Friday, 28 November 2014

The Bookshop Book - Jen Campbell


When I was given the chance to FINALLY read this book by the hilarious Jen Campbell (of the Weird Things People Say In Bookshops series - a series my colleagues at Waterstones used to laugh about how real some of the stories were), I was so excited to take the time out of my university assignment schedule and sit back and think back to some of the wondrous bookshops I have visited in the past. I had high expectations and this book did not fail them. 

This is the perfect book for anyone experienced the wonder of bookshops. As a book lover, a bookseller or a blogger, anyone that has become immersed in the world of a bookshop can appreciate this book for its creativity approach and just a simple chance to do a lot of fangirling. 

In a world where the bookshops we love are declining rapidly for the cheaper alternative of Amazon (which it is clear does not have the certain atmosphere and experience of a real bookshop), this book is something special and it is clearly the perfect book as the official book of the BOOKS ARE MY BAG campaign this year.
It shows how the passion for reading can manifest into endless visits to beautiful bookshops, meeting some of the world's most interesting people in a fun and engaging way. I loved reading about the books in countries I would never have considered visiting for their range of bookshops as well as finding out about some of the most recommended and quirkiest bookshops in my hometown, London, itself. 

One of my particular favourites was a second hand bookshop in Wigtown in Scotland which also happens to the National Book Town, somewhere I am now dying to go to!  These wonderful facts and figures I never knew about books and their shops now whirl around my head after reading this book waiting for that time in that pub quiz where I can utilise them (I don't think that day will come really). 

This book is now my to-do list, a book full of these brilliant places of creativity, romance and innovation all circling around my love for books. This book needs to be read by anyone that even has a small interest in reading and literature, but certainly for anyone who appreciates simply a good bookshop. Written in an informal and interesting manner and dispersed with interviews from the UK's much loved authors, THE BOOKSHOP BOOK should be on everyone's Christmas list and truly appreciated. 

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Moving House

Today marks Day Fourteen in our university house in Bournemouth, something quite amazing considering it feels like we've been here longer already.
I moved in last Saturday with two other of housemates on a day that was both stressful, hilarious and one I think we're going to remember for a while. Things started off as normal - packing up the car with all the things I own wondering both how one person could have SO much stuff and deliberating how on earth we're going to fit it all in the car. Then the unpacking when we're in Bournemouth, the slight soul destroying moment as you start to take apart the suitcase and box Jenga. My parents and I started sorting out my room leaving my dad to build the IKEA bookcase I had bought along.

However, somehow the day ended with me climbing through an upstairs window...

We came back from Wilkinsons after a trip for supplies and wrapping paper to find one of my housemates frantically calling our landlord before announcing that her key wouldn't unlock her door.I think many 'facepalm' moments followed this. After some calling with no avail and then an arrangement with one of our newly found neighbours, we had a ladder. It then came to the decision on who would be the one to climb through the small window and open the door from the other side. Soon I realised that three people I was standing around were looking at me and my housemate, who although her petitieness was perfect for the job, she is also scared of heights. I was the chosen one.

I've always thought how scared it could be going up that high with nothing behind you but a 10ft drop and a hard landing. As I was prepping for my climb, many thoughts ran through my head including the many injuries or at worst death I could sustain from dropping from that height, which was soon discarded from my mind.

Despite my worries and consciousness that six people were watching me from below, I was able to cast that all away and get one of my legs into the room and catapult the remainder of my body through the window onto the bed with only the lamp being knocked over in the lunge.

The last few weeks have been a mixture of getting used to living in a house with five people and debating with utilities companies on their best deals as well as enrolling and start the panicking of how we're all going to find placements for next year. It's weird being back in Bournemouth so suddenly, but now I just want to get started with my second year.


Thursday, 11 September 2014

First Year at University: Fresher's Week

As I pack my life into boxes and suitcases once again, I can't help but reflect on my first year of university, especially as I find photos and mementos from this last year. A few of my friends took a year out and are preparing for their first year now, making me feel like a veteran and mentally (and physically) preparing them for Fresher's Week.

