Monday, 31 August 2015

AUGUST FAVOURITES!

Dear August,

You've been a strange one. From blazing hot sunshine to epic downpours, it seems, like me, you haven't been quite sure if you're coming or going. I've been a little bit all over the place myself this month, very unsettled and some days have been cloudier than others. You'll be gone soon August and although I'll be sad that you're taking summer with you, I'm looking forward to the crisp, fresh start that September brings along with it's slightly less welcome cooler weather.

There have been some bright and happy moments that have helped me through your month, August and this post is all about the joyful things you've brought me.



01. Guava Juice
I first discovered the joys of guava juice whilst visiting my sister in Malawi last year. It was almost unbearably hot every day whilst I was there and one of the many joys was being able to cool off with little cartons of this beautiful drink. When I got home, I briefly looked for it on the shelves but was unsuccessful and just figured that you couldn't get it here. Fast forward to shopping in Asda a few weeks ago and lo and behold, there it is, guava juice, in England! I was so happy and stocked up in large quantities. It's been so beautifully refreshing on the hot and sticky days we've been having this month and I'm so grateful that it's back in my life again.

02. The Body Shop Tea Tree Cool & Creamy Wash
This face wash has been a bit of a lifesaver this month because all hell has broken loose on my skin due to my very unsettled diet and sleeping pattern. It's creamy consistency means that it's not stripping like some other tea tree products and it really does a good job of calming down redness and reducing breakouts. I also love this because it works really well in the shower which is great for my bad days when I don't have the energy for a full over-the-sink skincare routine. It's also a really good price at only £6.00.

03. The Great British Bake Off
So I can't believe I'm admitting this, but until this month I'd never seen The Great British Bake Off before. I knew that everyone goes crazy for it and I figured that it was just another competition show like Masterchef or The Apprentice, which I find kind of exhausting. But this month it a new season of Bake Off started and I decided to give it a go. Boy am I glad I did, it's AMAZING. It's so different to all those other competition programmes because it's so much nicer and less stressful and there's CAKE (duh). I think what I like about it is that everyone's so nice to each other and I actually really enjoy watching the challenges. I also love joining in the #GBBO chats on Twitter every Wednesday. I've also got my boyfriend into it and I think he's even more obsessed than I am, he keeps prompting me to watch YouTube videos of profiteroles and pies. It's very sweet (HA! so punny...).

04. WH Smith 30 Assorted Fine Liners
At the beginning of August I scored what was quite possibly the bargain of the century (or at least of the month). I was casually browsing in WH Smith one day, drooling over the stationery, as you do, when I came across this amazing pack of 30 fine liners in all the beautiful colours of the rainbow. I'd been lusting over an £18.00 pack of 30 Staedtler fine liners which I had tentatively placed on my Amazon wishlist so you can imagine my delight when I discovered that the WH Smith set was only £5.99! I nearly fainted then and there. Well that's a slight exaggeration, but I was at the till before you could say 'stationery addict'. I've been using them whilst journalling and in my Johanna Basford colouring book and they write and colour beautifully. I'm so in love with them, especially the more pastelly colours, so run out and grab these now if they're still there!

05. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
I had a hard time choosing, as I read some excellent books this month, but I think this was probably my favourite read (so far, as I'm slightly pre-scheduling this so I haven't finished my monthly reads). I was kind of nervous in case I didn't like it as I've loved her other books so much but I was not disappointed. It was really amazing and I'll talk about it more in my monthly wrap-up.

06. Podcasts
This month I've been loving podcasts so hard. It all started out with Serial, which I know I'm majorly late to the game on, but after all it's major hype I finally decided to give it a go this month and I was totally hooked. If you somehow haven't heard of it (have you been living under a rock?!) then I'll tell you that it's a series of 12 podcast episodes that revolve around the 1999 murder of high school senior Hae Min Lee. It's kind of hard to explain why it's so amazing so you should just trust me on this one and give it a go, even if you're not usually a true crime fan I can promise you that you won't regret it. I finished up Serial in just a few days and was left wanting more, as the second season hasn't started yet, and that's when I discovered Criminal. The narrative reporting style is similar to Serial but each bite-size episode revolves around a different topic to do with crime. It's super interesting and addictive and if you loved Serial then you'll love this. I've also been really enjoying This American Life, which is a podcast institution in itself so doesn't really need explaining. If you've never tried podcasts before, I urge you to start now.

So those are all the things that have been brightening my days throughout August. As I said, I'm looking forward to September as a fresh month full of possibilities.

What's been your favourite thing about August? Please let me know below!

Saturday, 29 August 2015

REVIEW: NOT THAT KIND OF GIRL - LENA DUNHAM


"There is nothing gutsier to me than a person announcing that their story is one that deserves to be told," writes Lena Dunham, and it certainly takes guts to share the stories that make up her first book, Not That Kind of Girl. These are stories about getting your butt touched by your boss, about friendship and dieting (kind of) and having two existential crises before the age of 20. Stories about travel, both successful and less so, and about having the kind of sex where you feel like keeping your sneakers on in case you have to run away during the act. Stories about proving yourself to a room of 50-year-old men in Hollywood and showing up to "an outlandishly high-fashion event with the crustiest red nose you ever saw." Fearless, smart, and as heartbreakingly honest as ever, Not That Kind of Girl establishes Lena Dunham as more than a hugely talented director, actress and producer-it announces her as a fresh and vibrant new literary voice. [summary from Goodreads]

My rating: ☆☆☆.5

I'm going to start off by saying that if you dislike Lena Dunham then this book probably isn't going to change your mind, it's so full-on-Dunham that it will probably make you gag. But if you like Girls, or, like me, you love Lena, or you just love excellently written thoughts, then you'll LOVE this.

