Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Book Review: Queer Eye by the Fab Five


Title: Queer Eye: Love Yourself, Love Your Life
Authors: Antoni Porowski, Tan France, Jonathan Van Ness, Bobby Berk, and Karamo Brown
Publication Date: 20th November 2018

Synopsis: "Feeling your best is about far more than deciding what colour to paint your accent wall or how to apply nightly moisturiser. It's also about creating a life that's well-rounded, filled with humour and understanding and most importantly, that suits you. At a cultural moment when we are all craving people to admire, Queer Eye offers hope and acceptance. After you get to know the Fab Five, together they will guide you through five practical chapters that go beyond their designated areas of expertise (food & wine, fashion, grooming, home decor, and culture), touching on topics like wellness, entertaining, and defining your personal brand, and complete with bite-sized Hip Tips for your everyday quandaries. Above all else, Queer Eye aims to help you create a happy and healthy life, rooted in self-love and authenticity.

My thoughts: I had such a great time reading this book - it arrived when I was feeling pretty much my worst, dealing with a lot of mental and physical health stuff, and just generally feeling awful. I was concerned initially that it would be kind of surface level, but I needn't have worried - this book goes deep, talks about goals, about treating yourself with compassion and respect, and about connection with the people around you. The Fab Five talk a lot about how the connect with each other, and it was wonderful learning a little bit more about each of them before diving into each of their individual chapters.

The design of this book is also absolutely wonderful - the photos are flipping gorgeous, and occasionally hilarious, and there are little drawings here and there that just brought a smile to my face. A few of the pages had bold, geometric designs that made my head spin if I looked at them too much, but honestly somehow that just added to the whole 'live-your-life-out-loud' feel that the Fab Five are giving you throughout.

The hints that each member give during the book are helpful and often right from the heart - I really felt like they each wanted to help me out, and the way the whole book is written gives you a feeling of one-ness. Like you're part of the crew and they just want to give you a cuddle and a mimosa, and then maybe sit down for a heart-to-heart. That they can convey this feeling through a book was absolutely wonderful, and a huge sign that they really believe in the work they're doing.

I can honestly say I will be using the tips in this book (and probably showing them to my husband, too!). I highly recommend you check out the book.



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

A favourite line from the book: At the front of the book: 'This book is 100 percent dedicated to our fans. We love you.'

You would like this book if: you like the tv series!!; you love books that give you a bit of a hug and some wonderful tips.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I don't really drink alcohol, otherwise I would suggest one of Bobby's Orange Mint Tequila Magics (recipe in the back of the book!), but for me I am thinking a virgin mojito?

Rating:  10/10

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

Monday, December 10, 2018

Compassion Challenge Week One: Notes from my phone

I thought I would gather together a few of the notes I have quickly typed into my phone on the compassion challenge as it happens. This is from the first week (December 3rd to 9th), and I think my biggest challenge was remembering that I was doing it! But we're getting there :)

3rd December, Monday
I had a lot of trouble sleeping last night, but I spent time just breathing and reminding myself it's okay to not be able to sleep sometimes. Plus reeling myself back from negative thinking/fearful or catastrophic thinking.
Woke and asked my husband to stop waking me since I had my alarm set XD I tried to do it in a gentle, loving way, though, as I know he was just trying to connect with me and didn't know about my resolution to work on my sleeping pattern.
Woke a little late, but that's okay too. Day one of sleeping pattern overhaul is often like this!

4th December, Tuesday
I wonder if maybe my negative thinking drains energy from me? Today I have been able to do much more than usual, and I have remembered to stay compassionate and calm as often as possible. I am tired now, about 4pm, and feeling my symptoms more acutely, but the day has felt productive and yet slow.

5th December, Wednesday
Today has been kind of rough - I slept really poorly last night and woke up feeling really unwell. Possibly I overdid it yesterday, possibly this is just a random flare because that's what happens with my body sometimes. I tried to get up and do things, but my stomach has been hurting a lot today, so I decided to postpone the things I wanted to do and go back to bed - this is often a hard decision for me to make, but I just had to acknowledge that I needed to rest more. Compassion towards myself seems to be one of the hardest things for me, but I feel like I'm doing better.

6th December, Thursday
Compassion seems to be different during times of stress and outside of them. I mean, this probably comes across as painfully obvious, but I am just observing it now. For example - do you have the energy and brain power for the compassion, or are you completely burnt out and the best you can offer is not forcing yourself to make a huge dinner and just making toast? Or do you have the time, but you've fallen into some line of thought that makes you just push-push-push because you need to get a lot done while you can? It's different, but it's the same. You know?

