February 2021

Writing

This is the first month I’ve not done any writing. Genuinely. Not a little snippet of anything, nor a scene from a potential work in progress. Nothing.

Every time I try to write, I think back to pre-Covid and miss it so badly. Guess Covid finally caught up to me, and now my writing is paying the price. But it’s been good to take a step back and consider relearning how to write again. Find that passion, that spark, that desire to jot down words and craft a story already formed in my head. Create characters who I fall in love with and get excited to write their story.

For now, I’m reading books, focusing on my degree and hoping for a better future.

Reading

It took me almost the whole month to read The Mask Of Mirrors by M. A. Carrick, but h o l y s h i t. I’ll be recommending this book to anyone who’ll listen for at least the next year. As my first book into the fantasy genre again (outside of the cult classics), this book captivated me from the beginning and kept me invested until the end. Impeccable world building, morally ambiguous characters and constant plot twists/mysteries, I fell in love with this book and cannot wait for the next two books to come out.

In the UK, it’s LGBTQ+ History Month as well as Valentine’s Day, so I thought I should read at least one book that has LGBTQ+ representation. Loveless by Alice Oseman was perfect. As a demisexual, I doubt I’ll ever see representation in the media, but seeing such a wonderful, accurate representation of asexuality was close enough. Plus, I could relate to the self discovery journey and feeling the hesitation/frustration of explaining your sexuality all the time.

Personal

This is a sensitive section. If you do not want to read about loss, please skip the next paragraph.

I attended my grandad’s burial at the beginning of the month. It was exactly what I needed to get closure and allow the grief to slowly ebb away. Being surrounded by family members who shared in the grief and who had nice and funny memories of grandad helped so much more than I thought it would, and it was great to see how loved he was. We’re gonna have a memorial service for him in a few months time, and by that point, it’ll be easier to do. To share stories of him and appreciate the man he was.

I thought I might actually get somewhere with my dental work, but it’s been put on an indefinite pause because the dentist I was referred to advised me to go to an osteopath. Admittedly, I kept putting off my osteopath appointment, and perhaps for good reason. I went in for a specific reason, and ended up leaving with a physical problem I didn’t even know I had! At this point, this dental work will haunt me until the end of the year, which isn’t ideal since I wanna get it done before I start work properly. Guess we’ll have to see what happens.

So far, university has been pretty chilled out, but now all my deadlines are sneaking up on me with no preamble whatsoever. When did this happen?! It’s almost like I’m trying to juggle everything, except I can’t juggle and it ends up hurting me. I doubt running away from my deadlines can work for much longer, so I’m just gonna have to face them. Thank god for Covid extension! Seriously gonna need it.

One of the main procrastination techniques I’ve been using has been becoming addicted to a colouring in app. My mum discovered it, and I swore I wouldn’t get addicted, but it did actually become a problem at one point. It was all I was doing instead of actually doing university work or going outside. But I’ve managed to stop myself and keep it to one or two per day, just so I stop straining my neck and procrastinating. But here are a few I’ve done:

I usually never really notice Valentine’s Day anymore, deciding to treat it like any other day, but then mum reminded me I might be forever alone, so… didn’t exactly go to plan this year. At least we video chatted my brother, who was the perfect distraction from my temporary misery. Thankfully, two days later was Pancake Day, which felt almost like a reward for getting through Valentine’s Day, and life in general lately. I had pancakes for lunch and after dinner 😋 Yum!

Talking of food, mum baked a delicious cake 😋 She baked this chocolate cake for my birthday and I’ve been obsessed with it ever since, but I’ve refrained from asking for it. But we both agreed life has been tough lately and sometimes you just need a delicious home baked cake. Even days later, the smell still lingers, the sponge is still soft and the buttercream is still sweet. I would actually eat this cake for the rest of my life if I could. Thank god for my mum’s baking skills.

