24 Dec 2014

Book Review: Girl Online by Zoe Sugg

Note: The recent revelation that this book was ghost written is irrelevant to my review. I believe It was pretty clear from the start that this was the case, and thus it didn't affect the process of reading the book for me.

Considering that this book, along with it's record breaking sales statistics, are all everyone and everybody has been talking about recently - and also the fact I subscribe to Zoe's blog and Youtube channel and have watched parts of the process of this book being developed - it was only a matter of time until curiosity got the better of me and I picked it up. 

Girl Online follows a 15 year old girl from Brighton as she struggles with the ups and downs of love, friendship, school, and the pitfalls that come with online fame. It also deals with the character's battle with an anxiety disorder.
As a 23 year old who doesn't usually dabble in this genre I took this book at face value as I read it. And I was actually pleasantly surprised. I found myself enjoying the twists and turns presented in the book along with delighting in escaping into the story for the couple of days it took me to read it. I also appreciated the treatment of the difficult issues that were dealt with in the story. It offered some very helpful advice and insight to anxiety which I even found myself trying to implement. It also made me view online bullying in a completely different light and made me realise the true horrors that online celebrities often have to go through, along with how poignant and important the positive comments can actually be in contrast. I wouldn't waste time in recommending this book to younger readers with relevant interests. It's a positive book and carries some important messages and lessons which can really help young readers in an internet age, with the prevalence of mental illness also continuously on the rise.

The transatlantic romance angle in the story also offers a pleasant introduction to British culture whilst holding an international appeal. All this coupled with the atmospheric Christmas setting makes Girl Online the perfect winter read for young teens. 


15 Dec 2014

7 Ways To Start Feeling More Positive And Content

Life is a bumpy road and every now and then we can find ourselves in a bit of a rut. But whether you find yourself feeling down, demotivated or simply bored with the monotony of daily life there are luckily plenty of quick fixes out there to help us get back on track and feel a bit more positive. You may spot a few cliches but I assure you that each thing on this list has worked for me when needing a pick up in life. So here are seven ways to start feeling more positive and content:

Exercise. Now, don't dismiss this too quickly if your immediate thought is that exercise isn't for you. Remember that there is a type of exercise out there to suit everybody.  Anything from invigorating spinning classes to simply taking regular walks count as exercise. All you have to do is figure out which is most suited to you, your body and your schedule. As you've likely heard many times before, exercise releases endorphins which can instantly make you feel happier. Some other immediate effects include feeling more energised. And there are many other long term health benefits if you keep at it. Regular exercise also brings a sense of achievement and satisfaction, and having a goal to work towards - weight loss, weight maintenance, increased fitness etc - will make you feel increasingly fulfilled each time you get closer to reaching your set goal. If cardio isn't for you, stretching exercises such as yoga can also come with an abundance of advantages, including stress relief and the treatment of many health problems.

Make healthy changes to your diet. This comes with many similar pros to exercise. Making healthy changes in your diet comes with a load of benefits and can help to make you feel good on the inside as well as positively affecting your outward appearance. Simply swapping junky treats for fruit and processed food for healthier homemade meals can make you feel less sluggish, more energetic and give you a healthier glow. Also just knowing you're being healthier than usual can make you feel that much better about yourself.

Make a list of things you're looking forward to. There's been a couple of times recently where I've felt so bleak that I couldn't find anything to look forward to at all. To rectify this I decided to make a list consisting of one thing I was looking forward to on each day of the upcoming week. If I couldn't find anything  to look forward to then I made things to look forward to. So if you find yourself feeling similar I hereby challenge you to do the same. You can write something that you're looking forward to for each day, each week or even each month, depending on how demotivated you feel. And they can range from small things, for example your Amazon package arriving or your favourite blogger being due for a new post, to bigger events such as seeing your favourite band live in concert. Having the knowledge that there are always things to looking forward to that are coming up can make life that little bit more exciting and meaningful. 

Reach out to friends and acquaintances. If you're anything like me you may have found yourself in the habit of waiting for others to reach out to you rather than taking the time out to reach out to others yourself. And if this is the case, change it! You may feel that if your friends wanted to contact you then they would, but guess what, others could be thinking the exact same thing about you. If you're not fulfilled with your current social life then only you can make a change to it. So organise events, invite an acquaintance out for coffee, plan a movie night, message an old friend to see how they're doing. You'll probably find yourself pleasantly surprised at how much others will be more than happy to connect with you and go along with your plans.

