Book review: Three Sisters by Heather Morris

 Well hello to you my reader chums! I'm a big fan of historical novels, I love reading books based on a time period I haven't experienced and learning more about what life was like back then. It always fascinates me and if you've read my previous reviews, you will probably see a theme.

I really enjoyed the Tattooist of Auschwitz, Cilka's JourneyThe Twins of Auschwitz, and The Red Ribbon; I couldn't wait to read the Three Sisters and learn more about their story. If you're thinking of reading The Three Sisters by Heather Morris, here is my full review.

Book review: Three Sisters by Heather Morris

Plotline

Based on the true tale of sisters Cibi, Madga and Livia, this book follows their journey of living in Auschwitz. The sisters made a promise to their late father that they'll stay together no matter what and this is what the premise of the book is all about. Years later, when the youngest Livia is 16, the Nazis order her to Auschwitz and Cibi the oldest sister, won't let her go alone. Together, they fight to survive the unimaginable at the camps. Magda the middle sister stays with her mother and grandfather, hiding from Nazis at their neighbour's house and in the forest. However, one day the Nazis finally find them and she is transported to the death camp. In Auschwitz-Birkenau, they are reunited once more and make another promise together: to survive.

Characters and relationships

The characters in this book are what make the entire story if I'm honest. The sisters Cibi, Magda and Livia are all completely different and their personalities and bond are what makes the story so special and inspiring. Cibi has that older sister's resilience, ensuring to look after both of her sisters and does anything to keep them both safe and alive. She is brave in every sense of the word, caring and sacrificing many things. I adored reading about her bond with Livia and how together, they were even stronger. Livia may only be three years younger, but throughout the book, you can tell she has that innocent energy about her and I loved seeing that grow and develop, but also admire how incredibly strong she was, at an age you barely know yourself. Magda completes the three sisters and brings out something different in them all, but I especially loved how Cibi and Madga cared for their baby sister and put her above and beyond anything.

Their relationship really shows the importance of family, health and love, and if you can believe it, you can get through anything together. Their bond with their mum and grandfather was also incredibly special, and I could feel the love between them bouncing off the pages.

Overall thoughts

Overall, this book broke my heart in so many ways. Even though it was based on a true story, I know a lot of what happened was real and that is the hardest thing to swallow. To think the sisters experienced life like that, I couldn't help but admire their strength and courage to get them through every day in the camp.

The story is beautifully written, highlighting the endeavours of went on in the day-to-day but also showing the importance of the sisters' bond and their journey through years in the camp and beyond. It's inspiring reading the harrowing scenes they witnessed and experienced, and their determination to survive is stronger than anything.

Ending

Despite the harrowing and heartbreaking scenes throughout the book, the ending was uplifting, wholesome and inspiring. It really put everything into perspective and left the book on a positive note. 

I hope you enjoyed this review. What is your favourite type of book?

Thank you for reading <3

5 ways to practice the power of calm

 Well hello to you my reader chums! Being and feeling calm is something we all need in our lives. Life can be chaotic, life can be busy and life can be full of stress. Due to all of this, I think many of us forget to find calm every day and learn the importance of feeling what the calm part of life can do for your mental and physical health. I will be the first person to admit this is something I struggle with, however, lately, I've been working on it more and have found it makes a real difference.

If you're feeling a bit stressed or overwhelmed at the minute, here are 5 ways to practice the power of calm.

5 ways to practice the power of calm

Be present more 

In a world that is so loud and busy with endless things to plan, goals to achieve and people to keep up with, being present can seem like an impossible task. However, it's one of the most important things you can do for your mental health. Being present allows you to enjoy the moment. Being present allows you to be grateful for what you have. Being present keeps your mind at bay and roaming thoughts still. It stops you from thinking too much ahead and really being there in the moment. Life goes by so fast, and that's why it's so important to slow down.

Take time out of your day to sit with your thoughts

I'm a big thinker, I love to be with my thoughts and when life gets busy, I feel like I have no time to sit and think or my mind wanders when I'm trying to do things, which never helps anyone. This is why to keep a calm approach, take time to be with your mind. Whether it's ten minutes in the morning before breakfast, in the middle of the day or at night, step out of your routine and sit with your thoughts. Think about how you're feeling, what you're grateful for and what you're looking forward to.

