Monday, 22 June 2015

The Reading List #28

It’s been a while, but this title can mean only one thing: it’s book time again. Here’s the latest wonderfully random selection I’ve been getting through…

The Snow Child, Eowyn Ivey

In 1920s Alaska, Jack and Mabel are looking for a new start, but still haunted by the baby they lost ten years before. When a little girl appears on their land, they begin to question who she is, and whether they have room in their hearts to form new relationships.

This is a beautiful novel that reads like a fairytale. The concept of grief was explored in a very sensitive fashion, and I enjoyed being left with such an ambiguous ending.

I Am Pilgrim, Terry Hayes

This is an epic. There’s a murder in a Manhattan hotel. There’s a beheading in Saudi Arabia. And the list goes on, with one figure seeming to link them all.

Pilgrim is an intriguing character – you know both so much and so little about him. It’s a complex novel, with a lot of threads, and therefore takes some concentration, but Hayes knows exactly what he’s doing and never lets an element of the plot drift off into nothingness. This is a novel where I totally understand the ‘hype’ and I was really impressed.

The Shock of the Fall, Nathan Filer

After the death of his brother, this is Matt’s story of struggling with his mental health. And it is absolutely stunning. By far one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, Matt’s voice is so well sustained, and very chilling at times. Complicated family relationships are dealt with in Matt’s unique way, and I couldn’t stop reading.

The story jumps about in time, so you never quite know the full story at any one moment, and the book also plays with presentation. At times, there are single words spaced out across pages, and at other moments the black writing fades to a barely-there grey. These techniques only added to the complexity of Matt’s character, and I was really impressed.

Noughts and Crosses, Malorie Blackman

Callum is a naught, and Sephy is a cross, so how long can they remain friends? I remember reading this book years ago, but my friend Jenny picked it up for the first time recently and I couldn’t resist a trip down memory lane.

A young adult novel, the prose is fairly straightforward, but that takes nothing away from the power of this book. The stark simplicity of the nought/cross distinction makes the events of the novel even more terrible. This novel makes you ask so many questions, and really holds up a mirror to society both now and in years gone by. I enjoyed it as much as, if not more than, the first time I gave it a read.

What’s the last book you borrowed or recommended? Do you often share recommendations with friends and family? 

Sunday, 21 June 2015

Things my dad has taught me...

Today is Father’s Day, and I’m lucky enough to have a dad who I’m incredibly close to and has taught me an awful lot over the past 22 years!

Here’s a round-up of the top five:

1. Friends are important. My dad is probably one of the most sociable people I’ve ever come across, and it’s definitely from him that I’ve learned to give everyone time, and really get to know them. He has so many close friends, some from school, from university, from various jobs, from playing sports… He’s always busy, always socialising, and having such a wide group of friends allows him to enjoy all the different things he loves, with great groups of people.

2. Listening has its place. Fitting in neatly with the friendship theme, my dad often finds himself in a bit of an ‘agony uncle’ position. There’s something about his open nature that lets people know they can trust him, and over the years friends have spoken to him for hours on end about all sorts of things, be it their health, family lives, marriages, or work situations. I find it really inspiring that so many people see him as someone they know will lend a sympathetic ear, and they trust him for sound advice.

3. But don’t lose yourself.  Another trait I’ve inherited from my dad is that we ‘invest in people’. That is, if we have a friend, or build a relationship with someone new, we always want to see the best in them. Which is a brilliant thing – but sometimes people don’t deserve the pedestal you put them on. People can take advantage of someone who will forgive again and again, and tell themselves that ‘next time they won’t let me down’.  This one has definitely led to some tears over the years, as I take situations to heart that many people may just let pass them by. But I wouldn’t trade that away, because it’s worth wearing my heart on my sleeve a bit when I look at the real friendships I have around me.

4. There’s always time for a sneaky theatre trip. Dad is a massive theatre fan (and an avid Shakespeare fan, in particular), and so growing up I’ve been lucky enough to see an awful lot of incredible shows. From Wicked last week, to Derek Jacobi as King Lear, to a dance production of Othello, to a stunning adaptation of Greek play Orestes, we love our theatre outings, and I’m looking forward to our next chapter of theatre trips once I’ve moved to London!

5. Work hard. Dad set up his company very soon after I was born, so I’ve grown up seeing him progress and grow and keep learning. I’ve seen him secure amazing clients, and feel down when there’s a slow month, and get up at 5am to finish off that report that’s come in at the same time as ten other things. Working for my dad for just over a year after graduating gave me even more of an insight into both the ups and downs of his working life, seeing exactly the work that goes into what he does day-to-day, and the effort that goes into making sure every client is treated in the best possible way. The lessons I learned in that period will always be ones I carry forward.

