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August Round-Up

So for all that I said that August wouldn’t be a mega book month, since I was supposed to be doing my final corrections, I still managed to get a fair few packed in. I guess I’m just much lazier about doing the corrections than I thought – although I did do them, and send them on to my examiners. Now I’m stuck in the interminable purgatory of waiting for the examiners to either approve them, or seek further corrections. I’m inclined to believe it will be the latter, because I’m pessimistic, but I’m hoping with a tiny part of my brain that it will be the former, and I will finally (finally!) be finished this doctorate. I never expected it to take such a long time, and I’m more than burned out with it.

In any case, today is the last day of August, and it was a month filled with books, as well as stress. I started off the month with Goldenhand, my most-anticipated read of the year, and the rest of the month has been similarly good.

Books

  1. Goldenhand – Garth Nix
  2. What Remains of Me – AL Gaylin
  3. A Torch Against The Night – Sabaa Tahir
  4. Royal Tour – Amy Alward
  5. Holding Up The Universe – Jennifer Niven
  6. What We Did’t Say – Rory Dunlop
  7. Yours, Faithfully – Sheila O’Flanagan
  8. Stealing Snow – Danielle Paige
  9. Changing Places – Colette Caddle
  10. Frostblood – Ally Blake
  11. The Memory Book – Lara Avery
  12. Sabriel – Garth Nix*
  13. Glass Sword – Victoria Aveyard
  14. Finding Audrey – Sophie Kinsella
  15. One – Sarah Crossan
  16. Night Study – Maria V Snyder
  17. 13 Minutes – Sarah Pinborough
  18. Happily Ever After – Kiera Cass
  19. Say You Will – Kate Perry
  20. All The Bright Places – Jennifer Niven
  21. Sing – Vivi Greene
  22. My Sister’s Keeper – Jodi Picoult*
  23. The Fairy Tale Bride – Scarlet Wilson
  24. Throne of Glass – Sarah J Maas*
  25. The Unexpected Everything – Morgan Matson
  26. Lord Brocktree – Brian Jacques
  27. The Assassin’s Blade – Sarah J Maas*

Short Stories

I only read two short stories this month, but somewhat confusingly, the single short story I read from the collection To Hold the Bridge was, in fact, the story To Hold the Bridge, so I kept trying to put it in the books list instead of this list.

I also, technically, read two collections of short stories/novellas – The Assassin’s Blade and Happily Ever After, but since they’re sold as packaged books, they did actually make it onto the books list.

So my two short stories were

  1. The Creature in the Case
  2. To Hold the Bridge

Cover Art

Favourite Book This Month:

Without a doubt, this has to be Goldenhand. The only book which might have beaten it was Sabriel, but Goldenhand wins this time on novelty. In any month without new Garth Nix (or old Garth Nix) there would have been a lot of contenders for favourite book – A Torch Against the Night was superb, and All The Bright Places was heartwrenching, but I really, really love Garth Nix, so he wins this one, no questions asked.

Favourite Cover This Month:

Frostblood wins it this month for me, although Glass Sword was a close second. Just look at those ice-coated petals! My proof copy doesn’t have that cover art, but I think I’m going to have to buy a copy when Frostblood publishes, just so I can look at it!

Other Thoughts:

I continued my Redwall Reread with Lord Brocktree. Thirteen books in and I’m still loving this series. Incidentally, since my sister is currently reading Marlfox, and I’ve finished Lord Brocktree, our rereads have caught up with each other. From the next book in (Taggerung), we’ll be going in the same order.

I’ve also started rereading the Throne of Glass series, in preparation for the release of Empire of Storms next week. I’m really looking forward to Empire of Storms, but I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not the last book in the series, so it will probably end on some massive cliffhanger and then I’ll have to wait an entire year for the next one again. But in the mean time, I still have three more Throne of Glass books to get through before I even start Empire of Storms!

Sing, by Vivi Greene, I found to be quite forgettable, and I don’t think I’ll write a post reviewing it. But I have to admit that every time I looked at the cover, Ed Sheeran popped into my head. This was compounded by a clip from the Great British Bake Off, in which Val danced around her kitchen to that song while making cakes.

I also spent a substantial amount of this month sobbing into my books. All The Bright Places made me cry ugly tears, Glass Sword had a few heart-wrenching moments, The Memory Book took my breath away, One had my boyfriend checking if I was quite alright, Holding Up the Universe made my eyes burn, Sing gave me happy damp eyes on the final page … actually, maybe it’s not the books. Maybe I’m just too easily given towards tears. But All the Bright Places and The Memory Book should come with warnings on them for the risk of damp pages!

One other slightly odd thing which happened this month – the Sheila O’Flanagan book I read, Yours, Faithfully. I actually have no idea whether or not I’ve read it before. Parts of it seemed incredibly familiar – specifically that the guy had several mobile phones – but parts of it felt entirely new. So I was really torn on whether or not to put an asterisk on it in the list. I decided not to as, on balance, I probably read the first half of it, and didn’t finish it. But it’s a strange sort of anomaly in the list. I may well have read all of it before, but I’m just not sure.

Eight months in, I’ve read 146 books. That’s well over my GoodReads target of 100, and also well on track to beat 2014, when I read 154 books altogether. I really need to start looking again at the book challenges, to make sure that I tick off as many categories as I can in the next four months. Here’s hoping!

 

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2013

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!

20140108-005708.jpg
^Mark, Sinéad, Alex and I at Aoife and Shane’s wedding.

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And how do you pronounce that?

Having lived for the last ten years in Ireland, I had forgotten about the absolute inability of the English to pronounce my name.

Now, I will admit, I have an unusual name, even by Irish standards. The double n at the end of my name is pronounced like a g. It’s characteristic of the Munster dialect of Irish, and can be seen in other aspects of the same dialect, in the módh coinníolladh, and in the adjective álainn, which means beautiful.

Depending on what part of the country you’re from, the pronunciation of -inn can be an n or a g sound. Because both my parents are from Munster (and my father is contrary) I got a double n, which is pronounced like a g.

So far, so easy to understand. People in Ireland have some issues with that occasionally, but if I yell at them enough, they’ll get it into their heads that it’s Aislinn pronounced the same as Aisling or Ashling, but spelled differently. Much like Sarah and Sara are pronounced the same.

It’s not a big deal to put up with that, because it’s a very minor difference, which, to be honest, isn’t really noticeable unless you’re listening, so it’s only really something I’ll drill into my friends, because they’d use my name frequently.

But here? It’s a whole different kettle of fish.

They just don’t get the name Aislinn. It’s like it’s a foreign language or something (see what I did there?).

It occurred to me, at interview for the PhD, that it might be something I’d have to deal with again. That was because the first question they asked me was how to pronounce my name; when I told them the correct pronunciation, the table was filled with thoughtful noises, as they told me they’d tried twenty alternatives, but hadn’t managed to hit on the right one.

Then in the process of registering, getting my student card, setting myself up with library and internet access, opening a bank account, meeting my supervisors and (some of) my sponsors in the last week, I’ve met and introduced myself to a lot of people. And I’ve had a lot of mispronunciations.

It’s strange, you know, because there’s a massive Irish population in London. And Aisling’s a really common name – there were six variations of the name in my year in school. And that was just one year! There were more both above and below. That’s a popular name!

In any case, it’s just one of many things that I had forgotten about living in London. Mispronunciations of my name will become an everyday thing from now on.

But hey, it could be worse. I could be called Aoife. That one flummoxed every person my sister ever met in England, I’d say. Thank God for small mercies, Aislinn has only stopped a few people.

 

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