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August 2019

    book review, books, fiction

    Book Review: I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

    I Wanna Be Where You Are.pngSecret road trips, childhood-friend-turned-enemy-turned-love-interest, a cute dog, and of course several bumps along the way, I Wanna Be Where You Are is chock-full of all sorts of typical tropes from YA romance – AND I LOVED EVERY BIT OF IT.

    If you have read Amy & Roger’s Epic Detour by Morgan Matson, you may feel like you are reading its cousin here. Definitely in the same family, but enough differences to not be identical. As it turns out, I loved Matson’s book when I first read it a few years ago and have re-read it a couple of times since. I have a feeling the same is going to happen with this one because I just can’t get enough of it.

     


    Synopsis (from Goodreads):

    When Chloe Pierce’s mom forbids her to apply for a spot a the dance conservatory of her dreams, she devises a secret plan to drive two hundred miles to the nearest audition. But Chloe hits her first speed bump when her annoying neighbour Eli insists upon hitching a ride, threatening to tell Chloe’s mom if she leaves him and his smelly dog, Geezer, behind. So now Chloe’s chasing her ballet dreams down the East Coast – two unwanted (but kinda cute) passengers in her car, butterflies in her stomach, and a really dope playlist on repeat.

    Published: 4th June 2019

    Read: 20th August 2019


     

    There was nothing overly complicated or unexpected about this book, but sometimes that works best. No extra fluff or overly dramatic, just a plain old good YA romance. It has been a while since I read a YA book actually, not to mention a half decent one, so I welcomed this one with open arms right from the very first page. I am also making a conscious effort to not just read books with white female protagonists written by white authors, which again made this book stand out to me in Forest’s description of looking in the mirror at ballet and realising that her body was different to all the other girls.

    There was no hanging about at the start of this, which I liked, and it was pretty much straight into the road trip. This just worked. We were introduced to all the necessary people, we knew everything we had to know so far. As someone who waffles A LOT when they write, I can appreciate a nice tightly-written story.

    Although this is a fairly bright and breezy book, there certainly were more meaningful themes discussed throughout, in particular the pressure Chloe felt to be perfect and live up to expectations following trauma.

    Chloe’s love of dance was a welcome aspect to the story, and not something that has come up in a lot of YA books that I have read before. It is quite clear throughout that Forest also has a love of dance. Those feelings and experiences definitely felt like the truth, making it all the more believable and relatable.

    I read this in one sitting, in the space of a few hours. It was nothing ground-breaking in terms of plot, but altogether a pretty wonderful representation of real life.

    Also, can we just agree on the fact that this is one of the prettiest covers you have seen in a long time?

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    life, travel

    Travel Diary: Barcelona

    IMG_5317IMG_5337IMG_5343.jpgIMG_5345IMG_5357IMG_5378.jpgIMG_5369

    Ciutadella Park / on the metro / Cuitadella Park / lunch at Juice Dudes / Arc de Triomf / Jardins de Laribal

    Warning: very long, photo-heavy post ahead.

    One thing I absolutely should not have been doing right before the most important exams of my whole degree, was go to Barcelona for the weekend. That said, I did it anyway and I have absolutely no regrets.

    I have been meaning to post this for several months now, as it was all the way back in April that I visited, and I had got to the point that I wasn’t going to any more. But, Barcelona is of course still there and people are still going to visit the same places as I did, so in a way it is a bit of a timeless post that I figured I may as well anyway. Plus I got to enjoy looking over all of my Barcelona photos again which now means I want to go back.

    My best friend from university (and former flatmate until she ditched me) was on a year abroad in Spain as a requirement for her course, since she studies Spanish. Of course, this is very sad because it means that I had to go a very long time without seeing her when I was used to seeing her practically every single day of my life and sharing a bathroom with her. But it does have it benefits, mainly that I got to travel to Barcelona for the weekend a few weeks ago to meet up with her. She got a bus in from Logrono in the north of the country where she was staying at the time and we met in Barcelona.

    I have never visited Spain with a person who actually speaks the language before, and let me tell you it makes the absolute world of difference. I absolutely love the Spanish language and have always wanted to learn it, and that weekend had just made me want to do it even more. Because she had visited Barcelona once before with her boyfriend a few months ago, she already had a fair idea of what there was on offer and what kind of things we could do. Plus, she has a far better sense of direction than I do and I would probably still be wandering aimlessly trying to figure out how to get the metro back to the airport if I hadn’t made her send me detailed instructions.

    I did a photo diary of my time in Hamburg in January, which turned out to be a popular post, so I thought I would do the same for Barcelona. Read more

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    book review, books, fiction

    Book Review: A Keeper by Graham Norton

    A Keeper.png

    Honestly, I had no idea that Graham Norton could write.

