Bookish

T5W – Best Books I’ve Read So Far in 2018

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam@Thoughts on Tomes over on Goodreads.

This week’s topics for the Top 5 Wednesday series is: Best Books You’ve Read So Far in 2018.

I have read many excellent books this year. I had a few months when I didn’t feel like reading but despite of that, I have managed to read about 40 books.

Out of those, following five books really stood out for me:

  • Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover (review)

educated

A powerful testament of how we can choose to stop being defined by our past. It is a thought provoking memoir that left me with a strong feeling of unease long after I finished reading it. I still think about it months after I finished reading this book. Its main theme is privilege – we don’t get to choose circumstances we are born into. It also explores belonging, shame, forgiveness as well as the ability to become an observer, rather than a victim of your past.

“You can love someone and still choose to say goodbye to them,” she says now. “You can miss a person every day, and still be glad that they are no longer in your life.” 

  • Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman (review)

eleanor

I enjoyed its witty writing, consistent pacing and all those wonderful characters. Eleanor is the main protagonist but there are many supporting personalities that I enjoyed reading about as well. They are really what this book is all about. They are vivid, charming and you just want to know a little bit more of them and have to keep on reading. It is not a fun or a light-hearted book as it deals with some serious issues, but I appreciated how it made me think as well as feel.

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.” 

  • Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe

What a lovely book. Circe tells a story of an eternal witch, who gets banished for her actions. It is a slow story full of beautiful and lyrical writing. I loved everything about it, especially the Greek mythology aspect and the feminist thoughts. My review will follow shortly.

“When I was born, the name for what I was did not exist.”

  • Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (review)

norse mythology

It is a collection of stories that feel modern. They are fast paced and full of action and Gaiman’s sharp writing gives them a nice punch. There is also a lot of humour involved. I listened to this as an audiobook narrated by the author himself and highly recommend the audio version of this book.

“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.” 

  • Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty (review)

big little lies

It is a wonderful story of a friendship of three women, their dealings with motherhood as well as having to come to terms with some dark demons from their pasts. I saw many shame related topics in this book. Moriarty deeply understands human behaviour and portrayed honest struggles of mothers and women in general.

“She’d swallowed it whole and pretended it meant nothing, and therefore it had come to mean everything.” 


Now over to you my friends. 🙂

Fancy sharing with me your favourite 2018 reads so far?

Can’t wait to see yours. 🙂

Monthly Wrap Up

May Wrap up

Welcome to June! We are nearly half way through 2018… the variable speed of time seriously puzzles me sometimes… some years go by slower than other.. 2018 is somehow flying by… 😉

So what happened in May?

Glad you asked. 😊 May was the month when I decided to become a gardener. I apologise to those lovely plants, but I honestly am doing my best and do try looking after them. My mission is not to kill them even though it seems that way sometimes..

As we are all friends here, I must tell you I am starting to be somehow sceptical about the well-being of my lavender plants. They were blooming when I bought them in April… now they are this woody / shrubby thing. I keep on telling myself they are going through a cycle – but in all honesty, I have absolutely no clue what’s going on there. I have researched gardening YouTube videos, read many articles and know a difference now between dead heading (the danger of reading too many fantasy novels is that words like dead heading tend to trigger vivid imagines in my head… oh dear), light shearing and hard cut back..

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Here are those poor lavenders. Do you think they make it? Those two in blue pots are English lavenders and they are the ones I’m worried about. The white pots ones are French lavenders and they seem to be doing ok-ish I think..

May was also the month when I was really worried about our dog. 😦 We found a lump on his paw and it was growing. He did have it removed and fortunately, his results came back with good news of the lump being caused by viral papilloma. Something apparently quite common amongst young dogs. I was so relieved and happy when the vet called to give us those news. Not knowing what was going to happen felt so helpless. And I found it extremely hard to talk about it. But I did discuss it with James, who was equally worried, and it helped. It is still something I probably want to learn from though.

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Anyhow, apart from me getting some soil on my hands, spending time with the dog and climbing outside, I have also discovered audio books.

Everyone: ‘Vera, audiobooks are awesome, you should try them out.’

Me: ‘Hmmmm, I’m not sure…’

Me in May: ‘Audiobooks are awesome, why hasn’t anyone told me about that…’ 😉

I loved listening to We Should All Be Feminists and Norse Mythology. Both narrated by their authors. Adiche’s voice is something I could listen to for hours. So soothing and beautiful. And I found Gaiman to be an excellent narrator as well. His voice would change with each character and I was imagining Thor’s booming voice and Loki’s sly one.

