1. This article on the difference between being kind and being nice.
2. This capsule wardrobe video
3.  I mentioned Get It On in my recent post, but this episode with Jameela Jamil was especially good!
4.  A guilt-free pizza recipe.  You're welcome.
5.  Safe to say that I pretty much want everything from Wanderlust + Co.
6.  I've been struggling with neck and shoulder pain this month so this DIY rice pack looks like it could be the answer to my prayers!  Plus it's cat-shaped....what more could you need?
7.  Another one from The Mustards, this time talking luxury.
8.  Trying to keep my shopping habit in check is proving difficult when I actually want 99% of Ashley Wilson's wardrobe.
9.  Speaking of shopping, these Whistles earrings seem pretty reasonably priced and are the ultimate minimal chic.
10.  One of my favourite foodie instagrammers: @reblondonfridge.

The Month in 10 Links: March

31.3.17


1. This article on the difference between being kind and being nice.
2. This capsule wardrobe video
3.  I mentioned Get It On in my recent post, but this episode with Jameela Jamil was especially good!
4.  A guilt-free pizza recipe.  You're welcome.
5.  Safe to say that I pretty much want everything from Wanderlust + Co.
6.  I've been struggling with neck and shoulder pain this month so this DIY rice pack looks like it could be the answer to my prayers!  Plus it's cat-shaped....what more could you need?
7.  Another one from The Mustards, this time talking luxury.
8.  Trying to keep my shopping habit in check is proving difficult when I actually want 99% of Ashley Wilson's wardrobe.
9.  Speaking of shopping, these Whistles earrings seem pretty reasonably priced and are the ultimate minimal chic.
10.  One of my favourite foodie instagrammers: @reblondonfridge.
#16 - FATES AND FURIES // Lauren Groff
"Every story has two sides.
Every relationship has two perspectives.
And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets.
At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but behind closed doors things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed."
This was a book that I knew relatively little about when I went in.  I knew it was about family and married life, but what I wasn't anticipating was the split narrative.  We read the first half from struggling actor turned successful playwright Lotto's perspective and through this I felt like I really got a handle on the different characters, their personalities and their motives.  Then in the second part it flips to Mathilde's side of things.  And woah, turns out I barely recognised some of the characters from the first half.
In truth, Lotto's narrative felt too serious and was a little dull for my liking and it wasn't until the second half that things started to pick up.  By which point I felt compelled to continue reading and raced through to the end.  It's beautifully written throughout, but without seeing things through Mathilde's eyes I think this would have just been a mediocre read.  It definitely saved the book in my opinion and accounts for the high rating!
Rating: ★★★

#17 - A MONSTER CALLS // Patrick Ness
"Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It’s ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. 
Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking tale of mischief, healing and above all, the courage it takes to survive."
-
I think most people have heard of this book by now.  Conor's mother has terminal cancer and it's about him coming to terms with this and the effects it has on his home life.  I read it as a book club pick and it was really good for creating discussion as there's lots of meaning, messages and imagery within.  It was an emotional book and I'm on the fence about whether it would help someone in a similar situation or whether it'd be too close to the bone.  Either way it's a touching book and well deserving of winning the Carnegie Medal.
Rating: ★★★

#8 - CUT: ONES WOMAN'S FIGHT AGAINST FGM IN BRITAIN TODAY // Hibo Wardere
"Imagine for a moment that you are 6-years-old and you are woken in the early hours, bathed and then dressed in rags before being led down to an ominous looking tent at the end of your garden. And there, you are subjected to the cruellest cut, ordered by your own mother.
Forced down on a bed, her legs held apart, Hibo Warderewas made to undergo female genital cutting, a process so brutal, she nearly died.
As a teenager she moved to London in the shadow of the Somalian Civil War where she quickly learnt the procedure she had undergone in her home country was not 'normal' in the west. She embarked on a journey to understand FGM and its roots, whilst raising her own family and dealing with the devastating consequences of the cutting in her own life. Today Hibo finds herself working in London as an FGM campaigner, helping young girls whose families plan to take them abroad for the procedure. She has vowed to devote herself to the campaign against FGM.
FGM in the UK has gone undocumented for too long and now that's going to change. Devastating, empowering and informative, this book brings to life a clash of cultures at the heart of contemporary society and shows how female genital mutilation is a very British problem."
This has a huge blurb so I won't elaborate on the basics any more than what's above.  This book left me shocked and with lots to think about.  Despite previously working in a school and receiving "training" about FGM, in reality I knew very little about this horrific practice.  It's not cultural, it's child abuse, and something I always imagine to be happening in far off countries so to see some of the statistics relating to a town just down the road from me was a real eye opener.
Speaking of statistics, this book has got the balance just right between personal experience and facts and figures.  Hibo Wardere writes passionately and accessibly and I'd recommend this book to everyone.
Rating: ★★★

#19 - THE READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND // Katarina Bivald
"Sara has never left Sweden but at the age of 28 she decides it’s time. She cashes in her savings, packs a suitcase full of books and sets off for Broken Wheel, Iowa, a town where she knows nobody.
Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.
With a little help from the locals, Sara sets up Broken Wheel’s first bookstore. The shop might be a little quirky but then again, so is Sara. And as Broken Wheel’s story begins to take shape, there are some surprises in store for Sara too…"
-
A book about book shops?  SOLD!  Only....it just didn't work and this is my first DNF (Did Not Finish) of the year.  I tried, I really did, but just couldn't face continuing on with this story.  I found the characters hard to relate to and therefore difficult to keep up with who was who, not to mention the instalove and quite frankly ludicrous plot point of (more or less) forced marriage which nobody seemed to highlight was ridiculous.  If you've read this book and loved it, please tell me what I'm missing?!
Rating: ★

#20 - ANIMAL: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FEMALE BODY // Sara Pascoe
"Women have so much going on, what with boobs and jealousy and menstruating and broodiness and sex and infidelity and pubes and wombs and jobs and memories and emotions and the past and the future and themselves and each other. Here's a book that deals with all of it. Sara Pascoe has joked about feminity and sexuality on stage and screen but now she has a book to talk about it all for a bit longer. Animal combines autobiography and evolutionary history to create a funny, fascinating insight into the forces that mould and affect modern women. Animal is entertaining and informative, personal and universal - silly about lots of things and serious about some. It's a laugh-out-loud investigation to help us understand and forgive our animal urges and insecurities."
Animal is divided into three sections: Love, Bodies and Consent.  The latter two were everything I wanted, but I really struggled to get through the Love portion and seriously wondered whether I'd made a mistake in buying this book.  I'm a big Sara Pascoe fan but it felt too anecdotal and dumbed down which made me really not enjoy it.  Perhaps as I got further through the book I became immune to this writing style, but overall I felt that the quirks calmed down a bit in later chapters and it turned into a book which sparked lots of moments of reflection for me.
Rating: ★★★

