Friday, May 11, 2018

Spoonie Musings // More Thoughts on Sleep

Ah yes, my sleeping patterns woes continue. I thought I was doing better, but my body seems to want me to stay up late and the sleep long into the day, but then it also gives me lots of symptoms for doing that... and lots of symptoms if I don't... Are you confused yet? I sure am.

Life as a spoonie is really weird sometimes. Okay, maybe all the time. Even when things are going well, it is a little weird because of dietary restrictions ('so you can have... what can you have?' 'things that aren't trying to kill me?'), physical activity or movement restrictions ('I'm going to go do this kind of physical fun thing! Want to join me?' 'Uh I can't, I have this thing...' 'What thing?' 'Chronic Fatigue Syndrome.'), and/or other things like... mental health stuff that is going on at the most frustrating possible moment ('I was going to go out and go for a walk, and maybe sit in a park for a while, but then I didn't.' 'Oh. Why not?' 'I remembered that I can't handle even the slightest hint of human interaction outside of my home right now...').

Spoonie issues come in all forms, and most of them are kind of strange in one way or another. I can take enough of a step back from my life to acknowledge that. Even now, as I write this, I can feel my stomach beginning to hurt, despite the fact that I haven't really eaten anything in about two hours, and certainly not something that was cause pain. And I think that is the most frustrating thing about being a spoonie for me: the not knowing

And that might be the most frustrating thing when it comes to my bizarre sleeping pattern right now: I have no idea whether I should just honour what my body is saying it wants and stay up, or trying and go to sleep at a 'normal' time to try and reset my body clock. Honestly, I have tried both in the last few weeks, to mixed results. I'd be the first person to admit that sometimes, whether it be because you haven't had enough time to yourself, or your brain is just not slowing down, or various other reasons, you just really need to stay up later than you usually would to reconnect to yourself, or read a book, or play a game, or, dammit, watch that show you've been meaning to get around to for months. Sometimes it just has to happen.

Other times, you need to work on your sleeping habits. Limiting screen use before bed, having a nice warm bath, or a glass of milk, or whatever normally works for you. Going to bed at a reasonable time and trying to get up with your alarm for once, instead of about twenty minutes (to an hour...) afterwards.

But I just don't know what realm I am in at the moment. It's certainly a grey area. It's neither the white light of early morning, or the pitch black of the night owl's lair, but just a grey in-between where sleep is a bizarre creature that I cannot tame. Maybe I should stop trying? (ie. just sleep during the day hahahahaha *manic laughter ensues*)

Love to all who read.

P.S. I have recently stumbled across the work of Charlie Bowater, and I really wanted to share some of her work here. Please visit the links underneath the image to check out her website, deviantart and society6 pages!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Reading // April 2018

books read:
~ Scythe (Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman (review)
~ Begone the Raggedy Witches (The Wild Magic Trilogy #1) by Celine Kiernan (review)
~ Reflections on a Mountain Lake: Teachings on Practical Buddhism by Tenzin Palmo
~ Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (re-read)
~ Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
~ The Good Luck Sister (Wildstone #1.5) by Jill Shalvis (review)
~ Obsidio (The Illuminae Files #3) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
~ Miles Franklin: A Short Biography by Jill Roe (review)
~ Nimona by Noelle Stevenson
~ Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (review to come)
~ The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X. R. Pan (review)
~ Adventures of a Young Naturalist: The Zoo Quest Expeditions by David Attenborough (review)
~ Paris Ever After by K. S. R. Burns (review)
~ A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas

currently reading:
~ A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas
~ The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton (review)

Another month of several reviews! Seven available, and one more to come in June! I am pretty happy with that, and also happy to note that my style of reviewing is evolving somewhat - I am finding that, with all of my brain fog symptoms lately that make it really hard to remember things, I have started to use little page markers and such to notify myself of important things in a review book - things I might like to quote, or mention, when writing my review. I am also thinking of using note-cards or a notebook to start writing down my thoughts a little more, so that my reviews are a bit more fleshed out and at times. It can be hard to write books reviews when you are having a bad brain day and can hardly remember what the book was about!

