May in books

This page saw no updates in May, but that doesn’t mean nothing happened!
On May 3rd I sat my American politics exam, and on May 4th I started a new job! It’s a full time position as a librarian, working both at the library in town and at a youth club at the House of Literature. The job is filled to the brim with creativity, with challenges, with colleagues and with care. I’ve had a month of getting settled and finding my feet with it now, and I honestly feel so lucky to call this my job: working alongside great colleagues to create a safe and fun environment for kids and young people, centered around literature, creativity and giving them space to express themselves by the words they write and the things they create. I’m looking forward to all the things I’m yet to learn and all the challenges still to master, but the first impression I’ve had of this job is marvellous. Can’t wait to see what happens next!

In May, I got through:

The Dictionary of Lost Words – Pip Williams

In 1901, the word ‘Bondmaid’ was discovered missing from the Oxford English Dictionary. This is the story of the girl who stole it. Esme is born into a world of words. Motherless and irrepressibly curious, she spends her childhood in the ‘Scriptorium’, a garden shed in Oxford where her father and a team of dedicated lexicographers are collecting words for the very first Oxford English Dictionary. Esme’s place is beneath the sorting table, unseen and unheard. One day a slip of paper containing the word ‘bondmaid’ flutters to the floor.”

This book is a beauty, looking at the meaning we assign to words and the dangers of assuming some words more important than others simply because they are written down more. The book lets you witness Esme’s life through the words she seeks out like a detective on a mission – words deemed unworthy because they’re spoken by women with brightly coloured shawls in the market place and not by dusty scholars with brown leather shoes. Cathy, a very good friend from England, read and loved this book, and was kind enough to send her beautiful copy my way, and so one day this popped down in my mail box as a complete surprise! Would definitely reccomend this to anyone interested in words, their sound and their power.

How to get Filthy Rich in Rising AsiaMohsin Hamid

The astonishing and riveting tale of a man’s journey from impoverished rural boy to corporate tycoon, it steals its shape from the business self-help books devoured by ambitious youths all over “rising Asia.” It follows its nameless hero to the sprawling metropolis where he begins to amass an empire built on that most fluid, and increasingly scarce, of goods: water. Yet his heart remains set on something else, on the pretty girl whose star rises along with his, their paths crossing and recrossing, a lifelong affair sparked and snuffed and sparked again by the forces that careen their fates along.

How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a striking slice of contemporary life at a time of crushing upheaval. Romantic without being sentimental, political without being didactic, and spiritual without being religious, it brings an unflinching gaze to the violence and hopes it depicts. And it creates two unforgettable characters who find moments of transcendent intimacy in the midst of shattering change.”

Finished this book in two days and absolutely loved it. The second person pov doesn’t feel forced at all, the language is so vibrant and alive and the story, though quiet at times, is such a beautiful and graceful study of characters, of life and what hope and success might come to mean at different points in life and for different people from different walks of life. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have picked this book up on my own, but I got it sent through the Life’s Library book club, and am so glad I was given that gentle push to read it!

Please Come Off-Book – Kevin Kantor

“Please Come Off-Book queers the theatrical canon we all grew up with. Kantor critiques the treatment of queer figures and imagines a braver and bolder future that allows queer voices the agency over their own stories.

Drawing upon elements of the Aristotelian dramatic structure and the Hero’s Journey, Please Come Off-Book is both a love letter to and a scathing critique of American culture and the lenses we choose to see ourselves through.”

I’ve been following Kevin Kantor’s poetry online since about 2015, and along with Sarah Kay and Phil Kaye, Kantor’s spoken word performances was one of the things that really made me fall in love with poetry. It was strange reading their words “cold” on a page, not actually hearing the musicality of Kantor’s voice, but this collection is a beautiful one – chilling and heartbreaking and musical to boot. Really liked this one.

The Magician’s Land Lev Grossman

Quentin Coldwater has lost everything. He has been cast out of Fillory, the secret magical land of his childhood dreams that he once ruled. Everything he had fought so hard for, not to mention his closest friends, is sealed away in a land Quentin may never again visit. With nothing left to lose he returns to where his story began, the Brakebills Preparatory College of Magic. But he can’t hide from his past, and it’s not long before it comes looking for him. Meanwhile, the magical barriers that keep Fillory safe are failing, and barbarians from the north have invaded. Eliot and Janet, the rulers of Fillory, embark on a final quest to save their beloved world, only to discover a situation far more complex—and far more dire—than anyone had envisioned.

