My Life

5 Things – 2017 Edition

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So, it’s the start of a new week and the start of the first full working week of the year. And also the final time that I am going to get reflective about the year that has just passed. So I’m going to talk about the 5 good things that happened last year.

1) I got a pay rise – It seems kind of ridiculous that this is the thing that tops my list, but it happened twice this year and so it is. My job is my main cause of stress and this year it really ramped up, especially over the last quarter of the year, so this almost makes it worth it. Almost.

2) I went on holiday – An actual honest to go holiday where I didn’t have to do anything. I spent a week just lazing about and eating and getting some sun. Just truly taking some time off and get way from all the stress just felt really good.

3) I saw Hamilton. Twice. – That happened. I’m pretty sure there was a playlist at some point in 2016 where it was effectively all Hamilton songs. Part of me had resided myself to never seeing it because there was a part of me that didn’t think it would transfer over to the West End and then it did. And of course the tickets went on sale when I had to go into a meeting. But my mum got tickets in the pre-sale and so we went for dad’s birthday and then R got two pre-sale tickets for the 30th and so I saw it back to back Saturdays. It was everything I hoped it would be and more. It was a delightful to close out the year.

4) Exercise – I really upped my game when it came to exercise this year because it felt like my only release from the craziness that was my life and it became a really useful tool for me to try and calm down on occasion and get back to myself. This year was rough mentally for me and things felt kind of helpless for a couple of months, but when it all went tits up I had to remind myself that exercise was there for me and it was always a way to remind myself that I am stronger than I think.

5) Reading – I surpassed my reading goal for 2017 and it felt good. To be honest, it never really at any point felt like I wasn’t going to do it. Yes, there were two books that I wanted to read last year that I didn’t, but it was no stress for me. I read 53 books last year, which is just about more than one a week.  I love reading and I love that I got to do it so much last year.

And those are the 5 things. What about you? What are the things that liked about 2017?

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Books, Reading Challenge

2018 Reading Challenge

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So, now that last year’s has been wrapped up in a slightly messy, bow it is time to move on to the next one. Which has somehow ended up bigger than last year’s, which I did finish but still didn’t finish a book that was technically on the list…again, but I blindly went through my ‘to read’ shelf on Goodreads and just added ones that sounded interesting to me at the time, which was the last week of 2017. I also had to add a bunch of books that I impulsively bought on Boxing Day because I had heard good things and I wanted them in my life. And then there are the pre-orders.

Anyway, the list currently stands at 65. Noticed how I said currently…yeah I hate that too but that is where we’re are. Also, you may notice that there is literally only one play on here working in almost complete opposite to this post, but that’s where we are at with that.

Be warned this is going to be lengthy, there are 65 books on the list:

1) The Red QueenVictoria Aveyard –  The whole damn series of this book will be read this year. They are all on the list, given that this is book one we are obviously going to start with this one.

2) Glass Sword, Victoria Aveyard – Yeah, they’re all coming back to back. I’m gonna start as I mean to go on. And this will be the year that I complete not one, but 3, whole series and don’t just leave the first book hanging as I am prone to do.

3) King’s Cage, Victoria Aveyard – There’s the third one.

4) War Storm, Victoria Aveyard – Not gonna lie, I forgot that there was going to be a fourth one to this series and so this was added after I had thought the list was complete and knew that this list was probably going to be ever lengthening. It’s gonna involve a lot of deep breaths, it’s gonna be fine.

5) Cruel Crown, Victoria Aveyard – And we conclude this whole series. First 5 books down.

6) London Fields, Martin Amis – This feels like it might be a little heavy hitting, although I don’t actually know what it’s about, but the cover seems a tad intense and yes I am judging it by that.

7) The Girl of Ink and Stars, Kiran Millwood Hargrave – I’m looking forward to reading this actually, I had kind of forgotten about it, but then I remembered how much people liked it and it got me excited again.

