Wednesday, August 05, 2020

REVIEW: Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis

I have to be honest, it was the cover of Harrow Lake by Kat Ellis that had me intrigued.  I saw it on Netgalley and horror isn't really my jam but I was too tempted to pass this one by.  And you know what? It's become one of my biggest reading surprises of the year.

Harrow Lake has such a fantastic old-school horror film vibe to it.  Small town, old fashioned clothing, the creepiness in everyday items and places.  There's such a low-key creep factor to it that really builds throughout.  Despite it not being my usual reading material I found it really easy to fall into the story and into these characters.

Harrow Lake is a pretty unsettling place.  A small town that has been cut off from everything, not updated for decades and obsessed with the horror film that was filmed there and that made the town famous.  Our main character is Lola, who is the daughter of the film director who chose Harrow Lake as his film's setting and it's where her parents met, on set. 

But her mum has disappeared and when her dad is brutally attacked, Lola is sent to Harrow Lake to stay with her grandmother in this town that has not moved on.  I kind of loved how Lola doesn't really know who to trust or what to make of her grandmother and those she meets in Harrow Lake.  The jitterbugs in her mum's old room, the puppet in the town's museum, the abandoned sets used for the film all add different layers to how unsettling the book is.  I read bits of the Bone Tree out to my family and they were all suitably horrified.

I think my favourite thing about Harrow Lake, aside from how easily entertaining it is, is that it digs deeper than I was expecting into the buried secrets of their family, into those unanswered questions at the heart of Lola's and Harrow Lake's story.  And for that, I found this book utterly fascinating. 

Just, you know, keep an eye out - Mr. Jitters is coming.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

REVIEW: Camp by LC Rosen

Well, how good is Camp by LC Rosen? When I first saw the book on Netgalley, my first thought was 'I love the cover' and I still think it is very eye-catching. Then I saw it was written by LC Rosen and I recently read and loved Jack of Hearts (and Other Parts) by the same author so that piqued my interest. Then! I found this book is about queer teenagers who go to a summer camp specifically for a safe space to celebrate their queerness and that was it, I was sold.

The premise of Camp is such that readers must know from the outset that things will Go Wrong but I’m here for the journey so that didn’t bother me. So, Randy has been going to Camp Outland for years. He takes part in the summer musical, it’s where he’s met all his best friends and it’s where he fell in love-from-afar with Hudson. Hudson, who doesn’t even know Randy exists because Hudson only likes straight-acting masculine guys. So Randy has A Plan. This year, he’s come to camp with a total make-over. He’s cut his hair, lost weight and he’s trying out a new masculine look to woo the heart of Hudson.  He's even abandoning the musical in order to take part in all the sports activities that Hudson does.  He figures it'll be okay to just have cosmetic changes and it's not that bad because who he is inside is the same and if he stops wearing nail polish just until Hudson falls for him, that'll be okay, right?

Despite the inherent mess that the premise causes, what I loved about this book is the very idea of such a wonderful, supportive summer camp.  I love the idea of this safe space for queer teens who need a place to unwind and have fun without negativity or judgement.  I loved that this book included a wide representation of the LGBT+ community and that Randy’s friends support him but also question him like crazy about this (pretty dumb) plan.  I think that Camp is pretty focused on this relationship between Randy and Hudson but there is also a pretty great character development between these two main characters with each of them learning a great deal more about themselves and what they're about.  Randy's friendship group was another major strength of the novel though and I was living for them calling out Randy's behaviour throughout the book. 

I loved the exploration of toxic masculinity, internalised homophobia, and gender roles. I loved the core message of ‘be and love yourself’ I also loved that LGBT history is subtly woven through the story. Camp is definitely one to look out for!

