Blogging

The Mystery Blogger Award

Mystery Blogger Award

It makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside being nominated for awards and knowing that people are enjoying my blog, and when Amy nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award it was no different! Thank you so much to Amy for the nomination, I love that her blog is honest and has a chatty style that’s easy to read, so you should definitely go check it out!

Created by Okoto Enigma, The Mystery Blogger Award is a way for bloggers to show appreciation for those whose blogs they think are captivating and inspiring, full of passion and deserve recognition.

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The Rules

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog.
  2. List the rules.
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
  5. Tell your readers three things about yourself.
  6. Nominate 10-20 bloggers.
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice.
  9. Share a link to your best post(s).

Three Things About Me

  1. For some reason there was a time when I was little where I wanted to be a farmer’s wife. I don’t think I quite knew what it entailed, only thinking I got to hang around with horses and chickens, with a farm dog and cat. Needless to say that’s not my aspiration anymore.
  2. My first journey on a plane was on a school trip to Poland when I was about 17. Everyone expected me to be so nervous but I was actually excited and enjoyed looking out the window, not even worrying when we had loads of turbulence. However since then I can be quite an anxious flyer.
  3. I really like drawing; I have notebooks filled with drawings since I was very young and spent a lot of my spare time doing it. I did Art for A-Level at school and did some children’s illustration in university, but since then I spend more of my time writing. I’m thinking of investing in a drawing tablet and getting into it again!

Amy’s Questions

As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?

Oops, I’ve partially answered this one! Though there were a variety of things I wanted to do. Being a vet was up there, again thinking I just got to play with cute animals all day before realising it was a bit more gruesome.

What’s the best gift you’ve ever been given?

My sister got Jordan and I tickets to the Harry Potter studios and we made a weekend of it, visiting London Zoo too, so that was really fun! Jordan also gifted me an Xbox for our first Christmas which elevated my love for gaming.

What’s the emoji you use the most often?

According to my emoji keyboard it’s the red heart, but I feel like I use the blue heart and the heart eye cat emoji more than that!

What was the best advice you’ve been given when it comes to blogging?

Be yourself. There are thousands of bloggers out there but no one is you, so they’re not going to have the same writing style and same interests as you. It’s what is going to keep people coming back to your blog!

Cocktail of choice?

Sex on the beach.

My Nominees

This is the hardest part of these types of posts because although I’d like to nominate lots of people I’m never sure who has been nominated or not! So sorry if you’ve done this before and no pressure to do your own, but I am tagging:

Questions

  1. Do you remember the first film you watched in the cinema?
  2. Why do you love blogging?
  3. What is your favourite animal?
  4. What do you typically order when eating at a restaurant?
  5. What was your favourite childhood TV show?

My Favourite Posts

  1. Why Write?
  2. Games From My Childhood
  3. Helpful Planning Exercises for Writing a Novel
  4. Places I Visited in 2018
  5. 5 Ways to Generate Blog Post Ideas

Thank you for reading and please go check out everyone who is linked in this post!

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Lifestyle

Switching to Cruelty Free Make Up

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Switching to cruelty free make up is always something that I’ve wanted to do. Why should animals be harmed for the sake of my face? However, when walking into Boots I was never quite sure what was cruelty free and what wasn’t. Even after doing research, it seemed like a lot of brands weren’t available there or they were really expensive. I’m not huge into make up so I would never drop £30 on a bottle of foundation as I don’t really see it as a priority. I usually buy whatever is cheap but good quality, so for a while I’ve stuck to that under the impression that all cruelty make up was something I couldn’t afford.

But after seeing some blog posts and doing more research a couple of years later, I’ve found that there are actually brands out there that are affordable, vegan and cruelty free. I went to my local Boots in the hopes of spending some birthday money on cruelty free make up and I came away satisfied! All items are from the Makeup Obsession line by Revolution, so here is what I bought:

All A Blur Blurring Primer

Primers have been something that I’ve bought the last couple of years but I’ve never been sure whether they actually work or not. I’ve felt that make up goes on a little better but couldn’t quite tell whether it extends wear or makes much of a difference. However with this primer, I’ve noticed that it makes my make up a lot more even and clear, with less pores and blemishes on show, particularly on camera too. They also do a primer for pore minimising and one for redness, with all packaging in pretty pastel colours, so I might have to give these a try next!

Brow Goals Brow Pencil

My last brow pencil was on its last legs but it was the perfect shade for me, so I was worried about finding a new one. I thought this one might be a little too brown as I need more of a gingery shade to match my roots, but I bought it anyway and was super pleased to find the shade was perfect. The angled precision tip is a lot more precise than anything I’ve used before, meaning my brows are a lot more defined and I can fill in those small spaces without trouble. The brush also helps to shape them which is good as my brows are quite unruly, though I think I need to invest in a clear gel to set them too. My only concern is how long it will last as the lead is so small, so I’ll have to see how it goes.

Mega Conceal Longwear Concealer

There wasn’t a foundation in this collection, so I went for the Mega Conceal thinking it would be perfect for the summer when I only want a thin layer. A little goes a long way with this concealer and it does have a fairly good coverage. However, I have found that at the end of the day the texture seems to go a little strange around my chin and reveal some redness, as well as going oily. I’m not sure if this is a problem with the powder or not, which I’ll talk about next, or the fact that I’m spending long days in the hot sun, but it was quite disappointing as a base. I think it’s great for small areas and has a nice consistency, but it wasn’t as long lasting as I hoped, so I will be investing in a different foundation that is more suited to me.

Game Set Matte Powder

My skin has always been a little oily so I need a great powder to eliminate this, always going for a matte powder. I picked this one up and was impressed when I first put it on, making my skin less shiny and clearer. Though as mentioned above, I had oily skin at the end of the day and I’m not sure which product is at fault or whether it’s the heat. I’d need to top up throughout the day with this or perhaps invest in a setting spray. However I have always had problems finding the right products for my skin, and both this concealer and powder may work perfectly for you. Everyone’s skin is different and I’m still glad I bought these as I will continue using them.

Overall, I was impressed with what I bought, but finding something that works with my skin has always been a struggle and they are still good quality products. The primer and brow pencil will have a firm place in my make up bag! With an offer on at Boots, all of this cost me just £15! I’m glad that I can get cruelty free make up at such affordable prices with it also being good quality. I do have more to go with converting everything in my bag to cruelty free, but I’m happy I have made this start. Next on my list is a foundation and a mascara, and I may pick up some other bits too.

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Here are some other cruelty free brands as well as Revolution:

  • Sleek
  • Barry M
  • e.l.f
  • Nip+Fab
  • Soap & Glory
  • W7
  • bareMinerals
  • Natural Collection
  • No 7

These are just to name a few, so you are sure to find something in your price range and experiment with different products to find what is right for you. I think with the rise of cruelty free brands that are affordable, there really isn’t much of an excuse not to go cruelty free, and it’s such an easy change to make in your life.