Since the weather is now getting nicer, me and mum have been venturing outside. Plus, after going to the osteopath, I’m feeling motivated more than ever to go back to a daily walk. We went to a local park nearby, which I ventured into alone back in like September and fell in love with, and we walked over to where you could see into Hampton Court’s gardens. Yesterday, we went to Kew Gardens, which is honestly one of my favourite places to go to, then went for a little walk around Kew itself. Today, we wandered over to a local garden we discovered during lockdown in a church and just appreciated the seasonably warm weather. Honestly, the weather has been glorious lately that I feel like I’m in April, not the end of February. I can’t wait for the weather to be like this for another month or two (before it becomes unbearably warm and I’ll stay inside all day, hiding from the sun/heat).


Overall, this month has been very up and down, but with a roadmap out of lockdown and the weather brightening up, the future might just get better from here. I’ll continue to take it one day at a time and see where I’ll end up because if this past year, even the past two months, have been any indicator, life can change in the blink of an eye.

Loveless Book Review

As someone on the ace/aro spectrum, I’ve acknowledged I’ll probably never find accurate representation of my sexuality within the media, but I’m always curious to read and watch asexual representation. I heard about this book and leaped at the chance to read it, and I’m so glad I did because it was written so well.

Synopsis

Georgia has never been kissed, let alone had a relationship, but she’s positive she’ll find someone when she goes to university with her two best friends, Pip and Jason. Except life is never that simple and the terms asexual and aromantic send Georgia on a whirlwind journey of self discovery. Can she maintain her friendships, or will her new identity change everything beyond repair?

First Impressions

This book triggered memories of my own self discovery journey with my sexuality (demisexual/demiromantic) and once again made me question whether I might be asexual (I’m definitely demiromantic though). I related to Georgia’s hopelessness and frustration towards her sexuality and hesitation/frustration towards explaining her sexuality all the time (seriously, it’s exhausting).

Thoughts

What I Liked:

  • Great asexual/aromantic representation – it’s so rare to read/watch, so I was ecstatic Alice Oseman did such a great job at writing this story
  • Georgia’s story arc – allowing her to be flawed and do shitty things because she was confused about her identity was so reassuring to read, and very realistic too
  • Georgia’s acceptance – the story raises a very good point that your happiness/success in life shouldn’t be based on whether you’re in a sexual/romantic relationship, and I very much appreciated that
  • The characters in general – they were all loveable, even when they were hurting or angry at Georgia, and I loved them all

What I Disliked:

  • It sometimes felt a bit overdramatic – I know stories would be boring without drama, but some of the events felt a bit too coincidental or over the top
  • The negative reactions to asexuality – this is more a general annoyance that the negative perspectives in this book felt all too real for me, and I hate that there is still so much hate for ace/aro spectrum people

Characterisation: Georgia is such a good, well rounded character. While her good traits outweigh the bad, hurting your friends while testing your sexuality is a really shitty thing to do, and I’m glad she realises that too. I’m glad she deals with the consequences of her actions, then tries to make it up to them.

Pip and Rooney are perfect for each other and I would honestly read an entire story about them. They just seem like such a perfect match since they’re both loud, dramatic, theatre lovers who call each other out on their bullshit. When they finally kissed, I paused reading to just grin widely and squee in delight.

Jason and Sunil are the best. I love their friendship, and I love how calm and collected they are, but are both capable of showing their more negative emotions (hurt, anger) when the situation called for it. They were just two awesome background characters I loved, and wish we could’ve seen more of Jason and Sunil’s friendship (I’d also read a story about that too).

Story Structure: the story structure is easy enough to spot, especially given the constant ups and downs, but in a YA romance novel, you expect constant ups and downs, especially in regards to friendships/relationships. The pacing was good and the occasional time jump was appreciated, which led to an overall solid storyline.

Other Thoughts: I thought Beth was Rooney’s secret girl crush or something, so I was disappointed when it was a best friend who forgot all about her. Don’t get me wrong, I understand the importance of a friendship falling apart and how devastating that can be, but it felt like the build up was anti-climatic?

Summary

If you want an introduction into what asexuality is, or a story featuring a journey of self discovery, pick up this book immediately. It’s wonderfully written and is one of the rare forms of media that portrays asexuality in a realistic way. Cannot praise this book enough, nor the amazing author behind it.

