Monday, 28 July 2014

Books, Dreams, Music and Being Happy | Q & A

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Oh, hai! I've just got back from my little break away in Scotland so I thought I'd chill out, pop on some music and answer these questions that I found in my drafts folder. Kudos if you actually remember asking these questions - it has been a while since they were asked. I am a top class blogger, I know. I thought I'd share some photographs that I took of Woody on one of our many walks through the meadow alongside the questions because he is just absolutely adorable. Enjoy! 


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@sirensandbells asks
what's your dream career path? 
I'm not entirely sure, you know. I thought I had all of that figured out but I'm still a little bit clueless. I'd love to write and work with books so we'll see where that takes me.  I could quite happily be a writer or a bookseller. I wanted to write when I was younger too but I also went through a stage of wanting to be an archaeologist...I can't really see that happening now. 

@lovelystrumpet asks
where's your happy place? 
Good question! I'd probably have to say Somerset, aka my home. You just can't beat that feeling of driving home after a spell away somewhere, I don't think. I just feel happy and incredibly safe in this teeny part of the world.

@lovelystrumpet asks
what's your favourite line / passage from a book?
This is an incredibly tough question! I'm going to go with one of my favourite lines of poetry instead because I just can't be tamed: 

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky, 
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by. 

hannah asks 
what do you do with your books once you've read them? do you keep them or give them away? 
If I really enjoy them, I keep them on my big bookcase to refer back to. However, I do go through my bookshelves frequently in order to pick out a few books at a time to either donate to charity or to give to friends who will get more enjoyment out of them. I like to keep an organised bookcase!

@benjaminald (IG) asks
who are your top 5 booktubers that you'd recommend? 
I wrote a post about my favourite booktube channels a while ago now which you should totally check out if you haven't already. However, I've gained many more favourites since then! Here are five others that I'd recommend you check out: 

stephaniespinesandtim
thereadables
readsusieread
bazpierce 
chonceyboddington

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@jamieeelaing (ig) asks
what's your favourite radio station?
I don't listen to a lot of radio these days but I do have a soft spot for I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue on Radio 4. If you've got any radio recommendations, feel free to send them my way!  

@theapollo (IG) asks
what's your current favourite song? 
I'm currently really enjoying Dye The Water Green by Bibio. It's like listening to a really insightful lullaby. 

@sheandlife_ asks
when life throws you curveballs with your illness or otherwise, how do you stay positive?
Good question! This could, and should, probably be a whole blog post in itself! I think one of the most important things for me is my support network. My family, close friends and readers are hugely important to me because they understand what I go through and they can easily talk me round. I wouldn't be anywhere near as positive without them. 

@jaydeemily_ (IG) asks
what's your motto? 
I tend to live by 'Let me live, love and say it well in good sentences', as said by the extremely talented poet Sylvia Plath. I think it encompasses everything I want to achieve and everything I value in life.


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Aaaaaaaaaaand there you have it. I should probably answer questions a lot more promptly in future. Woops! Hope you like the meadow snaps - Woody is so photogenic! Feel free to leave any burning questions that you may have below and I shall reply to you all  

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Thursday, 24 July 2014

Mini Garden Tour & How To Create A Bee-Friendly Garden | Gardening

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Oh hai, fellow planet dwellers. As a Bee myself, it sort of unnerves me to know that the bee population is really suffering at the moment. I'm sure you're all very aware of how dire the situation is but how many of us actually do something about it? Of course, I'm not here to shame anyone. I'm just as bad. However, I am here to use my blogging powers for good and help my bee bretherin out in the form of an informative blog post. Yes, that's right - useful information that you can actually take away with you on Vivatramp! There's a first for everything. I thought I'd share a few little things that you can stock up on to keep the bees buzzing, along with a few tips to get you started and a miniature garden tour to boot!  Please note: this is Luke's Mum's garden so divert all appreciation to her rather than me!

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20 summery things you can plant to encourage bees
I've gathered a few summery examples together to get you started but the RHS have some great downloadable PDFs on wildflowers for bees as well as garden plants for bees. Check them out! 

alliums                              catmint                               
CHIVES                                cowslip
dahlia                                dog rose 
FENNEL                                FOXGLOVES   
fuchsia                              GERANIUMS  
heather                              HONEYSUCKLE
LAVENDER                            LUPINS
poppy                                 rosemary
sea holly                            snapdragons 
sunflowers                         verbena

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top tips     
I have perused various books and websites to find some top tips for pollination in your garden. Here's a selection that I found particularly useful! Gardener's World had some pretty thorough links too so head over there once you're done here!
                 
