Categories
Adulthood Non-fiction Recommendations Review

Quite by Claudia Winkleman

Quite. A word that implies negativity. Not quite good enough. Sort of. Alright. But Claudia Winkleman turns that around in her fabulous non-fiction account. She puts quite as the level of expectation we should have for our lives. For our days, our experiences – everything.

Put it this way. You go out for the day. It’s a bank holiday. The sun is shining and you’ve got the next day off. Inside your mind you might picture the perfect lunch overlooking the river. Endless supplies of alcohol, the sun beaming down on your face as you enjoy every last sip. Then onto the next place.

Well. The lunch is crowded, the sun is too hot, the bevergages are bloating, everywhere is packed, things cost money. In fact the day is never perfect. But it mostly quite good.

If you went with that expectation, it leaves room for perfection, but if perfection never happens then your day was still a good day. This is what Claudia is getting at.

So many gems inside this novel I found myself noting down. The final line is one of the best ‘We’re here for five minutes: enjoy the view’ Words to live by each moment at a time.

Well worth a read. An honest account of life. It makes you feel good. It leaves you with a different outlook. And it boosts you to think you’re actually doing alright. And that alright is good enough.

For links to all of my writing related stuff, my link tree is below. You can also find published work in my portfolio. My debut novel, Dear Brannagh, is OUT NOW. If you enjoy what you’re seeing here and are interested in following me on my writing journey as I self-publish novel number two, then please subscribe to my newsletter by filling in the form at the bottom of any page of my website. Thank you x

linktr.ee/HJMWriting

Categories
Adulthood fiction Review Writing

The Midnight Library: a review

So I finished the book that lots of people are talking about – The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Thank you sir.

I loved it.

At the start I wasn’t sure whether or not it would be my cup of tea as I began it with – of course – a cup of tea. I’m not into fantasy or other worlds. I much prefer books firmly set within this world and reality. Ones that I can sometimes relate to or that answer my own questions I have about this world.

The initial idea of the main character being somewhere between life and death felt too sci-fi for my usual taste but, having loved Haig’s previous books, I read on.

Yes the concept is fantastical in that – well nobody knows actually – what happens after death. Yet the main themes, the settings of the many lives that Nora transports into and everything else about the book is very very real.

It is a book that focuses on perspective, something that many of us need more of. It has a lesson on every single page. I found myself constantly noting down quotes and staring wide-eyed at the pages in total I-had-never-thought-of-it-like-that-before style.

Some books I read, love and share with friends. Others I give to a charity shop or swap in the phone box in our village. They were good books but nothing special.

Well, in my opinion, this book is special. While it is currently with a friend I have asked for it to be returned and returned to my shelf. It will sit there forever. I will dip in and out. If ever I need a bit of perspective I will read a page or two.

Thank you Matt Haig.

For links to all of my writing related stuff, my link tree is below. My debut novel, Dear Brannagh, is OUT NOW!!

https://linktr.ee/HJMWriting

Categories
Adulthood fiction Recommendations Review Stories Writing

Lucinda Riley: a recommendation

During lock down my friend gave me a book by Lucinda Riley. The book is set in Southwold, Suffolk which a place we visit fairly often and a place we love. It is also a place we have been denied of recently due to everything going on. We’ve been denied of going anywhere!

I started reading The Butterfly Room during the stricter lock down. When STAY HOME was the clear message from the government. The lines weren’t blurred. We knew who we could and couldn’t see, where we could and couldn’t go.

The novel brought me so much pleasure in reading about a place I know well. It supplied comfort in memories of good times and also the reality in that nothing is perfect. The book even gave me ideas for a lock down novel (w a t c h t h i s s p a c e).

I then found a second book by Riley in the local phone box come book exchange. This one was set in Greece. The Olive Tree brought me the same warmth in remembering freedom. It made me feel as though I too was holidaying in Greece while reading it on my sun lounger on hotter days.

Riley’s recurring theme in both novels is houses. Old, grand, full of secrets and mystery. One thing that I particularly love is the authenticity of the stories and how she effectively depicts fragility and imperfection in all human lives.

If you want escapism in difficult times, look no further.

Two books in and I highly recommend Lucinda Riley as a must-read author. Especially now.

All of my blog posts can be found at https://www.harrietmills.co.uk/ and to read my published work visit my portfolio.

Categories
Non-fiction Recommendations Review Writing

Writing Magazine: a review

For over a year now I have been a proud subscriber of Writing Magazine.

Each month another issue arrives through my letter box and I indulge in its variety of useful and interesting content. Every issue is packed full and thicker than your average magazine so I admit that sometimes a pile builds up beside my bed of those that are still to be properly read.

