Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.
– KURT VONNEGUT
Some of the images used in this post are mine – please ask me if you intend to use them. Thanks!
Welcome to the Summer edition of OFF THE SHELF. Here I will be listing just a few of the books that have been or will be read this summer, along with a brief review. I hope you enjoy it!
THE ROSIE EFFECT – GRAEME SIMSION
STATUS: Yet to be read
PREDICTED RATING: 10/10
As mentioned in the previous OFF THE SHELF post, I recently picked up The Rosie Project. Having now finished it, I am looking forward immensely to reading the sequel. I had the most amazing time with Don and Rosie in their first adventures together and can’t wait to see them continue in New York.
GO SET A WATCHMAN – HARPER LEE
For what was unarguably the most anticipated book of the year, GO SET A WATCHMAN did not fail to impress. The story provided invaluable insight into complex characters and changed the way I saw them. With heartbreaking twists and stunning confessions, GO SET A WATCHMAN is unforgettably striking and poignant. The residents of Maycomb, past and present, will always have a special place in my book shaped heart.
PAPER TOWNS – JOHN GREEN
As the Paper Towns movie was due to be released in mid August, I made a note to re-read the novel during the summer. Paper Towns is ranked in the NO 1 spot for my favourite John Green novels. Q and Margo’s wild midnight rendezvous seemed like so much fun that I felt tempted to take off on my by cycle at 1AM and order fries from McDonald’s – just for the heck of it, I’m young and invincible, right? Everything I want is way out there. In addition to this, Paper Towns taught me the importance of windows and doors and the fact that we can see people for who they appear to be, but that doesn’t necessary reflect their true self. We can have a good IDEA of what it’s like to be someone, but we can never truly BECOME another being.
Paper Towns is inspiring, true and important and I can’t wait to see it on the big screen with Nat Wolff and Cara Delevigne
THE ROSIE PROJECT – GRAEME SIMSION
Rating: OFF THE SCALE
Picking up The Rosie Project was probably the best decision I’ve made all year. A captivating and startling funny tale of lobster freezing, apricot ice cream and Gregory Peck style suits. Don and Rosie took me on a whirlwind adventure that included cocktails at 2AM, cup smashing and ballroom dancing.
Despite being more that twice my age, Don proved to be hilariously likeable and relatable. His perspective on life was one that I was entirely new to – and it was refreshingly beautiful.
I recommend this book to all of you, trust me on this one, and I can’t wait to see where Rosie and Don will take me in The Rosie Effect.
THR ART OF FIELDING – CHAD HARBACH
Being a person who knows absolutely nothing about baseball, I was surprised when The Art of Fielding was relatable to me. The story follows several lives at Wetish College and sees the characters through tumultuous phases and times. The Art of Fielding is full of rich characters that stay with you after the final page. Recommended for all those who feel out of touch with their future or are having trouble honing their art.
FORGIVE ME, LEONARD PEACOCK – MATTHEW QUICK
Makes me cry every time. Since obtaining this book last Christmas, there has not been a time where I’ve read the entire thing without crying. Leonard Peacock may be strange and disturbed, but the kid just can’t seem to catch a break. FMLP is raw, smart and enlightening. It handles mental health and issues such as sexual assault and family relations with both sensitivity and searing truth.
SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK – MATHEW QUICK
STATUS: Yet to be read
PREDICTED RATING: 8/10
Having read and loved FMLP, it only seemed appropriate to venture further into Quick’s works. The Silver Linings Playbook is one of Quick’s most renowned novels and I am excited to see how is compares to FMLP.
THE SPECTACULAR NOW – TIM THARP
The Spectacular Now makes for a light and mesmerising read. Good old Sutter never fails to entertain with is party tricks and playful nature. This story is all about growing up, finding and losing people and cherishing those moments that make like remarkable.
That’s just a small segment of what was on my summer reading list, if you would like to see the full thing, request it in the comment area. Similarly if you would like a full review on any of the books mentioned above, just let me know.
Also, I would love hear any book suggestions that you guys have for me- leave them in the comments with a quick note about what the book means to you.
