31 December 2014

2015 Goals


Call me a cliche but a new year always makes me want to start afresh; I feel like I can slough of the past year and move forward. I've come up with some goals that I hope 2015 will see me achieve.

  1. Work it all out: Basically my overarching aim of the year (if not my entire life). I have no clue what I want to do with my life. I did a law degree and a Masters in law too but I don't think law as a career is for me. I need to use this coming year to work out where my heart lies (clue: my heart lies in bed, with a good book) and take positive, practical steps to getting there. It's not going to be easy but I hope it will be worth it and by 2016 I will feel more confident with the direction my life's going.
  2. Take better care of myself: Usually my resolutions feature me wanting to lose weight, but this year it goes deeper. I want to move more, eat better, drink more water, develop a good sleep pattern, sort out a skincare routine and get better at moisturing after showering. Looking after myself really does make me feel better physically and mentally so it makes sense to make sure I'm doing it as much as possible.
    My self-confidence has definitely increased in the last year and I want to keep building on it and keep on loving myself like the fab babe I am!
  3. Read more- and more widely: I read 30 books in 2014 which I was really pleased with. In 2015 I want to read as much as possible but I want to be more diverse in the books I'm reading. I don't read much non-fiction so I'd like to change that. I'd also like to read more books by authors I've never read before, authors from all around the world and more authors of colour too.
    You can keep up with what I'm reading and be my friend on Goodreads.
  4. Save: Pretty self-explanatory. I want to add to my admittedly minimal savings and get in the habit of putting a little away as and when I can.
  5. See somewhere new: I try to visit somewhere new at least once each year. As I'm currently doing the London thing, money for jaunts abroad isn't exactly in abundance, so I can't vouch for how far afield I'll go. There are also some places in the UK I've never been that I would love to visit, and hopefully I'll get to cross one of them off my list in the coming year.
  6. Keep it minimal: I sometimes get sucked into shops and end up buying things I don't need. My storage space is already at its limit so I really want to reel in my purchasing and only buy things I need, rather than want or see on offer.
    I generally want to lead a more pared down life and not have so many 'things', so I hope this will be a good start.
  7. Stop. Buying. Red. Lipstick.: For real. I already have an obscene amount of lipstick (78!) and 32 of those are red. 32. I probably don't need to buy another red lipstick for my entire life. While I might not go so far as a lifetime ban, I am NOT going to buy a red lipstick in 2015. 
Hopefully in a year's time I'll look back on this post feeling like I've achieved what I wanted- and with a considerably smaller amount of red lipstick in my possession. Wish me luck!

What are your resolutions for 2015?

29 December 2014

Book Club: The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

‘I’ll tell you what happened because it will be a good way to introduce my brother. His name’s Simon. I think you’re going to like him. I really do. But in a couple of pages he’ll be dead. And he was never the same after that.’

At the beginning of December my luck came in and I won a copy of The Shock of the Fall through the Harper Collins Instagram page. I'd been eyeing it up for ages and was planning to treat myself to a copy after Christmas, having been drawn in by the excellent reviews and ambiguous, intriguing summary on the back.

The Shock of the Fall is narrated by Matthew Homes who, haunted by the death of his elder brother when they were children, suffers with mental illness. Despite the dark themes and difficult subject matter, the novel is so easy to read; it's intriguing and engrossing right from the start. Buoyed along by some absolutely exquisite writing, I raced through it, Matthew guiding me through the tangles of his life and his mind, wrenched from laughter to tears at the turn of a page. (The line 'Of course he was in the flames' rendered me absolutely useless for reasons I'm not quite sure.)

Aside from the writing, the characters in the book are crafted with such pure love and it's impossible not to adore them. My copy of the novel has an interview with Filer and the way in which he talks about his creations is so lovely; it really feels that he adores each of them.
Matthew is one of the most incredible characters I have had the pleasure of meeting and is such a wonderful narrator. I was instantly drawn to him and his voice is so clear and wonderful that it was honestly difficult  to leave him behind in the pages of the book.
Aside from Matthew, all the other characters are so lovingly rendered and the entire family is just a joy to read about. Matthew's parents and Nanny Noo are so full of love and I loved spending time getting to know about each of them.

The novel's conclusion, with the Beavers and Brownies Hut full of memories, was so painfully beautiful that it was difficult to read (and not just because of the tears in my eyes) and turning the final page was bittersweet. I was so sad to say goodbye to Matthew but felt so happy to have been able to meet him.

I recommend The Shock of the Fall without hesitation or reservation. Wonderful characters, beautiful writing and a gripping plot combine to create a perfect novel; my only regret is that I didn't read it sooner.

Have you read The Shock of the Fall? What did you think?

You can buy The Shock of the Fall on the Book Depository here.
This is an affiliate link; I receive a small return on each purchase made through this link.

22 December 2014

Soundtrack to my Life Tag

I first spotted this tag, created by Lily Melrose and Zoe London, in video form but after seeing Sarah's post I decided I wanted to get involved too. I've often thought about starting a music related feature on here but am never sure where to begin, so this could be the start of something beautiful!
It was incredibly difficult to choose just one answer for each question so I definitely cheated...

1. Song you listen to when you're happy? 
Something by Paul Simon! I especially love Obvious Child and You Can Call Me Al. Also Scatman by Scatman John makes me smile. even though it is completely ridiculous.

2. Song you listen to when you're sad? In Every Sunflower by Bell X1

3. What song will you have at your wedding? 

If Pete and I got married we'd probably have to have an Iron and Wine song; he's very important to us both! Lion's Mane would be a great wedding song but Belated Promise Ring is about a Rebekah too and has a line that says 'I think I could never love another girl' so it would pretty apt!
We've also both fallen in love with I'll Be on the Water by Akron/Family and there are some gorgeous lyrics in there so it could be that too!

4. What song do you dance around the house to? 

Anything by Beyonce but especially Single Ladies (of course) and Love on Top.

5. Song you play on your headphones when out and about?
It's usually some Iron and Wine or Laura Marling, especially her album Alas I Cannot Swim.

6. Song you listen to when you're angry?
Something from My Chemical Romance's Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge Album. Probably I'm Not Okay.

7. Song you'd have at your funeral? 
I always used to say it would be Asleep by The Smiths but I think that's too dark, even for a funeral. I love You'll Never Walk Alone by Gerry and the Pacemakers (though I'm not a Liverpool fan!) or Each Coming Night by Iron and Wine.

8. Song that makes you lose your shit at a party?
I love love LOVE all those 90s songs like Baby Got Back and Ice Ice Baby; I know all the words and you better believe I'll be singing them as loud as I can.

