Friday, 21 December 2018

Monthly Playlist: November & December

Hello guys; the past couple of months have simply flown by for me! My boyfriend has started a new job and I’ve been working a lot, as well as enjoying some general me time. Part of me feels guilty for neglecting the blog, particularly as it was such a good outlet for me when I wasn’t feeling my best in terms of mental health but unfortunately sometimes life is for living and the extra work of writing and uploading blog posts was an extra something that I simply didn’t have any time for. Over the past couple of months I’ve noticed that I’ve been listening to music a lot less as I’ve been suffering with some painful tension headaches, so I’ve been preferring to read as opposed to listening to a variety of sounds. It feels like it has been years since I’ve not listened to music whilst on bus journeys but I needed a bit of a break. I have, however, been listening to the songs below on speakers which makes for nice background noise. Each of these songs brings to the fore a specific memory for me; do any of you have specific songs that you connect with a memory? I’d love to know that it’s not only me haha! Fingers crossed I’ll have sorted out my life enough to start posting more regularly on here again as I have missed it. Until next time! Xxx

1. Infra-Red - Placebo
2. Black Magic - Little Mix
3. Woman Up - Meghan Trainor
4. Don’t Look Down - Martin Garrix (feat. Usher)
5. For What It’s Worth - Placebo
6. One Thing - One Direction
7. Elastic Heart - Sia
8. With Ur Love - Cher Lloyd (feat. Mike Posner)
9. City of Angels - 30 Seconds to Mars
10. Payphone - Maroon 5
11. The Never-Ending Why - Placebo
12. What Makes You Beautiful - One Direction
13. Same Old Love - Selena Gomez
14. Animals - Maroon 5
15. This Is Me - Joe Jonas & Demi Lovato 

Sunday, 28 October 2018

I’ve started a YouTube channel!

Hey guys! I’ve finally bitten the bullet and decided to start a YouTube channel. In all honesty, this isn’t the best or most polished video but as you all know by now, I’m not necessarily the most polished at blogging either but I do th see things because I’m passionate about my interests, rather than because I want to make money (I don’t make any from blogging haha) but please do have a look at my video, let me know any comments, good or bad as I’d love to know what you think and how I can improve! I’ll see you guys again soon! :)

Friday, 19 October 2018

Book Review: Turtles All The Way Down

After reading countless rave reviews about this book, I decided to read it. Written in first person by sixteen year old Aza, we see everything through her eyes. Her life is fairly standard, although she lives her every minute haunted by a mental illness. From the outset, her life doesn't seem to be unbearably difficult as she has a caring, supportive mother and a best friend, Daisy who always makes time for her, even if she has to balance work and School work around Aza. In terms of School work, Aza never seems to struggle, actively completing homework and ensuring that she talks to her mother about how she feels whether at home or elsewhere. The meetings with her therapist were interesting to read as whenever she tried to explain how she was feeling both the inner voices in her head would reply and her therapist, which added to the understanding of how she must feel having to live alongside a constant inner muttering of unnecessary thoughts at every moment. Unfortunately, her condition makes her incredibly selfish, making it hard to sympathise with her at times.

The strongest part of this book was how realistically Aza struggled to live with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder alongside severe anxiety and how this affected those closest to her. Although this was a secondary part of the plot, it was actually the most memorable thing; how her chance at dating was scuppered by her fear of germs and catching diseases; it did seem extreme but that is an honest portrayal of the Disorder. The lengths that she takes to limit germs and contact with others was difficult to read, particularly as the writing style showed her deepest, most difficult to handle thoughts. Describing her every day life, as a reader you witness her need to constantly check out articles on her phone relating to the spread of bacterial infections, how once a thought is planted into her mind the thoughts just get louder and wilder until she acts upon the irrational thoughts that demand an intense need for cleanliness and sanitiser. The little things, such as the cover of the novel representing spiraling thoughts of Aza's mind, the thoughts that she's unable to ignore, even when she wants to, really helps to demonstrate how possessive the Disorder can be.

The introduction of Davis, a childhood friend added another level to the story, alongside Daisy's relationship with Mychel; however I liked that the romance side of things didn't take over the plot. Davis and his younger brother, Noah find themselves in an uncomfortable situation that Noah in particular genuinely can't cope with; your heart breaks just by reading about his plight. Both boys are fragile, but unfortunately so is Aza and so the potential of a relationship between her and Davis seems like an impossible dream. Aza's condition make her completely and utterly self-absorbed, although unintentionally, which is why it is so easy to feel sorry for her; she adores her friends and family but her mind doesn't allow her to escape or relax. Daisy is the best friend that many people would dream of as although she can be harsh and at times cruel due to frustration at the friend she loves being so selfish, however intentionally. That said, Daisy is very supportive and does her best to understand Aza even at her worst moments, when Aza doesn't understand herself.

Overall, I found this book to be an interesting read; I have a bit of love/hate relationship with John Green's novels if I'm honest. His ideas are always excellent, although I feel like the execution could be better and that has thus far has unfortunately rang true for each of the books that I've read by the author at this point. The portrayal of living with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and extreme Anxiety was beautiful, it was definitely the strongest part of the plot, as you were also shown how others respond to mental heath too, but in this case it literally took over the majority of the book. It was great to see a average teenager living through her mental health problems, but the execution of the plot felt clumsy, there was a lot of things going on; investigations, mental health, relationships... All in all, it was a good read as it portrayed mental illness both carefully and realistically, but the other themes were a bit confusing as they all mixed in together, although that could also because the reader sees into the narrators mind and that is how she sees the world. This book had a lot of potential, the writing was good, but not outstanding. As much as it was a compelling read, it was only a 3 star as the ending didn't wow me and I just had too many questions and not enough answers, sadly.

Friday, 28 September 2018

Monthly Playlist: September

Hello again guys; it feels to be blogging again, today I spent some time taking photos for some upcoming blog posts and I feel like I’ll definitely try to get back into the swing of it but this month has taken a lot out of me, for some reason. Mental health isn’t an easy thing, it’s not something that’s magically fixed and I feel very lucky to say that my life is going well at the moment so there’s no particular reason for why I’ve felt like shit, but it is what it is. I like to be honest with you, so here it is; life is hard and it’s a struggle. That said, soon there’s a new month which is always a good excuse to be more positive in general. I’m sorry that I’m posting this so late in the month, but it’s better late than never in a way. My music is strange as always, with a mix of artists, genres and styles all muddled in somehow. One of things that I love about using an iPod is that I can put my phone away, press shuffle on the iPod and just fall into the music and forgetting about using social media or anything like that. It’s a great way to disconnect and chill out a little bit. It’s starting to get a bit colder now and even though it’s far away, I can’t wait for Christmas time as it’s a great excuse to bring out the cheesiest music there is. Is it just me that loves a good bit of cheese? I hope you’re all well and I’ll see you again very soon! :)