ALL THE IMAGES USED IN THIS POST ARE MY OWN, PLEASE ASK AND CREDIT IF YOU INTEND TO USE THEM, THANKS!
For a Quiet Carriage there is a surprising numbered of yobs behind me, chattering and screeching away like a family of chimps. From what I can gather, the guy behind me (we shall call him Gareth) is a budding actor who is on his way to an audition in London. His clarion voice is now informing me that, not only had he played a dingo, but he has also been offered a position at the company of a successful business person, which he feels ‘positive, positive, positive’ about. Unfortunately, it seems that he is prohibited to give away any details about his shiny new job.
Here are 3 things I can safely tell you about Gareth:
Anyway, nevermind him, let’s discuss the free Wi-Fi on this train that doesn’t actually work – actually, that’s boring and you didn’t come here for boring, so I’ll tell you all about train stations instead.
I’m joking, don’t worry.
Here’s a couple in front of me now (we shall call them Cameron and Susan – Sameron) and they just shared a croissant, which was cute while it lasted, but now they’re both staring at the empty wrapper with their hands on their knees- apparently catatonic. I have a feeling that this is their first date and Cameron’s mum didn’t coach him past the croissant.
Gareth is still talking. It seems that he has found a buddy to talk football with (we shall call him Ron,) Ron’s currently raving about Aston Villa and Gareth is listing doughnut preferences. The telecom just advertised the tuck shop in carriage A – I think Sameron should invest in a family sized bag of Doritos, I’m having serious concerns about their lack of movement.
I’ve just moved places and now have a spiffing football commentary being fed into my left ear. Ron has found a new friend, who swears an awful lot (we shall call him Bucky.) Bucky’s Adidas trainers have crept dangerously close to my leg.
I think he knows I’m writing about him.
There’s a woman at my 11 o’clock who is drinking (what I assume is coffee, but since I can’t see it, it could be straight vodka for all I know) from a cup with a moustached man on it. I shall tell her telepathically how cool it is.
Bucky’s just complained about how idiotic some football fans can be and how much he hates flat lemonade. Now he’s opened two large cans of larger at the same time to prove his point.
Fun fact: Bucky is afraid of tunnels.
Ron’s just announced his phobia of flying and that he shits himself every time and doesn’t leave his seat.
I hope he wears a nappy.
Sameron update: still catatonic.
Apparently, the thing I’ve nudged with my foot for the entire journey is Ron’s right foot.
Fun fact: according to Bucky, he is okay with the Tube, as he is only scared when he goes through dark tunnels at ‘top speed.’
An old man has moved to the seat on my left (let’s call him Roger) with a can of Stella Artois on his table. I originally thought he was doing origami but, as it turns out, he’s hand rolling an impressive collected of cigarettes.
Origami is healthier, kids.
I’ve discovered that the secret to walking down a turbulent train is to step very rapidly and latch onto heads with a claw like grip.
Fun fact: Ron buys his jeans from the women’s section of Topshop.
Gareth has quieted down, I think he found something to eat. Susan has resorted to eating chunks of her Aloe Vera lip balm and Roger is still rolling cigarettes – maybe he’s entering a competition.
The train has arrived at London Euston and Gareth just left.
I shall miss him.
Bucky’s real name turns out to be Ross, but he’ll always be Bucky to me. He complained noisily about his flat larger and left too.
Fun fact: if you listen closely, you’ll discover that everybody is slightly nuts.
On a normal day, I introduce myself to new people with a bog standard: ‘it’s nice to meet you, I’m Vivien.’ If we both happen to be physically absent, a simple text message would suffice. Theodore Finch and Violet Markey, however, take the art of meeting new acquaintances to a whole new level – to approximately the height of a standard Indiana bell tower. Following their unorthodox encounter in the opening of Niven’s debut YA novel, Finch and Markey’s relationship mainly blossoms, not in the hallways of their high school, but in the natural wonders of rural Indiana.
