Tuesday, 27 February 2018

A Book Haul #2

Hello again guys; here is another book haul (I know, it is fairly soon after I decided to post my first ever book haul, but oh well - I've genuinely bought a LOT of books recently). Over the past year or so I've been loving my kindle less, which is strange as for quite a few years I only ever read from a kindle. Now, I love to read from a book because I do like to try and limit the amount of hours that I spend staring at a screen as I do suffer from headaches quite often and quite badly. Over the past month I've found a charity sop nearby that sells an amazing variety of books for an incredible 20p each and in such good condition too. Weirdly, I found some lovely copies of classics in Homesense of all places and naturally I had to snap up a classic that I loved as a child and hated as a teenager (thank you, a level english literature...) for a decent price of £2.99. There are so many lovely titles to explore and in all honesty, it does feel like my reading list is forever growing, which as much as that is great and I love it, I do need to start reading some of the books that I buy, oops! The list of titles that I've bought this month are:

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë
The One Plus One by Jojo Moyes
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
After You by Jojo Moyes
Dear Amy by Helen Callaghan
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

In fairness, I have actually read some of these titles before (and reviewed them on this blog and goodreads too) but I do like to collect things a bit too much and books have become my latest collective obsession - on the plus side, books are reasonably affordable to buy compared to some of things that I've wanted to collect before (e.g. jewellery) especially when you shop around from places such as amazon, eBay, libraries and charity shops. I really want to join a book club, actually so we'll see how things go over the next couple of months, maybe I'll bite the bullet and join one. Let me know in the comments what you think of these kinds of posts :)

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Book Review: I’ll give you the Sun

The writing style of this novel is great; the mix of male and female, different ages and perspectives works really well throughout the book and helps the reader to understand decisions and life events much more thoroughly. In all honesty, I’m always a fan of dual points of view when the technique is used well, as it was in this case. I liked the contrast between the twins personalities as children at the start of the novel and teenagers towards the end of it. Noah and Jude are two very different people but also unique; having an artist for their mother, she’s a key figure in their unusual views on the world. Noah is a quiet, hardworking child who is desperate for his art to have meaning in his life, whereas Jude is the confident one, a keen surfer, sculptor, dressmaker and talks for both of them the majority of the time. Considering that, they have a very close relationship and friendship with one another, although naturally that does change as they get older. However, you could also argue that they start to lose their closeness because of the way that they treat each other; they’re not respectful of each other’s wishes, fighting over which twin each parents likes or loves the most and who has the biggest and best group of friends. Typically childish behaviour, in fact.

One of things that made me fall in love with Nelson’s chosen narrative style was that as a reader, you were able to see whatever each twin saw their life as. You saw Noah and Jude at their best and worst, strengths and weakenesses, which make up a human. Both of the twins are internally struggling for a variety of reasons, but ultimately the two of them are understandably struggling with the loss of their beloved mother and grandmother. It’s particularly hard when death comes by a freak accident rather than natural causes. Teenagers deal with things differently, however both twins become a shadow of their former self, although Jude seems to be particularly affected, constantly living in fear of ghosts and other superstitions. I was hooked in very quickly by the writing style, the narrative voices and the journey that the twins go on during the snippets of their lives that we see. There is such a beautiful thing in that each twin with their individual narrative only tells half of a story, so that together, they make a whole. Which was a nice touch, as although the twins lost their closeness as they got older, they still cared about each other deeply, bound by the events that made them both extremely unhappy. Noah seems to suddenly excel at everything, particularly sports and Jude seems to struggle with even the easiest parts of life, to the point that her artworks are abysmal and her tutors are beyond concerned. Everything she makes seems to smash and collapse, without any reason for it.

This is not the kind of book that appeals to everyone as the writing style is very unique; that said, it definitely appealed to me. I loved the creativity that flowed through the pages of this book, from the little tidbits about portraits, paintings and sculptures to the doodles that are across many of the pages, clearly demonstrating parts of the novel in a visual way. A range of topics are discussed throughout the novel, such as death, relationships, sexuality and depression, amongst many others. The way that the subjects are breached is delicate, with care, which is always important in Young Adult fiction; for example, the subject of virginity was handled well, but realistically by talking about regret and age from a young persons point of view. All of the characters have clear imperfections, laid out for the reader to see; yet regardless of the imperfections, each of the characters are genuinely loveable as they all have some redeeming features, things that keep them relatable. The characterisation of the twins in particular is fantastic, seeing Noah at 13 and Jude at 16, you’re able to really understand the differences between the two of them regardless of age and gender. You see them grow, change completely (as teenagers often do) and witness them struggle with the guilt that they both hold from their earlier years. 