So there we have it, five lessons from a top, top dad. Barrie, you’re brilliant J

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

State of Limbo

I was in the strangest of moods last night.

I had excess energy in my body that I could almost feel waiting in my limbs. Like a physical presence, making me feel like I needed to do something big to get it out.

I felt on high alert, or on edge, or like I was waiting for something, when nothing was about to come.

It’s a feeling I’ve not felt in a pretty long time, months and months in fact.

And I wanted to write it down as a reminder of progression, of moving forward, and of changing.

Because that feeling was a part of me almost 24 hours a day about 2 years ago. I’ve mentioned my anxiety on here before, but only a mention, as I didn’t (and still don’t) feel in a position where I’m ready to talk about the whole thing. I’m still here only talking about moments.

But let me return to last night. It was a mixed-up bundle of feelings. I’m in a state of limbo. There is so much uncertainty, but it is leading to so much excitement.

I’m looking for a job. I’m looking for somewhere to live. I’m moving to London.

The potential lying ahead is making me beyond excited, yet none of it yet has a fixed date. I can’t plan exact dates, or set anything in concrete because I don’t quite know yet where the walls will be built, exactly how my new foundations will be laid.

And that mixture of anxiety, anticipation and excitement is an interesting concoction.

About 1-2 years ago I didn’t get on public transport. I dreaded dinners out with friends. I went through a period where I ate barely anything, and what I did eat took me ages, and I didn’t eat it ‘properly’. I struggled with not knowing exact times things were happening, and I panicked if plans moved by 20 minutes. It took over, and learning to overcome those feelings has been an incredibly long journey, and one I am still walking.

Last night highlighted another massive turning point in that process. I’d had one of those days where I felt like everything was up in the air, and there were a thousand thoughts of equally high priority on my mind. That energy coursed through my veins, I needed to release those feelings of anticipation and emotion.

And did I panic?


I laughed. I talked about it, and I laughed.

I acknowledged where those feelings were coming from, and I acknowledged that  I knew how to deal with them.

To an extent, some of these feelings will always be with me, and I know now that that’s ok. I have learned so much about myself, and I’m at a point where I’m ready to accept so many new challenges in full knowledge that I can meet them, enjoy them, and do things that the ‘me’ of a year or so ago, or even the younger version of me, could never have imagined were even possibilities.

And I’m excited.

Monday, 1 June 2015


‘You’re so brave’

'Now's the time to do it!'

‘That’s so exciting’

‘Do you know what you’re going to do?’

These four phrases have been repeated at me on a loop for the past few weeks.  I guess you could say I’ve made a couple of ‘BIG DECISIONS’.

I’ve left my job, and I’m moving to London.

 I don’t know where I’ll live yet. And I don’t have a job yet. Those things are TBC. They’re works in progress. Determining their answers is the purpose of the next couple of weeks.

I’ve never really put myself in a position before where I don’t know precisely what is coming next. I take a lot of comfort from having plans, from having dates in the diary and concrete goals I know I can achieve.

I didn’t take a gap year. I’ve not been travelling. I feel like I’ve always followed a very safe route, and done what I expected myself to do.

But recently I’ve realised those goals were goals I created a few years ago, and actually those goals have changed.  My overall aims and goals are the same, but I've learned that the path to get there is flexible.

I’m ready to be somewhere totally new, and start the next chapter.

So this is Day One. Satisfyingly, it’s also a new week, and a new month, and I’ve woken up in a mood where I feel  like anything is possible.

Image from

Any tips on the Big City will be much appreciated!

Happy Monday, Happy June, and have a wonderful day J

Sunday, 29 March 2015


I’ve always been afraid of change.

Maybe fear isn’t the right way to describe it, but I’ve been resistant to change.

Reluctant to upset the balance of things.

Nervous to veer away from what’s comfortable, what’s familiar, what’s secure.

But things have been changing. They’ve been changing pretty rapidly and I think I’m learning to go along with it.

In the space of a few months, I’ve started a new job and moved house – just a couple of tiny changes there!

And I’ve been allowing myself to be a bit picky, and choose to spend time with and talk to the people who matter most.

And do the things I really enjoy, not just the things expected of me, because they’re ‘what I’ve always done’.

Will I ever be the most impulsive person in the world, or not be a stickler for planning, or throw all caution to the wind and be completely reckless? No. But what I will do is say ‘yes’.

Yes to exploring.

