5 weeks to Christmas!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year, or something! Christmas sweets have been in the shops for two months now, London has switched on its Christmas lights, some cities in NRW have opened their Christmas market and most others are following suit on Monday. 

Love Actually - 5 weeks to Christmas

It’s time to pretend we still get snow in winter instead of sleet that melts into grey slush within an hour, deck the halls with cheap-o plastic decoration and binge-drink mulled wine. Honestly, I’m so pumped!
Well, actually, if Christmas and I were Facebook official (do people still do that these days?), our status would be “it’s complicated”. I love, love, love the season, but the last couple of years it has been marked by depression – which always gets worse in autumn and winter, hellooo, seasonal depression – and some Christmas memories are hard to look back on. I’m not that good at letting go of things.

But fuck that noise, it’s Christmas time, and no depression, horrible weather or Grinches and Scrooges in my immediate surroundings are gonna get me down! Imma bust out my ukulele, dust off my festive cookie cutters, and, well, as mentioned above, throw around lots of tacky decoration and drink kiddy punch by the gallon!

I’m actually thinking about doing Vlogmas again, but I have no idea if I’ll go through with it. It’s a lot of work and destined to be very boring, as I’ve got even less going on in my life than last year and am much more of a recluse. Either way, here’s to five weeks of holiday fun!

in Life.

{health update} Yup, still not doing great.

I’m in the midst of realising that social media and mental health are so, so hard to balance, especially if you’re trying to grow a following (yeah, I know, numbers don’t matter, bla bla). You don’t wanna wallow in self-pity and exhibit defeatist ‘debby downer’ attitudes, but you also don’t want to be dishonest. Or silent. Because, growth. Consistency. Showing up.
I’m not good at any of those things.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve lost my job. Well, I shouldn’t say lost my job, my contract just wasn’t extended, which is a thing that happens sometimes. But I also wasn’t told in the nicest way (or time frame).
Which is bad, because my (former) boss is (was?) my favourite professor, that I’m meant to have classes with this semester (starting next week). And my ex-colleagues are lecturers – that I’m also meant to have classes with this semester. Cue me being paralysed at the thought of facing them. I’m embarrassed and ashamed. Add to that the fact that I’m 25, already in my sixth semester and wahahaaay behind in my studies (which there are plenty of reasons for, as I try to remind myself, but it’s no use), and I am seriously considering dropping my degree. Which would make it the next item in a long list of things I’ve wasted my time on and ended up dropping (a gap year. My first uni. My year abroad. This uni.)

I also don’t know how to get help (I’m currently barred from getting a therapist financed through health care for another year because I’ve “finished” therapy a year ago and am thus officially declared “healthy”) or who to talk to (my friends are aware and somewhat sympathetic, but they also have their own lives to worry about and check in less and less, can’t blame ’em, and I’m also absolutely brilliant in alienating them or involuntarily switching to a happy(-er) mask as soon as someone else is present). I have a lot of options rattling down in my head, but all of them get stuck in some sort of vicious circle where I can’t get help without money, but also can’t get money (i.e. a job) without having help.

There’s no uplifting or educational moral to this story. I’ve had bad experience with sharing my mental health struggles openly online in the past, but I’ve obviously not learnt my lesson, eh! I’d love to say that things may be shit right now, but I’m confident they’ll get better, if I only work hard and keep at it. But I can’t, because that’d be a lie.

Three Months in Book Reviews: Quarterly Recap 3/2016

Book Reviews Summer 2016 - daneesaur.co.ukI’m currently reading six books at once. Six. Granted, some of those are ones I haven’t actually touched in weeks, but when I do pick them up again, I won’t start at the beginning. And I’ll be honest, although sometimes it makes be a bit anxious to have that big number S I X staring at me on my Goodreads profile, I quite enjoy having something to fall back on when the book I’m reading can’t hold my attention. I’m kind of living after Sanne‘s example here, I guess. And I definitely feel that her tip to read at least 50 pages of a book before moving on to another one certainly helps.