Read in 2017: March

29.3.17

#16 - FATES AND FURIES // Lauren Groff
"Every story has two sides.
Every relationship has two perspectives.
And sometimes, it turns out, the key to a great marriage is not its truths but its secrets.
At age twenty-two, Lotto and Mathilde are tall, glamorous, madly in love and destined for greatness. A decade later, their marriage is still the envy of their friends, but behind closed doors things are even more complicated and remarkable than they have seemed."
This was a book that I knew relatively little about when I went in.  I knew it was about family and married life, but what I wasn't anticipating was the split narrative.  We read the first half from struggling actor turned successful playwright Lotto's perspective and through this I felt like I really got a handle on the different characters, their personalities and their motives.  Then in the second part it flips to Mathilde's side of things.  And woah, turns out I barely recognised some of the characters from the first half.
In truth, Lotto's narrative felt too serious and was a little dull for my liking and it wasn't until the second half that things started to pick up.  By which point I felt compelled to continue reading and raced through to the end.  It's beautifully written throughout, but without seeing things through Mathilde's eyes I think this would have just been a mediocre read.  It definitely saved the book in my opinion and accounts for the high rating!
Rating: ★★★

#17 - A MONSTER CALLS // Patrick Ness
"Conor has the same dream every night, ever since his mother first fell ill, ever since she started the treatments that don't quite seem to be working. But tonight is different. Tonight, when he wakes, there's a visitor at his window. It’s ancient, elemental, a force of nature. And it wants the most dangerous thing of all from Conor. It wants the truth. 
Patrick Ness takes the final idea of the late, award-winning writer Siobhan Dowd and weaves an extraordinary and heartbreaking tale of mischief, healing and above all, the courage it takes to survive."
-
I think most people have heard of this book by now.  Conor's mother has terminal cancer and it's about him coming to terms with this and the effects it has on his home life.  I read it as a book club pick and it was really good for creating discussion as there's lots of meaning, messages and imagery within.  It was an emotional book and I'm on the fence about whether it would help someone in a similar situation or whether it'd be too close to the bone.  Either way it's a touching book and well deserving of winning the Carnegie Medal.
Rating: ★★★

#8 - CUT: ONES WOMAN'S FIGHT AGAINST FGM IN BRITAIN TODAY // Hibo Wardere
"Imagine for a moment that you are 6-years-old and you are woken in the early hours, bathed and then dressed in rags before being led down to an ominous looking tent at the end of your garden. And there, you are subjected to the cruellest cut, ordered by your own mother.
Forced down on a bed, her legs held apart, Hibo Warderewas made to undergo female genital cutting, a process so brutal, she nearly died.
As a teenager she moved to London in the shadow of the Somalian Civil War where she quickly learnt the procedure she had undergone in her home country was not 'normal' in the west. She embarked on a journey to understand FGM and its roots, whilst raising her own family and dealing with the devastating consequences of the cutting in her own life. Today Hibo finds herself working in London as an FGM campaigner, helping young girls whose families plan to take them abroad for the procedure. She has vowed to devote herself to the campaign against FGM.
FGM in the UK has gone undocumented for too long and now that's going to change. Devastating, empowering and informative, this book brings to life a clash of cultures at the heart of contemporary society and shows how female genital mutilation is a very British problem."
This has a huge blurb so I won't elaborate on the basics any more than what's above.  This book left me shocked and with lots to think about.  Despite previously working in a school and receiving "training" about FGM, in reality I knew very little about this horrific practice.  It's not cultural, it's child abuse, and something I always imagine to be happening in far off countries so to see some of the statistics relating to a town just down the road from me was a real eye opener.
Speaking of statistics, this book has got the balance just right between personal experience and facts and figures.  Hibo Wardere writes passionately and accessibly and I'd recommend this book to everyone.
Rating: ★★★

#19 - THE READERS OF BROKEN WHEEL RECOMMEND // Katarina Bivald
"Sara has never left Sweden but at the age of 28 she decides it’s time. She cashes in her savings, packs a suitcase full of books and sets off for Broken Wheel, Iowa, a town where she knows nobody.
Sara quickly realises that Broken Wheel is in desperate need of some adventure, a dose of self-help and perhaps a little romance, too. In short, this is a town in need of a bookshop.
With a little help from the locals, Sara sets up Broken Wheel’s first bookstore. The shop might be a little quirky but then again, so is Sara. And as Broken Wheel’s story begins to take shape, there are some surprises in store for Sara too…"
-
A book about book shops?  SOLD!  Only....it just didn't work and this is my first DNF (Did Not Finish) of the year.  I tried, I really did, but just couldn't face continuing on with this story.  I found the characters hard to relate to and therefore difficult to keep up with who was who, not to mention the instalove and quite frankly ludicrous plot point of (more or less) forced marriage which nobody seemed to highlight was ridiculous.  If you've read this book and loved it, please tell me what I'm missing?!
Rating: ★

#20 - ANIMAL: THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF A FEMALE BODY // Sara Pascoe
"Women have so much going on, what with boobs and jealousy and menstruating and broodiness and sex and infidelity and pubes and wombs and jobs and memories and emotions and the past and the future and themselves and each other. Here's a book that deals with all of it. Sara Pascoe has joked about feminity and sexuality on stage and screen but now she has a book to talk about it all for a bit longer. Animal combines autobiography and evolutionary history to create a funny, fascinating insight into the forces that mould and affect modern women. Animal is entertaining and informative, personal and universal - silly about lots of things and serious about some. It's a laugh-out-loud investigation to help us understand and forgive our animal urges and insecurities."
Animal is divided into three sections: Love, Bodies and Consent.  The latter two were everything I wanted, but I really struggled to get through the Love portion and seriously wondered whether I'd made a mistake in buying this book.  I'm a big Sara Pascoe fan but it felt too anecdotal and dumbed down which made me really not enjoy it.  Perhaps as I got further through the book I became immune to this writing style, but overall I felt that the quirks calmed down a bit in later chapters and it turned into a book which sparked lots of moments of reflection for me.
Rating: ★★★

As I write this post it's 6:30 and there's still light outside...could it be that spring is finally making an appearance? There have been some fairly chilly days this week but it's been a real treat to be heading out in the evening and it not yet being dark.  Now if only it would warm up a bit!

I bought myself some tulips this week because is there any other flower (besides daffodils) which embodies spring as much as this?  I don't much like the bendy stems but there's nothing as cheerful for this time of year.  Buying flowers always feels like such a luxury but it is something I like to do every now and then as a treat, and these are certainly brightening up my days!

Nick went back to Norwich last weekend, so faced with a Saturday afternoon to myself I decide to do a bit of impromptu baking.  I was chuffed to actually find a recipe which I already had the ingredients for and ended up making these protein oatmeal cookies (with chocolate chips swapped for raisins).  So these were never going to be as good as gooey oat and raisin cookies but now that I'm making the effort to eat more mindfully I try to find treats that are sit more on the healthy side and these do the job of satisfying a sweet craving.  The recipe didn't call for it, but if I make them again I think I'll squash them into a more traditional flat cookie though.

