Top Ten Tuesday #423

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these. Mine was fairly quiet, but I have passed my six month probation at work which was great, and I did have a nice dinner out with my parents at the Royal Society of Medicine on Friday (which wasn’t specifically planned to celebrate me passing my probation at work but happened to fall on the same day which was a nice coincidence). my mum and I are also going to the British Designer Sale in Chelsea tomorrow which should be really fun, I’ve not been with her for a few years and I’ve got some really nice stuff from there over the years so I’m excited to see what they have this year.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. I’m switching up the topic once again this week as I’ve done the Summery Book Covers topic quite a few times (okay twice, but still, I’ve exhausted most of my summery book covers) and so instead I thought I’d revisit a topic I had a lot of fun doing last year, as it’s a fairly evergreen topic and do 10 Random Quotes From Books on My TBR. If you didn’t see my previous post on this, this is how it works: you pick 10 random books off your shelves, put numbers between 1-50 into a random number generator (so you don’t accidentally end up picking a spoilery page from later in the book) and pick out the first quote you see on that page. I again ran into some difficulty where the books I picked didn’t have dialogue on the page number generated by the random number generator, but we got there in the end. I think I came out with slightly better quotes last time, but the selection I have this time do have a healthy dose of humour, so I quite enjoyed that. Anyway, let’s go:

  1. “When Aphrodite came, it was in pursuit of her lover of course. A mortal named Adonis, who loved to hunt.” -Artemis, Atalanta, Jennifer Saint

Ariadne was one of the victims of my 2021 reading slump and I never actually finished it, but Jennifer Saint’s retellings of the stories of women from Greek mythology have always appealed to me and one of these days, I really want to finish Ariadne and get around to her other two Greek myth books, both of which I have on my shelf. I have to admit, Atalanta’s is a story I’m only vaguely familiar with, so I’m intrigued to see Jennifer’s take on her.

2. “Diric Melanos is a killer.” -Commander Keros, Song Of The Current, Sarah Tolscer

So many questions. Who is Diric Melanos? Who has he killed? What does her have to do with the plot of this book? I have to admit, Song of The Current has been sitting on my shelf for a while and I had been wondering if I should unhaul it, but this quote actually had me intrigued by the story again!

3. “You didn’t know Pompeii was wiped out by a volcano?” -Caro Kerber-Murphy, The Love Hypothesis (no, not that one), Laura Steven

I have to admit, I started reading this one but was struggling to get into it so I put it down. Laura Steven’s books are always so funny though and this is a great example of that, though maybe it’s less funny out of context! I may go back to this one some day but it’s not one that’s been calling to me at the moment, to be fair, I always struggle with contemporary as a genre!

4. “Skulduggery’s giant animal theory. Have you not heard it? A long time ago, according to our learned friend, there were giant animals that walked the Earth.” -Saracen Rue, Hell Breaks Loose, Derek Landy

I’ve been a little disappointed by Phase 2 of Skulduggery, so much so that I haven’t finished the last two books yet (I will, they’re just not top of my TBR). However, the prequel sounds massively appealing to me, I love the Dead Men so it will be cool to see what they were like in the past and have an adventure with all of them again. I’m just hoping this will not be as disappointing as many of the more recent Skulduggery books have been!

5. “Let’s come again.” -Leo, When The World Was Ours, Liz Kessler

Honestly, this very short quote is a pretty standard piece of dialogue and doesn’t give much away about the story, but it’s one that I’m very intrigued in reading as it follows three Austrian children through WWII and the Holocaust which is a perspective I’ve not really encountered much in WWII fiction and the whole idea of three friends connected through a childhood picture who are torn apart during the Holocaust and whose lives then take very different paths is an interesting one.

6. “Can you believe it, m’lord?” -Conte, The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch

Again, this doesn’t really tell me all that much about the book, other than the fact that it’s obviously a setting inspired by a historical time period because no one uses “m’lord” these days! Locke Lamora always appears a lot on people’s lists of favourite fantasy books and I would love to one day find out why!

7. “The Heir was greatly pleased to have met all of you.” -Serina, Grace and Fury, Tracy Banghart

So this whole story revolves around finding a wife (or mistress, I’m not sure) for the heir to the throne, so I’m guessing this bit comes from when the heir has met all the potential candidates and is about to make his decision. My interest in this one has waned somewhat since I bought it, as I just don’t really have as much interest in YA fantasy as I used to, but we’ll see, maybe I’ll get around to it someday.

8. “I’ll get right to work on that.” -Tess Kendrick, The Fixer, Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Again, not a quote that gives too much away about the plot of the book, though given that it revolves around a teenage who unwittingly becomes a “fixer” for her fellow high school students problems (much like her older sister is a political fixer), I would hazard an educated guess that someone has come to her with a problem they want fixing. I’ve heard really good stuff about this one, it seems to be well loved by the blogosphere, so I do intend to get to it one day, though when that day will be, as ever, I don’t know!

9. “News from the palace: the King may finally have found a suitor for his daughter.” -Roger, The Familiars, Stacey Halls

I have many questions about this one. What does the King’s daughter have to do with the plot? How does this relate to the woman tried for witchcraft? I want to know!

10. “My guardians brought me to me Oluwan, and my mother said she’d come for me when……” -Tarisai, Raybearer, Jordan Ifueko

Again I have so many questions. Who is Tarisai? Why did her guardians bring her to Oluwan? Who is her mother? Did she abandon her? When was she planning to come back? This quote definitely piqued my interest!

So there we go, those are some random quotes from books on my TBR. Are any of these books on your TBR? Have you read them? What did you think of them? If any of them aren’t on your TBR already, have these quotes inspired you to look into them? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next Tuesday for another Top Ten Tuesday, the topic is Bookish Wishes, but it’s never one I particularly want to do, so I’ll be changing up the topic again. I’m not sure what I’m going to do yet, I’d like to do something Pride Themed so I think I might do 2023 LGBTQ+ releases on my TBR, if I have enough of them, but if not, I will think of something else and you’ll get to be surprised next week (I promise after next week I will actually get back to doing the actual weekly topics again after basically a month of making up my own!).

Top Ten Tuesday #422

Hi everyone, I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these. I haven’t been up to much, I had a very busy week of work last week with a couple of extra shifts on top of my regular ones so that was mostly what kept me busy. However I did go to the bimonthly Tapas and Conversation Night at Battersea Spanish again on Friday and that was as always really fun, I met a really great bunch of people there and we stayed chatting (in English, not Spanish once the event was over!) for quite a while after the official end of the conversation night, so hopefully I’ll get to see them again at another conversation night in the future because I had a lot of fun.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. I’m going for a different topic again this week as the regular topic is the inverse of what we did last week: Things That Make Me Instantly Not Want To Read A Book, and once again, that hasn’t really changed for me since we last did that topic, the things I didn’t like then, I still don’t like now! So instead of that, I’m going to do a topic I saw on Cindy’s Book Corner a couple of weeks back and share 10 Netgalley Rejections That Crushed Me. I stopped using Netgalley a couple of years ago because I found the stress of trying and constantly failing to read books before their publication date overrode any pleasure I got from getting them to read in advance, but when I did use Netgalley, I requested a lot of books. My acceptance rate was actually pretty high (hence the stress!) but there were still those books that I desperately wanted to get accepted to read and then got declined for. I’ll be sharing some of those today, as well as if I have actually read said book yet! So here we go:

  1. Crossfire-Malorie Blackman

I was a huge Noughts and Crosses fan in my youth, I remember racing through all four books as a teenager and I’m pretty sure I reread them at least a couple of times, my original copies of the books are certainly quite battered! So naturally when it was announced that there was going to be a fifth book in the series, over a decade after the last book was published, I was super excited for it, and immediately requested it on Netgalley. Naturally, I was pretty crushed when my request got declined given that it was a series continuation of such a beloved childhood series for me.

Have I read it yet: Yes! I read this one in January of 2020 (so given it was a book I was so excited about I wanted to read it early and I bought it at YALC in July of 2019, I did wait a while!) It was actually a bit of a let down for me, I did enjoy it but not as much as I hoped, as much as I enjoyed catching up with Sephy and Callie Rose and seeing how their world had changed in the years since Double Cross, I wasn’t a big fan of new protagonists Libby and Troy. It left off on a pretty big cliff-hanger and I’ve been meaning to read the final book in the series, Endgame for ages, but I still haven’t yet!

2. Legendary-Stephanie Garber

Ah this one really stung! I got accepted for Caraval on Netgalley the year before and I absolutely loved that one, it was one of my favourite books of 2017, so I was really desperate to get my hands on Legendary and see what happened to Scarlett and Tella next. Sadly despite Hodder accepting me for Caraval, it just wasn’t to be for Legendary and I had to wait like everyone else.

Have I Read It Yet: Yes! This was one of my favourite books of 2018 and my favourite book in the Caraval trilogy. I loved Tella so much, I enjoyed her narration more than Scarlett’s and liked her as a character more and it was such a captivating mystery with so many twists and turns throughout. I was dying to get my hands on Finale after turning the last page!

3. Not Even Bones-Rebecca Schaeffer

This one definitely stung because it was a book that sounded so up my street, one of the comp titles was a VE Schwab book, This Savage Song, and though that particular VE Schwab book is not my favourite, any comparison to VE Schwab is bound to have me at least somewhat intrigued. It also promised to be dark and packed with morally grey characters which is always something I want to read. I think I got rejected for this one because it wasn’t published in the UK so I was requesting to the US publisher and I don’t think they could grant requests from outside the US which was understandable but did sting a little!

Have I Read It: Yes! Despite my excitement for it when it initially released, I actually didn’t read it until the summer of 2020 (isn’t it always the way?!) but I had a great time reading it. I loved how dark it was, I loved the characters and that they were all varying degrees of villain and it was generally a fast paced, fun time. I actually ordered the second book as soon as I was done with this one and still have yet to read it! Hopefully soon!

4. Where Dreams Descend-Janella Angeles

I was so desperate to read this one because a) one of the comparison titles for the book was Moulin Rouge! aka my favourite film EVER and there’s nothing that could make me jump on a book so quickly as that comparison, b) I love circus stories in all their guises and c) I’m always up for magic competitions. Naturally as soon as it was available on Netgalley, I requested it, but just like Not Even Bones, Where Dreams Descend never got a UK publisher and the US publisher wouldn’t approve requests from outside the US, so my dreams (pun not intended) were shattered.

Have I Read It Yet: Surprisingly no! I did try and read it in early 2021 but I was in a massive reading slump at the beginning of that year and just couldn’t get into anything I was reading, so I ended up putting it down. I would like to go back to it when I’m in a better mood for it though.

5. The Boy Who Steals Houses-CG Drews

CG (aka PaperFury) has always been one of my favourite bloggers, and I got her 2018 release A Thousand Perfect Notes through Netgalley in 2018. Naturally, I wanted to support her, so I requested her second book, The Boy Who Steals Houses in 2019, thinking that it was fairly likely I’d get approved for it, given that I’d reviewed her first book and if anything my stats were better in 2019 than they were in 2018. Alas, I was punished for my arrogance as my request was not approved. This is one of those ones where I’m honestly still not sure why, as the publisher was a UK one and I had reviewed for them before, but ah well, Netgalley can be a fickle beast.

Have I Read It Yet: No! If there was an audiobook for this available then I might have read it already, but it doesn’t have one. Honestly, my interest in this one has somewhat dwindled since I first requested it, I’m not really a contemporary reader and I largely wanted to read it because CG Drews was the author so I’m not sure if I ever will read this one or not. Her 2024 release Skeleton Boys though does sound very up my street so I think I probably will read that.

6. Evermore-Sara Holland

I really enjoyed Everless when I read that one in 2018, and so the sequel went straight onto my TBR pile. However despite the fact that I was approved for Everless by the same publisher (the author’s UK based publisher), when I requested Evermore, I was rejected for it. I remember being quite miffed at the time because I thought since I was approved for the first book, that it would be fairly likely I would get an approval for the second book but alas that is not how Netgalley always works.

