Saturday, 19 December 2015

The Life and Death of Sophie Stark by Anna North // Book Review



*This review may contain spoilers*

It took me until the middle of this book, or thereabouts, to realise that I was reading something special; something unlike anything I'd ever read before. The Life and Death of Sophie Stark is about an awkward young woman who struggles to communicate with and understand other people and the world (or maybe she understands them a little too well), and what happens when someone like that becomes famous.

In my opinion, this was not a book that attempted to make you feel good. It was honest and real and unapologetic. Other people may have loved it to the point of joy, but at times I found it to be quite harrowing and rather difficult to read. The story is told through the perspectives of Sophie's friends and family, a narrative technique I don't think I've come across before, or at least for a long time. It was "interesting" as Sophie would say. One of the first things that crossed my mind was how great this book would be to study or analyse. It's so jam-packed with things you can debate. Sophie herself was one big debate - did I like her, did I not? For the most part I didn't, but there's still some small part of me that disagrees, and that's how this book is genius. I mean, I made no end of notes just for this review.

I think the main question Sophie's story poses is how much should be sacrificed for art and should we hurt others if we know something artistically wonderful will come of it. To me though, ponderings of artistry and fame came second to trying to figure out Sophie herself. I'm still not sure I got there. At one point she compares herself to a crab, making herself up of pieces of other crabs that have died - I think that analogy by Anna North was spot on because as the book progressed you could tell Sophie was picking habits up from other characters. The other characters, the ones that tell the story, were also damaged in their own ways. But, even as imperfect as the other characters are, Sophie stands out, and you can never quite put your finger on why she is so incomparably weird and why it's so hard to label her. At times I identified with her, and at times I distanced myself from her, but in the end I think there's a little bit of everyone in Sophie Stark.

This is a book which will stay with me, but one I am not sure I enjoyed, per se. I think it was a bit too real for a fantasy lover. For: art and film lovers. Not for: anyone who minds a book bringing them down at times. Rating: 3 stars for personal enjoyment, although I know it deserves 4 for the writing style and character development alone.



WARNING: Before purchasing this book please be aware it contains rape, self-harm, drugs and suicide.

SPECIAL THANKS to Orion Publishing, who gave me the opportunity to review this book. *As always, views and opinions are my own.*

Are you an author or publisher looking for book bloggers to review your book(s)? Look no further! My book reviews page tells you everything you need to know.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

DIY Christmas Present Idea // For Acquaintances & Friends

Even though I now live with my step-brothers (it's easier to call them that than 'my dad's fiancée's sons), I still find that I know very little about them. This made finding them a Christmas present extremely difficult, and I couldn't really think of anything other than sweets or Star Wars memorabilia! In the end, my little sister and I teamed up, and combined both ideas! She went to a swanky new sweet shop in Derby and bought ready-made bottles full to the brim with sweets, while I went for a slightly more DIY approach.

I had been to my go-to place for DIY goodies earlier on in the week to buy some gorgeous Christmas themed ribbons (some red with gingerbread men on, some blue with snowflakes, and other lovely decorations), and decided to return there to try and find a couple of jars. Fortunately, I found a couple that were the perfect size! I then dragged myself out of the shop in fear of never leaving the Christmas aisle and headed to Superdrug, who are doing amazing deals on Heroes and Celebrations this Christmas. I picked several boxes up in various sizes; as many as I thought would be enough to fill the jars.

My sister and I were lucky because the chocolates fit exactly as we wanted them to. She had gone through a meticulous process of counting how many of each chocolate there were (how many Snickers, how many Galaxys etc.) and putting them in accordingly. Then came the time for the decoration. I allowed her to choose from my Christmas-themed ribbons and we both came to the conclusion that there would be a red, green, and white colour scheme. At my request, she tied the ribbons into bow-ties around the jars and they look super cute. It was a very rainy day when we did this, and the first time I'd seen my sister in ages, so I enjoyed myself a lot.

Then, we decided we needed to personalise them. To do this, I used my Christmas gift tags - I noticed that a couple of the designs were decopage, so I could just rip off one layer of the gift tag (gently, of course, as not to cause damage to the layer underneath) and attach it to the jar, just beneath the bow-tie. This idea worked perfectly, too. Once complete, we then placed the jars, along with my sisters ready-wrapped sweet bottles, into a Star Wars bag for the boys. We attached the bottom layer of the gift tag I mentioned earlier, onto the bag and wrote them a little message. I'm really happy with the finished result!

from @meaghanbethanywww.instagram.com/meaghanbethany

Are you looking for a thoughtful idea for an acquaintance or friend, or someone you don't know that well yet? This idea is perfect! Please do let me know if you attempt it.



Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Six Lies by Ben Adams // Book Review

It's fair to say that upon receiving this book in my Kindle library I knew next to nothing about it, except what I could gather from Adams' Twitter bio, which told me to expect "bad sex, affairs, annoying children, and the odd bit of love". E-books don't come with blurbs either, so whatever was inside Six Lies would be a complete surprise; which is not often the case in my reading history. I'm happy to say that I finished the book in one sitting. Okay, two sittings, I'm human and I need to grab a cuppa every now and again.



Six Lies revealed itself to be about a musician called Dave, who has just lost his mum and his wife (in very different scenarios). Fairly early on, we learn that the woman he believed was his mum... wasn't, and that leaves his dad with a whole lot of explaining - and possibly grovelling - to do. The subject matter does sound heavy, but not to worry because there are lots of laughs and twists and turns along the way. It isn't a story that has one defining moment, really, it's all about riding things out. It's fun all the way through, with tonnes of musicial references - a definite plus for any 80s lovers (I know you're out there) - and with absolutely nothing to depress you. Although Adams takes on some fairly weighty topics, it's done so masterfully, with wit and optimism. Six Lies is what it is, it doesn't take itself too seriously and it certainly doesn't pretend to be anything other than a feel-good story about getting on with things.

Let me just reiterate that this is not a book I would ordinarily pick up, if I had any inclination of what it was about - I'm too much a lover of fantasy. Being more accustomed to the likes of Tolkien and Martin, I can say with some certainty that I am probably not Adams' target audience, either; but I enjoyed it thoroughly nonetheless. If I can read a book that's (just a wee bit) out of my genre spectrum, and enjoy it, that surely means it was written well. I had no qualms with the writing style or narrative voice  (as I so often do with books that read like contemporaries), and in fact I really rather liked the characters, even Lou, who didn't seem to know what she was doing at times.

Admit it, aren't you curious about what happened to Dave's real mum, or whether he gets back with Louise? Pick up a copy and find out - there'll be no spoilers here!



SPECIAL THANKS to the author for the opportunity to read this book, which was sent to me in return for an honest review. It's been thoroughly enjoyable to share Dave's journey and see where it leads. *As always, all views stated in this post are my own.*

Are you an author looking for book bloggers to review your book(s)? Look no further! My book reviews page tells you everything you need to know.

Friday, 11 December 2015

My Christmas Giving Story! // Inspired by #ProjectLiteracy

This Christmas I've been hard at work trying to find suitable presents for everybody, and it hasn't been easy, but I have stumbled across a couple of items and projects that might be interesting for the more generous of readers!



Firstly, I ordered a bracelet from @ShopSavannah's online store. Not only are their bracelets absolutely gorgeous and inexpensive, but the company donates an amount of the proceeds made from your purchase towards wildlife conservation, and in particular saving the lions. I like to think I've helped one by buying a bracelet for someone this Christmas.



Similarly, I ordered a beautiful bohemian-style ring from Modlio, who also donate some of their proceeds to a good cause. They donate to @Water, which helps provide clean water to families who don't have access to it. Not only does it make me feel good, it makes the person who is going to be wearing the jewelry good, and it is helping others in need happier and healthier.

And last but not least, I entered @maximumpopbooks' UK-wide Secret Santa. There are so many reasons why this is great:

1. You get to send a book as a christmas present to someone you've never met before, so there's the possibility of making friends!
2. You have very little information about the person you're matched with... not even their name or gender... which makes shopping both difficult AND fun!
3. You get to spend time writing a cute note or Christmas card to them, and wrapping your present in the most gorgeous paper you can find.
4. At the end of the process, you get a book too!

Sadly, entries to the Secret Santa are closed now (but you can always host your own!). I have already bought and wrapped a book for my person, and it's ready to be sent in the mail in the morning. Eek! You can track participants' progress on Twitter with the hashtag #MPSecretSanta.

I have loved wrapping so far this Christmas, I just can't wait for the GIVING! Are you giving in little, extraordinary ways this Christmas? Let me know in the comments below!

Meaghan x

This post was inspired by Project Literacy's Giving Story.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Christmas Wishlist! // For My New Home

Inspired by everyone else's Christmas wishlists, I thought I would write my own. I'm writing this post using the Blogger app on my tablet (as our computer isn't fully functioning yet), so please excuse the lack of lovely collages everyone has been making!

Having moved into a new house within the past week, there are lots of things I want for my new room or have realised I'm in need of. Some are big, electronic things that I will be saving up for myself (if only Santa would bring things like that haha) but others are smaller things that perhaps you could use as inspiration for your Christmas gifting.

1. A new camera, so I can take more professional-looking photos for my blog, and hopefully attract more readers. Plus I love photography! I haven't got my eye on a specific one, but I've always been fonder of Canons.

