Wednesday, May 08, 2019

On Sophie's Shelf | April Reads

So I clearly didn't stick to the goal I set of blogging regularly, but as I've still been reading a decent amount, I wanted to try and get my monthly reviews up! I read four books in April, so although I'm still a little behind on my yearly goal, I didn't fall any further behind. Here are the four books I read this month...

The World is Full of Divorced Women by Jackie Collins ★★★

If you saw my March post, you'll know that this is the book that I got in the My Book Moments box. It was the first Jackie Collins book that I'd read, and it was a nice, easy (but pretty trashy) read. It wasn't the usual type of book I'd pick up, and I probably wouldn't reach for another Jackie Collins too soon, but it was enjoyable enough. 

Poppy's Recipe for Life by Heidi Swain ★★★★

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
This was the first time that I read a Heidi Swain novel too, and honestly I'm so glad I did. The book follows Poppy, who's just moved into Nightingale Square. I now realise Nightingale Square has been the setting of some of Heidi's previous novels too, but it was easy enough to read as a stand-alone. It was such a sweet novel, and I loved seeing the development of Poppy and her neighbour Jacob's friendship, as well as her relationship with her younger brother Ryan. I'm definitely going to have to revisit Nightingale Square in the future! 
Poppy's Recipe for Life is out on the 30th May 2019.

Five Steps to Happy by Ella Dove ★★★★

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
This was honestly such a beautiful, uplifting read. Five Steps to Happy follows 32-year-old struggling actress Heidi, who has an unfortunate life-changing accident. Waking up in the hospital as an amputee, Heidi's only company is Maud - the elderly lady in the bed next to her. Of course, Maud has an attractive grandson called Jack, who befriends Heidi and tries to remind her that although it may not be the life she imagined, it can still be a good one. I laughed, I cried and felt incredibly uplifted. This is definitely one of my favourite books I've read in a while.
Five Steps to Happy is out on the 11th July 2019.

Almost Adults by Ali Pantony ★★★★

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
I'd seen a few reviews of this book before I started reading it, and was super excited to finally get round to it. Almost Adults follows the lives of four twenty-something-year-old friends Mackie, Edele, Alex and Nat (who also go by the MEAN girls). We see them navigating the struggles of adulting, whether that's a break-up, moving out or applying for a job. I loved all four characters and related to all of them in one way or another. I'd seen it compared to a grown-up version of the Georgia Nicolson series, and I couldn't agree more. If you're in that twenty-something age range, still trying to navigate your own life, this is definitely a book for you!
Almost Adults is out on e-book on the 24th June, and paperback on the 8th August 2019.

So there you have it - my four books read in April. Have you read anything great recently? Let me know!

Monday, April 01, 2019

On Sophie's Shelf | My Book Moment & March Reads

If you couldn't tell, I'm a big book fan, but I'm also a big fan of subscription boxes. When I heard about the My Book Moment box, I knew that I had to order one, and of course share what I received with you! The box is mailed out monthly, and inside you'll find a mystery book (you can pick between crime or popular fiction), a hot drink, a snack and an extra treat.

In went for the popular fiction option, and inside my March box, I received an exclusive copy of The World is Full of Divorced Women by Jackie Collins (which I'll be reading this month so keep an eye out for a review.) If you picked the crime option, you'd have received Darling by Rachel Edwards. I also got two New Kings coffee bags, three Lindt Lindor Truffles (YUM!) and a rose & oud tealight from Hopping Hare Candles.

Even though I won't be drinking the coffee, I was pretty impressed with the box as it's given me a new book to read, three yummy chocolates to scoff, and a gorgeous scented candle that I will definitely get some use out of. The box was only £12, which I think is a great price, and I'll definitely be ordering again! Now it's over to my March reads...

The Rosie Effect by Graeme Simsion ★★★

*This is a sequel - spoiler alert*
I have had this book on my shelf for a good few years now, after reading The Rosie Project back in 2014, and finally got round to starting it. It took me a little while to get into, but once I did I enjoyed it as much as the first. The book once again follows Don Tillman, a socially challenged genetics professor, and his (now) wife Rosie, who early on announces that she's pregnant. There were lots of laugh-out-loud moments, as Don faces this new challenge and naturally gets himself into a whole world of problems. It was overall a great read, and I really regret leaving it on my shelf for that long!

