Thursday 29 May 2014

May mix.


Track list

Scream (Funk My Life Up) - Paolo Nutini
Chocolate - The 1975
Crash Land - Twin Atlantic
Voulez-Vous - ABBA
American Boy - Estelle
Calm After the Storm - The Common Linnets
The Mother We Share - Chvrches
Rise Like a Phoenix - Conchita Wurst

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Tuesday 27 May 2014

What I've been doing this weekend.


Hanging out in Padstow again and buying lots of gorgeous local spice mixes.


Burning garlic and rosemary focaccia bread.


And eating it for lunch dipped in olive oil and fajita spices.


Trying desperately to bring my basil back to life after letting it get dehydrated! And hoping that the chives and parsley might come to life one of these days.


Listening to the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire audiobook in the garden and wishing this sun would stick around.


Planning posts for #ReadWomenMonth in June.

What have you been doing this weekend?

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Sunday 25 May 2014

Read Women Month 2014!


For the whole of June I have decided to only read books written by female authors and I'd like you to join me!

I think it's pretty common knowledge that female writers get a bad deal. Books written by women are often described as 'light' or 'fun' or, my personal least favourite, 'chicklit', whereas books written by men about the same themes are rarely spoken of in these terms. When was the last time you heard a book by a male writer described as 'light'? Nicholas Sparks is very successful for writing romance novels and yet his books are never deemed 'chicklit'. Why is that? I think you can guess.

So for the month of June I want to encourage you to only read books written by women! That's literally the only rule. You don't even have to have a blog.

If you want to talk about Read Women Month on twitter, instagram, facebook, tumblr, your blog, or anywhere else then you can use the tag #readwomenmonth and if you'd like to use the header image I've used in this post then feel free (although, of course, you don't have to at all. I won't mind, I promise.)

I'm also planning to post a few blog posts linked to #readwomenmonth throughout June so keep an eye out for those. ;) (emoticons? I know. I'm sorry. I'm just very excited about the whole thing.)

So what do you think? Let me know in the comments if you're planning on taking part and if you do mention it on your blog or anywhere else then I'd love it if you'd leave me a link so I can check it out!

Friday 23 May 2014

The most delicious chocolate chip cookies.


I've never had much luck with chocolate chip cookies. They're probably one of the easiest things to make but I've never been able to find a recipe I really liked. Every recipe I've tried has always been a little too greasy or a little too crunchy or the flavours just haven't been exactly how I like them. But now my search might just be over!


My aunt sent me this recipe a few months ago for cookies that are apparently supposed to taste like Millie's Cookies. I've never actually tried Millie's Cookies so I can't say anything about that but I can tell you that these only came out of the oven a few hours ago and half of them have already been eaten!

Baked goods do not last long in this house.


As well as probably being the tastiest cookies I've ever made these are definitely the most attractive. Look at those things! That's what a real cookie looks like right there. The flavour is, of course, the most important thing though, and these really are so delicious. They're crunchy around the edges and soft in the middle and they aren't horribly greasy like so many recipes I've tried in the past.


This might just be my holy grail cookie recipe (Is that a thing? I'm making it a thing), and I will definitely be making them again very soon!

Ingredients

125g butter, softened
100g light brown soft sugar
125g caster sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
225g self-raising flour
1/2 tsp salt
200g chocolate chips

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4, and line two or three trays with greaseproof paper.

2. Cream the butter and sugars together. Once creamed, add the egg and vanilla extract and combine.

3. Sift in the flour and salt and mix again. Then add in the chocolate chips and give it another gentle mix to combine the chips into the mixture.

4. Roll into twelve walnut sized balls and place on the lined trays. I chose to use three trays with four cookies on each because they really do spread as they cook!

5. Bake in the preheated oven for 7-10 minutes. 7 minutes if you want them to be very soft and gooey in the middle, 10 minutes if you want your cookies to be a little more crunchy around the edges. I cooked all of mine for 10 minutes, until the edges were just turning golden.

6. Remove the cookies from the oven and leave them on the trays to harden for a couple of minutes before transferring them to a wire wrack to cool completely.

