Monday, 23 April 2018

Music Monday - D

Look at me getting week 4 up on time - here's the low down on some fab bands/artists that you might not have heard of, all beginning with the letter D. As always, please leave recommendations in the comments for future weeks if you have any!

David Gorman // I stumbled across David on Spotify; he's from Manchester and records/mixes/masters all of his music at home which is remarkable to me, as someone who can just about record a voice note on my phone. And his stuff is so lovely too, and I think it's perfect Sunday-afternoon-in-spring listening.
Favourite song: Rain
Where to listen: HERE

David Gorman.
Photo used with permission.

Deva Mahal // Initially, I was like "this isn't my sort of music" and really, it's not - this isn't what I normally listen to at all, but there's no denying Deva's talent and that she's amazing at what she does. Her songs are upbeat and catchy, proper BBQ songs, blues-y but with a bit of other stuff going on too and I think her music is truly special.
Favourite song: Snakes
Where to listen: HERE or HERE

Dearist // Five guys from Wolverhampton, taking inspiration from Taking Back Sunday and Rival Schools and such like; it's rock and it's cool and it's kind of fresh, too. Their album comes out this week which is exciting, and I'm looking forward to seeing where life takes them!
Favourite song: Beaches
Where to listen: HERE or HERE

Are you already a fan of any of these? Let me know!

Sunday, 22 April 2018

An interview with author Fiona Mitchell

This post was supposed to go up on Friday, but my blog has been down due to unforeseen technical issues - however, we're all back up and running now, and I'm so proud to be able to bring you this interview/Q&A I did with Fiona Mitchell, author of The Maid's Room which came out on Thursday. I hope you enjoy it, and I hope it inspires you to go out and read her debut novel!

What was your biggest inspiration for writing The Maid's Room? 
When I was living in Singapore I got to know a woman from the Philippines who shared her story with me. She was the inspiration for Tala who, for me, is the centre of the book. Poverty had forced the woman to leave her sons, then 10 and 8, back home to work as a domestic helper, initially in Hong Kong. She didn’t see them again for another three years. Almost as an afterthought, she mentioned that her first employer had made her sleep under a dining room table. It was as if this hardship was nothing compared to her having to leave her young sons. I kept thinking about her story, and The Maid’s Room started to evolve.

What did you hope the reaction would be to such a poignant story? 
I wanted it to set off a discussion about modern-day servitude. And it’s certainly done that; people are asking all sorts of questions about the book – Have I exaggerated the way domestic helpers are treated in Singapore? Should I have focused on a different country with more flagrant human rights abuses? A book containing true life stories from domestic helpers in Singapore called Our Homes, Our Stories, has just been published which might answer some of those questions. But really I wanted to get readers thinking about how everyone presents one face to the world, while in private, they might be suffering a great deal of pain. I also wanted readers to have a good laugh along the way and finish reading with hope in their hearts.

What was the hardest part of writing The Maid's Room? 
It took me a long time to capture Dolly’s voice. For years, I didn’t know who she was and then suddenly it clicked; she’s a woman who uses her sexuality to get what she wants, but refuses to be a victim. Once I got this straight in my head, the words poured out.

Growing up, did you always want to be a fiction author at some point? What were your other grown-up-career dreams? 
I’ve wanted to write fiction since I was a teenager. I wrote poems, sent them off to literary magazines and ended up with my first rejection letters. All my jobs have involved writing in some shape or form - first in children’s non-fiction publishing, where I’d frequently daydream about writing a novel. Later, when I became a journalist, the dream dried up because I loved my job and felt so fulfilled. It was only when I went freelance and had more time that the urge to write fiction took hold again.

What has been the best part of the entire process of having your debut novel published? 
My launch party – I had so many people that I care about in that room, so many people who had given me words of encouragement along the way, and it felt fantastic to celebrate with them all. The first time I saw my book in a library was special too - knowing that it’s there for people to borrow for free over and again.

And, of course, the worst part? 
The first bad review really hurts, but you get over it. Reading is subjective after all. I’ve fallen in love with a book, only to pass it to my husband who thinks it’s boring. Although I might have had to divorce him if he didn’t like Eleanor Oliphant! Every
reader brings different needs and expectations to a book, but it’s always wonderful when someone connects with your work.

How do you think your work as a journalist has impacted your work as an author? 
As a journalist I’m used to criticism and not at all precious about my work. When an editor or my agent tells me something doesn’t work, I take note and change things – more often than not, an editor can make your work better.
In terms of writing though, journalism and fiction are poles apart. Journalism deals in facts and explanation, whereas in fiction, you can’t give everything away initially, you have to hold things back to keep your reader engaged.

The Maid's Room has been compared to The Help - do you think this is a fair comparison? 
I knew from the start that The Maid’s Room would be compared to The Help, a book I absolutely adore, and it was important for me to acknowledge this. That’s why some of the expat women in my book choose to discuss The Help at their book group. There are similarities between Kathryn’s Stockett’s book and The Maid’s Room – both focus on oppression, and both are written from three points of view, but my book is set in another culture and my characters face a different set of circumstances.

Do you have any plans for more fiction writing in the future? 
Yes. I’ve just finished my second book called The Swap about an IVF mix-up in the US. It’s going to be published by Hodder & Stoughton in April 2019. I’ve also started working on a third book.

Finally, if there's one message you want readers to take away from The Maid's Room, what would that be? 
It’s easy to sit back and think, ‘well that’s just the way it is and I can’t change anything,’ but small acts of kindness can have impact. Never underestimate the power of kindness.

