2010 Reads, 101 -

Continuing on from my 2010 Reads 1-100, here's my 101 onwards list. I'll be updating this post throughout the year once I've read a book, whether it's a brand new read [B], a second-read [R] or a re-re-read [RR], and I'll add my ratings on Goodreads.

101. Bad Behaviour - Sheila O'Flanagan [B]
102. Love and Devotion - Erica James [B]
103. Dreaming of a Stranger - Sheila O'Flanagan [B]
104. The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins [R]
105. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins [R]
106. The Ghost - Robert Harris [B]
107. Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins [B]
108. The Carbon Diaries - Saci Lloyd [B]
109. Spotlight - Ilana Fox [B]
110. Last Night at Chateau Marmont - Lauren Weisberger [B]
111. Could it be Magic? - Melanie Rose [B]
112. Anybody Out There? - Marian Keyes [B]
113. Olivia's Luck - Catherine Alliot [B]
114. A Lesser Evil - Lesley Pearse [B]
115. All Because of You - Melissa Hill [B]
116. Taking Chances - Susan Lewis [B]
117. Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella [RR]
118. Shopaholic Abroad - Sophie Kinsella [RR]
119. Shopaholic Ties the Knot - Sophie Kinsella [RR]
120. Shopaholic and Sister - Sophie Kinsella [RR]
121. Shopaholic and Baby - Sophie Kinsella [RR]
122. Mini Shopaholic - Sophie Kinsella [B]
123. Twilight - Stephenie Meyer [RR]
124. New Moon - Stephenie Meyer [RR]
125. Eclipse - Stephenie Meyer [RR]
126. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey [B]
127. A Week in December - Sebastian Faulks [B]
128. Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert [R]
129. Revenge - Sharon Osbourne [B] 
130. Crazy in Love - Chrissie Manby [B]
131. Take A Chance On Me - Jill Mansell [B]
132. The Promise of Happiness - Justin Cartwright [B]
133. Queen Camilla - Sue Townsend [B]
134. Thanks for the Memories - Cecelia Ahern [B]
135. Venus Envy - Louise Bagshawe [B]
136. For Your Eyes Only - Ian Fleming [B]
137. The Spy Who Loved Me - Ian Fleming [B]
138. Meltdown - Ben Elton [B]
139. Blind Faith - Ben Elton [B]
140. Ya-Yas in Bloom - Rebecca Wells [B]
141. Choke - Chuck Palahniuk [B]
142. You're The One That I Don't Want - Alexandra Potter [B]
143. Johnny Be Good - Paige Toon [R]
144. Breaking Dawn - Stephenie Meyer [RR]
145. Beatrix Potter - Linda Lear [B]
146. Enid Blyton: The Biography - Barbara Stoney [R]
147. Animal Farm - George Orwell [R]
148. Gulliver's Travels - Jonathan Swift [R]
149. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - JK Rowling [RR]
150. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - JK Rowling [RR]
151. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - JK Rowling [RR]
152. The Distant Hours - Kate Morton [B]
153. Secrets and Lies - Jaishree Misra [B]
154. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks [R]
155. Remember Me? - Sophie Kinsella [R]
156. Entombed - Linda Fairstein [B]
157. Everyone Worth Knowing - Lauren Weisberger [RR]

Best reads of 2010 (so far)

Given I've now made the 100 books read this year landmark, I thought I'd recommend my favourite titles from 2010 (so far):
  • Enid Blyton: The Biography - Barbara Stoney
  • Under the Eagle - Simon Scarrow
  • One Day - David Nicholls
  • Ransom My Heart - Meg Cabot
  • The Carrie Diaries - Candace Bushnell
  • The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
  • Midnight Girls - Lulu Taylor
  • Bel-Ami - Guy de Maupassant
What have been your favourite reads so far this year? xoxo

Budapest, Day 4 and 5

Day four was a much more relaxed affair, starting with a river cruise down the Danube:

Cruising down the Danube
Parliament building
After we disembarked we went for lunch at Cyrano and both chose the unusually-named Mr Ghost Chow dish - it didn't taste unusual but it was definitely over-priced.

The Szechenyi Baths was our next port of call to soak up the sun and relax. With the temperature higher than it was when we first went, it was definitely far more crowded but still fantastic.

We grabbed dinner at the Basilica restaurant by St Stephen's and returned there the next day for breakfast before we looked inside St Stephen's. Each time we passed the outside of St Stephen's we were impressed by the sheer size of it; it was nice to find out it has an interior to match.

After our quick poke around, it was time to head to the airport. All-in-all, I had an amazing time had in Budapest, and I'll definitely be going back!

Have you been to Budapest? If not, which European cities do you recommend for my next adventure? x

Budapest, Day #3, Part II

At the top of Gellért Hill, you'll find the Citadel. At 235 metres high, you get an amazing view of the city.

