Starting Over (Again!)

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On Blogging

It might just be a sort of mental disorder, the starting over syndrome, one might call it… but I miss blogging (a lot), even though I still have many reservations about blogging again (sigh!).

A few months back I decided I wanted a clean slate and I started blogging on my wordpress.com account (see this post), but I have this quirky domain that fits me (and my life) very much and is actually printed on all my name cards so why am I wasting it? Plus, I like being self-hosted a lot better because there are less limitations. And so, here I am starting over again.

This time around, my plan is to slowly pull all my blog posts (and by all I actually mean ALL posts I’ve ever written, like all over the web, since the first time I started pouring out thoughts online, if at all possible) so that they’re all at one place. At the same time, of course, I hope to produce new content every once in a while (read: hopefully a lot more than before).

My current main issue is deciding on categories for all these posts and then how to lay them out in the menu, so if you’re reading this and you get lost along the way, I’m sorry. Renovation dust will be all over this place since I even went through a step that I might possibly regret (but was necessary), namely starting over with a fresh install on a new server — thereby deleting three blogs I had on subdomains before. My main regret on that is limited to the images, however, and I would probably be able to solve that since I do have the backup files (I think).

Alright, enough rambling, off I go to do some cleaning up again. Ciao!

 

5 Lessons on Relationships from “The Last Five Years”

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Movies / On Love and Life

From Wikipedia because I’m lazy:

The Last 5 Years is a 2014 American musicalcomedy-drama film starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan. Based on Jason Robert Brown‘s musical of same name, the film is written and directed by Richard LaGravenese.

last five years

The movie basically chronicles the love story of Cathy and Jamie in their five years together. It starts however with Cathy singing about Jamie leaving, then jumps to Jamie singing about their first night together… and so it goes, Cathy’s timeline moving backward while Jamie’s move forward until we get to their wedding day, and then we get the same moments told from the other’s perspective, ending with Jamie saying goodbye while Cathy recounts their first parting.

Presentation wise: mindblowing! Yet, none of the songs were particularly memorable. At some point they just seemed to fuse into one song… and I found myself walking out of the theater singing “For the First Time in Forever” — Yes, the Frozen song — instead of a song of the movie, which should tell you just how boring the songs were… and one or two of them probably sounded like For the First Time in Forever, otherwise why would I be singing that song??

Also, since the movie is about the ups and downs of Cathy & Jamie’s relationship, there’s really no clear plot/climax/message. Yet, watching it I was reflecting on my own relationship and realized there are very good lessons to be learned, as follows.

Lesson #1 — Being in a relationship means walking together side by side.

One of the biggest problem in Cathy & Jamie’s relationship I think was described in Cathy’s third song “A Part of That” in which she describes how Jamie drifts off to his own faraway land and while at first Cathy is happy because she gets to be a part of Jamie’s creative process, soon enough she sings the following lines: “And it’s true I tend to follow in his stride instead of side by side. I take his cue.” and eventually she questions whether she’s really part of Jamie’s world. And that’s the thing. For a relationship to truly work, both people have to be partners side-by-side. If one person feels like he/she is just being dragged along then you have a problem.

This is not to say that you both need to be successful, which seems to be the problem for Cathy: Jamie being a success while she keeps on failing. I think if a couple really are equals, then the success of one will not make the other feel neglected/invisible.

Lesson #2 — Being in a relationship means making mutual compromises and supporting each other.

This one was painfully obvious in the song “If I Didn’t Believe in You.” It seems that while Jamie tries to be supportive of Cathy, but he really has his dreams and career as his main priority. He seems to think that Cathy didn’t need to be cared for because she’s strong and Jamie says “If I wasn’t certain that you’d come through somehow… I wouldn’t be standing here now.” This song made it seem like Jamie was a nice guy who believes in Cathy and Cathy is the one who needs to fix her problems, but being in a relationship means fixing each others problems together, not soaring on while we let the other deal with their feelings.

No matter how strong a man or a woman is, the reason why she/he wants to be with you is because at some point they’re going to be weak and they’re going to need you to support them.

Lesson #3 — Being in a relationship means taking the time to make the other person feel special and important.

One of the moments in the movie when all the girls in the theater went “Awww” was when Jamie decorated their whole apartment to tell a story to Cathy and make her happy again despite having had an awful day. Well done, although at first I was about as pissed off at Jamie for forcing this girl who obviously needed peace and quiet to listen to his story as Cathy was, but okay, all is good in the end. AND YET… a few years later (though actually this scene came first), there was Cathy singing about how they could make the relationship work and Jamie went on to say that he’s going to leave soon and we find out it’s Cathy’s birthday. DUDE! You should be with your wife on her birthday, period.

Lesson #4 — Being in a relationship means keeping the flame of passion burning.

