An Ode to Fleabag

An Ode to Fleabag

This piece was originally published by Severine in 2019.

She came onto my screen

A flurry of limbs and awkward sex

A navy coated, red lipped nymph.

The sister. The best friend.

The lost         

               The broken

The f r a g m e n t e d

We are all her


I really want to steal a gold headless statue someday.

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My Top 10 Reads of 2019

My Top 10 Reads of 2019

Hello, Happy Thursday! It's only taken me two weeks but I finally narrowed down my favourite reads of 2019 to ten titles. Considering I read over 90 books in 2019, this was no easy feat. These are all books I found myself thinking back on particularly fondly, and some I chose based on what I had written about them in my journal. The enthusiastic, lengthy ramblings? Clear indicator there. So in no particular order, my top ten reads of 2019. Note: These are not ranked-no need to overcomplicate things. Also, not all of these books were released in 2019 though a fair few of them were. Anyway, on with the books...

Eve's Hollywood x Eve Babitz: My introduction to Eve Babitz happened about this time last year actually. She writes of Summer and celebrity culture and growing up in Hollywood. Being young, the heat and haze that fills the LA year, life and youth being there before you. Her writing is nostalgic, without being sappy or overly sentimental. To read Eve Babitz is to luxuriate in her words.

Lady in Waiting* x Anne Glenconner: I don't think I was expecting to love this book as much as I did. Though really it is no surprise. Princess Margaret? Check. Colourful, chaotic character-laden family? Check check. Lady Anne Glenconner has certainly led a far from ordinary life. In amongst the luxurious parties are familial struggles many of us may have experienced to some degree and I guess it serves as a timely reminder that all is never as it seems. This book is far from dreary though-it ripples with vibrancy and life. 

Saltwater x Jessica Andrews: A measure of a good book, when I am willing to not return it to the library, thus being fined just so I don't have to give it back. Okay, I reluctantly returned it but the consideration was there. Saltwater is an exploration of life and how our upbringings shape us. It's also about the complicated, intricate relationships that can be the Mother and Daughter bond. It's lyrical, poetic and exquisitely written. 

Spring x Ali Smith: The seasonal quartet is drawing to a close and this may be my favourite of the three. I also read Winter this year. Spring speaks to the optimism of the season and a time where political tides may have turned. In fact, it's really hard to think about optimism when international politics seems so...messy. Discussion for another day. Spring is a story of film and migration, literature and loss. It also pays homage to our very own Katherine Mansfield. If you like reading novels that experiment and unfurl the traditional narrative, this is for you.

Notes to Self x Emilie Pine: This. Book. Though. It was a confronting read. I wept, I laughed and I also experienced the sheer brilliance of writing that is unflinchingly candid and doesn't hold back.  Notes to Self blew me away, it knocked the air out of me and then had me frantically rushing to find paper and pen, writing out extracts that spoke to me. I doubt I will ever read a book quite like it again.

Daisy Jones & the Six* x Taylor Jenkins Reid: So this was one of my most anticipated novels for 2019 and it did not disappoint. Fictional, seventies band with major Fleetwood Mac vibes. A story that unfolded through a long form, magazine style interview. I loved it. Go give it a read now, it is perfect for Summer pool+beach reading.

Trick Mirror x Jia Tolentino: Jia Tolentino is a word goddess and I won't hear a word from anyone who says otherwise. See yourself out. All seriousness, I loved her debut collection of essays immensely. Yes it did give me serious writer envy but also it was so interesting and well written and cohesive. Sometimes I get nervous reading books with a lot of advanced praise, magazine write-ups etc but in the case of Trick Mirror, the hype was justified. If you haven't read this yet, add it to your Summer tbr now.

