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#50booksin2018 July

A little late but better than never. I started a new job this month, so I’ve been busy busy busy. Still found time to squeeze in a few books though, so here they are…

The Cows by Dawn O’Porter

I love DOP, as far as I’m concerned she’s a British institution (although I believe she now lives in LA with her superstar husband Chris O’Dowd) so, surprisingly, this is the first book of hers I’ve read. The Cows is the story of a woman who gets caught masturbating on public transport, admittedly far-fetched, but it’s more a comment on the shaming that comes after. I really liked the characters in this and found them all well-rounded, interesting women. A great beach read.

Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch

A part memoir part comment on race in Britain by journalist and broadcaster Afua Hirsch, who is mixed English and Ghanaian. I enjoyed this because it turns racial stereotypes on their head. Afua is middle class and went to Cambridge, yet people assume she’s working class – such is the extent that race and social class are inextricably linked in the UK. It’s a personal look at the subject but well-researched.

The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson

Another Jon Ronson book, this time about the test that all hospitals, prisons and therapists use to tell if someone is a psychopath. As usual his writing strikes the balance between personal and factual and it’s properly interesting. You’ll definitely be wondering if someone in your office is one… and if you’re wondering if you’re a psycho, well, you’re not.

The Child by Fiona Barton

I think this was a 99p Amazon Kindle number but I loved it – I absolutely whizzed though this. It’s a police/journo drama that’s fast-paced and thrilling. The mystery at the heart of it concerns the unearthed remains of a baby and who the baby belongs to. I must admit I, er, solved the mystery quite early on but it’s a great read. If you like Martina Cole you’ll love this.

The Widow Fiona Barton

Based on the previous book, I downloaded The Widow by the same author. This book wasn’t quite as gripping, but I loved the protagonist and her icy exterior.

Circe by Madeline Miller

This was the book for my Ladies Lit Squad book club and was definitely up there as one of our fave reads. Circe is sort of a retelling of Homer’s Odyssey but from a female perspective, that of the goddess Circe. You’ll know if you studied classics that female voices and perspectives are all to often overlooked, so this book was so refreshing. In the Odyssey Circe is ridiculed but Madeline Miller chips away at the surface of a woman who has known great tragedy, a horrible family and suffered being cast out alone – and still managed to become powerful, independent and make a life for herself. The novel spans centuries (Circe is immortal after all) and I loved the guest appearances from Greek gods and legends. A must read.

BOOKS READ SO FAR

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Under The Sun by Lottie Moggach
Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney
Dietland by Sarai Walker
Postcards from The Edge by Carrie Fisher
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The F Word by Liza Palmer
Silence by Natasha Preston
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
Trying by Emily Phillips
How To Stop Time by Matt Haig
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Dead Girls by Abigail Tarttelin
I’ll Be Gone in The Dark by Michelle McNamara
Kismet by Luke Tredget
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Ponti by Sharlene Tao
In The Dark by Cara Hunter
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Fat Chance by Nick Spalding
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Riders by Jilly Cooper
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton
The Cows by Dawn O’Porter
Brit(ish) by Afua Hirsch
The Psychopath Test by Jon Ronson
The Child by Fiona Barton
The Widow by Fiona Barton
Circe by Madeline Miller

36/50

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On being constantly ‘busy’…

Recently I’ve had a big think about taking on too much, I think we’re all guilty of it these days. Especially as women. There’s pressure to be ‘busy’. It’s a badge of honour… how effed up is that?

We have to do well at work and get that money honey, have an Insta-worthy social life, home, wardrobe and face, travel, have a ‘side hustle’, somehow have the body of a Love Island contestant, date horrible men and through it all manage to pay our bills, see friends and family and put a wash on.

