Spring Goals

How is it halfway through September already?  It honestly feels as if I’ve blinked and we’re most of the way through the year.  In light of that, I thought that it be worthwhile to consider the goals that I would like to focus on achieving throughout the rest of the year.  And while September marks the start of a new school year for much of the world (although not in Australia) and a fresh start academically, it seemed fitting that with the Spring season, I look at having a “fresh start” by making some goals and keeping myself challenged for the remainder of 2015.

Blogging

I know that I have had an absence lately with keeping the blog updated.  What with a computer that seemed intent on not wanting to do anything without constantly freezing, going on my first overseas holiday and then battling a long two weeks of jet lag, it’s safe to say that the ideas and ability to write them down, weren’t happening.  With all of that out of the way though, it’s time for a comeback.  I enjoy coming up with new ideas and writing (whether they always work out is another matter), but my goal is to update the blog three time each week.

Reading

At the beginning of the year, I set myself the goal of reading 50 books in 2015.  At this point in the year, I have finished reading 32 books.  While I think this is a pretty good effort so far, I do however suffer from the eternal problem of constantly having a To Be Read List that seems to grow in number every day.  If interested, you can find my TBR list here and see for yourself the mammoth number of books that I own (physical books or e-book copies) and haven’t yet managed to read.  And while I think it is positive that I am a reader of many different genres and there are so many books that interest me, I really feel that I need to start working my way through the books that I do own and try to stop buying books to add to the list in the meantime.  So, my aim for the rest of the year is to make my way through some of the books that I do own.  I currently have a massive stack of books that I cannot fit onto my bookshelf, so have taken up residence in the wardrobe of the spare bedroom (see the photos below).  There are a few books in there that I have read before, but have only recently purchased, but the majority are ones that I have not.  I am going to start my reading challenge with these stack of books and see how many I can make it through before the end of the year.  If you have read any of them before, where do you think that I should start?

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Knitting

Earlier in the year, I wrote about how much I enjoy knitting and the projects that I had currently been working on.  I have still been knitting every day, usually when I watch something on tv, as it is a good way to keep my hands busy.  While I am really happy with the progress I have been making, there’s always more that I can do to ensure that I keep working on projects enough so that they can be finished.  Similar to my goal of trying not to buy any more books for awhile, my goals with knitting are to finish some of the blankets I am working on by the end of the year AND do so without buying any more yarn.  It is (just like with books) very easy to loose track of how much yarn you already own, but with recent house re-organisation and de-cluttering, I re-discovered that I do have a pretty decent yarn stash.  So now I am going to have to work out some way of avoiding both bookshops and yarn stores for the foreseeable future.  If that’s not a challenge, I’m not sure what is (but maybe that means I will have more time to spend on the actual reading and knitting of projects?)!

Continue the de-cluttering

I have spent time over the past few weeks de-cluttering parts of my house and it gave me an opportunity to re-assess some of the belongings that I have accumulated. When you are somebody who loves reading, knitting and stationery as much as I do, it’s pretty hard not to have lots of those items. I always used to find tasks like this difficult to do.  Not only because there would be times when I would come across an item that I had forgotten about, meaning that tidying up would become sidelined by reminiscing about said item.  Plus, I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I’ve always struggled with the idea of discarding my belongings.  There’s always a memory or a reason for keeping something and the idea of no longer wanting that, isn’t always an easy decision to make.  So yes, in other words, I can be a bit of a hoarder.  I don’t try to be, but it just happens.  I found that sorting my belongings into keep, discard or donate piles was so much easier to do than it ever has been before.  And that made it so much nicer to then rearrange everything, step back and give myself credit for a job well done.  I haven’t completely finished this task yet.  I aim to slowly go through all of the belongings in the house and re-assessing what I actually have in my cupboards and whether it needs to be there. Doing one cupboard a day has helped make this less overwhelming than I thought it would be and no doubt, more successful. In terms of a time frame, this is a job that will be completed by the end of the year.

Health & Fitness

No matter how healthy you are, I think that there’s always room for improvement.  I don’t think that I am completely unhealthy, but recently there was a period of time where I was sticking to unhealthier patterns of behaviour, both food and exercise related.  I am therefore aiming to work harder both with respect to the types and amount of food that I am consuming, but to also balance that with more exercise.  I didn’t eat terribly when I was away on holidays, but it was also easier to choose somewhat unhealthier meals than I usually would.  I have been putting in more of an effort of planning the entire week’s worth of meals before doing the grocery shop, so that the only food I should be eating for the week is already in the house.  By doing that, it’s much easier to avoid buying unnecessary items that I don’t actually need and saves me from popping down to the corner shop when I realise I don’t have a particular item I need.  Continuing to plan meals will ensure that I can only eat healthier meals and I don’t think that that could be a bad thing.  I used to do yoga many years ago and I really enjoyed it.  Before I went on holidays I started yoga again, but have managed to get out of the habit of doing it since I have been back.  So I am starting to practice again and with Spring weather making it much nicer to spend time outside, there’s less excuses for me to use to avoid going outside for additional exercise.

