Wednesday, May 10

April Book Reviews


Now I know the world believes it is May, but let's say for the sake of this post that it is still April ( and so that I don't have to re-edit the above image).  I was technically supposed to have these reviews written and published in March but you know me, I am a total disarray of a blogger. Recent events (hospital, surgery, chest infection, asthma... ) in my life became priority and so I do have a valid excuse ( this time )

My April book reviews features 3 books I have been very keen to read. One was sent to me, one was borrowed to me and one was bought almost 2 years ago. I was very excited to read all three of these so my expectations had been very high. And I'm happy to say there were no (major) disappointments.


Title: Kitty Hawk and the Tragedy of the R.M.S Titanic
Author: Iain Reading
Genre: Young Adult / Mystery
Stars: ★★★★
Origin: Sent to me by book publicity services

This 4th instalment in this series is located around Ireland and England. I got very excited when I found this out as you all know I live in Ireland and have been to London a few times. So naturally I was very picky when it came to reading the book. I wanted the descriptions of "beautiful rolling-hills Ireland" to be perfect. For the most part it was very accurate but I found it had a very tourist view on Ireland. A sort of western idea of what it is like here. The start irritated me because it seemed like madness having an opening day for some sushi restaurant and a sumo-wrestling match on Grafton Street.  On top of that there was an emphasis on Irish food like stew and Guinness and Whiskey. It's so stereotypical. I mean my staple diet is pasta and lasagne. Not very Irish now is it? But I won't get too bogged down by this as technically Kitty is a tourist visiting Ireland and so of course she's going to try the most "Irish" of things.

The second thing that bugged me was Kitty herself. Up until this point in the books she had been such a great role model and strong female lead.  I don't think she had enough time to grow and develop in this one. She was just missing that kick-ass-ness. Replaced more by badass-ness. She did some pretty reckless things that I admire but also dislike. She wasn't the hero she had been in the previous books.

Before you start thinking I've only negative things to say I must point out that there are so many wonderful elements to this story. The Kitty Hawk books are all so educational and fun that they only compete with themselves. From the four books my favourite topic is definitely the titanic in this one. I have a HUGE obsession with the Titanic. Always have. That and Anne Frank are my favourite parts of history even though they are extremely sad. I knew a lot about the titanic but this book definitely taught me some really interesting things. There is a bit near the end where Kitty googles some interviews from the titanic enquiry and finds some piece of information that helps them solve the puzzle. What's amazing about this is if you google the same thing - there it is! Mind blowing. I love how factual this book is and how Iain manages to tie it all into this gripping story.

I must mention Newgrange. If you don't know what that is then shame on you. I actually studied Newgrange in Art and all about the details on the stones so when Kitty was visiting there I was nodding along with happiness and approval. I have never been there but actually plan on visiting soon. This book rekindled my love of Newgrange and all the other historical parts of Ireland. It's wonderful how much detail Iain goes into in the story. He really does his research.

The only other thing that bumped down this rating to 4 stars is the treasure. I was utterly disappointed. I guess from the Titanic film I was imagining them finding the heart of the ocean. I know the actual treasure meant a lot to the family and it was necessary for the story to remain humble  but a diamond necklace would have been awesome.

I very much enjoyed this book and cannot wait to see where Kitty takes me next.



Title: Only Ever Yours
Author: Louise 0'Neill
Genre: Young Adult / Dystopian / Feminism
Stars: ★★★★
Origin: Borrowed from housemate

Can Louise O'Neill ever write a happy ending? After reading Asking For It and Only Ever Yours I guess the answer is no. So if you're looking for a fairytale this ain't the book for you. In fact this is one of the realest stories I've ever read. Now it is a dystopian, set sometime in the future so obviously it isn't real but the fact that this life in 2017 is an echo of this book makes me open my eyes to so many different issues highlighted by "Only Ever Yours". It is haunting to read.

Thank you to my housemate Margaret who let me borrow this book. She came home from a talk from Louise one day and we started gushing about her and other feminist related things. I was super excited to meet someone who is as obsessed with her as I am ( in an admiring way, not creepy stalker ). I love how this book dealt a lot with mental health, eating disorders and how we perceive people based on looks.

In a summary this book is about how women are only used for sex and reproducing. In fact women who will be mothers take medication so that they will only produce boys. Girls are made by scientists engineered to be perfect and then brought up in schools away from the outside world until they reach an age when they are shipped off as concubines, wives or chastities.

