Monday, 29 December 2014

Blogger Gift Swap: The Gifts!

I wrote about this event just over a month ago, and I was paired up with the lovely Charlotte from 'The World According to Charlottle Coster'. She put up her post about my gifts a couple of days ago so you can check that out here!We emailed back and forth for a while and it was really nice to be in touch with another blogger! It's something instant that you have in common, but also to both of our surprise, Charlotte had just graduated to a university I have applied to go to next year! I really don't know how Viola managed that one!




Anyway onto the exciting bit... THE PRESENTS! Charlotte totally outdid me and spoilt me rotten, I honestly don't know how she bought so perfectly. Firstly there were some 'Waikiki Melon' Yankee Candles, anyone that knows me knows that I am a huuuge candle lover and these smell gorgeous (and have my name in them...).




Then there was a block calendar, she said it was to help me keep organized at sixth form and I'm sure it will but also during the holidays because I never can remember what day, let alone date, it is! Just me?


Next an English Literature student's dream: bookmarks that you can write notes on about all sorts of ideas and questions that pop into your head as you read. This will be so helpful for school but also for pleasure reading when I have a few questions in my head that I want to come back to later!



Then there was a little notepad which Charlotte said I should put in my bag to write down blog ideas when they come into my head. I try to do this on my phone but I never check the notes section and end up forgetting all about them. I love notebooks and to have one specifically for my blog will help me to get much more organised so think of this as a present for you guys too!



 Last but not least was 'Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises' by Ernest Hemingway. I've actually never heard of this book or author!! Shame on me! But Charlotte said she began reading his books around the time she was applying to uni and it's similar to The Great Gatsby! This is a good enough description for me and I can't wait to read it. I love when books are recommended to me!



So there we go, I am so grateful for all of my presents. They were all so thoughtful and I think I have found a good friend in Charlotte too. I want to thank Viola for organising this too, I love a sense of community between us, it makes blogging all the more fun!

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Monday, 22 December 2014

To Kindle or not to Kindle

I have always been someone who has shunned kindles because honestly you can't beat the experience of reading an actual book, building a collection e.t.c. Although, recently I have been warming more and more to the idea. 

My Reasons: 
  • When I get requests to review books, more often than not they are only availible on Kindle or E-reader, this means that I have to read them on my iPhone which just isn't comfortable and after an hour or so my eyes feel like they're strained and the font is way too small.
  • When I go on holiday, the books I take with me weigh more than my clothes and shoes combined. It makes so much more sense to have one light device which can store thousands of books. 
  • Also, on the holiday theme, if I run out of books to read whilst I'm on holiday I'm very stuck. With a kindle I could just download another one. 
But...
  • Books are mostly just as expensive on a Kindle so I wouldn't really be saving any money.
  • I can't share the books with my family and friends.
  • The electronic screen might make my eyes strain just as much, when I read it's to get away from staring at a screen! 
So this is me on the edge of buying one, because they're actually quite cheap, but I really need some pushing to do so. Do any of you have kindles? If you do, are they worth the money? Or will they never compare to a good old physical book? Please let me know! 
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Thursday, 11 December 2014

Girl Online: Zoella's Defence


I wanted to write this because I hate sitting here watching everyone attack someone and not being able to do anything. I feel like Zoe needs more people to defend her because writing abuse seems to be the current bandwagon that everyone wants to join.

If you haven't heard the story then I'm not sure where you've been! It's even made the BBC News which is truly ridiculous. Basically, Zoe aka Zoella released a book called Girl Online which she first announced in this video, in which she made it very clear that a) Penguin had approached her and asked if she wanted to write a book with them and b) she was going to have help with it but the ideas and characters were all her own.


Suddenly almost two weeks after it's release, there is now huge accusations that Girl Online was ghost-written. In the acknowledgements Zoe mentioned two people: Amy and Siobhan, who had been with her 'every step of the way'. This is the only thing I am slightly critical of, I think as Zoe was so open  about having help when it was announced, which is perfectly OK and not a rare thing in publishing, then she should credit these people who helped her in the authors name or make it clearer in the acknowledgements. However, some people have started to make her out to be someone who is fame and money hungry which is such a strong accusation to make about someone you probably only heard of about a week ago when this 'scandal' came to light.


Zoe is someone I have watched on YouTube right from the start, I always felt like I had some kind of connection with her and then when she started talking about her anxiety, which I have struggled with in the past, it just made me bond with her, or her channel I suppose, even more. Knowing how she feels, being a sufferer of anxiety, makes me so upset, I can just imagine how horrible this is added with her struggle with keeping a clear mind.


She, and her boyfriend, made the decision to take a few days away from the internet which I think is a good move as the 'haters' are the sort that will not actually listen to what she says with an open mind, they are just so pleased that they now have something to criticize about her. I honestly believe that is what this is all about. Over the last year Zoe has taken the first tenuous steps from YouTube into mainstream media but I think that has just been setting her up for a fall. She has been painted as this role model of perfection, so you can bet there have been thousands of people waiting to pounce as soon as she slips up.


