The Paris Key by Juliet Blackwell – Book Review

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Read this if you have a trip to Paris booked or else you’ll torture yourself because this book makes you want to buy a one-way ticket there! ‘The Paris Key’ is magical and intriguing and I just wanted to live and breathe in the Paris that it paints. It is romantic, heady and intoxicating and traps your all your senses between the pages.

I bought ‘The Paris Key’ in Australia back in 2016 but only got around to reading it in March of 2018. I thought it would be a tacky contemporary style book but how wrong was I?! It has turned out to be one of my favourite reads of the year and I am recommending it to anyone who wants something light but mysterious and enjoyable at the same time.

Our main character Genevieve Martin, is in a crumbling relationship with her husband of several years. They have totally different interests and mutually come to the decision to end things slowly. Genevieve, remembering Summers holidaying abroad in Paris, France with her Uncle and Aunt decides to visit her French family after the recent death of her Uncle. He owned a Locksmith business that he left to Genevieve’s cousin, Catharine. Catharine doesn’t want the business so she hands it over to Genevieve to inherit as Genevieve had some talent in that area when she was younger and would visit Paris. Things were left on a bad note between Genevieve and Uncle Dave before his death for reason unbeknown to the reader. As the story progresses we find out through flashback chapters to the 80s, when Genevieve’s mother visited Paris, and the current day.

Centred around the Second World War and the contrasts between the Americans and French, set in a beautiful Parisian neighbourhood, ‘The Paris Key’ captures the magic of Paris entirely. Having lived there myself for some time, I can confidently say that ‘The Paris Key’ made me fall back in love with the city due to the Genevieve’s nostalgic memories and accurate descriptions of the City of Lights.

I loved getting to know more about locksmithing, something that I have not seen too often in novels. I found it fascinating and followed it up with some research of my own in that field. I admire Juliet Blackwell’s writing that she was able to write about Dave and Genevieve’s passion for locksmithing so infectiously.

My one complaint with the book – the reason why it didn’t score a full 5/5 stars for me – was that I felt the resolution to the plot was rushed and a tiny bit of an anticlimax. I did however really appreciate the way that Genevieve’s love interest and her end up. Without giving too much away, as this is a spoiler-free review, it is realistic and satisfying at the same time. I gave ‘The Paris Key’ ☆☆☆☆/5 stars.



City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare – Book Review

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This book is the second in ‘The Mortal Instruments’ series so this review is NOT Spoiler Free IF you haven’t read ‘City of Bones’ yet. It IS Spoiler Free however, IF you have read the first book in the series!

If you haven’t read the first book in the series: City of Bones. I have a spoiler review of it here:

city of ashes

Having read City of Bones, I was eager to pick up the next book inThe Mortal Instruments series and discover what the next step in Jace and Clary’s lives was. City of Bones left off well giving Cassandra Clare many different directions she could take the future books in. But I’m sure it was a shock to us all (unless you had been spoilt) when we found out (?) that Jacy and Clary weren’t just related but that they were brother and sister.

I have to say, I enjoyed City of Ashes more than City of Bones. I thought the story became much more interesting and left behind some of the clichés and typical plot often seen in YA. I would say that City of Bones was a “world-builder” so that City of Ashes could have already been established before it had even started.

Because of Clary’s mother’s situation, Luke loosely adopts Clary and mentors Simon in his new state. I really enjoyed getting to see more of Luke’s character as he was one of my favourites in City of Bones but he wasn’t hugely talked about in that book. Clary herself seems much more confident in City of Ashes which was nice to see. She also seems to rekindle her friendship with Simon a lot more having almost lost him in the book before.

Jace on the overhand still midly infuriates me. I cannot deal with people in real life who believe themselves to be “above the rules” and Jace is just that sort of person. I find it difficult to want him and Clary to be together as I think she is a more considerate person and I don’t want to see her personality heading in his way. I hope Jace re-alines himself a bit more in the coming books. Alec and Magnus’ relationship wavers in and out but Alec is still dedicated to Jace. It is nice to see Alec stick up for himself a bit more in City of Ashes though. Isabelle falls into the background a little which was disappointing but I know there is space for plenty more character development in the future of the series.

