A Love Letter to… 2018

a love letter to...

 

Dear 2018

I’ve been doing this letter for a few years now, and if nothing else, it’s a good excuse to actually pull my finger out and blog. I probably write this post in the same frame of mind every year, with the start of a brand new year approaching, I feel motivated to give myself a kick up the bum and actually provide this blog with some content. We’ll see how long that lasts!

I’ve been thinking about this past 12 months a lot, and it’s been a pretty OK year. I’ve done lots of fun things, and nothing disastrous has happened (no broken limbs this year), but equally, nothing truly momentous has happened. I feel as though I’ve been resting on my laurels a bit, in all honesty; maybe kind of waiting for something to happen, but in my 36 years on the planet, if I’ve learnt nothing else (I’ve actually learnt a lot of things), I at least know that good things don’t actually come to those who wait, they come to those who go out and make them happen. So that’s going to be my mantra for the year, especially when it comes to writing. I’m going to try and make something happen in 2019!

2018 was the year I went vegan. As I write this, I’ve been vegan for a whole 364 days, as I took part in Veganuary at the beginning of the year. I have written a little bit about it before, and as we go forward, I’m hoping to actually blog some of the amazing food that I eat, both at home and out and about.

I’ve spent another year, on and off, going along to Mark Kermode’s regular monthly event at the BFI Southbank – this has been my third year, and though I haven’t made it to as many as in the past, I’ve been lucky enough to see the likes of Michael Caine, Hugh Grant, Mike Leigh, Josie Lawrence, Steve McQueen and Rami Malek, amongst others.

I’ve been abroad twice, (which is kind of a big deal for me, someone who doesn’t travel that much) to two countries that I have never visited before. The first was a press trip for the magazine I work for, to a beautiful hotel in the Austrian Alps, and then over Christmas, my friend Hannah and I went to Portugal, for an all-inclusive five days in the sun. It certainly made for a different kind of Christmas, and I’m missing the blue skies already!

I went to a Dodge Brothers concert, to a J.R.R. Tolkien exhibition in Oxford, went to Scaresville (a truly epic haunted village Halloween event), visited Audley End, I went to YALC, I had all my hair cut off (and regretted it). I went to see The West Wing Weekly being recorded as the show went on tour, at Union Chapel, and absolutely loved every single minute of it. If I had to pick a highlight of the year, that might be it. I survived the Beast from the East and all the annoying snow it brought, and the heatwave of 2018, and all the annoying high temperatures it brought (never happy, except in spring and autumn).

I gained a new baby niece, taking the nibling total to 456 (or something like that). I got to spend time with my friends and family, though never as much as I would like. I started my driving lessons again, in the hope that one day soon I’ll be able to take and pass a test, and be able to spend more time with the people I love, due to not having to rely on stupid public transport.

I worried, worried, and worried some more about the state of the world, and despaired at the actions of the people who are supposed to know what they are doing. We’re now staring down the barrel of the truly godawful prospect of Brexit in March, and who knows what’s going to happen then? I’ve realised that all I can really do is concentrate on me and what I can do, both for myself, and for those who are worse off than me, and hope that things don’t turn out as badly as we’re all expecting them.

What a cheery way to end this look back at the year! Farewell 2018, thanks for the memories.

A Love Letter to… is an ongoing series (that I tend to update once a year.)

July 2018 Books

July-2018

 

The Six Wives of Henry VIII by Antonia Fraser

I watched The Other Boleyn Girl, and realised that beyond what I learnt about Henry VIII and his wives at school, I don’t actually know that much about them. So I used one of my stockpiled Audible credits to download this audiobook. It was a really easy listen, not too dense, and as the title would suggest, it focused on the women in Henry’s life, rather than the man himself. Anne Boleyn is covered in some detail, for obvious reasons – as his second wife and the first to be executed, hers is an interesting story, but it was also nice to read about the women that seem to be less remembered by history.

Freshers by Tom Ellis and Lucy Iveson

I grabbed this in the library, and due to being early for meeting a friend for lunch, and then having a long bus journey home, I managed to finish it in a day, something I don’t tend to do that much any more (more on that later). It’s a fairly straightforward YA story about a group of young people starting university, with our main character, Phoebe, starting her first term already harbouring a crush on a boy from school who has ended up at the same uni. It’s a fairly by-the-books female-male romance, with a group of misfit friends thrown in for good measure, and there’s absolutely zero diversity here – no main characters who are anything other than white, straight, able-bodied etc. But there are just a few threads of feminism woven in, and it’s really readable, with an enjoyable enough ending that didn’t make me roll my eyes. This makes it seem as though I’m damning it with faint praise, but I did enjoy it – evidenced by the fact that I read it so quickly!

Once Upon a Dream by Liz Brasswell

The Disney Twisted Tales were everywhere for a while, so when I was taking advantage of a 3 for £10 offer at the end of last year, I picked the Sleeping Beauty one up to give a read. I finally got around to it recently, and I can’t say that I was overwhelmed! It reimagines the Disney tale as though Aurora didn’t awake at the end of the story, and Maleficent wasn’t vanquished by Prince Phillip. At first I was really enjoying it; the alternate universe that the characters were in really worked, and I was eager to see where it went. But then it got really bogged down and dense, and I just stopped caring; I put it down for weeks before finally picking it up to finish it off, just so I could tick it off. I’m sure that there are interesting stories to be told in this vein, but it doesn’t feel as though they have tried particularly hard, being more concerned with the concept rather than the execution of it.