Do you have any good recommendation on audiobooks you enjoyed please? Was there a particular one that stood out for you? If so, fancy sharing it with me please? Thanks!

Let’s talk lists, shall we? Here’s my May’s reading list:

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie – my review here

A thought provoking essay that is extremely digestible as it is told via stories. There is no judgement or hate attached to it. Just an open mind and a vision for better future. Shout out to Kristin for her interesting review that piqued my interest.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman – my review here

I absolutely adored this collection. Gaiman’s sharp writing makes those myths extremely modern. They are fast paced and full of action and there is also a lot of humour involved! Shout out to Holly for her wonderful review.

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik – review to arrive on Monday, 4th June

Teaser: Frost covered wings of cruel winter bring mysterious riders to Lithuanian villages. They travel to the human world via their winter road; steal people’s gold and kill whoever / whatever gets in their way. They are called Staryk and people fear and hate them equally. Three females may be able to stop them. Will they succeed?

My Sweet Friend by H.A. Leuschel – mini review to follow next week together with the one below

This novella drew me instantly in via some interesting psychological manipulation. Two females, a game of cat and mouse =  an exciting summer read.

Thanks Norrie for the recommendation!

Homes around the World by Anita Martinez Beijer – mini review to follow next week together with the one above

A beautiful collection of photos accompanied with stories behind those visuals. I am interested in carefully chosen home décor and enjoy knowing the Why behind.

I have purposely not included rating for these.

I am considering omitting my coffee style rating from reviews as I am finding it hard to sometimes compare fiction, non fiction and there are so many nuances between 4 stars, 4 ½ starts etc… in other words, it’s starting to stress me out. 🙂 I know there are bloggers out there who don’t give ratings. I will keep this topic for my next discussion post as I am curious to hear your thoughts. Stay tuned! 😊

My plans for June are following:


Non-bookish:

  • If possible, try to revive those lavenders (please wish me luck!)
  • Create a vase feature in front of our house to make it look welcoming (research ‘hardy plants’!!!)
  • Get our dog myself into running (so far we have done three runs and all I have to say: mixed results…)
  • Do Whole30

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I have been feeling under the weather recently with hay fever being the worst I have had in a very long time. I am currently figuring out my allergies and am doing elimination food experiment in June called Whole30. I have eliminated common trigger food groups and will start slowly re-introducing them back to my meals in July / August. The premise is to find out if I have any sensitivities to these and if so, eliminate them to decrease my body’s inflammation. Which will then hopefully make me cope better with other allergies. Well that’s the theory anyway, I am happy to test it though to see what happens. 🙂

Would you be interested in hearing about Whole 30 weekly recaps? Would someone benefit from that?

Bookish:

  • Listen to another audiobook
  • Finish Emotional Agility by Susan David (nearly there!)
  • Be whimsical about fantasy / thrillers / memoirs / whatever else I may fancy reading that month
  • Reflect about my ARC behaviour… I think I have a problem… 😉

That’s it for now. Now over to you.


What did really stand out for you in May?

It doesn’t have to be bookish, just something you really enjoyed. 😊

And have you tried elimination diet before? And if so, did it work? (please say yes!!!) 😊

Non Fiction

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

norse mythology

I was a bit of an odd child. I used to live in imaginary worlds full of fairies and other mythical creatures to whom I would serve tea.

I remember playing in my native woods with them, making houses for them and also having some heated arguments with them when they didn’t do what I wanted them to do.

I also remember Thor, Loki and Odin featuring in some of my encounters from time to time.

I was fascinated by mythology as a child. I would read anything I could get my hands on that was written on Greek / Norse / South American / Egyptian / Slavic etc. myths and tales.

The Norse myths were amongst my favourite ones. I am more of a winter rather than a summer person and I have always been interested in Scandinavia; its beautiful nature, architecture that compliments it and its people. Stories full of frost giants really are my thing. 🙂

Retellings of classical myths can be a bit of a hit or miss in my case. Sometimes I love them and sometimes, they are just not for me. I’m happy to report that Gaiman’s Norse Mythology was clearly written for me… 😉

But before I review this book, let’s have a look at GoodReads blurb first:

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales.

In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.


Norse Mythology is a collection of stories. Because of that, it could be easily read (or listened to) whilst reading other books or being short on time.

