September + October book club

Since going back to school in September, reading (unfortunately) has taken a step back – as much as I love it I just find it hard sometimes to sit down and read because I’m always thinking of school! Over the course of the next few months, my book club posts are going to become much more sporadic: instead of posting a bimonthly round-up of everything I’ve read, I’ll probably wait until I have 5 or 6 books to talk about which, judging by how little I’ve read recently, will be around every 3 to 4 months.

I was talking to my English Language teacher about dystopian fiction and how much I love it and she recommended me a book called Station Eleven which I hadn’t heard of. I told her I’d look into it because her summary of it sounded really interesting. I forgot to look actually, but I’m glad about that because in my next lesson with her she’d bought it for me! *cue heart melting* I really really enjoyed reading Station Eleven; there are several different viewpoints and settings which the narrative flicks between, and you’re left trying to figure out how all of the characters interconnect which I love! I won’t give away many spoilers, but around the time that I started reading it a plane was put into quarantine, and I was genuinely so immersed in the story that I thought it had started to come to life (a scary thought, huh).

Talking of scary, I also read We Need to Talk About Kevin. I never usually say this about books, but I hated it. I really and truly hated it. I didn’t connect to any of the characters – not even cute lil Cecelia – and I disliked the whole plot line; you know from the outset that something awful is going to happen, but you have to read alllll the way to the end to find out what it is. Parts made me feel physically sick, such as when Kevin is in the bathroom with the door deliberately left open and his mother can see everything – I won’t go into much more detail, reader, but if you fancy a disturbing read, I recommend. Personally though, I won’t be returning in a hurry 😅

After my draining experience with We Need to Talk About Kevin I decided to relieve my brain a little, so I started Bridget Jones’s Diary. Again, this is unusual, but I preferred the film to the book! Maybe it was the winning combo of Hugh Grant and Colin Firth…who knows? 😉

Finally, I’ve read The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson, because I again just wanted something lighthearted. I hadn’t actually read the cover before I started but I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it – I’d bought it spontaneously after seeing it for £1 in a charity shop, I hadn’t been specifically looking to buy and read it. That said, I’ve read one of Nelson’s other books and enjoyed that, so I don’t know why I had low expectations – overall though, it was a cute story (if a little weird in parts haha, I’m looking at you Lennie + Toby!)

Currently I’m reading Jane Eyre which I love: I remember, when I was 7 or 8, my mum read it aloud to me because I loved everything about learning and education and Jane is a governess, but I haven’t read it since then and suddenly got the urge.

Have a lovely rest of the week x

(PS – unusually, there are no photos for this post: my apologies!! I’m at school for most of the day everyday and before I leave for school, it’s too dark to take photos. When I come back, the light isn’t great – so enjoy an unrelated photo, plonked in the middle of his post! #makingthebestofthings)

(PPS – I’ve been put through to the second round of the UK Blog Awards, which is SO exciting!! I’ll leave links on all my social media accounts so that you can vote for me if you’d like to – if you do, I’ll be forever grateful! Although I don’t expect to win anything, even to have gone to the second round is such a privilege ❤️❤️)

November Goals

I honestly do not know where 2018 has gone. We have 2 months left before 2019 which is probably going one of the biggest years of my life so far, and that’s terrifying.

On that note, I thought today would be as good a day as any to set some last minute New Year’s resolutions.

Numero uno: I really want to focus on not making things into an (unnecessarily) big deal. I mentioned this on twitter a few days ago – I build stuff up into a huge insurmountable task that can never be completed which then stresses me out completely. But school isn’t like that, and neither is life; everything is achievable.

Two: my time management is getting better, but it needs to be better still. I’m so so so guilty of requiring a break after doing literally anything – I’ll do an hour’s work, then allow myself 3 hours rest 😂 and similarly, if I know I’ve got plans for the day I’ll immediately write the whole day off an unproductive. I desperately need to fix this (I’m getting better at it too) so that’s going to be a focus on mine for the remainder of this year and next.

Three: save some money!!! I have spent a ridiculous amount of money recently, but *please* let’s not talk about that.

Four: upload on my blog weekly – let’s see how that goes, hm! I’ve been saying this all year, but now I really want to focus on keeping the quality (?) content coming. Especially since before long, my life will have succumbed to revision so I want to make sure I have everything prepared for my (inevitable) break in spring.