9. The last song you listened to? 
Before I started playing the songs on this list it was John C Clarke by Macalias.

10. Your karaoke song? 
Jolene by Dolly Parton or Proud Mary by Tina Turner.

11. What song do you work out/exercise to? 
Rock this Party by Bob Sinclair.

12. Song with the most memories attached? 
Dance Wiv Me by Dizzee Rascal. It came out around the time I turned 18 so I have lots of memories of dancing to it with my best friends before we all went off to uni. It also soundtracked a lot of my 'big nights out' in first year too.

13. Song that makes you cry?
The Trapeze Swinger by Iron and Wine and Coat of Many Colours by Dolly Parton. The music from Up! always gets me too.

14. Song you hate the most? 
Probably the Black and Yellow one that was big a few summers back. I just think it's hideous and the lyrics are so dull and repetitive.

15. Your favourite song of all time?
By far the hardest question! Landslide by Fleetwood Mac is one of the most important songs ever written and I'm not exaggerating. Also Blackbird by The Beatles, Wednesday Morning 3 AM by Simon and Garfunkel and I Wish You Love by Rachel Yamagata.

So there you have the soundtrack to my life. I really enjoyed this tag and it was nice to think of all the songs that are important to me and examine why I love them so much. I'll definitely be on a listening spree for the next while now!

Are any of your answers the same as mine? Let me know if you do this tag; I'd love to see your answers. You can be my friend on Last.fm or follow me on Spotify; I love getting new music recommendations.

9 December 2014

An Alternative Gift Guide: Shopping for Strangers


With Christmas fast approaching, thoughts are turning to buying perfect presents and every other post on my feed at the minute seems to be a beauty lover's gift guide.

There is something about finding that perfect gift for a loved one that is hard to beat, but I thought today I would offer you an alternative guide of sorts that will allow you the opportunity to provide a gift for a stranger but which could enhance their lives, if even for a short while.

Give as You Live: A nice easy one to begin with! I wrote about using Give as You Live last year but it's definitely worth knowing about as it can help all year round. Give as You Live allows you to raise money for your chosen charity when you shop online. You simply sign up, choose your charity and install the toolbar, which will then appear when you visit a participating website. You don't pay any extra and the money is donated from the total you paid to the retailer. Over 3000 retailers are affiliated with Give as You Live, including Amazon, Marks & Spencer, Debenhams and ASOS so if you're doing any online shopping this year I would recommend using this to raise some extra cash for your chosen cause.

Crisis at Christmas: Homelessness is a year-round problem and since 2010 the numbers of homeless people in the UK has increased. Close to 2,500 people slept rough each night last year, but the true figures of homelessness are difficult to quantify due to the hidden nature of the problem. Those who are homeless are often likely to have mental health issues and the average age of death for a homeless person is just 47.
Crisis has been at the forefront of ending homelessness and helping those who are currently on the streets and their Crisis at Christmas campaign is no different. For £21.62 you can reserve a place at a Crisis centre for a homeless person, providing them with three hot meals, access to support and medical assistance, a shower and the opportunity to gain advice and assistance. It really could make all the difference to someone who is sleeping rough and provide them with vital support.
For more information on the Crisis at Christmas campaign or to donate, go here. You can also give a general donation to Crisis here.

The Body Shop: The Body Shop is a bit of a mainstay with Christmas gifts as it is (if you've smelt basically any of their products then you'll know why!) but this year they've teamed up with War Child to provide children in areas of conflict with the chance to attend lessons and gain an education. The Body Shop will donate money from certain gifts to War Child and help send a child to school. You can read more about this project here.
FYI- The Body Shop is also affiliated with Give as You Live so you can do twice the amount of good without even leaving your bed!

Oxfam Unwrapped: Oxfam is a charity dear to my heart, having volunteered there for a year while completing my Masters. Even before I was involved with them, I always bought a couple of their Unwrapped gifts to give to people each year and will definitely do so this year too.
Oxfam Unwrapped gifts begin at £5 and allow you to purchase practical, useful items and services for people in less economically developed countries. There is a range to choose from, from mosquito nets to goats to clean water for an entire school, and each gift will make a real difference to the lives of people across the world, keeping them safe from disease or providing them with the tools to develop their own livelihoods.

Donate to a food bank: The thought that there are people in the UK relying on food banks to feed themselves and their children makes my blood boil. It is an absolute travesty that people have been left so vulnerable and reliant on the kindness of strangers, but that is a rant for another day.
I am so glad that there are people out there who are organising these vital services. There are over 400 food banks being operated by the Trussell Trust alone, with independently-operated food banks thought to double that figure.
Donating to a food bank couldn't be simpler. You can search for your nearest Trussell Trust food bank here and simply take along some non-perishable items which will help prevent those in your community going hungry. Many supermarkets are also taking donations in the run up to Christmas so it's worth keeping an eye out when you're out shopping and slipping a few extra tins into the trolley.
You can also donate cash to the Trussell Trust here.

So there you have it- a few simple ways to do some good this Christmas. This is by no means a definitive list but more of a rough guide to some of the good things that are out there this Christmas trying to improve the lives of others.

Will you be using one of these charitable ideas this Christmas? Please also let me know if there are any causes or events you've found to donate to this year; I 'd love to learn of any more! Let me know what charities are important to you or how you help out- not just at Christmas but all year round!

This post is not sponsored by any of the organisations mentioned and I have not been asked to write this post by anyone. I simply wanted to share some information on charities and events that could do with a helping hand; not just at Christmas but all year round.
I also do not mean to imply that anyone *should* donate to any of these organisations!

18 November 2014

You're the Voice That I Like: Iron & Wine at the Adelphi

In my first year of university, my flatmate and I spent an evening sharing and recommending music. One of the new albums I got that night was Our Endless Numbered Days by Iron & Wine, which I'd never heard of before but was excited to give a listen.

Flash forward 6 years (eek!) and Iron and Wine- real name Sam Beam- is one of my favourite artists ever. His music has become so important to me and more often to not when I'm listening to music it's Iron & Wine coming through the speakers. Heck, I love him and his beautiful lyrics so much I even took my blog name from one of his songs.
 Pete and I are both huge fans and our shared love for him has been a nice part of our relationship, so when tickets for his solo show at the Adelphi Theatre were released we had to snap them up and see him for the third time!

Support came from Jesca Hoop who I'd never listened to before but really enjoyed. She has an absolutely gorgeous voice and a very sweet stage presence and I'll definitely be listening to her in the future.

Then Sam himself took the stage, alone and armed with just his guitar, and asked what we wanted to hear. One keen fan got there before the rest and as a result the show opened with the stunning The Trapeze Swinger, which was a lovely surprise and had me in tears within thirty seconds
I really loved the interactive element of the show, with everyone shouting out their favourite songs, and it seemed that he was genuinely touched by the obvious love we all had for his music.
I shouted for  Lion's Mane and squealed with excitement when he heard me and said 'OK, let's do Lion's Mane then' but unfortunately someone jumped in before he started and he changed his mind. I'll forgive him though!

