Top Ten Tuesday – 10 Bookish Settings I’d Love to Visit || Blogmas Day 5

So, today I’ve decided to do a Top Ten Tuesday. I used to really enjoy doing these on and off, and when I saw the topics for December I knew it would be a good discussion post once a week – and also something I could plan ahead!

This weeks topic is Bookish Settings I’d Love to Visit. Anyone who knows me will know what number 1 is on my list (*cough* Wizarding World *cough*) but the rest have been quite difficult for me to piece together and all come an equal second for a variety of different reasons.

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Review: Library of Souls – Ransom Riggs

29 - Library of Souls

Rating – 3*

This is possibly one of the most highly anticipated books I on my bookshelf, I absolutely loved book 1 and 2 (reviews here and here). Now, I would suggest if you want to read this and it was a while since you read book two, go back and read at least the last few chapters of book two to refresh yourself because I was lost. This book throws you right in at the action, immediately as the second book ends. This series would definitely benefit from a solid read-through over the course of a week or so.

As I said, this book throws you straight in at the action, and it starts at a really good pace. The problem is, it slows down. The sense of adventure was there throughout the book, and it did pick up again, but that initial loss of momentum threw me off a little. There are a number of new locations introduced in this book, each bringing with it a set of challenges and a new aspect to this rescue mission that Jacob and Emma are on; these places are incredible, and the descriptions were vivid enough that I didn’t even need the pictures alongside the words. The primary one, Devil’s Acre, really adds to the desperation that Jacob and Emma are feeling and I do love it when the setting adds to the mood of the book.

Once I reoriented myself with where I was and the characters, the story slowed considerably. There was also the issue of a lot of new characters being introduced at this late stage of the overall story, while I appreciate that sometimes that is necessary, all the characters introduced were forced and convenient. Not only that, but even the existing characters fell a little flat and lacked all depth; Jacob became conveniently amazing at harnessing his peculiarity and it was down to him to save all of peculiardom and all the others, well, they were pushed aside and I really hated that. The end was what annoyed me most. Don’t get me wrong, I love a book which ties up loose ends, but this book tied up all the ends in such a perfect little bow that it was infuriating. I like a happy ending, but this one took the biscuit.

Saying all that, I still enjoyed this book, and I really enjoyed the series as a whole. It’s by far and away one of the most unique book series I’ve read, the combination of antique pictures and such a vivid world just makes this so interesting. I absolutely cannot wait for the film which is due out sometime this year! I’d recommend this series highly for someone who wants something different, or something immersive but quite easy to follow. So yes, this is mighty fun in spite of the problems I had with it, they were just personal issues really. Don’t let those put you off.

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Review: The Story of Egypt – Joann Fletcher

24 - The Story of Egypt

My Rating – 3*

Something that not many people know about me is I have always had an avid love of Ancient Egypt, bit it has been rekindled to almost obsessive levels lately! My main method of procrastination has been watching documentaries about the subject, which is how I discovered Joann Fletcher. Joann is a professor of Egyptology based at the University of York. he has presented a number of documentaries about Egypt, most recently Immortal Egypt – The World’s Greatest Civilisation which is the companion TV series to this book. The Story of Egypt is very comprehensive book on the subject, and covers everything in much more detail than the 4-part TV series, starting in the pre-dynastic period right the way up to the fall of the Ptolemaic empire with the death of Cleopatra.

I had high hopes for this, I love all the documentaries I’ve seen with Joann at the helm and in a way it met them but in many others it didn’t. It is very, very accessible for the non-expert and the generally curious reader who wishes to expand their knowledge. It really is incredible how such a broad period of history (pre-5000BC to 30BC) was covered in such a small number of pages. The content of this book is amazing, it follows Egypt chronologically, and while there were a couple of parts which seemed out of place, and would have been better in another section, on the whole it was well organised and read well. Each chapter is dedicated to a dynasty  (approximately), which means that it’s all very bitesized and easy to see how each dynasty impacted on the next.

