Saturday 26 April 2014

Books that have shaped my life

I wouldn't say that these books have changed my life, but they have most certainly shaped it, together they have made me the person I am today and they are books that I will never forget.

The Secret History: Donna Tartt x
I finally read this last summer after years of being told that it was right up my street! The story focuses on a group of Classics students who immerse themselves in the subject a bit too much. It is a bit of a murder mystery, but not in the conventional sense. The way it is written is amazing and Tartt somehow manages to lull you into believing that what this group of Classics students is doing is actually perfectly okay. 

One Day: David Nicholls x
So this was a very hyped book due to its incredible success and then the film that followed. It is a love story but not in a really soppy way, I read it before the film came out so I fell in love with it before the film (and Anne Hathaway's sketchy accent) could influence me. In regard to the film, I actually really liked it, although I would say that the book is definitely better! This book had me laughing and crying in equal measures and to me that is a sign of a good book. 

Wild Swans: Jung Chang x
Wow well this book is really thought provoking and inspiring. I read it when I was 10, probably long before I should have read it, but I was going through an Oriental phase, I had just read the Chinese Cinderella books and I found this lying around my Grandmas house. It is biographical and follows the lives of women from three generations of a family, it covers concubines and communism and it will most certainly get you thinking! 

Elsewhere: Gabrielle Zevin x 
If you follow my blog you will have seen this pop up in a previous post which you can find here, I won't go into too much detail, but it gives a really interesting spin on afterlife. Also, although it is aimed at teens, it is a book that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend to adults.

A Thousand Splendid Suns: Khaled Hosseini x
I was torn between putting this one or Hosseini's latest offering, And the Mountains Echoed which I would actually go as far as saying I preferred. Both are amazing books that cover really topical issues such as the treatment of women in Afghanistan. His books are upsetting and thought provoking, they will make you cry but they will also make you think. The reason I chose A Thousand Splendid Suns is because I read it when I was 14/15 and it had stuck in my mind ever since, it is the sort of book that never leaves you. 

Noughts & Crosses: Malorie Blackman x
Again, this is a book that I read quite a while ago, maybe when I was 12 or 13 and it is the sort of book that never leaves you. It deals with racism, violence and romance among many other issues, but it does it in a book that can be read by teenagers. 

I would love to know if you have read any of these books or if there is a book that you believe has shaped your life! 


Thursday 24 April 2014

Jon Richardson: the best night in a long time

We all love to laugh right? Be it romcoms, political humour, one-liners, satire, stand-up...the list goes on! For me stand-up has always been my go to if I want a laugh, and yes, if you haven't guessed already, Jon Richardson is my all time favourite! I suppose I first became aware of him about 4 or so years ago, around the time he first appeared on 8 out of 10 Cats as a guest, before he became a team leader. Since then I have been hooked, I saw him live about two years ago in London, second row from the front, it may have been the best birthday present I ever received! He was amazing! Since then I learnt to be content with just watching him on the likes of 8 out of 10 Cats and any other comedy program he pops up on, but around Christmas time, tickets went up for a new tour and I managed to get front row seats at my local theater! It's safe to say it was one of the best nights I have had in a long time, being in the front row meant that we got the interaction with him that you don't really get when you are sitting further back. It was great to hear some new material and I am now suffering from sore cheeks and a cracking headache from laughing too much. 

Afterwards we hung around at the stage door in the hope of meeting him- 'don't be weird, don't be weird' I kept telling myself and as you can see below, I finally met him and I wasn't weird! It was a good night all round.
(Sorry the quality is awful, it was taken on my phone and there was a really harsh blue lighting which is why I have had to put it in black and white!)

He also signed my copy of his book 'It's not me, it's you!'

They say don't meet your heroes, but Jon Richardson is just so lovely, patient and funny, meeting him was the sort of thing I would never have thought would happen but it has put a permanent smile on my face!

Are you a fan of Jon Richardson?