The Mask Of Mirrors Book Review

I discovered BookBox on Instagram by accident and saw their January theme reveal post, which was based on the theme of masquerade. In hindsight, I now know they meant masquerade as in disguising one’s identity rather than as a masquerade ball. Intrigued, I read the blurb and was immediately sucked in, and that intrigue and curiosity stayed with me until the very end of the story. Seriously, this book is just so good!

Synopsis

Ren is a con artist who wants to pull off her biggest con yet: convincing a noble family she’s a long lost family member. But nothing is ever as simple as it seems, and a plot to destroy the city could lead to disastrous consequences, unless she can stop it. With help from friends and allies, she might just be the key to stopping it all from happening.

First Impressions

Fantasy names/places are difficult to read, but h o l y s h i t. Morally ambiguous characters, plenty of plot twists and mysteries, impeccable world building, a version of tarot and a mysterious character admired by the locals? This book genuinely has everything, and I absolutely love it.

Thoughts

What I Liked:

  • The mystery of The Rook – I fell for Ren’s guess the first time, but learned from that and didn’t try to guess again, so I was pleasantly surprised by the reveal
  • Morally ambiguous characters – none of them have clean hands, except maybe Giuna, and it’s refreshing to see how they adapt/grow as the story progresses
  • Multiple POVs – I love stories where we can see different character’s perspectives, and it just worked so well in this story, especially given what happens
  • Impeccable world building – it’s so rich and well developed, obviously drawing from real world mythology/cultures, and set during Renaissance times (or at least, I assume it is)

What I Disliked:

  • Story length – don’t get me wrong, I’m hyped this is a trilogy, but given how much was packed into this one story, I do wonder whether this might be better as a standalone (I hope I’m wrong)
  • Fantasy names/places – I did struggle with pronouncing half the words, but I know that’s just part of the fantasy genre, so that’s more something I can adapt to as I read more fantasy books

Characterisation: God, there are so many characters, but they’re all so distinct and different from one another that I love them all. I’m gonna go into detail here about the characters who feature on a consistent basis, but I’m gonna try to avoid spoilers. Prepare for a long section ’cause there are so many characters and I just… I love them.

Ren is the main character, as mentioned in the synopsis, but what I like about her is the moral ambiguity. She’s willing to do what it takes to survive, hence why she does the con in the first place, and she even admits to wanting to murder someone. But as the story progresses, you can see how her priorities shift because she doesn’t want to hurt several people, such as Donaia and Giuna. I love how she could don different disguises to get what she needed from specific people and how she almost lost everything due to being poisoned, but I also love her intuitive ability and the insights/backstory we get behind her and how she became the person she is.

Tess and Sedge create such a strong dynamic with Ren, and I really appreciate that despite them not actually being biologically related. Tess, who creates dresses and nurtures Ren when she needs it most, and Sedge, who protects the pair and doesn’t mind getting his hands bloody if it guarantees their safety. There’s so much more to say about them because they truly do make the story better, and I love their dynamic when they’re all together.

The Traementis family are complex and interesting. Donaia, who distrusted Ren, and Giuna, who loved and adored her, swapped places as the story progressed, and I actually really liked that. Leato – I don’t want to give any spoilers away, but I was devastated. I really loved him, and I’m sad with what happened, but I understand why it had to happen. Equally, Serrado is a complex character too, since he’s distrusting of Ren but warms up to her, and he does whatever he can to protect people and do his job, while also trying to remain loyal to his roots. All of them are wonderful characters, and I appreciate the time and effort that went into developing them all.

I can’t not mention Vargo, the infamous criminal mastermind. He’s a perfect match for Ren in terms of being a very manipulative person. The way he uses everyone to his own ends goes to show his ability to survive too, but I’m super intrigued by his spiritual connection with Alsius. I wanna know more! I want the backstory, to discover how their connection works. I like him in the same way you like a nefarious character, where you know you probably aren’t meant to like them but you just can’t help it.

