Hollie’s Favourite TV Shows 2017

Gosh, TV is great isn’t it?

Every year I compile a list of my favourite shows of the year. They could be new, they could be old, but what groups them all together is that I found them this year and I love them and I want to share them with you. If you want to see last year’s list, click right here.

Merli (2015 – )

Merli has been on my radar for some time but, since my entire being was consumed with SKAM at the time, I thought it best until the show was over and I could invest my time in a new foreign language show, this time, Catalan.

Merli is about a philosophy teacher who, in a similar vein as Dead Poets Society, has a class of students whom he inspires and teaches the ways of the world. Of course, Merli is not perfect and we follow his daily dramas along with his son, Bruno, a member of the class and his classmates at a college in Barcelona. While there are definitely serious topics in the show, it’s far better to watch for the harmless drama and romantic entanglements of the classmates, rather than looking for serious messages.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a trailer for Merli in English, so instead, here’s a wholesome photo of the cast together.

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SKAM (2015 – 2017)

Of course, would it be a Hollieblog post without mentioning my favourite show of all time? But alas, this year SKAM broadcasted it’s final season with Sana, a young Muslim student at Hartvig Nissen who struggles balancing her faith with a typical Norwegian teenage lifestyle. It’s got romance, friendship, drama, and important topics that you rarely see in television at the moment. But SKAM has revolutionized that, depicting characters of different faith, sexuality, and with mental illnesses. It is truly one of the best television shows out there, and I implore all of you to give it ago. (Plus, the Norwegian language is gorgeous!)

The Good Place (2017 – )

This was a show I had no intention of getting into. It looked too American; cheesy and full of weird dialogue and bright colours. But of course, this was a bit of a stereotype. I started watching when my parents started, and then carried on watching the whole of season one by myself. It’s hilarious, and very self aware. I love all of the characters (which doesn’t usually happen for me) and it perks me right up whenever I’m feeling down. Yes, the trailer is also super cringey but I promise, just give it a go!

Stranger Things (2016 – )

Guys, I did it. I caved. When it comes to shows, while I accept recommendations (and certainly give them out like they’re candy and I’m Willy Wonka), I’m not great at actually giving in and watching the shows I’m recommended. Especially when I’m constantly told they’re amazing. It’s why I haven’t watched Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad…I haven’t even watched The Great British Bake Off because people won’t shut up about it. But something was a little different about Stranger Things. It seemed the whole world was watching it, and I thought maybe I would like it. A rag tag group of kids trying to defeat the monster that’s invaded their town? Set in the 80s? It sounded perfect.

So I would constantly ask people; is it scary? Are there jump scares? I loathe jump scares, and more often than not they’ve given me panic attacks. But the only thing I could do was watch it myself. And thank goodness I did. Turns out, it is scary, but the jump scares were so obvious from a mile off that I could watch them without hiding behind the sofa. I have to admit, season one is better than season two, and I do have a bone to pick with The Duffer Brothers (the creators and writers), but overall, it’s an incredible show with some fantastic acting in it.

 

Please Like Me (2013-2016)

This is a terrible thing to say, but I almost forgot about Please Like Me. I can’t for the life of me remember if I watched it late 2016 or early 2017, and yet I didn’t put it in my 2016 favourite shows which I definitely would have otherwise. Did I watch it so early in 2017 that it feels like a year ago? Who knows. But it’s here now, and you should all give it a watch.

Set in Melbourne, Australia, Please Like Me explores serious and often sad themes through humour and a realistic plot. Josh is a twenty-something gay man, living with his best friend and figuring out what he wants to do with his life. His father is recently re-married, and his mother’s mental health is spiralling. While sometimes fairly dark and miserable, I found Please Like Me both realistic and hilarious at the same time. The awkwardness of some scenes reminded me of British shows like The Office, while still remaining a dramedy rather than a sitcom. The opening theme is also super infectious.

All of the trailers that I could find for this show have weird voice-overs and call suicide an ‘awkward moment’. But don’t punish the show for the trailers it clearly had no involvement in – the show is good. The trailers are bad.

Let me know what you’ve been watching, and let’s see if I actually watch it!

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Queerbaiting: It’s Time To Stop

I’ve never started a blog post angry.