Florida x Lauren Groff: I love Groff's writing so much. It's deeply haunting, but in a beautiful way. I'm sorry, that sounds weird. Her stories usually are darker but they are done in such an evocative way. They are absolutely compelling to read. I love that they aren't all cutesy and perfect-there's something exciting in knowing that all is not going to be as it seems. I don't read a lot of short story collections, to be honest they aren't really my vibe. The fact I loved this one so much and still feel a pang of excitement when I see anybody else is reading it probably says it all. 

The Importance of Music to Girls x Lavinia Greenlaw: I have to thank Jay for including this book in his January bundles over at YourShelf. It set my lifelong love for Lavinia Greenlaw into motion, having already been a fan of her poetry. This book is essentially a memoir told through music and memories. Read it. It is exquisite.

The Handmaid's Tale x Margaret Atwood: Probably the last person in the world to have read The Handmaid's Tale, properly. After having multiple friends tell me to literally hurry up with both reading and watching it, I finally listened. Well, shock horror, I loved it. I mean, I love Margaret Atwood's writing a lot but I can see why this book is so beloved. The fact it is all so fortuitous in a rather disturbing way. The journey Offred goes on and the way it is so addictive. Cue many a late night and a bit of sighing when my train arrived at its destinations faster than it should have, thus interrupting my reading. I will definitely be rereading this, I loved it.

-What did you read and like in 2019?

*Review Copy

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2019 in Review: 19 Good Things

2019 in Review: 19 Good Things

2019, where did that even go!? "Where did you just go then?" as Hot Priest would say on Fleabag. Ahh, Fleabag-love of my life. Sorry, distracted one sentence in. I wanted to add as a bit of a precursor to this blog post that 2019 has been, an experience. I am not going to lie, reading back through my 2019 journal for this blog post was a bit hard. There were some painful moments there. But that's okay. They happened. There was also some good, as you will soon see. More than anything this year I am grateful. I hope that gratitude was felt by those I surrounded myself with. I really wanted to 'treat people with kindness'* as much as possible this year but more so myself. Admittedly the latter may have slid in the earlier part of the year but to be honest, I think in 2019 I was a lot nicer to myself. I was less self critical. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't always easy. I'd open up social media some days and get really irritated that I wasn't ticking off the same digital milestones as everyone else. The irony being, I don't necessarily want some of those things. I chased after things that were never going to happen because I am a starstruck optimist sometimes. Maybe one day I will tell that story but for now, that can stay between myself and the pages of my diary.  And that's okay. Lessons were learnt there. 

One thing, forget those "what I achieved in a decade posts". Or at the very least, take them with a pinch of salt. I think it's a poignant reminder as we enter a new decade to remember, nobody else is that affixed on where you are at in this game we call life. Everybody else is on their own paths. Be gentler to yourself, you are doing amazing. Perhaps more so than you think. Same to you, future Sophie reading this. You done good. 

Anyway, 19 good things from '19 incoming...

Those Su-uh-uh-mer Days: At the beginning of 2019 I was unemployed after leaving my job at the end of 2018. Do not get me wrong, that was not a fun time. What was fun though was the days at the beginning of the Summer. Drinking copious amounts of bubbles, sharing cracker and cheese platters with L. Reading books on her sun loungers. Pages morphing in the heat, words blurring into a welcoming haze. Blissful af. 

Self Critique, Gonezo? Do not get me wrong, I am still incredibly self critical. To be honest, I don't think that's easily shaken. That being said, I found myself becoming a lot better at the old self perspective thing. I can't think of specific examples but I was able to 'check' myself a lot better than I have in the past if that makes sense. Without letting self-loathing rear its ugly head as strongly. Of course I still have my insecurities but yeah, I feel like I am getting a bit better at managing that side of things. 

High As Hope in Auckland: Ahh my beloved Florence and the Machine graced us in January for one night only. And it was spectacular. I cried, I saw glitter whenever I looked up and in the air around me. There was hugging, proclamations of love and it was all incredibly wholesome and inviting. Experiencing it with E again, our second time seeing Florence together was so special as well. 