7. Eat as many cookies as you can before your parents come home at the end of the day and start eating them all!

Let me know if you try out this recipe yourself or if you have any other suggestions for great cookie recipes. I'm always on the lookout for delicious recipes!

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Wednesday 21 May 2014

My top 5 favourite book covers.

You know that saying 'you should never judge a book by its cover'? Pure tosh. I mean, I agree with the sentiment of not judging people by the way they look but books? People don't spend their entire careers designing book covers so that we won't judge the books by them!

Maybe the phrase made more sense back when all books had those leather covers with the gold embossing, but there are whole teams behind a cover now and although they don't always get it right (my copy of I Capture the Castle, possibly my favourite book ever, has a shockingly bad cover) I thought I'd share with you five covers that definitely did get it very right.


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - St. Martin's Griffin

I love the colours and the typefaces used here and I think, given the subject of the book, the decision to use an illustration by Noelle Stevenson (aka tumblr artist fave gingerhaze) was just perfect. This is really just one of those occasions when I think the cover perfectly reflects the story inside.


A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess - Penguin Essentials

I'm not entirely sure what the skeleton is about (I assume it's some symbolism I'm missing) but it certainly is the right kind of twisted and creepy for A Clockwork Orange. Again, I love the colours on this and the way that the black background makes it look a little bit like a drawing on a chalkboard.


Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple - Phoenix

The colours! Again! I love the way that the yellow, teal, and red all work together on this cover but really I just love that stylised drawing of Bernadette. The title sitting in those massive sunglasses is great and having her biting her bottom lip is a gorgeous little detail. Beautiful!


A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle - Penguin Books

Penguin have released all of the Sherlock Holmes books in covers similar to this and although I only have the first two right now, I'm definitely on the look out for the others! The covers on these editions are reminiscent of the covers from old pulp magazines and as well as looking fantastic I think the style suits the stories within wonderfully.


Every Day by David Levithan - Electric Monkey

When I first got Every Day I was a little unsure about the bright orange cover but I actually really like the way that it draws your eye on the shelf and I think it makes the already lovely front cover design stand out and look even better. And, again, I love the typeface used for the title and the author's name on the front.

So, that's it! Those are my top five favourite book covers. What are your favourite book covers? Let me know in the comments.

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Sunday 18 May 2014

Paddling in Padstow!






Today I went for a walk around Padstow with my parents and Jess, who I've known since we were 2 and who I lived with for the three years of university and who is essentially my soul mate. Jess and I went paddling in the ocean and I threw seaweed at her and we saw the cutest pug I've ever seen (and that cool knight some kid had drawn in the sand) and it was just a really nice day. Now I'm tired so I'm going to lounge around on the sofa and watch the BAFTAs with mum.

I hope you've had a nice Sunday!

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Friday 16 May 2014

Easy peasy lemonade!


Whenever the sun starts shining and summer finally begins to peek around the corner the first thing I always want is lemonade. Not that clear, sparkling stuff you buy in plastic bottles (although I do love that kind of lemonade too) but proper still, sweet, sour lemonade. As you can see I even have a special glass bottle for my homemade lemonade. Oh yeah, it's serious.

I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food website last year and I've used it a couple of times since, always with great results. It's so ridiculously easy, the hardest part is always digging the blender out from the back of the cupboard.

What you'll need:


140g caster sugar, 3 unwaxed lemons, 1l cold water, and a blender or food processor to mix it all up in.

You can, of course, use more lemons or sugar if you want it to be sweeter or more lemony.


First you'll need to chop off the ends of each lemon and discard those, then just roughly chop up the lemons, skins and all.


Dump the lemons, sugar, and half* of the water into your blender/food processor and blend until the lemons are finely chopped.

*As per usual I did not read the instructions properly and I actually put all of the water into the blender, which probably attributed to the leaking in the next gif. Don't make my mistakes, friends.


(I tried to make a fancy gif like Top With Cinnamon sometimes does but as you can see the second I took my hand off the lid of the blender the lemonade started to leak out from the top. Oops. Tip: do not let go of the blender lid while the blender is running. Especially if you put too much water in it.)