7th December, Friday
My parents surprised us by asking to go out to a local garden centre and then get morning tea this morning, so we went and did that, and I observed how I reacted to different things. I tried to show compassion to my parents more than I usually do - sometimes, weirdly, it's the people closest to us it is hardest to remember when it comes to being kind and compassionate. I think that links into anxiety a little, but that might need more introspection.
How I showed myself compassion today? I was completely wiped out from the morning outing so, instead of pushing through, I went back to bed. I am working on my sleeping patterns, but I'm also not going to starve my body of sleep. Chronic illness takes a lot of energy, you know?

8th December, Saturday
Wow, I did a lot today. But a lot of it felt good, and like I was giving my future-self a gift. I remember what it's like to not have brain fog right now, and it feels really wonderful, but also brings back to me just how sick I am lately. How can I continue to be compassionate to myself even when I'm too sick to think? A question to really consider during this challenge, I think.

9th December, Sunday
Compassion felt hard to grasp today at times. And yet I think it was a little more present than usual, which is a plus. This morning, Xin and I went to some local Farmer's Markets to get some lovely fresh fruit (success!) and then went to some local shops to get a few things. I had a migraine late last night, and so I was a bit... grumpy. And then it turned out that walking was difficult for me today because my hips and back were hurting a lot. But I still managed to show some compassion to Xin and find somewhere to get coffee so he could feel more awake, and then later some compassion for myself in the form of checking out some new shops and getting icecream! The icecream place we found even listed everything it had in each flavour, so I could easily avoid things that make me sick - that was wonderful.



Week One Closing Thoughts
I think I am still learning what compassion feels and looks like at the moment - it feels like a simple concept, but I am still having trouble grasping it sometimes. I'm really pleased with how I've been going, and still really happy that I am taking on this challenge, but I think more learning is on the way. 

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Book Review: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green


Title: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing
Author: Hank Green
Series: An Absolutely Remarkable Thing #1
Publication Date: September 25th 2018

Synopsis: "The Carls just appeared. Roaming through New York City at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship - like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armour - April and her best friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world - from Beijing to Buenos Aires - and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the centre of an intense international media spotlight.

Seizing the opportunity to make her mark on the world, April now has to deal with the consequences her new particular brand of fame has on her relationships, her safety and her own identity. And all eyes are on April to figure out not just what the Carls are, but what they want from us."

My thoughts: I was definitely excited to get my hands on Hank Green's debut novel - I am a Nerdfighter and watch vlogbrothers with my husband pretty often, and we also listen to their podcast, Dear Hank and John, pretty frequently whenever we're in the car together. Hank seems like a wonderful guy - insightful and interested in the world around him, and he also tries to be aware of what fame does and of his own privilege. All of this means that I was intrigued by what he would write about.

Having now finished the book, I am a little torn. Everyone has been saying that this is an insight into fame and what it does to people, plus its impacts on relationships and the way you conduct yourself. All of that is true, for sure. This is extremely interesting to read from that point of view, and I think it really shows how self-aware Hank is about his YouTube fame and the jobs that he has. I found it uncomfortable to read about - but I have a fear of a lot of the things that happen to April May, so that isn't really unusual.

What kind of threw me was the scifi elements of this book. I love me some scifi, and the mystery around the Carls was actually really fascinating. I loved reading about how different elements of the mystery came into light, and seeing how people tried to tease out the riddles. That was all really fantastic. But I feel a little like maybe Hank tried to do too much with this book - it feels a little like a mash-up of a lot of things, and with April May being the main character (I'll talk more about her in a second), it just felt... a bit messy at times.

April May is an unlikable character - let me just put that out there. There are things that she says, does, and agrees to in this book that just made me feel deeply uncomfortable and anxious, and I honestly think that was on purpose. And that makes sense for the storyline and the points Hank was trying to make. But, the thing is, I don't really get on with unlikable characters - I know some people adore them, but I'm just not one of them. The fact that I couldn't relate to April May made me feel like I was on the outside looking in, and flinching every time April May did anything. I think the other characters - Andy and Maya in particular - really helped me to keep reading, and I think I will probably pick up the sequel when it comes out. The mystery is just too intriguing.



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

A favourite line from the book: '"A robot of few words, but your appearance speaks volumes."'

You would like this book if: You like insights into YouTube fame and constructing an identity for the internet; you enjoy some scifi mystery tied into said insights.

Tea to drink while reading this book: It's set in New York City mostly, so I think probably coffee is the go if you can drink it. Perhaps even a holiday-themed coffee.

