Sunday, 31 May 2015

Weekly Inspiration: Pretty Mug Cakes

Is it weird to feel inspired by a cake in a mug?  Whatever your answer is, this week's inspirational post includes some dreamy looking cakes that are filling up some equally as dreamy teacups in a gorgeous dance of sweet softness and delicate china. 

This way for delicious, sugary bijoux... 

Do you like mug cakes? Personally, I do not use microwaves so I can only admire them from afar, but I have tried a few good ones! If you would like to try some of those, follow the links down bellow for recipes to most of them :)

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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

The Book Thief: Review

Author: Markus Zusak
Genre: Fiction, historical fiction, young adult
Pages: 560
Originally published in: 2005

By now the majority of us have heard about The Book Thief and a big chunk of people have already reviewed it, too.  An instant bestseller, followed up by the usual adaptation for the big screen, The Book Thief is still enjoying a massive worldwide following…

He stood a few metres from the step and spoke with great conviction, great joy.
‘Alles is Scheisse,’ he announced. All is shit.*

First of all, I will have to start with the fact that the book is narrated by Death. But of course you already know that as this is the first thing every review on The Book Thief starts up with. Also, the book is centred on a young German girl – Liesel Meminger – who is being separated from her mother and sent to a foster family in Molching, Germany. The year is 1939 and Europe is at war, while Liesel gets used to living with the Hubermanns, consisting of Rosa Hubermann, whose main characteristic is that her favourite two words are Saumensch and Saukerl (they literary stand for the German words for female pig and male pig, but are basically curse words, so you catch the drift); and of Hans Hubermann, the loving accordionist. Anything else you need to know plotwise? As Death conveniently points out at the beginning of the book: “Death will visit the book thief three times.” To be honest, considering these are war times, you could be surprised s/he did not visit her more (dark humour, I apologise).

All in all, The Book Thief follows how Liesel settles in her new home in Molching during the Second World War, but it also reflects on the way people were living during that dark period in human history. So, apart from the usual adventures in which young adult heroes get involved in (such as Liesel and her best friend Rudy Steiner stealing apples), there are also scenes including fanatical Germans and hiding Jews. Of course, a main point to the book is how Liesel turns into a book thief and why she turns into one.

Usually I am not into young adult literature. Maybe because I do not like my books to come with an age-specific sticker on them, but mostly due to the fact that YA doesn’t have the same appeal to me any longer (I mean, when you can dive deep into Dostoevsky, why wasting time with vampires and confused teenagers?). However, The Book Thief is one of those books that do not really carry that same “age-specific” feeling to them and can be enjoyed without thinking of it as a YA.

“In years to come, he would be a giver of bread, not a stealer – proof again of the contradictory human being. So much good, so much evil. Just add water.”

Anyway, on to the specifics.  There are quite a lot of things that make The Book Thief a good novel and it is easy to see why it became a bestseller. Personally, I think its main advantage is that it paints a fuller picture of the life of the Germans in Nazi Germany. Do not get me wrong, it is not a historical piece that gives you all the proper details of Germans’ daily lives. As a fictional piece it has definitely benefited from Zusak’s imagination. What I am trying to say is that it is nice to read about well-known events from a different perspective.

Usually WWII novels focus on the more obvious victims – the Jews on the run, the occupied French, the soldiers in Stalingrad, the separated love-birds, etc. As a result, the other victims – those who are largely seen as the oppressors – only get to be the bad guys, save for a few characters here and there who happen to be hiding people on the run. In The Book Thief the main characters are German – breathing, living Germans whose lives were not made easy just because they were living in the Fuhrer’s state. The book manages to illustrate what an important decision people were making by joining the NSDAP – looking at it from afar we are used to seeing everything back then in black and white. As the book shows all the consequences that come by not supporting the party, it becomes clear that whatever people decided for themselves, it was a very conscious decision indeed.

This is mostly in the adult world of The Book Thief but the little thief group Liesel and Rudy join makes up for a good case study on the German nation back in the day, too. As the group needs a new leader to follow, once the old one has left, and no one, as an individual, has what it takes to take the place of a leader, it becomes clear that they are a microcosm of the state: “They liked to be told, and Victor Chemmel liked to be the teller.” Victor on the other hand possesses of the charisma a leader needs, much like the infamous leader of Germany: “…he also possessed a certain charisma, a kind of ‘follow me.’” Looking at those children, it feels like one is looking at their parents and at their choices. After all, this is a well summed up description of how the collective mind tends to work.

