tomorrow

It seems that I’m making a habit of writing blog posts late at night when I should probably be in bed sleeping (or trying to sleep). But it’s ok tonight because I have the day off tomorrow (because I’m working on Sunday, and this is one of those nice weeks where HR lets the Sunday pharmacist take a week-day off).

Earlier today, thinking of tomorrow, I had this thought: tomorrow is completely mine. It was basically me reminding myself that I have an entire day to myself because pretty much everyone I know will be at work or otherwise preoccupied. It’s a strange feeling. It brings on a sort of nervous excitement, which is a weirdly wonderful feeling.

I’m not really doing anything exciting tomorrow though. I need to get a blood test done – a fasting blood test, which means I’m going to leave the house without having breakfast for the first time in …forever (?) Yeah, I dunno… Even when I meet up with friends to have breakfast “out” (which is incredibly rare), I still eat a bit before leaving the house.

I think I’ll also go shopping tomorrow, just for random things that I may or may not need, and have been putting off for a while. I’m not big on shopping usually. I don’t do well with window shopping, or the idea of wandering aimlessly around malls. I prefer shopping when I have a clear idea of what I want to buy. Now and then, however, I get this idea in my head that maybe if I just browse around, check out a few stores, I might find things to buy that I didn’t realise I wanted/needed. When this happens, it usually doesn’t take long before I’m completely disillusioned and realise what a terrible idea that was.

Well, I could just come straight home after breakfast tomorrow, but I feel like I’m in the kind of mindset where I need to be out amongst people. Not necessarily with anyone, but alone in a crowd is sufficient. I’m not sure if it’s related to the writing that I’ve been doing – this need to be amongst people so I can observe and contemplate the movements and mannerisms of others.

Either way, the weather’s supposed to be nice and mild tomorrow. I hope I can enjoy some sunshine. I’ll be thinking of the poor souls hard at work, counting down the hours until the week-end.

amalgamated

Alright, I’m going to quickly write this post now because I’m not going to be able to stop thinking about how I should write this post until I actually do.

Hmm… that probably didn’t make a whole lot of sense… or did it…?

No time to worry about that now. I just drank a glass of this “natural” sleep remedy thing, and it recommends going to bed in half an hour. Also, I have work tomorrow, and should actually be going to bed now. Just FYI, the sleep thing (which I will not name the brand of because I’m not going to promote it on my blog) was a free sample I got from a free training night. (Yeah… the perks of working at a pharmacy, hey?) And, well, I thought I should give it a go – if not to see if it actually works, then at least to find out what it tastes like and all that practical stuff. (I’m not going to go into the evidence, etc (or lack thereof) behind complementary medicines.)

(In case you’re wondering, it claims to be “natural vanilla cherry” flavour. However, it tasted pretty gross, and the powder didn’t dissolve very nicely, so it had a bit of a gritty texture. This tells me one of two things: either they got the taste completely wrong, or “vanilla cherry” is not a nice flavour to begin with. Also, possibly they didn’t test this product on a focus group or whatever people usually do; or the people they tested it on completely lied to them, or were so desperate for anything that might help them sleep that they didn’t care.)

Ok, getting back on track… What am I writing this about?

Sometimes I feel like I’m a bit slow to jump on bandwagons, or I just avoid them altogether (not sure if this sleep remedy has much of a bandwagon at all, so probably don’t need to worry about that). One bandwagon worth latching onto is that of one Jess Glynne.

I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve heard a new song, by someone new, which really sparked something in my mind. I think the first song I heard from her was “Rather be”, which was a collaboration with Clean Bandit. This was followed by “Real love”, which I also, umm, loved (and was also with Clean Bandit).

I just like her voice. It’s great, isn’t it? Another quick favourite was “Don’t be so hard on yourself”.