A lot of people have argued that Lena is too self-indulgent and her book is devoid of real meaning or gravitas, and I believe that these are the same people that Lena refers to early in the book when discussing her decision to write Not that Kind of Girl:

"As hard as we have worked and as far as we have come there are still so many forces conspiring to tell women that our concerns are petty, our opinions aren't needed, that we lack the gravitas necessary for our stories to matter. That personal writing by women is no more than an exercise in vanity and that we should appreciate this new world for women, sit down, and shut up."

When I read a lot of these negative reviews, a part of me gets where they're coming from, there were times whilst reading that I did roll my eyes and wonder whether the book was just an "exercise in vanity". But then I reminded myself of this early paragraph and came to my senses; just because these stories might not be politically groundbreaking or emotionally life-changing, why shouldn't they be told? Particularly by someone who tells them so well. Lena's writing is SO tight, her turns of phrase are just excellent and were laugh-out-loud funny enough to have me quoting them to my MOTHER (context: my very sheltered, innocent, catholic mother [!!!]).

I would also argue that there IS a certain kind of wisdom to be found in her words. To read a young woman talking frankly about her body, her mental health, periods and realistic sex is kind of remarkable. In her essays Lena is graphic and above all gut-wrenchingly honest, and I think her frank approach to a lot of issues is something young women (and everyone else) need. Not that Kind of Girl demonstrates that no matter how much is handed to you (and Lena has had a lot handed to her) life is still messy and gross and difficult sometimes. But it's also fun and ridiculous and every situation offers an opportunity to learn, about yourself, about others, about your place in the world.

Despite Lena's intense privilege (successful artist parents, liberal upper-middle-class upbringing in NYC), I actually related to her quite a lot and there's no doubt she's worked damn hard to get to where she is. Situationally, she is worlds away from me, but at times I felt that in a lot of ways her mind works exactly like mine (whether that's a good or bad thing is as yet undecided) and I see myself in many of her reminiscences and observations. There were just so many moments whilst reading where I thought 'yes! It's not just me, someone else thinks like this too!', here's just a couple of those:

"How permanent virginity feels, and then how inconsequential."

"I haven't had a crush on a woman since, unless you count my confusing relationship with Shane from The L Word."

"I didn't know why this was happening. The cruel reality of anxiety is that you never quite do. At the moments it should logically strike, I am fit as a fiddle. On a lazy afternoon, I am seized by a cold dread."

or on slightly more questionable moments; 'yep, been there':

"I cover up this [self] hatred with a kind of aggressive self-acceptance."

(on a story about a toxic relationship) "If I was writing this then, I would have glamorized the whole story for you."

"Throughout the day I often ask myself, Could I fall asleep right now? and the answer is always a resounding yes."

Lena Dunham is sharp, smart and hilarious and her stories, at the very least, are incredibly entertaining. I think that anyone who believes they have a story to tell should tell it, especially if they write so excellently as Lena. So whilst I respect the opinions of all the brutally negative reviewers, I'm going to firmly disagree and state that although Not that Kind of Girl probably won't change your life, it's still bloody brilliant and there's a plethora of good reasons to read and enjoy it.

Have you read Not that Kind of Girl? What did you think?

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

TSW: BOOK SERIES YOU WISH HAD MORE BOOKS



Welcome back to Top 5 Wednesday! Top Five Wednesdays is hosted by Lainey over at GingerReadsLainey and you can see the complete list of Wednesday-ers here. This week's topic is 'book series you wish had more books'. 

At first I thought this was going to be really easy and most of the time when I finish a series I'm dying to read more from that world. However it turns out I haven't finished that many series, I've started quite a few but haven't finished them. But I did manage to pick out five series that I would like to read more from, some of them I'm more passionate about than others but I did enjoy all of the ones I'm going to talk about. So, in no particular order, let's get into the series':

01. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
Let's just get the obvious out of the way first. I don't even need to explain this one, I'd read anything based in the wizarding world, to misquote John Green: "frankly I'd read [Molly Weasley's] grocery lists", and to properly quote Hank Green: "I know I wanna hear the one about Hagrid's dad and Hagrid's mum. I really do think that that's nearly impossible, and I think there's probably a good story there, for book eight." 


02. Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins
Now this isn't really a series in the traditional sense but each of three books intertwine in small ways and I really like that. I haven't even read Isla and the Happily Ever After, the third book in the series, yet but I already know that I want more of this series. It's just so full of feels and makes me unreasonably happy and the way that the series is written opens it up for endless possibilities.

03. The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness
I don't want to give any spoilers for this dystopian fantasy series but I'll just say that the way the final book ended left me wanting SO MUCH MORE. This is one of my favourite series of all time, it's fast-paced, intricately woven and heartbreaking and I just love it so much. Basically, I would read anything by Patrick Ness, particularly anything set in this world, I'd read it out of a bin.

