Sunday, 31 May 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #21

1// Quiet moments with coffee I'm at work this weekend so Wednesday was my day off and I made the most of a quiet, sunny day to myself by heading into London. I intended to go the Inventing Impressionism exhibition the National Gallery which I've been trying to get to for weeks (other things always seemed to take priority), but unfortunately I'd forgotten it was half-term and I do not have the patience to queue for ages just to go in an exhibition and not be able to look at anything. Instead I grabbed myself a cappuccino and sat outside reading the Persephone Books Biannually magazine. Lovely.

2// Flower deliveries This week has been pretty trying for a number of reasons, but an unexpected flower delivery at work on Thursday really made me smile. I guess he's a keeper.

3// Baking I bought myself the Deliciously Ella recipe book a few months ago now and have slowly been working my way through. This week I made blueberry muffins which are tasty, but I'm not sure I got it quite right. I also only had a cupcake tray so they're more like blueberry cupcakes!

4// Burrito bowls Mexican food is my absolute favourite type of cuisine and it's no secret that I would give up my shoes for a burrito sometimes. Much to my distress my tum has a problem with bread, so as an alternative I've been making burrito bowls with tons of fresh ingredients (tomatoes, avocado, black beans, peppers, roasted sweet potatoes). I can honestly say it's better than the real thing.

5// Friday night gym sessions I'm still struggling to get used to working shifts and exercise seems to be the first thing to be left behind. On Friday I left my gym kit ready on my bed for when I got home and made sure to go straight away. It felt so good to sweat the day off in preparation for the next two days.

Thank you to the lovely people who joined in last week - it was wonderful to hear what's been making you happy!

What has made you happy this week? Share your link below and use #sharethehappy on twitter and instagram!


Friday, 29 May 2015

May in One Book

After I finished reading Alice Hoffman's The Museum of Extraordinary Things on the first of this month, I decided it was high time I tackled War and Peace. I started the monster-novel way back in February for Hanna's readalong, but ended up falling at the first hurdle. I made it through the first two hundred pages and was really enjoying it so I'm still not sure what lead me to hide it by the side of my bed for the next two months.

I think part of it was the size (any excuse). The book didn't fit in my handbag terribly well so I had it set aside as bedtime reading, but I was inevitably too tired to read more than a few pages before I dozed off with all 1000+ pages threatening to suffocate me in my sleep. Essentially it was becoming a health hazard.

This time around I bought the kindle version which, you'll be pleased to know, is posing much less of a threat.

Throughout May I've been carrying my kindle with me absolutely everywhere and reading whenever I have a chance. Unfortunately this has mostly been limited to my commute and the odd few pages before bed, though even with this I'm making significant progress.

I wrote earlier in the month about using books to lift your mood and talked about how tackling that book can really provide a huge sense of achievement. War and Peace is that book for me and the more progress I make with it, the better I feel and the more positive and motivated I feel. It's almost one of those 'if I can do this, I can do anything' tasks.

Even though reading War and Peace is a goal and something I want to achieve, it is also something I am really loving. Sure, some bits are a little dry, but the crux of it is wonderful. I love dipping in and out of the characters's lives and seeing how they grow and change as they face new and exciting challenges. I'm a little bit in love with Pierre, and Natasha, though she drives me crazy, is just the most compelling person.

I've had a couple of near misses on the tube (near sobbing misses, I mean), and more than once I've laughed out loud. The kindle highlight function is being used and abused, and generally I'm just trying to inhale it all.

I'm looking forward to getting to the end, not because I want it to be over, but because I want to see how it ends and how we could possibly leave these characters. Pierre, what will I do without you?

What books have you enjoyed this month? Do you have a book you'd love to tackle one day?


Sunday, 24 May 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #20

1// Watching storms from the 8th floor I've been on late shifts this week and it has been tricky to say the least. One shift, though, was made half bearable by an amazing storm. My office is on the eighth floor so I had the perfect view of the lightening and of the post-storm double rainbow. Beautiful.

