Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer [book review]

I bought the whole Southern Reach trilogy as one single book, but I have only made it through the first one so far. Still, I didn't want to keep you waiting for my review as I am not sure if I will read the rest of it to be honest. But first, here's the blurb so we all now what the book is roughly about:

Area X has been cut off from the rest of the continent for decades. Nature has reclaimed the last vestiges of human civilization. The first expedition returned with reports of a pristine, Edenic landscape; all the members of the second expedition committed suicide; the third expedition died in a hail of gunfire as its members turned on one another; the members of the eleventh expedition returned as shadows of their former selves, and within months of their return, all had died of aggressive cancer. This is the twelfth expedition. Their group is made up of four women: an anthropologist; a surveyor; a psychologist, the de facto leader; and our narrator, a biologist. Their mission is to map the terrain and collect specimens; to record all their observations, scientific and otherwise, of their surroundings and of one another; and, above all, to avoid being contaminated by Area X itself. They arrive expecting the unexpected, and Area X delivers—they discover a massive topographic anomaly and life forms that surpass understanding—but it’s the surprises that came across the border with them, and the secrets the expedition members are keeping from one another, that change everything. 

Sounds exciting, doesn't it? That's what I thought, but sadly it isn't. At the beginning the reader get introduced into the rather strange expedition and I got excited and hooked by the unknown world the group are discovering. There are mysteries building up and I started to look forward what's it all about.


Songs of the Week [26]

This week is so different to the last one. Whilst it was very hard to pick the best of the many great songs last Monday, this week it's hard to find six songs I genuinely like.

There's a slightly strange remake of the Ghostbusters song by Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott, which is just confusing (and normaly I'm a fan of nearly everything FallOut Boy do...) and then there's acoustic or duet versions of songs we already heard a lot before, like James Bay's Craving and Troye Sivan's WILD - don't get me wrong, they're good songs, but not very exciting.

Nevertheless I have done my best to pick the best (quite) new music for you to listen to this week.

Bonfire by The Hunna is the first song on this week's list. The song has been released on Spotify last Friday and is leading up to the release of the indie rock band's debut album 100. It sounds quite exciting and I love the guitars on it.

The second song for today is by Scottish singer KT Tunstall, who's been releasing music for over ten years now. You might remember her song Suddenly I See (if not, click here) and her newest single is called All Or Nothing and it's nearly as catchy and definitely a really great song.

Mainland's Beggars -is a proper punk pop and 90's alternative mix. "Don't stop, don't give up" seems to be the main message of the song and therefore it's really motivating, not only lyrically, also the music is quite uplifting.

Don't Let Me Down by The Chainsmokers featuring Daya was a track of the day on BBC Radio 1 last week or the week before and I liked hearing it all day on the radio. It was already released in May, but I seem to have missed it. However, it's not too late to make it a Song of the Week, isn't it?

Rihanna has dived into the Science Fiction world and premiered her song for the Star Trek Beyond soundtrack: Sledgehammer. The song sounds epic and I hope that's a good sign for the film. The song was written by Sia and you can hear that instantly - at first I wasn't even sure if it is really Rihanna singing it.

Speaking of Sia, she has recorded a song for the soundtrack of The Neon Demon and it is called Waving Goodbye. She's teamed up with Diplo for this song andyou can hear his dance-hall influences. This combined with Sia's extraordinary voice and style makes a great electronic pop track.

Here you go, another six new tracks added to the Songs of 2016 list. I hope you enjoy them and if you do or if you don't, why not let me know? What was your favourite new song that came out last Friday? Just leave a comment below, I love hearing from you.

If you are in need of even more music, feel free to listen to the whole Songs of 2016 (Spotify // Apple Music) playlist or my Currently Listening list (Spotify // Apple Music).


A Week In England [Part II]

So here we go already, it's time for part two of my UK trip. If you haven't read part one, just click here and catch up. After reading that, you know that after a weekend on the road I arrived in my hotel in London, where I stayed for the next five days.

I don't want to bother you with my daily schedules again, so I will show you some photos of the highlights of my stay. It was quite hard to pick just a view, so I hope you like loads of pictures.