Schedule in 'do nothing' time

I don't remember the last time I did nothing, life always seems that hectic, hence why I need to make time to simply do nothing. And my do nothing, I mean things which take no mind power so you can fully relax such as watching TV or listening to music. Find time for this most days if not every day to allow your body to rest and recharge; it'll help you feel a lot calmer and can aid you in being more productive and sleeping better.

Find the beauty in nature

Nature is a beautiful thing and I don't think I fully appreciated how much the great outdoors can do for my mind until the last few years. I really embraced how much I adored living by the beach and its wonders for my mental health and wellbeing. When you can, take the time to find the beauty in nature. Go on coastal strolls, visit your nearby woods or countryside walks and notice the small things which happen in nature. For example, seeing the birds move around or get up close to flowers as they bloom. It's so simple but is so important to feel calm.

Schedule in 'no phone' time

As a society, mobile phones have taken over our lives and I can't be the first person to admit that. We rely on technology for pretty much everything and the notifications are what bring us back in to continue staying on our phones. Due to this, try and schedule in 'no phone' time. This can be as long or short as you like, as putting your phone away can help you be present in whatever you are doing. It'll help you focus a lot more and prevent notifications from overloading your mind.

I hope you enjoyed this post. Do you have any other tips?

Thank you for reading <3

How to learn to love your changing body

 Well hello to you my reader chums! In a world where only one body type is praised and we're all made to feel bad about our bodies, body confidence can seem harder and harder to achieve. For years, I've worked on my body confidence, and reached a point of body acceptance - and felt proud of the journey I've been on.

How to learn to love your changing body

However, getting older and turning 26, over the last year or so, I've noticed how much my body has changed and honestly, it has been a hard thing for me to deal with. If you're struggling with the change in your body and looking for some advice, here are my best tips.

Appreciate what your body does for you

I think something we all forget when fixating on what our body looks like is everything it does for us. Our body is our home and we should treat it like that. It protects us, it keeps us healthy and it has so many incredible elements to it to help us function. If you think about your body in this light, it'll help you learn to love it a lot more, because it's one of the reasons you exist.

Accept that your body changing is a part of life

This is something which really has helped me come to terms with my body changing. Growing older means everything changes, including your body. Your body isn't going to remain the same as what it was in your teens or even your early twenties, it evolves over time. And is a reminder we all need to hear, especially when struggling with our body confidence. There are many different things which come with your body changing and trust me when I say this, it's all normal. It's about learning to accept what it is and how you can take care of it.

Understand social media isn't real

In the world of social media, it's always important to be reminded how it is a highlight reel - and this especially comes to light when people show off their bodies. Often bikini pics or body pics are posed in a way to make them look 'perfect' and toned. It doesn't mean they're actually like this and even if they are, it doesn't mean your body should look like that. This is why I always suggest for people do an audit of their social media, and unfollow the people who are making them feel worse about themselves.

Invest in clothes you feel comfortable in

When our body changes, we fixate on how we don't fit in our favourite clothes anymore or they don't look the same. But really, you should take this as an opportunity for a wardrobe and style change. Go shopping and find the clothes you feel comfortable in and that flatter your newfound figure. You'll be surprised to see how quickly you learn to fall in love with yourself when you find figure-suiting items.

Don't focus on clothes sizes

This leads me to this point. Just because you've gone up a clothes size or two, it doesn't make your body any less, in fact, it makes it a normal body. Plus, the clothes sizes these days are all over the place, changing across many high street shops. Instead of focusing on what size you're picking up, focus on how the clothes make you feel.

Practice body self-affirmations

I'm a big fan of self-affirmations. They're a brilliant way to practice speaking positive messages to yourself, boosting your mindset and how you feel about yourself. The best way to do this is to have these affirmations written down and read them out to yourself in the mirror. The more you read them, the more they'll sink in.

Stop comparing yourself to others 

Comparison is the thief of all joy - and this is your reminder to stop comparing your body to everyone else. We could all eat exactly the same diet and exercise the same and still look completely different. No body ever works the same - and that is why instead of focusing on how you differ from other people, focus on what you love about your body.