2// Journalling My new job is rather emotionally challenging. It's cancer, what did I expect? The other night I couldn't sleep because I had a conversation playing round and round in my head. Instead of staying up all night worrying, I sat up and wrote the conversation down. It made a huge difference and I know I'll be using that technique from now on.

3// Podcasts After work I sometimes feel too tired to read, but I don't want to waste the tube journey home. Instead of trying to focus on a book I downloaded a couple of podcasts, including Serial and a happiness one by Gretchen Rubin.

4// Cartel On Friday I went to see Cartel, one of my favourite bands, play the tenth anniversary tour of their first album. It was pretty much one of those dream come true moments and the highlight of my week.

5// Time in the country I'm currently at home in Somerset enjoying some much needed countryside time. It's very chilled and I'm feeling super relaxed. Sometimes a bit of time away is all you need.

What has made you happy this week? Share your link below!


Friday, 22 May 2015

Reading Europe

In a few short weeks my sister and I will be getting on the Eurostar to Belgium to start our two-week tour of Europe. This trip has been a long time in the planning (and saving), but one thing I haven't thought about yet is the books. I know, how very unlike me.

We're going to seven cities across five countries in sixteen days. There will be plane journeys, train journeys and a couple of buses. In other words, there will be plenty of opportunities for reading.

Now, many of you will know that I'm not a fan of being tied down when it comes to reading. I like to go with the flow and read as my fancy takes me, but, to break the habit of a lifetime, for this trip I am going to be relatively structured. I want to read a novel either set in each country I'm visiting or written by an author from that country. Sounds easy enough, right?

Wrong. I'm really struggling to think of exciting, engaging, unputdownable novels for each stop on our journey. So, I'm reaching out in the hopes that some of you may be able to make a suggestion or two.

The Itinerary:

Belgium (Ypres)
Germany (Berlin)
Austria (Vienna)
Croatia (Zagreb then to Pula)
Italy (Venice then to Verona)

Can anyone help? For Croatia I've already decided to read Girl at War by Sara Novic which seems to be taking the world by storm, but that's about as far as I've come.

I have a couple of non-fiction picks waiting in the wings of my kindle and I'll share those closer to the time. So, if you have any fiction recommendations, please start chucking them my way!


Monday, 18 May 2015

Happiness: An A-Z

Happiness AZ Lit Nerd

Art whether in galleries, books or on the street, art always draws me in

Books need I say more?

Cooking my ultimate Sunday is spent experimenting with new recipes

Dancing like no-one is watching

Eating although my relationship with food is a rocky one, eating does still bring me joy

Family I can always get a hug when I need one

Greek Tragedy there's nothing like greek tragedy for making you thankful for what you have

Home is where the heart is. Right now my heart is in London and Somerset, simultaneously

Italy where some of my most treasured memories were made

Journeys the destination doesn't always matter

Kindness the best trait a person can have

Laughing a giggle, a chuckle or a deep belly laugh that shakes my whole body

Moleskine Notebooks those little black notebooks will always be my writing partners

Night Sky I can stare at the night sky for hours in awe at its beauty

Olivia my sister, my hero, and the other half of my heart

Photos I'm the one who stops on the side of the road to take a photo of the view

Questioning I'll never stop asking questions and searching out the answers

Running very few things make me feel as good as running does

Silence I never underestimate the power of silence

Theatre immersing myself in a play is just as satisfying as immersing myself in a book

Understanding learning and gaining understanding gives me purpose

Views I can lose myself completely just admiring a stunning view

Wilkie my main man and favourite author. His novels and stories always lift me up

eXploring I adore wandering around new places and finding surprising things

Yoga those quiet moments spent stretching and breathing has become an important part of my day

Zoey we've been best friends since we were about 13. She still never fails to brighten my day

Your turn!


Sunday, 17 May 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #19

Lit Nerd Happy

1// New music I adore finding or being introduced to new bands/artists to listen to. Last weekend I was introduced to the band Slaves and I don't think I've stopped listening to them since. I've actually been almost thankful for my commute this week.

