Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Blog Tour: The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith

Blog Tour: The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Snaith | Hollie in Wanderlust

When I was contacted a few weeks ago by Thomas Hill, the Press Officer for Transworld Books, an imprint of Penguin Books, about a new book, naturally I jumped at the chance to get stuck into it. I didn’t know much about The Things We Thought We Knew by Mahsuda Smith, prior to reading so I was able to go in with a completely open mind and thoroughly enjoy everything that the book had to offer. The story follows Ravine, a young girl, after her diagnosis with chronic pain syndrome and is set in Leicester and her and her mother’s council estate block. I loved how detailed the description of the setting is; I really could imagine the cramped but cosy flat, and the surrounding neighbours who really add to the multicultural nature of Leicester as a city and the UK as a whole. The neighbourhood is incredibly close knit, which I think definitely affects Ravine’s state of mind- being confined to her bed, in constant paint, and having everyone know your business really doesn’t seem the ideal situation to me.

I found Ravine’s character incredibly interesting, particularly because I don’t really know anything about chronic pain syndrome. I found her struggle with her feelings, particularly surrounding her best friend’s disappearance particularly poignant and she was definitely a character that I felt a lot of sympathy for, in spite of her tendency to appear selfish. Ravine’s mother, Amma, is a very fascinating character and I resonated with her more than I did with Ravine; her personality was full of spice and sass and her commitment to her daughter and her daughter’s health was admirable. She attempts to get on with her life, hiding her romantic relationship as far as she can, but also puts her daughter first, sacrificing her own basic needs to ensure that those of Ravine are fully met. She really is an admirable character and reminds me of my own mum, in many different ways.

I honestly cannot believe that this novel is a debut, much less that the initial write was done when the author was 16 years old. I think back to the own pieces that I penned at that age and find myself overwhelmed with the sheer sophistication of the writing. The whole mystery surrounding Marianne, Ravine’s best friend’s, disappearance is one that pulls you in from the offset and makes you want to continue reading. I’m not one to use the word “unputdownable” willy-nilly but this book honestly was. It’s hard to talk too thoroughly about the story without spoiling the best bits, so I’ll leave it to you to explore it further.

Thank you so much to the team at Penguin Random House for my copy of the book, in exchange for this review. I really look forward to reading more by Mahsuda and exploring her prose more over the coming years.

The Things We Thought We Knew was published by Penguin Random House on 15th June 2017.


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Life: Making my House a Home: Prints

My plan for the summer was to find myself a brand, spanking new house to move into ready for the new school year to commence. However, I’ve taken a complete and utter u-turn here and decided actually, I’m going to stay in my teeny tiny cosy flat for another six months minimum, and instead do the place up and make it the home that it’s been crying out to be. The place is a blank canvas and needs a little bit of TLC – what perfect way to do that than to kit it out in brand spanking new furniture and gorgeous new prints for the walls?
Etsy and I are close friends, particularly at the moment. I’m always in favour of supporting small businesses and a few of my favourite blogging folk (CC: Dorkface) use and rely on Etsy as a source of income. I have a few of Jemma’s pieces adorned on my lounge wall already so I decided to have a scout around Etsy, particularly focusing on the prints and choose a few more that will add that certain Je ne sais quoi to my flat, encompassing my personality, without breaking the bank.

Part of my identity is definitely French and France as a whole, and having lived in the beautiful region of Alsace for a period of time, I think it’s really important to have a piece of the region in my home. I’ve been looking around for quite a long time for prints that depict Strasbourg, the city where I lived, and whilst I have a beautiful watercolour print of the cathedral already up in the flat, I was finding it difficult to add to my collection. I came across a beautiful French postcard Etsy page and knew immediately that I HAD to have some of the cards. They had cards of Strasbourg, Séléstat (the town where my school was located), Colmar (arguably the most beautiful place in France) and Kaysersberg, famous for the German Christmas markets. I’ll be framing them in a large frame, together, to show them off amazingly.  

I also have a beautiful French print in my kitchen, purchased for me by my mother as a graduation present, but I wanted to add another one to brighten the place up. As a newly discovered coffee fiend, I found this beautiful print the perfect addition to my cooking space. I’m on the lookout for even more (small) prints to compliment the ones I already have in my kitchen.

As if by chance, when I was writing up this post, I came across ANOTHER print that is absolutely perfect for one of the walls in my bedroom. It was one of those pieces of art that I just had to have, and I saw myself and my personality in the colours and the design, as silly as that sounds. I’ve followed Kelly on twitter for quite a while, but never bought anything from her store before but I know that that’s definitely going to change. I’m resisting buying for now, but I’ve spied quite a few other images that I’ll probably be buying to accompany it as some point. I love the combination of pink and gold, my two favourite colours. I think I’ll be framing it in a gold frame to truly accentuate the colour combinations.  

I’m really liking mountain prints at the moment, so these two prints will look perfect side by side on my lounge wall. I’m a very black and white kind of girl, so the monochrome print is probably my favourite of the two but the dash of colour in the other appeals to me as well. You can purchase the two prints here and here.

