Highland ‘Coos’ and Deep Fried Mars Bars – 24 Hours in Edinburgh

Hello lovely people, here’s a surprise  – original non academic related material just for you! I’ve finished my second year of university this week so can’t wait to give my blog a little TLC for a while. So here you go: I ran a Twitter Poll a couple of weeks ago asking what people most wanted my next post to be about – and 75% of votes wanted to hear about mine and Josh’s recent weekend away in Edinburgh! It would be rude not to comply… But just before I get into reviewing our 24 hours in Edinburgh, I had a jam packed few days prior to this that I couldn’t leave without mentioning. (Feel free to skip this section if you wish).

Thursday 18th May was Loughborough’s annual Academic Awards and only a few days prior I had received an email informing me that I had been nominated and shortlisted for my work this year as a Programme Rep for my English course. I was completely elated and in a state of shock for a few days after, then realisation hit that I had to go to the awards ceremony. Fortunately my friend Livv was also nominated for her role on committee and our Department Chair, Kit, was also up for an award too.

I’d never been to such a posh event at Loughborough and we were seated with our Lecturers from English and served a three course meal which was delivered at points through the ceremony. I had such an incredible night, one of my best at university so far. Although both me and Livv missed out in our categories, we were over the moon that Kit received the recognition that she undoubtedly deserved for all her hard work this year!To top off the night we found out that the English and Drama department had come 5th out of 17 in department of the year (an even greater achievement as we possibly came 17th last year!)!! I couldn’t have been more proud of my little but fierce department and all the achievements we have celebrated this year ❤ ❤ ❤

Loughborough Academic Awards Shakespeare Ball

Now for a little fashion interlude. I wore the Boutique Aliza Lace Double Layer Skater Dress in Rose to the LAA’s from Boohoo Boutique – I dropped incredibly lucky as it’s no longer available in Rose and, at the current time of writing, there’s actually only one Navy dress left! Its not clear in the image above, but as the description states, the dress was made of two layers of lace, one much shorter one which just came down over the bust giving it a figuring enhancing shape.

In addition, the under-layer came in two sections, from neckline to waist and then from hip to hem which meant that the waistband was merely one layer of lace to enhance your waist which showed against the rose fabric. I kept referring to the hem as a ‘mullet’ as it was knee length at the front then calf length at the back! I adored this dress as it was a little different from what I’d usually wear and it was surprisingly comfortable so despite the amount of standing ovations and trips to the stage throughout the night, I left looking as fresh as when I got dressed (first time for everything)

The second outfit here was from the following day (don’t know how celebrities do one event after another each day!) was my Lace Cold Shoulder Dress from Oasis which I wore to the Shakespeare Society Summer Ball and, I’m not going beat about the bush here, it’s quite possible my ultimate dream dress. No exaggeration! I tend to favour the vintage classy lace look when it comes to evening dresses and have long had a love affair with pastels and baby blue. The scalloped hem gave me a seashell feel for the ball as this years theme was ‘The Tempest’ and the silk underskirt is just the right balance between figure hugging and still loose enough to feel like you can’t move all night! However the open shoulders Oasis have added to update this classic were what ultimately cemented my love. I’m very self conscious of my upper arms and bust but the neckline and ‘cold shoulder’ details left me feeling so confident and I certainly celebrated the end of term by dancing all night!


On reflection I should probably have done a separate post about the LAA’s and Shakespeare Ball, but as I only had these photos I felt it would be best to embed it into this post. Well done for persevering until this point – now onto Edinburgh!!

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The Scottish capital was somewhere I’d had on my must visit list for a couple of years now, however it’s not a particularly easy place to access from the East Midlands! I’d never been further north than the Lake District and had always planned on visiting the Edinburgh Fringe Festival at some stage and then exploring the city when there. However when I discovered that LSU Trips were running an overnight trip up to Scotland on a weekend where Josh was visiting, I threw my revision out of the window and booked us onto the trip. Only slight issue was the fact we had to be on the coach at 7am after a night out at the Shakespeare Ball so I wasn’t feeling particularly fresh for the 8 hour coach journey :))))

We arrived in Edinburgh after a couple of food stops at around 3ish and immediately dropped our stuff off at the hostel we were staying in, which was conveniently called ‘The Hostel: Edinburgh’ which was just opposite Haymarket train station and only a 20 minute walk into the centre of Edinburgh. I hadn’t stayed in a youth hostel since I went on a Geography field trip for my A Levels and that had been with a group of friends, so I was initially a little nervous about sharing a room with a bunch of strangers. Looking back now, its something I would definitely do again as the staff were incredibly friendly, the rooms were secure and clean and it was perfectly suitable for the student budget.