As I’m an arts graduate, the creativity strewn across the pages of this novel really hit home for me. Noah’s input especially had some beautifully written pieces of prose, using imagery to make you see the world through his eyes. For example, he described other people in colours and shades (rather like seeing an aura) instead of purely words, whereas Jude was very superstitious, describing her conversations with the ghosts of her grandmother and feeling the presence of her mother even after death. Despite the artistic side to the novel, there was a lot of realism included, such as infidelity and parents at war, choosing their favourite child to spoil. There was something about this book that was such a satisfying read; a lovely story that held a lot of thoughts about truth and how to live your life your way, without being concerned about the opinions of others. With a book as unique as this one is, it is important to just fall into the flow of the writing, of the stories that are being told that are somehow, eventually interwoven. It was a beautiful read, one that I’m sure I’ll want to reread and fall in love with all over again in the future; I definitely recommend this, I fell in love with it so quickly that 400 pages seemed to fly by.

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Beauty Review: Rimmel 60 Second Nail Polish

Hello again guys; today’s post features one of my life’s loves; nail polish. I recently purchased the Rimmel London 60 Second nail polish (I’m not sure of the shade name) after using some other Rimmel polishes and having a good experience. Over the past couple of months I’ve been thinking about getting false nails, but in all honesty I really can’t be bothered to go and get them done or pay that much (when it's cheaper to do it yourself), even though they do look nice when done professionally. I like that I just paint my nails in my break at work and they look lovely with a bit of colour on; it makes my nails pop and my eczema less noticeable. Although, I would like them to be a bit longer my nails have been breaking a lot recently, which is super annoying and actually surprisingly painful. I somehow managed to find this gem of a nail polish in Poundland of all places; an absolute bargain! The lilac/purple shade is really attractive and not like any polish that I already had; for a mere £1 I was more than satisfied.

In terms of formula, the polish is quite thin; it needs at least two coats to make the colour fully opaque but that isn’t too much of an issue for me. What is an issue for me is how quickly this nail polish chips; I'm not the best at keeping up my polish but I do like it to last for at least 3 or 4 days before you can start noticing wear on the nails... Which this polish doesn't do, unfortunately, it literally started chipping at the edges towards the end of the same day. One of reasons why that really irritated me was not because of the price (as previously mentioned, it was excellent value for money) but because it's a good brand so I would expect the chipping issue to be less, but in fairness that can be resolved by topping up coats which although is a bit of a hassle, isn't a problem as such. Overall, I love the shade regardless of the fact that it chips like a bitch as it does look lovely on the nails. I feel like the nail polish and I are going to have a very love/hate relationship over the next few months as although I love how it looks, I can't help feeling a little disappointed with the quality, particularly as I've used other polishes from the same brand without the issues. A sad 2/5 for this one, purely because of the thin consistency and the need for reapplication. I love getting feedback, so please let me know in the comments if you like this kind of post! :)

Monday, 19 February 2018

Book Review: Lie With Me

This book felt like it had been on the ‘to be read’ list for months and so I finally managed to fit in reading it, although in fairness it is a short read of just under 300 pages which is always a nice, reasonable amount of pages. The cover does an excellent job of being intriguing whilst not giving anything away. Anyone who is human knows that lies are easy to tell but hard to remember at events, parties, even on the street; to friends, family and even acquaintances. It’s hard to stop at one lie, so the lies just keep coming to the point that you don’t even know what is the truth and what is a lie anymore. It’s just as easy to find yourself desperate to fit in, clinging to any chance of a future with someone you would never look at twice if they weren’t rich, although you’re not the only one with a secret. Or a lie. The problem with lies is that no matter how big or small, they’re difficult to take back after a while, particularly when you start to forget what you’ve said or done, particularly when alcohol has been involved. The question is, what lengths would you go to in the hopes of gaining the perfect life? Or what you think is the perfect life.

