Monday, January 3, 2022

End of the Year Book Wrap Up

Happy New Year! Wishing nothing but the best for everyone reading this, including myself. I just read an Instagram post saying "In 2022 I just want to read lots of books and be hot" which doesn't sound like such a bad resolution to have. But, before we start planning our TBRs, I thought it'd be best to recap some of the books I read in the second half of 2021 in hopes of giving you an idea of what might be your next favorite read. 

My personal reading list consisted of a lot of borrowed books, both from friends and the library, as well as a rekindled love for reading after a summer-long slump. Overall, I'd say 2021 was a great year of reading - I found new favorites, a few not-so-favorites, and got to read books that I've had on my TBR for ages. As for 2022, let's just say I've got my eyes set on specific authors as opposed to stand-alone books, which is my personal challenge for the year. More on that in some other post (book-related, or not). Anyhow, here are some of the books that left an impression strong enough for me to write a whole blogpost on. 

Malibu 1983. Four famous siblings throw an epic party to celebrate the end of the summer. But over the course of one night, each of their lives will be changed forever.

This is my first TJR book (shocker that I didn't start with The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo or Daisy Jones and the Six, I know), and I am well aware of the hype her stories always gather. This book wasn't one that I was intentionally on the lookout for, but when I saw it just sitting pretty in the library, I knew I had to give it a go. Overall, I really enjoyed my time reading this book. It's full of intrigue, fast-paced storytelling, and interesting characters. If I had to describe it in one sentence, I would say that reading this book feels like watching a soap opera unfold in written form. This was a relatively quick read and a nice refresher after weeks of struggle-bus reading slumps. 

Abandoned by her family at the tender age of six, Kya is forced to fend for herself from her home in the unforgiving setting of the North Carolina marshes. Ostracised from the surrounding community, she’s lived alone in her shack for years on end until suddenly, she finds herself the sole suspect in a local murder case. 

I've had my eye on this book for the whole 2021 ever since the friend I borrowed it from said she really liked it and couldn't stop reading. Naturally, I was intrigued and decided to finally give it a go. The first half was definitely a bit slower, and I didn't really feel connected to the characters. As the chapters progressed, the characters began to take full shape, and I was really invested in the story - especially the last 100 pages. I also heard the book is adapted into a movie, which is something I will definitely be watching once it comes out! 

Linus Baker is a by-the-book caseworker in the Department in Charge of Magical Youth. He's tasked with determining whether six dangerous magical children are likely to bring about the end of the world. Arthur Parnassus is the master of the orphanage. He would do anything to keep the children safe, even if it means the world will burn. And his secrets will come to light.

Oh my! This book grabbed me from the very first chapter and I never wanted it to end. Innocent, sweet, funny, natural, wholesome, and magical are just some of the adjectives I would use to describe it. The dialogues here felt so effortless that I completely forgot I was reading a book and not watching a cute Ghibli film. If you're looking for a comfort read that will make you feel all warm and snuggly, I would highly recommend checking this one out! 

Hailsham is a school that has, for many years, kept a secret within its walls. Kathy, Ruth, and Tommy are just three of its very special pupils. We travel with them through their school lives to adulthood as the reason for their existence is gradually revealed. 

When I say I had BIG hopes for this book. I've heard nothing but praise and it has been on my TBR ever since I got back into reading a few years ago. This is why I was so desperate to like this book, it was like a nod to the days when reading felt all new and shiny to me. Ultimately, I think what made me feel disconnected from the plotline and characters was the slow-paced storytelling. This is a completely personal preference as I know readers that love this type of pace, but sadly, I am not one of them. Even though I think the plot itself is intriguing and promising, I ended up feeling like I was never given what I was promised. I also watched the movie afterward and felt the same bored/always-waiting-for-something-to-happen-but-then-it-doesn't-really-happen feeling I felt while reading the book. 

The work, a thinly veiled autobiography, chronicles a young woman’s mental breakdown and eventual recovery, while also exploring societal expectations of women in the 1950s.

I feel stupid for not having read this book earlier, but HERE I AM! I absolutely breathed in The Bell Jar and Miss Plath's brilliant mind. This book felt like I was reading journal entries from a friend, which ultimately led me to the conclusion that Sylvia and I would have been very good friends. I loved how messy-structured the book was, with run-on sentences galore that somehow explain the very core of how the main protagonist was feeling without it reading like a hot mess train of thought writing. Complex and beautiful, there are no other words to describe it. 

Here we meet a teenage boy, Kafka Tamura, who is on the run, and Nakata, an aging simpleton who is drawn to Kafka for reasons that he cannot fathom. As their paths converge, Murakami enfolds readers in a world where cats talk, fish fall from the sky, and spirits slip out of their bodies to make love or commit murder.

