Thursday, 26 June 2014

Diversity and Censorship in Literature

All this week I have been volunteering at the UEA's Festival of Literature for Young People (aka, FLY). At the festival, students aged 11-18 get to listen to author talks and take part in workshops run by authors to get them thinking differently about literature - both reading and writing. Yesterday, I was an usher for the mornings author talks, so I got to sit in on the talks and listen to what both Bali Rai and Alex Scarrow had to say. I had heard of Alex Scarrow before - mostly due to his brother Simon Scarrow who wrote The Last Centurion series and came to my college to talk about it - but had never heard of Bali Rai. Both gave very different talks. 

Alex's talk was totally geared towards his readership, 11-14 year olds. He performed at the front of the lecture theatre and had all the students roaring with laughter.

Bali's talk, on the other hand, was very much spoken up to the students rather than down to them or at them. As an older student who has a vested interest in the production of literature, it was his talk which really stuck with me.

Bali spoke extensively on the need for diversity in children’s, teen’s and young adult literature. As a first generation immigrant – born in Leicester to Indian parents who spoken very little English – he found that the books he was reading were not at all connected to him. He couldn’t identify with either their protagonists or their plots. It was only his love of reading which made him stick to trawling through various adaptations of the well worn ‘Famous Five’ plot (upper middle class white children who speak the Queens English going on adventures).

Similarly he spoke about the whiteness of highly successful books. Harry Potter, had he been named Harish Patel, would never have been successful, mostly because it would never have been published. (This being said, I love the head cannon of Harry being a mixed race kid, James Potter could easily have been a black man, Lily Evans a white woman – Harry the boy with unruly hair and unusual eyes).

He also spoke about the success of American books and authors as opposed to books set and written in Britain by British authors such as himself. He specifically pulled out The Fault In Our Stars by John Green and Before I Die by Jenny Downham to compare. The Fault In Our Stars is a book about two terminally ill teenagers who fall in love. Before I Die is a book about one terminally ill teenager who wants to experience all life has to offer. However, Before I Die only became hugely successful after it had been Americanised – it was reformed into Now Is Good, a film starting Dakota Fanning doing an (incredible, in my opinion,) English accent. The plot may not have been changed, but the title change and the decision to cast an American fundamentally changed the way the book was viewed.

As a writer, he decided to write about the thongs which spoke to him – inner city life, characters from the full spectrum of racial and ethnic backgrounds, plot lines which were inspired by the gritty reality of life. He doesn’t shy away from discussions of abuse, racism and classism. He doesn’t pull punches, either, as he proved when reading a small extract from his book The Web of Darkness.

Throughout the talk he made it very clear that he was writing hard hitting stuff, and that if you as a reader do not enjoy reading about nasty, grimy, gritty characters who do horrible things, then you will not enjoy his books. However, the area of his discussion which really interested me was this:

Why shouldn’t all students of all ages been given the opportunity to read about it if they want to?

He made the example that an emotionally mature 11 year old who is a confident reader is probably better suited to read some of his books than an immature 15 year old, and has just as much right to pick up one of his books from their school library shelf as any of the older students.

All of this kept I mind the idea that age warnings/content warnings should be displayed on the books in a prominent place (an argument I tend to agree with, and one which Patrick Ness heavily debated on Twitter a month or so ago - @Patrick_Ness).

I pretty much agreed with Bali, although I do understand how it can be hard from school teachers and librarians to judge whether one child of one age group is more or less emotionally ready than another child of a different age group. However, as a confident reader myself, I remember the days when I had read through the entirety of my age ranges books at my local library and was bored of reading the same boring things again and again. I also remember reading a book before I was ready for its content precisely because the age warnings were not displayed on the book.

If I could implement a system which both allows confident readers to read broadly as well as warning readers about the content of the books it would be something similar to a tactic which used to be used by the Little Black Dress publishing house. A small pie chart was placed on the back cover of the book showing how much of it was romantic, funny, sad etc. This could easily be adapted to show if the book featured sexual or triggering content.

Another way to do this would be the same way as films show why they have been given their age rating – a small table which says things like ‘Sexual content: none, Bad language: Some, mild’ etc etc.