We left the hostel and walked along the main high street in the New Town area of Edinburgh from which we had gorgeous views of Edinburgh Castle towering above us on the right and also a fantastic view of Calton Hill peeking over the horizon. I’ll be very honest here, the weather was atrocious when we arrived and as we crossed over the bridge to the Old Town and The Royal Mile it begun to hail. We had to run for cover into an American diner restaurant called The Filling Station which in hindsight wasn’t the worst decision we’d ever had! I got quite upset about the fact that the trip I’d planned was going to be ruined by the weather but fortunately by the time we’d finished eating, The Royal Mile was basking in beautiful sunshine! Apparently its just unpredictable Scottish weather!

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We had the remainder of the afternoon to wander and explore the city. I’d read a couple of  travel blogs about the city and the top picks of where you should visit, but once we arrived I discounted this information in favour of exploring unaided to see what jewels we could uncover. We did have to take a visit to the Scotch Whisky Experience however as Josh had specified it was one of his conditions after the 8 hour coach journey. The gift shop had whisky older than both of us and price tags that would cover my annual rent :O We picked up souvenirs, just with significantly cheaper price tags!

We made our way down the remainder of the Royal Mile, stopping to look into local markets, to watch street artists, to have a well deserved drink and – of course – to try the much speculated about Scottish classic, The Deep Fried Mars Bar. Despite not looking particularly appetizing and potentially taking a few years off my life expectancy, it was absolutely gorgeous

In the evening, we trekked up to the top of Calton Hill from where we had stunning 360 degree views of the city as the sun went down. You could never have guessed from the photos that we’d had to duck into a restaurant to avoid a hailstorm several hours earlier. Despite my initial pessimistic outlook and upset earlier in the day due to my perfectionist tendencies, our first day was actually better than I could ever have expected.

We had Shanghai noodles for tea in what we thought was a little Chinese takeaway but it turned out to have a gorgeous rooftop restaurant and we had a beautiful view over the New Town as the sun set. Went for a drink with the rest of the group in a little pub opposite the hostel and then fell straight asleep – 8 hour coach trips do wonders for a good nights sleep. Even though we were sharing a room with sixteen others on Triple-Decker bunk-beds (I’m short, but wanted the top bunk – apparently it was funny to watch), I slept through everyone coming in and out of the room at night.

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The next day we had to check out of the hostel by 10am and the coach dropped us off at the base of Edinburgh Castle for another day of exploring. The uni had offered us an optional extra of booking a ticket for a guided tour around the castle but I hadn’t taken this up which part of me does regret now. I wanted to be able to explore the city at my own pace and didn’t particularly want to be tied down to certain times. It was a shame because I would have loved to see inside the castle and particularly the stunning views of the city; however I was glad we chose to explore in our own time.

In our final few hours we found ourselves strolling back up the Royal Mile unsure what there was that we hadn’t managed to cram into the trip. We were heading back up to the meeting point where our coach would pick us up and head home when we spotted a street artist offering quick caricatures and charcoal portraits. I don’t know what made me say yes when he offered: maybe it was because we hadn’t taken any photos of us on the trip to keep as memories; maybe it was out of sheer vanity and I really wanted to be drawn by a professional.

