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.

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March Favourites

i.e. things I bought last month. 

I really want to keep up with this series so I decided to write a little post about things I’ve been loving last month. As usual it’s a bit late but mainly because I kept debating with myself if I had enough to discuss to warrant a post – my innate stubbornness persisted and I decided that I did!

Film 

Black Panther 

What can I say that everyone else hasn’t already said?! It was amazing and everything I’ve wanted to see in a superhero film. The women were terrifying and brilliant – I just can’t wait to see more from the characters introduced.

It still upsets me when people say representation doesn’t matter, especially as I’ve honestly never seen as many black people in the cinema with me before as when I saw this film. I also saw a black man holding his daughter on his lap, pointing out the characters to her – showing her what role models she know had to look up to on screen.

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Image: Black Panther/ Marvel

TV

Nailed It! 

This is a new baking show on Netflix and I think the best way to describe it is, imagine if you got people on a show who can just about bake and then gave them crazy hard baking challenges and see what happens. As you can imagine a lot of the results very much resemble viral internet fail images (which, is essentially the concept of the show). I quickly sped through the season and honestly what made the show for me is the great host Nicole Byer (and the romance I personally ship between her and crew member Wes), as well as her co-host noted chocolatier Jacques Torres.

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Image: Nailed It! / Netflix

Accessories 

Magical Maidens pins 

I treated myself to some mystery pins from the Etsy shop Magical Maidens who do a whole host of pins of popular characters but as if ditto from Pokémon had transformed into them. I chose the seconds (for those who don’t know seconds refers to pins where the colours may be slightly off or the pins have minor damage, which means they can’t be sold for full price) pins – these pins were a mystery except for one design (if you order 3 or more you can chose one design you’d like – I chose Kiki, as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows I love Kiki’s Delivery Service). In the end I received Kiki, as well as a Sailor Moon and Ditto pin. I was really hoping for the Sailor Moon pin so this made me really happy! Most people would also not be able to tell the pins are ‘damaged’ in any way; I would definitely buy some of these again.

Magical Maidens

Fandom items 

Sailor Chibi Moon pop figure 

I don’t have many Pop! figures, mainly because I am hesitant to start too many collections because if I start a collection; I have to complete the set for the fandom but I already have two from the Sailor Moon collection so decided I needed this (ha, ha). Essentially, I’ve really been wanting my hair pink again so I think that is where this stems from.

I bought mine from my local comic book store but you can pick this figure up from Amazon, Forbidden Planet, HMV and I’m sure a few other places!

Chibi Moon

Lumberjanes/ Gotham Academy 

I haven’t finished this series yet so please don’t spoil it for me if you have but what I’ve read so far I love! I just need to get my hands on issue 5 (which, I ordered from my local shop) and 6 (hopefully they’re going to be able to order this for me). What I’ve read so far has made me want to try out Gotham Academy as a series as well (so if you’ve read any let me know your thoughts) I hadn’t actually read any Lumberjanes going into this but knew that I wanted to (mainly because of who was involved in bringing the comic to life and because there was a ginger character called April) and this mini series definitely encouraged that sentiment more! It’s fun, it’s got a 80s theme and is packed full of loads of amazing female characters – there’s nothing not to like! I may have also bought Lumberjanes volume 1 after this but that is a potential favourite for next month!

Lumberjanes Gotham Academy

Music 

Hayley Kiyoko 

I’ve been hearing everyone talk about Hayley Kiyoko for a while now (especially on Twitter) and everything I heard sounded awesome. I eventually stopped being an idiot and checked her out. Her music is not 100% my taste (I’m not too heavy anything with too much of an electronic vibe) but the songs I’ve heard have stuck in my brain. It’s not surprising she’s become a bit of a queer role model and I know so many people who her music videos and her existence would have helped growing up. Her style is also great – essentially it’s that effortlessly cool look I’d never pull off!

Organisation 

Flying Tiger shelves 

I recently decided I needed to just organise my flat (and life) so I picked up some shelves to display my POP figures and other figurines I have (as well, as some of Martin’s). I spotted a cute lilac set in Flying Tiger for only £15 for a set of 4 different shelves, which are now proudly displayed on my wall (thanks to Martin’s family!).

Flying Tiger shelves
They’re not uneven – it’s my wall/ flat.

