Books I’ve Read This Autumn

Books I've Read This Autumn

Books I've Read This Autumn

If you haven’t seen my last book post of the books I read during the first half of 2017 then make sure you check that out. I’ve been trying so hard to step away from the computer more, especially in the evenings and weekends. I have found reading helps relax my mind and stops me clicking on the internet and filling my time reading endless social media posts. I read not shy of 20 books during 2017 and I thought I would share the latest 8 with you.

The Amber Keeper by Freda Lightfoot

I don’t know why but I love reading books that are set in Russia and The Amber Keeper is partly set in early 19th century revolutionary Russia. It is also set in another of my favourite locations, the English Lake District.

The Amber Keeper is a sweeping tale of jealousy and revenge, reconciliation and forgiveness. Determined to uncover her mother’s past, Abbie approaches her beloved grandmother, Millie, in search of answers. As the old woman recounts her own past, Abbie is transported back to the grandeur of the Russian Empire in 1911 with tales of her grandmother’s life as a governess and the revolution that exploded around her.

At times I found this book a little slow, I loved the parts that were set in Russia, I found them exciting and very descriptive but when it came to the more recent parts set in rural England they were quite dull and not as engaging.

My Lovely Wife by Mark Lukach

This is such a heartbreaking, eye-opening memoir written very candidly about a family living with the crippling effects of mental illness. It is so deeply sad at times but it is also moving and ultimately a love story. Mental illness is not such a taboo subject anymore and the way Mark & his wife let us into the very harrowing and fragile parts of their experience with living with mental illness makes this a very powerful book.

‘A story of the fragility of the mind, and the tenacity of the human spirit, My Lovely Wife in the Psych Ward is, above all, a love story that raises profound questions: How do we care for the people we love? What and who do we live for? Breathtaking in its candor, radiant with compassion, and written with dazzling lyricism, Lukach’s is an intensely personal odyssey through the harrowing years of his wife’s mental illness, anchored by an abiding devotion to family that will affirm readers’ faith in the power of love.’

The Diary of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

I loved, loved, loved this book. It is a peek inside Scotlands second largest secondhand bookshop. You’re a fly on the wall to all the goings on and the people that come and go (often empty-handed) Shaun is so dry humoured and has the best (often unexpected) responses to his customers and their outlandish requests and observations. We get to see just how hard it is selling secondhand books in the days of eBay and Amazon. You get to know the bookshop staff and I loved seeing what books people bought and also going along with Shaun on his buying trips to old estates and auction houses. This is such a lovely read & I highly recommend adding it to your reading list.

Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear 

This wasn’t a page turner for me, even though there were quite a few plot twists, in fact, I found it disjointed and I just wanted to get it finished so I could move on to something else. It is somewhat of a detective story in the midst of a crime that brings up a lot of buried family drama which comes full circle. Cat is quite annoying and I found myself not believing in her character.

‘Cat Kinsella was always a daddy’s girl. Until the summer of 1998 when she sees her father flirting with seventeen-year-old Maryanne Doyle.When Maryanne later disappears and Cat’s father denies ever knowing her, Cat’s relationship with him is changed forever. 

Eighteen years later, Cat is now a Detective Constable with the Met. Called to the scene of a murder in Islington, she discovers a woman’s body: Alice Lapaine has been found strangled, not far from the pub that Cat’s father runs.’

Books I Recommend

Beneath a Scarlet Sky by Mark Sullivan

I adored this book. It is based on the life story of Pino Lella who is a teenager in Italy during the Second World War. This story really brings to life the Nazi Occupation of Italy and just how awful this War was. Pino Lella’s story is captivating and his courage is humbling. I finished this book in a couple of days and even though in parts it is utterly heartbreaking, ultimately it is a story of bravery and love. If you want a quick, engaging read about WWII from a slightly different perspective I highly recommend adding this to your reading list for 2018

 The Girl from Krakow by Alex Rosenberg

Another book which is set in WWII Europe but told from a Jewish woman’s perspective.  This book follows Rita as she struggles to survive in Nazi-occupied Poland and then in Germany, under a false identity. I read this within a week and was gripped from beginning to end.

In an epic saga that spans from Paris in the ’30s and Spain’s Civil War to Moscow, Warsaw, and the heart of Nazi Germany, The Girl from Krakow follows one woman’s battle for survival as entire nations are torn apart, never to be the same.

