Delia Owens conjures up a delightfully unique tale centred around class and race prejudice and dealing with loss.
I just finished this novel, and now I can’t stop thinking about it—a feeling I haven’t had in a long time. Like most things these days, I tend to find popular books through social media. I saw a couple of influencers with this novel placed purposefully in the background of their photos, and like the sucker I am, I had to investigate further. My brief research shows that I’m about two years late to the party and Reese Witherspoon’s infamous book club covered this in 2018. I had no idea what this story would be about, and for a while, I avoided reading as I didn’t think I’d like it. When will I ever learn that judging a book by its cover will never work!
The story begins with ten-year-old Kya, a girl who lives with her large family on a town’s outskirts. Specifically in marshland. As Kya grows up, you experience her trauma with her, dealing with family members leaving until she is dumped by herself. When she is 23/4, a guy in the near town is found dead in the marsh, and she becomes the lead suspect in the case.
This novel is set in the mid-late ’60s and doesn’t shy away from racial conflicts and class prejudices. One of the big standouts of this novel is the writing quality; I was marking pages to remember the lines and get inspiration for my own writing. Lines like ‘The rain eased. A single drop, here then there, shook a leaf-like the flick of a cat’s ear.’ or ‘Before the feather game, loneliness had become a natural appendage to Kya, like an arm. Now it grew roots inside her and pressed against her chest.’
I wouldn’t say that this is solely a ‘murder-mystery’ novel, that wasn’t the most exciting part of the book, Owens writes Kya so that you can’t help but get attached to her story. I found myself feeling her pain and disappointment when yet ANOTHER person lets her down (there’s so many). If you like truthful and heartbreakingly raw stories that have you on an emotional rollercoaster right until the last page, I would highly recommend.
It seems like everything these days becomes a competition and comparison of achievement. Screen time is no exception. Although quite a foolish by-product of the last five years, screen time has become a vital measure of productivity. I’ll confess that mine is piss-poor at the moment. Currently, it’s Monday morning, and Apple kindly popped me a notification to let me know my stats from the previous week. An average of 9 hours and 41 minutes a DAY.
I was disappointed with myself. It didn’t stop me sending it to my group chat to kind of revel in the stupidity. I sort of expected my friends to reveal similar extortionate measures, but no. “Mine was an average of 3 hours,” one said, the other, “I thought my 5 hours a day was bad.” I guess I’m alone in this shame. I got a bit defensive then, thinking that these particular friends are gamers and spend more time in front of a computer/ TV screen than I do. They also probably access their messages on their laptop without having to touch their phone. It wasn’t fair. But why do I care? What are the connotations of screen time that make it so shameful?
I think it’s associated with lower intelligence, shorter attention span, and detachment from the outer world. All of this is true to an extent; the only one I would argue is the lower intelligence. For all Apple knows, I could be reading ‘Sapiens’ on my phone at a bus stop. It’s not always for keeping up to date on celebrity gossip or scrolling through Tik Tok.
However, I don’t want to defend myself; I simply wish to reduce this. Turn it into a competition, next week I’ll be able to say that I spent 0.1 seconds on my phone so take that!
It’s a shame though; I don’t want to be on my phone all the time. I tell myself it’s to keep up with the world, and studies show that there’s now the anxiety of missing something if we leave our phone alone for more than 15 minutes.
The news cycle is continually churning out new horrors or updates, and I don’t want to be ignorant of what’s happening globally. I’m also emailing people and waiting for responses which cause me to check religiously. I don’t want them to think I’m taking my time even though I’ve had to wait 5 hours for their response.
It’s a hideous existence to always feel behind or at risk of missing something big. I believe mine stemmed from when I was 18 in 2015. I just got into my first choice uni, and although it wasn’t too far from home, I still wanted the halls experience. I didn’t realise that it was racing to get a spot, I naively assumed it was a given if you were a fresher. I was very wrong and missed out a place in all of the halls available on campus. It wasn’t a big deal, I was still very social and made many friends commuting, but I always felt stupid for missing that straightforward thing. Before 18, I didn’t really need to check emails, I was at college 8 hours a day and got all my info from teachers in class, I hardly shopped online or did anything online other than watching Youtube. How was I supposed to know that emails and checking updates were so crucial?
