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Thirteen Reasons Why – Jay Asher

I have so many comments about this novel. Welcome to your tape. Don’t worry, I’m not going to go off on one of my Anna Karenina rants.

I wasn’t going to read this book. After reading the blurb, I had no interest in it. After reading the reviews, I knew the teenage angst would drive me mad. After being manipulated by my best friend, I read it anyway. It just so happened to fit into my “Book you can read in a day” category. I started reading it at 8 pm and finished at 11 pm. I’m a relatively fast reader, but I can’t imagine it taking anyone longer than a few hours.

Where do I start? I’m only 24, but I tried to tap into the part of my brain that could relate to how the teenage mind works. I highly recommend doing this before reading. Otherwise, it will be very hard to get through. I HATE that I am saying this, but I struggled to sympathise with Hannah at times. It sounds like I’m a monster. Who even says that they struggled to sympathise with a dead girl? Apparently me. Yes, some things happened to her that should happen to no one. There are also things that I just don’t understand. Why did she only try to befriend the popular people? Did she not realise that she was in a school full of people probably feeling similar emotions? Why did she keep putting herself in these situations? Also: why did she leave behind the tapes for Clay and Tony who apparently did nothing to deserve them? Didn’t she realise that it would leave them feeling guilty for the rest of their lives?

Those are just some of the reasons why I turned on the teenage part of my brain. Becuase teenage centre justified Hannah by remembering that she wasn’t thinking anything through. She clearly had little to no regard for what other people were feeling or thinking or would feel in the future.

I am still really torn on whether I believe that this book encourages or discourages suicide. It’s such a sensitive topic, and I’m always weary of how it’s handled. On the one hand, mature readers could pick up this book and realise that it’s showing the backfire of suicide. It’s showing all the pain and hurt that is left behind. On the other hand, some might think that it’s encouraging suicide by showing suicide as a viable option for revenge fantasies. The problem with this is that this book isn’t aimed at mature readers who would immediately pick up on the message. It is aimed at younger readers who may not immediately recognise the causes or consequences of Hannah’s actions.

I know that this book is such a hot topic right now due to the Netflix series. I just finished the last episode of the series and let me say that one of the only similarities between the two is the fact that Hannah left behind tapes to explain why she killed herself. I love to hate the series. I have a million things to say about it, but I won’t. I’ll let you judge for yourself.

Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy

I hated this book. I just thought I would come out and say it so that we can get all the awkwardness between us out of the way. I know, it’s a classic. I know, everyone loves it. I know, Tolstoy is a genius. Except for the fact that I suffered through this chunk of a book and finished it without feeling justified. I honestly think that part of the reason why people love it so much is because they are so relieved at finishing. Yeah, I said it. People have been asking me to read this for years. My reading challenge presented the perfect opportunity for me to stop re-reading Wuthering Heights and put a new classic in my arsenal.

Anna Karenina deals with almost every issue you can think of: love, marriage, adultery, faith, family, death, social class, gender issues, the list goes on. In my opinion, Anna isn’t even the main character. This novel should have been called “Anna Karenina (and Levin)”. I will say that the third person narrative makes the story easier to get through as it jumps from storyline to storyline. There are large chunks of non-verbal communication which give you insight into each character. I absolutely hate it when the characters are two-dimensional. Tolstoy swiftly avoids this as all his characters are incredibly complex and most of them go through some sort of character development. When you pick up Anna Karenina, it can be intimidating only because it is so dense.

By now I am sure that you think I’m heartless. You’re plotting my murder, aren’t you?

I do have sympathy for Anna. She was socially ostracised for doing something that countless men were doing around her. Through her internal monologues, I could see that she was clearly in pain and trusted in her jealous notions. That being said, I don’t find anything romantic in her abandonment of Seryozha. Isn’t part of parenting making sacrifices? I found Anna to be superficial, selfish and vindictive (okay, I can see you standing there with your pitchfork. I’ll move on). To be fair, I thought the same thing about Stephan. This book could have also easily been titled, “Look at Aristocracy mulling around leaving destruction in their path” (clearly Tolstoy should’ve asked me to help him name his novels)

I felt incredibly accomplished after finishing this book, especially since I didn’t find anything enjoyable about it. The fact that I had so much to say should show that this book will get you thinking. I can’t vouch for what kind of feelings it might evoke in you though.

