Thursday, 30 January 2014

Reading Life of Pi

Another book review, it's like it's Christmas every day around here! Seriously though, I'm enjoying this.

I started reading Life of Pi more than a year ago and I had huge expectations. It won the Man Booker Prize 2002 and I have enjoyed every book that has been nominated for the Man Booker prize so far. Statistically it feels like I have a special connection with these books. So when I put Life of Pi to the side after only a few chapters, I don't know what had happened. (Spoiler; I just didn't give it enough time, which seems to be a common issue in the world of book-reading.) When I decided to start over the other day I found myself completely captivated by Pi and his story. I'm having trouble deciding exactly how to describe the plot of this book because at times I wish that I had known as little as possible before reading it. Pi is a sixteen-year-old boy from India who grows up with a zoo and a strong passion for religion. He devotes his life to Christianity, Islam and Hinduism (much to his parents' distress) and observing the animals in the zoo until the day that his family decides to move to Canada. Unfortunately the boat never makes it that far and Pi finds himself in a lifeboat with a terrifying Richard Parker for an extended period of time.

This is an unglamorous story about surviving horrible conditions, resorting to things that you never imagined you'd be able to but also about inner strength. I loved Pi's thoughts on religion (most of my favourite quotes from this book concerned religion) and how they're all pretty much the same thing. Nothing new, but nevertheless lovely to read about. This is not a book filled with action - there will be several pages describing the flavour of raw fish. It's not a book that can be rushed through, it's a story to enjoy. The true hero in more ways than one is Pi who is the most unintentionally hilarious boy you could imagine and even in the darkest moments of the story he cheered me up. Read if you love a story that's unbelievable yet you start believing it a little bit.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Another (geometric) Etsy wishlist #2

I am back on Etsy now, sitting up late at night trailing for handmade and uniquely printed tea towels that are too expensive to ship to the UK. My eyes are red and tired but I just cannot stop scrolling. In my insane mind it is completely normal to pay £9 for a tea towel. So I thought I'd make another geometric Etsy wishlist!* (I have other types of Etsy wishlists as well but the geometric ones are the ones closest to my heart.) Oh, did you know that Etsy do wedding dresses? No? Neither do I. I never look at wedding dresses on Etsy in my spare time.

1. Who wouldn't love a candle light holder like these from Little Lamb Craft? I'm all aboard the idea of incorporating more textures and natural wood in my home and the pastel colours are perfect for spring.

2. Here's a phone case from Idea Case that I would not mind at all. The wood makes it cool, the pattern (with triangles! be still my heart) makes it less "your parents' cabin from the 70s".

3. I definitely want to dabble in plants this year and possibly make them survive a life with me. Concrete Geometric makes these tiny cute ones in concrete. (Duh.)

4. And I'm loving the necklace by InfinEight. This + a gray sweater for those spontaneous dinner parties that I always go to.

*This post does not actually contain a single tea towel. If you want me to my next Etsy post will feature nothing but tea towels.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Week 4 - sick, again

All images are from my Instagram. 

I'm sorry for all the dark pictures. The small window of daylight occurs when I'm at work/PhD office and during the weekends it's light outside but it's not actually light. It's like there's a blue filter over the world. Just you wait, in June I'll be able to post happy, bright pictures like these again. Work was busy, university was busy and then I got a cold AGAIN on top of it all. I feel like the injustice in the world has reached new heights; so when I exercise regularly and eat plenty of fruit and vegetables I somehow get two colds in the space of a month? How is that logic at all? Well, it sure showed me for being so smug about doing regular exercise - I've only been able to exercise once this week. Ugh.

Today I have mainly been tending to myself through baths and unreasonably fluffy socks, but I also cleaned the fridge. There's only three weeks left until my mom visits and I felt nervous about the previous state of the fridge. (So much old food that I was possibly cultivating a whole new species.) In other news, I finished reading another book (Life of Pi) yesterday and I'm currently planning out my February book purchases. It looks like there's gonna be an disproportionate amount of YA fiction targeting the male population...

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Reading The Interestings

I had never heard of The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer until I read about A Beautiful Mess' online "book club". (Secret confession; I've always wanted to be in a book club. Unfortunately, it's not seen as a very cool hobby so I'm just going to have to wait until my friends join my level of non-cool.) I downloaded a sample of the book from Amazon kindle and was immediately hooked. The Interestings is a story about talent and about a group of close friends at an art camp who grow up into talented and not-so-talented adults. Jules is funny and quick-witted but she's not a natural actress. What happens when you eventually have to face reality but your friends get to stay creative and live out their dreams? 

