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52 Books in 52 Weeks Challenge: April Reads (books 1-5)

I had decided to make sure I was getting the best bang for my buck sabbatical, and I had seen posts floating about regarding reading a book a week, for 52 consecutive weeks.

There are many different versions of the challenge, but as always I’ll just make things up as I go along.

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Granted, most start in January, but I have done my fair share of New Year’s Resolutions that had disappeared by week 2, so I was confident that it’s not the day when you start something but the action of actually doing it that matters.

I really didn’t know how many/little a book a week would be.

I’m usually in the middle of at least one and the moment it’s done I already have my eye on the next and dive right in.

Because I have periods when I can read all day long (I know, I love my life then…), I decided to take it a month at a time, accelerating when I could and not worrying if I could only sneak a few pages when RL stuff would pile up.

I’m not including books I’m reading for work or audiobooks, although I’ll mention any that are worth your attention.

52 books seems like a hefty amount, but by the time I chose those that I had been meaning to get to for a while, I was already up to 30.

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I think variety is key, so I shall endeavour to make sure I’m not just reading book from within my comfort zone (food/nutrition, steampunk, book series), but also take the road less traveled.

As I still have over 20 books to add to my folder, I would greatly appreciate your recommendations.

I’m looking for books that have somehow moved or influenced you, that have widened your horizon and were a bloody good read.

I’m trying to alternated between fiction and non-fiction, biographies and lighter reading, so give me your suggestions 🙂

Here were my choices for April as well as a quick review (which I’m pants at, BTW, so don’t expect much).

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First up, this one is a bit of a cheat as I had started reading it before I decided to challenge myself, but it’s too good not to mention.

Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked us by Michael Moss

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“Moss takes us inside the labs where food scientists use cutting-edge technology to calculate the “bliss point” of sugary beverages or enhance the “mouthfeel” of fat by manipulating its chemical structure. He unearths marketing campaigns designed—in a technique adapted from tobacco companies—to redirect concerns about the health risks of their products: Dial back on one ingredient, pump up the other two, and tout the new line as “fat-free” or “low-salt.” He talks to concerned executives who confess that they could never produce truly healthy alternatives to their products even if serious regulation became a reality. Simply put: The industry itself would cease to exist without salt, sugar, and fat. Just as millions of “heavy users”—as the companies refer to their most ardent customers—are addicted to this seductive trio, so too are the companies that peddle them. You will never look at a nutrition label the same way again.” X

AgzyM says:

I freaking loved this book.

Even if books on nutrition aren’t your cup of tea (or pound of lard, as the case may be) this is a must-read.

As a food/nutrition junky, I’ve read and watched my fair share of stuff regarding a healthy body and what to put in our gobs to keep it that way, but they have ranged from the boring, craycray to the right darn “how do we contact your mother-ship?”.

This book, written by a Pulitzer award winning journalist Michael Moore, had me fuming, both at the audacity of food giants, but also at my own stupidity and ignorance.

At first I regarded it as “something that was happening far far away”, until I recognized most, if not all, brands, which can actually be found at my local supermarket.

It’s not a coincidence that food giants describe their customers as “users” as the correlation between a sugar and drug addiction is disturbing.

The bottom line is, the companies care only about the bottom line, they will do everything and anything to get you hooked on processed food, at the same time defending themselves by stating that it’s what the customers want.

Rating:

This book gets the full 5 Armitages

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What I learned:

Almost every single processed item you buy is either packed with sugar, fat or salt, most probably all of the above.

Read the freaking label and make smart choices!

The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone

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“Amazon.com started off delivering books through the mail. But its visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, wasn’t content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become the everything store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To do so, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition and secrecy that’s never been cracked. Until now. Brad Stone enjoyed unprecedented access to current and former Amazon employees and Bezos family members, giving readers the first in-depth, fly-on-the-wall account of life at Amazon. Compared to tech’s other elite innovators–Jobs, Gates, Zuckerberg–Bezos is a private man. But he stands out for his restless pursuit of new markets, leading Amazon into risky new ventures like the Kindle and cloud computing, and transforming retail in the same way Henry Ford revolutionized manufacturing.” X

AgzyM says:

I love a good biography and delving deeper into the lives of people of success and as an huge Kindle fan, this book immediately caught my eye.

