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What to read? July 19, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Books.

Apologies if you’ve already read this, but it is a carbon copy of my Tumblr post – I thought you guys might be able to help!

I am currently trying to work out what books to take with me on my travels. I have a Kindle, so don’t need to worry about the weight, but Kindle books are pretty pricey and I don’t want to buy anything that I am likely to dump down the digital charity shop (great idea, btw!) at the first opportunity.

As soon as I have gotten past the mental hurdle of paying for a book that I will never see on anything but a digital screen (I can’t bring myself to buy a digital album either!), these are the books I am currently thinking about.

The list is short – I can’t think of any books, so these are largely the suggestions of my lovely Twitter friends. Any suggestions, therefore, gleefully welcomed!

  1. Stephen King short stories
  2. Some Irvine Welsh (Marabou Stork Nightmares & Reheated Cabbage)
  3. Trudi Canavan
  4. How To Be A Woman, Caitlin Moran
  5. Kraken – China Mieville
  6. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Any more suggestions?

My life in books June 17, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Books, Inspiration.
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I read Elle. In fact, I have a subscription. Aside from occasional gripes, I find it to be one of the only “fashion” mags that features intelligent and thought provoking writing, and so I keep on reading it month after month. There is one feature in particular that never fails to get me thinking, which is called (you guessed it!) “My Life In Books”.. and this is my version, about the books that changed my life.

The Lorax, Dr. Seuss.

If you had to take one book as an indicator of the person I would grow to be, it would be this. This is a conscientious moral tale in the format of a children’s story, a reminder to be careful – what we have needs care to continue.

Birdsong, Sebastian Faulks.

I read this book as an angsty deep and dark teenager. It has haunted me ever since, both as the simplest sweetest love story and as a representation of humanity at its most brutal.

His Dark Materials, Phillip Pullman.

A little part of me will always hold onto the world this trilogy created in the depths of my mind. I dream of worlds within worlds, of ghosts and love so strong it changes the fabric of your being. I dream of daemons. This book is, above all else, utterly formative and loved beyond compare.

Norwegian Wood, Haruki Murakami.

I like not talking. I like just sitting, touching, feeling the world go by and marvelling all the way. This book is just like this.. it is bitter and dark and twisted, but above all it is beautiful. All the misery and trouble are worth it in the end, and Murakami’s spectacular off-kilter style makes this a read it is difficult to forget.

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov.

I have gone back to this dark and disturbing book again and again. The depth of the writing inspires me, the storyline is simply one of the best I have had the honour to read. Never judge, assume or claim to understand – books like this show us all the angles of humanity and the depravity and love it is capable of.

Books every child should read! May 17, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Books.
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My humble list of books that every child should read, based on my somewhat unusual collection of childhood reading…

  • The Lorax – Dr Seuss
The Lorax Cover

The Lorax

Dr Seuss can probably be attributed as the single most important literary experience of my life. The reaction to this sort of comment (in the UK, anyway) almost inevitably results in some sort of muttering about cats in hats, but if you look away from that irritating stripy bugger then you actually find a creative world littered with morals. The Lorax is the best of a great bunch, and my copy is tattered, and loved so very hard.

  • Oh The Places You’ll Go – Dr Seuss

Not as good as The Lorax, but this book shows kids that they can do and be anything – and it is the book I bought my friends at home when we all went our separate ways to explore and experience the world.

  • The BFG – Roald Dahl

“The witching hour, somebody had once whispered to her, was a special moment in the middle of the night when every child and every grown-up was in a deep deep sleep, and all the dark things came out from hiding and had the world all to themselves.” It sounds scary, and at times it can be, what with the bone crunching and the child eating. However, the ending is a touching one full of dreams and excitement.

  • The Witches – Roald Dahl

Another Roald Dahl, but this one with the explicit intent of scaring your kids. In the same way that I believe kids should eat a bit of mud and fall out of trees as often as possible when they are little, I also feel they should have a little bit of fear instilled in them from an early age. And what better way to do this than with bald witches turning you into mice?! Once you’ve read it head down to Newquay and scare them silly with the building it was filmed in!