This book felt like a fever dream but the good kind? Each chapter was like a puzzle piece, but somehow all the puzzle pieces have different edges and none of them fit, but in the end, you have a vague idea of what the final image of this puzzle is supposed to look like. Kind of like that meme of the horse puzzle (iykyk). Anyhow, I found all the characters gripping and totally unique to themselves. I had a soft spot for Mr. Nakata, and quite liked the whole idea of not having to know what you’re supposed to do next, but just going by your gut feeling and simply accepting the fact that you’re not supposed to know. I spent a while after finishing it on some due diligence to try and work out what I missed and how everything is connected, I was definitely not disappointed. I still have more research to do, but even the little I already know is enough for me to give this one a high rating. 

Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Let me mash the two books (King of Scars & Rule of Wolves) into one short and sweet review because the books themselves were neither short nor sweet. I don't know if it's because I'm not really as attached to the whole Nikolai storyline or simply due to the fact that there was just so much happening, that I ended up feeling quite neutral about the whole duology. Just... too many characters, too much fan service, and too much battle scenes for my liking. There were parts that I liked and disliked in both books, so I can't really say that one left a better impression on me than the other. If you're a fan of the Grishaverse, I'd say to read this duology if you were a previous fan of Nikolai and Zoya's characters. 

Spanning the 1950s to the 1990s and from the Deep South to California, Bennett’s stunning novel follows the journeys of two estranged twin sisters leading very different lives – to the extent of adopting different racial identities.

Another book that I've had on my TBR thanks to the overall hype I've heard in the book community. I didn't really know what to expect going into it, and even though the first third felt a bit underwhelming, I really enjoyed the turn it took when it did. I enjoy stories framed by multiple perspectives, which is the case here as well, and ultimately I think it added a lot more depth to the story and made the whole reading experience more suspenseful. The only remark I have is that none of the characters left a big impression on me, which made me feel somewhat alienated from the story as a whole. 

And that wraps up my 2021! If you haven't seen the first edition of the 2021 book reviews, click HERE and get double the book recommendations. Fun, I know! 
Friday, October 8, 2021

Reframing the mindset

Wearing: Bastet Noir 

I remember being as little as 7 years old, and my aunt would wake me up at the butt crack of dawn to try on new outfits for school as she had a small boutique at the time and always brought home a big bag of clothes that might look good on me. At the time, I was not very pleased with her waking me up at 6:30 AM to play dress up, but deep down it always stuck with me that clothing should be of abundance, and looking presentable is how it should always be. I was always the girl in head-to-toe pink, blinged-out denim jackets, and dare-I-say scandalous little two-piece sets (the latter was only worn on special occasions, not to school obviously haha). What I'm getting at here is that clothing, more specifically the acquiring of new clothing, was engraved into my mindset as something that I needed in order to present myself as the best version I can be. 
Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Mid Year Book Review Extravaganza

I've sat down to write this post not once, not twice but three times on three *very* separate occasions. First, it was a short Winter book list, then it turned into a 1/3 of the year book review, only to finally take the shape you see before you - a mid-year (even this is questionable as June is way past gone, but I've given up at this point) book review extravaganza. And yes, I am freely calling it an extravaganza because, at this point, it's completely ridiculous that it's taken me so long to string a bunch of words together. 

Nevertheless, the year started off strong for me. The reading bug from 2020 surely made its way onto Jan-March, and then, slowly but surely, the bug continued onto its path and left me behind, just sitting there, trying to finish whatever book I'm reading atm. I mean, it's not entirely the bug's fault. I've fallen off the bandwagon with writing and just overall making time to give my brain a rest from all the screens it's gotten extremely used to over this past year. And that's a lot coming from a person that's basically been glued to screens since making her first Facebook account in 2010. Anyways, I've been trying to make small changes, and even though 8/10 attempts are a failure, I'm considering this post a step in the right direction! 

And with that completely unrelated rant out of the way, here are a few of the books I've read so far in 2021. I'm trying to explore more genres, and I usually switch between every read, which is a piece of great advice I would give to people that might find reading a bit boring after a while. Don't be afraid to switch it up! Okay, another rant aside, here is my final selection of what I've been reading from January through June-ish (I think?) and my thoughts on the books. Take everything I say with a grain of salt (but not about the ones I gave 5 stars, those are just *immaculate* and a must-read! hehe) and if you find some of the plots interesting PLEASE go ahead and read the books. And afterwards, if you share my feelings or want to punch me in the face because I trashed your new fave read, feel free to shoot me a message anywhere!

Ok, FINALLY, here are some books, accompanied by words. Enjoy!