• Make sure your bee-friendly plants are close together - it'll help them out a bit!
Don't use any nasties on the plants 
• Pop all the plants in sunlight 
They like purple plants, apparently! 
 Place stones around your pond so they can forage for water if needs be
• Use single flowering plants as they're easier for them to get to 
• Leave a patch of dandelions and daisies as they're a cheap and easy source of nectar for them!
• Help them create their own little house - leave a pile of log and sticks for them to get creative with and leave some uncultivated soil for them to burrow in come winter!  
• Alternatively, you could make them a house!  There are plenty of tutorials online. However, if you don't fancy making your own, you could always buy one from your local garden centre or DIY superstore! 

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I've already stumbled across one dead bee this summer and I don't want to stumble across any more! By the way, if you see a bee that's looking pretty dead it may just be a little dehydrated. Get some sugared water on a spoon and see if it starts to perk up a little! Are you going to plant some more bee-friendly flowers? Feel free to leave some bee tips, along with some more plant ideas so those with green fingers can check them out!  

p.s Have you checked out my blog post on how to read more and how to become an avid reader yet?  

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THIS POST IS IN NO WAY SPONSORED BY THE BEE COMMUNITY OR ANYTHING. I JUST REALLY LIKE BEES AND I WANT TO KEEP THOSE FURRY LITTLE BEASTS SAFE, OKAY?! 

Monday, 21 July 2014

How To Read More & How To Become An Avid Reader | Books

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As you already know, I really like to read and review books on Vivatramp. However, reviewing books on the internet comes with great responsibility and I often get messages from people who have fallen out of love with reading that want to know how I keep on top of it all and how I became a certified bookworm in the first place. With that in mind, I thought I would compile a little guide on how to read more and how to become an avid reader. These steps are all tried and tested by my fine self so hopefully they'll be of use to lots of you. I imagine they'd also be pretty useful for those of you that struggle to get all of your academic reading done on time...but don't quote me on that because I'm terrible at that too! Feel free to share your own tips in the comment below. Huzzah!

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work out what you enjoy reading 
Spend some time working out what it is that you like to read more about, regardless of its popularity or so-called 'literary merit'. So many non-readers don't read because they were forced to read something at school that they really didn't like and therefore feel like reading isn't for them. If you enjoy reading about kings and queens, search for historical fiction. If you enjoy reading novels set in worlds that are different from your own,  track down an epic fantasy or science fiction novel. That's not to say that you shouldn't broaden your horizons every now and again, because you really should, but it's nice to really enjoy the books that you're reading. It shouldn't feel like a chore. Don't forget to play around with the format too. You aren't confined to the printed word - try out e-books or audiobooks and see what works best for you. 

create a comfortable reading environment 
Work out where you like to read and create mini reading set up. I tend to read on my bed, resting on my v-shaped pillow with a drink by my side. I also tend to read best in the day, with light background noise. Some people will like to settle down in louder spaces, such as coffee shops, and some will want to retreat to the quietest spot they can find. Explore a little!

set yourself a daily reading schedule or organise daily sprints 
I don't set myself a reading schedule. However, it can be quite a useful tool if you're trying to read a bit more. Schedule makes it sound scary but all you have to do is find a consistent 10-30 minutes in your daily schedule to devote to reading. You might find that you have the time to read a couple of chapters before you sleep every night or maybe you have a spare half an hour or so in the morning on your way to work. Alternatively, if your spare time isn't consistent from day to day, you could hold spontaneous little reading sprints. A reading sprint is basically you saying 'I'm going to read for the next ten minutes'. If you wanted to, you could also send a tweet out to see if other people want to do a quick sprint with you. Read your books simultaneously and then come back after an agreed time to discuss your experiences and thoughts on what you've read.

get involved in a book-orientated community 
Leading on from my last point, I think turning your reading into a community-driven thing can be a really productive move. Connect with bookish people in your community or search for some fellow readers online. There are plenty of booktubers and book bloggers to follow so keep an eye out. I wrote a post on some of my favourite booktube channels a few months ago and, whilst it definitely needs updating, it's still really useful. If you've got a Twitter account, why not participate in the #bookbloggers chat that takes place every Tuesday at 7pm. I'll see you there! 

participate in buddy reads, book clubs and read-a-thons or create your own 
This relates to my previous two points, I know, but this is probably one of the best ways to keep yourself motivated. Once you've found some bookish friends, why not propose a buddy read? You each take it in turns to pick a book that you want to read together before meeting up online at a set time each day / week to discuss what you've read so far and what you thought of it. Book bloggers and booktubers are always holding things called read-a-thons and they're seriously fun to get involved with. These read-a-thons usually consist of regular sprints, challenges and, in some cases, prizes. If the online world isn't really your thing, there are plenty of book clubs around and if there isn't one in your immediate area, you could always start one!  


