The Lady in the Van by Alan Bennett

The Lady in the Van by Alan BennettGood morning, lovely readers!!! 

I am back with another book review post. I read this book over the Christmas holidays but it is quite short so I read it once again just the other day and really wanted to share it here on the blog. 

This book recounts snippets of the playwright Alan Bennett’s life from 1974 to 1989, during which time a homeless elderly woman named Miss Shepherd moved her bright yellow broken-down van into his driveway. Despite the fact that he wasn’t too keen on her staying for long, she ends up living there for 15 years.  

In 2015, this book was adapted into a film of the same name starring Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett and Dame Maggie Smith as Miss Shepherd. Dame Maggie Smith was bloomin’ brilliant in the role and makes the peculiar Miss Shepherd likeable despite her sassiness. The real Alan Bennett even makes a cameo appearance in the film as himself, which is neat. 

Opening Paragraph

‘I ran into a snake this afternoon,’ Miss Shepherd said. ‘It was coming up Parkway. It was a long, grey snake – a boa constrictor, possibly. It looked poisonous. It was keeping close to the wall and seemed to know its way. I’ve a feeling it may have been heading for the van.’ I was relieved that on this occasion she didn’t demand that I ring the police, as she regularly did if anything out of the ordinary occurred. Perhaps this was too out of the ordinary (though it turned out the pet shop in Parkway had been broken into the previous night, so she may have seen a snake). She brought her mug over and I made her a drink, which she took back to the van. ‘I thought I’d better tell you,’ she said, ‘just to be on the safe side. I’ve had some close shaves with snakes.’

What I Loved Most

This is such a quirky and lovely story about how two people enter each other’s lives and become more important to one another than either thought possible, and Alan Bennett narrates it with such subtle, wry humourous observations. 

What I Loved Least

I committed the bookworm no-no of seeing the movie before reading the book, but I absolutely loved the film, and was slightly disappointed that the book was not longer. Surely 15 years with Miss Shepherd living in the driveway resulted in more than 100 pages of stories. 

Memorable Line 

One seldom was able to do her a good turn without some thoughts of strangulation.

Closing Paragraph

Her grave in the Islington St Pancras Cemetary is scarcely less commodious than the narrow space she slept in the previous twenty years. It is unmarked, but I think as someone so reluctant to admit her name or divulge any information about herself, she would not have been displeased by that. 

Final Thoughts

This is such a touching, delightful story, and one I would recommend to anyone and everyone. Plus, the film adaptation was amazing and worth seeing (and that says something given most bookworms are wary of adaptations). 

What have you been reading lately??? 


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This Modern Love by Will Darbyshire 

img_0297Happy extremely belated Valentine’s Day all!!!

Those of you who know me are very familiar with my less-than-favourable opinion of Valentine’s Day, but nevertheless I still wanted to do a love-themed book review post, and I thought this book was perfect.

This Modern Love is a crowd-sourced book published in 2016 by YouTuber and filmmaker Will Darbyshire that chronicles all of the feelings and experiences of love from beginning to middle to end. Having been in love before, all of the letters, tweets, words, and photos really resonated with me, and illustrated how love truly is a human universal. Most interestingly, this book also detailed the impact of technology on modern love, for better or worse. 

Opening Paragraph

In the summer of 2014, I experienced a break-up. It was my first. And I was devastated. 

What I Loved Most

The book is sectioned into Beginning, Middle, and End, with submissions in each category spotlighting the euphoric rush of a crush or a new love, the deep affection of a relationship, and the bitter heartache that comes with the end of a relationship. I love that the submissions were categorized to paint such a vivid picture of what each stage of love is like. I also love that these was no particular order within each section so the entries could be read at random or in the order of appearance in the book. 

What I Loved Least

This might be a bit of a cop out since I loved the book so much, but I wish it had been longer. The project received over 15000 submissions and, while I know they all could not be included, I think having them published on a blog would have been nice so they could all be read in one format or another. 

Memorable Line

You are like that one piece of artwork in an art gallery that people spend a little longer admiring (p. 31).

Closing Paragraph

Finally, a massive thank you to my friends and my viewers for sticking with me. Your constant positive reinforcement keeps me going. I love you all terribly and I hope you like the book as much as I liked putting it together. 

Final Thoughts This is such a sweet book and is a lovely reminder of how thrilling and magical and painful and disappointing love can be. 

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

The Nest by Cynthia D'Aprix Sweeney cover Good afternoon all, and welcome to my first book review post of 2017!!!

