Friday, 28 November 2014

The Handmaid's Tale, The Penelopiad, and Historical Text as Literary Artefact Part 1

I'm gonna be completely honest with you guys right now, I'm kind of cheating with this post. What I'm about to do is essentially just rework an essay I wrote into a blog post. But that's only because I think it's a genuinely interesting topic! 

First of all, let's get critical! (Sung to the tune of Let's Get Physical, and preferably with some form of wavey arm dancing involved. Let it never be said that this blog is not fun, even when dealing with theory.) So, once upon a time, this bloke called Hayden White wrote an essay called "The Historical Text as Literary Artefact" which has some really interesting ideas in it but, as is so often the way with theory, is also quite long and confusing. So rather than demand that you all go away and try to wrap your heads around it, I'm just gonna summarise a bit of key information from it. Essentially, the idea that we're working with today is that historical narratives are, at their very core, verbal fictions. To quote from White himself: "the contents of which are as much invented as found and the forms of which have more in common with their counterparts in literature than they have with those in the sciences". (I don't have a page reference for this quote because Past Sophie didn't deem to jot that info down. Plus I mean, this ain't no formal essay. This is pure casual geeking out over literature just because we can-ness. Page references be damned!) Key point to be taken from this quote - we place way too much belief in the idea of history as authority.

I don't think it's too much of a generalisation to say that as a whole, we tend to view history as this big, set, unbiased thing based on authority and fact. It makes sense. We like to create a narrative out of history, make it bite sized and digestible, with a clear progression that you can trace and follow. It's a lot more confusing to acknowledge what history really is; a whole bunch of separate narratives that overlap and deviate from each other. It's a compilation of different view points and experiences and our response to them changes as time goes on. Trying to create a cohesive narrative out of history is like making a patchwork quilt out of loads of different scraps of material that are all different sizes and colours and shapes. You chop them down to size until they fit the pattern that you're trying to create and you walk away with a finished product that you can show to people as a cohesive whole. 

When you examine the idea of history, all of the biases that influence the construction of it become apparent. I know I'm quoting something when I say that history is written by the victors, but for the life of me I have no idea what that is. ("Why don't you google it Sophie" you ask. Because fuck proper referencing that's why. I laugh in the face of academic practise and cackle as I live my glorious post-university life of unemployment and job hunting.) It just so happens that these victors that happen to have access to writing materials along with the ability to actually write usually turn out to be privileged, straight, white guys, thereby creating an automatic bias in our perception of history. Now I am of course generalising here, and I am by no means saying that people who don't fit this description never created historical documents and stuff. They did. There are whole movements dedicated to focusing on these narratives and bringing them back into society's field of vision etc etc. That's not what this post is about. (A valid question right now would be, what is this post about? An accurate answer at this point would be: fucked if I know. You're just gonna have to stick with me and see where we end up.) I'm just trying to bring attention to the fact that history is not unbiased.

Taking this idea one step further, I introduce you to yourself, the reader! You as reader will differ from me as reader. We could sit next to each other and read the same book at the same time and we would still come away from it with different thoughts and opinions because we have different life experiences going into it. We're getting all postmodern up in here, but texts are defined by their readers. Each person approaches a text with differing life experiences, associations, and viewpoints, so their response to that text is going to be completely individual to them. When you read a book it's like entering into conversation with it; yes the words are eternally there on the page but it requires your engagement to bring them to life and, as such, it becomes a process rather than something passive. So the same thing happens when you try to create that idea of "history". You end up projecting your modern views and biases onto it and that influences the type of story you choose to present. For example, when you know the outcome of events it becomes possible to endow those events with a meaning that they did not have when they were playing out. 

Historians look back and they read patterns into things and come away with a cohesive result that they portray as reality, when it is actually more like a translation. Based on the person doing the translation you will have different biases which lead to different omissions. Throughout time it has been powerful white men that have been able to construct this idea of history which means that the stories that belong to people of different races, genders, sexualities etc are often omitted. This is why it's so important to go back and rediscover those alternate narratives that would be otherwise buried. Both The Handmaid's Tale and The Penelopiad have female narrators that are writing back against ideas of official history. These narratives self consciously negotiate their relationship with history and myth and touch on a whole bunch of other interesting issues such as the silencing of women and ideas of justice and loads more. It's super interesting and I'm going to explore all of that in part 2!

I get really confused whenever I write about theory because I always end up feeling like I'm really just stating the obvious, and I don't know whether that's  good because it means I've actually understood the theory or whether it just means that I'm being really basic. Have I just gone round in circles? Have I even made a point? Who knows! But this hasn't all just been me rambling into nothingness (well, it kind of has, but y'know) this is all going to be relevant!

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Hair Love

So far most of my body positivity posts on here have involved me discussing things about myself that I've had issues with, and exploring the ways in which I've learned to love them. Which is great, but I feel like it's time for something a little bit more light hearted! And potentially slightly self indulgent. But hey, if I can dissect my insecurities on here, I can throw in some celebration of self as well! 

So today's topic is my hair! I'm a natural redhead and it's definitely my favourite physical feature. I was a lot more orange when I was born but it got darker quite quickly and I really love the colour it's settled at now. It seems a bit silly because it's only hair but it's just something that's always made me feel al little bit individual and special. Essentially all this post is going to be is a bunch of pictures of some of my favourite hair moments from my life really! Not sure if that sounds exciting to anyone but me. The thing is, I feel lucky that I have this interesting coloured hair because I am really bad at styling hair. I can do a French plait at a stretch, but mostly I just rely on my amazing hairdresser to cut it into something that requires zero daily effort. I'm rubbish. Thankfully I've had the same hairdresser ever since I had hair to be cut and she's fabulous and I have no idea what I'm going to do the day that she retires. Probably cry.

So here are just a bunch of my favourite pictures of my hair!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

First Ever OOTD

I've never done an outfit of the day before and I thought this was suitably cute to start with!

I don't take a lot of full body pictures so hopefully as I do more of these I will learn how to pose and where to actually look on my camera. But how cute is this outfit? The top is actually a leotard and it's from boohoo's plus size range. I actually bought it because SprinkleofGlitter wore it in a boohoo haul video and I thought it looked amazing on her! I think Louise is a dress size bigger than me, but I've always looked on her as a bit of a style inspiration. At the time I was trying to figure out what to wear for my graduation, and she looked so fantastic and stylish in it that I thought I would give it a go! I find wearing it really funny because I feel very sophisticated right up until the second when I have to undo poppers in order to have a wee. It's actually probably one of my favourite items in my wardrobe. Ever since I actually got correctly measured I have loved my boobs and I think the leotard really shows them off and it makes me feel extremely positive about my body and curves.

The skirt is actually new today! It's my brother's birthday this weekend and I bought him a top from ASOS and I couldn't resist throwing in this skirt for myself. It was only £10 in the sale so if you're quick you might be able to get it! I think I would prefer it if it was a teensy bit longer but other than that I really like it. I think the colours are quite nice and autumnal and I like the way it sits. Something I don't think the picture makes clear is that I actually made an effort with my face today and did a sort of autumnal smoky eye type thing. Maybe next time I'll take a better picture of my face to show it off. 