My Good Life in France by Janine Marsh

Who doesn’t dream of packing it all in & running off to Europe to live the ‘Good Life’?! I picked this book because the Mum of one of my very good friends has done exactly that, she has moved to France to live the rural dream and I thought this book might be an insight into what that entails. It is a true story following Janine’s unexpected journey from London to beautiful (at times) idyllic, rural France.

It’s a funny, light-hearted read and Janine opens up her life to us, the reader and you get find yourself completely absorbed with her highs and lows. It is a lovely calming read and another book I’d urge you to add to your reading list.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I’d heard mixed things about this book & I have to say I found it underwhelming. I just couldn’t seem to get into it. There were parts that were utterly heartbreaking and brutal but on the whole, it wasn’t as well written as I’d hoped.

Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hellish for all the slaves but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood – where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned and, though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.

Not my favourite read of 2017 but I do know a lot of people that thoroughly enjoyed it.

I love books

I read a real mixed bag of books during the second half of 2017, books set in Russia, Italy and Poland. I reached mainly for fiction but a couple were non-fiction with one being a memoir that was a real eye-opener into a family dealing with the realities of mental health. I seem to be drawn to books set in Europe and that is very much reflected in the books I have already lined up to read in 2018, I just love books that are set with a European backdrop & I find them so interesting. I was disappointed with a few books, namely The Underground Railroad but The Diary of a Bookseller and Beneath a Scarlet Sky more than made up for it.

I was lucky enough to receive so many lovely books as gifts this Christmas and I am looking forward to getting stuck into those in 2018. I have set myself a goal of reading at least 2 books a month, which I think is achievable. If you want to follow me over on Goodreads – it is a great way to see keep up to date with what I’m reading.

My husband bought me St Petersburg: Three Centuries of Murderous Desire which is top of my reading list and I think it will take me quite a while to get through. 

If you have any recommendations for books you read in 2017 leave them in the comments and we can all add them to our wishlists!

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Great Vegan Places To Eat In Amsterdam

Vegan Junk Food Bar Amsterdam Review

I have visited Amsterdam quite a few times over the years & I have to say that it is one of the best Cities for Vegan options. They have so many fantastic Vegan-friendly restaurants & more are opening every month. It makes me so excited and when I visit I go armed with a list of places I really want to try. So I thought I would share a few of my favourite Vegan-friendly places to eat in Amsterdam,

Vegan Junk Food Bar

Vegan Junk Food Bar Amsterdam Review

OK – now where do I start with this one?! My husband & I both 100% agree that this is the best burger we have ever tried Vegan or otherwise. We visited the original burger bar on Staringplein 22 but I’ve read online that they have opened a second location just last month, which is so exciting. We visited at 6 pm on a weekday & it was packed inside & out – it seems we were not the only people who had heard how incredible the food is! We had a short wait for a table but people are super friendly and we ended up sitting with another couple which was nice.

Vegan Junk Food Bar Amsterdam

We both ordered the original burger & chips and omfg they were utterly delicious! I really liked the spring & fried onion mix which added such a crunch to the burgers. We didn’t have time to visit again but I am dreaming of the day I can return and eat their burgers every day.

Cold Press Juicery

Now this is a pricey, trendy juice bar & they also sell smoothies, bowls, soups and wraps but it’s all really fresh and super healthy. We felt a little under the weather one day so in a bid to keep the sickness at bay we had an expensive juice each.

The Cold Press Juicery

healthy cold press juicery

Dutch Weed Burger

Dutch Weed Burger Amsterdam

I was a little sceptical about eating here & I have to admit that I initially thought it was a marijuana burger cafe – well it is in Amsterdam after all but my husband assured me it was referring to seaweed, not drugs! I am pleased he talked me into going as the food here is amazing and 100% plant-based.

We ordered their famous weed burger & some wish & chips. The burger comes in a bright green bun due to the superfood chlorella (microalgae packed with nutritious proteins and Omega acids) & the burger patty is made of briny soy shreds and Royal Kombu, a tasty and healthy winter weed, sustainably cultivated in the Dutch region of Zeeland

The wish & chips are deep-fried, crunchy golden green bites with a salty sea flavour. They’re made of beans and microalgae: green protein power! It was well worth hunting down the restaurant (as it is tucked away up a side street, although it is quite close to the Foodhallen). We ate an early dinner which meant we had the restaurant to ourselves & our food was cooked fresh to order.