However, what I didn’t like was the writing. I found it repetitive, and in turn it became quite dull and hard to engage in. There were a lot of niggly things which irritated me in use of language, and while I understand it was both factual AND easy to digest there comes a point where simple language becomes repetitive and disengaging and I really feel that was the downfall of this entire book for me, unfortunately. A lot of sentences started the same way, and the phrase ‘so-called’ was thrown around a lot (while it was perfectly legitimate to be used, it was a little grating after a while!) Also, there is a lot of issues surrounding her opinion of Nefertiti – namely that a lot of her evidence is unsubstantiated and that her claims were published without going through the correct channels. Her unsubstantiated claims were reiterated in this book but I found them very interesting to actually read, I don’t know the true facts surrounding Nefertiti – I am afterall no expert – all I know is that her claims have received a lot of controversy!

I think though that this book is a great introduction to Egyptian history to someone who just wants to learn more. It’s accessible, it’s relatively easy to read, I would just recommend not reading it in large chunks or it does get repetitive and blur together a little! On the whole I enjoyed this, and I will read more by Fletcher. So it has to be 3*.

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Readathon: Genrethon TBR

A bit late to the party but, as I finished my dissertation (!!!) I decided that this week I would take part in this readathon I’ve seen everywhere in the bookish community! Genrethon is a new readathon created by Joce, Kristyn, Lauren, and Brittany over on YouTube and it has a great premise – read a minimum of 3 books from 3 different genres over the course of the week (10th to 17th April).

20160410_182501672_iOSHere is my TBR for this lovely readathon!

On the go, I have Bret Easton Ellis and Other Dogs by Lina Wolff. I’d call this literary fiction, which feels a bit of a cop out! I also have The Thing Around Your Neck still going, I started this in February and didn’t pick it up at all in March so I’m going to get this short story collection finished.

The new books, I have Daphnis and Chloe which is one of the new Little Black Classics by Penguin. This is an ancient Greek classic and has been on my TBR for ages, since I first became aware of Jean’s Bookish Thoughts on YouTube. Finally a poetry collection by Kate Tempest. I am very excited about this, I haven’t read a lot of poetry at all but this appealed to me. I don’t often give in to peer pressure (this has been so hyped online) but I read the first poem and had to own it.

So, I’m aiming to finish these 4. If I get time I’ll definitely be moving on to some other books, maybe a bit of non-fiction and fantasy. Who knows?!

In the Summertime!

So, Summer is here (and to be fair, it has technically been here a while) and I finally feel refreshed enough to start my onslaught of Summer blogging! Over the next few weeks I’m planning a variety of things, including a few hauls of various shopping expeditions (including books, clothes and cosmetics) and a number of reviews. Anyone who knows me knows I love talking about things I love, so reviewing books, cosmetics, places I’ve eaten, places I’ve shopped, it comes easy to me. I also want to talk about general stuff and things that I want talk about, so expect some of that too.

I’m going to aim to do something twice a week. This is my goal to myself this Summer and I am going to do everything in my power to stick to said goal! 

So, while I’m off composing my first Summer 2014 blog post, I beg you to not hold your breath – you might suffocate in the wait. But hopefully, soon, there will be a few posts in succession and I’m hoping they’ll be a mixture of many things. 

Lush (& Very Few Other Things)

Wowza. Last time I bothered with this it was week 8 of semester 1, now it’s week 2 of Easter break and semester 2 is over. Save 3 exams, my first year of university is over, it’s crazy to say the least! The primary reason for not blogging is simply my sister bought me a beautiful clothbound journal and it seemed a shame to not use it – so I’ve been writing in that and not wanting to regurgitate what inner thoughts have already been processed! However, as I’m procrastinating from revision, it’s only natural that I want to start blogging again – and this time I intend to keep it up! 

So, to mark a new start, something new in itself. I never intended to do one of these posts, gushing about how marvellous things are, but I can’t seem to help myself when it comes to Lush products.

 

 

For anyone not aware, Lush sell fair trade, vegan/vegetarian, handmade, chemical-free goodies. I have become a complete convert, which when I’m studying chemistry at university makes me almost hypocritical given that the cosmetics trade employs a large quota of chemistry graduates each year – while I don’t wish to do that myself as I really don’t agree with excess chemicals in cosmetics, nor do I agree with the cruelty to animals (which sadly still is a huge problem) I did initially feel a bit of a traitor going in to a Lush store and asking for help, thinking that if they found out what I was doing for a degree they’d get some heavies from the back and throw me out! A little crazy, I’m aware, but that was the inner most fear I had about going through the threshold of the shop.

