February Wrap Up

Books, favourites, life, monthly reads

Bit of a sad reading month but that happens sometimes. Seeing as I only have a couple of books to share I thought I’d sneak in a few TV and music recommendations to pad this post out a bit. Enjoy!

Books:

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The Book of Dust Vol. 1: La Belle Savuage: The first in a prequel trilogy to Phillip Pullman’s iconic His Dark Materials, I’d been hesitant to read La Belle Savuage because I loved the first books so much, and didn’t want to be let down. However, my sister got a copy for Christmas so after her and my mum had read it (and given it rave reviews) I was tempted to risk it and I’m so glad it was the first book I read in February. If I’m honest, I read Volume 1 like a kid – just gobbling up the fantastical world and new characters as fast as possible – but I am planning on taking some time to do a reread at some point so I can really mull over what makes it so good. For now I’ll say that I’m very intrigued by Alice’s character and can’t wait to see where the story will take her. I also thought Malcolm was a portrayed in a very honest and lovely way – I felt like Pullman was trying to push at the boundaries of the “boy on an adventure” character and I’m very curious to see how this will develop over the next two books! If Lyra’s character development is anything to go by then I think we’re in for a treat with both Malcolm and Alice. 

SPOILERS AHEAD

His Dark Materials Vol. 1: Northern Lights: After spending most of February reading The Book of Dust, and knowing it’ll be a bit of wait before volume 2 comes out, I decided to start a reread of His Dark Materials and truly devoured Northern Lights. There is something so safe and yet exhilarating about that world and it was so good to be back in it. Lyra is such an amazing young female character and I will always love her with my whole heart but it was also so nice to be reminded of the complexity of the other characters too. I was particularly struck by Lee Moresby and Serafina Pekkala’s talk about fate/free will and the coming war. It’s such a good bit of foreshadowing of how the line between right and wrong (or good and evil) is set to become more and more blurred as the books progress. Alongside that, this moment brings the threats of the book – which until then feel very centred around the children – and pulls them into the adult sphere. As an older reader you begin to realise the scape of the world Pullman has created and it feels very close to our own. In fact while I was reading it, Lyra and the kids breaking away from Bolvanga reminded me a lot of the young activists who are currently speaking up in America about gun control. Another example of how this trilogy is more than a “children’s book”. In fact, as corny as it sounds, I’d say His Dark Materials is a story for humans more than it is any other genre. 

TV:

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Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency: I don’t know where to start with this show. It’s completely wild and all over the place but damn, I love it so much. The characters are wonderfully engaging and weird in just the right ways. It is playful in its writing, plot and world development and just expects you to accept it which means you just do. Elijah Wood’s character, Todd Brotzman, reacts to meeting Dirk how you would if you were suddenly involoved with a murder and a crazy British guy showed up claiming he’s a “holistic dectective”, and it so refreshing to watch. If you’re looking for a bit of magic but don’t want to revisit a childhood favourite then PLEASE, watch this show. Both seasons are on Netflix and I’m linking the trailer here so you have no excuse not see watch it.

Music:

Maggie Rogers: HOW DID I MISS THIS WOMAN? Ollie showed me the video of her and Pharrell recently and I fell in love with her immediately. She has the absolute perfect mix of folk, electronic and singer/song writer which results in catchy but beautiful songs that you can actually dance to! Having grown up on a scattered mix of country, folk and musical soundtracks with my Mum vs. my Dad’s weekly recommendations ranging from Lorde before she was huge and The Dø (a French/Finnish indie pop duo); Maggie feels like my ideal artist. Alaska will always be a top favourite but I also love On + Off and Dog Years.

Cyn: My little sister put Cyn on at a house party last year and I had to look her up the next day. As far as I can gather, she was signed by Katy Perry in 2017 (but could be earlier – I can’t find a concrete source) and is set to release an EP fairly soon. The three singles she has out so far are great pop tunes with poetic lyrics. I imagine if you like Maggie you could like her too.

Alrighty then, that’s all from me. Hope everyone had a good February and is looking forward to March x

 

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Now or Never: Kowtow

fashion, life

I’d been lusting after Kowtow’s Now or Never dress all summer (you can see it in this post) and then the combination of afterpay and an end of season sale got the best of me and I bought it at the start of Feb. I wont lie, it was a bit of an impulse buy and did hurt the wallet a tad but, afterpay certainly helped soften the blow and it’s such an easy service that I’d 100% recommend it to other students who are looking at investing in some more pricey pieces.