Goodbye, Perfect by Sara Barnard ★★★★

After reading (and absolutely loving) Fierce Fragile Hearts back in January, I knew I wanted to get my hands on the last of Sara's books that I hadn't yet read. I absolutely loved the story of Goodbye, Perfect, which followed Eden, who is completely shocked when best friend Bonnie runs away with their teacher Mr Cohn. Eden cares deeply about her friend Bonnie, and when Bonnie gets in touch with her, she's torn between wanting her best friend back, and keeping her trust. It was a beautifully honest book that had me crying throughout. Sara once again didn't disappoint, and I cannot wait to read what she brings out next!

Suddenly Single by Carol Wyer ★★★★★

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
This was definitely one of those books that I did not want to finish, and I'm already hoping for a sequel! The book follows romance novelist Chloe Piper, who, after her marriage falls apart, flees her cheating ex and village to the newly built Sunny Meadow Farm with her dog Ronnie. After her friendly neighbours get her hopelessly drunk, she agrees to join their Singleton Club, although she has a social anxiety disorder. It was an extremely enjoyable, quick read, that had me laughing and crying at times, and falling completely in love with Chloe's personality. Huge praise for Carol Wyer!

Have you read any of my March reads, or even subscribed to My Book Moment yourself? Let me know!
Monday, March 11, 2019

On Sophie's Shelf | February Reads

I know it's only been a few weeks since I posted my January reads, but I thought I'd get my February reviews up before we get to the midway point of the month. February was a slower month for me when it came to books, and I am a little behind my current target for the year. Here are the three books I read last month!

The Two Hearts of Eliza Bloom by Beth Miller ★★★★

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is out now.
This was such a wonderful book, and I actually finished it the same day I started it. The story follows Eliza (Aliza) Bloom, who grows up in an orthodox Jewish family. She meets and shortly after marries Alex, who introduces her to a world outside of what she knows. I loved following Eliza’s journey of self-discovery, and it was just so heartwarming to read. It opened my eyes to a culture that I didn't necessarily know a lot about previously, even though it was set right on the doorstep of where I grew up.

The Princess and the Fangirl by Ashley Poston ★★★★

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is out 2nd April.
Even though this is a companion novel to Geekerella, I didn't feel too lost having not read that, other than not knowing the back story of some characters. In all honesty, I loved it so much that I couldn't put it down. As a modern-day Princess and the Pauper, the story focused on actress Jess, who was at ExcelsiCon with the cast of her movie Starfield, and her look-a-like and con attendee Imogen, who accidentally ended up taking the place of Jess on a panel. When the audience didn't realise, and after Jess got in a spot of trouble that she had to figure out, they decided to swap places. The novel was written from both sides, and I loved hearing the adventures of both Jess and Imogen, who got more than they bargained for in the swap. It was a novel that touched my fangirl heart, and I laughed, smiled and cried the whole way through. I'm definitely going to have to pick up Geekerella soon to read!

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton ★★★★

Sometimes in life you just need to read a book that completely speaks to you. This what that for me. As someone who knew little about Dolly before this book, other than her being a journalist, I enjoyed this more than I expected. This memoir is full of stories about Dolly's experiences growing up on MSN, falling in love and the power of female friendships. It is honestly one of the most heartwarming and funny memoirs I've read, and I laughed and cried throughout. It was relatable, and as a single twenty-six-year-old it was definitely something that I needed to read at that exact moment in time.

So those three take the total for the year up to seven out of fifty-two books. Have you read any of them? Let me know your thoughts!
Monday, March 04, 2019

Food | Gourmet Popcorn by Popcorn Shed

This food was gifted in exchange for a review.

If you know me even a little bit, then you'll know that I love food. When the lovely team at Popcorn Shed got in touch to ask if I wanted to try some of the UK's first super-premium popcorn, I knew I couldn't resist.

Founded by cousins Laura and Sam, Popcorn Shed is a UK based, family-owned company that came about after they decided they wanted to perfect irresistibly indulgent popcorn recipes in their family kitchen. They combined patience, passion and all natural high-quality ingredients to create seven delicious popcorn flavours, and so along with my housemates Katie and Jon, I decided to see whether they could become one of my new favourite snacks.

Butterly Nuts - Peanut butter caramel popcorn with roasted peanut halves. Honestly, this was the one I was least looking forward to trying (and actually almost didn't) as I really dislike peanut butter. After Katie and Jon both said how mild the flavour was, I tried some, and it was surprisingly nice as the combination of caramel with the peanut butter toned down the flavour really well.

