Livraria Lello – the library that inspired J.K Rowling

When I visited Porto with my family last year we went to Livraria Lello and it was one of my favourite parts of the trip! Before we arrived in Portugal it was on our ‘to do list’ as we had seen pictures online and had been told it was a ‘must go spot’.

The entrance/ticket office to the library was separate from the library itself, and once tickets were purchased you had to queue in line. The queue lasted around half an hour but there were lots of food and drinks places really close by that did take-away refreshments. The library itself wasn’t very big but it was beautiful both inside and out!

The first thing that I noticed when walking though the entrance were the amazing stairs that sat in the centre of the building. The library itself was rumoured to have inspired J.K Rowling’s depiction of Hogwarts, I could certainly see how the architecture (in particular the stairs) would be a form of inspiration! Personally, I thought that the stairs were reminiscent of the moving dormitory stairs in Hogwarts!

The upstairs of the library housed artefacts from the Harry Potter series and were really interesting to view (although they were encased with glass for obvious reasons). There were many different types of books on offer, as expected in a library, and the ticket used to enter could be redeemed against the price of a book. Certain texts (some classics and poetry anthologies) were beautifully presented, with gold edged paper and detailed illustrations. I bought three of these as souvenirs from my trip!

I would definitely suggest a visit here if you ever find yourself near Porto! It’s a must-do trip for literature enthusiasts and lovers of the Harry Potter franchise alike!

Review on ‘Love Medicine’ by Louise Erdrich

I was introduced to this book when studying at University. I read it as a part of the American West module that I studied in my third year. I studied this text in the ‘Native American’ section of the module and really enjoyed reading and studying it in depth! Louise Erdrich is a Native American author so the community that is portrayed throughout the novel is accurately depicted. Erdrich explores the Ojibwe (Chippewa) people, of whom she is related on her Mother’s side. This really makes the story that is told an authentic one that is able to bring to light the reality faced by Native Americans, particularly surrounding modern issues such as a lack of identity.

Erdrich takes her writing style from the author William Faulkner. In this way, the novel uses the points of view of different characters across different points in time. The novel is not set in chronological order and does not strictly follow one single story but rather the story of an entire tribe, conveying the importance of tribal ties to this culture. Although this is the case, I didn’t find the book difficult to follow, but I found that this style of writing really allowed the author to explore such an overlooked and misrepresented culture.

The tribal stories and beliefs that are incorporated throughout have been criticised by other Native American writers for being ‘clan secrets’ that should not be shared outside of tribes. However, by reclaiming these stories in a Native American text, I would say that these are vital in the understanding of the way of life and culture of the Ojibwe people. I would suggest that if you were really interested in Native American culture then it would be useful to research some of the stories that are incorporated in order to completely understand their importance (although this is not necessary to understand the text itself).

Overall, this text is not only interesting due to its complex and exciting plot (which is obviously a necessity for a good piece of fiction!) but also due to its use of a culture that makes it more authentic than a purely ‘made up’ fiction. Although the plot itself is fictional, the tribe in which it is based on is not, and therefore there is a sense of reality that is offered when observing the actions and experiences of characters. I would definitely recommend this book on its plot alone but also as a means of being introduced to Native American fiction and culture if this is something you are interested in or haven’t thought about reading before!

Happy reading!

Meg x

Review on ‘The Girl on the Train’ by Paula Hawkins

I borrowed this book from a work colleague when it first came out (hence the drawing rather than my usual picture) and literally read it over one weekend! As you may have already read, I love the work of Paula Hawkins, and this is one of my favourite books. If you’ve watched the film but not read the book I would really recommend giving this one a go, it’s so much better than the film (I know that’s something that everyone says about book/film adaptations but I guess that shows the power of a good book!).

Between this and ‘Into the Water’, although very close, ‘The Girl on the Train’ is my favourite. Again, Hawkins uses the same style of writing, using viewpoints from different characters throughout the story, helping to piece together the single mystery that the novel follows. I would say that this book is slightly easier to follow than the previous one that I reviewed. The mystery of the book, is not revealed until the end of novel and it, again, is not one that I would have guessed when initially reading it!

