Monday, 1 September 2014

Hello, September! {& a uni related Q & A?} | Monthly Goals

Oh, shit! September is here. I was meant to have got things done by now but, naturally, I have barely scratched the surface of what I had planned. Why does that always seem to be the case?! I'm hoping to get my shit together at some point of my life, I swear. Anyway, enough dwelling, time to see how I did with my August goals. I think I did quite well! p.s Read to the end of the post if you'd like to ask me some questions for a future post regarding my university experience, whether it's q's regarding how I balance work with my illness or what it's like to study a creative course. Knock yourself out. Go crazy. 

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AUGUST GOALS

+ FOCUS ON WRITING AND UNI WORK
This went terribly! I was hit by some pretty terrible waves of fatigue during August so I didn't even attempt to do anything writing-wise. I feel really awful about it, if I'm honest. I needed to get lots of stuff done, especially where my diss is concerned, but I just didn't even scratch the surface. I shouldn't beat myself up too much, I know, because it's a big part of my illness and I have to listen to my body but I really need it to bugger off for a while so I can get on with things. I'm hoping the fatigue will subside a little or that I'll find some sort of enthusiasm in my aching body because otherwise I'm royally screwed!

+ ENJOY TIME WITH LOVED ONES  {DONE!}
I spent lots of quality time with my family this month. Lots of fun was had. Huzzah! 

+ BE BRAVE! {DONE!}
You may remember from my August Goals post that I was really really worried about my colonoscopy. Thankfully, I was brave and just dealt with it and got it done. I do have to say a massive thanks to Sarah and Kathleen for talking me through it because they were really thorough and just genuinely awesome about it. The procedure itself was painless and really fascinating to watch on screen. Thankfully, my results were quite good! The inflammation has returned, as expected, but it has not spread far. Wahoo!

+ READ AT LEAST 1 BOOK WRITTEN BY A WOMAN, 1 UNDERHYPED BOOK and 1 SENT BOOK  {DONE!}
I managed to complete this goal pretty promptly as you may have seen in my book review post the other day! The book written by a woman was Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier, the underhyped book was Scorch Atlas by Blake Butler and the sent book was The Extraordinary Tale by Romain Puertolas. Go check my reviews out if you fancy it!

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september GOALS

+ get organised for uni and the move 
I've still got quite a lot of things to sort out before I move back to my university city later this month so I need to get on that pretty promptly. One of the main things I need to do is transfer my GP over, which is always a huge pain in the ass for students with medical conditions like myself because they transport your medical info ASAP which makes prescriptions an absolutely nightmare. Yay! I also need to buy stationery, gather some homeware together, buy my university books and purchase some uni-friendly clothes. So yeah, lots of university admin to sort this month! Such fun

+ be healthier
I want to try and do a bit more light exercise because in recent months I've been pretty crap where that's concerned. I used to be quite active with walks and such but I find the fatigue sometimes prevents me from wanting to do things. Uni will be getting me out of the house anyway but I want to ensure that I'm doing a little bit more. I might try and do a little bit of calm yoga or something. Who knows! It'll be a surprise.  I'm such an enigma.

+ write daily
I want to get back into the habit of writing little bits daily because a) it's a really useful exercise and b) I won't have a say in the matter once my course kicks in.  I might even dedicate a notebook to this project just to show how serious I am. Yeah, that's commitment. 

+ begin to settle in 
Once I'm back in the city, I need to book some meetings with disability assist, the head of my subject and some of my tutors to discuss my illness and the sort of help I need whilst I'm at university. That should be fun! I also want to try and get my room looking as homely as possible within that first week because it'll help me settle a little quicker. I only know one of my housemates so settling in will also involve making friends and being social with fellow humans. There's a first time for everything! Talking about being social, I also need to get to grips with Hangouts so I can bother Jessica and Jason on a frequent basis. So much stuff to sort out!

q & a?
I get lots of emails and comments asking me what it's like to study a creative course at university so I'm going to put together a Q & A post on my experience to help everyone out a bit. I've got 2 illness-related gap years and nearly 3 years worth of an English with Creative Writing undergraduate course under my belt so feel free to send me any q's relating to my situation or university life in general. Maybe you want some advice or you just want to know a bit more about what my course entails?Leave your questions below or, alternatively, leave them in my Tumblr ask box

What are your goals for September? I hope you all have a pretty productive month! If you're heading back to school, college or university, I wish you the best of luck!  

check out my other monthly goals posts.