04. The Shatter Me trilogy by Tahereh Mafi
When I read Shatter Me, the first book in this trilogy, I really didn't like it. I didn't feel like the plot was very well developed and the flowery overly-metaphorical writing drove me crazy. But I decided to give the rest of the series a chance based on others' recommendations and I'm so glad I did because it got SO much better. I also think that the series ending was really abrupt and I was completely convinced that there must be a sequel because I was sat there thinking 'wait...that's it?!', and it turns out that was it and there weren't any more books. So I think this should be rectified and Tahereh Mafi needs to get on that asap.

05. Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O'Porter
Paper Aeroplanes and it's sequel, Goose, are YA contemporaries that follow two best friends on Guernsey throughout their last few years of secondary school. Now I'm pretty sure that this is an unfinished series with more books in the works but as far as I know there hasn't been a release date set for the next book, so it still counts for this tag! It's one of the only series I've read with a very strong focus on friendship rather than romance. There are boys involved but it's not the centre of the plot, and I LOVE that. I really, really need to know what happens to the characters next and I could honestly read about them forever.

So those are the top five book series I wish had more books, I'd love to know your thoughts on this topic and if you've done a top five Wednesday post be sure to leave a link to it in the comments below so I can check it out!

Monday, 24 August 2015

BOUT OF BOOKS 14.0 WRAP UP



This past week I've been taking part in the Bout of Books readathon which has been an unexpected amount of fun! The readathon started last Monday the 17th and carried on through Sunday 23rd, there was a lot of fun and interaction on Twitter using #boutofbooks and I've found a lot of great new blogs to follow from that. I also really enjoyed posting my updates on Instagram:


In my TBR for the readathon I picked out four books I wanted to read and I managed to read three of them so I'm pretty pleased with that. Just like with my TBR Takedown wrap up I'm going to save my thoughts and ratings of the actual books for my monthly wrap up but I thought I'd share my daily readathon progress with you and how I found the overall experience.

Monday 17th - pages read: 205, total pages read: 205.
I started off the readathon with Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld, which is the second book in the Midnighters trilogy. I had already started this the day before but I was only about 30 pages in so I figured I could count it for the readathon. I read managed to get through most of the book as it's a pretty easy read and the plot moves quite quickly. I'm really enjoying this series and it was definitely a good start to the readathon.

Tuesday 18th - pages read: 171, total pages read: 376.
I finished up the last 70 pages of Touching Darkness pretty quickly and moved onto Attachments by Rainbow Rowell which I read about 100 pages of in one sitting, it's that good.

Wednesday 19th - pages read: 0, total pages read: 376.
Okay so this day was a bit of a fail, I wasn't feeling too great and then I spent the evening with my boyfriend watching Bake Off which I don't regret for a moment, it's okay to take a reading break now and then.

Thursday 20th - pages read: 280, total pages read: 656.
This was the day that I read the most and I think it was because I took a little reading break the day before. I spent most of the afternoon finishing off Attachments which I fell completely in love with and it gave me all of the feels. I was feeling a bit book hangover-ish after that and only read 24 pages of my next book, The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, before bed.

Friday 21st - pages read: 0, total pages read: 656.
Another fail day, I can't even remember what I did but it wasn't reading.

Saturday 22nd - pages read: 138, total pages read: 794.
I was feeling really ill on Saturday and unfortunately had to cancel my plans to go and see Paper Towns but it was sunny so I managed to get a little time outside to read. I also joined in the last #boutofbooks Twitter chat which was completely overwhelming but so much fun! If you've never participated in a Twitter chat before then I highly recommend doing so, but I would advise you to use something like Tweetcaster in order to keep up with everything!

Sunday 23 - pages read: 240, total pages read: 1034.
Sunday was the last day of the readathon so I really wanted to get The Secret Garden finished and at the start of the day, with 240 pages still to go, I wasn't sure I was going to. But I managed to get some reading done outside, which always helps, and I stayed up until I'd finished the book, which was just before midnight - success!

Total books read: 3
Total pages read: 1034

I didn't manage to get to my fourth readathon TBR book, Remix by Non Pratt, during the readathon, but I'll definitely be reading that before the month is out. My favourite book of the week was Attachments by Rainbow Rowell and I'm really pleased that I managed to get three books read :). I actually read more total pages than I did during my last readathon so I'm really happy about that!

Overall I really enjoyed my first Bout of Books experience and am already looking forward to the next one which will be in January next year! Be sure to check out the website for more information and how/when to sign up for the next one!

Did you take part in the readathon? If not, will you be joining in with the next one?

Saturday, 22 August 2015

10 THINGS THAT MADE ME HAPPY THIS WEEK



01. Listening to endless episodes of the Criminal podcast and This American Life. Seriously, I don't know what I did before podcasts. They're like super-interesting documentaries that you can multi-task to.

02. There seems to be an abundance of flowers in my house at the moment and I'm making sure to stop and soak up their loveliness now and then (and also exploit their beauty for instagrams).

03. Spending time sitting with my nana, who turned 91 last week (!!!), and talking about what life was like in the war and how she met my granddad. She has some amazing stories to tell so I'm trying to record our conversations with my phone and encouraging her to write some things down so I can find out more about her life and remember all the amazing things she has to say.

04. Guava juice. If you haven't tried it before then your life is about to change. It's seriously the nectar of the gods. (note: the easiest/cheapest to acquire is Rubicon from Asda) *heart eyes emoji*

05. Finally reading Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. It totally and utterly lived up to the hype, it gave me all the feels and I'm kind of still in a book hangover from it.

