Posted in Books, LGBT, Paranormal, Reviews, romance, Young Adult

Book Review: The Dark Artifices Trilogy – Cassandra Clare

All the potential in the world will not amount to anything if there’s a flaw in the execution.

It pains me to say it, because I am a huge fan of the ShadowWorld and all things connected to it, but this trilogy did not quite live up to my expectations.

Maybe that’s my fault. I’ve been looking forward to Julian Blackthorn and Emma Carstairs‘ story ever since they were introduced in The Mortal Instruments series.

I’ve wondered for so long about the secret behind the parabatai bond and why those who have undergone the ritual were forbidden to fall in love, which is the basic premise of this trilogy.

But while the relationship between these two was explored and discussed ad infinitum, I feel like Cassandra literally lost the plot about halfway through the second book.

I feel like she lost sight of why she was writing this book in the first place and the series took on a life of its own.

And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and while I did love discovering the world of the Faerie and the existence of other dimensions, the overall plot got too cluttered in the end.

That’s not to say that this series was bad.

I think the problem was that she tried too hard to please fans both new and old. There was a massive inclusion of characters from previous books, and I get that she was trying to tie all her past series in some way, but it all just got a little bit much.

The first book started out okay, I thought the main plot of that was interesting and really rich in Shadowhunter history. But then it all slightly veered from the road that I thought it was going to go and it never quite totally got back on track.

There was a little too much focus on the romantic elements, especially in the latter half of the second and most of the third book. Even in the midst of the apocalypse, people still found the time to worry about their love life. Go figure.

So the book wasn’t brilliant, but there were elements of it that were beautifully crafted.

I like how Cassandra Clare continues to preach the importance of inclusion and acceptance in her books. The tension between Shadowhunters and Downworlders could almost be a parallel for the current state of the world, prejudice and all.

I love how there’s no shortage of diverse couples in this book. For Cassandra, love is love is love is love. She’s always been a big supporter of the LGBT community and that shines through in her book.

FURTHERMORE, there’s an added element in this book that I thought was absolutely RISQUE for what is essentially still a YA book. I wasn’t sure whether it was entirely appropriate but I have never advocated author censorship, and that part was so beautifully done that I think it might actually end up sending the right message to teens.

Intrigued? Read the book to find out more.

The characters were well-developed. I love the tight-knit relationship of the Blackthorn family and how their love for each other evolved over time as a result of trials and heartbreaking loss.

I like how this series showed that the world is not black and white, and that no one is all good and all bad. I love how it showed that, despite all the evil in the world, everyone is still capable of doing good things in the name of love and family.

I understand that this review is probably not that coherent. To be honest, I’ve yet to decide whether I loved it, liked it or regretted it. And may I just say that the books were a whopper? The last one was nearly as thick as Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix!

This series is a far cry from The Infernal Devices trilogy, which will remain forever my favourite, but ultimately, and I’ve literally just decided this, its still a good series. And I look forward to the next one, and the continuation of the Blackthorn saga.

Rating: Solid 3 out of 5 stars.

Posted in bloggers, Writing

A Year In the Life of A Wannabe Blogger

I received an email alert recently telling me that my WordPress membership account has been automatically renewed for another year. I didn’t even realise its been that long since I resurrected this site. So much has happened since, that I just wanted to reflect on this past year and what it means for me to be a so-called blogger.

I was very hesitant over giving this a real go. For one thing, I didn’t know where I’d find the time. Between a demanding career, an active social life and the never-ending search for true love (lol), I didn’t know whether I could commit, enough to justify paying 85 hard-earned pounds a year for my own domain.

I also didn’t think I’d ever get enough followers. I didn’t think I had what it takes to be a blogger. Are there enough interesting things happening in my life? Would there be enough things for me to write about so that I could put out a post at least once a week? What makes me think other people would take 10 minutes out of their busy schedules to read what I have to say?

