CW: This review alludes to some of the topics covered in A Little Life. You can find a list of the content/trigger warnings listed here.
Spoilers: While I don’t actively talk of spoilers, I can’t promise that I won’t or that you might interpret this as such. If you want to give this a read yourself, perhaps lightly skim or come back when you’ve given it a read and we can compare notes! 

“What he knew, he knew from books, and books lied, they made things prettier” 

This wasn’t a book I delved into lightly, like dipping your toe into unknown waters knowing it will result in hurt but proceeding anyway with caution. You can’t escape the list of warnings shown alongside reviews of A Little Life, so there was already the idea that my innocence would be taken from me. I’m 23 and what innocence I have left, I want to hold onto tightly; I want life to remain a Disneyland where Mickey is real, and anyone can be a princess. But, the promise of truly magical writing and a plot that was so heartbreaking and raw, so beautiful and laced with the story of true friendship and found family, I couldn’t put it off any longer. 

“Wasn’t friendship its own miracle, the finding of another person who made the entire lonely world seem somehow less lonely?”

A Little Life was really a testament to the power of friendship - how it’s not what is given to you but how you shape each and every friendship, a dance between two to find the rhythm and your place together. Yanagihara does not shy away from the complexities of the relationships between the group of friends we follow throughout their life - from meeting in college in New York to navigating love and loss, new jobs and opportunities, as well as the past they had before knowing each other and what they face in the present together. Willem, JB, Malcolm, and Jude all have unique stories to tell, from different backgrounds and levels of privilege, but what A Little Life shows is how friendship is not defined by this. A friendship starts on the day you meet and develops into a bond that can become stronger than those of family. 

While we catch glimpses of each of our characters' lives, it is Jude’s past that is explored through the novel. As the friends discover more about his past, so do we as a reader. The turmoil he went through, the levels of abuse and hardship he faced leading up to the day he met his friends. It would be difficult not to root for Jude as he finds his place in what he feels is a lonely world, and realising that he doesn’t have to be alone. He has a group of friends, all with their own story, unique characteristics, their own flaws, who are rooting for him as much as the reader.  

Friendships may feel selfish, and you may question “what do I even bring to this?” but it’s likely they’re thinking the same thing. Jude feels like he’s a burden, a drain on his friends but, what they and we witness is how much of a pure, brilliant friend Jude really is. This is something many of us will have felt before - worried we met up with friends and go away thinking we didn’t ask them enough questions, scared we just spoke at them instead of with them. But the point of friendship is it’s a balance, and it’s up to you and your friend to define that relationship and experience the wonders of friendship together.

“We are so old, we have become young again.”

From the handful of reviews and comments I’ve read, many referenced how this book doesn’t have time markers but, over the course of the 30-plus years, we are able to follow the timeline. We are always taken to the present, and then offered flashbacks for the time we’ve missed and sometimes further back to their childhoods. 

But, one thing I haven’t really seen mentioned is a difficulty to picture them changing with age. We’re introduced to them when Jude is around 18 and the others a year or two older. While the years unfold across the pages, I personally found it difficult to shake the naive, innocent nature of the new friendship. I couldn’t help but visualise the characters as younger, more innocent with more life to give. This is something that I believe added to the personal heartbreak I felt throughout. 

We’re also introduced to characters such as Harold, an older gentleman and Jude’s Law professor, to whom he forms a special, parental connection. I found some of the scenes with Harold the most heartbreaking. While he’s older you can see the life he has, the energy he radiates and the hope he is always filled with, but with age comes the inevitability of an end and that’s something that made me sympathise more with Harold.

Where the book ends, the characters have obviously aged, and it’s something that is referenced throughout, but with the characteristics that Yanaghira emphasizes, it’s hard to shake that young, innocent friendship we’re first introduced to. 

“But what was happiness but an extravagance, an impossible state to maintain, partly because it was so difficult to articulate?”

A Little Life is some of the, if not the, most gut-wrenching prose I have ever read, with excerpts and imagery that made me physically wince as I read. At points, my eyes bulged, and my jaw dropped; my eyes glistened, brows furrowed. She writes with such brutal honesty to build a picture that makes it hard not to visualise these difficult scenes. But it’s not just the dark, twisted prose where she shines. 

