There's a huge misconception that classic novels are incredibly difficult, hefty books that seem impossible to start. However, after reading my fair share whilst studying English literature at university, I want to assure you that this isn't the case. Don't get me wrong, there have been some books that have felt absolutely unbeatable and I've had to battle through them (although I won't name and shame), but there have been quite a lot that I've thoroughly enjoyed and that will appeal to people who don't study English. Since we all have a bit too much time on our hands lately, it's the perfect opportunity to delve into a book you might not otherwise commit to, so here are my recommendations for academic books (or books that I've studied in my degree) that are worth picking up. Just note that I've studied a lot of novels over the past 2 years of my degree, so there are definitely many others that I enjoyed, but I've managed to narrow it down to 6 that I think you'll like.

The book - Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie
The course - Writing, Identity and Nation
I've mentioned this book on my blog before, but it's too good to not include in this post as well! I really enjoy it when my university incorporates some more modern texts onto the syllabus, and this 2018 Women's Prize for Fiction winner definitely earned its place. If you're interested in hearing about the process of radicalisation on the vulnerable and isolated, as well as the conflicts of being a Muslim living in Britain, this book is one that you need to read.

The book - Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
The course - World Literatures
This autobiographical graphic novel is completely unique in its moving, retrospective depiction of a child growing up in Iran. I'll be honest, graphic novels have never really appealed to me, but this one had me completely hooked and I couldn't put it down. It gives you a glance into Iranian culture and Marjane's adolescent experiences in a hilarious yet tear-inducing way, and it won't fail to make you question your own privileges and experiences.

The book - Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
The course - Literature and History
This is an extremely clever and detailed dystopian novel that has strong connections to Fordism and the economic crisis of the 30s, making it an incredibly interesting vision of the future whilst also preserving a moment in our past. I found this novel fascinating from cover to cover, and you'll particularly enjoy it if you're interested in ideas of state control, technological advancements and genetic manipulation.

The book - Disappearance by David Dabydeen
The course - Literature and History
I absolutely adored reading this novel and the lyrical impulses of Dabydeen's work, despite it being one of the more lesser-known books on the course. It centres around a Guyanese engineer working on the coast of England whilst staying with an elderly woman, and offers some fantastic images of Englishness and the legacies of empire, as well as the disappearance of past experiences and memories. It isn't very plot-focused but if you're someone who can appreciate beautifully crafted writing like myself then you need to read this.

The book - A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
The course - English Literature Tutorials
Although Virginia Woolf is incredibly famous for her novels, it was this non-fiction text that completely blew me away more than any other piece of her work. After spending a majority of my school life studying male authors and masculinised novels, it was very eye-opening to read Woolf's prose about the erasure of women in history and the social and material conditions required for women to write literature. If you're interested in gender politics then I'd definitely recommend reading this, but I also think it's beneficial for everyone to read as it completely changed my perspective on the intrinsic misogyny within and surrounding literature.

The book - Gifted by Nikita Lalwani
The course - Writing, Identity and Nation
Gifted follows a young maths prodigy who struggles to manage this talent alongside the expectations and restrictions of her family, all whilst trying to grapple with her identity as a British-Indian. Out of all of the novels that I have studied, I have never felt so immersed and embedded in the story, and despite being from a completely different background than Rumi I felt as though I was living through her struggles. It's ultimately a story of endurance and how far someone can or is willing to go, and it's definitely a novel that is worth making time for.

I hope you enjoyed this post and that I've inspired you to pick up a book that you might not have otherwise considered. Like I said, I've studied many more novels in university and could easily compile another post like this one, if that's something you'd like to see!

I don't know about you but I'm absolutely obsessed with finding new makeup hacks. Quite often I'll be lying in bed scrolling through TikTok and I'll see tons of beauty tips and tricks that seem incredibly simple to do yet look gorgeous. I thought it would be a fun idea to try out a few of these and see if they're miracles waiting to be discovered or too good to be true. In particular, I decided to choose 5 hacks that all involve setting spray - it's such a versatile makeup product that can definitely be used beyond fixing your makeup into place. So if you'd like to see the setting spray makeup hacks  that I attempted and whether they were fab or fails, keep on reading!

