Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Spoonie Musings: Heading to Weddings

Hi all!

For those that follow my instagram, you may know that I was in hospital over the weekend. My husband and I decided that I should try going to Emergency when I had my (may have lost count but I think it was my) sixth ovarian cyst rupture of the year. [Note: they did a blood test, poked around at my belly, and then told me to go get an ultrasound. But everyone was so helpful and it was just really nice to be taken so seriously about it that I didn't mind spending three odd hours there. I had a book.] Ovarian cyst ruptures are truly awful events, and I wouldn't wish them upon anyone. But perhaps more on that in a different post.

Anyway, yesterday, two days after I was in hospital, I headed to my cousin's wedding. And it was so beautiful (my cousin was radiant, her new husband dashing, and they made me laugh and cry a little with their vows and speeches). I am so grateful to have been invited to the event, and to have had enough spoons (please google 'the spoon theory' if you have no idea what I am talking about) to stay for the whole shindig.

But it took its toll. Even just when we left, I was having some bad symptoms. My interstitial cystitis was flaring a bit, my stomach was unhappy, and of course I was still recovering from having massive pain and nearly passing out two days beforehand. When we got there, I was feeling okay, but perhaps not what other people might call 'okay'. Perhaps, what they would call 'not so great' or 'a bit rough'. Luckily, I managed to grab a chair during the ceremony (helped), and was constantly offered chairs after the ceremony when we were waiting for the dinner (also helped). My husband was super solicitous of me, and even let me lean on him when I was too tired to hold myself up. People tried to lean in closer to me when they spoke so I didn't have to strain to hear them, or strain my voice to speak back. Drinks were bought for me so I wouldn't feel too faint.

And yet, in an ideal world where I am not unwell, this is not how I would really want to spend my time at my cousin's wedding. I would want to be standing and able to move around and chat to people. I would want to feel okay about going for a walk in the beautiful setting of the wedding. I would want to enjoy my lemon, lime, and bitters without having symptoms afterwards of tachycardia and dizziness. I say all of this without any bitterness (aside from my drink?) in my heart about this now being my lot in life (at the moment, anyway), but just with curiosity and more as an observation than a complaint.

Ultimately, weddings are kind of hard for a spoonie.

By the time Xin and I got back him, it was around 10:30pm or so, and we had been gone for eight hours. Even now, the day after that has been filled with stomach pain, exhaustion, and anxiety fallout, I am unsure how I managed it. I think even Xin is a little unsure how I managed it. When Xin and I got married last year, I was pretty sick during our honeymoon. My stomach was hating on me pretty bad, and I was more exhausted than usual for basically the entire three weeks we were away. It was just too much. A few of the spoonie friends I invited pretty much immediately declined - knowing their own limits straight away and realising that going to a wedding would just be too hard. This is where spoonie lifestyle and family obligation kind of meet, and it isn't always pretty.

I am not entirely sure what I wanted to say in this blog post, aside from recording my experience of what has happened recently. I have been on painkillers and such all day today, just so I could avoid being curled up in the foetal position all day, just trying to rest. I don't know if this is what will always happen at weddings, but I am glad and so grateful I got to go to this one.

Love to all who read. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Book Review: Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff

Title: Godsgrave
Author: Jay Kristoff
Series: The Nevernight Chronicles #2
Publication Date: 8th September 2017

Synopsis: "Mia Corvere, destroyer of empires, has found her place among the Blades of Our Lady of Blessed Murder, but many in the Red Church ministry do not believe she has earned it.

Her position is precarious, and she's still no closer to exacting revenge for the brutal death of her family. But after a deadly confrontation with an old enemy, Mia begins to suspect the motives of the Red Church itself.

As Mia discovers new allies, bitter rivals, and more questions about her strange affinity for the shadows; conspiracies begin to unfold, secrets are revealed and the body count rises. Sooner or later she will be forced to choose between her loyalties and avenging herself on those that shattered her world."

My thoughts: Mia Corvere returns!! Now, for those who don't know what I am talking about, please go get yourself a copy of Nevernight, read it, and then meet back here. Okay, done? Good.

