Sunday, 12 August 2018

Amber Actually Reads Things?! | Emma Gannon, Holly Bourne and More

Having gone straight from annual leave into sick leave (sounds fun, it's not) I've been able to read much more than I have in recent months. Blogging in a much more relaxed way than ever before means that I've also been reading a broader range of books - where I used to mainly review books sent to me, I've had the opportunity to actually read the books I buy instead of them piling up next to my bookcase, unread. It's been... different. Here's what I picked up, and what I thought!

Title: The Multi-Hyphen Method
Author: Emma Gannon
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 31st May 2018
Pages: 288
Genres: Non-fiction/Business
Format: Hardback
Source: Gift.

I can't say I've read Gannon's first book about 'growing up online' or listened to her podcast, despite their popularity. I really wanted to read this one, though, as I'm in a tricky career situation right now which you'll know if you've read my latest posts. But, guys, it really isn't great. Maybe it's because I'm not in a good head-space right now career-wise, or maybe it genuinely isn't all it's cracked up to be. Maybe it's both. There are some decent bits - interesting facts and shocking figures here and there, or snippets that are far too relevant to my job and which I sent to a Fellow Suffering Colleague for us to laugh over. But ultimately The Multi-Hyphen Method has barely any practical tips for real-life use, and is very vague in its advice. No topic is written about in depth, so instead of being the career bible it's said to be, it more skims the surface of modern career and tech in general. It is badly written, too, with some sentences appearing once and then again word for word later on. It is not a method. One thing I will say in its favour is that, unlike most business books, it didn't tell me to quit my job and follow my dreams.

Title: My Heart Goes Bang
Author: Keris Stainton
Published by: Hot Key Books
Publication date: 28th June 2018
Pages: 288
Genres: YA Contemporary/LGBT
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought.

This book, on the other hand, made my heart happy. Set in Liverpool, Ella, Lou, Issey, Liane and Paige share a house in their second year of university. There's drinking, there's boy bands, and there's a checklist on their fridge of all the people they should sleep with before the end of the academic year: winner gets £££! My Heart Goes Bang also focuses on more serious topics such as dysfunctional families, abusive relationships, the stress of being poor, and sexuality. I read it in one sitting (rare, these days) and missed the girls once it was finished. It is warm, funny, authentic, and in true Stainton style, a celebration of girlkind.

Title: How Do You Like Me Now?
Author: Holly Bourne
Published by: Hodder & Stoughton
Publication date: 14th June 2018
Pages: 368
Genres: Adult/Contemporary
Format: Hardback
Source: Gift.

I've loved all of Bourne's YA novels, so of course I had to read her first foray into writing for adults. How Do You Like Me Now? is about being in your 20s/30s when everyone seems to be making big life decisions: having kids, getting married, having awesome careers, and generally having their lives sorted - and it all seems to come so easily. Tori Bailey, on the other hand, has what seems like a good career, but in reality is something she's finding hard to sustain; a boyfriend who doesn't want to marry her; and no kids, meaning everyone else looks down on her. It's about societal pressure, the expectation on women to follow certain paths, and the internal conflict that can create. It also showcases strong friendships and how social media can warp reality. How Do You Like Me Now? is written with sarcasm, wit, and takes a look at life with and without a filter.

Title: Only Love Can Break Your Heart
Author: Katherine Webber
Published by: Walker Books
Publication date: 2nd August 2018
Pages: 400
Genres: YA Contemporary/Romance/Grief
Format: Paperback
Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Wing Jones was a stunning debut from Webber, and Only Love Can Break Your Heart was just as good, if not better. Against the vibrant colours of the Californian desert, Reiko mourns her sister, going for late-night drives through the sand and climbing the rocks. When she meets Seth, their worlds clash: Reiko is wealthy and popular, and lives in a beautiful home; Seth lives in a trailer with his mum far away from anyone. When Reiko takes Seth under her wing, he soon becomes a mirror for her personality - and she doesn't like what she sees. Only Love Can Break Your Heart is about grief, heartbreak, and finding yourself when nothing else in life is working.

Title: Notes on a Nervous Planet
Author: Matt Haig
Published by: Canongate
Publication date: 5th July 2018
Pages: 310
Genres: Non-fiction/Mental Health
Format: Hardback
Source: Bought.

Notes on a Nervous Planet is an intelligent and considered commentary on the nervous system that is our world today. It looks at how technology has advanced to make our lives easier but has also inadvertently made our lives more difficult. The constant barrage of notifications, news, work emails and updates from old classmates we never even liked about how great their lives are, is not what we were built for. Short chapters and a scrapbook-style collection of thoughts really suits me in regards to non-fiction, and Haig's distinctive voice makes this even better.