At this point you might be questioning why on earth I am wearing heels around the house. I feel like I should explain that this isn't something I do all the time because I'm not one of those immensely skilled people that is able to live a full and productive life whilst constantly wearing heels. The truth is that I'm a bit rubbish at walking in heels. I'm quite clumsy anyway so making me walk on stilts really does not help things. But I love these shoes and even though I bought them two years ago, I think I've only ever worn them once. Which quite frankly is an utter travesty because they are gorgeous. So I decided that seeing as I spend a lot of time by myself in the house then I can start wearing them of a day and learn to actually walk in them! Which is so far proving to be a lot easier than I expected. God bless chunky heels. These are Red or Dead and I got them off Schuh's ebay for really cheap.

So yeah, that was my outfit of the day! 

Ode to My Tummy Part 2

If you haven't read part 1 of this yet then you can do so here! That post lays the ground work for this one by delving deep into the foundations of the insecurities that surround my tummy, whereas this one is actually going to be the celebratory letter! So without further ado:

Ode to My Tummy

Dear Tummy,

Hello again! Last time I wrote things got very deep and you probably felt a bit ignored. I'm sorry about that. The post got away from me a bit but it was very beneficial for me to analyse why I've felt the way I have about you. Because let's be honest, I haven't always been very nice towards you. I've spent a lot of time sucking you in, wishing you were thinner and more defined, being annoyed that you wobble, and berating you when you weren't small enough for me to do the zip up on a dress. 

I think at times I expected you to be a blank canvas that I could put whatever I wanted onto in order to fit in. I didn't realise that you were actually a masterpiece. I was so used to seeing perfectly airbrushed torsos on ads that I forgot that having texture isn't a bad thing. I forgot that it's impossible to sit down without you creasing in some way. I was convinced that in order to look nice I had to cover you up and wish you away. I'm sorry about all of that.

See the thing is, you're pretty fucking fantastic really. I used to think that you being soft and squishy was a negative thing; that you were supposed to be firm and toned. But the thing is, I love how squishy you are. I like running my hands over you and I like poking you and seeing you spring back afterwards. When I feel bad about myself I try to look at myself through someone else's eyes, and I think if I wasn't me I'd be pretty stoked to be around a tummy like you. You're the perfect squishiness for resting heads on and your paleness (which in the past I will admit I have hated) is really pretty. When I look at you through my own eyes again I can see how cute you are.

When I stand in front of my mirror in my underwear, I smile because I actually like what I see now. In fact, I think you might look your best when I'm just in my underwear. I'm happy that I don't need to suck you in to be okay about myself any more. I think I've grown into quite a soft and squishy body and I like to think that it's one that is particularly suited to giving and receiving hugs. 

I'm sorry that I freaked out when you got stretch marks. I'm sorry that they made me stop looking at you for a while. It took me a while to realise that this new addition to me wasn't a negative thing. I guess I had always just associated stretch marks with pregnancy, so to get them when I was 19 made me feel really awful about myself. It didn't occur to me that it was just because I was growing quicker than my body could keep up with.  I quite like them now though. They're so pale now that it's hard to notice them, but I actually think I'd be a little bit sad if they disappeared completely. I've got used to them being part of the texture of my skin. 

I'm sorry that I don't feel entirely comfortable with you when I wear trousers, I wish I did. It's not all you though, trousers just make me feel too confined. I much prefer it when we can stride down the street in a cute dress instead. 

It's taken me a while to get to this point, but I'm so happy to say that I love you now. In fact, I kind of adore you. So thank you for sticking with me while I worked through all of that old negativity that I used to have towards you. I can't promise that I won't feel insecure about you from time to time, but even when I do I hope you remember that in the very core of my soul, I love every single inch of you.

Ode to My Tummy Part 1

Today I read this great piece by JessicaSays which is a love letter to her legs. At the end she invites her readers to follow her lead and write a love letter to a part of their body that they've always felt uncomfortable with, so that's what I'm going to do today! I really empathised with Jessica's post because I've always been iffy about my thighs, but seeing as I've already written something about that, I thought I would tackle another area of insecurity, my tummy! I think my legs and tummy have always been tied for first place in my insecurity Olympics. Now I think about it, that's an awfully large percentage of my physical mass that I've spent time disliking. I'm actually going to split this post into two because as I'm writing it I'm exploring the attitude I used to have towards myself, and I feel like I have quite a bit to say. So this part is going to involve unpacking the negative feelings I had towards myself in general, and then part two can be a much more positive celebratory love letter to my tummy. 

Ode to My Tummy

Dear tummy,

First things first, I do love you really. I know it hasn't always felt like it but I do, honest. It's just taken me a while to accept you.

See, sometimes I feel like I'm just big. And I don't mean this in a fat or heavy way (although we will be getting on to that topic at some point) but just in a generally physically large way. As weird as this sounds, I don't have a small skeleton. (But hey, this will be an advantage in the skeleton war I'm sure!) But when I was younger most of my friends were a different build than me, which meant that sometimes I irrationally felt like a little bit of a giant. The picture below is one that I remember really disliking at the time it was taken, because I felt like I looked massive in it, but I look at it now and all I see is a really lovely moment with my friend.

The result of being friends with a lot of naturally skinny people was that I zoned in on my tummy as a problem area. See, to me, my friends were these wonderful, beautiful people and they had all of these positive qualities that I aspired towards. So I think I sometimes wished that I looked more like them too. I've mentioned before that I was a very chunky baby, and I think I can safely say that I was not a good looking baby, but I was a good looking child. I was freaking adorable. Seriously: rosy cheeks, cute fringe, always running around in some form of fancy dress; I was precious. Right up until I was in about year 5. I still refer to this phase of my life as my "chunky phase" and I do so in a jokey way, but actually I've always hated seeing photos from that time. It lasted until probably early year 7 when I did that thing that kids do when they suddenly stretch out into a teenager. I have some weird hang ups left over from then as well. I used to wear a lot of track suit bottoms at that time, and to this day whenever I put on a pair I immediately feel uncomfortable and huge. Now that I'm thinking about it more, I find this attitude towards myself really strange. Like, I was what, nine or ten? Why on earth do I feel bad that I wasn't a pretty ten year old? I was ten! It shouldn't matter if I think I looked ugly! I can't even name what I should have been worrying about at age ten, because at ten years old I really shouldn't have been worrying about anything. This is ridiculous! But when I was looking through photos of myself to write this post I found this:

And actually this photo makes me feel really emotional. Because this is a group picture of my last day of school in year 6, and I clearly felt so insecure about my appearance in it that rather than just labelling myself like I did everyone else, I scribbled myself out completely. I was eleven years old and I disliked my appearance so much that I took the time to scribble myself out, and I didn't think this was weird. How fucked up is that? And the reason I so hated seeing pictures of myself is because I felt like I was fat in them. And I mean, objectively yeah I was. I believe I was going through the phase which people affectionately term "puppy fat". 

despite all of the camouflage I am still very visible

But I mean, so what? I was a chubby ten year old. I was also a very selfless ten year old who was determined to help others and be as kind as possible. I was a creative ten year old who loved dressing up and putting on plays for family and friends. I was an intelligent ten year old who did really well in their SATs and enjoyed helping her teachers after lessons. Looking back, I was an amazing ten year old. So why is it I only have three pictures of my ten year old self on my computer, when I have loads of pictures of all the other years of my life? Why is it when I looked back at my last day of primary school, I decided to violently scribble myself out of a picture, rather than leave it intact as a memory of how great that day was? Because I was chubby. Because to my younger self, being fat was so negative that it cancelled out all of those other wonderful qualities about myself. And that is really sad. There's a really great quote from JK Rowling that sums up how I feel about this now:

"'Fat is usually the first insult a girl throws at another girl when she wants to hurt her. I mean, is 'fat' really the worst thing a human can be? Is 'fat' worse than 'vindictive', 'jealous', 'shallow', 'vain', 'boring', or 'cruel'? Not to me."