2// Fresh air Every day I spend a solid eight hours on the eighth floor of a hospital and just under two hours on the tube getting there and back. Suffice to say I've been gulping down the air every chance I get. This craving has led me to sleep with my window open and go for a run in the rain, which was so utterly refreshing.

3// A long-awaited theatre trip On Wednesday evening my sister and I went to the National Theatre to see Man and Superman. I bought us the tickets when the season went on sale months and months ago so I was excited for it to finally come around. It was a long play (just under four hours), but it was well worth it and I'm not just saying that because Ralph Fiennes was in it, either.

4// War and Peace I cannot believe how much I'm enjoying this! All week I've been looking forward to my tube rides and lunch breaks just to get another few pages in. It felt so good to pass the half way mark on Thursday. Tolstoy, I love you.

5// Road trips Yesterday I accompanied M to Bedworth. He was working there for the day so he dropped me in the town and I spent a few chilled out hours in Costa with copious amounts of coffee and my laptop. I then faced my fear of going to the cinema alone and went to see Pitch Perfect 2. It was nerve-wracking, but I'm so proud of myself for doing it.

Last week the lovely Bex from An Armchair by the Sea tweeted me to say she'd been inspired by these posts to do her own. That got me thinking. As much as I love listing my five things and reminding myself of the best parts of my week just gone, I also love to read about what has been making you happy. Some of you may know that I'm hoping to make Lit Nerd all about the happy and I'd love to involve you guys in that. So, to get this peppy party started I'm thinking of making TTMMHTW (that's a mouthful) into a weekly link-up.

I'd love to hear what you guys think and whether you'd like to join in! If you do and are keen to get started, pop a link to your happy things in the comments and we can start spreading the joy.

What has made you happy this week?


Friday, 15 May 2015

Review: Dead Wake by Erik Larson

Dead Wake Review Lit Nerd

Dead Wake
Erik Larson
Crown Publishing Group

A 'dead wake', in maritime vernacular, is a trail of fading disturbance caused by a ship or torpedo. This fading trail was visible to passengers on board the Lusitania as the torpedo shot from the German submarine, U-20, made its way towards the hull of the famous Cunard liner on 7th May 1915.
Dead Wake is a fascinating study of the Lusitania's final voyage. The perspective shifts between predator and prey, providing us with a detailed and engaging look at the events which preceded the torpedo attack. These shifts in perspective demonstrate the fragile state of the world in 1915 and give us a clearer understanding of the strange confluence of events which resulted in the death of almost 2,000 people. Larson is careful not to lay blame, rather he sets out a balanced and objective examination of the ships's voyage and the politics and personalities that affected it.
One look at the bibliography demonstrates the depth and extent of Larson's research, but you do not need the bibliography as proof. The breadth of his knowledge is evident throughout, as is his interest in the individual people involved.
The passengers are more than just numbers of lost and found, survivors and deceased, they are real people and Larson ensures we do not forget that. As the book progresses the narrative shifts from the passengers to Schwieger, the commander of U-20, to President Wilson, to the intelligence offers in Room 40 and back again. As the boat nears its destination and U-20 draws steadily closer, we become to know these people individually and their stories are picked up time and again.
We meet Boston bookseller Charles Lauriat who was carrying a rare volume of Charles Dickens's 'A Christmas Carol' in his luggage. He survived and sent a telegram to his wife letting her know he had saved the pictures of his child as they had been his 'mascot' and that he regretted her 'hours of suspense'. Then there was the architect and spiritualist Theodate Pope who travelled with her maid, Emily Robinson, and a friend. They chose to make the jump to the sea and with a 'come, Robinson', the two women stepped off the railing. Pope survived, just, but her maid and friend were not found.
Perhaps the most emotive passenger story was that of Richard Preston Prichard who, by all accounts, was generous and friendly to all. His body was never recovered, but his mother sent out flyers and pleas for information. A number of passengers who had come into contact with Preston responded, as did a few who had only had glimpses of the young man on deck, with words of consolation and remembrances of her son.
For me, Larson's greatest skill is his ability to bring the captains, commanders and passengers to life beyond the page so that they are more than mere names in a history book. It is this, combined with the detailed and objective research, which makes Dead Wake a powerful addition to the study of the Lusitania's final voyage.
Do you think that remembering the people is just as important as assessing the facts?
This review first appeared on Centenary News.


Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Lift Your Mood With a Book

I may be a bit biased in saying this, but reading is awesome. It makes me feel good, it makes me feel calm and, most importantly, it makes me feel happy. There are times, though, when I can sit staring at a page for what feels like hours and barely make it past the first word, or I can read an entire chapter and realise that I spent the whole time stuck in my head and not taking in a single sentence. Sound familiar?

There can be nothing worse than thinking that the activity you turn to for comfort no longer has that power. But I'm pretty certain that books and reading will never lose that power entirely and all it takes is a few little adjustments (and perhaps a little slack) to experience the full mood-boosting affects of a good book.

If your mood is causing you to lose your faith in reading then here are my tried and tested tips to lift your spirits with a book:

Re-read an old favourite
I have two books that I always turn to when my mood dips: To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf (which I wrote about here) and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. Sinking into familiar favourites can feel like you're curling up with an old friend and has the added bonus that you don't have to concentrate as hard as you would on a new read.

Choose something absorbing
If you're feeling restless or your mind is in overdrive then give it something to focus on. Read that 'difficult' book you've had on your shelf for years, sink into that fantasy series you've heard so much about, or perhaps pick up a mystery novel that's full of twists, turns and red herrings (I'd recommend Dorothy L Sayers).

Choose something simple
If even the thought of reading something mentally taxing leaves you feeling drained, then go for the opposite. Novels that focus on plot and character can carry you along with very little effort so you can rest and still reap the benefits of a good book. Alice Hoffman is my go-to when I feel like this, but I'd also recommend authors such as Kate Morton or Diane Setterfield.

Read something entirely different
My reading tastes generally have me leaning towards the classics, literary fiction and the occasional bit of non-fiction. As much as I know these genres make me happy 99% of the time, I'm aware that there are moments when a change is necessary. If, like me, you stick to literary fiction, why not try a bit of YA? Or, if you generally read crime novels, how about giving some historical fiction a go? Sometimes reading something different can be just the boost you need.

Try a graphic novel
When the darkness rolls in your ability to concentrate can be the first thing to go. Inevitably this leads to a mean cycle of low mood followed by frustration followed by low mood, which can feel impossible to break. Graphic novels can be great for this and can give your mind something to think about without exhausting you completely. One of my favourite graphic novels is Suffragette, but I've also heard such wonderful things about Lucy Knisley's work.

Head outside
If the weather is clear, grab a few layers (or SPF if you're lucky), your book and some water and head outside. Whether it's warm or chilly the fresh air will refresh and invigorate you. Even if you're not up to reading, just relaxing and taking a few deep breaths can do wonders for your mood.

Use the community
One of my favourite things about the blogging world is all the support, encouragement and general good feelings spread by the community. Feeling low can so easily lead to loneliness or isolation so, if you're feeling up to it, use the people around you (online or offline). You could reach out on social media to ask about recommendations for a genre you've never tried, or perhaps you're not sure where on earth you'd start choosing a graphic novel. If jumping on twitter seems a little much right now why not try reaching out to someone individually - you never know, you may just make their day too.

Do you have any tips for lifting your mood through reading?


Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Literary London: Highgate Cemetary

I've had a strange urge to visit Highgate Cemetery ever since I read Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger. As much as graves and the proximity to potential zombies gives me the creeps, Highgate Cemetery is home to a number of literary greats so I figured at least the zombie-pocalypse would be quotable.

On Bank Holiday Monday, after a very lazy morning spent dozing, we were trying to decide what we wanted to do for the day. With London it sometimes feels like you have the world at your fingertips which, for an indecisive gal like myself, can be a touch overwhelming. M was doing a bit of research and found an interesting looking market happening in a venue in Highgate. A quick look on the map and it turned out the market was right next to the cemetery and so, bish bash bosh, a plan was formed.