Halfway through, Jesca Hoop came back on stage and they sang a few songs together, including Belated Promise Ring, which would have been my next request. Their voices were really gorgeous together and it was so lovely to hear some beloved songs with a new touch.

Overall, it was such a great set, largely dictated by the fans but with some new songs and Sam's own choices too, which made it really personal. He's such a good performer, funny and humble and seemed to genuinely enjoy being on stage. It was over all too soon- I could listen to him for hours on end- but I left with a smile on my face, feeling very lucky that I got to see my favourite musician for the third time and already looking forward to the next.

Are you an Iron & Wine fan too? What song would you have requested he play?

1 September 2014

On Screen: Obvious Child

*I will preface this review by saying that I am firmly pro-choice and, although I don't discuss this in much detail in the review, please do be aware before you embark on reading.*

I had heard a little about 'abortion rom-com' Obvious Child and, as I love independent cinema, was really interested in seeing it, especially as it starred Jenny Slate (aka Mona-Lisa 'the wo-o-orst' Sapperstein in  Parks & Recreation) Finding myself at a loose end this weekend, I took myself off to my new local cinema and gave it a watch.

Donna Stern (Slate) is a stand-up comedienne who gets dumped up with by her boyfriend following his affair with one of her friends. Drowning her sorrows, Donna has a one night stand with Max and a few weeks later finds herself pregnant. She decides to have an abortion but her growing feelings for Max and her head-on collision with actual adulthood make things increasingly difficult.

Any film that takes its cue from Paul Simon is going to be a winner in my book, and there is so much else to love about Obvious Child.
Donna is such a brilliant character; as her best friend says, she is unapologetically  herself- she's funny, frank and honest, covering subjects that are generally seen as taboo (and shouldn't be!) with openness and humour. All the relationships with her friends, and especially those with her family, are so realistic and warm and the writing is sharp, fresh and funny.

Many of the reviews for Obvious Child focus on the termination that Donna decides to have, which I think diminishes the film and what it's about in a way, and it's definitely seen it be criticised by people who haven't given the film a chance. 
The fact that she has an abortion isn't a spoiler, and I think that shows that there is so much more to the film than this. Obviously it is a large and very important part of the story, and it is right that it gets attention, especially for the realistic way it portrays abortion- no tragedy, just a woman making a decision that may be difficult but is definitely right for her, and going on to live a happy life regardless. I did like the stark contrast between Donna's experience and that of the past, which shows just how far we have-thankfully- progressed, although there is still so much we need to do to make abortion safe and accessible all across the world.

 However, to solely focus on this singular aspect does a disservice to the characters and other themes the film encompasses. Focusing on the abortion doesn't praise the writing, the humour and the lovely, bittersweet feelings that run throughout the film.
It doesn't highlight the scene where Donna waits outside her boyfriend's house making deals with herself while you can see her heartbreak written across her face, a scene that almost had me in tears right with her. It doesn't highlight the lovely Max and the way he looks at Donna as she dances to the song from which the film takes its title (and which I can't stop listening to.) It doesn't look at the scene where Nellie is rightfully powerfully angry at the way women's bodies and reproductive decisions are legislated by men who will never have to make the same difficult decisions women do.

For me, Obvious Child is as much about making your way through your twenties being scared, skint and caught between facing your responsibilities head on and wanting to run back home and climb in bed with your mum again as it is about Donna's choice to have an abortion.
It's a lovely, open and honest film with a relatable story for everyone who's felt apprehensive about having to grow up and it also brings attention to the reality which women face the world over every single day.

Have you seen Obvious Child? What did you think of it? Are there any other films which tackle abortion-funny or not- that you can recommend?

13 August 2014

Book Club: The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey

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Living 10 minutes walk away from two excellent bookshops is probably what will tip me into poverty now that I live in London. However, if my now weekly perusal of the shelves keeps leading me to gems like this then I'm willing to keep denting my bank balance.

I picked up The Girl With All the Gifts completely blind; I was just looking for a second book so I could take advantage of the buy one get one half price offer. I saw that it had won praise from one of my favourite authors, John Ajvide Lindqvist (incidentally the author of one of only two other zombie novels I've read) and decided just to take the risk.

Melanie is 10 years old and essentially lives in a cell on a base. Each day soldiers come to take her to class, their guns trained on her while they restrain her in a wheelchair. Melanie doesn't understand and thinks they don't like her, but she is happy while she's learning, especially if her favourite teacher, Miss Justineau, is teaching her about Greek myths (the title and the myth of Pandora's box tie up so neatly at the end that I almost wanted to applaud.)

However, by degrees the reality of Melanie and what she might be is revealed both to her and to us and from then on life as Melanie knows it goes into freefall.
I haven't read many zombie novels (this is my third) but even so I can tell that this is something fresh and new. It's not even just a straight zombie horror story; there are elements of redemption and road movies in there that really add a new dimension to the story.

Melanie is such a wonderful incarnation; bright, curious and really so genuine and caring that I couldn't help but love her. Aside from Melanie there are only four core characters and each of them is rendered so wonderfully and in great depth. There are so many layers to each of them but they don't reach cliched levels; even 'evil scientist' Caroline Caldwell has a really interesting back story that almost makes you empathise with her. Almost.
I particularly loved poor Private Gallagher, so desperate to change his lifelong run of bad luck, and reading his potted history of misery made my heart ache for him, especially when coupled with the outcome of his story.

As well as character development, the prose is excellent too.  M.R. Carey has done a fantastic job of keeping the balance between bleak imagery (humans-on-the-turn crying blood, anyone?) gore, terror, action and genuinely beautiful, emotive writing.
In the penultimate chapter, two paragraphs moved me so much that I had to stop reading and give the tears a chance to subside. Some simple half sentences and the half-revealed story behind them rendered me an absolute wreck as I read them.
I really feel that the story would lend itself well to being filmed, but I would worry that it would turn into a standard Hollywood gore-fest and the nuances of character and story would be lost amid splatters of blood, but there are definitely some images that I would love to see transformed on screen.

Despite the grim idea of a world destroyed and the peril of being over run with hungries looming heavy at the forefront, The Girl With All the Gifts is, to me, a book that examines humanity, sacrifice and hope from a unique perspective and it's one that I am so happy I took a chance on and got to experience.

Have you read The Girl With All the Gifts? What zombie novels can you recommend? I'd love to sink my teeth into some more (sorry!)

You can add me on Goodreads here.

