I spent the weekend before last within the city walls of Cite de Carcassone in the South of France for my best friend's wedding.  I think you'll agree that waking up to a view other than a medieval castle, breathtaking cathedral or quaint cobbled streets is somewhat of a comedown.  Which is why the offer of trialling Debenhams' Flowers by Post service couldn't have come at a better time!  Our bridesmaid bouquets were made up of white roses and peonies so I opted for 'Peony Perfection' to relieve the happy memories.  In actual fact, I browsed the summer collection and was impressed with the range they had to offer!  I've never received/bought 'proper' flowers before (sob!) and thought that the prices seemed really reasonable.  Debenhams even offer 'next day flowers', and this beautiful posy arrived safe and sound on Saturday morning.  And even better, if you fancy getting your hands on a bouquet, Debenhams are offering 25% off their flower delivery service with the code DFBLOG25.

So what else is new?  Half term has arrived!  I'm looking forward to a week of catching up on blogs and books, possibly filming, all finished off with a shopping day with Lizzie.  H&M Home has finally come to Reading so we're making a dedicated trip there!  My birthday's coming up in a couple of weeks, so I think a little pre-birthday splurge is a must.

In all honesty, I've become a little lazy with aspects of blogging.  I love the look of flat-lay photos, but feel like I've been relying on them too much.  No doubt about it, they're quick to take and have that minimalistic style that I love, but it's always good to step outside of your comfort zone and go for something different.  For this post I cracked out my full DSLR with its 50mm lens to capture the beauty of the flowers.  I'm really pleased with how the photos came out and this process has served as a little reminder to add in the extra effort sometimes.

So there's my resolution for the next few months....what's yours?


Blogger Book Club #1: Elizabeth Is Missing

Welcome to an exciting new series! A couple of blogger friends and I are real book worms and after toying with the idea of setting up a blogger book club for a while, we bit the bullet and went for it.  Every month, Lizzie, Leanne and I will be reading a specific book and sharing our thoughts with you.  And this month we went for Elizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey.

I feature short reviews every couple of weeks, but have decided to do these more in depth ones in a slightly different way.  I'll be sharing with you my thoughts in anticipation of reading the book, midway through and again at the end.

Onto the review...

"Maud is forgetful.  She makes a cup of tea and doesn't remember to drink it.  She goes tot he shops and forgets why she went.  Sometimes her home is unrecognizable - or her daughter Helen seems a total stranger.

But there's one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing.  The note in her pocket tells her so.  And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

Because somewhere in Maud's damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery.  One everyone has forgotten about.

Everyone, except Maud...."

Before | I'd been eying up this book for a while.  The premise of it is that her friend Elizabeth is missing, but only Maud seems worried by this.  Trouble is, Maud is suffering with dementia and can't actually remember much.  But she knows Elizabeth is missing, so how can she make everyone else believe?  I was excited to get started with this and was hopeful it'd be a unique and interesting read.

During |  Reading the book soon began to feel like a chore, and I could only manage a chapter or two in one sitting.  It's written through Maud's eyes and as such reflects how disjointed and confused her thoughts are.  It really helps to build up empathy for Maud, her condition and her lifestyle but was frustrating to read.  I felt as though the story wasn't progressing, and was more about the journey of Maud's everyday life rather than the end destination and storyline.  Flashbacks to Maud's childhood are cleverly linked into (and provide a bit of a break from) the story; these were much easier to read as they reference a time in her life when she didn't suffer with memory loss.  There are very few additional characters in Maud's 'current' life, and being mentioned through Maud's narrative means they aren't developed fully and are hard to really get to know.

After | I really started to enjoy the book for the second half.  It picked up a pace, and the mystery of Maud's early life starts to unravel.  The flashbacks tell the tale of how her older sister went missing, and it was this aspect of the book that really gripped me.  The ending ties up all loose ends nicely, but I honestly can't actually remember the outcome.  Was it an unforgettable (pardon the pun) read?  In truth, no.  It was sensitively written and gave me an insight into the damaging effects of dementia, but wasn't the groundbreaking story I'd hoped it would be.

But don't take my word for it!  Elizabeth Is Missing was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award last year, amongst others, and has good reviews online.....I'd love to know your thoughts if you've read this yet?

// Don't forget to read Lizzie's review and Leanne's too! //


More thoughts on blogging

Image found via Pinterest

There will always be something you should have done differently when you first started | For me, the list is quite long.  I should have shown my face sooner, gone with my real name and set up twitter a lot earlier.  The more bloggers I meet, the more I realise I started when it was a relatively new craft.  And if I'd been less worried about trying to keep my identity anonymous, and got on board with social media, who knows how that would have reflected on my blog today.

If you work full time, the chances of natural lighting may never be in your favour | Happy days during the summer - you'll most likely be able to get home and take photos in natural light.  But let's face it, British weather is never that reliable.  More likely is that you'll struggle to find enough light to take decent photos even at weekends.  Investing in artificial lighting is an option that will ease the pain, and editing helps, but there's nothing better than that brief window of good luck where photo-taking is hassle-free.

Think carefully about social media handles and names | I'm at the point now where I'm looking to change my blog name to something that reflects me a little more.  I've already done it once, when my blog was in its very early stages and I hadn't invested in a url or YouTube channel.  Now, the implications seem wide-ranging.....dead links, confused readers, conflicting YouTube urls are all very real possibilities.  Think long and hard before you settle on a 'brand name', as such.

Sometimes you won't have anything to write about | It took a long time for me to reach this stage, years in fact, but talking to other bloggers means I've learnt that it inevitably happens.  Take a break from the internet if needs be, get some perspective.....and if you decide you want to continue, just take it slow.  You may get out of your blogger slump overnight, but there's nothing worse than forcing content.  You'll know it's not genuine, and chances are so will your readers.

Stay realistic | I suppose it's fairly easy for some to see the successes of mega-famous bloggers and YouTubers and think it's a guarantee.  95% of bloggers aren't going to get book deals, earn shizzloads of money through advertising, launch make up ranges or get mobbed on the street.  I'm not one to judge people's motives for blogging, but if you're doing it thinking that this is the norm then you may need to reassess.