There was actually something surprisingly calming about Highgate Cemetery. There weren't too many people there, which can be hard to come by in London, so we definitely made the most of it as we wandered amongst the tombstones. It felt slightly odd to be 'celebrity-hunting' in a graveyard, but we just rolled with it and found all the big guys and gals - Karl Marx, George Eliot, Douglas Adams, Alan Sillitoe etc.

As much as finding the pot of pens in front of Douglas Adams's grave was brill, my favourite thing about the cemetery was all the super old gravestones, with the words half rubbed away and the sides crumbling, poking out through the foliage. They seemed forgotten about, but not in a sad or lonely way. I think it was these that gives the whole place such a serene atmosphere.

Have you ever been to Highgate Cemetery?


Sunday, 10 May 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #18

1// Coming across a Peirene book stall unexpectedly We came across a market on Monday whilst exploring Highgate area and, among the soaps, biscuits and fabrics, hid a Peirene book stall. It's difficult to express how excited I was. After a lovely chat with the woman running the stall I came away with The Blue Room which sounds fantastically chilling.

2// Dinner and a catch up with my bestie On Tuesday my bestie made a flying trip to London to visit the new Oxford St Lush and go for dinner. We had Mexican food with lashings of wine and giggles.

3// Finding the perfect pre-gym breakfast I don't often eat before going to the gym, but recently I've been having serious early morning munchies. I decided to have my favourite combination - banana and peanut butter - on a rice cake. You've not tasted heaven until you've tried this. Plus, it gives oodles of energy!

4// Walks in sun After working the weekend, M and I had our usual weekend explorations on Bank Holiday Monday. We were very lucky with the weather and spent a lovely day wandering, chatting and taking photos.

5// A weekend out of London As much as I adore London, a weekend away can be just the thing to help me feel refreshed even if it's only as far away as Essex. London is so busy and fast-paced, but outside of the city I find myself slowing down and taking deeper - cleaner - breaths.

What has made you happy this week?


Saturday, 9 May 2015

Lit Nerd Recommends: Journeys

Journeys Lit Nerd Recommends

One of my favourite things about being a reader is the armchair travelling. Books can transport you to all manner of exotic, or not so exotic, destinations. Sometimes though, it is the journey not the destination that is most important in a novel, as it can be in life. There are countless novels centred on journeys (it's a particularly common theme in dystopian fiction), but here are my favourite and the ones I always recommend.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy
A disturbing, terrifying and hella emotional journey through post-apocalyptic America. Lacking punctuation.

The Odyssey by Homer
An oldie but a goodie! Follow Odysseus and he makes his way [slowly] home.

Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne
I read this when I was 13 and I still remember it being a rip-roaring read. You can't argue with someone named Phileas Fogg.

The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Journeys seem to be a key element in dystopian fiction. Todd's journey in this novel will leave even the coldest person in tears.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Another dystopian novel with a journey! Again, this is an emotionally wrought journey but so beautifully written and full of Shakespearean references.

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
This novel is about far more than just one man's walk from Devon to Berwick-upon-Tweed.

Etta and Otto and Russell and James by Emma Hooper
One day 82-year-old Etta wakes up and decides to walk 2000 miles across the country to see the sea for the first time. This will break you heart, but the writing and mystical elements are worth the pain.

Where D'you Go Bernadette by Maria Semple
This is a wonderfully amusing epistolary-style novel.

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
I could hardly miss out this classic novella about a journey up the Congo: 'The horror! The horror!'

Have you read any of these? Can you add any to the list?


Friday, 8 May 2015

This Week in Books and Browsing

This week I've finally started to get back into War and Peace. Earlier this year I was very enthusiastic about joining Hanna's read along for the epic read, but things sort of didn't work out as planned and I ended up setting it aside after only 300 pages. I gave in and bought it on kindle this week to save my back from certain damage and dived straight in. I don't know why I ever stopped reading it because it's actually really enjoyable, though I guess I may not be saying that when I'm pushing through and still have 500 pages to go. The goal is to finish it before my birthday at the start of July. Do-able? I think so.