Look after your body

Your body is your home. Your body is your temple. It deserves to be taken care of in every way. Eat intuitively, keep active, stay hydrated and practice self-care. Your body has always got your back.

I hope you enjoyed this post. What other tips would you add?

Thank you for reading <3

5 reasons to visit Cefalù, Sicily

 Well hello to you my reader chums! Sicily has to be one of my favourite places in Italy I've visited to date and I can't wait to explore more of it as it's such a large island. I stayed in Palermo and in the short time I was there, I explored the city and beyond, including the gorgeous town of Cefalù.

Cefalù is one of the prettiest places I've ever visited and a town I'd happily return to over and over. It's a town which encapsulated the vibe of Sicily, matched with its beauty and food scene. If you're staying in Palermo and looking for a new place to visit, Cefalù should be top of your list and here's why.

5 reasons to visit Cefalù, Sicily

The short distance to Palermo

When flying into Italy, typically visitors either go to Palermo or Catania as the two most popular places (although there are other, smaller airports to choose from). From Palermo, Cefalù is only around a 45-minute journey on the train - and goes by super quickly. The Italian train system is a winner for all and one of my favourite ways to explore Italy because it's cheap, fast, super clean and easy to find your way. A round ticket to Cefalù from Palermo is around the £12 mark and tickets can either be bought online or at the station. 

Just look out for the board at the station for which of the trains go to Cefalù and you'll be there in no time. When you arrive in the town, the main hub is under a 10-minute walk away and a wonder to the eyes.

Gorgeous sandy beaches

Get your sandy beach fix in Cefalù. The town boasts a long stretch of golden sands, right next to the town's main hub with stunning views out to the ocean. It's got a combination of sunlounger beaches and stretches of sand to do your own thing. The water is super clear and honestly, the entire beach looks and feels like pure heaven. You could easily spend hours soaking up the Italian sunshine on the sands.

Cute Italian town vibe about it

I don't think I've fallen in love with an Italian town as quickly as I did with Cefalù. Palermo has a complete old-school and rustic appeal to it, whilst Cefalù does have hints of that with a slightly fresher look, and it's picture-perfect in every way. The town boasts many quaint, cobblestone walkways, packed with restaurants, gelato shops, cafes and boutique shops; there was so much to see. I was only there for a few hours but could have easily spent the day or more getting to grips with the local town, its people and the food scene.

Its rich history 

With its picturesque narrow streets, beautiful beach scene and magnificent piazzas, there's no wonder Cefalù is teeming with historical significance. The town is renowned for being a film location including Giuseppe Tornatore’s film Cinema Paradiso. Cefalù is a hub for many historical landmarks including the Arab-Norman Cathedral, a UNESCO world heritage site, dating back to the 12 century, home to many archaeological artefacts in the Madralisca Museum plus many other spots like the puppet theatre. You'll leave Cefalù have learnt a lot more about the town's history.

Paradise for foodies

Food is heaven in Italy and I can honestly say in Sicily that pride shines through every meal I ate, and Cefalù was no different. The level of food there was varied and fresh and I could feel the heart of it as the scent lingered out of every restaurant. There are many markets selling fresh produce, plus local wineries serving up Sicilian wine. I definitely had one of the best gelatos during my time in Cefalù from a place called Piccolo Gelato - and I want to eat that ice cream all over again.

5 reasons to visit Cefalù, Sicily

I hope you enjoyed this post. Have you considered visiting Cefalù?

Thank you for reading <3

Everything you need to know before visiting Palermo, Sicily

 Well hello to you my reader chums! Sicily won my heart over in every way and I wish nothing more than to go back and explore the island. On my trip, I was based in Palermo, one of the two biggest cities on the island, located in the northwest part.

Palermo had a completely rustic, old-school, Italian charm about it, which I adored. Its rich history, incredible food scene, stunning architecture and distance to local beaches were a dream. If you're planning a trip to Palermo, here is everything you need to know.

Everything to know before you visit Palermo, Sicily

There are no beaches in Palermo itself

Sicily is renowned for its coastline, however, it's worth noting, that despite Palermo being one of the most popular cities, it doesn't have its own beach. Despite that, it's not too far from surrounding beaches and coastal spots. The most popular beach is Mondello, a half-hour bus ride away or Cefalù, a 45-minute train journey away. It's worth keeping in mind if you want an exclusive Sicilian beach getaway. You should probably then consider one of the other beach cities/towns and do a day trip to Palermo.

