Monday, 24 April 2017

The Day I Became a (Temporary) Food Blogger

Last week, I was gifted a Gousto box to review, so today I'm becoming a temporary food blogger and showing you my loot. I love food and I love post, so this was an excellent delivery to receive, especially as it arrived along with my exam timetable... *panics*

Gousto is a website founded by a group of chefs who pick a bunch of recipes each week, and from those, subscribers can pick the ones they like the sound of and have the ingredients and instructions delivered to their door. (If you're not in to take the delivery, your food won't get ruined because there's a handy cool bag in the box.) They only send the amount you need for the meal/s you've chosen, and packaging is minimal, limiting waste. That also means that you'll get cute, tiny portions of things. LOOK AT THE TINY MAYONNAISE. I can't be the only one who loves tiny versions of normal-sized things, right...?

The first meal I picked was feta and sweet potato taquitos for two:

 And the second meal was Tuscan panzanella salad with mozzarella, again for two:

How good does all of this look? Opening it felt like Christmas, despite it being a sunny spring day. I should probably add here that you can get meat dishes, too, but I'm a life-long Pescatarian, hence my choices!

I include myself in this when I say that no one in my household is very imaginative when it comes to meal ideas (they won't mind me saying that, I don't think...) so being able to pick from a range of imaginative recipes was awesome. I don't usually like cooking as I'm far too impatient, and - guilty as charged - I'm definitely all about convenience. My dyscalculia makes the measuring aspect of cooking quite difficult and stressful, too, which doesn't help. But I actually really enjoyed cooking these meals! The fact that I already had the correct quantities, along with step-by-step instructions, was very much appreciated, and I felt like I'd achieved something each time, because as I said, I'm usually the one who eats the food, not the one who makes it...

The bit you're all wondering about: the finished meals tasted lovely and, thanks to the recipe cards which come with the ingredients, I'll definitely be making them again (the second one without mozzarella, I think.) Both have become family favourites!

This box was kindly gifted to me with no obligation to post about it but, once I saw the contents, I was itching to take some photographs. And then, well... here we are! If you'd like to try Gousto, use the code TORNADO to get a £20 discount on each of your first and second orders.

So, a bit of a different post today, but I hope you liked it!

Do you like cooking? Do you have any veggie meal ideas?

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

31 Books I Cannot Wait to Read This Summer

My first exam is in 29 days, and my last is in 51. That last exam will be the last exam. The last exam of my life. Unless I decide at some point that I do want to go to university, in which case... really, future Amber? You're going to put us in all that debt? Rude.

51 days, then, is how long I have to wait until I can tackle all the books I've been wanting to read for forever. We're on the home stretch, now. It's weird, though - I realised the other day that it's been close to a decade since I completely had time to myself; no homework to guilt-trip me into putting my book down, no seemingly-endless revision plans... I am very grateful to have been educated so well (and in so many different forms!) especially when so many people in other countries aren't; in fact, so many people in this country aren't. But it's weird to look back and see how much time it's taken out of your life, and how much time you'll have afterwards (well, until someone finally decides I would make an excellent employee, which I WOULD, by the way.)

Every year as it gets closer to exam time, my unread books look more and more inviting - but I resist, for the most part. Here are the books from which I'm having to restrain myself this time...

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

If you watched my January book haul, you'll know the story of how this came into my hands - and yet, as excited as I was, I still haven't had time to read it! I am no less excited, though, as this book focuses on racism and classism, and was inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement.

Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

This was unsolicited, and usually the unsolicited review copies that end up coming through my letterbox aren't really up my street. However - this one seems to be! Described as a 'compulsively-readable romance', protagonist Declan reads a haunting letter left beside a grave, and can't resist opening up and writing back to this 'perfect' stranger. But neither of them knows that they're not actually strangers... intriguing.

Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton

Ah, the sequel to an amazing book, and even featured in my list of most-anticipated reads of 2017... and yet, despite my proof copy, I still haven't got to it. However - silver lining - the later I leave it, the closer it'll be to the next book in the series, meaning I won't have long to wait...

Wanderlost by Jen Malone


My Favourite Manson Girl by Alison Umminger

A dark Hollywood novel in which our protagonist is offered a job researching the murderous Manson girls for a film. But soon enough, according to the book's synopsis, among the fake smiles and glitter-fuelled parties, things turn from strange, to dark, to dangerous. I seriously do not know how I haven't got to this sooner. Come on.

