linked above, Nothing Much To Do, and it turned out to be infinitely better than the brownies so let's talk about that instead.

Nothing Much To Do is a modern vlog style adaptation of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing set in New Zealand with an all teenaged character sheet. I did study Much Ado About Nothing in my first year of uni but I'm certain that even if you've never read or seen or even heard of Much Ado About Nothing you'll still enjoy Nothing Much To Do.

In the screenshots at the top of this post you can see our main players, Hero and Beatrice and Benedick and Claudio, who are all wonderfully cast. We also have, among others, 'all round great guy' Pedro and his musical friend Balthazar (who records lovely covers of Mumford and Sons songs and quietly smiles his way through most of the videos he features in) and the young wannabe Sherlocks, Dogberry and Verges (whose videos track them looking for a lost cat and accidentally discovering everyone else's secrets instead.)

The whole series is comprised of 76 videos on three different channels, all clocking in together at around 4 hours, which may sound like a lot to those of you less familiar with the practice of binge watching than myself but trust me when I say it will fly by. Before you know it you'll find yourself looking back over the past four hours of your life and wishing you had made it last a little while longer. Then you'll be pleased to know that the creators of this series are working on a sequel! Lovely Little Losers is to feature a few characters from Nothing Much To Do, along with some newcomers, and it's loosely based on Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, which is one I know nothing about so excuse me while I get reading...

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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

stasialikesbooks | Book review: The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom

Spanish Civil War veteran Stephen Sefton is flat broke. So when he sees a mysterious advertisement for a job where 'intelligence is essential', he applies.

Thus begins Sefton's association with Professor Swanton Morley, autodidact. Morley intends to write a history of England, county by county. His assistant must be able to tolerate his every eccentricity - and withstand the attentions of his beguiling daughter, Miriam.

The trio begin the project in Norfolk, but when the vicar of Blakeney is found hanging from his church's bell rope, they find themselves drawn into a fiendish plot. Did the reverend really take his own life, or was it - murder?
(x)

I picked up The Norfolk Mystery on a whim a few weeks ago. It's an enjoyable read. It's sort of cosy and something about it feels very English. However, I did expect more mystery.

The vicar is found hanged and Morley and Sefton do take an interest in the possibility that it might not be the suicide it appears to be. However, there is really very little actual investigation and Morley's deduction as presented near the end of the novel seems to come completely from nowhere. I understand that this could be a little bit of a parody of the early 20th century mystery novels - and maybe I'm just not well versed enough in the tropes of those novels to fully appreciate it - but the rest of the novel just doesn't seem to be so obviously a parody of anything.

There is some interesting social commentary throughout the novel, which is as relevant today as it was during the time between the two world wars, when this story is set. Morley's views about the goings on in the world sort of balance out how bloody annoying he is the rest of the time. There are also photographs throughout the book, which I had expected to be a fan of (I wrote my dissertation on illustrated novels so I have a specific interest) however in this case I just didn't think the photographs did anything for the narrative.

Despite these complaints, The Norfolk Mystery was an enjoyable read but I'm not sure I'll be picking up the sequel when it's released.

I mean, Morley spends half the book speaking Latin. What's that about? Is that parody???

3/5 stars.

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Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Cherry Cake.


I bought a bundt tin. Well, to be more accurate, my mum bought me a bundt tin. Also I'm not entirely sure if 'bundt tin' is the right word or if there is a more specific word for this particular shape of tin? All I know is that I chose this tin with absolutely no idea what I would make with it.

What I ended up making was this Mary Berry cherry cake recipe. Yes, even after the scone disaster, I gave Mary another chance. And I'm very glad I did because this cake came out beautifully. Now I just need to find some more delicious bundt cake recipes. (If you have any then hit me up in the comments!)