This is a book that actually starts off pretty slowly; it takes a considerable amount of pages to suddenly start getting under your skin enough to keep you perched at the edge of your seat. However, one of the things that makes this book a good read is the use of the unreliable narrator; the reader is made aware very quickly that the narrator is a liar and a cheat; but that being said, it is purely his perspective that we see into his world with and so how can his word be trusted when he’s so untrustworthy? As much as he seems to be a bit of an asshole, he also has some interesting ideas and views of the world, so overall he does present an excellent characterised narrative. He definitely has greedy, ambitious traits to his personality, so it’s unsurprising that he finds himself stuck in difficult situations fairly regularly throughout the novel. Having had a bestselling book published fresh out of university, he has a higher opinion of himself than necessary, practically living off the fame and fortune of that one success, whilst in reality he's unemployed and uninspiring. He’s definitely the narrator whom the reader is supposed to avidly dislike, although in all honesty none of the characters in this book are at all likeable.

Even his motives for going to an old friends house party were not particularly honourable, although through his narrative voice, the reader does know of his intentions. Through his desperation to be rich, handsome and successful he deliberately chooses someone rich to start a relationship with, for his own ends. However, because of his self-importance and overall confidence, he is unaware of his ‘friends’ little plan to frame him for something that he is sure that he didn’t do. Unfortunately, copious amounts of alcohol make it difficult to remember events fully, making our narrator even more unreliable. He wasn't an alcoholic, binge drinker is probably a better description, but that said he does take that to the extreme, as he does in every aspect of his life. Although, one of reasons why this novel ended up being such a page turner was that not a single character could be trusted; every single one of them was a liar about something or other; man, woman or child. When crimes are committed in another country, right within the tourist area and season, it does look incredibly suspicious and who better to investigate further than a group of tourists? Our narrator is the outlier, having not visited the country for ten years, which was exactly when another crime was committed in the town; understandably, fingers are pointed for obvious reasons. The question is, however, is he being framed or is he an excellent liar?

Overall, this book was an excellent read although it did have rather a slow start, once the plot began to pick up it didn’t stop shocking from there on. In general, I am a fairly impatient reader and I do like to gripped from the first page, which I didn’t get from this book but I would recommend reading it as it somehow did grab my attention regardless. I liked that a lot of the build up was surrounding a holiday to Greece and the eventual holiday turned out to be anything but what I had originally expected; I love it when a book surprises me. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I will say that no single character in the novel is what they seem. I'm still not sure if the whole novel really happened or if the narrator (who is a writer) has carefully concocted an interesting perspective for a book. Who knows? I'm probably wrong, but I love a book that gets me thinking. A good 4 stars, purely because it didn’t quite grip me from the get go, but the ending was incredible, making the whole thing a satisfying read.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Book Review: Autumn

An already well established author, Ali Smith has produced another bestseller in the form of Autumn and before I even started to read it, there were many mixed reviews available online. The writing style is fairly difficult to follow as it’s so stylised; although that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it is one of things that I found both interesting and frustrating. It is also the kind of book that I’d argue if she’s wasn’t so established, probably would’ve struggled to get this piece published as it appeals to a niche market; it’s definitely a book for the literature lovers. Anyone who picks this up for light reading will probably give up on it, I have workmates who did exactly that. I persevered with it, which I’m glad about as I didn’t hate it by any means, but I also don’t adore it. The writing style was a massive issue for me; it was incredibly disjointed and that made the plot difficult to follow, although overall the narrative flowed well as the writing style never faltered throughout. This is the kind of novel that you have to really, really concentrate on because it’s fluid and unyielding. In all honesty, even after finishing the novel, I’m not sure what I got from it.

The cover artwork is beautiful, I love the traditional colourscheme of autumn being reflected in the burnt orange hue of the top half of the page mixed with the gold typography and detailed painted landscape of the lower half of the page. However, the theme of the autumn season didn’t seem to be very clear within the text, unfortunately. Each of the characters (there were a lot of characters) had their own untold story, which seeped through the strange linguistic style to speak to the reader. The relationship between a young girl and an old man was a slightly bizarre one, often teetering on the edge of suggesting something slightly sinister (which it wasn’t), although this was fully explained further on in the novel. I liked the idea that the people you meet can influence your life in a positive way, which for Elisabeth meant learning about the art world, opening up her mind and seeing the world through a different pair of eyes. On one hand, you could even argue that this is a feminist novel as the art Elisabeth so loves is created by female artists who have been forgotten and misunderstood throughout the ages. The meaning was rather deep, suggesting that if an artist is not remembered then her life is overlooked alongside the art that she created during said life.

