One of my gap year goals was to travel somewhere alone. This was, I suppose, its completion.
I actually went to BCN to meet my penpal of 4 years (Maria) but travelled alone and stayed in an airbnb. Pretty cool for someone who couldn't do sleepovers until they were 15 and used to have screaming panic attacks on the tarmac before flying lmao.

I had a fucking awesome time, despite a few tears on the middle day and a pretty noisy internal voice.
We ate so much food and walked so far (20km daily) and took so many pictures (get excited for the disposables!!) and saw so many amazing little hidden corners of the city and chatted endlessly and I felt so independent and adventurous and ah, I'd love to have lived in that euphoric bubble for a few days longer.

MAJOR thanks for Maria for being so lovely and providing such interesting, hidden tours of the city and, unknowingly, ticking off so many things on my Barca bucket list. It felt such a privilege to be shown the best parts of the city by someone who knows it so well and she would endlessly exclaim "oh, I've thought of something else I want to show you, it isn't far!" and they never disappointed.

so here's a brief lil overview of what I did and some pics because I could gush for hours about how cool it was to travel alone and how proud I was of myself (lol) and how fab Maria was blah. blah.

- walked around Gracia district in the POURING rain getting grumpy and wet because I didnt bring an umbrella
- bought an umbrella
- casa vicens (wish wish wish I'd gone inside)
- Las Ramblas, La Boqueira Market (both necessary for the 'Barca' experience but v touristy)
- El Colectivo cafe for Earl Grey tea, sandwiches and an escape from the rain
- wandered into book shops and art shops in El Raval
- gothic quarter, wandering through streets, into cute cloisters, marvelling at architecture, stopping every 2 seconds to take a photo
- El Born, for sure my favourite area we explored–bohemian and arty, lovely to just get lost in the alleys
- burritos at Rosa Negra that rendered me motionless from over consumption (long wait but worth it for the veggie goodness and cheap mojitos)
-Palau de Musica (insane architecture, for sure going to pay to get in next time, it looks insane–one day I'll see a concert there...)
- more wandering and gothic basilica viewing (the architecture is so cool)
- churros at Granja M. Viader–fab because it was where all the locals go and the churros were insane (with melted dark chocolate) - there was also someone shooting a movie whilst we ate which was entertaining to watch
- gothic cathedral in the dark
- casa Battlo in the dark (both looked so cool)
- warm shower and sleep (both much needed after walking around with squelching feet all day)

- drama with my alarm
- painful blisters and desperate search for any shop that would be open on a Sunday
- Park Guell (so cool but reckon I would have appreciated it better if it was less 'done'/on the tourist trail and I'd seen fewer pics of it before hand) – could happily have spent so much longer exploring the wider park (as oppose to the Monumental Zone) but my schedule awaited
- Trek to find somewhere to buy some lunch then a few tears because I felt sorta lonely (I did these activities w/o Maria because obvs she had seen them 100 times before) and as though everyone was staring at me for being on my own (which, in Park Guell, they were and I honestly felt like screaming) and because I put so much relentless pressure on myself
- La Sagrada Familia (which, despite it being massive I couldnt find for 20 mins and turned around and saw it was looming over the whole city)- insane, totally worth the ticket price. Spent a good hour just sitting in silence looking up at the ceiling. The height and contradictory simplicity is so freeing and the colours so alive and warm, its so intricate and unusual and such has such a fascinating story
- Casa Battlo, this time in the light
- La Pedrera Casa Mia – definitely not my favourite Gaudi
- accidentally got caught up in Catalan Independence protests (which were so interesting)
- post card writing
- spontaneous trip with Maria to be shown night-city views (Palau Nacional–go at night!! such a good view, this was definitely one of my favourite things)
- even more spontaneous late night tapas
- protests outside our tapas restaurant (we were on Passeig de Gracia, one of the main streets in BCN) that became violent and the protestors set light to bins–tapas cut short and we had to wait in the closed restaurant before Maria's parents came to save us (lol actually very exciting and interesting, especially as Maria could translate it all for me)

