Favorite Things in February

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Another month has gone, but before moving on, I thought I'd talk about my favorites for  the month of February. These are things that I loved and want to share with you!

  • The World's Greatest Love Stories
    I bought this for $5 and it was definitely a steal! I bought it in time for Valentine's day, because why not? I thought it was charming and heartwarming. I adored it and think it can be a nice addition to your bookshelf because it has a nice cover too.
  • The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
    This has now become one of my favorite books, and if you're interested in reading my review, read that here.
  • That one time my boyfriend went to a book event for me and got a signature and message from Kristin Hannah, the author of The Nightingale. This meant so much and was a big highlight of my month. 
  • Gilmore Girls marathon
    I first watched Gilmore Girls on and off as a kid and would only do so because my older sister did. I've never actually fully watched the whole thing though, so thanks to Netflix, I totally binge watched on this everyday when I got the chance. 
  • Coffee Books and Rain sweatshirt
    I got this last week of February, but this should still count as a favorite because it's just plain awesome. 
  • L'Occitane's Jasmin and Bergamote
    My mom got this cologne/perfume for me as a gift, and I love it! It's floral, but not too harsh or strong. It's quite an understated and simple scent actually, fresh and delicate. 
  • My new office chair
    Thanks to my boyfriend, I now have a comfortable chair in my room. I tend to sit in front of the computer for hours, and I used to only have a plastic chair, so this helps me a lot! You can purchase this here.
  • Kindle Paperwhite
    I got this e-reader back in November and did an initial review on it already, but after three months, I'm still loving it. If you are still hesitating, let me tell you that you really almost do not notice that you are not reading a real book. The screen is different from a phone/computer screen, and it really does look like real pages. 
  • Wall art
    I did this DIY wall art using 4x4 instagram-sized photos. If you're interested in making this affordable piece yourself, click this post here. 
Overall, February was a good month. Nothing too exciting happened, but I can't complain. How was your February, and what were some of your favorite things this month?




Show and Tell: Part Four

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Show and Tell is an original feature here on this blog where readers get the chance to showcase some of their favorite books. I started this in 2010, (check out the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd) but haven't done it in a long time, so I figured I'd start it up again. So without further ado, here are some more fantastic choices from four awesome book bloggers, so read on and see what they picked. 

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Pick: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Stick two of the greatest fantasy writers of our time together and what happens? A masterpiece is created, of course! Good Omens is my book I've chosen to share today as it's my all time favourite, and by the far, the funniest thing I've ever read. It details a story of the end of the world and the involvement of an angel, a demon, some children, their parents, a witch, two witch-finders, and a hell-hound. Nobody seems to know what's going on, but knows they must do something about... whatever happens to be happening. The entire experience had me cackling on a crowded train the first time I read it. BBC Radio recently adapted this (over Christmas, in fact) and it's 100%  worth a listen. The casting was absolutely perfect and they kept the tone of the book just as it should be. I would urge anyone in need of a good laugh or fantasy escape to pick up Good Omens. It manages to sound like the distinct voices of Terry and Neil at the same time. 

Pick: Slammed by Colleen Hoover
This book changed reading for me in a big way. Having never heard of the New Adult genre of Indie Authors before, I came across this book on Amazon and decided to give it a try. This one book introduced me to a new genre I love and a new favorite author. Since Slammed, Colleen has written several more books, all which I love equally, and she is one author I make sure to have hard copies of every book on my bookshelf. When my friends ask me for recommendations, my answer is always a Colleen Hoover book. Not just one - ALL of them. When I read one of her books, it reminds WHY I love to read so much. Everyone has that one go-to author where you get really excited about their new releases, stalk them on social media, push their incredible books on people - and Colleen Hoover is mine! I do it because her books have impacted me in a big way, and I have her to thank for renewing my love of reading over and over again. :)

