Paper Towns by John Green

Paper Towns 

“If you don't imagine, nothing ever happens at all.”

I love most of John Green’s books, but Paper Towns was the first one I read, and has always stood out as my favourite. Green’s books are wonderful at capturing teenage sentiments realistically, and avoiding the trashy clichés too often found in the genre. Although I’m no longer a teenager myself, I still enjoy revisiting book from that time in my life, and find I still relate to many of the characters.

For those unfamiliar with the plot of Paper Towns, Q and Margot have been next door neighbours for years. One night, she climbs in his bedroom window and leads him on a madcap adventure through the streets of Florida. The next morning, she has vanished, and now Q and his friends have to follow the trail of clues she left behind. As a protagonist, Q is likeable and relatable, and I was rooting for him the whole way through, which is always important for me when reading a book - I’’m not going to enjoy it if I don’t like the main character. Margot is mysterious and mischievous, a whirlwind that turns his world upside down. I love the possibilities that she brings to the story; I grew up reading fantasy novels, so it’s great when there’s a bit of adventure and mystery in a novel set in the real world. There’s also a road trip featured, which makes me long for travel again myself.

Without giving away the ending, I think it’s excellent. Whatever you think it’s going to be, you’re probably wrong, and I love a book that avoids the cliché ending, and keeps me on my toes like that. I find Green’s books to be more realistic because of endings like this, and because he throws in a few harsh truths. In this case, people and places aren’t always as great as we think they are in our heads:

“What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person.”

I also like that his characters avoid stereotypes too, and instead have unique little quirks, as most of us in the real world too. These details are pretty unforgettable too; this book will always make me think of the world’s largest collection of black Santas (and you’ll have to go read it if you want to know what that’s all about!).

The film adaptation of the novel is also coming out this year, which I’m a little anxious about. We’ve all seen good and bad adaptations before, but I really don’t want one of my favourite books to be ruined on screen! However, I liked the last John Green adaptation, The Fault in Our Stars, and the trailer looks good, so I’m staying optimistic!

Paper Towns has everything I look for in a novel - realistic characters, an interesting and exciting plot line, a unique writing style and a lack of clichés. But liking a book is more than just checking off these points on a list - my favourite books make me feel, I get excited or nervous about the fates of characters, I sympathise with them and root for them; I want to be a part of the story. This novel is about friendship and adventure and mystery and feeling like a teenager again. And that’s why I’ll always go back to read it again.

“As long as we don't die, this is gonna be one hell of a story.” 

This 'Favourite Book' submission is courtesy of Charlotte, thank you!

 Charlotte has her own blog, entitled "Just Muddling through Life"; and she can be found on Twitter and Facebook.

If you'd like to share your favourite book with my readers, click here (or the tab at the top of the page) to find out some more info.  The books shared by various bloggers & authors can be found hereeee.  


Phenomenal Woman by Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

M A Y A  A N G E L O U

Maya Angelou reciting 'Phenomenal Woman':


Charity Shop Book Haul

Today I spent a lot more money than I intended to....on books.  Given the volume of work and books-waiting-to-be-read on my desk, it will probably be a while before I get around to reading and then reviewing these.  Nevertheless, I thought I would share my finds with you as I was particularly pleased with this bunch.  I envy my fellow book bloggers who find charity shop books for mere pennies; perhaps because I live in London they're more expensive, but I don't mind paying extra when the money goes to a good cause.  Plus, it's probably the only thing between me backing the car up to the shop and asking them to just fill it with books (yes, I have a problem, like the blog didn't give that away already!)


In India, at the birth of the last century, an infant is brought howling into the world, his remarkable paleness marking him out from his brown-skinned fellows. Revered at first, he is later cast out from his wealthy home when his true parentage is revealed. So begins Pran Nath's odyssey of self-discovery - a journey that will take him from the streets of Agra, via the red light district of Bombay, to the brick cloisters of Oxford and beyond - as he struggles to understand who he really is.


Mahmoud Darwish is one of the most acclaimed contemporary poets in the Arab world, and is often cited as the poetic voice of the Palestinian people. During the summer of 2006, Darwish was in Ramallah. He recorded his observations and feelings in this diary as Israel attacked Gaza and Lebanon. Darwish writes of love, loss and the pain of exile in bittersweet poems leavened with hope and joy.


Istanbul is a shimmering evocation, by turns intimate and panoramic, of one of the world's great cities, by its foremost writer. Orhan Pamuk, winner of the Nobel Prize in 2006, was born in Istanbul, in the family apartment building where his mother first held him in her arms. His portrait of his city is thus also a self-portrait, refracted by memory and the melancholy-or hüzün- that all Istanbullus share: the sadness that comes of living amid the ruins of a lost Ottoman Empire.  As he companionably guides us across the Bosphorus, through Istanbul's historical monuments and lost paradises, its dilapidated Ottoman villas, back streets and waterways, he also introduces us to the city's writers, artists and murderers.