It is a sick and disgusting world. The girls compete against each other based on their looks. They must be perfect. And when they're under so much pressure to be this perfect girl you can see how their mental health suffers. They develop eating disorders and rely on drugs to be able to sleep. It is an exaggeration of what already exists in this world. There is so much pressure to be perfect from social media, magazines, celebrities and our own friends. Uploading pictures to Facebook and instagram you must look your best. It's all about how many likes you get. This book shows how ridiculous it is to base your value on a number. On how many people "liked" your profile picture. It is an addiction. Looking for approval and confirmation from other people that you are enough.

It is such a raw story that I hope will change a lot of people's opinions. Being beautiful is not just about your flawless skin or tiny waist. You shouldn't judge someone on how they look. To be cheesy: it's what's on the inside that counts.

And particularly how women are viewed in society in this book is so disturbing because we all know that gender equality is still a major problem in the world. Women do not belong to men. We are our own person and our body belongs to no one else. No one should have a say in what you do with your body. It is nobody else's business and certainly not any man's business.

I hope this book opens people's eyes.



Title: All the Bright Places
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: Young Adult / Mental Health
Stars: ★★★
Origin: Bought in Waterstones after reading raving reviews

I'm afraid this is a book that has become over-hyped. I bought this after reading a bajillion 5 star reviews but then didn't get around to reading it until only recently. It has been described as a mixture of The Fault In Our Stars and Eleanor and Park. I can see the resemblance and as I really didn't like Eleanor and Park then I obviously wouldn't be hugely obsessed with this book.

In short it's about a boy and girl who fall for each other even though their lives are entwined in grief, pain and suffering. It sounds like a good story but like many people I found that the subject of mental illness became the sole point of the book. The characters were engulfed by depression. They were walking bodies of bipolar and suicide. But this isn't necessarily criticism. For isn't that what mental illness is. It sucks you out and leaves behind a gaping hole. Sometimes filled with anxiety and fears or other times totally empty. A vacancy. It is not my right to say that this book is bad because it didn't show my "version" of depression. For many people how they live or exist with a mental illness is not just one single way. People react all different. You cannot condemn these characters for being overwhelmed by their suffering.

Unfortunately I failed to make a connection with this book. I thought I would, particularly with Violet because of losing someone in her immediate family but I just didn't relate. I didn't "like" the characters and I was just not as interested as I would have wanted. Now the ending did make me cry. How couldn't it? Only a robot could stay cheery through those last chapters.

I'm very glad I read this book as it opened  up some things about bipolar disorder which I knew very little about. Mental health is an important thing that everyone needs to be aware of. This book touches very much on that but loses its story in the meantime.

Have you read any of these?

Always, M

Monday, April 24

Blogging Struggles


Everyone wants their blog to be a success. Perhaps you're not interested in the amount of followers you have or the page views on your latest post but I'm almost certain that you don't blog with the intention of nobody reading it. If that were the case then you should have bought a diary and not a domain.

But success doesn't come over night. In fact it may not come for months or even years. That all depends on what you define as "success"though. To me it means I enjoy what I write and I look forward to connecting with other Hoomans of the internet through comments and other blogs. I love blogging and it is one of my favourite hobbies but it can be difficult. Blogging isn’t all daisies and dandelions. It requires an awful lot of effort and can be a bit of a struggle. Here are some things I often find issues with

Life

Whether you have one or need to get one, Life always seems to get in the way. I’m a busy person and like to be organised and have a routine. When Life decides to throw obstacles my way then my routine goes out the window and blogging along with it. For instance my recent absence is a result of moving out, starting my new job and then to top things off I suddenly wound up in hospital needing surgery. Don’t worry it wasn’t life or death. I’m now recovering and for the first time in a month have time to write this post.

Time

Blogging takes up A LOT of time! A post doesn’t just happen. It needs to be thought out, brainstormed, and eventually written. Then there’s editing photos, adding them to the post, pinning , tweeting and of course publishing the post. On average writing takes me maybe 2 hours but planning and photo editing could have me busy for a week. And if you’re writing regularly, even just weekly, that’s a lot of time you need! Trying to post regularly is a major thing I struggle with. I have bursts of motivation before I fall behind and then procrastinate because of all these reasons I am writing about today.

