Wednesday, 31 December 2014

End of Year Book Review

I have to say that this has been a particularly good year for me in regards to books. I've read some absolutely fantastic things! I thought it was only fitting that I do some sort of end of year round up on my favourite books so I've somehow managed to narrow it down to my top ten things that I've read this year. This list isn't a ranking, that would be waaaaay too hard, and it was really hard to narrow it down to just ten but I have done my best!

So here we go:

1. Tigana - Guy Gavriel Kay

This book was in my to-read box for absolutely years. My poor, lovely dad has sung its praises for years but I just never quite got around to it. Which was stupid because it is sooooooo freaking good. Seriously, I absolutely loved this book. For a single volume fantasy book it presents a really well-rounded world and features some absolutely fantastic characters and ideas. One of my favourite things about it is how it explores shades of grey; the villain is actually a very sympathetic character and the protagonists, whilst very likeable, can be very ruthless when they need to. I reviewed Finnikin of the Rock recently and there's actually a lot about that book that reminds me of this now that I think about it, so there were a lot of similar elements that I liked. But essentially, this book is great. I cry a lot over things, it's just something I do, but I pretty much wept over this one. I just wasn't ready for it to end. Also because my dad is an angel amongst men he only said "I told you so" once when I said all of this to him. Cheers dad.

2. American Gods - Neil Gaiman

I'm a big Neil Gaiman fan in general, I've just always really enjoyed his stuff, but I particularly liked this! I just loved the whole concept that the book was built upon and the exploration of gods and belief. I know it was inspired by Terry Pratchett's Small Gods, but I actually read that after this, which is no way ruined my reading pleasure! I enjoyed this book because it explored lots of mythology that I liked and had loads of interesting ideas (like the new gods vs the old) and just because it was a good read to be honest! 

3. Deathless - Catherynne M Valente

I got into Catherynne M Valente through her fairyland books, and those remain my favourites, but I really enjoyed exploring some of her other stuff this year. I also read some of her poetry which was interesting. For Christmas last year my brother gave me Anna Karenina which is a bit of a commitment so I decided to ease myself into it by reading Deathless first because it's based off of Russian folklore. I didn't know much Russian folklore so I really enjoyed learning a bit more about that, but mostly I just adore Valente's writing. I read this whilst in the middle of exams and it just made me really happy to be able to take time out from cramming and course texts and just enjoy something that was written well and enjoyable.

4. Divergent Trilogy - Veronica Roth

After exams ended, my friends and I decided to go on an impromptu camping trip. And by impromptu I mean we decided on the Thursday we were going to do it and set off on the Friday. For a last minute decision I think we did pretty great! We travelled down to Swannage, found a campsite, and celebrated the summer solstice by all getting horrifically sunburnt! Yaaaaay! Packing was a bit last minute so I didn't think through the fact that maybe Anna Karenina wasn't the best holiday reading material. Also, it's quite heavy to lug about the place. So I made a spur of the moment decision in a WH Smith to finally get round to reading the Divergent trilogy and I got pretty gripped really! I read it across the weekend which meant that I got very immersed in it so I am ever so slightly blurry on the finer details because it's all mixed into a sunshiney haze with the rest of that weekend's events. There's some bits I liked less than others but it's become associated with this really wonderful weekend which sort of makes up for that to be honest and makes it deserving of being on this list.

5. Eleanor and Park - Rainbow Rowell

You can read my review of this here but this is one of those books that has just absolutely stayed with me and given me unrealistic hand holding life expectations.

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

The above Eleanor and Park link will also link you to my review of this book and, as I stated there, this absolutely destroyed me. This is just such a beautifully written book and I loved every second of it.

7. Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell

This was the year when I fell in love with Rainbow Rowell's writing. I'm definitely going to read more of her stuff in 2015 and I hear that she is writing a Simon Snow novel which is incredibly exciting! I just find Rowell's writing so engaging. It's funny and beautiful and just captures me a little to be honest. There was so much I liked about this book; all the characters were great for a start. I loved Cath and Levi individually but I also ship the heck out of them and would like to marry them both please and thank you. This book has also caused me to imagine all of my OTP's looking at each other and saying "I'm rooting for you" so there's that as well.

8. The Princess Bride - William Goldman

I've loved the film of this for ever and I've always meant to read it but never got around to it (again. What can I say, I am shoddy). But someone with great taste in books recommended it to me so it seemed about time I finally purchased it. And I'm so glad I did because it was so much fun! I think I mentioned in my review of Pride and Prejudice (cast your minds back to that dim and distant time) that I like reading books after seeing their film adaptations because it's like meeting an old friend. I prefer reading a book before seeing the film version, but when it does happen this way round it's still enjoyable because it's like seeing a new side of someone that you've known for ages. They're still the person that you know and love but you suddenly have all of this new information on them and insight that causes you to look at them in a new way. I just really like it! That happened with this. I knew it was going to be loads of fun because the film is, but it was really enjoyable getting that bit more detail and depth. For example, Fezzik is freaking adorable oh my god ADORABLE. Also adorable is my Princess Bride themed phone background:

Never over it.

