Book Review: Before I Die – Jenny Downham

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I had very high expectations when I very excitedly bought this book. I had heard fantastic reviews, everyone who had read it that I had come across ranted and raved about it and its protagonist, Tessa. The blurb looked okay but oh how wrong I was, I thought this would be a tale of strength, determination and really living your last days to the full with happiness and laughter. That said I was also expecting her to be scared or upset that is a given but well I’m afraid thats all it was at times, fear and wanting to achieve the unachievable. It’s not just that the tale was sad, it was outright miserable to read.

I’m sorry to admit I got bored of this book extremely quickly, I forced myself to carry on reading and in the end I’m glad I did as parts of the novel were beautifully written, especially any references to nature. However, this doesn’t stop my annoyance at the author Jenny Downham, sixteen year old Tessa writes a list of things she wants to do before she dies of terminal leukaemia, sounds like a good plot line right? That’s what I thought but throughout the entire novel we do not see this list at all!!! I feel that if you are going to write a whole novel on the idea of a kind of bucket list, then wouldn’t you include the list somewhere in the book itself? However Downham does not give us one, we are left trying to struggle to remember what Tessa has achieved from the list and therefore making it slightly pointless.

While the novel is classed as young adult, it did feel rather immature for its subject matter and focused heavily on clichè. Number one on the list is to have sex, resulting in a quite strange night, which, if I’m honest seemed out of place in relation to the character and the plot itself. Another on the list is to get stoned, say yes for an entire day (which actually turns out to be quite sweet) and get famous, yes you read that right… I wasn’t that impressed. Then throw into the mix an amazingly annoying best friend who is ‘wild’, a runaway mother, a doting father (who I felt Tessa treated extremely badly), a very sweet younger brother (who should of had more emphasis put on him and the relationship he has with his sister) and the boy, because of course there’s a boy next door.

Tessa herself has not been portrayed in the best light. I felt little sympathy or connection to her at all. Yes she is a young dying girl, with a right to feel unhappy and wanting to do this her way, but she just came across as terribly selfish to absolutely everyone around her and, really, a bit of a brat. I was especially annoyed at the way she treated her father who had done nothing but good for her and obviously loves her so much, if this relationship had been expanded then maybe there would of been more to like about Tessa. Although that said there is obviously a deep connection between her and her younger brother Cal, although he to, is not always well portrayed and this could have been explored more.

For this I only give 2 stars **, I really wasn’t that impressed with it compared to other books I have read that surround the subject of terminal illness. The character of Tessa was not terribly likeable, nor did I feel I could connect with her and the plot.

July Owlcrate Unboxing and Review: Good vs Evil

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It’s finally here! After months of watching unboxings, reading reviews and drooling over the contents I ordered my first Owlcrate box thanks to a promotional code from Cece over at ProblemsofaBookNerd. This was slightly more pricey than other crates I’ve tried BUT I have to say that I’m impressed with the contents and it was well worth the wait. This month’s theme was Good vs Evil, half of the boxes are good and half evil, the book is the same but the box is a surprise. While I got the evil box, my cousin got good and it was nice to see the difference between them.

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Death Star Necklace 

As most of you know I am obsessed with Star Wars  I love it and so finding a little necklace of the Death Star in it! Now, I am slightly jealous because the good crate got the Millenium Falcon because obviously I’m with the Force. That said I love this, it is beautifully made. Also, please excuse any stray at hair in the picture, Suki decided she also liked the crate.

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Draco Malfoy Funko Pop 

Ah Draco, angry, confused, although I don’t know if I’d go as far as evil. I was stupidly excited to receive this, even though I already have the pop (because I have a Harry Potter obsession and so I have all but 3 of the pops now). This is  a GREAT addition to the box, absolutely fab!

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The Red Queen Bookmark

A classic villain for this little magnetic bookmark, an adorable design and so cute too!

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Harper Collins mini colouring book 

I LOVED this idea. Harper Collin’s have included a small colouring book full of their YA covers, I’d love to see more of these, because who doesn’t love colouring!

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Here are some of the bits and pieces included, including the breakdown of this month’s box, a sticker and a hint of next month’s box which will also include Harry Potter!

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This Savage Song – Victoria Schwab 

I let out a squeal of joy when I found this in my box, I’ve had this on my to read list and now I have my own copy!! So exciting! The cover is beautiful and it came with a letter from the author and a signed sticker (which I’ve placed inside). I can’t wait to get stuck in to read about the monster’s that Schwab have created.

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I absolutely loved my first Owl Crate, so I’m going to be keeping my subscription, especially as there are going to be Harry Potter related goodies in it! As always I’d love to know your thoughts, so pop them in the comments below!

 

Anxious Days.