I actually got this book free back in November using my accrued Plum Points at Chapters, which was very exciting. It took me until the end of term and after Christmas and such to read it, but then it took only a few days to read. 

First off, I just have to gush about how gorgeous the cover is. I love the design, the colour palette, and the cursive writing. Everything I would want my book cover to be. 

This book, Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s fiction debut, is set in New York and spotlights the lives of four siblings and their financial situations. The title refers to the nest egg left to them by their late father that is to be turned over when the youngest sibling, Melody, turns 40. However, things begin to spiral out of control when the family learns that their mother has given away the vast majority of the money to deal with a “family emergency,” leaving them in fiscal turmoil and uncertainty. 

Opening Paragraph

As the rest of the guests wandered the deck of the beach club under an early-evening midsummer sky, taking pinched, appraising sips of their cocktails to gauge if the bartenders were using the top-shelf stuff and balancing tiny crab cakes on paper napkins while saying appropriate things about how they’d really lucked out with the weather because the humidity would be back tomorrow, or murmuring inappropriate things about the bride’s snug satin dress, wondering if the spilling cleavage was due to bad tailoring or poor taste (a look as their own daughters might say) or an unexpected weight gain, winking and making tired jokes about exchanging toasters for diapers, Leo Plumb left his cousin’s wedding with one of the waitresses. 

What I Loved Most 

I was skeptical about how the story would unfold when I realized the chapters were divided according to which sibling was narrating, but I found this offered greater insight into the past lives and choices of the siblings than would have been offered by a third person narration. 

What I loved Least

No spoilers or anything, but I was slightly disappointed at the ending. I know it is far more realistic than any ending I would have been happy to read, but it almost seemed like the author wanted to get right to the end and skipped over a huge chunk of time in the process. 

Memorable Line 

So the first time she and Leo combusted, she’d practically been poised for the breakup. In some inexplicable way, she’d been looking forward to it and all its attendant drama, because wasn’t there something nearly lovely–when you were young enough–about guts churning and tear ducts being put to glorious overuse? She recognized the undeniable satisfaction of the first emotional fissure because an unraveling was still something grown-up and, therefore, life affirming. See? The broken heart signalled. I loved enough to lose; I felt enough to weep.  Because when you were young enough, the stakes of love were so very small, nearly insignificant. How tragic could a breakup be when it was part of the fabric of expectation from the beginning? The hackneyed fights, the late-night phone calls, the indignant recounting for friends over multiple drinks and in earshot of an appropriately flirtatious bartender–it was theatre for a certain type of person . . . Until it wasn’t (p. 274). 

Closing Line [The last sentence, really, to avoid spoilers]

‘Up!’ She said again, as her family rushed towards her all at once, each of them hoping to get to her first. 

Final Thoughts

This was such a great story, and I can see why it won so many awards, including Goodreads’ 2016 Choice Award for Fiction, and was named a Best Book of 2016 by a number of publications such as People, the Washington Post, and the San Fransisco Chronicle. I would recommend this book to anyone looking to curl up in front of the fireplace to avoid the dreary rainy weather with a good book.

Have you read The Nest??? What did you think of it??? 

Hello 2017

Hello 2017 imageWhy hello there 🙂🙂

I hope everyone had a happy and safe New Year’s 🙂🙂

The best descriptor of how I feel about the coming year is ‘nervous.’ In a perfect world, this should be the time when I begin applying to grad schools, bulking up my résumé, and figuring out what on Earth I am going to do when I am no longer in school. But alas, this is not the case. I am going to be staying an extra term to complete a minor in Linguistics, and I am considering also doing an honours degree in Psychology. 

My family is concerned that this would be a waste of time but honestly, I don’t know if I’m ready to leave university yet. University may be a fast-paced, stressful, and pressure-filled environment, but it’s an environment I know and love. I have been attending school in some form for the past 17 years of my life, and I don’t know what I would do if I had to go elsewhere. I am also a complete school nerd and always feel like there is more to learn. Furthermore, universities offering graduate programs in what I would like to study are all abroad, either across Canada or in other countries entirely. One might think I would see that as an opportunity for adventure, but one would be mistaken: I am more concerned about being away from my cat for that long. 

This is one of those contemplative times in my life where I don’t feel 21 years old, but instead 7 years old where my biggest concern should be who I am going to sit with at lunch or where I want to have my birthday party. Sometimes school can be really overwhelming but it is a routine lifestyle that I have learned to thrive in. I am one of those people who has always known what they wanted, and so I now struggle to accept and be content with not knowing. 

