Dissertation Diaries: Drafts and Deadlines

Hello! I hope everyone’s had a pleasant week and weekend. I spent mine part stressing about upcoming assignments (two on the week we finish semester one? Cheers uni, that’s very kind. NOT.), part getting the assignments actually done and (most importantly) I enjoyed the company of family I hadn’t seen in a while, celebrated my Dad’s birthday and danced the night away to Miles Kane (which was, in part, ruined by someone pouring their drink down me mid-gig!).

I’m hoping from next week (as I’m finished for this part of the year), I can post more on this blog. Maybe something Christmassy, hopefully the follow-up to this. For now, though, here’s my annual Dissertation related update.

As you’ll know, if you’ve been keeping up with my Dissertation Diaries posts (onetwothreefourfive, six, seven), I am now well and truly into it. My proposal has been marked, I’ve met with my advisor and today I completed my 2000 word draft chapter due on Friday.

Very productive, right?

I feel a bit of both about it, which basically means I feel good that I’m getting bits done with my dissertation and I’m feeling productive. It’s just…I’m worried that what I am producing is just, to phrase like a A-level teacher might’ve done, waffle.

Though it felt horrible getting 2000 words done, I’m looking at this positively. In a way, this is a good thing. I’m 2000 words into my dissertation, so only 6000 words need to be done after this (which is still a lot, but it’s less than when I started and 8000 words was such a daunting target), minus tweaks. Plus, getting feedback from my advisor will mean that either I can carry on writing how I am, which is great, or I just need to make changes. Either way, I’ll have a clearer idea of where my argument is going to go.

It’s just a shame that all I want to do at the moment is be cosy and work-free with a Christmas film on…is it acceptable to do just that in January/February onwards?

Asking for a friend (ok…me).

Blogmas Collab with Hannah’s Bookshelf

I’ve done Blogmas (to a degree) before, prior to starting this blog, and I absolutely loved it. Posting every day wasn’t just a good way to motivate me to write, it was also a way to get me (a notorious Grinch/Scrooge type) feeling the Christmas spirit…just a little bit. Unfortunately, due to being up to my eyeballs in uni work and juggling everything else life throws my way, I had to give Blogmas a miss for this year.

Do not despair, though, dear reader! I couldn’t go without doing at least one Christmas related post on my blog (there may be more to come!) so I  present to you a Blogmas collab with the lovely Hannah, of Hannah’s Bookshelf. You’ll see my post over on her blog very soon (once I’ve got over the annoying mountain of uni work) but, for now, over to Hannah.

Hey guys! I’m Hannah, from Hannah’s Bookshelf and my task today is to give you an idea about what books have been released just in time for Christmas!

This time of year is rife with new releases as publishers want to get their books out there in time for the festive, gift-giving season. Christmas is my absolute favourite time of year and being a book blogger, as well as a bookseller, so it’s probably not surprising at all that I love to give books as gifts. I always feel that there’s a book for everyone out there, even those who aren’t huge readers. Here are a few that you might like the look of for someone special in your life 😊🎄

Kids:

Geronimo by David Walliams

The book is a heartwarming tale about a brave little penguin who wants nothing more than to fly. A lovely story with gorgeous illustrations from Tony Ross. A beautiful picture book, perfect for younger readers.

Hannah Collab 1

The Ice Monster by David Walliams

This book is a beautiful story, similar to that of Roald Dahl’s BFG, featuring a ten-year-old orphan, Elsie, and her adventure to find the last woolly mammoth! A heartwarming story to intrigue your little ones and get them excited about reading. Aimed at 9-12-year-olds, this is the latest novel by this bestselling author and has already proved to be a popular seller for the Christmas period – definitely not one to miss!

Hannah Collab 3

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Meltdown by Jeff Kinney

This book is the newest book in the well-known kids series and a must-read for 9-12-year-old fans. A cold snap hits the school and the playground is transformed into an icy battleground. Full of laughs, this would be a fab, festive present for your little readers!

Hannah Collab 2.jpg

Fiction:

Normal People by Sally Rooney

This book was recently named as Waterstones’ ‘Book of the Year 2018’ and is a heartwarming story of just how important someone can become to you and the path that your life takes. A must read for any romance fans in your life who appreciate the characters with a sense of vulnerability.

