The Kiss Quotient, Helen Hoang | Book Review

2022, books, review

Hello!

Today I’d planned to do my April Reading Wrap Up post, but I’ve really struggled with this reading slump and I’ve only just finished my only audiobook listen of the month (my paperback has been a real slow read before bed!) so I thought I’d turn this months post into a book review because I have a lot of thoughts.

I’d seen people talking about ‘The Kiss Quotient’ by Helen Hoang all over TikTok – I’m slowly coming to terms with the fact I think my favourite genre is contemporary romance and my TikTok algorithm absolutely reflects that. But it wasn’t till a browse round Waterstones last weekend where I actually read the description of ‘The Kiss Quotient’ that it jumped right to the top of my tbr and my waiting Audible credit was used immediately.

A contemporary romance about an autistic girl who hires an escort to teach her how to be a good girlfriend? Abso-freaking-lutely.

Since being put on a waiting list for an autism assessment 18 months ago, I’ve learnt so much about it from #actuallyautistic content creators (shoutout @PaigeLayle and @rubyofmyeye) and I was so intrigued as to how to this autistic character was written, especially as the description used the term ‘Aspergers’ which has been somewhat shunned by the autistic community as a diagnosis that categorises autistic people into those that are ‘economically useful’ and those that aren’t.

Reassuringly, the term Aspergers is only used once by the protagonist’s parents, which kind of fits the narrative that she knows it’s an outdated term but they still see it as the ‘better’ form of autism, though it’s never addressed.

From the very beginning, I found main character Stella to be an accurate representation of someone who is aware of her autism but desperately wants to make sure no one else is aware of her autism. She keeps her head down, focuses on her primary special interest which is her work as an econometrician and does what she can to keep her parents and her colleagues happy. But after a comment from her mother about ‘being ready for grandchildren’ and another from her colleague about ‘needing to practice sex’, she spirals a little and ends up booking a night with a meticulously researched escort named Michael.

After proposing that he become her sex teacher, Michael has to seriously reconsider his ‘no repeat client’ rules, because he is taken by Stella in a way he absolutely can’t comprehend.

The first half, maybe two thirds of the book are some of the spiciest I’ve ever read – if you like your romance with *spice* then look no further because this book is steamy and seductive as much as it is sweet and poignant. Ever other chapter is incredibly detailed bedroom scenes which make listening to it on my way to and from work a tiny bit awkward.

But in between the detailed sex lessons, Stella and Michael are falling for each other hard and fast, whilst assuming that their ‘major character flaws’ mean the other could never be feeling the same way. Stella knows she is paying Michael for his service – he’s slept with hundreds of other women so she must just be another client to him. And to Michael, he knows that Stella is paying him so she can learn to be ‘better’ for someone else, so he assumes that their financial, educational and situational difference mean she could never see him as he see’s her.

Basically, both are incredibly insecure and are defining the phrase ‘to assume makes an ass of you and me’ because by god they cannot stop assuming they’re not good enough for each other.

But it’s written in the sweetest and most romantic way – each of them making the most of the moments, immersing themselves in the practice relationship while they have each other.

The last part of the book, where there is markably less sex but the character arcs tumble at great speed towards their conclusion, everything we love about Stella and Michael comes to light – it’s incredibly sweet, the narrative effortlessly switches between each character’s perspective and as I entered the last 45 minutes of the audiobook with so much left to happen, it was one of the most fantastically paced books I’ve read in a while.

I adored The Kiss Quotient – Stella’s representation of autism was spot on and I loved her full circle journey from ‘I am more than my autism’ to ‘My autism is a part of me and that’s not a fault’, her social encounters with Michael’s family, the scene in the nightclub and with her work colleagues were so wonderfully written between the spoken dialogue and the internal monologue. Michael’s story was so sweet and I loved that he was a little bit in love with Stella from the very beginning, rather than the enemies-to-lovers I was anticipating.

Fast paced and slow burn simultaneously, a fantastic representation of autism without leaning on societal expectations of stereotypes and incredibly written from the sexiest to the sweetest moments.

The Kiss Quotient gets a full 5/5 from me! And in writing this blog post, I found that there are two more books in the series focusing on other characters which I will absolutely be using my next Audible credits for!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

A Day Out In Oxford

2022, lifestyle, review

Hello!

This weekend has been a lovely mix of a lovely date afternoon and evening with my fiancé and then him leaving for work and having the whole day to myself to do very little. The ideal weekend with some moderately social plans and a day to recover – perfect!

