Thursday, 28 August 2014

Reading We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

Guys, I have almost caught up with my "Read 52 books in a year"-challenge. By the time that this review goes up I should be reading my 34th book. I'm not quite there yet because George RR Martin killed any chance of finishing the third A Song of Ice and Fire book within a week if you also have any other commitments. (Like a job...)

I'm going to jump ahead in this review and tell you that I gave We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler five stars. (Really, this is all you need to know.) Rosemary Cooke decides to start her story in the middle, in 1996 when she's at university in Davis. Her sister is long gone and her brother left the family ten years previously. The disjointed narrative pieces together the puzzle of what it was like to grow up in Rosemary's unique family and living in the conditions placed on them by her father who is a psychologist. I would urge you to not look up anything else about this book.

I loved this book. As I don't want to spoil the story, I can't tell you what the plot is. But on a more general level it's about family dynamics, about going through life trying to suppress something very unique about yourself and about not thinking about loved ones. The story is told with a wry wit and (for me at least) it is obvious that the author grew up with a researching psychologist. I hope the anecdotes about Rosemary's father are as amusing to everyone as it is for someone who does research in psychology. I can think of several people who may receive this book as a Christmas present from me...

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

How to make a capsule wardrobe more exciting/expensive

You may remember that I've been doing a capsule wardrobe thing for a while. (I haven't bought a piece of clothing - apart from a dress for the wedding which I was gifted - for almost eight weeks, wooo! Five to go.) Luckily, the capsule wardrobe rules say nothing about accessories which I have always been pretty crap with and this is the right time to get savvy about accessorising. (P.S. Everything is sold on Asos - how very handy.)

1. A ridiculously expensive watch from Daniel Wellington that I saw on Pinterest a few months back and then fell in love with. I never thought I'd see the day when I'd fall in love with a watch - but of course the price is almost on par with what I pay for housing. 

2. A scarf that looks like it would be really really soft. I've never understood scarves but I've always admired those who know how to artfully drape one around themselves. I want to become one of those people this fall.

3. A pair of arrow earrings from my new favourite jewellery brand, Orelia. And the one and only thing that is actually affordable on my list of accessories that I currently want. Oh, cruel life.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Week 34 - first four mile run

All images are from my Instagram.

I was back to work this week and it was bittersweet. Although Steve was off and I worked from home for three of the days so it kind of felt like it was a weekend but with a deadline that forced me to do work from 9-5. There are many good things about working from home, like the fact that I can half-lie on the couch and I can sleep an hour longer or fit in my exercise before work. If I wanted to go for a run before commuting into Belfast I'd have to get up around 5am. Not fun. However, working from home also drives me a little bit insane. I need to see the other students in my office and to be honest, it's no fun working from home when the other person in the household is off and he goes out and has fun. I'm that selfish.

It wasn't all work though. On Wednesday me and Steve went out for cinema (Dawn of the Planets of the Apes) and then dinner afterwards (this is our new thing - early cinema viewing and then eating afterwards). On Thursday I had a friend over and we ate loads of unhealthy stuff. On Friday I was supposed to go to a work due thing in the evening but cancelled last-minute because I wasn't feeling well. Yesterday me and Steve ran some errands, went for lunch (two food-based dates in a week is NOT okay for our budget or waists) and then I went through all of our paperwork and filed it. Bank statements, pay slips, student loan repayment schedules - you name it, it has a file. I feel very zen now that it's done. Today I haven't even left the house. I've done some reading, a little bit of exercise in front of the TV and I also made some dough for focaccia bread so that's happening tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a bank holiday and I'm going for breakfast with a friend - but first I'm going for a run. On Friday morning I ran my first consecutive 4 miles, hooray! I have run further before but that's been with two walking breaks of about two minutes each, so I'm very pleased with my result. Tomorrow is also payday and I've got soooo many dreams for this payslip to fulfill...

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Reading We Were Liars and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time

I needed to get back down to my usual self after reading serious books for grown-ups for a week. 

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Year after year, the Sinclair family spends their summers at their private island where cousins Cady, Johnny, Mirren and their friend Gat spend all their time together. They are known as The Liars. The story follows Cady, who returns back to her grandparents' island when she is eighteen for the first time since her accident two summers previously. She is reunited with the other Liars but quickly finds out that no one will tell her the truth about what actually happened... You're best off knowing as little as possible before reading this book.

There is a recipe for disaster when writing about boring characters (rich teenagers) with unoriginal love stories (rich teenager falls in love with the outsider, poor boy) but I think the dark and moody family relationships among the adults make up for the shallow love between Cady and Gat. I really didn't like the writing style (short, dramatic sentences) which obstructed the flow of the story and honestly, it just felt pretentious. Her way of describing other characters ("he was bounce, snark and effort") was presumably meant to be "deep" or metaphorical but it just made no sense to me. The mystery aspect of the story was great and I genuinely liked the ending but overall I was disappointed when I finished reading, especially considering the hype that this book has.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
When Christopher finds his neighbour's dog dead he decides to solve the mystery and use the plot when writing the story that his teacher has requested. This is because Christopher has trouble imagining things that haven't actually happened despite having an incredibly advanced understanding of maths and logic. However, finding out who the killer of Wellington is leads to a bigger mystery than he ever thought and soon his life has turned upside-down.