Saturday, June 27, 2020

REVIEW: Boy Queen by George Lester

Well, what a lot of fun book Boy Queen by George Lester is! Thoroughly entertaining from start to finish. And I really had Thoughts and Opinions on some of the characters (one in particular no spoilers, promise) and at times I really just wanted to shake Robin, our main character and be all, 'girl, what's with all the lies?' So Robin is just turning 18 and he is surrounded himself with an incredible assortment of supportive people. His mum, his drama teacher, his dance teacher and his friends. I love how much support Robin has in his life. Also, as an aside, I loved his relationship with his mum so much.

 Robin doesn't have it all figured out, but he has his besties and he has this secret boyfriend, and Robin plans to go to drama school in London. But when he faces rejection after rejection for everywhere he applies, he goes through a bit of a tailspin...

Honestly, I just loved poor Robin. He's so ...talented and lacking in confidence. He's so awkward and he keeps telling lies instead of just talking to the people who love and care about him! The dialogue in this is hilarious because all of the characters are full of SASS, but I wanted it all.. There was some great messages about the importance of treating the people in your life like they are important and finding those things that make you stupidly happy, about picking yourself up after set-backs.

 I wanted Robin to get there quicker with his interest in drag after seeing a local drag show with his friends, not going to lie. Loved every bit of make up and high heels and the transformation of all-singing, all-dancing theatre nerd into on fire, confident Drag Queen. It was a joy to behold, as were the drag queens themselves, especially Kay Bye who shines as Robin's drag mum. This was George Lester's debut book and I cannot wait to read more by him.

Preorder Boy Queen now, or add it to your wish lists: publishing on 6th August. 

Friday, June 19, 2020

Mini-Reviews: The Great Godden, The Gravity of Us and Giant Days

The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff

I was really looking forward to reading The Great Godden by Meg Rosoff. I've really enjoyed her books in the past and the description of this one sounded really appealing - a big family spends the summer at their holiday house by the sea - and they're joined by these two boys, one of whom is the mysterious and charming Kit Godden and what follows is this summer of love. Everything about that appeals to me.  Summer, beach house, love.

 I thought The Great Godden was written really beautifully written as is to be expected from Meg Rosoff, and I loved the lazy, summer days and the quirks of this family. But certain elements of the book just didn't work for me as well.

 1) We are never told the name or gender of the main character. The reader, I guess, is left to make any conclusions on their own (as I did) but I don't think this worked very well.

 2) I think maybe my expectations of this book based on the description versus what actually happens within the story were vastly different which hampered my enjoyment of the book. This is more of a problem with me and my own expectations rather than anything within the book? 

 I didn't feel emotionally connected to the characters, to the story or to the relationships throughout. I think I just wanted more.


The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper

The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper was definitely an interesting read! I didn't know much about it going in besides the basics - a teenager with an online following is uprooted from NYC to Texas so that his dad can train as an astronaut for an upcoming mission to Mars and falls in love with another astronaut's son. But there was definitely a lot more to this one.

 There was a really interesting thread of science throughout this whole book and that was a really enjoyable aspect to the novel. Some of my favourite elements of The Gravity of Us included some background information that goes on behind the scenes at NASA.  I really wanted to know more about the dirt and how it's being analysed!

There was also the reality TV elements to the story which  showcased rather unfavourable sides to journalism but also explored some other types of media and attempted to make a point about what viewers want vs. what TV producers think viewers want. It was interesting though I wished the author had pulled back slightly on some of it. Some of it was a little heavy-handed and a subtler approach could possibly have worked better (for me).

On the whole I thought Cal and Leon's relationship was ADORABLE if slightly quick on the uptake. Cal was insufferably self-centred and messed up a lot but that felt realistic too and he at least owned up to his shitty behaviour and called himself on it within the text which I appreciated.

 More contemporary books with science-based themes, please! And more cute gay stories.


Giant Days by Non Pratt

I'm a huge fan of Non Pratt and I've loved everything by her that I've read. I always look forward to her books and as well as this e-book from Netgalley, I also own a signed paperback of this Giant Days. 

I've not read the graphic novels of which this book is based, but from this book it seems as though the graphic novels would be a lot of fun?

