Great Bookish Bakeoff – Gingerbread people!

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

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This time we are baking with a difference!
Every previous attempt to make gingerbread has gone terribly wrong for me, I’ve always ended up making cake instead of biscuit dough, this time though, I was in possession of my grandfather’s cook book (he used to make me and my brothers gingerbread all the time), a video camera and two friends, for this baking endeavour was part of the 6 week challenge. For those that have no idea what the 6 week challenge is, head here. For the rest of you, I’m sorry I keep mentioning it. This year my challenge is refreshing my memory with video editing, I did gloss over it a bit at uni, but I haven’t really done much of it since then, so I thought it would be good to get back into it. Hence me becoming an unsuccessful youtuber. Yay. Amber’s challenge is to learn how to cook, so the two of us decided on the seasonal treat of gingerbread. The two of us, armed with a video camera being operated by Pete settled on conquering our challenges!

Things you will need:
A bowl
A saucepan
A wooden spoon
A set of scales
125g plain flour
25g butter (we used lactose free butter)
a sprinkle of cinnamon
a sprinkle of ground ginger
two table spoons of golden syrup
A tea spoon of milk
50g brown sugar
Some hetronormative shape cutters
Drawing icing.
Optional things include books for your chilling and baking periods. Or perhaps some friends and a video camera.

Firstly, sift the flour, weigh it out and put into the bowl with the ginger and cinnamon. I’m  a bit of a cinnamon fiend so I sprinkled a liberal amount in there. Leave all of that to the side for the moment and weigh out the sugar and butter, pour these into the saucepan and add the golden syrup, heat this over a low heat and stir until melted and smooth.
Leave that to cool and then pour into the flour and spices, add the milk and stir until you get a stiff dough. Start kneading with your hands and shape into a ball.

Wrap the dough in cling film and put in the fridge for half an hour. My recipe book actually says the words: Chill for half an hour. Honestly, with the camera being on and the pressure of actually getting this right, I didn’t feel particularly chilled. Amber and Pete seemed fairly relaxed though, so at least a few of us did what we were instructed. Once the chilling period was over, we rolled out our dough (we did at least successfully make dough! yaaaay!) for some reason, there seemed to be much less dough than we anticipated, we only managed to get five ginger bread people out of the dough, but still. GINGERBREAD HAPPENED.
Our creations became slightly mangled in the trip from the work top to the baking tray, so… Be careful! They were stuck in the oven for about 20 mins of 160 degrees. This resulted in Amber and I choreographing a “the ginger is in the oven” dance. You of course can read or wash up…. Or you know…. Anything.
Once the cooking was completed, we let them cool and then decorated them, our initial aim was to create fellow Somer Valley FM presenters, but we ended up making a snake like Lord Voldemort and the members of One Direction. Ooops.

To see our attempt at making gingerbread, see the video below!!

Don’t forget to like and subscribe to see more of my ridiculous face!

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Winter is coming

Just a quick update on where I’m at with my 6 week challenge, we’re in the third (?) week now and I’ve had a play with a few different editing programmes, I’ve edited four vids now, two are currently on my youtube (one will be going up at the weekend) and two on the series comedy youtube, which is now releasing videos every week!

So, here is my latest offering: I love Winter.

It’s a shame that I’m doing this challenge on such old equipment and that because I work full time, all my filming tends to be in the evenings when it’s too dark out to use natural light, so I’m a little disappointed with this one, but I am glad that I’ve learned how to cut clips properly!

And here’s the latest series comedy video:

This was my favourite of all the ones we filmed, you can probably still hear me and Aron corpsing in the background!

Challenge…. Accepted?

6 weeks

Those of you that have been around a while will know that every year I take part in the Somer Valley FM 6 Week Challenge. Partly because I sort of have to being a volunteer at the station but also because sometimes, they can be quite fun. The first year I wrote an entire novel. Which you can actually buy by the way, just click on my face over in the right column, last year I took part in a blog challenge where I reviewed every book I read in the whole six weeks. This year I’ve decided to learn how to use video editing software, this is partly so I can regain skills I learned at uni and then promptly forgot, such skills are useful when you’re a journalist after all, partly because I have been wanting to make a short film for a really long time and partly because the paper I work at has been trying to venture into the world of visual media and well… I’m the only one who knows how to well… video and although I’ve done videos for them in the past, I know they can be much better. So for the next six weeks, I will be filming, editing and uploading videos in the hope that I’ll actually be good at it by the new year. Yay for life goals.

So, here’s my first attempt, please like and subscribe if you are on YouTube and then maybe I can also get super rich super quickly and someone will actually want to publish one of my books.

