Charity Shop Book Haul

What do you get when you combine a love of shopping, bargains and books? A rather large bag of books from several different charity shops along Lower Addiscombe Road, Croydon for a grand total of £7 (or £6.50 if you take out my partners Kafka that snuck into the stack.

Since getting back my reading mojo I have found myself happy to flit about different genres of books and authors with a variety of different styles but have noticed that, apart from the classics like the Sherlock Holmes series, a huge amount of the books I have read and want to read are done by women. That connection to a female author is very present in this haul with all of the books that I selected for myself being written by somebody that identifies as a woman.

Charity shop book haul

I purchased some of the books purely on a whim of the blurb and without having really heard much about them before but others such as The Handmaid’s Tale, Miss Perigrine’s Home For Peculiar Children and Me Before You have been talked about so widely over recent years as a result of adaptations that I wanted to pick the books up (I haven’t seen any of the adaptations so hopefully the books will impress me as much as the adaptations impressed those audiences).

As mentioned in my review of The Glass Castle I just had to pick up The Silver Star when I spotted it on the shelves as I really enjoyed the way Jeanette Walls put together her memoir and told the story. This is a different kind of book that sees her as a journalist moving away from telling her memoir and going into a truly fictional world but I am hoping that the writing style, language and thought-provoking style crosses over to this book.

At the minute I have a lot of time for reading especially where I am barely sleeping on an evening, am struggling to leave what I now refer to as my soft office but which is more commonly known as laptop in bed and with the surgery and recovery coming up I wanted to make sure that books that appealed to me were not in short supply.

It always feels like such as a risk to pick up books from a charity shop shelf but even if just one of them ends up being something that is enjoyable, memorable or feels worthwhile reading in some way then it is a success and no more money was spent for all of these books than if one had been picked up off a shelf brand new. Given the reputation of a lot of these books and/or authors I am feeling hopefully that at least half will prove to have been successful finds.

After finishing my current reads, which can be spotted on my Goodreads profile, I think that Sweet Little Lies by Caz Frear will be at the top of my To Be Read list and then from there we will see where the mood takes me to which one I pick up next.

If you have read any of these books and have any thoughts on them then please let me know in the comments below! It’s always great to find out what other people think of a book and what I should look out for when picking them up.

Forest & Shore Hair Oil*

My hair has a lot of length to it and no matter what shampoo and conditioner I use as soon as the weather starts to become a little warmer and more Spring/Summer like my ends dry up and start to feel a little bit like straw.

The straw feeling is really annoying because when the weather starts to get better it always seems to be the time of year when I want to let my hair down and to show off my natural waves. It doesn’t just feel like straw through it starts to look a little dry and messy as well so it becomes a constant battle to look like it’s natural with not too much effort waves without it looking like a hedge won a contest against me.

So when Forest & Shore approached me to see if I would be interested in giving their hair oil for dry and damaged hair a go it was perfect timing and had the potential to be an absolute god send for over the hotter months. The Hallelujah Hair Oil is loaded with a mixture of different oils including coconut, sesame and olive that help to provide a great blend of strengthening and softening qualities. Luckily it is scented with rosemary and lavender though so you will not smell like your hair has just had an epic day in a kitchen.

Hair oil for dry and damaged

The product is 100% organic as well which is fantastic. Putting natural and organic products on my hair is something that I am hugely passionate about and largely tend to be a lot more aware about organic and natural products for hair care than any other part of my beauty and skincare regime. It being so natural really comes through in the scent of the product and the rosemary and lavender oils really give it a pleasant punch to counteract the nutty and more deeply kitchen scents of some of the other oils.

The strong scent does mean though that this is the sort of product I want to put in my hair a few hours before I go to wash my hair or to pop on overnight after I have washed my hair (I am an evening hair washer kind of girl). There are some people that put hair oils onto their hair after washing it in a morning but with the scent I am aware that some people close to me could be put off by it but also with the weather getting warmer having exposed oil on the ends of my hair, in my mind at least, would make the risk of it being dry and damaged more obvious.