2. A games console (PS4 or XBone - I still haven't decided!). There is a severe lack of entertainment in the house at the moment as we're so recently moved in, but hopefully once my TV is up in my room I can buy a games console.

3. The Game of Thrones graphic novels. This is one of the only things I've actually asked for this Christmas. My Grandpa has a long-standing tradition of buying me really awesome books/series for Christmas, so when he asked me what I'd like, I pointed him in the GoT graphic novels. I already own some of George R. R. Martin's books, but I tend to find I make it through graphic novels a lot quicker.

4. My favourite perfume, Midnight Fantasy by Britney Spears. I've been without my fave perfume for about a year now (I was using one called Alex instead), but happily my mum bought me Midnight Fantasy early and I'm still loving it.

5. #GirlGang merchandise. I've really embraced the #GirlGang recently, as you can probably tell from my last post. Although I'm not usually a girly person; I'm actually a bit of a tomboy; I'm enjoying the girl power attitude that's been around lately, especially on Twitter. I am loving the #GirlGang mug and tee (both available at Dorkface.co.uk).

6. Don Broco merchandise! I went to see them at Rock City last night but wasn't able to grab any! They have a fabulous tea brand called Don Brew Co (haha get it?) and it would be great to own something from it, as I am on such a massive tea kick anyway. I will also be needing their album Automatic for when I'm driving around in my car (that I don't own yet either).

7. Game of Thrones Monopoly. My boyfriend and I didn't even know such a thing existed until we went into Waterstones last week, and we were immediately intrigued. You have to be over 18 to play it and we need to know why :'). He's asked for it as one of his Christmas presents, so I'll be able to play it before too long! I'm excited!

8. Some new duvet covers and bedding. At the moment my bed sheets are black, whereas the walls are a creamy-white and my displays are colourful. It doesn't really go, so I need some new ones when I can!

9. Kylie Jenner lip kit. Wouldn't all girls everywhere really love this idea? They're sold out at the moment (unsurprisingly) but I can't wait to get my hands on one, or 500.

10. Prints and posters! My bedroom walls are still looking a bit bare at the moment, so I feel the need to inject some life into them. I'm thinking a nice black and white framed quote over my bed. Aahhhh.

11. A new laptop. My old one is well and truly dead, and I'm going to need one if I want to get where I want to be in the blogging community. It's such a terrible thing to be without; I miss sitting on my bed with the keys under my fingers instead of just tapping a tablet screen.

What are you hoping for this Christmas? Leave a comment and your blog links below; I'm loving reading Christmassy posts at the minute!

Meaghan x

Monday, 7 December 2015

#GirlGang & Why I'm A Member

I'm sure by now that most of you reading will have heard about Dorkface's new blogging community, the #GirlGang. Jemma's idea, to bring together bloggers to support each other and each other's blogs through weekly Twitter chats, 'club' newsletters and even a merchandise store, was simply so beautiful and original that I had to give it a go. I signed up, thinking - if I'm brutally honest - that it would just be another passing fancy of mine that I go back to now and again. Little did I know how rewarding it would feel or how much it would benefit me!

It's been just over a week since I've signed up, and I already feel better in myself. Before, I used my Twitter account fleetingly (I'd guess I posted about three times a week) but I've found a purpose for it again in the #GirlGang chats. If you're having a bad day there's so much love and support, and so many new people to meet. Company is definitely something I've needed more of recently, especially on days when my other half is working and I don't have work again for a week. My hours are poor lately, and it really gets me down sometimes. But instead of letting myself feel crap and suffering in silence, I've allowed myself to tell the world I feel that way. I've only had great responses from people who are so kind, and that I have lots in common with. Twitter hasn't felt like this much of a community tool since I started my account in 2011 as a Vampire Diaries fanbase (bet you didn't know that about me haha).

Today was a #GirlGang chat day. I missed last week's and really wanted to participate in this one. I set my alarm for the beginning of the chat, but then had a spot of bad news. Someone close to me was really down, and it started to make me feel so anxious and upset, so I left Twitter abruptly. The other girls made sure I was okay, and let me know they're there if I need them. I don't usually post publically about my anxiety, so the support really made a difference to me. All in all it's been a really positive experience for me and I would recommend it to anyone who needs an extra hand with blogging, motivation, or just a friendly chat to look forward to.

And thanks to the other #GirlGang members for being so wonderful and proving that this is nothing superficial. You're all ace.

You can follow me on Twitter @meaghanbethany❤.


Thursday, 26 November 2015

Winter Wardrobe // Shopping for Petite Girls!

With Christmas less than a month away and moving day even sooner, I decided now is the time to get rid of some old seldom-worn garments and replace them with winter-appropriate things I'm going to love! However, shopping, especially online where you can't try clothes on, can prove challenging for the vertically-challenged. Throughout this post I will be imparting some wisdom on how to shop for someone who, like me, stands around 5 feet tall. Most of my tips are common-sensical, but there may be some ideas you've never even thought of or overlooked.

