Thursday, 31 December 2015

Dare to Dream - 2016

It's not /the/ way to have a perfect year.
A bucket list, I mean, or New Year Intentions.
It can actually be quite demotivating, especially when (around the third -blue- Monday of the year) you discover that you are going to be sponsoring your nearest gym, instead of paying for a membership  you're actually going to make use of.

Then again, finishing last year's Reading Challenge fit in quite well in the "I'm proud of myself, because..." list. It's one of the few things I did have control over, and finishing it succesfully (though very much near the deadline) sorta gave me motivation to start a new challenge for this year.

It'll be easier than last year's, but harder.
More interesting yet challenging.
More of a to -do list, but I'll have to think about it.
And though set up in a way, it'll have to be spontaneous and inspirational, too.

What's that challenge?

Here you go, my to-do Bucket List thing of 2016:

- Explore 12 places I've never been. (And a minimum of 1 'new' country).
(Places can be towns, cities or otherwise. Wherever. As long as they're new. To me.)

- Do 12 things I have never done before.
(Like Rollerblade disco in 2015, or eating marshmellows on a volcano in 2012, or surfing, skiing, climbing mount Everest, going to Mud Masters or trying Free Running or Slacklining. A new hobby, a new sport, a new language, a new instrument.)

- Read 12 new books.
(Again, new to me. After this Reading Challenge of 2015, this should be a piece of pie.)

- Make/Create 12 pieces of art.
(Painting, colouring, crafting... Any art.)

- Learn something new.
(Sailing, for instance. Or a new language. Some skill. But again, doesn't matter, as long as I learn how to do it properly - on amateur level. I'm neither ambitious nor foolish enough to want to become professional at something new within a year. Else I'll be cheating for sure.)

There's also some goals as far as health and fitness are concerned, but I don't have those in SMART goals. It just needs to become better. I need to consistently work at my health.
And make my body and mind a priority. More than it has been so far, anyway.

And why are my goals in 12-es? Obviously, a consistency of "once a month" without limiting (or pressuring) myself to actually get something ticked off every month.

This list may expand, for whatever reason, as I see fit. Any suggestions or ideas are welcome. 

Cheers, let's make this year a good one! 

The Gypsy

Reading Challenge: Completed.

Barely - but succesfully, I am proud to announce my mission as accomplished.

When my life took a turn for the worse (or rather plummeted into an abyss), I promised myself one thing. I had no control over whether I was going to find what I was looking for. I had no control over if I was going to be accepted at any job. I had no influence in the amount of friends lost (or gained). I (temporarily) had no control over my mental health, and in so far still have no control over health in general. The body and mind remain treacherous things.

But I did promise myself I was going to finish this challenge.
And I managed to read another 17 books, even though I haven't read a word all through July, August and September.

Hence the list, and a short analysis on each, seeing as I have more to fill my time with on this last day of the year.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen. 
First half took weeks, second half two days. A classic I'd never read yet.
I'm glad I did, it's your classic love story from 1813.
Very Austen. Things happen for convenience, a misunderstanding ensues, everyone's haughty, then someone finds out the truth, and they live happily ever after.

Paula Spencer, by Roddy Doyle.
I didn't even have a box for this one, yet glad I read it.
A sequel to The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, which I'd read earlier this year.It picks up 10 years after her husband dies. A battered woman, an alcoholic, trying to get through the day, trying to make sense of life. 

Toen Ik Je Zag, (When I Saw You) by Isa Hoes. 
It was absolutely beautiful, at times witty, at other times touching.
I expected it to be a lot more depressing than it was. It is a true story told by a famous Dutch actress, of how she met (and eventually lost) her famous Dutch actor husband. It's weird to read about it from her side. Antonie and I used to speak on twitter. Apparently, he used social media as one of those "escapes" from the empty feeling from gaping life (or lack of it) and the pressure of accomplishments. 

Zo ik iets ben.. Ben ik een Hagenaar, Louis Couperus. (If I'm anything, I'm a Hagenaar - ie. from The Hague)  

If I had to point out a hometown for myself at all, it will be Den Haag. It's where I was born, and it's where I have felt most at home during the past years, even though I haven't lived there since I was 2. If I ever end up buying a house anywhere, it'll probably be there. 

De Vrouw In De Spiegel, (The Woman in the Mirror) van Kim Moelands. 
First fiction of hers I've ever read. It was okay. Not super impressed.
It was easy to read, a thriller, and a book that came out this year.

There's the suspense, and several stories parallel one another that brush along and touch at intervals. I haven't read this many Dutch books in one year, either, ever since I was a kid. 

Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown
Unfortunately a rereading, because my mother isn't impressed by books, if she takes time to read something at all. So a book your mum "loves" is also an overstatement. 
I still like it, though. I'm not going to bore you with an analysis.
If you haven't read it yet, go read it, or just be ashamed of yourself forever. 