A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki 5/5

"In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun. A diary is Nao’s only solace. Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox.  As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future. "

It's only fitting to start the list with the book that left the biggest impression on me this year, which is A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. Honestly, I couldn't find a single flaw in this book. Ruth Ozeki has managed to weave such an intricate plot and develop such heartbreakingly real characters that left me smiling with them and feeling their pain at the same time. The blurb on the back of the book says “blurring the line between fact and fiction” and I could not agree more. She has linked this fictional story so closely to factual events like WW2, Zen Buddhism philosophy, Japanese cultural references & even quantum physics that it just felt too real to be fiction. The dual perspective narrative, one from 16-year-old Tokyo-based Nao, and Ruth, a struggling Japanese American writer living with her husband in British Columbia, produced a very dynamic storytelling frame, where you're inside both of their heads, and asking yourself the same questions they are. I can't single out a favourite aspect of this book, but I do have to mention Ozeki's skilled writing when it came to Nao. From this book onward, this is the standard I'll be holding other books to when it comes to grown adult authors writing teenagers. Completely authentic and raw. As if Nao were a real person, whispering words into Ozeki's ear as she typed. To conclude, A Tale for the Time Being is tragic, funny, puzzling, enchanting, heartwarming and gutwrenching, and takes the spot as my new favourite book.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng 4.5/5

"Combining a deeply observant story about race, belonging, motherhood, and the dangers of smug liberalism with the pace and fervor of a psychological thriller, Little Fires Everywhere is a truly remarkable novel of American suburbia’s dark undercurrents."  

Little Fires Everywhere has been on my radar for a while and when I saw that they had it in my local library I knew it was time to give it a try. And I can definitely say this book gave me such a good time! LFE is such an enticing novel, the pages just keep turning by themselves. Ng’s writing is very easy to follow and she doesn’t flourish her pages with tons of unnecessary information which I appreciated. I found all the characters to be well-developed, however, I didn’t really connect with any of them so that’s why it’s not a full-on 5. I knew beforehand that there was a TV show based on the book, so right as I finished the book I started the TV series and OH BOY was it good. They changed up some of the details of the book to make it more race-centred which I completely understand, and even as I was watching the show I couldn't help but wonder, was Ng wary about making the book revolve so much around race issues in America because in the show those conversations seemed totally central to the plot. Anyhow, totally recommend giving both the book and the TV show a shot. 

The Power by Naomi Alderman - 4/5

"In The Power, the world is a recognizable place: Teenage girls now have immense physical power - they can cause agonizing pain and even death. And, with this small twist of nature, the world changes utterly."

This book was March's pick for The Late Night Book Club, and the premise sounded interesting to me so I decided to give it a go. Alderman’s ideas on a parallel universe where women have the power (literally) and men fight for their rights are very intriguing to me. I kept wondering, what IF this actually happened out of nowhere? Women finding out they have powers that induce electricity out of their bodies. Is this how things would play out? Is the need for political power and war innate, that we would completely lose our minds and just be thirsty for more? This book had an interesting structure as well, making it feel a bit more real with all the illustrations. I’ll admit the end lost me a bit, but it all came to me by the last two pages, and the last line literally gave me chills. Although there were moments in the book where I felt the plot development fell short and was a bit too predictable, I enjoyed it and I think it will stay on my mind for a while.

The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi 5/5 

"Persepolis is an autobiographical series of bande dessinées (comics) by Marjane Satrapi that depicts her childhood up to her early adult years in Iran and Austria during and after the Islamic Revolution."

2021 marks the year I got into graphic novels and so far I'm loving it! Persepolis was one that I've heard nothing but great things about, and I am SO glad I finally got around to reading it. Persepolis tells the story of Marjane Satrapi's life, from childhood up until her 20ties and you can't help but feel like you're growing along beside her when reading the novel. It touches on subjects such as politics, religion, identity, and shame, and each of these topics is handled with so much honesty and childish innocence it made my heart feel for everything she was going through. I think we all have this picture of Iran in our minds that's been painted by different media outlets, that it can get hard to differentiate what is true and what isn't. The reality is, we approach such information with prejudice without taking into account that actual people live in Islamic countries such as Iran, people that are complex human beings like the rest of us. One country's political regime does not reflect the values of all citizens and religions, and I think this is something we can all agree on but is hard to remember when it's a situation different from our own. 

Beloved by Toni Morrison 5/5

"Beloved is a 1987 novel by the American writer Toni Morrison. Set after the American Civil War, it tells the story of a family of former slaves whose Cincinnati home is haunted by a malevolent spirit."

Chilling and beautiful, Beloved is a complex look at a woman’s destiny as a slave woman and mother in the US told through poetic language, allegory, and allusions beyond measure. I’ve sadly not been very exposed to books revolving around slavery, so this book was like a rude (but needed) awakening to the dream world I’ve been living in as a white person residing in a country where black slavery had not existed. But if it hasn't existed where I live, that doesn’t mean it didn’t exist at all & that I shouldn’t get educated on that topic. The basis of the plot of Beloved is based on real events, which makes the whole reading experience 10x more chilling. By introducing a magical realism aspect to this real-life account, Morrison managed to encapsulate the feelings of millions of slaves across America in a poetic, dream-like manner. I’m aware this is a touchy subject but I would advise everyone to read this book and do more digging when it comes to analyzing it because it is not one that should be taken at face value. I'm not ashamed to say that I had Sparknotes opened on the side while reading this book, because it's so easy to just glide through the words and not fully understand what's going on and misread the value they hold. 

Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami 3/5

"The novel is a nostalgic story of loss and burgeoning sexuality. It is told from the first-person perspective of Toru Watanabe, who looks back on his days as a college student living in Tokyo."

I've had some time to let this book marinate in my thoughts, so I can safely say that at this point nothing can change my mind when I say this book just wasn't for me. I've read so many stellar reviews, and I even know friends who've loved it, but I just can't shake the feeling that this story was just so... bleak. I will admit, I appreciated some of the sentiments behind certain passages, and I definitely wanted to underline some of them (I didn't since it wasn't my book), but overall I was just underwhelmed (and at times furious). I guess that's partly my fault since I decided to pick up the one contemporary novel book Murakami has when I've heard so much praise for his magical realism-oriented books. The thing that really pushed my buttons was the "manic pixie dream girl" trope that is splattered all throughout the book. The female characters give off the feeling as if they're just part of the story so the reader can see the male narrator's personal growth, even though they are an integral part of the story. Yet, they keep on being the shiny ornaments produced by the ultimate male fantasy - it's either the quirky "not like other girls" girl that loves to challenge men or the shy unattainable girl that's considered a prize to be won. With that being said, I can't avoid the big elephant in the room which is the talk surrounding mental health. I think it was handled okay, it had its nuances and it wasn't as black and white as the rest of the book, which I appreciate. To round this review up, I guess I'll just say that this book isn't for everyone, but I'll definitely give other Murakami books a chance because I did enjoy his simplistic narrative style. 

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo 5/5

"Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn't think they'd survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they're right back to fighting for their lives. A war will be waged on the city's dark and twisting streets - a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world."

To this one I'll say: Did I finish the book, or did the book finish me?! First of all, the Crows are arguably some of my most favourite characters to ever exist. I love how they're written, how they think, their character development and interpersonal relationships. Six of Crows will go down as one of my favourite books ever, and Crooked Kingdom, the second instalment, is no different. This one focuses a lot more on their inner thoughts, turmoils and individual backgrounds, how they've grown over the first book and how they will handle the mess they've created while protecting each other. Crooked Kingdom really makes you fall in love with these characters, and then rips your heart out at the end. And that's all I'll say about that. 

I'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid 5/5

"I’m Thinking of Ending Things begins with the unnamed narrator setting off with her boyfriend to visit his parents at their remote farm, and soon devolves into an unnerving exploration of identity, regret, and longing."

You might have heard about this book from the Netflix adaptation by Charlie Kaufman and the infamous "I don't think I get it" aspect to it. I had the book on my radar a while back, and when I heard there would be a movie, I knew I had to read it. I decided to read the Macedonian translated version (which I usually don't tend to do) and I'm glad I did because it was done very well. The story follows an unnamed female narrator and her new relationship with a man named Jake. Immediately we are thrown into this woman's head and her cold and indecisive demeanour. We follow her recent troubles and how she deals with them alongside navigating life with her new romantic partner, and soon enough, we're all whisked away to the boyfriend's parents' farm for dinner. This is where tension starts to rise, and more and more weird sh*t starts to happen. I really loved how the tension rises with each consequent page. The narrator does a great job of making you think things will go one way, and then casually throws you a curveball. The weirdness factor definitely grows as the book goes on, and by the end, you're completely enthralled and just want to know what happens next - which you don't have to wait for long for since the narration moves pretty fast and the book itself isn't that long. In addition, there were some sentiments throughout the book that I really appreciated and resonated with, so the pen came out a couple of times to underline. The ending was satisfactory in my opinion, I definitely didn't see it coming, but I like how it played out. And lastly, in comparison to the movie, I found the book to be a lot more fast-paced and engaging. There were a lot of changes made for the movie, which I did not necessarily like, which is why I would advise reading the book first. 

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert 4.5/5

"Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job."

I haven't read a contemporary romance I liked in absolute ages (and by that I mean the last romance I read that I loved was the Shopaholics series when I was in elementary school...), so when I heard stellar reviews about Get a Life, Chloe Brown I knew I had to give this genre another try. And honestly, I had a blast. This book somehow managed to make me feel the feelings you'd have when you have a crush on someone and made me experience those butterflies but from Chloe's perspective. The story isn't revolutionary, but it's wholesome and warm, and touches on sensitive subjects with such decency that it's hard not to fall for the sweetness of the characters. Overall, Talia Hibert has created a great microscopic look at what love and lust can feel like (in a world where Redford Morgan exists... IYKYK).

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman 4.5/5

"Neil Gaiman, long inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction, presents a bravura rendition of the Norse gods and their world from their origin though their upheaval in Ragnarok."

