Tag Archives: love

All The Bright Places – not a mood-booster

23357458So I learned a life lesson from All The Bright Places the other day. When you are stressed out and miserable, and all you want to do is get home and curl up with a good book, it is not a good idea to read the end of this book on a crowded tube home, when you have no tissues. It is a sob-fest. No other explanation needed.

And in case you were wondering, no it didn’t make me feel better. It just made my nose run for the entire 60-minute commute. It turns out I had no tissues. I was not prepared for this book.

All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven

Theodore Finch is fascinated by death, and he constantly thinks of ways he might kill himself. But each time, something good, no matter how small, stops him.

Violet Markey lives for the future, counting the days until graduation, when she can escape her Indiana town and her aching grief in the wake of her sister’s recent death.

When Finch and Violet meet on the ledge of the bell tower at school, it’s unclear who saves whom. And when they pair up on a project to discover the ‘natural wonders’ of their state, both Finch and Violet make more important discoveries: It’s only with Violet that Finch can be himself – a weird, funny, live-out-loud guy who’s not such a freak after all. And it’s only with Finch that Violet can forget to count away the days and start living them. But as Violet’s world grows, Finch’s begins to shrink.

The cover of the copy I have says that this is the next Fault in Our Stars. Now, I didn’t really love The Fault in Our Stars (although I did sob my eyes out at it), so I don’t think that would be the greatest accolade for me. But it did give me something of a heads up about what direction this book might take.

So this is a really lovely book, in general. It’s about Violet and Finch, both of whom are struggling when they meet on the ledge of the bell-tower at school. Why would a school have a bell-tower? I don’t know. It’s never really explained. Violet has recently lost her sister, and is struggling to cope. Finch can’t stop thinking of ways to die, and is struggling to cope. But between the two of them, and a shared Geography project, they start to go about finding a way to live, and a way to stay in the present.

This book is really quite beautiful. It’s about falling in love, about struggling as a teenager, about coping with loss, about finding someone you can be yourself with, and about accepting people the way they are. It’s about finding a way to move forward and a way to connect with people even in the face of how hard life can be. It’s full of beautiful imagery and two messed-up, sad, lonely people who find a way to make each others’ worlds a little bit brighter.

I really did enjoy this book. I don’t recommend reading it in public places, though. And I did have one major complaint. The last thirty or forty pages of the book were a sampler of Jennifer Niven’s next book – Holding up the Universe. I’ve actually already read that, so I was pretty disappointed, as I thought there was still a fair chunk of story left to go. I wish books which have sample chapters at the end would make that clear from the beginning, so that I wouldn’t be left wanting more, just from the thickness of the pages I have left.

Still though – a lovely book, with lots of really lovely moments in it about love, life, and struggling, and how to find one small good thing to keep going.

Four Stars


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Book #140 – The Returned

17182421When I was in Bath with Alex, my boyfriend, a couple of weeks ago, he suggested that we watch this TV show called Resurrection, which is about, well, people coming back to life. We watched the entire first season in about a day and a half, and while googling to find out more about it, I realised that it was based on a book, which I promptly hunted down and read – more promptly than I’ve watched the second season of Resurrection, which I’m about a month behind on.

The Returned – Jason Mott

Jacob was time out of sync, time more perfect than it had been. He was life the way it was supposed to be all those years ago. That’s what all the Returned were.

Harold and Lucille Hargrave’s lives have been both joyful and sorrowful in the decades since their only son, Jacob, died tragically at his eighth birthday party in 1966. In their old age they’ve settled comfortably into life without him, their wounds tempered through the grace of time … Until one day Jacob mysteriously appears on their doorstep—flesh and blood, their sweet, precocious child, still eight years old.

All over the world people’s loved ones are returning from beyond. No one knows how or why this is happening, whether it’s a miracle or a sign of the end. Not even Harold and Lucille can agree on whether the boy is real or a wondrous imitation, but one thing they know for sure: he’s their son. As chaos erupts around the globe, the newly reunited Hargrave family finds itself at the center of a community on the brink of collapse, forced to navigate a mysterious new reality and a conflict that threatens to unravel the very meaning of what it is to be human.