The Interestings follow the friends as they leave their teenage years and halfway through life. The events do not follow in chronological order and so it is early when we find out who continued creating and who became a downward spiral of destruction. Maybe I'm just a sucker for loving to know the ending and then being drip-fed details about the events that led them there. What a teaser this book is. It is also witty (much like the main character Jules) as well as well-written with clever analogies which makes it a dream to read. I read other reviews which claimed that the ironic narration distanced the characters from the reader but I disagree. The fact that the characters were under constant criticism from the narrative just made them more lovable to me. (And how refreshing to read about people with flaws!) Although I have numerous times mentioned how funny it is, there are also dark thoughts and events that make you squirm uncomfortably as you try not to pick sides. It makes you think. I just loved this book and if you'd like to read a clever book about ordinary and not-so-ordinary lives then you should read it too.

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

January goals - halfway through

Were you expecting me to fail? I was. I was expecting myself to fail miserably. But look who's laughing now, because I've done incredibly well. Sort of.

Image from my Pinterest. (I did yoga last week.)

1. I have exercised three times a week, every week so far. Last week I didn't push myself quite as far as I would've liked but I'm definitely going to make up for that. At some point, not tonight. (I did a FitnessBlender thigh & butt workout and OH MY. My thighs have decided to fall into a coma.)

2. I also halved our food expenses so far. In fact, I think we've spent £80 on food the past three weeks. We're still unbelievably poor since we had to buy London plane tickets + hotel, but at least we're laughing manically while eating porridge all day err day.

3. Operation moisturise myself to death is going well. I've successfully slotted it into my daily routine and my aim is to get skin so soft that babies are jealous.

4. Also I've been posting regularly all January, whaat. Not that all of these posts have been particularly exciting but at least I feel good about myself for sticking to my decisions.

Plus I added two goals for good measure:

5. Drink at least 1600 ml of fluid each day - mostly water. I decided to do this before January but since I'm keeping it up anyway... Let's just add it to the list so that I feel good about myself.

6. Read 52 books in 2014. This could be a bit tricky but I have plenty of time now that I commute every day. (Don't expect me to do work on the train. I can't do work for 8 hours and then continue reading about psychology on my way home, it's not human.) This could be troublesome if I run into a really long book (like the one I'm reading right now but it's so good that I don't really want it to end anyway.)

We'll see how well I do for the last ten days when February comes along. Sweet February.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Week 3 - struggling with exercise

All images are from my Instagram. 

Another week has gone! This will be a short summary of the week because as I'm spending all my time freaking out about my studies (or actually doing work on it). So I don't get much time leftover for doing interesting things. (As if I ever did interesting things.) On Friday I saw some friends after work and we finally exchanged the last few Christmas presents. Better late than never is our motto, apparently. And when I came home I was feeling very energetic due to all caffeine and I finally put our Christmas trees in the roof space. I don't even know how I got up there but somehow I did. On Saturday I continued with my pottering about the house, reorganising drawers, finally glueing back together the candlestick that I received last summer, tried to hang a painting and made the wall crumble apart, again. Now I'm not allowed to do any more hammering. In the evening we babysat Steve's nephews and today we have done absolutely nothing.

Health-wise, this week has been so-so. I bought a giant pack of mixed fruits and nuts to keep in the office and it actually works quite well. I have snacks which keeps me from buying more but I don't like it enough to overeat. Success! For my lunch I've mainly had salads, although I did resort to a sandwich one of the days when I was sick of my usual food. I was trying to stay away from caffeine for the week as part of the January Health & Fitness goals. It didn't go well, I was back to coffee on Tuesday. Whoops. I did exercise three times, although one of them was a 30 minute yoga-inspired session rather than my usual cardio. Today me and Steve went on a brisk walk for 40 minutes and then I did one of the kickboxing videos from FitnessBlender. Next week I will definitely step it up when it comes to exercise!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Reading The Legend series

Lately I've been watching a lot of book reviews on Youtube and this YA novel by Marie Lu showed up the other day. One of the first things that I noticed when reading up on this book was the numerous mentions of "The Hunger Games" among the reviews. Sold. Set in a dystopian nation on the west coast of the U.S called The Republic (what is with me and my dystopian novels?), a 15-year-old upper class girl hunts for her brother's murderer who happens to be a 15-year-old one-man anti-government operation from the slums. But although June and Day grew up in different worlds, they may in fact have the same enemy. (Ominous music.)