I looked at other bloggers’ websites and thought to myself, I could never do that. I don’t have photography skills, I don’t travel that often and I’m sure as hell am no fashionista. I won’t be able to give anyone make-up tips, I struggle enough as it is to make sure that my eyeliner is applied evenly on my incredibly asymmetric and unequal eyes.

So what is it that I can do? What things define me? What have I done this past year that’s made this blog semi-successful?

I eventually figured out that all it really takes is to stop comparing yourself to others and just do you. I thought about the things that interest me and thought to myself that there’s bound to be other people who share those interests and who will care enough to read my blogs.

And if not? Then I suppose the other, more important question to ask myself is “Why do I write?” Is it just to be seen or is it simply to have a platform for expressing myself, regardless of whether other people read it or not?

I guess more than the “likes” and the “follows”, the two main things that I took with me from a year of blogging is to be myself and to stop caring so much about what other people think and just do things that gives me joy.

Writing is nothing more than an extension of my busy, slightly over-anxious and over-stuffed brain. In a way, it allows me to clear my head so that I’m able to function normally (more or less).

Connections are important to me. Making a difference matters to me. I appreciate all the follows I’ve received, and I’m still slightly flabbergasted that I’ve amassed a considerable number of them. But as the great Brandon Flowers once said, if their songs only ever touch one person’s life but touches it in a meaningful way, that’s more than enough reason to continue making music.

That’s the same with me and writing. If I can get someone out of a bad mood or help someone who’s going through the same thing as I am or make people laugh even if its at my expense, then its worth all the time it takes to write a post.

I think that all things considered, I’m not really a blogger in the true sense of the word. I’m simply a girl who finds pleasure in putting words on paper (or on screen as the case may be).

I have no qualms over admitting how incredibly mundane my life is; when you look at my site its pretty ordinary. However, I am so proud of it because the one thing that I see when I go to blabbaholicsandbookworms.com is that I see me. And that for me is more than enough.

Happy one year anniversary Miss Blabbaholic. xx

Posted in bloggers, Lifestyle, Travel, United Kingdom

A Non-Hiker’s Guide to Climbing Arthur’s Seat

 

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“I’m on my way from misery to happiness today…”

– The Proclaimers

Finally, the last part of my Scotland blogs. Finding the time to write this blog was even more difficult than hiking up to Arthur’s Seat itself and I needed time because I really wanted to be able to do justice to one of the best experiences of my life (despite the unflattering photos and continuous whinging that you’ll all soon find in this blog).

The very first time I heard of Arthur’s Seat, my imagination was immediately captured. Despite the fact that I knew Camelot was just a legend, there was a small and unreasonable part of me that believed I’d find Excalibur on top of those hills.

I was all fired up to make this hike. I was so excited that it was all I could talk about during the long weekend. It was to be the grand finale of our Edinburgh weekend, not by design but because the weather was truly rubbish up until our last day, when the sun decided to come out and play.

TIP NUMBER ONE: Do not do this hike in questionable weather conditions. Seriously. 

This hike is quite a popular one and we asked several of our acquaintances about their own experience just to give us an idea of what to expect and what to prepare for. It’s easy, they said. Kids can do it, they said. Literally a walk in the park.

TIP NUMBER TWO: Do not listen to your acquaintances. Do your own research. 

It was not a bloody walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. Climbing up Arthur’s seat is a proper hike. Had we known this, we would have been more prepared. I was wearing Hunter boots, for crying out loud. Those things were made for the rain, not for a rocky terrain. I was pretty much petrified the whole time that the rocks would somehow tear through the rubber and I’d have to make the long trek home on bare feet.

Which leads me to….

TIP NUMBER THREE: Dress for the occasion. 

I’m not much of a hiker but I’m pretty sure shoes with traction are a requirement if you’re climbing up hills and crags. There were also areas in which the ascent was slippery as hell. Do not even get me started on the descent.