My first impressions seem really positive and hopefully my hair will continue to improve over the upcoming months of me using this. I will certainly report back after using it for a few months or when the product is complete to see what difference it has made to my hair and whether I would look at purchasing it again in the future. The scent is pleasant, it is really easy and gentle to put onto the hair and the dropper functions really well to help ensure you do not end up getting the product everywhere apart from your hands and hair.

Glass bottle with hair oil inside

Have you given this hair oil a try? Do you tend to use hair oils at all? If you have a favourite product for keeping ends soft and tamed I would love to find out about them in the comments below.

*This product was sent to me free of charge by Forest & Shore but all opinions are my own.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Last year The Glass Castle was turned into a film. Whilst I haven’t watched the film this is certainly the sort of memoir, and writing style, that greatly lends itself to being adapted. In many ways it seems surprising that it took from publication in 2006 to 2017 for a film adaptation to happen.

The book itself is a memoir of Jeanette Walls, a journalist in America, that shows how she went from constantly on the move with her family to settling into life in New York and progressing from school newspaper editor to big shot in social circles. As well as being a memoir and letting people into the life of somebody that gets to mix with the elite of New York it feels very much like an attempt to say to readers ‘I got through all this and managed to follow my dreams so maybe you can too’.

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

Copyright of book cover belongs to Virago

It also shows the realities of having a difficult relationship with somebody and how that alters how people deal with grief. It shows the family moving on and trying to make themselves the best they can be in a settled environment rather than trying to run away from the problem like they had all previously done in the past. Seeing cats unhappy to be travelling thrown out of vehicles and left behind probably had a pretty strong impact on the family in terms of mourning the loss of something or someone they love.

There are moments when this book does make you chuckle, the odd moment of happiness and carefree attitudes in the children are refreshing, but a lot of the time it feels heavy and heart-breaking. It has the potential to influence readers in a number of ways depending on their own upbringing and social status as to whether it shocks people that such events happen, that it brings back memories of poverty and neglect for others or whether it serves as a motivational pick-me-up for those that are struggling to ever imagine leaving some run down town to chase their dreams.

Whilst it very much feels that Walls has moved on in her life from the events of her youth it is clear that these memories feel as fresh as yesterday. The Glass Castle feels like a memoir that was as much for Walls to be able to get everything out of her head and onto paper as it was to highlight social injustice, poverty, neglect and to act as a self-help book for people that need that little something to get their dreams going or to change themselves and their lives somehow.

It also acts a reminder that some people just simply cannot be changed however much somebody tries and gets them to attempt to promise and that whilst loved ones can have the best intentions for somebody there is just nothing that can be done. It is certainly a painful reminder but an important one that at times the only way somebody can be helped is if they want to help themselves and accept the help of others. In the case of the Dad he did not seem to want help, or was perhaps too scared to accept help, with his alcohol problem and after trying a method of self-help techniques he and the family had just given up. We all hate to think of people as a lost cause but in this case it seemed hard, with them wanting to avoid any sort of authority which I imagine extended to those fancy medical professionals, to imagine him being any other way and the writing gave a sense that was the conclusion Walls had reached as well.

There were points in this book where I really wanted to shout at the parents and shake them around. One moment that stood out to me was when the kids were trying to save to get the oldest sister out of the house and to new York and then the money magically went missing. The parents insisted it wasn’t them but by this point in the book they are such absolute villains and people to growl at that it is hard for the reader to even contemplate anything else. Another moment was the way that the father put Jeanette at risk simply to get some extra money as the idea of any father not considering the risks of what he was doing and saying shocks me; just because he knew she could protect herself doesn’t mean he should have been so keen to shrug off any risk that might actually exist.

After reading this book I came across The Silver Star, another book by Walls, in a local charity shop and as I enjoyed the writing style and the way that everything was merged together in this book to tell a powerful and moving narrative I just had to pick it up. It will be interesting to see how the writing styles compare and if there are points that make me think in the same way as The Glass Castle.