Makeup Hack #1 - Changing up the order of your base products

There seems to be an unwritten rule that you should apply your base products in a specific order, but what if I told you that this viral TikTok hack encouraged you to mix it up? Rather than following the usual routine of using moisturiser, then primer, followed by foundation and then powdering, you instead powder after using your moisturiser. Afterwards, you spray your face with setting spray, and once it dries you then prime and apply your foundation. When I first heard this, it seemed completely bizarre to me, but I saw countless people trying it online and saying that it revolutionised their skin, so I had to try and achieve the flawless look that everyone else was boasting.

I'm afraid that this one was a no from me! Although it seems to work for a lot of people, I didn't really get along well with this hack. There's something about applying primer after powdering my face that just doesn't sit right with me, and it felt really strange putting it on. I don't think that my base makeup looked that different from usual, except it was perhaps a bit cakier in some areas, which is definitely not what I was trying to achieve. However, this definitely made my makeup stay in place all day, so if that's usually a struggle for you then I'd perhaps give this hack a go.

Makeup Hack #2 - Making a powder blush into a cream

Blush has always been one of my favourite parts of my makeup routine and cream blushers in particular were my go-to for many years, but I don't have any in my collection currently. I found a hack online that made any powder blusher into a cream simply by adding some setting spray, and I knew instantly that this would be right up my street.

As I didn't want to ruin an entire blusher, I decided to get some of the product on my fingers and then squirt some setting spray over the top, before lightly dabbing it onto my cheeks. This hack actually worked really well, as it felt like applying a cream blusher but the setting spray made it stay firmly in place and I didn't have to worry about it budging. It isn't the easiest to blend if you follow this method, so I'd recommend starting with a small amount and building it up. However, I love the look that it created and I'll definitely be doing it again!

Makeup Hack #3 - Intensifying your highlighter

I seem to be a bit late to the game with this one, but a hack that I've seen floating around online for quite some time now is using your highlighter with setting spray to make it appear much more intense. I was definitely excited to try this out, as I have a few gorgeous highlighters that need quite a bit of building up, so this seemed like the answer to these problems.

As expected, this hack worked really well and made my highlighter appear much more intense and glowy. Although the photo doesn't really do it justice, my fairly subtle highlighter became almost blinding after trying this, so I'd highly recommend it if that's what you want. I probably won't be doing this daily as I prefer a more natural glow, but it's perfect for if I'm getting dressed up and going out (although that won't be happening for quite a while!)

Makeup Hack #4 - Getting fluffy eyebrows using soap

I used to do soap brows around a year ago and found that they were very hit and miss - sometimes my eyebrows would look incredibly fluffy and be firmly secured upright, whereas other times they'd drop down almost instantly and look white from using too much soap. I've seen quite a few people do this hack but by using setting spray rather than water and it has been successful for them, so I thought I'd try it out and see how fluffy I could make my eyebrows look.

Honestly, I was quite disappointed by this one and found that it didn't really make a difference to my eyebrows. I know that soap brows can work for me as I've done them before, but for some reason, this hardly made a difference to my eyebrows and they didn't look any fluffier than beforehand. I'd definitely be willing to give this another try as I love the fuller brow look, but I'm disappointed that it didn't work for me. 

Makeup Hack #5 - The fake freckle trick

Fake freckles have become a huge makeup trend and I've been dying to have a go at creating them for quite some time. I love the look of freckles yet I don't have any, so like many other people I have resorted to faking it! Although I've seen a lot of people drawing them on with eyeliner or an eyebrow pencil, this can look a bit fake and over the top if not done correctly. I found a hack on TikTok that is perfect for achieving more natural-looking freckles, where you mix some excess powder from a bronzer or eyeshadow with setting spray and then flick it onto your face using a brush. I knew that I had to give this one a go straight away, as I've been dying to achieve that sunkissed freckled look.

This hack definitely worked, although I'll admit that it probably takes quite a bit of practice and figuring out the proportions (the first time I attempted it I used way too much setting spray and couldn't get any freckles to show up on my face). It isn't the easiest to direct where you're flicking the product, and whilst this means that it can look more random and natural it can very quickly get messy. I found that some of the freckles ended up being tiny and looked more like flecks of dirt, so I'd definitely be wary of this. However, I quite like the look that it created and for a first attempt at creating freckles I don't think it was too bad!