I realise now, that I have set out quite a few goals for myself and it could be a challenge to try and achieve all of this by the end of the year.  However, I don’t think that I’ve set myself too many goals all in one area of my life.  I would like to think that rather than these goals being a chore, it’s the chance for me to use them to become a happier person.  Maybe I should call this The Happier Me Challenge?  An attempt to spend everyday being a healthier, happier, more positive person.  If that’s not a positive way to try and spend the rest of the year, then I don’t know what is.

Are there any goals or challenges that you are setting yourself to complete by the end of the year?

Knitting: Hand Made With Love

When I’m not reading, you will find me knitting.  Being a knitter is a hobby, a past time, a way of life.  It is something that I work on everyday, not just because I enjoy watching the progress of whatever project I might be working on, but because it is my relaxation time.  I am somebody who unfortunately happens to be an over thinker.  I struggle to find time when my mind isn’t questioning, well, everything.  Knitting time, however is for me, the opportunity to silence my mind and banish all of the thoughts that I usually have.  I suppose you could say that knitting is my zen time.  It’s hypnotic: the rhythmic motions of unwinding yarn and of passing it around needles.  It’s the determination to create something with nothing but your two hands, a ball of yarn and knitting needles.  You literally start with nothing but an idea and end up with a project you’ve put your heart and soul into.  Knitting I believe, is a form of magic.

I have always been interested in knitting.  Growing up, none of my immediate family members were knitters.  However, whenever I would visit relatives, there would always be one of my aunties working away on a knitting project.  I was always fascinated by what they were doing.  I used to sit and watch their progress.  Maybe I was always supposed to have knitting involved in my life?

When I was nine years old, during a visit to see my grandparents, my grandmother taught me to knit.  I can still remember it clearly.  I was using pale pink plastic knitting needles and the most revolting yarn.  It was a hideous maroon-brown-red colour which was unappealing enough, but as also incredibly rough and itchy.  Not exactly the most pleasant of options.  I was not a natural knitter.  Dropped stitches, picked up stitches, terrible tension.  In fact, there was such a lack of knitting ability that I actually managed to snap the tip off one of the needles,during making a stitch.  And these were solid plastic needles.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is trying to learn how to knit using one blunt and one regular knitting needle?  Surprisingly though, that wasn’t enough to make me give up.

Since I very poorly learned the basics, everything I have learnt about knitting has been as a result of ongoing practice and the internet.  I used to spend hours practicing how to knit.  I never made anything, just knit until I reached the end of the yarn ball, then unwound it and started again.  But doing that slowly allowed me to develop decent tension and leaned not to drop stitches.

Without being arrogant, my knitting ability has definitely improved.  And thanks to the internet, I’ve been able to teach myself how to cable, use circular needles to knit in the round, interpret patterns, create items independently and be proud of the time that I have invested in them.  Knitting might still be considered to be an old lady past time in some circles, but it’s something that I am grateful to have the ability to enjoy, every time I sit down to knit.

So with that out of the way, I thought that I would share the projects I am currently working on.  Somehow I have gone from one project to working on three simultaneously.

Project 1: Coloured Squares Blanket

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I started this blanket six weeks ago as an attempt to use up all of the random odds and ends of yarn I have.  I’m having such a good time seeing how all of the colours are coming together, it’s the only project I’m working on at the moment.

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Project 2: Coloured Stripes Blanket

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In March, I began this blanket, creating a repeating stripes pattern.  I still have a way to go and haven’t worked on it in a while, but it will look great when it is finished.

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Project 3: Blanket For My Dad

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After inundating my family with progress photos of my other two blankets, my dad asked if I would be able to make him a blanket.  Having another reason to occupy myself with knitting is always welcome, so I said it wouldn’t be a problem.  The only request my dad made was that he would like the blanket to have stripes.  Colour and design were decisions left up to me.  Eventually I decided on 100% wool in self striping shades of blue.  It’s the blanket I have spent the least amount of time working on (sorry dad!), but I know that it will be cozy and warm whenever it is big enough to give to my dad.

So there you go a bit more insight into what I like to do apart from reading.  I think I might periodically post photo updates of these blankets to document progress and encourage me to work on all of them.

What hobbies are you involved in?

