Posted in Books, Fantasy, Reviews

Book Review: The Ruin of Kings – Jenn Lyons

There’s few things I hate more than not being able to finish a book.

I tried with this one, I really did. I wanted to give up after the first few chapters but I persevered because the writing’s not bad, truly. I like the snarky humour, the sarcasm and I even came to tolerate the convoluted non-linear narration.

But writing fantasy is like telling a good joke. If you have to explain the punchline, you’re doing it wrong. There were a lot of telling and explaining in this book. Plot twists were “discovered” by the hero without any build-up whatsoever, and the backstories were so complicated that I gave up trying to keep up.

I’m not even sure what the premise was. I thought I was reading a book about dragons, something that I’m really into as I wait for the final season of Game of Thrones to finish. But there’s ONE dragon in this book and he’s as interesting as an Excel spreadsheet. I was waiting for a ‘Dracarys’ moment but he just went on and on and on about what he would do to the hero when he caught him without actually doing anything. Its very difficult to be bored out of your mind when reading about dragons but this book has achieved that.

The hero, Kihrin, was mildly interesting. He’s got a mysterious past, a somewhat conflicted sexuality and he’s got personality with a capital P. He’s got snark down to an art form and I like how he never lets anyone or anything get him down. He does what he can to get by and makes no apologies for the things he’s done to survive. I love survivors.

Kihrin is – from the little I understood about the backstory- in the centre of a great prophecy concerning the end of the known world. Good premise, maybe. But it all went downhill from there with all the deaths and subsequent resurrections, the massive cast of characters who can take on different forms which makes the cast even bigger than it already is…it was all just unnecessarily complicated.

I DNF’d at about 70%. It had taken me 2 weeks to even get that far and that point my to-read pile had grown too big for me to ignore the fact that I had simply lost interest in this book.

I don’t like giving bad reviews. This could just be all me, really. Other people seem to find it good and kudos to them for being able to keep up. For me, there’s a reason why they say simplicity is beauty. You don’t need all kinds of props and gimmicks in Fantasy, you just have to tell the story.

Also, if you’re going to have a book with dragons, USE YOUR DRAGONS for more than just show.

Overall rating: 2 stars (and mostly because I like the cover!)

Posted in Uncategorized

Processing…

I’ve been feeling so unmoored and restless lately, like I’ve lost my way and I don’t know how to get back to my centre. Its funny because on the surface it appears my life is going swimmingly. But I think what I’ve recently discovered is how important it is for us to take time and reflect.

I haven’t been doing a lot of blogging because I’ve stopped reflecting. And that has contributed a lot to the loss of my sense of self, and the disturbance to my peace of mind. London is a busy city, time goes by so quickly you find yourself on Friday wondering where the hell the week went.

It sometimes feels like you go through life as if it were all a blur, and you fail to take time to really be in the moment. You fail to savour each encounter and interaction because you’re already looking forward to the next one. I scoff sometimes at people who preach mindfulness and being fully in the present but lately I feel like they might be on to something.

For me the future has always been the Emerald City at the end of the yellow brick road. I’m always looking for the next big thing, the next big opportunity or life event that I can then blab about on social media. What I failed to realise is how much that affects my ability to fully immerse myself in what’s actually happening to or around me.

This blog is some kind of exercise to that effect. I really don’t have anything concrete to write about. I’m just letting the words flow without any thought as to structure and subject matter and hoping I might be able to make sense of all of it, and gain a better understanding of where I am mentally and emotionally at this stage.

I think I’ve had a rough couple of months. When you move up professionally you tend to give more of yourself to your work than you should, and that takes its toll no matter how much you love your job. I always aim to have a healthy work-life balance but I’ve forgotten that in my quest to prove myself at my new place of employment. I wanted to rub my success in the face of all my naysayers but did that really give me any satisfaction?

Satisfaction should always come from a job well done and nothing else, otherwise you’re doing the job for all the wrong reasons.

