reading

Currently…

Apparently I’m forming a bad habit. Whenever I’m feeling a bit low, or a bit fed up, or a bit muddled, I end up watching several episodes of Sex and the City. I’m telling you, it’s an awful habit.

I don’t want to be one of those bloggers but I am sorry for disappearing from the face of the earth (or at least the internet) a lot has happened since getting back from Nice and I’ve been busy actually living my life and completely forgetting to take my camera anywhere! To sum it up in one sentence: I moved house and am now living with one of my favourite people in my new student house, waiting excitedly for the other three to arrive so that we can start the year together. I’ve also been spending a lot of time with some of my other favourite people and I have to say that I am enjoying this summer.

A lot has changed for me over the past few months but I am regrouping and I know this year will be fantastic. My one current housemate is a tiny blonde, also called Sophie, who I love because she brought me out of my shell, helped me be a little more selfish and she makes me take a step back and learn to be more laid back. Now is not the time to go into why I’m feeling a bit muddled, it’s not a very interesting story, but with so much going on right now feelings are fleeting. I have a feeling this year will be incredibly busy what with finals, my dissertation, teacher training applications, volunteering (hopefully), working in the English department library, along with attempting to maintain some kind of social life!

To help me get back into blogging here is a ‘currently’ post:

Reading…

I got to read for fun whilst away in Nice but I have to be honest and say that I’ve been struggling with reading since I’ve been back home. I think it’s a mixture of having been quite busy, when I have some time free Soph and I just spend it lounging on our amazing tiger(!) print sofas gossiping away, it’s also because I’ve started working on my dissertation in earnest so I’m struggling to read my course books on top of that. The only thing I’ve really enjoyed reading recently is The Vagenda magazine which has me giggling away with its refreshing take on being a woman and its healthy attitude towards feminism. How can you not find pleasure in reading an article entitled ‘FYI: The Perfect Woman Wears a Beret, is Unspoilt by Feminism, and Doesn’t Have AIDS‘? (Just so you know I am clearly imperfect as I only qualify for the last statement). But other than that, I am in a reading funk. However I have a plan to get myself back into reading: get started on the reading list for my children’s literature! Because who doesn’t want to read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (again), The Jungle Books, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

Listening to… 

I’ve been very eclectic with my music tastes this month. I am either listening to ‘going out’ music when getting ready in the evening, in which case out come tracks like Rudimental’s Waiting All Night, Zedd’s Clarity, and Lana Del Ray’s Summertime Sadness. Sometimes a girl just needs something loud and fast passed to get her in the mood for a night on the town ;-). If I’m not listening to club music (who am I again?) then I have been listening to songs with lyrics that speak to me. My current loves include Roberta Flack’s Killing Me Softly With His Song, A Fine Frenzy’s Almost Lover, Birdy’s I’ll Never Forget You, and one of my favourite songs John Legend’s Ordinary People. Who knows what is going on in my head right now!

Watching…

I was really poorly this weekend and spent most of the weekend curled up in a blanket trying to sleep. Being poorly always makes me miss home so I’ve been feeling a little nostalgic for my childhood… perfect timing then for The Great British Bake Off to start again! I think that anyone who knows me at all in real life or who has read my blog for a while will know to what extent I adore this programme. Last Tuesday’s episode was bread week and I enjoyed watching the technical challenge of baking Paul Hollywood’s English muffins, whilst eating my own English muffin. Ridiculously satisfying.

Eating…

The aforementioned English muffin. As well as a lot of guacamole because I am now in my student house therefore I can eat as many avocados as I please without parents rolling their eyes at my lack of variety. Spending money on food is something I find scarily easy to do so I’m trying to be careful with my budget but I am enjoying cooking for myself again. We’ll see how long that lasts when term starts up again and I actually have lectures to attend!

Dreaming of…

There is one thing I can’t stop myself daydreaming about the minute I have a pause… Nice. I promised you a recap post and that will definitely happen this weekend when I get a chance to go home to scan in the photos from the family camera. I miss the beautiful panoramas, I miss the sea air, I miss the bright midday sun, I miss the smell of suncream, I miss the beaches, I miss the balmy evenings, I miss the crowed markets, I miss the restaurants spilling out into town squares, I miss the ice creams, I even miss the buses…

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Just a little sneak peak of the beauty of Nice…

What are your currently-s? Do you ever have trouble getting into books? Do the lyrics of your favourite songs matter to you?