There is so much negativity surrounding the word 'fat', it's completely ridiculous. I'm so happy that I can now look past all the poisonous associations that are carried around with that word, and look at old pictures of fat little ten year old Sophie and smile and remember how great I was.

But getting back on track, and back to you, tummy, I think it's clear that I had a whole bunch of issues with you! And sadly, they continued throughout my teenage years. In fact, I think it was actually when I stretched out that I started to have an issue with you. When I was a chubby ten year old, I didn't actually care that I was chubby. It was when I was eleven or twelve and stretched out that I developed all of this negativity that caused me to scribble myself out etc. And now I think about it, it's definitely moving to secondary school that caused this attitude change. Which isn't surprising really! When you're in primary school you're surrounded by people that you've known since you were a snotty little kid. You've played tag with them, worn stupid fancy dress for school plays, sang along to Britney Spears on the final day of school. Whether or not you're close friends, you all know each other really well. Then you move to secondary school, and there's all these people that you don't know, and although you'll have some old friends with you, you have to try and make new ones and get to know new people. And some of those new people are assholes. 

side note - these people were not assholes

I feel weird insulting a bunch of eleven year olds, but it's true! I'm not in any way saying that people don't bully or be mean in primary school, but everything is on a smaller scale. Whatsherface might have got all the girls to gang up on you, but if there's only about 25 people in your class, it's a lot easier for teachers and parents to sort out the 7 people that are being horrible and get it to stop. When you go to secondary school, everything gets a lot harder to deal with. I generally try to avoid making sweeping statements about gender groups for a whole plethora of reasons, but in secondary school girls get mean. And in a circular fashion, they also get very insecure. Some people are just plain nasty, but I think a lot of high school meanness stems from people feeling shit about themselves and then taking it out on other people. So secondary school becomes a breeding ground for insecurity and this insecurity gets projected onto bodies. And I projected mine onto my tummy! Where I used to compare myself to people I loved, I now compared myself to the "popular" girls, most of which were very skinny and had belly button piercings and wore short little skirts. None of which I am bashing! But I couldn't help but look at these people and see the things that I wasn't.

Now don't get me wrong, I never wanted to be these people. One thing I like about myself is that I've always loved who I am. Whatever my issues with my body were, I've always been pretty unapologetic about who I am. I like the things I like and I'm not going to pretend not to just to impress someone. And it's not like I thought I was particularly ugly either. In fact, it's not until I started writing these posts about my body that I really realised how subtle my body insecurities were. It manifested itself in unconscious ways that I'm only able to identify now because I am much more informed about this stuff than I used to be. So, for example, I used to be firmly of the opinion that I was unattractive. It's not that I thought I was particularly bad looking, I just held this odd view that other people were gorgeous and attractive and I was just neutral or something. Which is strange because I don't remember particularly wanting validation from other people about my looks. And even if I had been, I spent the majority of my high school life in long term relationships (1 year and 5 years respectively) so I had definite proof that at least two people found me attractive. Yet I still had this weird thing where I just felt like I was nothing special to look at. I mean, it's good that I valued my personality but I do think it's a bit weird that I just accepted this odd kind of inferiority as normal. Especially because I was actually super cute. Look at this photo:

fucking adorable

I think my relationships definitely did help me to become more comfortable with my body. There's a whole load of things you do with your significant other that don't exactly involve a lot of clothing, and being with my ex for as long as I was meant that eventually I reached a point where I wasn't so bothered by my tummy any more. The thing I have had to learn more recently has been the ability to love myself independently of anyone else. I'm a very visual person and am really interested in art and fashion, so I enjoy expressing myself through my clothing and appearance. As I got older I started to realise how important it was for me to be doing this in a way that reflected me better. I used to do stupid things like not wear certain items of clothing because I knew my ex didn't like them, which now I think about it is completely ridiculous. It seems weird that expressing my authentic self through clothing makes me feel better about myself when I'm naked, but it really does! I've also stopped trying to wear things that I know will trigger my insecurities. Whether or not they actually look bad on me is irrelevant, I know that unless I'm feeling super confident that day, I need to wear something that comes in under my boobs and skims over my tummy otherwise I'm going to feel insecure and uncomfortable. 

Though I do try to remember that when I wear bodycons I look fucking fantastic 

I think another key step on my journey to loving my tummy has been to stop comparing myself to people skinnier than me. I look at all the slim people that I know and I think how beautiful they are. But just because they are beautiful does not mean that I am not. Shockingly, it is entirely possible for us all to be beautiful at the same time. The world is not going to implode. And this is something that it has been incredibly important for me to realise. My friend's beautiful, flat stomach does not make my wobbly, pudgy one any less beautiful. Add onto this that some of my friends are so fantastically body positive and I find myself in the wonderful position of having thrown out loads of my hang ups about my stomach. 

I'm still the biggest girl in my friend groups, but this doesn't bother me any more. For one thing, I don't view the descriptor "fat" as a negative thing any more. I might love fashion but I refuse to abide by those rules that state that if you're fat you must wear X Y and Z in order to trick people into thinking you're slim. Fat people can wear whatever the fuck they want, just like skinny people can. Plus in the grand scheme of fat shaming, I'm really not actually that big so am fortunate enough to not be subjected to a lot of the negativity that other people face. And on those days when all of this is irrelevant to me and I'm deep in the pit of negativity, I remember the words that my friend once said to me: "you carry your weight well". I just hope that one day I'm so confident in my body that this no longer serves as comfort to me because my weight will have no bearing on whether or not I feel good about me.

My dearest tummy, you're probably feeling quite ignored about now. I started this post with the promise of writing a letter to you, and instead all I've done is analyse and unpack a whole load of more general insecurity from my past. But you see, what I've been doing is laying the ground work! It's only by really examining the attitudes I used to hold that I stand any chance of being able to compose a truly sincere letter to you next time. I've gone far more in depth than I meant to when I began earlier today, but stripping back all those layers of insecurity has actually been very therapeutic. I'm so much better than I used to be but those insecurities are always going to have been a part of my life and will have shaped who I am today. Hell, they're the reason why promoting body positivity is so important to me today. So, I promise next time we speak I shall be much more gushing and complimentary, but for now ,thank you for putting up with me while I come to terms with how I used to view you. I'm so happy to say I love you now and I can't wait to express how much in my next post :)

Also shout out to Taylor Swift whose old albums have been helping me to remember what I was like when I was a teenager. 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

What am I doing with my life?

