Tag Archives: books

Challenge #9 – completed

4 Jun

Lockdown life handed me another great opportunity to tick another of my challenges off my list. You would be right for guessing this doesn’t have anything to do with my challenges that involve travelling. This challenge required focus and quiet time with my laptop.

It’s a lot of people’s dreams to write a novel and it has been one of my dreams for a long time. I’ve tried and failed to complete a first draft of a novel a few times – most recently in 2018. I decided lockdown was the perfect opportunity to try and crack the mission I’ve wanted so much to achieve but have so far failed.

So at the end of April, with a headful of ideas that I thought might be worth writing about, I started with the intention of finishing the first draft by the end of May. I wanted to write at least 800 words a day and, because my mum wasn’t able to come and visit but I had to take my holidays from my day job, I decided to write 2’000 words on these days.

I know it doesn’t sound like a huge amount of words but it is. Especially when you are writing without a definite plan of what is happening in the story. I knew exactly what I wanted the main character to be like and what difficulties she had to overcome but I didn’t know much else.

Some days it was easy to reach 800 words and some days it was hard because either I was tired or I wasn’t sure what was happening in that bit of the story. But I managed to finish my first draft on the afternoon of the 31st May 2020. I can honestly say I’ve never felt so emotionally and physically drained in all my life.

The story is far from perfect and the writing is scary in places despite it not being a horror story but I’ve tired so many times to write a first draft and failed that it is a big achievement.

I need to put a lot more thought into the characters and the plot which will be hard work but I have a good framework to go back to and improve. I also have a list of things as long as my arm that I need to research!

For now I’m having a break from the story. A writer friend of mine suggested two to three months before going back to it which seems like a good timeline to me. I woke up from a dream last night, realised what I was dreaming about needed to be included in my book, made a note of it on my phone and fell back to sleep so on a subconscious level I’m still thinking about it.

I have been thinking if a publishing house might want to publish it but even if they don’t after countless revisions, I’ll probably self-publish it anyway! That seems like a long way off in the distance. For now I’m glad to have a break from it and enjoy getting back to writing some short stories and come back to my porject last on this year.

If you are interested I have set up my own writer’s website. I’m also trying to blog semi-regularly there about all things writing and stories as well. Check it out if you have time: www.lyndsaylomax.com

Update – Challenge #35

6 Feb

This is an update about the 40 non-fiction books that I am attempting read for my 40 Before 40 challenge. I have recently read 10 more which means I only have 10 more books to read before I finish the challenge.

Here are the books I recently read:

The Decision Book: Fifty Models for Strategic Thinking by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler

This was only a short book but a fascinating read. The authors present fifty different models with illustrations. Some of the models I was familiar with from the economics that I studied for my accounting qualification but the majority of them were new. My favourite in the whole book was The Esquire Gift Model, which was explains how much you should spend on a gift for someone based on the number of years you have known the recipient combine with what type of occasion it is (engagement, anniversary etc). It is so simply explained and is something that people, myself included, agonised over.

Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray

This is the second book on relationships by John Gray that I’ve read. Some parts of it are a bit outdated (it was written in the 90s) but a lot of the information and observations that he makes are valid and made sense to me. The problem with these books is that there is almost too much information to process. I think it is best to take a handful of advice and focus on these rather than trying to remember every single detail.

Confessions of a Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

I was excited to read this book because I had heard a lot of good things about the first book by this author, which admittedly I haven’t read. It’s fairly obvious from the title that it is the diary of a bookseller. I was slightly disappointed. It wasn’t as funny as I was expecting – the recommendations on the cover made it sound like it was one of the funniest books ever written. But it gave a very interesting insight to the problems facing second-hand booksellers (Amazon, Kindles, unreasonable customers asking for discounts) and some of the methods that they need to employ to survive.

The Return of Depression Economics and the Crisis of 2008 by Paul Krugman

Apart from banks in America failing and house prices going down, I didn’t know very much about the Crisis of 2008. Krugman is a Nobel Prize Winner in Economics and manages to explain complex economic theories succinctly. He explains that the Crisis could have been predicted by inflation and currency valuation problems that happened prior to the crisis in South America and Asia. It was an interesting read, especially as many of the warning factors that he mentions are evident around the world today which may mean another depression is on its way.

Change Book: Fifty Models to Explain How Things Happen by Mikael Krogerus and Roman Tschäppeler

I didn’t enjoy this book as much as the Decision Book (see above). The subject matter was a bit dry and the model were less applicable to daily life. It also covered a huge range of topics like explaining the world to aliens, why some people are unfaithful and climate change. One of the most interesting models was When Something Starts to be Uncool. It plots mainstream against the avant-garde to show how somethings remain cool but other things quickly become unpopular in modern society.