I initially skim through, perhaps picking out articles that particularly stand out and read them there and then. I then put it away for a day or two until I find time where I will read through properly and enjoy every minute of doing so.

From competition entries to writing news, author stories and everything else in between, Writing Magazine offers a superb selection of opinions, information and ideas to develop your writing technique.

Since subscribing I have undertaken a writing course, appeared on the letters to editors page, entered numerous competitions, taken on board book recommendations, discovered new writing exercises to spark up ideas and learnt so much about this weird and wonderful industry.

Encouraging, inspiring, informative, interesting, entertaining, witty, realistic and fabulous. That is how I would describe this brilliant and useful magazine. Long will I subscribe and if you’re interesting in writing and reading then you should consider subscribing too!

Categories
Adulthood Non-fiction Observations Review

Angels

Since dipping in and out of Lorna Byrne’s book, Angels in my Hair, I can say that I believe in angels. Think I’m daft? Hear me out.

My Grandad once said that: “all the good things you do in the world for other people are rewarded. Perhaps you don’t recognise the rewards because they do not come in material benefits; it might be a good feeling or the experience of just having a day when everything is going your way.” This is a quote that I cling on to and one that perfectly portrays my version of angels.

In Byrne’s book she describes various situations that could have ended horrifically yet didn’t due to something stopping the worse case scenario as if by chance. A girl doesn’t go out into the road to save her getting hit by the car; angels can be seen when Lorna goes on a shopping trip to Moore Street and her mother is told of a rotten apple within the ones she was about to buy; the angel Elijah even warns Lorna about her friend Joe’s impending disease.

Of course, these could all simply be luck playing its way into the lives of these fortunate few, however, and I strongly believe, if you think of it as angels preventing awful things happening, angels watching over us all constantly on the lookout, then life suddenly becomes that bit more magical.

I frequently drive up to traffic lights that instantly turn green (especially when I am in a rush) and look above briefly to thank the angels. The other day a coat was on sale, one left and in my size, I absolutely love it and each time I wear it I give thanks to the angels. While walking home alone in the dark and feeling (unnecessarily scared) I feel safer knowing that the angels are all around. When I get stressed and angry I take a moment to quietly ask the angels for strength to be a good person.

Too often in life we focus on the negative. If we are having a bad day then every tiny thing that goes wrong is the most awful thing in the world, angering us beyond measure. Yet if we have the same attitude to good things, as small as they may be, it can have a huge impact on our mood. By viewing these nuggets of goodness as angels being around, brings me more happiness and strength each day while muddling through life.

Mock me if you wish and it is a very personal belief (a very personal version of what to others might differ but still be angels) but if you feel inclined to learn more or would like an incredibly interesting read, certainly get your hands on Lorna Byrne’s book, it’s insightful and warming in every way.

Categories
Review

Ricky Gervais – After Life: Review

“Happiness is amazing. It’s so amazing it doesn’t matter if it’s yours or not.”

If anybody reading this hasn’t joined the hype about Ricky Gervais’ new Netflix Original series, After Life, then stop what you’re doing immediately and watch all six episodes in one sitting. I say this because that is exactly what you will do, it’s what I did and it’s what all the people I have spoken to about the series did themselves. It is so good.

The quote above is one of many profound words uttered by life-hating Tony, played by Gervais himself, who has recently lost his wife to breast cancer and is generally hating everything about this wonderful thing we call living.

Working for a local newspaper, he shows an intern the ropes on how boring his job as an amateur journalist is when he writes stories on uninteresting and, in his opinion, not news worthy events. From a young lad who can play two recorders at once through his nostrils to a man who has a stain in his house that he believes looks like Kenneth Branagh, Tony sees his career as nonsense and feels that there is no point in anything.

His daily situation worsens with his father in a care home suffering badly from Alzheimer’s disease and his nephew getting bullied at school so he regularly hooks up with the local crack head to numb the pain before planning to end it altogether.

Of course, you’re now thinking why on earth am I recommending this series to you because it sounds extremely depressing. Trust me, it’s not.

Aside from the negatives, After Life is filled with amazing moments that make you smile and hilarious comments that will have you laughing continuously throughout.

It is a series that shows the importance of dogs, the amazing things that they can do and how good they make us feel.

It is a series that shows how much death can teach us about life and how loved ones live on in one way or another. Whether it’s through material that they leave behind (in Tony’s case this is in the form of videos from his wife used for guidance) or the way we can still speak to them at the graveside shown through the character Ann.

It is a series that makes the mundane laughable, but also hits you with an injection of reality in the different paths that people take in life and how many struggle to cope.

It is a series that will have you laughing, being gobsmacked at certain lines spoken and crying real tears through the emotional aspects.

It covers all bases of life and it is definitely worth your time.

It is a series that shows reality: the good, the bad and the bloody hilarious.