It certainly is a lesson in ambition, perseverance and vision, but also in corporate bullying and the disintegration of the work-life balance, about who little thought and sentiment is attached to the person when one only focuses on the big picture.

Although there’s an underlining feel good aspect to Bezos’s tale, ultimately it’s one that I had difficulty relating to my own life in a significant way.

Sure, you can have a great idea and strive to turn it into reality, but the fairytale shatters when you realize that behind the dream was a team of Ivy League and Wall Street professionals and millions upon millions of dollars.

Rating:

That’s 4 Armitages for this one.

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What I learned:

This book contains one of my now favorite quotes:

” It’s easier to invent the future than to predict it”

The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg

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“In The Power of Habit, Pulitzer Prize–winning business reporter Charles Duhigg takes us to the thrilling edge of scientific discoveries that explain why habits exist and how they can be changed. Distilling vast amounts of information into engrossing narratives that take us from the boardrooms of Procter & Gamble to sidelines of the NFL to the front lines of the civil rights movement, Duhigg presents a whole new understanding of human nature and its potential. At its core, The Power of Habit contains an exhilarating argument: The key to exercising regularly, losing weight, being more productive, and achieving success is understanding how habits work. As Duhigg shows, by harnessing this new science, we can transform our businesses, our communities, and our lives.” X

AgzyM says:

This book seemed to have been following me around for a while and as I have been contemplating my own repetitive habitual behavior, it seemed only a matter of time when my eyes and its pages would come together.

With great expectations comes… a bit of disappointment.

I found the first part of the book to be quite dry (lab rats anyone?) and although it may have offered some readers a light-bulb moment, I felt like I already knew a good deal of the information provided and what I didn’t know (the background to Fabreze and such) I was OK with being ignorant about.

The book also ended rather abruptly and if you were looking for ways to change your habits, it’s all summed up in the appendix.

Having said that, ever since I finished this book, I seem to be referring to it an awful lot in conversations I have throughout the day (yes, OK, I’m very chatty…), so perhaps this book has left a more lasting impression on me than I had initially thought.

Rating:

Good, not great

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What I learned:

There is no scientific reason why shampoo or toothpaste lathers/foams other than to give the impression that “it’s working”.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

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“Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle–and people in general–has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence–creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.” X

AgzyM says:

After the previous choices I was in dire need of a change and, although you should never judge a book by its’ cover, this one reeled me in.

It’s an odd book from the get go.

A strange combination of narration, emails, letter and such, it’s a seemingly ad hoc collection of bits and pieces of writing, but serve to create the main plot.

The plot is twisted and slowly unravels until we reach a (extremely far-fetched) climax, but all in all it’s a quirky tale that will have you laughing and squirming with embarrassment.

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Wild: A Journey from Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

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At twenty-two, Cheryl Strayed thought she had lost everything. In the wake of her mother’s death, her family scattered and her own marriage was soon destroyed. Four years later, with nothing more to lose, she made the most impulsive decision of her life. With no experience or training, driven only by blind will, she would hike more than a thousand miles of the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington State—and she would do it alone. Told with suspense and style, sparkling with warmth and humor, Wild powerfully captures the terrors and pleasures of one young woman forging ahead against all odds on a journey that maddened, strengthened, and ultimately healed her. X

AgzyM says:

I left this book for last and I’m so happy I could tear through it on a Sunday as I just couldn’t put it down.

As I’ve been going through my very own changes, I’m particularly interested in learning in paths that others have taken when they’d found themselves at a crossroads.

Slightly reminiscent of Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert, this story certainly packs a punch and has you both sympathizing and at times harshly judging Strayed’s decisions as she embarks on a mission to heal from a path of tragedy and self-sabotage that puts my own stroppy attempts to shame.