With spare, elegant prose and searing emotional depth, award-winning poet Jason Mott explores timeless questions of faith and morality, love and responsibility. A spellbinding and stunning debut, The Returned is an unforgettable story that marks the arrival of an important new voice in contemporary fiction.

I was biased about this book, because I came to it from the starter of the ABC television series – I was expecting something similar, quite high-drama, a lot of human intrigue and plotting, and really a dramatic kind of thing. That was pretty much as far from the tone of this book as I could’ve gotten – it’s a much gentler, more searching sort of book, far more introspective, and more about human relationships than the drama which the tv show thrives on.

I think if I’d come to this book on its own, and not had my opinion tainted by the drama of Resurrection, I would’ve had a far more open mind about it. As it was, I was expecting a climax, some drama, a lot more drama, to be quite honest, and I ended up disappointed.
That’s my own mistake, though.
The Returned is really a very nice book – its unusual plot device (non-brain-eating or generally ‘bad’ zombies!) allows the author to investigate questions of ageing, death, loss, religion, family relationships, tolerance, and societal attitudes to new and unusual things and he does all that in a really gorgeous kind of way. His prose isn’t given to flowery over-description, but gets across the essentials and the human feelings of his characters. The Returned is a quiet and interesting inspection of a lot of very human issues, and it’s a strong example of that.

Because I came at the book from the wrong angle, I think I enjoyed it much less than I would’ve had I been reading with a more open mind. For me, so, it was a lower rating than it probably deserved, objectively.

Three Stars

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Sarah Dessen Mega-Post

I’ve reviewed two Sarah Dessen books already – here and here – but I’ve read lots of them over the course of the year, so I decided that I’d do one big post to round up the other six I’ve read so far this year.

Book #91 Someone Like You
Book #110 The Truth About Forever
Book #121 This Lullaby
Book #122 Keeping the Moon
Book #124 Dreamland
Book #132 Lock and Key

It’s probably worth noting at this point that I’ve really enjoyed all of Sarah Dessen’s books so far (I’ve two more to read, yet, but I’m sure they’ll be similarly strong), so it’s sort of a given that all of the books in this post are getting thumbs ups (thumb ups? Thumbs up?) from me!

Someone Like You

Halley has always followed in the wake of her best friend, Scarlett. But when Scarlett learns that her boyfriend has been killed in a motorcycle accident, and that she’s carrying his baby, she was devastated. For the first time ever, Scarlett really needs Halley. Their friendship may bend under the weight, but it’ll never break–because a true friendship is a promise you keep forever.

This is, as far as I’m aware, one of Dessen’s earlier books. It’s certainly a stronger offering than That Summer, but it hasn’t quite reached the peaks of later offerings. Halley takes center stage this year, supporting her best friend Scarlett, who’s dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, and developing a relationship with bad boy Macon (how is that pronounced, though? Like Bacon?), while struggling against her overbearing mother. Characterisation of a teenage girl was spot-on here, as Halley deals with a relationship which might not be as perfect as it seems in the beginning. Lovely book, some really good spots, and a pretty good midpoint between That Summer’s dullness and the strength of later offerings.
3.5 stars, but I can’t do that, so it got bumped to four!

The Truth About Forever

A long, hot summer…
That’s what Macy has to look forward to while her boyfriend, Jason, is away at Brain Camp. Days will be spent at a boring job in the library, evenings will be filled with vocabulary drills for the SATs, and spare time will be passed with her mother, the two of them sharing a silent grief at the traumatic loss of Macy’s father.
But sometimes, unexpected things can happen—things such as the catering job at Wish, with its fun-loving, chaotic crew. Or her sister’s project of renovating the neglected beach house, awakening long-buried memories. Things such as meeting Wes, a boy with a past, a taste for Truth-telling, and an amazing artistic talent, the kind of boy who could turn any girl’s world upside down. As Macy ventures out of her shell, she begins to wonder, Is it really better to be safe than sorry?