Along with Plum, a brilliant young magician with a dark secret of her own, Quentin sets out on a crooked path through a magical demimonde of gray magic and desperate characters. His new life takes him back to old haunts, like Antarctica and the Neitherlands, and old friends he thought were lost forever. He uncovers buried secrets and hidden evils and ultimately the key to a sorcerous masterwork, a spell that could create a magical utopia. But all roads lead back to Fillory, where Quentin must face his fears and put things right or die trying.

This book surprised me a lot! As earlier mentioned, I really like the SyFy show based on Grossman’s Magicians books, but I didn’t really like the first and second book in the series. There was something about how the characters were written, the pessimistic negativity and self-centeredness that surrounded them. I am all for a flawed and unlikeable hero, but sometimes it all just gets a bit much. However, the third book takes place a bit after the first two, and I liked this a lot better! It honestly felt like the characters had grown up a bit, and following them on their journey was a lot more fun and interesting this time around.

The Future – Neil Hilborn

Neil Hilborn’s highly anticipated second collection of poems, The Future, invites readers to find comfort in hard nights and better days. Filled with nostalgia, love, heartbreak, and the author’s signature wry examinations of mental health, this book helps explain what lives inside us, what we struggle to define. Written on the road over two years of touring, The Future is rugged, genuine, and relatable. Grabbing attention like gravity, Hilborn reminds readers that no matter how far away we get, we eventually all drift back together. These poems are fireworks for the numb. In the author’s own words, The Future is a blue sky and a full tank of gas, and in it, we are alive.”

The blurb says it all – hopeful comfort and hard-hitting sarcasm side by side. I took my time tasting every single poem in this collection, and both individually and as a whole, they were their own little constellations. Really enjoyed it.

I’ll Fly Away – Rudy Francisco

In his stunningly intimate, highly anticipated follow up to Helium, Rudy Fransisco has created a collection of poems that savor the day-to-day. Treating it as worship, turning it into an opportunity to plant new seeds of growth. Language so often fails us, but Fransico has found his way around this as he creates his own words for the things our language cannot give name to. “Felenter (Noun) Definition: Someone who finds joy in things that people believe to be mundane.” I’ll Fly Away Uses fascinating metaphors to convey common emotional states. These poems are an act of remembrance, and an act of believing that you dear reader, are a celebration waiting for the lights to come up.”

I love poetry that focuses on the beauty of day-to-day life, and this collection definitely did just that. Once again, the blurb says it all. Creating new words where the English language just won’t do is such a poetic solution to a poetic, emotive problem, and such a testament to the notion that language is a living, breathing being, constantly changing and growing to fit the needs of the communities were it’s spoken. The definitions he’s written down for all the new words are also beautifully phrased, and this is definitely worth a read.

Gosh, this became a ramble and a half! If you made it to the end I thank you and salute you. I hope June treats you well, and that you get clear skies above your head and green grass under your feet.

-Andrea

April in books

April came and went on the wind, and now we’re heading into May. Gosh, am I excited!

April saw spring rain and both warmer weather and chillier winds. April saw a new niece born, an older brother settling into a new role, a semester of courses done and dusted (only exams left), shaky job interview becoming a full time position, a lot of tea drank and a lot of phone calls and emails. I’m starting up in said new position on May 4th – and I’m so excited to get started with this new line of work! It’s all about literature, creative workshops and working with people. I’m so ready to get started and into it!

This month hasn’t lent itself all too well to reading, but the two reads (plus one re-read) I got through were all kinds of wonderful and definitely deserving of their own post.

Set Me on Fire, a poem for every feeling – Ella Risbridger

Ingen beskrivelse er tilgjengelig.

Broad in scope, generous in spirit and wittily accompanied by Risbridger’s commentary. Set Me On Fire is an anthology for a new moment in poetry: a collection of fresh, vibrant voices from poets all over the globe, both living and dead. With an intuitive, accessible, feelings-first format, these are poems for the moments when you really need to know that someone else has been there too.

Okay, I won’t yell anymore about this anthology, although it’s an absolutely beautiful collection. I did however, do a bit of an overexcited shout in this post, if you want to read why I loved it so much and what I feel this collection is doing for poetry readers old and new, in general. Tldr; wonderful book – please give it a chance.

The Duchess War – Courtney Milan

“Miss Minerva Lane is a quiet, bespectacled wallflower, and she wants to keep it that way. After all, the last time she was the center of attention, it ended badly–so badly that she changed her name to escape her scandalous past. Wallflowers may not be the prettiest of blooms, but at least they don’t get trampled. So when a handsome duke comes to town, the last thing she wants is his attention.

But that is precisely what she gets.