And so that is the finished makeup look! Some of these were definitely successful (particularly the blush and highlighter hacks) whereas others I probably won't be trying again. If you have any makeup hacks that you swear by then make sure you let me know down in the comments!

I don't know about you, but one of my biggest coping mechanisms during the current pandemic has been the various forms of media we have access to. Not only have I filled my spare time by binging TV shows and reading new books, but they've also distracted me and created a sense of escapism. Since I know a lot of people will be in the same position and are perhaps looking for recommendations, I thought I'd share all of the TV shows, books and podcasts that I've currently been obsessing over, and I hope that some of them will be perfect for you!

Currently Watching...
I've just finished watching The Bold Type and I'm feeling a bit lost now that it's over. For those of you who don't know, the series is about three best friends who all work for a Cosmopolitan-esque magazine in New York, following their careers as well as all of the drama in their love life, friendship issues and much more. It's so addictive and I was hooked right from the first episode, and the series further ignited my dreams of working for a magazine one day. I also finished watching Next In Fashion, which is Alexa Chung and Tan France's competition show on Netflix. They are searching for the best new designer through a series of weekly challenges and runway shows, which I found particularly inspiring as I'm currently learning how to sew. It's very interesting to see the behind-the-scenes process of creating each garment, and I guarantee that you'll be able to binge through this series in no time.

Although I much prefer watching a series than a film (my attention span just can't handle anything longer than an hour), I watched The Hustle starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it. This crime-meets-comedy film had me laughing the whole way through, and even my boyfriend liked it which is a good sign.

Up next... I'm dying to watch the TV adaptation of Normal People which came out a few days ago, as I fell in love with the book earlier this year and need to see if the series does it justice. I've actually heard a few people say that they prefer it over the Sally Rooney novel, so I definitely have high hopes!

Currently Listening To...

I haven't made many new discoveries on the music front lately, but I've been obsessed with various podcasts instead. A new favourite has been Reply All (particularly the episodes The Case of the Missing Hit and Long Distance) as they are fascinating stories of human experience and technology that will leave you completely floored. I can't say much more without spoiling what happens, but each episode will have you completely engaged for the entire hour.

Another podcast that I've been listening to frequently is Fashion No Filter, which was a recommendation by fellow fashion-obsessed Emilie. This follows two journalists who give a behind-the-scenes glance into the world of fashion, and it's an incredibly eye-opening view into an industry that previously felt quite secretive and exclusive. I've also been listening to According 2 by Megan and Ciera quite a lot since I also watch their Youtube channel, and I've found that their discussions on a variety of different events and aspects of teenage life are perfect to listen to in the background as I'm going about my daily business.

Up next... I've heard nothing but good things about The High Low, which is hosted by Pandora Sykes and Dolly Alderton, so I think that'll be the next thing I listen to. Also, I really want to get into listening to audiobooks, as I've only used them for university texts but want to expand my horizons, so I'd love to know your recommendations!

Currently Reading...

As I'm still in the middle of my essay season, a lot of my reading has been university texts that I needed to re-read whilst planning my essays. This included Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf and A Day Off by Storm Jameson. I enjoyed both of these and found that they compared well with one another, so if you're interested in modernist day-novels set in London then these will be right up your street. I'm also currently reading Gifted by Nikita Lalwani, which was one of the novels I was supposed to study but didn't get the chance to due to the strike action. It follows a young girl who has to balance her strict Indian family with her natural talent as a maths prodigy, and so far it has been incredibly eye-opening.

I've also been reading a lot of magazines lately since I've discovered my passion for journalism and want to explore it as a potential career path. I've been using the Readly app as a place to collect all of these and keep track of my favourite articles, plus it's way less expensive than having physical magazine subscriptions. I'd love to do a blog post in the future sharing some of my favourite articles, so if that's something you'd like to see then make sure you let me know!

