Positive Thinking.

Now I don’t know about you all, but I love myself a bit of positive thinking. While awful things happen all too often in this world and they deserve to be acknowledged I think it is important to still keep a positive mindset as much as possible. Don’t let the bad moments/thoughts keep you down! Not that there is anything wrong with a good cry or a nice session of self-pity. In fact I think they are important for all of us, just once you have had your moment it is important to pick yourself up again and just keep swimming!

 

Books are a great medium for this. Just by reading a book I’m transported to my happy place. It calms me and allows me to escape from reality for a bit. Something we all need from time to time. I love nothing more than a book that embodies this feeling, this feeling of positivity, of making the most of your life. I’m going to use this post to discuss a few of my favourites and would love to hear any suggestions from you. What books give you this feeling? Teach you life lessons? Make you feel on top of the world?

 

Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes

This book is what prompted the topic of this post. I read this book only recently and it made me remember how much I love books of this type. I loved hearing Shonda’s  story of how she challenged herself with her year of yes. Saying yes to herself, no matter how much it scared her. There were some great lessons to be found in her chapters. Lessons like how important it is to say yes to your health, the importance of challenging yourself constantly, learning to stand up for yourself in friendships and relationships. Basically everything you already know, but the way she presents it is realistic and relatable with a hint of humor on the side. Definitely a good one particularly if you are a fan of any of her TV shows: Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal or How To Get Away With Murder.

 

The Last Lecture – Randy Pausch 

Probably one of my most treasured books, the Last Lecture is a heartbreaking but beautiful book that I just keep coming back to. Randy was a computer science professor who was approached to be a part of his former university’s series of “Last Lectures”. If you had to impart your final words of wisdom with the world, what would you say? The tragedy was that Randy had terminal cancer, this really would be his last lecture. This book is essentially his words of wisdom from this lecture (it actually exists, you can watch it on YouTube) expanded upon and put down into words. Beautiful pockets of information, his own life experiences you can take with you. I reread this book probably once a year or so to remind myself of not only all these little life lessons but to remind myself that anything can happen and to live life the best way I can. One day I’ll work myself up to actually watch the lecture, though I know it will just break me. This book is everything, I urge you to give it a go.

 

The Anti-Cool Girl – Rosie Waterland 

This book is a memoir and it isn’t particularly uplifting or positive. It is hilarious and endearing, like laugh out loud like a crazy person hilarious, telling the story of Rosie’s life. Now I fell in love with Rosie Waterland through her amazing recap articles of the Australian Bachelor. She had an extremely hard life growing up and her memoir tells of some of these harrowing tales but with so much humor that these hard truths become palatable and not as soul-crushing as you might think. The positivity and good vibes come from the fact that not only is Rosie able to tell her story in a tongue and cheek way that makes it more entertaining than it should be (rather than just straight up depressing) but what she has overcome to get to the amazing place that she is at now. Independent and kicking ass while still being hilarious and completely relatable. This book stuck with me long after I finished it and Rosie, I salute you.

 

Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

This is one that needs little introduction, thanks to the movie staring Julia Roberts. I have to say I very much enjoyed this book. The eat I could definitely relate to and I loved the descriptions and landscape of Italy! Sounds amazing! The pray with all the meditating lost me a little, not really my forte but still I enjoy following her journey and love hate relationship with meditating. The love was the best part, watching her learn slowly about Indonesia and their culture and beautiful people was uplifting and heart-warming. I’m even considering trying another of her books. Any recommendations?

 

These are just a few of my favourites and, of course, I’m always looking for more! What do you guys suggest? What else do you do to make yourself happy? Sending happy vibes all your way.