- woke up to a beautiful sunrise
- Barceloneta beach, walked along the port and the sand then through the streets
- bought insane pastries from La Colmena
- went inside the gothic cathedral–very interesting, especially in contrast to La Sagrada Familia
- ate our pastries in the sun
- wandered through Gothic quarter again (really liked Placa de Sant Felip Neri–Barcelona is fully of these tiny little oases of calm and squares/cloisters that open up just off the main streets)
- a mistaken adventure to a massive Pull and Bear which we had to quickly abort because neither of our purses could fund our wants (I did then come home and order it all online lol)
- El Call (Jewish district)
- Plaza Real
- lunch at a place near Park de Citudella (that I don't know the name of)
- Arc de Triomf and Passeig de Lluis Companys
- Park de Citudella
- walk through El Born and up to Las Ramblas were we grabbed a coffee in Cafe de l'Opera
- Our final goodbyes then a m-a-n-i-c rush to get back to the apartment on the metro (I adore using public transport in foreign countries, so far Barcelona's metro system scores pretty high – certainly better than Buda's) and back to the train (turns out I was super early)
- embarrassment at the airport when I tried to scan my ticket for La Sagrada Familia as my boarding pass and got turned away
- insane views over Barcelona (see final pic)
- tears because I didn't want to be leaving and I was so proud of myself and it had been such an adventure and I was so tired and my feet hurt so much

The highlights included: Maria meeting me at the airport because a) a familiar face (even though we'd never actually met) was just what I needed after 3 hours of self doubt, b) she took me straight to my apartment, minimising all stress and c), I knew we were gonna get on, view from Palau Nacional, El Born/Barri de Gotic, sitting and eating churros for 2 hours, sitting in La Sagrada Familia and the tapas night.
Also, on a random note, my money belt was, again, fucking ace. If you ever travel anywhere get one of these. Mine is a total eyesore (electric blue-sexy)but honest to god its the most useful thing ever. It keeps everything safe, within handy reach, is so discreet (they're supposed to be worn under your clothes but I just wear mine around my waist) and means you can run out the house without your bag knowing you have the essentials. Buy one.

A few things remain, or have been added onto, my Barca Bucket list. I shall, for sure, be back. Next time:
Go inside Case Vicens/Casa Battlo
Go inside Palau de Musica
Picasso Museum
Wander the streets in the summer sun (instead of March rain)
Experience more of the night scene

It was pretty awesome. I loved, more than anything, just wandering with no agenda, Maria explaining the history or little quirks of the area and coming across areas of quiet beauty and just walking and talking and eating. I then spent the next day curled up on my bed with my 2 oldest friends, catching up on the past 3 months and drifting into a world of familiarity and safety.
Today marks my first day off work for the Easter holidays, which I have spent hungover and exhausted. We had a dramatic night out last night, all of which was reconciled with a "what were we even arguing about?" realisation. Over the next 2 weeks I have plans to go to Brighton/London, nights out with old friends, working (at a different place but am craving another weekend trip so extra shifts are certainly necessary) and a week away in my favourite place. I dream of being productive but I doubt that will come to fruition.

Oxford: the application process

The audience of this post is very niche, but don't worry I'll be back to my usual existentialism soon. Its just something I thought was both worth documenting and was probably quite helpful.
I also don't think there is a magic formula for getting in to Oxford, I just sort of went for it so I'm not sure I can give many tips other than my personal experience, but if you have any other questions hmu!

As of October, I am beginning a History degree at the University of Oxford (??!!). I am going to Mansfield college (the college I applied to) and, if you don't know about the collegiate system of Oxbridge I'd recommend reading this.

I applied to Oxford in my gap year with my achieved A-levels. I think this worked pretty strongly in my favour. By September of my gap, I had read more, was more self-assured, confident, aware of my passion for History, had more to cover in terms of PS and submitted essays and had just learned so many more skills. I also had my A-levels, which helped immensely.
On applying in a gap year I would say, it made it easier because there was no gamble in me as a candidate (I had my grades) but it was also a very difficult process as I had minimal support. There was no grooming or preening to be moulded into the perfect candidate, I just threw myself into it with no idea what to expect.