I was contemplating whether I should pick this up at the library every time I went back, so eventually, I gave in and picked it up, and I am very glad I did. This book was SUCH a fun read! The stories themselves were a breeze to read, and Gaiman's dynamic and fuss-free storytelling only made the book a total page-turner. And the best part is that I found an audiobook on Youtube of Gaiman himself reading the book, so of course, I accompanied my physical book with Gaiman's voice for a 10/10 book reading experience. If you're into mythology, I would say that this is a great way to immerse yourself even more into the mystical folklore of Scandinavia. Even though not everything is 100% factual, I didn't take the book too seriously and played police whether something was omitted or told untruthfully. I just enjoyed the ride and had a great time following Loki's crazy schemes and Thor's anger management issues. 

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera 2.5/5

"Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day."

And lastly, the book that I actually read last - They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera. You might have heard about this book as it blew up on Book Tok (the book side of Tik Tok) and my friend gave into the hype and bought it. Lucky for me, she oh so generously lends me all her books, so I immediately told her that I want to read this one after she finishes it. And then, the thing I always dread happened - she gave it to me and said "I hated it, but maybe you'll like it!" Yikes. So, hesitantly, I picked it up and was actually really into it at first. The concept itself is sooo cool, a world where you get a call that you'll die in the upcoming 24 hours and you're left to your own devices to figure out how to spend those last hours? Sign me up! (to the book concept, not to an actual reality where that happens. I'd really really not appreciate that.) So, with a premise such as this one, and the openly known LGBTQ theme, I was really excited to find out what happens next. So, I waited, and waited, and then waited some more. And then something happened, and the book ended. I've read character-driven plotlines, and I love them, but here I saw nothing but pages of awkward and forced dialogue, unrealistic teenager portrayal, more plot conveniences than I could count, and a rushed (yet still oh so slow) romantic relationship. And this is the thing that bugs me the most, the concept had so much potential to explore more themes connected to death and dealing with death with your loved ones, yet we only get to see such a niche, narrow, and almost two-dimensional experience.  

And that wraps up this long-overdue book review. That rhymed :) 

Anyhow, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these books, or any other books you'd recommend to me. I'm getting back into the groove of reading again, and I can't wait for the follow up to this review, coming to you in around three months from now! Or more, you never know with me...  

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

The Body Lotion Dilemma

This might sound like TMI, but I'm trying to set the scene here, so bear with me. I had just come out of the shower after a long, sweaty day being outside. I dried myself with a towel, and for a split second, I had a dilemma in front of me - Do I or do I not put on body lotion? It's not a problem only 1 out of 100,000 people face, but this was the first time that I looked at this question with a different mindset. 

What is the purpose of using body lotion? For some, it's medical - their skin is extensively dry, and have to put cream on it after exposing it to something like a hot, drying shower.  For others, it's purely a part of their self-care routine. They take a shower or a bath, do their skincare, and put on a creamy, citrus-smelling body lotion in order to feel pampered to the max. Either way, putting on body lotion is beneficial. It can be beneficial for the skin, or it can be beneficial for the mind. The bottom line is that body lotion = doing something for you. Just like drinking water. Or working out. Are you seeing where I'm going with this? 

Now that I've posed this metaphor of the body lotion being something you proactively choose to do for yourself, why am I, time after time, not putting on the damn body lotion?! It's definitely not because I don't have body lotion in my house - heck, I have three just sitting there, collecting dust. Well, my friends, it's this little thing called a habit. And not just any habit, but a bad habit. I know that I might not be necessarily hurting myself by not putting on the lotion, but it goes far beyond that. It all goes back to a bad habit that I've purposefully (but not necessarily consciously) set up for myself in order to self-sabotage. 

I find myself thinking about this a lot, actually. I see what areas in my life are lacking. I recognize what needs to be improved, what needs to be worked on, and what needs to be completely cut out. Yet, I still do the same sh*t, over and over again. Bad habits might not seem like bad habits at first. They just feel like something that you "don't have time for", or you're "too tired for". So, I guess this makes bad habits nonexistent habits as well. 

I mentioned drinking water and working out. Those two things sound like perfectly reasonable habits to have in your life. Drinking water nourishes your body, it provides a multitude of health benefits and clears the mind. The absolute same can be said with working out. Yet, I drink an absurdly low amount of water every day, and I haven't exercised in months. Now that I'm typing it out I actually understand how inherently bad this is. And would you look, there is no reasonable explanation as to why I refuse to drink 2-3L of water each day, or why I can't put aside at least 30 minutes for some light exercising. The only explanation I can give, that sounds just as bad as it sounds reasonable is the aforementioned self-sabotage. 

I know I'm not a special snowflake when it comes to this topic. In fact, I'm 100% positive everyone can pinpoint at least one thing in their lives they consciously decide to overlook, to not do, to avoid, whose main purpose is to benefit you. For some, it might be spending less time on social media, or cutting out sugar, or even putting your clothes not on a chair, but in the closet where they belong. No matter how minuscule in importance it might appear, if it's affecting you negatively and you're doing nothing about it - you're self-sabotaging. 