This story is inspirational and painful, and touching, and painful… and worth working a mile in the protagonist’s (too small) shoes.

I highly recommend it, that’s why I’m giving it 5 Armitages and I’m throwing in a Lucas bum because I really enjoyed it!

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Honorable mention:

Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead by Sheryl Sandberg

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“In Lean In, Sandberg digs deeper into these issues, combining personal anecdotes, hard data, and compelling research to cut through the layers of ambiguity and bias surrounding the lives and choices of working women. She recounts her own decisions, mistakes, and daily struggles to make the right choices for herself, her career, and her family. She provides practical advice on negotiation techniques, mentorship, and building a satisfying career, urging women to set boundaries and to abandon the myth of “having it all.”  She describes specific steps women can take to combine professional achievement with personal fulfillment and demonstrates how men can benefit by supporting women in the workplace and at home. “ X

This book has certainly been making quite a splash, although I very much doubted that I was the intended audience for Sandberg as I’m not a corporate worker, nor do I exhibit any signs of ambition and I’d loathe to be anyone’s manager (I have a pathological need to be liked…).

I ended up making my way through this book, a chapter at a time, with one of my students.

We’d look at vocabulary, flesh out key ideas and such, but somewhere in the meantime this book really connected with me, despite the fact that the author has clearly taken a different path.

I presume most people think I’m one of those women, those bloody feminists, but I calmly try to explain that the simplest form of feminism strives for equality, nothing more and nothing less and I really do believe that Sandberg is a kindred spirit in that regard.

The book isn’t perfect, but then the writer doesn’t claim to be either, so this book is worth checking out, if only to form your own opinion.

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 I’m already gathering up my books for May, so make sure to leave your reading recommendations 🙂

 

Times change and we with time… Ramblings Part 1

This post is OT to most things I’ve written and very much AT ( AgzyM-centric topic).

Be warned, it’s soapbox heavy and filled with honest ramblings that may induce severe headaches.

 For some, this may well be THE most boring post I’ve ever written (and that’s saying a lot!).

In other words, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’m indulging myself and I will be back with more reader-friendly posts once I get this chain of thought out of my system.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about change recently.

Whether it be inspired by news of new RA projects, each more demanding and different from the last, or the natural flow and ebb of the fandom, not to mention the stories of change that my friends within the fandom share with me, and I get emotionally invested in.

I’ve been going through my own bunch of (somewhat) cathartic changes myself, so let me bore you a little on this subject.

I remember my late teens and early to mid- twenties being governed by the need to go, see do.

I felt like my feet were on fire (no, it wasn’t athletes foot…) and as soon as I would come back from one adventure, I’d be planning my next big escape.

The mere thought of holding down a job for a longer period, getting a driver’s license and car, any indication of stability would have me in cold sweats, checking for cheap airline tickets to London or NY.

Fast-forward 10 years later and I was positively stuck.

Not that I knew it, of course.

I had a thoroughly cushy life, with I job that I liked (and still do), financial and emotional stability, a life devoid of too much stress or worry.

Sure, there were things I wanted, but there just came a moment where things were OK as they were, my life was somehow set in stone, the trajectory set, me obviously heading down the road that I thought was destined for me.

The thing about being comfortable, stuck in a nice not demanding life is that you have no impulse to actually stretch yourself, try new things, take a risk on the off-chance that you’ll made an OK life a Great life.

I was convinced 20014 would be a kick ass year, but it started out rocky by kicking my ass instead and things happened that doused me with a big old bucket of icy cold water to snap me out of the rut.

By the time I was processing what was happening, many things I had read and learned in the past 5+ years had kicked in (see, you should never give up on educating yourself…) and gave me the impulse and tools to climb out of my comfort zone and start working on that life I was sure would someday come, but was doing nothing about so someday would be now.

Although this is much too big of a topic to write about in one post, let me skim through the key points and share the smart stuff that helped me on the off-chance someone else may be feeling the same way and is looking for that wake-up call/guidance to jump-start their life again (because, you know, this is it, we only go once on this carousel…).

