Wednesday Wondering: Ummm, where have you been?

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SO, this lovely July Wednesday I find myself wondering. What happened? Where did I go? Why did I seem to drop off the face of WordPress land? I will attempt to answer these question here. I over the past few months I asked myself the these very same questions. Several legit alibis popped into my head.

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  1. I travelled back to beautiful British Columbia for over two weeks at the end of April
  2. Prior to embarking on my journey back home I had to prep, pack and catch up with work before taking off on my holiday (and then after getting back too!)
  3. On a daily basis I spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen (not for leisure but for work 😉 )
  4. Feeling the pressure of blogging

I do feel as though the first two defences are pretty legit. I had some “real world” issues to set straight. Before that trip I had not been home for over a year, and that in itself has been a test as I’ve always felt I’ve been very close with my family. Then during my trip home I wanted to spend that precious and rare time with my friends and family. Obviously then, after my 16 day vacay coming back and getting into my old routines was a bit more challenging…

So lets say April-May are legit excuses. So then what happened in June? Do I have a real answer? I am not too sure. I do feel like the pressure of committing to a blog was begin to be too much (does anyone else ever feel this?). I felt myself being forced and pressured into staying on schedule, reading a minimum number of books each month (regardless of the sheer volume of the book or personal matters) and the whole experience was becoming a chore instead of being enjoyable and fun. I did feel myself reading not out of delight but because I needed “to read at least 150 pages from that book to stay on track” or I “needed to start a new book quickly because I still didn’t have a quote for Teaser Tuesday”. That isn’t really what I set out to do on this blog. I set out to connect and continue my passion for all things literature, not create a headache for myself!

That’s not to say that every blog that I’ve ever posted became a chore. Not by any means at all! Majority of the time I really enjoy it (trust me I am not one of those girls that can do something they don’t like for long periods of time), it’s just sometimes life gets in the way and other times one just needs a break.

Moving on to reason number three: I spent a lot of my day starring and typing at a laptop screen. I absolutely love my job, but one of the necessities of it is using the computer for a full working day. That is a lot of expose to the computer screen. Some days just spending another hour looking at the screen, outside the working day, would drive me crazy. Plus, I can’t imagine it’s good for my eyes.

Verdict of my musings and wonderings this Wednesday? Moving forward I want to really try to keep to a regular schedule, but also accept that some weeks it just isn’t going to happen, but not let myself get down about that. I feel like in the past year I have accomplished a lot more than I ever thought possible and looking back on everything that I have managed to publish on this blog makes me feel really proud! i want to keep in contact with the reading community and share my thoughts on book all shapes and sizes!

For those of you who have stuck by me, and have not given up on me despite my absence, I am forever grateful and I hope to not disappoint in the future again! You guys are amazing!

Does anyone else ever feel this sort of ‘blog pressure’, or am I just a strange person? As a blogger do you think you put any pressure on yourself? Did you find anything to combat it?

Teaser Tuesday: March 31

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly book meme originally featured at Should Be Reading. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

This next week or so I will be reading a hefty biography of Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang. I thought of giving myself a little extra time to read this book because this Easter weekend I will be heading down to do some skiing for about four days. Woot woot! I am actually really excited about this book, and I have been looking forward to reading it mostly because I am interested in learning about Chinese history. I know so little about that ancient part of the world it’s quite embarrassing, and have always wanted to discover a little more about it. So I am excited to get started!

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“Prostrating himself before her, the prince talked for an half and hour. An irate Cixi told him off: ‘With the border situation like this, you are talking about birthday presents! It shouldn’t be on the agenda at such a time; why are you bothering me with this business?'” (163)

What are you reading this Tuesday? Share your teasers with me!

“The Seven Deadly Sins of Reading” Tag

Wow, I never seized to be amazed when I get nominated for these things. Especially from someone that I look up to! Thank you so much to The Happy Typewriter for tagging me for this book questionnaire. It’s these things that really make me feel like a part of the WordPress community. Here I go!

Greed

Defined as: An intense and selfish desire for something.

What is your most expensive book?

I’d have to say that probably my German textbook for university cost me nearly $250. As for books that I read for fun, I ‘d have to say my special edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde.

Wrath

Defined as: Extreme anger.

What author do you have a love/hate relationship with?