Because we were rendered complacent by the seemingly expert advise of our numerous acquaintances, we chose to walk from our flat in the city centre to Arthur’s seat. As a direct result of this monumentally stupid idea, we ended up walking for FOUR HOURS.

It took us nearly an hour to get to the base of Holyrood Park (where the peak was), two hours to climb up and down the peak and, because we got lost, another hour to get back to the city centre.

We had no food, and even more appalling, we had no water. We were incredibly unprepared for this hike, its a wonder we didn’t pass out.

TIP NUMBER FOUR: Take a bloody bus or tram to Holyrood Park for god’s sake. And bring sustenance. 

Anyway, if you ignore the fact that you’re huffing and puffing and that you’ve been walking for the better part of two hours and you still can’t see the bloody peak, the views were pretty incredible. It was hard to believe we were still within the city of Edinburgh.

Being there truly felt like being transported back to a time and place when things were much simpler. Maybe that’s why city dwellers like me need to get out every now and then: take in a  little bit of nature, remind ourselves of how we are just a tiny speck in a very big world and this is why we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously.

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TIP NUMBER FIVE: Take time to breathe, ruminate and get a little perspective. There’s no better place for it than when you’re out in nature. 

And then of course you get closer to the peak itself and you are reminded by how much of a millennial you are because despite the fact that some of those paths really were treacherously difficult, you still find the time to whip out your phone so that you can have a photo to post on Instagram. Oh well.

I don’t know whether it was because of the bad weather on the previous days but going up the peak was a little bit too slippery for my peace of mind. I had to use my hands and my feet to make sure I don’t get an injury. My mind was already conjuring up visions of me asking my favourite surgeon to fix my broken ankle. Shudder.

TIP NUMBER SIX: Do not think of broken ankles while making a difficult climb. FOCUS, YOU IDIOT. 

The last few levels (for lack of a better word) before the peak itself were among the hardest bit you have to get through. I very nearly convinced myself that I was content with having made it that far, I didn’t really need to climb that last hurdle.

But then I thought about how I’ve come too far to chicken out at the last minute.

Plus, I think I have residual abandonment issues. I’ve always hated the thought of being left behind, of not being able to do something that everyone else was doing. Those things combined gave me enough of a push to get over my fears and just focus on climbing – excruciatingly slow, yes, but I was making it up to that peak if had to crawl on my hands and knees to do it.

And thank God I did. The views were awesome, yes, that was a given. But what I didn’t count on was the exhilaration that came with finishing a hike; I felt a huge sense of achievement even though I knew this was probably nothing compared to other trails elsewhere in the world. The important thing is that I did it, despite being genuinely scared at times. I am pretty sure there’s a metaphor for life in there somewhere.

TIP NUMBER SEVEN: Everything you’ve ever wanted is on the other side of fear – George Addair

Okay so I didn’t find Excalibur on Arthur’s Seat. But I returned to London feeling recharged and ready to take on the world. I had memories of an incredible weekend and I felt even more motivated to do as many hikes as I can, see more of the world outside of the concrete jungles I usually visit when I travel.

There’s a reason why we spend so much money travelling. At the end of the day, what it all comes down to is that the world truly is such a beautiful place. There are so many places you can go, so many things to see, and you’re lucky if you get the chance to see as much of it as you can. If you do get that chance, grab it with both hands.

 

 

Posted in bloggers, Travel, United Kingdom

Random Thoughts on A Ten Hour Coach Ride to Edinburgh

I have random moments where I suddenly get the urge to go somewhere I’ve never been before. These days, especially, because I’m saving up money for my “big” holidays later in the year, I feel like all I’ve been doing is work, work and more work. I feel like I never even get out of Central London.

So I spontaneously decided that I want to spend Easter in Scotland. There are two things wrong with that sentence: spontaneous and Easter. I looked up plane and train fares and they cost more than what I want to spend considering that I’d still be within the United Kingdom. I think return flights would have cost me around 160£. Come on. I can fly to Spain with that kind of money.