As someone who, a year ago, would seize up in fear and anxiety at the idea of going to a nightclub with a load of people I don't know, Fresher's Week (or fortnight as it is at Bournemouth) was a little different for me. I tried to go out the first main night of the fortnight. I went to pre-drinks (essentially when most of the drinking happens while socialising until it is an acceptable time to go to the club i.e. like 11pm/12am) which was really nice, meeting a few people in my halls including two girls that I'm moving in with this year! Things were looking up, although I felt entirely overdressed, my evenings out normally involving going for dinner or up to London. I also made the vital mistake and brought a bag with me because I was wearing a skirt (top tip: bags + club = annoying). I joined my flatmates to walk to the Old Fire Station, Bournemouth's Student Union nightclub. Some people went ahead because they paid for wristbands while I got the freebie one. I was standing in the queue with one of my new flatmates, who I had known a mere 24 hours at the point, who was also on the borderline 'I won't remember this' drunk, surrounded by people who I had no idea in hell who they were but they all looked really happy, really comfortable, really attractive - like they were at home. Me? I felt as far from that as humanly possible. I was so out of my comfort zone and felt this fear seeping into me like I felt when I first went to house parties or when someone approaches me in the street. I just felt like I needed to get out of there, there were too many people, too much noise, too many lights. I just wasn't ready for this yet.

So I left. I left my drunk flatmate in the queue (I still feel bad, I *think* he has forgiven me now), I left behind the other two flatmates who were already inside and I just walked around the corner to my halls and left. I have some regrets for doing that, but in all honesty, I really wasn't ready or comfortable in that situation and needed a way out. When I got home, I expected the other two flatmates I left behind to have gone to bed, found some other friends, just enjoying themselves without me, thinking I was the type that wanted to go out all the time. However, I found them on their laptops in our kitchen having a chat and bonding. I walked in and they looked so surprised, I just explained I needed to get out of there and they nodded knowingly and told me to join them. I felt comfortable at last.

That was pretty much my only example of going out in Fresher's Week. We went out again a week later for one of my flatmate's birthday, but it was a Saturday (worse day to go) and in a club where we all agreed was not the best place ever. So how did I spend my evenings in Freshers?
Mostly playing card games, bonding with my new friends and flatmates, watching films and just generally getting to know each other. In some ways I wish I went out more, but I wasn't ready and I'm glad I didn't.
By the second semester I was ready however, and had some of the best nights in various clubs in Bournemouth or at flat parties. I still know my limits and I would so much rather sit at home, under a duvet watching a film with some of my favourite people or spend the money you spend on alcohol on a dinner out at a nice restaurant.

I guess I'm saying that although everyone is different, it's okay not to go out. You will find someone who also doesn't want to. The best thing about university is that everyone accepts each other whether you're a geek, straight, gay, a karate king - whatever. No-one cares. I found two people on my doorstep who didn't want to go out all the time, however, friends have found ones next door, over the road or on their course. Even if all your flatmates want to go out all the time, as long as they accept that you don't want to necessarily, that's fine. And anyway, after the first month, everyone has too big a hangover to go out every day, so that hardly happens despite student stereotypes.

(I started writing about my first year and it sort of turned into a rant about Freshers...)

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

From Spain to Bristol

The last few weeks have been a little bit of a whirlwind as I've been dashing here, there and everywhere while seeing numerous people and enjoying the last remaining bit of the summer. Now that September has rolled in though, it's full steam ahead to sort out the house that five friends and myself are moving into in the next few weeks while fitting in time for IKEA and Wilkinsons trips and seeing my friends staying in London. It's all been a bit crazy!

Last week I came back from a short break with my parents and university friend to Spain where we soaked up the sun, swam a lot and ate probably five times the amount I normally eat. We were given a shock back to reality though when leaving the plane at Gatwick, however, and experiencing a chilly 15 degrees compared to the 37 degrees we had left behind. 

My friend was staying with us for a few more days before returning home which involved some relaxing but also an epic, long day in Central London. I experienced the Emirates Air Line for the first time, something we both have wanted to do since it was built in 2012. It goes from North Greenwich by the O2 to Royal Victoria by the Excel Centre in East London. I was amazed by how high it went actually across the Thames, giving brilliant and beautiful views of Greenwich, the City, the Thames Barrier and the surrounding area. It was quite surreal being high up and seeing such a built up, grey city on one side and then the rolling hills of the countryside in Essex on the other. I recommend it, just go on a clear and sunny day!


We met up with some of my friends from school and their university friends before sampling tea from a lovely little tea shop in Soho named Yumchaa and nattering about our opinions on the new Doctor Who, chopping boards and the ultimate revelation that Hello Kitty is not a cat, but apparently a schoolgirl living in the suburbs of London. 

Next, we had a wander through Regent's Park before finding ourselves in Camden to go to the penultimate 'Night Market' at Camden Lock - a massive market of freshly made food from different countries accompanied by a live band, exactly the kind of way I like to spend my evenings. It was a nice round off to the day and the food was delicious with a good 10 minutes before I could decide my choice of dinner. 




