Edinburgh Zoo

A couple of weeks ago we decided to visit Edinburgh Zoo. I hadn’t been for a few years but going back reminded me of how conflicted the Zoo makes me feel. On the one hand it is great to be able to see animals that I would never have an opportunity to see otherwise, but on the other hand I can’t help but wonder how being kept in enclosures affects them, especially the bigger animals like the tigers and rhinos. I can only hope that they are well cared for and for the most part they certainly seemed to be.

First up were the meerkats and they are just as adorable as I expected them to be. One was on sentry duty as they would be in the wild and the others were having a great time digging in the earth. A couple of younger ones even had a little play fight.

Continue reading “Edinburgh Zoo”

Positive Image

In the past few weeks I have seen a lot of posts on social media and blogs from girls I consider beautiful and flawless admitting that they don’t like the way they look. Having spent my whole life feeling self-conscious about my weight and bad skin, it really struck a chord with me. In one way it was almost comforting to know that these gorgeous women who have hundreds of followers on Instagram and look amazing in every picture they share are plagued by the same worries and anxieties that I am.

On the other hand, it also made me stop and question why we put so much pressure on ourselves to look a certain way. When I think back to my teenage years, I can’t remember a time I didn’t compare my looks to that of other women, be it the popular girls at school or actresses on TV and in films. With the rise of social media, and in particular photo sharing sites such as Instagram, there seems to be an increasing feeling among young people that they have to present a certain image of themselves to the world.

Interestingly I know quite a few of my friends who don’t like getting their photo taken. They will look at pictures taken on nights out or special occasions and say they look awful. Until recently I didn’t realise that I also do this. Looking back over recent pictures I found myself disliking how I looked in every single one.

It was that attitude that inspired this post. I wanted to try to boost my self-esteem and show myself that despite my imperfections, I can look nice in a photograph. I decided to share a recent picture of me that I quite like.

At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I like this photo because I actually look happy. It was taken on a day trip to Stirling and it was one of the first times I had felt properly happy in months. I also like my hair in this picture, especially the wash-out blue streaks I had sprayed in that morning. I might not look perfect, but that’s because I’m not. I’m nearly 30 so of course I have crow’s-feet. Instead of focusing on that as a sign of ageing, I want to see it as a sign of maturity, of gaining life experience and wisdom.

All of us have something about ourselves that we would like to change. I think it’s human nature to never be one hundred perfect satisfied with how we look. I know I am always going to wish I was thinner and had better hair, but instead of letting this get to me I am going to try to accept my imperfections and realise that, given the right light and angle, I can look okay in a photo.

2017 So Far

It’s nearly June, which means we will be in the sixth month of the year. Am I alone in feeling like we have reached this point really quickly?

To be fair, the year started out quite slow. January and February seemed to last forever. Since March, however, the months have been speeding by. Maybe it is the lighter nights and mornings, but spring 2017 has been something of a whirlwind. In some ways I hope the weeks continue to pass quickly. I have a whole week off in July, my first full week this year, and I am so ready for it. On the other hand, the faster the months go in the sooner it is to my 30th birthday. I don’t think I’m quite ready to hit that milestone yet. Continue reading “2017 So Far”

Book Review: Strange The Dreamer

Every now and then a book comes along that is written so beautifully it is really a piece of art as well as literature. Okay, so there are probably many out there who would argue that all literature is art, but there are some books which have been crafted to such a degree that you want to savour each word. That was certainly how I felt while reading Strange The Dreamer by Laini Taylor.

Having read Laini’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy I knew to expect something epic with vivid characters and a clever and unique plot. With Strange The Dreamer, she has gone one step above the previous trilogy. This book is beautiful in every sense of the word, from the gorgeous blue and gold cover, to the lovely, flowing prose on the page. It is imaginative and wonderful – like being in a dream; fitting really consider that dreams lie at the heart of the novel.

Our protagonist is Lazlo Strange, an orphan who has always been fascinated by the lost city of Weep. When Lazlo was young he felt the city’s true name disappear from his mind and ever since he has been obsessed with the mystery of the city. Chance brings him to the great library in the city of Zosma and there he finds every book he can about Weep. He dreams of travelling to the city and then one day a band of travellers ride into town. They are from Weep and they are seeking people to help them with their ‘problem’. Finally Lazlo has a chance to fulfil his dream. Continue reading “Book Review: Strange The Dreamer”

An Evening with Laini Taylor

In the past year I have been lucky enough to meet quite a few of my favourite authors – Cassandra Clare, Leigh Bardugo and Rainbow Rowell. On Thursday night I added to this list when I attended a talk and signing by Laini Taylor, author of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, at Waterstones West End, Edinburgh.