Dinner with Mugabe by Heidi Holland

I went to Zimbabwe went Robert Mugabe was president and this was a fascinating read. I had no idea that he was very intelligent (he had 7 degrees) and he was a very religious man. The account in this book paints a different picture to what I imagined the man to be like. It presented a balanced view of him by looking at historical events and talking to people who knew him the best, while trying to pinpoint the reasons why such a shy and thoughtful man ended up becoming one of the world’s most famous dictators.

Man Alone with Himself by Friedrich Nietzsche 

The last time I read something by Nietzsche was under duress at university. This was a very short book but it had some really interesting idea in it. The first part of the book was a series of aphorisms (tidbits of philosophical insight). My favourite of these was about language: ‘he who speaks a bit of a foreign language has more delight than he who speaks it well; pleasure goes along with superficial knowledge’. After my struggle of learning German, I can say this is very true.

Run Faster: How to be Your Own Best Coach by Brad Hudson and Matt Fitzgerald

I have had this book gathering dust on my shelf for longer than I care to remember and, as I want to try to improve my running times this year, it’s about time I read it! The book was aimed at runner who are far more advanced and better than I am but I still found a lot of useful tips in the book that I will definitely try to incorporate into my running. I am super keen to beat one of my PBs this year and I hope this book has helped me to work out areas I can improve on to do that.

What to Do When You Become the Boss by Bob Seldon

I bought this book when I got a job as a manager for the first time. It didn’t work out and I left the job but I decided to read it anyway. There were a lot of interesting tips for people who aren’t managers and it gave a different perspective on working in a modern environment.

Some of the tips I don’t agree with, like only checking your email once a day. I guess it depends what your role is but, as my job is operational, it’s just not all that practical to do that. I do see how constant email checking can be addictive and a waste of time though!

The Lady and the Peacock: The Life of Aung San Suu Kyi by Peter Popham

I don’t often read biographies but I’m glad I made an exception for this one. In my ignorance I had no idea about the struggles of Burma gaining independence nor about Aung San Suu Kyi and her and her family’s part in the fight for independence. It’s incredible that the book touches on points of history within my lifetime. It makes me want to read more about Buddhism, non violent struggles and the story of India’s independence which the author compares with Burma’s story throughout the book.

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40 Before 40: Challenge #35 update

26 Oct

I am now half-way through my challenge to read 40 non-fiction books. Here are the latest 10 books that I’ve read for the challenge.

Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology by Leah Remini

This was such an interesting book about how the actress Leah Remini was raised by her parents in Scientology, how the religion controlled her life and how she was finally able to leave the religion behind. (I am, of course, using religion in a very loose sense of the word). I found it fascinating that she managed to leave the organisation. I have seen documentaries in which people discuss that they are completely trapped and, despite terrible circumstances, they aren’t able to escape. It was a very honest account but I can imagine that for legal reasons a lot of detail was left out.

My Liverpool Story  by Steven Gerrard

I actually bought this as a gift for my brother but then he told me I’d already given it to him for Christmas so I decided to read it myself. I thought that this book was also very honest – relationships with managers and fellow players were discussed, revealing not always happy memories. There were hundreds of good quality photos in the book as well which made the book about double the size that it could have been if it just contained text.

The Things I Talk About When I am Running by Haruki Murakami

This is a relatively short book about how the author decided to leave his successful business to become an author. He is also a very good amateur runner anf triathlete. The book is about how his success in both writing and running haven’t come naturally to him and he has had to find way for him to get better at both disciplines. He makes lots of comparision between running and writing that I really appreciated, as I don’t consider myself to be a natural runner (even though I enjoy it) and I am working hard at becoming a better writer.

Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

There is a lot of hype about this book, especially with the increased awareness of mental health issues. It looks at modern life and how social media and technology can make us feel more disconnected than connected. The book made me realise that I am probably not as affected by modern technology than other people. I am more than happy to not have internet for a week when I am on holiday and you will never find me more happy than when I have my head in a book and I’m blocking the rest of the world out.

The Krays: The Prison Years by David Meikle and Kate Beal Blyth

This book made me realise that I constantly mix up the Kray twins and Ronnie Briggs, one of the great train robbers. This book was meant to be able the time that the twins spent in prison but there was quite a lot about how they ending up getting caught and their background. It was interest and also quite depressing to hear how much “freedom” they had in prison because of who they were and their relationships with celebrities.

A Woman’s Guide to Triathlon: The Things Men Will Never Tell You About the Sport by Eva Mauer

I have been thinking about taking part in a triathlon. I’ve even signed up to a swimming course to help improve my front crawl technique. So I was excited to read this book. Unfortunately, I didn’t think it told me that much that I didn’t already know. I mainly wanted to know about how to practice the transistion phases but there wasn’t a great deal of information on that. I also didn’t understand why it was a woman’s guide to triatholon. There wasn’t anything in the book that would have been specific to a woman and not a man. A bit of a disappointment.