You can get the train/bus from the airport (cheaply)

Taxis in Italy are expensive across the board and that is why, wherever you go, I always recommend utilising the public transport system. From the airport, you can easily either get the shuttle bus or the train. The bus takes around 40 minutes and costs 6 euro, whilst the train takes around an hour and is about 11 euro.

It's a hub for food markets

Sicilian cuisine is one of my dreams. As the home of pasta alla norma, arancini, granita and cannolis, you're spoilt for choice in trying plenty of good food, made the Italian way. It's hard to eat badly in Sicily, even in a popular place like Palermo, the food is gorgeous. One thing Palermo is renowned for is the food markets, such as Mercato Ballarò and Mercato del Capo. The markets are full of life, packed with fresh local produce and plenty of street food including the famous arancini.

It's a poorer place (like all of Sicily)

Going to Palermo, was my first time in southern Italy, as I've usually travelled around northern/mid-Italy and I could really see the difference in wealth. Sicily is a lot poorer than many of the other popular Italian cities and that's reflected in some of its buildings, and probably why the food is a lot cheaper too. It had much more of a communal feel about it though, a true Italian love - I adored it.

You can pretty much get around on foot

Palermo is a very walkable city, so if you're fit, I'd recommend making your way on foot. That way too, you can discover the hidden walkways, more residential vibes and tucked-away restaurants. It adds more adventure to your trip overall - and you never know what you might find. I absolutely loved having a mooch around the city, because not only was it free, it made me fall in love with the place even more.

Accommodation is cheap

I was pleasantly surprised when booking Palermo how cheap the accommodation was overall and the variety on offer, even in the main hub of everything. There are definitely accommodation options for each budget, I paid £225 for 4 nights for my boyfriend and me, and our apartment was huge and only minutes away from the main hub.

Flights aren't that often 

Something I noticed when booking flights to Palermo is it's actually not a common place to fly compared to all the other popular Italian locations such as Florence or Bologna. They didn't have flights every day or multiple times throughout the day with different airlines. Also, when our flight got delayed to the next day, it was harder to reschedule as they didn't fly there too often.

Cash is handy to have

Although the card was widely accepted, I would say cash was a lot more beneficial in Palermo because of the street markets and buying smaller items such as water all the time. Plus, it comes in handy because if a place only accepts cash, you won't need to pay a transaction fee on the ATM machine.

It's worth knowing some Italian phrases

This may sound like a weird thing to say but Palermo was very Italian. What I mean by this is the locals wouldn't openly speak English to you or many weren't that strong with English. They would speak to you in Italian and expect you to understand  - and when you didn't, they'll begin speaking English. Due to this, I would highly recommend learning a few phrases of common things to say. Italians are often offended when you don't try to use their own language.

Italians dine later

This is more of a general rule of thumb across Italy but still good to note: that Italians dine later. Most restaurants won't really open until around 7pm in the evening and you'll often still see people dining as late as 10pm at night. Dinner in Italy is a social occasion after all.

I hope you enjoyed this post. What other tips would you add?

Thank you for reading <3

Book review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

 Well hello to you my reader chums! There's no better feeling than being utterly obsessed with a book, so much so, that you can't wait to find out what happens - and that's how I felt about The Hunting Party. I'm a huge thriller fan because I love the build-up, the suspense and the twists and turns you wouldn't expect. It leaves me on the edge of my seat wanting more.

If you're searching for an incredible thriller, here is my full review of The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley.

Plotline

The story follows a group of old friends as they stay in a remote hunting lodge, deep in the Scottish wilderness over the New Year period, to ring in 2019. The group know each other from their school and university days and this includes several couples and a singleton. During their stay, one of them is found dead, and it's not an accident. There's a murderer amongst the friends, but who is it?

Characters and relationships

One of my favourite ways books are written is when the perspective changes between different characters as I find it paces the novel quicker and builds more suspense, and really helps me understand more about the characters. The book did exactly that, telling the perspective of a few of the friends including Katie, Miranda, Emma, and the two people who worked at the lodge, Heather and Doug.