So I had this bright idea that we can take the coach to head over to Edinburgh and then take a flight to come back to London. Megabus fares going to Edinburgh were only around 40£, which is pretty sweet for a last minute trip on Easter weekend. That’s the upshot. However, it takes TEN HOURS to get from London Victoria to Edinburgh.

Ten hours on a bus.

It sounds like a nightmare. Ordinarily, I would balk at spending more than 5 hours on a bus. I’ve done it before and I promised myself I never would again.

But I underestimated just how much I wanted to get out of London. So I booked it (and convinced two other people to book it with me). We chose to go on a sleeper one, leaving at 10:30 from London Thursday Evening and arriving in Edinburgh at 7am the next day. I rushed from work (the list overran, of course) to the station to catch my coach ride, got into my seat and settled in for the long haul.

It was a very loooonnnng bus ride.

Some of the thoughts that were running through my head:

10:30

Please God don’t make me want to do number two at any point during this bus ride.

10:31

Hey wait, is there even a toilet on this bus? Oh my God, I don’t think there is one.

10:40

Okay, how do I recline these seats? My colleague promised me these seats were better than National Express because they recline.

10:45

Oh hey, I did it! This seat reclines!

11:00

Damn you, woman whose seat is at the back of mine. I have every right to recline my seat if I want to! Its why that feature is there, so that people can get comfy. Have you never been on a plane? Its the same concept. Unless they’re serving us meals, I can bloody well do whatever I want with my seat!

11:05

Should I recline this seat just to spite her? I’m kind of in the mood for an argument.

11:10

Ugh, its not worth it. Its roomy enough and comfy enough that you’re able to sleep anyway.

11:20

Wow, my Spotify playlist really is very good.

12:00

I’ve got soul but I’m not a soldier. Woohooo, Killers.

12:15

I am so bored. I wish I’d taken on more bank shifts or planned this trip earlier so that we could have gotten better fares for the plane or the train.

12:30

What time is it in Australia?

12:35

No, you will not randomly message someone because you’re bored. That is never a good idea.

12:40

Okay let’s start counting some sheep so you can zzzzzzz.

13:00 (I think)

15:00

Oh hey, stopover. Should I quickly run to the loo?

15:01

Nah, I’ll make it. I don’t need to go to the loo.

15:03

But what if I do need to go to the loo and we’re still hours away from Edinburgh. Better to go now than suffer later.

15:04

Alright, I’ll go to the loo.

15:10

Let’s get this bus back on the road. Hmm, maybe I should start writing a new post for the blog.

15:15

Bloody hell, there’s no charging station on this bus. THERE’S NO CHARGING STATION ON THIS BUS and I’m only on 40% with 4 more hours to go on this trip.

15:30

Okay, zzzzzzzz.

18:00

Oh man, the Scottish countryside is so beautiful. I can’t remember the last time I saw this much greenery.

18:15

Zzzzzzzz

19:00

Oh we’re here? YES! I survived a TEN HOUR COACH RIDE.

I am never doing this again.

Posted in College, friendship, relationships, Self-Discovery

Dear 21-Year-Old-Me

A friend of mine recently posted a Facebook status to remind everyone in our year that its been 10 years since we graduated from college and we are, in fact, getting older by the minute.

Honestly, you could not pay me to be 21 again. At 21 I was heavily overweight, insecure, confused and emotionally stressed. I had no idea what the future had in store, all I know was that I was damned petrified of it.

At 21, I was looking back at my college years with some measure of regret for the things I’ve done and the things I didn’t do. I think I was having some kind of identity crisis because I felt like I could have lived a little more in college, and by live I mean drank more alcohol and maybe partied just a little bit more.

But its different when you see things from the 20-20 perspective of hindsight. So I have just a few things to say to my 21-year old self.