Anyway, onto my general thoughts. I mostly adored everything I read this month, with a couple of exceptions which you can read about in my reviews for the most part. I really love the fairly decent mix of genres in this month - lots of SFF, if I'm honest, but Fantasy and SciFi are my favourite genres, so that is kind of to be expected. A little sprinkling of kids books, some romance, and even some nonfiction round out everything quite well, I think.

Particular mentions I'd like to make: The Astonishing Colour of After absolutely blew me away, giving that I wasn't sure I could handle the subject matter (trigger warnings for depression and suicide). It is so beautifully written, and I gobbled it up in less than 24 hours, and then wanted to read it again. I definitely think I will sometime soon.
I finally got around to rereading Illuminae and the finishing the trilogy. And I am so so glad I did because I loved it. 

Oh, and I definitely have to mention A Court of Mist and Fury - I absolutely loved this. After being mostly so-so about the first book back when I read it, but loving the ending, I was a little unsure about picking up the others. But it happened to be at the library when I went so I grabbed it and then devoured it in three days. There is so much here that I love, and I am definitely considering getting a copy of my own for re-reading purposes. I am currently reading the third book and enjoying it, but am reserving my decision for buying the first three until I am closer to the end, I think. But the second book... oh yes. That needs to be on my shelf.

What have other peeps been reading this month? Anything fun or life-changing? Let me know in the comments~!

Love to all who read.

Book Review: Adventures of a Young Naturalist by David Attenborough

Title: Adventures of a Young Naturalist
Author: Sir David Attenborough
Publication Date: 26th September 2017 from Hachette

Synopsis: "In 1954, a fresh young television presenter was offered the opportunity of a lifetime - to travel the world finding rare and elusive animals for London Zoo's collection, and to film the expeditions for the BBC. His name was David Attenborough, and the programme, Zoo Quest, not only heralded the start of a remarkable career in broadcasting, but changed the way we viewed the natural world forever.

Written with his trademark wit and charm, Adventures of a Young Naturalist encompasses David Attenborough's expeditions to Guyana, Indonesia, and Paraguay. It includes his encounters with many wonderful creatures; from three-toed sloths in Guyana to armadillos in Paraguay and Komodo Dragons in Indonesia, caiman on the Rupununi, orangutans in Borneo, chameleons and more.

Sir David Attenborough is a broadcaster and naturalist, whose television career is now in its seventh decade. His latest programme, Planet Earth II, averaged an audience of more than ten million per episode, and was the most-watched nature documentary of all time.

The books were first published in the 1950s and have been out of print for decades. The new edition includes a new introduction by Sir David Attenborough as well as a selection of photographs from his archives, some of which have never been published before."

My thoughts: I am a huge fan of David Attenborough since way back when I was a kid - my aunties got me a (VHS!) boxset of The Life of Birds when I was around 11 years old and I remember watching it over and over again - to the strange mix of pride and frustration of my parents. When I graduated my first Bachelor's Degree, I treated myself to the DVD boxset of the Life Collection (which, if I'm honest, I am still working through. Attenborough has put out a lot of series, and it's hard not to get distracted!). I used to own a secondhand copy of Zoo Quest for a Dragon, which I ended up having to give up during a big house move, so I was really excited to see that Hachette were republishing/repackaging some of the Zoo Quest diaries into Adventures of a Young Naturalist - including Zoo Quest for a Dragon!

Now that my backstory is out of the way, how did the republication match up? Amazingly well. Attenborough's engaged and witty tone works so well, and his added introduction shows how much he has learnt over his career, and his desire to share animal lives so that people can learn more about the animal world, and perhaps about ourselves in the process. Some of the things that Attenborough had to endure during the course of each of these Quests was completely startling to me, and I am honestly so surprised that he didn't lose his temper all the time - or lose his desire to travel to far-flung places to learn more. 

