July Reading List

Without the holiday, June wasn’t as good for reading as it should have been. Still, I managed to tick off all of these:

Exploited by Emma Jackson

It’s not a well written book – there’s a lot of meandering and there are important points that feel glossed over – but it’s an important one. Emma Jackson was sexually exploited by men in her community. She was groomed, entrapped and then threatened. This sort of thing is happening everywhere, and it’s important that we understand it better from the victim’s perspective, because society is failing them by allowing this sort of horror to take place. Read it and have your eyes opened.

3.5/5

Sworn to Raise by Terah Edun

Review here.

Parrotfish by Ellen Wittlinger

Review here.

When the Heavens Fall by Marc Turner

Review here.

Zaria Fierce and the Secret of Gloomwood Forest by Keira Gillett

Review here.

The 3rd Woman by Jonathan Freedland

Review here.

 

Deep Blue Eternity by Natasha Boyd

Review to follow.

Made it part way through The Story Sisters and Believe, so should have those finished before long!

July Reading List

Review Books

Simon Vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (not a book sent for review, but it’s LGBT fiction, so I’m going to review it anyway)

Natchez Burning by Greg Iles (an actual review book I’ve had forever. It’s massive, so I probably won’t finish it this month, but I will start it!)

Book From My Shelf

Property Of by Alice Hoffman (because it’s short, and I am enjoying Story Sisters from last month)

Borrowed Book

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (3rd time’s the charm!)

NetGalley Backlog

Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian

Prophecy Girl by Cecily White

Audiobook

Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein

Weekly Round Up #48

Weekly Round Up #48 (22/06-28/06)

The weather has somewhat improved lately, meaning much warmer days and evenings, and much time spent enjoying the sunshine.

This week, Taylor finished University for good – collecting her results (2.1!) and finishing the clear out of her house. She’d had a stressful week with worrying about results day, and having a very intensive interview for a new job, so it was the perfect week to take our trip to Alton Towers that got cancelled because of the Smiler crash. I booked Friday off work and we set out for Alton.

It was a perfect day. The weather was a bit muggy, but the threatened showers never really materialised. The park was fairly quiet – the longest we had to queue for anything was about forty minutes, and most things we pretty much walked on. Which meant we managed to do all the big rides, and quite a few of the smaller ones. Persuading Mr T to go on Oblivion marked the end of the day (he was so terrified he reckons he blacked out on the ride) and then we headed home, thoroughly exhausted, for chips and curry then bed.

Saturday, the Boyfriend and I went to Shrewsbury to go shopping. I needed some gold Warhammer paint, as mine had dried up beyond salvage. The Boyfriend needed some jeans. I’d also still not used my Cineworld voucher to see Jurassic World, so we planned on doing that too.

It went really well to start with. I got my gold paint, the Boyfriend found some jeans. We stopped for lunch at the Marks and Spencer’s cafe, and had a lovely afternoon tea for two. Then we decided to get a fish pedicure before catching our viewing of Jurassic World.

They were a little late getting us started, which meant we were going to be pushed for time to get to our showing. That worry quickly went away as we relaxed and let the fish nibble on our callous. Both being runners, we have very unattractive feet, though they make a wonderful meal for pedicure fish. I did have one in my tank that I named Jaws – on account of him being four times the size of all the other fish in both tanks. When he went for a nibble it was almost painful.

We paid and left, feet feeling incredible, then had to run to the car. After a catalogue of errors – including me losing the car in the car park, then getting locked in the car park because our ticket didn’t work, being assisted with this by the worlds slowest car park attendant – we were running horribly late for our showing. I hate being late for anything, nothing stresses me out more. The Boyfriend did some impressive driving to get us to the cinema in record time (without breaking any speed limits!) and I dashed out of the car while he parked to get our tickets.

Just in time for the film trailers, we settled in to our seats and prepared to enjoy the movie. It was excellent – just the right amount of humour, homage and thrills.