The Kabul Beauty School, Debbie Rodriguez. 
Strong story, of a strong lady, who "just" rescues hundreds of Afghan girls and helps them with a future. Her writing style is not the best, but whatever. I do have respect for the woman.
I hope some day I can write or tell a story like this.
A story of how I impacted lives. How I changed the course of someone's future.
In a positive, hopeful way. 

De Olijke Tweeling Krijgt Schaatsen, A.M.Peters. 
Youth Sentiment. Took me an hour, whilst waiting for my doctor's appointment. 

1984, George Orwell. 
Took me a while to get through, mainly because of traveling. I do understand why it's a must-read classic. A dystopian novel with things that strike true. Yet it ended so.. horribly. 
And I do get why it was banned in the Soviet Union. /censorship. 

The Maze Runner, James Dashner. 
I thought, I'll start a trilogy that's hot and happening. And because the second movie was coming out this year. But I wasn't really hooked. Both by the writing style as the story. And then I found out there are 4 books, not 3. And then I dropped it, for now. After finishing that one, obviously.

I didn't even get to tick a box. 

De Cock en het Lijk in de Kerstnacht, Appie Baantjer.
(The Cock - it's his name and not weird in Dutch-  and the body on Christmas Eve).

Mystery detective things, as far as setting goes, it was definitely Christmas.

I used to watch the series when I was younger. I liked it better than this book. 

Extremely Loud, and Incredibly Close, Jonathan Saffran Foer. 
Not bad, for a book written by "someone under 30".  My head works a bit like the boy's in the book.
Oh, right. I wasn't expecting it to be all about the event that shook the States (9/11), at all.
Even though I'm not autistic. It took me a while to figure out he was only 9.
I wasn't half that clever than. (Though probably talked just as much. Maybe more)
It doesn't obnoxiously push it in your face all the time, though.
I still don't know what I was doing on that day at that time, except for grieving for my grandmother.

I don't want to imagine losing someone in that big a drama. By terrorism or nature.

Macbeth, William Shakespeare
Read and finished today. To tick off a play. 
"Double, double, toil and trouble,
Fire burn and cauldron bubble...
... Something wicked this way comes". 

It's one of my favourite plays. Not only because I'm not born of woman in the Shakespearean sense of the word (C-sections and all that), or that Harry Potter literally quotes the witches around their cauldron.  There's something to be said for the ambitious, but also for those that take signs and prophecies to heart so much it leads to their own destruction.

Nice Work, David Lodge. 

This was always one of my favourite writers. I can't help it. At heart I'll stay a student of English Literature forever. I'd never read this one, and I do agree with the title. It's a nice work of Lodge's indeed. Two lives, which have nothing to do with one another, one shielded in academic life, a feminist Women's Studies lecturer at a fictive town called Rummidge, and a factory Directing Manager. I felt happy and almost intelligent as I recognized a lot of the references to (English) literature. It might be time to refresh and revive this part of my life. Get some cobwebs off dusted off. (As soon as I pick up my Spanish).  

Tales from the Magic Rocking Horse. 
Youth Sentiment, once again.
I still love horses.
I do wonder though, how this used to be a book to read for weeks on end.
I guess small chores look a lot bigger as a child, maybe books have the same effect.
And time is a funny thing

The Lies of Locke Lamora, Scott Lynch. 
This is the book that did it for me. The one I lost my heart to. My personal favourite of the entire year. This one had me completely hooked (after the first 100 odd pages of getting into the story) - I came out completely disoriented every time I put the book away and got back into reality.

His world became my own, as did his friends. His wit charmed me, even though he duped hundreds of people. He was likeable in his crimes, ameable in his thievery, and just stole my heart. 
Locke is an orphan, dodges death and slavery and ends up fending for himself. It's partly his genius, for he is a very clever boy, but mostly it's luck, that he falls into a group of light-fingered con artists calling themselves the "Gentleman Bastards".  As he grows up, he finds himself in sticky situations. The stickier they are, the more brilliant he becomes. For fiction, it doesn't read as such, I almost started believing the alchemists and their magic could be a real thing. 

Red Seas Under Red Skies, Scott Lynch. 
The second part of Lynch's Gentleman Bastards series. I thought it was a trilogy, but there are 7 primary works out and two spin offs, so I have got a lot of reading to do for next year as well.  It is satisfying, but a bit more predictable than the first one (maybe I'm getting used to his style, maybe this book is just more "meh" than the first). 
It might be the fact that their numbers are considerably smaller than in the first book, hence the "humor" and vulgarity which lighten the mood of the book (Like Tyrion's wit improves the quality of the Game of Thrones ever so much, I fear the day that dwarf dies) is limited to a two-way badgering of two best friends, with their own little quarrels and jealousies on top of everlasting brotherhood and friendship.  That said, I liked the pirate theme of this book, and as I'm starting to get into the world of sailing myself, this has added even more personal joys.

