The One Where I Return to the Internet, Again

Hello. I come to you this time not with apologies or excuses for my random disappearance, but with an explanation of my planned absence. Yep. You read that correctly, it was planned! I didn’t announce it but I planned it. (Though, it is probably not a coincidence that I planned it before my entry for The Goblet of Fire, as I will explain in the next entry, which will be that one.) I probably should have announced it but I didn’t want to give myself a date to be back by, I wanted to come back when I felt ready to.

In May, I left the world of commuting to and from London, working for a publisher and living in pretty little Oxfordshire. I had a big life change, and I needed time to get used to it.

Back in April, I was offered a job designing t-shirts in the West Midlands (book-themed, politics, pop culture, sport, you name it, and I probably do it). It seemed fun so I went for it. The location meant that I was able to move in with my long-suffering other half (long-suffering because he has to deal with me 24/7 now). I’ve been working there for three months now and the creativity is fab, it’s evolved from just t-shirts to stationery and social media and all sorts of things I didn’t think I would be doing. I even designed some wrapping paper!

My publishing job was the first job I ever really had so this is both the first time I’ve had a job move but also the first time I have moved in with a partner – everything in my life changed all at once, it wasn’t quite as overwhelming as I thought it would be.

In July, after over a year and a half of lessons (and a whole lot of emotions), I passed my driving test first time! I moved my beautiful car up to the West Midlands in August, and had the shock of my life when I dealt with my first really steep hill. Luckily, I’ve got the hang of them now, after a little bit of self doubt and wondering why, oh why, they had let me pass my test.

A bit later in July, I decided to embark on a journey. A Slimming World journey. If you follow my Tumblr, you may have seen some body image posts in the past. I’ve struggled with my body for a long time, lost lots of weight in short periods of time by being very, very unhealthy and then put it back on again and then some when I got comfortable. I’ve resolved not to do that anymore. Slimming World is excellent, I am a fair way away from my target but I feel healthier and I am eating excellent food. I may post about my food at some point. I have since set up an Instagram devoted to my SW journey, it’s mostly food, but if you want to follow it, you can find it here.

What else has happened? I’m currently working on my second bit of wedding editing of the year, the third will come in November. Both weddings were lovely and I may post about them in the future.

All in all, I’ve been super busy, and I finally feel like my life is settling into a routine, and blogging can be part of it again.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Prisoner of Azkaban

9781408855676_309040Be still my tiny-child heart. The memories. For a long time, as with most Harry Potter fans, The Prisoner of Azkaban was my favourite. It’s one of the more standalone-ish of the series, and it’s early enough in the series that, while it deals with difficult things, it is still quite lighthearted – the darkness of the later books seeps in over the edges of the pages, but not so much so that your hands come away blackened and your heart hurts.

For now, everything is going down the ‘happily-ever-after’ route. Everything has ended well so far. (Besides things which happened before the books started and Wormtail making his escape, of course, but even Wormtail escaping doesn’t seem too dire a thing at this point because he’s so pathetic and weedy. Feeble.) Things are looking up. Harry has friends, and family, and friends who are family. He has Hogwarts, which is potentially the best place anyone could ever be.

Of course, knowing, as I know, what happens in later books this makes me want to tell him to turn back and quit while he’s ahead; but I remember little-Emma being filled with a sense of wonder and possibility, I mean, what could possibly go wrong? Even the bad guys on the Wanted posters are turning out to be good after all!

Oh, little-Emma. How naive you were. Now you’re a seasoned Elou (of a ripe quarter of a century), you know that very little stays wondrous and new and happy and always ends well. That fact and lack of naivety makes me love this book more. This book is the last time we see Harry as a child, truly a child. Sure, he had to time travel, met a werewolf and was attacked by dementors but he’s only just touching on the horrors that await. He’s only just being pulled into the story-proper.

I can’t lie to you, reader, the nostalgia is strong with this one.

I re-read this book so many times. More than any of the other books in the series. I read it over, and over, and over, and was still thrilled when it ended well as if it was still my first read. Even though I knew exactly what was going to happen, it still felt exactly like the first time I was reading.

Our old copy is damaged, very damaged, from my and my brother’s constant re-reads. (It makes me cringe, I try to keep my books as nice and neat as possible now-a-days.)