The psychological aspects of this book really grasped my attention, I honestly couldn’t put it down! Similarly to her other novel, there were many different suspects explored throughout, each having motives and characteristics to be the ‘bad guy’. Similarly to the work of Gillian Flynn, the plot twists that Hawkins weaves into her work are unexpected and admirable for how well they fit in to the overall plot.

For anyone who loves crime fiction novels as much as I do I would definitely recommend reading this as a book that will have you completely gripped and wanting to read more! I can definitely see why this was so popular when it was first released and I shall be trying to get my hands on my own copy to re-read soon!

Happy reading!

Meg x

Meringue swirls

Ingredients (makes 8-10)

  • Your choice of jam/curd
  • 4 large egg whites
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp of vanilla
  • 1 large tsp cornflour
  • 150ml double cream
  • Fresh fruit to serve


  • Preheat the oven to 225f/110c
  • Beat the egg whites in a bowl using an electric whisk on a medium/high speed until foamy.
  • Reduce the speed down one and gradually add the sugar and cornflour. Keep whisking until the mixture forms stiff peaks when the whisk is lifted out. It should be really smooth and glossy at this point. To double check that your mixture has been whisked enough you can be brave and tip it over your head! (None should fall out if it’s done right)
  • Put some baking paper on a tray using blobs of your meringue mixture to stick it down.
  • Warm up whichever jam/curd you are going to use in a tub for around 30 seconds in the microwave just so it loosens up slightly.
  • Use tablespoons to place blobs of meringue on your baking tray (being careful not keep the nests apart from each other). And use the back of a teaspoon to create a dent in the top or each meringue.
  • To swirl your jam/curd use a teaspoon and place a small amount onto your meringue. Then use the handle of the spoon or a cocktail stick to swirl it around the meringue (be careful not to add too much as it will make the meringue too wet).
  • Bake in the oven for 1 hour 15 – 1 hour 30 (mine normally take more towards 1 hour 30). You’ll know when the meringues are ready as they’ll lift up from the paper easily and sound hollow when you tap them (a crust will be formed on the outside but they shouldn’t change colour too much).
  • Leave them on a cooling rack to completely cook down and serve with cream and fruit!
  • You can even break the meringues up and mix with some whipped double cream and fruit to make an Eton mess!

Review on ‘And the Mountains Echoed’ by Khaled Hosseini

If you’ve read my other reviews you’ll know that I love Hosseini’s work. I discovered this book after reading ‘The Kite Runner’ and ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’. I virtually read it straight after reading ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ and although it’s another heartbreaking and well-written text I was left somewhat disappointed. I’m not sure if this was because I’d really enjoyed the previous book or because there was less “action” in this text than the other two. However, it was still an insightful text and I did enjoy reading it!

Whereas the other two books explored male and female journeys within Afghanistan, this text explored the points of view of characters from a variety of backgrounds. The text began with a framing story of a brother and sister, which the book reverted back to throughout and ended with. Although other life stories were also explored throughout the text, they all linked in some way to the overarching story that Hosseini introduced at the beginning.

By using characters from different backgrounds and exploring how the lives of Afghanistan people vary wildly, Hosseini was again able to explore the country’s rich history. The far reaching impact of the events that have/are occurring within Afghanistan have rippled across different nations, affecting numerous people in different ways. This is explored in great detail throughout, such as through the use of characters from countries such as Greece and Germany, showing how these characters have been able to entwine themselves into Afghan culture.

The movement of Afghan people to countries within Europe and the USA is also explored. This was highly interesting as it explored the ways in which these people were able to adapt to new surroundings, but still retain their culture. The importance of culture was explored throughout, in particular the way in which people remain rooted to their cultural experiences, even when displaced from their country of origin.

Although I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the other two, I would still recommend it to anyone who is interested in exploring the history and culture of Afghanistan. Yet again, this is a very insightful book that explores such a heartbreaking history.

