What I Read In April 2020 – Part 1

Posting my what I read post within the first few days of the month? Who am I? April was a funny old month, wasn’t it? The outside was pretty terrible and it was demanded we stay home. It turns out staying in for an entire month can do wonders for your reading – who knew.

I read over 20 books this month, most of them are short because my concentration has been shot but overall I’m past half way on my Goodreads goal. Woo! Because there were quite a few I’ve separated this into 2 blogs. It might be a long one so let’s get going.

The first book I finished this month was With The Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo. It’s about a teenager with dreams of becoming a chef but she’s also a teenage Mum and trying to work her way through life for herself and her daughter. I LOVED this book, it was quite chill but had beautiful writing and I was cheering Emoni on the whole way. A 5 star read.

Next up, I got Scribd and realised there was a LOT of poetry on there so I downloaded To Drink Coffee With A Ghost by Amanda Lovelace. This was an ok read, there were some good parts but they’re starting to become very similar and merge into one…

I also read To Make Monsters Out of Girls by the same author and honestly I read it a month ago and I can’t remember much about it at all apart from the fact that it’s about a toxic mother daughter relationship. 2 stars.

After hearing about Every Heart A Doorway by Seanan McGuire on BookTube a LOT and I finally had access to the audiobook. At first I was very confused and it is a very strange novel but also it’s so good. I needed the next one straight away (I ended up listening to the whole series in a few weeks and I can’t wait for the next one). It’s all about children who come back from magical worlds. It was a 4.5 star read for me.

And go on to the next book I did – Down Among The Sticks And Bones! Jack and Jill are probably my favourite characters in the series but they’re not entirely likeable. I just find them and their world fascinating. In this book we learn more about them and it’s probably my favourite of the series – 4.5 stars!

Next up was Watch Us Rise by Renée Watson and Ellen Hagan and was for the Easter Readathon. I’ve had this for a while and not got around to it, it’s about 2 high schoolers who want to start a women’s rights group. This was an ok read – there are some really important points but overall, for me, it was just ok. A 3 star read.

The third installment of the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire – I told you I got through them! Beneath The Sugar Sky was a really odd one, I enjoyed it but this is about a land of nonsense. Another 4 star read and a return from a few past characters.

I was also lucky enough to get an ARC of The Eve Illusion by Tom and Giovanna Fletcher, the second book of the Eve of Man trilogy. Oh this was so worth the wait and so, so good. I read it in a day and then ordered the physical book.

Discovering Debbie Tung’s books made me SO happy. Book Love is one for book lovers and I want to buy a copy for all my bookish friends because it’s so true but also adorable.

I also finally got to read Heavy Vinyl Vol 1 and damn I loved it. Good representation and I can’t wait for volume 2.

That’s the end of part 1 of what I read in April! Have you read any of these? I’d love to know your thoughts below or catch me on Twitter! Don’t forget to come back tomorrow for part 2!

Livin' The Vida Lockdown: Day Thirty-Eight - The Week I Wanted To Give Up

Livin’ The Vida Lockdown: Day Thirty-Eight – The Week I Wanted To Give Up

Well, what a bloody week. It’s definitely one that deserves a large gin…or three. I think this has been the toughest week for me, mentally. Literally as soon as I woke up on Monday this cloud of sadness was above my head. I couldn’t think and all I could feel was my foggy brain and a tidal wave of emotions. I have been SUPER fun to live with (sorry Ali).

This was the first time where I just felt like giving up. I couldn’t focus on anything, I didn’t have that much work to do and everything just felt pointless. I’m pretty sure the weather didn’t help as I noticed a LOT of people mentioning a dip in their mood.

I’ve always had a thing about wanting to to be doing something productive most of the time. I’ve mentioned before that I find it hard to relax and switch off which I’m working on but when I’m not in a great mental state it goes out of the window. To feel useful I have to be doing something, right? I know I’m not alone in this.

That was until Wednesday afternoon, all my calls were done and Ali decided we were going to start our Marvel marathon whether I liked it or not. He got pillows, the duvet and put on Disney Plus. We ended up spending the next 6 hours watching Captain Marvel, Captain America and Iron Man before eating burgers together. Thursday was pretty similar.