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Today I’ll be tackling a difficult issue: The Body

I’ve probably complained/bitched/worried about my issues with the ol’ carcass on a number of occasions.

Long story short, after countless attempts to get that perfect body, I was none the slimmer, none the wiser and hell bummed.

Diets? I have tried them all.

Who cares you feel faint all the time, at least you’ll pass out in a cute dress, right?

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I had reached the point where I was actually researching gastric surgery.

Sure, maybe that would be a way out if it wasn’t for the fact that no sane doctor would ever operate on someone whose BMI wasn’t even in the “obese” category (not to worry, I had a cunning plan- I’d just plump myself up on purpose for a few months prior to the consult, play the old “I have a bad back card” and hope for the best).

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In other words, I had reached a point where I wasn’t thinking clearly anymore and I had been disappointed, or worse still, had disappointed myself so many times, I lost faith in any ability to change.

I was so hellbent on focusing on my body, I completely stopped to thing about the ol’ noodle (and I don’t mean the noodles in a stir-fry).

If I’m going round in circles, doing the same thing over and over again, how the heck am I expecting different results?

feel crap – crash diet – lose weight – go back to old eating habits – gain weight – feel crap… and so on…

I realised I had spent so much time focusing on the results (and it’s hard not to when they are glaring at your from your mirror reflection), but I had never wondered why.

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I must admit I was quite fortunate- reading up on healthy nutrition has been a pastime of mine for a while, but I had never really implemented what I knew and here’s why:

I was a compulsive overeater.

Yup, I found it a head scratcher when Milka introduced a chocolate wrapper that you could seal up again.

Seriously? Who opens a bar of chocolate, eats a few pieces and leaves the rest for another day?

I’d eat little all day, functioning on coffee and cigarets, but once the evening feast began it wouldn’t stop till it was time for bed.

When you wake up and you are still digesting food, you’re doing something terribly wrong.

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Everything I ate was processed, came in a plastic wrapper, box or can and the living daylights processed out of it, not to mention a ton of crap added.

Overweight and malnourished/starved because you’re filling yourself up on empty crap is an interesting mix.

You eat when you’re happy and celebrating, eat when you’re sad, depressed, worried, stressed, eat to fill that empty hole and chase it with more food to clog up the hole being overweight has created.

Then you actually use your dissatisfaction with your body to actually not do stuff (added bonus- you have more time to eat…).

As I type out the eating sins of the past (and the list is by no means exhaustive!) I’m sure that at least a handful of you are nodding in acknowledgement of this painful truth.

I knew if I was to make any changes in my life, I’d have to start with my relationship with my body and with food (spoiler alert- the ripples of the change have affected many many aspects of my life…).

Here’s how it all went down.

I started to confront my eating problems and this is what has worked for me:

I acknowledged that diets don’t work.

Nope, not one bit.

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I have had countless arguments with people who swear by the ………………. (insert diet name) diet, they lost weight last year, so they will do the same this year.

If diets worked we wouldn’t have to spend a fortune, year after year, trying new low-this, high-that diets.

If you need to come back to a diet a year later, it actually means it did not work i  any meaningful way.

Chances are a year or so on, you’ve not only gained it all back, but I’m guessing that boomerang weight actually brought along a few additional kilogram buddies (hey the more the merrier, right?).

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What works is a complete permanent shift in your eating habits.

All of the slim people I spoke to gave similar answers to me bugging them about *insert whiny voice* whyyyyyy are you skinny and I’m not :

they eat breakfast

they eat when they are hungry

they stop when they are full

(btw, most didn’t even realise that what they were eating was considered a healthy clean balanced diet- they just saw it as food that fills the belly)

None of those points had ever occurred to me.

I started with tackling the problem of breakfast, which I have never eaten before, apart from those buffets in fancy hotels which I would hit with a vengeance…

I started out by taking vegetable juices to work with me and sipping them throughout my classes.

Belly full, vitamin/mineral intake- check!, problem of no time to sit and eat- solved!

I’ve learned that hen to eat is important, but what to eat is key.

