R U OK? Day 2016

Today is R U OK? Day in Australia, and while I am on the other side of the world, I whole-heartedly support this campaign and I wish other countries would take it on as well!

ru-ok-day

I want all my friends and followers to know that you can always talk to me about anything, and I will always listen. You will never hear “Suck it up” or anything along those lines from me. And what you feel comfortable sharing with me will stay strictly between us, I will not betray your trust! It is perfectly OK to say that you’re not OK, and you never have to put up a front with me. I won’t think any less of you just because you’re going through a hard time. In fact, I’d be very proud of you, for carrying on, getting up every day and facing your demons instead of giving up. That’s an immense strength, and I admire you for it!

I’ve got my own mental health issues to battle, so I feel you, I really do. And I know how hard it can be to open up to someone and admitting you’re not doing as well as you worked so hard to make everyone believe. So I  promise to ask “R U OK?” more often, to initiate the dialogue. Just checking up on someone can make all the difference. Having someone who’ll listen without judgement. Don’t be afraid that you’d be “dragging me down too”, you never could. A little bit of gloom won’t damage our friendship in the slightest. It’d rather strengthen it, because we trust each other with our problems. And we’ll be able to work on a solution together, side by side.

A while ago, I wrote the following in my journal on a particularly bad day:

I’m not OK.
But nobody wants to hear that.
So I’m “fine.”

I’d been brushed off so many times. I had tried to reach out to friends because my mind that day was a dangerous place, but nobody picked up the phone all night. I pleaded in text messages, asking whether I could call real quick but got no replies. I spent that night crying and talking to myself to get everything out, because the only other option my mind came up with was one I will never entertain. And it scared the shit out of me that all I could come up with – in the lack of a real conversation – were those two options. Don’t be alarmed, and don’t worry about me. I put a stop to that thought as soon as it entered my mind. I am stronger than that, and that moment actually showed me just how strong I can be. But I thought that nobody would want to sit and listen to me cry anyway, so I’d just fake a smile the next day, and pretend all’s well and maybe people would tolerate me enough so I wouldn’t feel so alone.

That was before a friend asked me sincerely whether I’m OK, made me tea, and let me talk, and kept probing until I revealed the source of the problem. It took a few conversations and a lot of tears and encouragement, but it was so worth it in the end. And I am so grateful to her for doing that. I never want anybody else to feel like I did the day I wrote that quote. So helpless and ignored.

You matter, your problems are real. If you need to reach out to anyone, I’ll be there. And if you’re afraid that I won’t pick up, text me “RUOK” or “Help” or “Emergency” (or any other distress signal) and I’ll pick up the phone (or come over, depending on where you are) immediately. Sometimes, all it takes is a hug, a shoulder, and a willing listener to make the world a brighter place again.

So let me start by asking: R U OK?

 

Depression poster

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The Actor Book Tag

I found this book tag over on BookComa and thought it was fun! I wasn’t really tagged by anyone, so I won’t be tagging anyone either, but if you’d like to do this fun little tag feel free!

While doing this I realised that all my actor choices are from TV shows rather than movies and some are even from the same shows.

RULES:

  • Thank the person who tagged you
  • Chose your own 8 actors (or you can use the ones I gave you) and create descriptions and compare them to book characters like I did
  • Put in photos of them from the movie roll
  • Answer what book character fits the same description as the movie character
  • List 8 people to tag

1.) A CHARACTER WHO MAKES YOU FANGIRL:
Actor / Role: 
David Tennant / The 10th Doctor in Doctor Who
Book: Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

Two characters I definitely fangirl about are the 10th Doctor and Bilbo Baggins. I love the quirkiness of the Doctor, how cheeky he can be. Bilbo is an amazing character because he is ultimately selfless – not only did he take in Frodo and raised him as his own, he helped the Dwarves because he wanted them to have a home. Both characters are are clever and think on their feet.

2.) A CHARACTER WHO CAN’T HELP BEING BRILLIANT (EVEN IF THEY ACT STUPID):
Actor / Role: 
Simon Baker / Patrick Jane in The Mentalist
Book: Sherlock Holmes in Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Both Patrick and Sherlock seem to have a problem keeping their tongues in check sometimes. Elaborate schemes are also their thing. Let’s not forget that Sherlock Holmes once spent two hours on an elaborate costume to disguise himself as an old flower lady just for Lestrade to roll up and immediately go “Do I look like I want flowers, Holmes?” There’s also a lot of crime-solving while lying on a couch and a LOT of tea involved in both cases.