As ever, I was all over May the Fourth this week and I came across a couple of links that took my fancy. Firstly, Bustle shared nine books to celebrate Star Wars day with, a few of which have joined my wish list.

If animals dressed like Star Wars characters is more your thing (how could it not be?!), then Bustle again have got you covered with these 13 animals who are having a better Star Wars day than you. Buzzfeed also joined in on the May 4th shenanigans and introduced the world to a koala who looks exactly like Yoda. Find him and hug him, I must.

Once I'd hung up my Stormtrooper onesie for another year (hardly, it's my chillaxing outfit of choice),  I of course moved onto slightly more serious reading.

I'm a sucker for a bookish list and two caught my eye this week. Firstly, Kirkus Reviews collated a list of ten novels to lose yourself in. I'm particularly intrigued by The Woman Who Read Too Much. Secondly, as it's Mental Health Month in America, Bustle shared fifteen memoirs about mental illness that should be required reading. The books on the list encompass a huge range of mental illnesses from depression and eating disorders to psychosis and schizophrenia. I'm certainly planning to read more than one.

Finally, I'm a huge believer in not reading literature out of context and this article examining WW1 poet Jessie Pope demonstrates why. I don't think we should judge writers retrospectively, particularly when they do initially represent the views of a huge number of people. Things change, yes, but I don't think we should read history backwards.

What are you currently reading?


Thursday, 7 May 2015

Review: The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell

Dead Duke Review Lit Nerd

The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse
Piu Marie Eatwell
7th May 2015
Head of Zeus

'In 1898, a widow named Anna Maria Druce had applied for the exhumation of the grave of her late father-in-law, Thomas Charles Druce. Behind her application lay a sensational claim: that Druce, a furniture dealer, had been the alter ego of the eccentric 5th Duke of Portland; and that the Duke had, in 1864, faked the death of his middle-class doppelgänger. When open, Mrs Druce contended, her father-in law's coffin would be found empty. And her fortunate children would be heirs to the Portland millions.'

Sounds like something from a sensation novel, doesn't it? This is a book for my fellow Wilkie fans out there - real life certainly gives his novels a run for their money!

After ten years of high-profile court battles, challenges and more suspense than a person can bear, the go-ahead is given to open Druce's grave. The mystery of whether Druce was in fact the 5th Duke of Portland is the central thread of this book and the big reveal comes at the perfect moment, just as the people involved have drawn you in enough to have you on the edge of your seat. I for one could not predict the outcome, nor could I decide which team I was cheering for. I think Eatwell's writing is responsible for that as she remains objective throughout, laying down the facts and events as they happened and, most importantly, she never gives away too much. 

Unless you happen to know the ins and outs of an obscure court case from the late 1800's, it's likely that this book will surprise you in all the best ways. It's a rare thing to experience with historical non-fiction as we so often read about history whilst knowing how it ends. If we read a book about the Titanic we know how it ends, if we read a book about World War One we know how it ends, but Eatwell is in a particular position whereby she can be both storyteller and fact-teller. It is this that makes The Dead Duke such a compelling and lively read.

The variety of Eatwell's research and her skill of blending fact seamlessly with lively storytelling means The Dead Duke becomes more than a study of one court case, it becomes a study of Victorian society and the hypocrisy that undermined daily life at every turn. As someone with a particular interest in this late Victorian period, I was fascinated by what the case revealed about Victorian life. Eatwell adds a further layer to the book by including references to relevant novels of the period - most frequently mentioned are Wilkie (not surprisingly given his own double life) and Dickens.

This is the sort of book that makes me want to dig into a dusty archive somewhere, pull on some of those super cool protective gloves, and find things out. And by things, I definitely mean long buried secrets. Reading The Dead Duke was both an entertaining and an enlightening experience. The tone is just right with the perfect level of wit to match, and the quality of the factual material is enough to leave you with a mild obsession with Victorian courts of law. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure that's the best kind of mild obsession to have.