9. The Miseducation of Cameron Post - Emily M Danforth

Immediately after finishing this I posted an extremely rough and ineloquent post about my thoughts here which was mostly an attempt to record the way this book made me feel, but I'm pretty sure it failed. I got extremely immersed in this book which I really loved. It put me into a bit of a book daze after I'd finished it which is always the sign of a good read! I'm definitely going to keep my eyes peeled and buy anything else that Danforth writes.

10. Paper Towns - John Green

This is another one that I've reviewed already, you can check it out here. This was another book that I sped through in a day and which gave me a book hangover. I'm looking forward to seeing the film when it's released, although saying that I STILL haven't seen The Fault In Our Stars yet. I'm not emotionally ready!

I was going to do a list of honourable mentions here but then it got way too long and I wanted to babble about them too much so I've decided not to. I've definitely read some cracking books this year though! I feel like I've been given loads of really great recommendations this year and I've explored a bunch of stuff that I don't usually read which has been really interesting. I have a lot of excitement within me for all of the amazing books that I know I will read in 2015 as well!

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

End of 2014 Update

So since we last spoke, I appear to have become employed! I know we are all terribly shocked by this development. Please pick your jaw up from the floor and we can continue.

I am now an intern for a celebrity video messaging company (if you wish to have a nosy head over here) which is cool! I'm doing stuff to do with social media and marketing; I'm learning a lot but I'm also able to shape it to around the sorts of areas I want to explore, so that's all really great! I've been looking for a job for a couple of months now so it feels ever so slightly strange to have something sorted but I am in no way complaining.

This last month I have been incredibly productive with my blogging, I've managed to post something nearly every day, which has been really fab but obviously my energy will be slightly directed elsewhere for a bit now. I will definitely keep updating though! I know in the past I have been rather sporadic with this blog but since I picked it back up I've honestly absolutely loved it. I know that all I do is delve too deep into my personal life and then write about how much I've cried over books, but it's been really fun. I used to write all the time when I was younger just because I had ideas that I needed to express, and my head has always been filled with loads of different worlds and stories, but I stopped spending time expressing it all. The last few years have involved a lot of academic essays and diary entries but not a lot of just writing for the fun of it so it's been really enjoyable to dabble in that again! I'm never entirely convinced that anything I write on here is interesting to other people but that doesn't particularly bother me. I mean, if I'm honest, I write all of my posts to a hypothetical audience anyway because when I imagine real people reading them I get a little embarrassed and shy. 

I guess this post is just an affirmation really! The year is ending and I'm starting a new chapter of my life (one where I am actually a productive member of society shock horror) but I just wanted to take a moment to reaffirm my dedication to this blog. I don't make resolutions because I can never be arsed really, but I might break that habit this year by resolving to keep up with this. Overall I'm just feeling pretty happy really. This year has been strange and weird and has had some very low points but it's also had some really great moments and I've made memories that I'm always going to treasure. 

I'm just feeling very happy and optimistic okay?! I'm a soppy soppy person. Such is my life.

Sunday, 28 December 2014

Reviewing Old Selfies

I watched Ava Gordy's video where she reviews her old selfies (clicky clicky here!) and I thought "fuck it! I also have embarrassing teenage selfies! I too can share these things with the interwebs!" So that's what I'm gonna do and we can all laugh at how lame I was together.

Am I going to regret this? Probably.

Real talk, what am I looking at in this? It's obviously nothing exciting seeing as my face looks incredibly unimpressed. Also is it just because I've looked at the picture for too long, or does my face look like it's not actually connected to the rest of me?  This selfie raises so many questions that I don't have answers to.

So. Many. Questions. Where do I even start? Well first off, this is the first of many selfies that just cut off random bits of my face. I think I thought that this was artistic? I don't even know. Clearly if you're a cool kid you never have your entire face in a photo. That's obviously SUPER LAME. Secondly, why is there a random out of focus flower/twig? Why did I not make sure that there weren't twigs in the way of the camera? You guys don't know the layout of my garden but I'm pretty sure in order to get this photo I must have just been sat in the bottom of my garden taking photos with my camera vaguely concealed in a bush. WHY.

Here's a thought for past!Sophie, why don't you try taking a picture of yourself when you're not looking directly into the sun? That way you would actually be able to form facial expressions rather than just squinting at the camera and hoping for the best. Selfie 101.

Could there be a less appealing picture of me? I feel like I'm channelling a labrador post-walkies when they just have their entire tongue out and are panting for breath. There is no way that that much of my tongue needed to be on show. God this might be the one that makes me cringe the most. PUT IT BACK IN YOUR MOUTH SOPHIE. I also appear to have some very interesting layers going on in my hair at this point. Genuinely, the longer I look at this photo, the more I feel like I resemble some form of sheep dog. LET'S MOVE ON.

Oh god this picture. I feel like it should be captioned something like "Sophie ponders the futility of life". Why am I so morose? Why am I so ghostly pale? Why is there so much door in the background? These are the questions I ask myself.

DRASTIC MOOD CHANGE BETWEEN SELFIES. Our old friend the door is back and this time it seems as if it's told a really funny joke? Or I'm surprised by its existence? I clearly just felt the need to document the hilarious and exciting times I was having with my good old buddy the door. 

I vividly remember taking this one because it was the day that I got my hair cut like this, and I adored having this hair style. I don't think this one is too bad although it is veering a little bit into emo territory. I still haven't managed to include my full face in a photo but you know, my selfie game is slowly improving. Although the position that I'm in looks deeply uncomfortable.