 

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Picnic At Hanging Rock – Joan Lindsay

It has been my aim to read more classics this year and I’m ashamed to admit this is only my second so far. Picnic At Hanging Rock was a great second choice being a fairly short read full of mystery and intrigue. For those of you who don’t know Picnic At Hanging Rock is a tale set in Australia in 1900 of a group of girls and their teachers from a school for young ladies who set out for a picnic on Valentine’s Day. A day that is meant to be full of fun and adventure but ends with three girls and a teacher missing. What happened? Where did they go? When searches of the area, scent hounds and trackers are unable to find a trace of the girls all seems lost. Until one week later one of the girls mysteriously reappears unscathed but with no memory of the experience. The book follows there events and the fallout from the disappearances and the effects it has on those directly and indirectly linked to that fateful day at Hanging Rock.

 

Fun fact Hanging Rock is a real place located in the Macedon Ranges in Victoria, South Australia, a place now on my list to visit. Looks like some stunning outback scenery! The movie based on the book is one of those movies that is screened once a year on free-to-air Australian television so over the years I had caught scenes of the movie here and there. Thankfully not enough to glean much about the plot beyond the mysterious disappearance. The less you know going in, the better really. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery of the novel. The book really was an unsolved mystery that drew a lot of attention when it was written thanks to the passage written by Lindsay preceding the novel.

Whether Picnic At Hanging Rock is fact of fiction, my readers must decide for themselves. As the fateful picnic took place in the year nineteen hundred, and all the characters who appear in his book are long since dead, it hardly seems important.

For years people were obsessed with trying to figure out if the story was based on true events or not (spoiler: it is not but there are some interesting stories about the author herself). Coupled with the obvious mystery that is never solved in the book unsurprisingly this book has been much discussed in the years since it has been published. One book was even published with five plausible yet contradicting explanations for what could have gone on out at the Rock that day.

 

There are a multitude of characters in the book, all unique characters from different backgrounds. Each playing their role in the story. One review of the book I read (scathingly) mentioned how the “good” characters were all beautiful and physically appealing and all the “bad” characters were all ugly and fat, which I found quite interesting upon reflection. I think this fairly accurate but I didn’t think of it as a negative aspect of the book. These obvious manifestations and the tone in which the book is written match the style of the book coupled with the age that the book was set in.

 

While most of the book plods along at a steady pace the last couple of chapters of the book really pick up with some bombshells blowing up the story finishing in a dramatic climax. There is a lot left unsaid at the end of the book with the reader left to draw their own conclusions about a number of mysteries. Personally I loved this aspect of it as it left me contemplative and thinking of the book long after I closed and put it down. As mentioned it is never revealed what happened to the girls and their teacher in the book, however, there is a final chapter published separately after the death of the author. It was initially written as a full book but the last chapter was cut at the publishers request. Full of curiosity after I finished the book I sought out this last chapters and read it. For me I think the book works better without it and I didn’t enjoy finding out what really happened.

 

I realise this isn’t a typical review as I have spoken more about the background information of the book rather than the content of the book itself. I hope my tidbits of information have encouraged you to give it a go. I think the magic of this book is in having as little expectation and understanding of the plot and discovering it all for yourself as it happens. Overall I give Picnic At Hanging Rock three hearts of St Valentine, for each of the missing girls and urge you to acquaint yourself with this captivating mystery.

 

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Year of Yes – Shonda Rhimes

How to Dance It Out, Stand In The Sun and Be Your Own Person.

Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes has been on my to read list since I heard about it. I loved Grey’s Anatomy, I say I loved it because I could just never continue after she killed off Lexi and McSteamy. In fact my heart is still a little broken by it but thats okay, I can just watch the first eight season over and over (and over) again. The characters she creates are dynamic, unique and the kind of people you wish were real. Although I have not seen even a minute of her other TV shows I can only imagine they must kick ass too. I mean she owns Thursday nights (a little something you learn in her book, several times, if you didn’t already know). To be honest, if you love any one of her TV shows and connect to the characters, then this book is for you! If you aren’t familiar with them and just want a book filled with some awesome life lessons, be a little wary, the written tone is not for everyone.