In other news, I’ve been doing some collaborations with my friends in recent months, my friend Chris and I wrote a book together, it’s his first and my ninth, so we’re both very excited for very different reseasons! You can get the free download from here and the pair of us teamed up with some other friends to create a sketch show together, the trailer of which is now live and can be viewed here. Happy reading and happy watching!

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This side of Paradise

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This side of Paradise – F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Every time I read the title I get that Coldplay song start going in my head, you know the one: PARA PARA PARADISE. I really hate Coldplay, so that was kind of annoying, fortunately, I really liked this book so… It evened itself out I guess.

This Side of Paradise, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s romantic and witty first novel, was written when the author was only twenty-three years old. This semiautobiographical story of the handsome, indulged, and idealistic Princeton student Amory Blaine received critical raves and catapulted Fitzgerald to instant fame. Now, readers can enjoy the newly edited, authorized version of this early classic of the Jazz Age, based on Fitzgerald’s original manuscript. In this definitive text, This Side of Paradise captures the rhythms and romance of Fitzgerald’s youth and offers a poignant portrait of the “Lost Generation.”

If this book is semiautobiographical, dear old Scott must have had a pretty lowly opinion of himself, if indeed, he did base Amory Blaine on his own life. Blaine is… well, a bit of a twat really, who seems to think he’s much more entitled than he actually is.

Fitzgerald writes so goddamn beautifully, he could make even the most ugly person sound worthwhile and breathtaking, which he does he with finesse and perfect clarity. Seriously, who do I have to deliver chocolate biscuits to to be able to write like this?

This is the story of a selfish egotist and how he floats through life, falls hopelessly in love and because no matter who you are and what you think you’re entitled to, love will kick you in the ass at some point, doesn’t always have a fabulous time doing it.

I wanted to bring back my whole #LoveThisQuote thing that I started doing a little while ago, because Fitzgerald is the most amazing writer ever, but I would have ended up doing a million posts, so here’s a selection of my favourites:

  • “I don’t want to repeat my innocence. I want the pleasure of losing it again.”
  • “They slipped briskly into an intimacy from which they never recovered.”
  • “There is a moment—Oh, just before the first kiss, a whispered word—something that makes it worth while.
  • “Don’t let yourself feel worthless: often through life you will really be at your worst when you seem to think best of yourself; and don’t worry about losing your “personality,” as you persist in calling it: at fifteen you had the radiance of early morning, at twenty you will begin to have the melancholy brilliance of the moon, and when you are my age you will give out, as I do, the genial golden warmth of 4 p.m.”

If you’ve read the Great Gatsby and are looking for more Fitzgerald to get your teeth into, then I highly recommend This Side of Paradise and if you’ve not read anything by him and are looking for something, This Side of Paradise isn’t a long, arduous novel and although it is style over substance, like most Fitzgerald, but the writing is all kinds of beautiful so that stops being a problem fairly early on.
And so ends my final post in the six week challenge series. I have spent the last six weeks reviewing everything that I read, it’s been fun and I think its made a difference to the way I think about books during and after I’ve read them. So, yeah, I hope you’ve enjoyed this challenge.
You can have a look at all the books I’ve read in the past six weeks here.

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Paper Aeroplanes

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Paper Aeroplanes – Dawn O’Porter

You know when you’ve wanted to read a book for what feels like an eternity and you hype it up to the point where your expectations are virtually impossible to reach? I did that with this, I have been coveting it for ages, but unlike most books I have wanted for ever, this actually exceeded all expectations.

It’s the mid-1990s, and fifteen year-old Guernsey schoolgirls, Renée and Flo, are not really meant to be friends. Thoughtful, introspective and studious Flo couldn’t be more different to ambitious, extroverted and sexually curious Renée. But Renée and Flo are united by loneliness and their dysfunctional families, and an intense bond is formed. Although there are obstacles to their friendship (namely Flo’s jealous ex-best friend and Renée’s growing infatuation with Flo’s brother), fifteen is an age where anything can happen, where life stretches out before you, and when every betrayal feels like the end of the world. For Renée and Flo it is the time of their lives. With graphic content and some scenes of a sexual nature, PAPER AEROPLANES is a gritty, poignant, often laugh-out-loud funny and powerful novel. It is an unforgettable snapshot of small-town adolescence and the heart-stopping power of female friendship.

God, this was good. Refreshingly good.
No romance, no relationship drama, yes there are girls who fall for boys and there are instances of a sexual nature, but at its heart, this is not a book about teenage girls needing a boy to feel validated or even particularly wanting a boy. Its just about two teenage girls who become best friends and how they help each other to grow and mature. How good is that? A book, that is just about friendship, the love between friends. Man, I can’t even with how amazing that is to me.

