Great Bookish Bake Off – Dairy free chocolate brownies!

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The cakes I bake and the books I read while baking them

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Firstly, I can’t make this post and not mention the absolute travesty that is the bake off controversy. I haven’t been this upset since Brexit. That aside, this series has been great, Selasi is my fave, he reminds me of someone I know and its just too much!
Anyway, partly inspired by bake off, partly inspired by a recipe I saw on the internet and partly because I was approaching my day of birth and cake… Well… I decided to give these a try and then tell you about them – so here we go – dairy free brownies that can also be made peanut butter flavoured and gluten free. LETS GO. Though it became a bit of a monster as you can see. It did taste pretty good  though.

What you will need:
A mixing bowl
A wooden spoon
A baking tray (I did not have a deep enough baking tray and instead made this in a loaf tin. ROOKIE ERROR)
320g flour (I used self raising, but feel free to use gluten free stuff if you like!)
240g brown sugar
240g caster sugar
225ml cold water
225ml vegetable oil
2 tea spoon vanilla extract
80g dark chocolate
optional – 1 table spoon of peanut butter/ biscoff spread. Whichever you prefer, I put biscoff in mine because caramel.
Your other option is a book to read while baking cos this does take a while. I was reading Emmaline Pankhurst’s autobiography, My Own Story, which is so interesting. I might have to make a post all about it when I’ve finished.

Firstly, get your mixing bowl and wooden spoon ready, then add all the dry ingredients first. Mix the flour, sugars and cocoa powder together. Once that’s all mixed in add the optional spread if you want to use it, oil, vanilla, chocolate and mix it again. Once you’re happy with the constistency, pour into your baking tray. Cos you’d have been clever enough to find out if you had one of those before you started making this right? Stick it into the for 45 minutes on 170 degrees and get reading.

Like I said, I just started reading Emmaline Pankhurst’s autobiography and it is so interesting! I’m a bit history nerd anyway and I’ve been wanting to read more about women’s suffrage and gender politics, so I was pretty happy to find this in my library. Its super interesting so far and I’ve learned so much more about the movement and how it came about. Also, its made me rethink Gladstone’s place on my list of favourite prime ministers. Yes. I have a list of favourite prime ministers. Gladstone was on it. Now I’m not so sure.

Anyway, would be interested to see if any of you guys give this recipe a go and if you actually manage to cook it in a tray…

Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: A Marriage

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Sometimes Madness is Wisdom: Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald: A marriage – Kendall Taylor

Hello and welcome to my commitment to reading more non fiction! Also, what a title! It certainly is a mouthful!

Irresistibly charming, recklessly brilliant, Zelda and Scott Fitzgerald epitomized everything that was beautiful and damned about the Jazz Age. But behind the legend, there was a highly complex and competitive marriage–a union not of opposites but almost of twins who both inspired and tormented each other, and who were ultimately destroyed by their shared fantasies. Now in this frank, stylish, superbly written new book, Kendall Taylor tells the story of the Fitzgerald marriage as it has never been told before.
Following the success of Fitzgerald’s first novel, This Side of Paradise, Scott and Zelda took New York by storm. Scott was recognized as the greatest American author of the twenties and everyone was fascinated with Zelda, his ravishing young wife, known as the model for all his flapper heroines. Ultimately it all fell apart, and Kendall Taylor tells us why. Drawing on previously suppressed material, including crucial medical records, Taylor sheds fresh light on Zelda’s depths and mysteries–her rich but largely unrealized artistic talents, her own ambitions that were unfulfilled because she was Mrs. F. Scott Fitzgerald, her passionate love affairs. Zelda’s contribution to Scott’s fiction, which was based on her diaries, her letters, and her life, was her only great achievement–and for that she may have paid the terrible price of her own sanity.
In Sometimes Madness Is Wisdom, Kendall Taylor has created the definitive Fitzgerald biography. Written with sympathy, original insight, and dazzling style–and featuring memorable appearances from Edmund Wilson, Gertrude Stein, and Ernest Hemingway, among others–this is a stunning portrait of a marriage, an age, and a fabulous but tragic woman.

So, you may remember at the beginning of the month I made a plea for help in getting more into non fiction, you guys really came through for me on here, Twitter and YouTube, so I, armed with a list of titles from you all, headed to the library. Sadly, there wasn’t a single one in the library, I am undeterred, there are other libraries to try! However I did find this, so I figured I should ease myself into my non fiction project by grabbing a book on a subject I’m already a bit familiar with.

