Thursday, 27 February 2014

Reading The Shock of The Fall

Have you not heard of The Shock of The Fall? Imagine me shaking my head at you. It's a relatively new book by Nathan Filer and it's the winner of the Costa book of the year. The woman across the aisle on the plane was also reading it, so you know it's gonna be good.

The Shock of The Fall is about a boy named Matthew who loses his only brother at an early age (don't be shocked, you find out about it within the first few pages) and as he grows up into a young man he gets schizophrenia. Yeah, it's just as heartbreaking as it sounds. The story is told when Matthew has access to a computer at the day center which he visits and we find out about his childhood, the grief felt by the family and the coping with the loss of his brother through flashbacks.

Forget how well-written and clever it is (but I assure you, it is) and just allow yourself to drown in feelings during the scenes that Nathan Filer writes. When he describes how the previously four, now three, members of the family sit on the couch in the front room without their eldest son for the first time, you really feel it. Mental illness is a tough subject to write about but this account felt so genuine and just as grimy as the reality often is. You kind of want Matthew to one day wake up and for his schizophrenia to be gone, but that is not how it works. Matthew and his brother Simon becomes people that you care about, whether you want it or not. I'd recommend this book to lots of people. I'd also recommend you to read the little Q&A with Nathan Filer at the back of the book (if there is one in your copy) because it's very interesting.

Monday, 24 February 2014

Week 8 - family visiting

All images are from my Instagram. Apart from one which I stole from my mom.

Did you know that it is absolutely impossible to blog when there's people around and you somehow have to squeeze in work/university obligations? I know this now. Not that I would have wanted to blog when my mom and my little brother visited anyway. I barely want to blog now, it's Monday evening and I've almost fallen asleep several times already. So I just thought I'd share a few highlights:

- Eating breakfast for hours together.

- Listening to my brother talk about girls.

- Getting my family obsessed with Modern Family.

- Sharing red wine with someone.

- Deciding to sleep on the couch so that me and my brother can talk about deep stuff. And then promptly fall asleep as soon as I lie down.

- Going out for Italian dinner with Steves family.

- Random kitchen dancing.

- Watching American Horror Stories with mom and Elias and then having to explain to mom what a 'gimp' is.

- Hunting through the home section of TK Maxx. (And then being bought a present for no reason at all.)

- Watching my mom play QWOP. Seriously, the game in itself is hilarious to look at but my mom somehow makes it even more so. If you have a parent nearby, do introduce them to QWOP.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Week 7 - our London trip

I just came home from the BEST trip to London... although way too short. And also when we landed on Friday there was quite a bit of turbulence. Picture a roller coaster which is slowly making you nauseous - and you've paid £60 to ride it for an hour. No fun. We were absolutely exhausted, crap at reading signs and finding the right train and when we finally made it into the city centre we were so hungry that we stopped at the train station for burritos (cornerstone in our diet) despite the fact that it was Valentine's Day. The burrito was actually pretty good and at that point our bad luck seemed to turn. Our hotel was amazing. This might've been helped by the fact that we bought our standard hotel room when it was on sale and then randomly got an upgrade to a deluxe room. I wasn't gonna turn that down. Mega comfortable bed in a room the size of half our house, thank you.

Also, good hotel breakfast has a special place in my heart for a reason. I could eat croissants for the rest of my life.

On Saturday morning we went to the Natural History Museum and discovered that a morning is not nearly enough time in there. Do you ever want to see pictures of massive amounts of bones? I've got 'em. And pictures of the waffles we ate afterwards too. We then went to a church for the very intimate concert that we had booked the trip for in the first place. It was the first time I had ever seen a symphony and it blew me away. I may have cried a bit, because I'm a loser and I become very emotional when I listen to music live, especially if there's a cute pianist involved. We then went to Harrods and pretended to genuinely look at things and then I bought tea because the tin was ridiculously cute. For some reason I decided that walking home from Harrods through Hyde Park would be a great idea, and in my defense my map app claimed that it would only take us 13 minutes. That app was wrong beyond belief. It took us 45 minutes and I have no idea why I had chosen to wear heels on a day out in London. I'm pretty sure a few of my brain cells were lost during that turbulence. After some rest we went to an Italian restaurant and stuffed ourselves. Then we rolled home and watched a movie in the hotel room. We're wild like that.

