Saturday, 26 July 2014

Dolls Kill Wishlist - Tops, Bottoms and Jackets

Bonjour,

While scrolling through Tumblr recently, I discovered a clothing website called Dolls Kill.  The website describes its clothes as "an active subversion of the fashion industries 'norm'", inspired by "the digital Tumblr girl world, bad acid trips, underground counterculture and stylized gutter punks". It's definitely what you might call a little 'out there', as the clothes have a seriously edgy feel and are often made out of plastic, velvet, lace, and sequins. I spent ages browsing the site and thought I'd share some of my favourite items on my blog in a series of posts - this one includes tops, bottoms and jackets, but there is so much more I'd like to post about in the near future.

Wildfox Couture Out There Baggy Beach Jumper - $118

UNIF Meta Top - $102

I Hate Everyone Vintage Army Jacket - $89

  Midsummer Dream Lace Skirt - $58

 Shimmer Stretch Jeans - $37

Flashing Lights Cropped Jacket - $125

UNIF Lark Bomber - $179

I especially love the bomber jacket, but every item is just so unique and different, I love it all! It is admittedly very pricey, and I don't think I'd every pay these prices if it came to it, but it's fun to dream...

x

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Uni & Why I Love Geography

Bonjour,

After having intended to do so since the beginning of the summer holidays, I've spent much of today conducting research into how to write a personal statement for university applications.

Applying to UK universities involves completing a UCAS application, which comprises several elements including roughly 600 words on why you want to go on to higher education, why you want to study your chosen course, what interests you about it, what proof you have of this interest, what makes you an ideal candidate for a place, what work experience/hobbies/activities you've done which relates to the subject, and basically why the admissions tutor should pick you over hundreds of other potential applicants. It has to read well, summarise everything clearly and concisely, and not contain too much superfluous language - I know the latter will be my downfall, as whenever I have to write anything formal (or just anything, really) I tend to throw in a good few sophisticated and/or elaborate words without really thinking about it.

Anyway, I scoured the UCAS site meticulously for pointers on what to include, read a few examples, and finally started drafting a few lines and paragraphs out. I immediately encountered one major difficulty - I am not used to writing about myself. Sure, I have a myriad of short bios on my various social media sites, and I write on my blog and for school, but never about myself, and never talking about my achievements and good qualities. For years the only lengthy pieces of writing I've done are analysing poetry and prose, or writing essays on themes. The whole concept of writing about myself is alien to me, and I found it pretty challenging in the beginning, although eventually I decided to try and pretend I was writing a story about someone else who has always been inspired by the world around them and the relationship between the Earth and humanity.

Another issue was that I kept getting temporary writer's block whenever I tried to really elaborate on why I want to study Geography at university. So to get myself started and get a (very) basic summary of what I really want to say in my application, I decided I'd just try and talk about it here, just as I would ramble on about anything else on my blog.


Why I Want to Study Geography
The thing about Geography is that whether people like it or not, they can't help but let their lives be affected by it, wherever they live in the world. People who live in difficult conditions due to the weather or landscape have their day-to-day existences controlled by rivers, mountains and tectonic plates, and the flooding, avalanches and earthquakes which can result from these geographical features, while everyone on the planet either has or is going to be affected by the consequences of globalisation and a increasingly global market.

Although a lot of Geography comes back to it, not everything is about the natural world. Personally I am far more interested in the human aspects of Geography, such as development, migration, political, urban & economic geography, politics & space, the geographies of health, transport & society, and - my particular field of interest due to the fact that it involves numbers and graphs and rates of change and other wonderfully complicated statistical data - population evolution.

I'm not so bothered about volcanoes and weather patterns, and all that physical Geography stuff people learn about in school - it's been around for hundred of years and if there's anything about it which no one has discovered yet, I'm not sure it's worth discovering. The thing about human Geography is that it's so current, so relevant to today's world that it surprises me constantly that there are people have no interest in it whatsoever. Take the ageing populations of Germany and Russia, for instance. It's a trend which is likely to spread to other western countries with large populations within the next 50 years, but does anybody care that they're going to have to fund a generation who will live longer and be accustomed to a more affluent way of life, to their own costs? And what about the increasingly consumer-orientated world we live in, and the inevitable consequences our selfishness is going to have on both the planet and future generations?