And then there’s deciding on what kind of career I want to pursue. I remember back in elementary school, teachers told us we could be anything we wanted, but they said nothing about having to pick just one option. As I research graduate schools and PhD programs (yikes!!!), I keep thinking that there are so many things I want to be and do, and now I have to pick just one to specialize in. Speech Language Pathologist. Audiologist. Lawyer. Professor. Researcher. There are so many choices and I just don’t know which one. Law was my plan when I started university but now I just don’t know. I am so grateful for all of the opportunities I have been afforded throughout my life that enable me to have such a wide selection, but this doesn’t make the decision any easier. 

Last year, in my Hello 2016 post, I talked about my resolutions for the coming year, and I think I did a pretty good job of achieving them (though really, a study date in the library is never as productive as I think it will be), so this year I wanted to set some more resolutions, but some of these are definitely more difficult: 

♥Figure Out When I Am Going to Graduate and What the Heck I Want to Study in Graduate School (If Anything)

This one is going to be a year-long affair but I have already started mapping it out and I should be good to go by December 2017 . . . maybe. I will have completed all of the required courses for application to all of the graduate programs I am interested in, which is a huge comfort so this coming year is going to be spent volunteering and exploring what careers in my areas of interest would be like. As old of a soul as I know myself to be, I do know that, at 21, I am still very young and have plenty of time to change my mind, and I must continue to work on appreciating that. 

♥ Learn to Meditate

I have read and heard of the benefits of meditation and I plan on going to weekly meditation sessions to learn how to achieve this state of inner tranquility. I am the type of person who always has to be doing something “productive” with a foreseeable end result or else I feel guilty, so this will be a lesson for me on how to just be with no time limit, expectation, or goal. 

♥Blog More

This one I have carried over from 2016 because I never set up a proper posting schedule and ended up publishing whenever I had the time. This year, I am scrapping the idea of a formal schedule and instead have started a notebook of post ideas and drafts I can work through when inspiration strikes. Thus, there may be some months with few posts and others with a plethora, and I am learning that to be ok with that. 

Have you made any resolutions for 2017??? Let me know in the comments 🙂🙂

My Holiday Budget for Happiness 

As a university student, I take budgeting pretty seriously. While I was fortunate enough to receive a four-year scholarship for my undergraduate study, I still want to make sure I have an emergency fund, and that I am spending responsibly. Particularly around the holidays, my spending can get a little out of control as I go on the hunt for Christmas presents for family and friends, but I have a holiday gift guide/budget plan that minimizes overspending and maximizes happiness.

Setting Limits

Each month, any incoming money is divided into separate accounts for living, saving, and emergency. It is important for me to set an overall spending limit of my savings on presents, as well as price caps on gifts for each person so I know going in how much I am going to spend.

Resist the Call of the Red Starbucks Cup

This one is so hard for me, especially around the holidays when the Christmas cups come out and my favourite drink, the peppermint mocha, is officially back, but this is an easy cost cutter. While I am by no means a daily drink purchaser, I still think that saving money in little ways like this can amount to big savings at the end of the year. That being said, I do treat myself to the odd one though, and maybe even a frosted snowman cookie.

Gift Experiences, not Items

Something new I have been doing the past few Christmases is gifting someone an experience like a travel voucher for a weekend getaway, a certificate for an adventure like camping or zipining, or even something simple like a dinner out together. This really helps with coming up with gift ideas, plus I find the memories last longer than giving someone an item that won’t last as long.

Homemade Presents

The past month or so, I have fallen in love with Pinterest and all its Christmas knitting patterns. One in particular that I think is just adorable is for little stocking christmas tree decorations. I have made about 7 so far in various colours and patterns and I am planning to give them to my family members, particularly my grandparents who, at ages 86 and 87 don’t need clutter but would love something sentimental.

Homegrown Gifts

While I am not much of a gardener myself, people like my grandparents gift jam made from raspberries they grew themselves and small spice plants, and other people I know gift handmade candles from backyard bee hive wax. I think this is such a nice way to gift something special and useful while not having to go out and battle the shopping malls.

Essentials and Splurges

Instead of trying to think of unique gift ideas for people, think about what they use on a daily basis like a particular beauty product and gift that. Some might say this is unimaginative, but it is guaranteed that the gift will be loved, appreciated, and used. Another great gift idea is purchasing something that you know someone would like but would never buy for themselves. These splurge purchases make such nice surprises and show that you were paying attention, plus stores usually have really good sales going on so you can scoop up splurges at fractions of the original price.