I’ve inserted a break, so I don’t take up my entire blog with this post…


I’m through to a shortlist April 22, 2011

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Books, Wordy Business.
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Apologies – I appear to be trying to force you guys to vote for me in endless competitions. There is the Orient Express competition, and now there is this.

Still, I think this is more exciting. I recently read my first copy of Stylist Magazine, and I was pretty impressed. It was lightweight and easy-going, yet the writing had a strong undercurrent of intelligence – even the lightest bubbliest articles were bright and sparky to read. I knew, from the moment I enjoyed it so, that ideally I would love to write for them.

As such, I put an entry into their culture critic competition. You had to write a 100 word (a very small amount!) review of your favourite book by a female author. This is harder than it sounds – how I managed to choose between such a vast array of seminal pieces (The Color Purple, The Yellow Wallpaper and Tipping the Velvet all spring to mind) and settle on Prozac Nation I don’t know. However, I soon found myself entering a little spiel – and now we are where we are today.

You see, I am in the top 10. In the shortlist! And next week the Stylist experts are going to combine their opinions with those of the people who voted for their favourites, to announce their new culture critic. As such, if you fancied following the link and sending an email voting for the Prozac Nation review, then I would be most grateful!

Click the image to go through to the shortlist!

Mad To Live October 15, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Books, Inspiration.
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The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding across the stars, and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘awww!’

On the road, Jack Kerouac

The Prodigal Son (Daughter!) Returns! July 20, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Books, Depression, Life, Chatter & Politics, Music.
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Well, after a week of holidaying and listening to music in the sun in Spain, I am back in the country. I am not sure how I feel about this – a part of me wants to cook and baste myself on a hot Spanish beach for as long as physically possible, but the rest of me is desperately glad to no longer be camping, tired, and grimy. It is, essentially, very nice to be home, especially when you consider that as of tonight I will actually have a home that I can call my own!

Anyway, because I am sure you care desperately about the minor trials and tribulations of my exhaustingly exciting life (hah!), here is a little (read: large and mindbogglingly boring) blow-by-blow account of the ups, and the downs, of this holiday.

We started off last Tuesday morning, getting up at some ungodly hour to pile into the car with bags and tents and enough books to overload even the keenest packhorse. The walk from our transfer to the camp-site once we completed the boring and utterly arduous travelling was the most painful journey I have made – dragging heavy bags through 35 degree Spanish heat in the blazing sun, all the while realising that your sandals are killing your feet. There is then the fun of finding a space big enough for the tents in the site itself, as everyone at the festival has to sleep piled on top of one another, in a chaotic jumble of roughly put up tents, blowing in the breeze thanks to the hard ground refusing to allow them to be pegged down.

A couple of days of beaching and basting ourselves in the sun followed, as we had arranged to arrive a few days before the festival proper began. Thankfully Ben and I got our much needed talk out of the way very early on, which was without a doubt a vital component of the trip. After all, imagine the awkwardness of going on holiday with your ex-boyfriend and his siblings – it could have been a nightmare. Originally I was going to spend the whole holiday alone, but then they let me stay with them, and once we had had a long overdue heart to heart a lot of the awkwardness was out of the way. It was a passionate tear-filled conversation, on both sides, but I felt that by the end I could hug him and call him my friend, which means there is hope for us continuing to get along with one another.

The camping itself was an interesting experience. The tent was red-hot come 10am, meaning we had to clear off to the beach or the packed patch of grass outside our local supermarket merely to be able to stay alive. I also didn’t have a sleeping bag (it is in storage along with the rest of my life!), so was lying on folded up towels and blankets that meant I woke repeatedly throughout the night with a numb arm, cramp in my back, or a disconcertingly numb bum! I am relatively certain I spent most of the week covered not only in my legendary blisters (I am still hobbling now, my poor feet are crippled!), but in a fine coating of sand, sweat and dust. And maybe a couple of crushed ants. Sexy!