Of course, both of these systems would have to be approved by all publishing houses to have any effect. The last way to warn younger readers about what they might be reading is the enlarging of the ‘Not Suitable For Younger Readers’ notice which appears on the back of some books, including Bali’s The Web of Darkness.

The idea of censoring children’s literature is a controversial topic, one which Bali did not tread on lightly, and many people have very strong opinions on the innocence of children. Sadly, I believe we do not live in an innocent age – we never have – and it is much better for children to read about horrific events within the context of literature, where morals are often clear and laid bare, than through the media with its scare mongering or, as Bali suggested, through potentially damaging pornography.

If you are interested in engaging in the debate, as I know I haven’t fully expressed the extent of it here, then please either leave a comment below, or contact me via twitter @VickMaitland. If you want more information on FLY please visit the festival website or contact @UEAFLYFestival on twitter.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

#RYBSAT Final Wrap-up

Before I reveal the total amount of pages I read, I'll quickly wrap-up the last few days of RYBSAT.

So, as you might have been able to tell from the distinct lack of posts, the last three days of Read-Your-Book-Shelf-A-Thon were pretty much no shows. I spent all day Friday out, firstly at the dentists, then with my sister seeing The Fault In Our Stars, and finally with my girlies in the evening. I was working 9.30-4.30 on Saturday, and with only a 20 minute lunch I barely had time to walk onto campus and grab some food, let alone read anything! I went straight from work to the fella's, who was having a Summer Solstice meet-up. We stayed up till the sunrise, and by the time I got home the next day all I wanted to do was sleep. Across the whole three days I managed to read till the end of Tigers In Red Weather (about 50 pages or so). So not great, but here is my final wrap-up:

Total Books Finished: 4 – On Beauty, The Book Thief, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Tigers In Red Weather.
Total Pages Read: 1,484

You can find all my daily update posts under the Wrap-up's heading on my homepage.

Overall, I'm pretty happy with my reading progress. I read three whole books and a third of a fourth (I had started On Beauty before the week began) in pretty much four days. I'm a bit sad that I couldn't have carried on the progress, as I was on a real roll, but after the busy couple of days by the time Sunday came round my eyes were far too tired to read!

I'll be posting reviews of most of the books I've read over the past week in the next few weeks. 

I'd also like to say a huge thank you to the organisers of RYBSAT, in particular Miranda, who was so encouraging and re-tweeted all my blog posts!

Friday, 20 June 2014


Pages Read: 246
Books Finished: 0

Total Books Finished: 3 – On Beauty, The Book Thief, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Total Pages Read: 1,430

Today didn’t go so well. I had no time to read in the morning, and zero motivation to read in the evening. I made myself read through the England match, as reading through the football has helped before, and managed to read about 200 pages. I read another 46 before bed, and could probably have finished it as I had trouble getting to sleep, but I really needed to rest my eyes.

Tomorrow I’m going to see The Fault In Our Stars at the cinema with my sister, as well as meeting up with my girls in the late afternoon/evening for cocktails (my look for that will be up post-read-a-thon: it’s a take on Tanya Burrs’ Birthday Look). I’ve got an early start the next day too (I’m working from 9-4) and then have a meet-up in the evening with a the fella and a slightly different group of friends, so I’ve no idea if I’m going to be able to get much reading done over the next couple of days. The fate of this read-a-thon may lie in Sunday!

University #3: Making The Most Of Your Summer

This list could be endless, and I’ve deliberately avoided the social things (ie, try to see your friends from home as much as possible, go on trips either exploring the country or a different part of the world) in favour of more practical advice.