1. One Thing - One Direction
2. Black Magic - Little Mix
3. Swim - Douglas Dare
4. Battlefield - Jordin Sparks 
5. Live or Die - Noah Cyrus & Lil Xan
6. Se Vuelve Loca - CNCO
7. Best Song Ever - One Direction
8. In the Name of Love - Martin Garrix & Bebe Rexha
9. Mi Mala - Mau y Ricky & Karol G
10. What Doesn’t Kill You (Stronger) - Kelly Clarkson
11. Say Amen (Saturday Night) - Panic! At the Disco
12. Ghost - Ella Henderson
13. Like I Did - Leadley
14. Chantaje - Shakira 
15. High Hopes - Panic! At the Disco

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Book Review: Holding Up the Universe

As anyone who has read my blog before will know; I do love Young Adult fiction and so after seeing this one hyped over on bookstagram pages I decided to give it a go .Focussing on two teenagers, Jack and Libby, the story develops as Libby head back into mainstream High School after taking two years out. Once known as America's Fattest Teen, as much as she has lost copious amounts of weight, unfortunately she's still a lot bigger than many of her classmates and so the teasing and name calling doesn't come as a surprise to her, sadly. Thanks to some rather unfortunate peer pressure, Jack gets involved in a nasty fat shaming prank that results in Libby sticking up for herself. In an attempt to not be called a coward by his friends, he ultimately becomes a coward in the eyes of the viewer and of Libby. Both he and Libby find themselves in group counselling together, alongside community service which neither are particularly happy about.

As the novel progresses, you do see their relationship begin to blossom; I liked how there was an initial connection between them that Libby wasn't aware of. It does make you appreciate his character a lot more, as to begin with I wasn't keen on him at all. That being said, there was nothing about this book that massively stood out for me; both Libby and Jack were defined by their conditions, Libby with her weight and Jack with his inability to recognise faces and they never seemed to develop much beyond that, which was a shame as they both had more potential. Of the two, Libby was more relatable due to her insecurities about her weight and looks in general, but at the same time she also seemed a little too confident at times for someone in her situation. Jack came across as a bit of an airhead, a stereotypical popular boy and I didn't feel any warmth for their growing relationship as it seemed quite forced as well as unbelievable at times. It sounds harsh but the whole two broken people falling in love felt a little overdone in this novel, which was disappointing as after reading All The Bright Places by the same author, I was expecting better execution.

Overall, I wasn't enamored with this book. The pace felt very slow, the characters not massively developed and the plot rather ill thought out. It was pretty offensive in terms of content, although the portrayal of Libby was a lot better than I expected, I wanted her to be more than just body image, teenage angst and aggression. This book isn't amazing, it's not the worst book that I've read but it's not the best, either. Niven's writing style is unique and that is what saved this for me; I do genuinely enjoy her style and the way that her text flows from page to page and chapter to chapter. However I do wish that her characters were less one dimensional as having read two of her books now I do feel like there is a formula to her work and that is disappointing. I want to see characters grow and develop, to become more than you expect and that just didn't happen. Jack was particularly uninteresting and selfish, I preferred his little brother which says it all when he's supposed to be a key figure. Based purely on the writing style, I rate this book 3 stars but it isn't one that I'd recommend. As I've said, I'm disappointed.

Friday, 31 August 2018

Monthly Playlist: August

Hello again guys; I’m sorry that I’ve been terrible at uploading blog posts this month but ultimately I wanted to have a bit of time out and basically look after myself a bit. I’ve had a batch of flu that stretched out into a cold for three weeks, which was horrible. However, as always I’ve been listening to my iPod to and from work, but I’ll admit that this months collection of songs is a little more strange (even for me) than usual, oops. As anyone who is familiar with my blog will know, I love listening to a range of artists, genres and songs at any time so my playlists can be fairly random but that’s how I like it. At the moment I’m loving Spanish & Latino songs as well as English songs as a little bit of culture never hurts anyone, haha. I’m hoping that next month will be better and so I’ll be posting more like usual, fingers crossed. In the meantime, I’ll be listening to these songs to get to work and back everyday! What songs are you loving at the moment? Let me know in the comments!

1. Crying for No Reason - Katy B
2. Suerte (Whenever, Wherever) - Shakira
3. Nota de Amor - Wisin & Carlos Vives (feat. Daddy Yankee)
4. One Kiss - Calvin Harris & Dua Lipa
5. Never Be the Same - Camila Cabello
6. Amor, Amor, Amor - Jennifer Lopez (feat. Wisin)
7. Only You - Cheat Codes & Little Mix
8. Rumba y Candela - Daddy Yankee
9. Mi Mala - Muy y Ricky & Karol G
10. Me Enamoré - Shakira
11. She Loves Control - Camila Cabello
12. If You’re Over Me - Years & Years
13. Like I Did - Leadley
14. Chantaje - Shakira
15. Love Lies - Khalid & Normani

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Book Review: A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings

Translated from Spanish, this is a book of two, very short stories. Both stories have a sense of fantastic realism, which in general isn't to my taste, but for the sake of 50 pages, I decided to give it a chance. The subtitle translates into 'For Children', which explains why at first glance the text is incredibly simple.The first of the two short stories, 'A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings' arguably refers to various religious symbolism, although this is not laid out for the reader to notice or even understand; the reader is told that the man has wings, but without any explanation or additional information. From an obvious point of view, he is angel, although this is not confirmed at any stage; his presence encourages people from the to recognise their hypocrisy, however this leads to a rather tenuous link between the greed of the people and the greed of the Church. In truth, the whole of this short story is left open to interpretation; what I perceived may be completely different to another view of the tale. In all honesty, this story didn't grab me as much as I would've liked, although I wasn't exactly upset that it was short either; there was no feature that made me feel as though I wanted more details or a longer version of the tale.

The second of the two short stories, 'The Sea of Lost Time' somehow managed to be even shorter than the first and just as unremarkable for me. The idea of a spider having a girls head was interesting, but ultimately the open ended style of writing didn't flow well in my opinion; exploring the theme of death, the dear of death and therefore uncertainty the life was lost in the idea that life after death may be more interesting, more inviting than the world of the living. Arguably much of the author's ideas and intentions stem from other works and ideas surrounding religion, love, life and death, the natural and supernatural. In this case there is a clear interest in life and death, mixed in with love. The character of old Jacob, a man who has spent many of his years in love with a woman had the potential to grow, but unfortunately due to the writing style of a short story, was unable to progress into a more interesting role. Of the two stories, this one has more potential as the story has more depth; for example, Tobias and Clotilde have an interesting partnership, one which changes due to the changes in the locality.

Overall, neither of the two stories particularly struck me; I didn't feel a connection with either story, but I also wasn't a fan of the writing style. At times, it felt like certain sentences didn't make much sense, although in fairness this a translated text; as it was originally written in Spanish, it could be that some of the meaning has been lost in translation to an extent as no two words or sentences can make an exact copy of another in different languages, unfortunately. Without a clear ending it is difficult to deduce not only what happens, but also where the characters stand in terms of life and death, which is one of the key themes throughout both texts. I'm not sure that I was expecting from this book as it isn't the kind of text that I usually like to read(I'm generally not a fan of supernatural realism), but arguably the concise length of the piece is impressive considering there are two stories within and both have their own fascination with death and decay. The redeeming feature of this collection of short stories is that it does require you to think; to apply a backstory and a future to the characters, as well as determine the correlation between reality and false ideas; how easily a idea can become truth. This was a three star read in my opinion, the saving grace was that the ideas surrounding life and death were interesting but ultimately the writing style wasn't to my taste; that said, it is good to read something a little different from time to time.

