Thursday, 10 August 2017

Let's Travel

One of my desires is to travel. Travel the world. Experience culture and cuisines. Take in the incredible world around me before my legs give in and I'm sitting in an armchair knitting and eating bourbon biscuits. 

I want to explore cities but at the same time, find the nooks and crannies and the little bits of happiness and beauty tucked away from popular tourist spots. I'm itching to travel. It won't go away. I think about getting on a plane and leaving daily. I've never been on a plane. Got a serious case of FOMO!! Maybe I'm romanticising it. Flights sometimes seem like hell: delayed flights, overpriced airport prices and lost luggage. But I want to do it, so bad. I want to sit in an allocated seat, even if it happens to be one next to a screaming kid or a snorer. I want to know what it feels like to take off, be in the air, miraculously float in the sky and watch the clouds go by. I want to travel at night and see the world.

Amsterdam to visit The Anne Frank House, the teenage girl's diary is one of the first books I ever remember reading, it's cemented in my brain. The Van Gogh Museum. Ride a bike through the city. Take a canal cruise. See the stunning fields of tulips at Bollenstreen. Have a picnic in Vondelpark.

Sweden to visit Lapland. My cousins went when they were children, you know, when we believed in Father Christmas. It seems magical. Fresh white snow, untouched in places. Reindeer. Snowy mountains. I'm a winter baby, so winter naturally is my favourite. See the majestic Northern Lights at Abisko National Park. Drottningholm Palace, a fairy-tale building where the Swedish Royal Family live. 

Norway. another country of Scandinavia. Lush mountains, waterfalls and greenery. See the natural phenomena of the Satlstraumen whirlpools. Take a ride on the funicular railway. Immerse myself in the history, the earliest traces of human life. 

Europe; Bruges, Hamburg, Berlin, Venice, Rome, Paris and Vienna. America, Canada, Cuba, Australia and Japan. 

One day, I'll explore. Take photographs. Write about my travels. Marvel at extraordinary architecture. Visit museums. Learn new languages. Maybe fall in love. Eat the traditional foods of a country. 

If anybody wants to be my travel partner... I'm accepting applications. 

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Creativity and Depression: why is my brain crowded with ideas despite its gloom?

In the thick of it, in the deepest recesses of my mind and its experiences with depression I can be at my most creative. In my most recent episode (Right now unfortunately) I have been thinking a lot about my creativity. There's a pattern to it. I write more, my brain froths with new ideas at an impressive rate when I'm depressed.

Depression is never fun. It is emotionally painful. Boring. Infuriating. Relentless.

Being creative is a distraction from the bad and intrusive thoughts. My mind is constantly thinking of the bad, therefore I throw myself into creative projects. Creating is a way out of the mind, out of the emotional trauma I'm experiencing. I write. I knit. I plan.

I'm writing the first draft of a novel and it's hard. But figuratively exiting my own mind, I enter into the mind of my main character. It helps to pretend not to be me. Another reason I love writing and developing characters because just for a little while I escape. In the mind of my main character (She's called Honey, FYI.) I explore her life, not mine, I think about her adventures, dreams and experiences.

(My most recent chapter for my WIP.)
How do you fight your own mind? How do you fight something you cannot tangibly get rid of?

I create. And so do many others. Many well-known writers, musicians and creatives types have experienced mental illness and turned it into something positive. Although there is no certain link between creativity and depression, there is a lot to be said for what humans produce when they're battling the darkness of their minds. Think of Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf and Edgar Allen Poe? If some of the most successful, highly praised creators can create masterpieces, you can attempt to too.

Thinking about my own creativity and how it manifests during episodes of depression, not only is it a way of distracting myself from the inconsolable sadness and hopelessness but also a way of expressing myself. I can express my thoughts and emotions more coherently and less directly. I can write a blog post about my experiences and hope someone else feels the same. Talking openly about how I'm feeling does not come easy. I'm sure many others feel the same, so taking your depression and transforming it into something creative and rewarding whether that be writing, painting, drawing, knitting or learning how to play an instrument. Whatever works best for you, do it. Create something you are proud of. Create something that brings you happiness.

I can create something concrete, something real to look back on when I'm feeling myself again, proof to tell me depressive episodes aren't fantastic but maybe, just maybe something good can come out of it.

Creativity is about thinking. Thinking about your senses, your experiences, your surroundings. Thinking about everything. A creative idea can come from almost anything.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Hold Back The Stars by Katie Khan || Book Review

Looks like this book may be my favourite of the year so far. I hold high hopes nothing else I read will top it. With it being my 32nd book of 2017, there's still plenty of time for me to read more, but NOTHING will compete against Hold Back The Stars.

Hold Back The Stars is a fantastic story, marvellous, wonderful. It's a peculiar love story set in a future utopian world called Europia. Involving space too. Khan's world-building is so convincing I felt like I was living there too, which means it works. Her world-building is successful. HBTS would make an incredible movie. Citizens of Europia are to move through different communities (Voivodes) every three years. The ideals of the world are individualism, with every man responsible for their own actions. 

Carys and Max meet whilst on the same Voivode when Carys enquires on the Mindshare (Cool technology) about goose fat. Quirky! Their friendship quickly blooms despite the Couples Rule stating citizens are not to engage in permanent relationships until the age of 35. Carys and Max are in their twenties, but there's a strong, undying connection between them they cannot ignore. 

At the start of the book, Carys and Max are in space and have 90 minutes left of oxygen. We don't know how they came to be there just yet. Another delightful plot point from Khan. Wait for the story to unfold! The chapters are divided by scenes in space as they panic and logically make a plan for survival, and scenes on Earth of their relationship before. I liked this structure, I was watching the characters reminisce their relationship as they floated closer to time running out.

