Tag Archives: reading

Desert Island Books

Desert island books

Let’s play a game. Desert Island Books is sort of the same as Desert Island Discs, just with literature instead of music.

The rules are slightly different though, as instead of choosing eight pieces of music, a book and a luxury item we will just be choosing three books.

London is for Living Desert Island Books

The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Summer Sisters – Judy Blume
The Secret History – Donna Tartt

I’ve chosen these books because I could read each of them a hundred times over without getting bored. The Bell Jar is my life companion, Summer Sisters brings the nostalgia and The Secret History is a mystery that’s enjoyable even after it’s solved.

If you fancy, join in on your blog and send me a link (or comment below) so I can selfishly create a list of random new books to read this year.

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Reading short stories online

bookshop rye

I’ve found it hard to read books recently. They’re too challenging. With so much time to sit and think every word carries more weight than usual. It’s too much to comprehend without over thinking everything.

Instead I’m reading short stories online, which is unusual for me as I never read fiction online and shun the Kindle. Maybe it’s the literature degree, my hoarder mentality, or the fact I want to make sure one aspect of my daily life has nothing to do with digital. Whatever, nothing beats a physical book in my hands.

Despite my reluctance I’ve been coping well reading short stories online. Especially when they are super short. I think I’ve found one form that I can comfortably enjoy digitalised.

Short stories. A central theme articulated to perfection. It’s cheesy as hell but inevitably I end each one with a smile, a tear or a nod of conviction.

Free return
Alexander McCall Smith

She was lonely. Exactly six years earlier, her husband, the owner of a company that planted trees across Scottish hillsides, informed her that he had been conducting an affair with his secretary, a woman named Bernie. Bernie was twenty-eight and was keen to meet a man of substance so that she would no longer have to work. Martin, the husband, fitted that description: he had shares in a race-horse called Highland Dancer, and he drove a car that only a wealthy man could own – an old Hispano-Souza. Bernie seduced him by standing very close to his chair when she passed him documents, and making sure that she inadvertently touched his shoulder or forearm at every opportunity.

After the affair was revealed, Clara, his wife, was filled with self-pity that lasted for some years. “I did nothing wrong,” she told herself – and her friends. “I was a good wife to him – and now this is how he behaves. Now there’s nothing for me. Nothing.”

Gradually she grew out of her self-pity and took to going to the theatre. She hoped to meet somebody there, but she found it difficult: people did not talk to one another in the theatre bar at intervals, nor did they linger after the show. But then she had an idea. She decided that she would purchase two tickets for each play, but would leave one at the box office, as a free return for anybody who wanted it. She knew the woman behind the counter and said to her: “Give it only to a man. “ The woman understood exactly what was going on, and complied with the instruction.

On the very first occasion on which she tried this, the ticket was given to an orthopaedic surgeon whose wife had just left him to live in the Scilly Isles with her lover, a tax accountant. He thanked her for the ticket and shyly invited her to join him for dinner after the show. She agreed, and they married four months later. They did the newspaper crosswords together, although she was rather better than he was at this. She said: “It doesn’t matter – it really doesn’t. It’s not a question of being clever – it’s more a question of tactics.”

via Alexander McCall Smith on Facebook

Sunday Selection

My first Sunday Selection of 2014… I wonder what I’ll be reading on the Internet this year.

On the topic of a new year, a resolution of mine is too take more photos. Here are a few snapshots I’ve shared on Instagram in the last few weeks:


Clockwise, L-R: Freud Museum, Pret-a-Portea, British Museum, Grain Store

A number of London fire stations closed this week. That’s a lot of Londoners without a local fire station now. Spitalfields Life paid a visit to Clerkenwell fire station and I found the subsequent blog quite emotional http://spitalfieldslife.com/2014/01/09/so-long-clerkenwell-fire-station/

Loving this Romeo and Julienned board http://www.theliterarygiftcompany.com/romeo–julienne-chopping-board-14737-p.asp

I will be making these peanut chicken quinoa bowls for my lunch this week http://iowagirleats.com/2014/01/06/thai-peanut-chicken-quinoa-bowls/

I too am tired of no reservation restaurants, but I think I’ll make an exception for Flat Iron http://www.theaccidentallondoner.com/2014/01/accidental-eats-flat-iron.html

Have a great week!

A London Year: Daily Life in the Capital in Diaries, Journals and Letters

A London Year Book

London, meet New York

A couple of months ago I received* a beautiful book, A London Year: Daily Life in the Capital in Diaries, Journals and Letters, in the post. It’s the type of mail you dream of – a heavy book desperate to be opened and read with a cup of tea. A London Year is an anthology featuring entries from Tudor times to the twenty-first century, covering 365 days of city life.

I never sat down that evening with the book and a cup of tea. Instead I decided to save it for the next day, and read one entry a day in keeping with the theme of the book. Obviously, this never happened.

Today, on Remembrance Day, I finally decided to pick it up and read what was said about 11 November. As we remember those who gave their lives so we could live our own, Siegfried Sassoon highlights what life in London was like in 1918.

