Blurt ‘BuddyBox’ (Sept 2018)

Hi, guys! So something a little different!

In the next few weeks, I’ll be doing a ‘spin off’ blog from my main stream blog of books at This Girl Reads. It’s something I am desperately passionate about, having seen mental health issues first hand. Of course, I’ll be carrying on with This Girl Reads, as reading is another huge passion of mine. I’ll be mooching some of my previous reviews on well-being, mental health, self-care books and also reviewing new products out there, including self-care boxes… So here’s my first!

I ordered the September Blurt Foundation ( ‘Buddy Box’ in August as I know I always struggle getting back into the routine of the busy work day after 6 weeks off for summer. Teaching isn’t an easy job and, more often than not, 2 weeks of the holiday are spent unwinding, 2 on holiday, then 2 more dreading coming back!

img_20180915_111143.jpgThe box is beautifully presented. It comes in a lovely foil-printed, lidded card box. When I first lifted off the lid, I could immediately smell the calming lavender of the included shower/bath bomb..heaven. The inside of the box is wrapped in a theme-matching tissue paper. It’s all the little things that they think of that makes this a real treat.


Included in this month’s box is:

  • The Blurt Zine
  • Two postcards
  • A ‘peopled out’ doorhanger
  • A deck of cards with 54 self-care ideas
  • A mapology guide – ‘How to grow your no!’
  • A Lavender bath bomb for the shower
  • And the beautiful Blurt Foundation written book, ‘365 days of self-care: a journal’

I particularly love the deck of cards, such a good idea for a lazy Sunday. Not sure what to do with yourself? Feeling a little down? Grab a card and find a reflective activity to do -from letter writing, napping to reading a favourite book. I love these. Also perfect for post-work wind-downs.

davThe Blurt zine, the postcards and the mapology guides are the literature of the box. Perfect to read and reflect, or to read and share with those around you. Spread the self-care love!

I cannot wait to try out the bath bomb for the shower! I rarely have time to have a bath in the week, but this sounds so interesting. I gather it goes in the bath at your feet and is set off by the shower water, releasing a delectable, calming fragrance. Love it! I’ll be saving this for a particularly stressful day to make the most of it before bed.

Finally, the journal. This is a winner for me. I have seen that the Blurt boxes often include a book, but this is their own book! I saw this advertised on Twitter a short while ago; a follow up to their hugely successful self-care guide. I have tried diaries, journal, everything before. I currently rely on the Daylio app (available for free from Android/Apple, ) as it’s quick and painless on my phone. I managed to journal this year until…May. When shit got really stressful in work and it all just fell apart a bit – really, when I needed it most, but didn’t have the appropriate journalling resource. I mark for a living! So the thought of sitting and writing, be it a line or 5, isn’t enjoyable. Which is where this journal is fantastic. No start dates, dip in and out, not loads of writing, no guilt for leaving it. It’s not dated, but labelled as ‘day one’ or ‘day 67’, for example. The journalling itself would take minutes, asking you to reflect over ‘mood, sleep, hydration’ and any additional notes, with single word prompts, such as ‘colour’ or ‘appreciate.’ It’s simple. It’s effective. I cannot wait to get stuck in to some guilt free blogging.

I will absolutely be keeping my eye out for what’s in October’s box, as my birthday is in November…so a gift from me to me, of course!

Only £21.50 for individual boxes, available one-off or as a subscription. They’re definitely worth the price – they even include the individual prices in the box so you can see what fantastic value for money it is, and how well your money is being used as a donation. Plus you can buy extras of the goodies you really love from the Blurt Foundation shop online! (see the link above)


My Summer Fiction Reads 2018 📚☀️

‘Max’ by Sarah Cohen-Scali

  • Desperately original, told from the perspective of a ‘pure Nazi’ baby…
  • Gripping, historical fiction.
  • So interesting and freaky in equal measure!
  • Thought provoking.
  • A must read for fans of World War historical fiction.

Official Description: Baby Max is the perfect prototype of the Nazi eugenics programme; he is the ideal size, he has the correct colour hair and flawless blue eyes. Raised in an ideology driven by hatred and ruled by fear, Max is taught to endure pain and be brave at all costs. But as he is drawn further into the horror of war, Max must fight to untangle the truth from the lie.

‘The Snowman’ (inspired by the original) by Michael Morpurgo

  • A beautiful Christmas reimagining by the king of children’s fiction.
  • A lovely main character.
  • Perfect for the upcoming Christmas season.
  • Creates a new story, using the vintage ideas, whilst holding onto the charm of the original.
  • Delectable illustrations.