06. Eating a huge burger with a side of Mac and Cheese AND sweet potato fries at Proper Burger co. in Newark. I could only eat half of it but it was seriously amazing and well worth the slow, bloated waddle back to the car afterwards.

07. Getting a full mostly-uninterrupted nights sleep. I've mentioned this before in previous 10 things posts but it is undoubtedly one of the best things in life, especially when you have a chronic illness. My bed is my happy place.

08. Watching The Great British Bake Off with my family and boyfriend (along with reading the hilarious live-tweets from #GBBO). I'm totally on the thirsty-for-Tamal bandwagon *heart eyes emoji again*.

09. My boyfriend was inspired by all the Bake Off action so last weekend we determinedly set out to recreate the previous week's showstopping bake. After a few miscalulations and minor disasters we didn't end up with a black forest gateaux but we did end up with a very tasty cherry-chocolate brownie type thing, so it's all good!

10. My new tshirt from Bookworm Boutique arrived and I'm so in love with it. I want everything from that shop but this will have to do for now. 

This post is inspired by the lovely Cider With Rosie, whose 10 things posts are some of my favourites.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

THE BOOKISH BEGINNINGS TAG!

The very first photo on my blog (I do hope my photography has improved)
As I'm currently participating in the Bout of Books readathon I thought it'd be a good idea to do a quick and fun post today. Reads and Daydreams on Youtube recently created the Bookish Beginnings tag and although I haven't been tagged by anyone I thought it'd be fun to do. It's all about how I got into reading and what made me into the book blogger that I am today. So without further ado, onto the questions:

01. Tell us about what you loved to read as a child

I've been obsessed with reading for as long as I can remember. At school I raced ahead with the sort of 'learning to read' books and was very quickly reading a few years above my age level. My primary school library was very small and I'd soon read every single book in there and was begging for more, I would go to the town library and take out the maximum amount of books and read them all. I would read anything I could get my hands on but I the first books that I remember really loving and reading over and over were Jacqueline Wilson's books. They were the first books I encountered where the characters didn't have 'perfect lives' and actually dealt with real issues. I remember loving Jacqueline Wilson's books because the characters were just so different from me and I loved reading about their lives as I found them so interesting. 
.
2. What was the fist Adult Fiction you tried to (or want to) read?
For some reason my primary school library had a copy of Great Expectations and as I'd read every other book in there I gave it a go. I don't think I particularly understood or enjoyed it at the time but I was the kind of bratty child that loved to boast to everyone that I'd read it at the age of ten. After that we read some adult fiction at school but I don't remember the first one I picked out for myself. I probably just read whatever books of my parents that I could find around the house.

3.What was the classic book that you read (not because of school)?

Again that was Great Expectations but the first classic (or literary canon) book that I read because I actually wanted to was Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. My sister had read it for school and really enjoyed it and so I really wanted to read it too. I loved that book and was disappointed when I didn't get to study it for school.

4.Tell us about a book that made you realise a new favourite genre or writing style.

I think that reading Of Mice and Men, To Kill a Mockingbird and Pride and Prejudice when I was a teenager made me realise that I actually really enjoyed classic literature, and that it wasn't dull or boring like I'd convinced myself it was. I've read classics ever since, as part of university study and also for pleasure and they'll always be a favourite genre of mine.
One of my other favourite genres is YA and the strange thing is I didn't read a whole lot of YA when I was actually a teenager. I guess there were YA books but it wasn't really a genre back then. When I was at university I started watching the Vlogbrothers on Youtube and from being a fan of them decided to read John Green's books. I wasn't really that into Looking For Alaska but I still remember the night that I first read Paper Towns. I started it at 10pm and didn't put it down until I'd finished a few hours later. I was completely blown away by it and thought 'I HAVE to read more books like this'. A few years later and YA is definitely one of my favourite genres and I'm grateful to John Green for opening up that world to me.

5. What was the first literary prize-winner that you read (or want to read)?

Lauren said in her video that this is a book that you read (or want to read) because you saw that it was a prizewinner, not just something you've read that happened to win a prize. This is such an interesting question to me because I don't generally pick books to read based on that but it's something I've been thinking about lately with all the buzz around the Man Booker longlist. I feel like it'd be a valuable thing to try and read some of the long or shortlisted books to be more aware of the style of fiction that wins awards. I do know that  The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan won last years Man Booker prize and I definitely do want to read that at some point.

6. What was the first piece of translated fiction that you read (or want to read)?

I'm not sure I've actually read any translated fiction apart from some things for university that were translated from old and middle english. That's pretty bad isn't it? I do want to read both One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which are both pieces of translated fiction.

7. Tell us about why you started Booktube/blogging and what it was like to film your first video/write your first post!

I don't have a Booktube channel...yet ;) but I started blogging because I've been reading blogs for years and before Christmas last year I was introduced to Booktube and thought, I really want to do this. But I was a bit too much of  wuss to start a YouTube channel and I'm a better writer than I am a speaker so I decided to start my blog. I've had blogs before (which I quickly gave up) and I really wanted this to be a proper commitment. I'd been thinking about it and planning it for about a year before actually writing my first post (which is kind of a cringy introduction post that you can see here) and decided to finally give it a proper shot in March of this year. I just wanted a place to talk about the books I love and express my creativity through writing and photography. As I'm currently struggling with a chronic illness, I'm unable to work so blogging helps me feel productive and fills my time. It's something I do because I really enjoy it and I hope I can keep it up.