  •  If you can, get a job. You’ll need all the money you can get. Living on your own is more expensive than you can imagine. Work out now how much your loan will cover – for me it doesn’t even cover rent. If your parents can’t afford to cover all the extra cost, or, like me, they are happy to put some money towards your living costs but cannot cover the whole thing, you’ll need some extra money to keep you out of your overdraft. If you can get a job which will let you have a flexible or zero hours contract during university term time, go for it. Money in the holidays is always much needed. My job wouldn’t let me stay on a zero hour contract, but luckily I found a job once I was at university, and I honestly don’t know what I would do without one.
  •  Check your emails – particularly if you have access to your university email account. Check your junk box too. This is where you’ll be updated on your timetable, any reading lists, accommodation issue, any module choices you may have to make (very important), anything you may need to know will come via email. Obviously you don’t have to check it everyday, but once or twice a week is a good idea.
  •  Start to get the hang of your universities online service. Portal, Blackboard – as soon as you get the email to set up your account start to play around with things and find out how to use it. My university didn’t tell me my timetable was up on blackboard – I had to find out from a friend on the first day. They don’t hold your hand through this process, its very much a dive in at the deep end situation.
  •   Learn how to cook good, healthy, meals on the hob. Most self-catered universities won’t have traditional ovens, some don’t even have microwaves which double as convection ovens, so practice some good, well rounded meals. Accompany who ever does the shopping to start to get an idea of costs, or if you shop online do a dummy shop for the week and see how much the total comes to. If your parent(s)/guardian(s) are happy for you to do so, plan meals for a week, do the shop, and cook for either yourself or the family for the week. I think my next university post (in a fortnights time) will be recipes for easy and cheap hob cooked meals, so if you’re unsure of what sort of things are viable to cook you can wait for that.
  •  Find out specific course requirements. If you’re on an English Literature course, you can check out my post last week about what to do over the summer (although it can be summed up in one word: read). If you’re on a science-style course, it might be an idea to keep checking over your notes from A Level and make yourself mock tests very couple of weeks to keep you up to date on your stuff - particularly if you’ve taken a gap year: it’s amazing the things you forget doing either a) doing a mind numbing job or b) going traveling. On an art course? Practise – do as much art as you can and keep a sketch/scrapbook. History? Read books on eras you either enjoy or don’t know much about. Social science or media? Keep up to date with current affairs. There are things you can do to keep your brain ticking over for every subject.
  •  Start up a fitness regime which you’ll be able to keep up at university. Unless you don’t drink, always get a good night’s sleep and eat really well, chances are you won’t make it through university without a deterioration in your health. Check out your universities gym facilities and costs and work out if it’s financially viable to start a routine based around gym classes or activities. If it isn’t, try free activities, like YouTube based workout routines, yoga/pilates, or running outside. Most university courses are sedentary, so it’s a good idea to keep your physical health in check. This isn’t about losing weight (quite a few people I know have lost weight from under-eating at uni due to financial strain, although the majority gained weight by drinking, and both are equally bad for you).
  •  Keep your room tidy over the summer. The worst thing about university is the room size – most are tiny – which means they get messy really quickly. If you can keep your room at home tidy, which will have possessions from nearly 19 years of your life, then you can keep your uni room clean with only necessary items. Your room will be where you do the majority of your work (unless you want to go to and from the library each time you fancy a snack), so you’ll want a clean environment to work in.

That’s about it! If you’re a uni student and think I’ve missed anything, please leave a comment or tweet me @VickiMaitland. Next time (if all goes to plan) I’ll be posting some recipes ideas for cheap, healthy, hob cooked meals.

Thursday, 19 June 2014


Pages Read: 421
Books Finished: 1 – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry

Total Books Finished: 3 – On Beauty, The Book Thief, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry
Total Pages Read: 1,184

I am super happy with my page count today! I started the morning carrying on with Harold Fry but found it really difficult to read – I had so much sympathy for Harold but it felt like nothing was going his way, and after the heartbreak of The Book Thief I didn’t think I could face another sad book. I managed to plough through a hundred or so pages before lunch, which was less that I’d have liked to. When I got home from work I steadied myself and picked up Harold Fry again. Thank goodness I did! The plot took a turn for the better, and it made the book so much more enjoyable to read – it almost read a bit like The Hundred Year Old Man Who Climbed Out Of A Window And Disappeared – which, in all honesty, is what I expected it to be like from the start. I flew through the remaining 200 pages and immediately picked up Tigers In Red Weather by Liza Klaussmann.