Say Cheese - Cheddar cheese popcorn. We are all huge cheese fans, so really enjoyed these. The cheese is extremely potent but really different from other popcorn out there.

Pecan Pie - Caramel popcorn with roasted pecan pieces. This was delicious. I am a massive fan of all things pecan, so knew I'd love this, but it was even better than I expected.

Salted Caramel - Sea salted caramel with Belgian milk chocolate. This flavour was also delicious but we all agreed that it seemed like more of a standard flavour that you could probably get elsewhere.

Sweet Cheesus - A mix of cheddar cheese and caramel. This was the flavour that we were all really intrigued by. Rather than being both flavours in one, this was a combination of some bits of cheddar and some bits of caramel, and it was surprisingly really really good. Jon loved it so much, he had to finish off the packet!

Berry-licious - Raspberry and dark chocolate popcorn. Raspberry and chocolate is a combination that I really love, so I'm glad this met expectations. I really enjoyed the surprise of realising that the popcorn was actually coated in a thin layer of chocolate too!

Pop N Choc - Chocolate caramel popcorn with Belgian milk chocolate. Again, the surprise of there being actual chocolate on this flavour was so lovely. It had a really nice flavour, but unfortunately, after tasting it last (and after the Berry-licious) it just seemed a little too standard when it came to popcorn flavours!

Overall, we really enjoyed every single Popcorn Shed flavour. Jon's top two were the cheese ones, although Sweet Cheesus came through on top as it was just so unusual compared to other popcorn flavours. Both Katie and I would go for Berry-licious and Pecan Pie, as they were great flavour combos! As I mentioned above, we probably wouldn't pick up Salted Caramel or Pop N Choc if we had all flavours to pick from, as they seemed more of a standard flavour that you could find elsewhere, combined to the other options available.

Popcorn Shed popcorn is absolutely delicious and I would definitely consider buying the smaller bags for me as a snack for me, or the really cute boxes as a gift for friends. Let me know if you try any!

Monday, February 18, 2019

On Sophie's Shelf | January Reads

I know, I know, it's almost the end of February already, but I still wanted to share the books I read back in January. I set myself a goal of 52 books this year, and although I've already fallen off the track, I did manage to read four books last month, so here's what I thought of them!

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart ★★★★

I didn't know what to expect when I started reading this book, and even part way through I was not expecting it to end the way it did. The story follows Cadence, one of the grandchildren of wealthy democrat Harris Sinclair. Every summer, the Sinclair's go to their own island, and the story follows their family, and the four Liars - Cadence, her cousins Mirren and Johnny, and their friend Gat. Cady's cousins all lie for their mothers, who are each competing for their father's inheritance, and although their family and this act annoyed me a little to begin with, in the end, I did really enjoy it.

Almost Adulting by Arden Rose ★★★

Now I haven't ever watched any of Arden's videos, but I loved the look and sound of this book when I saw it on my housemate's shelf, so decided to give it a read. It's a collection of stories about experiences that Arden had been through, and I found that she was extremely open and at times very blunt. It was a really quick, and funny read, and it was just a nice way to start the year. 

Fierce Fragile Hearts by Sara Barnard ★★★★★

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
When I first started reading Fierce Fragile Hearts, the characters felt really familiar, but it wasn't until after I finished that I realised it was a companion novel to Beautiful Broken Things, so this completely works as a stand-alone novel. Fierce Fragile Hearts follows the story of Suzanne, a few years after Beautiful Broken Things, and just as she leaves care and moves back to Brighton. It was a beautifully told, but also an incredibly emotional story following Suzanne's struggles as she learns to live on her own and make a life for herself, despite her traumatic past. Reading this was an emotional rollercoaster, but I wouldn't have it any other way. I laughed and I cried. It was perfect. 

Opposite of Always by Justin A. Reynolds ★★★★

I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 
This was such a wonderful read. I absolutely loved the concept from the get-go but worried it could get too repetitive. It was far from it, and I was completely hooked the entire way through. Jack is such a loveable main character, and I loved reading about his realationship with Kate, and his friendships with Jillian and Franny. Another brilliant YA novel for 2019, and a fantastic debut from Justin.

Let me know if you've read any of the books I read in January, and what you thought of them! I'm definitely going to try and get back into reading more this week, so should have another book post for you in a few weeks! 
Monday, February 11, 2019

Theatre | Waitress - Adelphi Theatre

"Let's see the next amazing thing baking does now..."

