Thursday, 23 October 2014

Reading The Secret History

Guuuuyyys.... I'm not sure where to start with this book. I can't believe that I haven't heard about it until after reading The Goldfinch earlier this year. If you haven't already figured it out, this is another review of a Donna Tartt book.

The Secret History follows Richard, a Californian who feels suffocated by his family and decides to study at a college in New England to escape his current surroundings. When he gets accepted into the highly eccentric Greek class, at first he feels alienated from the other five students who are brilliant, arrogant and wealthy but they soon become his closest friends. However, the others have a secret and when Richard finds out about it he realises that it he is unavoidably part of it too...

The story is presumably set at some point in the late 80s when the book was released, but in almost all aspects it feels timeless, possibly because of the dreamy feel through-out the book. I am well aware that it won't be everyone's cup of tea - some may feel like it is a pretentious novel, written so that the author can show off her obscure knowledge. Personally, I love that. And the characters are pretentious, in an obvious and humorous way. They spend all their time drinking scotch or wine and discussing ancient Greek phenomena. Of course they are supposed to be pretentious. However, what gets to me is the beautiful way that it's written and how the characters were so easy to like, yet they also scared me. It's a wonderful and simultaneously haunting story to read. One of my best reads this year, without a doubt.

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Reading NPCs

Continuing in the same style as last week; I read yet another nerdy book, this time taking it one step further by reading one that centers around a board game. Please don't judge me.

Drew Hayes has written a book in which we find out that when a tabletop game ends, it doesn't necessarily end the story for the NPCs in it. When four geeky boys lose their characters to poisonous mushrooms, four NPCs decide to take on their roles and carry out the quest found on dead adventorous. A gnome, two humans and a half-orc with little to no experience of adventuring, they know themselves that they hardly stand a chance but somebody needs to answer the summoning of the king. During the journey they get to know their roles, do a bit of swapping around and also stumble into vicious and unexpectedly strategic demons along the way.

This is like Toy Story for (nerdy) adults - your game is actually real and the NPCs have their own lives. Except for that the parts that actually include any references to the tabletop players are the least enjoyable parts and for the most of the story it just feels like any light-hearted fantasy novel. And not a bad one at that. The characters are likable and with realistic personalities. I also appreciated that it didn't conform to traditional gender roles (although how the NPCs related to each of their role didn't necessarily satisfy me). It's not badly written either and the story is interesting and funny. I am looking forward to the sequel!

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

10 reasons to smile 29.0

Image from here.

one - it's not even 10pm and I'm in my bed. In pyjamas. With home-made eclairs in the fridge.

two - directly related to the first point; my boyfriend is the type who decides to randomly make homemade eclairs. HOW CUTE IS THAT. (soppy but true)

three - there's less than two weeks until my mom and brother arrive!

four - although I feel like I'm working myself to death or maybe a small coma I'm so happy with what I do.

five - my autumn capsule wardrobe is complete! Eleven new items and I'm £40 below my original budget.

six - I finished The Secret History last night by Donna Tartt and it was so good. So good if you (like me) enjoy novels set at colleges in forgotten towns, with main characters who wear ties, study Greek and drink far too much. All described as romantic as it possibly could be.

seven - I'm so excited for Christmas. Excited to be off at the same time as Steve for two weeks and excited to be going to Sweden for one of them!

eight - a while back I mentioned the app "Spending" and it has been a complete lifesaver. Adding every single purchase that I make means I keep track of my money (and I have never been good at that). Plus when I feel like my pay just disappeared and I have nothing to show for it I can just check my app and ask myself why I spent another £20 on books. Revelations.

nine - yes, I realise I'm talking about Christmas twice in one post but Christmas stuff are in-store and I have converted from hating anything Christmassy before December to being a firm believer that there is no such thing as too much Christmas.

ten - me and Steve have decided to start going to the gym. I'm looking forward to being able to run on a treadmill rather than in the pitch black at 6am, wondering if monsters really do exist.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Week 41 - working and baking

All images are from my Instagram.

It's 5pm and I just closed my notebooks and decided to stop working for the day. On a Sunday. I continuously ask myself where this motivation comes from and how far will I fool myself into keeping up with this PhD malarky before I realise that I am far too lazy? It's an exciting experiment in itself. The two pictures above certainly say everything about what my weekend has looked like; baking American style cinnamon buns and doing work from home. (But I was also out yesterday to run errands/have lunch with Steve and today we went shopping for a long-sleeved running top and high-vis vest for me and copious amounts of Vanilla Coke for him. Can you see a pattern here?)

Speaking of buying workout gear, I have only done two workouts this week. At the start of the week I had the best intentions and my first two workouts were done by Wednesday - and then it dropped. I spent Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday morning doing everything to convince my body to stay in bed and unfortunately I'm very persuasive on that matter. I'm hoping the allure of a high-vis vest will get me out and running tomorrow morning because surely the prospect of not facing near death while running on country roads is all that it takes to get motivated again? It remains to be seen.