So, I guess if you’re reading this blog you’ll have noticed that I read a lot of books, even though I read a lot of books and have pretty much covered every aspect of life there is to be written about, there is one thing that is so often done wrong, friendships. Books I tend to read have one main character, that character tends to have a best friend who usually ends up being a bit 2D in comparison to the lead character, but then there is this book, where both girls are actually well rounded, fleshed out characters. So, you have extrovert, Renee, and introvert, Flo, who despite going to school together and living in the same tiny town, have never really spent much time together, until suddenly, they find themselves drawn to each other and a beautiful friendship develops. I miss reading books about friendship, so many books are about romance these days, meeting someone you develop romantic feelings for, I so rarely come across books where people meet and just think, yes, I like you, we’re now friends. Platonic relationships are the bomb, man.  I just wanted to grab this book and do this:

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I seriously kind of loved this, I gave it five actual stars on goodreads. FIVE. I know right.
This book is funny and raw and charming and endearing and painful and beautiful all at the same time. Every single character was so real and believable to me, like, I genuinely had a girl just like Sally in my friendship group at school who was freaking horrible to everyone and just got away with it, there was a girl like Renee in my friendship group too (I think I might have been the Flo in this situation), but because I’ve experienced people like that, it just made this book all the more enjoyable. I guess, it doesn’t really matter what decade you enter your teen years in, everything still feels the same, there are still crushes and stupid arguments and under age drinking and being used by boys you think might love you and pressure of exams and feelings of complete and utter bewilderment. The teenage characters in this book were so accurate it was almost embarrassing, there were several moments where I was sat reading this and thinking oh God, I remember that!

I’m told that Dawn O’Porter is writing another book currently and I honestly cannot wait for it. I want it now. I want it unedited and imperfect because I already miss her story telling, I miss Flo and Renee.
Plus, Flo, I bloody love that name.

I guess really, this book is just about what its like to be a fifteen year old girl trying to figure out who you are, what you want, what you don’t want, where you want to be and who you can rely on to get you there. It was refreshing, tender and a little bit genius. So genius in fact, I’m going to give it the Nick Fury Seal of Approval.

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This is yet another post in my six week challenge which ends on December 13th. Until then, I’m going to review every book that I read and so far, the number of good books is far outweighing the bad which means that this challenge has actually done some good! I was hoping that by having to review every book that I read, it would make me be a bit more selective about the quality of fiction that I was picking up and I honestly think that it has led me to researching books more thoroughly before I read them and made me pick up some proper cracking novels. Excellent.
made of awesome

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The Unwritten Rule

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The Unwritten Rule – Elizabeth Scott

So, we’re still in the midst of the Six Week Challenge and I had rather hoped that doing this challenge would make me more selective about the books that I read, mostly because people (if there are any) would read these reviews and go, God, Leah’s got a good taste in books doesn’t she? Unfortunately, on seeing this, they are not going to think that. This is the second of Elizabeth Scott’s novels that I’ve read, and I have to be honest, it’s not the best. I actually really enjoyed reading Love You, Hate You, Miss You. I ended up reading it in about a day and really loved it, this was about the same length and took me about the same amount of time, but it wasn’t quite so enjoyable.

Everyone knows the unwritten rule: You don’t like your best friend’s boyfriend.
Sarah has had a crush on Ryan for years. He’s easy to talk to, supersmart, and totally gets her. Lately it even seems like he’s paying extra attention to her. Everything would be perfect except for two things: Ryan is Brianna’s boyfriend, and Brianna is Sarah’s best friend.
Sarah forces herself to avoid Ryan and tries to convince herself not to like him. She feels so guilty for wanting him, and the last thing she wants is to hurt her best friend. But when she’s thrown together with Ryan one night, something happens. It’s wonderful… and awful.
Sarah is torn apart by guilt, but what she feels is nothing short of addiction, and she can’t stop herself from wanting more…