Have I Read It Yet: No! According to my review, I was very excited for the sequel when I finished the first book and I said I really needed the second book after the way the first book ended (I now cannot for the life of me remember how it ended!). However after not being approved by Netgalley, I didn’t want to get the paperback copy when I didn’t have the first book, and I didn’t want to download the e-book because I generally don’t much like reading off a screen, I did for Netgalley but I wasn’t going to pay to read a book in a format that wasn’t my favourite. I didn’t have Audible at the time or any other audiobook service, so there basically wasn’t any option for me that would work. I do have Audible now, so I could read the audiobook, but at this point, I’ve basically lost all interest: I can’t remember what happened in the first book and I don’t really read YA Fantasy much anymore, so I think we’ll mark this one as one I did want to read in the past but not longer have any interest in.

7. Reign of The Fallen-Sarah Glenn Marsh

I was first drawn to this one by the cover, the juxtaposition of the pink with the skull was very intriguing to me and I love the shade of pink, that really pale pink is not something you usually get on book covers. Looking into it a bit more made it appeal to me even more, the main character is a necromancer, love a bit of necromancy and the whole book revolves around fighting zombie-like reanimated corpses. What’s not love? Sadly, Netgalley decided that my request for this book was not to be, I think again because it wasn’t published in the UK and the US publisher wouldn’t grant requests from readers outside the US (again I know it’s not up to them and it’s to do with licensing and everything, so no hard feelings).

Have I Read It Yet?: Yes! I read this one at the end of 2018. It actually ended up being slightly underwhelming for me (which had me wishing I had been approved on Netgalley rather than buying a £15 hardback!), I loved the idea and the concept but I didn’t feel it was executed all that well. I said in my review that I thought I’d read the sequel, but I haven’t yet and honestly I don’t think I’m going to, I’ve lost interest in continuing this duology.

8. Mask of Shadows-Linsey Miller

I’m always a sucker for stories about thieves so when I saw that Mask of Shadows was about a gender-fluid thief auditioning to be an assassin for the queen, it sounded right up my street. Thieves, assassins, competition, all things I love. So I requested it from Netgalley but once again it wasn’t something that was being published in the UK and the US publisher wouldn’t grant non-US reader requests. You’d think by this point I would have learned, but I was ever hopeful!

Have I Read It Yet? No. Honestly, since 2017 my interest in it has kind of waned, I think just as a natural consequence of reading less YA these days, I tend not to seek out those stories as much and I think I just got burned out on YA fantasy, so I tend to be pickier with those these days. I’m not saying I’ll never read this, but it’s not top of my TBR anymore.

9. Lore-Alexandra Bracken

I love anything Greek mythology related so when this was announced and it was described as Greek mythology meets The Hunger Games, it immediately sounded right up my street so I requested it. I’m not quite sure why I got declined this one, because it was published in the UK and I had a relatively good ratio at the time I requested it, but again Netgalley will Netgalley.

Have I Read This Yet? Yes! I read this one in 2021, and I have to say I was somewhat disappointed by it. The premise was really inventive, but it just didn’t live up to it. It managed to somehow be both too slow paced and too fast at the same time (a rare feat!) and I found the plot and worldbuilding very muddled and confused throughout. There were so many characters that I just couldn’t keep track, none of them felt very developed and the level of violent misogyny was just too much for me. I feel like if this one had been a duology and had a bit more time to flesh out the characters, it might have been a bit better because the idea definitely had potential but the execution was just a let down.

10. Wintersong-S. Jae Jones

I requested this one in 2017, largely off the beautiful cover, but also because it sounded unique and different. So I requested it from Netgalley, but I guess at the time it wasn’t being published in the UK, and the US publisher rejected me (though the book was later published in the UK).

Have I Read It Yet? Yes, I did and I hated it! I don’t usually say that about books, but I just could not follow what was going on in this story at all. It was a cool idea and everything but I spent 500 pages absolutely baffled by what was going on. In hindsight, I wish I had taken the Netgalley rejection as a sign, and just given up on this book or at least DNF’ed it because it did feel like 500 pages wasted and that the time could have been better spent reading a book I enjoyed.

So there we go, some of the Netgalley rejections that have crushed me over the years. Honestly, I was quite surprised by how much of a mixed bag the ones I read ended up being, a lot were either disappointing because I expected too much of them (Crossfire, Lore, Reign of The Fallen), or I just didn’t enjoy at all (Wintersong). Of the ones I’ve read only Legendary and Not Even Bones really lived up to my expectations in terms of both enjoyment and quality, and quite a lot of the ones I haven’t read, I’m no longer interested in. I think that probably just goes to show how much my reading tastes have changed in the last five years or so, but it is interesting to look back on requests I was so invested in at the time and realise that I’m not really invested in those books anymore. Are you on Netgalley? Any requests you can remember being really disappointed in not getting? Have you read any of these books? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next Tuesday for another Top Ten Tuesday, the topic is Books or Covers That Look/Feel Like Summer but I’ve done both those topics before and honestly I don’t think I could come up with anything more for either of them (I’ve done the Summery Book Covers topic twice, and the last time was only last year!). So I will yet again be going rogue and whilst I was looking through my old posts to check if I’d done this topic before (I’ve done so many by this point that I do have to check to make sure so that I don’t accidentally do the same list twice!), I saw the 10 Random Quotes From My TBR post that I did last year and remembered that one being super fun to do, so I’m going to do it again for you next week. One of these days I will stop being a rebel and do the actual topic again, but next week isn’t the time!

Top Ten Tuesday #421-The Literary Dinner Party 2022 Tag

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, mine has been fairly busy especially over the last couple of days. My mum and I went to another flamenco show at Battersea Spanish on Saturday and it was really fun, I think we both agreed that we liked the musicians at the first show we went to better, but the flamenco dancer this time was truly spectacular. Me, my mum and my dad all went out last night, we got my Dad tickets to this one night only performance of The Simon and Garfunkel Story at the Palladium for his birthday (it’s kind of like a Simon and Garfunkel tribute act, but better & more theatrical) and despite not really knowing much of their music, I had a really great time, the singers, Will Strong and Oliver Cave were both spectacular and the live band were something else, truly extraordinary. My dad also had a really great night, so that was definitely a birthday present success.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday, so I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. I’m going off script once again this week because the topic, Things That Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book is one that we did a few years ago, and honestly the list really hasn’t changed for me? I maybe read in a few more different genres than I did back then but a lot of the things I like in books weren’t really genre specific to begin with anyway, there were a few that are fairly fantasy specific, like dragons but most of the others can be found in various different genres of book. So anyway, I’m not doing that, and instead I’ve got another book tag for you, which it seems is one of my go-to’s when I’m not feeling the topic. This one is The Literary Book Party 2022 Tag which I saw on Carol @ Reading Ladies blog back in January and thought was fun (the tag is originally by Joanne @ Portobello Book Blog). It might be a little late on in the year than normal to do a tag inspired by 2022 reading, but I haven’t really read enough in 2023 yet to fill a full tag, so we’re rolling with 2022! Anyway, here we go:

  1. A Character Who Can Cook/Likes To Cook

This one had me stumped for a bit, because I couldn’t really think of the top of my head who from my 2022 reads liked cooking or was a good cook. Then I remembered that it’s mentioned a couple of times in Looking For Jane that Evelyn’s friend and later partner Tom is a good cook and is often cooking for her, so I figured he could be our dinner party chef (I mean it’s certainly not going to be me!).

2. A Character Who Has The Money To Fund The Party

Mayor Hugh Grant is a fairly wealthy man, so I think he could afford to fund an extravagant dinner party for me and all my guests!

3. A Character Who Might Cause A Scene

Nellie Bly is incredibly good at causing a scene, it’s what allows her to get locked up in Blackwell’s in the first place! Still I would have loved to have met the real Nellie and be able to ask her questions about her life and her work as a journalist: given I can’t do that as the real Nellie has been dead for just over a century now, I’ll settle for inviting her to my imaginary dinner party and imagining I could ask her questions about her life and work.

4. A Character Who Is Funny or Amusing

Lyudmila Pavlichenko has such a dry and cutting wit that I reckon she would have been great fun, if a little scary to have at the dinner table. I would have loved to have met the real Mila, she seems like she was such a fascinating women. But again, since I can’t, I’ll settle for inviting her to my imaginary dinner party. She would need to be checked for weapons on the way in and out though…….

5. A Character Who Is Super Social or Popular

Robin Blyth definitely fits the bill for this, he’s definitely the life and soul of the party type of person and I reckon any dinner party with him at it would become instantly more fun, though the potential for danger with him there would be slightly greater!

6. A Villain

Bit of a strange thing to want a villain at a dinner party, but I’ll roll with it. I didn’t have too many books with villains in the traditional sense last year, and those that were I really would not want to have at a dinner party. However, since Sam Colton from this book plays an antagonistic role for Nellie, I figured he would work well enough for this one. We’d just have to hope that not too many sparks would fly between the pair of them at the dinner table…..

7. One Couple

Instead of choosing a romantic couple for this one, I’d thought I’d choose a….well it’s hard to really describe this pair without going into massive spoilers for the book, so I’ll just say friends and choose Nancy and Evelyn. I would love to be able to talk to them both about their work with the Jane Network.

8. A Hero/Heroine


Since Robin is coming, it seems only fair to invite Edwin too, make sure that we have someone who can keep Robin in check! Robin would have 1000% died without Edwin multiple times over the course of this book, so I definitely think it’s only fair to consider Edwin the real hero of the tale. Plus I just have a soft spot for the prickly yet kind hearted librarian magician and would absolutely need to discuss his library classification system with him at length.


We might have to check her bags on the way out to make sure nothing had mysteriously gone missing (she is an infamous thief after all) but Nahri would be so much fun to have at a dinner party, and useful as well, being a healer as she is, in case anyone got ill at the party.

9. An Under Appreciated Character

I always loved Zaynab and never felt like she got enough credit for everything she for Daevabad, especially in the second book and I always wish she got more page time. She did get her own story in The River of Silver which I loved, but I would love to have her at this dinner party and get to learn a bit more about her: take this as my petition to Shannon Chakraborty to do a book about Zaynab in the future!

10. One Character of Your Choosing

I’d love to meet Elaine and chat to her about her work with the printing press and everything she did for the Resistance (if she was willing to talk about that). I’d also love to find out more about her reunion with Ava and if they kept in touch over the years as that was one part of the book that I felt was a little short and I wanted to know more.

11. A Troubled Soul

Poor Ursula, she suffers so much in her various lives, so I’d definitely call her a troubled soul. She deserves a night of fun so hopefully this dinner party could be that for her. Though I won’t lie, I’d definitely want to find out from her about how the whole reincarnation thing works and just how much she remembers from her previous lives.

12. A Young Adult Character

Briseis could provide the table decorations for the evening since she’s so good with plants. I would love to have a chance to see her powers in action and maybe chat to her a little about the more unique plant species that grow in her garden!

So there we go, those are the characters I’d invite to my Literary Dinner Party. Quite a eclectic bunch no? I think it would be a very fun, if slightly chaotic evening! Have you read any of these books? Which characters would you invite to your own literary dinner party? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next Tuesday for another Top Ten Tuesday, once again I will be altering the topic as next week’s topic is the inverse of this week’s original topic Things That Instantly Make Me Not Want To Read A Book and again my list of those hasn’t change much since I last made it. So instead, I’ll be doing a topic I saw on Cindy’s Book Corner last week and sharing 10 Netgalley Rejections That Crushed Me as that seemed really fun!

Top Ten Tuesday #420

Hi everyone! I hope you all had a good week since I last did one of these. I had a fairly quiet week but as I mentioned in my last post, I had quite a busy couple of evenings over the weekend. On Friday, I went to the bimonthly Tapas and Conversation night at Battersea Spanish and that was really fun, I do think my Spanish is really getting better and I’m pleased that I’m getting more and more able to converse mostly in Spanish at these nights, though I will admit, the odd bit of English does still slip in….sometimes you just don’t know how to explain what you want to in Spanish and have to revert back, but it definitely is getting better. I also went to see Cabaret at The Kit Kat Club (The Playhouse Theatre) on Saturday night and yes, it was just as spectacular as everyone says it is. Aimee Lou Wood was incredible, who knew she had a voice like that?! The roar after she finished singing “Cabaret” was quite something. John McCrea was also really fabulous and funny as the Emcee and also has an incredible voice. I did wish I had checked out the seat situation a little more as I wasn’t aware that where I was sitting I would need to lean forward throughout the whole show to get the best view, I mean it was all I could afford and I had a fabulous time anyway so it’s not like I wouldn’t have gone if I’d know but it just would have been nice to be slightly more prepared for that because my shoulder and back were slightly sore after the performance from leaning forward for such a long time. Still, all in all it was a really great night, the cast were incredible and I highly recommend going to see the show if you’re in London and can afford it, the cheap seats really aren’t bad at all even if you do have to lean forward slightly, I’ve got cheap seats at other shows where the view has been a heck of a lot worse.

