30 December 2014

The year in books: December

This is a double whammy post in that I am reviewing both November and December's books (because I finished them both in December actually).


Richard Flanagan - The Narrow Road to the Deep North (2013)

date finished: 24 December 2014     |     ASIN: B00J4SNT48     |     pages: 353 (Kindle)

The story of Dorrigo Evans, a doctor in the Japanese POW camps building the Burma Death Railway, following his life during and afterwards. Winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

A friend recommended this one to me, describing it as "a little bit harrowing". I thought, what the hell, I'll take it with me to Hawaii, it can't be too upsetting for a holiday. A little bit harrowing?! Descriptions of the living conditions, health of the POWs and the treatment by the officers and commanders was often difficult to read! One element in particular took me by surprise, and was actually quite upsetting (not that it all wasn't of course): cue a wobbly chin and damp eyes. There is an intertwined love story that frankly, mostly annoyed me. And there were elements of the story that got a little boring. Whilst no-one's life is linear, I wasn't sure why they were included. In the end, I found it a bit of slog, hence me not finishing it until Christmas Eve, however, that was likely due to the subject matter. The end left me in a similar frame of mind as when I read David Mitchell's book Ghostwritten; I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. For me, this was an average read.

rating: ★★★


John Sweeney - Elephant Moon (2013)

date finished: 29 December 2014     |     ASIN: B00C2UORQ4     |     pages: 300 (Kindle)

Not the artiest of photos: I took it just now at my desk! 
As the Second World War rages, the Japanese Imperial Army enters Burma and the British rulers prepare to flee. But the human legacy of the British Empire will be left behind in the shape of sixty-two Anglo-Burmese children, born to local women after affairs with foreign men. Half-castes, they are not acknowledged by either side and they are to be abandoned with no one to protect them. Their teacher, Grace Collins, a young Englishwoman, refuses to join the European evacuation and instead sets out to deliver the orphans to the safety of India. She faces impossible odds because between her and India lie one thousand miles of jungle, mountains, rivers and the constant, unseen threat of the Japanese. With Japanese soldiers chasing them down, the group s chances of survival shrink - until they come across a herd of fifty-three elephants who, with their awesome strength and kindness, quickly become the orphans only hope of survival. Based on a true story, Elephant Moon is an unforgettable epic tale of courage and compassion in the midst of brutality and destruction.
This was a Kindle book I came across when trying to escape from the horror of The Narrow Road to the Deep North in Hawaii, and at just £1, I thought I'd give it ago. Although, I wasn't sure I expected much in terms of respite with it being set in the same era I was hoping the appearance of elephants would bring some light relief. And I have to say, they did. Whilst the elephants are the backdrop, you still get to know the characters. I found Grace to be a little wimpy at times, and the 'bad guy' was quite cliche, including his demise. But, on the whole, I really quite enjoyed it. The average rating on goodreads shows that enjoyment is above average though.

rating: ★★★

And with that, my first year in books is over! I must say, I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I shall be back with a post summarising the year. I encourage you to take part in 2015's project that Laura is kindly running again! I'm still debating whether to take part again myself, I probably will but may not do the individual posts.

What are you reading?


Want to take part in The Year in Books project in 2015?
Visit Laura's January link-up post at The Circle of Pine Trees blog to add yourself to the list and grab the  button she's very kindly created. You can take part using the hashtag  #theyearinbooks on Instagram and Twitter. There is also a Pinterest board and a Goodreads group. I know; great, right?

02 December 2014

Y u no like online date?

It's been a while since I let you lot in on what's happening in my dating life. I'm not going to say love life.

Well, the short summary is nothing. Not anymore at least.

Despite having a blog, and it's public nature, I don't often share the real nitty gritty, certainly not in a romantic context. I want to be honest here but certainly not at the expense of someone's feelings, by making fun or otherwise. But I also wanted to complete this teeny blog series, which has had a somewhat comical theme up till now. That's why it's taken me a little while to write this post.

My experimentation with online dating was going well when back in September I met my first OKCupid online date. Oooh aaah!

Let's call him Aaron.

The scene: tapas and cider on a Sunday afternoon in Bristol. It was supposed to be a Saturday but I had to rearrange as I had a night walk from Bath to Bristol later that day. Aaron took the short notice change well; a positive.

My first impressions? Good. We got on well with similar views, sense of humour and common interests. Aaron was fairly independent having his own business. He was shorter than I expected but not a deal breaker of course.