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Goodbye, August: Bee's Mini Book Reviews | Books

Hello fellow planet dwellers! August was a really strange reading month for me. It started off so well with a pretty successful week of constant reading and then it sort of plummeted due to the emergence of a pretty severe book hangover. Thanks, BOOKS! Towards the start of the month, I took part in the 7 in 7 readathon. The idea was to try and read 7 books in 7 days or  at least 7 things in 7 days. I didn't quite manage that, by any means, but I started off pretty well and I managed to polish off three books within the time period. Not too bad, eh?! However, the third book I read gave me a massive reading hangover and I slumped for a while. Side note: check out my recent post on how to get out of a reading slump if you haven't already *wink* Thankfully, after a two week break, I was able to pick up another book and finish it before the month was out. Huzzah! How was your reading this month? Let me know what you've read this month in the comments below! 

vivatramp the extraordinary journey of the fakir who got trapped in an ikea wardrobe book review lifestyle book blogger book reviews uk

the extraordinary journey of the fakir who got trapped in an ikea wardrobe* by romain puértolas (2014)
finished: 04/08/14 | ISBN: 0345814177 | PAGES: 320
One day a fakir leaves his small village in India and lands in Paris. A professional con artist, the fakir is on a pilgrimage to IKEA, where he intends to obtain an object he covets above all others: a brand-new bed of nails. Without adequate euros in the pockets of his silk trousers, the fakir is...confident that his counterfeit 100 euro note and his usual bag of tricks will suffice. But when a swindled cab driver seeks his murderous revenge, the fakir accidentally embarks on a European tour, fatefully beginning in the wardrobe of the iconic Swedish retailer. 

Fast paced farcical adventure that played out like a classic sitcom or an old Steve Martin movie. 

This book has taken the world by storm following its French release last year. Back with an English translation, The Extraordinary Journey is set to be a pretty high profile read this summer, the cover art and engaging title pretty much ensure it! However, for me, it was just okay.

The situations are ridiculous and far fetched but it's fun and endearing if you're in the right mood for it. Whilst I liked the pacing the majority of the time, I did think the ending was a little abrupt and I felt like a few things were just swept under the rug a bit too quickly.  Furthermore, the characterisation was a bit stereotypical and I did feel a bit uncomfortable because of it but that's just me. The roles just felt like ones that I had seen portrayed in media time and time again and I felt a little let down by that. 

Overall, it was an easy poolside-friendly read that I sailed through in one sitting that I can see lots of readers picking up this summer. I'm not head over heels for it but it was a nice little tale, regardless. I'd recommend this book to readers that are looking for a quick and easy read full of adventure or to those that are currently experiencing a bit of a reading slump. 

*This book was sent to me for consideration but, as ever, all opinions are my own. You can't buy me with books, contrary to popular belief!

RATING: 3/5

finished: 05/08/14 | isbn: 0977199282 | pages: 152
In this striking novel-in-stories, a series of strange apocalypses have hit America. Entire neighbourhoods drown in mud, glass rains from the sky, birds speak gibberish, and parents of young children disappear. Millions starve while others grow coats of mould. But a few are able to survive and find a light in the aftermath...Rendered in a variety of narrative forms, Blake Butler's full-length fiction debut pants a gorgeously grotesque version of America. 

Pretty horrifying collection of post-apocalyptic vignettes. 

I bought this after spying it in the 'related reading' section whilst buying Light Boxes by Shane Jones. I wasn't entirely sure what to expect but I knew it covered ideas that I was interested in and, if I'm honest, I liked the cover. It was dark and interesting and kitted out like an old library book found on someone's floor. 