Long time visitors here (or any of you that know me IRL) will know that I bloody love the Fitzgeralds. Scott is a problematic fave of mine, I find him and the other writers of his time infinitely fascinating and I learning more about the time in history and them as people is always something I’m happy to do. This book was one of the best biographies of the two I’ve ever read, mostly because it spent a lot of time talking about Zelda, her life before Scott and referred to her as a separate entity to him. So few biographies on the Fitzgeralds and their relationship focus on her, which is a shame because Zelda was a fascinating woman, she was incredibly talented and often overshadowed by Scott – who, although a very talented author, did use bits of Zelda’s writing in his own. Like I said, problematic fave.

Aside from being interesting historically and socially, especially as the Fitzgeralds lived in so many different countries and seeing how society moved with the times in each of those places was pretty captivating, I think the most fascinating part of this book was the chapters talking about Zelda’s health, particularly about the  onset of her schizophrenia and how it affected her marriage and her creative aspirations. I’ve been interested in mental health issues for a really long time (previous readers of this blog, will know why), so reading about the different symptoms and treatments, especially in the time period, was so interesting! (How many times have I used that word so far? Sorry, but this was FASCINATING, this was exactly why I wanted to read more non fiction!)

Basically, this was great, although I was familiar with a lot of the material, I did learn so much more! The only thing I would say is that I didn’t appreciate the way the author wrote about Hadley Hemingway. Hadley may not have been as vibrant as Zelda, but she was an incredibly strong woman with integrity and I aint got time for any shade throwing!

Got any more non fiction I should read? Give me titles to add to my list!

#LoveThisQuote – Love and other man made disasters

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I do try and put stuff that’s profound and that here, but this little gem made me smirk so, I figured, why not make a note of it. (I am majorly paraphrasing this, just roll with it)

These are just some of the things I’m afraid of … 5) Getting Cancer and dying without ever falling in love. I’m pretty sure that if I get cancer, there won;t be a gorgeous guy with one leg in my support group.

Everyone got that reference right?
This was a great, fun book so, if you haven’t checked it out, I recommend that you do!

Help! I want to read more non fiction.

Why hello there, can you help? I am on a quest to read more non fiction!
So the other day, I was perusing the YouTubes (I do that most days tbh) when I happened upon a video about non fiction books that had changed someone’s life, I read a lot, but I don’t spend that much time reading non fiction, I’m still feeling the burn from university tbh, but I’ve been wanting to get into more non fiction titles for a while now, I like learning, so… I should read more, right?
Anyway, tldr, I watched the video, it was very interesting and gave me some titles to look up next time I’m near the library, but it made me think about the few non fiction titles I have read, which made me think of you. Yes. You. Scared? Don’t be.
Sometimes I post stuff on YouTube, and when I post stuff about books, it generally makes my Twitter notifications do their job with people either talking to me about the books I’ve talked about, or recommending titles based on the books I’ve talked about. So, long story short, I figured I would take my hunt for non fiction onto YouTube and then I figured I would share it here.

So, if you can think of any non fiction titles that you’ve really enjoyed, let me know! And if you want to read any of these, check them out!

August round up

This month had lots of random little events taking place, like spending the day with my mum and my niece where we watched Finding Dory together and hatched a Pikachu! We also got to have lunch together a few days later which was the cutest thing ever! There was also some surprisingly cool sibling bonding, Instagram decided to take on Snapchat… I think I like it… Though… Plagerism is bad. The town I live in hosted a Comic Con, there is nothing cooler than walking through town and spotting Spider Man chilling outside Costa Coffee tbh,  I ventured to my home town to spend some time with the long distance bff and I managed to read SO MANY BOOKS! I think its because I have super writer’s block right now, so instead of writing, I’ve been reading. The writer’s block needs to gtfo though because writing is like my thing and what do I do if I don’t write?

What I read this month:

24288284Mrs Hemingway – Naomi Wood
If you’ve been here before, you’ll know I have a fondness about the great American writers of the twenties, I’ve read a couple of books about Zelda Fitzgerald and I’ve previously read The Paris Wife, which is primarily about Hadley Hemingway. This is the story of each of Ernest Hemingway’s wives at the end of their respective marriages, its an addictive read and I raced through it!

25394438The Marble Collector – Cecelia Ahern
Ohhhh. The cover is super pretty… You know when you love an author and then you read something of theirs and you’re just like… I didn’t like it? That is me with this book. The thing is, I have loved so many of her books and I read her YA novel earlier in the year (check out the review here) and was a little disappointed, mostly because it didn’t feel like one of her books but this… There was none of the beauty or mystery of her other books with this. It wasn’t bad, it was just a bit meh.