Let's just get this out of the way; This first book did not get me as hooked as the Hunger Games did when I read it the first time. That saying, it's not a bad book at all. It is well-paced (probably better than the previously mentioned book), quite exciting and keeps you on your toes. I love me a good dystopian novel and the plot is interesting albeit a bit predictable. Unfortunately the characters are... kind of boring. I get an allergic reaction from characters who are constantly described as "beautiful". (An exceptionally good-looking main character, how unique! Ugh.) Not to mention that they're both geniuses and could beat any obstacle course any day. But I read the entire book in the space of one evening and I've already started the second one, so clearly it doesn't bother me that much. Plus I do like a strong female lead character. I'm looking forward to seeing what the second book throws at me!

I am writing this within fifteen minutes of finishing the second book and I'm still coming down from the book-high that I just experienced. The sequel to Legend was on a whole different level. The story was a lot less predictable and continued having a well-paced story line, with occasional action. The kind that makes you widen your eyes and bite your knuckles. Even the characters improved. Yes, I admit that I may have been too harsh with them previously but I feel like they have now redeemed themselves. There has been a certain growth and actual character flaws have appeared - or so I'm telling myself now since I feel so invested in their story.

I'm in general not a "second-book-person" when it comes to trilogies as they usually feel like nothing but bridges between the introduction and the conclusion. Hello, we're the same people as in the first book and at the start of the third book we will still be working towards the exact same goal as we originally said. However I definitely preferred this book to its predecessor and I feel like all of the events were just as important as the ones in the first one and altered the direction of the story. Not to mention that I quite liked the absence of the necessary introductions of slightly cliché background stories of the characters. Also, TWISTS. I cannot wait to continue reading the third book now.

Breaking news from an emotional wreck; I finished the Legend series two minutes ago (written on Saturday). I had to actually pace myself and only read a little bit at a time each day but obviously today I cracked and I finished it, emotions all over the place. All over. The third book is a worthy ending to the Legend series. I feel like the story had matured and the characters with it. Without giving anything away, the story has sort of reached its culmination; the Republic is on the brink of collapse and the situation looks quite hopeless. The characters are now older and aware that the world is not as black-and-white as they previously thought and this brings along new difficult decisions to make.

Along with the Domesday feel of the third book there's also a lot of squabbling over politics and feelings. No wonder, there's been some serious issues going on in the two previous books. However, I am willing to overlook that because the moments that are action-filled are SO good and my heart was racing as I became immersed in the punching, the dodging and the shooting that June and Day seem to constantly find themselves in. Also, it would've been a rather thin story without the personal drama. Despite my initial dislike for these teenage heroes, towards the end I found myself pathetically wishing that their love story would work out and that there would be a happy-ever-after ending. Did my wish come true? Go ahead and read the Legend series to find out. (Oh what a cheesy ending to a review.)

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

10 reasons to smile 20.0

one - We're going to London on Valentine's Day which is exactly a month from today! This was actually the Christmas gift that I mentioned in my previous happy-post but now we're getting fairly close to our little trip.

two - I'm the new roast potato master. At least in this household comprising of the grand total of... two.

three -The book I'm currently reading is shaking up my insides - in a good way - and I am absolutely falling in love with the characters, the story and style of writing. Plus it's a longer book so I'm not even halfway through yet. (The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer.)

four - I go to the office and I'm happy. Also happy to finally be part of that category.

five - Right after we come back from London my mom and my youngest brother are visiting! February is going to be the best month ever. I can't wait to have too much wine with my mom and decisively fail when playing video games with Elias.

six - I've started watching Breaking Bad and WOAH. Why were people not more forceful when recommending this before?

seven - There's two weeks and two days left until we get paid and we just might scrape by without selling our kidneys. January, you're certainly no picnic.

eight - At some point towards the end of December I decided to become really obsessive about my fluid intake (you know that point when you go through an entire day and suddenly realise that you've only had a a cup of coffee all day? That's not good) and it worked! I started trying to force myself to drink at least 1600 ml each day but now I reach 2000 ml and I barely even realise.

nine - There is a chocolate chip cookie in my bag and Steve doesn't want his half. Score.

ten - I decided to get back into exercising after a very lazy December and I feel like it has worked! I've been exercising three times a week, for at least 30 minutes and it's not too difficult but I also don't feel guilty when eating huge amounts of cake.