I am pretty sure that there is no spot of that old copy which is not covered in my fingerprints.

Review: Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll‘It came from the woods. Most strange things do.’

Five mysterious, spine-tingling stories follow journeys into (and out of?) the eerie abyss.

These chilling tales spring from the macabre imagination of acclaimed and award-winning comic creator Emily Carroll.

Come take a walk in the woods and see what awaits you there…

I am very into graphic novels and comics at the moment. I’d seen Through the Woods floating around for a while and wanted it. Before that, I wanted it because the author’s name was so similar to mine (and so I was intrigued).

I’m so glad I put this on my wish list. It’s a quick read, I read the whole thing in less than an hour. The art style is glorious, I love it. It differs slightly between each story but it is all tied together, by the use of colour especially. I enjoyed her art so much that I then went on a hunt for more, and will heartily recommend Anu-Anulan & Yir’s Daughter and The Prince & the Sea for any who might want a taste of her work before buying it in print. Do yourself a favour, though, and buy this book.

The stories are effortlessly creepy, and definitely spoke to the teen, Point Horror obsessed version of me (who I still revert back to every now and again) but in a much more satisfying way. Emily Carroll is good at what she does.

The book itself is well produced, the paper choice is perfect and the finish on the cover is wonderful though I am unsure what it actually is. It brings something very tactile to the book and as the stories themselves are tactile in their own way, it’s very well suited.

All of the text is written by hand, which is a lovely touch and makes me envious of her handwriting. It’s easy to read and the layout really works for each spread. Overall, I love it. It’s definitely a winner.

It wouldn’t be fair of me to leave this without some visuals, so here are a few spreads to get you interested (trust me, you want to be interested in this book)!

through the woods spread through the woods spread2 through the woods spread3

Review: Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson

Furiously HappyIn Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson regaled readers with uproarious stories of her bizarre childhood. In her new book, Furiously Happy, she explores her lifelong battle with mental illness. A hysterical, ridiculous book about crippling depression and anxiety? That sounds like a terrible idea. And terrible ideas are what Jenny does best.

As Jenny says: ‘You can’t experience pain without also experiencing the baffling and ridiculous moments of being fiercely, unapologetically, intensely and (above all) furiously happy.’ It’s a philosophy that has – quite literally – saved her life.

Jenny’s first book, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, was ostensibly about family, but deep down it was about celebrating your own weirdness. Furiously Happy is a book about mental illness, but under the surface it’s about embracing joy in fantastic and outrageous ways. And who doesn’t need a bit more of that?

This book. This book is brilliant. I have to confess, I haven’t read Lawson’s first book but it is most definitely on my to-buy list now.

I can’t quite remember how I stumbled across Furiously Happy, but stumble I did. With a cover like that I couldn’t just click away – I had to know what it was about, who it was by, why it existed and all those wonderful things you find out when you look into and then buy a book.

Except I didn’t buy this one. I read a bit of the ‘look inside’ on Amazon, added it to my wishlist after falling a little bit in love with the writing style and then went on my merry way. About a month later, when my birthday happened, I opened a present from my parents and there it was, a taxidermy raccoon staring out at me.

I started it reading it that day and finished it the next, which is quite impressive considering I read most of it out loud to my family and my boyfriend.

Reading aloud is not something I do by choice, I go lobster red and stumble my way through almost every word. It is a bad time for everyone involved. But with Furiously Happy I just had to share everything. There was very little that I did not read aloud. This is a testament to both the writing and the stories themselves – I use stories with a pinch of salt here, they are true, perhaps I should say anecdotes but they feel more story-like.

Furiously Happy  is relatable, I found myself thinking ‘that sounds like something I would do’ throughout, and my boyfriend actually exclaimed that I would have done some of those things too were I in those situations. It makes typically difficult subjects easy to digest and engage with and that can never be a bad thing. Lawson has a way of writing about really serious things in a really entertaining way that doesn’t mock or jibe.

I don’t often read memoirs and the like, I prefer my books to have a little bit of magic to them, but I discovered that sometimes memoirs have their own kind of magic. Furiously Happy  definitely does. I was hooked, completely and utterly.