I don’t know whether men feel this pressure but I certainly know women do, one of them being me. I used to be militant about having one day a week where I didn’t get dressed, go out or do anything that could be deemed productive. I’d eat croissants in bed, binge watch bad TV, pick my spots and just relax. I needed this day, I have a hectic life, like most city-dwellers. But somehow I got guilted out of it…

When I’d decline plans, people would always want to know what I was doing that prevented me from doing whatever it is they wanted me to. ‘Nothing’ was never an adequate response.

So now I am out of the house from dusk ’til dawn. I’ve just started a new job with a commute out of London, I run a book club and host events, I try to keep up with this blog, I’m training to be a PT and work out 4-5 times per week… sometimes at 6am. Plus I’m dating, socialising, and holidaying.

I say this not to humblebrag about how busy I am, as I’m betting you’ve taken on just as much. I say this as a punctuation mark… I need to stop.

I am by no means on the edge of burnout or a breakdown, I’m a little tired, sure. No, I just feel like chilling on the obligations. So this Saturday I will be doing sweet FA (okay maybe a morning yoga class), and then I will get my hair in a topknot and just potter about. And I will not feel bad for doing it! I suggest you all do the same.

#50booksin2018 June

June was a holiday month so I thought there’d be lots of reading but my holiday was a girls holiday so we were too busy having lots of hijinks for me to read too much. Plus, I had to read Riders for my book club and it’s a beast at over 900 pages, so that counts as two books. I’m definitely on track to read 50 books but I thought I’d be further along by now! Oh well, I guess life gets in the way – Anyway here’s June’s reads.

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

I’m such a big fan of Jon Ronson, I discovered him after listening to his fascinating Podcast ‘The Butterfly Effect‘ about the tech sector takeover of the porn industry. This book deals with an equally interesting topic – public shaming. Specifically in the modern, internet era. He talks to people whose lives have been turned upside down with just one ill-advised tweet or photo – and his writing style is so engaging and personal you’ll whizz through this.

Fat Chance by Nick Spalding

This book is about a couple wanting lose weight, so they enter a realty-show where they can win £50k. I will admit I’m obsessed by weight loss and body image (so weird, I know) so I thought this would be an easy beach read. However, it was so bad I couldn’t finish it. There were too many homophobic references and slurs for me to enjoy it. Oh well, sometimes you get a dud.

Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman

This was the perfect book to read on the beach in Italy (as that’s where it’s set. Aciman writes so evocatively, you can almost smell the apricots on the breeze and the salt of the sea. Recently the book was made into a film, so you’ll know the plot is about a young bisexual teen’s burgeoning sexuality – it’s a gay Lolita but way less problematic. This really is a gorgeous book and I enjoyed every minute of it.

Riders by Jilly Cooper

This was set for my book club as recently we’ve been reading lots of heavy books about murder, rape, you name it. So a bit of Jilly was needed as a palate cleanser – and believe it or not, I’d never read any JC books before. At 900+ pages and with a cast of characters to rival any soap, Riders is a beast, but I enjoyed it so much. It’s hilarious, especially RCB’s off-colour quips. I even found the horsey stuff riveting and I will be reading sequel Rivals ASAP.

The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin

I was really looking forward to this book, but it was totally different from what I expected. I thought it would be more… mystical. The story goes: four young siblings, one hot day in 60s New York, visit a medium who tells them the exact date of each of their deaths. The book then splits onto four parts, one for each sibling, in order of their death. I enjoyed Simon’s tale the most as it’s set in San Francisco around the time of Harvey Milk and the AIDs crisis. The premise is that is you knew the date of your death, how would you live your life? Or by being told a date would you inadvertently make it happen? Towards the end it all gets a bit heavy=handed but it was enjoyable nonetheless.

Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton

I was kindly sent this book and I think I finished it in two evenings. It’s fab. It’s pitched as The Secret History (great book) meets Patricia Highsmith, I would add a good dollop of Gossip Girl in there and Bret Easton Ellis. The book follows Louise who’s struggling to survive in New York; juggling three crap jobs, renting a shabby flat and watching her dream of being a writer wither. And then she meets socialite and it girl Lavinia. Lavinia invites Louise into circle, sharing drugs, clothes and men. Just how far will Louise go to keep hold of her new life?

