Thursday, June 23, 2016

Book review: Nina Is Not Okay


One of the passions of my life is reading. I've been a total bookworm since I can remember, and Matthew has long ago got used to the fact that our home is destined to be filled with shelves of books. I like to read widely, from the classics to the cheesiest chicklit available, from children's books to non-fiction, and one of the nicest parts of my recent journey into writing and blogging more has been having the chance to review an ever increasing list of books

Earlier this month the lovely folk at Ebury sent me a copy of the debut novel by Shappi Khorsandi. Having enjoyed her memoir A Beginners Guide to Acting English and having seen her comedy routine a few times (ah, Edinburgh), I was excited to read her first foray into fiction and intrigued by the premise of the book. I'll talk about it in the review but will try not to give the game away!

Nina, our central character, is a girl in her late teens - aiming for university and growing up in London. As the story unfolds we learn about her hidden depths, her struggles and her demons in no uncertain terms as the events of one awful night set her on a path to self-destruction. 

This is a challenging, thought-provoking and vivid story. Khorsandi puts you right in the centre of things - she is clear and unerring about what she writes, and in moments of horror or anguish no punches are pulled. Nina, the protagonist of the novel, is a brilliantly flawed, challenging narrator. At points I wanted to slap her, at others give her the biggest hug! 

Reading this book filled me with unease - it's an uncomfortable read, because it has to be. The subjects covered here - consent, or lack of it; the power of social media to shame and destroy; the machinations and horrors of teen friendships; alcohol & alcoholism; loss - are not those that lend themselves to prose of the 'rainbows and butterflies' ilk.

I can say I enjoyed this book because it's important, because of the light it shines on what judgement (particularly the particularly vicious judgement that occurs online) and shame can do to someone. It's important because we live in a time when a student can sexually assault an unconcious woman and his family and the judge in the case seemingly expect us to care more about his predicament than that of his victim. It's important because the topography of growing up has changed so much in a generation - Nina and her peers have smartphones, the internet, social media to contend with. Once again I found myself so, so grateful for teenage mishaps that took place far away from the the all seeing eye of social media (nothing like the awfulness that Nina endures and/or does, thank heavens) - a privelege and an experience not given to today's teens. My teenage crushes and bad outfits and silly opinions are consigned to history, deep in the nineties, in the fading memories of my friends, photos snapped with cheap and cheerful disposable cameras (the negatives long since lost) and a few scribbled notes and letters.

This book was hard going in places purely because Khorsandi writes so well - she puts you right in the scene and you have no real way to distance yourself from what's unfolding. This is a necessary evil, to move the story on and to make it seem all the more real, but man, at times I wanted to reach for the 'brain bleach', to coin a phrase from the internet forums of the noughties.

I'd give this books four out of five - it's a worthwhile read and is brilliantly real and very timely. I was advise against it if anything in my review is a trigger for you, as there are dark moments aplenty. That being said, I enjoyed the book, was pleased with the denouement, and think it's an important novel which shines a light on what a lot of our young people are dealing with (man, typing that made me feel ancient!) while going through the messy business of growing up in today's world.




Disclaimer: I was kindly sent a copy of 'Nina Is Not Okay' by Ebury to review.  Opinions all mine, as ever!

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Ten Things



It's been a busy wee fortnight here, full of fun. And work. And stress. And excitement. And relaxation. Isn't life grand.

*starts humming Circle of Life*

As is my wont, I thought I'd do a quick little round up of a few of the things that have been keeping me occupied.  Here we go!

1. The great study project continues. We are now at the OH MY GOODNESS THERE IS SO MUCH STUFF EVERYWHERE stage. All caps required, for sure!



2. On Saturday Katy and I are off to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I am beyond excited, and all ready to rock my Hufflepuff teeshirt with pride! Huge thanks to the babe that is Ashleigh-Jayne for helping to sort our tickets.

3. Last weekend I got to attend not one, but two musical events. I won VIP tickets to Capital's Summertime Ball on the Saturday, and Kaz and I had a marvellous time bopping along to Flo Rida, Craig David, Jess Glynne, Tinie Tempah and many more. On the Sunday, Erica and I went along to Field Day in East London, where we were kindly hosted by I Heart Wines (great company name, right?). Full post of musical adventures (and wine) to follow.


4. My competition to win a copy of The World of The Happy Pear* came to a close and I'm looking forward to mailing out the package to the winner, Tracy, in the next few days. I'm loving the cookbook!