There have been other times where I’ve missed out on things due to my lack of activity online, and there’s no doubt that’s affected my need to be on it more. Even when I take a break and reply a little slower, friends check up me (which I am grateful for) to make sure I’m alright. The fact that I haven’t responded quicker makes them worried instead of being just a regular thing.
The truth is, there is no need to keep checking my phone. The text and email will still be there in an hour. If they’re good friends, they won’t get offended, and if it’s an opportunity meant to happen, then there’s nothing wrong with being a little late to the party. However, it’s also okay to check your phone. I don’t want to feel shame for wanting to watch an episode of my favourite TV show in my bed after a long day. It’s also entertaining sometimes to scroll through Tik Tok and have a laugh. However, I need to learn to limit it, which is the goal for the next year.
This evening in the U.K., Boris Johnson announced that we’re heading into another full lockdown. Happy New Year!
I’m avoiding Twitter, I’m avoiding the news as much as possible. It feels like a constant stream of negativity so I will just hide in my little blog for now. However, this is a situation I can’t control. I can only control how I spend my time. I want to focus on my mental, physical health and do as much writing as possible.
There’s a song I’ve been listening to on repeat today: Holding On is Holding You Back by push baby. It’s message is how you can spend so much time worry about your past that you miss opportunities in front of you. A message I feel that I need right now. We don’t know what’s coming but we can only focus on what’s going on in the present.
I have a feeling that this New Years Eve will be particularly difficult for everyone who is used to being out and having plans. No lavish parties or glittery Instagram pictures, instead it will likely be an evening of watching TV or playing board games. Something I’m not too bothered by. Actually, the relief I feel of not having to frantically set plans in stone and have friends struggle to stick to them is great.
Last year, I didn’t have a proper plan, I was actually just sort of relying on being invited somewhere (yes, my ego sometimes surprises me too). Alas, nothing was properly planned and I ended up tagging along to a friends’ intimate party where I knew no one and it was kind of awkward. I cycled there thinking I could make an easy escape and not have to sleep over which, while it was daylight, didn’t seem like a bad idea. By the time it got to around 3 am when I eventually left, it was a different story.
It wasn’t a long ride, and I wouldn’t call myself a novice cyclist which is probably why I was pushing it going fast right down the centre of the road. No one was around and for a moment I felt I had it all to myself. I was flying down the dark suburban street with the icy wind slightly pushing against me, feeling young and eccentric. Then, I met some discarded road works that were blocking the street but not the pavement. That’s fine, I thought, I just need to hop up the small curb and finish my journey on the pavement.
Oh boy, what an error. I hit the curb a little short without any decrease to my speed and I was sent over my handlebars to crash a couple of feet past my bike. Landing on my side with my cheek brushed against the gravel. OUCH, I remember just lying there for a solid 5 minutes nursing my left elbow that was pulsing with pain. What the hell happened? I was really hoping there wasn’t too much damage because I didn’t want to be that one idiot that has to haul a poor emergency service worker out to scrape me from the ground on NYE. I managed to pick myself up minutes later and continued my journey on foot. I wasn’t risking the bike again and didn’t think I could manage with the pain that was seizing up my left arm.
I laugh about it now, and sort of laughed about it at the time too. What an idiotic and poetic way to start 2020. Completely tossed off my bike and rolling around the floor, alone, on a quiet street, at 3 am. I couldn’t drive for a week after and hobbled around work feeling sorry for myself but it’s a story to tell.
At least the worst that can happen to me this NYE is that I spill red wine down myself – which I’m known to do all year round anyways.
I hope everyone has a lovely and safe NYE no matter if you’re tucked up in bed by 9 pm or dancing around the Christmas tree one last time.