What are some of your favourite cruelty free brands or products? Let me know your recommendations down in the comments and thank you for reading!

 

Books

A Review of One of Us is Lying

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One of Us is Lying

By Karen M.McManus

Genre: YA Mystery

When looking for books to add to my to be read listOne of Us is Lying caught my eye because it wasn’t something I’d usually read. As mentioned in that post, I love crime drama series, but I never like to guess who the criminal is and spoil it for myself, so I was really looking forward to experiencing this in novel form. I’m so glad I made the decision to dip into this genre because I’d now happily read more books that are similar.

The story takes place in Bayview High, full of secrets and scandals that outsider Simon posts on a gossip app that he created. When he ends up in detention with geeky Bronwyn, jock Cooper, prom queen Addy and drug dealer Nate, he doesn’t leave. Simon dies before he can post any of their secrets. Apart from their teacher, they were the only ones in the room; so who committed the crime? The four of them must deal with their life as suspects, at risk of their secrets being revealed, which could change their lives forever.

The whole premise of the story to me was so intriguing and it didn’t fail to disappoint. Four very different people are forced together by the horrific events of Simon’s death, the high school setting only reminding you of how young they are and how jarring it must be to be accused of murder. It switches between all four of their perspectives, unveiling new information with each chapter, often ending on a cliffhanger so that you just had to continue reading. I was constantly aware of any clues that could signal who was the culprit, wondering if these signs were too obvious. As I didn’t delve deep into working out who it was, the ending came as a shock; I think some people might have guessed it, but as someone who tries not to spoil it for myself, it came as a surprise.

I know what it’s like to tell yourself a lie so often that it becomes the truth.

I think it can be quite difficult to pull off having different perspectives, but McManus did a great job of using it so we could get to know each character more. Each change in perspective is signaled by their name, date and time, but even if the name wasn’t there, the characterisation was so clear that you knew who was speaking. At first I thought the whole “a geek, a jock, a criminal, a princess” thing was going to be really stereotypical, but these stereotypes are unpicked and we find out why people act the way they do, what their lives are really like. It plays with the message not to judge a book by its cover and I loved learning about each character. It was fun to see what they thought of the murder investigation, giving their take on what they think happened, and about the other characters. It definitely worked well for the mystery genre.

I guess we’re almost friends now, or as friendly as you can get when you’re not one hundred percent sure the other person isn’t framing you for murder.

Karen M.McManus’ writing style depicts the personality of a teenager very well, and it’s easy to read. I could have read this book in a couple of hours if I’d had the time to sit down and do so. Each cliff hanger made me more and more eager to keep reading and get to the end, to find out what really happened in the detention classroom that day. There was a great mixture of tension, humour and romance that kept me hooked throughout the whole novel, and at no point was I bored.

One thing that I perhaps didn’t quite like as much as the rest was how the mystery became uncovered. I don’t want to give spoilers, but I feel like between the characters they might have worked it out or at least thought of it as a possibility sooner than they did. It was more complex than meets the eye, and with me doing little deducting I didn’t guess it either, but once it was revealed I felt like the characters would have been smart enough to guess at least some of it. Instead, they spend a lot of the time trying to work it out and it is pretty close to the end that things unravel. Of course, we wouldn’t have a story if they guessed straight away, but it reminded me that I was reading a fictional book rather than something completely realistic.

You find out who your real friends are when stuff like this happens. Turns out I didn’t have any, but I’m glad Cooper does.

This was a very minor point though, and overall this was a brilliant introduction for me into the world of YA mystery fiction. The genre makes you want to read ravenously to reach the book’s conclusion and the writing style made this even more of an easy feat. I’m glad that all the characters were likable in their own way so I could enjoy each of their sections, unlike some books I’ve read which change perspectives (*cough* Game of Thrones *cough* Lord of the Rings). I’m looking forward to reading the sequel when it comes out and exploring the characters more, as well as the aftermath of the events. I’m going to give this a 4 out of 5 stars!

If you have read this book, what did you think of it? Let me know down in the comments and thank you for reading!

Writing

How to Nail Your First Chapter

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The first chapter of your novel is something that you’re going to rewrite over and over again. Even though I haven’t yet finished my overall first draft, I’ve already redrafted the start a couple of times and I can guarantee it still needs some more edits. However, this isn’t a bad thing. As I mentioned in this older post about planning ideas, the first chapter is so important as this is what is ultimately going to make a reader decide if the book is for them. I talked about how your opening chapter needs hooks to draw the reader in.

In today’s post, I thought I would go into that in more detail as I only briefly covered it! The things we will look at are voice, what is new to the reader, character, situation, genre and setting. Weaving these throughout your first chapter will show to the reader what they can expect from your novel as a whole, as well as intriguing them. Of course, there are no rules to writing, and I’m not saying you have to have all of these to create the perfect chapter. However they are something to think about if you’re having trouble nailing it and feel as if something is missing.

Voice

It’s important for your first chapter to have a clear voice and clarify to the reader that this is how the rest of the book is going to be written. If they don’t particularly like this voice, it may put them off reading. The voice is going to show to them the tense of the novel, what person it is written in and the overall feel of the novel. For example, you’ll be able to tell the difference between a comedy novel and a horror novel simply from the protagonist/narrator voice. I’m going to be giving examples from The Knife of Letting Go by Patrick Ness as well as from my WIP, to show how I’ve tried to implement these narrative hooks in my work. Though bear in mind, my first chapter is likely to change upon editing!

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.

…I never said I wanted any dog, that what I said I wanted was for Cillian to finally fix the fissionbike so I wouldn’t have to walk every forsaken place in this stupid town, but oh, no, happy birthday, Todd, here’s a brand new puppy, Todd…

The first quote is actually from the first line in the novel. Straight away, we know this is going to be written in an informal, dialectal way and in first person present. This means we can clearly hear how the protagonist Todd speaks and thinks. There are also a lot of long sentences where Todd almost has a train of thought. You can tell from this that he is a young boy as well as the slightly immature use of “stupid town”. It is clear that this style of writing is quite different from a classic novel for example. When I first read this, it is definitely what stuck out to me and I thought it was so unique, so it definitely worked as a narrative hook.

Olinda hums to herself, looking into the fire, and her eyes have gone glassy. I shake my head fondly. Meditation? I could barely sit still without itching to be out in the forest.

Frostbite is waiting for me, down on her front legs and wagging her tail rapidly, panting…I lay in the snow, gazing up at the pine tree branches that criss-crossed across the grey sky. I let the falling snowflakes land on my eyelashes, smiling and scratching Frosbite’s ear.

These are some extracts from my first chapter! From here, we know that it’s written in first person present; my protagonist Avaline, is observant and loves nature, so we have that description that perhaps someone like Todd wouldn’t pick up on, as well as her inner thoughts. We can also tell her age from her excitement for life and being playful with her wolf, Frostbite, laying in the snow together after she is knocked over.

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Photo by J. Kelly Brito on Unsplash

What is new to the reader?