Very strong offering, showing Macy’s development as she tries to deal with the grief of losing her father and her mother’s subsequent retreating into her shell, leaving Macy feeling very alone. Combined with her super-brain boyfriend being away for the summer, she has a lot to gain from her new catering job and the eclectic collection of workers she meets there. Even characters whose vocabulary consists of no more than three lines – donneven! – are fleshed out as Macy begins to open up and admit how deeply losing her father has hurt her.
Four Stars

This Lullaby

When it comes to relationships, Remy doesn’t mess around. After all, she’s learned all there is to know from her mother, who’s currently working on husband number five. But there’s something about Dexter that seems to defy all of Remy’s rules. He certainly doesn’t seem like Mr. Right. For some reason, however, Remy just can’t seem to shake him. Could it be that Remy’s starting to understand what those love songs are all about?

Remy has it all figured out – she’s in the interim between high school and college and come the end of the summer she’ll go off to college without any ties left behind, a fresh start and no lingering ties holding her back. But her cold and sometimes standoffish method of dealing with people is turned upside down by Dexter and his rag-tag band of misfits who rock into town at the start of the summer, as Remy learns that you can’t cut the ties which bind you as easily as you might think. This is a cute one, where Remy, who has it all figured out, develops something of a heart in the eight weeks of summer.
Four Stars

Keeping the Moon

Colie expects the worst when she’s sent to spend the summer with her eccentric aunt Mira while her mother, queen of the television infomercial, tours Europe. Always an outcast — first for being fat and then for being “easy” — Colie has no friends at home and doesn’t expect to find any in Colby, North Carolina. But then she lands a job at the Last Chance Cafe and meets fellow waitresses Morgan and Isabel, best friends with a loving yet volatile relationship. Wacky yet wise, Morgan and Isabel help Colie see herself in a new way and realize the potential that has been there all along

One of Dessen’s earlier offerings, while there’s nothing wrong with Colie’s story of a former fat girl realising how beautiful she is and how much she has to offer, with the aid of a rag-tag bunch of people she met at her new job, it’s just lacking the power of later offerings.
Three Stars


Wake up, Caitlin

Ever since she started going out with Rogerson Biscoe, Caitlin seems to have fallen into a semiconscious dreamland where nothing is quite real. Rogerson is different from anyone Caitlin has ever known. He’s magnetic. He’s compelling. He’s dangerous. Being with him makes Caitlin forget about everything else–her missing sister, her withdrawn mother, her lackluster life. But what happens when being with Rogerson becomes a larger problem than being without him?

Caitlin (nice Irish name there, I approve) has always lived in the shadow of her sister, but when her model sibling ups and runs away from home, Caitlin is left adrift and seeks solace in the arms of bad boy Rogerson Biscoe. But things are sometimes exactly as they seem, and Rogerson is a bad boy through and through. The trouble is, Caitlin’s in too deep before she realises it, and leaving could be far harder than staying.
Dreamland is deep and complex and satisfying, painting a portrait of how people can end up in a situation that’s far beyond their control without realising how badly they could get hurt. Caitlin is interesting and relatable, and her relationship with Rogerson is beautifully portrayed so it’s not hard to see how she got to where she ended up. I really enjoyed this book, although it was hard going at times, and would rank it very highly among Dessen’s offerings.
Four Stars

Lock and Key

Ruby, where is your mother?
Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.

That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future; it’s a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give?

Best-selling author Sarah Dessen explores the heart of a gutsy, complex girl dealing with unforeseen circumstances and learning to trust again.