On to next year's challenge?
I'll type that out next year. (Ie. tomorrow, or soon.)
All the best to all of yeh in 2016, don't die, don't swallow fireworks, hope you'll have a better year than this one was, whether it sucked or not. 


The Gypsy

Thursday, 10 December 2015

Loving yourself

A wise man once told me: "The only person you KNOW you'll grow old with is yourself."

But learning to love yourself is easier said then done, especially if it's either not in your nature, or you've completely killed that functionality during the years.

When I was 16, I learned self-criticism, when constructive, is helpful to grow and develop.
I'm an extremist in most ways, and this I took this on so passionately I forgot to be constructive.
Suddenly, nothing I did was good enough. I never liked the way I looked, talked, or thought anymore.

Thus: I am on a new mission. I want to love myself. Irrevocably, endlessly, bottomlessly, to the moon Pluto and back.

I like myself. I really do. There was a point (this year even) when I didn't. But I won it back. I like myself more each day.
Yet I am too harsh, too critical, too insecure.
I'm also ill (subject for a different day), which needs it's own care, time and healing process.
But this new mission will help. I know it will.

I did some research.
I stumbled on so many "do-it-yourself" love yourself tips and tricks, mostly written by people to whom it comes naturally, or have taught themselves to be pro's. I have yet to find a piece by anybody just starting this challenge (which would be my 2016 challenge, if it weren't for the simple fact I want to start today. Now. Yesterday, if I could.)

The most helpful (and contextually challenging) is these three steps.
The most motivational piece full of (almost) SMART goals was the 10 Ways to Practice Self-Love.
There are 30 ways to learn to love yourself and be happy with the world, but it really boils down to just listening to who you are, what you want, and doing it.

Things will not be perfect, so stop aiming for change. Stop punishing yourself for actions or thoughts that happened. Stop being more critical towards yourself and judge yourself like you would your best friend, or your (inner) child. Would you be as harsh, then?
Also, acting on what you need, rather than on what you think you want.
Nourish yourself: Eat well (healthy, mainly), sleep enough, exercise (*cough*), set your boundaries (get to know them, first), be intimate, get social (friends are sacred), spoil yourself every now and then (massages, movie, warm bath, nice cup of tea. Think simple.).

Last (but not least): for comic relief (in Dutch though, sorry for those who won't understand it)

I've been attempting this mindfulness that is all the rage. It might be working. A little.
Might be ranting all about that next time.
Spoiler tip: Don't do the exercise with the raisin. Just. Don't.

Love (to myself, and you),
The Gypsy

Saturday, 27 June 2015

Reading Challenge Update Two

After promising myself I'd have a goal (ie. reading challenge)  this year I wouldn't actually flunk out on, and writing a happy update that was full of hope of getting somewhere, it happened: I lost motivation. 
Or more specifically, I got really distracted. 

By a game. +nod+

It swallowed up my March and April. It was horrible. 
When I wasn't busy looking at different appartments and moving, I was playing that game.
Then came a series of travels, but I might post about those at some later date~ 

I've recently (end of May) started to refocus, and have been able to read enough to type something here :D And I've had some more boxes ticked off, though that's starting to be only one or two per book now.

Alright. Here goes.

The Woman Who Walked Into Doors, Roddy Doyle.

Scary, in a no-happy-end-in-sight sort of way.
The novel is Paula Spencer's narrative: an abused wife, an alcoholic, a traumatised woman.
She uses the excuse of having "walked into a door" whenever her husband gives her an injury serious enough to go to the hospital for.

Doyle shocked Irish audiences when he wrote a TV mini-series about the honest portrayal of domestic abuse. That's when he wrote this book. And the thing is: it happens everywhere. And more often than you'd think. Paula tells of her romance with Charlo, and the slow "slip" into an abusive marriage that had started out so well.

She loves him, even when he hurts her.
This story hurt and scared me in a lot of ways.

The Reading Group, Elizabeth Noble.

Made me want to join a reading club. Forreals.

A collection of "middle-aged" women that come together once a month to discuss a book they have (or sometimes haven't) read. Over the span of a year, the five women, Clare, Harriet, Polly, Nicole and Susan, all different in age and each battling with their own monstrous dilemmas (not in chronological order: caring for an ageing parent, marriage that has gone stale, infertility, unexpectedly becoming a grandmother and a cheating husband)  transform themselves due to the books and each other's company. 

Spijt! (Regret!), Carry Slee.

I read most of Slee's books when I was younger (11-16 years old). She was one of the first authors that made me cry or laugh in public on train stations or dentist waiting rooms for no apparent reason (to the people watching me do the crying and laughing, anyway).

