Reading slumps and my first year at Uni…

“…and she was filled with the conviction that nothing she had to say was worth committing to paper” – Laura Barnett, ‘The Versions of Us’. 

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As a student of English Literature the title of this blog post sounds like a complete contrast to what my life revolves around: books. However, I have been in the midst of a reading slump for the last few months, feeling unable to pick up a book either for University or leisure without being filled with dread. This is neither good for my studies nor my growth as a person, having always loved books this change is particularly unsettling as I can’t seem to find an explanation for the sudden distaste for it.

My current theory revolves around my experience at my first year of University. Having always being an organised and conscientious student I naturally thought I would love the structure of University and the amount of independent study that was encouraged. Oh, how I underestimated the amount of pressure that comes with being in a room full of extremely talented people! The competitive nature of being heard and validating your claims as well as being original and engaging is a lot to take on and has completely exhausted and somewhat demotivated me in the last few months;  in theory explaining the reading slump I am now in.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love University,  but for any new students I think almost everyone experiences this change of pace.

So my open question to the world is how do other students deal with this, if you do at all? Does anyone else struggle with the competitiveness and the pressure of producing original engaging work? If anyone has any other worries I’d love to hear them so we can all help one another!

Until next time xx

 

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“Anna and the French Kiss” by Stephanie Perkins

Anna is looking forward to her senior year in Atlanta, where she has a great job, a loyal best friend, and a crush on the verge of becoming more. Which is why she is less than thrilled about being shipped off to boarding school in Paris–until she meets Étienne St. Clair. Smart, charming, beautiful, Étienne has it all…including a serious girlfriend.

But in the City of Light, wishes have a way of coming true. Will a year of romantic near-misses end with their long-awaited French kiss? (Goodreads Synopsis)

As I mentioned in my last post on Lisa Glass’ series of books, I am a huge YA fan and the book that started it all off is the one I’m reviewing today. Anna and the French Kiss was always one of the books I’d seen on the shelf at Waterstones but never really picked up because in all honesty it does sound a little cliché. However my main motivation to buy this was when I was watching a John Green video where he mentions and praises Stephanie Perkins book: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gep4QH6U27M Start to 49 secs). The next time I went to the bookstore I made a beeline for YA section to pick up the book and my goodness did I fall in love with it!

Having loved France and Paris from my first trip there when I was in primary school, sixteen year old me absolutely devoured this book and is still one of, if not my favourite YA read. As the synopsis describes the story revolves around Anna, a girl who in her senior year of high school is shipped off to a boarding school in Paris by her father. Initially she is extremely self conscious of her American citizenship in the cultured city, despite going to SOAP (School of America in Paris), where all students are American. Cue St Clair, the American boy raised in England with a French name, who’s about to make life a lot more interesting…

This book is such a wonderful piece of YA fiction, Anna for me was instantly likeable, the way Perkins words her inner thoughts and  idiosyncrasies are both humorous and endearing. Not only is the protagonist a richly developed character but so are her friends. St Clair, Meridith, Josh and Rashimi have equal degree of character development throughout the novel (most are also included in the subsequent books in the trilogy). The inclusion of the characters to enrich the love story revolving around Anna and St Claire’s relationship gives off the same kind of feeling to me personally as the F.R.I.E.N.D.S gang, a group you cant’t help but long to be a part of yourself!

As the novel is further encompassed in the beautiful surrounding of Paris, Perkins transports the reader to the Latin Quater, The Panetheon, the famous Shakespeare and Co bookshop (which this book made me want to visit so badly!) and the notorious Notre Dame/Point Zero, a perfect and unique setting for a YA romance.

Another aspect I loved of the book and the series is its immersive quality. As a reader if I love a story or a character I tend to remain pretty loyal to it and love merchandise etc to do with the story. Perkins gives her readers such a treat with extra content for this series, her website containing deleted chapters, bonus scenes, a playlist of songs she listened to while writing and playlist spoilers that give the songs context in line with the novels events, kind of like a soundtrack to the book! (which I’m actually listening to while writing this review: http://stephanieperkins.com/extras/).

Ultimately for me, the book was an unputdownable read which I have enjoyed many times since first reading it. I also continued to buy Perkins subsequent books in the series: Lola and the Boy Next Door and Isla and the Happily Ever After (which I’ll probably put in other reviews at a later date, purely because I love the series so much!). The book is a definite must for any lover of romance and travel, or in want of a book that you just can’t stop reading!

Has anyone else read this series of books? Please comment your thoughts or message me via Instagram 🙂

Till next time, Aurevoir!

“Blue” Series by Lisa Glass

Synopsis (SPOILERS ALERT):

(Blue) “Surfing is sixteen-year-old Iris’s world, and when the ultra-talented Zeke walks into her life, it soon becomes her passion. Over one amazing summer, as she is drawn into his sphere, she experiences love, new friendships, but also loss, with an intensity she never dreamed of. But is Zeke all he seems? What hides beneath his glamorous and mysterious past? When Iris decides to try for her own surfing success, just as her ex-boyfriend comes back into her life, she will test her talent, and her feelings for Zeke, to the limit…Being in a relationship with one of the hottest and most talented male surfers on the circuit is a dream come true… right?”