And so we set up a second date. Again, this went well, featuring decent burgers near Bristol's waterfront, laughter and a fair amount of cider. Aaron got somewhat carried away for a school night (I'm not judging, I do this too!) but I had the next day off so no working on a terrible hangover for me.

It was on this date I discovered Aaron was a social smoker. Well, I say social: he smoked whilst drinking despite his company – me – not smoking. Not sure if that is social, or in fact anti-social? It's also not a deal breaker but still quite unexpected, as I couldn't recall reading it in his profile. And I'm not the biggest fan of being forced to accompany you whilst you smoke outside, asthma will do that to you.

But Aaron was interesting, attractive and had good banter (a must!) so a 'courtship' began as my mother might say. Certainly nothing serious as far as I was concerned. How can it be? I mean, we'd only just met and it takes a considerable amount of time to know someone, even a little, right? At least for me.

Several dates ensued, including Aaron cooking dim sum from scratch! I was suitably impressed.

However, I did begin to notice a slight mismatch; Aaron made that little bit more effort than I did and he seemed generally more keen. How so? Saying he'd told his friends that he'd 'met someone' after two or three dates, and regularly making reference to me meeting them, and on occasion his family also.

And he wanted to do 'stuff' together. Wait, let me explain. Uninteresting 'stuff', like fabric shopping with me. No boy wants to do that sort of stuff. And I'm not so effing attractive as to make a boy want to. I'm not fishing; it's true. Yeah yeah, I'm great. But I'm a dick as well, and annoying. And if anything, those elements probably come across more quickly than my softer side.

This is all legit behaviour when you like someone of course. But it was a little too much, too quickly, for me.

I have some idea of what you're probably thinking: 'But you said Aaron was interesting, attractive and had good banter. What is wrong with you, you crazy betch?!'

Let me tell ya:

  1. I date boys I already know. So what? It means me liking a boy happens without me realising it, and without the pressure of my tiny little mind doing itself an injury with 'Do you like him yet? Do you? Well, DO YA?!'
  2. I date boys with feeling-block. Whuuuurt?! Yes. Boys that don't really seem to know their arse from their elbow in terms of feelings. Gifts: what are they? Doing activities I like doing, with me? Unheard of. I'd buy what I want, do Jen-shit by myself and mostly assume we're still together because I'm 'alright'. All this, fundamentally means, if a boy is too nice to me, buys me things or wants to partake in 'my stuff', I find it a little overwhelming and essentially, freak out. I'm not your typical girl, and like my own company. Good effing job; I'm getting a lot of it at the moment!

I don't expect any of that sounds rational. But it's true. Obviously not all relationships should be the same so I shouldn't have been trying to recreate those of my past. I was trying not to compare. Really, I was. But I'm an old dog; you cannae (easily) teach me new tricks.

Anyway, I told myself to stop being an eejit and let things take their natural course. I'd gotten myself into a shitty position a couple of years ago with letting things move too quickly (soon realising it was a rebound) so intended to take my sweet ass time. And had told Aaron as much.

But slowly I started to feel like it wasn't going anywhere. Even that I wouldn't be cut up if it didn't. We were quite different, in many aspects. Admittedly, I'm not looking for a clone. However, a decent amount of overlap is required.

Ultimately, I didn't want to admit any of this to myself. Instead, I wanted to be 'easily pleased' for a change. Sadly, my actions betrayed me and Aaron called me out on it. When he did, I don't think he expected me to actually say yes, you're right, I don't see a relationship here. But that is what I said, face-to-face at least. My view: it had been a short courtship, it'll be alright, invite him 'round and just be honest. And I was. Tip: not wearing any form of eyesight correction also helps: if you cannot see their face properly, you cannot see their emotions, including their tears. (There were no tears.)

But he was quite surprised and appeared disappointed . Again, not because I think I'm awesome; no-one likes a knock-back. So, I thought I'd lighten the mood with a joke:

Me: something something... Maybe it's because I'm completely terrified. lolnotlol.
Aaron: If that's the case, you're a dick.
Me: ... ... yeah, that's not the reason.

Told ya. I told you lot I was a dick. You're better off out of it Aaron.

And then I followed with the supposedly cardinal: let's be friends. What?! It was true. And it had been no more than 6 weeks, he's not that cut up! Nope, I do not feel that guilty about that. But he made it clear he wasn't interested in that. H'okay.

And now? Feelings of guilt and confusion. Maybe Tinder was better?: OKCupid's going down, I'm yellin' Tinder! But a further foray into that had ultimately zero results.

Conclusion: online dating probably isn't for me, as I guessed it wouldn't be. And I don't much like it. Because reasons.