My personal view of Girl Online is that it is a good thing, I personally am not running to Waterstones to buy it because I think it is aimed at people younger than me, but the book sold 78,000 copies in it's first week breaking all kinds of records, I think this is such a positive thing for literature. 78,000 young people, almost certainly a good percentage of those do not read regularly, are reading now! This should be what is focused on and not who wrote it and her reasons behind it. This is her first book ever so we can let her off for not doing it all herself when she has such a high demand and expectation to meet. Her publishers know it will sell whatever is in it, so they want to make it actually something good which they cannot guarantee for her first ever attempt.


My general message is to lay off her. Perhaps yes she should have been more transparent about the writer, but it's not as if she has thrown some money at someone and left them to get on with it, she has been a part of the story and is clearly very passionate about it. I hope I have come across as someone who isn't just another Zoella fangirl, I am looking at this from an unbiased perspective, just to see someone showered in hate just because people finally have a reason to is just upsetting and embarrassing. Think about what you are saying before you type it out and make sure you have taken into account the full story.


So what do you think? I would love a good discussion about this in the comments so be sure to tell me your take on the whole ghostwriter 'scandal'.
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Monday, 1 December 2014

Cookbook Review and Author Interview: Crazy Dumplings by Amanda Roberts


I really love cooking, so when Amanda got in touch asking for a review of her book I couldn't say no! I would say this is the perfect student cookbook. I am (hopefully) off to university next year, and I thought this would be a really simple but delicious concept for meals when I can't be bothered to make something elaborate

There are every type of recipe you could think of, from Chinese to Italian, to Dessert! All wrapped up in the same dumpling wrapper recipe! I was a bit suspicious of how it could work so I decided to try the Pizza filling and the Cinnamon Swirl filling, both were equally delicious and ridiculously simple! The only thing I did have trouble with was the folding, I never have been a very artistic person so fiddly things are not my forte. (I'm too embarrassed to put up a picture of how they actually looked) That being said it didn't affect the overall taste and I think there is a knack which I will get with plenty of practice.



Amanda was also sweet enough to answer my questions so here is my interview with her:



How did you get into cooking?


I've always loved cooking. I think I got into it as a teen because I had a big family and the rule was whoever cooked didn't have to do dishes. Seemed like a fair trade to me! I loved cooking big meals for family and friends and always hosted parties at my house.

When I moved to China, though, I had to completely re-learn how to cook. The first time I stepped in my new kitchen, I didn't even know how to turn on the stove! Going to the grocery store was like visiting a new planet. Even starting with "the basics" was hard. "I can just start with potatoes and chicken breast," I thought. But the grocery store didn't have chicken breasts, only whole chicken! And forget mashed potatoes. Over 80% of Chinese are lactose intolerant, so dairy products can't be found in rural areas.
Most of us learn to cook from our parents and know what ingredients are at our disposal to make the foods we like. Imagine being dropped on a desert island and being told to cook dinner with no one to teach you and no understanding of your surroundings. That was the situation I was facing.


What inspired you to write this book?


Well, after the experience I already talked about, I realized I couldn't be the only expat in the world facing this situation. My dream quickly became to write a cookbook for people living abroad. That is a big undertaking though, so I decided to start smaller.

There is a long stretch of road between the first town in China I live in (in northern rural Hunan) and the nearest city. I get carsick when I try to read in a moving vehicle, so on long trips like that, all I can do is sit and think for a while. Some of my best book ideas have come to me on that bus ride. Crazy Dumplings was one of them. It just came to me, really, and by the time I got where I was going I already had ideas for 20 recipes.


But what's really interesting is the way the book was funded, tell me about your Kickstarter journey!


I fell in love with Kickstarter about 2 years ago. I have backed dozens of projects since then and thought it would be perfect to help me get my cookbook off the ground. I actually ran two campaigns. The first time, my goal was $5,000. I raised $3,000. But I didn't consider it a failure. I learned from my mistakes and tried again a few months later. This time I set my goal at $3,000 and raised over $9,000! I presold over 400 copies of my book and received a lot of support along the way. For any authors out there who are thinking of using a crowd funding platform to get their project off the ground, I say go for it!



What advice would you give to those trying out your recipes?


Be flexible! That's something I write about in the book as well. This book is for everyone, no matter where you live in the world, so what ingredients are at your disposal will vary. Don't discount a recipe because you think something isn't available in your area. Try looking for substitutions. You can also simplify many of them if you live in a diverse area. For example, many of the sauces (sweet and sour, teriyaki, Thai sweet chilli) I give instructions to make from scratch, but if you can find these in your local grocery store and save yourself some prep time, go for it!




What is your favourite recipe in the book?


They are all so good! But I have to say the Creamy Chicken Dumplings are my favourite. They are really easy to fix, but they are so flavourful and the creamy sauce is just delicious. It's an easy way to impress guests with something original, but very simple to make.



