2017 Part 1: a year reviewed.

How on earth are we halfway through the year already?!

2017 has been a whirlwind of a year so far, with so many life things going on. I thought I’d write a little review of the year so far, with some life updates and some info on some of my 2017 reads throughout!

January:

January brought a rocky start to 2017 for me. I was bogged under with a lot of university madness; exams, coursework, presentations, all of the fun (not fun) stuff. I spent some time with my lovely friends, feeding ducks at Haddo House and visiting the Cat Cafe. I ended the month in Edinburgh with my (then new) boyfriend, Liam. We went to the dungeons, the zoo and to the National Museum of Scotland, which was a great escape from everything. Despite the stress I felt during exam time, I managed to end the semester with 3 A’s and a B. Not bad going!

january

February:

February was a quiet month for me. Third year continued into second semester, and I enjoyed getting back into my classes. I also enjoyed quality time with friends and my boyfriend; whether whipping up pancakes on pancake day, going for walks on the beach, or catching up over hot chocolate. I made sure to take plenty time for myself, reading books and binging on Netflix. Other than that, there’s not much to report!

february

March: 

March was a pretty happy month! I joined a group of my amazing friends at my university’s applicants day and spent the afternoon dancing to the Cha Cha Slide in front of complete strangers. I celebrated International Women’s Day, caught up with friends, stroked dogs, did some pottery painting, went on my first night out in months (for someone who is slightly terrified of nights out in bars and clubs this was a special night)  and ended the month travelling to Durham for a conference. A fairly good month!

march

April:

April is a contender for the best month of the year so far, and it will be hard to find a month that was as good as it was. I started the month in Durham with some great people. I attended a fancy pants event which was a hop away from Durham Cathedral and had many a drunken laugh with my best friend, Tom. Once home, I headed to Glasgow with Liam for a few days of peace and quiet together. We took a boat trip on Loch Lomond, ate out (a lot), wandered round shops, watched movies and went to the transport museum. It was so nice to get away in the middle of semester and to have some quality time with my boyfriend. Once back in Aberdeen, I went bowling with some colleagues, caught up with old friends, did some reading at the pub, went to the theatre, solved a murder (at a murder mystery party) and went to a ball! I attended the RGU Student Achievement Awards at the end of the month and was incredibly honoured to receive a Half Scarlett award for 450 hours of volunteering in the past year. All in all, April was pretty perfect.

april

May:

May had so many ups and downs. I started the month with a lot of family stuff going on, which made my impending university deadlines and exams much harder to get through. I was incredibly stressed and felt the lowest I had felt in a long time. I was working in overdrive to try and do well at university despite what was going on, but I had lost all faith in my ability. Once my deadlines were complete, I was able to breathe a bit, and catch up with friends, before celebrating my 21st birthday!

I turned 21 on the 18th of May, and had a truly fantastic birthday. My best friend, Lauren and her beautiful daughter Demi, my boyfriend, Liam, my parents, brother and grandma spent the evening together and I was incredibly lucky to receive not just one…but two very literary birthday cakes! The celebrations continued when a group of my friends and I went bowling and for a meal, and it meant so much having some of my absolute favourite people all together. The birthday celebrations ended with a trip to the theatre to see Wonderland with Lauren, which was a fantastic show, I loved it!

Unfortunately, after the madness of my birthday, my Granda passed away three days later, after a long deterioration. It was an incredibly hard couple of weeks, knowing what was coming and I struggled very hard. The weeks after my birthday blended together somewhat and I needed a lot of support, which I got from some of my favourite people. Particularly; my friends Becca and Eilís rallied to my side. Becca took me to the theatre to see Sister Act, and she, Eilís and I went for a lovely walk along Newburgh beach as a distraction from everything that was going on. I felt very lucky to have my friends and boyfriend around me during May.

may

June:

June was a bit more gentle to me than May and was jam packed with adventure! While I was still grieving for my loss I had some really fantastic moments which helped me get through. Becca, Eilís and I took a short but sweet trip to Edinburgh, one of my favourite places in Scotland. We went to Camera Obscura, had a spot of lunch and took a trip to the Scottish parliament building, and we managed to fit in some Swedish meatballs at IKEA!