Today was much better and I knew it as soon as I woke up. I just felt more capable getting out of bed. There wasn’t a struggle to get dressed and showered. I grabbed my laptop and made a to do list. I think I’m getting through.

Whether you’re someone who’s had dealings with depression before or these are new feelings it’s hard and it can feel so completely overwhelming. Everything and nothing feels too much.

Needless to say I’m not giving up but I wanted to write this to be honest. Because there will be people who are also struggling and feel bad because of it. There will be people who can’t be open and honest with people at home about how they’re feeling for whatever reason. I wanted to say it’s ok. It is ok. Next week is another week. We’ll get through this.

Book Review: The Black Flamingo - Dean Atta

Book Review: The Black Flamingo – Dean Atta

A boy comes to terms with his identity as a mixed-race gay teen – then at university he finds his wings as a drag artist, The Black Flamingo. A bold story about the power of embracing your uniqueness. Sometimes, we need to take charge, to stand up wearing pink feathers – to show ourselves to the world in bold colour.

*I masquerade in makeup and feathers and I am applauded.*

This book is definitely a coming of age novel with a twist. I, personally, have never read a book about how someone becomes a drag queen. Personally, I think it is an amazing creative art form and the make up skills? Damn.

A few people I know have pushed back from reading this because it’s written in verse, which I understand. When I read my first novel in verse as a teenager I didn’t get it BUT now I see it as a really creative way of telling a story. If you’re new to novels in verse this is a great place to start because it flows so well and it’s easy to just read it and forget because you’re so absorbed in the story.

This is a story about finding who you are, about balancing expectations and family with your own truth. It looks at the LGBTQ community and drag but I think this could speak to anyone who has struggled with working out who they are and who they want to be. I could relate because I also started to work myself out at university and found confidence I didn’t know I had.

The story also follows Michael’s realisation that he is gay and what this meant for him as well as his crushes, relationships and the like. I’m pretty sure all of us can relate to teenage crushes.

The poetry within the pages were absolutely beautiful! Also the flow from around the middle to the second half seemed effortless, even though I know it must have taken a long time to put together.

This was a 4 star read for me, incredibly interesting, well written and, for me at least, very original in both the way it was written and the story it told. I will say that towards the beginning I struggled a little bit, particularly with Michael’s younger years but found as he got to university I could relate.

Livin' La Vida Lockdown Day Thirty-Six: Being A Freelancer Right Now

Livin’ La Vida Lockdown Day Thirty-Six: Being A Freelancer Right Now

In August this year I will be celebrating 2 years of being self-employed, although probably not in the way I thought. 

While some friends of mine are being furloughed knowing that they were going to be receiving 80% pay others found themselves completely and utterly stuck – the self employed. 

Me, my fiancé, my dad and a large chunk of my friends are self employed because of the nature of their jobs. Ali works in live sound along with a load of other friends their whole income has gone in a matter of weeks for who knows how long. My Dad and other people I know are taxi drivers who are still working because bills and food don’t just wait for 3 months before they get any help. 

As for me I’m still managing to get some work, it’s not at my normal level and it is scary. I’m muddling through but still expected to pay full rent (that’s another post altogether). 

When you go freelance you know there’s going to be a risk, you expect it but as with anyone who starts a business you never expect a global pandemic and there isn’t really a way to plan for it. 

Being a freelancer right now, for me, includes varying stages including:

Panic, panic, PANIIIIIIIIIIIIC

Well known to all freelancers as a common based point.

Ok, it’s ok, I can get through this

It’s going to be fine, everything is going to be fine.

Work, work, work, work, woooooooooork

These are the waves where I can get loads done, lists upon lists are created.

What am I doing?

Accompanied by tears, blankets and a lot of snacks…a lot.

Check in on your freelance and self-employed friends right now, they might need it.

Livin' The Vida Lockdown: Day Thirty-Five - Alternative Ways To Cope

Livin’ The Vida Lockdown: Day Thirty-Five – Alternative Ways To Cope

I saw an Instagram story recently about ways to cope in lockdown, it simply mentioned crying and that yoga didn’t work for them. Which made me think, why do people recommend yoga for bloody everything? Now, if you enjoy it good for you. But if it doesnt?