Because Robert Blaisdell, the Duke of Clermont, is not fooled. When Minnie figures out what he’s up to, he realizes there is more to her than her spectacles and her quiet ways. And he’s determined to lay her every secret bare before she can discover his. But this time, one shy miss may prove to be more than his match…”

Two of my friends in Winchester sung the book series The Brothers Sinister’s praises, but I never picked any of them up before now. So glad I did, though – this is such an enjoyable read! Witty dialogue, clever characters, rich description, harrowing backstories and regency era romance.
This has been my first proper foray into historical romance and I am here to stay!

Our Numbered Days – Neil Hilborn

Ingen beskrivelse er tilgjengelig.

“‘When you’re dumb enough for long enough, you’re gonna meet someone too smart to love you, and they’re gonna love you anyway, and it’s gonna go so poorly,’ Neil Hilborn writes in his debut full-length collection, OUR NUMBERED DAYS. In 2013, Hilborn’s poem “OCD” went viral, and has amassed over 11 million views to date. While this collection ruminates on love, heartbreak, and mental illness, these poems are anything but saccharine. Hilborn uses the same humor and self-deprecation that propelled “OCD” to success in order to make his unmatched vulnerability all the more powerful. Ultimately, Hilborn is a poet of the people: his work is accessible, honest, and entertaining–a revitalizing entry in contemporary poetry.”

The blurb on this book is really more of a review (as often is for poetry books), but I wanted to keep it as it just depicts the feeling of the collection so well. I first read this in 2016 and have reread it multiple times – sometimes looking up specific poems for specific moments and sometimes devouring it as a whole, seeing what new connections lay bare to be discovered, reading new stories between the lines, finding new favourites. This reread was a read of the whole collection and a definite reminder to why I keep coming back to it.

One of my favourite quotes in the book, the line I always have to stop and take an extra breath at, is this one from “This is Not the End of the World”:
“whatever you are feeling right now, there is a mathematical certainty that someone is feeling that exact thing. This is not to say you aren’t special. This is to say thank god you aren’t special.” I had this taped to the corner of my mirror in my uni flat, and it’s a sentence I keep coming back to. It’s also definitely a line that matches the feeling of the rest of the collection really well.

A month in books and a month in seconds. It’s been a good one.

-Andrea

February and march in books

And just like that both February and March has packed their suitcases, too.

The last days of February saw days of wonderful spring up here in Norway, and it was so tempting to just pack up and away all of winter’s coats and scarves and declare it spring time immediately. Then the first days of March brought cold winds again, however, and the rest of the month has served more gray days. Oh well, at least it’s getting lighter in the evenings!

Here are the reads I got through in February and March – hang tight, it’s a varied but lovely bunch and a bit of a long ride (press the read more tab to access the full list of books)!

Their Eyes Were Watching God – Zora Neale Hurston

“Zora Neale Hurston’s beloved 1937 classic is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. It is told in the captivating voice of the fiercely independent and stunning Janie Crawford, who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear or foolish romantic dreams. As she endures three marraiges and a life marked by trials and tribulations, she evolves into an unforgettable heroine. A true literary wonder, Hurston’s masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published.”

Read More

January in books

January has come and gone, with new national lockdowns, cups of tea and a really lovely amount of snow and frosty mornings. These past few years I’ve really enjoyed using this blog as a way to track the months passing, and this year I’ll attempt to do so in books read and (hopefully) enjoyed. Maybe it can be a source of “hm, that looks like an interesting read,” or “oh gosh, nope, never picking that one up,” for someone?

The Starless Sea – Erin Morgenstern

Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.

Beautiful novel, beautiful language – just the right blend of poetic twists and turns and well-written prose. The seemingly (but definitely not) random fairytale stories linking the chapters together piece by piece, creates a really interesting ambience for the entire book, and the feeling when the different plots and storylines start weaving together is delightful. The huge character gallery sometimes makes the story a bit difficult to follow, and it’s a bit of a slow starter, but all in all, definitely worth both a read and a re-read.

Equal Rites – Terry Pratchett

“On Discworld, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late. The town witch insists on turning the baby into a perfectly normal witch, thus mending the magical damage of the wizard’s mistake. But now the young girl will be forced to penetrate the inner sanctum of the Unseen University- and attempt to save the world with one well-placed kick in some enchanted shins!”

I always find Terry Pratchett’s books to be all about the journey and very little about the destination. I love how he dances and plays with lanuguage, and his characters are a lot of fun, but at the end of a Pratchett book I often find myself wishing for the resolutions to be done a bit more center-stage and get a bit more focus. Equal rites was a very interesting and good read, with love-to-be-annoyed-at-characters, gender discussions and politics, and that wit and heart that Pratchett’s books are always properly infused with. 10/10 would read again.