There’s a place for everything and everything in its place. Do not worry that you’ve never experienced an overnight party or had a hangover. In 4 years you’ll find yourself vomiting up those unfortunate shots of Jaeger bombs somewhere in Lambeth North station in London of all places and you’ll tick that off your bucket list.

It will take you a good five years to get over your current “great love” and the source of your emotional stress. But get over it you will, and you’ll be a better person for having gone through it.

Finding our true love is proving more difficult than I thought. Prepare yourself for some rough years ahead. Haha

Your years as a clinical instructor will change you in ways you’ll never imagine. Be prepared for “scandals”, be prepared to be hurt but take comfort in knowing there’s something great waiting around the corner. So sign that job contract, do not even hesitate.

You will find yourself thanking the stars time and time again that you were intelligent long before you grew into your looks. You’ll find ways to cheat physical beauty later.

Try and go easy on the cakes and the steamed rice and the servings of lechon. But don’t worry too much about your weight. We will find a happy balance in the future and we will learn to love our body. Mostly.

The people you meet in college are some of the best people you’ll meet in your life. Don’t be afraid or intimidated by how different they are from you; those differences are the very reason why they were brought into your life. By the way, 10 years from now those people will still be grateful you chose to study instead of party. Almost as much as they’ll still be talking about your wonderfully loopy handwriting.

Give yourself credit for the things you’ve done. You are more or less a good person, and at least you can take credit for trying to be one.

Do not listen to that voice in your head telling you you should have gone into medicine. That’s not your calling.

Be nicer to your family. Even your annoying siblings and cousins. They will soon become some of the best friends you’ll ever have. Yes, even your brother.

Hey by the way there’s this thing called Instagram that you may want to invest money in. Lol

David Archuleta will not win American Idol. You’ll get over it.

In about 10 years, you’ll find yourself a bit more settled, in a foreign country and having experiences you never thought you’ll have. You’ve travelled, you’ve met new friends, and you’ll still be scared and confused most of the time…but really, 21-year old self, relax. Don’t worry too much about the future. We’ll be okay.

You’ll soon find yourself where I’m sitting, giving yourself a pat in the back saying, “We did good.” So for now, enjoy all the years in between. See you soon. Xx

Posted in bloggers, family, Moving to London, relationships

Bad Dreams and Irrational Fears

Yesterday I had a long shift at work that eventually ended in me sprawled on the couch at 9pm trying to decide whether I’m more tired or hungry, and whether it was worth giving up being horizontal to prepare dinner. Needless to say, I wasn’t in the best of moods.

In the middle of all this, my mum FaceTimed me from the Philippines – as she usually does around that time. She gets up early every morning to go to church (every morning without fail! Now that is a woman who does not feel conflicted about her faith) and she makes a point of ringing my sister and I before she leaves. Maybe so she’ll know if anything’s come up in our lives that necessitates her praying for our eternal souls.

Anyway, I’m ashamed to say that I was too tired last night to bring myself to have a decent conversation with my mother. I was so self-absorbed and cranky that my dad eventually told her to just let me off the phone and rest because I seemed so tired.

I felt incredibly guilty after that. I mean, I so seldom see my parents because I live abroad and these phone calls are their only means of ensuring we stay connected. I’m very lucky that my mum makes an effort to call every day despite the 8 hour time difference; its gotten me through the worst of homesickness when I first got here and through tough times and seemingly insurmountable challenges. They made me feel supported and loved.

Of course my neurotic subconscious chose to express my guilt in the form of a nightmare where my mum was on a ship that had problems at sea and everyone on it has been now been declared missing and presumed dead. I woke up at 2am still in the grips of emotional upheaval and thinking that the last thing I ever said to my mother was that I was too tired to FaceTime her.

I of course rang her telling her about this nightmare and she laughed in my face and told me I was crazy. I probably AM but that’s beside the point. The point is I’ve always had this irrational fear about phone calls. I don’t like receiving missed calls because you never know who was trying to ring you and whether or not it was something catastrophic. Especially missed calls in the middle of the night. Or missed calls from work or your boss.