I was home for a few days, which I used to catch up with two of my best friends; Hannah and Lauren, and I did a spot of drawing with my little buddy, Demi.

This was before jetting off on another adventure with Becca and Eilís, this time my boyfriend, Liam also joined us. We went to the Isle of Lewis and spent 5 days exploring the beautiful scenery, walking, climbing up various stone formations, standing on many a cliff edge, playing cards and visiting beaches. We went to one of Scotland’s most beautiful beaches, Luskentyre beach, we went to the Callanish standing stones, and had a Starbucks in a castle! This week did a tremendous amount for my mental health and made me feel myself again. I really couldn’t have asked for a better trip to take my mind  off of things.

When I came back I ended up catching a cold, but that didn’t stop me from catching up with my university girls (we haven’t all been together in over a year), celebrating my 6 month anniversary with Liam, and getting some cuddles from some very cute dogs! I also was thrilled to discover that after all of the struggles of May, I managed to get 4 A’S in my second semester of third year, meaning I ended the year with 7 A’s and a B, my best grades yet. Achieving those grades despite the madness and sadness going on in my life at that time meant so much to me, and really made the month.

june 2June

And now July is upon us, and I am both nervous and excited for the next 6 months of 2017. I will enter my 4th and final year of my undergraduate degree, I will continue to spend time with my amazing friends and boyfriend, I will (hopefully) read more and do more fun things. But mainly I just want to maintain as strong and as positive of a mental state as possible, despite any setbacks that may come my way.

What have been the highlights and lowlights of your year? Do you have any? I’m sorry that this post was extremely self indulgent. But I can’t wait to look back on it in 6 months time and see what my life is like, let’s hope it is as good as I’m aiming for!

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas.

Book review time!

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice. (Goodreads)

the hate u give

This is another piece of young adult fiction, which when I read the synopsis I could not resist reading. I was not disappointed.

This book is an exact example of why I love reading. Reading is an opportunity to learn about life and life experiences from varying perspectives, and without this opportunity life can be incredibly singular. I am a person who lives a relatively privileged lifestyle and I have never experienced atrocities such as institutional racism and class conflicts, which is what this book focuses on.

I found this book enlightening, frustrating, upsetting and extremely emotive. It follows Starr’s experiences in the aftermath of her friend’s death and the implications on her psychologically and on her family and community. What I found really interesting and important about this book is the stages and the ways in which Starr grieves. While she refrains from talking about Khalil’s death with certain people and she has many a breakdown, she also exhibits the way in which life goes on, as she continues to do all of the things teenagers do; such as going to prom, playing basketball and more. This aspect in itself shows that while her friend’s death is a tragedy, it is something that her community is familiar with and has become adapted to, which I find extremely sad.

This book does an excellent job of describing the community that Starr lives in; through gang culture, violence, lack of public funding and security and through her own family. Starr’s family, while close knit have experienced a variety of problems in their past which illustrate the difficulty of living in a ghetto type of area. This book does an excellent job of emphasising how difficult it is for individual’s to succeed and break away from these types of environments and living situations and the lack of help they receive to do so.

The hardest part of reading this book for me was that it is fictional, but it is based on very real events that have – in many cases – divided the United States. Police brutality and racism amongst the police is real. While Khalil was not a real person, he is a representation of all of the defenceless  victims who were penalised through race. There are so many aspects in this book which I have seen in reality; such as the reaction to police shootings on social media and the focus on blaming the victim rather than the culprit (the police officer). In this book, Starr attends a private school which is comprised of mostly white students, and I found this to be an extremely interesting choice, as you see the difference in how Starr’s all black community reacts to Khalil’s death, and the way in which her schoolmates react. At her school, the main point of discussion are points which make Khalil look worse or seem deserving of what happened to him, which highlights the contrast in attitudes. Witnessing this form Starr’s perspective broke my heart and frustrated me and made me feel guilty for any time that I may have behaved similarly.