Invincible Summer by Alice Adams

Another book that I read in a day! I had seen this in a list of ‘best summer reads’, so reserved it at the library, and read it the same day that I picked it up. It’s billed as a great read for anyone who enjoyed One Day, in that it follows a similar structure: we meet this group of friends as they finish their first year at university, and then catch up with them over the next 20 or so summers. It’s not as rigid in its structure as One Day; sometimes we catch up with the gang twice in one year, and sometimes a couple of years pass before we find out what they’re up to. At the heart of the story is Eva, a physics graduate who finds in her friends a family that she lacked growing up. Benedict is a fellow physics student, while Sylvia is an artist, and Lucien, her brother, is not a student but a firm part of the gang. There are romantic entanglements to contend with, and there’s a definite will-they-won’t-they that plays out over the course of the two decades, but there’s much more to it than that, and that’s why I found it so compelling.

Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney 

This was the final book of my three-book weekend; again, I finished this in one sitting, because I just couldn’t put it down. It’s funny, because there’s not really one character in there who I would describe as likable; they are none of them particularly nice people. The story is told from the point of view of Frances, a young undergraduate who performs poetry with her best friend and ex-girlfriend Bobbi. Their lives collide with those of an older couple, Melissa and Nick, with Bobbi being fascinated by Melissa, and Frances and Nick embarking on an affair. I’m finding it hard to describe what I liked so much about it, especially given that the characters are so unlikeable. They aren’t people that I particularly wanted to spend time with, and yet I raced through the book, eager to get to the end! Maybe it’s simply that it’s especially well-written – I felt as though I was completely immersed in Frances point of view, feeling every bit of physical and emotional pain that she went through.

Books so far in 2018 – 32

 

February & March 2018 Books

What do we have here – a blog post? Surely not, I hear you cry, for that Jane calls herself a blogger but doesn’t actually write anything. But here I am, trying again, and at the very least making this a place where I talk about the books I have read, because I love talking about the books I have read.

I got a bit behind with logging my monthly reads, but instead of cutting loose and starting afresh, which is tempting, I decided to go back and round things up, because I really like having this as a log of what I’ve read. I’ve been doing it in one way or another on this blog since 2011, so it would be a shame to start leaving gaps now. So without further ado, let’s look back at my February and March 2018 reads.

Feb-March-2018

Word Play by Gyles Brandreth
I randomly picked this up in the library when I was returning another book, and I managed to read it over the course of one day. It’s a look at language and how we use it, so it explores the likes of palindromes, puns, spoonerisms, anagrams and so much more. It’s clear (if you didn’t already know) that Gyles Brandreth is a lover of language and words, and though he’s quite eccentric about it, it’s a lot of fun to try the word games that he suggests when you can’t sleep!

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
The last few months feel as though they have been quite heavy on books that I want to read before I see the film, and this is one such example. A Wrinkle in Time is beloved in the U.S., and with the film hitting cinemas a couple of months ago, I wanted to see what all the fuss is about. It tells the story of Meg Murry, a young girl whose father has gone missing, and her attempts to reach him wherever he might be. She’s helped on her quest by three mysterious women, and ends up travelling outside of the universe to try and reach him. In all honesty, I was slightly underwhelmed by the book, but I think that maybe I needed to have been immersed in the universe of the story as a younger person to appreciate it in the way that millions of Americans do.

The Red Parts by Maggie Nelson
I’m always on the lookout for good true crime books, and I’d heard about this on one of the many podcasts that I listen to. I had already heard the story of the murder at the centre of the story; a young student, Jane Mixer, accepted a lift from someone when she was travelling home from college in the late 1960s, and was murdered by him, though he was not caught at the time. I was expecting this to be a straight telling of the story of her murder and the killer’s eventual capture, but it was actually a lot different. It’s written by Jane’s niece, who never actually met her aunt, but whose murder has obviously affected her family’s lives ever since. The story mostly follows the trial of the man who was eventually arrested and subsequently charged with the murder, and it’s a powerful and personal account of the grief that her whole family had lived with for over 30 years.

The Viceroy’s Daughters by Anne de Courcy
My favourite type of biography centres around high society women in the early 20th century. Sure, for the most part, they are flouncing around at parties and sleeping with men who are not their husbands, but many of them were undeniably involved in world politics (either directly or indirectly) at a time when the world was veering from one disaster to the next. This one follows the three Curzon sisters, Irene, Cimmie and Baba, who were connected to incredibly powerful men, first through their father, and then through their husbands and lovers. I listened to this on audiobook, and aside from a couple of really bad sound quality issues at various points, I really loved listening to it.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
Another book that I was reading before I saw the film. I’d had it on my TBR since last September, fully intending to read it in good time so that I didn’t go into the film with the story and characters too fresh in my head (that’s a sure way to put you off a film, I’ve found!). However, in true me style, I left it right to the last minute, and ended up finishing it mere days before I saw it at the cinema. I loved the book, way way more than I thought I was going to. In terms of world-building, it’s pretty much unparalled with anything else I’ve read, certainly recently. What a feat, to have created this virtual world and make it feel so immersive, and most importantly, ensure that it makes complete sense. That’s the way it felt to me anyway, and the story itself was exciting and engaging and kept me guessing all the way through. This isn’t a film review, but I’ll just say that while the movie adaptation clearly decided to veer off massively from the plot of the book, it’s still a hugely fun and enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours.

Books read in 2018 – 11