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3 Books With a Strong Female Lead

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love a good book, in fact I have a book club Ladies Lit Squad and I do try and read a book a week (I’m fast and usually do it in one day at the weekend) unless life gets in the way. Anyway this crappy winter weather is probably a very good impetus for us all to get snuggled up with a good page-turner and here are three written by women and with a truly compelling female lead,enjoy!

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

In this super-interesting book, science writer Rebecca Skloot looks at the life and afterlife of Henrietta Lacks, the African-American woman whose cancer cells were harvested and used to create an immortal cell line for scientific experimentation. You could say that Henrietta is the most important woman in medical history as her cells, taken from a cervical-cancer biopsy, became the first immortal human cell line and have helped scientists to research and find cures for literally hundreds of diseases. So why do we know nothing about this woman? Why do her family still live in poverty while other people have made millions off of her biology? This book is a riveting look at science and race and you have to read it.

Download it here

Tampa by Alissa Nutting

This novel was inspired by the case of Debra Lafave, a 24-year-old American teacher who was arrested for an affair with her 14-year-old student, but escaped prison when her defence lawyer successfully argued that she was “too pretty for prison”. The plot of Tampa follows Celeste Price a 26 year-old, affluent, stunning schoolteacher in suburban, Florida.  All she wants is sex with pubescent boys, all the time, and her job allows her access. This book makes for uncomfortable reading at times, Celeste is unapologetic, a predator, but there are moments where you do warm to her. The effect on the boys she seduces is well-written and it’s definitely an… interesting… read.

Buy Tampa here 

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

This book follows the story of brilliant but fraying Bernadette, her adoring husband Elgie and her daughter Bee. It’s written in an interesting style through a series of letters, emails, phone transcripts, doctors’ reports, instant messaging exchanges and even a transcript of a TED Talk. Bernadette is such an interesting character, fiercely intelligent but kooky, she’s agoraphobic, she lives in a crumbling house, the neighbours hate her, but she’s so likeable. This story revolves around the story of how she goes missing… but will she be found?

Download the book here

 

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3 Books You Need To Read This Winter

As you may or may not know, this year I started a girls-only book club called Ladies Lit Squad. Since founding LLS in the summer, we’ve had three amazing meetings at The Hoxton Hotel, with sponsors like Urban Decay, Penguin Books and Pukka Herbs and we’ve read a lot of books. Follow LLS on Instagram to read along with us. Oh, and here are just three of the amazing books I’ve read recently that I think you should too… after all it’s hibernation season now. The ideal time to snuggle up with a good book.

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Living The Dream by Lauren Berry

This was the book we read for our second Ladies Lit Squad book club and we were also lucky enough to have the author come and talk about the book. Living The Dream is a tongue in cheek title that will be a familiar refrain to those of us who headed to the bright lights of London for a career in fashion, media or, like the lead character in this novel, work in advertising. There’s a constant pressure in life, especially in London, to have it all. And this book is about not quite getting there. A great read for twenty-somethings who don’t have it all figured out yet.

Buy it HERE

 

the upstairs room

The Upstairs Room by Kate Murray-Browne

Ladies Lit Squad read this for our third meeting and this modern-day ghost tale really resonated with the group. It’s the tale of Richard, Eleanor and their two children and Zoe, their ‘mercurial’ 27-year-old lodger. The couple buy a bargain house in London Fields, only to find that it may very well be haunted. This isn’t really a ghost story – it’s more about the relationships between the characters, who are all multi-layered and well rounded. I read this in a day, it’s fast-paced and perfect for a cold Sunday indoors.

Buy it HERE

 

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Lullaby by Leila Slimani

Another spooky book which opens with the ominous lines “The baby is dead. It took only a few seconds.”. That’s enough to whet your whistle, right? When Myriam, a French-Moroccan lawyer, decides to return to work after having children, she and her husband look for the perfect nanny for their two young children. And they find her… or so they think. This voyeuristic peek into the domestic arrangements of a French family is truly chilling, but you’ll have to wait until next year to read it. Or if you’re a Ladies Lit Squad member you got a copy at our last meeting.