Yes to adventuring.

Yes to wondering, and to wandering.

Yes to the changes which are changes for the better.

Because I’ve been doing that for a good few months now, and I’m happier than I’ve been in a long, long time.

I’m back on the blogging path as of this weekend, and I hope you all have a happy Sunday J

Image: Pinterest - KateElise 

Monday, 5 January 2015

The Reading List #27

I’m fully back into the routine of racing through books, so here’s the latest reading round-up…

Enigma, Robert Harris

March 1943. Bletchley Park. Codebreaker Tom Jericho is dealing with the fact that the Germans have suddenly changed their coding, when his girlfriend Clair disappears.

This was a good thriller, and well-researched when it came to interesting details about coding and the pattern of the war. Although a brilliant novel, for me it didn’t match up to Harris’ other novels, simply because I didn’t feel particularly strongly towards the characters.

Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

Thirteen year-old Theo survives a catastrophe and is taken in by wealthy friends. Throughout the course of the novel, he clings to a small painting that reminds him of his mother, and draws him into the criminal underworld.

I was really looking forward to this one, after it received so much acclaim when it was first released. Yes, it was well-written, and yes the story was clever, but I found it hard work to get through simply because I felt nothing towards any of the characters. I didn’t like or dislike, or care for or turn against anyone in particular, which made it hard to carry on picking up the book and turn more pages. The one thing I will say though is that the last chapter is absolutely stunning. It talks about the painting, but also much wider themes, and that section just blew me away.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler

I can’t say much about the plot of this one, as it has a huge twist, but at its most basic level it is about families, and about growing up.

The big twist of this novel made it so unusual, and really made you re-think what you had already read. By far my favourite thing about the book is the way it deals with the concept of time and story-telling. Following her father’s instructions of starting stories at the middle, theoretically in order to stop the young narrator from speaking too much, the voice throws up in the air the whole notion of telling a story chronologically. By re-ordering time and events, the novel completely alters your perceptions again and again, and I really enjoyed it.

Six Weeks to OMG, Venice A Fulton

I picked this up a long time ago purely to have a look, because it stirred up a lot of controversy when first released, due to its subtitle: ‘how to get skinnier than all your friends’. I will give Fulton credit for some parts of the book – some food and dieting myths are explained, there are levels to choose from according to the results you want to achieve, and his plan works in stages. The overall tone is encouraging, with a ‘love yourself’ message, and a lot of stages explained with scientific fact.

However, every time I was prepared to give the book the benefit of the doubt, it took a food tip one step too far. There were repeated shock tactics, parts were quite intense in terms of describing what certain lifestyles can do to your health, and some of the advice was quite extreme. What worried me about the book was that so much of it seemed so reasonable and explained, that I’m sure it would be incredibly easy for people to take that next step, and bow to the more extreme steps in Fulton’s methods.

So there’s another mixed bag, and I’d be really interested to hear what you thought of some of these, as they’ve all been discussed quite widely.

Any recommendations for my next reads?

Sunday, 4 January 2015

14 Lessons of 2014

Those that know me know that 2014 was a year of huge changes for me. A lot can change in a year, and last year, for me, that was more true than ever.

And so, as is the trend at this time of year, I've been reflecting back on what 2014 has taught me, as I get ready to try and make 2015 even better.

Here are my 14 biggest lessons learned in 2014:

1. You can do a lot more than you thought you were capable of if you set your mind to it

2. You can be brave

3. Friends will continue to surprise you, both in good ways and in bad

4. You can move from a point where anxiety was stopping you doing everything, to a point where it's a part of your personality you're learning, slowly, to control

5. You really do feel better where you're putting good food into your body. So get on with it

6. Ditto exercise. Get a wriggle on

7. Continue talking to anyone and everyone. Everybody in this world has
something to teach you

8. Sometimes taking the scariest steps can pay you back with the biggest rewards

9. Never underestimate the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people

10. Nobody is perfect

11. Your family may be bonkers, but you wouldn't have achieved half of what you have without them

12. The best advice can come from the most unlikely of sources

13. A quick text or phone call could mean more to that other person than you ever realised

14. You're only 22. Stop giving yourself a hard time, or questioning why you don't have everything figured out

And there we have it, lessons I will be taking forwards with me into the coming year.

This year's resolution is taken from the words of blogger Laura Jane Williams at Superlatively Rude - one of my favourite blog discoveries of 2014 - and is:

Do more of what makes you happy, and less of what doesn't

And with that, I hope you all have a fantastic Monday.... I'm off for Day One of my new job!
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