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Book Review: The Bell Jar

Arguably a semi-autobiographical read, 'The Bell Jar' provides an interesting perspective of life in the 1950s; living with mental health is a difficult thing to do, however during that time there was very little tolerance of whatever was deemed not normal. Esther being the main character, transfers from paper to the mind very well; there is a lovely realness surrounding her and her mental illness, her description of surviving everyday life is not only sad but also concerning. The simple but mundane tasks become impossible; on the surface Esther is lucky, having successfully secured an internship with a Fashion magazine, but in reality depression is not something that simply disappears without a fight; each day is a struggle. Esther is an interesting character; an unusual mind and way of depicting the world around her. Esther as a character was very successful. Not only was the portrayal of her mental illness believable, her behaviours felt real; hardly surprising considering the authors own issues with mental health. The idea of mental health transferred well into words and gave an accurate understanding of the feelings of loneliness and helplessness. There was something about Esther that resulted in feelings of concern and sympathy; you just wanted everything to work out for her, yet somehow knew that it couldn’t be so simple.

Sylvia Plath has a beautiful writing style; this book is full of metaphors and similes alongside some wonderful imagery through Esther's inner monologues. The main issue that I had with the storytelling is that although I understood that the story revolves around Esther and her take on the world, the other characters weren’t hugely developed and lacked individual voices. Every other character felt very similar, possibly because they were all described to the reader by an unwell Esther. The beginning and the end of the book were very cohesive, whereas the middle was all a bit strange and misunderstood, although this was the part where Esther’s illness began to overwhelm her everyday life more and more; therefore this is likely to be in correlation to her feelings creating a muddled understanding of the world. The middle part of the novel is a mess simply because Esther is becoming more ill and unable to process everyday life. This novel covers some difficult and often unmentioned topics, such as depression and suicide and so it is a rather painful read; this isn’t a book that I would recommend to someone already struggling with mental health as it does almost encourage suicide as an option in some of the pages, which personally I found uncomfortable. But that being said, this is an important read simply because it teaches the importance of treating mental illness in a humane way, something that the 1950s certainly didn’t, for example the electric shock treatments made me want to cry for Esther. Considering how short this novel is, it took a while to read as it wasn’t the easiest of books in terms of content.

After reading countless reviews referring to this novel as ‘flawless’, and a ‘masterpiece’ I feel as though there must be something wrong with me for not loving this novel that much. Sylvia Plath writes beautifully and I found it a 3 star simply based on that; however, I wasn’t comfortable with the way that this novel reads like a suicide note. As Esther become more ill, I genuinely felt frightened and so it was hard to enjoy this book; in fact, I’d argue that I didn’t enjoy it at all, although that does show how important it is to talk more openly about mental health. As it is semi-autobiographical, it does give the reader a rather intimate understanding of the authors personality and how she must have been feeling when writing this book; as such, that was made me even more uncomfortable reading this as she did indeed commit suicide. The novel is cynical, sarcastic, feminist and yet it is just so difficult to comprehend what you are reading that it is hard going, but the message is loud and clear and one that does need to be heard. I don’t regret reading this book but I doubt I’ll ever be able to face a re-read of it. I feel like if I hadn’t had any mental health issues myself, this book may have affected me less as I could feel what Esther felt. Plath has a unique way of speaking to the reader, through Esther you really feel what you are reading and it wasn’t particularly pleasant so it is disappointing that I didn’t love this as the writing style is compelling.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Monthly Playlist: July

Hello to July and to finally getting organised enough to write a blog post! At the minute I’m not really sure where I’m going with my blog; I love the blogging community and ultimately, I love writing and taking photos so it genuinely is something that I enjoy but at times I’m feeling like I simply am falling out of love with it. I’m a perfectionist and I’m always thinking that my content is shit, regardless of how much or how little effort I put into this blog. However, I work full time and I do enjoy blogging, I think I need to be less hard on myself and not constantly force creativity when it’s not naturally coming along. As always, this is a massive staple blog post and it’s one that I really love; I’m a nosy person and I feel like you can get to know a lot about someone by their musical tastes, so below are a range of songs, artists and genres in no particular order. I love music, it really helps me to relax and get into the zone for work, travel or even just a better mood. Are there any songs that have captured your heart at the moment?

1. Holiday - Green Day
2. One of the Drunks - Panic! At The Disco
3. Boom Clap - Charli XCX
4. Havana - Camila Cabello feat. Young Thug
5. Love Lies - Khalid & Normani
6. Échame La Culpa - Luis Fonsi & Demi Lovato
7. Wake Me Up When September Ends - Green Day
8. Dying In LA - Panic! At The Disco
9. Finders Keepers - Mabel (feat. Kojo Funds)
10. Reggaetón Lento - CNCO & Little Mix
11. The Overpass - Panic! At The Disco
12. It Ain’t Me - Kygo & Selena Gomez
13. Sorry Not Sorry - Demi Lovato
14. Fall For You - Bethan Leadley
15. Hot ‘N Cold - Katy Perry

Friday, 13 July 2018

Book Review: The Trouble With Goats And Sheep

I was recommended to read this book and in all honesty I wasn’t sure what to feel about it when the book was in my hands, there wasn’t anything that I found particularly appealing, although the title seemed interesting. It’s an unusual interpretation of life, part coming of age and part theology. Set in England, Grace and Tilly are ten years old during the Summer of 1976 which is historically remembered as the longest and hottest Summer seen in the country. The two girls occupy themselves for their Summer holidays by becoming detectives, determinedly questioning each of their neighbours in turns on the premise of being girl guides wanting to gain badges. There are a lot of characters in the book, some of which are odd, some are kind and some are funny; it’s a nice description of life down a typical suburban street but it is a long read; arguably because the heat of the Summer, this book seemed to go on and on forever. Once the characters had been established, the weather was exaggerated as a means of explaining why some characters were most unusually for themselves; the majority of us become unpleasant and irritable when the weather is unbearably hot and Joanna Cannon put that across very well; as well as how the range of characters interacted with each other, too.

The cover art isn't the most interesting, which was a little disappointing for me as I do love a beautiful cover, however the title 'The Trouble With Goats And Sheep' makes up for the plain blue cover with white accents. Having been recommended to me by a relative, I wasn't really sure what to expect; that said, they do usually recommend absolute gems to me. As much as the cover art isn't what I would usually like, there is something about the minimalist vibe that does appeal to me; the contents of the pages are left fairly open to interpretation as the cover gives nothing away and I like that. Surprises are always welcome. The main issue with this book is getting the head around the (what feels like) millions of characters, although as the book develops this becomes easier. Joanna Cannon handles having so many characters well; it never feels like two characters are the same and each narrative voice reads very differently to each of the others, not only due to the differences in age, gender or life experience; they genuinely seem very different in terms of opinion and sentence structure, which is the perfect an example of excellent writing. The writing style of this book is flawless.