For Mother's Day my sister and I took Mum to a local cafe for breakfast.  I'm always on the hunt for places that serve breakfasts which are a step away from the ordinary Full English and this was a good'un!  Lots of varieties of eggs, pancakes and a few healthier, granola options too.  I opted for the Mediterranean Breakfast and will definitely be revisiting.

Next week we're officially a quarter of the way through 2017....can you believe it?!

Week 12 in Moments

27.3.17

As I write this post it's 6:30 and there's still light outside...could it be that spring is finally making an appearance? There have been some fairly chilly days this week but it's been a real treat to be heading out in the evening and it not yet being dark.  Now if only it would warm up a bit!

I bought myself some tulips this week because is there any other flower (besides daffodils) which embodies spring as much as this?  I don't much like the bendy stems but there's nothing as cheerful for this time of year.  Buying flowers always feels like such a luxury but it is something I like to do every now and then as a treat, and these are certainly brightening up my days!

Nick went back to Norwich last weekend, so faced with a Saturday afternoon to myself I decide to do a bit of impromptu baking.  I was chuffed to actually find a recipe which I already had the ingredients for and ended up making these protein oatmeal cookies (with chocolate chips swapped for raisins).  So these were never going to be as good as gooey oat and raisin cookies but now that I'm making the effort to eat more mindfully I try to find treats that are sit more on the healthy side and these do the job of satisfying a sweet craving.  The recipe didn't call for it, but if I make them again I think I'll squash them into a more traditional flat cookie though.

For Mother's Day my sister and I took Mum to a local cafe for breakfast.  I'm always on the hunt for places that serve breakfasts which are a step away from the ordinary Full English and this was a good'un!  Lots of varieties of eggs, pancakes and a few healthier, granola options too.  I opted for the Mediterranean Breakfast and will definitely be revisiting.

Next week we're officially a quarter of the way through 2017....can you believe it?!
They say comparison is the thief of joy; self-doubt is the thief of...well, there are multiple ways to end that sentence really.  Achievement?  Happiness? Content?

For many of us I think it'd be fair to say that we're our own worst critic.  I can be unduly harsh on myself for all manner of reasons, but I'm beginning to wonder it's the lurking self-doubt which is most damaging.

After all, the voice which tells me I look like crap when I wake up can be pushed down upon application of make up.  The devil on my shoulder frowning as I even consider having a hot chocolate is punished with a gruelling spin session.  I've given two time-specific examples, but in reality these voices are ever-present and they shout.  The other week I tried to keep a tally of how many times throughout the day I had any negative thoughts pertaining to food or my weight and I simply couldn't keep up.

But loud as they may be....I don't *think* they affect me too deeply.

It's the thoughts that I'm not good enough which are most detrimental.  I'm not focusing on body image here -  I'm thinking career, specifically.  Where there's the suspicion that I'm not competent enough, that I'm an imposter waiting to be found out, that I'm not up to the job.  These are the thoughts I'm most worried about.

I know this idea isn't something specific to me, and in fact research shows that women as a whole suffer from a lack of confidence in a way that their male counterparts don't.  It's known as The Confidence Gap and is a concern because it often overshadows female competence and sees us underachieving compared to male colleagues.

I've noticed it a few times at work recently.  I work in a team of three support staff and if there's even a hint of a mistake being made, I'm having an instant cold sweat and owning up to it.  Even if it's not me.  And when it is, I respond with a clear apology, offer to make things better and mental butt-kicking.  My male colleague?  A quick nod and "ok" with none of the longlasting dents to his self-esteem.

Let's look at some statistics:
// 65% of women lack the confidence to pursue a promotion;
// 61% lack the confidence to request a payrise;
// 56% won't ask for a new role or position; and
// 73% won't go after a job which is outside of their experience

Admittedly I don't have any male statistics to reflect on, but regardless these figures speak for themselves.  I'll certainly hold my hand up and say I'd put myself in with the majority on the numbers above. 

And sadly there's no quick fix.  No magic formula to spirit away all thoughts of self-doubt and replace it with assurance and sass.

Baby steps of course, but I think a lack of confidence needs to be dealt with much like facing a fear head on.  Ignoring the sweaty palms and stepping up.  I was part of the 61% until I swallowed down the shake in my voice and asked for a payrise.  It was scary and my stomach was flipping, but I did it.  And I got my payrise and a little bit of confidence to boot.

We need to work on not doubting ourselves.  On building our own hype and believing in it so that we're empowered to go forth and achieve.  To speak out, chase dreams and be recognised for our capabilities.

Step one?  Beyonce of course.  Run The World (Girls).  On repeat.

Thoughts on Self-Doubt

22.3.17

They say comparison is the thief of joy; self-doubt is the thief of...well, there are multiple ways to end that sentence really.  Achievement?  Happiness? Content?

For many of us I think it'd be fair to say that we're our own worst critic.  I can be unduly harsh on myself for all manner of reasons, but I'm beginning to wonder it's the lurking self-doubt which is most damaging.

After all, the voice which tells me I look like crap when I wake up can be pushed down upon application of make up.  The devil on my shoulder frowning as I even consider having a hot chocolate is punished with a gruelling spin session.  I've given two time-specific examples, but in reality these voices are ever-present and they shout.  The other week I tried to keep a tally of how many times throughout the day I had any negative thoughts pertaining to food or my weight and I simply couldn't keep up.

But loud as they may be....I don't *think* they affect me too deeply.

It's the thoughts that I'm not good enough which are most detrimental.  I'm not focusing on body image here -  I'm thinking career, specifically.  Where there's the suspicion that I'm not competent enough, that I'm an imposter waiting to be found out, that I'm not up to the job.  These are the thoughts I'm most worried about.

I know this idea isn't something specific to me, and in fact research shows that women as a whole suffer from a lack of confidence in a way that their male counterparts don't.  It's known as The Confidence Gap and is a concern because it often overshadows female competence and sees us underachieving compared to male colleagues.

I've noticed it a few times at work recently.  I work in a team of three support staff and if there's even a hint of a mistake being made, I'm having an instant cold sweat and owning up to it.  Even if it's not me.  And when it is, I respond with a clear apology, offer to make things better and mental butt-kicking.  My male colleague?  A quick nod and "ok" with none of the longlasting dents to his self-esteem.

Let's look at some statistics:
// 65% of women lack the confidence to pursue a promotion;
// 61% lack the confidence to request a payrise;
// 56% won't ask for a new role or position; and
// 73% won't go after a job which is outside of their experience

Admittedly I don't have any male statistics to reflect on, but regardless these figures speak for themselves.  I'll certainly hold my hand up and say I'd put myself in with the majority on the numbers above. 