Sophie x

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Thank You.

There are some times in our lives when things go wrong and we need all the support we can get from those around us. The last couple of weeks have definitely been one of these times for me and the amount of care and support that I have received from everyone has been amazing. I have never felt so lucky to be surrounded by such kind and wonderful people. I want to say an enormous thank you to all of you who tweeted me, messaged me, and commented on my last post, it all means so much! You really have all made a big difference to how I’ve been handling my emotions. I also want to say an enormous thank you to my family who have been here to support me everyday and thank you to all of my lovely friends who have been texting me constantly and getting me out of the house. I really appreciate all of it.

I don’t know whether it’s the whole of the UK but here in the South East the weather has been absolutely glorious since the weekend, the sun has been shining and it has been warm enough to swan around in shorts and sunbathe. I spent yesterday afternoon soaking in the rays (under a thick layer of factor 50, don’t worry!) and reading my current novel in my deckchair. It was blissful and just the relax I needed after two incredibly intense weeks (I’ll be finally explaining all of that in my next post).

I mentioned the book I’m reading – NW by Zadie Smith – in my currently reading post and I’m really enjoying it, definitely one I recommend. There is something about being outside on a sunny day, surrounded by green and beautiful flowers, that really lifts the spirits. My mother is the chief gardener in our family and our little back garden is so pretty. The stripey deckchair lets me pretend I’m by the sea…

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I’m desperately hoping that this lovely weather will stick around for a few weeks, it’s just so amazing to be in skirts/shorts and t-shirts and to feel the warm sun on my face. It is the little ray of light, literally and metaphorically, that I need in my life right now.

I hope you are all having great weather too and enjoying your week so far!

Sophie x

Currently Reading.

Having now been on holiday for the past two weeks I have had quite a bit of free time on my hands. I am not working for another week so I’ve been making the absolute most of this time off by filling my time with coffee with friends, sitting out in pubs in the evening, having fun on the dance floor with the girls, watching trashy TV and films (Legally Blonde – love it!), spending the day in comfy yoga pants, lying in in the morning, reading to my heart’s content…

I know a lot of you also love to read in your spare time so I thought it would be fun to write a little about the three books that I am currently reading. If you read my Book Q&A then you’ll know that I don’t actually enjoy reading multiple books at once, however unfortunately at any given time I’ll have two on the go thanks to studying literature! Long gone are the days when I could devour novel after novel to my heart’s content. Now it’s all about snatched moments tucked up in bed either upon waking up or just before I fall asleep. These days I’m lucky if I don’t fall asleep with my laptop still open on my bed and a book in my hand. However for the last two weeks, when I haven’t been out I’ve been spending my evenings curled up with my favourite reading company, Poppy, and a new book. Here are my book plans for this week:

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The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

This book was completely unknown to me, I’d never heard of the author prior to being introduced to the book by the fantastic Emily. It’s a YA book which is not usually a genre I’d chose but so far the story is incredibly thrilling. Here is what the people at World Book Night have to say about the plot:

‘Todd Hewitt is the last boy in Prentisstown.
But Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in a constant, overwhelming, never-ending Noise. There is no privacy. There are no secrets.
Or are there?
Just one month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd unexpectedly stumbles upon a spot of complete silence.
Which is impossible.
Prentisstown has been lying to him.
And now he’s going to have to run…
Astonishingly powerful and breathtakingly exciting, The Knife of Never Letting Go is an unflinching novel about the dangerous choices of growing up.’

We’ll see how the story develops and maybe you’ll get a review soon 🙂

The Madwoman in the Attic by Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar

Although I have several months off from university I am using this summer to start (and hopefully do most of) the research for my third year dissertation. I’m planning on exploring the relationship that characters have with food, and look at the development of self starvation. This book is absolutely amazing when it comes to women in literature, particularly in the Victorian period and it’s proving a great help so far. I’m actually pretty excited to be starting my dissertation, it’s so satisfying to get to study something you are really passionate about.

NW by Zadie Smith

NW stands for North-West London and the book follows four main characters – Leah, Natalie, Felix and Nathan – through their lives in London, highlighting their different paths and their choices. I love Zadie Smith’s writing so I knew I’d love this and when it was nominated for the 2013 Women’s Prize I ordered it straight away. I love novels that explore human psychology and the way we interact together and make choices in life and I have high hopes for this one!

