Saturday, 12 November 2016

October: Monthly Favourites

Apologies for the slightly late upload - I have been so busy with work these last few weeks! As a result, this month almost solely features media recommendations (particularly music) from being so overloaded with work so...enjoy!

'Blonde' by Frank Ocean

I had heard a few people talking about this album when it first came out, but I didn't get a chance to fully listen to it until it cropped up on the 'Spotify + Chill' playlist (cringey, I know). It is safe to say that I am absolutely in love with 'Blonde'; it is such a peculiar yet calm R&B album, and perfect for listening to in the background whilst I am doing work.
Favourite track: Solo

Sean McLoughlin / jacksepticeye

Image result for sean mcloughlin jacksepticeyeI have been subscribed to Jack for around a year now, but it is only the last couple of months that I have become fully addicted. He provides such humorous and interesting commentary alongside his game plays, and his infrequent vlogs provide a chance to see his down to earth and genuine self. There is not a YouTuber I know who gives such dedication to his work, particularly with interacting with his community.


Image result for undertaleAdmittedly, I didn't actually play this game...I watched jacksepticeye play it! However, that didn't stop me from completely falling in love with it. 'Undertale' is sheer perfection in every form. The pixel style is simplistic yet effective, and the music is so quirky. I absolutely adored the plot line from start to finish, and every character had such depth to them; I would 100% recommend playing this game if you're into complex story lines.

'The Beautiful Game' by Vulfpeck

I was unaware of any new material that would be coming from Vulfpeck, so when I saw 'The Beautiful Game' had dropped last month I was ecstatic. Vulfpeck's music fills me with an absolutely indescribable joy; it's raw, it's catchy, and most of all it's FUNKY. Throughout this whole album I just want to groove. I'm aware I sound like a middle-aged man, but there are no other words for it. Vulfpeck definitely need more recognition, so if you're in the mood for groove, 100% check these dudes out!
Favourite track: 1 for 1, DiMaggio 

PewDiePie's Tuber Simulator

Image result for pewdiepie tuber simulatorPewDiePie's Tuber Simulator was released at the very end of the September, naturally meaning I was absolutely obsessed with this game for the next few weeks. Unlike his last platform based game, Tuber Simulator is a very casual game in which you gain subscribers and views from videos in order to buy new gear for your room. It's simplistic, but it's neat for killing a few minutes, and the online competitions are fun and creative. Definitely worth checking out if you're looking for a new game!

Pumpkin - bath bomb from Lush

After watching numerous YouTube videos on Lush hauls, I was dying for something from their Halloween collection. The Pumpkin bath bomb stood out to me most from its beautiful cinnamon smell, and the bath it created completely encapsulated autumn. In addition, it left the bath a bright orange colour which got me in the Halloween mode! I'll definitely be buying this bath bomb again if they bring it back next year!

'Halloway' by Tessa Violet

Over the past month, Tessa has been releasing music/lyric videos from her latest E.P. 'Halloway', and I have loved every single one of them. Tessa's voice is so incredibly unique, making every track so soft and gentle yet catchy and memorable; furthermore, each song has its own aura around it, whether it be ethereal or ebullient. This is definitely a listen for a rainy day or a long car journey!
Favourite track: Not over You

And that about wraps it up for last month! I hope you enjoyed reading and perhaps found something new to indulge in yourself ☺

Continue reading October: Monthly Favourites

Sunday, 30 October 2016

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Nicola Yoon: Everything Everything - review

Image result for everything everything bookAuthor: Nicola Yoon
Publish Date: 1 September 2015
Genre: Realism, romance
Audience: Young adult

'Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddy, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. Maddy is certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It's almost certainly going to be a disaster.'

I had heard numerous good reviews about 'Everything Everything', and since it was mentioned on the first Zoella Book Club list I've been extremely eager to read it. My friend Bex kindly gave me her copy which she was going to donate, and once I'd got my hands on it I was itching to delve in. 