For now though, I will leave things on a high with another wonderful quote from the brilliant show:

“If the kindest souls were rewarded with the longest lives, dogs would outlive us all”

How true is that? Enjoy!

Categories
Recommendations Review

A place to visit: Darcie & May Green, London

Picture this: it’s a Sunday, it’s raining, you’re severely hungover and you’re in London with some good friends. What else is there to do other than drink yourselves silly somewhere and eat lots too? Well, Darcie & May is certainly a fantastic place to begin or stay, whatever you feel like.

This is exactly what myself and a few friends did over the weekend and I’m still smiling about it as well as wincing at the cut on my knee – a result of a drunken fall in the middle of a station platform.

After waking up more hungover than expected having consumed far too much and mixed all sorts of alcoholic beverages the afternoon into the night before, my friend and I felt a McDonald’s was the only way forward. As fat as we knew this sounded seeing as we had a brunch to attend at Darcie & May Green later that morning, we ventured out in the rain to the closest McDonald’s we could find.

On arrival, we almost cried. All we could see were boards and no sign of life until we moved around the corner to see that the counters were running and people in similar situations as our own were queuing up to get their very own Sausage and Egg Mcmuffin. Relieved didn’t cover it.

Onwards and upwards and feeling slightly better in ouselves, we went back out in the rainy Sunday London morning and headed to the canal in search of our brunch venue. After a risky ride on the tube where all (four now) of us were trying desperately hard not to vomit by staring at the tube map which was the only thing that remained still, we arrived at the colourful boat on the canal (pictured above).

As we weren’t able to book between 12-3 we headed inside to discover that the situation was as we’d expected with it being such a miserable day and had to wait an hour until we could get a table for the six (now) of us. This didn’t matter though, the other half of the boat was a bar – perfect!

Though it was a bit of a squish, we crammed into the small bar and sipped happily on cokes due to our still rather hungover states and inability to face alcohol just yet. It wasn’t long however until we were sat at our table in the restaurant side of the Darcie & May with The Bondi breakfast and an already empty bottle of Prosecco. Bottoms up, refill please!

Yes, for just £39.50 per person, we got a main dish, a sweet and an unlimited supply of Prosecco. What could possibly go wrong?

Being an Aussie themed restaurant, Darcie & May serves the best of the recent popular foods such as salmon and poached eggs on charcoal bread, avocado on toast and The Bondi which consisted of quality sausages and bacon, mushrooms, avocado, charcoal bread and a spiced tomato sauce which was delicious. The sweet we all opted for was banana bread, mascarpone and fruit and it too was incredible. Though there was a selection to choose from that would satisfy all taste buds.

Five hours later, six bottles of prosecco down and a little wobbly, I headed for the train. All going well (ish) – if you don’t count getting lost on route to the tube station, falling asleep on the man next to me and a phone battery of 1% – I was almost on home turf when I fell at the station platform. Not just a minor, subtle fall that I could shake off, no, a whopping great splat on the ground in front of many passers by and a huge bruised, swollen and cut knee. Oops.

At least I won’t forget about our great time on the Darcie & May any time soon.

Categories
Review

The Girl On The Train: Review

I know I am very late to the party, but I just had to write a review on Paula Hawkins’ brilliantly gripping book – The Girl on the Train.

I was handed this book by a friend on her high recommendation. Judging by the whispers I had heard and also the impression given from the front cover, I text her on a Sunday evening asking whether it was an appropriate read before bed or if I’d be scared. “No, but you’ll stay up all night reading it!” Came her honest reply.

As tired as I was after a heavy Saturday night drinking, this wasn’t the case but a desperate effort to read in any window of time that I got, under a week later and the book was finished.

From the style to the plot, the pages turned without me noticing and before I knew it I had read a hundred pages or more. The fact that these lives I was reading about could be the lives of anyone I know, or even my own life if I ever got into a tricky situation, resonated within me on an uncomfortable but interesting level, and the fact that it all came from the observations from the girl on the train I found an extremely clever angle.

Constantly guessing the outcome and finally finding that my last guess was the right one satisfied me as a reader but also left me angry at mankind (men) in how they treat and manipulate women, which of course can be done the other way around but in this instance wasn’t, sorry guys!

The way that the girls come together at the end and it being a fairly hopeful ending, not without drama of course, left me with no disappointment and I am going to leave it at that, without watching the film becasue I have been told it has nothing on the book.

Thank you Paula Hawkins, for providing me with a great read, an escape, and lots of inspiration.

Categories
Recommendations Review Writing

Top 5: advice from a writer starting out

I would class myself as a writer. Yes, I’m a writer. I have had things published both online and in print, but I have by no means made it. In fact, I am at the very beginning of my career (if I can even call it that yet).

