Book Lovers' accessories | Backpacks

June 30, 2013

It has recently occurred to me that the time before my back decides to give up on me is going to be significantly shortened if I continue to lug heavy books around all of the time. Having realised that it's impossible for me to cut down on the number of books, (despite my destination being a library that almost certainly has all the books I have carried there), it has dawned on me that my method of transporting them must change. What I need is a functional bag. I do apologise for using the 'f' word, please forgive me, but desperate times call for desperate measures people. Fortunately I seem to have come across lots of these types of 'f' bags that are very pretty too.

Uni Rucksacks

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
The first is my favourite, but equally the least likely to make it into my possession given the price. Number 4 reminds me vividly of the 'cartables' we used to carry around at school in France, although it's nothing on the Minnie Mouse one I used to own. Number 6 is technically entitled 'The Fjallraven Kanken Laptop Backpack', I think my Mum would even be proud of all the functional and practical compartments.

I've decided that I can justify the seemingly extortionate price of one of these on the basis that it will surely be cheaper than the surgery needed to rectify my body if I continue as I have, and I imagine they will last rather longer than the handbags we all used to prance around with in secondary school that definitely weren't designed for the job.

From my vast research I would recommend the following sites if you are looking for a backpack: Etsy, ASOS, Urban Outfitters, Ebay, or you might be able to pick one up at a market stall. (Make sure to check out the Men's section of these sites too.)But please let me know if you have any suggestions.

Now all I have to do is decide on one...

Banana Loaf Cake

June 21, 2013

It's the end of the end of term and, one by one, all of my flatmates are moving out. What we're left with is a little more space in the fridge, and some mouldy food that they have left behind. Seeing some bananas about to go to waste, I rescued them deciding to take the opportunity to bake a banana cake.
Banana cake is one of those recipes that I have always wanted to be able to conjure up spontaneously, but when I have attempted one it has always been a little disappointing and never quite satisfied- it seems that I hadn't tried the right recipe that worked for me. I was always left feeling pretty underwhelmed; the cake was always too dense and flavourless.
After finding this recipe, that promised all that I desired, I couldn't resist but give it another go. I was not disappointed: after removing my cake from the oven, I was greeted with a moist, light cake, that actually tasted of banana!
It can be enjoyed with a little butter and a nice hot cup of tea, but the butter is entirely optional, (the tea isn't.) I think that most baked treats are best when still a little warm from the oven- so that's when I indulged in my slice of cake. 
Unfortunately I can't say how long it would actually keep because it didn't hang around for long.

Now that I'm on my summer holiday I have time to do some more reading, so my slice of cake was accompanied by 'The Woman in White', (a review of which will soon follow based on how much I'm enjoying it, and how quickly I'm getting through it.)
This cake is the perfect afternoon snack for a lazy weekend or to feed some hungry visitors after a long walk. I baked mine in anticipation for a picnic during which we watched an outdoor showing of the play A Midsummer Night's Dream, which all seemed very apt at the time. Today it feels rather less like summer, but if we do get some more picnic weather, I would highly recommend giving this a go.

I will definitely be baking this again, and next time I might experiment a little by adding walnuts, chocolate chips, dates or cinnamon. I'm hoping this will become a staple that I can put together effortlessly whenever there are some overly ripe bananas.

Do you bake a tasty banana cake? 

What additions do you make to the standard recipe?

A Review: And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

June 02, 2013

Khaled Hosseini has set the bar high with his first two novels, The Kite Runner (2003) and A Thousand Splendid Suns (2009); fortunately his latest release, And the Mountains Echoed, doesn’t disappoint and proves to be a more than worthy successor. Following the same themes of conflict, betrayal, friendship, love, and loyalty, the novel is once again set in Afghanistan, but feels original despite the same backdrop of war.

The story opens by a father telling his children a fable- one that ruthlessly foreshadows the separation of brother and sister, Abdulla and Pari, who share an unusually strong bond adoring one another immensely. As Pari is whisked away from the small countryside village of Shadbagh to bustling Kabul, the lives of the siblings change forever. The initial rupture leads to a multitude of splintering circumstances that perpetuate throughout the story that spans 60years. The story unfolds by telling of the subsequent ramifications that stem from the single line in the fable, 'A finger had to be cut to save the hand.’
Just as things start to look up for Pari and she settles into a new life with the wealthy Wahdati family, she finds herself relocated to Paris where she will grow up with mysterious voids and unexplainable absences in her life.
Will the hitherto seemingly inseparable siblings be reunited? How will their lives unfold without one another?

Hosseini is incredibly skilled in juggling between the third and first person narrative, interconnecting the multi-faceted short stories, and in spanning three continents; he explores these stories with such precision, depth, and variety, whilst continually achieving a sense of unity and coherence.
Hosseini encompasses both the political and domestic worlds, as with his other novels, but he also explores the deeply personal: the selfish and deceitful decisions made by one character and the consequent ripples this will have on the whole network of characters.
Defying the established principles, Hosseini introduces a vast multitude of different relationships and stories that would ordinarily attract criticism, but none seem superfluous, none seem contrived. Instead, they all appear important in demonstrating the complexities of Afghan society. It is true that certain aspects are perhaps lingered upon, characters developed who could be dispensed with, perhaps Hosseini is a little too intent on incorporating his own experiences, but none of this proves jarring. The narrative digressions allow one to become absorbed in the book, to empathise anew for each of the characters and to create suspense throughout by forming an atmosphere in which we are on edge, not knowing where Hosseini is ultimately taking us.

The ending is a slight departure from what Hosseini fans might be used to, the ends come neatly together, but we are not indulged with the typical 'happy ending.' Nevertheless, the conclusion is aptly bittersweet, it is touching if not so much heart-warming or fulfilling. Ultimately it is a novel that explores unspoken feelings and regrets obliging any reader to linger upon their own missed opportunities, fractured relationships, and reassessing the direction their life has taken; Hosseini certainly lives up to his name of ‘master storyteller’.

I spent just over a day and a half reading the book, one of which was spent languidly laying around without many cares, (my exams are over), soaking up Hosseini's stories and having strange nostalgic impulses of my own.
Much tea was consumed, and although I tried to slow down the reading to make the book last a little longer, my attempts weren't successful enough to give me time to clean my multitude of mugs of tea.

Have you ever read any Hosseini? Were you as gripped as I was?