For once, in this book, Sarah Dessen turns her normal dynamic of girl meets boy, boy saves girl, on its head, and Ruby very much saves herself – in learning to trust her sister and brother-in-law and settling into the opportunities she’s been handed, while also accepting the damage that her mother has done, Ruby puts herself on the right track, and is certainly not saved by a knight in shining armour. I found this really refreshing especially since the guy who would be the knight is actually in need of a little saving himself. This book was really powerful, in showing Ruby’s fractured relationship with her sister and mother, and also in showing how the issues between Nate and Ruby develop over the course of the book. I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and it might be my favourite Dessen so far, although it’s vying for top spot with Just Listen.
Four Stars

I’ve read six Sarah Dessen books now, and I really enjoy the way she writes sisterly relationships. I was surprised to find out that she’s actually an only child, as a lot of what she writes rings true for me – and I would know, having two sisters. I have the same sort of feelings about To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before – the interpersonal relationships, especially between family members, are a really strong part of Dessen’s writing. I’m thoroughly looking forward to the last two Dessen books I have to read (and as I read more and more, I’m spotting more of the nods to different characters in later books, e.g. Annabel from Just Listen’s radio show is mentioned in another book (maybe Lock and Key), Scarlet from Someone Like You is a love interest for a minor character in This Lullaby, Rogerson from Dreamland is mentioned in Lock and Key as having been in prison previously) and will be sorely disappointed to have to wait like everyone else for her newest arrival next year.


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Book #71 – The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

10798416I got this for Sinéad for her birthday, mostly because it has the word statistical in the title, and she’s a giant maths nerd. I read it a few weeks ago, and found it to be a very middling coming of age story, coupled with a hefty dollop of romance (as most coming of age stories are.)

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight – Jennifer E. Smith

Who would have guessed that four minutes could change everything?

Today should be one of the worst days of seventeen-year-old Hadley Sullivan’s life. Having missed her flight, she’s stuck at JFK airport and late to her father’s second wedding, which is taking place in London and involves a soon-to-be stepmother Hadley’s never even met. Then she meets the perfect boy in the airport’s cramped waiting area. His name is Oliver, he’s British, and he’s sitting in her row.

A long night on the plane passes in the blink of an eye, and Hadley and Oliver lose track of each other in the airport chaos upon arrival. Can fate intervene to bring them together once more?

Quirks of timing play out in this romantic and cinematic novel about family connections, second chances, and first loves. Set over a twenty-four-hour-period, Hadley and Oliver’s story will make you believe that true love finds you when you’re least expecting it.

There’s a hefty dose of unrealism in this book. Naturally, when believing that Hadley would meet her one true love on a plane, because she missed the previous plane by four minutes, and therefore had several hours sitting next to a beautiful British boy named Oliver, you have to understand that it’s really not statistically likely at all. But luckily, despite the title, there was more than just instalove between Oliver and Hadley – there was also the wedding of her father to get to.
Much like in That Summer, which I reviewed yesterday, there’s not much thought given to the father’s new wife, just that she exists. Luckily, this book does a much better job of fleshing out the story behind their wedding, her father’s motivations, and indeed the slow journey she’s taken to this point, and whether or not she’ll actually forgive him. That was probably the best part of the book, much more than the romance between Hadley and Oliver. Another hefty dose of unrealism was required there as they both took jaunts across London in order to find each other on days when they really both should’ve been totally preoccupied with major family events.

I have a few issues with Oliver and Hadley – firstly that it’s notable that he’s British – like a British boy is some exotic fish which must be collected. Trust me, I’ve lived in England for ten years now, and English boys are not that great. Scottish boys, though, that’s a different story…
Furthermore, Oliver is in college, and Hadley is in school (by college, I mean Uni, by the way). I just can’t get with that kind of partnership – it’s weird and creepy when they’re in such different stages of life. But, since the book only takes place over one day, that never really is addressed as an issue, so I guess they’ll work it out once they get back to their American hearts and flowers romance.

Lastly, there was not enough statistics in the book – for a title like that, there was really a disappointingly low number of references to anything even resembling anything that could conceivably be called statistics or probability – plus, really, several of the events in the book were laughably unlikely. Again with the unreality.

As a whole, though, it’s a light and fluffy book which was perfect to read on a train and while away a few hours without taxing my brain or accidentally bursting into tears.