In an ordinary street, where people live ordinary lives, is it such a surprise that the neighbours are hiding a collective secret? Likewise, is anyone without a secret? It is clear to reader fairly early on in the novel that there are secrets waiting to be exposed in the novel, secrets that two little girls are determined to get to the bottom of. The wonders of everyday life are spread out across the pages of this book, through each and every one of the characters. My personal favourites were the two ten year olds; Cannon managed to deliver the humour, lack of understanding and innocence that only children can have through their investigations and listening to adults whispering. The multiple characters alongside chapters alternating between 1967 (the past) and 1976 (the present) was a fantastic use of linguistic techniques to feed information through multiple timelines for the benefit of the reader. The multiple points of view was an excellent way of feeding clues through to the reader about the various goings on, but my favourite narrator was definitely Grace and seeing her character develop. She grows from a little girl, determined to boss her friend around, to still a little girl, but one who is learning the value of friendship and the differences between the people of society.

Overall, this book wasn’t a five star read for me. It was a nice read and well written, but it just didn’t have that little extra something to make it have the wow factor. However, it was a solid four star read; there is something beautiful about everyday life, but at the same time there as definitely something missing. I preferred the narrative voices of the children to the adults, not only because they have a beautiful way of seeing and understanding the world, but because of their instinctive thinking. Whereas the adults were all narrow minded and conditioned by each other to keep the secret, the children had a beautiful way of exploring and thinking outside of the box. There are so many reasons why I wish that I had loved this book more than I did; one of them being that I wanted more focus on the children, another being that the adults were all so unlikable. There are elements of this story that completely captured my heart and others that bored me; nothing to do with the writing style, which I really liked, more to do with the plot not having enough oomph to contain interest throughout the moments where events were sparse. This is a good read, one that I would recommend; I'm looking forward to reading more books by Joanna Cannon as she has a lovely way with words. 

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Book Review: Salt to the Sea

A fictional novel depicting a real event; during 1945, hundreds of thousands of civilians were desperate, destitute and sick of war. Running through East Prussia, attempting to avoid the wrath of soldiers from both sides, this book uses a multi person narrative to describe the event from all sides. Four young people, different nationalities and situations. Joana is a Lithuanian nurse, headstrong, confident and a natural leader. Florian is Prussian, a mysterious man who is clearly attempting to slip through the net and is hiding a lot of secrets. Emilia is Polish, young, pregnant and alone - desperate to find safety and security in another country, outside of Eastern Europe. Alfred is German, a newly recruited sailor and a lover of Hitler’s regime. Each of them are boarding the ships across countries for their own reasons, but ultimately, each of them are determined to see the war end. Freedom from war is the ultimate dream for everyone in this novel. The text was laid out fairly easily, with the narrating characters name as the title of each chapter; to begin with, it was a little confusing as you need to engross yourself in the story to understand who is who. My favourite narrator was Joana; not only because she was incredibly astute and noticed even the littlest of details, but because she was genuinely caring. She was determined to help as many people as possible, regardless of their age, race or gender whilst attempting to stay alive herself.

As the novel developed, so did each of the narrators and their acquaintances; for example, Joana was with a group attempting to hide from soldiers in the forest and escape to the ports. Alongside her were a variety of others, an elderly man, a young blind girl, an orphaned little boy and a German lady who was convinced that everyone is a spy. Emilia was saved from a soldier by Florian, who instantly becomes her saviour, so she in turn shoots a solider in defence of Florian; the pair meet the other group on their travels and reluctantly tag along. Florian in particular is not at all comfortable in being within a group, although there are benefits to travelling in numbers. Alfred’s narrative differs a lot compared to the other three, mostly due to his being in letter form to a girl from home. Judging by the way that he describes his duties, he thinks a lot more of himself than anyone else does, including the girl he writes to; even in his letters to her, they’re always in his head. Arguably, this is a sign of mental illness. Not only talking to himself, about himself, but also convincing himself that the girl he is obsessed with returns his affections. Regardless of what each of them are internally suffering, the four young people are brought together entirely by the circumstance of war. Each of them has a secret, each of which is revealed after the plot begins to shape. From the first few pages, this book gripped me. The descriptions of their hunger, fear and determination made each situation that was thrust upon them so incredibly real and heartbreaking made this book an absolute page turner for me.

Each of the characters made their own sacrifices, for their own reasons, but Emilia was the biggest surprise of all. Three of them had good arguments for why they were fighting for freedom and their narrative wasn’t only interesting but allowed for information about ordinary people, how their lives had been devastated by war. The fourth narrative voice was so difficult to read at times, it was impossible to argue with their point of view, as it was just so wrong but understandably, it was an important part of why the war was ongoing and it also added another layer to the overall plot line. One of the reasons that this book was such a pleasurable read was that although it is historical fiction, it wasn’t overrun with facts or pushing history onto the reader. Yes, history had a massive part of the telling of this story and although it is ultimately fiction, this novel genuinely read as though it was truly real life although that is because of Sepetys’ beautiful variation of true events from a fictional standpoint. She mixed truth and fiction so seamlessly, if I didn’t know better when reading this book I could’ve easily believed that all of this novel was entirely factually accurate. Which is fantastic, really. That is exactly what you want when reading a historical novel, to feel as though you are there with the character, living, breathing and seeing everything that they are. As much as this novel was brutal, vicious and cruel at times, that is what made it so perfect as that is exactly what epitomises war.

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by how much this book caught my attention. I’d been meaning to read it for months and kept getting distracted by other titles, which I don’t regret, but I do wish I’d given this more of a chance at an earlier point. I cannot fault the writing style of Ruta Sepetys in this novel at any point; the use of four young narrators worked beautifully as each of them had their own issues, their own past and future to fight for as well as the way that she used fact and fiction to depict a harsh reality of war using only words. I loved the short, sharp chapters and often change of narrator, it kept each situation fresh, alongside the excellently executed ending. One of the reasons why I loved this novel so much was the additional explanation of the real life event that this book represented by the author; the fact that she had researched and contacted various museums, relatives and survivors of such a horrific event truly made me understand how hard that time frame must have been. For a Young Adult novel, this is a very intense version of events, although it is also realistic which isn’t a bad thing. It’s important to remember the past and this kind of book does history justice. I read this book in around a day, I cried, I forgot to breathe but as I’ve said many times before, I love a book that makes me think. This was easily a 5 star read for me and I’d recommend it for mature young adults and above. It doesn’t read like a YA novel, so if that genre is not usually your thing, give this book a try as I promise it will be worth it.

