April Favourites

April kind of started well for me and then crashed into a cliff this last week (apart from Martin’s birthday). However, I did spend a lot of coin this month (I blame the Youtuber Patricia Bright for that sentence) so I have quite a few favourites to share! Also, can we all be proud that I’m doing this video before April has ended instead of afterwards for once.

What I’ve been loving…

Cousins Collective pin display banner

Cousins Collective is a brand I got to know through watching the Youtuber Qcknd talk about them in a video where she was discussing her pins. I was excited to see that they were based in the UK (I can’t be dealing with import tax) and after realising that having my pins on a denim jacket was just resulting in a LOT of near misses (and actual misses) of my pins getting lost; I decided that I needed a new option for my pins.

So after doing a more of pondering I decided to take the plunge and bought Cousin Collective’s banner that is described as being able to display 50-70 pins. The one I got I would say is about the medium size for what the shop sells , s I wanted some space to add to my collection but not something that was so big my small collection would look ridiculous on it.

It took me forever to decide what colour string to get but I went with my gut in the end and chose pink!

Pin Board

Pins from left to right: Magical Maidens, Lulu Boo, Topshop pop up event, Lulu Boo, HMV (though I’m sure you can buy them elsewhere), Lulu Boo, HMV, Magical Maidens, Disneyland Paris (sold out online), HMV, Lulu Boo, HMV, Primark (x2), Magical Maidens, HMV, Lulu Boo, HMV, Primark (x2), exclusive from the Youtube store in London, Primark (x2) and pin from Dodie’s latest tour (now available online).

Star Wars lightside and darkside stickers

I originally saw these stickers on the Youtuber Simply Kenna’s Instagram story (she has now also mentioned them in a video I believe) and I knew I had to have them. She also mentioned that she wanted to put them in a frame as they are too beautiful to use. I think I am definitely going to take inspiration from her and do the same (though I have yet to find a frame that will fit the dimensions).

I definitely recommend you check out the artist’s Etsy Page, her handle is FloBallestraArt and she left a lovely handwritten thank you note in the package as well – it always feels great to support independent artists too!

Light side stickers

Dark side stickers

What I’ve been reading…

Sailor Moon manga vol.1-3

After stopping and starting a little bit with the Sailor Moon Crystal anime (I know I should probably start with the original but I’m too far in now to chop and change); I decided I would try and read the manga that started it all. Overall, this has been a great decision for me! I’ve been really enjoying seeing the differences between the manga and the anime and I find the manga engaging (a little slow at first but it picked up) and a great daydream read (what I mean by that is that it’s a great read for when you just want to loose yourself in a different universe). I’ve also been considering doing a review series of posts for the manga as I go through it – I know it’s hardly a new read for a lot of people but I think it might be interesting to review it as someone whose never read it and from a 2018 lens.

Sailor Moon volume 1

Sailor Moon vol 2

Sailor Moon volume 3

What I’ve been watching…

Masterchef (UK)

I have a strange obsession with cooking shows even thought I don’t eat like 90% of the dishes that contestants make but I still find it interesting to learn about different processes, which I can apply to meat free alternatives. The show also always inspires me to start cooking again more.

I was pleased to see this year that the vegetarian options for the round where they needed to provide one were definitely a bit more exciting than previous years.

This season also took an interesting turn in the media with the uproar that erupted over a contestant’s chicken rendang dish (I literally saw a double page spread on it in one newspaper).

The below GIF is not in the reaction to that by the way I just thought it was hilarious.

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via GIPHY

Ru Paul’s Drag Race

I think when mentioning Drag Race it is important to note some of the more problematic areas of the show and recent comments from Ru Paul. However, I believe you can still enjoy certain elements of something and be able to criticise other parts of it (otherwise my list of things I enjoyed would be very small indeed).

However, I will say that this season so far has been brilliant with some hilarious moment from ‘Miss Vanjie’ to ‘Brown Cow’ (which had me laughing for about 5 minutes straight).

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via GIPHY

Magical Girl Ore

If you’re looking for an anime that loves the magical girl genre but also relentlessly makes fun of it then this is the series for you. It’s quite frankly hilarious and the way it examines gender and sexuality is interesting to say the least. I would say it’s one of my favourite new anime’s on Crunchyroll at the moment.

magical girl ore.jpg

Image: Crunchyroll 

Food Wars 

Recently, I horrified some of my friends by showing them the first episode of this, making it harder for them to understand why I was so excited when I saw that the next series of this anime was out. If only partially because it has toned down with the Ecchi elements, which I’m not a fan of – I watch for the amazing cooking scenes. I have definitely eaten more than my fair show of noodles after getting way too hungry from this show. So far the new season is interesting, it’s a bit too early for me to have any concrete reactions but I like the development of Erina’s character which is currently taking place.

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via GIPHY

Brad Mondo 

I recently discovered this Youtuber and professional hairdresser in my Youtube suggestions and I LOVE their reaction videos. I also want them to sit me down and give me their opinion on what I should do to my hair. My favourite part about his videos is that despite being an expert in the industry, he is never mean about the people who are making mistakes, he just uses their failures as a way to teach and always sympathises with the people in the videos he watches.

Simply Nailogical 

Although, I’ve never been that into painting my nails; I can’t stop watching Christine’s videos because she is HILARIOUS. I also like how she brings up serious topics in her videos as well, i.e. the ethicality behind companies like Wish. I definitely have a need for all things HOLO now.

What I’ve been wearing…

Sailor Moon Artemis bag 

I bought this after buying my friend the black Luna version for her birthday and then very quickly realising that I was going to need one as well. I got the Artemis bag because it was when the heat wave hit and I was definitely leaning towards white over black for accessories in that period. I actually bought this bag off Amazon and at first it was a bit of a saga. The first bag that I received was scuffed quite a bit at the bottom, wasn’t a brilliant white and the stitch detail on the moon was messed up (which, was the detail that upset me the most). If I’m being honest it looked like it had been used and then resold. I messaged the seller and they quickly sent me out a new bag however, which was a lot better so I can’t fault their customer service!