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If you’re reliant on processed food, let me just urge you to read the book Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss.

I’ll be writing more about this book in a post for my April 52 Books in 52 Weeks post, but I am obligating everyone to pick it up.

This book made me furious, both at the audacity of food manufacturers, but also at my own stupidity.

Although I had already switched to a diet of 80% veggies and fruit by the time I read this, it helped me eliminate any cravings for things like Diet Coke.

See, we are hooked, we are processed food junkies and about 90% of the stuff in the supermarket was carefully designed that way.

No strong will, no inner strength? Bummed you let yourself down again?

Wrong and WRONG!

“Food” on offer is created to make you want more, keep crawling back (and loathe yourself in the process).

Until you wean yourself off the crap food corporations have addicted you too (hello sugar, salt and fat, my old friends), you are powerless to ever experience a healthy relationship with food and your body.

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Nowadays when I go shopping I have a clear list of what meals I’m shopping for, I start with the tea aisle and stock up on herbal ones, then I go to the nut/seed aisle, a quick stop at the diary and fish section and then the bulk in the fruit and vegetable part (OK, I usually stop off at the clothes section, my excuse- I’m not going to work in baggy jeans!).

You won’t see me in any other food aisle because those big wig food manufacturers are not going to rope me in.

I’ve identified my food triggers and have worked around them.

I’ve eliminated rice, pasta and grains as they trigger overeating, I buy fish/salad mixes that are a perfect serving for 2 so I don’t make the portions too big, when eating I stop every couple of mouthfuls to let my brain assess whether I’m full, I eat meals at specific times and I try not to skip any.

It really is so easy that I’m kicking myself for not getting my head straight years ago (but also feel fortunate I didn’t learn all of this 10 years from now).

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I make sure to eat a balanced meal- fish, an avocado, nuts/seeds, eggs at least once a week.

I experiment with veggies and fruit that I would never have tried before, stay clear of anything processed, avoid situations which can trigger me.

For those who suffer from cravings, I came across a very good method to free you from them, but make sure you do the following exercise a number of times:

Close your eyes and imagine your guilty pleasure, say chocolate.

How it feels, melts in your mouth, coats the tongue.

Then press your thumb and little finger as you….

 imagine that the chocolate had melted and strands of hair had melted in it.

Seriously, there’s hair in the chocolate stuck in the chocolate and with each mouthful of chocolate you keep putting hair, nice long strands of blonde hair, into your mouth.

(I’m gagging as I type…)

The next time you get a craving for chocolate, just press your thumb and finger and you should automatically recollect this nasty sensation (it works, I’m programmed for hair-filled crisps, redhead and onion flavored, anyone?).

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OK, enough with the nasty…

Some of you will be wanting to know the bottom line, the numbers, statistics, feasible results (and I’m much too vain not to mention them).

Before I do I just want to underline again that this is not a so-called “diet”, this is a complete permanent overhaul, so weight loss has been a side-effect to the journey I’m on which consisted of ridding myself of food addiction, of nourishing my poor starved body, boosting my energy so I go out, do more, experience a fuller life.

Since I eliminated processed food I’ve dropped 13 kg but just like you can never watch a kettle boil, this has very much happened in the process of other things.

I have about 4 kg to go to the weight I would ordinarily boomerang from (and, conveniently, the size where all my skinny clothes fit).

The plan is this: I shall still monitor my weight to reach that benchmark, once I do I will let my body decide which weight is the healthiest for me (for a change).

If it wants to go lower- great, if not I will be more than content!

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Getting into those jeans isn’t the only benefit of eating a non-processed diet.

I also have energy to spare (yes, for those who know me in RL, I can chitchat for hours more now without even breaking a sweat…).

I’ve felt so good about myself that I’ve actually done something I never thought possible.

See, AgzyM doesn’t run.

She’s freakishly strong and I’ve always known there’s an athlete in me even if it was somewhat weighed down, but running? You must be joking!

Well, the jokes on me as I’ve engaged on a 5k training to get me in even better shape.

