Girl about Town: Chocolate walking tour of London

Easter weekend is on the way. I am excited for three reasons:

1) Two free days off work! Oh how I need the sleep.

2) Family time! In my house, Easter is like Christmas we gather, we play games, we (even in adulthood) hunt out eggs and we dine en masse.

3) Gluttony! If you’ve been abstaining from treats and indulgences for Lent, Sunday is the day it all comes to an end (just to clarify, I have abstained from nothing this year, I’ve been a glutton throughout Lent. My bad).

In light of this list, Rebecca thought I should tell you about something that combined all three, in particular a chocolate walking tour of London, that I did with my family over a chilled weekend the end of last summer. I booked it through Great British Tours with a 50% voucher from one of those well known discount sites (either the pink or the green, I don’t recall) which made it very reasonable indeed. During the tour we visited some of my favourite chocolateries (where we had tastings and were entitled to a discount on most purchases), wandered through Soho at a leisurely pace soaking up the atmosphere and we found a couple of hidden gems that I’ll definitely be re-visiting.

The meeting point was the Algerian Coffee Store on Old Compton Street where our guide greeted us with a large cup of chocolate coated coffee beans and a gigantic grin – imagine if your job was to wander the streets of London eating free chocolate? I’d grin a lot too!

First stop was Hotel Chocolat where we bought chilli hot chocolate powder and tested out their new line of chocolate themed toiletries…

…then on to Paul A. Young where the team introduced us to unusual recipes such as limoncello and cucumber, pink guava and lychee, goats cheese, rosemary and lemon and Marmite truffles and where we also sampled their delicious Aztec hot chocolate…

… a quick pit stop at Freggo to refresh the palate with some Malbec and berries sorbet (new fave thing ever!)…

…a browse around the sweet counter (and a quick dash to the loo) at Fortnum and Mason…

… a brief history lesson about the birth of the truffle at Prestat and sampled some boozy treats…

…all ending up at Charbonnel et Walker where I stuffed my face with my favourite violet and rose crèmes (apparently also the Queen’s!).

All in all a fun filled day!

Great British Tours do some other interesting walking tours including a cupcake and macaroon tour which I have my eye on for my next free weekend…

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

Trash T.V.

Time for a bit of guilty pleasures talk over here. Why not eh?

So, I watch pretty much no TV. I always have some American Drama on the go, Greys Anatomy being my preference, but that weekly slot is almost the only thing I bother with. Except my guilty pleasure. In addition to my ‘quality drama’ – hey it’s all relative here people, I also like a bit of trash tv on the side.

Historically it was Gossip girl, which I was borderline obsessed with, and currently it’s Nashville. It needs to be full of gorgeous glamorous types, a hot male lead or two doesn’t go amiss and a salacious storyline. Most importantly, I don’t need amazing writing, it’s all about the fluff. I just stick it on record and dip in and out when I get home on those days when I all I can do is collapse on the sofa and mourn the absence of a wine glass in hand. ;)

So today, I want to hear what your guilty pleasure is and what I should be watching?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Decorate with Flowers: Reviewed

At this time of year as spring blooms come into stores I’m always looking to brighten up the house with fresh flowers. Add to that the instantaneous transforming effect they have on any space means I’m using them more than ever at the moment to improve some of our work-in-progress rooms. As a result I was delighted to be asked to review and share with you the new book by Holly Becker and Leslie Shewring, Decorate with Flowers.


Now, I am an absolute sucker for a coffee table book and this one is so pretty it is definitely deserving of the title. The photography is beautiful, the colours and the flowers are super pretty and the best thing about it is that the ideas are accessible.

There’s no stuffy flower arranging tutorial here, just loads of simple ideas for displaying fresh flowers in your home and inspiration for using many items you might already have as containers. It’s a fresh look at flowers.

Holly and Leslie have used the homes of some famous bloggers (like that of Victoria Smith of SFGirlbyBay shown above,) and some of the photography is studio shot, along with some simple DIY’s the help you make the most of your blooms.

