Tuesday, 6 January 2015

The Reading List #27

I’m fully back into the routine of racing through books, so here’s the latest reading round-up…

Enigma, Robert Harris

March 1943. Bletchley Park. Codebreaker Tom Jericho is dealing with the fact that the Germans have suddenly changed their coding, when his girlfriend Clair disappears.

This was a good thriller, and well-researched when it came to interesting details about coding and the pattern of the war. Although a brilliant novel, for me it didn’t match up to Harris’ other novels, simply because I didn’t feel particularly strongly towards the characters.

Goldfinch, Donna Tartt

Thirteen year-old Theo survives a catastrophe and is taken in by wealthy friends. Throughout the course of the novel, he clings to a small painting that reminds him of his mother, and draws him into the criminal underworld.

I was really looking forward to this one, after it received so much acclaim when it was first released. Yes, it was well-written, and yes the story was clever, but I found it hard work to get through simply because I felt nothing towards any of the characters. I didn’t like or dislike, or care for or turn against anyone in particular, which made it hard to carry on picking up the book and turn more pages. The one thing I will say though is that the last chapter is absolutely stunning. It talks about the painting, but also much wider themes, and that section just blew me away.

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, Karen Joy Fowler

I can’t say much about the plot of this one, as it has a huge twist, but at its most basic level it is about families, and about growing up.

The big twist of this novel made it so unusual, and really made you re-think what you had already read. By far my favourite thing about the book is the way it deals with the concept of time and story-telling. Following her father’s instructions of starting stories at the middle, theoretically in order to stop the young narrator from speaking too much, the voice throws up in the air the whole notion of telling a story chronologically. By re-ordering time and events, the novel completely alters your perceptions again and again, and I really enjoyed it.

Six Weeks to OMG, Venice A Fulton

I picked this up a long time ago purely to have a look, because it stirred up a lot of controversy when first released, due to its subtitle: ‘how to get skinnier than all your friends’. I will give Fulton credit for some parts of the book – some food and dieting myths are explained, there are levels to choose from according to the results you want to achieve, and his plan works in stages. The overall tone is encouraging, with a ‘love yourself’ message, and a lot of stages explained with scientific fact.

However, every time I was prepared to give the book the benefit of the doubt, it took a food tip one step too far. There were repeated shock tactics, parts were quite intense in terms of describing what certain lifestyles can do to your health, and some of the advice was quite extreme. What worried me about the book was that so much of it seemed so reasonable and explained, that I’m sure it would be incredibly easy for people to take that next step, and bow to the more extreme steps in Fulton’s methods.

So there’s another mixed bag, and I’d be really interested to hear what you thought of some of these, as they’ve all been discussed quite widely.

Any recommendations for my next reads?

Monday, 5 January 2015

14 Lessons of 2014

Those that know me know that 2014 was a year of huge changes for me. A lot can change in a year, and last year, for me, that was more true than ever.

And so, as is the trend at this time of year, I've been reflecting back on what 2014 has taught me, as I get ready to try and make 2015 even better.

Here are my 14 biggest lessons learned in 2014:

1. You can do a lot more than you thought you were capable of if you set your mind to it

2. You can be brave

3. Friends will continue to surprise you, both in good ways and in bad

4. You can move from a point where anxiety was stopping you doing everything, to a point where it's a part of your personality you're learning, slowly, to control

5. You really do feel better where you're putting good food into your body. So get on with it

6. Ditto exercise. Get a wriggle on

7. Continue talking to anyone and everyone. Everybody in this world has
something to teach you

8. Sometimes taking the scariest steps can pay you back with the biggest rewards

9. Never underestimate the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people

10. Nobody is perfect

11. Your family may be bonkers, but you wouldn't have achieved half of what you have without them

12. The best advice can come from the most unlikely of sources

13. A quick text or phone call could mean more to that other person than you ever realised

14. You're only 22. Stop giving yourself a hard time, or questioning why you don't have everything figured out

And there we have it, lessons I will be taking forwards with me into the coming year.

This year's resolution is taken from the words of blogger Laura Jane Williams at Superlatively Rude - one of my favourite blog discoveries of 2014 - and is:

Do more of what makes you happy, and less of what doesn't

And with that, I hope you all have a fantastic Monday.... I'm off for Day One of my new job!
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