6694908And the hippos were boiled in their tanks – William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac
You should see the library video I posted below for the full story of how I ended up searching for Burroughs and finding this… You should def watch it if you like Matty Healy’s face and who doesn’t love Matty Healy’s face? (Also thing that happened this month is that dear Matty had a haircut.) Anyway, this is the fictionalised account of the Carr/Kramarr situation as detailed in the film Kill Your Darlings. It reminded me a lot of On the Road, very stream of consciousness and definitely not to everyone’s taste, but it does have merit.

29868290Noon in Paris, Eight in Chicago – Douglas Cowie
I picked this up purely because I like cities and I’ve been to both of these places, I really wasn’t expecting a whirlwind romance between two actual people who actually existed! Now I have to research Simone de Beauvoir and Nelson Algren. This is basically a fictionalised account of their relationship which was incredibly long distance and yet, strangely worked!

25870408We are all made of molecules – Susin Nielson
This was cute! I was expecting it to be a bit more sciencey what with the molecules in the title and all, but it was a cute YA nonetheless. I like a good family drama and you certainly got that here, when Stewart and Ashley both find their families fragmenting and then merging together. It was a quick read that broached a lot of big subjects in an easy to swallow way. Also the cover is super pretty and it involved a cat with a great name.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – J K Rowling, John Tiffany and Jack Throne
Did I mention I got this for 83p? No? Well, I got this for 83p. Honestly, I’m glad I didn’t pay any more for it. I wanted to like this so much…. But… I didn’t. Like… Without wanting to be that guy who spoils the whole thing for everyone hanging on for the stage show, it was kinda like someone who had never read Harry Potter put this together. None of the original characters held any of their characteristics, Harry Potter spent the whole thing blaming his lack of father figures on his problems and I’m like da fuck Harry? You conveniently forgetting Sirius and Lupin and Hagrid and Arthur Weasley there? It was full of time travel plot holes, Ron might as well have not even be there. Seriously, the only good thing about this was Scorpius Malfoy. Well, until we chucked all that queer baiting in, but hey ho, should be used to that by now. Anyway,  that boy is a gift to this world. Maybe it’ll be better on stage but, yeah. My disappointment in this was only matched by my first ever Hershey bar. The Cursed Child has become my new Phantom Menace. I will now ignore the existence of this for the rest of time.

23705512You’re never weird on the internet, almost – Felicia Day
Felicia Day is a bit of hero of mine, if you’re not familiar with her name, she is basically the queen of the nerds (though it appears that although its a title she enjoys, it isn’t a self proclaimed one) she made her name making her own web series, filmmaking, acting and generally being a geek goddess to us mere mortals (she is also in Supernatural if that is an easier reference point). I’ve long admired her work and been interested in how she managed to gain success doing the fun things that she loves, so this has been on my TBR list for what feels like forever. It read much like I imagine having a conversation with Felicia would sound, the opening chapter instantly made me warm to her and it was in equal parts funny and inspiring (to me who is also a nerd anyway.) I feel like I don’t read enough non fiction. Recommend me more?

3232341The Fiction Class – Susan Breen
This was legit the worse thing to read when you have writer’s block! This is about a woman who has been writing her novel for the past seven years and has no idea how to end it, despite the fact that she’s struggling to be a writer, she is telling other people how to write by running a creative writing class alongside moaning about her mother and starting a relationship with one of her pupils. Maybe I need to go to a writing class to sort myself out…?

26365537Kindred Spirits – Rainbow Rowell
I wanted to grab this when it came out for World Book Day and then I spotted it at the library. I may have gone overboard in the library. I had to beg an assistant to let me take more than my allotted amount. Anyway, this is a cute, short (literally less than 100 pages) story about a girl so excited for the release of The Force Awakens, that she sits on the street for four days with two random people… I can’t say that’s its my favourite Rainbow Rowell story, but it was fun.

25707621Sofia Khan is not Obliged – Aiysha Malik
I’ve wanted to read this since watching this video, so I was very excited to spot it on the recently returned shelf at the library. This was so good on so many levels! Firstly, it was just bloody hilarious, secondly, it was nice to read a book about someone who wasn’t white and have an insight into a different culture. I need to read more books with non white protagonists. Hmu with recommendations. If you’ve not read this, check out my review!

Films I watched this month:

You may have noticed if you follow me on twitter, have been keeping up with my Film reviews in 10 tweets or less posts or this video, that I really like films and that I spend a lot of time watching them, so here are all the films (some new, some rewatches) that graced my television this month!

