Erin Kelly

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Back in January I blogged about my resolutions for 2013. Since we are now hurtling into March I thought I’d revist them and reveal how much I’m winning (um, or failing) at them.

01. Read 51 books: Having a holiday always ramps up my reading and Morocco was no different. I devoured 6 books in one week and that included The Innocents by Francesca Segal  which will be very hard pushed to be defeated as my book of the year; a bold statement for February! I also rediscovered a favourite author; Erin Kelly. I read The Poison Tree  (recently made into an… okay… ITV drama) a few years ago now. It was my pre-kindle days and it was a beast of a book that I eventually had to ditch on a hotel bookcase in Massachusetts as I couldn’t fit it back into my suitcase, but I hope someone else went on to really enjoy it too. I didn’t realise Erin Kelly had released any other books so when I idly typed her name into Amazon, suddenly I had The Sick Rose & The Burning Air to read and I did; back to back. Her writing style is so poetic and she creates a real underlaying sense of foreboding, definitely an author if you like a prickle in the back of your neck and a page turner that keeps you awake into the night until you’ve finished. I’ve now hit a total brick wall though, I’ve been so busy since I returned that I haven’t read a single book. I have started The Blind Man’s Garden and whilst it’s receiving massive critical acclaim, I just cannot get into it. This is probably more to do with my work-drained state of brain, than the quality of the book. I also have a novel from one of my favourite authors Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell awaiting me, so I might just stick Nadeem Aslam on the back burner until I finish that. I am about to embark on an 11 hour flight… so maybe I’ll have time for both?

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Talking of reading.. last week the devastating happened. My kindle died! It’s been heading that way for ages; constantly freezing and crashing and randomly deleting everything. It had lasted 3 years (ish) and been fixed once, so I thought that was fair enough given it’s something I use everyday and don’t exactly look after. SO I took the plunge and bought a replacement Amazon Paperwhite. I ummed and ahhed but when I worked it out at cost per use, I think I’ll soon be getting my moneys worth and I don’t think my creaky back could bear to go back to a life of carrying anything heavier. Transferring all my books was so easy, and I am already so impressed with all the new features compared to my prehistoric (!) keypad kindle.

02. Learn to surf: Done & done!

03. Visit 3 countries (not including Europe) and 10 new cities: I can now tick off Africa & Agadir, so I’m down to 2 countries and 9 new cities. Tomorrow I wake up bright and sprightly and spend just over a fortnight working in America; one week in LA and one week in NY. I know, I am a very VERY lucky girl. I’m super excited about the travel (I get to go in the posh bit of the plane!) and the lush hotels, that I would never be able to afford on a holiday budget. However, I am less excited about the 30+ presentations and 15 important meetings that I need to battle with jetlag and an undecipherable accent. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my career and I have a lot to prove, so right now I am a nervous butterfly-y bundle of jitters. I’m still planning plenty of sight seeing in both places though and have the benefit of visiting both before, so I won’t be a total newbie. My cousin also lives in LA and he has promised to show me 4 things: a place where cocktails are served in tankards, a place that sells burritos as big as a cat, the creepy house from Mulholland Drive and the Museum of Jurassic Technology. I think this epic list really does prove how well he knows me.

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04. Climb Snowdon: I already know this is not going to happen as my climbing buddy had a change of heart about his mountain mission. I need a new number 4. Maybe it can just be to go climbing indoors, as last year I tried climbing outdoors and would like to compare.

05. QUIT caffeine: Totally DONE and I will never go back! I can’t believe the headaches, nausea, tiredness I had trying to quit the evil substance that I didn’t realise I was heavily addicted to. Now my life is just packed with roobois, decaf Yorkshire Tea and herbal tea. I do miss everything about coffee; making a plunger on the weekend, trying out the best coffee shops in London and using it to get through that crummy 4-6pm work day slump… but I couldn’t put myself through quitting again and I know that to avoid future surgery and make my treatment work the best possible, I have to remain squeaky clean & caffeine free.

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06. Finish knitting my scarf: I haven’t even looked at my knitting all year. To be honest I did so much of it when I was sick, that I think I associate it with a bit of a rubbish bedroom prison period and am now enjoying being out & about and not sitting still. However, I’m going to visit my 93 year old gran over Easter so will definitely be packing it in my bags and getting back into it, as she is the ultimate knitting guru.