I also still have the first bag I received so if anyone wants it let me know, as I don’t need two! I’m considering seeing if I can DIY it and dye it black (though I have no knowledge of such things so this may not be possible). If you know about such things please give me some advice! Martin has suggested I turn it into a Hello Kitty bag which isn’t actually a bad idea…

Sailor Moon Artemis bag

So it turns out running late because I accidentally fell asleep ends in a surprising good outfit ✨

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Celebrating with sweets 🍭 for Martin and I’s three year anniversary 💕 (he’s camera shy).

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Killstar ‘Weird Girl’ dress

Although, a lot of people probably don’t think I’m a big fan of black after looking at this blog; I actually love mixing up my style and love any way I can incorporate Wednesday Addams into my everyday style. This dress that I picked up in the sale from Killstar is super comfy. I think it would be a little more flattering if it was a bit more true to size as my usual size (based on their sizing chart) was a bit too oversized on me. I also wish the sleeves were a tad bit longer. Overall, however I wear this all the time and I LOVE the collar on this dress – whenever I wear it reminds me how much I want Peter Pan collars to make a comeback.

Weird Girl dress

What I’ve been listening to…

Connie Glynn – Heartbreaker 

I’ve been a big fan of Connie Glynn aka the Youtuber Noodlerella for a long time now so I was very excited when I saw that she had come out with an original song. It’s super catchy, particularly the pre-chorus/ chorus (apologises if the below are wrong, just going on my own ears, as I couldn’t find the lyrics written down anywhere):

‘Hollow beating in my chest 

No, it’s nothing you can fix 

This heart is broken and its not going to mend 

It’s always the same 

But I’ll try again 

I rip the ribs apart and feast on the flesh

Back home to the waste 

And onto the next’

Despite, the song being a bit too electronic and produced for my personal tastes; the lyrics and the catchiness of the song keep me hooked. This is truly a great original little bop.

Ariana Grande – No Tears Left To Cry 

I think most people have probably heard this song by now. I’ve not actually listened to a lot of Ariana’s music in the past; despite admiring her powerhouse voice so when I heard she had a new single out I decided to give it a listen. The video is stunning even if it does make me feel a bit sea sick (ha, ha) and this is another song that I just can’t get out of my head.

I also like the low ponytail – sorry to any high ponytail worshippers out there!

Janelle Monáe – PYNK

I’ll admit I love this mostly for the aesthetic and the many layered nuances of the music video – I think everyone has seen and had an opinion on the vagina trousers by now so I won’t go into it but I think they’re genius.

I also would definitely be tapping my foot along if this came on at a party (if I ever go to any!).

If you haven’t yet, you also need to read her latest Rolling Stone interview.

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

– Blog posts Thursday and Sundays- 

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Hi everyone,

This is just a short and sweet post to let you know that I am in the process of setting up my Bloglovin’ account (please click the link above to follow me there). I noticed a few people were following me on the platform and that this blog wasn’t connected to the account I have on there so I thought it would be a good idea to actually link it! Now you’ll have the chance to follow me through Bloglovin or by email (check out the little button on my blog that says ‘Follow Blog via email’).

Also, don’t worry I still have a blog post coming tomorrow (spoiler alert, it may or may not be a post about my favourites for April).

For anyone new to this blog the main areas I post about are Fashion, Books, Cruelty Free makeup and Mental Health (and also quite a large smattering of anime, comics and general nerd topics). I’ve been blogging for over a year now so there’s lots of old posts to look through (or if you’re me bring over).

Style wise I would describe myself as an electric rainbow. I like things to be a weird mix of classic but different and something you’d never seen before. My style also tends to always gravitate to the 90s and I have a strong obsession with having a hat for almost every outfit. My favourite fashion brands are Lazy Oaf*, Irregular Choice, Monki and Topshop.

So it turns out running late because I accidentally fell asleep ends in a surprising good outfit ✨

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Book wise I like everything but at the moment have been reading a lot of YA (Young Adult) fiction. Maybe, because I’m convinced I’m ancient (I’m 22!) and I want to relieve my youth (ha, ha). I also currently am reading the Snotgirl and Papergirls comics and FINALLY reading the manga for Sailor Moon. I do also love to read books that address feminism or have overtones of feminism in them and I did start a series called my ‘Feminist Reading Journey’ that I need to pick back up.

Cruelty free wise I am far from perfect but I will always label to the best of my ability why I believe something to be cruelty free (with sources) and will mention if a product is vegan as well. Some of my go to picks at the moment are the Superdrug B Beauty range (can’t remember if this is entirely vegan but think it might be), Lush (always and forever), Urban Decay (cruelty free with some vegan products**), Too Faced (cruelty free with some vegan products) and Kat von D Beauty (cruelty free and vegan).

Mental health wise I am first of all far from being an authority but occasionally try to share my experiences if I feel they could help someone. I started writing about my mental health because I was constantly preaching that people shouldn’t be ashamed to speak up when I couldn’t myself (I am not however saying you have to share your issues with the world). For me, it has helped me to open up a bit more and process a lot of my thoughts, which is always a good thing.

So there is my little blog in a nutshell. If you want to see why it’s called April is the Cruellest Month then you need to go to my About page. Thank you for reading, all comments, suggestions and follows (*wink* *wink* are appreciated).

Also, follow my Instagram if you haven’t already and didn’t get my very unsubtle hints throughout this post.

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

– Blog posts Thursday and Sundays- 

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* For anyone wondering why I haven’t addressed Lazy Oaf’s recent controversy, I just want to say I can if this is something people are interested in. I personally didn’t want to stir things up as the situation is resolved and the artist is being compensated (I don’t think this however makes up for the alleged earlier treatment of the artist or the carelessness of the brand).