BOOKS READ SO FAR

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Under The Sun by Lottie Moggach
Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney
Dietland by Sarai Walker
Postcards from The Edge by Carrie Fisher
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The F Word by Liza Palmer
Silence by Natasha Preston
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
Trying by Emily Phillips
How To Stop Time by Matt Haig
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Dead Girls by Abigail Tarttelin
I’ll Be Gone in The Dark by Michelle McNamara
Kismet by Luke Tredget
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Ponti by Sharlene Tao
In The Dark by Cara Hunter
So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson
Fat Chance by Nick Spalding
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Riders by Jilly Cooper
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
Social Creature by Tara Isabella Burton

29/50

#50booksin2018 May

It’s the 5th month of my self-imposed #50booksin2018 challenge and it’s been a great month for reading. I’m a very lucky girl as I run a book club so lots of publishers send me books to review. This month I was inundated with some fab titles – I haven’t got through them all yet but the ones I did read were fantastic. Next month I’ll be on holiday so I’ve loaded up the Kindle and plan to read A LOT, until then, here are the books I read in May.

Kismet by Luke Tredget

I can’t believe this book was written by a man, the central character XXX is so relatable to me, the author really has the female psyche nailed. Kismet is a modern day anti-love story where most people find their mate via omnipotent dating app Kismet which assigns each person a compatibility score. XXXX is a journalist on the edge while looking for love. While this book is not a rollercoaster in terms of plot, the characters are incredibly well drawn and you’ll be hooked from the start.

Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward

This searing, poetic portrayal of a poor family in the American south is heart-wrenching. It’s told from two perspectives, 13 year old JoJo, a boy wise beyond his years, and his mother Leonie, who won’t win any prizes for mum of the year. The story follows them, Leonie’s friend and baby Kayla as they take a cross-country trip to pick up JoJo’s white father from jail. Race and lass are themes throughout this book and you will be rooting for this dysfunctional family throughout – even though you know they can’t escape their past.

The Pisces by Melissa Broder

This book, besides having a beautiful cover, is just f*cking fantastic. It follows Lucy, a depressed PHD student, who has recently been dumped by her unavailable older boyfriend, as she house and dog sits for her sister in venice beach. In-between sexual encounters on dating apps and group therapy sessions, Lucy falls in love with a merman. Of course. The sex scenes in this (both fish and human) are properly… graphic, and some are very sexy, while others are cringy but relatable. I read this at the Lido and laughed out loud so many times, it may very well be a contender for my book of the year.

Ponti by Sharlene Tao

I don’t know wether this is YA fiction, or maybe I just automatically think that whenever the protagonist is a teenage girl. Ponti is told from the perspective of three female characters: Szu, Circe and Szu’s glamourous mother Amisa. The story flits between three time periods and is really about the complicated relationships woman have – be that familial or with friends. It’s not plot-driven, but there is an interesting story arc and the characters are well drawn. I did like this… I just can’t put my finger on why.

In The Dark by Cara Hunter

I love a good crime novel, they’re so easy to read – which may say something about my psyche (I just race through them for light relief). This is actually book two of a series of three and I haven’t read the other two, but I don’t think that matters. The plot goes as follows: a young woman and her child are found locked in the basement of an old man who apparently has no idea what they’re doing there or how they came to be there. Add in an old unsolved murder and a cast of shady characters and this book genuinely had me guessing until the end.

