We’re almost through February, and I’m sat pondering this year; the months that have been and the months that are to come.
I love traditions, rituals, small things I can implement into my life to create patterns and familiarity. Sometimes a pinch of gung-ho spontaneity is needed, but I really appreciate small things that celebrate and mark the every day. Christmas (which, once again, I’m aware was a while ago) is one of those times a year that is seeped in tradition; most things done from late November to the 28th of December are done because “it’s Christmas, and that’s how we Christmas.” And I’m so here for it.
However, I’ve never really had any traditions or rituals around New Years, and wishing the new year welcome. I love the celebrations with friends and family, the fireworks and the not-champagne-bubbles swirling in champagne glasses, but I haven’t found a tradition that I’ve either started for myself, or that’s really resonated with me before.
This year I celebrated New Years in Swanage with Harvey and his family, and his mum introduced me to the New Years Mood board, and let me tell you; this is my new New Years Tradition with a capital T.
It’s a really simple idea: get a big piece of paper (I found A3 to be the perfect size, big enough to fit what you want on it, but not so big that it feels overwhelming to fill the empty space), get some of your favourite magazines and spend some time browsing, flicking through the pages. Look for images, colours, patterns and quotes that resonate with you and how you want the next year to be. I found this process a lot more interesting than sitting down and deciding on New Years resolutions, because it felt like getting a different view on things, a different perspective, some new input. I cut out images and texts I liked, put it all together just because I liked it, and then discovered what it “meant” as the process went on.
The process in itself was also nice. It was sitting down, quietly, for a couple of hours, listening to music and just being alone with my own thoughts. Saying thankyou and goodbye to the year as it quietly snuck out the door, and welcoming the new one, the one that burst in through the window.
And now we’re here. This little piece is now framed in a very simple, narrow, black frame and resting on my dresser; the perfect place for it to blend into the interior, but also for it to be somewhere where I can throw a quick glance at it in the morning on my way out the door, giving a little thought to “how can I make this moodboard happen today? What have I done to implement these elements into my life?”
My 2020 moodboard isn’t mysterious and filled with hidden riddles and symbols. It is the moodboard of someone who wants to feel a bit more comfortable in their own skin, who is on the brink of finishing her education and dreams of a job and a flat where I’ll actually be able to put things on the walls (hence the image of the mugs hanging on the wall), a place I’ll stay for more than the typical student year. This year I’ll hopefully be able to start crafting a life for myself, a life built on those strange BAs I’ve acquired, on my interests and on my skills and abilities. If I squint my eyes, I can kinda see the moodboard reflecting that. It is also the moodboard of someone who wants to learn to prioritize her own wellbeing while still staying active and engaged with the local community, politics, work and volunteering. It is the moodboard of someone who wants to get better at creating small moments of peace in her everyday; moments of books and mugs of tea and knitted blankets bunched up under my chin. My moodboard is my reminder to myself that there is so much I want to do, but all of it doesn’t have to happen right now. It’s also a reminder that unknown, but wonderful, things are yet to come. Things I’ll be excited about, but that I don’t even know about yet. I want 2020 to be a softer year; a year where I’m a bit more kind to myself and where I try to worry a bit less.
I am excited to get back to this moodboard in December of 2020, and to give it another proper think at the end of the year. I am curious to see whether I’ll be able to look back and see specific moments where this little piece of paper has impacted my life. That’s not really the case yet for this last month and a half, but who knows. Maybe soon.
It will come as a surprise to no one that I didn’t end up reading most of the books on my summer reading list. The library job and my short attention span got in the way; the library because I just kept finding new books I was more excited to read than the one’s I’d decided I’d read, and the attention span for making me start multiple books at the same time. However, I did end up reading a lot of interesting books, and I figured I’d gather them all in a post to see how this summer turned out, reading-wise!
Grab a cup of tea and get cosy, this is gonna be a long’un!
Heaven by Cristoph Marzi
This book got me hooked like a good YA book is supposed to do, but it also completely lost me at the end. I loved the creative and innovative story, and the characters’ voices were really well written. It is also set on the rooftops of London (“ooo, what a sight”) and in and around the city, and the writer clearly knows the city well, as it was easy to follow the plot around. The end felt really rushed, however, and had the main character leave a really bad taste in my mouth. It was the kind of ending I can imagine 13 year old me would find super romantic and heroic, but now I just found it problematic and unnecessary. There was a lot of angry, gendered language, and a lot of yelling of the variety of teenage boy being rude, brash and threatening to an adult woman for not letting him into a skyscraper in Canary Wharf in the middle of the night. The ending didn’t fit the rest of the story, which was frustrating, because the rest of the book was one of the better stories I’ve read in a very long time. Plus, the idea of a secret “underground”(overground?) network above London city is such a great start for a story about a girl with a stolen heart.