I thought I’d do a little wrap up of the day I spent with my partner on Saturday because we went to a few places and it was a lovely afternoon!

We booked tickets to see comedian Ed Gamble at the Oxford Playhouse months and months ago – long enough ago that we had to keep reminding each other of the date because amongst all the other life things, it could have very easily gotten lost in our inboxes. But it didn’t!

As every good Saturday should, we started with a lie in (and nine and a half hours sleep, glorious!). We then had a very relaxed morning and lunch at home before setting off for Oxford. It sounds silly, but I get really nervous about parking and public transport and getting to the right place at the right time, so going to a Park and Ride that I’d never been to before to get on a bus I’d not used to go to a venue I didn’t know was quite a lot for my anxious little brain but it was actually incredibly easy, which was a huge relief.

As soon as we got off the bus in Oxford City Centre, I spotted a ginormous Waterstones and even though I’m on a book buying ban this year (four months without breaking so far!), that doesn’t mean I didn’t want to look at the five story book shop. We had a good old mooch in the Teen section (because growing out of YA is a myth) and then went up to the general fiction where I promptly starting making a list of the romance novels I wanted to read and will probably download on Audible whilst my lovely fiancé Lucas found the graphic novel and general ‘nerd’ section, promptly finding an Overwatch and a Doctor Who book that fell into the tote bag I suggested he buy to carry his new books.

Next, in taking a slow wonder through a very busy Oxford, we found ‘The HMV Shop’, which is a very Oxford way of naming an HMV but we move. They had loads of fun t-shirts and I accidentally bought a beautiful Hogwarts shirt that I will proudly wear to work next week as well as a Stranger Things notebook with lights in it (reduced from £14.99 to £3.99, probably because the lights were pretty disappointing) and a pretty Legend of Zelda poster for my nerdy boy because I’m a very lovely fiancé (and it was £3 and would look lovely on our living room wall).

From there we went into West Gate to peruse our options for dinner – the comedy show was due to start at 7.30pm so we knew we needed to eat sooner rather than later. I’ve been talking about taking Lucas to The Breakfast Club ever since an impromptu lunch with my masters girls back in pre-covid 2020 and now was the perfect opportunity! And it was absolutely dead in there because Google reckoned it closed at 5 when it didn’t and a rather large hen party went in which was rather off putting (but they were in a separate room and we could barely hear the singing).

Honestly though, The Breakfast Club let me down – I remember being blown away by the food two years ago but for the price, it was mediocre at best and the customer service was shocking. I’m all for colleagues being friends and having a natter but when they’re doing it at the till that is less than 2 feet from our table, shouting across the restaurant to each other and leaving us without giving us the bill for longer than we’d spent eating the underwhelming food, it leads to a pretty rubbish experience. And then putting the ‘optional’ service charge on the bill without asking? Bit much. Not going to be returning there in a hurry/ever!

Mediocre dinner aside, we were still really early for the show, but we took a slow walk to the Oxford Playhouse where my partner was shouldered in the elbow by a tweenager who promptly let the entire street know he thought he was a ‘wanker’ and we laughed at how the little silly tween boy thought he looked ‘hard’.

With the Oxford Playhouse being right in the city centre, we arrived approximately an hour before the show started, but so did lots of other people so we took a seat, debated getting drinks and decided they were too expensive before being some of the first ones sat in the theatre and playing a silly colour matching game on Lucas’s phone as the theatre filled up, the volume became a bit much and I very seriously thought I might have an anxiety attack. But silly colour matching game kept me occupied until the support act came on.

Chloe Petts was absolutely fantastic – I got a little too in my head about the whole thing and was mildly concerned I’d be the weirdo in the crowd that didn’t laugh throughout the whole show, but Chloe had the most wonderful stage presence and don’t you worry reader, I laughed the night away. Chloe’s parting words were ‘don’t be pussy, follow me on twitter and Instagram’ and I did, what can I say.

Then the man himself Mr Ed Gamble – what we didn’t realise when booking these tickets is that this show would be the last night of the first leg of the tour and with that in mind, Ed had no fucks left to give. He was absolutely brilliant and I haven’t laughed so hard for so long in a very long time.

I realised about half way through that every time I laughed I kept slapping Lucas’s thigh and I did wonder at what point I would actually bruise him. If that’s not a summary of the night I’m not sure what could be.

The whole set was fantastic – the whole journey home we kept reminding each other of some of the punchlines and giggling and now we want to go to all the comedy gigs. A perfect first comedy show for us, thank you Mr Gamble sir.

