Monday, March 5, 2018

Reading // January and February 2018

books read // january:
~ Potions & Parameters (Secret Coders #5) by Gene Luen Yang (review)
~ Make Me One With Everything by Lama Surya Das
~ The Descent of Man by Grayson Perry
~ Goodbye, Things by Fumio Sasaki (re-read three times... in January.)
~ You Can Buy Happiness (And It's Cheap) by Tammy Strobel
~ Do Not Say We Have Nothing by Madeleine Thien
~ Zenith by Lindsay Cummings & Sasha Alsburg (review)
~ Mozart's Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt
~ The Heart of the Buddha's Teaching by Thich Nhat Hanh

books read // february:
~ The Gentleman's Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
~ The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (review)
~ The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin
~ The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (review)
~ Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (review)
~ Nobody But You (Cedar Ridge #3) by Jill Shalvis
~ About That Kiss (Heartbreaker Bay #5) by Jill Shalvis (review)
~ Minimalist Living by Genevieve Parker Hill
~ The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

currently reading:
Just... way too many things. I need to settle to something. XD

Phew! So I read nine-ish books per month, which is pretty good. Not many review books in January, and still sort of gearing up into it for the year, but happy to be getting through a few thing. I just posted yesterday some mini-reviews of some things I have been reading lately, so definitely check that post out if you want a little more detail on some of the books.

Otherwise, I am mostly pretty happy with what I have been reading lately. A few disappointing reads here and there, but overall pretty good. At the very end of February I was broken by The Song of Achilles and haven't really read anything in its entirety since then, except another cheeky re-read of Goodbye, Things.... I'm getting there, though, and I have quite a few review books that I am eager to get into so hopefully I will soon be finishing things again!

What are you reading lately?

Love to all who read.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Stuff I've Been Reading Lately

Long time no see! And here I am again trying to catch up with my own brain. We had about three weeks there where Xin and I were without internet at home, so I was doing my best to do work/chat to people/generally survive on internet that I got at my parents house, but it was kind of rough. Really brought home to me how much I rely on the internet these days.

I have also had other plans in motion so far, which I may speak about soon. And then I got struck down with some sort of flu virus, which culminated in one of the worst migraines ever. And seems to still be hanging on... Huh.

Anyway, I haven't been posting many book reviews here because I didn't actually receive much to review in January, but I have been really upping my NetGalley game and reading books out of the library, so there is plenty to talk about. I am also back into physical review copies, so expect a few more of those coming soon.

I thought I would just take this opportunity to talk about some of the stuff that I have read and reviewed, even briefly, on either NetGalley or Goodreads. I won't go into too much detail, but let's see what happens, huh?

Mozart's Starling by Lyanda Lynn Haupt (physical book, bought for myself)
Ah, my first book purchase of the year! This one I read about on someone else's blog and just had to check out. I couldn't find it at my local libraries, so I decided to purchase a copy, and then gave it to my Dad after I finished it, because I think he will enjoy it.
Anyway, this book is partially about what the title says - the starling that Mozart had as a pet for about three years - but also talks about starlings in general, Mozart's life and his music, and also the author's experience with raising her own starling, Carmen, and all of her interesting antics. Part nature writing, part historical facts, part something-like-a-memoir, this book combines so beautifully with the photos included and was a very gentle, quite beautiful read.

The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock by Imogen Hermes Gowar (NetGalley)
This one was getting quite hyped on BookTube, even last year. It looked pretty impressive, and the publisher was pushing it fairly hard, so I decided to check what it was all about. While I didn't really enjoy it as much as so many other people did, I still quite enjoyed my time with it, and really liked the writing style. I loved the ending, too. For me, it was the characters which made it difficult for me to disappear into it - I had some issues with the way some of the characters were presented. This could really just be my own hangup, but it was a big part of my experience and I didn't find the characters very easy to relate to. The slight edge of magical realism in this book is really well written, and I would definitely recommend it if you like historical fiction with a magical twist.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (NetGalley)
Oh my goodness. I don't think I have ever both happy and sad cried so much with another graphic novel. This book is just so gorgeous - both in illustration and in story. The characters feel so real, and the things that happen just... I really have to avoid spoilers here, but let me just say that I loved the representation, I loved the characters, I loved the artwork, and I wish I had a physical copy of this book. (I am not saying much about the story-line because I really think you need to go in not knowing much and just appreciate this gem in all its glory.) Please read.