** Update: I originally labelled Urban Decay as cruelty free and vegan. It’s come to my attention that not all their products are vegan. I’m really sorry if this misinformed anyone. You can find all their vegan products here: https://www.urbandecay.co.uk/en_GB/what-s-new/vegan/?utm_source=BAU&utm_medium=email&utm_content=HeroCTA&utm_campaign=2018-May_VeganStory&dl_uiUser=091F38BC-3898-41CE-9B28-53B73783DEE9 

Book review: Ready to Fall by Marcella Pixley

I am more than a little bit late with my review of this book (this book was published in the UK on March 15th) but my life has been very hectic recently so I didn’t have time to properly sit down and finish this book till now.  I also just want to quickly mention at the start before I start this review that I was very kindly set my copy of the book by the book’s publishers*.

The plot of the book is as follows:

Following the death of his mother, Max Friedman comes to believe that he is sharing his brain with a tumour. As he becomes focused on controlling the malignant tenant, he starts to lose touch with his friends and family, and with reality itself – so Max’s father sends him off to the artsy Baldwin School to regain his footing.

Soon, Max has joined a group of theatre misfits in a steam-punk production of Hamlet. He befriends Fish, a girl with pink hair and a troubled past, and The Monk, a boy who refuses to let go of the things he loves. Max starts to feel happy, and the ghosts of his past seem to be gone for ever.

But the tumour is always lurking in the wings – until one night it knocks him down, and Max is forced to face the truth.

-Mild spoilers ahead. There are no big plot spoilers here but I usually keep my reviews almost spoiler free so I wanted to flag-

I’ll start by saying that it took a bit of warming up too but I did enjoy parts of this novel. It reminds me a lot of books I would devour as a teenager. After all, who doesn’t dream of going to an artsy school where the teachers are cool and there are loads of quirky characters. I think this is also my main issue with the book, it feels very much like what you expect a novel for teenagers to read like – it’s basically screaming no one understands you if you’re quirky! This isn’t a bad thing, and there is books I love that apply the same techniques (*cough, cough, John Green*); however, there is still a uniqueness to the writing style that this lacks.

Don’t get me wrong there is real heart within the novel. The bits of the writing that truly resonated with me and managed to cut through the teen novel stereotypes where the parts where Max discusses his relationship with his mother, father or grandfather. The way Max’s grief is depicted felt raw and honest and kept me going with the novel, even when other parts grated with me a little.

I also loved the advice in the creative writing class about use of the 3rd person instead of 1st in certain instances, as it pinpointed an issue I’d had when reading my own writing and others in the past but couldn’t quite put my finger on. It even has influenced the direction I want to go in terms of my own novel, highlighting why I will always love reading – there is also something new to be discovered.

The characters in the novel I may not wholeheartedly love as much, but I was not completely uninvested in them – I just thought they could be a little more. Fish, the main love interest of the novel for example, very easily falls under the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ stereotype. However, I have always felt two-fold about these characters. Yes, they are often used almost as a prop for the male characters to project all the angst onto and ultimately to ‘save’ them, but they are often the best, more empowered and memorable characters. Fish is somewhere in-between, she is strong and resilient in the way she strives to confront her own emotions and helps others too as well; however she doesn’t completely shake the idea that she exists purely to help Max through his pain.

In regards, to Fish, her past relationship with Monk also wasn’t really explained enough for me to invest in it. I could understand why Max didn’t seem that fazed by getting in the middle of it. However, at the same time I’ve witnessed relationships like that where you’re always aware of a small spark between two people existing, but deep down they both needed to just let each other go because they just don’t work (it would have been nice for more detail of the ways Monk and Fish didn’t work).

Another part of the novel that didn’t sit right with me was the way in which Max was repeatedly drawn to Fish’s self harm scars. Self harm scars are not something anyone should be ashamed of or feel they have to hide; but it felt like the novel was implying that was something almost romantic about them. Especially by the way Max obsessively went back to them again and again.

Overall, while I definitely had issues with this novel; something about it made me not want to stop reading. The novel had sparks of greatness in the way it treated grief and mental illness; I just wanted that little bit more from the characters.

*To be clear I was not paid for this review, which I think may be obvious may be its content.

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

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P.S. SPOILER AHEAD

Max’s creative writing teacher, Dr Cage was completely in the wrong in regards to what happened at the restaurant. You shouldn’t drink in front of a pupil full stop, especially not to the extent where you’re a bit too drunk to notice that said pupil is taking massive gulps from your drink.

Book Review: How To Stop Time by Matt Haig

I’ll start by saying that it feels like forever since I’ve written anything for this blog, and while forever is a bit of a stretch; I have not been sticking to my regular once a week programming (you know if we actually pretend I ever have). This is to be honest due to my regular scheduled bouts of ennui (which are regular even if nothing in my life is).

However, I’m back, ready to write, review, take awful blog pictures and keep pretending I’ll have the courage to put my face on YouTube one day.

This week’s quality content is a review of How To Stop Time by Matt Haig. I know this is not a new release by any means but I borrowed it to read for a book club at work so thought I’d do a little review about it. The book follows Tom Hazard, who looks about 41 years old but has been alive for centuries. He’s seen it all from Elizabethan England to Jazz-Age Paris, to New York to the South Seas. To avoid being caught he is constantly changing his identity to stay alive. We follow Tom as he starts to teach history at a London comprehensive (delightfully of course pulling on his experiences to teach) and is searching for why he still keeps going after all the centuries he’s lived.

You can kind of tell from the premise that the book is going to be a page turner and the prose aids this beautifully – it’s relatable in that way that has often been sometimes caused books to be dismissed as ‘beach reads’; but in fact just gives you breathing room to think. I also ferociously belong to the camp that believe that something doesn’t need to be long-winded to feel like a classic.

How To Stop Time however does not belong to the classic camp (in my humble opinion).  Don’t get me wrong it’s a lovely read and it will force you to enjoy life a little bit more, especially if you’re like me and have a tendency to get trapped in your own head a lot. It also will make you remember why you love history (or get you at least a bit excited about it if it wasn’t your subject at school), as this is definitely written by someone who fiercely loves history. Unsurprisingly, when I looked up Matt Haig I found that he studied English and History at Hull University.