Finally, the books. This is where my disappointment came and slapped me in the face. I do not want to spoil anything for you but Liesel does not end up stealing an awful lot of books! Given the fact that this is the title of the novel, I expected more – I was looking forward to finding out what kinds of books she was stealing, what she was learning from them, and of course finding out if I have read any of the mentioned books. I was looking forward to the adventure, to the tons of books The Thief was stealing, the appetite he had for them – I was expecting a book after a book after a book. Instead I got a Liesel that kept rereading the same three books over and over again (and no, I haven’t read The Grave Diggers Handbook, thank you very much).

I loved Markus Zusak’s writing style and I loved the story. The characters I loved also. What I did not love is how Death had to go around, hitting me with massive spoilers in the face. Yes, I get it, I know this is a narrative tool and it is nothing new under the sun. But come on, what happened to the good old surprise ending? Having a narrator who likes to tell you or foreshadow everything way in advance, is not exactly my cup of tea, and I think if Zusak stayed away from this, The Book Thief’s ending would have had an even greater impact on its readers.  Having said that, I did enjoy the book immensely and I read it quite fast as I found it pretty addicting. Lovely read, will recommend. 

Have you read The Book Thief yourself? Hope you enjoyed my review, I tried to change it up a bit so it is different from every other review on the book, by focusing on a few key points. Let me know what you think!

*You did not expect this quote, did you?
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Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Rodin: Book Review

When I visited Musée Rodin on a warm spring day last year, I instantly fell in love. I knew that would be the kind of place I would like, but I did not know it was going to turn into one of my favourite museums in Paris (and as we know, there is quite a big competition in this artful city). Truth is, Hôtel Biron is simply stunning, surrounded by gorgeous gardens perfect for strolls in the sun while admiring one man’s undisputable genius.

Although it is undisputable today, Rodin’s genius was not always recognised – on the contrary, some of his work, including his Monument to Victor Hugo raised quite a lot of eyebrows and proved to be among the more controversial sculptures of the time. Indeed, there is a lot more to his work than the eternal embrace in The Kiss.

“Instinct and personal genius were what conducted to the originality which placed his work above and outside its time.”

Author: Bernard Champigneulle
Genre: Art, Non-fiction, Biography
Pages: 288
Originally published in: 1999

Bernard Champigneulle’s Rodin is a well-written and very informative book on the sculptor – it studies his life from early childhood to his final days, reflecting on his relationships with women, family, friends, and other influential figures of the time. From who commissioned some of his most famous works to who hated them and criticized them, this is a great read for anyone who wants to learn more about Rodin.

Make no mistake, Champigneulle’s book is not a novel, or a dramatized retelling of a famous person’s story. This is non-fiction, part of the World of Art series of illustrated books on art and therefore it provides quite a lot of detail into the sculptor’s life – both in the atelier and outside of it, as everything played some part in his working process (isn’t that true for all creators?). However, this does not mean that Rodin is a dry textbook that cannot be enjoyed by anyone who is not after an art degree. It is a great book as long as you are someone interested in sculpture, art in general, influential figures of the 19th-20th century, artists who used to work in Paris, European artists, and so on, you get the idea.

The book is set out in chronological order so it follows Rodin’s rising without making needless time jumps and getting ahead of itself and of its readers – something that is quite helpful for a first time reader of anything on Rodin. Furthermore, this is the time to point out that Champigneulle’s book makes for a perfect first read on the sculptor – it provides enough insight into his life to be enough on its own, but it also manages to put a good start to the conversation: it gets the subject out there and invites you to read more into it, to further your knowledge. The book covers some intriguing episodes of Rodin's public life that are full of drama and competition, but it is his love life that probably intrigues most people - indeed, there is time for the great love of his life in this one, too.

As Bernard Champigneulle was the vice president of the Association de Critiques d’Art, it feels like he is just the right person to start you on a journey in art history. He does comment quite a lot on the subjects he discusses and is not afraid to express his opinion on various characters who made an appearance in Rodin’s life – this might feel out of place in other art books, but not in this one as his opinions are not forced but rather feel like gentle remarks and suggestions.

Anyway, apart from the author’s comments, descriptions and retellings, the book is also full of illustrations and pictures of Rodin’s work as well as some of his correspondence – I have always found a biography is not full without a peek into the subject’s letters. After all, how can you get a proper idea of that person otherwise? Isn’t it in their letters where we often find something about them? In the way they refer to others, in the way they talk about what they love, in Rodin’s case – in the way they talk about their creations?

“It needs to be said, and said loudly. This work, which people have laughed at and tried to make fun of because they cannot destroy it, is the end product of my entire life and the very hub of my aesthetic. I was a changed man from the day I first conceived it. I developed along radical lines, forging links between the great traditions of the past and my own time – links which grow stronger with every passing day.”