I Started A New Job: I began my new+current job midway through February this year and after many a frustration during the whole job seeking process, it was such a relief. And now I feel, awkward writing about my job, should anyone from work finds this. But yeah, I got a new job. Yay me!? Haha idk.

Between Two Books: 2019 was the year of Florence Welch. Thanks Flo for indirectly bringing two of the best fans and literary enthusiasts into my life, that would be you J and L. Anyway, something cool I got to do was share a book recommendation along with other members of the Between Two Books Community. It was so lovely to be asked and I chose Eve's Hollywood x Eve Babitz. More on that book soon though.

Duck Island: Can I do a post about 2019 without mentioning Duck Island icecream? Probably not. They opened their first stores in Auckland this year and blessed be the icecream enthusiasts. No really. Fairy bread, lolly log, peppermint slice, sorbets for days-dang it now I want to go out for a drive just to get some. Anyway, thanks to the friends who tolerated my Duck Island outings, even in the midst of Winter. You are legends. Blessed legends, but legends nonetheless.

Quiz Nights: This year I stayed out LATE omg. Friends who know me will know I am often in bed by 9.30. That's not an exaggeration, this is an unusual night. Anyway I digress. This year I joined a quiz team and go most weeks with them to the Bluestone Room for quiz night. It is a fun time. I am terrible at sports still, but my geography seems to be improving. S, that is your influence entirely. And I am always there for the pop culture, song lyrics and literature. I love it.

Fleabag: I couldn't do a post about 2019 without mentioning Fleabag. I actually found the diary entry where I wrote "I must watch Fleabag, immediately." That was probably after I listened to Phoebe Waller-Bridge on Elizabeth Day's podcast again for the umpteenth time. Well thank god I did. I love Fleabag in all her messy yet relatable glory. Bring on Fleabag Live in Cinema in March 2020.

Counter Journal x2: Probably one of the highlights of 2019 was having my stories commissioned and then published by Zack+Bonnie in local publication, Counter Journal. It was so exciting to see my words and work as part of a beautiful magazine but also to be able to walk into Unity Books and just be like "oh hey, I have a story in there." L, thank you for all the encouragement and support but especially for convincing me that I could do it, when I was so convinced that I couldn't. 

Musicals Are Life: To know me is to know I love musicals. A lot. So this year I managed to see quite a few: Legally Blonde, School of Rock, American Idiot, Les Miserables, oh-and Once! Knew I forgot something. My favourites were probably Legally Blonde and American Idiot for the nostalgic purposes.

England to NZ: Another major highlight of the year was having some of our family friends, and my honorary siblings from Essex come to NZ for the first time. The two weeks we had with L, G and E were the BEST. Please come back soon ladies. Though better yet, New York 2020 #iwish #mustwinlottolol. 

A bit of Poetry: After years of convincing myself I could not write poetry, I discovered that while I am no Hera Lindsay Bird (I WISH), I actually enjoy writing poetry. And it's definitely something I want to explore more in 2020 and get more, personal with. I enjoy writing about other things but my own life, not so much and I want to get out of my comfort zone there. 

Severance Lit: Another cool place I got to have my work published, poetry no less was this lovely site. Created by Terri-Jane Dow, one of the loveliest people on and off the internet. My work is here but go read all the other brilliant words on there too. 

Harry+Lana+Vampire Weekend+HAIM: And Taylor Swift! Sorry Taylor...There was a lotta new music in '19. I have to give particular thanks to Harry Styles and Lana Del Rey. Their new albums this year have more often than not been the tonic and on high rotation on my playlists. Well when I am not playing Rocketman's soundtrack on repeat again. 