I loved the book – every thing from the design and photography to the friendly accessible tone and easy to implement ideas. It’s definitely worth treating yourself to and would make a gorgeous Mothers Day gift too.

DISCOUNT:
To order Decorate with Flowers at the discounted price of £16.00 including p&p* (RRP: £20.00), telephone 01903 828503 or email mailorders@lbsltd.co.uk and quote the offer code APG109.

I hope you like it readers!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

*UK ONLY – Please add £2.50 if ordering from overseas.

Decorate with Flowers by Holly Becker & Leslie Shewring, published by Jacqui Small @JacquiSmallPub

Girl About Town: The Drowned Man

The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable – A Punchdrunk production

There’s not a lot I can say about The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable without ruining it, other than, it’s not really a play, it’s more of an experience, an emotional journey. One designed to take you out of your comfort zone and make you think – even if you’re not thinking about the play itself, even if you don’t like the story, I guarantee you’ll be thinking about the dance talent, the amazing sets and the curious artefacts you’ll find along the way, for a long time afterwards. Let me also qualify this post by saying that this is not a review, I’m not a theatre critic, I just like to be entertained. And entertained I was. In fact I still am. Since seeing the play I’ve lost hours on the internet Googling reviews, reading online discussions and stalking the cast members on Twitter to see what others made of their experience.

I booked tickets upon recommendation that it would be “weird, thought provoking, like nothing you’ve ever seen before and right up my street”. I was glad I took up the suggestion and I reiterate the advice to you!

It’s a promenade performance, by the brilliant Punchdrunk, set in a disused four storey building next to Paddington station. Upon arrival you check your bags (so you don’t pilfer things from the amazingly intricate, lovingly accessorised sets), you are issued with a mask (to clearly mark out the audience from the actors), and given a slip of paper with two paragraphs which loosely detail the two parallel story lines of love, adultery, paranoia, betrayal, social struggle and murder.

You are welcomed to “Temple Studios” by a glamorous employee with a brief introduction and then you are encouraged to leave your companions behind, open your mind and follow your own path…

And for three hours that’s what I did.

I lost my family within minutes as I got my bearings in a dark “street” lined with “shops”. I found a few characters and became engrossed in their stories, following them in earnest as they tore through the “desert”, “forest” and on to “movie sets” up and down stair wells, through dimly lit corridors and feeling uncomfortably voyeuristic as I peered through key holes and “bedroom windows”. I got hot and sweaty running up and down staircases (one covered in fresh, bloody hand prints), I shivered as I watched a narrated movie scene play out on a snowy mountain and I ruined my suede boots on a sand dune and had to step through a puddle of water around a bathtub in the middle of a “chapel” in a “trailer park”.

I put those words in quotes as I was well aware I was walking on a set, amongst scenery, but the eerie lighting, disconcerting music and smells, mist and different underfoot textures made the sets feel spookily real. Although I knew I was perfectly safe and was watching a show, my over-active imagination went hell-for-leather and I had a few freak out moments as an audience member was “kidnapped” by a cast member and taken in to a locked room, and I was left virtually alone in a dark corridor next to a shrine to an “ageing actress” and was then taken by surprise by an elegantly dressed lady, appearing at my shoulder literally out of nowhere.

I know, I know. It sounds like I’m talking gobbledegook!

Well I am. And that’s all I’ve done since leaving that building, talking non-stop about how amazing it was to people who haven’t seen it, who clearly think I must be going crazy.

I managed to follow only one of the stories, albeit twice over, thus from two viewpoints, and at the climax I realised that not only was there the parallel narrative detailed on the slip of paper at the beginning, but a number of other subplots and about 10 additional members of the cast that I’d completely missed! I also had a small tantrum (in my head) at the beginning where I got all stroppy that I had absolutely. No. Idea. what was going on. But on speaking to other people, I clearly wasn’t alone at that stage.