I appear to be channelling one of the blues brothers. Why did I own this hat? Why did I own any of the trilbys that I owned? Why did people let me go out into public wearing them? So many questions.

If there's one thing looking at all of these selfies has taught me, it's that past!Sophie was clearly under the impression that black and white made everything artier. This is just another one of those photos where the cropping baffles me. I appear to be falling asleep mid-photo? Why is the focal point my neck/chest? What did I expect people to think when they saw this? Like, "ooh that Sophie, she's got a good shoulder doesn't she?" Eternally baffled.

We have rather daringly moved from black and white to the crazy wild territory of sepia tones. God I lived on the edge. If we ignore the fact that I'm still continuing to look anywhere but the camera, I think this picture would probably be not too bad if it was the right way up. And yet, I deliberately kept it upside down. For what purpose? Am I trying to trick people into thinking that the laws of gravity don't apply to me? Is it supposed to be quirky and original? If so I guess it succeeds but I'm pretty sure there's a very good reason why people don't upload upside down selfies. 

We have jumped drastically further forward in time and I'm not sure if this is because my selfie taking ability drastically improved or I just haven't stumbled upon where I saved those ones. I'm pretty sure I was trying to show a friend my new top but like, come on past!Sophie, couldn't you have tidied up a little bit before taking this? Or gone to a different room that wasn't just filled with piles of crap? And shut your wardrobe door? No one will be looking at the new top because everyone will just be like "good god woman, TIDY YOUR ROOM".

Well this has been incredibly embarrassing but also quite fun! Although I find these pictures very cringey, at the time I was obviously just happy with how I looked and wanting to document that. I'm very pro-selfie; I disagree with the idea that they're vain and awful. I don't see what's wrong with liking how you look and wanting to capture that? We should encourage people to celebrate themselves more! I actually really like scrolling through the selfie tag on tumblr because it's just full of people saying things like "I really like how I look today" or "I think my hair looks nice today" or whatever, which really makes me smile. I'm allllll about encouraging unapologetic self-love and I think selfies can be a really easy way to work towards achieving that. So when I look back at all of these old selfies of me I do cringe a little but I also feel glad that I was obviously just having fun and playing around by taking pictures of myself. I won't lie, I take loads of selfies now mostly just because it's fun! Sometimes I want to capture a moment where I think I look nice, other times I'm just bored and want to have fun pulling stupid faces. Maybe in a couple of years I'll look back and be embarrassed over them as well but that's not going to stop me taking them now.

I also found a whole bunch of really nice pictures of me when I was doing this so I might do another post sometime that is more of a celebration of selfies. We shall see!

Kindle Book Binge

Amazon are doing a 12 Days of Christmas kindle book sale at the moment which if you haven't seen you should really check out because SO MANY BOOKS FOR SO LITTLE MONEYS.

I am eternally having to stop myself from buying new books seeing as I have so many unread ones already, but I thought seeing as it's Christmas and they're cheap I would treat myself to a few. So I did! 

Here's what I bought:

Most exciting!

I remember spotting The Shock of the Fall in Waterstones a while ago because the cover really caught my eye and the blurb sounded really interesting but for some reason I didn't buy it. Maybe I'm secretly psychic and knew I'd be able to get it for cheap now. I don't really know much about it but I've heard good things so I'm optimistic!

I got very excited when I saw The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao was in the sale because I've wanted to read it for absolutely ageeees. I read This Is How You Lose Her in January and that was really good, but I feel like I'm going to enjoy this one even more. 

I've started The Invisible Library and it's so much fun! It's described as "Doctor Who with librarian spies" so I think I was already sold before I started it, but it's been really enjoyable so far. It's packed with really interesting ideas but is also quite humorous so I'm really intrigued to see where it goes!

I went for The Palace of Curiosities mostly because it's described as being good for fans of Angela Carter. I've only read Carter's The Bloody Chamber but I really enjoyed that, and one of my friends' loves her work, so I thought this was worth giving a go! I tend to really enjoy magical realism so I'm feeling quite optimistic about this one.

In case the idea of 99p books wasn't tempting enough, if you buy books from the 12 Days of Christmas sale, then you also get a free book as well! You can choose from 6 (I think) which is why I got The State We're In. One of the options is Stardust, so if you haven't read that I'd recommend treating yourself to a 99p book anyway just so you can give that a go for free! I'm slightly hesitant about this book just because when I looked at it on goodreads the reviews were either loving it or absolutely hating it, so it will be interesting to see which side I end up taking! But I am never one to turn down a free book and this one just seemed the most appealing out of the options.

So those are my new acquisitions! I'm sure I shall review all of them once I've read them but I just thought I would bring your attention to a good deal really! Let me know if you guys make use of it and if you get anything good. Or if you've read any of these ones and have opinions! Hope you've all been having a good festive time and have received many many books to bring you joy!

