5 Things, Lifestyle

5 Reasons to Love Autumn

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When I stepped out of the door this morning, it was clear that Autumn had arrived. The air was crisp, paths were scattered with yellow leaves and rain hammered on car rooftops.

Despite that everybody is complaining about the weather turning, I couldn’t be happier. There’s something about the Autumn months that energise and inspire me, even when it rains. And as someone who is partial to a plaid shirt and a chunky knit jumper, it’s a much more wardrobe-friendly time of year.

This is the first season change that Luca has been old enough to appreciate, so watching him try to peel damp leaves from the pavement with exclaims of ‘Red leaf! Brown leaf! Yellow leaf!’ is kind of magical. He’s also amazed by the Sycamores spiraling from the trees in our leafy village, something I remember admiring myself as a child.

Unlike my two-and-a-half-year-old son, I’m not very good at ‘living in the moment’. But there is something to be said for paying attention to the seasons and the impact they have on our wellbeing. Wordsworth and Shelley seemed to think so, hence why so much of their poetry is inspired by nature.

So, in spectacularly unpoetic fashion, here are the five things I love most about Autumn:

It’s Colourful

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I don’t know why, but I find the rich reds, browns and orange tones draw my eye more than the cool blues and greens of Summer. I feel so much more inspired at this time of year and tend to be more creative. There’s just something about a bare tree and a carpet of leaves on the ground that makes me feel renewed — as if there is an opportunity to start over.

The Fashion Is Spot On

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I’m aware of how whimsical this sounds, but I spend so much time writing about serious topics (like mental health and relationship abuse) that sometimes I just need to cheer myself up. So, what can I say? I love flanneled shirts, boots and a good cardi. I definitely feel more comfortable wearing layers and cosying up under blankets than I do wearing Summer dresses, and I’ll take any excuse to wear black.

Pumpkins

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Again, it’s a cliche, but I love pumpkins. Whole pumpkins in shop windows. Pumpkin-spiced lattes. Pumpkin pie. Pumpkin curry. Pumpkin candles. Seriously, give me a pumpkin and I will find a use for it. I’ll cover it in spices and roast it. I’ll make it into a sweet bowl for Halloween. I’ll display it in the window with some autumn leaves and a candle. It’s fair to say I’m pumpkin crazy at this time of year.

Cinnamon Everything

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Image: Pexels

Ah, cinnamon. I adore this spice in porridge and cakes all year round, and it always goes in my curries — it’s just so comforting. It is also an antioxidant, has anti-inflammatory properties and is even thought to lower the risk of heart disease. Plus, if you’ve never had a cup of cinnamon tea, I urge you to try some this Autumn — this one from Pukka is like a hug in a mug.

Halloween

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When I was growing up, my family didn’t celebrate Halloween for various reasons. Instead, we held Sparkle Parties which involved setting off a load of amateur fireworks in the field behind our house while wearing costumes that didn’t resemble anything dead (I think I was a cat or something equally inoffensive). We decorated the house and mum made lanterns out of jam jars for late-night walks through the woods. My friends came to the house afterwards and we ate KitKat Chunkies and drank hot chocolate, so it basically was Halloween, just labeled differently. Now I’m older, I love to celebrate this time of year by rewatching The Nightmare Before Christmas, lighting a bunch of candles and sitting down with a big old bowl of sweets.

So, that’s it. The five things I love most about Autumn. I’d love to hear from any fellow fall-lovers. What is your thing about this season?

book reviews, Psychological Thrillers

Review: The Sisters by Claire Douglas

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“I see Lucy everywhere, but never more than when I look in the mirror.”

My rating: 5/5 stars.

In short: I am giving this book five stars, not because it was perfectly written, but because it was pure entertainment. It was everything I wanted it to be: addictive, claustrophobic, and absorbing. The characters leaped off the page, and there were minutes — hours even — where I forgot I was reading at all. Instead, I was in the house with them, hearing the rain lash against the windows and watching the strange plot unfold. And strange it was, more so than I could have anticipated.

Synopsis: Haunted by her twin sister’s death, Abi makes a fresh start in Bath. But when she meets twins Bea and Ben, she is quickly drawn into their privileged and unsettling circle. As Abi tries to keep up with the demands of her fickle friends, strange things start to happen — precious letters go missing, and threatening messages get left in her room. Is this the work of the beautiful and capricious Bea? Or is Abi willing to go to any lengths to get attention?

My review: Due to the demands of a busy life and toddler, I don’t usually get the chance to read 400 pages in one sitting. And I don’t always manage to — even the most bookish among us need a break once in a while. However, The Sisters is one of those books you just inhale, turning page after page to see what happens next. Yes, I had the stomach flu. And yes, I was in bed for 24 hours needing a distraction from the yuckiness (quite frankly I would have read just about anything to take my mind off it). But there is still something about this novel that had me hooked from the first, telling line – “I see her everywhere.” — to the last.

At this point, I feel obliged to say that my enjoyment of this book may be slightly biased. When I picked it up, I didn’t read the blurb. I would always rather read the first page to get a feel for the writer’s style, which in this case was a good thing as the cover and blurb were misleading (please stop likening everything to The Girl on the Train, publishers, this was nothing like that). Anyway, I didn’t know at first that the story takes place in Bath, where I live. Because of the novel’s setting, I could envision everything clearly, as if it were happening to me. It reminded me of my uni days, meeting flamboyant arty types and feeling totally out of my depth at parties where everyone seemed to know one another. I felt the author captured the true essence of the city throughout the novel.