You can find 'Crazy Dumplings on Amazon here or in the US here! I would recommend checking it out because the concept is so simple but this explores so many different variations! I also love that this has been funded entirely by donations, so give back to these generous people and make yourself some 'Crazy Dumplings'!
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Monday, 24 November 2014

Holiday Review: If I Stay by Gayle Forman


I kind of cheated on this one and finished it at home. This is the third and final book from my holiday to read list, I think this was perfect as my last choice as it was a nice and easy read which relaxed me and left me with a bit of holiday even in chilly England.

That is not to say it was not emotional and didn't have me thinking every time I put it down. Though I do have to admit that not a single tear was shed, this was not a light topic. The story shows Mia, the protagonist, get into a car crash with her parents, from which she is left in a coma. She can see and hear everything around her, even walk around if she wants to, but ultimately this is to make one decision: should she stay? Obviously the plot is a lot more complicated than that but with the film and the book out I don't want to spoil it for you!


Unfortunately, I didn't love it as much as I thought I was going to. The book seemed to drag on a bit, in hindsight it didn't cover that much in quite a long space of time. This is an engaging idea, but I think it could have been a lot more effective as a short story. I am looking forward to watching the film to compare it, I can't really see how they will show her out of body narration but I am curious to find out.


So generally, I think this is a good read and if you get the chance to read it then do... But I wouldn't recommend it to everyone I know, although it could be appreciated by anyone because of the wide scope of ages and genders. Give the trailer a watch and decide whether it is for you! You might find it reaches you on a different level than it did me!


If you have read this/seen the film, leave a comment with your opinion. I would love to know what everyone else thinks about it! 

Also, there is a sequel called 'Where She Went', I kind of want to read it to see where the story leads but if you've read it tell me if it's worth my time.
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Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Viola's Christmas Blogger Gift Swap!


I am very excited to be taking part 'A Piece of Viola' (@violahelen_ )'s Christmas Gift Swap! This is my first christmas here on What Does Mel Think and I thought it would be a really lovely way to meet more of the community.

We want as many people to get involved as possible, unfortunately it's only in the UK because of cost and postage but you could always start one in your own country! You will be paired up with another blogger and agree on a price if that's what you're worried about, then send eachother a present of your choice and make a new blogger friend!


You can get involved by checking out Viola's post here to read through all the details, then fill out the google form and you're in! It's going to be really fun for the community as we will be interacting using the hashtag #apovgiftswap and posting updates on what we have received :)


The deadlines are coming up so get in there quick!


November 28th: Deadline for submission form.

December 1st: Find out blogger friend.
By December 17th: Send off your gift.

Thanks to Viola for organizing this, I think it's such a lovely idea! I'll be checking up on all the posts and looking forward to seeing what everyone got! 

Now I'm 10 times more excited for Christmas :D
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Monday, 17 November 2014

Holiday Review: Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden


This was the second book I read on holiday and I finished it within 3 days! So already you're seeing where this is going, it's now sitting proudly next to my most loved books. It was one of those books that from the first page you are just hooked.

This book is historical fiction set in a little town in Japan called Kyoto, and follows the life of Chiyo, who is also known as Sayuri (when she becomes a geisha). The story is told from an older wiser perspective and we are able to travel along her journey from a young innocent girl from a fishing village, to one of the most successful Geisha. There are so many different elements to this book, love, tragedy, humour, drama and of course an insight into the very foreign Geisha culture.


I am not an expert in Japanese culture so I cannot say how accurate this was, however it has made me very curious and willing to learn more about it. I find it fascinating that they dedicate their whole lives to perfecting their craft, it is a path that is chosen for them and they follow it through for the rest of their lives.


Also, what I love most is the charming way it is written. Sayuri is the most wise, intelligent narrator, she uses many metaphors that you would never even think of such as: “Hopes are like hair ornaments. Girls want to wear too many of them. When they become old women they look silly wearing even one.”. Does that not just give you such beautiful imagery? These kind of comparisons happen all over the book and it's just a pleasure to read.


Again I have to say, as I did last week, the ending wasn't what I'd hoped for. It ended with the resolution she wanted but I really had hoped for a skip back to the present and a page or so about her life now. There was a part when she was living away because of the war as well that I didn't really enjoy as much as, although it was relevant to hear about, went on for a bit too long. It was the only part of the whole book when I felt a bit bored.


Other than that I would say it is one of the best books I've read. I think an age limit is needed because it can get very graphic and deep so probably 16+. However, it should definitely be on everyone's list to read because I feel it's so important to take an interest in these different cultures but also it's just a really really good book.



Leave a comment below if you've read the book or want to read it. Also, if you've watched the film, what did you think of it? I think I'm going to watch it soon so I want to see if it's worth my time!

Check out my last Holiday Review here.
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Monday, 10 November 2014

Holiday Book Review: Never Let Me Go by Kazou Ishiguro


This was the first book I set myself to read on my holiday. It was recommended to me by my English teacher a while ago and I was eager to watch the film so, being me, I had to read the book first.