Tuesday 22 April 2014

I've got books on my mind

Argh, the life of a university student, it's not all fun and games you know, the endless lists of recommended reading and seminar work means that I rarely have time to read for, well, FUN. Don't get me wrong, I love Homer's Illiad and all the jazz, but sometimes it would nice to just sit down and read a book simply because I want to and not just because it is a part of my course. Unfortunately I rarely have to time to do this, and as a result I have compiled quite a list of books that I want to read! Here's to hoping they will eventually get read!

The Legacy of Elizabeth Pringle: Kirsty Wark x
Is it wrong that I bought this book because the blurb revealed it was set in Scotland? No? Thought not! I am the sort of book buyer who places a lot of faith in the front cover and the few choice words on the back cover or inside sleeve. This may be a bit flippant of me, but other than rave reviews or hyped books, it's all I have to go on when deciding which books deserve my limited funds!

Unexploded: Alison Macleod x
Ok, so I purchased this because it is set in 1940...when I was younger I went through a phase where every book I read was set in WW2- I am a bit of a history fiend and as they say- in your old age you revert back to childhood tendencies! Yeah yeah yeah, I'm only 20, but I feel old! OKAY!

The Hen Who Dreamed She Could Fly: Sun-Mi Hwang x
At only 134 pages, I was unsure whether to buy it, for me, the longer the book, the better. I hate it when good books end too soon! It has beautiful illustrations and I have heard it be compared to Charlotte's Web so its safe to say I'm excited to get my teeth into this one!

Love, Nina: Nina Stibbe x
This book is really a collection of letters that tell the story of Nina's time as a nanny in London, I have heard that it features the likes of Alan Bennett! 

Paper Aeroplanes: Dawn O'Porter x
Ah so I have been a fan of Dawn O'Porter before she added the 'O', I have always found her very likable and relatable and I still am an avid fan of teen fiction (which this book is labeled under). I'm sure I won't be disappointed.

Goose: Dawn O'Porter x
As a follower of Dawn on twitter, I have been kept up to date with the book tour for Goose which makes it all the harder when I have to force myself to revise when all I want to do is curl up into a ball on my bed and not move until I have finished reading it!

Sisterland: Curtis Sittenfeld x
I picked this up on a whim when I was waiting for my train out of London one day, I always pop into WHSmith because they usually have quite good deals on books that are popular at the moment! Since buying it I have heard some rave reviews from the likes of Tanya Burr.

So that's my list of books that I have lined up to read, hopefully this summer I will get through them! Are there any books you are desperate to read or have you read any of the books that feature on my list?


Monday 21 April 2014

Gabrielle Zevin

If you have not read Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin, I implore you to go and buy it right now! I read a lot, but I rarely read a book twice, Elsewhere however has a permanent home on my bedside table, it has been read multiple times and I have my favourite parts marked out for easy access! I find it hard to create top 5 book lists, there are too many to choose from and rarely does a book stand out so obviously. Elsewhere however without a doubt makes it onto my top 5, along side the likes of The Secret History (Donna Tartt) and The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald (an obvious choice I know- but amazing nonetheless). So when I heard of Gabrielle Zevins latest offering- The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry- nothing could be done to stop me running down to my local Waterstones and picking it up!
I have yet to read it, but if it is even half as good as Elsewhere then I am sure I will love it! I will follow up with a review once I have read it!

Are you a fan of Gabrielle Zevin?