8) Fight Cub, Chuck Palahniuk – Kinda looking forward to going back to Palahniuk’s writing, it was something that I enjoyed the first time.

9) A Darker Shade of Magic, VE Schwab – I am far too stressed about the fact that this does have me leaving a first book hanging again, which I kind of knew would happen when I bought it on a whim in the first place.

10) Shockaholic, Carrie Fisher – I’m both apprehensive and hyped to read this.

11) Postcards From the Edge, Carrie Fisher –  I’m gonna read 3 of her books this year. And it’s probably still not going to feel like enough.

12) The Princess Diarist, Carrie Fisher – I don’t think I wanna read this for reasons, but also I need to read it.

13) Big Little Lies, Lianne Moriarty – This is one of those books that I am looking forward to reading because I loved the show so much and I wanna see how they differ.

14) The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood –  This is gonna be intense. I just know it. Headspace is gonna be everything when I go to read this.

15) the princess saves herself in this one, amanda lovelace – I really do need to read more poetry. And this is currently the only one that I have.

16) the witch doesn’t burn in this one, amanda lovelace – I discovered while I was compiling the list that there was a sequel of sorts to the other one and so here we are adding another poetry collection to the list.

17) The Uncommon Type, Tom Hanks – I forgot about this book and had to tag it on. It raised the number again.

18) The Shadow of the Wind, Carlos Ruiz Zafron – I’m intrigued by this book, looking forward to reading it.

19) Throne of Glass, Sarah J Maas – Yet another book I’m gonna leave hanging. I have so many open ended series on the go that I read the first book from and then never appear to return to no matter how much I want to.

20) All That She Can See, Carrie Hope Fletcher – I am curious as to where this is going and figuring out further how I feel about her style of writing.

21) When the Curtain Falls, Carrie Hope Fletcher – Apparently though I am not going to wait to have read that book before buying her next one because it’s already on pre-order…

22) The Little Friend, Donna Tartt – I have missed Tartt’s writing, going back to it will be great..

23) Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert – It’s time to figure out the hype.

24) Now I Rise, Kiersten White – I loved the first one, looking forward to getting back to these characters.

25) Bright We Burn, Kiersten White – And this will be another series that I can marked as finished when this gets published. Again, I forgot about this and had to add it to the list, which ticked it up ever higher.

26) Godsgrave, Jay Kristoff  – If the next book for this series comes out this year, I don’t wanna know about it.

27) Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen – I’m almost tempted to scrap this off the list, just because I’ve put it off for so long what’s a little longer? I’m not, but there is a part of me that is thinking about it.

28) The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck – Same as above.

29) The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas – I have heard so many great things about this book I just have to read it.

30) Legendary, Stephanie Garber – This may be the quickest turnaround for the reading of a second book that I have ever scheduled for when I haven’t gone in to outright read the whole series from start to finish. But loved it so much I need to know what is happening with these characters.

31) Rebel of the Sands, Alwyn Hamilton – For some reason I just haven’t got around to reading this series yet, even though it seems like it would be right up my street. So this is the year that I’m gonna do the whole thing in one.

32) Traitor to the Throne, Alwyn Hamilton – There’s the second.

33) Hero of the Fall, Alwyn Hamilton – And fortunately for me the 3rd book gets published this year and so I can complete it all. Yay.

34) Everless, Sara Holland – This book came onto my radar and I was hella intrigued hella fast and before I knew it I was putting it on my list and preordering it.

35) The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho – I do not get how I have never read this before and so I am going to do now, when the book arrives in my life.

36) Call Me By Your Name, Andre Aciman – I had never heard of this book until the film and then it was everywhere and obviously my interest was piqued and so here we are.

37) History is All You Left Me, Adam Silvera – I’m reading both the books by Silvera that are on my radar, I was only going to read one but I couldn’t decide so I picked both. They are already on their way to me.

38) They Both Die at the End, Adam Silvera – Here’s the second one. I’m excited to read both.