I found the fact that Starr attended a predominantly white high school even more interesting when you see just how much Starr censors herself when she is around her peers. Starr tends to keep a lot of her life private as she knows it would be greeted with distaste from her classmates. She has to contend with cultural appropriation and being the ‘black girl’ and various other struggles. I found it so interesting how Starr describes herself as having two personas; her school persona and her real self. While I found this really upsetting, I acknowledge that this is – annoyingly – a reality for a lot of people.

In addition to being an excellent look at institutional racism and culture in America, this book also does a great job of depicting the struggles of a teenage girl. Despite everything going on in Starr’s life, she is still contending with other issues; such as relationships, exploring sex, toxic friendships and more. I found that this book not only made me think, but it was also quite enjoyable and positive in parts, which is a hard balance to achieve.

In summary, this book is a great read, and I am glad that it exists. As long as these sort of issues present themselves in our society, books like this are necessary. I also am extremely pleased that this book is being marketed towards young adults, who are the future of society and who can facilitate changes in attitude across the world. Keep this circulating.

I hope you guys enjoyed this book review!

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Book review time! Are you ready?!

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be. (Goodreads)

aristotle and dante

Guys…I loved this book.

This book is such an endearing depiction of the struggles that teenagers go through when discovering who they are. This book is written from Aristotle’s perspective; an angry and sad teenage boy who is trying hard to process his feelings about himself, his family, Dante, and ultimately his life.

I loved this book for so many reasons, mainly the friendship between Dante and Aristotle. At the beginning of the book they seem like polar opposites but as the book goes on Aristotle becomes more and more aware of their similarities. Their relationship is so honest and raw and meaningful and is undoubtedly complex.  That being said, I really enjoyed the depiction of all the relationships in this book, particularly the familial relationships. In a lot of young adult fiction, there are some common tropes which usually appear; such as single parent families, problematic relationships between parents or parent and child etc. However, in these book both Aristotle and Dante have fairly positive relationships with their families, and where there are problems they continue to develop over the course of the story.

I really enjoyed the themes in this book and I found it to be such a beautifully written examination of identity. Aristotle and Dante both struggle in many aspects with identity; regarding family, sexuality, nationality and more. In particular I enjoyed the ongoing discussion between Aristotle and Dante of being a Mexican teen living in America and about ‘feeling like a true Mexican’ and such. I loved the exploration of sexuality and of puberty that the boys go; the experimentation and the discussion on things like masturbation. It all felt very honest and realistic to the teenage condition and how uncertain teenagers are when changes are happening in their lives.

I found this book so engrossing and different from a lot of young adult fiction that I have read in the past. I felt it was extremely descriptive and analytical and that the story managed to cover a lot of different events and plot points without feeling too fast paced. In short, I bloody loved it!

If you are a lover of contemporary fiction, books about coming of age or ‘finding yourself’, family, friendship and sexuality, then this book is for you. I really would recommend it to you, whether you read young adult or not!

 

Mystery Blogger Award.

Hey guys!

mystery-blogger-award

I’ve been nominated by the lovely Athena of @ pricelessbooks  for the Mystery Blogger Award, which aims to try and bring bloggers together! Thank you, Athena! Also, thank you to Okoto Enigma for creating this award.

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 to their blog

5/ Tell your readers 3 things about yourself

6/ You nominate 10-20 people

7/ Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog

8/ Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)

9/ Share a link to your best post(s)

About Me:

1/  I am in my third year  of  studying Applied Social Sciences at Robert Gordon University and I absolutely love my degree. I have one year left and I know I’m going to miss it so much!

2/ I have loved art since I was a kid and I particularly love portrait art  and I often do drawings as commissions for other people. Here’s some of my favourites!

portrait art

3/ I live next to the sea and the mouth of a river, and it is my favourite place to go when I want to clear my head.

brig-of-balgownie.png

Answering questions:

1/ What is one book you have read that you think is underrated? Why do you think it’s underrated?