Overlooking Buda Castle

Overlooking Pest from Buda

There's also the Liberty Statue at the top of the hill, which was erected in 1947 in remembrance of the liberation of Hungary. As it was the Soviets who liberated Hungary from the Nazis, the statue was inscribed with thanks to them. However, after the revolution against Communism, the inscription was changed:

To the memory of all of those who sacrificed their lives for the independence, freedom, and success of Hungary.

After Gellért Hill we headed back over to the Pest side of the River Danube to have a look at the magnificent Parliament building. If you're an EU passport holder you can have a free tour, but unfortunately we didn't get time to do this. The exterior truly is magnificent though in all its Neo-Gothic splendour.

Opposite Parliament you'll find the Ethnographical Museum in the former Palace of Justice building:

As an Anthropologist I got really excited about this and insisted we went inside. Tickets are only 1000 HUF (about £3), but it was free entry when we got there - hurrah! There was an exhibition on how Hungarians perceive Finns, which involved a lot of Nokia phones. Randomly, Nokia used to make Wellington boots and tyres before they branched into telecommunications!

That evening we headed to the brilliant BOB (Bacardi Original Bar) for dinner where I had my yummiest meal in Budapest - an amazing rack of lamb, washed down with a gimlet.

Feeling very full and shattered after a day spent walking around in the blazing heat, we decided to end the day in the relaxing jacuzzi back at the hotel. It's what it's there for, right? x

Budapest, Day #3, Part I

The day started with a stroll around Váci Street, Budapest's shopping street, McDonald's for lunch (sometimes it just has to be done), and then it was time to board the bus for a sightseeing tour around Budapest. We chose the Hop On - Hop Off Tour, which was valid for 24 hours and also included a river cruise. Yes, it's a tourist bus but they are the best way of making sure you see everything that a city has to offer.

We stayed on the bus around Pest, going past the Great Synagogue (the largest in Europe) and the State Opera House, choosing to get off in Buda so we could get the Castle Hill Funicular up to Buda Castle.

Buda Castle is also known as the Royal Palace, and it was first completed in 1256. You can continue on the bus up to the Castle District, but the Funicular is cheap enough and a quicker way to get to the top - day three was ridiculously hot, so it was nice to get off the bus.

At the top there is a great view, though there's a slightly better view from Gellért Hill. The Castle District is full of amazing statues and buildings - no surprises there because *all* of Budapest seems to be incredibly scenic (and also full of history).

The Horse Wrangler Statue

Matthias Fountain

From the Castle District, it's a quick walk to the Old Town where you'll find the Fisherman's Bastion, a bronze statue of Stephen I of Hungary (the first King of Hungary and also patron saint of Hungary, kings, children who are dying, masons, stonecutters and bricklayers!).

There's also Matthias Church, which has a really interesting tiled roof. It's in this area I learnt how bargainous ice cream is over here, a mere 50p for a cone and scoop!

After our ice cream pit stop, it was time to get back on the bus to head to Gellért Hill...

Fisherman's Bastion and Statue of Stephen I

Little Black Dress books giveaway

I'm giving away two Little Black Dress books. Up for grabs are:

The Chalet Girl by Kate Lace and Singletini by Amanda Trimble.

To enter, leave a comment saying which book you'd like to win, as well as a method of contacting you if are one of the lucky winners (e-mail address, Twitter handle). You can enter regardless of where you are in the world, and the giveaway winners will be announced on Wednesday 1st September. Good luck!

Budapest, Day #2

Day two in Budapest was much better, and possibly my favourite day of our stay. We had looked into getting grand prix tickets as the Formula 1 race was on at the Hungaroring, but general admission tickets are the same price as Silverstone tickets and the circuit isn't as exciting. Instead, after having a mosey around the St Stephen's area, we went to Szechenyi Baths which is housed in the most gorgeous yellow Neo-Baroque complex.

Szechenyi Bath and Spa was the first thermal baths built on the Pest side of Budapest. Budapest, you see, is spilt by the River Danube into Buda and Pest. The Baths are located in the City Park area of the city (Városliget), which is easier to get to by tube, though we found that a taxi there worked out at only £2 more - bargain! My favourite pool was the outdoor thermal one, which has a lovely water temperature of 38°C. It's like swimming in a big, toasty bath!

After four hours there we headed to the Zoo, which is just across the road. As it had giraffes, it won my approval immediately. For 1990 HUF a ticket, it's quite good value.

Here's the thing to note about the currency, everything seems very expensive because of the numbers involved... 1990 HUF is only about £6.50 though. Although we referred to it as HUF, officially the currency is called the Forint.

At the Zoo, we had some Kürtőskalács, which is Hungary's oldest pastry. It's also quite tasty! We tried cinnamon, but you can get other flavours.

Afterwards we walked to the very impressive Heroes' Square, which is also in the City Park area. Construction began in 1886, but it wasn't completed until 1900, which is why part of it is known as the Millennium Memorial. Here you can also find the Museum of Fine Arts and the Palace of Arts, though sadly we didn't get chance to visit either.