I would certainly recommend giving this book a read. If you have given it a read, I would love to know your thoughts in the comments below. And remember you can always follow me on Goodreads for updates on what I am currently reading.

The Sign Of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

This Sherlock Holmes series has really sucked me in and I found myself returning promptly and ploughing through the second book. It was a great series to read when I attempted it a number of years ago and really wanted to get stuck into it again and stick with it.

The Sign Of Four is not an overly long book and the way that it is divided into chapters made it even easier to read at a fairly speedy pace. Whenever I think about how the Sherlock Holmes series was originally shared with readers I find the idea of having to wait for another chapter instalment to come along an interesting one as it makes me feel bad for reading through it so quickly but also honoured to be able to have the chance to read it all at once.

The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

Copyright of book cover belongs to Penguin

There is a great level of depth and complexity in The Sign Of Four as it creates multiple plots and sees people battling with various morals throughout that leaves the reader thinking about more than just the whodunnit element but also questioning the actions and people that lead to the crime(s).

Whilst there is a specific thing that brings the case to Sherlock Holmes attention there are multiple moral crimes that Holmes has to discover and figure out whilst working backwards from the present to the beginning of the story and with that added level of complexity it helps the reader to be brought along with the story and left with an additional fictional element rather than desperately trying to figure out why anybody would do what they have done.

It is clear that at this point in the series Conan Doyle is still trying to figure out how he wants the stories to progress and wants to add a little more interest to it than just having two bachelor men going around solving crimes. As a result there is a romantic story entwined through the book that allows Conan Doyle to add an additional level of complexity between the friends and a little bit of tension too as they have such contrasting opinions of romance and ‘settling down’.

For me I prefer this book to a Study In Scarlet as it did have that extra level of depths and just went from chapter to chapter instead of two distinct sections at different points in time. Whilst the books could in theory be read alone, as the investigation itself is a stand alone event, there are references to the previous book and parts of old investigations throughout; this referencing back is increased the further through the book series that you tend to go and it reminds the reader of previous events but this book could still be enjoyed without having read Study In Scarlet first.

If you have a favourite story from the Sherlock Holmes series, either a short story or a whole book, I would love to hear about it in the comments below. As always if you want to see what I’m reading right now then add me on Goodreads.

Organising My Books

We live in a flat where we simply have too much stuff and not enough space. I have discussed this in many ways before and it is one of the reasons I am trying to cut down my beauty stash so I just have one shampoo and one conditioner on the go instead of five on back up and go through things and acknowledge what is no longer used or needed.

Recently a couple of boxes of things, ranging from plates to clothes to bric-a-brac, went off in the direction of charity and it was acknowledged that we do not need two irons and that when our current one goes we probably wouldn’t want to use the other one anyway so there is no point in having it hanging around. But however much we seem to make all the sensible decisions everywhere we look there is just another pile of items looking a little ugly in the corner.

In the dream world we would move to a different property but moving costs a huge amount of money in terms of deposits, vans to move all our furniture and getting new things we had no purpose for in this flat. Combine money issues with the fact we would love to have somewhere with stairs, perhaps a whole house, when we move to another rented property and how stairs would not be useful for my recovery post-surgery we just need to stay here for the time being.

But there are certain things I am doing to take steps towards getting the flat to be a little more organised or ready for a day if we do decide to move; The idea mainly came to me when I was trying to figure out a way to re-purpose the Hello Fresh boxes instead of trying to find a way to squeeze them into our tiny recycling boxes (if you live in flats in a converted house then you probably understand my recycling area woes).

I am the kind of person that is very unlikely to re-read a book, at least whilst I have unread books hanging around, but also the sort of hoarder that means I do not want to get rid of a book once I have read it. This is something that I am trying to get better at and every six months or so I will be sitting down by the books that I have read and considering if there is any chance I would want to re-read it and if the answer is no then it can shuffle off to charity as well. We tend to get a fair amount of our books from second-hand stores and charity shops so it only seems right to pass them back on for somebody else to hopefully pick up and get something from the words within.