Anyway, it’s Tuesday (or at least it was when I started writing this), so I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. We’re supposed to be doing Top Ten Things Getting In The Way Of Our Reading Time this week but since work, blogging and TV wouldn’t make a very long list, I decided to sidestep that one and since I’ve been talking a lot about the theatre I’ve been seeing recently I thought I’d do…..Favourite Theatre Shows of The Past Few Years (deliberately vague as I didn’t want to tie myself to a specific time, but you’re looking roughly at 2015-now as the date range of when I saw these shows). I figured I only talk a little about whatever I’ve been to see recently in my intros to these blog posts, but it might be nice to get to expand on some of my favourite shows in a bit more detail. So basically I guess, I’m taking a one week detour into being a theatre blogger rather than a book one! Anyway, here are some of my favourite shows I’ve seen in the past few years:

  1. Wicked (Seen In 2015, 2019 & 2023)

This one cannot be a massive surprise given that I’ve seen it three times in the past eight years! I’ve been in different seats every time I’ve been to see this, I was at the front of the circle the first time I saw it with my family, then I went with Hannah and Zoe a few years later and we were towards the back of the circle and then when I went to see it by myself this year, I got a deal on tickets through The Official London Theatre Sale and so was able to get a seat near the front of the stalls so I’ve seen the show from all different vantage points and definitely taken something different away from it each time. I just love Wicked, the songs are amazing, the performers are always incredible (I’ve seen three different Elphabas each time I’ve been, and two different Glindas, Helen Woolf played the role when I saw it in both 2019 and 2023) and the show itself is just stunning, all the sets, the costumes, everything, it’s just a really magical night at the theatre. I think I also really love it so much because above anything else, Wicked is a story centring the friendship between two women and those kinds of stories are always my absolute favourite.

2. Hamilton (Seen In 2019)

I saw this with Hannah, Zoe and Nicola in February 2019 after wanting to see it for ages and managing to book the cheapest tickets we could get (you’ll notice that as a running theme in this post, in order to get theatre tickets within my budget, the cheaper tickets at the back of the Grand Circle are usually the way to go!). I will say that with Hamilton, I do feel like sitting higher up is better because of the surround, obviously I’ve not been again so I don’t know whether you can still see all the surround from in the stalls, I’m sure you can but I remember going to see Jersey Boys and not being able to see what was happening above the stage from where we sat in the stalls there. Anyway, point is, we did have a good view of the surround as well as the stage from the seats near the back of the Grand Circle. As for the actual show, it was incredible, it was so awesome to be able to see the songs come to life after having listened to them on the soundtrack for so long, and see all the really cool bits of staging (the way the whole Helpless/Satisfied number is staged and choreographed was definitely a standout for me, but it would take way too long to list all of the cool things I liked from certain numbers!). The actors were of course also really incredible, the ones that really stood out for me who I remember talking about afterwards were Waylon Jacobs (a standby who was on for Lafayette/Jefferson) and Dom Hartley-Harris (who played George Washington) but they were all absolutely amazing. I also learnt from this night that I’m incapable of not crying when watching It’s Quiet Uptown, as I was definitely crying in the theatre (not loudly, I promise!) and I have since watching that number on Disney+.

3. Hairspray (Seen In 2017 and 2021)

This was two completely different casts, I first saw Hairspray on tour in Glasgow in 2017 with Nicola and Rebecca whilst we were all at uni, the tickets were a 21st birthday gift from my parents. We had a really, really good view, we were towards the front of the stalls which is not somewhere I tend to be often but like I said, the tickets were a birthday gift and the prices weren’t extortionate because it was a touring production (though this was almost six years ago, from what I’ve heard tour prices have gone up!). Anyway, it was a really fab show, the cast were all fantastic and we all had a super fun night out (despite if I remember rightly, getting soaked getting to the theatre because it being Glasgow, it was raining!).

Then I saw the show again four years later with my parents when it was at the London Coliseum a couple of years ago. We booked the tickets in 2019 and then obviously Covid happened, and they got postponed, I think twice? We had initially booked for August 2020, and then that got pushed to September and then obviously that didn’t happen, so we rebooked for August 2021. It was actually the first show we went to see after lockdown, and it was such a special audience that night because everyone was obviously so excited to be there and the cheers were just a little louder and more enthusiastic than pre-pandemic. It was another really fab production, on a slightly bigger scale than the tour, we were towards the front of the Dress Circle (I think, it was definitely circle rather than stalls but I can’t remember if it was Dress or Upper Circle) so we had a good view and it was just so wonderful, it really was the perfect show to go to as the first one back after the lockdowns because the music is so joyful and fun. Everyone was fabulous, and though we did initially book the tickets because of Michael Ball, Marisha Wallace’s “I Know Where I’ve Been” absolutely tore the roof down! I cannot wait to see her again in Guys And Dolls in August!

4. Operation Mincemeat (Seen in 2022 and 2023)

Hands down my favourite new show of the past few years. I can’t remember where I first saw about this one, I think it might have been when I went to see Indecent Proposal at the Southwark Playhouse in November 2021, maybe they had the poster up there and then I looked it up on the website? Anyway, the plot immediately appealed to my history nerd heart (weird, quirky bit of history set to music? Yup, Jo is there!) and after rescheduling my initial visit due to the first Omicron wave in January 2022, I went to see it in February. I was absolutely blown away by the whole thing, the songs were so clever and catchy, the way it was staged was so clever and I was so impressed by how effortlessly the cast managed their myriad of different roles. All I could think when I left was, “I really hope this comes to the West End because I can’t wait to see it again!” and also “I so wish this had an album so I could listen to the songs whenever I want”.

Well, this year, I got both those things because it is currently in the West End and the cast album was released on Friday (it is stunning and reconfirmed to me that all the songs in this musical are ABSOLUTE BANGERS. I’ve also had random bits of the songs floating around my head since Friday….the chorus of Useful seems to have displaced Making A Man as to what is stuck on a loop). The show was, if it’s even possible, even better in the West End: I was worried the magic might get lost in a slightly bigger theatre, but the Fortune Theatre is still relatively small and seems the perfect fit. I also really love that they haven’t done tiered pricing, the prices are the same for all seats, so it meant I could afford five rows back from the stage which I can almost never get in my budget and the view was awesome. The cast were once again absolutely incredible and yes, Jak Malone once again made me cry with Dear Bill. I loved it so much that I’m going back again to see it in August before the end of its run and I can’t wait!

5. Waitress (Seen in 2019)

I went to this with my parents for my Mum’s birthday in 2019 and though I didn’t know it then, it was the last West End show I would see for almost two years! I’d listened to Sara Bareilles version of She Used To Be Mine countless times before going to see the show, but I hadn’t heard any of the other songs, and I have to say, this show has a fantastic score, definitely one of my favourites from recent years. We were towards the back of the stalls for this, and as far as I can remember, the view was great! It’s a really lovely show and again, I think it’s one of my favourites because it’s so female-centric (and the entire creative team are women!) and the most important arc of the show is Jenna’s journey to escaping her abusive marriage and rediscovering herself. It’s also really funny, there’s lots of great comedic moments in the show which I loved. Lucie Jones was starring in it when we went to see it, but Olivia Moore was on for Jenna the night we saw it, and she was just incredible, her performance of She Used To Mine was spine tingling levels of amazing. When the revival of Grease was announced for 2022, I remember one of the reasons I was excited to see it was because I saw she was going to be Sandy and I remembered how fantastic she was in this (this is why it always makes me sad when people get grumpy that they’re seeing an understudy in a role because some of the most memorable performances I’ve seen have been when the cover for a role has been on! I also have now seen Lucie Jones in something as she was playing Elphaba when I saw Wicked in February, and she was incredible in that).

6. Moulin Rouge! (Seen in 2022)

I’ve definitely mentioned a few times on here that Moulin Rouge! is my favourite film and I was so, so excited when they announced the West End transfer of this. It took me a while to get to see it because again, the ticket prices are not cheap, but as it’s my favourite film, I really wanted to see the original cast before they left (this normally doesn’t matter at all to me, I’ve never seen anything with the full original cast prior to this but because this is my favourite film, I did want to see the original West End cast) and so I booked a ticket for the charity performance for Teenage Cancer Trust last year, as I was okay paying a little more money when it was going to charity, and drinks and the programme were included, so my usual additional expenses were covered with the ticket, so I figured I was at least saving a little money there!

I was a little worried about it from having listened to the album because I didn’t love how they had rearranged some of the songs from the film, but actually seeing it, I found all my worries melted away quite quickly. The staging is stunning, and they really capture the feel of the film whilst adding some necessary updates. I actually found that the two songs on the soundtrack that I was most worried about (Elephant Love Medley because I felt they had tried to cram in too many songs and lost the conversation-like feel of that song from the film, and El Tango De Roxanne because the arrangement felt a bit too poppy and lost some of the drama) were staged, sung and choreographed so well that they became my favourite moments from the show, which I was pleased by as those are my two favourite songs from the film! The choreography in this show is just amazing, and the COSTUMES are something else. I had such a fun night and it was really thrilling to see this story I love so much translated onto stage. I would definitely like to go back sometime, but again, the tickets are expensive, so we’ll see, there’s lots of new stuff I want to see too!

7. Come From Away (Seen in 2022)

I had been meaning to see Come From Away for AGES, but then the pandemic happened and I just kind of forgot about it. But then it was announced that it was closing this year, and I really did want to see it, so I used a Theatre Tokens voucher I had to get a ticket. Honestly, I kind of kicked myself that I hadn’t been to see it earlier because it was just such a beautiful show. It’s such a wonderful and heart-warming story and the cast were all so fabulous, and the way they switched between various different roles was so impressive (I will never not be impressed at people who play numerous different roles throughout a show!). I also really do love a short show, when so many shows are nearly three hours long, it is nice sometimes to go to a one-act, less than two hours and you’re out show sometimes! When you hear that a show is about the aftermath of 9/11, you might go in expecting something bleak but this is not that: it’s beautiful, and heartwarming and yes sad in places, but also unexpectedly funny (not in a morbid way, I promise!). It’s going on tour, I think next year, so if it comes near you and you have a chance to see it, I highly recommend it. I also have to say, the Phoenix Theatre has the best view from the Grand Circle of pretty much any theatre I’ve ever been to, you’re quite far away but the view of the stage is so good, you can see absolutely everything, and it feels like you’re much closer!

8. Newsies (Seen In 2022)

I watched the filmed Broadway production on Disney+ during Covid, and it was so much fun that when it was announced it was coming to London, I knew I had to go. I ended up booking tickets for the New Year’s Eve matinee because my parents were still in Australia so I was home by myself and I wanted to do something fun. Despite my train being delayed meaning I arrived late and missed the first couple of songs, I still had a really fabulous time (and since I had seen the filmed version, I knew the story, so I wasn’t as miffed as I might have been. I honestly just felt mortified that I was late, I’ve never been late to the theatre ever before: I’ve come close but always managed to make it before curtain. The staff at the Troubadour theatre were lovely and I was super grateful that they seated us before the interval so I didn’t miss half the show!). Being late did have a fringe benefit as I think I ended up in a slightly better seat than the one I’d paid for, they just directed us to the first row of empty seats in our section and I’m pretty sure I was further forward than I was meant to be, but I wasn’t arguing, I had a really great view directly onto the stage!). Anyway, the show was fantastic, I loved how they’d staged it in the round and the various immersive aspects of the performance with actors appearing from the audience were really cool. The songs were good, but it’s the dancing that is the most impressive aspect of this show AND WHOA WERE THEY GOOD. It genuinely seemed like they were flying at some points, they were that high in the air! I liked that they’d really made the show their own in London and it wasn’t all just a direct copy of the Broadway production, having seen the filmed version, it was cool to be able to compare all the things they’d interpreted differently with it still being recognisable as Newsies.