This is a little easier when it comes to fantasy novels, but essentially you want to clarify to the reader what makes this story different and unique, and unlike the real world if it’s not set there. I think this is definitely an important narrative hook to have, because it sets apart your novel from everyone else’s.

…a break from all the Noise that men spill outta theirselves, all their clamour and clatter that never lets up, even when they sleep, men and the thoughts they don’t know they think even when everyone can hear. Men and their Noise. I don’t know how they do it, how they stand each other.

In The Knife of Never Letting Go, the concept revolves around the ‘Noise’, and how men can hear each other’s thoughts as well as animals. Obviously this is not a thing in our world, so this is the new and exciting thing that’s going to draw your reader in and make them eager to find out more. Even if your novel is set in the real world so you don’t have that fantasy aspect to show off, you can still have that aspect of something unique. For example if your novel is set in a school environment, there may be a certain event that takes place or problems that the characters face which is different from other similar books. The ‘something new’ could even center around your protagonist, whether it’s their job or their culture.

Olinda had always said that the Bedagi wolves were created at the top of Skypeak Mountain in a cluster of lightning and rain. Whether this was true or not still remained a mystery, people joking about crazy old Olinda talking nonsense. But for centuries, in the Skypeak Mountain tribe where I’m from, we’d lived alongside the wolves, breeding them to keep them pure as Father so often stressed. Each person in the tribe had their own; fiercely loyal, intelligent, and larger than your average wolf. Large enough to ride.

Again, this is quite self-explanatory; in our world, we don’t have giant wolves that we can ride or live in tribes surrounded by mountains! I introduce this on the second page, so my readers will know straight away that this is what the world is like. Though a lot of fantasy revolves around wolves, I hope that by creating my own species with a mysterious origin story will be intriguing.

Character

Though we will learn more about the protagonist in a book as the story unfolds, it’s a good idea to give your readers an idea of their personality as soon as possible. You also want to make them intriguing; what can you introduce about them that will make readers want to find out their story and stick alongside them? What makes them different from any other protagonist in other novels?

…I yell after him and off I go, too, across the (I look around to make sure I’m alone) goddam fields cuz Cillian’ll have a fit if Manchee falls down some goddam snake hole and of course it’ll be my own goddam fault even tho I never wanted the goddam dog in the goddam first place.

Now, I won’t officially become a man for thirty more days. I’ve lived twelve years of thirteen long months each and another twelve months besides, all of which living means I’m still one month away from the big birthday.

The voice that Patrick Ness has written in gives us a great idea of Todd’s personality off the bat. He likes to swear a lot and go off on rants in long sentences. He has a bit of a temper on him and though he does really love his dog Manchee, can be aggressive towards him. This is quite unlike my protagonist and her wolf, so we can see the clear difference in personalities. Todd is not perfect, which makes readers more likely to be drawn to him.

What also makes Todd different is that he is due to become a man; in this novel, (minor spoiler) you have to kill a man in order to become one. Though we don’t know this yet, it is clear that something revolves around becoming a man, otherwise it wouldn’t be emphasised. This gives Todd’s character another aspect, and readers will want to find out why this is important.

“I was going to go hunting today, actually,” I say. It’s a brave move of me to cheek Father, it’s what often gets me into trouble. But the words tumble from my tongue before I can help myself. “Would that put Frostbite to good use?”

Father’s eyes flash with anger, but he simply mutters something and walks away with Steelclaw, leaving me to stare at his retreating figure. I roll my eyes but also sigh with relief that he didn’t lecture me any further. It wouldn’t be the first time my retaliation was greeted with a stern speech about how I need to respect my elders.

My protagonist is the daughter of the leader of her tribe, which I hope gives her another dimension that will intrigue readers. She’s not just an ordinary member of her tribe, but will one day take her father’s place. They don’t get along, so this dynamic brings out conflict which is important to keep the reader hooked. Their relationship is key to the novel and pushes the story. You can also see that Avaline’s personality can be cheeky and sarcastic, but she is also fun loving and loyal to her wolf.

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Situation

The situation that your protagonist is in within the first chapter is an excellent way to raise tension and put your audience straight into the action. Maybe they’re in an argument with someone, or late for work, or being chased by a monster. No matter what it is, it’s showing how your character reacts which is also a good way of showing their personality, and exciting the reader.

Cuz here’s Aaron, right here, rising outta the grass from nowhere, rising up and smacking me cross the face, scratching my lip with a big ring, then bringing his hand back the other way, closed as a fist, catching my cheekbone…

A couple of pages in we have Todd getting into a fight; this situation makes us curious to who Aaron is and what their relationship is. We see Todd in a vulnerable situation, a young boy being patronised and hurt by someone older, which makes us sympathise with him. Having an action scene isn’t necessary, but here it works well to show what kind of world Todd lives in and the people in it.

The vision is growing even hazier, my head now spinning with confusion. Something moves gracefully behind the wolves. Slimmer, with no long muzzle like a wolf.  My breath catches in my throat; what is it? Could it hurt Frostbite?

The figures vanish into a white fog. My eyes shoot open, dizziness dancing in my brain. I clutch at the ground to stop myself falling sideways. Looking across the fire at Olinda, I remember that I am sitting in her tent, not outside in the snow; that everything I’d just seen had been a vision.

In my WIP, Avaline is experiencing a vision from the very first sentence (though this might change in the editing process). I throw my readers straight into the action with a visual and intense scene. The vision is also incredibly important to the plot though at the time it doesn’t seem it and Avaline has to get on with her daily life. I like the idea of my readers being thrown into something to experience the way Avaline is feeling!

Genre

Making your genre clear as soon as possible can be important for letting the reader know not only what it is, but how you have gone about it and what your version of the genre is.

The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don’t got nothing much to say. About anything.

“Need a poo, Todd.”

Using the same quote as I used before, this immediately tells us that this is unlike our world. The novel has been classed as a sci-fi but I don’t think this is exactly clear from the first chapter. It does show this other-wordly, fantasy element though and I think that is what matters most. It also ties in with what is new to the reader and can be clearer in some circumstances; if a novel starts off with a space ship battle we know it’s going to be sci-fi. However I think the most important thing is that the reader knows whether the world is real or fantastical as this is of course telling of what the genre is.

He is standing alongside his wolf Steelclaw, who is bigger than a bear, by far the biggest Bedagi wolf in the tribe. He has granite grey fur and claws like daggers, accompanied with teeth that are so long the canines have to rest over his lip and onto his chin.

With the vision and the wolves, my novel makes it very clear that this is of the fantasy genre, my story revolving around tribes and a species of wolves. Of course, a reader is more than likely going to know the genre before reading the book and that’s why they’ve chosen to read it, but it’s nice to see that it’s clarified at least a little so the reader isn’t disappointed.