Having the ME/CFS, I have a really weird variety of sensitivities with my skin – at one point I was photosensitive for example and was unable to go out unless I was practically covered head to toe. Recently I noticed a huge increase in how sensitive I was becoming to things such as shampoo, shower gels and even the medicated acne treatment I use. So, out of curiosity (and honestly, as a last ditch attempt to find something that worked) I decided to take the plunge in to Lush’s Norwich store and see if they had any suggestions for me. The sales assistant I dealt with was lovely – she listened to me, my needs and I really feel that she actually cared; not just that faux-interest in you that is commonplace in stores such as, and I feel like a traitor saying it, Boots. I decided upon getting in to the store, rather than deal with every issue at once I chose to just focus on one – my dry skin – and get some testers for some other products such as shampoos and come back at a later date. Again, the sales assistant (and I really wish I knew her name because she really was lovely & I have made an effort to see her to speak to on more than one occasion) was really lovely about this and went out of her way to make sure I had a good selection of products to try!

As it was, I came home with a tub of Lemony Flutter and their Popcorn Lip Scrub – both of which I’d heard great things of from friends. Particularly the Lemony Flutter as it’s popular with my friends who love nail art and such and they adore the stuff – I can finally understand why. I have a little patch of dry skin on my finger where, as a child, I used to suck it in my sleep & this stuff has softened it more than anything ever has. Also, it smells like Lemon Refreshers – which takes me back to a very happy place! The lip scrub has been worth its weight in gold, I’m a sucker for a bright lipstick and, as such, I often find myself still wearing yesterdays lipstick – this stuff is brilliant at both making sure my lips are smooth so that the application is long lasting, but also helps at getting yesterdays lipstick off. (Although, Maybelline 24 Super Stay is actually indestructible and even lip scrub can’t always get that off!)

The testers were also very useful, within a week I was back in the store and buying myself a tub of Big! This shampoo, while a really weird consistency initially is really easy to use when you have the hang of it and also, it leaves my hair soft, curly and most importantly it leaves me able to not wash for 2 or 3 days without dry shampoo! While I imagine it could be quite drying on hair, as someone who suffers with quite oily hair this is the best shampoo I’ve found that both adds to the volume of my hair AND cuts through the grease. The I Love Juicy was nice but… it left my hair looking a little lank – while it cleaned it beautifully, I didn’t like how my hair looked when it was dry! 

So, having been converted to shampoo I decided to brave the city centre with no make up (and VERY big shades) and see if they could help with my acne. Up until a few months ago when I took the plunge in to Lush, I had been using a prescription gel which left me dry and pretty ugly under a foundation – and still spotty. Not pretty! So, after a bit of an investigation I came home with a pot of Dark Angels. It smells amazing and the charcoal/mud combination is pretty fun to apply too – coming from a girl who loved making mud pies – though, my mum might say something different after the state I leave the bathroom in! In 6 weeks I’ve used about a quarter of the £6(ish) tub with a 5-times-a-week application and the difference that has been made in my skin is just amazing; the redness that had plagued me for years has completely disappeared, my skintone is even, spots have gone down and not reappeared – it’s actually crazy. I’ve stopped using my medicated cream and use only this and tea tree oil and the improvement is just… well it’s indescribable to be fair. My skin hasn’t looked as healthy in years, that’s the truth of it. 

I wish I could use more from Lush, having read reviews I’d love to use their dry shampoo but unfortunately, it has grapefruit in, meaning I can’t use it! I had a pretty rough reaction when I nabbed a bit of my sisters Ocean Scrub – not realising that it had grapefruit in, I ended up with legs covered in hives (so naturally I went out and bought You Snap The Whip moisturising/exfoliating bar to use after a leg shave instead. It smells heavenly!) Come next week, when I have pennies from my Easter haul from my grandparents, I shall be hitting the city and seeing what other goodies I can add to my ever growing collection! I might even invest in a bubble bar – it would last me about 3 years how often I feel the urge to get in a bath opposed to shower! 

It is very, very safe to say that I’m a convert & honestly, I would recommend anyone with skin trouble of any sort head to a Lush shop and ask for advice. I never thought I would be converted to Lush, I’ll be honest, I generally found people who shopped there annoying and I found the shop itself intimidating and, dare I say it, a little pretentious! Now I understand why people rave about it – because I’m doing just that right now and after stepping over the threshold and biting the bullet I can say I’d never go back, and my mum works in Boots!

All products I’ve mentioned are linked to the UK website if anyone is interested, but honestly you can’t beat going in to store and getting hands on with the products before you buy them!