Also, perfect for Christmas, there is a Waterstones exclusive edition of this book, beautifully designed with foil detail, a ribbon marker and redesigned endpapers – a truly gorgeous gift! You could always pair this book with Sally Rooney’s debut novel, Conversations with Friends for a bigger present.

Hannah Collab 5

Roar by Cecelia Ahern

An absolutely gorgeous book of the stories of thirty separate women, all of whom reaching the realisation that they hold the power within themselves to turn their lives around. A wonderful collection of stories designed to empower readers, perfect for any women in your life who need a little reminder of how fabulous they are.

Hannah Collab 4

Elevation by Stephen King

An expert tale spun by an expert storyteller. The most recent offering of this author and a long-anticipated release. A story about finding common ground with someone who at first you can only see differences with, with a dose or eerieness that King does so well.

Hannah Collab 6

Non-Fiction:

Becoming by Michelle Obama

The memoir of the iconic woman and ex-First Lady of the United States, she discusses her triumphs and disappointments, inspiring others with her stories of an exceptional life. A deeply personal insight into her world, from the South Side of Chicago to the Whitehouse. A wonderful gift for those people in your life who appreciate powerful women and find inspiration in their stories.

Hannah Collab 7

Dynasties by Stephen Moss

This book is a gorgeous companion to the hit TV series, recently broadcast on the BBC. It features a selection of over 200 simply stunning wildlife photographs, detailing the lives of these magnificent animals in a truly captivating way. With a foreword by Sir David Attenborough himself, this book is an absolutely perfect gift for any wildlife lovers in your life and also makes a wonderful coffee table book that guests won’t be able to resist picking up!

Hannah Collab 10

The Hairy Bikers: British Classics by Si King and Dave Myers

This gorgeous hardback cookbook boats over 100 new recipes, focusing on classic recipes to showcase the beauty of real home cooking. Chapters span every kind of food you could wish for, from salads and soups to succulent Sunday roasts and perfect puddings, it’ll give you enough inspiration for months to come!

Hannah Collab 9

Let Her Fly by Ziauddin Yousafzai

An extraordinary memoir from Malala’s father, focusing on his experiences with fatherhood and the fight for equality. A real symbol that feminism comes in many forms. A really personal and interesting look into the life and relationships of the father of one of the most inspiring young women of our generation – a must read!

Hannah Collab 8

What books are you giving for Christmas this year? Do any of these recommendations take your fancy? I’d love to know!

You can check out my Blogmas posts over on my blog, full of Christmassy content! 🎄

You can always find me over on Instagram and Twitter if you’d ever like to discuss these book (or any others that I’ve featured) in more detail 😌

I can’t thank Hannah enough for letting me collab with her. You should definitely give her a follow (if you haven’t already) so you don’t miss out on any of her reviews…and so you get to see my half of our collab (sorry for the shameless self-promo)

Dissertation Diaries: Back to Square One

Hi! I hope you’re all doing well and you had a pleasant week and a lovely weekend. It’s been a pretty decent week, aside from catching a cold and feeling the pressure of uni a lot more than usual. I enjoyed a third date which was lovely (again gin fuelled), plus I spent time with my family and got reading done.

Considering these posts are essentially mini diary entries, I’ll be honest with you. The whole “uni is great and I’m loving every moment of it” bubble I’d grown used to in first and second year has well and truly burst. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t think of anything I’d rather do and I’ve loved exploring a subject I’m passionate about, but it’s pretty stressful right now, making sure I’m on top of uni reading, I’ve got some sort of idea for my December and January assignments and I get my dissertation underway.

My plan was to get a significant amount of it done, just so I’m not stressing when I have three modules next semester, but (of course) an obstacle has been presented!

This obstacle came last week, when I finally got my dissertation feedback. The feedback was good, don’t worry. It just got me confused on my direction. I’d picked a subject I thought was straightforward but, on my feedback, I realised there’s so much I could write it’d well surpass the 8,000 words expected!

So this has thrown a bit of a spanner in the works! I won’t need to restart my dissertation by no means, it’s just picking through what I’ve already written and seeing what’s relevant, where I can go with it and what’s best left out. I’m going for a meeting next week with my dissertation advisor, so it’ll be good to talk it through it with someone.

I’ll admit, I got upset with my mark for this proposal. I didn’t think it deserved more, but it was a bit of a defeat to know that I could get (and have got) better marks. Of course, this is only 10% of my overall mark so I’ve got the dissertation to redeem myself…it just panicked me a bit. I’ve thought it all through a lot since and I feel better now, I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with my dissertation but I know I’ll get to where I want to be soon.