Godsgrave continues on with Mia's story, and our morbid, hilarious, conniving narrator is back in true form once again. Though there weren't as many footnotes in this one (I was sad about that, I looove the footnotes), the narrator still keeps us very informed, and rarely keeps his thoughts on happenings or tales to himself (thank goodness). 

This book explores MIa's thoughts on things a little more, and that was weaved seamlessly in with the tale. Kristoff throws us in the deep-end straight off the bat, but the flashbacks and flashforwards are done so well that you want to know what is happening next in both time lines (before you realise, again, that is is the same timeline, just different parts. Awkward.). 

The characters are what really drives all of this, and, while they are definitely what I would call 'reliable', they are absolutely fantastic. The humour in this is fantastic, and it does a nice job of easing your way into the gore and horror of the world (though it doesn't ease things too much, because that would be no fun?). Not wanting to give too much away, giving it's a sequel, I will just say that all characters (returning and new) each have their own voice, their own vices. Nobody blends into the other (except maybe Mister Kindly into Mia's shadow?) and everyone is distinct and fascinating. This book made me cry and made me laugh, and I would happily go back and read it again. To Mr Kristoff I say - more, please!

[I received a review copy of this book from HarperCollins in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!]

A favourite line from the book: 'Mia Corvere joined in with the guests' applause, though in truth, her eyes had been anywhere except the play. A cool chill flitted across the back of her neck, hidden in the shadows thrown by her hair. Mister Kindly's whisper was velvet soft in her ear.
"...that was mind-bendingly awful...," the shadowcat said.'

You would like this book if: You enjoyed the first one (obviously); you enjoy morbid, dark humour, with tales of intensity and revenge.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Oh, goodness. Something with sugar, to match Mia's preferred cigarillos. Perhaps something dark, like Russian Caravan, with extra sugar?

Rating:  10/10

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Book Review: Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet

Title: Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing
Author: Daniel Tammet
Publication Date: 29 August 2017

Synopsis: "Is vocabulary destiny? Why do clocks 'talk' to the Nahua people of Mexico? Will A.I. researchers ever produce true human-machine dialogue? In this mesmerizing collection of essays, Daniel Tammet answers these and many other questions about the intricacy and profound power of language.

In Every Word if a Bird We Teach to Sing, Tammet goes back in time to explore the numeri language of his autistic childhood; in Iceland, he learns why the name Blaer became a court case; in Canada, he meets one of the world's most accomplished lip readers. He chats with chatbots; contrives an 'e'-less essay on lipograms; studies the grammar of the telephone; contemplates the significance of disappearing dialects; and corresponds with native Esperanto speakers - in their mother tongue.

A joyous romp through the world of words, letters, stories, and meanings, Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing explores the way communication shapes reality. From the art of translation to the lyricism of sign language, these essays display the stunning range of Tammet's literary and polyglot talents."

My thoughts: Being a writer, poet, and (obviously) book reviewer myself, I am fairly fascinated by language and the use of words. This book sounded fascinating, and it certainly delivered on that. Tammet's writing style is sometimes a little bizarre - syntax often feeling a little unusual, the occasional word out of place - but at other times the words almost fly off the page.

I was particularly involved with Tammet's essay on teaching English in Lithuania - his teaching style was so fantastic to read about, and seemed to be very effective. I also liked when Tammet wrote about Les Murray - his writings even got me reading Murray's poetry, which was wonderful.

I am unsure what else to say about this collection, as I really think the enjoyment comes from actually reading each essay. Tammet is a pretty inspirational writer and person, and his voice feels so strong and wonderful throughout this book. While some of the subject matter may have been uninteresting to me, Tammet still manages to write in such a way that you're interested almost despite yourself.

I enjoyed my time with this one, and will be handing it over to someone as interested in language as myself - my Dad.

[I received a review copy of this book from Hachette in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!]

A favourite line from the book: 'Though English was the language of my parents, the language in which I was raised and schooled, I have never felt I belonged to it. I learned my mother tongue self-consciously, quite often confusedly, as if my mother were a foreigner to me, and her sole language my second.'