Well, that was basically all I wanted to say. No time to insert hyperlinks or whatever; it’s easy enough to find her on Youtube, anyway. Listen to some of the acoustic stuff. And while you’re there, check out some other stuff from Clean Bandit, especially if you like songs with energy. Honestly, I don’t really know their music that well, but after listening to a few songs, I feel really energised. I think they’ve negated whatever effect this sleep remedy thing was supposed to have…

a Wyld story

I’ve come to realise that three out of my last four posts are book-related. The one out of these four that isn’t is kind of just abstract thoughts, so not sure if that really counts, anyway. Upon realising this, I thought it’d be good to post something not book-related or reading-related …but then I just finished reading All the Birds, Singing, and, of course, feel compelled to write a post on it. So… I’m going to make the tally four out of five posts, but I’ll try really hard not to write more book-related posts next week (which, really, shouldn’t be too hard for me, since I don’t read that fast, so it’s not like I’m going to finish another must-write-about-this novel in the next seven days).

All the Birds, Singing is written by Evie Wyld, and is about a girl called Jake Whyte (yes, a girl called Jake) with a mysterious past. This one was lent to me by the same friend who had lent me her copy of The Narrow Road to the Deep North because she thought I’d like it. I must admit, when I first started reading ATBS, I was a bit unsure of her judgement on picking this book for me. I mean, there was nothing really off-putting about it, but I was just a bit confused. It took me a few chapters to really get into it, but the further I progressed through it, the more intrigued I was, and the more I wanted to keep reading.

The thing that impressed me the most about ATBS was the way in which the whole thing was constructed. The odd-numbered chapters are set in the present, and pretty much progress like a normal story. However, the even-numbered chapters (i.e. every alternate chapter) is about Jake’s past. But wait, there’s more to it! These even-numbered chapters detail events in reverse chronological order, so you are essentially going forward in the odd chapters while going backwards in the even chapters. This was confusing for me when I got to Chapter Four (i.e. the second “past” chapter), and the events didn’t seem to be following from what happened in Chapter Two. Clearly, I knew nothing about this book before I started reading it. At least it was easy enough to keep track of past/present, since the past is set in Australia, and the present is in England.

A good thing about a novel written in this way is that it really engages the reader. Well, I thought so, anyway. There’s a certain satisfaction to be had, as a reader, when you notice parallels or recurring themes between chapters; or when you find the places where the pieces fit, and the puzzle comes together. I reckon ATBS was perfect for this: after every “past” chapter, I was wondering how Jake got there, how she got to that point; and I wanted to find the next piece, connect the next dot. And you have all of this between the mystery that exists in the present – the one about who or what is killing her sheep (Jake is a sheep farmer).

The more I think about this, the more I like it. I’m actually really impressed with it. However, I feel like ATBS has a lot of abstract/hidden meanings throughout, and I kind of wonder if some of it was lost on me. The ending seemed kind of random – a few reviews I read on GoodReads complain about not having closure – but, at the same time, it just kind of seems right that it ended where it did. Still, there’s no real closure about what was killing her sheep (or maybe I, and other readers, just totally missed the point).

Something that I didn’t really think about while reading All the Birds, Singing, but sort of realised afterwards, is that it actually reminds me a bit of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent. They’re both about strong female characters who are flawed in some way, and have a traumatic past that is gradually revealed as the novel progresses. And both novels are complex yet incredibly well-constructed (Burial Rites alternates between first- and third-person).

And amongst all this seriousness, I still found myself smiling and laughing inwardly now and then. Not sure if Wyld was intentionally being funny or if it’s just the way I read things, but it meant that it wasn’t all doom and gloom. I found this sentence particularly memorable:

I’m not sure what I was expecting, to see the sheep dance gratefully around in the puny grass I’ve found them, but they just stand there, a silent little group.

That’s Chapter 16, after Jake adjusts the sheep pen at Otto’s farm in an attempt to give the malnourished sheep access to grass that isn’t dead. (Side note: sometimes the grammar was a bit confusing – not unacceptable, I guess, but confusing.) I also liked the part in Chapter 20 about the spiders coming out of the crack in the wall. Lloyd has some good moments too. I like Lloyd’s character.

Oh, and one more unanswered question, which I’m mildly surprised didn’t come up on GoodReads: why is Jake’s dog just called “Dog”? I also wonder if Wyld spent a lot of time listening to various birds in order to accurately create all the onomatopoeia she used…

my reading evolution

On the week-end, I made a trip to the library, and then to the book store. I wanted to browse the library before I went to the bookshop because I hadn’t been to the library in a long time, and wanted to scope out what books I could borrow so that I didn’t have to buy them (sometimes I feel like I own way too many books, but then I wonder if there’s such thing as “too many books”…)

(By the way, yes, this was the post I was supposed to write before I went off and wrote that tangential post instead. The preamble kind of ambled away and became the whole post.)

