29 Jan 2015

book review: now that i've found you by ciara geraghty

Last year, I read Paper Swans which was a novel about mental illness and Now That I've Found You by Ciara Geraghty is a novel about the same topic. As it happens, I'm currently reading another novel centred around mental illness (My Heart & Other Black Holes) and I don't think this is a bad thing - all too often, it is stigmatised in society when all that's required is less stereotyping and more understanding. Hopefully, books like these will help.

Anyway, the blurb for Now That I've Found You reads as follows:

"Vinnie is a taxi driver and single dad. Since his wife left home, he's been struggling to cope with his seven-year-old son who has wet the bed every night for over a year, and his teenage daughter who keeps getting into trouble at school.

Ellen is recovering from a trauma of her own. She has been left mentally and physically scarred after a car accident, and is terrified to get behind the wheel of a car again. Every week she is driven to her physio appointment by Vinnie, a man she knows little about, but who is about to change her life forever..."


The first thing that caught my eye about this book was the design and cover - the pink and cream stand out nicely against the dark midnight blue/teal hue and it's just very, very pretty. It is also a longer book than some others I've read recently - at 400 pages, it did seem like a mammoth of a novel.

However, it's one of those books that slowly draw you in and make you want to read more and more of. The chapters are short so it's easy to pick up and put down if you have a busy lifestyle. I did enjoy this book because it is very well written - the characters are likeable and relatable as the events that happen to them could actually happen to any one of us. The fact that each chapter alternated between Ellen and Vinnie meant that information about each of them were drip-fed and the suspense was kept by the short chapters. 

Overall, I give this book 7.5/10 - I definitely enjoyed reading it and none of the chapters read like wasted space as sometimes, a book this long can can have the odd chapter that probably didn't need to be there. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read something a bit different in that, it isn't your typical love story and it covers a lot of 'stigmatised' issues in a realistic and respectful manner.

28 Jan 2015

staedtler fineliner giveaway winners!

The giveaway ended yesterday morning and the winners have been drawn...

a Rafflecopter giveaway Congratulations! I've already emailed the winners and if I don't hear back from you by next Friday the 6th of February 2015 at 10am, I will draw another winner.

Thank you to everyone who entered :)

27 Jan 2015

book review: the wrong knickers by bryony gordon

I spent most of 2014 reading fiction books and it's always a nice change to read something non-fiction and a bit light-hearted. That's where The Wrong Knickers by Bryony Gordon comes in. Likened to a real life Bridget Jones, Bryony Gordon's book essentially reminisces and reflects on life in her twenties and what it's really like to be young, single and financially stretched (I added that last adjective myself) in London.


Being in my twenties, young and single in London (and quite happily so, might I add), I thought this book would appeal to me. In just over 300 pages, Bryony covers what it's like to rent in London and losing all self-esteem (and dignity) with the aid of non-illicit and illicit substances. 

The book is billed as one that is 'hilarious' and at times, it did get a laugh out of me. I don't think I'm an uptight person - I do have a very dodgy sense of humour (I may laugh at things I shouldn't and I do enjoy jokes that toe the line) and I'm not easily offended but on the whole, I found the book more sad than funny.

Sad, because the more I read, the more it made me realise that we never realise just what we're like until years later. We look back and realise the things we would've done differently but at the time, we see no other way. The book also made me sad in the sense that there is some truth in her words too - the dingy flat that costs an extortionate amount to rent each month even though it's above a kebab shop and doesn't even have a proper bathroom or kitchen; the fact that we'd rather spend money on an expensive handbag than food (at least, this was true for me a few years ago!) and the reality that the idea of a house party is always better than the actual thing.

However, the book is well-written and it really is a 'warts-and-all' kind of book so you really do need to approach it with an open mind. I did enjoy reading it and I finished it in just under a week so that's always a good sign. It's a good book if you want something that is non-fiction and a lot different to anything else you might read for a while! I rated this book at 7/10.

25 Jan 2015

my week #145

This week, I realised that it's only three months until my end of year exams - that's really not that far away! Cue a mild panic attack where I wrote out a to-do list for the weekend (i.e. yesterday and today) which included tidying my room in preparation for intense study sessions. These intense sessions aren't for another two months or so but it's good to feel like I'm being proactive in my study.