Giant Days tells this story of three friends, Esther, Susan and Daisy, as readers follow their adventures in university navigating school work, friendships, hobbies and relationships.

 I enjoyed Giant Days and really related to a lot of it - being unsure of mixing old friends with new, clinging to friendships that aren't as genuine as I'd like them to be, the uncertainty of new things, being away from home. It felt unusual to read a story like this one that explores this new world at university and was definitely a pleasant change from some of my usual reading. I absolutely wish there were more university-based stories.

I think the reason that I didn't enjoy this book as much as I'd have liked is that there seemed to be threads of story lines that were teased in this book (characters' sexuality, for example) that will probably be explored more in further volumes of the graphic novel and also the second half went into some territory that I didn't feel was relatable which felt jarring alongside all of the actual relatable university stuff.  Still, it was an enjoyable way to pass a few hours!

Thursday, June 18, 2020

REVIEW: Here Is the Beehive by Sarah Crossan

Well. I really adore Sarah Crossan's verse novels from young adults and I was excited to read something from her aimed at an adult audience. I was intrigued by the title, Here is the Beehive, and the cover is gorgeous. I think by this point, I might just be tempted by every verse novel going. 

Sarah Crossan has such an incredible skill of creating relatable characters with interesting relationships. And Here is the Beehive was such an emotional journey for me. Already it takes such skill to write a novel in verse, but I was amazed by how many surprises there were in this book, how I really came to know Ana and understand her decisions. Here is the Beehive is about Ana, a solicitor who has been having a three year affair with (married) Connor but when the worst happens and Connor dies, Ana's grief is largely invisible because nobody knew that he meant anything more to her.

 This story is told in the present as Ana is struggling to come to terms with her own grief and complicated feelings about her relationship with Connor but it's also told in the past, so we can see Ana and Connor's relationship forming and the lines that are crossed and the decisions that are made, the justification. Everything is pretty messed up, the exploration of this relationship was all sorts of messy, with promises made, lines crossed, the emotional destruction, the lies, the secrecy, the neediness, the insecurity. 

One thing that really stood out for me with this book was that I loved that as soon as I thought I knew these characters something unexpected is revealed. It felt like there were plenty of surprises in this story even when things probably seem straightforward.

Here is the Beehive was one of the stories that creeped up on me. I hadn't realised how emotionally attached I was until that final quarter of the book where all the heartache just built into this crescendo. Beautiful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Mission Statement on Fluttering Butterflies

My reading goals on Fluttering Fluttering Butterflies have been the same for years.  This isn't new territory, but I feel like it needs clarification and a bit more thought put into it.  So I thought I'd break things down further, talk about my progress and any plans for the future for each of the areas of interest on this blog and in my reading.

I realised that most of this reading is pointless unless I'm also writing about these books on this blog, on twitter, on instagram and leaving reviews in places where it would help so to that end, I pledge to do more to read and review these books and also to use my available platforms to shout more about these books.



Reading UK authors

Justification: I've always been a huge supporter of British authors.  When I first started book blogging, it felt as though a lot of readers, especially readers of YA, had very American-centred reading habits and I wanted to do more to support locals authors and their books.  I've taken part for several years in a British Reading Challenge but I have no idea anymore if this reading challenge has continued?  If not, does it need to be rebooted? or nah?

Progress: I've read 61 books this year and 37 of the books I've read have been by British authors making it 61% of my reading this year.

Plans for rest of the year and beyond:  I feel like this is a good percentage already and can only be continued.  Before calculations, I imagined the total to be at least half of my reading and I'd like that to be maintained.  More intersectional reading would be preferential.  More debut authors.






Reading LGBTQ+ Authors and story lines 

Justification: It wasn't too long ago that I came out on this blog as being bisexual.  I've talked (very briefly!) about some of the internalised  homophobia that I had to overcome in order to recognise this part of my sexuality and my identity.  It is important to me to read more about LGBTQ+ story lines in order to widen my understanding of important issues but also because I enjoy these books and story lines.