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Photo by Daniel McCullough on Unsplash

Setting

Setting is a great way to include some nice description and give visual images of the world you have created. Though setting can change throughout the novel, having it in the first chapter means readers have a good idea of the protagonist’s home or normal life, or the aspects of the world as a whole. It’s just yet another way to hook the reader in and being able to picture the surroundings of the character’s they are reading is going to do this.

…weaving our way round the big, bulby trees that grow up and outta the bog to the needly roof, metres and metres up. The air’s thick and dark and it’s heavy, but not a frightening kind of thick and dark and heavy. There’s lots of life here, loads of it, ignoring the town as you please, birds and green snakes and frogs…

Todd’s town is situated right next to a swamp, which is where he is wading through in the first chapter. This will be interesting to the reader as you wouldn’t think of a swamp as an attractive place, but the way it is described makes it full of life and safe, as this is where Todd says it’s quieter than the town and a place he can go to escape the Noise.

The brightness of the snow hurts my eyes in comparison to the dim tent. I look up towards Skypeak Mountain; as always, the top is so shrouded in clouds that the peak isn’t visible.

I had some description of setting in my quote for the voice section, but I make it clear that Avaline’s home is in a snowy forest close to the foot of a mountain. I want readers to really be immersed in this world and be able to feel the snowflakes falling on their faces or hear the crunch beneath their feet.

 

Phew, that was a long one. However hopefully this will be helpful for fellow novel writers to get their first chapter as polished as they can! Making sure the reader knows exactly the kind of story they’re reading as well as intriguing them is the perfect recipe for them to want to continue with the rest of the novel. Thank you for reading and happy writing!

Lifestyle

The Effects of Being Near the Sea

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I’ve mentioned throughout various blog posts and on my Instagram (casual plug) that there’s nothing I like more than taking a walk by the sea. I’m lucky that in my hometown we have numerous beaches all within twenty minutes away, and when Jordan and I were living in Swansea it was only a five minute walk to the beach! I hope one day I can be that close to the sea again.

However, my love for the sea got me thinking; what are the actual effects that it has on our minds and our bodies? I always feel a lot calmer when I’m at the beach. Being in the fresh air and the breeze with the sound of the waves always makes my worries seem far away. But why is it that it happens, and are there any other benefits it has on our bodies? I decided to do some research and compile it in a blog post to show you why you should take the time to visit the seaside if you can!

The power of the colour blue

As blue is my favourite colour, it’s no wonder I’m drawn to the beach! Though in the UK the sea and the sky is usually more grey, the colour blue has always been associated with calm and quiet. Marine biologist Wallace Nichols has written all about the “blue mind” and how as humans we are drawn to that colour as well as water in general. Looking at the horizon and the open space instantly gives us that sense of tranquility. We are usually surrounded by an urban environment so that change in colour improves our mood. A study was actually carried out at the University of Exeter where people were shown photos of different environments. The people liked the pictures with both greenery and water the most, as well as preferring the urban photos with images of water features like fountains.

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The sound of the sea

White noise is something that can help a lot of people feel calmer, and the sound of waves acts as this away from the hustle and bustle of life. It acts like meditation, listening to that constant but rhythmic sound which affects our brain patterns, causing us to feel more relaxed. It also helps our brain produce serotonin and dopamine. Our brain can tell that it’s a non-threatening sound unlike an abrupt noise such as an alarm, so our bodies relax and many people can actually fall asleep to these sounds. It’s not just waves but the sound of rain, or even being in the shower provides us with “blue noise”. This is why we often have ideas in the shower because our mind can change to the default mode network, which is when our brain goes into a wakeful rest and allows for daydreaming. So the next time you’re feeling stuck creatively, why not take a trip to the beach or anywhere with a body of water such as a lake or river, and if not a shower can be just as good.

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Thalassotherapy

Although the sea in the UK is like stepping into Arctic waters, thalassotherapy is the use of seawater as a type of therapy. Though it hasn’t been scientifically proven, the traces of things like magnesium and calcium are said to be absorbed through the skin. A lot of people will visit thalassotherapy centres to have seaweed wraps and bathe in saltwater spas. You may not believe that this effective and would never pay to have it done, but the feeling that I described in my introduction of being in the fresh air surrounded by the water and sand is a form of thalassotherapy in itself. Centuries ago it wasn’t uncommon for a doctor to prescribe a visit to the seaside as a health cure, and my next point may show why that was.

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Sun, sea, and fresh air

Typically in the UK, everyone flocks to the beach when the sun is shining and the temperature has risen. Of course we need to be aware of the sun’s rays and wear suncream, but the sun allows us to produce vitamin D, which in turn is beneficial for absorbing calcium, and endorphins. As mentioned before, the sea has various traces like magnesium which hydrates our skin and the salt can heal wounds. Not only does it help our body however, but the salt can also sustain serotonin levels. The sea air then contains negative ions which are found in nature, also helping our serotonin levels. Negative ions can be found in areas like cities or offices, and the lack of fresh air can give us headaches or make us feel ill, so getting out to the beach or anywhere in nature is essential.

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Exercise

The beach promotes a lot of exercise as there are plenty of activities which take place there. Swimming, surfing, playing cricket, throwing a frisbee, even just taking a walk. The beach is so wide and open that there is lots of space to do what you please. You may also prefer the environment of being out in the open with the sea as a backdrop instead of being at the gym or going for a run around your town. I’ve even seen people cycling across the beach. No matter what exercise you like best, for a change of scenery you could do it by the sea so you’re still getting your exercise with a twist.

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From this, it is clear to see that being by the sea and water, or out in nature generally, has both its positive effects on the mind and the body. It was interesting to see exactly why I got the relaxed feeling that I have when I go for a walk on the beach, as well as seeing the other effects. Hopefully this will show you why its good to get out to seaside and if that’s not possible for you, try finding local lakes and rivers or even just a hike outdoors so that you can reap the benefits. Let me know down in the comments whether you’ve noticed a positive effect from being near the sea and thank you for reading!

If you’d like to know more, here are some of the sites I used for my research:

 

Books

7 of my Favourite Book Quotes

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I’ve been reading since I was physically able to, however it wasn’t until I got older that I really appreciated the power of words. When I was younger, it was the story and its characters that I would scour over, losing myself in that world. This still happens, but there are now moments where I read a sentence and think ‘wow!’ This may be down to having to studying writing in school and university, but I love reading a line that just hits me. It also inspires me to keep writing and improve so that one day people will feel the same way about my own work!

That’s why I thought I would do a post on my favourite book quotes; we all feel drawn to quotes for different reasons. They can be relatable, uplifting, deep, funny, emotional. No matter what, we can all admire talented writing. This is a way for me to show appreciation for the power of words and share that with you, perhaps even finding your new favourite quote. There are many more from the same books I could include but I wanted to stick to different books for this post!

Lord of the Rings

Even the smallest person can change the course of history.

I love this quote because although it can quite literally mean the smallest person in terms of being a hobbit, it shows that everyone is important and has worth. It’s empowering; you don’t have to be famous or rich to make a difference in the world, no matter who you are, you can achieve great things!