HBTS is emotional and hopeful, a story of friendship, survival and love. Doted with interesting science and space facts. Khan has developed their world with fascinating technology; the Mindshare is a futuristic Twitter sharing thoughts and queries; the Voivode Games where citizens can connect their wrist chip to an athlete and feel everything they feel as they experience the games.

A perfect sci-fi romance novel with a gorgeous cover!

Sunday, 9 July 2017

London Exploring | House of Minalima, Harry Potter and Hotdogs

As a surprise my mum told me we were going on a trip to London to visit the Harry Potter galleries/exhibitions dotted around the city. The surprise was to celebrate my fourth anniversary as a diabetic, every year I treat myself to something a little bit sugary (Cake) but this year my Mum had a plan up her sleeve. We got the train to London and spent the day exploring, gasping at Harry Potter, finding independent bookshops and eating vegan hot dogs from VX in Kings Cross. I had the most exciting day and my love for Harry Potter is still very much intact, and growing. 

First stop, Camden. A quick walk through Camden high street early morning is strange when you're used to the busyness of weekends. It was awfully quiet. The juices from The Good Yard are incredible, I've tried the 'Gym' shake!

On route to the Pottermore Pop-up gallery on Portobello Road. We walked through Portobello high street, its market and its variety of antique shops. One house on the street had a plaque declaring where writer George Orwell took up residence from 1903-1950, as a bookworm and literature enthusiast I was fascinated. It's peculiar to me to think about writers; where they lived; where they wrote their most famous works; the streets they walked upon.

The Pottermore Pop-up at Graffik Gallery on Portobello Road is only open 1st July - 7th July, unfortunately. It's a gallery appreciating artists and designers based on the Harry Potter franchise. The prints are available to buy, prices beginning at £19.95. These seven prints are designs for each movie. 

The House of Minalima on Greek Street in Soho is four floors dedicated to Harry Potter. It focuses on the graphic design that went into the films by two artists Miraphora and Eduardo. The attention to detail is unbelievable; the editions of The Daily Prophet, The Marauder's Map and Weasleys Wizard Wheezes. This museum/gallery is definitely eccentric and one of a kind. The tour through the four floors is interesting to say the least, very engaging and free! It showcases some of the actual props from the films, currently on loan from Warner Brothers. You can buy prints and accessories in the shop on the ground floor. 

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Mini Book Review | Treats by Lara Williams

"Love was sneaky like that. It found a warm nook, a safe space, and crept in, settling there like an unwelcome houseguest..."

Treats by Manchester based writer Lara Williams is a collection of short stories. Some super short (Two page stories) and some of longer length. A lot of them focus on womanhood and all the various aspects of life: Careers, love, break-ups, dating, pregnancy and friendship. 

I flew through this book, my second time reading it. The stories are easy to devour. Short story collections mean you don't have to dedicate long periods of your time to reading. You can dip in and out as you please. Read one story and let it manifest. Come back to it another day, there's no need to remember the characters or plot because it's brand new. That's what I like about them. No commitment to a 70,000 word novel. 

I read this in a day, and absorbed all the stories, let them linger in my mind. I found myself relating to some of the situations and feelings felt by the characters. However, saying that, I didn't relate to some of the strange sex requests. "Can I pee on you?" is not my sexual fantasy. Williams's creates clear images and the detail is enticing. The stories are funny, hopeful and slightly depressing. 

Most of the main characters were women, I loved this. I loved the honest perspectives of life, and the second person narration allowing the reader to be in the character's shoes. Some of the stories spoke to me on a personal level, at a point in my life where everything appears to be changing, there's an uncertainty to my future, and I'm discovering who I am. I believe books find you the moment you need them. At a moment of relevance in your life. This book made me think about my own personal growth, my goals and plans.

My favourite stories are 'Treats' about Elaine, she is a woman of kindness, someone who gives and doesn't expect anything in return. It is her joy to treat people, to display random acts of kindness. She brings coffee and lunch to her colleague Joan, despite being the office manager herself. She visits the cinema by herself after her husband lets her down and she purchases a ticket for the girl behind her in the queue who also happens to be alone. Her selflessness has stayed with me, and how being alone isn't always something to be criticised. 

'Penguin' is another favourite. A single woman in her late twenties starts using dating websites, and finds herself sifting through the weirdos. She meets a man, begins a relationship and reaches all
the typical relationship milestones. Meet the friends, meet the family, move in, etc. Then, the man reveals a rather odd sex request. "Dress up like a penguin and incubate some eggs.".

Do you have any short story collection recommendations?

Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Countryside Loving

I live in a town with an abundance of small villages in the surrounding areas. These villages are quaint and picturesque. White cottages with beautiful flowerbeds and thatched roofs, that kinda thing. The type of place a romance film starring Hugh Grant would be filmed. Their churches are to be admired, again small but with incredible architecture and traditional graveyards with stones hundreds of years old.

When I'm old and grey, and a successful author I want to live in a small thatched cottage in the countryside. Maybe with my own allotment nearby too. Dream big!

Events come all year round, Summer brings village fetes and my family spend weekends visiting them. A true family affair, dog too, we explore and take our turn picking tickets for the tombola. Chocolate tombolas and my favourite, the alcoholic ones. My sister and I have lucky picking abilities, and we often have handfuls of tickets ending in 0 and 5. I recently won rose wine (Yes please), beer and aero chocolate.
Wandering around the fetes under gazebos with local families selling homemade jams and baked goods, and homemade crafts. There's just something I love about the atmosphere, the sunny skies and feeling of community.  The traditional games for children (And adults of course) including a coconut shy and guessing games.

The lush greenery of the countryside sucks me in every time. I think myself as a city gal. I love exploring London and navigating the complicated maze that is the London Underground. I moved to Bath for university which is a pretty big city. But countryside feels like home. The winding roads that are dangerously narrow, the continuous roll of fields and livestock. The long walks, not just in summer, but every season. The trees, the tiny rivers and steep hills are what I'm all about. I like to take photographs. I like being surrounded by nature and its freedom compared to the hustle and bustle of city centres. 