                                          
Pick: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
First of all, I want to thank Jillian for inviting me to participate in her 'Show and Tell' feature on her blog. Speaking of favourite books, I'm sure many readers would have the same dilemma as me - having too many favourites and so hard naming just one book. Despite this dilemma and the fact that mystery and crime thrillers are what I read most nowadays, I want to name a book which doesn't fall into this category but has left a really deep impression on me - Me Before You by Jojo Moyes.
Me Before You is not your typical romance. Well, it does have a romance element but this story is very much about giving and bravery: it makes you think about life and how a drastic change can affect everything. But, what I liked most about this story is how two different people, Lou and Will, come together and give each other a valuable life lesson one has never thought about. Like a spark of bright light, this offers a refreshing perspective to the story in spite of the sad setting.
I rarely reread books but this book deserves to be reread over the time. This is my first Jojo Moyes book but it's definitely not my last.
My review of the book if you're interested -> Click here

Pick: Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Green Gables is a classic Canadian children's novel that I admit I only read fairly recently. I really didn't know what I was missing out on until I finally read it. Turns out, Anne of Green Gables and the subsequent novels in the series just filled me with so much JOY when I read them that they instantly became all-times favourites of mine! I want ever so much to be bosom friends with Anne Shirley! Words can not express how much I love that girl and her imagination and her melodrama and her earnestness. It was a pleasure to get to see this homely young orphan grow up into a lovely young woman and start a family of her own over the course of the series. Also, this series has convinced me that I absolutely MUST see Prince Edward Island in my lifetime!! I do wish Anne of Green Gables had been introduced to me in my childhood, but I am at least pleased to have found Anne finally as an adult.
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I personally love Me Before You and Anne of Green Gables but haven't read the other two choices. I definitely want to now, so thanks to the bloggers for participating! If you are interested in being part of the next one, feel free to comment below or email me at randomramblings @ gmail. 








that one time my boyfriend went to a book event for me.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My boyfriend (who is a photographer - follow him on Instagram!) and I have been together for a while, but in the past few years, we've been in a temporary long distance relationship. While it is not exactly an ideal situation and can be pretty challenging, it also has its perks. We get to explore two of the best cities in the U.S. in my opinion - San Francisco where I'm at and Seattle where he is.

This past Saturday, it just so happened that the author, Kristin Hannah, of my favorite book so far this year, was having a book event in the city that my boyfriend lives in, 800 miles from me. Since he knows how much I loved her new book, The Nightingale, because of how long I talked to him about it and as I have stated in my review yesterday, he decided to go for me.


He went and waited in line, and when it was finally his turn, he told Kristin Hannah that he was there because I couldn't. He expressed to her how much her book, The Nightingale, has easily become one of my favorite books. He gave her my name and even went on to tell her that I was an aspiring writer. She advised him to pass a message along, to tell me to never give up, even when it seems like giving up is the only option. Then, she went on to sign my copy, with this incredible message.


I loved this book so much, but I love it even more because of what my boyfriend did, going out of his way to go to a book event for me! I don't know what I ever did to deserve this man whom I'm lucky to call my best friend and partner, but I know that I am forever grateful that he truly understands and supports me through all the dreams and goals in  my life. 

Here's to great, personable authors, beautiful signed copies, and the amazing people in our lives that understand our love for reading. 

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Monday, February 23, 2015

A book has not made me feel this way in a long time. Though I expected it to be good because of positive reviews, I didn't quite expect this. After finishing this book, I was left overwhelmed with  so many emotions. 

To put it simply, this Historical Fiction novel is perfect and beautiful. It is eloquently written, and is a total page turner. You will not want to put it down. At the same time, you will want to force yourself to put it down, for fear of the story ending. 

I have to admit though that while I can go on and on about how perfectly told it was, I feel as if I would not do justice to the purity and very essence of the story. There simply aren't enough positive words to say about it without sounding repetitive and cliche. 

check him out on Instagram

What I will focus on is how much it moved me. It moved me to tears as I was reading it, and my heart broke so many times that I've lost count. The emotions, events, and situations in this book are raw, gut wrenching, and honest. And when I was done with it, I wept endlessly. All I wanted to do was to talk to the characters, hug them, as I felt that they have become my friends, or better yet, my sisters, in the mere 440 pages that I just went through. 

It reminded me of the emotions I felt when I first watched Schindler's List in elementary school, and when I first picked up The Book Thief by Markus Zusak in 2009. I wanted the story to go on, I didn't want to let go. 