9. Ain’t Too Proud (Seen In 2023)

This is one I saw really recently, only last month in fact. It was one my mum wanted to see and I don’t know if I necessarily would have thought about it if she hadn’t suggested it but I’m really glad she did because it’s one of my favourite shows that I’ve seen this year. I wasn’t massively familiar with the music of The Temptations but that didn’t really matter, and I did actually find when I watched the show that I knew a few more of the songs than I thought it did. The cast were all terrific, and I really loved what they did with the staging, they were really creative with what was actually fairly few set pieces and they utilised the projection screen SO WELL. This one is still running, so if you’re in London before next year then definitely get in to see it, it was a really great night. The only thing, which I think my mum and I agreed on was that we wouldn’t book the Grand Circle again, we were towards the front and the view was great but we hadn’t realised how high up it was (the steps were very steep) and we were okay where we were at the front but it was still a little disconcerting as we obviously spent the whole show looking down that steep drop at the stage, so definitely be aware of that if you’re booking the Grand Circle at the Prince Edward Theatre, it’s VERY HIGH!

10. Mamma Mia! (Seen in 2017)

I went to this one with Ellie for my 21st birthday (yes, I managed to spread my 21st birthday celebrations across I think about four months of 2017, why do you ask?) and it was such a fun night out! Mamma Mia is such a fun, uplifting show and I enjoyed every second of it. There’s also quite a lot of raunchy humour and sexual innuendo which isn’t really in the film as much, so I very much appreciated that. I guess your mileage with this show will depend on how much you like ABBA’s music, if you don’t then it’s probably really not for you, but we had an amazing time.

11. Cabaret (Seen in 2023-actually on Saturday!)

So I know I talked about this one a bit at the top of this post, but it was so great that I couldn’t not include it in this list. They’ve definitely made it into a whole experience, the moment you enter the doors of the theatre, you’re inside the club, they have performers in each of the bar areas to whet your appetite before the show and give you that atmosphere, which was really cool and the theatre itself just looks gorgeous, the way they’ve done it up to look like you’re inside a 1920s cabaret club is awesome. The show itself was also just spectacular, as I said at the top, John McCrea and Aimee Lou Wood were amazing but the whole company was really incredible. I knew some of the songs before going, but not all of them and I was really impressed by the score. They even had cast members pulling audience members up onto the stage for a dance during the interval which was great (and made me slightly glad I couldn’t afford the tables because audience participation makes me very nervous!). I loved what they’d done with the staging, I thought it was really clever how the different parts of the stage came up and how they utilised that ability for some fun entrances. My only complaint would be that it felt slightly lopsided as Act One was twice the length of Act Two, and also I was a little confused by the ending but other than that, I had a really fab night and enjoyed the show immensely.

12. Choir of Man (Seen in 2023)

I was hesitant about whether to put this on here, as it’s not really a traditional theatre show in the same way that a lot of the others on this list are, it doesn’t really have a plot as such, it’s more of a concert type vibe, it’s basically nine guys in their local pub’s choir singing famous pop and rock songs, with some monologues interspersed telling you about the members of the choir. However I had such a good time at this show that I figured it automatically belonged on my favourite theatre shows list even if it’s not a traditional musical in the same vein as most of the others on here. In fact, it not being a traditional musical was why I loved it, it’s very different to anything I’ve ever seen before and was just the best night out, my mum and I had so much fun singing along to all the songs and watching people get pulled out from the audience for audience participation (thankfully, being at the back of the stalls as we were, we were not). If you’re looking for something fun to go and see in London and you have friends or family members who aren’t really musicals people in the traditional sense, take them to this, I reckon they’ll love it!

13. The Last Five Years (Seen in 2020)

What is this? I saw theatre in 2020?! Yes, I did and it was actually post March-2020. My mum and I went to see The Last Five Years at the Southwark Playhouse in October 2020, they did a great job making the theatre covid-safe with the screens separating each audience “bubble” and you got drinks brought to your seat to avoid queues at the bar. I’d never seen a production of The Last Five Years before (I was meant to see one in Cape Town in March 2020, but you can all guess how that turned out) and I was super impressed with how they staged this one, I loved the idea of Cathy and Jamie accompanying each other on each of their songs and the whole idea of having them physically in the same space but never properly interacting except in duet really added to the feeling of their not quite being on the same page. Molly Lynch and Oli Higginson were both spectacular and as impressive as their singing was, I was just as impressed with how they accompanied themselves on piano, ukelele and I think at one point guitar during the show. I’d love to see them both in something again in the future, I saw Molly in a couple of streamed shows during the pandemic, but I haven’t seen either of them in anything live since this and I would really love to because they’re both incredibly talented.

14. Blanket Ban (Seen in 2023)

Another one I saw very recently, this was two weeks ago, and the only play on my list. That’s not a comment particularly on plays, I just see more musicals! I went to review this as press, and I’m super glad that I got the opportunity to go because it was such a wonderfully done show: reproductive rights have rightly been in the public conversation recently with the overturn of Roe Vs Wade in the US and I think this show was amazing at showing why having that choice is so important and how difficult it can be for women in countries where abortion is not an available option to them, like Malta. Davinia and Marta have created both a searing rallying cry for reproductive rights in Malta and a beautiful love letter to their home country, and if you have a chance to go and see it at the Southwark Playhouse before it closes on Saturday then definitely do!

This took so long to write that it’s now going to be posted on Wednesday, but I guess I had a lot of thoughts, this kind of turned into a mini review roundup but I’m not mad about it! Do you get to the theatre often? What are your favourite shows? Have you seen any of mine? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week for another Top Ten Tuesday (hopefully actually posted on Tuesday this time!). We’re meant to be doing Things That Make Me Instantly Want To Read A Book but I did that topic a few years back and honestly the list hasn’t changed much! So instead, I’m going to be borrowing a tag I saw on Carol @ Reading Ladies blog earlier in the year, The Literary Book Party 2022 (yes, I shall be using 2022 reading in May, I’m a rebel like that!) which looked really fun.

Top Ten Tuesday #419

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these! I had a bit of a jam packed week last week, as I mentioned in my last post, I went to a press night at Southwark Playhouse for the show Blanket Ban and it was a really great show (even if I was super awkward and not so great at the whole mingling and networking afterward thing!). The review is now live on the Indiependent so if you’re interested in the writing that I do outside of this blog and you want to give it a read, then you’re very welcome to.

As I also mentioned in my post last week, my parents and I were away this bank holiday weekend, we went to the Cross Country day at the Badminton Horse Trials and it was fantastic! It’s been a good ten years or so since I last went to a three day event (the last time was Cross Country at Burghley with my sister which I think was in 2013) so it was really nice to get to do that again and to get to watch the amazing horses and riders at Badminton. It was an extremely muddy walk round due to all the rain over the weekend but I still had an amazing time. We stayed in Marlborough on the Friday and Saturday before heading to Badminton on the Sunday and despite the terrible weather on the Saturday, we had a nice time there, there was a lovely independent bookshop called The White Horse which I had a great time exploring and yes buying a couple of books from. We also had some really great tapas at a local restaurant called Tipi Tapa on the Saturday night. This week is set to be much quieter, but I do have a few fun things planned this weekend, the bimonthly conversation night at Battersea Spanish (where I do evening classes) on Friday night and then I’m going to see Cabaret on Saturday, after finally finding somewhat not extortionately priced tickets after almost two years (and really wanting to see Aimee-Lou Wood as Sally) so hopefully that will be just as amazing as everyone says it is.

Anyway, as it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. We’re supposed to be doing Books I Recommend To Others The Most this week, but I feel like after almost 420 TTTs, you guys probably already know the books that I’m constantly recommending! So instead, I thought I’d twist it a little: I see a lot of parents on Twitter asking for book recommendations for their pre-teens/young teenagers (around the 11-15 age group) so I thought it might be fun to do a consolidated list of recommendations for readers in that age category. Do bear in mind that I was in this particular age group from the late 00s to mid 2010s and I wanted to pick my favourites from when I was 11-15, so these won’t be the most up to date releases and I’m sure there are other bloggers out there who could probably do a better job with recommending current MG/younger YA books than I can, but there will be quite a few big popular series that are still going strong today on this list because I read quite a lot of those as a pre-teen/young teenager:

  1. Percy Jackson and The Olympians series-Rick Riordan

Okay, so full disclosure, usually when I see tweets from parents on Twitter asking for book recs for their pre-teens/young teenagers, they’re normally saying that their kid loved Percy and want recommendations for other series like it, so I don’t think Percy Jackson would be a new recommendation to most parents or their teenagers! However, it felt wrong not to include it here because both Percy Jackson and The Heroes of Olympus were a huge part of my teenage reading years and I was utterly obsessed with the series as a teenager. I borrowed almost all the books from a friend at school (the library only had the first one) and I think I was coming back asking for a new one pretty much every week!

2. Skulduggery Pleasant series-Derek Landy

This is always my go-to whenever parents are asking for something that is similar to Percy Jackson because Derek Landy’s style of humour is quite similar to Rick Riordan’s so I feel like Skulduggery would appeal to the same audience as Percy and also because I just really loved both series as a teenager. Skulduggery is definitely darker than Percy, particularly in the later books, but it has a lot of magic, humour and action so I definitely think it ticks a lot of the same boxes. The more recent Skulduggery books (from 10 onwards) are maybe more geared toward older teens but the first nine would definitely work for 11-15 year olds, and even then 10 onwards still work for the same age group, the writing isn’t any less accessible and the books aren’t any darker (I mean any darker than the original series, the later books do get quite dark), Valkyrie is just older. This is such a fun series and the original series of 9 books was a huge part of my teenage years, I found the first one in my school library when I was about 12 and the last book of the original series came out when I was 18, so they really bookended my teenage years and it’s one I will always recommend.

3. Artemis Fowl series-Eoin Colfer

Honestly, I kind of look at the first three series on this list almost as a group recommendation because they share a lot of similarities and I think appeal to broadly the same audience. Artemis Fowl is more of an anti-hero story than either Percy or Skulduggery but like the other two series, Artemis is funny, it’s a coming of age story where you get to see the main character grow up throughout the series, there’s a lot of magic and supernatural creatures, there’s action and adventure and honestly just a whole lot of fun. I borrowed these books from my school library and it’s one of those series where I was going back the instant I finished the latest instalment to get the next book. I was so sad when I got up to book 7 and my library didn’t have it, but thankfully my sister did! Artemis Fowl is one of those older series that it feels like isn’t talked about as much now, but if your teenager has burned through both Percy Jackson and Skulduggery, this is a really great place for them to go next.

4. A Series Of Unfortunate Events-Lemony Snicket

I don’t know if this one has had a resurgence of popularity with today’s teenagers because of the Netflix series, but it definitely deserves to have, it’s such a fun, quirky, weird series. It’s maybe more aimed for kids than teenagers, but since this list is covering recommendations for 11-15 year olds, I thought it fitted perfectly well here as it would be great for 11-12 year olds. I read the series when I was 11 I think, I used to go back to the library every week to get the latest instalments and they were so short I usually got three books from the series at a time. If your kid likes something darkly funny, quirky and offbeat, I’d definitely recommend A Series of Unfortunate Events for them (also if you are watching an adaptation, please watch the Netflix one and not the movie, it’s much more true to the spirit of the books!).

5. The Roman Mysteries Series-Caroline Lawrence

I never actually finished this series because they got super hard to find after around Book 10, but I did really enjoy the ones I read and it’s another series that I kept going back to the library to get week after week. Again this series is probably better suited for the younger age group of this post, so 11-12 rather than 13-15 who might find it a little too easy but it is a really fun series and great for kids who enjoy detective stories and are into their ancient history (it’s basically as it says on the tin, a group of kids solving mysteries in Ancient Rome). They’re not particularly similar in terms of plot, but I do feel like The Roman Mysteries may have been my gateway to Percy Jackson when I was older, even if they’re set in Ancient Rome rather than modern-day US with Greek mythology!

6. Heist Society-Ally Carter

This book (and the rest of the series) are so much fun! Ally Carter is great for pre-teens and younger teenagers, her books are a lot of fun, very accessibly written, and there’s not a huge amount of romance for those like I was as a teenager and not massively interested in the many romance plots in YA. There’s also quite a bit of action and great friendship dynamics between Kat’s crew which I know was something I loved a lot when I was 15/16.