 

Ciao! x

 

… Some Time Later

So much for updating this regularly, oh well!

So in the break of my initial post of celebration, a lot has happened. I’ve started university, made a great group of friends, got closer to my old friends, successfully broken my laptop, lost things, found things… It’s all been happening! But now I’m in a routine (of sorts) I thought it was about time I got in the habit of updating this!

University is brilliant – I absolutely love it. I was terrified, that much was clear from my last post, but after about 3 days I met a good group of people and I started to settle a bit. The first week or two of lectures was hard, getting settled in to a routine with buses and the actual material covered in lectures; after practically having a gap year I was both surprised at the things I remembered and the number of basic things I’d forgotten! The main thing is I’m there now, I’m feeling positive and I’m loving what I’m learning. I wake up at 0630 every day feeling excited about the day ahead of me, however much I don’t want to get out of bed at that time. 

I never really considered myself a social person, but I’m actually enjoying being surrounded by people most days. Some days I really hate people as a collective, but I’m lucky in that I have some really brilliant friends who make the collective seem irrelevant. They get me and my crazy and I’ve never been more grateful to a group of people. I’m going out with people for cake and coffee, doesn’t really help my diet but it’s making me happy – I’ve never been this happy to be around people.

I’m developing some very interesting hobbies; in getting on a bus every day of the week I see the same faces, and I know it’s probably weird of me, but to pass time I make up their life story in my head. It seems that every day I see them their lives become more elaborate in my mind, to the point that I’m debating whether to write something for NaNoWriMo about one of the women I see daily who is just so vivid in my imagination now because I’ve practically complied a fictitious life story for her. 

University is truly brilliant though. I can’t remember being this happy, not for such a prolonged period of time. I still have days where the depression sinks in, I still have days where I just want to bubble and cry, but I’m learning to work through them. I’m also having to learn to work through some of my ME/CFS symptoms which flare up – I’m having to relearn my boundaries and limitations, work with my body not against it. To be honest, learning my limits has been the hardest thing for me so far.

Part of me still misses school, mainly the teachers. I like to think that the place remains how it was when I left, everyone I respect so much still there. Reality isn’t as sweet though, people have moved on, it makes me sad to think that there are some people I care about who I might not see or hear from for quite some time because of that – that even though they said they would, aren’t keeping in touch with me. It sort of hurts, but I understand I have to grow up at some point, I have to let go of the past. However many bad memories I had there, I will always have affection for the place. It’s the aspect of relationships with teachers that I miss most at university at present, I miss that relationship I had, the closeness, the way they could read me – right now, though I have amazing lecturers and tutors, I feel that I’m missing something and I think it is just the relationship and trust that I’d built up with my teachers at school.

Right now, I’m just having an ‘omg what am I going to do with my future?’ crisis – right now, 8 weeks in to Year 1 of my degree I decide to have a career crisis. But in some ways, it’s a positive thing, because I’m looking at things I probably wouldn’t have considered a few years ago. Lab work is already getting to me – god knows how I’ll feel about it come the end of year 2!

…T Minus 12 Hours

So it’s about 12 hours before I’ll be getting up for my first day of university! Eep. I can’t believe how quickly it’s come around, I really can’t. I’m so nervous about it, but really excited too. This is a new chapter, an exciting chapter and I’m just really looking forward to it. I do, however, sort of dislike being a local student this weekend, people have been moving in to halls and meeting people, going out, getting used to the campus (eating Haribo apparently, too!) and I’ve basically been sat in my house, in my onesie, annoying anyone who will give me a chance to!

My last week of freedom has been quite eventful. Tuesday I had a prizegiving evening, I didn’t win anything, I went to get a hog roast and some folders for uni from K (who I don’t quite know how to thank. I gave her brownies and I’ve promised to spoil her impending child, but I don’t even think that is enough!) K is amazing, really, she gave me 3 years worth of organic chemistry work. Notes on practically every aspect of my degree I was worrying about in 6 completely full lever arch files (and I love a lever arch) – it has taken a little bit of the worry from my system, I have to say.