-While JK Rowling is an extremely famous and popular author, I would have to say that The Casual Vacancy is underrated. I think a lot of people read this with excitement and were sorely disappointed that it was nothing like Harry Potter, however if you strip the expectations away, this is actually a really fantastic book with extremely 3 dimensional and flawed characters, and which addresses a lot of different issues. I found it addicting when I read it, however it took me a few different attempts to get into it.

2/ If you were stranded on an island and could only bring three books what would you bring?

-Hmmm…To Kill a Mockingbird is my favourite book of all time, so that is a given. I would probably take one of Maya Angelou’s autobiographies (she wrote 7) however I don’t know which one. Lastly, as much as I’d love to take every single Harry Potter book, I’d probably take one of the bigger ones…maybe Order of the Phoenix, Half Blood Prince or Deathly Hallows. This is a bloody hard question!

3/ Which would you prefer: coffee, tea, or neither? Why?

-AH! Another hard one. I love both. However, I think tea is probably my preference as -while I go through phases of drinking coffee- I never get sick of tea, I’m even drinking a cup right now!

4/ Do you keep the artist separate from the art? Or do you think they should go together? What I mean is, say an artist creates something that you absolutely love, but you find out they are a terrible person, would you still enjoy their art or would you boycott it?

-I love this question! It is extremely interesting. While rationally I can acknowledge that art is fantastic or touches me in a certain way, I feel that the artist and their character would undoubtedly effect my judgement. So while I can conclude that a piece of artwork or a book or a movie is fantastic, I would still be influenced by the creator.

5/ The weird question: If you had to do cartwheels or somersaults for the rest of your life which one would you choose?

-Cartwheels…because I wouldn’t really be leaving the ground, and it’d make travelling anywhere extremely fun!

Questions for the nominees:

1/ If you could redo a book to movie adaptation, which one would you redo and why?

2/ What is your opinion on the increase in YouTubers publishing books?

3/ If you could choose one genre of books to read for the rest of your days, what would it be and why?

4/ If you could possess any talent, what would you pick?

5/ What’s the closest thing (in your opinion) to real magic?

Nominations: 

yalitreader

pricelessbooks

nerdytalksbookblog

nannygrannie

thatbookwyrmlife

baffybasics

jadecranwell

katedoublebooked

lovebooked

vanessamule

comfyreadingcorner

My best post(s):

The last rule in this tag asks you to link your best post. I am quite proud of the posts I have written so I thought I’d put 3 instead. Here’s to being indecisive!

Kim Kardashian and what it means to be a feminist.

-Funnily enough this isn’t a bookish post, but one I am really proud of. It is about the misunderstanding of the word feminism and why it is important to use it!

Fit Like, Yer Majesty?

-This is a blog post about a book of poetry that is written in Doric, a dialect from the North East of Scotland, which is where I’m from.

Kendall Jenner, The Daily Mail and beauty standards.

-This is a reaction to an article I read which I thought was a really negative message regarding beauty standards, and so I decided to rant about it!

The end:

And that’s the Mystery Blogger Award! Thank you so much for reading and thank you again to Athena for nominating me!

The Time and Place Book Tag.

Good day one and all!

I thought I’d do a book tag today, so sit back, relax and enjoy, as today I’ll be doing…

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This tag came from the land of Booktube, more specifically from Jen Campbell; author, poet, YouTuber and altogether amazing human. The basic idea of this tag is to share 10 books that have effected you in such a way that you can remember where and when you read them.

I am not going to be sharing 10 books today, for sake of length. I am instead going to share 5 books which have had a significant impact on me, so much so that I can remember everything about them. We’ll just crack on then, shall we?

