Tuesday, 28 February 2017

February Round Up

Let's recap the shortest month of the year! I can't believe we're already two months into the year.

Where I've been? 
  • Home. Back to Hertfordshire for reading week, involving coffee dates with my mum, the pub with my best friend and cuddles with my dog
  • Stroud. Before travelling back home I visited my flatmates hometown. Vegan pizza, wildlife documentaries, avocado on toast brunches and a farmers market. Blog post about that here!
  • Guildhall in Bath for a vintage fair. Bought a snazzy shirt for £5!

What I've been watching?
  • New season of Girls.
  • Gilmore Girls (On season 4)
  • The Kindness Diaries
  • Ex Machina 
  • Santa Clarita Diet (On my sisters request, outrageously hilarious)

What I've been listening to?
  • Ed Sheeran. OBVIOUSLY. Shape of You is so beautiful
  • Robyn - Dancing on My Own. On repeat. For days. It's such a feel good song!
  • Lower Than Atlantis' new album Safe in Sound

What I've been reading?
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara. Review here!
  • Nocturnal Animals by Austin Wright

Some favourites
  • The Banging Book Club podcast 
  • Running. Been attempting to up my game
  • Purchasing a new Breville Blend Active blender. Reached full adulthood now I'm excited for a BLENDER to be delivered... PS. It's super pretty and clean.
  • The Olive Fox online magazine. I contribute to their content once in a while. Check it out!

Ended the month with pancakes, made with chia seeds, flour and soya milk. Recipe here!

And now, March. Which means Spring and baby animals, and slightly warmer days and lots of flowers in bloom. March is unfortunately a month of uni assignments, but also my sister's 14th birthday, mother's day and a trip home for a weekend.

What were your favourite parts of February?

Saturday, 25 February 2017

A Little Life - Hanya Yanagihara | | Book Review

Finally faced my fear of lengthy novels and began A Little Life, 720 pages of utter tragedy and heartbreak. This book is not for the squeamish because of its graphic descriptions of abuse, and definitely not recommended if you wish for your heart to remain in one piece. 

A Little Life is written by Hanya Yanagihara and tells the story of four men who have grown up together, since attending college together. The group consists of JB an artist, Malcolm an architect, Jude a lawyer and Willem an actor. We experience the story over 60 years, told in the present day with flashbacks to their childhoods and the events leading up to now. It is mostly set in America's New York with many mentions of travels to Europe. 
The plot is incredible and complex. It is about friendship, abuse and tragedy. The characters have experienced their entire adult lives together, through arguments, jealousy, successes, heartbreak and love. Yanagihara's creation of JB, Malcolm, Jude and Willem is amazing and deserves praise for the complexity, all of them being perfectly sculpted 3D characters who you can imagine yourself meeting. The stories and lives of these characters are so intricately woven together, there's not one detail missed out. They are very thorough and detailed, it's what kept me gripped through 700 pages...

As a tale of friendship, the only thing that really binds them together is Jude. Jude has a secretive past, his closest friends know very little about it but they know it's not the most pleasant. Yanagihara develop the narrative to focus closer on the friendship between Jude and Willem. To me, they seem the closest out of the four. Willem appears to be the greatest friend you could ever have, especially to Jude. His endless devotion to Jude is questioned by his own friends and family as a connection that is immature and is preventing them from experiencing adult life 'correctly'. (FYI, there is no rules or guidance to living life correctly.) Willem is kind and selfless, he travels the world on acting shoots but will be there for Jude in a heartbeat. Their friendship is real, powerful and honest. It is evident that Willem loves Jude more than anything else in the world. And now I think I do too. I found myself attached to the pair almost immediately, I rooted for them. 

Jude past is traumatic and it's slowly and painfully revealed to readers and his friends and family. His past is seemingly unknown to anybody other than his doctor Andy, and deceased carer Ana. His inability to discuss his past is frustrating to everyone involved, Yanagihara portrays it perfectly in the other character's anger and persistence. I found Jude extremely frustrating with his constant reluctance to accept advice and professional help, although I can completely understand why he is the way he is.

Revealed in graphic flashbacks, we discover Jude has been abused throughout his life, and it affects him greatly still, his past cripples his life. These parts are NOT easy to read, they are brutal and upsetting, and should be noted that it could be triggering for some readers as self-harm is a major topic through the story. It's laid out in front of you in this bizarre raw form unlike any other piece of fiction to exist, even Lolita left out the unforgivable parts. To get an idea of how horrific it is, at some points I had to close it and take a few deep breathes whilst squirming out of my seat. 

This book honestly made me feel everything ever possible, mostly sadness. I was aware of the emotions it could evoke but dear lord, I was not prepared. It's sad, just so so so sad. Especially THAT ending. All in all, after reading I felt emotionless, the book sucked the life out of me, and I had to give myself a week before I picked up a new book. 

I just want you all to read it because the friendships are beautiful, the support the four give each other even when they aren't particularly on good terms is beautiful. It can be funny too. Despite the story's trauma and sadness you will find yourself attached to one of the four. And don't think you won't. I found myself attached to Jude and Willem's friendship. I still can't stop thinking about them.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Small Town Love

Last weekend I visited my flatmate Ruby's hometown Stroud. We went to a cafe called Meme (Yes, Meme, 21st century humour) and had brunch, a lil cute Galentines brunch. Ruby's sister made us all these gift bags personalised to us. Mine had vegan chocolate buttons, stationery, a face mask, herbal tea sachets and edible gold glitter for baking. Also, a small arty puzzle. 

