THE BEST INDEPENDENT BOOK SHOPS IN LONDON

Because rainy summer days are best spent indoors with a blanket and a good read

There’s nothing quite so romantic as a rainy afternoon spent cosied up on a reading chair, fresh coffee in hand, about to tuck into a good book. But what if you’ve just finished a whopper, keen to dive into the next, and don’t have a new one to hand? Or what if you’re a tourist in the big city and have underestimated how many pages you’d get through of the ones you’d packed?

Instead of solving the problem by opening up that oh so convenient Amazon app, pop down to your local independent bookstore (the city is full of them) and purchase from them instead. The best part about independents is that they tend to have quaint little coffee shops you can hang out in, great events where you don’t have to fight for tickets and they almost always sell semi-pretentious tote bags you can wear as a handy little nod in support of small businesses.

If you’re on the lookout for some cool and quirky little bookshops in London, but don’t know where to start, here are some of my favourites for you to enjoy the next time you’re in need.

Word on the Water

Nestled in the newly renovated King’s Cross, you’ll find Word on the Water, which is basically a big barge that sells second-hand books. Started by a guy called Paddy Screech, who worked with homeless people all his life, he decided to take his own advice and simply do what made him happy – which was clearly to sell literature on the water. Although there’s not much space to sit and enjoy whichever title takes your fancy, you can perch along the canal or take your title home and curl up with it there.

Pages of Hackney

Just along Lower Clapton road lies Pages of Hackney, an independent bookshop that will satisfy all your hipster needs. Its vibrant sky blue exterior is entirely “instagrammable” (if that’s your bag) and they sell a good combination of brand new contemporary and classic fiction and non-fiction, in addition to lots of second-hand numbers. Pages also host lots of really interesting events, so keep your eyes peeled and head down when these are on to meet your neighbours and buy some new books.

Persephone Books

Selling out of print titles by twentieth-century female authors, Persephone Books couldn’t be more up my street if it tried. If you’re keen to delve into the female voices of days gone by and tuck into something that might have long been forgotten, then this one is definitely for you. With shorts, diaries, memoirs and novels, each sold in a gorgeous grey jacket with a bookmark to keep, this is an extra special bookshop and a lesser-known haven for all you feminists out there.

Of course, there are plenty more independent bookshops scattered around the city, but these are just 3 of my favourites. If you have any recommendations, do send them over as I’m always on the lookout for a new favourite haunt. And if you are heading to London for an exciting city break, why not live like a local and make the most of this wonderful city? Rent an apartment or vacation rental from Home From Home and enjoy your book in the comfort of your… sort of… home.

*This is a sponsored post

THE BEST THING TO HAPPEN TO BRISTOL

The best thing to happen to Bristol (aside from me moving here and a Polpo opening up on Whiteladies Road, of course) has actually arrived in the form of the most affectionate app in the world.

Yep, you heard it right. As if the city wasn’t kind enough already, a man named Paul and a woman called Alice have just brought a whole heap of added goodness to the west country with the gifting app of the future.

It’s called Huggg.

Yes, with three gs. They’re gangster like that.

Huggg is an upgrade on a well written WhatsApp, a thought out iMessage or a line of meticulously thought out emojis. It’s better than the age old poke on Facebook and it’s certainly an improvement on those gift cards you find at the bottom of your bag, months after they’ve expired. It’s everything your long distance relationship has been waiting for. It’s what will save parents waving their children off to university in September from having a breakdown. And, truth be told, it’s the stuff every lazy girl’s dreams are made of.

But what is it and how does it work?

Huggg basically allows you to send coffee, cocktails, burgers or breakfasts to anyone you like. As long as you have a phone and their number, of course.

If you’re away on a work trip and not there to sleep next to that special someone, send them a soup to spoon instead. If your best friend graduates and you can’t be there to congratulate them, send them a bottle of Prosecco to celebrate. Or if your colleague is hanging at work, send them a caffeinated pick me up from across the office.

Although there is nothing better than a real life hug, huggg is a pretty great alternative if you are a little too far away to reach.

Currently, only available in Bristol and Bath, download the app and get started today.

P.S. I’d love an iced soya latte from Friska if anyone’s offering.

Happy huggging!

THE COWS – A REVIEW

dawn o'porter | the cows | book review

If you are a twenty-something, consider yourself very much a part of #girlgang, get offended when people insult millennial behaviour and follow the sort of people on social media one might expect you to, you have probably already heard of Dawn O’Porter’s, The Cows.

And if you haven’t, where have you been?

As soon as I caught wind of another one of Dawn’s books being published, I immediately pre-ordered it on Amazon (sorry independent book shops but one click is more accessible – and cheaper – than you at this point in time) and eagerly anticipated it’s arrival. After all, she is one of my all-time favourite authors, journalists and TV presenters.

The book itself is a very easy, very feminist, very current read. It’s one that you would kick off a female-only book club with – an accolade not to be taken lightly: us modern women are very difficult to please when it comes to our choice of reading material. We don’t want something too obvious or too presumptuous and, although we need something light and easy to pick up on our commute and between meetings, we certainly don’t want something so vacuous we lose interest.

Of course, O’Porter ensured that her book avoided this.

The plot line is strong, the characters are believable. A perfect, realistic combination of being both insufferable and endearing, she captures the essence of all of us, with Tara being my favourite. Actually, no. Maybe Cam.

Poor Stella.

These women are all women we know. Or perhaps, are. It sounds cliché but the book gets me, and will probably get you too.