Unfortunately for me, this book was a huge disappointment. Firstly, I read it in two days, but not because it was gripping or moreish; to put it simply, I just wanted to get it over with! I wasn't interested by the vast majority of the actual text in the book, with a lot of sentences seeming unnecessary to the plot and easy to skip over. I am normally a fan of short and disjunct writing, but in this instance it just made the novel much more tedious. 

In addition, I didn't feel emotional attachment to a single character. Some characters, such as Madeline's nurse Carla, had potential, but there was simply not enough interaction or background information to feel connected to them - and this is a book where you really have to feel connected. The protagonist Madeline became increasingly irritable as the plot progressed, as her and Olly's dialogue remained the same, pretentious reflections that are so overused in young adult fiction.

I liked the premises of the plot, but not a single element was padded out sufficiently. The illness Madeline suffers from was barely explained despite being the focal point of the story, and the action was too fast-paced to be believed. Think your typical 'boy meets girl - they run away'.  The 'dramatic' plot twist and the cliché ending were entirely predictable, and one which simply made me roll my eyes in annoyance.

Believe it or not, there were some aspects which I liked about 'Everything Everything'. The pages of diagrams added a fresh break from the mundane writing, even if they did quicken the already fast-moving story. The drama between Olly and his father was well-described, and it was possibly the one thing in the novel which had me wanting to know more. As a sucker for chaos theory, I loved the brief addition of that at the end, but I do wish it would have played a bigger part from the beginning.

In conclusion, 'Everything Everything' was a very disappointing read from start to finish. The characters were lack-lustre, and the plot was incredibly predictable and cliché; everything felt like it held potential, but nothing was ever fully explored. If I've learnt one thing from this book it would be - don't always believe the hype!

Continue reading Nicola Yoon: Everything Everything - review

Monday, 24 October 2016

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Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre - review

Author: Charlotte Brontë
Publish Date: 16 October 1847
Genre: Romance, gothic
Audience: Teens and up

(N.B. This review contains plot descriptions which may contain minor spoilers)

'Jane Eyre' has been sitting on my bookshelf for a good while now, and I was reluctant to read it with the presumption it would be a dreary, over-rated classic. However, I am so glad that I finally decided to read it, as it surprised me beyond belief!

The first thing that I absolutely adored about 'Jane Eyre' was the characters. Every single character felt purposeful and well-rounded, with enough engagement for you as a reader to become acquainted with them. The character of Jane Eyre was extremely likeable, which was enhanced through the plot including her younger years at a boarding school. In addition, her and Mr Rochester completely fitted together like two pieces of a jigsaw, and again, his character was very easy to connect to, particularly towards the end; I was forever pining for more interaction between the two as it was so adorable!

Another notable feature of 'Jane Eyre' was the plot development. No scene was unnecessary to the story, and every situation which Jane faced all connected as one, which made it very engaging and easy to read. There were a few moments of rambling setting description which were slightly tedious, but admittedly it did add to the overall atmosphere of the novel. The inclusion of Gothic elements to an otherwise realistic plot was an interesting concept, but no part of it felt out of place, and it gave the novel a whole other dimension.

One thing that surprised me about 'Jane Eyre' was the moral messages which it subtlety portrayed. For example, Jane very much stood her ground throughout the novel, and her outspoken nature shocked a few characters at first, only for them to realise that she was in the right as an "independent woman". Furthermore, Jane did not hesitate to overlook Mr Rochester's physical disabilities at the end of the novel, which only added depth and emotion to the power of their love.

The one thing that really stopped me giving this book five stars was that I found it hard to pick it up again; in other words, it wasn't particularly moreish. Despite the plot being entertaining, the chapters often ended conclusively rather than cliffhangers, meaning I was never in a rush to find out the next part of the story. Thus, it did take me a lot longer to read (23 days) than I would have liked!