You would like this book if: you are interested in words, language, or are simply intrigued to read more of Daniel Tammet's work.

Rating:  6.5/10

If you'd like to keep up to date with what I'm reading, follow me on Goodreads here!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Book Review: Slow by Brooke McAlary

Title: Slow
Author: Brooke McAlary
Publication Date: September 5th 2017

Synopsis: "Once upon a time, Brooke McAlary thought she was close to having it all. Married to a wonderful man, mother to a lively young daughter, and pregnant for a second time, she'd acquired all the things she'd once thought important - holidays, cars, a renovated home. Yet despite this she found herself utterly despondent. Realising that they wanted a simpler, more fulfilling existence, Brooke and her family gradually created their own way of living. Everything changed when she began decluttering. What began as an effort to remove some of the excess, slowly evolved into a complete transformation. Gone is the overwhelm, the clutter, the excess, the busy-ness, replaced by a simpler, more meaningful, and contented life.

In Slow, Brooke gently encourages you to find pleasure and value in a simpler life, sharing the practical tips and practices that have helped her and her family become happier and more fulfilled. And... she and her husband are self-employed and enjoy a life centred on the important things - which, it turns out, aren't really things at all.

Part memoir, part practical companion, Slow provides a fascinating insight into the benefits of slowing down. It will inspire you to forget about the Joneses and create a life filled with the things that really matter to you... slowly, of course."

My thoughts: I am fascinated by, and fairly dedicated to, the lifestyle of Slow Living. Whether I came to it because of my own personality, or because of my health going pretty much South (and not just for the winter), I'm not sure, but ultimately I am here and marvel in it.

This book is really well put together. It takes you through Brooke's own path towards slow living, and gives you a couple of exercises to get you thinking in the same way. The layout is beautiful and minimalist, with a scattering of illustrations and photos, ultimately making the whole tone of the book relaxed and lovely.

The chapter structure very gently takes you through the different parts of Brooke's path of slow living - she acknowledges early on that not every part of her journey may be a part of other people's journeys, and then just gets on with her thoughts and gentle suggestions for the reader to try. Items she talks about include: decluttering, mindfulness, and disconnecting from technology. She also has a section on backslides, which I found very helpful.

Overall, this book felt like it was written for me. It was gentle whilst still being full of wisdom, and I felt lit up whilst reading it. I have done the few exercises in the book, and it has inspired me to declutter even more things (my husband and I tend to do this regularly, anyway) and completely rethink what is actually important to me. I highly recommend it.

[I received a review copy of this book from Allen & Unwin in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!!]

A favourite line from the book: 'I yearn for the simple things. Lying on the grass and watching the clouds. Taking a spontaneous drive to the beach. Evenings spent beside a backyard campfire. The undeniable joy of coaxing a seed to life in the dirt.'

You would like this book if: You are at all interested in Slow Living, decluttering, mindfulness... gentle things and introspection.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I was drinking an awful lot of rooibos chai (I made it myself from other blends from T2 - Spi Chai and Red mixed together in a pretty tin!) and I would highly recommend that because the loose leaf-ness of it forces you to slow down and take a moment to just be absorbed in the making of your tea ^_^

Rating:  10/10

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Goals // September

August Goal Summary:

  • Meditate every day in August - my goodness, I totally rocked this. Not only did I meditate every day, for over half the month I actually meditated twice a day. Some stuff happened and my mood took a plummet, and I decided I needed to up the ante with some more self-love and care, so I meditated in the morning when I woke up, and then in the evening before I slept, for ten minutes or so each time (using guided meditations mostly from an app). I am so pleased with myself, and I am going to try and keep this going. Yay!
  • Try to do the exercise thing every day - this wasn't as consistent as my meditations, but it still happened more than expected, so I am counting this as a win. Even yoga in front of the TV counts for me.
  • Put up a Booktube video every week in August - okay, I did three Booktube videos in the month of August. And then when that final week rolled around, I found I just didn't want to anymore. I am still exploring this, but Booktube may be a thing I want to watch but not necessarily do.

