As a reminder, here is how I rate my books:

  • (★★★★★): Loved it
  • (★★★★): Really liked it
  • (★★★): Didn’t hate it, didn’t love it
  • (★★): Barely finished it

Another few notes: I will warn if there are any spoilers with (start spoiler) and (end spoiler) so you know when to stop reading and pick up again if you don’t want to ruin the book for yourself. Update: I will no longer be going out of my way to watch adaptions, but will continue to mention them and their general critiques (from Rotten Tomatoes) in my reviews.

Please forgive my gaps between the books, I was reading the Percy Jackson series at this time, as well!

Animal Farm by George Orwell

41bgiGplMlL._SX301_BO1,204,203,200_Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Classics, fiction, dystopia

GoodReads rating:  3.91 / 5 (2,305,000 ratings)

Medium used: Audio book and e-reader (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 6/2 – 10/2

Summary: Once the overworked animals reclaim the farm from the lording humans, they try to make their own way as their own rulers.

Thoughts: Wow! I really liked this book. It’s short and feels extremely relevant in today’s political climate.

Other adaptations: The 1954 animated version fared better than the live action 1999 version, but neither would be classified as “must-sees” by critics nor audiences.

The Firm by John Grisham

5358Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Fiction, (legal) thriller, mystery

GoodReads rating:  4.00 / 5 (519,000 ratings)

Medium used: Audio book and e-reader (borrowed from library via OverDrive)

Date started/ finished: 13/2 – 4/3

Summary: Mitch McDeere is hired out of college to an unassuming law firm in sleepy Memphis, Tennessee with amazing benefits. Only when he realizes that half a dozen of his coworkers at this small law firm have died in the last decade in mysterious accidents… what is the firm up to?

Thoughts: My only complaint is that it dragged a bit at parts and feel it could have been maybe 3/4 of the length it was and still been as effective. Other than that, it was greatly entertaining and had me on the edge of my seat.

Other adaptations: Apparently, one complaint about the 1993 movie starring Tom Cruise is that it’s too long, too! Otherwise, gets an average rating from audiences.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

41PN13KdexL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Young adult, fiction

GoodReads rating: 4.54 / 5 (280,000 ratings)

Medium used: Hardback book purchased new from Antigone Books (Tucson, Arizona)

Date started/ finished: 8/2 – 5/3

Summary: “Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends.” When she witnesses the unrighteous murder of her best friend and makes national headlines, she is torn between maintaining the “normal” facade at her school, or compromising her friendships and safety by speaking out.

Thoughts: I wish they built a bit more background on the prep school side of Starr’s life, I feel it was a bit underdeveloped for being so featured as a plot point in online summaries. Other than that, it felt really fresh and like something that could actually happen (and probably has). From the unfollowing-on-Tumblr-for-posting-policial-protest drama (I’ve been there) to the different faces we put on around others in adolescence, it was all so real.

Other adaptations: The 2018 film is loved by views and critics alike, I think I’ll have to see this one!

Sadie by Courtney Summers

34810320Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Young adult, mystery

GoodReads rating:  4.23 / 5 (20,900 ratings)

Medium used: Bought via Amazon Kindle app

Date started/ finished: 5/3 – 12/3

Summary: When young girl Mattie is found dead and her sister Sadie is missing, Sadie’s track to revenge is followed in the form of a podcast from her sleepy hometown of Cold Creek.

Thoughts: First thing’s first, big warning for sexual assault and pedophilia themes in this book. I know a lot of fellow book bloggers found this story to be a bit heavy but for me it’s what makes it so effective. I really loved the format of the writing from multiple points of view and hear it’s best consumed in the form of an audiobook. This is a great young adult mystery that has more mature themes and feel transcends the somewhat juvenile themes I often find in young adult novels.

Have you read any of these? Which did you enjoy most?

Photo by Radu Marcusu.

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thumbnail_image1Tell us a bit about yourself.

My names Sinéad, I’m 28 years old and I’m half Italian. I live in Windsor in Berkshire. I’m married to my darling wife Tazmyn. We got married in July of 2018 without anybody knowing, we told them 24 hours after. It was exactly how we wanted it and we wouldn’t have changed a thing about our special day. I have a cat called Gracie who’s 2. She’s quite literally my little baby. I love the sunshine, getting my nails done, scrolling Pinterest for hours at a time and I’m a sucker for reality TV.