Rating:  7/10

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

Friday, December 7, 2018

Reading Challenge: Realm of the Elderlings by Robin Hobb

I can't really remember how this started, but Katharine from ventureadlaxre and I were talking one day and I believe I mentioned that I had never read a Robin Hobb book. She, being a fan and understandably horrified at this fact, suggested we do a challenge where we read every book and piece of short fiction that ties into the Realm of the Elderlings books. That's something like five series of novels. And I, though nervous, said 'okay?'.


This will be an almost full re-read for Katharine (she hasn't quite brought herself to read the final book yet), and completely new for me. We will be doing discussion posts whenever we read something, and you're welcome to read along with us or whatever you'd like :) Below is our reading order, shamelessly stolen from Katharine's blog.



Chronological Reading Order
Prequel Shorts
“Homecoming” (short story)
The Wilful Princess and the Piebald Prince (novella)
“Cat’s Meat” (short story)
The Farseer Trilogy
Assassin’s Apprentice
Shorts
“Words Like Coins” (short story)
“Blue Boots” (short story)
The Farseer Trilogy
Royal Assassin
Assassin’s Quest
Shorts
“The Inheritance” (short story)
Liveship Traders Trilogy
Ship of Magic
The Mad Ship
Ship of Destiny 
The Tawny Man Trilogy
Fool’s Errand
The Golden Fool
Fool’s Fate 
The Rain Wild Chronicles
Dragon Keeper
Dragon Haven
City of Dragons
Blood of Dragons 
The Fitz and the Fool Trilogy
Fool’s Assassin
Fool’s Quest
Assassin’s Fate 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Book Review: The Consuming Fire by John Scalzi



Title: The Consuming Fire
Author: John Scalzi
Series: The Interdependency #2
Publication Date: Otcober 2018

Synopsis: "Humanity's sprawling empire is on the verge of collapse. Its trading route between the stars is vanishing, leaving planets stranded. And billions of lives will be lost unless desperate measures are taken. Emperox Grayland II, the Interdependency's ruler, is ready to take those measures. But even this may not be enough. Some believe the collapse of the Flow is a myth - or an opportunity to ascend to power.

For while Grayland prepares for disaster, others prepare for civil war. And this war will be fought in the halls of power, between titans of industry and in places of worship as much as in space. Nothing about this power struggle will be straightforward... and all of human civilization is at stake."

My thoughts: I reviewed the first book in The Interdependency series last year and really loved it, so I was eager to get my hands on the second one. And it did not disappoint.

All the characters I fell in love with in book one are back, cracking jokes, and just generally being awesome. They show their insecurities but also kind of hide them behind a veneer of humour and self-confidence, and I really love that (something I do on occasion, too, and I think many people can relate to).

What you're really getting here is a wonderful romp - action, intrigue, scandal, and of course Scalzi's fantastic sense of humour, all rolled into one brilliant ride. A couple of new characters were introduced in this book and I really loved them too - even if I was loving-to-hate them. 

I don't really want to write too much else, as I don't want to accidentally give away any plot points given this is a second book in a series, but I just want to say that this was such a joy to read. It really lifted me up and reminded me of everything I love about reading, and I am so grateful to Scalzi for writing these books. He seems like a good egg.



{I received a review copy from Pan Macmillan in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'But had he tried, what they would have boiled down to would have been, Hey, you know what, basing an entire system of social, political and economic control n the vague, all-too-easily misinterpreted words of a single person claiming divine inspiration is probably not actually all that smart, is it.'

You would like this book if: Well... if you liked the first book, I think this will be a good bet; if you enjoy funny and fascinating scifi with a kick of political intrigue and a dash of romance.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I don't know why, but maybe a bit of chai would be good - something spicy!

Rating:  8/10

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

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Compassion Challenge

Dear readers,

Hello dear ones. I am currently sitting on my bed, it's about 11pm at the time of writing this, and I have the fan on nearby which is providing some background noise. It has been warmer here in Perth - 32 degrees Celsius today and expected 37 tomorrow, I believe - and my aversion to heat has been coming up a bit. I'm working on it.

I have written previously about how I have been sicker than usual lately, and that's still happening. It could be happening for any number of reasons, but I don't really want to go into them at the moment. The fact of the matter is that it's happening. I had migraine symptoms last night, for example, and then managed to go to sleep without taking painkillers, thinking I was doing a wonderful thing trying to treat it with sleep, only to wake up this morning with worse pain, plus searing sunshine to boot. Tears were shed, I will tell you that much.

Something I have noticed over the past couple of weeks is that this prolonged period of being sicker than usual has begun to work on my mind and my mood. Depression is present, and anxiety is often high. I am feeling my isolation and sometimes loneliness acutely, and I have been feeling alone - rather than enjoying solitude. I am an introverted Highly Sensitive Person, so alone time is usually wonderfully helpful for me to fill up my cup and be able to be there for others. But it's just not happening that way - I feel like I fill up my cup and then something small happens and it just spills everywhere. I am left with an empty cup again, and a reasonable amount of frustration and anger. And sadness.

