Sunday, July 17, 2016

2016 'Make Me Read It' Readathon Results

For those who remember as far back as two posts ago, you will remember that last week I was doing a readathon! And to be honest... it didn't go as well as I'd hoped. I was hoping to get through three books, but after having a really successful first day where I finished The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman and then made a decent start on The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton, I then kind of stalled.

It was a combination of things that resulted in me stalling - I actually had a really rough week with my health, with a really bad migraine very early on Wednesday morning, followed by days of migraine symptoms and such. Lots of other symptoms throughout the week, too.
Another reason I stalled was because I was having trouble really getting into The Secret Keeper. I was unsure whether to stick with it because I had read over half by Tuesday, or whether to stop it and move onto Uprooted by Naomi Novik, which had been voted to a joint second place. Eventually I did start Uprooted, but not until Friday/Saturday, and by that time I was just not feeling the thing.

Uprooted is fantastic so far, and I have also started one or two other things... but basically that means I got through a total of... one book. Which is good but not really what I wanted... At this point I am just going to continue reading what I am reading, and maybe make the other books that I had chosen for the readathon a kind of loose to-be-read pile for the future. Maybe I should do my own readathon? Who knows.

Has anyone read anything good in the past week?

Saturday, July 2, 2016

{2016} June Reading

Books bought/received:
~ The House Between Tides by Sarah Maine (won!)
~ Self-Reg by Dr Stuart Shanker with Teresa Barker (review)

Books read:
~ Where the Trees Were by Inga Simpson (review)
~ Gate of Lilacs by Clive James (review)
~ Something New by Lucy Knisley (review)
~ The Moor (Mary Russell #4) by Laurie R. King
~ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers #1) by Becky Chambers
~ The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman (review)
~ Grief is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter
~ O Jerusalem (Mary Russell #5) by Laurie R. King
~ Awakening the Buddha Within by Lama Surya Das
~ Odd Type Writers by Celia Blue Johnson
~ Breathing Under Water by Sophie Hardcastle (review)

I have been trying to get through more of my review books lately, as well as just kind of reading what I wanted when I wanted to, so that kind of accounts for how much I have jumped around this month.

As you can see, my interest in the Mary Russell books has diminished slightly, but I am still getting through them. I am kind-of-sort-of reading the sixth book, Justice Hall, right now, in between other things.

time near the balcony enjoying the breeze and a book~

Quite a few of the review books were a delight to read this month: the Lucy Knisley and Neil Gaiman in particular were met with overjoyed noises from me when they arrived, and then were savoured as I read as slowly as I could. Where the Trees Were and Breathing Under Water were quite interesting surprises, and I am so glad that I requested them, as they were a bit of a departure from stuff I normally read and I was so glad to have branched out. Unfortunately, the Clive James, while beautiful, was still a little hard for me to understand, so I had to admit defeat with that one.

all rugged up with books, journal, and kitty!

The other stuff I read is a bit of a mixed bag: some scifi, nonfiction, a book written in verse, one on the Buddhist eightfold path... looking back on it now, I am kind of surprised. I loved each of them in individual ways, and have already recommended the scifi (The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet) to several people. Awakening the Buddha Within was picked up off my shelf (it still had a bookmark in it from before...) and read to the end at a time when I was feeling a bit overwhelmed, and it actually really helped me to take a step back and reassess how I was seeing things. It has re-sparked my interest in Buddhist texts.

Otherwise, I am still trying to chug along with the review books, and am currently reading a book from the library calle The Mistresses of Cliveden, which I am really enjoying. Expanding horizons, guys. What are you reading at the moment?

if I have learnt anything from my cat, it's too seek the sun, even if that means sitting on the floor.

Love to all who read.

Friday, July 1, 2016

July 2016 'Make Me Read It' Readathon

You read that title right, folks, I am going to try and participate in a readathon! I haven't done one of these in a while, so I am a bit excited. I found this over on my friend Katharine's blog and it sounded like so much fun. It was created by Ely and Val of Tea and Titles, follow this link to find out all the info!