Gin and tonic fish and chips with a chilli and cucumber jam

Ingredients (serves four)

  • Four fillets of cod (skinless works best)
  • 250g plain flour
  • 50 ml of gin
  • 250 ml of tonic (you can use 300ml of cider or beer if you don’t want to use gin and tonic)
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • chips (to serve/these are optional)
  • 400g caster sugar
  • 2 chillis
  • Half a cucumber (with the seeds scraped out of the middle)
  • 100ml white wine vinegar
  • 100ml water
  • A small bunch of fresh mint and coriander
  • Chilli flakes (optional)


  • I usually make the dipping sauce/jam first so that it can cool a little before I serve it with the fish.
  • Chop the chillis and cucumber into even sized cubes.
  • Heat the sugar, vinegar and water in a saucepan until boiling. You can add more sugar if you’d like it a bit thicker, I normally do this just by judging the texture of the sauce on the spoon but don’t forget it will thicken as it cools.
  • Add the chillis and the cucumber and cook for around a minute. At this point you can add 1/2 teaspoons of chilli flakes if you’d like the dipping sauce to be spicier (I do this but I like really hot food!)
  • Chop the fresh herbs and stir in at the end, season to taste.
  • This makes quite a lot of sauce but it does keep in the fridge for about a week, it’s yummy served with grilled halloumi!
  • Fill a deep fryer with the oil. I don’t have a deep fryer at home so I use a Wok and fill it about a third of the way up to shallow fry the fish rather than deep frying it. Heat the oil up until it gets hot enough to fry (to check this drop a bit of your batter in and if it sizzles it is hot enough).
  • To make the batter mix the flour with the gin and tonic (or your other fizzy alcohol/soda water if non-alcoholic) until combined and season with salt. The batter will be quite thick, it sticks to the fish better this way.
  • Dip the fish into the batter and make sure that all of it is coated fully, this can get quite messy!
  • Fry the fish (in batches if the pan is quite small) until golden brown. Turn the fish over after around 5 minutes if using a Wok.
  • Drain the excess oil using kitchen paper.
  • Serve with the dipping sauce, chips and peas! (I serve mine with crushed chilli and mint peas but I’ll put this recipe up soon!)

Review on ‘Into the Water’ by Paula Hawkins

Most people may know Paula Hawkins from her novel ‘Girl on the Train’, which is an absolutely amazing book, but I think that ‘Into the Water’ is equally as mysterious and exciting to read. I had to buy this novel as soon as it came out, after reading ‘Girl on the Train’!

It’s a similar ‘who dun’ it’ type novel, with the mysterious death of Nel Abbot being investigated. The novel is written using diary entries, from the points of view of numerous characters, from different times over a period of deaths that occur at the ‘drowning pool’. Although Nel’s death is the main one that is investigated, there are lots of other deaths that are brought to light within the novel, adding several layers to the story. Although I thought the layout of the book allowed the reader to gain a vast insight into the mystery surrounding the suicides of the town, I did think it was occasionally difficult to follow. The text changes tense and characters often and it’s easy to loose track and forget whose point of view you are reading from, I had to go back to the beginning of chapters a few times to double check!

Overall, I really enjoyed this book! I didn’t think it was as good as ‘The Girl on The Train’ but it was an excellent book either way. I didn’t expect the ending and as soon as I finished the book I wished there was a second one that I could read in order to find out more! Definitely one to read for any fans of crime fiction/mystery novels!

Happy reading!

Meg x

Review on ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ by Khalid Hosseini

If you’ve read my ‘about me’ page, you’ll know that this book is my favourite! I’d been meaning to read this ever since I studied Khalid Hosseini’s ‘The Kite Runner’ for A Level English but I never got the chance until I’d finished my studies at University. I’d already really enjoyed reading ‘The Kite Runner’ but I thought that this book was even better!

Hosseini offers an insight into the lives of Afghan people and the different complications faced by men and women alike. This text predominantly focuses upon a female journey within Afghanistan, exploring issues of restrictive traditional beliefs paired with growing modernity in larger cities. This runs alongside the numerous conflicts that have ravaged the country. There are lots of different traditions, beliefs and ways of living that are explored within the text, highlighting issues faced by different types of women (and men).