Source: chartsbin.com/view/3385

As someone who has grown up in such a multicultural, multilingual environment (thank you, Belgium, I can finally use you to my advantage - it's about time) I have always been fascinated by the world beyond my country's borders. There is so much happening out there, and I've never been one for small goals and ideas. I dream big, and the future of the planet is the biggest scale on which it is possible to study and (hopefully) work - why would I want to do anything else?

x

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

30 Really Quite Excellent Questions for a Bibliophile

Bonjour,

I found these book-related questions on Tumblr the other day and decided I'd pick the best ones and answer them here on my blog. If you ever wanted to know anything about my favourite books, how much I read or my opinion on books becoming movies, I guarantee the answer will be somewhere in this post!

1. What was the last book you read?
I'm currently ploughing my way through American Gods by Neil Gaiman (recommended by my cousin), but the last book I finished was Ten Things We Shouldn't Have Done by Sarah Mlynowski.

2. Would you recommend it to other people?
It depends who to - if you're a teenage girl between the ages of 14 and 18 definitely, but otherwise perhaps not. The story is made up of ten chapters, each of which explain the story behind something the main character April and her friends wished they hadn't done. The story take place one semester when April's dad and his girlfriend move house, but she eventually gets permission to live with her friend Violet, whose mum is away travelling, so the two girls essentially have a house to themselves. Something I really liked was the way each flashback has a time and date on it, so you're never confused as to which part of the story is happening when. However, when it comes down to it the book is really just your average teen chick lit - easy, relatable themes, humour, life lessons and a quick, mostly enjoyable read.

3. How often do you read?
I read for at least an hour every night during school time, as I simply don't have the time and energy after a day of school and a mountain of homework. In the holidays I can read for an hour before I even get out of bed, then curl up with a book for a good 3 or so hours in the afternoon, and then read for 3 or 4 hours before I go to sleep.

4. Do you wish to be a writer?
When I was younger I wanted to be an author, and my life's ambition was always to write a best-selling novel. Since then I've realised that not only do I probably not have the skill and patience for writing something as lengthy as a novel, it's also not the most practical of career goals. But while I've actively decided not to pursue a career in writing, I have no doubt I will always continue to write a bit of this and that in my spare time.

5. Has any book every influenced you greatly?
Personally I think everything I read has some kind of influence on me in terms of my understanding of the world, but if I were to name one book it would have to be Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin. I first read it years ago but it's one of those stories which has stayed with me, as it offers such a fascinating insight into what may or may not happen when we die.

6. What's your favourite book?
Since this is impossible to answer straight off, here are my top 7:
Elsewhere by Gabrielle Zevin
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Gilt by Katherine Longshorne
The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides
Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

7. What's your least favourite book?
My least favourite book of all time is The Owl Service by Alan Gardner. I read it for school, didn't understand it and hated it unreservedly.

8. Do you prefer physical books or ready on a device (like a kindle)?
Physical books, definitely. I don't own a Kindle, and neither do I want to, because nothing can beat the fresh, clean smell of the pages a new book.

9. When did you learn to read?
I learnt to read when I was about 3 or 4, when I was taught through a mixture of Nursery school and my mum's hard work. I have actual proof of this on old video tapes, where you can see me reading the names and tags on Christmas presents and carrying them over to the person in question.

10. What is your favourite book you had to read in school?
The Catcher in the Rye, without a doubt.

11. What is your favourite book series?
Again, so many contenders for this prestigious title!
The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot
CHERUB by Robert Muchamore
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray
PRIVATE by Kate Brian
and of course, Harry Potter by J. K. Rowling

12. Who is your favourite author?
I suppose this is different from the 'favourite book/series' question, because by definition all the authors of those are my favourite authors. But if I had to choose one I haven't mentioned so far, it would have to be Agatha Christie.