I was also worried that I wouldn’t know when it was over, that I’d end up wandering the deserted floors until the small hours, but after a very definitive ending we filtered through in to an on-set bar to be reunited with our companions where we flitted between stunned, reflective silences and garbled chatter where we all spoke over each other in our excitement to relay the things we’d seen, done, felt, touched and experienced. Each and every one of us had seen a different story. Different details, characters, rooms and props. We’d all had utterly unique experiences within the same building in those three hours. Our discussions continued via text and email long in to the night.

I can’t describe it to you without ruining it for you, but I whole heartedly suggest, nay, urge you to read a few professional reviews, check out this synopsis and watch this trailer.

Even if you don’t like it, I guarantee you you won’t regret it. You can book tickets here.

And if you’ve seen it already please, please, message or call me so I can talk to someone about it.

It seems I lied in my first line. There IS a lot I can say about this play, in fact I can’t stop saying things about this play…

Victoria x

PS! Find Victoria over on her blog Sugar Plum Slipper or on twitter @VictoriaHale.

#JanuaryJoy: Read something new

This morning Gemma is taking the reins with one of my favourite posts of the month, sharing her recent reads and reviewing them for your pleasure. Don’t forget to tell us if you agree with her appraisals or if you can recommend something she has missed…

The Cuckoo’s Calling – Robert Galbraith (JK Rowling)

Tightly plotted, laugh out loud funny at times and with some of the most tightly written characters I’ve ever come across in detective fiction, The Cuckoo’s Calling is a treat of a book.  Especially good for those who are familiar with London, who’ll recognise places and people loosely yet distinctly referenced in her fictional locations.  About a private detective with the flat-out-fabulous name of Cormorant Strike who is hired by the brother of a famous model who’s just committed suicide (or has she?) The Cuckoo’s Calling has all the elements of a classic gumshoe detective story, but is somehow still incredibly fresh and engaging.  One of my favourites of 2013.

The Girl With All The Gifts – M R Carey

Now firstly, I have to declare my bias about this book.  I have recently changed jobs and now work in PR for Little, Brown, the publishers of The Girl With All The Gifts.  HOWEVER.  I didn’t have the job when I read this book, and I would still recommend every last thrilling page of this unique, moving novel.  Despite a strong sci-fi element which might put some FFers off, please take my word as an incurable book worm and give this book a go, if only for the strong female characters and moments of bleak but beautiful prose along with big questions about what makes us human.  (I could go on and on and ON about this but am erring on the side of ‘least said’, because there are a couple of big twists in this tale and I really don’t want to give them away.  But please leave a comment if you’d like to know more or if you’ve read it!)

The Last Letter from your Lover – JoJo Moyes

Me before you – an earlier Jojo Moyes title, had me in absolute floods. We’re talking ‘oh god where are the chocolate biscuits and oh my wasn’t mascara a mistake today’ floods, so I was looking forward to The Last Letter from your Lover.  Added to Moyes’ genuiune ability to make you feel for her characters was the fact that The Last Letter From Your Lover was set in two different time periods and I couldn’t stop reading it, especially when it became clear how the two different stories overlapped.  Did I love it as much as Me Before You?   Not quite.  But it’s still worth a read.  Here’s the online description:

When journalist Ellie looks through her newspaper’s archives for a story, she doesn’t think she’ll find anything of interest. Instead she discovers a letter from 1960, written by a man asking his lover to leave her husband – and Ellie is caught up in the intrigue of a past love affair. Despite, or perhaps because of her own romantic entanglements with a married man.

In 1960, Jennifer wakes up in hospital after a car accident. She can’t remember anything – her husband, her friends, who she used to be. And then, when she returns home, she uncovers a hidden letter, and begins to remember the lover she was willing to risk everything for.