Having said that, it's a bit silly to rate this book, because the five star rating is not enough. It deserves more for the impact it left on me. I also can not recommend this enough to everyone. Any reader would appreciate this, whether or not you usually pick up Historical Fiction. It is a great story that covers many significant themes and focus on many types of relationships - familial, friendships, romantic, and relationship with one's self.

Overall, this book proved to me, as if I didn't know for a fact already, how much I love literature. This novel was the very proof that showed how books, reading, and words can be incredibly significant in one's life. It just has this undeniable power to make people feel, think, and see reality, even when it is fiction. Books have the power to break a person, lift them up, inspire, motivate, encourage, and make them feel beyond what they think they're capable of. I am truly thankful to have picked this up as it made me see all that again so clearly. Any book that can do that is worth a read to say the least. 

NSFW Tag

Friday, February 20, 2015

This fun and interesting tag was originally created by booktubers, Luke and Katie. NSFW stands for Not Safe for Work, and it is an internet slang that covers themes that are not really appropriate in a typical workplace or a public environment. The idea behind this tag is to talk about books that have these related themes. There's ten questions.

 1. What is the last book you would want your parents to walk in on you reading?
My parents are pretty accepting of whatever I read, and I don't think I read a lot of "inappropriate" titles, so I'll skip this one. 

2. It's storming outside, and you're home alone for the night. What book would make matters worse?
I'm going to go with a cliche answer and go with The Shining by Stephen King. I read the book after seeing the movie when I was a bit younger, and that movie scarred me.

3. Have you ever read a book simply because of the controversy surrounding it?
I can't really think of anything completely controversial, but the closest one would be The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo because when the book became popular, everyone said it was dark and hard to read. I finally picked it up last year, and I really liked it.. 

4. What is the most cringe-inducing romance or sex scene you have ever read?
Cringe inducing romance - I know it's not romantic, but I'd pick Jacob and Renesmee's relationship.
Sex scene -  Hands down, I'd pick the scene from 50 Shades of Grey. It involves the woman on her time of the month. That's all.

5. What book has made you question the author's sanity? 
Gone Girl! I loved this book. I talked about it more on this post if you're interested. Overall, it's just in the way that author portrayed the characters and situations. It creeped me out how realistic everything was, and how possible everything could be.

6. Have you ever put down a book and not finished it because the content was too much for you?
I don't think I gave up on a book completely, but I have to say I almost gave up on Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I ended up loving it in the end, but it was just the overall premise. Old man in love with a nymphet thing. 

7. What fictional character do you have the most NSFW thoughts about?
I don't think I have NSFW thoughts on a character, but I'll name some literary crushes!
Landon Carter from A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks and Adam from If I Stay by Gayle Forman.

8. Show us your most NSFW book cover.
I don't have copies of the Black Dagger Brotherhood series, but I remember reading this. I read the first five, but gave up because it became too repetitive! The covers though are definitely NSFW.
9. Have you ever read something from the erotica/romance genre, and what did you think? 
The closest thing would be 50 Shades of Grey and the Black Dagger Brotherhood series. 
The genre isn't really for me.

10. You stumble across a portkey. What fictional world would you not want to be transported into?
There's many places I'd hate to be transported into, but I have to pick any world that practices The Hunger Games. I would spend my entire life consistently worrying when my name - as well as my loved ones' names - will be picked, and if I get in the games, I'd probably die right away. Then, the whole time I'm waiting for that annual event would be terrible because of everyone that died in the previous event. It would just be horrific all around. 

That's it for the tag. I am tagging everyone who is reading this. I think it is a very interesting tag, and an original one too. Have fun!

Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Kurt Vonnegut. Most know him as the creator of so many amazing books: Slaughterhouse Five, Cat's Cradle... just to name a few. To some, he is an inspiration. A humanist. An educator. A man with profound insights. And whether or not one has actually read anything that the author wrote, I think everyone is pretty much aware of who he is and his importance in the world of literature.

