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#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

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#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.

Your Guide to 2 Weeks in Goa

This January I knew that I did not want to be stuck in cold, grim, rainy London Town – so I took a trip back to India. A place I absolutely love. This time I went south, to the beaches of Goa. Here’s my 2 week Goa itinerary if you fancy a holiday there yourself.

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FLIGHTS
I booked my flights with Jet Airways, they’re owned by Etihad, and while they aren’t the best they’re fine. A return from London Heathrow cost me £375. The flight to Mumbai takes 10 hours and then another hour flight from there to Goa airport.

ROUTE
I could never stay in one place for a whole 2 weeks – I get bored of things sooooo quickly, so I spent 4 days in Anjuna, 4 days in Palolem and the remainder of my time in Agonda. It’s easy to travel around Goa. I just took taxis everywhere as I wanted this to be a truly relaxing holiday. But you can easily take buses or trains.

ANJUNA
I STAYED… At the Funky Monkey hostel which was really great. Good facilities, a fun crowd of people and good location.
I ATE… At Banana Joe’s which is at the hostel. The Chicken Thali cost about £2 and was DELICIOUS.
I DID… Anjuna is known for its beach parties at Curlies beach shack and the huge Wednesday flea market. The beach itself is small and not that picturesque.
OVERALL FEELINGS… I’m glad I came here first as it was my least favourite part of Goa, but the parties are fun.

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PALOLEM
I STAYED… At the Roadhouse Hostel. This place was actually terrible, so don’t stay here. Get one of the many beach huts on Palolem beach. I did meet two amazing girls at the hostel though, so if you’re travelling alone maybe try the one over the road.
I ATE… Malasa Papad. This food is a revelation, it’s mini poppadums topped with fresh, lime-y salsa and chillies. Delicious. Also I ate Fish Tikka at the Art House on Palolem beach. Soooo good. If you don’t like fish, Goa might not be the place for you.
I DID… Dolphin watching! Get a boat on the beach (I paid 1600IR between 3 people so about £7 each) and you can see pods of dolphins and also visit the stunning butterfly beach. I also went to Leopard Valley – a rave in the jungle which was quite cool.
OVERALL FEELINGS… I loved Palolem!

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AGONDA
I STAYED… At Galaxy’s Beach Huts which were divine and right on the beach. Unfortunately, the view from the roadside was horrendous so don’t let that put you off.
I ATE… Vegan food. This place is full of great vegan cafes so I had juices, green smoothies and turmeric lattes while I was here. I also had an EPIC steak at Indah Desa on the beach… I never eat beef but had such a craving one day and it was the best steak I’ve ever had.
I DID… a lot of yoga at Sampoorna retreat. You can do 5 classes for 1500IR. Bargain. I also shopped for gemstones. Visited Cola beach whish is the number one thing you must do in Goa. And played with horses, cows and dogs on the beach.
OVERALL FEELINGS… Can I live here and continue to work on my downward dog?
This is a super top-line Goa guide, but stay tuned for my guides to Anjuna, Palolem and Agonda. Goa is super cheap but due to the weak pound it’s not as cheap as it once was. The last time I visited India you could get 100IR for £1, now it’s more like 82 to £1. So still good but ‘booo Brexit!’.

READ MY AGONDA GUIDE HERE

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With regards to the culture, Goa has been a tourist destination for decades and it feels really safe, it’s easy to get around and most people speak perfect English. While some of the beaches are breath-taking, remember this is India so there will be litter, dirt and cows in most places – which might put some people off. I only visited a handful of places but other areas of Goa to try are: Arambol, Gokarna and Hampi. These are places that I’ve been personally recommended.

TOP TIPS: Take a portable charger as power cuts are frequent. I visited in January and temperatures were around 32-35 degrees Celsius but at night it got cold so bring a jumper. You can get all your toiletries etc. in Goa so don’t worry if you forget anything.

READ: Tips for making travel dirt cheap

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.

living the dream

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

 

lullaby

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