October TBR 2017

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This is an odd mix of things, some that I have to read and some that I want to. It’s long and I’m not expecting to read them all, but I’m going to divide them up as best I can. Also I apologise for the inferior photo of the image, it was taken in my uni library with awful lighting because the lighting will be even worse by the time I get home.

Compulsory reads for uni

A Hero of Our Time – Mikhail Lermontov

Dead Souls – Nikolay Gogol

Fathers and Sons – Ivan Turgenev 

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk – Nikolai Leskov

Plays to help with my Scriptwriting module (I also just got them out of the library today so they’re recent additions!)

The Sugar Syndrome – Lucy Prebble 

Tribes – Nina Raine 

If There Is I Haven’t Found It Yet – Nick Payne

Rabbit – Nina Raine 

The Effect – Lucy Prebble

Other reads

Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life – Benjamin Alire Saenz

Pax – Sara Pennypacker

The Refugees – Viet Thanh Nguyen

I’ll see how many I get read, obviously my priority is to stay ahead with uni reading so those for Russian lit will be read first. But I’m looking forward to a lot of these so hopefully I’ll get to most of them!

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Some of My Favourite Youtubers

I love watching Youtube videos, and I’ve seen quite a few posts by people sharing their favourite you tubers recently. Most recently, my best friend who runs the blog Sprinkled With Words did one (link here). And so I naturally decided to share some of mine.

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OKBaby

Here’s the thing. I don’t like children and I don’t find them particularly cute or anything, but this family is honestly adorable. I’ve been watching them for quite a long time now, and their vlogs are just lovely to wind down and watch.

 

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GirlReading 

She’s a British booktuber who seems really down to Earth and reads a lot of similar books (contemporary YA) to me, which is fun to watch. I find her videos a lot more calm than some youtubers, and she’s another I like to relax and watch.

 

photoSprinkled With Words

Obviously.

 

 

photo-2Ruby Granger

I’m not organised and often need some motivation to actually get down to work. Ruby somehow manages to study for 12 hours straight (I don’t know either, but hats off to her), and it’s a help. She’s also about to publish an ebook, which is pretty fab.

 

photo-3Family Fizz

I literally found this channel about a week ago, but I’ve really been enjoying watching some of their videos. They live such a unique lifestyle and are so lovely to watch.

 

dpHell on Earth

Okay this sounds like a bit of an odd one, but they’re urban explorers. They’re from Yorkshire (if you have even a vague knowledge of British accents you wouldn’t struggle to work that out once you started watching!) and they’re not exactly family friendly in terms of their language. But I’ve got a lot of respect for the way they treat the abandoned buildings (in one video they scared off vandals) and they make some pretty interesting and hilarious videos. They make a pleasant change if I’m feeling like watching something a bit different.

Which Youtubers do you like? Do you have any recommendations? ☺️

Plans For Second Year

It’s odd to think that I’m in second year of university already. For the longest time, uni has been my goal in life; the place I wanted to get to. Many people have jobs or something in much later life that they strive for (maybe travel, family, or career for example), but uni for me was where I wanted to get to. It’s scary to think I’m almost halfway through.

I thought then, after finding study based youtube channels and study grams, that I should plan a bit more, and work out exactly what I want to achieve this coming year.