Personally, I have only read four of his books and loved them all. I have yet to read the others, even though I really want to get to them soon. What has always stood out to me the most though is his passion for literature and writing stories that incorporate messages for people and society. He is never afraid to speak his mind, to inform, and to educate others through his words. 

One day, I saw on twitter just floating around that a Kurt Vonnegut documentary was in the works. You can imagine how excited I was. I have to admit I squealed a little. 
This documentary, has been in the making for 33 years now, but due to budget constraints and other aspects, it hasn't been finished quite yet. Robert Weide, who is Kurt Vonnegut's friend and who happens to be a director of many popular movies, is the one who is trying to finish the documentary. 

It's called Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time. It will show Vonnegut's life as a writer and as a human being. It has priceless clips, interviews, and segments directly from Vonnegut himself. If you're interested in learning more of what will be in the documentary, please watch their pitch below and it will explain more than I ever can.

Since this is a Kickstarter project, I did pledge some amount to support its completion. If you liked, enjoyed, loved, and appreciate anything from Kurt Vonnegut, please support too, as this project will definitely be a priceless work of art if successfully funded. After all, after 33 years, one can only hope that 2015 will be the year it gets done. If anything, it at least deserves to be finished. 


Movie Recommendation: The Theory of Everything

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

One of the films I saw during the holidays of 2014 was The Theory of Everything, originally released in the theaters in early November. This didn't get a lot of buzz at that time; it had in fact a very indie-like film feel to it, originally released in limited theaters. 

However, I knew about this because first, I've been on the lookout for Eddie Redmayne because of his amazing portrayal of Marius in Les Miserables in 2013. Secondly, I sort of have girl crush on Felicity Jones because she is always just lovely and great with her craft (ex: Like Crazy, which is on Netflix if you're interested). Last but not the least, Stephen Hawking is an exceptional, inspirational, and profound human being and scientist. 

The Theory of Everything is a biographical account of Stephen Hawking's life, but most specifically, his life with his previous wife, Jane Wilde-Hawking. It chronicles their romance and journey together. The movie is actually based on Jane Hawking's book, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, which sadly I haven't read before. 

Nevertheless, I couldn't wait to see this film when I first heard of it. I remember watching the trailer and how it gave me goosebumps (You can watch the trailer here). When I finally got the chance to see the movie itself, I was left astounded. 

I completely fell in love with this film, and thinking about it now still gives me this full feeling of happiness and awe. I love the fact that it tells a story that shows Stephen Hawking in another, more personal light. It not only highlights his achievements as a scientist and professor (though they did so, significantly well) but they also showed him as a human being. They showed who he was as a husband, a friend, a son, a colleague. They showed his humor, a characteristic that Hawking clearly has to this day. I also admired the fact that the writers and directors did not fear to show his vulnerability. Simply put, they managed to tell the real story, all with the careful attentiveness needed to do so. I also appreciated that it doesn't dumb down the audience, especially when speaking of science and the arts. At the same time, they do make it very easy and relevant for all audiences. That is always an added bonus.

Ultimately, Stephen Hawking is a person that everyone needs to be familiar with, because while he is popular, more people should know who he is. 

The DVD and Blu-Ray comes out today, so I highly suggest you go out and buy a copy, as it deserves all the recognition it can get. The movie is now nominated for an Oscar, and I'm so happy Eddie Redmayne has not been ignored either; not only did he win several awards for Best Actor (SAG Awards, Golden Globes), he is also nominated for the Best Actor category in the Oscars this coming Sunday. I don't know about you, but I'm rooting for this underrated movie and these underrated actors.

More importantly, he also got the outstanding praise from Stephen Hawking himself. Stephen Hawking said on his Facebook page, "I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed me very well in The Theory of Everything. He spent time with ALS sufferers so he could be authentic. At times, I thought he was me." If that is not testament to the good work he did, I don't know what is.