Ingredients

For the cake
200g glacé cherries
225g self-raising flour
175g softened butter, plus extra for greasing
175g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
50g ground almonds
3 large eggs

For the decoration
175g icing sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
15g flaked almonds, toasted
5 glacé cherries, quartered

Method
  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4. Grease your bundt tin with butter and lightly dust with flour.
  • Cut all the cherries into quarters and set aside five quartered cherries for the decoration. Rinse the rest of the quartered cherries in a sieve under running water. Drain well and dry with kitchen paper. Finally toss the cherries in two tablespoons of the already measured flour.
  • Cream the butter and caster sugar together in a large bowl, then add in all the other ingredients (except the cherries) and beat well until thoroughly mixed. Now lightly fold in the cherries and then turn the mixture into your bundt tin.
  • Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes until golden brown, well risen, and a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin for about ten minutes and then turn out and cool completely on a wire rack.
  • For the icing, mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice (A little tip - if you don't like lemon very much then I would recommend making a simple icing with just icing sugar and water - it'll work exactly the same but be a lot less lemony!) to a thick paste.
  • When the cake is completely cooled drizzle the icing over it using the back of a spoon. Then sprinkle over the toasted almond flakes and the cherries you set aside earlier and voila!

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Monday, 13 October 2014

stasialikesbooks | Book review: We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends - the Liars - whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True Love.
The Truth.
(x)

We Were Liars is my first E. Lockhart book but I'm sure it won't be my last (I've been eyeing up The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks for years, truth be told.) I wasn't too sure what to expect but I'd seen a lot of reviews, all of which seemed to follow the same pattern - this book is amazing but I can't tell you what happens - and now that I've read it I can totally understand why.

We Were Liars is powerful and surprising, both in the story itself and in the way in which the story is told. I've never read anything else like it and I'm sure I never will. But. I'm still not totally convinced about the writing style. While it's definitely interesting, I found it at times to be a little annoying, almost until the end. Towards the end I found myself appreciating the style and it started to make sense retrospectively, but I can't deny that I spent a lot of the book unsure about it. Also I still don't understand why the group are called 'The Liars' but I don't think I'm the only one.

Nevertheless this is definitely a unique novel, deserving of the praise it has gotten. The story unfolds in ever more clever and surprising ways and the final reveal comes like a punch in the gut. But, like, in a good way. I'd recommend it.

4/5 stars.

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Thursday, 2 October 2014

September book reviews.


Just two books this month and both of them are conclusions to series whose previous books I've already reviewed on this blog, which is actually nice and fitting for what will probably be the last monthly book reviews post you'll see on stasialikescakes! (More about that at the end of this post. Ooh. Teasing.)



I know there is technically one more book in the Hitchhiker's Guide series but I've been informed that it's best to stop after the fourth one and only the first four are included in my bind-up anyway so for now at least my journey with Arthur Dent is definitely at an end. Like the previous book (which I talked about in last month's reviews) I really missed the group dynamic between Ford, Arthur, Zaphod, and Trillion in this one too, however, there were a lot of aspects of So Long and Thanks for All the Fish that I really did like. Adams's humour was on top form, as usual, and I thought Fenchurch was an excellent character. If anything, I'd have liked more of her. I really enjoyed the story line though and Arthur finally finding out a few things. Some questions were, of course, still left unanswered, but all in all I think this was a pretty fitting end to the series. I just wish it had been a bit longer, to be honest. 4/5 stars.


Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford

Regular readers of this blog with good memories will remember that I liked the first book in this series, The Pursuit of Love, and loved the second, Love in a Cold Climate. Don't Tell Alfred takes place some years after the first two books and in Paris this time (I know, I know. Paris? Again?) where Fanny must navigate French politics, the previous occupant of her house who refuses to leave, and her wayward sons, all of whom are rebelling in some way or another. Don't Tell Alfred was every bit as funny as The Pursuit of Love and Love in a Cold Climate and Northey along with Fanny's sons were almost entertaining enough to make up for the lack of the wonderful Jassy and Victoria. I'm firmly in love with Nancy Mitford now and can't wait to get my hands on The Blessing and Wigs on the Green. 4/5 stars