And sadly there's no quick fix.  No magic formula to spirit away all thoughts of self-doubt and replace it with assurance and sass.

Baby steps of course, but I think a lack of confidence needs to be dealt with much like facing a fear head on.  Ignoring the sweaty palms and stepping up.  I was part of the 61% until I swallowed down the shake in my voice and asked for a payrise.  It was scary and my stomach was flipping, but I did it.  And I got my payrise and a little bit of confidence to boot.

We need to work on not doubting ourselves.  On building our own hype and believing in it so that we're empowered to go forth and achieve.  To speak out, chase dreams and be recognised for our capabilities.

Step one?  Beyonce of course.  Run The World (Girls).  On repeat.

Week 11 turned out to be quite a busy one.  My sister came back from being in Australia for the past six weeks, I've been upping my fitness game in terms of training and nutrition and we've had a few mornings where it truly felt as though spring was on its way...albeit followed by a couple of very blustery afternoons.

But there's more!

Here are a few highlights in photos from the week...


As I mentioned, Zara came back from adventuring around Australia since the beginning of February.  It's funny to think of my baby sister off exploring the world on her own....going further afield than any of our family has done before...but the memories she's made and the sights she's seen sound incredible.  She met me for a very jetlagged (on her part - I was just suffering from the usual midweek slump) lunch break and do you see that streak of sunlight there?  We stayed indoors but feeling the warmth of the sun through the window was a welcomed treat.


I'm lucky enough to work close enough to home that I can pop back for my lunch, but had gotten out of the habit for the last few months.  This week I made the trip a couple of times and really enjoyed taking time out of the office to chill out for a bit before heading back to work.  And I think Dudley enjoyed the company too!


So experience has taught me that kids parties are an awkwardly hellish affair. Too loud, too manic, too cliquey - especially when you consider I tend to go in my auntie capacity so don't know any of the other parents...it's just not my thing.  Being the doting aunt that I am, however, last weekend I took Ella to a pottery painting party which turned out to be a very civilised affair!  The venue itself had a coffee shop vibe, with oversized armchairs and homemade cakes, and because it started mid-morning we were back home by lunchtime.  And there were no sugared-up kids running about....more parties like this please!

And as a bonus Moment (without the accompanying snap)....this week we booked out girlie holiday to New York!  I say "we", I mean the organised one of the group to whom I am eternally grateful for pretty much acting as my PA for all social activities.  We're going for a group birthday trip at the end of September and I can't wait!

Week 11 in Moments

20.3.17

Week 11 turned out to be quite a busy one.  My sister came back from being in Australia for the past six weeks, I've been upping my fitness game in terms of training and nutrition and we've had a few mornings where it truly felt as though spring was on its way...albeit followed by a couple of very blustery afternoons.

But there's more!

Here are a few highlights in photos from the week...


As I mentioned, Zara came back from adventuring around Australia since the beginning of February.  It's funny to think of my baby sister off exploring the world on her own....going further afield than any of our family has done before...but the memories she's made and the sights she's seen sound incredible.  She met me for a very jetlagged (on her part - I was just suffering from the usual midweek slump) lunch break and do you see that streak of sunlight there?  We stayed indoors but feeling the warmth of the sun through the window was a welcomed treat.


I'm lucky enough to work close enough to home that I can pop back for my lunch, but had gotten out of the habit for the last few months.  This week I made the trip a couple of times and really enjoyed taking time out of the office to chill out for a bit before heading back to work.  And I think Dudley enjoyed the company too!


So experience has taught me that kids parties are an awkwardly hellish affair. Too loud, too manic, too cliquey - especially when you consider I tend to go in my auntie capacity so don't know any of the other parents...it's just not my thing.  Being the doting aunt that I am, however, last weekend I took Ella to a pottery painting party which turned out to be a very civilised affair!  The venue itself had a coffee shop vibe, with oversized armchairs and homemade cakes, and because it started mid-morning we were back home by lunchtime.  And there were no sugared-up kids running about....more parties like this please!

And as a bonus Moment (without the accompanying snap)....this week we booked out girlie holiday to New York!  I say "we", I mean the organised one of the group to whom I am eternally grateful for pretty much acting as my PA for all social activities.  We're going for a group birthday trip at the end of September and I can't wait!
Guidance |  If you're just starting out then bullet journalling can seem daunting.  There's a lot to get your head around and there's no way you can get started without a basic understanding of the system and how everything works.  I'd recommend starting here to get in a idea of what it's all about and then heading over to Boho Berry for a more practical look at how the bullet journal can be used..

A notebook |  No brainer, right?  The beauty of the bullet journal is that you can use any notebook and don't necessarily have to face any upfront cost just to get started.  A dotted Leuchtturm or Moleskine tends to be the norm but you definitely don't have to stick with either of these.  Personally, I like the clean look of the dotted Leuchtturm which makes it my notebook of choice; definitely order through Amazon (where they tend to be cheaper) and there's also the official bullet journal version available.

Pens |  Another obvious one; you're going to want pens that aren't going to bleed through the page and spoil all the effort you've gone to in getting your notes looking nice.  I use these for the basis of all of my journalling and then have a couple of coloured pens for accents.  A good place to start is with Staedtler Triplus Fineliner and the Tombow Brush Pens are great for bulk washes of colour.  And so many shades to choose from, too!

Things that need organising | A bullet journal isn't going to be for you if you don't have any ideas about things you want to track or organise as this is definitely where the fun kicks in.  Nobody needs another half-used notebook sat in their collection and if you have nothing to journal then there's no point in even considering starting.  Monthly and daily to do lists are a given, but if you're struggling beyond this then check out this post for more inspiration.

Time |  I don't think I realised when I first started quite how much time bullet journalling can take up!  Mapping out and drawing spreads can easily eat up an hour or so, so be prepared to invest your time if you want everything to look just so.  Thankfully I've found a more minimal (and quick!) style of layout which is both pleasing aesthetically and suits all of my needs. 

The 5 Things You Need To Begin Bullet Journalling

15.3.17

Guidance |  If you're just starting out then bullet journalling can seem daunting.  There's a lot to get your head around and there's no way you can get started without a basic understanding of the system and how everything works.  I'd recommend starting here to get in a idea of what it's all about and then heading over to Boho Berry for a more practical look at how the bullet journal can be used..

A notebook |  No brainer, right?  The beauty of the bullet journal is that you can use any notebook and don't necessarily have to face any upfront cost just to get started.  A dotted Leuchtturm or Moleskine tends to be the norm but you definitely don't have to stick with either of these.  Personally, I like the clean look of the dotted Leuchtturm which makes it my notebook of choice; definitely order through Amazon (where they tend to be cheaper) and there's also the official bullet journal version available.