Despite being based on the themes of mental health, grief and bullying, the novel is in most ways a charming, uplifting and eloquently written story with poignant characters that reach into the very depths of you to extract emotions that are yet unnamed. 12th grader, Theodore Finch, is bound to capture the attention and concern of countless readers in a way he was unable to with his own family. As a guitar playing, Dr Seuss quoting, hopelessly romantic young man with an unusually inconsistent wardrobe, Finch welcomes a tentative Violet Markey into his own spectacular world, where there are natural highs to be ridden, mountains to climb and things to be left behind.
Despite being unsuccessful in trying to repair his own, Finch mend’s Violet Markey’s cracked world and sees her through the barriers she has built around herself and helps her to overcome her fear of driving, following her sister’s untimely death in a fatal car accident. In addition to this, a Geography assignment sees this unlikely couple from the heights of Hoosier Hill to the depths of the Blue Hole, and of course star gazing at the Purina Tower.
Being an accomplished author in both adult fiction and non fiction, All The Bright Places is Niven’s first venture into the world of YA fiction. The novel has be compared to the words of John Green and Rainbow Rowell – both of which have found great success in the genre, and with another YA novel on the way, it is easy to picture Niven amongst them.
All in all, All The Bright Places is definitely not a tale of death, it is a story about and life and all those who make it lovely.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane, shall we?
September something 2007.
I doubt you remember, but this happened to be a rather significant day for me, ’twas the day I started 3rd grade at a new school, with new peers and new teachers. All of them yet untouched by my existence. I was determined to blown them away with my rosy character and make a lasting impression on their lives.
My seven-year-old self had been both anxious and silently elated all morning, whilst you were still nestled in my intestines, seemingly dormant.
During assembly, the headmistress launched into a spiel about leaves in the spring and I felt you poke at my innards, demanding my attention. Silently, I commanded you to sit and wait nicely like a polite fart, but you jabbed at me rebelliously and sneered at my reaction.
In hindsight, I must admit that you put up quite a fight, I lasted all of two minutes before you came shooting out of me like a party popper, shedding your misunderstood cheer all around where I was seated.
I wonder if you saw the way a circle immediately formed around me, how the other kids pulled exaggerated faces of disgust and pinched their noses, as if I were a field of potently smelling manure, and the way the teachers sniggered inconspicuously under their hands, coughing to cover it up.
You evoked quite a reaction you.
Not only did you publicly humiliate me- no, that I could have forgiven in time- but your carelessness resulted in my telling of a lie.
‘It was her!’ I jerked an accusing finger towards the poor girl to my right, she gasped indignantly and shook her head.
‘It was!’ I screeched ‘it wasn’t me, it was her!’
The girl in front of me whipped around and sneered.
‘Don’t be stupid,‘ she said ‘Jasmine doesn’t fart, you liar.’
And I’ll stop there, as I don’t feel like recounting the next ten minutes where I sat in my circle of shame and waited for ‘LOSER’ to come out of the label printer.
Now, I didn’t write this letter to blame you for anything, I think you’re fully aware of what you did. I also realise that the I owe you an apology. I should not have been ashamed to admit that I was responsible for you and I am sorry for how I made you feel.
You must be sick of being disapproved of every time you show yourself, sick of being the punch line to an innumerable amount of jokes.
Ever since the very first recorded joke in 1900 BC:
“Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband’s lap.”
You have been degraded and laughed at by small children and adults alike.
It’s a hard life.
I’d like you to know that you have nothing to be ashamed of.
You are just as important as any other bodily function. You are a unique blend of Hydrogen, Oxygen, Nitrogen, Carbon and Methane and don’t let anyone tell you any different.
You are important and at least one human knows that.
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Bye for now, I’ll see you in the next blog post
I’m awfully sorry about your quiche matted carpet and Uncle Jim’s bruised belly and I know I probably should have waited for her to blow out the candles before eating. Please accept my heartfelt condolences about Bubbles too, he had a good run – are you sure I can’t help you extract him from the radiator?
On a big standard day, my social incompetence and I manage to co-exist swimmingly. Dinner parties, however, are a whole new kettle of fish. They provide the ultimate platform for public humiliation, larger and more well lit than Times Square on New Years Eve.