I didn’t have room for them (sad times) but I did notice they had a selection Vegan doughnuts and cakes, I should have bought one to have back at the hotel.

Dutch Weed Burger Amsterdam

Vegabond Vegan Cafe

Vegabond Vegan Cafe Amsterdam

This is a 100% Vegan Cafe & Shop. The menu is small but they offer a good selection of breakfast & lunch options & some amazing sweet treats. The cafe doesn’t have that many seats but it is worth waiting if it is full. The service is quite slow so I wouldn’t recommend if you’re in a hurry but the prices are very reasonable considering everything is made fresh.

We really wanted to try their famous Vegan doughnuts but they sold out each time before we got there. So we visited twice once for breakfast & I had the Green Smoothie bowl and a fresh Ginger Tea. The smoothie bowl was delicious, the portion size was really big and topped with a really nice selection of fruit, goji berries, coconut and muesli.

Green Smoothie Bowl Vegabond Amsterdam

The second time we only popped in for a sweet treat & after being disappointed that the doughnuts had sold out, we opted for a carrot cake & a raw snickers bar. Both were very rich & we struggled to finish but they were tasty but I am still craving a doughnut. We also bought quite a few snacks from the shop to have in the room.

Cake Vegabond Cafe Amsterdam

Mastino Pizza

mastino pizza Amsterdam

vegan pizza mastino amsterdam

This was my husband’s suggestion, he loves pizza and has been on the hunt for the best Vegan pizza for a long time now. He had heard very good things about Mastino Pizza so we arrived as it opened at 4.30pm and managed to bag the last table. The restaurant is very small but has a great atmosphere, it has a nice & familiar neighbourhood vibe to it.

Being used to such limited Vegan options at most pizza restaurants (usually no cheese) we felt quite spoilt for choice as they had 5 options. We both went for the Full Moon & a refreshing Fritz Cola (my absolute fave fizzy drink). You can see your pizza being made which made our mouths water with anticipation.

The toppings were very generous and the Vegan cheese was one of the best dairy-free mozzarellas I have tried. The pizza was huge & I couldn’t manage it all, so took the rest back to the hotel to have as a midnight snack & it was just as tasty cold.

If you love Pizza then this has to be on your hit list – even non-vegans as they cater for all dietary requirements & it is just a delightful, friendly place to eat.

Amsterdam Vegan Pizza from Mastino

SLA Organic Salad Bar

This is a lovely salad bar and within the last few years they’ve opened up in quite a few locations all over Amsterdam, we were lucky enough to have one next door to our hotel. SLA only take credit or debit cards, so you can’t pay with cash. This seems to be a recurring theme in a lot of eateries in Amsterdam now.

The menu it SLA is pretty good for Vegans & they are very accommodating if you want to add an ingredient or take something out. Everything is seasonal, organic, fresh and healthy. The decor inside their cafes is really nice & covered in plants & greenery. Their salad bowls are very big & we often get the Vegan Nourish Bowl to share along with a side of falafels & that is more than enough food for 2. Their turmeric tea is delicious too.

SLA Vegan Salad

Bagels & Beans

This is a chain and there are so many locations dotted about Amsterdam. You’ve probably guessed it from the name but they are a bagel cafe, however, they also have salads on the menu too. We have eaten here so many times over the years and always get the same thing – Gluten Free Bagel with Hummus & Sundried Tomatoes & it is so fresh and filling, especially on a cold day. This time, however, I was excited to see that they’d added a Vegan Pecan Pie to the menu. So of course, I had to try it and it didn’t disappoint, it was delicious, not too sweet.

Vegan Option Bagels Beans Amsterdam

BAGELS AND BEANS SOYA LATTE

Vegan Pecan Pie Bagels Beans-Amsterdam

So if you’re visiting Amsterdam anytime soon let me know if you visit any of my suggestions and do leave me a comment with any recommendations for places I should try on my next trip.

Make sure you check out more of my Vegan recomendations here

Amsterdam Photo Diary 2017 Part 1

Pretty Canals in Amsterdam

Exploring Amsterdam Front Door Steps

I have not long since returned from my 7th visit to Amsterdam, this City holds a very special place in my heart. I love nothing more than exploring all the neighbourhoods and Amsterdam has become one of Europe’s most Vegan friendly Cities. I have a full post coming next week all about the incredible Vegan places we ate & let me tell you we found some pretty special places.