As a writer, a creative searching for fresh ideas and inspiration, nature brings the most creative thoughts. The quiet, the walking and exploring, the little villages make me want to write more than ever. My head is always a flurry of ideas and my phone is full of random notes and descriptions. 

Monday, 26 June 2017

The Story of Reading

It seems fitting to write a post about my love of reading on the 20th anniversary of the publication of Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone. Twenty years ago I was only one years old. A small baby who had no idea as she grew up she would fall in love with reading and the written word.

J.K Rowling and Jacqueline Wilson are the authors I immediately think of when I talk about my love of reading. That's where it all began. It began by reading the Harry Potter series as a 6/7 year old, and The Story of Tracy Beaker.

Harry Potter has been the only constant in my life, as have most books I've devoured. Harry Potter though, is a large part of my childhood. I remember my aunt buying me the books. I remember going to see Harry Potter and The Chamber of Secrets in the cinema with my then best friend, and being terrified at the scene with the basilisk (We sat front row.) I remember going to see all the films, and dragging my first boyfriend to The Deathly Hallows Pt 2. Every other child around me talking about Harry and all the magic. Reading the books together. Girls finding a role model in Hermione. Dressing up as Harry Potter characters on World Book Day (I dressed as a Dementor, apparently I was an odd child.) Deciding what house you belonged to. Running around the playground with a makeshift wand, made of sticks and sellotape.

I had the books. I loved the films. I adored Hermione's hair and ambition. I adored Harry's bravery. I adored Ron's humour. I still do. I love everything Harry Potter. My friends and family regularly look to me when HP is mentioned. I'm prone to dropping a HP reference. I love re watching the films, especially when they are aired on TV at Christmas time. My copies of the books are one of my prized possessions and have their own shelf on my bookcase. And eventually, when it's my chance to have children the series will most definitely forced upon them.

The series sparked my love for reading. I owe a lot of my life so far, my goals, ambitions and dreams to the series that started it all. Reading and writing are my one true loves. English was always my strongest point during school, and I'm pursing it further with my creative writing degree at university.

Reading brings me adventure, safety, escape and happiness, among many other things. I spent a lot of my school years back and forth to the library taking out all the books I could, and wishing to be old enough to reach the higher years shelves. Even now I will leave the public library with a bag overflowing with books, I haven't changed one bit. Sitting on the beanbags in primary school, and the fuzzy carpets surrounded by shelves of books that looked like huge skyscrapers.

I turn to the safety of a book in almost any situation. I like to carry a book with me wherever I go.

"Why have you brought a book with you?"  

Comfort is found in the pages of a book, in the stories, in the characters and in the words. My own bookcase, my own collection brings me immense happiness and satisfaction. Visiting bookshops and browsing the books is one of my favourite things to do, even if I have no money to buy a new book, it's the being there that means something to me. Books are my home. They are my pride and joy. Nothing makes me happier than tucking myself up in bed and losing myself in a story.

The power of language, and words constructed together beautifully is the reason why I write. Why my passion is writing and how sometimes explaining why I love it so much is unfathomable to some. A family member asked me recently how I can just sit down and write a story. I just can. That's how. It's my natural instinct to write. I have the ability to turn everything into a story: a conversation overheard on the bus, a beautiful stranger, a song or an emotion.

Writing is in my blood. Writing is how I convey my feelings. Writing is how I feel happiness on the lowest days.

Reading is my escape from the cruel world outside of my duvet. Reading is learning about other cultures and countries, and other types of people.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Books, books and books

Being home for three weeks over Easter meant I kinda forgot about my deadlines and dived into a pile of books. I bought books and I went to the local library, which is brand spanking new and I could have left with baskets of books. I stuck with only three books.

Over the three weeks home, and a couple of weeks back at uni, I've read five books. I'm definitely on target for my book goal this year, currently reading my 24th book... Girl, I gotta serious book problem! and I've realised it even more so now I've moved back home for summer and organised my book collection back on my shelves.

Some of my latest book reads include

The Bricks that Built the Houses by Kate Tempest

This book delivers stunning prose, obviously it does, have you listened to Kate's performance poetry? There's something so beautiful about a poet writing fiction, the traditional story form is there but poetry sneaks in so beautifully. Set in London, Becky, Harry and Leon are navigating their way through adulthood. The term 'nitty gritty' comes to mind: drugs, sex, relationships and financial problems. Kate's voice comes through on every page, it's so strong.

The One Memory of Flora Banks by Emily Barr

YA novel about Flora who is a teenage girl living a sheltered life after an incident that left her with amnesia.  Flora kisses her best friend's boyfriend Drake at his leaving party, miraculously she remembers it. She then goes on to have a ridiculously unrealistic adventure to Norway to find Drake, who she is now convinced is the love of her life. For me, young adult fiction often deals with issues young readers can relate to, but The One Memory of Flora Banks completely misses the point. It could have been stronger, IMO falling in love will not cure medical problems.

I Hate the Internet by Jarett Kobek

I loved this SO much. I borrowed it from the library, and devoured it with many laughs. A satire about our use of the internet in the 21st century. Shockingly accurate and hilarious. Covers internet culture, feminism, politics and pop culture, and how social media can affect someone's life. If you're looking for something oddly light-hearted, and humorous, this might be your next book.

The Vagenda: A Zero Tolerance Guide to the Media by Holly Baxter and Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett 

Found this to be extremely thought provoking. A very important piece of non-fiction about feminism and how women are represented in the media. It discusses advertising in magazines, and how competing magazines contradict each other. I stopped buying magazines a year or so ago, they are an unhealthy consumption, especially the celebrity gossip ones. The messages are misleading, and the essays reveal the reality of media representation, for both women and men. This book discusses lad culture, rape, dieting, fashion, sex and many more. The list is endless.

