Why I haven’t finished the ‘To All the Boys’ series.

To All The Boys I Loved Before is a young adult romance series, written with care by Jenny Han, and turned into a Rom-Com for Netflix. I’d highly recommend it! As someone who prefers to watch romance (and it needs to have that comedy element to it, I’m not really a ‘Notebook’ style gal) to reading it, TATBILB was a head-turner for me, and really had me questioning whether I’d sold the whole genre short.

I’d seen the film, and wanted to know if the book held up. It did! There were enough changes that I could enjoy both in their own right. Characters were developed differently, because the book had more time to weave the story, but pacing in both was good. The main characters were flawed, but not to the point where I couldn’t relate/empathise. It was a generally wholesome experience, and I wanted to read the next two books in the series.

book blog

You may remember, back in November, I did a tour of the independent bookshops in Kent. I was surprised there were so few, and even more surprised that half of them weren’t open at the time of recording (but I assumed that was due to me and my lack of forward planning. (I didn’t check their opening times…)) I’m happy to say that the shitty service I’m about to talk about has NOTHING to do with any of those independent bookshops.

Anyway…

Having decided I wanted to finish the rest of this series, I took a trip in my car to a bookstore near me which specialises in kids books and toys. I’ve seen YA in their windows before, so I thought, ‘why give my money to Amazon, when I can support an independent?’ I’ve got a Waterstones which is closer to me, so, worst case scenario – I’d pop in there on my way back from this independent.

The lady behind the counter was lovely. Yes, she could order the books in for me, it would take two-three working days. It was a Saturday, so I could expect the book by the end of the week. Not a problem.

‘Do you want me to pay now or when the books arrive?’ 

‘No, it’s fine, pay when you come back. We’ve been having trouble getting books in for people. We’ll call you when it gets here.’

In hindsight… maybe this should have been my first red flag? They took my name, my number and I was on my way. I had the rest of my Top Trumps TBR to get through, and (much to Kate Macdonald‘s chagrin) I don’t have a problem waiting between books in a series.

Sidebar: the reason I don’t have a problem is a little bit down to Cassandra Clare, and her Shadowhunter series. I really enjoyed the first four books. But then I missed a couple, and binged four more and it was too much. Unlike a tv series where my impatience gets the better of me, because I like to take my time with a book, I don’t mind waiting for the next one so I can ruminate over the last. (Sure I just googled to double-check I knew what ruminate meant… I was right though).

A week passed. Then a second. No word from the bookshop. Weird. But she’d told me they’d had a problem getting it in so maybe it wasn’t available at the moment. Netflix had released a promotional trailer for PS I Still Love You, the second book to be turned into a film from the series. It was coming out on my birthday. It could be that all the copies have already been scooped, I thought to myself. And as I’ve asked for both, they’ve not called until both are ready. I can’t read the 3rd book before the 2nd anyway…

No harm in asking. So the following Tuesday, I went down to the bookshop. I still had a month. Plenty of time to read book 2 before the film came out. I even dragged my brother and the dog along for the walk.

But when we got there, all the windows were dark. And a little note in the window said, ‘closed due to sickness.’ Fair enough. I can’t be mad about sickness. Cold and Flues were going around, and I’m not a heartless bitch. (For the most part).

I gave it another week, and tried again. During storm Dennis. Because we’re on the coast, we get a lot of wind generally anyway. But the rain was something else. I layered up, convinced the dog and my brother for a second time for a walk, and we made our way to the bookshop. It was open – THANKFULLY – and whilst my brother took the dog on a little stroll, I went inside.

‘Hi,’ I said, ‘I’ve come to find out if my books are in. PS I Still Love You and Lara Jean Forever After?’ 

‘Oh yes! We’ve been trying to call you!’ the lady said. 

This filled me with hope. Hope that was shortlived.

‘We tried to call you on the shop phone, but it kept getting to the middle number and cutting out.’ 

Guys. My dudes. Friends. Countrymen. It’s 20-fucking-20. Everyone and their dog has a mobile phone. Many have mobiles INSTEAD of landlines. I don’t have a house phone. But my mobile is currently sitting in front of me. (On silent, I’m trying to concentrate). A bad handset is ZERO reason not to call someone. Especially if calling them is going to bring money into an industry which is hard graft at the best of times.

I said nothing.

She switched on the computer (which should have been my, what, third red flag at this point?) and waited for the thing to load. I tried to make small talk.