Pens |  Another obvious one; you're going to want pens that aren't going to bleed through the page and spoil all the effort you've gone to in getting your notes looking nice.  I use these for the basis of all of my journalling and then have a couple of coloured pens for accents.  A good place to start is with Staedtler Triplus Fineliner and the Tombow Brush Pens are great for bulk washes of colour.  And so many shades to choose from, too!

Things that need organising | A bullet journal isn't going to be for you if you don't have any ideas about things you want to track or organise as this is definitely where the fun kicks in.  Nobody needs another half-used notebook sat in their collection and if you have nothing to journal then there's no point in even considering starting.  Monthly and daily to do lists are a given, but if you're struggling beyond this then check out this post for more inspiration.

Time |  I don't think I realised when I first started quite how much time bullet journalling can take up!  Mapping out and drawing spreads can easily eat up an hour or so, so be prepared to invest your time if you want everything to look just so.  Thankfully I've found a more minimal (and quick!) style of layout which is both pleasing aesthetically and suits all of my needs. 
Well, what happened to last week?  Now that I sit down to write this I can't put my finger on anything I did besides over the weekend - where was my head at?!

One thing that definitely happened was that I've started getting into Instagram stories.  Lizzie always uses it and I think the idea of documenting in that way throughout the day really sits well with my aim for slow living.  It's been a work in progress as I adjust to actually remembering to whip my phone out, but if you'd like to see what I get up to then please head over to my instagram - @lornaliterally.

And on a similar note, I've been obsessively watching other people's feeds now so if you use the feature or have any recommendations for awesome accounts then leave your/their details down below.

Now, on with the week!

I'm starting at the end, having just got home from a drizzly day of shopping with my bestie.  We went to Kingston and both managed to stay quite restrained (I'm on a semi-shopping ban for Lent which I've broken several times but told myself it doesn't count because everything I've bought I've returned....I won't tell if you don't!).  We don't see each other as much as we should and I think I enjoyed the time spent chatting in the car more than the excitement of shopping itself!

I've been taking steps to adjust my eating habits and create a better relationship when it comes to food so have started by attempting to up my protein intake.  I mentioned these sweet omelettes a couple of weeks ago and have whipped them up on both Saturday and Sunday.  With a drizzle of maple syrup and a dollop of natural yoghurt, these are absolute perfection!

Midway through a fairly hectic weekend we spent a lazy Saturday night on the sofa together.  I made turkey fajita bowls, we whacked on The Goldbergs and Dudley snuggled up with us.  Why can't every night feel like a Saturday?

So, how was your week?

Week 10 In Moments

13.3.17

Well, what happened to last week?  Now that I sit down to write this I can't put my finger on anything I did besides over the weekend - where was my head at?!

One thing that definitely happened was that I've started getting into Instagram stories.  Lizzie always uses it and I think the idea of documenting in that way throughout the day really sits well with my aim for slow living.  It's been a work in progress as I adjust to actually remembering to whip my phone out, but if you'd like to see what I get up to then please head over to my instagram - @lornaliterally.

And on a similar note, I've been obsessively watching other people's feeds now so if you use the feature or have any recommendations for awesome accounts then leave your/their details down below.

Now, on with the week!

I'm starting at the end, having just got home from a drizzly day of shopping with my bestie.  We went to Kingston and both managed to stay quite restrained (I'm on a semi-shopping ban for Lent which I've broken several times but told myself it doesn't count because everything I've bought I've returned....I won't tell if you don't!).  We don't see each other as much as we should and I think I enjoyed the time spent chatting in the car more than the excitement of shopping itself!

I've been taking steps to adjust my eating habits and create a better relationship when it comes to food so have started by attempting to up my protein intake.  I mentioned these sweet omelettes a couple of weeks ago and have whipped them up on both Saturday and Sunday.  With a drizzle of maple syrup and a dollop of natural yoghurt, these are absolute perfection!

Midway through a fairly hectic weekend we spent a lazy Saturday night on the sofa together.  I made turkey fajita bowls, we whacked on The Goldbergs and Dudley snuggled up with us.  Why can't every night feel like a Saturday?

So, how was your week?

Image credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10

Pink is everywhere this spring....and I love it!  After the dusky, blush tones of 2016 I never expected to get on board with punchier, brighter hues.  But now that the promise of warmer weather is (hopefully!) on the horizon, I'm ready to inject some more vibrant shades alongside the more muted colour into my life.

OUTERWEAR 

TROUSERS 

KNITWEAR 

SHOES 

BAGS 
Zara // Mango

10 Ways To Add Pink To Your Wardrobe

8.3.17


Image credits: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10

Pink is everywhere this spring....and I love it!  After the dusky, blush tones of 2016 I never expected to get on board with punchier, brighter hues.  But now that the promise of warmer weather is (hopefully!) on the horizon, I'm ready to inject some more vibrant shades alongside the more muted colour into my life.

OUTERWEAR 

TROUSERS 

KNITWEAR 

SHOES 

BAGS 
Zara // Mango
Another week already!  How was week 9 of the year for you?  Now that I come to put this post together it turns out that the last seven days were quite foodie ones (not captured here is a midweek dinner round Dad's, so there would have been even more #forkfeed), but I promise that I did more than just stuff my face all week!


Let's start with the obvious - Pancake Day.  I'm normally a lemon and sugar kinda girl, but this year Nick and I went off piste and made protein pancakes instead.  They turned out to be much quicker to cook and more like an American style pancake only slightly less dense.  I'm a fan, and this year I was all about the maple syrup.  What do you top your pancakes with?

I'd been keeping my eyes peeled for the perfect faux leather skirt (not too A-line, not pencil, not too short....the list of criteria was endless) and finally found it in Matalan.  I never look there for clothes but I saw this in a haul video and it ticked all the boxes.  There are lots of embroidered options available at the moment but I think this strikes the balance of 'just enough' detail.  It was a bargain at £16, too!

On Saturday I tried my hand at making Welsh Cakes.  I love these fruity, sugary bites but for some reason have never attempted them myself.  I think it was a success, but the recipe didn't specify how many it would make.  I was anticipating about 12, actually ended up with 30.  Good news though, because if there's a zombie apocalypse then we've got enough Welsh Cakes in the freezer to keep us going for quite some time...

The week rounded off with a shopping trip with Lizzie.  It had been far too long since we'd met up (not since before Christmas!) so we did some pottering about and went for lunch.  I foolishly started to eat before taking a photo (I know right?  And I call myself a blogger!) but this chicken caesar salad was top notch.

If you want to see what  else I've been up to this year you can catch up with my Moments by clicking here.

Week 9 In Moments

6.3.17

Another week already!  How was week 9 of the year for you?  Now that I come to put this post together it turns out that the last seven days were quite foodie ones (not captured here is a midweek dinner round Dad's, so there would have been even more #forkfeed), but I promise that I did more than just stuff my face all week!