Even the smallest person can change the course of history

Game of Thrones

Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you.

Everyone struggles with accepting their flaws and worrying about not being perfect. I like that this quote doesn’t tell you to disregard your weaknesses, but instead craft them into your identity. If you take these weaknesses and accept them as a part of who you are, then they can’t be used as an insult against you because you no longer fear them or view them as negative.

Never forget what you are, for surely the world will not. Make it your strength. Then it can never be your weakness. Armour yourself in it, and it will never be used to hurt you..png

Harry Potter

We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.

This quote makes me want to sob a little because Sirius, but it’s one of my many favourites from the Harry Potter series. Similar to the previous quote, I see it as an exploration of identity and imperfection. No one is outright good or bad, the world isn’t black or white. Everyone makes mistakes. However the choices we make show our personality best and reveal the person we truly are.

We've all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That's who we really are..png

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

And if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn’t really change the fact that you have what you have.

Though there are a lot of the typical The Perks of Being a Wallflower quotes, the kind of ones spread all over Tumblr, that I like, I chose this one as it’s something that annoys me a lot. I hate that some people don’t think you are eligible to be suffering or upset because you’re not starving and have a roof over your head. It’s not always your circumstances that cause you to be upset and it shouldn’t be that you have to be dying or poor for people to acknowledge your hurt. Your emotions don’t change just because you know there are people who are homeless or have no running water, you can have a mental illness even if you have all the things money can buy.

And if somebody else has it much worse, that doesn't really change the fact that you have what you have.

A Monster Calls

Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that makes those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both.

This book isn’t short of its emotional quotes and deep truths, but I like this one in particular because it is such a harsh truth. We often have an inner conflict where we want to push any problems deep down and pretend that everything is okay, yet this isn’t good for us either. We sometimes need to hear things like that so that we can come to terms with it.

Your mind will believe comforting lies while also knowing the painful truths that makes those lies necessary. And your mind will punish you for believing both..png

The Hobbit

Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick.

I think this sums up the whole story of The Hobbit and Bilbo’s journey from someone content with their uneventful life to someone ready for adventure. It immediately conjures an image in my mind, picturing the vast mountains and hearing the rush of the waterfalls. It inspires a sense of adventure and love for nature, that something Tookish which lives in us all!

Then something Tookish woke up inside him, and he wished to go and see the great mountains, and hear the pine-trees and the waterfalls, and explore the caves, and wear a sword instead of a walking-stick..png

Ready Player One

That was when I realised, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it’s also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real.

I like this message because I think many of us struggle with reality, which is why we turn to escapism. We read books, watch TV and play games, wishing we could live in those worlds or at least shut ourselves off from reality for a couple of hours. However, though life is hard, we can’t hide from it and have to face it. The connections we make and the things we do can bring us happiness among all the struggles, and it’s worth it because it’s real. Though of course reading a book or playing a game can make you happy, we mustn’t forget to enjoy real life too.

That was when I realised, as terrifying and painful as reality can be, it's also the only place where you can find true happiness. Because reality is real..png

I hope you enjoyed this kind of post! I thought it would be nice to do something a little more visual though my graphic skills are pretty mediocre. What are your favourite book quotes? Are there any from the books listed here that you like? Let me know down in the comments and thank you for reading!

 

Blogging, Tags

Vogue Parody – 73 Questions

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I’m sure many of you have seen the infamous Kim Kardashian 73 questions for Vogue, which quickly became a meme goldmine. However for those of you who are unfamiliar, Vogue’s 73 questions is a series where different celebrities are asked quick-fire questions in order to get to know them. Bloggers have now taken inspiration from this idea and turned it into a tag where they answer the same 73 questions and then tag 12 other people to have a go! I was tagged by the lovely Chloe to step up to the challenge! Without further ado, here are my answers to the 73 questions and I hope you learn a little bit about me.

1.What’s your usual Starbuck’s order?

I’m actually not a coffee or tea fan so I’d go with a hot chocolate and a lemon muffin.

2. What does your workstation look like?

Here’s where I wish I could insert a picture of my dream desk but sadly my workstation is simply my laptop on my bed so it’s not very exciting!

3. Favourite food?

Pasta. Bolognese, carbonara, lasagne, I love them all!

4. Favourite author?

I don’t have an all time favourite but I do love Patrick Ness’ work that I’ve read so far.

5. What do you think of open relationships?

Personally I’d never ever want to share my partner with anyone else, but if it works for a couple and they’re both happy then who am I to judge?

6. What is your favourite video game?

This is so tough but I’m going to go with Super Smash Bros; it’s provided me with hours of fun since a young age. (Pikachu main for life)

7. Guilty pleasure treat?

Cake. I could even eat plain sponge cake all day.

8. Favourite movie?

Howl’s Moving Castle.

9. Favourite book?

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

10. Twitter or Instagram?

Twitter. It’s better for news and keeping up to date with everyone.

11. Desktop or laptop?

Laptop.

12. Best advice you’ve ever received?

Probably sharing my writing with others being so valuable; I never would have grown as a writer if I didn’t have the opportunity at university to workshop.

13. What project are you working on right now?

My fantasy novel; my first draft is inching ever closer to being finished and then the editing begins!

14.  Favourite colour?

Blue!

15. Did you get good grades in school?

Yes. The thought of failing terrified me so I worked hard.

16. Dream job?

Author!

17. Play any sports?

No, but I do love swimming and used to do ballet.

18. Do you have a degree?

Yes, a BA (Hons) in Creative Writing!

19. Nationality?

British (Welsh more specifically).

20. What is your favourite kind of blog post?

I love writing reviews the most as I love sharing my thoughts and giving recommendations to my readers, which means I also love reading reviews too so I can find something new to watch/read/play!

21. What do you like to collect?

I don’t really collect anything specific but I do like POP figures and I’m always looking for games to add to my collection.

22. Describe yourself in three words?

Creative, introverted and stubborn.

23. If you were a rapper what would your stage name be?

Chlozza.

24. Who was the last person you DMed?

My boyfriend!

25. What’s on top of your wish list right now?

In general, I want to get my manuscript done, but in terms of materialistic things, I’d love an iPad Pro to get into digital illustration.

26. Sorting house?

Die hard Hufflepuff.

27.  How many tattoos do you have?

None. I was meant to get one for my 18th but just couldn’t decide what. I want to make sure I’m 100% certain of what I want before I get one.

28. What are you most grateful for this year?

Jordan; I’ve had a tough couple of years but he’s always been there to support me particularly recently.

29. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you this month?

This isn’t in June but in the last month as in the last thirty days, starting to write game reviews for Rapid Reviews!

30. What’s the best thing that’s happened to you today?

I’ve started organising my book shelf and it’s becoming more satisfying to look at each day!

31. What’s the best thing ever?

Cats.

32. Favourite season?

Autumn. I love crisp Autumn days where the leaves are orange and the sky is clear blue!