The Magicians – Lev Grossman

“Quentin Coldwater’s life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton University, he finds his interviewer dead – but a strange envelope bearing Quentin’s name leads him down a very different path. Instead of Princeton, he finds himself invited to study at Brakebills – a secret college of modern-day sorcerers.

Quentin plunges deep into a secret world of obsession and privilege, a world of freedom and power; and for a while, it seems to answer all Quentin’s desires. But the idyll cannot last. There are others powers than sorcery, powers that are as seductive as they are dangerous – and when the illusion of safety shatters, Quentin is drawn into a world far darker than he ever imagined. After all, power corrupts. No exceptions.”

When it comes to books and stories I really enjoy, I’ve got to admit I can grow a bit hyperfocused. Stories with heart and characters that really draw you in, a storyline that keeps you on your toes and that little extra nerve I’m still trying to identify what actually is (after years of recognising this habit but not being entirely sure what causes it) has me falling completely in love. The SYFY-show The Magicians (season 1-4, at least, I’m trying to forget about season 5) is one of those stories. The book didn’t do it for me as the show did, though – the characters felt a lot more negative and destructive, the casual charm I fell in love with in the series was just not there in the book, and I felt like the story didn’t feel as cohesive. It feels like the story Grossman was constructing while writing this book, definitely needs a longer format (like for example a TV series), where you get more time and chance to really explore both the characters and the main and minor themes. Thumbs up to the show, but not sure I’ll be rereading the book anytime soon.

Also, in true blog fashion, at the end of the month, here’re my seconds of January, a quaint month of working at the library, getting into studying part time, breathing in snowy air and reading in front of the fire place.

-Andrea

As we’re leaving 2020 behind…

What a year it’s been. The good, the bad and the unexpected.
Looking back on these almost 8 minutes of rather shaky every day footage left of 2020, has taken on a bit more meaning this year. In a year where a lot of the days have blended into one, where home office and not seeing people has made weeks pass without us really noticing they’ve even arrived, looking back on this feels like an exclamation of “this year has come and passed, in minutes and in seconds and in days, and I swear I was a part of it”. Every cup of tea, every little walk – I was there for it all, even if it doesn’t always feel like it.

It’s definitely been a year for contemplation, of decision making and for change. November and December has been a time of looking at what I’ve managed to accomplish this far and what I want to still go on to do, and I’ve realised I need to make some changes. These months have been months of frustration, of worry and of celebrating every little victory I could find, just like it’s been for everyone else.

Rambles done and dusted, here’re the seconds recorded from the 1st of September to the 31st of December this year. I want to post the entire 2020 video on its own in a minute, but it also feels like the last four months of 2020 deserve their own post. They’ve truly done their best with the days they had, no arguing there.

-Andrea

Dear autumn

Written September 1st 2020

Most years I hold onto summer like it’s the railing of a bridge I’m not entirely sure whether to trust or not – fingers clenched around long summer evenings, oceans to swim in and the sun never really setting.

Now it’s September 1st and the fog is rolling in over the hills and the fields of my little hometown. This year something is different. This year, I can’t wait for long dark evenings enveloping us, blankets on the sofa and thicker jumpers in the office. I can’t wait for mugs of tea and warm woolen mittens, for lighting candles and having to turn the lights on in every room I enter. Maybe life’ll slow down a bit around autumn time this year, and I’m excited about that too. Spring brings life and summer brings energy – maybe this autumn can bring a sense of calm. I’m excited for books and for blankets, for sitting inside while September paints the sky with the sun rising and setting.

Yeah, I’m ready for autumn to roll around, but before that I’ll have a think about the months that have passed. May to August of 2020 have been months of moving flats twice, moving away from some very good friends, wonderful summer weekends, boat trips, cutting most of my hair off, starting an internship and seeing that internship turn into a permanent position. They’ve been months of not cooking as much as I’d like, of scouring town for a picture frame with three slots, and of nephew cuddles galore. They’ve been months of corona testing and quarantining and chewing your bottom lip wondering what the future holds. They’ve also surprisingly enough been months of woolen scarves and thunderstorms in July, but hey ho – this year’s a strange one anyway, so who’s to be surprised about having to don a bikini one day and a knitted scarf the next.

We’ve made it through the first half of 2020 – let’s get on with the next one!

-Andrea

Spring showers and seconds saved

This morning finds me with a cup of tea and the fourth Witcher book wide open, the window cracked and the sun streaming in. Last night I handed in the last assignment I’ll ever do at uni, my BA thesis has been safely handed in too, and there is nothing else left to do with five years of university. This might be as close to a perfect morning as I can imagine. A perfect spring day.