So I came up with alternative ways to deal with lockdown* – you’re welcome.

Take screaming breaks

Feeling overwhelmed? People getting on your nerves. Grab that pillow and scream your heart out.

God knows I’ve been wanting to do it recently, particularly when a certain internet provider goes down and the internet is one of the few ways you can contact the people you love. 🙃

Create your own drinking game

Number of times you internet goes down in a day? Number of lies Trump tells in a day? Number of days you’re in lockdown? The possibilities are endless.

Mine is called drink Gin at the end of each day to take the edge off.

See how long you can stay in bed over a weekend

Snacks, way of entertaining yourself, phone. You’re all set for this kind of marathon. The only thing that may let you down is how many time you need the loo…

Learn 90s and 00s dance routines

Now is the time to perfect your routines. YouTube is your friend, but you *might* want to think before you put them on TikTok.

Cry – just bloody cry

Let it rip. I tried not to for a week, kept it down and well, you can imagine how well that worked.

We’re living through such weird and unpredictable times right now, if you need to cry do it. Plus points if your cry face is like Kim Kardashian’s because THAT is a real cry face.**

Get lost in a fantasy world and pretend you live there now

Preferably not one where a virus is taking over the planet, those aren’t great right now BUT fall into some great fantasy books.

Yes, yes you can go and climb into the familiar world of Harry Potter, that is more than a little bit allowed.

Do what you need to do

Ok the final one and the one I want to scream. There is no one way to get through this. Some people (the lucky bastards) are really incline to get fit and healthy, do a lot of exercise and get those endorphins going. My brain doesn’t work that way and wants stacks of chocolate.

Who am I to tell you what you should be doing, I don’t know you or your life and nor does anyone else writing lists about becoming our best self. You do you.

Any more you’d like to add? Let me know below.

*yes this is a joke and it’s satire, don’t @ me. I want to make people laugh.

**I love KUWTK and, by extension, Kim.

Livin' The Vida Lockdown: Day Thirty-Three - Does Anyone Have A Normal Sleep Pattern Anymore?

Livin’ The Vida Lockdown: Day Thirty-Three – Does Anyone Have A Normal Sleep Pattern Anymore?

This post is going out later than I planned. Is it because I had a burst of inspiration and I just had to get it out into the world? No, I wish it was. It’s because I had an unplanned danger nap at 4.30 in the late afternoon…for 3-4 hours. *sigh*

Time is a weird thing right now. It feels like lockdown is going so slowly but also the days are going too fast. It’s May this week, May. It almost feels as if April didn’t happen. Also, I’ve found myself frequently having to check what day and month it actually is. I know a lot of you have felt the same.

When it comes to sleep, I have a strange relationship anyway thanks to regular fatigue with the occasional bout of insomnia to make things interesting. That said I’ve been trying to stay in some kind of routine, as you can tell from the start of the blog it’s not going well.

While I’m normally up and about for my alarm in the morning, weekends (as always) are a completely different situation. I am finding though I’m going to bed later and if I stay asleep I’m having some trippy dreams, if not I’m waking up at strange times throughout the night.

At the weekend I’m sleeping on and off for a few hours on both Saturday and Sunday because despite the fact I’m in my flat for 90% of the day every day I am exhausted. Fibro or just the mental exhaustion of the situation? I wish I could tell you.

I read that this is pretty common in situations like these, that our brains have to get the weird out somewhere and so it’s coming out in dreams. I’m not going to go into detail about mine because it features people I know but damn I can never say I don’t have ideas for a book in there.

Are you guys finding it harder to have a normal sleep pattern or are you having strange dreams too? Let me know so I feel less strange.

Livin' The Vida Lockdown: Day Thirty-One - Getting Through Tough Days

Livin’ The Vida Lockdown: Day Thirty-One – Getting Through Tough Days

I’m going to be honest with you all, I was dreading today. I’d been dreading it for a few weeks and until recently my plan was to spend the day hiding in my bed – I was in a much worse place mentally than I am right now.

