Monthly Archives: January 2015

Lesson of the week: Never underestimate procrastination

I’ve always been under the belief that I have spent a solid month in near constant procrastination. When I first started this blog I was in the process of job hunting. A few interviews a week, my only creative writing outlet were cover letters and my only human contact were those of prospective employers. So I started blogging. Nearly every day all day. Happily going about my day thinking that the only useful thing I was doing was making myself happier and letting the dust settle on my couch. Wrong.

Unbeknownst to me I was learning and improving skills to further my career. Eugh. Thank god I didn’t realise at the time or I may have never done it.

A bit of background about my work. I work for a small company and we recently changed over marketing companies. I liaise with the media, with marketing, advertising, customers. All that sort of stuff. The new marketing company said to me, “Hey Amy, we don’t really know a lot about your website program. It’s in a weird program that we may have to quickly learn. Something called WordPress.” No I didn’t click. I thought to myself – hmmm that sounds familiar, I think I’ll just say some non-committal sounds that makes it seem as though I know what he is talking about.

“Ah I see (no I don’t)”.

Enter a particularly stressful week of customers complaining about the company offering things on the website that were no longer on the tills. Offers that no longer existed. New Years Eve was still being advertised for goodness sakes. My boss is panicking due to the complaints, I’m panicking because I meant to be in charge of this being removed. The new marketing company are panicking because they can’t figure out how to change anything. Panic Panic Panic. Grey hairs for everyone.

Then I saw ‘Wordpress’ written down in an email. Now for everyone who isn’t a fellow blogger – well i want to dieWordPress is the online program a lot of bloggers use to run their blogs. In fact – I use it to run the very page you are reading right now. I spent a week or so when I first started blogging, mastering the very site my company uses for their webpage.  The one that no one could figure out how to change because the program was so very foreign. Oh except me. We are still advertising NYE and I knew all along how to change everything.

I don’t know if I should be proud that my month off wasn’t a complete waste of time – or embarrassed that it took me a week to realise where I had heard the word ‘Wordpress’ before. Maye I’m due for another month off. I am clearly losing my mind.

Moral of the story – maybe you aren’t procrastinating. Maybe you are learning a new skill that will be useful in the near future.

Idiot.

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‘Wintergirls’ by Laurie Halse Anderson

★ ★ ★ ☆☆

wintergirls

Photo by Peychaud

Technically there is a lot to love about this book. Original writing style, strong and scary themes, magical realism, relatable characters. It’s great really. Only now I am so hungry. And rather sad. I hate it when books make me feel like this – though I guess that’s when you know it is a good book. I found this book very hard to rate. It was amazing truly. But I wouldn’t read it again. It’s too sad. A little too dark and real for my tastes. It deserves 4 stars – and if I were an impartial robot, I would give it just that – but this is my personal blog space and I can do whatever the hell I like. So that’s why I gave it 3.

Far be it from me to actually give a scholarly review or even give a summary of the book – I’m just not that kind of girl – but I suppose I could give you my version of it.

Lia is a wintergirl. For anyone wondering what the title of the book has to do with anorexia – it doesn’t really. It’s just Laurie’s made up word to describe the girls like Cassie and Lia, girls who are essentially dying of starvation. Lia she sees food in numbers (calories), she loves most of her family, though doesn’t appreciate much they do for her. She doesn’t have a job, or go to school too much, plays no sports, has no friends, and only ever pretends to read books. I can only assume because she doesn’t actually possess the strength to do any of this. It makes me shudder to think of how weak and crumbly she probably is. Laurie does an excellent job of Lia. She is completely real to me. I feel like I went to school with her. It leaves a bad taste in your mouth, it really does. Anyway, plot goes: Cassie dies, Lia is already suffering some serious mental problems and can’t seem to cope with the grief on top of that. She fights her family and pretends she is trying to get better, when really she is doing the opposite. There isn’t really a big climax, just rises and falls throughout the story. I read it in a night.

One problem I foresee for ‘Wintergirls’ is the unbelievable accuracy of the inside look at the mind of a girl suffering from anorexia. I’ll be the last person to blame an author for the way people read into their books – but I was sort of disgusted in the way Lia thinks. I just know some teenage idiot is going to use this book for thinspiration. It makes me annoyed when people use my precious literature to further their own delusions. I feel like the struggle of the family and the helplessness they feel is shadowed by Lia’s own mental state, that unless you recognise that Lia is actually cray, you wont be able to see the effect she is having on everyone around her.

Id cry if I could, I really would.

‘Landline’ by Rainbow Rowell

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Might I start by saying – I cannot believe this is the book who won Good Reads Book of 2014.

landline

Photo by Peychaud

I guess my age is showing when I say I did not particularly enjoy this book. It’s a tale of a middle aged woman who is having some boring marital troubles. I should have listened to my gut instinct when it told be ‘anyone with a name like Rainbow Rowell will not be capable of writing anything that isn’t cutesy.’  What a waste of my third book of the year.

There is wishy washy love triangle between Seth, Georgie, and Neal (ugliest name ever) and it was just awful. I didn’t ship Seth, the long term best friend who loved her for yours, I didn’t ship her husband whom she had two children with. I was rooting for her to go back to her job and accelerate her career. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate love, or think of it as a second class citizen, I just really don’t care for Georgie’s love life. She’s been married to this fellow for what 15 years? 20 years? Congratulations on making up with your husband after a fight – but it’s nothing to write home about. Or in my case, write online about. Except it is because I am. But only for your sake. You need the truth. The internet is lying to you about Landline.

