What I Read in July

July Wrap Up

H IS FOR HAWK by Helen Macdonald ****
I started off the month with Helen Macdonald's much hyped autobiography. The book tells of how she deals with the loss of her father by training a goshawk. This is written so beautifully and I found myself getting lost in Macdonald's prose. There is an other-worldliness surrounding Mabel the goshawk that is truly enchanting. The structure is somewhat unconventional and is a mix of biography, autobiography and academic writing. There are a lot of references to various falconry books and in particular to The Once and Future King by T H White. I found the links between Macdonald herself and T H White extremely interesting. However, I can imagine that this book isn't for everyone. It's almost as if the only way Macdonald can try and understand her grief is to write this book.

ELEANOR AND PARK by Rainbow Rowell **
I've not read much YA fiction before and my teenage years are filled with LOTS of cringe worthy memories. I kind of had an inkling that I wouldn't like Eleanor and Park, but I really wanted to. I did like the first half of the novel and really enjoyed the scenes where the couple get to know each other. The second half seemed to completely spiral out of control. I found the ending was rushed and utterly unbelievable. Another thing that stood out was the constant references to Eleanor's weight. I hate that the negative remarks reinforced the idea that teenage girls are supposed to despise their own bodies. I felt this was unnecessary and it just added to my negative feeling towards the book.

What I Read in July

TELL IT TO A STRANGER by Elizabeth Berridge ****
This was my first charity shop find of the month. To be quite honest, I only picked this up because it was the first book published by Persephone that I had the chance to own. The end papers have a really lovely geometric pattern and I knew it had to come home with me. The book itself is a collection of short stories. They are all set during the Second World War and focus on people's experience of the war at home. Berridge focuses on class and gender and the shift in roles that occurred during this time. Each story is beautifully written and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this.

THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS by John Wyndham ***
I decided to read this after hearing how much Jean from Jean's Bookish Thoughts liked this. I do really like early 20th century dystopian and apocalyptic literature and I had high hopes for this short novel. However, after every page I found myself hoping for something gripping or disastrous to happen. There's an element of sexism that I really didn't like and overall I just felt disappointed.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North Richard Flanagan

MISS BRILL by Katherine Mansfield****
I've wanted to read some of Katherine Mansfield's work for a while now. I thought this Penguin Little Black Classic would be the perfect introduction and it really was. Miss Brill includes three short stories that are impeccably written. As a reader you get to know the characters so well in such a short space of time. This was such a delight to read and I'll definitely be reading more Mansfield in the future.

This novel follows Australian doctor Dorrigo Evans from childhood, to the building of the Burma death railway and into old age. The treatment of the POWs building the railway by the Japanese officials is not a nice thing to read about. However, I found these sections the most interesting to the point where I resented having to read the other sections of the novel. I thought the chapters were fragmented and jumped around a lot, making my overall reading experience not an enjoyable one. Despite this, I've given it four stars. It's a book that will stay in my memory for a while and the story of the POW camps is one that needs telling.

London Day Out

A change of scenery is always a good thing. Last weekend, I hopped on a train with my boyfriend ready for a day of adventure and exploring. It was really nice not having a plan and just going where our fancy took us.

Camden London Camden London | Brighton Girl Blog

Our first destination was Camden. We wandered throught the market and had a good old browse of the independent boutiques. I even managed to get my hand on a few of the Penguin Little Black Classics. If anyone else is struggling to find them in person, check out Books Iconica in Camden Lock Market. They also have a fab range of beautiful Penguin editions and bookish gifts for such a small space. It's definitely worth a look!

Camden Lock | Brighton Girl Blog

By then it was time for churros and Pimms by the canal. After popping back on the tube and walking for a while we found ourselves at London Bridge and decided to jump aboard HMS Belfast. We both like a bit of WW2 history and I got to swoon over the 1950s typography which adorned multiple signs on the ship!

HMS Belfast | Brighton Girl Blog Ice Cream in front of Tower Bridge | Brighton Girl Blog

I have an ever growing list of places to visit. The Sky Garden and the Audrey Hepburn exhibition at the NPG are ones that I'm keen to see soon. I'd love to hear of more recommendations and hidden gems you know about. See you again soon, London!

5 Simple Ways to Save Money

5 Ways to Save Money

I pop all my small change into my cute little piggy. He then looks after it for me until he's so heavy I can hardly lift him. My bank has a paying in machine which accepts coins, so I use this. I like that this is free and the money goes straight into my account. There are similar machines in most supermarkets however these charge a small percentage for using them.

After hearing about how much a friend had saved in a year using TopCashback, I was signing up straight away. By following the links via the site and shopping online as normal you can collect cashback from most well-known retailers such as ASOS, Next and Space NK. It's completely free to join and I see it as earning money for something you already do.

My purse is overwhelmed with loyalty cards. The high street ones I use the most are for Boots, The Works and Holland and Barrett. I also use my Tesco Clubcard and Nectar card a lot. I tend to save my reward vouchers and points for Christmas shopping. I also save up my Costa reward points for this time of year when hot chocolate breaks are a must! It's nice to essentially have free cash to spend during the festive period and my bank account likes it too!

Clear out your make-up stash and your wardrobe and sell the items you no longer get any use from to a new home. Car boots are a fantastic way to sell your unwanted clutter although they do take a lot of effort. Not everyone is a fan of a 5am alarm! If car boots aren't your thing then head online. Clothes and makeup sell well on Ebay and Depop. I've had success selling furniture on Gumtree and local Facebook selling sites.

By being sensible with my food shop I find that I can save quite a bit. I like to write down the meals that I'll be cooking over the next few days and make a shopping list of the ingredients. I find that with a list in my hand I'm a lot more focused in the supermarket and less prone to picking up a bag of cookies or two. I definitely see an improvement in how much food is wasted when I plan my meals and I've been using the freezer a lot more too. From par-boiling broccoli that won't get used in time before freezing or slicing up brown skinned bananas for delicious milkshakes, I'm more conscious of what gets thrown away.

Deliciously Ella Banana Milkshake

Deliciously Ella Banana Milkshake A banana milkshake from McDonald's was my favourite sweet treat when I was little. I didn't have them very often, so when I was handed my paper cup and individually wrapped straw I savoured every second. The suspense of seeing the thick liquid slowly travelling up the straw made the first sip taste even better. I get equally as excited about making Deliciously Ella's banana milkshakes. I've tweaked the recipe a little to suit my taste buds. The result is both really yummy and really healthy. I make sure I have my freezer stocked with sliced ripe bananas. This means I can pull out a bag of frozen banana coins and pop them into my blending jug at any time. I then add in 1 Medjool date, 300ml of almond milk and a tablespoon of almond butter and whiz it all up using my hand bender. Recently, I've been enjoying these at breakfast time as they're so quick and simple to make. I feel like I'm indulging but the ingredients are all so good for you! Of course they taste even better enjoyed in the garden and accessorised with a stripy straw!