This is something that seems to be problematic for many people… at first you can’t keep your hands and lips and bodies off of each other, and then suddenly that flame is gone. And that’s when other people become attractive. No, no, no. No matter how old you get, be passionate about your partner. This is why you really shouldn’t be in a relationship with someone because you think they’re good looking because there will be a time when they no longer are, but if you love them for all that they are then it doesn’t matter how they look like, you will want to make love to them and be intimate with them all the time. And yes, that includes the time when you are no longer able to have sexual interaction. Intimacy and passion goes much deeper. But first, you have at least 10 to 20 years before the sex drive clears out, so make good use of it!

Lesson #5 — Being in a relationship means being honest with each other about everything.

If you feel like your relationship is breaking down, tell them. If you feel like you can’t take it anymore, tell them. If you are struggling with yourself because you’re finding someone else attractive, tell them! What are you afraid of? That they’d get angry at you? If you have a true relationship where you are equal partners who make mutual compromises, keep each other feeling special, are passionate with each other, then you shouldn’t have that fear. At the same time, if a relationship isn’t build on trust and honesty then you will not be able to do all of the other things.

You chose to be together, “try a little harder and bend things to and fro to make this love as special as it was five years ago.”

Let Go and Let God

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Reflections

We human beings are strange little creatures. It seems that because we are told that we have been created in the image of God, we end up thinking that we were created to be god(s). No wonder we become so frustrated in life, trying to plan our lives and then exhausting ourselves trying to make the plans work. We strive harder and harder to become better and better. We look for ways to gain more power, to control the world around us, the things, even the people. We compare ourselves with our neighbors and either boast at our superiority or sink in feelings of inadequacy.

But the Bible tells us:

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. 10 That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

— 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NLT)

We are not created to be god(s), so let’s stop trying. Let’s admit that we are confused, that we have no idea what we’re doing, that we’re tired, that we have failed, that we are in fact very very weak. Let go, and let God…. for in our weaknesses, God’s power shines through.

On Memories of Past Loves

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English / On Love and Life

Blessed are those who do not have many crushes and ex-lovers in their lives, for you are saved from the random moments when your brain decides to throw a memory at you triggered by a mundane thing.

Like the janitor’s new cleaning liquid that reminds you of the boy you had a huge crush on. Or a perfectly happy song playing on the radio that makes you cry because it was the song you once dedicated to someone on Valentine’s Day. Or a Facebook like from someone you once had a crush on who is now married with kids that makes you remember how sweet his messages used to be.

And don’t even get me started on how meeting up with a friend at a cafe gives you the chill or how someone’s text gives you a nervous breakdown because it made you think of that guy who turned out to be abusive.

What makes it worse is that you’re pretty sure you don’t have any feelings for these people any longer, but when these memories pop up it feels like your ground is shaken. It doesn’t make any sense, does it? To remember that you once felt something for so many different people? You question why it is that you remember this feeling, why it still makes you smile, or (in most cases) pierces your heart.

And then you remember that your past loves are lessons… every smile, every laugh, every tear, every scar, every memory, they are there to remind you what you’ve learned. This is why they pop up at random, it is when your brain decides you need a quick refresher of your course.

And you can look into the eyes of THE ONE and tell him:

“I’ve loved many before you in many different ways, they have shaped the love I have for you. Like a mosaic of different pieces, my love for you is unique, you remind me of all those I’ve loved before, yet at the same time I realise the difference. You are special, because you’re the last piece, the one that completes. With you, I will have a different sort of lesson, one that I have been prepared for by all the lessons before you, one that will never become a random memory, because it will go on until the end.”

Begin Again

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On Blogging

Let’s be honest. I miss blogging a lot. And yet, it is so hard to actually start again after you’ve stopped doing something for a long time. And then there’s always that issue I have on where I want to blog, how I want my blog to look like, who do I want to share my writings with and more importantly who would I rather NOT?

I had this brilliant idea a while back on having different blogs for different types of writing, so I could be a book blogger, a travel blogger, and a theology blogger, and a random everyday blogger, catering to my different interests with different potential audiences. It would also allow me to use all the different WordPress themes I adore, and probably make it a lot harder for people to stalk me because who would have time to search out all the different sites I have and read them all, right?

Well, the problem with this brilliant idea is… I do not have the time, nor the energy to keep up with them. Then there’s also the issue of not knowing where I should post something, and eventually I ended up not posting anywhere at all. And now I miss it terribly, and it’s so hard to begin again!

Nevertheless, here I am. Re-starting for the zillionth time in my life. Back to where I was: one blog for all. I decided to not change my address this time around because I kinda like having the same username all over my social media profiles, so might as well keep this one for my blog. I did however get rid (well, actually I put them to private) of my old posts, because it’s always nicer to have that feeling of starting with a clean slate. I might eventually decide to bring them back up again, since I did want to have an archive of all my writings on the web, whether profound or ridiculous, happy or painful. We’ll see.