Mars and Venus in the Bedroom by John Gray

I’ve never been completely convinced that men and women do behave so differently from one another but after reading this I’ve changed my mind. It was a really interesting read and a lot of the examples were so recognisable that it was scary. The book was written in the mid-90s so it was a slightly outdated. I also have another couple of books by John Gray that I want to read for this challenge.

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

This is a famous book and I don’t know what to think about it. It says that thinking positively can attract what you want to your life. I completely agree that the more positive you are, the more good things will happen to you. But then wouldn’t everyone have everything that they wanted if this was true. I do think some of the exercises are worth giving a go and seeing what happens. But I think to get the full benefit you need to 100% commit to that way of thinking.

This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

This was the funniest book I have read in a long, long time. I was roaring with laughter. It is also the most tragically heartbreak book that I have read in a long, long time as well. It is the diary of a junior doctor working on the maternity ward. You know from the start that the author ended up leaving the profession and in the penultimate chapter you find out why. I felt queasy when I read it. It was a sobering end to an account of how overworked and underpaid NHS staff are. I’d highly recommend it if you haven’t read it yet.

Mindfulness Pocketbook by Gill Hasson

It was a book about how to become more mindful in daily life with exercises to help improve health, mood and attitudes among other things. I would say that 80% of the book wasn’t useful to me but there are definitely some tips and exercises that I will use.

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Bonus Round – Book Challenge by Erin 11.0 – completed

29 Sep

I have officially finished the bonus round of the Book Challenge by Erin 11.0 after I completed the initial round last month.

Again I have managed to read some great books that I wouldn’t have read if I wasn’t taking part in the challenge. Here is a short breakdown of the 10 books I picked for the bonus round:

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Freebie (any book that is at least 200 pages long):

Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie

This was a great book. I had no idea what this was about until I started reading it (I bought it last year when it was on offer in a bookshop). The theme of the book was very topical. It explores what it means to be a British Muslim and how conflict and betrayal can happen to anyone at any time. The characters were very believable and the ending was tragically beautiful

A book beginning with “F”:

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson

This is one of the most bizarre books I have ever read. I’m still not sure exactly to make of the book. It is a completely barking mad story based in truth that tells the drug-addled of a journalist in the desert. Completely entertaining and very disconcerting at the same time!

A book with “rain”, “thunder” or “lightning” in the title:

Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor

I liked this book. I was quite an easy read, in that it was a book written for yound adults and was even a Newberry Award Winner. But in another sense, it was a hard read because of its themes of racism and how hard life was living in the southern US in the 1930s. The characters were realistic – some I hated, some I really liked because of how the author had described them.

A book with a building on the cover:

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

The book started with a house on fire and the disappearance of the youngest daughter of the family, who is suspected of starting the fire. The rest of the book is an explanation about what happened before to get to this point of the story. The way the book was written was very clever. The author also explores a lot of ethical issues dealing with parenting, surrogacy and adoption. It was very thought provoking and I loved the characters and how relatable they were.

A book written by an author who has an initial in their name:

The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn

This is the type of book that I would love to be able to write. I only put it down to sleep and go to work. It was a page-turner! It is clear from the beginning that the narrator isn’t 100% reliable in what she is telling the read which made it intriguing from the very start. There were so many plot twists and turns that the book kept me guessing right until the very end. A great read.

A book with an item of clothing in the title:

One, Two Buckle My Shoe by Agatha Christie

This is only the second Christie book that I have ever read – I read my first in the last reading challenge. I really enjoyed it. The book starts with a murder in a dentist practice and it soon transpires that the verdict of suicide that is given by the coronor isn’t correct. I had no idea who was responsible for the murders, which is always good in a murder mystery book.

A book set in India:

The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling

I love the Disney movie version of this book but the book is nothing like the film. I normally don’t like a film version to alter from the book version too much but in this case the film is far better than the book. If all of the details from the book were used, there is no way that Disney would have been able to release the film as child-friendly. Ïf you haven’t read the book I won’t spoil it for you by pointing out the differences!

A book shortlisted for the Booker Prize:

His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet

This was another book that I bought a while ago in a book sale and haven’t got round to reading. I wasn’t sure I was going to like this book but it had my interest from the very beginning. The story begins with the author explaining that this is a true stroy about a relative of his and how he was tried and executed for murder. I still don’t know if this is actually true or was just included to make the story more believable. It was very originally written. The first part of the book is told via a diary and the read really gets to understand the character and his motives. The rest of the book is told via official sources, such as lawyers and psychiatrists. I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.  

