Books | Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt

Long-term readers of my ramblings will know that I'm a sucker for a good YA (young adult) novel and my latest read definitely fits right into that genre: 'Sometimes It Happens' by Lauren Barnholdt. I should also note that quick-read books (i.e. books that I find myself flying through and finishing in a mere handful of sittings) hold a special place in my heart, which partially explains my love affair with this particular novel.

Lauren Barnholdt takes authorship for this novel and this is another book that confirms my ever-growing love for her literary works. I adored her novels Two-Way Street and One Night That Changes Everything and I'm hoping to get my hands on a fair few more of her titles in the coming weeks.

'Sometimes It Happens' follows a single summer in the life of Hannah and is centred around (as the title suggests) the repercussions and regrets of a single night. To lay it out simply; Hannah has a rather awful breakup and, just when she needs her the most, her best friend Ava runs off to spend the whole summer working at a holiday camp. In her pit of despair Hannah ends up running for comfort into the arms of Noah, Ava's boyfriend. Although they have a relatively platonic relationship throughout the vast majority of the novel (which runs the course of their summer break and into the start of the new school year), one night one thing leads to another and everything changes. As someone whose current relationship did indeed begin as a friendship and evolve, this concept was something that I could definitely relate to on a strong level; minus the cheating element of the novel of course as we were both indeed single, don't you worry.

Typically a book that has cheating at the heart of its plot would leave me and my morals running for the hills, but for some reason this story got me hooked. I do believe it has something to do with Barnholdt's impeccable characterisation skills, presenting every single character with a layer of depth that you don't often come across within YA literature. I grew very quickly to despise the character of Ava, a character who quite clearly held the belief that the entire world revolved around her. I also loved Hannah's narration of the events as she was incredibly honest about the reality of the situation, there was no sugar-coating to make herself look or feel better.

I just adore the structure of this book. It's told in alternating timelines: one depicting the events of the first day of Hannah's senior year, and one featuring flashbacks to the summer just gone. With each flashback Barnholdt reveals more and more of the secrets of the summer, providing an explanation for the unravelling events of the first day of school. Using such a structural technique adds such a wonderful element of suspense to the tale and leaves you practically begging Barnholdt to let you know more, which definitely contributes to this novel's status as a particularly quick-read; you're bound to read it ever so quickly if you simply can't put it down.

Overall Lauren Barnholdt has written a wonderfully gripping, humorous tale that would be just perfect if you're after a simple, easy read covering those typically-teenage topics such as sex, relationships, heart break and friendships. 

Have you been getting your nose into any good titles lately?

Lifestyle | Gap Year Advice

I decided I was taking a gap year shortly after submitting my UCAS application. It was motivated by a number of things; health, money, wanting a bit of time out from education etc. I've now been at university for nearly two months and loving every second. And I'll be honest, I reap the benefits of taking a gap year every day. Two of my flatmates also took a gap year and in most cases the difference between us and the fresh out of school freshers is considerable.

I will admit it is hard seeing your school friends off on adventures at uni while you're staying put. Of a Saturday evening you'll go on snapchat to see people getting all glammed up ready for a night out and you'll be sitting at home watching Strictly with your mum. But I had my own amazing experiences throughout the year, meeting new people and trying new things along the way.

If you are considering taking a gap year, I'd suggest you consider a number of these tips. They are all based on my own gap year experience.

What are you going to do in your gap year? Stay at home or see the world. There's no 'right answer' it's just whatever suits you best. Personally I stayed at home and worked for a year but still had an amazing time. And I know people who have lived abroad and travelled for a year, which of course also sounds amazing. Think about what you're going to get the most out of and once you've made a decision, get planning.

Think ahead.
One of the particularly valuable things about taking a gap year is the fact that it gives you a whole 365 extra days to get ready for university. If you're working during your time out of education, make sure you're putting at least a little bit of cash aside every month ready to support you when you're at uni. Don't just think about money, take the time throughout the year to sort key bits and pieces like your accommodation, student bank account and also buying all the necessities for your flat.

Think about your course.
If like me you deferred a place at uni before commencing your gap year (rather than applying for uni during your time out) you have a wonderful opportunity to get ahead. It sounds geeky but get reading books around your chosen subject and get some work experience where possible. I've spent the past year working in a school - before I start my teacher training at university - and the experience has put me in such good stead for starting my course.

Learn life skills.
A definite benefit of a gap year is the extra year it gives you to mature a little bit and learn some valuable life skills. Boring I know, but stay with me here. Through my gap year I learnt some good skills in terms of cooking, food shopping, cleaning and budgeting. All those important grown up things you need to know when living by yourself for the first time. 

Take some time to chill. A Levels/College can be so stressful, as will uni when you get there. Although you don't want to be sitting around and doing nothing for your whole gap year, make sure you give yourself some time to relax and have a proper break. Get yourself on holiday if you funds are in line.

Taking a year out before uni is something I don't regret at all. I've had an extra year to grow as a person and live a little before taking on the responsibility of a degree and living away from home. Now that I am here at uni I don't regret taking a gap year at all and would definitely recommend it to anyone.

Did you take a gap year?

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Food | Chocolate Popcorn Shards

These crave-worthy Chocolate Popcorn Shards are one of my favourite treats to make and serve at the moment. They're ever so quick and simple to make (using a mere three ingredients), and just the definition of delicious.
The shards make a wonderful treat to pop into a bowl and serve at a gathering or to simply enjoy by yourself as a bit of a lovely treat (I'm quite partial to making a batch and enjoying it during a particularly long shit at work). This is a recipe that can be easily altered to suit your tastes, there's so many different toppings to choose from. 

Let's get cracking.

400g Dark Chocolate^
20g Salted Popcorn
20g Berry Mix
Baking Tray
Baking Paper or Tin Foil
Large Heatproof Bowl
Wooden or Plastic Spoon
 ^(Milk or White will also work wonderfully if they float your boat slightly more)
1) First things first, get your equipment all ready for the project ahead. You can prepare the baking tray by lining it with a layer of baking paper or tin foil. In regards to the pan, fill it just under halfway full of water (to ensure that when placed in the pan, the bottom of the bowl will not rest in the water) and put it on to simmer.
2) The first step in creating the shards is melting your chocolate. Break all 400g up into squares and pop it into the bowl then leave it to melt into a gorgeous chocolate mess, making sure to stir it every now and again.

3) Once the chocolate has all been melted, remove it from the hob and proceed to pour it into the baking tray; aiming to cover the whole surface. You may need to move the tray about a little bit, or even tap it on the work surface, to ensure that the liquid is as flat as possible. 

4) The next step is to scatter the popcorn and the dried fruit evenly across the chocolate. Your topping choices aren't limited to just popcorn and dried fruit though; to jazz things up a bit try sweets, nuts etc.
5) Pop the tray in the fridge to set. This shouldn't take too long, just over thirty minutes.
6) To complete the treat, break the chocolate into shards and enjoy (I'll admit that I did forget to photograph this step as I was too busy enjoying these delights; you'll forgive me when you taste them).

What's your current favourite treat to make?

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