Friday, 10 October 2014

Reading the Magic 2.0 series

These two books are just as ridiculously nerdy as they sound and I stumbled upon them when looking for something similar to Ready Player One.

The Magic 2.0 books are about a young man named Martin who isn't interested in using his hacking talents to do anything particularly rebellious beyond wasting his time on lonely weekends. However, one night Martin finds a file with his name in it, a file with a code which seems to run everything in this world. By changing the code the real world also changes - including Martin's bank account. Unfortunately it doesn't take long before two agents from the US treasury department find out about money mysteriously appearing in Martin's bank account and he is forced to use his escape plan; traveling back in time to England in the Middle Ages and pretend to be a wizard through the use of the file. 

One of the best things about this series is that it allows a marriage of sci-fi and fantasy. There is a Matrix-like premise of the plot (reality can be altered), there are constant nerdy pop culture references but also spells and wizard hats. What's not to like? The dialogue is funny for the most part if you are into that type of humour and the characters are all likable (although it's not a deep book, there's not much development). Sometimes I felt like the way in which the author dished out his jokes became too repetitive but it didn't stop me from finding the books really entertaining. However, it is definitely a niche book - I don't think it would be as funny if you haven't embraced your inner geek and show a love of video games, comic books or board games.

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Tuesday October wish list

Random things that I would like right at this moment.

- Plants all over my house. Usually plant-focus makes a reappearance around spring-time but I feel like it's a definite trend this year. Plants all the time. P.S. I endorse fake ones.

- New baubles for Christmas. I've got ideas. Copper, rose gold and plain gold in frantic amounts.

- A cat. Now that cats are being discussed in my household of two, I cannot stop thinking about them.

- A nail polish which succeeds in being gray without making my hands look dead. Because they do that un-painted already, thank you very much.

- Decaf coffee, which isn't necessarily what is shown in the picture. Hey ho. I just want coffee but it's too late to drink the ordinary kind. I'm happy to keep my legs covered though, it's freezing outside for god's sake.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Week 40 - rain and work and other not so thrilling stuff

I was so busy in work last week. And it rained as if the world was ending. But good news is that I managed to get back into exercising (at least a little bit), I went to a house party on Saturday (which was fun) and I've got all my meals planned for the week. Don't mock me, these are the type of things that I live for. Almost every evening I've been playing online games with my little brother which has also cheered me up to no end <3

Less fun things include that all my money that is kept aside for "fun stuff" this month is pretty much gone after buying the last pieces of my capsule wardrobe. Eleven items and I'm done with clothes shopping until January! I'm quite proud of myself if you can't tell. Spread out over three months it means that I've spent a lot less than my allocated budget for clothes and shoes but the overall quality is a step higher. A more detailed description of what I've bought will show up on the blog, eventually. (Is this pointless? I want to look back at this type of stuff when I'm old because I hope that I will still care about my organisational habits at the age of twenty-four.)

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Reading The Bone Clocks

I have been waiting for David Mitchell's new novel to come out for so long that it was impossible to not have high expectations. As soon as the release date was out I had it saved in my calendar. Some of my favourite books have been written by him. This book had a lot to live up to.

The Bone Clocks follow Holly Sykes from the 1980s in England to a post-apocalyptic future in rural Ireland. At the age of sixteen Holly decides to run away after finding her boyfriend in bed with her best friend. She thinks of herself as a typical teenager but as visions and supernatural events occur it becomes clear that Holly is someone much less ordinary than you'd expect. The phenomena follow Holly throughout her life until she becomes directly part of a bloody war which has been going on for centuries without anyone being aware of it.

The narrator starts of being Holly herself but then there is a shift and her story unfolds through the narrative of people around her before returning to Holly again. In previous books by David Mitchell, the constant shift in storytelling was my biggest issue (I don't like saying goodbye to characters) but because the story remained structured around Holly, it worked very well even for me. It added to the richness of the story, to be allowed to see things from other people's viewpoints. The supernatural events start off taking a backseat and although in later chapters it becomes very much a novel with fantasy elements, it mainly feels like a book about a woman's life. (A fairly extraordinary life.)

David Mitchell often rewards returning readers by alluding to little objects from his previous books but in this book he has a whole previous character narrating and it happened to be a personal favourite of mine as well. Although the story is about a woman with psychic abilities there are many more levels to it, the most apparent being our treatment of the environment which is of direct importance in the post-apocalyptic part of the book. Of course, it's beautifully written (that goes without saying) without ever feeling superfluous in its description of places or events, and there is always a sense of vulnerability coupled with the familiar humorous tone embedded in the (at times quite dreamy) story line. 

The Bone Clocks lived up to all my expectations.