So the books that I have read are now going into a big cardboard box and to ensure that I know what is inside the box has been labelled and a spreadsheet has been created to include a pretty detailed description of each of the items hidden within. For me only books that I have read are going into my box whereas my partner has taken an approach of books he doesn’t want on display or ones he is unlikely to get around to reading anytime soon going into his. They are two different approaches but they work for both of us and help to stop there being quite so many loose stacks of books hanging around the lounge and instead just two cardboard boxes hanging out between the armchair and the bookcase (almost acting as a little side table).

Sure, it still is far from a gorgeous setup or one that makes me think “wow our lounge is so put together” but it makes everything feel a little more organised and with that the mind feels a little more organised and clutter-free as well. There are certainly a couple of books in my box that I know will probably be heading off to charity but I want to give it a couple of months until the box hopefully becomes a little more full and then a decent number of them can head off to a charity shop all at once.

If you have too many books to fit on your bookcase(s) I would love to know how you store them in a way that stops them from looking like clutter in the room but also keeps them in a good safe condition. Do leave a comment below if you have any tips on that sort of thing and don’t forget for my reading journey you can give me a follow on Goodreads too.

Getting A Nintendo Switch

I had been wanting to get a Nintendo Switch for a little while, after playing on our friends one, and once I found out that surgery was needed and there would be a lot of time spent doing nothing in the hospital and then at home afterwards it seemed like the right time to seriously considering investing in one.

After a lot of umming and ahhing my partner decided he would get it for me as an early birthday present, or at least put a fair share of money towards it being a present for me, so we trundled into town a few days after the news and got one. Naturally we went for the colourful controllers because it is a console all about fun and it seemed a missed opportunity to not have it externally reflecting that.

In time we will be getting a pro controller or two but at the minute, especially where it will be getting used handheld in the hospital, we have just stuck with the original red and blue ones that come with it which does make it particularly fun for two player games of Fifa. When you consider the price of the console itself or the bundles of the console with a game or two as well it makes the controllers seem really expensive; when you pay similar money for a PS4 controller it makes a bit more sense when you consider the initial financial investment involved there.

Speaking of games we actually opted for a reasonably good time to invest in the console. I managed to have a look around and get Fifa for £20 whilst we had got Zelda in the console bundle that happened to have a £50 off sale going on. There was also a decent sale on the Nintendo store at the time so I downloaded Thumper, a single player game where you move around a little metal bug on a track and hit certain buttons in time with the increasingly dramatic music, and added plenty of other things to my wish list.

I really want to get Splatoon 2 and Mario Odyssey over the next month or two as well as they both have great offline single player story modes but the team battles on Splatoon remind me a little of the different battles on Destiny (which was something I massively enjoyed) but obviously they are very rarely discounted due to their popularity so do have pretty hefty price tags attached to them.

It really is proving to be great fun though as something to do by myself, something to watch my partner go on or something for us to do together. We did play on the PS3 together but as our Fifa was increasingly old and a lot of the other games that could be done multiplayer are probably more my sort of thing, car racing for instance, it was more of a serious thing to sit down and do it together. Something about the Switch just feels so much more fun and collaborative and the way the store is accessed makes it a lot easier to search for fun games that we might both enjoy or at least be willing to try out.

Having it in our lives is something that I am really happy about and it has added another option of things for us to get up to as well as giving me something to do when I am in recovery. There is a wordsearch game that I am seriously thinking about getting because it is simple, will keep me busy without ending up with a stack of puzzle books by my bed after a week and is relatively cheap at around £7 but it does seem like an amusing thing to purchase; I guess that it is no different to people having a kindle with books for their holiday though as it is a space saver and at least with an on screen wordsearch I can always do them again another time!