If you do read The Maid's Room, let me know what you think of it!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018

My city break bucket list

I've been on a lot of city breaks over the years - Kraków, Riga, Prague and other amazing cities, but there's still so many I want to travel to. Every city has something different to offer, something exciting to see and do, and something for everyone. City breaks are my favourite type of holiday because I tend to be able to fit in two or three for the same price as a week all-inclusive somewhere; of course everyone looks for something different in a holiday, and I can't say that city breaks are the most relaxing holidays ever but still, it's refreshing to wake up somewhere that isn't your home town. So without further ado, here's my city break bucket list.

One of my first ever city breaks - Brussels!
Budapest is one of those cities that just looks agonisingly beautiful - the architecture and the lights and the river, it's all stunning. It has thermal baths, a huge city park and of course, Hungarian cuisine which I hear is to die for. I mentioned Budapest in my dream Air B n B stays post (there's an Air B n B there with a slide, so you can understand why the city is so high on my list) and there's plenty of cool things to do, like a cave church and a communism-themed bar.

Stockholm just looks boss, doesn't it? Scandi-chic everything, bright coloured buildings, more than FIFTY bridges. What a cool place to be, you can find some pretty cheap places to stay, too. I want to visit for the light tower that anyone with a smartphone can control, for the devil's bible, and for the wall of fame which is basically a huge graffiti exhibition which would make for some excellent instagram pictures.

Wroclaw is next on my list of Polish cities to visit; I've been to four different cities in Poland and I basically want to travel across the entire country, so I'm always on Skyscanner just typing in 'Poland' and seeing where's cheapest. Anyway, Wroclaw just looks so typically Polish with the pastel buildings and flowers and the dwarf trail; my pal Kirsty has been to Wroclaw and her pictures have me drooling whenever I see them, so it's definitely up there on my list!

Barcelona is somewhere that I've actually been to twice, but each time only for a day - the first time, we spent most of the day at Camp Nou (amazing) and the second time, it was absolutely boiling and we just walked SO MUCH. Both days were great, but I was quite young and uncool and I don't have any nice pictures, I didn't go to any cool bars, and I just did the proper tourist stuff. I want to go to the Bunkers of Carmel, see the mercury fountain and go to the erotic museum.

So they're the cities on my city break bucket list right now - if you've been to any of them, let me know what they were like!

Monday, 16 April 2018

Music Monday - C

Sorry about the short hiatus in terms of this series, but I'm back with letter C - if you didn't catch the first two weeks, check out A here and B here. As always if you have any recommendations for bands/artists I can feature later on in this series, either leave me a comment below or message me on social media. Without any more rambling, here we go...

COLOUR // another local-ish band, these guys are a four-piece from Liverpool who all sing and then each play instruments too, which pretty much makes them magicians in my eyes. They've been featured on BBC Introducing, which is exciting; they released a track called 'Minus' in November last year which was recorded at their own studio, then mastered at Abbey Road by Christian Wright which is a pretty Big Deal (he's mastered stuff for Bjork, Radiohead and more). 2018 has already seen them release new stuff and play some gigs, and I'm excited to see what they get up to for the rest of the year.
Favourite song: Black
Where to listen: HERE or HERE

Corey Kilgannon // this guy is from NYC, and like most people from the big apple he is painfully cool; his songs are absolutely dreamy, so peaceful and melodic and full of what you might call layers, or texture, or something - loads of things going on at once that complement each other perfectly even though you might not think they would. But that's why other people write the songs, and not us mere mortals. Definitely one to listen to when you just need to chill out.
Favourite song: Berlin
Where to listen: HERE or HERE

Cadillac Assembly Line // obv I might be slightly biased because this is my big brother's band and he's my all round hero (nobody tell him) but really, I think they're pretty good. They have a few cool songs out and if all the excitement and guitars in our dining room are anything to go by, new stuff is coming preeeeetty soon.
Favourite song: Caffeine & Codeine
Where to listen: HERE

Sorry it took me so long to get this post up - promise I'll try and have week 4 up when it's supposed to be!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Holiday fashion wishlist

It's been a while since I did a fashion wishlist post, but ever since I booked myself a little holiday last week I've been lusting over all the new summer clothes in the shops and online - so I thought it was about time I showed you what I'm dying to spend my wages on...

First up is this cute stripy t shirt from Topshop, which has 'happy' embroidered on it - it's cute and bright and easy to wear, which is everything I look for in summer clothes really. Definitely the perfect sight-seeing t shirt if you ask me and it's only £16. These tassel shoes are from George @ ASDA and I sort of wish they didn't have the gems on them but I also think they're really sassy; definitely not sight-seeing shoes but they'd be so nice for an evening meal especially with bright pink toenails, white jeans and a floaty blue top. Ooooh. They're fifteen quid which is more than I'd expect to pay at George but they're pretty so it's okay.

I am head over heels in love with this black cord skirt from Glamorous with its adorable flowers and cute buttons and ughhhh I need it. It's £32 which is a bit pricey BUT their clothes are really good quality and I just think this is perfect. Primark is obviously my go-to for holiday clothes and this dress is only a tenner, and I'm picturing it with bare legs and white Converse. Yessss. Last but not least is this gorgeous little beach cover up from Simply Beach who do loads of designer swimwear and beach clothes; I'm notoriously pale and burn within half an hour of seeing the sun, so kaftans and little floaty dresses are perfect for me to chuck on while I've got my nose in a book and a cocktail in hand. This is outrageously expensive but I love it soooo much.

What summer clothes have you got your eyes on?

This post is a collaboration with Simply Beach; 
please see my disclaimer for more info.
Post also contains affiliate links.