This is one of Slee's biggest hits, yet not one of my favourites. 
It's about a group of highschool kids, with one real "main character" David, and a kid that is always abused at school, Jochem. David lives with his parents and has no siblings, and is in love with one of the girls in his class, Vera, and is usually really shy when he is around her.Jochem is also in David's class. Jochem gets bullied not only by children in their class, but also by some of the teachers. 
The novel ends dramatically, when Jochem commits suicide after withdrawing more and more, when his cries for help are ignored (by David, amongst others). The title speaks for itsself, really. 

A Trilogy: The Legend of Drizzt. (Forgotten Realms series), by R.A. Salvatore.

I think I have a new favourite Dark Elf. :3
This is a prequel to the Icewind Dale Trilogy, where Drizzt Do'Urden is a supporting character of Wulfgar the Barbarian. A fantasy full of gnomes, dark elves, faeries, mindflayers, dwarves, orcs and
 humans, this trilogy was an interesting read.

Homeland.  Book I.

The first book tells the story of Drizzt's birth, and introduces us to Menzoberranzan, city of the Drow, or Dark elves. Drizzt's mother is "Matron" Malice, and his father the greatest weaponmaster of Menzoberranzan, Zaknafein.

Drizzt has a hard time growing up and trying to "adept" and find peace with his lot: the Drow society is a naturally matriarchal one, and a viciously evil one at that.
The night Drizzt is born, his older brother Dinin murders the eldest son of Malice, Nalfein, and the family Do'Urden destroys another great family entirely to climb in rank (from tenth to ninth noble house). 

Drizzt is told to become a warrior, for his skills show great aptitude, His father trains him for a few years, and then he is sent to the Academy, where he graduates with honours after ten years, during which he stoically learns to live with  the ways of the Drow, though never yet accepting them. 
After graduation, the cruelty of his race are more obvious, and Drizzt, after a lot of drama, decides to leave Menzoberranzan, despite all odds. 

Exile. Book II.

This continues Drizzt's story, telling of the wild adventures of the Underdark, a world inhabited by creatures darker than those of the night. For the ten years after leaving his home in Menzoberranzan, Drizzt lives only to survive, with no one to keep him company but his magical companian Guenhwyvar, a panther from a different astral plane.

Struggling with a lot of conflicting emotions, and torn by hurtful memories, running into enemies around every corner, always on the run from his homocidal mother Malice who is still trying to have him killed, in a world full of dangers like acid lakes and mindflayers that kidnap and enslave every roaming creature they can lay their "hands" on, it's a miracle that Drizzt manages to make friends at all, who drag him through the survival into a willingness to do more, to actually live. 

He realizes he will never be safe in the Underdark, and that all he does is drag his friends into the danger with him. Thus he decides to travel to the surface, and leave the whole Underdark behind him. 

Sojourn. III.

Though this book is not incredible, it is a must to the end of the trilogy. Once Drizzt manages to get to the surface, he is physically tormented by the sun, moon, and seasons alike. For a dark elf that has lived his entire life (forty years of it) in a place like the warm, stable and seasonless Underdark, things like snow, rain, icy wind and shortening/lengthening of days don't make sense. Yet he endures, for he considers it penance to the guilt-ridden (though usually misplaced) traumas that he has had to live through in the Underdark. 

He isn't welcomed anywhere either, for the race that he is born to happens to be an infamously scary one to most races who like to live. He is rejected, and even hunted, until he finds a place to live with an elderly blind man, Montolio, a ranger. He teaches Drizzt the common tongue, and enlightens him to Drizzt's heart of a ranger. Even though Drizzt is forced to leave, eventually, he finds a place that he can call home. 

Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, by John Gray.

Eye opening in the most stupid of ways. It sold 50 million copies and was on the bestseller list for 121 weeks, one of the best non-fiction books of the nineties. This is one of those books that have been shelved in my bookplace for ages, collecting dust as it waits and waits to be given a true chance to impress. I hadn't had the time, nor - I thought- the need beforehand.

Then I suddenly wanted to write by post on the Boys vs. Girls , and did some research whilst writing it. After that post, the book suddenly started calling my name, and after having read the first two pages, I decided to give it a shot.

Men treat women like they would like to be treated, and women make the mistake of thinking men are like women. When you decide to accept these huge differences, and understand them for what they are, it's not really all that difficult. I might just write a continuation on my Men vs Women, once I've had some time to digest all of it.~

But I have been honestly enlightened in so many ways. I'll need to reread and keep trying to remember that men and women really are different on so many levels.

----* ------* ---- 

14 books in total so far, which is less than I "expected" to have read by now, but really a whole lot more than I've been reading in the past few years. (Specifically cause I haven't hit that time of the year yet where I start rereading the 7 Harry Potter books, the Lord of The Rings, Twilight and other series I know by heart..)

I figured exactly halfway through the year, my challenge is not yet a hopeless cause!~

Happy second half of 2015, peeps!