BOOKS READ SO FAR

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances
Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
Under The Sun by Lottie Moggach
Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney
Dietland by Sarai Walker
Postcards from The Edge by Carrie Fisher
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
The F Word by Liza Palmer
Silence by Natasha Preston
Red Clocks by Leni Zumas
Trying by Emily Phillips
How To Stop Time by Matt Haig
Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke
The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Dead Girls by Abigail Tarttelin
I’ll Be Gone in The Dark by Michelle McNamara
Kismet by Luke Tredget
Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward
The Pisces by Melissa Broder
Ponti by Sharlene Tao
In The Dark by Cara Hunter

23/50

#50booksin2018 March & April

Full disclosure, I’ve done hardly any reading recently! Life gets in the way of even the most avid reader. In fact all the books I have read I’ve done so in a couple of days, rather than reading every day. In June I go on holiday to Italy though, so I already have the Kindle loaded and know I’ll make up for lost time. Here’s what I read in March and April…

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

Red Clocks tells the story of a not too far-fetched America where abortion is once again illegal, as is IVF and single parent families. It follows five women with different issues around motherhood, pregnancy and abortion. I was really looking forward to reading this as I’m, you know, hashtag woke and all for women’s reproductive rights. However, I found the book really, really hard to get into at first. The plot is actually very interesting but I don’t feel I got to know any of the characters in any depth – it was like I was floating above them, rather than walking with them. Towards the end I enjoyed this more but the writing style was hard to get on with. I think this will be worth another read now that I’m prepared for the strange, staccato prose though.

Trying by Emily Phillips

This book hit very close to home although I am in no way, shape or form trying for a baby or having a baby anytime soon. But, as we get older, I’m sure motherhood occupies at least a tiny corner of very woman’s mind, right? Trying follows Olivia and her husband Felix as they try (and fail) to conceive, they’ve moved to the suburbs of London to prepare and as their attempts at conceiving unravel, as does their marriage. I think the reason this resonated so much is that the characters’ lives are so close to my own – living in London, good jobs but poor. And what could be a ‘woe is me’ tale is actually super funny and uplifting. Plus, the hardback cover is gorgeous.

How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

While the cynic in me tells me that this book is a blatant rip-off of the so-bad-it’s-good Blake Lively film Age of Adeline, the bibliophile in me says ‘this is a great book, stop being so cynical’. And How to Stop Time is good, and easy, which I think makes a book even better. I started reading this by the Lido in Hampstead on Saturday and had finished it by the end of the weekend (and would have read it faster were it not for a pesky bday party). The main character has a condition where he doesn’t age and so he’s lived a long time, the plot flits between present day and at various junctures throughout history. You won’t be able to put this down, buy it for your next holiday.

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

I was kindly sent some copies of this for my book club but annoyingly it took me 4 months to get around to reading this – after the 5th amazing review from people who had read it, I set aside some time to finally get into Bluebird, Bluebird. And I’m so glad I did, this book played out so cleverly. What starts out as one story (the unexplained murders of a black man and white woman) explodes into a series of interconnected events set against the backdrop of rural Texas. The theme of race is woven through the tale, but it’s never heavy handed and you’ll be rushing to finish to find out what happened. I was impressed with the way so many loose ends were neatly tied up and I’ll definitely be searching out more Attica Locke novels.

More book recommendations

Check out my book club on Insta @ladieslitsquad

 

2018 Reading Challenge #50Booksin2018

I love a challenge. I also love reading. I think you can see where I’m going with this… I oh-so-cleverly combined these two passions of mine to create my 2018 Book Challenge. I’ve decided to read (and document) 50 books this year.

My best friend Ben did ask “why not 52?”, well, while there are 52 weeks in the year, I will most certainly have at least a couple of ‘lost weeks’ in 2018 where I’m either too hungover, ill or mentally inept to read. And to be honest, I probably won’t read a book a week. I’m a binger, I might go a month without reading, only to devour 10 books the next.

Another great reason to write down every book I read is that I often forget what I’ve read in any given year. Last year I read loads of books (the perks of starting a book club) but I can only remember a few off the top of my head.

I’m going to aim to review all 50 books I read this year, I’ve already done the first 10 HERE.
Right, wish me luck – and why not take the challenge too?

