Romy Reads 7/12/18

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This year more than ever, as I mentioned in my previous Romy Reads post, reading has been a big priority. I have read some absolutely brilliant books this year and I wanted to share some of my recent reads and also my top recommendations from the whole year.

The MUST read: Educated by Tara Westover

I don’t even know where to start with this book. Without a doubt in my top two books I have read this year, potentially my number one. An incredible, eye-opening memoir from a truly inspiring woman. Although I know I shouldn’t write the blurb when it is easily Google-able, I just want to give you a bit of a flavour for it.

Tara grew up in rural Idaho to survivalist, extreme Mormons and didn’t even legally exist until the age of 9, due to her having no birth certificate. Her family did not believe in schooling or hospitals and she spent her isolated childhood working in her father’s junkyard. She lived a life of violence, ignorance, seclusion and at times, danger before deciding to educate herself. Tara ended up studying at Cambridge and Harvard, forming who she wanted to be, while still dealing with the fierce family loyalty she had instilled in her. At some points, I almost forgot the story was real life.

I feel like I’m not even scratching the surface how good this book is. She is just the most brilliant writer, brings perspective and truth to her upbringing yet still writes with such respect for her family, even though they are now estranged. If I haven’t sold it to you, just Google the book and you will see how much coverage it has had in the media. Barack Obama put it on his Summer Reading List and Bill Gates added it to his must reads of 2018, so you’d be in great company… along with little old me!

The SELF HELP read: Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig

Haig’s incredible memoir explores his personal journey with mental health, from his darkest moments to learning to live and appreciate life again. It is a powerful, sensitive and hopeful exploration of depression and anxiety. I would recommend this to anyone, not just those who directly struggle with their mental health. It touched and affected me, while making me feel inspired at the same time. His brilliant way of writing, in easily digestible chapters, with 4 progressive sections made the (at times tough to read) words, all the more powerful. It is definitely the sort of book you could dip in and out of and also refer back to if you needed a burst of strength. This subject can be difficult to read about, but he has such a raw, insightful and important message that I think we could all really benefit from.

The SNAPSHOT IN TIME read: Next Year In Havana by Chanel Cleeton

This was beautiful. I’m not usually drawn to romance novels… or I didn’t used to be, but I’m finding them creeping into my kindle library more and more recently. However, I do love historical fiction, which this is. Flipping between Havana during the 1950s at the time of the

Cuban Revolution and 21st Century Miami and Havana, it is a story of family roots, political unrest, love, loss and secrets. Cleeton’s writing is so cinematic, beautifully descriptive and moving. Although the story is fiction, the lives of the characters were probably the reality of many Cubans, giving me a greater understanding of a time in history I knew nothing about. Yes it’s sad in some parts, but it is also uplifting and powerful too. I really would recommend it.

I could go on and on, as currently I’m on my 31st book this year (might be bragging), but here’s the list of my top 3 fiction and top 3 non-fiction from 2018:

Non-Fiction

1. Educated by Tara Westover

2. This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

3. Notes on a Nervous Planet by Matt Haig

Fiction

1. Little Fires Everywhere AND Everything I Never Told You – both by Celeste Ng ( sorry I’m cheating, I couldn’t choose)

2. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

3. One of Us is Lying by Karen M McManus

I’m currently reading: Why Social Media is Ruining Your Life by Katherine Ormerod

Ps. I do do other things other than read.

Pps. If you want to be my friend on Goodreads, it’s Romy Dakin.

Image from Matt Haig’s ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’

Romy Reads – 20/9/18

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Anyone that knows me knows I am a complete and utter book worm. If I can steer a weeny 5 minutes of a conversation to the topic of reading and books, then I will try harder than a Brit clinging onto summer. I am obsessed. I write reviews (just for myself..), have a Goodreads account that I meticulously update and I LOVE a bookshop browse, even though I have a kindle. I find it so relaxing, getting lost in a story, learning about something I know nothing about, or being kept up at night needing to read JUST….ONE…MORE…CHAPTER. I have always read, reading anything and everything, but I made it a goal of mine this year to get through even more books, trying all sorts of different genres. I’m currently on my 24th book of the year and I thought I would share a few of my recent favourites.

Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

This was completely wonderful, gripping, heart-breaking and fascinating. I actually read this in April when I was on holiday in Italy and read the final 40% late at night during a pasta fuelled food coma. It reduced me to tears by the end, with her beautiful way of story-telling, developing character and relationships. I won’t write the blurb, because you can search for a much more concise and appealing description than the one I’ll write, but trust me when I say, it is one of the best books I have read in a long time. With themes of rebellion, family tension, relationships, culture clashes, perfectionism, class, secrets and consuming love, it is something special. I can’t even express how much I enjoyed it, but if you love Liane Moriarty… then you most definitely will love Celeste Ng- I loved her writing even more. One more thing.. her other book, Everything I Never Told You is just as incredible.

Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

I loved this. As someone who is completely fascinated by crime documentaries, this non- fiction book jumped out at me. It explores the growth and beginnings of the FBI and the crimes that were the birth of it, the Osage murders. The exploration of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma, from the discovery of valuable oil supply on their land leading them to wealth, to the targeted murders and corruption of the community, this book was brilliant. Grann manages to paint the complex and weaving picture of the families and detectives, along with the conspiracies, injustice and roots of the Osage culture in a captivating yet smooth way of writing. It exposed a crime that had long been buried in history and I think it is the perfect book for a crime doc lover.

Everything I know about Love by Dolly Alderton

This was so amazing. I originally wanted to read her memoir because I think Dolly is fab and love her podcast with Pandora Sykes, The High Low. I find her so interesting and articulate and love everything she stands for. When I first started reading the book, I didn’t think I was going to like it as much as I wanted. At the beginning, she told tales of her wild youth and countless escapades with loads of different guys. I enjoyed it, but I thought the whole book was going to be her trying to convince everyone how crazy, cool and wild she is. How wrong I was. It truly told her life story, with all of its ups, downs, twists and flips… her heartbreak, experience with grief and love of her female friendships, along with a real sense of what she believes in. It is completely brilliant and it was so natural, I could almost hear her voice as I read it. It is not just your average memoir, but a thoughtful, honest, raw insight into her life, her experience with love in all its different forms and her life as a currently single but hopeless romantic. I really loved it and now I love her even more.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Wow. That’s the first word I would use to describe this book. A difficult read in terms of the topic and at times harrowing story it tells, but a complete necessity. It gave me a whole new perspective on life for a different culture and the harsh reality for some. It traces three hundred years in Ghana, through the lives and family tree of two different girls, who happen to be half sisters. Again, read the blurb, as I can’t possibly put into words the breath-taking, heart-breaking power of this story. Each chapter surrounds a different character, but they follow on from the last and all becomes interwoven as the book progresses. Gyasi’s ability to transport the reader through time, history and place is absolutely mind blowing, the sort of book that will leave you with goose bumps and a lump in your throat. At times uplifting, romantic, sorrowful and hopeful, the journey of the two inextricably linked, yet completely contrasting experiences of life through slavery in Ghana, to the jazz clubs of America is unmissable. I would say read it when you really have time to, if that makes sense. When you can really commit to the story and be absorbed by it, because it is not an easy one, but definitely worth it.

I’m currently reading: This is Going to Hurt by Adam Kay

If you want to follow me or be my friend on Goodreads, it’s just Romy Dakin. There you can see what I’m reading, what I think and if you really couldn’t care less… thanks for making it to the end of this post, I’ll talk about my mac & cheese recipe next… maybe.

Podcasts…and why I love them

In 2016 I was recommended the podcast ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’ with Alice Levine, Jamie Morton and James Cooper. Before this, I never really knew what a podcast was, I didn’t even know that the app is installed already into iPhones and I had it all along. Little did I know how much I was missing…. the world of podcasts have transformed my car journeys, my morning routine and have just generally improved my life. ‘My Dad Wrote a Porno’ is basically three friends reading out and commenting on a terrible (and I mean terrible) erotic fiction book that Jamie’s Dad wrote… Yes that’s right, his Dad. They read a chapter per episode and it is hilarious, leg crossingly cringe worthy and just bloody brilliant. The book is called ‘Belinda Blinked’ and Jamie’s Dad’s pen name is ‘Rocky Flintstone’…. I think that tells you all you need to know. Luckily (or unluckily depending on how you want to look at it), there have been three series so far, as Rocky has written several books and I am eagerly awaiting the fourth, which I believe will be out next year. My obsession has got to the point where my friend and I have booked to see the live tour… I’m not sure if that is something to be shouting from the roof tops, but there you go.

