Review: Millie Marotta’s Tropical Wonderland

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This review has probably been my most fun and most visual post to-date. While I absolutely love escaping with a book in hand, it was amazing to pass the time and relax whilst doing something a little different. I have wanted an adult colouring book for months and I love any excuse to sit down and avoid adult responsibilities. I wanted a book that had a lot of patterns that filled its pages, so this particular one was absolutely perfect for me. It’s a colouring book that doesn’t make you feel like a five year old, what more could you want?

Millie Marotta’s Tropical Wonderland is the second in a series of colouring books illustrated by Millie Marotta and with its intricate and detailed designs it encourages creative freedom so that every individual can make each and every page their own.

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I have a Fine Art A Level under my belt, so I’m an absolute flaming perfectionist over anything arty or creative. Which means I was a little worried that I wouldn’t be able to fully relax and let the process of creating something calm me like it used to. Every time I didn’t stay within the lines, the perfectionist niggled a little bit more and I will probably actively avoid the sections that ask you to draw your own tropical flora. They scare me because I’ve never been too great at illustration. So my attempt will only end up with me sulking and not opening the book for a few days and that’s not fun for anyone. However, once I got into the rhythm of colouring I forgot about my initial apprehension, proved myself wrong and lost hours to filling in just one page.

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I had an absolute ball playing around with different techniques to fill the shapes and spaces. Using one colour per block or blending colours, I could make this as bright and as colourful as I wanted – the possibilities are endless. Using practically all of the colours available to me probably makes this a very unrealistic interpretation of a tropical wonderland, but it just looks so pretty. The intricate designs allow you to change up colours as and when you want to, rather than leaving one leaf or flower one block colour.

At the moment, my final year at university is only just starting, so I didn’t have much stress or many worries to escape from. I just couldn’t wait to get started and write about this book, and so the page was completed through pure excitement and determination rather than the need for therapeutic activities. But later, when I have to juggle assignments, lectures, part-time work and keeping up with my society and having a social life, the “me time” I got through sitting and concentrating on nothing other than the task at hand will really help. I would recommend this to anyone who has trouble un-winding after a long and busy day, suffers from anxiety (as this has been highly recommended to me by a dear friend who does) and also finds enjoyment in making something look pretty without the hassle or stress of trying to create your own illustration – you don’t need to be the next Van Gogh to enjoy a book like this, but if you are then you’ll probably do a better job staying within the lines than I did and possibly attempt the “do it yourself” sections.

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perfect instagram oppotunity, it would be rude not to

This colouring book will last me throughout my entire final year of university; it’ll aid me in my endless procrastination marathons and to de-stress me when my assignment and dissertation deadlines loom closer. It’s basically unproductive productivity and that means it’s okay, right? Okay, maybe not. But it has a wonderful purpose and therapeutic value if everything feels like it’s getting a little bit too much and you want to escape from being overwhelmed.

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The amount of time and care I took in completing just the first page leads me to believe that this book will be a very long and slow work in progress, which I will probably needlessly document on Snapchat and Instagram. The amount of illustrations there are for you means endless distraction and art therapy. The quality of the book itself and the pages means it is absolutely worth every single penny you spend on it.

4.5/5 Mockingbirds

Love,
Beth xo

Review: Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey

One of the main reasons I wanted to read Elizabeth is Missing is because we all love something with our own name on it –tacky key rings from the seaside, gaudy mugs from gift shops and, of course, award winning novels. You can’t help yourself really, can you? So, for obvious reasons, I was absolutely delighted to read this heartwarming novel by Emma Healey whom delivers an honest and moving insight into the progression of the main character, Maud’s, dementia.

Elizabeth is missing and Maud is sure she’s going to find out why, but it is extremely difficult to solve a mystery when you can’t remember the clues. Struggling against her forgetfulness and trying to keep her grasp on the present, Maud’s memory is frequently clouded by the unsolved mystery surrounding her older sister’s disappearance during her youth. Is Elizabeth really missing? Or is Maud just confused? Haunted by the unanswered questions surrounding Sukey and her sudden disappearance?