 

Having heard a personal account from a close friend and reading a few reviews online  I came to the conclusion that this book is best received by her fans. People that understand the way she thinks and connect with her characters because you learn that she puts a lot of herself into the characters. Reviews I have read were a little negative, some calling the book a bragfest and others commenting that the writing style is a little too rambley. I can appreciate the criticism, the book at time seems to go on tangents and take a bit of time to get to the point, but this is Shonda, this is the point of the book. She wrote is her way and I loved it. Those calling her out on just bragging about herself I think may have missed her point a little. This book is not about her going on about her achievements, which yes she mentions, this book tells of how she got the a point of self-love and respect where she is confident to stand up and say “I’m awesome and I’m proud of it” and she is. In many ways. This book tells her story of how she started saying Yes to herself. An important lesson many of us can learn.

 

Shonda’s journey all starts on Thanksgiving with a throwaway comment made by her sister. A comment that comes back to haunt her at 4am in the morning. “You never say yes to anything”. This leads her to the Year of Yes: twelve months of not using the word no, twelve months to face her fears and say yes to all that terrifies her. The journey is great. Her stories are hilarious (I know, I was giggling to myself in the cafe I was reading it in), touching and brutally honest. Personally, I loved it. Interestingly I didn’t take as much from it as a friend of mine, who has multiple photos of passages form the book in her phone  because they spoke to her that much but this comes down to your own personal journey. I feel I have already said Yes to myself. I said Yes to myself when I started this blog at the beginning of the year when I challenged myself to critically thinking and gathering my thoughts about the books I was reading, rather than just mindlessly consuming them (not that I think that is a bad thing either). I said Yes to myself almost twelve months ago when I couldn’t commit to exercising regularly enough when I started seeing a trainer twice a week, which I still do to this day. I say Yes to myself on a regular basis when I confront the people in my life when something isn’t working because I would rather bring up and issue, solve it and move on rather than let it fester. I feel I have learnt a lot of myself over the years (and am still continuing to learn things each day) so think book helped remind me I was on the right path.

 

This book will speak to everyone in a different way. It is a hard one to recommend because your can really take from it a multitude of things, positive and negative. If you feel you need to do a little self-discovery, if you need a little reminder in self-love, if you do love anything that comes from Shondaland then I suggest to go get yourself a copy quick smart. I give Year of Yes four glasses of red wine (a habit we both share in common) and raise each of them to her for saying Yes to herself and embracing all that makes her amazing and for taking us along her journey with her. Keep on Dancing It Out!

 

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Book Mail Surprise

I was very lucky recently, I won a Facebook competition hosted by Allen & Unwin for a book lucky dip. To my excitement I came home from work and found a parcel on my doorstep containing my prize. Well prizes, I received two! I love the concept of a lucky dip and also the “blind date with a book” that goes around bookstagram. I think its a great way to read books you may not have come across or even necessarily have picked up in the first place. This is exactly what happened to me and I’m already looking forward to finding out what these books bring.

 

The first book I received was Green on Blue by Elliot Ackerman. This book instantly intrigued me. The story follows two brothers Ali and Aziz growing up in Afghanistan and how their world is shattered one day when soldiers come to their village and how they do what they need to survive in a war-torn country. I’m already prepared for the tear-jerker that I’m sure it will be but I do know I thoroughly enjoyed Khaled Hosseini’s novels set in similar war-torn countries where life is nothing like what we experience here in our relatively safe western world. Looking forward to reading a story set in a similar background, if for nothing than a little perspective.

 

The second book I received was Waking Lions by Eyelet Gundar-Goshen. This book is about a doctor who is involved in a hit and run but flees the scene when he realises that it will not end well for the African migrant that he struck. Unaware that the migrant’s wife observed the whole even until she turns up on his doorstep with one request. One request that will turn his world upside down. A book I probably would have never picked up myself, however, the drama sounds interesting and I have made efforts in the year so far to read a wide range of book genres.

 

I feel incredibly luck I had the opportunity to win some exciting and unique books and look forward to diving into them asap. Think either of them sound interesting? Look out for my reviews to come!