The Selection by Kiera Cass

This book has fallen into my hands so many times, it must be fate. The first time was years ago when it first came out in the UK and I was sent a review copy. It didn't look like my kind of thing. It somehow ended up under my bed, discovered years later and given to charity. A few months later, I wanted to do a nice thing for a friend (shout-out to you, Charli) and so I tricked her into telling me what book she was after at the time. It was this one. Of course. So I bought it for her as a surprise. THEN, everyone seemed to be freaking out over the series and how good it is, so I bought ANOTHER ONE. FOR MYSELF. AND I STILL HAVEN'T READ IT. AND NOW IT'S BEEN UNDER MY BED FOR GOD KNOWS HOW LONG, AND THE CYCLE IS REPEATING ITSELF. I will get to it one day. I will.

The Leaving by Tara Altebrando

I remember seeing this on Twitter and remarking at how brilliant it sounded, and the next thing I knew, it was sliding through my letterbox from the lovely team at Bloomsbury. I was so happy! But also under a mountain of schoolwork. I cannot wait to finally read this - especially as Bloomsbury was kind enough to send it to me when I was fangirling over it.

Room by Emma Donoghue

My mum read this before it was cool. I didn't. So annoying. Before anyone even knew it was going to be a film, she read it, loved it, and recommended it to me so much that she ended up just giving me her copy. And then I didn't read it. And now it's a really popular film. Why am I like this?

Highly Illogical Behaviour by John Corey Whaley

This has had so many good reviews, and it's about a guy who's agoraphobic, and I very much enjoy seeing how authors tackle the topic. SOON.

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

This will be my first Adam Silvera book! I don't know anyone who doesn't love his work, so I can't wait to read it for myself, especially as it contains themes of OCD, LGBT, and a whole lot of drama...

The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon

Soooo... confession: I haven't read this. I know. I can't quite believe it, either. I can't wait to see what all the hype is about, though.

The Smell of Other People's Houses by Bonnie-Sue Hitchcock

Set in 1970s Alaska, four very different people come together under unlikely circumstances. The cover and title are beautiful - and, according to reviews, so are the words inside.

Mad Girl by Bryony Gordon

I've had this proof for a long time - a long, long time - and even now, my Twitter feed is often full of people tweeting their thanks to the author, and recommending it to anyone who will listen.

The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall

I bought this a while ago on the recommendation of @DailyJulianne on Twitter. The book is described on Goodreads as 'a fast-paced international escapade ... perfect for fans of Ally Carter', which sounds exciting! I think I got this during my GCSEs which is why I never got round to it... oops.

The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Okay, so I actually picked this up and read a fair amount, but then I got busy and it somehow dropped off my radar... aka I lost it. From what I read, it seemed pretty good, so I'm looking forward to getting stuck in again... although I'll have to start from the beginning.

Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

Anna Kendrick is one of my favourite actresses, and I find her hilarious. Like, even her tweets have me in stitches, and they're cut down to 140 characters, so... a book of full-length essays is probably going to hospitalise me. We shall see.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

The release of its film trailer last month caused a lot of hurt to disabled people due to inaccurate and unrealistic representation. As this is a book I've wanted to read for years, I will still be reading it, but I'm glad this discussion took place as I can now go into it more critically, and aware of its issues.

The IT Girl by Katy Birchall

The IT Girl has been compared to Waiting For Callback by Perdita and Honor Cargill, one of my favourite books, and seeing as I have the trilogy (thanks Egmont!) I cannot wait to give it a go. Plus, the author is lovely!

All the Rage by Courtney Summers

I think I picked this up at the Pan Macmillan blogger's brunch in December 2015 and, similarly to The IT Girl, it has been compared to a book I loved: Asking For It by Louise O'Neill. This book tackles some important subjects and I can't wait to finally read it.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

The second book by the author of Everything, Everything... interestingly, this book has been praised for its representation of POC, so perhaps this will be better. Also, I literally just found out that this is set in New York City, aka my fave. Pleasebebetterpleasebebetterpleasebebetter.

Two Summers by Aimee Friedman

Something tells me this is going to be an awesome book to kick off the summer... it's set in France and New York. I LOVE BOOKS SET IN THESE PLACES. ASDFGHJKL.

One of Us is Lying by Karen M. McManus

The first thing I noticed when I received this was the strap-line, which is 'five strangers walk into detention. Only four walk out alive.' Need I say more?