This quarter is the one where I managed to complete my Goobadge-home-completed-1736dedbcd3c31946d5b98bb506c1051dreads Reading Challenge 2016! And the year’s not over yet! I’m happy — last year I’d only read 16 books the entire year, which now feels such a tiny, insignificant number. I feel like the world of books has welcomed me back at last! Maybe, just maybe, I’ll have a crack at the 50 books challenge in 2017. Whew.

For the first time in a long time, I also finished a book in one sitting. Two books, actually. Or one and a half sittings, I should say — I did dare to sleep in between. I started both Everything, Everything and Eleanor & Park late-ish at night, went to bed, woke up and immediately started reading again, not stopping until I’d finished. I think the last time I properly did this was still in Harry Potter days?

To jump quickly to a specific book, here’s a helpful list:
Tanea: Am Großen Fluss | Tanea: Der Clan der Wölfe | Outlander | FangirlEverything, Everything | The Last Star | Eleanor & Park | Landline | More Than This | Room | Attachments

Tanea: Am Großen Fluss | ★★★★☆ 4/5

Tanea am Großen Fluss - Book review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Isolde Heyne
Publisher: Loewe
Pages: 185
Published: 1994
Genre: Children’s Fiction

Tanea, daughter of wolves, doesn’t want to go the bear clan at the Great River. But her foster-father Ezuk wants to leave her in the hands of her mother, the healer of the clan. The people at the river are wary of her – apart from Henek, the son of Ezuk’s enemy. But will the love between Tanea and Henek have a future? (translated blurb)

I was scouring my old bookshelf at my mum’s place, looking for something my nephew could read, and came across one of my favourites from my childhood. It’s about an 11-year-old girl in the Stone Age and her journey towards becoming a healer and a woman. It’s actually the second part of a trilogy, but I found this and the next volume in a sale and, to this day, haven’t got my hands on the first part. Might hunt it down online though! Reading the story back now, it makes me hugely uncomfortable that she’s just an eleven year old kid and so many horrible things happen to her that are just glossed over. But that’s what you get for reading about a primitive age, right? Right? I think this was the first book that spiked my interest in botany and prehistoric times, and, like many other things, that interest kind of fizzled out again over the years, only to resurface during the last couple of months. It certainly holds a very special place in my heart.

Tanea: Der Clan der Wölfe| ★★★★☆ 4/5

Tanea - Der Clan der Wölfe - book review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Isolde Heyne
Publisher: Loewe
Pages: 184
Published: 1995
Genre: Children’s Fiction

Tanea has finally found the wolf clan. But there’s a bad surprise waiting for her: Jaka, her nemesis, has become the leader of the clan. And we will not allow her to undermine his authority. But Tanea is not only self-confident and fearless, she is also a healer. And someone like that is desperately needed by the people of the wolf clan … (translated blurb)

Having read the other Tanea book, I immediately continued with the next one. Out of the two, this had always been my favourite when I was a kid, and that feeling carried through to today. More botany, more healing, more prehistoric peculiarities. … more creepy events that should never happen to an eleven or twelve-year-old kid, Stone Age or not. I remember that I was actually kind of creeped out by it as a kid already, so yay me, perhaps? Still, love these books. They’re now sitting on my nephew’s shelf, waiting to be read.

Outlander (Outlander #1) | ★★★★☆ 4/5

Outlander - book review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Diana Gabaldon
Publisher: Dell Publishing Company
Pages: 896
Published: June 1st, 1991
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Goodreads | Bookdepository

The year is 1945. Claire Randall, a former combat nurse, is just back from the war and reunited with her husband on a second honeymoon when she walks through a standing stone in one of the ancient circles that dot the British Isles. Suddenly she is a Sassenach—an “outlander”—in a Scotland torn by war and raiding border clans in the year of Our Lord…1743. Hurled back in time by forces she cannot understand, Claire is catapulted into the intrigues of lairds and spies that may threaten her life, and shatter her heart. For here James Fraser, a gallant young Scots warrior, shows her a love so absolute that Claire becomes a woman torn between fidelity and desire—and between two vastly different men in two irreconcilable lives. (Goodreads)

