2018 Reading Challenge, Book 11 – Eat, Pray, Love

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Surprise, surprise, I am coming at you with another book review today…it feels like it’s bene a while since did one of these, but I don’t think it is and the real reason that it feels like it’s been so long is because I feel like I’ve been reading this book for forever.

It wasn’t really all that long though, slightly longer than usual? Yes. But not actually all that long. I started it on 22/02 and finished it yesterday. I also found myself not reading so much on my commute home, sometimes it was because I was on a busy train and was sat on a luggage rack without the foresight to take my bag off my back before I jumped on up there and sometimes it was because it just wasn’t engaging me in any way.

That pretty much sums up my relationship with this book as a whole. I went through phases where I was super stoked to read it and it was really engaging with me and I wanted to know where it was going to lead in her own journey. And then I went through phases where I just didn’t care.

I can pinpoint at what point I found myself ceasing to give a shit. It was anytime she talked about religion and then it came and went whilst she was in India. And also sometimes in Bali. Now I kind of knew that that talk about faith and religion and spirituality was a given when it came to a book with ‘pray’ in the title and that was one of the reasons to be honest why I had put off reading it for so long. I just wasn’t going to be very open to the reading of someone finding a new and deep rooted presence of faith in their life and that would totally change the way that I approached the book.

I approached it in this instance with an open mind and yeah, sometimes the talk about faith just sort of caused my mind to drift away (to check my emails or Twitter) and then it would take a little while to get back into it. I was there mostly when it was in Italy. When she was just travelling around and learning Italian and eating. Getting to see different areas of Italy through her eyes made me super jealous because I just want to travel around Italy and eat. Do all the eating. So it was when she found herself in India that I found myself starting to drift.

And that’s just a personal thing for me. I just can’t make that kind of connection, there is a part of me that kind of wishes that I could, but it’s just not something that I can take comfort in. Religion that is. And so there were large portions of it where I just couldn’t connect. And that’s nothing against Gilbert, that’s all me. I just don’t…care…that seems like a harsh word but I can’t think of a better word for it. I mean I did care. I cared enough to finish the book. I was interested to see how Gilbert found her way out of the dark time of her life.

I found myself invested even in times that I wasn’t all that connected to what she was going through. Gilbert has a great writing style and she makes you want to read her story. And I liked that aspect of it. I love a good writing style, we all know that. And I did like moving through her story as she went from one of the lowest points in her life to reaching a place of balance and equilibrium again. It felt like you were going through it, Gilbert does a great job of taking through her story and by the time it comes to the end you feel like you know the sense of peace that she is at.

While I’m talking about the ending. I hated it. And the reason that I hated it makes no actual sense to be perfectly honest with you. I hated it because it just ended. It just closed a chapter. It, ya know, closed the chapter of her life on the road finding herself and you were left with the assumption that she is now living her life quite happily between 4 countries with Felipe. Which is fine, but the ending seemed so unfinished because it was her life and she’s still living it and so there has to be an end point and obviously there is going to be no full stop this is the end moment. But it honestly just trailed off and that left some part of me unsatisfied.

Look, I read this book so that I could one understand the references to it whenever they come up (which is obviously quite rare) but also because it felt like it was a book that I should read for some inexplicable reason. Do I regret reading it? No. It was fine. It was a mostly enjoyable experience. The issues that I had with it were my own and are probably not something that other people would find. It made me want to go to Italy all the more (and made me slightly sad that for reasons I couldn’t go this weekend) and it did make me want to visit Bali. I did feel a residual sense of peace when I was in the Bali segment of the book. I did also like the significance of the way that it was formatted with the 109 beads.

I was overall a bit meh about this book, but somehow would still also recommend it.

3/5 stars

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The Spring Reading List

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Okay, so spring is in theory acoming what with the days slowly getting longer and the fact that it supposedly will begin on 20th March. I’m just getting this set up a teeny bit prematurely, but hey ho.

I am coming at you with another break down of my reading list that I am looking to get read over the next couple of months, it turns out that I quite enjoy creating mini versions of my list mainly because it eliminates an element of so much choice. This is going to be a bit of a non-fiction heavy couple of months just because I feel like I don’t read enough of it in general and so to compensate that I am just going to read a lot of it all at once.

