Monday, 15 January 2018

Monday Medley #21

It's the 15th of January and when this goes up I'll be on my way to Salford Royal Hospital so they can stick a tonne of stickers on my back to try and figure out what I'm allergic to. I can't really shower for a week (gross) and more to the point I CAN'T WEAR A BRA. Anyone that knows me will be aware that my boobs are on the larger side so this is truly catastrophic. I'm pretty much housebound for five days while working from home, so this week should be entertaining...

Chetham's School of Music at night

The photo above was taken late on Saturday night on our way home from a night out with friends. My boyfriend and I were both a little tipsy but I felt cute in my outfit (new polka dot shirt and I was loving it) so we snapped a few photos by Chetham's School of Music. They're dark and blurry but I love them. This is one of the ones that's more in focus and features me trying to look poised by a fountain.

READING

DIGITAL

First up, blog posts! I have four favourite blog posts this week and they're all amazing. 

Chloe's post on blogging when your eventual goal isn't to be a full-time blogger really resonated with me and I freaking loved her outfit. She talks about the realities of working for yourself and the pressure to be a girl-boss. It's not something I'm aiming for; this blog is purely for my own enjoyment and any money I make from it is just a bonus.

A different Chloe now over on The Little Plum, where an open letter to fellow people-pleasers caught my eye. I'm a notorious people-pleaser to the point that I always end up sucked into negative and unequal relationships. It's something I've been working on for a long time, but this post really spoke to me. Chloe talks about the importance of being valued rather than liked, and that's definitely something I need to remind myself of quite frequently. I bookmarked this post to reread whenever I need a reminder that I need to put myself first and let that bullshit go. 

Now for a travel post! Iceland has always been on my list of places to go but never very near the top; Amy's posts on her stay in Iceland, especially this one in the southern part of the island, have seriously sold it to me. The photography is beautiful and Iceland sounds incredible; I'm seriously considering trying to convince my boyfriend to book a holiday there next winter.

Finally, Holly's post has the tongue-in-cheek title of 'How to Train Your Boyfriend' which earned a raised eyebrow from my other half when he saw what I was reading just now. It's really about how she takes her photographs and coaches her boyfriend to be able to take the shots she wants. There are lots of handy tips for making the most of your photos and I think I might have to send this to my boyfriend for a read.  

PRINT

As for books at the moment, I'm really trying hard this year to read more often. I finished reading Autumn by Ali Smith on Thursday and enjoyed it, even if it was a bit odd. It was described as the first 'post-Brexit' novel, and it follows an Art History lecturer as she reconnects and reminisces with the old man she befriended as a child. It's packed full of trains of thought and references to British pop art painters and the whole thing is very disjointed. It's won a great deal of critical acclaim, and maybe it's just too high concept for me but I felt like the disparate themes never really came together. 

WATCHING

As for TV, I'm still loving Hunted which is back on Channel 4. I'm sure it's not as realistic as they make it seem, but I do really fancy the idea of going on the run for a few weeks, although I'd probably be found really quickly as I'd just go to my Nan's house.

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Saturday, 13 January 2018

My Current To-Read Pile

Although I haven't really set myself any resolutions for 2018, my new mantra of "just get on with it" applies to basically everything, including books. I didn't read as much I would have liked in 2017 and I've really missed it. For me, reading is a form of self-care; it's an escape from the world around me and an opportunity to lose myself in someone else's life for a change. When I make time to read I look after myself better, and as someone who's been trying to put myself first when my first instinct is to look after others, that's invaluable. 