For now, here I am beginning again. I’m hoping this time I won’t be stopping.

A Thousand Pieces of You (Claudia Gray)

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Books / Reviews
A Thousand Pieces of You Book Cover A Thousand Pieces of You
Firebird #1
Claudia Gray

Every Day meets Cloud Atlas in this heart-racing, space- and time-bending, epic new trilogy from New York Times bestselling author Claudia Gray.

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their radical scientific achievements. Their most astonishing invention: the Firebird, which allows users to jump into parallel universes, some vastly altered from our own. But when Marguerite’s father is murdered, the killer—her parent’s handsome and enigmatic assistant Paul—escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite can’t let the man who destroyed her family go free, and she races after Paul through different universes, where their lives entangle in increasingly familiar ways. With each encounter she begins to question Paul’s guilt—and her own heart. Soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is more sinister than she ever could have imagined.

A Thousand Pieces of You explores a reality where we witness the countless other lives we might lead in an amazingly intricate multiverse, and ask whether, amid infinite possibilities, one love can endure.

Let us all first admit that despite all our efforts to not judge a book by its cover, we all do, all the time… and this book is gorgeous! That cover is pretty enough to be an art piece. Front covers are not enough, though, we also judge a book by its back cover, aka the blurb, and A Thousand Pieces of You sounds perfect. This is why, considering that it might be some time until the printed book becomes readily available here, I decided to get an e-copy and started reading.

I must say it was a great decision. This book is sci-fi, thriller, and romance all twisted together. It was fast paced and so very intense, I found myself having to take a short break from reading after each chapter because it was just too much. I read all of it in about seven or so hours, short breaks included.

I went through some of the GoodReads review, and I can totally understand some people’s frustration. Here we have this complicated, mysterious, dangerous plot, and what the main character (also, the narrator) finds to be most pressing is how she feels about Paul. Or Theo. Or is it the other Paul?Umm. Yeah. More important matters ahead, Marguerite! I didn’t find it as irritating while reading though. In fact, her moments with Paul were probably my favorite scenes. And I was going through a period of utter disgust over romance so that is really saying something.

I admire Claudia Gray for her ridiculously brilliant imagination. The characters in this book go through five different worlds, all brilliantly described and connected. I was genuinely surprised with where Marguerite turns up in (especially the second one) and found myself looking forward to each world. And the plot twist(s)! THE PLOT TWIST(S)!! Brilliant! The whole science stuff were pretty sound as well. There is only one question I have though (this might be slightly spoiler-ish): if the Firebirds were set to follow Paul, then how did Marguerite and her father manage to go home? Hmm… okay, there’s probably a home mechanism on the device. But wasn’t the other Firebird programmed to Theo? Oh well, anyway, that’s the only reservation I have about the whole science part. Otherwise I thought it flowed quite well.

I’m a bit bummed that this book is a series though, because I have a feeling it might turn Divergent-ey with the second and third book being more action less brilliance as far as I know… (Still haven’t gotten round reading Allegiant. Meh.) The worse part though, is having to wait for the next book to come out. WHY? Why couldn’t this book just be a stand-alone? Oh right, because the evil guy is still out there and there’s a war coming up (see what I meant when I said more action?)

Review: We Were Liars (E. Lockhart)

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Books / Reviews
We Were Liars Book Cover We Were Liars
E. Lockhart

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

This book was June’s hottest item. I remember seeing it being praised on every other blog I visited. I wanted to read it so bad that I went looking for a copy at three different bookstores. I finally got a copy a week or so later. I devoured it in a few hours. The way this book is written, with its short, poetic sentences, definitely lends to quick reading. I know some people hated it but I actually quite enjoyed the writing style.

Having seen this book reviewed pretty much everywhere, I knew there was a twist coming, and I have to say I pretty much figured it out halfway through the book. I thought it was pretty obvious, but it’s most likely because I knew to look out for it — and I know enough psychology to know what sorts of terrible things could happen to you following a terrible thing that happened. That being said, the actual terrible thing that happened wasn’t quite what I thought happened. There was no way I could’ve imagined that was what happened, so that was still a surprise. Sort of.

Other than that I really don’t have much to say about this book. It’s a quick, enjoyable, fulfilling read — unless you get annoyed by (a) the writing style or (b) the narrator’s personality, because she is kind of annoying… except I felt terribly sad for her and so I tolerated her annoying-ness. Which is probably what everyone else in her family thought of, which is probably why she ended up being so annoying in the first place. Hmm. Anyway.

 This post is part of the Write On review-a-thoncreated and hosted by Brianna at The Book Vixen.

Review: If I Stay (Gayle Forman)

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Reviews
If I Stay Book Cover If I Stay
Gayle Forman

Just listen, Adam says with a voice that sounds like shrapnel.