I saw the adaptation of this suggested to me on Netflix, remembered seeing it reblogged onto my Tumblr dash, gave it a go … and fell in love. I also remembered that my sister-in-law is utterly obsessed with it, and that my mum owns all volumes. After watching the first season back three times, I gave the original a go. And I have to say … some things, especially in the domestic violence department, made me so angry in the book. I think the show handled those topics much better, which may be helped by the fact that it’s being produced 23 years after the novel. Y’know, fair enough. Other than that, despite Outlander-the-show being astoundingly close to the book, of course the characters are a lot more fleshed out in the book, especially Claire, whose struggle to adapt to 18th century medicine is much more believable here. And she’s a lot less whiny/dramatic and much more sassy. Which is exactly how I like her. Good job, Ms Gabaldon, I really like your writing style!

Fangirl | ★★★★☆ 4/5

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - - book review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Rainbow Rowell
Publisher: Pan Macmillan
Pages: 461
Published: September 10th, 2013 
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
Goodreads | Bookdepository

Cath and Wren are identical twins, and until recently they did absolutely everything together. Now they’re off to university and Wren’s decided she doesn’t want to be one half of a pair any more – she wants to dance, meet boys, go to parties and let loose. It’s not so easy for Cath. She’s horribly shy and has always buried herself in the fan fiction she writes, where she always knows exactly what to say and can write a romance far more intense than anything she’s experienced in real life. Now Cath has to decide whether she’s ready to open her heart to new people and new experiences, and she’s realizing that there’s more to learn about love than she ever thought possible … (Goodreads)

Oh Cath. Cath Cath Cath. I’ve wanted to read this book ever since Leena said that it’s the book that made her understand fangirls. I’m involved in fandom culture, and aeons ago I have actually written my own really, really bad self-insert fanfiction that will never see the light of day, but nowadays I hardly read any. So in a way, I’m halfway between Leena’s approach and, say, my friend Anna’s approach to Fangirl and Cath as a character. Cath writes fanfiction about “Simon Snow”, the Harry Potter of their universe (no, really, down to the wizarding school, the Chosen One who gets mentored by the headteacher and has an intelligent best friend and a fairly stuck-up nemesis, etc etc).  I must say, in a way, this is a very generic young adult book; it doesn’t really get social anxiety right (probably because socially anxious people who are actually incapable of making friends and not having anyone gently forcing their friendship onto them is not really entertaining to read about), but it gets close; the romance is super predictable (as in, I called it the first time the character shows up in the novel). That being said, “generic” as it may be, the formula works, and in this instance, it does so so very, very well. I’ve read Carry On before this one and already loved Rainbow’s writing style, and this book just furthered that impression. I’d have given this 4.5 stars on Goodreads if I could have, because I loved it and it almost completely hit the mark for me. One thing that really threw me off, though, is that apparently, Harry Potter exists in this universe as well. I can’t possible imagine how the Harry Potter and Simon Snow franchises can exist alongside each other.

Continue reading

The Good Hood, Bielefeld

the good hood bielefeld at daneesaur.co.uk
the good hood bielefeld at daneesaur.co.uk
the good hood bielefeld at daneesaur.co.uk

This lovely little place, the good hood, is a new restaurant that has opened in central Bielefeld. There are a lot of areas in town that are dull and grey, where you’re convinced nothing interesting will happen. And suddenly stuff changes. One such place is a former electronics shop not far from the train station, wedged between the railway and an overpass. It’s been abandoned since before I’ve moved here, and then suddenly: construction! Then: tables! Chairs! A new restaurant!

New places to eat are always exciting, especially since my former watering hole and safe space closed down a couple of months ago (which, by the way, I still haven’t found an adequate replacement for. Yes, I’m gutted. I don’t want to talk about it.)