This has been the quickest turn around I’ve had so far – normally I give myself a small non-reading break between books – and I think it’s worked out okay for me. I managed to read another 87 pages before my eyes began to hurt. This brought my total up to 421 pages! I really didn’t think I would read as much as I did yesterday, but I’m so happy I did!

Tomorrow I’ve got another busy day. I’m going to see the fella in the morning, and have work in the afternoon, so I’ll only really have the evening to read. I’ve got 300 pages left of Tigers so hopefully I should just be able to finish it by the end of the day. 

Wednesday, 18 June 2014


Pages Read: 428
Books Finished: 1 – The Book Thief

Total Books Finished: 2 – On Beauty, The Book Thief
Total Pages Read: 763

As I said yesterday, I had a full day at work today, but a lot of time on the bus. In those bus journeys, I managed to read over 200 pages, which I was pretty happy with. I flew through The Book Thief (full review to follow), and I’d have to say that it is the kind of book which is perfect for a read-a-thon. Lots of short chapters are really good motivators to read (not that you need any extra motivation with this book), and the character voice was so unique that it was really enjoyable and easy to get swept along with. In total I read 417 pages of The Book Thief.

Before I went to bed, I picked up my next book – The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. I’ve slightly bent the rules for this book. It was on my TBR shelf, but it was further down the line. However, it was lent to me by my grandma a while back, so I thought I should boost it up there. It’s only 381 pages long, so judging by my pace I should finish that in day 3. If not, once again it’s got short chapters, so if I’m finding it slow there are plenty of places to pause and pick up a different book (which will be Tigers In Red Weather). I only read 11 pages (the first chapter) before my eyes started feeling it! I’m up to page 22 (it started on 11).

Tomorrow I’ve got another shift at work (although this is the same as Monday, so it’s not a super long shift and leaves me with all of the morning and all of the evening to read). I’ll also try to tweet my progress @VickiMaitland and I’ll be using and following the #RYBSAT tag!

Beauty: (Teeny Tiny) Haul #1

So, today I wandered into the city and found myself in Superdrug. I've got a bit of a thing for Superdrug own brand products - they're cruelty free, cheap, and in my experience good. They had a couple of offers on and I'd run out of some stuff, so I did a bit of shopping!

Uplifting Red Cherry and Fig Shampoo and Conditioner. I'd ran out my herbal essences and when I went shopping with Mum I got some Pantene because it was on offer, but I'm not a huge fan of Pantene so when I spotted Superdrug's own brand I thought I'd pick it up and give it ago. This product is for fine hair which needs volume - pretty much perfect for me! I'm quite particular about conditioners so I'll let you know how it goes!

Vitamin E SPF 15 Radience Eye Cream. I've been really struggling with dry skin around my eyes recently, and moisturiser is a bit too greasy to put on for the day, so hopefully this will sort things out! Once again, I'll let you know how it goes.

Vitamin E All Over Body Cream. I ran out of my body cream a while back, and because its summer my legs need that extra moisture after being shaved more regularly. It's a huge tub, so hopefully this should last me a while.

Mint and Tea Tree Shower Gel and Sweet Sixties Shower Gel. I'd run out of my favourite Original Source shower gel, so when I saw the own brand version on offer and in my favourite scent (Mint) I grabbed it. I had a sniff of the others and settled for the Sixties Gel to finish the offer - it's pomegranate and grapefruit.

And that's everything. It's not much, but for me its a pretty big splurge!

Tuesday, 17 June 2014


Pages Read: 335
Books Finished: 1

Total Books Finished: 1
Total Pages Read: 335

(I meant to post this this morning, but miss-timed and had to run for a bus, sorry this is late!)

I stayed up till midnight (albeit accidentally) so I managed to get a head start reading. I only read 25 or so pages, but that put me on to a good start for the next morning. The book I was reading was Zadie Smith’s On Beauty, and I was just under 2/3 of the way through it at midnight. I finished this book 168 pages later just before lunch and after eating, getting ready for work and having some internet time, I had to leave for work before I could pick up the next book. I got home just before dinner, but as soon as I could I began to read Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief. This has been on my TBR shelf (the one I’m using for this read-a-thon) since Christmas, and on my wish list for a few years, so I’m super excited to get round to it. I read all evening, and have got 167 pages through it so far, bringing my total page count to 335, which I’m relatively happy with.