Now the end of the night is the boring bit right? Wait for the bus, see a whole plethora of Oxford students and young people preparing for their nights out as we were heading home, get in the car, beep beep down the M40 and basically straight into bed, right? Well, pretty much but there was one mildly entertaining thing that happened and I’m pretty sure it won’t be as funny in writing but I want to share it anyway.

We realised about three quarter’s of the way through the show that not having a drink and laughing the night away was not a fantastic combination, so we went to a little Tesco, witnessed someone buying far too many onions for 10pm on a Saturday night (like, 10+ onions), bought ourselves a couple of painfully boring non-alcoholic drinks and waddled on back to the bus stop opposite a Wetherspoons (entertainment enough, really).

We got on the bus with a bunch of lovely people who were getting off before us and let us have the two remaining seats and settled in for the journey back to the park and ride. Only to realise the next stop, was right outside the Tesco’s we’d just bought our drinks from and we’d walked all the way to the next bus stop.

Thank you for reading!

Sophie xx

Van Gogh Alive: The Experience, London [review]

2021, review

Hello!

At the beginning of the week, I took my partner for a surprise trip to London – after seeing Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, we had another day of experiences and exploring to make the most of!

On our second day, I’d booked tickets for the Van Gogh Alive Experience in Kensington Gardens – I’m not particularly into art, I find it hard to engage with pictures and words and my neurodivergent brain doesn’t see any of the deeper meaning; at face value, I can appreciate a talented artist but I don’t need to spend ages looking at it.

So seeing how interactive and immersive this exhibit was, I was very excited to go (and to get some lovely pictures for Instagram). Plus that one episode of Doctor Who with Vincent Van Gogh in has given both my partner and I a really soft spot for him.

From start to finish it was fantastic – I bought a Starry Night face mask which I’ve very much enjoyed wearing, then we stood at the entrance watching a video of a robot using AI to recreate Van Gogh’s paintings which was very clever.

The next part of the exhibit was an area with pictures and descriptions of some of his most famous artworks, where he was at in his life and how they reflected his personal journey. This part I found a little confusing, as the whole point is that art is meant to be subjective so surely the perspective of one person who wrote the copy for this part of the exhibit can’t definitively decide the ‘meaning’ of the piece? But otherwise, once most people had cleared, it was lovely to just wonder round and learn more about his life (and more than what they teach you in school).

From there, there’s a recreation of the bedroom captured in several of his paintings which looks significantly more plain than the artwork. But that lead to a corridor to the main event…

A huge open space with big blocks with projections all over, in different sizes, all showing slightly different things, even projections on the floor. Here is where the real experience is – the sequence loops with five different pieces of music matched with five different artistic movements in his life. There was meant to be a smell with different bass notes and top notes or something but personally I didn’t smell anything… cool concept though!

We arrived just at the end of the last cycle, but we took a seat on the floor, socially distanced from other groups sat on the benches provided or on the floor around us and we watched this beautiful expression of a tortured man’s talents. With a few captions to give context and teach more about the artist, different artworks moved and appeared in time with the music. If all art exhibits were like this I’d probably be more interested in art!

It was such a unique way to not just learn about and appreciate art but to feel almost part of it; to be truly immersed in a story from 150 years ago. The projections felt almost 3D – all the brush strokes and colours felt alive somehow and it was a beautiful way to appreciate the vision of someone who’s no longer around to share it.

After the sequence finished, we went to a little sunflower room (which in all honesty was really dark and a little anticlimactic) and out into the gift shop (if I’d had £35 I’d have bought a paint by numbers I swear). Then we were back out to the Prince Albert memorial and the heart of London!

Personally, I think the tickets were a little expensive for what the exhibit actually is and how long we spent in there, but the exhibition is partnered with a number of mental health charities and it made me engage with art in a way I never have before, so i don’t regret spending the money!

I wholeheartedly recommend this exhibit – it moved me in a way I’ve never been moved by art and I really hope more exhibitions like this about other artists pop up because I’d love to experience them in the same way.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat, London Palladium [review]

2021, review, theatre

Hello!

On Monday, I surprised my partner with a trip to London – we spent the afternoon browsing shops (spending too much money in Forbidden Planet), getting absolutely drenched in a random thunderstorm and ended the evening with a trip to what accidentally became the opening night for the West End show Joseph and His Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at the London Palladium.