The antics that he describes from both humans and animal folk alike had me giggling and gasping with shock, and the newly added photos are fantastic reference and just bring the whole book together in a joyful way. The way that Attenborough writes manages to convey not just the beauty and sometimes horror of the natural world, but also his own insatiable thirst to know and learn more - at times it comes across as an almost childlike wonder, which honestly filled me with a gentle joy and brought me back to the first time I watch The Life of Birds on our beat-up VHS player. Attenborough is here doing what he does best - learning about animals, and inspiring wonder and fascination in all that read (and watch).

I highly recommend checking out this republication, particularly if you are an Attenborough fan like myself.

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

A favourite line from the book: 'Purple sea fans branched above the coral, and here and there we saw sea anemones of a size unthinkable to anyone who has only seen them in colder seas. Their many-coloured tentacles formed a carpet several feet across, and as vagrant currents passed them they waved like a field of corn with the wind upon it.'

You would like this book if: You enjoy nature books/books filled with nature writing; you are a fan of Sir David Attenborough; you like exploration stories featuring humour, sadness, and sometimes a bit of action.

Rating:  8.5/10

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

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Book Review: The Good Luck Sister by Jill Shalvis

Title: The Good Luck Sister
Author: Jill Shalvis
Series: Wildstone #1.5
Publication Date: May 1st 2018

Synopsis: "This summer, romance blooms again in Wildstone!

After a difficult few years, Tilly Adams is ready for life to start going right. Though she has a case of first day nerves teaching art at the local community college, she knows it isn't anything a few snuggles from her rescue puppy won't cure. Until she sees Dylan Scott again, her one-time BFF and first love sitting in the front row.

Dylan knows he should've left well enough alone, but when he sees Tilly living her dream, he can't help but make contact. Ten years ago, he left Wildstone and everything in it behind, including Tilly. He had his reasons, but now he wants her back in his life, anyway he can get her.

When Tilly agrees to design the logo for Dylan's new helicopter touring company, it's business only... until she finds herself falling into his arms once again. Can she possibly open her heart back up to the only man who's ever broken it? But soon they're both realising the truth - love always deserves a second chance."

My thoughts: If you follow me on Goodreads, it's not secret that when it comes to contemporary romance, I'm a fan of Jill Shalvis. Whenever I'm in the mood for some romance with a little bit of sexy times in it, I turn to her books. I am a huge fan of her Animal Magnetism books, and I also really love her Pacific Heat duology - I actually reread them whenever I'm in the mood, too. Oh, and the Wilder books. And I'm quite partial to her newer series, Heartbreaker Bay... Anyway, I'm a fan, okay?

So when I saw that she was starting another new series, the first book being Lost and Found Sisters, I was intrigued. When the novella just following the first book landed in my lap, I dove right in, and am now eagerly awaiting the next one.

What makes Shalvis's books so great is present here, too - characters that feel fleshed out and real, with issues that actually make sense, and a depth to them not often found in contemporary romance. I particularly love how many of her characters are partial to rescue dogs and cats - warms my dear heart. 

While I will admit to occasionally getting frustrated with Shalvis' characters in the past for what seem like easily-correctable communication issues, I've also had to acknowledge that this is what relationships sometimes look like - emotions running high, people being afraid to share themselves, miscommunications abound. There was a little of that in this novella, but mostly I was pleased to find that Dylan, in particular, was really good at sharing what was going on for him, trying to work things out, and also giving Tilly the space she needed to work things out, too. And that's why I really love Jill Shalvis' writing: her characters are flawed, but real; they do their best to work on their own stuff and call each other out on BS; and (and I'd be lying if this wasn't a big factor) they have pretty amazing sex (well done, Jill, for being able to write so many sexy times scenes!). Oh, and Shalvis continues to evolve as a writer as time goes on, which is not something I have seen in other romance writers.

Okay, I'll admit that, while I had fun reading this, I did feel at times that things were a little too rushed, even with Tilly and Dylan's history. I definitely thought this one could easily be fleshed out into a novel. It does work as a novella, but it felt a little jumpy at times and I just wanted a little more development of the characters before they jumped right back into each other's arms. I also thought Dylan's background could have been expanded a little more - while we do get to know him during the course of the book, there were parts of his history that I just felt like I needed more from, and he still came across as a little bit of an enigma. I think the 'strong, silent type' trope can rub me the wrong way, sometimes, because that feels like a bit of a pressure on men to keep their emotions to themselves - not something I believe in. (If I'm writing a wishlist, I think I'd also like a little more LGBTQ+ representation, and maybe also some diversity in race... okay I'm done.)