    I had totally missed the boat and didn’t realise that he published a fiction book back in 2016, Hiding, so, as I said this week in my WWW Wednesday #5 post, imagine my surprise seeing his name in WH Smith in Heathrow Airport when I was looking for something to occupy my brain for the last leg of my 30-hour journey back to Scotland from Sydney. My plan was to buy the first book that caught my eye, and this was it.

     


    Synopsis (from Goodreads):

    When Elizabeth Keane returns to England after her mother’s death, she’s focused only on saying goodbye to that dark and dismal part of her life. Her childhood home is packed solid with useless junk, her mother’s presence already fading. But within this mess, she discovers a small stash of letters – and ultimately, the truth. 

    Forty years earlier, a young woman stumbles from a remote stone house, the night quiet except for the constant wind that encircles her as she hurries deeper into the darkness away from the cliffs and the sea. She has no sense of where she is going, only that she must keep on. 


     

    One of my favourite styles of writing is when two stories are beautifully interlinked with one another, and this does exactly that. While hearing from Elizabeth in some chapters as she travels Ireland searching for the truth of her mother’s – and her own – past, this is perfectly punctuated by Patricia, her mother, and her surprising story.

    I have to admit, for the first half of the book I was enjoying it but not adoring it. It was definitely still a good book and I still wanted to keep reading and find out what happened to the two women, but it wasn’t going to make it to the top of my favourite books of 2019. However, I found there to be a sudden shift around the middle of the book and then I couldn’t put it down. As pieces of the story finally came to light, everything slotted together and became a work of art. I definitely think this is one of those books that you shouldn’t go into knowing too much about it, so I’m going to stop right there in the hope that you still get the full effect if you read it too (which I definitely think you should).

    As it turns out, Graham Norton should not only be known for his hilarious TV interviews with celebrities. He is a truly gifted writer too, with the ability to craft a story as beautiful and haunting as this one. This tale about family secrets, loss, identity and belonging is one that will stick with me for a while.

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    books, currently reading, WWW Wednesday

    WWW Wednesday #5

    WWW WEDNESDAY graphicWWW WEDNESDAY GRAPHIC 1WWW Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam from Taking on a World of Words.

    CURRENTLY READING: A Keeper by Graham Norton

    Who knew Graham Norton could write. I bought this in London Heathrow airport for the last leg of my very long journey back from Sydney last week because I had exhausted every other method of passing time that I had access to. I was planning on picking up whatever book caught my eye first, and this name stood out. I didn’t even realise Graham Norton wrote fiction so you can imagine my surprise. I am a big fan of the man though so I had to give this a try, and I am very pleased with the result. Only about 100 pages into this but I am very intrigued indeed about where it is going to go next.

    RECENTLY READ: Valencia and Valentine by Suzy Krause

    This was a Kindle First in July (I think) and I read the entire thing on the plane from Sydney to London. I actually really enjoyed this, and it is always a welcome addition when you don’t work out every single plot detail before it is told to you in the conclusion. This was quite unique, and I am a big fan of the idea of two story lines running parallel to each other. In fact, this is a similar underlying aspect that I focused on in my own undergraduate dissertation, which is possibly why I enjoyed this so much.

    READING NEXT: I Wanna Be Where You Are by Kristina Forest

    I came across this on Twitter months ago and pre-ordered it so that I wouldn’t forget about it, and of course completely forgot about it until I arrived home from my travels and it was waiting on me. It has been what feels like forever since I have read a good YA so I’m really looking forward to this one. The synopsis reminds me a bit of Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour which I LOVE so I have high hopes.

     

    What have you been reading?

     

    Read my previous WWW Wednesday’s here.

     

    *This blog post contains affiliate links for Book Depository.

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    how to, lifestyle, list, student

    A Graduate’s Guide to the University Essentials

    university essentialsThe fact that I can even call myself a graduate now is a truly disgusting fact.

    The past four years of my life studying my undergraduate degree have absolutely flown by, and every so often it pops into my head that I am the proud owner of an actual DEGREE. I definitely don’t feel old enough or mature enough to call myself a graduate. That is a thing that adults can say, not me. When I was in high school, the idea of finishing university seemed an absolute lifetime away. The people in the years above me who were at university seemed so much older, even though it was only a couple of years. And now that is me. WEIRD.

    So, whether or not I choose to believe it, I actually am quite qualified to give some advice on the university front now. I’m actually returning to university in a few weeks to begin my masters in Creative Writing (which I am incredibly excited about). Clearly I wasn’t ready to give up that student lifestyle yet.

    Here are a few of my top tips for those of you heading to university soon, or even just hoping to become more organised in your day-to-day life.