There are several components to Oxford application:
Application (before October 15th, unlike other uni's which is January 15th) (personal statement, reference)
Written work
HAT (2nd November)
Interview (called (or not) for interview up to a week before (interviews are held at the beginning of December))

Choosing Oxford
School never encouraged me to to apply to Oxford. I don't think they thought I was capable or it was worth the extra pressure and, to be honest, they never really pushed for Oxbridge applications, despite many being able. I had always questioned whether I could get in and, in August, when I opened my A-levels and screamed with utter surprise, I thought "shit, well I probably should give it a shot". At the time, I'd already set my heart on another uni so to me, Oxford was like "well, I'll never know if I don't try". I was slightly intimidated by the strength of passion towards the uni by other candidates, it made me feel undeserving of the opportunity. It wasn't until I got there, for the interview, that I thought "I really want this". It felt so unattainable and distant from the world I knew so I couldn't really imagine myself there. But it now feels like the dream.
Grades had a lot of influence over my decision to apply. A few people have asked me whether their grades could equate to a place of Oxbridge and, honestly its impossible to say. Whilst you have to show academic aptitude, there, again, isn't a specific formula.  It differs for every candidate and there are so many other factors considered (personal statement, reference, contextual data, HAT score, written work, interview performance, predicted/achieved grades, your passion for the subject, whether you'd thrive in Oxford, whether the tutors want to teach you etc).

My GSCE's:  5*, 5A's, 2B's inc. an A in History
A-levels: A*A*A* (History, English Lit, Geography)
(I've included these to perhaps contextualise idk)

Unlike some people, Oxford wasn't something I'd had my heart set on from birth, but I am now unbelievably excited to begin in October. I now can't imagine myself going anywhere else–I still have to pinch myself that its real.

Choosing History
My decision to study History was, perhaps, a late one. I adored it but (for some mad reason) was set on studying French and Politics. Luckily, I was persuaded to take a gap year and reconsider. By late November 2016 it clicked that History was the one–I think both my coursework and my History teacher played a big role in this. I would constantly find facts (such as: 5th February marked the 10,316th day since the Berlin wall fell. This was the exact same number of days it stood for. Cool?!) and opinions and events that I was desperate to share with other people but no one in my class was quite as passionate as me. I loved debating and debunking published view points and discovering astronomical facts to develop my arguments. In reality, I'm still apprehensive about my decision but that is okay. In terms of where to apply for my course, I chose cities and universities I knew I'd be happy at and courses that offered a lot of choice (I also applied to Leeds, Durham and UCL, and received offers from them all, if anyones interested)

Choosing the College
As my application was a bit of a whim, I chose a pretty arbitrary factor when narrowing down. Basically, I went off state school acceptance. I figured I'd be most positively considered and feel most at home where there are the most people from schools like me. It would, as much as possible, replicate the world I have been brought up in. Mansfield has an 91% state school acceptance rate and I really like the ethos and atmosphere of the college. Other factors people consider when choosing their college: reputation, position in the Norrington Table, architecture, tradition (or lack of), ethos, accommodation, food–generally they're pretty arbitrary reasons.

Personal Statement/reference
Admittedly, I didn't find my personal statement much of a chore. My main issue was, of course, cutting it down. General ideas I outlined were:
Reasons why I loved History/why History was important, what sparked my love of History, which periods I liked and why (generally referencing to school topics), books I'd read, places I'd been, opinions I'd challenged and a very brief outline of my gap year.
I was terrified about the supposed lack of reading in my personal statement. In everything article about Oxbridge applications they warned of the unattainable numbers of books you had to have read from the most ridiculous chronological spectrum to prove your worth. Mine were not 'conventional' historical arguments (2 were testimony, 1 more opinion based but by a lawyer not a historian, 1 fictional (but of significant contextual relevance) and an article by an historian) but they were the books I'd found most interesting. Essentially, I just wrote about what I was passionate about.
I definitely came to the conclusion that its not what you've read, what you've seen, what you've experienced but what it taught you.

