How to keep your Resolutions

It’s already nearly two weeks into 2017. Statistically, most resolutions that were made will be broken. A good portion, already so. But that doesn’t mean you should give up on them entirely. Just because you’ve had a blip, or maybe you haven’t even started working toward your goal, it doesn’t mean that the other 50 weeks of the year are automatically written off. You can just pick yourself up and start again. Why discount 50 weeks of progress, just for two of inertia?

Resolutions are there to be reminders of our self-improvement. We get to re-evaluate ourselves every 12 months and decide what we should aim to work on, to be kinder, healthier, happier. Of course, it is only a promise to you, in most cases no one else will be affected if you make a non-attempt. But you will be. If nothing else, you owe it to yourself to follow through, even on arbitrary promises, because if you don’t respect your own word, how you expect others to?

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It is also probable that you didn’t bother making any resolutions. After all, 2016 has widely been held as not such a great (read: actually terrible) year for a lot of people, for a lot of reasons. From the loss of so many famous faces in all aspects of public life, to the frequency of terror attacks, to the election of some questionable people across many governments, to any number of personal reasons – surely this year can’t be so bad, even if you do nothing to help yourself along. And who knows? Maybe it won’t be. Maybe this year won’t be one that we can’t wait to be through with. Perhaps humanity will turn over a new leaf, and we’ll all smile and be kind and agree to peacefully disagree. But how can we expect this to happen by itself?

Anyway, here’s my top five for keeping your resolutions on track:

  1. Keep track of your progress on a calendar, whiteboard, app or something. This can help keep you going when everything seems pointless.
  2. Make yourself accountable for whatever it is by telling people. Tell your mum, partner, bestie, or, if you’re brave, online community. If you’ve got someone checking up on you, you’ll feel more obliged to keep it up.
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  3. Create a plan of how to achieve your goal. It’s much easier to lose five kg by exercising and eating healthy, than just by saying you’re going to. If you’ve got a strategy you can break
    it down so it’s much less scary.
  4. Let yourself slip up. Everybody makes mistakes, and that’s okay, just make sure you pick yourself up and keep going – rather than letting the mistakes define you.
  5. Remember why you thought this was important to begin with, and what you wanted to get out of it. It might be hard, but you wouldn’t have started if you didn’t have good reason. And besides, imagine how great it’ll feel on December 31, knowing that you are one of a select group who actually accomplished what they set out to 364 days prior.

Good luck!

 

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The Girl on the Train || November Review

The Girl on the TrainThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This novel was thrilling and engrossing and creepy. This took the idea of the unreliable narrator to the next level.
As I’m sure everyone is aware of the plot, I’m not going to go into detail. There’s a woman that catches the same train every day, who imagines the lives of the people in the houses she passes. One day, a woman she watches goes missing, and the girl on the train becomes involved in the following investigation more deeply than she could ever imagine.
The story is told from the perspectives of three women, and two time periods. As the novel progresses, their lives become more intertwined and the true similarities between them are uncovered. Each woman is, honestly, pretty messed up in her own right. Each one is less dependable than the last in terms of providing an honest account. And therein lies the challenge.
Hawkins crafted a plot filled with so many twists and turns. Very unpredictable, and yet the final twist was perhaps not as surprising as it could be. I did very much enjoy this novel. I didn’t like a single character much at all – but, I think it was wonderfully paced, and thrilling. An interesting character study as well. It left me questioning everyone and thinking about it, even when I wasn’t reading.

*I didn’t really want to review this, but it’s the only book I completed all month – oops!*

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Cooper Bartholomew is Dead || October Review

Cooper Bartholomew Is DeadCooper Bartholomew Is Dead by Rebecca James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was all that I wanted it to be – and more. I fell in love with the characters, and even though I knew that it all ended horribly, I still got swept up in the story of Cooper and Libby.
As the title suggests, this is the story of Cooper Bartholomew’s untimely death. It is divided into ‘Then’ and ‘Now’ post and prior to Cooper’s death. It is also told from the perspectives of four narrators, Cooper, his girlfriend Libby, his best friend Sebastian, and his ex Claire.
In ‘Then’ we follow the development of Libby and Cooper’s relationship, and see the divide it was causing between Cooper and his old friends. Honestly, Cooper and Libby’s courtship is the best thing about this book. It is so real. Slow and true with hesitations from friends and parents, as they all come to grips with this unexpected pairing. Cooper is just like the sweetest guy in the world, and Libby knows how wonderful he is. Reading them falling in love was so bittersweet, because it beautifully captured that slow build-up and wonder of a new relationship, but at the same time, you know that it’s going to end so badly for Libby.
The ‘Now’ segments deal with the aftermath of Cooper’s death, as everyone struggles in comprehension. Libby particularly doesn’t accept the official finding of suicide, and sets out to uncover the truth. These sections were hard to read because Libby’s emotions are so raw. However, the build up to the big secrets was a little lacking. I wasn’t especially shocked by the revelations discovered (and I’m usually quite an oblivious reader!) and I thought some of Libby’s conjecture about what could have happened to Cooper was more gripping than what was eventually revealed as to have occurred on that fatal night.
However, this was still a page-turning and emotional Australian addition to the New Adult genre. James has once again crafted such relatable characters, everyone knows a Cooper, a Claire… Even for the characters that you aren’t supposed to like, I still really ended up hoping they got their lives sorted out. It is important to note that this is indeed a NA novel, rather than a YA one. It deals with a lot of heavier themes, such as suicide, infidelity, drug and alcohol abuse, and family drama. Overall though, a really great book. Even without the central plot, this book explores what that odd time in life your early twenties is, especially in small town Australia.