Either way he offered us a great rate to draw us both – it looks like we posed together but he actually drew us separately so I had to angle my head so it looked like I was leaning on Josh’s shoulder. I was incredibly impressed with how it turned out and even more amazed how well I think he captured Josh! Told him I actually find him more attractive in charcoal! 😉

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We were all so paranoid about missing the coach back down to Loughborough as no one particularly wanted to spend £100 on a train ticket, but thankfully we all made it back. Equipped with my new Highland ‘Coo’ slippers which we can all agree are adorable!
We got back to Loughborough around 11pm and I have never been so glad to get off a coach in my life. For an impromptu trip, this weekend turned out to be one of the best adventures I’ve had whilst at uni and I’m definitely hoping to go on more of the trips in the future.

I’m so glad I finally got a chance to visit the Scottish Capital because, as I said, it’d been on my list for many years. I hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post as much as I have reminiscing. You’ll know by now that I sort of use this blog as a place to write and record my adventures so I hoped you’ve enjoyed this post. As always let me know what you think in the comments below.  Thank you so much for reading!

Hannah

xxx

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Books vs Online Journals: Are We Compromising on Quality?

Hi guys! Here is the final installment of my academic assessment blog about Contemporary Cultures of Reading: Apps and Online Platforms. I must say that this has been an extremely interesting project to be part of and has taught me a number of things about the publishing industry but also about what people want to read on WordPress.

Just a quick side note before I begin: My initial worry with starting a public blog came from my fear that the community would be exactly like high school – no one would care unless you looked a certain way or said the right things. I admit in the past a few of my posts have conformed to my ideas about what I should be blogging about as opposed to what I actually wanted to blog about. I don’t have the kind of money to splash on designer clothes hauls and I actually don’t really want to do that. Yes I have an interest in fashion and at some stage that may feature on here – but only if I want to, not because I believe that’s what every (no longer) teenage girl blog should be about.

This project has allowed me to see that people actually engage best when I give them a topic to ponder. I’ve had so many positive comments engaging with the content and I believe I’m starting to find my feet as a blogger now – but my own definition of a blogger instead of what I believe people wanted to see.  I hope you enjoy this one as much as the rest!


The world of the online journal is still one that is relatively new to the world of academia. Even when my mum was studying for her degree towards the close of the 1980s, the idea of accessing academic information that wasn’t provided in a book or serial would have been an alien concept. This got me thinking about a much deeper question concerning the depths and quality of education. Before the days of the internet, undergraduates would be confined to using the material located within their university libraries; maybe once every so often you would be able to request a paper from a different institute to your own and have it posted to you.

Nowadays through internet databases we are granted immediate access to work completed by academics in America or New Zealand through a few simple clicks. A question that I, somewhat bravely, posed to my lecturer the other day was: “Does that mean that the undergraduates of today possess an ability to gain an arguably better and broader knowledge of their subject than the scholars of the days before the internet?” We certainly have the opportunities to access material that they did not at undergraduate level.

Yet is the information provided in online journal articles of a higher quality than that located in book chapters? Or does the ease of locating the text we’re after by searching key words in a PDF just another example of how we’re becoming lazy now that the internet can do half of the leg work for us?

I should begin by outlining the key differences between chapters published in an academic book and an online academic journal. Physical hard copies of books will always be required in academia as they lay the foundations of the works we must study. For example, someone on an English degree such as myself will undoubtedly encounter critical theory at some stage throughout their degree so maybe a knowledge of the key teachings of Sigmund Freud or Karl Marx would be key to gain the basic knowledge behind the theory. However, sometimes academics prefer their students to rely more on journal articles as they contain current research and up to date findings[1].

Academic books can also cover broader topics than a journal articles as they are given the breadth needed to expand on smaller ideas. However, to pen a full book can actually encompass a researcher’s lifelong work as opposed to a much smaller research article within a published journal article. Is it the case that the medium in which the information is published is chosen based on this? And does this necessarily mean that the information found in one format is better than the other?

One way in which we can attempt to resolve this debate is to consider the number of citations within academic authorship from book chapters, reviewed articles and scientific articles. The general rule of thumb is that a piece of academic work with a higher citation number is more than likely worth reading; whether that be to engage with or argue against a reference. However, is the accessibility of these works detrimental when it comes to citations? Are we potentially missing out on fantastic research because of the ease of logging into JSTOR or ProQuest?