Firstly, as with all online shopping, have a good look around on different sites at what you've added to your wishlists. Once you've found an item you particularly like, read the information about the product. Most sites will tell you how tall the model wearing the item is. Let's assume you're a size 8: if the model is over 5 inches taller than you and wearing a size 8, there's a good chance it might be a bit too long. Have a look and see if there's a size smaller - a size 6 or an XS. If not, and you're not willing to risk paying for something that may not fit, remove it from your wishlist to stop clutter! I would say though, if you're not in any hurry for a garment and the site has a good returns policy (such as Asos), there's no harm in ordering it as you're definitely going to get your money back.

The best case scenario for short girls though, is to find a site that focuses entirely on petite clothing (not sites like Asos which only have a petite section). One of my favourite sites is Sweet Mayhem (@shopsweetmayhem on Insta), whose only model is 5'0 like me. If something fits her perfectly, I know it's going to fit me! The only downside is that the store is based in America, so it takes a little bit longer for the clothes to arrive. In my experience, maybe about a week and a half to two weeks. But it's worth it when they arrive! Also, you're paying in dollars, so even with the cost of shipping, most of the time it's cheaper than paying for same-quality clothing from England. I recently bought their Madeline Lace Trim Sweater ($23.99), along with the lace tights that accompany it in the photo below. The jumper fits me perfectly and is looking set to become a favourite! It's so easy to style.

Sweater paws make me so happy.



Sticking with the wine/burgundy theme, I then headed across to In The Style, where I purchased their Natalia Dress with Cut-Out Sides (£19.99). It's just been delivered today and I couldn't be happier with it. The material clings to me beautifully, it's low-cut but classy, and my booty look good. The criteria for a perfect dress, really. I've paired it with a black faux fur gilet (£25.00) from Stephanie Pratt's collection at Missy Empire. This combo will be great for any fancy Christmas dinners/parties I'm going to. Definitely dressing to impress this Christmas!




I was just giving up on finding a suitable winter coat when I found one on the high street. It's not a perfect length for me; hardly anything is; but it keeps me cosy and warm. I got my khaki coat with a faux fur hood from The Factory Shop for £30.00. A few days after, I got some knee-high pleather boots from Shoe Zone (£19.99) which make me feel really comfortable in my own skin. Together, they feel good! However, if I'm going somewhere where a bit of a heel is required, I'll pair it with my gold-toe-capped boots from Peacocks (£30.00) instead.


Nail polish featured: Maybelline Colour Show in Downtown Red.
Lip colour featured: Max Factor Lipfinity in #110 Passionate.

And that's my Christmas style, guys! What are you wearing this winter?




Sunday, 15 November 2015

Anniversary Trip to Manchester // Imagine Dragons, Prezzo and Christmas Market

A few months ago, I booked tickets to an Imagine Dragons gig in Manchester for me and my boyfriend, as his anniversary present, and this week, it finally came around! Our time together started on the 12th, our actual anniversary, where we had a night in binge-watching my favourite TV programs: American Horror Story: Hotel, Scream Queens, The Last Kingdom and First Dates. It was then that he presented me with my present, a beautiful Pandora ring. He knows how I like my Pandora jewellery! He did well in his choosing; not only is it silver to go with my despairingly pale skin tone, but there are also no stones that could be lost whilst pot-washing at work (my other ring is still missing one). Not only that, but somehow he managed to find me an anniversary card - all the ones I could find were addressed to husbands or wives! - and it even had a cute frog on the front that looks like my favourite emoji (what else can a girl ask for?). I did, however, buy him "champagne with a twist" - the twist being the champagne bottle is made out of chocolate. He didn't seem too disappointed.



On the morning of the 13th, we prepared ourselves for the journey to Manchester. It involved a bus to the train station, a train to Manchester (booked on the really handy Trainline app), a tram to Victoria, and a short walk to the hotel to be checked in by 3pm. We had an entirely stress-free journey. Everything is well sign-posted in Manchester and the transport links are so good! Failing that, there was always Google maps. We checked in to the hotel, Park Inn by Radisson, just after three, and were directed to our room quickly and efficiently. I'm glad I found the vacancy on booking.com!

They received my request for a double bed (thank God), but what we got completely exceeded my expectation. It was more like a King-size! Dec collapsed on it straight away, a happy bunny, while I marvelled that I even had my own kettle and everything needed to make tea (I don't stay in hotels often haha). We also enjoyed free wifi, and a massive high quality TV. After a quick shower and getting dolled up, our minds then turned to dinner, or tea, as I call it. He made a spontaneous reservation at Prezzo as we had both never been, and I especially enjoy Italian food. It turned out to be about 5 minutes away. We arrived just before our reservation at 5, and were served within 10 minutes! I had lasagne and garlic bread which was absolutely gorgeous, and Dec seemed to enjoy his carbonara. I'm inserting a picture here to give you some indication of how beautiful the interior was:


For those of you wondering, Dec sadly failed his carbonara mission.

