5 Things to Do in Barcelona

In November, I visited Barcelona for the first time with my friend Sarah before she left London for Australia (😭😭). It has taken me a little while to write this post, but here are five things to do in the city!

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Visit… the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló and Park Güell

Gaudí is everywhere in Barcelona. The Catalan architect’s work is unusual, for this Londoner, and a delight. These spots are pretty standard for any traveller to Barcelona. I particularly enjoyed the stained glass windows (spring, summer, autumn and winter-inspired) of the Sagrada. It’s worth checking out the audio guide and taking a trip up the spire. Casa Batlló was stunning – so much blue and green and turquoise! – and my favourite out of the three, whilst Park Güell is perfect for a sunny day. Don’t forget to book your tickets for all three in advance!

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Go on… The Shadow of the Wind walking tour

Sarah loves Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s popular series for bookworms and so we booked places on The Shadow of the Wind walking tour. It was fascinating to visit places mentioned in the book (such as the secret Cemetery of Forgotten Books). As we weren’t in tourist season, we were the only two on the tour and so could ask plenty of questions. Our guide kindly kept it spoiler-free for me, too, seeing as I was only halfway through the book (silly, silly Stacey).

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Eat brunch at… Federal Café

We visited this Australian café in Barcelona twice because we loved it so much – and I had avocado and poached egg on toast both times. It’s certainly a ‘hipster coffee shop’ but, honestly, those are my favourites.

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Drink gin cocktails at… Dux

After dinner, we stumbled across this gorgeous, elegant cocktail bar and it was the perfect spot to sit and chat. I enjoy fruity cocktails (although they don’t love me…) and hanging out at Dux was a great way to spend our evening. In Spain, people eat and drink very, very late and so everywhere you go is super quiet and you can always get a table! Dux had a lovely piano in the corner, the tables were candlelit, and the menu offered pop culture-inspired cocktails.

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Browse… Barcelona’s many bookshops

Barcelona is a haven for bibliophiles and I was fortunate to go on holiday with a fellow book industry friend, so bookshops were at the top of our list. One of my favourites was Altaïr. This travel bookshop was cosy, homely and had a little café with sofas. I buy a copy of Le Petit Prince every time I visit a new country and I bought El Principito in La Central. We drank coffee outside and I enjoy playing around on the swing seat. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go to Gigamesh, the popular sci-fi bookshop – next time! (I used a handy Guardian article to plan our bookish adventure).

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We only tried churros twice so I wouldn’t dare recommend the best place to eat them! But a few places on our list to go to were Xurreria Dels Banys Nous, Chok – The Chocolate Kitchen, Granja M Viader, and La Nena.

Autumn TBR 🍂

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It’s finally autumn, my favourite time of the year. Hot chocolate. Cosy jumpers. Blankets. And curling up with a new book. I finished my summer TBR in August, so it’s time to pick a new TBR!

I’m really looking forward to working my way through these 10 books over the next few months. There’s an exciting mix of contemporary and sci-fi, LGBT+ and translated fiction, and YA, non-fiction & literary fiction. I love having a diverse TBR after my recent stint of YA contemporary romances.

I’ve already read Emery Lord’s The Start of Me and You, about sixteen-year-old Paige, who’s mostly known for being the girlfriend of a boy who drowned… and she wants to claim her life back. For my work book club this month, we’re reading Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West: ‘In a city swollen by refugees but still mostly at peace, or at least not yet openly at war, Saeed and Nadia share a cup of coffee, and their story begins’. I rarely pick up literary fiction, so it’ll be a nice little challenge for me.

I’m pretty intrigued about Naomi Alderman’s The Power since it won the Women’s Prize this year (awesome women with electric shock powers, what’s not to like?), plus Han Kang’s The Vegetarian (translated by Deborah Smith). It won the Man Booker International Prize and is described as a ‘fraught, disturbing and beautiful’ story set in modern day South Korea.

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I cannot believe that I’ve not yet read Patrick Ness’ Release – a story inspired by Mrs Dalloway and Judy Blume’s Forever – because I normally read his new books straight away. I’ve also heard excellent things about David Owen’s The Fallen Children – inspired by John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos – and Lisa Heathfield’s Flight of a Starling

In October, I’m taking a trip to Berlin and so I want to re-read Anna Funder’s Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall. It’s a captivating collection of interviews with people who have first-hand experience of the Berlin wall, such as 16-year-old Miriam, who attempted to escape West Berlin.

And lastly, I cannot wait to read Adam Silvera’s They Both Die at the End – I loved History is All You Left Me (and I’m sure this one will make me cry, too) – and Nina LaCour’s beautiful We Are Okay because I recently fell in love with Everything Leads to You.

Phew!

Have you read any of these?