Now I don't actually have any pictures from the next step because it's just not that pretty of a step, but what you have to do after you've finished blending the lemonade is to pour it through a sieve into a large bowl or jug and press as much juice through the sieve as you can. Pour in the remaining water and serve chilled or over ice!


Ta da! Easy peasy lemonade!

Let me know if you try this recipe out and leave me a comment if you have any suggestions for recipes you'd like to see on the blog. 

Now that the weather is starting to get warmer I'm more inclined to actually make things so hopefully there'll be a few more recipes on the blog in the next few months, especially now that I've discovered Pinterest, which I am basically using as a recipe binder.

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Wednesday 14 May 2014

The small things.


As I write this I'm sitting in my garden, enjoying the first truly hot day of 2014, listening to Paolo Nutini's new album and the sound of my neighbours laughing, and drinking a cheeky cherry sourz and coke. I know this isn't the sort of post I usually write but I'm enjoying today so much that I really just want to share it.

I really wanted to make a post yesterday but I was in the baddest of bad moods. I was fine for most of the day, I watched some really good movies (Kill Your Darlings and High Fidelity) and I spent far too much time on Pinterest, but I couldn't think of anything to write about. When I finally sat down in the evening to try and write something I just snapped and I knew I couldn't write anything while I was feeling like that.

But this morning I woke up early to the sun peeking in underneath my blinds. I took my time doing my makeup and getting dressed, enjoying the fact that I could actually wear a dress and no coat for the first time this year, and when I finally made it down to our tiny little high street I found that my current favourite moisturiser was on sale in Boots and Dorothy Perkins had 20% off all jewellery. I almost left Dorothy Perkins empty handed but then I spotted this gorgeous necklace from the corner of my eye.


Now I'm listening to music I love and sunning my bare legs and my mood could not be more different to how I felt yesterday.

When I was in school I would regularly get upset about deadlines or exams late at night and my mum's advice was always to go to bed early because everything would feel better in the morning. I never quite believed her (how could I possibly feel better about an upcoming deadline in the morning, when the deadline was eight whole hours closer with no more work to show for it?) but now that I'm older I'm starting to understand. Things always look worse at night but invariably the next day is always a little bit better, either because of the weather, good music, deals on essentials and not-so-essentials, or just because there's a lot to be said for looking at a problem again when you've had more rest.

We all know we should appreciate the small things and concentrate more on what makes us happy but I think we all also know that it's easy to forget sometimes. I'm going to try a lot harder to remember because it's amazing how much a few small things can lift your mood.

So, what are some small things that made you happy today? I'd love for you to tell me a few in the comments.

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Sunday 11 May 2014

Eurovision Song Contest 2014

I love the Eurovision Song Contest. The glitter, the dancers, the weird songs, France absolutely refusing to speak in English while not giving the UK any points, it's everything I love and more. And this year the UK actually had a pretty good song! We got 40 whole points! That's a lot for us. You can't go into Eurovision blindly thinking your act is the best though, that's no fun, so today, riding off the back of my favourite act winning last night (yay Austria!) I thought I'd give you my five favourite acts from last night's show.

5. Something Better performed by Softengine for Finland


I watched the final with my dad last night and while Softengine were performing he turned to me and said 'some of the songs are a bit too good for Eurovision this year, aren't they?'. I definitely agree. Eurovision is about disco! Glitter! Trapeze artists! But this year a few genuinely good bands seem to have snuck in and I really just genuinely like this song a lot.

4. My Słowianie - We Are Slavic performed by Donatan & Cleo for Poland


Poland went full Eurovision for this act and I love it. I'm not sure any other act matched this for pure camp factor this year and I for one am powerless when it comes to girls stomping around in cute skirts while their mates seductively complete household chores. It's just so Eurovision. Also the song is catchy as heck in my opinion. I'll definitely be singing it next time I'm washing my clothes in a wooden bucket.

3. No Prejudice performed by Pollapönk for Iceland


All week I have been affectionately referring to Pollapönk as 'The Icelandic Wiggles' because I mean, just look at those amazing costumes. I've also had the chorus of this song stuck in my head all week, not that I'm complaining. It's just a fun song with a really great message. It's another act that I think is just perfectly Eurovision and I am a BIG fan.