This is demonstrated by Kent Anderson who cited the findings an Oxford Professor, Dorothy Bishop, in an article entitled: ‘Bury Your Writing – Why Do Academic Book Chapters Fail to Generate Citations?’ Within this article, he discovers that Bishop was surprised with her findings: ‘While she expected a difference between scientific articles and book chapters, she was surprised to find a large difference between review articles and book chapters — after all, book chapters are akin to review articles, just published in a thematic book rather than a subject-area journal’[2]

She then continues by focusing in on book chapters and hypothesising her reasons why she believes they are suffering compared to the journal articles: ‘there are three things that determine if a paper gets noticed: it needs to be tagged so that it will be found on a computer search, it needs to be accessible and not locked behind a paywall, and it needs to be well-written and interesting.’[3] From this we can judge that the main problem here concerns accessibility and circulation. Whereas journal articles can be retrieved through a number of keywords entered into a search engine, books remain in a sort of ‘packaging shell’[4] and therefore the content of their chapters are harder to access.

An additional problem concerning accessibility of material that we must consider is the fact that journals are broadcast to the public on a regularly basis as opposed to books. A publishing company may spend thousands on an initial marketing campaign for a book, yet once that is over then that’s it – it is assumed that you just know about it. Whereas journals can be marketed in several different ways such as through a subscription to an academic magazine. It is also an (slightly) easier process to get a journal article published than a chapter in a book and publication of lots of articles will increase your digital footprint and therefore attract more people to your profile of work.

This is a debate that will never have a straightforward answer as the question appears to be relatively subjective. We cannot ever say that one is better than the other or that one contains a higher calibre of material because that is ultimately down to the author as opposed to the medium. From a personal perspective, when constructing academic essays I always begin by scouring the physical texts from the university library. I couldn’t tell you why; although it certainly is not because I believe they contain a higher quality material than online journals. This is probably because I’m slightly overwhelmed with the access to online journals here at university and I really don’t know where to begin! At least with a physical library you are pointed to a specific shelf where information relating to your essay subject can be found.

I also tend to use books when writing about a specific literary movement, theory or text. However when I am looking to engage or argue with an opinion about said subject I will consult online journals for the ease of locating that specific niche argument. It seems as if I’m guilty of my own argument here! As I have previously stated, I don’t feel that you can collectively put all physical texts and online journals together and make a conclusion as to which is more useful. It ultimately comes down to your own ability as a researcher to compile the most relevant and highest quality sources relating to what you wish to say. From wherever they may be accessed from.

[1][Anon], ‘Research & Course Guides: Books Vs Journals in the Social Sciences: Getting Started’, Libguides.Stthomas.Edu, 2016 <http://libguides.stthomas.edu/journalsbooks&gt; [accessed 15 May 2017] (para 2 of 3).

[2] Kent Anderson, ‘Bury Your Writing – Why Do Academic Book Chapters Fail To Generate Citations? – The Scholarly Kitchen’, The Scholarly Kitchen, 2012 <https://scholarlykitchen.sspnet.org/2012/08/28/bury-your-writing-why-do-academic-book-chapters-fail-to-generate-citations/&gt; [accessed 14 May 2017] (para 4 of 18).

[3] Anderson, ‘Bury Your Writing – Why Do Academic Book Chapters Fail To Generate Citations? – The Scholarly Kitchen’ (para 9 of 18).

[4] Anderson, ‘Bury Your Writing – Why Do Academic Book Chapters Fail To Generate Citations? – The Scholarly Kitchen’ (para 13 of 18).


Hannah

xxx

The ‘Three Click’ Society

We live in the generation of the ‘three click society’. This refers to the average amount of time it takes a person to find the information they are searching for on the internet. Apps deliver Breaking News Alerts. New Releases from an author are documented in a Facebook Event. You can be sure that the book you need to read for your seminar tomorrow has been reviewed in some far off corner of the internet and features at least a loose plot synopsis.

Whilst I was growing up, my grandad used to subscribe to newspapers and magazines which released fortnightly copies of an Encyclopaedia or a classic novel which allowed me to grow both my love of literature, but also to build an essential information source which I still refer to today. Finding what you needed was admittedly time consuming, but the sources were no less relevant than those used today. This might seem an alien prospect this side of the twenty-first century but this emphasises the extent that the internet has taken over our lives within the past two decades.