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There are a few things that make Kowtow a clothing label I love. For one thing, they’re a New Zealand owned and run brand which is obviously nice to support but secondly, they’re also a brand that is openly and actively trying to produce clothing that is ethical and sustainable. For me those two things make the higher price tag totally worth it. Plus, the pieces are lovely, wear incredibly well and are super versatile, meaning you’ll be holding on to them for years. I’d already bought a couple pieces from their ‘building block’ range back in 2015 (the t-shirt dress and leggings) and I still wear them both regularly so I’m hoping my first go at a ‘collection’ piece will get the same love and wear.

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The dress comes with mid length sleeves which I (and a lot of people I’ve seen wearing this dress) have ended up cuffing – for me this gives the dress a more playful vibe and is a look I like with these kind of shirt esq. wrap dresses but you could alway leave the sleeves if that isn’t your cup of tea. I’ve also turned down the stand collar just because I think it’s looks better on me but that’s definitely a personal preference moment again. The fact you can make such easy changes to how you wear this dress really stands out to me as an example of how timeless Kowtow’s pieces can be. Another reason to forgive myself for spending that much money on a dress!

I’m sorry these photos are just me taking selfies in a window reflection but it was the best I could figure out and I didn’t want to wait ages to get some better photos! Also just noticing how creased it bloody is but I guess that just proves how excited I was to try it on? Will try convince Ollie to help me out next time but I hope these give you a general idea of the dress.

Vx

Walking and Reading: rebuilding habits

Books, life, mental health

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The thing that I’ve found about feeling low for long periods of time, is that when you start to feel better, and that better feeling really lasts, your blue habits sometimes stick around. You might one day notice that you feel happy and that actually you’ve felt happy for awhile (though happy might be the wrong word? It’s closer to contentedness – like a weight has been lifted or a fog that has finally evaporated). BUT – that doesn’t mean you’re suddenly jumping out of bed to do yoga and make a smoothie.

For me, my good days have outweighed the bad since July-ish of 2017 but, I didn’t hand in any of my end of year essays on time nor did I start exercising regularly and getting out of bed before midday. I didn’t read anything I didn’t have to – even though I still adored stories and wanted desperately to fall in love with one that wasn’t a set text. I’d sit around on my phone thinking about tall the things I could be doing but I couldn’t find the motivation to do them. I felt good but my body/brain was so used to my sad day routine that I didn’t know how to break it.

I can’t pin point exactly what it was that changed this. It could just be that in between fretting about why I was still stuck in those old habits, my brain was figuring out what exactly the “good habits” were. Because that’s the other thing: when you’ve been sad for so long, it’s easy to forget the little quirks in your personality that used to define you. When your body gets used to sleeping the day away it forgets if you work best as an early riser or night owl. When you suddenly stop exercising after moving out of home, your body forgets that good kind of ache you get from working out – it can’t get past the effort it would take just to leave the house.

But whatever the cause, this summer has helped me remember some of those quirks and “good habits”. I’m figuring out that I feel happier and more motivated when I get up and on with my day straight away (not that I don’t still enjoy a weekend lie in). I’ve set my Goodreads goal to one and am letting myself take time over some books and speed through others – I’m falling back in love with reading four books at once! I haven’t yet set a strict exercise routine but sometimes I partake in the odd afternoon smoothie and I’ve seriously cut back on the take-out consumption (gotta count for something, right?). Plus, the other day I walked to work while reading The Night Circus.

Maybe not the usual thing to boast about – walking and reading – but if you’ve known me for a while you’ll know that I used to do this ALL. THE. TIME. It was one of my favourite things and I’d missed it so much. A few months ago, I worried that I’d forgotten who that person was – why did I read and walk in the first place, ya know? It seemed like a far off memory and maybe something I had just “grown out of”. I’m so damn happy I haven’t because doing it made me feel like myself again.

I can’t say that I’m all the way better though. I still struggle to get out of bed some days and I still find myself scrolling away at pointless shit online when I could be reading or even just sleeping. But slowly and steadily I’m regaining my balance. A bit of proof that things do get better, eventually.

