What are you reading?

It’s been a while, and whilst I can blame it’s because of the lack of books I’ve read, the general decline of my blog is a reflection of the flux in my life. It’s been a interesting year – and I definitely started this year completely naive to the challenges of adulthood.

As I’ve learnt (and have been told), it’s peak time to explore options before settling.

And much like my choice to explore possible career paths, I’ve started to do this with my reading.

I have never pigeonholed myself into reading one book genre and I’m generally open to reading anything. I fell into reading YA because of the clear presentation of the books. I know what I’m getting. And plus, being an adult is too stressful – I don’t want to read about it.

So where has my impulses led me?

Self-help books.

Okay okay, you probably have no judgement to this. But self-help books have a lot of stigma behind them. And for this reason, I’ve been putting off writing anything because of my choice of reading.

Recently, Nigella Lawson was featured on Ottolenghi’s podcast Simple Pleasures – and she mentioned that she likes to ‘indulge‘ in ‘self-improvement rubbish‘ where if her iPad went missing ‘it’d be very embarrassing‘.

There’s some truth in her conversation but also – why? Why should we be embarrassed?

We know the self-improvement book market has been growing and one part of its growth is down to mindfullness. I have never seen so many people on the train reading a copy of The Power of Now.

And when you look at self-help books, half the topics they cover are based around self-care, an area which can be seen as a selfish act (or so the books say).This has become such a big focus in non-fiction that Fearne Cotton has written three books about self-care (Happy, Calm and Quiet).

Maybe it is a selfish act and we should be embarrassed.

Or maybe we are more concerned over our wellbeing, in the fast speed of life, and want to take a moment to slow down, re-evaluate ourselves and improve.

I like how Geeta Sidhu-Robb summed it up in an interview with The Metro. She said self care ‘rejuvenates your mind and leaves you feeling able to communicate with those around you, being a better version of you.

And to me that doesn’t just encompass self-care but also self-development/self-help/self-improvement…

I struggle with the idea of self-care and have driven myself to exhaustion multiple times myself. Kindness comes in chunks depending on success. I’ve been on huge mood dips and reading these books are another way of exploring what to do – to ensure I stay sane.

There shouldn’t be embarrassment – it doesn’t sound whimsical and it doesn’t matter  whether or not you believe in the overall message of a book, that’s up to the reader.

They say a narrow mind is the worst kind of one to have.

So f*** it. I’m reading self-help books. I’m reading a tonne of them. Books about courage, life, and yes, mindfullness. Books about observation and slowing down.

I am reading books that are there for comfort and reassurance and go and argue they’re probably non-sense but, in the moment, right now, they are inspiring and optimistic.

So what are you reading?

 

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Movie Review: The Greatest Showman

Director: Michael Gracey
Release Date: 26th Dec 2017 (20th Century Fox)
Running Time: 105 minutes
Certificate: PG

I’ve let my thoughts brew and now I need to talk about The Greatest Showman.

As I write this post, I’m also listening to the soundtrack. It’s the first thing I discovered. The whole soundtrack was released in October, with strong anthem tunes with modern twists – songs that seek your attention and suck you into the world of performance.

Hugh Jackman carries the movie as P.T Barnum (and with the amount of times he’s introducing himself you won’t forget his name). The track order is the order that the music appears in the film and, right off the bat, my hands started sweating when ‘The Greatest Show’ started banging out of the speakers. Belting songs? Check. Eye dazing colour? Check.

After P.T Barnum is made redundant, he takes it on as his mission to find a job that will allow him to give his family everything. Be gone with their tiny apartment and their cement concrete roof top. He buys a museum in hopes to spark the publics curiosity but he soon learns what excites him, doesn’t always amaze others. Barnum’s daughter sleepily murmurs that he needs to find people with oddities and put them on show. And that’s what he does, with the wonderful cast including Zac Efron, Michelle Williams and Zendaya – they’re triple acts that you hate.

The soundtrack is brought to us from the duo, Pasek and Paul, who wrote the songs in La La Land, a much loved film. I should mention I hated La La Land so was surprised about how right The Greatest Showman soundtrack is. It’s a damn good jolly soundtrack. A musical theatre sort of soundtrack. Strong beats, lots of percussion and a range of vocals – with Hugh Jackman and his musical background (previously playing Jean Valjean in Les Mis, 2012), expectations couldn’t be higher regarding the film. And although it seemed Jackman struggled with the modernised songs, he’s enthusiasm pulls him through (along with the rest of the cast).

But there’s only so much the cast can carry and when it comes down to the overall storyline of the film… there isn’t one. It practically doesn’t exist. First lesson you learn when mapping any story: montages don’t work one after another. They are ways to give a glimpse into a framed amount of time and ease transitions. A cheat way out of a complicated situation.

