The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins

Yes, I know, I’m very late for the train with this one (d’ya get it? Ha!). I kept seeing adverts for The Girl on the Train film adaptation when it first came out in the cinemas, but I knew I didn’t want to watch it until I had read the book – and it has taken me awhile, but I’ve finally read it! (Well, now I know why it’s so popular.)

I’ve read very mixed reviews about this novel since I finished it, but my experience was that I was hooked by this book. Some reviews commented on the characters being too over-the-top, calling them unbelievable, or unrealistic, and repetitive. However, I found their quirky characteristics and repetitive nature was what made them so interesting and real. It created a struggle for me, as a reader, as to who I could trust – the multiple perspectives especially, which allowed for revelations to be delayed even to the last two pages. The character of Rachel caught my interest the most, especially her alcoholism and blackouts that had me struggling between being skeptical of how much she could be trusted and my instinct to believe and trust her.

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Back from Beautiful Barcelona!

I’ve been off travelling again – this time for a few days with family in Barcelona, Catalonia. Before going here, I didn’t really know that there is the difference between Spain and Catalonia (an autonomous community of Spain, with a sense of independence that stemmed from the countries’ history).

There are loads of things to do and see in Barcelona, especially if you’re interested in art and architecture – as this city is the home of work by both Gaudì and Picasso.

Sagrada Familia
This is probably the most famous attraction, and to be honest I can see why! It’s a very grand cathedral, designed by famous architect Gaudì. It’s big, ostentatious but gorgeous (and only going to get bigger with their aim for the construction to be complete by 2026, 100 years after the death of Gaudì). I wasn’t so impressed by the outside; it looked too over-the-top for me, although this impression was probably not helped by the cranes and construction work surrounding it.

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Busy in Bustling Bucharest

Last week I went to Bucharest, the capital of Romania, for a few days – as another birthday present given to me, this one from my boyfriend. I was fascinated by the city; although it was chosen to try and confuse me with when I went to Budapest, it was actually like no other place I have been to before. Both Budapest and Prague felt similar, as much more westernised and touristy cities. Bucharest however is less so – it’s never going to be called a very pretty city (thanks to some concrete communist monstrosities), but it was fascinating to be able to see the Romanian culture so easily, without a screen of tourism for it to hide behind.

Nevertheless, there was still quite a lot to do and see, thanks to its interesting history – with the days made even better by some relatively warm and sunny weather.

Palace of Parliament
This is probably the most popular place to visit in Bucharest. It’s the largest parliament building in the world (we had already seen the second largest), and the second largest building in the world – and it can be seen from the moon! Plus, the construction isn’t even finished on it! We got a tour around, seeing just a few of the many rooms, learning about what they are used for, as well as some more basic history of the country.

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A Weekend in Bristol

I went to Bristol the other week – for a Christmas present to me, as the city is half way between my uni and Alex’s. It’s a rather fascinating place; I’ve never been before except briefly to the university area of the city for an open day.

It was just the right place for us to spend a weekend – quirky, and with enough to see and do to keep us busy. We visited some great tourist hotspots, including the Arnolfini (Centre for Contemporary Arts in Bristol), St Nicholas Market, the Clifton suspension bridge and some Banksy art, as well as just wandering around discovering things for ourselves.

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Some Banksy artwork (hidden in the middle of nowhere!)

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How Do I Organise This Hectic Life?

University is super busy at the moment – with impending essays, a work placement once a week, training and matches for the lacrosse team four times a week, and a play to rehearse and perform at the end of term!

I sometimes feel like I’m going to drown under all the pressure and work, but I also know that (partly thanks to IB), with some good organisation, I am more than able to get through this storm in one piece – with finished work AND my sanity.

So, I thought I would share some of the tips that I have learnt from uni and school, about balancing a busy schedule and not going crazy from the stress.

1. A List is Key
I always make a weekly list of everything I have to do for university (like reading and seminar prep), with the date every task is due, and highlighting those that are most important. I’ve come to the realisation that sometimes you won’t be able to do everything, and knowing this really really helps to keep things in perspective; sometimes you just have to prioritise the things that definitely need to be done and leave the others for if you have time.

Also, on this list, I put the other things that I need to remember to do (like emails or learning lines, ah!), which have no urgent due date but I would probably forget to do otherwise. Although, this seems to be a list that I am constantly adding to as I remember everything I have said I would do, but still take forever to actually do… Oops).

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You’ve Ruined a Perfectly Good Book?

I tend to get asked a lot “what do you study at university?”, and when I tell them “English” I tend to get one of two responses:
1) a polite “oh, that’s nice”.
2) mostly people I know better will ask “doesn’t that ruin the fun of reading?”.

And yes, of course, that was something I had thought about when I first decided to apply to universities, but I couldn’t imagine studying anything else!

And actually, I’ve found that this hasn’t happened to me yet. Of course, the extensive reading lists mean I don’t have much time to read my own books (so, sorry that this blog has been a bit neglected!). However, at the same time I am reading authors and book that I have wanted to read for ages, but never had the time or motivation to do so. For example, Jane Eyre, Zadie Smith and some plays other than Shakespeare.

Plus, I’m also learning to look at these books in a different way – being able to analyse themes, genres, etc. that normally I wouldn’t think twice about. And, yes of course, there are some books that I have to read in my course which I don’t find interesting, but you can’t win everything!

So university hasn’t “ruined” reading for me. Instead it has given me an opportunity to read more and look at things in a new light – both in and outside my studies. Plus, if nothing else, this degree has given me the ability to read books quickly!


 

Falmouth

Last week I went to Falmouth. My boyfriend, A, started university there this year, so this was only the second time I’ve been here, but I really like it! (And very different from the city-life of my own uni experience.)

Being located in the south-west tip of England (like seriously! Look it up!) in Cornwall, it is obviously a lovely place to visit in the summer, but I’ve not been so lucky yet! Nevertheless, there are still some things to do in the winter.

Explore the town centre
I’ve spent quite a few hours wondering along this town’s high street (when A has been in uni classes), doing window-shopping and munching on some chips along the dock-front! It’s a cute, typical seaside town centre (with plenty of cornish pasties available!). There are also lots of really lovely independent coffee shops – a student favourite being Espressini.

Beaches
There are a couple of beaches to choose from around Falmouth, and even in the winter it’s a great place to go to just sit and watch the many dog walkers!

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