Official Description: When James wakes to see snow falling one December morning, he is delighted and rushes outside to make a snowman. With coal eyes, an old green hat and scarf and a tangerine nose, he is perfect and James can hardly bear to go inside and leave him. In the middle of the night, he wakes and creeps out to see his Snowman again – and to his amazement, the Snowman comes to life… This special tale of true Christmas magic will bring everyone’s favourite childhood festive character to a brand new audience.

‘The Last Straw’ by Ed Duncan

  • A fab book with great scope for a series.
  • Great characters and plot development.
  • Pacey crime thriller.
  • Twists and turns throughout.
  • Well worth the read!

Official Description: When a teenage girl witnesses a carjacking gone bad, she is marked for death by a crime boss with no apparent motive. A black lawyer and a white enforcer with an unlikely history forge an uneasy alliance to protect the girl from a hit man with an agenda of his own.

Paul Elliott – lawyer and close friend of the witness’s family – begins counseling them and becomes entangled in the murder plot.

As the long-simmering feud between Rico – the white enforcer – and the hitman John D’Angelo reaches boiling point, bodies start to pile up in rapid succession… and old scores will be settled.

‘The Unexpected Inlander’ by Kellyn Thompson

  • This is something so different!
  • Gripping read.
  • A crime novella from a different perspective.
  • Plenty of page-turning excitement.
  • A cheeky dab of romance!

Official Description: Agent Christopher Rockford has been the best assassin in the agency for eight years, and he loves his job. He loves his solitary lifestyle. He loves eliminating criminals. He loves his comfortable life as a member of society’s wealthy coastal upper class.

But in pursuit of a target, he meets Jenna, a mysterious civilian who belongs to society’s lowest and most shunned group. Being around her is fun and intriguing, but it forces him to see things through her eyes—causing him to reconsider the world around them and The Order he so obediently serves. As he falls in love with her, he fears telling her the truth about his profession may cause him to lose her.

But Jenna has her own secrets to keep.

My foodie reads – Summer 2018 ☀️

Book One

‘More Veg, Less Meat: The eco-friendly way to eat, with 150 inspiring flexitarian recipes’ by Rachel de Thample

I am a vegetarian, I love the term flexitarian. This book is stuffed full of loads of different meal ideas, for both meat and non-meat days – perfect for my hubby, who doesn’t want to be veggie, but does enjoy the odd veggie day! Meats and alternatives are split by category, for easy access to pick what you do/don’t like/are/aren’t willing to eat. Gorgeously presented, clear photos and lovely graphic design.

Official Description: We eat twice the amount of meat we need to, and only half the amount of vegetables that we are supposed to. We re all aware that cutting down on meat and dairy would significantly help reduce greenhouse gases, and also improve our health, but the majority of us do not want to cut it out entirely. Rachel de Thample reveals how you can reverse that statistic and pack your meals full of fresh plant-based ingredients. In More Veg Less Meat Rachel shows how to make the most of the meat by buying good quality produce and eating it sparingly, but also how to the most of every bit of meat. This could mean spinning out a roast to last the week, or using lesser known cuts in imaginative ways. With 150 delicious recipes, such as Beef Miso Ginger Soup, Mayan Gold Chilli, and Lamb Burger with Roast Aubergine and Pistachio Mayonnaise, even the most hardened carnivore can be convinced that eating less meat is a good thing. With quick and easy ideas for seasonal vegetable dishes, as well as each recipe meeting recommended protein needs, you ll be eating a better balance of meat, fruit and veg in no time.

Book Two

‘The Global Vegetarian Kitchen’ by Troth Wells

Another veggie book, even more fantastic ideas. Having just travelled around Malaysia, I was super happy to see a range of Asian veggie dishes. Any veggie will know that the days of stuffed peppers or mushrooms and vegetarian lasagna are, thankfully, mostly behind us. This book offers masses of different ideas, whether for you or the veggie in your life – and most could have meat added if you fancied that too! My only issue I’d say for me is that, having IBS, I struggle to find veggie cookbooks which are also light on the dairy/spices. I’m also super fussy! But whilst I look for that perfect cook book, this isn’t too far off. Check it out!