Today marks 5 years since my life completely changed after a horse riding accident. If you’ve read my blogs for a while you’ll probably know quite a lot if not I started horse riding at university and loved it, 6 months into learning to ride I fell and broke part of my spine. It was a long recovery and I later developed Fibromyalgia.

Normally, I’d make sure I treated myself on the day. If I could help it I wouldn’t plan anything but I’d maybe go to my local shopping center and let myself buy a few things, go to a coffee shop and maybe see a friend or my family and get through the day. Obviously I couldn’t do that today.

I woke up and checked my social media and BAM Facebook memories, thank you very much for the picture of me riding. Thank you indeed. So I got up, got my cup of tea and let myself have some time to sit and think – feel how I needed to feel. I did get teary and emotional thinking about all the changes, everything that happened.

I’m working through the event, what happened after and my Fibromyalgia diagnosis in therapy. I do think that had helped this year. I let myself feel and then got up, got showered and dressed. I worked all morning and went out for a walk to feel the sun on my skin.

While I was walking I thought about how far I’ve come. Some days I can’t do that, other days (in non lockdown times) I can go to the gym. Each day is different but I think I’m doing well. Would I have got through today a few years ago? I don’t know.

It’s a bit of a rambly post, but I expected that. I’m proud of myself for where I am. Does that mean I don’t struggle? No. I struggle mentally and physically with the fact my life has changed forever and I’ve had to change the future I thought I would have.

That said I’m trying. I’m taking it day by day and I’m proud of myself for getting through today in a totally weird and stressful situation.

Peace out.

Book Review: Once Upon A River – Diane Setterfield

On a dark midwinter’s night in an ancient inn on the river Thames, an extraordinary event takes place. The regulars are telling stories to while away the dark hours, when the door bursts open on a grievously wounded stranger. In his arms is the lifeless body of a small child. Hours later, the girl stirs, takes a breath and returns to life. Is it a miracle? Is it magic? Or can science provide an explanation? These questions have many answers, some of them quite dark indeed.

Once Upon A River is an intriguing read and I’m really pleased to have picked this up for book club and that I was able to discuss with with a group of people because this is the kind of book you will want to talk about the whole way through, there’s a lot to cover.

I will admit that in the beginning I wasn’t sure about who everyone was, their part in the story it can be quite confusing pulling all the threads together and I did have to go back. That said, I actually ended up loving the fact that so many strands ended up coming together in the end and it added to the mystery element of it all.

While it might sound strange, the pace of the plot felt like it followed the path of a river. Some parts were slow and winding while you felt that other parts were rushing through and you couldn’t stop reading. It was an incredibly clever way to write and I give props to the author.

This is the kind of novel that creates a lot of theories. I was chatting and debating with my friends about who the girl was, where she came from, who I wanted her to be. I was immersed in this mystery and while the ending wasn’t what I expected I can understand it.

I think my favourite character of the whole book was the midwife of the town – she was incredibly interesting and her use of science and love it was a welcome addition to a book that is full of folklore and whispers of magic. It’s impressive how the author was able to combine these aspects.

I gave this book 4 stars. I think it’s a good read, but it does take a little bit of getting used to particularly in the beginning. I feel that it’s worth it and most of the people I’ve spoken to agree!

Livin' The Vida Lockdown: Day Twenty-Seven - Has Anyone Seen My Brain?

Livin’ The Vida Lockdown: Day Twenty-Seven – Has Anyone Seen My Brain?

I have been playing with what to write for days, literal days. I even started writing a post yesterday only for it to stop flowing through my fingertips. I just couldn’t write. For the past few days, my brain has been as useful as fluff.

On some days, I can get things done but others it just seems like my creativity has just taken a running jump and left me. It’s strange, I don’t know who I am really without being able to write. Normally it’s second nature to me, it’s how I make sense of things.

My guess is that while we’re seeing amazing things coming from creatives there are also times when they struggle – like I am now. I thought I’d write blogs upon blogs, my novel might get a good chunk written – maybe I’d create videos too! While I’ve blogged more than normal, that’s about it.