Sunday was my little brother’s birthday, and a local fun run. This run and I have a difficult history. The first time I ran it, I’d recently hurt my knee. I was find for the first half, but spent much of the second feeling like I was running on broken glass. The second time, I was doing really well until about three quarters of the way round, at which point I got the worst cramp I’ve ever experienced before or since, and had to limp home. I couldn’t straighten my leg for about three days. This year, I made it all the way round in good time, didn’t hurt myself, and was energetic enough to enjoy Dylan’s party afterwards. Okay, that mostly involved lounging in the sun but still – progress has been made! A thoroughly enjoyable, if exhausting, extended weekend.

July Challenge

My June challenge was to raise a little money on eBay. I’ve decided that money is going to be spent on a girly weekend in London. Which will inevitably involve shopping.

I’m in a bit of a bad place with my wardrobe at the moment. I have some really lovely clothes, but a lot of things I have don’t quite fit. I’m not fat, but I’m definitely fatter than I should be. I’ve been doing more exercise than ever, but I’ve changed to a much more sedentary job. I also still eat far too much.

My challenge for July then is to reduce my weight and ‘size’. I know a lot of people talk about scales as a false measurement. But it is a measurement. I’m not stupid enough to think that there is a ‘healthy weight’ but you can use scales to see if your weight is going up or down. I think to be at a weight and waist measurement that would allow my clothes to fit better, I need to lose about a stone. I’m not going to lose that in July without starving myself (I’m very bad at doing that, and it’s not good for you anyway) but it’s definitely doable by September, and I’m going on holiday in October, so it will be right on time for that.

So, my July challenge is this: get my eating under control. No more buying a cake at work just because I can. No more indulging in sweets because the Boyfriend wants them. Better portion control, better food and less excess. I’m going to do this six days a week, and have one treat day. Because there are birthdays and things coming up, so it’s not possible to be totally militant about it. You have to live a little.

So, no specific, measured goal. But I do want to feel by the end of the month that I’m in a better place with eating, not being so greedy and therefore losing weight naturally. This is going to be a seriously hard challenge to crack.

Cover Lust #68 – Steelheart

Cover Lust #68 – Steelheart by Brandon Sandersonsteelheart

There’s something understatedly epic about this cover. I think it’s the cape. Nothing says epic quite like a cape. But for all the OTT-ness of superheroes on the big screens, there isn’t a hint of that here. It’s a very quiet, gritty cover. The smog, the minimalist depiction of the cityscape, the silhouetted character, it’s not giving much away apart from tone.

And that makes me very excited. I love superheroes, and I get the impression that this is a realistic take on the genre. Not a hint of spandex in sight. This has been on and off my reading list for a while, but I’ve promised the person it belongs to that it’s top of the pile this month. I will probably report back wondering why I left it so stupidly long!

What covers are you lusting after this week?

June Challenge Review

Well, I managed it! Largely due to the fact that one of my items, listed for £3, sold for £8.50. Very nice, thank you very much ebayers.

I’m writing this a little ahead of the end of June. Before the month is out I have three more listings that should end. But whether they sell or not, I’ve made the £20, so anything else is a bonus.

As discussed on a previous post, I am planning on spending the money I make on a girly catch up weekend. I’ve currently got nearly £40 in my paypal towards that, so it will be extra lovely to have an excellent time with friends, and have it be guilt free spending. I will be continuing to paint and sell my collection. Currently working on some Gondorian soldiers, and awaiting some fresh gold paint in order to finish off some Elves. If I do as well as I’ve done this month for July and August, I’ll be able to have a fabulous time in London.

5 Reasons Maths Is Your Friend by Taylor Gilmore

Guest posting today is my sister Taylor. She blogs at Who Ate All the Pi? about maths and life and stuff. Taylor just finished a Maths degree at Warwick, so she’s going to talk about why Maths is our friend. Don’t worry – it’s very accessible! She’s not the most confident writer, but she was good enough to knock this together for me. We both hope you enjoy!