I am currently on 11 out of 65 and similar to the last time I did this where I reckon it should stand at about 6/7 in the period of time, I am tacking on an extra few books because I go on holiday at the end of this month and then it’s Easter and then I have the rest of that week off so I should be able to get a fair amount of reading done in that time, especially because I am going to Amsterdam via train which is about 5 hours of travel time. I read books in roughly that amount of time over the course of a work week in 30 minute bursts, the potential there is high. But whatever. I’m aiming to get 10 books read in the next two months.

In terms of my first one of these I read 8 out of the 9 books, because when it came to me making a decision about whether to read Eat, Pray, Love or Now I Rise I had the epiphany that I want to finish that series straight through and so I’m going to wait for Bright We Burn before I make a start on that one. It turns out I did care.

1) Everyday Sexism – Laura Bates

It’s time that I read this. I have been being to do so for so many weeks, months, years and have just never gotten around to do it. But it’s in my possession and it’s about damn time.

2) Girl Up – Laura Bates

Same goes for this. I’ve read the first page or so and it’s not fucking about. Which is just what I need right now.

3) The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck – Sarah Knight

This was a book that I was looking for in Waterstones, almost gave up and then turned around to see it on a display. It was also this book that made me think that this was going to be a period of time that I was going to read mostly non-fiction books.

4) The Princess Diarist – Carrie Fisher

And now, I am going to complete all the Carrie Fisher books that I have on my list. I almost don’t want to do it, but the time has come. I loved Wishful Drinking and let’s be real I am never going to be truly ready to read it so I might as well just get down to it.

5) The Good Immigrant –  Nikesh Shukla

It’s also time that I read this book. I almost picked it up back in January but didn’t. That’s now changing. It’s time.

6) The Uncommon Type – Tom Hanks

They aren’t all going to be non-fiction on this list because I’ve gotta break it up with some fiction, mainly because the fiction on my list far outweighs the non-fiction. And also I’m curious to see what Tom Hanks has to offer as a writer.

7) The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood

This book is currently staring me straight in the face on my desk. Also season 2 of this show is imminent and I have yet to watch season 1 because I am waiting to read the book before I watch it. This might be an Amsterdam read, but then again it might be a tad too intense for that. We’ll see how it goes.

8)  Call Me By Your Name – André Aciman

I am so excited to read this book. I keep hearing nothing but great things about it and so it’s one that I am most hyped to read.

9) Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari

Okay, so I put this is on my list before the allegations against him came to light and then I had a real think as to whether or not I would still read it. And then when I was reading the responses to it there was an article that mentioned this book in context to his actions and how they somehow didn’t quite match up and so I didn’t take it off the list, because I think on some level this would be interesting to read with the context.

10) the princess saves herself in this one – amanda lovelace

Time to get my first poetry collection of the year read.

And those are my next 10 books, which should take my total to 21 by the end of April, I don’t know whether means I am on track or not but I do know that it means I am inching closer to halfway.

Parentheses count: 1. See you tomorrow!

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Check In 1

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These are coming bi-monthly. At the beginning of the month. At the end of every two months. I should remember that right? (No, I will remember that). That will make it 5 in this year and then a round up.

And without further ado here is the first check in

1) Learn how to fuck with eyeshadow

I’ve worn make up so little these past couple of months because I just did not really leave the house and it was just for my birthday that I put it on and as such I spent that day truly living my best. I also do not currently own any eyeshadows or appropriate brushes and I’m cutting down on my spending so that will be a goal that I might attempt later i the year.

2) Learn how to do a full pull up

I’ve not even gotten myself into a situation where I have even attempted to do this yet. I walk past these pull up bars in the park on the way to work every morning and think about how I will maybe use something with that kind of set up and then just haven’t even tried. I’m trying to work on my chest and upper body strength before I go in. I don’t even know why that is to be honest, but I just don’t feel ready to tackle this one yet.