Brunch was smashed avocado on sourdough toast with an iced coffee. Unsure why I had iced coffee when it was early morning and cold. It was SO great though. Love me some avocado on toast. 

A tour of Stroud was on the cards. It was snowing. And everything was just so beautiful to look at. Whenever I'm in a new place I lose sense of myself, I feel distant from my body and I enter a dream-like state. All new towns and cities make me feel this way. They remind me how minuscule I am in the world. No one knows me, my surroundings are fresh and it leaves me feeling new and clean. I loved the smallness of the town, how everyone knew each other, its friendliness, its homely feel.  It was snowing, only lightly, my hands were red and burning from the cold.   

We went to their farmer's market and I loved its authenticity. Fresh locally produced food - eggs, cheese, fruit and vegetables and meat. Everything you would expect a farmers market to be. 

We spent our evenings watching nature documentaries, eating pizza and a visit to a little pub! 

Before leaving to catch the train home we visited a cafe called Black Book, in which you can settle down with a hot drink and choose a book from the shelves. 

(Apparently I made excellent use of the camera I got for Christmas) 

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Please Brain, Work!

Remember this post? About my decision to stop taking anti-depressants, well, here's a little update.

It's been just over a month since I last took a dose of fluoxetine. To say I was worried is an understatement. I worried about the withdrawal side effects, and stupidly, I kept googling them to remind myself I wasn't dying, it's my body adjusting to change. 

Some of the side effects I have been experiencing include night time sweats and the chills, most nights my sleep is disturbed because I wake sweating, to the point my bed sheets and pyjama's are damp but then suddenly, I'll be freezing cold. Like icy cold. I can imagine my body feels a bit confused. (I'm sorry body but you'll thank me in the long run when you're battling bad mental health days naturally). A strange effect is something called 'brain zaps', I can't explain properly in a way you would understand unless you have first hand experience. It isn't dizziness, although that is one of the side effects, the way I've been explaining it to my mum is 'it feels like my brain is sloshing around'. Weird, uncomfortable image, right? Yeah. It is weird to experience them. Sometimes when I turn my head it happens, or I roll over in bed, or I'm walking down the high street. It just happens. There's no warning and it feels odd. Some of the more 'normal' flu-like symptoms as well of nausea and tiredness. 

I'm hoping it'll pass soon. Fluoextine has a longer half life than other anti-depressants, meaning withdrawal effects don't kick in immediately. In my case, I felt fine until two weeks after my last tablet. It is said to be one of the easier tablets to withdraw from. Since stopping, I have noticed a massive change in myself and bad days come and go, but they are not so frequent. On the VERY good days my to-do list is full and I complete it all. It is so rewarding to just experience life, even all the mundane bits. I feel like I am on top of life. And even on the days where I feel a bit meh, I definitely give myself a prep talk of IT'S OKAY YOU CAN DO IT. ONE STEP AT A TIME. WASH YOUR HAIR. DRINK WATER AND EAT SOME VEGETABLES.

One thing helping me most is writing to-do lists. University assignments can get on top of you, it's easy to lay in bed and watch Netflix when tutors don't check up on you regularly. Add university into the mix of a healthy diet, personal hygiene and cleaning your flat. It can push you over the edge.

Writing a list of tasks I have to do in a day is my saviour, some of the tasks are simply 'shower' 'hoover' but if I don't write it down, I forget and once you've written it down somewhere you've gotta do it. The best feeling is ticking everything off in a day.  I have been using this fabulous to-do list from Sighh which is only £4.50!!! Get one and start getting shit done!

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Sun is Also a Star - Nicola Yoon | | Book Review

Another young adult review or rather ramblings. I swear I do read other genres (sometimes) but I have such an admiration for young adult fiction and its diversity.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon is about two teenagers, Natasha and Daniel living in America. Natasha was born in Jamaica and Daniel has a Korean background. I love the different cultures colliding. I love this, I love the characters and all their background history.

Daniel and Natasha are very different people, and when they meet it's clear Daniel believes in fate and 'everything happening for a reason' and I'm right there with him on that. Natasha on the other hand, likes knowing the science of everything. She believes there is science, a logical explanation for everything that happens and doesn't believe in fate. Daniel is adamant this is why they met. It was meant to be. And maybe it was meant to be, but they clash, oh my, do these characters clash. As much as I want it to be an adorable love story I can't picture them together.

Their story plays out over the course of one day. Everything you may possibly need to know about the characters is portrayed in their one day. This felt like an issue to me, personally, how can two people meet in one day, fall in love and want to spend the rest of their lives together? I'm not sure. Feels unrealistic. Maybe it's a portrayal of first love, young love but I felt frustrated and silly for believing in their feelings for one another.

An interesting point is the perspectives, not only is it told in Natasha and Daniel's perspectives, whenever they meet another person, it doesn't matter how minor they may be to the overall plot they get their own little chapter to reveal themselves and talk about their history.

So, one event leads to another. Natasha nearly gets hit by a car, Daniel happens to be there at the right moment to save her. And so on, many events lead to the next. However Natasha is actually on a mission to prevent her family from being deported back to Jamaica that very evening. It's heartbreaking, like any person who has made a home somewhere she wants to stay. She wants to study and she doesn't want to leave her best friend. She has made a life in America. And Daniel has his own issues, he is under extreme pressure from his parents to be successful, to go down the exact path his parents want but he doesn't want it. In this whirlwind of a day the pair are both a bit reckless.

Yoon has written a beautifully heartbreaking story about immigration, friendship, family and love. It is wonderful. And how can you resist the cover? It is stunning.