Dissertation Diaries: Why it’s Alright to Rewrite

Hello! Long time no blog! I apologise for my lack of posts recently, my attention’s been elsewhere with uni work, society duties and still having a personal life whilst everything’s going on. It’s times like this that I wish I could switch my worker-brain off, recline and enjoy a lemon drizzle muffin (though other baked, or healthier, treats are available).

Alas! The horrible thing about uni is that you are more or less always in work-mode. Third year, as I expected, is no different. I’ve chosen to take two modules this semester (and three next semester), with my dissertation popping up in sneaky little intervals.  Whilst it’s nice to be in two days a week, my chosen modules are still incredibly demanding: with plenty of assignments and reading you actually have to read AND remember quotes, secondary material and what the books are actually about…

(I need a nap just writing this post).

Of course whenever I get the chance, I write something for my dissertation (which I’ve documented in my Dissertation Diaries,   Dissertation Diaries: What to do once you’ve finished your proposalDissertation Diaries: Making a startDissertation Diaries: Getting there and, most recently, Dissertation Diaries: Chapter One), whether it be a source, a chapter or even just ‘I HAVE NO CLUE WHAT I’M DOING’. What I’ve found, though, is that with writing comes rewriting.

Rewriting happens, to me at least, when I spot something wrong grammatically (or Google spots it, when my eyes fail to do so!) or when something just doesn’t flow right. This whole thing used to annoy me so much, as I’d get attached to words and not want to get rid of them. That’s why I’ve written this post, to assure people (and myself) that rewriting isn’t a bad thing!

Why?

Well, you can write over your mistakes. If something doesn’t flow well on first read, or first glance, you don’t have to keep it. Plus, rewriting even just a small bit of an essay might change the way you think about an essay as a whole, leading to new ideas and possibly a different conclusion than you first thought.

Though rewriting feels like effort, it’s worth it.

In other news, I am 2,086 words into my Dissertation. That’s an intro, an abstract plus one and a half chapters- something I didn’t think I’d even get close to so soon. My dissertation proposal has been marked and, last Friday was supposed to be the week I finally got my feedback. Due to circumstances beyond my control, this feedback has been delayed but (I’m hoping) it’ll be some point this week. I’m worried about how this small part of my final project will be received, and the first mark is always the most brutal. That being said, it’ll either encourage me to work harder when it comes to the dissertation and the draft chapter or I’ll know I’m on the right track and there’ll be no sweat.

Word count: 2,086 words

Dissertation Diaries: Chapter One

Hello! My inspiration to blog has sort of wavered recently, as I’ve got uni and other things to focus my time on, so I apologise if my content is lacking a little recently.

Anyway, I hope you’ve all had a pleasant weekend. I went on another (fancy gin fuelled) date where I more than likely did something to embarrass myself (so, again Date, I can only apologise 🤦🏻‍♀️) and spent my Sunday shopping with just a little bit of uni work sprinkled in (completely forgot I had reading to do for Monday, which is always great).

(Catch up with my Dissertation Diaries posts: Entry One| Entry Two| Entry Three| Entry Four| Entry Five)

I’m happy to report that I’m now well over 1,000 words into my dissertation! A 2,000 word draft chapter is due next month and, compared to in my earlier posts, this actually doesn’t make me feel terrified beyond belief!

Of course, I know this is by no means my final outcome, there’s going to be a lot of tweaking and changing before I’m happy with it (and it abides by pesky “English Style Guide” regulations) but I’m incredibly happy with how it’s going so far.

This wouldn’t be a Dissertation Diaries entry without me giving some advice, though.

1. Reading: Read all the time. Read as you work, read when you’re not working, read around your subject. It’s boring and annoying at times but, who knows, you might find that breakthrough idea you’ve been looking for.

2. Sources: Harvard Referencing is a bitch. If there’s one thing I’ve hated all the way through this course it’s the constant need for every source to be referenced correctly. I know it’s so undeniably simple, but I’ve found referencing so difficult. So, here’s some ways to get around it. Keep a note of sources as you go along (with names, titles of the work, year, publisher, place of publication and page numbers) so, when you get to the dreaded Bibliography, it’s less of a nightmare. If, like me, you are shaken to your very core by the idea of referencing: get someone else to do it. I’m not saying pay someone else (although that’s tempting), but there are plenty of websites that will do the hard work for you…I won’t tell if you don’t!