Released January 2018

How to Spend a Weekend in Margate

I recently took my first visit to the little seaside town of Margate. To say I enjoyed it would be an understatement, I’ve been checking RightMove for Margate properties since I got back (pretty cheap, if you’re asking). It’s just an hour and a half from London, easy to get around and full of fun things to do. Here’s my 2 night, 3 day itinerary

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The beach

Friday

Get the train from London Victoria, booked early so got a return for around £25. Drink some tinnies on the train there. At Margate station we can’t get a cab and there’s no Uber. So we walk to our AirBnb which takes about 15 minutes.

Our Airbnb in the Cliftonville area is lovely and has sea views. The host gives us some insider tips to Margate including a restaurant suggestion Roost, which we make a booking for that evening.

There’s an Aldi supermarket round the corner so we get some provisions for the weekend. Wine and beer and bagels, eggs, salmon and avocado for breakfast. And snacks of course.

Visit some local pubs including The Lighthouse which is a really cute little place, although I think it must’ve been bought out by BrewDog as that’s the only beer they serve.

Explore the town a bit before getting dinner at Roost. The service here is great and we go for a whole lobster with all the trimming and some local beer. The lobster is DELICIOUS and I could eat 3 more. Still hungry/greedy so get some whitebait too. Finish off with a naughty Knickerbocker Glory. Meal comes to £50 for two people with drinks. Well worth it.

End the night getting pissed in our AirBnB and enjoying the view.

Saturday

Get up early to visit the Tidal Swimming Pool at Walpole Bay as suggested by our host. It’s a 5 minute walk from our place and empty at this time of day. The water is freezing but swimming around is super fun and certainly wakes us up for the day.

Head into Margate for an al fresco lunch at The Greedy Cow which is located in a charming little square. We have a delicious burger and beers.

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Do a spot of shopping. Transmission Records is great independent record shop where we listen to some old jazz. Haeckel’s is a Margate-based skincare brand which is stocked in Liberty and Selfridges and has a shop on our street. Everything is made from locally sourced seaweed and we slap some testers on our skin. There are lots of vintage clothing and furniture shops – and skate shops too. The hipsters have really made their mark on Margate.

Head to Dreamland, the funfair. It’s much bigger than I expected with loads of rides. We decide to do the rollercoaster – it’s not too big. £5 each. You have to get a card to top up before using any rides. We then get a beer and sit in the outside bit of Dreamland. After that we play old-fashioned arcade games.

Head to the penny arcades to play MarioKart and air hockey, there’s a few arcades opposite the main beach.

We eat dinner and The Buoy and Oyster which overlooks the sea. This restaurant is a bit pricier than yesterday’s. We have a cocktail each which aren’t that good. The oysters are sublime though, really amazing. For mains we have the lamb which is okay, and the catch of the day which is lovely. Skip dessert. £65 for two people.

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Walk along the seafront and as we’re pretty pooped we decide to have a night in. Grab some dessert and wine from the supermarket on the way home.

Sunday

It’s our last day, so we have a leisurely breakfast in bed while watching Broad City (AKA the finniest show ever).

Visit the Turner Contemporary galley which is a 10-minute walk from our AirBnB. We leave our suitcases there for free as our train home isn’t for a few hours yet. Love the Michael Armitage exhibition – he’s a Kenyan artist whose large bark canvases are beautiful, if a little dark. I buy a framed print as a souvenir.

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Tuner Contemporary

Have a beer on the beach – it’s really hot and the beach is packed. There are steps that lead into the sea to sit on of you’re not into sand.

We go for a drink on the strip of bars that lead to the lighthouse as we haven’t explored up there yet. Sit in the sun playing cards.

We have lunch at a little seaside shack. Have the catch of the day and chips for £6. Simple. It’s really delicious too.

