I remember the drawn faces, the dejected figures of my two men, and I remember my youth and the feeling that will never come back any more – the feeling that I could last for ever, outlast the sea, the earth, and all men; the deceitful feeling that lures us on to joys, to perils, to love, to vain effort – to death; the triumphant conviction of strength, the heat of life in the handful of dust, the glow in the heart that with every year grows dim, grows cold, grows small, and expires – and expires, too soon, too soon – before life itself.
“Youth” by Joseph Conrad
I have not been a very happy reader lately.
It’s been really hard to find books within what I want to read at the moment, and I end up picking a lot of books that disappoint me. It’s hard to explain, and there were some really good reads this month too, so let’s just get to it. I read 8 books and 3 short stories in August, and here are my thoughts on them.
I started the month with a non-fiction book titled Prophet’s Prey: My Seven-Year Investigation into Warren Jeffs and the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-Day Saints, by Sam Brower. Now I, unlike probably most people, had never heard of Warren Jeffs, had no idea who he was. So reading this book was discovering the whole story for the first time, and boy, what a journey it was. This was a great read. Horrifying at times, and so incredibly infuriating at the end (when I put it down I genuinely wanted to punch someone), but an eye-opening, straightforward and very necessary account of a very serious string of events. The writing isn’t incredible, nor does the narrative flow and fit together seamlessly – in fact, many times we jump around from action to action in an almost random way. Yet it gets the job done and it does it very efficiently. There are no unnecessary flourishes to this story, there are facts, cold and hard, and Brower does a great job at presenting them without either embellishing them or drying them up into un-readableness. Incredibly, I got more mad at institutions and so called “good people” than at the perpetrators of the crimes – I find it unbelievably preposterous and outlandish how in so many cases things were dismissed or made to go away and nothing was done (when more than enough evidence was present). Anyway I don’t want to go on a rant about that, because it would go on for quite a while, but I’m very happy I read this book and thoroughly enjoyed it (although “enjoy” is probably not the best word in the context).
After that I finished Louisa May Alcott’s Short Stories.
There were 5 little stories in this beautiful little book: Obtaining Supplies, A Night, My Contraband, Happy Women, and How I Went Out to Service. Despite having read and enjoyed both Little Women and A Long Fatal Love Chase many a year ago, this collection was not for me. That might have something to do with the short story format not being her strength, or the fact that these were her first writings, or something else entirely, but these stories fell very short from spectacular. They had sad subject matters, were rather boring and bleak, and had very little impact. I remember a few mostly for their depressing tone, but they almost blur together. They’re extremely short, too, even for short stories. Overall it just wasn’t a great reading experience, and I was happy to move on to a very different sort of short story.
I read both Terry Goodkind’s Debt of Bones and George R. R. Martin’s The Hedge Knight from this lovely compilation of fantasy shorts, all from pre-existing worlds. I have a complicated relationship with Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series in that I almost hate it. I’ve only read the first two books, and will finish the series eventually (out of sheer stubbornness, if nothing else), but neither of them were particularly good (
in that they were kind of bad). This novella takes place before the series starts, and it was enjoyable, I probably liked it more than the actual books.
But of course this was nothing compared to how much I loved getting back to Westeros. Y’all know A Song of Ice and Fire is one of my favorite things ever, and I was scared this was going to be completely independent from any of the characters I know and love, since it’s set a generation before Game of Thrones, but there were TARGARYENS. MY FAMILY. Needless to say, I loved The Hedge Knight. Martin is king. The end.
Onwards – The Girl Who Couldn’t Read by John Harding.
I was so looking forward to reading this literally thriller, and I went through so many emotions whilst reading it. I had so many thoughts that I started taking notes and fully planned on writing a full review – and then the ending hit. It had every element that just made it perfect for me: it’s set in an insane asylum (which I love me some), featured a book lover, it’s classified partly as a horror. What else could you possibly want?! Insert deep sigh here.
