The Wish Child by Catherine Chidgey | Book Review

I'm a big fan of historical fiction and one of my favourite eras to read about is World War II. I’ve always been fascinated by my family’s own stories and equally love hearing other people’s. The Wish Child is set in Germany and spans the rise and fall of the Nazi party. We follow two children, whose lives come to intertwine forever.

The Wish Child by Catherine Chidgey | Book Review

Erich lives on a rural farm near Leipzig and his experience of the war is very different to middle class Berliner Sieglinde’s. Each child’s life gradually becomes harder. The prosperity and dedication we see at the beginning of the novel becomes desperation and pain. Food is scarce, opinions about the government change and family members are missing.

Catherine Chidgey lived for two years in Berlin in the early 90s. Her personal experience enriches the novel. The writing and descriptions are immersive so you really get a feel for what living in Germany during the war was really like. The novel is well researched and beautifully written. The lives of ordinary families are peppered with quotes from songs and speeches of the time. This blurs the reader’s reality with that of the characters.

The novel is relayed to us via an anonymous narrator who seems to watch over Erich and Sieglinde. It is only during the last section of the novel when the narrator’s identity is revealed and everything instantly makes sense. I found this last section to be the most enjoyable and appreciated the faster pace. After reading the ending I immediately wanted to re-read. To experience the rest of the novel with the knowledge I had gleaned from the end.

I have to admit that whilst reading, I felt frustrated at the pace and was a little lost at points. The dramatic change of pace and unravelling of mysteries that make up the book’s conclusion was unsettling. It was for this reason that I immediately gave it a three-star rating. However, upon reflection, I really appreciate the quality of the writing and this is an important story that needs to be shared. I’ve recently amended my rating to four stars.

I learnt so much about the everyday German’s experience of the war, alongside horrific facts detailing the grim reality of the Nazi party’s ambition. I would definitely recommend The Wish Child if you have an interest in the second world war, or if you enjoy well written family sagas.

The Wish Child by Catherine Chidgey
Published by Vintage / Chatto & Windus
E-book copy provided by Vintage via NetGalley

The Power by Naomi Alderman | Book Review

Naomi Alderman’s fourth novel, The Power, has been selected as this year’s winner for the Baileys Women’s Prize for fiction. I decided to pick up a copy the morning after the winner’s announcement, curious to discover what this novel had to make it stand out for the judges.

The Power Book Review

In The Power, Alderman imagines that women suddenly find that they can conduct electricity through their hands. This changes everything. Women are now physically stronger than men. The global consequences that follow are life changing and catastrophic. The speculative premise of the book is what intrigued me. It sounds like a Margaret Atwood wrote a Marvel comic.

The book explores different aspects of power and how different women react to each one. The characters contend with political power, physical strength and religious influence. There are deaths, riots and rapes. Some scenes are particularly detailed and difficult to read. Immediately after reading these, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to the real world. Why is more shocking when we are presented with a world in which women are the perpetrators of these atrocities?

I’m a fan of dystopian fiction. Novels are often set in the reader’s present and The Power is no different. There are constant references to our world and popular culture. It’s the first novel I’ve read which mentions Primark! This allows Alderman’s imagined events to be all the more shocking.

I did enjoy the book and found it to be a real page turner. However, I do have some issues with the structure. The tale is told from various viewpoints, mainly four characters. It is also set up as a fictitious novel and is sandwiched between email correspondence at the beginning and end. These elements did take away some of my enjoyment. I think a more detailed single person narrative would have drawn me in more.

Overall, I’m glad I read it. The story is engaging and being able to dip into Alderman’s imagination was a treat!

The Botanist, Reading | Restaurant Review

Hooray! The Botanist has arrived in Reading! The much-coveted bar and restaurant chain opened its thirteenth location on King’s Street. It brings with it a playful menu, full of pub classics often with a modern and fresh twist. The whimsical botanical inspired cocktails are what excites me most. Who wouldn’t enjoy a sharing cocktail served in a watering can? I was invited to test out both the food and drinks menus with my boyfriend. Spoiler - we enjoyed it, a lot!