You did your best, and that's enough: If I noticed one phrase throughout my journal more than any other, it was this. Maybe some people think this notion is a terrible one. Though I guess it goes with the self critique pointer from above. I'm learning to be more content with my achievements and efforts, and subsequently less critical when things maybe don't work out. Again, this is a never-ending work in progress but dissatisfaction is so exhausting and unfair on ourselves. As Nigel says in 'The Devil Wears Prada', nobody is going to pat you on the back and give you a gold star for a job well done. If there's one thing I have learnt this year, we have to give ourselves the praise and self-respect we deserve.

Flower Markets: Well not strictly flower markets per se but Saturday mornings strolling the small town markets, buying cheap blooms and having some of nature's beauty on display for a week. Sometimes longer, it's amazing the mileage you can get out of some flowers if you actually water them. Sorry I am such a luddite haha. All seriousness, weekend trips to the markets for flowers and fruit and coffee-good time.

I read, a lot: SUCH a surprise. Ahem. Not really. According to Goodreads, I read 91 books. Poetry, plays, novels, memoirs, essays, short stories, even a graphic novel. I read more widely this year and yes there was a bit of re-reading but I like to do that every now and again. More on what I read soon!

Times Are Changin': Next year (2021), Nana Wintour turns TEN. What the actual!? And to be honest, this corner is well due a facelift and even a name change. Yep, a name change. Nana Wintour no longer feels like my alter-ego but more like a shadow of someone I used to know. And to be honest I think that is why I posted on this corner less in 2019 than I have in a long time. I felt lost. A digital existential crisis if you will. But I see change on the horizon and I am hoping it is the blogging breath of fresh air I need.

Happy New Year!! Here's to 2020. Broaden your horizons, make things happen, surround yourselves with love and kindness. Have a good one. xx

*Thanks Harry Styles, you gem.

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The Bookish Gift Guide '19

The Bookish Gift Guide '19

It's eleven days until Christmas! Work is starting to wind down, Summer/Winter are setting in, we get all nostalgic and we take time to be with our nearest and dearest. I know Christmas shopping can be stressful and books in particular can sometimes be a bit of a tricky thing to gift. My advice, find out what they have read and enjoyed this year-that is usually quite a good starting point. That or pick the brains of the lovely booksellers in your community. I have to give a shout out to Unity Books and Time Out here in Auckland because they are packed with friendly, well-read folk who know their stuff and are yet to recommend a dud, for myself or others. Today though, I will be doing the recommendations. I've tried to mix it up so there's a bit of all I love but also books I have read and gifted throughout the year. Many of these are books I have read during 2019 and enjoyed too. So if you want some reading recs, keep reading. Wow Sophie, so eloquent. Anyway...

Poetry: Validate Me x Charly Cox. One for the millennials, those who may be feeling a bit wary of the current state of the world (2019-what the heck) or just want a book that resonates. I particularly loved Charly's writing about her friendship with Elizabeth Day. So good. Other poetry volumes I rate for gifting; HeraTayiLavinia's brilliance.

Good Vibes: I guess I really mean books that are just a delight to read and immerse oneself in. The one book I think of time and again for this is Everything I Know About Love x Dolly Alderton. This is honestly such a beautiful book and Dolly is totally worthy of her modern-day Nora Ephron comparisons. 

The Cool Girl: Not the Amy Dunne level, props if you get that reference. For the babe in your life who maybe likes a book that is like a breath of fresh air. That evokes feelings of another time and place; beautiful imagery. A book that is thought-provoking as much as nostalgic. So first up we have I Used To Be Charming x Eve Babitz. One of my favourite discoveries of 2019 has been the work of Eve Babitz. This latest volume is a collation of her work for various publications as well as previously unpublished work. I describe her as the anti-Didion, but in a good way. Trick Mirror x Jia Tolentino. One of the New Yorker's brightest stars at present. She writes in a wonderful, nuanced way on everything from reality TV, to the decision to marry (or not), self preservation and more.