‘It must be great working here.’ 

‘It is. I’m only here a couple of days a week but it’s great.’ 

‘I saw there was a sign saying someone was sick last week?’

‘The lady who owns this shop, her little girl had the chickenpox. Couldn’t very well bring her in!’ she laughed. 

‘Well, you’ve got my number – in case you ever need a shift covering!’ I joked. 

She didn’t laugh. 

The computer connected and she wrang up my books. I tapped my card against the machine

‘Oh. It’s declined.’

Panic. I hate it. There’s money in the account, I know there is, but suddenly I’m thinking ‘shit, shit, shit, shit…’

‘I’ll try inserting it,’ (hehe) I say, trying to stay calm. 

‘No, it’s saying it’s not connecting,’ she says after a moment. 

Relief. It’s not my fault. Not my problem. Wait. Yes, it is my problem.

‘I don’t have any cash I say,’ looking at the two beautiful books in front of me.

‘I’ll try a different wifi connection. I’m so sorry about this.’ 

I’m trying not to be unreasonable. She’s doing her best. She’s being polite. But Waterstones and Amazon wouldn’t have had these issues… I grumble to myself.

‘It won’t connect. I’m so sorry about this.’ 

I used to work for my mum in a Wedding Dress Shop. Clients don’t get more unreasonable than a bride, her mother, and their entourage. If you don’t learn good sales tactics, a nice manner, you get a bad reputation and your business goes down the toilet. So, from that experience, here’s what I was expecting:

An apology. Directions to the nearest cashpoint. And a bookmark/token gift with a marginal mark-up so that the customer walks away feeling pleased with me and happy to come back. So they think that, even though I’ve messed up, it was worth coming all this way. (No matter the ACTUAL distance, if you know what I mean.)

Heres what I got:

A shrug.

The lady kind of looked at me like I was helpless. Put the books back in their bag and told me she’d keep them for when I came in again. I put my purse away and walked back out into the rain. I walked past the two cashpoints I knew where in the high street to find my brother under a canopy with a very soggy dog. And we went home.

I ranted to anyone who would listen. ‘How stupid is that?! No wonder independent bookshops keep dying!’ My dad told me he’d have ordered from Amazon the moment the shop was closed the first time. But I was still adamant I’d buy local. My next nearest independent bookshop was over an hour’s drive away (The Margate Bookshop). And I knew the books were there! They were tucked safely behind the counter. I didn’t want it to be a complete waste of time.

My birthday came and went. I had no books. The film was out. It was getting weird reviews, a real mixed bag of people wanting John Ambrose to be more book-like, and also happy Peter K (these are the two love interests if that wasn’t clear) was less book-like. But I didn’t know what the book versions of these boys were first! So I still haven’t seen the film.

My brother took the dog for a walk, knowing it would be a sensitive subject (I know, so sheltered that this is my biggest gripe over the last two months – but come the hell on!) but the bookshop was closed for lunch.

And I started feeling like a mug because, I’m constantly going on about independent bookshops. The Margate Bookshop has been shortlisted for the 2020’s Independent Bookshop of the Year Regional Shortlist. And yet this whole experience has been a complete waste of time. And as Rita Mae Brown once said, ‘Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, but expecting different results.’

I went back yesterday. The shop was closed again. A little sign saying, ‘cash only’ in the window, but nothing to say when they’d be back.

And my books are in there. Waiting to be read. That’s why I haven’t finished the series. (Crying emoji.)

🖤 If you need to find me🖤

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IG: https://www.instagram.com/ladettem/

WEB: https://silvertonguecreative.co.uk/

WISH: amzn.to/37fQm46

What to do when your life plan falls apart…

A 2020 goal for me to start being ‘proactive’ rather than ‘reactive’ with regards to my time, work, and having some kind of social life balance. And a measured step in completing that goal was buying the Clever Fox Pro Planner. It had been recommended to me by Youtubers, Bloggers, Writers and Editors – all for varying reasons and during various conversations – and with so much glowing praise around it, I snapped one up for less than £20 on Amazon. Yay me.

It’s beautiful, turquoise faux leather, A4 sized, with an inner pocket to keep important things in. I feel so grown up just for having it, and it fits perfectly in my handbag so that helps.

But the opening question already has me stumped.

What is the vision of the life you want?

I honestly have no idea.