MARK THE PAGES 
I always like to mark pages whenever I enjoy certain passages in order to refer back to them in the future or to discuss them at a later date. It's quite interesting to return to these pages months down the line to see what was relevant to you at the time of reading.  

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document the books you read
It sounds silly but documenting what you've read somewhere, be it in a blog post or a personal notebook, actually makes you read a lot better. My monthly book reviews encourage me to not only read a lot more but to also think about what I'm reading more complexly. You don't have to write huge eloquent paragraphs about tone and literary devices. My review notebook is full of short and snappy bullet points that pop into my head as I'm reading.  It won't be for everyone but give it a go if you're interested.

visit the library, bookstores and browse the web for inspiration 
Keep yourself in the book loop. I tend to keep a running Goodreads shelf of all the books I would like to read. It currently stands at 300+ so it could probably do with being refined a little! Goodreads and blogs are a great way of finding new things to read. However, it's also great fun to head down to your local library or bookstore to browse the shelves. Booksellers work really hard to curate really interesting displays and they often have the most beautiful editions to peruse so I definitely recommend heading to your local stores for some inspiration.  

use your spare time wisely 
I'm incredibly guilty of this. I'm the worst for wasting time on my phone when I could be doing things more productive like reading or whatever. Whenever I'm going through a good reading spell, I always use my spare time to read whether I've got 5 minutes or a couple of hours. If you commute to work, use up a little bit of that time to read. Stuck in a waiting room? Read. You get the picture. It really annoys me when people say they don't have time to read as a way of shaming avid readers. I have time to read because I make time. I shimmy my schedule around to read because I am passionate about it. It's what I do. I respect readers and non-readers alike, so don't gimme shade. Word.

keep up to date with publishing houses, fellow readers and authors 
In between reading books, writing about books, watching videos about books and reading articles about books, I like to follow bookish people online too! I've got a timeline full of publishing houses, fellow readers and authors and it constantly inspires me. Start by tracking down your favourite authors, publishing houses and book bloggers / vloggers. You can work from there!  
research the books you're reading / authors / movements and check out adaptations 
I'm one of those people that loves to research the things I really enjoy. This can be a bit of a buzzkill for some, I know, but I think it can be a pretty good way to enjoy reading a little more. Once I've finished reading a book, I like to find out a bit of background info and research a bit about its author. On more of an academic note, I like to check out the literary movements or genres that the book belongs to and I also like to check to see whether there are any adaptations in order to see how they've interpreted the source material. 

don't take the fun out of reading 
It's all very good and well wanting to read more but you really need to do it for the right reasons. It's easy to look at the way other people read and feel like you need to replicate it yourself but we all work in different ways. I have a lot of peers that read a lot more than me and that's perfectly fine. As long as you're enjoying the books you're reading, getting things from them and going at your own pace you're totally fine. If you're starting to not enjoy reading, take a step back for a while. Reading for pleasure is such a luxury and you should enjoy it accordingly. 


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What do you think? I know that this is a lot of information to take in, and you sure as hell don't need to take every little bit of this advice, but I thought I'd include a lot of different ideas so you can pick and choose the tips that you want to follow. What advice would you give on top of the points I've made in this post? I'd love to hear from both sides of the spectrum - are you an avid reader or do you struggle to read consistently?  

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Friday, 18 July 2014

On My Shelf #3 | Books

It's that time of the month again where I give you a further peek around my bookshelves. Every month, you guys give me numbers that coincide with a book on my shelf. I scour my shelves for the number and then explain a little bit about the book in question. Understand? I swear to God, one day I will be able to eloquently define things for you. Until then, we'll muddle through. Lets see what's on my shelf this month... 

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Toru is devoted to Naoko, a beautiful and introspective young woman, but their mutual passion is marked by the tragic death of their best friend years before. Toru begins to adapt to campus life and the loneliness and isolation he faces there, but Naoko finds the pressures and responsibilities of life unbearable. As she retreats further into her own world, Toru finds himself reaching out and drawn to a fiercely independent and sexually liberated young woman. 

I own three Murakami books and I've yet to read any of them. Yikes! In my defence, they were like 50p each at the charity shop and I've always wanted to try a bit of Murakami so I thought it was a great deal. Nearly all of my Goodreads friends have given this book a 5* rating so I've got really high hopes for Norwegian Wood, despite the fact that it's not something I'd go for based on the blurb alone. Lets just hope I like it as much as everyone else seems to! If I do end up liking it, I'm going to invest in the really colourful Murakami editions because I think they're beautiful.