On my day off (Friday), I headed into uni to do some OSCE practice with a friend. For those who don't know, OSCEs are practical, timed exams with stations where we have to examine or take a history from a patient (for example). I definitely think I deserved a medal for going into uni on my day off so I'm rewarding myself today by baking a cake and a loaf of bread! :)


How has your week been?

22 Jan 2015

how I blog: the environment, editorial calendar & process

Blogging, for me, is a hobby that I do from the comfort of my own home. It's done at the same desk where I study and on the same machine I use for my university work. It is something that requires a lot of dedication and organisation because I am aware that it can be a distraction that may have a detrimental effect on my study. Anyway, in this post, I thought I would share how I blog: the environment, how I write blog posts and also how I plan when the posts go live.

Before I begin, I just want to say that these pictures were taken on two separate occasions, hence the different tags in them.

The Desk

My desk is an Ikea one that is actually a dining table. It is large enough to fit my laptop, but also has enough space for all my notes and textbooks, etc for when I want to study. When I blog, I like to have some music in the background, pens and the 'blog calendar' out.


Dedicating Blogging Time

In my diary, I will schedule in when I will do blog-related things. These activities can include tweaking the layout ever so slightly, replying to blog emails, writing and drafting blog posts, taking pictures and editing them to sitting down and generating ideas or going through previously generated ideas to see if I can make something of them. I can quite easily lose three to four hours to blogging on each occasion!


Planning The Post

In the next picture, you'll see how I wrote the blog post on the Ren Hot Cloth Cleanser I reviewed last year. Quite often, in the early stages of a blog post, there will only be three to-dos for a blog post: plan, pictures and draft. Sometimes, I want to go into more detail and plan the draft before any writing and that's what happened on this occasion. Breaking down a blog post can make it easier to stay focussed on the message you're trying to convey and it also keeps your thoughts ordered too.


Determining When The Post Goes Live

Last year, I opted to use a linear approach to plan when my blog posts would go live but then I decided to print some A4 monthly calendars off from The Tom Cat Studio to plan more efficiently. This allowed me to plan blog posts so that they went live in a more even manner. I tried colour coding the blog posts (according to topic) but that didn't last long as I forgot what each colour stood for! I just try and ensure that I don't blog about a similar topic twice in a row and this monthly blog planner allows me to do just that.


Although this is quite a short tour through how I blog, it covers the basics of what happens to each blog post from start to finish. As blogging is a thing I do for a hobby, I need to stay organised in order to carry on enjoying it because it will feel like a chore otherwise. I know that doesn't make sense but staying organised means that I don't have to worry that I don't have a blog post drafted for the coming week or that I have to be constantly generating ideas because I have set times that are dedicated to this blog - and they are usually quite productive.

I go through phases where I come up with ten or twelve blog posts and I will write them all in one go - but then I'll schedule them so that they trickle through slowly onto the blog itself. This also means I go through phases of 'blogger's block' where I can't come up with any good ideas for a good week or two but the fact that I have scheduled posts take the pressure off ever so slightly.

20 Jan 2015

book review: paper towns by john green

John Green is an author that made me cry with The Fault In Our Stars and as a result, it took me some time before I could read another novel of his (in a good way)! I chose Paper Towns to read next as back in 2013, I read quite a number of sparkling reviews for it.

Image credit: John Green Books
Paper Towns is a story about a boy called Quentin and the girl next door, Margo, who was his best friend when they were growing up. The story is told from Quentin's point of view and is essentially about Quentin trying to track down Margo after she goes missing. Conveniently, she leaves behind some clues for him to decipher.

 The official blurb, as taken from Amazon.co.uk, says this:

"Quentin Jacobsen has always loved Margo Roth Spiegelman, for Margo (and her adventures) are the stuff of legend at their high school. So when she one day climbs through his window and summons him on an all-night road trip of revenge he cannot help but follow. 

 But the next day Margo doesn't come to school and a week later she is still missing. Q soon learns that there are clues in her disappearance . . . and they are for him. But as he gets deeper into the mystery - culminating in another awesome road trip across America - he becomes less sure of who and what he is looking for."