Saturday 19 April 2014

Paolo Nutini

So five years on from his release of Sunny Side Up Paolo Nutini has finally blessed us with another album. Caustic Love is a very different style to any of Nutinis previous music, a bit of rock, a bit of a political statement (Iron Sky), a lot of sex! Long gone are the days of Candy and Last Request! Is it wrong of me to say I am relieved that he didn't bring us a Sunny Side Up part 2, I love the change, I can feel in the music the five years he took out, the years of new experiences, he was 20 when he rocked onto the music scene with These Streets and I feel that his music has grown with him! The reason I fell for his music the first time round was because of his gravely Scottish tones, thankfully he hasn't lost that, his music is still without doubt his- that is his strength- that man could sing anything and everyone would know it was him! What he as done is challenge his audiences loyalty by throwing a curve ball of an album. While some are dubious, I have fallen head over heels for Caustic Love and from the initial sales figures (it's set to be the biggest selling album of 2014 so far) I think that the UK has puts its faith in Nutini and I hope it gets the recognition it deserves as a stand alone album, rather than always being compared to Sunny Side Up. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE Sunny Side up and it actually featured in my music of the moment post, but I just think that Caustic Love is more representative of Nutini's growth over the last 5 years and I think it's brilliant that he can go from the likes of Jenny Don't Be Hasty to Candy to Scream (Funk My Life Up) now if that's not musical diversity, I don't know what is! 

In regard to Caustic Love, some have criticized him for his lack of uniformity in regard to style of music, why is it, they ask, that he can't stick to one genre. Well, why should he! I love that within minutes you can be listening to two very different songs and despite this I feel that the album as a whole actually sits very well together and it is definitely one worth listening to in order. My favourites include:
Better Man, Let Me Down Easy, Bus Talk (this is actually an Interlude, and doesn't feature his voice, but its place on the album is absolute genius!), One Day (I heard in an interview that the song began more like a poem, with the focus on the words- I think this is what makes it so brilliant), Iron Sky (this is one of the best know so far, I love the snippet of Charlie Chaplin in Dictator) and Someone Like You. 

Have you listened to Paolo Nutini's new album? If so, what do you think of it?


Monday 14 April 2014

Music of the moment

Ok so I have to admit that I love love love filling out those Buzzfeed (or similar) quizzes that reveal which Frozen character you are or which Font you are...yes that is a real quiz! One of the questions I have found popping up in a couple of the quizzes I have taken is What's your favourite type of music- soft or loud? And it's a question that seems so simple but I find impossible to answer! See I absolutely love soft, soothing music but I also love to whack it up to full volume and blare it out for everyone to hear- so, does that count as soft or loud music- surely it is both! 

The perfect example of this is Ben Howard, one of my favourite singers! I saw him live in the summer and his music makes my skin tingle- one of his songs Gracious is a soft song if I ever heard one, but play it on full volume and it only gets better! 

Anyway, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to talk about my favourite music of the moment. Music is an amazing thing, it baffles me how something that often lasts only three or four minutes can make me feel so many emotions. So I sat down this morning and painstakingly picked out 9 of my top bands/singers of the moment! 

BEN HOWARD: Every Kingdom x
So if you hadn't guessed already, I'm a bit of a Ben Howard fan, I rarely go to music gigs because being surrounded by people I don't know and the feeling of not being able to escape kinda freaks me out, so I can tell you that it took a lot of courage to go to London Hammersmith Apollo to see Ben Howard and for me that is proof enough of my love for his music. His album is soothing- see Gracious and Old Pine but there are also some more punchy numbers- Keep Your Head Up.

NINA NESBITT: Peroxide x
Nina Nesbitt is hardly out of school, but she has released some crackers in the form of EPs and recently she released her first album PeroxideStay Out is definitely worth a listen!

OF MONSTERS AND MEN: My Head is an Animal x
As I'm sure is the case with a lot of people, I first heard of this band when their single Little Talks appeared on the charts, and for a long time it was the only song of theirs I knew, but recently I had another look at the album and it is full of some amazing songs. Dirty Paws and Love, Love, Love are two of my favourites!

PAOLO NUTINI: Sunny Side Up x
Ok, so I wasn't sure to go with Paolo Nutini's latest offering Caustic Love or his second album Sunny Side Up. Caustic Love was released today and while I love most of the songs, and the others are quickly growing on me, I felt that I hadn't listened to it long enough to be able to include it in my current favourites. Even though Sunny Side Up is hardly a new release, it had safely remained in the most played section of my iTunes for a long time, every single song on the album is amazing and I would struggle to choose a favourite. His gravely tones and Scottish accent is to die for and he gives the sort of soul and passion to his songs that someone three times his age would struggle with!