I also decided that I needed a cacti display shelf (if you read my last blog post you’ve probably already seen it!), as I wanted plants but knew anything else I’d kill. The one I picked up was also £6 and was also from Flying Tiger, and the cacti were £4 I think. Martin picked the colour, I wanted the pale blue but relented because sometimes I have to be fair (ha, ha). This probably looks so ‘basic’ but I love it so don’t care.

Cacti shelf

Picking up from last month’s monthly favourites, I still haven’t watched The Shape of Water; however, this month Avengers: Infinity War comes out and I am beyond excited. When I watched the trailer I had to keep pausing because I literally couldn’t handle it all at once – that’s how pumped I am.

Other than that I am going to try and get through the month without trying to be too confused when people say the month and don’t mean me and go into a The Last Jedi bubble as soon as the DVD comes out (I love it and don’t care what anyone else says lol).

April (April is the Cruellest Month)

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)

January Favourites

It’s been a little bit of a ‘dry’ January for me so this list might be a little bit short on purchases. However, I’ve done a lot of watching of things this month because of my lack of money, so expect to see a lot of suggestions for ways to occupy your time instead of a lot of clothes (though I suspect next month this list will probably contain a lot of clothes).

I’m going to start by talking about something that I’ve not actually bought anything from but I think is super cute and that is the Lazy Oaf x Betty Boop collection. I always loved Betty Boop as a child because of her stint in Roger Rabbit and because I  always saw her in vintage and alternative shops meaning that for me she always stood as a symbol for someone who liked to dress alternatively. And as someone who has always admired (even if they were at times too scared to dabble in) alternative fashion; Betty Boop always seemed pretty darn cool to me.

The showstopping piece from the collection (just to be clear I’m referring to the ‘Women’s’ collection because I’m not a fan of anything in the ‘Men’s’ collection) has to be the white double denim set, which I’d love to attempt to pull off- with the red beret and top as below- maybe with some red converse as well. However, the pieces are about standard for Lazy Oaf collaboration collections and would set me back £120 for the jacket, and £79 for the jeans. So, these pieces are definitely going to have to go on the back burner of things I like at the moment- plus there is no guarantee I would be able to find a pair of the jeans that would fit because of my waist to hip ratio.

I also wish I could style the pieces anywhere near as cute as @skumbagg_ did on Instagram. 

Also, @skumbagg_ highlights probably my favourite piece from the collection the red sheer heart jacket. And this is not only because I really love hearts but because this would look amazing in a Valentines day lookbook (which, I hope to do but don’t think I’ve got another outfits to pull it off- maybe then it will be a Valentines Outfit Of The Day).

My other favourite pieces are the stripe boatneck top (the top pictured below is actually a bodysuit, you can find it here) which would look so cute tucked into a skirt or high waisted trousers or of course the cute pin up jeans they have with the collection (see below- click to the next image to see the amazing bow detail). There is also an adorable crop top, which I love but also have no idea how I would style.

Betty body and blue bow jeans 🎀👖〰️#bettyboopxlazyoaf

A post shared by Lazy Oaf (@lazyoafs) on

The crop top!

The one piece from the collection I do know how I’d style is the dress, which is the cut of my favourite Lazy Oaf dress pieces, which is referred to as a ‘Sally Sack dress’ (see below to see how one of my favourite Lazy Oaf wearers @reina_roo on Instagram styles it). This is the one piece I’m super tempted to get from the collection, as I know I wouldn’t regret it -I’m hoping it will still be available in March (but I know that’s a long shot with Lazy Oaf pieces- if you like a Lazy Oaf piece I very much recommend buying it then and there whenever possible because they only stock limited runs and finding the item after that can be hard and pricey).

So basically the one piece of the collection I am definitely going to invest in is the cute Betty Boop pin, as I like to try to have something from every Lazy Oaf collection (though that’s not being going well recently) and I love and am trying to collect more pins.

Little Viking Vintage

Now that I’ve sufficiently obsessed over the new Lazy Oaf collection let me talk about things I’ve actually bought. All of these are from the lovely Little Viking Vintage, so are unique to me, which I love, and as always were purchases I’ve been wearing again and again.

My favourite purchase was a beautiful silver and black onyx necklace. I got this because I’ve been noticing more and more how terrible I am at accessorising and wanted to change this. This looks amazing with a playsuit and crop top combo I bought recently (and basically is the only outfit I ever post about).