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When you live with a mental illness it doesn’t matter how well your life is going, how much success you’ve had it will rear its head at some point. In fact when everything is going right I find it even harder to deal with. Earlier this week Prince Harry spoke about mental illness , a quote of his really stuck with me;

“A lot of people think if you’ve got a job, if you’ve got financial security, if you’ve got a family, you’ve got a house, all that sort of stuff, everyone seems to think that is all you need and you are absolutely fine to deal with stuff,” – Prince Harry

I’m incredibly pleased and proud that the royal family are using their status to highlight mental illness. Harry’s mother, Princess Diana also suffered from mental illness. When I realised I wasn’t just sad, I was very sick I looked up famous people with mental illnesses. It sounds silly, but I needed to know that other people had made something of their lives, even when they’d felt as bad as I had. I needed to know that other people had carried on and after being diagnosed it gave me a little bit of hope.

There was never a time when I thought oh everything’s going great, I’m fine, I’m going to be happy forevvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeeeerrrrrr. But, even so, sometimes I forget how lonely it can feel. It doesn’t matter that I have a loving family, partner, job the energy just kind of drains from me and I just wonder around. I question everything and feel so upset over the slightest thing. Going into London on a particularly low day was hard, the people, the rush, anxiety crept through my body and made me just want to hide. From that I got angry and frustrated, why was I like this? Why did my brain do this. I felt so confused and like some huge freak. This is what it’s like on bad days for me.

As I’m writing this, I’m feeling more like myself and because I’m now home I’m a lot calmer. There’s good in my life and there is bad and it’s a balance. I won’t hide from my readers, my Twitter followers that side of my life, because it’s real. I would rather have a smaller readership and an honest blog, than one that is polished and false, because people need to know that they’re not alone. So if you’re reading this and you’re struggling, for whatever reason, remember that you have the strength, you’re not a freak or whatever your head tries to tell you when you’re sick. You’re not alone.

Image from Pinterest.

Sunday Seven: Seven Things No One Tells You About Graduation

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This week I became a graduate. If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter you will see I have been absolutely spamming my accounts with pictures and thank yous and a lot about the whole day. After this I will stop badgering you all on social media about graduating. I did think, however, I’d share with you seven things no one tells you about graduation.

Gowns may look good, but they are hot as hell.

If you graduate later in the year you may be ok but graduating in the hottest week of the year meant a lot of sticky, sweaty gowns. I was very pleased to get this off at the end of the day.

No shoes are worth taking skin off your feet. 

I tried two new pairs of shoes and I’m still paying the price. Make sure you wear them in if you really want fancy new shoes and take a lot of plasters.

Souvenirs are worthwhile, but expensive. 

I was not prepared for how expensive souvenirs were going to be! Photo’s were the most (although I’m yet to order mine), followed by £45 for a hoodie, £15 for a bear, £10 for a scroll holder and £15 for a pin of the university’s coat of arms. It’s only because this is the only time I plan on doing this in the near future I bought what I wanted but be prepared!

You will need to charge your phone. 

Phone calls to relatives, messages to you, photos, some sneaky Pokemon hunting. I really wished I had taken one of those charger blocks that you carry around in your bag. Ali has one and it’s a good investment, so it might be worth getting one.

Speeches are both long and boring, but can make you feel proud of where you’ve come from. 

There were some great parts of speeches but there was no denying that they were very long, especially in the heat. While a lot of us tried to be serious, but were really like a bunch of grown up kids, it was nice to think about how far we’d come and that Kingston would always be a part of us.

You’ll have an overwhelming amount of University pride.

I was SO proud of myself, the people I studied with and the university I spent 3 years of my life at. I never knew I would feel that much university pride on graduation day.

The day will go faster than you think, so soak up as much as possible. 

Just like your degree, the time will go so fast, so enjoy as much as possible.

 

 

Looking back at University -I’m a Graduate!

On Thursday 21st of July my journey as a student came to an end. Yes after 3 long years I am now officially a graduate of Kingston University, Chloe Metzger BA Hons. I’m going to try and keep this blog short, because I feel like I could write a book on this chapter of my life alone. I went from a girl who was terrified of leaving home, to a young independent woman. I’ve gone through more than I thought I could enjoy and have had experiences that I never thought I would but I’m so pleased I went to university, I found out who I was.

The past 3 years have been overwhelming such amazing highs and very tough lows. I’m nothing like the girl who started, who was so anxious the thought of getting on a bus nearly sent her into a panic attack, now I’ll travel around London for work. I’ve met the Chancellor and had a good few chats with her. I started this blog, interviewed by various people, made friends, started a band, played all over London and the South East and released 4 singles. I’ve watched countless bands and artists and met some of my absolute heroes. I’ve also met authors, celebrities and inspiring people. I’ve won awards, became a society president, got firsts and two ones, become a Student Ambassador and in charge of social media. I’ve given talks on mental health and found my voice as well as a way to use my past to create a better future.

Of course there were tough times too the homesickness, the really tough times with my depression when I wouldn’t leave my flat or be around people for days on end, friendship breakdowns, breaking my spine and not getting some of the grades I wanted. Originally I didn’t post that I got a 2:1 for my degree because I wasn embarrassed. My goal from the first year was to get a first class degree and I missed it by 3.5%. I cried, a lot, I was full of self loathing, how could I not get that extra 3.5%? Then I spoke to a friend, someone who chose to love me rather than being Ali or my family who were proud whatever, who told me not many people can recover from a broken spine and be in hospital for IBS and still come out so close to a first. It made me feel a lot better. I put this pressure on myself and it’s one of my flaws. I wanted to tell you all that because university comes with the good and the bad.