I’m really looking forward to seeing everything come together and finally making my little flat a proper home!


Sunday, 28 May 2017

Food: A Vietnamese Treat at Pho Café, Bold Street, Liverpool*

If you know anything about me at all, you’ll know that I really, really like going out for dinner and trying new foods. When I was given the opportunity to check out the menu at a new joint – Pho Café on Bold Street – I absolutely jumped at the opportunity and invited my best friend along for the ride. We booked in for a Wednesday afternoon and arrived ready and waiting to eat some amazing dishes.

Food: A Vietnamese Treat at Pho Café, Bold Street, Liverpool | Hollie in Wanderlust | Food review

Food: A Vietnamese Treat at Pho Café, Bold Street, Liverpool | Hollie in Wanderlust | Food review

Pho café is in an absolutely prime location, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the Bold Street shops and restaurants. The interiors are spectacular and I found myself spending a significant amount of time before looking at the menu just checking out all the artwork and the layout of the place. For a Wednesday night, it was quite busy, with one large table occupied by a family party. Very good first impressions.

We were greeted immediately by a waiter, who ensured that not only were we comfortable and given the help we needed, but ensured that our table was moved once a better one (with much better lighting for pictures…) became available. He told us all about the company and talked us through the menu, explaining different aspects and ensuring that we knew exactly what we were ordering!

Food: A Vietnamese Treat at Pho Café, Bold Street, Liverpool | Hollie in Wanderlust | Food review

Catrin and I decided that we weren’t actually THAT hungry (for us) so we decided to share a starter between the two of us, then grab a main and dessert each. One of the lovely ladies in the restaurant brought over a platter of prawn crackers and sweet chilli dip for us to nibble on, we ordered drinks (homemade lemonade) and finally set about deciding what we were going to eat. We umm-ed and ahh-ed over which starter to go for as they all just sounded SO delicious, but eventually decided on Cánh gà, which were crispy chicken wings with a spicy (!!) sriracha dip. The wings were salty and delicious and while I wasn’t brave enough to try the dip, Catrin was and whilst she used it sparingly, she quite liked it – I, on the other hand, dipped mine in the Sweet Chilli dip.

Food: A Vietnamese Treat at Pho Café, Bold Street, Liverpool | Hollie in Wanderlust | Food review

Mains were much easier to decide between – I’d actually decided what I was going to eat at lunch whilst at work earlier in the day and Catrin was very quick to decide what she was going to have as well. I went for Beef Phở Xào, which were wok fried noodles, with a generous serving of beef, lemongrass, beansprouts and peanuts. I’m always a little bit apprehensive getting foods with peanuts in them, not for my own safety but for other peoples’, but this dish was more than worth that. The portion sizes were fantastic, there was more than enough of everything. The entire dish was full of flavour, filling and very moreish. I’ll more than likely be returning and ordering this dish again. Catrin ordered the traditional Vietnamese dish, the Phở chín. This dish was an interesting one, as you were given the broth aspect of the dish, and then a side plate with herbs and sauces to make it exactly to your own taste: there’s absolutely no room for disappointment here. Again, the dish was plentiful in both quantity and flavour. This is another dish that I’d really like to go back and have a taste of, as I had some serious food envy watching Catrin eat it. Stomachs full, our thoughts turned straight back to the menu and what was to come next!

Food: A Vietnamese Treat at Pho Café, Bold Street, Liverpool | Hollie in Wanderlust | Food review

At this point in the meal, the lovely lady who had been so attentive towards us all evening suggested we try a few of the restaurant’s signature cocktails. I only had to see the word “Prosecco” on the menu before I pounced on the Rose Apple Bellini, whilst Catrin opted for the Phojito: a Vietnamese twist on the classic mojito. These drinks were interesting, simply because of the inclusion of rice spirit, something I’d never tasted before. The Bellini wasn’t really to my taste, as it was quite strong, but as a treat it was definitely something I was glad to have tried. On the other hand, the Phojito was absolutely delicious.
Food: A Vietnamese Treat at Pho Café, Bold Street, Liverpool | Hollie in Wanderlust | Food review

Of course, we couldn’t go to a restaurant and not get dessert. I avoid dairy, for health issues, so I decided to get the Kem sorbet, so I wouldn’t miss out. I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn at all when I say that it was probably the best sorbet I’ve eaten outside of Italy: it was absolutely delicious, sweet but not overbearing and was a fantastic, light end to a delicious meal. Catrin chose the Bánh sô-cô-la truffle, a delicious looking chocolate truffle slab served with a generous helping of green tea ice cream.

Food: A Vietnamese Treat at Pho Café, Bold Street, Liverpool | Hollie in Wanderlust | Food review

All in all, the food and service at Pho was incredible. The staff were attentive to our (and more importantly, to other customers) needs and I can see myself returning time and time again. I’m always looking for good and consistent places to eat so I can see this place becoming a staple in my life.

(Food and drinks were complimentary, thoughts and opinions remain my own)
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