I would recommend this book as holiday reading for all you women who enjoy reading my blog, or any other similar sites. I would recommend it to any woman who needs to turn a bad situation into a good one right now. To women who are thinking about motherhood – and not just those who are keen to grow a human, but those who aren’t, too. It’s a really interesting narrative, centred around blogging, social media, career, family and mental health. Relationships are, refreshingly, a side note. It’s everything you would expect from a book targeting you or I, in the best way possible. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s predictable though, because it’s really not.

I never like to give anything away in book reviews, but basically, I would recommend it to anyone who wants just a really good bit of a fiction about what it’s like to be a woman in 2017.

Truth be told, finishing it has really given me the lift I needed, and I’m keen to pass my copy onto someone who deserves a similar boost, so let me know if you’d like it (or nominate a friend) and I will happily pay it forward.

Thanks, Dawn, for another great read.

dawn o'porter | the cows | dawn porter

SUMMER READS 2016

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I like the kind of books that your grandma would probably hate. The sort of gritty, British ones that don’t blur the edges of real life but, instead, hone in on them to try and make me cry. If you also enjoy a slice of non-fiction from time to time, read on for a run-down of my most recent reads.

Ctrl Alt Del 

Emma Gannon. Probably a name you’re seeing online A LOT these days but many of you won’t be sure why. Well, she’s a sort of jack of all trades of the online world, regularly tweeting, blogging, podcasting (is that a thing?!) as well as being an amazing writer, social media mogul and general whizz-kid. This year, she published her first book and I couldn’t be more proud – bit weird considering I’ve never even met her but the Internet world is a bit like that, isn’t it? Perhaps it’s because it’s a major dream of mine, to write a book? Perhaps it’s because I interviewed her last year and feel like I know her. Anyway, this Millennial memoir of life growing up alongside the Internet is hilarious (to say the least). If you, like me, grew up with MySpace, MSN messenger and a Nokia 3310, then this is one for you. Gannon touches on pretty much all of my teenage trials and tribulations in a way that no one has before and I promise you that Ctrl Alt Del will fill you with nostalgia for the days of dial-up Internet and an urge to dig out old photographs and SIM cards before remembering that that might be the worst idea you have ever had. People think times are bad now? The early years of the Internet, for a teenager, were very dark days indeed and Emma tells us why. Hilarious, cringe-worthy and a completely necessary read for 27-year-old females across the UK.

Becoming: Sex, Second Chances and Figuring Out Who the Hell I Am 

As a fan of Laura’s blog, I am not sure why I was so surprised by the honesty of this one. All I kept saying as I flicked through the pages of this painfully open account of one woman’s becoming was how brave she was for putting herself out there because – aside from tales of one-night stands and summer flings – the crux of this story is that Laura has found good in the fact that her boyfriend left her and went on to marry her best friend. Like, what? How do you even get over that, let alone turn it into a positive? The fact is, Laura survived and lived to tell the tale, which is something that fills me with so much courage on this sometimes trying journey of life and love. Let’s be honest, we’ve all had our hearts smashed to smithereens by someone or another, so it’s nice to hear that you’re not alone in that every once in a while. What major event led to your becoming? I would love to know.

Mindset 

This book changed my life. You might think I am being dramatic. However, as someone with 3 As at A Level from a top Catholic school in London, a 2.1 from Exeter uni, a successful blog and the most supportive network on the planet? Man oh man, I know how much that means diddly squat when you don’t believe in your own greatness – but this book snapped me out of that. I used to spend each day telling myself that I couldn’t do something if I hadn’t done it before rather than just allowing myself the space to learn. I had sort of forgotten that I didn’t achieve those grades and grow this blog because I was born knowing what pathetic fallacy was or how to use WordPress. I have learnt everything I know and will continue to learn everything I will know because someone has taught me how or I have spent hours teaching myself. This will be the case until the day I die. This book taught me to realise that it’s fine if I don’t know how to do something. It reminded me that I can do pretty much anything as long as I am open to learning and if I ask questions. Post-childhood we put so much pressure on ourselves to “just know” things for fear of looking stupid in the workplace or amongst friends and this book banishes this mindset. I urge anyone who doubts themselves (even a little bit) to read it.

The Last Act of Love

I brought this book along with me on holiday to Spain and read about two chapters, writing it off as too depressing – even for me! – for a group holiday in the sun. A week later, sat on a sun lounger in Portugal a week later with only a bottle of beer for company and I flew through the pages. A really not-very-light-hearted but effing honest account of a freak accident that changed the lives of one boy and his family forever, this book reminded me that there will rarely be conclusions, round edges, closed chapters or clean cuts in life – and that’s okay. It also reminded me that family is everything and it’s important to let your loved ones know that.

Waiting on my bedside table to be read?

#MYWORKOUTFORSINGLELIFE

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No, I have not broken up with my boyfriend.

I did, however, break up with my legs, arms and bum cheeks for the three days following an intense workout, courtesy of Virgin Active.

After pulling on our t-shirts and enjoying an espresso or two in the lounge to get our hearts racing, we set to our circuit workout under the guidance and supervision of Tyrone, a personal trainer at the gym. He talked us through each exercise and we worked through each of them in groups. It was a challenging workout, which was expected, but I was a bit surprised to find that we didn’t warm up or cool down either side of it (something that I think might be to blame for my painful limbs in the days following…). Aside from that, however, it was a fun workout, good to try something new and a great chance to meet other bloggers.

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Although I forgot to bring swimwear so that I could enjoy the pool/spa, it was nice to have a post-session shower and hang out with everyone afterwards.

Circuit training in a beautiful location? Sort of made for the perfect Saturday, actually.

Fancy giving it a go? Be my guest.