I went for a run tonight. I haven't exercised regularly since the beginning of the year.
Wednesday, November 17, 2021
I went for a run tonight. I haven't exercised regularly since the beginning of the year.
Monday, November 15, 2021
It's been awhile, so in case you need a recap I have two children. One is 16 this month and the other is 13. The eldest is sitting his GCSE exams and the youngest is choosing his GCSE options this year.
Both are pretty scary, to be honest. Helping my eldest revise for his exams. Having those conversations about what he might want to do after GCSEs. A Level choices have an impact on what he can study at university, talking about how he views his adult life after education. He's still only 15 and these are the conversations we're having. I get that people change track, that even if he follows one route doesn't mean he's locked into that path forever and ever. But even so.
Was everyone making those decisions at such a young age? Was everyone else having these thoughts about their entire futures at 15? I sure wasn't. I may have been going through things that other teenagers weren't (possibly more on this at another time) but I definitely never considered having a job. I never even considered what I wanted out of life or pictured myself as an adult. If you asked 15 year old me what she'd look like (or dream about!) 20 years down the line, 15 year old me probably would have shrugged and said 'dunno, I'll get there when I get there, I guess'
I actually didn't progress in schooling after the age of 16. It wasn't a lack of ability or desire, it was more about the circumstances of it all. I did go to university (eventually) and I have a degree (now) but I feel like I was floating in the wind for so much of my life. It really was only 4ish years ago when I was working as a supervisor at Accessorize where I decided what I didn't want to do: work in retail, work weekends, work shift patterns, be forced into working every Christmas. I've talked about it in a previous post but it really was only then, in my 30s, having only ever worked in retail that I sat down and considered what a 'proper' career might look like for me. And I was lucky. I found that HR might be something I'd enjoy doing, took a qualification in it and was able to get my first HR job off the back of that qualification. And now here I am 4 years into my new career and I couldn't be happier.
I'm not sure I even knew what HR was when I was my boys' ages. I certainly didn't think of it as a career prospect. I didn't study for it at university, it wasn't touched on in my education prior to that. Would it have occurred to me if I had my support as a teenager? if there were other people in my life looking out for me, helping me to ask the questions? Maybe.
One of the things that I've considered lately is becoming a mentor to young people - going to them (via systems in place, not just randomly approaching young people!) and speaking to them about the work that HR does. Or at least about my experiences. Whilst I find it a lot of pressure speaking with my 13 year old about his future and what prospects lay ahead of him, at least we're broaching the subject, he's giving things thought. And in having these conversations - with my boys, with any future mentees, who knows? - maybe things won't be so scary. I sure hope so.
Did your job prospects follow a straight line? Did you work in an area you studied in? Have you ever been a mentor? This subject fascinates me, I'd love to hear from you
Sunday, November 14, 2021
I haven't written on this blog since 4 January. And if I'm honest, I think for several years now I've considered just shutting the whole thing down. Drawing and line and saying ... that's it. Fluttering Butterflies is over now. But something has stopped me from doing it.
It's funny how I talk to new people about my 'blogging days' - as though it was a different lifetime, as though I was a different person. And I guess it is sort of true. I've gone through a lot of changes lately including a great deal of personal growth which does make me feel like I'm a different person. And I've given a lot of thought about what I take with me into this new version of myself.
I've also struggled with this blog. Because I love it but it's been about books for so long that I've forgotten it wasn't about books for a long time too. And I think I've worked endlessly trying to recreate the success of it when it was a book blog ... forgetting that books don't bring me joy in the same way anymore. Not in the same way that my dog brings me joy. Or Netflix. Or my job. Or figuring out this new person I'm becoming.
I'm not the quickest person but I think I've finally gotten it. I enjoy writing. And I want to keep this blog. I just don't want to write about books anymore. Or at least I don't want to restrict my thoughts to just books (that I'm not really reading lately!) so hopefully you'll stick around anyway? if any of you still read this? I promise cute dog pics if nothing else!
Monday, January 04, 2021
Happy New Year everyone! I hope that 2021 is a better year for us all. Personally I am very happy to see the back of 2020 and I am quietly hopeful that this year will be a fresh new start for me. I've read that a lot of people aren't making goals or resolutions this year or are going down a self-care sort of route. I am ALL for that.
Having said that though, I'm a planner. I love making goals, I love my lists and keep track of my progress with stuff. So if that's your sort of self-care, then do read on. I was running this morning and as I was running I ended up feeling super motivated to accomplish all my goals this year, it's a nice feeling. Please also enjoy this photo of me in one of my Christmas presents...
Read 12 non-fiction books
Read 6 classics
Read and review all my Netgalley books (currently 0/13 books)
Lose 20 lbs
Run a 10k
Join a local exercise class when safe to do so
Upload regular content to Bookish Brits
Gain more subscribers (currently 724 subscribers)
Post regular content to this blog
Get more involved in the book blogging and booktubing communities
Board game nights with the family
Get a haircut
Keep up to date with personal development within HR
Have you set yourself any goals for 2021?
Wednesday, August 05, 2020
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Monday, June 08, 2020
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
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.