The last one I read over Easter was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

My most anticipated book of the year so far, and the one I've seen everyone talk about on Twitter.  A young adult novel based on the movement Black Lives Matter. The story is of Starr Carter living in two different worlds: the poor neighbourhood she lives and grew up in, and the fancy prep school she goes to outside of her neighbourhood. Her best friend from childhood Khalil is shot by the police, and it all starts from there - following Starr's journey for justice. It's brutal, shocking and emotional, and if you weren't already aware of the justice system then you will soon. If there is one book you read this year, make sure it's The Hate U Give. It is a powerful story setting the bar for young adult fiction.

What have you been reading?

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Messages of 13 Reasons Why

For the last few days all anyone has spoken about is 13 Reasons Why, and I just finished watching it. To say I'm an emotional wreck right now would be an understatement. The final episode got me SO hard.

13 Reasons Why might possibly be the most important production for a long time. It covers bullying, friendships, mental health, drugs, sex, rape and suicide. And I want everyone to be talking about it for a while to come. The show addresses how you don't know how your actions might affect someone else, how your careless words can knock someone's self esteem or ruin their lives. It really makes you think about all the shitty things people do and say, and why. I've heard people say your high school years are the best of your life, but are they the best when bullying happens in every single school? And often gets pushed aside? How bullying is never solved? Suspending the bully doesn't solve anything. Moving schools will not solve anything because there will always be bullying until humans start being kinder and understand the full impact of our actions.

I read the novel by Jay Asher when I was around 14/15 but until the Netflix series I don't think the honest reality behind the novel hit me. I don't think I fully understood it, yeah high school is a shitty place for everyone at some point, but when I look back after watching this I realise how bad it can get for some. 

I was apprehensive about the series on first impression. I thought it cliche, and at times romanticising mental illness, because Hannah Baker (The main character) commits suicide and leaves 13 tapes as to what lead to her to make that final choice. 13 tapes 'blaming' the people around her, I thought this to be silly, and careless. I can't explain why, it's just the tapes, it feels almost as if it's a massive game of who's next on the list. However, I didn't let my doubt stop watching, and I'm glad I continued. I even begun to like some of the characters, most of them were awful yet accurate depictions of various people you meet in school.

A few things

  • Bryce was vile
  • I felt sympathy for Justin in the end (This doesn't mean he wasn't a complete dick)
  • Clay wound me up with that damn plaster on his forehead, and nearly getting hit by a car on his bike 47373 times
  • Skye's comment about self harm and how it's what you do instead of killing yourself. No. No. 
  • Is Alex ok??? Can someone please tell me
  • Hannah's hair

PSA - Some scenes came with warnings because of their content. Would not recommend watching it if you're going through a hard time or are easily triggered.

The point is, you never know what's going on in someone's life. 

We need to be kinder to everyone around us. We need to let the people we love and care for know that we do actually love them. 

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Lil Book Reviews

Feels ages since I last wrote a blog post, university assignments and travelling and just being generally busy has left me deflated and unenthusiastic about writing here. I've missed it, but hey I'm back!

Some of the things I've been doing in my absence includes learning how to knit. I went to a workshop at uni one evening with my flat mate, it took a while to get to grips with the yarn, the needles and all the movements, casting on and casting off but I completed my first sample. It intended to be a scarf but I made it too wide so it's not long enough. Since then, I've been obsessed with it and watching Youtube tutorials on fancy scarves and hats. It's super therapeutic, it helps my anxiety, calms me and distracts me, allows me to keep my hands busy. It's also rewarding to create something, I can't wait to be wearing something I've made and have people ask me where it's from so I can be all smug I MADE IT MYSELF. My current project is a mustard yellow scarf! I bought some yarn from a site called LoveKnitting, got chunky yarns in mustard yellow, peach and baby blue, all such fantastic quality.

Started going to boxing sessions too, which are amazing. I love it so much already after just 3 sessions. I want to tell everyone about it. It feels great to punch someone, and releases any tension/emotion/negative thoughts I've had. It's also pretty great to feel a part of something. An excellent workout too!

March has been chaos with lots of essays due at the same time, presentations, projects etc etc. But hey, two new hobbies?

As for reading, I haven't found much time for reading for my own pleasure. It's been set texts and books for research and all that degree stuff. (Still can't fathom that I'm doing a degree, it's hard but exciting and new and wonderful.) So the plan is a lil review for both the books I've read recently. They are both young adult novels, I think the next book needs to be something else although this is all worthy research for my own YA novel I'm writing.

First up is Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder.

I still find myself thinking about this book even though I finished it at the beginning of March. Sophie's World is about a 14 year old girl called Sophie (Obviously) who begins to receive anonymous letters and postcards asking philosophical questions such as "Who are you?" "Where does the world come from?".

She then discovers the person behind the letters; a philosopher called Alberto who intends to educate Sophie on philosophy. She begins the course of philosophy, it is so interesting and complex with information - a lot of the history is covered. It requires time and full concentration to read. You experience the course with Sophie and you will ask yourself many, many questions about the world we live in. You go on surreal adventures with Sophie, everything is all a bit dream-like and at some points I wasn't sure what was real. This book will throw you off balance, especially when you meet Hilde. Sophie receives postcards addressed to someone called Hilde too, who happens to have the same birthday and be the same age. Who is Hilde? Is Sophie real? Is Hilde real? WHAT is going on? The ending blew my mind.

And lastly, the book I've literally just finished is The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness.