Official Description: The ultimate in freshness and sustainability, this environmentally sound cookbook shows readers how to grow their own food – whether they are the owners of a window box, a garden or an allotment. Alongside recipes which can be made from outdoor spaces are dishes which feature foods from around the world. With an emphasis on simplicity and versatility, it is easy to start local and think seasonal when sourcing ingredients. The perfect cookbook to inspire and take tastebuds travelling.

Book Three

‘IBS dietary advice to calm your gut’ by Alex Gazzola and Julie Thompson RD

As I’ve said, I have IBS, something which I am constantly learning about, manage currently through diet and am always finding new food combinations which work for me (and those that don’t!). This book is the best IBS book I’ve read. It’s up to date, full of new advice as well as the trusty old stuff to recap on, as well as a range of different topics covered. I feel like this book is actually applicable to day to day life, easy to follow and full of facts and helpful, understanding, pointers. I borrowed this from the library, but will be buying this for my own collection.

Official Description: Up to 20% of the population have IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), which often results in embarrassment, withdrawal from social and recreational activities and difficulties in relationships. Positive and empowering, this book gives the reader the latest evidence-based developments in IBS, and advice as to management – especially diet. It explores a history of changes in the way we eat and asks whether modern diet may be responsible for ‘gut problems’? It also covers lifestyle tips, managing stress, getting exercise, working, resting and playing well! Topics include:

What is IBS? Causes, history, psychological elements

Digestion – how it works


Your current diet, including fibre, veganism, fad diets, paleo, raw food, superfoods and other food trends.

IBS triggers – dietary and digestive issues, food intolerances, etc

Diets for IBS – Carbohydrate-aware diets (eg FODMAPs), dairy-free, etc

Managing dietary changes – the practicalities

Lifestyle changes in IBS – alcohol, smoking, exercise, weight, stress. The cult of ‘detox’.

Complementary therapies, supplements, pro/prebiotics Staying well and possible recipe suggestions

The future, ongoing research, and useful resources

Something a little different…My travels around Malaysian Borneo.

*WARNING: Pull up a pew and grab a cuppa because this is a big blog post!*

Sometimes moments come along in your life and you are reminded how lucky you really are. In this blog post, I’ll show you how I had this feeling almost continually for over two weeks!

This July, my husband and I decided we wanted a different holiday – no beach holiday, no city break, but something completely different. Somehow, we stumbled upon the Intrepid website ( and for weekends on end trawled all of their tour options*, before finally settling on a ‘Classic Borneo’ package (

*Something really important and useful on the Intrepid site is the ‘Is this trip right for you?’ section – it lists physical activity, gives an appropriate rating for how ‘strenuous’ and demanding the trip is, and basically just asks of you ‘you could because you want to, but can you actually cope with it?’

Now, I do my fair share of travelling (about three holidays a year) so I’ve seen a decent bit of the world for my age, but never have I travelled so far away from home or somewhere so ‘alternative’ to Europe! I was anxious and I was excited. Intrepid made the whole booking process very straight forward – book, pay (we booked late so a full payment was required), give them your details (a little more than usual – passport, health, insurance, emergency contacts…) and get booking your own flights. They sort the rest.

On Thursday 2nd August, we travelled down to London, flew to Dubai, flew to Kuala Lumpur, missed a transfer (doh!) and finally flew to Kota Kinabalu in Borneo, before being picked up with our Intrepid-inclusive transfer from the airport to our hotel. Over 30 hours of travelling could mean just two things – room service tea and bo-bo’s (zzz!).

The following day, jet-lag and all, my husband and I began our tour. After a free day (which we spent at the Sabah museum and recovering), we met our group (a small group of nine) and our lovely local guide, Ros before heading out to an introductory, ‘get to know each other’ meal at a local Chinese. We were all raring and ready to go.

Now, before you head on these trips, you are sent an itinerary of what you will be doing and when. To give you a full run through of what we did (without you losing years of your life), I’m going to include this below and add in my own top tips/links/memories and thoughts/ideas and so on. So either read it all, read just my comments…(hopefully don’t just read the itinerary! Boo-hoo)