Three Stars

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Books #83 & 90 – After the Wedding/One Summer


13553785I made a booboo with these books – I read them the wrong way around. One Summer takes place two years before After the Wedding, on the same small island of Roone, off the west coast of Ireland, and with largely the same cast of characters. That meant that I knew most of the major plot points of One Summer before I even picked the book up. Happily, though, that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it.

One Summer – Roisin Meaney
After the Wedding – Roisin Meaney

On Roone, an island off the west coast of Ireland, stands a stone cottage by the edge of the sea. The locals are convinced that it brings luck to those who live there and Nell, its current owner, is certain there’s something to it. After all, it drew her back to the island from Dublin and it brought her Tim, her fiancé, whom she’s set to marry in a few short months.
So when Nell decides to rent out the cottage during the summer to raise money for her wedding, deep down she hopes that it will work its magic and attract the right tenants to her home.
But as the summer unfolds and Nell’s carefully-laid plans for her wedding start to go awry, she begins to question her decision to let out her beloved cottage.
As the arrival of each of the tenants brings about unexpected change to the lives of the islanders, Nell is forced to face some home truths about herself and answer one increasingly burning question . . .
One thing’s for sure, it’s a summer on the island that nobody will ever forget.

I really enjoyed both these books. They were nice, fluffy, summery reads about a little community of Irish people living off the west coast of Ireland on an island with a little bit of magic in everything that happens there. Both books have a large cast of characters with a lot of overlap between the two.
There’s not much to complain about with Meaney’s writing – it’s nice and easy to read, her characterisation is good and fleshed out, if at times a little predictable. The motivations are believable, and the little touch of Roone magic adds a little something to everything she writes.
The first book, One Summer, is divided into time periods – at first, months, then when it comes to summer, into the two-week chunks of the lodgers. While it makes sense for the story progression, I found that it made the book a little hard to read at times, and it felt like it needed breaking up into smaller chunks.
I also don’t like Meaney’s constant POV-switching, where you can’t always tell who is talking to whom (although at times that’s deliberate). Two little jarring things which make two otherwise very pleasant and enjoyable books just that little bit less.

Still, though, decent marks for each.
One Summer – Three Stars ***
After the Wedding – Four Stars ****

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Book #35 – The Shadow of the Wind

51pSErJc3oL Kellie told me this was her favourite book in the world and that I absolutely had to read it so, over the course of many train journeys in February, I did. It’s a sizeable book, and took me more than a month to get through it, but I was glad I did!

The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals in the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind, by one Julián Carax. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Carax has written. In fact, Daniel may have the last of Carax’s books in existence. Soon Daniel’s seemingly innocent quest opens a door into one of Barcelona’s darkest secrets–an epic story of murder, madness, and doomed love

This book was a proper epic, winding story which rambled through the cemetery of forgotten books, the story of Julián Carax, of Daniel, of his father, of the book dealer, and all through the streets of 1940s Barcelona, over the course of nearly five hundred pages and several decades. It’s a winding, twisted up narrative, and we discover things with Daniel, or before him, or after him, all the while being introduced to a cast of characters and bit players until we finally see the revelations of what happened to Julián Carax in a satisfying and heart-rending dénouement.

It was a long book, but it is beautifully written and a lovely read.

Four Stars

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Books #23, #33 & #34: Matched Trilogy

9780525426264_1These books I have seen pop up many times in recommended lists – it’s always ‘if you liked Delirium, try these!’, so eventually I did try them, and here is my opinion.

They’re alright. They’re not the worst books I’ve ever read, but they’re very much focussed on the love story (which I knew they would be) and they lack a lot of the depth which other dystopian books build on. Plus, the whole premise of the books is the love triangle, which really, really rankles with me.

Anyways. On to the review proper!

Matched – Ally Condie
Crossed – Ally Condie
Reached – Ally Condie

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow”

^ That’s the blurb from Matched, the first in the trilogy. As you can see, it sets up the love triangle from the very beginning. Cassia is your typical female YA protagonist – smart, pretty, fit, reliable: she’s your typical Mary Sue. I know she has one flaw (they always do) but I can’t remember what it is – that’s probably a sign of how forgettable a character she is.