A book with a character who has supernatural powers: 

Firestarter by Stephen King

In a lot of this ways, this book reminded me of Carrie that I read in the first round of this reading challenge. The girl in the book has superpowers that allows her to make fires. She got these superpowers because her father and mother took part in a drugs trial when they were college students. The drug that they were injected with produce hallocinogenic powers. After her mother is killed, her and her father are on the run because the US government are trying to capture them so that they can make experiments on them. I can’t say it was the best Stephen King novel I have ever read but I did like the tension and the action when they were on the run from the government.

A book with the same title as a book in another genre:

Emma by Jane Austen

It’s not my favourite Jane Austen book by a long way and I have read at least three of her books over the past 12 months. I liked the character of Emma but I just thought the book went on for too long considering how much happened in it. I felt it lacked the drama of Pride and Prejudice and it was predictable what was going to happen.

 

Update on #40Before40

1 Sep

It is now two years since I decided to start my 40 Before 40 challenge. Basically I set myself 40 challenges to do before I become 40-years-old.

Here is the second annual update about how things are progressing.

To date I have completed 11 out of the 40 challenges. It doesn’t sound like a lot but I have at least 10 of the longer challenges started and well under way. I do still have three years left to go but I know that this time will fly by.

Here are the six challenges that I have completed over the past year:

Challenge #3 – Go paragliding

Challenge #17 – Write a diary for a year

Challenge #25 – Cook every recipe from one cookbook

Challenge #29 – Read The 40 Books that Every Woman Should Read

Challenge #31 – Take up a new sport

Challange #39 – Downsize

Here are some of the challenges that are currently in progress:

Challenge #2 – Visit 40 countries in Europe

So far I have visited 31 countries so far but by the end of 2019 that total should be up to 33. I have already chalked off all of the main countries off the list. Now I am left with some of the harder to get to places to get to. I hope that I will be able to visit at least 3 more countries next year but I will have to see when is the best time to visit some of the places.

Challenge #8 – Watch every movie on iMDB Top 250 Films list

I have seen 168 films from the list, so there is still some work to be done. I haven’t watched anything since around June time. I think movie are the sort of thing you enjoy more in the winter time. As the nights are drawing in, it means that it won’t be long until I sitting watching films again.

Challenge #26 – Learn how to fold 40 origami designs

The designs actually take longer to make that I thought they would but I have enjoyed learnign the designs that I have made so far. This is one challenge that I hope to have completed before the end of 2019.

Challenge #27 – Read 40 novels in German and Challenge #35 – Read 40 non-fiction books

For most of this year I have been reading English non-fiction books and these two challenges have been forgotten about. I am planning on focusing on these challenges in the last three months of the year.

Challenge #37 – Have a haircut at least 4 times a year

I prefer going to the dentist that going to the hairdresser. I have been doing well on this challenge until my haridresser ghosted me and moved back to the UK. I am now not convinced that the replacement I have found is right for me but I will stick with her or find someone else to do this so that I keep on track.

I have also decided to make one change to my list. I am going to change my Challenge #40 from starting and maintaining my own travel website to create a piece of artwork. I never intended on changing any of the challenges that I had chosen but after trying to start writing for this website, I realise that writing about travel wasn’t giving me as much enjoyment as I thought it would. The whole point of the list was to make sure that there were things on the list that I would enjoy doing. So, sorry, but that challenge needs to be replaced.

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40 Before 40: Challenge #29 completed!

8 Jul

After more page-turning than I can remember, I am finally finished with my Challenge 29! I have now read all of the books on the list of 40 books every woman should read. Some of the books I didn’t enjoy very much but others of them I loved. I am so glad that I decided on this as one of my challenges. I will definitely be hunting down more books by the same authors in the near future.

Here are the last seven books that I read to complete the list:

The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

This book was incredible. I was grasping for breath by the end because I was reading the pages so quickly so that I could get to the end that I forgot to breathe. The characters in the book are all connected to a book called The History of Love somehow and the origins of the book is exploded by switching between the past and the present. The story isn’t long but it is so well written that I had trouble putting the book down. The ending took me by complete surprise. An incredible read!

Broken Harbour by Tana French

When I realised that this was a crime novel I was so excited about reading the book and having found another crime writer to read. I wish I hadn’t wasted my enthusiasm. I thought that the crime and what had happened was leaning towards the very obvious side and for me the pace of the story was relatively slow. It’s a long book; I read pages and pages wondering what was going to be the thrilling out come but I was left constantly disappointed. It was different to the crime novels that I normally read in that there was more description but I prefer crime stories where the description is kept to a minimum so the story has a punchier pace.

My Antonia by Willa Cather

This book was strange. It’s set in the America Midwest and the story revolves around the Shimerda family, who move to America from Bohemia, and their hardships in establishing a new life. Jim, who is the narrator of the story, falls in love with the daughter of the family, Antonia, and learns to read and takes an interest in cooking and housekeeping while becoming very popular with the locals, while he leaves to finish his education. He arrives back to find that she is married with children. It’s a sad story full of regret and missed chances. Jim realises that he never should have left Antonia behind and so does the reader.