When I booked the tickets, it was anticipated that June 21st would be when everything opened up again and theatres were generally reopening on July 1st… then it all got pushed back, so July 12th – the night of the tickets I’d booked – was opening night! The theatre was at half capacity (but full volume), all refreshments were ordered and served to the seats and my partner and I with our silly long legs (at 5’10” and 6’7″) could spread out a little without feeling squashed by other people – personally I prefer the socially distanced theatre experience but that’s not the point.

Joseph is my fiancé and I’s joint favourite musical (my personal favourite is Les Misérables) and we’ve been talking about going for ages, so I saw a great deal on TodayTix and decided to go for it! And with a stellar cast like Alexandra Burke as the Narrator and Jason Donovan (the original Joseph!) as The Pharoah, it was one I wasn’t prepared to miss!

From the opening notes I was (literally) jumping up and down in my seat – live music and being in a real theatre felt like such a luxury after such a long time away and being able to bring my partner to our first West End show together was incredibly exciting.

The whole atmosphere of the show was one of fun – Alexandra Burke’s Narrator had lots of funny little side lines and comments and she carried the role fantastically. When she first appeared in all black with glittery shoes I was a bit dubious – the show is one of the brightest there is, with ‘Technicolour’ literally being in the title! – but having her costume as such a stark contract meant she was always easy to spy on stage and… what can I say, the shoes were glittery!

For a show that is so brilliantly random – with pop songs, country songs, an Elvis tribute, a Parisian ballad and a Jamaican steel drum number – it’s one that would feel pretentious if taken too seriously, but the whole production understood that Joseph is a wonderfully ridiculous musical and they leant into it, with the children stepping into key roles such as Potiphar, the Cook and the Butler was a really sweet touch and really funny, they all had such wonderful comedic timing.

And musical timing! The dance sequences in this show were actually so good, my marketing brain thought about putting them on tiktok because they were relatively simple but looked really effective when everyone was doing them so in sync. However, I have to shoutout the tap dance break in the middle of ‘One More Angel’ because they did tap dancing! I’m a sucker for tap and seeing it used in a commercial musical alongside lots of different styles was amazing (can someone get me a pair of tap sandals please?).

I also have to mention the Can Can sequence in Those Canaan Days – I won’t spoil it, but yes, I mean the Can Can sequence in Those Canaan Days.

To go with fantastic dance sequences, the set design was incredibly clever – from using lights to make the stage look like sand, the centre circles that raised in parts above the stage and dropped below the stage too, camels that were moved by pedal bikes and, the true highlight; the set for Pharoah’s scenes.

Jason Donovan, the man himself, is carried onto stage on a wonderful throne – the stage is lit in gold, there’s pillars of an Egyptian temple on the back wall of the stage, the centre circle is fully raised and statues of Anubis (the dog man) and Ra (the hawk man) are mid stage left and right (with electric guitars that slide in and out from side of stage and rotating heads with puppet mouths that sing along as backing to the Pharoah) and best of all… A Vegas esque sign that read something along the lines of ‘Welcome to Fabulous Egypt’ – flashing lights and all! The whole thing was so over the top in the most brilliantly tongue in cheek way and it was fantastic.

What more can I say? I need to give a special mention to the 10 amazing children that performed on opening night – I always have a weakness for children singing (the performance in the Nativity movie always makes me well up), children singing harmonies always blows me away but the girls in Close Every Door were just fantastic, as was Jac Yarrow as Joseph – he has such a perfectly pure tone and the passion he put in to the end of the song was just magical, I got goosebumps.

The whole experience was fantastic – to be in a theatre after 16 months of COVID-19 restrictions feeling safe and welcomed, in a show where the cast was having just as much fun as the audience and to only pay £6 for a programme?! All round, it was a fantastic evening. I can’t wait to spend as much time as possible at the theatre this year – the atmosphere of live musical performance is just second to none.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

adapting you goals (and why it’s okay)

2020, goals, organisation

Hello!

I write a lot about my monthly and yearly goals, I try to share tips on what’s worked for me and I’ve had a fair few messages from people saying they’ve starting using advice I’ve given, which is a lovely feeling. But I’ve never written about adapting goals and embracing change.

For me, the thought of adapting or getting rid of a goal feels like cheating, like I’ve done something wrong or failed. What I need to learn is that recognising when a goal doesn’t serve me or my long term goals or aspirations, there’s no point wasting time and energy to achieve it for the sake of not adapting it.

Maybe I’m making this sound more melodramatic than it is, especially considering the context that made me consider this at all. One of my monthly goals was to hit certain milestones in my crafting – I wanted to make four more face masks (which I’ve done!), plan my new cross stitch design and finish learning how to knit a soft toy that I intended to stuff with all my old holey socks (clean, of course).