Flaw wise (without trying to give anything away) the novel suffers from the trait I’ve been noticing in a few of my reads recently; the tying up of all plot holes as speedily as possible in the last chapter or so. Maybe, I just don’t like novels to end and maybe I would wrongly draw things out too much. But something about the thoughtful nature of the book makes me want it to be less rushed; after all the book does exude the theme that we have to learn to live in the present.

Some people will probably criticise the amount of famous cameos but really considering the amount of time this character is supposed to have lived; I don’t feel it’s too dramatic. I also feel like the people who are constantly open to new things and wait to see where life takes them are always the ones who find themselves drawn to people like that – like moths to a flame. Also, if you’re going to do any sort of narrative with time travel or travelling through different periods of time; your audience is going to expect the obligatory celebrity cameo.

The treatment of colonialism within the book is also a little bit fleeting and probably could of done with a bit more development than the two pages I saw. Especially, considering the way the novel reflects on casting someone as ‘other’ and witchcraft.

Overall, I did like this novel and would recommend it, especially if you’re a lover of any piece of fiction that looks at different time periods like me. Don’t go in thinking this is all guns blazing however. It is after all a story of an Englishman (well French, but shh –  and there is an argument to be had for that at least a little by the way in which the character sees themselves at being at home within London). If you need a bit of optimism and want a well written tale; you can’t go wrong with this one.

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

This One Summer: Graphic Novel review

Main image: © Jillian Tamaki, used with permission.

This also happens to be my favourite piece of artwork from This One Summer (Jillian and Mariko Tamaki). 

This One Summer is a collaboration between cousins Mario Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki, it follows the story of Rose, someone who is starting to nosedive into the world of puberty. The story takes place across the summer of her annual trip with her family to Awago Beach, where her friend Windy is always there to meet her. While previous summers have always been amazing; this summer Rose has to confront family problems, as well as the pains of growing up. 

If you want something that captures the feelings of summer holidays; this is it. For someone like me who has now decided that they are ancient and is missing the carefree  leisure of summer holidays; this book is equally a delight and a weird kind of torture.

The whole read perfectly captures the dreamy wistfulness that captured my summer holidays – the same could be said for the content of the graphic novel. Not a lot happens but a lot happens at the same time. Growing up isn’t always something that is a dramatic adventure and this is the real genius of the graphic novel – it captures exactly that.

The artwork as well is beautiful- if I could frame the front cover I would. I just love when soft colours, especially lilacs and a watercolour feel is applied to artwork- and I love, love, love how that theme contains on through the graphic novel.

tos1

Image: © Jillian Tamaki, used with permission.

However, it wasn’t the stunning artwork that initially drew me to this graphic novel; it was that I was talking to the lovely shop assistant in my local comic book and they recommended the graphic novel based on my other choices. When talking about the graphic novel they also discussed how it was difficult to order in because it had been banned in the US. The reason it was banned I discovered was due to that it was deemed to contain ‘vulgar language’. And to be honest if a book is banned I automatically want to read it more. All I say about the ‘vulgar’ language is this: this is a book aimed at teens who are going to use and hear this language – that is just the reality of life.

And capturing the reality of life is what the graphic novel does best, especially the brutal reality of being introduced to the world of growing up and adulthood. However, along that pain is the joy of friendships. I have to say Rose and Windy’s friendship was probably my favourite thing throughout This One Summer because it has been a long time since I have read a friendship that didn’t feel stylised but just captured the messy reality of friendship. Sometimes, like Rose does to Windy, you mess up when talking with you friends. But most of the time being with a friend feels freeing –  something which Windy does beautifully.

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Image: © Jillian Tamaki, used with permission.

I’m not going to lie, I see a lot of myself in Windy but I also see a lot more power in Windy than I felt I had at that age. She says what she thinks is right, even when it can be hard, especially when you friend is older (as is the case for Windy).

I hope by keeping this review short and sweet I capture the spirit of the graphic novel a bit – in that the graphic novel didn’t need to say a lot to be impactful. The artwork and storytelling fills in the gaps for you. The graphic novel’s strength is also its only weakness – not a lot happens but the characterisation is some of the best I’ve seen. We have a central character who the author is not afraid to show mess up in her journey to grow up as well as highlight how her infatuation with the teenage lothario of Awago Beach, Dunc sways and influences her judgment.

The adults too are not one-dimensional – we get to see Rose’s mum, Alice’s pain and understand her actions, as well as understand why Rose would react the way she does to her mum’s behaviour. Essentially This One Summer is a snapshot of the reality of growing up, but it’s genius is the way it paints that snapshot – bright, vivid and deeply immersive.

If you’re interested in This One Summer you can buy it on Amazon, I’d also recommend this review in The Comics Journal, which inspired some of the points in my review, particularly the line: ‘Immersion is This One Summer‘s strength’. However, it’s important to note that the review is not spoiler free.

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

Turtles All the Way Down: Review

Turtles All the Way Down centres on 16 year old Aza Holmes who suffers from multiple anxiety disorders including obsessive-compulsive disorder. The plot covers friendship, loss, living with mental health issues and a bunch of other random bits that make the book great.

Turtles all the way down

As I don’t suffer with obsessive compulsive disorder, I found the look into the mind of someone who is living with the disorder insightful. The way I have always obsessed over a event feels more like a dark cloud coming over me, which is then all I can loop back to for that day. The next day though a lot of the time the feelings are gone. Sometimes, it can only be for 5 minutes, like every time I see a new email subscriber (I’ve seen a lot recently for some odd reason) and for some reason I’ve decided that instead of it being a totally normal thing, it’s some sort of conspiracy where people laugh at my blog (even though that makes like zero sense). So basically if you’re an email subscriber please comment below and reassure me that’s not that case! I can’t imagine what it would be like being constantly trapped in that kind of thought cycle.

I loved the characters in this novel, particularly the fan-fiction loving, hilarious Daisy who reminds me both of me and a few of my friends at times, which is probably why I love her. There is though refreshingly not too many characters to stress over, as most of the plot is centred around a core group of characters- I’ll admit I’m awful at remembering names if there starts to be too many characters in something.