The Botanist, Reading

The Botanist, Reading

Upon arriving at The Botanist, we were welcomed by smiley, friendly staff and shown to our table. I couldn’t help but marvel at the d├ęcor. The listed building, which had been a bank since 1814, has received an extensive makeover. Everything is botanically themed; vintage gardening ephemera mixes with a light and earthy colour palette. It’s quaint and quirky in the cutest possible way.

Our server presented us with both food and drink menus. She was so enthusiastic about the available choices and was only too happy to answer any questions and recommend a few of her favourite cocktails. I settled for the Peach and Lavender Cosmo to begin with. It was shortly followed by All the Greens and finally a Rhubarb and Gin Old Fashioned.

It’s only fair when testing a new menu to go all out with starters, mains and puddings! Our meal began with Chicken in a Basket with BBQ sauce and Creamy Truffle Mushrooms. When this course arrived, I was quite disappointed that my food hadn’t also arrived in an adorable mini wicker picnic basket! However, my mushrooms were delicious and I’d definitely have them again!

The Botanist, Reading

For mains, we chose the BBQ Pulled Pork Burger and the Jerk Salmon hanging kebab. I’ve been assured that the pulled pork was top notch. My salmon kebab was teamed with pineapple, carrot and a ginger and sweet chili glaze. Oh my! The most succulent salmon I’ve ever eaten!

The Mr was apparently too full for desert. So, I had to go it alone with a Caramelised Banana Split. Toasted marshmallows sit alongside brownie pieces, peanuts and biscuit cream. All accompanied with the traditional banana, ice cream and chocolate sauce. Sounds nuts - tastes like heaven.

The Botanist, Reading

The Botanist, Reading

We left feeling full, contented… and slightly tipsy! I can see The Botanist becoming a regular date night destination for us. The relaxed atmosphere is totally our thing. I love that there’s live music each night too. The Botanist is the perfect addition to Reading’s existing dining options.

I’m already looking for excuses to visit again - Lemon and Jasmin Collins, I’m coming for you!

The Botanist
1 - 5 King's Street, Reading

Our meal and drinks were kindly provided by The Botanist for review.

How I'm Dealing with Grief and Depression

How to Deal With Grief

I’ve experienced grief before, but mainly as a child. I’ve also experienced depression before. It lingers constantly above me like a rain cloud. Some days will be fine, I’ll laugh and see things clearly. On other days, my thoughts will be persistent, my mood will darken and that rain cloud will have grown into an inky, swirling storm.

In January, I received the most unexpected news. My father was in hospital, unconscious in the intensive care unit. It was thought best that I make my way there as soon as I could. After the worst 48 hours, he passed away.

It still doesn’t feel real. How could something so unexpected, so totally out of the blue happen to someone so laid-back and dependable? It seemed incomprehensible. I couldn’t get my head around it.

While I was asking myself how the universe thought it was OK for this happen, I carried on. I was moving on. It took a few days to realise this was happening and when I realised I couldn’t work out why. Grief was something that broke you down completely, wasn’t it? Why hadn’t I fallen apart by now?

I still felt that unearthly emptiness. I wasn’t sleeping properly. I burst into tears at the drop of a hat. I was irritable and it was as if someone had taken the colour out my life. But I was used to all of this. These are the hallmarks of depression. Had I slipped back into a depressive episode? Or was this normal, just grief doing its thing?

I became preoccupied with working out exactly why I was experiencing each and every emotion. But it turns out that trying to do this, whilst experiencing a tirade of intense feelings will eventually come to a head. I just needed to accept these feelings.

I’ve learnt to deal with grief in the same way I do with depression. I’m working my way through ALL the self-care lists on Pinterest. I’ve reached out for professional help, I’m exercising more and I’m totally OK with spending an afternoon in my pyjamas watching Frozen if I need to!

5 Things to do in Boracay | Mini Travel Guide

Boracay is a tiny island in the Philippines famed for its beautiful white beaches. I travelled there in January for a wedding and thought it was about time I shared my favourite things to do whilst I was there. This was my first time travelling to South East Asia and it totally blew my mind. If you’re visiting the Philippines, I’d certainly recommend adding Boracay to your itinerary. Here's my top 5 things to do on the island.