Thursday I went in to the city after my SW group, mainly to get a cup of tea with my nanny. I found this beautiful little teashop, not far from where my sister works, that uses mismatched china and tea leaves and it’s just absolutely beautiful inside (The Teapot in St Gregory’s Alley, Norwich for anyone interested in teapots and china cups or just a cheap place to get a really nice pot of tea/cup of coffee!) and I knew from the second I walked in I had to take my nanny, my other grandmother will love it too and I intend to take her out for a day when she is off her holidays! Anyway, the rain poured and I walked home. It was miserable but I had a great day, I really did.

I went out Saturday, again with my nanny, but with my sister and we went down to the coast for a day. We usually go in the summer holidays, but one thing and another we ended up leaving it until the weekend before I started uni. It was a really lovely day and I even spoiled myself by having an icecream (lemon meringue. Yum <3) – I had been so good all day, resisted the temptation of doughnuts and fish and chips, we had Spud-U-Like for lunch (which was yumsk), so my treat to myself was icecream and boy did I enjoy it. So yes, lovely day at the beach, I didn’t win ANYTHING on the 2p machines though, which sucks. =(

This week has been stressful and quite turbulent though, really. However fondly I’m talking of the good memories I’ve made, there were some that weren’t so good. Emotionally I’m all over the place, a lot has happened and it’s left me drained and hurting. Hurting quite a lot actually. Friendships hurt more when you’re older, you become more involved, emotions become entwined; so when things go tits up it hurts ten times more than it did when you were 8 or 9 and someone ‘stole your friend’. I don’t think I need to elaborate much more than that, I don’t want to elaborate much more than that because it’s not fair on the other person involved in the situation. But I will say that I’m lucky I have the friends I do to see me through this ‘breakup’, one to distract me with Harry Potter and Criminal Minds chat, one to come to my house and eat biscuits (well, snack-a-jacks) with me and let me cry all over them, and most of my friends who don’t even know what the hell has happened but have just made me happy by saying something they didn’t realise would make me such a difference. I’m appreciating the small things in my friendships right now, counting the people that make me smile. I couldn’t get through each day without the people who make me smile and I’m feeling very blessed that I have so many people who do that in my life.

Tomorrow is Day 1 of the next chapter and I’m really ready for it to begin now.

I’m Going To Uni!

I’m still coming down from the high of Thursday. Having woke up at 5am, I honestly thought it was going to be the hardest 3 hours of my life waiting for Track to update. It was raining, I’d had anxiety dreams and I just didn’t want to get up – I saw it all as bad omens building up to the inevitable rejection. I feel so blessed that I have wonderful friends, Sophie was awake at 6 and managed to keep me company online until just after 7 (when she went back to bed).

It was at 7 that I started the incessant refreshing on UCAS – I thought it would be futile as Track wasn’t supposed to open until 8. But half past 7 track let me log in and I saw something that I never thought I’d see.


I just really can’t believe it – even now, 3 days later, I just keep falling in to a fit of giggles out of the sheer shock of it! My whole life, as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go to university. When I was 8 I remember university first being mentioned at school – it all seemed so far away and crazy to even have to think about it, but I did and I knew I wanted to keep learning. At that time, I wanted to be a surgeon, I was in my Holby City phase. However, a lot happened, between that day and this, my heath deteriorated and improved two or three times – the thought of university seemed more and more unlikely as the years went on, I abandoned the dream of becoming a doctor  but I never gave up on the ultimate goal of university – but it became more of a dream than a distinct possibility. I admit I gave up hope, something I said I’d never do.

I’ll be the first to say my grades were pretty shocking, given how well my AS year went (I finished on BBB – though maths I was 3 UMS off of an A) – but I’m grateful I came out of that year with good grades, given how abysmally Year 13.1 and Year 13.2 went – I’m not proud of my end results (well, the B in chemistry I am most certainly over the moon with; biology I can live with and maths just breaks my heart a little, knowing how much time and effort my teachers put in to me) but I’m proud that I persevered on through the shit that was high school. I’m proud of what I achieved as a whole. Achievements aren’t just letters on a page, they’re what you feel inside. I know I did my best in my exams; the ultimate goal was reached and right now that’s all that matters and I’m looking towards the future.

I could never have done this without the support of the people around me; amazing friends and family. There are so many wonderful people who I just feel so blessed to have in my life. They’re responsible for me being able to do this. They’re the ones that got me through my exams, through the tears and sleepless nights worrying!

As of the September 26th, I’m an undergraudate. That’s scary but exciting, it’s a whole new adventure beginning, a whole new phase of my life – more importantly it’s a fresh start for me – and I can’t wait!