Read Jane Hawking's account: Travelling to Infinity: My Life With Stephen 
Buy The Theory of Everything on DVD and Blu-Ray

My Problem with 50 Shades of Grey

Friday, February 13, 2015

I am a huge advocate for people reading whatever they want to read, no matter what type and kind of book it is. I've also learned over the years that there are times that it's okay to stay quiet about your opinions on a book, especially if someone you know absolutely loves it. Take for example the Twilight series. When this became a hit and became a phenomenon to many, I tried to understand what the fuss was about. The truth is, people will want to check out whatever is popular. I realize now there's no point of saying, "That book is awful" or "I hate that book so much," because the truth of the matter is, it's none of my business. That's the amazing thing about books. We are free to pick up whatever we want to pick up. We can like what we want to like. I've learned to let it go, to accept that there will always be the latest book craze, and that it can be beneficial: people actually get books and actually start reading. I love that. I appreciate that.

Then there's 50 Shades of Grey. Over the years of its popularity, I haven't said my opinions on it. I couldn't find a reason to write a review complaining about how badly written it was. With the growing amount of readers (and viewers) because of the movie adaptation, I had to talk about it a bit. 

My biggest problem with the series is not that it's badly written. My biggest issues with it are with two things: First is with its portrayal and misrepresentation of BDSM and consent. The second is with how the book leads people into thinking the relationship between these characters is acceptable, romantic, healthy, and ideal.

First off, BDSM stands for a variety of practices involving dominance and submission, among others. Before saying anything else, let me get it out of the way that I am not at all, in any way, saying that BDSM in books is bad. On the contrary, I think that it's healthy to have books center around the topic, as this activity and community does exist in some relationships. Also, the Erotica genre is out there for a reason: there are readers! The problem here though is that 50 Shades of Grey has never been marketed as an Erotica. It apparently belongs in the Romance genre.
From what I can also tell from the many people who are into the activity and the community, BDSM is consensual, which is one of the most important parts of the lifestyle. Another important aspect is safety. Whoever is involved needs to feel safe with his or her partner, hence, the creation of "the safe word." If really looked at, 50 Shades of Grey does not at all practice consensual BDSM. 

This biggest flaw lies in the character of Christian Grey, the wealthy, handsome man who meets 21 year old Anastasia Steele, a shy, innocent, and inexperienced college student. As their relationship progresses, Anastasia discovers that Christian likes particular things: BDSM, specifically.
In the book, Christian introduces her to his world. Soon, readers will start seeing that Christian Grey does not, in fact, follow the general rules of BDSM. A perfect example of this would be when Christian does not stop, even when she repeatedly says no to him. He also continues even after she uses their safe word. Even when she has stated to him that she doesn't want to do anything as she is still feeling discomfort, he ignores her concerns.
There's also many moments in the book wherein Anastasia fears Christian's reactions. She often has a hard time saying what she has in mind, because she might get punished. How is this in any way a sign of a healthy relationship?

To make matters worse, Christian has a reason for his actions! He blames his troubled past, as if it's totally acceptable to "blame" something for their antics. Of course, because he has already emotionally and mentally manipulated Anastasia, she believes and sticks with that reasoning. She continues to forgive all his wrongdoings, even when she herself thinks how wrong everything is.

These excuses not only misrepresent people who are into BDSM, making it seem as if only the 'troubled' enjoy those activities. It also encourages the partner to easily let things slide as long as there is a seemingly valid reason, when it should never be okay to ignore consent and devalue the word "No." No amount of expensive gifts and trips - which Christian showers her with often - should be able to cover up the error in one's ways and actions.

Now recently, when I shared these thoughts outside of the blogging community, someone told me, "It's just a book. Calm down." Well, books are a huge part of my life. It's never just a book to me. It's a part of me, and a part of the world and society I live in. So to me, it is important to talk about things like this.

At the end of the day, I have no right to tell others to stop reading the series or seeing the film. Everyone should feel free to pick up any book and watch whatever film they want, without feeling judged by their choices. I simply wrote this because I just have to say these thoughts out loud.

Now if you are open to advice and open to my suggestion, I would say don't read it. Books are vital to one's growth, and over the years of reading as many kinds of books as possible, I learned that literature isn't just there for entertainment. It's also there for education, personal growth, and self-awareness. Misrepresentation of any subject, topic, idea, or community is not something I like to support, and that is why I do not like and do not encourage reading 50 Shades of Grey. As always, those are just my opinions. Share yours.