There were a range of topics fluidly covered throughout, including sexuality, feminism, literature, art, prejudice to name a few. It’s a novel that talks about many things in very few pages, considering how much information is packed in. As much as the linguistic style is questionable, there were some quotes, anecdotes and prose that were simply beautiful and caught me off guard (they all seemed to come in at the points where I was close to giving up!) as well as some parts that genuinely made me laugh, but in all honesty it did feel like the kind of book that had a bit too much information pushed into every single word; although it was an unusual writing style, it was still deliberately rigid in the way that it read. As 2018 is the year of the woman, I can see this novel becoming a a great talking point for book clubs and reading groups as a lot of information is covered in only a few hundred pages, but particularly to do with women and how they are portrayed in the media, the art world and every day life. It also explores what is adulthood, or how the adults we meet as children influence who we become as adults; relationships are both described and explored beautifully, which surprised me as for around half the novel I struggled to work out who was who, unfortunately. 

Overall, I have a love/hate relationship with this book. I love that it is so unique, but at the same time the writing style was so difficult to follow that the information can be lost if you don’t concentrate fully on the text. With hindsight, I would’ve chosen to read this book in one sitting; I feel like it would’ve made more sense if I had completely lost myself in the text rather than having breaks in between. As an arts graduate, I really loved the mention of arts education and the lack of female empowerment during the Pop Art movement, which is probably why I enjoyed this book far more than I expected it to. However the issue for me really is the linguistic style as yes, it is interesting and it adds another dimension to the book but it also made it difficult to follow the plotline, although the plot was so varied and seemingly every changing it was difficult enough to follow as it stood. I feel like this review doesn’t read well; in all honesty, it doesn’t make much sense, which feels fitting when I think about the book as the book isn’t the most coherent read. My suggestion would be to delve into the pages, really concentrate, give it time and you’ll likely enjoy it, although personally I wouldn’t describe the novel as a masterpiece because the writing style was so frustrating for me. However, the content is fantastic and it’s a good read.

Sunday, 11 February 2018

February Playlist

Hello again guys; another month is passing me by so quickly it’s ridiculous! 2018 is definitely going by super fast, which is insane as it felt like 2017 took forever, so maybe I’m just doing too much at the moment? Who knows, I definitely don’t, haha. In terms of music taste for the month of February I’ve been listening to a variety of genres, such as Latino Pop, Alternative and Pop. I genuinely do like so many different kinds of music that it’s hard to narrow down my favourite songs of the moment, but for whatever reason, the songs below are the fifteen that I’ve listened to the most this month. With the weather being pretty awful at the moment, I’m enjoying listening to upbeat, positive songs with a fast beat to be in the right frame of mind for the day; music really does have an affect on my mood (in good way) and I do love using a little iPod rather than my phone as it’s just so much more compact. What songs have you been loving this month? Let me know in the comments :)

- - -

1. Hallejuah - Panic! At the Disco
2. Tan Fácil - CNCO
3. Be the One - Dua Lipa 
4. I Won’t Let You Walk Away - Mako (feat. Madison Beer)
5. Quisiera - CNCO
6. Where We Go - P!nk
7. No One Ever Loved - Lykke Li
8. Para Enamorarte - CNCO
9. Dead - Madison Beer
10. Let Me In - Grouplove
11. Closer - The Chainsmokers (feat. Halsey)
12. Don’t Threaten Me with a Good Time - Panic! At the Disco
13. Devuélveme Mi Corazón - CNCO
14. Still Into You - Paramore
15. Victorious - Panic! At the Disco

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Book Review: How To Stop Time

My latest book review is a about a man who is lost in time. Unable to relax, be his true self or love, he is stuck at a crossroads. What to do with his life, where to go. A lifetime is incredibly long for some people. Matt Haig is a bestselling author, which can mean each novel is an absolute hit, or some are not as good. This is the first novel of his that I’ve read, but many people that I work with rave about his writing style and I have to say, this novel is beautifully constructed. Playing with time is always a little risky; it can be done very well or very badly, but Haig has flawlessly composed the idea of time being endless with a perfect juxtaposition of using a variety of characters and situations to show how life can disappear just as easily as it appears. The main character, Tom, is a sensitive soul but easily manipulated. Due to his condition, his life is controlled by a society and he decides to move back to London and essentially begin again. He’s definitely brave, choosing to work as a History teacher in an East London school, something which he struggles with at times. History is at the heart of this novel, not only through his teaching.