#50Booksin2018

#50booksin2018 February

One of my resolutions, or new year challenges for 2018 was to read 50 books. Here are the titles I read in January (it was a lot as I spent most of that month on a beach in Goa). This month has been super busy so I’ve only managed a bit of reading – BUT some absolutely excellent books. Here are the novels I enjoyed in February…

The Most Dangerous Place on Earth by Lindsey Lee Johnson

This is probably aimed at the YA audience, but it’s a laser-sharp look at life in a suburban high school. In a series of interconnected stories from the point of view of multiple characters, a picture of teenage life is drawn accurately and thoughtfully. We meet typical teenage stereotypes that are then torn apart when you scratch the surface. Each narrative feels like a thread that stops suddenly then gets picked up, which makes for an interesting reading experience.

BUY

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

I loved this book. It definitely lives up to the hype and I finished this in one sitting. The titular Eleanor is a self-contained, anti-social girl – when an incident forces her life open and introduces her back into the world. Each character is thoughtfully written and some of Eleanor’s comments will have you laughing out loud. Her sad past and some parts of the book will have you in tears though. Just an excellent, excellent book.

BUY

Dead Girls by Abigail Tarttelin

I was a little dubious at first when reading this. The subject matter is pretty dark, but the narrator is an eleven-year-old girl and most of the characters are primary school age – so it’s a little jarring. But I guess that’s the point and it’s really refreshing to read children portrayed in this way, rather than angel-faced innocents. After a friend dies, Thera takes it upon herself to find the killer with… unexpected results. I don’t want to spoil this book but after I finished reading I literally had the face of Kevin from Home Alone for about 30 minutes.

BUY

I’ll Be Gone in The Dark by Michelle McNamara

This book was written by the author of an unsolved crimes blog, quite well-known by all accounts, and she is a super (amateur) sleuth. The book delves into the case of the East Area Rapist who also, due to new DNA technology, was revealed to be the culprit of tens of other unsolved murders. McNamara leaves no stone unturned as she pieces together his many crimes and tries to find out just who this man is. I really enjoyed this book but it slowed towards the end. Rap, rape, rape, murder, murder, murder. The author sadly died before completion so the book was finished by friends – which might explain the change of pace.

BUY

That’s February, I’ve just started my first audio book… Fire and Fury: Inside The Trump Whitehouse by Michael Wolff, so that’s exciting. Plus, I have a GIANT stack of ‘to read’ for next month.

What are you reading – comment with suggestions.

Here Are 10 Holiday Reads For Your Next Trip

The best bit about going on holiday (apart from living in a bikini) is getting time to read all those books you’ve been meaning to read for months. Or years in some cases. I always take a couple of physical books but on this particular 2-week holiday, I read 10 books so for the sake of my suitcase I’m a Kindle girl. Read on to find out what to buy/download for your next vacay…

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent

I think this must be a YA novel, but I looove a YA novel. This one is pretty dark but a definite page turner. My Absolute Darling follows Turtle, a 14-year-old girl, and her father, who live hidden away in the forest. Turtle is an almost feral child: gun-toting, animal-killing, self-sufficient. Skills all taught to her by her loving father. As Turtle makes more and more contact with the outside world she begins to realise that life at home may not be all that rosy.

The Girlfriend by Michelle Frances

Ooooh, now this was a BEACH read. Fast-paced, a little far-fetched and very entertaining. This book plays on the age old trope of the warring girlfriend and mother-in-law and takes it to the next level. It’s set in London so the setting seems really familiar and makes the plot even more realistic. It’s a battle royale of the females – but who will win?

Why I’m No Longer Talking To White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge

Ugh, there is so much I have to say about this book. Perhaps it resonated with me particularly as I’m mixed race (Jamaican, Danish, English) and it is so, so rare to read anything about the mixed-race experience. This book has a few chapters on being of mixed heritage and the confusing territory it comes with. But the most interesting part of the book is delving into Britain’s very racist past – we’re so used to hearing about slavery and Black Lives Matter in the US, but how many of us know how black people came to be in the UK? Anyway, whether you’re black or white. Read this book. It should be put on the school curriculum, it’s so vital.