My very first experience of a dinner party was really more of a tea party. I was around 8 years old and had been invited to a house belonging to a friend of the vicar, along with some other kids from Sunday school, for sandwiches and squash.
So there I was, seated on the floor with a cup of strong blackcurrant squash, sipping from my cup as if it were a hi ball of bourbon and I a jaded war veteran, wise and windswept. The squash was far more concentrated than my mum ever allowed for me to drink and a deep, royal purple.
After setting my cup down, I engaged in the re-telling of old war stories with the ex-marine to my right and showed him my medals. Feeling rather parched from all my tale telling, I reached for my hi ball to find that it’d emptied its entire purple contents across the thick ivory carpet.
As I goggled at the bruise that had bloomed, the cup rolled a few inches to the right, mocking me.
‘Too busy to pay attention to me, huh? Look where that got you, jaded veteran my ass. ‘
Like any other normal person, I leapt up and apologised to the host for my clumsy mistake.
Is what I should have done.
Instead, I backhanded the sneering cup under the sofa and shifted myself over the squash drenched carpet. Now if I could just sit there until the house became derelict, I would be fine.
‘They’re going to report you to the police,’ The cup hissed from underneath the sofa ‘or even worse, call your mother.’
I continued to press my buttocks into the stain and felt the dampness begin to soak into my jeans and pass through my skin. I wondered what Ribena would do to me if it entered my bloodstream.
‘How about you tell them that you’ve acquired an illness that results in you spontaneously pissing purple, berry scented fluid?’ The cup suggested. After a few moments of careful consideration, I hissed back:
‘That’s stupid, they’d get worried and check with my mother. Now shut up and be a cup.’
A few Emerils later, people began to ascend from their seats and file out of the room. Utterly mortified, I remained where I was, buttcheeks clenching in fear and my face contorted with horror. To our superviser, I must have looked severely constipated, as she urgently attempted to usher me out.
‘I have to tie my laces, you go first,’ in my nervous state, my voice came out as a strained whisper and I barely noticed her glance at my Velcro straps before she left, clearly convinced that the child at her feet was seconds away from producing a pair of incense sticks to perform a demonic ritual with.
With the place now blissfully empty, my purple ass leapt up and slipped out of the house gleefully scot free.
I realise now, of course, what an asshole move that was and if the host of that tea party is reading this – I’m sorry and hit me up if you want to press charges.
But as you can see, dinner parties and I didn’t exactly get off on the right foot and our relationship was only destined to worsen.
In my opinion, the most dreadful type of dinner party is where the food is laid out buffet style and you get to serve yourself on a paper plate. Before you get the wrong impression, let me just mention now that I would usually be thrilled at the prospect of unlimited shrimp toast, but with so many watchful stares following you around whilst you pile your plate with a socially unacceptable amount of food and infinite opportunities for catastrophe, shrimp toast begins to look less appealing.
I mean, one minute I could be sprinkling my salmon with pepper and the next, have the host SCREAMING what the hell I was doing to her grandma.
Don’t even get me started on the paper plates, flimsy flimsy things that bend all which ways whilst you attempt to pile obscene amounts of food onto it. You end up having to perform some sort of frenzied waltz, tripping over a pair of Crocs and nearly splitting your head open on Uncle Jim’s beer belly, to get to your seat.
Once seated, you discover that it is near impossible to spear anything with your fork without the plate sinking into the crevice between your knees. A few bites later and it ends up looking like you’re trying to engulf your meal with your thighs.
And finally, I doubt I have to alert you to the fact that you’re spending an ENTIRE night in someone else’s house, filled with THEIR PRIZED POSSESIONS, children and idiotic goldfish that leaps behind the radiator when you tap the glass.
So by the time they kick you out onto the front porch with a pending restraining order, not only have you used their deceased relative as seasoning, but also made their little brats cry, ruined their upholstery, and slaughtered their dear pet.
You should have just stayed in with pizza and Netflix.
Comment below any stories you have of eventful dinner parties and please Like, Follow and Share if you enjoyed this post.
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Thank you for reading and I’ll see you in the next blog post.