And maybe, some would say that I should come back to it later, collect my thoughts so that I can write this piece with…I don’t know, a more level head, instead of a hot one?

Well, no, I’m not going to do that, because I’m tired™. I’m so tired of the entertainment industry and the lengths it goes to hurt others and in doing so, form the very dangerous opinions of others.

Continue reading “Queerbaiting: It’s Time To Stop”

Hollie’s Favourite Shows 2016

I’m not much of a television watcher. With a withering attention span and a lack of liking things at the moment, I find it very hard to concentrate on something that is 40 minutes long. But sometimes there are shows that just pull you in and sink their teeth in, and this year, despite being awful, is no exception:

 

THE GET DOWN (Netflix, 2016-)

So this one was a no brainer. Baz Luhrmann is my favourite director, so anything written/produced/directed by him, I’m gunna watch. I was a little apprehensive to watch The Get Down, just because I wasn’t sure how Luhrmann, a director who lives for the epic, would be able to boil that down into episodes. But boy, he done good.

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The Get Down follows Ezekiel, a teenager from the Bronx during the 1970’s, where DJ’s were kings of their quarters and insurance companies were burning down buildings for profit. Ezekiel, along with his friends, join the rise of Hip Hop and try to find their place in a society that devalues their communities and would rather leave it to the flames.

First of all, The Get Down has fantastic rep. I think maybe there are one or two white people? And they’re side characters anyway. It is about the people and their music and their part of NYC that was known for it’s crime and it’s fires. Pretty much all of the cast aren’t well-known, and they do an amazing job of making themselves known.

And the music and the way it’s fucking filmed. In true Luhrmann fashion, The Get Down is musical, colourful, hilarious, sometimes outlandish, and beautifully filmed. It is a true gem that not enough people are watching.

BLACK MIRROR (Netflix, 2016)

I wrote a whole review on this season of Black Mirror, but I’ll talk about it here too.

I’ve always been a fan of Black Mirror ever since it began. I rarely watch British television nowadays, and despite this season not being on Channel 4 anymore, I still consider it British. Black Mirror is similar to The Twilight Zone and Tales of the Unexpected, whereby each episode is a different setting, cast, and plot. It is speculative, and is usually a modern setting painted with the technologies of tomorrow, usually a lot more sinister than we may think.

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I’m a wimp, and so everything scares me. I hate being scared, but Black Mirror is the type that stays with you so long as you question the morality of humanity. I cannot stress enough to not watch it on your own, especially since it makes for great discussion afterwards. I go into detail on each episode in the review, and you don’t have to watch them in any order. That includes the previous seasons as well.

 

YURI ON ICE (Crunchyroll, 2016-)

To be honest, I didn’t think I’d be talking about anime. I rarely watch it, and only stumbled upon Yuri on Ice because of Twitter. I watched one episode and was HOOKED.

This groundbreaking sports anime is about Yuri Katsuki, a failed figure skater and his progression back to being the best skater in the world, with thanks to his newly appointed coach, skating superstar Victor Nikiforov.

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Not only is this anime so unlike others I’ve watched, it’s taken the idea of rampant queerbaiting that anime seems to enjoy, and blown it out of the water. There is a canon same sex relationship in this show, and while there are censors that forbid it to be outright, the writers and creators of this show have all stated they’ve tried to get as much passed the censors as possible to portray this happy gay couple.

It’s hilarious, beautiful, and the skating is very accurate. The plot is fantastic and detailed, and you will laugh at other anime that has to resort to queerbaiting to get views.

SKAM (NRK3, 2015 – )

And now, saving the best til’ last, is SKAM (Shame), a Norwegian drama that follows a bunch of high school students in Oslo. Each season follows a different teen as they tackle topics such as misogyny, bullying, homophobia, mental health, rape culture, and everything else that gets shat on teenagers.

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This show is one of the most realistic shows I’ve ever come across. And, while I’m not a teenager or Norwegian, I find the characters and the content very relatable. Julie Andem, the show’s creator, spent a year travelling around Norway and interviewed thousands of teenagers to help form the realistic portrayal of her characters. All the actors (at the time of filming) are teenagers, and continually help the writers if they think something their character would say is unrealistic or unlike teenagers.

Not only that, but the show is heavily interactive, and has a blog that continually updates in real time when something happens in the show. Whether it be a clip, an instagram, or a text conversation, you never know when it’s going to update. It means you get to follow the main characters life like reality television. It’s beautiful and horrific at the same time.

