Monday, 22 May 2017

Review: Black Widow by Chris Brookmyre

I had every intention of writing a post this week about my overall university experience, but since I only finished yesterday, I haven't really had a chance to process the fact that I have actually finished university forever. I really don't know how I feel about that yet.

As a result, I'm going to rely on my favourite subject instead - books. Finishing university means that I get to read all of my own books again, and I'm so excited.

Black Widow is not a book that I brought myself, it was a gift from my aunt, and therefore I knew absolutely nothing about it. I've never personally heard of Chris Brookmyre, but from what I can tell, he is an extremely successful author, and I can see why. I really enjoyed this book. I'm very into detective fiction at the moment anyway, having finally moved on from the dystopian fiction hype that I was on a couple of years ago.

The detective in question here is Jack Parlabane, who has been in trouble in the past and therefore has to tread carefully when it comes to investigating cases, especially high-profile ones such as the case in this novel. It wasn't until I'd finished it that I discovered that Black Widow is actually the seventh Jack Parlabane novel, but this one works perfectly well as a stand-alone, and therefore I'll presume that all the others are too.

I thoroughly enjoyed this - the story didn't release all the information at once, it slowly worked up to the big reveal at the end, and therefore you feel a sense of completion and finality that you don't get with some detective novels. The story twisted and turned all the way through so the suspects kept changing, and when it eventually came together, it was brilliant.

Highly, highly recommend this. I will certainly be checking out the others in the series.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

How To: Meditation

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I've talked about this in the past, but I SWEAR by yoga and meditation. Without sounding too 'new-agey', I believe that it is a combination of these things that have completely changed my outlook on life.

Meditation is one of the most relaxing things you can do, but I think there is a big misconception about what it actually entails. One of the biggest misconceptions about meditation is that after your first session, you're meant to feel some sense of complete bliss and enlightenment. There is a lot of talk about 'getting it', as if there is one feeling that you HAVE to experience in order to meditate successfully. And this is not the case at all. There is no 'correct' way to meditate, and there's no right thing to feel during the process.

In theory, it's simple. Sit in a comfortable position, close your eyes, and clear your thoughts. And by that, I don't mean think of nothing. That is a literal impossibility for the majority of people. I mean just notice the thoughts that you have, and then let them pass. The trick is to not focus on anything in particular, just let thoughts come and go in your mind. The first few times you do it, you'll probably feel like it's a waste of time. Personally, I didn't feel much different after meditating for a long time. But meditation is one of those practices that benefits you over a long period of time. Even sitting and being still for as little as two minutes a day can benefit you long term. Do it last thing at night, before you go to sleep. Do it first thing in the morning, when you're getting ready for the day. It doesn't matter when you do it, the important thing is that you do. There are no downsides.

I'd recommend starting with guided meditations, to get into the swing of things. Just YouTube guided meditations or download the Headspace app, and start with just a ten minute session. Bear in mind that some of the ones you find on YouTube are a tad ridiculous and a tad too much, but make sure you find one that suits you.

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Sunday, 7 May 2017

A Letter To My Sister, On The Day She Moves Out

Dear Millie,

I can't quite believe you are moving out of our parents house, at the ripe old age of 18. And before me, no less. Well, sort of. Over the last eighteen months, you have grown-up so much, and become a proper little adult. I'm so proud of the person that you have become, and the direction you are taking. In some ways, I think you've always been more of a grown-up than me. You know what you want and you go for it, taking no prisoners in the meantime. You are stubborn in the best possible way, and I'm so happy that you get to move on to the next stage of your life. Enjoy this time together - life is too short to argue about furniture and colour schemes.

Millie, no matter how old you get or how far away you move, you'll always be my little sister.

Love N x

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Review: Silicone Makeup Blender

Yes, my Beauty Blender is a bit grim, hence why I've stopped using it!

Silicone makeup blenders are all the rage in the beauty community right now. There has been so much hype about them, claiming that they're the next 'miracle' beauty product after the success of the Beauty Blender makeup sponge that gained popularity at the end of last year.

They're so odd looking that curiosity got the better of me, and I brought one online for precisely £1.69. I had absolutely no intention of using it long term, and even if it was crap, it was so cheap that I wasn't gonna have a hissy fit about it.

They're so odd to see for the first time, that's for sure. I mean, it's literally just a clear... something. I don't even know how to describe it. But as a Beauty Blender user, I wasn't convinced at all. I decided to use it a couple of times just for the sake of seeing if it was any good, since everyone is raving about them right now.

There are several advantages to the silicone blender over the traditional sponge. For one thing, it's far easier to clean. You literally rinse it under running water and dry it off, and done. The sponges take bloody ages to clean, and even longer to dry. The other main advantage is that the silicone blender doesn't soak up any of the makeup product like the sponge does. I've never worn foundation in my life so I can't speak for that specifically, but I wear concealer under my eyes and I need far less of the product if I'm applying it with the silicone blender than I would if I was using the sponge.

When it comes to actually applying the product, I can't say that it's incredible. It does a good job, sure, but I wouldn't necessarily say that the application is any better than when done with the sponge, or even just your fingers.