Content

What do I write about? I’ve used up all my ideas and now I got nothing. Nada. Blank. Zero. The answer to that question is I don’t know. If you do find out then please share with me.

Sometimes I wonder if what I'm writing about is fresh. Almost everything has been written about at some point.  And am I the right person to be talking about  that topic? Shouldn't I leave that to the experts? It's not my place to give advice on what you should wear or what cream is best for spots ( I don't blog about these because I have no clue and no interest in either of those areas )

Writer's Block

This is a bit different to not knowing what to write about. Writer’s block for me means I do have an idea but I just don’t know where to start. Think of it as a red brick wall between me and my keyboard. The words just aren’t flowing and I’m not sure if I know how to speak English anymore.

Effort doesn't always equal Results

And just because you spent hours perfecting that latest post that you think everyone on earth needs to read as a matter of life and death, it doesn’t mean you're going to go viral and be instantly famous over night. You can tweet all you want and pin lots of pretty pictures of your post but it just ain’t driving traffic. Why? Good question - I don’t know. It seems a little unfair though. You deserve appreciation for all your hard work.

Responsibilities and Community

In terms of the blogosphere I have a tiny following and an even tinier commenting readership. I would obviously love to have more followers but I find it much more manageable the way it is. I think it is hugely important to reply to comments and reply on their own blogs. Blogging is a two way street and to grow in this community, to make friends you need to give and take. I appreciate every comment and I always try keep up with blogs I follow. But again …. time… it’s an issue. I feel terrible when I miss a few days or weeks because then I am way behind and feel like I’m neglecting my role as a reader. I swear it’s not that your blog has become boring it’s because I’m such a disorganised lazy person that becomes terrified of the amount of unread posts in my bloglovin feed.

I constantly battle with all of the above but nevertheless am still happy to say I am passionate about blogging. 
Do you find you struggle with blogging? What problems do you encounter as a blogger? How have you made your blog successful?



Always, M

Tuesday, March 21

How To Make Your Perfect Bucket List


What is a Bucket List?

To me, a bucket list is something everyone should have. It is either a physical or virtual list of things a person wants to do before they die. Or according to google:
Bucket List Ideas
Bucket List Ideas

I wrote my first Bucket List when I was about 15. Perhaps I was a bit young to be thinking about death. Or perhaps it was about time I started thinking  about things I wanted to do in life. It was after I watched that brilliant movie "The Bucket List" starring Morgan Freeman that I went mad with ideas, putting things down like "wear a different colour on each nail for a day" and "become a famous singer". They were far off fantasies that weren't really things I wanted. I mean, I can't even sing.

At 18, I revised my list and added it as a page in my blog [picture on the right, not sure if it's very readable]. It was much more me, containing things like see the Elephants in Africa and get a tattoo. Except a lot of these things aren't really that important to me. If I were to wake up dead tomorrow (or be reincarnated as a butterfly) would I regret not doing these things? Am I desperate to achieve all these things?


So here I am, at 20, making another bucket list. This time with utmost dedication and concentration.  Wish me luck!

 Why Should You Have A Bucket List?

The main reason you should have a bucket list is because you want to. If you have no interest in trying new things, then what's the point? I think it's important for some people to make a bucket list as it gives more purpose to your life. You have goals that can motivate and inspire you to achieve. Bucket lists help the imagination and can spark curiosity. You'd be surprised what you learn and maybe what new talents you find. It's also important to actually do things on your bucket list. Don't just leave these dreams on paper, make them happen.


How To Write A Bucket List

Bucket List IdeasIf you're stuck, the best way to kickstart the process is using Pinterest or WeHeartIt. There are so many ideas on those sites. Make a board and use that as your bucket list. But don't limit yourself to just pinterest. You can think of anything! Choose things that YOU want to do.

Remember, it's not a wish list. It's a list of dreams that you intend to do. These are things you will set out to do and most definitely want to  do. Anyone can write down "See the Eiffel Tower". I'm not saying it shouldn't be on your bucket list but if it is then be sure that it's not just filling up space.

The best way to start the actual list is with pen and paper. Write them all down. One per line. It's  your first draft. Then when you have them finalised you can write them on a big A3 paper and nicely decorate it. Perhaps hang it on the wall in a frame, that way you're less likely to forget about it.

And remember: Do Your Bucket List!