5 Reasons Maths is your Friend by Taylor Gilmore

1. It is the language of the universe

Maths is the same whether you are in England, or China, or America. Maths turns up in nature – flowers that have a numbers of petals that follow the Fibonacci sequence, bees are attracted to flowers with rotational symmetry, cicadas live underground and come up to the air only after a prime number of years. Maths is the building block of our world.

2. Its applications are endless

From simple things like calculating the total of your shopping, or completing a Sudoku puzzle, to more complicated processes such as assigning student doctors to hospitals based on both parties’ preferences, or creating languages, there is nothing that doesn’t have a mathematical application.

3. You don’t have to understand it to use it

If you want to read a book, you have to be able to read the language it is written in. If you want to use a computer, you don’t have to understand the programming that makes up the software.

4. Maths follows strict rules

We may not know what all of the rules are yet, but once you have the rule, it always holds. This makes it easier to get to grips with, not like the classic “i before e, except after c” we were all taught in spellings. What about “either”, or “weird”?

5. Maths is for everyone

For some reason, it is an accepted thing for people to say they “just don’t get maths”, or “what would I even use this for in the future?” While it is true you may not necessarily need to know how to solve simultaneous equations, people forget that maths is not just about numbers and algebra. It is about shapes, patterns, logic, puzzles, seeing connections between seemingly unrelated things. Even if you didn’t get along with fractions, there is something in the world of maths that you can do, that you are interested in. Maybe you haven’t found it yet, or maybe you just haven’t realised how mathematical the things you do really are.

Thanks again to Taylor! Be sure to visit her blog here. Want to do your own ‘5 Things’ guest post? Message me on twitter @libertyfallsdwn or email me at libertfallsdown@hotmail.co.uk!

Declutter 101: Cost, Value, Thing, Experience

Declutter

Decluttering isn’t easy, otherwise we’d all live minimalistic lives with immaculate, Pinterest-worthy houses. The allure of Stuff held sway over me for a long time too.

But the thing about Stuff is it doesn’t necessarily add value to your life. And for the duration of this post, I’m taking value to be the worth of something and not it’s monetary cost. A glass of water costs almost nothing, but when you’ve just come in from a long run in the hot sun it’s value is considerable.

There is also the issue of things versus experience. It’s easy to think of items we own as things, not experiences. But really, it’s a sliding scale. A red letter day driving a race car is on the far end of the ‘experience’ scale – there is no permanent ‘thing’ involved. An ornament is mostly a thing, but the experience comes from the enjoyment of looking at it.

Separating cost from value, and things from experience is the first step to decluttering zen.

Examples

things

These are some ‘things’ I have on top of my bookshelf. Slightly more cluttered than I would usually have it – we’re in the process of redecorating our spare room, and much stuff has been consolidated into our bedroom. It’s a cluttered nightmare! But, I digress. Things. I’ll look at them from left to right and explain the costvalue and experience attached to each one. (Obviously this is personal and individual to everyone. The Boyfriend, for instance, is much bemused by my attachment to thing number one!)

Thing number one is an ornament that serves no purpose other than I really liked it. It’s cost was about £4. Not expensive at all. It’s value is that I really like it – it adds a bit of colour to our grey room. And as I said before, the experience is in enjoying it. If/when I stop enjoying it, then it will be time for it to go.

Thing number two is an empty whisky (or other alcohol) jar full of sixpences. Cost was nothing – it belongs to my Boyfriend. His grandparents owned a bar, and when sixpences stopped being legal tender, they collected them up from their patrons in that jar. It’s value is in it being a little piece of history, and the emotional connection to the Boyfriend’s grandparents. The experience? Much the same as above – it’s the pleasure gained from feeling that emotional and historical connection. Plus it’s unusual – how many people can say they have one in their house?