Tomorrow I’ve got a pretty busy day, with a long shift at work, but it does involve 2 long bus journeys, which means I should get a decent chunk of reading done, despite not being able to dedicate my whole day to it like I’d hoped. I’ve got the whole evening at home though, so hopefully I can catch up on missed out time then.

#reviewsdaytuesday: Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

After losing his job in the economic crash of 2008, Clay Jannon sees a ‘hiring’ sign outside Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore, and begins the job of his lifetime. On the night shift, it is Clay’s job to scurry up and down the three story high ladders which line the shelves of the shop to collect books for all the mysterious midnight customers – their only payment a book club card ID and an exchange of the last book they borrowed. All the peculiar Mr Penumbra asks is that Clay write down an intricate description of each customer, and that he never open the pages of the books in the back shop. Curiosity finally takes over, and though the books are unintelligible to him, Clay is introduced to a world of secrets, of which this tiny bookstore is the epicentre.

This book had me hooked from page one. From the opening description of Clay hanging from a fantastical height amongst the book shelves to the mundane goings on of everyday life, this book yo-yo’s between myth and reality. Clay is an interesting character to read without the intrigue of the bookstore and Mr Penumbra. With them, this story is almost magical, full of old men and women in strange clothing borrowing old tomes, secrets and legends.

There is something about the way this book is written which is entirely gripping. There are moments when it becomes hard to tell how much Clay is speaking out loud as the characters appear to interact with what we assume is his internal monologue. The intricacies of the plot are unravelled in a way which is both intelligent and easy to follow (particularly in the moment of the ‘big reveal’, in which some authors grapple with multiple strings to tie, where-as Sloan forms an easy knot, all the thread in his capable hands). It is spun out like an adventure quest from a fantasy game (and is very self-referential in this) but there is more to it than a simple story of a hero saving the day. There is no ‘hero’.

I hadn’t quite realised how much I enjoyed reading YA till I picked up this book. It’s 300 pages, but it only took me an afternoon to read. It was so easy – which is not to say it is a simple book. Far from it. But it was complicated in ways which were comprehendible. It had great depth of vision without overwhelming. It was light hearted and fun and serious and intimidating.

I cannot recommend this book more highly. 5/5 for me (I’d give it higher if I could).

Friday, 13 June 2014

University #2: So You Want To Study English Literature

You’ve selected your top two universities. Your exams are over. You’re waiting for the results. The whole summer is ahead of you. What do you do next?

  • The biggest thing I wish I’d done is read. As in read a lot. Read as much as you can. It doesn’t have to be things from your course, but make sure you read for at least half an hour a day. Reading is a skill, it’s an art. As much as you think ‘I can read a book in a week’ you need to have the stamina to read that much (minimum) for 12 weeks, and, most importantly, retain the information.
  •  If you do have a reading list, it might be an idea to suss out which book is the biggest and make a start on it – and particularly look at books around weeks 5-7 and 10-12 of the semester, as that will probably be when your coursework will lie. 
  • If you don’t have a reading list, then try to find the email of the course director and who to contact in regards to getting one. Their email should be easily accessible from the universities website, but if not email the general office and ask them to re-direct you. Nine times out of ten they should forward your email on to whoever needs to see it.
  •  If you still don’t have reading list, don’t worry about it. In my first semester of university most of the reading I had to do was from a dossier which they gave me on the first day. They won’t expect you to be reading 500 page novels from week one or two. But do keep up your personal reading.

  • Try reading the bible. I haven’t done this and wish I had before university. A lot (A LOT) of texts will have been influenced by or reference it.

That’s pretty much everything you need to know for preparation to study an English degree. I’m going to upload a post next week to talk about general university summer preparations, so if you’ve got any questions specific to that either leave a comment or tweet me @VickiMaitland.