39) The Belles, Dohnielle Clayton – I’ve seen a lot of positive reviews regarding this book and the cover is all kinds of stunning and so I am gonna get ‘er done and pretend I’m not starting yet another series…

40) Runaways, Rainbow Rowell – I will read anything written by Rowell, that’s it.

41) The Sun and her Flowers, Rupi Kaur – Her first collection was heavy, I’m interested as to what her second will bring.

42) The Virgin Suicides, Jeffery Eugenides – I was gonna read this like 7 years ago and then just didn’t, so now is the time.

43) The Kids Are All Right,  Diana Welch – I’ve no idea what to expect from this book, but it was on my to-read shelf on Goodreads and the title intrigued me so here we are.

44) Seriously…I’m Kidding, Ellen Degeneres – I love Ellen and yet I’ve never read anything she’s written, so I’m starting here for the time being.

45) The Burning World, Isaac Marion – I found out recently that there was a sequel to Warm Bodies and well that got me interested because I can’t think of where it will go and I need to find out.

46) Simon vs the Homo Spaiens Agenda, Becky Albertalli – This has been on my radar for years and was fully bumped up after I watched the trailer for the film.

47) Hunger, Roxane Gay – This will also be the year of reading Roxane Gay work. This is one of 3 books.

48) Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay – The second.

49) Difficult Women, Roxane Gay – And the last one. There is a theme I know.

50) I Am the Messenger, Markus Zusak – We all know how I feel about the other Zusak work I have read. I wanna know what else he has to offer.

51) My So Called Freelance Life, Michelle Goodman – I discovered as I was going through my ‘to read’ shelf that I have a lot of these kind of non-fiction/self help books on there and so I have shifted a lot of them onto this year’s reading challenge shelf. I think this might be a useful read for me.

52) Thirteen Reasons Why, Jay Asher – I want to read this book before the second season of the show comes out and also see where they differ, because from what I understand there are some drastic differences.

53) The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a Fuck, Sarah Knight – I could have really done with this book last year, but better late than never.

54) The Good Immigrant, Nikesh Shukla – I need to read this book. That’s all I’ve got on this.

55) The Crucible, Arthur Miller – And here we have the one and only play scheduled for reading this year. It’s nice and easy.

56) Carol, Patricia Highsmith – There are a fair amount of LGBT stories on this list, I’ve made that a conscious effort this year. And trying to read from POC writers, which I feel I’ve been less successful at. Better, but not as good as it could have been.

57) Everyday Sexism, Laura Bates – This book has been on my radar for a while now, so now it is finally time to read it.

58) Girl Up, Laura Bates – And this one. I am also very aware that Bates has a third book coming out this year, but I’m gonna wait until it has a paperback before I even think about reading it.

59) Modern Romance, Aziz Ansari – I have a great appreciation for this man and so I am looking forward to reading this.

60) Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling – I loved her first book and so I am looking forward to reading her second one.

61) A Single Man, Christopher Isherwood – I love the film adaptation of this and have just been very slow to read the book.

62) The Defining Decade, Meg Jay – I turn 25 in a couple of weeks and the past few years have kind of been a bit of a mental clusterfuck and kinda draining so the idea that this is the defining decade kind of makes sense but is also kind of terrifying. And I’m hoping this book will do something to make sense of it all.

63) It’s Not Me, It’s You, Mhairi McFarland – I’m in this for the title. Kinda. And also the contents.

64) Generation X, Douglas Coupland – I don’t even really know what this book is but the title interested me as I was going through my to-read shelf and so it shifted to this list.

65) Lost Boy, Christina Henry – The concept of Peter Pan is being played around with here, I am only so strong. And I quite liked the concept of Alice which I read last year and for the most part it is I liked the way it was written.

And that is my year in books. It’s nice and small. Totally doesn’t have the potential to get longer at all.

It’s fine.