BASTILLE: All This Bad Blood x
Bastille re-released their album Bad Blood with an additional CD with some extra songs. As a classics student, I could hardly ignore a band who have produced songs such as Pompeii and Icarus and while that may have been my introduction to their music, I soon fell for the whole album. Favourites include Weight of Living pt.I, Daniel in the Den and Durban Skies. As with Ben Howard, these are one of the few bands I would push my anxiety aside and try and see live, as of yet I haven't been able to get hold of any tickets!

I feel that Regina Spektor could sing about pretty much anything and make it into an amazing song, I find that I can quite easily listen to her all day long, she had a lovely quirky voice and her songs are so unique. Human of the Year and Two Birds are my favourites!

TO KILL A KING: Cannibals with Cutlery x
I first heard about this band through Bastille as they have often been their support act, it didn't take me long to become completely obsessed with their music! Again this is an album where not one song dissapoints! 

VAMPIRE WEEKEND: Modern Vampires of the City x
I loved their album Contra and I thought about choosing that as a current favourite over their most recent offering, but there are a couple of songs on their most recent album that I would actually say are two of my all time favourite songs- Step and Diane Young.

DAUGHTER: The Wild Youth x
This EP has been a favourite of mine for quite a while, there aren't many songs on it but all of them are amazing, they are eerie and haunting- everything I want from a good song! 

So that brings an end to the list of my most loved music of the moment, I actually feel that sharing your favourite music is actually quite a personal thing, to show people what you listen to when you are at your saddest, happiest and most vulnerable. So there you go! 

Let me know who your favourite artist is at the moment or if you agree/disagree with any of my choices!


Blast From The Past

Childhood is a joyous time, free from worry and responsibility. I wish I could go back to the days of flared jeans and homecut fringes, when I didn't feel the pressure from society to dress or look a certain way. I have recently turned 20 and as pathetic as it may sound, I'm feeling old! And in a bout of reminiscing I decided to raid my room in the hope of finding a childhood treasure. My family was never one to hoard and most of my toys and clothes were inevitably passed onto a cousin or friend, but I found a couple of things that I had obviously deemed worth keeping. So here goes! 
Right so let's start with the book, Milly-Molly-Mandy was one of my all time favourite books as a child, this one had belonged to my grandma and it's safe to say that it must have passed through a few hands before it reached me as it is slowly falling apart! 
The only thing is I wish I could go back and tell past me not to colour in the pictures, but ah well, atleast it was loved! When it came to children's books, after I read them they were often passed around the rest of my extended family but I always made sure to keep my favourites! 
A Series Of Unfortunate Events was one of my favourite sets of books! Lemony Snicket has such a quirky writing style and such an amazing imagination, everyone- child or adult- should give these a go! The reason I chose to keep these was because I had all 13 of them and I'm so glad I did, because recently I went into my local Waterstones and found that the covers had been redesigned- this may sound a bit stupid, but the covers on the books I have are just so beautiful! 
And of course I can't mention my past favorite books without including Harry Potter. I was a pretty big fan (who am I kidding- I still am!) I remember trying to fit them into my book bag so I could take them into school! 
So this may seem like odd items to keep from my childhood, but I had my reasons! This was my first watch, it has Winnie the Pooh on it and a bee marks the second hand. The Nokia phone was a Cath Kidston special edition back when I had a bit of a Cath Kidston obsession- it doesn't work anymore but I can't bring myself to get rid of it! And finally I have my first set of keys- they are of no use anymore as we have since replaced the doors they open but it just reminds of me of starting secondary school and being entrusted with the house keys which was a big deal back when I was 11! 