…As we walked out of Musée Rodin and into its gift shop, I was still haunted by Rodin’s world – its gentle simplicity found in a lovers’ kiss and its quiet genius lingering in every small detail of each and every bust. Oh joy, there is at least one book that has an English Edition sticker on it! I am still working on my French, until then I walk away with this translated copy of Rodin, into the freshly washed by the rain streets of Paris, and with a heart full of happiness that I am bringing a part of this eternal peace with me.

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Wednesday, 13 May 2015

My Guilty Pleasure Books

I love the classics. Actually, me and the classics are getting along famously, and if you have been spying on me on Goodreads you would have noticed that my 5 star ratings are generally saved for a good ol’ classic. However, I do enjoy a good chick lit, sickly-sweet romance, or a mainstream thriller every once in a while – truth is, I am not such a massive snob after all. Throughout the years I have found out that mainstream literature can actually be good – it does not have to be the next 1984 in order to be hugely enjoyable. In this context, here are some of my favourite guilty pleasure reads – contemporary titles that might lack Hemingway’s brilliant writing style, or Tolstoy’s lively descriptions, but have some life into them; they are books that are going to make you smile.

The Food of Love Cookery School by Nicky Pellegrino

What a delicious read that one was! Mouth-watering Sicilian pastries, divine pasta covered in fresh ingredients, chocolate on and in everything and anything, and all of that for no extra calories. Nicky Pellegrino is probably among my favourite authors of the chick lit genre. She does not take herself too seriously, writes about what she knows and loves, and her books are winning from it. Granted the writing could be polished, of course it can, but the stories! Oh, I have only read two* of her books but their stories have definitely managed to stay with me – not just because they happen to be situated is sunny Italy, but because their characters seems so real, you can almost hear them breathe.

The Food of Love Cookery School is a delicious book following four extremely different women as they embark on a cooking holiday in Sicily. The chef that is leading the course? A handsome, charming Sicilian man with a dash of mystery attached to his persona. The characters are terribly engaging and the food descriptions are going to make you want to leave your flat and go to Sicily right now. Seriously, why wouldn’t you want to read that book?

*The second book I read of hers was When in Rome.

How to Marry a Marquis by Julia Quinn

I love period drama, okay? And I don’t know if you are aware but Jane Austen has only written that many books, and after you read a bit of Thomas Hardy and Elizabeth Gaskell, you are ready to get your hands on something a bit more cheerful for a change! Enter Julia Quinn.

She is a modern author yet she chooses to write about Regency England. To tell the truth, her books do have some historical inaccuracies, so if this is the thing that makes you really angry – stay away from those books. However, I am one of those people and I do not mind it in this case since Quinn’s books are not really based on true characters or anything; instead they offer a different way to view the time period. Which brings me to…

Thanks God, for the sex scenes! I am sorry but can we stop pretending as if people back in the days were not having sex? I know it wasn’t exactly Austen’s style to describe how Mr Darcy was satisfying Elizabeth (and I do not expect it from her to write about that at all), but it is really nice for a change to read a romantic book set in Regency England, which includes its characters indulging into some intercourse!

Anyway…How to Marry a Marquis follows Elizabeth Hotchkiss as she stumbles upon a book by the same name in her employer's library. Since Elizabeth is rather poor she decides to follow some of the advice in the book in order to marry rich. Then, there is James Sidwell, Marquis of Riverdale, who offers to help Elizabeth find herself a husband…

Apparently How to Marry a Marquis is the second book of Agents of the Crown series but the story works on its own. Another book of Quinn’s I have read is It’s in His Kiss and it’s an alright read although not very memorable. 

Eating with the Angels by Sarah-Kate Lynch

FOOD! Enough said.

Well okay, the plot is centred on Connie Farrell, a New York restaurant critic, who is on her way to Venice for the second honeymoon of a lifetime. There's only one problem - Tom, her high school sweetheart and husband of ten years, is not sitting next to her.

The plot is quite predictable, but yet again, the food is what makes it for me, and if you are the same, you are probably going to enjoy Eating with the Angles, too. After all the main character is a restaurant critic, so the food descriptions are even better!

The Art of French Kissing by Kristin Harmel

I have mentioned that one before and I do consider The Artof French Kissing to be one of the better chick lit titles. It is set in Paris because obviously…

A good-looking American girl loses her fiancé, her job and her place in the matter of a couple of days, so she jumps at the opportunity to visit an old friend who lives in Paris. There, she is included in her small PR company, handling a new big French rock star. Parisian sights, French charmers and mindless fun – this one is perfect to take to the beach with you and get lost in its predictable plot while sipping on an iced cold mojito.