The Emergence of Judy Taylor Angela Jackson

In a first for my reviews here at FF towers, I have a confession to make.  Despite the review in Grazia saying ‘The Emergence of Judy Taylor is a heart-wrenching yet dryly funny tale of relationships and second chances’, despite reading and hearing great things about this book, it, well, left me totally cold.  I found Angela Taylor’s prose hard to get into and I didn’t really like any of the characters.  The eponymous Judy Taylor has become dissatisfied with her life married to Oliver, living near her parents and brother, in the same English town she grew up in, and the novel charts her decision to leave it all behind to go and live in ‘vibrant Edinburgh’.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying Edinburgh isn’t vibrant, (as I’m sure I’ve said many times, I flipping LOVE Scotland and Edinburgh is one of my favourite places.)  it’s just that for me, moving from a village to Edinburgh isn’t all that out of the ordinary, and there I think is the crux of my problem with this book.  At its core, it’s about a woman thinking ‘there’s got to be more to life’ but I think most people could imagine for themselves the situations Judy finds herself in in her new life, and I also found the storyline with Oliver afterwards quite unrealistic.

Mad About The Boy – Helen Fielding
In contrast to the review above – I wasn’t expecting to like the latest Bridget Jones outing as much as I did. The book has certainly had some less than positive feedback about, for example, its opening (Mark Darcy has been killed off) Bridget’s lifestyle (she’s now closer to fifty than thirty and a mum of two) and its plot arc (I’d heard: a bit cobbled together, rushed at the end, and predictable.) with the above in mind (some I agree with to an extent) I still found Mad About the Boy funny and sharp on the social commentary. I wasn’t the right generation for the first two Bridget books, and have found more in them in later re-reads now that I’m close to thirty, so in that respect I’m not qualified to say whether Mad About The Boy is an accurate portrayal of mid-life motherhood or not. If you’re expecting a literary, thought provoking read, I doubt Bridget Jones would be your first pick anyway. But for flashes of brilliance, like the pitfalls of making friends on Twitter, Helen Fielding is on form. My only gripe is, what happened to Shazza??

As always, let us know in the comments what you’re reading.  Anything that should be on my radar?

Love, Gemma C-S.

#JanuaryJoy: Go and See a Film

With awards season underway, this is the time of the year that I get most excited about when it comes to going to the cinema. I have always loved films, although I wouldn’t say my taste is particularly high brow, I love being transported to another world or life and what more could you ask for on these long dark cold nights?

There are a ton of films on my must-see list right now, some because the trailers looked good and some which have gained critical acclaim already. It was the latter that lead us to see Gravity as it had been out the longest and was therefore the most urgent before it went off the screens. It is an epic film, if a little wacky at first and although I felt it was a little unrealistic (not something that usually bothers me about films as I enjoy escapism,) I was gripped throughout which surely marks the sign of a good film? I also loved the incredible views of earth from space which were beautiful on the big screen and strangely awe-inspiring. If you’re a film buff you can read an in-depth Gravity review here.

There are films I wanted to see more, American Hustle, Mandela, The Railway Man, 12 Years a Slave (although I’m not sure I can take the violence in this one,) The Hobbit and The Wolf of Wall Street (just spotted last week and which looks amazing,) and I’ll be slowly checking them off my list until the light nights return.

What I want to know from you today readers is which ones are on your must-see list this month and if you have seen any please do let me know what you thought – which one should be top of my list next time we go to the cinema?

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Christmas Gift Guide #6 – For book lovers

Today is our final gift guide, brought to you by Gemma who has rounded up some unexpected gifts for book lovers… I hope you all get your shopping finished this weekend if you haven’t already! x

1.       Kate Spade dictionary Ipad cover.  This is an excellent gift for two reasons: 1, it’s Kate Spade and therefore has serious fashion cred and a chic design, and 2, it makes it look like you’re reading the dictionary.  Plus, it’s a zip-around folio style so you can store papers and cards in it easily – great if your recipient is using an Ipad on the go or for work.  Plus, it’s pretty unisex which is always good.

2.       ‘Well Read’ T-shirt.  With a statement, Zoe Karssen-esque vibe without the high price point, the other thing that makes this tee so fab is that Every Well Read t-shirt purchase provides 4 new books for First Book, a non-profit organization that provides new books to schools and reading programs for low-income families. Having ordered a few Palmer Cash t-shirts in my time, I can tell you that they wash and wear well, too.