Overall, 'Jane Eyre' is a very entertaining read, and one which I would recommend to anybody trying out the classics. The plot is fast-moving and with interesting themes and concepts, and the characters are likeable and easy to form relations with. In addition, the romance between Jane and Mr Rochester is relatable and just SO SO ADORABLE. A definite must-read - but be warned that you may be in it for the long haul!

Next read: 'Everything Everything' by Nicola Yoon

Continue reading Charlotte Brontë: Jane Eyre - review

Sunday, 9 October 2016

September: Monthly Favourites

Unfortunately, the return of sixth form has meant that my month has been chock-a-block with work and not much else! However, I still have a few favourites that have provided an escape from deadlines, and also due to September being my birthday month ☺

Radley 'Over The Moon' Purse

I received this beautiful Radley purse for my 18th birthday. It feels lovely to hold, and the colours of navy blue and light pink are so soft but so stunning. The interior is also gorgeous with the pastel theme continuing throughout, and the smallish size is perfect for my everyday needs.

Cath Kidston 'Story Books' Sleeveless Dress

Story Books Cotton...This gorgeous dress was an exams present from my mother and I absolutely adore it. The book print is so cute, and the pastel colours compliment the navy blue perfectly - in fact, the colour scheme reminds me of the Radley purse! This dress is perfect for dressing up or down, and it will be ideal for all year round.

Stranger Things

Image result for stranger things squarePlease, believe the hype. Set in the 80s, a plot fuelled by aliens and a telekinetic girl is something which, surprisingly, I am not that familiar with, but it worked so incredibly well. The child actors are phenomenal, particularly Millie Bobby Brown, and the plot was tense and gripping throughout - a definite must see!

Orphan Black
Image result for orphan black logo
After having watched the first 6 or so episodes of 'Orphan 
Black' last year, I decided to re-watch them in the hope that I would carry on - and I am thoroughly hooked! Alike 'Stranger Things', the plot is spellbinding, with connectable characters and astonishing actors. I am forever amazed at how Tatiana Maslany can play so many characters, and all so differently!

The Great British Bake Off

Image result for bake off logoOf course, a favourites post would not be complete with an honourable mention to the Bake Off. Every year, this show delivers in its humour, its likeable contestants, and its delicious array of baked goods. Not only is it the most pleasing and hunger-inducing programme on the telly, it is also the most stressful - but it's worth it. I'm rooting for Selasi, Benjamina, and Candice to be in the finale! 

Image result for spotify logoSpotify Playlists

To accompany my studies, I have been looking for more music to 
listen to in the background, and I have found this through the medium of Spotify playlists. Located under the 'chill' genre, there is a vast array of soft R&B to satisfy my work needs, and through it I have discovered the wonderful Frank Ocean. Spotify's pre-made playlists are a definite go-to if you're looking for new or background, mindful music!

Sherlocked Convention 2016

After having the best day at the 2015 Sherlocked convention, I knew I had to go to this years, and time finally rolled around. Whilst I wish there had been more free exhibitions and such like, it was still a fantastic day in which I had my picture taken with Amanda Abbington, Andrew Scott, Rupert Graves, and Yasmine Akram, along with meeting the creators themselves Steven Moffat and Sue Vertue. All the cast were so unbelievably sweet, as were the internet friends I met, and the day made me so proud to be part of such a wonderful community.

And that wraps my September favourites! I hope you find something new within this list that you end up loving as much as I have done ☺

Continue reading September: Monthly Favourites

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

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Holly Bourne: How Hard Can Love Be? (The Spinster Club, #2) - review

Image result for how hard can love beAuthor: Holly Bourne
Publish Date: 1 February 2016
Genre: Realism, romance
Audience: Young adult

Ever since reading the stunning 'Am I Normal Yet?', I have been extremely excited to delve back into the world of The Spinster Club. 'How Hard Can Love Be?' centres around Amber's story, and I was looking forward to discovering her story and past in greater detail. Unfortunately, I was somewhat disappointed, which is unusual for me from a Holly Bourne book.