The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand

I had looked at some reviews of this book online and I wasn’t looking forward to reading it. Firstly, it is very long (more than 700 pages) and, secondly, there were a lot of unfavourable opinions about the book. I did take me a while to get into the book. It is so descriptive that I was beginning to wonder if the online reviews were going to turn out to be right. Once I got used to the style of writing though, the story was enjoyable. The books centres around two young architects and how different their lives end up as they make different creative and lifestyle choices during their life. The book is essentially about greed and selfishness but I also think there is a message of hope that individuals can triumph over the establishment.

Cherry by Mary Kerr

This was an autobiographical work about the author’s adolescent period. The story itself was very interesting as was the style of the writing. The author used the second person singular throughout the book which is not typical for an autobiography or most other fiction books. It gave the story a very personal edge to it – it felt like I was experiencing what happened to the author at the same moment that I was reading it. Parts of the story were hysterically funny, others I could completely identify with. The book is actually a sequel to an earlier book but I don’t feel I missed out by not having read the first installment.

Random Family by Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

This book was non-fiction and retold the story of a family growing up in the Bronx in the late eighties. Most of the people ended up in jail, regularly took drugs and had problems with their family relationships. It was a long but interesting read that made me realise how privileged my upbringing was.

The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing

I wanted to like this book so much but I can’t say that I did that much. The book is divided into different notebook that author Anna Wulf documents her life. She then tries to tie all of the stories together in a final ‘golden’ notebook. I found the structure confusing to being with and then one of the notebooks was all about communisim in the 1930s. I’m not a fan of politicial discussion in non-fiction books. Considering the book was written in the 60s, there were liberal discussions about sex and the role of women. I’m now not in a rush to read any more of Lessing’s books which I am disappointed about considering she is a Nobel Prize winner.

And that is all 40 books from the list finished and another one of my challenges is completed. I am so glad that I decided to include this on my list: I’ve read so many books from authors that I haven’t heard of before. Not all of the books have been easy to read or 100% enjoyable but the ones that I did enjoy made the whole challenge worth it.

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Book Challenge by Erin 11.0

19 Jun

In less than two weeks another Book Challenge by Erin is starting and I couldn’t be happier. Since finishing the last challenge, I’ve found it hard to get back into reading and my impressive run rate of an average of 2 books per week at the start of the year has really slipped off.

If I manage to complete the challenge and read all ten books on my list, I will have read more than my target of 52 books for 2019.

Even more exciting for me was that I got to choose one of the book categories for the other participants because I was the third person to complete the challenge in January. My category was “Books shortlised for the Booker Prize”. There are so many books on the list that I thought it would be a good selection for people to choose from.

Here are the categories and books that I have chosen for the challenge (all books have to be over 200 pages long):

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Freebie (any book that is at least 200 pages long):

Stories We Could Tell by Tony Parsons

I bought this from a second hand book shop about six months ago. I have no idea what it is about so it will be a surprise when I start reading it.

A book beginning with “F”:

Foucault’s Pendulum by Umberto Eco

I have had this book for years. I recently moved it to my book shelf in the living room and it has been slowly staring me out but now I have a great excuse to read it. A friend said that it was a hard book to get into but he really enjoyed it. Let’s see…

A book with “rain”, “thunder” or “lightning” in the title:

The Rainmaker by John Grisham

I was struggling to find a book for this category until I found a copy of this lurking on my kindle. I really like being able to read books that I already have at home. It makes the challenge so much easier.

A book with a building on the cover:

The Last Tenant by Sarah Kisielowski

This is a book that was written by a friend of mine who goes to the same writing club as me. She has told me a lot about the plot and about the writing process and I am really interested to learn the whole story in more detail.

A book written by an author who has an initial in their name:

Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling

This is another book I picked up from the second-hand bookshop and I have been meaning to read for a while. I think it will be interesting to read something written by her that doesn’t involve wizards and magic.

A book with an item of clothing in the title:

The Black Glove by Geoffrey Miller

This was another category that I struggled to find a book for. All I know about this book is that it is a detective story. I will have to order this from the library when I’m ready to read it.

A book set in India:

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

I’ve never read anything by Rudyard Kipling, apart from a few poems. I have been getting into more historical novels lately so I thought this might be another good book to read. I think I am right in thinking that this is a semi-autobiographical book.

A book shortlisted for the Booker Prize:

Milkman by Anna Burns

This is a recent winner of the Booker Prize. Since buying the book two months ago, I have heard some bad reviews about it. I will try to remain open-minded about it until I have read it myself but I’m now not so keen to read it as I was before.