I blog (as anyone reading this already knows), I write for an online blog (paid, but not much), I desperately try to get commissioned for more articles for a variety of publications and I am working hard to get my first novel polished up so it is ready to send out.

Whether you’re a writer also, perhaps more experienced (which isn’t hard) and haven’t yet come across these useful materials, or simply interested in the writing industry and want to learn more about it, then here are five helpful sources for you to check out whenever you get a chance.

So far they have helped me, inspired me and deeply interest me. Here goes.

The Bookseller

I came across The Bookseller website on recommendation from a research source that I was using and so far I have found it fabulous.

The Bookseller has been the magazine of the book trade since 1888 reporting on all important news and trends within the industry. I personally have found it so great because like just about everything since 1888 it’s moved on and is no longer just a magazine. Now, with a small subscription fee you gain access to the most useful information in so many different forms.

From the official website bringing breaking news and a blog, to the magazine itself and everything in between. My favorite means of accessing this material is through the monthly podcasts containing interviews with authors, the book doctors giving advice on what to read and why, and comments upon general trends in terms of what is selling as well as useful discussions about the complexity of genre, for example. Trust me, this source is fab.

Writing Magazine

I have subscribed to the Writing Magazine for over a year now.

Although bombarding myself with the amount of information inside each monthly issue can seem overwhelming from time to time, having a glance each month, a longer look at what interests me and a pile by my desk to address when needing information or inspiration about writing is crucial to my work and interests.

Not to mention my letter getting published on the Letters to the Editor page in December, that was pretty cool.

Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook

Since undertaking my degree I have leaned on the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook as a bible for my future career and a recommendation by every tutor that I had. The huge volume is packed full of everything you need to know from how to write to which agents to approach when sending out your first manuscript.

It contains agent and publisher listings, magazine and newspaper listings, articles about specific topics from the traditions such as writing a cover letter and what to include in your synopsis, to tackling the most current issues like self-publishing.

Twitter

Twitter is so useful in so many ways. Not only does it keep you right up to date with celebrity gossip, trending news and the latest remarks from Katie Hopkins, but it is very handy in the literary world as well.

I follow every agent and publisher I have ever approached, I follow many authors too and more recently I have been using my personal profile purely from a writing perspective which has in turn increased my following from people within the writing community too.

It is a quick, easy to use and important thing to have both to learn about current writing news and trends as well as upping your following and trying to get both your name and your work out there. Follow me if you wish @MillsWriting

Reading

It almost goes without saying but by far one of the most important and beneficial things to do when trying to become a better writer is to read, read and read some more.

Having recently finished a first draft of a first novel, I can tell you from experience and I know that my work is better when I have been actively reading more alongside my writing.

Reading gives you ideas, inspiration, stylistic tips and the chance to discover what works for you and what doesn’t.

So there we have it, just a few ideas for some useful material if you wish to improve your writing skills, learn more about the industry or merely listen to some interesting discussions about books. Enjoy!

Categories
Review

A Star Is Born and how my view of Gaga changed

I’ve always thought of Lady Gaga as a bit of a freak. In fact, if I am honest, I’ve never really thought of her much at all but whenever I have encountered her I have thought she was a little strange to say the least.

The meat dress scenario and various other nutty outfits as well as her wacky ways when I’ve witnessed her on chat shows made me think she was trying far too hard to stand out and get in the papers.

After watching her amazing performance in the recent film A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper alongside Gaga my opinions of her have totally changed. I am now of the view that actually her confidence issues were why she dressed the way she did and perhaps she doesn’t rate her ability either.

A Star Is Born is an absolute must-see. Not only is the story line real and conveying how tough life working in the music industry can be, but also the soundtrack is beautiful.

For the first time that I personally have witnessed, Gaga is stripped of her weirdness, and instead her true talent and stunning natural beauty is revealed. She plays the upcoming star, Ally, who catches singer Jackson Maine’s (played by Cooper) eye one night while she is performing in a drag bar. Her voice stuns him and he instantly wants more.

After performing alongside him she then appeals to a producer who wishes to sacrifice her rawness and Maine as her duet partner to create the image that he selfishly wishes to create.

Maine’s heavy drug and alcohol problem sends him into a spiral of decline and the industry taking Ally away from him doesn’t help which leads to a saddening end so ensure you bring your tissues for that one!

Not only did I find the plot brilliant and more than just another love story but the music and songs are something that have stuck with me as I’ve played them while getting ready most mornings, throughout the day and before I go to bed at night.

Beware, the majority of songs will make you cry as they did me the morning after I went to see the film. It was an embarrassing moment as I blubbered away while serving somebody at the Post Office counter at work who must’ve thought I had serious psychological issues. However, despite the tears the music is also just simply stunning.