As a basic introduction, the readathon will last from July 9th to the 16th, in whatever timezone you're in. The person participating (ie. me) can choose as many books as they like, but Ely and Val recommend choosing more than you think you can get through because, and here's the twist, other people get to vote on what you read! So there is a list below of the books I have chosen, and whatever gets the most votes will be read first, and so on and so forth.

So please, vote away!

What should Bethwyn read for the readathon?
Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
Prudence by Gail Carriger
The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johanssen
The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Children of Earth and Sky by Guy Gavriel Kay
Do Quizzes

Thursday, June 30, 2016

More notes on Badger-state.

Winter is in full swing here in Australia, although if you were to be able to look out my window today, you might doubt that. The air is cold, for sure, but the sun is shining and the skies are pretty darn blue.
Either way, I have been hibernating a fair amount the last couple of days. I have been sleeping a lot more than usual (often going back to bed after Xin leaves for work, usually sleeping til lunchtime), and I have been craving comforts like there's no tomorrow (evidenced by the chocolate in the fridge, the marshmallows in the cupboard, and the english muffin I am thinking about toasting in a minute...).

I have been wondering for weeks what is up with me, trying to fight through the desire to keep sleeping, trying to remind myself of all the fun things that I have to do, and also remind myself of my return to studying Buddhist texts (seems short-lived now...). But I seem to just keep on going to bed, reading when I can, and generally trying to stop myself from buying things that we can't afford.

Over and over I have asked myself 'why? why is this happening? am I just getting lazy?', and then inevitably the 'shoulds' will kick in, to make me feel kind of bad, leading to long discussions with Xin about how we decided I should take some time to just be me for a while, without Centrelink and other stuff breathing down my neck.

And then I remembered today, and I started laughing.

See, the thing is, sometimes I forget that I have chronic illnesses. It's not like I ever completely forget that they're there, because I have pain every day and oftentimes have to deal with random symptoms popping up whenever they feel like it. It's more that I forget that having a chronic illness (or several) kind of means certain things - such as, when I have pushed myself hard for a good six months or so, slowly wearing down at my own resilience and depleting my energy levels significantly, I can end up pretty exhausted and lethargic. During these times, sometimes I have trouble getting out of bed. Sometimes I have more symptoms than usual which have one main treatment - rest. And sometimes, doing things that I usually find super fun, are actually more depleting than usual.

I had started to think that maybe my depression was coming back to say hello before I remembered the second half of 2012, where I had trouble even going to the bathroom unassisted, after spending the first half of 2012 studying part-time and working part-time (which had complications) and driving myself to the point of complete exhaustion. I haven't pushed myself that hard this time round, but having just finished a second degree at the end of last year, and then planning a wedding and a honeymoon, and then doing said wedding and honeymoon, I was a little worn out.

Recovery is a strange thing to me. Sometimes you feel like you've entered a state of limbo where you can't seem to move forward at all, and you wonder if you are in fact recovering at all. I am learning, always learning, to trust that maybe that state is just a place your body and mind puts you in, to try and heal you. Like how in science fiction movies (or, you know, Dragonball Z) where people are placed in a tank where they have to stay pretty still so they can heal everything - sometimes stasis = healing.

So I am investigating my badger nature, and my badger-state of hibernation/stasis, and I am trying to be patient. I may try and write more notes soon. For now, have a picture of a badger performing my favourite past-time of late...

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Book Review: The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: The View from the Cheap Seats
Author: Neil Gaiman
Publication Date: May 31st 2016

Synopsis: "'Literature does not occur in a vacuum. It cannot be a monologue. It has to be a conversation.'

Welcome to the conversation. Neil Gaiman fled the land of journalism to find truths through storytelling and sanctuary in not needing to get all the facts right. Of course, the real world continued to make up its own stories around him, and he has responded over the years with a wealth of ideas and introductions, dreams and speeches.

The View from the Cheap Seats will draw you in to these exchanges on making good art and Syrian refugees, the power of a single word and playing the kazoo with Stephen King, writing about books, comics and the imagination of friends, behind sad at the Oscars and telling lies for a living. Here 'we can meet the writer full on' (Stephen Fry) as he opens our minds to the people he admires and the things he believes might just mean something - and makes room for us to join the conversation too."

