Saturday, 28 May 2016

Book Review: Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard




 I bought Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard on Wednesday afternoon, started it on Thursday morning and finished it at 2am on Friday morning. I had tears rolling down my cheeks and a strange lull in my heart. I’m not going to lie, I first picked this book up because of it’s stunning and beautiful cover as well as the vague and captivating tagline ‘I was brave, she was reckless, we were trouble.’ I didn’t expect it to touch me as much as it did.

I’ve found this review quite hard to write, it’s difficult to write it without spoilers as I wanted to discuss the plotlines etc. It’s more of a discussion rather than a review, but just to warn you there are probably hints of the plot/characters throughout so read at you own risk!

This is Sara Barnard’s debut novel about love, it’s about how deep teenage female friendships bonds can go and the loyalty that comes with them. The protagonist, Caddy goes into year 11 at an all girl’s school with three goals:
1)   To get a real boyfriend
2)   To lose her virginity
3)   To experience a ‘Significant Life Event’
And she expects to do this with her absolute best friend, the sarcastic, trustworthy Rosie. They had always been inseparable, even though they went to different schools. However a new girl at Rosie’s school, Suzanne, threatens to change everything about their lives. The story is about friendship - about how you can be blinded by love and not realise the destructive qualities. It’s manipulative, it’s heart-warming and its heart wrenching all whilst being incredibly realistic and raw.

Caddy is naïve. When I first started it took me a while to be get into. I liked the fact that the protagonist went to an all girls school – especially loved the description of it being an ‘oestrogen prison’ – and I liked the fact it was set in Brighton. It was believable, she was just a normal teenage girl. However she seemed too young at first, normally YA books I enjoy the protagonist is 17 or 18 and develops into a more mature character throughout the book. I felt that Caddy was very young and innocent and didn’t participate in that much character development throughout the book, shown in the last chapter. However I do also think this naivety was needed for the book. It portrays an honest portrayal of a teenager – so eager to be liked and so conscious of everyone around her. She is so eager to look on the positive side, she wants to look after her friend and fix everything. Her loyalty to stick by Suzanne’s side, and defend her (even when she shouldn’t have been defended) shows dedication and a sense of faith that is just so raw and deep when you’re a teenager.

Reading this book I was inside Caddy’s head, but could also have an outside perspective. Sara writes in such a simple way but nevertheless is incredibly clever. I could see the manipulative but loving character of Suzanne so clearly, I could see Caddy’s urge to help and look after her, but also Rosie’s view on this change in their friendship, as well as Caddy’s parents views on how one girl could change everything for their daughter. She wrote with such subtly that really captivated you, I could feel my heart twisting in my chest when I realised Suzanne was changing Caddy, I literally couldn’t put the book down – I mean I turned my light off at 12:30 expecting to go to sleep but fifteen minutes later I turned on my light and read until I finished the book at 2 in the morning. In that sleepy, emotional state I wrote down words I felt about this book – Manipulative, subtle, real, heart-breaking, raw, believable, predictable, honest.

The character of Suzanne is so complicated, untrustworthy but loveable. She had a vulnerability that came with her but also a dark side, Sara Barnard really captivated the way she changed Caddy – for the good and the better. She made her more reckless, more exciting but also put her in danger. There was a romantic beautiful side to the darkness that Suzanne upheld but this book was so real and raw that it scared me. Suzanne’s flippant changes of mood and her ability to put on a mask and hide parts of her life were astounding. Having the narrative from Caddy’s point of view was insightful here as you could see how believable perfect beautiful Suzanne looked.

In most books or films I read/watch there is a romantic love story – and that has always been my favourite part, I love romance and I’m not ashamed to admit it (even if my friends do laugh at me.) This story is a love story, just not the romantic kind but I loved it the exact same amount. It’s a love story between friends. The first line made me laugh – ‘I thought it was a start to a love story. Finally.’ – Just the sarcastic tone instantly drew me in, it almost mocks love story’s, but also shows the unrealistic views they portray. It’s an ironic first line and it really made me laugh.

