Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Beneath the Surface by Heidi Perks

I read a lot. For anyone who reads my blog/follows me on Twitter/Pinterest that's obvious. Mostly what I read are classics where I step into the previous worlds of archaic literature and battle with their wordy language which isn't always that easy to read.

So it's always with a little bit of a relief that I give myself a break and indulge myself in some modern lit. Therefore when I was given the chance to have a sneaky peek of Heidi Perks' new novel I jumped at the chance.

Time wasn't really in my favour though. And although I was sent the book weeks ago, I didn't actually start it until three days ago. I was in a bit of a panic, I don't mind admitting it. But it all turned out ok because I ended up reading it in one sitting.

Yup I really did.

On Monday I had a day off from work. I sat down, hoping to get a good chunk of it done so I could finish it off in the evenings during the rest of the week. And then I proceeded to read the entire thing.

I regret nothing.

The suspense in this thriller was phenomenal - I just couldn't put it down. Every chapter drip-fed you a tantalisingly small bit of info and went some way to answer your questions while inspiring so many more at the same time.

This was a story of love and loss, betrayal and loyalty and the determination to find the truth whatever the cost. There is a delightfully evil 'baddy' and the simplicity of her wrong-doing was a wonderful contrast to the complicated and conflicted natures of the rest of the characters.

I think a story needs to have a bunch of good characters, above anything else. It's more important than a good plot really (although luckily Beneath the Surface had both) because you need to care about what happens to them, in order to keep reading. Throughout the novel, you really do feel for main character Abigail's plight. But this is as much the story of the twins as it is hers. The viewpoint switched effortlessly between Abi and Hannah/Lauren without confusion and I found the contrast really interesting - whereas the teenager twins are wanting to escape their suffocating upbringing, Abi had all the freedom and wanted the reassurance of a mother figure.

You could feel the story being navigated perfectly and at last the gap between them is closed. But that is not the end. And there are further twists when you think it is all over. Great storytelling.

I was lucky enough to be gifted this novel but it is now available for everyone to read. So make sure you pick up a copy here - if you don't, you will definitely be missing a fabulous piece of writing that you won't be able to put down.

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Monday, 21 March 2016

World Poetry Day

Today is World Poetry Day and I couldn't let it go unnoticed. I love that the art of writing poetry is celebrated so widely in all sorts of different ways around the world. One of which was that in certain coffee shops you were able to pay for your hot beverage with a scribbled sonnet or the like. What a wonderful idea. Anyway, here is my silly little poem that I wrote to celebrate the day in my corner of the internet.

Feeling Strange
I think I've lost my marbles:
I dropped them on the floor.
Some rolled under the table,
some rolled straight out the door.
I don't know quite what happened,

one moment I was fine.
The next they'd all escaped me
and now I can't call them mine.
I didn't know what they'd done for me
throughout my entire life

until they'd rudely upped and left
and I have to fend for myself.
The minute that they disappeared
I knew I didn't feel right,
like I wasn't sure how to act

and I wasn't sure what I might
do next! I guess I will just have to wait
and see. Your guess is as good as mine
as I've never been in this state

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Saturday, 19 March 2016

TV I am currently addicted to

Generally I don't really watch the TV. When I was at uni I didn't even have one in my house. Like so many students, I relied on the various forms of Iplayer that are out on the web, for the shows that had so much hype I felt I just had to watch them. And there were not many where I felt that strongly about them.

But on the flip side of that, I also have a VERY addictive brain- when I watch stuff I get REALLY into it (I am not saying this lightly - it's to such an extent that I will be googling all the cast members, and watching youtube videos depicting interviews about the programme and all the promo things. I go a bit nuts!)

And right now there are so many fab shows bouncing around I definitely have my work cut out. I swear I seem to be watching something every night. So I thought I would talk a little bit of what my evenings basically consist of right now.

Happy Valley
This finished on Tuesday in a fabulous finale that millions of people were glued to. I love the gritty, realistic characters and although this isn't exactly a comedy (ok, not a comedy at all) there are some really funny moments in it. Sarah Lancashire's Cathy is not a hard leading lady to slightly fall in love with. You kind of want to be her best friend while at the same time knowing she would probably hate you. She seems to hate a lot of people but for all the right reasons. I need to go back and watch the first series and then I can watch the entire second series again, right?