3) Be able to a full push up

My half push up things are fine. If I’m on my knees and on the right day I can get down real low. I’ve not really gotten any further with the full one. Mainly because there is something a little bit niggly in my right wrist which makes bearing weight on it a bit hit and miss. Which is nice and useful for most body weight movements. It means that my balance is being tested slightly more because I try and avoid putting my hands down for some moves now and also means that I don’t do high planks and my knees are better at scraping the floor in mountain climbers. It also means that I avoid push ups currently. Like I said, it’s hit and miss, sometimes my wrist is fine, sometimes it’s not. I have to play it by ear.

4) Read 70 books

I’m 11 in. Soon to start the 12th. I’m making progress with this. I’m currently a little ahead of schedule, but only by a book. This is plodding along.

5) Lift heavier

I’ve come the realisation that this one is kind of vague and so I’m breaking it down a little. I’m aiming to reach a TUT squat weight of 20kg, arms/chest to 10/12kg and then everything else to roughly 15kg by July. And then I will reassess then if I have managed to do it. I went up in my squat weight last Sunday to 15kg on a whim, but my arms/chest didn’t feel quite up for the challenge of 10kg and I was right they struggled with their usual 8 and the rest of it I just felt like I was going to compromise massively on form so I just stuck with 10kg which seemed like the right choice. I am making steps. The 15kg felt kinda good, I was surprised at how much I had missed it and also by how much I enjoyed it.

6) Eat more fruit and veg

This remains hit and miss. Some weeks I’m really good and on it and hit 5 a day and then some weeks I don’t. I really need to work to make it a more conscious effort.

7) Cook More

This is going nowhere right now.

8) Finish the damn book

I aimed to get to 10,000 words on The Thing this week. That’s where I’m at with that 10,000 words. No real character building, only a vague plot, no coherence with the way that I am writing it, but the words seem to be there and I do know what I want the arc to be. It’s something.

9) Write for half an hour a day

This is not happening. I mean I am writing for half an hour or more when I’m writing for this blog, but externally of that I am not that disciplined with that yet.

10) Get better organised

We all know the answer to this right?

11) Get my Peak score to 800

On February 6th this happened. I knew it was coming because suddenly the number stopped hanging in the 770/780’s and was at 794. And so I plodded along to get to my goal of 800. It felt like such a great achievement after it alluding me for so long. So now the goal is 900.

12) Meditate more

Again, not really happening right now. It’s just not a habit that I appear to have any desire to cultivate for some annoying reason. Ironically I think I am in my own head too much and can’t switch off, nor can I accept that that is just a thing that happens, but the key is to let those thoughts pass and then bring it back. As I’m writing this I am in the midst of reading Eat, Pray, Love and she has just got to India, which is the Pray, part and she is talking about meditation and how she struggles with it and I feel kind of the same way.

13) Save, save, save

I’m made a huge reduction in the amount of unnecessary spending I am doing, so this is kind of fine right now. It’s where I want it to be to be honest. I’ve allowed myself a couple of things (like my Apple Watch and a new pair of trainers) but for the most part I am getting better at saying no.

14) Put more effort into blogging

This seems to be doing alright. I mean I did just sort of reinvent this blog a bit these past couple of weeks (and this is the last mention) and I feel a new sense of excitement about it which is always good. I’m also getting better at sharing my posts more frequently. This feels good.

15) The Masters

Okay, so this is still an idea. But I now also have another thing that I may want to do. I’m aware that I am being quite vague about this but currently it’s still just a seed in my head that I may or may not water…

Parentheses count: 3. See you tomorrow!

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2018 Reading Challenge, Book 10 – Postcards from the Edge

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If I was good at maths then I would be able to give some kind of a percentage as to how far into this challenge I am so far. As it is, I’m shit at it. So I have no idea, I know it’s not quite a 6th of the way through the official challenge, but it is a 7th of the way through the unofficial one.

But anyway, back to today’s book in question.

We all know at this point in time that I am low key obsessed with Carrie Fisher and I have devoured two of her autobiographies in mere days and I had kind of just assumed that it would be the case for this as well.

It was not.

This book felt hard to get through. I struggled.

And I don’t even really know what it was about it that I just couldn’t mesh with. But there was something. And from the opening pages I felt like I was a little on the back foot because I just didn’t expect the way that it was told.

