Six years

542946_10151122214286994_366647349_nDear N,

Well, we’ve made it another year. I have no doubt we’ll be saying the same thing in another 10, 15 and 20 years.  It’s funny how you get to be certain about things like that.

Full disclosure, as it’s our anniversary: you drive me nuts. There, I said it. No one knows how to irritate, annoy or anger me as easily and as much as you do. On the flip side, no one knows how to turn that all around as quickly as you do either. So I suppose I should admit you’re talented. Or something. But I swear to god, if you leave one more used glass in with the clean dishes I’m going to scream. You’re probably doing it right now.

Outside of driving each other to the brink of insanity, there are so many things we’ve done in the past six years.  We’ve traveled (a lot), bought our first real couch/table/chairs/shelves etc, started going to bed at reasonable times, had stints as vegetarians, eaten our respective weights in chocolates, watched loads of movies, had more belly laughs than I can count, had some cracking fights, spent many weekends on the couch/in bed, taken care of each other when sick (many, many times) and I know that I’ve loved each other every single second of it.

We’ve still so much left to do.

I feel like we should make a bucket list or something.

One thing I know we’ve both never done? Had expensive champagne.  Not the £10 a bottle swill, I’m talking the good stuff–your Moet or Bollinger or Krug.  Tonight, I’m fixing that.  When you get home there will be a nice bottle of Taittinger chilling in the fridge to celebrate our anniversary.  It’s no Krug, but payday is still three days away–you’ll have to settle.

That’s one to mark off the list.

Love always,

Steph

New Feature – The Weekly Watson

Starting next week I’ll be doing a new feature called ‘The Weekly Watson.’

Who’s Watson? What the hell is this?

Let me start by saying you have Dan Pashman’s food podcast The Sporkful to blame/applaud for this (let’s be honest, it’s all about whether I die from food poisoning or not).  This week’s episode is all about using data in the kitchen and whether or not IBM’s super-computer (Watson) can be relied upon for recipe suggestions based on food pairings ‘fed’ to it from website Bon Appétit.

It was an interesting concept that I, as a tech geek, food lover and blogger felt I had to try out and document.  That’s ‘The Weekly Watson,’ kids… me trying out dishes that will maybe work, but more than likely won’t.  I’ll tell you what ingredients I gave Watson and what the options on offer were (yes, you get options).

So let me know your thoughts on ‘The Weekly Watson’ and by all means send in your ingredient suggestions.  The weirder the better!  *Sigh* I’ll probably regret saying that… the first recipe next week involves me boiling an avocado, after all.

Want to know more about Watson, and his other functions?  He’s not just a chef, you know. 

If you love to eat or love thinking/talking/daydreaming about food like I do, I can’t recommend The Sporkful podcast enough.  It’s hilarious, interesting and some of the stuff Dan Pashman comes up with is brilliant.  They’ve only recently done a riff on Serial and investigated food theft from an office fridge.  Great stuff.

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!

Ten Inspiring Book Quotes…

Sorry–skipped last week’s Top Ten Tuesday… the week totally got away with me!  Anyhow this week’s Top Ten Tuesday is a list of my ‘top ten inspiring quotes from books I’ve read.’  I love this one, though I did alter it slightly.  I went with quotes that spoke to me, resonated with me.  Some you could interpret as inspiring, others funny and some just emotional.  Enjoy!