*rant over*

Modern Romance – Aziz Ansari

One day, I picked up a Time Magazine special edition. It was about relationships-all relationships, not just romantic ones. Out of an entire magazine with the usual “Why your parents hate you” articles and “If he’s cheating, you should dump his (or her) dumb butt”, only one stuck out for me (okay, those weren’t the exact titles, but you get what I’m going for right?). The article was about dating in the modern world. About why our grandparents could meet and marry someone based on a seemingly irrelevant detail and why we now have access to everything we thought we wanted, but the divorce rate has skyrocketed. This article was well-thought out and researched while remaining incredibly funny. Statistics presented humorously? Yes, please. It turns out that the article was based on a book written by Aziz Ansari (the comedian) and a sociologist named Eric Klinenberg. Amy ended up choosing it for her “Written by a comedian” category, I copied her idea and we decided to make it one of our ‘read together’ books.

I cannot emphasise enough that this book is incredibly well-researched. It’s not just a book written by a comedian with made-up numbers and stats.

Each chapter in Modern Romance is about a different area of dating/marriage. He touches on online dating, dating in countries such as Tokyo and Buenos Aires, settling down, how married people are feeling, etc. Aziz presents chunks of information that would otherwise be difficult to get through in a funny and insightful manner. He personal opinions and observations add a quirkiness to each subject. For example, he consistently talks about his love of food. He states that sometimes his dinner research on Yelp is more detailed than the research that was put into his father’s arranged marriage. As someone who enjoys reading every review ever written about a place before eating there, I found this to be particularly amusing.

This book presented much food for thought. It invites conversation and gets you thinking. I am sure that you will enjoy reading about Alfredo and his unprecedented love for doughnuts. The actual text messages exchanged between potential daters will shock and amuse you. Whether you already have the person who makes you say crap like, “you are the lotion that moisturises my heart. Without you, my soul has eczema”  or if you’re single (solidarity, sister!), you will thoroughly enjoy this read!

Bossypants – Tina Fey

This week I realised that I will not get through my reading challenge unless I pick up the pace. I am studying for my Masters and working and sometimes I think that I chose the wrong year to do this challenge (rant over!) Usually I am opposed to audiobooks. It’s a personal vendetta that stems from my inability to pay attention.

Listening comprehensions in school? Struggled through them miserably.

Audiobooks are like listening comprehensions that you pay for. Yet, my lack of time has forced me into a corner. I used one of my free Audible credits to pay for Bossypants by Tina Fey. I figured that since it was Tina Fey, it might make the listening process a little eaiser. I listened to the audiobook while I was driving, washing dishes, baking and while I was just pottering around. I had to rewind relatively often because of my tendancy to “zone out”. BUT, I finished it. So there’s that. Any antsy people like me who can’t pay attention?

Onto the memoir itself. Tina is funny. We know this, or she wouldn’t have had such a successful run on SNL. I first heard about Tina Fey when I watched Mean Girls (don’t laugh). Bossypants runs through random stories from Tina’s past such has her friendship with lesbians much older than her and the time that she made her dad angry in the supermarket. She embellishes with her “Tina-isms” which I find hilarious, but I know that some people don’t. She links a good chunk of her content to the fact that people always ask her how she stays so successful as a woman and a mother. Bossypants reminds me of Mindy Kaling’s book. Which doesn’t make sense because Bossypants was written first. I digress.

There were definitely laugh-out-loud moments while listening to the audiobook. This book will probably not help you grow as a person or teach you how to be a comedian. It will give you a good chuckle. If you don’t know much about Tina Fey, but enjoy hearing short stories and anecdotes, you would probably enjoy this book too!