3.) A CHARACTER WHO CAN TAKE CARE OF HERSELF:
Actor / Role: 
Catherine Tate / Donna Noble in Doctor Who
Book: 
Jed Kelly in The Ghost by the Billabong by Jackie French

I seriously love Donna Noble. I think she was the best companion. She was smart, sassy, stood up for herself and others. But she’d been put down so many times and learned to survive. Jed has had some bad luck. She’s homeless and surviving on her luck and thinking on her feet.

4.) A BADASS FEMALE CHARACTER:
Actor / Role: 
Gillian Anderson / Dana Scully in The X-Files    
Book: 
Hermione Granger in Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

If I grew up with one badass female character on TV it has to be Special Agent Dana Scully. Loved her no-nonsense approach to everything and keeping up with Mulder’s antics. As she’d say “Sure. Fine. Whatever.” Hermione is so much more badass than many give her credit for. She’s brave and smart, and let’s face it, Harry, Ron and half the school would have been dead by the end of the first book without her. Though she really came into her own when they were forced to leave Hogwarts behind.

5.) A CHARACTER FORCED TO HIDE WHO THEY REALLY ARE:
Actor / Role: 
Alex Kingston / River Song in Doctor Who
Book: 
Nobody Owens in The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

I guess you learn to avoid Spoilers when you’re River Song. How hard must it have been for her to keep quiet about who she really is and how she fits into everybody else’s timelines. And I’ve just got a little bit a lot of hair envy! Nobody Owens had to hide his entire life and couldn’t tell anyone the truth about who he was, where he lived and who raised him.

6.) A CHARACTER WITH A TRAGIC AND MYSTERIOUS BACKSTORY:
Actor / Role: 
David Duchovny / Fox Mulder in The X-Files
Book: Henry DeTamble in The Time-Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger

Let’s face it: the one thing we know about Fox Mulder with absolute certainty is that he wants to believe. And that something happened to his sister when he was a child. Henry DeTamble is all-round mysterious. How can he time-travel? I mean, how can his wife have grown up with him if he has never met her before?

7.) A CHARACTER STEADFAST TO THEIR VALUES AND FRIENDS:
Actor / Role: 
Rupert Graves / DI Greg Lestrade in Sherlock
Book: 
Aristotle Mendoza in Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

DI Greg Lestrade is one of my favourite characters. He looks after those he considers friends and family, making sure they are alright. He puts up with Sherlock because he knows he’ll get results. There’s a reason fans call him Papa Lestrade. Ari stands behind Dante, even if he’s not sure about his own feelings. But that friendship is more important than his own discomfort.

8.) A CHARACTER LITERALLY MADE OF SASS:
Actor / Role: 
Martin Freeman / Dr John Watson in Sherlock
Book: 
Dr John Watson in Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

If there is such a thing as perfect casting, then this is pretty much it! Martin “I-can-say-that-with-one-look” Freeman as Dr John Watson has just the right amount of sass and snark needed to counter Sherlock Holmes. The sass is definitely strong with this one!

 

If you like to join in on the fun, then TAG, YOU’RE IT!! Let me know down in the comments if you do it, so I can check out all of your answers!😀

Doctor Who: The Angel’s Kiss by Justin Richards & “Melody Malone” (Audiobook) #60Books

Read as part of my 60 Books Challenge: A sci-fi novel.

Doctor Who – The Angel’s Kiss was written by Justin Richards, but – to tie in with the show – Melody Malone is listed as the author.

Contrary to popular belief, this is NOT the same book as the one River Song reads from in the episode The Angels Take Manhattan.

The story follows Melody Malone, private detective. She gets a visit from a film star called Rock Railton, who believes he is to be killed. Melody gets on the case after he mentions “the kiss of an angel,” and puts herself in danger during her investigations.

Even though this is a Doctor Who tie-in story, the Doctor does not feature in this story. This is one of Melody’s cases, told from Melody’s point of view.

It’s a nice enough story, and the audiobook version read by Alex Kingston – who plays River Song aka Melody Malone on the show – is very intriguing. Alex Kingston uses her sultry River Song voice with a bit of an American twang – the story is set in the US after all – and it fits very well with that old-time Hollywood period and charm the story is based in. That being said, this is NOT a story featuring River Song – this story is all about Melody Malone, the female no-nonsense private detective with killer heels and drop-dead gorgeous red lipstick.

It’s a cool detective story as a standalone. It’s got girl power, 1930’s charm, and a supernatural mystery (the only thing that really ties it into the show). Unfortunately though, the supposedly bad-ass protagonist is limited by 1930’s gender roles and perceptions. It’s a good story, but could have been better.