Last but not least, one of my favourite characters, The Rook. The mystery behind him – ooh boy! The payoff was so worth it since I didn’t think we’d find out his identity until the second book, so that was a great surprise plot twist. I loved the mystery of trying to figure out who it was, and they gave us two curveballs. Although, after believing Ren’s assumption the first time, I didn’t believe the second assumption, which paid off since the actual reveal was a pleasant surprise. The hints weaved throughout as well about who The Rook is – it’s just so cleverly done!

I won’t mention the two villainous characters, partially because one of the villainous characters almost felt like they were shoved to the side? Especially compared to everything else that happened. The other villainous character is pretty well done, and I can see where mythology might’ve played a part in her story because she’s just so creepy! But I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll leave it at that.

Story Structure: Usually, a story is split into a three act structure, taken from theatre, but it’s not explicitly shown as parts unless the author chooses to do so. In this book, it’s explicitly shown as being split into four parts, which makes it easy to follow the typical three act structure. You can identify what the inciting incident, the lowest point and the climax are, but there are enough plot twists and mysteries to distract you from identifying much else, and the pacing generally stays pretty consistent throughout.

Other Thoughts: Their version of tarot is certainly interesting, and I’d honestly love it if the author(s) ever released their tarot deck because it just fascinates me so much. I’m so curious to know if their cards correspond with actual tarot cards, and in which, I’m dying to know which cards go with each other.

Summary

Expect me to go on about this book for the next year or so because I love it so much! It’s just great, with morally ambiguous characters, impeccable world building and so much story packed into it. There’s bound to be something you’ll like about it if you enjoy reading fantasy. Now just to wait for the next two books…

January 2021

I entered this year with zero expectations, knowing the first few months were gonna be rocky, but somehow even those expectations were too high. Thanks to complicated dental work, I knew I wasn’t gonna be optimistic for a few months. But an unexpected loss and a national lockdown just finished me off – hello depression and rock bottom.

Although it’s been a struggle to do so, I have still found small flickers of light in the darkness, and clung to them whenever they’ve appeared. It’s so easy to forget what you have when you feel like you have nothing, but there’s always something to be appreciative of, even if it’s just that you’re breathing.

If you wanna know what I’ve been up to, keep on reading. But I will preface this by saying, if loss is something triggering right now, please feel free to skip that particular section. I hope you’re all staying safe, and know there will be good times again… eventually.

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Vengeful Book Review

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

After finishing Vicious, I found out there was a sequel, so naturally I was itching to know what happened next. I’m a curious person and I fell in love with the characters, so it was a no brainer that I should buy it and dive in to see what would happen next.

Synopsis

Marcella Riggins, nee Morgan, is a power hungry woman on a mission, with two equally powerful EOs on her side. Not everyone is as thrilled by her power grab. Joseph Stell wants to put a stop to it, once and for all, with whatever means necessary… except use the one person he knows could end the situation.

Meanwhile, Victor Vale is struggling with his own problems. With his limited options running out, he discovers Stell’s plan and tries to put a stop to it. But with Victor Vale and Eli Cardale together again, will the plan go accordingly, or will the old enemies ruin everything?

First Impressions

I was still blown away by the ending, but the story lacked something this time. It didn’t flow as seamlessly, and there were too many characters to keep track of. But it was refreshing to see Victor and Eli plotting again, both trying to solve their problems.

Thoughts

What I Liked:

  • The ending – it still blew me away! How everything fell together, but also fell apart – it was just so good
  • The backstories – despite feeling almost like an info dump at times, they’re still compelling and intriguing
  • Victor and Eli – they are both still fascinating, complex characters who have problems they must solve
  • June – seriously, her ability is so cool! She’s such an interesting character, especially when you see her true colours
  • The found family trope – gah, I love Sydney, Mitch and Dol as their own family unit (and screw Victor for walking away from it)

What I Disliked:

  • Too many characters – I struggled to keep up with them all, let alone care about them all
  • The narrative didn’t flow as seamlessly – there were some parts that could’ve been cut and it wouldn’t have made a difference to the overall story

Characterisation: I loved reading about the original main characters again and actually learning Eli’s backstory. I loved seeing how the characters changed, especially Sydney, given Victor’s condition and what he was willing to do to live, which is ironic considering how he essentially became like Eli.