Studies have revealed that people believe that the hectic rush of modern day lifestyles means that they simply don’t have the time to read a full novel. In between working, looking after others and all of the other mundane duties which contribute to daily life, they believe that there are too few hours remaining in order to become fully immersed in a book. Personally I believe this to be untrue; the truth is more likely to be we are too lazy to attribute our precious few free hours into a task which requires brainpower – people would much rather be spoon fed knowledge they want at a fraction of the time.

Recently a Twitter Account was activated which specialised in shortening book summaries down into a 140 character limit Tweet. One such summary of Charles Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ has been shortened to: ‘Orphan given £££ by secret follower. He thinks it’s @misshavisham but it turns out to be @magwitch’[1] A variety of writers have expressed their opinions on this subject with Matthew Moore believing that: ‘the haiku-like brevity of the synopses will appeal to modern readers more accustomed to skimming their emails than working through 600-word tome.’[2] He believes that this format is now more appealing to modern day readers, yet I can’t help but wonder whether this conformity is assisting in the ongoing struggle between dedicating quality time to curling up with a story or spending an hour scrolling through Kendall Jenner’s Instagram feed.

The internet is an undeniable force to be reckoned with and cannot be ignored. The plethora of information made available within a few clicks is something we simply did not have access to in years gone by. Though despite its uses, it appears that this ease of access is over-riding old fashioned paper back knowledge, especially with the younger generations. This is something I personally find extremely sad and do feel a sad twinge any time a child is passed an IPad with an interactive game or video instead of a book. A recent survey of around 400 secondary school English teachers indicated their opinions as to why they believe that primary school children prefer the internet to reading a book:

“Two thirds of those questioned said that reading is not seen as “cool” by pupils, according to the poll by Pearson … And three quarters (77%) say that children’s attention spans are shorter than ever before, while 94% said that pupils prefer to be using the internet rather than reading … The poll reveals that teachers believe parents are not doing enough to help – 97% said parents should be encouraging their child to read more … And three in four (74%) believed that pupils do not spend enough time reading outside the classroom.”[3]

To support this argument, you could utilise statistics showing the decline of paperback production throughout the years alongside surveys which indicate the average daily time people spend surfing the internet on their different types of technology. However, trends indicate that the production of paperbacks have not encountered a significant decrease to enable us to state this case. Holly Beattie points out that, ‘”…although there has been a decline in newspaper readership over the past few years due to the introduction of new technologies, there is still a great demand for the continuing production of books and newspapers.”’[4] She then continues by mentioning the rise of the e-reader and whether this form of technology has proved more popular than the traditional paperback: “Through talking to other young people I’ve learnt that they do in fact enjoy the process of reading a paper book compared to finding information on the internet or reading on a Kindle.[5]

However this findings do not indicate laziness – reading a story on an e-reader such as a Kindle is equivalent to reading a paperback in terms of time spent. The most effective way of seeing this would be to consider newspaper readership. As aforementioned, this has declined within recent years, possibly due to the three clicks that mean you can find the stories that interest you on your tablet without having to go through three spreadsheet pages about the budget deficit.  So maybe this is about convenience rather than laziness? Maybe giving your child an iPad to watch a Peppa Pig video to keep her quiet whilst you chat with your friends rather than an interactive book or some colouring is the best way to parent nowadays (who am I to comment?).

Either way, you can be sure you’ll know where to find me on a quiet Sunday afternoon. And you can be sure it won’t be scrolling through Daily Mail Online.

[1] Matthew Moore, ‘Twitter: Great Works of Literature Shortened Into Tweets’, The Telegraph, 11th May 2009 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/twitter/5309001/Twitter-Great-works-of-literature-shortened-into-tweets.html&gt; [accessed 20th April 2017] (para 15 of 21).

[2] Moore, ‘Twitter: Great Works of Literature Shortened into Tweets’ (para. 2 of 21).