Although this year didn’t go to plan for many of us, one of the shining outliers which stopped it from being a complete fail were the new music releases. Especially in the pop realm where I found myself gravitating towards more for the simple pick-me-up attitude of them. The only thing missing was the dance floor. Here are my top picks for the year:
The ‘Turning Your Kitchen Into a Club’ songs:
This is quite self-explanatory section for those times you just needed to dance and forget about what is troubling you. Unfortunately, we were unable to do this in a club or bar but our own homes had to be good enough. Close the blinds, invest in a mini disco light and just let loose to some of 2020’s best.
Pretty Please / Levitating by Dua Lipa
Soul Control by Jessie Ware
911 / Rain On Me by Lady Gaga (+ Ariana Grande)
Chemicals / Feed the Fire by SG Lewis
Heaven Let Me In by Friendly Fires
Coulda Woulda Shoulda by Dagny
Born to the Night by Ava Max
Regardless by RAYE & Rudimental
The ‘Re-igniting my Indie-Rock Phase’ songs:
It was never a phase and I’m sure some of these are toeing the line between indie and pop (I’ve got two ex boy band members in it) but hear them out! Styles and Horan’s new sounds have been exceptionally good and shown their true appreciation for music.
Golden by Harry Styles
Skinny Skinny by Ashton Irwin
Rearrange Us by Mt.Joy
Small Talk by Niall Horan
Overkill by Holly Humberstone
Ghost by Gerry Cinnamon
Nobody’s Baby by COIN
There’s Still a Light in the House by Valley
cotton candy by YUNGBLUD
Tonight (I Wish I Was Your Boy) / If You’re Too Shy (Let Me Know) by The 1975
The ‘Let Me Sit and Cry with a Bottle of Wine’ songs:
Also an essential category for any year. Sometimes you need a good cry or a song to help comfort you through a particularly difficult time. These songs have comforted me the most from my spells of bad mental health to when my dog died. They have been a life saver.
champagne problems by Taylor Swift
cardigan by Taylor Swift
2016 by Sam Hunt
Cherry by Harry Styles
Roll the Credits / Fickle McSelfish by Gerry Cinnamon
Don’t Worry by The 1975
I Know Alone / FUBT by HAIM
I don’t even know what to expect of 2021 but what I noticed this year was the rise of disco pop and heavier punk rock styles which I’m all for. I believe that rap has had it’s spotlight now and by all means can stay but it would be nice to see some other genre take to the stage for a bit! I have nothing but high hopes for whatever is coming (hopefully a Hozier album)
Now that we are nearing the end of 2020, I’d thought I would compile a list of some books I’m interested in reading next year. There is a mixture of all fictional genres, non-fiction, classics, and new releases for everyone. Let me know at the end if there are any missing that I should check out!
A Court of Silver Flames by Sarah J. Maas (Release Feb 2021)
This one is a novella off of the main trio ‘A Court of Thorns & Roses’ by the same author so if you are not familiar, I would recommend reading the trilogy first. I’m very excited about this release as it promises to be a full-length focus on two of my favourite characters from the series. I’ve also seen on Goodreads that it’s supposedly 648 pages. You best believe that I will be curling up by the fire with this book and doing nothing else until I finish.
2. Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey (2020)
I wouldn’t say I’m a massive fan of his work as an actor but you only need to watch his 2014 Oscar speech to understand how captivating McConaughey is as an individual. He seems to be full of laid-back wisdom on how to slow down your living and that’s something I feel like I very much need right now!
3. Lore by Alexandra Bracken (Jan 2021)
This one caught my eye due to it’s interpretation on Greek mythology. The idea of having nine Greek Gods forced to roam earth as mortals is a captivating one and I’m excited to know where this author takes it. I think it’s young adult which isn’t a genre I often read anymore but due to the mythological link I reckon it will be interesting.
4. Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino (August 2019)
I want to incorporate some more non fiction pieces into my reading this and especially some small essays. The ‘Reflections on Self-Delusions’ intrigued me the most with this one. A commentary on 21st Century life in front of a screen and the implications of that on our self-worth, relationships, and overall interactions. Promises to be an interesting read!
5. Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari (2015)
I finally got around to reading Sapiens and I’m so glad I did as it brought a new perspective on modern living and how we can better prepare for the direction we’re heading. Of course, this now means I want to tackle Harari’s next book ‘Homo Deus’ which seems to be a natural sequel to ‘Sapiens.’ However, I’m a little nervous about what will be revealed about our future as a human race.
6. Far From The Maddening Crowd by Thomas Hardy (1874)
I read Tess of the D’Ubervilles this year and really enjoyed it so I want to continue this good streak of reading classics and tackle another one of his. This novel is supposed to be a bit steamy with three very different men after one poor Bathsheba Everdene (what a name). I hope this one will have a slightly happier ending than Tess did!
7. Victoria Park by Gemma Reeves (March 2021)
I came across this book while scrolling through Instagram. It’s a novel that follows twelve different character who live around Victoria Park. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I really enjoy the split narrative and having the chance to explore different points of view.
8. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
I’ve heard of Haig before and follow him on Twitter, which I would recommend to anyone who struggles with their mental health. From what I gather on the synopsis there’s this library inbetween life and death where you have the chance to fix any regrets you have before completely passing over. Almost like a happy purgatory! I’m fascinated by this concept and really wouldn’t mind going to a library after I’ve died.
9. Like Streams to the Ocean: Notes on Ego, Love, and the Things That Make Us Who We Are by Jedidiah Jenkins (Feb 2021)
I read Jenkins’ first memoir of his epic bike riding trip earlier this year and I still think about it very often. Therefore, I was excited to hear that he was in the process of releasing a new novel. If you like modern, easy writing styles with a sprinkle of wisdom, I would recommend Jenkins!
10. Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams
If you keep up to date on the hot new books, then you may be familiar with this title. Queenie seemed to take the UK by storm this summer and everyone was reading Carty-Williams humourous coming-of-age story set in modern Britain. I’m British and heard very good things about Carty-Williams’ writing so looking forward to trying this out!
So this is my list of 10 books I’m looking forward to reading in 2021. I’m sure there will be many more but for now 10 is a nice and manageable number. Let me know if there are any more I should check out!
Well, we made it. Just over a week left of 2020, a memorable year to say the least. Probably one of the, if not only, year of my life so far that I’ve felt actively involved in some future textbook phenomenon. However, I have to preface by saying this year has not been that hard on me individually and I will keep my grovels to myself in times where many others have felt the affect of COVID-19 more than me.
Yet this year has been a mental challenge and tested my patience and resilience in times where all I wanted was to hug my friends and dance myself dizzy in a sweaty nightclub (yeah, I missed them too). What’s to come of 2021, I’m not sure, I hope some positive change but I guess I’ll just have to check in this time next year to know for sure. All I can really pray for is the health of my family and myself.
As we approach the final days of the year and Boris announces further restrictions over the festive period – which will likely last until the COVID March anniversary – I thought, let’s do something a little out of the norm. So I dyed my hair pink.
I’m not shy when it comes to dying my hair, in fact, one of my first posts of this year was my dodgy experience getting my mate to balliage my hair. Spoiler – it didn’t turn out great. I’m pretty sure I vowed to leave my hair alone for a bit but hey that’s no fun. I feel a little edgier, a little more confident I guess. Funny how some artificial colour can make you feel that way. I like it and the negative of liking it is not really having a chance to show it off. ‘That’s what the internet is for’ I hear you say, and maybe I’ll post a selfie even though they kind of make me cringe but while it’s still 2020 anything goes.