The Gypsy

Friday, 19 June 2015

If. (e.e. cummings)

If freckles were lovely, and day was night,
   And measles were nice and a lie wasn't a lie
       Life would be delight----
       But things couldn't go right
       For in such a sad plight
   I wouldn't be I.

If earth was heaven and now was hence,
   And past was present, and false was true,
         There might be some sense
          But I'd be in suspense
          For on such a pretense
   You wouldn't be you.

If fear was plucky, and globes were square,
   And dirt was cleanly and tears were glee
          Things would seem fair---
           Yet they'd all despair,
           For if here was there
    We wouldn't be we.

(e.e cummings)

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Men Vs Women #1

There is a huge gap between those dwellers that once came from Mars (men), and those that used to live on Venus (women). Plenty of them are trying to close that gap, whether to seek equality or superiority. Personally, I don't agree with the theory that they are equals, neither will I say that one sex is superior to the other. They are just different. They have their own "manual", and their friends of similar gender will understand some things that their partner might never even grasp.

Sometimes, when I'm bored, I'll find myself watching whatever TV the people in the room are watching. (If I happened to be at a location with a TV). There's this funny Dutch show, Boys vs Girls,  with two teams (obviously) that quiz their way through statistics, facts, and overall silliness to reach a point where one of the two teams wins. (Fun fact: First season was a tie, 3 wins each. Second season girls won 4 times, boys 3. Third season the boys won 4 to 3. Season 4, another tie. Thank you Wikipedia)

I do admit though, that even I am a culprit in this stereotyping. I catch myself rolling my eyes and sighing "men...." or "boys will be boys.." more often than not. Obviously, usually around girlfriends. Maybe to find a bond/link or understanding with my own gender, rather than hating on the opposite one. Cause I don't. Hate men. At all.
So watching this episode tonight made me laugh out loud.
Hence, I thought I'd share.

Some of the things that were mentioned:

-- If women have to choose between living alone forever, or being in a relationship with a married man, they would go for the "single"option. Because men already have trouble relegating enough attention on their partner, it would be even worse having to share said attention.
(Maybe some men are better at spending attention than others, but in general, yes, agreed.)

-- Men gain more weight than women do after marriage. (Who knew, that was a tricky one.)

-- Women are so insecure about their own bodies, that 48% would hand in 5 years of their age to get the "perfect body".  (Just imagine ageing 5 whole yea... who am I kidding? Yes please.)

-- Men come up/make more excuses than women do to get out from under the "bed fun".  (Wait, what?)

-- Men's brains are highly specialized to use one hemisphere or the other to accomplish specific tasks. Women's brains use (big parts of)  both hemispheres for every task.

-- Men think women can't drive. They think women sure as hell can't park. Women actually tend to agree. They did this research in the UK a while ago. Turns out women are better drivers than men. +cough+

-- Men have averagely five  items in the bathroom (toothbrush, shaving cream, razor, soap, and a towel), women around 437 (Men can't identify most of these items).

-- Men can focus on narrow issues and completely block out unrelated information. Women naturally see every day things from a "big-picture" broader point of view. (Men can also focus on one specific task or activity for long periods of time, women are better at dividing their attention among multiple tasks or activities).

-- Women have a grocery list of things she needs, then goes out to the store and buys those things. Men wait till their fridge is empty but for something indistinguishable that's gone blue and furry, then goes out to buy everything that looks good, regardless of whether it will fit together in a meal.  (I'm not good at this one. I should work on being more of a woman in this respect.)

-- Women will dress up to go basically anywhere, including (but not exclusively) shopping, to see their friends, putting out the trash, answering the phone, for a date, or reading a book. Men will dress up for weddings or funerals. ( A bit crude, this one. When women were given a choice though, between a man who spent too much time on his looks or a man who cared not at all, they chose for the vain-mirror-man. True story.)

-- Men have a dominant sense, which is vision. Women don't have one dominant sense, all of them work together, and all of a woman's senses are, in some respects, more finely tuned than those of a man.

-- Men are able to compartmentalize information, stimulus, emotions, relationships, etc, into seperate "cabins" or categories. Women tend to link everything together. (The fact that it's rainy outside and you just stubbed your toe against your bedside cabinet does little to improve your mood and therefore it must be karma conspiring against you when also your boyfriend leaves the toilet seat up. Amiright?)

The Gypsy

Friday, 6 March 2015

My Reading Challenge Update

Procrastinating ol' me, I should really update more frequently!
Here's an update to the Reading Challenge I started in January.
My first intention was to type a book review for each book I read for this challenge.
Maybe I'll stick to doing that for every REALLY GOOD book I read, and group the rest together.
For now, I've got little choice but to group these books I've read so far.
Not because some of them weren't good, but because I'm lazy. :)

Unlike every other resolution, this is one I've managed to keep quite on track with -
I'm actually bordering on obsessed, going at this in a very competitive pace.