So, if you’re sitting comfortably, then I’ll begin…


Selamat datang! Welcome to Malaysia. An arrival airport transfer is included. Please advise your flight details at time of booking or 14 days prior to departure so as we can book this transfer for you. Your adventure begins with a Welcome Meeting at 6pm, which you can find details about at the hotel’s reception. If you have any free time beforehand, perhaps explore this intriguing city that was born between the Borneo jungle and the South China Sea. Modern-day ‘KK’ is a vibrant modern metropolis, having recovered from World War II bombings. The Sabah State Museum is a great place to immerse yourself in its backstory.
Sam: Here, as I said earlier, we did visit the Sabah Museum, which was worth a visit for an introduction to the island and culture and was just a short taxi ride from the Horizon Hotel, before we returned and tried out the hotel gym and lounged by the pool. I strongly suggest arriving at least a day earlier than needed for your tour – it gave us time to rest, sleep, relax and acclimatise ourselves to the humidity! All travel and no sleep makes Sam a grumpy cat…
I was a little nervous to be doing a ‘group’ travel for the first time, and for our first meeting, but so long as you’re willing to get involved, there’s nothing to worry about! As it was, our group were lovely – a whole range of ages and circumstances. Be ready to socialise, you will spend a lot of time with these people!
Leaving Kota Kinabalu behind, you’ll head for the hills and travel towards the unspoilt wilderness of the World Heritage-listed Kinabalu National Park (approximately 3 hours). You will stop off en route at a local home at Dusun Village. The Dusun people are wonderfully warm and friendly people, and while here you’ll sample the local foods with a home cooked lunch get some insight into what it’s like to live in a rural village. Later you can stretch your legs and soak up the mountain scenery with a stroll through Kinabalu National Park. There are many walking trails from which you can birdwatch, and remember to watch for the odd snake or little leach. There is plenty to see and do here. The Mountain Botanic Garden is an excellent showcase of the diverse plant life on the mountain, as flora from all over the park has been replanted here. Late in the afternoon you travel by private bus to Sabah Tea Plantation (approximately 30 mins). Tonight you will stay amongst the grounds of a lush tea garden.
Sam: Ready for our first proper day, Ros was fantastic, telling us what we would need, when to meet, what we were doing and so on – very well organised. We travelled on a mini-bus, where he would tell us information about what we were passing – a wealth of information which also helped the time go fast. We had an additional guide with us today (whose name evades me – sorry!), who took us to a local school (interesting teacher point!), walked us through a local village and took us to his hillside home with a beautiful view, where a delicious traditional Malay meal had been prepared by his wife and him. Here I learned, I’ll never have pineapple again like that in Borneo – delicious. I also had this point reaffirmed – see a snake, move away FAST! It was yellow and heading right for us! A great introduction to local wildlife – as was the beautiful Botanical Garden and Kinabalu National Park. And our meal that night – rhino beetles, giant spiders, lizards and newts hovering around while you eat!
Disclaimer: I hate bugs. I hate creepy crawlies. You very quickly get over this fear and squeemishness when you have no choice but to share in their environment!
After breakfast you will take a tour of the tea factory itself, ending in sampling some of the delicious varieties. From there, head to Kinabatangan River in private mini van, a trip of approximately 5 hours. Your jungle lodge, located beside the river, is ideal for taking in the lush surrounds. At 560 kilometres, the Kinabatangan River is the second longest river in Malaysia. It’s also a protected forest reserve, containing some of the highest concentrations of wildlife in Borneo. Later in the afternoon you will take a river cruise, hopefully spotting some of the more exotic local creatures. Wild elephants seldom reveal themselves, but crocodiles, macaques, wild orangutan, proboscis monkeys, hornbills and kingfishers are more easily seen. After this short adventure you’ll head back to the lodge to enjoy dinner.