I don’t know how I feel about the ending to be honest. In a way it was predictable, which should be a bad thing, but it wasn’t – it was needed. The novel needed to be wrapped up, but it wasn’t fully, and that’s what makes it realistic. The ending in a way feels slightly rushed, but that’s life. It was a realistic conclusion, it wasn’t a ‘happily ever after’ situation but a need conclusion of the past year of events. Sorry I know that is a very vague description of the ending, but I don’t want to ruin the book completely!

So that’s it, they are my opinions on The Beautiful Broken Things – an easy but captivating read that has complex characters that make the book. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone, it is a great YA contemporary novel. Speak soon, Christina x

Thanks to Lyndsey for shooting these photo's! 


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Sunday, 22 May 2016

Why Girl Squads are Important



Empowered women, empower women.

There has been a lot of media speculation the past year about ‘Girls Squads’ and whether they empower women or just exclude them. Obviously I know everyone has different opinions and experiences about this subject but I wanted to discuss what I think, and how that has changed since going to university.

I saw a quote the other day that said ‘Girls compete with each other, Women empower each other’ and it got me thinking about my experience with groups of girls and how in the past two years, I have come to appreciate the strong independent women I surround myself with.

Although I’ve loved finding a new group of friends this year I want to take a moment and appreciate my old friends. I remember back when I was 15 (I don’t understand how that is four years ago) I wanted to be in a friendship group with guys, I created a perfect picture in my head and at that time, I don’t think I appreciated my group of girls as much as I should have. However I’ve now come to realise how amazing that group of girls are. We spent seven years together and made so many memories that it’s hard to remember all of them. The great thing is that although we don’t see each other everyday like we used to, we know we are always there for each other. Our teenage years are some of our hardest but I did it with this great group of girls by my side. Yeah, we went through a lot of stupid little fights, but we came out the other side. I am so excited to go on holiday with them all for a week at the end of June, I can’t wait to make new memories and catch up on the past year.


Sports – Dancing and Cheerleading has always played a huge part in my life, and most of the time it was the people surrounding me that made it so great. My Cheer team this year, Destiny, was a huge part of making me realise how strong women can be. I was in an all-girl team, meaning we didn’t have the natural strength that men normally bring to cheer, it meant we had to work out butts off to score high. We fought hard for our right to be on the mat, we overcame obstacles, we powered through pain and but we became stronger because of it. We lifted each other up, mentally and physically, and we rocked the floor. When I danced we would also normally be just girls (sometimes with one or two guys) and we could create something beautiful, something so serene and gentle. I spent years dancing next to my best friends and once again, although I don't see or speak to them everyday they still inspire me in many ways. Both Cheerleading and Dancing taught me strength in different ways, and its the fact that when you perform, your surrounded by a group of girls who you know are going to catch you if you fall, which makes it great.

Going to university this year taught me a lot of things and the ‘Cheer Senoritas’ were a huge part of that. Now, I’m still not 100% sure why we call ourselves that, it’s just the name of our group message that has stuck. They taught me to be comfortable in my own skin. They taught me that you don’t have to wear a full face of make-up every time you go out. They taught me that it’s okay to be fully interested and passionate in what you are studying. They taught me it’s okay to have strong views or opinions. They taught me that it is okay for you to do what you need to do. We are all different, none of us have the exact same personality, but that is what makes a group special. We appreciate one another and lift up each other, we boost each others confidence when we need it most, but are also there to comfort each other through the hard and stressful moments.
We all accept each other for who we are and somehow we all just fit together like pieces in a puzzle. I am eternally grateful to find these girls this year, and I know, whatever next year throws at us that we will all still be there for each other.

  
I know this blog post is a bit random, and technically is just me talking about how much I love my friends, but I wanted to highlight that ‘Girl Squads’ are good. Yes, people can be bitchy but, that's just a fact of life. I wanted to highlight the positive aspects of them and take a second to appreciate these women.  

As a group of girls or women we have the power to support someone. We can show them that we are always there for them no matter what. We can believe in them to chase their dreams. We can be inspired and motivated by their achievements. We can boost someones confidence with just one single complement. A single person has the ability to comfort someone when they are crying, but a group gives that person someone to lean on at all hours. Be that person, be in that group of inspiring women and be that inspiring woman. Groups of women or girls shouldn't be intimidating or scary, they should be full of laughter and smiles that radiate friendliness and inclusiveness. I've learnt a lot the past two years, but the most valuable thing I've learnt is how important it is to have a group of friends who you can lean on!