  • Finding Dory
  • The Great Mouse Detective
  • Kill Your Darlings
    Thought I’d give it a watch seeing as I read Burroughs and Kerouac’s fictional version of events.
  • Wreck it Ralph
  • Hotel Transylvania
  • Bridget Jones’ Diary
    OMG THEY ARE SMOKING INDOORS was my first thought when rewatching this. Followed by DEAR GOD I AM OLD ENOUGH TO RELATE TO THIS NOW.

TV I watched his month:

  • Stranger Things
    SO GOOD. It was like ET, The Goonies and Supernatural all rolled into one! Bring me series two immediately!
  • Gilmore Girls
    So, right I didn’t watch this when it was first a thing, then it arrived on Netflix and I thought I’d watch it before the revival, now I’m hooked which is ANNOYING because the last two seasons let down the entire show.
  • Tattoo Fixers
    Guilty Pleasure, don’t shame me.
  • Ripper Street
  • Great British Bake Off
    I love this I’m so happy its back.
  • Pretty Little Liars
    THAT LAST EPISODE THOUGH.

My favourite Instagram posts this month:

I hate plagarism as much as the next person, but I do kinda love Instagram stories and I’m using it so much more than I do Snapchat… Which might be a problem considering I do a snapchat series over on youtube!

Finding Dory with the munchkin 🐟

A photo posted by leeeeeeeeah (@leeeeeeeeah) on

The Doctor is in #FromeComicCon

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Comic Con came to town!

Forever wishing i didnt have to say goodbye to this city

A photo posted by leeeeeeeeah (@leeeeeeeeah) on

I hate having to leave London behind😦

What I did on YouTube this month:

What I loved on YouTube this month:

One Day I’ll manage to do one of these without mentioning Casey Neistat, now is not that time. Of course he had to make a video about the Instagram stories vs Snapchat thing (I prefer the Insta stories… hbu?), I also loved the Midnight Beast’s Pokemon Parody. I like his face and also this was funny af, so here’s danisnotonfire offering the best advice on the internet, the Hillywood Show are back with another INCREDIBLE parody video that you HAVE to see and just because I am a sucker for room tours and hers are always super pretty, here’s Noodlerella’s new room. (I want her Ghibli postcards so hard.)

Sofia Khan is not Obliged

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Sofia Khan is Not Obliged – Aiysha Malik

Note to self, read more about non white people.

“Brilliant idea! Excellent! Muslim dating? Well, I had no idea you were allowed to date.’ Then he leaned towards me and looked at me sympathetically. ‘Are your parents quite disappointed?’
Unlucky in love once again after her possible-marriage-partner-to-be proves a little too close to his parents, Sofia Khan is ready to renounce men for good. Or at least she was, until her boss persuades her to write a tell-all expose about the Muslim dating scene.
As her woes become her work, Sofia must lean on the support of her brilliant friends, baffled colleagues and baffling parents as she goes in search of stories for her book. In amongst the marriage-crazy relatives, racist tube passengers and decidedly odd online daters, could there be a a lingering possibility that she might just be falling in love . . . ?

How sad is it that I live in a world where I actually have to make a note to self to find diverse literature?

Anyway, I first heard about this book when watching this video:

Basically, Leena (the vlogger in question) has raved about this book, she not only mentioned it in a book haul, but then she also interviewed the author (Aiysha Malik) about being a Muslim woman in Britain. If you’re not familiar with Leena, you should totally check her out, she’s very insightful and articulate and she is part of the Banging Book Club which I have been loving this year. Anyway, I was going to be reviewing Sofia Khan is not Obliged, not Leena’s YouTube channel. Whatever you take away from this post, check out both the book and Leena’s channel. Mmmkay?

Anyway, the above video, much like the book, was kind of eye opening for me. I like to think that I am an accepting person, I kinda live by the you do you mantra, but I do live in a very white, very closed part of the world where it’s more unusual not to hear a bit of casual racism as you go about your day, anyway because I am white and I don’t live in a particularly multi cultural area, I don’t know anyone who is openly Muslim and apart from the few things I was taught for GCSE RE, I don’t know an awful lot about Islam. I do however, know better than to listen to what the mainstream media tell me about Islam. TLDR, Leena’s video is super interesting and ya’ll should watch it.
Aside from being very informative, they talked about Aiysha’s novel, Sofia Khan is not Obliged, which made me immediately add it to my tbr list and do a literal jig for joy when I found it on the recently returned shelf at the library. Seriously, I got some funny looks, which might have been to do with the jig and might have been to do with the fact that I turned up 10 minutes before closing and proceeded to wonder about very slowly choosing things read. Can you tell I haven’t reviewed anything for a while? Since when have I been rambly af?