Sam: Tea tasting in Sabah? Delicious. Obviously one of those ‘try and buy’ trips, but we did; we loved it, we bought plenty! My favourite? Pandan. Tastes like cake but with fantastic health benefits. What’s not to like?! Today we started our monster journey through Sabah to our jungle lodge – this time in two mini-vans for comfort and space (Intrepid think of everything). A long journey, but we did travel through some beautiful places, we also saw some not-so wonderful things (hello, palm oil plantations – Malaysia is the biggest Global export), stopped off and tried local delicacies (including Durian fruit – don’t do it!). Upon arriving we went almost immediately onto our first of three jungle boat safaris – introduced to wild orangutans, monkeys, hornbills, elephants in their natural habitat. Everything. We were so lucky. Even the monsoon-style downpour on the return to the hotel in our boat couldn’t dampen our spirits (but we were all sopping wet through!). We were warmed up by a delicious buffet-style meal – rice, noodles, veg, meats – in our beautiful lodge resort, this time accompanied by wild-boar on the front lawn and bats overhead – magical!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You might awake to the call of a Bornean gibbon, or perhaps a hornbill. Enjoy a morning cruise down the river, searching for more birds and wildlife. Keep an eye out for Long Tail Macaques and Pig Tail Macaques – ask your leader about the difference. Later, you can trek up to a birdwatching tower overlooking the river and visit a Merabu tree. When it’s all over, this evening’s river cruise will be your last chance to photograph or simply marvel at your surrounds. Spend one more night in your lovely accommodation right in the heart of the jungle.
Sam: An early morning start (6am), but when you get to see the best of animals in their purest habitats, how could you complain!? The jungle trek sandwiched in-between was also fantastic – again, no room for squeemishness. Hello, leeches! Get your trousers tucked into your thick socks for this one, wear long sleeves and make sure you have your walking boots well worn in. A wonderful walk to the top of the jungle hill nearby, leaving you to see the most stunning panoramic views of the area from the watch tower. We were taken by our guide, a resort guide and four local girls doing a placement for their college work – lovely and authentic. We were also joined overhead by a few macaques…
Travelling by private minivan, you will stop to visit the intricate Gomantong Caves. Renowned for their edible swiftlet nets, which are harvested for bird’s nest soup. Bird’s nest collection is an ancient tradition, though nowadays licences are required for it. Travelling to Sandakan, a journey of 3 hours, you will stop in at the Sandakan War Memorial. Here you will learn about the city’s past as you stand on the same ground of the former Japanese POW camp. This site also marks the starting point of the tragic Sandakan Death Marches, on which 2,400 POWs were forced to walk through the jungles of Borneo. By the end of the march, only 6 Australians survived, and only because they had escaped. Arrive in Sandakan, which was once the capital of British North Borneo and traditionally has strong trading ties with Hong Kong. The Cantonese influence is palpable in the lively harbour-side market, the many Chinese temples and the local cuisine.
Sam: The Gomatong Caves. Upon hearing about this from our guide, this was what I was least looking forward to. Bats (don’t mind). Swiftlets and their delicacy nests (don’t mind). A sea of cockroaches on the walls, the floors, the handle rails (do. not. like). It wasn’t all that bad, once you got over the smell and the creepy-crawlies. Same as before, get everything tucked in to everything else – just in case! The caves were stunning and we learned all about the swiftlet nest harvesting (me and hubby later tried this back in Kota Kinabalu…I’m saying nothing). The POW memorial was heartbreaking and very overwhelming, a necessary story to tell. Once we arrived in Sandakan, we had a little time to ourselves before heading to a stunning rooftop bar for dinner – with views over the harbour, the town and the sea. Pefection.
This morning take a private transfer to the Sepliok Orangutan Sanctuary (approximately 1 hour). The centre was set up to help re-introduce these wonderful creatures back into the wild after a life of domestication or having been orphaned. From the viewing platform, you can watch and photograph these charming creatures as they swing into view and eat the supplementary diet of bananas and milk that is laid out for them twice a day. Human contact must be kept to a minimum and it’s essential that you follow the instructions of the park, as directed by your leader. Also included is a new nursery where you can view young orangutans as they learn how to climb on a specially constructed jungle gym. The viewing area is behind one-way glass so as to not disturb the animals. To see more of Borneo’s creatures there’s the option to visit the newly opened Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Center. Here rescued Sun Bears that have spent many years mistreated and locked away in cages are cared for, with hopes of rehabilitation and reintroduction into the wild. You will also visit the Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary, where you can watch up close the amazing bachelor proboscis lazing and feeding – an experience that can only be found in Borneo.