Added to My Bookshelves: July & August


I love book-shopping and in July and August, I visited four bookshops. I walked with a friend through Edinburgh’s beautiful streets to browse the shelves at Golden Hare Books. I’d love to get back into adult fiction and so I bought a short novel that I’ve heard so much about, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian. It’s described as a ‘fraught, disturbing and beautiful’ story set in modern day South Korea.

I went on an adventure to see Lucy and we visited three bookshops in Bath, where I bought Lobsters (one of my favourite books that I only owned a proof of), How to Be Danish (because I’m obsessed with all things Scandi), and Becoming Betty (written by Eleanor Wood, who I met at Chris Russell’s launch and who was absolutely lovely). Lucy also kindly gave me a copy of Will Hill’s After the Fire. (See Lucy’s book haul here). I adore Bath and have previously blogged about my visits to Toppings & Co. and Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights.

I was also sent a bunch of books for review. I’m particularly excited to read Here We Are Now, all about music, family and friendship, and The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night, because I’ve been thinking about giving short stories another go. Jen Campbell’s new book is described as a collection of ‘twelve haunting stories’. I was also sent Another Place, Everybody Hurts, Alex Approximately, Ringer(although I still need to pick up Replica), The Treatment and a sampler of Leigh Bardugo’s The Language of Thorns. It’ll be a busy autumn!

And lastly, my lovely housemate Charlie gave me a copy of A Change is Gonna Come, which I’ve heard nothing but excellent things about. I can’t wait to delve into this anthology of stories and poetry from BAME writers.

Are any of these books on your TBR or wishlist?

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What I’ve Read / Everything Leads to You, The Loneliest Girl in the Universe & Editing Emma

Everything Leads to You by Nina LaCour

Everything Leads to You was the last of my summer reads and I chose it over We Are Okay, a story that sounds a lot sadder and darker – I’ll save it for autumn!

I finished Everything Leads to You a couple of weeks ago and I still remember how film aspect of the storyline made me feel. I adored it. I love the idea of being a set designer like Emi, our talented protagonist, and Nina LaCour tackles every little detail. She enables the reader to really understand and picture the work that goes into set design, why it’s such an important part of making a film, and how fun it can be. Emi is incredibly passionate about her future career, but Nina doesn’t just show us the glamorous side. We also see the boring, frustrating side of the industry, from being a lowly intern and not feeling good enough to browsing hundreds of sofas to find the one.

Emi and her best friend Charlotte come across a mysterious letter penned by a movie legend after browsing his estate sale, which leads them eventually to a girl called Ava, and a summer to remember. Everything Leads to You is one of the few novels I’ve read that features LGBT+ characters but isn’t about being LGBT. It’s an important part of the storyline, of course – and there’s a super sweet romance – but it’s not the main part of the story. It’s all about Emi and Charlotte’s determination to uncover the story of the letter and a girl who discovers her past.

Everything Leads to You is one of my favourite novels of the year so far – beautiful, cinematic and a joy to read. It lives up to its stunning cover, that’s for sure. 🎥

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The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James

Even though The Loneliest Girl in the Universe isn’t out until September, I had to pick it up because people wouldn’t stop talking about it. I’m rubbish at resisting hype and I just had to see what magic Lauren James created this time.

I love a good space story and The Loneliest Girl in the Universe made me realise how much more YA sci-fi I need to discover. I obviously do not read/watch enough because I had to engage Lauren in a lengthy conversation about how time works. *facepalm* (Thank you so much, Lauren!). Romy Silvers is left as the young Commander of her ship after her entire crew perishes. But she’s also a normal teenage girl. She bakes, she writes fan fiction and she’s really good at maths. Romy has an essential job ahead of her: travel to another planet and create a new home for the human race. She’s all alone in space – and so literally is the loneliest girl in the universe – until she receives an email from a new ship that has just launched from Earth. It’s a boy called J, and he’s coming to meet her.

The Loneliest Girl in the Universe throws up a lot of surprises. Romy’s journey on the ship is at times both exhilarating and fascinating, and terrifying and isolated. But it’s all Romy knows. It’s best you go into the story without knowing much at all… go on, it’s a long journey! 💫

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Editing Emma: The Secret Blog of a Nearly Proper Person by Chloe Seager

Editing Emma features the word ‘masturbation’ more than any other book I’ve read. It’s crazy, if you think about it, because most of what I read is contemporary YA. The genre is supposed to be realistic. It’s supposed to tell stories of what it’s like to be a teenager: school, friends, heartbreak, family and everything in between, so you think there’d be more talk of sex. Go you, Chloe.

When 16-year-old Emma is ‘ghosted’ by the boy she is ‘dating’ (they were dating, right?! She didn’t just imagine it?!), she creates a private blog to write about the life and thoughts of this new heartbroken-but-refuses-t0-be-defeated Emma. It’s the perfect way to document the positive changes she’s making in her life, from finding a boyfriend who will treat her right to stalking Leo’s social media profiles. Wait, no, she’s definitely meant to be stopping that.