My Rating: ♥♥♥

Title: Doctor Who: The Angel’s Kiss
Author: Justin Richards & “Melody Malone”
Publisher: BBC
Release Date: February 7, 2013
Pages: 80 (eBook version)
ISBN:  978-1471324055

#WeekendCoffeeShare: If We Were Having Coffee… On April 30

Hello, book lovers!

How are you? Welcome to the Weekend Coffee Share, a blog hop by the lovely Diana over at Part Time Monster. Every weekend we get together for virtual coffees and a little casual chat. How has this past week been for you?

If we were having coffee today, I’d first of all tell you that I have finally caught up with all my review writing for the A to Z Challenge. Yes! You read that right: I AM DONE! I survived the A to Z Challenge! Check out my 26 posts here, all nice and in order, and in a format that will allow me to add my entries for the next few years. I honestly didn’t think I’d make it, especially as I had to give up on the challenge on my other blog Study.Read.Write. I think this deserves a huge coffee and possibly ice cream. Oh, and sushi tonight with my gran.

With this challenge now (finally) complete, I will be focusing on my normal, day-to-day reviews of the books I’m currently reading, and joining a few more weekly features. At the moment I’m part of this Weekend Coffee Share, and of the Top Ten Tuesday, but I am hoping to expand the range over the next few weeks.

If we were having coffee, I’d also tell you about my studies. Now that the challenge is out of the way, I will need to focus more on my last few assignments and my thesis. So far I haven’t been able to do much as I was still waiting for books to arrive. But now I only have 4 outstanding orders.

Then again, I am contemplating whether to get some of the (free) eBooks I found printed and bound. I found a cheapish service, and I much prefer reading physical copies of twenty 400-page-strong books than reading them on the computer. I am someone who likes to add index tabs and post-its to my textbooks and highlight any passages I could use. I’d get them printed without any fancy designs or formatting, just so I can pick up an actual book and use it rather than printing out odd pages or none at all. It’s just the way I work. Mind you, I am someone who sometimes adds marginalia, however, I only do so if it is my book. I’d never disrespect someone else by writing in their book, and I am not getting rid of my books, so it doesn’t matter to me. I also love finding margin notes in second-hand books to see what others thought or what was so important that they had to make a note. Marginalia were actively taught and encouraged at my school, so that’s the way I work.

Do you write in the margins? Did you develop a system that helped you get through 20-odd massive textbooks for grad school?

Anyway, I need to get on with my studying and planning my future blog posts. Thank you so much for having coffee with me today, I needed a little chat, relaxation and sanity after the craziness of the A to Z. check out what the other Weekend Coffee Sharers have been up to, I’m sure they’d love to have coffee with you as well!

Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig #AtoZ

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.

Robert M. Pirsig’s Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance embodies that 70’s spirit of road trips and the search for enlightenment.

The story follows the narrator and his son on a motorcycle trip across the North-Western USA. It’s a very personal and moving account, which is not only testament to their father and son bond, but also feels incredibly raw and real.

Along the way, the father and son duo have many philosophical discussions which they call Chautauquas, ranging from ethical emotivism to the philosophy of science. Unfortunately, the son, Chris, does not often get a word in edgeways. His father, or Phaedrus as he refers to his past self, has a lot to say. And while his teachings are solid, they are a mere introduction to philosophy and touch on the great philosophers who should be explored more after reading the book.

Despite the name, there is not as much Zen Buddhism, or motorcycle maintenance come to think of it, as one would expect. That being said, the explanation of the scientific method and how we as a society and as individuals go about discovering the truth, and the analogy of working on a motorcycle is beautifully written.

Road trips have this habit of serving as time for contemplation and finding oneself. The open road can do that to you. And discussing philosophical aspects and teachings with a fellow traveller is a valid past-time. Towards the end of the book, Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance really tips over into preaching, though. It’s no longer a discussion or an anecdote seen for its philosophical value. And that’s when the reading turns from being fun into being tedious. The search for enlightenment has turned into a lesson.

As a road trip story between father and son, during which the father wants to share some life advice, this would be great! But the author apparently could not resist temptation to turn absolutely everything into a philosophy lesson, which takes away from the story at the heart of this novel.

 

My Rating: ♥♥♥

Title: Zen & the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
Author: Robert M. Pirsig
Publisher: Vintage Classics
Release Date: June 6, 1991 (originally published September 1974)
Pages: 416
ISBN:  978-0099786405

Young Sherlock Holmes – Death Cloud by Andy Lane #AtoZ

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.

Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud (as it is known in English) by Andrew Lane takes place in the 1860’s with a fourteen-year-old schoolboy Sherlock Holmes solving his very first mysterious case.

As someone who has grown up with the original Sherlock Holmes canon and more recent TV regenerations of the sleuth from Baker Street, I was intrigued by this book.

Sherlock is meant to spend the summer with his aunt in the country, and the teenager couldn’t be more bored by that prospect.

The case Sherlock comes across involved a mysterious cloud, which descends on people and leaves them dead and covered in boils. However, at age 14, Sherlock’s world-famous deductive skills are still seriously lacking. His sidekick is not a teenaged version of John Watson but a boy called Matty. And while Matty is a great character and their friendship is nicely written, Sherlock is disappointing for fans of the sleuth.

Young Sherlock Holmes is not at all what I expected. While I find the concept of a teenaged Sherlock really intriguing, it is hard to reconcile this young boy who suggests rather than deduces and has a love interest with the well-known adult Sherlock Holmes everyone knows. If the premise of a book is the childhood of one of the best known fictional detectives ever, I would expect that at least some part of the story hints at what shaped this teenager into the aloof, friendless and highly analytical sleuth people know.

A Sherlock Holmes story – no matter how old the protagonist happens to be – should be clever, witty, interesting, and at the end baffling. Unfortunately, this novel is none of that. Granted, the plot is original, as are most of the characters, but the character of Sherlock feels wrong for true fans.  It reads like sophisticated fanfiction, and  – dare I say it? – there’s more convincing fanfiction out there which explores Sherlock’s childhood in Victorian England. If the protagonist had any other name, I doubt I would have recognised that he’s meant to be the detective.

 

My Rating: ♥♥

Title: Young Sherlock Holmes: Death Cloud
Author: Andrew Lane
Publisher: Macmillan Children’s
Release Date: June 4, 2010
Pages: 313
ISBN:  978-0330511988

Xingu by Edith Wharton #AtoZ

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.

This short story is usually part of a collection entitled Xingu and Other Stories, but it is now also available by itself.

Edith Wharton’s Xingu is a hilarious take on Ladies Book Clubs and luncheons.

Written in 1916, the story centres around a group of six ladies who regularly get together to discuss literature, even though some of the women do not even bother to read the books. And yet, their contributions are often somehow fitting.

When a famous guest author comes to town, nothing really goes to plan as this guest does not want to discuss anything – except for Xingu. While all of them assure that they have studied it, and the guest wants to appear superior, it’s one of the less popular members of the women’s club who has to take her down a peg.  It’s a brilliant satire of book clubs and critics and hilariously funny. Calling out the snobbery and pretentiousness of ladies who want to seem cultured but refuse to do the legwork.

Incidentally, the book club members also represent the different types of readers. The purist who wants to internalise the entire book, and the one who only reads a book if the man gets the girl at the end, to the non-reader who just wants to look and sound cultured. Despite the story only having 48 pages, it is full of sarcasm and social critique.

Xingu is a clever, timeless story, that makes for an entertaining short read.

 

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Title: Xingu
Author: Edith Wharton
Publisher: Kessinger Publishing
Release Date: June 1, 2004 (originally published February 7, 1916)
Pages: 48
ISBN:  978-1419195136

 

Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera #AtoZ

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.

Witi Ihimaera’s Whale Rider is a beautiful gem of a story, highlighting and celebrating Maori culture and society.

Eight-year-old Kahu is a girl growing up in a male-dominated world. Her tribe claims to go all the way back to the whale rider Kahutia Te Rangi and the current chief is her ageing grandfather Koro. It’s a sore point with him that his first grandchild is not only a girl, but also named after the legendary ancestor.

In a society, in which the tribal ways still dictate social and cultural behaviour, the little girl has to prove her worth as her grandfather desperately seeks a successor.

Whale Rider is written from the perspective of Kahu’s uncle Rawiri, who – like the author – knows the Maori culture. Trying to gain her grandfather’s love, Kahu throws herself into her studies of the Maori language and local legends. And with a little curiosity and the secret help of her relatives, Kahu learns the skills usually reserved for boys. When whales start to wash up on the beach of the small Maori community, it is time for the real heir of Kahutia to take their rightful place in the tribe.