My favourite character had to be Katie. The more I learnt about her and how she lived in the shadow of Miranda, the more I resonated with and liked how normal and lovely she seemed. Miranda on the other hand, I wasn't a fan of. She came across as a big bully, someone who liked to control the situation and be the centre of attention, causing drama. Not exactly, someone, you'd like to have around and although I learnt she did it because of her own insecurities, it still made me angry for the other characters.

Emma is an interesting character and to be honest, I didn't really get her. She seemed a bit too perfect and too nice throughout the course of the book and had a disliking towards Katie which was strange. Katie and Miranda had an odd relationship, Miranda made out as if Katie was her project, their entire life since school and now Katie didn't want to be in Miranda's full attention - and I loved that for her.

The two lodge workers were completely different. My heart went out to Heather because the way she told her story, I could feel the heartbreak she went through, to arrive in such a place and work in the middle of nowhere. Doug, as a character had a lot more depth than met the eye.

The other friends were an interesting bunch and an odd group.

Overall thoughts

Overall, I haven't felt this excited about a book in a very long time. There was something about the character development, how the short chapters were mapped out and the many twists and turns changing my opinion constantly, which hooked me in. It's probably one of the best murder mystery books I've read. I loved the descriptions of the setting and how much detail the author went into. I love how there was so much focus on the character's history and how they all knew each other. And, I loved how the layers of their history came together to create drama and unveil completely unexpected surprises.

Book review: The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley

Honestly, I'm obsessed with the book. It had everything a good thriller needs: the right level of suspense, paced out fast enough to hook you in, but slow enough to give things away at the right time. The change of character's perspective really moved the novel in a way which I loved and added depth.

It's a book I'd happily recommend to everyone!

Ending

The ending was as genius as the rest of the book. As I said, throughout the book, there were so many twists and turns and many potential suspects and victims, I didn't know what the ending will be. However, when it came to it, it's as if the novel came together and everything spoken about previously, just made sense.

I hope you enjoyed this book review. What's next on your TBR pile?

Thank you for reading <3

The best things to see and do in Palermo, Sicily

 Well hello to you my reader chums! Sicily is a gorgeous part of Italy and a place I'm grateful to have finally experienced a dose of (and now I'm incredibly eager to go back and see more of it). I flew into Palermo and spent just under 3 days exploring (due to a flight delay) the best of the city and beyond - and wish I could have had longer as there were plenty of things to see, do and EAT. 

Palermo Sicily

If you're new to Palermo or planning a trip there soon, here are the best things to see and do in Palermo, Sicily.

Things to do in Palermo

Mooching around the cobbled streets

Palermo has a rustic and true Italian vibe throughout with its colourful, traditional buildings, cobbled streets and residential homes. I adored walking around the city, discovering new streets, new buildings, restaurants and shops in my path. It's as if each section had its own personality and I could see the different eras of history jumping out. You could easily spend a few hours or even a day walking around to get a feel of the place.

The best things to see and do in Palermo, Sicily

Drinks in the port area

Palermo doesn't have any beaches of its own, however, it is home to a gorgeous harbour/port area. I would recommend having a little mooch around the port to see it in all its beauty, especially if it's a blue-sky day, and grab lunch to eat by it. Or alternatively, visit the Nauto bar, which has a mini beach next to the port and overlooks most of the city - you can get a drink and admire the views.

Palermo port

Palermo Cathedral

Built in 1184, this cathedral is probably one of the most important sights to visit when in the city - not to mention how stunning it is, inside and out! The cathedral is huge and I loved being able to mooch around it and see different eras of history pop out through its design. The cathedral is free to visit, however, if you'd like to see the tombs, treasury and crypts, it's around 7 euros.

Palermo cathedral

Palazzo Dei Normanni

The Royal Palace also known as Norman Palace is a UNESCO heritage site and a must-see when exploring the city. I would say it's a pretty pricey attraction, costing around 19 euros each. However, it's an activity which will take up a good few hours of your day with its church, galleries, gardens and palace itself to explore.

Explore the churches 

Visiting churches is one of my favourite things to do when in Italy because I love to admire the different architecture. The few worth visiting in Palermo are Chiesi del Gesu, Chiesa di San Cataldo and Chiesa Di Santa Caterina. The most important one to see would be the Chiesa di Santa Caterina because of all its historical influences and sheer beauty.