  1. Be organised and don’t turn up to a seminar not having finished the book. Okay, so I’m pretty sure everyone is guilty of this in some way, and in the first semester I think I made three seminars (in twelve weeks) where I had actually read the book. If that. No, I’m not proud of that at all, and I will say that my second semester was very different – I think there may have been one or two where I hadn’t completely finished a text, and I usually had a good reason too. This year though, I’m reading longer books, especially in my 19th Century Russian Literature module, and there is no way I can read Anna Karenina or Crime and Punishment the night before the seminar – or even the week before for that matter! The improvement I made in the second semester can still be bettered in the new academic year.
  2. Start early with extra reading. I don’t actually mind extra reading and going to the library to find resources, in fact, it’s quite interesting. What I don’t particularly enjoy is reading five books one after the other about Père Goriot because I hadn’t read any previously. I’m thinking even if I’ve read one or two short essays on each book in advance, then it’s something I won’t have to do when I have three summatives due in within three days of each other.
  3. Focus on my health more. Having an autoimmune condition means that I need to keep an eye on my health as best I can. I guess I’m lucky in an odd way in that I get mouth ulcers when I’m run down, so I know when I’m not paying my body enough attention. I’ve recently focused a lot more on healthy eating (I went through a phase of eating so well but this went downhill at uni) and I have felt so much better. Getting enough sleep is a big deal for me too, as I get horrific headaches that border being migraines if I don’t. I also want to exercise more so that I’m not out of breath from walking a short distance, but that’s purely so I don’t look even more like a fool when I’m undoubtably late for a seminar. The final part to this is that I want to focus on my mental health. I’ve had all summer to work out what made me stressed or anxious in first year, and second year I’m going to avoid these things as best as I can.
  4. Make more time for writing. I study a creative writing degree but somehow it’s always the lowest priority. Why? I don’t know. But this needs to change. I’m hoping for an hour a day, but at the moment as much as possible is what is working.
  5. Be more organised. This probably goes without saying, and though I try to be organised, it usually fails. I’ve invested in a bullet journal and it’s already resulted in me making the conscious effort to try and do as much work as possible so that my productivity tracker looks more impressive… I improved massively last year regarding organisation, and this I want to further so that I can have more time for myself and my hobbies, as well as uni.

These are just some things that I’m hoping to focus on when I’m back at uni, and to be honest I’ve already started working on them (I’ve nearly finished the first book for the Russian Lit module🎉).

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I’m looking forward to getting back to this gorgeous place – this photo was from an afternoon that I spent reading by the lake on campus.

September TBR 2017

So most of the books on my TBR this month are for uni or because of uni (I will explain, I promise). It’s quite ambitious as most of them are classics, but I need to get to as many as possible to get ahead for my modules! The first three are for my 19th Century Russian Literature module.

Eugene Onegin – Alexander Pushkin

I’ve already started this one and I’m nearly halfway through. I’m actually really enjoying it and the translation is fairly simple to read, there are a few archaic phrases to be a more literal translation but otherwise it’s okay.

A Hero of Our Time – Mikhail Lermontov

Dead Souls – Nikolay Gogol

Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

This one is the ‘because of uni’ one. I always promised myself I’d finish this before I started another long book, namely Anna Karenina or War and Peace. I really want to finish this anyway, as I adore the story and musical and literally anything Les Mis, but Anna Karenina is on my module reading list, so there’s a little pressure there.

Evening Primrose – Kopano Matlwa

When the Floods Came – Clare Morrall

Okay so these last two are both review books that I have been sent, I’ve started them both and they’re both so so good. Very different (I’m struggling to find one I’m truly in the mood for though I think dystopian and When the Floods Came is best suited at the moment) but very good.

Also, I apologise for there being no photo – one may or may not be added in the future, but I’m still setting everything up on my computer at the moment so bear with me. (Also most of them are on iBooks anyway so there is nothing to photograph!) However, I can now insert emojis, so do expect an influx of them on here as I overuse them everywhere else so why not make that the case on here too.😂

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Music I Love

So  I thought I’d do a slightly different post for today and veer away from books and writing and talk about some music and artists I love. I have certain musicians that I always come back to time and again and I thought I’d give them a little bit of love on here.

Walk Off the Earth 

This is one of my absolute favourite groups to exist, honestly. They’re unique and their songs are just incredible. Many of them tackle deeper issues with their catchy, upbeat tunes (though their latest – ‘Taekwondo’ – is just a love song (thought I’d put money that it’s them partially making a joke about conventional romantic songs)). I have followed this band since their ‘5 peeps 1 guitar‘ video went viral a good few years ago and I can’t recommend them enough. If I manage to have half as much fun as it looks like they have in my future, I will be living a good life. I am impatiently awaiting UK tour dates…

Lucy Spraggan

I saw her live back in February and she was phenomenal. She was on the X Factor a good few years ago and since then she has released three albums, the latest on her own label. If I’m honest, I’m glad she left the x factor (due to illness I should add) because she is not the generic pop artist that succeed on that show (nothing wrong with them but Lucy has the most incredible talent) as she writes her own songs and they tell magnificent stories. ‘Tea and Toast’ was sung on the show, but ‘Dear You‘ was one of her most powerful (listening to her sing it live choked me up).