Try this if you liked The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins or Lady Audley's Secret by Mary Elizabeth Braddon.

Would you enjoy reading about this real-life sensational court case?

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Thank you to the publisher for providing me with a review copy of this book.

Monday, 4 May 2015

May Goals

May Goals Lit Nerd

It feels pretty good that May has come around. I'm very much an autumn/winter gal, but this year it feels like winter has just gone on and on. I'm ready for some sun and at least enough warmth to put my winter coat away. Even though I'm writing this on a particularly grey and dull day, I'm optimistic that the sun is getting ready to come and say 'hey'.

I'm not often one for monthly goal-making, but now I'm making more of an effort to be out in the world again I thought it would be the perfect motivational tool. Are you a goal-maker?

So without further ado, here are my goals for this month:

1// Write a 'Things That Made Me Happy This Week' every Sunday I started creating these posts to remind myself of all the little things that make me happy. It's such a good way to take stock of those moments I might otherwise have let pass me by.

2// Work on not feeling guilty if I take a rest day I'm terrible for feeling guilty. Even if I schedule a rest day into my plan for the week, that day will come around and I'll feel awful for being 'lazy'. I need to remember that my body needs a break.

3// Read what I want, when I want In April I had a couple of reading deadlines for Centenary News and, as much as I enjoyed the reading, it sometimes takes the fun out when you know you have to finish a book. This month I'm going to delve into my TBR and read whatever takes my fancy.

4// Reach out to a friend I've not seen a while It's been a little while since I've seen a couple of my friends and I'd like to rectify that this month and have some giggles and girl time.

5// Try something new I'm not sure what this will be yet or even whether I'm thinking of something big or small. It may just be trying a new recipe, a different restaurant or a book I wouldn't usually go for. I'm not sure, but I'll keep you updated.

6// Document more I used to take hundreds of pictures and write in a journal regularly, but this has slipped recently. I keep looking back at photos and being shocked to find there are so few there, even when I know I've been out and about doing things. I have a terrible memory so I'm determined to document more. I've finally bought the camera I'd been saving up for so I'm going to make sure I take that with me everywhere.

7// Be more mindful Mindfulness is something that I've been vaguely aware of for a long time. My Mum gave me a book on the subject for Christmas and I think it's time to dive right in and see how it might improve how I live my life.

8// Cook more Cooking makes me happy and I don't do it nearly enough. It's time to dust off those recipe books.

Do you have any goals for May?

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Sunday, 3 May 2015

Things That Made Me Happy This Week #17

Happy Lit Nerd

Happy Lit Nerd

1// Early morning runs Now that I'm working shifts I'm trying to squeeze in workouts wherever I can, even if it means 5.30am. I've done a couple of early morning runs this week and I've decided dawn is my favourite time to go. It's quiet (well, as quiet as London can be), there's a refreshing chill in the air, and everything just looks beautiful. Plus, the energising properties of an early run cannot be beaten.

2// Alice Hoffman As I mentioned on Friday, this week I've been reading a book by one of my favourite authors. It has been so good to sink into Hoffman's prose and lose myself in her particular brand of magical-realism.

3// Trying new recipes On Tuesday I tried out a new recipe for Moroccan chickpeas with roasted tomato and aubergine. It was SO YUMMY. I always forget that cooking can be the perfect mood-booster at the end of a long day.

4// Book post At the end of last week I placed an order on The Works for a diary (shift work makes a diary a necessity so I'm realising), and as I browsed the website I came across a book I'd been meaning to read for absolutely ages: 'Dorothea's War'. It's a nurse's diary from the First World War and obviously right up my street. It was super cheap so I couldn't resist (any old excuse) and it made me very happy when it came through my postbox. 

5// Doing nothing I've not done anything this week. No theatre visits, no gigs, no meals out, absolutely zilch. As much as I love being busy and experiencing what London has on offer, sometimes it's nice to have a week enjoying your own company.