3. Take breaks: The temptation with any assignment is to cram the word count into a given time frame then smash it out in one go. Though it’s incredibly tempting to cram, don’t. Yes, your proposal and actual project have to be in at a certain date, I get that. Just respect that you need time to do other stuff, too.

4. Say it, out loud: I’m not asking you to out your vampire lover with this one, don’t worry. This is just some advice I’ve fully taken on board after a dissertation presentation. Reading aloud is horrible, I get that. Of course, looking at your work in this way is good, to see how it flows and for picking up any errors you definitely miss from scanning over. If reading aloud isn’t your thing, print out your work and skim over it. Sometimes seeing it off screen you pick up those glaring errors we all miss.

5. The library is lovely: Libraries are disgusting. Not very good phone signal, busy and no food/drinks allowed in some parts, sounds like a nightmare! I think every student (or maybe even every person who’s had to go to one of these in their lifetime) has thought this about the library. I mean, yes, it’s not always the ideal place but the library is full of resources, can be quiet at times and (more often than not) you end up actually being productive. So, libraries are lovely, really. If they really aren’t your cup of tea though, coffee shops or book shops are perfectly fine too. Just find the best study environment for you…(it can even be your bed 😂).

That wraps up today’s entry. I don’t really know what the other content on my blog is going to be so…if anyone has any clue what they’d like me to write about, let me know! I know this blog is for me, but it’s also a space for me to talk about things people actually want to read.

Lemon drizzle muffins

There’s plenty of things in life that make us sour: uni work deadlines, events in our lives, what we see/hear on the news, even the typical British weather. Of course, with this recipe, I encourage you to embrace your sour side. Plus, these lemon drizzle muffins are ideal for curling up with a book (maybe one you might have missed this summer).

Lemon drizzle 1

Here’s how a few simple ingredients make these:

Ingredients:

For the muffins:

300g self raising flour

100g butter

80g caster sugar

2 eggs

225ml milk

1tsp vanilla extract

1 lemon zest

Lemon curd (optional)

For the icing:

100g icing sugar

Lemon

Method:

  1. Line a muffin tin with paper cases and preheat the oven to 200/gas mark 6.
  2.  Place the flour and butter into a bowl and rub together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
  3. Add sugar and mix well, then add whisked eggs and milk to the mixture, then aand mix until combined.
  4. Place the mixture into muffin cases and (if you want) add a teaspoon of lemon curd to the mix and even out with the cake mixture.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes, then get on with the icing: combine the icing sugar with the lemon
  6. Top your cooled muffins with the icing and enjoy!

Here’s how they turned out:

What have you been baking this week?

Dissertation Diaries: Getting there

Hello! I hope you all had a great week and a fabulous weekend. I went on a date (which was full of laughs and strange conversations, so I apologise profusely, Date, if you’re reading this), got an assignment checked off, did some reading and spent today with family (and prepping myself for uni tomorrow after a long, tiring Reading Week).

If you’ve been keeping up with my “Dissertation Diaries”, you should know that, every Sunday, I try my best to get somewhere with my dissertation and- every Sunday- I post my progress (or lack of) just for you!

(Lucky you).

In my first post , I was in the dark. I was terrified at the prospect of writing so much on a topic of my choosing and it just felt so horrible and so unknown…eek! In my second post, I was getting somewhere and- honestly- I was hoping to get passed the planning stage. In my third post, I talked about what to do once you’ve stopped planning (which, in short, is to actually write).

In my most recent post, I spoke about making a start. It’s scary but, eventually, you have to rip the planning plaster off and get started. So today, instead of spending the day binge watching Netflix or, well, doing whatever else to avoid working, I got stuck in.

I’m 1000 words down!

All it took was putting the “Hold” app on my phone (which is free to download and rewards you with points for every 20 minutes you spend off your phone), putting on some tunes and powering through it.

I’m feeling a lot better than I did at the start of the dissertation, more sure of my topic, my writing and the dissertation.

Now, here’s a question. What should I post on Wednesday? The Great British Bake Off finished a while back (my thoughts on the final are HERE) and I tried out posting about books, but what would you like me to write about?