Ali Smith Autumn

I'm going to attempt to read 52 books in 2018, but I won't beat myself up if I don't manage it. It's just a number to aim for; a reason to stick with the books that are sometimes a little hard-going. I'll be keeping track of my reading properly for the first time using Goodreads and Twitter so you can keep up with my reading if you fancy. No doubt several of the books will be reviewed or just mentioned on here so that record is really just for me. 

to read pile


I'm currently reading House of Names by Colm Toibin and Autumn by Ali Smith, neither of which is my usual type of book. I'll see how they go as right now it's pretty slow-going, even if I'm enjoying them, especially Autumn. Still on my to read list after some Amazon splurging and Christmas gifts are:
The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, Peter Frankopan
The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins
The Crow Girl, Erik Axl Sund
The Art of Kiki's Delivery Service, Hayao Miyazaki
Middlemarch, George Eliot
Hag-Seed, Margaret Atwood
Smoke, Dan Vyleta
Homegoing, Yaa Gyasi
An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir
Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff

As for how long it's going to take me to get through these, in theory, it should take until April but I wouldn't be that surprised if some of these are still unread in 2019 since I bought Middlemarch in July...



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Wednesday, 10 January 2018

My 2018 Travel Goals

2017 wasn't a bad year for travel when I actually think about it. I went away twice, to the Dordogne valley in France and to Japan, more if you count trips to Scotland to see family. However, I felt a little more cooped up than I would have liked, with the Japan trip lasting only ten days and France only four, and I think that for 2018 I'd like to change that. 

I started to manage my money better in the last few months of 2017 and I plan to continue, hopefully able to funnel some of my savings into holidays for the year. I'd like to go away at least three times, but probably only for short breaks or long weekends as I don't have a huge amount of holiday time. While I'm not setting any crazy goals there are a few travel-things I'd like to tick off this year.


The Dordogne by Cenac
The Dordogne, May 2017

Travel with my boyfriend
I've been with my boyfriend for over a year yet it feels like it's been five as we were friends for so long beforehand. We've booked a trip to Amsterdam in April which I am extremely excited about, especially since we should have timed it right to see the tulip fields in full bloom. We've never been on holiday together before apart from a brief trip to Scotland this Christmas to see my family, so I can't wait to wander around a city that's entirely new for both of us.

Go away with friends
I've been on two holidays with friends: Egypt as part of my degree and New Zealand with a uni friend. They were both great, but I've never been on holiday with a group of girlfriends. In 2017 I managed to make my first proper friends since university and I'm so excited to have them in my life. There are rumblings and suggestions of a long weekend in Paris, including a day at Disneyland and I really hope it happens.

A holiday with my Mum
I miss travelling with my Mum. For almost all of my life she, my brother and me would would all go on a cruise, sometimes with my grandparents or friends of the family, but it was always us three. My brother is currently living in Japan and won't be back until August, but my Mum isn't too far away. I miss the hysterical laughter and deep conversations after a few too many glasses of wine, and I really want to try and at least go away for a weekend with my Mum this year.

Figure out if I can travel alone
I've done nights in London and other cities in the UK alone, but the only time I've ever really travelled alone properly was to Copenhagen in 2015. I went for six days in November and was utterly miserable. However, my whole life was pretty miserable, and I'm unsure if I actually dislike travelling alone or if I was just generally unhappy at the time. I'd like to go back to Copenhagen, a city I've loved when I visited for a day many years ago, and see if, now that I'm in a better place, solo travelling could work for me.


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Monday, 8 January 2018

Monday Medley #20

Happy first week of 2018 everyone! I'm already knackered! Hooray!

Anyway, fatigue and minor hysteria aside, it's time for the first Monday Medley of the year and I'm absolutely loving everything included in this post. I've only got a few blogs to share with you this week as I've been trying to ~connect~ more with the written word in its physical form (how fancy-pants airy-fairy does that sound?). I've been really enjoying reading more books thanks to Christmas presents and time off and I've found that by making more time to read I've found it easier to make time for myself. 

Excuse my gormless expression; it was early.

READING

DIGITAL

First up this month, I want to introduce you all to a very good friend of mine who's recently started a blog and it's already incredible. Her name is Danh and she's the best evidence for the existence of angels I've ever come across; her recent post on her resolution to produce zero waste in 2018 is well worth a read if you're interested in a more ecologically responsible lifestyle or even if you're not.