From the very impressive Heroes' Square, it's a short walk to Vajdahunyad Castle where you'll find the famous Statue of Anonymous. (If you touch his pen, you receive good luck; I found this out *after* we visited the statue!) There's also the Church of Ják here and several museums.

The Castle area is an interesting blend as the buildings are in four different architectural styles: Romanic, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque. This is what I really loved about Budapest - there are so many different styles and it's all so pretty!

After a very long but amazing day, we ended the evening with dinner at the yummy MO restaurant, which is just near St Stephen's. x

Budapest, Day #1

I've just got back from Budapest, where I stayed at the amazingly located Alta Moda Fashion Hotel. It's situated just a few minutes walk away from St Stephen's Basilica, and about ten minutes away from Váci Street, Budapest's Oxford Street.

We had one of only ten Fashion Experience XL Rooms, though because the hotel only opened in May, we found (or didn't find, as the case was) a few things missing from the suite, including bedside lamp bulbs and the fireplace! But, the staff were very lovely and helpful and gave us a free breakfast as way of apology (definitely overpriced at €15 each, but fine for a freebie).

Our first day was a bit ruined as we had to get up at the crack of dawn to get to Heathrow and then our flight was delayed. By the time we got to the hotel it meant we'd pretty much spent the day travelling and waiting around.

Asking the concierge for a close-by, decent restaurant, they directed us to Nádor Borétterem, a traditional Hungarian restaurant with an extensive wine cellar. We didn't realise how close we were to St Stephen's and we have no idea why they sent us this way, other than to assume they have a 'friendly' connection with the restaurant. The food was OK and the interior nice enough, but it was definitely overpriced for what we had - a paprika pasta with chicken dish, and steak with the most ridiculously over-saturated garlic potatoes!

After our uneventful first day, at least we went to bed knowing that we still had plenty of time left to make the most of Budapest.

How to advertise a flat

If you follow me on Twitter, you probably learnt yesterday that I'm moving to London next month (hurrah!), which means I have to find somewhere to live. Merely searching for flats on the interweb is proving illuminating, let alone viewing them...

If you ever need to rent out your flat, make sure you follow my handy guide to charm your potential flat/housemates before they've even begun living with you!

1. Don't include any pictures with your advert. It's 2010, people. Really, there is no excuse. Yes, I understand that there's probably no pictures because the room is a dive, but I for one won't be coming to view your place without a picture. Do us all a favour and put some pictures up. After all, a picture speaks a thousand words.

2. Include pictures of the house/bathroom/kitchen/garden but none of the bedroom. This screams that you're offering out the box room. And only £700pcm - wow, bargain! If you can put a picture up of everything else, you can put a picture up of the bedroom.

3. Don't include the cost of bills. This one is quite annoying. Sure, some people give you the all-in cost, but then there are those who say "bills extra" but don't give you a ballpark figure. I've seen the monthly bill cost vary from as little as £40 a month to £150 a month - people need to know to be able to budget! FAIL.

4. "We have a massive TV and a huge chill-out area, complete with a set of decks."
I may want to go to a party at your house, but I don't want to live at the 24/7 party house, thank you very much. The thought of randomers dotted around sleeping off the night before and using the last of my milk to make themselves a cup of tea doesn't appeal. Next!

5. Use shoddy spellings and grammar. A typo or two is fine, we can all make msitakes [sic], but an advert punctuated (or not punctuated at all!) with mistakes is a no-no. If you can't string a sentence together, I seriously doubt your ability to make small talk beyond z-list celebrities when I bump into you in the kitchen.

6. "Females only." In some circumstances it is perfectly reasonable to advertise this. However, when you're a 40 year old man and you want a female between the ages of 18-25 to share your flat and use the excuse that "girls are cleaner", I start to think two things: Firstly, you probably expect your new tenant to clean up after you. Secondly, you're probably having visions of her cleaning up in a French maid's outfit. Let's face it, you're a perve hoping to score, aren't you?

7. "In a safe neighbourhood." By which you mean "safe" as in the street meaning of the word safe. That's right, your neighbourhood is pure turf warfare.

8. "You won't be disappointed if you view this room!" I think I'll always be disappointed. That is, unless you're offering me a huge bedroom with en-suite (separate shower and a Jacuzzi), dressing room and private kitchen, in a marvellous location, all for £50 pcm, including bills, and I have the rest of the house all to myself. No? Didn't think so.

9. "Mon-Fri ONLY" or "Weekend ONLY". Amazing. This flat looks nice, it's at a reasonable price... Oh wait, that's because I'm only allowed to live in it for part of the week. Next!

10. Don't include distances. How far away is the tube? The nearest bus stop? The supermarket? Don't forget you're trying to sell this flat to me - a little information would be nice.

And yes, I know all about the horrors of flat viewings... Expect a post on that joy soon enough! Is there anything I've missed though? What's irked you when you've been trying to find a place to live? Do share! xoxo


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