I didn’t need the details about EON, especially the soldiers who were forgettable, and I didn’t see the point in learning the backstory to a character who basically became a prop. Also, as much as I liked Marcella, she lacked something that Victor and Eli had – it would’ve been good if there was some weakness to her power, if she’d discovered this weakness by accident. Something.

June is an interesting character. Her power sounds simultaneously useful and horrible. To never be your true self, but to be able to slip between bodies so effortlessly – it’s a double edged sword. That, in a way, was what Marcella lacked. June’s changing allegiances made her a more compelling character, but like Victor and Eli, she showed her true colours, which again made her a delightful character.

Story Structure: Once again, the story is split into sections and goes back and forth in time. It works to some extent, but it felt almost like Eli’s backstory was dumped into one particular section, unlike in the previous book where the backstory weaved in and out of the first section of the story. I understand why since Eli was locked up in prison and there wasn’t much else to his story. But it didn’t work as seamlessly as before.

Talking of things not working as seamlessly, while I mentioned about Marcella lacking something, her story felt almost unnecessary at times. I didn’t care as much about the destruction of the mob, nor about her need for power. Similarly, as much as I like Sydney, her facing the decision to bring back her sister could’ve been a bigger deal, rather than one throwaway scene.

If there’s one thing I can’t criticise, it’s the ending. V.E. Schwab does a superb job at ending her stories. Well, the two I’ve read. She builds everything up in such a way that leaves you thinking ‘holy shit!’ but keeps information back until the ending to give you a sense of surprise. Little things that are hinted at that you don’t realise until the story mentions it again.

Other Thoughts: The blurb that’s provided on the book is a lie! They imply Marcella Riggins knows about Victor and Eli, but she’s clueless for a long time, and even then, she doesn’t try to pit them against each other. I hate when blurbs purposefully mislead you.

Summary

Despite the misleading blurb, the plot not flowing as seamlessly and having too many characters to keep track of, the overall storyline is good, as are several of the characters and the mind blowing ending that tied everything up so perfectly once again.

In Memory of My Grandad

Taken in 2013

I don’t usually like to post about deeply personal life events because I prefer to tell a select few people and work through it. However, my grandad deserves to be remembered, especially given how important he was to me, and to anyone who ever met him.

If I’d have known this time last year would be the last time I’d ever see my grandad, I would have taken a photo to cling onto. I’d remember every detail about his home, the place I’d grown up in, even given the state it was in. Despite feeling how fragile he was, or worrying he’d topple over if I let go, I still got my hug and heard him say ‘I love you very dearly. I want you to remember that’.

I always appreciated whenever my grandad told me he loved me because he put such importance in those words. It was never out of habit that he said it, never forced.

He said it because he truly meant it.

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2021: Goals & Aspirations

If the last few years has taught me anything, life never goes as planned.

Last year, I realised trying to plan for the long term just isn’t possible right now, so I’m taking baby steps and living year by year. Maybe someday I can look into settling down somewhere, but for this year at least, my priority is on completing my Publishing Master’s and figuring out where to go from there.

My Yearlong Goals:

  • Finish my Publishing Master’s
  • Write a 500 words (or so) story every day
  • Post a monthly blog post (at least)
  • Read a book a month (at least)
  • Meditate and journal daily

These goals should be achievable, especially as I’ve already been doing the monthly blog post and reading a book a month. But I don’t wanna pressurise myself because I was so burnt out by the time Christmas arrived and I can’t continue the way I was. If I need to drop things along the way, then so be it (except my Publishing Master’s). I’m hoping meditation and journalling will help in that respect.

My aspirations haven’t changed either:

  • Learn how to drive/cook
  • Find my own place
  • Pick up a new hobby
  • Go out of my comfort zone

This year, I’ve purposefully left off travelling because I’ll want to travel for the foreseeable future. Until my wanderlust ebbs away, I’ll always feel that need to explore somewhere new. I’m not the fondest of actually travelling, but once I arrive, that excitement and curiosity takes over and I just have to explore. It’s one of my favourite feelings.