I know that a big chunk of it is that my mental health has struggled. Anxiety has been buzzing in the background and distracting me so much from my own creativity. It’s different when I’m working, for some reason I can still do that but my own stuff has struggled for a few days. I’m hoping it finds its way back

Is there a point to this post? I don’t know, I guess I just wanted to write something to try and get back into the mojo I haven’t had for a few days. Also, to see if any of you have felt the same.

Anyone else?

Anxiety is something that is floating around a lot right now and rightfully so. It’s incredibly normal to feel worried and feel anxious. But how about when you have anxiety? When you’re pretty used to your brain freaking out. I’ve lived with anxiety for a really long time now and have found ways in the normal way of life to cope with it but those aren’t quite working right now. So I thought I’d put down a few of the ways that I, and other people I know are feeling right now. You Don’t Want To Sound Dramatic, But You’re Absolutely Terrified Usually, any kind of anxiety or panic spiral that leads to catastrophising can be challenged with reason but when you look around and see other people who don’t have anxiety disorders getting worked up it sounds alarm bells. So it makes sense that your brain is on high alert and EVERYTHING feels like its on fire while you’re standing in the middle watching. Panic Attacks Feel A Lot More Scary Last week I had one of the worst panic attacks I’ve had in a long, long time. I was petrified that something was seriously wrong. Part of a panic attack for me includes a tight chest, trouble breathing and chest pain. Sound familiar? Exactly. Thankfully, I had Ali to help me with this one because it wasn’t going away on its own. In the moment logic went out of the window and it just overtook my brain. Afterwards I was completely exhausted mentally and physically. Regular Symptoms Are Harder To Deal With It’s kind of mentioned above but a lot of the symptoms of anxiety are similar to that of the virus. So your chest feels tight, then you worry, then you get anxious, then your chest gets more tight and so it carries on. You’re Not Quite Sure How To Manage Without A Lot Of Your Coping Strategies I spent years working on strategies to help me when I was feeling anxious, one of the easiest was going for a cup of tea and a hug with my Mum, which is out of the window. Borrowing a dog for a walk and play? Nope. Meeting a friend to get out of my own head and space? Also no. You Feel Alone I completely get this because it’s easy to feel alone in all this. BUT I can promise you that you’re not.

Livin’ The Vida Lockdown: Day Twenty-Four – What It’s Like To Have Anxiety Right Now

Anxiety is something that is floating around a lot right now and rightfully so. It’s incredibly normal to feel worried and feel anxious. 

But how about when you have anxiety? When you’re pretty used to your brain freaking out. I’ve lived with anxiety for a really long time now and have found ways in the normal way of life to cope with it but those aren’t quite working right now. So I thought I’d put down a few of the ways that I, and other people I know are feeling right now. 

You Don’t Want To Sound Dramatic, But You’re Absolutely Terrified

Usually, any kind of anxiety or panic spiral that leads to catastrophising can be challenged with reason but when you look around and see other people who don’t have anxiety disorders getting worked up it sounds alarm bells. 

So it makes sense that your brain is on high alert and EVERYTHING feels like its on fire while you’re standing in the middle watching. 

Panic Attacks Feel A Lot More Scary 

Last week I had one of the worst panic attacks I’ve had in a long, long time. I was petrified that something was seriously wrong. Part of a panic attack for me includes a tight chest, trouble breathing and chest pain. Sound familiar? Exactly. 

Thankfully, I had Ali to help me with this one because it wasn’t going away on its own. In the moment logic went out of the window and it just overtook my brain. Afterwards I was completely exhausted mentally and physically. 

Regular Symptoms Are Harder To Deal With 

It’s kind of mentioned above but a lot of the symptoms of anxiety are similar to that of the virus. So your chest feels tight, then you worry, then you get anxious, then your chest gets more tight and so it carries on. 

You’re Not Quite Sure How To Manage Without A Lot Of Your Coping Strategies 

I spent years working on strategies to help me when I was feeling anxious, one of the easiest was going for a cup of tea and a hug with my Mum, which is out of the window. Borrowing a dog for a walk and play? Nope. Meeting a friend to get out of my own head and space? Also no. 

You Feel Alone 

I completely get this because it’s easy to feel alone in all this. BUT I can promise you that you’re not. 

You’re really, really not.