Of the festival itself, a few bands stood out. Kasabian, disappointingly, were a bit of a let down, as were The Prodigy. In fact, The Prodigy were one of the biggest let downs ever, as I had been steadily ramping myself up and up for an awesome experience. The reality, unfortunately, was a crowd of aggressive and intimidating people, and a madman with a mike shouting clever and witty cynicisms such as “Can I hear my Spanish people?!” all the way through over and over. The only conclusion we could draw was that he had lost his sight and his hearing – we were all expecting him to start introducing “Can I taste my party people?!” in just to mix it up with some other senses! Other than that, I had wildly enjoyable experiences at The Specials (who were absurdly brilliantly awesome), Ilegales (A Spanish band who were utterly catchy and whom I plan to buy some CDs of), and Gorillaz (although Damon Albarn looks a lot like snooker player Steven Hendry…). I am still a bit gutted that I passed up Hot Chip for Mumford & Sons, as I have wanted to see Hot Chip live for ages!

The night with Gorillaz, who I loved, was an interesting one. I, once again, showcased my incredible ability to be devastatingly lonely when surrounded by large quantities of people. The vast quantities of exceptionally tasty and cheap Sangria no doubt had something with it, but I spent a lot of the night feeling isolated and just desperately wanting to go home. There is nothing quite like sobbing quietly to yourself at a festival crammed with twenty thousand people! I couldn’t tell you why it hit me so hard, and I was fine the next morning (thank god for sweating out hangovers in the tent), but I was probably just a bit exhausted and the strangeness of the whole situation hit me. I am glad I recovered for Gorillaz, but kind of wish that I hadn’t got so accidentally drunk in the afternoon heat. It was an odd night, and a bit of an anticlimax. Still, we all know that my brain leaves a little to be desired a lot of the time, and I suppose to have only really had a couple of freakouts in past couple of months is pretty good going considering how stressful life has been! Still, I am incredibly glad to be back home, and to be clean again!

Books read:

  • Graham Greene: Our Man In Havana. Good god I love modern literature! A surreal book, no doubt, but thoroughly enjoyable and definitely an “entertainment” to be read again and again – it is full of layers.
  • Ernest Hemingway: Old Man and the Sea. American literature at its best again.This is poignant, sad, and leaves you feeling kind of adrift. Beautiful though, but very different to For Whom the Bell Tolls.
  • Oscar Wilde: The Importance of being Ernest. What need I say? Hilarious!
  • Stieg Larsson: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest. Utterly absorbing. I love this girl, her dark life, the detaile crime writing. And this is as a reader who actively dislikes a lot of crime writing.
  • Jeffrey Eugenides: The Virgin Suicides. American Literature again, I could just devour this genre! I was incredibly impressed with this one – utterly honest and fascinating, plus uneasily funny in many places.

The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo – A Review March 19, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Books.
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What A Book!

I promised a review, and who am I to not deliver on my promises?

I have been avoiding reading my book club book, and as such I decided to read one of the books I bought on an impulse at Waterstones the other week. It was one of those trips when I had found two books I really wanted to read in the glorious three for two, and I really wanted to read in the glorious three for two, and the third purchase was chosen purely on the basis of the cover and the title.

I didn’t even know it was crime fiction until I got around to reading the blurb, and I was a bit disappointed as normally that is a genre I simply don’t enjoy.Then I got started, and despite a slow first couple of chapters I suddenly found myself addicted. I read the entire novel in a day, and it was good enough to make me stay up until 4 in the morning – and now that I am not as young as I once was, that is quite a feat!

So, what is the book about? I am keen not to give any spoilers, but it is essentially a story of a journalist, employed to investigate a murder/kidnapping case that hasn’t ever been solved. Through a series of events he ends up in an isolated area of Sweden, with an immensely talented and deeply troubled young private investigator. The case, seemingly unsolvable, soon starts to take a violent turn, one which culminates by the end of the book in a thoroughly dramatic and exciting ending.