Kathy is the story's protagonist,  we follow her through her whole childhood and occasionally catch snippets of her in present life as a carer. We do not find out why she is a carer and what for until much later on in the book, I am not going to spoil that one for you! Her two best friends Tommy and Ruth also play a very central role and we get the pleasure of watching them grow up as well. It is really surprising how big of a time-scale this book manages to cover in only 288 pages. Kathy and her friends attend a boarding school called Hailsham and she begins probably in the middle of what in England we would call primary school and follows until she is well into adulthood.


What I found enchanting about this book is just how relate-able the characters are. Some of the arguments and teasing that goes on whilst they are at Hailsham really takes you right back to being that age. I could remember having fights as they did about such feeble things as someone having a nicer pencil case than you that at the time feels like the most horrible thing anybody could ever do but you look back on it and laugh. Also the awe and respect you have for you teachers, thinking they are the most intelligent and incredible people in the world, but also the worst ones of whom you refer to with cruel nicknames behind their back.


The only negative thing I can think to say is that the ending wasn't quite what I wanted it to be, I won't say why because I don't want to spoil it but it just really wasn't the resolution I wanted for the characters and it left the door open for you to wonder which in some ways I like, but in others it drives me absolutely crazy.


Generally this was just a really enjoyable book to read and not too demanding, which was exactly what I wanted for my holiday. I would recommend this to anyone probably over the age of 15 in order to be able to look back at primary school in this way and not still be living through it. Also towards the end things get a bit deep and sinister with some inappropriate parts, so just to be safe this is what I would suggest.


If you have read this book or would like to read it leave me a comment and let me know. When I have just read a book I love talking it over with someone because people read books in such different ways and end up with a completely different interpretation, so let me know yours! 

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Monday, 3 November 2014

'All About That Bass' and 'Anaconda' Negativity

Recently in the media, people have begun to embrace plus sized women. I think this is such a good thing because it relieves the stress brought on  by the size zero models of the past in magazines and on the catwalk. However, some people have taken it too far in the other direction.
I would consider myself someone who is slightly underweight, not out of choice but just because my metabolism is basically Usain Bolt. I would like to be a little heavier and in the past I have tried putting on weight by changing my diet but it just doesn't work. I know this is how many people feel on the other end of the scale, but my point is that being underweight can make someone feel insecure too.

This is not helped by people referring to underweight people as 'skinny'. In Nicki Minaj's song 'Anaconda', she sends out a rather explicit but still valid point that women should embrace their 'buns', basically if ya got it, flaunt it. But then she suddenly turns on 'skinny b*tches' even saying if you are skinny then get out of the club. I am not taking this song seriously, but for something that is supposed to empower women, it sends the opposite message that being curvier is now the ideal, and if you're naturally slim then that is not what anybody idolises.

Then in Megan Trainor's song 'All About That Bass' she calls slimmer people 'stick figure silicone Barbie doll(s)', and also uses the word skinny. I really like both these songs in that they are really catchy and meant with good intentions, but if you need to bully one group to make another group feel better does that really make you any better of a person than the likes of Vogue who present overly slim people as the ideal?

Skinny by definition means 'unattractively thin.'. Why is this word thrown around so casually? I have been called skinny more times than I can remember, it is never said as a compliment. How can someone say this and not be called up on it but the minute someone uses the word 'fat' all hell breaks loose? If you think about it they are each others' antithesis and are the two extents of the scale.



I think the problems lies in society, People don't understand that being underweight can make people feel insecure too, once when I said to a friend that I wished I could be a bit bigger she genuinely said 'Oh poor you, it must be so difficult being the ideal weight'. Just because that is what society likes doesn't mean it's what makes me feel confident.


So this is me getting on my soapbox and saying embrace yourself whatever weight you are, but don't victimize a certain group in order to gain more power in your message. Also, never ever laugh at or belittle someone's insecurities, whatever seems to be your ideal could be something that tortures them everyday. Just be nice and treat people with the respect you expect from them, please?


Please leave a comment with your thoughts on this discussion, I think this is something that needs to be talked about more and I would love to hear what you all think.
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Monday, 27 October 2014

The Best Book To Movie Adaptations

The Great Gatsby

I read 'The Great Gatsby' for my A Level coursework at school and to be honest, on the first reading I didn't really see what all the hype was about. It was an interesting story and I did enjoy reading it but it didn't make me want to talk about it like my favourite books have done. This was until I watched the movie (the latest one, the older version didn't really do much for me).

I think my favourite thing about the movie is the soundtrack, I love how they have managed to modernise a story written almost 100 years ago, the parties genuinely seem like parties I would want to go to now and I think this is something the film focuses on and makes the focal point.


Perks of Being a Wallflower

I have this tradition that if I know a film is coming out that has a book, and it looks really good, I will have to read the book first before I watch the film. This was another (very rare) case in that the film enhanced what I had already taken from the book. I feel like the character development in this film was just so spot on and I felt as if they were the people I had met - yepp they are my friends now - in the book.