As I was browsing through the library and then through the book store, I found myself reflecting on the evolution of my reading choices. When I was younger, I read a lot of fantasy novels. I still read fantasy occasionally but sometime during high school, I started reading classics. In late high school, and then throughout my uni days, I think I started reading thrillers and sci-fi. I also went through a phase of reading action/crime novels, usually involving secret agents or something and very complicated plots.

These days, I find myself drawn to what I would call “powerful” books, or “emotionally powerful” books – novels that are masterfully written to draw out deep human emotion. These usually have some focus on human suffering – be it physical, emotional or psychological – and often (or increasingly so, anyway), coincidentally have something to do with war. (Of course, I still read more light-hearted books too. Have to have a balance, right?)

I used to avoid novels that were translated from other languages (because I was always a bit wary of the potential of a translated text to fall short of the beauty of the original, regardless of how well the translation is done), but now they make up more and more of my to-read list. For example: “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Marquez, “Snow” by Pamuk, “The Shadow of the Wind” by Zafon, and numerous works by Murakami – these are all on my TBR list.

Reflecting on the evolution of my reading, I’m actually quite amazed. If you had told my 12-year-old self, or even my 15 or 16-year-old self that I would move away from fantasy toward the books I’m reading now, I probably wouldn’t have believed you (or maybe I would have – I dunno, I was gullible and impressionable back then).

In the last two weeks, when I have made two trips to the same book store in search of books to purchase, I have, each time, wandered over to the YA/teen section in search of books by Brian Jacques. I think I went through a phase in my late primary school years when I almost exclusively read the “Redwall” series. There are a lot of books in that series, and I reckon I must have gotten through the majority of them. I know there are several I haven’t read, but it’s been so long now, I don’t know if I could remember which ones.

I’ve only ever been able to find one book by Jacques in the book store. It’s one that I’m pretty sure I haven’t read (it’s just called “Redwall” and might be the start of the series) but each time that I see it there on the shelf, amongst the random other books that never existed in my childhood, I cannot bring myself to pick it up and take it to the counter. It is always with a strange sadness that I put it back on the shelf. Part of me wants to read it – wants to buy it – but another part of me worries that I’ve outgrown it.

Don’t get me wrong, I think Jacques is a brilliant author (I was still reading his novels in high school too) but the beauty in his novels is different to what you’d find in the works of Marquez or McEwan, for example. The stories are still wonderfully constructed, but they were written for a younger audience, and I worry about being disappointed if I read them now.

But, then again, maybe I don’t need to revisit Redwall. Maybe the memories are enough. The “Redwall” series provided so much inspiration to me back then, and if I’m still thinking about it now, that must mean something, right?

My favourite of the series was probably “Salamandastron”, maybe followed closely by “Martin the Warrior”. I don’t remember the storylines exactly, but I remember that they were awe-inspiring, and compelled me to read more and write more. Hmm… maybe one day I will buy a copy. Perhaps not to read from cover to cover, but for sentimentality reasons, and for those days when I’m feeling nostalgic.

to buy or not to buy

In the last two weeks, I have been to the book store twice. Each time, I spent somewhere around an hour browsing and agonising over what book I should buy. I don’t really buy that many books (I know that’s completely subjective, but please take my word on that), but the first time was to use up reward points (including bonus anniversary points because I first signed up in the October of a previous year), and the second visit was to use a gift card. So, you see, they were completely necessary visits and acquisitions.

I always have a mental list of books that I would like to own, but I am also very conscious of the fact that I have very limited space to store all these books, and also very limited time in which to read all these books (I easily already own enough books to keep me occupied for over a year without needing to buy or borrow any books). As such, on each visit, I only purchased a single book. For those who are interested, the first was “Love in the Time of Cholera” (Marquez) and the second was “All the Light We Cannot See” (Doerr). I will be extremely surprised if I get around to even starting either of these before the end of the year, so please don’t hold your breath for a review/post on these.