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post and maybe be inspired to read a new book, let me know what you are currently reading or if you’ve read anything fantastic recently.

Sophie x

Most Loved – May.

So I didn’t do a Most Loved April post because the month of May was comprised almost solely of essay writing and revising for my end of year exams. Now that my assignments are handed in and my essays completed I still can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that I’ve finished my second year at university… I only have one year of undergrad left! This post is a little delayed as I have to admit I made the most of my first week of freedom and enjoyed having a social life again 😉 However I really wanted to share my favourite things from the last month as there were a few good’uns.

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First up is this beautiful tank top from Warehouse, I fell in love with it in the shop and then when I saw that it had a special label saying that 30% of the sales were going to breast cancer research it was the little extra push for me to buy it. I love the leaf print in the lovely bright summery colours, and paired with some blue skinny jeans, some sandals, and a pair of sunglasses it always puts a little spring in my step. Do some clothes do that for you too or is it just me?

The three beauty bits I have been slightly obsessing over this month are the Clarins Liquid Bronze Self Tanning for Face and Décolleté which has helped me hugely to look a little more alive over the last couple of weeks. I definitely plan on making this a daily staple for at least half of the year! I’m not one for making myself really brown but I do feel like I look a bit healthier with a light tan. Then to go with my slightly more glowing skin tone (it really works that well) I’ve been loving this little Bourjois Cream Blush in no. 02. It’s a really pretty coral peach colour and looks perfect for the warmer sunnier weather. Anything to add a little more life to my fatigued appearance! The last beauty item is also pretty summery, I decided to try out the Rimmel Salon Pro Nail Colour in the shade Hip Hop which looks gorgeous on both my nails and toenails. Red nails are my absolute favourite and I definitely plan on keeping mine that colour for the majority of the summer.

The other two things I have been loving are both books although they are completely different. The first is the adorable little book entitled The Writer’s Block: Ideas to Jump-start Your Imagination. It’s a little book full of ideas and suggestions for getting into writing and getting over writer’s block. I’m always looking for new tips on writing and little ideas to inspire me. I have always loved to write, even as a young child I used to fill up endless notebooks with stories and diary entries, now I write this blog, I write countless essays, I write for The Daily Quirk, and I still fill up endless notebooks! The other book is a novel called The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness which I won from Emily’s World Book Night giveaway. I haven’t actually finished reading the book but I’m including it here because I’m really enjoying it and I was also ridiculously excited to win the giveaway as I never really win anything. So thank you so much to Emily! 

I’m sorry this post is so late into the month, next month’s will be more on time (hopefully!) and will definitely be including some delicious food that I’ve been eating recently 😛 Last week we had some gorgeous sunshine and warm temperatures but we are back to typical English grey skies, hopefully it’ll improve again soon. I hope you are all having a lovely week and do let me know if you have any favourite things from this month or anything you’ve been obsessed with recently!

Sophie x

Summer Goals – Be More, Do More.

So this year, I didn’t set myself any new year’s resolutions. I decided that I didn’t want to make myself a list of things to achieve, a list of things that needed to be ticked off or I’d have failed. Who wants that kind of pressure? Instead, I resolved to throw myself into new opportunities and to maybe push myself a little more out of my comfort zone.  Now, almost halfway through 2013, I feel like I’m doing well. I have definitely welcomed new challenges and made the most of any opportunity given to me: I’m moving out to live with friends next year despite that not having originally been on the cards, I’ve made scary decisions about forging ahead with my plans for the future (more on that later!), and I’ve challenged myself to live more for the moment and more like a 20-year old and not an 80-year old!

Despite this talk of no lists, I now feel as though it is time to write myself some new goals. I have four months of time off university ahead of me and I have so much to do that I can’t let the time just disappear. So these are my aims for the months ahead, they are not concrete or particularly quantifiable but they will give me some focus and make everyday more motivational.

Read everyday!  The thing I miss most during term time is being able to read whatever I fancy. My weeks are consumed by the texts on my reading list, and not all of them are very enjoyable, I’m left with almost no time to read purely for pleasure. So this summer I have a huge reading list all of my own and I will be writing lots of blog posts reviewing those that I enjoy the most.

Make the most of the sunshine. Recently we have been enjoying lots of lovely sun and it’s marvellous. I’m already a little browner because I’m spending every minute that I can outside to make the absolute most of it. What this goal is really about is spending more time outside. I love being outdoors, especially when it’s a little warmer, and I really want to get all of the fresh air and sunshine that I can.