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

I remember the experience of reading this book vividly. I was given this book by my Primary 5 teacher read in an attempt to shut me up, because I ploughed through books like nobody’s business and was always ready for something else. While The Wee Free Men is one of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels which is geared more towards young adults, it was definitely still a more complicated read for me, given that I was roughly 9 years old at the time. That didn’t stop me though, and I spent (admittedly a significantly high number of) hours with my nose in this book. I would take it home in my little primary school homework bag, open it up and read to my heart’s content. This book did two things; challenged me and expanded my 9 year old self’s vocabulary to new heights, and introduced me to Terry Pratchett, one of my favourite authors in adulthood. I fell in love with the sarcastic commentary, the fantasy elements, the diversity of characters, and the size and potential of the Discworld.

Why is God Laughing?: The Path to Joy and Spiritual Optimism by Deepak Chopra

This is a slightly different book, and my reasoning for reading it may be bizarre. From the time I started secondary school and started learning more about religion and philosophy, I felt myself becoming conflicted and lost in my belief. I had never really felt like a Christian, and my family had never particularly raised me as such (despite being Christened and having in depth education on the religion in my younger years). I remember stumbling into the library when I was about 14, adamant I wanted to figure this out. I suppose in a way I wanted to find something I could relate to, or find myself, and I was using books to do that. I picked this book up, and I can barely remember anything about it, I can’t remember if I enjoyed it. But what I do remember is that once I had finished it, I realised I did not feel any deep connection to it, to religion or spirituality, and thus ended the fear of being lost. I remember this book so vividly because in my mind at the time, I was hopeful it would answer all my questions, and that if I felt something, anything, I’d be able to work things out. Turns out that doesn’t always work, and that’s okay.

The Famous Five by Enid Blyton

I am lumping these books together, as there are 21 books in this series by Enid Blyton. I had grown up reading Blyton books, such as The Faraway Tree and others. I read The Famous Five when I was in my final year of primary school. I had fallen and broken my ankle and was subsequently not allowed to go outside during break times or lunchtimes for 6 weeks, and so I spent every morning break and every lunchtime sitting alone with not much to do. I remember picking up the first of these books in that time, and getting hooked. I loved the characters, the pace, the mystery and the setting. I ended up reading The Famous Five books over the course of a month or so, reading a new one every day. This was the first, but most definitely not the last time that I looked upon books for guidance, happiness, companionship and more.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

I read this book when I was in my final year of secondary school. I had had a really rough year, and had been heavily reliant on books during this time. I was at a low point when this book fell into my lap. I remember beginning this with apprehension, worrying that classics were maybe not for me. I was wrong. I become sorely addicted to this book and I spent many a study period at school devouring it. I remember going into my favourite study room with a cup of coffee, taking out the book and immersing myself in the story, distracting myself from myself and my problems. The time I spent reading Jane Eyre was and will always be special to me, and a reread is more than overdue!

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This is my favourite tkambook of all time, and is another one that I read during my lowest point. In my secondary school each class was assigned an American classic to read, and mine was The Great Gatsby which -despite reading twice- I could not force myself to like. Another class had gotten to read To Kill a Mockingbird, and so I decided to see what the fuss was about. Four years on and I have reread it several times, I love it. One of my most vivid memories of this book is the first time I read it, and I was on a bus home from a really intense counselling session and I just wanted to distract myself. I ended up reading a particularly sad moment in the book (which in itself is not overly sad, but the circumstances of the story most definitely are) and I burst into tears on the bus. I remember being glued to the book and barely noticing that I was crying, until the old woman sat next to me asked me if I was alright.

This book and the story hold a special place in my heart, and whenever I feel a bit lost or not myself I pick it up and read a chapter or two, to distract. In addition to the story itself, my physical copy of the book was a sentimental object to me, which represented a saving grace during a hard time and it meant the world to me. Recently, I accidentally ruined my copy of the book by spilling a cup of tea over it, and I remember phoning my boyfriend in the middle of the night and crying for nearly an hour, because I truly felt I had lost something. However, my angel of a boyfriend kindly bought me another copy in the same edition, and I dried out my ruined copy and still have it and hold it dear. All is okay in the world.

Bookish YouTubers I’d recommend.

Hi!