No one anticipated how this year was going to go, and not in our wildest imaginations would any of us guess that this would be how we’d spend our spring: quarantines and travel bans and social distancing. Working on exams and hand-ins and the thesis has been a godsend in keeping my routine quite close to normal, and for that I’m grateful.

This situation has brought a strange end to my time in Kristiansand, though, and I’m trying to come to terms with it. This city, which has been synonymous with lovely people, social gatherings, study groups and wine nights with people who’ve become my closest friends, now seems rather cold and lonely. Luckily I’ve made friends with the next-next-door neighbor, and we wave and chat across our balconies, both in our own little spheres. Cross-balcony tea parties have become our specialty, and they’re definitely something that’s gonna stand out as the marker of 2020. So, what did you do in April ’20? I finally got into rooibos tea, and drank copious amounts of it while chatting to my new German friend who got virus-stuck in Norway, while both chillin’ out in our respective flats. 

I wonder how many times people have said “I’ll never take a hug for granted again”, from their little self-isolated bubbles, but I’ll join the choir. I hope we don’t forget this time too easily when “normality” comes knocking on our doors; I hope I never take socialising for granted again. Not that every single night out needs to be filled with mindfullness and extreme gratitude, but maybe there’ll be time for a little thought sent to just how lucky I am to have kind people around me. Maybe I’ll just have an extra little think when I’m sat next to someone I care about, with their arm around me as the waves crash against a shore we’ve dragged the boat up on. Maybe I’ll be a bit more grateful for the loud music escaping speakers on a massive stage, and enjoy the feeling of a really good summer concert outside, on one of those nights where the mosquitos forget to bite and the breeze is warm and calm and the sun never really sets. Maybe that will be the time to send a small thought to when we weren’t allowed to gather more than five people in total, to when hugs were out of the question and bright spring nights were intended spent indoors. 

However, this time has made me reconnect properly with friends who have moved away, friends in other corners of the world and different countries, and I really appreciate that. Having to suddenly do all socialising online really bridges the gap of “moved to a different country”.

I’m still filming a second a day, and those seconds are strange to watch back when times are so quickly a-changing. I’ve decided to split 2020 into 3 videos, “January to April”, “May to August” and “September to December”. I did intend to post this earlier than now in mid-May, but oh well..
This year has already proven that it can take us for a ride, that it can twist and turn and properly surprise us, and I’m both anxious and excited to see what else this year has in store for all of us.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day!

-Andrea

Once upon a December

I know we’re twelve days into January at this point, but I’m not not posting the last monthly update of the year, when I actually managed to stick to this project for twelve months!

This December was a strange, chaotic and emotional month. It was the month of last semester’s batch of exams, the month of getting in a few more weeks of work at the library, and the month of driving home for Christmas, which is, and will forever be, my favourite thing in the entire world.

This December has held Christmas concerts, learning how to bake krumkaker, time spent (and cherished) with wonderful friends and with my family. It has been Christmas concerts and study sessions and getting through my “law module exam” in one piece. It has been a month of dinner parties and coffees with friends old and new; a month to look back on with fondness.

This was also Oliver’s, my nephew, very first Christmas, and so it holds a special place in my heart.

So, though a bit late, here’s my one second every day from the month of December 2019!

Aaaand as we’re already wrapping up December, it only feels right to pop the complete 1 second a day-2019 film here. So here goes; the 6 minutes and 16 seconds that make up 2019. What a year!

Have a wonderful day!
-Andrea

November Tale

We’re so close to Christmas, it’s practically here!

This is the second to last of these posts I’ll be making this year and how has it almost been a year since I started this project? Now, eleven months into it, I’m really appreciating these snippets of everyday. I’m so excited to, come January, mash all the months together and see the colours of the months, the change of the seasons, and what may practically be the essence of 2019.

But first, let’s contemplate November and what that brought with it!

  • I gave NaNoWriMo my best shot, and though I didn’t get to 50 000 words I’m really proud of how far I got!
  • Work work and a bit more work
  • Walks in the forest behind the student village
  • Tons of exam reading
  • A lot of meetings and student politics-work
  • My parents visiting, and a lovely concert with my mum!
  • A Christmas market
  • A very messy student flat as both my flatmate and I are mid-exams
  • The first snow of the winter!
  • Many an early morning
  • The first two exams of the semester (two down, two more to go)
  • A wonderful early Christmas dinner with Trine and her family
  • So many cups of tea

I hope you have a wonderful day!
-Andrea