I would recommend this book to everyone. Seriously. Buy it, read it, love it.

Harry Potter re-readathon: The Chamber of Secrets

The Chamber of SecretsHoo boy, I was supposed to post these every week for seven weeks, since I read the whole series in about 14 days. But alas, life happened, as it often does, but I have resolved to be more regular in my blog updates and book reviews and various other things. So I am posting this from the past. Hooray for queued posts! Anyway…

The Chamber of Secrets was never my favourite. Possibly because it sits between the first book (much excitement because it’s the start of the series) and the third which, until recently, was always my favourite. It’s pretty hard, then, for the book between those two to be quite as exciting. That said, it does have the joy that is Gilderoy Lockhart and his failure at life. (Or perhaps it’s not a failure, not until the obliviate mishap anyway.)

Though it was never my favourite, Riddle and the diary always fascinated me. I loved the idea of having a book that could interact with me, and I mean really interact with me, not a choose your own adventure or an enhanced ebook type deal. A really real book, which really did talk to me and respond to my words and actions. Who doesn’t want a book that tailors itself to them and them alone?

I often ignored the fact that the diary was evil. Or rather, I didn’t care that it was evil, I just thought it was cool.

Now that I am older, wiser, and more dashing (the crowd sniggers), I see it in a different way, even though I would  still like a really real interactive book. I can see now how creepy and twisted the Riddle in the diary is, and how much that scarred Ginny (especially when it is mentioned in later books). There are all sorts of mental manipulation techniques in the Potterverse and arguably this is the worst. Especially when you consider the life-sucking part.


I can now see what little-me overlooked, the ever so subtle setting up of the latter half of the series, though if older me hadn’t already known about horcruxes, I never would have guessed what relevance the diary would have had to future events. At first the series was seemingly less connected, the first three books had clear openings and endings and most things were left resolved, excepting the looming threat of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, but once you go through them again, you see that it isn’t quite as cut and dry as it at first seemed. I like that. I like that a lot.

On being grateful

Over the last week, my often-mentioned, very talented friend Mike Medaglia announced his next book in the wonderfully successful One Year Wiser series. The simply and aptly named One Year Wiser: A Gratitude Journal does what it says on the tin. It is a journal that allows you space to write one years’ worth of things you are grateful for alongside quotes and other fun things.

And that’s what poetry is. A human attempt to comprehend and share personal experiences of the things that exist just beyond our perception and comprehension.
Mike Medaglia on Poetry and Wonder from The Mindful Life Illustrated

This announcement, along with Mike’s Mindful Life Illustrated Elephant Journal posts on all things mindfulness, gratitude and generally living well, spiritually and mentally, has made me think of all of the things I am thankful for. Well, actually, the thing that triggered my thinking was a beautiful sunset on the way home from work but then I was reminded of Mike, then I matched that with a video I watched last night by Carrie Hope Fletcher and then that spiralled into everything else and so we ended up here. You and me, on this blog.

If you’ve read Mike’s writing, you know that it has the power to make you think about things, really think about things (and if you haven’t, you should). And so, thinking about things, I am. So, without further ado and pomp, I present to you:

A little ramble of things I am thankful for

How to survive a funeral

If you look, see a
box. Cry
for the melting snow.
For the flowers,
miscarriages of colour
returned to the earth like bulbs.

Bethan Ford-Williams

I am grateful for poetry, and the ability to write it, and the fact that I spent three years around people who were excellent at it and who loved it as much as I did and in some cases more. I am grateful for spending three years writing and reading and knowing that doing that was okay, maybe a bit self-indulgent at times (maybe a lot of the time) but that it was something worth doing.

I am thankful for the opportunities that those three years afforded me, and that I took a chance, when I was seventeen, and looked into university without ever really intending to go.

mum and dad

I feel so grateful to have the parents that I do, who are unfailingly supportive (even if my Dad tells me I drive incorrectly). I am thankful that they are the incredibly weird people they are because otherwise I would not be the incredibly weird person I am. (And that would be a shame for everyone involved.)

Even when they have absolutely no idea what I am talking about, or doing, or think I am being dramatic (I probably am), they support me, share in my laughter and laugh at me when the situation calls for it.