When I was a kid, I had this grand idea of the person I was going to be. I was going to be a Vet, who lived in London, who had two horses and a dog. (Yeah, no one had the heart to remind tiny-me that I’d never be able to afford ANY of the above.) I really believed that I could do and be whatever I wanted, so long as I worked really hard.

So I did. Sort of. I worked really hard up until A-Levels. Then I didn’t, and then I did but for different subjects, and by this time I’d changed my mind about being a Vet anyway. I was going to be a writer.

I wrote every day, like you’re supposed to. I wrote for magazines, I wrote for bloggers, I wrote for myself. I gained a massive following, I made money – I could officially call myself a writer. Except – I wasn’t making enough money, and no one would give me a full-time job because I was ‘too young’. A genuine quote from an interviewer who dismissed me half an hour BEFORE my interview was supposed to start.

I wrote a book, and when I couldn’t find it an agent (after submitting to six agents) I self-published it. I sold 250 copies. I grew to hate it, and I took it down. I studied to become a teacher. I taught English for nearly four years. And with each day and each choice I was making, I was more financially stable – but further away from being a writer. And I was miserable.

I eventually went back to university and did my MA in Creative Writing. After another eight months of teaching, I quit and became a self-employed Creative Writer. I’m still working on getting an agent and traditionally publishing my book – whilst also in the process of self-publishing a book I’ve been told I’m NOT allowed to take down this time. But I’ve had to adapt and change and release so much to hold on to what I have. To make sure that the ‘life’ I have is the one I want. To the point where I can’t ‘close my eyes and imagine…’ what my life could be in a year or five years because I have NO IDEA. My plan isn’t really a plan at all. 

I’m going to keep submitting to agents, I’m going to keep writing, I’m going to keep building my business. But what else? Where do I want to live in five years? What will I be doing? Where will I be going? Who will I be going with?

And I’m way too much of a ‘Type A’ personality to be okay with not knowing this. So if you haven’t heard from me for a while – it’s because I’m doing my absolute best to keep up with the demand I’ve put on myself, with no real taped line of success. And if you don’t hear from me for a while, reach out. I’m probably pondering what the hell my future is supposed to look like.

 

#Gothtober – Gothic Listening

Gothtober

Back in July I wrote a blog post about music being influential on writing, explaining that writers craving silence and solitude was a stereotype and ABSOLUTELY NOT how I like to write. Click here if you want a little slice of recap.

But a TLDR is: Some writers finds the blank page daunting, and music can help break numerous barriers.

And whilst music and literature might not seem synonymous, they both have tangible effects on us as human beings. When you’re a child you learn to sing along to music, keep to a beat and co-ordinate through music, whether that’s through music lessons or simply conditioning within the home. For example, my dad loves The Squeeze, so I know all the words to Up the Junction. (Test me). Equally, your parents might have read to you as a child, instigating your journey to reading and writing. Both are creative outlets developed and intrinsic to the person developing them. They’re large parts of everyone’s lives, whether they realise it or not, and the wider you explore both subjects the more you’ll get out of life and the wider cultural world around you.

The music I play when I’m writing is always curated to suit the mood of my writing.

So, with that in mind. I’ve created a playlist for you to listen to. Check it out on Spotify (not a spon – I don’t have NEARLY enough followers for that yet) and let me know what you think. What music do you listen to when you’re writing?

Welcome to #Gothtober

Gothtober

Okay, so… your first question might be – what is Gothtober? Or it might be, why? Both are reasonable. And I can explain.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a princess. *Cue the sicky noises. But, after my mum introduced me to some real princesses (the pageant kind) who wanted to borrow her very expensive dresses, parade about in them and smile – a lot – I decided being a princess probably wasn’t for me.

Skip twenty(ish) years – I’m definitely NOT a princess. Thank (insert preferred deity here). But that doesn’t mean my interest and love of the fantastical has died. In fact – quite the opposite. I get to visit castles, wear ball gowns, tame dragons (though the last bit isn’t in the literal sense) all the time. And I realised some months ago – I’m really lucky, and I had the opportunity to let people in on the party.

So back to your first question: What is Gothtober? Well, it’s 31 days of blog posts, pictures, games, videos, giveaways, and Q&As about Gothic Fiction, Ghost Stories and the dark underbelly of the fantasy worlds living in our heads. It’s a calendar count down to my event – Creative Writing Workshop – Gothic Fiction – and a sneak peek to the event itself. You see, Gothic Fiction is the Great Grandfather of all your favourite genres – Murder Mysteries, Horror, Thriller, Fantasy, Historical Fiction and Science Fiction. They all stem from the Gothic. And if you want to develop your writing – it might be a fun little exercise to try writing some Gothic Fiction of your own.