The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl by Belle De Jour

Now that is a book I love rereading as it makes me laugh. A lot. Belle has a marvellous sense of humour making her books a real treat. Moreover, she is brutally honest – something I love and have learnt to truly appreciate in an author.

I watched Secret Diary of a Call Girl with Billie Piper years ago and loved it – a funny British series based on Belle’s books that despite being centred on a call girl, does not make you cringe…well not most of the time anyway. Basically, ever since I watched the show I wanted to read the books, and when I finally did it, I instantly knew what all the fuss was about. When I am blue and need something to put me in a good mood? Belle it is.

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown

Guilty pleasure book indeed! Over the years a lot has been said about Dan Brown and his mainstream novels. Everything has been criticized – from his writing style, to his unbelievable stories to his unbelievable characters. This is by no means ground-breaking literature.

Yet, Angels and Demons is a book I absolutely loved reading! Let me tell you a story…

So, I was still at high school – 17 or 18, I am not that sure – and Angels and Demons [the film] was going to be out in a matter of months. Having seen The Da Vinci Code previously (who did not see that one?), I was really looking forward to the new film but wanted to read the book first in a true snobbish bookworm kind of fashion. (Note: the films are not good at all, but I don’t mind a bit of Tom Hanks running around solving mysteries) There I was picking up Angels and Demons, reading it before and after school. What happened next? I read it really fast because it is one of the most addicting books ever – a true page turner, a fast-paced thriller, and a story that needed to be finished and finished fast.

This is what makes Dan Brown’s books so popular that they fly off the shelves the moment they hit them – they are truly addictive, like a very strong cocktail that needs to be finished before the waitress comes around and takes it from your grip (well something like that, you know what I mean). And of course the mystery – always a popular topic, something out there, something you want to read about but you haven’t even began yet.

Finally, as I was reading Angles and Demons I became suspiciously good in Physics. True story.

Well this turned into a very personal and revealing post at the end, didn't it? What are your guilty pleasure reads? Do tell...I cannot judge...anymore.
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Sunday, 10 May 2015

Weekly Inspiration: Literary Cakes

I know I am not the only one who needs some pretty visuals every once in awhile when I lack inspiration. To me, looking at gorgeous cakes (and instragrammable food in general) has the power to improve my mood, heighten my spirits and put me in the right frame of mind to do my work/be creative/start writing. If you are the same, here are some absolutely stunning cakes that were inspired by books...(for more reading inspiration here is my previous inspirational post)

Cakespiration of the Week Starts Here:

Ok, just one more Alice one...

Have you had a book-inspired cake for your birthday?

Picture sources: one, two, three, four, five, six and seven :)
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Friday, 8 May 2015

Top 7 Tremendous iPad and iPhone Apps for Booklovers

If you have a great passion for both reading and gadgets, then you should use your iPhone or iPad to its fullest ability to read e-books and news. Having a mobile gadget allows you using all the benefits of reading wherever you are: in a train, on a plane, standing in a line for a cup of coffee, or waiting for a client.

Now we give you the list of top 7 tremendous iPhone and iPad apps for all gadgets users who cannot imagine their lives without reading. All the applications are easy to install. They all are completely user-friendly as well.  



This application allows you reading a totally free sample of a book in Apple’s iBookstore prior to buying it. The iBooks can synchronize all your notes, bookmarks and present page wirelessly among Apple devices. Please keep in mind that it is the only reader tool offering a built-in bookstore on Apple gadgets. According to numerous reviews, the iBooks application is easier to employ than any Kindle application for iPhone.


This application allows Amazon Kindle periodicals and books gain access. With this app you can as well share passages and quotes of your favorite books on both Twitter and Facebook in the process of reading. Without leaving the Kindle you can look up unknown words on Wikipedia, Yahoo or Google if you urgently need the right word definition.


The app allows reading PDF and ePub books from considerable part of booksellers. With Bluefire you can transfer your beloved books from the Apple device to your computer and vice versa. One of the prominent advantages of this application is that it allows reading even library books related to Adobe DRM. You can work with this application the way you usually would with swipes and taps. The Bluefire reading tool has numerous controls to adapt your reading experience.

Marvel Comics Reader

In this reading app every panel is displayed by itself. You can zoom in with a double click, while a finger swipe moves on to the following board. The Marvel Comics Reader reveals more various options that will make your reading a real pleasure.


Among the most remarkable features of this supplication are plot summaries and e-book search. The Leatherbound introduces the ability to distribute information viewed within the application by email. There is another amazing feature with the help of which a reader can find the cheapest place to purchase an electronic book.    