I love when a film is true to the structure of the book as well. In some books which are told through letters, the film adaptations are just from the narrators perspective rather that sticking with the fact that they are writing letters and this is how the story is told. When you have read the book first, this just makes it come alive even more when you are watching the film.

Catching Fire
I was not a fan of the Hunger Games movie (more to come on that another time), when Catching Fire came out I was very dubious that again I would be disappointed by ohmygosh was I wrong. Catching Fire is my favourite book of the trilogy so I had even higher expectations and they were not disappointed at all. I have to admit that if I had produced the movie I would have portrayed it completely differently but I loved this alternate interpretation. It makes reading the book and watching the film two different experiences whereas with the other two I feel I read the same story as I see. The way they show Panem and the arena is so beautiful and Katniss' wedding dress was even more perfect than I imagined. Generally it was just an interesting interpretation and now I am very excited for Mockingjay Part 1!

If you haven't watched/read any of these you really really should. Also, if you have any other book to movie adaptations that you love then let me know, I love comparing the two because it shows how differently the same story can be read by different people.


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Monday, 20 October 2014

'Orange is the New Black' (aka the most addictive TV show ever)

Now I will start off by saying I wouldn't recommend watching this if you are 16 or under. At times it can get pretty graphic and I don't want to be held responsible for ruining your innocent mind.

Orange is the New Black is an American prison drama/comedy. It will have you on the edge of your seat one second, then laughing until you cry, then just plain crying, I still don't understand how it does that. Probably because of the amazing character development and the way you even feel sorry for the convicts because you see so much into their back story.


There has been two seasons so far which follow mainly the life of Piper Chapman. Piper was sentenced to 15 months in prison after helping her drug dealing girlfriend transport money. Whatever picture you may have painted of her from this does not meet her squeaky clean first impression. It turns out now she is with her boyfriend Larry and has turned her back on her girlfriend and her bad influence. However, her girlfriend lists her as one of the accomplices and she gets put into prison.


Along the way we meet a huuuuge amount of characters. A few of my favourites are:


Lorna Morello (so cute and pretty but with a creepy back story)
From: http://orange-is-the-new-black.wikia.com/



Alex Vause (Piper's ex-girlfriend, sooo hard to hate)
www.wifflegif.com


Nicky Nicholls (just for the hair and how nice she really is)



And generally the whole 'Latina' crowd because I'm genuinely impressed that I can understand what they are saying about 80% of the time! Thank you A Level Spanish!
fearlessleon.com

In general I would recommend this to boys, girls, teenagers, young adults, adults, pretty much anyone because it's just a funny show but with a killer plot line. I have watched the two seasons on Netflix probably in about a month and now I am waiting in agony for the third to come out next year,


If you decide to start watching let me know what you think and we can have a big old discussion about it. Or if you have watched it and didn't really like it I would love to know why because so far everyone I've talked to has loved it!
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Monday, 13 October 2014

My To-Read List

I have a holiday coming up and for most people that would mean sunbathing, sleeping and eating but for me it's all about powering through my ever growing list of books to-read on Goodreads! I thought I would go through the ones I have chosen and why,

Never Let Me Go - Kazou Ishiguro


My English teacher recommended this to me and I managed to come across it in a charity shop for £3 which practically forced me to buy it. It seems like quite a gripping read and something you would finish feeling as if you've learnt something about life (high expectations).

The blurb:

As a child, Kathy – now thirty-one years old – lived at Hailsham, a private school in the scenic English countryside where the children were sheltered from the outside world, brought up to believe that they were special and that their well-being was crucial not only for themselves but for the society they would eventually enter. Kathy had long ago put this idyllic past behind her, but when two of her Hailsham friends come back into her life, she stops resisting the pull of memory.

And so, as her friendship with Ruth is rekindled, and as the feelings that long ago fueled her adolescent crush on Tommy begin to deepen into love, Kathy recalls their years at Hailsham. She describes happy scenes of boys and girls growing up together, unperturbed – even comforted – by their isolation. But she describes other scenes as well: of discord and misunderstanding that hint at a dark secret behind Hailsham’s nurturing facade. With the dawning clarity of hindsight, the three friends are compelled to face the truth about their childhood–and about their lives now.



Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden



This is one of those books that you have to read, I am really interested to find out more about Japanese Culture through this. Feminism is a subject that is widely discussed at the moment and this seems like an important perspective of this struggle.

The blurb:

Speaking to us with the wisdom of age and in a voice at once haunting and startlingly immediate, Nitta Sayuri tells the story of her life as a geisha. It begins in a poor fishing village in 1929, when, as a nine-year-old girl with unusual blue-gray eyes, she is taken from her home and sold into slavery to a renowned geisha house. We witness her transformation as she learns the rigorous arts of the geisha: dance and music; wearing kimono, elaborate makeup, and hair; pouring sake to reveal just a touch of inner wrist; competing with a jealous rival for men's solicitude and the money that goes with it.
In Memoirs of a Geisha, we enter a world where appearances are paramount; where a girl's virginity is auctioned to the highest bidder; where women are trained to beguile the most powerful men; and where love is scorned as illusion. It is a unique and triumphant work of fiction—at once romantic, erotic, suspenseful—and completely unforgettable.