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

#reviewsdaytuesday: Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (Illustrated by Maria Kalman)

(This post is an edited re-upload from my books only blog.)
This is a book that I’ve heard lots about, not only for the content but also for the aesthetics, so I really wanted to get it. I bought my edition off abebooks (admittedly for only a couple of pounds) but was a bit annoyed to discover just how sunbleached and ripped the dust-jacket was. The only description given on the website was that it was ex-library. Since then, I've purchased another couple of books from the website and each time found them a lot more drawn in a messy than advertised, and the delivery time felt exceptionally long compared with amazon, so I probably won't be using them again. But on to the review!
Written as a letter punctuated by drawings, this is the story of why Min and Ed broke up, from Min to Ed. Why We Broke Up is aesthetically beautiful. Each chapter is introduced with a bright colour picture of an object, and the chapter that follows is the story of that object, and how it connects to Min and Ed’s relationship, and, ultimately, why it caused them to break up.
What makes this story so wonderful is the reality of it. It meanders from tenderness and pain, sweetness and love, to bitterness and anger. The objects in it are exactly the kind of seemingly meaningless objects that would remind you so exactly of a person or a moment. The emotions are wild and just so high school, but also serious and true.
I really enjoyed this book. The only problem I had with it was timing. I read it immediately after The Lover’s Dictionary, which did a similar thing in a more grown-up way, so the comparison wasn’t exactly fair. Nevertheless, the character voice was perfect, and I gave it 4/5 stars.
Author: Handler, Daniel and Kalman, Maria (Illustrator)
Title: Why We Broke Up
No. Pages: 354
Genre: YA (there is a discussion of sex in this book)
Publisher: Little, Brown Books
Publications Date: 2011
My Rating: 4/5

Friday, 6 June 2014

Tag: Opposite Books

I haven’t done a book blog post in a while, so here’s a little tag. It was originally created here but I saw it over on LittleBookOwl.

1) The first book in your collection/The last book you bought.
I have no idea what the first book in my collection would be! Maybe one of the Harry Potter books, although I’m not sure I bout any of them with my own money. The last books I bought were a present for my sister: Grimm Tales for Young and Old by Phillip Pullman; The Kill Order, The Scorch Trials and The Death Cure by James Dashner; The Devil in Amber by Mark Gatiss.

2) A cheap book/An expensive book 
The cheapest book I own is probably A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Maria Lewycka which I found for 10p on a charity book stall. I’m not counting the free Kindle books. The most expensive is The Norton Anthology of Shakespeare, which came in at a tidy £27 (although it retails at £34). Its over 3000 pages though, so it’s probably worth it.

3) A book with a male protagonist/A book with a female protagonist. 
I’m going to slightly cheat here and pick Woman’s World: a graphic novel by Graham Rawle. Entirely constructed of clippings from 1950’s women’s magazines, it was one of the best books I’ve read. If you’ve read it, you’ll know why it falls under both categories, but for those who haven’t I won’t go into it too heavily.

4) A book you read quickly/A book that took you long to read. 
I sped through The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams last summer, and would really recommend it. I took ages to read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevski. I had to read it for my course and it took 6 weeks, reading between 100 and 300 pages each time. It’s a very dense book, almost 1000 pages long, and for huge chunks of it not a lot happens. I felt good once I’d finished it, but if I was reading on my own I wouldn’t have got past the halfway point. I never finished the Millennium series by Steig Larson. I’m still ¼ through The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and don’t know if I’ll ever finish it. I really hated who Lisbeth became after the first book, and it sapped my enjoyment for the series.

5) A pretty cover/An ugly cover. 
The cover of Grimm Tales for Young and Old by Phillip Pullman is beautiful. I got in in hardback and it’s gorgeous. I also love the hardback cover of Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookshop by Robin Sloane. I’m relatively picky with covers, because I can get books on Kindle it needs to be worth my while to get the paper copy. That being said, I do own a couple of ugly books. Ill Wind by Rachel Caine is probably the worst cover that I own (not counting free books, which tend to have less production value).

6) A national book/An international book. 
I presume this means author rather than setting. With that in mind, I’m picking the His Dark Materials trilogy by Phillip Pullman. He’s about as national as I can get, as he is originally from my home county! International books tend to dominate my shelves, with most of them being American, and most of my TBR is from American origin. One of the few translated authors I’ve read was Cornelia Funke, who is German. I loved Inkheart, and I own Dragon Rider.