Oh Wonder

These guys are the ones I quite often go to when I write, as their music is calming but wonderful. I’m seeing them at uni in November and I can’t wait, although I’ve yet to listen to their newest album for some reason. If you want something raw and unique, these guys are the ones to listen to.

Amy Macdonald 

I have distinct memories of listening to her original album on the way to Scotland for a family holiday years and years ago. To this day, I still love that album. She’s got four out now, and her voice is so unique and distinctive, I just love it. I also remember all of the words to ‘Mr Rock and Roll‘ without shame. She’s another brilliant songwriter and just worth a listen.

The Piano Guys

These. I get goosebumps when I listen to their phenomenal arrangements of both pop and classical songs. I have seen them live twice, the second time in the Royal Albert Hall, which was amazing. Quite a few people have pulled a face when I’ve mentioned the word classical, but then have gone on to say that they enjoy what these guys do with music. I discovered these the same day I discovered WOTE (a good day for music for me!) and haven’t looked back. They came up in the recommendations on youtube as they do 5 people one piano, playing ‘What Makes you Beautiful‘ (even if you hate One Direction please, this is incredible!).

Collabro

If you enjoy musical theatre, you must try listening to Collabro. Their covers of musical theatre songs made the hairs stand up on my arms, even more so when I heard them live. Here’s the link to ‘Memory‘ from Cats, one of my all time favourite songs from one of my favourite musicals. The first time I heard them sing on Britain’s Got Talent, they sung Stars from Les Mis, which I swear is one of the reasons I love their music so much as that is probably my favourite musical theatre song full stop.

Frank Turner

You can blame Hannah completely for my love for Frank Turner. I went to a gig of his at uni with her and he was just absolutely fantastic and from then on I’ve been listening to his music. He’s another super talented musician and is brutally honest in his songs (which I love). I’m so so glad that I’ve been introduced to his music as it’s exactly the kind of sound I enjoy and I will continue to listen to him for a long time.

As you can tell, I tend to listen to a variety and there aren’t really any ‘mainstream’ artists in this list. I prefer musicians who write their own songs mainly, but also something that is unique. I had the music TV channel on a while ago and all of the chart toppers sounded identical to me, and not the kind of music I particularly like. If you love chart music then great! Which are your favourite songs?

A New Writing Project and What I’m Doing Differently

So I’ve tried writing a number of things before but I always end up reverting back to poetry. Poetry is what I’ve always written (though not necessarily well), and it’s definitely my comfort zone. However, I have made several attempts at novels, which usually just fizzle out before I even manage halfway.

So I’ve had one novel on the go for nearly two years now; I started it during NaNoWriMo of 2015. I’m at 43,000 words, which is the most I’ve ever got with a novel, and I also love the idea. The problem? I just don’t know where to go with it at this point in the plot. Something needs to happen, but I just can’t think of anything that is worthwhile. The writing itself is poor as well; it’s slow, choppy, and I change my mind mid sentence so often that it would be impossible for anyone other than myself to read it. This will all be sorted out in editing though, so I told myself it doesn’t matter at this point. Realistically, it doesn’t but it’s another thing to think about when I’m writing.

Instead then, of putting it off repeatedly and in fact getting nothing written whatsoever, I have made the conscious decision to put it on the back burner for a while. Whilst some people I imagine would struggle with this idea, it’s definitely the right one for me if I want to actually get writing again – which I desperately do. I had some characters and thoughts in my head for another project, this one a YA contemporary instead of adult dystopian, so I decided to build on them, and build on them I have.

I spent a lot of time developing the characters and their families, adding diversity to the cast and uniqueness to individual characters. I feel as though the uniqueness can be worked on, but I’ve not quite finished planning and I do feel as though smaller details will be added when I’m writing it properly as they always do. However, I’ve made sure to plan development and changes as those often go forgotten as I write.