Okay so confession time: I have no idea what on earth I am doing with my life. Like, zero. If I had to create a visual representation of my life right now, it would be a picture of a little stick figure Sophie sat on the floor with a thought bubble filled with a ginormous amount of question marks. Plus I'd probably be wearing a flower crown. (Just because I'm confused doesn't mean I can't look super cute.) I feel like I spend my time floating about the place, having no idea what the correct way of doing things is, and just sort of doing my best and hoping that that turns out to be good enough. 

In my less confident moments, I am convinced that I am alone in my confusion. Sometimes I look at the people around me and they all seem to have their shit together, or at least they're progressing somehow. Sometimes I think I've reached a stand still. My friends are either studying at uni or are months into jobs; they're all developing in some way and achieving things, whereas I look at myself and I wonder what I've done with all of this time since graduation. I spend my days looking for a job but having no idea what role I want to do. I wonder whether I should just sacrifice my desire to do something interesting and just do something that will actually mean I have an income; or whether to keep holding out because that interesting job that pays and doesn't expect years of experience and is also able to be reached by public transport is right around the corner and I'll miss it if I cave now. I'm so used to having goals and deadlines that it's difficult adjusting to this life where everything's up in the air. I miss living with my friends and seeing them every day, I miss spending my time learning about things that interest me, I miss filling my spare time with volunteering, I miss the life that I had built up.

And then sometimes I actually take a moment to reality check myself and I realise that all of this inferiority and worry I feel is completely unfounded. I might miss living with my friends, but I definitely don't miss all of the stress and drama that has happened over the last two years. It's reasonable to miss learning new, interesting things, but then I remember that I don't have essay deadlines and exams looming, and that just because I'm not in education doesn't mean I can't teach myself new things. It's easy to miss the life I built up because my last term of university was genuinely lovely, exams and all. But really when I think about it, this time last year was shit. I had a prolonged 6 month crisis about every single aspect of my life and I was quite frankly fucking miserable. It took all the strength I had not to completely fall apart last Christmas. So in contrast to that, what am I worrying about now? So I don't know what job I'm looking for? Fuck it! I can do anything right now. The future is opening up before me and I have no idea what to expect but that's fantastic! So I'll apply to anything that sounds interesting and if I don't get it that's fine, I don't lose anything from that experience. I'll teach myself new skills (knitting!) and I'll fill my spare time with interesting books and shows that I'll consume by candlelight just because I think it's prettier. And if I miss my friends then I'll send them unabashedly soppy messages telling them how much I love and miss them, and I'll look at old photographs and laugh at old memories and make plans so that I can get some new ones as well. If I feel lonely being home alone then I'll play my music at top volume and dance around the house singing the words at the top of my lungs because no one can tell me to shut up. I'm going to value and love myself because I'm fucking awesome. And just because I don't know what direction I'm going in, it doesn't mean that I've turned stagnant. Sometimes it's nice to stop and take in the view, and other times I might be so lost in a day dream that I don't realise I'm going somewhere until I've already arrived.  

I am learning to take a deep breath, ground myself, whisper "fuck it", and go do the thing that I don't think I'm good enough to do. And hey, I'm not going to be successful every time I do this. Sometimes I'm going to make an idiot out of myself. But I'm super clumsy so I do this a lot anyway, so it's not as if I don't have practise. I am always way more capable than I think I am and I need to remember to trust myself more. So this is just a note from me to Future Sophie. It doesn't matter if you don't know what you're doing. Nobody else does either. Make it up as you go along, pretend like you know exactly what you're doing, and if anyone questions you just yell "HOW DARE YOU" and swan past them with confidence. We've got this.

Tuesday, 11 November 2014

Loving The Skin I'm In

Please forgive the cheesy title of this post. I can't help it. I love the cheese.

I have a vaguely tumultuous relationship with my skin. Ever since I was little I've had issues with eczema. My mum says that when I was little I looked like I'd been attacked by a cat constantly (which is on top of looking like a mini Ray Winstone. Baby Sophie was hella chunky.) I've had flare ups throughout my life but it was when I was 13 that it got really bad and persisted. My worst places have always been my inner calves, the tops of my thighs (oh hi there thigh insecurity), and my inner elbows. What usually happens with eczema is that for some reason your skin gets really dry and itchy and it's all a bit rubbish and horrible and stuff. My issue was that when I became a teenager, eczema changed from being a physical thing that I had, to a psychological thing that I did. 

Essentially, if I felt any form of negative emotion then I took it out on my skin. So of course, exam time has always been very stressful and always lead to a flare up. Winter would be an issue because layers of scratchy wool would aggravate it, then sweat from layering would cause it to sting. Summer was a source of worry for me because I would spend the months leading up to the warmer weather stressing about how I was going to hide the eczema, and if I would be able to get it under control in time. This isn't to say that I had it constantly. I would actually be able to get it under control for periods of time, but then it would eventually creep back in, and I'd feel even worse for not being more vigilant. 

My biggest struggle has been teaching myself not to react to negative situations by scratching. Whenever I got nervous in social situations, my automatic response would be to start scratching at my arms, which is not only painful but actually extremely noticeable to other people. This was quite a hard habit to break, but I'm very pleased to say I have actually been successful in this! I think I've actually managed to get my unconscious self under control now. It would be particularly annoying to wake up in the morning and find that I'd scratched in my sleep and gotten blood everywhere. But I don't do this any more either and I think I've broken that habit for good which is most pleasing!

At this point I can happily say that right now my skin is the best that it's been for years. I've had the most glorious summer as good skin has meant that I haven't had to worry about covering up and have spent most of my time bare armed and legged, frolicking about the place quite happily! Also means that my skin has actually been able to breathe and heal because it hasn't been stifled underneath layers. Now I won't lie, I do sometimes still scratch. Of course I do. But although I might get little patches of flare up, in general I am doing very well. Since Easter time my skin has been improving bit by bit and I've had friends say to me how noticeably better it all is. Which is quite lovely to hear!

I think I can attribute this change to a number of things. First of all, my positive mental outlook. I've always managed to be pretty positive from day to day but I did used to worry a lot. Everyone has some form of shit that they've been through in their life and I'm no different, and I used to spend a lot of time worrying about stuff that I really couldn't do anything about. Thankfully this isn't something I do any more. I just don't see the point if I'm being honest! If there's nothing I can do then I'm not going to stress myself over it.

The second thing is my focus on body positivity. I don't think I've ever been extremely unhappy with myself, but I definitely don't think I ever appreciated myself enough until now. It wasn't until I started learning about more body positivity stuff (along with generally educating myself on feminism and gender in general) that I really started picking up on the ways in which you've learnt to put yourself and others down. I now go out of my way to encourage people to be happy in their bodies, and am subsequently much happier in mine than I've ever been before. It becomes much harder to indulge eczema when you've fallen in love with the skin that you would be hurting. 