I would say that I have a considerable amount of experience as a sister- a lifetime of it and a lifetime remaining. So I believe myself to be sufficiently qualified to present to you the adventures and misadventures of sisterhood, the midnight scuffles and spilt liquids that come with being in close quarters with the one person who has the power to convert you into a raging Neanderthal.
As a child with a sister two years my senior, I found myself both idolising her and having to fight the urge line up her wax crayons on the radiator and send her a postcard of it. I wanted to draw cartoon people like she did and have a full block fringe like hers.
Following my impetuous pestering, my mum carted me into the kitchen and fulfilled my request. Sporting my new Old English Sheepdog look, I strutted around, feeling ten feet tall and twenty years wiser. Of course it took me exactly two weeks to realise my forehead had turned into a mini sauna under that mop of hair and promptly decided it wasn’t worth risking heatstroke for and got rid of it, but that isn’t important. I can’t exactly remember my sister’s reaction to this, but she must have been pretty gracious to not have walked on the other side of the street from her floppy haired, round spectacled little wackadoo of a sister.
It was also around this time when I began to trail after my poor sibling at school, tagging along with her cooler friends, telling god awful jokes and being a general pain in the ass. It came to the point where her friend felt inclined to invite Maggie’s creepy little sister to her birthday party. Now I can’t recall the exact details of this get together, but I do remember eating the host out of cake and home, as well as jumping up and down like an orang-utan on speed to 90s club music. I donned a green puffy jacket, wore my hair in lopsided bunches and looked for all the world like a decaying broccoli. At some point during the party, I believe I did, what I thought to be, a brilliant impression of a trifle having it’s layer of cream scraped off and then spent most of the night simultaneously blowing at my fringe and rolling my eyes like a demented tribal leader performing some kind of demonic ritual. I had a great time at that party, but I doubt my sister would agree.
In our younger years, I think my sister had resided on Goofball Island with me, but by the time I made the transition into secondary school, she was in Year 9. With thirteen came sophistication and maturity. She read books that I was not allowed to read, featuring serious court cases and realistic crime, her friends were twelve feet tall and had boobies whilst I managed to eliminate all chances of obtaining friends on my first day by introducing myself to everyone as ‘Viktor Pickles.’
But worst of all, and perhaps the reason why I began to induce an increasing amount of petty arguments with her, my sister attempted to tutor me in Maths. Now in telling you, if any of you are trying to shake that clingy boyfriend or annoying friend, just whip out some SOHCAHTOA or advanced algebra and they’ll go off you like the BBC on Jeremy Clarkson.
One morning, I engaged in an argument with my dear sister, she was doing that aggravating I’m-going-to-speak-in-a-calm-passive-tone-and-let-you-scream-like-a-banshee thing and in a rage, I threw the Capri-Sun in my hand and it exploded like a water balloon all over the kitchen tiles. I remember being ‘I’m inches away from punching you so hard you’ll end up with no nose and concave boobs’ mad, but I can’t for the life of my recall what exactly it was we were even arguing about.
If any of you reading this have sisters, you’ll understand how one minute you can be charging into her room with a sledgehammer, screeching death threats at the top of your lungs and the next, be helping her re-plaster her walls and discussing the your significance in the universe.
Considering the age gap and her maddening air of superiority, you would think that my dear sibling would act accordingly, but let me tell you, what you see it not what you get. Smart people tend to be incredibly stupid, they just cannot bear to admit it like the rest of us.(If you consider yourself an intelligent being, I am sure that this does not apply to you, however, your sibling may argue otherwise.)
For instance, the 17-year-old girl ,who has chaired numerous council meetings,scared the living daylight out of my by screaming blue bloody murder about stepping on a bee which, with further investigation, turned out to be a screw that had popped out of the kitchen chair.
Despite all their shortcomings, they’re the ones who have to make conversation with awkward relatives and you get to recycle their colour coded school notes too. They toss cookies down to you from the top bunk at midnight and tell you truthfully when you’re out of line. My sister is the Buzz to my Woody and the bird crap on my windscreen- reminding me that it’s my turn to wash the car.