3.       Keeping a handwritten book journal is a lovely thing to do – yes, you can keep one online with goodreads.com, but there’s something satisfying in seeing handwritten entries.  I think a book journal makes a particularly good present for teenagers.

4.       The perfect present for Harry Potter lovers, coffee lovers, and those who love a good pun.

5.       I know, I know, Etsy is riddled with prints of quotes and literary posters.  But I do think that this one is one of the best and would make a great gift for a partner, or even for a Christmas wedding.

6.       These candles may actually be the best book lover present ever invented.  Organic  Booklover soy wax candles in book lover fragrances like ‘Oxford Library’, ‘Bookstore’, and the one that I’m desperate to buy – ‘Butterbeer’.  I also love the quirky design aesthetic – a great present for that cool friend who’s hard to buy for.

7.        Know someone bookish who’s expecting a baby? Or maybe they’re a child at heart? Either way, these postcards make for a gorgeous gift.  As well as being great for fans of retro design, I think they’d make a fabulous frieze in a nursery.

8.        Know someone who’s a big fan of dystopian fiction? Brighten up their January with this Folio Society tote bag – strong, sturdy and just the right size for a trip to the library and perfect for literary types.

Now you’ll probably have noticed straight away that there are no actual books on this list.  Never fear though, we have big plans for Florence’s Book Club to resume in the New Year – bigger and better than ever.  If you simply can’t wait for Christmas reading recommendations, or you need insider suggestions of a good book to get a friend for Christmas, leave your question in the comments and I’ll pop back through the day with suggestions.

Happy bookish Christmas,

love, Gemma C-S

ps, if you’re my husband and reading this, I’d like to remind you that I’ve been very good this year. ;)

PPS! Other Gift Guides…
For the hard to buy for (Rebecca’s list)
For Mums everywhere
Stocking Fillers
For Home lovers
For Mini-me’s

Florence’s Book Club

Florence’s Book Club is back! Hooray!
You might have noticed that BC this month has a slightly different format.  That’s because we’ve noticed that there seems to often be a lot of book chat on twitter when something really captures our imaginations, but sometimes not the same engagement on the blog. A good read is hard to find and can often be a really personal thing! That’s why we’re asking for your recommendations – just send them in to hello@florencefinds.com and I’ll round them up.

Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver

This book was given to me by a colleague who thought I might like it after I bestowed them with The Language of Flowers – a recent favourite of mine, so I was intrigued. Set in the farming bible belt of America, it focuses on the migration of the monarch butterflies who make their home on Dellarobia’s farm, thousands of miles north of their usual home in Mexico. Initially the story is a slow burner, setting the scene of the poverty and family dynamic Dellarobia is a part of. The butterflies attract attention at first from local church going miracle seekers, then from environmentalist and scientists. The second part of the book focuses on their arrival and work with the butterflies, which Dellarobia joins.

What struck me more than the characters was the over-riding theme of despair and hopelessness, both that the butterflies would survive their unusual surroundings, the significance of that situation with respect to global warming, and Dellarobia’s own limited life experience. As I write, I’m 150 pages from the end and still curious to see how it turns out.  - Rebecca

Ellis Island by Kate Kerrigan

Kate Kerrigan is an author who has had a top spot on my Amazon wishlist for a while, and had even made it onto my bookshelf, but for one reason or another was overlooked every time I chose my next book. Eventually curiosity got the better of me and I decided that I wanted to step outside my comfort zone and read a brand new author. so Ellis Island was chosen as my next book to devour, and I am so glad that it was.

Ellis Island follows the story of Ellie and her childhood sweetheart John. When John is injured in the War of Independence, Ellie travels to America to earn the funds required to pay for an operation to allow John to walk again. When she arrives Ellie discovers that Jazz Age New York is not only a million miles away physically, the lifestyles are far removed as well.

When Ellie emigrates to America the story follows her journey and her experiences, but we continue to learn of John’s plight through his letters to Ellie.