My thoughts: This was a wonderful book to read - I decided to read it from front to back, rather than jumping around to the bits that I thought would appeal to me most. The fact is, I don't really read horror fiction because I have trouble sleeping afterwards, and Gaiman seems to have a deep love for horror and creepy-style fiction. I wanted to broaden my horizons a little bit, in a way that I felt was rather ...safer? than if I had just decided to try and pick up a ghost story.

This is such an eclectic and fantastic collection of Gaiman's writings, and I found that I really felt more desire to read his fictional works as a consequence of reading his non-fiction works. I think reading this collection is a fantastic idea for anyone - whether you've read most of his books, or you're just trying to get into his work, either way I think you get an idea for the things that matter to him, the things that he loves and cares about, and the things that make him sad.

The collection is split into many different parts - ten in all - including 'On Comics and Some of the People that Make Them', 'Introductions and Contradictions', and 'On Stardust and Fairy Tales'. I can honestly say that I found a lot in each of these sections that made me rethink things, and also motivated me to keep writing myself. 

Gaiman has such a wonderful way of writing - in a way that shares a little about himself, a little about those he knows, and a lot about what he is intrigued by. He somehow connects with his readers in such a strong way (I can now speak from experience here) without really addressing much to the reader (or in the case of speeches he has given, the listener). A lot of his writing in here seemed like musings, thoughts he has had that he is writing or talking out to make more sense of them, if he can do such a thing, and perhaps it is that desire to understand that connects with people so strongly.

I would highly recommend this to everyone. I didn't connect with every piece of writing in here, but I connected with many of them.

[I received a review copy of this book from HarperCollins. Thank you!!!]

A favourite line from the book: "I start to tell [Stephen] King my theory, that when people in the far future want to get an idea of how things felt between 1973 and today, they'll look to King. He's a master of reflecting the world that he sees, and recording it on the page. The rise and fall of the VCR, the arrival of Google and smartphones. It's all in there, behind the monsters and the night, making them more real."

You would like this book if: You like Neil Gaiman, or Amanda Palmer, or Stephen King, or Terry Pratchett, or... just. I think you might like it. Give it a go.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I am going to recommend T2's Botanica, for something sweet to go with all your realisations and horror fictiony goodness.

Rating:  9/10

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Book Review: Something New by Lucy Knisley

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride
Author: Lucy Knisley
Publication Date: May 3rd 2016 from First Second Books

Synopsis: "When Lucy Knisley and her boyfriend John broke up, Lucy wondered if she would ever find love again. Three years later, she did - when John returned to New York, walked back into Lucy's life, and proposed.

This is not that story. It is the story of the "happily ever aftermath" - the wedding.

In this hilarious and moving new memoir, Knisley - a working artist skeptical of the very institution of marriage - rolls up her sleeves and gets to work putting her personal artistic stamp on a tradition almost as old as humanity itself. From the venue (building a barn) to the reception (constructing a photo booth) to her wedding dress (sewing her own veil), Knisely channels her artist's ingenuity into every element of the wedding planning process, finally emerging from the creative chaos to stand, certain and joyful, at the altar with the man she loves."

My thoughts: I feel like I have repeated my love of Lucy Knisley over and over, and this review is probably not going to be any different. Flipping back through the book now - almost three weeks after I finished it - I find myself once again falling in love with Knisley's openness, her sense of humour, and her ability to really connect with her reader whilst also trying to express herself well. It really is quite a wonderful talent.

This book continues her 'series' of sorts where she writes about her life and each event in a kind of episodic way - her next book, which I am definitely super excited for whenever it comes out, is going to be about her experience being pregnant and then having a baby - this one is about her wedding.

For those of you that don't know, I actually got married myself back in March. The planning of that wedding was pretty heavy-going for me and I ended up pretty darn stressed. I think, with that personal experience firmly at the front of my mind, reading about Lucy's handmade touches really made me wistful for what else I would have liked to have done for my own wedding (not to say my wedding wasn't wonderful, just saying that I, too, am kind of skeptical about weddings and marriage, and I wanted to put my own personality into as much as I could). I am in awe of some of the things Lucy manages, and I think, had I read this book while planning my own wedding, I would have been equal parts impressed/inspired, and absolutely overwhelmed.