2. Calm After the Storm performed by The Common Linnets for The Netherlands


This is another song that was 'too good for Eurovision', in fact in my opinion this is THE song that was too good for Eurovision. I'm a country music fan anyway but when I watched their semi-final performance I could tell that The Netherlands were going to give Austria a run for their money with this one. I wanted Austria to win with all of my heart but if The Netherlands had won with this gorgeous song then I wouldn't have been able to argue. I'll be downloading their album asap.

1. Rise Like a Phoenix performed by Conchita Wurst for Austria


Anyone who is following me on Twitter already knows how much I wanted Austria to win last night. I think I actually stopped breathing a little bit when it was announced that they had already won before the last few countries had even given their points. The song is beautiful, Conchita's voice is beautiful, and the message that Europe has sent by choosing her as their winner is even more beautiful. I'm listening to the song again right now and tearing up a little just remembering the speech Conchita gave last night. I can't wait to see her perform Rise Like a Phoenix again at next year's competition in Austria!

Are you a Eurovision fan? If you are then who were your favourite acts? Let me know in the comments!

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Saturday 10 May 2014

My first Instax prints.

I've loved shooting with film ever since I first got to use the darkroom during photography classes at school. There's something uniquely magical about actually putting an image together that way and watching it appear before your eyes and it's that which has always fascinated me about instant cameras too.

I finally got my first instant camera, a fujifilm Instax 210, as a present from my parents for Christmas last year (having grown up with film cameras they are both incredibly thankful for digital cameras and don't understand my love of film at all, but they indulge me at least) and I wanted to share with you all my first pack of instant prints.

New Year's Eve 2013-2014





Bodmin Jail


My new favourite shoes in the garden


Jess's surprise birthday tea party




Spring at last



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Wednesday 7 May 2014

TV shows I've been watching lately.

I'm one of those people who will spend twenty minutes trying to decide if I really have the concentration today to sit down and watch a movie for two and a half hours but I will readily watch an entire series of a TV show in one day, no questions asked. Seriously, the amount of times I have thought to myself 'I don't want to watch a whole movie right now so I'll watch six episodes of Merlin instead' is not even funny. I also never seem to get the urge to watch the cool new shows until they're at least on their second season, which means I'm always a little behind when things first start out. Except for Breaking Bad. I watched the first three episodes of that when they first aired, decided I didn't like it, and then spent the next five years wondering what the heck I had missed. It turns out I am not always right when it comes to television shows.

Anyway, I've been getting caught up with some good shows recently and re-watching one of my all time favourites and I thought I'd share my thoughts about them and maybe encourage you to watch them too!


Brooklyn Nine-Nine

I'd seen enough gif sets of Brooklyn Nine-Nine on tumblr that I knew it would be funny but I honestly was not prepared for just how funny it really is. There are a lot of shows that make me laugh, but not many that make me laugh like this. I'm talking full on snorting laughter here, people. Another thing I love about it is that all of the main characters are likeable. That's one thing that really makes me love a show - the characters all being relatable - and Brooklyn Nine-Nine totally has that going for it. If you're looking for a new comedy show then you should definitely give this a try.


The Mindy Project

Okay, can I just take a break here to question the people that make these posters? Why is everyone so airbrushed all the time? Everyone on this poster looks like they have a face made out of plastic. It's creeping me out.

Anyway, I wasn't sure at first that I would like The Mindy Project but basically I was a total fool. The humour in this show is really spot on, and one of my favourite things about it is the confidence that Mindy has. It's kind of unusual for a comedy show to have a central female character who is so confident and self assured and I really wish it weren't because there are women like Mindy in the real world and I think it would be good for us all to see more of them represented on TV! Plus the show is absolutely hilarious and all the characters are just a little bit weird. I think if you like New Girl (another show whose posters suffer from plastic face. What are you doing over there FOX?) then you will definitely like The Mindy Project.