It’s not the longest book in the world, nor the shortest, but as you read through the pages it is definitely a pageturner; each chapter beginning with a date and a place as a means of understanding where the novel is going or describing. The way that the novel describes human nature, how we choose to live, die and everything in between is so perfectly structured to represent reality that it’s easy to forget that this book is fiction. The relationship between Tom and the reader becomes quite intimate as he explains how he has loved and lost throughout the stages of his life, as well as how his life and the world around him has developed. One of the parts of this book that makes him seem both sensitive and vulnerable; his desperation to find his daughter is a main feature of his emotions throughout, hoping upon hope that one day, he will find her and rekindle their once close relationship. In terms of content, it’s definitely a mix of traditional fiction and science fiction; I love the journey through different countries, times and cultures that Haig carried (the reader) through, with references to Shakespeare, Captain Cook and Fitzgerald amongst many others, which only added to notion that time can be elongated for some people.

The introduction and explanation of ‘the society’ is also interesting; the idea that you’re in control yet also not in control of your life at all is scary, but incredibly relatable. There’s something slightly sinister about it, but it’s never fully revealed until the last moment, which was an excellent twist. The novel covers a lot of topics, including mental health, death, birth, love, individuality and so many others, constantly changing depending on the time frame that is being described. There are a lot of developed characters in the novel, of different ages, genders and cultures, but all of the, worth seamlessly together to blend into the story to make a whole. This novel is one that makes you question your own life; the risks that you take, the decisions that you make and how much or little you have done in your life. I liked how the story took shape in two parts; Tom’s past and Tom’s present; it was a fantastic way to understand how his mind worked, how his thoughts merged together somewhat incoherently to provide the reader with an explanation of why he makes such terrible decisions. Tom has a desire to be the perfect person and his perfectionism is what makes his life so difficult.

Overall, this book is an incredible read. Yes, it is a bit ‘out there’ and is fairly wacky but I absolutely loved the concept. I loved the idea that someone is different and struggles with being so. It’s so very human, whilst having an edge on what is seen as living regular humanity. It’s hard to say what genre this novel belongs to, as it is a bit of an unusual one, but actually I enjoyed every minute; the writing style was great, having the chapters laid out my time and place and switching between the past and present, it was easy to follow regardless of that. I’m a massive fan of multiple storylines (in this case, laid out in different timeframes) when it is done well and this definitely was. As a reader, you don’t feel swamped by information, the information is presented delicately throughout until all of the pieces start to fit together effortlessly. However, the key to finding yourself completely and utterly in love with this novel is to read it with no expectations and simply enjoy it for the sake of enjoying it. Yes, there are elements to the book that are unbelievable, but realisitically this is fiction and Haig can entertain however he chooses. Reading this book was an absolute pleasure and it’s one that I’ll definitely end up re-reading one day as it’s so, so unexplainably incredible. It’s such a beautiful read that it’s hard to put it into words.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Exploring London // Regents Canal

Hello again guys; this post is a little more out of the ordinary for me and I’m hoping to start posting more photographs of the world around me as the weather improves (I literally cannot wait for Spring!) and I love the light of the sky as the seasons begin to change. I had to travel to the Regents Canal // King’s Cross area of London recently for a course after several years of just travelling through the area and never exploring. Even in the midst of the winter months, the view of the canal and beyond is lovely; I know not everyone likes an urban view, but personally I like the mix of the man made and the natural world. Since I was a child I’ve loved looking at buildings old and new alongside rivers and fields, although that’s probably because I’ve grown up as a city girl. The day that I visited this part of London it was pretty grey and dreary; typical of London actually. Using the app A Color Story, I then picked the filter May from the Seasons pack that was made by the blogger Rebecca from aclotheshorse which made a beautiful pink sheen across the skyline in each image and generally lifted each photograph with minimal effort from me. I would love to revisit this area in the middle of summer, all green areas and blue skies (hopefully). Sometimes it’s nice to simply walk around and enjoy the air rounding areas. What parts of London do you like to visit? Let me know in the comments :)

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