Scorch Atlas was terrifying and, on more than one occasion, completely fucked up. The tales followed broken people, more often than not part of broken families, that were trying to exist in a world that was beyond both their control and general understanding. I think I found Scorch Atlas so terrifying because all of the horrors occurred in suburbia, with Butler preying upon suburban fears of familial loss and destruction to get his points across. It was dark and carnal, melancholic and visceral.

It explored decay in every sense and Butler's characters were all devoid of hope, of meaning and of reason as a result. I really admire the way in which Butler executed his ideas, straying from traditional forms to play into the hands of the everyday. One of the tales, for instance, was merely a log of old waterlogged photographs. I think I would've given it a 4, rather than a 3, if it was a little less dark and if the narrative voice was changed up a little throughout. However, I did greatly admire the tone of this collection. It didn't falter and, consequently, I could have wept on many occasions!

This is something that I would suggest you dip in and out of, rather than read in one go because it is very dark. I would recommend this to those of you that are interested in suburban post-apocalyptic landscapes but, due to the graphic content, I'd only suggest you read it if you've got a strong stomach! 

rating: 3/5 

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FINISHED: 09/O8/14 | ISBN: 1844080390 |  PAGES: 302
On a bitter November evening, young Mary Yellan journeys across the rainswept moors to Jamaica Inn in honour of her mother's dying request. When she arrives, the warning of the coachman begins to echo in her memory, for her Aunt Patience cowers before hulking Uncle Joss Merlyn. Terrified of the inn's brooding power, Mary gradually finds herself ensnared in the dark schemes being enacted behind its crumbling walls...

I absolutely bloody loved this book!

I put off reading Du Maurier for so long, despite having three of her books on my shelves and a curious desire to read her work. After months of putting them off for no apparent reason, I decided to delve in and read Jamaica Inn. I'm clearly an absolute idiot for waiting for so long because I thought it was fantastic! I think I was about 12 pages in when I wrote a little Goodreads update to let everyone know that I was 'all over it like a wet flannel' - it was just that much of an instant attraction for me. This book contained some absolutely extraordinary, and undoubtedly harrowing, scenes that will stick with me for a long time. Du Maurier takes gothic clichés and reinvigorates them, making them something to be excited about rather than something to cross off your i-Spy list. 

Some readers probably wouldn't rate this book 5 stars but I just love me a dark gothic mystery so, for me, the rating is richly deserved. Romantic in its sublimity, Jamaica Inn is actually full of unromantic ideas and I absolutely adored that duality. This book is full of men who are seriously flawed. As I put it in my review notebook, they're either 'complete dickheads' or 'seriously basic'. However, Du Maurier treats us to a strong female protagonist akin to Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. Mary herself isn't perfect, and she makes bad decisions just like the rest of us, but she is strong willed, determined and wise. 

The fluidity of the prose, overwhelming sense of foreboding and the twisting plot meant that I could have easily read this in one sitting had time allowed for such a luxury. Regardless of whether or not you anticipate the ending (I personally didn't) you will seriously enjoy getting there. It was a really enjoyable reading experience. Although, it did give me a seriously long hangover. Boo! I would recommend Jamaica Inn to anyone that wants to read it, especially those who love really dark brooding classics. Make sure you're reading it in a cold, dark and rainy setting for optimal joy. I cannot wait to read more Du Maurier!

RATING: 5/5

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FINISHED: 25/O8/14 | ISBN: 0763662585 PAGES: 472
A boy named Seth drowns...But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? The street seems familiar, but everything is abandoned, overgrown, covered in dust. What's going on? Is it real? Or has he woken up in his own personal hell? Seth begins to search for answers, hoping desperately that there must be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife...

I bought this book from Mr B's Emporium in Bath after a lengthy conversation with a staff member about Ness' books and the copious amounts of tears that we have shed over them. It took me quite a while to get round to it but I needed something fast paced to pull me out of my slump and I thought that Ness would be the best option. Thankfully, he was! Ness has his own brand of sci-fi-dystopian-realism that I just find so digestable, meaning I usually read his books within one sitting. I read this book on Bank Holiday Monday and it was the perfect remedy to the stormy weather outside.