How did you get into blogging?

I started my blog on August 1st 2018, a couple of weeks after I got married. Originally the idea behind the blog was just to have a place where I could document the first year of married life. The butterflies and the boundaries. Within 3 weeks of starting my blog, I began to get emails with collaboration offers and since then I’ve been lucky enough to have worked with some really fantastic brands and companies. You’ll see lots of skincare related posts, and different brands of skin products that I’ve tried and tested! They’ve been pretty fun posts to do. I love doing reviews.

Tell us about your favorite blog post.

I think one of my favourite blog posts by me has to be “6 months of being Mrs. Chalke” I reflected here on how the past 6 months has been for me since becoming a wife and creating the blog! It’s always good to look back on how far you’ve come and all you’ve achieved.

What are you doing when you’re not blogging?

When I’m not blogging I’m a full time nanny to two little girls. I honestly love my job so much but it’s very full on. I work 45-50 hours a week so by the time I get home in the evening I’m always super tired, I still somehow manage to blog most days though as it’s a real passion of mine. We’ve recently moved house, so in between working and blogging, we’re getting our house straight and exactly how we want it.

What is the hardest part about your weight loss journey so far?

So Tazmyn and I are currently on a healthy lifestyle/diet journey. We’re almost 10 days in and it’s really been an adjustment. We used to eat so badly, meals out all of the time, ordering take aways, and we were suckers for tea and biscuits (sometimes a whole pack, each!!!) But in February 25th we decided to say enough was enough and change our poor eating habits and learn new, healthier ones. We’ve given up fizzy drinks, sugar in our tea’s and coffee’s, no more biscuits or junk food, no meals out. We’re aiming to always have below 1200 calories a day and keeping our diet very low carb. We’ve smashed our water intake too which is around 3 litres a day and been making better choices when it comes to mealtimes. Another change we decided to make was not to weigh ourselves weekly, we have always found this to be a destructive tool in the past whenever we have tried to lose weight, as the scales can fluctuate from week to week depending on whether you’re retaining water or it’s your time of the month. So to avoid getting disheartened and even falling off track, we’ve decided to weigh in monthly. So far it’s working for us, we can already feel a difference within ourselves and are super excited to find out how we’ve done at the end of the month! I’d say the hardest thing about the weight loss journey so far is not having meals out! We used to eat out all of the time so I guess I kind of miss that.

What was your favorite part about visiting Brighton? 

My favourite part about visiting Brighton a few weeks ago was definitely the Marina. Tazmyn and I love Brighton, it’s where I fell in love with her, it’s where we went on our minimoon straight after we got married, and it’s where we go back to time and time again. Strangely though, we had never visited the marina until our most recent visit a couple of weeks ago. The harbour is so pretty and all the restaurants and bars give it a really nice atmosphere. We already can’t wait to go back in the summer. We want to do the glow in the dark crazy golf at the marina as it looks so much fun!!

Where else can we find you? 

Instagram || Twitter

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Here are my top five posts from all categories:

  1. 10 tips for your first trip to Thailand: Less than three months until wheels up! Updated post on my trip coming soon…
  2. The truth about volunteering with lions: I wrote a post about wildlife tourism a bit ago and it’s a topic that has really stuck with me as a conservationist and animal lover.
  3. 2019 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge: I’m on a roll with reading this year (I think I just finished my 20th book) so maybe a challenge like this will help me step outside my comfort zone a little bit!
  4. Living in France as an expat: I really love the format and organization of this post. Whenever someone asks me what’s different about the U.K. from the U.S. I give the intelligible answer of, “Umm, uhh…”
  5. 25 things travel has taught me: A great, down to earth assessment of how travel changes you through the years. I, too, will never be a light packer.

Science, sustainability and veganism

General travel and study abroad

Travel destinations

Lifestyle

Entertainment

Blogging

Photo by Andrew Knechel.

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The title says it all. I’m going to share with you a few songs that remind me of my younger days in chronological order, from age 9 or so when I got my first CD player to age 17 when my music taste actually started to develop to what it is today.

