July Challenge Review

Getting your eating straight is really REALLY difficult when you have a wedding and other celebrations thrown in between. I was doing so well until the wedding, after which I had to spend a whole week weaning myself back off food. Then, just as I got it back, there were a load more things to celebrate!

Certainly though, I’ve been doing better at cooking healthy stuff. And I’ve got into a routine at work were I don’t need to snack between meals – my biggest downfall. I still have a habit of going for the tuck shop when I get tired, seeking out the sugar boost to get me through the afternoon. But I’ve been given a new project that’s requiring all my attention and energy, and that’s making the hours fly by without me even noticing that I’m feeling peckish. I’m hoping to capitalise on this over the next couple of weeks in order to really get into a good routine.

Having our new Blend Active personal blender helps. I’ve been eating a lot more fruit (usually where I fall down) and the sweet deliciousness of the smoothies is doing a lot to replace craving for bad sugars.

I’ve been doing a bit better on the exercise front too. I have a plan to put my gym kit in the car and go straight from work to do half an hour every day. I plan to mix it up with some cardio, some weight stuff, and I went swimming for the first time in ages the other day, so I’m hoping to get back into that too. Plus, I have some real incentive to get into the best shape now. More on that in a later post.

I am going to keep plugging away at this one. I feel like I’ve achieved some improvements, but it’s an ongoing project. Much like using up my notebooks (1 finished this month!).

Cover Lust #71 – Timebomb

Cover Lust #71 – Timebomb by Scott K. Andrews

timebomb

I’m a sucker for time travel, and this just awakens my lust for it. The way the woman in the middle appears to be falling out of the city in the sky to the past, the topsy turvy-ness of it, the bright red colours that say fire and pain and chaos.

I can’t wait to read this one, but it will be a while – I have that much catching up to do! I’ll just have to keep staring at the cover and reminding myself that it’s the reward at the bottom of a very large TBR pile!

What covers are you lusting after this week?

Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

simon vs the homo sapiens agendaTitle: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Author: Becky Albertalli

Series: N/A

Genre: Contemporary YA LGBT

Summary (from Goodreads)

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Review

This has been the perfect antidote to my inability to get into any book recently. Light, humorous and sweet, it was full of feel good factor, while also exploring some key YA themes, like identity, coming of age, first romance and sexuality. I really like it when books manage to be light and fluffy whilst also having the depth of a few good themes.

Really, I’m never going to be able to beat whoever described this as the love child of John Green and Rainbow Rowell. Because that’s exactly what it is. It’s witty, with realistic characters who also manage to be a little larger than life, and full of so much heart that it’s impossible to read it and not smile.

I loved Simon’s awkwardness. I remember all to well those online relationships that were easier to have because they gave you that blanket of security you needed when talking about the big stuff like sex and sexuality, hopes and fears. Simon and Blue are altogether far too articulate and witty for your average seventeen-year-old, but then they are exactly as articulate and witty as most seventeen year olds (and I include myself at seventeen in this) think they are, so it works. They are the exaggerated reality of teenagers, and they are adorable.

It’s not a difficult or challenging book, and I probably won’t remember it beyond a general feeling of fuzzy warmth past next week, but sometimes you need a good pick me up, and this was certainly that. Feel good and just so cute, without being vapid or empty, it was exactly the sort of teen romance I needed to make me fall back in love with reading again.

Rating: 5/5

5 Reasons I Love College Romance by Jennifer Lane

This week Jennifer Lane is sharing her 5 things with us. She is the author of the Conduct Series and Blocked and is talking to us today about why she loves College romance so much! Check out her website here for more info on Jennifer and her books.

5 Reasons I Love College Romance by Jennifer Lane

Blocked Streamline

Hey, everyone. I’m Jennifer Lane, psychologist/author (psycho author). I do therapy on the weekdays and write on the weekends, and I can’t decide which is more fun.

One thing’s for sure: I love the university experience. Whether it’s seeing college students for therapy or writing characters in a college setting, it’s all a blast. And I gravitate toward romance because I find the pursuit of love a perfect way to pack an emotional punch.

Why do I enjoy the New Adult / University genre so much?

1. Growth and Change. We develop throughout our lives, but the ages of 18-23 seem to be growth on steroids. For the first time we leave home, begin to form our own values (“I’m now a feminist vegan!”… “Will I drag my butt to church if Mom’s not making me?”… “No way I’m voting for the same candidate as my parents”), increase intellectual complexity (life isn’t so black and white anymore), and maybe fall in love. All this change is terribly exciting.

2. Dorm Living. Want an endless supply of childish idiocy, annoyance, friendship, nakedness, and heartbreak? Throw characters into living together in close quarters with thin walls, and voila!

3. College Parties. Some students have already formed a relationship with alcohol and other drugs by the time they attend a university, but for others college is the introduction to substance use. Diving into the world of mood altering chemicals is a great vehicle for humor and character development. Will Kristen confess her true feelings for Alex after consuming tequila truth serum? Who drew marker on Eddie’s face when he was passed out? Damn it, Mike ate all my Doritos when he had the weed munchies last night!