(For more info on Top Ten Tuesday, check out The Broke and The Bookish who started the whole dang thing or, if you want more top ten goodness, click here)

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“A single day spent doing things which fail to nourish the soul is a day stolen, mutilated, and discarded in the gutter of destiny.”The Crimson Petal and the White – Michel Faber

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“My soul has learned what it came to learn, and all the other things are just things. We can’t have everything we want. Sometimes, we simply have to believe.” – The Art of Racing in the Rain – Garth Stein

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“The beginning of the end can feel a lot like the middle when you are living in it.”Swampland! – Karen Russell

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“There aren’t even metrics for the shit I do.”Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir – Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess)

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“It is a truth universally acknowledged that when one part of your life starts going okay, another falls spectacularly to pieces.”Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding

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“There are some people with whom your body works.With whom you fall into stride without trying; with whom you’re warm when it’s cold; with whom you always feel the right size even if you feel the wrong size everywhere else.”The Unfinished Symphony of You and Me – Lucy Robinson

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“A fact about the world Millie knows for sure: Everyone knows everything about being born, and no one knows anything about being dead.”Lost and Found – Brooke Davis

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We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as a microscopic electrical swarm. The lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks later, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother’s birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us.”All The Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr

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“Home is where they want you to stay longer.”Revival – Stephen King

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“Do I love you? My God, if your love were a grain of sand, mine would be a universe of beaches.”  – The Princess Bride – William Goldman

 

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!

March 2015 Book Wrap Up

Another slowish month for reading but wow–what a great crop of books.  Seriously.. all of these books were 4/5 stars and were amazing.  I’d recommend them all.

March books

Books Read: 4

Currently Reading: We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Karen Joy Fowler

And yet more categories ticked off of the 2015 Reading Challenge!

January Challengesteph2If you’re interested in getting in touch, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!

 

Ten Books Recently Added To My TBR List

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about what I’m looking forward to reading next… (For more info on Top Ten Tuesday, check out The Broke and The Bookish who started the whole dang thing.)

My list is pretty eclectic and is a mix of new books, books everyone seems to be reading, fiction and non-fiction.  Here’s what I’m hoping to read in the very near future.

TBR List

Fourth of July Creek – Smith Henderson

In this shattering and iconic American novel, PEN prize-winning writer, Smith Henderson explores the complexities of freedom, community, grace, suspicion and anarchy, brilliantly depicting our nation’s disquieting and violent contradictions.

After trying to help Benjamin Pearl, an undernourished, nearly feral eleven-year-old boy living in the Montana wilderness, social worker Pete Snow comes face to face with the boy’s profoundly disturbed father, Jeremiah. With courage and caution, Pete slowly earns a measure of trust from this paranoid survivalist itching for a final conflict that will signal the coming End Times.

But as Pete’s own family spins out of control, Pearl’s activities spark the full-blown interest of the F.B.I., putting Pete at the center of a massive manhunt from which no one will emerge unscathed.

The Enchanted – Rene Denfeld

A wondrous and redemptive debut novel, set in a stark world where evil and magic coincide, The Enchanted combines the empathy and lyricism of Alice Sebold with the dark, imaginative power of Stephen King.

“This is an enchanted place. Others don’t see it, but I do.”

The enchanted place is an ancient stone prison, viewed through the eyes of a death row inmate who finds escape in his books and in re-imagining life around him, weaving a fantastical story of the people he observes and the world he inhabits. Fearful and reclusive, he senses what others cannot. Though bars confine him every minute of every day, he marries magical visions of golden horses running beneath the prison, heat flowing like molten metal from their backs, with the devastating violence of prison life.

Two outsiders venture here: a fallen priest, and the Lady, an investigator who searches for buried information from prisoners’ pasts that can save those soon-to-be-executed. Digging into the background of a killer named York, she uncovers wrenching truths that challenge familiar notions of victim and criminal, innocence and guilt, honor and corruption-ultimately revealing shocking secrets of her own.

An Untamed State – Roxanne Gay 

Mireille Duval Jameson is living a fairy tale. The strong-willed youngest daughter of one of Haiti’s richest sons, she has an adoring husband, a precocious infant son, by all appearances a perfect life. The fairy tale ends one day when Mireille is kidnapped in broad daylight by a gang of heavily armed men, in front of her father’s Port au Prince estate. Held captive by a man who calls himself The Commander, Mireille waits for her father to pay her ransom. As it becomes clear her father intends to resist the kidnappers, Mireille must endure the torments of a man who resents everything she represents.