Friday, 26 December 2014

House Nostalgia

So here's a random fact for you all, I have a really nice house! It's a big old Edwardian one and I've lived here since I was one and it has a really big garden and it's just generally pretty awesome. But as of January 9th it will no longer be mine! A new lovely family is going to move in and they will fill it with loads of wonderful memories and experiences, and that's super great! And I'm really trying not to be sad about leaving because it's far too big for two people to live in and it's old so needs taking care of etc etc etc, but just for today I am going to let myself be nostalgic. So here is just a whole bunch of good stuff that has happened in this house! Not all of the pictures relate to the anecdotes but I'm going full nostalgia on this post so am filling it with ALLLLL of the memories.

  • I have fitted cupboards in my room that I used to be convinced were actually the doorway to a fairy kingdom so one time I slept in my wardrobe overnight in the hopes that fairies would take me away on adventures. Turns out wardrobes aren't that comfortable so I switched back to my bed half way through the night.

  • One time a family friend didn't realise we had two ponds next to each other so he managed to run across the small one before falling into the big one and just as soon as we made sure he was safe and out of the pond it was HILARIOUS

  • I spent what felt like years but may have only been months collecting shells from every seaside we went to so that I could line the path to my tree house with them. Side note - this wasn't a constructed house in a tree, it was literally just a tree that I sat in the middle of. I make my own fun.

  • No one will ever find it, but there is a tiny time capsule buried underneath the decking that has pictures and notes in from us.

  • I was always secretly convinced that fairies did actually live in my garden so I would leave them little flower offerings from time to time.

  • I'm going to miss the wall that has all of mine and my brother's heights on it from when we were growing. 
  • One time my friend won hide and seek because he managed to fit under my sink.

  • When Rose was little she climbed our tree and got stuck and we were all mildly concerned that she would die up there. Years later we took this photo of her returning to the scene of her childhood trauma.

  • One of the best things about my house has always been the garden; it's just so beautiful! It's been the backdrop for many photos, including this one of my year 11 prom.
  • Most of all I'm going to miss my room because it has become my little haven against the world! It's just this lovely little place filled with all of my books and arty stuff and fairylights and candles and I've built up such a calming atmosphere in it, so I'm really going to miss it! Plus it was backdrop to many of my hilarious past selfies such as the one below. (There is great potential for a reviewing my old selfies post. Yay or nay?)

I'll stop there because I want to, but it's just going to be so incredibly weird not to be living here any more. The house is so old and has so much history to it and barring some world shaking catastrophe it is going to outlive me but I'm glad to have had it as part of my childhood. I'm definitely doing my best to not be sad and instead just remember all of the lovely times instead!

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Feeling Optimistic

Sometimes I worry slightly that this blog is just full of me being all self-analysey and mopey with the odd book review thrown in for good measure and I don't know whether that's the truth or if it's just me over thinking slightly! I've been feeling very introspective this month and because I've actually been blogging regularly a lot of it has got documented, so it's probably just that. But I'm feeling quite optimistic at the moment so I thought I would make sure I get that down as well!

I think it's pretty natural to get a bit introspective at this time; the year is coming to an end so everyone ends up looking back at what's happened and evaluating it. I feel like this has definitely been a bit of a weird year but I'd say that I'm happy with how it's ending. 

This has definitely been my nicest Christmas in a long time! I'd been feeling decidedly un-Christmassy up until today but I managed to capture some festive cheer today which was nice. Christmas used to be a big family event, we'd do presents in the morning then a big roast meal, then head over to see loads of relatives in the evening, and in comparison to that this year has been soooo quiet. Even with my parents separating we still all used to meet up on Christmas day, whereas this year has just been me and mum bumming around the house all day, which to be honest has been delightful. So many Christmas days have ended up being really stressed and difficult, whereas this year has just been nice. We've eaten lots of food and watched lots of stuff and laughed lots and I'm just feeling pretty grateful to be honest! I had a lovely early celebration at my dad's on Monday and then tomorrow my brother and his girlfriend are coming over for a meal, so I still get to celebrate with my lovely ones, just in a way that works best for us. I didn't know if I was going to feel sad not having my whole family together on Christmas day but actually I'm really happy that we've figured out how to do Christmas in a way that works for us. 

I'm just feeling pretty positive about everything at the moment, and I'm genuinely quite excited to see what 2015 is going to bring!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Words Words Words

I've become quite good at just being able to ramble on here about whatever tickles my fancy and I start to think that I'm getting quite good at all this articulation malarkey, but then stuff happens in real life and I flounder about trying to find the words to help and just feeling like I'm failing.

I wish I knew what to say when crappy things happen to people I love. Logically I know that there is no magic word that you can utter that will fix their situation but that doesn't stop me wishing that there was. At the end of the day I know that all I can do is just be there for them if they need me but even then I still feel like I'm failing to express that properly to them. 

I wish it was possible to be able to download your feelings or something. So instead of trying to find the words to express inexpressible things I could just hand someone a little memory stick or something which they could plug in somewhere and then they would be able to completely understand the thing that I'm failing to communicate. So then when rubbish things happen they could pop in memory stick 221B or whatever and feel all of the love and support I want to offer them but am failing to find the words to do so. So then even though they still have to go through their crappy experience, I'd know for sure that they won't feel so alone. 