Selfies with the parentsI do not thank my parents enough for the relationship we have; the way we have never really had a fight; the way they take selfies with me even though it’s often ridiculous and very much in public; the way they let me dig at them for saying words that aren’t actually real words.

The cinema trips and drives with Dad, the shopping days and lazing around on the sofa with mum (and the dog). I am so lucky to have my parents, and I don’t tell them enough or talk about my feelings to them very often but I like to think I show them.

I am thankful for sunsets and clouds and stars and the sea. I am thankful for tiny, fluffy animals and animated gifs. I am thankful for chocolate (so thankful for chocolate). I am thankful for cobbled streets and houses with beams, but I am also thankful for towering buildings with walls made out of nothing but windows.

I am thankful for books and vanilla chai tea. I am thankful for friends and movies and ice cream.


I am thankful for my best friend, who I wax lyrically about on a semi-regular basis, I am thankful that I have someone in my life who understands me as she does and who lets me sit in the corner, doing my own thing and is content just to be in the same room. I am thankful that she walked up to me as I was stood on the steps of our college. I am thankful she didn’t run away when I continued the conversation I was having with myself in my head, with her out loud without providing any semblance of context. I am glad she just rolled with it.


“My sister is gonna make a mint, everyone can see her potential is f***ing phenomenal.”

Overheard from
the garden in 2011

I am thankful for my brother. He is one of the most irritating human beings on Earth but he is also my brother. I am grateful for the nice things he says about me when he thinks I can’t hear him and that he likes to throw wrapping paper at my head at Christmas, so much so that it is now tradition. And I am also grateful for hilariously out of tune sing-a-longs. I am grateful that I have a brother.


I am thankful for grandparents. Grandparents are precious, and if you have any still with you, pick up the phone and give them a call or go round and give them a hug. I am so lucky to have had my grandparents right up until my twenties, and I am so lucky to have had not two but three sets of them! (Long story short: we adopted some close family friends who lived in the house at the bottom of our garden, and they, too, adopted us.) I am lucky enough to still have my Nanna (on my mum’s side) and my adoptive grandad still with me. I am thankful for their existence, and their stories, and the stories I can take forward and tell my one-day children and grandchildren.

I am thankful for stories, and photography. I am thankful for mist and hills and beaches. I am thankful for the way that light shines through leaves. I am thankful for those of you still reading this ramble.

he and i

I am thankful for my other half, at whose desk I am sitting while finishing this post. I am thankful for his patience when I am stressed and his support when I am feeling needy. I am thankful for his willingness to stay in with me on a Saturday while we look after my Nanna and watch nothing but old musicals and every single Lassie film that exists.

I am grateful that he took the time to respond to my message on okcupid, and that we found a time to meet and both dived in head first. I am slightly jealous of how smitten my dog is with him (it’s not fair) and how my laptop seems to really want to please him and only turns on when he is around (it’s really not fair). I am thankful for taking chances.

I am thankful that we share so many obsessions and yet still find things to each have of our own. I feel grateful that he has an incredibly lovely family, and that my own family accept and approve of him whole-heartedly. I am thankful for the sheer amount of ridiculous selfies he has let me force him into.

I am grateful that I have my own little corner of the internet to write my thoughts and review my books and fill with whatever floats my considerably eclectic dinghy. I am thankful for the people who read it. What are you thankful for?

Review: The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

The GracekeepersA flooded world.
A floating circus.
Two women in search of a home.

North lives on a circus boat with her beloved bear, keeping a secret that could capsize her life.

Callanish lives alone in her house in the middle of the ocean, tending the graves of those who die at sea. As penance for a terrible mistake, she has become a gracekeeper.

A chance meeting between the two draws them magnetically to one another – and to the promise of a new life.

But the waters are treacherous, and the tide is against them.

A floating circus. There was no way I wasn’t going to read this book. Ahem…

In keeping with my current theme of prettily-written post-apocalyptic fiction, with more of a character drive than a plot drive, I present to you The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan.

The novel follows Callanish and North, a gracekeeper and circus performer respectively, as they try to find their place in a world which seems to be against them.