Get set for the future. I won’t go into this one too much as I’m going to write a post about it but I’m aiming to make some more finite plans for my future after graduating, I’ve never really known what I wanted to do but I’m starting to find my feet in the world and figure out what I want in life!

Research. As I am about to embark into my third, and final, year of my degree I now have my dissertation on the horizon. I want to combine two of my interests and explore the ideas about food and self-starvation in literature and this summer is the time for research, research and more research.

Look healthy, feel good, act confident. During exams I tend to eat more and gravitate towards more unhealthy food, I don’t really mind or feel guilty because I have more important things to focus on then, but now that I am finished for the year I’m back to my healthy choices and I’ve started lifting weights again. I have the most gorgeous red bikini and I want to be able to lounge by the pool run around on the beach and feel confident with my body and my own image!

Have fun. One of my closest uni friends, Sophie, is staying here to work during the summer, all of my friends from home are back, Tom is here (or I’m in London) on the weekend, and my sister and best friend, Alice, is here too. Friendships are so important and I cherish every single one of them, this summer I want to make the most of what is possibly our last shared summer holiday and do lots of fun things. Day trips, coffee dates, picnics, nights out, I want to see everyone and just enjoy the time off 🙂

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So here you have my goals or resolutions for the summer months ahead. I have a feeling it’s going to be a wonderful time, I’m so blessed to have so much. I hope you are all having a really lovely week! I’d love to hear your summer plans! Are you going on holiday? Or doing anything exciting in the next few months?

Sophie x

Book Q&A.

I spotted this questionnaire on Emily’s fantastic blog a couple of days ago (go check the post out, she’s doing a great UK book giveaway!) and I just had to write my own. It’s made up of 35 questions about books, reading and everything to do with it. If you love reading and you get curious about other people’s reading then this is definitely for you. I hope you enjoy reading it!

1. Favourite childhood book? I have so many childhood books which I adored when I was younger, The Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, Black Beauty… But my real favourite, because of its lovely stories and the simply beautiful illustrations, is Brambly Hedge. I hope you all got a chance to be enchanted by this book like I did.

2. What are you reading right now? I’ve just started reading a new book, The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger. It’s a book which has been on my to-read list for a very long time!

3. What books do you have on request at the library? None. I feel bad because I think public libraries are really important but I almost never go. I adore buying books, mostly second-hand, and I dream of collecting enough books to one day have my own library room in my home.

4. Bad book habit? I’m not really sure what constitutes a bad book habit but something that annoys me is reading more than one book at once.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library? Again, none. I should really use the uni library…

6. Do you have an e-reader? Yes, I love my kindle for travelling. I used to take about 10 books for two weeks away and now I only need my kindle, it’s also great for reading really long books which are a pain to read in bed.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once? I much prefer just reading one book at a time, uni makes that impossible though!

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog? Not massively, I have found that I have to divide my reading time even more carefully now between reading some fantastic blogs, reading for uni and reading for pleasure.

9. Least favourite book you read this year (so far?) Adam Bede by George Eliot, it’s just so wordy and moral.

10. Favourite book you’ve read this year? Without a doubt The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. I think I just fell in love with it.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone? Well as I study literature at uni I often have to read outside of my comfort zone.

12. What is your reading comfort zone? There have been several genres of literature I struggled with at uni, for instance political pieces from the Renaissance or Modernist poetry, the former I’m not so keen on, the latter fascinates me.

13. Can you read on the bus? Yes, the only place I really can’t read is in the car, otherwise I’ll pretty much always be able to read!

14. Favourite place to read? Either curled up in bed, in a coffee shop, or lying in the grass outside somewhere beautiful and full of nature.

15. What is your policy on book lending? I’ve always been fine with lending books, I’m good at keeping track of what’s mine 😛 And I like to write my name inside the cover of my books. In my opinion sharing books is a wonderful thing

16. Do you ever dog-ear books? Not often because I like having bookmarks but I’m not precious about books the way some people are. Personally I care more about the stories within the pages than the pages themselves…

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books? When a quotation captures my imagination or inspires me. Shock horror to some people. But I’ve studied the history of the book and in the Renaissance people heavily annotated their books and it’s brilliant to look at really old books and see a little note or illustration written by a scholar from the 16th Century.

18. Not even with text books? Especially in textbooks haha!

19. What is your favourite language to read in? English because I’m the most fluent in it, but I would love to read more in French which is my maternal language.