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The Night Circus || September Review

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is not just a book, but rather an experience to be read. A beautiful, magical world has been created for you, ready to be entered just as soon as you turn to page one.
I loved this novel. It was so transporting and enchanting that I dragged out my reading, rationing it out to myself so I could live in Morgenstern’s world for as long as I possibly could – before I simply had to discover how it ended.
I knew very little about this book before I picked it up, and I think that’s the best way to go into it. If you begin it with certain expectations, you may be disappointed – as I don’t think any plot summary can really do justice to such an intricately crafted story. In some ways if you are searching for an adventure, or romance, or period novel – this is not the one for you. But in other ways it absolutely is all those things and so much more.
Morgenstern has written so lusciously. The pages are oozing with glorious imagery and elaborate detail of the circus, its residents and the world they all inhabit. There is so much life in this book it felt like I was really at the circus myself. It was all so beautifully depicted that I had nostalgia for this imaginary world. An attack on all the senses, I could almost smell the popcorn and taste the caramel. It is just superb. I loved the Victorian era setting of the novel too. It provides another air of mystery and excitement across the various cities the circus visits.
As odd as it sounds, the circus itself seems like a major, if not the main character of the novel, it is described so viscerally. However, of the actually sentient characters, I love them all. They are all so layered and their magic makes them so intriguing. I particularly love the twins, Poppet and Widget, as they grow and come to terms with their own magical abilities.
The first few chapters of The Night Circus actually can be confusing though. What begins as a seeming mess of unconnected characters and time jumps (these especially can be quite hard to overcome) could put those looking for an easy read off. And the multitude of characters can seem overwhelming. But if you stick through it, it all becomes clear and all the assumed random pieces of the book come together beautifully. The jumps between different points of view help get a more rounded impression of the narrative and the brief second person chapters are really something special. This is definitely a world that warrants many revisits, if only to devour the delicious prose.

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How not to Disappear || August Review

How Not to DisappearHow Not to Disappear by Clare Furniss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This novel is so wonderful. It is full of live and love. It is moving and funny and shocking at times. I really did enjoy it very much.
How not to Disappear tells the story of 17-year-old Hattie, alone for the summer and secretly pregnant as she discovers and connects with great-aunt Gloria, diagnosed with dementia and looking for one last adventure. The pair head off on a sort of ‘journey down memory lane’ road trip as Gloria shares her own secrets with Hattie, while she still has the chance. This novel tells both this present story, as well as flashbacks from Gloria’s life and the struggles she had to face when she was younger. The pair learn how to deal with each other’s quirks and learn a great deal more; they are more alike than it first appears.
Furniss very well crafted both, in fact, all the women in this book. They are all different, but even Hattie’s young sister Alice was crafted well enough to be strong, yet vulnerable. Each character in this book is so real – I think that was maybe my favourite part of the book. The whole cast of characters is unique and flawed and special – even the less likeable ones are not so easily blamed, once you delve a little deeper into their character.
I say ‘maybe’ my favourite part because I am so impressed with the way that Furniss dealt with so many heavy topics in such an accessible way. The novel deals with teen pregnancy and dementia (obviously), but also looks at birth, death (and voluntary euthanasia), queer representation, feminism, discrimination (racial and otherwise), abortion, domestic violence and rape, and gender roles – just to name a few. Everything is handled sensitively, but it manages to not be preachy – particularly with the issues specifically that Hattie and Gloria are facing. As the book is divided into two time periods, parallels can be drawn between the two young women and the way somewhat similar situations were managed.
Although the perfect timing of meeting Gloria initially seemed a little too convenient, up till that point the book was a bit hard to get into. Overall I was glad the plot progressed the way it did, though I felt the epilogue jumped too far forward for Hattie’s decision without any real explanation, I was glad Furniss didn’t take the easy road for the characters. I especially thought that Gloria’s arc progression was perfect. The plot twists occurred almost exclusively in Gloria’s flashbacks, and I did not see them coming. Hattie’s present mostly involved a lot of to-and-fro thinking and ruminating, but I thoroughly enjoyed being in her head – it made me question what I would do in her shoes – and she had some interesting insights. I also thought the Furniss did a really good job of creating Gloria’s present voice, when we read from her point-of-view fear of the illness and Gloria’s battle is remarkably written.
This is the first of Furniss’ books I have read, I will definitely be picking up her first novel – and on the lookout for any new releases. I am so glad this book is so pretty, because I certainly do not regret reading it.