So what do we get in The Greatest Showman? A string of montages with songs in between each bit of action for some added ‘wow’ – and even some of the songs included montages! The time frame the movie spans is huge, which is the downfall as they try to cover too much but also not a lot. It’s action, action, action and no character depth or development. I felt more detached from the film as it progressed and it seemed to constantly climb – lacking in any huge conflict. The conflict in the film are all small speed bumps that are sorted out in one sweep

The highlights are the music numbers, playing out like high production music videos – with a few cringe transitions. It’s not difficult to imagine it on stage.

Michelle Williams, who plays the wife Charity Barnum, glides through the film and I adore her song ‘Tightrope‘ more now that it has a little more context around it.

The sub-plot, with the ‘intense staring’ romance between playwright Phillip Carlyl (Zefron) and acrobat Anne Wheeler (Zendaya) is developed so poorly. They had no dialogue with one another other than their number ‘Rewrite the Stars’ which is beautifully choreographed but enough for them to start a full-fledged romance? I don’t think so.

Let’s also mention the famous European opera singer, Jenny Lind, who P.T Barnum is mesmerised by. When she takes centre stage, she opens her mouth and opera is not sung. Can we just. You bring an opera singer into the storyline and she doesn’t sing opera when in the spotlight?

It’s all bright colours, glitzy performances but a movie? Stick to the soundtrack, maybe scout out the music videos once the hype dies down.

Dear 2017

Although you’re not over yet, I wanted to quickly scribble my thoughts about you. You’ve flown by, given me the opportunities that shouldn’t have been offered to scrappy old me.

Every day I find myself whispering ‘thank you’s because I don’t know how else to show my gratitude. When you expect nothing, everything becomes something. Even the unmentionable terribles…

It was only in January, that I started my dissertation. I met Darren, Sydney and Emily – who became friends that I hated and loved. They allowed me to bend and shift their memories and passing time. I took them to speed dating events, food markets and gave them jobs I would love to have if I had the qualifications. It was hard to say goodbye to the three of them, but naturally I titled the story ‘Endings/Beginnings’.

In June, you let me  graduate with my crazily talented and amazing friends. In matching gowns, we tossed our hats up in the air and got our family photos. I’ll forever be in awe with all my friends – always rooting for them because it’s incredibly hard to cheer yourself up when you don’t feel like you’re getting anywhere.

The transition between university and moving back home confusing. I suddenly lost my motivation, lost most of my hope and enthusiasm. It’s disorientating, especially when you’ve spent 3 years being independent and having friends only 15 minutes away from you. The fifteen minutes became an hour and without university I’ll always wonder if we’d have ever crossed paths. I brewed in misery for too long and I hope that 2018 will teach me how to deal with this. The taster 2017 has gave me was difficult enough – I can’t imagine what will happen it the time drags out for more than a month.

Just before Summer, I gleefully accepted an offer I couldn’t refuse. After unemployment had me under its covers, I was doused in water and resurfaced – working for one of my most loved companies. My morning commutes include musical soundtracks and I’m allowed to work with books and more amazingly talented people, watch beautiful sunsets and dig around in a bin full of books. It never feels like work and I want to be able to say that in all the jobs I take on in 2018.

I want to be able to say that I’ve grown in every department in my life but I know there’s still a lot I need to learn and develop. My hands have started to reach for the self-help books, noticing the things I want to change. Whether or not these books will actually change my life is another question. But I want to thanks my storytellers for keeping me entertained on my fictional life… if my life was as simple as they make it out to be.

The end of 2017 is similar to 2016. I’m whispering thank you’s and not fully understanding how the year has panned out the way it has. Thank you to everyone who I’ve met, know and am friends with, thank you to the opportunities that have come my way and thank you to everyone who’ve inspired me – which is everyone.

And thanks for the falling pandas and the otters.

Now that this sounds like I’ve just won an Oscar award, it probably means I should stop writing. Undoubtably, I’ve forgotten a tonne of other things in my rambles (mainly, rambles of my continuing love for the theatre and gratitude for being where I am) but know that I’m still 100% all over that shit.. internally.

 

So 2017, thanks.

 

2018 – “Are you ready for it?” Probably not.

 

 

All the Books I Read in 2017

I’ve somehow managed to complete my GoodReads reading challenge of 50 books! I’ll admit, I stress read through my last one because 2017 is wrapping up.

Below are all the books I completed in 2017 and if I included the books I did not finish, the list would be even longer. The ones with the asterisks next to them are some of my favourite reads of the year.