We have visited most of the tourist places & done the main museums although we like to  revisit our favourite spots like the rijksmuseum, Vondelpark, Dam Square and you can’t visit Amsterdam without going on a boat tour especially a champagne one. This time top of our list of places we wanted to see was the National Holocaust Memorial & National Holocaust Museum  which opened last year. I wanted to visit after reading the novel called Girl in the Blue Coat as some of the book is set on the site of the Museum in the Hollandsche Schouwburg Theatre and also across the street in the crèche. The Nazi’s turned the theatre into a prison and a deportation centre and it survives today as a memorial to the 80,000 Jews who were held there ahead of being deported.  I highly recommend visiting if you get the chance, the museum’s exhibitions are so well curated!

The weather was a little hit & miss much like the UK, but armed with our umbrellas we walked miles & miles each day along the stunning canals and historic neighbourhoods. I always tell people that Amsterdam is so much more beautiful that they could imagine. It is more that just stag parties, red light district and coffee shops. It is rich in history architecture and culture. Being one of the Europe’s biggest, oldest ports means its past is so interesting and Amsterdam has so many Museums to tell the story.

Gloomy Amsterdam

Discover Amsterdam

Amsterdam Herengracht Canal House

Amsterdam City Break 2017

Classic White Fiat 500 in Amsterdam

Pretty Canals in Amsterdam

Sept 2017 in Amsterdam

Typical Amsterdam View

Amsterdam Canal Boat

360 Volt Amsterdam

Amsterdam Central

Cafe Smit Voogt

Exploring Amsterdam 2017

I have a few more photos to share along with my Amsterdam Vegan Food Guide so keep an eye out for that. If you have visited Amsterdam let me know what you love about this City.

If you want to see what I got up to on previous visits just click here or check out the recommended the posts below.

My Favourite Cafes in Cornwall

Lovedays Cafe Charlestown Cornwall

Lovedays Cafe Charlestown Cornwall

There are no shortage of aesthetically pleasing cafes and restaurants in Cornwall in fact I think we’re spoiled for choice down here. Working from home means I tend to spend a lot of time quite isolated and in my own space which can often feel suffocating. So one thing I enjoy doing is taking time out to go to cafes either to meet people or to work from as it gives that much-needed change of scenery and I find I’m quite productive working remotely. It is safe to say I have visited more cafes than I dare admit and when I find one that not only looks amazing but the food and service are on par too I have to tell the world about it & that is how I feel about Loveday’s in Charlestown.

Cafe Vibes Cornwall

Lovedays Coffee Shop Charlestown

Loveday’s is a fairly new addition to my local village, there has always been a restaurant there for many years (which wasn’t the nicest) but this year it changed hands and there was so much buzz about the renovation which made me very excited. Although it has taken me a few months to actually visit, it was well worth the wait.

My husband & I are Vegan so we often struggle to find anything on the menu that we can order without having ingredients changed and are often left disappointed that the choice is very limited, so when we saw that Lovedays had a wide selection of Vegan & Gluten Free options we were beyond thrilled.

Lovedays Cafe Charlestown

We have both had the Acai Bowl and Homemade Baked Beans on Toast and on every occasion the food has been delicious. Very well presented and the service was fast and so friendly. The waitress was enthusiastic about the menu and knew what options were suitable for Vegans so that put our minds at rest (always have to check those ingredients). They also have milk alternatives so that is good news for us plant-based tea & coffee drinkers.

I like it when everything from the furniture to the crockery has been well thought out and Lovedays felt like it had such attention to detail. The atmosphere was very relaxed and welcoming, they also have a few different seating options so if you want to eat a table or read the paper on the huge sofas they have you covered.

Breakfast at Lovedays Cafe in Cornwall

Favourite Cafes in Cornwall

The lunch and evening meal options also sound really appetising and I am planning on visiting soon to try it out as I hear it is a great place for drinks in the evening. Oh & it is dog friendly so dogs are welcome inside until 5pm too which is so cute.

My Favourite Cafes in Cornwall

I’m already a regular and have started a Saturday morning Acai Bowl Club with my friends so that makes me one very happy lady. So if you’re ever in my neck of the woods in Charlestown, Cornwall then make sure you pay Loveday’s a visit and let me know how you find it.