Yanagihara not only perfects the way she writes about sadness, but she balances this with poetic and uplifting prose of the highs of Jude and his friends’ life. I found myself more emotional at these points of the story - how the characters were depicted happy and content - that I found myself with tears in my eyes and a pleading look on my face, overwhelmed with emotion because happiness is what these characters deserve.  It’s a story of extremes, but that’s what makes it all so real. It doesn’t waste time on niceties, it’s openly honest, raw, and real.

“What he knew, he knew from books, and books lied, they made things prettier” 

This book has been labelled by many as “Torture Porn” - a strong phrase that I think undersells the true point of A Little Life. To me, the point is that for some, the lives depicted in A Little Life are closer to reality than you may like to admit. 

The enjoyment of the story doesn’t come from the difficult scenes. It’s what comes after. In the discussions you have with your friends who’ve also read the book. It’s catching yourself remembering quotes months after, and feeling the same strong feelings you felt when you first read the words. It’s gaining a deeper understanding of why each character is placed at specific times in the storyline, how every part of the 720-pages build up to an ending that will haunt you in a way that makes your heart ache longer than you’d expect.

Books are there to entertain, to escape from the realness of your own life and step into another. To develop unattainable expectations of life - how you’ll meet someone, how you’ll progress in your own life. While there is a fairy-tale-like element in how the characters grow up and enter the working world into their dream jobs, this is contrasted to the naked truth of how life really is. That everyone has a little life to experience and share, and not all of these are fairy tales. 

I went into A Little Life worried to lose that last drop of innocence I had from my late teens, but it wasn’t until I finished the final page at 11:48pm on a Thursday evening, wiped my cheeks and let out one hell of a sigh that I realised, actually, the innocence I had left a long time ago. My imagination came up with a wilder plot that it’s probably worrying to think about. While the events were still extremely shocking, it was truly the way this book was written that made it all the more heartbreaking. 

While my words hold no literary power (nor do they need to), 6 years after its original release, A Little Life has earned the title of a modern-day classic and I feel privileged to have had the mental capacity to appreciate the genius it has to offer.

While I won’t be rushing to break my heart as much with the next book I read or looking to re-read this anytime soon, I know A Little Life will continue to haunt my thoughts in a way that I welcome.

Thanks for reading, 
Sarah x

*This post contains affiliate links*
It can be surprising as to the books that I can't put down, in the fact that it tends to be genres outside my usual reading repertoire that just get me. Get me in the way that I can't take my eyes off the page, locked in on every word until I shut the book at the end and let out one big sigh of "Woah". Quick reads have always been my thing but there have been surprises along the way, of books that would usually intimidate me but they manage to keep me so engrossed page after page as I devour the whole story. Here are just a few of the books I've read that I just couldn't put down and I think you will love too. 

The Secret History of Donna Tartt

The Secret History is the definition of Dark Academia. Set in an elite New England college, we follow a group of eccentric misfits studying classics. As they try to challenge the boundaries of the norm, there starts a spiral of lies, betrayal and corruption that they have to navigate together. 

Who knew I could like a slow burner? Definitely not me until I gave this book a read! What's difficult to pinpoint is why I enjoyed this book so much. Maybe it was the dynamic friendships and the unequivocal differences between my university experience and the fictitious one here. Maybe it was the mysterious undertones and, at times, insane plot. This book made me hate, adore and pity each of the characters at different points which isn't an easy feat. but it was written so well that it kept me hooked for all 500+ pages. 

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern 

This has to be one of my favourite books I read last year. I was definitely late to the party but, better late than never, right? I was fully consumed by this book, its unique plot, characters and setting. Like the Secret History, it managed to keep me hooked and eager to find out more. 

Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for a door he doesn't know he's looking for. After picking up a random, unknown book in his college library which strangely tells him a story from his own childhood, it sets him on a path that he could never have thought possible. Fabulism isn't a genre I have purposefully dipped my toes into before but I guess this was a starting point. Written so beautifully, it captured my attention and kept me there. 