I know this has just been a little post but I hope you’ve enjoyed it regardless! I love taking time to reflect on my goals, seeing what I have and haven’t met, as it just helps me to realign my priorities. Have you met your New Year’s resolutions, or are you setting a few more now like me? 😉

Reasons to buy second-hand books

My love for buying books second-hand has been reignited recently – I watched lots of thrifting hauls over summer and I realised that there are literally only benefits from buying used items! Today, I wanted to share the love –

  • As a student this is very important to me – it’s cheap!!
  • It’s good for the environment – less paper and production energy is being used, less transportation and delivery costs and waste, so what’s not to love? I’ve recently been making an effort to reduce my waste (especially plastic, but paper as well), and this is a fab, easy place to start.
  • You never know what you’re going to find – it’s rarely what you want but there’s always something good. It’s the thrill of the chase! The other day I felt this really intense draw to Oxfam and I just knew that in there would be a book that I’d really like and, sitting there on the shelf waiting to be picked up by moi, was a collected works of Oscar Wilde. I loved The Picture of Dorian Gray and I’ve been meaning to buy some more of his work, so I was ecstatic to find this!!
  • Generally the books are in great condition – I’ve bought a few that look like they’ve never even been opened.
  • There are always hundreds of classics: I swear, every single charity shop stocks One Day by David Nicholls. Every. Single. One.
  • This is a whimsical reason to be honest, but I’ve seen on Instagram a few times that people put cute notes into books – I definitely want to find one!
  • You’re getting cheap books and helping charity too.

If you don’t buy from charity shops, have a go! On books, they excel – honestly, you’ll struggle to limit yourself to just one or two!

Exploring Spain

3 weeks back into school and I’m really in need of some sunshine, so I thought this was quite a fitting post to write. I visited Benalmadena at the end of August and I won’t lie, I had some preconceptions – I was imagining an English-tourist-ridden place with skyscrapers right next to the beach, but I was very pleasantly surprised!!

I want this to be primarily a photo post, because I feel like words can’t do the entire holiday justice to be honest, but here are a few of the highlights:

  • We hadn’t planned it at all but we found out that La Vuelta (the Spanish equivalent of the Tour de France) was passing through very near to where we were staying, so we decided to go and watch that – we made it briefly onto Spanish TV too which is cool!!
  • Benalmadena is split into 3 sections – there’s the coast, the Pueblo and Arroyo de la Miel, which is where the station is. We visited all three; the coast, obviously, was beautiful despite the sea being approx -8°c, the Pueblo was a pretty little traditional whitewashed town, and Arroyo de la Miel (which literally means Creeks of the Honey – how cute!!) had a lovely market, shops and restaurants. I had the nicest tapas ever there in a bar called La Alternativa – defo recommend.
  • We took a cable car up to the top of a mountain!! I think it was around 800m high and the tracks passed right over one of the motorways. It was a little bit terrifying but definitely worth doing, the views are incredible.
  • Being able to wake up, go to the window and see the sea from my room was ridiculously cool. Everyone should be able to experience that, it’s the best thing to wake up to.

Finding Your Voice Online

Blogging is a weird thing. It’s like having a conversation with a person who you’ve never met before and who you really don’t know – literally anybody could be reading what you’re writing. And that’s scary.

Since I began blogging, which I think was in 2015, I’ve not told anybody I know that I have a blog. Nobody. A few people I know from school have found my blog (I think – they’ve at least found my instagram and Twitter, which have my blog’s URL in the bios) and that terrifies me. I really don’t understand why; partially I just want to keep the two worlds separate, and I’ve never liked other people looking at my work, but more recently I started to wonder whether I subconsciously think it’s too much of an almost-taboo subject to be a blogger. There’s a lot of debate going on at the moment about the significance of blogs, especially since that advert that the internet went ballistic over. Today I decided that I wanted to write a letter of sorts to people I know in real life who will, eventually, find my blog; to tell them why I blog, and why I don’t talk about it.

Finding your voice and your identity in a real life scenario is hard enough, particularly in your teenage years when you want to simultaneously fit in and stand out. You know, you’re trying to figure out your body, your likes, your dislikes, your clothing and music taste and stick to what you want, whilst also maintaining that slightly distanced persona every cool person seems to have. It’s hard, and it’s made ten times harder when you don’t even know who you’re communicating and speaking to.

Writing and publishing takes some confidence, I won’t lie. Your blog is like a Horcrux, a little part of your soul. Sorry for the Harry Potter analogy but honestly, it does feel like it – whatever you say online, you know that someone, somewhere in the world will read it, reply, help if needed, comfort, joke…they’ve got you.

In this incredible online community there is a place for everyone. You know when something feels so good that you don’t want to talk about it to anyone, because then it’ll feel somehow less good? Blogging fits exactly into that category. It’s hard to start with, like when you’re at an event on your own and have to find someone to talk to, but so quickly, you become part of an online family.

This is why I blog. It’s fun, I love writing – I always have and I’m fairly sure I always will, although English Literature essays?? Maybe I’ll give them a miss – and you grow as a person. Often I’ll be writing, the words pouring out, and I’ll type something that I didn’t even know I thought. It’s like an extension of yourself, where you can say exactly what you want.

Why I don’t talk about blogging? It’s private. It’s like a diary, although published to limitless numbers of people. Contradictory, huh? I love it, and I love you if you’re reading this.

Also, if I know you in real life, please don’t mention my blog because I will turn bright red and possibly cry. Pretend you haven’t seen it. Read from afar 😉

June, July and August book club

I’ve sorta maybe kinda missed out on a month of book club posts because in June I only read about half a book, which wouldn’t have made a very interesting post. Over summer though i’ve read a lot so I’m just going to share my thoughts on a few books!