However, if you are partial to a bit of contemporary romance, I would still definitely recommend that you check out Jill Shalvis.

{I received a review ecopy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'I said I was smart. I never said I had my shit together. - from "The Mixed-Up Files of Tilly Adams's Journal."'

You would like this book if: You enjoy contemporary romance with a hint of good communication and some decent exploration of consent; you enjoy good sexy times scenes!

Tea to drink while reading this book: Do not recommend a hot beverage as you will already be hot and bothered. Wink. Too far?

Rating:  6.5/10

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

Friday, April 27, 2018

Book Review: The Astonishing Colour of After by Emily X. R. Pan

Title: The Astonishing Colour of After
Author: Emily X. R. Pan
Publication Date: March 22nd 2018

Synopsis: "When Leigh's mother dies by suicide she leaves only a scribbled note - I want you to remember.

Leigh doesn't understand its meaning and wishes she could turn to her best friend, Axel - if only she hadn't kissed him and changed everything between them.

Guided by a mysterious red bird, Leigh travels to Taiwan to meet her grandparents for the first time. There, Leigh retreats into art and memories, where colours collide, the rules of reality are broken and the ghosts of the past refuse to rest...

But Leigh is determined to unlock her family's secrets.

To remember."

My thoughts: This was sent to me unsolicited, so I was a little wary, but as soon as I read the first page I was absolutely overtaken by the beauty of Pan's prose, the tragedy of loss and grief, and the sensitive way in which mental illness is handled in this book (and by that, I mean that this book does not say that mental illness has a single 'cure' or that it is caused by any one thing).

The Astonishing Colour of After is a beautiful, lyrical book which draws you in, holds you there, and gently carries you through Leigh's experience of loss and her attempt to understand the catastrophic loss of her mother to suicide. It shows flashbacks of her trying to understand her mother's good and bad days, and her desire to just survive herself. It looks at family, love, and links that feel unbreakable but can be damaged so easily. It looks at the different ways people handle grief, communication between family members (and the inevitable miscommunication, not just in language but in expectations), and how we can think we know everything about someone but really we only know about a tenth of them, and they are changing all the time. You would think that with all this packed in (and more), this book would feel awkward and the prose unwieldy, but it is masterfully done by Pan, and you can't help but just sink into it.

The characters are fantastic and felt real to me - something that I think is really hard to do, particularly in YA. Leigh is a flawed, creative, complex individual, just trying to survive high school. Her best friend, Axel, is very similar, and it is really interesting to see how their characters are also different because of their family lives and basic outlooks. Leigh's mum - a character mostly created from memory and through elements of magical realism - feels distant at times and oh so close at others, something that, for me, represented the peaks and valleys of mental illness, and depression in particular. The introduction of Taiwanese culture into the mix just adds a layer of interest and wonder, making for an extremely wonderful and yet heart-wrenching reading experience.

While I did feel that part of the ending was a little too picture perfect for me, I had a fantastic experience reading this and actually really want to read it again already, to see if I missed anything in my haste to devour this book whole.
I cannot recommend this highly enough.

Trigger warnings for suicide, depression/depressive episodes.

{I received an unsolicited copy of this book from Hachette. Thank you!!}

A favourite line from the book: 'Whose fault was it? That's the question on everyone's mind, isn't it? Nobody will ever say it out loud. It's a question people would call inappropriate. The kind of thing where everyone tells you, "It's nobody's fault." But is that even true? It's only human nature to look for a place to lay the blame. Our fingers are more than ready to do the pointing, but it's like we're all blindfolded and spinning.
What makes a person want to die?'

You would like this book if: You love books that explore mental illness, culture, magical realism, love, and family, and so many other things and does it well.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Some lovely oolong would complete the experience well, I think.