The Matched trilogy is a good but not a great example of dystopia. I did enjoy reading it – I need something to entertain me on the train to work – but I wasn’t completely hooked on it the way I have been with other series (Gone, for example, is destroying my life, in a good way) and now that a few months have passed since I read it, I’m finding it very hard to recall details.

Matched is a forgettable example, jumping on a bandwagon of a currently popular genre – I don’t think it’s a series which will stand the test of time. For the hopeless romantics, who love to see couples who struggle with nothing more than being near each other at all times, surmounting impossible odds to make their love survive, this trilogy is probably right up your avenue – I was just expecting a little more than that.

(I’ve seen a few comments that the whole idea of The Society is lifted directly from Lois Lowry’s The Giver quartet, but I can’t really comment on that as I haven’t read The Giver. If true, though, it makes this book all the more disappointing – the totalitarianism of The Society was one of the only interesting things in it)

Three stars


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Okay, so I had intended on writing a year in review post on December 31st, as I have done in the last few years, but I was busy playing violent card games and sleeping and enjoying my last few days in Ireland, so it kind of slipped.
Today is 12 months exactly since I started my PhD, meaning that I am officially a second year student. So I guess it’s as good a day as any to look back on the last 12 months, right? I mean, it’s kind of a milestone, even if not as big a milestone as the actual change of the year.
In actual fact, I’m gonna include the few days before I started my PhD too, because there was a kinda big event in there, you know.

So yeah. To start off. I moved to London and started a PhD. That’s been, well, interesting.
London is big, scary and faceless, and full of people. The first probably six months were atrociously hard. I spent most of them thinking I was drowning in college work and loneliness and confusion and not being a proper grown up. I’m still not a proper grown up. But either way.
General college-related things… I’ve done a lot of reading and research, and failed miserably at reading everything I should have read. I’ve got a fleshed-out thesis plan and the guts of my upgrade chapter. I have a literature review, or the skeleton of one, which needs to be fleshed out. I’m currently working on my upgrade, which means that I have to write an entire chapter of the thesis, write a literature review, produce a plan of what I’m going to do for the next two years and then defend it in a mini-viva. That’s what’s going on in the next few months, and it’s bloody terrifying, but I think I can do it.
I hope I can do it!

I’m a student of the centre for publishing, in the Department of Information Studies, so for the first few months I worked in the DIS PhD room, which is quiet and has a computer, but also has the temperature turned up to a truly ridiculous 25 degrees. It was alright in there, but there wasn’t much company or chatter, so during the summer I started working in the DIS common room. I enjoyed that, because there were lots of Masters students writing their theses, so I had plenty of company and lots of friends to chat to. The only problem with that was that come September, they were all finished and I was bang out of luck and on my own again. Around the same time, my supervisor went on sabbatical, so I got a new supervisor (who had previously been my secondary supervisor) who’s in the faculty of Laws. Why Laws instead of Law? I don’t know, but there you go. I started spending more time in the Laws PhD room, and that was actually much better, because they’re very friendly and welcoming, and I enjoy spending time there. Plus there are social nights on relatively frequently.

I went to a few boards beers and managed to find some friends there, which was a relief. Incidentally, one of the boardsies used to live with my brother-in-law, so if that’s not a coincidence, I don’t know what is. Boards was a real help in meeting people and getting out of my flat, which was difficult, to be honest, at first.

Living arrangement-wise, I spent the first six or seven weeks staying with my brother, but after my nephew was born, I started to feel like I was crowding the place, so I rented a room in the flat of another PhD student. It was fine, and it was a lovely flat, but being a lodger made me feel a lot like I was intruding on someone else’s space the whole time. When my six-month lease was up I moved on to a flat which is further away from the college, but where I’m an equal stake-holder. It’s also not exactly what I’m looking for, so I think I’ll be moving on within a few months, but it’s not been the worst thing in the world. It’s not bad living here, just certain things can get very frustrating, mostly being off the tube lines. Won’t be going south-east again!