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Yes, I have allowed the madness of Zombies, Run to wash over me and I am helping the settlement of Abel out while they try to survive the zombie invasion in the post-apocalyptic world.

Hell, I AM Runner 5!

This 5k app is the absolute bee’s (running) knees and it’s perfect for anyone who has never run before.

Seriously, you can’t run for 15 seconds (week one)? Have you ever tried?

It’s gotten MagzyM and I so motivated that we get up at 5.30 am to do the run three times a week.

On Friday I felt like Wonder Woman as I strolled in to work- on top of the standard training I ran 10 minutes non stop.

(disclaimer for those who run marathons, I know it’s not a big deal, but for me this was huuuuuuge!).

And let me tell you, this is just the tip of the AgzyM iceberg!

Changing the way I eat was just the first habit that I changed, but one that allowed me to wake up,  get back control, to gain the strength and courage to do other things, to start dreaming again.

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OK, I think I have bored you enough, but for those who are on their own journey and would be interested in watching/reading more, here’s a tiny list of things that may help you make changes:

Food Matters by Mark Bittman

The Gabriel Method by Jon Gabriel (requires a bit of an open mind)

Watch Forks Over Knives HERE

Food Inc

The Weight of the Nation

There’s another rambling coming along soon, so run, hide, save yourselves!!!

 

Happy World Book Day (Armitage Style), Bookworms!

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Happy World Book Day (unless you are either Swedish or British)!

I don’t know about you, but for me there’s nothing better than to dive between the pages (paper or electronic).

I shall be writing more about the 52 Books in 52 Weeks challenge I’ve decided to undertake, but today I wanted to have a peek at the books I’ve read because I am a raving loony Armitage fan.

Ya see, Richard makes us better people 😉

One of the first books I read inspired by Richard was Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South.

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I’ve loved the mini-series dearly since it hit me like a ton of bricks in July 2012 and turning to the book seemed like a great idea to squeeze a bit more from my beloved story.

True, Margaret has raven black hair and Thornton is described as a big unattractive Shrek (not really, but he’s got nothing on Armitage), but there are many delicious goodies that never made it to the TV adaptation.

Another book that I reached for was Tolkien’s The Hobbit.

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Although many of my UK and US friend remembered reading this book as children, I didn’t know who or what a Tolkien was until a friendly American bar owner in Warsaw told me about Gandalf and the world of the rings (while serving my underage a*se a bunch of drinks…).

Since then I feel I’ve done my duty to educate myself with regards to Middle Earth, plus I’m more than a little relieved that I didn’t kill off that many brain cells during my wayward youth…

Another book that I have started reading (and need to finish finally) was a book that Richard himself had often referred to.

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Penman’s The Sunne in Splendour follows the life of Richard III, from his youth to the Battle of Bosworth Field.

I can’t really explain why I’d drop it time after time having read a few chapters, it’s well written and I do have a thing for British history.

Sunne, your time will come…

From the books that are on my list of “to read”:

I’m still not ready to delve into the world of Arthur Milller’s The Crucible.

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I have no doubt that I will weave my way in and out of the story, but for now I shall leave it on my Kindle as a reminder of what’s to come, a source of temptation and delayed gratification till I’m ready to create my own emotional crucible.

Talking about delayed gratification, I haven’t actually got this next book:

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Urban Grimshaw and the Shred Crew by Bernard Hare

I can’t wait to get my hands on this story, although wait I must till the embargo on frivolous shopping passes.

This is just a handful of books that I’ve read after being prompted by Armitage, one way or another.

What have you read as an extension of your Armitage admiring?

A Discovery of Witches and a perfectly vampirical Armitage

I know I promised you the results of the RA Silent Auction this weekend, and I’m bursting to wrap things up and share the final tally, but I’m still waiting on a transfer from a winner who has just opened up her Paypal account and banking stuff is making her, me and us wait.

Secondly, my usual posts like Arty Farty Friday and Stereotype Sunday will be suspended for December.