7)  A thin book/A thick book. 
One of the thinnest books I own is The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan. I loved it and you can find my review here. For a thick book I’ve already mentioned The Norton Shakespeare and The Brother’s Karamazov which are 3000+ and 1000 pages respectively.

8) A fiction book/A non-fiction book. 
Most of my books are fiction, so I’ll pick one of my favourites: NW by Zadie Smith. I have mentioned this book loads, but I really do recommend it. Both On Beauty and White Tigers are on my summer TBR pile. For my non-fiction pick I’m choosing Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg. I highly recommend it for any writer – it is wonderful.

9) A romantic book/An action book. 
For this I’m going to pick matching books: Pride and Prejudice and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I love these as a pair, and think they’re so much fun to read back to back. I don’t really read straight romance, but so much of YA lit has romance in it, even if it’s action, so The Hunger Games series would cover both of these.

10)  A book that made you happy/One that made you sad. 
Again, I don’t often read wholly happy or wholly sad – I like to think literature is and should be more complex than that. With that in mind, I’m saying pretty much any book by John Green, in particular Looking For Alaska. Both hilarious and heart breaking. If I could twist this to a film, I’d say Extremely Loud, Incredibly Close. I cried throughout the film, but its happy and sad at the same time. I think the book is on my reading list for my traumatergies module next semester, so I’m really looking forward to reading it.

There you have it! I tag everyone, so if you do give it a go please leave a comment to let me know or tweet me @Vicki Maitland!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Beauty: Evening Make-Up

This evening I'm attending my Uncle's 50th Birthday Party - it's at a pretty posh venue so I've gone all out with make-up, and I thought I'd bring you along for the ride.

 1) First things first, I've prepped my face using my everyday skin care routine. The foundation I'm using is Marks and Spencer's Limited Collection in the shade Nude. Like all M&S make up it's cruelty free. It gives a really good coverage, if perhaps slightly too light for my skin tone. I apply in it strokes across my face and then blend it in with my fingers.

2) Next I apply my B. Under Eye Concealer. Again I just dab it under my eyes and  blend it in with my fingers.

 3) To make sure everything looks nice and even I take a large brush and blend everything together.

4) I then take my Eyes. Lips. Face Pressed Powder in the shade Buff. This is a shade too dark for my skin, so I use it to contour my skin slightly. I take this and brush it through the hollows of my cheeks, between my brow and hair line, and along the top of my hair line (basically the edges of the face and the cheeks). I also take this down my neck, as I don't want a orange face and white neck.

 5) On my T-zone and across my cheek bones I apply my Marks and Spencer's Limited Collection Loose Powder. This is a translucent powder, but I find it makes my skin a little lighter, so it acts almost like a highlighter (without being reflective).
 6) Now onto the details! I'm using a No.7 Fashionline Kohl Pencil in the shade Bittersweet Brown. This isn't my usual brow pencil - but its a much finer tip and a much purer brown so I thought I'd give it a go.
 7) I take my spooly brush and blend that through my brows.
 8) I've borrowed my sisters MUA palette (Heaven and Earth) for the highlighter on my eyes.
 I apply this bright colour into the inside corners of my eyes, taking it up onto the lid and just under the bottom lashes.
 9) Now I'm using my E.L.F  palette for the rest of my eye make-up.
 10) I take a mid range shade and apply that all over my lid. Its a light yellow-grey.

11) Now I take a dark grey. I apply this to the crevice of my eye and in the outer corners.

12) For eyeliner I'm using a black E.L.F Cream Eyeliner. I apply this all over my tightline and waterline, as well as in the outer corners of mu upper and lower lid. I smudge the edges to give them a smokier look.

 13) I forgot to show curling my lashes! But I do that, and now I'm taking my E.L.F Mascara, and I apply this all over my top and bottom lashes.
14) Finally I use a Marks and Spencer Limited Collection Blusher in the shade Cinnamon. This was a last minute thought after I stepped out into a different light to give my face a nice glow.