The Muse by Jessie Burton

If you haven't sensed a theme yet, you might with this one as it was another genre I hadn't given a go before and it was so unexpectedly brilliant that I just couldn't put it down. This historical fiction novel was another that just got me with the twists, the emotion and the way two stories intertwined over time. 

We have the story of Odelle, a newly appointed typist for Marjorie Quick at Skelton Gallery. The other is the story of Olivia Schloss, the daughter of a famous art dealer, and her relationship with Isaac Robles and Teresa who become part of the Schloss family. When a mysterious painting arrives for Quick in 1967, it's the story of Olivia that starts to piece together the secret history of the painting. 

I loved Jessie Burton's writing and I'm keen to read more in the future! 

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

If BookTok is your thing, you'll probably have seen this fantastic book by Madeline Miller. Released in 2011, this book has made a comeback with a second wave of love and I'm definitely there! Greek mythology has always been something that has daunted me - I felt there was so much to learn before you even attempt reading a book centred around this, but I could not have been more mistaken. What I needed was just a great place to start, and this was definitely the gateway read to open my eyes to the genre. 

Song of Achilles is a retelling of Homer's Iliad told from the perspective of Pretroculous. After he is exiled to the court of King Peleus, it is here fate brings him and Achilles, son of Sea goddess Thetis, together. From their first meeting to the events leading up to the Trojan War, we see their relationship blossom. This book is so beautifully written and utterly heartbreaking, I found it difficult to put it down. I would recommend this to anyone else looking to read more Greek mythology to pick this up. It's encouraged me to read more books like this in the future. 

What page turners do you have on your bookshelves? I'd love to hear your recommendations! 

Thanks for reading, 
Sarah x

*This post contains affiliate links and previously gifted PR items. There was no obligation to share these and all opinions remain my own* 

It's been a while since I've shared some favourites, and you could also say it's been a while since I've posted in general. Life has just been a little hectic, so I thought it was best to just take a pause for a short time before jumping back into sharing things on my blog. To ease us back in, I thought let's take it back to a classic favourites post to show you a glimpse of the things I've been loving lately! 

About November Twist Hoop Earrings

I'm the type of person who wears the same pair of earrings until they get worn, icky or just not my style anymore, and it had come to that time again with my last pair. I fancied something a little larger than my last daily pair and this pair of twisted hoops from the small business About November was perfect. There hasn't been a day I haven't worn them since picking them up last month. Such a versatile set that goes with everything, day or night; they are super comfortable, and you can tell they're fab quality. I have been tempted to pick up some more pieces from About November, so we shall see! Unfortunately, these hoops are currently out of stock but you can check their other great designs over on Etsy.  

Glossier Balm Dotcom

Do you remember the big Glossier 40% discount leak of March 2021? I joined the masses making the most of this! But, in a state of panic, I only picked up my usual boy brow and I thought I would try out the lip balm which I very glad I picked up! I went for the cherry lip balm for the added red tint and nostalgic cherry scent. It's the ideal bag essential for the warmer days. A lot of the time I find myself reaching for this over heavier lip glosses or lipsticks. Such a lovely texture that isn't sticky in the slightest, and it's definitely going to last me a while! 

For more beauty faves, check out my Spring/Summer essentials

Proper Chips crisps

Now, this is a little random but you know when you just find the snack? Well, this is it! They are crisps made out of lentils so are supposed to be on the healthier side but really they just taste fantastic! The sour cream and chive are my favourite and great for picnics in the park or a snack as I work. I highly recommend giving these a taste! 

Habitat Connor mugs

If you follow me on Instagram, you're probably already acquainted with these mugs as I've proceeded to include them in all my latest posts, but they are just perfect! They were a bit bigger than I expected but I'm not complaining - a bigger mug is always best for morning coffees or tea breaks working from home. They were a pretty reasonable price for a set of 4 and of great quality. I've also managed to avoid smashing one so far - wooo! 