I sat down to work on this duck and I realised I was getting stressed about all the different types of knitting stitches I needed to figure out and it all felt too complicated and big, when my crafts were meant to be my outlet to relax – to just sit, shove some YouTube on in the background and make something with my hands without thinking too hard.

But when I realised I didn’t want to make the toy, the thought of not achieving my goal bothered me.

So I changed it.

All I want from my knitting is to sit and do the same stitch mindlessly over and over again, so I’m just doing that and maybe one day it’ll be a scarf but it’s therapeutic and it felt so much better than forcing myself to do something that meant I had to concentrate when I wanted to do the opposite and unwind. So I changed my goal to just ‘work on knitting a scarf’ and in the evening if I’ve done everything else I just sit and watch videos or watch my boyfriend play video games and knit without really thinking.

I feel way less stressed and intimidated by the goal and I’m enjoying the process of knitting again because of it.

In the scheme of things, a craft goal is not that important and I definitely placed too much weight on it. But it made me think of my 2019 goals – at the beginning of the year I set a goal about building a freelance career because I had some work lined up, but that fell through before the end of January and I just ignored it for the rest of the year. I missed an opportunity to adapt the goal into something more suitable and perhaps have achieved something else in the span of that year.

Of course there’s going too far with adapting goals – changing them as soon as they get hard is missing the entire point of growing and learning from your goals. But if your goals as they currently stand don’t aid your growth in the direction you want it to – whether you realise it’s not a path for you, you want to try an alternative method or it is negatively impacting you – then continuing putting time into it isn’t worth it.

I don’t know if this was useful in any way, shape or form – there’s every chance I was just making a revelation about knitting into something way bigger than it deserved to be – but it’s helped my mindset on goals not being as rigid as I’d thought and allowing them the flexibility to serve your greater ambitions.

Thank you for reading – I hope you and your loved ones are happy, healthy and staying safe!

Sophie xx

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June Monthly Mixtape

2019, music

Hello!

This months mixtape feels really short – my discovery weekly playlists have been mostly rubbish, there’s been lots of new releases and there’s one song I’ve had on repeat for most of this month (that we’ll get to later) but I don’t feel like I’ve listened to a lot of music.

I do still have a few songs to talk about, so here’s some of my highlights from my June music playlist!

Easier (5 Seconds of Summer) surprised me to be honest – I have such a weird relationship with what I think about the band and my favourite 5SOS era was ‘Sounds Good Feels Good’, but I really like how experimental this song is. They’re trying something new again within the pop-electric realm and I actually really enjoyed it. Some of the lyrics are a bit forced but it’s fun!

Forfeit (Arrows in Action) is a band and a song I never would have heard if it wasn’t for my discover weekly playlist but it gives me major Alex Gaskarth/old All Time Low vibes and I’m 100% here for it. Definitely going to be looking into the bands other songs!

I’m Not Okay (I Promise) (Robyn Adele Anderson) is a refreshing take on the classic teenage emo song – I love jazz/swing remixes of pop chart songs and this one really took me by surprise. The vocals are astonishing, the arrangement is true to the genre and the original song simultaneously and it made me smile on the bus, which is the best kind of song really!

Outside Looking In (Jordan Pruitt) – this song is on the playlist exclusively because I remembered it existed and it was a banger when I was 12. It got me through tough times of no friends and difficult friendships and boy-o I would belt it at the top of my lungs and rediscovering it has been a blast.

End Of The World (Plain White T’s) was a song I literally added this afternoon – I was giving this week’s discover weekly a listen on the bus and this is the only song I liked enough to engage with at all. It was a cute, catchy bop – nothing ground breaking, but a fun listen.

My shoutout of the month goes to the song I’ve had on loop – the song that at first I was very ‘eh’ about, then the melody kept cropping up in my head and then I started really listening to the lyrics and really fell in love with Guiltless (dodie).

It’s been a mixed month for music, to be fair to Spotify I didn’t have as much time for listening to music as I usually do and with a new routine settling into place I need to figure out how to integrate music into the time I have but as always, I love writing these posts – if you have any recommendations let me know in the comments! This months challenge is listening to my Release Radar playlist as well as my Discover Weekly on Spotify!

Thank you so much for reading,

Sophie xx

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The Perfect Camera

2018, lifestyle, photography, student

Hello!

I got my beloved little Canon EOS M10 camera over a year ago now and I’ve used it for assignments, photography, YouTube videos and it comes with my everywhere I go (mostly because I’m weekly vlogging now, but also in case I want to snap a picture!).