There’s so much happening in the RA world, not to mention my trip to London this Wednesday and Christmas right around the corner, there’s only so much scheduling a blogger can do.

Last but not least, I’m very excited about the Berlin première tomorrow!

I wasn’t too enthralled with the world premiere (sorry LA), and I really hope that we Europeans can muster up some more energy and welcome The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug with less of a fizzle and more of a bang.

I’m counting on my RA friends to wave the flag, take plenty of pictures and report back 🙂

Matthew Clairmont Armitage

Rarely do I read a book and a character jumps out as one that would be perfect for Richard to play.

I’ve often wondered how I would feel about Elizabeth Gaskell’s North and South had I read the book first and saw the BBC series second.

Of course I’ll never know, but I’m pretty sure Armitage for Thornton and Daniela Denby-Ashe for Margaret wouldn’t have been my obvious casting choice and yet they worked perfectly in the series.

I’ve heard Armitage Admirer sharing which protagonist they’d like to see Richard portray on screen, but the one that stuck with me was the character of Matthew Clairmont  in A Discovery of Witches.

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The Debrah Harkess book had been lingering on my Kindle for some time, always “the next book to read after I finish the current one”, I kept overlooking it until a few days ago.

I’m not sure if all the fandom chatter that Armitage is perfect for Clairmont actually swayed my judgment, but holy cow, Armitage is soooo perfect to play the dashing ancient vampire.

For those who have not yet read the book (I’m in the middle of it, so no spoilers please!), you can find the synopsis here, but I’ll focus on why Richard would be perfect for the part.

By the way, the film rights to the book were purchased by Warner Bros., but I haven’t found any details as to what their plans for this project is, nor have I dug up any info regarding the cast, so a girl can dream 🙂

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Before my dear readers start complaining that I’d dare wish for Richard to be cast as a vampire, this book is not your run-of-the-mill paranormal juvenile book where girl meets vampire, they fall in love, he wants to kill her stuff.

Professor Matthew Clairmont is an ancient vampire who looks like he’s in his 30s and is gorgeous: very handsome and tall, with wide shoulders and narrow hips, athletic and sturdy.

Did I mention Matthew does yoga?

He’s a scholar, stylishly dressed in expensive garb who drives an expensive old car and is a wine connoisseur.

He’s also ridiculously charming and has the air of a gentleman from a bygone era.

At this point of Matthew’s description I think his similarities to John Thornton are obvious.

And it doesn’t stop there: Clairmont is incredibly protective of the woman he falls madly and dangerously in love with (or, as the book describes, he’s mating her).

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He’s enthralled with Diana, very much like Thornton is with Margaret, delighting in her scent and going out of his way to keep her safe, even against his better judgment.

He’s torn between his deep feeling for her, who he is at the very core and the danger his emotions could entail.

His passion for the woman he loves drives him half-mad, especially that it’s the first time he feels so strongly about another being, despite having relationships in the past.

A chunk of what I’ve read so far takes place in the Bodleian library in Oxford and what a lovely setting it is for the plot.

An Armitage aficionado will ask which of Richard’s incarnations best suits Clairmont physically.

The obvious choice would be either season 8 Lucas North or John Mulligan, but in truth I see Matthew just as Richard is now, out and about promoting DOS, with his comfy cardigans and Hugo Boss jumpers, his hair a little longer, a smile fixed on his face.

I can only hope, against all hope, that if/when the casting for A Discovery of Witches rolls around, Richard Armitage’s name will be included in the mix.

UPDATE:

If you would like to check out why Richard is perfect for the part of Matthew, go to Armitage 4Clairmont.

Add a little Steampunk to Your Summer!

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I’m still working on my thesis, but while I’m engaged, let me leave you with some book recommendations.

As some of you might know, I’m an avid reader, but I do tend to fall into one category of books, trying to read everything written by one author that caught my fancy.

Although most of my reading recently concerned my thesis (bless you Henry Jenkins!) or was fanfiction (again, bless you fanfic authors), I have also branched out to Steampunk books.

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For those who don’t know,  Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction that typically features steam-powered machinery.