[3] [Anon], ‘Primary School Children Prefer Internet to Reading, Warn Teachers’, Young Voices: Huffington Post, 20th August 2012 <http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2012/06/20/primary-school-children-prefer-internet-to-reading_n_1612528.html&gt; [accessed 20th April 2017] (para 5 of 16).

[4]  Holly Beattie, ‘Young Reporter: Is The Internet Making Us Lazy?’ The Grimsby Telegraph, 11th January 2014 <http://www.grimsbytelegraph.co.uk/young-reporter-internet-making-lazy/story-20430815-detail/story.html&gt; [accessed 18th April 2017] (para 12 of 20).

[5] Beattie, ‘Young Reporter: Is The Internet Making Us Lazy?’ (para 14 of 20).


This was another post straight over from my assessment blog at university – it’s very different from what I usually write but I did find it incredibly interesting to research. Let me know what you think!

Hannah

xxx

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My Easter Bookshelf

This was one of my favourite posts to create last summer and, now that I’ve had a little bit of spare time, I couldn’t wait to compile a new collection. It’s a common complaint for an English student to have; I spend so much time reading (or not reading) course material and critical views that I have an ever-growing pile of books in my room that I want to read but can’t justify reading whilst I should be reading Austen!

Fortunately,  the Easter break fell just after my birthday this year and – knowing me well – my friends and family gifted me with Waterstones vouchers galore. This meant I could finally go and replenish my stocks and cram the shelves of my beautiful handmade bookcase to the brim (s/o Josh who decided to do a ‘tongue-in-cheek’ review of each of my posts after I got upset that he showed no interested in my writing. He refused to let me publish them but in all fairness, he did make an incredible bookcase!)

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So without any further ado, lets get to it. Here are the books I’ve been loving, piling up and can’t wait to get stuck into over this Easter!

The Muse – Jessie Burton

To emphasise the last time I was able to sit down and become fully immersed in a book, this book was included in my summer wishlist last year! I initially purchased this after tearing through Burton’s debut, ‘The Miniaturist’, in three sittings it was so gripping! I was eager to try Burton’s follow up novel which presents a dual narrative set in 1967 London and 1936 pre Civil War Spain. Burton expertly interweaves the two stories of a young woman from Trinidad with a desire to become a writer, and a 19 year old painter who conceals her talent from her family. Although initially sceptical about the amount of content it seemed that she was taking on, Burton certainly replicates – if not betters – her work with ‘The Miniaturist’ and excelled my already high expectations!

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The Pier Falls – Mark Haddon

There were a couple of reasons why I picked this book up. The first of these was, once again, based on the name of the author. Arguably Haddon’s most prolific work of recent years was ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time’. Another was that it is a compilation of short stories which is a medium that I’m currently being assessed on in a Creative Writing Module at University. I’ve been struggling with this form as I’m not blessed with the art of being concise. The namesake piece was undoubtedly one of my favourites with a stunning painting of ensuing carnage effortlessly unfolding, but I also enjoyed others such as “Bunny” and “Breathe”. The stories are short enough to read each one is a sitting and the collection has definitely helped me in the construction of my own stories; you can certainly ‘pack a punch’ with a short narrative!

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Vinegar Girl – Anne Tyler

This is a book I’ve been circling around the edges of for a while now and never knowing whether to purchase or not. ‘Vinegar Girl’ is part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series which is a project that aspires to present Shakespeare’s works retold by acclaimed and bestselling novelists of today and retells the classic story of ‘The Taming of the Shrew’.
Tyler tackles bringing the story forward into a 21st century setting by making it more relevant; the protagonist Kate is forced into a green-card arrangement for marriage as opposed to for financial benefits. She retains the wit from the original and has possibly brought about a new wave of readers being exposed to this wonderful story. I still adore the original though; any writer updating Shakespeare is always going to have to be spot on to appease my cynical judgement. That being said, this is a series that I’m very excited about, especially with Jo Nesbo releasing his retelling of Macbeth in 2018 and Gillian Flynn exploring Hamlet; to be (or not to be!) released in 2021.