Progress: I've read 21 books with LGBT main story lines out of 61 books which makes a total of 34% I believe the number of #ownvoices books have been the majority of what I've read but I haven't looked too deeply into this, it's more of a feeling.

Plans for rest of the year and beyond: I would like to keep up with a high percentage of LGBTQ+ story lines.  I'd like to read more trans experiences and also LGBTQ+ story lines that are also BAME characters or have disabilities.  I think my intersectional LGBTQ+ reading is currently lacking. Definitely look into if my reading consists of #ownvoices authors. More books about NB or gender fluid characters and sexualities that are under represented in my own reading like ace story lines.






Reading POC authors with POC main characters 

Justification: I've discussed it before but perhaps I'm not as vocal about this as I could be but I am of mixed race heritage.  I also have mixed race children and I would like to be an advocate for POC authors and story lines.  Everybody deserves to have good representation and to see themselves in books.

Progress: 13 books read by POC authors out of 61 books read in 2020: 21%

Plans for rest of the year and beyond: George Floyd's death and the #blacklivesmatter protests have shown me that I've been lumping all People of Colour authors into the same category which means for this reason that there is a higher percentage, yes.  But when I break down how many black authors I've read in 2020 it becomes 11/61 which is just 11%  I can definitely and should definitely do better than this.  Plans for the rest of the year is to increase my reading of POC authors, to particularly read more black authors and to be more vocal about these authors on social media and this blog. Also to read more non-fiction about anti-racism and black history to educate myself better.



Reading books with mental illness story lines 

Justification:  I hope that I've been able to put across how much mental illness has had an impact on my life?  I was raised by a single father with quite complex mental illnesses and have dealt with many of my own mental illness challenges throughout my life.  It is important that more people have understanding of mental illness and it is definitely a subject area that I gravitate towards.

Progress: I've only read 5 books in 2020 with main story lines involving mental illness.  This makes up just 8% of my reading.

Plans for rest of the year and beyond: I haven't read as many books with mental illness story lines this year. I would like to read more and also read more widely as well.

How successful have your reading goals been this year? Have any of your goals changed in light of recent events?

Monday, June 08, 2020

REVIEW Gloves Off by Louisa Reid

I've been a big fan of UKYA author, Louisa Reid, in the past, so I was very excited to hear that Louisa Reid had a new book out and a new book told in verse.  This book was gifted to me by Andrew of The Pewter Wolf Reads, which was lovely of him (thanks again!)

Gloves Off is the story of 16 year old, Lily, whose life is split into two parts - her at school, where she is bullied by her classmates because of her weight, and at home where she pretends that everything is okay because her family has its own share of struggles.  When Lily is the victim of a particularly bad bullying incident, her dad encourages her to start training at a local boxing gym in an attempt to regain some of her or self-esteem and self-worth. 

I've said it before, but I've always been in awe of authors who are able to pull off verse novels with such a parity of words but that still pack an emotional punch (pun intended).  Such was the case with Gloves Off. 

The main narrator of this book is Lily, sharing her painful experiences of bullying and toxic 'friendships' but there are also chapters dedicated to Lily's mum, which were an absolute surprise to me that added layers to this book.  Lily is a great character and I was rooting for her all the way through, but I also found Lily's mum's voice to be really compelling and reading of her own struggles with her weight and the trauma that forces her to not leave her house.  Both Lily and her mum are on their own journeys to building confidence and it was a joy to witness them both. 

I was obviously enraged with the lack of action taken by Lily's teachers and school in not protecting Lily better in what was obviously a really bad situation.  I'd have liked to have seen something more practical happening instead of karma but I also realise that these things happen and it isn't always realistic that schools would have adequate policies and procedures in place to protect students from bullying. 

I'm really here for these stories about sport that are encouraging positive aspects of boxing like gaining self-confidence.  In Lily's case, she does get fitter but she also gains skill in boxing, she finds friends and a crush in the shape of Rose, another boxer at the gym. 