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SKAM has recently gotten popular internationally due to Tumblr, and the show has become the most watched show in Norway. Season three is just coming to an end, following the life of second year Isak Valtersen, who is coming to terms with his sexuality and falling in love with third year, Even Bech Næshiem. I think a lot of people have watched and will only watch season three, and I made a post a while ago as to possible problematic reasons as to why it’s Isak’s season specifically that has gotten so popular. I think the majority, however, are just celebrating realistic and beautiful LGBT representation. But honestly, watching seasons one and two are an experience in themselves, and focus on Eva (S1) and Noora (S2), two girls a part of a group that you don’t really see in season three, so it’s worth the watch.

This show, from the actors to the soundtrack to the editing to the interactivity is just phenomenal. Please, go watch it. (We’re hoping Netflix will buy it and slap on English subtitles).

What shows have you been loving this year? I know at least one of you will mention Gilmore Girls.

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Fetishisation & LGBT Representation

So a television show has taken over my life. It’s not the first time it’s happened.

I recently started watching a Norwegian show called SKAM, which feels like a tamer version of Skins where I actually like all the characters and the plot lines aren’t juvenile. Skam is currently in it’s third season, and each season focuses on a specific character who all attend this one high school in Oslo. It’s a small time show, and has not garnered much attention until season three; where the main character is teenage boy, Isak, who is coming to terms with the possibility that he might not be straight and falls in love with another boy.

This sudden surge has got a lot of people questioning just why it is suddenly popular, but I think it would be stupid to not assume it’s because this show has two cute boys kissing in it. And the original fans of SKAM have noticed this too.

This does not apply to SKAM alone; shows, films, and books have all gained attention if there is a couple you can ship, and while seeing queer canon couples in media is hard evidence of progress, it can also pose many problems.

I’ve written many blog posts about books with LGBT representation, about why personally seek out LGBT fiction and also explain why all the stories I write include LGBT people in them. It is a subject close to my heart, and being queer myself, I think it’s very important to represent the diversity of sexuality in many ways, but especially on the subject of puberty and your teenage years.

It is why when I saw a gif of two male characters kissing, I sought out SKAM.

But there is a fine line between being desperate for LGBT representation that you’ll consume anything with it in, and fetishising queer relationships. It’s difficult, because fetishisation can very easily come across as support; having a whole army of viewers/readers/consumers enjoying a story that is predominantly about a queer couple/character and being full on vocal about it speaks volumes to writers, showrunners, producers, studios, and publishers. It is telling these gatekeepers that ‘this is the content we want to see, we want LGBT people in the stories we share, so please include them.’

However, at the same time, you have these same fans not enjoying content when there are no sexual scenes. At the moment in the SKAM story line (from when I drafted this post), Even, Isak’s love interest, has not been around for a few days (and is not replying to Isak’s texts). SKAM releases clips of the upcoming episode every day to create suspense, and it sometimes feels like I’m watching reality television. It leaves the viewer begging for more content where they will see Isak happy (he’s very stressed and sad at the moment) by us all chanting to bring Even back. But at the same time, are we wanting Even back so that Isak and Even can make out? If that’s the case, what is the point in the heart-wrenching story of Isak coming to terms with his sexuality? Of homophobia in his high school? Of his family situation?

These are not examples of being an LGBT ally, nor is it being supportive of LGBT relationships in fiction. This is fetishisation; when you do not want a story, when you could not care less about the struggles and the discrimination that LGBT people deal with on the daily, you just want to see two hot guys kiss. And it’s the same reason we look down on lesbian porn that is purely for the male gaze (and not actually for queer women).

I feel like this kind of viewership/readership is what creates queerbaiting. Queerbaiting is a downright stupid thing that is a result of consumers wanting to see ‘cute LGBT relationships’, and writers/producers/studios finding a way to gain that viewership without pissing off conservatives and the average viewer. Shippers will be able to identify subtle hints, while the rest of the nation can peacefully watch their shows without having to be confronted with ‘the gays’.