Meet new people. With the current prevalence of the internet and mobile apps meeting new people has never been easier. Websites such as Meetup.com offer a magnitude of new experiences and like-minded people waiting for you at the touch of a button. There are also plenty of tried and tested dating sites if a potential new romance is what you're after. And for those apprehensive about meeting people online, there are still many old fashioned ways to meet new people; University societies, volunteering projects, short courses and evening classes are just a few examples of many, which can also open you up to new and fun experiences with meeting new people as a bonus. Adding new friends and even hobbies to your life is a certain way to enrich it. 

Get creative. When feeling a bit low expressing yourself and finding an outlet for your feelings through creativity can be both cathartic and rewarding. This can range from writing poetry, picking up an instrument, getting out your old sketch pad or even just taking a walk and snapping up photos on your favourite photo app. Setting up creative goals will leave you with a sense of accomplishment once you achieve them and you'll end up with a creative end result that you can be proud of. 

Get immersed in nature. Whether it be planning a weekend hiking trip or simply going to your local park to feed the ducks, getting in touch with nature has a way of clearing your mind and leaving you with a fresh and more positive mindset. Those of us living in cities can go months without seeing a significant amount of green, so taking the time out and finding yourself in an open green space every now and then can make for a healthy and uplifting change.


12 Nov 2014

Current Skincare Favourites | For Dry, Inflamed And Allergic Skin

If you've been keeping up with my posts then you'd know that recently I've been suffering severely from allergies, which primarily manifest externally on my skin, in the form of inflammation, eczema, dryness and so on. Suffering the effects of allergies is often miserable enough without it also affecting your outward appearance, so of course I've been trying out an abundance of skincare products since the problem started. Here are my favourite products I've tried recently that I found to successfully soothe and smooth my skin:

(Note: If you are suffering from allergies or eczema it's important to find and eliminate the allergen and also to make internal changes, this post only focuses on products for external relief.)  

Aveeno Skin Relief Body Lotion with Shea Butter
(£5.49 from Boots - currently reduced to £3.66)

After reading so many great reviews about this product I finally purchased it last month. This great body moisturiser feels instantly soothing on the skin and left me with no further irritation once applied. It leaves the skin ridiculously smooth, managing to soften even very dry skin and eczema. And, as it advertises, the effects last for 24 hours (probably even longer). I'm thrilled to have discovered this product and it has now become my go-to body lotion.

Note: If you don't like the feel straight away I still urge you to stick with it. I was put off Aveeno products for a while as I remembered trying one once as a teenager and finding that it didn't seem to make any positive difference after one or two applications, so I never went back. And even this time round it took a few days for me to see a difference. But the end results are definitely worth it if you're serious about finding something to soften difficult skin.

Burt's Bees Soap Bark & Chamomile Deep Cleansing Cream
(£10.99 from burtsbees.co.uk)

I love Burts Bees products so I recently decided to give this cleansing cream a go. With ingredients such as chamomile, aloe vera and coconut oil it smells lovely and feels fresh and calming on the skin. It works well in removing left over make up and any other particles which can contribute to skin irritation. It leaves the face feeling soft and cleansed and I find that it calms inflammation.

Avene Skin Recovery Cream
(£13 from Boots)

After finding my skin very blotchy and distressed after an allergy flare up a couple of months ago I had a stroll around Boots and stumbled upon this product, then swiftly made a purchase as what it said on the tin was exactly what I needed. It claimed to calm sensitive and irritated skin and to restore skin to its natural balance, and it did exactly that. I was shocked to see the difference in my skin the next morning after applying this just the night before. Whenever I find my skin in a similar state I go back to this and always see an impressive difference even after just a day of use. I'm now looking forward to trying out more Avene products in the near future.

I hope this can be helpful to some. Further recommendations for skincare products that treat dry/irritated skin will be very much welcomed!

26 Oct 2014

Books I Read On My Year Off

As an English Literature student I read a lot. Though I have little control on the books that I do read. Having to make your way through up to five set novels a week has a way of leaving you with little time to knock off the books on your every growing 'to read' list. So if anything positive came out of me falling ill at the end of last year, and having to take the best of the academic year off, was being left with the time and freedom to read books of my choosing. So what does an English student read on her time off? Lots of Young Adult fantasy, apparently (that somehow always gets left off the curriculum). That, along with Young Adult non-fantasy, Classics that don't fit into any of my modules and even some non-English literature. These are some of my favourites I read in that time:

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

“I fear oblivion. I fear it like the proverbial blind man who's afraid of the dark.” 