Saturday, 30 June 2018

A Book Haul #4

Hello again guys; it feels like ages since I’ve done a book haul, which is mad considering it feels like all that I’ve done over the past few months is buy books, haha. I’m actually running out of space for all of my books to be in my house, oops. Over the past year or so reading has easily become my favourite hobby, I love being able to escape into someone else’s world for a few hours or pages or chapters. I definitely have a book buying addiction, to the point that I keep walking into every charity shop that I pass in the hopes of spotting a bargain haha. The best of this haul was literally 20p, which was so cheap it’s actually amazing! These days I often rely on goodreads to work out which books to read or buy, but at the same time I’m terrible for simply buying a book because of a beautiful cover; that can be a good or bad thing, depending on whether the writing is to my taste or not, but I’ll read anything once and I never stop reading a book, I always have to finish it even if I hate it.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
If I Stay by Gayle Forman
Where She Went by Gayle Forman
Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

The list above is the author and title of each of the books in this haul. I’m particularly excited by the Hunger Games trilogy set, they’re the limited edition foil versions and I managed to snap these up for a reasonable price online and in absolutely fantastic condition too. The only book I’ve read so far is Big Little Lies and I loved it so I’m sure I’ll be rereading it at some point in the future, once I’ve got through my hefty reading list. All of the other books in this haul are books that I haven’t read but I’ve been meaning to read for a long time; I have no idea when I’ll be finding the time for these books but that’s ok, life is long haha. I have a lot more books to show you in terms of hauls and reviews that I’m planning for the next few months so I’m looking forward to getting some feedback as I’ve been having a bit of a lull when it comes to blogging over the past couple of months and so I’m excited to get back into it after a bit of an unintentional break. Have you bought any books recently? What books are you planning to read? Or is there a book that you think I’ll love to read? Let me know in the comments! :)

Tuesday, 26 June 2018

My Favourite Perfumes for Spring & Summer

Hello again guys; if you’re a long time reader of this blog then you will know that I’m an absolute perfume addict. I do buy perfume far less than I used to, although I’m still convinced that a bad day can be fixed by a simple spritz of perfume, particularly when a perfume holds good memories for you. Some of my favourite perfumes are fruity and floral scents, I’m definitely a feminine perfume wearer; I’m not a fan of musky scents on myself, but I love the smell of any perfume on others. I love smelling beautiful scents on people and I often try and hunt down scents that I’ve smelt on other people in passing.

This blog post focuses on the 5 perfumes that I swear by throughout the Spring and Summer months; sadly a couple of them are limited editions and I’m not looking forward to using them up completely as I won’t be able to repurchase, although there is always a new scent coming out, which means a potential for new favourites. Over the Spring and Summer months I wear perfume more or less everyday; it gives me a little boost, I feel better and more confident in general, particularly when the perfume is one that I’ve saved up for and really wanted. I’m also terrible for picking a perfume based on a beautiful bottle, as I love displaying the bottles in my room, much to my boyfriends annoyance, haha.
What are your favourite perfumes? Let me know in the comments! :)

Princess of Hearts - Vera Wang

I adore floral and fruity perfumes and this one is exactly that, mixing notes of both. The contained notes are jasmine, bergamot, strawberries, lily of the valley and watermelon with base notes of cedar wood, musk and vanilla. This perfume has the potential to be a little sickly, however I’ve found that the strongest notes are the watermelon and jasmine and so it creates the perfect scent for Spring and Summer as watermelons are a typically Summer based fruit. Reasonably priced at under £20 for a 50ml bottle of perfume, this perfume makes for a lovely gift. The bottle itself is very feminine, which matches the scent nicely. A pink heart shaped bottle, with Vera Wang’s signature crown lid on top of the spritzer accented by red drawn heart and white typography of the scent name Princess of Hearts across the centre, it looks cute without looking like a child’s perfume. This was actually gifted to me for a birthday from my boyfriend, so it has sentimental value for me, as well as the fact that I fell in love with the smell as soon as it was sprayed onto my skin; this perfume is one that I tend to use for special occasions, such as days/nights out, birthdays, anniversaries, etc. 

Pink Honey - Marc Jacobs

A variation of the original Honey, with a similarly rounded spotty bottle. Pink Honey was released as a Limited Edition fragrance during the Summer of 2014 and is a beautiful mix of both floral and fruity aromas. Notes of orange blossom, honeysuckle, honey, pear, mandarin, peach nectar, vanilla, wood and fruit punch create the distinctive flavour and overall its a fairly heady scent; it’s very noticeable when on the skin. The bottle is as beautiful as the scent for me; the original is a lovely honey coloured shade, whereas this version is a pale pink with black and gold detailing with white pearls. Compared to my other perfumes by Marc Jacobs, this bottle is very different in style as the Daisy range is floral and this bottle is more like a honey pot, which is cute. It’s a perfume that looks beautiful and feels great whenever I wear it, there’s something about the design of the bottle that makes it feel high end, not only because it’s a little on the pricey side; it’s a scent that adds a smile to my face whenever I use it for any occasion.

Valentina Acqua Floreale - Valentino

One of my overall favourite perfumes of all time; this fragrance has notes of bergamot, mimosa, orange blossom, heart of neroli, tuberose, amber and patchouli to create an oriental feeling scent. This is was another gifted perfume from my boyfriend, but this perfume was one that I had dreamed for owned for years; it’s not the cheapest perfume available and so for years I had been using sampled sized bottles of this perfume. The 50ml has not been a disappointment at all. I use it often and it lasts really well on the skin; once applied to the skin I’ve found it lasts for several hours, which is a blessing for a perfume. Whenever I wear this perfume I feel so classy and ready for anything, this is a perfume that I’ll definitely be using and repurchasing throughout my life (yes that is a big statement to make, but I mean it) as it truly is my go to perfume for any event, night or day. This one of the most expensive perfumes that I own and it’s easily my absolute favourite. The bottle and scent are simply a dream.

Daisy Eau So Fresh Sunshine - Marc Jacobs

Another Limited Edition Summer release, issued in 2012 and created to be a fruitier version of the original. The notes included to make up the perfume are rose and violet leaves, jasmine, strawberry, apple blossom, pink grapefruit and ending with oak, moss and amber wood. In all honesty, I love all of the Daisy range of scents, but this one is my absolute favourite. The combination of fruits and florals adds a little extra to the original version, alongside the bottle having pink perfume with orange, green and fuchsia daisies on the lid. The daisy bouquet lid is super eye catching, particularly as the colours of the Sunshine version are brights, they’re intended to stand out. I’m almost afraid to use this perfume as it’s limited status means that I’ll be unlikely to find it again, which is a shame, but I do love it and I always wear this for special occasions rather than every day throughout the spring and summer months.

Island Fantasy - Britney Spears

A new addition to Spears’ perfume line during 2013, it is intended to emulate an Island getaway using the notes mandarin, clementine, red berries, watermelon, jasmine, violet, freesia, sugar cane and musk. I’m a massive fan of Britney’s perfumes, they’re both affordable and long lasting; the reason that this one is my favourite is it has a different vibe to the others, it feels almost exotic. The bottle is the classic round Fantasy style, but in this edition the colours lime green and aqua make up the bottle with silver diamantés and a silver neck and spritzer. Even amongst the other Fantasy perfumes it stands out due to its vibrant colour, but on the skin is why I adore this perfume. It’s so long lasting on the skin and has this fantastic way of making me feel so upbeat and positive, so ready for anything and simply cute and fresh. It is limited, which is a shame as I do love it but it’s a large bottle and doesn’t need a lot of sprays to hold well as a scent, so fingers crossed this bottle will last for a good amount of time.