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Do you walk and read? If not, where are your favourite places to read?

Vx

 

January 2018 Reads

Books, monthly reads

I’m very aware we’re sixteen days into April and I’m only just now writing this post but, I figured the old saying “it’s better late than never” could apply here, maybe?

January was a good, quiet month. Which was a lovely way to start the year, if not the most productive. I’m in that weird stage at the end of the summer holidays were you want to start doing stuff, while also feeling like you should soak up as much chill time as possible before the uni year starts and it’s GO! GO! GO! I haven’t read as much as I could have but, I was reading an 800 page book for most of the month so I’m not beating myself up over that!

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1. I started the month off with The Biographer’s Tale by A.S. Byatt. I’d been recommended her book Possession (which won the 1990 Booker Prize) by a teacher in high school and briefly picked it up but for some reason never finished it. Then at the end of 2017, Laura (from @theoosterbook on instagram) recommended Byatt’s The Children’s Book (which I’ll get to later). While I was on a library trip, to get The Children’s Book, the cover of The Biographer’s Tale caught my eye and I decided to get it too. I won’t go into a full review for this but let’s just say it’s not my favourite. The book follows a young man who is trying to write a biography about a dead biographer and it’s a story of growth and history (common Byatt themes). While I enjoyed some of the characters, the plot felt incredibly unfocused and only seemed to take any real shape towards the last pages of the book which, for me personally, was more frustrating than satisfying. A lot of the book is made up of the main character’s research which is often very boring and too easy to skim for my liking. I’m hoping this is a Byatt outlier but I’ll need to read more of her work to 100% confirm that suspicion.

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2. The Outsiders was a reread which I’ve written a whole post on that you can read in a few days. I love this book and the fact that it was written when Hinton was just 16 (!!!) gives me a little more faith in the world. It’s such a classic young adult novel and one of those books that I’d recommend everyone gives a go. If it’s slipped under your radar somehow, here’s a brief (spoiler free) synopsis: Ponyboy Curtis is a young teenager who lives in the world of “Greasers” and “Socs”. The Socs grew up on the right side of town and have all the money and opportunities that the Greasers don’t. When things between the two gangs start to escalate – Ponyboy and his friends are forced through a series of life changing events. It’s basically a story about friendship and discovering the similarities between individuals – no matter where they come from! Cheesy in places but, oh, so good!

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3. The Night Circus was also a reread. It wasn’t something I’d ever planned to read again but I was sitting in my and Ollie’s shared study, sorting through some books I wanted to sell/rehome while Ollie was working on his computer, and when I finished I felt like chilling in there for a bit longer and asked Ollie to choose a book for me to read. As he’s someone who just isn’t a reader, I was so curious to see what he’d pick and I was very pleasantly surprised by The Night Circus. I’m thinking of using this method of him choosing a book for me more often. To give you a hint at what to expect, The Night Circus is a love story with a hefty dose of magical realism, set in a night circus that travels the world – honestly, what more could you want from a book?? The characters are engaging and flawed and frustrating which I loved. One thing to be aware of though, is that you go back and forth between time periods a lot, and I will say that the first time I read it I didn’t realise how important those dates would be so – remember to keep track of where you are year-wise if you do end up reading this one! You’ll thank me later.

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4. I started The Children’s Book on the 4th of January and finished it on the 31st. It was both extremely difficult and rewarding to read and I’d 100% recommend it to anyone interested in books about relationships within families, as well as the dynamics of the proverbial village it takes to raise children. It starts in the Victorian era and ends with the end of World War I – for all you historical fiction fans out there. I will say that there are moments where I feel as if Byatt’s research into the historical facts distracted her from the flow of the narrative but the characters are so captivating that this in no way ruined the book for me. What Byatt does do masterfully, is push the boundaries of her characters so that they feel as flawed as yourself and the people you know in real life. The story sometimes feels chaotic but Byatt is so in control of her world that it only feels chaotic in the way life is chaotic. I’m not sure that makes sense, but I hope it does! One thing to seriously note: if you’re at all triggered by sexual abuse then I’d tread with caution – there are other amazing Byatt’s out there that might be better suited for you.

Let me know what you read in January! I need to up my February total so recommendations are very welcome.

Vx