To round up the year on the positives, I’ve started this blog and actually enjoyed regularly keeping up with it. It’s by all means not a popular blog and chances are I will be the only one reading this back, however, it’s helped me be bold and practice my writing. Something I’m very passionate about but hardly give myself the time to do. I’ve started learning again and putting myself in challenging positions to grow as a person. I’ve started therapy, something I felt I needed for a while but never had the guts to go for it. I’ve grown closer to my family and my closest friends are even more closer. I value quality time with loved ones and cherish those peaceful moments to just let myself be.
There are also some things I’d much rather leave behind this year. I want to spend less time looking at a screen. There’s some circumstances like work and writing that make this challenging, but all the late night scrolls through Instagram can easily be stopped. I want to read more and not feel the pressure of finishing a book in a certain time frame. I’m a naturally slow reader, it takes me a while to get through a book and through college and university I learned to become faster out of necessity but now I want to take my time. I always need to practice self-love, I’ve gotten much better over the last 2 years and feel myself coming out of my shell more than ever but there’s still a while to go and I’m excited for this journey.
While there are certainly a lot of negatives from this year, there has also been a couple of positives such as picking up a new skill or learning to take more time for yourself. A lot of things that we can bring into the new year to hopefully a more sociable future.
Do you think you’ll ever not hear the name ‘Taylor Swift’ again? I hope not. Only 7 months shy of her previous release, Swift drops a bewildering announcement to her 80 million Twitter fans: ‘I’ll be releasing my 8th studio album.’ Now if you’re familiar with Taylor Swift usual pattern, and album is typically released in the last quarter of the year and runs a circuit of two years until another comes – this changed slightly by her brief hiatus in 2015-6 but it’s roughly the same. 2020 has been the year of rescheduled tours and zoom call interviews for many musicians and not a lot of creative expression was necessarily anticipated. Even more so from Taylor how hadn’t even let her 2019 release ‘Lover’ simmer before releasing new music. But I’m so glad she did.
So what is this folklore all about? I wasn’t so sure at first if I’m very honest. The opening piano of ‘the 1’ threw me off. Is it fair to say that I don’t think this is anything like what Taylor has done before and it was a bit of a grower. But this was because I was taking it at face value, and my first listen of a new album is always a bit scattered. I never know what to focus on.
Let’s talk about evermore, the older and wiser sister I like to call her. She’s seen some shit and lived to tell the tale. The heartbreaking ballads of ‘champagne problems’ and ‘happiness’ I love dearly and evoke such strong emotions that listening makes me feel like I’m living ten lives simultaneously.
Every song on both folklore and evermore are like mini novels. There’s a story developing in each one and I can see the characters so clearly. I adore this type of songwriting, which is usually reserved for country or folk music. I guess this is what Taylor is, a hybrid of pop/country/folk.
This winter has been particularly harsh, icy winds and obsidian afternoons. Having albums like this are just what you need and are there for you when you need a little comfort.
YUNGBLUD is a contrasting individual, an artist that is brash and unapologetic but is arguably one of the comforting musicians of his time. This said musician, real name Dom Harrison, is hard to categorise, however if you can say anything about him, it’s that he’s never dull. He drops his sophomore LP in the final month of this turbulent year filled with brit-pop dedications and screamo serenades.
If you don’t know much about YUNGBLUD, he can be easily judged by his cover. A screechy, lipstick-wearing, scruffy haired man that creates loud music and has a ‘soundcloud rapper‘ stage name. However, I found this album to be quite a pleasant introduction to his sound. Very reminiscent of early 2000’s punk and emo and as a lover of this type of music in my teens, I’m happy for the revival.
We start this album at a seemingly slow pace with ‘teresa,’ a rock ballad that follows in the footsteps of MCR’s ‘Welcome to the Black Parade’ Harrison’s voices shine throughout this track. Delving into feelings of loss, he creates a storm of instrumental and vocal upheaval, leaving you with the assurance that his own parade is just turning the first corner.