Watching the memories and the mysteries unfold through Maud’s perspective leaves you feeling as frustrated as she does, and searching for answers in the notes Maud leaves piled up in her pockets and in the memories of her childhood. You can’t help but laugh a little about Maud’s forgetfulness –clusters of forgotten tea, the odd boiled egg and where is it best to grow marrows? But the answer Maud is looking for is buried in her own questions. There is more to Maud and her infuriating question asking than her daughter, Helen, thinks and she remembers more than she may realise.

This novel is a thought-provoking and touching story about the struggles of living with dementia without labeling itself as a book only about dementia. It’s exploration of the battle Maud faces everyday makes reading the book an enlightening experience, rather than a sob story. Leaving the reader wanting to know more but not being able to creates the same sense of “I can’t quite put my finger on it” and “I know I’m forgetting something, but I can’t remember what I’ve forgotten” that Maud battles with everyday.

I loved this book and I almost wish it could have been longer. The short and sharp discovery at the end doesn’t quite do Maud’s long and repetitively agonising search for answers justice. But as this is my only criticism, it is also praise to the author and her ability to write such a novel. Is it really a downfall if it leaves me wanting more? It was simply just not enough. Discovering the true fate of Elizabeth and, quite literally, digging up the past leaves most of our questions answered. But I have just one – where really is the best place to grow marrows?

 3.5/5 Mockingbirds.

Love,
Beth xo

My University Survival Bible

Starting university can be an overwhelming ordeal and no matter how prepared you think you might be, there aren’t enough matching kettles and saucepans a person can buy that will make it any less scary when you finally get there. So, here are a few do’s and don’ts that I have discovered while making my way through university. Hopefully, taking any of these on board will mean that your university experience will be more manageable and comfortable from the get-go.