Many of my thoughts turn to the idea of whether I will be able to do the things I want to do - write, read, blog, vlog, learn Japanese, other things I adore - or if I need to let them go. I have been doing my best, but I have to admit - self-compassion, and thus compassion for others, has been at an all time low.

I like to think of myself as a pretty compassionate, calm, caring person. But at the moment I feel like a poor version of the self I was in my second year of Uni - mental breakdown, self-hatred, self-harm. (Please note: I no longer self-harm, and I do not engage with suicidal ideation.) I do not want to go back down that path, but I can feel depression at the edges of my vision, and I am noticing desires to lash out and hurt people because I hurt. That isn't who I am, so I'm going to change something.

Honestly the idea for this came out of a magazine - Womankind: Issue #15. The whole issue is pretty much dedicated to Tibet and, as part of it, the magazine asked several readers to embark upon a five day compassion challenge - be nicer to yourself, and others. Try to notice negative thoughts and turn them around, or at least forgive yourself for having them. And whilst reading this, I started to feel better. I started to feel like I wasn't so alone. Compassion is such a huge part of how I see the world, and I lost that at some point when I realised that I was going through a bad patch with my health. I want to change that.

So, for the month of December, I am going to try a compassion challenge - we're a couple of days in, but that's okay. I'm doing the best I can. (Compassion points already!) I'm going to try and notice my thoughts when they become negative, and gently try to turn them around - or at least give myself some hugs and love for doing the best I can.

If you would like to join me, I'd really love that. I may even make some vlogs about this over on my youtube channel, I'm honestly not sure at this point. I'd love to hear from you about the Compassion Challenge - definitely chat to me in the comments about it. I will try and post updates on here frequently to let you know how I'm going.

Love to all who read.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Reading // November 2018

Huzzah! Another reading wrap-up post on time! :D

books read:
~ A Gathering of Shadows (Shades of Magic #2) by V. E. Schwab
~ I'll Be There For You: The One About Friends by Kelsey Miller (review)
~ A Zero Waste Life: In Thirty Days by Anita Vandyke
~ The Power of Now by Tolle Eckhart
~ An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green (review)
~ Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) by Seanan McGuire
~ Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children #2) by Seanan McGuire
~ Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3) by Seanan McGuire
~ Moonstruck, Volume One: Magic to Brew (Moonstruck #1) by Grace Ellis
~ The Consuming Fire (The Interdependency #2) by John Scalzi (review)
~ Blackwood (Perth Shifters #1) by Pia Foxhall (review)
~ Defy the Worlds (Constellation #2) by Claudia Gray
~ The Abundance of Less: Lessons in Simple Living from Rural Japan by Andy Couturier (reread)
~ Zero Waste: Eliminate Your Trash, Simplify Your Life, and Heal the Earth by Shia Su

currently reading:
~ Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
~ Blackbird Song by Randy Lundy (review/Netgalley)
~ Queer Eye: Love Yourself, Love Your Life (review)


Hmm. There is quite a difference between having a sort of basic, conceptual idea of how much you're reading and then seeing it written out in front of you. There are a few shorter books in there, and one graphic novel, but I am pretty happy with that list! The only one that was kind of not super interesting was The Power of Now, which I read because I figured it might be something applicable to my thoughts on life and... it kind of was? But only really simply. I think I prefer reading about Buddhist ideas and Druidry rather than Eckhart Tolle's thoughts, but that's just my experience.

Stand-out reads for this month definitely include the books from the Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire - I have no idea why I put off reading these for so long, and now I definitely want copies of my own. These are very short, but so full of wonder, magic, and also death. It reminded me of some of my favourite poetry and the wonder of faerie worlds, and I just read them so quickly. The second book, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, was probably my favourite, but I really loved them all.

Another stand-out that I have to mention is Blackwood by Pia Foxhall - I was so excited when I found out that Pia had written a book! I love Pia's work, and my review of Blackwood is basically a big gush of love and feelings about their characters and how they manage to connect with readers so wonderfully. I just cannot state how much I adore Pia's writing, it brings me so much... feels.

I will also mention Defy the Worlds and The Consuming Fire, my stand-out scifi reads of this month. I can't really mention them too much because they are both the second book in series, but I absolutely adored being back in each of their storylines and with those wonderful characters. Both have such fantastic humour and I was actually chuckling to myself whilst reading them (a bit creepy, but whatever!). Claudia Gray and John Scalzi are both fantastic.

And that is all for this month, my dears! What are you reading at the moment? Let me know in the comments!

Love to all who read.
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