To round off last week, I then travelled to Bristol to visit my boyfriend who was house and cat sitting. Bristol is a city I've been told so much about but only visited once. I was shown some more sights such as Cabot Tower which gives beautiful views of the city and then, Bristol Museum. With every visit to Bristol, I'm increasingly liking the city more and more, wanting to discover more parts. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Hibiscus Tea


Way back in May (which seems centuries ago on this rainy August morning), I bought some celebratory proper herbal tea from a little tea shop just off Covent Garden as a 'Yes, you got through exams' present to myself. It's only recently since the weather has changed once again that I decided to bring out the Hibiscus tea to try!

I discovered hibiscus tea when I visited a tea shop near me that has probably every tea you can possibly think of, where I always have blackcurrant and hibiscus. Although I don't drink tea normally, I am a fan of fruity or different teas especially anything with blackcurrant or cranberry in. Hibiscus is known for its properties that help with blood pressure, stress and generally good for the heart - all things I think my body would appreciate!

I bought loose tea, therefore, a tea strainer was needed. I bought mine in the shape of a strawberry for £3 in a funky home shop in London named 'Tiger'. Once putting the water in, I left the strainer in for the recommended maximum 10 minutes as I prefer strong tea. I would recommend NOT to do that with loose tea now, as it was a little bit too strong for me when I got round to drink it.



I've found that about 5 or 6 minutes is perfect for this tea, although it depends a lot on the strength of flavour of the tea and what someone personally prefers, much like the different ways people take their tea and coffee on a daily basis. This tea is lovely, something nice after dinner or on a cold afternoon. I'm going to be going to the Tea House in Covent Garden again to try some more of their flavours!


Thursday, 14 August 2014

The Moment Before - Suzy Vitello

Source: Netgalley
Pages: 216

Synopsis: Sisters, Brady and Sabine Wilson are sisters born eleven months apart. However, despite their closeness in age, they are entirely different to one another. Sabine is popular, the head cheerleader with a popular boyfriend. Brady is alternatively artsy, quieter and fades frequently into the shadows of her older sister.
All is turned upside down when Sabine dies in a horrific cheerleading accident and Brady's life is suddenly full of heartbreak and grief. The only person she finds who can help her find out exactly what happened around Sabine's death is the guy, Connor, everyone blames for her death.

Review: My first thought after I read the first few pages was 'Oh, well this has been done before'. With a synopsis similar to that of Undone by Cat Clarke, Saving June by Hannah Harrington and The S-Word by Chelsea Pitcher, I was expected a tale of grief, anger, infidelity and ultimately, revenge.

However, I was at once drawn into the story particularly to Brady and her quest to find out the back story in the wake of her sister's death ending in suddenly finishing this book within a couple of days. While many of these kind of novels focus on suicide and revenge, this account was largely far more accurate in Brady's curiousity of the circumstances of the death as well as illustrating a family that is entirely broken yet haven't given up on the hope that they can get over this all.

I loved the way THE MOMENT BEFORE was written with this harsh, unemotional and critical narrative from Brady that truly describes one way in which people can deal with grief. While her fellow school friends are celebrating her sister's life and achievements, she is critical of the memorials they set up which ultimately perhaps will not be lasting. I just loved how real the narrative sounded. While the characters are typical characters in this genre, Brady's negativity and cynicism just brought another touch of realness and enjoyment for me.

I was loving this book, until I reached the end. For me, the ending was a real let down. I got to about 95% through the book and started to wonder how on earth this was going to end in that last 5%. Once I reached the last page, I realised how. The ending is entirely too melodramatic, too quick and rushed. It felt like Vitello felt there needed to be this massive conclusion, that seemed completely out of character to me, to complete the whole circle of the narrative yet this needed to be done quickly and not describing entirely that well in comparison to the whole novel. Considering I liked the book because of its touch of reality shed over this situation, I felt so disappointed and confused that she chose to have an ending that contrasted so drastically to the rest of the novel. If the book was largely dramatic, this ending would have fitted but this book was far from that and that's what made it so brilliant in my eyes. As I read in a review in Goodreads, there were so many questions suddenly and it seemed that most of actions in the ending were out of character for the characters involved. This may have been done on purpose, but I don't think it was needed.

Overall, THE MOMENT BEFORE is largely enjoyable despite the fact its the kind of narrative done frequently before. I didn't find it repetitive. It wasn't all about suicide, death and grief. While that was a small element of the story, this book is so much more and a nice addition to this genre.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Monday, 11 August 2014

Octavia's Bookshop, Cirencester

Last weekend, I headed to Swindon to visit one of my friends at university along with two other university friends. It was really nice to be all together again, laughing and insulting one another much like we do back in Bournemouth as well as planning our new house, which I'm moving into for the second year with these guys and two other friends.