So I was first introduced to the book blogging community and the bookish corner of YouTube when I googled a book I wanted to read, and a YouTube video came up. Since then I have been an avid watcher of what is titled “BookTube” and there are a number of YouTubers that I love and whose videos I will watch as soon as they appear in my subscription feed. These YouTubers – while creating a lot of bookish content – create a vast array of other videos which I find equally enjoyable.  So here are a 3 of my favourite bookish YouTubers!

1/ Leena Normington (Youtube: justkissmyfrog)

leena normington

I have been watching Leena since her uni days in Aberystwyth and have been obsessed since. Leena creates extremely insightful, analytical and fun book reviews which always provide me with great recommendations. Her reading varies in genre and scope and I can always rely on her for a fantastic next read as well as a good giggle.

In addition to her BookTube content, Leena creates so much other content which I love! She has a series titled “Stupid Questions with Leena” where she interviews and has discussions with people with backgrounds which are different from hers, whether this be through faith, sexuality, gender and more.  Most recently, Leena did 40 videos for every day of Lent, each was fun, poignant and unique.  She has done videos with authors such as Sofia Khan, and Caitlin Moran, as well as collaborations with other YouTubers. Leena is a fantastic poet also, and has created many beautifully shot and eloquent videos of spoken poetry, my favourite being her poem on the Brexit referendum.

Another thing which I love about Leena is her presence on Instagram. Leena is an advocate for body positivity, and I often look to her Instagram (@leenanorms) for a reality check and a reminder that my body and my cellulite and everything else is completely okay. As well as this, Leena shares her current reads and other aspects of her life, with witty captioning and some BOMB ASS SELFIES.

So yeah, in summary…SUBSCRIBE TO LEENA!

2/ Ariel Bissett

Ariel bissettAriel is another YouTuber I’ve been watching for a long time and who I love. She is a Canadian YouTuber who is responsible for one of my favourite bookish events of the year, the “BookTubeathon” and she creates a variety of great videos.

Ariel used to read a lot of young adult fiction, which suited me at the time which I first started watching her, however as her reading tastes have changed the books she reads and reviews have changed also, and her content and analysis of books is just as brilliant as ever. I relate to Ariel for a number of reasons, namely because she admits that she doesn’t read that much, yet she still has the same passion and adoration of books as any other BookTuber.

Ariel also creates a lot of beautifully produced travel videos and observational videos, my favourite being a beautiful video about people reading on public transport in London. Ariel makes a number of insighftul bookish discussions relating to things such as the increase in YouTubers publishing books, writing, journalling and more. I love her humour and her ability to create analytical, informative and inspiring content.

SUBSCRIBE, SUBSCRIBE, SUBSCRIBE DAMMIT!

3/ Jean Menzies (Youtube: Jeansbookishthoughts)

Jean is a Scottish YouTuber based in London, who is studying a PhD while also a creative producer forjean menzies Pan Macmillan, a publishing company. Jean does book hauls, reviews, wrap ups, discussions, collabs and runs a book club called the Feminist Orchestra. Her content is captivating and well produced, and her personality shines through in every video.  Jean formats her videos in interesting and unique ways, whether it be a video recommending adult fiction based on young adult preferences, or doing mini reviews in groups of 3 on specific topics (such as dystopian). What I love about Jean’s channel is that she reads a lot of Ancient Greek literature, as well as classics and non fiction, which are areas I am interested in but have not read much of. Jean’s passion for Ancient Greek literature is obvious in her videos on said literature and is inclusive and helpful for Ancient literature novices like myself!

Jean also creates a number of non bookish videos, never shying away from discussing feminism, politics and -most recently- mental health. Jean also has a study tips series, with university tips and stationery recommendations, which I have found incredibly useful! In short, Jean is a well rounded YouTuber who I love to watch!

PLEAASE SUBSCRIBE TO JEAN, CLICK HERE!


I hope you guys enjoyed this mini recommendation of 3 of my favourite bookish YouTubers! If you’d like to see another recommendation video let me know, as I have several more people that I watch regularly and that I’d love to share!