If I Stay - Gayle Forman


I know the film just came out and I know I've missed the hype but I was too scared to see it because everyone said it made them cry so I thought I would read it first then watch the film in the privacy of my own home. I'm really excited for this because the reviews have been amaaazing.

The blurb:

Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.

I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.

Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.

If I Stay is a heart achingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.


I will aim to read all of these and then give you my thoughts after my holiday! Yay I can't wait! Comment what you thought of these books and if you have any more recommendations for me.
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Thursday, 18 September 2014

How to Drag Yourself Through a Difficult Book



Studying for my A Levels I get a lot of set reading that, to be completely honest, bores me to tears. I struggled over summer reading 5 (yes 5!!) books for sixth form, one of which was written in Spanish. Don't get me wrong I love my subjects, but we all have books sometimes that we find really tough and we need that little extra effort to get through it.

Set yourself a target for each day. 

I found it really helpful to set myself targets, I will make sure I read at least 10 pages a day. This gives me something to aim for and will also ensure that I will finish it in the time I need to. I find that if I just read a little bit here and there, I will get bored after two pages and just put the book down but if I have a target I will keep going and feel an accomplishment when I finish it. 

Treat yourself!
My history teacher said to me that when she has a lot of reading to do she will keep some snacks beside her like some peanut M&Ms and every time she finishes a chapter she will give herself one. She also said it used to be biscuits when she was taking her degree but since she put on half a stone before when she did that, she has now switched to something smaller. This is not the healthiest option but I've tried it and it definitely makes the chore a lot more enjoyable!

Take breaks.
It is inevitable that you will not be able to focus on a book you aren't enjoying for three hours straight. The time you can concentrate will be different from your friends but try out half an hour at a time giving yourself a break in between to take a walk or make a drink or catch up on a YouTube video. This is a good way to keep the time you are reading productive and focused rather than drifting off and ending up taking a nap on your bed (I'm guilty of this).

Plan ahead
If like me you have a lot of books to read at once, you need to make sure you make time for each one so you can finish them in the time you need to. For example reading one book Mondays Wednesdays and Fridays, and another Tuesdays Thursdays and Saturdays. Personally I find it quite difficult to read more than one or two books at once, so in this way you can get through books without straining yourself to remember where you left off.

 Be realistic
None of us can do it all, if you really can't handle all the work you've been given you need to tell your teacher. I am really bad at admitting defeat but your health is definitely more important than a grade. I have spoken to teachers before when it has all become too much and they were so grateful I did because they go on the basis that if nobody is seen to be complaining they can handle it. They need to know if it's too much as much as you need the relief! 

So there you have it, my tips on getting through difficult reading! Let me know if you have any more to add or if you just want to have a moan together about excessive homework that's more than fine too!

P.S Sorry I haven't posted in a couple of weeks, I'm making this mid-week one to make up for it, I'm just getting back into the swing of things at sixth form!
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Monday, 25 August 2014

Why do we wear Make-Up?

I have never been someone who covers their face in make-up but I know a lot of people that wear it pretty much every day and depend upon it as something that makes them feel more confident and socially acceptable. I do feel the pressure to wear make-up to certain places such as school or parties, this is probably because there are people in both situations that I want to impress and really it just makes me feel good and gives me extra confidence. But really a trip to the supermarket or to my best friends house doesn't really call for a smoky eye and bright red lipstick.

The internet is full now of beauty gurus and beautiful women who dedicate their careers to make-up, we give each other tips and advice on how to make your face look perfect or like your favourite celebrity. Why do we feel the need to do this and not just embrace our natural selves?

When you really think about the concept it seems so ridiculous. As women we don't feel that our true skin is acceptable in public, when we want to impress someone we put powder, concealer and mascara on our face because we believe that this will make them think we are beautiful, or for this they will like us more. Usually men don't wear make-up, if they have a spot or dark circles under their eyes they just accept it and go about their day. I am not suggesting that they don't have insecurites but if they can survive without make-up then women should be able to as well.

I urge anyone who feels pressure to wear make-up to try just one day bare faced in public. This doesn't have to be at work or school if that's not something you feel comfortable with but even just to go shopping in town. Try one day without make-up and see if anyone even notices, I can almost guarantee that nobody will care in the slightest because people talk to you for your amazing personality and this won't stop because you don't have a flawless complexion and voluminous eyelashes. (Not to mention it will save you A LOT of money trying out all the latest products)
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Monday, 18 August 2014

Book Review: Life After Life by Kate Atkinson



While I was on holiday (to Madeira, it was lovely), I read Life After Life. It is something that has been on my 'to-read' list for a while and when my English Literature teacher set us a reading list for summer and this was on there I knew I had to read it. The story follows Ursula Todd as she lives, and dies multiple times, but then is reincarnated unbeknownst to her and she experiences a feeling of de-ja-vu which warns her how to avoid this mistake again.