You can’t always trust people to do the right thing. The right thing is subjective and dependent on the individual and their life experiences. Your standards of morality and right or wrong is always going to be different from that of your neighbour. In other words, that bitch you know will always think she’s right even when she’s so wrong it hurts. And she’ll be a bitch forever.

I learned in college about the 90-10 principle. 10% of life is what happens to you, 90% is how your respond to it. You can stoop to the level of all the nasty and negative people you encounter, or you can laugh in the face of bitchiness and remember that you can still be empathetic and compassionate because you are the better person.

I believe in karma. Sooner or later people will always reap the rewards of what they sow and what goes around will come around. Retribution and comeuppance may take on a form no one expects, but they’re there all the same.

What else do I have to write about?

Relationships are messy. I’ve thought about this so much these past couple of weeks. Like can you imagine how much of yourself you give (and lose) when you enter a relationship? I mean, you now have to think of another person and consider their needs and wants before you even think about what you need and what you want. I find it amazing that anyone is capable of being that selfless but you see it every time in parents with their children, or when you see that rare relationship that really embodies #couplegoals.

I suppose the reason why I’m thinking about that is because more often than not my thoughts inevitably stray to my perpetually single state and I wonder whether the reason why I’m still single is because I’m not capable of giving that much of myself to others. I used to think I was, and I know I probably did so at one point in my life. But then I got burned, and my heart’s been closed up ever since, waiting for someone to help it beat again.

Recently I feel like I’ve found that person who makes me excited again, who makes me look forward to getting up each day because of the endless possibilities ahead. I sometimes think that’s the fuel that keeps me going: the thought that, no matter how bad it gets, life can take a crazy turn and its always, always, full of infinite maybe’s and possibilities.

With my luck though, that possibility would probably include this guy being in a serious committed relationship and him not wanting to have anything to do with me. But still. Possibilities.

I wonder if anyone is actually taking the time to read this verbal diarrhoea. If you are, thank you and congratulations. You’ve just been privy to thoughts that I haven’t been able to tell a single person in my life these past few months. Talking about anything real or deep and meaningful to my friends has become difficult for some reason.

I guess that’s why I love blogging. Its always easier to be vulnerable in a room full of strangers.

I will get back to more structured posts and book reviews later on. But for now, allow me this one kindness of letting me just ramble without filter.

Writing is the best kind of reflecting and processing after all.

Posted in Books, Fantasy, LGBT, women, Women's literature

Book Review: The Priory of The Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon

I’ve been trying to find words for the past 24 hours that will do this book justice and so far all I have to show for it are drafts that I’ve since decided were rubbish. Sometimes when a book comes out that is so ambitious in its scope, and just so damn interesting, words fail me.

Book like these are an experience. So much patience and skill went into the world-building, which we all know is the foundation of any good fantasy story. The Queendom of Inys, the mysterious Priory and the distant East all felt like real places, places that I would pay big bucks to visit I might add. Each separate location had its own language, religion, traditions and culture. Its a world that felt like it sprung fully-formed from the depths of the author’s imagination. She made it feel so easy and effortless, when it must have taken ages to piece all of it together.

The characters were as alive as the setting. First of all, I like that the members of the female population featured more prominently in this book than their male counterparts. I can see why its being called a feminist book. Its led by three strong women, each with their own distinct personalities, quirks, strengths and faults. One is a queen whose destiny is irrevocably tied to the fate of her country, another is a mage in hiding who’s been tasked to protect a queen. And the third? The third just wants to ride dragons.

Did i fail to mention there were dragons in this story?

They were such glorious, magnificent creatures in this book. You can tell how much enthusiasm Samantha Shannon had in writing them into the narrative, they totally stole each scene they were in. I loved how they were almost human in their portrayal, if that makes sense. Not only were they sentient beings they also had a a voice, a personality, and a sense of humour.

They were so involved in human lives that they even took part in war councils and contributed to political decisions. I know that having any sort of fire-breathing beings in your book will draw the inevitable comparison to Game of Thrones (intended to be a compliment I’m sure) but I think this book is a far cry from being any sort of imitation. I found it quite unique and original.