Examples of this include shows like Teen Wolf, that continually pointed out the possibility of Stiles being bisexual, including amping up shipping opportunities with another character, Derek Hale. However, if you completely disregard that idea, you can easily ignore it, as it is clearly not the case. And, as producers and writers have said in interviews, Stiles is straight. Yet they still include queerbaiting within their show to make sure they do not lose that viewership.

SKAM, like many shows, novels, and films (although less so), are front runners in the demand for more representation. They are unabashedly diverse, representative, and supportive of the LGBT community and their stories. I think if you love to ship (as we all do), I hope you are able to take a step back and consider why you are doing so. Of course, you want to see them together because you love them together, but it’s important to not boil down queer story lines to just their sex scenes. It is bad for representation as a whole and does no good in the long run.

And don’t get me started on real life shipping.

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TV REVIEWS: Black Mirror S3

So a while back when I was just starting out as a booklr, I had two tumblrs; a book themed blog and a television/film review blog. I used to review every single piece of media I watched and quite frankly, it was exhausting. I ditched the blog, and now I’m here, barely watching any shows/films because I’m so wrapped in books and have the attention span of a fish.

Seriously, sometimes I struggle with ten minute Youtube videos.

I’ve always been a fan of Black Mirror, from the moment Rory Kinnear had to have sex with a pig on national television. Not only does it hit close to home (the show’s premise, not the pig sex), it is also hilarious and beautiful at the same time.

Here are mini reviews of each episode of Black Mirror, season 3.

Nosedive

Nosedive is set in a very pink and white world where your social status can get you into the express lane for everything. You’re popular, richer, and have a better standard of living, all thanks to your online rating. Bryce Dallas Howard plays Lacie, an average rating office worker with a need to climb the social ladder, who begins to use her rich and popular old childhood friend to get there.

I found this episode a nice ease into the horrors of Black Mirror. While it seemed relatable in many aspects (Lacie takes a picture of her coffee to get likes and ratings…don’t know where Charlie Brooker got that idea from *cough*), it overall felt like a setting you can easily distance yourself from and enjoy watching without feeling like an empty paranoid shell.

Playtest

Playtest is set in the present, where horror games are being developed into virtual reality experiences, using the horrors and fears in your own life to make it feel more real. While the games are only in beta, we see Cooper take advantage of an ‘odd jobs’ ad to test out the new game.

This episode was super trippy, where the question ‘is this actually happening?’ comes into play at every single turn. As someone who nopes at horror games and horror in general, I sympathized with Cooper in everything that he experiences, but I struggled to immerse myself into the episode because I was preparing for jump scares and loud noises.

Shut Up and Dance

I beg of you, right now, to not watch this one alone at night.

Shut Up and Dance would not be classed as science fiction, and it is one of the most realistic episodes to date, because it could happen now, to you.

Kenny, a shy and timid teenager, is filmed masturbating by a hacker on his laptop, and is blackmailed, along with others, to do whatever the hackers want. This episode is very similar to White Bear (from season two), where the twists are subtle and question your sympathy for the characters. White Bear, along with Shut Up and Dance, are both episodes that have made me feel shaken and frightened, especially for myself. Shut Up and Dance is about a seemingly innocent person who has to commit nasty acts (including robbing a bank and fighting to the death) for the enjoyment of others.

It’ll make you paranoid, squirm, and never want to leave the house.

San Junipero

This is, by far, one of the best Black Mirror episodes I’ve ever seen.

Yorkie, a shy and timid girl, walks into a club for the first time in 1987, where she meets Kelly, and outgoing and confident girl. Both continue to meet up with one another each week, where their nights end at midnight.

I can’t really explain the plot too much, because it’ll give it all away. But it’s so romantic, nostalgic, and not that scary at all. It didn’t make me question much, but made me ball my eyes out over the sheer beauty and emotion of this episode. I saw the themes as; finding love does not have a deadline and is death really the end? Go watch it. GO WATCH IT.

Men Against Fire

This episode has a very clear message about brainwashing and dehumanization and how it can be used for manipulation. Stripes, a soldier in the army, works with his regiment to scour a foreign country for ‘roaches’, a breed of monster who are terrorizing local villagers. They use tech implanted in their minds for aiming, maps, communication, and a general boost of abilities.

I liked this episode, but the message was not subtle. While I agreed with what it was criticizing, very little happened and there was a weird and unnecessary sex scene that had nothing to do with the plot. This was probably my least favourite episode.