1 June 2014

Reasons to be Cheerful #5

I've been finding it a little difficult to keep my spirits up recently; although I'm really enjoying work, the very early starts and ridiculous commute are definitely taking their toll on me of late and I'm basically constantly exhausted at the moment!
However, I always find that these posts focusing on the good bits help cheer me up, so here's hoping it works again!


  1. Back Behind Bars: Most of my weekends are currently spent horizontally, either catching up on my precious sleep or watching TV. That's why I'm ridiculously excited for the prison comedy-drama series Orange is the New Black to return on Friday! I absolutely loved the first season, which looks at life in a women's prison, and after the cliffhanger ending in the final episode I've been waiting intensely for its return. I'm so excited to get back to Litchfield Pen and see what happens to all the characters I've grown to love over the next 13 episodes. Except Pornstache.
  2. Moving Month: It's finally June, which means at the end of the month I'll be moving to live in London properly with my best friend! I'm so excited to live there and experience so many new things in one of the world's most exciting cities. I've even compiled a list of things I want to do so I don't miss out on all the amazing things the city has to offer.
  3. Changing Rooms: As part of moving, I've been busy starting to pack up my things here in my aunt's house and have begun collecting things I'll need for my new flat. I love imagining how my new space is going to look and picking out new duvet covers, kitchen equipment and of course the all-important fairy lights and candles to make my new room cosy and comfortable. Every time I think about settling in to my new space with its balcony and river views, I can't stop myself from smiling- and there's just 20 more early starts to get through before I get there!
What's been putting a smile on your face recently? Are you excited for Orange is the New Black to return too?

18 May 2014

The London Bucket List

Now that I've finally secured a place to live in London, it's time to plan all the things I want to do while I live there. I have no idea how long I'll be in London for so I definitely want to make the most of any time I have there. I've put together a little list of things I want to experience while I know I'll be a London-dweller!

  1. Take a journey on every Tube line
  2. Have a go on the Emirates Air Line
  3. Climb The Monument
  4. Visit St Paul's (and have a cocktail in one of the rooftop bars nearby!)
  5. Cheer on people running the Marathon
  6. See some shows in the West End
     7. Have a curry on Brick Lane
     8. Swim in a lido
     9. Visit Columbia Road Market
    10. Have a Nails Inc manicure
    11. Go on the Eurostar
    12. Visit Rough Trade and take some pictures in the photo booth

    13. Climb Primrose Hill at night
    14. Do some wild swimming at Hampstead Heath
    15. Visit as many of these independent bookshops as possible
    16. Go to a Secret Cinema screening
    17. Visit as many of the museums and galleries as possible
    18. Eat at The Breakfast Club, Patty and Bun, Burger and Lobster... and any other yummy-sounding place we don't get at home!

    19. Visit the South Bank Book Market
    20. See a gig somewhere iconic, like Shepherd's Bush Empire or Hammersmith Apollo
    21. See a film at the Brixton Ritzy and the Queen of Hoxton
    22. Visit Highgate Cemetery
    23. Go to Camden Market
    24. Go on a boat on the Thames


    25. Go to the o2 Arena (which is actually happening in December!)
    26. Go to the Feminist Library
    27. Step over the Greenwich Meridian Line
    28. Go to the Notting Hill Carnival
    29. Cross Abbey Road
    30. See the deer in Richmond Park

There's quite a lot to get stuck into on this list, but I'm excited to get stuck in. I hope to blog my way through my bucket list and see if things live up to my expectations. I know how lucky I am to get the chance to live in one of the world's most vibrant cities and I hope to experience as much of it as possible.

What else can you recommend for me to do in London? Have you done any of the things on my list? Do you have a bucket list for your city?

29 April 2014

In 5 Years Time

If you'd told me way back in 2009 that the long-haired boy who lived in the East Wing of Cardiff's University Hall was going to become one of the most important people in my life, I wouldn't have believed you. Yeah, I thought he was cool and we'd hung out a bit, had a lot in common and could spend hours talking (the night we met we stayed up until 7am talking about dubstep and the Gilmore Girls) but that was it really... Until this very day five years ago when we drank too much cheap vodka at Metro's just couldn't fight it any longer and became 'an item.'

It seems hardly any time since our fourth anniversary rolled around, but a lot has happened since then. I finished my Masters, got my first ever grown up job and have moved to London to live and work. We also went through a rather dramatic transformation when Pete decided it was time for the lovely blonde hair, which had played a role in getting us together, to go and shaved his head. I cried. A lot. I have eventually learned to cope without Hanson-esque locks on my favourite boy though. (Just about. Look at that hair!)

One of the first pictures taken of us together

Our relationship just keeps getting better, with more memories and milestones to celebrate. Last year we had our first holiday together, we saw Iron and Wine together like we did in the first year of our relationship and had a lot of fun roadtrips across England.
We're still doing the long distance thing, but London is much closer than Belfast so it will be much easier to spend time together now, and we can explore London together too. Hopefully in a year or so we will finally be in the same postcode but for now we can still enjoy the time we do get to spend together and make new memories together.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend drinking lots of cheap vodka in a ridiculously hot and sweaty underground club as a way to attract a partner but it worked for me- and I'm so happy it did.

27 March 2014

A Life Update: London Calling

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It's finally happened! Six months after my search began, I finally found someone who temporarily took leave of their senses and offered me a job. I am so happy to have eventually made progress and I've been very lucky to get quite a good job with a rather large company.
London wasn't ever really part of my plan when job hunting; although I love the city and all it has to offer, the fear of living in a tiny hovel and struggling to make ends meet didn't appeal quite so much. However, my best friend from university is also moving to London so we can live together and reenact our final year of uni together, albeit with slightly better clothes (and hopefully a bit more money!)

I start in 3 weeks and I'm so excited, but also quite terrified! I've never had an important job like this before and the nerves about screwing it up are most definitely kicking in. The enormity of London is also scaring me a little; it's just so huge and I'm scared of getting lost.
I'm still mostly excited though, to properly explore the city, see and do so many new things and start to build a career for myself. Living with my best friend and being much closer to Pete will be so great as well and I'm excited for the day I finally master the Tube. (Side note; how amazing is the Tube?! It blows my mind that there is such an amazing and efficient transport system under the ground of a city and it's been there for so long!)

I've got quite a bit to do in the next few weeks so I need to focus and get it all done, but in the meantime I'm already planning which cult burger restaurant to hit up first!

Any London-based followers out there- what tips have you got for transitioning to capital city life? Are people really as scary in London as they're portrayed to be? Where would you advise a newly-arrived rural lass to hit up first?

