Book Review || When I Was Me by Hilary Freeman [spoiler free]


Imagine waking up tomorrow in a world that appears to be the exact opposite of yours. You are no longer the person you have built yourself up to be. The identity you have claimed as your own has been lost. You're a stranger to yourself, your personality is unfamiliar to your loved ones, they expect things of you that you are not familiar with being. You can't blink and make yourself you again. You haven't even got a blank slate, as the "new" you has already drawn the cards you have to play with. Most things seem out of your hands. Refreshing, or horrendous? I suppose it depends on where you are in life and how much change you're willing to endure. For 17-year-old Ella Samson, it's the latter.

Everyone hates Mondays, but boy, did she have a bad one. The saying "Tomorrow is a new start." gets an entirely new meaning. Waking in a differently decorated bedroom than she fell asleep in, hair that is inches longer, the opposite style of clothes hanging in her wardrobe, strangers on her speed dial, no boyfriend, reclaimed virginity, and a living throwback to a complicated family life.. Everything had changed.

Sure, she didn't have the most adventurous or academically thrilling life before the surprising existence revamp, but she had one. It was hers. She may of not had a large group of friends or a big happy family unit, but she had people who cared for her. A friend who was like her long lost sister and a boyfriend whom she loved. Gone. All of it gone after one night. She doesn't even look like herself anymore. How can you trust yourself when it doesn't appear to be you in the mirror? To top it off, she keeps seeing a crazed old lady who nobody else can see. Is she going mad? Is madness the reason why she's no longer the girl she thought she was? Or is it a ghost? A personality transplant? A bad wish? Science?

This book wasn't what I was expecting in the slightest. At the back it reads "A tense and dark psychological thriller full of unexpected twists and turns about the random events and decisions that make us who we are.", and that it is. Though I wouldn't necessarily call it dark, but that may be due to my horror fascination. It's thrilling and most certainly a page turner. Most importantly.. It's clever. I may be overthinking it, but it seems like any complaint I can come up with has a "Ah! but maybe that was intentional because..." point. It makes your mind run a mile a minute and I loved that. The story is fast paced - maybe a little too much at a mere 261 pages - but it knows how to keep your interest peaked. And everything was wrapped up as it should be.

The characters are enjoyable, and the main character isn't an empty shell. Ella has a firm voice and isn't afraid to use it, which is always welcoming when a book is written in first person (my preferable style to read). She's mature but has some realistic narrow-minded moments that all 17-year-old's have. It was realistic. Any YA readers out there know that most of the time, it's the side characters that steal the spotlight - partly why I think so many books nowadays have prequels. But not this one. Her friend Deeta seems like an enjoyable character from the very few scenes we get to see her in action, but it's difficult to long with Ella for the friendship when we aren't overly familiar with it ourselves, yet I think that was the point (See what I mean by the whole "Ah!" point thing?). We only know Ella as the new Ella. We get brief flashbacks but we don't delve fully into her old life, we merely get her viewpoint of it all. We are learning alongside her about this new world she awoke into and that very possibly prevents us, as the readers, to get the two muddled. We are thrown into this world at the exact moment she is. We start the story with fear and panic and follow alongside her as she comes to terms and uncovers this mystery.

One thing I found refreshing was the relationship dynamic between Ella and Billy, in both her old and new world. It's been a long while since I've read a realistic portrayal of a (older?) teen relationship in a YA book. They aren't perfect and they aren't written in a way that people would yell "#Goals!" at. They have rough edges and they both treat each other questionably at times. They're learning how to love, like most first-time couples, and it's written excellently.

In a non-spoiler way, I want to briefly mention the ending. It wasn't what I was expecting, and three days later, I'm still left questioning whether it was the ending I wanted. Half of me wanted it to abruptly stop at the obvious moment you'll come to if/when you read the book. I wanted to be left questioning, yet at the same time, would that of infuriated me? I'll never know. Either way, the ending was enchanting. It was a satisfactory ending for the characters, and for us, the readers. It is somewhat open to interpretation and it left me with questions about the overall theorised notion that they touch upon during the story (that'll make sense if you('ve) read it. Otherwise I may just seem babble happy right now, which is alright by me).

Out of the entire book there was only one thing that bugged me and that was a certain dress the protagonist bought (the dress on the cover). It's a vital moment that brings the old Ella into her new world (at least to me), yet she never wears it. I was hoping it would be used for a crucial scene - maybe even the last? It isn't necessarily important, but it would've been a nice little touch.