Sam: A day of animals. What’s not to love? Orangutans – good. Sunbears – good. Proboscis monkeys – good (until they take a running jump at you on the central platforms you are stood on! Incredible experience, VERY up close and personal). The Sepilok Orangutan Rehab Sanctuary does such good work. They may ask if you’ll sponsor an Orangutan, and you may find it very difficult to say no! The Sunbear and the Orangutan sanctuaries are across the car park from one another, so a perfect pitstop between ape feedings to see the bears!
Transfer to Sandakan Airport today for a flight to Kota Kinabalu. Keep in mind that the luggage allowance for this flight is only 15 kg of check in luggage and one cabin bag of 7kg and any excess baggage will incur a further charge paid direct to the airline. A short boat ride (around 20 minutes) takes you to Manukan Island, just off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. This is one of the larger islands found in the Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine National Park. The first of two days on this island will be free for you to explore the island at your leisure – perhaps swimming or local activities. The 1.5-kilometre beach is lovely to stroll along at low tide.
Sam: The most stunning resort I have ever stayed in. It really was the stuff of dreams. The white beaches, the clear waters, the accommodation was to die for! The travelling was minimal really today; a very short domestic flight (Intrepid sort this all for you inclusively), a bus ride to the harbour (with a pit-stop at a local supermarket for food and drink supplies – cheers!) and then a boat ride in a luxury mini boat over to the island – with included water and cold towels. I felt like a Queen! The welcome was just as incredible and Ben, who greeted us, was an absolute sweetheart – the staff were incredible and there was nothing they wouldn’t do for you. We even had a drinks reception, while the sun set, on the boardwalk, with a trio of musicians playing for us. Outstanding in all aspects, a real highlight.
Enjoy a snorkelling trip today, where an array of coral and brightly coloured marine life reveals itself, conditions depending. An optional scuba dive trip from Manukan Island is also on offer for those interested in a more immersive experience. If you are interested, let your leader know and it can be arranged. After snorkelling, the afternoon is yours to enjoy. Soak up the turquoise vistas for another few hours as you stroll or swim about in this gorgeous corner of the world.
Sam: I’ve never snorkelled in tropical waters before so this was a real peak of the tour for me. We saw everything from clown fish, to coral, to little sharks (thankfully when I was out of the water!). TOP TIP: I wore a swimming costume to save my back (my husband wasn’t so lucky in terms of sunburn there!), however, my bum spent more time out of the water than my head = baboon red bum, plenty of sun cream there before you snorkel! My hubby and me then spent the rest of the day on the beach and by the pool, before going to head out for a walk to ‘Sunset Point’. This was the relaxing bit of the tour, or as Ros said – ‘your holiday starts now!’ 
Head back to Kota Kinabalu today by boat and minivan. This will take around 40 minutes. Optional activities include a visit the intriguing Mari Mari Cultural Village, nestled deep in the countryside. Here you will see how indigenous ethnic groups of Borneo used to live. Or a visit to the Sabah museum to learn about Sabah’s past or do some last minute souvenir shopping at the Filipino market . Tonight, perhaps head out for a final meal with your group to celebrate your Borneo adventure.
Sam: Our guide was super flexible here and, instead of us leaving at 11.30am, we decided as a group to leave at 2pm – check out was at 12 – so plenty of time to get sorted, visit the shop (I got a beautiful dress for 51 RM, a tenner in our money), have lunch and chill. Once back in KK, we headed out just the two of us to the HUGE mall, tried the birds nest drink as I said earlier (*represses gag*), saw the local clock and the watch tower (quick, easy attractions to tick off) and then headed to the harbour for our final meal (Thai) as a group. The perfect way to end the perfect holiday in Sabah.
There are no activities planned for the final day and you are able to depart the accommodation at any time.
Sam: Here was where we headed off from KK, but not for home! For days 10/11/12, we flew out to Kuala Lumpur for a fantastic few days of R&R from our tour travels! We did the Petronas Towers, the Menara (Sky Tower), Hard Rock Cafe, the Buddhist Batu Caves, we relaxed by the stunning pool of our beautiful hotel… So much, in such a short period of time. It was VERY different in KL to KK in Borneo, a hustling, bustling city – very busy, very lively, much more expensive, but well worth a trip.