4. Sports and Other Hobbies. In America, top athletes can earn athletic scholarships to universities. I swam and played volleyball at a small college, meaning I lived a chaotic, rich schedule filled with two practices a day and travel to competitions on top of my course load. My teammates and coaches became friends for life. My outstanding student-athlete experience led me to write a college swimming novel (Streamline) and a college volleyball series starting with Blocked. Some students get absorbed in theater, music, or a variety of clubs on campus.

5. Romance. Whether it’s meeting a future spouse or surviving a one-night-stand, college presents wonderful opportunities to get it on. There’s drama, but hopefully we handle ourselves more maturely than in secondary school. Boo for beer goggles and jerks who break our hearts. Hooray for the cutie in chemistry class!

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

Facebook Cover Collage

Declutter 101: What is Worth Keeping?

Declutter

I’ve talked a bit about how to decide what stays and what goes by thinking about cost, value, thing and experience. But even after you’ve evaluated those, there are some things that still aren’t easy to judge.

The difficulty comes in things that have value to you because they’re associated with a hobby or interest. For example, the last game I completed for the Bargain Games Club was Lego Marvel. Now I could sell this today and be done with it, but Mr T loves all things Marvel. He did an extended project in college on comic books and their development and history. Lego Marvel has more value to him than it does to me. But sometimes we are misled by the value we place in things. Is Lego Marvel really worth keeping?

The thing about Lego Marvel is it’s a PS3 game. It’s only small, not exactly going to be a massive problem to store or cart around. So in terms of the answer to that question, in this case, it’s probably a yes. But if I wasn’t talking about a PS3 game, what factors can help you decide? Here are some questions to ask.

1. Is it small/easy to store or move?

If the answer to this is yes, that’s a good start. If it’s not going to take up a massive amount of room, you don’t have to work hard to justify its existence. If it’s large and oddly shaped, it’s going to have to much more valuable to you to be worth the effort of keeping.

2. Is it in good condition?

Yes, some things have a sentimental value that make them worth keeping long, long after they’ve stopped looking their best. But really, we work so hard to make our homes nice – is it really worth keeping something that’s actually a bit horrible to look at? (I will get on to an example on this in a moment!)

3. If you got rid of it, would you miss it in six months time?

Whenever I have a difficult thing to do, I try to take the long view. In six months, is anyone going to care? If you don’t think you’d miss the item in question in six months time, get rid. And if you think you might, keep it and in six months, be honest about how many times you’ve used/thought about it. If it’s none, or next to none, then it will be easier to get shot of then.

4. Is there someone else you can give it to who will get more use from it?

A good way to get rid of treasured items without having to feel bad, is to give them to someone else who actually needs them, or might enjoy them. I used to do this with books all the time. Because I would have, once upon a time, kept every book I was ever given, I used to give them to my sisters or friends so I didn’t have to keep them. It was nice to imagine them being read and enjoyed by someone else.

5. Will you ever use it again?

This would be my key argument on Lego Marvel. Are you ever going to use it again? Realistically, the fun in a Playstation game is playing it through the first time. Even epics that have several different alternative endings and storylines are usually not as fun the second time through, so a game that only has one storyline isn’t exactly going to be worth playing again. Not when there are loads of new games out there to buy and enjoy.

An Example

The Boyfriend is a terrible hoarder. He loves it when I clear out my stuff, but he can’t abide going through his own. I remember when we were moving out of the flat into our current house, and he had three boxes of things that were in the garage. And had been in the garage since he moved into the flat three years before. I was all for just putting them in the car and putting them in the skip – if you haven’t looked at them in that long, there’s nothing of value in there that’s worth keeping. But he insisted on going through them, and got so stressed as I tried to get rid of the tat inside, that he actually laughed with delight when his alerter went off and he had to leave for a fire call.

Later, he went back and sorted it through himself. He went from three boxes to two. They lived in our spare room for another year or so.

Periodically, I’d try to thin out the stuff in the spare room. It was a massive mess of all the stuff we didn’t have a place for as we went through and redid the house one room at a time. But I knew eventually we would get round to it and I did not want to have to accommodate the two boxes of rubbish from the flat. Over a few sessions, I managed to talk the Boyfriend down to a single box – a smaller one that was inside one of the larger boxes, in fact. Inside the box was some jewellery he’d been given by various relatives – a couple of watches and a St. Christopher – a few other bits and bobs and a towel.

The Towel.

I hate the towel. It’s an old swimming towel that he had when he did lessons as a very small boy. It’s got those badges you used to get sewn to it. The towel is far too small to be of any use to a grown man – not that you would want to attempt to dry anything sensitive with those badges on it – and it’s in terrible condition, eroded by chlorine and use over many years. And it’s a horrible mint green colour.

Wars have been waged over this towel in our house. I want it gone, and have done for years. The Boyfriend can’t bring himself to throw it away.

The other day, he surprised me by saying he’d gone through the box and cleared it all out. The box itself was in the recycling as proof. I was over the moon – finally, the rubbish had been cleared out. The watches were going to be sold and the towel was gone.