I think we can safely say I've read a variety of different things. I enjoyed reading all of these books - even the first one, at times - but my favourite of the bunch has to be My Heart Goes Bang by Keris Stainton. Now the difficult decision of what to read next...

What have you read lately? Have you read any of these? Tweet me @MileLongBookS or comment below!

Monday, 6 August 2018

Paris in June

Last night, I realised that I never blogged about my trip to Paris in June. During my childhood and early adolescence, Paris topped my bucket list, and when I finally went for the first time in October 2017 with a couple of my friends, it was such an amazing time (you can read about that here!) A week after that trip, I somehow acquired a boyfriend (yeah, I don't know how either) and a few months later we booked our own trip to Paris. I wanted to go again, and he'd never been, so why not?

I decided to stay in an AirBnB because I'd had such a positive experience before. It makes for a much nicer experience to visit a home rather than a hotel room, and they're quite often cheaper, too. We actually ended up staying in a small apartment just a couple of streets away from where I stayed before - this wasn't intentional as you're not given the exact address until you've booked somewhere, but I did know it was in the same district. Montmartre is beautiful. It's not right in the centre, but I like that it's away from the tourist attractions yet only 20/30 minutes or so on the metro.

Here's a photo of our apartment which I LOVED. It was much, much smaller than the one I stayed in before, and definitely couldn't have fit more than two guests, but it was perfect for us. You can check out all the details here if you're looking for somewhere to stay (not sponsored or anything, just for anyone who might be interested.)

It's only a five minute walk from the metro, so getting around was quick and easy, especially as I'd done it before. The first day, however, started slightly traumatically. After getting up at 3am to get the earliest Eurostar to Paris, we knew we would get to the apartment an hour before check-in, but we weren't too bothered about that. But then it got later, and later... and we were just sat on the steps outside with our suitcases, with no contact from the host. It got to a point where I didn't know what to do and all I could do was imagine the worst case scenario: that the host never turned up. What if all the hotels were booked? What if they weren't but it was expensive? Where would we go? I was so stressed that part of me just wanted to go back home - but even that wasn't an option, because 1) They can be hundreds of pounds on the day of travel, and 2) I wasn't about to throw away a holiday in one of my favourite cities. So, we waited, and eventually we heard from the host. If I remember rightly, we'd been waiting for nearly 3 hours at this point? So yeah, not the greatest start... we literally got in, dumped our bags, I changed into shorts (READER, IT WAS BOILING) and off we went to the Eiffel Tower for which we had booked a specific time slot that was fast approaching...

If you've read my post from my last trip, you'll know I'd already been, but it was Alex's first time in Paris and how can you not go to the Eiffel Tower? Plus, I'd been in Autumn/Winter so the view hadn't been great. This time, it was 33C, with bright blue skies and not a cloud in sight. The views were much better this time, that's for sure.

That's a tiny Arc de Triomphe in the middle, which we went to next. Again, this is somewhere I had visited during my last trip, but that was a spontaneous 10pm 'hey, let's go to the Arc de Triomphe!' when the Eiffel Tower was all lit up and sparkly, and this was during the middle of the day. I'm a photography geek, okay, I need to see things in all lights...

After a long day of travelling and barely eating, we went to McDonald's where I discovered French McDonald's barely caters for vegetarians at all. I wasn't that surprised because I've always known France isn't great for vegetarians, but I thought I'd be safe with an international brand - I was wrong. Luckily, I'd prepared for this situation and brought lots of hot snacks (the kind where you just add boiling water and boom, delicious rice/pasta/greatness) with me from home. Girl's gotta eat.

The next day we went to Disneyland. It was an hour and a half on the train, and it was nice to get out of Paris a little bit. I'd never been to any of the Disney parks, so I was so excited! I got ears, obviously.

The following day was our last, and also the hottest. We walked along the river and had a quick look at Notre Dame Cathedral before heading to lunch at Hank Burger, one of my favourite (vegan!) restaurants. We had planned to visit Jardin de Luxembourg too, but we finally gave in to the heat and returned to the apartment to pack. We just couldn't cope with the heat anymore.

Just before leaving for Gare du Nord, we went to a supermarket so I could buy some snacks to take home, like bolognaise-flavoured Lays. I tried them last time and I knew I had to get some more - they sound disgusting but I promise they're delicious.

And that was the end of the trip! It was nice to go at a different time of year, and I'm still missing Disney even now - it really is the most magical place on earth.

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