Reading this book wasn't as emotionally investing as The Fault In Our Stars and in my opinion, it wasn't as enthralling a read either. At no point did I feel like I was eager to know what was going to happen next - I felt like I was reading it for the sake of finishing a book.

My interpretation of the main message is that 'who can be sure who someone else is?' because everyone's interpretation of Margo in the book is different and no one can agree on where she could be or why she disappeared in the first place. And can how we see someone else be a reflection on ourselves and our ideals? Obviously, yes, but the book kind of explores that.

However, you might interpret the book differently and I think that is why the book has had such positive reviews - it is a mainstream book with an individual appeal. Overall, I give this book a 5/10 as, in all honesty, I found it a bit lame and the way it was written just didn't appeal to me - though that could be an age thing rather than a book thing.

Have you read Paper Towns and if so, how did you find it? Am I being too harsh (possibly!)?

18 Jan 2015

my week #144

This was my first week of my General Practice placement and I'm definitely enjoying it more than I thought I would. The doctors and staff at the surgery are nice and really willing to teach so I've learnt a fair bit so far and the 9:30am starts aren't too bad either!

Apologies for this week - it's pretty messy and a lot has been blurred out but at least my planner's being used, eh?!


How has your week been?

15 Jan 2015

books read in 2014

My aim at the end of 2013 was to read twenty-six books in 2014 but this changed to fourteen books within two weeks. This second goal was accomplished by the end of August so I revised this goal to twenty books. Again, this goal was reached by October time so my new goal was back to the original twenty-six books.

Considering at the end of June, I was only on seven books, to have this, seemingly, exponentially increase in number to fourteen two months later is a sign that I must have read books that were really good.


Here is the list at the end of the year:


I finished every book that I started with the exception of That Summer by Sarah Dessen which I just found boring and so was unable to carry on reading. It seemed to have no plot and I got 25% of the way through before I put it down for good.

In 2014, I don't think I was particularly good at reading books from a variety of genres but then again, I've never really been a sci-fi sort of girl, for example. Although I stuck to genres that I knew I would enjoy reading, I still found plenty of books to keep me and my Kindle preoccupied and full respectively.

Considering I was ridiculously busy throughout the whole of 2014 (no rest for the wicked, eh) and I still managed to read 29 books (I put down Landline for a while to read My True Love Gave To Me - which I finished on the 30th of December!), I think I can set a goal of thirty books for 2015 and have a shot at achieving it (or at least try to!). I've already set up a 'to read' list in my 2015 planner and I am continuously adding to it - any suggestions for young adult, slushy chicklit type books, do let me know in the comments - most of the books I read are from suggestions from you guys through comments or on Twitter or ones that are featured on your blogs!


Are any of you doing a book challenge this year? If so, please let me know as I would like to do one but have yet to find one that piques my interest :)

13 Jan 2015

review & giveaway: staedtler triplus fineliners

On Thursday, I introduced these fineliners in a post about planning a project and today, I will review them. To find out more about them, click here.

First Impressions

My first impression was 'woah, so many colours' and in a good way. Muji gels only come in about 18 colours (that was the maximum they ever did quite a number of years ago if I remember correctly) and most pens don't usually come in varying shades of green, pink, purple and blue! I love the variety and I loved being able to go from a darker shade to a lighter shade - as you would've seen in my previous post about these pens. They also look delightful in a pen pot.


Comfort and Usability

The triangular prism shape and the plastic barrel don't sound like a recipe for a comfortable pen. However, they are actually quite nice to hold - in the past, I've used one for an hour straight (in an exam) and it was fine but the thin barrel might make it harder for those with bigger hands to hold. I think a rubber grip would ruin the aesthetic appeal of these pens so I think the design is fine the way it is.

Pen Test


The different shades mean that vague terms such as 'blue' can take on a whole new meaning - did you mean sky blue? Or deep sea blue? Or royal blue? 

The pens were lovely to use and flowed very well. The pigment is brilliant - you can definitely tell each shade is different and no two shades are too similar, rendering one redundant. 

Longevity

I actually have some of these pens from around 2006/07 and they still haven't dried out! If you look after them - putting the cap back on after use, etc - they will last you a good number of years. The nibs don't become lax, and thus broader, unless you put considerable pressure on them and the barrel is able to withstand daily use.