Obviously, when I say the ‘perfect’ camera, I don’t mean explicitly – every person who takes photos wants different things from a camera but I’ve recommended this camera to a lot of people and as a bridge-to-DSLR and very portable and convenient camera, I can recommend it for a variety of reasons.

For one, the camera quality itself is really good – I usually use it on auto just because I find that the time it saves me is really worth it but the depth of field is great, the auto-exposure is pretty decent and I find the colour vibrancy in the pictures is really beautiful. The auto focus isn’t always great but when it works it works really well.

The detachable EF-Mini lenses really do make the camera feel that bit more high quality – to the degree that I took the camera to a concert once and it was taken off me and I had to collect it at the end because it was ‘too professional’. It’s nice to have the freedom and choice to change the lenses. I personally don’t have any other lenses because I’m a student on a budget but I have longingly trawled through Canon’s website and the variety of lenses is incredible. Particularly for bloggers if you were shooting photos on the go and you had more lenses to choice from you’d be less restricted in what you can shoot. It’s always great when you have less work to do in post.

One of my personal favourite things about this camera is the app that comes with it called Camera Connect – the camera has internet connectivity potential and once your phone is connected (which is super easy, by the by) you can download and edit the photos you’ve taken. You can even use your phone as a live view and change the camera settings on the go. I find it really useful if I’m taking pictures that I want to share quickly or if I’m using my camera on a news day and need to send photos back to the editorial team as soon as I can. The app makes it so simple and it’s something that I didn’t even know I wanted till I had it (nor did I know the camera was capable of it until after I got it).

The perk of it not being a big DSLR camera is that it fits in basically every handbag I own. The fact it’s a lens that doesn’t actually fold away like a point and shoot would makes it a little bulkier but I find it still fits in most hand bags – personally I carry a backpack with me everywhere I go but if you were struggling to fit it in, you could either just wear it round your neck with the strap or if that feels a bit too unsafe (depends on where you’re going I guess!) then you could always detach the lens and that’ll make it a bit more compact. I don’t find the size to be a problem though.

One of my favourite features and a big factor in why I chose this camera is the hinged LED screen – I can flip it up to see when I’m vlogging, which makes the lack of focus issue not so much of an issue because I can see when the focus goes out. I find it’s also really useful when I’m taking blog photos on a tripod because I can put the screen to whatever angle is easiest to not crane my neck. It just makes everything a bit simpler, which is all I really want from life.

It’s a great platform camera to learn a bit more about photography and videography and build on the skills of a point and shoot camera before potentially stepping up again to a DSLR camera. In terms of videography I think the M10 is great for vlogging because you have more control with the specific settings but it’s not the size or the weight of a DSLR. Then the connectivity with the app and how it makes photos instantly sharable and they can go straight on Instagram or maybe in a news story – it’s really practical and handy for a blogger, a journalist or just anyone who is making a lot of content and needs a camera that can keep up with it.

Wouldn’t it be great if this post was sponsored by Canon? It’s not, but I have always thoroughly enjoyed Canon cameras and feel like I get amazing results with them.

Is there anything else you’d like to know about the equipment I use? If you have any questions about the Canon EOS M10 please do leave them in the comments, tweet me, dm me on Instagram – whatever you fancy!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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2016: In Review

2016, lifestyle

Hello!

This year has been a really monumental year for me – it’s had it’s ups and downs, both personally and globally, but I thought now is definitely the best time and review the year month by month, looking back on a year in the life of the girl behind Sophie Counts Clouds.

Now that sounded pretentious, I’ll roll with it.

01-january

January: photography deadlines and Lucas’s birthday

Photography took up a lot of my thinking space in January and I did produce two of my favourite photos I’ve ever taken in these shoots. I also got to see Panic! At The Disco for the first time and it was my first concert with my boyfriend, Lucas.

02-february

February: Channel 4 work experience and dance competitions

My first ever Valentine’s Day in a relationship (I still love that elephant globe with all my heart), getting to spend a week in London with Channel 4 was incredible but I vividly remember the week full of really early starts in London then getting home Friday night, unpacking my suitcase and repacking for a weekend staying off in Birmingham for a dance competition. But I loved being so busy.

03-march

March: uni got busy and editing my monthly vlog was slow

March was when I fell a bit behind – editing my ‘February’ vlog was taking a really long time and assignments overwhelmed me a little bit. But I also became part of a couple who bought 70 creme eggs and I felt really good about my body – so a pretty good month all in all!