Gifts From All of Us

I remember as a kid thinking that a group present was just a way for people to get off the hook for finding someone a unique present, but really it is genius. Luckily my grandparents don’t have Internet so I don’t have to worry about ruining the surprise for my grandfather, but my mother and grandmother and I all pitched in and bought him a DVD recorder that he can use to convert his 800 or so VHS tapes to DVD format. While this item was more pricy and well over the price cap the family set for presents, pooling our money and getting him a nifty gift like this that he will get so much use out of is a great way to save money and give a gift someone will love.

What are some ways that you budget for the holidays while maximizing happiness???

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas . . . 

Goodness me, I have been a real naughty and haven’t published a single post in December thus far and it’s almost half over!!! Ha, looks like Blogmas isn’t happening this year. 

In my defence, school ended on on the 2nd, and then I had finals on the 5th, 7th, and 10th. But now I have a bit of a reprieve until the 19th when I write my last exam. Regardless of what courses I take or how much planning I do, I always, always, always end up writing an exam on the last day of exam period. Does this happen to any of you???

Christmastime this year was heralded by something that hasn’t happened in my city for years: snowfall. And not just the old 1cm light dusting that is washed away by rain the next day. I am talking about 10cm, covering the ground, people driving like right fools on the roads despite the ice and snow warnings, and snow people on everyone’s front lawns. Despite the fact that I live in Canada, snow is not common in my city, so this was a lovely surprise to wake up to. I wish I was a more artsy photographer but I am hoping to learn some tips and tricks in the new year, and I had to snap a few pictures of the gorgeous white blanket:

snowfall December 2016 1

snowfall December 2016 2

snowfall December 2016 3

 

Is it snowing where you live???

A Life Discarded by Alexander Masters

A Life Discarded by Alexander Masters book cover
Image from Goodreads.com

[So as not to have a super long post title, I only used the main portion of the title of this novel; the complete title is A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip.]

I saw this book perched on a shelf in a local bookstore shortly before I left for Seattle. The cover intrigued me immediately and, after reading what the book was about, I knew I had to buy it and take it on my trip because it would be a real page-turner. And it was. I finished the book on the first day of my fourth year of university before my statistics class and then sat through the entire lecture in a dazed state of contemplation.  And now, here I am with a week left to go in the school term, and I am just publishing my review. Better late than never though. 

The title is fairly self-explanatory, but allow me to expand on it a little. This book tells the behind-the-scenes story of how biographer Alexander Masters came to possess 148 diaries that were tossed out into a skip on a building site in Cambridge, and how he spent five years reading and studying them, piecing together the diarist’s life, culminating in an incredible discovery. 

Beginning in 1952 and ending over 50 years later, a few weeks before the diaries were thrown away, tens of thousands of pages of handwriting tell part of an intimate and anonymous life story that Masters seeks to understand. I had never read a book like this before, but I loved Masters’ writing style of alternating between his personal life during which a dear friend is dying of cancer, and his time spent analyzing the diaries and attempting to fill in the gaps of the diarist’s history.  Plus, the book includes all kinds of excerpts from the diaries, from handwriting samples, to drawings, to transcribed passages, all of which offer further insight into the diarist. The reader makes new and exciting discoveries about the diarist along with Masters, such as the gender, age, mental state, sexuality, and life status of the diarist, and also backtracks when new evidence found in later diaries prove previous assumptions wrong. 

And now for the overview:

Opening Pargraph:

One breezy afternoon, my friend Richard Grove was mooching around Cambridge with his shirt hanging out, when he came across this skip.

What I Loved Most: Definitely Masters’ writing style.

What I Loved Least: The story was a little tough to follow at times, but I can only imagine the trouble Masters had reading through all the diaries and trying to piece together a timeline of the diarist’s life and trying to keep it as accurate as possible. 

Memorable Line:

But you have to be careful. Most people sound unbalanced in their diaries (if those diaries are honest) because that’s one of their purposes: to let out unspeakable things for a little runaround. 

Closing Paragraph:

It is all, she says, ‘jolly swerbles.’

Final Thoughts: This is an amazing book. I have already recommended it to a friend and he is about a quarter of the way through and loving it. It kept me guessing and second-guessing after each chapter, and I am looking forward to going to the library to check out more books by Alexander Masters. 

Please let me know in the comments below if any of you have read this book before and what you thought of it. If you haven’t read it, I implore you to because it is an incredible novel with an astounding conclusion.