 

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The Girl On The Train – Paula Hawkins

This book for me was a reread. I first read The Girl On The Train last August after hearing it compared to Gone Girl. Now I loved Gone Girl, that book hooked me in and had me on the edge of my seat the whole novel. This lead me going into this book with high expectations, which were unfortunately not fulfilled. I was left slightly disappointed after I wasn’t immediately sucked into the storyline. It just didn’t quite do it for me in the end. Flash forward to a month ago when I saw the movie trailer for The Girl On The Train. Wow. The trailer looked intense, dark, twisted and enthralling. Everything I don’t remember the book being. So I decided to give it a second chance, six months down the track after my expectations and disappointment had settled.

 

The Girl In The Train starts from Rachel’s perspective. Rachel is sad and pathetic after her marriage collapsed and is coping by consuming an unhealthy amount of alcohol. She rides the train each day, to and from London for work. Each day the train stops in the same place giving her a glimpse into the life of “Jess and Jason” and their perfect life she creates in her imagination. Until the day the news informs her that “Jess” who is really Megan has gone missing. The book follows her trying to piece together what has happened to Megan, especially after witnessing something fleeting from the train.

 

I think my initial issue with this novel was the main character, Rachel. She is pathetic and letting herself spiral further into her depression, really only making her own situation worse. I found it difficult to connect with her or even really pity her as she was doing nothing to try and help herself, which infuriated me perhaps leading me to not invest myself in the book enough. How Emily Blunt represents this overweight, miserable character is beyond me, but that is another point completely (and it’s what Hollywood does, lets be honest).

 

I do have to admit, giving this book a second chance was worth it. With no expectations I was able to relax into the story and feel some of the suspense and mystery that didn’t quite grab me the first time around (even though I knew the ending). I was able to appreciate that none of the character’s Hawkins creates are who you expect, each with their dark side, each with their own story and each playing their role in the outcome of the plot. I love that the story was told from the perspective of each of the three women in the book and that slowly, slowly new pieces of the puzzle came to light chapter by chapter. I definitely enjoyed the experience more. That being said, this book will never be a favourite thriller of mine, books such as Gone Girl and After The Crash set the bar too high.

 

Overall I give The Girl On The Train three trains that Rachel rides back and forth from London. I do recommend this book if you are in the mood for a decent thriller, something that gets you thinking, tying to calculate the plot twists. To be honest, I’m holding out for the movie. The trailer looks amazing, creating the suspense that just didn’t peak for me in the novel. Hopefully the cinematography and acting evokes stronger response in me.

 

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Crown of Midnight, Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows

Considering I have read these three books in quick succession, I decided I may as well review them together also rather than spam you all with three fairly similar posts in a row. Each of the books in the Throne of Glass series has been a unique book, each playing it’s role in the story of Celaena Sardothian and her quest in life. In short you could easily describe each book with a different purpose. Throne of Glass, which I reviewed earlier this year, was a great example of setting the scene. We meet the important players in the book, Celaena, her triangle of men, the bad guy and everyone in between. We are introduced to the lay of the land, a dominant kingdom with a bloodthirsty past, the destruction of any completion along the way and watch this cycle continue. And it was highly enjoyable and I finished it in no time. Crown of Midnight really focused on building your relationships with the characters. You learn who they truly are, their history and how they came to be where they are now, falling in love with them and caring desperately what happens to them. Essentially ensnaring you, hook, line and sinker. Heir of Fire basically tears s**t up. The plot deepens spinning an intricate web so you see where the series as a whole is going and just how far they have to go. Blowing your mind along every step of the way. Queen of Shadows then brings it all together, tying off a few ends and answers a few questions ready  for the next part of the adventure. Now just to wait until September for the next instalment…

 

Now to get more in depth of each book on their own. Crown of Midnight was probably my favourite book in the series so far. While I loved Throne of Glass it was a slow (but highly enjoyable) start. There were no moments where I was really shocked or surprised at what happened. I did enjoy this as it set the scene nicely but Crown of Midnight is what cemented my dedication to this series. In Crown of Midnight each of the main characters really came into their own, with us learning more about them. Celaena, Chaol, Dorian and Nehemia are all great characters. Each one I have a lot of love for mostly due to their portrayal in this book. Apart from one major act not a lot happened with the storyline and I appreciated the way Maas set characters up for the rest of the series.