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Pick up the bags fro the gallery and walk to the station to get the train home to London. Back at home by 6.30pm.

NOTES

Our Airbnb cost £210 for 2 nights but was more expensive as bank holiday weekend

Train cost around £25 return each

No transport needed in Margate

We cut costs by buying food at the supermarket and eating breakfast at the AirBnB.

Click HERE to see what I was wearing in Margate…

4 Books Recommended by Ladies Lit Squad

As you may or may not know, I recently started a kick-ass, all-female book club called Ladies Lit Squad – so I have a lot of books to read of late. Having a book club is a bibliophile’s dream as I get sent new books every week. Here are four I really enjoyed and which will be in the goodie bags for the next book club if you’re going!

THE ROANOKE GIRLS

The Roanoke Girls tells the story of Lane Roanoke, her cousin Allegra and a rather dysfunctional family tree. The beautiful girls in the Roanoke family all share a dark secret, and that’s what the book is about – I don’t want to give too much away. I read this in a couple of days as I just couldn’t put it down. This book reveals some killer plot twists within the first few pages, hooking you instantly… and it continues to deliver to the very end.

Buy The Roanoke Girls by Amy Engel

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GATHER THE DAUGHTERS

Set in a dystopian future (or maybe it’s the present, I haven’t worked it out), Gather The Daughters is A Handmaids Tale for Millennials. Told through the eyes of a handful of teenage girls on an island cult, the book is dark and creepy. The set up is much like a Mormon community, there’s no technology or contact with the outside world on this island, and every summer the girls run wild, like Rumspringa, as the rest of the year they have it pretty bad. I recommend this but the ending might leave you cold.

Buy Gather The Daughters by Jennie Melamed

gather the daughters

THE MARSH KING’S DAUGHTER

This book centres around a premise that many of us find endlessly fascinating – abduction. The main character was born in… captivity… as her mother was kidnapped by her father as a teenager. The protagonist grew up, living off the land of the marsh, until she escaped. Now grown up, living a normal life, she learns her father has escaped from prison. I found the central characters in the book really interesting, but I enjoyed the flashbacks more than the present day.

By The Marsh King’s Daughter by Karen Dionne
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I’LL EAT WHEN I’M DEAD

I’ll Eat When I’m Dead is pretty ridiculous, but then it’s also pretty true to life (from someone who has worked in fashion and at a magazine). It’s basically a murder mystery set inside a workplace drama, with a bit of romance thrown in. If you’re not into fashion then you’ll be lost and/or bored, plus, there are some weird references where you think that this might be set in 2045 or maybe the 90s. It’s hard to tell. It’s The Devil Wears Prada if it was written on acid – but pretty entertaining.

Buy I’ll Eat When I’m Dead by Barbara Bourland

ill eat when im dead

Timeless Style: The Trench Coat

Now that the British summertime is officially over – thanks, it was a great couple of weeks – I’m getting all excited thinking about my autumn wardrobe. Mainly outerwear. Any fashion lover worth their salt knows the value of a great jacket or coat They can make or break an outfit – plus, they’re essential unless you want hypothermia. One style that never, ever goes out of fashion in the classic trench coat or mac.

The trench coat is as timeless as a pair of blue jeans, a denim jacket or an LBD. And it goes pretty well with all of those items! A great trench will see you through a chilly summer into autumn and winter as they’re especially good for layering.

The style was invented way back in the 1850s for army officers to wear and it’s a quintessentially British bit of garb. Of course, they still look amazing today with celebrities such as Kate Moss, Alexa Chung and Jessica Alba frequently being seen in theirs.

As for how to style a trench coat, that’s pretty simple. It is one of the most versatile and hardworking items you can have in your wardrobe. They instantly smarten up a pair of jeans and tee and look sophisticated when worn with a dress for work or a meeting. I love to wear mine layered with a hoodie or denim jacket and trainers – for that ‘model off duty’ look (minus the model figure).