It was not my first visit to London, so I didn't do all of the touristy stuff you do when you're in London for the first time, but of course I stopped by the London Eye and Big Ben, I can't go to London without doing that and because the light was so beautiful that evening I even took pictures again.


It was so nice outside that I took a long walk that evening and also crossed The Mall, that was already decorated for the Queen's birthday parade.


Songs of the Week [25]

What a week when it comes to new music releases. So many good songs came out last Friday, that it was quite hard to decide which six to pick. There were some obvious choices, but the rest of it really wasn't easy to narrow down.

Also, I kind of wanted to put the new Bastille song on there six times, to make you listen to it on repeat as I am so excited about it. But luckily for you, I decided you should choose to do it yourself, if you want to. So here's this weeks list with six different songs.

Bastille have chosen the best way to come back with new music - a song that on the one hand sounds quite new and different to their previous singles and on the other hand has the typical depressing yet beautiful lyrics and musical elements. Good Grief merges exactly these confusing and depressing lyrics with a very catchy and also slightly happy sound which turns it into a fascinating first single. Their album Wild World will be released later this year and it is looking like it's going to be fantastic!

Another band who finally released new music after three years is Two Door Cinema Club. The indie rock band from Nothern Ireland has premiered their new single Are We Ready? (Wreck) last week and it sounds great. I would say the answer is yes. Yes, we're ready to hear the new album Gameshow in October.

Life Can't Get Much Better is the next new single after Life Changes from Good Charlotte. I'm starting to wonder if the next one will have the word life in its title as well or if the new album will be called Life. Sadly, it isn't. It will be called Youth Authority and will be available on 15th July. Nevertheless, the newest single is such a happy track, it puts you in a good mood instantly.

Thanks to the makers of The Legend Of Tarzan and the accompanying soundtrack we also get to hear new original music from Hozier. The new song he has written for the Disney film is called Better Love and I forgot how special his voice and style is - it's a joy to listen to.

Speaking of music from movie soundtracks, Twenty One Pilots have recorded a song for the film Suicide Squad. Heathens sounds mysterious and creepy but still fun - I hope that's what the film is like because that would be brilliant.

The last track for this week is a bit older, but the EP it is taken from is brand new - I'm talking about Johannesburg by Mumford & Sons and There Will Be Time is my favourite track from it, so I put it on this week's list. Nevertheless you should listen to all five songs on Johannesburg because it has an awesome sound combining the sound of the British folk rockers with the African elements from Senegalese vocalist Baaba Maal and Cape town band Beatenberg.

Here you go, another six new tracks added to the Songs of 2016 list. I hope you enjoy them and if you do or if you don't why not let me know? What was your favourite new song that came out last Friday? Just leave a comment below, I love hearing from you.


A Week In England [Part I]

I have mentioned it before, but now it's time to write about it properly - I am talking about my trip to England of course.

I came back last Friday and was there for a full week which was really nice. I had a great time and I thought it would be nice to share everything with you. And because it's a bit much to tell all in one post I've split it up and today's part is about

The Roadtrip

My good friend Maria and I went on a little roadtrip around South West England for three days. She has blog herself, so make sure to check it out here.
I didn't want to stay in London for my whole week in the UK, therefore I asked Maria, who is living in London, if she was up for a little bit of travelling with me over the weekend when she doesn't have to work and luckily she said yes. We planned on going to Portsmouth and Bath and we quickly learned, that going by car would be the cheapest and most convenient option (seriously, rental cars in the UK are really good value).
So we got ourselves a car from a car rental at Heathrow Airport (after a slightly complicated journey to get there) and then we hit the road.
I have to make a quick remark about the driving itself: I was our driver for the weekend, I had never driven in left-hand traffic before and I was really nervous about it. But I (like to) think I did alright. At first it was horrible and I felt like the worst driver ever, but after a while I got better and on the last day I was nearly as relaxed whilst driving as I am in Germany and the good old right-hand traffic. However, back to our journey.