About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis (NetGalley)
 Ah, Jill Shalvis. My go-to contemporary romance author. This book is the fifth novel in the Heartbreaker Bay series, and I am really loving this series. I am not sure anything can top her Animal Magnetism series for me, but this one definitely comes close. This time we follow Kylie and Joe as they try and figure out if a kiss they had actually meant anything, and whether they will be able to pursue a relationship even with their particular emotional hangups. I really enjoyed this addition to the series (though I don't think anything will beat Colbie and Spence's story for me), and I loved the other characters we are introduced to through the main characters. Also getting to see characters who were the focus of previous books always makes me feel like I am going back to a welcoming world that is already comforting to me. Definitely recommend Jill Shalvis' books if you like contemporary romance.

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller (Library)
This book kind of broke me for a while - after finishing it, I found it really hard to settle to reading anything else for a while (and thus also didn't post anything on here very often...). A retelling of the Iliad, this book is told from the perspective of Patroclus, closest confidante of Achilles - the ultimate warrior of his time. Miller's writing in this is so wonderful - descriptive without being cumbersome, and just captures the emotions of Patroclus and Achilles so beautifully. I absolutely loved this book, and I kind of wish I had my own copy to turn back to. Eagerly awaiting Miller's next book, Circe.

And there you have it, friends! Just a few of the things I have read lately. I will be back soon (promise!) with reading wrap-ups for the last couple of months and then, very soon, some book reviews! Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading lately?

Love to all who read!

Monday, January 22, 2018

Spoonie Diaries: Thoughts from the Field

Hello! I am finally writing on my blog for the first time in 2018! A momentous occasion.

Okay, but seriously, I don't actually know why I haven't written in so long. Things have been a bit rough, and my depression has been around. I guess mostly my thoughts have been changing, and I have been considering starting a new blog and devoting more time to my YouTube channel (both of which I have not yet done, either), but I never intended to abandon this blog entirely. I guess it's just something that happened, and now here we are.

Anyway, something that has been on my mind of late is chronic illness - specifically my chronic illnesses - and how you can sometimes be doing everything right but they still react or get a bit worse. A term that I use often - and that I know a lot of other spoonies use - is 'flare'. 'I'm having a cfs flare', 'my fibro is flaring at the moment', 'I'm going through a pretty bad flare of everything right now'. It works well because people can then understand that it's a sudden increase in symptoms that will most likely then die down to a 'normal' or 'regular' level later on.

The thing is, sometimes these flares can feel like they come out of nowhere. I have started to understand the impact that the weather has on my health - heat, for example, is a trigger for my migraines, so I have to be really aware of that. If we are expecting a big storm, or the weather keeps changing from sunny to rainy/cloudy, the air pressure changes involved in that will often trigger a cfs and fibro flare, and I will have trouble moving around and just generally feel unable to get up from a horizontal position.

But, sometimes, the weather is absolutely fine. Not too hot, not too much wind or rain (sadly enough for me, because paradoxically, I love the rain, even though it causes my symptoms to get worse). And yet I am having bad symptoms and can hardly understand what my body is doing.

I had a realisation yesterday that maybe I should have understood years ago when I was finally diagnosed, but apparently I needed to take my time with this one. When I was finally diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome a few years ago, it made sense. It was frustrating, because that's really an umbrella diagnosis (that is, they are unable to pinpoint what is causing your pain/discomfort/issues, so they say it falls under the general symptom profile of IBS. CFS is the same.), but it made sense. And then, last year, when I discovered I was allergic to egg and gluten, I figured if I avoided those two things completely, I would be fine. Make sense so far? 

So, I have been avoiding egg and gluten for about a year now, and yes, my IBS has gotten better. But it hasn't gone away. I still sometimes get quite bad stomach pain, or discomfort, and my body's way of digesting things seems to be completely different from other people (ie. super duper SLOWLY). Yesterday, I was idly thinking about this as my stomach gently hurt, and then it hit me: Irritable Bowel Syndrome. It's right there in the name. My bowel is just easily irritated and inflamed - which then causes pain. It hit me that it may just be like that for the rest of my life. And weirdly, that kind of comforted me. 