Blurb: The night that Heaven lost her heart was cold and moonless. But the blade that sliced it out was warm with her dark blood…
David Pettyfer is taking a shortcut over the dark rooftops of London’s brooding houses, when he literally stumbles across Heaven: a strange, beautiful, distraught girl who says that bad men have stolen her heart. Yet she’s still alive… And so begins David and Heaven’s wild, exciting and mysterious adventure—to find Heaven’s heart, and to discover the incredible truth about her origins.
GoodOmens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
I really really liked this book! It came into my life in 2016, as the phrase “an angle who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards” really got me intrigued. Life happened, however, and it took watching the 2019 tv series to pick it back up and woosh through it. There are some quiet stretches in the middle which felt a little bit redundant, but all in all, I adore this book and the characters and ideas portrayed in it. Definitely a good contender for the next reread. Also, the blurb is its own work of art.
Blurb: According to The Nice and Accurate Prophecies of Anges Nutter, Witch (the world’s only completely accurate book of prophecies, written in 1655, before she exploded), the world will end on a Saturday. Next Saturday, in fact. Just before dinner. So the armies of Good and Evil are amassing, Atlantis is rising, frogs are falling, tempers are flaring. Everything appears to be going according to Divine Plan. Except a somewhat fussy angel and a fast-living demon – both of whom have lived amongst Earth’s mortals since the Beginning and have grown rather fond of the lifestyle – are not actually looking forward to the coming Rapture. And someone seems to have misplaced the Antichrist.
Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman
I’m not sure what I feel about this book. I really loved the blurb (“Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire“), but I’m not sure the stories managed to deliver what was promised. I quite liked the poems, like “Fairy Reel” and “Locks, and loved some of the stories, like “October in the Chair” and “Harlequin Valentine”, but the book completely lost me on stories like “How to Talk to Girls at Parties” and the ones that were based on the American Gods book. It took me a while to finish, as I wanted to read all of the book, but the stories I couldn’t get into slowed in down a lot. As a short story collection it felt a bit thrown together, and it was a bit difficult to follow the connection between the stories, but I do love Neil Gaiman’s writing and voice, and the parts I liked I really, really liked. If you’re picking it up, maybe give each story a go, but skip the ones you can’t get into, so you’ve got more time for the good ones!
Blurb: Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire. Or after-hours drinking and unanswered phones, of good deeds and bad days, of trusting wolves and how to talk to girls at parties.
There are stories within stories, whispered in the quiet of the night, shouted above the roar of the day, and played out between lovers and enemies, strangers and friends. But all, all are fragile things made of just 26 letters arranged and rearranged to form tales and imaginings which will dazzle your senses, haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul.
The Reprieve – Jean-Pierre Gibrat
I got this book at the library but can’t find the blurb anywhere online, and for once I didn’t get a picture of the back. In the Norwegian version it says that this is the prequel to Gibrat’s Flight of the Raven, but there doesn’t seem to exist an English translation of this originally French graphic novel anywhere? Well, here goes the plot, from memory:
The story is set in France during the WWII occupation, and we’re following the novel’s main character Julien. Julien is in the army, but jumped off a train to escape the war. Just after, the train he was on crashes, leaving very few survivors. A dead body is found in the wreckage with Julien’s wallet and papers on him, and so Julien is officially declared dead. He runs away back home and hides in the loft of an abandoned school, with the intentions of staying in hiding until the war is over. However, Julian grows impatient and bored, not satisfied with watching the village life from afar through an old telescope.
The colours and the illustrations in this graphic novel shows the days of war as both something terrifying and very concrete, but also as a haze, a sort of dance where people just had to keep living their lives and ignore the situation. As we see Julien watch his loved ones, his old friends, and even his own funeral from afar, we’re transported into a little french village of the 40s, with its quirks and its habits, its fashions, its politics and its aesthetics. The book got a little bit too long for what I felt the plot could fill, but still a great reading experience.