It is a beautiful story, weaving together the past and present, highlighting the generational shift in dynamics while trying to hang on to the old ways and legends. The relationship between Kahu and her grandfather is both beautiful and incredibly sad. All Kahu wants is for her grandfather to love her. She’s a good, well-behaved girl, who does not understand why she is being punished with neglect; while he is an old man who only knew one way of running the tribe, and what positions girls in his family are supposed to take and struggles with breaking from tradition.

The book does a wonderful job of introducing Maori culture and includes many Maori names and words. There’s no westernized view of tribal life or belittling of the traditional ways. It showcases the importance of the ancestral legends and the how their culture defines their everyday life. But at the heart, it is a touching story about a little girl and her granddad who live in Aotearoa – the Land of the Long White Cloud – and who have to work at  finding mutual respect in a world in which cultural limitations are changing.

Whale Rider was the first novel by a Maori author to be published, and to me, this is a defining piece of Kiwi Literature. If you are interested in New Zealand at all, read this book first and foremost!

 

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥

Title: Whale Rider
Author: Witi Ihimaera
Publisher: HMH Books
Release Date: May 1, 2003 (originally published in 1987)
Pages: 150
ISBN:  978-0152050160

Voss by Patrick White #AtoZ #60Books

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge. Also part of my 60 Books Challenge: Based on a true story.

Based on a true story of exploration in the Australian Outback, Voss, by Nobel Prize for Literature winner Patrick White,  epitomises nineteenth-century Australian society and explorer mentality.

Johann Ulrich Voss is a German explorer who is set on being the first to cross Australia, based on Ludwig Leichhardt, who famously got lost in the Australian Outback.

It’s as much a story about passion as it is about exploration. Voss meets a young woman called Laura, who is new to New South Wales and who is the – slightly naive – niece of Voss’ expedition sponsor. Laura and Voss connect on a deep level and share an almost spiritual bond as he leaves on his ill-fated expedition into Australia’s red centre.

Why a character like Voss, who although being enigmatic is also quite arrogant and introverted, would choose to lead an expedition is a bit of a mystery. His sponsors insist on him taking a whole entourage of characters with him, even though it is obvious that Voss would prefer to travel solo. Keeping in contact with Laura as far as possible as many letters do get lost, they come to see each other as husband and wife, even though most of their relationship exists and progresses only in their dreams and imaginations.

Though it is not the main character who is the most interesting figure in this story. Voss’ team consists of a handful of men, all distinct and all misfits, even in their own small group of misfits. Their interactions are what moves the plot along, and they are fascinating to observe. Once the group of explorers encounters aboriginal folk in the Outback, the story becomes infused with their spiritualism as well. Aboriginal people come across as completely “other” and strange, compared to the colonial explorers, and their interactions with Voss’ band of people are rife with communication problems and cultural misunderstandings which are nevertheless crucial to the story.

Patrick White’s writing is simultaneously strange and beautiful. He creates characters and paints landscapes the descriptions of which will stay with readers.White’s story is littered with observations and psychology, and sentences are sometimes designed to be tripping people up while reading.

A story of love, loss, and the dangers of the Outback. Voss truly is the quintessential, modernist Australian novel.

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Title: Voss
Author: Patrick White
Publisher: Vintage Classics
Release Date: 1994 (originally published in 1957)
Pages: 464
ISBN:  978-0099324713

Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas #AtoZ

This post is part of the 2016 April A to Z Challenge.

Dylan Thomas’ “play for voices” Under Milk Wood was devised as a radio programme.

It follows the inhabitants of Llareggub, a small, fictional fishing village in Wales. Using a mixture of first and second person narration, we get to experience the villagers’ dreams and everyday interactions with each other.

There is not much plot as such. But with a whole cast of varied characters, all with their own dreams, regrets, problems and lives, there is never a dull moment.

As is common in small towns and tight-knit communities, everyone has a big secret to keep hidden and old ghosts that haunt them. Behind the socially obligated pleasantries and forced smiles lies a host a contempt and murderous thoughts.

Dylan Thomas’ writing style is beautiful with its lyrical wordplay and poetic descriptions which conjure up the village and the folks living in it. Thomas’ language is almost musical, packed with metaphors, imagery and hilarity. As Under Milk Wood is intended to be read and heard, rather than read, the full effect of the play becomes apparent when you read out loud or listen to one of the many great recordings of the play.

We are not wholly bad or good, who live our lives under Milk Wood.

 

My Rating: ♥♥♥♥

Title: Under Milk Wood
Author: Dylan Thomas
Publisher: Penguin Books
Release Date: February 3, 2000 (originally published in 1953)
Pages: 112
ISBN:  978-0140188882