I absolutely loved this story. The narrator has some form of ASD (although there are no specific details about it) and reading a book from his point of view meant looking at things in an entirely different way. The difficulties when interacting with other people, such as not understanding metaphors, not being able to lie and not understanding jokes are few of the many issues that arise in the daily life and were fascinating to read about. The story is really about Christopher (and he is a charming character) but I never saw the "mystery" coming. I also found the book well-written and the characters were realistically flawed. This book was so good that I read it in one sitting and then I spent the next four days wanting to talk about it with everyone else. Read it.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

10 reasons to smile 27.0

Image from Pinterest.

one - I am lying in bed right now. Better appreciate the simpler things in life.

two - We're halfway through August and autumn is my absolute most favourite time of the year. Plus I bought the first Christmas present the other day. (Yes, yes. Go ahead and judge me.)

three - My mom and my youngest brother are visiting me at the end of October <3

four - My high school friend and her boyfriend are visiting me in December!

five - ... And then I go to Sweden for a week over Christmas! So much of Sweden and its people in only two months.

six - I bought an app called "Spending" in which you put in every little penny that you spend. I have never been so in charge of my money and it feels awesome. (You can tell I don't get out much.)

seven - I have already planned my most important purchases for September; shelves for my front room (the plans I hatched over a year ago are almost complete) and moisturiser. Priorities.

eight - This capsule wardrobe thing is going a lot better than I expected. It's been almost seven weeks and the urge to buy clothes has become a lot less uncontrollable. Another five weeks to go before I'll do my autumn clothes shopping.

nine - I want to convince Steve that we should go hiking. I want to be that kind of person, please?

ten - I beat my running record a couple of weeks ago! I can now run 3.1 miles in less than 30 minutes and my average pace for a 2 mile run is 9.26 min/mile. Considering how lazy and unmotivated I am, this is a miracle.

P.S. Last August's happy-post. And the year before.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Week 33 - week off plus weddings

Seven days have passed and it went waaay too fast. My one week of holidays is over?! I'm lucky that I love what I do but I am not looking forward to those early mornings again. I wish I was the type of person who loved getting up in the mornings. 

Quick recap of what I have done this week: On Monday I started and finished a new (brilliant book). There is nothing better than spending an entire day reading. On Tuesday I went to Belfast and bleached my hair back to blonde after the brunette-weekend fiasco. Remind me not to make important hair-related decisions in the middle of the night because my hair is crying for help at the moment. We went back to Belfast on Wednesday to go for food in Alley Cat (++) and to buy a couple of last minute things for the wedding. On Thursday we drove to Enniskillen where Steve's parents have a static caravan and it is also next to the hotel where we were attending the wedding. It's a beautiful place although it may be difficult to believe considering that I only have one picture and all you can see are the caravans. 

However, the wedding was beautiful and I had a great day/night, much due to the company of Steve's 80-year old great aunt and her sister who also stayed at the caravan. My kind of people. A little worse for wear we got up on Saturday and went for an amazing hotel breakfast (+++) before getting back in the car, this time heading for the north coast to celebrate a friend's birthday. Although I had a great weekend, I am so happy to be back in our house. I need to relax after being social for several days in a row. There is also a dire need for vegetables and some light exercise after these few days of ridiculous indulgence... 

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Reading The Stranger and Slaughterhouse-Five

Last week my friend lent me two books. Clearly insinuating that I need to step away from the books written for teenagers... Embrace the pretentious one within me. 

The Stranger by Albert Camus
Meursault is a very different from other people in our society. The novel starts with the death of Meursault's mother and he does not seem to be very affected by it. He is on the whole not very interested in people around him, although he is happy to do what is asked of him. His life is fairly uneventful, right up until the point where he commits a murder and is put on trial - more for his indifference than his act.

So. I get that this is a great existential novel which is supposed to really make you think. I'm not sure what's wrong with me but for some reason it doesn't seem to affect me that much. Yes, Camus had some fascinating ideas on the philosophy of life but they just don't resonate with me at all. As a book to read purely for enjoyment, the simplistic writing in the book made me detached and I felt like the best part is the last chapter. This is where Meursault actually says interesting stuff. And then it's over. (This is why I didn't do a degree in literature.)

Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
This story begins with the perspective of a narrator who has decided to write a book about the bombing of Dresden and does so through writing about a fellow soldier, Billy Pilgrim. Billy is an American soldier who becomes un-stuck in time. We follow his life as he jumps between his war experiences, post-war life as a successful optometrist and the kidnapping by aliens from Tralfamadore. The aliens explain to him that humans do not understand time, that it is not a continuum and that he is simultaneously dead and alive.

I quite enjoyed this book. The disjointed narrative (which may or may not be because of Billy Pilgrim's actual time-travel) adds to the surreal feel which works very well for a novel about such a difficult topic as war. And there is an important message about how utterly unnecessary war is. (On top of that there are some wonderful character descriptions.) I would highly recommend anyone to read this novel.