An Untamed State is a novel of privilege in the face of crushing poverty, and of the lawless anger that corrupt governments produce. It is the story of a willful woman attempting to find her way back to the person she once was, and of how redemption is found in the most unexpected of places. An Untamed State establishes Roxane Gay as a writer of prodigious, arresting talent.

Running Like a Girl – Alexandra Heminsley

Alexandra Heminsley had high hopes: the arse of an athlete, the waist of a supermodel, the speed of a gazelle. Defeated by gyms and bored of yoga, she decided to run.

Her first attempt did not end well.

Six years later, she has run five marathons in two continents.

But, as her dad says, you run with your head as much as with your legs. So, while this is a book about running, it’s not just about running.

You could say it’s about ambition (yes, getting out of bed on a rainy Sunday morning counts), relationships (including talking to the intimidating staff in the trainer shop), as well as your body (your boobs don’t have to wobble when you run). But it’s also about realising that you can do more than you ever thought possible.

Very funny, very honest and very emotional, whether you’re in serious training or thinking about running for the bus, this is a book for anyone who after wine and crisps for supper a few too many times thinks they might . . . just might . . . like to run like a girl.

One Million Lovely Letters – Jodi Ann Bickley

In the summer of 2011, aged only 22, Jodi Ann Bickley contracted a serious brain infection that would change her life forever. Jodi had been performing at Camp Bestival on the Isle of Wight. Returning with pockets full of glitter, and her favourite bands’ songs still playing in her head, She thought the happy memories would last forever. A week later, writhing in pain on the doctor’s surgery floor and unable to put the pain she was suffering into words, Jodi found out that she had been bitten by a tick and contracted a serious brain infection.

Learning to write and walk again was just the start of the battle. In the months that followed Jodi struggled with the ups and downs of her health and the impact it had on her loved ones. Some days the illness was too much for Jodi to bear and she found herself wondering whether she could go on. She had two choices: either to give up now or to do something meaningful with the time she had been given. Jodi chose the latter. This is the story how she turned her life around, and in doing so, touched the lives of millions.

ONE MILLION LOVELY LETTERS is one woman’s inspirational journey to recovery, and is a witty and uplifting testament to the power of words to heal heart and mind.

The Narrow Road to the Deep North – Richard Flanagan

A novel of the cruelty of war, and tenuousness of life and the impossibility of love.

Richard Flanagan’s story — of Dorrigo Evans, an Australian doctor haunted by a love affair with his uncle’s wife — journeys from the caves of Tasmanian trappers in the early twentieth century to a crumbling pre-war beachside hotel, from a Thai jungle prison to a Japanese snow festival, from the Changi gallows to a chance meeting of lovers on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Taking its title from 17th-century haiku poet Basho’s travel journal, The Narrow Road To The Deep North is about the impossibility of love. At its heart is one day in a Japanese slave labour camp in August 1943. As the day builds to its horrific climax, Dorrigo Evans battles and fails in his quest to save the lives of his fellow POWs, a man is killed for no reason, and a love story unfolds.

Wild:  A Journey from Lost to Found – Cheryl Strayed

At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State — and she would do it alone.
Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wildpowerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her.

An Apache Original:  The Life and Times of Solidod Woods – Solidod Woods 

An Apache Original: The Life And Times Of Solidod is the thrilling — sometimes comic, sometimes grim — autobiography of an Apache woman making her way alone in a hostile world. Her parents murdered, her reservation disbanded, she wanders from place to place, job to job: horse-trainer, bodyguard, trans-Atlantic sailor, carpenter, gardener, artist. A tale of survival and triumph.

You can listen to Solidod tell her story here… she’s a great storyteller and had me transfixed from the start.