It's no secret that after discovering Becky's blog in October I was absolutely hooked. It's a proper lifestyle blog with content that never fails to engage and entertain and it's one of the very few blogs I've ever felt a real connection with and get excited to read. Her "introduction to 2018" that every blogger under the Sun did (including me) is the one of the best one I read, a real dose of refreshing realism amongst the usual "I'm going to make this the best year of my life" bluster.


Gwennan's blog is no stranger to this little corner of Brambling, and her 2018 post was the other one I really loved. It's another post that's actually realistic about how 2017 was and how 2018 is likely to pan out for her, and the changes she's making to make this year different. I've bookmarked both of these posts for the days when I really need a reminder that I can always start afresh.


PRINT

Over Christmas, I read Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel, and I'm currently working my way through Autumn by Ali Smith and House of Names by Colm Toibin. I'm really enjoying them both, but House of Names isn't exactly the most uplifting of reading (it's a retelling of the Oresteia, which anyone familiar with the Classics will know isn't exactly cheerful). I reviewed Six of Crows since it's the kind of fun, easy read I enjoy at this time of year, and I suspect that I'll end up writing something about Autumn and House of Names but whether it will be on here or elsewhere remains to be seen. 

WATCHING

If you're not currently watching The Good Place on Netflix you 100% need to. I can't say too much without giving things away, but it's about a woman who ends up in heaven by mistake. She's fully aware that she lived a crappy life and isn't seem to be there, but no one else seems to have twigged yet. It's brilliant and by the same guy who did the US The Office, Parks and Rec and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, need I say more? One last thing, DO NOT google it. Google is dark and full of spoilers.

We're only one episode in, but Hunted is back on Channel 4 and I'm loving it. It was very surreal to see the opening episode start with several people legging it around outside my work, and it would explain one of the many helicopters that tend to hover around in the centre of Manchester, but this series looks like it should be a good one.

PLAYING

I've never had a little "playing" sub-header in my Monday Medleys before, but I have a minor obsession with Horizon: Zero Dawn. I'm not really sure how far in I am but it has been the focal point in my life (sorry boyfriend, family, friends, work...) for about a month and it's just a really excellent game.

That's all for this week but I'll be back on the 15th for another round of the best things I've read and watched in January. Hope you're not quite as exhausted after the return to work as I am! Have a great week everyone!


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Thursday, 4 January 2018

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

My Nan very kindly gave me four books as part of my Christmas present, and Six of Crows was one of them. I've seen Leigh Bardugo's name floating around Twitter for years now and finally decided to see what all the fuss was about. Rather than dive straight into the Grisha trilogy I thought I'd read the first of the Six of Crows duology, thinking that if I enjoyed the writing style I could always look at the Grisha trilogy later. I read it on the long train journeys to and from Scotland and didn't want to put it down to the extent that I was packing my bag up with one hand as we pulled into Glasgow, nose still deep in the book. 

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo Review, Grisha trilogy

A little-known fact about me is that I bloody love a heist movie, so Six of Crows sounded right up my street, described as "Ocean's Eleven meets Game of Thrones".  It's closer to Ocean's Eleven than Thrones, with the settings really absolutely nothing alike. I feel like reviewers like to slap on big-name fantasy like Thrones or Harry Potter to draw people in, even if in reality they're completely different. Like Ocean's Eleven, it revolves around a central mastermind of dubious morality, as he gathers a band of misfits to pull off a heist of gargantuan proportions for profit, to prevent a crisis and for vengeance. One of the things I enjoyed most was the clear motive for each member of the gang to go on the mission; often books gloss over this, leaving the reader incredulous and disconnected with the story as characters behave in ways that don't make sense. 