Hated in the Nation

Another episode that is rooted in the concerns of today, however pairs it with technological advances that we could see in the future.

After a hated journalist is brutally murdered, a skeptical detective and a tech genius pair together to solve the mystery, and how social media witch hunts play a part. This episode feels very real and discusses the growing problem of mob mentality on social media. It’s something we see on Twitter all the time; how people are dragged and shamed and bullied for a comment they made or a picture they posted. Granted, these people shouldn’t be free of criticism, especially if they are spreading their own dish of hate, but what of the consequences? This is what Hated in the Nation questions; just how hateful can a person be that they would contribute to an online mob that sees their hate be executed in…well, execution, without the blood on their hands? It’s a scary and fantastic episode, shot like an actually clever police procedural.

Season 3 is currently on Netflix, and since it’s shift from Channel 4 to the show streaming giant, it has a larger budget which is clear in almost all of the episodes. It also expands from the terrors being isolated to just the U.K, and I feel that is partly because of the growing interest of an American audience, thus the inclusion of American narratives.

If you’ve only just got into Black Mirror, I’d check out seasons 1 and 2. Both terrifying, especially episodes Fifteen Million Merits and White Bear, but overall, a fantastic series that questions everything you hold dear today; your phone, your laptop, all your black mirrors.

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Monthly Favourites: May

May, the month where the weather can’t decide what it’s doing…at least here in England. Is it raining so hard you have to sail home from work? Or are you dusting the cobwebs off the BBQ for an all-out Sunday garden party? Whatever the weather, I’ll probably be reading, writing, and on Twitter. This is May.

BOOKS
The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

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This is it. It’s the end of The Raven Cycle. I anticipated this book so much and I was so ready for what was about to come, and I loved every second of it. Maggie Stiefvater’s writing is so poetic and deep that I swear these teenage characters are too intelligent for their own good. The Raven Cycle is a vibrant story with well developed characters and such imaginative scenes that your aesthetic heart will weep. I wrote a review for the last book here.

TELVISION
Eurovision (BBC)

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The older and more engrossed in books and youtube I become, the less television I’ve begun to watch. We don’t even have a TV in our house with channels anymore, just a giant screen to hook Netflix up to. But when it’s that time of year, you’ve gotta bring out the flags, the face paints, and the friends.

Eurovision, for all you Non-Europeans, is an experience. A spectacular whereby each country sends an artist to perform an outrageously cheesy song and aim to win that year’s contest. It’s flamboyant, political, and silly, and each country has it’s own commentator. United Kingdom gets to enjoy the voice of Graham Norton, who persistently gets drunk throughout the competition until he’s basically saying whatever he wants. Just put Eurovision into Youtube and enjoy.

YOUTUBE
Blogilates

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Speaking of Youtube, who here wants to get fitter without feeling awful? I am CONSTANTLY on that on and off again healthy lifestyle and I’m getting sick and tired of being sick and tired. Blogilates, or Cassey, is an entrepreneur and lifestyle expert. Giving accurate and helpful advice as well as fantastic, motivating workouts, Cassey understands that you can’t always afford the gym or have weights just lying around waiting for you. Instead of berating you for not drinking your kale smoothie, she wants you to celebrate your body, and listen to it. Some of these workouts are great for just before work or a boring hour on a Sunday!

MUSIC
The Stone Roses

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You know when you’re about to go to a gig that you’ve been waiting for for so long, that you end up listening to them non-stop as a sort of build up? The Stone Roses have been in my life ever since I was young – thanks to my parents. And this year, they’re releasing a new album and doing a few dates up in Manchester, and GUESS WHO GOT TICKETS? If you haven’t heard of The Stone Roses, they’re a band of five guys from Manchester who became a sensation in the 90’s during the time my parents were in the twenties. They were working class and Northern and everything a frustrated nation embodied. They are my parents’ youth, and I can’t wait to share that with them in a few weeks.

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Monthly Favourites: April

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I’m still not great at these opening titles. Hell, I don’t think I’ll ever be. But this month was filled with spectacular online interaction that I hope won’t ever stop. Of really using the internet for it’s full potential, and for writing and reading like nothing I’ve ever done. This is April.