Two weeks after September 11th, award-winning journalist Åsne Seierstad went to Afghanistan to report on the conflict there. In the following spring she returned to live with an Afghan family for several months.  For more than twenty years Sultan Khan defied the authorities - be they communist or Taliban - to supply books to the people of Kabul. He was arrested, interrogated and imprisoned by the communists and watched illiterate Taliban soldiers burn piles of his books in the street. He even resorted to hiding most of his stock in attics all over Kabul.  But while Khan is passionate in his love of books and hatred of censorship, he is also a committed Muslim with strict views on family life. As an outsider, Seierstad is able to move between the private world of the women - including Khan's two wives - and the more public lives of the men. And so we learn of proposals and marriages, suppression and abuse of power, crime and punishment. The result is a gripping and moving portrait of a family, and a clear-eyed assessment of a country struggling to free itself from history.


In 1960s Nigeria, a country blighted by civil war, three lives intersect.  Ugwu, a boy from a poor village, works as a houseboy for a university professor. Olanna, a young woman, has abandoned her life of privilege in Lagos to live with her charismatic new lover, the professor. And Richard, a shy English writer, is in thrall to Olanna’s enigmatic twin sister. As the horrific Biafran War engulfs them, they are thrown together and pulled apart in ways they had never imagined.  Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s masterpiece, winner of the Orange Prize for Fiction, is a novel about Africa in a wider sense: about the end of colonialism, ethnic allegiances, class and race – and about the ways in which love can complicate all of these things.


A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic - Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book.
Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather's death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery.  From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realises he may have died searching for 'the deathless man', a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger's wife.


Still in her teenage years, Nazneen finds herself in an arranged marriage with a disappointed man who is twenty years older. Away from the mud and heat of her Bangladeshi village, home is now a cramped flat in a high-rise block in London's East End. Nazneen knows not a word of English, and is forced to depend on her husband. But unlike him she is practical and wise, and befriends a fellow Asian girl Razia, who helps her understand the strange ways of her adopted new British home.
Nazneen keeps in touch with her sister Hasina back in the village. But the rebellious Hasina has kicked against cultural tradition and run off in a 'love marriage' with the man of her dreams. When he suddenly turns violent, she is forced into the degrading job of garment girl in a cloth factory.
Confined in her flat by tradition and family duty, Nazneen also sews furiously for a living, shut away with her buttons and linings - until the radical Karim steps unexpectedly into her life. On a background of racial conflict and tension, they embark on a love affair that forces Nazneen finally to take control of her fate.

Have you read any of these?   
Are you one of those lucky souls who can find books for mere pennies? 
Let me know in the comments!


Bruschetta with Tomatoes, Red Onion and Basil


If I'm honest there have been more than a few occasions where I've lost track of time because I was too busy pretending I was in Italy. If I'm even more honest, the whole time I was eating this I was pretending that I was in Italy. Which is impressive given that I was eating this whilst wearing several jumpers, looking out of my window at the gray, windy and wet day outside.   There's something magical about food that is able to transport you across the world, and for me, this is one of those dishes.  Plus, it's super easy and quick to make!  Always a plus!

You'll need:

Bread - (sour dough, ciabatta, or a baguette are all good choices)
olive oil,
a good handful of tomatoes,
a red onion (skip if you're not into raw onion),
a clove of garlic
a handful of fresh basil leaves

Step one:
Start warming a griddle pan (or your grill, if you don't have a pan), slice your bread around 1.5 cm thick and place on to the griddle pan to grill (I find a medium heat best so you can leave it to grill whilst preparing your topping)

Step two:
Prepare the topping by slicing your onion, tomatoes (you can remove the seeds if you like but I'm not too fussed), and basil leaves (hang on to a couple for decoration, if you're feeling fancy!), add some salt and pepper and a glug of olive oil

Step three:
Keeping an eye on the bread and turning it over once the bottom side is browned, peel and chop your clove of garlic in half, brush the bread with the garlic once it is toasted on both sides and renove from the heat

Step four:
Assemble your masterpiece!  Bread, add the toppings, some more olive oil if you fancy, and some basil leaves on top.

Step five:
Eat, enjoy, savour + allow yourself to be transported away to Italy!

My spies tell me that there are lots of other amazing toppings for bruschetta; do you have any recommendations?  
Let me know in the comments below!


Northern Lights by Philip Pullman

It may seem strange to pick a ‘children’s book’ as my favourite book of all time. But I choose not to be constrained by the label. There is nothing childish in the complex themes and the graphic imagery in the ‘His Dark Materials' trilogy and the books had me enchanted from the very first line:

‘Lyra and her daemon moved through the darkening hall, taking care to keep to one side, out of sight of the kitchen.’

In interview Pullman has admitted that he'll probably never have an idea as good as his 'daemon' ever again (although, lucky bugger, he's had loads of others that come close). For those uninitiated, in the world of the books' central character, Lyra, daemons are the physical manifestation of the human soul. They take the form of animals that can change form (from moth to tiger to fly etc.) until a person reaches puberty, at which point they settle to look like the animal that most reflects the human's temperament. It is a simple idea but I've never read anything so enchanting.