8 March 2014

Why I am a Feminist

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Today is International Women's Day, a day of recognition of the strength and achievements of women around the world. Its first recognised celebration dates back to 1908, and since then it has gained increasing amounts of recognition the world over, even being dubbed an official holiday in some countries. As well as a celebration of the progress of women, IWD also serves as a reminder of all the issues that still sadly affect women's lives and prevent equality.
I thought I would use this International Women's Day as an opportunity to write a post that's been on my mind since I started blogging and explain why I am a feminist and why feminism is important to me.
Claims of being a feminist are often met with rolled eyes, sighs and exclamations of 'But why do you hate men?!' or 'So does that mean you don't shave?' (These have all happened to me) Many people are under the impression that men and women are equal now and feminism is pointless. While it is true that things have definitely improved since the early days of women's rights activism, sadly there is a very long way to go before anything nearing equality can be achieved. I've also heard plenty of women claim that they believe men and women should be treated equally but they don't believe in feminism, which doesn't make sense to me in the slightest.
I think feminism is misunderstood and negatively perceived when it's really actually quite crucial. So here are a few reasons to sum up some of the issues women still face and that have convinced me that feminism is still necessary.

There will be some discussion of rape and violence against women in this post, so please be aware if these issues may trigger you.

  • Sexual Violence
    This is probably one of the issues that confirmed my feminist leanings and it's still one of the issues I'm most passionate about. I even wrote my Masters thesis on how issues of victim blaming affect the quality of justice for rape victims (spoiler; it affects it really badly!)
    A quarter of women in the UK have been victims of rape or attempted rape and 1 in 3 women worldwide have been a victim of some form of sexual assault. The prevalence of sexual crimes against women is overwhelming and yet hardly any perpetrators are ever imprisoned. Women are also routinely blamed for being sexually assaulted at all stages of the criminal justice system, something which is truly disgusting as it dissuades women from reporting their assaults and seeking help.
    Women are frequently told not to wear revealing clothes, not to get drunk and not to go out alone at night; not only is this ridiculous and completely dismissive of the fact that it's rapists that cause rape and nobody else, it ignores the reality of sexual assaults in that most are carried out by someone known to the victim.
    And if I hear the 'but most rape allegations are made up!' argument one more time, I will probably kill the person who said it. It's so staggeringly wrong that I don't even know where to begin.
  • Pay Inequality
    I wrote about this before but it definitely bears repeating. Women are paid on average £5000 a year less than men for the same work. Women working full time earn 17% less than men doing the same job, and this wage gap increases for ethnic minority women. Women also shoulder the brunt of childcare and household chores for which they are unpaid, and their choice to have children and leave work to care for them is often met with punishment in being paid less and being passed over for promotion.
  • Domestic Violence
    A quarter of women are victims of domestic violence at some point in their lives and every week 2 women in the UK are murdered by their current or former partner. Despite the widespread nature of violence against women, austerity measures have meant that women's refuge shelters have had their government funding cut and are finding it increasingly difficult to help those in need.
    Domestic violence is rightly condemned, but often the attitudes of some do not match up to majority opinion. Reeva Steenkamp was killed by her partner Oscar Pistorious, who is currently standing trial for causing her death. Paddy Power thought it would be appropriate to encourage people to bet on the outcome of the trial, wholly disregarding the fact that a young woman is dead at the hands of her partner, whether accidental or not. This highlights the often nonchalant attitude towards an issue that affects thousands of women all across the world.
  • The Media
    You only have to turn to page 3 of The Sun to see inequality alive and well. Women are presented half naked every day, while men are portrayed as strong and competent. This isn't even a question of choice; the fact is that it presents women as objects to be ogled, not people capable of proper thoughts and actions.
    Women are constantly judged in the media for literally anything. From looks to lifestyle, nothing is out of bounds. I took a bullet for all of you and went onto the self-esteem sapping Daily Mail website. I didn't have to look for long to see women reduced to singular parts, with most headlines screeching about someone's 'long legs', 'curves' or 'baby bump'. Surprise, surprise, there were hardly any articles on male celebrities at all but those that did exist generally covered their actual lives, not their bodies.
    Advertising is also astonishingly sexist, and it's not just the Mad Men era that had gross adverts; they're still prevalent today. Just take a look at these.
  • Constant Vigilance
    How many times have you been honked at in the street? Has a man ever stopped you in the centre of town just to tell you you should smile? Have you ever been groped by a stranger on a night out? All these things and more have happened to me, and they have never happened to my male friends. Women live in a state of constant vigilance, where they are always on the lookout for what might happen to them. I often walk with my keys tucked between my fingers if I'm out alone at night, I sometimes feel nervous if I walk past a group of men on my own and I make sure I sit near other people on public transport in case I need help. And I hate it. I hate that I have to think about these things and that my safety might be at risk if I don't.
    These things come with the territory of being a woman in a world that is perpetually unequal and many men have absolutely zero idea about the self-preservation tactics many women routinely employ.
These are just a few areas of inequality that currently exist. I haven't even touched on reproductive rights, forced marriages or pornography, among many, many other issues I could have mentioned, but this post would have rivaled War and Peace if I tried to cover any more.
If you're still not sure whether you're a feminist or not, although I'm not sure how you can't be, there's a handy test to find out. If what I've said here has piqued your interest, I'd recommend exploring some feminist literature. One of the best introductory texts I read was He's a Stud, She's a Slut, which explores double standards in many areas but isn't intimidating and is actually quite funny. I also recommend Full Frontal Feminism, although it does take a more American approach, and The Equality Illusion, which I reviewed here.
I truly wish I wasn't a feminist. I wish I didn't have to be, that I and every other woman the world over was automatically treated equally and able to live a life free of harassment and sexual violence.
I wish I wasn't a feminist, but until the world becomes safe and equal for me and every other woman, I am proud to be one.

Are you a feminist? What do you think of the issues that women are faced with every day? Are you doing anything to celebrate International Women's Day?

3 March 2014

The Goodreads Tag

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I spotted this tag on Rachael's blog and thought I'd give it a go. I've been using Goodreads for years but I was a bit lax for a while and didn't use it regularly. Recently I've been making a more concerted effort to use it properly and it's really cool to see everything I read add up. I especially like how you can see how much of the book you've read as you update your status; if you're struggling it can help motivate you to finish something off.

1)What was the last book you marked as read? The last book I finished was Tampa by Alissa Nutting and I awarded it four stars. It's quite dark and definitely wouldn't be to everyone's taste; it's about a female teacher, Celeste Price, who harbours tendencies towards 14 year old boys and begins an affair with one of her students. I really enjoyed it but it was definitely a challenging read and made me feel very uncomfortable as Celeste literally preyed on her students and strove to get what she wanted, no matter the consequences.