This app allows checking out a particular magazine issue for absolutely free. You can also subscribe and install it to your smartphone. The Zinio adjusts all pages automatically for either landscape or picture view, and it also knows where you stopped if you leave the application.  


The NOOK gives access to various books and periodicals. There is a LendMe feature with the help of which a reader can lend some e-book titles to a friend for two weeks. There is also an integrated Merriam-Webster dictionary. NOOK has an additional feature that may be of the uppermost importance for both students and scholars – the pagination is just the same as in the original book.

Have you used any of these and which one is your favourite?

Guest post written by Alison James

Freelance writer and contributor
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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

April Lifestyle Favourites

Here is what I have been loving in April - the teas that have been accompanying my books, the lunch boxes that have saved me after a hard day at work or long day shopping. Simply put: my April lifestyle favourites.


Basically: I love &otherstories. Their body care is spot-on - great quality for a great price. And as soon as you enter their beauty section and smell all the amazing scents they have on offer (and there are quite a few of them), you cannot simply walk away. Let's put it like this: when there is a lovely body lotion that smells of Belleville Bakery and comes at the amazing price of £7 , it would just be rude not to!
However, this past month I made a discovery thanks to A Little Opulent - the Fig Fiction range is my definite new favourite as it smells divine! A fresh mix of plump currant berries, pink pepper and wild fig, this is a scent that is going to bring your body care experience on a whole new level! Apart from being very fresh, there is some sweetness to it as you can sense the Brazilian rosewood and dark plum coming through as well. As for the hand soap in particular - it leaves my hands feeling so soft that I hardly need to follow up with a hand cream, and costs just £4! Win and win.

The Book

Choosing only one book a month is almost impossible, but in April I have been loving Rodin by Bernard Champigneulle in particular. Got this book exactly a year ago from the Musée Rodin's gift shop. I started reading it a few months back, mainly on the underground as I found it to be the perfect read when I am on the go. Rodin is one of my favourite sculptors and learning more about his life was a great experience. Needless to say, a review is coming soon.

The Tea

A lifestyle list of mine would never be full without a mention of a hot beverage. In April I found a new favourite tea and that got me very excited (I've been living in England for four years now, okay?). PG tips Spices and Mint smells divine, tastes divine and makes me feel divine, too! I usually have it at night before bed as I am watching something on Netflix or reading a book, and believe me, the whole experience is enhanced thanks to it! Definitely my tea recommendation of the month if you like sweeter infusions that make you feel warm, cosy and relaxed from the inside.

The Perfect Healthy Lunch

One of the many great things about London is the huge choice of places to eat - not just in terms of restaurants and pubs, but also when in need of a quick bite in your lunch breaks or after work. Although I do love a bit of Pret, this month I have discovered Pod. A place dedicated to healthy fast-food, it immediately got my attention with its huge choice of fresh, seasonal meals including sandwiches, salads, baguettes, and sweet treats. Here, I went for the meal deal and got a lovely wholegrain baguette with bacon, a pack of truly fiery and delicious healthy popcorn and a can of dirty coke (not so healthy but I was boiling and craving a coke).

The Perfect Lunch Box

By now you should know I need to mention food at least twice when I discuss my daily life...Long story short, I was having a long day of shopping and strolling the streets from Covent Garden, up Regent Street and down Oxford St (poor me) with a friend of mine, when we both needed to grab a bite before getting on the underground. This is how we decided to give Kimchee a go - I have passed by this Korean place, just a seconds away from Tottenham Court Road station, many a times, but this was the first time I actually went in. After spending absolute ages deciding what to get, since everything looked so tempting, I went for a Chargrilled Chicken salad and my favourite Aloe Vera drink, and called it a day. However, will definitely return to try some of their hot meals.

The tv programme

April marks the time when favourite tv programmes come back with their brand new series. I am going to keep it brief as there are a lot of my favourites that made a come back. Firstly, there is Mad Men's final season which is making me really sad and I do not want to talk about it. Secondly, Game of Thrones is finally back with its fifth season - again, I rather not talk about it as some final events in last Sunday's episode did upset me. All in all, I like watching shows that make me suffer so I only saw it appropriate to go back to Pretty Little Liars and catch up with all the seasons I have missed. So, this is the show I have been binge watching in April, and yes, you guessed it right, I do not wanna talk about that one either.

The film

So many films out there, which one to watch? If you love British series (just like me) and you were a fan of BBC's Spooks there is only one option and that is Spooks: The Greater Good. It comes out on the 8th of May nationwide and it is worth a watch - believe me, it manages to capture the spirit of the series. More on why to watch it, here is a shameless link to my review.

Now, you tell me: what have you been enjoying in April?
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