The story is rich and complex. A dynasty that was built on a lie is threatened by the arrival of an ancient enemy. Add to the mix some political machinations and betrayal, the formation and dissolution of alliances, and above all, the quest for the truth in order to keep a Queendom safe and what you have is a tale of epic proportions.

Despite the fantastical and magical elements though, this is a story that’s (strangely) very much grounded in reality. I certainly saw parallels with the current state of the world. Whether or not it was her intention, there were moments when the book felt like a social commentary on the times.

Finally, let me just say that its very rare to find a book that represents diversity in such an unobtrusive and casual way. For example, Samantha Shannon didn’t make a big fuss about the fact that several of her main characters have fluid sexual orientations, she simply made it the new normal. I think this book is a great testament to how evolved literature has become, and I’m glad that we’re at that stage where not only is everyone free to be who they are (and to love who they love), we’re also free to read and write all about it.

Don’t be put off by the weight of this book. Yes it felt like I could pound a nail through a two-by-four with it, and I gained biceps definition in the time it took me to walk home from the bookstore just by carrying it around. Its a hefty tome, but its worth it. Samantha Shannon has become one of the authors whose future works I will watch out for. The next time she publishes something, I’m going to hie myself off to my nearest Waterstones faster than you can say ‘Dracarys!’.

Amazing book! 4 out of 5 stars.

Posted in Books, LGBT, romance

Book Review: The Binding – Bridget Collins

The Binding is a book I wish I’ve written. Period.

You know a book is good when it leaves you thinking about it for days, even after the last page has been turned. You find yourself staring into space for about 10 minutes just thinking about the story, the characters and that goddamn ending.

I need to start with Bridget Collins’ beautiful prose. I know atmospheric is a word that book reviewers use quite often but this books takes atmospheric to a whole new level. It feels almost like an immersive experience, the way she pulls you in with every change of setting so you feel the cold in your bones, the soot in your face and the taste of tea on your tongue.

The premise of this book is clever, and one that avid readers everywhere will appreciate. Binders weave some kind of magic: with your consent, they take away memories that you can’t bear to live with and bind them in a book that they then store for safekeeping.

After a binding, a person will feel like something’s not quite right. Colours seem less bright, sounds seem muted, food is tasteless, you have after all just lost an essential part of yourself. But what you get in return is some form of peace, a peace that comes from ignorance and from forgetting something that hurt you so deeply you chose to lose yourself rather than keep a memory of it.

I suppose its an exploration of the age old question of living versus simply existing. We are who we are because we’ve loved and because we’ve lost. The cycles of joy, pain, happiness and sorrow are what makes life worth living. You can never fully appreciate what triumph feels like if you’ve never tasted defeat, after all. The secret is in the contrast.

Ah, but I’m going on and on about the philosophical questions that this book brings up when at the heart of it, this book is a love story. I don’t think this book was predictable in that sense (I spent many hours just pondering and dreading the many possible directions this plot would take) but I have an instinct for these things, and I knew from the very moment the characters met that we have something here. Something special.

I went over it and over it in my head because I couldn’t put into words how it made me feel. I thought I was looking for something with perhaps more of a twist, something more complex. But really the magic of the book is in how it pared down a fantastical plot into something as wonderfully simple as two people finding each other again and again despite the odds.

There is a beautiful message here about being true to yourself, and about never letting anyone tell you who you can and cannot love. Its a message of courage and hope, and not being afraid to face and accept that part of yourself that you think no one will ever be able to love, because someday, someone will.

Love always wins.

Utterly stunning and captivating book! 4 stars.

Posted in bloggers, Careers, Lifestyle, london

A Moment To Reflect

This week, the sun’s finally shining over London after what felt like an endless winter. I went for a run around my favourite route near the river Thames, with no goal in mind except to enjoy the beautiful spring day. Although physically I’m not as fit as I used to be, and though I was huffing and puffing after one kilometre, it felt like the first easy breath I’ve taken in ages.