It has apparently turned into a mixture of a restaurant and a club; I’m not too fond of clubbing (plus according a friend, they “don’t play any good techno”), but I did venture out with my mama for some good ol’ grub.

the good hood bielefeld at daneesaur.co.ukThe food they serve is freshly homemade — because I am me, I ordered the veggie burger, made with a tempeh patty, corn salad, cucumber, tomato, bbq sauce, and wasabi mayo (well, I subbed it for a lime-ginger one). Plus a side of sweet potato fries and a peanut dip. The burger was smaller than I’d expected, but all of that did only cost €8.50, soo I’m not complaining.

The chai I had was a bit more expensive than the average in town, but only by maybe 30 ct. And there’s not much to say about it; as far as I can tell, it’s the same kind of powder mix you get in most cafés (i.e. David Rio chai), and I don’t mind it at all. It was as good as anywhere else. They do charge more for dairy-free milk, which is a drag.

One thing that is definitely missing from the menu so far is any kind of dessert. Seriously. There’s nothing. All the small dishes that you might want to have if you just nip in for a coffee or so are savoury. They definitely need some sweet stuff. Plus, it says nowhere on the menu that they’re only serving the burgers from 5:00pm, which is a bit of an oversight as well.

What I adore about this place though is the decoration; there are flamingos everywhere. Well, flamingos are all over the shops at the moment as well, but I don’t mind that at all, I like them. There are a lot of cozy seats tucked into corners, some tables outside (and although it’s right by two noisy streets, it’s actually quite nice) and nice big windows.

All in all I’m excited about the good hood, and can’t wait to order my way through their menu. The curry sounds enticing. And if they actually decide to do some cakes and stuff, I will definitely come back.

in Food.

Three Months in Books: Quarterly Recap 2/2016

So remember when I was all “oh god, I’m reading too many books, I need to do monthly reviews instead so things don’t get too stuffed”? Yeah well, about that. I actually haven’t read that much these past three months. And as I’ve also missed the point to publish the reviews for April, I just decided imma rope them together for a quarterly thing again. So here we are!

The Infinite Sea (5th Wave Pt 2) | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

The Infinite Sea review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Rick Yancey
Publisher: Penguin Books
Pages: 300
Published:  16 September 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopia
Goodreads | Bookdepository

Surviving the first four waves was nearly impossible. Now Cassie Sullivan finds herself in a new world, a world in which the fundamental trust that binds us together is gone. As the 5th Wave rolls across the landscape, Cassie, Ben, and Ringer are forced to confront the Others’ ultimate goal: the extermination of the human race.
Cassie and her friends haven’t seen the depths to which the Others will sink, nor have the Others seen the heights to which humanity will rise, in the ultimate battle between life and death, hope and despair, love and hate. (Goodreads)

This is the second part of Rick Yancey’s 5th Wave trilogy (here’s what I wrote about the first book). And it was … okay? I enjoyed coming back to the characters, and following their plots, but I felt this very much suffered from middle-book-syndrome, in that not an awful lot happens. It was an enjoyable read for sure, but ultimately it felt more like it was something to tide you over until the last book is released (which is out now, by the way! I would have bought it already if the only edition that’s out right now doesn’t fit the first two volumes … gotta think about my bookshelf aesthetics!!). A thing that I didn’t appreciate very much – mild spoilers ahead – is the cattiness between Cassie and Ringer. If anything, I want to see women (or girls in particular) stick together in a survival situation, and not be distracted by irrelevant personal stuff to bicker about. It seems to be mostly that Cassie feels like Ringer thinks she’s stupid, while Ringer, intelligent as she is in all other regards, simply doesn’t have the social prowess to be more tactful. I would like the girls to get over their differences in The Last Star.