Ness' writing has received a lot of praise, this is my first read. Strange things keep happening in Mike's small town, and strange things have been happening for decades. The 'indie kids' that attend his school are weird, everyone in town knows somethings not quite right. There's cops with glowing blue eyes, a zombie deer and death.

I read this fast, it was an easy read! Ness writes mental health issues excellently, Mike has OCD and anxiety and his sister Mel is recovering from anorexia.

"Everyone has something" or something along the lines of that crops us several times in the book, as a YA novel it's an important message showing that everybody has something to deal with, and you won't always will you know about it. People are good at keeping certain devastating aspects of their lives quiet. Serious issues aside, the book is about friendship, growing up, it's funny and has a little smidgen of romance too. I will definitely be reading more of the authors work.

What have you read recently? Any recommendations?

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

February Round Up

Let's recap the shortest month of the year! I can't believe we're already two months into the year.

Where I've been? 
  • Home. Back to Hertfordshire for reading week, involving coffee dates with my mum, the pub with my best friend and cuddles with my dog
  • Stroud. Before travelling back home I visited my flatmates hometown. Vegan pizza, wildlife documentaries, avocado on toast brunches and a farmers market. Blog post about that here!
  • Guildhall in Bath for a vintage fair. Bought a snazzy shirt for £5!

What I've been watching?
  • New season of Girls.
  • Gilmore Girls (On season 4)
  • The Kindness Diaries
  • Ex Machina 
  • Santa Clarita Diet (On my sisters request, outrageously hilarious)

What I've been listening to?
  • Ed Sheeran. OBVIOUSLY. Shape of You is so beautiful
  • Robyn - Dancing on My Own. On repeat. For days. It's such a feel good song!
  • Lower Than Atlantis' new album Safe in Sound

What I've been reading?
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Review here!
  • Nocturnal Animals by Austin Wright

Some favourites
  • The Banging Book Club podcast 
  • Running. Been attempting to up my game
  • Purchasing a new Breville Blend Active blender. Reached full adulthood now I'm excited for a BLENDER to be delivered... PS. It's super pretty and clean.
  • The Olive Fox online magazine. I contribute to their content once in a while. Check it out!

Ended the month with pancakes, made with chia seeds, flour and soya milk. Recipe here!

And now, March. Which means Spring and baby animals, and slightly warmer days and lots of flowers in bloom. March is unfortunately a month of uni assignments, but also my sister's 14th birthday, mother's day and a trip home for a weekend.

What were your favourite parts of February?

Saturday, 25 February 2017

A Little Life - Hanya Yanagihara | | Book Review

Finally faced my fear of lengthy novels and began A Little Life, 720 pages of utter tragedy and heartbreak. This book is not for the squeamish because of its graphic descriptions of abuse, and definitely not recommended if you wish for your heart to remain in one piece. 

A Little Life is written by Hanya Yanagihara and tells the story of four men who have grown up together, since attending college together. The group consists of JB an artist, Malcolm an architect, Jude a lawyer and Willem an actor. We experience the story over 60 years, told in the present day with flashbacks to their childhoods and the events leading up to now. It is mostly set in America's New York with many mentions of travels to Europe. 
The plot is incredible and complex. It is about friendship, abuse and tragedy. The characters have experienced their entire adult lives together, through arguments, jealousy, successes, heartbreak and love. Yanagihara's creation of JB, Malcolm, Jude and Willem is amazing and deserves praise for the complexity, all of them being perfectly sculpted 3D characters who you can imagine yourself meeting. The stories and lives of these characters are so intricately woven together, there's not one detail missed out. They are very thorough and detailed, it's what kept me gripped through 700 pages...

As a tale of friendship, the only thing that really binds them together is Jude. Jude has a secretive past, his closest friends know very little about it but they know it's not the most pleasant. Yanagihara develop the narrative to focus closer on the friendship between Jude and Willem. To me, they seem the closest out of the four. Willem appears to be the greatest friend you could ever have, especially to Jude. His endless devotion to Jude is questioned by his own friends and family as a connection that is immature and is preventing them from experiencing adult life 'correctly'. (FYI, there is no rules or guidance to living life correctly.) Willem is kind and selfless, he travels the world on acting shoots but will be there for Jude in a heartbeat. Their friendship is real, powerful and honest. It is evident that Willem loves Jude more than anything else in the world. And now I think I do too. I found myself attached to the pair almost immediately, I rooted for them. 

Jude past is traumatic and it's slowly and painfully revealed to readers and his friends and family. His past is seemingly unknown to anybody other than his doctor Andy, and deceased carer Ana. His inability to discuss his past is frustrating to everyone involved, Yanagihara portrays it perfectly in the other character's anger and persistence. I found Jude extremely frustrating with his constant reluctance to accept advice and professional help, although I can completely understand why he is the way he is.

Revealed in graphic flashbacks, we discover Jude has been abused throughout his life, and it affects him greatly still, his past cripples his life. These parts are NOT easy to read, they are brutal and upsetting, and should be noted that it could be triggering for some readers as self-harm is a major topic through the story. It's laid out in front of you in this bizarre raw form unlike any other piece of fiction to exist, even Lolita left out the unforgivable parts. To get an idea of how horrific it is, at some points I had to close it and take a few deep breathes whilst squirming out of my seat. 

This book honestly made me feel everything ever possible, mostly sadness. I was aware of the emotions it could evoke but dear lord, I was not prepared. It's sad, just so so so sad. Especially THAT ending. All in all, after reading I felt emotionless, the book sucked the life out of me, and I had to give myself a week before I picked up a new book. 