So here goes (Warning: Long post ahead)

I think I've now reached the point where it's starting to get difficult to actually tick off three boxes. 
Which is good. 
Can't wait to fill this thing up. 
Maybe I can start over. 

I already mentioned Dreams of Joy by Lisa See in the last post, so I'll continue from book 2:

The Old Man and The Sea, by Ernest Hemingway.

I had to read this book and base an entire city tour on this, back in 2012, for my study trip in Cuba. Havana was Hemingway's "real" home, unlike the States, where he was born and raised.
I must say, I enjoyed reading the book a lot more the second time around. The descriptions, specifically that of "la mar", the sea, are hauntingly beautiful. The style of writing is peculiar, Hemingway is one of the few people that give me a sense or idea of how the author himself used to talk: very few periods, or breaths of air, and a lot of rambling enthusiastic descriptions without pause.
I actually managed to finish it in a day (one of the boxes to tick off). 

The story is simple: A Cuban boy, an apprentice fisherboy, is trying to learn from an Old Man. However, this old Cuban, Santiago, is in an unlucky fase, and hasn't caught any fish in a while, and the boy isn't allowed to join him anymore. 
The old man has faith and hope, and rows his boat deeper into sea than ever before. He hooks on a Marlin, and that's when the fight begins. A fight of desperation, of confidence, of exhaustion, of holding on and not giving up. 

Looking For Group, by Ryan Sohmer and Lar Desouza.

This is quite a different genre: (web) comics are a not so frequent type I read. I seem stuck with a few of my favourites, however, and LFG is one of them. Richard makes for comic relief, and the story is a schizophrenic mix of action and informative backstory, World of Warcraft and Lord of the Rings, plus a little bit of their own creativity.   

The first time around, I'd only read the first 150 pages, more or less. 
This time, re-reading, (it's a sequential comic, you'll need to start from the Beginning) I got to page 855 (the end as it stands now), so that'd be the first 7-8 volumes. 

A Tale of Two Sisters (Dutch: Zus Enzo), by Anna Maxted

I read this one in Dutch, partly because that was one of the boxes to be ticked off (originally written in a different language), partly because I don't read enough Dutch books ( I prefer to read in the original language the book is written, given I can understand the language -- and somehow, I'm usually more drawn to English books.) I've never read anything of Maxted's before, but seeing as she was one of the few authors with my official initials, it had to be her. 

Let's start this by saying: For a chick-lit, this one is quite good. 
It's about two sisters (Hah, who would have guessed), who are so different from one another they might as well have been opposites (familiar with that personally - so it  spoke to me). The familiar unreasonable waves of anger when someone you love says something you don't want to hear, Lizbet, a scatterbrain, living-in-the-moment kind of girl, who has a life where everything always goes wrong, but a boyfriend who adores her, finds out she is pregnant, whilst both of them never wanted a child. Cassie, her 'perfect' sister, has it all: the perfect body, the perfect house, the perfect job, the perfect life, and a husband. If you read that carefully, you'll find I omitted 'perfect' before husband, for Cassie's only wish is a baby, and she is starting to hate her arrogant and EQ-dead husband. 

Apparently, I chose well. Most of Maxted's books are about young girls, exploring life, but this one's central characters are in their mid-thirties, already in a relationship, and basically sheds some light on what happens after "they lived happily ever after. The end." Because mostly this isn't all too happy an ending at all. Nor is there an ending at all in sight. 

Grenzeloos, by Kim Moelands

Another new genre on the list: auto-biography. Grenzeloos literally means limitless, or borderless. 
This story is very personal, for me, seeing as some of my favourite people (and cousins) in my world have the same chronic disease the author is suffering from: Cystic Fibrosis. 
After having read her first autobiographical novel, Ademloos (meaning Breathless), it took me quite some time to pick this one up. Ademloos is about how Kim loses her boyfriend, Ron, a co-CFer, to the horrible disease, after the waiting to get new lungs, the horrors of hospitalland, the trouble her inlaws gave her during and after his suffering, the mental and physical pain they both go through, the sadness of being left alone. Though beautifully written, it's depressing. Once Ron dies, Kim doesn't really care about living so much anymore herself, and seems quite willing to join him in as soon as her own body gives up. 

Then, she meets Jan, the man that makes her rethink this hope she gave up. That is the  start of  Grenzeloos. She loves anew, though she never thought that was a possibility, and realises that it doesn't betray Ron's memory either, for both loves she holds fit her big heart, and she doesn't compare, she loves both of them in their own way. 
Suddenly, she's not so keen anymore on giving up, yet her body has different ideas of that notion. She hadn't thought she would have wanted to go through a lung transplantation, but now that she has new reason to stay alive, the alarming rate her lung function drops forces her to be put on the national (and later international) transplantation waiting list. Her (social) world becomes smaller by the day, at some point restricted to her 3x2m hospital room.. Until that one releasing bit of news: There are 'new' lungs for her. 