And – why Gothtober? That’s easy.

Image result for morticia addams gif

You see, once I got over the whole ‘wanting to be a princess’ I decided I wanted to be Morticia Addams. She has way more fun.

So enjoy this excuse to lacquer your nails in black, pull out your darkest lipstick, and listen to some dark and moody tunes, and don’t forget to comment below with your favourite Goth. 

#SWGD – Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it came down in one.

Sugar, We're Going Down banner

Day 22.

So, I know that as an adult I must take responsibility for my actions. But what I’m about to tell you is not my fault.

I was going really well. Was. And I’d had a lot of support from my readers and friends. Had.

That was until this week just gone.

I returned to my (future) home, Bath, and spent three days with my flatmate Lina. I assumed, as she was doing the ‘No Sugar September’ with me, it would be easier. We’d be able to support each other and avoid sugar.

Day 1 was a breeze. We ate homemade banana bread which had zero sugar in it. We went to the book launch of Anna Ellory’s The Rabbit Girls (click the link to see my review) and then Lina went off with her friends whilst I caught up with mine over dinner. No sugar to be seen in my meal, though I can’t guarantee the same from the whiskey I was drinking.

Day 2 was even easier. We spent all day at the Deli she worked in. We ate more banana bread, and other sugarless goodies available there. I had a really nice scotch egg with salad, without the vinaigrette. We rekindled our tradition of visiting TKMaxx and Garden centres together, just enjoying each other’s company and avoiding cake.

We did go to the cinema. Lina had popcorn, the sweet kind. But it was fine, there are half the calories in cinema popcorn than you’d find in a Kitkat. So it wasn’t a big deal.

Day 3…

So we met up with Lina’s fiance, and went to the Cosy Club for brunch. They do this awesome deal where you get a full breakfast, and a hot drink, for eight pounds. LF ordered a hot chocolate, with marshmallows and cream. It sounded really good. But I held strong. I ordered tea. And when my tea arrived, it had a cute individually wrapped sugar cube. Well, Lina had treated herself to popcorn the day before – I could have ONE cube in my tea, right? Sweetener tasted rank and I’d have to talk to someone to get some. Social Anxiety, anyone? So I dropped the cube into my tea.

Well…

I didn’t drop it in as such. My dad used to do this thing where he’d rest the sugar cube into the tea, just enough to submerge a corner. And then we’d watch the tea soak upwards into the cube and just before it hit our fingers, we’d let it go and watch the sugar sink into the tea.

This is what I did ^.

And LF noticed.

‘What did you just do?’

‘It’s one sugar cube,’ I replied, immediately guilty. 

‘No, what did you do with the sugar cube?’ 

I explained.

‘Can I have a go?’ 

LF didn’t want another sugar cube in his hot chocolate, it was already sweet enough, so he asked if he could put the cube in my tea. I liked LF, but I’d only spoken to him once before.

It felt rude to say no – that’s the excuse I’m going with.

He dunked the cube in, watched the tea rise, and dropped it in.

Well, Lina was not going to be left out. She did, bless her, ask first, before copying me and LF and dunking her cube into my tea.

Three sugars. Three. In one cup of tea. I couldn’t taste anything else. I kept topping up my cup with more tea, and it was still sugar-infused two cups later. My tongue began to tingle. I’d missed that. My whole mouth felt sweet.

We finished our Brunch and the waitress came over.

‘Would you like to see the dessert menu?’

‘Yes.’ I didn’t even hesitate. 

LF waited right up until my spoon sunk into the warm chocolate brownie I’d ordered before asking,

‘So hows the whole ‘no sugar thing’ going?’ 

‘You’re a bad influence,’ I replied. ‘I blame this entirely on you.’ 

#SWGD – Total Recall

Sugar, We're Going Down banner

Day 18.

So, it’s been a minute since I last caught you up on my Sugarless Journey. And if I’m honest – I’m kinda over the whole thing. My weight has stayed the same (I know, we’re all shocked) my mood has returned to normal, mainly because I’ve started having tea with sweetener, and my life is full of tedious moments where I check the back of the packet containing my favourite foods and sighing because – once again – my favourite food has sugar in it so I can’t have it.