First Impressions: Moon Over Soho by Ben Aaronovitch

It was clear to DC Grant that it was no heart attack that had killed jazz saxophonist Cyrus Wilkinson.  Someone, or something, is stalking the streets of Soho-drawn to that special gift that separates the great musicians from the rest.  As Grant follows the evidence deep into the back streets of London town his investigation quickly gets tangled up in another story: that of brilliant trumpet player, Richard ‘Lord’ Grant.  Who also happens to be Grant’s father.  That’s the thing about policing: most of the time you’re doing it to maintain public order.  Occasionally you’re doing it for justice.  And maybe, once in a career, you’re doing it for revenge.

****

This is the second book in the Rivers of London series.  I enjoyed the first book so much, I knew that it would be a series that I would need to work my way through. Considering the events of book one, it will be interesting to discover how things pick back up.  How is the team going?  Have injuries been recovered from appropriately? Or in fact, can you recover?   What’s happening with Peter’s apprenticeship?  The concept of this book giving more background on Peter’s father should be interesting.  I liked finding out about the back story of his childhood, about what his parent’s lives are like currently.  And I suppose,what has helped to make Peter the person that he is today.  Plus, as someone who will shortly be spending some time in London when I go on my first overseas holiday, it’s great reading about all of the different places that they go to and some of the history of the area.    Also,if there was a heavy feature of ghosts in the first book, what exactly is responsible for the death of the musician? I already have a feeling that this is going to be an extremely enjoyable read!

Has anybody else read this series? What were your thoughts?

First Impressions: A Delicate Truth by John Le Care

A counter-terrorist operation code named Wildlife, is being mounted on the British crown colony of Gibraltar.  Its purpose: to capture and abduct a high value jihardist arms buyer.  Its authors: an ambitious Foreign Office minister, a private defence contractor who is also his bosom friend and a shady American CIA operative of the evangelical far right.  So delicate is the operation that even the minister’s private secretary, Toby Bell is not cleared for it.

Three years later, a disgraced Special Forces soldier delivers a message from the dead.  Was Operation Wildlife the success it was cracked up to be- or a human tragedy that was ruthlessly covered up? Summoned by Sir Christopher ‘Kit’ Probyn, retired British diplomat, to his decaying Cornish manor house and closely observed by Kit’s daughter, Emily, Toby must choose between his conscience and duty to his Service.  If the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing, how can he keep silent?

****

I haven’t read any John Le Carre before, but have wanted to for awhile. Espionage, mysteries, secrets and potential double crossing.  I’m fascinated by it. Whether in books, tv shows or movies, it’s such a great way to capture your attention and keep you guessing as to what will happen next. Given the genre, it also tends to have more unexpected twists and turns than you can ever really guess at, which when revealed are enough to take your breath away and make you want to tear your hair out- all the while wanting more.  Even the synopsis alone has me considering what might be likely to happen and I know it won’t be long before I start devouring the pages, trying to find out.

****

Characters adopting false identities: check.

Cover identities with hobbies such as bird watching: check.

Encrypted mobile phones: check.

No idea as to what exactly you are getting yourself in for, as part of a top secret mission: check.

This novel is definitely off to a good start!

Are you a fan of espionage in books, tv shows or movies? Why does it appeal to you?

Book Review: Rivers Of London by Ben Aaronovitch

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I loved every minute that I spent reading Rivers of London.  My first impressions were not disappointed: the police force, magic and wizardry, not to mention taking place around London and well developed characters continued to grip my attention throughout the entire novel.  I couldn’t have asked for anything more, so it is a relief that the series continues so that I can find out what Peter, Nightingale and Toby the dog will have to sort out next.

I know when I’m disappointed that a book is finished, that I’ve stumbled across something amazing.  Even the dialogue had that little something special to captivate my attention.  I can’t tell you the number of odd looks I received from my boyfriend while I was laughing out loud at what was happening.

Peter, who many colleagues would consider to be a good police officer, if only he didn’t get so distracted when on a case, was a fantastic narrator,  There was such a great mix of honesty, sarcasm and detail for facts, that kept the story moving at a fast pace.  Even his astonishment at discovering the existence of needing a magical division of the police force was brilliant…

Is this where you tell me that there’s a secret branch of the Met whose task it is to tackle ghosts, ghouls, faeries, demons, witches and warlocks, elves and goblins…?

Yes, Peter.  And as crazy as it sounds, it also makes absolute sense.  Because of course, it seems that in any novel involving magic, there’s no such thing as well behaved magical creatures all the time.  Just like mortals, evil doers will take advantage and cause mayhem wherever possible. In that respect, if magic and crime co-exist, it is no surprise that Peter has questions.  For example:

“So magic is real” [Peter] said.  “Which makes you a… what?”