Here's the finished look! I've also added some B. Lipstick in Watermelon. I'm not sure if this is the lip colour I'll be wearing for the evening, but it added a nice pop of colour to the picture.

Monday, 2 June 2014

May Wrap-Up and June TBR

May Wrap-Up

May has felt like a very long month! I had an exam right at the beginning of the month, and I’ve got another at the start of June. Because of that, May has been a month of re-reads and revision. But I thought I’d wrap it up anyway!

The first book I read was Virginia Woolf’s A Room Of One’s Own. It’s a transcript of a speech she gave to a lady’s college on the topic of women and fiction. The premise of the speech is that women need money and room of their own to be able to write fiction – although she also talks about Jane Austen who wrote in the main room, covering up her work every time someone came in. It’s a meandering speech with multiple contradictions, but it’s really worth a read.

Next I read both House of Mirth and The Reef, which are both by Edith Wharton. House of Mirth is the story of socialite Lily Bart who, at the age of twenty-nine, is under pressure to find a husband and get married. Not wanting to settle for anyone, whilst simultaneously desperate to marry into big money, she find herself in debt in an attempt to keep up appearances. In The Reef, George Darrow is on his way to France to marry the woman he has been in love with all his life. Whilst waiting in Paris, he bumps into Sophy Viner, a maid for a woman whose house he used to visit, and decides to treat her for the weekend. Six months later, and things appear to be right on track for Darrow and his fiancé Anna until her son Owen announces his intention to marry the governess. When the governess arrives, it turns out she is Sophy Viner, and things become a bit awkward for everyone.

I loved House of Mirth and somehow on the re-read it was even better. Lily Bart is an intensely likable character, despite her many flaws, and her plot is truly heart-breaking. I spent the entire book begging people to believe her, begging Selden to see her and hoping she would come to her senses. A really good read.

The Reef was slightly less enjoyable for me as I felt less sympathy towards all of the characters. I also didn’t really understand what the big fuss was, and why Darrow and Sophy couldn’t just have been honest with Anna and Owen right from the off. Still a good read though!

Finally, the last book I read was a collection of Virginia Woolf’s Selected Short Stories. I enjoy Woolf’s fiction but not as much as her essays, so these were relatively ‘meh’ for me. I feel like Woolf’s style is much more suited to the short story (particularly after reading her Novel Night and Day a couple of months back). Somehow having a shortened work means the lengthy sentences and surreal descriptions are more manageable. I particularly enjoyed The Lady in the Looking Glass and Lappin and Lapinova.

And that’s all I read in May. It doesn’t look like a lot, but I was reading lots of critical material alongside it.

June TBR

I am super excited for June as it means I finally get to read entirely for pleasure! There are loads of books on my shelf that I’m just dying to read.

First things first, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. I got this book for Christmas and I’ve heard so much about it but haven’t got round to picking it up just yet.

White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I love Zadie Smith’s writing, but haven’t read this yet! Same goes for my next read…

On Beauty by Zadie Smith.

Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. Again this was a book I got for Christmas and haven’t been able to read. Its only tiny, so I should speed through it!

And finally, Mr Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookshop by Robin Sloane. Both my sister and my dad have read this and enjoyed it, so I’m really looking forward to seeing what all the hype is about!

I'm also going to be participating in the Read-Your-Book-Shelf-A-Thon. This runs from the 16th -23rd of June, wherever you are in the world. The premise of the read-a-thon is to literally pick a place in your book shelf and just read from there, along the entirety of your shelf. If you've already read the book then you are allowed to skip it. I won't list all the books I'm planning on reading, but basically I'm going to start from whichever book I'm currently reading and read on from there. I'll try and post daily (or at least every-other-day) updates about my progress and will be tweeting using the #RYBSAT tag. I'll also post a proper TBR the day before the read-a-thon begins. Blog will resume normal service after the read-a-thon.

I think I’ll cap my reading list there for now! I’ve got a lot of plans for June, and I want to enjoy reading these books rather than feeling like I have to just because I said I would. What are your reading plans for June? Have you read anything I’m planning on? Let me know in the comments or by tweeting me @VickiMaitland.