7. Heartland Series-Lauren Brooke

These probably fall more into the 9-12 age category as they are really children’s books, but again as I was covering recommendations for 11-15 year olds here, there is some crossover! I was a horse obsessed child (who grew into a horse obsessed adult) so I was reading all of the pony books that I could get my hands on and these were some of my favourites. They are fairly simple and formulaic, each book follows Amy helping a different horse essentially but they were short and fun to read and they’re a nice bridge between young kids books and YA I think, so if you have a pony obsessed pre-teen, then these might be worth a shot (I only recently realised that this series was, at least in part, written by Linda Chapman who wrote the My Secret Unicorn and Stardust Spirits series that I loved as a really young kid!).

8. The Saddle Club series-Bonnie Bryant

Again, maybe more for the pre-teens than the older teenagers since as far as I can remember, they do read fairly young, but this was another series I loved when I was about 11/12. I never read all of them, there were like 100 books but I did love the ones I read and was again constantly borrowing them from the library so I could read about what escapades Lisa, Carole and Stevie got up to next. If you have a pony obsessed pre-teen or teenager, I definitely recommend this series, it’s a horse-girl classic!

9. The Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants-Ann Brashares

Friendships are such a huge part of your life as a teenage girl and this was one book I read at that age that I felt really, truly GOT THAT. There is romance in the book but it’s far more about the girls’ own journeys in coming into themselves and whenever someone asks for a recommendation of a book with great female friendships, this is always one I reach for. I can’t remember how old I was when I read it, I think maybe 11 or 12, but I definitely think there’s a lot in here for teenagers to relate to as so much of it is about adolescent struggles and growing up.

10. Noughts and Crosses-Malorie Blackman

I did toy with whether or not to put this on because it does have some quite dark themes but I reread it a few years ago and there’s nothing in there that a 13-15 year old wouldn’t be able to handle, so I decided to include it. I think I was actually 11/12 when I first read this one and honestly it still lives rent-free in my mind, I would be hard pressed to name many books that had as big an emotional impact on me than this one. It’s also held up really well considering it came out over 20 years ago and so much of it is unfortunately still massively relevant to issues that we still have in society today with race and racism. I was massively gripped by Sephy and Callum’s story and it’s definitely one that I would still recommend to teenagers today, because it’s a) just a really great book and b) covers a lot of political and societal issues that are still super relevant to our society in a very accessible and entertaining way.

So there we go, those are some of my favourite books from when I was 11-15 that I would recommend for that age group! Have you read any of these books? What books did you love to read when you were a pre-teen/younger teenager? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week for another Top Ten Tuesday, we’re meant to be doing Things Getting In The Way Of Reading, but honestly, blogging and work wouldn’t exactly make for a very long list! So instead, I thought I’d go off the book track for a week, as I saw someone do a list of their favourite theatre shows and since I’ve been seeing a lot of theatre recently, I thought I’d do my own Favourite Theatre Shows of The Past Few Years (I’m being deliberately vague on few as I don’t particularly want to tie myself to a specific time as though I only really started going to the theatre with any kind of regularity when I moved back to London last year, I’ve still seen a lot of great shows and I don’t want to miss any out-nor do I want to tie myself down to a favourite theatre of all time list, hence the vague…past few years. Past few could be anything from like the last three years to five or more for me!

Top Ten Tuesday #418

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these. Mine has been fairly quiet, but like I said in my post last week, I kind of needed that after having a generally quite busy April. I did have a nice time on Friday night though, I went to a flamenco night at my Spanish school with my parents and it was so good, the band were fabulous and the flamenco dancer was amazing (the band are called The Islanders if anyone is interested, and the flamenco dancer was called Magdalena (I can’t remember her last name!). It was a really fun evening and my mum and I have booked to go to this month’s flamenco night as well, so hopefully that will be just as good. I also have a press night tonight, for a show called Blanket Ban at Southwark Playhouse, it’s my first official press night (the last show I reviewed wasn’t specifically a press performance) so that’s really exciting and hopefully it will go well and the show will be great. I’ve also got a fun bank holiday weekend planned as my family are going to Badminton Horse Trials, we’re going to the Cross Country day and it should be really great, I’m super excited because I’ve never been to Badminton before (I have however done the Cross Country day at Burghley a couple of times and it’s always been fantastic).

Anyway, since it’s Tuesday, I have another Top Ten Tuesday for you all, courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is a bit of a random, but fun one, it’s The First Ten Books I Randomly Pulled From My Shelf. Now I have many shelves, five bookshelves to be exact, so to make it fair, I decided to randomly pull two books from each shelf to make my list. I was a little worried I’d pull 10 books I’ve not read yet and therefore wouldn’t be able to say much about but I’ve ended up with a pretty even split, including some books I’ve either never really talked about on the blog, or not talked about in a while, so this should hopefully be a fun one and feature some books you’ve not really seen me talk about before. Here we go:

  1. Death Bringer (Skulduggery Pleasant #6)-Derek Landy

Okay so I can’t really talk much about this one without giving spoilers for the rest of the series, given that it is the sixth book in the series. I really liked it, it’s definitely up there with my favourite books in the series, it’s like the finale of the middle arc (the series is structured into mini-trilogies within the arc of the whole series, so this brings to a close the 4-6 arc and sets up for the 7-9 arc) so quite a lot happens and I loved that we got a lot of necromancy in this one because that’s a really cool magic! I think that’s all I can really say without spoilers…..

2. Desolation (Demon Road #2)-Derek Landy

Again, it’s the middle book in a trilogy, so not a whole lot I can say without spoilers (also I swear it really is just a coincidence that I picked two Derek Landy books from my hardcover shelf, I just happen to own a lot of his books so statistically speaking, I did have a higher chance of coming out with two of his books than perhaps any other author….except maybe Rick Riordan or Leigh Bardugo!). Anyway, I did do a review for Desolation, so you can read my more detailed thoughts there, but basically it suffered quite a bit from middle book syndrome and was quite slow paced, and I didn’t love it as much as the first book in the trilogy, but I did enjoy the new characters.

3. Percy Jackson and The Sea of Monsters (PJO #2)-Rick Riordan

I don’t know if this will be a controversial opinion but Sea of Monsters is actually my least favourite PJO story? There are aspects I really love, like the chariot racing and meeting Tyson and there are lots of funny bits but I feel like in terms of adding to the PJO arc as a whole, it doesn’t do as much to advance the plot as the later books in the series (though having said that there is a pretty major reveal in this one so maybe that’s being unfair to the book!). I don’t know I read it a long time ago, and I did enjoy it, but when I think back on the series, my favourite moments are generally from the other books, not this one. Also the terrible movie may have slightly clouded it for me…..maybe the TV series can redeem it!

4. Pure (Pure Trilogy #1)-Julianna Baggott

I reviewed the final book of this trilogy on the blog but since I read Pure in 2012, I never reviewed this one. It’s a really solid trilogy and I do wish it got a little bit more love than it seems to, I think it’s one of those that got kind of swallowed in all the Hunger Games-a-likes that were coming out around the same time. I wouldn’t say this one is really anything like The Hunger Games though, it’s really more of a post-apocalyptic book than a dystopian one: basically the idea is that there was this nuclear apocalypse and some citizens escaped the apocalypse and live in this secure, insular society called The Dome and others did not and are left with lifelong consequences such as being fused to objects they were holding at the time the apocalypse hit. Classic dystopian set-up, Pure meets someone from the outside world (called Wretches) and they work together to try and find the solution to reversing the “fusings” that so many of the survivors of the apocalypse were left with. I really enjoyed the trilogy and though it does take a lot of the classic elements from dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction, I’d say it does something quite unique with them that I can’t say I’ve really read in many other books.

5. Not Now, Not Ever-Julia Gillard

So this is one that I’ve not actually read yet, I listened to an episode of The Guilty Feminist a couple of years back where Julia Gillard was the guest and she was talking about this famous speech she made about misogyny in the Australian Parliament (for anyone who doesn’t know because I didn’t until I listened to the episode, Julia Gillard is a former Australian Prime Minister and was the first woman to hold the role) and I thought it was really interesting at the time, but then didn’t really think much about it after. Anyway, when I went to visit my sister over Christmas last year, she had this book, and I was really intrigued and asked if I could borrow it, but she had actually borrowed it from a friend so it wasn’t hers to lend. Anyway, I saw it at the airport in Melbourne and bought it on my way home! Hopefully my last minute purchase will end up having been a good one.

6. Dark Emu-Bruce Pascoe

This was a book my sister gave to a family friend of ours and she enjoyed it and then passed it on to me. It’s about Aboriginal Australians but I don’t really know anything more than that, so I’m intrigued to read the book and find out what it’s all about.

7. Heist Society (Heist Society #1)-Ally Carter

I read this one quite a long time ago, I think I was 15/16, but I remember it being a really fun read. I loved Kat and her crew and I really enjoyed following her adventures being dragged back into the family trade and committing various art heists in order to save her dad from being tracked down by a mobster. It’s such a fun read, and really easy to get through, I remember flying through this series as a teenager. We never have got that fourth book though, and I’m sorry but the ending of the third was not satisfying enough for that to be the end! WE NEED TO KNOW WHAT THE WW STANDS FOR IN HALE’S NAME DAMMIT.

8. Ash and Quill (The Great Library #3)-Rachel Caine

I’m not really sure what happened with this one, I enjoyed the first two books, bought the third one…..and I still haven’t read it! I don’t know why, I guess I’ve just got distracted by other books and this one has never been top of my TBR list. Now that the series is complete, I really should catch up and actually finish the series, but I have no idea when I’m going to do that.

9. The Girl From Everywhere-Heidi Heilig

I read this one about six years ago now, and I really enjoyed it. I was in a bit of a reading slump at the time, having come out of a slightly mediocre reading month and I was so happy to finally find something I genuinely found fun to read after a few less than stellar books. I loved the whole premise of the ship that could travel through time, and though I found the main character Nix left a little to be desired, I really liked the crew of the ship. I’ve got the sequel but have still yet to read it, I think because I didn’t feel like the ending of the first book necessarily demanded a sequel, so it’s never been high on my priority list. I would like to get to it someday though!

10. The Familiars-Stacey Halls

My friend gave this book to me and I’ve still not read it yet (sorry Hannah!), but it’s definitely one I would like to get to, as it’s a historical fiction that covers 17th century Witch Trials which is not an era of history I’ve really seen covered in historical fiction before. Plus Hannah has really enjoyed her books and we do generally have a fairly similar taste in books so any kind of recommendation from her is always something I want to explore!

So there we go, those are 10 random books from my bookshelves! I feel like you actually got quite a varied mix, yes about half were fantasy (which is to be expected!) but it does give a reasonable sense of the kinds of books I tend to read. Have you read any of these books? What did you think of the ones I haven’t read? Are any on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week for another Top Ten Tuesday, our topic this time is Books I Recommend To Others The Most, but I’m going to twist it slightly (as I feel like I always recommend the same books on here, so you’ll find it too obvious!) and share Books I Recommend For Pre-Teens/Younger Teens because I feel like this is a question that comes up on Book Twitter quite a lot, so I thought it might be fun to share some of my favourites from when I was around 11-15 in the hopes that it may help any readers wo are struggling finding books for the younger teenagers in their lives (though obviously I was a teenager in the early-mid 2010s, so bear in mind these won’t be the latest younger teen reads!), but it’s a question I see getting asked quite a lot, so hopefully this post might be helpful to some out there.

Top Ten Tuesday #417

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these, I had so much fun getting to know you all through last week’s freebie and it was honestly a favourite post of mine this year, I loved getting to share my travels with you and it was so nice to see all the love you had for the photos and hearing about the places I’ve been. I’m hoping to do more travel-adjacent content with my bookshop tours so if you liked hearing about the places I’ve been last week, then keep your eyes peeled for more of those: obviously far more local than any of the places I mentioned in last week’s blog, but if you like travel + books content then that’s definitely something to keep your eye out for as I have a couple more planned for the next few months.

I finished up my month of theatre last week with Medea at Soho Place on Thursday and it was good, the actors were really great but the show was a little slow and a tad too dialogue heavy for me in places, I don’t know, maybe Greek tragedy is just not really my thing but I still had a really good time and Soho Place is a great new venue, I was really excited to see what it was like and I was not disappointed, the in-the-round staging is super cool and it meant I had a really great view even from the upper balcony! I also went to see the NT Live showing of Good at the Everyman Cinema in Kings Cross on Friday, and again I had kind of mixed feelings about that, the cast were all really great, especially David Tennant but the play itself is just a little strange and somewhat hard to follow. It was still a nice night out though, and I especially enjoyed the ice-cream sundae I bought! This week is thankfully a quieter one, which I do feel like I need after a couple of busy weeks and next week promising to be extremely busy, but I do have my Spanish evening class again tomorrow night, those started up again last week, I’m now Pre-Intermediate one, so making progress (if slowly!).