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The Versions of Us – Laura Barnett

By now you might be starting to gauge the varied types of book that I like to read. Whereas I’m not a particular fan of the ‘chic-lit’ genre, I am a sucker for a good romantic story from time to time. This book caught my eye as it seemed romantic but not stomach churning-ly slushy, and there was also a twist. The story follows three separate strands: in one, Eva and Jim meet at university and fall in love; in the second they just miss each other during a chance encounter; in the third they meet but it all goes terribly wrong.
Admittedly, this can become confusing to keep up with at stages: though in physical form you could read all of Version One and so on together then read another version I suppose. It’s a story about chance encounters and the choices we make that could have potentially very different paths. One review claimed it was a cross between two of my favourite novels: One Day by David Nicholls and Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, and this seems a perfect assertion. It’s almost like one of those ‘choose your own path through the story’ texts.

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All the Light We Cannot See – Anthony Doerr 

This is a book that, although I haven’t managed to get all the way through yet, comes from my number one trusted source of recommendation – my mum. I remember her reading this book and tearing through it within a few days because she was so engrossed. I’m waiting for a time where I have a few empty days because I feel as if I won’t want to read a chapter a night with this book!
‘All the Light We Cannot See tells the story of a young blind French girl and an orphaned German boy set between these countries in 1934. Marie-Laure’s father is an inventor who creates a miniature model of Paris for the girl from which she learns how to navigate through her home city.  The boy, Werner Pfennig, has a talent for science and in particular the workings of radios. This brings him to the attention of the Nazis who send him away to be trained to become one of the ‘elite’. You know that these two narratives will eventually meet up at some stage in the book and it can be initially puzzling to find a link. Personally, I’m a fan of the post-modern non-linear structure utilised by so many authors today although my mum isn’t as keen. I can’t wait to get into this novel!

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The Bricks that Built the Houses – Kate Tempest

This one is also a little different from the usual books that I buy. Although this is Kate Tempest’s debut novel, she’s actually an acclaimed poet, playwright and rapper who released an album Everybody Down which was shortlisted for the Mercury Music Prize and this novel is seen as a companion piece to her work. Similarly to ‘The Pier Falls’, I thought that this would be an interesting read to benefit my own creative work, especially the way in which Tempest emphasises on word sounds and the power of language. The novel follows three characters through the ‘under-belly’ of London; not shying away from realistic depictions of our capital. My only negative thought with the novel is that you can’t help feeling that the visual descriptions would be more suited to a stage performance or in her usual form of spoken word.

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Ireland and Italy – Rough Guides

I’m going to round up with a slightly different sort of book to the others on my list. Like most people my age, now I’ve gained independence and grown in confidence (plus the fact I have a decent income from a variety of part time work), I want to explore new places and travel to countries that I’ve always had a desire to visit. My attention was first drawn to the Rough Guides Travel Series during presentations in a Publishing Module last year. To date, over 200 different destinations have been covered in guides that aim to strike the balance between students travelling on a budget and tedious long winded descriptions of culture across 600 pages.

The books cover everything from street maps, transport, accommodation recommendations and the details of places to eat to cover any budget. Each destination is sub divided into chapters according to location and then focuses in on ‘Top Picks’ that you must see alongside historical and cultural details scattered throughout. Everything you could possibly need you can find in these texts.

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I currently own two Rough Guides: A Guide to Italy and A Guide to Ireland. The first I purchased as it is on my bucket list to create my own tour through the beautiful Italian countryside and visit some of the major cities at some stage in my life; personally I’d like to go inter-railing on this trip to celebrate my 21st birthday next year – we’ll have to see!
The latter text I purchased the other day as my boyfriend and I will be going on holiday to Dublin at the beginning of the summer. We’re both very excited about this as it’s the first time we’ve been abroad together so we’re started relatively near to home as I’ve always wanted to visit Ireland and Josh used to live there. We’ve found some fantastic student deals and some fantastic cheap excursions – in particular one to the Giant’s Causeway, so look out for an impending blog post about that!