If you're reading this post then I tag you to do this!


Monday, 17 August 2015

BOUT OF BOOKS 14.0 TBR



So I've decided to take part in another readathon! As per usual, it being the middle of the month, my reading pace has slowed down a little and I've decided to try and pick it back up by taking part in the Bout of Books 14.0 readathon, which is running from today (the 17th) through Sunday the 23rd.

Bout of Books is one of the more relaxed readathons, there are no TBR challenges and the goal is just to read as much as you like and have fun whilst doing it! Here is the official info about the readathon from the Bout of Books website:


The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 14 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

It's not too late to sign up and join in the fun, so if you're interested then you can sign up here. I've decided to put together a TBR of books I'd like to get to this week, it mostly consists of books from my monthly TBR with a little extra. I'll hopefully be joining in with the readathon using #boutofbooks on twitter (I'm @sarahs_chapter) and posting updates on instagram as I go along (check me out at @sarahschapter there). So onto the books I'm planning to read this week:

Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld
This is the second books in the Midnighters trilogy and I've actually already started it, but before the readathon I was only about 30 pages in so I'm hoping to finish it up quite quickly today or tomorrow. It's pretty gripping and quite an easy read so I don't think it'll take me too long to get through. I'm enjoying this series a lot more than I expected to and hope to finish it up soon.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
This was my TBR jar pick for the month so I definitely want to get to this this week. I've had this book for quite a while and can't believe I haven't got around to reading it yet as I've loved everything else I've read by Rainbow Rowell. 

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
As this is a children's classic I'm hoping that it won't take me too long to read and I'm looking forward to indulging in a little escapism and completely losing myself in this world. I also really love this edition, the cover art is amazing and I love floppy books (I really hope you know what I mean haha).

Remix by Non Pratt
This is my most recent purchase as I spotted it in Asda and at £3.85 I couldn't leave it behind. This book has gotten a whole lot of buzz in the bookish community and I'm looking forward to seeing if it lives up to the hype. It's a summery read about two best friends at a music festival so I figure I'd better read and review it now before summer is over!

So those are the books that I'm hoping to get to this week. I'm really going to try and give this readathon my all by disconnecting a bit and spending less time mindlessly trawling the internet. I definitely want to get at least three of these read, if not the fourth. I'll most likely be posting a readathon wrap up this time next week to let you know how I did, so stay tuned for that!

Are you taking part in Bout of Books? Please let me know if you are and leave any blog/social media links below, I'd love to cheer each other on!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

JULY BOOK HAUL



You know what? I'm just going to stop pretending that a book buying ban is going to happen any time soon. I enjoy buying books, I like collecting pretty editions and relishing in the possibility of new books to read. As long as it doesn't totally bankrupt me I figure I'm okay. So here's to future book hauls, and to the doozy that was July's...

Jurassic Park and The Lost World by Michael Crichton - £2 second-hand book stall and £1 Asda
After seeing Jurassic World in June, I was desperate to read the original books that inspired the film series. I actually actively hunted these down, I looked in independent bookshops and many charity shops before coming across them separately for incredibly low prices. I don't know when I'll get to these but maybe soon! I'm just glad to have them.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling - £8.99 each, Stray's Bookshop, Newark
If you've seen my previous hauls then you'll know that I've been gradually collecting these editions over time. I bought these two from my local independent bookshop and I'm really happy now that I have the full set. These editions are just so beautiful and look amazing all together.

Instagram: @sarahschapter


How To Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran - 50p, charity shop
I came across this in a charity shop and for 50p I couldn't leave it behind. It's been on my radar for a while now and I really want to read some more feminist non-fiction so I think this will be a great one.

Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman - £3.99, independent bookshop in York.
My mum actually picked this up for me when she was on a trip to York as she knows that I've been wanting to read some Neil Gaiman (I've never actually read anything from him before, I know I'm a bad book blogger!). It's a collection of short stories so I think it'll be a good way to introduce myself to his writing.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett and The Wind in The Willows by Kenneth Grahame - £2 each, Sainsbury's
I spotted this whilst food shopping in Sainsbury's and couldn't resist at just £2 each. They're such beautiful children's classics and they have that wonderfully satisfying floppy quality to them meaning that you won't crack the spine whilst reading, love it!

Salem Falls by Jodi Picoult - £2, second-hand bookstall
I picked this up from the same second-hand bookstall as Jurassic Park as the blurb piqued my interest and I haven't read a whole lot by Jodi Picoult before. I figure this will be good when I fancy picking up a contemporary.

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover - £1, charity shop
If it wasn't for booktube then I probably wouldn't have picked this up, new adult is kind of out of my comfort zone, but everyone and their dog seems to be raving about Colleen Hoover so when I spotted this in a charity shop I decided to just give it a go. I've already read this and let's just say I'm sort of undecided, but you can hear more of my thoughts about it in my monthly wrap up.

Instagram: @sarahschapter


Case Histories by Kate Atkinson - £2, second-hand bookstall
This is another I picked up at the second-hand bookstall in Wales. One of my favourite books ever is Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson but I haven't read much else from her. This one is a crime thriller, which is sort of out of my comfort zone but I think it'll be interesting nonetheless.