Saturday, 23 June 2018

Book Review: The Kite Runner

An emotional story of friendship, loss and betrayal, this book is an absolute roller-coaster of a read. Beginning in Afghanistan with the story of two young boys, servant and master, yet as close as close can be to point that they are almost brothers; Amir and Hassan are two young innocents, best friends but unfortunately from different social backgrounds. Amir's father often spoils Hassan, to Amir's annoyance, however age and wisdom often come hand in hand, as the boys eventually learn. Amir is a Pastun, Hassan a Hazara, often picked on for being so, alongside being illiterate. Determined to win their local kite flying contest, the two boys work together before one betrays the other and changes the course of their lives forever. The outcome of this betrayal will haunt one of the boys forevermore. Some have assumed that this is a biography of Hosseini's life, although it is definitely a work of fiction. However, Hosseini has taken inspiration from his own Afghan upbringing, so this story may unfortunately have been a reality for someone, somewhere, which is difficult to comprehend.

As war begins to tear Afghanistan apart, Amir and his father are forced to flee to America, a dangerous and terrifying journey, one that takes innumerable amounts of courage. As Amir ages, so does the narrative and we see him as an adult, working hard to survive in a new world and forever wanting to make his father proud. The move to America is an opportunity to start afresh, to reflect and improve on past mistakes. The novel has many themes running through its pages, such as immigration, sexism, racism, abuse and relationships, each of which are explored in depth. It is a painful story, one which is fast paced (as a reader you witness the boys grow from children to men in less than a hundred pages) but also one that portrays harrowing consequences for lack of loyalty to family and friends. Hosseini is an excellent storyteller, using the past, present and future to tell a story of a life which although is not necessarily one that you have experienced, is one that you can imagine. Every moment of this book feels true, even the most upsetting points of the story, which always an excellent element to any work of fiction. 

Ultimately, this is a novel about humanity, not about war or conflict; as Afghanistan in the modern day has become well known for its conflict, sadly, this what many will wrongly assume about this book. The movement of the ruling class and eventually the Taliban does play a massive part in some of this book, but the overall message is not based upon their atrocities, it based on what makes a man. As much as it as a difficult read, there was so much to love about this book; the understanding of love and trust, how Afghan people are proud and strong and how those who are loyal remain loyal for ever. The relationships within this novel are far deeper than at first glance, which only emphasises the bond of family. This is the kind of book that demands to be read, regardless of how much heartbreak is within its pages. This was a 5 star read not because it was easy, but due to the beautifully written story which grabbed my heart.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

June Playlist

Hello again guys; I feel like I've lost my way with blogging a lot recently, although to an extent that is due to having replaced blogging as a hobby with reading, oops. I'm planning to get back into it over the next couple of months as I do miss blogging, but sometimes creativity needs a rest; plus I would rather blog less with good content than more with lacklustre content. This month I treated myself to a new iPod, a 16gb version which allows me to enjoy more music on the go without having to stress about internet or apps such as Spotify being on an iPhone; yes it's a bit old fashioned, but it works for me. I listen to music a lot when I'm making a journey, by bus, walking, etc. as I've found that it really lifts my mood. None of the songs listed below are in any particular order, they're simply the songs that I've found myself listening to constantly this month, I've been loving rediscovering old favourites at the moment alongside a couple of new loves. What songs are you loving at the moment? Let me know in the comments! :)

1. The Ballad of Mona Lisa - Panic! At The Disco
2. Finders Keepers - Mabel feat. Kojo Funds
3. Boom Clap - Charli XCX
4. This Is Gospel - Panic! At The Disco
5. Speakerphone - Rixton
6. Reggaetón Lento (Remix) - CNCO & Little Mix 
7. Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time - Panic! At The Disco
8. Unstoppable - Sia
9. LA Devotee - Panic! At The Disco
10. Crying for No Reason - Katy B
11. No One Ever Loved - Lykki Li
12. Golden Days - Panic! At The Disco
13. No Tears Left To Cry - Ariana Grande
14. Airplanes - B.o.B feat. Hayley Williams
15. The Good, The Bad and the Dirty - Panic! At The Disco

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Book Review: King’s Cage

The third installment of the Red Queen series, I had high hopes for this book due to not loving Glass Sword as much as I had wanted to; starting again from where the last part has ended, we see Mare having lost her lightning, her freedom and her dignity due to the the events of Glass Sword. Imprisoned in Maven's court, it is only his mercy that is keeping her alive. A slow beginning, detailing every element of Mare's imprisonment, however once the action begins it never truly ceases. Aveyard has a fabulous writing style that creates action smoothly; the build up is subtle, mostly using conversation and military tactics to orchestrate full scale rebellion. King's Cage ultimately describes Mare's physical predicament, but it can also refer to the world's mental predicament due to a fast becoming dictatorship. Much of this novel is centered around pain, both physical and mental, across many of the characters. The fantasy elements, such as the territories and the powers are such a massive part of the storyline and so ingrained into the text now that they're easily read without surprise or confusion, although considering this is book 3 of a quartet that's not overly shocking; at this point in the series you need to be committed to the very end. 

This is the first book in the series that has first person narrative from a perspective other than Mare's; a nice touch as it allows the reader to see the elements of the plot that Mare oversees or disregards. The second and third narrators, Evangeline, a metal wielding Silver and Cameron, an unwilling Newblood. Both of them have a different world view to Mare, as well as each other. The addition of multiple layers makes a massive difference to how various characters are perceived, such as both of the Princes and finally the Kingdom becomes more than simply Norta; the mythology deepens, providing the reader with more information on situations involving politics, ownership and the High Houses. Aveyard has created a beautifully described alternative world, one which is addictive; you constantly want to know more, to understand the workings of their everyday life. Although Mare is not as the forefront of the rebellion for this novel, the rebellion is becoming a genuine threat, a concern for all; there are no games being played anymore, the battles are being brought to be won; both sides are determined to see a victory.

I've said it reviews about the books in this series previously, but regardless: I do wish that there was more overall character development, as I feel like there are many characters and not as much understanding of all of them. That said, some characters had excellent development and Evangeline in particular became much than simply a nasty piece of work; she stands up to be the perfect anti-heroine. Cal also showed a lot of improvement throughout this book; we get the opportunity to finally see his intentions and feelings toward Mare. A massive part of this book was the relationship between Mare and Cal, although there were snippets surrounding their relationships with Maven too; as a couple, a brother, a past love. Maven is a fantastic villain, although it was interesting to see how his monstrous personality was shaped, made by his mother; proof that in the Silver world, monsters are deliberately made. His mother effectively cursed his life. The biggest flaw within the plot is the amount of characters that underestimate Maven; he is cold, calculating and determined. Mare also grew as an individual; it was good to see her feel pain, empathy, hope and fear whilst somehow managing to find strength at the exact moment that she would be expected to be weak.