I'm not trying to make their rubbish experience about me or anything, I just hate to think about the people I love feeling alone. I know that everyone goes through shit and will feel awful and sad so many times in their lives and I know that that's just a thing. Much as I'd like to help I know that there's nothing I can do or say to stop this from happening. But if there is one thing I can do, it's make sure that they know they're not alone in it. I can't change the fact that they're going through shit but I can make sure I'm there for the duration. So until this strange memory stick emotion technology is available to the masses, I shall just have to use my words and do my best to try and communicate the depth of my love and support for them.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Never Let Me Go - Kazuo Ishiguro

I've always meant to watch the film of this but never quite got around to it and then someone whose taste in books I trust recommended I read it so I did! Warning: here be spoilers.

At the beginning I liked trying to figure out what was happening and what the purpose of the school was. I started reading this on my flight up to Edinburgh with Rose, who really hates flying, so to try and distract her I was describing the book to her and we were trying to guess why the kids were at the school, and we did get it vaguely right in so far as we guessed they were clones. We came up with a whole theory which we realised later is essentially just the film The Island so apparently we are not the literary masterminds we thought we were. I've never read anything by Ishiguro before and something about it reminded me of Atwood's speculative fiction. (God this blog makes me sound like I'm obsessed with her work!)  It specifically reminded me of Oryx and Crake, probably because that features lots of stuff to do with genetic manipulation.  

I won't lie, I really shipped Kathy and Tommy! Although at times I wasn't sure if it was supposed to be a thing or if I was just reading too much into it. That's not to say I disliked Ruth though (although I kind of did. I'm not sure?). I felt really sorry for her towards the end when they were in the car and Tommy and Kathy started telling her that she should have tried to get a deferral because it just seemed unfair. Essentially, I found all of the characters interesting. I have a thing where I never entirely trust my narrator in books so I was probably slightly unnecessarily suspicious of Kathy at times, which is maybe why I hold off being too harsh on Ruth, although I'm not entirely sure why I expected her to be bending the truth. 

I just felt really sad when I finished this and I've been trying to identify why and I think it has something to do with all of the information that we're not given. Like, there isn't too much explanation given of the society; as the book goes on you get details like the fact that they're clones and they have to give donations and everything, but there's not a whole lot about how this all came about. It's just presented as normal and I just found that really sad. The book is a glimpse into the lives of these three people that you grow to care about and so stuff like Tommy dying is really sad as a result. But when you think about it, this is just a tiny taste of what loads of people are going through. Every single person that they went to school with will go through the donations and die, all of them will have people that they've loved and things that are important to them, and the same will happen to all of those other unnamed characters as well and that's just that. I think it's just wrapping my head around that sort of society, where something like that is normal, is just really difficult and makes me feel sad. It's just very unsettling.

The person who recommended this book to me also told me to watch the film after I finished it, which I did and I really enjoyed it! I like it when film adaptations of books are sort of like companions to the book if that makes sense. I don't need a film to be a 100% accurate rendering of the book (although this was actually very faithful to the source material) as long as it's done well and I felt like this was. I liked a lot of the visual choices they made, like the scene when they've gone to see the boat and Ruth asks them to forgive her for keeping them apart. The camera switches between Kathy and Tommy sat together, and then Ruth slightly apart. It was just little details like that that I thought were well done, plus the soundtrack was absolutely beautiful. I liked all of the casting choices but particularly Keira Knightley as Ruth. She's still not exactly a likeable character but I felt like she captured her well. Also, Andrew Garfield as young Tommy was ADORABLE and then when he's older Tommy he kills me. He breaks my heart during their visit to Madame; he's just so earnest a character and when he's presenting his artwork to her IT HURTS ME. There's just such a hopelessness to this story, you get immersed into the lives of these people and then that scene just makes them seem so small when you realise that there was never a chance of them changing their fate.

I really liked this book and I'm glad I read it before seeing the film because it really enhanced the experience. If anything I think I liked the film more than the book, but I know that I wouldn't have loved it as much if I hadn't read it first. I definitely want to read more of Ishiguro's work though. I sort of feel like this is going to be one of those stories that haunts me a little bit.


Have you ever visited somewhere and just immediately felt completely at home there? That's how I feel about Edinburgh.  

The city is just so beautiful and very characterful. I really like visiting cities and I think Edinburgh has now become one of my favourite places. It just has such a great mix of interesting history, quirky little places, and picturesque scenery.  Plus, it being December, there were Christmas lights up everywhere along with the Christmas markets so everything looked especially beautiful. I don't know enough about the different Scottish accents to know which ones I like, but there were a lot of people in Edinburgh with amazing accents. We got chatting to a bunch of different people at different times and they all had the best accents; I felt extremely Bristolian the whole time! 

The highlight was probably the ghost walk, we did the graveyard one and it was so much fun! Our guide (Gerry) looked like a slightly shorter version of David Tennant and his mannerisms and way of telling stories kept making me think of the Doctor, so that was pretty cool! The walk was just really interesting at first and I learnt a lot about the history of Edinburgh. For example, because the graveyard used to be the only one in Edinburgh there are so many people buried there that the top 2% of the soil is dead body. How cool is that? (am I morbid to find that cool?) Most of our tour was about the Mackenzie Poltergeist which started off being really interesting, and then became mildly terrifying as Gerry ran through all of the safety warnings (for example, if you find yourself in a cold spot, move before you are STRANGLED TO DEATH BY THE ANGRY GHOST WHAT) but none of us died so all is well! If you are visiting Edinburgh I think there are quite a few different ghost walks but you should definitely choose the City of the Dead tours, they were brilliant!