Amber's family past was explored further in 'How Hard Can Love Be?' after being hinted at in the previous book, and it was refreshing to see her interact with her mother. The feelings she felt towards her mother were realistic, and portrayed a more sensitive side to Amber after seeing her tough and careless nature in 'Am I Normal Yet?'. Whilst there were particular personal matters that were handled with sensitivity, I did feel that her mother's alcoholism was displayed with a slightly cliché sense of drama.

Another aspect of this novel which I enjoyed is that despite Amber being placed in an entirely unfamiliar environment - the USA -, her relationships with the new characters were realistic and well-established; this also makes you as the reader comfortable with the unknown setting because the characters are likeable and easy to accustom to. Having said that, of course I yearned for the moments where Amber would Skype Lottie and Evie, because those 3 have such a naturalistic and authentic chemistry that I can relate to my own friendship group. However, I did feel like Amber's relations with the love interest Kyle did appear slightly underdeveloped; this was most probably intentional to highlight the 'whirlwind' aspect of their romance, but I felt like I could not connect with him as much as I would like to.

My main issue with 'How Hard Can Love Be?' is how clichéd the plot appeared - an unlikely romance between the typical jock and the conventionally unattractive girl, featuring hindering parents and a spontaneous road trip. Whilst it was still a very moreish read thanks to Bourne's superb writing, it was a stark contrast to the heavy realism featured in 'Am I Normal Yet?'. In addition, Amber's excessive pining to be with Kyle did get very repetitive, and despite the issue being fully understandable, the mundane whining only made me annoyed at her character, and not sympathetic!

In conclusion, I did enjoy 'How Hard Can Love Be?', but there were too many niggling annoyances which stopped me liking it as much as Bourne's other works. The idea of the plot had potential, and the new characters were well-rounded and likeable, but for me, it conveyed far too many young adult clichés, something which I usually commend Bourne for straying away from. It wasn't that I disliked the book as such, but not being able to connect with the main characters was something which highly damaged my experience. However, I am still very excited to read the final instalment 'What's A Girl Gotta Do?' to discover the third of the Spinster Club girls Lottie, and I hope that I can connect with her character and her story more than I could with Amber, to obtain the Holly Bourne reading experience that I know and love.

Next read: 'Jane Eyre' by Charlotte Bront

Continue reading Holly Bourne: How Hard Can Love Be? (The Spinster Club, #2) - review

Wednesday, 28 September 2016

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Catfish and the Bottlemen: The Ride - review

The Ride Catfish and the Bottlemen.jpegArtist: Catfish and the Bottlemen
Release Date: 27 May 2016
Genre: Alternative, indie rock

After absolutely adoring their debut album, 'The Balcony', I knew I had to get my hands on 'The Ride' as soon as possible; however, it did actually take me a while to sit down and properly listen to it, which is why this post is very overdue!

Thankfully, Catfish and the Bottlemen came back with the same authentic indie rock that we know and love. The singles '7' and 'Soundcheck' are clearly the winners of the album, with catchy but original progressions, and choruses that are simply perfect to belt out. One thing I love about Catfish is their concise nature - one word track titles, with not a speck of pretentiousness about them.

As ever, the lyricism is stunning. There is a slightly more mournful tone to 'The Ride' than there was with their previous album, but the air of melancholy is wrapped in a soft layer of anger, creating the perfect fusion that is indie rock. The album as an entirety is faultlessly put together, starting with the upbeat, mellowing in the middle, and ending with the extreme whopper that is 'Outside'.

My only criticism with 'The Ride' is that it has an exceedingly similar tone to 'The Balcony'. Whilst it is undeniably a unique and memorable sound as a whole, the similarity of the tracks does mean that they all merge into one, and the only distinctive songs are the singles. However, I have had this issue with numerous albums before, and after a few more listens I am sure that the tracks will begin to separate and establish their own feel.