07. Brush up my Spanish: I have now completed 8 weeks of Spanish classes and am really enjoying hablar Español. I didn’t realise that committing to an extra 2 hours working once a week and 2 hours homework would take it’s toll, but it’s worth it. After a long day I’d expect it to be more of a struggle but I’ve really bonded with my teacher and class, and as it’s something totally different to my job; it’s amazing the second wind I get. I can really notice my improvement, and so just signed up for another 10 weeks. My class puts me to shame; I am one of two British people, the rest are from all around the world – China, Russia, Cyprus, France and Italy, so they are all learning their THIRD language in their second language! Bizarrely; I started watching the incredible Community at the same time as enrolling and I can relate to it even more; as it tracks a random group of people joining a Spanish class at community college. Luckily my teacher is way more sane than Señor Chang, but it’s always interesting to get a random group of people forced to spend time together regularly and watch the dynamics! Last week I actually got asked to el cine (in Spanish!) by one of the guys in my class despite the fact I incessantly talk about my pareja estable guapo. I think I should have guessed he was heading that way, when in an exercise where he was meant to be describing me as his favourite sister, he said I was hot. It was really awkward but luckily he is leaving the country so hopefully he’ll soon move onto asking other (actually single) chicas out and I can go back to successfully evading male attention other than that of my one true nuevo.

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In the first class we had to do an exercise where we thought of a famous person at random, and both Ming-Ling (Chinese student) and I picked Sofia Coppola… which was very weird of all the people in the world to choose from? The class advertised that they use the most modern technology, but that turns out to be an audio CD which doesn’t work on my laptop! So I had to buy a £9.99 CD Walkman especially for Spanish time, which brings back a lot of nostalgic 90s memories to when this was the ultimate in cutting edge music gear. Despite the fact I am paying for the course and doing it for myself, it’s ridiculous the lengths I go to in avoiding homework! Procrastination still definitely applies, and suddenly that pile of ironing that’s sat unloved/unworn for months or hoovering around the edge of my bedroom becomes really appealing. On the whole though, Spanish is a wonderful language to learn.To try and improve my skills I’m going to start watching films in Spanish. I also have become really creepy; in London there are so many Spanish speaking tourists so I’ve taken to lurking near anyone I hear speaking Spanish and trying to pick up parts of their conversations.

 08. Write half of the secret-project: Still can’t talk about this. Shh.

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09. Blog more than 2013: I am enjoying blogging so much this year. I feel like I’m doing it for myself again and I think part of this is that I don’t collaborate with brands or have anyone else deciding on content except, well, me and what I fancy chatting about. The ravishing Rosie from A Rosie Outlook wrote a really interesting and refreshingly honest post on blogging being a hobby or a life sucker recently and ways to combat it, which really resonated with how I felt when I took a years break from blogging. Now I really look forward to settling down and tapping away but don’t care if 20 or 200 people read it really! One real confidence boost was that I got shortlisted for the Lomography Love Bloggers Awards, I didn’t make the winners list but it was exciting to be involved in the process and acknowledged. The winners list are all very much deserving too, well worth adding to your reader!

09. Alter my work/life balance: Hmm, this still definitely needs work! The incredible travel opportunity makes the long hours more worthwhile though and I am doing so much more in my spare time; football matches, gigs, parties, meals out, seeing friends, its both-end candle burning season.

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10. Be brave: I’ve had to do a few tough things this year, including some difficult medical conversations with my surgeon and some pretty grim tests and check-ups. So this is definitely a tick!

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11. Get back in music: Oh yes, after being sick to the back teeth of my itunes, I bought Spotify premium and instantly discovered some incredible gems like the Bon Iver Stems Project, new Tegan & Sara as well as a few trips down music memory lane. So far it definitely feels worth the monthly investment; but it seems easy enough to quit if for some reason I stop being so enamoured.

12. STOP saying “Oh my God”: I am worse than EVER. I sometimes have an Oh My Gosh variation but all in all it’s still bad vocabulary times.

13. Daily Records: I’ve filled out my Q&A book every day this year, even when I really don’t feel like it, it’s so short that it is manageable. I also have carried on taking a photograph every day, of which there are a few pepppered about in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Happy New Year!

Whilst you (and I, this is a scheduled post!) are nursing sore heads and dry mouths, I thought I would start the year with my final reflective 2010 post.

Beady eyed folk might have noticed that in my 2010 round-up I didn’t mention any books, and that is because I’m a freakish bookworm and need an entire blog post to talk about my top reads of the year!

I lamely started a write-up of all the books I was reading here, but it fell a little by the wayside. So instead I am just going to give you a quick review of my TOP FIVE. I read 27 books this year in total which is a total fail at my target of 50 in a year. Next year though, now with my beautiful kindle-y addition to my life, I hope to smash it. Fingers crossed!

01] Little Bee – Chris Cleave

(Published in the UK as The Other Hand) So I was in Borders in NYC, getting weepy and nostalgic at the loss of basically my second-home in England as I roamed around the heavenly magazine section, Starbucks and Paperchase! I wasn’t looking to buy anything though (as I’d already packed more books than clothes!) but I was walking out and spotted this. My beau calls me ‘wee Bee’ (he’s northern irish, it’s allowed) and so I just picked this book up as a joke to show him the name. Then he said I should buy it and there was no queue so I did. So the fact I even ever read this book is extremely random; and I have to admit if I’d seen the UK cover/blurb I doubt I ever would have bothered. But it was my number one read of the year, and the book that had the most impact on me.