Under The Sun by Lottie Moggach

This is a proper holiday read, nice and easy. But don’t dismiss it as trash, it’s a really clever story and not at all twee (spoiler, there’s no miraculous happy ending). The book follows Anna as she moves to Spain, giving up everything to buy a crumbling villa with her boyfriend – who proceeds to up and leave. She makes a half-life for herself among the expats who are definitely not living the ‘a place in the sun’ dream. This story verges on thriller and it’s a great twist on the typical beach read.

Conversations With Friends by Sally Rooney

This novel by 26-year-old Irish writer Sally Rooney is a wonderful, subtle peek into the mind of a young woman. And if you too are a girl, you’ll identify with the thoughts and feelings of the protagonist – the moments of self doubt, or self sabotage, and generally trying to navigate through life and relationships. The plot centres around an affair, but it’s not the plot that drives this book, it’s the well-observed, at times poetic writing. YOU MUST READ.

Dietland by Sarai Walker

This book was suggested to me by an Amazon algorithm, and I’m glad I clicked ‘buy’ because it’s a really great book. Funny, razor sharp and it deals with the whole smorgasbord of wok feminist issues: body image, sexualisation, sexual abuse and the rest. The plot is gripping and totally unexpected – it’s just so off kilter. Recommended if you loved (as I did) The Power and The Regulars.

Postcards from The Edge by Carrie Fisher

I feel embarrassed to admit this, but I’ve never see a single Star Wars movie – the franchise in which actress Carrie Fisher made her name. Fisher was Hollywood royalty, she was the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and as such led a glamourous life, sometimes interjected with scandal and drug use. This fictional tale of a washed-u starlet in rehab probably draws from life experience, and the story is solid. But it’s the writing that is striking, Carrie really knew how to turn a phrase and this book is really wonderfully written.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This is the book we’ve selected for the 4th Ladies Lit Squad book club and I have to confess I did watch the TV show before reading the book – but I don’t think it spoiled it. The show stylistically informed how I envisioned Giliad but I still read the story afresh. The overriding emotion I got while reading tis was frustration – imagine being stripped of all your rights and freedoms… It’s the stuff of nightmares. A feminist must-read.

The F Word by Liza Palmer

Another free Kindle book – this is about a formerly fat PR exec and it was TERRIBLE. I don’t know why I bothered finishing it – I think I was expecting some insight into how it feels to have been obese and then navigate the world as a thin person… instead I got a poorly written romance novel.

Silence by Natasha Preston

This was one of those free kindle books that we all get now and again – and by this point in my holiday I was running out of books. It follows Oakley, a teenage girl who is mute. She hasn’t uttered a word for 11 years… but why? It’s blatantly obvious from the first couple of pages that she was sexually abused by her father so you just read on to find out the details and whether he gets brought to justice. This is a trashy novel… but it got me through a layover at Mumbai airport.

Why You Should Visit Palolem, Goa

Palolem is a must-visit part of Goa as it has a huge and wonderful beach with super-colourful beach huts that are perfect for The ‘Gram. There’s a nice mix of beach activities, clubs and bars to keep you entertained too. I had a great time here… read on to find out what to do, eat and see in Palolem.

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WHERE TO STAY

I stayed in a really crappy hostel called The Roadhouse – don’t stay there. But do stay in a hostel if you’re travelling alone as they really are the best places to make friends. If I were you I’d walk along Palolem beach and get a sea-view beach hut. There are literally hundreds. I did stay one night in one for 1000IR.