I watched the film of Paper Towns not long ago when it was on TV one night and seeing that inspired me to read the book again. I love rereading my old favourite books; it gives me such a sense of nostalgia and I just get so engrossed in the characters and their lives like I used to when I was younger. I think I’ve only read Paper Towns out of all of John Green’s books but I recently also bought Looking for Alaska, and so rereading and loving Paper Towns has made me excited to start that too.

Next up, another old favourite: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. It’s just a YA modern classic, I love it, and there’s not much more to say really – if you want a slightly cliche romance with an unusual context, this is the one for you.

You might have seen if you followed my old Instagram account that I became slightly obsessed with book thrifting over the summer holiday – I used to get so many books from charity shops, but then for some reason I just stopped? Anyway, I bought 8 books for £8 (!!) from the British Heart Foundation I think, 3 for £1 at Cancer Research (winner!), one for £1.45 and another for £1.99. I definitely don’t need to buy any more books for a while, haha.

David Nicholls’s “Us” was one of the 8 for £8 books and quite honestly, if I’d paid £8 for that book alone I would have been happy. It’s so good! It’s about 2 of the things I love most – travelling and art – Douglas, a scientist, is trying to win his wife back, and so he takes her and their son on a huge, slightly disastrous interrailing trip around Europe, stopping off at galleries and sightseeing. It was so cool reading about art galleries I’ve been to before and places I want to visit – ahhh, I recommend!!

I’m writing my personal statement at the moment, so I decided to reread some classics: Pride and Prejudice was my first. I read it whilst I was sitting my mock exams and I think in some of the wordier parts where there’s not a lot happening in the plot I got a little bit distracted lol, but saying that I already knew the story and overall I enjoyed it regardless!

I think I mentioned it in a book club post a few months ago but I’m going to use The Picture of Dorian Gray as my English lit coursework so this summer I reread it; tbh, I killed two birds with one stone there as I’m using it for English and I can write about it on my personal statement! (We love life hacks!!!) Again, I love the plot, I love the way the book’s written, I love the philosophical monologues; I love everything about this book. Just read it. Please.

Another book for school – we’re starting Hamlet in English lit so over summer I read the play. I find Shakespeare so interesting but I really struggle understanding what’s actually being said when I just read it to myself, so I listened to the audiobook as I read which helped so much. I’ve never read Hamlet before, I started it once and then gave up pretty quickly because I wanted to read something more lighthearted but it was more enjoyable than I thought. The plot really gripped me actually and I’m excited to study it more in depth in class.

Ok, down to the last two; Huxley’s Brave New World was SO good and I think I’m going to reread it again quite soon tbh. I was reading this as I was reading Hamlet and there are hundreds of references to Shakespeare in the characters’ speech and let me tell you, my mind was blown on several occasions – I read one line in hamlet, it goes something like “treacherous, lecherous, mindless villain” (although I may have got the order wrong there) and then a few minutes later when I picked up Brave New World, I read that exact line! Crazy. I love references in books to other books because when I recognise them, I feel really smart haha 😉 if you’re a fan of dystopian novels and haven’t read this, give it a go – as a quick summary, the world runs on drugs, recreational sex and everything you learn is taught to you in your sleep.

It’s not shown in the photo above but today I finished Evelyn Waugh’s Decline and Fall which I enjoyed but I feel like I was reading it for weeks and didn’t really do it justice. In a few months I’m going to give it another read since I think I had forgotten parts that happened in the beginning, but, when I got into it, the plot was quite intriguing and satirical (which my dry sense of humour appreciates) and yeah, I definitely just need to reread it.

That’s all for this month’s post – I feel like I’ve actually read and written about a substantial amount of books for once!

Dear future me: stress self-care tips

I know that this academic year will undoubtedly be the most stressful and pressured year I’ve ever had so I thought, whilst I’m still relatively calm about exams, I’d write this post to Future Cara, because something tells me I’m going to need a few of these tips.

1. Exams are not the end of the world

Although it certainly feels like it, they’re not! There are other ways to where you want to be and everything will work out in the end so just…calm down.

2. You’re allowed to have a break

I used to feel guilty when I took breaks from revising because I felt like I needed to be revising and wouldn’t do as well as I could if I just carried on, but actually now I think it’s the opposite. Your body needs a break and you’ll feel so much better for letting it have one.

3. Completely switch off for a day

Sort of similar to point 2 but I’m going to plan to take full days off revision when A Levels come round – once a fortnight or something, not like every other night don’t worry! Have a movie marathon, go for a run, blog all day, have a day shopping, just do something that will completely take your mind off everything.

4. Stress is temporary

As soon as exams are over, you’ll have completely forgotten about them – the stress won’t last long in the grand scheme of things. Keep it in perspective!!

5. Have a set sleeping schedule

Because there’s nothing worse than being tired and knowing you have another 20 pages of revision to do. Set a time to finish revision, have 2 hours to yourself then go to bed early and you’ll feel so much more refreshed and ready.

6. Make sure you’re reading for fun as well as for school

If, like me, you read regularly, ensure you keep a book aside that has no relevance to school work. Reading is arguably one of the best forms of escapism.