Ellis Island is an evocative and powerful love story. In parts it actually physically warmed my heart, and at times it made it ache. I was utterly captivated by the story, I warmed to Ellie’s character instantly and hoped for her to triumph, in whatever way that might be.

Ellis Island is a story about finding your place in the world and who you are destined to share it with. I adored it, and I think you might too…

Emma – Aphrodites World

Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walters – A nostalgic story of a young Italian man falling in love with a wannabe Hollywood actress who appears at his small family hotel on the Cinque Terre coast, sent there by some reckless Hollywood actor/director. The books travels between 50′s Italy and today’s America as the Italian man tries to find his long lost American beauty. The book is funny, well written, bittersweet, a great read.

Push: A Novel by Sapphire – The book inspired the movie Precious. This is the story of teenager Precious Jones as she attends “special needs” English lessons to learn to read and write. Her story is nothing but abuse, neglect, violence and negativity. It is told in her own words in broken, mis-spelt English and reading the book is like having Precious sitting in front of you telling you her story. Very real, never patronizing, a real, inspiring book to which I think the film didn’t do justice at all.

A Night Without Armor: Poems by Jewel – poetry collection by the famous singer songwriter. This is not your high school poetry book by any means! contemporary, heartfelt, Jewel’s poems are a reflection on love, society, and growing up in Alaska.

Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found by Cheryl Strayed – real story of a young American woman goes on a trail on the Pacific Coast Trail as she grieves for the loss of her mom and tries to recover from a series of failed, broken relationships.

- Celine.

Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock – Matthew Quick
Those of you who know me or who’ve read Florence’s Book Club before will know that I am a bit obsessive when it comes to books, and also that I read a lot and often, so when a novel stands out for me, it REALLY stands out.  Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock is the latest offering from Matthew Quick, who also wrote the critically acclaimed novel-turned-awesome-film-starring-Bradley-Cooper, Silver Linings Playbook.
Leonard Peacock made me cry as well as laugh out loud, which is a tall order.  And Mr C-S read it as well and enjoyed it, which is even more of a tall order (he tends to just re-read the books he likes, which is basically everything George Orwell ever wrote and the odd crime novel if it’s by a Scottish author.)
So, in a nutshell, Leonard Peacock is technically a YA novel and it’s about a teenager who, it’s safe to say, has a lot going on in his life and who is in desperate need of, well, something.  I could go on, but I won’t, I’m simply going to add in the blurb from the jacket which is what said to me ‘Gemma seriously read this book.’

Today is Leonard Peacock’s birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather’s P-38 pistol.

But first, there are four people he wants to say goodbye to. Most of the time, Leonard believes he’s weird and sad but these friends have made him think that maybe he’s not. He wants to thank them, and say goodbye.

So readers, we hope you’ll find at least one title in here you’re keen to curl up with on a rainy afternoon.  We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments and hear more suggestions!

Love,

Gemma

ps.  I am going to buy A Night Without Armor: Poems for my husband.  When we were first going out he’d never even heard of Jewel.  ;)

 

Florence’s Book Club: September

Before Rachel went off on maternity leave from her book club contributions to Florence Finds, she sent me in a book club post for June. Somehow I completely over looked it and recently rediscovered it, so thought it was about time I got around to posting! (In case you didn’t know, Rachel has a beautiful baby girl called Alice Emmeline.)

The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield
In my memory I’d studied these short stories at school, however reading/rereading them I’m not so sure. I like short stories, a perfect accompaniment for holidays. This time however they weren’t read on holiday but on my newly acquired Kindle in preparation for the baby. They were perfect for middle of the night insomnia – some are very very short, each is gentle with thoughtful and sometimes quietly unsettling emotions lying under the surface. They are also free to download on Kindle.

Cocktail Hour Under the Tree of Forgetfulness by Alexandra Fuller
I must admit it was the title that drew me to this book. Set in Kenya (or Keen-ya as her mother pronounces it), Rhodesia, as was and ending up in Zambia with the odd short journey to Britain sandwiched in between. It is an autobiographical/biographical memoir of her mother, AKA Nicola Fuller of Central Africa, as she refers to herself. I learnt a lot about Rhodesia and although her parents are no way in poverty they have to work hard to earn a living from the land, and sometimes it is a precarious living. There are touching mother daughter conversations, mad mother daughter conversations and sad mother daughter conversations.