(contains moderate spoilers)

It took until the beginning of this year to finally pick this book up. I had been a John Green fan for a while but had (foolishly) been putting this one off due to the mixed reviews I'd been hearing. But once the trailer for the movie was released I knew I'd want to read it before the film was out. In case there's anyone still left on the internet unaware; The Fault in Our Stars centres on the love story of two teen cancer patients. This format of course has been done many times before, but never in the beautifully profound way portrayed by John Green. Concerning itself with existentialism it explores a love, and a life, that is aware of its boundaries, and its place in a universe that has none. This book made me laugh, and made me cry, and I haven't stopped thinking about is since.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“It was times like these when I thought my father, who hated guns and had never been to any wars, was the bravest man who ever lived.” 

One of those books that everyone's supposed to read, so I did. To Kill a Mockingbird manages to be an intellectual conversation on human nature and convention whilst simultaneously telling a story that keeps you up all night in anticipation of how it will unfold, along with including a selection of lovably unforgettable characters. Told from a prospective of childhood naivety and development you're transported back to a simpler period of human life, but in the not so simple setting of the American south in the 1930s - where racial tension is rife, and being observed and questioned by 6 year old Scout. This novel calls out social conventions, prejudice and small town hospitality, and beckons us to question if the real villains of the story are who we'd first expect.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

“The universe is seeming really huge right now. I need something to hold on to.” 

Written in a poetic format, abundant with captivating metaphors and allegory, We Were Liars is an impressive Young Adult novel that enthrals readers of any age. Prepare to be sat in awe and dotted with goosebumps as glimpses of the final conclusion start to elegantly and tragically unravel throughout the chapters. We Were Liars is emotionally affecting, shocking and beautifully written. There is a circulated rule to not speak of the plot of this book, so that readers can go into it without any prior knowledge. So all I will say is that this novel now sits up with my all time favourite books, and as long as you have an open mind and a poetic core you'll likely love this book as much as I do.

The World in the Evening by Christopher Isherwood

"The lie of the novelists is a sin because it encourages the belief that you can treat human beings as characters; that you can fully know and possess them . ." 

Isherwood, in my opinion, is a highly underrated writer. This book itself has only 28 reviews on Goodreads, which in itself is a slight tragedy. Isherwood has a knack for writing about standard life and circumstance (he often draws upon his own life experiences) in an intriguing manner, and for portraying vibrant and involving characters. His books also often serve as an insight to homosexuality in the society of  Isherwood's time period. This book, following the similar format of his others, is no exception to these traits.  Set in the 40s, The World in the Evening centres around the character Stephen who, after finding his wife with another man, goes to visit his aunt in a small quaker community in Pennsylvania. Upon his visit he proceeds to break his leg, leaving him bed ridden and with ample time to reflect over his life, along with all the regrets that go with it. Isherwood writes impressively, depicting life for what it is; sometimes hilarious, often tragic, intermittently beautiful. 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

“Wishes are false. Hope is true. Hope makes its own magic.” 

Superbly written and highly imaginative Young Adult fantasy, displaying a unique take on the 'angels and demons' set up. Follow naturally blue haired Karou as she discovers why she never quite felt at home in the human world. I've already written a review on this lovely book which you can find here.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

“Perhaps watching someone you love suffer can teach you even more than suffering yourself can.” 

(contains moderate spoilers)

Protagonist Cassandra - a teen girl living in an old, previously abandoned castle with her family in 1930s England - not only 'captured the castle', but also my full attention and involvement. Written as her diary, I was fully engaged in her life through her entries; growing to love and laugh at her eccentric family, being in constant anticipation of the twists and turns of her developing love life and finding myself living vicariously through the depictions of her gothic-bohemian lifestyle. Refreshingly written in comparison to current teen based fiction (not a convention or happy ending in sight) with insight to the time period and motifs borrowed from rural Gothic fiction. I found myself so firmly captured by this book and the enchanting way the story was portrayed that I read it as slowly as I was able, in fear of it inevitably coming to an end and leaving me withdrawn. This book will be with me for a long while.