Maybe the small ‘cast’ is linked to the fact that John Green has described this novel, as his most personal:

“This is my first attempt to write directly about the kind of mental illness that has affected my life since childhood, so while the story is fictional, it is also quite personal.”
Source: Penguin.co.uk 

I think this really shows. I feel much more like I am in Aza’s mind then I have felt with characters in other John Green novels though maybe that is also because Aza’s experiences in life are a lot more close to home for me than say Hazel’s experience in The Fault in Our Stars.

Image: The postcard that came along with my copy of the novel.

The novel however is not without faults. Like, all John Green books the characters are a little bit too philosophical for their own good. I’m not saying people that age can’t have those sort of debates because they most certainly can (and I think social media has brought an immense amount of pressure to have everything all figured out even younger nowadays) but in my experience this was something largely internalised or restricted to things like blogs (which, one of the characters does have).

I think this is probably my only criticism of John Green novels- I remember talking about  the topics that are discussed but always in a roundabout way. Everyone does not also always have amazing vocabulary. But as an English Literature graduate I’ll admit I don’t hate it though I can understand why people might think it might come across as pretentious.

My other not really a criticism because I loved the book regardless, but perhaps instead then a little quibble, is that the mystery that makes up the plot, for me (it’s on the blurb so I really don’t think this is a spoiler!) is a bit anti-climatic. It felt like it was there to tie characters together but this could have been done in another way- the bit where everything was revealed was also just a little bit rushed as well.

There are though elements of this book that are specular. As mentioned the novel does an amazing job at demonstrating what it’s like in Aza’s mind. At the same time though the novel is able to show and explain what it’s like for both the people who suffer from mental health and their friends and family. There is a scene in the book (which, I am going to try my best not to spoil) in which the lead character, Aza has to confront the effect her mental illness has had on her friends and family. Of course, the book stresses this is not something that Aza has deliberately maliciously done but I think it is refreshing to see the effect that mental health issues do have on someone’s family and friends. Without making the person at the centre feel incredibly guilty or selfish- just making them realise what is going around them and come out of the bubble that their mental illness has on them.

What is important to me is that we also get to see Aza’s mum and friend’s opinions- we see the importance of having an open dialogue, as it helps stop a cycle of both parties acting in a certain way because they don’t know how to do anything else.

In fact, for me one of the most powerful scenes of the novel (mild spoiler alert, maybe?) is when Aza demonstrates exactly what it feels like to think like she does. Sometimes, it does take a metaphor to help people to understand.

I’ll admit I thought one of the characters was being overly harsh at first but after a lot of thinking about it (mostly on my bus to work) I realised that it was a totally justifiable reaction. Yes, they could have brought it up beforehand but I’m not immune from letting such feelings bubble up myself and then all come tumbling out.

It also leads to some truly beautiful scenes between the two characters afterwards (and demonstrates something I’m trying to do more and more, take the time to see what your friends are doing and show some love towards it- especially in terms of things they create). In one of the scenes one of the characters says it feels like they are actually in the moment and not “watching a movie of our conversation”- something that I can definitely relate to (the feeling like I’m not quite ‘there’ in a particular moment).

Another amazing point about this book is that it talks about fanfiction. And it’s not making fun of it but celebrating it and from what I know about John Green I would only expect as much (though to be honest that is not a whole lot- I really need to go on a binge of his content). Most importantly, fanfiction is praised as being something that should have fans and does showcase really great writers and to be honest it reminded me of how I need to read more fanfiction again!

Before reading this novel my favourite John Green novel was Looking for Alaska. Since, this is the book I’ve read the most recently it is now Turtles All The Way Down but I think if I read Looking for Alaska again there might be a bit of a war going on there.

This also counts as reviewing a Youtuber’s book (though I don’t think a lot of people counts John Green’s novel as ‘Youtuber books’ even though he is very well known on Youtube) so I’ve put it under that tab. I’m hoping to try to have different tabs on my blog soon where you can click for book reviews, fashion stuff, etc. but my theme is making it a bit difficult.

I think the phrase ‘Life goes on’ has perhaps been used too much so maybe instead what you can take from the novel is ‘Life happens’. Your mental health problems are not something to be magically fixed, sometimes there will be bad, sometimes good but amongst all that life just goes on- so capture the good moments whenever you can.

April

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Feminist Reading Journey: Alice Walker ‘The Color Purple’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

I don’t know what it’s like to be poor (sure, my family were not what I would have called ‘well off’ but we were far from poor); I don’t know what it’s like to be black; whether I’m ugly or not is subjective and my cooking skills can be pretty decent depending on my mood. But basically what I’m trying to say is my situation in life is quite far away from that of the main protagonist of Alice Walker’s infamous novel ‘The Color Purple’; however that is the reason I started this whole journey. To read and learn about experiences other than my own.

One of my favourite traits in a person is when they can be empathic to other people. When they can push past whether something ‘offends’ them and see why it might offend others. Something, which is still lost on a lot of people. As, for example a few weeks ago I saw three men dressed up as the Jamaican bob sled team from the film Cool Runnings complete with black face, pop up on my Facebook feed, and a lot of the comments I saw focused on how it was just a ‘laugh’ and people should get over it. They concentrated on how it didn’t offend them, so people it did offend must just be oversensitive. I think this is a good example of racism in Britain works, and why people do not point to it as much as racism in America. It’s less blatant except when something like this pops up, and people cannot understand why their behaviour would cause offence. See also this brilliant article on how golliwogs are viewed in Britain today for this in action. Now, don’t get me confused, I am FAR very from being qualified to be the voice of racism within Britain. Not least, because I live in a privileged position that means I’ve never been the victim of it.

If you’re wondering what my ‘privilege’ is, basically I’m white, and I’m petite in height (this is not generally viewed as something that connotes ‘privilege’ but I’ll explain my reasoning a bit more below). And yes that means I get asked for directions a lot, as generally, people don’t see me as a threat. I’ve noticed this in airports/ in passport control, as well, where even my significant other has been treated different to me (not horribly I might add though- this experience is nothing compared to what people of colour have to go through), despite being the same level of politeness as me. However, he’s tall and some people can find the intimidating. I know this because when they realised that he was with me their whole body language towards him changed dramatically. I can only imagine what people of Asian, or black, or any other person who doesn’t present as white has had to go through.