Hope this hasn't been too much of a ramble! And you all have a good start to the week, Christina x






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Friday, 20 May 2016

The Sky Garden









Tuesday was the perfect first day of summer. Yes, that’s right, I’m already on summer. How crazy is that? I had my last exam on Monday and handed in all my final assignments last week so on Monday when the clock chimed 4:30 I couldn’t stop smiling. The last three weeks or so have been pretty stressful, I’m not going to lie but it's over and done with now. So, I’ve finished my first year at Queen Mary’s, and I cannot believe it. Time flew by and I’ve learnt so much – but that’s all for another post! For now, I’m back blogging, I’m feeling inspired and I’ve even got a new blog design!

So on Tuesday myself, Alice and Abbie (shout out to my two favourite English girls who made my first year fab) had a good old ‘London day’ to celebrate. We started with slightly sore heads from the night before so recovered with some much needed pancakes at The Breakfast Club in Spitalfields – If you’ve never been to The Breakfast Club, I honestly urge you to go there right away, it serves the best breakfast, especially the pancakes!
We then headed to The Sky Garden – a garden on the 35th floor of 20 Fenwich Street which has a 360 degree view of London. You wander among the green plants in the garden, stare out at view on the open air terrace and sit in the café all while marvelling at the views surrounding you. What I loved about it was the calm atmosphere, it allowed you to catch a breath. I love London, but it is always so busy and fast paced but when you are up high staring at these marvelous landmarks it takes your breath away. I felt a calming sense come across me, I’m just a teenage girl in this massive city but staring at the streets from above, you feel a slight power that's hard to describe. I loved being able to see all the landmarks, I’ve lived in the city for about 8 months now and rarely do tourist things, but whenever I travel into central or see the landmarks I’m reminded why I love the city. Right in front of the open air terrace you had a magnificient view of the Shard, but if you looked carefully in the distance at one point you could spot Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament – showing that although London has some beautifully modern buildings, it is still so full of history! I even shot a little video of out day if you want to check it out below. The Sky Garden is definitely one of my favourite places in the city. 

It was the perfect day to celebrate finishing my first year. Although I am staying in London until June it just reminded me how much I love this city and how I certainly made the right decision to come to Queen Mary's!



I hope life is good with all of you, and I once again apologise for the absence but sometimes you just need a break. Now I'm refreshed and ready as ever to make my blog professional and more me, talk soon! Christina x





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Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Why I always still be a bit of a countryside girl



There will always be something of a country girl in me. 

However much I love London, and I do, I really really do, coming home for Christmas reminded me that I will always have a special place in my heart for views of the countryside. Outside my childhood bedroom stands Ivinghoe Beacon, a relatively big hill that has an imprint of a lion drawn in sand, even though I’ve been on hundred of hideously cold and long walks up throughout my nineteen years, I think it’s as you spend time away from things you realise how precious they really are. Looking from my window you just see rows and rows of fields before the beacon, sometimes they have hay bails in, sometimes cows (you just don’t want the cows to come into your garden, that’s a whole other story…) but it’s peaceful, unmoving and still at all times. At night I can peek out my curtain and most often see the moon and the stars.
I still can’t quite comprehend the infinite number of stars that are in the sky every night. Everytime I look at stars, I feel a sense of calm rush over me. I know that whatever happens, if you just look up, the stars will always be there to welcome. On a clear night in the countryside the stars are crystal clear, and that’s what I miss when being in London, always being able to see the stars.
Even the most annoying things I’ve grown to almost love – the birds tweeting early in the morning, the horrid smell of cow manure, the awkward moments in the village pub when you pretend to know everybody but in reality know one other person who isn’t your family.

Sure, when I’m here I get annoyed about a bunch of things - living so far away from friends, not having the tube ( or any public transport) in walking distance and being away from the hustle and bustle of the city. But coming back home after three months has made me realise that this is home. That, however happy I feel when I look out my window in London and see Canary Wharf, a part of me will always love the quiet and remote feeling you have when you live in a tiny countryside village.

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