A few things from my Bucket List:

- Learn to drive
- Get a Facial Piercing
- Get a Tattoo
- Visit the Harry Potter Studios(London)
- Travel to every country in the world
- Write a Book
- Become a Vegetarian
- Take part in a protest/march for something I believe in
- Get a PhD

Even though I am starting a new bucket list, I'm keeping things I've already crossed off. These are important accomplishments to me. At 17 I got a nose piercing. At 19 I passed my driving test. At 20 I got my first tattoo ( that was only a couple of weeks ago, it hurt .... a lot). So I'm not finished my bucket list but I am certainly getting through it!

What is on your Bucket List?

Always, M 

Sunday, March 12

Female Role Models


Last Wednesday was International Women's day. Women, Men and Children marched on the streets all over the world. It was a day where many women striked in protest to the economic inequality, prejudice and insecurity faced by women in the workplace. In Ireland there was also a focus on striking to repeal the 8th ( if you want to know more about that total injustice to women I already wrote a post on that HERE). While I myself wasn't able to take part in the march because I'm fortunate enough to have a right to education but unfortunate to have an exam and team project deadline that same day. But I felt very proud to see the turn out of people in support of these basic human rights. Now that International Women's Day is gone, I think it is important to remember that the inequality that was here a week ago hasn't disappeared with one march. We must still  protest inequality and support human rights for men AND women!

There are many people out there who inspire me to do better. I guess you could call them role models. I know there are a lot of pros and cons to having role models and I myself agree with both sides of the argument. These role models that I have aren't people I worship like a God but they are just people who I admire and do things that I agree with. When I hear a speech from Emma Watson campaigning for equality I am reminded of the social injustice in the world and she inspires me to do more, to be grateful for what I have and to want a change in the world. Likewise when I see a post on instagram from Sarah Tyrell about body shaming and loving who you are, I feel more comfortable in my own skin and it makes me stop and think about judging people for how the look and what they wear. These women are people I want in my world. I think if everyone was a bit more like them then it would be a happier place.

Emma Watson


Emma has been a role model of mine ever since I was 7 and started watching Harry Potter. Even though it was Hermione who I was looking up to back then, Emma isn't all that different from her character.

She shows me you can be whoever and whatever you want to be. She shows me that being smart is a good thing and to never dumb yourself down for anyone. She fights for equality and gives hugely inspiring speeches. She accepts not being perfect and doesn't follow the crowd. She is strong and fierce.

She is someone I greatly admire.

"It is time that we all see gender as a spectrum instead of two sets of opposing ideals"




Louise O'Neill


Louise O'Neill is the author of Only Ever Yours and Asking For It. I first heard of her when she came to one of those festivals in Cork, it was probably the world book one. So I picked up a copy of Asking For It and was absolutely blown away by the book. I had never read a more relevant or horrible story. It sparked a rage within me to take more notice, to stand up for what I believe in, to fight against this rape culture. Because no one is EVER asking for it.

While her book had such an impact on me, I took an interest in Louise herself by following her on twitter and instagram and reading her articles in the paper. While I find her writings inspiring, it is the trolling comments on her pieces that ignite my anger at civilisation. How can people be so bloody ignorant? But none of this hate stops her and she continues to fight for justice and equality.
I'm very much looking forward to her new book.


Scarlett Curtis

The first time I heard of Scarlett Curtis was during English Class in 2012. My teacher Ms. Foley was talking about blogs and specifically Scarlett's blog Teen Granny. She suggested blogging as a way to improve essay writing and practise for the Leaving Cert exams. I wasn't a great English Student, much preferring maths and art, so I decided I better look into it for the sake of my future.

Surprisingly I was enthralled with Scarlett's blog because of my love for baking, knitting and crafting. Now it's 5 years on and I'm still blogging! So Scarlett is one of my role models because she inspired me to pursue something I love. She made baking, reading and knitting seem cool when at a time I was easily persuaded by peers and social media. Today she is still an inspiration as a blogger, activist, feminist, writer and girl. I follow her on twitter and instagram where she promotes equality, fashion and basically all things pink.

Just a couple  of weeks ago I tweeted a blog post as I sometimes do when I'm being organised. Not long after, Scarlett actually replied and followed me on twitter!! *dances around room* I was absolutely  thrilled. It means so much when one of your role models acknowledges your existence.