Introducing another one of the Mortal Instrument relics was an effective way at moving the pace along quickly. Often the second book in a trilogy or series can fall a bit flat but that was not the case with Cassandra Clare. There is a scene in the _ which I thought was very brutal and surprising but I felt that it stepped the novel up in terms of moving it more into the YA world rather than the Middle-Grade one which City of Bones was verging on.

I also enjoyed getting to know Valentine a little better. He is currently one of my favourite villains in a book as I think his character is very interesting. He is emotionally manipulative and genuinely believes what he is doing is for the greater good. He doesn’t seem like a madman like so many villains do in good VS evil stories. He shows his full intentions to Jace but our views are not coloured by Jace’s opinion as the story is told in the 3rd person which I am, for once, thankful for. -If you did not know, I am usually a huge advocate for the 1st person narrative.

The final fight scene in the book was very well written. It was dramatic and colourful and I thought each of the characters and their personalities were handled well. I particularly liked Magnus in this scene. He seemed much more vulnerable and a more human-like, realistic character. However, I did find that when Clary finally got to Valentine I found it to be slightly anti-climactic. Please let me know your own thoughts on this…

I rated City of Ashes ☆☆☆☆/5 stars (.5 of a ☆ higher than City of Bones) which I am finding to be quite a high rating for me. I am trying to be more critical with my ratings this year as I take reading and the book-world much more seriously so ☆☆☆☆’s means it did good! I am excited to read City of Glass as I enjoyed City of Ashes so much and it left off on another pesky cliff-hanger!


Lolita by Vladamir Nabakov // Book Reviewable

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‘Lolita’ was always high on my classics TBR list. For one reason or another, a few years ago, it became a trendy book to be reading. Every trendy 20-something year old would have a copy of ‘Lolita’ on their bookshelves. I began to wonder what all the fuss was about. So, as I’m sure you saw coming, I hopped on the bandwagon.

The best way I could describe ‘Lolita’ is as a inner monologue of the ever so sickly Humbert Humbert A.K.A. the man that preys on the child, Dolores, better known to the reader as Lolita. Nabakov’s writing is so powerful and cleverly done that Humbert’s ways are almost justified. Before anyone comes running at me with abuse, I will explain what I mean. I knew the subject of the book was a pedophile’s obsession with little girls and in particular a fixation on that named Lolita so yes, I did go into the book aware of that. I didn’t think, however, that the novel would make Humbert’s disgusting ways seem at all appropriate. The mind of Humbert Humbert became my own as I worked my way through the book until at no point in particular I was awe struck at how revolting the entire situation was and how hugely blinded I had become due to Humbert’s sickly narrative.

I think it is extremely interesting reading ‘Lolita’ in our day and age due to the current news in the media about sexual assault. Picturing peadaphillic people in day-to-day life can be difficult when you are living a sheltered life unaware of these persons among us. But when faced by real accounts of child abuse this becomes much more real. I think this is what sparked my slap in the face when I somehow remembered the age difference and emotional manipulation of Humbert Humbert to Lolita.

When reading the novel, moments such as Humbert masturbating over Lolita made me feel sick to the core and I was worried that this would be a theme in the book as it occurred quite early on. Fortunately, this wasn’t the case. This is probably the grimiest scene in writing. Most other cases of sexual abuse, including the rape(!), are only skimmed over and not spoken about in great detail.

‘Lolita’ normalises child sexual abuse and rape in a way I have not seen before. It is eye opening and glaringly harsh. A trick of the eye that stays with you long after you have turned the final page, read the last sentence. It unnerved me and made me feel dirty and wanting to reach for a fluffier, safer romance. I wanted to run for all things good in people and leave the mess of human morals behind. In one way I cringe at the griminess of the book and in others: isn’t that what good writing is? Infecting your reader with the substance of your book, contaminating them with your words. I felt truly trapped in the world of Lolita and I found myself thankful that the story hadn’t been real before I quickly remembered that, horrifically, there are stories like this is real, raw, modern life.

Something didn’t quite gel with me with ‘Lolita’ and no, I’m not talking about the obvious! While the plot was well-rounded, I found it to be stunted in parts and I’m not sure quite what it is, but something was off. For this reason, and reasons I have mentioned throughout this blogpost, I decided to give ‘Lolita’ a rating of ☆☆☆☆ /5 stars. It got me thinking but it was by no means one of my favourite books. I am glad that it is one that I can now tick of my mile-long TBR list though!