The first part was first person narrative, which I am fine with. And then the other two parts were not. In fact for a lot of the beginning of the second part I wasn’t even really sure who was involved in the scene that was before me because no names were mentioned. It was pronouns only. Which was slightly alarming I’ve gotta be hones with you. I mean I settled into it eventually but it took a while and the settling process was a lot of hard work. Then the 3rd part felt a bit more familiar but was still something that I had to get used to in some way.

It meant that the book took slightly longer to get through then I had anticipated it taking. It was a lot denser then it looks at face value coming in at only just over 200 pages.

I also can’t really say that I liked it. It’s what prompted my DNF post the other day, because I did kind of hate it and I could think of nothing worse then trying to make it to the end because it just felt so impossible, but also I needed to know how Suzanne Vale’s story ended. Can’t say I was a fan of it either.

I mean it kind of made sense in a lot of ways, but I dunno. I think I was just disappointed by the whole damn book and the ending was never going to change that, no matter how much I may have wanted it to.

There were some bright sparks to to it all. This book was funny. I actually did laugh out loud multiple times. It was the kind of unexpected laughing from a joke that you don’t really see coming but it just gets you. This book was full of that. It was a bright spark.

I also really loved the first part of this book. I liked it being told from two different first person narratives who are at very different stages of their drug addiction. There’s Suzanne who has very much made her peace with the fact that she needs to be there and is trying her hardest to make sure that she gets the most out of it and then there is Alex who is in denial. I enjoyed (which sounds a bit morbid now that I think about it) his perspective. The way it followed his thought processes and as a reader you could see that he had a problem but then on some other level you could also see that he didn’t understand that he had a problem. I liked that Suzanne could recognise that Alex clearly hadn’t thought had had reached rock bottom even though every one around him believed that he had and then, well Alex reached rock bottom.

I didn’t quite get why Alex was there though and then only sort of briefly mentioned towards the end of the book. As a reader you spend a fair amount of time with him in the first part of the book and then the focus is solely on Suzanne, which I understand because it’s her narrative, but also it seemed a bit odd to only have him mentioned a couple of times at a later date to show that he had made good on the thing that he said he was going to do.

I also liked that this book showed the world post rehab and allowed Suzanne to fall into a sort of depressive state without the drugs and she stayed there for a fair amount of time, but that was then contrasted with the fact that it whilst she in that state and sort of forcing herself to try and get back into society that she actually mets the person that she ends up in a committed relationship come the close of the book.

I liked how complicated, and to be honest messy, Suzanne was. And she was almost unapologetically so, which I enjoyed. I did like seeing her journey through from start to finish on some level. But the way the narrative is told just didn’t mesh well with me at the time, maybe because I was coming off the back of reading a couple of other books that I also didn’t quite get on with and so there was still some sort of hangover from that. I dunno.

It’s not that I hated this book, as I’ve said there are quite a lot of elements that I enjoyed but for the most part I just couldn’t get into the way that I had hoped and expected that I would.

I think yes, for some reason I would actually recommend this book. Maybe I just need to read it at a different time or something, or maybe it’s just one of those books that while not the worst book I’ve ever read, is just not one that I got on with it…

3/5 stars

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2018 Reading Challenge, Book 9 – All That She Can See

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And here we are with book 9 of the year down. There is a part of me that is aware that by this point last year I had read way more books than the 9 that I currently stand at (I was at 12/13) and for some reason that make that part of me panic because the amount of books that I have to read this year is bigger than last year. But I’m not stressing about that on the whole, one because that’s insane and two because these books are all within my wheelhouse of being able to read them in a week (roughly). Which is what I did with this one (it was 4 days if you want to get technical)

The next book in question is this one.

I mentioned in my original reading challenge post for this year that I wasn’t 100% sure on my opinion on Fletcher’s writing was. And annoyingly I still don’t. But I do feel like I am closer to figuring it out. And it’s not necessarily good.