So, has anyone read any of these books and have opinions on them? Let me know below :)


17 Oct 2014

The Youtube Sexual Abuse Scandal: Abuse Apology And The Forgiveness Of Abusers

Trigger warning for anyone sensitive to themes in the title

If you're an avid 'internet person' you're already more than aware of the Youtube Abuse Scandal. But in the case of this being the first you're hearing of it, here's a quick run down. The abuse scandal was most prominent in March of this year, when many famous Youtube personalities were publicly outed by their victims as rapists, statutory rapists, sexual abusers, sexual harassers and/or emotional abusers. The list of abusers included Tom Milsom, Ed Blann and notably Alex Day - who had a large Youtube following of over 1 million subscribers - along with many more names. Many victims took to Tumblr to share their experience of abuse, with accounts varying in severity. The accused Youtubers were subsequently unwelcome in the Youtube community and soon lost their careers. 

With such a long list of famous Youtubers finally outed as abusers one would be forgiven to assume that no Youtube abusers were left in our midst. But unfortunately the scandal reared its ugly head at the end of last month for a 'Part 2'. This started with famous Youtuber Sam Pepper being accused of sexual harassment in one of his videos, in which he's seen pinching the behinds of unsuspecting female members of the public as part of a prank. The video caused such an uproar that he finally responded by passing the video off as a social experiment. He did this by releasing two following videos; one of a female committing the same acts on males, and another with Pepper explaining the whole thing to be preplanned with everyone involved having agreed to take part, the goal being to raise awareness for sexual harassment. But unsurprisingly not many people were convinced, especially considering that Sam Pepper has a history of making similarly offensive videos. These criticisms then led to much more serious allegations being made against him across Youtube, both by fans and fellow YouTubers alike. And despite some of the girls being visibly distressed in the videos, and also posting evidence to their case, there still have been many people choosing to side with Sam Pepper and discredit the victim accusations; which ranged from sexual harassment to violent rape. Many of these involved underage girls. Pepper indirectly denied the allegations by posting a scan of a letter from his lawyer onto his Twitter which states that he had not been arrested and that he denies any accusations made against him. Separate allegations against Jason from the channel 'veeoneeye' had also started to surface at this time in a similar way, the accusations consisted of statutory rape. Loyal behaviour towards him from fans and onlookers was witnessed once again.

I started being a part of the Youtube community only this summer so wasn't very aware of the first scandal at the time it was happening. But now watching the abuse scandal play out in a big way for a second time has left me contemplating these two questions:

1. Why are people so quick to defend abusers?

In terms of abuse in the Youtube community one element of it comes down to fan culture. Youtube fangirls (or boys) are some of the loyalist and most dedicated fans you will ever come across. Most spend their days tweeting their favourite Youtube stars in order to get noticed, adorning their Tumblr pages with images and information about them, making animated gifs of them, creating fan art dedicated to them, writing fanfiction about them, buying any merchandise or product their Youtuber releases, attending conventions or meet and greets, avidly promoting any new video or project their Youtuber releases. In the more extreme (yet common) cases the fan's whole lives revolve around their favourite Youtube star. They can do no wrong in their eyes. At a glance none of this behaviour is particularly harmful, that is until abuse is added to the mix. Extreme fan culture has already proved dangerous here in the cases of the Youtubers who abused their power and targeted their young, dedicated and impressionable fanbase. But this cycle is at risk of being allowed to continue and normalised due to the extreme fans choosing to remain loyal to their favourite Youtubers, even amidst the extreme accusations. Being a fan means so much to some that even when their favourite star is accused of something as serious as rape their loyalty still can't be deterred. The easier option for the fan is to place the blame on the victim or accuse victims of lying. Or in the cases were the Youtuber admits to their offences and apologises they are quick to accept their apology in the defence that 'everyone should be allowed a second chance'. These examples can be seen all over the comment sections of victim's Youtube videos and in the Twitter replies of the accused Youtubers. 

Of course, 'victim blaming' and 'rape apology' aren't unique to Youtube fangirls. You will also see people who weren't necessarily fans of Sam Pepper desperately trying to poke holes in victims accounts and professing that the victim 'shouldn't have gone back to his apartment if they didn't want sex'. It's hard for me to get my head around why so many people's first instinct is to blame the victim. But one thing I keep coming back to is the dehumanisation of rapists in society. People see a potential victim as in control of their actions but see a rapist as an evil subhuman being whose only purpose on this Earth is to rape. But the Youtube scandal teaches us that that is not the case. These Youtubers are everyday people, like you or me, who so happen to make videos and upload them to the internet. Everyday people who had a choice, like everyone else does, not to hurt others. But instead they made the choice to abuse. And it's they who deserve the blame, not any young girl who idolised an internet celebrity and was simply flattered and excited at their reciprocated attention. Of course it's always important to be wise in who you trust and to try and stay away from potentially dangerous situations when possible. But someone having a lapse of judgement does not mean that they deserve to be raped for it. 