It was like someone saying 'you're doing a great job at looking after yourself, it's just the tools you're working with are a little bit...wonky.' There can be so much guilt involved in having a chronic illness; particularly if it's invisible. Often spoonies are constantly asking themselves 'am I really sick enough to need this support item? they (whoever 'they' is) think I should work harder/go back to work/try harder to get better. am I trying hard enough? what if all of this is just psychosomatic? what if I am making all of this up as a way to get attention?'

To realise that I am actually doing the best I can (which is true, yes, silly brain lying to me) and my pain and discomfort is not actually a sign that I have failed again, but a sign that my bowel is just a grumpy so-and-so, is quite freeing. It doesn't make it much easier when the pain comes on, or I have to cancel another thing because I am too sick to go anywhere, or have my friends and family worried about me because I've had a wave of pain whilst out with them, but it does mean that I can move towards the cessation of self-blame.

Here's to 2018: the year when I stop letting other people make decisions for my body and start learning to understand it myself.

Love to all who read.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Book Review: Ten Tales from Tibet by Lama Lhakpa Yeshe

Title: Ten Tales from Tibet: Cultivating Compassion
Author: Lama Lhakpa Yeshe
Publication Date: 27th September 2017
RRP: $18.99AUD

Synopsis: "Ten Tales from Tibet is a timeless collection of traditional stories exploring the absolute essence of Buddhism - compassion.

Told with utmost simplicity, these beautiful tales will awaken and nourish your spirit, inspiring you to create positive change for yourself and others around you."

My thoughts: In the interests of keeping in line with this book's overall feel, let me keep things very simple.

This book is beautiful, well-produced, with simple, well-told stories interspersed with beautiful photographs. I found myself getting lost in both the stories and the images chosen to accompany them. I found that I had to pause after each story to really absorb its message.

Only one story didn't quite resonate with me, but I suspect that is because I didn't fully grasp its meaning. Other than that, all of these stories are beautiful, and I know I will be returning to this book in the future for cultivating compassion.

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

Rating:  8/10

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Friday, December 1, 2017

Reading // November 2017

books read:
~ The Subtle Knife (His Dark Materials #2) by Philip Pullman
~ The Amber Spyglass (His Dark Materials #3) by Philip Pullman
~ Simple Matters: Living with Less and Ending Up with More by Erin Boyle
~ Holiday Wishes (Heartbreaker Bay #4.5) by Jill Shalvis
~ La Belle Sauvage (The Book of Dust #1) by Philip Pullman
~ The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell
~ The Little Book of Lykke: The Danish Search for the World's Happiest People by Meik Wiking
~ Unearthed (Unearthed #1) by Amie Kaufman and Megan Spooner (review)
~ Beauty Food by Lola Berry (review)
~ Kilted Yoga: Yoga, Laid Bare by Finlay Wilson (review)
~ Genealogy for Gardeners by Dr Ross Bayton and Simon Maughan (review)
~ The Horse and His Boy (Chronicles of Narnia #3) by C. S. Lewis
~ Saga Land by Richard Fidler

currently reading:
~ ALL the fanfics
~ The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill (review)
~ rereading Written in Red (The Others #1) by Anne Bishop
~ dipping in and out of Middlemarch by George Eliot

Phew! I was really trying to catch up this month with review books, but it was rough. A few that I received just weren't working for me, and with lots of other stuff going on in my life, it just didn't feel super possible that I would get any reviewing done. But I managed four books! And I am reading another now! So that's a win in my (heh) books!~

Stand-outs for this month are: Philip Pullman! All the Philip Pullman. Honestly, I read The Golden Compass/Northern Lights last year and kind of didn't get what all the fuss was about. Lyra kind of irritated me and, yeh, daemons were cool and all but I think I wanted to a familiar like in Harry Potter more than that. But then I read The Subtle Knife and it was like something clicked for me. I suddenly got it! I got why everyone loved these books so much. And then to be able to go on and read La Belle Sauvage was just awesome - I am thinking of rereading The Golden Compass/Northern Lights soon to see if my feelings on that have changed, too.

Jen Campbell's new collection of short stories, The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night is eery, haunting, and absolutely wonderful. I already have a favourite, but I think I will be going back to reread different stories in the future.