HAT (History Admissions Test, sat by all Oxford History applicants)
The HAT is a 2 hour exam that consists of 3 questions, with 2 being source based and one an open ended essay. The sources are generally nothing you've ever seen before about a period you know nothing about. That actually makes it easier because you are simply analysing and inferring from what is present. My sources were about the history of emotions and a fictional letter written as a social and political commentary. I focussed on questioning everything: what is this source telling me? what is it not telling me? what do I need to know? what can I infer? why? what does that tell me about this? what influence does the provenance have? how does this alter the view point?
The essay question was a dream. The essay title essentially presents a question and asks you to answer it in relation to any period of history you know. Mine was "Did change come primarily from the top, from the bottom or from any other level of society?" which fitted my preferred topic perfectly (Gorbachev's role in the collapse of the USSR).
This question provides a lot of free reign which can be both daunting and liberating. They're not testing how much you know but how you use it. I tackled it like I would an A-level essay, outlining my key argument and the factors that supported it, along with other factors and their limited significance and throwing in the infamous twist. Had this question not suited the collapse of the USSR so perfectly, the exam would have undoubtedly gone tits up.
In terms of preparation, I was pretty lost. I couldn't viably revise a whole A-level course. I did all the past papers, analysing, reading the mark scheme, and analysing again. I made plans of all the essays and went over the key arguments of my A-level work. I knew I was most confident with and passionate about the USSR and would try, under almost any circumstance, to twist the question to suit it, so I pretty much just focussed on my arguments surrounding that.
On the day, despite being the only person sitting the exam, I just went in there and tried to prove I loved history. I actually really enjoyed the exam.

Essay/submitted work
I regretted my written work so much. I remember lying in the bath, after I'd got home from my interview, crying because I knew I'd messed up all my chances. I uhmed and ahed for literal months about what to send. They say they want a 2000 word essay of A2 standard, marked and written under normal conditions. I couldn't write anything for the sole purpose of application because of course there was no one to mark it so, to me, the best option seemed a revision essay. But, after talking and overthinking, I knew I should have sent in my coursework which I was passionate about, proud of, interested in and had received immense praise for. Instead I sent in an essay about whether the changes of 1921 were the leading cause of Stalin's increasing power between 1928 and 1953. It was a fine essay but could have been better. I was asked about the essay in my interview and, despite not being able to remember a single thing about the 5-year plans, it wasn't as catastrophic as it felt.

I got invited to interview a week prior. My interviews ran from the 5th-8th December and I stayed in college. I knew absolutely no one attending the interviews, had no idea where I was going or what I was doing. Turning up alone was daunting but amazingly rewarding and overall the experience was very enjoyable. It was mostly spent with other candidates asking "so what are you here for?" etc but people were lovely and, because everyone is alone and nervous, throwing yourself into that environment is actually relatively easy. Contrary to almost every other candidate, I spent the time exploring and going to coffee shops and the pub and shopping and reading with a girl who had also applied in her gap year. We both did very little to prepare when we were actually in Oxford, perhaps because we felt more assured in our abilities. Que sera sera and all that. She had also been through the interview process before so did a lot to reassure me that there really is little you can do to prepare.  The most valuable use of my time, I decided, was to see if I actually wanted to live in Oxford and make myself feel relaxed. It paid off.
(I think most other candidates actually spent their time doing the A-level work they were missing out on which is pretty essential. Obviously, neither of us had any).