13. What is your favourite genre?
Historical fiction. I used to be obsessed with dystopian, sci-fi type things, but in the past year or so my tastes have changed radically and now I've got a bit of a thing for anything set in the 16th or 17th century in particular.

14. Who is your favourite character in a book series?
My favourite character in a book is Lux Lisbon from The Virgin Suicides, but my favourite character in a book series would be Hermione Granger from Harry Potter - stunningly original, I know.

15. Has a book ever transported you somewhere else?
Of course, I think I have a very flexible imagination so with even a little description I can easily get a vivid mental picture of a setting or building, to the point where I often feel like I've been to places I haven't. Some good recent examples of this include Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs, which I definitely felt transported me to a little Welsh island in World War II, and the Bright Young Things trilogy by Anna Godbersen which brought 1920s New York alive in my brain.

16. Which book do you wish had a sequel?
This is a really tricky one, because most of the books I wish had sequels actually do, I just haven't read them yet. If I had to answer I'd say Shadowstory by Jennifer Johnston, which I felt left quite a lot of loose ends untied.

17. Which book do you wish didn't have a sequel?
Not so much not a sequel, but less sequels: the House of Night series by P.C. and Kristin Cast. I have the first 10 of these (and I'm determined to get all of them when they're out, just to find out what happens at the end once and for all) but even having only read the first 8 I wish the authors had stopped at 6 or 7, as by now I feel like they're just spinning out the story as much as possible.

18. How long does it take you to read a book?
It depends massively. I read the last Harry Potter in 2 days the day after it came out in 2007 (I was only 10!), but it was the summer and I had nothing else to do. Similarly I can read a couple of easy reads in a day during the holidays, but it might take me up to a week to finish anything slightly hefty during school time.

19. Do you like when books become movies?
Yes and no, but mostly no. If a book becomes a movie, if goes without saying that I will always read the book first before seeing the movie (the exception to this being The Book Thief, which I watched on the plane back from the US at Easter because I needed a way to make the time pass quicker and it was the only thing I felt like watching). But mostly I hate two things about books becoming movies: first, how it invariably destroys the picture I have in my mind of the characters and setting, and second because when a book is made into a movie it always becomes insanely popular and mainstream.

20. Which book was ruined by its movie adaptation?
You might expect me to say TFIOS here, but surprisingly I'm going to go with Twilight. When I first read Twlight it was more or less unheard of (thank you Sadhbh and Orlaith, for introducing me to the series before most of the rest of the world), but as soon as the first movie came out it gained a somewhat undeserved reputation for flimsy plots and sparkly vampires, mostly through Kristen Stewart's (admittedly flaky) acting.

21. Which movie has done a book justice?
Harry Potter. The first movie came out in 2001, and as I noted above the last book came out in 2007, so I never really had a chance to read the books before seeing the movies. However, I do think the movies, especially the earlier ones, completely and utterly do the books justice.

22. Where is your favourite place to read?
In my bed when it's dark outside and the rain is pouring down and I can hear rumbles of thunder in the distance.

23. Who gave you your love for reading?
Funnily enough, I was thinking about this today when my friend told me that Jacqueline Wilson was the author that really got her into reading. In my case the equivalent would be Lucy Daniels, the author of the Animal Ark series which I loved to bits when I was about 5, but I also credit my mother for encouraging me to read from such an early age.


24. What book is next on your list to read?

I used to actually have a list of books to read, but I could never stick to a precise order as I just like to chop and change between genres on a whim. Next I think I'll read either Revolution by Jennifer Donnelley, or One Day by David Nicholls.

25. When did you start to read chapter books?
Back when I was in my old school, so when I was around 4 or 5.

26. Who is your favourite children's book author?
When I was little I loved anything by Gwyneth Rees, but one of my favourite series nowadays which could be called children's books is the Pure Dead Saga by Debi Gliori.