Now, I mentioned at the start of this post that this might be the last monthly book reviews you see on this blog and that's because I've started a new blog called stasialikesbooks! I will still be posting recipes and lifestyle posts and all those other bits and pieces on stasialikescakes, don't worry, but from now on I will be posting book reviews, book tags, film reviews, tv recommendations and all of those sorts of things on stasialikesbooks. I'm doing this because I've felt for a while now that this blog is sort of all over the place and I feel that splitting it into two like this might help me to focus better on what I want to post without worrying about everything fitting together. I hope that makes sense?

It was a pretty spur of the moment decision to be honest and who knows, it's entirely possibly that a few weeks from now I could be back, tail between my legs, admitting that it was a terrible idea and that actually I'd quite like to go back to the way things were before. But honestly, right now I'm feeling really positive about the idea, and I hope you are too!



stasialikesbooks | The A-Z bookish survey.


The same day that I decided to make this new blog I saw this tag on The Book Journal and thought it seemed like a fun first post to kick things off with. So without further ado (partly because this is kind of long. Mostly because I'm currently re-watching Gossip Girl and right now I'm on the first Christmas episode!) here are my A-Z Bookish Survey answers!

Author you've read the most books from
Meg Cabot.

Best sequel ever
Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins or every single Harry Potter sequel.

Currently reading
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart.

Drink of choice whilst reading
A nice cup of tea.

E-reader or physical books
I do read a few books on my iPad and find it super useful but I think it will always be physical books for me.

Fictional character you probably would have actually dated in high school
Can I pretend that I was cool enough in high school to land Cricket Bell??


Glad you gave this book a chance
Born Confused by Tanuja Desai Hidier. My mum bought it for me and it sat in my bookcase for ten years or something before I finally got around to reading it. I wish I'd given it a chance sooner!

Hidden gem of a book
I'm going to say Campari for Breakfast by Sara Crowe. It only came out earlier this year but I absolutely love it and I don't know anyone else who's read it yet.

Important moment in your reading life
Probably the first time I finished reading a novel by myself. It was Charm School by Anne Fine and I can still remember how excited I was when I reached the final page because I could finally say that I had read a whole book by myself!


Just finished
Don't Tell Alfred by Nancy Mitford.

Kinds of books you won't read
Probably horror? Maybe?

Longest book you've ever read
I expected this to be Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Arthur but I just checked and it's actually Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, clocking in at an impressive 766 pages.


Major book hangover because of...
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins.

Number of bookcases you own
Two bookcases + a drawer full of books + half a shelf on my parents' bookcase.

One book you've read multiple times
Avalon High by Meg Cabot.

Preferred place to read
In bed or in the bath. Just, lying down somewhere, I guess.

Quote that you like from a book you've read
'God knows I tried my best to learn the ways of this world, even had inklings we could be glorious; but after all that's happened, the inkles ain't easy anymore' from Vernon God Little by DBC Pierre.

Reading regret
That I actually read the entire of The Time Traveler's Wife.

Series you've started and need to finish
The Percy Jackson series! I've only read the first one but I really want to read the rest of the series.


Three of your all-time favourite books
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, Avalon High by Meg Cabot, and Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

Unapologetic fangirl for
Harry Potter and The Princess Diaries.

Very excited for this release more than others
Blue Lily, Lily Blue, the third book in Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys series.

Worst bookish habits
I can't really think of any. Unless you count buying books faster than I can read them. If you do then that.

X marks the spot - start at the top of your shelf and pick the 27th book
A Series of Unfortunate Events #12: The Penultimate Peril by Lemony Snicket.



Your latest book purchase
The Cornish Coast Murder by John Bude and The Norfolk Mystery by Ian Sansom.

Zzzz-snatcher book - last book that kept you up WAY too late
Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins. I barely stopped to sleep or eat while I was reading that book.