GET A BOAT

For the small sum of 1800IR between 3 people you can hire a boat (with driver) to take you around some islands and to spot the dolphins that play around them. We saw a pod of about 10 dolphins, all jumping and doing dolphin-y things and after speaking to other people, I think you’re pretty much guaranteed to see some. After that we went to Butterfly Island whish is a teeny, tiny private beach – the kind you imagine buying if you won the lottery. It’s probably best to do your boat trip in the morning as it’s too hot in the afternoon.

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LEOPARD VALLEY

My travel pal Hannah and I were walking back to our hostel after having a quiet drink, when a mad German woman literally bundled us into a tuk tuk and took us into the middle of the jungle! It’s not as bad as it sounds because we ended up at Leopard Valley, which is 10mins and 300IR away from Palolem beach. It’s kind of like a low rent version of the Jungle Party in Koh Phangan, Thailand, but fun nonetheless. It’s made to look like a kind of tiki thing, or like the Wu Tang Clan’s Gravel Pit video. There’s a pool, passable dance music and a nice mix of locals and travellers. Avoid the spirits here at all costs and stick to beer, the gin was like drain cleaner. Oh and entry is 500-600IR.

SUNDOWNERS

This is a bar on the furthest right side of Palolem beach and, as the name suggests, is a great place to watch the sun set. It’s set into the side of a sort of small cliff and the drinks are cheap. Arrive around 5pm to grab the best spot (sunset in India is well early, around 6.15pm). Please note, the tide will come in while you’re there, rendering your path back to the main strip of the beach gone. You’ll have to get a boat back, which takes about 10 minutes and shouldn’t be more than 100IR per person.

ART RESORT BEACH HUTS

If you’re feeling spenny then you should totally stay here, the rooms looked divine. If you’re poor like me then simply hang out here on their delightful swinging benches. The food here is awesome too, their masala papad is on point and the fish tikka is huge and only 400IR with a nice salad.

FAR LEFT SIDE OF THE BEACH

This is a secluded, quiet part of the beach which is almost like it’s own private resort. Make sure you take a little stroll down here because it’s so cute. There is also a café that overlooks the whole beach and is a perfect place to have brekkie. I had a really cheap lemon and sugar pancake (for some reason they do these everywhere in Goa).

Check out my guide to Agonda, Goa.

Your Guide to Agonda, Goa

Agonda was the perfect place for me to end my trip to Goa, India. It’s definitely a restful place, so if you want parties and action then nearby Palolem might be more your bag. I really wanted to RELAX on my holiday – something that I don’t usually do while I’m away. So Agonda was ideal because there’s no temptation – the pace of life is so slow and there’s a huge yoga community, so it’s hard not to get caught up in the healthy lifestyle while you’re here.

 

I f*cking glowed after a few days here. Seriously, my skin was radiant, I was well-rested, I developed triceps after the most intense vinyasa classes I’ve ever tried. And the beach is wonderful; quiet and full of adorable cows that I took to feeding each evening. In fact, I had quite the menagerie of animals: two dogs that slept under my sun lounger each day, a drunken white horse (for real), kittens and, of course, a herd of cows of various shapes and sizes. Anyway, read on to see my top travel tips for Agonda, Goa…

GETTING THERE

I got a taxi for Palolem which cost me 500IR (£6). You can probably find cheaper ways but it’s not bad. It took about 30-40 minutes.

GALAXY’S BEACH HUTS

I chose to stay here because it was pretty cheap, I initially booked a couple of nights, thinking I’d upgrade but after scanning the beach and booking.com, I realised that I had a really good deal. The bed alone justified the price, it was so comfortable, and my hut was large with a veranda and very clean. The owners were super nice and helpful. The only bad thing was that the view form the road was a sh*t-tip. So when I arrived I was ready to leave. But for 1200IR a night it’s great and it’s on the beach so you can hear the waves at night and roll out of bed and go for a morning swim.