If you’re still with me, I salute you.
When I was reading it, I was firstly struck at how little I knew about modern Muslim life in Britain and also how few books I’ve read that feature non white protagonists. This is something I need to rectify. Please recommend me things.

Anyway, this book, I implore you all to read this book, diversifying your bookshelves aside, this was frankly genius.

I don’t want to repeat every other review and label this the Muslim Bridget Jones, but I honestly can’t think of a better way to describe it. Sofia Khan is a thirty something Muslim lady who has sworn off men (mostly because her sort of boyfriend wanted her to marry him and live with him in a house next door to his parents with a wall removed, essentially making it one house. Sofia was neither obliged or amused). One review I read of this on goodreads opened with the line: It is a truth universally acknowledged that Sofia Khan is in need of a husband. Genius. It turns out, that much like in non-Muslim households, not being married (or at least romantically entangled) before turning thirty, is a really big deal in Sofia’s home. She has to constantly deal with her family not understanding why she is happy to be on her own, as well as trying to deal with being part of this community, but also being a modern woman who has her own thoughts and ideas. Sofia herself was born and raised in London, her parents were not and the clashes in environment and outside influences were so interesting to read.
Anyway, Sofia, who works as a publicist for a publisher accidentally ends up pitching a Muslim dating book to her boss and finds herself given the task of writing it… cue the often hilarious situations she finds herself in as she actually has to join Muslim dating sites and attend Muslim speed dating for research purposes. This is all while battling the idea of being happy being alone vs finding a husband, while hanging out with people she may or may not be developing feelings for, the comings and goings of her ex and his compromises about the hole in the wall and her band of friends, one of whom is dating someone of a different race and another has become a second wife – this concept was kind of alien to me so reading about it was super interesting – and how these two things clash with their upbringings and the world they live in.

Aside from being a fun, heartfelt book about the trials and tribulations of a thirty something navigating the London dating scene, its also super interesting to read about the prospective of a person so completely removed from my background. I had always been under the impression (and honestly, the media doesn’t help this) that Muslim women are oppressed, Leena’s video and Aiysha Malik’s book both contradict this and while there are lots of traditional rules that make it seem that way, from reading this, though there are obvious cultural differences, there are many similarities too. Sofia, her mum and sister are expected to be cooks and run a house hold. That’s true of women whatever their religion, Sofia is in her thirties and feeling pressured to find a man, do you know who else had that? Bridget Jones, the one Sofia Khan is so often compared to in reviews. Other things that were interesting about this book is the idea of hijabs, Sofia, unlike many of her friends and family, chooses to wear a hijab and pray five times a day. She chooses not to drink, she chooses to smoke and swear. She goes to speed dating for goodness sake! And while she is careful to respect the parameters of her families beliefs, ie not allowing a man in the house after hours etc, she is not oppressed. She wears skinny jeans. How can you be oppressed if you wear skinny jeans? I just kind of loved that here is a person that loves their religion and follows its rules (an alien concept for me, the atheist) who was also relatable.
Plus, this was pretty bloody funny. Here is a genuine line from the book, after being called a terrorist while on the tube, Sofia responds with:

Terrorists don’t wear vintage shoes you ignorant wanker!

Come on, that is incredible.

Actually, I liked this so much, its going to get the Nick Fury Seal of Approval.

nick fury

It’s been a while since he made an appearance hasn’t it?

What’s on my Kindle 4.0

Yes, yet another round of ebooks I’ve managed to accumulate! I feel like I spend far too long on this blog complaining about not having physical books any more, but being an adult and only having one bookshelf. I don’t have space for books. I also spend library opening times in an office… So ebooks. Here is an assortment of things that I’ve downloaded recently:

I know I said I wasn’t going to read Lady Midnight, mostly because I felt so cheated by the ending of the Mortal Instruments… But it was super cheap… So… I caved. Sorry not sorry. I have yet to actually get around to read it… But have it I do. I also picked up a copy of The Girls by Emma Cline, I have seen this book everywhere and heard lots of good things – any of you guys read it? If so, was it a good choice? Man I hope so!
Finally I picked up the first two books in the Spinster series by Holly Bourne, she’s another one that I’ve heard lots about, I read the Manifesto on How to be Interesting and thoroughly enjoyed it, so I figured I’d give these two a go. By the time I’ve gotten around to reading them, I’m sure the third one will be affordable enough for me to add it to my collection!