It’s often  inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century, in an alternative history of the 19th century’s British Victorian era, American “Wild West”, or in a post-apocalyptic future during which steam power has regained mainstream use.

It’s often described as retro-futuristic and features anachronistic technologies, with elements of fantasy, horror or supernatural.

It sounds more complicated than it is, I just describe it as a vision of the future in the past.

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I think what draws me most about steampunk books is that they often have a headstrong heroin as the protagonist, one that has fallen upon hard times, struggles with the social conventions, but is resilient and brave.

I guarantee that these books will prove to be the perfect light summer reading!

They are action-packed and offer a delightful way to spend a beautiful summer day.

My choices may be on the girly side of the steampunk spectrum, but I promise you’ll have a delightful time!

Here are just some of my recommendations, so pop on those goggles, tighten your leather corset, get on board the next ornithopter, and set of on an adventure!

The Parasol Protectorate series by Gail Carriger

One of the first steampunk books came my way by accident, or marketing, whichever way you choose to look at it.

I kept passing a poster adverting Soulless on my way to work, and I found the cover intriguing enough to check it out (oh, the power of billboards…).

The series can be described as a  steampunk paranormal romance,  set in an alternate history version of Victorian England where werewolves and vampires are accepted as functioning members of society.

The protagonist Alexia Tarabotti is a woman with several critical problems: she is still searching for a husband, her late father complicates her social standing in a rigid class system, and she feels boxed into the conventions she must abide by.

There’s one more problem namely she has no soul.

The fact that she is soulless leaves her unaffected by the powers of supernatural beings which only further complicates her life.

The plot is juicy, even though I felt that with each book the author loses…errr… a bit of steam.

Nevertheless, it’s a wonderful read, packed with adventure and delicious machinery!

Magnificent Devices series by Shelley Adina

This is another series of books that I found utterly charming.

This steampunk adventure series follows the Lady Claire Trevelyan, born a Blood (aristocrat), but she has the heart, soul, and mind of a Wit (scientist).

The novels are set in an alternate Victorian age where the combustion engine has been a flop and steam-powered devices are capable of sending the adventurous to another city or another continent.

After a number of unfortunate events Claire finds herself the charge of a group of street urchins, and having to battle for survival, a warm meal, but most importantly her freedom.

There are four books published to date, and the whole series will include seven.

Don’t judge the books by their covers, there’s more to the story than meets the eye, and the characters lure you in to the point where you find

yourself rooting for them, even a hen called Rosie 😉

Boneshaker by Cherie Priest

If grittier is where you’d like to head, this book is definitely the way to go.
It’s the first novel in Priest’s Clockwork Century setting, although I haven’t gotten around to reading the others.

Here’s the synopsis:

Early in the American Civil War, rumors of gold in the Klondike have brought would-be prospectors to North America’s Pacific Northwest. Anxious Russian investors commission American inventor Leviticus Blue to create a machine which can mine through the ice of Russian-owned Alaska.

Boneshaker, instead destroys several blocks of downtown Seattle and releases a subterranean vein of “blight gas” that kills anyone who breathes it and turns some of the corpses into rotters (non-supernatural zombies).

A wall is erected to contain the gas within the affected part of the city.

I really enjoyed this book because it broke the mold of the other steampunk novels I have read to date.

We still have a strong female protagonist but expect no pretty corsets or charming hats with feathers.

The Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley

 

If science is your thing, but you could do without the sci-fi, instead you prefer a good old juicy murder on the side, I highly recommend this series.

It’s not a steampunk series per se, but the teenage protagonist Flavia could give Sherlock Holmes a run for his money and displays a love for chemistry and gruesome murders.

Not many 11-year-olds from posh families get to ride the countryside on their bicycle courting danger, but no one does it better than the more than a little annoying, but wickedly funny Flavia.

I loved the first four book and the last one is waiting for me like a delicious dessert!

The final book is yet to be released.

Yummy!!!
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I hope you enjoy my summer reading recs and as I continue reading, I hope to come up with some more 🙂

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