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Wild – Cheryl Strayed

I’m biased. If I see that a book is on Oprah’s Book Club, I’m less inclined to read it. I know, I’m so judgemental when it comes to books.

Wild was my exception. After years of only having time for academic reading, Wild was the first book I picked up for leisure reading. So when I chose it for my challenge, I already knew that it would be perfect for the ‘Book that takes place in the Summer’ category.

Wild is Cheryl Strayed’s personal account of how she hiked a large part of the Pacific Crest Trail (referred to as the PCT) after her mother’s death and her divorce. I can hear your groans already, but stick with me. Throughout the book, I was consistently amazed at how she perservered through a brutal trail with no previous hiking experience. At the time of my first reading, I had just moved to San Francisco. I was alone and hadn’t made any friends to spend my weekends with yet. So I took to the Bay Area’s many hiking trails. After my first hike, I thought that I would never return. My ignorant self had considered hiking to be walking in nature and didn’t realise that you can end up on one of the steepest trails if you don’t do proper research (I was THAT person). However, I quickly developed a love for a hiking and a respect for long-distance hikers. *enter Cheryl Strayed*

Her 3 month trek astounded me. Her account of her hiking injuries and nature scares kept me on the edge of my seat. If there were “boring” days on her trail, she left them out of the book. Her book is mostly based in her present where she is hiking, however, there are flashbacks to her past. She deals with her demons by finding peace on the PCT.

One of the most incredible things about Wild is the encounters she has with friendly people. She acknowledges these people and incorporates them into her memoir, showing how they helped her in her journey. I know reviews have criticised Strayed for being self-absorbed, immature, inexperienced and a ding-bat (the first time I’ve read ding-bat in a review, by the way!). She may very well be all of these things and more, but her journey on the PCT is recorded with such vulnerability that it demands respect.

“I considered my options. there were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go” – Cheryl Strayed

Destination Disneyworld – Part 3: Magic Kingdom and Hollywood Studios

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We went back to Magic Kingdom the following day and it was like the storm had never happened. The skies were clear, the weather was warm and Cinderella was doing construction on her castle.

We had booked FastPasses for Space Mountain (the best ride ever), Pirates of the Caribbean and for a meet-and-greet with Cinderella (at this point, we hadn’t met any characters yet so this was necessary). Ayako really wanted to ride Splash Mountain so we headed in that direction first. I had my usual pre-rollercoaster freakout and we made it through with minimal soakage. Riding the water ride in the morning was the best decision because we had the entire day to walk around and dry off. IMG_8981.jpgIMG_8987.jpg

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Stop at Sleepy Hollow for a snack

I was overwhelmingly impressed with Disneyworld. There are so many hidden gems. They have hidden scent-release things that transport you to other worlds. The sound effects and animatronics are amazing.IMG_9009.jpgIMG_9115.jpgIMG_9121.jpg

Pirates of the Caribbean was 100% worth booking a FastPass. As we went through Magic Kingdom, we really tried to get through as many rides as possible.  We also rode Space Mountain three times. The lines were oddly short during lunch, so we kept going back.

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I may or may not have eaten three of these in one day

The sun was so hot, that by the time we sat down to watch the Festival of Fantasy Parade, we were hot and sweaty and eaten more ice-cream than we thought possible. If you love Disney and want to see all the characters in one place, you should find a great spot for the festival. We sat down on the ground on Main Street. You should find a spot at least 45 minutes before the festival starts or you wont find a good spot. Main Street fills up quickly. After the festival, we ducked out and rushed to Hollywood Studios. I was excited to see the new Star Wars attractions. Ayako was excited to ride the Tower of Terror. We were crammed for time, so Ayako went off on her own and I had time to ride the Star Wars simulation four times! It was incredibly fun, although I felt slightly ill afterwards. Ayako and I rejoined to rush through the park. IMG_9138.jpgIMG_9140.jpgIMG_9139.jpg

We were waiting to see the Star Wars: Galactic Spectacular fireworks and dodging the rain. So we created a system. We rode the Aerosmith rollercoaster and booked a FastPass for it. Went on it again, booked another FastPass. And so on. We did this a few times and eventually the rain let up.