Sarah Tyrell

It was only a couple of weeks ago when I accidentally stumbled across Sarah Tyrell's instagram. I think Sarah is a hugely inspiring woman and so so brave.

For a girl whose struggled with body image and confidence all of my life, I felt very compelled by Sarah's blog. She posts pictures of herself on instagram and shows others that we shouldn't be ashamed of our own bodies because of how we look. Most people don't have that "perfect body" that is thrown in our faces by photoshopped magazines and advertising.

In her blog she talks about positivity and overcoming the pressure put on us by peers, social media and even ourselves. I think her message is so important and every person should hear what she has to say. It comes from her own experience so she knows exactly what she is talking about it. I wish I was as brave as her.

"One thing I've learned is that beauty isn't really visual. It's not something we can see. It's not something that can be bought, or applied, or created using products. It's also not really something we can strive for either. It's something that's already there, hidden, hurried deep down inside of each of us under a pile of bullshit expectations, rules, false beliefs, and fear. It's in there, desperately struggling to get out. And the thing is, even when you understand this and make the choice to let it out, you can't simply reach in and drag it out, through all of the clutter that's piled up and around it. It's not that easy"

*Disclaimer: none of these pictures are mine. If you are unhappy with me using them and want me to remove them then contact me and I will do so.

What is your opinion of Role Models? Who do you look up to?
Always, M






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Wednesday, March 1

Red Velvet Heart Cake


I know what you're thinking. Yes, it is March. And yes, I know that Valentine's was in February.But even though this cake is a Valentine's themed cake, it is still cake! And it is ALWAYS time for cake.

I actually made this and had a little photoshoot a year ago. But I didn't post it because 14th February had come and gone so instead decided to wait till 2017. And then I also missed that deadline.... What can I say? I am a terribly unorganised person.


Anyhoo, this cake is a three tiered red-velvet cake with a cream cheese frosting. The recipe belongs to the brilliant cake artist ( that's right, there's a profession called a cake artist, I think I've found my true calling in life)  Peggy Porschen.

Ingredients:


Red velvet sponge: 
105g butter
275g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
A few drops of extra-red food colour
250g buttermilk
2 medium-sized eggs
235g plain flour
15g cocoa powder
2 pinches of salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 1⁄4 tsp white wine vinegar

Vanilla frosting:
250g full-fat cream cheese, softened slightly
250g unsalted butter, softened
625g icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp vanilla extract

Decoration: 
Red velvet cake crumbs


Method

1. Make this one day ahead of when needed. Start by preheating the oven to 170°C.
2. Line three 15cm sandwich tins with oil spray and greaseproof paper. Place the butter, caster sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer and, using the paddle, beat at medium-high speed until fluffy.
3. Mix the red food colour with the buttermilk, checking for lumps.
4. Lightly beat the eggs in a separate bowl or jug and, with the mixer set at medium speed, slowly pour into the butter mixture. If the mixture starts to curdle, add a tablespoon of flour to bring it back together.
5. Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt together and, once the butter, sugar and eggs are combined, add to the mixer with the coloured buttermilk and beat at low speed until just incorporated.
6. Whisk together the bicarbonate of soda and vinegar and quickly add to the cake batter.
7. Using a rubber spatula, fold through the batter to make sure everything is well combined.
8. Transfer the batter to the lined tins and gently spread it towards the edges with a step palette knife.
9. Bake for 20–25 minutes. The sponge is cooked when it springs back to the touch and the sides are coming away from the edges of the tin. You could also insert a clean knife into the middle of the sponge; if it is cooked, the knife will come out clean.
10. Once the sponges are baked, remove from the oven and leave to rest for about 10 minutes. When the sponges are just warm, run a knife all the way round the sides of the tins, transfer to a wire cooling rack and leave to cool completely. Once cool, wrap the sponges in cling film and leave them to rest overnight at room temperature. This will ensure that all the moisture is sealed and the sponges firm up to the ideal texture for trimming and layering.


11. Make a cream-cheese frosting then flavour with the vanilla extract. Chill for at least two hours, or until set.
12. Trim the sponges (reserving the trimmings for decoration) and sandwich the layers together using the vanilla frosting. Mask the top and sides of the cake using the remaining vanilla frosting.

Red-Velvet is one of my favourite cakes. It is so delicious! What are your favourite types of cake?

Happy Baking!
Always, M