2. Should we forgive Youtube abusers?

With the Sam Pepper fiasco still being rife, two weeks ago Youtube saw the return of disgraced Youtuber Alex Day. He returned with a video titled 'The Past', which he uploaded to his long abandoned channel. In the video he recounts some of the less incriminating accusations against him, telling them from his point of view which render him seemingly innocent. He also reiterates what he had said at the time that the allegations were made; that he didn't realise the girls he was with weren't consenting. And for about a minute after watching this video I actually forgave him. See, Alex Day wasn't ever accused of forcefully raping anyone, but manipulating and coercing girls into sex who weren't comfortable with the idea. I had always been horrified by this but in comparison to Sam Pepper, an alleged ruthless, violent rapist, Alex Day was almost looking angelic. And then I realised, that's probably exactly what Alex Day wants people to think. The timing of his comeback, in the midst of all the Sam Pepper outrage, is likely no coincidence. But luckily I was quickly able to see clearly and realise that what Alex Day did is still wrong and harmful and cannot be taken lightly. And should we believe Alex Day when he says he didn't realise what consent meant but he does now? No, because it’s safer not to. We can never know for sure that he won’t abuse his power again and take advantage of more girls, therefore we cannot welcome him back. Forgiving a sexual abuser on the basis of a (half hearted) apology sends the message to potential abusers that one can get away with rape, as long as you say sorry afterwards. That you can even still maintain adoring fans, and have potential future victims willing to heed your every call. It also normalises sexual abuse and rape, it becomes just another 'mistake' in which one can ask for a second chance after making, which also sends a harmful message to often very young Youtube fans. Horrifically I've even seen a few fans making light of the Sam Pepper accusations by saying that they themselves wish they had been raped by him. It's not safe to continue to let these accused Youtuber celebrities have influence. We essentially now have rapists (some alleged, some not) with hundreds of thousands of fans idolising them. This cannot be encouraged by defending and forgiving said abusers and letting this dangerous cycle continue. 


11 Oct 2014

5 TV Shows To Binge Watch This Halloween Season

First things first - apologies for the huge gap between this post and the last. Between moving flat, still having no broadband and being plagued with Freshers Flu, finding the means to post anything proved rather difficult. But today I finally reached the point where I felt well enough to stumble to the library in order to write, and posting shall be regular again from this week onwards. On the way to the library today I took a recently discovered shortcut through an old war cemetery. The cemetery is scenic and huge in size, and the shortcut through it makes for an atmospheric and contemplative walk (I don't even need earphones). And today the recent cold mist and abundance of crunchy leaves added to the graveyard's creepy yet somewhat darkly comforting nature. And that's when it hit me, it's starting to feel like Halloween! And what better way to bask in the Halloweeny atmosphere bestowed upon us for the upcoming weeks? Binge watching scary TV shows of course. Here are my top 5 shows which I believe are perfect for the run up to Halloween: 

1. American Horror Story

Most AHS fans are hyper-aware that with this week comes the annual return of the show. American Horror Story is a world class TV drama which is not afraid to go the extra horrific mile. Packed with gore, fright, laughs and tremendous acting and cinematography each season brings with it a unique new creepy setting along with enthralling new characters (though often consisting of old familiar faces). Whether you're an old fan getting ready to sink your teeth into American Horror Story: Freak Show or you're someone who still hasn't gotten round to watching the innovative first season, this month is the perfect time to be consumed by this thrilling show. Personally, if I do ever get an internet connection again, I'm planning to spend my evenings re watching the first (and in my opinion the best and most psychologically affecting) season this month.

2. True Blood

True Blood, everyone's favourite sexy vampire show. Set in the Southern fantasy town of Bon Temps, where humans are attempting to live in harmony with the coexisting vampire residents (and the various other supernatural creatures who happen to come out of the woodwork), True Blood follows the story of telepath Sookie and her resistance in stay out of any dangerous vampire-related situation. The show came to a timely end this summer making now the perfect time to revisit the pre 'shark-jumping' atmospheric and exciting first few seasons.