The start of the year was pretty hectic as a whole, with the golden trilogy of life events – hatching, matching and dispatching all happening within a two-month period. My nephew, who remains the cutest thing in the world, arrived on scene, my gran sadly departed and my brother-in-law Shane finally gained an official spot in the family, not that he wasn’t there in every sense already.

After Easter, things started to go downhill, though. I had a lot of difficulty making friends (the moving to the common room thing didn’t happen until about June) and I was incredibly lonely. I tried to fix it by spending extra time with my brother, but to be honest he’s not really the type of person to really appreciate that, so I was mostly just annoying him and upsetting myself. It wasn’t until May that I admitted to myself that I was depressed again and actually went to the doctor. I went back on the anti-depressants, but told nobody, once again ashamed of being too weak to stay happy by myself. But, of course, that was dumb as balls, because nobody who knows and loves me would judge me.

In any case, I went to the doctor and I got the pills and for most of the summer I was functioning again and it was all good. But in September then I got a phone call which I had been expecting but dreading for oh, months. It put an end to the whole situation from July 2012 (you know the one I mean) and, although it wasn’t anything I hadn’t expected, I was absolutely floored by it. I was gutted that it was a no, even though every ounce of logic in my brain had told me that it would be a no. What made it worse, though, was that I had nobody to turn to and nobody to tell and for a week when all I wanted was a hug, I didn’t have anyone I could go to with it. It was an absolutely atrocious, horrendous week. And it really hammered home to me just how alone I am here. I have Shane, yes, but he’s not… I’m not as close to him as to the rest of my family. And I have friends here, but they’re just buddies, not actually people I can properly talk to about big things. And this was a big thing.
For a week or so, all I wanted was a hug. Just a big massive, squishy hug which says everything will be okay.
And it was that week that I realised that I don’t hug anyone here. At home I’m incredibly free with the hugs, but over here the only person I hug is my nephew. And, to be honest, he’s not that keen on being cuddled, he mostly tries to squirm away.
So yes. That was tough. It was incredibly tough. I lasted approximately a week before I had a total breakdown in the middle of a park and finally admitted to myself that I needed to go to counselling to help me get past this.

So I did. I went to counselling, and it was… it was weird. A lot of the time it felt like I was just being told things I already knew, and I would have had about as much success and personal development talking to a wall, but between it and the pills, eventually the fog lifted. I’m not done yet. I’m still healing. I’m still on the pills and I’m actually in floods of tears as I write this, but I’m getting there. I’m slowly, very slowly, moving on.

After that, in September, things did get better. I joined the concert band in the university, which has been incredibly positive. I’ve really missed playing music, and having an outlet for it has helped beyond anything. It also has lots of social outlets, which is good. I even went to see Wicked (for the second time) with people from the band, which was equally as good as, if not better than, the first time I saw it four years ago.

As well as that, I kept going with college, and did a seminar for my sponsors in November, which went really well. I’ve made more friends, which should hopefully help me from getting into a situation like September again. I mean, I still don’t hug any of them, but maybe there are people I could talk to.

The physicality of being in London is… annoying. In the weeks when I’ve been home (and there have been about six of them), I’ve been able to just go over to someone’s home and have a cup of tea and a gossip with them (or a full ham and turkey dinner in someone else’s home while they hide in the kitchen, I mean whatever), which just isn’t something I can do with my closest friends (or my sisters, parents, or Alex) while I’m over here. The distance really got to me this year.
BUT there’s never likely to be another moment like that one in September again, so I don’t think I have to worry about it too much.

