Thursday, 27 July 2017

Hold Back The Stars by Katie Khan || Book Review

Looks like this book may be my favourite of the year so far. I hold high hopes nothing else I read will top it. With it being my 32nd book of 2017, there's still plenty of time for me to read more, but NOTHING will compete against Hold Back The Stars.

Hold Back The Stars is a fantastic story, marvellous, wonderful. It's a peculiar love story set in a future utopian world called Europia. Involving space too. Khan's world-building is so convincing I felt like I was living there too, which means it works. Her world-building is successful. HBTS would make an incredible movie. Citizens of Europia are to move through different communities (Voivodes) every three years. The ideals of the world are individualism, with every man responsible for their own actions. 

Carys and Max meet whilst on the same Voivode when Carys enquires on the Mindshare (Cool technology) about goose fat. Quirky! Their friendship quickly blooms despite the Couples Rule stating citizens are not to engage in permanent relationships until the age of 35. Carys and Max are in their twenties, but there's a strong, undying connection between them they cannot ignore. 


At the start of the book, Carys and Max are in space and have 90 minutes left of oxygen. We don't know how they came to be there just yet. Another delightful plot point from Khan. Wait for the story to unfold! The chapters are divided by scenes in space as they panic and logically make a plan for survival, and scenes on Earth of their relationship before. I liked this structure, I was watching the characters reminisce their relationship as they floated closer to time running out.

HBTS is emotional and hopeful, a story of friendship, survival and love. Doted with interesting science and space facts. Khan has developed their world with fascinating technology; the Mindshare is a futuristic Twitter sharing thoughts and queries; the Voivode Games where citizens can connect their wrist chip to an athlete and feel everything they feel as they experience the games.

A perfect sci-fi romance novel with a gorgeous cover!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

London Exploring | House of Minalima, Harry Potter and Hotdogs

As a surprise my mum told me we were going on a trip to London to visit the Harry Potter galleries/exhibitions dotted around the city. The surprise was to celebrate my fourth anniversary as a diabetic, every year I treat myself to something a little bit sugary (Cake) but this year my Mum had a plan up her sleeve. We got the train to London and spent the day exploring, gasping at Harry Potter, finding independent bookshops and eating vegan hot dogs from VX in Kings Cross. I had the most exciting day and my love for Harry Potter is still very much intact, and growing. 





First stop, Camden. A quick walk through Camden high street early morning is strange when you're used to the busyness of weekends. It was awfully quiet. The juices from The Good Yard are incredible, I've tried the 'Gym' shake!


On route to the Pottermore Pop-up gallery on Portobello Road. We walked through Portobello high street, its market and its variety of antique shops. One house on the street had a plaque declaring where writer George Orwell took up residence from 1903-1950, as a bookworm and literature enthusiast I was fascinated. It's peculiar to me to think about writers; where they lived; where they wrote their most famous works; the streets they walked upon.


The Pottermore Pop-up at Graffik Gallery on Portobello Road is only open 1st July - 7th July, unfortunately. It's a gallery appreciating artists and designers based on the Harry Potter franchise. The prints are available to buy, prices beginning at £19.95. These seven prints are designs for each movie. 





The House of Minalima on Greek Street in Soho is four floors dedicated to Harry Potter. It focuses on the graphic design that went into the films by two artists Miraphora and Eduardo. The attention to detail is unbelievable; the editions of The Daily Prophet, The Marauder's Map and Weasleys Wizard Wheezes. This museum/gallery is definitely eccentric and one of a kind. The tour through the four floors is interesting to say the least, very engaging and free! It showcases some of the actual props from the films, currently on loan from Warner Brothers. You can buy prints and accessories in the shop on the ground floor. 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Mini Book Review | Treats by Lara Williams


"Love was sneaky like that. It found a warm nook, a safe space, and crept in, settling there like an unwelcome houseguest..."



Treats by Manchester based writer Lara Williams is a collection of short stories. Some super short (Two page stories) and some of longer length. A lot of them focus on womanhood and all the various aspects of life: Careers, love, break-ups, dating, pregnancy and friendship. 

I flew through this book, my second time reading it. The stories are easy to devour. Short story collections mean you don't have to dedicate long periods of your time to reading. You can dip in and out as you please. Read one story and let it manifest. Come back to it another day, there's no need to remember the characters or plot because it's brand new. That's what I like about them. No commitment to a 70,000 word novel. 

I read this in a day, and absorbed all the stories, let them linger in my mind. I found myself relating to some of the situations and feelings felt by the characters. However, saying that, I didn't relate to some of the strange sex requests. "Can I pee on you?" is not my sexual fantasy. Williams's creates clear images and the detail is enticing. The stories are funny, hopeful and slightly depressing. 

Most of the main characters were women, I loved this. I loved the honest perspectives of life, and the second person narration allowing the reader to be in the character's shoes. Some of the stories spoke to me on a personal level, at a point in my life where everything appears to be changing, there's an uncertainty to my future, and I'm discovering who I am. I believe books find you the moment you need them. At a moment of relevance in your life. This book made me think about my own personal growth, my goals and plans.

My favourite stories are 'Treats' about Elaine, she is a woman of kindness, someone who gives and doesn't expect anything in return. It is her joy to treat people, to display random acts of kindness. She brings coffee and lunch to her colleague Joan, despite being the office manager herself. She visits the cinema by herself after her husband lets her down and she purchases a ticket for the girl behind her in the queue who also happens to be alone. Her selflessness has stayed with me, and how being alone isn't always something to be criticised. 

'Penguin' is another favourite. A single woman in her late twenties starts using dating websites, and finds herself sifting through the weirdos. She meets a man, begins a relationship and reaches all
the typical relationship milestones. Meet the friends, meet the family, move in, etc. Then, the man reveals a rather odd sex request. "Dress up like a penguin and incubate some eggs.".


Do you have any short story collection recommendations?

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Countryside Loving

I live in a town with an abundance of small villages in the surrounding areas. These villages are quaint and picturesque. White cottages with beautiful flowerbeds and thatched roofs, that kinda thing. The type of place a romance film starring Hugh Grant would be filmed. Their churches are to be admired, again small but with incredible architecture and traditional graveyards with stones hundreds of years old.

When I'm old and grey, and a successful author I want to live in a small thatched cottage in the countryside. Maybe with my own allotment nearby too. Dream big!



Events come all year round, Summer brings village fetes and my family spend weekends visiting them. A true family affair, dog too, we explore and take our turn picking tickets for the tombola. Chocolate tombolas and my favourite, the alcoholic ones. My sister and I have lucky picking abilities, and we often have handfuls of tickets ending in 0 and 5. I recently won rose wine (Yes please), beer and aero chocolate.
Wandering around the fetes under gazebos with local families selling homemade jams and baked goods, and homemade crafts. There's just something I love about the atmosphere, the sunny skies and feeling of community.  The traditional games for children (And adults of course) including a coconut shy and guessing games.





The lush greenery of the countryside sucks me in every time. I think myself as a city gal. I love exploring London and navigating the complicated maze that is the London Underground. I moved to Bath for university which is a pretty big city. But countryside feels like home. The winding roads that are dangerously narrow, the continuous roll of fields and livestock. The long walks, not just in summer, but every season. The trees, the tiny rivers and steep hills are what I'm all about. I like to take photographs. I like being surrounded by nature and its freedom compared to the hustle and bustle of city centres. 

As a writer, a creative searching for fresh ideas and inspiration, nature brings the most creative thoughts. The quiet, the walking and exploring, the little villages make me want to write more than ever. My head is always a flurry of ideas and my phone is full of random notes and descriptions.