Flight of the Raven by Jean-Pierre Gibrat
A sequel to The Reprieve, this graphic novel can also be read on its own. I wanted to like this more than I did, especially since I really liked the first book in the series. However, I felt like it didn’t deliver the strong female lead both the blurb and the cover promised you, and the feeling of “the places between shadows” (which I was very intrigued by) was also never really explored. The plot twist at the end also felt a bit hollow, as you as a reader wasn’t really given enough time to properly start caring about the characters. The relationship in the story starts of as snarky and sarcastic, and as a reader you’re not really sure when the romance starts to blossom as it suddenly just seems to be there. However, it is filled with absolutely stunning art work and beautiful depictions of late 40s France, with its people, its rivers and its streets.
Blurb: The story takes place in Paris during the German Occupation and stars a memorable heroine in the French Resistance, named Jeanne. With the help of an apolitical cat burglar named Francois she tries to save her comrades, including her missing sister Cécile, from the Gestapo. They walk in the places between shadows, as Gibrat uses the evocative Paris rooftops and river barges on the Seine almost as separate characters.
Finna kyrkjedøra i meg (To find the church door in me) by Per Helge Genberg
I really wanted to like this book, but turns out it wasn’t for me. It’s written almost like prose poetry – a story about a young queer boy growing up on a farm. It portrays his love for the animals on the farm, and coming to terms with his sexuality in a small and traditional place. It’s an explosion huge ideas condensed into punching, short lines, and it is written in nynorsk, which is another standard of Norwegian written language than the one I use. I love reading books in nynorsk, so that’s not what got me about this book, but I could not wrap my head around the ideas, I couldn’t catch a hold of the plot. All of the ideas felt so specific, but written in such a poetic way that I had no idea what I was reading, and it felt a bit like the writer was speaking a language in which I knew the words, but none of the implied meaning of any of the concepts. However, I’m so glad books like this one are being published though, as I’m sure it is the perfect read for someone else.
Blurb: (translated) The thirteen year old boy sees a grown man naked on a warm day. It awakens an excitement strong enough to tell that something’s not entirely straight about his affections. What will happen to the farm now, the duties to his heritage which have been planted so firmly in him, and what about his inherited love for the animals? Everything may end with him. Finne kyrkjedøra i meg is a gripping and tender story about growing up in rural Norway at a time when being gay brought more shame with it than it does today. It is about being without friends, and about social damage. It is about being who you are, where you are, and about finding and being allowed to live with the love of your life. It is a story covered in the love a farmer feels for his farm, his land and his animals, a love as strong as there are days in a year.
Wilder girls by Rory Power
This book is a ride! The cover is beautiful, and I must admit, the reason why I picked it up. There are few flowers within the pages though; it is a very violent and gritty story, with a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas about illness, dysfunction, grief, pain and survival. I loved how unlikeable the characters were, it was interesting to read a completely female-lead story that was on one side exploring the characters and who they were growing up to be, but on the other hand having those same characters battle life threatening dangers, all on the same page. I also loved how unapologetically angry the characters were allowed to be, and how naturally characters who were part of the LGBTQ community were written. The ending rubbed me the wrong way, though, it felt super rushed and like there are a couple more chapters hidden away on Power’s computer that really should have been included. I do quite like books where the ending makes you question literally everything you’ve just read, but this book didn’t feel finished when the last page was turned; a very frustrating feeling. It was also occasionally a bit challenging to keep track of all the characters, as some of the names are quite similar, but this was a very small issue all in all.
Blurb: It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything. But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true
The Salt Path by Raynor Winn
Harvey’s mum, Tara, read this book while we were in France, and told me I had to read it. It’s always a little bit scary to read books other people tell you they’ve loved, cause you kind of feel like now you have to love them too, but I wanted to give it a go. I mean, you’re not sat in a wicker chair in an idyllic French garden overlooking a field full of horses NOT to read books with beautiful sentences like: “I put my hand on his hair. I’d stroked that hair when it was long and blond and full of sea salt, heather and youth; brown and shorter, full of building plaster and the kids’ play dough; and now silver, thinner, full of the dust if our life.” I loved the beginning and I loved the ending of this book. The middle got a bit too long for me, and there were a couple of chapters I’d definitely cut if given the chance. But all in all, a very calm and quiet read, which made me want to underline a bunch of sentences because the language was very poetic.
Blurb: Just days after Raynor learns that Moth, her husband of 32 years, is terminally ill, their home and livelihood is taken away. With nothing left and little time, they make the brave and impulsive decision to walk the 630 miles of the sea-swept South West Coast Path, from Somerset to Dorset, via Devon and Cornwall.
They have almost no money for food or shelter and must carry only the essentials for survival on their backs as they live wild in the ancient, weathered landscape of cliffs, sea and sky. Yet through every step, every encounter, and every test along the way, their walk becomes a remarkable journey.