3. Being Human (UK)

Being Human is a massively underrated home-grown supernatural drama/dark comedy from the UK. It follows the tribulations of a vampire, a werewolf and a ghost who all share the same house (though the dynamics change in the later seasons where new main characters are introduced). Being Human is poignant, funny and exciting, and the short 6-8 episode seasons are filled with so much suspense that you may find difficulty in talking yourself out of staying up late and consuming the whole first season in a night. 

4. Hemlock Grove

Hemlock Grove is a more original take on the common vampire/werewolf set up, incorporating Roman and Greek mythology to make a modern gothic tale. The story starts off centring around the protagonist Peter, a Romani teen who, unluckily for him, moves into the mysterious Hemlock Grove at the same time young girls start to show up dead. Intensely gruesome and disturbing, but also involving and addictive - Hemlock Grove is a Netflix only program, meaning both seasons are there ready and waiting to be binged watched this October. 

5. Pretty Little Liars

Here's something for those too nervous to watch any bona fide horror shows. Pretty Little Liars is a dark teen drama following a group of High School girls who start receiving text messages from an anonymous terroriser following the death of the 'queen bee' of their clique. Pretty Little Liars is simultaneously spooky yet ultra-fun and girly - If you're not anxiously anticipating when the enigmatic 'A' will make their next move then you're lusting after one of the Liars outfits (or after one of the lead males). Luckily for me, being behind on so many programs means I have a whole season of this to catch up on in the run up to Halloween!


17 Sept 2014

Goals for this University Year

At the end of this month I return to university after a nine month hiatus due to illness. As the time draws nearer I'm slightly nervous, yet mostly really excited, to be returning to the social and educational wonderland that is uni. And the anticipation of revisiting my second year has left me pondering on how to ensure I make the most out of the remainder of my university experience. So here's a small compilation of goals I'm aiming to fulfil in my second year of uni!

Join more societies. During Freshers Week, in my first year, I joined two societies; one that turned out not to be for me and one that I stuck with to this day. The one that I stuck with was the Rock and Alternative Music Society, which is where I ended up finding all my current university friends - which is sort of the problem, all my friends are from Rocksoc. And as much as I love them and the community, I'm eager to meet and befriend people from outside just the one society. So this year I'm planning to join a few more societies (English Society being top of my list) to hopefully broaden my social circle and experiences. 

Go to socials. Joining societies is one thing, but actually making the effort to regularly attend the socials is something else. As I mentioned previously, from the start of my time at uni I've been very active with Rocksoc and have made all my friends within it; yet I could count how many Rocksoc socials I've actually attended each year on one hand. After initially meeting everyone during Freshers and securing my friends I felt little need to actually attend the socials, and predominantly only turned up to the drunken soirees which were the society's bi-weekly club night. But clubs aren't necessarily the greatest place to make connections, which is why the slightly calmer socials are ideal social opportunities. So this year I aim to make regular appearances to the Rock socials, along with the socials of the other societies I join.

Make an effort with my coursemates. Most people make the majority of their uni friends on their course; I didn't. For me my lectures and seminars have been for me to sleepily soak in as much information as I could whilst counting down the hours until I could go out to see friends/go home and watch Vampire Diaries. I didn't make much of an effort to engage with my coursemates on a personal level. But being in contact with people on your course is not only very handy, but it's also rather nice, as you're likely to have lots in common with people choosing to study the same subjects as you. So this year I will actually attempt not to appear socially awkward when getting paired up with a coursemate for a seminar discussion and welcome being able to converse with someone like-minded.

Write for the uni magazine. My university, like most others, has a student run radio station, tv channel and magazine. And out of the three the magazine is the one that I've been most interested to be involved in. I actually had a piece published in the magazine once before, but it was an article I had written when I was off sick back home, so unfortunately never got to see it in print. So my aim for this year is to get another article published. As well as this being great writing practice it'll also be a fun challenge, as only a select few of the articles submitted make it into the physical magazine (the rest go up on the online site.).

Volunteer. This is something I've yet to do since being at uni. The only time I signed up for a project was for it only to be cancelled on the day due to snow! Volunteering is something I've loved doing in the past and that I've always wanted to do more of. And I believe it'd be a productive and enriching way to enhance my university experience and to meet some more people.