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Books, Reading Challenge, reviews

Bonus Book Review – Caraval

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And here we have the final book review of the books that I read in 2017. Now, you may notice that there are 2 books missing, Alexander Hamilton and  Don Juan. That’s because I just couldn’t read them in time. In terms of pages there were both totally doable to do in the 10 days that I had, but what I hadn’t accounted for rather foolishly was how dense they were. Which made it almost impossible to read them in time. They are both still books that I am making my way through because I did start them and made it some of the way through, but they weren’t going to be read in 2017. Which means that the total number of books that I read last year was 53, which was ahead of my target and kind of blows my mind because previous years have barely broke 40 and this one surpassed it.

The last book that I read of the year was this one:

Bonus Book Review, Caraval
Bonus Book Review, Caraval

First of all the pages are gilded. Red gilded. We all know how I feel about a gilded page. The book is just very aesthetically pleasing. And so it the contents.

This book was captivating.

I blitzed through it in about 4 hours total in the end and the last two days I was reading it I was so stressed out trying to figure everything out. And it kept on surprising me. Seriously, it was one of those books that always kept me guessing. I both loved and hated that.

Mostly hated.

Not for any bad reasons, but seriously at one point I was so stressed out by all the possibilities that the story could have gone down. It didn’t work out the way that I thought it would. Not at all. In fact the whole narrative didn’t really end where I thought it would.

It was all very stressful.

It was also the perfect ending for my fiction reading of 2017.

This book gave me serious The Night Circus vibes and not just because it was set in that kind of magical realm where things weren’t quite as they seemed and all that jazz. It just evoked the same kind of feeling that I felt when I was reading that book. I loved the character building and the set up of the world and how they all wove in with each other.

It was just delightful.

Okay, let’s get into the characters a bit.

Scarlett was an interesting character to follow the arc of. The way the reader watched her evolve and went on the rollercoaster that was her storyline meant that it was kind of hard not to like her a little bit. Or a lot. And then in total contrast to her was Donatella who as the story progressed you realised maybe wasn’t all that different to her. The whole dynamic between the two sisters was one of my favourite aspects of the whole book and I am really interested to see where that ends up going in the next book.

Julian was fascinating. I liked that even by the end of the book you never really know where you stand with him. The same, obviously, applies to Legend as well. The whole last 50 pages of this book really confused me pretty much for that reason. In fact it was the main cause for my stress. I don’t really know what to think of Scarlett and Donatella’s father, I never really felt his motives for treating his daughters the way he did ever reached a state of clarity, in fact a lot of their back story remains kind of murky and I hope that’s just because otherwise the book might get all info dump-y and these things are going to slowly make themselves clearer in time. If not then that aspect will be a little disappointing as it was kind of the only down side. This also kind of applies to the Count, he felt a bit like a wasted character and his appearance mad little to no sense. Although having said that both of their presence did help with the development of Scarlett, which is ultimately the most important part.

I am super interested as how the next book is going to play out, because the way Donatella talked about the way it worked as the book wrapped up was hella intriguing and even though this book felt like it concluded in some way, and it alleviated a lot of the stress that the previous pages had caused me, it did also open up a whole new realm of possibilities that I am excited to see play out.

I would definitely recommend giving this book a read, it’s crept onto my list of books that I will pretty much always tell people to read and that is a pretty hard list to get on for me. So yeah, do it. Read it.

4/5 stars

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Books, Reading Challenge, reviews

2017 Reading Challenge, Book 49 – Hamilton: The Revolution

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We have almost reached the end of my 2017 Reading Challenge books, it was a long road and I really stupidly left the two longest books to the back of the year. Which I did in 2016 as well and had to abandon it, but this year I was determined. By the time the final week of the year rolled around I had 3 books to read, the other two will follow but this one was one of the ones that I had been left to the end of the year:

2017 Reading Challenge, Book 49, Hamilton: The Revolution
2017 Reading Challenge, Book 49, Hamilton: The Revolution

I kind of did that intentionally.