Prayers for the Stolen – Jennifer Clement

Ladydi Garcia Martínez is fierce, funny and smart. She was born into a world where being a girl is a dangerous thing. In the mountains of Guerrero, Mexico, women must fend for themselves, as their men have left to seek opportunities elsewhere. Here in the shadow of the drug war, bodies turn up on the outskirts of the village to be taken back to the earth by scorpions and snakes. School is held sporadically, when a volunteer can be coerced away from the big city for a semester. In Guerrero the drug lords are kings, and mothers disguise their daughters as sons, or when that fails they “make them ugly” – cropping their hair, blackening their teeth- anything to protect them from the rapacious grasp of the cartels. And when the black SUVs roll through town, Ladydi and her friends burrow into holes in their backyards like animals, tucked safely out of sight.
 
While her mother waits in vain for her husband’s return, Ladydi and her friends dream of a future that holds more promise than mere survival, finding humor, solidarity and fun in the face of so much tragedy. When Ladydi is offered work as a nanny for a wealthy family in Acapulco, she seizes the chance, and finds her first taste of love with a young caretaker there. But when a local murder tied to the cartel implicates a friend, Ladydi’s future takes a dark turn. Despite the odds against her, this spirited heroine’s resilience and resolve bring hope to otherwise heartbreaking conditions.

All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.
 
Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.
 
When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the “natural wonders” of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself—a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

Is there anything you think I should add to this list?  I’m always down for suggestions!

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch or writing a guest post for The London Diaries, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!  I love getting emails and am always open to new ideas and post pitches.

Ten Books From My Childhood (Or teen years) That I Would Love To Revisit

This week (for possibly the first time ever) I’m joining in on The Broke and the Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday!  What’s Top Ten Tuesday, I hear you ask?

Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created here at The Broke and the Bookish. This feature was created because we are particularly fond of lists here at The Broke and the Bookish. We’d love to share our lists with other bookish folks and would LOVE to see your top ten lists!

 

Each week we will post a new Top Ten list  that one of our bloggers here at The Broke and the Bookish will answer. Everyone is welcome to join. All we ask is that you link back to The Broke and the Bookish on your own Top Ten Tuesday post AND add your name to the Linky widget so that everyone can check out other bloggers lists! If you don’t have a blog, just post your answers as a comment. Have fun with it! It’s a fun way to get to know your fellow bloggers.

 

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic is all about books from your adolescence that you’d like to go back to and reread.  Boy, do I have a lot–this exercise really threw up some surprising books for me!  Choosing just ten was slightly difficult but mine are:
Top Ten Compiled
A Dog Called Kitty – Bill Wallace – I’ll be honest, I don’t remember a whole lot about this one other than the fact I bought it at a Scholastic Book Fair (remember those?) and it’s about a dog and it made me cry.  That’s it.  Probably worth going back to reread.

 

The Diary of a Young Girl – Anne Frank – I loved this book and I read it quite frequently growing up.  I haven’t read it in a few years but it’s one of those I know I’ll eventually get around to reading again for the hundredth time.

 

Bridge to Terabithia – Katherine Paterson – Another one that made me cry as a kid (we read it in class).  So tragic!  Never have seen the movie, and I’m ok with that.

 

Flight #116 is Down – Caroline B Cooney – I totally attribute this book as being one of the main reasons I’m scared of flying.  A teenage girl takes charge when a passenger plane crashes on her family’s property.  I remember it being fairly grisly and graphic.

 

Flowers for Algernon – Daniel Keyes – I was actually talking to N about this one not too long ago.  The first time I came across this book was in a sampler that we read (I think) in 7th grade.  It wasn’t the full book, just selected bits from the beginning, middle and end.  I only read the full book for the first time a few years ago.  Absolutely haunting.

 

Harriet the Spy – Louise Fitzhugh – This is one of those rare instances where I loved the movie just as much as the book.  Harriet made me want to be a journalist (and a spy!).  I still have my old paperback copy of this one.