This book frustrated me. It started off slowly – a few things started getting on my nerves. A few things didn’t add up. The writing started to seem a bit slacky. Progressively it intensified and a lot more annoyed me. The main issue I have with this book is that it tries to roll with something like five or six storylines all at once, jumping between them willy-nilly whenever the author seems fit. We’ll be focusing on plot A when someone will walk down the hall and suddenly we’re all about plot B, just until someone calls and then plot C will magically become THE central point of the whole book. And all these ties are nicely tied at the end, but they was no easy transition between them during the story. The book was just short of 300 pages, he didn’t have time to flesh out and make each come out naturally – he wanted a fast-paced action-packed story. And he did that, certainly, from page one we’re go-go-go, but that means there’s no building, and everything is choppy. I had loads of issues with the main character as well, but I ended up quite liking how his story arch was developed (I’d love to get more into this point, but spoilers).
The ending saved it for me, or rather, the unraveling at the end, but I was still too bugged about a lot of things to fully enjoy this.
From there I moved to something I hadn’t picked up since my tween years – Goosebumps. I had an unread Goosebumps book sitting on my shelf and I had to pick it up. It was Piano Lessons Can Be Murder by R. L. Stine, of course. I grew up reading Goosebumps, and I loved them, and I had so much fun revisiting this. They’re never the deepest or more complex of stories, but they’re always such a fun ride, and I love them for that, and for all the good nostalgia they bring.
In a horror-setting kind of mood now, I picked up The Haunting of America: Ghosts and Legends of America’s Haunted Past by Troy Taylor. This is a non-fiction book collecting all of America’s most epic ghost stories, both the history of the place or family or whatever the case may be, and the history of the subsequent hauntings that supposedly took place. This book was boring. There is no other word for it. A few of the stories were interesting, and that’s about it. The author gave so much unnecessary backstory to each place that I had a hard time even staying focused. There was so much stuff that I didn’t want or need to know before we got to the point! He spends literally pages describing the battle of Gettysburg, to name an example, in entirely too much detail – and in a way that doesn’t add to the ghost stories in the least. And he does this over and over again. He’s way to attached to exclamation points (who taught you to write, pal?), and about as subtle as a brick in his prodding of do-you-believe-this-now-you-should. Frustrating yawn fest that I suggest you pass up.
Then I finally picked up something brilliant – Shakespeare’s Othello.
There is simply no going wrong with The Bard. It is no secret that I am a massive Shakespeare fan(atic). I hadn’t read Othello yet and since I’ll be studying it this year at uni I thought I’d go ahead and read it now – and needless to say, I absolutely loved it. My favorite thing about Shakespeare is, of course, the language, the pure magic of what that man did with words. It’s just mind blowing, and I’m always in awe. And he is so freaking hilarious. I don’t understand how anyone could not like Shakespeare, the sassy genius. There were a few things that were a bit harder for me to read, but that has to do solely with the timing of it, I probably shouldn’t have read it at this point in time. But Shakes is always a balm for the soul and I worship at his altar.
Shakespeare is an impossible act to follow, but after Othello I read the winner of the Hugo award in the best short story category, Cat Pictures Please by Naomi Kritzer (which you can read for yourself here). This story won my hear completely. It’s so wonderfully crafted, and I was hooked from the get-go. It’s so full of charm, it’s just delicious. I’m totally enamored with that main character, and all I can say is just please go read this.
Next I picked up Alexander McCall Smith’s The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency.
I had read another book from this series before, and read more from the author, so I knew what I was getting into. It has to be said (again) that I’m not a big fan of mystery. But this is a different sort of mystery. As the first book, this is the one that sets the scene, and there’s so much richness in that, and in the exploration of the African culture/life/setting. This book is full of heart, it’s absolutely delightful, and it doesn’t, unlike the classic mystery novel, follow just one mystery, but instead focuses on the set up of the detective agency and the first few cases. Alexander McCall Smith has a very distinct writing style, and it’s very pleasurable to read. I highly recommend this series. The only thing that really took away from my enjoyment of this was the ending, which I really disliked, and undid a big factor I had previously been loving. I want to continue reading the series, but I so wish he hadn’t decided on that particular ending (which will affect the upcoming books).