Unlike most of the dystopia/post-apocalypse type novels I’ve read, The Gracekeepers takes you to a world of water, where the end of the world was meted out by way of floods, and, unlike most of these novels, the narrative isn’t too pre-occupied by the world of Before. We have no idea whether the end came suddenly or gradually. There are some mentions of it but these are more in-passing than actual plot points. I quite like the lack of importance it places on the world of Before, the idea that the world changed but it is what it is. There’s no sub-plot of trying to restore it – which would be a challenge for any protagonist when the world of before is beneath more water than can be imagined. (Unless the world had a giant plug that no one had discovered yet…)

Speaking of protagonists, the novel has two primarily, Callanish and North (whose name I love), but it doesn’t just tell the story through their eyes. Interspersed between their chapters, we hear from other characters, each a brush stroke adding dimension to the rest of the story. It’s a short book but it covers a fair amount of characters. If I were to name my favourites, I would probably name most of the cast, so I won’t. While not all of the characters are likeable, they are each compelling in their own way.

I really like the idea of the gracekeepers, and graces, and how Damplings (those who live out at sea rather than on land) mourn their dead. The world-building in this novel isn’t the most in-depth but what’s there is both pretty and intriguing.

The one thing, I think, that lets this book down is the ending – something happens which is quite heartbreaking but it isn’t really dealt with in the way that you would expect having read the rest of the novel. It feels as if a few extra paragraphs might have done it a bit more justice. Despite this it is a lovely novel and I did end up thinking about it for a while after finishing – I would love to know what happened to some of the other characters.

It also has a gorgeous cover. Just look at it. Beautiful.

A pretty little read, both sad and hopeful – definitely worth it if you’re into floating circuses.

Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

23306186One snowy night in Toronto famous actor Arthur Leander dies on stage whilst performing the role of a lifetime. That same evening a deadly virus touches down in North America. The world will never be the same again.

Twenty years later Kirsten, an actress in the Travelling Symphony, performs Shakespeare in the settlements that have grown up since the collapse. But then her newly hopeful world is threatened.

If civilization was lost, what would you preserve? And how far would you go to protect it?

This book. This book is a very good book.

It takes place in both the present and in a future where a virus has wiped out most of the population. Unlike most dystopian fiction, Station Eleven deals not so much with the apocalypse but with art – how it connects us, those who perform it and what it can mean.

It’s not so much plot driven as it is concept driven. It’s a novel crossed with a study of art and life, and artists’ lives. Instead of trying to puzzle out the virus and its cause and each nook and cranny of what comes after, it brings our focus in on one man, Arthur Leander, and a girl he once knew, exploring the interconnectedness of their stories.

I love it. It’s a quick read, but a good one. The only thing that disappoints me is that my copy doesn’t have the comic spread created by Nathan Burton (who also designed the cover) inside!

Station Eleven Comic

All in all a great little book which stands out from the crowd. If you like introspection over action, I would definitely recommend.

Pondering in an Empty Office

Hello The Internet. How are you? I disappeared again. Sorry about that. I should rename this website, call it something like The Official Apologies of Elou Carroll RE: Her Absence from Blogging. But I won’t.

Really though, I meant to do some blogging last week but I was so thrilled to have time off work to do absolutely nothing that I did just that. Absolutely nothing. Aside from my draw-everyday-of-2016 project which is still going strong, though I may not have mentioned it here before now.

It was refreshing, doing nothing. My absence from my blog has most notably been caused by late nights at work, which are self-inflicted but necessary. It is from one of those late nights that I am making my return. I’m about to leave, really I am, but once I get home I will not be using a computer. There is my dilemma. There it has been for the last month or two. So tonight, as I am here and as I am done for the night, I decided to write a little post before I leave. It is one of the better impulsive things I have done while alone in the office after staying late most evenings (the most impulsive yet: cutting my hair – not the most traditional use of the office bathroom but it felt necessary).

Actually, ignore those brackets. I am going to talk about that bit. Non-bracketed. I cut my hair at half past seven one evening, in the ground floor bathroom of my office. I’ve cut my hair before, the act of cutting it is not that unusual, but my choice of make-shift salon was quite unexpected.