I really want to go back and visit at Halloween sometime because I think it would just be incredible with the combination of all of the spooky ghost stuff and then awesome themed bars. I don't know why I love Halloween so much but I just really do, something about it captures my imagination, which is slightly odd seeing as I scare quite easily, but there you go! We went to two really cool bars, the Frankenstein and the Jekyl and Hyde, and they both had amazing decor along with themed cocktails (we may have had one or two...)

There's still so much that I didn't get to see which just means that I'll have to visit it again sometime! I have to say this was probably the best holiday I've ever had. I've not travelled a great amount (other than around the castles and pubs of Pembroke/Cornwall/Devon) but this year began with Venice and has ended with Edinburgh which bodes well for the future! Venice itself is really great but due to the circumstances around the trip I didn't have the best time, whereas everything about this trip was just amazing. I don't think there was a single bad moment the entire time. My friend and I have been planning to do this trip for years so it was so great to finally be able to do so. I have this thing about compatibility; you can be absolutely great friends with someone but sometimes you are just not compatible for certain things (for example, hangovers). I've been friends with Rose since we were tiny and by now it's like having a sister, but on top of that we are holiday compatible! We like to do the same sorts of things on holiday which means that we didn't have any disagreements about what we wanted to do or anything. 

We decided to film little bits of our visit, which then turned into us pretty much just vlogging the whole trip, which I've never done before but was fun! I have zero video editing knowledge so mostly just strung our clips together but if you fancy watching them I'll include them below. I would write more about the trip, but most of what we did is summed up in the videos below!

Thursday, 18 December 2014

OOTD: The One Where I Channel 15 Year Old Sophie

I wasn't planning on doing an OOTD today seeing as I am mostly bumming around casual clothes, but I took a selfie today that was so incredibly like the ones I used to take when I was 15 that I had to share it.

I even edited it like 15 year old me would have done and everything. I just wanted to show off my new t shirt to be honest! It's an expecto patronum one that I got in Edinburgh where they have all of the HP themed stuff in their Primark. I was VERY overwhelmed and overexcited about it! My friend laughed at how much my face lit up when I saw it. Plus I am really loving my new glasses! My old ones were fine but a little boring and I really wanted to go for something that was a bit more of a statement but having to choose new glasses has always mildly stressed me out because I don't entirely trust myself to choose good ones so have to check with EVERYBODY whether or not potential glasses suit me. A friend recommended I check out glasses direct and I love them! You can do free trials which arrive in the post and allow you to try on the frames and get opinions before you buy, which was absolutely perrrrrrfect for indecisive me. Add onto that the fact they currently have a 50% off discount and I am a very happy Sophie indeed! 

I'm also wearing a lippy that I have absolutely fallen in love with. It's Bourjois Rouge Edition Velvet in 08 Grand Cru and it's just such a gorgeous deep red I love it I love it I love it. As previously mentioned, I am super rubbish with makeup but I spend my life trying to find lippys that suit me that I can use whenever I feel like putting in a bit of an effort, and this might be my favourite one yet. So much so that I'm debating becoming one of those people who just wears bold lippy as an everyday thing. Except I am always slightly in awe of those people and I'm not sure I'm cool enough to be one. We shall see! This whole range blows my mind slightly though because they're some kind of liquid lipstick which means that they're liquid in the container but they dry matte and I'm sure there's a perfectly simple scientific explanation to it but I am slightly convinced that it's just magic. 

Also my hat has tiny little ears on it and I feel like a woodland creature whenever I wear it.

Gut Symmetries - Jeanette Winterson

I have returned from my travels! Scotland was pretty fab and I had the best of times; there will be a blog post to follow shortly but for now here is a review of the book I read before I left!

I'm not going lie, I was a little bit disappointed in this book. It's not bad, but I usually love Winterson's work, and I just didn't find myself grabbed by this at all. It was perfectly fine, but nothing special really. These were my reactions as I was reading it:

I wasn't originally planning on scanning these pages because I didn't think they were particularly interesting, but then right at the end something really weird happened and I just found my reaction quite funny! 

Essentially, there were a couple of reasons why I was a bit disappointed with this book. Firstly, I just didn't find the plot that engaging. I just didn't particularly care about what happened to the characters and, as my notes show, I thought Jove was a bit of a dick really. Also, I didn't enjoy the prose as much as I usually do with Winterson. The last three quotes I jotted down were really lovely and were the only parts of the book that really came close to the standard of her other books I've read. For example, Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is packed with moments that make my heart ache with how beautifully they're been put into words, and there were also lots of moments that were actually really funny and made me smile. Whereas with this book, there were hardly any moments like that. I do, however, really like the whole passage that includes the quotations about feeling in colour and a space where people want to live. That moment just reminded me of how good she could be.

The narrative switches between three characters and at times it definitely felt a bit disjointed, especially the first section. I enjoyed it more as the book went on although I'm not sure whether that's just because I got used to it or because it improved. The physics elements that ran throughout were interesting and reminded me a little of Atwood's Cat's Eye (which I enjoyed more than this). I don't feel like I have an awful lot more to say, I'm just feeling a bit disappointed by it really!

