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❤.