I just want you all to read it because the friendships are beautiful, the support the four give each other even when they aren't particularly on good terms is beautiful. It can be funny too. Despite the story's trauma and sadness you will find yourself attached to one of the four. And don't think you won't. I found myself attached to Jude and Willem's friendship. I still can't stop thinking about them.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Small Town Love

Last weekend I visited my flatmate Ruby's hometown Stroud. We went to a cafe called Meme (Yes, Meme, 21st century humour) and had brunch, a lil cute Galentines brunch. Ruby's sister made us all these gift bags personalised to us. Mine had vegan chocolate buttons, stationery, a face mask, herbal tea sachets and edible gold glitter for baking. Also, a small arty puzzle. 

Brunch was smashed avocado on sourdough toast with an iced coffee. Unsure why I had iced coffee when it was early morning and cold. It was SO great though. Love me some avocado on toast. 

A tour of Stroud was on the cards. It was snowing. And everything was just so beautiful to look at. Whenever I'm in a new place I lose sense of myself, I feel distant from my body and I enter a dream-like state. All new towns and cities make me feel this way. They remind me how minuscule I am in the world. No one knows me, my surroundings are fresh and it leaves me feeling new and clean. I loved the smallness of the town, how everyone knew each other, its friendliness, its homely feel.  It was snowing, only lightly, my hands were red and burning from the cold.   

We went to their farmer's market and I loved its authenticity. Fresh locally produced food - eggs, cheese, fruit and vegetables and meat. Everything you would expect a farmers market to be. 

We spent our evenings watching nature documentaries, eating pizza and a visit to a little pub! 

Before leaving to catch the train home we visited a cafe called Black Book, in which you can settle down with a hot drink and choose a book from the shelves. 

(Apparently I made excellent use of the camera I got for Christmas) 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Please Brain, Work!

Remember this post? About my decision to stop taking anti-depressants, well, here's a little update.

It's been just over a month since I last took a dose of fluoxetine. To say I was worried is an understatement. I worried about the withdrawal side effects, and stupidly, I kept googling them to remind myself I wasn't dying, it's my body adjusting to change. 

Some of the side effects I have been experiencing include night time sweats and the chills, most nights my sleep is disturbed because I wake sweating, to the point my bed sheets and pyjama's are damp but then suddenly, I'll be freezing cold. Like icy cold. I can imagine my body feels a bit confused. (I'm sorry body but you'll thank me in the long run when you're battling bad mental health days naturally). A strange effect is something called 'brain zaps', I can't explain properly in a way you would understand unless you have first hand experience. It isn't dizziness, although that is one of the side effects, the way I've been explaining it to my mum is 'it feels like my brain is sloshing around'. Weird, uncomfortable image, right? Yeah. It is weird to experience them. Sometimes when I turn my head it happens, or I roll over in bed, or I'm walking down the high street. It just happens. There's no warning and it feels odd. Some of the more 'normal' flu-like symptoms as well of nausea and tiredness. 

I'm hoping it'll pass soon. Fluoextine has a longer half life than other anti-depressants, meaning withdrawal effects don't kick in immediately. In my case, I felt fine until two weeks after my last tablet. It is said to be one of the easier tablets to withdraw from. Since stopping, I have noticed a massive change in myself and bad days come and go, but they are not so frequent. On the VERY good days my to-do list is full and I complete it all. It is so rewarding to just experience life, even all the mundane bits. I feel like I am on top of life. And even on the days where I feel a bit meh, I definitely give myself a prep talk of IT'S OKAY YOU CAN DO IT. ONE STEP AT A TIME. WASH YOUR HAIR. DRINK WATER AND EAT SOME VEGETABLES.

One thing helping me most is writing to-do lists. University assignments can get on top of you, it's easy to lay in bed and watch Netflix when tutors don't check up on you regularly. Add university into the mix of a healthy diet, personal hygiene and cleaning your flat. It can push you over the edge.

Writing a list of tasks I have to do in a day is my saviour, some of the tasks are simply 'shower' 'hoover' but if I don't write it down, I forget and once you've written it down somewhere you've gotta do it. The best feeling is ticking everything off in a day.  I have been using this fabulous to-do list from Sighh which is only £4.50!!! Get one and start getting shit done!

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Sun is Also a Star - Nicola Yoon | | Book Review

Another young adult review or rather ramblings. I swear I do read other genres (sometimes) but I have such an admiration for young adult fiction and its diversity.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon is about two teenagers, Natasha and Daniel living in America. Natasha was born in Jamaica and Daniel has a Korean background. I love the different cultures colliding. I love this, I love the characters and all their background history.

Daniel and Natasha are very different people, and when they meet it's clear Daniel believes in fate and 'everything happening for a reason' and I'm right there with him on that. Natasha on the other hand, likes knowing the science of everything. She believes there is science, a logical explanation for everything that happens and doesn't believe in fate. Daniel is adamant this is why they met. It was meant to be. And maybe it was meant to be, but they clash, oh my, do these characters clash. As much as I want it to be an adorable love story I can't picture them together.

Their story plays out over the course of one day. Everything you may possibly need to know about the characters is portrayed in their one day. This felt like an issue to me, personally, how can two people meet in one day, fall in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together? I'm not sure. Feels unrealistic. Maybe it's a portrayal of first love, young love but I felt frustrated and silly for believing in their feelings for one another.

An interesting point is the perspectives, not only is it told in Natasha and Daniel's perspectives, whenever they meet another person, it doesn't matter how minor they may be to the overall plot they get their own little chapter to reveal themselves and talk about their history.

So, one event leads to another. Natasha nearly gets hit by a car, Daniel happens to be there at the right moment to save her. And so on, many events lead to the next. However Natasha is actually on a mission to prevent her family from being deported back to Jamaica that very evening. It's heartbreaking, like any person who has made a home somewhere she wants to stay. She wants to study and she doesn't want to leave her best friend. She has made a life in America. And Daniel has his own issues, he is under extreme pressure from his parents to be successful, to go down the exact path his parents want but he doesn't want it. In this whirlwind of a day the pair are both a bit reckless.