2)What are you currently reading? I'm reading Lamb by Bonnie Nadzam. Like Tampa, it's also about inappropriate relationships between adults and children, but this time it's an older man and younger girl. I'm only about 70 pages in so far but I'm enjoying it.

3)What was the last book you marked as to be read? I bought Pete In Cold Blood by Truman Capote for a little Valentine's gift and decided I wanted to read it too. It's about a true-life murder which takes place in 1959 and Truman Capote examines the crime and the trial. My mum often says it's her favourite book too so I'd like to read it.
4)What book do you plan on reading next? I have no idea. Over Christmas I bought 12 books from work with my 50% discount and I'm so excited to read all of them, but I also have two shelves of books that I've been meaning to read for a long time so I feel I should go for one of those next.

5)Do you use the star rating system? Yes. I do wish it had half stars though, as that would make everything much easier!

6)Are you doing a 2014 Reading Challenge? I am indeed; I'm aiming to read 30 books this year and so far I've completed 8 so I'm well on track to make my target by the end of the year. I'm a few books ahead of schedule as well so I can afford to take on a few longer books as well which is good.

7)Do you have a wishlist? According to Amazon there are 51 books on my wishlist and to be honest that number could easily grow by the day. It also doesn't include any books I just happen to see in passing and buy in the spot, which happens far too often. 

8)What book are you planning to buy next? None of them! I'm trying to be very strict and not buy any more books for a long time. I am really hoping to move out this year so I don't want to add even more books that need to be moved out later on.

9)Do you have any favourite quotations? Would you like to share a few? I assume this means book-related quotations; that's what I'm interpreting it as anyway. One about books that I really love comes from Douglas Coupland

“I think that every reader on earth has a list of cherished books as unique as their fingerprints....I think that, as you age, you tend to gravitate towards the classics, but those aren't the books that give you the same sort of hope for the world that a cherished book does.” 

This one from The History Boys by Alan Bennett is great as well

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something - a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things - that you’d thought special, particular to you. And here it is, set down by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours.” 

10)Who are you favourite authors? I love Jeffrey Eugenides. He's only written three books but I've enjoyed all of them. His most famous is The Virgin Suicides but I much prefer Middlesex and The Marriage Plot (which I reviewed here.) I think I'd even go as far as to say Middlesex is my favourite book ever, but don't hold me to that!
I also love Douglas Coupland, John Irving and John Ajvide Lindqvist too. There's definitely more that I've forgotten but these were the first that popped into my head.

11)Have you joined any groups? The only one I'm a member of is the Rory Gilmore Book Club because I aspire to be her. It lists all the books she read throughout the entire Gilmore Girls run, and I want to read as many of them as possible.

12)Do you have any questions you'd like to add? None that I can think of, but I am always available for book related questions; I could talk about books forever!

You can add me on Goodreads here!

25 February 2014

Book Club: The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games trilogy imagines a post-apocalyptic future where North America, now called Panem, has been split into twelve districts following a rebellion against the wealthy Capitol. To ensure compliance with the Capitol regime and prevent future rebellion, every year a boy and a girl aged 12-18 are chosen at random to become tributes for each district and must compete in the Hunger Games; a vicious and televised battle to the death that can have only one survivor.
The books are told from the point of view of Katniss Everdeen, who lives in District 12, an impoverished district which primarily mines coal. Katniss has been providing food and money for her mother and younger sister, Prim, since the death of her father and is a skilled hunter, expertly wielding a bow and arrow.

It is Katniss' love for her sister that sees her volunteer as tribute when Prim is drawn as a participant in the Games and the beginning of the first book. Along with Katniss, Peeta Mellark, the son of the district's baker, is selected and the two are whisked to the Capitol to take their place in the Games where they face almost certain death. However, along with desperately trying to survive, something else develops between the pair that makes staying alive even more important.
I really enjoyed the first book. I loved the idea behind it; an evil, elite few use children as tools to remind people of the power they have over them and subdue a population, a baying audience watch and cheer as children are murdered live on television and place bets on who will die and when, while the survivors are treated as celebrities despite the trauma they have endured and the potentially hideous actions they took to survive. I felt that the pace was excellent and it kept me reading long into the night. Despite knowing that Katniss wouldn't meet her end in the arena (the sequels made that quite clear!) I was still so excited to see what would happen and I loved the rich world that Collins had created.

This excitement continued as I read Catching Fire. President Snow is furious with Katniss for making the Capitol look foolish and inciting small pockets of rebellion around Panem. In a bid to destroy the anti-Capitol sentiment created by Katniss' final stunt in the arena, a special 75th Hunger Games sees previous victors return to the arena and it is clear the Capitol rulers see this as the perfect opportunity to get rid of Katniss and all she symbolises. I really liked how the evil of the Capitol began to shine through in this book, with harsh punishments doled out across the Districts in a bid to quell any sign of rebellion. The mental torture inflicted on Katniss also served to effectively highlight the true nature of the Capitol's leaders in a way that wasn't always as apparent in the first novel. I really loved the Games in this book too, as the Games makers sought to come up with hideous new methods to inflict pain on the tributes. The insight into previous Games and other victors was also really interesting, allowing you a glimpse into what life was like after winning the Games.

It was with so much excitement that I picked up Mockingjay and raced towards the conclusion of the trilogy. Unfortunately, this installment failed to provide the impact of its predecessors. Rebellion in Panem is now widespread, with almost every District in revolt. Katniss is selected to act as the Mockingjay and provide a focal point for the rebels who want to overthrow the Capitol. It seemed like this book would provide the most action of the trilogy as people fought for their freedom.
However, most of the book see Katniss in hospital recovering from various injuries and complaining about it. A lot. Even once Katniss is able to leave and visit other Districts, it seems that it isn't long before she's whisked back to a hospital bed for another few chapters. I felt this really stilted the progress of the novel.
I loved the action sequences where Katniss was fighting and the third part of the book was so exciting as the rebellion got closer and closer to the Capitol. I even had nightmares about one of the 'weapons' the Capitol deployed in its quest to extinguish the spark of hope Katniss embodies once and for all. There were also a few shocks in there too, and I loved how Collins wasn't afraid to kill some characters other authors may have been more timid to.
Having said that, I felt let down by the closing chapter of the book. I felt that Katniss deserved so much more than the final fate she was given and the epilogue seemed to directly contradict previous statements she had made regarding her future.

Overall, I would definitely recommend the Hunger Games trilogy. Although I feel it was somewhat let down by a final book that felt a bit sloppy and hasty, the dark ideas combined with some really thrilling writing made it a great read.
I also think it's an extremely important series for girls, as Katniss is one of few heroines I can recall and I feel that having a strong and brave role model like her is vital for teenage girls- and, perhaps, twenty-something ones who are using her strength as inspiration to finally start that fitness regime properly; well, I want to survive if my name is ever drawn at The Reaping, don't I?!