In terms of interview prep, I re-read some of my books (and the arguments, ideas and notes I'd written for all), went over my essay numerous times and altered my argument, dissected my personal statement and read. In hindsight, this is almost all you can do to prepare. You have no control over what they ask you, and it will most likely not be what you are expecting. Just read over everything you've written and think about how your arguments have changed.
At Mansfield, everyone was given 2 interviews spread over 2 days (this varies college to college) and a potential third interview if you'd been pooled to another college. My first interview was about my written work and my personal statement and my second was about my personal statement and a source. Both lasted 20 minutes and were really enjoyable. The tutors were so lovely and it was very informal. I was asked "What's the difference between History and Memory?" (still no idea), "What causes persecution?", "What do you know about 10th Century anti-Semitism?" (nothing), "What's the value of personal testimony?" and many others that have been forgotten in the blur of the week. Most of my replies were pretty vague, I didn't use anywhere near enough historical evidence to back them up, and if I did it all related to Stalinist Russia or a random episode of the Guilty Feminist that popped into my head. I mostly talked about things I believed or knew or examples I understood, taking their question and putting it into my own context (e.g. I don't know why people were persecuted in the 10th Century for being Jewish but I do know why they were persecuted in the 20th Century). For the history and memory question, I had no answer. I posed one idea, challenged it, contradicted myself then got confused. I basically talked through my thought process, because I'd read an article that told me, if all else fails, to do that. The tutors were really supportive, taking my ideas, expanding the and guiding me when I was lost. There were moments of silence, moments when I went down a path and thought "what the fuck am I saying?" and moments where I had no idea where to even begin.
The source was 10/10. I was given 2 minutes to analyse it then had to answer some questions and dissect its purpose and validity. It was about curing 15th Century stomach cramps. It pulled on themes of religion and wealth and superstition and had an unknown origin. I love analysing sources so was pretty happy when I was presented with it. This is the one part of the interview that I thought went well.

In terms of clothing (something I spent many hours obsessing over) I wore some cigarette style trousers with a black jumper/a striped top and black suede Oxford brogues (lol appropriate). To my second interview I forgot to change my shoes and ended wearing my trainers but I also figured they couldn't care less about what I wore.
I was told that in my interview I couldn't: chew gum, fiddle, touch my hair, look away, fidget, wear trainers, click my pen, but I did all these things. Because when your lost in academic intensity, these feel like the most banal rules.

I had no idea how the interview went, it was impossible to tell. I spent hours dissecting the experience and thinking of all the things I did wrong and the arguments I should have made. I remember crying in a coffee shop on my last day because I realised how much I wanted to go and how badly I'd screwed up.

Decisions were made on the 10th January and, to my shock, were received by email. I was expecting a painful day at work to return to a letter but I received a response at 9am. I was home alone and simply refreshed my emails out of habit (not expecting to see their deicison). I spent the morning with pent up energy and no one to tell, repeatedly thinking "what?!". I genuinely couldn't (and still can't) believe it.

I remember receiving an email from OxbridgeAdmissions that advertised a mock-Skype interview for £600. It felt entirely disheartened, screaming that "wealth remains the only pass into this elite club". The £90 train tickets to my interview made me wince so being offered a £600 SKYPE interview felt like an insult. But now I am on the other side, I hope my experience dispels some of the myths of application. I wasn't preened or prepped, I didn't have a mock interview or advice on the exam, I came from a sub-standard school that sent a maximum of 1 candidate to Oxbridge a year. I didn't spend every breathing hour reading my way through the history of the world since BC, I just spoke and wrote profusely about what I was passionate about and took the experience as it came. Daily, I question how I managed to get a place and feel completely stupid and have a serious case of imposter syndrome– I'm not even there yet.
I still don't know how I got in and it there feels to be so many aspects of luck involved but hey, you never know if you don't try.

If you have any other questions or there's anything I haven't mentioned, message me on twitter/insta!


***My attitude might sound quite blasé, I promise I'm not. I'm just trying to give a realistic experience.

both happy and sad

My words aren't really finding their place on the page.
I feel both very happy and very sad and its making me feel lost and
Lets begin with the blue tinged nostalgia. Sometimes sadness is an easier place to start.

Photos. So many of them so candid and so true and so natural and I could cry with how much I crave to melt into their faded scenes of laughter and happiness. And I am so content with my loneliness and with my self and with my solo company but I am also craving the moments that I know can never be replicated.

Self-induced mortality. Haunting. I have obsessed and panicked and cried and screamed over the capricious nature of my mind that tricks me until I am lost with what is real and what is false. My interminable fear of death resurfaced and reminded how messy my head really is.