Gloves Off was a wonderful story of fighting through adversity and discovering your own strength.  Plus, boxer girls kissing!

Sunday, June 07, 2020

REVIEW: Hideous Beauty by William Hussey

Hideous Beauty by William Hussey has been one of my favourite reads of 2020. The love between Dylan and Ellis was so beautiful and emotional and I felt absolutely wrung out after reading this book.

The main premise of the story is that because of a leaked viral sex video, Dylan is forced to come out to his parents about his and El's secret relationship. They decide to go to a school dance to get the awkwardness of seeing their classmates after the video is seen out of the way. Things seem to go well with Dylan's parents and everyone at school seems to accept Dylan and Ellis but even so El becomes distant and withdrawn and as they're driving home, Ellis loses control of the car, they end up in a lake and Dylan is pulled free with Ellis left to drown. When Dylan wakes up in hospital, he vows to find out all the mysteries of Ellis which boils down to the following:

1) Who released the video of Dylan and Ellis?
2) Why was Ellis acting so weird at the dance?
3) Who saved Dylan and left El to die?

Honestly, this book ripped my heart out. It was pretty impressive how quickly I fell for Dylan and El: their relationship is barely introduced in the pages of this book before the car accident but that entire scene had me crying my eyes out. The love between these two boys was so pure and absolute and what happens is devastating. And Dylan's grief is such an intense feeling that I completely believed and felt too. And there's just no let up - following the car accident itself led quickly on to El's funeral which was brutal. The depiction of grief in Hideous Beauty was so intense and palpable.

As Dylan gets more involved in exploring the mysteries that led up to Ellis's death, it was kind of interesting to see how and where the cracks appear in what seems to be acceptance of Dylan and El's relationship. Hideous Beauty is a reference to a special place the two boys go, but it also felt like an excellent description of this book - that the incredible love between these boys (Beauty) exists in a world where parents disown their children, where awful people prey on the vulnerable and where true acceptance is not met (Hideous).

This book was everything. Intense, romantic, emotional, heartbreaking. I urge you to read it and be as swept away in these characters as much as I was.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Starting over as a book blogger

I've been blogging on Fluttering Butterflies since January of 2006.  But not consecutively.  There have been large gaps and blogging breaks.  I always knew that breaks would mean less engagement, people becoming less interested in what I had to say or write or at the very least being less aware.  But when I decided to return at the beginning of this year to reboot my collaborative booktube channel, Bookish Brits, I had no idea how bad things had gotten.  (same with this poor blog!) 

It was other things at first that I noticed first: that posts on Instagram and Twitter didn't seem to get any engagement but that if I posted on Facebook, I'd have much more engagement.  I just figured that FB was a better media platform for me at the time instead of thinking 'FB is where all my real-life friends/family are' which would explain the higher engagement.  What it took me forever to realise... is that Instagram and Twitter (and also YouTube!) had moved on without me.  A lot of the people I follow/who follow me on these social media platforms had mostly stopped blogging or booktubing.  There weren't that many 'newer' (to me!) book bloggers or booktubers that I had followed.  So when I was tweeting about niche book blogger problems earlier in the year it really didn't land with the right audience.  

I find myself now in this difficult position of starting all over with everything.  I was already following upwards of a thousand booktube channels, but now I'm following more.  Following more bookish people on Twitter and Instagram, watching lots of booktube videos to figure out how the booktubing community has changed and evolved since I last posted there.  I haven't really been reading many book blogs as yet but that's my next step.  

It's always difficult starting over but I find that it's worth it.  I get a lot of enjoyment at writing about books, uploading bookish content to YouTube.  Sure, the community isn't quite the same but perhaps that will change over time.  For now, I'm an outsider again, and invisible. But I've got my passion back for reading and writing and some ideas for upcoming posts and videos and who knows what will happen next, eh?  