Are there any childhood items that you just can't bring yourself to throw away?! 


Friday 11 April 2014

goodreads: an app worth getting!

I am a collector of books, but I am also hopelessly unorganised. My room is stuffed to bursting point with the books I have collected over the years. They range from the Harry Potter series to Homers Odyssey to a good old soppy romance! Every couple of years I contemplate the monumental task of organising my books into alphabetical order by author but it never lasts. I'm always pulling out books, rereading my favourite parts and then just plonking them down somewhere else. It doesn't take long for them to find their way back to the mess they are used to. 

But then I found this app called goodreads. It has many purposes, it's main one is to recommend books for you to read. When you sign up you select books you have read, rate them, and then they give you recommendations from that. This is great as it opens my eyes to books I may not have considered and it has such an extensive database of books, it has really made me excited to go out and buy even more books!

The reason I like it though is because it has a feature that allows you to scan all the books you have read by using the bar code on the back, which means that in this little app on my phone, I am slowly building up a record of all the books I have read and also how I rated them. I LOVE IT!

The only problem is that it is encouraging me to buy more books, which neither my bank balance nor bookshelves are thanking me for. I have actually got a kindle but there is something about physically holding a book that just makes me so happy and I love having them displayed in my room. For me books are the best form of decoration and I don't think I will ever stop buying the hard copies! 

If the idea of this app interests you then you can find out more here!


Very Inspiring Blogger Award

Hey guys, I have only been blogging for about 3 or months so it was so lovely to be nominated for this award. I have previously done the Liebster Award which you can find here. I have now reached 155 followers and I would like to thank you so much! I never set out to gain followers, my blog was all about having an outlet and a place to escape from the stress of university so it makes me so happy that what I write is being read an enjoyed!

I would like to thank Frankie from Fresh Britain who nominated me for this, she has a really lovely beauty and lifestyle blog and it's definitely worth checking out!

So, here goes...

Here are the rules

1. Link the person who nominated you in your post
2. List the rules and display the award
3. Share 7 facts about yourself
4. Nominate 15 other blogs and link them in your post
5. Let them know you've nominated them

Facts about me!

1. I love dogs so much- I have a labradoodle and he's just so crazy and affectionate!
2. I get stupidly anxious over everything and it means i'm rubbish at talking to people (one of the reasons I started this blog- it gave me a voice and some much needed confidence)
3. I drink lots and lots of tea and coffee- to the extent where I get really bad headaches if I don't!
4. I love love love eye shadow but I rarely wear it because I haven't quite figured out how to apply it without it looking like I have a black eye! Whoops!
5. I'm half Scottish- my name probably makes that quite obvious.
6. Reading is my all time favourite thing to do! I can get through a book a day if I have nothing else on and the worst thing about university is not having the time to read for pleasure.
7. I love cold weather, any excuse to pile on the layers and i'm happy!

I nominate


Tuesday 1 April 2014

In search of some peace and quiet

Ok, so the countdown to exams has started! My Easter holidays started on Saturday and I have four weeks until the dreaded exams start. There is one minor problem- there are builders in our house and the sound of walls being knocked down isn't exactly the ideal atmosphere to do some serious revision. So today I decided to venture outside of my house in search of a more peaceful place to work. I considered the library but I find silent work really hard and I prefer a bit of low level noise. 

I decided to try out my local cafe so that I could stock up on caffeine whilst working. I'm currently working on a project that analyses the historical accuracy of Robert Harris' "Pompeii". 

I chose this table because it had a lovely vase of daffodils (oh hello spring) and I treated myself to a cappuccino and set about reading my book whilst furiously taking notes on my post-it's. 
It was a lovely little cafe and I managed to spend a good 3 hours there, many cups of tea followed and I had a surprisingly productive day. I think I'll be visiting again soon or even venturing further afield because I do feel that it's important to switch up working spaces, especially when you lose motivation (which I often do!) 

Do you have any impending exams? Where do you work best?