I’ve also been super busy, so keeping you updated hasn’t been a top priority – so I’ll do a recap of the key bits you might feel you missed.

I went to the Tate Modern.

It’s a lot easier to find sugarless things in London. There’s more shops, more opportunities, and everyone is trying to sell Green living and healthy products. I drank sugarfree juicy waters, ate chips and burger – and resisted the urge to have an American sized milkshake. No matter how much of a bad influence Georgia was being…

I went for lunch with an old friend. 

I suggested a coffee shop, which was my mistake. And then to torture myself further, I sat opposite the homemade cakes and cookies available at said coffee shop. We had a nice salad, and we had a nice catch-up. And I stared at a chocolate cake hoping it would suddenly grow legs and jump onto my plate. Disappointingly, it didn’t.

I went to Live at the Apollo.

It’s a lot easier to avoid sugar when you’re constantly on the move. I drove up to Richmond, trained across to Hammersmith, and drank nothing but water. Again with the burgers… I’ve now got the GBK app and I’m not looking back…

I recorded a Podcast.

I’m really excited about this, but I can’t tell you anything about it yet! Just keep your lemons peeled for exciting news on that front.

I got my hair cut.

I’m not a casual Goth with dark brown/black hair. And I’m so here for it! If anyone wants an awesome hairdresser, Gillian Pollard just UNDERSTOOD what I wanted without making a big deal or stressing me out. Can’t recommend her enough.

Watched Old Eltamian’s Women’s Game.

It was good to see people again, and I’m glad I went. Still not emotionally or physically prepared to play – plus it took me an hour and a half to get there because of the roadworks. But baby steps…

It was at the game that my friend Claire pointed out how empowering it is ‘being able to walk past cake and not needing it.’

I’ve never needed cake as such, but she’s right. It’s a lot easier being around cake now and not crying that I can’t eat it. I don’t feel ’empowered’ as such. Maybe, liberated? I’ll enjoy cake again in my future, but I can wait.

Shopped at Bluewater.

Similar to the podcast – I’ve got a vlog you’ll need to look out for. It’s hilarious. Just wait.

And now I’m in Bath. I’m currently sat in a coffee shop, watching the flatmate who encouraged me to do this whole ‘No Sugar’ thing hide behind the pastry display.

The whole experience has been a lot easier with so much support – but I’m still not hyping the ‘no sugar’ bandwagon. Save changing my tastebuds to make sugar the enemy, I don’t feel any real benefits yet. But it’s nice to know my flatmate is working on it too, and that so many people who read these blogs (and the slightly more emotional ones) care enough to reach out and message me.

I genuinely love you guys. (I mean it, try not to be sick). Thank you.

Seam Submission: Woman

I recently submitted an essay to Seam’s anthology, Slant – the topic being women in the modern era. Unfortunately, though I made it through several rounds of filtering, it didn’t quite fit the overall feeling of the anthology and you won’t be able to see these words printed. But!

I do think I’ve put together an essay worth discussing (of course I do, I’m a narcissist) and I’d be really interested to know what other women have to say about it.

Men – the few of you that there are – whilst this essay isn’t ‘for you’ as such, I’d like to know how you feel about infertility and whether you feel the same pressures as the guy I mention below.

Woman.

I looked in his eyes as I told him, ‘I can’t have children.’ And he recoiled. ‘That’s so
sad,’ he said. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘Because… having children – that’s what makes you a woman.

It’s the key biological difference that separates you from a man.’
Then I guess I’m not a woman.

I’ve never had regular periods. When I was fifteen, I went into emergency surgery for
a ruptured appendix. They had to take my insides out and put me back again to fix me. My heart stopped beating at one point – and this is when I stopped being a woman. The severity of the rupture had caused the organ to disintegrate and I had three different blood poisonings. Water collected in the gap the appendix had once filled, and doctors were worried that if they tried to burst the honey-comb bubble within it, they might pierce my ovary. The bubble eventually subsided, and the water drained away. But my periods became even more irregular. It wasn’t until I was eighteen that I went to see my GP, having not had a period for over a year.

After some tests, bloods analysed and an ultrasound, I was told I had Polycystic
Ovary Syndrome (PCOS). It’s a condition that impacts my hormones, creating more male
hormones, which causes me to skip menstrual periods. It can cause women to grow hair on the face and the body, can create baldness, and it contributes to diabetes and heart disease.