Her optimism, specific sense of humor,  and everlasting hope make this book a real treasure to read. It's confronting, honest and funny, dragging you from one emotion into the next, your own personal emotional rollercoaster.  Her desire to live, her appreciation to still be alive, is motivating. 

 A Fire Upon the Deep, by Vernor Vinge.

Woah, new-genre-alert! A Hugo-award-winning science fiction novel, which I rarely read, has been a gift of a dear friend, a long time ago (2009 ish). It took me this long to start it (yay, thankyouchallenge), and I'm glad I finally did.

A Fire Upon the Deep is a "Space Opera" ( a sub genre of science fiction that emphasizes - romantic/melodramatic- adventure in outer space) with aliens, superhuman intelligence, space battles, love, betrayal, genocide in several places in the Milky Way. Vinge divides the book into four zones, regions where different physical constraints allow very different technological and mental possibilities. There's the Unthinking Depth (Innermost core, minimal forms of intelligence), the Slow Zone ( Old Earth is there, where humanity originated),  the Beyond  (artificial intelligence, faster-than-light travel and communication), and the Transcend (where incomprehensible superintelligent beings live). 

I can't even begin to describe what happens, for the book is well over 600 pages long, and matches G.R.R. Martin for information, though it introduces us to a whole lot less characters. It takes some time to get into it, and you'll need to not put it aside for weeks so that you forget what it's about.. Other than that, it proved quite an interesting read.

Fifty Shades of Grey, by E. L. James.

I took myself by surprise by actually reading this one, knowing what it it about.
I took myself even more by surprise when I finished it in about four days.

No. I did not like it.
But no, it's not for the obvious reason.

What annoyed me most was the lack of good writing.
If I were to ommit the times he used his "long, elegant and skillful fingers" to do this or that, the use of 'shades' ( his being "fifty shades of fucked up", the "seven shades of or her "chewing /biting on her lip" or her thinking " Holy cow/crap/fuck", we'd be down by 50 pages.

What annoyed me was that this is a copy/paste Twilight, adding some hardcore porn.

So, he's not a sparkly vampire, but a kinky sadist sex god. He's still perfect in every Goddamn way (He is gorgeous. He is good in bed. Scratch that, he is a God in bed. He is a semi-professional pianist, can pilot helicopters and gliders, is CEO of his own company and on top of that, he uses his money to FEED the starving population of the world....) just like Edward. Also, his stalker tendencies make Mr. Christian Grey whisper more or less the same to Ana Steel as Edward does to Bella, with "You should stay clear of me", following up with an "I can't seem to stay away from you". D'errr....
And then there's the whole brooding "my soul is damaged" theme going on, masked by a "look at me, I'm perfect and get what I want" attitude...
Oh, and Christian, vampire or not, wants to actually BITE Anna.

Then there's her. Her name is Anastasia (Ana, as she prefers), not Isabella (who prefers Bella) - She is mousey, average, insignificant, a klutz, prone to accidents, insecure, who doesn't understand what men see in her, though there are flocks of men (and boys)  who are apparently interested, with a barely functioning car... Oh, and she loves reading classics. So OF COURSE her story is a parallel to an actually good classic, ruined by the lack of literary skill and awful content.
She also seems to be safe from Christian "reading her (mind)". Hah.

Then there's the "ethnic" best friend who is in love with the girl. José, in Fifty Shades, Jacob in Twilight. And the heroine's father is socially awkward, left by the promiscious mother. The mother is horrible at relationships, but happy with Groom number X, living far away in some warm and sunny State.

Think I'm done massacring this book.
Though it ends unsatisfyingly, I really have to have NOTHING else to do, do I want to attempt reading books 2 and 3...
----- * ------* ------

That's 7 books so far (or 6 and a comic) -- Not bad for the first two months of the year, I'd say :D


The Gypsy

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Self-contemplation, goals and a rant.

“The mystery of human existence lies not in just staying alive, but in finding something to live for.” 

So lately, I've been doing a lot of self-contemplation.
That means you run into yourself a lot. You learn things about yourself.
You might learn things you don't quite like, and others you're quite comfortable with.
But either way, learning about yourself only helps the 'Future You'.
20-Years-From-Now-Jess is going to be happy I had this phase in my life now, even though Present-Jess might be sitting with her hands in her hair, wondering where to go from now..

One of the things I learned about myself (and maybe humans in general), is that I am, surprisingly (to myself) a creature of habit. Be it bad or good, it's easiest to do something you always do.
Now, I'm a pretty spontaneous, flexible and adventurous person. I didn't know you could be doing something new, and yet combine it by habit, by approaching this new situation like you're used to in any other -similar- situation. It's ironic, but quite interesting.