And to end the month in style (or not) I picked up Tigerheart by Peter David.
Let me just start by saying that my main conflict upon finishing this book was whether to rate it one or two stars. Actually I was very conflicted about this one for a big part of it. This is a Peter Pan retelling, kind of, and I didn’t really like that. In some ways this was better, in some ways worse, in some ways the same. Was that vague enough for you?
It’s hard to explain why this book bothered me so much. There’s something subtly disturbing about it that really irked me. There were some obvious Freudian tones, and some slightly iffy messages that I couldn’t quite understand what point the author was trying to make. The writing was quite lovely, I really enjoyed the fairytale-ish style, as well as some of the cute humor, it really made me smile. But at about halfway through it just stopped being enough to make up for the rest. In short, I hated this book. I can’t pinpoint the exact reason why, but there were so many things, plot-wise and moral-wise, that perturbed me, and I had to power through until the end, just so I could be done with it. That cover is gorgeous though – but I will be getting rid of this book, as I don’t want it on my shelves.
Anyway, that’s everything I’ve read this month. I’m hoping September will be a better reading month, we’ll have to see. Have you read any of these? Thoughts, recommendations? Let me know!
This sexy thang was my ride today.
Summer vacation is almost over. I’ll be boarding a plane to Lisbon the day after tomorrow and although I haven’t even gotten there yet, things have already gotten stressful and this new uni year is going to be a killer. I foresee many a headache in the near future.
So I have been saying goodbye to this lil island, and I finally managed to dip my toes in and go for a swim today.
But before that, I went for a run.
I have mentioned before how hard I was finding getting back into the grove of things, and it’s a continuous battle, and it’s been making me reflect a lot on running – my own running journey, in particular.
The past year has been terrible, running-wise. Everything changed very suddenly, and I started having less time, and started slacking, and then started landing myself in the hospital and eventually got an organ removed four months ago. But that is all over and done with, and it’s been something like two and a half months since I’ve been able to fully return to running again – except I haven’t.
Losing progress is one of the most discouraging things ever. Post-surgery me didn’t have the motivation to get out there and run, not like I used to. And all that time accumulated to where I am now, which is basically back to square one. My times haven’t been this bad in years, and my endurance is gone.
This is unbearably frustrating and sad.
Running has always helped me. It helps me handle things, and it helps me be strong, and it helps me deal. But I lost so much progress that it almost stopped doing that. I still loved running, always, but it started to mess with my head how awful I was at it – again. The biggest comfort I have always found in running lies in long distance running, in the steady beat hour after hour until everything melts away and you’re left with the sheer amazingness of what your body can do. The whole world might be coming down around you, but you’re a beast, no one who can run for two hours straight will crumble at life’s aches and pains. Runners are warriors, we learn how to not quit and we learn how to embrace the pain and never let it stop us. We’re pretty tough.
There’s never been a run where I didn’t, at some point, think I wasn’t going to make it. And I always prove myself wrong. That’s one of the biggest gifts running gives me – it helps me prove me wrong. It takes all of my certainty of can’t and turns it into can. Every single time, over and over, I prove myself wrong, and it’s the greatest superpower.
Now I can’t run more than 5 km and although 5 km is better than 0 km, it’s not where nirvana lies. I still love it, but I don’t feel unbeatable. And that has left me so discouraged, when all I want, and all I need some days, is to throw on my running shoes and keep at it for 24 km.
For a while, I wondered whether I had it in me to start it all anew, and build it back up, oh so slowly. I finally broke this month and realized I needed to stop looking at my times, they were only stressing me out. The past few runs I’ve been doing time-goals instead. I’m starting small, and trying not to let it upset me too much how far I am from where I was. I know that the pain of getting there again will be worth it. So very worth it.
Running is, in such a big part, just sheer willpower. The mind conquering, like the little train that thought he could or whatever, I don’t know, I don’t even ride trains. But I am nothing if not stubborn, and running, as I discover again and again, is the thing I refuse to give up.
I think the point is, basically, just take whatever metaphor you want and run with it – literally run with it.