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Corona Diaries Vol. 1

When this whole thing started, there were ten million tweets about how famous people like Shakespeare did great things when quarantined from plague, or whatever.  And I have to admit, I got sucked into that whole 'I'll use this time effectively' mindset.  I had this idea that I'd do something I always wanted to do and take up online piano lessons.  It is a really nice idea, in theory, reading more, doing more, being creative in this time where we are all stuck at home and have seemingly an endless amount of time on our hands where we're not commuting, not going out.  In practice? It's a whole different thing.  

Because I'm still working full-time.  I am hugely grateful to still have a job and one that I can do from home.  But it is still what takes up my time and brain power and energy between 9 and 5:30 Monday to Friday.  

I also have both boys at home.  N's home too, so we're sharing the cooking and cleaning as always.  We're also sharing supervising the boys' educational activities.  We're trying to reach that balance between having a structure to the day and letting them just kind kind of get on with fun stuff.  I'm sure everyone is doing this too.  I don't for one second think I'm unique in anything I've written in this blog post.

I'm doing a qualification with a local college right now.  It runs for a full academic year so will finish in June.  Lessons switched from face-to-face to video calls every week.  It's been nice to keep in touch with everyone but good god, it's been difficult trying to concentrate on writing assignments and juggling things like management concepts and 'assess four different contemporary external factors impacting on organisation's business and the HR function' right now.  I don't want to give up on this course but I'm also just finding it hard to focus.  Harvard referencing and report writing just don't really fit in to this world that has been changed so much.

There's also the significant portion of my day spent reading the news.  I have taken to doom surfing quite a lot, looking at the numbers, keeping up to date on the latest guidelines, advice. Reading expert recommendations of how long this will last, reading about survivor stories.  I check my temperature a lot, I keep track of how many times I've coughed.  How many times N or the boys do. I've been sucked into every detail and sometimes I need to pull myself away before I break my heart every day.

I'm also addicted to the good stuff too.  People doing nice things for others, the celebration of NHS workers, shop workers, delivery drivers, postal workers, cleaners, the police, and teachers amongst others.  I can't get enough of this right now.  I love looking at twitter and reading about personal stories too: the niceness of strangers, neighbours, friends.  How we're all stuck at home on our own but we're also all in this together.  All these stories restore my faith in humanity. 

I don't know what I'm trying to say here.  I think it's mostly just a reminder to myself that it's okay to do what I've been doing - which is the bare minimum.  I do my work, I do my bit around the house, I check in with friends and loved ones, I open the Word document with my assignments due on them and at least try to make some progress.  I also binge watched the first season of Riverdale on the weekend and there was no guilt whatsoever.  It's okay to just get by right now.  

Saturday, December 28, 2019

Favourite Books of 2019

I haven't read many books this year.  I've read 44 books so far and will possibly finish another before the end of the year.  (Looking at what books I have completed though include three textbooks for  my HR course!)

Unlike previous years, 2019's reading habits features much more books aimed at adults and non-fiction books than ever.  But still, which are my favourite books read this year?  YA.  My heart will always be with you, YA.  So without further ado, here are my top three books read in 2019. 


Autoboyography by Christina Lauren 

This is the first book I read in 2019 and at the end of the year it has remained one of my favourites.  I even wrote a review of it earlier this year (I'm just as shocked as you are) but this one's about an openly bisexual boy who has to go back into the closet after his mom takes a job in a predominantly Mormon community.  He takes a seminar for creative writing and falls in love with another boy.  It's about this hugely adorable and swoon-worthy romance between these two but also about the power of words and story-telling and the exploration of identity, acceptance and sexuality.

Phantom Limbs by Paula Garner 

I am such a sucker for an emotional contemporary love story.  I won't apologise for that!  I loved Phantom Limbs and how much this story was about the relationships between the characters.  The main character is Otis and three years ago, his little brother died in a tragic accident that tore apart his family and around the same time his best friend moves away.  In order to cope with the grief, he turns to swimming and his mentored by ex-Olympic hopeful, Dara.  Then Meg comes back and Otis, Meg and Dara are left trying to deal with how to navigate this new situation.  This book was so emotional, the grief and confusion, heartbreak and friendship. 