The third thing that's really helped is that I've become a huge fan of moisturisers. Sometime soon I'm going to write up a post all about my favourite moisturisers and what they're good for, which I hope will be helpful to someone! So although I still definitely experience all the physical side of eczema, dry skin etc etc, I really feel like I've managed to disassemble the mental side of it so that I don't take out my worries on my skin. And if I'm reading this in the future having had a bit of a blip, just remember that I can and will get it back under control again. 

On top of this, I pay way more attention to the positive things about my skin which include:

  • Freckles. Or as I like to call them, sun kisses. One of my favourite things about summer coming around is that freckles start to appear on my skin like little sprinklings of sunshine. I get them all along the tops of my shoulders and across the bridge of my nose, and something about them just makes me really smile. They serve as a bit of a visual reminder of all of the fun things that I've been doing out in the sun.
  • Post-shave legs. There's a post on tumblr somewhere that states that freshly shaved legs feel like baby dolphins, and it's just one of my favourite similes and I use it all the time. I'm all for deciding for yourself whether or not to shave and I have genuinely put a lot of thought into my own attitude towards shaving, but I really like having shaved legs. When I was about 13 or 14 the eczema on my inner calves was so so awful and painful. I really like the fact that I don't have to think about whether or not shaving is going to hurt me or just be a generally bad idea. The fact that I can now touch my leg and feel how soft it is just makes me inordinately happy because it's like another shred of proof that I've got this thing under control. Plus y'know, baby dolphin smoothness.
I'm sure there's a whole bunch more things I could mention, but that's it for now. This has been quite a nice post to write really, it makes me feel better about myself. 

I Hear The Bells

Welcome to another day of 'Sophie gets overly emotional about fictional relationships and flails on the internet about it'. On today's agenda: over analysing the epic scene from Veronica Mars. You know the one:

Ugh you guys this scene kills me. I know this speech is one of the most popular ones in the fandom so I'm not exactly being terribly original but I don't care, I just love it so much. It's like the heavens aligned in order to create this perfect little moment for us all to squeel over. Where do I start?

  1. The song. THE SONG. God I love that song. I listen to it all the bloody time and it's helped me through some less than stellar moments so it has a whole load of meaning as a separate entity from the show, but it fits so well. It's kinda repetitive so it doesn't get in the way of the dialogue and it just works. It's like the catalyst for the moment. It's obvious Logan has been waiting for a moment to speak to Veronica, you can see the way he's hovering and intercepts her. And then they have their vaguely snarky moment like they usually do, but in the pause where Veronica's listening to the song you can just see her let down her barriers a bit. She smiles and closes her eyes and comments "I really like this song" and it's such a seemingly meaningless comment but it just allows this moment of intimacy to happen between them. 
  2. I might be a little bit in love with Kristen Bell, but in that scene the way that Logan sits on the table and slowly moves towards her as he spills out all his feelings, it gets to me guys. 
  3. Oh these stupid snarky flippant babies. "So what are you like now?" "You know, tortured", cue little finger point thing. (I'm aware this is literally just a description of what happened. Shush.)
  4. AND THEN AND THEN AND THEN "come on you know I'm not talking about Hannah" and then he looks at her and it's just completely honest and open and there's no snarky pretence there, he is literally just verbalising what he hasn't said before and just gah that look, which is of course followed by a little breathe out moment because he's probably been holding that in since they broke up and it's been eating away at him so it's a little bit of a weight lifted to actually say the words out loud to her.
  5. "I thought our story was epic you know"
  6. I don't need to add commentary to that. You all know. YOU KNOW.
  7. They have that little pause between them that drags out and then comes the inevitable 'but', and the way he says "and we won't see each other at all" kind of kills me a little.
  8. And then he apologises to herrrrr. I just love it when characters are honest with each other guys. Not just this moment, but fiction in general. I live for moments when characters just open up and pour their heart out, and not in like a "these are all of the secrets I've been keeping from you" kinda way that usually ends with everything being screwed. The moments where characters are just 100% honest about their feelings to the other and when they're not necessarily expecting anything in return. Just all cards on the table, this is how I feel about you because you are amazing kind of way. It's my favourite thing.
  9. And then Veronica tries to be all flippant and lighten the mood, because of course you would when everything just got so serious and honest, and if there's one thing these guys are not great at, it's letting down their defences. 
  10. Dear god the way they look at each other kills me. And he strokes her cheek and she has to take a breath and aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhh
  11. This is my favourite almost kiss of all time.
  13. That's the end of the scene. I have died. RIP me. 
My dad has always said that the prom episode of Buffy gets to him every time. When The Sunday's start playing, and Angel walks in, and they get to slow dance together, my dad just becomes an absolute mess. He literally cannot handle that scene. This is my equivalent I think. I could watch it on repeat (in fact I frequently just listen to the song on repeat). I just love it. I'm going to stop rambling now because I've probably verbalised as much as I will ever be able to. On the off chance that anyone but me is reading this, let me know if you have any scenes like this because I would love to either freak out with you about them, or watch the show if I haven't already!

Saturday, 8 November 2014

The Miseducation of Cameron Post

This is a complete non-review.

I feel like I would really like to write about this book but I also feel like I'm completely incapable of finding the words to do so. The ending has just sort of left me with a stillness. I've just sort of sat and not really thought about anything but just absorbed that after feeling that you get once you finish something wonderful.

When I was about half way through I thought about writing about how much I love Emily M. Danforth's writing style. It's so full of detail so it just absorbs you. Sometimes books are way too descriptive for me, I just want them to get to the point a little, but I haven't felt like that with this one. The detail just seems right somehow. If I was a little more with it right now I'd probably go hunt down a couple of quotes so you'd understand what I mean but I guess you're just gonna have to read it yourself.

I've really only just finished it, this is a very stream of consciousness response really and it might be a little incoherent when I read it later. But I feel like I've had this feeling building since about 85% of the way through which isn't stress exactly, but just like a building need to read on and finish whilst still savouring every sentence. I feel like the end scene is just very cathartic. Also I feel like I'm a little in love with the final sentence but I'm not sure why.

Maybe I'll write a more in-depth response later, or maybe I'll just leave it at this jumbled rambling. But I really like this book. A lot :)

Thursday, 6 November 2014

Oryx and Crake Thoughts

I love Margaret Atwood you guys. When I was in sixth form, one of my English teachers used to have a big shelf in his office that was full of books and films that you could borrow, which now I think about it is such an awesome thing to have. This was how I read Brave New World, which I loved, and The Dying Animal, which was so helpful for my A Level English exam you guys have no idea. It's also how I read my first Atwood book! The Handmaid's Tale of course, in all its incredible dystopian glory. And I loved it. It's so powerful and affecting and the society within it seems so shocking but at the same time so terribly plausible and gah, it's just great. Flash forward two or three years and I had the opportunity to do a module on Margaret Atwood in my final year and it was just so utterly fantastic and interesting. It might have been the best part of my degree. I have so many feelings about Atwood's books and I'm planning on trying to translate those into blog posts, so here's a little ramble to get the ball rolling and start me off.