This book wasn't awful by any stretch of the imagination, I think I just had much higher expectations. It was perfectly enjoyable though so if you are a fan of Winterson's I would say give it a go, but if you were looking to get into her work then I would definitely recommend starting somewhere else (specifically Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit as your start point, then move onto either Sexing The Cherry or The Passion!) 

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Finnikin of the Rock - Melina Marchetta

This book had been on my to read list for ages, but a friend told me it was one of her favourite books which served as the kick up the bum I needed to actually buy it. And I really enjoyed it!

This is the first in a YA fantasy trilogy and I definitely want to read the rest of the series now. There's something about Melina Marchetta's writing that I just really like and I enjoyed learning about the world that she has created. 

I really liked Evanjalin because she's just so strong and fierce and determined. Saying that, I kind of want to wrap her in a blanket and take care of her but there's no way she would let me because she'd be too busy GETTING SHIT DONE. Seriously, this girl does not let up. I also really love the relationship that developed between Evanjalin and Finnikin. As has been previously established on this blog, I do like me a bit of relationship angst in my books and there were moments with these two that absolutely tore at my heart. At times when they were busy being mad at each other I just wanted to smush their faces together and be like "stop being mad at each other and kiss and make up please" but when things are good between them it makes me melt a little bit.

I had a couple of moments of confusion when the narrative switched perspective and it took me while to figure out who was now the focus, but I liked getting the glimpses into other characters, especially Froi. The next book focuses on him so I'm quite looking forward to reading that. In regards to the world that was created, I found it really interesting, and I'm looking forward to exploring more of it in the rest of the series. I also enjoyed the prose style, I felt it flowed well, and there were some really lovely moments.

In addition, I really liked this bit a lot:

"Because without our language, we have lost ourselves. Who are we without our words?"

Throughout the book the exiles struggle with their sense of identity, especially Finnikin, and the idea of language is tied up with it. When your home has been taken away from you, language becomes a way of clinging on and asserting your identity. One of the things that marks Froi as different is the fact that he doesn't speak the language, he doesn't even remember what Lumatere looks like, and as he learns the language of his people he also begins to forge friendships and feel connected to other people. Also, Evanjalin's understanding of the importance of language saves them from a pretty hopeless situation: "never underestimate the importance of knowing another's language. It can be far more powerful than swords and arrows". Essentially, I just find language really interesting. I love the way language evolves, it's not a fixed thing, it grows and changes and words can morph into entirely new meanings. I find the way language is tied up with identity really interesting and although I often found it super confusing, I really enjoyed reading critical theory that was based around language when I was at university. So I enjoyed the way that the importance of language ran through this book and all of the little thought processes it sparked off in my mind.

I think I'm going to leave it here because I don't want this review to become too spoilery, although I will leave you with this little moment because I can't resist:
"'Then I choose to drown,' Finnikin said. 'In hope. Rather than float into nothing'"
And we all know that by 'drown in hope' you mean ACCEPT THE LOVE OF YOUR LIFE YES FINNIKIN I SEE THROUGH YOU. 

(I ship it so hard)

Friday, 12 December 2014

OOTD: The One Where I Am Finally Warm

For someone who keeps going on about how busy she is, I'm creating an awful lot of posts. In fairness, I seem to have gone into the hyper alert mode that used to accompany hectic essay writing, so I'm being extremely productive in a slightly wide-eyed-I-should-really-just-go-to-sleep kind of way. These outfit of the days are pretty easy to do though, so I thought I'd type this up and then head off to bed afterwards. 

Today's excitement is the fact that my new coat arrived! Not only is it totally gorgeous but it also means that I am not going to freeze to death in Scotland this week. Which is pretty great to be honest! Especially because I have spent the last two weeks without a warm coat for reasons that shall be explained henceforth. 

Essentially, I went to my friend's mum's 50th birthday party, which was really fun! Their house is so quirky anyway (one day I shall have to go round and take pictures for you guys so you can understand the true extent of the house's awesomeness. Their porch is Doctor Who themed and features a wall painted to look like the TARDIS flying through space with many memorabilia on shelves as well. It's incredible guys.) but everything was decorated with bunting and candles, it was so pretty. Liz (the birthday girl) spent the whole night in a rainbow striped onesie with fairy lights draped all around her and everyone got very merry and had a generally lovely time. Highlights included making other people do the tortilla dance, being reunited with my cat soul mate, pretending to be detectives, and group dance alongs to songs like Saturday Night and the Time Warp. So far so fab! Except for one teeeeensy little hiccup.

Someone absconded with my coat.

Now I know what you might be thinking, "Sophie, you were drunk. You probably put the coat down somewhere and forgot where". And I'll admit I initially thought that was the case! Hence why I recruited a crack team of assistants to help me scour the house for it. And genuinely, it was nowhere to be seen.

My theory is thus: someone, in their intoxicated state, either accidentally or maliciously, wore my coat home. Which is not that awful a thing! It's very likely that they were drunk and confused and the whole thing was a complete accident. In the grand scheme of things, I really don't mind. In the small scheme of things, these last two weeks have been a bit chilly for me. So the arrival of this coat has been particularly exciting for me! Plus, it was in the pre-Christmas sales so I have saved myself a whopping £9. Who knows what I'm going to do with such a crazy large amount of money. At last I can retire and give up this life of crime! So here is this majestic new coat that is going to stop me from freezing to death:

I hope you are all suitably impressed and awed! 

