Friday, December 28, 2018
Favourite Books Of 2018

Favourite Books Of 2018

In 2018 I fell back in love with reading and actually achieved what I set out to do, which was to read more books this year. Some have been on my 'list' for years, others I've found through recommendations and some were gifted. Most of the following books were released way before 2018 but these are my favourites amongst those I have read this year which I recommend...enjoy!


Helmut Newton Autobiography

I eased my way back into reading with an autobiography that caught my eye on the family bookshelf. Told through the witty and honest voice of Helmut Newton, he goes back to his childhood upbringing, family and his climb up the ladder to becoming one of the best photographers in the fashion industry. Newton doesn't hold back and talks about both his intimate and professional relationships in detail and how they have shaped his work and him as a person. The book was both funny and sharp, effortless to read and Newton's personality comes through perfectly in his writing.

The Bell Jar


I hadn't read anything by Sylvia Plath up until now and fell in love with her writing style from the first sentence - it's great what books you find lying around your house! Though shocking and painful to read, Plath writes effortlessly about semi-fictional character Esther Greenwood and the realistic emotional turmoil she falls into. Esther is a young and talented woman trying to 'make it' in New York but is faced with a debilitating mental illness making for a bleak and haunting story of her experiences. She writes in such vivid detail, you can almost see the whole story play out in front of you. It's not the easiest of reads however it's truly honest and still garners the character's humour and realness throughout.

Sofia Coppola: A Cinema Of Girlhood


A friend gifted this to me and I was delighted as I love reading and learning about cinema! This book explores the cinematic work of Sofia Coppola and how she showcases female characters through themes of sex, fame, power and celebrity. Author Fiona Handyside talks about every film of Coppola's including The Virgin Suicides and Marie Antoinette and how she uses costume, colour and light to portray the 'girl world'. At times, it did somewhat feel like a dig at Coppola's success (due to the fact she is the daughter of one of the biggest directors in cinema) though it was after all a critical study and an interesting analysis into this important area of cinema. Ideal for those studying or just curious about post-feminism/girlhood in film.

Breaking Mad


I was given this some years ago and like I said, as I finally am getting back into reading - it means finally putting gifts to use, even if years later... in comes this helpful and friendly guide to conquering anxiety. Told by Anna Williamson, a tv presenter, now author/counsellor and Mind charity ambassador, she recounts her previous experience with anxiety and how she managed it. I truly admire these people that can overcome issues like this enough to make a book about it and find it hugely inspiring. It's a hands-on, no nonsense kind of guide which gets straight to the issues head on and why they actually happen which I found useful and informative on areas I hadn't thought about. There were also parts I found less relatable and/or repetitive but overall a great go-to guide in times of need.


Portrait Of A Young Man Drowning


Another book lying round the house that peaked my interest and was immersed by the first chapter. The one (and only) novel by Charles Perry which draws heavily on his own personal experience growing up in Brooklyn amongst gangsters and juvenile delinquents. The story explores the life of Harold who gets caught up in the underworld scene while living at home with his overbearing mother and step father. The whole novel is written from Harold's point of view so we really feel like we're in his head with him and growing as he grows. I researched afterwards and discovered the movie adaptation 'Six Ways To Sunday' with Adrien Brody and Debbie Harry which is good but doesn't quite sting as much as the book - a must read. 


Kafka On The Shore


I heard about this book as recommended via Jenn Im (here). This isn't the kind of book where it goes from A-Z and everything is neatly rounded up and makes sense - no, no no. This book is a complete whirlwind including fish falling from the sky, talking cats and Colonel Sanders - to name a few things. Haruki Murakami has a vast and hugely colourful imagination which he lets roam free across the pages of this book - following the lives of two characters and their entwined destinies. I enjoyed this book so much, even if I didn't really know where it was going, however, that is what made it just so compelling and kept me turning the pages.