I wanted to get some time in London today but we had to leave the city around 11am to get to the airport in time. It just seemed like an unnecessary amount of stress to fit in more sightseeing or shopping, so instead we enjoyed our hotel breakfast and decided that a return visit needs to happen very, very soon.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Reading Vicious

Today on the train home I finished Vicious by Victoria Schwab and I was so sad to see it end. That could be the end of the review, because that's really all you need to know. Vicious is set in the city Merit where two geniuses slash college roommates, Victor and Eli, get a bit too invested in an originally theoretic piece of coursework and end up creating supernatural abilities. Through a tragic series of events Victor goes to jail for ten years which is plenty of time for him to plot his revenge against Eli... It is a strange story which makes it difficult to describe and I'd hate to give anything away. Suffice to say, things get exciting.

Vicious has an unpromising title, that is one of its few downsides. Luckily the story is so much more. I loved the world of EOs with everyone having unique super abilities that somehow corresponded ever so slightly to their personalities. I also loved the characters and that the reader is constantly left with an uncomfortable feeling of "who's really the good guy here?". At one point Mitch (a favourite character) says "There are no good men in this game" and Mitch, you are so right. Nobody is 'good', everyone has their own agenda. Which makes it so much more interesting. It's not a book that will win nobel prizes but I liked the writing style, the story was exciting and I was left wanting more. That is an order, write more books Victoria.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

10 reasons to smile 21.0

It's Tuesday and I've been very busy lately soooo... happy-post is required.

one - I'm going to London in three days! I'm sorry for constantly going on about it but it really does feel like a legitimate reason to be happy.

two - On Monday my mom and Elias visit. Also something I constantly bring up lately but it's going to be so cozy to have them about.

three - I have bought a lot of stuff lately. I know that I'm a super-shallow person for thinking of shopping as a source of happiness but you know what? I had a tough January, finance-wise - I deserve some frivolous spending. Oh dear, this is going to be a long paragraph but I have to say that I'm extra excited about my patterned trousers (on sale), leather shift dress (on sale) and my bronzing powder from the Bodyshop (also on sale). At least I've been buying everything half price.

four - I'm reading such a good book at the moment, called Vicious. It's about two boys in college (in Americ-uh) who discover a way to become EOs (Extra-Ordinary). Basically, they get super powers and then they become deadly enemies and now the book is all about revenge. It doesn't like much of a story but it has gotten me hooked.

five - I'm currently eating Cookies & Cream ice cream. (err also half price. I have no shame.)

six - I've been vigilant with my exercise ever since I got healthy again and (although the majority of it is probably me imagining things) I feel like my muscles are much stronger than before. Like I could lift people if I wanted to. (But I don't.)

seven - Despite the fact that it's been raining, occasionally blowing gale-winds and at one point today it was snowing, I remain positive about the fact that it's gonna become spring soon. Leather jackets and Converse-weather.

eight - I've started rewatching Firefly and somehow convinced Steve to watch it with me. Another convert to cheesy sci-fi.

nine - This month marks the first month that I have actually started a savings account and put a respectable amount of money into it. Grown-up points. I've also convinced Steve to do the same. Super-grown-up points.

ten - I feel like sleepiness is making my brain a bit mushy so I'm going to make some decaf tea, get into bed and read blogs/books depending on how cultural I feel. I'm living the dream.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Week 6 - work hard etc

All images are from my Instagram.

This week was incredibly busy at work/in the office. (I know that in the first picture I'm lazying about on my couch but that is because of my apparent 'work hard play hard' motto.) After that type of week I should have just closed the blinds and spent my entire weekend hibernating underneath my duvet. Pinterest-ing and reading books. Of course that didn't happen and instead I went out for double birthday celebrations for two friends yesterday (in which I had way too much fun) and then for dinner at The Pheasant today. I do love going out for dinner but I wasn't that impressed by this restaurant which made us wait for a over an hour before we even got our drinks and then served just "alright" food. Not cool. Because of the slow service we were only home after four hours and I just couldn't be bothered doing the stuff that I should have - cleaning and making lunch for work etc.

Good news is that I did get paid last week which enabled me to get a haircut, new foundation (the L'Oreal True Match Foundation - oh my goodness) and a pair of paisley patterned trousers from Mango. Unfortunately the shopping-shaped hole in my heart seems bottomless, I just keep wanting more. I'm currently looking at a dress that would be perfect for next week's symphony concert in London... I managed to exercise three times (my abs are crying for mercy today) and I've eaten salad for lunch every single day this week. My idea of a good salad doesn't necessarily mean it's healthy but seriously, who can say no to sprinkling as much feta cheese as humanly possible over every meal?

P.S. London next weekend!!!

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Reading Submarine

I'd told you I was going to be reading a lot of YA fiction this year.

I actually read Submarine by Joe Dunthorne because I wanted to recommend another book to my brother (who happens to be 16 years old and very susceptible to book/music/film recommendations). I feel like in a world where stuffy old books (or maybe they're good but not that captivating) are routinely handed out in school, it's important to have someone who can recommend real books with relatable characters. Otherwise it's no wonder that people just don't read on their free time. This turned out to be a very pretentious paragraph, but you catch my drift.