A book with a character who has supernatural powers: 

Carrie by Stephen King

I am pretty sure that this book will keep me up all night, either because it’s so good I can’t put it down, or because I’ll be so terrified that I can’t get to sleep at night. Even so, I’m looking forward to reading this because I haven’t read any horror stories recently.

A book with the same title as a book in another genre:

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

This is another book that I have heard good things about. It looks like it will be an easy read which I will be glad off because some of the other titles are quite long.

I’m now excited about starting the challenge. Also impressive is that all of the books, apart from one, I already have at home on the shelves or on my kindle, which means that my shelves will be cleared out again for some different titles in the autumn!

40 Before 40: Challenge #39 Downsizing – Part 1

15 May

This is a long post so I have decided to write it over two posts so you don’t end up falling asleep before the end!

This is possibly one of the hardest challenges on the list because a) I have had to be really strict with myself about recycling, selling, donating and throwing away things and b) it’s quite difficult to work out when the challenge is finished.

I watched a programme recently about trying to live a minimalist lifestyle. A couple tried to live for 2 weeks with only 100 things in their apartment. The rest of the things that didn’t make the list were put into storage until the challenge was over. The programme explained that people who have less material possessions are happier because they don’t have to make decisions and so their life is easier and less stressful. After the experiment, the couple did take back some of their items that were in storage but also decided to get rid of some things, like clothing, for example.

The aim of my downsizing hasn’t been to own only a limited number of possession but to get rid of things that I don’t need or want. It is so easy to accumulate things that you no longer need, no longer want or things that no longer work.

Moving is a good time to sort out things. It’s also normally the time when you realise as you are packing everything into boxes that you own far to much stuff. We moved almost a year ago and this challenge began back then. However, it has taken me until now to be happy that I have genuinely sorted through all of my things thoroughly enough that I can say that I have downsized sufficiently.

Here are some of the areas that I have tackled in my quest to downsize:

Books

Books are my biggest downfall. I have so many books and I keep buying books at a rate faster than I can read them, even though I am a pretty fast reader. I’m not sure if this is due to a deep-rooted fear of running out of reading material and so I want to make sure that I have enough to keep me going.

The first thing I did was clear out my books. I tend to hold onto books even when I have read them so these were the first ones to go. I have made a promise to myself that I will only keep books that I think are incredibly amazing on my bookshelf after I have read them. This is why Bonfire of the Vanities is still standing on my shelf. I took these books to a second-book shop or gave them away to other people. Giving them to other people that I know is 100% better than taking them to the shop because at the shop I tend to have “a bit of a browse” and end up buying at least another two books. The net effect is what I am hoping for but it still means that more books are finding their way into the apartment.

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Next I was very honest with myself and looked through all of the books that I was left with and got rid of the books that I had no interest in reading. These were neither because of a rash purchase that I now regret or a book that had been given to me by someone that I didn’t really want to read. These books also made it to the second-hand shop.

There were also some books that I want to read in the future but just not right now. These books are now stored in the basement in a plastic box ready for when I want to rediscover them.

Marie Kondo, the Japanese tidying expert (possibly not her real job title), claimed last year that a person only needs 30 books. I recognised that I had too many books and needed to sort through them and get rid of them but only having 30 is completely ridiculous. For example, do recipe books count towards that? If so, I should only have 24 other books and that is not going to happen. At least I have cut down my number significantly but reducing even further would just cause too much negativity in my life and no one needs that.

Toiletries

I had stacks and stacks of toiletries in the bathroom. So many, in fact, that my boyfriend was shocked when I and half of a large Boots store moved in with him. The weird thing is that I’m not the type of person who spends hours in the bathroom getting ready and taking hours looking after their skin.

The products that I had fit into a few broad categories:

  • Bargain products that I bought because I was saving money but didn’t actually need
  • Gifted products that I thought were too nice to use so they have been stood in the back of the cabinet gathering dust
  • Products that I bought but realised weren’t right for my hair/skin type
  • Products that I have been hanging on to because I want to use them but have never got round to

The easiest thing to do was to first throw away all of the products that were or looked like they were going out of date. I threw away quite a bit of make-up and also some hair products. Then I did the same with products that I discovered weren’t right for me.

I decided it would be best to sort the remaining items into: essential things that I use on a daily or weekly basis; things that I have been keeping for “best” but can use straight away; gifted products that are actually travel-sized and I can take away with me on trips when I only have hand luggage; things that I won’t use at all ,which were then disposed of.

I bought some small boxes so that I can organise everything to make under the bathroom sink look tidier.

This also has the extra benefit that I can see exactly what I have so I don’t buy things and then realise a few weeks later that I didn’t actually need to because I already had a stockpile loitering at the back of the cupboard.