Have you read the Hunger Games trilogy? What did you think? Were you disappointed by Mockingjay like I was?

You can see what else I've been reading by adding me on Goodreads.

13 February 2014

Happy Galentine's Day!

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Galentine's Day was created by the wonderful (and sadly fictional) Leslie Knope as a special day to celebrate her female friends the day before Valentine's Day. I completely aspire to be as much like Leslie as possible- even my laptop background reminds me to channel her at every opportunity- so I thought I'd celebrate this Galentine's Day by telling you about some of my favourite female bloggers in a bid to spread the love!

Gillian from elevatormusik
I love everything about Gillian's blog. The layout is amazing, her pictures are great and everything is infused with a really nice personal writing style that instantly draws me in. I love the varied content Gillian produces as well; she covers everything from makeup to books to TV, and her guides to Edinburgh are superb.
I actually think that we are quite similar, particularly in regard to our tastes in books, films and TV, and are at similar stages in life having both completed Masters degrees recently and it's nice to see someone whose life you can relate to.

Jennie from sailboatJennie is one of the sweetest, most genuine bloggers I have ever come across. Each post is infused with such warmth and is just so lovely to read, and she also makes a real effort to interact with her readers which is great. I love the breadth of content that Jennie covers and her pictures are amazing. And she has the cutest little bunny ever who makes frequent appearances in her posts, and bunnies can never be a bad thing!

Annie from appletoothpasteAnnie and I were actually at Cardiff together and both studied Law, but we never knew each other then.
I love her personal posts as they're full of honesty and I can definitely relate to a lot of the things she says, particularly when it comes to job hunting. I also love her wishlist posts, they're packed with things I could actually afford to buy which is always good, and her underwear taste is always on point. (Is that a weird thing to say?)

Charlotte from ginandgingerOh man, Charlotte is so smart! Every time I want to write something about politics, current affairs or feminism, she beats me to it and writes something 100 times better than I ever could! I love how she makes difficult subjects accessible as well and I'm honestly inspired by her to write more on those topics that interest me and perhaps veer away from the general current scope of my blog. I also really enjoy her lifestyle posts; they're always full of fun and happiness.

So there's some of the blogs I am loving this Galentine's Day! Who are your favourite female bloggers?

9 February 2014

Reasons to be Cheerful #4

1)Long Overdue Catch Ups: My best friend from university, Caroline, was on a trip to Dublin this week and was able to come and visit me in Belfast for a few hours. I haven't seen her for almost two years since we graduated and seeing her this week made me so happy. We talked the whole day away and even the awful weather couldn't wipe the smiles off our faces. We laughed the whole time and shared memories from our time at university. It was such a lovely day and I can't wait for our next reunion, which I am determined to have as soon as possible.
Caroline is so great and I am so lucky to have her as a friend. We've had some excellent times throughout our friendship, but she's always been there if things haven't been so rosy and I am so grateful to her.

2)A Twist of Fate: I'm not really big on Valentine's Day but I do sometimes get frustrated that Pete and I don't even get a choice about whether or not we'll do anything to celebrate it. This year was no exception until I got a potentially very exciting email on Thursday. The email itself could lead to very good things in the future (I don't want to dwell on that too much in case I freak myself out) but it does mean that I will be flying to Cardiff on Thursday. After Cardiff, I'm going to travel to Cheltenham and Pete and I will be able to spend the weekend together!
We originally thought we wouldn't be able to see each other again until the end of March so it's such a nice surprise to get to see each other next weekend. I can't imagine we will do anything terribly romantic while I'm there, but that's OK with me; just being together will be enough (sorry!)

3)Getting Lost in Panem: The last book I read, English Passengers, was sadly a bit disappointing and I was let down after wanting to read it for a while. I decided to reach for a book on the opposite end of the spectrum and made a start on The Hunger Games trilogy that my brother bought me for Christmas. I'm completely hooked! I read the first book in 2 days and I'm already a third of the way into Catching Fire after only starting it last night. I'm really enjoying the books and I find them really exciting, despite having seen the first two films already. Although the writing is perhaps a bit more simplistic compared to my usual reads, I am loving every page and I can't wait to get onto Mockingjay and see what happens in the end.

That's what's been making me happy recently. What's put a smile on your face?

3 February 2014

What I Watched: Blue Valentine

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Blue Valentine has been in my DVD collection for over three years but I only got round to watching it last weekend and I'm so glad I did. I could kick myself for leaving it so long to watch it; it's definitely one of the best films I have ever seen and I wish I had experienced it sooner.

The film stars Ryan Gosling  and Michelle Williams (rightly nominated for a Best Actress Oscar) as Dean and Cindy, a married couple with a young daughter, and focuses on the dissolution of their relationship over a tumultuous few days. At first look it seems like a standard drama about the end of a relationship, but the disintegration of their marriage is intercut with scenes from the beginning of their relationship which adds an extra dimension to the film.

The way Blue Valentine is shot makes it so spectacular to watch. Tiny, subtle moments are captured but not overdone, leaving you to make of each action what you want. It doesn't spell out the fact that this couple are falling apart, but the insinuations run deep through the very heart of every scene.
However, the use of footage from the beginning of Dean and Cindy's relationship is what makes it really heartbreaking. The juxtaposition between the palpable happiness and love the two share when they first meet and the awkward interactions they share in the present day is astonishing. It was actually painful at times to watch the two clumsily interact with each other in the present and the way director Derek Cianfrance captured the discomfort between the couple was amazing.

The subtle style of the film and its amazing performances were what made it stand out so much. There was no huge, dramatic plot twist to drive the action, just a quiet insight into a relationship that had just stopped. Rather than overblown, sentimental scenes that you can tell were aiming to make you cry, Blue Valentine is so natural and realistic. Its strength lies in its central performances, with both Gosling and Williams on top form, and the chemistry between the two makes it so convincing as well. It's a completely believable, natural film that I couldn't fault at all.

The atmosphere of the film is definitely one of heartbreak. The whole way through, I could feel sadness creeping up on me and,10 minutes before the end, one of the flashback scenes affected me so profoundly that I had to pause the film and cry for a very long time. I was utterly devastated by the entire film and the vein of sadness stuck with me long after the credits rolled.

I'm so glad i finally watched Blue Valentine and I'd recommend it to anyone. It is full of sadness at times and I personally found it so heartbreaking that when I tried to talk about it afterwards I cried all over again, but the performances are incredible, the atmosphere and cinematography is beautiful and the use of music, particularly You and Me by Penny & the Quarters, adds so much depth and emotion to the film. It's a truly excellent film and it's definitely become one of my favourites already.