What has made you happy this week?


Saturday, 2 May 2015

April in Books

April Books Lit Nerd

April Books Lit Nerd

Forever England: The Life of Rupert Brooke by Mike Read
The Dead Duke, His Secret Wife and the Missing Corpse by Piu Marie Eatwell
Dead Wake by Erik Larson
The Biter Bit and Other Stories by Wilkie Collins
A God in Every Stone by Kamila Shamsie

In April I feel like I finally got back up to my normal level of reading. After a slump that seems to have lasted most of the year so far, it feels pretty amazing to see six books read in a month. I almost snuck a seventh in there too, but I technically finished it in May and I'm a sucker for technicalities. I think the sun has been a big help and I know I'm not the only one making the most of these warm afternoons we've been having. I'm just hoping we'll get more of them - gimme those rays!

The Dead Duke was definitely my book of the month and a review will be following shortly. It's non-fiction and brings to life the Druce-Portland case of the late 1800s. Anyone sat near me on the tube whilst I was reading this was probably most perturbed by the girl sat chuckling away to herself. I've certainly been on a non-fiction mission this month and The Dead Duke is probably the reason for that. If you're after a book that'll restore your faith in non-fiction (as I was), then look no further.

Dead Wake left me sobbing and shaking my fists, Forever England was a disappointment, and A God in Every Stone only grabbed me after I'd already read about two-thirds and it didn't quite live up to expectations. I'm not sure I need to comment on the Wilkie short story collection as think you'll all know my feelings for Wilkie by now (yes, I loved the stories).

As far as my slump goes I think it's onwards and upwards now. I'm slowly slipping into a routine with work and my new hour long commute is certainly very conducive to reading (even when there is an armpit in my face). I'm looking forward to seeing what books May brings.

What did you read in April? What was your book of the month?


Friday, 1 May 2015

This Week in Books and Browsing

This week I've returned to one of my favourite contemporary authors, Alice Hoffman. After three non-fiction reads in a row I was ready for something a little less intellectually draining and this recent buy was at the top of my list. Have you ever had that feeling that you're reading a particular book at exactly the right point in time? That's how I feel about The Museum of Extraordinary Things. Aside from a rather disturbing scene I read yesterday (disturbing yet so beautifully written), this novel has been significantly brightening up my commute. Alice Hoffman's backlist is huge and I'm still catching up with her old novels as she releases new ones, but she never disappoints so I'll keep trawling charity shops until I've read them all.

Lately I've been spending much less time browsing the internet, but now that my training is over and I'm installed in an office once again, I'm pretty sure I'll be back on my favourite sites - Bustle and The Guardian. I've had a little time this week and a couple of articles stuck in my mind, so grab a cuppa and have a read!

I had a mini confidence boost whilst reading Oliver Burkeman's 'You're the only person who will notice if you're dining along. So enjoy it' on The Guardian. Interestingly Burkeman says that he's happy to go to the cinema alone, but not to the theatre or a concert. For me it's the opposite. I often go to the theatre alone and feel pretty comfortable doing so, whilst the thought of going to the cinema solo really freaks me out. Really though I just need to remember those people are more interested in themselves than they are in me. What do you think about going to restaurants/cinemas/theatres alone? Would you/do you do it?

Also on The Guardian I had a little giggle at this 'Fit-Shaming' article written in retaliation to the Protein World ads on the tube network.

I'm getting very excited to read Kate Atkinson's follow-up to Life After Life, A God in Ruins, and this review by Tessa Hadley certainly has not dampened that excitement. 

If you're loving Daredevil on Netflix as much as I am, then Bustle recommends 9 books to read if you loved it and have already finished it.

And finally, Flavorwire published a great piece about Shakespeare's heroines with excerpts taken from a book I really must read: Women of Will by Tina Packer. If you like Shakespeare and women then definitely give this one a look.

What are you currently reading? What are your go-to sites for bookish goodness?

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