What I read last summer

Hello! As you might have heard if you follow me on Twitter or Instagram (if you’re NOT following me on these platforms you definitely should be, as long as you can put up with me retweeting Bake Off related stuff or trying to get to grips with Instagram Stories!), I needed to fill the gaping hole in my blog left by The Great British Bake Off ending last week (you can read my thoughts on the final here!)

So, how do you fill the void? Well, I’ll (try to) fill this particular absence by talking about another thing I love: books!

There are so many amazing book bloggers out there, and so many amazing books to talk about, I just thought I’d join in!

Summer is long gone, replaced with cold dark nights under blankets, sipping hot chocolate (other hot drinks are available) until you’re pretty sure it’s in your bloodstream! Of course, as well as enjoying trips to Spain and doing limited uni work, my summer was spent reading (you know, actual books I don’t have to read for uni- they still exist!).

So I thought I’d go back to summer and talk about (some of) the books I read:

“I’ve Got Your Number” by Sophie Kinsella

I’ve not read any Sophie Kinsella, but I’ve heard a lot about her books over the years. This wasn’t a book I was particularly planning to read and, I’ll be honest, I’d never even heard of it! Of course, a beach day (and a snoop around the apartment where I was staying in Spain) led me to this book and, honestly, I was surprised.

As much as studying English at uni has opened my eyes to new genres and authors I otherwise wouldn’t have read, there’s nothing I love more than a cheesy, girly read and Kinsella’s “I’ve Got Your Number” definitely delivered.

Blurb:

Poppy Wyatt is about to marry Magnus Tavish but, in one afternoon, her happily ever after starts to crumble.

Not only has Poppy lost her engagement ring (the ring that’s been in Magnus’s family for three generations) but her phone has also been stolen. When she finds a phone in the bin, and takes it into her possession, she thinks the problem’s solved.

Not quite. See, the phone’s owner, Sam Roxton, wants his phone back and is less than appreciative of Poppy reading his private emails and messages. What follows is a series of unpredictable (and enjoyably funny) events as Sam and Poppy get increasingly involved in each other’s phones…and each other’s lives.

Review:

This book tells us the story of Poppy Wyatt, starting in a hotel with our protagonist hunting down her engagement ring (a family heirloom, which has belonged in her fiancé Magnus’ family for three generations) and, simultaneously, losing her phone in the chaos. She finds another phone and things get really interesting.

What I loved about this book straight off the bat was Poppy, Kinsella has managed to create a character who is so likeable, so relatable but also original (I loved how Poppy navigated her way through the novel with footnotes, it was nice to see this not used in an essay for once). To be fair, all of the characters were extremely well crafted and, in some ways, I identified/felt for all of them. Kinsella took me through the stress of wedding planning (which, at least for now, I haven’t experienced) and the equally (if not more) stressful occurrence of losing your phone (I felt for Poppy, considering I lose my phone at least once a day!). The book was also well-paced and there were plenty of funny moments, too!

The only thing I will say, and I don’t know if this is a bad thing or not, the book was predictable. A lot of these Chic-Lit books are the same, very ‘Will they-won’t they’ the whole way through. There wasn’t really an element of surprise in the ending, but I was surprised by the development with Magnus. As exciting as it was to see romances move on and develop, I wasn’t as excited as I thought I’d be by the end.

Of course, it was still incredibly enjoyable and I devoured it very quickly, soaking up the sun at the beach.

“Genuine Fraud” by E. Lockhart

I’d come across E.Lockhart before, after reading (and half-liking half-disliking) “We Were Liars”, so I more or less knew what to expect. It was a confusing, intriguing novel, perfect for sun soaked days.

Blurb:

Runaway heiress Imogen is also an orphan, a cook and a cheat.

Jule is a socialite, a fighter and an athlete.

The story of an intense friendship, a disappearance, a murder.

The story of a girl who refuses to be who people want them to be.

A girl who refuses to be who she once was.

Review

Everyone loves a bit of mystery, right? Well, there’s plenty of that in “Genuine Fraud”…About as many twists and turns as a bowl of curly fries (so, in short, a lot!), it’s the kind of book you’ll keep reading on.

There were plenty of glamorous locations in this book, a beautiful heroine and enough intrigue you’ll feel like you’re playing a game of Cluedo.

Of course, here comes the not so good part. Whilst I can’t criticise Lockhart’s clever writing, and the ability to keep readers hooked, I didn’t really know what I was hooked on. I thought it was one of those books that I’d struggle getting the gist of then I’d get straight to the point but, honestly, I didn’t find the point.