Ginger Hair Don't Care

I also got this pale yellow blouse for £9! It’s see through so I’ll wear a tank top underneath it but would look totally lovely I think with a nice long flowing skirt for when spring arrives.

Yellow blouse

The final thing I got is this bucket bag. It can’t hold a lot of items or weight because of its design but it makes me look a lot more fashionable than I actually am, and I love it. Also, I’d rather it get reused personally than waste it- see this post if you a bit confused about what I’m referring to.

Bucket Bag

Grace and Frankie Season 4 

I’ve been a fan of Grace and Frankie since the start. First of all, I love anything with Jane Fonda in, and second of all the show itself is hilarious and beautifully written. It’s not often (or more like barely at all) you see shows targeted at or featuring people over 50 on TV, and although I know why, it’s really a shame. I might be a while until I feel some of the problems of ageing but doesn’t mean I don’t want to know what they are or that I find them any less engaging than other problems I can’t relate to. I mean the majority of shows targeted to my age group would have me confronting someone at a masked ball, which I think somehow is unlikely to happen!

The show keeps up its momentum this season though I hope the show talks about it the way in which the children of Grace and Frankie approached the main issue of the season in a way that was not completely fair, next season.

Tofu scramble

Most of my attempts at cooking tofu at home have been fine, acceptable, but not as nice as the tofu I have eaten out. This recipe though I really enjoyed, though I only followed it loosely. For one thing my scramble isn’t yellow because I didn’t have any turmeric and instead of shallots I simmered garlic instead, and just had chilli powder, salt and pepper to flavour mine- it was however delicious (I also used soy milk as my milk substitute and it’s was great- soy milk is definitely my favourite milk substitute I’ve tried).

 

Tofu Scramble

I had mine with dairy free butter and spicy sriracha (a spicier version- I’m not saying Sriracha is spicy in itself). 

Turtles All the Way Down 

I have already wrote a review on this, however, I wanted to mention it briefly here, as I really enjoyed this book. I would also definitely recommend it for people both suffering with mental health issues or those who are not- it does a very good job at showing how both people cope with situations that arise in the life of someone who has mental health issues.

Turtles all the way down

Hamilton soundtrack 

This has been my favourite for more than a few months now and I keep forgetting to proclaim my underlying love for this soundtrack. Seriously, I probably listen to it at least once daily. I am very eagerly waiting for the day when I can finally get tickets to go see it in London.

The Women’s March 2018

I just want to give a shout out to everyone who attended the Women’s March both this year and last year. I couldn’t spare the money to attend this year (for the train ticket to London) but I very appreciative to everyone who took the time out of their day to make sure the important issues the march stands for were heard. Next year, I will be part of that crowd.

So there it is- my January. It’s been a bit of a long and cold one. Both mentally and literally. Here’s hoping there will be some more warmth coming up (though not too much as I am not ready for full on summer sun yet or ever- I’m thinking more Spring weather would be nice).

April

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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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Year in review: The highlights and fails of my 2017

I chose this picture of green tea because I’m ‘spilling all my tea’ about the year (yeah, the expression doesn’t sound as good when I say it) and the only tea I like is green tea. 

Is this post a bit too late? Yes, but I’m going to do it anyway. Plus, I wanted to reflect a little on my 2017 (and decided a whole 13 days was enough time for that) and not write something in a rush. My 2017 was overall a good year, but then I kind of count 2016 as the worst year of my life for me both mentally and consequently physically so in one way it just kind of couldn’t get any worse! However, I did manage to do some pretty cool stuff in 2017 and the year was what I would class an as ok year, though I’m hoping 2018 will be a great one.

Highlights 

Completing my Masters 

I’ve done a few blog posts on this but I made it through another year of higher education (woo!) and got my Masters in Journalism and Media Communications. It feels strangely distant now but I met some really great people on the course and it made me feel a bit more confident in my academic abilities again, which is always a plus.

Graduation with mother

I got my first (professional) job 

First of all, I want to make it clear I don’t think retail is not a professional job or any minimum wage job for that matter- what I mean here is I got my first job that was actually related to what I studied at University. Also, having paid holiday and not panicking about money if I am ill is such an amazing feeling.

My first day
The picture Martin took to commemorate my first day.

Mental health 

In 2017 I really tried to work through a lot of my mental health issues, and like to think I went from decidedly off track to kind of strolling along the tracks. It’s never something that will come easy to me, but sharing on this blog helped a lot, as did trying to better look after myself physically.