BOOKS
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman

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I mention this book in so many of my blog posts because it’s just THAT GOOD. A British university student, Alice Oseman is well on her way to having a list of publications full of five stars. She writes realistic, stressed out teenagers who deal with school, parents, and the future. Radio Silence, if you haven’t heard me natter on about it before, is a novel about Frances Janvier, a girl with straight A’s who doesn’t know what she truly wants. She meets Aled Last, a quiet older boy who’s drowning in a sea of pressure and other people’s plans for him. Radio Silence is a great portrayal of boy/girl platonic friendships, and how school is not the be all end all. My review for it is long and right here. 

MOVIES
Deadpool (2015) Dir. Tim Miller

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I finally watched a movie, everyone. Round of applause to the girl who finally put her book down for two hours and didn’t watch Youtube videos.

Deadpool is a movie I’ve been really looking forward to, despite not seeing it until April. It turns out, not many family members want to see an 18 rated film with you. I’m not surprised, and I struggled to find people to see it with who hadn’t already, so when I finally got to watching it was in the comfort of my lonesome, with no embarrassing side glances at the person sat next to me.

I loved it, but my only criticism is that is was way too short. But still, beautifully done, and by beautiful, I mean great close up shots of Ryan Reynolds ass. I’m so glad he worked had to get it done properly (the movie, not his ass); Deadpool swears, breaks the fourth wall, has lots of sex, and loves gratuitous violence, and it would be a shame to leave that out of a movie that was about him. How they’re going to slot him into a Marvel movie, I have no idea.

TELEVISION
American Crime Story: The People v O.J Simpson

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During the trial of O.J Simpson, I was 1-2 years old. I have no recollection of the internationally broadcast trial, and was still in the dark about most things even today. I’ve heard passing jokes on comedy shows, but that’s about it. Therefore, when I got down to watching The People v O.J Simpson I was actually shocked at the outcome and the ramifications both sides had for their motivations. A gripping insight into the mind of society on such an important and sensitive topic.

INTERNET
Twitter Hashtag Chats

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Since starting this blog, I have become completely immersed in the internet book community, and one thing that I’ve found incredibly engaging and down right fucking fun are Twitter chats, hosted and taken part by book bloggers alike. You find new friends, new blogs, and some stellar book recommendations. Some great ones that I take part in, all in which are hosted by British bloggers and so are at times suitable for people in the GMT/BST timezone, are:

  • #UKYACHAT: Hosted by @lucythereader on Fridays at 8pm GMT/BST
  • #SUNDAYYA: Hosted by @_sectumsemprah every other Sunday at 6pm GMT/BST
  • #STORYCRAFTER: Hosted by @writerology on Sundays at 8pm GMT/BST
  • #FEMINISMINYA: Hosted by @helloiammariam on Tuesdays at 7:30pm GMT/BST
  • #FAIRYCHAT: Hosted by @fairyloot every 2nd Saturday of the month.

I try and attend each chat every week, #storycrafter being the easiest because I’m NEVER busy on Sunday evening, and #feminisminya the most difficult because I’m ALWAYS busy on a Tuesday night.

If there’s any twitter chats that you attend that would be great for bloggers in other timezones, share them in the comments!

YOUTUBE
Kingsley – ItsKingsleyBitch

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When the internet gets crazy, all you need is a good laugh, and that’s what Kingsley is here for. Hilarious in his expressions and reactions, there is nothing like commenting on people’s ridiculousness as they reply to celebrity’s photos with vulgar and explicit content. Thirsty Thursday, a weekly segment on Kingsley’s channel, sees viewers send in ‘thirsty’ comments they’ve seen on social media and basically call them out.

And the shit they say is hilarious.

I’m not going to embed a video on my post because the videos are so explicit it’s hilarious. So, if you’re over 18, I’d click the link to his channel up there and prepare to wet yourself from laughter.

MUSIC
Fall Out Boy

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It seems that April is going to also be my most expensive month, with concert tickets going on sale left, right, and centre. One in particular that I’m excited about is Reading Festival, a three day music extravaganza that I’ve never been to. While there are some fantastic acts I’m eager to see, I bought the tickets because of this band.

Fall Out Boy have been in my life for the last ten years; always present, always in my ears. And now, I finally get to see them. I’ve been listening to the American Beauty/American Psycho album on repeat for the whole month, and I don’t intend to stop until August.

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