While we were there, we took a trip to Cirencester, a lovely little Cotswold town in Gloucestershire, which reminded me of a smaller version of Bath. We had a wander around the independent, cute shops and along the cobble streets until we settled in a cafe named He Says, She Waffles which basically sells sweet or savoury waffles in every combination you could think of. I settled for smoked salmon and cream cheese waffle, which was delicious and so reasonable at only £5.

However, it was on our wander through the streets back to the car that we discovered one of the prettiest, friendliest bookshops I've come across in a while. Octavia's Bookshop is in one of the back streets, and specialises in children's books but also provides a selection of adult and reference books.


I recommended my friend to read Sarah Dessen so she bought ALONG FOR THE RIDE by Sarah Dessen while I found a posh student cookbook with some really yummy looking recipes which I wanted to try. We approached the till and were instantly met by two booksellers who were so friendly and lovely to talk to, it seemed like they knew exactly what they were talking about when another customer asked which they would recommend between two books she liked the look of. 

When my friend bought her Sarah Dessen book, she pointed in my direction when the bookseller said she would recommend it too so commenced out little geek out about how we both loved her writing, it was so good to speak to someone else who agreed wholeheartedly with why I love Dessen's writing. 
I noticed they had some 'Books Are My Bag' bags hanging about, something I wanted to join in for ages since the launch day last year which also happened to be the same day I moved to university. So, this was my chance to buy one and join in. However, when I asked about buying one, I was surprised by given one for free. So I am now the proud and delighted owner of a 'Books Are My Bag', a fact I kept repeating throughout the rest of the day.


Throughout my experience in Octavia's Bookshop, something was niggling at the back of my head that I recgonised the name of the shop. It wasn't until I was having my geek out at the till that I noticed that last year, Octavia's Bookshop was the winner of The Bookseller Best Independent Children's Bookseller. I remember reading a spread about the shop in The Bookseller in a lunch break when I worked at Waterstones and thinking of how lovely a bookshop it sounded to visit. 

Octavia's Bookshop is the type of bookshop I love coming across - a diverse selection, enthusiastic and knowledgeable booksellers and just a great atmosphere. It's the type of bookshop I live to find in unexpected points in life and I hope to visit again. It makes me realise how we need more bookshops like this, yet there seem to be decreasing instead of increasing. When we left the shop, one of my friends exclaimed "I swear every time we visit a bookshop, Rebecca makes a friend". And that is what every bookshop for book lovers should be like...


Octavia's Bookshop, Cirencester


Thursday, 7 August 2014

Panic by Lauren Oliver

Source: Netgalley
Pages: 408
Publisher: HarperCollins

Synopsis: In the small town of Carp, a game is played every year by the graduated seniors because it's summer and there is nothing else better to do. Heather has watched the dangerous game, Panic, most years but never thought she'd enter until she finds something to play for. Dodge, however, always wanted to play Panic, a quest he wishes to fulfil by making his way entirely through the game - whatever the cost. The game will form new alliances, new rivalries and create and destroy secrets. Everyone is playing the game for a reason, they just cannot afford to panic.

Review: 
When I finished PANIC and sat down to write down a few thoughts on the book so I could create some kind of post that looked like a review, I came to a realisation.
I started by writing about its comparison to other Lauren Oliver books I have read. For me, this book didn't seem to slog on and on like I found some of Oliver's books doing. Neither did I feel like there was way too much poetic prose that sometimes felt showed more her brilliant writing ability rather than adding to the narrative. I felt I got more into this book than her other ones and perhaps hooked quicker on the narrative in comparison to her other books.

Then, I started to think about my reaction after reading and my reaction to finding out the premise of the novel. I went to a Lauren Oliver signing early last year when she was in the middle of writing PANIC. She described it as 'teenagers taking part in a deadly game'. As Hunger Games was at the height of its popularity at this point, the whole idea reminded me of the dangerous Hunger Games, especially as Lauren Oliver's previous books I've read have steered more towards dystopian than contemporary.

This is when the realisation dawned on me that apart from those sentiments, I did not really have much else to say about this book. I liked this book, but I didn't love it and I didn't dislike it. In a word, it was 'okay'. The more I thought about it, the less I had to add to my thoughts on this book. It stood out for me because it was something different, an edgy contemporary not like other books seen out there, however, not a book that I would remember time and time again. The characters are well-developed and unique mostly due to the length of the book allowing that to happen, however, it did make the main narrative - the game, Panic - draw out, sometimes a little bit too much. I liked the writing and I liked how Oliver approached it following two very different teenagers, Dodge and Heather, who also have far more similarities than meets the eye.