Little Women by Louisa May Alcott – Book Review

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While I enjoy modern classics, I have a hard time convincing myself to read classic, classics. I find myself easily bored by much of the language and uninterested in the lengthy plots. This is something that I am trying to change.

I received a beautiful edition of Little Women for my 10th Birthday and have just never had the motivation to read the hundreds of pages. Instead, I put it off and I put it off and gradually it slipped further and further down my TBR list. That was until the BBC did a television series on Little Women. While I’m not one for watching the film before you’ve read the book, this did encourage me to pick the novel up as I finished my current read when I got halfway through the final episode in the BBC series. A month later and here we are.

Even once I started, It took me a while to read Little Women. Furious at myself for having taken an entire month to read one book, I forced myself to read the final 20% in one evening. At 02:30AM, about to give up, 5 pages from the end, I willed myself on and very sleepily, turned the final page and read the final lines. It was not that I didn’t like the storyline or that I didn’t get on well with the characters, I just found that I enjoyed some parts of the plot much more than others so I had some slow moments with it.

If, like me, you find classics a bit unreachable, I’d say Little Women is a nice one to start with. It’s not the shortest book in the world, but the language is very accessible as it was aimed as a children’s book. Yes, a children’s book written in the 1800s, but still a children’s book. Even if things have to be hard, it’s better if they’re a tiny bit easier, right? That’s not to say the writing is simple. In fact, some pieces are so beautifully written that I read them several times over. I am a sucker for words and this novel did not disappoint. Here’s an example:

“There are many Beths in the world, shy and quiet, sitting in corners till needed, and living for others so cheerfully that no one sees the sacrifices till the little cricket on the hearth stops chirping, and the sweet, sunshiny presence vanishes, leaving silence and shadow behind.”

This sentence also gives a little hint towards the sadder parts of the novel. Noteably one in particular (which I won’t give any details on as this is a spoiler-free review) which, if you’ve read the book, trust me: you would know of it. I do not often cry in books but oh my goodness; I cried twice in Little Women. I don’t mean a sniff or two. I mean full on tears streaming down my face silently while I’m sitting in public transport or at the dinner table. What did I say? I like words, okay?

Unlike the movie of the book City of Bones by Cassandra Clare, watching the television series did not detract from my opinions of the book. I actually think that because the book is fresh in my mind, as I read the book after the TV series, that the book is the one that stuck with me as opposed to when I read City of Bones before watching the movie and I had the movie fresh in my mind when I was writing up the review for the novel. I wouldn’t put people off watching the TV series, I’d just say keep an open mind if you watch it and always remember the novel came before the TV show.

Apparently, every girl who reads Little Women identifies to one of the four sisters. I’m not so sure but in case you want to know me better, according to close friends and family, I am a Jo crossed with a Meg with some Beth in me, not much Amy, though.I am told that the depictions of the relationship between sisters is very realistic. As I do not have a sister myself I cannot completely vouch for this but I believe the family dynamics work well so it is likely to be accurate. I also appreciated how different the sisters were and I enjoyed getting a peak into their lives as adults with families at the very end of the novel.

I gave Little Women a rating of ☆☆☆☆.5/5 stars. Even though this is the same rating that I gave The AlchemistI had very different issues with each book. I largely enjoyed Little Women but I wouldn’t say it was one of my favourite books ever but it’s always nice for a book to bring you to tears…


The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho – Book Review

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Go on any form of social media, and soon enough you’ll come across a quote from ‘The Alchemist’ by Paulo Coelho. Its beautiful, poetic words were what attracted me to the novel and sealed its place on my TBR list. Going through a bookcase, placed in my very own home, I found a copy of this much anticipated book, and after freaking out for a sec, I began it immediately.

As the novel is only 170 pages long I thought it might have taken me less time to complete it. I planned to read it all in one afternoon however when I first began it I struggled getting in to it. I think it is important to note that ‘The Alchemist’ is described as a fable by the author. In fact the full title of the book is ‘The Alchemist: A Fable About Following Your Dream’. I went into the story unaware of this and therefore approached it wrongly. The writing style is very unusual and not something I’d tend to go for. It felt kind of like I was reading a non-fiction book – similar to the analogies in philosophy text books. However, it was something that I did learn to appreciate; it was just something different for me.