Charles Dickens. That man drove me up the wall with Great Expectations. I actually feel wrathful towards that book to this day and thus have not read it to this day. I loved his The Tale of Two Cities and Hard Times though, so it goes! Real hit or miss.

Gluttony

Defined as: Intense over-indulgence.

What book have you devoured over and over with no shame?

I actually don’t re-read books very often. The list of books that I want to read just grows too quickly. I’d have to say The Picture of Dorian Gray. Real fun to re-read. I can also see myself re-reading Slaughterhouse 5 shamelessly and always feel entertained. Oh, I don’t even count the Harry Potter series, as that is a given 😛

Sloth

Defined as: a reluctance to work or make an effort.

What book have you neglected to read due to laziness?

Hmm, for this one I will have to say The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. I started reading it and got about 100 pages in and then the motivation to keep going just dropped to dangerous levels. It’s still sitting on my shelf. It’s a big book too so it always catches my eye when I look at my book shelf. #bookguilt

Pride

Defined as: satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

What book do you talk about most in order to sound like an intellectual reader?

Blimey this is a tough one, I’d have to say Emile Zola Ladie’s Paradise is great for sounding like you know your stuff about 19th century Paris or if I want to whip out my architecture in 19th century Europe prowess there is nothing like quoting some good old Fin-de-Siecle Vienna by Carl E.Schorske 😀

Lust

Defined as: a strong sexual desire.

What attributes do you find attractive in male characters?

I guess I always gravitate toward the intelligent, charming and witty male characters. There are aspects of Henry from The Picture of Dorian Gray that I really admire, his social prowess/charm/wit I suppose. Then I also like intelligent/practical characters like Mikael Blomkvist from the Millennium series.

Envy

Defined as: a feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck.

What book would you most like to receive as a gift?

I’d have to say the Amazon’s Collector’s edition of The Tales of Beedle the Bard.

I’ve really enjoyed this tag! I’m really interested to read the following amazing bloggers responses:

1. Yvo @ It’s All About Books

2. Emma @ bluchickenninja

3. Karen @ One More Page

4. Eva @ The Paperback Princess

5. The Bookish God

Book Review: The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

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Published: 2014

I must start off by apologizing for the 5 stars I have been handing out, seemingly to every book that I have read in the past month. But I am equally as surprised!

I’ve seen this book on Amazon for quite a while now, but what made me buy it were the positive reviews that it has received and the plot summary that I had read. I was a little spooked when I noticed that Lisa Jewel has called it “wonderfully uplifting” because I really disliked her books. I really did not want to read anything resembling her novels, as I found them overly dramatic and insincere.

This book was the complete opposite. I read it in less that 24 hours because I just couldn’t put it down. Finely balanced, making the plot and the lives that the characters lived very believable. It was so well written that I completely bawled my eyes out at the second to last chapter. Actually, now that I recall I cried at several parts.

I felt like I really got to know the main character, Claire, well, and understood the way the disease affected her life. All of the female characters are strong, powerful, free women that are inspiring as they maintain hope and strength despite the challenges and the circumstances that arrive in their lives. I found this quote early on in the novel, which demonstrates the kind of tough female heroines we have in this drama:

“She wasn’t bitter about it. About the abrupt halt that Caitlin’s arrival brought to her life. If anything, I think she was relieved. Now she only had to worry about taking care of her; she didn’t have to worry about fulfilling promises, or failing. There were no more great expectations. And sometimes I think it was only then, when she didn’t have to burden herself with the responsibility of trying to be successful, that she started to do things right.” (109)

Maybe for this review I will give you some context. It’s about a young woman in her 40s who is living early onset of the Alzheimers disease. Rowan Coleman explores the way it affects her immediate family, which includes her husband, two children and her own mother. We also learn early on that this disease has taken away Claire’s father already, and her poor mother has to see it take over her daughter as well. Coleman really focuses on how the family dynamics are affected, but also digs into the past a little to help us understand some underlaying family issues which the disease perhaps heightens, forcing the characters to deal with it head on. We are continually transported to different events in there lives that helped shaped them or affected them deeply. It’s done it a manner that is not overwhelming, but rather complements the plot.

Now, I am not entirely convinced of pleased with certain aspects of the plot, and I am not too sure that I agree with some of the choices that the character’s make, for example Claire failing and dropping out of university. At the same time I understand what the author is trying to get at. Not everyone has a clear cut life, and it’s about exploring the way people choose to handle certain situations. Which ultimately determine the type of person you want to be.