 

Hitty: Her First Hundred Years – Rachel Field – Ok, I’ll be honest.  I’m not 100% sure that this is the book I’m thinking of.  I remember a book about a doll who could think (and talk when people weren’t around) and who got into various situations–the only one of which I remember being left in the backseat of a taxi.  I thought the cover was yellow, but maybe not.  I read it back when I was in 2nd grade.  If anyone has any alternative ideas as to what this book could be, let me know.  I’m going to try and score a copy of Hitty to see if it’s what I’m thinking of.

 

Matilda – Roald Dahl – Quite possibly my favorite book of all time.  Matilda never gets old and she’s totally my role model.

 

Ramona Quimby, Age 8 – Beverly Cleary – I loved the Ramona books as a kid and still do.  They’re clever, lovable and just all around a joy to read.

 

Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt – God, this book was so mysterious to me!  I remember having to read it for school (weirdly, I was in Catholic school) and absolutely tearing through it.  Another movie I haven’t seen and don’t care to.

 

What books do you remember most as a kid?  Which ones would you want to reread??
steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch or writing a guest post for The London Diaries, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!  I love getting emails and am always open to new ideas and post pitches.

Book Review: The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson

23864903The Day We Disappeared by Lucy Robinson
Publisher:  Penguin
Release Date:  
4 March 2015 for ebook and 9 April 2015 for paperback
Rating:  
5/5
Synopsis: 
Annie has a secret. But if she’s not going to tell, we won’t either. It’s a heart-breaking secret she wishes she didn’t have – yet Annie isn’t broken, not quite yet. Especially now there’s someone out there who seems determined to fix her.

Kate has run away. But she’s not going to tell us why – that would defeat the point of running, wouldn’t it? It’s proving difficult to reinvent herself, however, with one person always on her mind.

Scratch beneath the surface and nobody is really who they seem. Even Annie and Kate, two old friends, aren’t entirely sure who they are any more. Perhaps you can work it out, before their pasts catch up with them for good…

A gripping and unpredictable story of two young women running from their pasts. We defy you to guess the twist…

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of Lucy Robinson‘s books.  Personally, one novel a year just isn’t enough, but I can appreciate all of the effort and hard work she puts into writing her books.  Trust me, it definitely shows in her newest offering The Day We Disappeared which is, by far, her most mature, complicated and heartfelt work to date.

The Day We Disappeared centres around two young women, Annie and Kate.  Both women are very different from one another but are in the same boat–they’re both running away from something and they’ve both got mega secrets.  The book is told in chapters alternating in narration with a bit of flashback thrown in for good measure.  It’s intense and fast paced and kept me turning pages despite wanting to enjoy this one slowly.

As ever, Robinson’s come up with a very well written, exciting book. For me, one of the things I think Robinson does the best are her side-characters, always a group of supportive and quirky friends.  Each of her books has a crew of well-meaning, crazy and amazingly awesome friends who crack me up.  I sincerely hope that she’s drawing from real life when she writes these guys.  We should all be so lucky to have friends like Annie and Kate’s!

I do have to be honest–this book did trigger some baggage for me.  I found myself tensed, grinding my teeth and wincing at various parts because they were all too familiar though not as extreme.  I can’t say more than that for fear of giving anything away, suffice to say the second half of the book strongly affected me.

It’s hard to talk about this book without being vague–but oh lordy I don’t want to ruin that twist which, unlike me, I totally didn’t see coming.   Read this slowly, folks… you’ll want it to last.  I can’t wait to see what Robinson has in store next–her writing continues to grow and impress me.  Now to wait another year for the next book….

A massive thanks to Penguin and NetGalley for providing a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

steph2If you’re interested in getting in touch or writing a guest post for The London Diaries, tweet me at @stephanie_khani or email me at emailthelondondiaries [at] gmail.com!  I love getting emails and am always open to new ideas and post pitches.