Picture this: March 23rd, the Wednesday before the Easter bank holiday, an Elou, alone in an office with a desk stacked high with books and papers (my desk is potentially the most cluttered of the whole company, I’m a creative, what can I say?). The constant thrum of electricity which is almost inaudible when the whole company is around but emerges from its hiding spots in the evening when everyone leaves, an InDesign document which refuses to cooperate and a small mound of print orders which need doing and typesetting which needs sending out before the aforementioned Elou leaves the office the next day, not to return for just over a week. The InDesign document has a life of its own and doesn’t want to be fixed. In its own mind it’s not broken in the first place (and it’s not, not really, it’s just acting a little strange but at half seven in the evening, a little strange often translates as broken). Biblio (“a fully integrated best of breed publishing system accessible online from any PC and Mac connected to the Internet”) is eking out print order PDFs as slowly as it possibly can, while time seems to have sped up to at least double its normal pace. The afore-aforementioned Elou notices the straggly ends of her hair, which has not been cut since … June? She needs to fix something, nothing appears to be going right and she needs to. To grasp a teeny, tiny pixel of control. So she does.

She sees the scissors on her desk, not quite sharp enough for what she needs to do but she knows there are hair cutting scissors at home to tidy everything up, and she hops, skips and jumps into the bathroom (no, really).

Cutting off four inches of her hair is liberating. It’s messy but she can fix that later. It feels a little bit like freedom. And suddenly, the other things don’t seem too much like problems anymore, nothing that can’t be dealt with the next day (which were dealt with the next day).

Writing about myself in the third person is also quite liberating. I realise now, when I’ve had a week and a bit to sit and think about it, that this might have been a little bout of madness. But sometimes madness is necessary. Sometimes, all you need is to chop off four inches of hair and the world will look a little better.


Taken from Snapchat, to Instagram, with silly selfie expressions which I am not even a little bit ashamed of. My hair was long before. So, so long.

(And so will your hair, so much so that your boss will mention it the next day, to be met with a colleague asking-but-not-really-asking-because-they-already-know-the-answer Where did you get it done, Emma? and your shifty response of here, and when asked to elaborate right here, in the bathroom. A pause, which is met with awkward shifting on your part, but is finished with amusement from your boss who has just about gotten used to the odd things that happen around you on a near-daily basis after working with you for two and a half years. Phew.)


Harry Potter re-readathon: The Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone  2For Christmas, along with (I presume) many thousands of other people, I received the beautiful complete box set of all of the Harry Potter books with lovely illustrated covers by Jonny Duddle. I can’t lie to you, at this point I want every single box set of Harry Potter books there is in existence because they are all glorious but that is another post entirely.

Since Christmas, on my daily commutes and when I have been walking past the often crowded lunch table at work, I have been seeing so many, many people reading Harry Potter. It is beautiful. Naturally, as I have now got all of the books with matching designs (if they don’t match, it’s very hard to concentrate), I’ve been reading them too!

There is something great about nostalgic re-reads, especially if you haven’t read a book since around the time it came out, like me. I think the last time I read The Philosopher’s Stone was the year that The Goblet of Fire was released. Almost sixteen years ago. When I was 9. Good lord. Since then I’ve watched the film countless times, it’s so easy to forget things that weren’t included in the film when you haven’t read the book since you were 9.

Like Professor Binns, who I forgot existed entirely, and the fact that Dumbledore is at one point seen sporting a bonnet. A bonnet. (This is an image I definitely plan to doodle.) And the entirety of what happens in the novel before Harry is dropped off outside the door of number 4 Privet Drive.

What I did remember, however, was my first experience with the world of Harry Potter, which I may have mentioned before. Read aloud by a wonderful primary school teacher with a wonderful name (Ms. Chodyniecki) who read each character using a different voice. Hagrid’s was my favourite. I am also pretty sure that the aforementioned teacher stuck a plastic Halloween witch’s finger to the end of a stick and used it to point at things on the board – excellent tactic.

I am now on book three of my re-read (blogs will appear for each book, hoorah!), I want to speed through them but I am forcing myself to take it slowly and give it the time it deserves – who knows what other memories it could unearth. Now, at a nearly ripe 25 years of age (just over a month until that milestone), I am enjoying the Harry Potter books more than ever and if any of you out there, in the great beyond of the internet, haven’t read them in a very long time, I would highly recommend you do so too!