Pretty houses in Portsmouth
We arrived in our hotel in Portsmouth Friday night and went out to stroll around the town and get some food, which wasn't easy as it was already half past nine and apparently nearly everything in the area we were closed at ten. So we got ourselves something to eat from a supermarket and sat on a bench at Southsea and it was really nice.
On Saturday it was time to explore the city by day, so we went to the town centre and past the Portsmouth Guildhall where we met the mayor. Well, not really, there was some kind of celebration and the mayor was present.
After watching on we went on to the Gunwharf Quays, that's a shopping outlet which looks pretty impressive especially with the Spinnaker Tower reaching out into the sky providing a great look over Portsmouth's harbour.
Speaking of the harbour - that's where we went next to have a look around and have a peak at the Historic Dockyard.

Portsmouth Harbour
We haven't seen everything of Portsmouth in our short time there, nevertheless it presented itself as a very fine town with lots of old ships - if you're into ships and the navy you should definitely go there.

Portsmouth Guildhall
Spinnaker Tower



On our way from Portsmouth to Bath (or should I say Calne, that's where our hotel was) we decided to make a little detour to Stonehenge because why not? You are most probably aware of the mysterious ancient stone circle and as there's so much fuzz about it, I just wanted to see it. Now I have. We didn't want to pay the 14£ entrance fee, but it is actually possible to get quite near to the stones without doing it. We walked the path to the ticket-only area and just walked a bit around it and you get a pretty decent view of the collumns from there as well. They're quite impressive standing there in the middle of nowhere surrounded by a beautiful landscape. And as the surroundings were so beautiful we spent over an hour walking around and enjoying the silence.

Afterwards we made our way to Calne and our hotel and then we drove to Bath to get a first impression as well as to get dinner. I ate my first ever Nando's and it was super tasty.


After we already spent the evening there we made our way back the next morning. There are free guided walking tours through the city (Sunday to Monday at 10:30 am and 2 pm), so we took part in one of them and it was very good. Our guide, Anthony, was really nice and had a lot of stories to tell during our two hour walk. I would recommend the tours to everyone visiting Bath (click here for more information on the tours). You really get a good impression of the city, its history and the beauty of it. Bath really is a pretty town!

Royal Crescent

Following the tour we went into the Roman Baths. It's 15£, but it's kind of worth it. The old baths are impressive and the included audio guide tour is really good as they're telling a lot of stories about the people in the Roman times and how everything was back then - it's very good storytelling. There's also a special tour for children which is really cute.
And then we already had to say goodbye to beautiful Bath because we had planned a few more stops on our way back to London.

Bath Abbey
Maria and Me
Me at the Baths
The Roman Baths



This cute little village was on our way from the hotel in Clane to Bath and because it is looking gorgeous when driving through it, we just had to stop and it was worth it. Besides the name being very funny, Box has a lot more to give such as lovely little houses and a beautiful landscape with (slightly confusing) public footpaths around it. We had a great walk (and got ourselves an impressive sunburn).



We had a spare hour on our way back and as Windsor is very near to the M4 and Heathrow we made our way there to get a quick look at the Queen's house and it is very impressive, especially at dusk. Also, Windsor looks like a very charming town with loads of restaurants and parks, I might have to com back for more.

Windsor Castle

And that's already it, we made our wa back to the car rental safe and sound (as did the car) and Maria went home and I made my way to my London hotel - to be continued...

Supplement: Read part two here.


Songs of the Week [24]

Happy Monday everyone. Did you have a nice weekend? As always I have prepared a six song long playlist for your start into a new week with new music. The Songs of the Week today are something for guitar lovers and (alternative) rockers.

The first song on the list is the new single by British indie rock band Bear's Den. The song is called Auld Wives and is a powerful and moving ballad from their upcoming second album Red Earth & Pouring Rain which will be out by the end of July. Bear's Den stand out due to their poetic lyrics and calm and beautiful sounds. If you like this song, you should listen to their first album Islands, it's really good.

Yes, The Stone Roses have released another new track! It has taken them over twenty years but at least they're coming back wih not only one but two great songs. After All For One, the new one called Beautiful Thing is a funky psychedelic rock song that embraces the great sound for seven minutes without getting blunt.

So Much Sky is by Australian rock band The Temper Trapand it has been taken from their third studio album Thick as Thieves, that was released last Friday. If you're up for happy soft rock, this is the one for you.