    UNIVERSITY

    • Depending on your course, a mini laptop – the most useful thing that I purchased was a super cheap small laptop for taking to lectures. This only really works if you are far quicker at typing than writing like I am, but I found it invaluable when it came to taking notes. My main laptop was far too heavy and big for dragging around with me. The true dream is buying myself a MacBook that is ideal for carrying around and also a decent size for watching Netflix in my bed, but I certainly don’t have that kind of cash lying around right now after my adventurous summer in Fiji and Australia (more on that to come).
    • Travel mug and water bottle – not only will you be saving the turtles and whatnot, but it will also save your precious pennies. A lot of places now give a discount on your much needed caffeine if you bring your own travel mug so I try to never leave home without one when I’m heading to uni.
    • Sticky tabs for marking books – as an English Literature student, this was particularly helpful for me for marking quotes and important points, but I am sure it would be equally helpful for other subjects if you want to remember a page that might be useful for an essay or a topic to go back and study later.
    • A planner/diary – I could not function without my planner. It comes absolutely everywhere with me because I am a forgetful person that would forget where I am meant to be and when and when my next essay is due.
    • A different notebook for each class – if my laptop was out of charge and I had to actually write my lecture notes for once (the horror) I always hated writing them in a notebook that was full of other things and would end up with everything all mixed up. I can only imagine my stress levels if I hand wrote my lecture notes every week. Even if you are like me and plan on typing in lectures, it is definitely worthwhile having a notebook for each class too. I often preferred writing notes in workshops and seminars, probably because of the type of degree that I did.
    • One Drive (or some other type of cloud storage) – after forgetting my pen drive in a library computer for the millionth time, I finally moved on to using an online storage system for all my notes and essays. It turned out to be the best idea, especially because I was working off so many different computers – my small laptop for lectures, my bigger one in the flat, the library computers – and this meant that I always had the most up to date version of any document with me at all times and could access simply by logging in. It is also a bit of reassurance knowing that it is backed up somewhere that won’t be lost if you lose an external hardrive or your computer crashes and breaks. I personally like One Drive, because I have a Hotmail email account and therefore didn’t have to make a new account on anything. There are plenty other options though, such as Google Drive and Dropbox.

    HOME

    • Photographs for your wall (and washi tape if you aren’t allowed to put things up, because it isn’t as sticky as cellotape or blue tack and therefore doesn’t leave a mark or take the paint off when you take it down to move out) – this will help if you are feeling a little homesick and want to be able to look at fun school memories, and also helps to liven up otherwise pretty dull and boring student accommodation. You could also use Command strips to hang a frame or a small mirror on your wall – just be careful you don’t hang anything too heavy or it will fall off during the night (for some reason never happens in the daytime when you are out) and make you think someone is breaking in.
    • A green plant – this sounds like a ridiculous thing to include on this list maybe, especially so high up, but I bought a cheap little aloe vera plant in IKEA a couple of years ago for my bedroom and it is still going strong. There is something weirdly calming about having a plant sitting on my desk when I am doing [no] work?? Do not ask me why, but it works.
    • Hanging storage for your wardrobe – the easiest way to create extra storage without adding to the clutter of your room.
    • Drawer dividers – this keeps everything neat and tidy and makes it much easier to find things. I bought cheap ones in IKEA and found them especially helpful in underwear and sock drawers. (A whole section for those comfy period pants!!!)
    • A sharp knife – not for harming your flatmates when they once again ‘forget’ that it is their turn to take the bins out, but instead just making life easier when cutting onions and bagels aka the essentials.
    • Student cookbook – trust me, you will use this a grand total of two times, but it is useful as a sort of reference guide for the very basic things which you never realised you needed to know before rather than for actual recipes – it transpired that I didn’t even know how long to boil an egg for.
    • Coat hangers – sounds a ridiculous addition to this list, but you won’t realise how many of these you actually need. University accomodation will provide you with roughly three, if any at all.
    • Door stop – one of the most essential things to bring with you if you are moving in to shared accomodation with complete strangers, at least for the beginning while you are still getting to know everyone. Your flatmates are far more likely to come and say hello if your door is open, rather than closed off to everyone (literally and metaphorically). Doors in these flats are usually fire doors that slam shut when you let them go.
    • Earplugs – first year students are notoriously inconsiderate of your 9am classes.
    • Casserole dish – make yourself a big pasta bake or a lasagne, portion it up and freeze it and you have enough food to last a week.
    • Playing cards – for drinking games of course.

    If you can think of anything that was useful to you during university then please share your wisdom below.

    I will update this list any time I think of anything new myself, so make a mental note (or just, you know, take the easy option and bookmark the page or something) to check back later.

    Good luck! I hope you love this new experience every bit as much as I did.

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