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An Open Letter to You

Dear you,

There’s no such thing as a waste of an experience. Or a period in time. Or your life. You cannot live your life without personal growth and development. And you cannot live without impacting upon others. So there is no waste. Unless you live in a hole, with no outside interaction it is literally impossible. And even then – if you allow yourself to learn new things and think new thoughts, you are simply not a waste of space, or of anybody’s time.

It is easy to think that if you don’t achieve what you set out to, or are going day-to-day without striving for any new goals, or without any major life changes, that you are wasting your time. That you should be doing something more. More important or impressive or useful. But sometimes we all need a break. Sometimes it’s a day or two. Sometimes a year, or even more.  Studying for years and doing nothing resembling your qualification, isn’t a waste – it’s personal growth, determination and self-reflection. It is the able to re-evaluate your life and all you’ve learnt and decide that, maybe that’s not what you want after all and that’s okay.

It is so essential that you let yourself take the time that you need to sort through everything. You need to let yourself remember what it is that you truly want, and learn how to make yourself happy again. It is too easy to go through life doing only is expected of you, or what you think you should be doing, without asking what it is that will actually make you happy. It is so easy to pin your hopes on the next thing, and the next after that; “I’ll be happy after I leave school”, “I’ll be happy after I get a car”, or find a partner or get a full-time job or whatever it is. It is so easy in this way to let life pass by without being happy with what you have and who you are in that very moment.

And easy too, is to compare ourselves to others, seeing that we are underachieving, or worthless compared to them. But any comparison that you draw to another is unfair on you. There is no one else on this little blue planet who is you.  Nobody has the same life, experiences, thoughts and feelings as you. Even if you are in outwardly similar positions, there is no knowing what is actually going on. If you see them as successful compared to you in one aspect, it is unbelievable they are more accomplished in every aspect. And even supposing that maybe (impossibly) they are, who is to say that they are happy and don’t look at others the way you view them?

As cliché as it is, you really do only get one shot at being alive, so you must try to be you. By attempting to be somebody else, you are depriving yourself, and the rest of the world of the chance of seeing who you can really become. And you know what, it’s okay not to be okay. It’s okay to feel lonely, or sad, or frustrated – they deserve to be felt too (didn’t you learn anything from Inside Out?)

Suppressing emotions never ends well and only leads to more heartache further down the track. Let yourself feel. But then do something about them. Talk to a friend, watch your favourite movie, write it all out. Do not let yourself sit in your pyjamas pretending like everything’s fine for the fourth day in a row, without trying to help yourself. If you do not ask for help or support, people will assume you don’t need it. But everyone needs it at some point. And that is very okay. It is only human. We all hurt, we are all damaged and flawed. But we can all help each other. And that’s the best part.

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Disclaimer: This is mostly a letter to myself, these are the important things I need help remembering sometimes. I am sorry it is so ramble-y. 

Eligible || July Review

EligibleEligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a modern American retelling of Austen’s perennial favourite Pride and Prejudice. Set 200 years later and in Cincinnati, it was such fun to revisit Liz Bennet, one of the most loved heroines in English literature.
Pride and Prejudice has been retold so very many times that I was worried Sittenfeld would struggle to do anything new with the source material, and either mirror another adaptation too closely, or stray so far from the original that I would have to dig deep to find any similarities. In fact, neither of these happened at all. Eligible managed to, at once, remain true to both the plot and the personalities of the whole cast of characters, and remain surprising by the way the plot points of the original translated into the modern world.
In this version, journalist Liz and yoga instructor Jane move back home for a few months after Mr Bennet has a heart attack. Mr Chip Bingley is a doctor at the local hospital after a failed stint on ‘Eligible’ (Sittenfeld’s barely-masked version of ‘The Bachelor’). Mr Fitzwilliam Darcy is the sexy new-in-town brain surgeon from a family of money but with a complete lack of social etiquette. And so, Pride and Prejudice unravels itself. Each character is familiar and yet new. Everyone has been updated but remain true to who they were originally supposed to be. It makes perfect sense in the 21st century that Mrs Bennet would spend all her time catalogue-shopping in front of reality television; that Kitty and Lydia would be Crossfit lovers and spurn the non-believers; and that Liz wouldn’t want children.
(view spoiler)
The thing that was handled poorly in this novel, would be the representation. Sittenfeld tried to update this novel by including characters with various sexual/gender/racial identities, and ones dealing with various mental health problems, which is great. Diversity and representation is wonderful, in theory. However, Sittenfeld doesn’t explore or resolve these issues well at all. Under the guise of (particularly) Mrs Bennet’s blatant and overarching ignorance, the non-cis/straight/white characters are underdeveloped, with their diversity often being their only defining characteristic. (view spoiler)
However, I found this book a wonderful, light, hilarious at times holiday read. It was generally well written and I thoroughly enjoyed this new take on things. It was a quick read due to Sittenfeld’s propensity to write in very short chapters (over 180 in this book!), but also due to her wit and charm. Even though I knew how it would all pan out in the end, I found it very hard to put Eligble down.

I received my copy of this novel as part of a Goodreads Giveaway.

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