Not that Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham - £3.99, Sainsbury's
This was another that I spotted in Sainsbury's and couldn't leave it behind, it's a different cover from the original and I actually prefer this one. This has been on my radar since it came out but I never got around to picking it up. I've already read it and I loved it! So much so that a review and discussion might be coming your way soon, so watch this space.

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Those are all the books I bought in July, my biggest book haul on the blog thus far! So far in August I haven't bought as many but the months only half over so we'll see how that goes haha!

Have you read any of these books? What have you been buying lately?

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

T5W: FAVOURITE REQUIRED READING



Top Five Wednesdays is hosted by Lainey over at GingerReadsLainey and you can see the complete list of Wednesday-ers here. This week's topic is 'favourite required reading', meaning the books you were required to read for school or university. As an English Literature graduate, I've had to read a lot of books for my education, some I loved and would re-read today, and some I absolutely hated at the time (though I'd be interested to see if that was because I didn't necessarily read them by choice.)

For this particular topic, I chose just five books that stood out in my memory as having some kind of impact on me; whether it was just that I enjoyed reading it or that it impacted my view of the world somehow and made me think more complexly about things. So here is my list of top five required reading, in no particular order...

01. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I imagine that this will appear on most people's lists. I won't give a summary as I'm sure you're already familiar with it. I read this for the first time at age 15, preparing to study it for my English Literature GCSE. My class read the book together, a chapter or two at a time, but I had already read the whole thing as soon as it was assigned to us. I fell in love with Lee's warm, rich prose and the deceptively slow pace of life in the town of Macomb. I related to Scout's chronicles of growing up and was introduced for one of the first times to racial issues being confronted in a novel. I had always been an avid reader, but I had never thought too deeply about the books I read. It was in those GCSE English classes and with this book that I learnt to think carefully about what I was reading, to be able to make analyses and discuss wider issues that the novel brought to light. I loved the book but I also found that I loved studying novels and more than that, that I wasn't terrible at it. So I probably have this book to thank for a lot that has happened since in terms of my literary development. Thank you, Harper Lee.

02. Lunch Poems by Frank O'Hara
As a young child I did enjoy poetry, I had a book called Read Me: A Poem A Day and I took intense delight in reading out each day's poem loudly and obnoxiously to my parents. But over the years that love for poetry faded in favour of the latest Jacqueline Wilson and by the time I came to study poetry at school, I was convinced that I didn't enjoy it at all and that I wasn't very good at studying it. I remained this way until university, when we read a few poems by Frank O'Hara, a poet of the New York School whose poetry was personal, observational, light-heartedly emotional and witty. As soon as I read 'Having a Coke with You', I knew this wasn't like the poetry I'd encountered in the past, and when I decided to write an essay on that and a few other of his poems I fell in love with them even more. I gradually learnt to enjoy and respect poetry more over the years and sometimes find more of a true solace in a few lines than a hefty novel. In particular, O'Hara's reading of 'Having a Coke with You' is beautiful and excellent in a way that I find hard to describe so you should just watch it for yourself:

03. The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
The funny thing is, I didn't actually like this first book in the Chaos Walking trilogy very much when I first read it for the Children's Literature module of my English Literature course, this was one of the only YA books we read and at the time I wasn't extremely familiar with YA, which seems crazy to me now. I found the way it was written quite strange and hard to get into, but at the end found myself wanting more. But the further two books in the trilogy weren't on the university reading list and I had too many other books to read so didn't continue with the series until this year. It has now become one of my favourite series and I'm so glad I had to read it for university as I may never have got into it otherwise.

04. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
As part of my English Literature A-Level we were required to study a classic for the exam portion and I, being 16 and a crowd-follower, moaned along with the rest of the class. I was under the very misguided impression that classics were boring and I also knew that this was my mum's favourite book so as a bratty, ungrateful teenager I was automatically averse to liking anything that she did. I mean no offense to teenagers in saying this, I'm aware that many teenagers are thoughtful and intelligent and proud of their interests but I was barely any of those things, determined to be 'cool' and failing miserably, I don't know why I bothered. Anyway, I actually found that Austen's writing wasn't boring, it was - shock horror! - funny and interesting and I completely fell in love with it. This book is important to me as it opened my eyes to the (now completely obvious) fact that it classic literature can be *gasp* extremely enjoyable. *rolls eyes at teenage self*

05. The Colour Purple by Alice Walker
The Colour Purple focuses on the lives of African-American women in rural 1930s Georgia, it is an epistolary novel from the perspective of Celie, a fourteen year old girl, and follows her for over thirty years through her struggles with abuse, sexism, racism, love and illness. It is an extremely important book which I might not have read without it being assigned to me at school. Celie's story is complexly layered and deals with so many issues and I got so much out of it that what was supposed to be a 2500 word essay turned into an over 6000 one that I was devastated to have to cut down as I felt that I was exploring something that was so important and meant so much to me. Looking back on that essay now, it wasn't very good and it was definitely overwritten but it was filled with heart and my love for the book was undeniable, IS undeniable. I hope to re-read it soon and find new things to anguish over and cherish.

So that was my top five required reading books! Phew, that was a long one! I'd love to know what your favourite book you read for school was and if you've done a top five wednesday post please link to it in the comments below!