There’s plenty of reasons to be happy and content. This week I finally got my British citizenship approved, after six years of hard work, struggle, achievements and so much joy that I hardly know how to put it all into words. It felt like the culmination of a lifetime of dreams, and despite Brexit and the looming uncertainty surrounding the country’s future, I still find myself incredibly grateful to have made it this far.

That’s not to say its all been sunshine and roses these past couple of weeks. Parts of it were downright maddening, in fact. It’s funny how some things are magnified in your mind if you continue to dwell on them over and over, until a seemingly manageable molehill now feels like an immoveable mountain.

I am a champion dweller.

I really should rid myself of this habit of being unable to let go of things. I tend to obsess about certain issues or concerns to the point where it is the. only. thing. I. see. I get a kind of tunnel vision where I’m unable to move on until I’ve picked the problem apart in a hundred different ways trying to come up with a solution.

I need to learn to accept that there are problems that can only be solved by acceptance and compromise.

I need to learn that not everyone will see things the way I do, and that the choices we make are a product of past experiences and influences. There is no point in judging others according to the standards that you set for yourself. You will only drive yourself mad.

I think the only thing that will keep you sane is to continue to do you, and not to mind so much about what other people are getting up to, difficult as that may be for type A personalities like myself. Be part of the solution, not the problem.

Towards the end of this week, whenever I felt like pulling my hair out in frustration, I reminded myself that – just like everything else – this too shall pass. Life is too short to be pissed all the time, as a wise person once said. There are far too many beautiful things in this earth to appreciate; you can’t let problems that will probably be inconsequential a year down the line get you down.

Most of all, I remembered to breathe, to stay centred, to focus on the things that are important, and to remember that even though other people may let you down, the key thing is to not let yourself down.

Happy start of the week, fellow blabbaholics and bookworms! xx

Posted in bloggers, family, relationships

A Letter To The One I Love on Valentine’s Day

Dear Papa, on a day when women everywhere are writing letters and sending cards to their boyfriends, I thought I’d write one to you instead. And not just because I’m single, but because I genuinely want to say a few things which I should have said a long time ago.

Last night, instead of dreaming of Prince Charming, I dreamt about you. It wasn’t a great dream, and I woke up in tears from anxiety and fear because of it. Suffice it to say that you weren’t well in my dream. And the thought of you getting old, and someday having to live in a world without you, these are some of the things that keep me up at night.

We haven’t had a conventional relationship. I get jealous sometimes over random things, like when I see a girl going shopping with her dad, or when I see a father picking up his daughter from school. I don’t have many memories of us doing those every day things, because out of necessity we had to be apart for the better part of every year while I was growing up.

But that’s fine. I knew the reasons why you couldn’t be there for every graduation ceremony or every birthday party. I wouldn’t even have those things if it wasn’t for your hard work and sacrifice. In case I forgot to tell you then, I am very grateful for all the things you did for me.

I suppose this is why I work so hard for us to make up for lost time now. I want to make all your dreams come true, I want you to have every opportunity you ever missed and to see the world you’ve always wanted to explore but never had the chance to because we didn’t have the means before.

It’s been a pleasure seeing the world through your eyes, and sharing those moments of discovery with you. I love that you now have stories to tell of other places apart from the small corner of the world we live in. And I love that we’ve built memories that I will cherish forever, through the passing of the days, whatever those days may bring us.

It’s funny. For the first time in a long while I genuinely am not bothered that its Valentine’s Day and I’ll probably be sitting at home tonight nursing a glass of wine with my equally single sister. I’m happy and content enough to hold out for something that’s worth this extremely long wait (the El Nino drought has nothing on my love life), because I refuse to settle for anything less.

Despite my doubts, I genuinely believe that I’ll find someone someday. And I’m not in any rush because I’m enjoying life far too much to make such a big change for someone or something that’s going to be fleeting. I’m not going to marry some random guy just because society tells me its “worrying” to still be single at thirty-one.