Anyway, today’s Top Ten Tuesday is as always courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic was meant to be Favourite Audiobook Narrators but I’ve already done that one a couple of years ago, and the list hasn’t really changed, so instead, I’m sharing Audiobooks I’m Hoping To Listen To This Year. Audiobooks is my main way of consuming books nowadays and I have 10 credits left on Audible for the rest of the year, so these are potential options for what I might use those credits on (though it’s all mood dependent and I may decide I want to listen to something else and there’s a very good chance that some of these might be swapped out for highly anticipated releases as not all of those have been put up on Audible yet). But anyway, these are some of the books that I may listen to in the rest of this year:

  1. Killers of A Certain Age-Deanna Raybourn, Narrators: Christina Delaine and Jane Oppenheimer

This one has been on a couple of my seasonal TBR posts at this point, so it is one I would like to listen to before the end of the year as it sounds really fun! I’ve never listened to anything else the narrators have done before but they sounded pretty good from the short sample on Audible so I’m willing to give it a try. Has anyone listened to this book? Was it a good way to consume the story? Let me know!

2. City of Nightmares-Rebecca Schaeffer, Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld

I was already super hyped about this one because it sounds just so fun and weird and great: basically a spoof of the city from Batman (Gotham) but in a city where if you go to sleep and dream, you risk waking up as your worst nightmare, and the main character who is desperate to avoid this fate, joins a cult to keep herself safe only to end up embroiled in an assassination. So yeah, I was sold on the plot already, but then I saw Saskia Maarleveld who is my favourite audiobook narrator and has narrated five of my favourite audiobooks from the past couple of years was narrating this too and I just knew I had to listen to it! This may be my next listen as I’ve been on a bit of a fantasy kick again recently but we’ll see how I feel when I’m done with The Luminaries.

3. The Keeper of Hidden Books-Madeline Martin, Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld

This is one I know I will definitely be listening to before the end of the year as Madeline Martin has become a favourite author of mine over the last few years. This one sounds so good, it takes place in Poland in WWII which I have to admit, I’ve actually not read a huge amount about considering that Poland has quite a significant history from that period but it follows a girl called Zofia who is fighting to save her friend Janina from the Warsaw ghetto and salvaging books from the destroyed city, using her love of literature as a way to resist the Nazis. I’m really intrigued by this one as it covers a setting I’ve not seen utilized much in WWII books and I’ve yet to be disappointed by any of Madeline Martin’s WWII books, so it should be a great one. I’ve already mentioned above how much I love Saskia Maarleveld, but what I didn’t mention is that she has a real talent for accents, so I look forward to hearing how she does the Polish ones in this book!

4. Homecoming-Kate Morton, Narrator: Claire Foy

This book is fairly chunky (and pricey, the hardback is £20!) so I would probably have listened to it anyway, but seeing that Claire Foy was doing the narration made me even more excited because I think she’s a great actress so I’m intrigued to see how she performs this one (since audiobook narration is just a different kind of performing). I’ve never read any Kate Morton before, but it sounds like a great book and I’ve been wanting to get into more Australian authors since visiting Australia, so hopefully this is a good one because apparently she has a big back catalogue to dive into if I like it.

5. A Day of Fallen Night-Samantha Shannon, Narrators: Ellie Kendrick, Sheila Atim, Thoren Ferguson and Hanako Footman

Once again, I did buy the pretty hardback for the gorgeousness (and it was included in the price of the ticket at the event I went to in February) but it’s just not practical to read on the go, so I will be listening to the audiobook. I’m excited because everything I’ve heard about this story makes it sound great, however I am a little nervous because Priory did take me a while to get into and it’s also a massive time commitment, almost 39 hours for the audiobook! I would like to read it before the end of the year because I do think I’m going to enjoy it, but we shall see when I feel up for that kind of time commitment. My natural audiobook reading tends to be between about 7-20 hours, with most of the books I read landing in the 9-16 hour zone so this is far, far outside that, but I know it will be worth it.

6. Beyond The Wand-Tom Felton, Narrator: Tom Felton

I’ve been really enjoying my non-fiction in recent years and I’ve heard such good things about Tom Felton’s memoir. I always love that celebrities narrate their own memoirs as well, it does feel like it adds something extra to hear their story coming from them. I’ve always been a huge Harry Potter fan, so I’m excited to hear his stories from the set and what it was like to grow up doing those films (even if I no longer like or support JK Rowling).

7. The Librarian of Burned Books-Brianna Labuskes, Narrators: Caroline Hewitt, Eleanor Caudill and Karissa Vacker

This book sounds so up my street, a historical fiction about women across different time periods who come together in their fight against censorship? Yes please! I’ve never listened to any books narrated by any of the three narrators, so I don’t know what they’ll be like, but the sample from Audible sounded good and of all the genres I’ve listened to audiobooks for, historical fiction has generally most often come out the best (aside from non-fiction) so I have high hopes!

8. You’re The Only One I’ve Told: The Stories Behind Abortion-Doctor Meera Shah, Narrators: Janina Edwards & Lisa Renee Pitts

With all of the discussions around reproductive rights that have been happening over the last year or so with the overturning of Roe Vs Wade, this feels like a really important book to read. I’ve never listened to anything by either of the narrators before, but I do find narration in general tends to enhance my experience of non-fiction so again I have high hopes that this will be a very interesting and informative listen.

9. Death of A Bookseller-Alice Slater, Narrators: Emma Noakes and Victoria Blunt

This just sounds like such a fun time and I’m so intrigued by it, as the whole idea of exploring the ethical issues behind true crime and the impact of people’s obsession with real life tragedies is such a cool idea and I just love anything that explores twisted female friendships, when they’re well done they can be so satisfying to read. Again, both the narrators are new to me and I actually haven’t had a chance to listen to the sample on Audible yet as this book only came out today, but I definitely will do soon!

10. The Last Tale of The Flower Bride-Roshani Chokshi, Narrators: Steve West and Sura Siu

A lot of multiple narrator books on this list, which I wasn’t expecting as I don’t usually listen to a whole lot of them, but I do like audiobooks with more than one narrator, particularly with multiple POV books as it makes it much easier to keep track of who is who! I feel like this one will be a really good listen because of the kind of story it is: dark, twisted fariytale, kind of ethereal, everything about it screams that listening to it will enhance my experience of the story (which is what a good audiobook does for me) so I hope my instinct about that is right. I’ve heard mixed things about this one so I’m a little uncertain but intrigued enough to give it a go, especially as I’ve liked other books by Chokshi and am aware of her penchant for over-description already!

So there we go, those are some of the audiobooks that I might potentially use my remaining ten credits on Audible on (and let’s be real, I will probably end up buying more credits before the year is out! I also do have Libby so I might get more audiobooks from there). Have you listened to any of these books (or read them in other formats)? Did you enjoy them? If you’ve had experiences with any of the narrators I said were new to me, how were they? Are any of these also on your TBR? Who are your favourite audiobook narrators? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week for another Top Ten Tuesday, next week we’re talking The First 10 Books I Randomly Grabbed From My Shelf and sharing our thoughts on those, so that should be a fun one!

Top Ten Tuesday #416

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since my last TTT. I had an amazing time at Operation Mincemeat last Wednesday, it was just as fabulous the second time around as it was the first, if you are in London before they finish their West End run in July, then I really do highly recommend seeing it, it’s a real testament to the creativity of theatre, there’s only five in the cast and they perform multiple roles in varying costumes (and of varying genders) completely seamlessly, plus it’s just absolutely hilarious and the songs are incredibly catchy. I’ve got more theatre coming up this week, I’m going to see the play Medea at Soho Place on Thursday, which I’m really looking forward to as I’ve heard great things, and Soho Place is a fairly new theatre that I’ve never been to before. I’m also going to watch the NT Live showing of Good at the cinema on Friday, which I’m really looking forward to as I missed the chance to see David Tennant live when the play was on in the theatre.

I also did my independent bookshop tour on Saturday which was the topic of one of my previous Top Ten Tuesdays, and had the absolute best time discovering all these great bookshops in and around South London. They were all so great that I ended up buying far more books than I had initially intended, but it was lovely to find all of these fantastic bookshops that were all within 30 minutes travel of where I live (and most much closer than that!). I’m definitely going to continue exploring London’s independent bookshops more and possibly writing more posts about them for the blog as I just had such a great time on Saturday that it’s definitely something I want to continue doing (though the next one might not be for a while, my bank account needs time to recover first!).

Anyway, today’s Top Ten Tuesday is once again courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. It’s a non-book themed freebie this week, and as soon as I saw that one of the suggestions Jana had given was Favourite Places You’ve Visited, I just knew I had to do that. For those of you who don’t know, aside from books, travel is one of my absolute favourite things, and I’ve been very lucky to be able to visit lots of different places over the years, so I’m really excited to share some of them with you today. These are in no particular order, I loved going to all of these places and couldn’t pick and out and out favourite. I’ve tried to include pictures of my trips with all of them, but I did go to some of these places quite a long time ago, so if I don’t have an available picture to use on my computer then I do apologise! Also there will be more than 10 here, I could not narrow down! Here we go:

  1. Cape Town, South Africa

Me at the Vrendenheim winery in Stellenbosch, one of my favourite photos from the trip!

I spent three months (almost) in Cape Town at the beginning of 2020, and honestly, I still almost can’t believe it was the same year because I had such an amazing time on that trip that it’s somewhat difficult to reconcile with everything that came after with the pandemic! I saved up all my earnings from summer jobs for four years to do the Journalism volunteer project with Projects Abroad in Cape Town and it’s honestly one of the best things I’ve ever done. I loved the project and got to write some articles that I’m really proud of whilst I was out there, but because I was in Cape Town for so long, I got to do so many cool things: going on safari, doing the Garden Route and Cape Peninsula tour, visiting wine farms, going riding on the beach, hiking up Table Mountain, trying sand boarding, going to an outdoor cinema for the first time, honestly the list is endless (and you can read in more depth about it in the linked post above). I also met a group of really amazing girls and hopefully we’re going to all meet up again at some point in the near future. I’d absolutely love to go back to South Africa one day and explore a bit more, because of the trip being cut short due to the pandemic, we didn’t end up going on our planned family holiday after my project finished where we were going to explore more outside of Cape Town, so I’d love to go back one day and explore the places I missed!

2. Melbourne, Australia

My sister took this photo when we were eating at her favourite cafe in Melbourne, Union Kiosk.

I went to Melbourne for the first time last year as my family went out there to spend Christmas with my sister and her partner. It was actually my first time in Australia full stop, not just in Melbourne and I had the best time! When the two weeks were up, I really wished I’d stayed for longer because I’d had such a great time, but I definitely made the most of the time I was there. My sister took me to quite a few of her favourite spots in the city (including several bookshops!), I went for a trail ride because of course I have to find horses everywhere I go (that was obviously not in Melbourne, I went out to Wallan for that), we visited a couple of wineries and had our first warm Christmas, eating Christmas dinner outside was not an experience I ever thought I’d have! I’m sure I will be back visiting Melbourne again to see my sister, and I definitely want to spend a bit longer next time if I can because there’s still a lot more I want to explore (though I definitely fit a lot into just two weeks this time!). I’d also really like to go to other places in Australia, as it’s a huge country and my parents have been able to travel around a bit more than I have as they’ve stayed for longer, so I’d definitely like to be able to travel around Australia a bit the next time I go, if I have the time do so!

3. New York City, New York

This is me in Central Park, one of my favourite pictures from the trip!