  • DO invest in an NUS extra card and rail card. The money you spend on an NUS card can be made back within one cheeky ‘loan-day’ shopping splurge, so it is definitely worth the investment to have one for your entire university experience. And let’s face it, there is no denying you will get home sick at one point during a semester. It’s bound to happen. Leaving home is a huge change in your life and you are not alone. There are thousands of students at your very university that have gone through or are going through the exact same thing as you. A rail card might make visiting home and having a comforting cuppa with your family more affordable and less of a financial burden for you to fret over.
  • DO join a team or society as soon as you feel ready to. University can be a very overwhelming experience, especially when you’re going it alone and are leaving home. While the horror stories you might hear can be intimidatingly off-putting, once you get to know the people in your society the traditions and rules you may have to endure as a fresher are much easier to laugh off. It’s an easy way to meet a big group of people all at once and you can find closer connections with those people over time. It is also never too late to join a society. I joined a society in my second year and it really expanded my friendship group and developed me into a more confident and sociable person. So if you are a little shy, that’s okay, and if you don’t think a society is for you during your first year, you’ve still got time if you change your mind later on.
  • DO write a shopping list. By planning out your meals for the week ahead, you will only buy what you know you will cook and eat, meaning less goes to waste and you aren’t throwing away money. If you have left overs, freeze them. One pot of spaghetti Bolognese can stretch to 3 portions, meaning not having to buy shopping for two more days in the future.
  • DO suggest to flatmates/housemates to share the cost of household essentials such as washing-up liquid, bin bags, toilet and kitchen roll. More often than not, one person in the group will constantly be re-stocking while others escape from contributing. If you all put an equal share into a tin, perhaps £10 a month each, then you can take out what you need when you need it and avoid being the only person covering the costs. If you don’t use all the money up over the months you’re living at university, what you accumulate can contribute towards a take-away night for the entire flat and give you all a little bonding time.
  • DO use other people’s success as a driving force to improve. It is incredibly easy to watch someone else succeed and feel threatened by it if you’re not doing the same. Nobody wants to feel inferior. But rather than tearing down another person’s success by responding negatively, perhaps use it as an opportunity to learn from them. Why not ask someone about his or her work or for his or her help with the next assignment? They might be able to share tips or comments that could be the difference between one grade and a better one. Changing the way you respond to jealously could improve your mindset regarding other people exceeding, teach you some useful study methods and, hey, you could also gain a friend.
  • DO NOT do all the washing up yourself. More often than not, the kitchen will become an abyss of dirty plates and you’ll be rummaging through draws for any cutlery you can find. To make it fair, suggest taking it in turns to clean the kitchen with your flat/housemates or if that doesn’t work, be a one-man band and be responsible for your own. Trust me, if you’re a person who likes things neat, clean and tidy you will get the itch just to suck it up, get on the marigolds and clean up what has been left behind. But once you succumb to the pressures of day old baked beans, you could be taken for granted. Don’t be afraid to devise a cleaning rota or to tell your flat mates your plans. You share the communal area and it should be a place where you can spend time and invite people over without being embarrassed by the mess.
  • DO NOT leave reading and essays until the last minute. It’s a good idea to get a step ahead and start working your way through your reading list over the summer. That way when you start your semester you’re not constantly trying to keep up with 3 books at a time. You need to do the reading to be able to contribute in seminars and, believe me; lecturers will catch you out if you haven’t. With essays, it is very easy to put off until later. But eventually, there will be no later. How much time you do or, rather, do not spend on your essays can really reflect on your marks. If you struggle to sit down and start your essay, try doing some reading and make notes in a word document. Eventually, you will have a very rough base to build your essay upon and you’ll find you’ve already done half the groundwork without realising it.
  • DO NOT buy food every day at the student union or on-campus cafes. When you’re spending £3-£5 at a time on your lunch it doesn’t seem too much. But when you add the total amount that you are spending together, you may no longer wonder why you’re broke. Save yourself added expenses and make yourself a sandwich. What you spend on bread and ham could last you a week’s worth of lunches and is probably the same amount you would spend on a single shop-bought Panini.
  • DO NOT be afraid to ask for help. Your lecturers are there to answer your questions and make themselves available throughout the week if you want a one-on-one meeting. They will talk to you about anything from an essay, a lecture or your worries. University can become incredibly overwhelming and your personal tutor is there to give you advice and direct you towards the right avenues if you need any further assistance with your problems. Remember: they have been in that exact position themselves and couldn’t be where they are without having gone to university. Their advice is tried and tested and you should trust it.
  • DO NOT do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. Whether you’re asked to join for the night on the town or your society has bestowed some tasks upon you, there is nothing wrong with saying no. Do not feel pressured into anything you do not want to do and maybe come up with alternatives that you will enjoy. If you aren’t the clubbing-type, suggest going to a pub for a few drinks or if you don’t drink at all, maybe suggest a lunch-date or games night with some friends. Getting drunk isn’t the only way to have fun at university, so maybe spend some time looking into what is available to you in the area.
  • DO NOT be surprised by the amount of sex at university. When people escape to university, they are afforded an opportunity to let loose and explore their sexuality when and how they like to. If your parents are anything like mine, they’ll ship you off in your innocence with a box of condoms and hope for the best. It is perfectly okay to want to have sex. It is also perfectly okay to not want to have sex. There is an unreal amount of pressure surrounding young people and when someone should lose their virginity, and a lot of people are comfortable doing this during their teens. However, there are lots of young people in the world who want to wait until they are comfortable to enter into this sort of relationship and should be proud that they didn’t give in to peer pressure during their younger years. But when they do decide that they are ready, here are a few words of advice: Make sure you are 100% ready and comfortable with the person you choose to do it with. Always tell them if it is your first time, they will be more attentive and will understand if you need to stop. Be safe and take precaution – it isn’t just the boys’ responsibility, there are ways for girls to minimise the risks. Unwanted pregnancy can happen, it can also be prevented. Your first time doesn’t have to be romantic like the movies make out. You might need a little bit of dutch courage to take control and be confident, but have no regrets. As long as you are happy, nothing else matters. If you feel 100% comfortable with the person you are having sex with, there should be no reason for you not to enjoy yourself –talk to that person, tell them what you want to try, stop hiding under the duvet and explore what you both do and do not like. Your body is a temple and it should be worshipped within the walls of your student accommodation.

Love,
Beth xo