Yet, Harrison does something a little peculiar with this album, his fiddles with the tempo which I think makes it a little hard to listen to as a cohesive album. Don’t get me wrong, there are a couple of good hits on this LP, such as single ‘cotton candy,’ a preppy indie track with an addictive bass line. It feels utterly unrelated to YUNGBLUD’s world until you listen to the lyrics and he rightly flaunts his sexual freedom, recently coming out as pansexual, encouraging others to express their individuality. In his Track-by-Track interview with NME, Harrison states: “lose yourself in people as that’s how you find yourself,” which is essentially what ‘cotton candy’ is all about.
Now we’re back into a heavier rock explosion with songs like ‘strawberry lipstick’ a 3-minute long euphemism that’s cheeky and YUNGBLUD’s ode to British humour. At only 23, Harrison has seemed to create a fanbase built on self-acceptance and the outsiders, shown vividly in his songs ‘mars’ and the Beastie Boys Esque ‘superdeadfriends’ where he tells the story of his fans owning their individuality and sexuality. The connection to his fandom is endearing, he’s even planning to melt down his recent ‘Best Album’ award into safety pins to send to fans who bought the physical album.
Just as we were getting hyped up, Harrison brings us down again to the acoustic and personal track ‘love story,’ which reminds a bit of Matty Healy’s soft vocals on The 1975’s ‘Be My Mistake.’ The references to other artists aren’t imitations though, but I will say that Harrison has clocked the formula for a punk/rock/emo anthem.
As we head into the B side, ‘Ice Cream Man’ and ‘charity’ seem like they were discarded Blur tracks from the 1990s that YUNGBLUD has revived for a 21st-century audience. All of the songs so far seem like they simultaneously work together but also clash drastically but isn’t that the punk rock way to be?
Overall this album is energetic and personal, Harrison shows talent and appreciation for music through his influences that come through. I don’t think he needed the Machine Gun Kelly feature on the album, the song doesn’t bring too much to the tracklist and is rightly placed near the bottom.
The outliers for me are ‘weird!,’ ‘lovesong,’ ‘cotton candy,’ and ‘teresa.’ If anything, this album had made me relapse into my punk phase when I was a teenager, and that gives me a break from my current pop dominated Spotify.
I never feel like I’m doing enough. Unfortunately this feeling seems to be a product of my generation and I’m not quite sure what causes it. I pressure myself to always be better and find it hard to come to terms with failure (something I feel a lot). This is mostly focused at a microcosmic level, my incessant need to fill every moment with something productive in case I explode. I’m fully self-aware which is the true kicker.
I’ve been working on changing my perspective and understanding that I’m not alone in feeling this way. Social media can make you feel very isolated if you’re seeing everyone’s perfect lives while you’re feeling less than perfect. I was horrified the other day when I noticed that my screen time was 12 hours on my phone. That isn’t even including the other screens like my laptop and TV. The saddest part is that I can’t even say I was looking at anything important. It appears to be just a side effect of lock-down, I catch myself just scrolling for hours avoiding texts and anything else I should be doing.
A big social connection this year has been TikTok. Although it was an already established app before lock-down, the increase in time spend lying around bored at home has lead to it’s growing success. Inviting people of all ages and abilities to get posting whatever they want, and if you let it cater to your preferences you feel like you have you’re own personal corner of the internet. Mine was filled with people around my age going through similar ups and downs as me and it is refreshing in this time of isolation to know there’s others out there.
Now that we’re in the final month of 2020, I want to be able to approach the new year with a little more positivity and gratitude. Though this year has been tough, it hasn’t been nearly as bad as it could have been for me. The biggest obstacle was not being able to go out and enjoy myself (I know, I’ll go cry myself a river) which has instead opened itself to new opportunities and little changes in my life which will hopefully pay off in the future.
I started this blog at the beginning of this year and have enjoyed writing for myself and getting confident in my abilities. I’ve also started a course to hopefully progress into a career in writing and I have also worked on improving myself both mentally and physically. It hasn’t been perfect but I’ve picked it back up when I’m fallen off course and really try and appreciate what I’ve been able to do this year.