Editing Emma is a super fun and hilarious quick read, perfect for the social media generation. As much as I adore the interwebz – and it’s a huge part of my life – it was also brilliant and refreshing to see Emma rediscover her passion for fashion design after she’s grounded and left with no access to the internet. (Chloe actually wrote an excellent post for me on social media and anxiety). We could all do with taking a break from our screens once in a while, and Emma Nash shows us it can be done.

Editing Emma has been recommended to friends who have been ghosted by complete dicks, friends who have a love/hate relationship with social media, and friends who appreciate such frank discussions of sex. Which is most of us, to be fair. 👩‍💻

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What I’ve Read / The Girl’s Guide to Summer, Sunkissed & Piglettes

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The Girl’s Guide to Summer by Sarah Mlynowski

Yesssss. I am loving all the summery travel stories that 2017 has thrown at us. I went from accepting that I’ll never get to go on holiday to constantly thinking about my next trip, even taking my first solo holiday this year. In The Girl’s Guide to Summer (titled I See London, I See France in the US), 19-year-old best friends Sydney and Leela are off on a once-in-a-lifetime European adventure, visiting England, France, Italy, Switzerland, just to name a few.

I live in Europe, but I’ve never been on an interrailing adventure. I’ve never even considered it. In The Girl’s Guide... the two friends have it all planned out… until spontaneity takes hold and the girls jump from train to train, heading to another country when the moment takes them. (Come to think of it, it seems like the perfect road trip for someone who gets car sick…). I particularly loved experiencing London through Sydney and Leela’s eyes (and may have shouted at them a few times when they forgot to get travel money and didn’t check when they could check into a hostel. *headdesk*). I also enjoyed reading about the places I’ve never been to.

With such freedom – and only a few weeks – comes exhaustion and drama. I constantly feared for Leena and Sydney’s friendship! Ex-boyfriends, new boyfriends, tense friendships… The Girl’s Guide to Summer has it all.

The Girl’s Guide to Summer is a super fun contemporary read for travellers and wannabe travellers!

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Sunkissed by Jenny McLachlan

In May, I took the plunge and flew off on my first solo trip to Stockholm, Sweden. I adored this beautiful, watery country so much that I couldn’t wait to pick up Jenny McLachlan’s summery read, set on the fictional island of Stråla in Sweden’s archipelago. It is simultaneously Kat’s worst nightmare and my absolute dream. Best. Punishment. Ever. But I admit that no hot showers, no wifi, and no friends would be a shock to the system – and it certainly is for Kat!

And then Kat meets Leo. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a “girl meets boy and everything is right in the world” kind of story – Kat’s just happy to meet someone her own age. She’s stranded on the most boring island ever for the entire summer, missing her friends back home and her creature comforts. She’s little superficial, immature and petulant… but I couldn’t help but fall in love with her in Sunkissed. Kat meets a whole host of quirky characters so different to everyone back home, from her carefree aunt Frida to a confident young girl called Nanna. Leo also plays his part in showing Kat that she can do more – and enjoy more – than she thought she could…

Jenny McLachlan’s novels are so breezy and fun – I’ll be picking up Love Bomb and Stargazing for Beginners as soon as I can.

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Piglettes by Clémentine Beauvais

Aaaand the last of my summer road trip reads is Piglettes. I loved the Sesame Seade series, a hilarious and smart middle grade mystery trilogy from Clémentine Beauvais. Piglettes shows us (as if we didn’t already know) that Clém has a unique voice in fiction. This is her first YA novel, translated into English (by herself, I might add) from her 2015 French novel, Les Petites Reines.

Piglettes takes us on an unlikely adventure with three witty, quirky and smart protagonists, like the ones featured in her younger fiction. But now Clém’s used her writing powers to create a YA read that you won’t feel like you’ve read before.

Mireille, Astrid and Hakima have been voted the three ugliest girls in their school. Awful, right? If it were me, I’d hide under my duvet forever, but these new friends band together and take matters into their own hands. From bullies and bicycles to periods and politicians, you never know what to expect next in Piglettes. The girls set off (slowly) on their bikes to Paris with a plan to crash a garden party at the Elysee Palace on 14th July. This bonkers adventure attracts interest from the French press and a wave of support on social media, leaving you cheering for the Piglettes.

Piglettes is a light-hearted, funny romp through France with a serious edge: girls, you should do what you think is right, even if everyone is telling you that you can’t. I couldn’t get enough of the below line, which I read over and over…

“I don’t understand why you insist on calling yourselves Three Little Piglettes,” Mum groans. “It’s a horrible name.”

“We’ll make it beautiful, you’ll see. Or better, we’ll make it powerful.”

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