After sucking down more ice-cream and a pretzel, we found our spot for the fireworks.  Ideally, you want to near the Chinese theatre. The fireworks were beautiful, there was quite a bit of pyro involved. We trudged out of the park and back to the hotel. Our feet had never been more sore, but we were full and happy.

General tips for Disney:

  1. You need a few days. We had 3 days and we didn’t even put a dent in all the things you can do.
  2. The food is amazing. Even if you’re on a budget, set aside some money to spend on food.
  3. Ask for a pixie dusting at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique (it’s whimsical)
  4. Ask any castmembers that you see for a sticker (I gathered quite the collection for my travel journal)
  5. WEAR COMFORTABLE SHOES. Anything less than comfy will slow you down. We spent about 12 hours a day in the park on our feet. Do the smart thing. Wear good shoes.
  6. Don’t buy water. Ask for water from any of the concession stands. If no one had told me this, I would’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money buying water. Florida is hot and humid. Hydrate. But don’t pay for it.
  7. Have a magical time!!

Read about Part 1 and Part 2.

 

 

 

Destination Disneyworld – Part 2: Animal Kingdom

 

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Tree of Life

 

After a good night’s rest and a blueberry bagel, we headed to meet Trevor at our second stop (read about the first here): Animal Kingdom. The weather was humid, the children were screaming, but we were excited.

The first thing we did was go on the Safari. I’m from Africa. I’ve been on countless safaris. I can honestly say that the Disney safari was amazing! It looked so real. The animals are rescued and well taken care of. It would obviously be better to go on a real, authentic safari in Africa. However, for a theme park, they did a fantastic job. I would suggest either doing the safari first thing in the morning or getting a FastPass for it. The lines were insane. We jumped the queue. IMG_8906.jpgIMG_8900.jpg

Next we went through Asia and I mentally prepared to ride Expedition Everest. Here’s the thing about me and rollercoasters: I hate them until I’m riding them. The build-up to the ride is the worst! I stand in line fretting about the initial drop. I start feeling nauseated. Eventually I force myself to get on the ride and then I LOVE it. I scream and laugh and enjoy every second of the stupid ride. Expedition Everest gave me such a fright. My friends laughed at all my reactions, especially when the ride started going BACKWARDS! The decor leading up to the ride is beautiful. They have a story that leads up to the ride and everything looks like Everest Basecamp.

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Animal Kingdom is such a large park, I would recommend dedicating at least a day here. We didn’t have the entire day, but we got through a solid chunk of it.

I suggest wearing shorts and comfortable walking sandals. Your feet may get wet and sandals dry more easily. Book a FastPass for The Festival of the Lion King. Do not leave without seeing this show.

In the late afternoon, we quickly popped over to Disney Springs. We were only in Florida for 3 days and we tried to cram everything into those days. We were exhausted, but happy that we saw as much as possible. Disney Springs was really cute. There were lots of little shops and food places. IMG_8953.jpg

We then headed to Magic Kingdom! We knew that we wouldn’t have time to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks on any other day so we wanted to give that a try. We rode Space Mountain once and by the time we came out, it was pouring with rain. Magic Kingdom has one of the worst draining systems that I have ever seen so the walkways were flooded. After 2 minutes, we were all soaked through and our spirits were sagging. We rode all the “indoor” rides that we could find. We watched the Monster’s Inc. Comedy Sketch. The fireworks show was under threat of cancellation due to the lightning so we waited in anticipation for the announcements.

As we walked grouchily through the happiest place on earth, we decided to eat dinner. Disney’s delicious food picked up our moods a little bit. We had the BBQ pulled pork sandwich which was so delicious that I went back for it again the following day. Eventually they announced that the fireworks were cancelled, so we waited to take the shuttle back to our hotel and prayed for better weather. IMG_8956.jpg