Let's start with the obvious - Pancake Day.  I'm normally a lemon and sugar kinda girl, but this year Nick and I went off piste and made protein pancakes instead.  They turned out to be much quicker to cook and more like an American style pancake only slightly less dense.  I'm a fan, and this year I was all about the maple syrup.  What do you top your pancakes with?

I'd been keeping my eyes peeled for the perfect faux leather skirt (not too A-line, not pencil, not too short....the list of criteria was endless) and finally found it in Matalan.  I never look there for clothes but I saw this in a haul video and it ticked all the boxes.  There are lots of embroidered options available at the moment but I think this strikes the balance of 'just enough' detail.  It was a bargain at £16, too!

On Saturday I tried my hand at making Welsh Cakes.  I love these fruity, sugary bites but for some reason have never attempted them myself.  I think it was a success, but the recipe didn't specify how many it would make.  I was anticipating about 12, actually ended up with 30.  Good news though, because if there's a zombie apocalypse then we've got enough Welsh Cakes in the freezer to keep us going for quite some time...

The week rounded off with a shopping trip with Lizzie.  It had been far too long since we'd met up (not since before Christmas!) so we did some pottering about and went for lunch.  I foolishly started to eat before taking a photo (I know right?  And I call myself a blogger!) but this chicken caesar salad was top notch.

If you want to see what  else I've been up to this year you can catch up with my Moments by clicking here.

I've led a fairly sheltered life when it comes to work-wear.  The school was a casual affair, where jeans and trainers were par for the course, and now in my first office job I'm lucky that it sits on the more casual end of formal attire.

But listening to an episode of The Guilty Feminist focusing on shoes made me wonder if I've got it all wrong.

There was talk of how uncomfortable high heels are, reference to this case of a temporary receptionist being sent home from work for refusal to wear heels and discussion of heels can give women the confidence to walk into a male-dominated board room and nail their presentation.

With the exception of a pair of boots, I have never worn heels to the office.

Research suggests the psyche behind why women wear (often) uncomfortable high heels to work is a complex one.  On the one hand it comes down to the sexualisation of women; we're conditioned to think that heels make a woman's legs look longer and therefore better.  Juxtaposing this overt femininity is the idea that by wanting to appear taller, women are actually trying to take up more space and appear more masculine.

And it's not just shoes that are a minefield.  This treatment of women as sexual objects extends to clothes as well, with studies suggesting that women in sexy clothing appear to be more intelligent

When recently discussing job interviews, one of my closest friends stated that she would never go to an interview wearing trousers.  Never.  And this hadn't even crossed my mind.....I turned up to both stages of the interview for my current job in trousers and have since only ever worn skirts or dresses on a handful of occasions.

Objectification aside, there have been studies which found that dressing for success can have a positive effect your focus and performance.  I can get behind this...who hasn't put on an item of clothing which makes them feel good and reaped the benefits of (at a very basic level) a good mood and feeling like you can take on the world?

It seems to be a juggling act.  Dressing for success I'm all for, but is it so deep rooted that women can only be thought of as "dressing for success" if they're dolled up in a sassy pencil skirt and killer heels?

Apparently 45% of women find deciding what to wear to work stressful and spend an average of 90 minutes a week choosing their outfits.  If I'm going to stress about clothing, I want it to be over the outfits I *want* to wear.  Not how I feel I *should* be dressing.

Which leads me nicely into another thing I've recently felt like I need to consider.  Does (and should) my age have an impact on the clothes I'm wearing to work?  Being truthful, I feel slightly in limbo at the office.  There's the younger crowd who wear things I wouldn't always consider 'appropriate' in the sense of casualness (and absolutely nothing to do with the aforementioned skirts/heels combo) but whose style I identify more with, in an off duty kind of way, than colleagues who I'm closer to in age. 

I want to hold on to my sense of style and be able to translate this into the workplace, but sometimes find that this doesn't fit with my entry level role.  Take the beautiful dusky pink blazer I recently purchased; turns out it was just *too* dressy and would be far more suited to someone in a more senior role. Am I alone in feeling like I don't want to draw attention to myself by appearing overdressed?

Let's open up a discussion on this.  Do you suffer workwear-related anxiety?  What do you wear to work?

Am I Wearing The Wrong Thing To Work?

3.3.17


I've led a fairly sheltered life when it comes to work-wear.  The school was a casual affair, where jeans and trainers were par for the course, and now in my first office job I'm lucky that it sits on the more casual end of formal attire.

But listening to an episode of The Guilty Feminist focusing on shoes made me wonder if I've got it all wrong.

There was talk of how uncomfortable high heels are, reference to this case of a temporary receptionist being sent home from work for refusal to wear heels and discussion of heels can give women the confidence to walk into a male-dominated board room and nail their presentation.

With the exception of a pair of boots, I have never worn heels to the office.

Research suggests the psyche behind why women wear (often) uncomfortable high heels to work is a complex one.  On the one hand it comes down to the sexualisation of women; we're conditioned to think that heels make a woman's legs look longer and therefore better.  Juxtaposing this overt femininity is the idea that by wanting to appear taller, women are actually trying to take up more space and appear more masculine.

And it's not just shoes that are a minefield.  This treatment of women as sexual objects extends to clothes as well, with studies suggesting that women in sexy clothing appear to be more intelligent

When recently discussing job interviews, one of my closest friends stated that she would never go to an interview wearing trousers.  Never.  And this hadn't even crossed my mind.....I turned up to both stages of the interview for my current job in trousers and have since only ever worn skirts or dresses on a handful of occasions.

Objectification aside, there have been studies which found that dressing for success can have a positive effect your focus and performance.  I can get behind this...who hasn't put on an item of clothing which makes them feel good and reaped the benefits of (at a very basic level) a good mood and feeling like you can take on the world?

It seems to be a juggling act.  Dressing for success I'm all for, but is it so deep rooted that women can only be thought of as "dressing for success" if they're dolled up in a sassy pencil skirt and killer heels?

Apparently 45% of women find deciding what to wear to work stressful and spend an average of 90 minutes a week choosing their outfits.  If I'm going to stress about clothing, I want it to be over the outfits I *want* to wear.  Not how I feel I *should* be dressing.

Which leads me nicely into another thing I've recently felt like I need to consider.  Does (and should) my age have an impact on the clothes I'm wearing to work?  Being truthful, I feel slightly in limbo at the office.  There's the younger crowd who wear things I wouldn't always consider 'appropriate' in the sense of casualness (and absolutely nothing to do with the aforementioned skirts/heels combo) but whose style I identify more with, in an off duty kind of way, than colleagues who I'm closer to in age. 

I want to hold on to my sense of style and be able to translate this into the workplace, but sometimes find that this doesn't fit with my entry level role.  Take the beautiful dusky pink blazer I recently purchased; turns out it was just *too* dressy and would be far more suited to someone in a more senior role. Am I alone in feeling like I don't want to draw attention to myself by appearing overdressed?

