Friday, 29 May 2015

Book Review: Elizabeth is Missing


I haven't been reading as much as I would like recently, and that is all down to that dreaded time of the year for us students - it is exam month. Although I haven't studied anywhere near as much as I probably should have (and that is a result of my poor motivation), I haven't really been sitting down and reading many books. That being said, I have had Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey sitting by my bed for a good few weeks now and I have been reading a chapter or two every now and then. It has taken a while, but I have finally finished it.

THE STORY

 Elizabeth is Missing follows Maud, an elderly lady suffering from dementia. The synopsis from Amazon goes (roughly) as follows: "Emma Healey's stunning debut novel introduces a mystery, an unsolved crime and one of the most unforgettable characters since Mark Haddon's Christopher. Meet Maud... 'Elizabeth is missing', reads the note in Maud's pocket in her own handwriting. Lately, Maud's been getting forgetful. She keeps buying peach slices when she has a cupboard full, forgets to drink the cups of tea she's made and writes notes to remind herself of things. But Maud determined to discover what happened to her friend, Elizabeth, and what it has to do with the unsolved disappearance of her sister Sukey, years back, just after the war."

The story jumps between the present day as it is seen by Maud and her confused brain and her as a young girl, as she follows the various clues and mysteries surrounding the disappearance of Sukey and Elizabeth. Written in first person narrative, you get a real insight into the mind of someone suffering from dementia. You are told something one minute, and then Maud will have forgotten it a few sentences later. It is one of those rare cases that you sometimes know more than the main character themselves, and it is entirely refreshing.

MY THOUGHTS

I have to admit, there was something about this book that made me struggle to properly get into it. I don't know if it was just me or if it had anything to do with the book, but I really struggled to concentrate with it. Like I said, I read only a couple of chapters at a time and it took me a while to get through it despite it not being a particularly long book, and yet normally I fly through books. That said, there really is nothing else like this book. It's about time that I read a unique book - something that isn't just the same story AGAIN, but with different characters. It's not often a book told from the point of view of an elderly lady lands in my hands, but this time I am quite glad it did.

Throughout the story, the passages on Maud's childhood become progressively longer as the present day information become shorter and shorter. This is something that you would expect from an elderly dementia sufferer due to finding it much easier to recall the past, and I thought that in this respect it was very cleverly written. However, I just didn't feel like I really connected with Maud as a character. I don't think it is that I couldn't relate to her (as I am not 82 years old...) because I have read plenty of books before in which the main character is nothing like me, I just didn't feel much sympathy towards her. The whole way through the book I was thinking there was a massive hole in the story - surely Maud could have figured out what happened to Sukey when she still had her memory? Why wait until 70 years after she disappeared to become obsessed with it? I understand that her not knowing where her friend Elizabeth is has triggered something inside her about her missing sister, but surely she would have found some evidence before then. Maybe I am just reading too much into it (haha, reading, geddit?). 

Apart from that, I would say that it is a very well written book that is an enjoyable read, but possibly not my favourite book that I have read so far. Maybe I just wasn't in the right mindset whilst reading it, so I will go back to it and read it again at some point, but for now I will leave it at that. That said, I would say that I think you should check out this book (bit of a contradiction, I know) because it is quite refreshing to read something a little out of the norm every once in a while. A little change can do you good. 

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

My Latest Addiction: Airheads


Ever since the postman popped these through my letterbox, I have been on a sugar high with the deliciousness (is that a word?) that lies within these packets. Chupa Chups latest release features five different flavours of chewy sweets that will have you salivating at the mouth just thinking about them.

Introducing, Airheads*.

I've never reviewed food of any sort on my blog so I'm not really sure what to say here... Um, they taste good. They look pretty good. I debated long and hard with what flavour is my favourite and I finally decided on the apple one, closely followed by strawberry. They were all nice, but those two were my favourite. There seems to be a lack of blueberry ones in the packet though, but that may have just been the ones I had. Like, the pictures above show the only blue one in the whole packet!! It's a tragedy. Complete and utter tragedy.

With Talia Storm as the face of the new product, these are set to be a hit for sure. I was trying so hard to be healthy this summer and get that 'beach body' for going on holiday but that all went to pot when I received these and now I have come to the conclusion that I don't care. I may regret that once I am lying on the beach in a skimpy bikini but for now I am happily stuffing my face with calories and sugary goodness.

Get yourself down to your nearest shop and buy a pack of these because you literally won't regret it (apart from in a few year's time when you look back on your holiday photos...).


This is basically me every morning, but I'm not sure I look quite as good...

*Items in this post were provided for an honest review. See my full disclaimer here.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Penguin Platform (& a big book giveaway!)

Boy, am I excited to be writing this post! I have recently been introduced a fantastic new online community called Penguin Platform for fellow lovers of fiction.

What is Penguin Platform, I hear you ask? Well, it is basically a book lover's heaven. It is joy in the form of instagram and youtube videos. It is nerd central and I wholeheartedly include myself in that category. In a nutshell, it is an online community for 16-19 year olds who love fiction and want a place to share this love with other avid readers. It spans across various social media sites, including Instagram, YouTube, Tumblr and and Twitter and encompasses everything from 'the story behind the story' to enjoyable interviews with authors and other exclusive content!