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Week 2 - first week of postgrad

Yes, that is a massive photo of Picard.

Aren't you thrilled to be reading a blog that only ever puts up Instagram photos and not even exciting ones at that? (That's a lie though, because I think this is a very exciting photo.) This was the one Instagram photo I took all week and although it is seemingly only a red door, it also represented the start of my PhD. Yay! Obviously there's tons of work to do and I haven't even really been able to get started yet since this was the first week. So far I have spent all my time realising all the things that need to be done and slowly becoming more and more terrified. In a good way.

Other than that I also took part in the January Health & Fitness Challenge and exercised three times (as I had already promised myself anyway) but also ate three vegetarian meals. I had quorn steak with sweet potato crisps and salad one day and also vegetarian curry twice because I accidentally made huge amounts of it. Obviously it wasn't all exercising and eating healthily. (It never is if I have anything to say about it.) On Friday I had a friend over for weekly tea and cake night and last night I was at a friend's house for a houseparty. It was an intense night and I've only just recovered. Finally, I've decided to read 52 books this year. I know what you're thinking, I'm also a little doubtful whether this will actually happen.

P.S. It's so nice to be excited for the workweek to start!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

2013 - a year in books

This is the last of my posts that are about a year long over. I promise. But after watching so many people say stuff like "I only read 73 books in 2013", I felt like I needed to get back into reading. I'm going to try to document as many books as possible on the blog because... You know, it's important. And writing about books makes me instantly want to read more books! Here's a little list of all the books I read in 2013. Plus a sentence of what I thought of it because I need to express my opinions about these important things.

Image from my Pinterest.

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline
LOVED this YA book about a future where gaming is more important than reality. 8/10.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared - Jonas Jonasson
Kind of funny Swedish Forrest Gump-style book that gets a bit repetitive after a while. 6/10.

Kafka on the Shore - Haruki Murakami
An exciting but dark detective story in Murakami style i.e. there's talking cats. 7/10.

Emma - Jane Austen
Fine when I read it but I can't reread these classics without yawning (don't shoot me). 5/10.

IQ84 - Haruki Murakami
Would get ridiculous praise from me if I didn't feel like it tried to make my brain explode at times. 8/10.

The Host - Stephanie Meyer
It's like Twilight but with much more interesting characters and no vampires but aliens instead. 6/10.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette - Maria Semple
Hilarious and makes you love the characters as if they were your babies, sort of. 9/10.

May We Be Forgiven - AM Homes
Don't be put off by the gruesome start, the love for the characters sneak up on you. 9/10.

The Devil Wears Prada - Lauren Weisberger
It's definitely entertaining but it's not like it touches your soul. 5/10.

The Red Book - Deborah Copaken Kogan
Surprisingly good and wonderfully intricate relationships. 7/10.

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green
Great from a cancer-book point of view but the romance didn't really sway me as I expected. 7/10.

Delicacy - David Foenkinos
Quirky and cute love story that is anything but predictable. 7/10.

P.S. I've linked the ones that I actually wrote about at the time of reading them. As you can see I had an ambitious (and partly unemployed) summer.

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

2013 list

I wrote this list last year and it was such great fun that I decided to do it again. 
In 2013, did you do anything that you had never done before?
I visited Malta for the first time.

Did any of your friends have children?
Not as far as I'm aware.
Did anyone close to you pass away?
Yes, my beautiful granny. 
What countries did you visit?
I visited France, Malta and Sweden!
Did you miss anything from 2013 that you would like in 2014?
What date from 2013 will you forever remember?
3/7, mainly because it was the day I graduated and I was flippin' terrified of getting up on that stage.

What was your biggest success 2013?
I took my driver's license and I somehow got a 1st in my course too.
Biggest mistake?
I can't think of any mistakes worth mentioning. (If that isn't a good sign I don't know what is.)
Best buy?
The £3 moisturiser from Boots was a pretty sweet deal. I also love my gray Zara coat which I hunted for halfway through Europe (literally).