5. I am getting very in to my social media, and loving learning more about the platforms and how I want to use them. Twitter is for chatting and sharing; facebook is for comment, crowdsourcing and kitty/puppy videos; instagram is for beautiful images and inspiration; pinterest is for collecting ideas and planning meals/holidays/presents; and snapchat? Well that's like my own little mini-vlog. I'm cmclaire12 over there if you'd like to follow along!


6. On Wednesday of last week Matthew and I went along to Royal Ascot as guests of Appletiser. We had a lovely day out together (even if the rain did try to dampen spirits!) and it was the perfect taster before we return to the course next month with the in-laws.

7. Speaking of Katy (see point 2), this weekend just past I had the most fun with her in Brighton. She was kindly invited to town by Ibis for a break by the sea, and a big screen viewing of Dirty Dancing, and I was thrilled to be her plus-one. Full post to follow, of course, but the whole visit made me so smiley it had to make this list.



8. This mad weather has really had me guessing, and I've got drenched at least twice, and sunburned once. Pick a route, British weather!

9. For the past almost year or so, Matthew and I have been watching the boxset of Parks and Recreation, and last week we finished the final, seventh season. How am I going to cope without my Knope?


10. After the weeks and months of discussions, on Thursday it's time to vote on whether we leave the EU or not. Whatever the nation decides there will be bumps in the road ahead, but whatever decision we wake up to on June 24th I hope we can band together to support the majority's choice, however hard that may be to swallow. As I write this most polls have the two campaigns exactly level, so I think whichever way the referendum goes we are in for choppy seas ahead. However you feel about it, I hope you'll be voting - it's a pretty momentous choice.


Monday, June 20, 2016

I Love Your Blog: Lucy Loves To Eat


I will never not love doing this series - the chance to shine a wee spotlight on the many lovely writers and bloggers who I adore is a constant treat and I always find the interviews so informative and inspiring. I hope you do too!

Today's guest is the adorable Lucy from Lucy Loves To Eat. I've been lucky enough to attend several food blogging events with Lucy and I love her intelligence, her humour and her mad culinary skills. I hope you enjoy her answers below.

Tha lady herself! All pictures in this post kindly provided by Lucy.

1.      How long have you been blogging?

I've been blogging for 2 years now, but wanted to start about 5 years ago. My husband promised he would design me a snazzy blog... 3 years later and still waiting, I eventually just got onto Blogger and set it up myself. I haven't looked back since!

2.      What do you blog about?  Do you have a specific goal with your blog (i.e. reviewing products, promoting a business, transitioning into a writing / media / digital career), or is it more a record of your life? 


My passion is food, so from recipes to travel eats to sharing my favourite restaurants, I cannot stop babbling about food! I also love home decors and interiors and take great pleasure in sharing my home decor posts on my blog. I hope to document all my favourite recipes on my blog, have a collection of favourite restaurants which I can refer friends and family to when they ask for recommendations and just share things in my life that I am passionate about.

3.      What is your favourite thing about blogging?


Writing and creating a post is my absolute favourite thing about blogging. Whether it's writing up about my travel adventures, eating some incredible food or just showing off pictures of my baking, I find great satisfaction in sharing it all. And then there are the lovely blog comments which always make my day. Meeting like-minded bloggers and foodies at blog events are another awesome part of blogging, and I'm delighted to say I've met some amazing bloggers whom I'm now firm friends with. There's nothing quite like hitting it off with like-minded people (such as Claire!) to give you a huge endorphin rush!  

4.      What is your least favourite thing about blogging?

Promoting my blog posts. I love writing a blog post but the promotional side of things is such a chore. I know I need to do it though to help with blog traffic and just getting my post out there, but I wish I could just pay someone to do this! Saying that, I've learnt so much from blogging/promoting, and they are genuinely great skills to have.

5.      Do you have any favourite posts on your blog – pieces you’re really proud of, which document something special, or which seemed to strike a chord with your readers?



Without a doubt, it has to be my Japan Honeymoon series. We had an adventure of a lifetime in Japan and it was the best 2 weeks of our lives. I haven't actually finished writing it up yet, so there are more posts to come. Hong Kong, being my second home, is another favourite of mine to write about and share with those who are about to travel there. My beginners guide to using a DSLR camera + how to shoot in low light  has been hugely popular and it acts as a reminder for myself too since I'm very new to using a DSLR.

