Hungry for Pizza? Here are Five Things you should try at Franco Manca

Hey Sweeties,

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to spend the evening at Franco Manca in Reading – a chain of restaurants that specialise in sourdough pizza. The team at Franco Manca hosted a special evening to let local media, bloggers etc. sample some of the menu and hand selected organic and natural wines, no logo beer and cider, and other drinks. To be honest I had never heard of Franca Manco until attending this event, so I was full of intrigue before my arrival. Now I have experienced them for myself however, I thought it only right that I share five things you need to check out for yourself if you get the chance to visit Franco Manca.

Franco Manca Reading

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Cocktails, Delicious Food & Laid-Back Dining at The Botanist Reading

Hey Sweeties,

A couple of weeks ago I attended a pre-launch evening at Reading’s newest restaurant, The Botanist, located on King Street.

The Botanist, a concept like no other, offers an award-winning selection of botanical inspired cocktails, craft beers and ales along with an extensive dining menu.

The Botanist offers over 80 different beers and ales from around the world. The pub chain even brews two of their own ales, Passionate Blonde and Pacific Pale Ale. 

My husband and I were a tad early for our dinner reservation, which was no bad thing as it allowed us to head to the bar and try out some of the extensive cocktail menu. I had happened to have a bit of a stressful day at work and even though part of me wanted to curl up at home and feel sorry for myself, an evening out at The Botanist Reading proved a great distraction.


As I was the designated driver for the evening (earnt some top wife points), I could only try one alcoholic cocktail before switching to the alcohol-free options. The menu of options was endless and if you are a gin lover then The Botanist (Reading) is definitely somewhere you need to spend an evening. As it turns out, I am not hugely into gin but I adore a Mojito and The Botanist Reading offers three versions, I decided to try the Plum and Thai Basil Mojito (seen below on the left) and I can report it was delicious.

The Botanist Reading

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Girl Online by Zoe Sugg -Suitable for Thirty-Year Olds? | Book Review

Hey Sweeties,

Firstly, apologies for being a bit M.I.A this past week but it has been a bit mental and when things get mental, suffers so forgive me.

So! A couple of months ago, I nipped out to the local Sainsbury’s near my work and within the small line of shops next to it as a charity shop. To be honest I do not go in that often but on this particular day, a large framed picture of some trees was leant against the window outside and cutting a short story even shorter, I decided for £3, it was coming home with me. However, I did not have any cash on me and the shop demanded that I pay £5 to use my card so I had to find some things to make up the difference.

I do not know if I have mentioned this before to you guys, but I rarely ever buy non-fiction books from new/full price, I 99.9% always purchase them second hand. On this particular day, amongst a couple of other books, I picked up Zoe Sugg’s aka. Zoella debut novel, Girl Online, for 25p. Two things here, 1. I never find books for sale in charity shops for 25p, 2. I categorically know that Girl Online has not been written for women nearing thirty years old. However, for 25p I am going to give it a go just to see how Zoe scores as an author, and to see if this book is actually any good.

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

Without giving the whole story of Girl Online away (which is actually really hard because I really want to go into detail about everything!), the story fundamentally focusses on 15-year old Penny Porter. Penny writes anonymously on her blog, ‘Girl Online’ as well as being a very keen photographer. She lives with her parents and her older brother, Tom, in Brighton, and her best friend, Elliott lives next door. All very dreamy so far. However, Penny suffers from anxiety and panic attacks and there is a particular moment in the book where this explodes. Again, without going into detail she fortunately gets the opportunity to escape her life temporarily in Brighton and goes to New York City with her parents and Elliott. Here, she meets Mr too-good-to-be-true, Noah aka. Brooklyn Boy.

Any Good?

Is Girl Online a bit cheesy? Yes. Is it a bit naïve? Yes. Would I let my hypothetical teenage daughter read it? Yes and I absolutely would have ADORED this book if I was a teenager myself. Girl Online is what Footloose by Kate Caan, as well as all the Animal Ark series (Google them) were to me as a teenager. Girl Online does at times get a bit unrealistic, I mean, 10,000 followers to Penny’s blog, which is essentially a collection of naïve teenage musings? Nevertheless, that aside Girl Online is still a perfectly pleasant read and anyone who has been to secondary school and experienced the whole friendship mix will relate.

While it is hard to not think of Zoe when reading about Penny (because at the end of the day, you write about what you know), there is obviously going to be some people, mannerisms and material things that are quite similar. I have not read anything online about Girl Online, but I definitely won’t be the only person who thinks of YouTuber, Tyler Oakley when reading about Elliott, surely I can’t be? Regardless, I really liked Elliott as a character and the scene towards the end of the book in Choccywoccydoodah was brilliant.

Obviously fairly soon after Girl Online got published, while it was raved about, a huge internet backlash rose up and punched poor Zoe straight in the face, over allegations that she possibly wasn’t the real author after all. You know what? Who cares? Even as an almost thirty-year old, I got absorbed and I am already on the look out for a non-full price copy of Girl Online: On Tour (the book’s sequel) because I want to continue the journey of Penny and Noah.

Have any of you guys read Girl Online? What did you think?

Until next time x


Recently I have been Reading…

Hey Sweeties,

Oh my, so close to 2016 now -are you ready?

I thought I would talk you through some of the books I have read recently but firstly, let’s get something straight, when I say ‘recently’ I don’t literally mean in the last month or so, this post really is a few of my reads over the past year. A resolution for 2016 is to definitely read more books as it’s something that I have not given myself enough time to do this past year and I love nothing more than losing myself in a book. Even my magazine reading has slipped lately, I have a pile of them still wrapped in plastic.