I'll wrap this up now. But I leave you with a question.. Would you take on the new you that comes with new possibilities and run with it? Or would you mourn for the lost soul that may never of existed to begin with? It's a mind boggle and makes you question your place in this world, which I assume was Hilary Freeman's intention when writing this. Nowadays it's more and more common for us to have an identity crisis. Half of me ponders whether this is down to the unfathomable effect the Internet has on us. Before we could only compare ourselves to those we surrounded ourselves with but now, with the power of social media, we are bombarded daily with people doing better than us - which is completely normal and unavoidable, there will always be someone ranked higher than you, someone who looks differently, who has a higher number in their bank account, who appears to have better luck (but most people aren't going to put their downfalls online, right?), the grass is always greener, yada, yada - and don't get me wrong, many find it inspiring and the overall effect helps them in bettering themselves, but the rest of the browsers and constant refreshers? It's like beating yourself up from the inside out. No longer do we need a inner voice telling us that we aren't good enough, we can simply click on an Instagram post and see someone of our own age who is doing better, someone who appears to have a "perfect" lifestyle. Is social media acting as the chip on some of our shoulders? Does it make us long for the impossible, and in turn, cause us to long for the alternative version of ourselves?

If you like YA books, you have an open mind, and you like a little mystery in your reading time.. Go for it. I would recommend When I Was Me.

Next up I'm reading The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin as I've read some mixed reviews and curiosity got the Anne. If you've read either books mentioned in this post, feel free to get in touch and give me your thoughts! My email is and my twitter is RootingBranches.

- Anne x

5 Ingredient Apple Crumble


For the Yummy Apple Goodness: 
5 Bramley Cooking Apples
2 Tablespoons of Soft Dark Brown Sugar
1 Tablespoon of flour
1 Tablespoon of Water

For Crumble Topping:
2 Cups of Plain Flour
1 and 1/2 Cups of Soft Dark Brown Sugar
6 Tablespoons of Butter (proper butter works better, but this was all we had in the house.)
Pinch of Salt

Custard or ice cream to serve

Start by making your crumble; Sieve your flour, brown sugar and salt into a bowl. Bit by bit begin to crumble in your butter. Be careful to not mush everything together as you will end up with a paste. Using just the pads of your fingers to create little bits. Have patience but work somewhat quickly to prevent the butter from melting. If you find that you need more or less butter than the recipe indicates, don't worry. Each crumble differs. Eyeball it. Once you have a chunky sand texture that somewhat resembles the (poor) photo below, you're done.

Now for the lower half of this magic duo; Peel and dice your apples into roughly 3cm chunks. Add to a separate bowl and mix in your brown sugar and cinnamon (optional). Add a tablespoon of water and mix together until each piece of apple is coated.

Get your dish, grease it with some butter, and as expected, spread the apples evenly at the bottom and top with the crumble.

Bake for 45 minutes in the centre of the oven, but continuously check after the 30 minute mark to prevent the top from over-browning.

Serve with either custard or ice cream and enjoy!

- Anne x

Edinburgh: Ghost Tours, National Museum of Scotland, Serrano Manchego.


I suck. I'm fully aware of this. I'm really sorry for the recent lapse in posts. Life has been a little overbearing and I haven't found the time to write up the second and last post about my trip to Scotland. In all honesty, a small okay, large, part of me didn't want to write about it as it then meant that the trip was indeedly (that's a word, yup, not taking it back) over. My lovely partner was back home in California and I was left here to mourn for the mornings of french toast, adventures, and being with the man who completes me. Somewhat pathetic, but true. Alas, I am putting my big girl pants on and giving you a run down of all things Edinburgh, and a little Glasgow peak.

If you have read my first post on the trip (click here if you haven't), you'll know that we spent two nights Glamping near the Loch Ness and then drove down to Edinburgh to spend a further four(ish) days. We arrived on Tuesday evening and drove down to Glasgow on the Friday. We had two half days and two full. I wish we'd had more time, and I wish I was at the peek of health so we could do the various other things that were on our list (Edinburgh Castle, World of Illusions, The Jazz Bar, etc..) but we'll one day get to them.

Where We Stayed:
Our accommodation was a roller-coaster. We had one beautiful. homely place and one that I wouldn't send my worst enemy to. Let's start with the good. The Strathallan Guest House. Homey interior, a mere 20 minute walk from The Royal Mile and an all round great atmosphere. Upon arrival, we were surprised with an upgrade (originally having booked the attic room as it was cheaper) and a pleasant interaction with the owner. Breakfast is included in the room price. They offer an array of cooked breakfasts, cereal, fruit, juice, hot drinks, and a few other things. This has since been voted the best place we stayed solely for the pleasant atmosphere. You never felt rushed nor a nuisance for coming and going. The staff were helpful and were happy to engage in conversation. I can't rate it highly enough. There was only one minor downfall and that was the wifi. It didn't work. But if it had been important enough, we would of asked and I'm positive they would've solved the problem. 

Now for the bad. 16 Pilrig Guest House. This is a newly opened establishment so I can understand having some faults and things that need tweaking, but in all sincerity, it was awful. If I hadn't been unwell and we were staying for longer than one night, I imagine we would of left. The windows wouldn't close (which in Scottish weather is not the best), the owners of the establishment were loud and didn't quiet down until almost midnight, the lock of the bedroom door wouldn't properly lock so we were forced to wedge it closed, the heating didn't work, my partner cut his leg on what appeared to be a nail sticking out of the bed base, and the owners weren't necessarily welcoming. It felt like a minor interrogation for our information (which was in form of a three page Q&A sheet that required a passport number). They said they had parking on the ad for the place, but that consisted of street parking that wasn't all that easy to find. We didn't take photos as it didn't occur to us to (this blog post wasn't planned). It was disheartening and a far cry from our first place. The only positive was that the bed was comfortable.