In conclusion, 'The Ride' by Catfish and the Bottlemen is a pleasure to listen to. With catchy choruses and lugubrious lyrics, the album is in authentic indie style. Whilst the tracks are ultimately very similar in tone and guitar riffs, there are still noticeable developments, particularly in their lyricism. This is an album which I'm sure will accompany me on many a car journey, and I'm thoroughly excited to see what Catfish and the Bottlemen do next.

Continue reading Catfish and the Bottlemen: The Ride - review

Sunday, 11 September 2016

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Victor Hugo: Les Misérables - review

7444576Author: Victor Hugo
Publish Date: 1862
Genre: Epic, historical
Audience: Adult fiction

(N.B. This review contains plot descriptions which may contain minor spoilers - but who hasn't seen the film/musical before reading this, right?)

Ever since I fell in love with the stage show, and subsequently film, it has been a goal of mine to read the epic that is 'Les Misérables'. Therefore, this summer I decided to finally embark on the journey, and surprisingly, it didn't take me as long as I had imagined - only 17 days! In fairness, I was reading 70 long, small-print pages per day, but it was completely and utterly worth it.

One thing I adored about 'Les Misérables' was that the plot has the perfect balance of dramatic action and tranquil romance. Cleverly, this is interwoven through nearly all of the prominent characters, Marius being the most obvious. This makes the plot very character-driven, rather than a situation to which the protagonists are merely responding to - a plot type which I am not that familiar with, but one which I thoroughly enjoyed. In addition, there were quite a few scenes which I was unfamiliar with (as they had been cut out of other adaptations), but ones which added much more character depth; for example, Fantine's past before working in the factory was elaborately described, allowing the reader to get a better sense of her personality and nature. This also made her death a lot more emotive as you have connected with her character on a much deeper level.

In terms of character descriptions, these were outstanding. Physically, emotionally, motives - everything was covered. As mentioned above, this allows a much deeper connection between character and reader to be established, a feature that is extremely important towards the story of 'Les Misérables'. Furthermore, having such well-formed characters inevitably leads to superb development; Jean Valjean's evolution from selfishness to putting both Cosette and Marius before himself is one of my favourite examples, along with the internal, moral struggles faced by Javert.

Yet another thing Victor Hugo must be praised for is his use of extremely emotive language. Whether it be descriptions of characters, feelings, or scenery, it is all unbelievably beautiful. As a reader, it makes the reading experience entirely immersive, particularly with the embellished illustrations of both settings and emotions. In addition to pages of stunning description, Hugo has extreme talent at writing such powerful statements that really make you sit and go - 'wow'. As a result, every time I updated my reading progress on Goodreads, I would pick out a sentence which had enthralled me most and document it there so I had a neat collection of my most favourite quotes to look back on.

My one and only criticism with 'Les Misérables' is that Victor Hugo does have the tendency to dedicate whole books* to topics which could be considered off topic. For example, when Jean Valjean enters the sewers carrying an unconscious Marius, Hugo breaks away to give a 15-page description of Paris's sewer system, explaining how and why it's developed over the course of 30 years. Overall, quite irrelevant. I would say that Hugo does this around 5 or 6 times throughout, meaning around 1/10 of the book is filled with these monotonous and repetitive ramblings. However, to give him some credit, I can see the reasoning as a majority of these rants are aimed at criticising some aspect of society, which overall is Hugo's motive with 'Les Misérables'.
* 'Les Misérables' is split into 5 large parts, each including around 8 books, which then have their own smaller chapters.

In conclusion, 'Les Misérables' is truly deserving of its epic status. Throughout my read, I was dithering whether to give it 4 or 5 stars as the 'irrelevant' rants are a struggle to read at times; however, the last 100 pages were so unbelievably outstanding that in the end I couldn't bear to give it any less than 5 stars. Victor Hugo absolutely nails everything you could want out of a novel - from stunning descriptions of every kind, to well-established and connectable characters, to a thrilling and engaging plot, 'Les Misérables' is a sincerely incredible novel.

Next read: 'How Hard Can Love Be?' by Holly Bourne

Continue reading Victor Hugo: Les Misérables - review