Fresh Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy-Boosting Face Mask

Fresh Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy-Boosting Face Mask 1

Fresh Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy-Boosting Face Mask 2

Fresh Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy-Boosting Face Mask opened

Fresh Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy-Boosting Face Mask opened 2

Fresh Vitamin Nectar Vibrancy-Boosting Face Mask opened up close

Being in the thick of dreary, rainy winter days really takes its toll on me and my skin. Don’t get me wrong, I love jumping in rain puddles, seeing my breath in the mornings, and praying for snow, but my skin doesn’t appreciate the cold weather. That’s where this mask comes in as the ultimate winter pick-me-up. 

Features

  1. Comprised of orange, lemon, and clementine extracts
  2. Contains a proprietary complex of vitamins C, E, and B5, along with revitalizing minerals
  3. Contains AHA fruit acids that exfoliate and smooth skin
  4. Suitable for sensitive skin
  5. Citrus jam texture
  6. Smells incredible

I use this product twice per week, on Sundays and Wednesdays after my morning skin cleansing regime. As directed, I apply a generous amount with gentle circular motions, then leave it on my face for around 10 minutes while I catch up on some blog reading. I typically remove it with some warm water and a face towel, but I have heard a cotton pad works just as well. 

The best way I can describe how lovely this product is is to say that it leaves my skin clear, bright, and glowing, all the things I want my skin to be in winter. My complexion has also become much smoother and even, and my skin feels so healthy and soft after use and for the next few days until I use it again.  An added bonus is how amazing this product smells. The dominant smell is freshly cut oranges and clementines, but the hints of lemon give it a slightly tart scent. The combination wakes me right up in the mornings, energizing me and my skin. 

One thing that surprised me about this product the first time I used it was the thick pieces of citrus in the jam-like mask. I had initially expected a smoother texture, but the pieces actually help in exfoliating and speak to just how natural this product is. 

 This is definitely a splurge purchase at CAN $80 for the 100mL jar, but it is so worth it. 
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Turning 21 . . . 

Birthday cake 2016So as of Wednesday morning, I am 21 years old. 

It’s scary to think that not all that long ago I was still in high school, and now I am almost finished university. I’ve always been intrigued by the way that time can feel as though it passes at a glacial pace one moment and then at warp speed the next.

Being the planner that I am, I read numerous articles and blog posts about what 21 was going to be like. Well, most of the articles must have been written from an American perspective because all the exciting things had to do with drinking. I drink socially, but certainly not enough to have a go-to drink, an alcohol budget, a preference for getting drunk on decent versus cheap liquor, or having a preferred bartender.

The other main thing mentioned in the articles was being able to travel to Vegas. I am actually planning to head to Vegas for the first time in early 2017 as a belated birthday celebration (spoiler alert for future travel blog posts!!!) but I already have my gambling cap set at $50 (talk about living life on the edge).  

Turkey Casserole November 2016
Grandma Pearl’s Incredible Turkey Casserole
As I do every year, I celebrated my birthday at my grandparents house, and my grandmother just so happened to have my favourite meal stashed away in her freezer: turkey casserole. Essentially it is all of the leftovers of Thanksgiving dinner combined into one culinary creation, and it is my ultimate comfort food. 

Last year I shared 20 facts about me in celebration of my 20th birthday, but this year I wanted to do something a little different and open up the comments section to questions. 

Birthday cake 2016 unlit
13 opened boxes of Smarties and one giant pink candle later, and my grandmother created the most epic pink birthday cake.

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The Versatile Blogger Award

The Versatile Blogger Award logoOh my goodness, this nomination completely took me by surprise, and added a lovely bright spot to a day of studying in the library for round two of university midterms. Incidentally, I have just got through this round of tests, so now I can actually write the post without fear of sneaking little linguistic facts into it to show my learning progress.

Thank you to Nicole Ilene at Sorry, I’m Booked for nominating me for this award; if you haven’t read her blog before, I would recommend having a gander. She is such a lovely person and writes about so many different things.  The rules of this award are:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you.
  2. Share the award on your blog.
  3. Share seven random facts about yourself.
  4. Tag 10 bloggers with less than 1000 followers and let them know they have been nominated. 

Thinking of facts about myself on the spot is always so strange because people can point them out quite easily but I cannot for the life of me come up with something interesting. 

  1. I am terrible at coming up with ideas of what to do with friends when we hang out. 
  2. I talk a lot. Like a lot. A. Lot. 
  3. I really like watching documentaries. 
  4. I treat the R and L on my headphones as law. 
  5. I can, and do spend countless hours organizing things.
  6. I love watching movies with subtitles, even when they are in English. 
  7. My favourite punctuation mark is an ellipsis …

And now for my nominees:

I’m sure some of you have been nominated before, but I have discovered so many amazing blogs recently and I have some favourites that I wanted to highlight 🙂 🙂 

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