That being said, I’m a sucker for captivating characters and lovely locations and this book had that…I just wish it was easier to follow.

“The Rosie Project” Book 2, “The Rosie Effect”, by Graeme Simsion

I’d been wanting to read “The Rosie Effect”, the sequel to Simsion’s 2013 book “The Rosie Project”, for a while. Luckily, I came across it at my Auntie’s house over the summer and happily started reading.

I think after how enjoyable I found “The Rosie Project”, I expected the same enjoyment out of its sequel. I got some enjoyment out of it, but it by no means lived up to its predecessor.

Blurb:

Don Tillman and Rosie are back. The “Wife Project” is complete, with Don and Rosie happily married and living in New York. Of course, things aren’t always 100% for Don and he’s about to face a new challenge: Rosie is pregnant.

So begins Don’s new project, learning about fatherhood whilst saving his business, saving his friend’s marriage and saving himself from problems with the law.

Review:

I read “The Rosie Project”, Simsion’s 2013 debut novel and the first in the series, a while back and- let’s just say- I loved it. So, as soon as I knew there was a sequel, I jumped on it like sugar-high kids on a bouncy castle!

What I loved about the first book was still there, Don was the same methodical, lovable nerd who graced the first book. Just with a new obstacle to overcome, so a new Project to undertake: fatherhood.

The quirks I’d grown to love in the first book were there: Don precisely scheduling every activity, his humour but also his vulnerability. I loved how he attempted to cope with this new development, as it showed he was sensitive but also led to some of the really funny moments in the book. I also loved the new characters in the book, particularly the rockstar character he meets (though his name escapes me!).

Of course, like any other book, there were problems. “The Rosie Project” felt so Rosie-filled but its sequel wasn’t. Rosie spent most of the novel getting lost in her PhD, going to scans or just not really being there. I loved her character in the first book but I struggled to like her in the second.

That being said, “The Rosie Effect” was still throughly enjoyable: funny, sweet and a bit sad. It was a bit like a Disney sequel, I wanted this book, I was happy that this book was written but- in the end- I sort of wish Simsion had left “The Rosie Project” to one book.

“The Keeper of Lost Things” by Ruth Hogan

I’d seen this book dotted around for a while and it was the kind of book I see in a bookshop, don’t buy but reaffirm that I will come back to it in the future. With uni, time to read books that aren’t ‘academic’ or ‘on the reading list’ is short and- even when I do get the time to read for pleasure- I often find myself reducing books to ‘hows’ and ‘whys’ rather than just enjoying them (CURSE YOU ENGLISH DEGREE!).

Thankfully, my Auntie bought me this book over the summer and- taking a break from uni work- I gave it a read. This was one of those books that people hyped about and, honestly, I think it lived up to it.

Blurb:

Anthony Peardew is the “Keeper of Lost Things”. Forty years ago, he lost a keepsake belonging to his wife, Therese, and she died unexpectedly on that day.

Reeling from her loss, Anthony begins to collect lost things and writes about them. Now at his end, he worries about returning the lost things to their owners and so- in his will- he passes his secret mission on to Laura, his assistant.

So begins a new life for divorced Laura in Anthony’s sprawling mansion, full of new friendships, a second chance of love and plenty of lost things.

Review:

“The Keeper of Lost Things” was the first book in a while I’ve not been able to put down. Instantly I was hooked by the narrative, jumping from Anthony to Laura, to a story about one of the lost things, to the past and the story of Eunice and Bomber.

The characters led this book, from kind Anthony to worrisome Laura, I was captivated by each of them and I couldn’t help but want to know what happened to them all.

Another thing I loved was Hogan’s style of writing. Not only was it sad, thoughtful and humorous, but I loved the way she weaved stories of different characters into her narrative in a way that didn’t prove confusing or annoying like it would in other books.

Now, onto what I wasn’t a fan of. To be fair, when I picked my brain to write this post, I couldn’t think of any problems. The only thing I guess I didn’t like with this book was the sub-plot with Therese. The fact that she was a restless ghost, causing trouble around the house, didn’t really add much to the plot and (after a while) it got a bit tiresome.