I don't know why I went vaguely American then. I can only apologise.

Essentially, I just have one main thing about this book that I want to ramble about today. My point is this: I kind of feel like this is like a contemporary revisioning of The Handmaid's Tale. To which your first reaction is probably "but Sophie, these stories are completely different". And you would be right. BUT (and this is a big but) (insert pause while I laugh because I have the brain of a child) although the plots are completely different etc etc I feel like the society presented in both books has been arrived at through the same means. It's as if Atwood looked at the world around her when she was writing them and identified a few key elements, then imagined a world in which these elements would be allowed to grow and evolve without being checked, then wrote down what that society would look like.

So, The Handmaid's Tale. Christian belief gone nuts. You take biblical rhetoric  at face value and use it as a method to control the behaviour of people, more specifically women. You instigate methods of surveillance that are so effective that even when it's not present, the population polices itself automatically. Gilead has mastered the art of public and private punishment; utilising both in order to maintain a state of fear. Then you create a hierarchy of power within this society. Nothing is quite as dangerous as giving people a little taste of power. The aunts are scary because they enjoy exercising their limited power over the handmaids. They have become complicit with the regime and their desire to dominate others will stop them from intervening. In addition, one of the ways of ensuring the handmaids remain powerless is by stripping away all of their identity. They don't even have their own names but end up named after the man they are assigned to. A key aspect of this is by controlling the gaze. The act of looking is so incredibly powerful. It's a statement of self. In Gilead, those with power are able to look as they please. The handmaids literally have their vision restricted by the headpieces they have to wear. On top of this, even language is restricted; they have to speak in specific phrases. The way in which this society uses women to control women is so effective and incredibly scary to read about.

And now onto Oryx and Crake. Obviously people still use religion and all those other things as a method of dictating what behaviour should be allowed, but there are other factors at play now. There's the idea of genetic modification; where do you draw the line? How far is too far, and what happens if you keep going past that? Then there's the commercialisation of everything. The arts have lost their soul in this society, you don't study literature, you learn how to manipulate language in order to sell things. And in the midst of this, questions arise over the link between language and meaning. Just as creatures are genetically modified in this society, so is language. Words are invented purely because they sound good on packaging, not because they actually have inherent worth and meaning. Then there's the commodification of people and the way that this is tied up in colonialism and the sexualisation of women/children that can be seen through the figure of Oryx. The line between reality and simulation blurs throughout this society; everything becomes hyperreal. Throughout the book Jimmy seems to struggle with the idea that being able to touch things doesn't make them seem real to him. Crake doesn't have this and that is why he's so dangerous. To him, the only reality lies in his head. Everything else is a simulation. 

I'm not entirely sure what the point of this ramble is if I'm honest. I'm not trying to pit them against each other and argue that one is a better book than the other. I think I just wanted to take a moment to appreciate how great Atwood's speculative fiction is. Both of these societies are terrifying because you can look at them and identify aspects of contemporary society within them. I feel like dystopias rely on us being able to recognise the shadows and shades of that society that lie within ourselves. It's what causes you to have such an emotional reaction to them. 

Atwood's books always have so much stuff in them that I feel like I could write on her forever and still not run out of things to say, so I'll leave it here for today and hopefully expand upon more stuff another time. I feel a little bit like this post is just a bunch of half formed thoughts and not fully expressed ideas but writing about Atwood is a slippery slippery slope than can lead to thousands of words that no one wants to trawl through so I will shush up. Let me know if you've read either or both of these and what you thought on them!

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

I Want To Hold Your Hand Part 2

This is part 2 of a post so if you haven't seen part 1 yet then I recommend you click here

Now that we're all presumably on the same page and have cried over the same books, I'll start my explaining my music associations to you all! If you would like to listen to the playlist that I've made, you can do so here. Advanced warning: this post will not be spoiler free so read at your own risk.

1. Just Like Heaven - The Cure

I listened to a lot of The Cure when reading Lucy In Love and the sequel, so the two have ended up rather woven together in my mind. I listen to the lyrics and sometimes it makes me think of Lucy thinking of Blaine and then other times it makes me think of Blaine thinking of Lucy but mostly it makes me think of how they both got swept up in each other and how I ended up being taken along with it.

2. Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division

I mean this song pretty much just is Eleanor and Park. It's the song that Eleanor listens to and says "I just want to break that song into pieces and love them to death" and it kind of just sums up the book completely. 

3. I'm Not Okay (I Promise) - My Chemical Romance

I can't remember if it's this song, or another MCR one that is mentioned in Lucy In Love but it now always makes me think of Blaine and Lucy. It actually played when I was in Sheffield at a club with my friends and I hadn't finished the book yet and I just had a little fangirl moment internally on the dancefloor! It also really makes me think of the sequel, when they're both so broken and are trying so hard to function living in the same house as each other but it's just really hard.

4. Cough Syrup - Young the Giant

This is another Lucy In Love one and it actually runs throughout the book and gets quoted by the characters. The lines "if I could find a way to see this straight / I'd run away / to some fortune that I, I should have found my now" make me a wee bit emotional if I'm honest. About this time last year I not only realised I wasn't straight but managed to coincide that with a massive existential crisis about pretty much every aspect of my life. I was starting my final year of uni and I just felt like everyone had their shit together apart from me and I had this weird mix of feeling like my future had been decided without any input from me and also feeling like I had no idea what on earth I was going to do with my life, so that line in particular really makes me remember what it was like to feel like that. It's really not that long ago that I was figuring out how to come out to my parents so I really connected with Lucy as she tried to work that out as well. (I feel like I should add an aside here - I have since sorted my shit out and whilst I still have no idea what I'm doing with my life, I'm very much okay with that!)

5. Shake It Off - Taylor Swift

I spend so much time trying to find a version of this on soundcloud that doesn't sound awful! It's a struggle, it really is. Unlike the last track, there is not a deep emotional story behind this song. It had just come out when I was reading these books. I love it and listen to it all the time and generally dance around the place like a moron and now it's all tied up in these books as well.

6. Don't Save Me - HAIM

This one makes me think of Eleanor and Park for a couple of different reasons. It really makes me think of after Park has held Eleanor's hand for the first time and he's freaking out a bit because he doesn't know whether Eleanor feels the same way, and then she reaches across on the bus and grabs his hand into her own and it's like they've both declared their intentions. They've committed to this feeling, whatever it is, and there's no going back now. It also reminds me of the end of the book, when Park is writing postcards to Eleanor and gradually loses hope of getting one back. Listening to this song makes me wonder whether he ever wished he could go back to before he knew her or if that would be unthinkable, and I picture all the time he must have spent thinking back over the times they had together. It just makes me think lots of things!

7. Rainbow - Oh Land

This song applies to all of the books apart from Harley's Angels I think. Something about it makes me think of the way some of these characters sort of surrender themselves to their feelings a bit. It's almost like intoxication with another person: "you are all over my rainbow", "only you are on my rainbow / no one else here / nothing gets near / you".