Things that I don’t use or don’t work anymore

I had a collection of things in the basement that didn’t work or I didn’t use anymore. We took the things that didn’t work to the local recycling plant and disposed of them properly. I got rid of things like a stop watch which had stopped working years ago and a couple of mobile phones. We ended up taking a whole car full of things to the recycling/waste disposal place. Here is how full the car was on one of several trips. I must add we did take some things for family while we were there – it wasn’t all from our basement.

Things that I don’t use anymore were trickier to get rid of. I tried to sell as much as possible. I sold some resistance exercise bands that I had only used twice, a pasta machine. some unopened perfume and some other things on a Facebook site. I sold some jewellery on an ebay-type site. I also got some money for my old German textbooks. In the end, it added up to quite a bit of money. It was pain sometime waiting for someone to collect something and then them sending a message to say that they couldn’t make it but it was worth it overall. Of course, there were some things that I wasn’t able to sell for one reason or another so these ended up being disposed of at the recycling centre.

That is the end of Part I! Are you still awake? I hope I haven’t bored you to death. The conclusion of my challenge will be posted later this week. I hope you check back to see what else I manage to organise and tidy!

 

 

Challenge #29 – Update

27 Mar

From the list of The 40 Books Every Woman Should Read, I have now read 33 of the books. This year I have had another good start to my reading year and being able to read some books and authors that I haven’t heard of before has helped.

The majority of these books have been so good that I have hardly been able to put them down for a break and I have noticed that I have been forgoing watching TV so that I can get through the books even faster.

With only 7 more books to go until I can cross this challenge off my list, you might think that it will only be a few more weeks before I am declaring that this challenge is complete. However, I seem to have unintentionally left the longer books until the end and there is a book on the list that I have begun but abandoned because I found it too boring. So, this might be a tricky one to complete.

Here are the books from the list that I have recently read:

Notes on a Scandal: What was she thinking? by Zoe Heller

I couldn’t put this book down and I read it in a few hours. It’s the story of a female teacher who has a relationship with a pupil. The story is told from the point of view of a fellow teacher and the confident of the teacher who has the affair. I would say that the reader learns a lot more about the person narrating the story rather than the details of the affair – her motives and interest in the story is slowly revealed as the story progresses.

Bastard out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison

I didn’t realise that this book had been made into a film until after I had read it. The book tells the story of a girl nicknamed Bone and her relationship with her mother and step-father. Her relationship with her step-father is abusive and her mother struggles to admit that there is a problem that needs to be solve. The ending was very emotional and I also found it confusing – the resolution was not what I expected to happen.

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion

This book was slightly odd. It starts off by the three main characters reminiscing about an event from the past and then the book switches to a third person narrator. The main character is suffering from a mental breakdown but it doesn’t become clear until later in the book what brought on this breakdown. There is also talk of her daughter who seems to have been taken from her because of health issues but these aren’t discussed or explained in detail. I thought the book had a dream-like quality about it – some parts of it didn’t seem real and I’m not clear about how or why some of the events described happened. It was a confusing read.

Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

This is the story of two Native American families over a number of decades and how their lives are affected by one another. The chapters are each told by different characters during different years. It’s interesting to see how one character views events differently to others. You feel involved in the story because the whole book has a conversational style about it – as if you are just sat down having a coffee with someone and they are telling you a story. There is also a complicated love triangle between the two families which makes the story a bit juicier but also brings sadness to the story as well.

The Blue Flower by Penelope Fitzgerald

This was an historic novel that is based on the life of Friedrich von Hardenberg (I haven’t heard of him before either). In the story Friedrich falls in love with a girl, who is lower than his social class but he intends to marry her anyway. I was glad that I can speak German because there were quite a few German phases or words used in the book. I got annoyed reading another book recently that was set in France and had some French words that weren’t translated. It was possible to work out what they meant from the context but it could have been that I misinterpreted them.

The House of Mirth – Edith Wharton

This is the story of a young, privileged woman called Lily Bart, who lives in New York at the turn of the century. She likes to gamble and gets into a lot of debt and these debts force her to make decisions that make her situation, relationship and life even worse. I liked the main character and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her; everything she tries to do to make her life better end up backfiring and people are not kind to her and believe malicious rumours. I did take a lot time to enjoy this book. I felt like the story was slightly boring in the beginning. It was only in the second half when things start to get worse and worse that I wanted to read quicker to find out what was going to happen to her.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt

Even at the very start of this book, I knew I was reading something that was going to be epic. The book starts with the narrator, Richard Papin, revealing that because the snow came down the police didn’t find the body of his college classmate for ten days. What a way to start a story! I was hooked straight away. The book is his recollection of the events that led up to that point, from how he ended up choosing that college, how he ended up being accepted into a strange group within the university. It was a long book but I couldn’t put it down. The ending was unexpected as well.