Of course, the minor problems with this book shouldn’t overlook the fact that- on a whole- it was one of the best books I’ve read in a while. It was funny, sad and sensitive and touched on something we all know about: how it feels to lose something. What makes ‘The Keeper of Lost Things’ so beautiful is its idea that there is life after loss and there is always the potential that lost things can be found.

“Finding Audrey” by Sophie Kinsella

There’s a funny story behind this one. As I mentioned before, I’d picked up another of her books on holiday and gave it a read. Then I started to read this one and, halfway through reading, I could’ve sworn this author was familiar!

This was another one of those books that the book reviewing and reading community raves about so, naturally, I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

Blurb:

Audrey can’t leave the house, she can’t even take off her dark glasses inside the house.

Then Linus, her brother’s friend and gaming partner, finds his way into her life. With funny notes and that orange-slice smile, Linus starts bringing Audrey out of her comfort zone: outside (Starbucks is a great place to start, right?)

With Linus at her side, the outside world doesn’t feel so scary anymore.

Review:

I hadn’t read a YA book in so long so, against the heavy literary classics I’d been reading, “Finding Audrey” was a welcome relief.

I liked how Kinsella dealt with the topic of mental health, as Audrey suffers from social anxiety and depression. It wasn’t the whole “manic pixie dream girl” narrative authors love plonking into YA these days, it was actually sensitive, not always easy and real.

Plus, I liked the whole angle of the video camera. At one point in the book, Audrey’s therapist urges her to record her surroundings and her life. I thought this produced something both nice and funny throughout the book, as the family felt very real.

In terms of what I didn’t like, there’s a few things. I didn’t like the fact that I felt as though questions felt unanswered: what had caused Audrey’s mental health to get so bad? What happened at school? Of course, it’s been a long time since I read it so these questions might be answered but- from memory- I remember finishing it and scratching my head over certain plot points. Also, I was annoyed with Audrey’s mother, I felt like she wasn’t really much apart from an overbearing parent addicted to The Daily Mail and assuming she knows what’s best for her children. Another thing that sort of annoyed me was Frank, Audrey’s brother. I liked his character, I really did, but I felt like his gaming addiction took up too much of the story and I learnt more about that than I did about his character.

Despite the few problems I had with it, I really liked ‘Finding Audrey’. It was sensitive in its handling and discussion surrounding mental illness, most of the characters were developed and I enjoyed reading about them. It deserved all the hype it got and, having read something else (completely different) by Kinsella, it affirmed that she’s a writer to watch.

I’ll let you into a little secret. I’d read more books than this over summer (I had two holidays and, admittedly, went a bit book crazy to compensate for no uni work!) but, just so I don’t hurt anyone’s eyes, I thought I’d leave it there.

So, what do you think? Have you read any of these books before, what did you think of them? Are there any books you recommend to read over the summer or, alternatively, are there any books you recommend for now?

Dissertation Diaries: Making a start

Hello! I hope you had a pleasant week and a lovely weekend. I spent mine shopping, getting some reading done and wishing I had more of the spooky chocolate brownies  I made for Halloween!

If you’ve been keeping up with my posts on Sundays, you’ll know that I’ve started writing my “Dissertation Diaries”: a series of posts about my dissertation, what progress I’m making and any advice/tips I’ve learnt along the way.

Well, everyone, I’m happy to report that I’ve come a long way since my first Dissertation Diaries entry. In that entry, I wrote about how nervous and less than optimistic I was feeling about my dissertation (I mean, being forced to write 8,000 words with limited guidance? Who wouldn’t feel horrible about that?). In my second Dissertation Diaries entry, I spoke about getting passed the so-called ‘planning stage’ (which is pretty difficult if you’re comfortable just planning and not ready to actually write, like me most of the time!). Thankfully, my third Dissertation Diaries entry moved on towards ‘next steps’, as I spoke about what to do once the proposal’s over.

So now, it’s a matter of waiting for feedback on my proposal and- well- actually writing the dissertation! I’m actually terrified of the feedback for this proposal. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with what I’ve done (minus, I came to realise when I started quoting a source today, using the WRONG surname in my proposal and bibliography!) but it’s by no means my best work. Plus, despite how lovely my adviser is, I’ve got a feeling there might be a harsh mark coming my way.