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Marie Kondō, Translation by Cathy Hirano
Publisher:  Vermilion
Pages: 248
Published: 3 April 2014
Genre: Non-Fiction, Self-Help
Goodreads | Bookdepository

Transform your home into a permanently clear and clutter-free space with the incredible KonMari Method. Japan’s expert declutterer and professional cleaner Marie Kondo will help you tidy your rooms once and for all with her inspirational step-by-step method.
The key to successful tidying is to tackle your home in the correct order, to keep only the things you really love and to do it all at once – and quickly. After that for the rest of your life you only need to choose what to keep and what to discard. (Goodreads)

Life-Changing? I don’t know. If you subscribe to this particular brand of minimalism and ‘professionalism’, then sure, yeah, I can imagine this book to be life-changing indeed. For me, it definitely inspires me to look at the things I own in a different light, and think about what I really want to keep, outside of emotional attachments or a distorted sense of responsibility towards old, useless gifts. Where it falls short, I think, is that it was ultimately written for a Japanese audience, and some things (like talking to your clothes, thanking them for their day’s work) seem a bit “wacky” for Western readers – and it’s also a bit elitist and judgmental at times. There’s a section where Marie Kondo pities a woman who she sees outside in slacks, saying she must not be very happy with her life/herself if she walks around like that in public. Excuse me? I gotta say, I didn’t really expect body shaming (or fashion choice shaming?) in a book about decluttering …
While I don’t think the ‘Konmari’ method as a whole is for me, I’ve definitely been taking some pointers from it in order to think about what I bring into my house/room/life.

We Were Liars | ★★★☆☆ 3/5

We Were Liars review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: E. Lockhart
Publisher:  Hot Key Books
Pages: 227
Published: 13 May 2014
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery
Goodreads | Bookdepository

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. (Goodreads)

Oh man, so people have been raving about this book that I’m almost sad I can’t join them. It annoys me when a novel has a big Twist (with a capital T), and I call it midway through – the rest of the story just gets annoying, because the narration feeds you a bazillion instances of “oh no I can’t possibly give you the whole story now”. Something like this is great when it toys with your perception successfully, but when it doesn’t, it just gets exhausting to read. It’s kind of like this bigger kid that stole your … idk, your book, and holds it up too high so you can’t even reach it if you jump. You know the conclusion (or think you do), you can see it right there, but they refuse to give it to you and hold it just out of your reach, so all you can do is either give up and walk away, annoyed, or keep on jumping to catch it, err, I mean, keep on reading. On top of that – and maybe this is where I just fall short on empathy – I am just not that interested in reading about a bunch of privileged white rich kids (with one notable exception) and their problems, which all surround the fact that they are part of privileged white families that need to uphold a “good image”. Talk about first world problems. (That those first world problems can also end in heartbreaking tragedies is another thing.)

Feed | ★★★★☆ 4/5

FEED review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Mira Grant
Publisher:  Orbit
Pages: 599
Published: 1 May 2010
Genre: Science Fiction, Zombies, Dystopia
Goodreads | Bookdepository

The year was 2014. We had cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we created something new, something terrible that no one could stop.
The infection spread, virus blocks taking over bodies and minds with one, unstoppable command: FEED. Now, twenty years after the Rising, bloggers Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives – the dark conspiracy behind the infected.
The truth will get out, even if it kills them. (Goodreads)

I’ve read this book because my lecturer mentioned it as a nice supplementing read for our class on “Approaches to Zombie Culture”. (I’m doing a class on zombie narratives this semester, how cool is that??). And I’m far from disappointed! For me personally, this is a bit of a mix of the Gilmore Girls (if only for the fact that the bloggers join the press convoy of a Presidential candidate, much like Rory Gilmore at the end of season 7), Scandal (cause it’s all about a Good™ Republican presidential candidate and lots of intrigue) and, well, zombies. It’s well-written, engaging, and although the overall conspiracy plot is a bit predictable, it’s still fun and exciting to read. Most interestingly: there’s a total lack of a romantic love story. Well, there are relationships in this book – Georgia and Shaun’s parents, the senator and his wife, and then the third blogger of the pack starts dating someone as well – but there’s no overarching love story involving either of the two main characters, and you won’t believe how refreshing that is.