PCOS also makes it ‘almost impossible to get pregnant,’ my GP explained.
To an eighteen-year-old, this is not big news. I didn’t want children. I wanted a
university degree, a flat full of potted plants, nights out with friends. I’d recently broken up with a boyfriend and I was flirting with the next potential. I was told there were treatments, birth control pills, but was warned they’d make me gain weight – which was already a symptom of my PCOS, so I declined. Children were not a priority.

Nearly ten years later, I can’t say I feel differently. If anything, my PCOS has become
a shield. My stock response any time someone makes an assumption about me having
children, or giving up my career or settling down, I say, ‘I can’t have children.’ And much
like the guy sitting across from me at the start, they recoil. Worried my infertility might be contagious.

It isn’t.

When it comes to listing things that make me a woman, I’ll admit that I struggle. I
play rugby, a man’s sport. I go to the gym, I take the rubbish out, and I’m not afraid of
spiders. Maybe I’m being flippant. Maybe that’s a man thing too. But I’ve lived by myself for a long time. I enjoy my independence. Once you’ve lived by yourself for a few months you learn that ‘gender roles’ are a fallacy. You can’t dictate behaviour due to what’s between your legs. Chores have to be done. Bills have to be paid. You don’t have any excuses. Nowhere to hide. It leaves a permanence to the idea that any equality between genders is perpetuated by another agenda. Whether that agenda is materialism, capitalism, fear or misunderstanding.

His commentary on my situation should have annoyed me. The truth is I felt sorry for
him. Though his words were about me, this guy’s thoughts were elsewhere. How he would feel like less of a man if he were told he was incapable of getting someone pregnant. Unable to fulfill his one biological requirement.

He wouldn’t feel like a real man. So how could I be a real woman?

I see a lot of pity in the eyes of people who learn about my infertility. I see the pain
that would have been caused if they’d received this news, not me. I know there will be
women out there who can’t have children, and this is devastating for them. Maybe they found out whilst trying for their first. Maybe they’d always dreamed about having children.

According to Goodarzi’s The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, ‘27% of women have PCOS undiagnosed.’ I can’t imagine the pain of discovering, after years of
knowing you want children, that you’re unable to. That you’ll need medical or divine
intervention.

But – to me – my infertility is inconsequential. It’s one facet of my complex
personality. It doesn’t stop me from retaining the privileges of being a woman. I won’t
apologise for it, either.

On 3… Review of The Rabbit Girls

IMG_20190909_083536_264Usually, I preface these reviews with the intro about how I only read three chapters being interrupted by my mum… yada yada. But today’s review is part of a #BlogTour for Anna Ellory and I’ve decided to take a slight detour – so, if you’re ready for the emotional rollercoaster, sitting comfortably etc, I’ll begin.

Storytime: (If you’re not interested and want to just read my review, feel free to return at the **)

Five or six years ago, I was an ad-hoc daytime companion for a lady named Erna. She had dementia, was bedridden, amongst a long list of other ailments. She couldn’t watch television for more than five minutes without changing the channel a hundred times, unable to concentrate on anything, distracted or irritated. She hated having a pillow under her knee, but the nurse insisted. She’d try and trick you into moving the pillow, but you had to stand firm against her wily fragility. And she would scream or cry if left alone for more than two minutes, even if she’d asked you to make her a tea or fetch the paper.

But I sat with her, for hours, days, because I loved her husband, John Kidson, like an adopted granddad. And if he needed me to sit with Erna whilst he went to the rugby, Tescos or any other reason – I would be there for them.

At around one o’clock, the nurses would come. They’d always politely suggest I go have something to eat or leave the room so Erna could be bathed, changed and everything else. In my young and selfish mind, I was really glad I wasn’t the one who actually had to care for Erna. That I could walk away.

Stories about anyone in this position always make me uncomfortable, because books are an escape for me. A separate world from my own which is – hopefully – slightly less tragic than the Brexit hellscape we’re currently living in.

But with Rabbit Girls… I didn’t feel I could put it down. Not just but because I’d agreed to do this blog (I was actually two-thirds of the way through it when I was asked) but because the writing begged to be read. The story deserved to be told. And I’d agreed, whether consciously or not, to keep my promise and find out how it ended.

** The Review.

 Speaking of hellscapes… In half the story, the Berlin wall has fallen and in the other half, the Holocaust plagues our charming and compassionate characters as they’re tortured, experimented on and systematically destroyed. Both stories are intertwined by family, hope in the darkest of times and rebellion. Miriam Winter is caring for her dying father, Henryk, when she discovers an Auschwitz tattoo under his watch strap. Miriam, needing to understand more about her father’s past, discovers an inmate’s uniform which has letters smuggled within it.