Thank you so much for reading! As always, feel free to leave me any comments below of your thoughts and opinions of these books or any that you yourself are loving at the moment!
Hannah

xxx

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The whole ‘adult’ thing

Hello lovely people.  I realised that although I’m constantly updating and messing around with the layout and graphics of this blog I haven’t actually written any original content for a long while 😦 It’s currently Easter which means I’m resting and recuperating from my busiest term yet and also churning out academic, paid and volunteer articles at every given moment. Therefore I thought I’d keep the flow of traffic on my personal blog strong by sharing a recent post about something I’ve been up to – signing a contract for my first student house. Though this article should have been called ‘How to avoid getting screwed over by every landlord in the Loughborough Area’. Hope you enjoy and I’ll be back very soon!


So then, March came around quicker than I would have liked. Other than signally that I’m now half way through my degree after receiving my semester one marks, at the end of this month I’ll be officially leaving my teenage years behind. This is something that I’m very much in denial about as I would have expected to have figured out the whole ‘adult thing’ by now. Safe to say, I still don’t have a clue.

Continuing with the theme of pretending to be an adult, last month my friends and I signed a contract on a house for our third year. This is especially exciting for me as it’ll be the first time at university that I’ve lived with my friends in a house away from campus as I chose to move back into halls for my second year. Initially, I had succumbed to the ‘fear-mongering’ campaigns that most estate agents use to prey on naïve freshers. Combine this with three excited girls who fell in love with an extortionately priced but extremely pretty house that would have cost way more than my student loan. Retrospectively, we made the best decision both financially and for the sake of my sanity with the amount of extra work shifts I’d have had to undertake to fund my living costs.

Most returning students choose to live out in town as it can be cheaper than university halls, gives them more freedom and space and means they can choose who to share a kitchen (and more importantly, a bathroom) with. However, Loughborough offers all students the opportunity to return to halls at any stage of their degree – approximately 30% of all the university accommodation rooms are allocated to returning students. As well as moving back into halls there is the option to request to live in the same flat as your friends (only returning students can do this). One bonus of this is that you get your utilities included within the hall costs so there’s no feeling of shame when you leave your phone charging overnight and end up raising the electric bill for the entire house.

For any advice or concerns you have about your current accommodation or how to go about finding a property for second or third year, there is the Student Accommodation Centre which is situated in the middle of campus. Each year they publish a list of approved private accommodation from accredited landlords. They also encourage you set up an account at www.lborostudentpad.co.uk where you can create a shortlist of properties ranging from one bed flats to seven bed houses, sometimes more.

You can also take any issues you are having with a current or prospective landlord to them for advice; they will even look a contract for you to determine if there are any issues you should raise before signing. There is also a brochure widely circulated around campus from the Student Advice and Support Service called ‘The big guide to living off-campus’. The guide contains everything from the initial house hunting process, navigating through contracts and deposits to moving into your new home, how to deal with any problems that may arise and finally, ending your tenancy.

Most students tend to start house hunting before just before Christmas every year which is something which the university does discourage by running a ‘Don’t Rent Yet Campaign’. The general opinion is that the best houses will go first so there’s often a mad scramble to secure the best property. This was certainly what I thought in first year (my friends and I actually put down a £50 non-refundable holding fee on a property which we ended up changing our minds about) but landlords are more likely to offer you better deals and negotiations on summer rent the longer that you leave it before making a decision.

The other problem with renting before the Christmas of your first year is choosing people to live with. These may be the people you’ve bonded with since day one but
you’ve really only known them a few months. You’ll find you don’t really no anyone until you’ve had a fight over who’s clogged the kitchen sink, drunk the milk or forgotten to feed the pet fish (our contract says no large pets so…).

This year we left it a little later and started viewing properties at the beginning of Semester Two. We compiled a list of all the qualities we were searching for, for example, we wanted our bills to be included within the rent and we wanted to be quite close to our departments. I was also keen to rent with a private landlord as I’ve had better recommendations from friends as opposed to the horror stories I’ve heard from friends renting with the bigger companies. We did view a selection of properties from different companies to make an unbiased judgement though.

We’ve ended up with a lovely house in a prime location with a landlord who one of us rented with this year and offered us fantastic deal. It’ll be a strange experience living so close to everyone next year, but I also know I’ll value the ease and comfort of having them around – especially during the stress of Final Year!

Hannah

xxx

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