I first got a CD player when I was around nine years old from my friend Kristi and my dad would make me mix CDs with everything from classic rock to Broadway musicals. I would also buy other CDs like Disney soundtracks and Disney artists Hilary Duff. Here is what you would find on my CD player…

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After a while it became a faff to carry around all my CDs and the player itself, so my dad got me an MP3 player not unlike this one. When I wanted to get a song we didn’t own, my dad would check the lyrics (that means I didn’t get to listen to terribly mainstream music until high school) and buy the MP3 file from Walmart. Here is what you would find on thatMP3 player…

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The MP3 player and it’s whopping 1GB storage wasn’t around too long until my dad suggested that I think about getting a music device that would last. With that, 13-year-old me decided to save money to buy an iPod classic 80GB. Including the case, it cost me exactly $266 and I used it most every single day until 2015 at age 20 when I made things more simple and put my music on my phone. For the most part, I don’t listen to these artists regularly (or at all) anymore. There were a handful of other bands that I listened to a few songs regularly, but these bands were ones I listened to the most and in some cases saw live in high school. Here is what you would find on my iPod…

Screenshot (278)

Did you bop to any of these?

Photo by Surya Urs.

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For this wrap-up, I bring you a very special edition of what I’ve been reading.

As a young adult (13/14), I loved the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. But after the first movie came out, I was devastated and kind of came off the series and moved more towards The Hunger Games.

For this post, as it’s a series, I will not be including the author, genre (they’re all fantasy, fiction, young adult) or medium used (I have the books with the first four in paperback and the last one in hardback) and I will not be shy with spoilers.

After all these years, I’ve kept the books and decided to re-read them as an adult nearly ten years later. Here’s how it went…

The Lightning Thief

28187Rating: ★★★★

GoodReads rating:  4.24 / 5

Date started/ finished: 8/2 – 12/2

Summary: Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson discovers the Greek gods are alive and well… and he is the son of Poseidon and the subject of a prophecy that could bring an end to Olympus. When Zeus’s master bolt gets stolen, Percy is the main suspect as the only child of the Big Three (Zeus, Hades, Poseidon). To clear his name, Percy, daughter of Athena Annabeth and satyr Grover go on a quest to retrieve the master bolt. Their quest has them running into all sorts of monsters, gods, and ends in the Underworld where they find Hades’s Helm of darkness has been stolen, too. The thief turned out to be Luke, a spiteful son of Hermes, under the orders of the rising Titan Kronos.

Thoughts: To be honest, the book wasn’t as good as I remember it. I found the pacing a bit preposterous in the first half of the book and the plot was a little unbelievable for a twelve-year-old. I didn’t feel the challenges in this book were appropriate for the age of the characters. I can forgive a certain amount of luck in young adult novels, but this one really pushed it. How am I expected to believe a twelve year old who has only just discovered his powers beats monsters that past heroes like Hercules did without training? For that, I would have given it 3.5 stars, but added an extra half star for nostalgic purposes.

Other adaptations: Where do we begin? First, the cast. I actually approve of making the characters a bit older because, as I mentioned, nobody is believing a twelve year old can defeat such monsters. But if you’re going to make the movie characters older, make the cast the same age as well (the main cast was supposed to be 16 in the first film but the actors were in their early 20s). I know a lot of people made a fuss about Annabeth not being blonde and Grover being black, but it was their performance that really bothered me. Annabeth really flat-lined, I often forgot she was even there. And Grover was a bit too cool for my liking, in the books, he’s painted as nervous and awkward. Luke, Percy’s mom and Gabe were all casted tremendously. All in all, not completely unforgivable. Now, the plot. My biggest bone to pick: why was there no mention of Kronos?! The series is based on the rise of the Titans and was well set up in the book, but without the mention of Kronos in the first film, it’s almost redundant. The omission of Ares was also a big mistake as he was also central to the plot to steal the bolt. There were a lot of other little changes that really added up… In the film, the quest is driven by their search for magic pearls that reveal their path to the Underworld, where in the book, they just make their way from New York to Los Angeles and happily stumble upon monsters along the way. In the film, a lot of the gods are dressed in togas and act all-powerful when in the book, they’re more often described as normal people in normal clothes. I was also really bothered the way they portrayed the Underworld as hell when in the book it was explained that there were different sections of the Underworld depending on how you lived your life. Other small omissions like the Oracle (I know this comes in the second movie but as it’s so important throughout the series, why wait?), Annabeth’s magic Yankee cap, and no character background (nothing on Grover’s quest to find Pan or Annabeth’s mortal family, which do become important in later books) also add up to make this film a complete flop.

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