There were plenty of other choices I considered (I could have gotten plenty more books with the gift card) but I forced myself to just select one each time. It was an agonising decision. At some point, however, I did have the thought that I must be pretty lucky if “what book to buy” is the hardest decision I am faced with today.

Apart from wanting to read the book, I also consider a number of other factors when deciding what book(s) to buy. Let’s see what sort of a list I can compile here…

  • Re-read value: If I buy a book, it should be something that I will want to re-read (whether I actually ever re-read it is an entirely different matter)
  • Share value: If I might not necessarily re-read it, I’d like to be able to recommend and lend it to friends, so, in making my decision, I also consider if it is a book that my book-loving friends would read.
  • Aesthetics: Yes, I can be a bit shallow when it comes to books. Of course, this criteria is less important than the first two. It applies more for books that have a number of different editions, and hence a number of different covers.
  • Library availability: If a book is always available at my usual library, I probably won’t bother buying my own copy. However, if a book is always available (or mostly available) but the book itself is really long, I will consider a purchase.
  • Friend libraries: Similar to above: If I know that a friend has a copy of a book I’d like to read, and I know they’re happy to lend it to me, I will not buy my own copy (the book would also have decreased “share value” since I wouldn’t really be able to share it with someone who already has a copy)
  • Text size: I don’t currently need glasses, but I feel like I’m going to need some pretty soon. Small text puts too much strain on my eyes, so I’d prefer larger text. However, I’d say this isn’t really an important criteria – more of a bonus than anything else.
  • Quotability: I may be more inclined to buy books that have gotten a lot of great reviews, or books that other people (maybe fellow bloggers) quote from a lot. Similarly, if I think that I may want to have a certain book on-hand in future so that I can extract quotes or just generally refer back to something, I am more likely to buy the book.
  • Potential sentimentality: I can be ridiculously sentimental sometimes, so I’m more inclined to buy a book if I reckon I will get attached to it (even if I never re-read it)

Well, ok, that list turned out a bit longer than I was expecting it to… But at least now it’s a bit clearer why I had to agonise over a book purchase for a whole hour. And there are probably even more criteria I could add to the list (but I won’t right now because it’s late (past midnight now) and I’m tired).

And, believe it or not, this wasn’t what I had originally planned to write this post about. This is actually a tangent. A tangential post. Hmm… maybe I can make that “a thing”… Anyway, I’m too tired to write the actual post now, so this tangential post will just have to do for the time being.

unsettled

I like going to bed knowing that I can sleep-in the next day because then I’m not worried about falling asleep quickly. On these sorts of nights, I actually like to lie in bed and try to stay awake, enjoying the serenity. Ironically (in a cruel way), it’s usually on these nights that I fall asleep the fastest (compared to nights when I’m trying to get to sleep by a specific time so that I can be reasonably awake for work (or perhaps some other commitment, but usually work) the next day).

Tonight, being mid-week (i.e. Wednesday night) is not one of these nights when I can lie awake listening to the sounds of the night-time. No, I should really be getting ready to go to bed. Actually, no, I should probably already be asleep. But I don’t think that’s going to be happening any time soon.

Well, not too soon, anyway. I can feel the sleepiness creeping up, but my mind is still wide awake.

And I just felt like writing something here.

I’ve been wondering…

Do I get attached to people too easily? Do I miss certain people more than I should? Do I take too many others for granted?

Maybe (?)

Forget unrequited love; any sort of unrequited sentiment can be painful. And it might not necessarily be unrequited, but it is unexpressed (or not expressed clearly), which can be all the more painful.

And at the core of every troubled thought, and also circling around like those little birds that appear in certain animations when characters suffer blunt force trauma to the head, is this one word: why?

I can feel that I’m starting to get a bit restless – I need to run.

What better soundtrack for pondering life’s troubles than the light tread of one’s feet, the deep rhythm of one’s breathing, and the strong thud of one’s heart?

Well, I’m not game enough to go out running right now, in the middle of the night. One night, I’ll go out for a midnight run, and then come home for the best sleep of my life, but not tonight. I think, tonight, writing this has been enough to soothe my mind. My thoughts are turning toward dreams now.