04-april

April: first year ending and Nick’s birthday

My sister turned my boyfriend into Deadpool, my best friend infinite ever turned 19 and Lucas and I went on our first proper date for a day out in Bournemouth and I wanted lots of cute photos with the beach huts. I then learnt that Lucas doesn’t like being my photographer.

05-may

May: got a job and first MCM ComicCon

A family visit with lots of pictures taken, fun trips to the pub with my friends and meeting the YouTubers I love at ComicCon – May was the start of what hoped to be a really incredible summer. I got my dream job at my favourite stationery store which I then got fired from in September. So we won’t talk too much about that.

06-june

June: first summer away from home and Nan’s birthday

I decided to stay in Southampton over the summer because coming home would be difficult for personal reasons and I wanted to spend time with my boyfriend. Each had their pros and cons and the summer was quite emotional time for me, but June was when I had my favourite galaxy hair, I surprised my Nan by being home for her birthday and I went on a Centre Parcs holiday with some of my family.

07-july

July: worked my first festival and really struggled with my money

I got to work at my first music festival! It wasn’t a festival I’d ever attend but it was the most fun work experience I’ve had this year. I also moved into a proper studio apartment with my boyfriend (which, again, had it’s pros and cons) and felt very independent and grown up… still not decided if that was a good thing or a bad thing.

08-august

August: Summer in the City and lots of creativity

I got to go to my second YouTube convention and it was so inspiring – August was when things started looking up personally and when I started feeling really uncomfortable and stressed at work. The release of Pokemon Go meant I also spent a lot of the summer outside and walking around which did help my mental health a little bit too!

09-september

September: first birthday away from home and second year

Lucas, Nick and I moved into our flat for the next academic year and I officially became old (i.e. not a teenager). September involved a lot of seeing my friends for the first time in months and feeling the stress and anxiety of summer slip away as I became happier and happier.

10-october

October: deadlines and dancing

I really started to enjoy uni at this point because I was really organised and I went to an independent cafe at 9am and did lots of work and became the most annoying hipster in the world. Unfortunately my granddad passed away in October, but it made me think about how wonderful his life was before he got ill and I was supported by my amazing friends – those I refer to as ‘my boys’ are featured on the left.

11-november

November: stress and positive feedback

A lot happened in November, from left to right; my family visited, I presented a TV bulletin, I got to see ‘The Wind in The Willows’ as press and write a review, I got to act a little bit in a friends assignment filming, I met Hazel Hayes and Jack Howard at my second Panic! At The Disco concert of the year and I did a package on the Busted signing in HMV Southampton and both Busted and HMV liked it on twitter. Assignment had ins were high (I think it was four in this month?) but I did get a couple of really great marks back, so a mixed bag.

12-december

December: busy but social, full of festivity, friends and family

With my last deadlines approaching and my organised approach to university falling to pieces, I somehow made it through the last deadlines of my first semester and from there on out it was socialising and Christmas festivities. I had the most amazing party with my Southampton friends, I got to see my friends from Ecuador for the first time in over a year (twice in one week!), everything was full of Christmas cheer at my favourite time of year, I’ve found a hair colour that I really love and I got to have a good old catch up with my oldest and dearest friend Katy.

In hindsight, 2016 has been incredible. The year ended on an incredible high and whilst it had it’s dips and my mental health has been more of a challenge this year than ever before, I’m really ready for 2017.

Please tell me all about your 2016 in the comments! Bring on the new year!

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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Pokemon Sun and Moon Release Day!

2016

Hello!

Sorry this post is late and potentially full of errors – I’m writing it on my phone because I’ve been playing Pokemon Moon all day and I’m now playing dungeons and dragons with my friends so I’m writing on my phone! 

My boyfriend has been counting down to this day for literally months, every update video that comes out has been very important and the five days where the game was out elsewhere in the world and not in Europe were agony. 

So this game has been a big build up – I’m a new Pokemon fan, I got into the game because of Pokemon Go because I was totally obsessed with the app over the summer. I learnt the original 151 Pokemon in a matter of weeks and I walked so far to play this game. 

From there, Lucas (the boyf) let me play his copy of Pokemon Y to get used to the game and I played that a lot outside of assignment work and deadlines. I didn’t get to finish the game because uni is super busy and I somewhat have priorities, but I was still super excited to play this game when it came out.

I picked Litten as my starter because it’s a cat, not an owl with a fringe or a flamboyant sea lion and the game is so interesting so far – it’s very different to other games but it’s a beautifully crafted game and the Hawaii-inspired Alola region is so much fun to play in. 