Saga Land was a book a spied in Target when I was trying to reward myself for going to a particularly difficult medical appointment. It has a most gorgeous cover, and the content is fascinating and gave me a wonderful glimpse into Icelandic Sagas, Norse Myths (I am allllll about the Loki, lately) and more personal things about the two authors. I absolutely loved my time with this one, and I highly recommend it.

I hope everyone is reading some awesome stuff as we head into the last month of the year!

Love to all who read.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Book Review: Kilted Yoga by Finlay Wilson

Title: Kilted Yoga
Author: Finlay Wilson
Publication Date: 14th November 2017

Synopsis: "An eccentric, fun and motivational guide to the fundamentals of yoga - based on the sensational Kilted Yoga video.

Get ready to lose yourself in the wilds of Scotland and reconnect with the natural world in this gorgeous little book that will make you look at yoga in a whole new way - kilt optional!

After recovering from an accident, Finlay Wilson found yoga was the best way to rebuild his strength. Now a qualified yoga instructor himself, he's decided to bring a modern take to this ancient practice, laying it bare - often quite literally. Feast your eyes on his yoga moves and discover why his Kilted Yoga video became an instant global sensation.

Finlay introduces you to the fundamentals of yoga through four progressive sequences to help you develop your practice. Combining stunning photography of the Scottish Highlands with practical advice, Kilted Yoga is the inspiration you've been waiting for - join the movement here."

My thoughts: First of all, I must confess to originally thinking this might be something of a gimmick. I now know that this book goes so much deeper than that. Even just flicking through this book is a wonderful experience - the photography is absolutely stunning, and the photos that feature Finlay (and sometimes his friend) are informative and really help you to understand the poses that he is trying to explain to you.

The sequences are really well-thought out and demonstrated, and Finlay's simple instructions only help with getting the most you can out of each pose. And the kilts are also flipping gorgeous (as are the men that wear them).

I am not sure what else to say here - I just really love everything that this book and Finlay Wilson are about: recovery via yoga, beautiful Scottish countryside, kilts. It has really all come together to make a wonderful book to look through or learn from.

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

A favourite line from the book: 'For me, kilts are a piece of heritage that reaches from the past to the present, and I have taken to wearing them more and more, even having kilts made with pockets to give them a modern and practical feel.'

You would like this book if: Anything in the realm of yoga, kilts, or Scotland appeals to you.

Rating:  9.5/10

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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Book Review: Lola Berry's Beauty Food

Title: Beauty Food
Author: Lola Berry
Publication Date: November 2017

Synopsis: "Nourish yourself inside and out with Lola Berry's delicious wholefood recipes and natural beauty treatments.

When it comes to glowing skin, sparkling eyes, lustrous hair and healthy nails, we truly are what we eat. Whether it's olive oil for thick, strong hair or health fats for radiant skin, Lola's recipes and beauty tips celebrate the benefits of eating wholefoods for your body.

Lola also includes advice on which chemicals to avoid when buying cosmetics, foods that can have a negative impact on your skin (hello, sugar!) and the importance of that miracle youth elixir, sleep.

Say goodbye to expensive face creams and salon treatments, and start stocking your fridge and pantry with healthy wholefoods that will make you feel beautiful from the inside out."

My thoughts: This is a beautiful little book, filled with gorgeous photography, simple styling, and delicious recipes. I have really loved Lola Berry's books in the past and this is definitely no exception - in fact I think I liked this one even more than the last!

Helpfully split up into sections depending on which part of the body you want to assist most (hair, eyes, face, etc.), each section starts with the 'hero ingredients' that will really benefit you, before moving into the recipes, and then finishing up with some homemade treatments, such as masks.

Lola's voice in this, as in all her books, is friendly, down-to-earth, and informative. She also shares some great yoga poses to help with circulation and such, all in an effort to help you feel better in your own body.

This is a wonderful little aid to have in your arsenal, and I highly recommend it. I have already tried (and become addicted to) several of the recipes, and am planning to make quite a few of the homemade treatments.

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

A favourite recipe from the book: I am a suck for a good smoothie or milkshake, and the Maca, Macadamia and Carob Shake is one I was slightly sceptical about but now adore. Highly recommend!

You would like this book if: You like Lola Berry; you like books where they help you to look and feel good via your gut.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Perhaps a herbal tea with some nettle for detoxifying?

Rating:  10/10

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