Thing number three is a piggy bank. Cost nothing because it was a Christmas present, but it’s not expensive. It doesn’t have a massive amount of value, either, except that it’s useful to keep spare change in, and it’s nicely designed – big enough to fit lots of change and nice to look at too (in case you can’t quite see, it says ‘pirate booty’ on the side) which is why I keep it. Experience? Not really anything. But those pennies saved in it could go towards one!

Thing number four is a plastic model of four penguins. Cost was less than £2. I bought them for the Boyfriend for Christmas one year. Why? Because he likes penguins, and I thought it would make him smile. It did, and they still do, which is the value. Honestly, if these were any bigger, they probably would have gone a long time ago, but because they don’t take up all that much space, they don’t need a massive amount of value to justify their continued presence in my home. And the experience was obviously the pleasure of giving them to the Boyfriend, and the smile they prompted.

Being able to identify what value something has to you is important in the decision making process when decluttering. The more pleasure or joy you get from continuing to experience that thing has, the more value it has, the more reason you have to keep hold of it. If you can’t think of any value then that’s a good reason for it to go.

The ‘I Paid X Amount For That!’ Argument, and why it’s False

You buy a new release DVD for movie night at a cost of £12.99 (for American readers, that equates to about $20). It is a thing, albeit quite small, that sits on a shelf and takes up space.

At a cost of £12.99, it’s probably not something you’d easily get rid of. £12.99 isn’t megabucks, but it’s quite pricey when you can pick up DVDs for a couple of quid if you wait long enough, or are prepared to buy second hand. Putting it in the ‘charity shop’ box feels like emptying your purse into the bin. And if you think of your DVD purely as a ‘thing’ which has a (comparatively) high cost, then it sort of is.

But think of that DVD as an experience instead. You would probably spend a lot more than £12.99 to go to the cinema, and would do so without too much question. You might leave with a pair of 3D glasses, but you largely go through the entire cinema experience without accruing a single ‘thing’. Because you paid for the experience – the thrill of the loud big screen, the privilege of watching something when it’s fresh and new, without having to wait for DVDs or, god forbid, network premiers. If you think of a DVD in the same way – the experience of curling up on the sofa with someone you love, watching a new film you haven’t seen before, or revisiting an old one – then suddenly £12.99 doesn’t seem that much of a cost. The value is much higher.

And you might have to watch a DVD ten, twenty or thirty times before you feel you’ve got true value out of it. Or it might be that it only needs to be watched that one night. Either way, after the value has been gained, the DVD box sitting on your shelf is just the waste product left behind – like an apple core or a crisp packet. And when you think of your ‘things’ in these terms, they suddenly become much easier to get rid of.

What has No Value for You can have Value for Others

A thing’s value doesn’t have to end with you – and this is where I get the greatest joy from decluttering. Something that is just taking up space on my shelves, or contributing to the general clutter that can make my house unmanageable, could become a perfect gift for someone else, a donation to charity, or even make a little bit of money back for me towards my next ‘experience.’

I don’t advocate just blindly throwing stuff out. Putting something in the bin that still functions and is in good condition is wasteful – and in a disposable society, I like to try to combat that in some small way. But also, the thought that things you once loved and enjoyed experiencing can go on to create good experiences for someone else makes taking the plunge and getting rid of it that much easier.

A Last Hurrah

Sometimes there’s value in using something one last time. When clearing out things, I often wear or use them one more time. It’s either a fond farewell, or timely reminder that there’s a reason I haven’t used that particular ‘thing’ in forever. Giving your things a last hurrah can provide the emotional closure needed to help you clear them out.

Everything in this series will be looked at in terms of costvalue, thing, experience. If you apply that to your belongings, it’s all you really need to know. But sometimes judging the value can be a little tricky. I’ve got that covered in later posts.

Next time we’ll go step by step through how to declutter your DVDs. DVDs are easy, for reasons outlined above. Plus, you can often get monetary reward for getting rid of them for little effort. I’ll start gently, then we’ll move on to more tricky things!

Leave me a comment if you have any thoughts! I’d love to know if you try this and how you get on :)