Start essays in advance. This is probably the most obvious one, yet possibly the hardest. Students are infamous for leaving essays until the night before, and I'm certainly no exception. It seems to be hardwired in a lot of us to feel unable to work without the pressure of a fast ticking clock. This method may actually seem to work for a lot of people, but what finally got me to seriously question my study methods is the fact that, last year before I had to suspended my studies, I was getting shockingly 'alright' grades. And all on assessments I started less than 24 hours before they were due. So this made me think - if it's possible to get decent grades when putting in the utmost minimum amount of time, then just imagine the possibilities when actually planning essays weeks in advanced and having ample time to go over and adjust them before handing them in!

These are the goals I have so far. Please let me know in the comments if you have any of the same goals, any different ones or any past success stories with completing your goals!


1 Sept 2014

August Favourites | Beauty

Here are a few short reviews of some beauty products that I’ve been enjoying in the month of August!

Urban Decay 24/7 Concealer Pencil

When it comes to foundation and concealer I usually stick with Bobbi Brown. But this month, as I approached the end of my Bobbi Brown concealer stick, I decided I may as well consider switching it up for something a little cheaper. I had been feeling neutral about the product for a while so I figured, why pay so much for a high end brand when I could be paying half the price for something more effective? When searching for a replacement I did struggle to find a good highstreet/drugstore brand in my shade, but finally I came across the Urban Decay 24/7 Concealer Pencil - and it is amazing. It completely masks my dark circles, which is one of my main concerns, and fully covers any other blemishes and discolouration. I find it also blends in really well with liquid foundation. My only slight annoyance is that it has to be sharpened regularly, but the pros far outweigh any cons. The pencil is also only £12 which I find is a ridiculously reasonable price for such a great and effective product. 

Rimmel 60 Seconds Nail Polish

It’s been a while since I’d purchased new nail varnish, so last week I decided it was high time! I was after a long lasting varnish as I seem to be prone to chipping easily. Despite the fact that most people seem to swear by Essie my only experience with an Essie nail varnish was with it chipping within only a couple of days, and I’ve never been willing to take the risk since. So whilst browsing in Superdrug this month I noticed some pretty shades of Rimmel's 60 Seconds Nail Polish and I thought I’d give them ago. I didn’t particularly find that this product dried faster than any other brand per say, but I was very impressed with the varnish’s staying power and I love the shades. My favourite out of the three is the Midnight Skinny Dip which is a gorgeous metallic electric blue colour, reminiscent of the colour of the sky between twilight and dusk. I imagine I’ll be wearing this shade a lot in the near future!

NYC City Proof Twistable Lip Colour

This month I bought NYC City Proof Twistable Intense Lip Colour, in shade Gramercy Park Plum. This was my first time with a lip crayon and I’m been having a lot of fun just with its satisfying application! I’m personally accustomed to dark purple/red lip shades so this purple is lighter that what I’m used to, but I find that it looks extremely pretty and may have even converted me to slightly lighter shades! The crayon leaves a soft but vibrant finish and a very long lasting coverage. I’m hugely happy with this buy and am sure to be repurchasing. 

Dr Organic Manuka Honey Rescue Cream

This is my favourite product that I’ve invested in this month. This year I’ve been struggling a lot with eczema, particularly eye eczema which I’ve been very self conscious about. So as you can imagine I’ve been spending ridiculous amounts of money on an array of creams and ointments, and hadn’t yet found any to be effective enough. Then recently through the grapevine I heard about Dr Organic Manuka Honey Rescue Cream and its impressive track record in treating eczema. I went and purchased it last week from Holland and Barrett and was extremely impressed. In the space of a week it has very noticeably decreased my eczema, which is an incredible feat considering how dyer my skin and allergies have been recently. I can’t give a full review until I give it a little longer to work but so far the eczema on my chest and arms has almost fully gone and it’s also managed to keep down the swelling of my eye lids. The product contains natural ingredients such as manuka honey, sweet almond oil and aloe vera and smells pleasantly sweet whilst feeling hydrating on your skin. The product is affordable at £8.89, but the downside is that it comes in a small jar, and if you are wanting to use it over a large area you may find that a single jar isn’t particularly long lasting. But saying that, the cream has a thick constancy and just a touch of it at a time applied to any given area will be more than effective.