Orphan Black

I honestly don't know why it took me so long to watch Orphan Black. I think it was just laziness. I knew I was going to love it but for some reason it took season two starting to finally prompt me to watch season one. Orphan Black is one of the best sci-fi shows I've seen in a long time. The whole story is so interesting and unique, and Tatiana Maslany is amazing. She plays all of the clones with different voices, different mannerisms, and it's always natural. It's easy to forget at times that these characters are all being played by one actress. There is a small cast of supporting characters (and when I say 'supporting' I really mean 'not played by Tatiana') the star of which is Felix, adopted brother to one of the clones. And if you're at all familiar with the work of William Gibson then you'll definitely enjoy the Neolutionists.

Although the show definitely sits nicely in the science-fiction genre, I know a few people who have really enjoyed it even though they don't usually like sci-fi, so I would definitely recommend giving it a try even if you don't usually like that sort of thing. Even if only to see Tatiana Maslany manage to make a whole group of clones somehow look like different people.


Ugly Betty

Now this one I've seen before. I watched Ugly Betty back when it used to be on Channel 4 every week, but it was a few years ago now that it finished and when I saw that Netflix had the first two seasons I immediately started a re-watch. Then I downloaded the second two seasons so I could finish it. Ugly Betty has always been one of my favourite shows. I even dressed as Betty for my 16th birthday party (unfortunately there are no pictures). Betty is an important character to me for a lot of reasons but that's a story for another time. It was really fun to watch this show again years after it originally finished because there were a lot of story lines I had forgotten, so I got to have that nice feeling of nostalgia from watching something you've seen and loved before, but also a few shocks as I remembered things I had forgotten. One thing I had not forgotten was how great Marc and Amanda are and I think I actually liked them even more now that I'm older. If you haven't seen Ugly Betty then you should definitely go and watch it right now!

What have you been watching lately? Let me know in the comments!

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Sunday 4 May 2014

I failed Camp NaNoWriMo but it's okay.

Remember at the start of this month when I talked about my goal to write 40,000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo? Well that didn't happen.


As you can see in this graph, except for a one day burst in the middle there, I pretty much gave up around about the same time that I made that post and never even made it to 10,000 words. At the start of the month I was actually ahead of everyone else in my cabin for word count and pretty sure that I was going to at least hit 30,000 words by the end of the month but after a few days I just started to lose interest and eventually I decided to give up.

It can be difficult to give up on a project like this but I think it's important to know when you have to quit something. I knew I was losing interest in my project so I made the decision to focus my efforts on other things and not just spend the month forcing myself to write something that I no longer really wanted to write. And I know that was the right decision.

I posted more on this blog in April than I ever have in a single month before, and I've been planning even more posts for the near future. In fact, right now I'm writing this post days before I plan to post it and it's the second post I've written today, which is pretty unusual for me since, embarrassingly, it usually takes me at least two days to write a single post.

I also rediscovered my passion for scriptwriting and the theatre and I've started planning and researching a couple of ideas for plays, which is something I've only thought about doing since I finished university.

So maybe the Camp NaNoWriMo project didn't get anywhere but I'm happy with the things I have achieved this month, including recognising when it was time for me to give up on that project and focus on other things.

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Thursday 1 May 2014

April book reviews


That's right, it's book review time again and this time I am actually posting my reviews on the first of the month, something I have tried and failed to do every month since I started this. I know, I'm impressed with me too.


1. The Beast of Callaire by Saruuh Kelsey

I actually read The Beast of Callaire back in March but I didn't include it in last month's reviews because I was reading it to help Saruuh with the last edits before release and now that it has been released I can tell you all about it!

The Beast of Callaire is the first in a new fantasy series for young adults (and everyone else. We all know teenagers aren't the only people who read YA) about Yasmin, a normal teenage girl who happens to also be a manticore. This was one of the books I included in my top 5 books I'm most excited for in 2014 and yes I am super pumped that I got to read it a couple of weeks before anyone else. If you like books about magic and teenagers who turn into mythical beasts at the full moon then this is definitely the book for you. It's a little different to the kind of thing I usually read, but I enjoyed it so much that it's made me want to look into more fantasy. You know, once I've read the dozens of books still on my TBR shelf...
5/5 stars.


2. Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan

I don't read a lot of romance novels but I have a real weakness for Jenny Colgan's books. (My favourite cupcake recipe also happens to have come from her book Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe)

Little Beach Street Bakery is all about Polly who, after the failing of her business and relationship, moves to a tiny Cornish island, befriends a group of fisherman and an odd American who makes honey, adopts an injured puffin, and gets herself in trouble for secretly selling bread to the islanders. Basically she is living my dream life. I've loved all of Colgan's books that I've read so far (Meet Me at the Cupcake Cafe, The Loveliest Chocolate Shop in Paris, Rosie Hopkins' Sweetshop of Dreams, are you sensing a theme in these books yet?) and I've had this one on pre-order since it was announced last year. I knew I was going to love it because not only is it by Jenny Colgan but it's also set in Cornwall, my home. I may not live on a tiny island like Polly but the characters in this book really ring true for anywhere in Cornwall and as an added bonus Polly starts off the story living in Plymouth, where I went to university! Never mind the men, this book tells a beautiful love story between Polly and the town and it's a town that I'm sure could and does exist in many places in Cornwall. So I'm sure it will surprise no one that I'm giving this 5/5 stars too.


3. So You Want to be a Playwright? by Tim Fountain

I find it difficult to review these sorts of books and did consider leaving this one and the next one off the list for that reason but I did read them this month and they are both rather closely linked to the fate of my Camp NaNoWriMo project, which I will be talking about in my next blog post in a couple of days, so I thought it wouldn't hurt to write a few sentences on each here. However I won't be giving either of these books star ratings because honestly I'm just not sure how I'd figure them out.

So You Want to be a Playwright? is exactly what it sounds like. I know a lot of writers don't believe in these sort of books but in my opinion writing is a craft, and the only way to improve a craft is through study and practice. Perhaps that's my English Literature and Creative Writing degree talking, but I found books like this to be incredibly helpful when I was studying and as writing is something I see myself doing for a very long time I see no reason why I should stop studying it just because I've graduated.

Writing plays is something I've been interested in for a long time but, even though I have a little history in acting and a lot of history in watching plays, I find it difficult to know how to start writing a script. Novels are easy, I've read enough of them to understand how they work, but plays are different, so I'm taking any help I can get to figure them out. I found So You Want to be a Playwright? incredibly helpful in that respect and if you are interested in writing for the stage then I would certainly recommend this as a good starting place.


4. The Crafty Art of Playmaking by Alan Ayckbourn

Although sharing a subject The Crafty Art of Playmaking is quite different to So You Want to be a Playwright?, firstly because Ayckbourn, as one of the UK's most prolific and beloved writer/directors, writes his book in a much more personal way. Not only does Ayckbourn use plenty of examples from his own work, but the address of the book feels a lot more personal and almost as though he is simply chatting to the reader about his experiences. Another difference between the two books is that only half of The Crafty Art of Playmaking is dedicated to advice about writing plays, with the second half of the book dedicated instead to advice for aspiring directors. Although I currently have no designs on becoming a stage director I still found this second section incredibly interesting, and I'd definitely recommend that any aspiring writer or director read the entire book as it gives a very interesting insight into both sides of this collaborative partnership, which I think could be only beneficial for either party.


5. The Sign of Four by Arthur Conan Doyle

I really enjoyed A Study in Scarlet when I read it back in January and as a fan of the BBC's Sherlock I was really looking forward to being introduced to Mary Morstan in The Sign of Four (I absolutely adored Amanda Abbington's Mary in the new series). There were a lot of elements of The Sign of Four that I really enjoyed, including John's conflict over helping Mary while he is falling in love with her and Sherlock's casual attitude to his own drug addiction, and I absolutely loved reading about Sherlock Holmes again.

After just two books I think Holmes is already becoming one of my favourite literary characters. I also enjoyed Doyle's style of writing in this book as much as I did in A Study in Scarlet but for some reason the mystery of the missing treasure and the one legged man didn't quite grip me the way that A Study in Scarlet did. However I am still really looking forward to reading The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and eventually the rest of the series. 3/5 stars.

Have you read any of these books? If you have then I'd love to know what you thought of them!

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