However, forgive my rant. On to the book. Though, my rant is important because it shows just how good this book is at making you think about the racism in society that surrounds you, even though this book was set in a different time period and place to me. Also, for those not aware here is the context of the book, which I am unashamedly taking from Wikipedia: “Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on the life of African-American women in the southern United States in the 1930s, addressing numerous issues including their exceedingly low position in American social culture”. The woman the novel specifically focuses on however is Celie, who is poor and uneducated and living in the American South, who begins the novel with a horrible home life, followed by a disastrous marriage.

So before I spoil too much of the plot let’s get onto the main things I love about the themes of this novel:

  • Female empowerment- Celie just doesn’t give up, no matter what life throws at her- she really rises like a phoenix out of the ashes (forgive my overdone metaphor).
  • Female friendships- it’s a little worrying that I still get happy about seeing positive female friendships in books and on the screen (though I’d like to point out this is not me referencing the film because I have yet to see it!).
  • Female sexuality- this book talks about female desire, which is important (obviously), and it has LGBTQ+ representation!!!

The Color Purple

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So as you can see there is a heavy focus on the female within this novel, which is not entirely surprising as I’ve dubbed it as part of my feminist reading journey. However, in my research I saw that a lot of members of the black community were upset over the representation of black men as only being barbaric and as sexual predators. Though I believe this was mostly a criticism of the film (but I’m assuming by extension also the novel). However, a lot of people also said that it accurately depicted their experience, and the film was only supposed to tell one woman’s story, and not stand for black men and women everywhere.

Also, before I go on I would also like to take this moment to warn anyone who hasn’t read the book yet that it contains depictions of sexual violence (so if that makes you uncomfortable in any way shape or form I wouldn’t recommend this novel). It’s because of the sexual content of the novel and due to it’s depictions of ‘rough language’, and ‘homosexuality’ to name just a few concerns brought up (not forgetting the novel’s ‘negative image of black men’) that the book has been banned numerous times. I don’t know about you but if a book has been banned, I immediately want to read it more. Mainly, because the very idea of banning reading of any kind disturbs me to my core (knowledge is power after all).

The Color Purple The Kawaii Kollective

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

Overall, this book is about someone who had no voice, and following their journey to them finding their voice. While they were helped to that realisation by the friendships in their life on their way; ultimately Celie finds her voice all on her own. And I challenge you to think of a more empowering message than that.

There are though instances where fighting back also just sees someone constantly beat down (which, I’m sure a lot of people can find symbolic meaning in both now and for some constantly throughout their lives). Sofia, is one such character who experiences this, and she reminds me of a lot of strong people I know. Who would never give up on what they believe in. Unless it’s stamped out of them. Instead, of taking the sorrow from this, I try to see it as an example of if you crush someone so much, even the strongest people will fall. So that is why we need to ensure this unequal system of power that allows people to succeed in this is destroyed in the first place (though I’m sure you’re all thinking, if only it was that simple- and I completely agree).

So there you have it, ‘The Color Purple’ was everything I expected it to be, and delighted me in other ways (I was genuinely shocked to see depictions of homosexuality in the book- as I’d never heard this mentioned about the book or film before- though I’m not sure if the film is as explicit). If you like being sucked into someone’s world and truly feel like you’re feeling a character’s life, this novel is for you.

If you want to know more about what I thought about particular passages, etc. please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, as I fear this blog post is not as extensive as it could be due to that I’m currently fighting back a cold.

🍂April🍂

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Reviewing Youtuber books: Emma Blackery ‘Feel Good 101’

For those of you who don’t know already, I’m still what I would describe as fairly new to Youtube. I remember my sisters when they were younger (and still today to a certain extent) enthusing over their favourite Youtubers, and they even went to Summer in the City (while my mum and I strolled around London doing touristy things). But, I just never really got into the Youtube phenomenon in the same way they did. I only went to Youtube to listen to music and watch music videos- I also had seen the occasional viral video from there (but still far less than anyone else). A year or so ago however I decided to actually start to check out some more channels, as Youtube was now everywhere. To be honest, I’m not really sure who I first subscribed to but I think one of the first Youtubers I watched was grav3yardgirl through a recommendation from a friend, along with Zoella (if you’re British you just cannot not watch Zoella or escape her- don’t worry Zoella lovers I’m not slating her).

It did not take long before I became completely obsessed. As not only is there some amazing content out there but Youtubers and the way fans interact with them is something I also find fascinating from an academic perspective. We also live in a place now where people’s careers can be Youtube, and consequently recently there has been more and more controversy about sponsorship, affiliate codes and how much Youtubers earn. At the same time revenue from videos has decreased, and videos are becoming monetised less and less (and disturbingly a lot of videos with LGBTQ+ also became restricted). It’s not surprising then that a lot of youtubers have also brought out their own collaborations or products not only as a source of extra revenue, but because it’s something their passionate about and because their supporters want it.

When brands saw these ranges go well, suddenly they were everywhere. But with popularity becomes controversy. Zoella’s debut novel may have been the bestselling debut novel ever, but it has been accused of affecting literacy levels, and more famously there was a massive controversy about the book being ghost written. Emma Blackery then in reaction to the outpour of Youtuber books initially hated the idea. However, with time she changed her mind, and felt that if those books made people happy, how could she get angry about that?

For those of you who don’t know Emma Blackery is a Youtuber and musician, who rose to fame initially for a series on her Youtube channel when she read out pieces from 50 shades of grey and critiqued the novel. Although, those videos eventually got taken down due to copyright claims; Blackery continued to make comedy videos and again went viral with her video ‘My Thoughts on Google +’. Recently, she released this book I’m about to talk about, and the artwork for her EP Magnetised was featured on Apple’s Keynote for the iPhone 8 and X.