27. Which author would you most want to interview?
Realistically, Elizabeth Wein. Unrealistically, Anne Frank, Sylvia Plath or Agatha Christie.

28. What book have you reread the most?
The Princess Diaries, hands down. I was given the first 6 for Christmas when I was 8 years old, and since then I have reread them at least twice a year every year, and sometimes more.

29. Which books do you consider 'classics'?
In my mind I have three criteria for 'classics': one, the author is dead, two, they are timeless pieces of literature, and three, they are the books which everyone wants to have read - I realise this is far from scientific, but nevertheless it is quite accurate.

30. Which books do you think should be taught in every school?
Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie as an example of crime novel excellence, The Hitchhiker's Guide to Galaxy by Douglas Adams for sheer cult value, and The Diary of Anne Frank because everyone should have to read that book.

If anyone has actually read this far, you are my fabulous person of the year!

x

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Secondhand Book Haul

Bonjour,

A month or so ago I went to a secondhand book sale at my local British store, where they have a huge variety of books and every year I find something to interest me - this time was no exception.


I am Rembrant's Daughter by Lynn Cullen

I picked this up because I was (and still am) having a very much historical fiction oriented phase - I'm loving anything set in the 16th and 17th centuries at the moment, and I was intrigued by the Dutch setting. I was also struck by the similarity of the title with the book Nelson's Daughter by Miranda Hearn, which coincidentally I bought at the same sale last year. This definitely lived up to my expectations, as I finished it the other day and enjoyed it a lot, but there was a predictable element to it which meant I guessed the ending early on in the story.


Girl With a Pearl Earring by Tracy Chevalier

I've wanted to read this for a long time, so I was thrilled when I stumbled upon it. It goes hand in hand with the above book, Rembrant and Vermeer of course being contemporaries, and I read one after the other - sometimes you're just in the mood for Holland in the 1600s, if you know what I mean. I'd thought I Am Rembrant's Daughter was good, but this just blew me away: I loved everything from the the little details of life as a maid to the beautifully paced story, and the end was a lot more difficult to see coming.


Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams by Sylvia Plath

The name Sylvia Plath drew my eyes like a magnet, and there was no way I wasn't going to buy this, as it contains short stories, pieces of journalism and fragments from her journal, all of which make me infinitely excited as a huge fan of Plath. For my advanced English class next year we have to write an extended essay of about 6000 words on a literary topic of our choice, and I'm planning to write about her works, so hopefully this book will be greatly useful!


American Gods by Neil Gaiman

I haven't read a great deal by Neil Gaiman, so it was solely because I'd seen my cousin reading this at Easter that I decided to get this. I started it yesterday and so far have been thrown into a whirlwind of confusion as to what exactly is happening, but in the best possible way. I'm not sure it's entirely my thing, but I will reserve judgement until I've read more than a few chapters.


Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

Ever since I was cast as Virginia Woolf in my friend's 1920s mystery-themed birthday party about four years ago, I've had a mild sort of interest in her as an author, so when I saw this slim volume I picked it up straight away. It's joined the rest of my 'classics' on the appropriate shelf, but I've yet to read it...


Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

The photo doesn't do this hefty tome justice - it's at least 6cm thick! I can't exactly pinpoint why I picked this up, but something about it appealed a great deal. I've since looked it up on Amazon, and found out that it's had very mixed reviews, with - interestingly - more one-star reviews than five-star ones. Nevertheless, I'm determined to wait until I've read a decent amount before siding one way or the other, and I hope I won't be disappointed...


Hallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie

Every time I go to a secondhand book sale, I'm on the lookout for Agatha Christies, as I'm trying to complete my collection of all her novels. I didn't have all that much luck this time (although I usually find 4 or 5) as I only found this, which is luckily in fairly good condition and the edition matches the majority of the ones I already have. All I can say about it is that it lives up to both Christie and Poirot's usual standards - a cracking story and a murder investigation conducted - as ever - with order and method.

x

Friday, 11 July 2014

Book Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Bonjour,

As another summers day draws to a close and the night creeps in over the rooftops of Belgian suburbia, I turn, as ever, to my laptop, and clatter away at my keyboard for half an hour or so... The result? I have another book review for you! 


Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan

It's true - I am a complete hipster when it comes to books, and more specifically when it comes to reading books which it seems like every teenager under the sun has read, such as TwilightThe Hunger Games, and ultimately anything by John Green. I appreciate that Will Grayson, Will Grayson is the result of a collaboration, but never having read anything by David Levithan I have always had this erroneous idea that it was solely by John Green.

Either way, in the midst of the TFIOS madness that ensued last month I was feeling a decided aversion to the book and movie, both of which were being promoted in YouTube pre-roll adds, and by what seemed like every other YouTuber. Having seen and not enjoyed the movie as much as I'd anticipated, I decided to do my best to rekindle my love of John's books by finally getting round to reading Will Grayson, Will Grayson.

I'll start off by saying something quick about the cover: in a nutshell, I don't like it. It's nearly impossibly not to judge a book by what you see first, and with only a vague idea of the story, it definitely wasn't the most interesting of covers, and probably wouldn't have made me pick it up in a bookshop if I hadn't already been a fan of John's work.

The story is essentially about two very different boys who share the same name and end up meeting by accident one night, and then about the consequences which unfold as a result. The alternating chapters, told in remarkably different styles, really brought home the differences between the two boys, much needed as it could have been tricky to tell which chapter was about which - they do have the same name, after all. Having read all his books and watched the vlogbrothers channel and various others for a few years now, I could tell quite early on which half of the novel was written by John Green, purely from the style of writing and turn of phrase used.

The book deals with a lot of topics which aren't so often found in YA fiction, primarily coming out, homophobia, and living with depression. In my opinion, both authors did a fabulous job grappling with all these themes, while not overdoing it or turning it into a story of morals. However, I can't say it really clicked with me, as a story - maybe it's just far removed from the kinds of thing I usually read, but I found it quite difficult to get emotionally invested in the story, as I'd expected to from the reviews on the back cover. I couldn't relate to any of the characters on anything but a superficial level, and with the exception of Levithan's Will Grayson, they fell into stereotypes too much to seem believable as teenagers. However, if you enjoy John Green's books as a rule, you will no doubt be convinced by this one.

Rating: 6/10

x

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Primark/New Look Haul & Outfits

Bonjour,

I was in the UK last week, and I did just a teensy bit of shopping on the last day I was there. I mostly bought stuff in Primark (if you're been reading my blog for a while you'll know how crazy I can go in Primark, since we don't have it where I live) but I also got a couple of things in New Look for a change.

For this haul I decided to do something slightly different and actually put together an outfit for each new item of clothing I bought, because I usually explain how I would style it anyway.

Stripy oversized collared Tshirt from Primark, £6

I adore this top, it's really baggy and comfy even though I got it in a 6, and it's long enough to be worn over leggings. You know when you see something in a shop, and you just HAVE to buy it because you know instinctively that it's something you'll wear again and again as it's such a versatile piece? Yep.

Tapestry dress from New Look, £14.50

Until about last year, I owned about three dresses: a really casual one for the beach, a formal one and one I could actually wear as normal clothes. But then I suddenly got a bit fixated on dresses, and ended up buying quite a lot in a short space of time (possibly an understatement). I love this one because it's so boho and summery, and has this whole tapestry effect thing going on - and it was on sale, which is always a plus!

Patterned trousers from Primark, £8

Unlike the vast majority of my friends and people my age, I own precisely zero pair of trackie bottoms, mostly because I think they're so unflattering and I much prefer leggings. These trousers aren't exactly trackies as the material is so thin, but neither are they tight like leggings, which is what made me pick them up in the first place, because I was trying to work out what I'd call them. I'm really not sure how much I'll end up wearing these, but for £8 I'm not going to worry about it too much ;)

Patterned top from Primark, £4

I was actually looking to pick up a couple of simple patterned tops, so I was glad to find this one. It doesn't come across all that great on camera, but it's nice irl, and above all extremely versatile.