I absolutely adored this collection. Gaiman’s spin on Norse myths is a brilliant example how we can use something old and make it work. Not every work we crate must be ‘original‘, in fact telling something familiar whilst using our own voices and experiences can be extremely powerful.

Those stories feel modern, Gaiman’s sharp writing gives them a nice punch. They are fast paced and full of action. There is also a lot of humour involved – I chuckled many times. And they brought me back my childhood memories and that bittersweet feeling of nostalgia.

I listened to this collection of stories as an audiobook narrated by the author himself.

Gaiman is not only a skilled writer, but he also is an excellent narrator.

I found his voice splendidly adjusting to different characters – it would become loud and booming whenever Thor entered a scene and softer with hints of cunningness / slyness whenever Loki would show up. His accent adjusted well to dwarfs and giants and I honestly had a blast. I am likely to re-listen to these stories again as I loved them so much.

Side note: I did laugh-out-loud a few times whilst listening to this audiobook on a busy London tube. I got a few weird stares, but it did make my usually unpleasant tube experience quite bearable! I also nearly missed my stop a few times… so beware! 😉

Parting comments: I’ve always been fascinated how people across different geographies created myths that had so many similarities. Our need to explain our world via story telling is something that has always captivated me. If you are familiar with Greek myths, you may find many alike sounding themes in those Norse myths as well. Our vivid imagination, and how we can perceive nature and everything that is happening around us, without having to dip into scientific explanations, is something I have appreciated, and it is probably the main reason why I love mythology in general.


Over to you! 🙂

  • Have you read this book?
  • Do you read myths in general? And if so, what is your ‘favourite’ geography?

Verdict:  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple  Hot Beverage on Apple (5/5)

Bookish

T5W Rewind – Favourite Villains

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam@Thoughts on Tomes over on Goodreads.

This month’s topics for the Top 5 Wednesday series are Rewind topics – which means we can choose any previously used topic throughout the series. For today’s topic, I have chosen Favourite Villains.


In any book I read or a movie I watch, I crave complex characters.

I enjoy discovering characters that are not entirely likeable.

The protagonists must have flaws and the purpose of their stories is to overcome them. Equally, for their antagonists, there must be still some humanity left in them in order for me to sympathise with them. I will not condone their actions, but I may at least understand, where that behaviour is coming from.

There are many evil psychopathic villains out there and they have their place. My list below probably consists mostly of sympathetic or rather tragic villains.

Side note: The Orangutan Librarian wrote a brilliant post on Why Villains are the Greatest. I really recommend checking it out!


  • Sméagol / Gollum – The Lord of the Ring Series

Gollum

Let’s pause and appreciate Gollum’s portrait by Frédéric Bennett 

Gollum is probably my favourite.

I like his character because there is still some humanity left in him, despite being consumed by his extremely powerful desire for the Ring.

He always gives me hope; that humanity can persevere.

  • Loki – Norse Mythology (and Marvel comics)

loki

Picture by incredible artist Sceith

Loki is a broken man damaged by his past.

The legends tell us the harder he tries, the harder he usually falls.

I guess that could make his actions seem somehow relatable. And I think that’s what makes him an interesting character as well.

  • Magneto – Marvel Comics, X-Men

Magneto

Image credit

Another character haunted by his dark past.

His intentions are to make the world a better place for the mutants.

Unfortunately his approach, to kill all humans, is what makes him an anti-hero material. That doesn’t mean we approve of his choices, but can at least understand what made him into that villain.

  • Anakin Skywalker / Darth Vader

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Photo credit

Because every hero has a villain potential.

And because we don’t know what we are capable of doing until everything we love is threatened to be taken away from us.

And because of that redemption and hope that goes with it.

  • Jamie Lannister from “A Song of Ice and Fire” series

George R.R Martin has this cunning ability to create complex characters that I just want to know more of.

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Amazing drawing by Antylopa

Jamie is one of them.

In the first few books, he is a ‘classic’ villain. His actions are fuelled by his selfish and ego-centric behaviour and of course there is that sibling love.

Then he is forced to face his disability and he raises up to that challenge.

It has something to do with certain Brienne of Tarth. Their unlikely friendship and those first glimpses of Jamie’s humanity, that were there all along but buried deep within, are probably one of my favourite parts of the Game of Thrones series.


There you have it. Now over to you friends.

What are your favourite villains? Fancy sharing some of them with me? 🙂