I had the best wine I have ever tasted, Pinot Grigio Blush, and Dec let me try his Aspall's cider (one more thing to recommend to the customers at work!) - they even made that look posh! I really enjoyed it there. I think it comes second only to Bella Italia.

After filling our bellies we made our way to Manchester Arena for the main event. We got there for the doors at six thanks to the quick service at Prezzo, and ordered a few drinks to take to our seats. Good thing we did because Imagine didn't come on until 8.45! Obviously, the (surprisingly good) supporting act, Sunset Sons entertained everyone inbetween, but the intermissions were long. Needless to say though, they were worth the wait. I hadn't enjoyed the Smoke and Mirrors album as much as Night Visions, but hearing the songs live completely changed my opinion (strange how gigs can do that to you). Unfortunately they didn't play Friction, my favourite, but they did play all of Dec's favourites like Radioactive and Demons. I particularly enjoyed their performance of I'm So Sorry and The Fall almost brought me to tears!


The arena lit up for the emotional numbers


Sadly, during the gig, my sore throat that I have been suffering from for about a week became severely painful again, and I found it really hard to sleep when we got back to the hotel because of it. Luckily, we had requested breakfast previously, which came with chilled orange juice to help soothe my throat in the morning. We were up well before check-out at 12, so we relaxed watching TV in the room, and it was only after checking our phones that we heard about the previous night's terror attacks in Paris - those poor people. Kind of makes you feel guilty for having such a good night. Our train home wasn't scheduled 'til just before 2, so we decided to wander around the city centre for a while, and were glad we did because we didn't realise the Christmas market would be on! I wanted to buy everything. It was such a good end to the trip - I only wish I'd taken my umbrella!

The journey home was just as easy as the journey there, if a little bit (okay, a lot) more rainy. Dec relaxed with his PlayStation magazine on the train, and I had a good hour and a half to get stuck into The Picture of Dorian Gray. I won't lie, it wasn't a cheap trip; the hotel booking and train tickets alone mounted up to almost £200, but sometimes it's great just to get away from where you're from and enjoy somewhere new. I am so glad it was worth the money. Best anniversary ever!



Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Black Rabbit Hall by Eve Chase // Book Review

Themes: twinness, nostalgia, history, family, secrets, loss


I picked up Black Rabbit Hall while on a daytrip to St Ives on a really sunny day this summer, simply because it was advertised as being set in Cornwall and I thought it would be a nice way to immortalise my holiday. In the same way as I feel a sense of connection to Scotland because of my Dad's family history, at times I also get a bit sentimental about Cornwall because of my Mum's.

Anyway, onto the book:

"One golden family. One fateful summer. Four lives changed forever. Amber Alton knows that the hours pass differently at Black Rabbit Hall, her London family's country estate where no two clocks read the same. Summers there are perfect, timeless. Not much ever happens. Until, one stormy evening in 1968, it does."

The blurb made the story sound quite mystical, as though supernatural things were going to happen, and so I think I pictured something quite Woman In Black-esque. It turned out to be pleasantly different. I'm not usually a lover of contemporaries - I'm more of a fantasy girl - but, surprisingly, I did actually get attached to the family who first lived in 'Black Rabbit Hall'.

I particularly enjoyed the first chapter, which for me encapsulated everything that is best about Cornwall. The descriptions reminded me especially of my favourite place in Tintagel, on the cliffs looking out to the sea. This chapter is told through Amber's perspective, and although throughout her next few designated chapters I found myself getting annoyed at the writing style, as I so often do with contemporaries, I did like her and cared what happened to her. That goes for all the characters, so props to Eve Chase for that. I always had to read on to see what happened to them.

I'm not sure if you could compare this book to Downton Abbey because I've never seen it, but there is a big ol' house and lots of secrets surrounding the people who lived there. However, I liked the way that Black Rabbit Hall was described in the modern-day chapters: run down and no longer so grand. I liked the way it didn't seem high-end, pretentious or for snobby people. It felt exactly like an abandoned family home, as it should have done. I liked the closeness of the family and was glad for the reconciliations that took place.

Rating 3.5 stars. I would recommend this book but not in a OMG YOU HAVE TO READ IT NOW way.



Black Rabbit Hall is the 16th book I've finished reading this year. To see if I hit my goal of 25 books, become my friend on Goodreads, or, alternatively, view my Reading List/Book Reviews page.