Yoon has written a beautifully heartbreaking story about immigration, friendship, family and love. It is wonderful. And how can you resist the cover? It is stunning. 

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Our Chemical Hearts - Krystal Sutherland | | Book Review

"It's a shame people can't be melded back together with gold seams."

In this beautifully heartbreaking young adult novel we meet Henry Page and Grace Town. Their story is one of first love, grief, humour, heartbreak and tragedy. Although there's some perfect scenes between Henry and Grace it's not all about happy endings.

I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to go to a talk and signing with author Krystal Sutherland at my local Waterstones. Meeting Krystal and hearing her talk about her book, Harry Potter and the craft of writing truly inspired me. With the talk being my first bookish event I was nervous, probably didn't help I went alone. We spoke about writing, my creative writing degree and my writing plans. She then signed my copy of her gorgeous book, adding something a little personal that now means a lot to me. "Keep writing."

Back to the book. I was immediately interested upon discovering Sutherland had opted to write in the perspective of a teenage boy. Hearing the story, especially a story of first love from a boys perspective is something I've never come across before, I felt it important because men are often mocked in society for being openly honest about their feelings. Henry Page has never been in love and he wants to feel it all, like me he is a hopeless romantic dreaming of handwritten love letters and over the top declarations of love. Henry officially meets Grace Town when they are both chosen to edit the schools newspaper, a position a Henry has always wanted. Their friendship isn't perfect, I mean, is anyone's? Theirs can be tense, awkward and uncomfortable, yet caring, adorable and fun too. 

Grace Town is a mystery to everyone around her. She's new to the school and there's speculation as to why she decided to move schools in senior year. Grace wears boys clothing, doesn't seem to care much for her appearance and walks with a cane. I loved the diversity of Grace, she walks with a cane after an accident and it's so so SO important to create and accurately portray characters of diversity. 

Henry wants to find out why she is the way she is. One thing that irritated me throughout their budding relationship is that Henry has created a perfect Grace in his head and when she doesn't play the exact role of this dreamy Grace he is upset and I feel he projects his anger on her. I can fully understand the way she acts around him, a bit on and off, mixed signals and all. Henry is trying to make sense of his feelings, falling in love is a confusing thing, and falling in love as a teenager for the first time is sure to make a mess of both your head and heart. 

One of my favourite moments is when Henry and Grace go on an adventure. She takes him to such a stunning location, a secluded, unused stream train line with a station building, unfortunately partly flooded. Grace throws pieces of bread into the water attracting fantastic silver fish. They dip their feet in the water. They talk about their existence on Earth, how we're all just atoms on this universe. Grace's character was fascinating to me, her attitudes towards life, her philosophical views on our existence stuck with me.

SPOILER!!!! perhaps a spoiler, maybe. I liked how this book didn't end how you might have wanted it to end. Things in life don't always work out, but that's okay, we can all learn to move on. But Henry's longing for Grace, his infatuation for her breaks my heart. The ending moved me and opened my eyes to things not going to plan doesn't necessary mean the end of the world. Although I had my problems with Henry, his expectations and ideals for the perfect girl but, dear lord, did I feel for him. I felt every emotion he did.

If there's anything I want now is more of Krystal Sutherland's writing. It is gorgeous!

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Who's That Girl - Mhairi McFarlane | | Book Review

I'm not one to read chick-lit, I was persuaded by social media influences and felt apprehensive on purchasing the book because of its thickness. I got a beautiful hardback copy in a Waterstones sale after Christmas.

Also author of You Had Me At Hello (which I'm now eager to get my hands on, her writing style inspired me) Mhairi McFarlane, pronounced Vah-Ree went to school in Nottingham so the setting of the book is quite clearly accurate. Who's That Girl was published in 2016 by publishers HarperCollins, praised by Jenny Colgan as "totally hilarious and wincingly real".

Despite its 500 pages I flew through this story. It is utterly hilarious yet heartbreaking. I found myself relating to situations and the wisdom about love, family and friendships. Meet Edie Thompson, our thirty something protagonist who seems to have her life together working for an advertising company in London. Edie is essentially Bridget Jones. But modernized and without the dreamy Colin Firth. Edie gets herself into a spot of bother at her colleagues wedding. The groom (Jack) kisses Edie on HIS wedding day, and in the most unlikely situation the bride (Charlotte) catches them. 

Now, this is not Edie's fault, she's stricken with guilt and all her colleagues and wedding guests blame her. She receives a ton of upsetting abuse aimed at her appearance with accusations of throwing herself at every bloke. Add a little bit of context, Edie and Jack are quite close which raises further suspicion of Jack having an affair. One thing that irritated me is that Edie gets blamed for it all. Jack gets off scott-free. And she is left in a crisis, her boss hears all the gossip and puts Edie on paid 3-month leave, to return to her hometown of Nottingham. She moves back in with her dad and younger sister.

Hope is not lost when her boss gives her the opportunity to ghost write the autobiography of famous actor Elliot Owen. Meet Elliot Owen, seemingly arrogant and a bit of a dick until Edie uncovers the reality of being famous. It's quite eye-opening to discover a celebrities isolation. Mostly, it's a story of a famous person wanting to lead an ordinary life. And obviously includes romance.

Edie's sister Meg is a woman with strong views on feminism and is vegan (who occasionally eats nutella), she is so so SO funny, she made me cry laugh. Definitely my favourite character, along with their next door neighbour Margot who is always seen with a cigarette in her mouth, she's elderly and a bit grumpy, she opens up to Edie and makes cakes for her. She is fabulous and carefree, both characters are.