Royal Readers: Maybe they've immersed themselves in Season 3 of The Crown and demand more. Lady in Waiting* x Anne Glenconner is one of the best books I have read this year and one of the best royal-themed biographies. Lady Glenconner was part of Princess Margaret's inner circle and was married to Colin Tennant, aristocrat and the man responsible for turning Mustique into an idyllic getaway. She writes candidly and brilliantly, with humour and charm+fantastic insight into a life well lived. 

Love: That which is valued above all things. This year I read One Day x David Nicholls and loved it so I am really looking forward to reading his latest, Sweet Sorrow. If she loved One Day and maybe was a John Green fan once upon a time, this is bound to go down a treat. 

Music: A book I am sure is going to be on many a Christmas list is Me x Elton John. I don't have my copy here because one of my friends is borrowing it currently but I loved this book. So many brilliant stories and tales from a life that is anything but ordinary. John's co-writer did a fantastic job here. Another music book that would make a stunning Christmas gift, this exquisite illustrated edition of Just Kids* x Patti Smith. It is gorgeously presented in this larger format and is accompanied by images and illustrations from both Patti Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe. 

A Yourshelf Bundle: Kinda biased here as Jay is a good friend of mine but his specially curated book bundles are a treat to receive. They are carefully selected and he always includes editions that are beautiful and more often than not, one of a kind. 

Shop Local: You may see throughout this post I have linked to Time Out and Unity. Auckland is also home to some great secondhand bookstores and The Women's Bookshop on Ponsonby Rd. Remember to smile and thank them for their time-I can only imagine how stressful this time of year can be for booksellers!

-What books would you gift this Christmas?

*Review Copy

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The Summer TBR: Part One

The Summer TBR: Part One

Hey, hi! It's been a hot minute, has it not? I have no real explanation other than "life" but enough of that. Today I thought I'd share some new books to my shelves that will be going down a treat this Summer. Whether that be poolside, under a shady tree in the sun or maybe first thing in the morning, with the windows wide open and the breeze cascading through. Bliss. This is a two-parter because as you all well and truly know by now, I read a lot. There's short stories, essays and even a hot girl Summer accessory of choice. Keep reading...

Grand Union* x Zadie Smith: Ok, first and foremost-why did nobody tell me Zadie Smith and Jia Tolentino were in conversation in Melbourne this month? Not cool guys. FOMO and secondhand regrets aside, luckily for us Zadie has dropped her first short story collection. It's been a while since I read some Zadie fiction, having recently read her essays across various titles. I am really looking forward to reading and luxuriating in its pages over Summer.

I Used To Be Charming x Eve Babitz: Ah, Eve Babitz. How I love thee. This latest collection ties together more of her nonfiction work. There's essays about posing for that infamous Julian Wasser photo and the titular essay about the tragic accident that led to her retreat from the spotlight. And everything in between. Hollywood. Eve's muses. Her circle. Art. Life. I am saving this to read when I have finished some other nonfiction books I have on loan/my review pile but I will keep you posted.

Sport, Issue 47: The 'hot girl Summer' literary staple of 2019. Sport, a compilation of writing from some of New Zealand's brightest voices. This volume is guest edited and curated by Tayi Tibble. I have only read her fantastic opener, check that out here but I am looking forward to reading more of this volume. Especially Joy Holley's work but also Rebecca Hawkes and Freya Daly Sadgrove. Another I am saving for the Summer season. 

Little Weirds x Jenny Slate: I have to give thanks to Jay for recommending this to me and while I am most familiar with Jenny from her role as Mona Saperstein on Parks+Rec, I have to say this book has me really excited. I have only started this one today but it's lyrical and exquisite. Definitely don't pass it by.

Whose Story Is This* x Rebecca Solnit: I also love me some Solnit. Her essays never bore me and are always topical but with a sense of timelessness to them. I still think about an essay about Trump as the classic fairytale villain from her last essay volume quite often. So suffice to say I am really looking forward to getting into this soon as well.

-What are you looking forward to reading over Summer?

*Review Copy

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