In the first book, 'Northern Lights', the central character Lyra travels from her home town of Oxford to the frozen north of Svalbard, where witches go to war and armoured bears live in palaces of ice. It is a world so richly created, so utterly enchanting that finishing the book is pretty devastating.

‘Directly above them the balloon swelled out in a huge curve. Above and ahead of them the Aurora was blazing, with more brilliance and grandeur than she had ever seen. It was all around, or nearly, and they were nearly part of it. Great swathes of incandescence trembled and parted like angels’ wings beating, cascades of luminescent glory tumbled down invisible crags to lie in swirling pools or hang like vast waterfalls.’

The characters are all embellished and real and Lyra herself is perfect. Small, feisty, brave and irreverent - she is everything I wanted to be when I was young and to be honest she still is.

Lyra's story would be engaging enough in itself but there are much deeper themes involved. There are complex religious ideas that focus on original sin and loss of innocence. I truly believe that books for children do not have to be dumbed down, with simple language and obvious plots and Pullman demonstrates that in much of his work but most of all here.

‘So Lyra and her daemon turned away from the world they were born in, and looked toward the sun, and walked into the sky.’

This 'Favourite Book' submission is courtesy of Katie, thank you for sharing with us Katie!

Katie has recently started her own book blog, which you can find here!   
You can also find her on Pinterest here.

If you'd like to share your favourite book with my readers, click here (or the tab at the top of the page) to find out some more info.  The books shared by various bloggers & authors can be found hereeee.  

Hope you all enjoy the rest of your weekend!  


Having a Coke with You by Frank O'Hara

Having a coke with you
is even more fun than going to San Sebastian, Irún, Hendaye, Biarritz, Bayonne
or being sick to my stomach on the Travesera de Gracia in Barcelona
partly because in your orange shirt you look like a better happier St. Sebastian
partly because of my love for you, partly because of your love for yoghurt
partly because of the fluorescent orange tulips around the birches
partly because of the secrecy our smiles take on before people and statuary
it is hard to believe when I’m with you that there can be anything as still
as solemn as unpleasantly definitive as statuary when right in front of it
in the warm New York 4 o’clock light we are drifting back and forth
between each other like a tree breathing through its spectacles

and the portrait show seems to have no faces in it at all, just paint
you suddenly wonder why in the world anyone ever did them

                                                                                                       I look
at you and I would rather look at you than all the portraits in the world
except possibly for the Polish Rider occasionally and anyway it’s in the Frick
which thank heavens you haven’t gone to yet so we can go together the first time
and the fact that you move so beautifully more or less takes care of Futurism
just as at home I never think of the Nude Descending a Staircase or
at a rehearsal a single drawing of Leonardo or Michelangelo that used to wow me
and what good does all the research of the Impressionists do them
when they never got the right person to stand near the tree when the sun sank
or for that matter Marino Marini when he didn’t pick the rider as carefully
as the horse

it seems they were all cheated of some marvelous experience
which is not going to go wasted on me which is why I am telling you about it

F R A N K  O ' H A R A

I don't know about you but I'm often unsure of how to read poems like this one.  The poems that our English teacher told us to use the word "enjambement" to describe.  As if that would help our understanding of what the poet was trying to say.  In answer to that problem, Frank O'Hara has this to say (taken from 'Personism: A Manifesto):

But how then can you really care if anybody gets it, or gets what it means, or if it improves them. Improves them for what? For death? Why hurry them along? Too many poets act like a middle-aged mother trying to get her kids to eat too much cooked meat, and potatoes with drippings (tears). I don't give a damn whether they eat or not. Forced feeding leads to excessive thinness (effete). Nobody should experience anything they don't need to, if they don't need poetry bully for them.


'Funny Girl' from Daunt Books, Marylebone

Daunt Books in Marylebone is a treasure trove of goodies spread over several floors consequently I could easily spend hours in there.  It is predominantly a travel book shop (yes, like the one from Notting Hill) with sections dedicated to various countries and continents.  They run regular events and are fully stocked on the latest fictions and non-fictions as well as plenty of lovely cards.

The first time I visited was in the store itself, located on Marylebone High Street I was surprised at how big it was given its Central London location.  I found the layout of the store fascinating as it allowed you to travel the world author-by-author: it's a great way to discover new and interesting writing.

The second time was an online visit where I ordered the 'Funny Girl' package and found the whole experience so wonderful I decided to share it with you guys.   There are lots of  different gift bundles offered by Daunt that would be the perfect gift for any booklover [whether that be you, or someone else you know! ;)]  The prices vary and seem to have gone up over the Christmas period from when I initially ordered this (it cost me £35-ish at the moment they're charging £45).  I imagine they will be reducing the prices once the present buying craze is over.

The Funny Girl:


Daunt offers over fourteen different packages, each coming beautifully wrapped in brown paper and blue ribbon.  If you're feeling particularly generous they also offer subscription services [I'm just waiting for someone to buy me one!] Every month the subscriber will receive a new book based on their individual tastes and preferences [if you're buying it as a gift for somebody they will send out a letter explaining the system, encouraging the receiver to get in touch to let them know what type of books they like].    The prices range from £135 - £312.