The best things to see and do in Palermo, Sicily

Visit the famous food markets

Italy is where it's at for food and Sicily lived up to every expectation of the south. Palermo is renowned for its vibrant, loud and delicious food markets selling all kinds of fresh produce from juices, fruit, and arancini, to fish and meat - and the atmosphere is something truly unique. The two most famous ones are Mercato del Capo and Mercato Ballaro.

Palermo food markets

Fall in love with its food scene 

The Sicilian food scene is a true wonder and I definitely want to go back and eat my way around the island. The Sicilians are renowned for their arancini, pasta alla norma, granita brioche for breakfast, gelato, caponata, cannolis and many more delicious choices. You can't really eat badly in Palermo as the majority of the food is made authentically and fresh, living up to the expectation of how the Sicilians treat their food: with love.

Explore the quaint shops

Palermo featured many beautiful shops to mooch in from jewellery to homemade items and I loved the variety on offer, and the opportunity to see what the locals have created. It's definitely worth having a walk around and seeing what quaint shops you can discover - and hitting up the high street ones too if you fancy a shopping spree.

Villa Giulia

This gorgeous park, I stumbled upon unexpectantly as my boyfriend pointed it out and it was a fab place to stroll around and have a little sit-down. The park was lined with manicured trees, endless shrubbery and colourful flowers.

Day trips/excursions from Palermo

Mondello Beach

The most popular day trip from Palermo is Mondello Beach because it's the nearest beach to the city. It's around a half-hour bus journey from the city and costs 1-2 euros for a single trip ( a bargain if you ask me). You'll need to take the 806 bus in the direction of Mondello. The Mondello Beach was absolutely stunning and even though pretty packed, the majority of it was full of locals. Its sands were white and the sea, crystal clear. The area itself had that beach holiday vibe to it with gelato stalls and beach restaurants.

Mondello beach

Bagheria/Aspra

Sicily has to be one of the most gorgeous places I've explored as the authentic vibe never really left throughout every place I visited during my time there. Bagheria was a tiny town/village and only took around 15 minutes and cost a couple of euros. I wouldn't say the town had a lot to see as it was very residential, however, its architecture and the main stretch of shops/restaurants were lovely to mooch around. Aspra however, the coastal area, about a 40-minute walk from Bagheria was phenomenal. It had that rustic, Italian coastal vibe about it, boasting old-school restaurants and the sunset of dreams. 

Aspra sicily

Cefalù

Cefalù was my favourite excursion out of the three during my stay in Palermo. It takes around 45 minutes on the train and costs 12 euros each. Once I arrived, the place looked like a dreamy postcard, I couldn't believe how phenomenal the coastline looked; the gorgeous cobbled walkways and views. I could have easily spent all day, even days exploring the local restaurant scene, eating gelato and lapping the sunshine up on the beach. I would go back here in a heartbeat.

Cefalu sicily

Where to eat

Ferro Di Cavallo

I had to queue for this restaurant and it was worth every minute of waiting. The pasta alla norma here was a dish I've been dreaming about ever since. Paired with arancini for starters and a glass of white wine, I would love to visit this place over and over - and try more of their delicious menu. It had a family-run, traditional appeal about it which I adored.

restaurants in palermo

Balata

This restaurant had a modern, hipster atmosphere and an Italian tapas kind of menu, which gave us the opportunity to sample some of the traditional dishes. The food here was divine and accompanied by live music, it was a complete experience! I especially loved the Sicilian-style aubergine rolls - if I could only eat one side dish for the rest of my life, it would be that.

Ricci E Capricci

Overlooking the beach in Aspra, this traditional pizzeria had everything we could have wanted in pizza. The atmosphere, the views and the quality of the food were top-notch - I would love to try more of their pizzas.

How to get around the city

Palermo as a whole is easily accessible by foot. You're able to walk to all the main attractions (if you're able to of course) and find hidden gems that way too. Public transport is super easy to navigate around and cheap too - perfect if you don't fancy a lot of walking or want to go on the many incredible day trips available.

The best things to see and do in Palermo, Sicily

I hope you enjoyed this travel post. Where would you like to visit next?

Thank you for reading <3