Organisation and trips – 5 stars (Perfection from Intrepid)

Tour guide – 5 stars (Ros was wonderful, we were so lucky)
Accomodation – 4/5 stars (Just one hotel was in a slightly less desirable area, and that’s me being picky)
Meals – 4/5 stars (Be prepared for noodles, rice and veggies!)

Literary Book Gifts

Something exciting this month! I was contacted by the lovely Melissa from ‘Literary Book Gifts’ to review the beautiful goodies she sells on her website -

So, here goes!

What is the site about?

The site sells, unsurprisingly, literary linked goodies – from t-shirts, to tote bags, to vest tops, to hoodies. They are all linked to classic texts, with images or quoted text from books such as ‘Black Beauty’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’. Think of a classic text, it’ll probably be on there! From what I’ve seen over time, this is an ever expanding site with a growing range of products so keep your eyes peeled for new additions.

The site is easy to navigate around, offering tabs at the top for men’s, women’s and tote bags, as well as a handy search bar for quick access – perfect for checking if your favourite text is available on there!

Which is your favourite?

My favourite products are the tote bags. They are beautifully designed, look fantastic quality and perfect to roll up in your car/handbag before a shopping (or library) trip! They also come in a range of sizes (S/M/L) as well as varying colours and images.

Here’s my fave one, incorporating the classic ‘Moby Dick’ –

I do, however, love the ‘Sherlock Holmes’ range on this site, available in a range of items. My favourite in the range is this slim fit vest (tank) top – perfect for a relaxing afternoon reading in the sun!

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes Tank Top (Women's)

Each wearable comes in a huge range of sizes, from 2XL to XS (there’s an easy to follow size guide on each page) as well as 7 delectable colours. Now the hard part is just deciding which one – if not, all!

Here’s how the site looks when you’re down to making final choices:

What next?

If you like the look of the site, why not give it a whirl? There’s plenty of choice for everybody. These are lovely gifts for yourself or the book lover in your life, something different and personal.

The big question…How much?

  • Prices start from around $24 USD (about £18 GBP) and up.
  • Delivery is $5 (about £4) for US orders, and $10 (about £7/8) for international.

Delivery may seem a little much, but these are fab products – MOST made 100% soft cotton (But this does vary so check on each product before you order if this is important to you!)

Anyway, if you’re looking to save a little money (maybe just feel like it’s free delivery!), Melissa very kindly set me up with my own discount code especially for my readers!

Another reason why you should check it out!

Save 20% on all goodies using: thisgirlreadssite20

Have you ever bought anything from this site? Did you save some money using my code? Let me know what you think!

Happy shopping, book lovers!

‘F*** You Very Much: The surprising truth about why people are so rude’ by Danny Wallace

So, this was my holiday book of choice. I was looking for an easy read, funny, something a bit different that I could ‘dip’ in and out of while I was travelling. This book certainly delivered on this and more! Never would I have imagined that a book about rudeness could be a) so interesting and b) spark such a fascination and so much conversation about it!

Mr Wallace takes us on a journey of rudeness. From rudeness in terrorist groups (who’d have thought!?) to the differences in expectations of rudeness in men and women (loved this, this linked closely to my University dissertation years ago!). We also see the culturally tolerated rudeness (seen as not rude) around the world – from belching in public to spitting, this was super interesting as I was travelling in Malaysia and was surrounded a mishmash of all different cultures and societies, all doing seemingly odd things now and again. I’d have loved a section about what is seen as rude about the British abroad – we seem a little dull in comparison to some nations!

Danny makes this a really funny topic for what is really a shocking truth – people are RUDE and getting ruder. He uses a huge wealth of fantastically referenced research to back up his points and yet doesn’t bombard us with facts, facts, facts. It’s just enough information to be a light book, but is still a persuasive and informative non-fiction. Triggered to write his book by ‘the hot dog incident’ (read it and you’ll see), the event is slowly unpicked and given a variety of different angles and reasons throughout the different chapters – Mr Wallace, you were right, Mrs Hotdog was wrong!

This was a NetGalley book that I was lucky enough to be given an ARC of and I’m so glad I requested it. I will be recommending this to lots of people, as well as my husband for this read (which is rare, trust me!) – although he did hear me laugh and quote the book ALOT on holiday…

A truly surprising and interesting read. If you think teenagers are rude, phones are making us ruder, the French are a rude nation (sorry, or, je suis désolé) or just have an interest in language or how society works then this book is for you. You’ll love it, trust me.

Official Description

You’re not imagining it. People are getting ruder. And this is a serious problem.

The book that inspired the iTunes Top Ten podcast

Did you know that even one rude comment in a life and death situation can decrease a surgeon’s performance by as much as 50%? That we say we don’t want rude politicians, but we vote for them anyway? Or that rude language can sway a jury in a criminal case?

Bestselling writer and broadcaster Danny Wallace (Yes Man, Awkward Situations For Men), is on a mission to understand where we have gone wrong. He travels the world interviewing neuroscientists, psychologists, NASA scientists, barristers, bin men, and bellboys. He joins a Radical Honesty group in Germany, talks to drivers about road rage in LA, and confronts his own online troll in a pub.

And in doing so, he uncovers the latest thinking about how we behave, how rudeness, once unleashed, can spread like a virus – and how even one flippant remark can snowball into disaster.

As insightful and enthralling as it is highly entertaining, F*** You Very Much* is an eye-opening exploration into the worst side of human behaviour.