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Friday, 19 September 2014

My name is Stasia and I can't make scones.

It was my mum's birthday on Tuesday and we spent the day at the zoo. On Sunday I had asked if she wanted a birthday cake but she decided that she wanted scones instead, so we could take them with us to the zoo and have a birthday picnic. This was fine, I thought, I'd made scones once before when I was at uni and I remembered it being a pretty quick and easy thing to make.

So on Monday morning I put on my dotty apron and pulled Mary Berry's Baking Bible off the shelf, ready to go. This wasn't actually the recipe I had used the last time but I thought surely this will be even better than the scones I made last time. This is Mary Berry!

Cut to two hours later. I have cut out all of the scones twice because they kept shrinking on the baking tray, the kitchen is literally covered in flour, my hands are so stuck together with dough that I can't remember what it felt like to be able to move them freely, and I have already had a little cry. I finally get the scones in the oven and ten minutes later pull out these.


These are not scones. I don't know what they are but I think we can all agree that they are not scones. A friend of mine saw this picture and said they looked like 'scones cunningly disguised as eggs' and I have to agree with her. Apparently they taste okay but I personally am not in any hurry to try them.

Okay, so Mary Berry has let me down. It's alright, I can find the recipe I used last time. I'm at the end of my rope already but it's mum's birthday and she wants scones so scones there will be.

Except we don't have enough flour left for another batch of scones because I used it all on the aforementioned definitely-not-scones. I have another cry. Dad drives me to the supermarket to buy more flour.

The process for the next lot of scones is a lot more like I remember it from last time. It's quick, easy, not too messy, and at no point do I feel the need to have a cry.

Until, of course, I open the oven door to find these.


They look more like scones than they do eggs, yes, and are therefore a step up from the last batch. But as you can see they are also almost completely flat. However, I do not cry. I am already numb to the disappointment.

I throw away the second half of that batter. By this time it is almost four o'clock. I haven't finished making mum's actual birthday present, I haven't showered, and at seven I am going to see a film at our local cinema club with dad. But I'm in too far now.

I grab the hella old cookery book that mum insists contains the best recipes in the world. Just that morning in fact, after the egg-scones came out of the oven, she told me that this book, that she has had since she was in school, has the best scone recipe in it.

Okay, I think, I'll try it. At this point I have spent an entire day making scones with no actual scones to show for it. I have nothing to lose.


I finally give up. I am surrounded by not-scones. Three batches of three different recipes and all that's left are me in my dotty apron and around 30 things that are definitely not scones.

I leave the not-scones strewn across the kitchen and have a long bath.

Mum comes home from her meeting. She tries to assess what exactly I did wrong with all the scones. I do not want to talk about it.

Mum makes her own scones.


I vow never to make scones ever again.

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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Pete Wentz: Poet laureate of my wasted teenage pop punk heart.

Or: Fall Out Boy released a new song this week and then I wrote this weird post.

There's something about Fall Out Boy's music that makes me feel like I'm 17 again, but like, in the best way possible. Like I can single handedly kick the world into shape. Like I'm really alive. I know that's super cheesy but whatever, we've all got those bands, right?

There are some T. Rex songs that kind of make me feel that way too but unfortunately Marc Bolan is no longer around to release surprise albums. Imagine if Marc Bolan was around now though. Imagine the music videos. IMAGINE MARC BOLAN'S TWITTER FEED.

Sorry, this isn't about Marc Bolan, this is about Fall Out Boy.

(Although I mean, what isn't about Marc Bolan, really? If it's not about Marc Bolan it's usually about David Bowie or Dolly Parton. My music tastes are pretty sequin-based. With the exception of Fall Out Boy, who I am supposed to be talking about right now.)

I remember being a wee baby teenager and really only knowing a couple of Fall Out Boy's songs and just not really being that into it, but I had a few friends who really liked them so I listened to a few more of their songs.