However, let’s get onto the book. From the get go it’s obvious this book’s target audience is teenagers, which since that is generally considered to be the largest viewership group for Youtubers that’s hardly a shock. Plus, I picked it up in the teenage fiction section in Waterstones so if that doesn’t clue you in I don’t know what will.

Emma Blackery

Therefore, if you’re in your early twenties some of the advice and stories in this book, although they may help you reflect; are going to come a bit late for you. ‘The Brain Stuff’ section however is relevant whatever your age. We all need reminding sometimes to take better care of ourselves and look after our mental health- this book then is something that can be there when you’re feeling down and need that motivational reminder (without feeling like you’re being lectured to).

Also, for fans of Blackery there is no denying she wrote this book. It sounds and feels like she talks, which you’ll know if you’ve ever seen any of her videos. I can already predict how the audio book will sound in my head just from reading it. Prose wise this is not supposed to be something that is hard to follow, so it isn’t, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

The section ‘Sex Talk’ is another highlight, especially for teenagers considering how sexuality and consent (at least when I had sex education) were not talked about properly in schools. I also like the way in which she talked about being able to categorise her feelings with the label ‘squish’  (a crush but without sexual desire) helped. I know a lot of people argue now that sexuality labels have ‘gone too far’ and are ‘redundant’, but when you live in a society that is so quick to categorise and define you, not having that definition available for you, for many people makes them think there is something wrong with them. Yes, in an ideal world it wouldn’t matter, and it’s nice that you don’t see gender (I’m going to be honest I think there are very few people who think this way just because the effect from society is so strong), but does that mean you should slate on something that helps other people? No, surprisingly, it doesn’t.

I also appreciated how Blackery made sure not to leave anyone out from the sexuality spectrum, including those who are assexual. While there was no talk about questioning your gender (from what I can remember, apologises if there is); Blackery cannot be expected to talk about everything (though I will admit maybe she should have explicitly stated this). She made it clear she was just talking about her experiences, and what she knew (that’s why in the back of the book there is helplines for people more specialised in that subject area).

I have always as well felt like honest experiences help more than well meant, but often misleading advice. Although, in one way I wish I could have read this in my teenage years; there was some chapters such as ‘Sex Talk’ that would not have applied, as Emma’s problems came from problems with crushes, and that would have involved me actually becoming involved in that area of my life.

The ‘Education (and making the most of it)’ section of the book is going to be painful for anyone who has gone to university. I don’t mean this as a disservice to Blackery, I mean it in the sense that the job market nowadays is hard (see my post Post University Panic for more) though I do think some of Emma’s CV tips are well worth taking a look at.

Overall, the book is half memoir, half advice. A quick guide to help you along in your teenage years by someone who can actually remember them. Not to say that’s its not still useful if you’re past twenty. The mental health section is definitely a must read (and as I mentioned there are also helplines at the back of the book to help with a variety of different issues). The book shows that Emma cares about her fans, and wanted to write something they could appreciate but would also hopefully be useful for them. That is something I can definitely respect.

So will I be reading sections of this again? Definitely. Do I regret buying this Youtuber’s book? No. And I think if you take anything from this review those two statements are definitely a good start.

The book is available to purchase from Waterstones, and Amazon (and I’m sure a variety of other places but those two are my favourite book buying sites). You can also get a audiobook of the novel from Audible.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and my future reading plans at the moment include ‘Secrets for the Mad: Obsessions, Confessions and Life Lessons’ by the Youtube sensation Dodie Clark (due out the 2nd November) and ‘The Rosewood Chronicles: Undercover Princess’ by Connie Glynn aka Youtuber, and cosplayer, Noodlerella (also out the 2nd November).

Let me know if there are any other Youtuber books (or products!) that you’d like me to review. I’d love to also do a Youtuber music series to accompany this as well, so drop me a line if that’s something you’d find interesting.

🍂April🍂

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Update: What’s happening with my Feminist Reading Journey

Image: Pexels 

It’s been a lot more than a hot minute since I’ve written a post for my feminist reading journey series so I thought now would be a good time to have a bit of a catch up and discuss what’s happening with the series. So sit down, have a cup of tea (or if you are like me and hate tea, another beverage) and settle into this short and sweet post. To put it simply, I’m bringing the feminist reading journey posts back. Although, I’ve said in the past that they will be every two weeks; I think for everyone’s sanity including my own- more sporadic than that might be better but I will see how it goes.

I will be relaunching the series next week with a post about The Color Purple. I’m not sure what day the post will be out yet, but it will be an additional post to my normal Monday and Friday posts. Posts in this series I’ve decided will always be like that (apart from this one now), as I feel like putting the series in my regular content will limit my content a bit.

After that I’ve devised a line up (in no particular order) of books I’m hoping to complete by the end of the year. I’ve tried to pick up a line up from authors with a variety of different backgrounds and from different positions- as I always want the books I’m reading to not necessarily be books I know I’m going to agree with. I also think there is something interesting seeing how feminism has changed throughout the generations. The books I picked also discuss a variety of issues that I’ve not explored as of yet, including where body image stands in feminism, and I will also be looking in more detail about gender’s place within feminism- specifically looking at a novel by Kate Bornstein (a transgender author- I mention this only because it is important that transgender individuals are able to tell their own narrative), which ‘offers alternatives to suicide for queer youth struggling to be themselves’.

So without any more of my ramblings here is what is coming up. Next week when I post my The Color Purple post I will announce, which novel is coming next, and so on and so forth. So if you want to read along with me please ensure you check where I am at the end of each post. I’m also going to try to post my reading updates on my Twitter so make sure to follow me there: @aprilcruelmonth.

  • Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay
  • Men Explain Things to Me by Rebecca Solnit
  • My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem
  • Dragon Ladies: Asian American Feminists Breathe Fire by Sonia Shah
  • Fat is a Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach
  • Women, Race and Class by Angela Davis
  • Sex Object: A Memoir by Jessica Valenti
  • Hello Cruel World by Kate Bornstein
  • The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur (to check out my post on Milk and Honey click here.)