I'd promised myself I'd pick up my hobbies again, now that I have breathing space and am not swamped by work and deadlines. And yet, I am having a hard time doing just that.
It's been a habit of not-reading, not-painting, not-exercising, not-listening-to-music for so long, I have to actively tell myself over and over again that that's what I'm going to do. And even then, I don't do it half the time.
Which lead to a new promise I made to myself: I need to stop being so harsh to/about myself.
Give myself my own breathing space.

I've been told that having a goal usually helps with the "Where do I go from here?".
Which is great. Apart from the fact that I can't think of any goals. Which is, apparently, a well-known and pretty average problem for people.
Seeing as top-atheletes and business-people and achievers in general have a "big picture", they have a long-term goal (or goals) they want to achieve.. This big goal needs to be divided into chunks, where you can make a "divide and conquer" sort of strategy, and start addressing them one by one.

"Goals are like magnets. They'll attract the things that made them come true."
- Tony Robbins

For me, sure, I've got short-term goals plenty that need addressing. Not goals I want, as much as need, to achieve. I can't, however, figure out where I want to be in 5 years, or 10 (aside from on the top of some far away mountain, or maybe diving in a beautiful ocean... or maybe a visit to the moon? -- yeah, okay, I've got the travelling itch. Literally. )
The only cliché goal I can think of, is that I want to be happy. Today. Tomorrow. 5 years from now, and 50 years from now, too. And apart from that, there's just TONS of things I know I DON'T want to be/have. Which is something, right?

There are mindtools that advise you how to think up goals and divide them, and more importantly, how to define them. Even WikiHow seems to know HOW to do this.
I'm wondering if it works. But even though I'm sceptical, I'm also hopeful.
If this is what is advised, if there are people out there it has helped.. Well, then it might have a point (or more)..
I'm hopeful for me, too. It gives me a relieved sort of feeling, that I don't have to have everything figured out already.

The Gypsy

Monday, 5 January 2015

My Challenge for 2015

Thanks to my cousin, I have a new challenge for this year.
Probably one of the first that is not an every-day-post kind of thing.
It has nothing to do with sports. (Unfortunately. My body could use a bit of movement)

This time, it's a reading challenge.
I consider myself quite the bookworm, and I'm ashamed to admit I haven't really been reading much lately. Of course, time spent on study, internship or work (or avoiding all three) have been hogging my main energy levels. Up until now. Because I need a "new" (old)  hobby.
Something other than lurking on social media and browsing randomly to waste time.
I'm also picking up painting again, but that's a different story.

For now, here's the list.
I saw it on my cousin's timeline, and couldn't resist pulling a Barney.
(ie: +gasp+  CHALLENGE ACCEPTED! )

The "official" challenge has no rules.
But when I joined this, we made a (motivational) group.
Our only rule? Max of boxes you can tick per book are 3. (I know some of my books could tick of 5 - 8 easily.) This way it stays a challenge.

The "Banned Book" is a bit of a catch, because there are no books banned by the state in the Netherlands. That was different some time ago, so we bent that 'rule' to encompass 'banned at some point in recent history'.

I wouldn't be me, if I hadn't already started. We're already on day 5 of the new year, after all.
I just finished "Dreams of Joy", by Lisa See.
An incredibly deep and moving story, on a very idealistic yet dangerous and difficult time in Red China. My eyes have been opened to another part of history I always took for granted.

The Gypsy

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Building a School with a Guitar

Once upon a time, on an island far, far away, there lived a happy community.
A community that was thriving, living in a sunny and beautiful place.
People would get up, really early, and head out to the sea.
To fish. Because their main income and food relied on these fish.

But then came big fishing companies.
They drained the seas of fish.
Now the fishermen of the island barely catch enough to feed themselves, let alone have anything left to sell and live off.

This village? Tasajera. Belonging to the only country I didn't visit on my backpacking trip through Central America in 2012: El Salvador.
The population? 1,846 inhabitants.
The story? A true one, sadly.

Suzanne, a dear friend of mine, went there last summer.
She joined EMANA (Energia huMANA = Human Energy), a non-profit initiative that helps out sustainable development of the village, San Rafael Tasajera. Their focus is on educating the people of the village, so that they have a chance and survive.

Suzanne decided she was going to use her guitar.
* Music cheers people up.
* All money goes to EMANA, so they can use the money to build an actual school in Tasajera.
* She's happy because everyone's happy.

Here's how she's doing it:  (Hint: It's a vlog!)

My goal? To have this story be heard. To have this story spread.
Because I found that I couldn't sit there, hear the story, smile and do nothing.
So instead of my original "First Blogpost of the Year", which is going to have to wait, this gets that title. This is my (first) contribution to Tasajera. Perhaps more will follow. Any ideas are welcome.

In the meantime, I'm supporting Suus fullheartedly.
Great job, chica!

The Gypsy