8. Closer - Tegan and Sara

First of all, I love this song so very much. It's one of my favourites. Aeons ago, I reviewed the album on here and I think I said at the time how it makes me think of that early stage of liking someone, when you get butterflies just from being around them, and you really want to get closer but you're also mildly terrified of doing so: "here comes the breath before we get a little bit closer / here comes the rush before we touch, come a little closer". I think it's pretty self explanatory as to how this applies to these books. It's the end of Aristotle and Dante when he finally accepts himself and kisses Dante, it's the hand holding scene in Eleanor and Park which kills me every time, it's Lucy having her first kiss with Blaine and realising that yep, definitely gay. It's all of that and so much more and I love it a lot!

9. Still Into You - Paramore

I'm not 100% sure why this song makes me think of these books seeing as it's about still liking someone after being together for ages, whereas all of these books are exploring the start of something, but it just does. I suppose it makes me think a bit of the sequel to Lucy In Love, especially "even on our worst nights, I'm into you". 

10. Friday I'm In Love - The Cure

As mentioned on track one, The Cure are inherently tied up in all of these books. This one is more of an Eleanor and Park track. It just makes me think of that anticipation they both have for their bus journey. At one point Eleanor tells Park "I don't think I even breathe when when we're not together" and this track just really makes me think of how elated they must be when they get on the bus after a weekend of being apart.

11. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out - The Smiths

This is another very Eleanor and Park book and the characters talk about it. But it also reminds me of Aristotle and Dante, and how Aristotle feels when he gets his truck and can just drive out to the desert and look at the stars and lose himself for a moment, then how he and Dante go out there and get high together, and at the end how Aristotle finally accepts how he feels about Dante. I just feel like it sums up the relationship between Aristotle and the desert, which is a weird sentence to type out.

12. Brutal Hearts - Bedouin Soundclash feat. Coeur de Pirate

This song kind of reminds me a bit of Dante. It's pretty obvious how he feels about Aristotle and just the lines "I don't mind that you only call me when you want / and I'm just glad you want me at all" which is way harsher than their relationship is in the book but still makes me think of him. He doesn't shy away from how he feels about Aristotle but he tries to find someone else to be with whilst still being friends with Ari and it must be super difficult but he does it anyway. And then it makes me think of the ending in the desert again and I get all emosh all over again. Plus when the guy sings "I don't like the man that I am" I think of Aristotle struggling with himself. The song is a duet and in a way I almost feel like it encapsulates the struggle that both characters face throughout the book.

13. Not Out - Greg Laswell

I listened to Greg Laswell's album Three Flights From Alto Nido on repeat when finishing Aristotle and Dante so it pretty much serves as a soundtrack to the way that the book destroyed me entirely. 

14. I Want To Hold Your Hand - Jennifer Arab

Obviously this song is Eleanor and Park and the hand holding scene. OBVIOUSLY. But it's also kind of Lucy In Love as well. The Beatles run through that book (I'll level with you guys, I really don't know The Beatles that well. Neither of my parents were into them so I never really listened to them growing up and I've just never got round to it yet. Sometime soon I will change this!) but it's this version not The Beatles' that I included. It's just delicate and pretty and almost whistful and I think of how Blaine starts off as this girl who doesn't do relationships, and how as the book progresses she starts to let Lucy in more. It makes me feel emotions you guys!

15. I Remember - Damien Rice

This song starts with Lisa Hannigan singing "I remember it well / the first time that I saw / your head round the door / because mine stopped working" and then I think back over all of the first meetings between the characters in these books and I glow a little inside. Then when she repeats "your mouth, your mouth, your mouth" I think back over all of the first kisses in these books and I glow even more and turn into a human firefly and it's all very strange and this metaphor has really got away with me. Then Damien Rice comes in half way through and the song flips. It has such emotion and almost a bitter rawness and I think of Aristotle trying to deal with his anger and confusion by drinking and smoking and driving and I get overwhelmed with a whole other form of emotion.

16. Feathered Pocket - Wallis Bird

This song really echoes how the beginning of I Remember makes me feel. "And the clouds ain't so high anymore / since my head and my heels left the floor". I always think of how Park makes Eleanor feel, like he opens this door inside of her where all of these emotions are that sort of float and burn inside her.

17. Tangerine - Led Zeppelin

"Thinking how it used to be, does she still remember times like these? / To think of us again? And I do". It's not Park's cup of tea at all but I still can't help but imagine him lying on his bed missing Eleanor and listening to this on his headphones.

18. I'm On Fire - Bruce Springsteen

This sounds mildly ridiculous when I write it down but the way this song builds really reminds me of hot summer days when the heat builds so much that it becomes stifling and you just have sweat trickling down your back and you just want to do something to break the stuffy atmosphere that's built up. Now imagine that in relationship terms. And then look at the relationship between Aristotle and Dante through that filter. And that's why this song is here.

19. Stubborn Love - The Lumineers

This just is the sequel to Lucy In Love. "It's better to feel pain than nothing at all / the opposite of love's indifference". I mean really I could quote this entire song at you because it just is that book and their relationship. All the messy broken bits and all the lovely healing bits, the parts where they both desperately want to make it work, and all the parts where it seems like it never will, all wrapped up into one song.

20. The One I Love - Greg Laswell

Just like the last song sums up Lucy In Love, this one is just completely Aristotle and Dante. Just listen to the chorus: "I should probably say that I'm unsure why I'm running, running away from / the only thing I want / and I should probably say I'm unsure why I'm running away from the one I love". OH HELLO THERE ARI. THIS SONG IS YOU. YOU ARE THIS SONG. 

21. Sway - Bic Runga

Here we are back in the land of "I'm crushing on this person so hard and there is literally nothing I can do about this, oh god I am doomed". "Say you'll stay / don't come and go like you do / sway my way / yeah I need to know all about you". You know where I'm going with this now. I love reading about people falling for other people. I live for that shit.

22. Last Hope - Paramore

This song means a lot to me in general. There's all that stuff that I talked about with Cough Syrup just contained within the first two lines: "I don't even know myself at all / I thought I would be happy by now". The chorus kind of kills me a little, but in a really good way: "it's just a spark / but it's enough / to keep me going". Sometimes things are shit and you just have to push on through to get back to being okay again. I just can't help but listen to this song and feel okay about everything. For the life of me I don't know why it makes me think of these books. Maybe it's just because I listen to this song all the time so it's sneaked it's way into this web. Or maybe it's because I like the overlying optimism contained within it that is also mirrored in these books. Or maybe it sums up the emotional journey you go through when you read them. Or maybe I just wanted to end the playlist on this note. Listen to this version just because it's wonderful.

Honourable mentions: 

8tracks have a 'maximum of two songs by the same artist' policy which means that I wasn't able to include Lullaby by The Cure even though it is so very Harley's Angels to me. It's kind of dark and a little ominously creepy and I always think of Danny's dreams, as well as the group journeying further into Glastonbury Tor and not being entirely sure what awaits them. Also Lovesong makes me think of Harley/Danny ("whenever I'm alone with you / you make me feel like I am home again") and where Harley stands at the end of the book ("however far away / I will always love you") and then I get all emotional again. I mean really we could just include the entirety of The Cure's entire Greatest Hits in this section. 