This had the best opening line ever.
Seriously: “I liked him first. But that doesn’t matter. I still like him. That doesn’t matter either.” I mean, we’ve all been there right? I read that first line and thought, yes, I am on to a winner here, this sounds brilliant. I really like Elizabeth Scott’s writing style, it is exactly how a teenage girl (or rather how I thought as a teenage girl) sounds, the characterisations were kind of perfect. That wasn’t my problem with this book. My problem was that this story has been done to death and there wasn’t anything particularly outstanding or different about this one. In fact, it reminded me of a slightly more juvenile version of Something Borrowed by Emily Griffiths.
It also bothered me a little that Sarah felt all the guilt in this, she wasn’t the one in a relationship, and yes, yes, ok, Brianna was her best friend and Sarah was well aware that Ryan was her boyfriend, but Ryan was the one in a relationship, he had a girlfriend and if he was having thoughts about getting off with his girlfriend’s best mate, then he probably should have finished with said girlfriend months ago, the fact that it took him two months to chose a girl irritated me, why on earth did anyone let him get away with that?
Sarah can’t help who she falls for, neither can Ryan, neither can Brianna, but Ryan kind of had the best part of the deal, he got to get it on with two girls while he leisurely made up his mind. I know the narration all came from Sarah, but I got the feeling that she felt that she was entirely to blame, no sweetie, you and your best mate clearly fell for a dick who liked to manipulate both of you. I could go on for ever about the gender inequality when it comes to this sort of thing, but I’ll spare you.
Having said that, Brianna wasn’t the nicest character I’ve ever come across, which made me wonder why Ryan and Sarah even bothered with her in the first place… My other major issue with this, apart from the fact that I have read far too many books with the same plot, is that all the characters were pretty one dimensional. Which is kind of upsetting because, like I say, I actually really love Elizabeth Scott’s writing.
I don’t think reading this will put me off reading any of her other books, it’s short and sweet and is great if you want a stop gap between longer things, but it’s not my favourite. Sorry.

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Keeping you a secret

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Keeping you a secret – Julie Ann Peters

Judging by the cover, a blurb hardly seems necessary….
I seem to spend my life searching for LGBT fiction where the characters are more than their sexuality. I know it’s somewhat revelatory, but a person’s orientation is not the only thing they have going on in their lives. There are some really wonderful books in this genre, like Annie on my mind and the Miseducation of Cameron Post.
And then there are books like this, that feature a gay character that has nothing other than their gayness to talk about.

In my quest for a satisfying LGBT novel, I ended up writing one of my own that you can find here. Please let me know if I fall into the trap that this book does by not having my characters express any other personality traits.
Anyway, let’s get on with reviewing this shall we?

With a steady boyfriend, the position of Student Council President, and a chance to go to an Ivy League college, high school life is just fine for Holland Jaeger. At least it seems to be. But when Cece Goddard comes to school, everything changes. Cece and Holland have undeniable feelings for each other, but how will others react to their developing relationship? This moving love story between two girls is a worthy successor to Nancy Garden’s classic young adult coming out novel, Annie on My Mind. With her characteristic humor and breezy style, Peters has captured the compelling emotions of young love

It’s said to be the modern day counterpart of Annie on my Mind and I love that book so much that I thought maybe this would fill the Annie shaped void in my soul since I finished it. Unfortunately, this did not fill that void. Keeping You a Secret could have been soooooo good, but it just wasn’t. I really didn’t get on with the narration at all. Holland was a really interesting character who was literally drowning, her mother was living vicariously through her, forcing her to apply for colleges she doesn’t want to go to, she’s taking many more classes than she can cope with and is sharing a room with a step sister she barely knows. On top of all that, she’s drifting away from her friends and realising that some of them aren’t exactly nice people and she’s dating a guy that she doesn’t have romantic feelings for. This guy by the way, expects sex every single time he goes to visit Holland, so you know, not the best of boyfriends.

Anyway, as well as all of this going on, Holland also has to deal with the fact that she has started having some very intense and confusing feelings about the new girl.
With all that going on, we could have had a very involved, very intense story about Holland dealing with all these things. The narration should have been oppressive and stifling, instead, I just got the idea that Holland was a bit bored. It didn’t really match up to how she should have been feeling.
Cece was by far the most annoying character I have ever come across. I do not have a problem with anyone being out and proud, this is a good thing, there is absolutely no reason for anyone to be ashamed of who they are, but there is being out and proud and then there is rubbing your sexuality in everyone’s faces, which is exactly what Cece does. It would appear that she wears nothing but t shirts declaring that she’s a lesbian, which is fine, but seriously? She doesn’t own a single other item of clothing? I wanted Cece to be a well rounded character like Holland, or you know, like an actual person rather than just a foil for Holland to reveal herself.
The story itself was one that I feel is important, kids do need to feel safe and comfortable and able to come out, they need to know that there is support available to them and for those that don’t have to come out, they should have this sort of story as a resource so that they know how it feels and can adjust their behaviour accordingly. But, you know, having said that, Annie on my Mind was a superior story and Keeping You a Secret wasn’t in anyway groundbreaking.
Once again, I dove into a book that I thought would finally leave me satisfied and would give the LGBT community justice in the fiction genre and I’ve been left disappointed.
That isn’t to say that this is a bad book, I just don’t think it was necessarily the book for me. It did have a character called Leah in it, I kind of have this thing about books where there are characters that share my name, I read the entire Twilight franchise just so that I could get to the bits about Leah (who was an awesome character by the way). This book featured a character called Leah, who like myself and my Twilight counterpart, was one of the best characters in this book. Oh yeeeeeeah.

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