In general, like, being in London is great! There’s so much to do! There are so many things to see! I have been the ultimate tourist/resident. I’ve done lots of things that I did when I was a child (museums, why always the museums? I have millions of memories of going to museums!) and things that I had never done before (never been to Madame Tussaud’s in London, but went with Sinéad during the summer).
My relationship with my family is still good. I am an expert at Skype, and I am intimately familiar with the details of the ceiling coving, because my mum is too lazy to hold the tablet up while she’s talking to me.
Things with Alex haven’t been perfect this year, but by God, it’s a million times better than when I was in France. We’ve had plenty of visits, and the longest we’ve gone without seeing each other was eight weeks which, in the grand scheme of things, is really not that many. If our relationship is as strong in the next two years as it has been in the last one, we should have nothing to worry about until I get home. That’s when actually being in proximity to each other will begin to freak us out. After all, in the last three years, we’ve only been in the same province for six months.

In general though, last year was good. I know this blog post doesn’t make it seem that way, but it has been.
I love my PhD. It’s big and terrifying and overwhelming and my sponsors are really scary, but I adore what I do. I love researching and I love keeping up to date with everything that’s going on. I’m really looking forward to the next two years (although when I think that come June I’ll be halfway through, I come quite close to hyperventilating!).
I love my university (have to say uni over here, if you say college they think you’re still in sixth form), and all its bizarre oddities, especially the dead body in the box. I really, really enjoy the concert band and am happy to be here. I think it would have been much easier if I had started in a September, rather than a January, but sometimes life just throws you a curveball and you have to deal with it. The uni is weird and wonderful, and the people I’ve met here are really nice to spend time with. I really am enjoying being here.
Living on my own is strange – I know when I was in France I was terribly lonely, and being a lodger gave me a lot of the same feelings – with added doses of feeling like intruding on my landlady’s space whenever I tried to cook. Although, I must admit, sometimes I did have terrible cooking skills. I did set off the fire alarm, after all. The flat I’m in now is nice, I like the feeling of being an equal and I’m quite fond of my flatmates. I must admit I’m not fond of the sink being blocked for over a month, that was no fun, or the bathroom flooding the hall and part of my bedroom, that was no fun either, but hey, at least they were adventures!

I am happy here. This year has been strange and difficult and sad and lonely, but it’s also been interesting and delightful and wonderful. New additions to the family are wonderful (there isn’t a child in the world cuter than my nephew, and Shane Byrne is pretty alright), I’m in a relationship with an incredible man who puts up with my country-hopping, I have a family who love me and a great PhD, as well as lovely and supportive friends – overall, if I were offered a chance to re-do this year, I don’t think I’d change it.
On balance, the happy times won out. It wasn’t the BEST year of my life. But it was certainly one of the most interesting.
Also, I got an iPad. I think that makes this year a win!

^Mark, Sinéad, Alex and I at Aoife and Shane’s wedding.

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Filed under College, london, music, Personal

Moonlight Sonata

I know I’ve posted a lot of videos of songs (more will show up before too long) lately, but I’ve had music on the brain a lot lately.

A few weeks ago, my parents went to a wedding at which the tables were named after famous piano pieces.
As an aside, I think naming tables instead of numbering them makes a lot of sense, and is a really cute way to put a bit of personality into a wedding. I’ve heard of tables named after Disney couples (for the couple who got engaged in Disneyland), famous scientists (for the couple who met on a Science college course) and now piano pieces (because the bride was an accomplished pianist). It’s cute. The scientists, incidentally, were my sister and brother-in-law. I think my table was Curie, but I’m not entirely sure. Shows how much attention I paid.

Anyways. This wedding my parents were at. Their table was named Moonlight Sonata. This is, I think, my favourite piano piece, like, ever. I don’t know what it is about it. It’s not like I have a particular grá for Beethoven or anything – in fact, I think a lot of his pieces are overplayed. But this one? This one absolutely gets into my brain. I adore it. I would practically marry anybody who played it for me on the spot. Even just the first movement.

Oh, Moonlight Sonata. I would kill to be able to play this piece. I downloaded the sheet music for the first movement once, but I just couldn’t do it. My fingers are too stupid to do different things at the same time.

Incidentally, I often get confused between Moonlight Sonata and Moonlight Serenade. I like Glenn Miller, quite a lot, but not with the same kind of rush of feelings as the Sonata. It’s just a word confusion thing.


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July 28, 2013 · 11:48 am