So, what is there to do? Well, the first step is to acknowledge what you're doing. Give your mind a few seconds, minutes, even hours, to process the why's and how's. Then, just do something about it. Yep, it's actually that simple. Baby steps are steps nonetheless, and just like with anything in life, you can't be excellent in everything from the very first try. You'll fail, your designated clothes chair might pile up again, but true growth is seen in acknowledging that this is something you're avoiding getting resolved, and you HAVE to at least try to create order out of that mess. Figuratively and metaphorically. 

So, if you'll excuse me. I have body lotion to put on :) 

Sunday, May 16, 2021

March & April Playlist | 2021

Photo by Ferdinand Stöhr on Unsplash

Oh hey, fancy seeing you here :)

This post might take the cake for the most over-due thing I have ever written in my life, but hey what's new. At this point, this is how I play the game (and fail at it). I've been MIA from le blog due to many reasons, the main one of them being my internal need to keep my eyes as far away from a laptop screen as possible when I'm not working. My goal for this month is to try and plan my screen time more efficiently so that this (as in, me avoiding screens which in turn means I can't spend my time sharing my musings over here) doesn't happen anymore, because I don't want it to happen damn it! 

Anyways, this is the long-overdue March and April Playlist. And I'll say it straight away - this is not the entire playlist. I have 20 songs I've been listening to on repeat for these past two months, but I just couldn't justify writing little descriptions for each and every one of those 20 songs, so here are just a few of the lucky ones. The rest you can find in my playlists over on Spotify and Youtube. So, let's begin, shall we?

"All That" by Emotional Oranges feat. Channel Tres was on constant repeat in March. It gives off major 90s R'n'B vibes, with a modern twist. It's really upbeat and the hook is really catchy. Definitely check it out if you're looking for something that sounds textbook R'n'B. 

All of Drama and Gorgon City's collaborations so far have had a special place in my heart, and "You've Done Enough" is no exception. I think that the part that really got me about this one was the lyrics. "If I could become someone that I could fall in love with, It'd probably be easier to find you" like COME ONNN, if that's not something to really think about then IDK what is. The song is upbeat, it's catchy and it's completely Gorgon City to a T. 

The ultimate summer main character songs on this playlist have to be "Can I Call You Tonight" and "Can't Stop Your Lovin' ". If you haven't already heard these songs, be prepared to feel melancholic for a summer that didn't even happen, but hey we can all daydream right? 

If Benee was all the rage in 2020 during quarantine, Remi Wolf is the 2021 version of that. "Disco Man" and "Photo ID" have been on constant repeat throughout March. These two songs are like a straight shot of serotonin and make me dance around my room like crazy. I've got the videos to prove it - but that's all the info you're getting out of me on that. Photo ID is the song that blew up on Tik Tok, but Disco Man is just as much a banger as Photo ID, and would highly recommend checking it out for a dance party of 1. 

The thing that I did NOT expect was the new sound of Tank And The Bangas (if you haven't heard their Tiny Desk Concert, U MUST!). Their latest collaboration with Duckwrth and Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah called "Fluff" is a complete bop - it's super catchy, upbeat, and modern - but still has that Tank And The Bangas flare throughout the whole song. 

Another shot of serotonin these past two months has been Still Woozy. His songs "Window" and "Rocky" have made me smile countless times and have become my go-to pick-me-up songs. He's such a silly and positive person, and I think it really translates into his songs as well. 

A song that came up on a random Spotify shuffle was Kara Marni's "Trippin" and it sounded really familiar, and I'm sure it will sound familiar to all of you too. That's because it samples Amerie's "1 Thing" which we've all heard during the early 2000s (and thought it was Jennifer Lopez :| ) Although 1 Thing is truly * iconic *, Kara Marni's modern take on the catchy song is a VERY good rendition, so definitely check it out. Also, I have to add - Kara Marni is just stunning, just look at her in that music video!  

Probably the most bad-bitch-song on this playlist is " Me Eyes" by Dounia. I think you can already tell by the title what the overall vibe of the song is haha. It's sultry but upbeat, and quite pop-R'n'B-ish. But overall I think I just love the message of the song - it's all about empowering yourself and being a bad bitch. And tbh, what more could I ask for from a song?

Time for a moody shift from the generally upbeat songs on this playlist so far. I randomly discovered Nina Cobham on Spotify, and I have been obsessed ever since. She's British but has lived in Spain, so her songs are bilingual and shift from Spanish into English and I absolutely love that. Her overall vibe is quite moody and kinda reminiscent of Billie Eilish, but a Spanish version of Billie haha. If you listen to "Lo Que Paso" you'll totally get what I'm saying. Her other song I'm totally in love with is "Do You Come Here Often" which is a tad more upbeat, but still quite moody. Plus, I love the lyrics of this one. 

And that wraps up another playlist! As always, click HERE for the Playlist on YT, HERE for the Playlist on Spotify, or on each individual title above. Happy listening! 