Monday, 10 August 2015

THE 2015 CLASSICS CHALLENGE: SENSE AND SENSIBILITY


Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
My rating: ☆☆

Elinor is as prudent as her sister Marianne is impetuous. Each must learn from the other after they are they are forced by their father's death to leave their home and enter into the contests of polite society. The charms of unsuitable men and the schemes of rival ladies mean that their paths to success are thwart with disappointment but together they attempt to find a way to happiness. [summary from Goodreads]

When I discovered this classic:
Like I said with Persuasion last month, my mum is quite a big Jane Austen fan so I've always been vaguely aware of all her works but hadn't read anything except for Pride and Prejudice.

Why I chose to read it:
I really wanted to read Persuasion after seeing a performance of it so after searching for nice editions I found these beautiful Vintage Classics editions and received three of them for Christmas, including Sense and Sensibility. After reading Persuasion last month and loving it, I was really in the mood for more Austen and decided to see if I liked Sense and Sensibility as much.

What makes it a classic?
Sense and Sensibility is a novel of manners which set the foundation for Austen's body of work which, as a whole, can be seen as a critique of the novels of sensibility of the 18th century and marked the transition into the realism of the 19th century.

The fact that Jane Austen can take what sounds like the basic plot of a dull, made-for-tv movie (two sisters, one extremely reserved, one far too emotional - how will they ever find love?!), and create something intelligent that is rich with dry humour and sharp, well-crafted prose, is enough to mark Sense and Sensibility as an instant classic. 

What I thought of this classic:
Although I didn't enjoy it quite as much as Persuasion, as it moves a little slower and I didn't feel quite as warmly towards the characters, it is still technically brilliant and an extremely enjoyable read. One of the things that stands out for me in Austen's writing is her characterisation, which is truly excellent. She presents a large cast of characters, each fully fleshed out, pretty well-rounded and very realistic; none are ridiculous caricatures of personality traits which is sometimes the case in early 19th century prose.

I think the reason why I didn't enjoy it as much as Persuasion is because although the characterisation was generally brilliant, the extended character development of the main characters felt slightly rushed and somewhat unfinished. Elinor and Marianne are respectively the 'sense' and sensibility' of the novel's title and critics have argued over which one Austen intended to triumph over the other in terms of their value in good judgement. However, I believe that Austen actually intended to demonstrate that both qualities are equally important by helping the heroines find a balance. However, by the end of the novel I wasn't convinced that both characters had changed enough for this idea to be convincing. As I said, the ending felt a little rushed and the third person narrative, though usually very effective, felt rather sweeping at this point and I would have liked more of a demonstration of the heroines' changed characters.

This is only a small complaint and didn't hugely affect my enjoyment of the novel as a whole. Sense and Sensibility offers a wry social commentary, focusing particularly on etiquette, wealth and relationships and Austen's observational prose demonstrates her oustanding insight into human behaviour. 

Will it stay a classic?
Austen's works will never not be classics. Ever. I can definitely say that with the upmost confidence. Sense and Sensibility is important not only because of its brilliant content but for the fact that it was Austen's first published work, which she began at age 19.

Who I would recommend it to:
Anyone who's already an Austen fan! Anyone who enjoys character driven over plot-driven novels. Anyone who's a fan of satirical humour. Anyone who prefers nice men over bad boys haha!

The 2015 Classics Challenge is hosted by Stacey of Pretty Books and you can find out more about it here.

Have you read Sense and Sensibility? What did you think?


Saturday, 8 August 2015

THE MID-YEAR BOOK FREAKOUT TAG!



I've seen quite a lot of booktubers doing this so I thought I'd give it a go here, and seeing as it's half way through the year (over half way but who's counting?) I thought it'd be a great time to see how my reading for the year has been going. So let's get onto the questions...


01. Best Book You've Read So Far in 2015?
This is such a difficult question as there's about four books I've read this year that have become all-time favourites. It's probably a tie between Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel and Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (which you can read my review of here).

02. Best Sequel You've Read So Far in 2015?
I think this would have to be the second and third books in the Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness. I read The Knife of Never Letting Go for my university course in 2013 and hadn't got around to finishing up the series until this year. It was so worth the wait, this series is incredible and I urge you to read it now if you haven't already.

03. New Release You Haven't Read Yet, But Want To?
Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee was released at the end of last month and I haven't got around to buying it yet because my local independent bookshop keeps selling out and I want to buy it from there. Despite some of the negative reviews I'm determined to go in with an open mind and I'm really hoping to get to it soon.

04. Most Anticipated Release For Second Half of 2015?
There's a few that I'm really looking forward to but the only one I've actually pre-ordered is The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness, because Waterstones are selling exclusive signed copies and I'm ridiculously excited to get mine. I love Patrick Ness and the concept of the book just sounds so interesting so I'm really looking forward to that. You can read about my top five most anticipated releases for the rest of the year here.

05. Biggest Disappointment?
I think that would have to be Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. Everyone and their cat seemed to raving about this book constantly and saying how amazing the characters were and how the writing was so beautiful so I was really excited to pick it up. And then I read it...and I couldn't stand it. The characters irritated the living shit out of me and the writing was like when an introductory creative writing class goes wrong. I know I sound so rude but it just got on my nerves so much and I was so disappointed.

06. Biggest Surprise?
Despite my huge disappointment with Shatter Me, I reluctantly decided to carry on with the series because everyone said that it only got better...and it did! The irritating overly flowery and metaphorical writing toned down significantly and the characters got way less annoying. Oh and Warner, oh Warner. That's all I'll say.