Still Alice


I saw the film version of this some years ago and found it an emotional viewing as my late (grand)papa also suffered from alzheimers, like the protagonist Alice. The book, like the film, is truly accurate, and at times painfully so. Author, Lisa Genova, explains in the book via q&a the extent of her research for this story and how she wanted it to be as true to life as possible. Genova leaves no emotion untouched and covers every spectrum of the disease and the complexities involved when a whole family is affected too. Whilst the book is at most times heartbreaking, there is till humour and inspiration to be found in this story from Alice's resilience and determination despite her challenging circumstances. 

Happy

Growing up as a British teenager, I often saw/heard Fearne Cotton on the tv/radio like most people, who always came across as this radiant, super-confident girl who has her whole life together - which I still think she does by the way. However, this book was an eye-opener and a brave account of Cotton's experience struggling with mental health. I hugely appreciate her honesty to reveal what was really going on and use this as a tool to help others, like myself. The book features activities/pages to fill out so it never feels like you're wading through pages of writing as it's nicely broken up in sections to let you share your own thoughts and feelings. There are stories from other people in her life plus useful tips and reminders to enjoy the little things and - as the title suggests - finding joy of everyday and letting go of perfect.

On top of that I also read:
Filth, 
Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine, 
On The Road, 
Fiesta: The Sun Also Rises, 
Grace: A Memoir, 
Animal Farm, 
The Picture Of Dorian Gray, 
Why be happy when you could be normal?, 
The Dressmaker (not a huge fan),
Do No Harm,
and Le liseur du 6h27 - so overall, a very good year for reading!

You can follow my Instagram 'Books' stories here for more updates. Thanks for reading!
Thursday, December 13, 2018
A Copenhagen Travel Guide

A Copenhagen Travel Guide

Me and my pal recently planned a wee break away and decided on Copenhagen! I saved up for flights and accommodation from working during the summer and doing some online selling then off we went! It was probably the coldest place to go but minus temperatures aside, we had a great time and ate like queens. Denmark has always been hyped up or 'stereotyped' as the happiest country and I was curious to see if it was...and if so, why?

Here is what we got up to, where we stayed/visited/ate and if I personally found it to be one of the happiest places i've visited so far...


We travelled via Manchester airport then took the underground to the centre and a quick bus ride to our accommodation - we chose central Nørrebro aka the coolest/nicest neighbourhood in Copenhagen. We stayed at Amanda's Air BnB (see here for full info). It was in a super handy location, just across from a grocers, supermarket, bus stop, park with arty swings, bike hire shops etc. A nice, clean & minimal (as expected from the Scandi's) bedroom, shared kitchen/bathroom and shared roof terrace. 


The first night we were knackered from travelling and got in late so got some dinner then some zzz's before the busy day ahead of brunching and exploring...



The next morning we headed straight for the city centre to brunch! We came across Atelier September and knew we'd found a gem. We both opted for the open-sandwich with avocado on rye bread (another Scandi thing) with boiled eggs, cheese and tea/coffee. The food was spot-on and the flavouring/seasoning was so good it was like little taste explosions were going off in my mouth, like really. 

The cafe had a nice 'n' cosy vibe and we were sat at the window, the perfect spot to watch the world go by. There was cool art work displayed around the cafe and a vintage shop in the back too. Despite it being pretty pricey, when it comes to 'hygge' and happiness, we found this place to tick all the boxes - it had a really calm atmosphere, candles, warmth and deeelicious food so definitely worth the occasional visit!


We wandered through Nyhavn which is the go-to tourist spot. Lined with multi-coloured houses, outdoor café terraces and a Christmas market - this place is very photogenic and has plenty to do as long as what you want to do involves buying, drinking or eating!

Afterwards, we visited the Danish Museum of Design which offers free entry for under 25's, hurray for youth! Me and my friend both loved this museum and it was filled with inspiration and fun things to look at including tech, fashion, furniture and more. Again lots of photo opportunities to be had and ideas to be made! They also had an insanely good gift shop and I wanted to buy everything.

Candid but cold!


These gorgeous heart lights were along all the streets in the city centre for the festive season and I think they are some of the nicest yet not-too-over the top Christmas decorations i've seen.