Let's open up a discussion on this.  Do you suffer workwear-related anxiety?  What do you wear to work?
#10 - DIVERGENT // Veronica Roth
"For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs. Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead..."
-
Divergent was our book club pick and to be honest I wasn't too jazzed about reading it.  I was wrong!
I haven't seen the film so had no idea what to expect when I began reading, but in a nutshell this is a world where society is divided into 'factions' and at 16 the characters have to choose which they'll live as.  This concept really piqued my interest and the subsequent fast-pacing and interesting characters made this a thoroughly enjoyable read.
I've read a few dystopians now and am so glad I didn't give this one a miss.  If you're on the fence about reading then you should definitely give it a try!
Rating: ★★★★★

#11 - THE WONDER // Emma Donoghue
"An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story. 
Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, Emma Donoghue's The Wonder - inspired by numerous European and North American cases of 'fasting girls' between the sixteenth century and the twentieth - is a psychological thriller about a child's murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul..."
-
 Novel-wise I'd previously only ever read Room by Emma Donoghue and if you're looking for more of the same then do not pick this up.  This is historical fiction done well...the characters felt real for their time and the author successfully conveys a real sense of the damp, bleak and miserable surroundings.
The storyline itself is interesting and I found myself caught up in the mystery of it and wondering how it would all unravel.  The dynamic between nurse Lib Wright's battle to uncover the truth and Anna's family's willingness to let Anna continue to fast and relish her icon-like status was another of the story's strong points.
Unfortunately, beyond that this story is rather forgettable.  Worth a read if you like atmospheric historical fiction.
Rating: ★★

#12 - HOMEGOING // Yaa Gyasi
"The night Effia Otcha was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through her father’s compound. It moved quickly, tearing a path for days. It lived off the air; it slept in caves and hid in trees; it burned, up and through, unconcerned with what wreckage it left behind, until it reached an Asante village. There, it disappeared, becoming one with the night.
Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader's wife.
The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. As each chapter offers up a new descendant, alternating between Effia’s and Esi’s bloodline right up to the present day, a chasm of experience and the differing legacies of chance are brought starkly to light."

-
Homegoing has been getting a lot of hype.  And rightly so!  This book spans decades and generations, exploring the impact each of the original sisters' lives have had on those of their descendents.
It's hard to pinpoint and discuss aspects of the plot as this was more of an overarching, atmospheric sort of book for me.  What I will say is that my eyes were opened with regards to slavery and I hope I don't sound too ignorant/privileged when I say that.  There was a lot that we were never taught in school and I really think we should have been.  It was also interesting to see the impact that slavery had on the family bonds and watch the generations unravel and grow further apart or closer together, dependent on the circumstances.
Sadly, the ending really let me down as it just seemed to tie everything together too neatly.  I won't say more than that, but after enjoying the rest of the book so much I was disappointed.
Rating: ★★★

#13 - WHAT MILO SAW // Virginia MacGregor
"Nine-year-old Milo Moon has retinitis pigmentosa: his eyes are slowly failing and he will eventually go blind. But for now he sees the world through a pin hole and notices things other people don't. When Milo's beloved gran succumbs to dementia and moves into a nursing home, Milo soon realises there's something wrong at the home. So with just Tripi, the nursing home's cook, and Hamlet, his pet pig, to help, Milo sets out on a mission to expose the nursing home and the sinister Nurse Thornhill. 
Insightful, wise and surprising, What Milo Saw is filled with big ideas and simple truths. Milo sees the world in a very special way and it will be impossible for you not to fall in love with him and then share his story with everyone you know." 
-
This book was reminiscent of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey, as Milo struggles to adjust to changes in family life and battles to get his Gran out of a nursing home and back at home where she belongs.  It was a nice, cosy book which was quick to get through and would be perfect for rainy days with a hot chocolate.
A few things did surprise me with this, however.  Namely that Milo's retinitis pigmentosa didn't really feel like a key part of the story.  More, an additional quirk (together with the pet pig) and almost a USP to "explain" why Milo sees things that others miss.  Although perhaps I'm being criticial.  Another issue was Milo's Mum's age....towards the end of the book I learnt that she was (from memory) in her late 20s/early 30s but this was definitely not the way she'd come across throughout!
Give this one a read if you're a Rachel Joyes fan and enjoy books about family....but don't expect anything groundbreaking.
Rating: ★★★

 #14 - STUFFOCATION: LIVING MORE WITH LESS // James Wallman
"We're all stuffocated. We have more stuff than we could ever need - but it's bad for the planet and it's making us stressed. It might even be killing us. 
In this groundbreaking book, trend forecaster James Wallman finds that a rising number of people are turning away from all-you-can-get consumption, from the exec who's sold almost everything he owns, to the well-off family who moved to a remote mountain cabin.  In Stuffocation, Wallman's solution is to focus less on possessions and more on experiences. It is a manifesto for a vital change in how you live - and it's the one book you won't be able to live without."
-
Stuffocation is a non-fiction book which I'd heard was good if you're interested in minimalism.  It got off to strong start with a chapter focusing on Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists and following on with chapters detailing other individuals who have made the move away from consumerism in varying different ways.  This human aspect of the book I really enjoyed and found I could identify with much of what was being written.
The book then moves into more political grounds and this is where I struggled.  Wallman makes predictions for the future, trying to explore different ways in which we can impact change based on research and forecasting, but ultimately I felt that the author's views were being pushed on me a little too much.
I'd say this is a good starting point for someone who wants to reduce their consumerism (there's a checklist at the back which I'll definitely be using!) but it's not without its flaws.
Rating: ★★★

#15 - TOUCH // Claire North
"Kepler is like you, but not like you. With a simple touch, Kepler can move into any body, live any life - for a moment, a day or for years. And your life could be next."
-
This was a fast-paced, high energy book...albeit a little slow to start.  It took me a while to get into Kepler's head - understanding her motives and reasoning for actions carried out - but once the story got going it felt like it flowed more and things fell into place without me worrying over the finer details.  It's interesting that you never know whether Kepler is male or female, so brought up some interesting gender binary thoughts.
The idea of switching bodies by touch as a means of getting from A to B (or indeed staying a while and living as that person) is one I've not read about before and I think North imagined this very well and thought of lots small factors to build up a cohesive world. I liked the writing style as Kepler slipped between bodies but found it to be a little drawn out and hard to keep up with at the end.  And speaking of the end...I'm not sure I fully "got" it and wasn't 100% sold on the main villain's rationale.  Which is a shame, and the reason behind the lower rating.
Rating: ★★★

