Friday, March 23, 2018

Book Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Title: Children of Blood and Bone
Author: Tomi Adeyemi
Series: Legacy of Orisha #1
Publication Date: 8th March 2018

Synopsis: "They killed my mother. They took our magic. They tried to bury us. Now we rise.
Zelie Adebola remembers when the soil of Orisha hummed with magic. Burners ignited flames, Tiders beckoned waves, and Zelie's Reaper mother summoned forth souls.

But everything changed the night magic disappeared.
Under the orders of a ruthless king, maji were targeted and killed, leaving Zelie without a mother and her people without hope.
Now Zelie has one chance to bring back magic and strike against the monarchy. With the help of a rogue princess, Zelie must outwit and outrun the crown prince, who is hell-bent on eradicating magic for good. 
Danger lurks in Orisha, where snow leoponaires prowl, and vengeful spritis wait in the waters. Yet the greatest danger may be Zelie herself as she struggles to control her powers - and her growing feelings for an enemy."

My thoughts: Wow. You know how sometimes authors write blurbs for other books and say things like 'this was a tour de force of epic proportions' and stuff like that? Well, for Children of Blood and Bone, that is completely accurate.

I wasn't sure going in whether I was going to really love this or just kind of like it - the latter being a bane that I have had with many fantasy YA books in the past. But this just sucked me right in and dragged me along, made me think, and left me fairly clueless about what was going to happen right up until the very end.

We read the story from four different points of view: Zelie, her brother, a rogue princess (which I keep misspelling as 'a rouge princess'. sorry...), and the crown prince. I don't always gel that well with multiple points of you, but Adeyemi has written these so well that, even though I wanted to get back to other characters, I would always get swept up by whomever was speaking. Each character was just so unique and fully-formed: while I didn't always understand motivations of each character, or why they were acting in a certain way, I still felt like it was accurate to that character.

Zelie in particular is fantastic. This isn't a typical 'chosen one' style of story, and I loved how Adeyemi really explored Zelie's doubts about her abilities, about whether she even wanted to be what people wanted of her. Despite being the main character, she was still a teenage girl just trying to deal with everything that life was throwing at her - and boy, was it super chaotic.

And the world! The magic system! The gods!! The leoponaires! Everything is so well-crafted. I think I could read a few books about the magic system and the religion in Orisha. Yes, yes I could.

I will quietly admit that the ending confused me a little bit, but that just makes me even more eager to get my hands on the next book to find out what is going on. Adeyemi has written a wonderful book here, and I highly recommend people check it out.

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

A favourite line from the book: 'I tuck back my straight locks, my cheeks growing hot. Even if I pass for wise, there can't be a god above who thinks I'm patient...'

You would like this book if: You like amazing fantasy with complex characters and wonderful world-building.

Tea to drink while reading this book: I might caution against making tea for this one, as you will forget about it and it will go cold (happened to me... a lot...)

Rating:  9.5/10

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Experiments in Spoonie Science

So, I have been doing things. Lots of things. And one of those things which is the biggest thing happens a couple of times a week and is huge and draining but I love it, but also it is slowly draining me away (some days not so slowly).

[I am not sorry for being so vague. A thing happened to me which kind of shook my trust of a lot of people and so I reserve the right to be vague. It is not super necessary to my story to know what the thing is anyway.]

I have watched my energy drain away and witnessed myself turning back into a semi-moving almost-spoonless creature, and that brought up a lot of things for me. Things related to worth, and capability, and societal expectations.

And I watched myself beginning to crack under the weight of all of these burdens. I lost myself in those burdens.

And then a part of me remembered that hey. I've been here before. I've dealt with this shit before. How can I make space for where I am right now?

And so I got quiet. And listened.

It took a while, honestly. Longer than I thought it would. And there were distractions - things that needed to be done, before I could come back and resume the quiet. But eventually I got a few messages from within: Go simple. Slow down. Remember to breathe.

So I began to experiment. When I noticed myself rushing, I would deliberately slow things down. When I noticed I was trying to hold multiple conversations in my head, I would reduce to the one, the simplest, that I could address in that moment. I remembered my breath, and let it pull me back to the present, instead of reliving painful past, or planning for possible painful future.

I have started to get other messages lately, more specific ones about what I need. A lot of it is about self-love, self-care, and letting myself 'off the hook'. I have noticed my tendency to overthink things, and tried to pull back from imagining that I know what other people are thinking or expecting of me. Ultimately that doesn't matter.

I am doing the best I can. And, right now, that means going simple, slowing down, and remembering to breathe.

Love to all who read.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Book Review: The Modern Cook's Year by Anna Jones

Title: The Modern Cook's Year
Author: Anna Jones
Publication Date: October 5th 2017

Synopsis: "An essential addition to every cook's bookshelf, The Modern Cook's Year will show you how to make the most of seasonal produce, using simple, hugely inventive flavours and ingredients.
Smoky mushroom and roast kale lasagne, Sri Lankan squash dhal, beetroot tops tast, tarragon-blistered tomatoes with green oil and chocolate and blood orange freezer cake are among the flavour-packed, easy dishes that celebrate the seasons in Anna Jones's kitchen. With a year's worth of one-pot meals, healthy breakfasts and the quickest suppers, this will become your go-to book time and time again whether in deepest winter, the first warm days of spring or the height of summer.
These simple yet special recipes by our best vegetable chef will take your cooking to a new level."

My thoughts: Okay, let me be clear up front: I adore Anna Jones and her cookbooks. I have both of her previous ones, and I cook out of them regularly. This one was highly anticipated by me and I have to say it actually exceeded my expectations.

The way this book is put together is wonderful. With an introduction that very nearly brought me to tears, and definitely gave me the warm fuzzies, to different sections depending on the weather, this book is beautifully laid out and absolutely wonderful to look through (and, yes, I do read cookbooks from front to back when reviewing. this one did not disappoint).

Jones hasn't just separated the book into clearly marked seasons - although they are here, too - but discusses how the year doesn't always get easily divided into four distinct parts. So, we have a chapter dedicated to the 'Start of the Year' (though I have to think about this in terms of 'Northern Hemisphere' rather than down here in the South, it is a fairly simple change to make in my mind); one dedicated to 'First Warm Days', and one towards the end that is simply titled 'Basics', for things that can be made basically (heh) year round.

The recipes are accompanied by simple yet tasteful (sorry) photographs that just help the book to shine, and Jones's trademark gentle touch and friendly introductions to each recipe are soothing to my heart. This book shines with the love and care that has gone into producing it, and I am so happy to have a copy on my shelves. Highly recommend to everyone - whether you are vegetarian, vegan, or just looking for some delicious recipes to introduce more vegetables into your diet (Meatless Monday perhaps?). Definitely check this one out.

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

A favourite recipe from the book: I am a big fan of healthy breakfasts, when I have the energy to make them, and so I am most intrigued by the 'Baked Apple Porridge with Maple Butter'. Sign me up!

You would like this book if: You have liked Anna Jones's previous cookbooks; you like delicious vegetarian/vegan food; you appreciate an absolutely gorgeously put together cookbook.

Tea to drink while reading this book: Jones has a whole section dedicated to 'Tonics and Teas for Cold Days' and, even though it isn't cold here in Aus at the moment, I do have a cold, so perhaps 'Turmeric, Ginger and Black Pepper Tea to Keep Warm'?

Rating:  10/10

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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