September Goals
  • Stick to the budget - Not many people know this, but Xin and I actually do a budget every single month that we try and stick to. And I have been going a tiny bit off the rails with this. I am not going to punish myself, or berate myself, for not sticking to the budget, but I am going to renew my efforts for September and keep the budget in mind. Money stuff, am I right?
  • Celebrate the Spring Equinox - I am not sure how I am going to do this, but I am going to do it. Even in a small way.
  • Resume my two main studies that have fallen...off...somewhere. Japanese being one of these. I kind of just drifted away from things and it was only recently that I realised these are actually things that are very important to me, so I want to return to them. Though I shudder to think of the amount of reviews I have waiting for me in my Japanese studies... *shudders*
  • Spend more time outside! Hopefully we will be getting some more gentle sunshine in the coming month, so I'd like to try and spend time outside, whether I'm gardening or not.

I am feeling hopeful and excited about the month ahead, but also keeping an eye on my energy levels. Hopefully things will go well :D

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Good Reading (and Watching) // August 2017

Hi guys,

August has been a bit all over the place. Some really great moments, and some really low moments. But overall I am pretty happy with it! Here are a few links I wanted to share of some lovely things to read (and watch!) that I discovered this month. (Not much this month because my brain apparently switched off!)

Reading ourselves awake - Kyra Maya-Phillips writes about the healing and awakening qualities of books.

This Q&A in Dutch from YouTuber booksandquills was just amazing to watch and listen to. I am always fascinated by different languages, and I don't think I have had a lot of exposure to Dutch, so it was lovely to just hear this. I thought I would share!

Friday, September 1, 2017

Reading // August 2017

books read:
~ Necessity (Thessaly #3) by Jo Walton
~ Jem and the Holograms vol.1: Showtime by Kelly Thompson
~ The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor #1) by Jessica Townsend (review)
~ The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler (review)
~ Avatar The Last Airbender Smoke and Shadow books 1, 2 & 3 by Gene Luen Yang
~ A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs
~ Spirits of the Sacred Grove by Emma Restall Orr
~ Killing the Black Dog by Les Murray
~ Slow by Brooke McAlary (review)

currently reading:
~ The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu (buddy read)
~ Godsgrave (Nevernight Chronicle #2) by Jay Kristoff (review)
~ Every Word is a Bird We Teach to Sing by Daniel Tammet (review)

Not a bad month for review books, but still could have been a little better. I did enjoy all the review books I read this month, though, so that's definitely awesome. [I won't say much else about the review books, because when I write my reviews you will see my level of gushy-ness. Gushy-ness is totally a word.]

A few graphic novels this month - I decided to try out the first volume of Jem and the Holograms, and it was pretty good! I am a bit scared of one of the characters though - she seems as likely to murder people as to rock out. The Avatar graphic novels were amazing, as per the usual, and I really can't wait for the next ones to come into my local library :D

This month was the Save the Children book sale at the University of WA, and I went along... twice. And ended up with about twenty more books. One of those was a random purchase because of the pretty cover design - A Wreath of Snow by Liz Curtis Higgs. It was... okay. I mean, it was a nice diversion for an hour or two, but I am sad that the insides didn't match up to the beautiful outsides (I have a thing for tartan things and this book had a tartan-coloured spine. Just gorgeous).

A lot of other things I read this month came down to simple curiosity - I wanted to see how the Thessaly books finished up, so I read Necessity (answer: it ended pretty awesomely). I wanted to know more about Les Murray's poetry, so I read a collection that also featured a lecture and some other writing and poetry about depression. I wanted to read more of Emma Restall Orr's work, so I read Spirits of the Sacred Grove and loved it!

Everything I am currently reading is quite amazing, but I can't seem to stop myself from picking up other things, too. I probably realistically have about ten books that I am dipping in and out of, but the three listed above are the ones I am trying to focus on. {Keyword: trying...}

What are you reading at the moment? 

Love to all who read!
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