~All images used in this post are my own.~

Thursday, 24 September 2015

The Last Two Months // Trips and Holidays

Hi, again. Well then, it's been a while! Sorry about that. Normally I would address the reasons for such a long absence but, for the purpose of keeping up appearances, I'm going to give the explanation a miss this time and just get straight to telling you about the most exciting things that have happened this month (and a half). Or as I like to call it, 'my absence through Instagram pictures'. *All photos will be from my IG account @meaghanbethany.*

In early August, my boyfriend and I went on a trip to the Harry Potter Studios. Being 5'0, it turned out being quite a palava trying to get photographs on my phone over the top of other people's heads, so I left all the photography to Dec. I only really have one picture for you: from the moment which was probably my favourite part of the tour.


Chicken goujons and tasty butterbeer in the half-way café

Then, towards the end of August, my family and step-family went on a week-long excursion where we were based in Perranporth in Cornwall. Every day (almost) we drove out to somewhere different and were really lucky with the weather! Firstly we returned to Newquay, where we had a picnic on the beach and a walk around. With it being quite a large town, it had its own New Look store. And, well, it would have been rude not to. I bought myself a cosy grey turtleneck which looks great with a black leather jacket. I also bought a necklace with mint-green adornments and some red feather earrings, to go with some clothes I already own.


Matchy matchy

After that, I can't really remember the progression of things but I think the next day we stayed in Perranporth and walked down to Perran Sands. This was one of my favourite days of the whole trip because everyone was together, but yet we were all doing our own thing. The boys (my would-be step-brothers) were either swimming, running,  or playing football. Dad and his fiancée went for a walk around the coast. I stayed on a blanket reading my copy of E. Lockhart's We Were Liars, and my sister lay next to me listening to music, when she wasn't paddling. It was such a beautiful, relaxing day.


I recommend to you the 3 B's: books, blankets, beaches

Next we made the ride up to Tintagel which was so beautiful it made me want to cry. On paper, it is the mythological (or not, you decide) birthplace of King Arthur - and, true, there are ruins there - but that's not the best part. The best part, by far, was the scenery. The landscape. The views. The blue-green water and watching the waves crash in slow-motion against the rocks. I'm getting all romantic now and I don't care because I'm in love with the place. There's just something about sitting on the edge of the cliff and feeling completely serene.


The views had me questioning whether I am such a city girl

If there's a place more beautiful than this, don't tell me

The day after we took a trip to St Ives, a place to which I am no stranger. It's such a cosy little place, and truly an artist's dream with its cobbled, narrow streets. We had dinner at Wetherspoon's (I swear I am never more than five feet away from a Wetherspoon's) and just had a general wander around. I found myself in a bookseller's, where I must have spent about an hour. In the end I decided on Black Rabbit Hall, which is set in Cornwall, and will be perfect for all the times I'm missing it.


St Ives makes a lovely backdrop

On our last day, we went to Land's End, somewhere the step-family has never been before. It wasn't as windy as the last time we went, but still a bit cold on the ol' ears. From the gift shop I bought a couple of pieces to go in my room (seaside-themed photo-frames and candle-holders) with have been great additions to my bedside table. I'll have to show you those sometime. In the evening, we went back to the swanky meal place (called so because I have forgotten the name) where I had yet another lasagne and some wine. 


I got dolled up for the last night

AND THEN WE WERE BACK IN DERBYSHIRE. Back to work, and back to reality. Since the holiday life has been pretty menial. I've applied for many an apprenticeship - lots have been unsuccessful but I'm keeping at it, having come to the conclusion that I want something in digital marketing. I've made arrangements to see friends I haven't seen in ages; including a (hopefully wild) trip to Leicester to help my bestie settle in at Uni! I can't wait.

Just a barmaid with a blog,


Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris // Book Review

"Harris has enormous fun with her antihero... this mythical bad boy should beguile fans of Neil Gaiman" (THE METRO)
I'm going to start by saying that this book is exactly what it sounds like: Norse mythology from Loki's perspective. The prospect was so me I could hardly believe it. The book allows you to learn about Norse mythology in layman's terms - in the knowledge that it won't be the primary function of the book. You will also spend time laughing out loud. I loved Loki's sarcasm, his hypocrisy, his bending of the 'truth'. I love how he takes responsibility, but doesn't, at the same time. I completely agree with the Metro's assessment; in that Loki really is enormous fun. Joanne Harris has got him down to a tee - sometimes I couldn't help but hear the words in Tom Hiddleston's accent because it just sounds like something he would say in the Avengers. Something magical happened. Me and this book were a perfect match. 