White Beach is Boracay’s busiest destination. With its 4km of beautiful white sand and crystal clear water, it’s no wonder that it’s frequently listed as one of the best beaches in the world. If that wasn’t enough, it’s also a brilliant spot on the island to watch the sun set. Make your way to either Station 1 or Station 3, where it won’t be so crowded if you want to take photos.


From Mount Luho you get a 360 view of the whole island. We caught a tricycle from our hotel at Station 1. Then it was just a climb to the top. Definitely take your camera and selfie stick! There are great viewpoints and other visitors are generally more than happy to take a snap for you.


Paraw sailboats are traditional Philippino boats. We rented one for island hopping on the penultimate day on the island and it was the highlight of our whole trip. Paraw sailing is completely different from anything I’ve experienced before. You sit on netting rather than in the boat. You feel like you’re riding a magic carpet just above the surface of the water.

We chose to visit Crystal Cove Island and had about half an hour to wander round. There is a walk way around the whole of the island and two coves to explore. There’s also a mini museum and a restaurant.

Our final stop was Puka Beach, which has a totally different vibe to White Beach. The sand is a lot coarser owing the crushed Puka shells and everything is a lot more relaxed. I really enjoyed the secluded paradise atmosphere. One thing to note is that food and drink is quite a bit more expensive here.


Although you can partake in various water activities along White Beach, the wind is stronger on the other side of the island. This makes it perfect for windsurfing! We didn’t give it a go, but walked over to that side of the island and sat for a while watching everyone from complete beginners to more seasoned surfers.


White Beach transforms itself into the ultimate party destination after dark. Head to Station 2 and you’ll soon find yourself ordering drinks from a Happy Hour menu! On a couple of nights, we started with a meal on the beach at Epic (try the tuna steak) and waited until it transformed itself into a club! Our paraw sailing guides also recommended Red Pirates pub at Station 3. There’s truly something for everyone; whether you want a few quiet drinks and live music or are up for dancing ‘till sunrise!

I loved my first time in the Philippines. I’m usually a package holiday girl but this trip has opened my eyes to the joys of independent travelling. My wanderlust list is growing everyday – Palawan, Bali, Thailand… Have you visited Boracay? I’d love to hear your favourite SE Asia location!

2017 Resolutions | #BeInspired

Every year, I intend to be more creative. I imagine myself painting everyday, watching brushstrokes become birds, leaves and landscapes on the paper before me. And every year I paint maybe once or twice.

But this is something I want to do. I’ve always wanted to create. Cass Art challenged me to create a piece of art about what inspires me. And I’m challenging myself to create an illustration every week for the whole of 2017.

Cass Art Be InspiredCass Art Be Inspired Watercolour Challenge

The lovely people at Cass Art sent me some art supplies to complete their challenge. I received a Windsor and Newton Watercolour Set, a fantastic lightweight sketchers box with 24 brilliant shades.

My bag of goodies also included a set of 5 Cass Art Sable Brushes and a pad of Cass Art Jumbo Smooth Hot Press Paper. There was also a pot of Ecoline Liquid Watercolour in the shade 545 Red Violet. Although I've used watercolour paper before, I've always used the heavily textured variety. Painting on smooth hot press paper is a dream! I'm certainly a convert.

Cass Art Watercolour Challenge

I always look to nature for my inspiration. There's somthing special about capturing the movement of animals with a medium that is as fluid and etheral as watercolours. I especially love creating the texture of feathers and that's why I chose a cockerel and a hummingbird for these two pieces.

I laid down washes of colour, each layer becoming brighter and more vibrant. This allowed me to pick up a smaller brush and use simple mark-making techniques to create the texture and pattern of the feathers.

Watercolour Painting Hummingbird Catherine Braithwaite Blog Watercolour Painting Catherine Braithwaite Blog

I'm looking forward to the next 52 weeks of personal challenges. It's going to be amazing to have a collection of art to look back on - and hopefully track some progress! Be sure to see how I'm doing on Instagram.

There'll be more challenges from Cass Art throughout the year. Keep up to date with the #BeInspired hashtag! I'm excited to see what a creative 2017 will bring!