Verdict: An incredibly beautifully written novel that had me in tears, but despite the heartbreak you leave 

I would love to hear your thoughts/comments! 

Teaser Tuesday: Feb 24

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly book meme originally featured at Should Be Reading. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

I’ve been on fire these past few days and have managed to finish 4 books in 4 days. I literally couldn’t put any of them down, so look out for their reviews coming out over this next week. Also, I think that being sick restricted me somewhat, and I didn’t go out for our weekly nature walk this week. I just want to get better at this point. But hey, at least that means more books will get read! Here is a preview from The Maze Runner by James Dashner:

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“‘Order,’ Newt continued. ‘Order. You say that bloody word over and over in your shuck head. Reason we’re all sane around here cuz we work our butts off and maintain order. Order’s the reason we put Ben out – can’t very well have loonies runnin’ around tryin’ to kill people, now can we? Order. Last thing we need is you screwin’ that up.” (100)

Weekly Update and Book Haul

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I have recently went on a little book haul on Amazon (again! It is my weakness!), as they had a 3 books for 10 pounds deal. I can’t say no to that. So below you will find the books I hope to get through over the next couple of months.

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The Maze Runner by James Dashner

  • I’ve recently seen the movie and really enjoyed it. The story struck me as being even better written down than done in movie form, plus this way I don’t have to wait for the second movie to come out in September 😉

Slaughterhouse 5 by Kurt Vonnegut

  • If you have been following my blog for a bit you will know that I have been meaning to give this book a read for a while now, but just never got around to buying it. Well I made the commitment finally and can’t wait to give this a read!

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (aka JK Rowling)

  • I really enjoyed The Cuckoo’s Calling, and this book carried on with the same main character, Strike, trying to solve yet another puzzling murder case. Again, I can’t wait to jump in!

Empress Dowager Cixi by Jung Chang

  • Unlike the previous books listed, this is a non-fiction book I came across really just by chance. I think my boyfriend and I were discussing and wondering if the dominance of men in history is mostly just a Western influence or whether it was worldwide. This book is about a Chinese Empress who the author claims to be the most important woman in Chinese history. So excited!

The Memory Book by Rowan Coleman

  • I kept seeing this book everywhere, and it has gotten many positive reviews online so I thought I would give it a go

Have you read any of these books? Did you enjoy them?

Teaser Tuesday: Feb 9

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Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly book meme originally featured at Should Be Reading. To participate, just open the book you are currently reading to a random page, and choose two ‘teaser’ sentences from somewhere on that page. (no spoilers!)

After recently reading a classic (The Picture of Dorian Gray) and a drama (The Husband’s Secret) I have decided to really switch it up this time, so I dove right into Eragon. I haven’t read this series when I was younger, but I do remember it being a big deal in the past, with a movie made of it and all (apparently the movie was not so great and quite disappointing so I may not watch it). Anyway I am only a few chapters in but so far I am enjoying it. Here is the teaser for this one!

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“Eragon found the stone both beautiful and frightening. Where did it come from? Does it have a purpose? Then a more disturbing thought came to him: Was it sent here by accident, or am I meant to have it?” (8)

Book Review: The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde

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Published: 1891

This was my second time reading this book, and I must say I got a completely different perspective on it reading it now. The first time I read it I was really enamored with Lord Henry Wotton’s sauve attitude and his ability to thrive in any social situation. Or, perhaps a more astute observation would be that he is able to control every social situation he is in.

I feel embarrassed to have ever admitted those feelings towards such a vile, pompous, self-centered character. He is extremely manipulative and selfish, and has no feeling towards anyone else. He associates with people that will serve him a certain purpose and is completely closed-minded. His theories and opinions are treated as fact, even though frequently they are absolutely absurd. I don’t know why I didn’t notice it before, when it’s so clearly starring me in the face during this time’s read.

Then comes the narcissisic Dorian Gray. A man so beautiful that the world just falls at his feet and his beauty allows him to get away with murder. He becomes enthralled with Henry’s suave attitude (I fell for that charm myself the first time around so one could say I completely undertand him) and vows to become just like him. As the reader follows his transformation it becomes quite clear who his main influence has become, however, he does struggle within himself. Especially at the beginning, he has moments of lets just saw “weakness” and he realizes that reason doesn’t always triumph emotion.