I like her writing style because it’s easy. I can blitz through so many pages in my half hour journey to and from work with ease and not even really notice that I am doing it. And I like elements of the plot, but for the most part I just wasn’t a fan. Which is slightly annoying as I wanted to like this one. I had higher hopes for it then I did her previous one. And that is where I was let down I guess. I try to go into books with no expectations because that is safer, but I didn’t with this and I was let down.

The first 50/60 pages of this book felt really repetitive. In fact a couple of things were repeated verbatim. And then it got a bit silly when I was supposed to believe that a 24 year old had never had any interaction with the internet, social media and a phone. It just made no sense and from that point onward I carried reading it with an element of skepticism that this is just not going to my cup of tea.

Which was proven further by the whole second half of the book. I am fully aware that this is a magical realism kind of book but the second half of the book seemed like a totally different book the first half. I could deal with a sort of baked goods/cocktails turf war with a  hatred turned love relationship thing. That is not what I got.

Not even close.

I don’t even really know how to describe what the second half of this book was. But it was so random. It felt like it was trying to make a point about feelings and how important they are but it just got a bit too far fetched.

Actually calling it far fetched doesn’t make sense, this is fiction, if you can justify it then it makes sense. But this didn’t feel like that. I get that Chase and Cherry didn’t know anything about there being other people like them and I guess it would make sense for there to be some kind of government for that but this just didn’t make sense. Because there was nothing to suggest that this was coming. With the exception of mentioning Peter at the beginning and linking him to her childhood.

Another issue that I had with this book was that none of the characters felt fully fleshed out. They all fell a bit flat. Chase was a dick but the nuances of that were never explored. I really want an explanation as to how Cherry managed to live such a sheltered life and not know what the Facebook was…I feel like I was supposed to care about the Shura/Peter thing but Shura practically didn’t exist so I didn’t get why I was supposed to care. I had no investment but I didn’t care. He carried a lot of hatred, which made sense but also wasn’t explained. The people of Plymouth (or the small area that they occupied) were all just there. They had the potential to be something but then the book took a turn and nothing really happened. Happy was just ironic but that was it. There was just a lot of underdeveloped characters in a weird clunky plot.

This is the thing that really got me is that the start of this book kind of felt like it was beginning at the end. It felt warm and fuzzy and all that jazz. But it didn’t start at the end. The end felt weird. It felt clunky. Really clunky. I finished it just thinking what the hell. And I get the message that we give our feelings the power over what they do to us but it just felt clunky.

Yeah. That’s where I’m at with this book. I didn’t hate it. But I really did not like it.

2/5 stars

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The Goodreads Book Tag

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Oh what a surprise, another book tag. This one I saw on Liam’s blog yesterday and well I didn’t have a plan for today and so here we are.

What was the last book you marked as ‘read’?

I’m writing this on Thursday and on a day when I am nearing the end of a book, but as it has not yet been finished I can’t quite say that it’s been marked as read, so in that case the answer is The Girl of Ink and Stars and I attempted to make sense of my thoughts on it here.

What are you currently reading?

The book that I am almost finished is All That She Can See. The review is coming, I am just as confused as I was with the last book I read.

What book do you plan to read next?

Currently I’m thinking Postcards From the Edge. Or it might be Eat, Pray, Love. I have 3 books left on this post to read and am currently looking mostly on track to succeed with that. It’s most likely to be Postcards just because of the length and the fact that I can probably get it done in a couple of days (hopefully)

Do you use the star rating system?

I do, just to give myself a general idea of where I stand with it when I come to actually writing up the reviews

Are you doing a 2018 Reading Challenge? 

I am, it’s set at 65 currently, but as I mentioned here I’m kind of going for 70.

Do you have a wishlist?


What book do you plan to buy next?

I’m trying to minimize the amount of books I buy right now. I did just buy two at the weekend (for a fiver in the end, which is kind of why I did it. I had an itch to scratch and I managed to do that and save £11 in the process which made it feel a little better) and so am trying to not buy anymore. There’s some pre-orders I have but I don’t really remember but I imagine I will get a dispatch email letting me know that I have a new one on the way I just don’t know when that will be.

Do you have any favorite quotes? Share a few.

I have so many. None that are saved on Goodreads or anything because I forget that is a feature on there.