Rating:  10/10

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

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Book Review: Miles Franklin: A Short Biography by Jill Roe

Title: Miles Franklin: A Short Biography
Author: Jill Roe
Publication Date: 23rd April 2018 from Harper Collins Publishers Australia

Synopsis: "The award-winning biography of Australia's most celebrated literary icon in a new, revised edition.

2018 marks ten years since Jill Roe's defining biography, Stella Miles Franklin: A Biography. To mark the occasion and bring the story of Miles Franklin to a new generation, HarperCollins will publish an abridged, accessible edition: Miles Franklin: A Short Biography.

Propelled to fame aged only twenty-one by her bestselling novel My Brilliant Career, Miles Franklin wrote prolifically, publishing numerous fiction and non-fiction books and articles - often under pseudonyms - over the course of her life. Australian literature was her cause, but Miles Franklin was also - perhaps more importantly - a hugely influential first-wave feminist, unionist and progressive. She was a woman who changed lives, in America, Britain, war-torn Europe and Australia.

If her extraordinary achievements were not enough, her endowment of the Miles Franklin Literary Award ensured she would never be forgotten. In 2013 the Stella Prize for Australian Women's Writing, named in honour of Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin, was awarded for the first time, cementing her reputation further."

My thoughts: I will come clean here and say straight up that I had no idea that Miles Franklin was a woman, let alone that she had been a feminist, activist, and lived through two World Wars. When I saw this book would be coming out, I immediately requested a copy to try and remedy my ignorance.

And what a wonderful remedy this was! Clearly extremely well-researched and wonderfully put together, you can feel the personality of Miles coming straight through. And while I normally don't like sensing the biographer's touch, Roe managed to keep a light touch that just helped everything to flow along, and I loved the moments where there was no fact, so Roe just made a few assumptions for us to do with what we will.

Miles Franklin was a remarkable woman - from starting to write very early in life, to her decision to move to America, then England, and then back to Australia; her activism and firm belief in equal rights for men and women. I really took to the photo of her on the cover of the book, and would often flip back from the part I had been reading to really try and picture her doing the things that were written about. If you are looking for a way to remedy your own ignorance, or just fancy a really well-written romp of a biography, I highly recommend you check this one out.

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

A favourite line from the book: [On Miles's successful publication of her first children's book.] 'According to Pixie, children were honest and 'your audience doesn't grow stale, there's always another batch coming along, like scones.''

You would like this book if: You intrigued by Stella Maria Sarah Miles Franklin; you enjoy a beautifully put together biography; you are interested in the history of Australian literature.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Hmmm, I'd say a nice black tea, perhaps out of a Waratah Cup?

Rating:  8/10

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

Monday, April 23, 2018

Thoughts // Unsubscribe

Lately I have been making an effort to unsubscribe from emails that I don't really read, or that just encourage me to spend money I don't have/am saving for something else. I thought it would be easy enough - surely there were only a few things I needed to unsubscribe from? - but as time has gone on I've found that more and more emails are coming through that I realise... I don't need anymore.

As I go through this process of digital minimising, I have started thinking about different selves. For example, ah, here is the self that signed up for this rewards card that I hardly ever use, but still receive the ‘it’s time to spend your points!’ emails anyway. And, yes, here is the self that used to watch this online video streaming service… for like a month… so of course I would receive the emails updating their terms and conditions.
Here is the self that loved this website so much that they actually used to read these emails that they send out nearly every day.

I am slowly uncovering another self. One that only wants emails that are actually relevant to them to be in their inbox – to make more space for some form of connection or inspiration to occur. The self that wants to stop spending so much money on things that she doesn’t need, and instead get into a mind-space of ‘this money is being put aside for more exciting things in the future’. Can I be the kid that will get five marshmallows in ten minutes if I don’t eat this single one now?

I didn’t really think that a relatively simple act of unsubscribing from things would lead to me thinking about who I am, who I want to identify as. But sometimes the simplest things can be our greatest teachers, I guess. And, for once, I think I’m actually here for the lesson.
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