Ultimately, it has won me over. I started off completely sceptical, but the advantages of it and the fact it's low maintenance makes it a winner for me. I've pretty much replaced my Beauty Blender with it, to be honest. Yay for silicone!

Check out the silicone makeup blenders here!
And the Beauty Blenders here!

Monday, 17 April 2017

Being Anxious vs. Having Anxiety

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If there is one thing that I have learned over the last couple of years, it's that there is a difference between feeling anxious and having anxiety. And I've found that too many people, young girls in particular, are using the two terms interchangeably, when they are actually two very different things.

Feeling anxious in some situations is a natural part of life. Anxiousness is one of a long range of emotions that human beings are capable of feeling, and many people feel anxious most days. This DOES NOT mean that you have anxiety. Feeling nervous before a class presentation or a job interview DOES NOT mean that you have anxiety. Feeling anxious before a flight, or before meeting a group of new people DOES NOT mean that you have anxiety. They are two VERY different things.

As someone who has anxiety, let me tell you, I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. There is no other feeling quite like it and unless you know how it feels, it's impossible to describe. I once described it to my boyfriend as feeling like I was drowning. It's feeling nothing and everything all at once. It does, of course, effect everyone differently, but I think everyone who suffers with it would tell you the same thing - it's one of the worst feelings in the entire world. Claiming to have anxiety when you don't does no one any favours, and pretending that you feel better than you do doesn't do you any good either.

I highly recommend yoga and meditation to help deal with it - I can honestly say that it's helped so much. And if you are in a dark period right now, don't lose hope. There is light at the end of the tunnel, I promise.

Sunday, 9 April 2017

5 Things I Learned While Writing My Dissertation

My dissertation is finally done and handed in and I have never been so relieved in my entire life. I worked so hard on it, and I'm really proud of the finished product. But now that I've had the opportunity to think back on the last nine-ish months, there are several things that I would do differently.

1) No matter how early you start, you will still panic about how much time you have
We were advised to start thinking about our dissertation in the summer after second year. This essentially gave us over a year to complete the work, but the majority of people didn't really start thinking about it until the beginning of third year, and didn't start writing it until after Christmas, which leaves very little time for breakdowns and freak-outs.

2) The detailed plan that I had at the beginning of the year is completely different to the piece of work that I actually handed in
The first idea that I had for my dissertation was to write about feminism within the Star Wars saga. I handed in 10 000 words about the gothic tropes of Harry Potter. Chances are, what you plan to write about and what you actually hand in will be two completely different things. And that's okay. It shows progression. If you hand in a piece of work that is identical to the plan you had six months before, chances are you haven't learnt anything from it. And if you haven't learnt anything from it, the person marking it won't either.

3) You need double the amount of research
If you thought researching a 2000 word essay was stressful, think again. Ideally, you should start researching as soon as you've got an idea, especially as that idea will evolve and change and most of your research will probably be irrelevant, as I learnt the hard way. You can't do too much research. The more you have, the better, because it means you can be selective about what goes into your final piece.

4) Ideally, you need to work on it every single day
This sounds ridiculous, but it's true. It doesn't have to be all day every day, but you should do SOMETHING on it every single day. Whether that's read an article or write 500 words, you should spend some time on your dissertation every single day.

5) Trying to edit as you go will cause you to have a mental breakdown
Your dissertation and specific focus will likely change every time you work on it, so trying to edit as you go is just a disaster waiting to happen. Your best bet is to just write and write and write until you have nothing left to say, and THEN edit to create this perfect document. Cutting down 12 000 words to 10 000 words will leave you with a much better product than trying to get up to the word count by adding in 100 words here and there.

Overall, I enjoyed writing my dissertation, but it's not something I would want to do again in a hurry. Ask any third year student and they will tell you the same thing - they are SICK of their topic and never want to look at it ever again. I can't say that's true for me - Harry Potter is and always will be my first love, but it has made me change the way I look at it. Pick a topic that you love and are genuinely interested in, and it will make the entire process so much easier.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Review: Beauty and the Beast

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I'm honestly finding it hard to form sentences. Beauty and the Beast is my all-time favourite film, and when I heard that they were doing a live-action remake, I was dubious. When I heard that they had cast Emma Watson as Belle, my six-year old self screamed, jumped up and down and did a little happy dance. My twenty-year old self then did the same thing.

I waited with bated breath, watched all the trailers, and counted down the days. I didn't see it on the opening night, but I finally watched it and IT WAS EVERYTHING I WANTED IT TO BE AND MORE.

I almost didn't want to see it because I knew that if it was awful, I would never be happy again. But it was AMAZING. Right from the opening scene, I had literal goosebumps. I was mesmerised. When it ended, I almost cried right then and there in the cinema. It was that good. Scene by scene, frame by frame compared to the original, it was perfect. Even the casting was amazing. Luke Evans as Gaston in particular was 10/10, everything that Gaston was supposed to be.

I could honestly sit here and write gushing things about this film forever, but ultimately, it was amazing and everyone should see it.