My mum once rang me in the middle of a working day (London time) and when she couldn’t get a hold of me proceeded to leave the most serious voicemail in the world asking me to call her back when I can. I thought someone in the family had died. It turned out she was just testing whether her new sim card for international calls worked. I nearly had a coronary. I told her never to do that again.

I also sometimes think about how life can suddenly throw curveballs at you. This may seem fatalistic but we never know when a certain conversation with someone we love may be our last. And if you think about it, we take so much for granted that we sometimes forget to even say ‘I love you’ at the end of a conversation with our parents or siblings or partners. This really gets to me, the fact that you never know. So you have to make the most out of it, out of every moment.

I guess what I’m just trying to remind myself is that you should never get to the point where you’re too busy to make time for the ones you love. You have to learn to prioritise, see the bigger picture and remember what’s important. In addition, just because it appears to be ordinary doesn’t mean its not important. Life is made up of small ordinary moments; its what you do with it and who you do it with that makes it extraordinary.

Now that I’ve done this little self-talk, I’m going to ring my mother again and hope I can now sleep better tonight. Lol

Cheers!

Posted in bloggers, Careers, Self-Discovery, Writing

A girl, a pen and a hula hoop

I’ve been a little remiss about blogging these past two weeks because I’ve been occupied with something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the nerve to do before.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to be a writer; its why I started blogging in the first place. I love the idea of painting pictures in someone’s head just by using my words (because god knows I’m not good at any other methods lol).

Unfortunately I’ve always been wary of trying things when I’m not sure I’ll be good at it. I don’t know why that is; call it an inherent fear of failure. I’ve somehow convinced myself I don’t have enough of an imagination to write fiction, so I shelved that dream all these years.

But recently I asked myself, what kind of an attitude is that to have as you go through life? If you never try anything because you’re afraid of how its going to challenge you then that means you go through life always playing it safe. You’ll never know the extent of what you’re capable of if you don’t push.

Almost as if it was divine providence, one of my blog connections sent me a link for a short story writing contest almost a month ago. I debated for ages over entering. I know there are stories in my head that I want to tell but I don’t know if I’m a good enough writer to tell them. Also, I like winning. I don’t like joining contests and not winning. Lol

Seriously though, I finally decided to just go for it, to write as if no one was going to be judging it but just for the pleasure of it. Its the same principle as for when I started this blog. There was never any design that it would reach even one person, I did it for me and for the release it gives me when I’m feeling stressed about life. The fact that I now I get random messages from people I didn’t expect telling me they actually follow it quite regularly – that’s just icing on the cake.

Therefore, I’ve come to the conclusion that the essence of doing something is not in the outcome but rather in the doing. I loved the process of creating something; I got a real joy out of crafting a story, of coming up with a clever turn of phrase. And that is a prize in and of itself.

To conclude this blog, I now realise that every time I hesitate to do something because I’m not sure I can be good at it, I’ll remember my experience with the hula hoop. Bear with me, I have a point I promise.

As a kid I’ve always been envious of other kids who can do the hula hoop because I’ve never been able to get the damn thing to spin around my hips. I think an integral part of my psyche was damaged because I was never able to do the hula hoop as a child.

So last year I got this worm of an idea that I couldn’t get out of my head and I decided, screw it, I’m going to buy a hula hoop on amazon and practice until I either succeed or break something.

I remember getting bruises on my abdomen for days because I practiced so incessantly. After a month of anguish I was finally able to do it. And even if I had ended up failing at it, I had nothing to lose from trying.

You never lose if you try. You miss out on so much when you don’t.

So watch this space for updates and fingers crossed that this is the start of the realization of a dream that’s 30 years in the making. Who knows, I may leave nursing for a career in writing. Crazier things have happened.

Cheers.