“A wizard”

“Like Harry Potter?”

Nightingale sighed.  “No” he said, “not like Harry Potter”.

“In what way?”

“I’m not a fictional character”, said Nightingale.

Despite the slight on Harry Potter, Peter is happy to accept a ten year apprenticeship with Nightingale, to learn magic and the applications it requires to solve specialised crime, by those also gifted with magic.  What ensures is a combination of magical lessons, ordinary police work and procedures and the endless paper work that must be completed at the end of the day.  There’s car chases, murder and attempting to catch a ghost; mortal sidekicks, a dog who can sense magic and new accommodation, where the maid also happens to be  vampire.  It’s a novel that once you start, is incredibly difficult to put down because you need to know what is going to happen next.  In fact, it was that good, that before I had even finished it, I went to the bookshop and bought the next three books in the series because I knew that this book alone would not be enough.  If that’s not an indication of how much I enjoyed everything about this novel, I’m not sure what will.  It is a novel that to discuss in detail any more of the storyline would spoil what happens and that is not something that I want to be responsible for.  The only way to find out more, if you are curious, is to read it yourself, and enjoy the fantastic world you are about to stumble into.  I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Has anybody else read Rivers of London? What were your thoughts?

First Impressions: Rivers Of London by Ben Aaronovitch

My name is Peter Grant. Until January I was just another probationary constable in that mighty army for justice known to all right-thinking people as the Metropolitan Police Service, and to everyone else as the Filth.  My only concerns in life were how to avoid a transfer to the Case Progression Unit-we do paperwork so real coppers don’t have to-and finding a way to climb into the panties of the outrageously perky WPC Lesley May.  Then, one night, in pursuance of a murder inquiry, I tried to take a witness statement from a man who was dead, but disturbingly voluble, and that brought me to the attention of Chief Inspector Nightingale, the last wizard in England.  And that, as they say, is where the story begins.

Now I’m a Detective Constable and a trainee wizard, the first apprentice in fiftyyears, and my world has become somewhat more complicated.  I’m dealing with nests of vampires in Purley, negotiating a truce between the warring god and goddess of the Thames and digging up graves in Covent Garden-and that’s just routine.  There’s something festering at the heart of the City I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair.

The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos-or die trying.  Which, I don’t mind telling you, would involve a hell of a lot of paperwork.

****

A quote on the front of this book by Diana Gabaldon (of Outlander fame), says that the novel is “what would happen if Harry Potter grew up and joined the Fuzz”.  If I had any doubts about whether this was something I would likely enjoy, that quote, the intriguing cover and the book synopsis, sold me.  Who wouldn’t want to read about Harry Potter working for the Metropolitan Police?  As that seemingly won’t ever happen, I’m just as happy to find out what adventures await for Peter Grant.  Wizardry in the police force: a concept I’ve never thought about before, let alone considered that it would captivate my attention.  I am however really excited at seeing what happens and can’t wait to start it!

****

Having read the first chapter, I can already tell that this is going to be an amazing read.  There’s something refreshing about the conversational styled tone that Peter Grant uses to tell his story.  And the honesty which he uses to convey his opinions.  Even the explanation of police procedure, which could very easily become dry and tiring to read, help to move the scenes along at a decent pace.  Add into the mix the appearance of a ghost as a murder witness, who doesn’t mind being interviewed and a main character who doesn’t appear dumbfounded that he is gathering a witness statement from a ghost without batting an eyelid… well, there’s so much potential of where this story is going to play out.  I’m absolutely fascinated and I’ve only read thirty pages.  Surely good things must be waiting for me.

First Impressions: Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen and she’s struggling to conceal her power and a curse that has haunted her family for generations.  But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met.  When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them. In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything.

****

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My copy of this book has been waiting patiently on my bookshelf for a year.  Having recently found myself in a reading slump, where several books I had been really excited to read ended up not meeting my high expectations, it seemed like a good idea to delve into a book that I have owned for awhile.

I like the idea of this book.  Old fashioned small town, no doubt likely to have their long held beliefs challenged by an outsider. And, which I can only assume is magic and probably, some element of romance which will no doubt be frowned upon by the entire town? I’m in!

****

So, I’m a few chapters in and I’m not entirely convinced by the story yet. I don’t want this to become yet another book that I’m disappointed in.  I seem to be reading this slowly, but maybe that’s because there hasn’t been something to completely draw me in yet? Perhaps once all the necessary characters have been introduced and the important aspects of town have been mentioned, the story will start to pick up.  In the meantime, if I keep reading, hopefully something a little bit  more lively will occur.

Has anybody else found this story to be a slow start? Any encouragement that it is going to improve would be appreciated (no spoilers, please!).