Did anything make you really happy?
Many things did. Moving into our first house with Steve just put my general state of happiness on a completely new level. 
What songs will forever remind you of 2013?
Kendrick Lamar - Swimming Pools, Daft Punk - Get Lucky, Arctic Monkeys - Do I Wanna Know, Half Moon Run - She Wants To Know and M83 - Midnight City are just a handful.
Were you more happy or sad than previous years?
Definitely more happy. I feel like maybe I finally know myself.
What do you wish you had done more of?
I wish that I had read a bit more as I only read 12 books during the entire year. (I shall remedy that, I have already read several books and we're only a week into January.)
What do you wish you had done less of?
Spending money that I do not have enough of?
Did you fall in love this year?
I'm already in love, woohoo.
Favourite TV show?
Downton Abbey just keeps on kicking it out of the park, I was surprised (in a good way) by Revolution and I also now harbour a newfound love for Captain Picard after watching Star Trek: TNG... (I also loved watching the entire Lost series within two months - but it went seriously downhill after season 4.)
Best book you read this year?
I loved May We Be Forgiven that I read on holiday, finally finishing IQ84 and Where'd You Go Bernadette. I tried to read both The Hobbit and the first book in the Game of Thrones series but I haven't gotten particularly far in either...

Biggest musical discovery?
Lana Del Rey. It took me by surprise as well. 
Anything you wished for and got?
A Nespresso coffee machine! It's like I'm a rich person, but without the money.
Anything you wished for and didn't get?
A well-paid job. Technically, that cannot happen until 2017 now. (What have I done?!)
What did you do on your birthday 2013?
I got my nails painted and then I went to a club with my friends. Partying like it's 1999.
Anything that would have made your life better?
A car maybe, and some stable income.
What made you feel good?
My friends and family. D'awww. 
What celebrity did you have the hots for?
I just don't think of that stuff.
Who did you miss?
A bunch of Swedes.
Best new people you met?
I met some great colleagues and also I'm so happy to have finally met my brother's lovely girlfriend.
Biggest pride?
My academic achievements blah blah.
Highest wish right now?
That January passes quickly because I have such great things to look forward to in February.

Sunday, 5 January 2014

Week 1 - NYE and recovering from it

All images are from my Instagram.

This was my last week before the start of serious work and so obviously I tried to max out the amount of fun I had. Turns out that one New Year's Eve was all the maxing I could handle and the rest of the week I slept. On NYE we went to Portrush to a friend's house where we had a wild night of board games and drinks. It was fun. But also kind of scary because it felt like looking into the future where we're actually... responsible. During the week I received my only sales purchases (three items - I should be given a medal) and they're all very useful and things that I definitely needed. Thumbs up for that! During the week I also finished Lost (and what is going on? I thought I knew the twist at the end but it turns out that I was wrong. The twist fooled me? Also, the first three and maybe even the fourth season are great but it definitely gets a lot worse after that.) and started the Legend trilogy. I'm currently almost done with the second book. I bet I will have finished the third one before the end of next week and I've even been writing down my thoughts on the books as I go along.

Today I have done some exercise, we're soon going to do our weekly grocery shop and then we have to stop by at Steve's niece and nephew's house for some gift-giving. Because they got so much for Christmas we're only giving them the tiniest things (this is what we've been ordered to do by Steve's sister) so there has been some regifting stuff that I had lying about that's never use. Also, to motivate me further when it comes to healthy January I decided to join the January Fitness & Health Challenge (created by Fiona Likes To Blog). This week's challenge; exercise three times and eat three healthy vegetarian meals. I'm on to it. (Can you tell that I feel incredibly motivated just because I know other people are doing it too?!)

Thursday, 2 January 2014

January goals

Image from my Pinterest.

I hate January with a passion. It's cold and dark, just like the four previous months but without Christmas to look forward to. Luckily I have important things starting that will hopefully (most definitely) keep me busy. Rather than spending the rest of the time moping because I don't like this time of the year, I decided to make four January goals (distinct from annual goals - very important because I don't like them) to hold on to:

1. Get back into fitness - I got sick, then I got better for four days and then I got sick again. I managed to exercise once during those four weeks. So my goal is to exercise three days a week in January. (It's not quite the six days a week that I did during September and October but still...)

2. Halve our usual food expenses during January - We've got a lot of money saving to do seeing as this is a six week month and both of us got paid for three weeks. Luckily student life has prepared me for this.

3. Operation 'take care of myself' - This is definitely the most shallow step of them all but it involves a lot of moisturising, body scrubs and long baths. Just a lot of showering myself in love (by myself).

4. Regular posting on this blog - I've had this blog for nearly two years now and it is surprisingly therapeutic to sit down and write about random things. Although possibly one of the most self-centred hobbies known to mankind, it is also surprisingly fun to read back and to know exactly what you did a year ago.

So exercising, budgeting, moisturising and blogging will keep me busy in January.