For the first 100 pages or so I was very very confused. The general rule is that with every rewind of Ursula's life, things get better. This is also helpful for the reader because it means that you can almost pick and choose the ending that you like best, for me the ending was definitely the one I preferred.

It also conveys a message of how your path of life may be dramatically changed if you hadn't bumped into that man on the street who then became your husband. Or perhaps all the ways you narrowly avoided death. I found this to be an idea that stuck with me after the book, it makes you wonder how everyday actions affect your future which is very worrying but also in some ways very exciting!


After I had got to terms with the structure of the story, and also noted what the different dates meant such as Ursula's birth on 11th February 1910, it was a very gripping read and I could hardly put it down. I know reading time on holiday is not proportionate to reading time at home, but I read this 600 page book in probably 4 days because it was just that good.


I would love to read more of Kate's work because, if I hadn't seen the publish date, I would have assumed it was an acclaimed classic. She has written it with so much care and technique that it could sit amongst the works of Austen or Du Maurier. She is definitely one of the best authors I have ever read. I would recommend this book to lovers of Literature, it is quite challenging and definitely not a light read but it is worth your time!
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Monday, 11 August 2014

The Fault in Our Stars in a Word : Okay



I went to see The Fault in Our Stars with my friend at the cinema probably a month ago now and I've been trying to compose my thoughts about it. First shocker: I didn't cry. Not at all. I had tears in my eyes but it wasn't to the brink of sobbing that the book brought me to. Also, neither did my friend who has also read the book and also been moved to tears by it.


  


Lets start by talking about the book and the story itself. I loved the book, I loved the idea and the characters and the way John Green writes. I was so excited when I heard it was being turned into a film, I had put it up there with my favourite books. I think it is such an interesting love story, it is so much more than 'the new notebook' or other things I am ashamed that it has been associated with. It is so much more than a romance, it tells the real emotions and torment cancer brings into people's lives. This is not a very widely acknowledged topic in the world of cinema or literature in general and I think it should be featured more because it is a real problem that I think I can say everyone has experienced in some form. I am incredibly lucky that I have not suffered through close family and cancer but people in my family have had cancer and my Nanna even died from it before I met her. It is a very real issue that should be more widely addressed.
The story was so well written, I think I read it in about two days and for me that is not normal, it's the sign of a really good book. It makes you smile, laugh and cry still managing to surprise you at the end. However, I didn't find this so much with the film.





The film was very good to see in some ways because it's amazing seeing a good book come to life on a screen and seeing how it compares with what you had imagined. I loved Augustus' lines that I remembered from the book, and their relationship was exactly how I wanted it to be. Although, my friend showed me a review someone had given of the film and they said it seemed 'too Shakespearean' in their language and that is something I can totally understand. (I have tried so hard to find this to credit them but I can't :( ) I think the language they used towards each other was way too poetic and philosophical than two teenagers would use and for this reason they became quite difficult to relate to compared to the version in the book.

The ending was also what I had a problem with, it wasn't as powerful as in the book. I felt that we could have seen more of Augustus' funeral, also I didn't like that Peter Van Houten gave Hazel the letter from Augustus because it just made a bad day worse for her. Gus would have known that this could only end in disaster.


So in conclusion, I think the film was good if you haven't read the book already. The story is heart-warming but heartbreaking at the same time, and the idea  behind it is unique. Although for someone who grew so attached to the book (and most probably my version of the story created in my imagination) it is not what you may hope or expect. If you really loved the film and haven't already, I would strongly encourage you to give the book a go, it is perfect for all ages and tells a story you will never forget.
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Monday, 4 August 2014

July Favourites


For me July is the best month of the year because first of all it's my birthday and also it's the real start of summer. This month has been even better than usual because we've been treated to a heatwave which is very rare in England! These are just some random favourites put together, I thought it would be a good way to introduce myself.

Maybelline Baby Lips Lip Balm in Pink Punch 
(Photo taken from the Superdrug website)
This has been my go to lip colour of the month and I've used it pretty much every day. As it's been much hotter I haven't really wanted to go all out on my make-up so I've just been wearing concealer and foundation and this is the perfect colour to go with a more natural look. The colour looks so bright but it isn't very pigmented, it just enhances the actual colour of you lips. It is also mainly a lip balm so it keeps your lips really hydrated and it's such good value for money at £2.99!

Soap and Glory Butter Yourself Body Butter 

Another birthday present from another friend, this smells so amazing. I actually got the 'Bad Day Box' which I think is so cute, it also had the 'Pulp Friction' body scrub and 'Foam Call' shower gel. The butter itself melts onto your skin and if you use it every day you can notice the difference very quickly.