Saturday, April 17, 2021

How (not) to keep your head on your shoulders

You know that feeling when you have a weeks' worth of tasks just sitting there on your neatly scheduled to-do list (in my case, tried doing the whole Notion thing) and your mind STILL has trouble focusing on one task at a time? And then, like a lightbulb that you tried turning on a couple of times but gave the impression that it needs to be replaced finally turning on - that was a really long metaphor but let's just roll with it -  you find yourself doing the thing that you love doing and were seeking inspiration to do for weeks, amongst the many chores you had set up for yourself. It's 6:11 PM Elena, you scheduled a quick shower and (a much-needed) hair wash, followed by two hours sitting on your computer finishing up the work you didn't end up completing this morning. Why the hell are you going off on such a long tangent? We have things to do, dammit! 

Pictured: Homebound on a random snowstorm in March. Gotta love climate change :)

If you managed to read that whole previous passage and not get lost, then hooray! You shall receive...a virtual high five! That's the most I can do right now, sorry! Anyhow, back to what I was potentially saying -  I LOVE moments like these. When you've consumed something that just instantly strikes up inspiration to do whatever (in my case write, more specifically write without stopping to correct my grammar or the typos that mark my words with a red underline). I guess this all stems from the neverending need for others to bring out the best in you, which is kind of sad and ironic if you think about it, but I think that if I went on that tangent this post would be the size of my graduation paper. Agh, why did I have to go there? Just the mention of that thing (grad paper thesis dissertation thingy, whatever you can call it) is slowly making me lose my mind. I don't even know why these two sentences had to pop up into my mind, they threw me off my writing groove! I think that at this point, my brain can handle as little of gated (as in, condensed and narrow) information intake as it can get - so throwing a whole ass author of some kind and analyzing someone else's work, when I have enough of my own, sounds like the most excruciating thing I can do to my brain. So, I consider this sort of proactive procrastination a form of self-care. And don't you dare ask me if I'm planning on graduating any time soon because you might get blocked. Physically and mentally. 

Pictured: Those 30 minutes of rest I give myself from 11:30 AM to 12:00 PM on occasions to have a cup of coffee and read a few pages of whatever book I'm distracting myself with at the time

Okay, 6:21 PM. Shoot, where was I going with this? Agh yes, my whole point (if I even have one) is to just let the people know how/where I've been. Mentally that is because physically things haven't changed in over a year and we all know why is that :) So, after a small pause to collect my thoughts, I can safely say that I am in a constant overwhelmed state. And that's okay. Through so many conversations with friends recently, I've come to the conclusion that it's OKAY to let your mind freak out and be a right old mess because it's normal. And it's natural. And that's how our coping mechanisms work. I am yet to know a person that will (with assertiveness) say: "Oh, I adapt to changes so quickly, it's practically unnoticeable!". Huh? Like, that sentence was even hard for me to formulate, the concept is THAT foreign to me. However, the chances of someone saying "I am internally struggling and I have no idea why" are far greater, and far more consoling to me as a fellow overwhelmed human. At this point, I think that even the most chill people in the world have their brains working overtime on the weekend when the rest of us try to relax. 

Pictured: Waiting for the bus home suddenly turns fun when you find out you can take reflection photos 

Update from future Elena, editing the jumble that you just read. It's 11:38 PM on a Saturday, which is way past my usual bedtime. What can I say, I've started to get accustomed to avoiding the usual 7-9PM nap that plagued my sleeping pattern for months on end. Is this what adulthood feels like? Oh, while we're on that adulthood topic, another thing that made me stop and think was the fact that I intentionally subscribe to newsletters now. Like, never in a million years did I picture myself as a newsletter girl but I gotta admit - I'm loving it. I have to reiterate here and say that the newsletters I'm subscribed to or will potentially subscribe to are ones that offer mostly entertainment value and spark potential inspiration, with a splash of education here and there; no more - no less. The only heavy topics that will find their way into my inbox are emails from my university and the occasional Duolingo reminder saying that they miss me, which in retrospect isn't that bad to wake up to. 

Pictured: Back when restaurants were open and we could enjoy eggs on a bed of cream cheese and delicious bread

Another thing that frequently pops up in my head is the realization of the reality I'm creating for myself. I know, this is kinda jumping off the deep end but I'm not gonna swim on this topic for too long; I just want to address it. I've found myself in this predicament where I consciously make things harder for myself which consequently makes me feel devoid of joy when I do the things that made me excited in the past. So, in order to find joy again, I've taken up new hobbies. They're small, practically minuscule in importance, but make my mind take a mental break by introducing a new set of tasks for it to concentrate on. Tasks that repeat themselves, require little to no conscious thinking, yet still, make me feel creatively fulfilled. I think that's the key to fixating on something that's actually good for you - seek for something you can sense the benefits of without reaping some sort of an external validation-type of reward. We live in an age of (over)sharing, where we need that pat on the back from people we don't even care that much about and create a list of what's "bad" and "good" for us based on other people's opinions. In a way, the fact that I'm sharing these thoughts for you to agree or disagree on is ironic in itself, but it's the reality of the situation we've all put ourselves in. It's like constantly saying social media is bad for your mental health and then scrolling on Instagram the rest of the day. Duality is a bitch, isn't it? 