20. What makes you love a book? There is no set pattern, it could be anything… The beauty of the words, the main character, the narrator, the inspirational story…

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book? Just if I couldn’t put it down. If I read it cover to cover almost without stopping then I will recommend it to anyone who will listen.

22. Favourite genre? Either Victorian, Modernist, or contemporary fiction.

23. Genre you rarely read (but wish you did?) I’m not sure there is one. I read all of the genres I enjoy!

24. Favourite biography? Virginia Woolf by Alexandra Harris. Woolf’s life really captivates me and its very well written.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book? I’ve read The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin and I thoroughly enjoyed it, she made me think about how I can control my own success and contentment in life.

26. Favourite cookbook? How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson and River Cottage Veg Everyday by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

27. Most inspirational book you’ve read this year (fiction or non-fiction)? Artful by Ali Smith. It just made me want to learn to write the way she does, and to have read enough books to be able to know each and every one of the references she makes. (Not that you can ever really read enough.)

28. Favourite reading snack? Although I love to eat almost as much as I love to read, I rarely snack whilst reading.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience. Beowulf: I hated it.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book? Quite often but definitely not always.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?  Not too bad as I feel when you publish something you open yourself up to criticism but at the same time I could never rip something apart which has clearly been worked on by someone.

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you chose? Italian, so that I could read the very first sonnets in their original language.

33. Most intimidating book you’ve ever read? Milton’s Paradise Lost. It’s quite a daunting task to take on.

34. Most intimidating book you’re too nervous to begin? Dante’s The Divine Comedy which I’ve read passages of but am way too intimidated to attempt reading the whole thing. I do own a copy though…

35. Favourite poet? This may not be an exciting answer to some but although I like my fiction to be post 1830, I like my poetry much older. Shakespeare’s Sonnets are unrivaled in my affection. My absolute favourite of the collection is Sonnet 116, I can recite it from heart and it just stuns me every time.

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Well done if you’ve made it all the way through this questionnaire, if you have then you probably love books as much as I do!

Do answer any of the questions in a comment, I’d love to learn about your favourites and your own reading experiences 🙂

Sophie x

Currently…

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Reading…

I’ve been stuck with my reading lately. I’ve just started an essay on amatory verse (in simple terms: love poetry) and as such I’ve had very little time to read actual books in between my research and poetry reading! Studying literature at uni can have its major downsides and having little to no time to read outside of the course is definitely one of them! So I’ve only just managed to finish This Isn’t the Sort of Thing That Happens to Someone Like You by Jon McGregor despite starting it several weeks ago(!) but I really enjoyed it. I will be reviewing it in the next few weeks so watch out for that. I’m now starting George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs Warren’s Profession which we’re studying next week in my Victorian module.

Listening to… 

As I have been so poorly lately, I’ve needed something to help lift my spirits. There’s only really one song that can do it for me: Rusted Root’s Send Me On My Way. It’s just so happy and uplifting, plus there’s the nostalgia – it just takes me back to watching Matilda as a child! I’ve also been really enjoying Daughter’s EP His Young Heart which is just beautiful.

Watching…

In my illness I’ve ended up watching quite a lot of TV and films, I have to admit Mamma Mia was definitely watched (I adore that film), as were Sense and Sensibility, Runaway Bride, and When Harry Met Sally… I’ve also caught up with Paul Hollywood’s Breads which always makes me want to go down to the kitchen and get kneading. If you have any fun, lighthearted films to recommend then I’m all ears.

Eating…

I had the most beautiful cupcake earlier today (I instagramed it – @loveliveandlearn)  that my mother kindly brought me back from the farmers’ market this morning. It was just so lovely to look at that I almost didn’t want to eat it… It was really tasty too so obviously I did end up eating it! Today the weather was actually springlike for the first time so after a brilliant talk on Jane Austen in St John’s College in Cambridge, my lovely friend Sophie and I decided to have a picnic nearby in the sunshine so I ate an avocado sandwich and a strawberry and vanilla smoothie – delicious.

Wishing for…

The summer! Having a taste of warmer weather has made me seriously pine for the sunshine and the months of long days with time off and holidays away. This summer my family is off to Barcelona for a week and I am so so excited, I’ve been once before and fell in love with the vibrancy of the city along with its stunning architecture and delicious seafood.

What are your currently-s?

Sophie x