21 Aug 2014

6 Things that Make Autumn my Favourite Season

This summer in England we were subjected to a heat wave. This meant nonstop extreme temperatures of up to 35 degrees celsius for over a month. Now I’m sure some of you who live in hotter countries are laughing at our definition of a heat wave, but non UK residents are often unaware that the heat in England also brings with it a very heavy humidity. And that paired with this country’s general lack of air conditioning has made the summer pretty much unbearable for me, and I spent most of it refraining from going out where I could help it. It didn’t help that I live in an area in London notorious for its steep hills, and having to walk up and down them in order to venture out of my house in such a climate felt like a death wish. With all this in mind you can imagine my pleasure to find that as of last week it has become apparent that England has now descended into an early autumn. The average temperature has suddenly dropped by around 10 degrees and there is a new continual presence of a cool breeze, which is starting to tug at the changing leaves.

Being in the midst of the switching seasons has left me more than eager for the coming months and reflective on what, other than just the neutral climate, makes autumn so exciting to me.

That 'back to school' feeling. In Primary school ‘back to school’ meant the excitement of purchasing new stationary, staying up sharpening pencils the night before your first class and the anticipation of finally seeing your friends after the holidays. And as you get older you find that returning to university after the summer isn’t much different. For me the exciting yet comforting feel of the ‘new start’ always accompanies the scent of the crisp autumn air.

Halloween. Halloween is potentially the best night of any year. For one night only you have the opportunity to extravagantly dress up and pretend to be whoever, or whatever, you want to be and go out partying in that guise, whilst also marvelling at everyone else’s. Not to mention that spooky feel that encompasses the atmosphere on the days surrounding Halloween, making it also the perfect time to spend your nights hiding in bed with the lights off whilst binge watching American Horror Story.

My birthday. This one mainly applies to me personally. Luckily for me my birthday falls at the start of this amazing season. So the anticipation of a new school year is also combined with the excitement of a new year of my life, making autumn feel to me like the ultimate new beginning.

The fashion. I can certainly see the appeal of spending the hotter months wearing pretty summer dresses, and the liberating feel of them against bare skin. But to me nothing looks better or makes me feels more comfy or feminine than a pretty dress in combination with tights, a cardigan and a wool hat. I personally find that my general style is most suited to autumn, particularly as I prefer to wear darker colours, and I love seeing other people’s autumnal looks.

Fireworks. On the 5th of November we in England celebrate Guy Fawkes Night (or Bonfire night). And for the days leading up to the event the air is constantly emblazoned with the sight, sound and smell of Fireworks. Guy Fawkes Night itself is then usually spent next to a crackling bonfire and/or gazing up at a firework display. And if you’re extra lucky you’re likely to find yourself spending a portion of the night attempting scrawl your name in the air with a sparkler. I personally can’t think of many things better.

The start of Christmas season. So we’ve already got our snuggly weather and comfy clothes, and now that the final firework has been lit it’s time for their presence in the sky to be replaced with the enchanting glimmer of Christmas lights! This finally signifies the lead up to winter coming to completion. Not everyone has positive associations with Christmas, but it’s hard not to be enamoured upon first finding your town centre sprung into a shimmering winter wonderland.

What are your favourite things about Autumn?

18 Aug 2014

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Hope can be a powerful force. Maybe there’s no actual magic in it, but when you know what you hope for most and hold it like a light within you, you can make things happen, almost like magic.”

Daughter of Smoke & Bone is winter in a book. It’s black early evenings, mugs of hot tea and the hint of magic behind a flickering street lamp.
And its prose reads like tapestry. Fantastical words are woven into hypnotic descriptions and embroidered with mystique. And within those words can be found tales of fallen angels, sister moons and teeth collectors, all sewn together to create an enthralling and wistful story of love, war and magic.
Karou, our protagonist, attends art school in Prague, but often spends her time stepping through wooden doors and into other worlds. She has blue hair that grows that way out of her head, a part human wishmonger as an adoptive father and a burning angel as a newly acquired stalker. But who, or what, is Karou? This question is one that has plagued her from birth, and is something she is now finally about to find out.

Laini Taylor uniquely manages to portray not only an immensely nuanced and likeable female lead character, but also a sublimely un-cliche and absorbing romance. And she proficiently incorporates beautiful lore - both borrowed and created - into her story.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone is brimming with mystery and suspense constantly willing you to turn page after page in the exciting anticipation of answers. And come the last part in the book the key pieces start to place together to slowly pave way for a gratifying and affecting conclusion- though not so gratifying that you don’t want to rush out and purchase the next instalment immediately.
It’s safe to say that Daughter of Smoke & Bone has made its place among my all-time favourite books, and I cannot wait to immerse myself in the warm familiarity I’m sure to find in the next instalment.

Amani x 
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