Floral sheer top from New Look, £17.99

I've been seeing so many sheer kimono type things around lately, and that was originally what I thought this was when I spotted it. In fact it's a kind of batwing top, which I think will be great for those warm summer days when a cardigan or jacket is too much but you still want a bit of warmth.

Thanks for reading!

x

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Playlist: Recent Faves

Bonjour,

So I've decided to share some of the music I've been loving recently by making a playlist of YouTube videos. I tried to limit the number of Lana Del Rey songs included, but didn't really do a very good job, because I have been LOVING (and listening non stop to) her new album Ultraviolence ever since it came out.


Le Playlist
Sia - Chandelier
Lana Del Rey - Pretty When You Cry
Dillon - Thirteen Thirtyfive
Grimes - Oblivion
Lana Del Rey - Money Power Glory
Stromae - Tous Les Memes
Lana Del Rey - Yayo

Click HERE for the playlist with video links!

x

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Life Update & Book Review: Bright Young Things

Bonjour,

I recently got back from a short-ish trip to the UK, with the primary aim to visit as many universities in the west country as was humanely possible in a short space of time. The whole process of figuring out what I want to do with my life is something that's crept up on me all too soon, and suddenly I'm being inundated with questions and possibilities and the need for decisions to be made, whether in terms of the specificities of the course I want to study or the location of the university itself. However, although I'm not entirely clear on the latter, I'm entirely positive that I want to study Human Geography, though due to the relative scarcity of such courses in UK universities I will no doubt end up applying for a few straight Geography BAs as well. Cardiff is currently top of my list as of right now, because of its ideal course, great location about 5 minutes walk from the city, and the city itself, which I fell ever so slightly in love with during my short stay there and thanks to a city tour offered by the university open day.

Life update over - onto the actual blog post! So I've been wanting to do a good old book review for a while now, but what with exams limiting my own personal reading time (oh, the joys of taking an advanced English course as well as the main one) I haven't got round to reviewing anything in the right kind of time frame. Today I've decided to simply take one of the most recent series I've read: the Bright Young Things trilogy by Anna Godbersen. 

Bright Young Things (and sequels) by Anna Godbersen

I first discovered this series after reading the The Luxe series by the same author, and being completely drawn into the opulent world of New York in the turn of the 20th century. I immediately searched Amazon to find out if the author had written anything else and found this trilogy, also set in New York City but this time in 1929, just before the Wall Street Crash of the autumn of that year.

The story follows three girls from very different backgrounds: best friends Letty Larkspur and Cordelia Grey are escaping their small Midwestern town for very different reasons, while Astrid Donal has it all: money, reputation and the perfect boyfriend. The story switches back and forth between the three girls' viewpoints, and while we see Letty and Cordelia's journey to New York from two sides for the first few chapters, they soon part ways, only to be reunited later on in the book.

There was so much I liked about this trilogy, it's difficult to know where to start. Being slightly obsessed with the Roaring Twenties and having recently written an extended essay on the The Great Gatsby and its film adaptations, I loved the setting - there is little to rival the exuberant atmosphere of the Jazz Age, where unrestrained materialism set the tone of society, and the conservatism and tired values of the previous decade were discarded as money, opulence, and exuberance became the order of the day. The constant switching between storylines, albeit ones which eventually converged in a variety of ways, meant that I never got bored of any of the characters, which in themselves were all so different and although fairly two-dimensional at the beginning of the books, developed a lot as the plot unfolded.


This book probably isn't for everyone - there's a good deal of gossip and what seems like a fairly trivial plot, but for those who like to indulge in some historical fiction chick lit every now and again, it's ideal.



Rating: 8.5/10


Hope you enjoyed this quick review - I've got a clothes haul post coming soon!

x