Asking For It | ★★★★☆ 4/5

Asking For It review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Louise O’Neill
Publisher:  Quercus UK
Pages: 346
Published: 3 September 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Feminism
Goodreads | Bookdepository

It’s the beginning of the summer in a small town in Ireland. Emma O’Donovan is eighteen years old, beautiful, happy, confident. One night, there’s a party. Everyone is there. All eyes are on Emma.
The next morning, she wakes on the front porch of her house. She can’t remember what happened, she doesn’t know how she got there. She doesn’t know why she’s in pain. But everyone else does.
Photographs taken at the party show, in explicit detail, what happened to Emma that night. But sometimes people don’t want to believe what is right in front of them, especially when the truth concerns the town’s heroes… (Goodreads)

Whew. This was such a difficult read. O’Neill toys with your perception, because she really doesn’t set up Emma as a very likeable character. I knew where the book was going, so I could fully tell what the author was doing, but holy hell Emma is set up as a despicable girl. She’s the kind of person who’d have bullied me at school. A horrible friend, competitive, judgmental, and bratty. And then she gets raped. Does that mean she had it coming, that she was asking for it? (Pssssst: NO SHE WASN’T). The first half was dreadful because you really can’t relate to Emma, and then the rest of it is awful because you witness her becoming a victim of rape culture. Everything’s in there. Victim blaming, her own denial that what was done to her was anything but her own fault, constant media coverage that she’s exposed to, her being ostracised for ruining the boys’ futures while they still strut around town … for a moment I naively called the validity of the plot into question, because surely, if there were pictures out there, where she was clearly drugged/zoned out and unable to consent, there’d be no question about whether or not it was rape … and then I remembered the case of Gina-Lisa Lohfink. There is video evidence of her rape, where she can be heard repeatedly telling her attackers to stop. She took them to court, and she’s just recently been sentenced to pay €24,000 in damages to her rapists. For slander.

The Book Thief | ★★★★☆ 4/5

The Book Thief review at daneesaur.co.ukAuthor: Markus Zusak
Publisher:  Black Swan
Pages: 560
Published: 8 September 2007
Genre: Historical Fiction, Young Adult, World War II
Goodreads | Bookdepository

It’s just a small story really, about among other things: a girl, some words, an accordionist, some fanatical Germans, a Jewish fist-fighter, and quite a lot of thievery. . . .
Set during World War II in Germany, Markus Zusak’s groundbreaking new novel is the story of Liesel Meminger, a foster girl living outside of Munich. Liesel scratches out a meager existence for herself by stealing when she encounters something she can’t resist – books. With the help of her accordion-playing foster-father, she learns to read and shares her stolen books with her neighbors during bombing raids as well as with the Jewish man hidden in her basement before he is marched to Dachau.
This is an unforgettable story about the ability of books to feed the soul. (Goodreads)

I’m not sure if anything I can say can do this book justice (and yet I’ve only given it 4 stars? What’s up with that?). It took me a while to get into, which is not unusual for me when it comes to books. What kind of threw me off though was that it’s an English book (originally written in English), written from the perspective of a German (Liesel). While Zusak does a way better job than the other book I know where this happens (The Boy in the Striped Pajamas), it was still odd. Especially since I don’t know anybody who uses or has ever used the word “Saumensch”, which must be the most common word in the book, but perhaps it’s just a very remote local (and old) dialect. Couldn’t find any information online to prove that, though. Anyway, as you would expect with war stories, this book is heart-breaking. It’s wonderfully crafted and has some really beautiful lines that are more poetry than prose. Plus, it’s narrated by Death! If you haven’t read this yet, please do yourselves a favour and pick it up. You won’t regret it, I promise.

So what have you been reading lately? Any recommendations? Have you read any of these books? xx

in Books.