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!