Once I got my head around the writing, and started to gain an idea of the plot line, I quickened my reading pace. I’d say that it was around the 100 page mark that I very much started to enjoy ‘The Alchemist’ but it is due to the fact that it took me so long to get into that it doesn’t quite reach it’s full 5 star rating potential.

The characters we come across in ‘The Alchemist’ all represent that moment in time for the young shepherd boy. I particularly admired the character of the Alchemist himself. I found it unusual that he wasn’t introduced until much later on in the plot because I found he was what sealed the books rating for me and I would’ve enjoyed the first half much more if he’d actually been in it!

Whenever I read a line that I appreciate in books, I like to fold over the top corner so to mark it. My copy of this book is COVERED with page turns it’s actually crazy how many there are. I was almost annoying myself at the amount of times I had to stop reading to turn over the top of the page. I was doing it almost every single page or at least every double spread. An example of one of these lines would be: “…after weeks of yellow sand and blue sky, they first saw the green of the date palms. Maybe God created the desert so that man could appreciate the date trees, he thought.”.

The ending of ‘The Alchemist’ made me kick myself and laugh from simple enjoyment at the same time. It is so plainly obvious, I feel as if I was ignorant to not see it coming. At first I felt annoyed at the completeness of it all and then I realised that no other ending would have been sufficient for this fable. The line in the book “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.” sums up the premiss of this book for me. The young boy’s journey is all about where his heart lies and what he values as treasure. It’s ingenious if you think about it but so simple at the same time. Please do not spoil the ending for yourselves. Any review that goes into more detail than I have gone into I would not recommend. It is best to go into ‘The Alchemist’ largely blind sighted.

I chose the rating of ☆☆☆☆.5/5 stars for ‘The Alchemist’. I did truly enjoy this fable and I would say it is one of the few books that I have read that I believe everyone should read at least once in their lives. For moral intentions and worldly view if not anything more. I’m pretty sure that it would have been even better in it’s original language as I’m sure something gets lost through translation – the same being for any foreign language book.


Skyrocketing Stress Levels

Staring out of the bus window, somehow the lives of others seem much less stress. I am heading back to London today after a short but sweet weekend at home in the countryside. Something about the lack of people or the quietness of a November weekend morning hide all my troubles and allow me to have a glimpse into a worry-free world.

Sunday night and the dread sets in. Wow, I really have to go back to reality tomorrow. To buying my Sainsbury’s-own bread from the hard earned money I keep so close and finally not procrastinating the mammoth project I have less than two weeks to complete. The stressors may vary, but every single week it’s pretty much the same.

But still I crawl out of bed at the sound of my alarm on Monday morning and pack my bags, kiss my cat goodbye, trundle my suitcase towards the train station and then the bus station, and here I am. Back to face it all over again. I get through another week (miraculously!) and there I am. Dying to be home for the weekend. A pocket of peace from a week that I dread. But somehow I always still manage to just about get through.

Earlier this morning, I heaved my belongings on to the train, looking longingly back at my local station and my eyes fell on the ticket manager. She was going to be alright. She had a stable, decent job and she could go home to her bliss at the end of the day. Look at that! She’s married too. She probably has a sweet little home she shares with her husband, decorated with photographs of her grandchildren. What an enviable life…

“I could honestly burst into tears today!” she exclaims to no one in particular, “It’s so hard to do this when you just want to go home and cry.”. Confused, I watch as she picks up the announcement phone and says that the train is ready to depart and lists off the next few stations. “I am so sorry, but today we are missing the refreshments trolly. I have been on the phone all morning trying to locate one in the next stations that we could use but I’ve had no luck. I apologise for the obvious inconvenience.”. Probably still not worth crying about.

“I also apologise for the lack of reservations cards on top of the seats. I know so many of you are disappointed with me for this and I am trying to find out why some seats are triple booked.”. She ends the announcement and a lady beside us draws attention to the fact that the train before us didn’t turn up. The ticket lady reissues her a new ticket, refunding the old one and tells her to call into GWR to receive a formal apology, before dashing off down the carriage to answer another unhappy customer.