With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo 

I read Elizabeth Acevedo's debut book this year as well, The Poet X, and that book also stole my heart.  But I preferred Emoni's story.  With a daughter to care for and only her abuela's help, Emoni has to face the realities of her world.  She wants to take the new culinary arts class at school, she'd love to go on the accompanying school trip to Spain but she has to balance her dreams with practicalities.  I really loved this one.  I thought Emoni was a brilliant character, I loved the descriptions of her cooking, her relationships with her daughter's father, her abuela, her best friend, the new love interest.  One of my favourite aspects of the book was also her relationship with her father who moved away and keeping up with that relationship which really touched on some of my own personal experiences.  I think I'll always pick up new books by Acevedo.

Well, who is surprised there?  All three books are contemporary.  They all feature a range of diverse characters in terms of religion, sexuality, race, and disability.  Bring on 2020 with more emotional contemporary stories. 

What were your favourite reads of 2019? 

Saturday, December 21, 2019

What attracted me to #HR

I don't seem to have updated this blog on my latest career developments - I guess I leave that to Facebook and Twitter - but for the past 10 months I've been working in recruitment and from the start of January 2020 I make the step into an HR generalist role.  I'm equal parts thrilled and terrified about this.  And in the process of making this change, I've been to countless interviews.  And something that comes up quite a lot is 'why HR?' which I thought I'd discuss briefly today because I think it's interesting and maybe you do too?

If you were to look at my CV you'd see that I kind of swayed between retail jobs for a bit, took a really long career break and then went back into retail.  My first job after moving to the UK was at WHSmith.  Because they were hiring, really.  I got moved from the stationery department, to the front tills, to the book department.  And I liked working with books, so I thought I'd move to being a bookseller when a bookstore opened in the same town.  Then I gave that up to raise my children.  And when I went back into paid employment the only job I could find was at Accessorize.  



And as an aside, I used this as a selling point during interviews (I didn't know anything about stationery when I started at WHSmith, I didn't know anything about children's books when I took over that department at Books Etc, I knew zip about fashion before Accessorize but I am comfortable with the uncomfortable.  I like tackling these types of challenges, so take a chance on me etc.) 

Whilst I did enjoy my work at Accessorize I definitely did not love being on my feet all day. Or working late nights. Or weekends. Or bank holidays. Or working over the Christmas period.  Or working in a store constantly under threat of closure because of how poorly UK high streets and stores are facing in these trying economic times.  So what did I do?  I knew quite obviously what I didn't enjoy about my job.  So instead, I sat down and I wrote a list of all the things that I did enjoy about my job.  

And that list included recruitment processes, inductions for new employees, overseeing disciplinary meetings, performance reviews, updating personnel records, looking after the training in the store, the upkeep of payroll.  I liked getting to know the girls I worked with (and when I left some of them said I felt like their 'second mother' which made me feel pretty weepy, ngl).  That paired with my customer service skills, the juggling of priorities that anyone in retail must have. A good sense of humour in times of crisis, that sort of thing.  A bit of time with google and I came across an entry level Human Resources course at a local college that covered a lot of things that I loved to do and I could see myself doing elsewhere as a proper career.  It was perhaps the only time in my entire life that I'd had this actual light bulb moment.  I'm so grateful for my time at Accessorize

The rest of this story could be rushed along because I got my job in recruitment and now I have this other job in HR.  But the truth of it is that me figuring out (finally!) what I wanted to do with my life in my late-30s was just the first step, really.  

What follows was me working my ass off to work full-time AND study for that first HR course.  Writing essays, taking part in excruciating role play scenarios. Selling myself at interview after interview until I got my recruitment job.  Passing my HR course, promptly starting the Intermediate course.  Doing that while working full-time again, juggling it with family life.  Being under pressure to find another job (my recruitment job was a Fixed Term Contract).  Selling myself at more interviews, pushing myself further and further to fight for my right to sit at the HR table, to be included in the conversations, to be considered for HR roles.  