Georgie spent the book telling us how obsessed she was with work, then proceeded to turn up late every day, not work at all when she went, and leave early. Then at the end SPOILER, ignore her work and dream job entirely to do an 80’s rom-com dash to the airport. Will someone hold my hair back while I throw up the averageness of this book? She is the funniest woman in the world everybody lies(apparently) yet I didn’t laugh once. She doesn’t get enough sleep, yet sleeps till 12 every day. Her last name is McCool yet she is so VERY FAR FROOM COOL. Everything I was lead to believe was the opposite.

I rarely write a review of a book I didn’t enjoy, but after all the hype and all the drama of landline online, and the clearly falsified Goodreads stance, I felt I should probably let you, dear reader, know the truth. It’s fairly shit. Maybe if you have two children, and a mopey husband you will find this relatable and heartening, but it made me feel murderous and consider actually murdering someone just so I know my life will never turn into this.

I need to be consolidated. I need angry chocolate. And I need angry TV.

‘Night Circus’ by Erin Morgenstern

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Night Circus

Photo by Peychaud (still a code name)

If there is one recommendation I always ignore, it is those of the Guardian, or The Times; the ones that make it to the book covers. A load of one word wonders that never actually seem to capture the true nature of the book. Even on the front cover on Night Circus, the words ‘dazzling’ and ‘enchanting’ really don’t do it justice. I’ve seen your empty praise on countless books, how is this one to dazzle me over any other book? But Night Circus is just that – dazzling and enchanting. It has a dark dream-like quality that appears to follow around the subject of illusionists. It is almost jarring to read.  The first chapter is written entirely in second person, which can really grate on you. But it completely sets the scene for the rest of the book. From the first paragraph on, you think that this book will be something else. You would be correct.

Maybe it’s not even the first paragraph. I’m a firm believer in strong beginning sentences. It is the easiest thing in the whole book to get right – so if the first one is shit you can pretty much put the book down right then and there, because this author is terrible.

‘The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it, no paper notices on downtown posts and billboards, no mentions or advertisements in local newspapers. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.’

Isn’t that something you can just picture Morgan Freeman saying? Minus the ‘picture’.

I found so many interesting relationships in this book. Strangely enough I wasn’t at all interested in the main relationship between what’s-his-face and what’s-her-name.  Eugh I really can’t think of their names right now… Anyway the most interesting one to me was that of the Burgess sisters. Lainie and Tara – the sort of siblings who, if they were one person, would make the perfect human. Tara actually had the perfect explanation but I’ve been searching for the passage for ten minutes now and short of re-reading the whole book, I’ll never find it. Anyway it went something along the lines of catching each other’s short comings. And Tara being the one who saw in details while Lainie saw in scope – which was SPOILER the crux of their terrible little tragedy. Moving along.

Be warned, despite my ravings, this book is not for everyone. The plot isn’t a strong factor. A lot rides on imagery and dialogue, and a slightly warped time frame. Actually I’m still not sure I understand the time frame. There is probably a reason for that – a metaphor for the Narnia-like aspect of the circus. A place in its own world, with it’s own laws of physics. Mostly I just felt a bit sad abut everything. Everything ends, every storyline, ever relationship, in a bittersweet conclusion. Yeah they are happy – but you feel like the really shouldn’t be. I guess if you aren’t aging and get to drink mulled cider every working night of your life, you really wouldn’t have to feign happiness.

‘The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets’ by Eva Rice

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

I am so very jealous of everyone who hasn’t read this book – because it means they get to read it. the-lost-art-of-keeping-secretsI’m not a giant fan of romance books – nor of 50’s fan girls, but this book was so excellently written that I forgave that. Long after I finished the book I kept feeing like I wanted to watch another episode. Occasionally I’ll forget whether it was a book or a show I was watching.

The lost art of keeping secrets is full of sage advice and “RIGHT!” moments. The things that tip a four star book to a five. I tried to keep a list of all the excellent moments in this book, but it would have taken me twice as long to read, and then I wouldn’t be able to keep up with my 50-books-this-year-resolution. And my, oh my, what excellent cover art – nothing I despise more than seeing some strangers face on the character I have in my mind. On the other hand, I do like seeing what they are wearing. Decent publishers will recognise decent books and can obviously hire decent photographers/graphic designers etc. There is logic behind judging a book by its cover.

Speaking of appearances, it was the major theme in this book. Unlike secrets, as the title would lead you to believe. It seems that upper class young adults in the 50’s were as obsessed about it as are the selfie-gens that dominate now. I think if the narcissists of the world were readers (which they clearly are not) this book would speak to them, and maybe help them cope with the reality of the world as it is – and as it was.

I worried for half a minute that I should have worn better shoes, then realized everyone else was too concerned with his or her own appearance to bother about mine.

Penelope Wallace, p. 100

AND

Charlotte read my mind. “Beware of good lighting,” she warned, as full of wise advice as I expected her to be. “It’s almost as dangerous as alcohol.”

Penelope Wallace, p. 100.

It’s strange of romantics never seem to romanticise. They never really fit their own genre. Yet all of the characters have serious flaws and annoyances that make you hate them at the same time. Harry and Penelope with their obsessions, Marina and Talitha with their narcissism, Charlotte and Inigo with their naivety. It infuriating and endearing at the same time.

For a whole month we met every night – but I never once saw her during the day. Well, it never seemed strange to me at the time, but it was, of course. You have to see your lover during the day at some point, don’t you? Otherwise the whole thing remains a dream. Perhaps that’s what she wanted.

Harry Delancy, p. 71

Oh Harry. You’re a sausage. Like most romances this book was heavily character – and dialogue driven, which made for a fast read. Also handy considering how little time I seem to have on my hands. I think I will be reading this again, maybe I missed something the first time.