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

To be honest, I don't even know when I got this. It's been that long. It sounds interesting though, set in the unusual location of a boarding school for ill teens.

The Last Beginning by Lauren E. James

I LOVED the first book in this series, The Next Together, and pined after the second instalment for ages... and then, when I got a copy, I didn't actually have time to read it; always the way. I highly recommend the first book - it's so cleverly done.

Ink by Alice Broadway

Ink is the book everyone's been talking about recently - and the cover is beautiful; you can see it in action here

This Beats Perfect by Rebecca Denton

From what I've heard, a girl finds herself backstage at a gig, and expects to hate it... but accidentally goes viral. I love music in YA, so I can't wait to get to this one! 

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

I've never read anything by Stiefvater. I know, terrible. I actually read a chapter of this AGES ago and just couldn't get into it, but lots of people have told me to persevere, so I will. It'd better be good, guys.

Rebel Bully Geek Pariah by Erin Lange

Another popular author whose books I haven't read... oops. Rebel Bully Geek Pariah is said to be like The Breakfast Club rebooted, and the coming together of these four strangers will change their lives forever.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

I bought this when it was reduced after the film came out, because I wanted to see if all the hype was true. Unfortunately, I haven't got round to it yet, and to be honest it's not really one of my priorities. It sounds interesting, though, and once I have time - I'll read it!

How to be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

I LOVE CAITLIN MORAN. Seriously, if you haven't seen her TV show Raised by Wolves (axed, sad face) you absolutely need to - I'm sure it's online somewhere. She is awesome and I cannot wait to read this (as well as Moranifesto!)

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

I have this rule about reading a book before seeing its film adaptation, so when I won a copy of the DVD but not the book, naturally I had to get the books. And I still really want to see the film... but I haven't read the book. @ myself: hurry up, please.

Which books will you be reading after exams? Have you read any of these, and what did you think?

Saturday, 15 April 2017

And Then We Ran by Katy Cannon

Title: And Then We Ran
Author: Katy Cannon
Published by: Stripes
Publication date: 6th April 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Young Adult/Contemporary
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Megan knows what she wants out of life and she intends to get it, whatever her parents say.

Elliott has given up on all his plans for the future - but then Megan bursts into his life with a proposal that could change it forever.

Together they embark on a road trip to escape their hometown and chase their dreams. But life is a journey and not even Megan can control where theirs will lead...

And Then We Ran is a book which intrigued and excited me the moment I pulled it from the envelope. I'm a sucker for road-trips, and this book is a road-trip both literally and metaphorically.

From the outside, Megan Hughes might be the girl whose sister died not long ago, but she is also pretty, popular, and one of those people who seems guaranteed to get the future they want. She hasn't spoken to her childhood best friend Elliot Redwood in years - he has a bad reputation due to his dad's mistakes, and the town of St Evaline hates his family. But he was also there on the night Megan's sister drowned. He couldn't save her - but maybe, with Megan's out-there proposal, they can save each other.

The premise of And Then We Ran is a crazy one, and maybe it shouldn't be believable... but it is; Cannon makes it work. Amidst the epic road-tripping, the slow-burning romance, the friendship, and typical small-town seafront life, I hugely appreciated another relevant topic which Cannon touched on: university applications. And Then We Ran perfectly captures how it feels to be left behind when your classmates are moving away to start a new chapter without you, how it feels to have your future hinging on a handful of exam results, and how money is - sadly and unfairly - a huge factor when people are deciding whether or not to go to university. The fact is that the existence of student loans doesn't always provide encouragement or relief but rather stops people from going entirely due to the debt that ensues, and this book gets that - it's a massive issue. Despite university often being mentioned in books, I've never seen UK YA do the 'pre-university' stage, never mind with such detail and accuracy. And this book gets both sides of the story: how it feels to be going, and how it can feel when you're not.

Additionally, Cannon nails the politics of a small town where everyone knows everyone, and the relationships were fully believable. And Then We Ran is not only an entertaining story but also a piece of writing which aspiring YA writers should look to as an example of good pacing and style - I have! I remember loving Cannon's debut, Love, Lies and Lemon Pies because it added a big dose of unpredictability to the typical YA contemporary, and this is no different. And Then We Ran is a treat to read by an author who clearly understands her readers, and it is an excellent example of genuine, unique and current YA. 100% recommend.