COLA BEACH

This is one of my top 5 beaches ever (the other 4 are probably all in Bali, or maybe Koh Tao). It’s definitely the best beach I visited in Goa. To get to it from Agonda is easy-ish. We got a taxi (500IR each way) and I’m so glad I didn’t drive there on a moped because the road is treacherous to say the least. It takes about 25 mins to get there each way.
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Anyhoo, when you arrive the view of Cola beach and the Blue lagoon is breath taking, there’s a very secluded part and then the main beach which is basically empty. I felt like I had my own private beach. There’s one restaurant open to the public which is so cheap. It was 80IR for a beer and we had a delicious fish tikka and chips for 250IR.

Take a couple of beach towels are there are no sun loungers here unless you’re in one of the exclusive resorts. You can buy water from the restaurant but I’d take a bottle. I just had the most divine day here, reading, swimming (beware the current here is so strong and there’s lots of waves) and tanning.

SAMPOORNA YOGA

This is a yoga teacher training school but they do offer drop in classes at 8.30am and 4pm everyday. These classes are the full 90 mins, not the 45 min classes you sometimes get in London. Classes cost 400IR per session or 1500IR for 5, which is an absolute bargain (about £18 for 5 classes, I pay that for one class in London). The ‘shala’ or outdoor studio is peaceful calm and serene and all of the teachers I had were really good. My ONLY issue with this place was that everyone in the classes was a thin, white, blonde woman… there was even less diversity than in my class in Primrose Hill. But, apart from that I highly recommend dong classes here. Mats are provided, but I’d take water and a towel.

There’s also a great café, which I can’t remember the name of, right next to the entrance of Sampoorna. They did great gluten-free, vegan cakes. The masala chai was made with coconut milk and was delicious. Also the banana bread was great and this place is super-instagrammable.

TIP: Hand in your completed 5-class card to reception and you get a free tote bag, which is actually really good quality with a zip and everything.

ZEST CAFÉ

This organic café is the pace to go for juices, smoothies, snmootie bowls and raw food. The juices were all great and their green goddess smoothie was super tasty. Also the veggie breakfast was really good. As was the turmeric latte. And they give you free water. Bonus. There’s also a branch of this café in Palolem, but it was crap compared to this one. Make sure to sit in the sunken sating area with lots of colourful cushions.

INDAH DESA

This restaurant/beach hut is next door but one to Galaxy’s where I stayed and I used their sun-loungers everyday. The staff here are SO nice and will bring you out complimentary iced water and watch your stuff. The food here is expensive but not in comparison to English prices. I treated myself to a huge steak and chips one night because I had an insatiable craving for red meat, having not eaten any my entire holiday. It was the best steak I’ve ever had and only cost about £8 – it was huge too. They also have live music here on Friday nights.

SHOPPING

I preferred shopping here than in the famous Anjuna flea market – the souvenirs seemed a little higher quality and artisanal. Plus, there are some fantastic shops that sell ad make silver jewellery and gem stones. It was fascinating learning about all the different stones and what they mean – I came away with some beautiful silver rings that I love. But, as always in India, haggle HARD.

THE CHEAPEST DOSAS!

Again, I can’t remember the name of this place but it’s right opposite Agonda church so it’s easy to find. Anyway this place is soooooooooo cheap. It’s outrageous. My friend and I had dinner there. A main each, side, 2 beers and water and the bill came to 265IR. That’s like £3. The special Dosa here is so, so good and only costs 50IR. Bargain. You have to visit this place.

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Overall I really loved Agonda, there’s a lovely sense of community here since a lot of people do their 200 or 300 hour yoga teacher training here, so stay a while. There was a woman called Gail who would always give me a saddle on the back of her motorbike when I was late for yoga in the mornings – thanks. And you bump into the same people over and over again because it’s so small. I particularly loved swimming alone on the ocean at sunset – I felt like I was on LSD or something, I was so ‘at one’ with everything. Haha.

You should definitely come here unless you hate animals (there are a lot) or yoga (it’s pretty yoga-centric here). Oh and to get to Goa airport from here cost me 1800IR and took 2 hours.