Have you seen Blue Valentine? What other sad films can you recommend for me?

27 January 2014

The Book Buying Tag

Look at this perfect creation! You can get one here.
I could talk about books forever and stumbling across the BookTube community is one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. One of my new favourite BookTubers is Megan Olivier, who created this tag and after seeing it on Jennie's blog (quite a while ago, but I am lazy!) I thought I'd give it a bash too.

Where do you buy your books from? Anywhere and everywhere! I can never resist popping into any bookshop that I pass and I regularly visit charity shops as well to see what I can find there. I've also made a relatively recent online discovery in The Book Depository which has free delivery and often has some older covers to choose from too, which I think is great.
I love the atmosphere in bookshops and love browsing around and stumbling across something new. I try and support bookstores as much as I can, especially after the wonderful Books Are My Bag campaign reinforced their importance, and I do try and pick up books from a shop rather than online.

Do you ever pre-order books? I have never pre-ordered a book before. I don't really keep myself up to date with new releases, unless it's a continuation of a series I've been reading, so I just pick up books as and when I find them.

On average, how many books do you buy a month? I don't really know. It's probably 2 a month on average, but in December I took full advantage of my staff discount card at Waterstone's and bought myself 12 books, which is definitely the most I've ever bought in such a short period of time!
I also volunteer at Oxfam and often when I'm sorting out the bookshelves I'll put a few aside for myself if they catch my eye.

Do you use your local library? Sadly I don't really have a local library. I hope that when I move away this will change and I'll be able to take advantage of and support a library.

What do you think of libraries? I think they're wonderful! They're a great way to get books and I love how lots of them hold events and have a real sense of community surrounding them. When I was younger a mobile library van used to come to my area every few weeks and I loved going there and picking out more books.

How do you feel about charity shop and secondhand books? I love them! It's great coming across an unexpected gem that you may never have heard of before, as well as books you've wanted to read for a fraction of the price. I am a little bit fussy though, and I sometimes wouldn't take a book with scribbles all over the cover, but I am getting better!

Do you keep your read and to-be-read books together? I keep my to-be-read books on the top shelf of my bookcase, but there's so many that they've been double-stacked and have started to encroach on other shelves as well! I really must take myself in hand and sort my shelves out.

Do you plan to read all the books you own? Definitely. I'm really trying not to buy any more books now as I have so many left to read and nowhere to put them. I have a lot of free time now too, so I'm trying to utilise it productively and read more. I'm doing the Goodreads Challenge this year too, so hopefully that will help clear the book backlog!

What do you do with books you own that you won't reread? I currently do nothing with them, but I'm planning to go on a bit of a blitz across my entire room and I hope to tackle my bookshelves. I'm going to donate some books that I won't read again, but there are some books I loved that I may not reread but would still like to keep. I also plan to sell my university textbooks for a little bit of spare cash, so they'll be useful in some way!

Have you ever donated books? I have in the past and I plan to do a lot more in the near future so I can help out some charity shops, and hopefully other people will also find a new book they'll love.

Have you ever been on a book-buying ban? Not really, but I have gone through periods, especially while I was at university, when I haven't bought books for a long time. I think I am going to have to have to exercise some self-control for a while though, until I read some more of the books that are piling up. I'm also supposed to be saving up for the future (scary) so buying anything will have to take a bit of a back seat for now.

Do you think you own too many books? Well, as the picture above might indicate, I don't think there's such a thing as too many books. There may be too little space for the books I have, but that's another matter!
Books and what I find within them can keep me company, entertain me, break my heart, make me learn something, help me meet new people and visit new places and change the way I see and think about things and to me that's worth having a few cluttered shelves.

Let me know if you decide to do this tag, or just drop me a comment and talk to me about books! You can also be my friend on Goodreads if you want to see how I do with my reading challenge this year.

22 January 2014

What I Watched: Mandela- Long Walk to Freedom

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One of the things I find most frustrating about being in a long-distance relationship is not having anyone to watch movies with. Pete and I are both huge film fans and have cultivated an impressive to-watch list between us, as well as amassing a frankly ridiculous DVD collection. Obviously we watch films alone and with friends too, but each of us are lacking a chum who is as keen on movies as we are and it's annoying when we're both desperate to see a film but geography prevents us being able to go to the cinema together. Usually it's fine waiting for films to appear on DVD or TV, but there are instances when you just know a film will be best enjoyed in the cinema and you can't find someone who wants to share the couples combo with you.

One of the films we both really wanted to see was Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, the long-awaited adaptation of Nelson Mandela's autobiography, starring Idris Elba and Naomie Harrie. As part of my Christmas present, Pete booked us tickets to watch it at the beautiful Regal Cinema in Evesham. The cinema itself was absolutely beautiful; it looked like a theatre and was so well decorated. We also got ourselves a cool 'loveseat' to sit in so we could be extra comfortable and waited for the film to begin.

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom has been highly anticipated for quite a while and the buzz around it was increased when Mandela sadly passed away in December last year. I am a huge Idris Elba fan (Stringer Bell 4eva) and with him cast in the lead role my excitement for the film grew.

The film covers Mandela's life as he becomes politically active and chronicles his incarceration in Robben Island, his eventual release and his election as South African president. It also details his human relationships too, including his marriage to Winnie Madikizela. It's a story that you vaguely know already, that's in your consciousness as part of history, but you never know much of the detail around it.

First things first, the performances in the film were incredible. Elba was of course excellent but Naomie Harris was something else. She perfectly captured the initial woman in love, then she was excellent as a woman bringing up her children with a husband in jail and by the last part of the film she was astonishing as a woman so full of anger and hatred. She was truly brilliant.
The film itself was also captivating, providing an insight into the situation in South Africa that moved Mandela to take a stand and it didn't gloss over the extreme actions Mandela and the ANC used to spread their message which I thought was admirable. I also really enjoyed the way certain parts of the film were intercut with real footage from the period; I felt it helped remind you of the reality of the situation and showed you how people were really affected during that time in a way that a film just can't quite capture.
The film was totally engaging and I was entranced for the duration; even when the bulb went out (twice!) and we had to wait half an hour for them to fix it, I couldn't wait to see what happened next and it was easy to get back into the movie even with the interruptions.

If I had one criticism of the film, it would be that it doesn't provide enough detail; it seemed to flit from one part to the next and skip large periods of time. I do understand that this is due to the length of Mandela's imprisonment and the original text from which the film was developed, but there were instances where I felt like I'd been left behind a little. This will be rectified once I read the book, which is something I do hope to manage soon!

Overall, I'd definitely recommend Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom to anyone. It's a great introduction to and reminder of a crucial piece of recent human history, as well as an insight into a true icon and hero.

Did you see Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom? What did you think of it?