Submarine is about a fifteen year old boy named Oliver Tate who lives as an only-child in Wales. Oliver is different than others his age because he's obsessed with learning new words and in many ways he is older than his age. However, just like his friends the majority of his life revolves around sex and the issue of how to keep a girlfriend once you've got one. Plus saving your parents' marriage because your mother is obviously cheating with her meditation instructor. Oliver is, as you may have gathered, a little bit prone to paranoia.

This book was hilarious (in a fairly British way) and I really enjoyed the way it was written. There was a lot of different things going on and the story was nicely paced without ever letting you lose interest. Oliver as a character was incredibly funny (who doesn't enjoy a guy who writes down a "new word" every day and overthinks and analyses every situation?) but at times I found him slightly... Obnoxious. Downright dislikable, actually, in particular during times of the book when he seems somewhat successful with the ladies. Be warned that as it is a book about a boy at the age of 15, this is not a book that would be handed out during English classes. Even I was slightly disturbed by the depictions of various bodily fluids at times. Also, I won't recommend this to my brother simply because it's quite difficult to read if you're not using English every day (but this may serve as a bonus point for anyone who is more fluent in English). Finally I'd like to point out the nice little fact that it's set in Wales which I never get to hear much about but that there are constant references to stuff that I've learnt to love in the UK. Tesco etc.

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

January favourites

Image from my Pinterest.

favourite on tv/movie: I'm finally part of the Breaking Bad-gang. I know, it took me a while and I'm currently only on the second season but I'm just so busy. Also I'm in love with both Walter and Jesse which is kind of weird.

favourite purchase: January was a strictly no-purchases month after the hedonistic event that is known as Christmas... But I did buy the book The Interestings and absolutely loved it.

favourite music: This has been a bad month for music listening but I was reading the lineup for the Download festival and that got me into Arcane Roots which is good and interesting. (Especially the song Resolve.)

favourite food: Oatmeal! How did it take me so long to get into oatmeal? I've been eating it everyday for the past three weeks... About 200 ml oats, 200 ml milk, a tbsp honey and some vanilla essence - mix and leave in the fridge overnight. Serve with cinnamon and a sliced banana. So good.

favourite drink: For Christmas I got a nespresso machine and I'm now a full-on coffee snob. And it's so quick. I've decided to limit myself to one pod a day because otherwise I'm gonna spend (even more of) a fortune on coffee alone.

favourite beauty item: I bought a few things on Boxing day that I like but they just don't beat my Christmas gifts. The UD Naked 3 palette, Soap & Glory Hand Food and the RT stipple brush in particular.

favourite blog: I am loving Vivatramp at the moment, in particular since I've decided to focus more on books this year and it seems to be her area of expertise. Her book-taste is brilliant and I have a frighteningly long book wish-list because of her.

favourite event: I started my PhD! I'm four weeks in and it's hard work but also amazing and fun if you're a little bit research-obsessed. Luckily I am. (Four weeks in is 1/36 done. Let's all panic.)

Sunday, 2 February 2014

Week 5 - It's finally February

I feel like the entire internet has breathed a deep sigh of relief. To be honest I wouldn't even consider this January being that bad if it wasn't for my constant sickness, the sorry state of my bank account and the fact that it's freezing outside yet it's not cozy. The weather here has been unusually abysmal as well. And my bank account is still crying because I got a smaller sum of pay from my previous job, went crazy and stocked up on coffee, tea and books (the essentials)... And then I found out that there was an issue with my proper pay. It's delayed and they can't tell me for how long. Isn't that everyone's dream? Over the weekend me and Steve went to Blue Chicago in Lisburn to celebrate that one of us got paid at least but they don't take reservations. We ended up queueing for an hour. I'm sure that's normal in a big city but I don't think it has ever happened to me in Northern Ireland. Luckily my love for their chocolate milkshakes just outweighs any waiting that we have to do.

I finally resumed my exercising schedule once my cold had disappeared but the fact that I missed out on exercising for a week really bothers me. The rest of my January goals went pretty well; we barely spent any money on food at all (partly thanks to Steve's parents who suddenly started inviting us over for dinner a lot more frequently the last few weeks), I've been using a body and hand (and sometimes foot!) moisturiser at least once every day and I've been very vigilant with my blogging. I think I deserve an applause. Or a nude blazer from asos as soon as I get paid. Water intake has been going well (apart from during weekends when I forget about drinking anything at all) and I've read five books out of 52. I'm so happy it's February now!