Ness situates his characters in the most extraordinary settings and has them process some really traumatic experiences but he always always always makes them tangible and real. The characters in this book were no exception and it was really moving to not only watch them flourish individually but also to watch their friendship blossom over the pages. I also love that his characters embrace who they are but they aren't defined by their supposed diversity. They're dimensional. The story was driven by aching determined loss and that grief took the story in directions that I wasn't expecting and I really liked that about it. The changing directions and constant questions made it an action-packed fast paced read - a quality that the majority of Ness' books all share. I think one of the things I love the most about Patrick though is that, first and foremost, he really cares for his characters and his readers, and that shines through in everything he writes. He's a good egg.

I always tend to pick up his books when I need them the most or when I am the most susceptible to their message, which is probably why they reduce me to tears every frickin time. I actually tweeted Patrick to tell him to sell his books with branded tissues attached and he favourited the tweet, so lets hope he is taking note! More Than This was a really cathartic read for me due to its overarching message: There is more to your story and so much more just around the corner. You just have to reach out, grab onto whatever or whomever you can and go for it. Or at least that's what I got from it! 

More Than This reminded me that no matter what life throws at me, and it likes to throw some pretty huge curve balls from time to time, I always 'go in swinging' and that alone is something that I should be incredibly proud of.  Patrick just gets me and any book that restores your faith in yourself or life in general is, in my opinion, a pretty good read. 

RATING: 4/5

Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think of them? If not, what have you been reading lately? Leave your thoughts, recommendations and rants below and everyone can check them out! 

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The vast majority of my book collection has been bought with my own money. Sorry, bank balance! However, sometimes I'm sent books to review. These books are marked with *. Handy, eh?! This page also contains affiliate links. If you buy the books through the links I've so lovingly provided, I'll earn a tiny commission to put towards books in the future. If you've used my links, thank you. You're a good egg. 

Monday, 25 August 2014

How To Get Out Of A Reading Slump | Books

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After falling in love with Du Maurier's Jamaica Inn earlier this month, I found myself experiencing a two week reading slump. What's a reading slump, you may ask? It's that horrible malaise that comes over you when, despite wanting to read, you can't for the life of you find anything that'll stick. Ever the helpful little sprite, I thought I'd share 10 simple tips that will, hopefully, help you get out of a reading slump. I've kept it short and sweet because, lets face it, some of us are struggling to read this let alone a 400 page novel. If you've got anything to add, leave your ideas in the comments so fellow slumpees can get some inspiration! 

| re-read something you adore 
| use your tbr jar to pick a book at random
| change up where you read. go outside or pick a new nook.
| ask for recommendations from fellow readers
| change the format. listen to some audiobooks or pick up your e-reader.
| watch an adaptation
| do a favourites swap or a buddy read with a friend
| surround yourself by bookish chat. go to the library or bookstore or watch booktube.
| attempt to read something smaller. try short stories or poetry.
| TAKE A BREAK FROM READING ALTOGETHER

There you have it - 10 simple steps on how to get out of a reading slump to get you started. If you aren't finding reading enjoyable. don't be afraid to step away for a while and enjoy something else. It's meant to be fun, after all. Leave your very own bookish advice below!

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Thursday, 21 August 2014

On My Shelf #4 | Books

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disclaimer: i'm editing this whilst still quite sedated so...this could be fun.

It's that time of the month again where I share some of the books that live on my shelves with you. Each month you guys give me some numbers and each number corresponds with a book on my bookshelf. You pick the number and I then tell you a bit about that particular book, the story behind its purchase and, if I've read it, what I thought about it. This tag was created by Iain Broome and it's a fun way to share more of my books with you! You know the drill guys, let me know if you've read these books below and tell me which ones I need to read first if I haven't already done so. 

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111. my cousin rachel by daphne du maurier 
My Cousin Rachel is the gripping story of a Victorian young man whose placid life in the English countryside is turned inside-out by an older woman. 

I read Jamaica Inn earlier this month and I absolutely fell in love with it so I'm really looking forward to reading more of Du Maurier's work. I picked this copy up from a charity shop for 50p because I'd heard so much about Du Maurier's writing and I have a cousin named Rachel. Ah, I love me a tenuous link! I love a good bit of dark brooding Victoriana so this should be a pleasant read.