Only then, like something out of a nightmare, I saw a hint of mint green on the table…

Definitely not worth keeping...

Definitely not worth keeping…

Review: Believe by Sarah Aronson

believe aronsonTitle: Believe

Author: Sarah Aronson

Series: N/A

Genre: Contemporary YA

Summary (from Goodreads)

Janine Friedman is famous. She’s the miraculous ‘soul survivor’ of a suicide bombing in a Jerusalem synagogue ten years ago. The bombing killed both her parents and changed not only her life, but also that of Dave Armstrong, the tourist who dug her out of the rubble and ‘found God’ as a result. Most people can remember where they were when it happened – the image of that little girl with her bleeding, ruined hands being dragged into the light.

Ten years on, Janine just wants to forget the past, though the nightmares persist. Sure, she avoids cameras and journalists like the plague, and her hands will never be quite right, but she’s one leg of a ‘tripod’ of friends – Miriam and Abe are always there for her – and the most she’s worrying about is whether she should settle for boyfriend Dan or still go after gorgeous Tyler.

Janine always knew the tenth anniversary would be tough. But then Abe is nearly killed in a road accident and ‘miraculously’ survives. Another boy gets out of his wheelchair and starts to walk… And the common denominator is Janine, with her supposedly healing powers.

With Dave Armstrong back in town, Janine finds herself at the centre of a media storm. Forced to look more deeply into the past, she must finally seek the truth about her parents, her hands, and the terrible day that shaped her life. What does she really believe about all three – and about herself?

Review

There’s a lot going on in this book in terms of themes and ideas. Faith, God, belief, forgiveness, fame, the media… it’s heavy stuff.

And ‘heavy’ is a somewhat apt word to describe the book with.

Big important themes are usually hard work. They challenge you to think and change your assumptions and experience things from outside of your comfortable view point. This is a really valuable thing in writing and reading, and I don’t mean to in any way suggest that the fact that this book tackles such themes makes it bad.

It isn’t bad at all. But it’s not…. Well, it was harder work than it was enjoyable.

You can probably see I’m struggling to articulate my thoughts on this one. On the one hand, I really liked how it explored big ideas, kept throwing curveballs, examining things like faith and belief from many different perspectives, and despite Janine’s strong opinions on a lot of subjects it never felt preachy or leaning in one particular direction. It’s a credit to the writing, in fact, that with Janine’s point of view it managed to remain so neutral, allowing the reader to make up their own mind.

But on the other hand, it was hard going. Janine is a desperately unlikeable character. I felt for her struggle with her unwanted fame, but she was so bitter a lot of the time, mean and inconsiderate to her friends. I really liked the moment where she became inspired and elevated, only to have her teacher shoot her down and tell her she was rushing, that her ideas weren’t quite good enough yet – it felt realistic. But the problem was, by that point I disliked Janine so much that I couldn’t really feel for her when that blow was delivered.

Aronson almost almost got Janine right. She needed to be bitter, and she needed to have her moments of downfall. There was a lot in her characterisation that felt accurate. But there needed to be something to redeem her, and there just wasn’t. To Aronson’s credit, she didn’t give Janine an easy way out at the end, leaving plenty of things open for the reader to interpret as they will. And this elevates my opinion of the book again, because a saccharine happy ending would have made me angry. But this definitely didn’t have one, so once again I’m thinking better of it.

Overall, this was a frustrating read. It walked the line between brilliant and terrible with such perfect accuracy that this is an achievement all of its own. I really wanted to love it, but have been left with a feeling of slight disappointment, warring with the sense that there were plenty of things I did genuinely like about it.

Difficult. I guess you’ll have to read and make up your own minds.

Rating: 3/5

Weekly Round Up #51

Weekly Round Up #51 (13/07-19/07)

It’s been a slow start to the week. After the excitement and emotion of the wedding, it was a little difficult to get back to normal life. I’ve been trying to keep motivated with the exercise to make up for the fact that I can’t seem to concentrate on reading, though after the excesses of the weekend, it was a little harder to get back into the eating well!

Taylor graduated this week, and while I only saw the pictures on Facebook, rather than playing any real part in the day, we celebrated together on Friday with some drinks and some burgers. Well, Mum and I got drunk, everyone else had a very sedate couple of cans. I drained a bottle of cider (having come to the party straight from a gym session) and went rather downhill from there! It was good fun though, and an even better release of stress that lots of us had been feeling. Except the poor Boyfriend, who’s on antibiotics and therefore couldn’t drink at all.

The next day Mum was ‘pleasantly hung over’ and I was knackered. I’m not used to staying up to two in the morning anymore. Nevertheless, I decided to tackle our rather overgrown Buddleia in the front garden, on Mum’s advice trimming it back to a third of its size. Most of it could be done with secateurs, but the rest required a branch lopper, which was more designed for cutting branches out of trees than bushes and as such was a little unwieldy, but I got it done with only minor injuries and the front garden is looking loads better.

So, after a slow start, it was a productive and enjoyable weekend. I’m hoping that means I’ve got a bit of my mojo back and will be able to hit the ground running next week – starting with some of the review books I’ve been neglecting.