We Turn Red is the newest release of the very well-known Red Hot Chili Peppers and it's really groovy, I'm glad they're back.

Local Natives are an indie rock band from the United States and they have shared the first single from their upcoming new album Sunlit Youth. The new song is called Villainy and it's untypically guitar-less but still melodic and really good.

The last song on this week's list is Rabbit Hole by punk rockers blink-182 and with this one it's the lyrics - I can relate to them a lot and together with the typical blink-182 sound it's just a very enjoyable song.

So, do you like this week's songs? I would love to hear from you, just leave a comment below.

Also I would like to recommend you Tom Odell's new album Wrong Crowd, it's really good and was released last Friday featuring his great single Magnetised, which I have written about here.

And finally, if you are in need of even more music, feel free to listen to the whole Songs of 2016 (Spotify // Apple Music) playlist or my Currently Listening list (Spotify // Apple Music).


My 6 Favourite Classical Albums

I like all kinds of music as you might have already realised whilst listening to my weekly playlists. But there's one more music genre I like listening to from time to time: Classical music.

It's the music I go to, when I am studying, writing or reading mainly because I don't get distracted by the lyrics as there are none. But sometimes I go on a walk and listen to it and get lost in the music and that's wonderful as well.

It's not the type of music I use for my playlists and therefore I thought it would be nice to give you a bit of inspiration if you want something completely different to listen to. And what is better than a little list? Right, nothing. Hence, I decided to pick my six favourite classical albums from the ones I own and listen to quite often. There are a lot more brilliant composers out there, but I didn't want to bombard you with too much information.

There are four albums that mainly contain piano music. I love the piano and playing it. I had lessons for about 8 years but sadly I am not really good at it - I wish I was. But what I am good at is listening to other people play the piano and I like it a lot. The other two are brilliant pieces by some of the greatest composers of all time.


Songs of the Week [23]

Hello everyone - how is it Monday again?

But don't worry, this also means a lot of new music came your way last Friday and I have picked the best new tracks for today's post.

I am currently traveling around the UK and today is my first day in London. I'm having a lot of fun and have seen some great places already, Portsmouth and Bath to be precise, and I think I will write a special blog post about my trip, if you're interested, so let me know.

And even though I am abroad, I made you a little playlist. I just couldn't write about all the songs because Blogger doesn't want to let me edit my blog properly on my iPad, it takes ages and I haven't got my laptop with me. I really need to find a solution to this problem for my next trip...

I hope you enjoy this week's music which is a wild mix of genres - pop, alternative, dance....

Make sure to listen to the end since the last one is my favourite. After his huge hit Faded from last year, Norwegian producer Alan Walker has released a new single called Sing Me To Sleep. It is again featuring the voice of Iselin Solheim and is another melodic and catchy song. I hope it will do as well as his predecessor.

Do you like this week's songs? And if not, what's you're favourite new single? I would love to hear from you, just leave a comment below.

If you are in need of even more music, feel free to listen to the whole Songs of 2016 (Spotify // Apple Music) playlist or my Currently Listening list (Spotify // Apple Music).

Lots of love from London
Julia x


The Jungle Book [film review]

Now I can finally review this film for you: The Jungle Book.

I wasn't too sure if I wanted to see it or not but afer I heard some people saying that it's really great and as it was the only presumably good film in the cinema that night I went to see it.

I am normally not a huge fan of remakes because most of the time the original is so much better. But this might not be the case for Disney's recent phase of turning all their animated movies into live-action films. I am really looking forward to The Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson next year (watch the teaser trailer here) and The Jungle Book was the trial for me to see whether I like these new versions or not - and I did.

I was utterly mesmerized by how realistic everthing looked, even though the animals are still animated and that poor little child has to imagine so many things and try not to laugh when seeing all these people in blue body suits. And when I say child I mean Neel Sethi, the 12-year-old who plays Mowgli. He is amazing as is the rest of the cast in the English original: Bill Murray, Ben Kingsley, Idris Elba, Lupitao Nyong'o, Scarlett Johannsson and Christopher Walken - what a line-up.