I open my eyes wide now.
I sit up as much as I can.
And I listen.

Stay, he says.

Choices. Seventeen-year-old Mia is faced with some tough ones: Stay true to her first love—music—even if it means losing her boyfriend and leaving her family and friends behind?

Then one February morning Mia goes for a drive with her family, and in an instant, everything changes. Suddenly, all the choices are gone, except one. And it's the only one that matters.

If I Stay is a heartachingly beautiful book about the power of love, the true meaning of family, and the choices we all make.

I had seen some reviews for this book around but wasn’t really interested to read it, until I got a copy from my subscription to Literary Box, a local startup where you get a surprise book package every three months (or so). It was there and it looked interesting enough so I read it.

The problem I had with this book was that the premise of the book was all laid out beforehand. Reading it, I knew there was going to be an accident, I knew Mia’s whole family were going to die. I knew Mia will have to decide whether or not she lives, and in a way I sort of knew what she was going to choose because… well, there’s a second book!

That being said, I did enjoy the book — after the accident, that is. The first few pages leading towards it was just filler in my opinion. It was so boring I almost didn’t go on reading. Anyway, once I went past that part, a lot of emotions were in play, and it was weaved together expertly that you actually feel everything Mia felt. Except that now as I finish this review, which is almost six months after reading it, I realize I don’t remember all that much about it. I even considered lowering down my rating, but I guess I must’ve liked it more back then. It just didn’t stay (haha).

One last thing: I still don’t get why she ends up leaving Adam (I know this because… second book, despite not having read it yet). I mean… is it her love for music that makes her stay and decide to go to Juilliard? Because I was convinced it was Adam’s love that made her stay. I guess I’m a hopeless romantic or something… but I really, really don’t get it. I personally would’ve left this book as a stand-alone, but I haven’t read the second book. Maybe it’s good? Maybe I should read it. Maybe.

This post is part of the Write On review-a-thoncreated and hosted by Brianna at The Book Vixen.

 

 

Review: The Girl with All the Gifts (M. R. Carey)

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Reviews
The Girl with All the Gifts Book Cover The Girl with All the Gifts
M. R. Carey
416 pages

Melanie is a very special girl. Dr Caldwell calls her 'our little genius'. Every morning, Melanie waits in her cell to be collected for class. When they come for her, Sergeant keeps his gun pointing at her while two of his people strap her into the wheelchair. She thinks they don't like her. She jokes that she won't bite, but they don't laugh. Melanie loves school. She loves learning about spelling and sums and the world outside the classroom and the children's cells. She tells her favourite teacher all the things she'll do when she grows up. Melanie doesn't know why this makes Miss Justineau look sad.

This book. THIS BOOK! It’s my favorite book of the year.

I grabbed a copy after reading a very vague short review on Book Riot. The back cover intrigued me. I delved in without knowing much about the book, and it was a great decision. The thing is, a lot of people would shy away from this book once they know what it’s supposed to be about. If I had known, I wouldn’t have read it at all. This is why whenever I recommend this book, I tell people NOT to look for information about it. Don’t look at the categorization because it will spoil the book. And even if you have found out what it’s about… please read it anyway, because this book is about so much more.

I mean, the whole possibly spoiling thing set aside, this book is about love. Not the romantic kind of love, but love between human beings and how it manifests in different aspects of our lives. There’s the love between a student and her favorite teacher, love between a teacher and her most brilliant student, love between a scientist and her work, and the love of a sergeant to his men, his country, and his task to protect people.

This book is written from multiple first-person point of view which can be horrible if not done well, usually resulting in confusion of who’s narrating, but M. R. Carey does it splendidly. The voice of each narrator was pretty distinct.

The book is action packed but also full of feeling. Scenes from it stayed with me whenever I had to put the book down, and the ending… well, the ending was unexpected but pretty much perfect because any other ending would’ve been too cliched. This was just right. Devastating but hopeful at the same time. It was perfect.

This post is part of the Write On review-a-thoncreated and hosted by Brianna at The Book Vixen

Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Read In 2014

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Top Ten Tuesdays

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

toptentuesday

Top Ten Books I Read in 2014

I’m being lazy and grabbed these off my five-star shelf on GoodReads, except I kinda re-ordered it according to how much I loved it. Also, I had 12 five-star reads this year, so I let Eleanor & Park and The Book Thief go. They get too much attention anyway 😉

  1. The Girl With All the Gifts (M.R.Carey)
  2. The Girl Who Never Was (Skylar Dorset)
  3. The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern)
  4. Tiny Beautiful Things (Cheryl Strayed)
  5. Cinder (Marissa Meyer)
  6. Cress (Marissa Meyer)
  7. The Survival Kit (Donna Freitas)
  8. Room (Emma Donoghue)
  9. The Giver (Lois Lowry)
  10. The Boy With the Hidden Name (Skylar Dorset)