33. Favourite holiday?

Probably Christmas as it’s when I get to see all my family. And of course, lots of food!

34. What fictional character do you relate to the most?

Maybe Hermione? I studied hard and didn’t like breaking rules so I was teased a little for being too good at school!

35. Do you like surprises?

No. I really hate being spontaneous and have to know what’s happening otherwise my anxiety is through the roof!

36. What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever had?

Probably going to Florida and visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! It wasn’t told to me as a surprise but I was surprised that we were actually going as I never thought I’d have the opportunity to go.

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37. Which surprise made you cry?

This isn’t exactly a surprise either but Jordan rang me after his teaching interview and I really couldn’t tell from his voice whether he got the job or not, so when he told me he had I burst into tears!

38. What’s the best surprise you’ve given someone else?

For my dad’s 60th we all chipped in to get him an iPod and made him a photo album filled with old photos, and he teared up!

39. Do you like muffins?

Yes, they’re amazing!

40. Do you cook often?

Not really, but I do make a good bolognese that I’m proud to say Jordan likes despite never being a big fan!

41. What’s your favourite dessert?

Lemon cheesecake.

42. Is there a dessert you don’t like?

Anything with banana in it as I hate bananas!

43. Cake or pie?

Cake!

44. What’s your least favourite food?

Mashed potatoes. I was scarred for life as a child and now I don’t actually like any form of potato except thin fries.

45. What’s your favourite condiment?

Tomato ketchup.

46. It’s 4am on a random Saturday. What are you eating?

Probably biscuits like Digestives or Hob Nobs.

47. If you could teach a college class, what would it be called?

How to write a novel without going insane.

48. Best animated film?

The Lion King!

49. What has a guy said or done to impress you?

Jordan bought me an Xbox for our first Christmas together and I was shocked he’d get that as a first gift! Good thing we’re still together eight years later as he might have regretted it haha!

50. Best thing to do on a first date?

Cinema and food so if things are awkward you have the film to talk about as a conversation starter!

51. Worst thing to do on a first date?

Sit in silence and not try to start a conversation.

52. What’s the best pick up line?

I literally can’t think of anything so maybe they should just buy me kittens and I’d be happy?

53. Best comic book character?

I actually don’t like Marvel or anything like that (please don’t attack me) so none of them.

54. Name three things which can always be found in your purse.

Chewing gum, my credit card and used train tickets.

55. Favourite drink?

Summer fruits squash.

56. If you could play a historical character in a movie who would it be?

This is a really tough one, the only person that comes to mind is Mary Queen of Scots because I’m ginger haha.

57. Kittens or puppies?

Kittens!

58. Favourite sushi roll?

I don’t like fish so none!

59. What lipstick do you use?

I literally own one red lipstick and I can’t even remember what brand it is…

60. What foundation do you use?

I’m currently using Rimmel’s Lasting Finish foundation but once it runs out I’m moving on to buying something cruelty free!

61. Blow dry or air dry?

My hair doesn’t dry properly unless I blow dry it as I have so much hair, otherwise I’m shivering for hours, so blow dry.

62. Who is your fashion icon?

I’m not the most fashion conscious person so no one, I just wear whatever I feel comfortable in.

63. Favourite Disney character?

Probably Mulan or Simba.

64. What are you doing tomorrow?

Sorting out my room and finishing off this post!

65. Movie you laughed the hardest through?

Probably 21 Jump Street when I saw it for the first time!

66. Movie that made you cry?

There are too many to count; The Fault in our Stars, Coco, How To Train Your Dragon 2 just to name a few.

67. If you could sing a duet with anybody, who would you choose?

I can’t sing at all so it would be a disaster, but I’d go with Dave Grohl because I know the words to the majority of Foo Fighters’ songs.

68. If your life was a song what would the title be?

Winging It.

69. What’s your favourite animal?

Cheetahs, or cats in general!

70. Favourite illustrator?

Quentin Blake.

71. Person you’d like to have coffee with?

Dave Grohl.

72. What country would you like to visit?

Iceland!

73. Best way to decompress?

Take a walk on the beach!

Thank you if you’ve managed to stick around through all those questions! My nominees are:

1. Emily

2. Millie

3. Fran

4. Shannen

5. Claire

6. Jess

7. Amy

8. Chloe

9. Geraldine

10. Kelly

I know that’s only ten but I wasn’t sure who had done it already. Please don’t feel obligated to do it if you don’t want to! Go check out all their blogs and I hope you enjoyed learning a bit about me!

All gifs from Giphy.com and pictures are my own.

 

 

 

 

 

Film

My Top Ten Netflix Shows

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I never used to be one for watching lots of TV shows; sure, I had ones that I was obsessed with like Doctor Who and Game of Thrones, but I’d wait eagerly for them each year with nothing much to watch in between. Though there are a lot of great shows on terrestrial television, I’ve just never liked sitting down every night flicking through TV channels. I spent most of my spare time watching YouTube instead.

It wasn’t until my boyfriend got a Netflix account a couple of years ago which I took advantage of (sorry, Jordan!) that I really started getting into watching shows, spending a lot of my time going through everything Netflix had to offer. Though I was a bit behind everyone else, I’ve really enjoyed catching up on all the great shows everyone had been talking about, most of them which Jordan and I watched together. I’ve exhausted all the ones I want to watch now, so I thought I’d share with you my top ten Netflix shows in the hopes that you can find something new to watch!

Ozark

I absolutely loved this show but I’ve yet to find many people who have actually seen it, which is a shame because it’s so good! It’s a crime drama in which Jason Bateman plays Marty Byrde, who must pay off a debt to a Mexican drug lord by money laundering, relocating his family to the holiday resort of the Ozarks. When Jordan suggested watching this I was really skeptical as it did not seem like my thing at all. However it is actually really intense and exciting, waiting to see how on earth the Byrde family are going to be able to pay off thousands of dollars while avoiding the cartel and the dodgy characters of the Ozarks. The show has a lot of focus on human behaviour and is very character driven which I loved. The first episode is a little slow as it sets things up but please don’t let this put you off. I’m eagerly awaiting the next season!

Making a Murderer

I watched this probably about a year after everyone else and had heard good things, but didn’t really know the details. The documentary follows Steven Avery, who was exonerated after spending almost twenty years in prison for a crime he did not commit. However it wasn’t long until he was accused of murdering local photographer Teresa Halbach, and convicted of the crime. He is still behind bars today but has never stopped saying that he is innocent. The show explores whether the evidence was planted by police or not as Avery is not a liked man, the second season tracking his lawyer Kathleen Zellner and her quest to prove his innocence. I’m personally on the fence about it all but it’s crazy to me that we may never know what actually happened, the person who killed Teresa holding back this dark secret. I follow Kathleen on Twitter and it’s interesting to see that the story is still unfolding and she’ll do anything to get a retrial. This is the show which really got me intrigued by crime documentaries and I’ve since watched a lot of them on Netflix.