X - Ed Sheeran
Photo taken from iTunes
 I had been listening to this on Spotify 24/7 since it was released until my friend got it for me for my birthday and since then I have been listening to it on my CD player 24/7. It is such an easy album to listen to and perfect background music, all the songs are so beautiful. I wasn't a huge fan of his first album but this is a very new sound and I absolutely love it. The lyrics of the songs are so powerful and every time you listen you can pick out new little references and puns that you hadn't noticed before. It's definitely one of my favourite albums of all time already. I would recommend getting the deluxe version too because the songs from The Hobbit and The Fault in Our Stars are so poetic and fitting to the movies.

Born to Die - Lana Del Rey
Photo taken from Wikipedia

 I got this album last summer but I think it is the perfect summer album, I was sitting in the park one day with my friend and we put this on and it was just so perfect for a hot day when you just want to relax. Lana's voice is so soothing and the lyrics again are so intricate and interesting, this is my go to if I'm walking out and about or having a picnic with my friends and we want to listen to something.


Orange is the New Black
Taken from www.vcpost.com
 Oh my god, I am going to try so hard not to gush over this but this is my new obsession. I had heard all the hype around this but didn't really see how a prison drama could be that amazing but oh how wrong I was. I can't even fully describe why I am so hooked on it but it just combines comedy with romance with drama and it's just so different. As much as I never see myself having to go to prison, I think it's something we all wonder about what it would be like. This is a trivial and not particularly trustworthy perception but so interesting nonetheless. I have just finished the end of season 1 and it was the craziest cliffhanger ever, that's all I will say.


Fangirl


 Having taken English Literature at A Level and also now starting work for A2 I have a lot of set reading to do, I don't get much time to read for myself. Although I do try to read one book of my choice every now and again, this time I decided I would give Fangirl a go because I had heard such good reviews. This is definitely not a genre I have read for a while, recently I have been much more into dystopian and fantasy books but it was really good to go back to a more light hearted romance story. I was a bit dubious of how fan-fiction would fit in and I have to say I would have enjoyed the story the same or perhaps more if there hadn't been such a heavy focus on it, although I thought it was cool how they integrated something that is very normal for a lot of teenagers now into something as 'mainstream' as a book. The characters in the book are what captured me. I just felt I could relate to Cath so much, and you really grew attached to them as the story developed. This was even to the point that at the end I was sad because I would miss them! Definitely more aimed at teenage girls and definitely worth the hype.

Let me know what your favourites have been this month, leave a link to your blog in the comments too! I'd love to meet some other bloggers :)


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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

YouTube and Celebrity Idols




Recently on YouTube there has been a discussion going round about YouTube culture and how the normal people making videos, which just started out as a hobby, are now seen as celebrities. When their fans meet them they scream at them and wait for hours and hours in line for a 30 second interaction with them. This was started by 'Sprinkle Of Glitter' (Louise) and the video was titled 'YouTube Culture' which is linked if you click on the picture above.

This has started to make me think about what an idol is, and what makes us select certain people as our idols. Louise mentioned that she gets comments saying she's 'perfect' and people 'wish they could be like her'. But we only see a certain side of her that she wants us to see. This is the same with celebrities that are actors or singers. Apart from the odd paparazzi photo of them coming out of the gym, we only know what they let us see through their work or what a gossip magazine tells us which may not always be 100% true. 

I am not saying we shouldn't look up to these people, I'm sure everyone has at least one celebrity that they look up to for one reason or another! But you should never believe they are perfect because you do not know their private self, you only see the persona they have on the internet, the television or the radio.

In my case, I look up to BeyoncĂ©. This does not mean I think she could never do anything wrong and I want to be her, I don't. There are certain qualities BeyoncĂ© has that I admire and try to take on into my life and my personality. For example she is incredibly hard working and wants to make herself the best she can at her craft. I think this is something everyone should try and do, she isn't someone who will settle for a 9-5 job where she turns up every day, does the same thing and goes home. She is constantly looking at herself and her music and thinking 'Where can I take this next?'. She pushes boundaries and will give her heart and soul into what she wants until she achieves it. 


I admire her because that is the reason she got where she is, it wasn't handed to her on a silver plate. But on the other hand there will be things that she does that I don't agree with but that does not mean I admire her any less. This is the same with a friend or relative, you love them but there are always going to be qualities that you don't like in them, as they will not like certain qualities you have.


I think you should have lots of idols with qualities you admire and feel inspired by. You pick out these qualities and think 'I should be more like this', an idol changes your outlook and mentality for the better. However, even people you know should not be totally idolised. Nobody is perfect. To be consumed by someone you think you know and you think is incredible is not healthy. 

So in my opinion your idol should be the version of yourself that you want to be, using qualities from people you admire: your mum's emotional strength, your favourite singers work ethic, your best friend's positivity. Anything you see in someone and think 'Wow I would love to be like that' should be put towards your overall 'sculpture' of your idol. It is better to do this than wish you were someone else because you can never be anyone different from who you are so you may as well make yourself into someone you can admire.
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