…with my first best friend, Stephen Foster.”
Mum smiles at the memory. “Stephen and I used to take turns pushing each other on his tricycle. We wore matching romper suits. We had tea parties. We went everywhere together, hand in hand.”
“Stephen was one of Zoe’s sons?” I guess.
Mum frowns. “No, no, no,” she says. “Stephen wasn’t her son. Stephen was her chimpanzee.”

It’s an entertaining, informative and enjoyable easy read. One to add to FF African Book club post and thought provoking for new mums or mothers-to-be.

Restoration by Rose Tremain
Rose Tremain is one of my favourite female authors, I always think one gets a good quality female read from her. This book is different, it felt quite masculine and in some places it was a slow read. Set in England after the Civil War with Charles II now on the throne it follows surgeon Robert Merival on his journey of being King’s favourite, and relishing all the pomp, glory and debauchery that gave, to being married off to the King’s favourite mistress of the time and being sent out of London. He becomes Lord of a manor, again relishing in the pomp, glory and debauchery until he is no longer in the king’s favour. He joins a Quaker friend at a mental hospital where he helps care for the patients, reuses his medical knowledge and falls in lust with one of the patients. He then returns to London just after the plague, survives the Great Fire of London, returns to practising medicine and is restored to the King’s favour. If this intrigues you but you’re not sure about reading it then there is always the 1995 film with a young Robert Downey Jr as Merival.

Have you read any wonderful books recently readers? I’d love to hear your recommendations as I could do with something to help me turn my brain off before sleep these days!

Love,
Rebecca
xo

Summer Reading: Florence’s readers recommend…

In the absence of Rachel (whilst she is on maternity leave getting acquainted with her beautiful baby daughter Alice,) I thought it would be fun and fascinating to get some reading recommendations from you, the Florence Finds readership, for summer holiday reads. I asked followers on Twitter and Facebook to send in a short paragraph reviewing their favourite recent reads and I know I have made a subsequent purchase or two as a result – I hope you all find something you fancy too.

The Night Circus – Erin Morgenstern

“The circus arrives without warning…..” This is how The Night Circus starts and within a couple of pages it reels you in and doesn’t let you go until the end. It’s actually quite difficult to write about without giving the story too much, but suffice to say I loved it. The entire book is woven around the circus, the amazing magical circus that’s quite unlike any other circus. But this is not where the story begins and there’s a parallel narrative about a challenge that underpins the circus it’s self and this is what drives the story forward, until it all collides together. It’s so beautifully written, so descriptive and evocative you feel like you live in that world and know the characters, as if you might bump into them on the street. Or wake up one morning to see the circus in your local park. One of aspects of the story I most enjoyed is that it’s not light and fanciful. It’s imaginative, full of magic and vivid descriptions but there’s a tangible darkness to the story and it’s not afraid to be quite bittersweet at times, which makes the story feel far more real than it might have otherwise done. I was lucky enough to be given this book by someone and I’m so grateful that she did, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone.

- Reviewed by Zan @foxysynt

The Shining Girls – Lauren Beukes

I heard about this book on Twitter – it was recommended with the caveat that it is quite difficult to read in parts. It’s a thriller set in Chicago where a serial killer – a misfit called Harper Curtis – somehow gets access to a house that allows him to travel around in time, from the 1920s to the early 1990s. He hunts out his ‘Shining Girls’ – women who have a spark – at different points in their lives and eventually kills them. Except for one victim, who escapes him and becomes determined to track Harper down. The book’s chronology (necessarily) jumps around quite a lot – apart from the subject matter it actually reminded me of The Time Traveller’s Wife in that respect – so particularly in the beginning you need to concentrate. The story is really well written and tense, despite the different timelines. As soon as I finished it I wanted to go back and read it again as I’m sure there were clues and details I missed the first time round. Some of the violent scenes are hard to read (the author has said that she wanted them to be so because murder shouldn’t be something that is easy to read about) but even with that in mind I would really recommend this as a well written thriller – the time travel doesn’t detract from the story and actually gives it an extra layer of tension.