The characters are somewhat stereotypical in nature and improbably young, the oldest being just 18. You have the usual tropes of a morally corrupt and reticent mastermind, the gambling sharpshooter, the grim-faced Northerner, a beautiful sorceress, the tiny acrobat with a troubled past and the kid who likes to blow things up. Some of the team work well together and others don't, and it's pretty true to life of how a group of people who don't necessarily get along can work together. For all that the characters are recognisable tropes, they and the plot don't suffer for it. They're fairly well-rounded characters, and although some of the minor romance seemed forced I didn't feel like any of it was unbelievable. I don't mind tropes as long as they're done well: they're often tropes for a reason. I love the setting of Ketterdam, with its grimy streets and murky canals, and it's basically a fantasy version of Amsterdam, a beautiful city I'll be visiting for the first time in April. I've never read anything set in a city like it, so it made for a refreshing change. The setting of the Ice Palace was less enjoyable for me; it was more of a typical fantasy setting and I've found I prefer cities over palaces due to the greater scope for variety, but it served its purpose as an impregnable stronghold. 

The plot was great, full of twists and turns and a few things I didn't see coming. As I say, I love a good heist, and this satisfied my desire for seemingly insurmountable obstacles overcome in interesting ways; I thought several aspects were very original and clever, but I can't say too much without giving things away. I didn't enjoy the flashbacks to Matthias and Nina's past, finding them either unnecessary or disorienting. They left me floundering to get back into the main story, and I was left wondering if this backstory was part of the Grisha trilogy. A quick google suggests it isn't, and instead, I wonder if Bardugo wanted to write a whole separate book about the two and was forced to incorporate it into Six of Crows. 

The ending of the book was utterly infuriating and one of the most frustrating cliffhangers I've ever encountered. Fortunately, the sequel has already been released, but I was so angry at the ending that I flung the book across the room. A bit of a cliffhanger is good but that was a monster. I'll be buying the sequel very soon to find out what happens, and I'll probably get round to the Grisha trilogy at some point but it won't be top of my list. 

Six of Crows made for an engaging and easy read; it's perfect to balance with a more heavy-going book if, like me, you like to have two on the go at once. It's about what I expected when I ordered it, but it's definitely one of the better YA Fantasy novels out there. I have nothing against the genre, having read a great deal of it and enjoyed it, but they do have a reputation for shoddy writing. Bardgo's characters are typical yet nuanced, her world-building accomplished and her inventiveness is to be applauded. The book won't be breaking boundaries anytime soon, but if you like original fantasy that's an easy read then you'll love it.


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Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Forward

So here we are in 2018, and I've barely thought about this blog for six weeks. It's been a constant nag at the back of my mind, the thing I know I should be doing but somehow never have time for. This was a recurring pattern in 2017, as I went through phases of working really hard, then giving up for a while, and repeating. This led to ups and downs in my confidence, self-worth and general mental health, as when I procrastinate I gradually lose the ability to deal with other aspects of my life. The nagging thought of what I should be doing slowly drives me crazy, until I'm a stressed, anxious mess, even if my work and personal lives are absolutely great. 

Sunset on Barassie Beach, Troon

"Just get on with it" is the mantra I could do with remembering this year. That and "chill already", "this too shall pass" and "remember what you want", but that seems a bit much so I'll stick with the first one. It's not a resolution because I feel like resolutions are too, er, resolute, but it's something I'd like to try and keep in mind this year. 

I keep thinking that every time I take a break and come back to this blog I should start afresh and do something new, but the truth is that when I'm actually working, I enjoy it. I shouldn't feel the need to do something innovative just because I fell off the wagon for a while. So, in 2018 this blog will no doubt change and evolve, but for now, I'm going to stick with what I like writing, which I've outlined several times already. It's really time to just get on with it and actually stick to writing regularly. Admittedly, about 80% of my time is currently consumed by Horizon: Zero Dawn, but I shall struggle valiantly on to complete it so I can rededicate my time to this blog for you, my dear reader (I jest).

Barassie Beach, Troon

That's all for now, but I wish you all a brilliant new year; may it be better than the last.


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Forward into 2018, Pinterest Image
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