Planning is the big change I’ve made with this project and the one I’ve put aside. This time I’ve made sure to plan each chapter in detail, and instead of writing ‘talk about x’, I’ve actually made a note of what to say. There are a couple of details that I haven’t quite worked out yet, but I’ll either go back to them before or as I write (when I say minor details they are things like the colour of something etc). With my other project, I’d plan a few chapters ahead and very vaguely, so I had an idea of what was coming but after that I had to go back to planning. I thought this worked for me – and to an extent it did – as there were things I just hadn’t thought of that I thought of later which really added to the plot and took the narrative in a new direction. But it obviously doesn’t truly work because I just stopped. I couldn’t think of anything and I stopped. Lesson learned there, and when I decide eventually where to take it, I will plan the rest a lot more thoroughly.

I’m hoping that because my plan is so detailed, once I finish it, I will be able to get the first draft finished fairly quickly. I’m not necessarily a fast writer and can’t write 10,000 words in a day, but it shouldn’t take me nearly two years. I’ve spent a while on this plan, and I’m not quite finished with it (I’ve got about four chapters left), and I had originally planned to keep it around 40,000 words and a novella. I made the mistake of adding a major plot point in what should have been the penultimate chapter though, so it’s become a novel! It does make the story a lot better though so I’m not complaining. I’m aiming for around 2,500 words per chapter, for reference, though some of the plans make me think that this may be exceeded!

Are there any tips that you have when it comes to planning? I seem to have gone from one extreme (barely planning) to another (massively detailed planning), but I’m hoping it works.

Also, have a cute picture of my dogs swimming when we were on holiday because I didn’t know what picture to take for this post!

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Review: The Ethan I Was Before – Ali Standish

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Genre: Middle grade, contemporary

Publication Date: June 29th 2017 by Orchard Books, Hachette Children’s Group

Format: ebook sent to me for review from Hachette Children’s Group via Netgalley

Ethan had been many things. He was always ready for adventure and always willing to accept a dare, especially from his best friend, Kacey. But that was before. Before the accident that took Kacey from him. Before his family moved from the city he loves to a tiny town in the middle of nowhere. 

Ethan’s new home feels like the place for second chances. It’s also home to Coralee, a girl with a big personality and even bigger stories. Coralee may be just the friend Ethan needs, except Ethan isn’t the only one with secrets. Coralee’s are catching up with her, and what she’s hiding might be putting both their lives at risk. 

The Ethan I Was Before is a story of love and loss, wonder and adventure, and ultimately of hope. 

(from goodreads.com)


When the write-up on Netgalley described this as ‘Wonder meets Goodnight Mr. Tom’, I had to request it. I loved both of those books and Goodnight Mr. Tom especially is an all-time favourite. The Ethan I Was Before was so so wonderful. It was heartbreaking but also uplifting, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

There was an element of mystery surrounding the character of Kacey and the events that caused Ethan to move from Boston, and it kept me intrigued throughout the novel. Once I found out what they were, it broke my heart, especially as they were told through Ethan’s perspective. I don’t want to say too much, because it would be a massive spoiler as the whole book is about Ethan dealing with events that are left unexplained to the reader until the end very end, but his point of view just made the story even sadder.

I loved the massive focus on both friendship and family. The family is central in the narrative, with the beginning being their moving in with Ethan’s grandfather. There is wonderful development in the relationships within the family unit too, and it was fantastic to see that a constant (which many see the family as, and it is the same for Ethan) can still change and evolve through time.

I also loved the character of Coralee and the story that she has, which I won’t go into because again, spoilers. She’s an adorable character and despite her age, she is sassy and stands up for what she believes in and I think that is an incredible message for kids to read. Her friendship with Ethan is fabulous and the pair of them just made me happy to read about.

The plot of this novel was quite complex, but very easy to follow nonetheless. I honestly loved it, and there is quite a lot that is hinted at but largely left unsaid until the very end, which picked up the pace and kept me intrigued and hooked until the reveal.

This was a wonderful book, and I would highly recommend it. The story was unique, fun, and interesting, and I think it’s fair to see that it’s a book that you can’t help enjoying for one reason of another. The characters are great with their antics, mishaps and friendships, and I’d say anyone could pick this up and fall in love with them, no matter what their age.

Rating: 5 / 5 Stars.