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
I finally read Will Grayson, Will Grayson! 2013 saw both my David Levithan and John green book obsession, but I never read this little gem. I remember my sister reading it and loving it, but I just never got to it. However, the campsite in France found me book-less, and so Harvey’s uncle very kindly lent me this one. I’m so glad I’ve finally read it now – I loved the journey that both writers took the reader on, from not really liking any of the Wills, to falling deeply in love with the characters, their thoughts and the changes they went through. I loved how explicitly they talked about how love and romance can’t fix mental health issues, and how friendly and familial love wasn’t looked down upon as less than romantic love. Lowercase will grayson’s mum was also a character I came to really appreciate, as a mum who’s been doing her absolute best with her own ups and downs. Also, how can you not love a book that reminds you that “you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you cannot, under any circumstance, pick your friend’s nose.”
Blurb: Will Grayson meets Will Grayson. One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers are about to cross paths. From that moment on, their world will collide and lives intertwine.
It’s not that far from Evanston to Naperville, but Chicago suburbanites Will Grayson and will grayson might as well live on different planets. When fate delivers them both to the same surprising crossroads, the Will Graysons find their lives overlapping and hurtling in new and unexpected directions. With a push from friends new and old – including the massive, and massively fabulous, Tiny Cooper, offensive lineman and musical theater auteur extraordinaire – Will and Will begin building toward respective romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most awesome high school musical.
Long post done, thanks for sticking with me! Of course, as we’re at the end of September, summer’s been over for quite a while, but I hope you had some lovely reading experiences this summer past, and that autumn and winter will bring you many more evenings of snuggled up reading.
This is our time to shine, fellow blanket loving, hot chocolate craving book enthusiasts.
I’m building a home on Tuesday’s laundry and broken light bulbs.
I’ve spent so long balancing on top of the return to sender-confidence that I toppled over and hit my head, but I’ll clean the place up before you come over – I swear.
Do you want to stay the night? I can make a bed for you! Oh, just remember to beat out yesterday’s daydreams, they like to keep people awake, you see.
And if you want a cup of tea, I make an okay ginger and lemon. But please excuse me for a second; ambitions keep dusting up the bottom of my mugs.
If you do come around, I’ll welcome you with a marching band’s drumroll, to my fort of dirty dishes and expired parking tickets. Just don’t expect too much from me, when you arrive with your shirt fresh off the ironing board and your briefcase full of documents and signatures.
I’m still trying to divide my socks from my spoons from my groceries, And I’m doing my best.
July is here and summer’s officially started. I mean, it’s been summer for a while, but July is kind of the “proper” summer month, you know?
The strange thing about reading is that it’s one of my favourite things to do, but I’m just really bad at doing it. There’s always something more important to do, an exam to revise for, work to go to, social media to scroll through (this is the worst one, but I know I’m guilty of it). May saw exams and June saw work, and books haven’t really been brought center stage yet. Until now.
Work won’t stop me now because I’m back to working at the library, and let me tell you, nothing fuels your want to read like working in a library. I love to hear people chat about the books as they hand them in, or be excited about new titles they are checking out. Stacking books others have picked out of the wooden shelves exposes you to a lot of books you wouldn’t have found any other way, and I’m so here for it. Also, I got a little bit obsessed with the new Good Omens mini series, and have therefore dug out all the Neil Gaiman books left on my own shelf that I haven’t read yet for this. This is why, this summer I’ve made a provisional Summer Reading List, which will most definitely change throughout the summer. I’m excited.
But without any further ado; here we go. Bring on 2019’s Reading Summer.
The Sense of an Ending – Julian Barnes
Blurb: Tony Webster and his clique first meet Adrian Finn at school. Sex-hungry and book-hungry, they would navigate the girl-less sixth form together, trading in affectations, in-jokes, rumour and wit. Maybe Adrian was a little more serious than the others, terribly more intelligent, but they all swore to stay friends for life. Now, Tony is retired. He’s had a career and a single marriage, a calm divorce. He’s certainly never tried to hurt anybody. Memory, though, is imperfect. It can always throw up surprises, as a lawyer’s letter is about to prove.
Fragile Things – Neil Gaiman
Blurb: Let me tell you stories of the months of the year, of ghosts and heartbreak, of dread and desire. Of after-hours drinking and unanswered phones, of good deeds and bad days, of trusting wolves and how to talk to girls. There are stories within stories, whispered in the quiet of the nights, shouted above the roar of day, and played out between lovers and enemies, strangers and friends. But all, all are fragile things made just of 26 letters arranged and rearranged to form tales and imaginings which will dazzle your senses, haunt your imagination and move you to the very depths of your soul.