Of course, I have two options once I get my grade:

  1. If it’s good, I know my line of argument for my dissertation has some legs and I’ll happily go from there
  2. If I’m not happy with my grade, I’ll look closely at the feedback, read more and write the actual dissertation as best as I can

I can let out a sigh of relief now, considering the fact that that’s one hurdle jumped over. Now, my next thing is my draft chapter. This part is due mid-December, and should be 2,000 words. Of course, being who I am, I’d ideally like to get a good bit of my dissertation done before second semester starts (considering the fact that I’m taking three modules in that semester, rather than two).

It feels a bit nerve wrecking at the moment, knowing that 8,000 words can’t write themselves and (eventually) they’ll have to be done. I’m making sure I look at how these types of essays are structured, plus I’m ensuring I’ve read into the subject carefully and precisely. I know that, from now, a few library trips will be essential but what’s truly getting me through, minus keeping positive and the encouragement from family, is the end result: I’ll have produced something I’m proud of and be on my way to finishing my degree and whatever the future holds for me awaits.

On that note, I’ll leave this entry here. This Wednesday I’ll be trialing something new: talking about books. It’s a bit nerve wracking going from talking about one thing, gaining some love from that, to then talk about something different. As much as this blog is to get myself out there as a writer, it is always about me talking about what I love and, if you haven’t guessed it already, I love books.

As part of this new direction, I’ll be taking a bit of a different route: What I read last summer. I’ve put so much effort into the baking side of my blog, and I’ve began on the student aspect, but books haven’t really had a look-in. So, I’m hoping after Wednesday’s post that I’ll start talking about books more….and I hope you guys like that direction.

Word count: 654 words

Spooky chocolate brownies

Hello! I know Halloween has well and truly ended, in place of loud fireworks, Christmas cups and the inevitable two month build up to one day (I’m probably only being cynical considering the fact I’ll be getting through deadlines over Christmas!) but that won’t stop me posting my spooky brownies.

[Plus, the person who predicted the Bake Off result last week, which I mentioned in my blog on the Great British Bake Off final, will probably be happy to see this one.. and I’d definitely encourage them (and YOU, the person reading this) to give these a go!]

I know, I know, “what makes them so spooky, Jen?”. These aren’t normal brownies, really. They’re not possessed by a ghost or cursed by a witch, but- for a little spooky touch- I scattered a few M&Ms into the mix which not only added a brilliant crunch, they also gave the brownies an even more chocolatey flavour.

Of course, those of you who’ve been following me since the beginning (I’m so glad you are!) will know I’ve posted Chocolate brownies before. So, in a way, I am repeating myself but- with the Halloween version- there were a few tweaks I’ll have to make clear.

Ingredients:

140g dark brown sugar (I didn’t have any light brown to hand, but using this sugar actually produced richer, fudgier brownies so- if that’s how you like yours- dark brown sugar is the way to go!)

2 large eggs

100g butter

100g chocolate (I used half dark chocolate, half milk)

100g plain flour

Red, yellow, orange and brown M&Ms (though other spooky sweets would work here, too. A friend suggested Reece’s Pieces which I think would be incredible!)

Method:

1. Preheat your oven to 170/180 and line a square tin with baking parchment.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a bowl over a pan of water then leave to cool.

3. Whisk together the butter and sugar until the mix is incorporated (by using dark brown sugar the mixture isn’t as pale as my first version of brownies was).

4. Add eggs and the chocolate mixture and fold together until combined.

5. Add the flour until the mixture is incorporated, then place the mixture in the lined tin, scatter your chosen spooky sweets evenly over the mix (don’t press them in, just leave them on top) and bake for 20 minutes (I found these ones took a little longer, so it might be a matter of taking them out and putting them back in again).

6. Leave to chill and, once chilled, cut into slices and enjoy.

I baked these for a Halloween social at uni and the people who were there (plus my family afterwards, as there wasn’t many people at the event) loved them. Even though I have a trusty brownie recipe (thanks Mum), the addition of dark brown sugar to the usual mix produced rich brownies that were so intense and fudgy I couldn’t resist another piece! Plus, the M&Ms made them even nicer somehow and it was really interesting to see the pop of colour at the top (not to mention, this recipe can easily be tweaked so you can add whatever chocolate you like to it).

Today’s a busy posting day (just because I didn’t want to miss the window for posting Halloween stuff, with Christmas rearing its ugly head) so, later on, you can expect the latest instalment of my “Dissertation Diaries”. I’ll let you into a secret….I’ve made progress so, if that means anything, I think I deserve a brownie!