Named by readers themselves, Penguin Platform is a place for teens to encounter new books and learn more about the ones they love, as well as an inside look into the publishing production. With a whole host of book recommendations and author interviews in the works, this is sure to become a success for all of us out there who appreciate the written work. It has only been available since the start of April and is therefore still in the set-up stage, but there are a few youtube videos already uploaded which you can check out. My favourite so far is the interview with Jennifer Niven, author of All The Bright Places, in which she shares her favourite books of the moment. You can watch the video below.


And that brings me on to the exciting part of this post - giveaway time!

You have the opportunity to win all the books mentioned in Jennifer Niven's video on the Penguin Platform YouTube channel, as well as her own novel mentioned above. This means that one lucky person will win a fantastic five book bundle - All The Bright Places, Wonder, The Outsiders, Saving Daisy and To Kill a Mockingbird. I wish I was able to enter, the prize is so good! I am particularly excited for the winner to receive To Kill a Mockingbird because IT IS THE BEST BOOK IN THE WHOLE ENTIRE UNIVERSE. If you have not read it, then shame on you. I literally know everything there is to know about that book and have already pre-ordered Go Set a Watchman. Does that make me a sad person? If so, who cares.

A few things to know before you enter:

  • This giveaway in open to the UK only (sorry!).
  • It is open until the 26th of May, so you have three weeks from today to enter.
  • I will contact the winner to let them know and to get their details, which I will then pass on to Penguin Platform so the prize can be sent out.
  • All entries will be checked to ensure that they are viable.
Enter using the rafflecopter widget below. Good luck, and happy reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
NOTE
This is not a sponsored post, however Penguin Platform are providing the giveaway prize. The winner will be chosen at random after midnight on the 26th of May.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Nepal Needs Your Help

PLEASE READ TO THE END TO FIND LINKS TO DONATE.

As someone who visited the beautiful country of Nepal just last summer, it has hit me especially hard with what is happening right now in the aftermath of the earthquake. I am sure you have seen countless news article and photographs all over the internet, TV and newspapers and heard about how it is the worst earthquake they have had since 1934. The awful pictures of houses and landmarks crumbled to a pile of broken bricks are actually almost too much for me to handle. I keep seeing new ones surfacing, and it is the photos of the places that I have visited that are the hardest to look at. Knowing I have stood in the exact spots where they were taken and have my own photographs to prove it is heartbreaking.

I will never forget the feeling that I got as soon as I heard the news. My first thought was that I hope the friends I made there are all okay. There's the Nepali guides I spent three weeks with and can now proudly call my friends (I even have them on Facebook). There are the teachers and pupils of the Shree Mahendra school in Bhaktapur, one of the worst affected areas, including the young girl that made me the friendship bracelet that I still wear today. That school was already in really poor condition, and now it will be even worse. The kids that were trying to get an education to better their lives will now struggle. There are the hotel workers that greeted us, the waiters and waitresses that catered to our needs, the shop owners that tried to make as much money as possible out of us to feed their families, and the people I simply passed in the streets. Each one of those people has been affected, in some way or another. The reality is that some of them are probably no longer alive. 

I am grateful for Facebook's new feature that allows people to check in as 'safe'. So far, all of my friends but one have said they are alive. My teacher that came with us last year has emailed the company we went with to ask about the last one, and the school. One thing that I can't believe is when one of them managed to get internet for a short period of time, messaged me saying 'hi'. That was all. I replied back saying the same, scared to ask what was happening. Then he asked me how I was. HOW I WAS. Never mind the fact that I have just been in one of the worst affected areas, Holly, and I know people that have died, but how are you? Can you believe that? The people of Nepal are the kindest, most thoughtful people you will ever have the pleasure of meeting. They are poor, and they don't have much, but they are always thinking of others.

Here are two photographs that I took of the ancient Durbur Square in Bhaktapur, near Kathmandu, last July.







And this is it now.


Below is a photograph of my friends and I in a place called Monkey Temple, a sacred place for monks. Following it is a photograph of it now after the earthquake struck.




Of course, I planned on donating, but it was a video that I saw on Facebook that kicked me into action. It showed two of my friends carrying stretcher after stretcher (and by this, I mean a few planks of rickety old wood) of cloth-covered bodies down to the river for what I presume was a mass funeral. That is what really made me understand the true extent of the issue. I am not going to lie to you here, I cried my eyes out after watching that video.

There is not much we can do at the other side of the world from this disaster, but you can donate. Even if it is just a couple of pound, anything you can afford will make a difference. It will be a couple of pound more than they had. If you can spend £10 on a new foundation, £30 on a new pair of heels or over £100 on a pretty designer handbag, you can spare a few pounds to  help those who are really in need. Think about it. Which is more useful? The bag, or the people?

I am currently in the process of raising money in conjunction with the others that came with me on my visit and my school to send to the school we helped in whilst we were there. Money is desperately needed to fund the regeneration of the country in the long term, but for now the priority is food and medical care. You just need to look at the second photograph in this blog post to see the queue of people waiting for food. There is very little clean water, leading to life threatening diseases such as cholera and dysentry. The people who did manage to survive are now starving and homeless. 

Please give generously.

To donate, follow any of these links.

UNICEF (specifically for helping children)
Red Cross

View more of my photographs of how Nepal used to look here.

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