Smoke and Mirrors – Neil Gaiman
Blurb: In Gaiman’s richly imagined fictions, anything is possible – an elderly widow finds the Holy Grail beneath an old fur coat in a second-hand shop; under a bridge, a frightened little boy bargains for his life with a very persistent troll; a stray cat fights and refights a terrible nightly battle to protect his unsuspecting adoptive family from unimaginable evil…
The View from the Cheap Seats – Neil Gaiman
Blurb: “Literature does not occur in a vacuum. It cannot be a monologue. It has to be a conversation.” This collection will draw you in to exchanges on making good art and Syrian refugees, the power of a single word and playing the kazoo with Stephen King, writing about books, comics and the imagination of friends, being sad at the Oscars and telling lies for a living. Here Neil Gaiman opens our minds to the people he admires and the things he believe might just mean something – and welcomes the conversation too.
The Traitor Baru Cormorant – Seth Dickinson
Blurb: Tomorrow, on the beach, Baru Cormorant will look up from the sand of her home and see red sails on the horizon. The Empire of Masks is coming, armed with coin and ink, doctrine and compass, soap and lies. They will conquer Baru’s island, rewrite her culture, criminalize her customs, and dispose of one of her fathers. But Baru is patient. She’ll swallow her hate, prove her talent, and join the Masquerade. She will learn the secrets of the empire. She’ll be exactly what they need. And she’ll claw her way high enough up the rungs of power to set her people free.
The Nice and Accurate Good Omens TV Companion
Blurb: “Terry’s last request to me was to make this something he would be proud of. And so that has been my job.”
As already mentioned, and as you can see, I’ve got a Gaiman-heavy summer planned. However, this is just a suggestion. Like I said, now that I’m back at the library, my favourite thing is picking up books from there and reading stories I’d never been introduced to otherwise, so I’m still not sure what the Books (with capital B) have got planned for me this summer. It’s best that way.
Do you make reading lists, or do you just read whatever you feel like, next? If there is a list, what’s on it, and what are you reading nowadays?
Nope, it’s most definitely not January, but January might as well have been yesterday. This year is flying by, and I’m both here for it and a little bit worried about it. June’s brought music, it’s brought people, sunny weather and moments I’ve never experienced before. I spent the beginning of June working at the cathedral, the middle of June “holidaying” at home with cups of tea and read-for-joy books, and on the last day of June, my sister had her baby boy and I got to say hello to my little nephew. He was born at 04:35 am, and we got to come meet him at 2 pm. I’ve never seen so small and “new” a baby before, but he was absolutely wonderful. June was also the month I registered my little business, and now I’m officially self-employed in my own one-woman-company that deals with text production, copywriting and translation. What a crazy month.
So, in bullet points, June has consisted of:
Getting all my exam marks back
Having my last day before summer at the cathedral-job
Having my first day of summer at the library-job
Starting up my own little company
Sleepovers and lazy breakfasts with friends
Saying goodbye to a lot of wonderful study friends that are going away on uni exchanges next year
Setting up a summer reading list
Sending 13 postcards through PostCrossing
Making a lot of tea
Getting completely and utterly obsessed with the new Good Omens mini series
Meeting my nephew for the first time
I hope June’s been kind to you, and I’m excited to see what July brings! It’s going to be a good one this year, I can feel it.
I’m turning 23 and I’m not entirely sure what that means yet. I’m aware it won’t mean that I’ll wake up taller, wiser or more confident. I know your birthday is just a symbolic notion and that what helps you grow are all the days in between. However, like with New Year’s Resolutions, maybe birthdays can function as a day of reflection, a definite marker of another year passing. Not for everyone and not for the world, but in your very own timeline. What have you learnt since your last birthday? What have you figured out? What new people have you met, and what new paths have you travelled down?
To “celebrate” that today is my last day as 22, I’m posting this little video. It is a poem I wrote for the OctPoWriMo challenge, last year, about all the things I’d love to tell myself at 16. In the original post I wrote “this took a long time to get right, but I didn’t want to post it before I was happy with it. Felt like I owed 16 year old me that much.”
Filmed in my bed, with a comfy shirt on and a cup of tea waiting. It felt fitting to post this on my last day of being 22, as a symbol of all the things I’ve finally figured out, and of all the things I’ve yet to learn.