Stubborn Love

I shouldn't really be here because I am in a flurry of busyness right now (as in I'm super busy, I haven't just lost my ability to spell and founded a company since we last spoke...) but I just wanted to share a quick song with you all! And then spend way too much time breaking said song down and applying it to fictional characters because that is what my life has become. Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more! 

This is just a really lovely cover of Stubborn Love by The Lumineers which popped up on an 8tracks playlist that I've been listening to, but I wanted to share it on here because it just immediately made me think of the sequel to Lucy In Love! Those of you who have read my I Want To Hold Your Hand entries will know that this song is on the playlist I made and it always makes me think of the book anyway but this is even more enhanced by the fact that it's a girl singing because it kind of makes me imagine the girls saying these things to each other. It's similar to what happens when I listen to Brutal Hearts, the song becomes a bit of a duet between the characters, or at least a patchwork of their feelings and emotions. I don't know if this makes sense so I shall give some examples!

"She'll tear a hole in you, the one you can't repair / But I still love her I don't really care"

This just makes me think of Blaine being so hurt and torn by Lucy but not being able to stop loving her. I pretty much spent the entirety of both books really wanting to wrap Blaine in a hug and also bubble wrap so that she would stop getting hurt by things. 

"It's better to feel pain, than nothing at all / The opposite of love's indifference"

This always makes me think of the night when Lucy and Blaine go to the pub with their friends. Things would be so much easier for them if they were indifferent to each other but they just can't be which is why trying to do 'normal' stuff like this results in so much tears and hurt. But the fact that they both get so hurt by each other is proof at how much they still care.

"So pay attention now, I'm standing on your porch screaming out / And I won't leave until you come downstairs"

This isn't founded by any of the actual events in the text but I can just really picture Lucy just stood outside Blaine's window essentially just yelling things about how much she loves her etc, which is ridiculous seeing as they live in the same house so why would she not just let herself in, but apparently my imagination doesn't care about logic!

"And the highway signs say we're close but I don't read those things anymore / I never trusted my own eyes"

They live in the same house and they're so close but so far away from each other. Even though they're so messy and broken they still know each other inside out and aaaaaah I just want them to be happy okay, it's all I want.  

"When we were young oh oh we did enough / When it got cold ooh ooh we bundled up / I can't be told ah ah it can't be done"

Everyone tells Lucy to just let it go and move on which is perfectly fair advice, but I'm kind of glad she refuses to give up on the possibility of them being together again because I just love them. This bit just sort of makes me think of her thinking back over the good times they had and refusing to give in. 

"Keep your head up love"

This is just like my mantra for the both of them. They're both so hurt and broken but in the end they find a way to make it work again which is good because I don't know what I would have done if they hadn't. My track record would suggest crying.

So this has been another day of "Sophie flails over fictional relationships" and now I shall leave and go be productive with my time. FAREWELL.

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Losing Kit - Leah Smith

Back in the dim mists of time when I was doing the Summer Reading Challenge I used to carry a notebook around with me so that while I read I could jot down notes and thoughts in order to make writing about the books easier. I've started to do that again and I actually think it's quite a good way of showing how much I enjoyed this book so I thought I'd include some scans in this post. This is a bit of a test run because I'm not sure how easy they're going to be to read but if it works then I might start doing this more often! This review is probably going to be a little spoilery so if you haven't read the book then you should head here and do so before returning.

So those were my initial reactions while I was reading it! If you're interested in listening to any of the songs I jotted down I made a playlist here (my life is slowly turning into an endless cycle of reading books and making playlists based off of them. I regret nothing!)

Some more detailed thoughts:

I just really liked all of the characters in this. I was invested in Misha and Kit as a couple, but Liana was also really great, and I liked that it didn't become a clich├ęd love triangle. The moment when Liana and Misha talk about their relationship was just quite refreshingly honest as well. There were definite moments where I just wanted to give Misha a hug for going through so many confusing emotions. So many of the quotations I wrote down were to do with the relationship between Misha and Kit because there were just some really lovely moments between them and I just really enjoyed watching them renegotiate their relationship and figure out how to fit into each other's lives again. As previously mentioned on this blog, I like moments where characters are just completely honest with each other about their feelings, and they had a couple of moments like that (like the text) which I really liked. 

I don't know what I expected to be the reason for losing Kit but I just wasn't expecting him to be dying so when Misha went to the hospital I was just like "I HAVEN'T EVEN MET KIT YET BUT I AM NOT EMOTIONALLY PREPARED FOR THIS". And then you actually meet him and Misha and Kit are so sweet together that I was just even less emotionally prepared to deal with him dying. I was actually managing to keep myself together okay right up until exactly 93% of the way through when Topher tells Kit that he's always been proud of him and I just lost all of my composure. I might have started crying an eensy bit and had to go take myself off to a different room so that I could finish it in private. From the moment we meet Kit in hospital I knew he was going to die but it still upset me because I'd really grown to like him, along with all of the other characters that were going to have to cope with him being gone.

I really enjoyed this book and it was so easy to get into. I feel like I've created another book/music web now between this, Paper Towns, and Ask The Passengers, which is cool because they've all been really great!