This was a family holiday, we went to the East Coast of the US in 2012 (hence why I look a fair bit younger in this picture, I was only 15!), starting in New York and then travelling by train to Philadelphia and Washington DC. I enjoyed both Philadelphia and DC but New York was definitely my favourite part of the trip! We were only there for a few days, I think maybe 3 or 4, but I had a great time. Since we were there for a fairly short trip, we mostly did the regular touristy stuff: going up the Empire State building, a boat trip where we saw the Statue of Liberty, walking round Central Park, going to see a Broadway show (we saw Chicago), going to Times Square, that sort of thing. We also went to the Met because my mum likes art but I have to admit, I don’t think I appreciated it as much at 15 as I probably would now. My sister and I were massive Gossip Girl fans at the time, and mostly wanted to go to the Met so that we could get a picture on the steps ala Serena & Blair (that picture isn’t very good or I would have shared it here!). Anyway, we had a really fantastic time and I definitely want to go back New York one day and spend a bit more time there as the few days we did was just too short.

4. San Francisco, California

This is the only photo I could find from San Francisco, of me and my sister on a tram. I’m sure we took more but I think they were all on digital cameras and not necessarily uploaded to the Internet! I can’t believe I was only 12 when this photo was taken, we went to San Francisco the summer before I turned 13 and the fact that this was almost 14 years ago is a little worrying!

This was our first trip to America, in the summer of 2009 and that time we did a West Coast road trip, from San Francisco in California up to Seattle in Washington. It was a really fun trip, though I do remember getting a little bored with all the time spent in the car, even with plenty of books to read, it was a lot of driving! Anyway, my favourite stop on that trip was San Francisco, it’s a really fun city, I enjoyed travelling round on the trams, we did a really cool bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito which is a really pretty place and I think we went to a magic show or something one night there which was fun. There was also a really massive Borders and I remember this because I think Borders had shut in the UK at the time, so I was really excited to visit it. Anyway, I remember San Francisco being a really cool city and I liked it much better than LA which we visited on a subsequent trip and I’d definitely like to go back there again someday.

5. Crete and Santorini, Greece

This is from Crete, we were staying in Rethymno and this was taken in the Fortezza, which is the Citadel which overlooks the city.

This is the view from the top of the caldera in Santorini. We took surprisingly few pictures of ourselves in Santorini considering how many we took in both Athens and Crete!

I’ve grouped these two together because they were from the same trip. This was my 21st birthday trip to Greece, which I went on with my friends Hannah and Zoe back in 2017 (I do have many, many pictures with them also in from the trip!) and it was so much fun, hands down my favourite holiday we’ve done together. We did island hopping, so we started off in Athens, then got a ferry over to Crete and then went on to Santorini before coming back to Athens to fly home. I didn’t think a huge amount of Athens, but I absolutely loved both Crete and Santorini, especially Crete. We spent the most time in Crete, I think we were there for about 3 or 4 days. We stayed in a place called Rethymno and it was absolutely lovely, it’s a gorgeous place. Whilst we were there, we explore the Fortezza (as seen in the top picture), and we went on a day trip to Plaikas and went hiking. We also had some really great food, especially at this little local restaurant which I wish I could remember the name of, but the food was absolutely delicious, I had something called Pastisio, which is like lasagne but with macaroni rather than sheets of pasta. Honestly, all of us said we wish we’d had longer to spend in Crete because it was really lovely and it’s one of the bigger islands so we felt we didn’t really have enough time to explore in the few days we were there.

Santorini was also great, we were only there for two days (we only had eight days in Greece overall) but to be honest, it’s quite a small island and we felt like we got to see most of what we wanted in that time. Only Hannah and I went on to Santorini as Zoe had to go back home for work. Whilst we were there, we went to Oia for dinner so we could watch the sunset (as this is the place to do it in Santorini) which was really beautiful, although the restaurant we went to was kind of pricy. There was also a bakery just down the street from our hostel which we went to for breakfast both days we were there because it was so good! We also walked down the harbour to explore and shop a little which we instantly regretted later when we had to walk back up the several hundred odd steps later on and avoid being kicked by donkeys!

I would absolutely go back to Crete, I don’t know if I would go back to Santorini just because I think we saw pretty much everything we wanted to whilst we were there, but I definitely want to go island hopping in Greece again, maybe for a little longer next time in order to see more islands, and I think I’d definitely spend less time in Athens next time and only go there to arrive and leave!

6. Naples, Italy

I sadly have no pictures of this one, it was a school trip back when I was 13, and I didn’t have a good camera phone at that point! I think I did take a camera, but it was likely a disposable one as I don’t think I had a digital camera of my own yet so if I do have any photos of Naples, they’ll only be physical ones. Anyway, despite the lack of photos, it was a really great trip, my school did something called Activity Week where everyone was off timetable and one of the options for Year 8s was this trip to Naples. It was a really awesome trip, we visited Pompeii and Herculaneum (I actually recommend Herculaneum more than Pompeii, I found it more interesting), we hiked up Vesuvius, we went shopping in Capri and Anacapri (again, Anacapri is nicer) and naturally had really great pizza and pasta. It was a really fun trip but I would definitely love to go back as an adult since obviously being a school trip, it was all very supervised and we didn’t get all that much time to ourselves, so I’d like to go back and explore without the constraints of being a teenager on a school trip! I’d also really like to go and visit more of Italy in general, I’ve only been to Naples (and I guess technically Milan but that was only a stopover in the airport on the way home), so I’d really love to visit more places: Venice is high on my to-travel list, along with Rome and Florence.

7. Munich, Germany

I’ve been to Munich twice, once was on a GCSE History trip when I was in Year 11, and the other time was for a German Exchange when I was in Sixth Form (I still don’t quite remember how I managed to get onto that as I didn’t do German A-Level, I think they needed a couple of people to make up the numbers and me and another girl from my Psychology class were able to go!). I really enjoyed both trips, the first one for my History GCSE was mainly visiting sites from Nazi history as that was what we were studying at the time (including an incredibly memorable but very harrowing trip to Dachau concentration camp) but the German Exchange trip obviously wasn’t so much for strictly educational purposes, we were teaching kids English at a local primary school for part of the time, but the rest of the time we were able to explore the city, it’s a really beautiful place and I would love to go back! Again, sadly I don’t have any pictures of either trip as the ones that there are were taken by other people! I’ve been to a few other places in Germany as well, Cologne, Dusseldorf, Essen (on several exchange trips) but I’ve not yet been to Berlin which is somewhere I’d really like to go.

8. Paris and Carcassonne, France

Katy and I at our hotel in Paris (I do have some proper Paris landmark pics, but this was better than our pics from the Eiffel Tower)

Me walking the walls of the Cité de Carcassonne in Spring 2017, which can you believe we didn’t do until then despite having been going to Carcassonne for a good five years at that point!

I grouped these two together given that they’re in the same country, I felt like Crete and Santorini, it wasn’t worth doing a separate entry for each. We went to Paris in Spring of 2013, my dad had a conference and me, my mum and my sister were able to tag along because it was the Easter break. It was a really fun trip, Dad obviously had his conference stuff during the day, but mum, Katy and I were able to do all the touristy things like seeing the Eiffel Tower and the Arc De Triomphe and the Louvre etc and then we’d do stuff together when Dad was free.

Carcassonne I’ve been to quite a few times over the years, as my family goes on holiday out there quite a lot, so we’ve had various trips out there over the years. The picture is from when we went out in 2017, I had a break from Uni over the Easter weekend and my sister came out to join us from Amsterdam where she was studying at the time. I think I was only there for the weekend, it was one of my shorter trips, but my parents go out every year and I usually join them there at some point in the year. A couple of years ago I went with Hannah and Zoe for a long weekend and that was a really fun trip, I got to show them around the city which was great!

Reading The Librarian Spy last year made me quite interested in going to Lyon someday as I think all the history there with the French Resistance is quite fascinating!

9. Amsterdam, The Netherlands

One of my favourite pictures from my Amsterdam trips, me by the canal.

I’ve been out to Amsterdam a couple of times, both very short trips, I think it was just a weekend both times! My sister did a term abroad in Amsterdam when she was studying at Uni and enjoyed it so much that she went back out to do a Masters. She lived there for a year whilst doing her Masters and then stayed out there working for another year before coming back. The first time we visited was for my mum’s birthday in 2016, when we did the classic Elliott family boat trip (it’s become an ongoing joke in our family that we always go on boat trips wherever we go because my mum really likes them) and Katy showed us around the city, and we went out for dinner for my mum’s birthday. We also got these really great cupcakes for her birthday but I cannot remember where they were from now! The second time was for my sister’s birthday in 2017 and we went out for dinner to celebrate. It was Pride in Amsterdam that weekend as well, so I remember it being quite mad when we were out in the city! I’d definitely like to go back to Amsterdam, maybe for a few days rather than just a weekend this time!

10. Switzerland

I’ve been to Switzerland twice, both times were with Guides, once when I was 11 & once when I was 14. Guides did an annual trip to Switzerland because one of the Girl Guiding World Centres, Our Chalet is in Adelboden, Switzerland. The first time I went to Switzerland, they hired a coach to get us there, so we spent three days in coach getting to Switzerland and then I think another three days getting back, which was quite the experience, though it did give me a lot of time for reading. Thankfully when I went the second time, we flew! Both trips to Switzerland were so much fun, I think we were there for about two weeks both times, and we did all sorts of really fun activities: we went scootering down a mountain, we did quite a lot of hiking, we went to this really cool wood carving place where the wood carver would carve your initials onto all sorts of cool things (the mirror I got on my first trip is still one of my absolute favourite things), we went ziplining, we went on a boat trip, I even went abseiling down the side of a road bridge on one of the trips! I enjoyed it the first time, but I was quite young and I think it was one of the first times I’d really done a trip of that length abroad (not with my family) before so I got quite homesick, I think I was definitely able to enjoy it more the second time! I don’t have any pictures because I didn’t have a phone the first time I went, and though I do have some photos of the second time, none of them are very good!

11. Trinidad and Tobago

Katy and I, I think this was at our hotel in Trinidad

We went out to Trinidad and Tobago for our family summer holiday in 2013. It was such a fun trip, we spent most of our time in Tobago, we went on the classic Elliott family boat trip, we went snorkelling, we did a trip into the rainforest, we spent quite a bit of time on the beach and then we spent a few days in Trinidad before heading home. We did another boat trip there were we got to see quite a bit of wildlife, and we drove around so Mum could show us some of the places that our grandparents had lived/worked when they were over in Trinidad in the 50s (which was our main reason for the trip as my Mum was born there whilst my grandpa was working out there and she hadn’t been back since they left when she was very young). Trinidad was actually really lovely and we wished we’d spent a bit more time there, as nice as Tobago was, it’s a much smaller island and we felt like we didn’t have enough time to do everything we wanted.

12. Edinburgh, Scotland

Me at Edinburgh Castle in 2017

I know this list hasn’t included any UK places thus far, but I do enjoy going to places in the UK too, I swear! One of my favourite cities in the UK, probably just behind London actually, is Edinburgh! I’d never been until I went up to uni because when I went to Scotland with my family, we usually went to Glasgow when going on a city trip, because the shopping is better (and to be fair, I do prefer shopping in Glasgow to Edinburgh), but Edinburgh is my favourite of the two cities. Once I went up to Scotland for uni, I went into Edinburgh quite a bit, I went for the first time to the Christmas Market with my friends when they visited me in my first year in 2015, and we went back every year after that because we all loved it so much. I also went quite a bit with my Uni friends, we again went for the Christmas markets, but we also went just for days out quite a bit, including when I did a literary tour of Edinburgh for a travel article I had to do for my journalism module. Now I always tend to go into Edinburgh at least once when I go up to Scotland, usually to meet up with friends. It’s just such a gorgeous city and I really enjoy spending time there.

13. Lanzarote

This was our family summer holiday in 2010 I think, and it was a really fun one. We stayed in this sports resort for part of it, so there were a lot of activities to do: my dad and I went snorkelling, we also did the training for scuba diving but I was horrible at that! We tried windsurfing which I was also horrible at, my dad and I went kayaking, we did a bike ride, we went to a water park, went to the beach, it was a very active holiday though I do remember being a little annoyed that I couldn’t do quite a few of the activities because you had to be fourteen and we went at the beginning of August so it was a month before I turned fourteen in September! Unfortunately I don’t have pictures of this holiday either, again I’m sure we do have them somewhere but just not on my computer.

14. Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch, Yucca, Arizona

Weirdly specific I know, but this was my favourite part of this particular holiday. When we went to America in 2011, we did California & Arizona that time, and one of our stops was at this dude ranch in Arizona because me, my dad and my sister all really love horses (my mum not so much, so it was very sweet of her to book this for us considering that she’s not really a horse fan and until this particular holiday, hadn’t been on a horse in almost twenty years). It was the most fun few days that we spent out there, we got to go riding twice every day, out on a hack for several hours and I just had the best time. Me, my dad and my sister got to go out on separate hacks as well as were advanced riders so we were able to go out with just us and a wrangler so that we could go a bit faster than the usual walking groups! It was my first time ever riding Western, so that took a little bit of getting used to (their saddles are like armchairs I swear!) especially because Western paces are actually slightly different: Jogging, which is what they call trotting is basically the same but it turns out a lope is actually something between a canter and a gallop. Who knew? Well now you do! The horse I rode was called Dunner and he was lovely, if incredibly hungry and kept stopping to eat. We were only there for a few days but I was basically in horsey heaven the entire time. The dude ranch also had a really adorable Golden retriever puppy called Bandit, so we were able to get a dog fix whilst we were there as well!

So there we go, those are some of my favourite places I’ve visited! Have you been to any of these places? Where’s your favourite place you’ve been to on holiday? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time we’re doing Favourite Audiobook Narrators but since I did that topic for another freebie a couple of years back, I’m going to share Audiobooks I’m Hoping To Listen To This Year instead.

Top Ten Tuesday #415

Hi everyone, I hope you’ve all had a good week since I last did one of these! I had a really great time at Ain’t Too Proud with my mum last week, I think it’s actually my favourite new theatre show I’ve seen this year so far (Wicked is obviously my favourite show overall but I’d already seen it twice before I went to see it again this year, so that’s no surprise!). The cast were fabulous, the songs and story were great and I really loved what they did with the staging, they were super creative with what was actually a fairly minimal set and it was really impressive. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect because I don’t have a huge amount of familiarity with The Temptations music (my mum is the fan which is why we booked!) but that really didn’t matter, I had a great time. I also went to the Spain and The Hispanic World exhibition at the Royal Academy of Arts on Sunday with a friend and that was really fantastic, they had so many really interesting pieces and it was lovely to have a catch up with my friend. My great month of theatre also continues this week as I’m going to see Operation Mincemeat on Wednesday, I saw it last year at the Southwark Playhouse but I loved it so much than when they announced their West End transfer, I knew absolutely had to see it again, so I’m really looking forward to that.

Anyway, today’s Top Ten Tuesday is courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Titles With Animals In Them/Covers With Animals On Them, so I decided to go for the cover topic, as I thought it would be easier, and if there’s one thing I know by now, it’s that cover topics for TTT are always some of my most loved posts so I figured you guys would enjoy that one more. Thanks to Rachel @ Sunny Side for her topic suggestion this week! I did include quite a few animal covers in our Covers With Nature On Them topic, so I worried I might find too many duplicates, but it turned out lots of book covers have animals on them and it was fairly straightforward to come up with a completely new list. So here we go:

  1. Crooked Kingdom-Leigh Bardugo

I actually could have done any number of Leigh Bardugo covers for this one because almost all her covers have some kind of animal on them! I decided to go for this one though, a) because I love the Crows, b) because this cover actually has the whole crow rather than just the wing like the Six of Crows cover and c) because I just really like it, I think it’s a really striking cover.

2. Girl, Serpent, Thorn-Melissa Bashardoust

I couldn’t do this topic without at least one example of the YA Book Snake who has been everywhere over the last few years! This is one of my favourite examples of the trend though, I love the contrast between the snakes and the flowers and the whole design with the way the snakes and the flowers are intertwined is quite intricate.

3. The Princess Diaries-Meg Cabot

Bit of an oldie here, but the original covers of The Princess Diaries books in the UK always had Fat Louie, Mia’s cat on them. I was actually a little sad when they changed them, around the seventh book, because although I can’t say this is particularly one of my favourite cover designs ever, I did love that they all had Fat Louie on them!

4. Descendant of The Crane-Joan He

If there’s one thing I’ve found from this cover topic, it’s that YA fantasy seems to love a bird cover, because I’ve found quite a few! I love this cover, I think the colours are really striking and I love how well the crane stands out amongst the rest of the cover because there’s quite a lot of details in there. It’s a shame I didn’t love the book as much as I loved the cover, but you can’t win them all!

5. Circe-Madeline Miller

A little bit more subtle than some of the others here, but throughout the cover, there are various birds, bugs, lizards and other nature. I love that this cover reflects Ancient Greek art styles, and all of the little nature details suit the story really well considering that Circe is exiled to an abandoned island. This is the UK paperback edition of Circe if anyone is wondering!

6. Spin The Dawn-Elizabeth Lim

A little more subtle, but there is some kind of bird perching on Maia’s fabric. I’m not actually sure what kind of bird it is, I can’t remember from the book, maybe an eagle or something? But anyway, there’s a bird so it fits the topic. Again this is another one where I was sucked in by the pretty cover and then slightly disappointed by the contents of the book. Isn’t it the worst when that happens?!

7. Blind Beauty-KM Peyton

Horse books don’t tend to have the best covers, they’re usually stock images, but I actually really like this one. I’m assuming it’s a stock image photo of the horse, but I love the effect with the light, I think it makes what otherwise might be kind of a dull cover actually quite striking!

8. City of Ghosts-VE Schwab

Again a little bit more subtle, but my favourite detail of the Cassidy Blake covers: each cover has a little Grim, the Blake family cat on it! I really like this series’ covers, the colours are very striking (and within the Schwab staple colour palette) and I love all the little details of the ghosts and the city skyline in the background, as well as of course, Grim!

9. The Scorpio Races-Maggie Stiefvater

Maggie Stiefvater is another author whose covers all have some kind of animal on them, so I could have gone with pretty much any of her books. I went with The Scorpio Races though as this was the first book of hers I read, and I picked it up simply because I found that cover so striking. I didn’t completely love the book, but I enjoyed it enough that I went on to pick up The Raven Cycle, my favourite Maggie Stiefvater series. I always love Maggie Stiefvater’s covers, her publisher’s cover designers are truly extraordinary!

10. Charlotte’s Web-EB White

Ticking all of the animal boxes here as the cover has multiple animals on it, including of course, the only spider I will ever like, Charlotte! I loved this book so much as a kid, even though it’s quite sad and I love the illustrated cover, to this day, those kinds of covers are still my favourites.

So there we go, Covers With Animals On Them! Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? Which is your favourite cover? Let me know in the comments!

I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, it’s a Non Book Freebie and one of the suggestions Jana gave was Favourite Places You’ve Visited, so I think I’m going to do that one as I love travelling and it will be fun to share with you guys some of the places I’ve been to and enjoyed!

Top Ten Tuesday #414-Spotify Wrapped Book Tag 2022

Hi everyone! I hope you’ve all had a good week since my last one of these. I had a really good time at When We Died on Saturday night, it was a great and really interesting play and I’m so glad that The Indie and the PR team for the show gave me the opportunity to go and see it. The review is live on The Indiependent website if any of you are interested in reading it! My great month of theatre continues, I have a show booked in every week except the last week in April this month, so lots of exciting things to see. Tonight my mum and I are going to see Ain’t Too Proud which we booked as part of London Theatre Week last month, so I’m very excited for that, hopefully it will be good. I’ll admit, I’m less familiar with the music of The Temptations than my mum, but I’m sure that won’t matter too much!

Anyway, today’s Top Ten Tuesday is courtesy of Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl as always. Except I’m going completely off piste this week and instead of doing the official topic of Indie Books I’ve Read (because honestly I’ve not read too many), I’m going to do this book tag called The Spotify Wrapped Book Tag (2022) which I saw on Dedra (A Book Wanderer’s) blog a while back and looked really fun so I thought I’d save it for a day when I wasn’t feeling the topic, and that day has arrived!

The tag was originally created by Rosina @ Lace and Dagger Books. The idea is as follows, you put your 2022 playlist on shuffle (I don’t have Spotify, so I just did this by putting my iPod on shuffle) and for the first five songs (adjusted to ten like Dedra to fit TTT), you have to pick a book you read in 2022 to fit that song. They don’t need to be a perfect fit, you just have to explain why you picked that book for that song, and you can skip if you need to, as not every book will fit every song.

I’ll admit, this tag was a lot harder than I initially thought it would be as I read far less books in 2022 than I would usually, so there were less options to pick from, and my taste in music doesn’t particularly match my taste in books. Still it was a really fun and slightly different thing for me to do for TTT, so I hope you enjoy it:

  1. So It Goes…-Paired With: A Marvellous Light, Freya Marske

I don’t want to share the actual song for this one since Taylor hasn’t re-recorded Reputation yet, and I won’t be sharing any of the music she doesn’t own, but I’m sure a lot of you will have heard it before anyway! I felt like this one worked quite well for Robin and Edwin, the word “magician” is in the lyrics and this song also just has a very sexy vibe, which if you’ve read A Marvellous Light, you’ll know that’s true for this book as well!

2. It’s Nice To Have A Friend-Paired With: This Poison Heart

This one was a little hard to pair, but I decided to go with This Poison Heart since a major part of the premise is Bri moving to a new town, and her new friends become a big part of the story.

3. Roar-Paired With: Fix The System, Not The Women

A non-fiction book might seem like an odd choice but I feel like this song and this book have very similar vibes, Roar is all about standing up for yourself and self-empowerment and reading Fix The System, Not The Women definitely had me feeling angry about the various ways the patriarchy works against women and wanting to tear the whole system down, so I feel like the vibes work!

4. Come Alive-Paired With: The Diamond Eye

Okay, this might seem like kind of an ironic song choice given that The Diamond Eye is about war, but hear me out! A lot of Mila’s journey in this book is about coming into herself, finding her place in the world and gathering the courage to stand up to her abusive ex-husband, and this song definitely works for those themes.

5. Thinking of You-Paired With: The Librarian Spy

This was a difficult one to pair, but I eventually landed on The Librarian Spy because although Elaine does not end up in a relationship with Josef’s friend Etienne (thankfully!), I felt like this worked quite well for where she is for the most of the book: she has to work with Etienne as part of the Resistance, but working with her husband’s best friend does remind her a lot her missing husband and so it works for the basic premise of the song, even if the exact situation isn’t the same as the one Katy Perry describes in Thinking Of You.

6. Story of Tonight-Paired With: Resistance Women

Different war sure, and several hundred years separating the history, but I think this song works just as well for the Red Orchestra in this book as it does for the Revolutionary War soldiers in Hamilton. After all, they were fighting to free their country from the Nazis and for the hope of a better future, despite knowing it was likely many of them would die without getting to see it.

7. Getaway Car-Paired With: Portrait of A Thief

Again no clip for this one as it doesn’t yet have a Taylor’s version. I almost squealed when this song came up on my shuffle because I knew instantly which book to pair it with: Portrait of A Thief is a heist novel, and one of the main characters, Lily is a getaway driver and there are a lot of car chases in this book, so on a purely surface level, Getaway Car is the perfect match for this book!

8. invisible string-Paired With: Looking For Jane

It’s so hard to explain why this song and this book are the perfect fit without going in to spoilery territory, so let’s just say: all three main characters of this novel are bound together in some way and this song is all about feeling connected to someone before you’ve even met them which works so perfectly for this book.

9. Gonna Get Even-Paired With: The Mad Girls of New York

Much of Nellie’s impetus for doing the Madhouse article in the first place is to get even, to prove to the male editors who have kept turning her down that female journalists can do something, and not only that, that there are some stories only female journalists can get. She also has a rivalry with a fellow reporter, Sam Colton for much of the book as well, so the song also works on that level.

10. Coming Home-Paired With: Life After Life

I found this song very fitting for Ursula Todd, the main character of Life After Life because no matter where she goes in her many lives, she always ends up coming back to her home, Fox Corner and her family.

So there we go, a slightly different tag and TTT for you all today, but I hope you found it as fun as I did! If nothing else, it’s given you a big of an insight into my taste in music (although the fact I listen to a lot of Taylor Swift probably wasn’t a surprise to all that many of you!). Have you read any of these books? Do you agree with my book/song pairings? Let me know in the comments!

If you want to give this tag a go, I definitely recommend it, it was really fun, if a little tricky! I’ll be back next week with another Top Ten Tuesday, this time it’s Titles With Animals In Them/Covers With Animals On Them. I’ve done Covers With Nature On Them but not specifically animals, and it’s been a while since we last did a covers topic, so I think I’m going to go down the cover route and do Covers With Animals On Them.