 

Heir of Fire is where the series really gained momentum. A lot of truths are revealed and the plot takes unexpected turns. Travels to new land, intriguing new characters are all happening adding a new vibe to this instalment. We are introduced to some unusual characters in the form of witches and even have chapters of the book narrated by one of them. Some people weren’t fans of the voice of Manon, however, I quite enjoyed the mix up with an entirely different perspective. The witches are an interesting bunch and I look forward to seeing the role they play in the upcoming novel. Celaena grows  even more as a character and you learn more of her background, which made me love her even more. Although she went through a bit of a stage in the first half of the story which I wanted to slap her out of, but she gets there in the end.

 

Lastly, Queen of Shadows brings it all together and to my surprise ties off a lot of loose ends. Creating many more, of course, to be followed up in Empire of Storms. We see Celaena return to see much has changed with plenty to do. The witches story becomes richer and more deeply embedded in the plot. The characters go through challenging times and a lot happen. It took me a few days to read this one, compared to the others due to there being so much content and I didn’t want details to be lost if I read it too quickly. The ending left me excited to see where the remainder of the series goes  so now the hard part is just waiting now. Overall, I give each of these book four of Celaena’s daggers, may she continue to kick ass in Empire of Storms.

 

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Managing the never-ending pile

Does anyone else have an out of control TBR pile? I’m going to assume yes, of course you do. There are too many great books out there that sound so interesting you just NEED to read and I’m sure, just like me, you find it impossible to walk into a bookstore and not purchase a book. For the record I actually managed this yesterday! Progress! Are you proud?

 

Currently my TBR pile, which is actually two piles next to each other because there are too many for one, is standing at fifteen books. Fifteen. Crazy! For me, that is. I am an organised person, I dislike having such an unmanageable pile. I mean fifteen books is enough to last at least two months. This pile contains some re-reads of books i have read before that I have had an urge to revisit, books leant to me by friends, secondhand bookstore finds, plus more fiction that I have purchased.

 

What I want to know is how do you manage it? How do you decide what gets read next? Do you have a strict order? How long they have been sitting in your pile? What book takes your interest most? Is this list set in stone? Does is change as your whims do? I’m currently trying to be a little more ordered, keeping a list of what comes next that I’m attempting to keep to, within reason of course.

 

My aim is to read, fairly quickly with a high priority, the books that have been leant to me by friends. Books are one of my most prized possessions that I look after and cherish and so appreciate when people respect mine and return them in a timely fashion. Therefore, I try to do the same thing. From there, I try to somewhat chronologically read the books in order of how long I have had them. I do have a couple that have been sitting there since the beginning of the year, which are pretty old and need to be knocked off. However, I also think it is important to read what interests you, ultimately what you feel like reading because forcing yourself to read something you aren’t super interested in at the time can lead to a negative perception of the book that may be undeserved. Sometimes certain books are just what you need and I think you need to leave room to accommodate this.

 

My current list has been interrupted to finish off the Throne of Glass series and I loved every minute of it. I really enjoyed immersing myself in the three books from that series that I have read in the past week. Being able to read them back to back was a really enjoyable feeling and I haven’t had so many in a series to read in succession in a long time. My plan was to read my borrowed books next but I am currently having a quick detour in favour of a re-read of The Girl on the Train, which I read about a year ago but wanted a refresh after seeing the trailer for the movie (looks amazing!). I will move on to my borrowed books next (for real this time) but just knew I also needed an easy read, one I had read before after having an exhausting day.

 

I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on their TBR piles! Comparisons of size too! Am I a bit over the top or do I really have nothing to complain about? Send some thoughts my way and see below for just some of those books on my pile.

 

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