If you read my Come From Away review, you'll know that that was on my list of shows to see when I finally made it over to New York again. The other show that was top of my list was Waitress, and I was lucky enough to finally see it on Friday at the first preview here in London.

Set in the American South, Waitress follows the story of Jenna, a waitress and pie baker who's in an unhappy relationship with her abusive husband Earl. When she discovers she's pregnant, she begins looking for ways out and sets her sights on the grand prize of a nearby pie contest.

Although I had listened to the soundtrack a fair lot in the last couple of years and I knew the gist of the storyline, the show itself went above and beyond, and I fell even more in love with it. It was full of moments that made me laugh, and moments that made me cry, and I loved the underlying themes of friendship and self-discovery. I also adored getting random wafts of apple pie throughout the show - a small touch but one that made it a little more immersive.

It's time to talk about the incredible cast! As I've mentioned before, there can always be a little worry about a cast when you're so invested in the original cast recording, but they honestly blew my socks off. Katharine McPhee was a fantastic Jenna, and her performance of She Used To Be Mine was so phenomenal that the audience didn't stop clapping for a good few minutes.

Then there's the other two leading ladies - Marisha Wallace as Becky, and Laura Baldwin as Dawn. I'd seen Marisha previously in Dreamgirls, and Laura in Eugenius, so I know they were talented, but my, oh my! Firstly, their harmonies as a trio were insane and they sounded as though they'd been singing together for months as opposed to just the one. Then we have their individual performances too. Laura was hilarious as Dawn, and Marisha's performance of I Didn't Plan It blew me away. All I can say is wow.

Photo from Marisha Wallace's Instagram

The rest of the cast were also brilliant. Jack McBrayer completely fit the part of Ogie, Peter Hannah played a ridiculously believable Earl, and David Hunter was brilliant as Dr. Pomatter. A huge shoutout also needs to go to Kelly Agbowu as she completely cracked the audience (and Kat!) up with her performance of Nurse Norma.

I already knew it would be prior to seeing it, but Waitress is definitely up there in my top three shows of all time (alongside Hamilton and Come From Away) and I honestly cannot wait to see it again! It's a show that everyone should see, so if you weren't already planning on it I'd definitely recommend getting tickets.

Waitress has now extended it's West End run, and is booking at the Adelphi Theatre until 19th October.
Monday, February 04, 2019

Theatre | Come From Away - Phoenix Theatre

"You are here, at the start of a moment..." 

I first started listening to the Original Broadway Cast Recording of Come From Away back well over a year ago now, and it was the top of my list of shows to see when I eventually make it to New York again. Thankfully, though, I didn't have to wait that long, because back in June they announced that the show would be coming over to London. Even with having it booked for a few weeks time (and again a couple of weeks after that,) I knew that I couldn't wait a minute longer, and decided to book a rush ticket to see it on the opening night of previews.

For those of you that weren't aware, on September 11th 2001, 38 planes were diverted to Gander in Newfoundland, Canada, due to the closure of the US airspace, following the terrorist attacks that took place that day. Come From Away tells the real-life stories of what happened on that day (and the following days) for both the Islanders and 'plane people' who find themselves in Gander.

As I already knew the music particularly well (I had to stop myself mouthing along at times!), seeing the show brought to life was the important part for me. The scripting in between songs was just as incredible as the music itself. There were so many moments that caught me off guard, and I spent the entire show on an emotional rollercoaster. I laughed, I cried, and I had the biggest grin on my face for pretty much the entire 100 minutes running time.

One of my biggest worries, when I've listened to a recording, is not loving the cast I see as much as those that I've heard sing it a million times previously, but I actually got a sneak peek of the cast back in October as I was invited to the launch event at Canada House. Because of that, I knew that they'd be amazing when the show came round, but they went above and beyond. I could shout out every single one of them, but the standout performances for me were definitely Jenna Boyd's portrayal of Beulah, Robert Hands & Helen Hobson's portrayals of Nick & Diane (my favourite characters in the show!) and of course Rachel Tucker's portrayal of Beverley, especially when it came to her performance of Me and The Sky.

Photo: Matthew Murphy

In case you haven't gathered by all I've said above (and by the fact that I'm going back to see it another twice in the next month!), the show is absolutely phenomenal, and if you do get the chance to see it, you must. We only seem to hear stories of the horrible terrorist attacks that happened on September 11th, but this is a story from that day that shows that there are good people out there, and that's something I think we all need in our lives, especially now.

Come From Away is currently playing at The Phoenix Theatre, with tickets bookable until mid-September.