Doctor Thorne
I love a good period drama and this one is gorgeous. The costumes! The houses! I need to find out where they all are and explore them, they are ridiculously pretty. It's extremely easy watching with a dashing young male lead, his star-crossed lover of inferior birth and a whole host of other characters who are hilarious/dicks as the story requires. If you thought it sounds a little like Downton Abbey you wouldn't be far wrong - although the series is based on the novel by Anthony Trollope, the screenplay is written by Julian Fellowes.

This is a brand new drama on BBC 3 about a young girl who goes missing aged 13 and reappears 13 years later, which is where the programme starts. Kind of morbid sounding, and I suppose it is in a way but not really. It's about her readjusting to life again and rediscovering those relationships which we all take for granted. And MY GOD the cliff-hangers at the end of each ep keeps you on tenterhooks throughout the week. Brilliant writing.

'A vicar and a policeman? That sounds like the beginning of a joke' said a character in the most recent episode and he would be about right. I don't think it's meant to be very realistic -- for the main reason that James Norton is wayyyy too hot to be a vicar. But still this duo are just perfectly matched. Again, it's a very easy watch. And easy on the eyes. James Norton = Swoon.

The Night Manager
Is it a little bit sad that I have actually started looking forward to Sunday nights? That is the power of great television. When you become so immersed in the story that it integrates your life slightly. When you carry on thinking about it when it's not there and when you almost view the characters like real people. I did it with War and Peace at the beginning of the year (another fabulous show!) and I am doing it now. The cast are truly top notch - it is littered with Hollywood and TV greats who are all very experienced. It has drawn me into a world that I otherwise wouldn't have experienced. And that's basically all I want from the television that I watch.

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Monday, 14 March 2016

Weekend of Walking

As soon as I get more than a couple of days off in a row, I do the very British thing of jetting off to slightly sunnier climes. The UK can sometimes feel so unbearably small and claustrophobic and I don't even know why I feel like that. Because in actual fact it is totally beautiful.

This weekend, I was lucky enough to go out into the countryside and wander around some of this beauty. Which is definitely something I should do more often. There is so much here to explore, right on my doorstep, I don't really need to pay hundreds of pounds in air fares.

Firstly I spent a day in Reigate. Admittedly I was working so I didn't see much of the town. But on my lunch break I had a little walk around Priory Park which was absolutely stunning. I loved the lake and the woody bit that surrounded it. When you were in it, you felt as if you were in the middle of nowhere. I love how you enter the town as well. You have to go right through the cliff itself. Such a cool entrance to a town full of quirkiness and history.

I then travelled straight up to Newbury to stay with my best friend. On Saturday we decided we wanted to go on a road trip so we hopped in her car and went speeding back down to The New Forest to have an explore. This explore turned into a 3 hour trek. We started just outside Lyndhurst and wandered in a massive 10km circle.

It was a beautiful day - the perfect temperature as the slight coolness meant that there weren't any flies and we didn't sweat on our walk. Or maybe that was actually due to the leisurely pace. Or the fact my feet were FREEZING - within 10 minutes of the start, we were misled by some New Forest ponies and accidentally wandered into a very sticky bog. Which is the moment when I found out my wellies had holes in -- NOT IDEAL. I don't know if you have ever spent three hours on a walk with socks that are completely soaked through but it's not entirely pleasant. I am quite impressed that I stuck it out to be honest.

We were totally knackered by the time we got home. To the extent that we spent our evening playing board games and drinking tea in our pyjamas before we headed to bed. It was just about 9.30. Yup I am 23 going on 90 apparently. But the next day, somehow we still found the energy to walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal for a few miles and around a private fishery. Which was totally gorgeous so it was all worth it.

The UK is hugely underrated and I hope this blogpost goes a little way to show that you shouldn't knock it. Give it a chance, you might be surprised what little spots you find when you are really looking.

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Thursday, 10 March 2016

Our jobs have become our life

In modern society, it is a sad fact of life that we will spend the majority of it working. Gone are the days where we can actually have some sort of work/life balance. Now, if you are unwilling to spend 15 hours a day at work, and the rest of the time thinking about it, it's very unlikely that you will actually be able to forward your career.