Classically trenches are beige or stone in colour but I would encourage you to try one in a wear-with-anything black shade or to go wild and buy one in a bold and bright shade like orange or cobalt blue. You can find trench coats all over the high street at a variety of price-points – so what are you waiting for?

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Classic and neutral

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Great for guys too

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A pop of pink

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Oversized and cool

This post was written in collaboration with Jack Wills

Book Review: How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell

Cat Marnell is a polarising character, by that I don’t mean your either love her or you hate her. I mean she changes your own mind about her several times in one paragraph. To give this context, Cat, is a drug addict. Her memoir How to Murder Your Life was written, we presume, under the influence so it’s raw, erratic and sometimes hard to read (she’s a fan of a !!!!!!!!!!!). On the flipside it’s this honesty and vulnerability that makes her so likeable.
Cat takes us through her very privileged upbringing, boarding school and then to the hallowed halls of Conde Nast where she was a beauty editor at Lucky magazine. So far, so good – but her parents are distant, damaged phycologists who put her on Adderall as a kid (to which she soon becomes addicted), at boarding school she’s high, has a failed relationship and traumatic abortion, and her years in New York are a crack-fest of mishaps, loneliness and tragedy.

As enviable as her life from the outside is, Cat is careful to let readers know the truth of it. On the surface she was a successful, rich woman with a glamorous job. But scratch the surface and she was conning shrinks into prescribing her drugs and slowly losing her mind.

Cat-Marnell-Lipstick

The author

The most interesting parts of the book are just how she continued to get away with such awful behavior and being strung out on drugs at work. In our book club, we briefly discussed whether her experience would have been the same as a WOC (we thought not). Her ‘best friend’ Marco is also a large part of the story, and without wanting to spoil it – he is the friend from HELL. A real Machiavellian character that makes you feel truly sorry for Marnell.

With cameos by Nev Shulman, Eva Chen and The Fat Jew, How to Murder Your Life is a glam and glossy look at Manhattan life. Cat’s drug addiction is a welcome antidote (a literary antidote, not that I’m saying it’s a good thing) to all the glitz.

I was definitely intrigued by Cat Marnell and did a lot of further reading, especially of her Vice column and New York Times interview. Although the subject matter is a little dark, Cat Marnell is funny, genuinely funny. And self-aware – she’s the first person to point out her privilege and her manipulation of people. What’s interesting is that she’s unapologetic about it.

Ladies Lit Squad highly recommends this book.
5 Skeptas out of five.

5 stars

Read about Ladies Lit Squad book club HERE

Ladies Lit Squad: How to Start a Book Club

A book club was always something I’d wanted to join, I’ve been talking about it for years… but like many things I talk about doing, I never actually did it. I love to read, and I must say, I do read a lot. I have so many friends who say “I never have any time to read” or “I haven’t read a book in ages”. Well, I have, but I have no one to talk with about the books I read. So one day last month, for some reason, I finally put my money where my mouth is and started a book club.

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I contacted my coolest girlfriends, did a survey to decide what to call ourselves. Our name Ladies Lit Squad is a play on the title of THIS Skepta song. Literature and Grime, a match made in heaven.

Then I asked around at a few hotels in central London to see if they would host us, The Hoxton in Shoreditch obliged. I created a Facebook group. Chose the book (How to Murder Your Life by Cat Marnell). Read the book. Paperchase kindly created some Ladies Lit Squad notebooks for our literary musings. And the rest is history.