- Reviewed by Katy W @KatyWells1

The White Princess – Phillipa Gregory

For those that haven’t been watching Phillipa Gregory’s Sunday night drama, The White Queen, what have you been doing? The books, although you can read them independently, form part of a mini series covering different periods of history. The most recent series, the Cousin’s Wars, covers the period during the War of the Roses. The author tends to view the period through another, lesser known, female character, adding a twist to contradict popular opinion. The first book, The Lady of the Rivers, is followed by a three way version of events covering the Red Queen, Margaret Beaufort, the White Queen, Elizabeth Woodville and the Kingmakers daughter, Anne Neville.

The latest book (although you should read the whole series because they are awesome) is The White Princess, which follows Princess Elizabeth of York (it seems that there are a lot of Elizabeths), daughter of Elizabeth Woodville, the White Queen. The end of the White Queen sees Elizabeth’s lover, Richard III die by the hand of Henry Tudor, whom she then marries, thereby uniting the houses of York and Lancaster in a union brought about by the respective mothers’ Margaret Beaufort and Elizabeth Woodville. Elizabeth’s brothers’ Princes Edward and Richard were supposedly taken to the tower and killed on the order of either Richard III, her former lover, or the Red Queen – also our Princess’ mother in law, Margaret Beaufort (my money is on the pushy mother in law). The story focuses on the idea that the White Queen (who I like less and less on the BBC One drama as we go on – also pushy,) smuggled out the younger son, Richard, to be raised in Flanders, keeping him waiting for the day he will come back and reclaim his throne from the pretender, Henry VII and his wife who is, you’ll remember, our White Princess. Will Elizabeth choose to protect her Tudor childrens’ inheritance, or remain true to the House of York and the true claimant to the throne?

This is perfect for holidays because its not intellectual in the slightest (once you get your head around all of the Elizabeths,) but is more substantive than the usual genre of chick lit. Go Forth and Buy it Now.

- Reviewed by Becca @BeccanotTBTMMO

Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
I think Kate Atkinson is my favourite author of all time and her latest release, Life After Life, is my new favourite book, replacing her earlier book Behind the Scenes at the Museum. It’s hard to review Kate Atkinson’s work as she’s such an amazing writer and her books are often so peculiar, but amazing, that it’s hard to do it justice, but I’ll try:

If you’ve read her stuff before you’ll be familiar with the idea of a quirky story that requires you to leave, let’s call it “reality” behind. Ursula lives her liver over and over again, from 1910 until the late sixties, meeting various untimely ends along the way. In each updated version of her life, minor adjustments are made here and there until we end up face to face with a key figure in modern history. With the opportunity to change the world and its future, not to mention her own fate, I was sucked in to Ursula’s home, her family and her journey over and over again and hungry to know more. From the first page you know exactly where we were headed but what’s exciting is to see how we get there and more importantly how, and if, we can move on from there.

I loved this book not just because it displays Atkinson’s sparkling, witty and unique writing style, or because of the delicious oddity of her stories, but also because it’s set against a period of history that we know well and it so really made me think. It spurred me to speak at length with my brother (a passionate amateur historian) my father (an avid reader of New Scientist) and spend hours reading about modern history and scientific theorems. It’s not often I find books funny, touching, gripping, philosophical and perhaps even a little scientific all in one.

- Reviewed by Victoria – Sugar Plum Slipper

Thank you so much to Zan, Katy, Becca and Victoria for sending in their reviews. Now it’s over to you guys, do you agree with them or do you have another book you can recommend?

Don’t forget, if you would like to contribute to a future round up of fab reads, just send in a short paragraph or two to hello@florencefinds.com.

Happy reading folks!

Love,
Rebecca
xo