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Photo by Charles 🇵🇭 on Unsplash

Black Mirror

I currently have one episode left of the latest season so no spoilers! This show was originally made by the BBC and the first time I watched an episode was in an English lesson at school. Each episode is a new story but they all have one thing in common; they explore the human race’s relationship with technology. It’s all about our dependence to live with our electronics and how the future of technology could look like. Though it may seem innovative and exciting, it rarely ends happily and something always goes wrong. The show is so dark and bizarre that I’ve never watched a series quite like it, yet I’m always excited for when a new season comes out. You really need to watch it for yourself to see what I mean.

Our Planet

I wrote about this in a post here, so I won’t go into lots of detail again, but it really is a must watch. Both visually beautiful and heartbreaking, we get to see all parts of nature from the mountains to the deep ocean. I’ve always loved David Attenborough’s documentaries so I was so happy to see that this one was on Netflix for the whole world to see. It’s such an important show that will make you think twice about how you treat the planet.

The Umbrella Academy

After watching all the shows we wanted to see, Jordan and I decided to give this a go. I’m always cautious about watching a show everyone has hyped up but surprisingly I thoroughly enjoyed this and can’t wait for the next season! Based on the comics by Gerard Way, the show follows the children adopted by a billionaire who creates the Umbrella Academy, each who have their own power suitable to help save the world. The children grow apart as they get older but reunite once their ‘father’ dies, having to discover the cause of his death while also faced with the knowledge that the world is going to end. I loved all the characters in this show, my favourite being Klaus, and the show is filled with shocking moments, humour and tear-jerking scenes. I’ve never seen a show quite like it and would strongly recommend it if you’re looking for something unique to watch!

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Photo by Jens Kreuter on Unsplash

Atypical

This was a show I stumbled upon when I couldn’t find anything to watch and I’m so glad I chose to watch it. It’s about Sam, a teenager with autism ready to find love. However his mother struggles to stop being the over protective mother she’s always had to be, which causes tension between the family as his father works to understand him better and his sister has struggles of her own at school. There has been some controversy around the show’s portrayal of autism and whether it appeals too much to the stereotypes, but I really loved the show for its characters. I could really feel for both Sam and his sister, Casey, and there is also a sub-plot with the parents which keeps the show interesting. It is set to get another season and I’m really looking forward to it considering where it left off!

Sex Education

I really was not sure what to expect from this show but ended up really enjoying it! Otis’ mother is a sex therapist, so when he hears the struggles of his peers at school, he puts his knowledge to use and becomes the school’s very own sex therapist alongside the help of Maeve. However, he also has to come to terms with his own problems. Though the show is set in this weird place where they all wear their own clothes despite it being a British school, as well as looking like they came straight out of the nineties, I quite enjoyed this aesthetic. It was nice to see a series set in my own country and capture the British school vibe. Though it’s not short of its funny moments, there’s also a lot of tension between the characters and I’m eager to see where the story goes in the next season.

Altered Carbon

This cyberpunk show is set centuries into the future where death is no longer permanent, due to the new technology of being able to switch between human bodies known as sleeves. Takeshi Kovacs has been sealed away for hundreds of years until he is offered the opportunity to live by millionaire, Bancroft, under one condition; that Kovacs solves Bancroft’s own murder. This show is full of thrilling action sequences and is visually so pleasing. It’s definitely the show for you if you’re into dystopian fiction or sci-fi! The world is so exciting to explore and the murder mystery aspect just adds to the tension of the show. There’s another season due to come out and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

The Good Place

Despite not being a fan of American comedies, I decided to give this show a go when looking for something to watch and I surprisingly enjoyed it! Eleanor finds herself in the Good Place, the afterlife where good people go when they die as opposed to the Bad Place. She soon learns that she’s there by mistake and must keep it secret, exploring what being good really means. I’m not going to spoil anything but there are many twists and turns which keep the storyline going, with a colourful cast of characters who I love! Sometimes it can be a little cheesy but overall I like the humour and there’s plenty of drama thrown in too. The show is actually ending after its next season but I think it’s the right time to end it, otherwise the plot would be a little too forced and dragged on. The episodes are short too so it’s nice to watch for a laugh when you have a little spare time.

After Life

This show was raved about so much that Jordan and I chose to watch it, and we whizzed through the episodes quite quickly as we liked it so much! After the death of his wife Lisa, Tony rejects the friendly man he once was and after contemplating suicide, decides to say and do whatever he likes as a way of punishing the world around him. His dog is one of the only things that holds him back from ending his life, though his friends and family try their best to convince him life is worth living. It was refreshing and different to see a show tackle grief and mental health through dark humour, so although the show was sad there was lots of comedy too. It says a lot as well that many people who dislike Ricky Gervais thoroughly enjoyed the show and I think it’s thought provoking for everyone. Like Sex Education too, I really enjoy the British aspect of it and it gives a sense as to what we’re like!

 

There we have it, those are my top ten Netflix shows! It’s quite difficult to cut it down when I’ve seen so many but there are a nice selection of different genres here. Are any of these shows your favourite or are there any you would add to the list? Let me know down in the comments, I hope you find a new show to watch and thank you for reading!

Books, Reviews

A Review of The Hate U Give

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The Hate U Give

By Angie Thomas

Genre: YA Fiction

The Hate U Give was one of the books on my to be read list and for my birthday I received it in the post from my brother! I was really keen to get it read before I watched the film so I started reading it as soon as I finished Good Omens. The only thing I knew about the book was that is was about the Black Lives Matter movement; as I was looking to get into books outside of my usual like fantasy and dystopian books, as well as it being about a very important issue, it was the perfect choice.

The story follows Starr, who lives in a poor neighbourhood where shooting and drugs is the norm. Her posh private school is a completely different world in the white area of the city, where she tries her best not to appear “ghetto.” When she witnesses a cop shoot her best friend, Khalil, those worlds become intertwined as she must speak up about the murder of her unarmed friend and earn him justice. However, her words could land her in danger.

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I loved everything about this book but to start with, the characters were so clearly developed and I could visualise each one. Starr was such a good main character to spend time with and seeing things from her point of view I was instantly attached to her. Her personality is shown through dialectal speech and informal writing that Angie Thomas uses, and it felt so raw and real experiencing her emotions alongside her. I could perfectly imagine each person’s voice in the dialogue, whether it be from her white friends at school who are typical American teenagers, or the gang members that Starr runs into. I liked the choice of her as a protagonist as she’s still only a young girl battling with the emotions of witnessing a death and having to relive it each time she relays the story.

I’ve seen it happen over and over again: a black person gets killed just for being black, and all hell breaks loose. I’ve Tweeted RIP hashtags, reblogged pictures on Tumblr, and signed every petition out there. I always said that if I saw it happen to somebody, I would have the loudest voice, making sure the world knew what went down.
Now I am that person, and I’m too afraid to speak.