I did enjoy this book, I did like the edginess and the uniqueness of the narrative. However, it was predictable and not the more memorable or be a book I will keep coming back to. PANIC is a great novel and in the game itself to deal with some of the social issues teenagers deal with on a daily basis and it was engaging and slightly addictive to read as I wanted to see how the game panned out. But, although it was nice to see Oliver write a more contemporary novel, it did have some flaws.

I give it a 3.5 out of 5

Monday, 4 August 2014

Final Decisions on Blogging

After a couple of months of umm-ing and arr-ing about my blog and talking about it with all the close people I have in my life, I think I've finally made a decision about this blog.

From my first year in university, it's clear that I cannot keep up blogging on a permanently becoming a blogger that is thinking more and more about the followers I've generated in recent years rather than myself. It's clear that thinking more about yourself in blogging is better and more motivating than any follower list. If you think my blog posts have been sparse, the books I have finished throughout the last year is a bit shocking in comparison and it's something that both comes with being a university student as well as being incredibly frustrating for a bookworm such as myself.

I want to read the books I want to read without thinking about what everyone else thinks of the book. I'm also 19, going on 20 in six months time. As much as YA is still a part of my reading, the sheer reality is that I've grown up and sometimes adults books sound far more appealing than YA. I have been putting off Wolf Hall because of all the YA books I have on my shelf that need reading that my blog will benefit from more.

I'm also a university student, where while reading is a definite part of that, it's definitely not the only thing in my life as it used to be. I love cooking, I love tea and coffee, I love clothes, I love TV, I love my friends, I love London, books are not my only love anymore and it's time to create a place where I can express that.

The second year at university is going to be tough and for someone who handles stress badly, I want somewhere to escape to, to look back in a years time for a documentation of the best and worst parts of university. In the upcoming year, I'm becoming even more independent moving into a house with five of the best people I've met over the course of my first year, I'm a mentor for the first years, I'm working for the student magazine on a secret project, I have a lovely boyfriend, I want to socialise and on top of that, the work at university in the second year is known as more stressful. I don't think book blogging has a part in all of that.

However, blogging does. This blog isn't disappearing (and I know I keep saying that), but just changing into more of a lifestyle blog and online diary - you have the choice whether to join in or not. For book lovers, I am going to write about books of course, just don't expect a book review every week. I'm only reviewing the books where the words come to me naturally.

And the best part of this post and this decision, this is probably the post that's come to me the most naturally in months. 

See you guys soon!

Sunday, 27 July 2014

On My Bookshelf (45)

I came to the realisation that the last time I did one of these was in February just after my birthday! Surprisingly, I've been quite good and not bought many books in the last five months, mostly because I haven't been blogging as much and haven't had much time to peruse the shelves of my nearest Waterstones. I'm slacking really, aren't I?

BOUGHT:

Londoners by Craig Taylor - I picked this up for £3 in a secondhand bookstore in Bristol when I visited there the other week when visiting one of my flatmates from Somerset. It's a book that came out just after I started working at Waterstones and I was always a little intrigued by it. Since going to university, I've realised how lucky I am to be a Londoner and so close to the city as well as some of the perceptions of Londoners both from the residents of the capital and those who live far away from it. I'm interested in what my fellow Londoners have to say!

Landline by Rainbow Rowell - Rainbow Rowell has a new book. She wrote Fangirl and Eleanor and Park. Need I say more?


Books by Charlie Hill - I found this on a table in Waterstones in Bristol and since I feel like I've going through a book version of a mid-life crisis recently, this seemed to appeal to me perhaps to make me appreciate reading for myself again.


RECEIVED:

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld - Oh YALC, how you were so brilliant. When Lucy and I spotted this on the table in the corner of YALC, we both instantly grabbed a copy of this proof and preceded to fangirl about how much we both wanted to read it. Scott Westerfeld is one of most well-liked authors after his superb Uglies series, so I'm interested to see his latest book. So looking forward to delving into this one soon....

Popular: A Memoir by Maya Van Wagenen - This was handed to me at YALC and I'm interested to read a memoir that is aimed at YA. While I'm not normally into non-fiction books, this sounds quite interesting and reminded me a lot of the novel Going Vintage from the blurb!



Have you read any of these books? What did you think? 
What did you receive this week? Link below and I'll send a comment!