But Papa, today I said a prayer to meet that random guy who I will eventually share my life with sooner rather than later. Not for me, but for you. I know my lifestyle and my persistent lack of a committed relationship is what keeps YOU up at night. I desperately want to ease your worries, but that’s the one thing that I can’t achieve through hard work and overtime. It’s out of my hands.

However, I prayed today in a way I haven’t in a long long time, for me to find that someone. Not for me, but for you. I want to bring someone home for you to meet, I want you to be able to walk me down the aisle someday, and I really really want to have that father-daughter dance with you. If those are bad reasons for wanting a marriage, well, so be it. Other people have married for less, and for worse reasons.

I don’t know pops, maybe some things are just not meant to be. We’ll see. But for now, you are the only man in my life and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But if it does, you’ll be the first to know. In the meantime, take care of mumsy, take care of yourself and I hope to see you real soon. Happy Valentine’s Day, I love you.

Posted in bloggers, Nursing, Self-Discovery, Stress Relief

All In A Day’s Work

The best way to deal with challenging situations is to reflect on them, learn from them, and – in my case – to write about them. So I’m sharing some of the things I’ve learned these past few weeks when work has been difficult, in the hopes that other people out there who – like me – are new to management will know they’re not alone in their experiences.

You cannot please everyone. For every praise you receive, there’s a person waiting in the wings who’s just dying to tell you the many many ways in which you’re screwing things up. I guess the key thing is to learn to compromise, to find the solution that is best for everyone, and to make a decision that you will be able to live with. You are not in the position to care about being liked, the best you can hope for is to be respected.

Friendships at work are a thing of the past. This is something I find incredibly sad, but its the harsh reality that most managers face. They say its lonely at the top, and though I’m not at that level I can only imagine how true that is. Not everyone will be able to accept the fact that you are now their line manager as well as their friend.

Most friendships whose bonds are weak and superficial will not be able to survive professional disagreements, or differences in opinion when it comes to work-related matters.The upshot is that the friendships you do keep, the people who will love and support you even when you give them a notice of improvement for consistently coming to work late, those are the friendships that are worth keeping. Everyone else is not worth losing sleep over.

There will always be people who will try to undermine your position. Whether its colleagues who have mentored you in the past, or people who think you’re too junior or too inexperienced for your role, or simply people who think they can do your job better than you. Standing up to these professional gaslighters is something you’ll have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, and it doesn’t get easier with time.

You will need to dig deep and to really have faith in yourself and your abilities. I’m constantly surrounded by people who back me up when I need it, and seeing the amount of trust they place in me is something that still humbles me every day. But none of that matters if I can’t find the strength to put my foot down, to say ‘no’ when its needed, and to have courage in my convictions. I won’t be able to convince other people that I know what I’m doing until I believe I know what I’m doing.

Human beings are amazingly resilient. We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. I never anticipated being able to talk to people who intimidate the shit out of me, or to be able to have these difficult conversations with people at a very senior level. I didn’t even believe I’d be able to control my emotions long enough to survive the shifts from hell, as I’ve started to call them in my mind.

But I did. And I have so much more respect for managers everywhere, and for myself. I think for me, its enough to know that I did the best I could, even if I very nearly had a mental breakdown at the end of it. That’s normal; managers who tell you they don’t experience these occasional bouts of hopelessness are lying. We all go through it.

Its okay to break down in pieces when you’ve had a bad day, but what defines you is how you take those pieces and glue them back together so that you come back to work the next day feeling motivated to do better, to be stronger, and to hopefully do some good in the world in the process. So it doesn’t matter if you drowned a whole bottle of prosecco, or stuffed your face with greasy Chinese food because stress eating is the solution to everything.

Do whatever it takes to make you feel human again, and remember, its just one stressful day at work out of many. Just like every bad thing we’ve ever experienced in our lives, it too shall pass.