The Gospel of Loki (or Lokabrenna) is comprised of a series of usually witty/ironic commandments - one at the beginning of each chapter. Each chapter covers a different anecdote from Norse mythology, but it all flows. It's so well-paced, and you get through it quickly, but it's never jumpy. You don't feel like you're missing anything. Loki himself is a completely unreliable narrator, which left plenty of room for second-guessing and fun. The fact that you can't trust anything he says somehow makes him even more likeable. I think it's because we're used to the same types of books - ones where we have to trust the narrator, because it's vital to our acceptance of the plot. It was so refreshing to read a book where, for once, not everything is set in stone. Another positive is that it leaves nothing unseen to: it covers the time period from Loki's 'recruitment' to the Realm, all the way to the (SPOILER) fall of Asgard. It doesn't stop in the middle of the story: it's the whole she-bang.

As for the Neil Gaiman side of The Metro's assessment: I agree and I disagree. I can see that this is definitely something most of his fans, if not all, would enjoy - however, after reading my first Neil Gaiman novel, I wouldn't call myself one of his fans, and yet I was able to love this book as much as I did. I'd say: if you love puns, a sarcastic voice, villains, mythology, or even just the sci-fi or fantasy genre; this is one to pick up. Let's not narrow it down to just Neil Gaiman fans, I'm telling everyone: this book is brilliant. Also, just look at the cover. LOOK.



Rating: 5 stars. Couldn't have been much better.


Friday, 31 July 2015

\\ I'm an ENFP Personality! //

A while back, I discovered the 16 Personalities site, where you can take a free online test to identify your personality type. I came across the link to the site on my Facebook feed, and thought it would be another one of those rubbish 'Which Friends Character Are You?' things, but it turns out the research is based on an actual psychological theory by Carl Jung. The test, called the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test (or MBTI for short), takes about ten minutes, and consists of simple questions such as 'You find it easy to introduce yourself to other people, agree or disagree?' You don't have to sign up or register, and the whole thing takes about ten minutes. When you're done, you'll be amazed how accurate the results are.



You will be identified as one of sixteen personality types, hence the site name, and there will be reams of information waiting for you upon completion about what it means. I, for instance, am an ENFP personality type - Extraverted, Intuitive, Feeling and Perceptive. Referred to as "The Campaigner" personality type, this means I have hippy-esque traits, and largely, I go against the grain. What amazed me most was, when my family members took the test, they all got different personality types. My dad, interestingly, is a "Sentinel," the type that values tradition, order, and loyalty over all things.

THE ENFP PERSONALITY TYPE
According to the data, my strengths include:

  1. Curiosity. "ENFPs want to go out and experience things, and don't hesitate to step out of their comfort zones to do so. ENFPs are imaginative and open-minded, seeing all things as part of a big, mysterious puzzle called life." (Example: my experience with NCS, where I tried every possible activity and loved it.)
  2. Observational skills. "ENFPs believe that there are no irrelevant actions, that every shift in sentiment, every move and every idea is part of something bigger. To satisfy their curiosity, ENFPs try to notice all of these things, and to never miss a moment." (Example: I try to read people a lot, especially those that are close to me. Sometimes I'm wrong, but it shows that I am always trying to understand things.)
  3. Energy and enthusiasm. "As they observe, forming new connections and ideas, ENFPs won't hold their tongues – they're excited about their findings, and share them with anyone who'll listen. This infectious enthusiasm has the dual benefit of giving ENFPs a chance to make more social connections, and of giving them a new source of information and experience." (Example: This blog post!)
  4. Excellent communication skills. "It's a good thing that ENFPs have such strong people skills, or they'd never express these ideas. ENFPs enjoy both small talk and deep, meaningful conversations, which are just two sides of the same coin for them, and are adept at steering conversations towards their desired subjects in ways that feel completely natural and unforced." (I could talk for hours with someone I care about. Sometimes I don't care about the topic, it's enough to just be spending time with a person.)
  5. You know how to relax. "People with this personality type know that sometimes, nothing is as important as simply having fun and experiencing life's joys. Wild bursts of enthusiastic energy can surprise even their closest friends." (I love to relax, I pretty much do nothing else. Whereas my sister is really preppy, studious, organised and just generally together, I leave things until the last minute and usually suffer as a result.)
  6. Friendly. "All this adaptability and spontaneity comes together to form a person who is approachable, interesting and exciting, with a cooperative and altruistic spirit and friendly, empathetic disposition."