Up next... I feel like my TBR list is huge since I've been restricted to reading university books, so I'm hoping that I'll be able to get stuck into some of my own choices once my essays are finished. Although I could write a huge list of books that I want to read, at the top of this is Imaginary Friend by Stephen Chbosky, since I fell in love with The Perks of Being a Wallflower when I was a teenager, and Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman (I can't believe I've not read this yet!)

I'd love to know what you've been watching, reading and listening to while stuck in lockdown, so make sure you let me know down in the comments!

It has reached the point of quarantine where I'm dying to go shopping - honestly, I really miss the girly days out that my mum and I would have while trying on matching Primark outfits (which she always looked 10 times better in) and filling tubs with foundation samples ready for us to test. Obviously, we haven't been able to do this in a while due to all the shops being closed, and although it's not the end of the world and there are much worse things happening right now, I am eager to test some new makeup. I was reluctant to order anything as I don't want to fuel the potentially unsafe factory and delivery conditions, and so I decided to delve into my makeup collection instead. Although I don't actually have a lot of my old makeup any more due to it being out of date or used up, I do still own a few of my old holy grail products, which long-time readers of my blog will definitely be familiar with. I decided to give them a go and see whether these products have stood the test of time or don't deserve the praise I used to give them, so keep reading to hear all of my thoughts!

Rimmel London Lasting Finish 25 Hour Liquid Foundation

I used to love this foundation back when I was in college for its breathable, skin-like finish. I've never been the biggest fan of full coverage foundations for day-to-day wear, and so something like this which made my skin look healthy and natural was perfect. I particularly liked the water-like consistency as it made this foundation very easy to apply and blend, which was ideal when I was getting ready in a hurry before college.

The smell of this foundation honestly took me straight back to 2017 - I didn't realise how nostalgic it was! I'd say that this product is quite sheer but then it can also be built up to be almost full coverage, which I definitely appreciated on areas of redness that needed a bit more pigmentation. I did find that it required a little bit more blending in some areas, but this wasn't a problem and once it was fully blended out it looked lovely. It definitely made my skin look incredibly radiant and healthy without being too shiny, which is perfect for a flawless yet natural everyday look. I've actually put this product back in my makeup bag to use since it really surprised me and I love the look that it created.

Catrice Liquid Camouflage High Coverage Concealer

This concealer was my holy grail for a long time and I honestly never thought that I'd find something even half as good. It is intensely pigmented, more so than any other concealer I've tried, and thus is perfect for covering blemishes and redness. I used to use this product every day without fail as it really did cover a multitude of sins.

After testing this product again, I've discovered that it's definitely more of a spot concealer. It's fairly thick and intensely pigmented, meaning it works wonders on camouflaging any blemishes and redness I may have. Although I did have a couple of rogue spots on the day I used this, my blemishes are nowhere near as bad as they used to be and my foundation is usually enough to cover them. These days, I prefer a more illuminating and lightweight concealer under my eyes to brighten them, whereas this product was a bit too heavy and clung to each and every fine line (I'm only 20 but I feel like it made my eyes look a lot more wrinkled than they are). Whilst I loved the magic that it worked on my spots (and it also makes a really nice eyeshadow base), it's definitely a no-go for under your eyes.

Tanya Burr Beautifully Defined Palette

Bronzer has always been my favourite makeup item and I'm constantly rotating the ones in my makeup bag, so I struggled to find one that I hadn't used in ages for this post. Although I've hit pan on this one and know that I loved it, I haven't reached for it in ages as the clunky packaging means it doesn't fit in my everyday makeup bag. I found that it was the perfect shade for adding some warmth to my face and giving a natural tan without being too excessive. Although I didn't use the highlighter as much as this wasn't a step in my makeup routine until more recently, I did think that it provided a gorgeous glow that wasn't too bold.

When testing these products again, I thought that the bronzer was really nice but probably a bit sheerer than what I normally go for these days (although that is just because I always go to town with my bronzer), but it could still be built up. Since it's not too warm-toned or shimmery, it'd also work nicely as a subtle contour shade. However, it wasn't the easiest to blend (as you can kind of see from my forehead) and required quite a lot of layering to achieve the look I wanted. The highlighter, however, really blew me away and I couldn't get over how blinding it was. I don't know how I used to think this product was more subtle (perhaps because I only applied the tiniest amount of it), but this was much more intense than I was expected and definitely one that I'll be revisiting again!