I was shocked at the vitriol and anger in some reviews on amazon for this book, but I think any work of fiction dealing with war, corruption, murder and other uncomfortable human truths is always going to rub people the wrong way. But I felt it dealt with these huge, vast issues in a really relatable and non-patronising way. I also thought the characterisation enabled you to really relate and empathise with all the characters, even the ones portrayed as the most evil.  I won’t give too much of the plot away, because I would really encourage you to read it for yourself. I would read this on the commute to work, and then literally sit stunned at my desk, barely able to converse with my colleagues because the vivid words and imagery and events from the book were whirling around my brain. It is at times, almost nauseatingly tragic but in the most; it’s charming and even manages to be really funny. It shifted my views and opened my eyes and made me research more about the basis for the book.

02] The House At Midnight – Lucie Whitehouse

This book revolves around a group of university friends who come back together when one of them inherits a huge country house. The friends start spending weekends away from their lives in London there and the dynamics, tensions and history starts to fester and grow inside the claustrophobic, stifling house. I found Lucie Whitehouses writing style compelling and descriptive enough to really make you feel everything from the heat of the summer weather to the constant forboding in the background of even the happiest party scenes. The characterisation was a bit weak, mainly that I didn’t actually like the protaganist and was quite often silently screaming at the book EH! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?! but perhaps this is the author trying to show how to house seems to bring out the wild, unpredictable side of the characters. It is still one of my top 5 as it was a really enjoyable read and it reminded me of one of my sisters absolutely favourite movies Peters Friends which aw, you can still buy on VHS on Amazon.

03] The Poison Tree – Erin Kelly

I have really fond memories of reading this book, as I read it sat in a meadow in Massachusetts. I woke up before anyone else and the sun was beaming, so I took a table cloth from the breakfast table of our B&B and laid out on my stomach amongst the buttercups and read on in one sitting, as the day got hotter and hotter. I think living in London really enhanced my enjoyment as all the location in the book felt so familiar. The story follows Karen who is a bookish, timid university student who meets an infectiously confident girl called Biba who drags her into a heady summer of partying and hedonism which ends in a crime that will ruin all of their lives in different ways. I loved the book because I think meeting a new friend who is loud and confident and who makes you want to tap into that side of yourself and do wild things and go new places is something most people have experienced at some point in their lives, and Erin Kelly writes it incredibley well! I left this book behind in the American B&B, for someone else to enjoy (and so I didn’t have to carry on lugging around a hefty hardback) but I already want to re-read it so might have to get it on my kindle next year.

04] Sister – Rosamund Pike

I would describe this book as a Crime fiction novel, for people who don’t like crime fiction. Like me! Usually I shy away from crime writing, my feelings on the matter being that I read enough scary, harrowing things in newspapers to really want to spend my entertainment/quality time filling my head with fictional gruesome goings ons. BUT, I was recommended this book on amazon based on my previous purchases and thought I’d have a wild card when ordering some books on payday.

The story starts off with a mystery – Beatrices sister has gone missing, so she flees New York back home to London to hunt for her. When Beatrices sisters body is found, it is shrugged off as suicide. But Beatrice knows her sister, and knows that something more sinister is at play. The book covers multiple themes:
1. Crime- the twists and turns and red herrings cleverly keep you guessing right up to the final chapter as to the truth of the death and who are the victims/who are the criminals
2. Family – the sisterly bond is so well written and the love between the two girls is so truthfully described. I won’t lie, this book has me in floods of tears twice, perhaps as I can empathise with having a close sister.
3. Science – the science element of the book is cleverly weaved in. It’s not baffling with information, but enough to feel you have learnt something new by the time you have finished the book, which is a nice addition.

All in all, I really feel like this book has it all. Strikingly, realistically written and completely gripping. It is written in rather an odd narrative structure which I found slightly off putting and strange at first, but there is a point in the book that you realise this tool is for a very legitimate reason and it makes you want to return to the start and reread armed with your fresh slant.

05] Of Bees and Mist – Erick Setiawan

Lets gloss over the fact two out of the top five books include my name! And a third is based around a character called ‘Bea’! I do have to admin I’m a bit  like a magpie and will more often than not pick up any book with Bee in the title. It just is a happy coincidence that this year those picks have been brilliant reads too. This book started a new phase of genre-obsession in me which I would describe as modern fairy tales (the girl with the glass feet and the lace reader are also great examples) where gothic fantasy and modern settings meet. It opens up storylines to having no rules and turns the usual type of fiction I consume on its head. This book is just beautiful and really has to be read, as my rambling can’t do it justice. Bad moods become swarms of bees, secrets become clouds of mist that won’t leave and family tensions and dynamic take on magical, mystical qualities. Ultimately it is a story about love, and family and loss; but the intricate, deep writing makes it a book you do not want to end and miss when it does.

If you decide to read or have read any of these books, I’d love to know what you think! Also if you have a Goodreads account, then please do add me! I am here.

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