My future has completely changed from that I thought it would be before I went to uni, hell it’s different from what I thought it would be a year ago, but I’m happy. I’m happier sitting writing this than I have been in months, because third year was hard. It wasn’t just the workload, but my personal life. If I’m honest I’m surprised I made it through. I don’t want to sound like I’m boasting but I want  to be truthful to let others know that even when life gets so tough that you don’t know how you’re going to keep going, you can.  I haven’t you the space to write everything I loved about studying at university, but I did. I’ve got some incredible friends and memories from my time at KU and it’s honestly one of the best decisions I ever made.

So thank’s Kingston, you were great!

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Book Review: Water For Elephants

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The novel opens with a prologue from a young Jacob Jankowski, describing the one time disaster broke out in his beloved circus, wetting the reader’s appetite for the destruction to come later on. Although after doing this the next chapter is rather depressing and slow compared to the ideas of the prologue. Fast forward a good 50/60 years and Jacob is alone grumpy, old and starting to loose his mind a little in a nursing home where the only good thing is a sweet nurse and the fact that the circus is finally coming to town possibly for the last time Jacob will ever see it (throughout the novel we are forced back and forward, which to some could be seen as slightly depressing)

After the excitement regarding the circus Jacob is forced to sit alone after an argument with a fellow resident claiming he ‘carried water for the elephants’, but going back to his youth Jacob knows this is a lie after all he was the vet on one of the ‘greatest circus’ on earth’. This sets the tone for the whole novel, as the reader is constantly drawn to and from the past which in a way makes this a story of triumph tinged with sadness throughout, as we know how it ends with Jacob waiting for his children, waiting to get back a piece of his life and true love, Marlena.

Young Jacob is a student with dreams of being a vet and getting that one girl to sleep with him, although in one day his whole life,happiness and studies are destroyed by the sudden death of his parents. Going home he learnt he has lost everything he thought he had. His father has been in crippling debt just so that Jacob had the education he needs. Alone, heartbroken and penniless Jacob has no way of going back to college and no job prospects Jacob decides to take a risk. He’s manages to wing his way onto the circus as the circus vet.

Although beware! Do not expect this novel to be all glitter, spangles and performing monkeys, Gruen’s tale will break your heart. The Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth may be spectacular but in more ways than you can imagine adultery, prostitution, murder,lies,secrets and of course romance. From the very beginning Jacob is hooked on the beautiful Marlena a horse entertainer,she is truly the beauty and the heart of the circus especially with dreams of performing with the ‘dumb elephant’  Rosie,that the circus has just acquired. However there is a catch, despite Jacob’s love  for Marlena and the animals, he must work over the watchful and evil ring master, August, who is also coinsidently Marlena’s husband. Yes it is obvious he has reached a problem.

Although through the help of friends he aquires along the way (although let me tell you he starts off as the lowest of the low with a lot to learn) Jacob begins his battle to save Marlena from her abusive husband and finally teach Rosie in a way that nobody else could. It has been said that the real hero of this story is not Jacob at all, that the real hero is Rosie (for later events that I won’t spoil now), a beautiful creature who is not as ‘stupid’  that people are lead to believe. However with a bit of a psycho at the head of it all, it’s obvious that life and love will not run smoothly.

Gruen has done a beautiful job with description, it is simple to image everything you read. To see Marlena’s acts and Rosie’s beauty while feeling Jacob’s pain. The reader is transported to another time and another world the smells, the feelings, everything. The only criticism I can give is when it goes back to old Jacob, yes it’s vital and there for a reason but it does get dull and you do want to skip it, however this said once finished I put down my book and discovered it was one of the best books I have ever read.

I give this beauty 5 stars *****. For the nearly flawless storytelling and an amazing plot line! I will forever be disappointed by the circus from now on.

Pre Graduation Nerves

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Tomorrow, after 3 years of reading, tears, late nights, hungover mornings, trying to stay awake in lectures, essays, library days and trips to the pub, university will be over. I left with no idea what I’d do once I left, or if I’d even want to stay in the first place. So I’m sitting here (and a big follow up post about the end and looking back and all that jazz to come Friday or Saturday) and just thinking about tomorrow, this big ceremony that we’ve all been told about for years. I’ve had my hair done, my eyebrows, I have a new dress and even heels for the actual ceremony (not all day though, you have to be kidding me), Ali’s going to be there, my parents, my sister. Mostly I’m feeling nervous right now, worried about how the pictures will look, the walk across the stage. I’m not as panicked as I thought I’d be, actually I’m pretty proud of the fact that next week I’ll have spent a month in a job that I love, I have a car I saved up for and I feel like I have some idea of how I want my life to go. Fingers crossed I don’t fall over in the 5 minutes I have to be in heels.

Image from Pinterest