Pictured: Looking out into a snow-covered wasteland (not quite the one T. S. Eliot described, but pretty close) from the inside warmth of a cafe

Okay, it's past midnight and definitely past my bedtime, which is a sign I need to wrap this up before shit gets too deep (even for me). If you've read this whole thing, thank you. If you want to talk about anything I've mentioned so far, my messages are always open. And if you wanna give me a virtual smack for taking up 5(?) precious minutes out of your life, you are completely entitled to do so. I too know the useless power a brain dump holds. 

I owe you a playlist and a book review post, so keep your eyes peeled for those. I can't promise it will be anytime soon, but it will definitely be posted for mine and your enjoyment at some point. Goodnight, sleep tight! 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

February Playlist | 2021

Photo: Greg Rakozy on Unsplash

Hello all! 

I'm back with the February installation of my monthly playlists, and this time around I'm serving music to daydream that "you're on a yacht somewhere chilling with your friends and having some summer fun" to. And honestly, with the warmer weather we had in February, I think it's totally fair that my playlist is basically anything BUT winter-friendly. And while we're at it, what the hell was February?? It literally flew by and I'm still processing all the things I did (and definitely didn't do) in the past month while trying to balance being productive and taking a chill pill in March. I guess that's maybe why I've been feeling not up to making this playlist because in my mind it's still Feb, and this post is not two weeks late... 

Anyhow, while I'm trying to figure out what the hell is going on with my headspace atm, enjoy some new music! 

Kicking this February playlist with "Alone" by Q, an artist that many say resembles Frank Ocean. I don't know about Frank Ocean, but this song is short and sweet, hitting at just 2:15. And with that being said, I love absolutely every second of it. It's super chill but that guitar and drumbeat in the background just make everything 10 times better. I'll definitely be checking out more of Q's discography in the future!

And now, something a bit more upbeat! "Irrational" by Shay Lia kept on popping up in my recommended and little by little it really grew on me. The song samples Junior Senior's "Move Your Feet" but in a more chill and groovy way. Also, when I found out she's the girl that makes an appearance in Kaytranada's ICONIC Boiler Room set (which I have spent hours watching and laughing at) I just knew I had to include the song here because it's just destiny!  

Hope Tala and Amine's "Cherries" has similar groovy vibes with the above-mentioned "Irrational", with a specific bossa nova meets R'n'B sound. In short, it sounds like the perfect track for your upcoming summer (warm weather themes here). I would also like to point out that the music video is super cool! 

The piece de resistance for me in February was "Baby Powder" by Jenevieve. It's the most smooth, chill, and sexy R'n'B song I've heard in a while, and I recommend you all give it a listen. Her vocals are out of this world and the whole vibe of the song is totally late 90s.  

I gotta admit, February was just filled with powerful asf female vocalists and I just can't believe my luck that I found all these amazing artists! Adding onto my extended list is Amaarae with "Leave Me Alone" and "Jumping Ship" in collaboration with Kojey Radical & Cruel Santine. The first one is very smooth and upbeat, with a super catchy (and relatable) chorus, while the latter is afrobeat goodness with a very eyecatching music video to match.  

While on the topic of afrobeat, Nao's "Antidote" featuring Adekunle Gold is straight gold! (bad pun intended hehe). At this point, anything Nao releases I'm *extremely* down for because she just can't do no wrong. Her signature vocals have the range to be in any kind of song, which is why she's on this playlist again, but this time around on a Disclosure electronica/house track. "Superego" is completely switching gears from the previous songs Nao's been on, and I gotta admit I haven't listened to a Disclosure song in a while, but I'm slowly getting back into the groove with them. This one is textbook Disclosure, part of their 2015 "Caracal" album which is like a more mature version of their signature "Settle" circa 2013 sound. Anyways, I went on a bit of a tangent here, but yes, this song is good, listen to it hahaha. 

DEJA's "Losing Game" is not one to be confused with that Eurovision turned Tiktok song with the same name, as this one is very, VERY different. I'm talking hair flipping, music to turn up to, and feel like a boss bitch to. So yes, if that's a mood you're in, I highly recommend this one to match the vibes.  

And of course, it wouldn't be an Elena playlist if a couple of dance/electronic songs didn't make an appearance. I'm sure that by now, you've all heard "Your Love (9PM)" and "The Business" so I don't need to explain why I listened the crap out of these songs in February. All I will say is, they're 100% mood boosters and if I close my eyes for a minute, and really think about it long and hard, I'm at a party somewhere in a seaside town, drinking gin and tonic and watching the sunset while the DJ blasts these songs in the background. 

And that wraps up another playlist! As always, click HERE for the Playlist on YT, HERE for the Playlist on Spotify, or on each individual title above. Happy listening!