What you should expect before going into this is:

  1. You’re going to cry. A lot. Have tissues etc prepared.
  2. You’re going to question yourself, whether you’re a good person. Whether, like me, you’re selfishly hiding from cruel realities others have suffered.
  3. You’re going to be in awe of the writing. It’s incredible, there’s no denying that.

Anna Ellory is a master (with a Masters) craftswoman of literary fiction, historical realities, and intriguing characters and narratives. It feels authentic, and it hurts. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

And I’m really excited to say this, to Anna’s face (potentially in an aggressive-loving-kinda-way) next week when I see her.

100/10 would recommend. Thank you for letting me be part of your Blog Tour!

 

#SWGD – Sweet Freedom

Sugar, We're Going Down bannerDay 5.

Okay… I’ll be the first to admit Day 3 was tricky. Some (my family) might even go as far as to say my mood was ‘extra’ or ‘aggressive’. (There’s no might, those are the actual words my family used to describe me.)

But I can confirm that Day 5 finds me in a much better mood. I don’t know if it’s because the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, or the lack of caffeine and sugar has left me with a broken soul and no will to go on (the positive bean in me wants to think it’s the former) but I woke up feeling happy. Good. Not quite healthy, bouncing full of life; but not murderous any more so I guess that’s a plus.

I want to take a moment to thank those who reached out to me after the last post. Tentative as you were. To those who called, commented, messaged to make sure I was okay. Yesterday was pretty difficult in that so many people have told me ‘just have a cup of tea… who’s going to know? Who’s going to care?’

No one. You’re right. But I don’t want to give up on something I’ve told myself I’ll do. And I don’t want to let down those who messaged saying, ‘you’ve got this,’ ‘stick at it.’ ‘You’re nearly there.’

They might be massively misguided, but it’s kind of them to care about me and I’m grateful for that.

I’m still at the torn stage where I wouldn’t recommend giving up sugar cold turkey to people, but I’m still acting like it’s the best thing for my body. I’ve started calling it a ‘cleanse’ to people who ask about it, and I’ve never felt so pretentious in my life.

I’ve got these sunglasses with reflective lenses. They’re huge and they’re gorgeous and they’re still not as pretentious as telling people you’re ‘on a cleanse’. Just a little PSA.

I thought the answer to giving up sugar would be to find alternatives. Trick my brain (and my mouth apparently) into thinking that I wasn’t giving up sugar so much as replacing my favourites with other things.

Image result for fruit infusers sachetSo I tried teas without sugar (a bust, as day three proved) and I tried fruit infusers in cold water. Essentially squash, but with no added sugar.

These fruit infusers were an abomination. The label suggested leaving the little teabag looking sachet in the water for five minutes and then removing. I tried the apple and blackcurrant flavour first, not wanting to risk the more precarious flavours of mango and pineapple, strawberry and kiwi. After five minutes, the water was pink, and the blackcurrant smell was really strong. I could almost taste it.

And that’s pretty much what happened when the water touched my tongue. I could almost taste it. You know when you finish a squash bottle, and you fill it with water, and there’s that little residue taste – like the ghost of blackcurrant past?

That’s what this tasted like.

No worries, I’ll try leaving it a little longer. Maybe I’ve put too much water in it. Maybe it needs a few more minutes. It didn’t. The colour of the water got darker, more pink. The taste stayed the same. Disappointed, I just had a glass of water. Left the bottle to soak in it’s own misery.

Came back two hours later to see if it was any better now. That was my mistake.

It tasted like mould. The fruit or flavourings or whatever had been left in the water had massively soured. It was gross. I immediately spat out the water, poured the rest down the drain and eyed the teabag looking sachet to see if there was actual mould inside. There wasn’t, but there was also no colour in it either.

10/10 would not recommend. Avoid. Avoid.

Dejected, but still too stubborn to admit I’d have to cut sweetness out of my life if I wanted to cut out sugar, I took to Sainsburys again. I sent a sad post of minirolls, flapjacks and cookies to my family on the group whatsapp, and thought about giving up.

Image result for sweet freedomAnd then I spotted this tiny little bottle with a badger on the front.

Something you might not know about me – I’m a Hufflepuff. (Unless you ask my flatmate, family or anyone who has seen my temper and then I’m a Slytherin.)