Then I listened almost exclusively to Fall Out Boy and various Fueled by Ramen bands for about the next two years of my life.

And I have this weird association in my head between The Sims 2 and Folie à Deux because I spent basically the entire summer after Folie à Deux came out playing The Sims 2 with the sound off and listening to that album on repeat. Yeah, those are the crazy antics I got up to as a 17 year old.

I kind of took a hiatus from the whole pop punk thing while Fall Out Boy were on their own hiatus but when Save Rock and Roll came out last year it was like, well, this is it. This is my life again now. Patrick Stump tells me to put on my war paint and I'll do it. I'd probably kill a man if Patrick Stump asked me to. I wouldn't even question it.

Okay, so maybe I'm exaggerating a little. Maybe there is some hyperbole at play in this post but come on, what other band could get Courtney Love and Elton John in the same music video?

Maybe that's why I love Save Rock & Roll even more than their past albums (controversial, I know), maybe it's because the addition of Elton John brings Fall Out Boy one step closer to sequins than they have ever been before?

Sequins or not, listening to Centuries makes me feel like I could punch a shark right in the nose and I'm probably going to be completely useless for anything other than listening to the new album on repeat when it comes out.

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(I promise things will get back to normal with my next post.)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

August book reviews.


This month I FINALLY got to read Isla and the Happily Ever After and yes that caps lock was definitely necessary because I have been waiting for this book for so long I honestly started to think it might never be released. To paraphrase the great Twitter philosopher of our time, Jaden Smith: When You Have To Wait Over 18 Months For A Book. Then You Will Realise.



Life, the Universe and Everything is the third book in the Hitchhiker's Guide series. I reviewed the first two books last month and finished this one early in August. I loved the first two books in this series but honestly, I found this one to be a little bit of a chore to get through. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that the main group of characters spent a lot of this book apart and one of the things I had enjoyed most about the first two books was that group dynamic. Life, the Universe and Everything also seems even more complicated than the first two books in the series. Like, needlessly complicated. It was still very funny though and I'm still looking forward to reading the fourth book in the series, So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish. 3/5 stars.


Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

With Isla and the Happily Ever After finally being released I thought I'd better re-read Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door to refresh my memory of this world and its characters. I instantly fell in love with Anna and the French Kiss when I first read it and it was no different this time. Although I think I definitely noticed and appreciated more of the detail in this book the second time round. And since I'm always only one impulsive, late night, whiskey fuelled debit card transaction away from running away to Paris anyway, it will come as no surprise to anyone that Perkins's beautiful descriptions in this book had me rolling around on the floor, pining after French pastries and Notre Dame. 5/5 stars.


Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

The first time I read these books I actually preferred Anna and the French Kiss but upon re-reading them I think I've definitely changed my mind. Cricket Bell and Lola Nolan are the ones for me. I'm in love with both of them. Okay, mostly Cricket. However, Lola's view of fashion is pretty close to my own, albeit a little more extreme. Rest assured though if I could easily get my hands on some pink wigs and wasn't so terrible at sewing, I would totally be rocking Lola's looks. I've never been to San Francisco but again, just as with Anna and the French Kiss, Perkins's descriptions really brought the place to life for me. I almost felt like I could taste Andy's pies. I wish I could taste Andy's pies. 5/5 stars.


Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

I don't think I've ever ripped open a package as quickly as I did this one when it finally fell through our door. Isla and the Happily Ever After takes us back to The School of America in Paris from Anna and the French Kiss for a large part of the story but we also get to visit Barcelona and New York, which, again, Perkins does a fantastic job of using to just fill me with god damn wanderlust. If you've already read Anna and the French Kiss (which I ABSOLUTELY recommend you do before reading Lola or Isla because even though these aren't technically sequels there are still a few events in this book featuring characters from the previous two books that will definitely spoil the ending of Anna for you) then you'll be familiar with the two main characters in this book, Isla and Josh. Isla and the Happily Ever After follows a little bit of a different story to its sister books. Whereas Anna and Lola are more about the getting together, Isla is definitely more about the staying together, and it was really nice to read that. If I have just one complaint it would be that there is not enough of Isla's friend Kurt for my liking. I wanted more Kurt. I want a whole book about Kurt! But other than that, 5/5 stars.