I loved that Lucy shows how weddings seems to impact everyone around you, and how some people really want to band together to make your wedding day the best one for you and your partner, and others really only have tradition and/or their own desires in mind when they offer their help. Knisley manages to show the wonderful bits and also the really tough bits (example: her journey to find a simple wedding dress is something to behold), without making it the book seem like a crusade against typical weddings - just a crusade for the one that is right for her.

As always, her art style is vibrant and wonderful, and she tells stories so beautifully. I loved everything about this book - I am even thinking about buying copies for some of my friends that are planning their own weddings now. I continue to fall deeper and deeper in love with Lucy Knisley's work.

[I received a review copy of this book from First Second Books. Thank you!!]

A favourite line from the book:
[scan found on Beth Fish Reads blog, all image rights belong to Lucy Knisley/First Second books.]

You would like this book if: you have liked Knisley's previous works; you enjoy reading about people planning weddings and trying to put their own touch on them.

Tea to drink while reading this book: something deeply calming - to avoid getting stressed, or perhaps something sweet like wedding cake. Perhaps Love tea from Lemon Canary?

Rating:  10/10

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

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Book Review: Where the Trees Were by Inga Simpson

I love reading. Books are amazing. They are a form of escapism, yes, but they are also inspiration, joy, and... well. Goodness. I think in some ways I have used my appetite for reading to define parts of my personality, so it made sense for me to review some of what I read! Here we go...

Title: Where the Trees Were
Author: Inga Simpson
Publication Date: March 22nd, 2016

Synopsis: "Finding a grove of carved trees forged a bond between Jay and her four childhood friends and opened their eyes to a wider world. But their attempt to protect the grove ends in disaster, and that one day on the river changes their lives forever.

Seventeen years later, Jay finally has her chance to make amends. But at what cost? Not every wrong can be put right, but sometimes looking the other way is no longer an option."

My thoughts: This book alternates between Jayne's life when she was younger, and her life in the present day, cleverly changing the point of view between the two times as well - using first person during the chapters with her younger self, and third person during the chapters with her present-day self.

The story explores Jay's relationships with her childhood friends, and who she becomes as a result of those relationships. There is also a little investigation into how growing up can really change who you are and who you spend time with, and issues like disability and sexuality are touched upon during the course of this.

I really enjoyed this book in the end - Simpson has a fantastic ability to describe a natural setting so beautifully that you feel like you are actually there, and her knowledge of the Australian landscape is quite a wonderful addition to her writing.

However, I do have to say that, at times, I had trouble connecting with the main character, Jay. Sometimes I felt like I totally understood what she was saying and going through, and other times it felt kind of distant and muffled, and I couldn't really make out what she was thinking or what was really happening in the story. This occasions always made me stop, and that would take me out of the story, which I found a little frustrating. The times where I was able to stay in the story were fantastic, and I became really intrigued by Jay's interest in Australian art.

Overall, I found this book to be in a world of its own - one that I really enjoyed visiting. I think, had I not had those moments of feeling like Jay wasn't quite real, I would be recommending it to everyone for some decent Aussie literature. For now, I will just recommend it to some people.

(I received a review copy of this book from Hachette. Thank you!)

A favourite line from the book: "'Tree burials are traditional in a lot of cultures. Interring a body inside the trunk, beneath the roots, or even up in the branches.'
'And you like your trees.'
'Better than graveyards.'
Sarah smiled. 'Too many ghosts?'
'All those rows of marble and cement, mowed lawn. Dark suits despite the hot sun. Give me a tree for my tombstone any day.'"

You would like this book if: You fancy something a bit slower, a bit more considering; you want to try some Australian literature with beautiful descriptions of the landscape.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Something with eucalyptus leaves in it would suit, for sure! Or just your basic billy tea, preferably made over a camp-fire.

Rating:  7.5/10

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