6.      Whose blogs do you love?  I’m always looking for recommendations :) 

I have soooo many favourite blogs but sadly I don't have much time to keep up with them since starting my own blog. However, one that I never miss is B-Kyu, an Australian blog. I love keeping up with their travel adventures and their writing style always has me in stitches. A Pair and A Spare  is hugely inspirational as is Cupcakes and Cashmere. I also love reading both of my friends lifestyle blogs, One Slice of Lemon and Hanhabelle.

7.     I adore your food posts - where do you think your passion for all things foodie stems from?


I have loved food ever since I can remember! This has to be down to my dad who is an amazing chef. He loved to take us out for good food too and trained my taste buds by explaining how dishes were cooked and which ingredients made it so good. Once I got older and started to explore other cuisines and started traveling, I discovered so many incredible foods and have been hooked to all food things since.  

8.    Apart from London, which other cities are your favourites to visit and write about? Are there any places you're dying to try but haven't made it to yet?

I visited Taiwan in December and had some incredible food, so I'll be blogging about that soon. Hong Kong is another place I'll never get tired of writing about and since I go back every year, there's always new things to blog about. I wish I could go back to Malaysia, Thailand, and Japan for more eating - whilst I've been to all 3 before, I don't think I could ever get bored of the food there. Plus the shopping there is just ace. You can see how I love Asia!  

9.      What hopes and dreams do you have for your blog going forward?


I want to start sharing my dad's traditional Chinese recipes but I made a promise that until my photography was up to scratch, I didn't want to do any injustice to them. I have so many things waiting to be blogged about but it's just finding the time to do it. For the rest of this year, I'm going to try and focus on finishing my Japan Honeymoon series, travel adventures in Taiwan, more of my home decor posts and some seriously drool-inducing restaurants I've eaten at in recent months.

10.  What tips do you have for bloggers growing and nurturing their blogs? 

Write about topics you are truly passionate about and work on a blog voice that is your own. Photography is important, as is the layout and look of your blog, but content is what connects you with your readers. And do not forget to promote your blog posts!

Thank you for such a fab interview Lucy, and all the best with your upcoming adventure!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

For Your Consideration: Country Mouse Claire*

I've been writing this blog for a good long time (at times I feel like the last of the dinosaurs), and I love sharing about my life and the things I love here. I've been so lucky to do some amazing things, meet some amazing people, and try so many different things because of this blog. I've had my horizons widened, my assumptions challenged, and my self improved because of the journey which writing here and being part of the blogging community has taken me on.



For the first seven or eight years of my blog I just wrote a little diary. Things I liked, places I went, songs I was obsessed with. It was like a grown up LiveJournal. I'm the tailend of the generation who came of age as the internet ascended, and before social media existed and I jumped into blogging (and MySpace, Bebo - man, Bebo) with my customary enthusiasm.


As I started out my teaching career in the middle of nowhere (for serious), miles away from friends and family, this little blog became a way to share my life with the people I loved, and later with the people who drifted here to read. As social media grew I joined each network and settled in too - by nature I'm a sharer, an encourager and a dyed-in-the-wool chatterbox, so the verbosity and busy-ness of the online world was a natural and happy fit.


A couple of years ago, I realised that I could also attend events, do reviews, and work with brands and organisations and this is something I really enjoy. I love being able to share my #opinions (hashtagged because they are many, and legion) and particularly to share about the things I'm passionate about - books, London, travel, food, culture, and people.



All this to say:

1. I love blogging.

2. I'm so enjoying growing my blog and honing my writing during this season of my life.

3. Might I convince you to nominate me for an award, please?



I've never really gone out for blogging awards before. I always felt that my blog was too small / not niche enough and that my writing / photography / general self was in some way not worthy of a nod. That may well still be the case, but I told myself I was going to be brave in these two years away from the classroom, so here goes. I am terrible at asking for things, but I'm going to try to do so without pulling a muscle cringeing...

The Thirty Plus collective are having their first annual blog awards, and I would be delighted if you would consider nominating me if you like the blog, or my gifs over on twitter, or my far too chatty snaps, or anything else. Nominations are open until Wednesday 22nd June, and I'd be thrilled if you might consider nominating me for an award.



* In case you were wondering, the title of this post is taken from Oscar/Emmy season, where Hollywood is littered with FYC ads! I thought I'd put myself out there.... No doubt you already knew that, but I thought I'd add a note, just in case.
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Me

Me

About Me

I believe in 80s pop, 90s teen movies, and proper thank you notes. I just like smiling...smiling's my favourite.

I write here about London, food, books & travel, and a lot more besides. I'm never happier than when having adventures, cooking for friends, or lost in a good book.

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