I mean, those traits are like a blogger personified - how can I argue with them? It's evident that this research is founded on something good! Ordinarily, I wouldn't call myself an energetic person, but I am enthusiastic when it comes to things I really want to happen. As for my weaknesses...
  1. Poor practical skills. "When it comes to conceiving ideas and starting projects, especially involving other people, ENFPs have exceptional talent. Unfortunately their skill with upkeep and follow-through on those projects struggles. Without more hands-on people to help push things along, ENFPs' ideas are likely to remain just that – ideas. (Example: I hated practical subjects at school, and I've always enjoyed more literary pursuits, where my ideas can be put onto paper, and not constructed into some type of physical thing like a wooden stereo.)
  2. Find it difficult to focus. "ENFPs are natural explorers of interpersonal connections and philosophy, but this backfires when what needs to be done is that report sitting right in front of them. It's hard for ENFPs to maintain interest." (If it doesn't interest me, I won't pay attention. I'd rather be in my own head.)
  3. Overthinking. "ENFPs look for underlying motives in even the simplest things. It's not uncommon for ENFPs to lose a bit of sleep asking themselves why someone did what they did, what it might mean, and what to do about it." (See point 2 of Strengths.)
  4. Get stressed easily. "ENFPs are very sensitive, and care deeply about others' feelings. A consequence of their popularity is that others often look to them for guidance and help, which takes time, and it's easy to see why ENFPs sometimes get overwhelmed, especially when they can't say yes to every request." (I experienced this at college. The times when I got most emotional were when I had to let someone down or say no to them.)
  5. Highly emotional. "ENFPs view emotion as a core part of their identity. It can come out strongly enough to cause problems for this personality type; particularly when under stress, criticism or conflict, ENFPs can experience emotional bursts that are counter-productive at best." 
  6. Independent to a fault. "ENFPs loathe being micromanaged and restrained by heavy-handed rules – they want to be seen as highly independent masters of their own fates, even possessors of an altruistic wisdom that goes beyond draconian law. The challenge for ENFPs is that they live in a world of checks and balances, a pill they are not happy to swallow."
Well, you only have to read my political posts to see the last two points are true. Someday, it turns out, these traits might help or hinder me in my career (and the same goes for you). Some companies are already using the test, or a similar version, to see what kind of employee you would be. According to the research, my traits mean I am more likely to pursue a career as a Musician, Journalist, Marketing Consultant, Advertising Director, Teacher of Music or Drama, or Photographer. Most of which I have considered in the past, and some of which I am currently pursuing. Kind of amazing.

One day, it could even help people resolve differences. Apparently, my personality type makes up around 7-8% of the population, and that's a lot of people to bring around to your way of thinking. Knowing each others' strengths and weaknesses means you can empathise and compromise, and that's what I believe is most valuable about this information. So take the test, you might even learn something about yourself! More and more people know which personality type they are! For example, YouTuber Hannah Witton is a fellow ENFP!


Information from 16personalities.com. Inspired by this article on elephantjournal.com.

Thursday, 30 July 2015

\\ July 2015 Favourites & Updates! //

July has been a month of ups and downs. But, before we get onto the serious stuff, let me write a list of all the things that were great about this month.

  1. My Centre Parcs holiday with my best friends & boyfriend
  2. It's been a month since I've started working as a barmaid/waitress at Wetherspoon's and I'm really proud of how much I've learned!
  3. My first day shifts meant my nights could be spent settling back on the sofa with a takeaway, some booze, and Pretty Little Liars with my sister. Until my night shifts start tomorrow, that is.
  4. As above, only replace PLL with Hector and the Search For Happiness. This was added to Netflix recently, and seeing as I love Simon Pegg films such as Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, it wasn't one I was prepared to miss! I wasn't disappointed. It really made me think about what's important in life. So basically Walter Mitty, except better and without the fancy cinematography. Normally I don't like Rosamund Pike as an actress, but I have to admit she was a perfect choice for Clara.
  5. I only started reading The Gospel of Loki yesterday, but I'm loving it already! (You'll definitely see that in a future review)
  6. I finally finished The Lord of the Rings trilogy - it's taken me a year, on and off - and I'm finally okay with the fact that Éowyn and Aragorn aren't together. Bloody Arwen. Okay maybe there's still some bitterness there, but I'll get over it.

LIFE UPDATES
My mum's condition has worsened. In a previous post I mentioned how the hospital team were testing out their new 'Recovery Hub' for patients with mental health disorders, but since then it has been agreed that my mum's case is too severe to be solely treated by this. Hence, she's been admitted into hospital for the forseeable future. This has been heartbreaking for me as my mum hasn't relapsed since I was eight years old, and it's painful for me to see her like this. I'm a bit reluctant to see her in that condition (and in that place again) but... my maternal grandmother is now in hospital, too, as she has broken her hip. Neither of them have any other family in this county (besides me and my sister) and, as I'm the eldest relative, visitations have become solely my responsibility. In truth I feel guilty that I haven't visited yet, but I feel like it's a lot of weight on my shoulders, especially when I'm not sure I can be a rock to either of them yet.

Also there's still no apprenticeship on the horizon, after months of trying! Well, I guess I'll have to try harder. But on the bright side of things I'm off to Harry Potter World with my boyfriend next week, so that's exciting! I've never been before, or heard much about it, so if someone could fill me in on what to expect, that would be great!

Thank you for reading,