I saw Hamilton on 23rd December and was going again on the 30th and so I left it for that week in between to truly just stay immersed in the Hamilton world.

This book was also under 300 pages, had a lot of pictures and I got ‘er done on Christmas Day.

The book offered a really interesting insight into the process of getting the production to the stage and how all the pieces of the puzzle came together to create the thing that has had a grip of my soul for over two years now…

I found it interesting to see how the choreographer and the costume designer and so many other various people felt the pressure to get it right just because they felt the impact of what this could be. There were loads of parts like that, but it was those two in particular that really resonated with me, especially the choreographer. And also the whole section of It’s Quiet Uptown, not only did I enjoy that it was the only part of black pages and was incredibly symbolic and it somehow found a new to make that song even more painful.

I loved the annotations against all the songs, it revealed new levels that I hadn’t even noticed. It really highlighted that this is an ode/homage/nothing but total appreciation for hip hop and also musical theatre. And comes with bonus Shakespeare references. It gave me a newfound appreciation for the whole play, which I had already but am always down to learn some more about.

If you’re a fan of the musical in anyway I would recommend this book. It’s full of some gorgeous pictures and provides a really great insight into how it moved through from conception to the stage.

4/5 stars

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2017 Reading Challenge, Book 48 – Florence Grace

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These past two books have been ones that I have previously tried to read and just couldn’t get into. I did this one after Dragon Tattoo because I was just not fully prepared for it. It seemed to be a genre that I’m not really a fan of. And it was that to a degree. But once I got into it it just became a pretty easy read:

2017 Reading Challenge, Book 48, Florence Grace
2017 Reading Challenge, Book 48, Florence Grace

I can’t say that I enjoyed it per se, I mean it was passable and at no point did I think about putting it down and abandoning it completely.

My main issue with it is that it was a very large circle and was kind of pointless…there was a whole section of the story arc that felt like it could have been cut and we still would have ended up with the same result. She ends up back in Cornwall and stumbles into love. She effectively ended back up where she started but was older and had had a taste of the richer life. Nothing about it was surprising, nothing about it felt out of the ordinary. It just made sense, but it took so long to get there. So long.

Things I did like about it, the way that it built the worlds of both Cornwall and London, it definitely evoked the feel of that era I felt. I liked the way that as a reader you could feel Florence’s displacement from one world to another and felt as she finally managed to find some semblance of balance in this new world that she has ended up in. I liked the relationships that were built between Florence and Rebecca, that felt like a really solid friendship and also what she had with Sanderson. I liked that Turlington remained unredeemed, that felt like something that was true to life. Some people just don’t change their ways and I’m glad that there was no huge ‘love saved him’ thing about it.

Things I didn’t like, the whole Hawker thing. That kind of seemed unnecessary I feel. But also, it was pretty much the only thing of worth that happened in the whole book. This book is 400 or so pages. It was a twist of sorts, it just didn’t really feel like I needed it. Or wanted it. I don’t know, it felt weird. The treatment of Calantha, my goodness. On the one hand, given the context it made perfect sense, but then on the other it was incredibly annoying and then it was almost just swept under the rug for the most part until the end where she randomly showed up again and appeared to have ‘made’ it. The whole thing just didn’t sit right with me I guess. I also kind of hated the Florence/Turlington relationship…which isn’t great when it is pretty much the crux of the whole story. I dunno, it was always doomed and it seemed to drag on for too long.

Like I said, the book was passable. You can get from point a to point b without much issue. It isn’t as fantasy based as I thought initially, but it is still obviously a historical fiction which wasn’t bad or anything, but it’s not my genre of choice and nor would I reach for it again any time soon.

I can’t say that I would recommend it to people because there are a long list of books that I would put ahead of it, but it’s probably a good beach read. It just wasn’t for me…

3/5 stars

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2017 Reading Challenge, Book 47 – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

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This book took me a weirdly long time to get around to reading this year and I don’t even really know why because it is a book that I could always see myself getting along with.