I paced around for hours on empty
I jumped at the slightest of sounds
And I couldn’t stand the person inside me
I turned all the mirrors around
I’ve been on a horror movie kick lately. As in, they’re the only kind of move I’ll watch these days.
I’ve watched The Visit four times. Not because it’s that good, but because I genuinely loved it so much that I keep forcing my loved ones to watch it – and joining them for the ride. The Village is my all-time favorite horror movie, and I have sadly not watched a whole lot more from M. Night Shyamalan (why on Earth not? I think it’s probably because I know nothing will ever be as good as The Village). I didn’t even know this was by him, though, when I first started watching it. It has kind of the elements I loved from The Village – the atmosphere is superb, and built awesomely, and it has a unique streak, all the while managing to keep the as-a-documentary style of shooting fresh. I also quite enjoyed the mix of the suspenseful with the comedy, and how it almost made fun of itself and the overly-used doco-style. It’s not perfect, and it’s not as good as the aforementioned masterpiece, but I highly enjoyed it (four times).
I watched The Babadook with a friend, right after we watched The Visit, and whilst looking up what horror movie to watch next we came across this one on countless “best horror movies” lists. So, naturally, we trusting creatures thought we were in for a good time. But, alas, we were wrong. This movie was terrible, and, most unforgivable for me, tried to pass off something old and seen-before as new and fresh. This movie is basically a demonic possession dressed up as something entirely new, the Babadook creature. The characters were idiots and annoying, and frankly, I would have murdered that little kid with my own bare hands if I had to spend 5 minutes with him. Nothing about this was good. Or very well done. The Babadook book was cool, though.
Since I was in a horror movie mood, I watched The Conjuring by myself the next night. Unfortunately my attention span has suffered greatly, and if I’m watching a movie alone it’s very unlikely that I can watch the whole thing straight through. So this movie was watched in bits and pieces, which probably hindered my enjoyment of it. It was an alright film for me, nothing great but nothing terrible either. A bit of a vanilla movie.
The Purge, however, was anything but. I had really low expectations for it, but I ended up loving it. I loved the concept, the idea was super fascinating and I love what they did with it. They didn’t just take that and run with it, they built it around a great bit of social commentary – certainly nothing unheard of, but it was done really well. I highly enjoyed this one, too, and I can’t wait to watch the sequel.
After that, we watched The Voices, which wasn’t quite a horror, and was actually, in big parts, a comedy. A combo that worked wonderfully. This was such a quirky film, so strange and peculiar and adorable. Kind of. There were some moments of pure gold in this. It isn’t, overall, the greatest movie ever made, but there is so much greatness in it. It’s hard to explain, but I’d suggest you watch it yourselves.
Then I returned to Mr. Shyamalan with Devil, a movie I’d watched parts of before, but never the whole thing. I was totally engrossed. I recognized so many cheap tricks in this film, and so many eye-rolling bits, but I was still 100% engaged. I was a little disappointed with the ending, it kind of cheapened the whole experience for me, but I still had fun with it.
And finally, last night I watched Nightmare on Elm Street with my parents. This was the 2010 remake, so I still want to watch the original (with Johnny Depp because Johnny Depp), but this wasn’t just a massive disappointment, it was a massive snooze fest. Most boring movie award. I actually annoying my parents by constantly cracking “jokes” because I was bored to death (haha, get it). Nothing about it worked for me, the acting was terrible, the writing was terrible, it wasn’t fun or scary – the only nod it gets from me is for a few of the special effects which I thought looked cool.
Are horror movies going downhill or is it me? Does anyone know of any unusual type of horror movies that bring something different to the table?
I’m a little bit Instagram-obsessed.
This summer has been strange, and filled with not-so-great things, but this post is all about the good things. You know, like:
Drinking with friends.
And cool people who make my day.
Morning runs that let me enjoy gorgeous sunrises like this.
Getting to hang out with the adorable and silly kitties.
And, of course, hanging out with lovely, amazing, beautiful humans:
I hope your summers are going superbly, and that you’re all finding joy in the small things.