Overall, I do like these pens. Fineliners aren't great if you're using thin paper that is probably better suited for nose blowing and I've never had an issue with 80gsm paper - I do think 80gsm has to be the minimum for fineliners. These Staedtler Triplus Fineliners come in packs of various sizes including 4, 6, 10 and 20.

So, how would you like to win a set for yourself?

I have five sets of these to giveaway. By entering this competition, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway Terms and Conditions

1. The giveaway is hosted by Angela at Paper Lovestory in conjunction with Staedtler.

2. If you win, you are agreeing for your mailing address to be given to Staedtler so that your prize can be posted to you. If I don't receive your mailing address within seven days of the competition close, I will draw another winner.

3. This competition is open to those 16 years of age or over. If you are under this age, you may enter only with your parents' consent.

4. The competition closes on the 28th of January 2015 at 00:00 hours. Any entries after this date will not be counted.

5. Only entries through the Rafflecopter engine above will be counted. 

6. Delivery of the prize is the responsibility of Staedtler - I take no responsibility for prizes lost in transit. 

7. The competition is open worldwide.

11 Jan 2015

my week #143

This week, I was flat-sitting for my sister which meant I had a much nicer (and shorter) commute to university than usual. It is also my last week of proper university (lectures, group work, etc) before I head off for my General Practice placement although, I still have another university-based block before my surgery placement in the summer. This only means that exams are getting ever closer and I have started my preparation already (hello, practice questions) so hopefully, I will be ok... Only time will tell!

It's been a busier week than usual as flat-sitting meant that I had to plan my meals out more carefully than usual as any leftovers will just end up going to waste.


How has your week been?

8 Jan 2015

planning a project with Staedtler triplus fineliners

I'm a planaholic. There, I said it. When it comes to university projects, my birthday and study schedule, I like to plan everything down to a T. I know that things don't always go as planned but to have a structure in my mind means that my level of stress lessens and that I'm not rushing around last minute to get everything done.

This year, I have a project that has its own dedicated six-week block and I have to come up with an idea myself and then implement it. That is, I can do the project on any subject that I wish and over the Christmas holidays, I spent some time thinking about what I wanted to do. Having already been in touch with a potential tutor at university, I have a vague idea of the direction I want to go in so I decided to plan out the six week block and also hone my idea.

With the aid of these Staedtler Triplus Fineliner pens, I have drawn up a mind-map of potential ideas and also made a rough timetable for the project itself.


Thirty different colours mean that colour coding is never an issue as it is near impossible to run out of colours and that I can utilise each colour and their shades without worrying about a lack of shades to choose from. In the mind map below, you can see that I've made each sub-area have a colour scheme. So in the top left, it is green, bottom left is blue, top right is pink and bottom right is red/orange. The colours go from dark to light in terms of shade. So the further you deviate from the centre of the mind map, the lighter the shade.


For the schedule, I really want to finish the project within four weeks rather than the six as it means that I can have a slightly longer summer holiday (I'd only get ten days otherwise!). I've colour coded each stage of the project - blue is data collection, orange is data collation, green is the essay and pink is the poster I have to produce. 


On Tuesday, I will be talking about these pens in more detail and will also be giving five sets away so sit tight!

Staedtler fineliners are pens that I've used throughout high school and university and though I do rave about Muji gel pens a lot, these fineliners are the ones that originally made me fall in love with adding colour to my notes and schoolwork. Fine nibs ensure that my work stays neat and on point whilst keeping that artistic feel and fineliners from Staedtler are always highly pigmented so you never have to worry about your work looking washed out.

You may have also seen this picture on my Instagram (paperl0vestory), and in it, I used the Staedtler Triplus fineliners too!



NB: this post was a collaboration with Staedtler. All content and views are still my own.

6 Jan 2015

review: less thingz planner

Sometimes, it's nice to try a product that's different to anything you've ever used before and that's why I decided to give the 2015 DAYZ planner by Less Thingz a chance. I'm aware of other desk diaries on the market and they all look similar - they either lie flat on the desk or are spiral bound, propped up by it's clever triangular prism shape.