Do I have time to play this game? No, definitely not. Do I have an assignment due next week? Yes, so I don’t think I’ll finish this game anytime soon but I’m excited regardless. 

I know that Christmas is going to be full on playing Pokemon the entire time. So excited to not have any assignments due!

What are your thoughts on the game so far if you’ve played it? What starter did you pick? 

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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Wind in the Willows – Mayflower Theatre

2016, lifestyle, music

Hello!

img_3062The musical version of the popular children’s book Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame had it’s World Premiere at Mayflower Theatre and I was lucky enough to be invited to see to the press showing with @sotonbloggers.

Being back at the theatre was like coming home – I’ve not seen a musical or a show or any form of play in so long and I got surprisingly emotional at parts of the show I really did not expect to get emotional about! I nearly cried at the finale, I was a mess but, anyway!

The whole show was absolutely mind blowing – my mum messaged me before I left and said I should take a notebook so I could jot things down, as a trainee journalist, and I told her I wouldn’t need it because I had my phone. Oh how I was wrong! There were so many amazing bits in the first half alone that I don’t think I possibly could have remembered them all when it got to the interval and I could write them down.

david-birrel-as-badger-thomas-howes-as-ratty-and-fra-fee-as-mole-in-the-wind-in-the-willows-photo-by-marc-brenner-jamie-hendry-productionsThe vocals were flawless – the opening number, “Spring”, was an ensemble of incredible singers, wonderful actors and truly beautiful harmonies, it made me remember what I love about musical theatre. The dancing was so much fun (particularly the tap dancing horses and the Otter Ballerinas!), the sets were truly beautiful and intricately designed – the full size train carriage on the stage in the second half was so outstanding!

Costuming is a crucial part of a show like this that has such recognisable characters – there were nods to each of the animals that each character was playing, such as tails, ears and coats of spikes that the Hedgehogs wore, but the astonishing bit about the costumes was that the acting that went with each of the costumes is what really solidified each of the animals within the characters.
rufus-hound-as-mr-toad-in-the-wind-in-the-willows-photo-by-marc-brenner-jamie-hendry-productionsToad was eccentric and jumped and leapt around the stage, the rabbits walked on their toes with their bottoms sticking out and the weasels, stokes and foxes were all a little bit creepy and sneaky – it was the phenomenal talent of the cast that brought these beautiful costumes to life.

The music was truly astonishing – I felt a few Les Miserables vibes but the music was so fully orchestral. It was beautiful and all of the songs felt like they could be real classics. They’re definitely songs that I could hear people singing years down the line, particularly “Messing About in a Boat”, “We’re Taking Over the Hall” and “A Friend is Still a Friend”. I’m keeping my eyes out for the soundtrack because I can’t wait to listen to those beautiful vocals all day long!

I also loved the variety of speaking accents, there were some beautiful intonations.

neil-mcdermott-and-the-company-of-the-wind-in-the-willows-photo-by-marc-brenner-jamie-hendry-productions-3My favourite dance number was definitely the opening of the second act that accompanied “We’re Taking Over The Hall” because it was so much fun and it really grabbed everyone’s attention after the ice cream and drinks of the interval!

The whole show really reignited my love for theatre – I’ve not been to see a show in so long and when I got home, I went straight on the Mayflower website to have a look at what other shows are coming to Southampton (I’d love to go see the Beauty and the Beast ballet – last time I saw a ballet I was 8 and I fell asleep!).

fra-fee-as-mole-in-the-wind-in-the-willows-photo-by-marc-brenner-jamie-hendry-productionsIn terms of cast and characters, Fra Fee was a wonderful and endearing Mole, David Birrell played a wise and father-like Badger and all the dancers were very, very talented. Obviously, have to commend the wonderful Rufus Hound who portrayed the equally annoying and entertaining Toad.

I was expecting Wind in the Willows to be a childish, almost-pantomime like show aimed at the younger members of the audience that would make me roll my eyes even if it was technically good but that really isn’t what it was. Yeah, it was definitely a more child friendly show as opposed to more adult shows like The Book of Mormon or Rent but when the audience laughed, the entire audience laughed. It was an amazing piece of theatre and a very nostalgic tale, enough to make me well up at the curtain call!

And it was very exciting to have ‘press’ written on the ticket, the complimentary drinks at the interval were wonderful.

Thank you for reading,

Sophie xx

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This post wasn’t sponsored but the ticket was provided by Mayflower Theatre via @sotonbloggers. All photos belong to Mayflower theatre.

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