You may think I am exaggerating. But I'm not really.

Gone also are the days where jobs are a means to an end. They used to be simply a way of making money so you can live the life you want. However, now they have risen in importance to such an extent that they are people's lives.

The majority of my friends are in full time jobs. Which means they are out of the house at 7, at their desk by 8, and few leave before 6. They are home at 7, have dinner, go to bed and then the whole process starts again. Until the weekend where they are so tired from all the travelling and the draining nature of their tasks, that they have to catch up on sleep. They literally slob out for the entire 48 hours, just to be compos mentis enough to get through the following week.

What kind of life is this? Is it a life at all?

Lots of people say yes. Yes this is their life, and they accept this. They enjoy their work, feel like they are getting something out of it and are getting enough money to buy houses/go on holidays or whatever it is they need money for.

And that's fine.

If you do enjoy your work and don't mind that the majority of your life is spent with the same group of people, within the same four walls then that's totally ok. But if you don't want to do that, I think that's also ok.

So many young people are looked down on by parents, careers guidance counsellors, teachers and other members of the older generation because they are not in full time work. For having a part time job and wanting to take time out to think carefully how I want my life to be, I have been labelled unambitious. But that is so inaccurate.

When work is such an integral part of our lives and careers changes are looked upon suspiciously by potential employers, I want to make sure I get it right. I don't want to spend hours at a desk, hating every second and I don't want to wish away these precious hours of my twenties. I think all of us should ignore the outside influences from parents or anyone else. Choose what you want to do, based on what you want. Not what earns you the most or what others think you should be doing. After all it's your life. And you are totally in charge of it. In theory.

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Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Ladies in Literature

If you have been living under a rock/haven't been on the internet (is that the same thing??) today, you may not realise that it is International Women's Day. A day to celebrate the fabulous women all over the world and to help the cause for equality that is still an ongoing battle.

To jump on this bandwagon and add to the pro-women chatter that has filled the day, I thought I would talk about the wonderful fictional ladies that have graced our literature for hundreds of years.

I put the question of favourite females to a fabulous online book discussion group I am part of and there were some that stood out by cropping up frequently: Lizzie Bennett and Emma appeared a few times, famous through Jane Austen's wonderful writing. Harry Potter's best friend, Hermione was mentioned just the once (which surprised me as I thought the list would be flooded by her); Scout Finch was there a little bit as was Anne of Green Gables. But far and away the winners, being mentioned over and over again were Jane Eyre and Jo March (from Little Women).

Jo was one of the ones I put up too - she has been my hero since childhood.Obviously! A brunette with a terrible temper who loved writing, I thought Alcott had based her on me! I also love Skeeter from The Help. She is just so normal, trying to adapt her own character to please everyone around her, yet not being that successful because she was too passionate to let her own interests pass her by. Plus she was another writer. Apparently I feel affiliation with those. Surprise surprise.

What all these women have in common are what I like to call spunk. They flout the traditions of their time, are often outspoken and determined to get what they want. They are family orientated, have high morals and are undeniably kind hearted (a trait which is often overlooked in favour of others). But they refuse to be a pushover either and being mindful of people's feelings doesn't stop them from their own ambitions.

In short, these heroines are excellent examples of how we can live our own lives now.

Sure, we might have different aims to them. But never did any of those lovely ladies take their circumstances lying down, especially if it restricted them in any way. And that's a valuable lesson which every female author has tried to drum into us for centuries.

If you are unhappy about the way you live now, then change it. Or do your best to change it, it's as simple as that. There's no point in just moaning about it on Twitter or anywhere else. Take a leaf out of these heroines' books - try to create the world that you want to live in.

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Sunday, 6 March 2016

Mother's Day

Have you ever thought in detail
about the things that mothers do
to help you every day
and make life easier for you?

They often cook you dinner,
they often bail you out,
they're always there when you need them most
even though you scream and shout.

Yes you may argue
about lots of stupid stuff
but none of that truly matters
because your Mum could never love you enough.

So remember to appreciate her
on this special Mother's Day
because sometimes you may forget
the great big thanks you should constantly say.

Happy Mother's Day to all you lovely Mums out there.
But particularly to mine - I love you, even though I'm rubbish.

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