Anyway, DAYZ by Less Thingz props up but does so via some clever folding but more on that later on in the post. First things first, design. The planner comes in a variety of colours and mine is dark grey with a red elastic - the red giving it that pop the minimalistic grey so desperately needs. I love how minimal the design is so far and am impressed with the quality - the grey card is very thick and the diary paper is pretty thick card too - I'd wager a guess that its at least 100gsm.


The diary comes with a card that essentially tells you, in a pictorial format, how to use the planner. It's all in German, as that's where the company is based but luckily, there's Google Translate to the rescue.


If you unfold the diary completely, it is basically several pieces of card subtly glued together and then folded at regular intervals. I have to admit that the design makes it quite fiddly to deal with - it took me quite some time before I got used to it! There is a weekly planner and also a yearly one that has all the German holidays on - not too useful for the rest of us, I guess!

The fact that there are two pieces of elastic confused me at first and it also means that one can sometimes get in the way once the planner is propped up. Maybe I'm just being dense but I can't figure out how to make it look neat!


The card is a lovely cream colour with the text in black with some red denoting the start of a new month and weekends.


I do love the concept of a foldable desk diary but having to undo the elastic on a fortnightly basis (or more often if things need to written in, in advance) would drive me crazy but we'll see how it goes. The quality is amazing - the card used is thick and takes fountain pen very well and I do like the dotted paper utilised. The font is minimalist (just how I like things) and the cream paper adds a nice, luxurious touch.

NB: Although I received these products as review samples, I have reviewed them just as I would have if I had paid for them.

4 Jan 2015

my week #142

So, this is my first week in my new bound planner. When I last used a bound planner, I never envisaged ever picking one up again but that was before I discovered that there were some cute, minimalistic Korean ones out there that might work better for me than my Moleskine did. That's not to say I won't ever try a Moleskine again - I might (never say never and all other similar clich├ęs would come in handy right now) but I'm really loving this planner by Seeso.

The paper is amazing - thick enough so that there is no show through but also thin enough to stop the planner from being as heavy as a thousand tonnes! The extra space also means I can write in more rubbish than ever before and that's exactly what I've done...


How was your first week in January? Did you set any resolutions?

1 Jan 2015

happy new year & 2014 review & 2015 resolutions

H A P P Y   N E W   Y E A R !

I hope you are all having a lovely festive period so far where your days are filled with too much food and laughter! Here is my 2014 review :)

2014 Review

I started 2014 in Hong Kong and landed back on UK soil on the 1st of January. I had a truly amazing time - seeing family and friends was lovely and the weather wasn't half bad either (during the day at least; it was freezing during the night!).


In April, I saw McBusted at the O2 with my sister and all of my teenage dreams came true. Two of my favourite bands from my teenage years together on one stage?!

In July, I finished my first year of medical school which was actually two years crammed into one. Unbelievably (at least to me), I passed with flying colours and actually enjoyed every moment of it. At the same time, I also acquired a summer job where I met some awesome people too - waitressing is hard work but it isn't dissimilar to what I'll be doing in a few years' time as a junior doctor (fingers crossed all exams go well!) - being perpetually on my feet, juggling a few tasks at the same time and providing excellent customer service are definitely transferable skills.

During 2014, I made some amazing new friends through starting a new course at university. Although my old friends are still amazing, I think I've added to my list of 'friends who I just about count as family now'.

2015 Resolutions

1) Relax more and stop being such a workaholic.

I can see the contrast between myself now and myself back in my first degree: in my first degree, I avoided work at all costs and in this one, I can't stop working. This is definitely a sign that I'm doing the right thing by being on this course but also means that I need to be careful in order to maintain a good work-life balance.

2) Spend more time with friends and widen my friendship circle.

During my first placement this autumn, I didn't see many of my closer friends as they were at different hospitals or were on a general practice placement. This meant that I missed them a whole lot but it also meant I made a lot of new friends and as a result, have widened my friendship circle considerably.

These are my only two resolutions for 2015 because I feel that too many will detract my focus from working to achieve these goals. This year, I've really valued the things in my life that money can't buy (friendship, success and hard work) and I hope to carry those on into 2015.

Once again, happy new year and I wish you all good health, a prosperous year and an amazing 2015 where you make many, many happy memories.