So seeing a badger on a label caught my eye almost immediately. Then, the price did. £3. That’s a lot for this piddly bottle, but I picked it up anyway.

‘No added sugar, natural fruit sweetners, perfect on porridge or for making hot chocolates with.’

Come. To. Mama.

I won’t say it’s the best £3 I’ve ever spent. That honour goes to the big mac I bought a guy called Alex  (who I thought hated me) nearly ten years ago and thus secured our standing friendship. But this was the second-best £3 I’ve ever spent. 

Three dollops of this in warm milk, bam. The sweetest hot chocolate I’ve had since I tried a ‘true Belgian hot chocolate’ in, unsurprisingly, Belgium, which was essentially just warm melted chocolate in a cup. Nearly half the bottle to make it, but, when I’m feeling sad now on my little journey to not have refined or added sugar – this bad boy is coming out of the cupboard.

The true hero of this week. Definitely recommend.

#SWGD – Give Me Something To Break

Sugar, We're Going Down banner

Day 3. (SUPER Explicit.)

At this point, I’m wondering if giving up added sugar for my health is worth the health of those around me. Because, and I cannot stress this enough, I’m ready to straight-up fucking murder someone.

IMG_20190831_193748_513My week started with a food shop, where mum and I sought out sugarless or ‘no added sugar’ alternatives to things like breakfast cereals, tea, and juice – as these were going to be the three key things my life was going so to suffer without.

So let’s have a little run down of the products I got:

Puffed Wheat – AKA Sugar Puff’s snotty younger sibling who is trying too hard and basically tastes RANK.

Porridge Oats – not the same without a dollop of jam.

Freefrom Pasta – So far the only team player I’ve encountered. Tasted the same in a Pasta bake on Day 2. Good work.

Sugarless Greek Yoghurt – Not usually a fan of Greek Yoghurt, but with the Tikka Cod we had for dinner Day 3, not bad!

Juice Infusers – You’ll get your turn you abominations.

Maryland sugarless cookies – which taste like cardboard dipped in bitter chocolate. Yummy.

Smoothie Mix you add water to – the only bit I’ve not tried yet, so they’ll inevitably get their own post.

And now we come to my ultimate disappointments. The shitcreek of saviors. The ones who promised it all and delivered diddly-squat.

Earl Grey Tea with a Zest of Orange and Yorkshire Biscuit Tea.20190903_100942

So I’ve tried both of these before, and had convinced myself they’d be perfect alternatives to a breakfast tea. The Biscuit tea is super sweet, I’ve only ever needed half a tea spoon to take away the bitter aftertaste – but that bitter aftertaste has only increased since I’ve been denied sugar.

As for the Earl Grey, the Zest of Orange promised a soft, floral alternative that was still FUCKING BITTER. The last mouthful of this is actual hell. I don’t know how people drink tea without sugar. I fucking love tea with sugar. But the bitterness can only be compared to reporting your Ex’s New Girlfriends bikini photos on Instagram as ‘pornography’.  Which I’ve totally never done… honest…

When I agreed to give up sugar, I knew the whole ‘no cake, no sweets, no chocolate’ part was going to be hard. I did not expect to have my favourite drink, and about 80% of my personality DESTROYED by not being able to have tea.

I’ve been in a foul fucking state all day. And all I get ‘yeah, you’re going through withdrawal’

NO FUCKING SHIT SHERLOCK! HERE I WAS THINKING I’D JUST HAD A PERSONALITY OVERLOAD AND TURNED INTO THE FUCKING SHE-HULK ON A WHIM!

People have always told me I can be aggressive and angry – which I am. But this is next level. My sister in law actually backed away from me the other day. People are responding to my texts like I’m their boss with a harsh deadline.

‘Well if that doesn’t work for you…’ ‘are you okay?’ ‘Is something the matter?’

Yes. Something is the matter. I’m juggling sugar withdrawal AND caffeine withdrawal and I’m fucking miserable.

‘It only lasts three days.’

Well I’m on day three, and you better HOPE it finishes soon or you’ll see my face plastered on the six o’clock news because I ran into my local Costa like I was robbing a bank, shot up the ceiling, and insisted they pour Peach Iced Tea straight down my gullet until I either died or the police arrived.

Also – before you repeat my mum’s advice of just having normal tea without sugar – get out. Just get the whole way out.

And have a nice day!