I got to London about 6:30 and found masses of people in streets and congested Tubes, all waving flags and making fools of themselves – an outburst of mob patriotism. It was a wretched wet night, and very mild. It is a loathsome ending to the loathsome tragedy of the last four years.

 *PR copy sent to me by the publishers 

Holland Park London

Sunday Selection

Holland Park London

Happy Sunday everyone! This weekend has been wonderful, mostly because the sun has been shining the whole weekend in London and I can’t remember the last time that happened.

Today I finally got my wish – an afternoon in one of London’s finest parks with an impromptu picnic and the Sunday papers. I also treated myself to a new bag and it went on its first outing today. I finally spent some money I got at xmas!

Pretty stuff aside, here are a few things I’ve seen this week:

Still have stacks of cassettes you can’t bear to part with? Put them to good use.

Like horror? Try this new book (by an author I went to University with – well done Tom!)

This definitely has the potential for everyday wear.

A simple recipe for espresso granita.

And a round-up of the London is for Living blogs this week:

VOC, Kings Cross

Short Imagined Monologues – I’m Comic Sans

Have a great week! Carla x

London Cheesecake Recipe

Have you ever eaten a London cheesecake?

Now don’t go getting confused with the traditional cheesecake, as this London version has no cheese in it and doesn’t resemble traditional cheesecake at all! A traditional London cheesecake recipe has coconut as a main ingredient – pastry, icing sugar and a bit of jam finish it off nicely.

When I was younger my parents would buy me one of these as a treat. They’d walk into town and if I was around they’d bring me back a London cheesecake from Greggs. I remember spending many weekend afternoons curled up reading a great book and tucking into one of these treats.

A few weeks ago I went into a traditional bakery in Crouch End and saw these for sale, which is quite rare. Outside of Greggs I hadn’t seen any for sale for years. I didn’t buy one at the time, convinced I could now make my own. And make my own I did – in under 15 minutes too!

london cheesecake recipe

London cheesecake

London cheesecake recipe


  • Ready to roll puff pastry
  • Raspberry jam
  • Icing sugar
  • Dessicated coconut


  • Cut your ready to roll puff pastry into 12 equal squares
  • Spread a thin layer of jam across the middle of 6 of them, being careful not to go too close to the edge
  • Sandwich a jam half and a plain half together, pushing or crimping the edges together so there is no way the jam can get out
  • Place in a 180c oven for 15-20 mins, and make sure they don’t burn
  • Remove from oven and place on cooling rack until they are cool (or as long as you can manage)
  • Mix up a batch of icing sugar, making it rather thick
  • When cool, dollop icing on the top of each pastry sandwich so it covers the top and sprinkle with dessicated coconut
  • Make yourself a cup of tea, grab a good book and enjoy

Apologies for the poor image, I need to learn how to take a good photo! It might not look like much, but I promise you this London cheesecake recipe will turn out much better :)

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Murder in the Library: An A-Z of Crime Fiction at the British Library

I’m very excited to learn of a new crime fiction exhibition that will be held at the British Library between 18 January – 12 May 2013.

Classic locked-room mysteries, tales of murder and mayhem in quaint villages or gritty adventures on mean city streets.

Crime fiction, which currently accounts for over a third of all fiction published in English, holds millions of people enthralled. Murder in the Library will take you on a fascinating journey through the development of crime and detective fiction, from its origins in the early 19th century through to contemporary Nordic Noir, taking in the adventures of Sherlock Holmes, the first appearance of Miss Marple and the fiendish plots of Dr Fu Manchu along the way.

I’ve loved crime fiction since I was seven years old. There was a book in my small school library that I took out all the time –  I can’t remember what it was called, who wrote it or what it was about, but it had a dark cover with a street light on it. If that rings any bells please let me know…

I think the reason I’m drawn to crime fiction is because of the plot. I find it incredibly easy to absorb myself into a story and despite reading thousands of crime novels over my lifetime I very rarely guess who committed the crime.

Despite my love of this genre I had never read an Agatha Christie novel until October. I now visit my local library and charity shops at least once a week to stock up on the mysteries – they are becoming quite the addictive habit!

I’m always happy to hear of any great crime series, so please let me know if you have any to recommend.


Mapping London’s Independent Bookshops

One of my favourite London blogs is from Diamond Geezer, and he recently attempted to map London’s independent bookshops.

Mapping is a great way to understand a city, and I think this map provides an interesting take on London. I’ve visited several of the stores on the list and they very much ‘fit’ their area of London.

You can find the map here and the list of my 5 favourite London bookshops here.

Zadie Smith – NW

Zadie Smith is the poster girl for North West London. She might spend half her year teaching Creative Writing in New York, but really she’s just a girl from Kilburn. If you work hard, you can succeed… or so the cliché goes.

‘Kilburn?’ I hear you say, your voice infected with a questioning tone. Yeah, Kilburn. A North West London area between Cricklewood, Willesden and… Maida Vale. Yup, London is a place of thin borders between rich and poor. In fact, Kilburn has reached dizzying levels of fame of late, as Tour de France and Olympic cycling champ Bradley Wiggins spent his childhood in NW6 too. Continue reading