I’ve also not put anything career oriented because I’m still not sure what I’ll go into with publishing. I’d love to do design work, but I don’t know if I have the skillset for it. I’m sure I’d be happy in editorial, but if I could, I’d love to see what the other roles are like. However, if my previous jobs are anything to go by, there’s no guarantees. You can’t be sure you’ll stay beyond your contract, or that you’ll get a job in the position you want. But that doesn’t mean it was all bad – if anything, it gives you invaluable experience.

Most of all, my main goals centre around seeing my friends and family again, especially if I haven’t seen them in over a year, and to travel to Ireland. 2020 was the first year since I was a baby I haven’t been, and it killed me knowing I couldn’t go to my favourite country in the world. I’ll be there at the first opportunity possible.

I hope you’re staying safe and I hope you can find a way to enjoy this year.

2020 Reflection

2020.

A year that blindsided us all. A year that forced the world to shut down. A year that made us more appreciative for what we do have and the life we had before. Or, conversely, it made us question how and why we lived our lives the way we did before.

Wanna see how my 2020 went? Carry on reading. If not, I hope you’re staying safe, and I hope 2021 is a better year for all of us.

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PopSugar Reading Challenge 2020

At the beginning of this year, I wanted to read a book a month and see if I could stick to it. I already had a few books I wanted to read, so I dove straight in and relished in reading again. But I met up with a friend and we visited my local library where we saw a reading challenge they were doing. Intrigued, I remembered PopSugar often do a reading challenge, and I thought why not give it a go?

Now, as 2020 is coming to an end, I can safely say this was the best decision. It helped (somewhat) broaden my horizons and gave me a reason to stay motivated to read for an entire year. But I used several prompts per book since I didn’t think I could read that many books in a year, only to be presently surprised that I read 21 books! Even as a kid, I doubt I read 21 books in one year, and I was an avid reader!

I doubt I’ll participate in the 2021 challenge since I now have quite the pile of books I wanna read. Plus, with a Publishing MA, I struggled to find time as it was last term, so I don’t wanna pressurise myself to try and read more than one book a month. Anyway, I’m positive my course friends will give me more recommendations, and I’m actually interested in reading some series, which I didn’t feel like I could do with the reading challenge.

There were a few books I read that I didn’t count towards my PopSugar Reading Challenge because they were the other books in the series. My only exception was Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, which I was gonna use for one of the prompts, but after the controversy with J.K. Rowling, I wanted to replace it if I could, and thankfully I did. I read the rest of the His Dark Materials series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series and the To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before series.

If you wanna see which prompts I managed to do, and which emoji I attributed to each prompt/book, carry on reading.

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Christmas 2020

Expectation vs Reality

Truth be told, while I’ve kept the Santa dress tradition alive, not much else of our usual Christmas traditions have remained thanks to Covid disrupting everything.

My brother’s not here to celebrate with us (he’s in the States and couldn’t really come home), so it’s been a struggle not to feel low today. But I’ve been able to treat it like a super chilled Sunday, and I can feel myself relaxing, which I’ve desperately needed.

I’ve tried so hard this year to be in a festive mood, but I’m just not. I’ve listened to Christmas music, bought a few presents and wore my Santa dress, but since we didn’t get to go to the Kew Gardens light show and I didn’t get to see many of my friends and family, it’s been difficult to get into a cheery, jolly mood.

Still, I am grateful me and mum gave each other presents and ate Christmas dinner together. I am grateful we went out for a short walk and enjoyed the nice weather. I am grateful that we’ll play some games together and watch a film together tonight. Most importantly, I am grateful I got to speak with my brother and my cousin (separately), and I am grateful I’m spending Christmas Day with my mum at home.

It’s not the Christmas I expected, and I doubt I’ll remember much about it in years to come, but if I can slow down for a few days and be grateful for what I have, then this Christmas was a success.

I hope you all had a relaxing day/night, but if not, remember it’s only one day.