07. Favourite New Author?
Although I already liked Patrick Ness, I've read four more of his books this year and he's now become one of my favourite authors. I'll basically read anything that he puts out and I can't wait to get my hands on the books I haven't read yet.

08. Newest Fictional Crush?
Oh where to start, I'm a bit of a fictional crush floozy to be honest. So here's a select few of the guys who I've desperately wanted to be real this year;
- Warner from the Shatter Me Trilogy
- Park from Eleanor and Park
- Captain Wentworth from Persuasion
- Cricket Bell from Lola and the Boy Next Door
- Etienne St. Clair from Anna and the French Kiss
- Nikolai from the Grisha trilogy
*sigh*

09. Newest Favourite Character?
That's a tough one. But just off the top of my head maybe Desdemona and Lefty from Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides, their story is beautiful and heartbreaking and inspiring and complicated and I just have so many feels about them.

10. Book That Made You Cry?
I'm not sure I've actually cried at a book this year! I always have super intense feelings but I'm not much of a book crier. I think I teared up a little at the end of my re-read of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix even though I've read it so many times, because come on, I'm not a robot.

11. Book That Made You Happy?
Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins made me really happy. They were just such sweet, feel-good reads that I found my heart lifted a little and I couldn't stop smiling throughout.

12. Favourite Book To Movie Adaptation You Saw This Year?
I haven't seen many book to movie adaptations this year and none that I really liked, but Paper Towns comes out really soon and I know I'm going to love it, even though it's my favourite John Green book so the pressure's really on.

13. Favourite Review You've Written This Year?
I think my review of Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig because I just had such a strong emotional reaction to that book that I just needed to share it with people. Also Matt Haig read it and tweeted about it so yeah that was nice :). You can read that review here.

14. Most Beautiful Book You Bought So Far This Year?
Definitely my special collector's edition of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, the hardback cover has beautiful etchings and the fanart on the end pages is so beautiful I could stare at it all day.










15. What Books Do You Need To Read By The End of The Year?
Well I'd really like to get my physical TBR down to under 100 books and keep it there so that's a goal. I really really should start the Divergent series and the Mortal Instruments series, because I really think I'm the only person on the planet who hasn't read them yet. So yeah...don't judge me.
Well that was fun! If you're reading this then I tag you to do this also! This tag was created by readslikewildfire and Ely so go and check them out. That's all for now!

To keep up with what I'm reading, add me as a friend on Goodreads!

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

AUGUST TBR



It's time to share with you what I plan to read in August! I'm haven't got too much planned for this month apart from going away a couple of times so I should hopefully be able to get a lot of reading done. I am struggling quite a lot healthwise though and I have good and bad days so I'm going to try and take it easy and not pressure myself too much. I've picked out a few books I hope to get to though so let's talk about those...

Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover
I'm continuing with my planned TBR for TBR Takedown so will be reading the last two books from that list which includes Ugly Love. I've actually already finished it as the other day I found I just couldn't put it down. This was my first experience of Colleen Hoover and although I did find it to be quite a compulsive read I'm not 100% sure about it. I'll go into further detail in my wrap up but I do want to pick up some more Colleen Hoover in the future.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
This was the last book on my TBR for TBR Takedown and it fitted into the challenge of 'book from your most recent haul.' This book has been on my radar ever since it came out and I bought it from my local supermarket recently. I haven't read any non-fiction in a while and I think Lena Dunham is incredibly intelligent, thoughtful and hilarious so I'm looking forward to getting into this.

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell
This is my TBR jar pick for this month and I'm super excited about it! It's one of Rainbow Rowell's adult contemporaries and follows office worker Beth and the office's 'internet security officer' Lincoln, whose job it is to read everyone's emails. Beth and her co-worker Jennifer are constantly exchanging emails detailing their personal lives and Lincoln knows he should report this but finds himself compelled by their conversations and slowly finds himself falling for Beth. It sounds like it's going to be really sweet and funny and anything by Rainbow Rowell gets a big tick from me.

Touching Darkness by Scott Westerfeld
This is the second book in the Midnighters trilogy, the first of which I read last month and really enjoyed so I'm eager to carry on with the series. It's quite difficult to explain the concept of these books but they basically revolve around a secret hour which happens every midnight, where the world freezes in a single moment for everyone except for a chosen few who use this silent hour to explore their powers. It's really interesting and I'm really looking forward to carrying on with the series.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
This is my classic pick for the month and after two months of Jane Austen I think it'll be nice to change things up a bit with some children's literature. I loved the film of this book when I was younger and I'm really excited to see how the book compares. The Secret Garden follows Mary, a spoiled orphan who is sent to live with relatives at Misselthwaite Manor. She is determined to hate it there until she discovers a secret garden which has been locked up since the death of her aunt ten years earlier. I have a feeling that the book will be even more beautiful and mysterious than the film and I'm looking forward to exploring it's world.

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
If I have time towards the end of the month, I'd like to continue with my Harry Potter re-read. Half Blood Prince was initially my favourite book and I'd like to see if I still feel the same. There isn't really much to say about this except that I'm obviously going to love it and I'm looking forward to getting back into the world I love so much. Also it was recently J.K. Rowling's 50th birthday and the wonderful Jim from YA Yeah Yeah asked 50 people to share their favourite moments from the series and I was one of the lucky people to be involved. You can read the post here!

So those are the books I'll be probably be reading this month. If you're reading this I hope you have a wonderful August and happy reading!

What will you be reading this month?

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