My gratitude journal*

I was previously sent this item from Mäl and have since not stopped talking about it! I'm mentioning it here really to share that I've been loving filling out the daily gratitude section. It seemed a little silly at first, but it's something I now enjoy spending a few minutes before I start work having a think and filling it out. If this sounds like your thing, check out my ways you can practice gratitude yourself

What have you been loving lately? Would love to get your recommendations! 
Thanks for reading, 
Sarah x 

In the days of working from home, it can be difficult being able to switch off in the evening; take the time to slow down, unwind and enjoy the end of the day. Even with a busier schedule, it's easy to fall into the same routines that don't allow you the time to really relax at the end of the day or even at the weekend. Everyone has their own ways of unwinding at the end of the day or at the weekend, here are just a few things I do to help me unwind. 

Tidy the day away

Where you can, tidy away anything work-related. I tidy up my workspace of any mugs, rubbish from the days and make sure it's reset for the day tomorrow. I try my best to treat it as though this is my business, and I'm closing down the day - giving the kitchen a quick clean, putting my clothes away etc. Nothing too time-consuming but just 5-10 minutes to get everything in order, so it isn't weighing on my mind.

Cosy vibes activated

Candles lit, diffuser diffusing, electric blanket warming up, chilled playlist on, hot chocolate in hand. Just of the ways to up your cosy vibes. For me, a lot of it comes down to setting the mood and giving myself that relaxing environment. 

Avoid the zombie scroll

There was a period of time when the main thing I did in the evening was just scrolling through social media, but now I try to find other things to do instead, putting my phone to the side and enjoying the free time. 

Do something for yourself!

Do something you enjoy doing; it doesn't have to be a big task but could be reading a cosy book, watching a new film, having a long bath, picking up your latest craft project. This is the time for you to make sure you take for yourself. Not sure what kind of thing you enjoy doing in the evening? Here are 5 hobbies I love! I wouldn't underestimate the power this can have on how you feel going to bed and how you feel waking up the next day! 

What's your favourite thing to do at the end of a busy day? 
Thanks for reading, 
Sarah x

It's easy to get caught up in the trivial, everyday aspects of life, living on autopilot and not taking the time to step back, assess, adjust and celebrate what's around you. It's something I've been thinking a lot more about over the last few months, and I'm trying to live a more intentional life - here's how. 

But first, what is intentional living? 

To me, there's no true definition, and it's very subjective as to how you live an intentional life. What I feel is that it's living with a clear purpose and focus; being self-aware and making adjustments in your life to make it even better! This can be from changing a small aspect of your every day to planning a vision for your future - it really is what you choose to make it. 

5 ways I live an intentional life every day

Celebrating the small things

Don't live life passively but discover the joy in the mundane, enjoy the everyday moments and be happy for what you accomplished each day. Did you have a fab breakfast that morning? Did you have a nice walk outside? Did you meet up with a friend? Celebrate the joy these small interactions give you! 

Treating every day with care

By this, I don't mean planning every day down to the hour but, again, finding those small pockets of positivity, embracing the daily tasks and making the most out of this time. From taking the time to make your coffee just the way you like it to making sure you're looking up and at your surroundings on your walk. Paying attention to these small moments will bring you more joy than you realise! 

Practising gratitude

This has become part of my daily routine. It takes some getting used to, but it's been a really nice exercise to do in the mornings - I use my planner from Mal Paper* which includes a section in their daily spread to share 3 things you're grateful for. It's a nice thing to do first thing in the morning to help me reflect and be thankful. This is just one way to practice gratitude, read about more ways you can practice gratitude

Romanticise the heck out of your own life

Give off that main character energy - live that morning routine montage from the Disney films, take joy in the small details of your workday from how you reply to your emails to the stationery you use. The characters you envy in your favourite rom-com, coming of age films, that can be you! 

Finding ways to focus

It can be difficult when we are surrounded by constant distractions; zombie scrolling social media, getting distracted and overwhelmed by the news you see when you switch on the TV. Even if it's for a few hours, find ways to eliminate these distractions: turning off the TV, putting your phone on do not disturb. You'll be surprised how much time you'll now have to focus on the things you enjoy, even time to pick up a new hobby and work towards your goals. This will really help you live more intentionally and make the most out of the day-to-day. 

What do you think about intentional living? 

Thanks for reading, 

*Mentions previously gifted products but all opinions remain my own!*