Dodie 3

I started this blog 

For a long period of my life I have wanted a blog. What can I say I love to write and rant about the world and a blog seemed a brilliant place to do that. Although, of course it is nice if people read your blog, like your posts or comment (which, let’s face it I’ll be honest a part of me craved); I personally just like writing and getting things off my chest. So here’s to 2017 for being the year I didn’t just post one blog post to a blog, not promote it and then delete it a week later because I felt too exposed to the world.

Year in Review post

Martin and I got our first flat 

Since Martin and I have been living together in some capacity for so long I forget sometimes that is our first ever flat together where it’s just the two of us. And the flat is cold (single glazing is not our friend), expensive (though not for the area- we got a good deal!) and still bare because we haven’t got a lot of furniture but it’s ours, it’s not tiny and is a lot better than a lot of other people’s first flats. Sure, ‘adulting’ and paying the bills sucks, but at least I have someone else to whine about it with.

Martin flat

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

2017 was also the year I got my love for reading back and I’m so happy about this. I forgot what it felt like to be so inspired. I forgot what it felt like to delay finishing a book because you loved it so much. Or to be able to stop yourself reading it all in one sitting. I forgot how much I truly was a bookworm. Basically, I love reading, it’s in every part of me from the fact that I prefer to read something rather than have someone tell me instructions (hence why audio books unfortunately aren’t for me) to the fact that I can spend longer in a book shop than most other shops.

The Power
My favourite image I took of a book last year (and one of my favourite books I read).

Fails 

Money 

Living anywhere remotely close to London/ in the South is expensive. Consequently, despite earning a good wage we are perpetually broke. This is looking up this year however as Martin has started a better paying job, and I will be shortly booking my trip to Japan (and trying not to spend all my money on clothes in order to afford it). Also, a lot of the problem last year was that Martin and I were fed up so we spent money to fill that hole and so consequently never had any money either. We’ve finally managed to claw our way out of that cycle and once again learn the value of tins of kidney beans and sweetcorn, as well as meal prep- so much meal prep!

Mental health 

So although I put this in my highlights this was also a ‘fail’ as well. Working through things it turns out is kind of hard and I am still running away from a lot of things. As we speak I am letting those familiar nagging thoughts worm their way back in again. While 2017 was the most I’ve actually analysed my mental health (which was a positive thing overall); the journey that came with that was not exactly pleasant.

Hair/ how I felt/ feel about my appearance 

For a large part of last year I let myself get very upset over my appearance whether it be that my hair was not the colour I wanted (it still isn’t) to the fact that I no longer felt comfortable with myself generally. My body in 2016 changed a lot in a short period of time and I still have not quite got over that. This year I am determined to just dress how I want no matter what and let myself be healthy. Also, to have really great hair (any suggestions are appreciated).

I also want to give a big shout out to all my amazing friends and family. I hope your 2017 was great, and if it wasn’t I hope this year will be better. Thank you for putting up with my rants, bossiness and general weirdo nature for another full year.

April

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Undercover Princess: Rosewood Chronicles Review

A book review of Connie Glynn (aka Noodlerella)’s debut novel, Undercover Princess (part of the Rosewood Chronicles series).

Yes I am as upset as you the book is crumpled in the main image. Welcome to my life. 

Lottie Pumpkin is an ordinary girl who longs to be a princess, attending Rosewood Hall on a scholarship.

Ellie Wolf is a princess who longs to be ordinary, attending Rosewood Hall to avoid her royal duties in the kingdom of Maradova.

When fate puts the two fourteen-year-olds in the same dorm, it seems like a natural solution to swap identities: after all, everyone mistakenly believes Lottie to be the princess anyway.

But someone’s on to their secret, and at Rosewood nothing is ever as it seems…

Warning some spoiler throughout but no major plot spoilers. 

Connie Glynn aka Noodlerella was probably one of the first Youtubers I started watching. First of all, she has mad cosplay skills, and second of all she did amazing impressions. Plus, I had serious envy over her travelling and Disney trip hauls. I’ve even met her at MCM London Comic Con but I was so nervous that I just blushed, attempted to make conversation, bought on of her prints, and then regretted not getting a photograph (also, if you’re wondering she was very nice).