We also checked out the Danish Film Institute which is a must for film-lovers! It had a great gift shop with dvds, books and more, an exhibition, a cafe (with a super friendly English man working there) and of course a cinema, plus a restaurant.


The 'Hotel D'Angleterre' with an advent calendar window display.


As for shopping, there is plenty and a few shops that we don't have here in the France/UK. They have a WeekdayMonki AND I even saw a retail outlet selling ADER clothing. We also came across a pop up store for Axel Arigato which was more of an art exhibition than a shop. So shopaholics, Copenhagen is the place for you!



In the evening we dined in and made a quick pasta meal plus vino from the supermarket before we headed out. Minimal photos from the night out but we had a great time. First, stopping off ever-so randomly at a game bar, yes you read right! We were a little early for a gig we were going to so popped into Bip Bip Bar which has everything from arcade machines to retro games on tiny tv's where you can basically get drunk and go square-eyed simultaneously. Finally it was time for some live music at the new venue called Alice, to see Gruff Rhys with support Bill Ryder Jones. It felt like being back in my ex-student town of Liverpool as many locals had come to see these British artists. 

After was followed by a trip to a bar which the name of I do not know but they served very nice cocktails... anyhoo, after that I met a Danish man outside called Kim to whom I asked whilst slightly tipsy "are Danish people really happier?!" His answer was quite slurred but I think he said something along the lines of that it's just a stereotype like every place has. That happiness depends on you and not on the place you are, that Copenhagen has problems like every where else. He rambled something else, then it was time to say bye and go for chips - taxi - bed...


Needless to say the next day we felt a little delicate. We got up late, had a supermarket lunch outdoors facing a pretty canal then ventured to the much talked about 'Freetown Christiania' based in Christianshavn. It's basically a little town nestled within the town where anything goes, I mean nearly anything. There's no cars passing through, just bikes, lots of grafitti and street art, stalls, shops, food stands, etc. However I was little surprised to see what was basically an open-air 'coffee' shop, if you know what I mean...the wiff in the air said it all! Taking photos in certain parts of Freetown is not advised so it's an experience worth seeing with your own eyes. Also maybe better to go on a day when you're not hungover like we were.

The day was mostly a wandering day as a lot of museums and such were closed but it's a very quiet, calm city to explore on foot or bike. 

By about 5pm we were already hungry so headed to a place my friend found online, recommended for vegetarians, called Gao - a dumpling bar. Oh my days, the food was insanely good! It had a 'tapas' style menu so you get lots of little dishes of different things but I think we slightly over ordered as we ended up staying for over two hours because we had to keep taking breaks...we got mushroom/spinach dumplings, deep-fried tofu, noodles, veg and noodle soup. As you can see from the photos below, the interiors were very cool and the food was heaven.



Following dinner, we decided to see a movie (not able to face a second night running of drinking) at the Empire cinema and saw Suspiria, the modern remake by Luca Guadagnino. The movie was in English with Danish subtitles but there was a lot of spoken German too which we didn't realise so probably lost the plot (literally). Overall, the movie was pretttyyy intense and freaked the cr*p out of me! I think I liked it but then again I was happy for it to be over, it left me feeling similar to how 'mother!' did, if that resonates with anyone!

Monday was our last day and the day of our flight so we spent time wandering round town, finally ate at The Union Kitchen then explored the Botanical Gardens which was a beautiful bit of haven in the middle of the city.

In conclusion to my essay - just kidding - no, but really, did I find out if Denmark is the happiest country in the world? I think my random drunken encounter on Saturday summed it up and that it really does depend on you. However, I did come back from the break feeling motivated to do as the Danish do and appreciate and enjoy the 'everyday' things more. Food, comfort, lighting and warmth and the simple effects they can have on boosting your happiness and wellbeing.

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Unfortunately I brought the wrong adaptor for my camera charger so was unable to make a video of my travels and most of the photos above were taken with my phone. However I hope you still enjoyed this little documentation of my time in Copenhagen and it's useful if you plan on visiting too! Farvel!

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