Friday, December 18, 2015

I'm not dead! (Very belated November wrap-up)

Yeah, I kind of fell off the radar for a bit there. Like so many others, I took part in NaNoWriMo this year, and that kind of ate up my November as I had the feeling that if I was writing something, it should be my novel. But November is over, so I'm back to write occasional blogposts and Doctor Who ramblings and Sherlock Holmes fanfiction, if I'm so inclined.

As a side note on NaNoWriMo... I've taken part every year since 2010. This is the first year where I failed to make it to 50,000 words. And yeah, that sucks, and I'm kind of sad. It was partly that I just couldn't get into my novel like I have in past years, partly the fact that my life is kind of insane.

Honestly, it's helped me to realise that I need to sort of shift things about in my life to prioritise what matters to me. I do a lot of things. I'm studying a master's part-time, which is great and something I want to do with my life. Then I work full-time in fast food, which is not something I want to do with my life but I need the money. Then I have my writing and my music, which is my absolute biggest passion in life but sadly gets shifted to the side far too often. Then I need to make time for life things like keeping a clean house and my friends and girlfriend and family and social life, and try to find some time to you know, kick back and read and watch TV and that. That's a lot. And I haven't really been balancing that so well lately, which is why I'm writing my first blog post in nearly two months. So, I'm going to make an effort to readdress the balance and hopefully do more of the things I actually want to do in life.

So there's that. But all the same, I wrote more than 30,000 words last month and you know what, that's still pretty freaking awesome. So, no regrets.

Anyway. Here was my November! I read eight books, which was more than I'd expected. Towards the end of the month I finished a bunch of books I was stuck on for ages, and that kind of spurred me on to finish a few more.

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

So this was the tail-end of my RIP reading, when I was in the mood for something scary and trashy. Despite the fact that I've never seen the original The Amityville Horror movie (only the meh remake), I've always been kind of fascinated with the Amityville Horror story- a family moving into a house where a gruesome murder took place, only to find it's so badly haunted they leave, terrified, after a month. Of course, I don't believe that any of it really happened, but it's fun to pretend. Unfortunately, this was kind of badly written (which I pretty much expected) and really not scary, which rather defeated the purpose. Still, there's something vaguely trashy and enjoyable about this book all the same.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Dramatic difference in quality now- this was really superbly written. It's about a family in 1970s Ohio after their daughter is found drowned in a lake. There's the mystery element of just what happened to her and all sorts of tensions in the family- as well as race stuff, as the father is a second-generation Chinese immigrant, and gender stuff, with the mother being deeply uncomfortable in her role in the family. The whole thing is just really excellently done and well-observed and seriously, just read this.

Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind

I'm a huge fan of the musical of Spring Awakening, so I thought it was about time I read the original play. Written in 1891, it's about a group of adolescents and their sexuality and all the themes that come out of that- rape, homosexuality, abortion, death, masturbation. As controversial as it was when it was first performed, it's still pretty amazing how relevant it is today. I read an old, contemporary translation, but apparently Jonathan Franzen did one that I'd be interested in checking out. Sadly, I think my A Level German isn't up to scratch to read the original...

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling

Don't mind me, just rereading this for the millionth time. I really do think this is one of my favourites in the series. It gives us Lupin and Sirius and hippogriffs and expecto patronum and Marauders and all those wonderful things.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Yes, I finished this, despite sort of dropping out of posting the read-a-long updates! I'm not going to lie, it was difficult. I haven't had so much trouble reading a book in a very long time. The vast majority of it, I hated. There were little glimmers that stop me from writing it off completely, and maybe I will pick it up in a few years... but yeah, I'm thinking this is one of those classics I Just Don't Get.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Hey, look at me reading hyped books several years late! Yeah, this has been on my radar for a long time, but I kept reading negative reviews of it that threw me. I actually really enjoyed it- the suspense was good, it gave me the creeps in places, and that ending, dear god. I think I need to read the sequel.

All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I really don't know what to say about this book. You know when a book is really hyped and gets outstanding review and everyone raves about it, and then you read it and you wonder if you've read the same book? Yeeeah. There was nothing wrong with this book, really. The setting was really interesting- France during the Nazi Occupation, so I enjoyed it from a historical point of view. But nothing grabbed at me. I just feel sort of indifferent about it. A decent read, but nothing to get excited about.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

So this was actually... really good. It's a memoir type thing about a mother who prides herself in being the Stereotypical Asian Mother and how she raised her two daughters. And there's a lot of crazy. Chua's daughters weren't allowed to spend time with their friends and instead spent hours a day practising music, even when they were on holiday. By the time I got to the bit where Chua says her kids had to learn violin and piano, because other instruments like drums were the gateway to hard drugs, I was prepared to hate-read this. But as I went on, I found it's actually more complicated. Chua makes fun of herself, frequently, in very subtle ways that are easy to miss (I'm 90% sure her drums = drugs remark was satire. I hope.) Then there's that her hardline approach worked on one daughter but not the other... and she's okay with that. Or maybe I saw a bit of my own childhood in there- I too was brought up in a "Bs are fail grades!" house and also fought against my parents pushing me into classical music. Anyway, I really enjoyed this, for whatever reason.

And that's November! December/End of Year wrap ups will hopefully be up in a timely fashion, essays permitting :)

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