Overall, the addition of two other narrators was a fantastic move; it worked not only in allowing the reader to see the world outside of Mare's imprisonment but also for adding fresh perspective. I liked getting inside the head of other characters, seeing their deepest thoughts and feelings as well as their intentions and loyalties. The relationship between Cal and Mare was nice to see, as the connection was there from the start of Red Queen, there has always been an attraction, the potential for a relationship at some point. At this point in the series, it is impossible not to be emotionally invested and so the ending was heartbreaking for a number of reasons, but ultimately due to it being not entirely unexpected because power always causes strong emotions in people regardless of their blood status. The characters all felt a lot more human in this book than they have previously; powers (or lack of) became irrelevant, it has become a war for equality and the rebellion grows ever stronger. King's Cage was a 5 star read as there are so many strong, interesting characters and I honestly can't wait to see where Aveyard decides to take the next and final installment.

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Book Review: Glass Sword

Following on from the first novel in the series, Red Queen we follow the mind of the unusual Mare Barrow once again in Glass Sword. The novel begins immediately from where the first book left off, with a bang. Trapped by her Red blood status but with her Silver abilities, she tries to run from her former friend, love and Prince; no longer sure if Maven is truly who she thought he was, she is constantly on the run from his pursuit of her. Along the way, she discovers that she is not the only one of her kind; essentially she begins building an army, training and understanding herself and others like her, although at points Mare becomes unrecognisable. Changed forever by the actions of Maven and his mother, Mare has started to become exactly the kind of monster that she so desperately seeks to overthrow. Through being betrayed so many times, she’s no longer able to trust or form regular friendships to the point that she doesn’t truly believe or trust in herself either. The majority of this book is based around military tactics, such as training, planning and attempts to takeover the Kingdom. Mare has a genuine understanding of the difference between right and wrong, although through the lengths that she goes to protect others, she creates a ridiculous amount of pressure on herself to be stronger, faster, cleverer... By doing so, she begins to lose her purpose and her sense of self. Her own mind is tearing her apart.

There is a lot of character development for Mare in Glass Sword; she begins to hone her ability and build an army, although as I’ve said, she does start to lose her sense of self, unfortunately. This is what helps the reader to remember how truly young she is, how strong and how much life has thrown the world into her face. As a reader, it is difficult to witness characters that were previously loved and trust begin to betray Mare, although ultimately it is unsurprising due to the world being at war. Mare is both a thinker and an actioneer, which at times does lead to her personality taking over the plot at times as the world is told purely from her first hand perspective and so naturally, Mare does miss some vital points in some cases. It was interesting to see her relationships develop, particularly between Cal and Maven, the two Princes. This second part of the series is definitely more focused on action rather than romance, although both sides of the story are beautifully written, with the reader constantly wanting more information and clarification on thoughts, feelings and intentions. I liked the realistic portrayal of the relationship between Mare and the Princes, how both Mare and Cal mourned the loss of the boy that they believed that they knew; it is so important to remember just how young they all are, as that is the key reason why each of the three 'main' characters have such explosive reactions to the various situations that arise.

Overall, I wasn't as impressed with Glass Sword as I was with Red Queen, but regardless it was still a fantastic read. Victoria Aveyard really knows how to craft a villain, as well as set the scenes for war and add many more characters in the midst of this. The final chapter of this book absolutely saved the whole novel for me; not only was it a cracking cliffhanger, it was beautifully orchestrated. One of issues that I had throughout this book was the amount of emphasis on military operations; as much as it was interesting to appreciate how much organisation and planning is put into staging a rebel group, it came to a point where it was difficult to differentiate rebels from the crown, as both sides were concerned with military tactics. I would have preferred to see more character development of those other than Mare, but ultimately this book felt like it was written to be the bridge between worlds; with Red Queen as pre-war and Kings Cage destined to be full on warfare. The introduction of more characters was welcome, particularly the newbloods as they add another angle to the story, although I would've loved to have chapters told from the first person by characters other than Mare to project more of an overview of the whole story, as opposed to just one perspective. Farley, Shade and Kilorn all had excellent character development and added so much to the story that I found myself wishing for each of them to have a chance at narration. This book wasn't quite flawless, but the ending resulted in it being an easy 4 stars; I can't wait to start Kings Cage now!


Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Valencia, Spain

Hello guys; I’m sorry that it’s been a while, but to be honest sometimes life is made to lived outside of routine. At the end of the month of May, I spent a week in Spain, more specifically in Valencia. The last time that I visited was fourteen years ago, so it was surprising how much of the main sights that I remembered from that previous visit, although that said, it was nice to have a proper camera to capture the memories on. One of things that I loved about where we stayed was that it was in a village rather than a town; a lovely way to see the area without feeling like a stereotypical tourist. There was a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains and rural countryside, which I enjoyed attempting to capture whilst on a walk every day, morning and evening. It was definitely better using my DLSR than my iPhone, simply because the colour range, depth of field and general tools made the image look as close to the view as possible, whereas my iPhone only managed to capture the overall details rather than the full details. Alongside visits to the beach, the town, local shopping centres and wandering the streets, one of my favourite sights that I visited during this trip was the Collegiate Basilica of Gandía. I read, slept and ate a whole lot during the week break and I have no regrets, even though I feel heavier than ever, oops. 

I said in a blog post right at the start of this year that I wanted to travel more, which I do feel as though I’m managing to meet that life target, having explore two countries this year so far and looking to end of this year and beginning of next year, there are three more countries ready to explore in my plans. Spain is a country that I wasn’t desperate to visit, as I have visited before, but having now revisited, I can say that for sure I would like to explore the country further; there’s something lovely about the people, the food, the sights and the lifestyle in general that appeals to me. I enjoyed exploring the streets, the markets, the central squares and seeing little independent shops and cafés at every corner, but ultimately I loved the slower pace, the chilled atmosphere. My favourite pastime was watching the sun set over the mountains, which I spent literally days attempting to capture correctly on my camera; there was something so calming about sitting and watching. I have a habit of trying to do too much of everything, such as work, blogging, reading, etc and so it was nice to slow myself down and simply appreciate life. I didn’t do as many of the tourist-like things that I generally wold when exploring as I was travelling with an older (and physically disabled) person, but actually I didn’t mind too much. It was nice to slow down and enjoy company the world rather than tick off a list. I’ve definitely caught the travel bug now. Until my next trip!