I very much enjoyed Basil Hallword, the sensitive and passionate painter that uses Dorian as his muse for much of his art. He is the exact opposite of dear old Henry. He couldn’t care less about attending the most expensive opera’s, associating himself with the most upper of classes and attending lavish parties. He is a lot of more emotional and consumed by his art. His most precious painting, the painting that ends up grasping Dorian’s youth allowing him to remain young while everyone else around him ages, is what destroys Dorian in the end and serves as the major symbol within the story.

Another feature of the novel which is so typically Victorian but also very humanist is Henry’s desire to understand humans. His theories and his social observations are all ways to try and understand how humans work and why. Sort of like early versions of psychology mixed with philosophy. Take his quote for example (there are so many of these it was hard to choose):

“The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid of ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror. We think that we are generous because we credit our neighbour with the possession of those virtues that are likely to be a benefit to us.” (72)

Having said all those negative comments about Henry, I still really enjoyed this book and it remains on my top 10. As soon as I finished I couldn’t wait to pick it up again. I think I am most in love with Wilde’s writing. It’s like a beautiful melody and a powerful painting. It’s just so lovely.

Have you read a Wilde book? What did you think?

Book Review: A Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling

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Published: 2012

I first tried reading this book about two-three years back when one of my friends at university lent it to me. However, it was in the midst of essay season and adding another non-required book to my ever growing pile seemed like a poor decision and so I abandoned it after about two chapters. To be quite honest it failed to capture me, rather the huge array of characters I struggled to follow.

This time around, I really wanted to give the book a proper chance. Just as a side note: Aside from the wonderful Harry Potter series, I have also read Rowling’s detective genre novel The Cuckoo’s Calling and I absolutely loved it, so I really don’t think I have the Harry Potter bias. Plus, no matter what people say out there I genuinely think she is a wonderful storyteller and writer, so I enjoy reading her books for the style not only the plot.

Having said that I have to admit that this book is my least favourite pieces of her work. It’s not the worst I ever read but I know she can do better. I was prepared to be bombarded with lots of characters, so writing them all down including the relationship they had with each other really helped me to map out and remember who everyone is, because she does switch from one character to another every chapter. Midway through I felt comfortable and barely ever had to look at my notes of the characters, but it was always there to save me just in case.

This is not by any means a plot driven novel. Measuring over 560 pages, and very little actually happens. I think what Rowling wanted to focus on was human interactions and human psychology. You learn about each character’s flaws and secrets, instead of being taken on an adventure. It’s differs greatly from her other books.

I really like how she created a large array of characters, all really have their own demons to try fend off. From disinterested housewife Shirley, who becomes quite obsessed with younger men,to struggling drug addict Mrs. Wheedon, to Gavin who struggles to find love for his girlfriend who has recently moved all the way from London to be with him. This is just a tip of the iceberg, as every single character goes through a personal drama. On one side, I really like that each character is flawed since it does make them more real. The dilemma for me is that I don’t like any single character. There are a couple, Shirley and Howard in particular that I find flat out boring. I guess that is the risk of having so much variety.

Verdict: Loved Rowling’s writing style, not much to the plot and much more about exploring human psychology and sociology. Most characters I found unlikeable (probably done on purpose?).

Have you read anything by JK Rowling outside of Harry Potter? How did you find it?

Books to See This Year

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As it’s the beginning of the year I am struggling to fill my official Reading List for the year 2015. Of course I am going to change it throughout the year knowing my indecisiveness, but at this moment in time it needs to be filled!! Lucky for me I stumbled across this fun web-link peruse, detailing 21 books that are turning into movies this year. Some of them are not big surprises, like Suzanne Collin’s part 2 of the Mockingjay Series and Fifty Shades of Gray, the latter which I refuse to attend as the actor hired to play Christian is so average looking it hurts to even consider going and paying money.

On the plus side there are A LOT of books which I have never even heard of but have real A list stars in them. Like The Mordecai Trilogy (the movie is featuring Johnny Depp!?!?) by Kyril Bonfiglioli, has anyone heard of this? Or Black Mass by Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill (featuring Benedict Cumberbatch, Johnny Depp again and Sienna Miller?!?!?!?!?). Did I freaking miss something? Not yet thankfully! So if you are stuck like me and are wondering what book to add or delete from your list, click and see what there is in store.

—–> 21 Books To Read Before They Hit The Big Screen In 2015 <—–cumberbatch