Hello I want to say a little word about the book tour 🌹 This weekend saw my very first book tour and the first, for me, of any kind of venture of that sort. Firstly I'm utterly thrilled that my very first tour was for Undercover Princess, a book I've poured my soul into and cannot wait for everyone to read. Yet what really made this tour so special was how utterly wonderful you all were who came along. You were all so enthusiastic and asked such wonderful and intelligent questions, I was so proud of you all. The launch of Undercover Princess has been so positive and the feedback I've received so very heartwarming. Thank you not only to everyone who came along to the tour but everyone who sent a word of encouragement or enthusiasm. One final thank you to my incredible team at penguin and my amazing manager who have made this a really joyful time for not only me, but hopefully all of you as well. Thank you thank you thank you, from the bottom of my heart and I hope you enjoy the book. I can't wait to share more with you soon 🌹🌹

A post shared by Connie Glynn (@noodlerella) on

The book appears to be mainly targeted for teenagers, as I’m assuming that is Connie’s main audience. On Amazon the age range suggested for the book is between 10-17 years old. I’d argue that for me at least the novel definitely hits more towards the lower range of that age scale in terms of tone. In fact, it has been the longest time since I’ve read anything that was not conclusively marketed at adults, so it was quite refreshing and made me want to get back into reading YA (Young Adult) fiction again.

While the book I admit started a bit slow for me; once I got into the book it was very much a page turner. Lottie and Ellie’s friendship was the driving force of the novel, and if I was not mistaken (mild, maybe spoiler alert) there was hints that the spark between them might be on the romantic side. There are at least hints if Ellie’s furious remarks about not liking boys or being into them are anything to go on that maybe her sexual preferences lay elsewhere. To be honest, if Lottie does turn out to be a bisexual protagonist (it has made conclusive she likes men at least in the first novel) that would be amazing and would really make the series stand out for me.

Another thing that really concreted the novel was the beautiful descriptions of Rosewood Hall or any surrounding for that matter. Everything was just magical, and you can really feel yourself in the surroundings and part of the action. The same could be said for the writing. For me though I definitely could see how it was written by someone in our generation by the numerous references to other things, such as evil Stepmothers, numerous explicit Cinderella references, references to Harry Potter by that the school houses (though this is common within British schools, especially Boarding Schools so I don’t really think Harry Potter has complete domain of that), as well as the way the boarding school is depicted.

Although, when I was younger I would have been completely taken in by the romance of the boarding school, now that I’m older and a bit more cynical- I see some of the more flaws in the system, such as the elitism of the subjects chosen, and the overwhelming pressure to perform.

Nevertheless, I want to make it clear that the story has definite charm, and I will be reading the next book in the series. I love the different Houses and would love to know what house I would be in (I also love that there is a quiz to determine what house students are in before arriving, a bit less magical than a Sorting Hat but brilliant).

The houses for those of you who don’t know are as follows:

There is the Ivy House (colour purple) who stand for the Righteous part of the school motto. The other houses are the Conch House (colour red) who stand for the Resolute part of the school motto. Finally, there is the Stratus house who stand for the Resourceful part of the school motto.

 

Stratus pin badge!!! Really hope these go up for sale at some point. 

I’m not really sure which house I would be put into but I suspect probably either Ivy  or Stratus depending on my mood. As I either like to observe everything or try to do what is right (even if I don’t always succeed). I’m waiting for someone to make up a Rosewood Hall house quiz, so I can know for sure (I would do it but it would be ridiculously bad).

I am also excited to see where some of the unresolved plot points are going to go with this novel. Especially, in regards to a certain friendship Lottie has been neglecting. There was also a scene that I think was brushed off to easily within the novel, but was actually depicted as something really quite predatory (though they did get a good smack), and should have been exposed as such a bit more. I don’t really want to say anymore and give the plot away, but if you have read the novel let me know your thoughts.

If you’re looking for a book for someone around 10-14 they’ll probably love this as a Christmas present, and bonus it has no idolisation of any particular body types, like a lot of teenage romances I read growing up seemed to have (you know what I mean, they think they’re bodies just ‘normal’, but it’s revealed they are incredibly attractive, etc.).

Overall, this is a charming little read, and Connie can certainly write. Here’s hoping that the next instalment carries on the mystery, pumps up the romance, and ties up the plot points mentioned in the first novel. Like, the cover of the novel, it is a story firmly rooted in being a magical, beautiful getaway. This novel is definitely one for when you want to drift away from reality for a little bit.

P.S. Apologises for not mentioning a lot about the other characters; I’m trying really hard to avoid spoilers. 

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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