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

May Playlist

Hello again guys; I feel like I’ve really lost the plot with uploading posts to the blog recently for no particular reason. However, in my day to day life, I do still love listening to music for whatever reason; whether it’s a journey to work or the shops, getting ready after a shower or simply to settle down and relax. If you’ve read my blog before, then you’ll definitely know that I’m open minded when it comes to musical genre; I listen to more or less everything as well as languages other than English too (even if I don’t understand) as I just love the way that music can make you feel even if you don’t understand a language. There’s just so much to love about music. At the minute I’m enjoying positive, upbeat songs and in a way that matches my current good mood - over the past few months my mental health has really improved and listening to positive songs really helps to add that extra something into my everyday life. The list of songs below aren’t in any particular order, they’re just the fifteen songs that I’ve listened to the most over the past month. What songs have you been loving this month? Let me know in the comments! :)

1. Howl - Florence & The Machine
2. We Can’t Stop - Miley Cyrus
3. Five Colours In Her Hair - McFly
4. No Tears Left To Cry - Ariana Grande
5. Crying in the Club - Camila Cabello
6. Touch - Little Mix
7. Unstoppable - Sia
8. What About Us - P!nk
9. Pillowtalk - Zayn
10. Échame La Culpa - Luis Fonsi & Demi Lovato
11. Reggaetón Lento (Remix) - CNCO & Little Mix
12. Crashed The Wedding - Busted
13. Come & Get It - Selena Gomez
14. Now - Paramore
15. Shape of You - Ed Sheeran

Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Book Review: The Sun and her Flowers

After surprising myself by loving Milk and Honey, it made sense to read Rupi Kaur’s second collection of poems. This time the collection is segregated into five parts; ‘wilting’, ‘falling’, ‘rooting’, ‘rising’ and ‘blooming’, clearly intending to explore the notion of love in all of its forms. One of the reasons that I love Kaur’s work is that it feels so intimate due to her not only writing the words, but also providing the illustrations, allowing further insight into the workings of her mind. It’s easy to see why her poetry has been such a literary sensation as the contents are relatable to an incredible extent. This collection, The Sun and her Flowers isn’t a direct continuation of Milk and Honey, but ultimately some of the themes are very similar. For example, love is a clear outlier from the offset, alongside the similarities in both her writing and illustrative style throughout both books. However, Kaur’s style has definitely evolved; there are fewer short poems and more in depth explanations of situations and feelings, joined together but visual and literal techniques, although there were moments where I felt that the poems didn’t flow as well as I would expect. Her visual style is definitely minimal, tumblr-esque and constrasting between soft, flowing illustrations alongside typed, rigid words. The overall theme running through this collection of poems is ‘love’, although the notion of love is a tricky one; it’s not just one thought or feeling, which is displayed through Kaur’s descriptions of heartbreak, loss, sexuality, grief and empowerment are only a few of the ideas that shape this collection.

The exploration of the self, ones ancestry and feminism are all themes that can be understood by anyone, although as a woman myself I find many parallels between her feelings and my own. Having never felt wonder about my own culture, I loved reading about how her roots have shaped her life; it was interesting to read her perspective on growing up as an immigrant, something which was mentioned a little in Milk and Honey, but receives more attention in The Sun and her Flowers. The growth of child to woman is something that was beautifully transcribed throughout the poems, alongside that that of heartache; both of these themes explain the difficulty of life, how it is not always easy which is presumably why so many have loved this collection as it hits home truths hard. Kaur is as fearlesss as ever in her portrayal of her life; this is a very personal text, using past experiences to replicate into words on a page. ‘Rising’ was the part that hit home the hardest for me, a positive message of overcoming issues and finding confidence. There is definitely relatability for the majority of people within this text, but as I’m currently in a good place, ‘rising’ was the part that I found to be the most influential, the part that encouraged me to think further. Some of the smallest poems from this collection read more like statements, which I liked. One of the things that I’m starting to like about poetry is the opportunity for creativity; no two poems have to be same, read the same or convey the same message or have the same intention. The use of fluid illustrations allow for further creativity, as well as adding another perspective to each of the poems, although I must admit the illustrations are what make me love Kaur’s works so much.

The thing to remember whilst reading this collection of poems is to not compare this book to her first book. Yes, the themes are similar, as are the illustrations and the writing style, but ultimately they are separate entities and need to be read as such. Overall, I did enjoy this collection of poems and many of themes and situations I could fully empathise with; one of things that I love about Kaur’s poetic style is that it’s so relatable and personable. In all honesty, I did prefer Milk and Honey, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t enjoy The Sun and her Flowers. It was dark, difficult and brutally honest in places, showing a lot of negative imagery; alongside loving, sexual nature and the world in a positive light with more imagery. This is not a book that is easy to read per se, but it has a very specific outcome, through stylised, simplistic poetic style and beautifully juxtaposed illustrations. There were some excellent comments that explored immigration and ancestry, which is always an interesting read. I loved the down to earth way in which Kaur describes her life and opinions, it feels real but unfortunately I felt that the structure of this collection of poems didn’t have such a solid foundation as her previous collection did, although it didn’t make it any less of an enjoyable read. For me, this book was a good read so an easy 4 stars as th e were so many elements that I really liked but ultimately there was just something missing for me that made it miss the final star. I’m looking forward to exploring poetry a bit more over the next few months. What are your thoughts on this book?

Friday, 11 May 2018

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Hello guys! I know that I’ve previously spoken about wanting to explore the world on the blog, as my goals for this year heavily featured wanting to travel and capture memories for years to come. For a few days in April, I celebrated my 25th with my boyfriend in Amsterdam and it was such an experience; after having some issues with the original hotel, we ended up staying in a completely different place and not quite in Amsterdam, but in the overall region so it was easy enough to travel into the center with minimal hassle. As much as I’d read up about the city, I do feel like it’s definitely a busy city to the point that even as a Londoner I was a little overwhelmed! Two things: bikes and strange road layouts. Being from London, I’m used to seeing bicycles but this was to the extreme! Literally thousands of bikes line the streets and because of Holland using left hand drive I was so confused by simply crossing the road at times because of bikes, people, trams and buses being seemingly everywhere. I feel like myself and Piotr managed to pack a lot of activities into 4 days but at the same time, I do wish we had seen more as there’s just so much to see and do in Amsterdam. That being said, I don’t think I’ve taken so many landscape photographs in months; everything about the city just transfers so well into imagery, perfect for good memories!

Arguably the best thing that we did was a Canal tour at sunset; it was such a lovely way to see the city and it was great to hear about the city from a local guide as you learnt not only about Tourist hotspots but also everyday life. We also visited the Rijksmuseum, Tulip Museum, Van Gogh Museum, Red Light District, Sandvoort Gallery (inside Amsterdam Centraal Station), Cheese Museum and the Hash, Marihuana & Museum and Gallery. It doesn’t sound like much, but honestly it felt like a lot alongside various cafés, restaurants and wandering the streets. The Library in the Rijksmuseum literally took my breath away, as did Odelle’s dollhouse, the inspiration for one of my favourite books, The Muse. The museums in general were insanely good. I was disappointed that we couldn’t visit the Anne Frank House as there were no tickets available, but that does feel like a good excuse to revisit the city again as Piotr fell completely in love so I know that we’ll definitely be visiting the city again at some point. We were also there for Kingsday, a celebration of the Kings birthday which results in a massive street party in the centre of Amsterdam with street performers, dancing, drinking, music and more. It was an experience to say the least; the Dutch definitely know how to party hard, whereas I just found it exhausting! The city is so photogenic and there is so much to do that it was completely worth the ridiculous price of food, attractions and travel but if you do visit the city, try and take more money than you’ll think that you will need as it is very expensive, unfortunately. It was a lovely way to spend my birthday and spend time with Piotr; however I’ve definitely caught the travel bug so I can imagine travelling a lot more over the rest of this year, which I’m not sure my bank balance will love, haha. Until my next trip! 

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