I know what I want to do now (and importantly, why).  And I'm willing to fight for it.  

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Ch-ch-changes





There have been a lot of changes in my life recently.  A lot of changes.  I was having dinner with an old friend lately who asked me about one particular change: the (in)activity on this blog.  She asked why I thought I'd stopped blogging? 


I hadn't given it much thought but within seconds I gave her my honest answer 'Grief.' Grief has really hampered my creativity and I found it quite surprising that it's had the lasting impact that it has.  I've faced loss recently and I'm a different person than I was before. 


But it isn't the only reason.  I think some of the reason is that life moves on and I have too.  I'm in a different job than I was when I was a regular blogger here, I'm studying at an evening course for the second academic year in a row, my kids are growing up and ... I'm not reading as much.  All this other stuff has taken up so much time that I now find it more difficult to sit down and write. 


And I think part of my problem was that I was so focused on what I used to write about. I was so focused on getting back to how I used to write that I lost sight of everything else I could be writing about if I gave it some proper thought.  Like my new career, my new life experiences, my new interests that I've taken on.  Which doesn't replace my interest in books, not at all.  But it gives my life meaning in a way that books and book blogging used to give me. 


So perhaps in the New Year, if anyone is still interested (and even if you aren't!) I'll be making some changes around here.  I don't want to define those changes too narrowly but I am excited.  I hope you are too.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Being a Person of Colour in the UK

This past weekend I was in London.  My husband N and I wanted to take our two children into London in order to see some theater on the West End.  It was something we were all looking forward to and was to be a weekend that was one of the highlights of our summer.  It was also a nice time for the four of us to spend some time together and see some sights.  Two things happened over the weekend that I wanted to share today.

The first thing happens so regularly that I cannot even count the number of times it's happened:  The four of us enter a restaurant in a group all at the same time, obviously a family of four.  The hostess takes one look at us and says 'Table for three?'


This photo is to help anybody who might not be familiar with what my absolutely beautiful family looks like.  N is of Indian descent and together with my half Native American heritage everyone else in my family has a darker shade of skin than me.  Because of this strangers all over the place take one look at my family and decide that one of these things is not like the others and I am it.

So, we stayed in a hotel equidistant from the two theaters we were planning to visit.  And we come out of a tube station and go to stand at a cross-walk and we're standing with a group of people who are already there. Within seconds of standing at this cross-walk this older white woman taps me on the arm and when I turn to look at her she says in this loud, exaggerated way, 'If you need to cross the street, you have to PUSH the BUTTON.' then nods her head to check if I've understood her.  She even pushes the button as a demonstration.

I give her two shocked blinks before I say 'I know that.' and she comes across all, 'Well, I was only trying to help' but somehow this time around she manages to speak to me in a normal tone of voice without the unnecessary pauses and emphasis on words. She even manages to look offended when I go to stand on the other side of N, and ask 'Did she just speak to me like I don't understand English?' because I really needed someone else to validate that that was a thing that had just happened. 

These things were just two little things that I happened to remember when I came to sitting down to write this.  Due to the regularity of these types of experiences it didn't affect the enjoyment of the musicals we saw or the time we spent together.  But it does make me a little sad.  That these are still things that I, or other POC, experience on a regular basis.

For these reasons, it's definitely necessary for this book, Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge to be out there in the world.  She very intelligently puts into words a lot of the thoughts and experiences, things that make me angry about being a POC in this world (but specifically about living in the UK).  I've written a (very) little bit on this blog about some of the racism that I've dealt with in my life and every time I'm more vocal about my opinions or my experiences (especially online) I get (mostly white) people who are there to argue with me, have me explain to them who don't believe it is a thing why white privilege is an actual thing or similar.

This is my long-winded way of saying that I loved this book and that I'm recommending it if you haven't yet read it.