It was by chance that I found out Laini was touring the UK promoting her new book, Strange The Dreamer. I happened to see a tweet from publishers Hodder & Stoughton about it and I was thrilled to learn Edinburgh would be one of the stops on the tour. Since reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I have been a big fan of Laini. Her writing is so lyrical and her stories are just epic.

There was quite a diverse crowd at the event. I am used to feeling a little silly for being surrounded by teenagers at these YA book signings, but surprisingly there were a few older people there and some girls who seemed to be about my own age. It is great to see that people of all ages are interested in a YA author and it shows that the genre has a much bigger reach than its intended market.

Moreover, I do genuinely feel that Laini Taylor’s writing is not your typical YA writing. To me, her books read like any adult novel. Now, I get annoyed when people claim that YA is less challenging than adult fiction because that is a terrible generalisation to make. There are so many challenging YA novels out there that are written very well. Laini Taylor’s books, however, have a particular maturity to them. Her language is prosaic and could rival any work of literary fiction.

It was great to hear her talk about how she writes such amazing prose. She confessed that she is a perfectionist and that this held her back from completing a novel for many years. The thing that struck me the most about her was how down-to-earth she was. She was very candid about her writing process and how self-critical she can be when it comes to her own work. I could relate to a lot of her issues regarding perfectionism with writing and I found myself nodding along when she described the frustration it causes.

After the talk we all had the opportunity to have our books signed. I always get slightly anxious when meeting authors. I usually end up blabbering a load of nonsense but Laini was so nice and friendly. It was brilliant to get to meet her and have my copy of Strange The Dreamer signed.

I am a quarter of the way through it now and so far I am enjoying it immensely. I can’t wait to see where it will take me, but I am certain it will be another epic adventure.

London Calling

This time last week I was waking up after a much-needed mini break to London. We were there for two and a half days which just flew by. London is one of those cities that I like to visit – it is so vibrant and full of interesting things to see and do. It is also home of some of my friends and it’s always great to meet up with them again too.

Last time I took the other half with me to London we had a whole week and we did as much of the tourist stuff we could – the London Eye, Madame Tussauds, Sea Life London Aquarium, Cutty Sark and so much more. In truth we tried to fit too much in and ended up exhausted and a little grumpy with each other at times.

So this time we decided we would take things at a more leisurely pace. We started as we meant to go on with breakfast at The Breakfast Club at London Bridge. Going out for breakfast is something of a novelty for us. I think we’ve only ever done it once in the three years we’ve been dating. There was much excitement on my part about it and I wasn’t disappointed. The Breakfast Club was busy but we didn’t have to wait long for a nice little booth where we could sit and admire the kitsch decor. It is a mishmash of different things and it really appealed to our sense of humour. Continue reading “London Calling”

Book Review: Caraval

When I first heard of Caraval by Stephanie Garber I knew I had to read it. Scarlett and Tella have longed to go to Caraval, a yearly magical travelling performance, all their lives. This year, after writing countless letters, they have finally secured invites. When they get to Caraval, however, Tella goes missing and suddenly Scarlett finds herself having to search for her sister in a game that seems far more real and terrifying than any performance.

The cover is so pretty – all black and gold with an arresting white title. I must admit I did imagine that Caraval would be in the same vein as The Night Circus. The colours of the cover gave me that vibe and Caraval itself sounded to me like a circus.

Oh my word, I was so wrong. Caraval is nothing like The Night Circus. Not in a bad way. In fact, I am really pleased that it turned out to be completely different. Caraval is an unique book, one that I am not quite sure how to describe. It is dark but also funny at times and there is romance thrown into the mix too. Trying to pin genres to this book is difficult. Yes, it is YA and probably fantasy, but at the beginning I felt as if there was a slight dystopian feel which later becomes more steampunk. In a nutshell it is a thrilling ride which will keep you guessing right up to the last page.

Caraval is Garber’s first novel but I would never have known this if it didn’t say so in the author biography. Garber’s writing is assured and manages to sweep you up into the strange, sometimes amazing, sometimes sinister world of Caraval. Her words paint a vivid picture of the performance – I could visualise every single building and all the colours that Scarlett sees. At times the writing was so good I did feel as if I was there with Scarlett, sharing her fear and longing to find her sister. Continue reading “Book Review: Caraval”