The text follows the journey of two female characters who have both been bought up in different ways and therefore have different demeanours. However, as their paths cross, the text becomes one that highlights female companionship and solidarity. Throughout the story there were times when I had goosebumps just reading about some of the events that (although fictional in the text) women within Afghanistan would have experienced.

From beginning to end the story is absolutely heartbreaking, but I think it’s important that it is as it highlights the real life horrors that have occurred, this is what makes the story all the more powerful. I definitely recommend this book and I know a lot of people who have also read it would say the same.

Happy reading!

Meg x

Review on ‘Dark Places’ by Gillian Flynn

To be honest, I came across this book on accident after searching online for some recommended crime fiction novels and it definitely did not disappoint!

After hearing some good reviews about the authors work (and after watching the film adaptation of Gone Girl) I had really high hopes for this text and they were definitely fulfilled. It’s around 400 pages long and I read it all in about 3 days, I just couldn’t put it down!

The novel jumps straight in with the Day massacre and leads the reader down the path of the events of that day, using past and present tenses to explore how the protagonist, Libby Day, aims to discover the truth about the murders of her family. The use of entries from the points of view of Patty and Ben Day add to the suspense of the book and definitely made me want to read more. Each chapter finished on a sort of cliff hanger, making a reader want to read through the next chapters in order to revert back to the individual story lines to find out what happens next. The way that Gillian Flynn incorporates different tenses and points of view really allows the reader to become involved in the ‘solving’ of the mystery.

Throughout the text, the mystery surrounding the massacre was kept hidden. At some points in the text I was definitely sure that Ben was guilty and during other points I wasn’t so sure. I definitely did not predict the end of the novel, which I love about these kinds of texts! When the novel came to its’ end, I realised that there had been little clues littered throughout that I hadn’t noticed were of significance until they were reintroduced by the protagonist.

As well as the murder mystery, I really enjoyed experiencing the development of Libby. She begins as an unlovable character, but I was definitely rooting for her by the end. The exploration of mental health and depression was fascinating as Flynn explored the ways in which childhood trauma affected the protagonist and how by researching deeper into the “Dark Places” of her past, she was able to overcome some of her fears and anxieties surrounding the outside world.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves crime fiction and mystery stories and I will definitely be reading more of Gillian Flynn’s work in the near future!

Happy reading!

Meg x

Review on ‘The Kite Runner’ by Khaled Hosseini

If you’ve read my review of ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ you’ll know that I find Hosseini’s work both powerful and heartbreaking. ‘The Kite Runner’ certainly fits that description too! As suggested in my previous review, Khaled Hosseini uses his work to portray the history of Afghanistan and explores the traditions and cultures that make the country. In contrast to ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’, this text predominantly observes a male point of view, exploring a friendship between two young boys who are of different ethnic groups existing within Afghanistan.

I studied this text at A Level which really let me grasp a deeper understanding of the cultures that were portrayed within the text. Although this book does explore some of the aspects of Afghanistan conflicts that a reader may be familiar with, it also explores the internal conflicts between Pashtun and Hazara ethnicities, the latter being an ethnic minority within Afghanistan. The way that Hosseini observes the two ethnicities through the eyes of children is fascinating, and as his protagonist grows into an adult there is a clear change as to how he approaches this particular issue, as well as new ones that he faces as Afghanistan is taken over by the Taliban. In this way, the novel is very much a Bildungsroman (a coming of age story) where the reader is observes the development of the protagonist and country alike.

Like ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ this book deals with some horrific events, that would certainly have occurred in real life within the setting it is placed. This makes the reading of it the more harrowing but powerful, it really makes you consider how fortunate we are to have been born and bought up in different circumstances than many children across the world. It was difficult to read some parts, but the ending is definitely worth it, there is at least, some form of light to be found at the end of the tunnel for the protagonist.

I definitely recommend this book, and the other works of Hosseini. It is not only a gripping tale but also one that serves a purpose in teaching it’s readers about a culture that has often been overlooked by many, if not recently forgotten. I think I will definitely be re-reading this soon as it has been around five years since I last read it!

Happy reading,

Meg x