Recently I have been reading

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

I’ll be honest, I haven’t really got on board with the Girls (HBO) bandwagon yet; it’s simply not something I have got around to however, Lena Dunham is though very much on my radar and why I was so keen to get a copy of her book and was lucky enough to get it from a colleague last Christmas.

So what do I think? Overall I really enjoyed it and there were many parts in which I sat and giggled to myself as for a few things she was so on point and things I totally knew what she was describing. Also however, the book in places was not comfortable reading and it was sad to read about some of her sexual encounters and her anxiety but for the most part I loved how blunt she was about it all. She tells it like it is and anyone who can do that well has my respect.

If you like her, I would definitely recommend this book. If you don’t, ultimately it would come down to your reading style and tastes as to whether this would be enjoyable for you.

Grayson Perry: Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Girl by Wendy Jones

This book won’t be for everyone but if you love or have an interest in art and like artists and work that is slightly more alternative, Grayson Perry should appeal to you. Famously, Grayson won the 2003 Turner Prize dressed as his alter-ego, Claire but Grayson is otherwise an acclaimed ceramic artist… as well as a transvestite. The book covers his first twenty or so years of childhood through college and his development as an artist. It’s a thoroughly engaging read and I think even if Grayson Perry may not particularly appeal to you, if you still enjoy culture and biographies, this one definitely wouldn’t be a bad shout.

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

This is the second time I have read this book and something over the summer made me want to revisit it which I don’t often get with books save for the odd few, but I had a real calling to read this again, partly because I wanted to see if I related to anything different on this second visit.

The book is split up into three parts (Eat – Pray – Love) and each tackles an element of author Elizabeth (Liz) Gilbert’s life that she feels she needs to dedicate time to healing. A recent divorcee, Liz decides to take a year out and travel to three different countries -Italy, India and Bali (Indonesia)- and by doing so learns to find herself again through deep spiritual searching and healing. As a reader, you not only feel her pain, but you go on a journey with her and while Liz is confronting a lot, the book is often humorous and overall thoroughly enjoyable.

Footloose by Kate Cann

Speaking of revisiting books which I seldom do, this is one I have many times over. A bit like To Kill a Mockingbird (which is another book I re-read every couple of years), I discovered Footloose in my teen years and just fell in love with it from the off but to be honest, while it has always been on my shelf, I haven’t read it for a long time. For some reason I felt like a summer read and something to get me in the holiday spirit before going to America and this was it.

First things first, this is a teen novel and I remember reading a review of it in 17 magazine or something similar and bought it before a holiday. It was the first thing I read that actually spoke about relationships and sex from a teen perspective and I could just relate to it. While I have never been on a girls holiday, the book transported me away and I devoured it easily and something this year made me want to go back there. It will definitely be one of those books that I keep forever and possibly let any daughters I have read when old enough.

Recently I have been reading

Desperate in Dubai by Ameera Al Hakawati

This isn’t the sought of book I would usually pick up but as a lover of Eastern Culture and Dubai being somewhere I have wanted to visit for a very long time, I was compelled to give this book a go. Although I read chick lit, I hate really girlie characters and stories where it’s all men and sex, and where the main female character(s) hasn’t got her shit together (and this applies in films also). Desperate in Dubai kind of balanced between being the sought of book that I found irritating and something that from time to time, I couldn’t put down. I really liked how the lives/stories of the four main female characters came together and the end of the book definitely had my heart beating in anticipation of what was about to unfold. What I didn’t like though was the constant need by the author to brand everything (i.e. the IKEA table), I appreciate that it was often done in context but it did quite soon get annoying and I simply didn’t need that level of detail attached to a description of something. But if you do like chick lit and want something that mixes in with Eastern culture then I would definitely give this a read.

The House We Grew Up In by Lisa Jewell

Last Blogmas regular readers will remember that I posted about my favourite books and that I am a huge fan of Lisa Jewell, so you can imagine my delight at getting my hands on her latest novel (at the time, another book has since been released). The way Lisa tells a story and takes you through the individual journeys of her characters is truly incredible and this book has such a depth to it that I urge you to read it for yourself. Essentially it is about a family with four children who grow up and have to address a family tragedy that happened many years before, and how they each have come to terms with it in their own ways. The book also centres around the mum -Lorelli- who as the pages turn and the years pass, sees her lose herself in hoarding. It’s difficult to not give too much away but one of the things I love about Lisa’s writing is that whatever she takes you through during the book, they always end on a positive. My favourite ending of hers was the one in Thirtynothing as I remember just feeling so delighted with a revelation at the end with two of the characters.

When God was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman

I have seen this book floating around my parents house for ages and recently I discovered it’s one of my Mum’s favourite books and thus, it was lent to me to read it for myself.

While I am no longer religious, I am definitely spiritual and I do find comfort in that with many things in my life. Rabbits are also my favourite animal and again, have and still do provide me with great comfort in my life and so the way the rabbit (God) is written and loved within the book by the character, Elly is something I can not only completely relate too, but something I adored in the book.

It’s a gorgeous read and I can now understand why my Mum loves it so much and has re-read it several times. While it’s quite light-hearted, the characters are rich and each bring something wholesome that really shapes the book. For me though, I love the close bond Elly has with her brother Joe and how this never disappears, even as they get older and is also a constant throughout the book. I also really enjoy how quirky some of the characters are and how they each move you in different ways.

I have no doubt you’ll have seen this book all over the place and a part of you has been a little bit intrigued about what it’s about. All I’ll say is give it a go, it won’t disappoint you.

What books have you guys read this year? Anything you can recommend me?

I have a pile of books that have been sat on my shelf for a long time so as I said earlier, 2016 I am going to make it my priority to dedicate more time to reading and less time to looking at a screen.

Until next time x