I Want To Hold Your Hand Part 1

The very astute readers amongst you will notice that this is part 1 of a post. That's because this is going to be a combination of book and music recommendations for you all! Over these last few weeks I have been fortunate enough to read some really brilliant books and I've ended up pretty immersed in fictional realities, so much so that I occasionally have to remind myself that these things aren't actually real. It also means that certain books and music have become tangled up in each other to create some enormous web of feelings and emotions. This post is about one such web! This entry will focus on the books, and then the next one will be about the music I associate with them.

Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell


I kind of love this book. You know that feeling you get when you start a really good book and it just consumes you. You feel like you've fallen into a vortex into this other reality and are filled with this fire in your stomach and you have to read on and on but at the same time you really don't want to because every page you read is a page closer to it ending and being over forever and that is unacceptable but there's nothing you can do about it because your body requires you to read. Is this is a thing for other people or am I just odd? Regardless, that's how I felt about this book. I just loved everything about it.

Rainbow Rowell has such an enjoyable writing style and I just really loved both Eleanor and Park and the way their relationship develops. Confession time: I'm never entirely sure how to go about interacting with people that I am romantically attracted to. I feel like the rest of the world understands this and I just float about mildly clueless doing my best but never being entirely sure whether or not the other person understands that I like them. I mostly just end up over enthusiastically recommending books and music and TV shows etc to them because I feel like it's a good way of sharing aspects of yourself with a person. I don't know about you, but the person that I am today has been constructed out of all of the media that I've consumed and enjoyed. So I feel like when you recommend a book that you love to someone, it's like you're inviting them to learn and understand a new side to you that is just really difficult to verbalise. I mean, hopefully you're also introducing them to something which they will enjoy, but there's still that element of sharing yourself which I just really like! And I feel like Eleanor and Park's relationship has this element. They share comics and music and make Star Wars references and it all helps them to bond and understand each other better. Their relationship is sweet and complicated and angsty at times and I just kind of love everything about it. Plus the hand holding scene on the bus KILLED ME OH MY GOD (hence the name of this post and playlist). The ending was kind of sad and kind of not and I cried a lot but I couldn't really imagine it ending any other way. If you haven't read this already, then you really should!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe - Benjamin Alire Saenz

You guys, this book destroyed me. I'm not going to go into specifics because I don't want to spoil anything about it, but the last few pages of this absolutely killed me. I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed the whole book and thought it was really great, but I had such an intense emotional reaction to the end that it has really stayed with me. Suffice to say, the main character has some kind of realisation/thought type moment that for some reason that I can't entirely understand just resonated with me. I feel like there's a recurring theme throughout this book of trying to search for your identity and how hard it can be to negotiate the different aspects of yourself in a way that works with yourself and others and I kind of connected with that a bit. I won't lie, I cry over fictional characters a lot. I'm a bit of a pro at it by now. But when this book ended I genuinely sobbed. And not like, oh I got a bit sniffly but still retained by dignity kind of tears. Full on emotional sobbing. IT DESTROYED ME IN THE BEST WAY POSSIBLE. And that's all I'm going to say on it!

Lucy In Love - Leah Smith

Second confession of this blog post: I feel ever so slightly odd writing about this book. It was written by someone that I know in real life so I kind of feel a little bit weird writing about it in case they see it, but it's pretty vital to the emotional web that I have created so I don't want to miss it out. I visited some friends in Sheffield recently, which ended up being about 10 hours travel across a weekend so before setting off I fully charged the kindle and decided to give this a read! And I kind of loved it. Basic premise is thus: Lucy's diary is stolen which means her class mates find out that she's gay, so not only does she have to deal with bullying because of that but she has the stress of her mum (principal of her school) potentially finding out, so generally everything is a bit rubbish. Then she meets Blaine, the new girl at school, and general plot ensues! I'm going to do my best to be as vague and non-spoilery as possible so as not to spoil it (side note - if you want to read this you can download it for free here, and there is also a sequel)

I liked all of the characters in this book but I really wanted to wrap Blaine in a blanket and feed her ice cream and generally take care of her, because that girl has dealt with some crap let me tell you! I also really loved the relationship that developed between Lucy and Blaine. At times they were so adorable that it made me grin like a fool and at other times everything was so angsty that I had to grip my kindle really tight and will myself to read faster so I would know they would be okay again (which if I'm honest I kind of love because I am a sucker for angsty relationship drama in fiction even if it does stress me out and make me cry, I always come back for more because it usually results in beautiful reconciliatory moments that make me gooey and happy). I also really liked exploring Lucy's relationship with her parents, because if there's one thing I can empathise with it is vaguely dysfunctional families trying to find ways to work as a family again. The final thing I will mention is all of the references to things, whether it's music or films or whatever, I just really liked that and it usually made me grin and chuckle a bit (I'm pretty sure the girl sat next to me on the coach thought I was a bit of a wierdo!).

Harley's Angels - Leah Smith

I was raised on shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer so even before I started this book, I thought I was going to like it. Which I did! A lot! (Side note - my dad seems mildly convinced that all I need to do at my job interviews is to tell them that by the time I was seven I knew ten different ways to kill a vampire. I'm not entirely sure what type of job he thinks I'm looking for?) This was a really fun read and there was just so much about it that I really enjoyed. The essential jist is that teenage angel Harley is assigned to protect living teenager Danny and they end up having to try and stop a coven of vampires from taking over the world. 

The first thing I'll say about this book is it is just so much bloody fun! A lot of it takes place in areas around where I live which I enjoyed and I really liked the assortment of characters. I've already mentioned the Buffy connection but something about it really does make me think of early Buffy; not just the vampire element but also the pop culture references and I think maybe the collective group of characters makes me think of the Scooby Gang a little bit. I found both Harley and Danny very likeable, but my favourite character might have been Hal. I kind of love him. [WARNING: I AM ABOUT TO ENTER SPOILER TERRITORY. Skip to the next paragraph if you haven't read it yet!] I got very emotional at the end of this book for two reasons. I loved watching the relationship between Harley and Danny grow as the book went on. At the end, Harley has a conversation with Hal where she acknowledges that they can't actually be together (what with her being dead and all) and has to decide whether to stay or go and it kind of killed me a little bit. You know how in His Dark Materials Lyra and Will have to be separated forever and they talk about how love is like China and how when they die their atoms will fuse together and then you cry at how hopeless their situation is? It's like that except rather than never seeing him again, Harley could choose to watch Danny as he grows up and falls in love with someone else and has a whole life while she stays as a dead teenager and I CRY AND CRY AND CRY. And then there's Hal. OH HAL. I loved him anyway and then at the end when he makes the decision to die and asks Harley to say the words for him and "it's what's said, not how it's said" and then I cry even more and dissolve into a little puddle of salty salty tears.

Not that it needs repeating, but I really loved all of these books. I have shed many many tears over them, but I kind of love that they were good enough to get me that emotionally invested. The musical references in them shall be expanded upon in my next post, but there were also lots of other similarities between them that have tied them together in my mind. I quite like the web I've ended up with though. Let me know if you have read any of these and what your thoughts were!