But I’m only going to put one here from one of my always recommend books, The Night Circus (because it is just one the most stunningly written books that I have ever read)

‘You may tell a tale that takes up residence in someone’s soul, becomes their blood and self and purpose. That tale will move them and drive them and who knows that they might do because of it, because of your words. That is your role, your gift.’

Who are your favorite authors?

I have a lot. Obviously, Neil Gaiman. Donna Tartt. Samantha Shannon and Alwyn Hamilton are up there. Erin Morgenstern (yes, on the back off one book alone). I’m loving Kiersten White and her world building. Carrie Fisher has a brilliant way with words. I actually not necessarily hate Hemingway. Like I said there are a lot, I could go on.

Have you joined any groups?

I don’t think so (also didn’t bother to check whether I had). I don’t really utilize the site the way that I can to be honest. I just track my books with it.

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2018 Reading Challenge, Book 8 – The Girl of Ink and Stars

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This is a slightly tangential start to this book review, but I realised a few weeks back while I was trying to figure some stuff about what books were gonna make my little mini reading lists that I only have one book that’s over 700 pages, and that is Donna Tartt’s book. The rest, for the most part, all kind of hover just underneath 400 or so pages which makes the whole thing seem less terrifying a feat to try and achieve.

Proved by the fact that I’ve finished three books since last Monday, two books in full I was just finishing one up before that.

The next book:

2018 Reading Challenge, Book 8, The Girl of Ink and Stars
2018 Reading Challenge, Book 8, The Girl of Ink and Stars

Words can’t really do justice to how beautiful this book actually is. The details on the pages of this book are just stunning. The cover is gorgeous and the designs of the maps that are dotted throughout are true pieces of art.

As I’ve mentioned before, I bought this book because when I was in Waterstones it had just won an award for best Children’s Book of 2017 and well I’m a sucker for advertising it would seem. And it also followed me fucking everywhere before I finally relented.

Okay, so this book felt a little bit Rebel of the Sands in some way. I don’t even really know what it was about it that felt like that. Maybe it’s just because it was a fantasy world and it was a female heroine and I was still a little bit fucked up over the trilogy. And I thought that that residual feeling was the reason that I didn’t quite mesh with this book, and I do think it was that in part, but also I just didn’t quite mesh with it.

I don’t even really know what it was about it. It’s well written and I liked Isabella and the story itself was fine. But I just found myself moving through the whole thing and not really giving a shit…

Something about it felt a bit too rushed. I got to the last 30/40 pages and was just like how is this going to resolve itself in that few amount of pages. And it was resolved, but it felt sooo rushed. And then it all came to an end and I was like ‘oh’.

The things that I did like was the slightly mythical, magical element to it. I liked how complicated the friendship between Lupe and Isabella was. They had that kind of relationship that felt full of unconditional love but also felt so teenaged in the way that it moved. But it also felt kind of undeveloped in some way. I dunno, come the end when Lupe died to save Isabella so that she could continue on the journey to save the island, I didn’t care that it had happened. I also didn’t really care about her father and what he had done…I didn’t really feel like the importance of it was really made clear because the second it was said things had moved on already.

That’s the thing that I didn’t really get on with when it came to this book. Things were said and then moved on really quickly and it just felt like it was go, go, go but it didn’t really go anywhere. It was never really explained why the Banished were the Banished, or why the Governor was so totalitarian, Yote seemed to come out of nowhere and then was suddenly super important and the myths didn’t really feel fully fleshed out so they didn’t really mean anything to me. And I could honestly go on.

There a couple of reasons why this might have happened, one I’m not in the target demographic so maybe that affected it? And two, I was kinda tired and so maybe some things just didn’t land with me and went over my head. Or maybe I just didn’t like it.

That seems the most likely.

I don’t think this book is bad, I know that it sounds like I thought that it was, but it wasn’t. It just wasn’t for me and as such I can kind of pick it apart with ease. Like I said, aesthetically this book is stunning and it does have some beautiful images in it, but it just wasn’t for me. I finished the book so confused as to whether I liked it or not and usually if I finish a book like that, it’s more likely that I didn’t.

3/5 stars

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