(Air) “Iris and Zeke get to travel to the most beautiful beaches in the world, competing in major surf competitions. Life should be perfect, but when Zeke is suspended from a surf tour in Hawaii, it’s clear there is some deep trouble in paradise. And then there’s Zeke’s romantic past: at every turn Iris is confronted by his old flames and his hordes of female fans. Returning to Newquay, Iris finds that at home things have also changed. Her friends have moved on with their lives, and they sense Iris is keeping something – something bad – from them. What really happened in Hawaii? Why was Zeke kicked off the circuit? And what secret is tearing Iris and Zeke’s relationship apart?”

(Ride) “The final instalment in this irresistible story of romance, sun and surf.
Seventeen-year-old Iris has returned to her hometown of Newquay. Leaving behind her promising surfing career. Leaving behind Zeke, the boy who changed her world.
She’s happy to get back to her old life, her friends and family. She wants to rediscover her passion for surfing. But Iris soon realises it won’t be that simple. Because while summer romances might only last the season, first loves never truly leave you.”

  • All Synopsis’ cited from Goodreads

I initially picked up this book as I was interested in the depiction of Newquay, living in Cornwall myself, despite my reservations that the book may be too “tween” for me at the time. However, as a teenager reading this when it was released I got fairly hooked on the story of Zeke and Iris and ended up reading the last book in the series in one sitting just anticipating the ending! The trilogy by Lisa Glass follows the story of Iris, a young surfer from Cornwall who meets professional surfer Zeke and how their shared passion for surfing as well as typical teenager problems (sex, drugs, family troubles etc) affect their relationship.

While reading both the first and second book I was studying for my A Level exams, (somewhat procrastinating instead of revising). I found the books a real welcomed alternative to heavy things I had been reading for my course during the time, as well as inspiring the summer mood I was hoping it would. While the first book was possibly more “teen” orientated for myself, I found the second and third books in the series more interesting in terms of the approach to normal teen issues which I’ve previously listed as well as the confrontation and secrets between the protagonists. This pushed the books into an “older teen” category in my eyes purely due to the exposure to elder reader’s issues. These are addressed however and its nice to see Iris’ maturation throughout the series.

The passion for surfing and the lifestyle Glass portrays utterly sums up Newquay for myself, which I both find nostalgic and partially moving. The way Glass writes projects her own passion for the sea and Cornwall within her work which truly was the best element of the series in my opinion.

Ultimately I do find the series engaging, but I may be biased having been to the actual places that Glass has written about! Teen series like this are definitely my guilty pleasure (as you’ll find out in later reviews!). Despite this series being a little young for myself now, I would recommend it to any lovers of surfing, romance, comical play off between characters and especially those looking for a book to easily get into. As its now the lead up to summer it’ll definitely spark the summer vibes, especially if anyone is coming to Cornwall!

What does anyone else think to this book? Feel free to leave comments or contact me via Instagram. Have a great day xx

“Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon

“The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743. Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives.”  (Goodreads synopsis)

Despite discovering this series of books fairly recently (within the last year) I have completely fallen in love with eighteenth century Scotland and the relationship between Claire and Jamie. As probably many book enthusiasts will know, while it is a very popular series I feel a lot of people will be phased by the sheer length of the series (8 books which are all fairly hefty, this book having 863 pages). Having seen so many of posts on Instagram about this series though I had to give the first book a try and I’m so happy I did! For lovers of romance, adventure, history, sci fi and danger Outlander covers it all. As the synopsis describes, the story revolves around a young women Claire Randall who when on a trip to Scotland with her husband Frank after the Second World War, is transported to 1743 Scotland. Immersed in the Highlanders way of life Claire is forced to adapt to this alien world inamongst danger and passion.

One of, if not the most appealing thing about the book and indeed the series, is the aspect of escapism it gives to the reader. Gabaldon’s writing is wonderfully immersive with rich descriptive language. The unique blend of a somewhat sci fi theme (with the time travelling element) fused with the historicism and romance makes for an enthralling read. The plot being so complex further adds to its immersive qualities and is partially a test for the reader in trying to remember everything! I ended up taking a very long time reading this due to having to read other texts for uni and came back to it a little overwhelmed forgetting where I was. I actually bought the Starz adaptation of Season one of Outlander to watch alongside which helped rejog my memory aswell as it being interesting to compare the adaptation alongside the actual plot (which I actually found quite accurate to the text, Sam Heughan and Caitriona Balfe do an amazing job depicting the relationship between Jamie and Claire). Another aspect of the book I loved was the complete sympathy and loyalty you end up feeling (or at least I did!) for the Scottish clans. If you’re keen on this period of history it’s known through the book that the imenent rising of Culloden will be the end of the Scottish clans and a lot of the culture that the book revolves around. I somewhat found this a disturbing and unsettling force in the novel, but definitely made me question my opinions on colonisation of culture and how life shattering it can be for those who experience such a thing. Being a History student up until A level, I’ve always had the opinion that ‘English are best’ and have alligence to when I learnt about battles or invasions. This book actually help me sympathise and shed a new light on my own preconceptions.

One reservation I could give about the book and specifically the adaptation is the graphic nature of some of the scenes. Not only does Gabaldon put explicit emphasis on the physical side of Jamie and Claire’s relationship but also on the amount of blood shed in various schisms between the Scots and Redcoats, definitely not a book for the faint hearted!

Ultimately the novel has inspired me to slowly attempt to complete the rest of the series (I actually bought the second book Dragonfly in Amber about halfway through the first book!).

I’d love to hear about other people’s opinions on the book and series, feel free to contact me about it and get a discussion going 😊

Happy reading! 📖