Where We Ate:
We ordered in a lot, so this list in tiny and I'm sorry for that. I repeat for the millionth time, my health was at a low and that stopped us from going out some nights. I hate that fact but it is what it is. Sometimes you need a caring person there to tell you to get your ass on the bed and watch Last Exile with him. (Okay, that may be me and him specific but I stand by the overall meaning).

Burgers and Beers Grillhouse: For a good 97% of you, I won't have to go any further with this recommendation, you'll be down for it. Situated on The Royal Mile, B&BG is in an ideal location if you're thinking of doing any of the tours (mentioned below). All patties are made fresh to order, the shakes have a risk of giving you diabetes, and the options are endless. You can transform any burger to veggie, which is a giant bonus. The interior is comfortable, the staff are friendly and the music choices are flawless. There won't be one song that you don't know. Definitely worth a visit if you're in need of giant portions and an endless list of drinks (they also have hot drinks and many non-alcoholic options).

Ironically, we forgot to take photos from our favourite place. So you will have to go on faith with this one. (And my stolen photo from their site, credit to them!). Serrano Manchego is a little gem hiding on Leith Walk. We did the ultimate vacation crime and went here twice, but it was entirely worth it. Even if you just get coffee and chiros.

Things We Did:
As mentioned above, we didn't get to cross off most things on our list due to health complications, and as this post wasn't planned from the get go, photos weren't taken at every destination. But I can still list and link, and I hope at least one place catches your eye if you're planning a Scottish trip. Enjoy!

Ghostly Underground Vaults Tour (with Mercat Tours): Come on, you're in Edinburgh, you have to do at least one (or in our case, two) ghostly tour(s)! It's mandatory! The vaults was fun, if rather brief. We spent the first half of the tour wandering around the streets of Edinburgh with ole'horror tales of the past acting as our background music. Our tour guide was really good, though a little dramatic when attempting to make a story eerie which made it a tad bit more comical than scary. The vaults were exactly how you'd imagine and it was a really fun activity. If able to relive the experience, I might have changed our tour to a nighttime tour for the added effect of the nightly atmosphere. We then went on to do the...

City of the Dead Graveyard Tour (with City of the Dead): First I would like to say that our tour guide was really great during this, she was ever so friendly and easy to strike up a conversation with. The tour however was a little.. dreary. I would still recommend it as it was fun and a pleasant way of spending 90 minutes (there was even a little scare!), but for the most part, it was a woman cancelling out some stories you read of Edinburgh. I was waiting for her to say something sinful about Santa too. Would I do it again? No. But it wasn't a waste of money or time, so I'd push it at someone who is visiting. It has a great atmosphere and makes for a memorable evening. Have a glass of wine or beer beforehand and go with a light heart. You'll have a laugh.

I would like to mention that I booked both the above tours using GetYourGuide (Vaults/Graveyard), they were cheaper and had a 20% discount code. I strongly advise you do a quick Google search to see if you can find a discount code of your own and shop around.

National Museum of Scotland: It's huge. That's the first thing that comes to mind. The second being, it's free! The interior of the building in and of itself is breathtaking. There is an exhibition for everyone (we favoured the space and animal sections). I wholeheartedly think this is a must stop if you're visiting Edinburgh.

Heaven. That is all. If you know me at all, you'll know that I'm a Christmas fanatic. My partner was the sweetest man alive and had such patience as we looked for these magical places. If you only have time for one, I recommend sticking with Ye Olde Christmas Shoppe as it has more of a choice and the interior is like an elf has been exploded. Did I mention that they wish you a Merry Christmas when you walk in? Because they do! 

Expensive but a really awesome experience. We hardly have photos from here because they managed to suck you into the world prohibiting you from remembering to take your camera out (which is a good thing!). If you have kids, then this should be at the top of your list. I won't explain it eloquently enough, so I'll allow you to click on the link and look yourself. But so much fun!  A perfect end to our trip.

The Elephant House: This was a super quick stop but if you're a fan of Harry Potter or just writing in general, it's worth a visit. If you don't know, J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book here as she looked out at Edinburgh Castle. They sell merchandise and it's a quaint stop to grab a coffee. The only downside is that it tends to be really busy, so be prepared to wait in line for at least 10 minutes.  

So there you have it, our Edinburgh experience. It was a wonderful few days. Originally we planned to spend two nights in Glasgow, but we found there was more on the agenda for Edinburgh. We did however make a pit stop to the Science Centre in Glasgow and that was a lot of fun. 

I'll do more travel posts in future as I have an exciting trip planned for the end of September, until then I will do my darn best to get a better routine going with blog posts. The pas few months have been a tad dreary and I'm working on snapping myself out of that funk. 

I hope your week has gotten off to a great start! 

Until next time, 

- Anne x

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