The Awakening by Kate Chopin

This book has such a sad ending. It tells the story of Edna Pontellier who realises that she is in love with a man who is not her husband. She struggles with being a wife and a mother and doesn’t have any interest in raising her own children. It is clear that the man she is in love with has the same feeling about her but they are both trapped because of the norms of society. I realised a few pages from the end what was going to be the outcome but it did make it any less upsetting.

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Book Challenge by Erin 10.0 – Bonus Round

9 Mar

To coincide with World Book Day this week, I completed the bonus round of my online reading challenge. If you have been following my blog, you will know that I finished the first round and ten books in an extraordinarily fast time. If you want to remind yourself you can check it out here.

Once the first round is completed, you can go on to take part in a bonus round, which is reading books based on the same categories but trying to read books that have been chosen by other people who are taking part in the challenge. When you finish reading a book, you make a comment about it so that people can see if the books is worth reading or not.

Here are the books that I read for the bonus round:

Freebie (any book that is more than 200 pages long) – Me Before You by JoJo Moyes

I have heard a lot about Jojo Moyes but I have avoided reading any of her books so far because I thought that they were going to be too girly and sentimental. If I hadn’t taken part in this challenge I would never have taken read this book. I am glad that I did though. It wasn’t a classic boy-meet-girl story. It dealt with a some very gritty subjects and taboos.

Book that was turned into a Movie – Water For Elephants by Sara Gruen

This was a great read about the story of the vet from a travelling circus. He ends up joining the circus after failing to take his final veterinary exams after his parents suddenly die. The different characters make the story and the descriptions of the animals, performances and the events are excellent. The story is told from different points in time so you learn about what happens long after the circus stops travelling. A highly recommended read.

Set in Europe – Dracula by Bram Stoker

This is another classic that up until now I haven’t got round to read. There was an ominous feeling to the book from the very start. Because the book is written from different points of view in the form of letters and diaries, the reader gets a holistic view of everything that is happening. Even though I knew that Count Dracula was the source of strange happenings, I still found it shocking when it was revealed that there were “two small puncture wounds on the neck”. I can imagine that reading this when it was first published without knowing the real identity of Dracula would be truly horrifying.

A Newberry Award Winner – The Cat Who Went to Heaven by Elizabeth Coatsworth

This was an interesting and very quick read but I can’t say that I absolutely fell in love with it. The story is set in Japan and centres around a painter who has been commissioned to make a painting for the local temple. He wins the commission after his housekeeper brings home a cat. The painter believes that the cat is lucky and calls it “Good Fortune”.

A Friend’s Favourite – Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger 

The only thing that I didn’t like about this book was that there wasn’t more of it. The narrator is a boy who has been expelled from boarding school because of his constant poor grades. I felt the sense that he is completely lost and angst-ridden and unsure about what he wants to do with his life but doesn’t know where to turn to. I particularly enjoyed the interesting take he has on events that happened around him and some of the expressions that he uses.

Written over 100 years ago – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

It took me a while to get into this book. I’m not sure if that’s because I haven’t read anything else from Mark Twain and the only thing I knew about the Tow Sawyer books that he is famous for is because they are set in the southern states in America. Huckleberry Finn fakes his own murder/disappearance and the book is about what he does while he is “on the run”. I’m not sure that this book made me desperately pick up any more of Mark Twain’s books and read them. I also thought that the ending was a little bit rushed.

Title with 6 Words – The Way Things Look to Me by Roopa Farooki

I found this book in a second hand bookshop and bought it especially for this challenge because I was having problems finding another book with a six word title. The story is about a girl with Asperger’s syndrome and what affect that has on her relationship with her brother and sister after their mother dies. I thought the book was inspiring and explored the complexity of sibling relationships.

Cardinal direction in the title – East of Eden by John Steinbeck

I had high hopes for this book; people who had read it before me had commented that it was an epic masterpiece. I liked it but it’s definitely not one of my favourite books of all time. It charts the story of two brothers, who are complete opposites, and how their lives unfold. There are numerous complications for them – from their relationship with their father to the women who enter their lives. I didn’t really feel very invested into the story until about a third of the way through. Having said that, I was disappointed when it ended because I wanted to know what happened to the characters in the end

Originally in another language – Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

This is a bizarre concept for a story but is beautifully told. A travelling salesman wakes up one morning to discover that he has turned into an insect overnight. He struggles to adjust and understand his new condition and his family are also shocked by his transformation. I felt sorry for both him as he tries to communicate with people but can’t and his mother who is convinced that his condition is only temporary. The ending was tragic as he is shunned by this family.

Begins with the letter N – The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

This is another very popular book that I have avoided to read until now. However it is beautifully and sensitively written. It tells the story of a couple who, despite her moving away and becoming engaged to someone else, fall in love. The story switches from present day when the couple are old and living in residential care and the past when they fall in love.

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