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.

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!