Surprise, surprise, there aren’t that many titles I’ve read that are 2017 releases… But have a scroll through, have a look – I’ve even linked each title to their GoodReads page.

The Death Note, Black Edition, Volume 3

*The Death Note, Black Edition, Volume 4

The Death Note, Black Edition, Volume 5

The Death Note, Black Edition, Volume 6

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life

Scott Pilgrim vs The World

Cardcaptor Sakura Volume 2

*Little White Lies by Katie Dale

*Torn (A Wicked Trilogy #2) by Jennifer L Armentrout

Revived by Cat Patrick

Fireworks by Kate Cotugno
(proof edition)

*The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

The Originals by Cat Patrick

Vowed (The Blackhart Legacy #2) by Liz de Jager

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

Bridget Jones’s Diary by Helen Fielding

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

*First Bite by Bee Wilson

*The One by John Marrs

Mafiosa (Blood for Blood #3) by Catherine Doyle

The Boy Most Likely To by Huntley Fitzpatrick

The Intern by Gabrielle Tozer

*The Thousandth Floor by Katherine McGee

The Problem with Forever by Jennifer L Armentrout

*Once and for All by Sarah Dessen

*Now is Everything by Amy Giles
(proof edition)

*The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent
(proof edition)

Final Girls by Riley Sager
(proof edition)

Perfect (Flawed #2) by Cecelia Ahern

If There’s No More Tomorrow by Jennifer L Armentrout

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

*Galgorithm by Aaron Karo
(the title changed a year later to: Me You Us, I had an arc copy)

Swear on This Life by Renée Carlino

Conspiracy Girl by Sarah Alderson

Someday Someday Maybe by Lauren Graham

Famous Last Words by Katie Alender

*Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino

On the Fence by Kasie West

The List by Siobhan Vivian

*The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan

*Forever My Girl by Heidi McLaughlin

My Unexpected Forever by Heidi McLaughlin

Little Black Book by Otegha Uwagba

(Forgot to include Zenith by Sasha Alsberg and Lindsay Cummings
a proof edition!)

 

Audiobooks / Borrowed books

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

*The Good Immigrant

The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald

Jack Canfield’s Key to Living the Law of Attraction

The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle

 

Have we read any of the same books? Are you ready to set your 2018 GoodReads challenge? Comment below!

Review: Perfect (Flawed #2) by Cecelia Ahern

Title: Perfect (Flawed #2)
Author: Cecelia Ahern
Publication Date: 6th April 2017 (HarperCollins Children’s)
Pages: 288
Genre: Dystopian
Format: Hardback

Links to buy: |Amazon UK| |Waterstones| |Book Depository|

Celestine North lives in a society that demands perfection. After she was branded Flawed by a morality court, Celestine’s life has completely fractured – all her freedoms gone.

Since Judge Crevan has declared her the number one threat to the public, she has been a ghost, on the run with the complicated, powerfully attractive Carrick, the only person she can trust. But Celestine has a secret – one that could bring the entire Flawed system crumbling to the ground.

Judge Crevan is gaining the upper hand, and time is running out for Celestine. With tensions building, Celestine must make a choice: save only herself, or risk her life to save all the Flawed. And, most important of all, can she prove that to be human in itself is to be Flawed…? [Goodreads]

Frustration. That’s all I felt until the end of this book because being perfect isn’t a thing!

Celestine is Flawed, making her an outsider to everyone around her who are ‘Perfect’. But no one is Perfect and she knows it. Especially when the man in charged should be marked Flawed, Judge Crevan, the man who gave her the sixth Flawed brand on her spine. But Celestine has been marked as a threat to others and is on the run.

Perfect picks up shortly after Flawed. Celestine is in hiding, but she knows her time is running out. But after a surprise raid from the Whistleblowers, Carrick finds her.

It’s a little slow during the reunion between Celestine and Carrick. Their relationship and romance is so bizarre to me. After a few intense stares through glass and the shared moment of knowing about the sixth branding, they are in love? They hardly know one another! Which is how the complications roll out but this is all after they go way too far with one another first. Part of me thinks, is that the point?

Luckily after the reunion, a bit of GCSE science and rushed romance, it all kicks in. The pressure resumes and we’re reminded that Celestine and Carrick are wanted. And unlike the first novel, they are both more vocal and active. They don’t stand the hatred against them and take charge of the situation. Celestine and Carrick both have the same intentions, though like the Divergent series, miscommunication makes the journey longer than needed. People and trust issues…

Celestine follows an un-perfect, and yes flawed, journey to get where she wants to be. But she keeps going until she get’s what she wants. She’s our UK Katniss.

 

My rating:

I liked it