Despite the crime subject, I was immediately absorbed in this. The story is intriguing and disturbing, and is supported by a range of deeply understood characters. Someone online described it as “high-definition”, and this certainly rings true – the cast are painted with startling detail, the environment becomes so incredibly real – and more so with every page you turn.

I was totally invested by the end (as evidenced by my inability to put it down), and I am dying to read the next two in the trilogy – and I am quite intrigued to see how such a complicated tale will be turned into a book.

Wonderful Weekend March 14, 2010

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Books, Life, Chatter & Politics, Media, TV & Film.
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I had a wonderful weekend!

Friday night was spent getting gently tipsy for Nics birthday (Roisin’s lovely man). I dressed up in my pretty Emilio Pucci heels despite the fact we were going to what is essentially an old man pub – I never feel the need to wear what is expected of me! We actually ended up staying out till about half 1 and being locked into the pub – which was a new life experience that I can happily tick off my list.

Saturday we went to a sewing session at Alysa’s house. I spent my time rather uselessly pinning up the lining of my coat, unpicking and pinning it again, and eventually just giving up! The coat is a stunning floor length red wool number that I snagged on eBay for a fabulous £1.99, and now that I hae sewn up the moth holes I can’t wait to put a zip in and get to wearing it. At the moment, however, it has approximately 30 buttons to do up, meaning that I won’t be wearing it just yet!

My afternoon was spent strolling around town , wandering into all the charity shops (I got a George number that is really cute!), and stocking up on insoles for all my shoes that don’t fit! Hopefully now I will be able to get some wear out of them. I also wanted to mention that now I have a lovely camera I will finally be following up my promise to document all my pretty shoes, and I may even take part in Amber’s shoe challenge!

The rest of the evening was spent watching Stardust (just as unimpressive as I remember from last time, and as a huge Neil Gaimen an it surprises me to say I didn’t love the book either), followed by In Her Shoes, which surprised me enough to make me intend to write a review! Then I retreated to bed, where although I only planned to read a few pages of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo I actually ended up reading the entire thing – it was awesome! I don’t usually like crime fiction, but I quite simply couldn’t put this book down – a full review will follow for this one too!

Book Giveaway: Winner! November 15, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Books, Giveaways/Offers.
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The time has come to announce the winner of my Sloe Gin and Beeswax giveaway!


New Picture (6)

The winner is no. 3 –  Róisín Muldoon

Congratulations! Let me know your address and I will send it out to you!

Giveaway – Slow Gin and Beeswax Book October 24, 2009

Posted by Lauren Cooke in Books, Foodiness.
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Earlier this week I ordered a book on eBay. It arrived, but unfortunately the cover was a little ripped. I contacted the seller who was lovely, and sent out a replacement in the post. As she did so, she encouraged me to keep the old one as a wonderful gesture of goodwill. Now, I obviously don’t need this first copy, with its little rip. But it is a brilliant book, and I don’t want it to go to waste. I want people to be able to benefit from this woman’s kindness, and experience one of my favourite seasonal reads.

Now, what is the book all about?

Apparently according to the cover it is ” Seasonal recipes and hints from traditional household storerooms”. It is jam-packed with advice on what to cook in what season, how to cook it, cleaning tips, chutney recipes, and other such worldly gems of wisdom. I have read this book back to cover, absorbing all that knowledge, and it still hasn’t gotten old!

Sloe Gin and Beeswax - you can see the rip (sellotaped) at the top!

Sloe Gin and Beeswax - you can see the rip (sellotaped) at the top!

Now, last time I hosted a giveaway on my blog, someone unfortunately won with a monosyllabic answer and was incredibly ungrateful when I contacted her – I requested the address and literally got just that – no world of thanks or even any message! This time, therefore, I request that people just give a little answer to the question below along with some method of contact (a link to your blog or email address). The competition will close on the 7th November!

To enter, simply answer this: What is your favourite old wives tale or culinary tip?

To tweet this competition if you so desire, simply paste this into Twitter: “RT @LaurenEACooke Head over to my blog for the chance to win a copy of the wonderful “Sloe Gin and Beeswax” http://tiny.cc/8Y2p3