“A cry for human decency… deliciously hilarious. I politely encourage you to read this book. Immediately.” Adam Grant author of Originals, Give and Take, Option B

*This book was originally published under the title, I Can’t Believe You Just Said That. But we decided it just wasn’t rude enough…

‘In the Mouth of the Wolf’ by Michael Morpurgo/Illustrated by Barroux.

This lovely book was one I found as part of the ‘Summer Reading Challenge’ display in my local library. Since I can’t take part (being over school age counts you out, apparently…!), I just wanted to see what new stuff was on offer for the kids over the six weeks holidays.

This book was not at all what I expected! I recently read a re-do of ‘Hansel and Gretel’ by Mr Morpurgo (, and I half thought this is what this would be. Not quite!

The tagline ‘brother, father, teacher, spy’ drew me in, as well as the beautifully intriguing illustrations on the cover. The rest of the book does not fail to please. Written from the perspective of 90 year old Francis, writing after his birthday party, he lies in bed, thinking and reflecting over the war he fought in, as well as all the people who have helped to make him who he is. It is a true story, an internal monologue, telling the story of Francis and how he ended up being involved in the WW2 war efforts, particularly the focus of how his brother Pieter initially inspired him.

Without spoiling the book for you, I absolutely loved it; from the beautiful accompanying images to the twists and surprising turns. The end? Wow. At points, I did worry whether this was actually suitable to be in the children’s section of the library; I suggest a YA/older children audience is more suitable because of the content, though I did read this in a few hours. I will certainly be recommending this to my children in school, who are already enraptured by Michael Morpurgo’s engaging storytelling.

Official description

Book Description

From master storyteller Michael Morpurgo and award-winning artist Barroux comes a true story of bravery, sadness and hope, set against the backdrop of World War Two.

A true story of two brothers and the war that changed everything.

Michael Morpurgo’s wonderful storytelling and Barroux’s stunning artwork combine to tell the true story of Michael’s uncles during World War Two.

Francis and Pieter are brothers. As shadow of one war lingers, and the rumbles of another approach, the brothers argue. Francis is a fierce pacifist, while Pieter signs up to fight. What happens next will change the course of Francis’s life forever . . . and throw him into the mouth of the wolf.

A great way of introducing young readers to the realities of World War Two. Look out for Morpurgo’s other war fiction including  War Horse, Friend or Foe, Waiting for Anya, King of the Cloud Forest and An Eagle in the Snow.

In the Mouth of the Wolf is a heart-felt true story of family and courage by a writer who ‘has the happy knack of speaking to both child and adult readers’ (The Guardian).

Michael Morpurgo has written over one hundred books and won many awards. In 1976 Michael and his wife Clare started the charity Farms For City Children, which aims to relieve the poverty of experience of young children from inner city and urban areas. In 1999 they were awarded the MBE for their work in creating these farms and in 2006 Michael received an OBE. His novel War Horse has been adapted into a hugely successful and critically acclaimed West End play. Michael is a tireless champion for children’s books and was formerly the Children’s Laureate.

Born in Paris, Barroux spent much of his childhood in North Africa. He later attended art school in France. He received widespread critical acclaim for Line of Fire, Diary of An Unknown Soldier (Phoenix Yard) and Alpha (Barrington Stoke). In 2015 Barroux won the first Parents, Babies, a Book competition for his work Chuut! which will be given to every baby in the north of France. His stunning book Where’s the Elephant? (Egmont) has been longlisted for the Kate Greenway Medal 2016.

About the Author

Michael Morpurgo has written over one hundred books and won many awards. In 1976 Michael and his wife Clare started the charity Farms For City Children, which aims to relieve the poverty of experience of young children from inner city and urban areas. In 1999 they were awarded the MBE for their work in creating these farms and in 2006 Michael received an OBE. His novel War Horse has been adapted into a hugely successful and critically acclaimed West End play.

Michael is a tireless champion for children’s books and was formerly the Children’s Laureate.

Born in Paris, Barroux spent much of his childhood in North Africa. He later attended art school in France. He received widespread critical acclaim for Line of Fire, Diary of An Unknown Soldier (Phoenix Yard) and Alpha (Barrington Stoke). In 2015 Barroux won the first Parents, Babies, a Book competition for his work Chuut! which will be given to every baby in the north of France. His stunning book Where’s the Elephant? (Egmont) has been longlisted for the Kate Greenway Medal 2016.