What is it? Are you finally taking your doctor’s advice and joining the gym? Was it the pushy, overbearing friend, whom the neighbours dog will drag out from under your patio steps when they start to smell, who forced you to sign up? Or maybe you were strutting up to the entrance of KFC, perfectly content with your existence, when someone complimented your shoes.
‘They look gorgeous on you.’ They may have oozed. And maybe you felt a twinge of unease when you had to answer:
‘Thanks, I do wish I could see them though.’
Either way, your desperation and yearning for advice on how to handle your current situation has lead you here, in the hope that I will provide you with golden notes of wisdom. If that is the case – I will pay for you to visit a psychologist. Seriously, I know one in my area, she teaches at my high school and said I had a terrible work ethic and serious issues regarding my attitude towards self-motivation that would restrain me when I entered the Real World, however, she also claimed to have died momentarily whilst practising a breathing exercise, so I’d take her advice like I’d eat raw buffalo.
Anyway, returning to the topic of discussion, the most important element of integrating yourself into the environment that is The Gym, is confidence. Do not shy away from sporting erratically coloured track suits. Even better, invest in those trainers that convert the floor you walk on into a mobile dance floor every time you take a step. Now, you may be thinking: ‘what is this shennegans? Flashing footwear was stylish when Micheal Jackson was black.’ But let me tell you something – everyone is just waiting for someone to take the first venture, Jessica Ennis has a stack of custom made flashing shoes that she is just dying to break out. Go for it. Be a trendsetter and mention my name when you get offered your own Nike campaign, okay?
Also, the water fountain. The water fountain is your oyster, guzzle from the tap like a comel coming across the only oasis in the desert, splash water on your face and grunt enthusiastically as you shake your hair out like a wet dog. Even better, get on all fours and growl at approaching predators like a real dog- even go as far as to pee on the area, whatever works for you. Dominate the taps. Mark your territory. You’re paying hard earned money for this membership, the least you deserve is an all-you-can-eat water buffet.
Next, how to tackle the monstrosity that is the treadmill. Now, not many people really pay attention to you whilst you’re working out, but if you just happen to be positioned next to Miss-I-Wear-White-Yoga-Pants-Because-I-Do-Not-Need-To-Wear-Slimming-Colours, you may need to make an effort as not to look like a pregnant gorilla. First of all,there is a kind of mutual agreement in place amongst gym members that one does not glance below the waist, primarily because it’s just a little bit dodgy, but also because your legs are clearly a work in progress and people should respect that. So the trick is to place you feet on either side of the moving belt and stimulate a running action with your upper body, if it helps, dangle a couple of towels off either side of the machine to conceal your stationary legs. Now you are free to turn to setting up as high as you want. Remember to pant lightly and swipe at your brown occasionally – a snack is also handy if you feel yourself begin to lapse into boredom. I suggest Snack a Jacks, the name makes up on half of the activity ‘jumping jack.’ Deeming them perfectly acceptable for consumption within the gym. If anyone approaches you and questions your logic, pack the crisp packet with peach stones and slap them about the face a few times to knock some sense into them. If after all this, White Yoga Pants is still running faster than you, toss a wet towel over her and relocate to the changing rooms for the warm shower you so richly deserve.
Of course, after your vigorous work out, you must be feeling a bit peckish. So after placing your order, inconspicuously flick your gym membership card out of your wallet and allow it to clatter nosily onto the counter, just incase the cashier didn’t believe your lie about the three friends who will be joining you shortly.
This brings me to my final point, if after all this you still feel as if you cannot bear this fitness nonsense any longe and must escape the misery of it all. Try hurling a few dumbbells at the overhead televisions that had been broadcasting the latest episode of Masterchef whilst you had been trying to burn off the pizza you had for lunch, courtesy of the Masterchef that is Dominos. It should take approximately a few seconds for you to be frogmarched out of the gym by security with a lifetime ban.
Thanks for taking the time to check this post out. I hope you enjoyed it and if you did please give it a like and follow me for more posts like this. Also share this is anyone who you think could do with the advice!
Bye for now and I’ll see you in the next blog post!