So there we have it. Who know if I will be able to get all of these completed by the end of the year, but here’s hoping. If you have any more suggestions, please let me know.

🍂April🍂

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Feminist Reading Journey: Margaret Atwood ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

Let me start this by saying no I haven’t seen the Hulu TV series yet but I fully intend to! This post however isn’t about the tv series, or the film adaptation, it’s about the novel. I actually read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ as part of my undergraduate university degree, but I had read the novel before then because, well, because I like reading!

I also want to quickly address for anyone following this series that I will be reading some new books soon, and the series will be continuing. It’s just on a little bit of a hiatus while I try to finish my dissertation and sort my life out. When it properly comes back I’ll make a blog post letting everyone know, and hopefully have my reading list on there in advance so people can read along with me if they want to. I also want to take more care with the authors I select so that I can actually start to read a variety of different experiences. I try and make my feminism intersectional, and I know at the moment I’m not doing my best to represent that in these blog posts. In terms of a time scale, posts will also be every 2 weeks so that they are not rushed. However, for everyone who hasn’t been reading the rest of my blog posts, sorry about that ramble, and don’t worry I’m going to get on to this blog post now.

First of all, there is a reason that ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is a classic, and for those of you who have burned before (like me) by the term ‘classic’ being bestowed upon a book because it is incredibly long and difficult to follow; don’t worry this isn’t the case here. The story (for those who don’t know) follows a woman called Offred (though this isn’t her ‘real’ name) and her life as a handmaid in the fictional dystopian future of Gilead (a military dictatorship). Her position as a handmaid in this dictatorship means that she is kept for reproductive purposes and her ‘job’ is to reproduce in an elaborate ceremony with The Commander (the male head of the household she lives at) with his wife attending (it’s as bad as it sounds).

Image: @aprilisthecruellestmonth/ Instagram 

I’m not going to say anything more about the plot than that as I don’t want to ruin anything, but think about the way reproductive rights are in the US (and continue to be in Northern Ireland, and other countries in which there are restrictions on abortion laws or abortion is illegal) and you get a sense of what is going on. Although, there was some positive news recently that women from Northern Ireland will be able to get an abortion in Britain for free. However, this verdict also came on the same day that: “Belfast’s Court of Appeal ruled abortion law in Northern Ireland should be left to the Stormont Assembly, not judges – effectively overturning an earlier ruling that the current abortion laws were incompatible with human rights laws” (Source: BBC News).

While a lot of people might argue that ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is not necessarily about abortion (which, I agree with to a certain extent); because in the tale the women desire to have a baby. However, they are still being controlled and forced into that one position- their reproductive rights are being taken away from them. I’m also not the only one to have made this link as women have been seen sporting robes similar to the ones depicted in the Hulu TV series in a number of protests related to reproductive rights and the fight against misogyny.

It for this reason that the quotation I ended up choosing is: “Nolite te bastardes carborundorum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down”. And this week the quotation is very apt not only in terms of equality, but in my own life. I’m coming up to the period where I’m at a bit of a transitional period in my life where I’m not quite sure where I will end up or where I will be. There is something also truly horrible in not knowing, which I hate more than just generally being in a horrible situation. However, I know I’ve just got to get on with it and things will turn around. And at a much faster rate than if I just let life take me where it may. But it’s hard, and I know my friends are finding hard, so basically in a round about way I just want to say if you’re finding everything hard that’s ok. Just try your best to let someone know that you’re finding it hard.

As always the quotation for ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ has been beautifully illustrated by  Caroline from The Kawaii Kollective:

The Handmaid's Tale Image

Image: The Kawaii Kollective

In regards, to the quotation it is also incredibly relevant recently, as the fight for equality has felt difficult, especially with the series of headlines hitting the media regarding gender parity. Perhaps, the most famous of which is the news of the gender wage gap within the BBC, as well as the controversy surrounding the price of the morning after pill in Boots. Especially, considering Boots’ response that if the pill was priced cheaper it might mean that Boots is “incentivising inappropriate use”. Now then more than ever we need to be banding together to fight for change, while not letting these hits grind us down. And there has already been action with a number of female stars from the BBC acting together to write a letter urging the director general to fix the pay gap.

And this links to the main thing I have seen written about ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ and that is that the story is not just a tale: but a warning or a sign of what is happening in our world (particularly, in the Global North, and specifically in America right now). I’ve touched on this already by discussing some of the restrictions placed on women having an abortion, but there is much more that is happening against gender equality and equal rights for everyone whatever gender they identify as (I don’t mean this remark as a flippant ‘whatever’ but as a way to include the variety of different genders people identify as) in Trump’s America.

The author of the article I just linked under ‘gender equality’ also mentions how President Trump doesn’t believe in climate change. In fact he actually pulled the US out of the Paris climate accord, which is horribly ironic considering that the reason why the majority of people in Gilead are infertile is due to radioactive pollution.

Many of the practices within the novel are also present within other countries in the world not just America, particularly regarding same sex love  (in the novel women are circumcised as a punishment for this, and this is something that is still carried out today though not necessarily as a punishment for homosexuality). This practice may be more familiar to you under the name FGM or Female Genital Mutilation, which can “lead to severe bleeding, pain, complete loss of sensitivity, complications during childbirth, infertility, severe pain during sex, recurring infections and urine retention. And in some cases it is lethal. Unlike male circumcision, female genital mutilation also inhibits sexual pleasure”.

I think then now is a good a time as ever to read ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (perhaps the best time) and think about how the practices described are similar or the same to practices inflicted against either gender (as there is not a lot of mention in the novel of how these practices would affect people who exist outside the gender identities of male or female) within the world. Think about then how the world Atwood describes would be like for those who exist out of the 2 gender binaries just mentioned. Most of all, write, talk and protest about the injustices that too closely mirror our own.

After all, Margaret Atwood is being heralded as the ‘voice of 2017‘ so you might as well see for yourself what she has to say. As for me I’m finally going to watch the TV show, and not let anyone grind me down any longer.

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