Who's That Girl has such a diverse selection of characters considering sexuality, race and class. McFarlane has a way of creating compelling characters, complete with flaws and issues.  It addresses themes of loss, love and friendship - the importance of friendship. Chuck in some family conflict and adventures, and here we have, a chick-lit you will mostly certainly love. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2017

A Lesson in Depression

Recovering from depression is like reaching the last monkey bar - it was hard to reach the end, it used all your strength but you did it and you'll do it again. Now you've reached the end of the Earth, felt the lowest of the low no problem that arises in life will be as difficult to overcome as this one. Keep your grip on the monkey bars!

I guess I'm writing this as an update. The 1st of January saw me decide to wean myself off anti-depressants. After taking tablets every day for a year it gets a bit repetitive, and in the last few weeks if I'm honest I kept forgetting to take my daily dose. Not for long though, I'd forget it for two days or so, then start again. Christmas and family time made me forget about them. And the nights I forgot my tablets I slept better. So, I gave it some thought, spoke to my mum and got her opinion, didn't bother contacting my doctors because I felt confident enough to do it myself. Boy, was I right in my decision.

It's now the 11th day without taking any tablets. My head is clearer than ever before. I can function. Did fluoextine turn me into a zombie? It felt like it. Since coming off, I sleep better and for long periods, my mind is flowing with ideas and plans and coherent thoughts. I am ME. Finally. This sounds cliche but I am back to my usual self. I know exactly what I want in life. I know where I'm headed. I know what I like doing, my hobbies and interests. Truly, I am happy. Anxiety is minimal. I went to the student union restaurant alone the other day, ordered food, sat and ate alone and my heart didn't palpitate, my body was calm and relaxed. I have noticed in the difference in my personality and mood. I feel good, Super good. Confidently I can say that. I want to cry and scream at how happy and enthusiastic I am for life.  

Friday, 6 January 2017


Christmas 2016 was much anticipated after surviving my first term of uni. It was full of family time, late nights, buffets of all the best snacks, games with cousins and siblings and sofa time watching Christmas films - this years included Elf, Home Alone and a lot of Harry Potter.

I received some fantastic presents. As I get older I notice my pile of presents are smaller, this year saw me realise this is exactly how I liked it. I like thoughtful presents. Presents that will benefit me and not be chucked in the loft to be found next Christmas. One of these presents was an amazing digital camera from my parents. All the classic presents of bath products, pyjama's and socks. So many pairs of socks and I'm not complaining. Socks are great, Buy me socks.  I even got some with avocado's on!

Obviously the bookworm I am, I unwrapped a few books including Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Review here).  The perfect present for a university student is going to be shaped mysteriously like a bottle, am I right?  Not only did I receive alcohol, it was a limited edition peppermint flavoured liqueur by Smirnoff. Remember when your mum had an Avon catalogue delivered and you could scratch and sniff the perfumed pages, well, the bottle has a special coating in which you can literally scratch and sniff the bottle. My siblings and I spent most of Christmas Day scratching the bottle and dreaming of candy canes.

Christmas is always spent at home with my immediate family. My dog loves to open presents even if they aren't hers and it's a highlight every year. I love spending the day cosy with my family. I valued it more this year, felt more grateful because of moving to Bath, time is precious and family time is so important. 

Second Christmas being vegan. Woohoo. Give me a plate of vegetables and a nut roast. Love me some parsnips.

Boxing Day tradition for as long as I can remember is a large family gathering at my aunt's house. More buffets. More silly games and alcohol. Catching up with relatives I don't see often. 

The last week of December is hectic, in the best way. It's Christmas and my birthday three days later. 2016 saw my 21st birthday. More books were received, of course. What else do you buy someone who loves books more than anything else? 

My mum got me a birthday cake made by my favourite independent coffee shop in my town. It was utterly delicious. Rich in dark chocolate with it being vegan. I pictured myself as Bruce Bogtrotter in Matilda. Chocolate cake everywhere. I went out for dinner with my family, we went to an Indian restaurant. I had a aubergine mash dish with rice and my sister and I shared a trio of sorbets for pudding.  

And now, we enter January. Although the weather is bleak I'm looking forward to trying to squeeze all my clothes back into my suitcase and going back to university.  Second semester of 1st year. Here we go! More writing and reading.

How was your Christmas? 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them - J.K Rowling | | Book Review

As a child who grew up reading and watching Harry Potter the excitement radiated off my skin when Rowling revealed her plans. The story of Fantastic Beasts is set in 1920's New York and I absolutely adore the style of the era. The dresses are gorgeous. And jazz music can be soothing.

I attended the midnight screening of the movie back in November and later asked my mum if she would buy me the screenplay for Christmas. She did!!! I finished it two days after Christmas. Because the book is set out in script form it is easy to get through. I feel reading the screenplay after seeing the movie made me read it in a different perspective. I could hear all the character's voices. Especially Newt and his awkward interactions and British humour. I could see the set and transported myself back to the cinema screen. Basically I was re-watching the film in my head. 

Everything about the book is gorgeous. The cover with its gold foiled text. The feel of the cover. Inside doesn't disappoint either. The illustrations by studio MinaLima are deliciously divine, every turn of the page had me pausing just to peer at the design. A lot of thought has gone into the production of this book and it has paid off. Of course, J.K Rowling never disappoints.

One thing about this book is readers don't have to be familiar with the wizarding world. Fantastic Beasts enters you into a new part of the secret world; pre Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. Pre Voldemort. Meet Newt Scamander and fall deeply, deeply in love with his quirky mannerisms and his love for magical creatures. 

Magical creatures you could never conjure up yourself. Mischievous but adorable Niffler's. Little green Bowtruckles, especially the adorable one with a strong attachment to Newt. An Occamy that can shrink and expand to fit any available space. The magic does not falter, it is amazing and mesmerising. J.K Rowling continues with the wizarding world, new characters to fall in love with, new locations, new magical battles and villains.

A FANTASTIC read for any Harry Potter fan, new or old. Make sure you watch the film too!