Too Faced Love Flush Blush 

Despite only owning it in sample size, I used to be obsessed with this blush and almost used it all up since it was my go-to for a long time. Not only did I find that the bright colour was perfect for my skin tone, but this intense pigmentation was also very easy to blend out. I used to be a sucker for a matte blush and this one was potentially my favourite, although the sample is definitely easy to lose within your makeup bag!

Honestly, I forgot just how much I loved this blush! I thought I wasn't going to like it due to the matte finish, as I prefer something with a bit of shimmer in it these days, but I adored using this. It gave a gorgeous flush that was still natural whilst perking up my appearance and making me look healthy, and it can be built up as much as you'd like. I honestly forgot how pigmented this product was and accidentally applied way too much so I had to blend it quite a bit, but nonetheless, I was pleasantly surprised and have placed this back in my everyday makeup bag. I'm actually very tempted to invest in the full-size product, so let me know if you think I should go for it!

Urban Decay Naked 3 Eyeshadow Palette

Remember the days when the Naked palettes had cult status and everyone was obsessed with them? I swooned over the palettes for years until I received this one for Christmas and I loved it since. The shades are perfect for the springtime and I used to get quite a lot of wear out of them. This fell to the bottom of my collection as I actually stopped wearing eyeshadow for quite some time, instead only opting for a neutral, brown-toned shimmer if I wanted a little something on my eyes.

These eyeshadows were nice, but if I'm being completely honest they didn't blow me away. Whilst some of the shadows were absolutely gorgeous (especially the shimmers which can be blinding), some of the matte shades and darker tones in the palette weren't as pigmented as they appeared in the pan and required a few layers to build them up to the desired look. I also felt like it was really missing a darker matte colour, as I wanted to make this more of a smoky look with a darker colour in my outer corners yet there was no option to unless I used a shimmer. I really like the look that I ended up creating, however it did take quite a bit of work getting to that point. While it's a really nice palette, I definitely have others in my collection that I prefer and aren't as expensive.

Maybelline Total Temptation Mascara

Although I used this mascara quite a lot, I don't know if I ever actually featured it on my blog. I quite often layered it with another mascara to really create a bold, intense look, as I'm all for big, clumpy lashes. Surprisingly this product wasn't dried out when I dug it out of my collection, so I knew it was the perfect time to give it another chance.

I really love the voluminous, almost clumpy look that this mascara creates, although I was disappointed that it didn't do much for the length of my lashes and they still appeared quite short. I also found the huge wand was quite difficult to manipulate and I struggled to get to the root of my lashes without smudging it everywhere, although this is a struggle I have quite often with mascaras. I definitely like the look that I achieved after I applied a few coats, I just wish it could've been a bit more lengthening (but if you're naturally gifted with long eyeshadows this won't be a problem!)

Essence Liquid Lipstick

I've always been more of a lipgloss person, as I prefer something shiny and comfortable on my lips rather than a drying matte lipstick that I'll have to keep topping up throughout the day. Although this product was marketed as a liquid lipstick I definitely applied it more like a gloss and found that it created an incredibly pigmented and comfortable look.

I decided to only apply a small amount of this lipgloss to create a sheer wash of colour rather than a bold pink gloss on my lips, and not only did I think this was pretty but I actually preferred it this way. The pointed wand made it really easy to apply with precision and it was also comfortable to wear (unlike some cheaper glosses which can be quite sticky). This is another one that I'll definitely be putting back in my makeup bag to wear again!

Are any of these products in your list of forgotten favourites? I'd love to know what makeup items you're revisiting at the moment, so let me know down in the comments!

Since everyone has a lot of spare time on their hands, it's the perfect opportunity to delve into a new book. However, I understand that it can be difficult knowing where to start, especially since bookshops are closed and you can't go in for a leisurely browse at the latest releases. I thought I'd put together a list of my favourite books that are written by women for women (although I'm sure that anyone could enjoy them) and are absolute must-read releases from the last few years. Note that there are some affiliate links used throughout which I will earn a small commission from if you make a purchase. Without further ado, it's time to see what books you're missing out on!

Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams

I'm sure that you've all had a point in your life where you've felt out of control and like everything is going wrong. Well this is exactly the struggle that Queenie is facing - she doesn't see eye-to-eye with her Jamaican-British family, she can't quite let go of a toxic relationship and her journalism job isn't all that she hoped for. We are whisked away into Queenie's coming-of-age story that is all about finding out who she truly is and her place in the world, and the turbulent journey that she has to go through to get there.

What I found most important about this book is its resilience to openly vocalise topics such as mental health, race, consent and female empowerment, yet it does so in fairly subtle ways. You will experience Queenie's pain as if you're right beside her yet you'll also be laughing whilst turning the pages - this novel really encompasses all of the uncertainties that we face in life. Click here to order a copy of Queenie now.

Normal People by Sally Rooney

What seems like a deceptively simple tale on the surface - two mismatched teenagers that share a kind of connection - blossoms into a heartfelt story of intimacy, yearning, mistakes and passion. We get to follow the shifting landscape of their relationship in moments of unspeakable closeness and undisclosed distance, charting their undeniable yet fluctuating connection throughout their youth. It ultimately depicts the impact a single person can have in shaping someone's life, as we see Marianne and Connell's personalities grow both intertwined and in opposition to one another.

What I loved most about this novel is Rooney's insistence on conveying 'normal people' - it's a raw depiction of the course of a connection and the influence that this has. It's refreshing to finally hear a voice that isn't afraid to adhere to the 'happily ever afters' or brutal heartbreaks that pervade literature; Normal People conveys a realistic relationship of our modern day. If you'd like to order Normal People then click here.

I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron

You may be familiar with Nora Ephron from When Harry Met Sally and Sleepless in Seattle, but her collection of memoirs is perhaps one of her best works that are a rite of passage for all women to read. This glaringly real book shares the truths of being a woman that you will undoubtedly relate to on some level, regardless of your age. Whether it's the shopaholic syndrome, navigating dubious relationships or the often poisonous view of our own bodies, Nora Ephron covers it all.

This book almost feels like a handbook for womanhood and will have you laughing along at how unbelievable accurate it is. Not only will you learn many lessons from Nora Ephron's undeniable wisdom,  but it'll also be a comforting read proving that you're really not alone in any of your life experiences. Although this is probably best suited to someone older than myself, I'd highly recommend all women to read it, as there will definitely be lessons you can learn. Order now by clicking here!

Everything I Know About Love by Dolly Alderton

The front cover of this book perfectly captures it, detailing the many disastrous dates, lifelong friendships and struggles of establishing yourself that all women may face in their lives. This is an eye-opening glance into Dolly Alderton's life and you get to watch her grow up as though you're living it alongside her, and I can guarantee that you'll be both laughing and crying along throughout this book. It really captures how messy yet beautiful life can be, and cherishes how every moment can shape a person.

Although this is ultimately an autobiographical text, it springs to life on the page and feels like fiction as you're transported to Dolly's adolescent world of disparate bars and unruly flings. There is honestly something so perfect in the way that she describes both pleasant and tragic life experiences in their true rawness, and I highly recommend you pick up this book and experience the journey of growing up alongside her. You can purchase Everything I Know About Love here.

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

This is perhaps a bit of a rogue one to include on this list, but I absolutely fell in love with this Women's Prize for Fiction winner. This novel examines the extent that you'd go to for passion, loyalty and in searching for an identity, all of which is bound together in a complex relationship of siblings. Radicalisation and love don't seem like two topics that go hand-in-hand, but Kamila Shamsie perfectly weaves together these two spheres in a way that you won't be able to put down.

Like the other books I've listed, Home Fire also deals with the struggles faced in everyday life, yet it instead depicts a teenage boy's terrorist involvement and the consequence this has on his entire family. Alongside this are ideas of Muslim-British identity and finding yourself in a constantly shifting world, and regardless of whether you relate to these issues or not this novel will have you hooked. Click here to order a copy of Home Fire.

Hopefully there is something for everyone in this list, but there is no doubt that they are all essential reads for young girls and women alike, and I'd highly recommend them to anyone. If there are any books you feel as though are missing from this list, I'd love to know down in the comments!