Edit (Tuesday 24th April): There was a sale on in the store so I got Astrobears, a party game where you have to avoid clashing into friends trails, for an amazing £2.69. This is a game that we have played at our friends house and it seemed like a really fun and simple addition to have for if we have people round. In that same sale Oxenfree, a mystery adventure game that might give you mild creeps as you get stuck in a bit of a time loop, was available for £3.99 and given the number of good things I heard about it from the community it seemed like not getting it would be a missed opportunity.

Mud, Tooting

I wanted to go to the Mud in Boxpark, Croydon but never actually got around to it before it closed and returned to just having the proper shopfront in Tooting. Luckily my hospital happens to be in Tooting and my appointments are usually done with just enough time to get sitting on a bench in Mud before their 3pm deadline to order from the kitchen.

Luckily I had a friend that was happy to meet me at the hospital after an appointment and do a quick journey across to Mud for a bit of brunch. My appointment lasted a little longer than expected, not helped by the cardiologist running behind a little, but we made it to the door of Mud at 2:55pm and informed them we wanted to order food (which of course was okay with the very friendly staff).

Two brunch dishes

My friend had experienced the eggs benny with pork belly before and already had that decided upon whilst I had taken a look at the menu in advance and decided to give the breakfast muffin a try. When the dishes turned up the portions were great, the smells were delicious and the visuals added to the desire to tuck in as well and it was clear I was about to bite into a real joyfully tasty, fresh and well-cooked treat.

The egg was absolutely fantastic and the choice of egg, to give the vibrant orange yolk, really adds to the dish. The flavour of the egg and especially the yolk going down through the rest of the ingredients resting between the English Muffin made it delightfully rich and even a little creamy in consistency. It was a really enjoyable dish to tuck into and I was extra lucky that my friend offered me a bit of their pork belly to try too (which let me say was super melt in the mouth scrummy and full of flavour); At the end of the meal and when it came to being time to walk out and head to the bus stop I was absolutely stuffed but very content and quite liking the idea of having a post-food nap on the bus.

Mason jar juice and teapot

After spending so long trying to drag out a 500ml water bottle in the hospital, after getting ripped off for £1, I was pretty keen on getting liquid refreshments. After a little deliberation I went for a gunpowder extreme teapot because I love anything that is a green tea and find that the gunpowder extreme one has a really enjoyable flavour and smooth aftertaste to it.

I also went for a juice that was loaded with fruit and vegetables but mainly tasted of beetroot and ginger which is a super wonderful combination of flavours and really gave a fresh and revitalising zingy feel with every sip; I am sure the juice had natural sugar in it but it felt healthy and the consistency of the juice itself wasn’t thin like water but also managed to avoid being clumpy.

Then… A couple of weeks later we returned (again after a hospital appointment and a trip to Wilko’s because clearly we know how to lead the greatest lives) and I just had to try the full eggs benny with pork belly for myself. I was not disappointed. The pork was again so soft and melt in the mouth with a gentle crackle on the outside and being loaded with flavour and seasoning. On top of the hefty piece of pork were two really well cooked eggs, an amazing sauce and some cute little edible flowers. With the smells and the look of the dish I felt like I had already tucked in as my mouth was left salivating at the idea of tucking in.

Mud, Tooting eggs benny

We also opted for a side of sausages and baked beans which were again super well cooked and packed with flavour as well as cutely presented; our table looked like an absolutely joyful feast that any meat eater would be happy to have served up in front of them.

Mud is an incredible place to go for cooked food and drinks but they also do a mixture of cakes and pastries, the Oreo brownie is chocolate heaven, and I would 100% recommend it if you happen to be in Tooting or have an appointment at St George’s and are done before 3pm. The dishes do have a bit of a price to them with a juice, a teapot, the eggs benny with the added pork and one of the sides (as we split the cost in half) coming to just under £18 but if you are having this as a meal to catch up with friends or family and it essentially becomes your main meal of the day then the price is totally worth it.

If you have gone to Mud either when it was still in Croydon or at the original branch in Tooting, I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Also if you have any spots in Tooting that are worth visiting for food then do let me know that as well!

And finally don’t forget that to see more photos like this and hear more about my food adventures to give me a follow on instagram.