And I did mostly, whether I actually enjoyed it or not is a different question:

2017 Reading Challenge, Book 47, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
2017 Reading Challenge, Book 47, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo

I did try to read this book in 2016 and didn’t get along with it. It was just not the right time for me to read this book. On this attempt however it was. And I found myself not hating it for the most part.

It’s slow. It is somehow action packed and really slow and I don’t even know how that is possible. It took about 100 pages before I found myself really hooked on the narrative. Then it died down again and took another 100 or so pages to pick up again. Then it dipped down and it kind of kept doing that. Come the end I was sort of left feeling a bit meh.

This book is brutal at times, in fact the parts that are most brutal are the parts that involve sexual assault. And that it the over arching theme of the whole book really. Violence, specifically sexual, against women. It sometimes makes tough reading. It’s also sometimes handled kinda badly. Or at least I felt like it was. It felt a bit like some of the scenes were shocking for shock’s sake. And that got kind of annoying after a while.

The plot of this book became kind of obvious after the first 150 pages or so. I knew that she wasn’t dead and I knew that they would figure it out. I kind of knew who helped other people out and the way that it was resolved in part was kind of obvious to me. I don’t know if that’s because I just kind of interact with a lot of those murder mystery/cold cases things and they kind of all follow the same formula or because it was just that A to B.

I wasn’t really a fan of any of these characters, they all felt a bit one dimensional and I didn’t really finish the book feeling like they were fully formed characters who I was invested in. I didn’t feel like I was compelled to read the second one. I didn’t really care all that much. My main issue with it is that it felt like everything that Lisbeth was had changed fundamentally and I didn’t like it. The final paragraph felt like a huge departure from the character that Lisbeth has been towards the beginning of the novel.

I just didn’t get the hype. There were huge lulls before anything exciting happened again and then to be fair I am using the term exciting kind of loosely to be fair. It was readable sure, I got through it pretty quickly, but it just came with all these expectations that it just didn’t meet.

I think on some level I would recommend this book, but also there are other books that I would recommend above it.

3/5 stars

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My Life

Final 2017 Check In

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So 2017 has well and truly come to a close even though it’s only been 3 days since the clock ticked over to midnight signalling a new year, but as such I am due a final check in from my 2017 ‘Intentions’. As I mentioned in Checkpoint 5 this one will just be a quick summary of the year as I went quite in depth in that one.

Without further ado, let’s wrap last year up:

1) Take Better Care of My Hair – This has moved along fine. I am getting another hair cut at some point this month because you gotta cut it to get that length. I’m keeping it moisturised and super hydrated. I’ve just gotta keep this up, but I’ve got into a routine with it and so I consider this one a success

2) Take Better Care of My Skin –  I’ve been using Glossier for two months now and my skin feels a lot better hydrated. I’ve dropped tea tree oil from routine completely and haven’t really noticed that much of a difference. I still keep getting breakouts on my forehead but they clear up pretty quickly and I’m currently pretty happy with where I’ve got my routine to.

3) Tone The Hell Up – I never really got my diet back under control and then December hit and then it just all got worse. Not massively or anything, but yeah the diet overhaul that starts next week (because nothing happens in the first week of the year in my life) will be real. Also going to look at my workout breakdown week on week and see what I can change there. Mainly looking at how I can get Pilates/Yoga back into my routine.

4) Start Saving Properly – No, this ended badly. But yeah, this year will be the year.

5) Get Better Organised – This has rolled over into this year. It would be nice to know that it’s a habit come summer to be honest. I’m aiming for it earlier.

6) Try And Be More Creative/Just Write More – I’ve kind of made my peace with where I’m at with this one. It’s been a bit of a mess for the most part but I’m at peace with its status. I’m going to get back to it a bit more this year mainly because I want to finish a couple of things to be tied up and done.

And that’s my final check in for 2017. I can actually only cross two off the list completely and consider them to be habits, which is a third of them…ah well.

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