Read in 2017: February

1.3.17

#10 - DIVERGENT // Veronica Roth
"For sixteen-year-old Tris, the world changes in a heartbeat when she is forced to make a terrible choice. Turning her back on her family, Tris ventures out, alone, determined to find out where she truly belongs. Shocked by the brutality of her new life, Tris can trust no one. And yet she is drawn to a boy who seems to both threaten and protect her. The hardest choices may yet lie ahead..."
-
Divergent was our book club pick and to be honest I wasn't too jazzed about reading it.  I was wrong!
I haven't seen the film so had no idea what to expect when I began reading, but in a nutshell this is a world where society is divided into 'factions' and at 16 the characters have to choose which they'll live as.  This concept really piqued my interest and the subsequent fast-pacing and interesting characters made this a thoroughly enjoyable read.
I've read a few dystopians now and am so glad I didn't give this one a miss.  If you're on the fence about reading then you should definitely give it a try!
Rating: ★★★★★

#11 - THE WONDER // Emma Donoghue
"An eleven-year-old girl stops eating, but remains miraculously alive and well. A nurse, sent to investigate whether she is a fraud, meets a journalist hungry for a story. 
Set in the Irish Midlands in the 1850s, Emma Donoghue's The Wonder - inspired by numerous European and North American cases of 'fasting girls' between the sixteenth century and the twentieth - is a psychological thriller about a child's murder threatening to happen in slow motion before our eyes. Pitting all the seductions of fundamentalism against sense and love, it is a searing examination of what nourishes us, body and soul..."
-
 Novel-wise I'd previously only ever read Room by Emma Donoghue and if you're looking for more of the same then do not pick this up.  This is historical fiction done well...the characters felt real for their time and the author successfully conveys a real sense of the damp, bleak and miserable surroundings.
The storyline itself is interesting and I found myself caught up in the mystery of it and wondering how it would all unravel.  The dynamic between nurse Lib Wright's battle to uncover the truth and Anna's family's willingness to let Anna continue to fast and relish her icon-like status was another of the story's strong points.
Unfortunately, beyond that this story is rather forgettable.  Worth a read if you like atmospheric historical fiction.
Rating: ★★

#12 - HOMEGOING // Yaa Gyasi
"The night Effia Otcha was born into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through her father’s compound. It moved quickly, tearing a path for days. It lived off the air; it slept in caves and hid in trees; it burned, up and through, unconcerned with what wreckage it left behind, until it reached an Asante village. There, it disappeared, becoming one with the night.
Effia and Esi: two sisters with two very different destinies. One sold into slavery; one a slave trader's wife.
The consequences of their fate reverberate through the generations that follow. As each chapter offers up a new descendant, alternating between Effia’s and Esi’s bloodline right up to the present day, a chasm of experience and the differing legacies of chance are brought starkly to light."

-
Homegoing has been getting a lot of hype.  And rightly so!  This book spans decades and generations, exploring the impact each of the original sisters' lives have had on those of their descendents.
It's hard to pinpoint and discuss aspects of the plot as this was more of an overarching, atmospheric sort of book for me.  What I will say is that my eyes were opened with regards to slavery and I hope I don't sound too ignorant/privileged when I say that.  There was a lot that we were never taught in school and I really think we should have been.  It was also interesting to see the impact that slavery had on the family bonds and watch the generations unravel and grow further apart or closer together, dependent on the circumstances.
Sadly, the ending really let me down as it just seemed to tie everything together too neatly.  I won't say more than that, but after enjoying the rest of the book so much I was disappointed.
Rating: ★★★

#13 - WHAT MILO SAW // Virginia MacGregor
"Nine-year-old Milo Moon has retinitis pigmentosa: his eyes are slowly failing and he will eventually go blind. But for now he sees the world through a pin hole and notices things other people don't. When Milo's beloved gran succumbs to dementia and moves into a nursing home, Milo soon realises there's something wrong at the home. So with just Tripi, the nursing home's cook, and Hamlet, his pet pig, to help, Milo sets out on a mission to expose the nursing home and the sinister Nurse Thornhill. 
Insightful, wise and surprising, What Milo Saw is filled with big ideas and simple truths. Milo sees the world in a very special way and it will be impossible for you not to fall in love with him and then share his story with everyone you know." 
-
This book was reminiscent of The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessey, as Milo struggles to adjust to changes in family life and battles to get his Gran out of a nursing home and back at home where she belongs.  It was a nice, cosy book which was quick to get through and would be perfect for rainy days with a hot chocolate.
A few things did surprise me with this, however.  Namely that Milo's retinitis pigmentosa didn't really feel like a key part of the story.  More, an additional quirk (together with the pet pig) and almost a USP to "explain" why Milo sees things that others miss.  Although perhaps I'm being criticial.  Another issue was Milo's Mum's age....towards the end of the book I learnt that she was (from memory) in her late 20s/early 30s but this was definitely not the way she'd come across throughout!
Give this one a read if you're a Rachel Joyes fan and enjoy books about family....but don't expect anything groundbreaking.
Rating: ★★★

 #14 - STUFFOCATION: LIVING MORE WITH LESS // James Wallman
"We're all stuffocated. We have more stuff than we could ever need - but it's bad for the planet and it's making us stressed. It might even be killing us. 
In this groundbreaking book, trend forecaster James Wallman finds that a rising number of people are turning away from all-you-can-get consumption, from the exec who's sold almost everything he owns, to the well-off family who moved to a remote mountain cabin.  In Stuffocation, Wallman's solution is to focus less on possessions and more on experiences. It is a manifesto for a vital change in how you live - and it's the one book you won't be able to live without."
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Stuffocation is a non-fiction book which I'd heard was good if you're interested in minimalism.  It got off to strong start with a chapter focusing on Ryan Nicodemus of The Minimalists and following on with chapters detailing other individuals who have made the move away from consumerism in varying different ways.  This human aspect of the book I really enjoyed and found I could identify with much of what was being written.
The book then moves into more political grounds and this is where I struggled.  Wallman makes predictions for the future, trying to explore different ways in which we can impact change based on research and forecasting, but ultimately I felt that the author's views were being pushed on me a little too much.
I'd say this is a good starting point for someone who wants to reduce their consumerism (there's a checklist at the back which I'll definitely be using!) but it's not without its flaws.
Rating: ★★★

#15 - TOUCH // Claire North
"Kepler is like you, but not like you. With a simple touch, Kepler can move into any body, live any life - for a moment, a day or for years. And your life could be next."
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This was a fast-paced, high energy book...albeit a little slow to start.  It took me a while to get into Kepler's head - understanding her motives and reasoning for actions carried out - but once the story got going it felt like it flowed more and things fell into place without me worrying over the finer details.  It's interesting that you never know whether Kepler is male or female, so brought up some interesting gender binary thoughts.
The idea of switching bodies by touch as a means of getting from A to B (or indeed staying a while and living as that person) is one I've not read about before and I think North imagined this very well and thought of lots small factors to build up a cohesive world. I liked the writing style as Kepler slipped between bodies but found it to be a little drawn out and hard to keep up with at the end.  And speaking of the end...I'm not sure I fully "got" it and wasn't 100% sold on the main villain's rationale.  Which is a shame, and the reason behind the lower rating.
Rating: ★★★

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