L'amour. Surrounding myself with the literary warmth of northern Italy made me detest the banalities of reality and crave passion in its purest presented form. It gave the illusion of interminable solitude and inadequacy and set my mind on cartwheels of "am I enough?", "will I ever find someone like that?, "does this story replicate real life?", "will I be forever alone?" (lol stop with the melodrama)

L'avenir (I've found when I don't want to admit things to myself I write them in broken French because it offers an illusion of distance). In my jaded head there is an image of how life will be. An image I never want to fulfil. And I can't picture my life being anything other than that life I don't want. Maybe this is confused by the complete uncertainty that comes with reality.

The past. I'm still sort of craving the support and familiarity and safety and security of the past. By past I mean last year. Its so much better than it was. But still a niggling of "remember how good it was!"

I suppose I'm lost in the labyrinth of rose tinted nostalgia and a glorified golden future, disappointed by the dullness of reality.

But, through the tears and beta blockers, I am also very happy.
My life feels a blessing, I just wish I had recognised that when I wasn't feeling so mortal (as in dead, not drunk). To feel so at one with my solitude and so in tune with my routine and so, implausibly proud of all this year has taught me and all I have achieved and the ways I have grown and the people I have met. The way I am valued and the things I have seen and the excitement that is coming.

For the record, I am so much happier than sad. Really. Life is so good.

But I also want to cry.

edit: noir

These photos were intended to showcase one of my favourite outfits, but they became a project of narcissism. Essentially self-absorbed documentations of my face. Oh well.

I've been feeling in a bit a funk regarding body image recently; its hard to describe exactly what it is but looking in the mirror isn't a fun exercise. I've never really struggled with how I look before so its a new challenge. My mind really does like a challenge.
The two areas I have an interminably toxic relationship with are my stomach and chest. So naturally, this outfit flaunts both those areas.The top and jeans combo, however, did actually make me feel fancy and (temporarily) remedied some of the quells.

I adore this top. The flared sleeves add movement and flow, it ties in the perfect place to make bra-wearing possible (or not!), it covers the back and arms enough to stay warm and, against all odds, I actually like having some boob on show. I wore it out last weekend and am already searching for the next semi-fancy occasion to parade in its elegancy.

I'm really into this tie-front-top-trend, they look really fancy and feminine and add a kinda sexy twist whilst also feeling covered up. I've already decided I'm going to try and use it as a pattern and make an orange floral version (a dream for summer nights out).
I paired it with loads of dainty gold jewellery, black jeans, this belt and (trashed) Nike trainers (because boots felt like a bit too much). I also threw on a black puffa jacket because this is Newcastle and it was snowing.
Makeup wise, I went for warm, matte shades with black eyeliner (surprise!) and actually pulled out a clear lipgloss which, despite giving me serious primary school vibes, I kind of loved.
I urge you all to invest in a tie top, next time I shall be maxing out on the necklaces because I think this could look the dream with some long gold jewels. Maybe some gold glitter on the eyes too, to go all out.

In other repetitive news, this is my final weekend before I am away for 5. I have been spending my days planning my Barcelona adventure, watching films (Kings Speech, Darkest Hour, Ladybird – would recommend them all) reading (finished Cat on the Hot Tin Roof; it reinforced my belief that Williams is a (depressing) genius, broke my heart and made me want to read Streetcar again), working, refraining (unsuccessfully) from spending money, drinking gin, writing existentialist poetry and just generally feeling like I have too many things to do in too little time.
They're all good things, though.
Its a sunny Friday, I have my flute lesson and then a free evening, before work and the usual saturday antics (which generally involve too many trebles and a dance floor).
Ah. Life.

recent reads

For the past 5 years, one of my new years resolutions has been to read 26 books, I've got close most years (except last; I'd read all of 2 books by June) and this year I am determined to smash it.
Some of the below were part of my gap year TBR, others offered a literary escape, some were fucking brilliant and others utter trash.
So here we go.