The plot itself was engaging and full of tension. Being the only witness to Khalil’s murder, Starr goes from speaking to the police to having to testify in court, which leads to protests calling for justice. Starr’s neighbourhood is dangerous as it is, but it’s heightened as they are riled by the death of Khalil. As well as the very real danger of shootings, we also have some tension as Starr tries to hide it from her friends at school and her boyfriend, Chris. Starr questions whether her and Chris are right for each other because he is white which her father disapproves of. These subplots made the story even more realistic and opened me up to a world I don’t know about.

That’s the thing that stood out most to me about this book. Of course, the characters aren’t real and the story isn’t real. However, it may as well be because the things that happen aren’t fictional. For some, that is what their world is like. Without being in that position, you’re never going to be able to understand what it’s like. But this book helps you to, and puts you in the shoes of someone who is. I am not black and my town is predominantly white, so I’ve never had to experience that struggle. By writing this book, Angie Thomas has brought to light the hardships of living in a neighbourhood like this, bringing up the important issues of police brutality against black people as well as racism in general. Just as the story tracks Starr learning to use her voice, she is a voice to the readers too.

What’s the point of having a voice if you’re gonna be silent in those moments you shouldn’t be?

I think it’s really important for everyone to read this or anything similar. I think racism can be a taboo subject in a way as people are afraid to write about it, therefore I haven’t actually read many books that cover it. There’s more out there now, but growing up I didn’t have anything like the books that are available today. I’m glad there are lots of YA books out there for young people to read all about topics like racism, sexuality and sexism.

I honestly can’t find a fault in this book; if I really want to be nit picky some lines I found a little cringey such as talking about people doing the nae nae and twerking, but as this is through the eyes of a sixteen year old I could forgive that! It didn’t take away from the story, only reminding me of Starr’s age and her environment.

The other talk was about what to do if a cop stopped me.

Momma fussed and told Daddy I was too young for that. He argued that I wasn’t too young to get arrested or shot.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book to anyone. It’s raw and carries a message that you don’t often see, so it’s incredibly eye opening. It was a great change from the usual books that I read, which is why I’m happy to give this book a 5 out of 5 stars! I’m so glad that I’ve read this and I’m looking forward to seeing the film adaptation.

Have any of you read this book? If so, what did you think? Let me know down in the comments and thank you for reading!

 

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Lifestyle

4 Things to Consider When Choosing A University

Copy of Work Space

Recently, I wrote an article for Canis Major Tutors about my time at Bath Spa University. If you know anyone who is a prospective student or in particular looking to go to Bath Spa, perhaps consider sharing it with them! However, it got me thinking about how I came to choose Bath Spa as my first choice university.

That’s why I’ve decided for today’s post to be about the things you have to consider when you’re making your choices. It can be such a stressful time and you may worry about whether you’ve made the right decision, but these tips can help alleviate the stress and cement in your mind that you’ve made the correct choice.

How far away from home is it?

When I was first looking at universities, I had my heart set on Falmouth. The beach is my happy place so being at a university set right on the coast was a dream. However it was around a four hour drive from home to Falmouth when I visited there for my open day, and this would have been a seven hour train journey. The university itself was beautiful and being by the beach was ideal for me, but the thought of being that far away from friends and family made me anxious. I’m not someone who gets that home sick, but moving so far away when it was my first time leaving home was too much of a leap. I’m not the biggest fan of long journeys either, not to mention the price of train tickets.

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For some, you may not care about the distance and be excited to take that jump into independence. However it’s definitely an important thing to consider. Adding onto this, I also didn’t want to be far away from Jordan who was studying in Exeter. Both Bath and Falmouth were around the same distance so it wasn’t too much of an issue. Of course, you shouldn’t let a long distance relationship hinder you from your dream university, but for me it was a priority as I wanted to make it work. Even being within a two hour train journey and seeing each other once a month was hard enough, so I think I would have been miserable being any further! This may be something that’s important to you too and affects your university choice.

Do you like being in the city?

I’m from a small town so the thought of living in a city was daunting, which is why Bath Spa and Falmouth were my top choices. As mentioned in my article, my campus was in the middle of the countryside. Once I’d visited on my open day, I knew it was where I wanted to go, which is why you should make good use of open days! You were surrounded by fields and trees, with a chance to encounter animals such as deer and badgers. However it was also within a bus ride to the city; Bath is a beautiful city with plenty to do, but it can be hectic, so I was grateful to have it close and have my campus in the solace of the countryside.

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You may be similar to me, so take a good look at where the campus is set and if possible go there on an open day to get an experience of what it’s like. Some cities are busier than others, so you may be happy with a smaller city but find somewhere like London for example completely overwhelming. Others feel right at home in the bustle of the city. It all depends on the person you are, and visiting the university will help you decide whether you can see yourself living there or not.

How is the course taught?

Though universities offer the same courses, the way that they are taught can differ. Some will have more contact time than others so it depends on how you work best. As I did creative writing, our contact time wasn’t a lot because writing depends on working independently most of the time. However if you’re someone who struggles to motivate yourself, you might want to choose a university which offers a lot of contact hours. Alternatively, you may want to take a course which allows you to get on with work by yourself.

The courses may also teach different aspects or have a different layout across the three years. Some universities may offer particular modules that you can’t do anywhere else. With each university you take a look at, make sure to research what the course is like and compare them. There might be something that catches your eye and you wouldn’t want to miss out.

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It’s important to note here too that I was considering doing illustration alongside creative writing, however this wasn’t something that Bath Spa or many universities did. I think it would have been to much work for me and I’m happy that I chose Bath Spa, but this may be something that affects your decision or limits your choice. If you end up in this situation you may have to prioritise university over course, or vice versa, so think about what is most important to you.

What is the general feel of the university?

To me, all universities have a certain vibe about them. At Bath Spa, because they do so many creative courses, it was full of creative people and I felt right at home with like-minded individuals. It is very accepting, with people of all race, gender, sexuality and background, so there is that diversity. However when I visited Exeter I felt completely out of place; no shade to Jordan or anyone else who went/goes there, but a lot of people there were very intelligent and they knew it, or came from affluent backgrounds. I would feel very intimidated if I studied there! I think it all depends on the type of courses it offers or if it’s a Russell Group university. Some universities will do more creative courses, and some more academic. This then affects the type of people who go there.

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Once again, going on an open day there will help you gauge the feel of the university and whether you fit in there. You can see the type of people who go there or who are looking to go there. You can also see from the campus what this vibe is; Bath Spa didn’t have huge lecture halls but simple classrooms so it was more laid back, as well as having less students and therefore not being as busy. However other universities have grand buildings with thousands upon thousands of students. Sitting in lecture halls and walking across campus, think to yourself ‘can I see myself studying here?’

 

I hope this can be helpful to anyone looking at universities. I think the take away from this is to go to open days! If that isn’t your thing, a lot of universities do online open days now which are just as good. The main thing is that you do a lot of research to ensure you know everything you need to. Let me know down in the comments if you have any tips and thank you for reading!