As much as I love Bath, I must admit that it does feel claustrophobic at times. Think of it as a giant goldfish bowl, with beautiful hills and steep, rural roads on the outskirts. The town centre can be particularly stifling in the summer, when you can barely move for crowds of tourists, buskers in the street, and restaurants spilling out onto the pavements.

“I turn down Northumberland Passage, grateful for the break in relentless sunshine due to the shade from the narrowness of the buildings that rear up on either side of me. The street is rammed with people; swarming outside the stall that sells oilcloth bags; peering through the shop windows at trinkets, or ornaments, or children’s clothes; perched at bistro tables, nursing a latte or cappuccino. The smell of cheese pastries permeates the air.”

The architecture is spectacular here too — think vast Georgian houses with bay windows and stripped wooden floors, like Bea’s house in The Sisters. The house creates the perfect setting for this novel as it presents a sort of a prison within a prison within a prison for the main character. She becomes trapped in her memories; trapped in this strange house with Bea watching her every move; trapped in a small city.

I felt like I could relate to Abi in that regard. I’ve often felt that Bath is somewhere I can’t escape, beautiful though it is. For me, there are memories down every cobbled street, and somebody I know, or once knew, around every corner. You get that sense of the place here which has a kind of dramatic irony to it — Abi first moves to Bath to escape her past but ends up confronting it head on.

Abi has been consumed by the guilt of her twin sister’s death, so when she meets Beatrice — who reminds her of Lucy and by association, herself — she sees it as a sign. She wants to get close to Beatrice, which rapidly becomes an obsession. She finds out Beatrice (Bea) has a twin herself — the tall and handsome Ben — and things start to get complicated.

SPOILER ALERT – STOP READING NOW IF YOU HAVEN’T READ THE SISTERS

Bea, impulsive and alluring, insists that Abi moves into the house she shares with Ben and a few other art students. This was the point at which I thought it was about to get really interesting. And it did — to a point, but the tension started to fizzle out in the second half of the novel, possibly because the threat to Abi just seemed to dissipate. Personally, the photo with the scratched-out face would have been enough to make me want to run for the hills, but Abi seems to move on from it pretty quickly without giving it too much thought.

I may have just seen too many Game of Thrones episode, but I definitely saw the incestuous relationship twist coming. As soon as we met Ben’s adoptive mother, it clicked. It was evident from the beginning of the novel that the twins’ relationship was more complicated than it looked, and I suppose it was quite blatant to the other characters too, though I feel like Abi could have predicted it sooner.

The ending disappointed me, but only because I wanted more for Ben and Abi. I wanted Bea to be the twisted sister. I wanted her to be the one sending the threatening notes and leaving dead birds on Abi’s bed. It didn’t make sense to me that Ben would want to scare Abi like that just to create friction between her and his sister. Call me naive but I genuinely believed that he loved Abi, and I just didn’t have him pegged as a violent, meddling psycho — although I suppose there were signs (being freakishly tidy, getting mad at Abi for touching his things, flying off the handle when she initiated sex). By the end, I was disappointed in Ben.

This feeling of being let down by a character extended to Bea and Abi too. By the end of the book, there wasn’t a single character I liked or sympathised with, even though all the way through I’d been firmly rooting for Abi and Ben. For Bea to end up a victim, enabling Ben’s psychotic behaviour, wasn’t the ending I had in mind. I mean, the guy tried to kill her, and she decides to elope with him despite that they are related? Not something I can get behind. The last paragraph was shocking too — Abi apparently hasn’t learned from her experience, and clearly has some psychological issues of her own.

Nevertheless, it was a bloody good read. And we don’t always have to agree with the author’s choices to enjoy a book. In fact, this one was so enjoyable that I went out today and bought one of her others books, Last Seen Alive, just in case my darling son brings home another set of germs from the nursery.

Question: We never did find out if Bea and Cass engaged in a relationship. What were your thoughts on this? Could it just have been Jodi meddling, or do you think this actually happened? The character of Cass became kind of redundant after we ruled her out as a suspect (pretty quickly — it was too obvious) but I’m choosing to ignore that as I thought, on the whole, it was a great read.

You can buy The Sisters on Amazon, or from your local bookshop.

book reviews, Psychological Thrillers

Book Review: The Bones of You by Debbie Howells

IMG_2626“I have a gardener’s inherent belief in the natural order of things. Soft-petalled flowers that go to seed. The resolute passage of the seasons. Swallows that fly thousands of miles to follow the eternal summer.

Children who don’t die before their parents.”

Continue reading “Book Review: The Bones of You by Debbie Howells”

Uncategorized

Bookaholics Anonymous.

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Hello, my name is Emma-Marie and I’m a bookaholic.

I have loved reading since I was a little girl, when I felt the same way about story time as other kids felt about computer games and penny sweets (I loved those too, just not as much). I looked forward to school library afternoons all week and cherished above all rainy break times when I could stay indoors, find a comfy cushion, and get lost in the pages of my latest paperback.

Continue reading “Bookaholics Anonymous.”