This lady had been put in charge of a train where there was no one to assist her and countless problems, not even by her own hand, that she had to be the one to deal with. I had been so into the dreamy state that everyone’s life was better than mine, that seeing someone else suffering under their own role in life, threw me.

So here I am. Sitting on the bus, working away at the project I have since found out is due five days later than I had previously thought, thinking life isn’t all that bad after all and oddly always seems to have this funny way of figuring itself out…


A Taster of Camden Market

Two weeks ago, a friend invited me to join her on a trip to Camden Market. I had seen her mouth-watering, foodie, Instagram photos, from when she’d been there the weekend before, and was eager to have a peak myself. We headed down there (or up there for me!) at midday on a Saturday. Lemme tell you, Camden is even busier on a Saturday than you could possibly imagine! My friend had no problem with it because the last time she had been was during the Easter Holidays. Think crowds of tourists and triple that!

After meeting each other, and battling our way through Camden Town Tube Station, we headed towards Camden Lock in search of lunch, or brunch for me. The food market is held everyday on the opposite side of the Canal Lock from the station. It wasn’t quite as extensive as I had assumed it would be, but that’s me being fussy and comparing it to French standards. The quality of the food was next level.

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Unlike perhaps some of the Parisian markets, Camden is far less old-worldy, with bright colours and graffiti compared to the more rustic French look. Picture 2017 Drake playing instead of live acoustics. Camden became a very hip and cool place with the kids in the late 20th to 21st Century. Therefore, expect your fair share of Urban Outfitters-clad tweens and a handful man-buns.

Our first stop was Oli Baba’s, infamous for their halloumi chips which are, according to them, the “original halloumi fries”. Not gonna lie, I loved them! They are pretty much what they say they are; halloumi deep-fried and served up in a box. We had all the toppings to get out money’s worth which included: greek yoghurt, pomegranate seeds, sunflower seeds and shredded mint. The crunchiness of the seeds combined with the rubberiness of the cheese made the texture something quite special and the cooling toppings contrasted pleasantly with the fattiness of the deep-frying. I posted the photo below on Instagram, and had LOT of positive response in the comments.

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We tried a couple more snacks as we wandered around eating our halloumi fries, and eventually settled main course with a Japanese Chicken Tonkatsu Curry from Yu Kyu mmm..! Not gonna lie, the only times I’ve eaten Katsu Curry have been at Wagamama so I had small past experience. Good, but small. But you can trust my words as my friend on the other hand, knows her stuff and she approved it! It was served on sticky, white rice with coleslaw and red onion on the side as a salad. The chicken was breaded and the sauce was the perfect mix of sweet and savoury. The portion was a apt size for the two of us to share and even then, we scraped the bowl clean. I also posted this one on Instagram and I’m sure I made many people envious!

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After this feast (!), we went and explored more of Camden and left the immediate food market. Down the stairs, behind the lock, there is a larger, more general market and tucked along that street is a veeeery famous ice cream café called Chin Chin Labs which is said to have “the best ice cream in England” and be “Europe’s first liquid nitro ice cream”! I know this post is about the market, but I have to mention Chin Chin. The café feels very much like a science lab, I suppose because the ice cream is made with liquid nitrogen. I had a scoop of the classic Burnt Butter Caramel and my friend had an amazing hot chocolate with a dollop of melted marshmallow atop.

We then delved into the darker depths of Camden Market and found a foodie’s paradise with worldwide cuisine at our fingertips. The smells and sights were incredible and the stall that particularly drew me in was the Indian one. Next time I will definitely be heading back there.

I was super thirsty at this point, so I grabbed a berry smoothie from a place with fresh fruits. It wasn’t the best I’ve ever had but it hit the spot alright.

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Next up, was dessert; Churros! We hit up La Churreria, a Spanish doughnut stall. I’m not sure there was enough room left in my belly to really get the most out of these sugary wonders but nevertheless; they were delicious. I’d had my eye on them since we’d entered the market and was eager to give them a go. I cannot complain. I mean who can when they’re presented with deep-friend, sugar coated pastries with Nutella on the side?

We then ventured on to South Kensington but I’ll leave that story for another day…

If you’re an adventurous foodie who’s eager to scan the London food scene, or just someone up for a couple of different dishes, Camden Food Market is the place to go.