If you're a fan of YA romance then I honestly cannot recommend this entire series enough. But you could probably tell that already.


The Wandering by Saruuh Kelsey - Expected release date: 23rd September 2014.

Alright so technically I was actually proof reading this one but I thought I'd sneak it on here anyway since 'proof reading' is totally still 'reading'. The Wandering is the sequel to Saruuh's first book, The Forgotten, which was one of my 10 Favourite Books of 2013. The Forgotten and The Wandering are the first two books in The Lux Guardians series, which will eventually be a series of four YA dystopian novels (is dystopian the official genre? Saruuh, let me know if I'm marketing your book wrong), which will all be available for free as ebooks with a limited number of paperbacks available too. The series follows four main characters; Honour and Horatia, who are from the year 2040, and Bennet and Branwell, from the year 1878, as well as a whole host of other fantastic, interesting characters. There's time travel, romance, secret organisations dedicated to overthrowing the corrupt government, all that good stuff. 5/5 stars.

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Sunday, 31 August 2014

August mix.



Track list

20th Century Boy - T. Rex
Anaconda - Nicki Minaj
John, I'm Only Dancing - David Bowie
Can't Rely on You - Paloma Faith
Comeback - Ella Eyre
Happy Little Pill - Troye Sivan
Shake It Off - Taylor Swift
Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Me Goodbye) - Vera Lynn

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EDIT: So, um, 8tracks replaced a couple of these tracks and I have no idea how to fix it so just know that those versions of John, I'm Only Dancing and Can't Rely on You are most definitely NOT the ones I've been listening to this month!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Doffins.


You might have heard about this doughnut/muffin hybrid being sold in a certain chain of coffee shops under a slightly different name but the copy of ASDA magazine that I got this recipe from refers to them as 'doffins' so in this case, so shall I. 

We all know they're duffins though, don't worry about it.

Whatever their name is the recipe is so easy I couldn't even believe it and they taste fantastic, so let's just get on with it, shall we?


Ingredients

85ml sunflower oil
1 large egg
125ml milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
200g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
125g jam
75g unsalted butter
100g granulated sugar

Method
  • Preheat your oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5 and grease 2 muffin trays with a little butter. Mum's old muffin trays smelled a little too much like rust for my liking so I used a standard 12-hole cupcake tray and aside from being a tiny bit burnt (when do I ever not burn anything?) the doffins ended up okay, if a little oddly shaped, so don't worry if you don't have any of the larger muffin trays, a cupcake tray will totally do in a pinch.
  • Put your sunflower oil, egg, milk, and vanilla extract in a bowl and beat with a fork until blended.
  • Sift your flour into another large bowl and stir in the caster sugar.
  • Add the oil, egg, and milk mixture to the flour and sugar and stir until it has all just mixed together. Don't stir the mixture too much or you'll end up with a tough dough. Don't worry if there are a few lumps - they'll sort themselves out.
  • Spoon half of the mixture into the muffin tins. Put about a tsp of jam into the middle of each muffin. (I used strawberry jam because it's all we had but you can use whatever jam you like! I suggest raspberry for a more authentic doughnutty flavour.) Then cover the jam with the rest of the dough mixture.
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and risen so that the tops spring back when pressed lightly.
  • While your doffins are cooling, melt your butter in a bowl (about 40 seconds in the microwave usually does it) and put your granulated sugar into another, shallow bowl.
  • As soon as the doffins are cooked, tip them out of their tins. One by one, use a pastry brush to brush the doffins with melted butter all over and then roll them in the granulated sugar until completely coated.
  • Leave to cool on a wire rack for as long as you can stand to before digging in!


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