If you’re a tuned-in lady in central London and you love a good book, and sisters coming together for a chat and a glass of fizz, then why not join us for the next one? Ladies Lit Squad is definitely not your average book club – we’re obviously all SUPAH cool, tuned-in gals. Our first meeting was very chi-chi but I have some great plans for the next one…

If you want to join email me at ladieslitsquad@outlook.com

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Tips for starting a book club

  • Choose a good name, we did float the idea of ‘Cliterature’ but thought it might potentially put off sponsors – also a bit embarrassing to say to your mum/boss.
  • Decide what your USP is? LLS is named after a grime song and our first book was about a crack-addled New York party girl. We’re fun!
  • What extras can you add to the group? I made a logo, stickers and got personalised notebooks so the girls felt a little bit spesh.
  • Give people enough time to read the book – and make notes as you read. I read the book really early on and then kind of forgot all the bits I wanted to remember.
  • Have fun! We talked about the book but also boys, work, life.
  • Bring together people from different groups – I invited colleagues, friends, ex-colleagues, Twitter friends and an internet friend I’d never met in person. The dynamic was great. 
  • Have a game plan. I need to hone this, but I did write some jumping off questions and make sure everyone knew the time and date. Basic but essential.

 

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Try these posts next: 

5 Books to Read on Your Holiday

You Need To Read… The Girls by Emma Cline

6 Inspiring Books to Load on to Your Kindle Before a RTW Trip

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Beauty From The Inside Out with Pukka Herbs

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a tea addict, I LIVE for tea. I mean, I’m from Yorkshire so that stuff practically flows through my veins, but I also love a herbal tea. In fact, some of my favourite travel destinations Istanbul and Marrakesh are based on the quality of their tea. I’ve been drinking Pukka tea for years as they do great infusions that don’t break the bank, so when they asked me if I’d like to try some of their new herbal supplements I was intrigued.

I definitely believe in the benefits of taking a health supplement, though there’s lots of conflicting medical advice. All I know is it can’t do any harm.

I tried the Tumeric Lifekind supplement a few weeks ago when I was feeling quite stressed and run-down. I’d normally get ill being so overworked and run-down but I think the supplement helped ward off illness.

The Glow supplement is also good – my skin was looking a little bit lacklustre – and now it looks very glowing. That might be the sun we’ve been having but I’m sure the supplements helped from the inside out.

Check out Pukka’s range of teas and supplements here.

*Collaborative post

New Flat Tour

I‘ve recently moved into a new flat and this was the first unfurnished flat I’ve ever moved into. It has its pros and cons, on the one hand it’s great because I don’t have to live with gross hand-me-down furniture, on the other hand it’s very expensive and time-consuming to buy all new stuff.

I’m coming at it from a two-tiered approach. Some things I’ve bought really cheap – like a £20 chest of drawers from IKEA that I’ll probably throw away at some point, and other things I’m investing more in (I’ve just ordered an armchair from Made.com, my first proper piece of grown up furniture).

I’m definitely more of an accessories girl – a great cushion or vase can make a room. So I’ve started moving in pictures and trinkets from my travels to make the flat homelier. It’s still pretty bare – but I’ve only been in the flat for two and a half months (3 weeks of which I was in Bali and 1 week I was in The US).

Anyway, here is what it looks like so far. I’ll keep updating as it evolves – and when my chair arrives.

Renting? Here’s how to make your flat look more stylish

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Some of my own ‘artwork’

Hand Rehab Diamond Dusted Handcream Review

If you’re anything like me, your hands will often go neglected. Hands are so important though, and when it comes to your beauty regime you shouldn’t leave your paws out. Hands are the first thing to give away your age. So I’ve made a mid-year resolution to take better care of my mitts and I’ve been trying this new cream by The Hero Project. I keep it by my desk as the tube is gorgeous and having it to hand (lol) helps remind me to moisturise.

The best thing about this is that it contains SPF to protect from harmful UV rays. After a couple of weeks of using it there’s a noticeable difference in the softness of my hands and the diamond dust in the cream is supposed to help strengthen nails – I’m no scientist but I have definitely experienced less breakage on the nail front so perhaps there’s something in it. Anyway the fragrance and texture are great, so I’ll be repurchasing this one.

The Hero Project Hand Rehab Diamond Dusted Hand & Nail Therapy with SPF20

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