Autumn–Ali Smith

I wanted to love this. I loved the cover. I loved tiny snippets in an isolated manner. I loved the ease to read.
But it made no sense. I have no idea what it was trying to say, what the characters were doing, who the characters were, what (if anything??) happened. It all felt like one self indulgent poetic metaphor, the meaning of which was impossible to discern. In fact, it was entirely self-indulgent. As though the reader remains in a position of stupidity to make the writer feel superior. I think it was supposed to be some kind of commentary on Brexit and the political turmoil and division but it was, to be honest, very difficult to tell. There were certain chapters I adored and some of the writing was so beautiful but there appeared to be no running theme, nothing linking the chapters together and as a novel, it just didn't work.

Pride and Prejudice–Jane Austen

I loved this. So much. Maybe as a result of studying Shakespeare and Wilde, but I found it surprising easy to read and loved Austen's subtle critique throughout. It is, fundamentally, a romance and I love that because it shows a good love story and feminism can go hand in hand; not everything needs to be heavy. Elizabeth is such an empowering and powerful character and, when considered in the context of the novel, she's fucking awesome. Historically, I found the (realistic) presentation of the patriarchy so eye-opening and the restraints, expectations and formalities of the 19th Century shocking. The weight placed on marriage, for securing wealth, reputation and continuing the family line, the importance of class, the separation of genders and inability to ever relax. It all contrasts with 21st Century modern society so powerfully. The characters and their subsequent relationships are confusing but, with the help of a diagram I found online, it all ran very smoothly.

Billy and Me-Giovanna Fletcher

I bought this when I was having a bad day and I needed to escape into a world of idealised, cliched romance. For that purpose, this book was ideal. It was such a quick read and I could lose myself in its complete predictability. Its trashy and badly written, sickly, sickly sweet and unbelievably cliched (think tea shop! cupcakes! florals! purple converse! shaggy-haired hunk who mysteriously falls in love with the nervous socially awkward girl! you get the picture (its like Cathy Cassidy for adults)) and appears to mirror 13 year old Katie and her literary dreams but, all jokes aside, I can't critique it. I bought it for one sole purpose, to read a trashy romance. And for that purpose, it completely delivered. Its not a work of literary genius, in fact its pretty crap but if you need to lose yourself/feel 13 again, I'd recommend.

How to Stop Time –Matt Haig

All things considered, this book was fantastic. I usually hate anything with any element of fantasy but this was engaging and easy to read. The book was laced with wisdom and relate-ability and so much of the novel and characterisation became a vehicle to explore mental health and the feelings of loss, of emptiness, of disappearance. It felt very comforting. It explores what it means to be alive, what it means to be different, enjoyment of art and fulfilment of life, the purpose and value of memory, identity (or lack of), happiness, love, loneliness and, in many ways, the actual storyline became secondary to the feeling of understanding. It made me think about all the things I want to achieve in my lifetime, all the different lives Tom had lived and how you could recreate this element of interest and intrigue in your own world.
It also challenged and presented humanity as a whole, our existence, our attitudes, how they've changed and how they will perhaps never change.
It evoked so many interesting questions and ideas about history, what it teaches us, whether we ever really learn from the past, whether humanity is programmed to make the same mistakes, and seemed to echo this article I read a while ago.
Tom Hazard meets so many interesting people and explores so many scary and exciting and humiliating moments in history that make you think about what it means to be a part of society, past and present. For a history nerd, it was idyllic, but could be enjoyed by almost anyone.
I had this really weird moment when reading this on the bus when my memories felt so present. It was like an epiphany, realising that all the things that have happened in the past haven't been left there to never be experienced again, they are continually surrounding us, shaping who we are and being a part of the journey. Idk. Cringey but I felt it pretty strong.
By the end, I found the storyline a bit depressing and the end was a bit predictable but, these minor details aside, I did thoroughly enjoy it.

Next on my list are: Call Me By Your Name (Libby said the book is even more beautiful than the film), The Cat on the Hot Tin Roof (which I started last night and I remembered why Tennessee Williams is my favourite playwright), Never Let Me Go and The Go-Between (for the 3rd time, because I honestly regularly get moments of craving nostalgia and I know I just need to read it again).

Leave literary recommendations below, my list is ever growing.

(I feel like this post is really badly written. I'm kind of rusty. I haven't posted so infrequently since Summer. Bare with whilst I get my jam back)