I would so recommend this if you want some light hearted, witty listening or just a good laugh, as I have almost had to pull over the car once as I was laughing so hard.

So that was my first experience with podcasts, and from then on I have trawled the Podcast charts for my next obsession and have listened to quite a few others that I think are worth a mention.

  1. The High Low

I got into this podcast during the back end of last year, and have been putting it on at any possible moment and loving every episode. Journalists Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes are the faces behind this brilliantly engaging, interesting and funny podcast in which they discuss what they have been reading, watching and listening to each week along with discussing news stories from around the world at the time of recording. It is a news and pop culture podcast, arguing that you can be interested in the trivial and the political. They always recommend the best reads, whether they are books or articles and discuss everything from ‘The Fall of Hollywood’s Ultimate Sex Predator, Harvey Weinstein’ to the BBC pay gap, to Blac Chyna suing the entire Kardashian family…. and I love it.

2.  Serial

This was recommended to me by one of my cousins last year, as I love any crime/thriller novels and documentaries and she told me I would find this completely gripping… and I did. If you have listened to the ‘This American Life’ podcast, then you might recognise the producer, Sarah Koenig from there. It has a couple of series so far and follows real life cases which I find so interesting, as Sarah digs deep, speaking to family members and the accused from jail, attempting to make sense of the case. They are typically murder cases, which include quite a lot of detail, so if you don’t like that sort of thing, I would suggest giving it a miss. The first series follows the story of Adnan Syed who was charged with the murder of his ex girlfriend in 2000 but maintains his innocence to this day. The podcast delves into potential motives, other suspects and hears directly from Adnan, whose case was appealed after Season 1 of Serial. If you watched Making a Murderer on Netflix or read any sort of crime novels then you will enjoy (is that the right word?) listening to this podcast.

There are several others that I have really enjoyed or that I’m working my way through, but I’ll leave it at that for now. For anyone who has never listened to a podcast before, I would thoroughly recommend plunging into the world of pornos, pop culture and innocence pleas.

Why Acupuncture is AMAZING

I uploaded my first post nearly two months ago, I can’t actually believe it has taken me this long to write another one. I haven’t even shared my blog yet so it currently has virtually 0 views. Yippee. Life has just been super busy, so much has happened. I started my final year at university; massively regretting taking for granted all of that blissfully free time over the summer, where I actually had time to iron my jeans. I am now fully into my first term, counting down the days until the Christmas break, where I will be panicking about keeping up with my work in between wrapping presents and packing for our New Year trip to Iceland… bring on the Blue Lagoon.

I can’t wait for a bit of time off, even though I won’t be able to forget about uni work I am so excited to enjoy the festive season, read for pleasure and reignite my love affair with the gym. I started my new job at a fashion and gift retailer, which I’m really enjoying, even the early 7am delivery shifts on a Friday morning. It is tiring but I have realised how much I enjoy wrapping Christmas decorations in tissue paper, which I may never have known about myself had I not started working there. I have met some lovely people and it really is a fab place to work.

What being this busy has taught me is that I really need to find time for myself. I’m not someone who can just keep ploughing on and on and on without coming up for air. I do need a bubble bath every now and then, and I do need to delve into a gripping book, and I also need to watch a bit of trash telly (Britain’s Next Top Model is my programme of choice for these moments). I love being busy, and feeling like I’m working towards something and being productive, but moments of rest and recharging are important too. Something that has helped me to realise this more than ever is acupuncture.

I started having acupuncture roughly once a month about a year and a half ago, maybe a bit less, and I absolutely adore it. It gives me a space to talk, to refresh and relax. Now I am not a needle person, I cannot stand blood tests, flu jabs… all that jazz, but when I say these don’t bother me, I really mean it. They are pretty much like bendy tooth picks and 95% of the time they don’t hurt. That 5% of the time, as soon as it hurts, she takes the needle out and puts it somewhere else. You can have them put in anywhere really, and each place means something different, from happiness, to stress and boosting your immune system.

I feel so relaxed when I’m there, it just feels like a safe bubble that I can enter into for an hour and then get on with my day. You lie on a bed under blankets in your bra and knickers; it pretty much feels like a spa treatment crossed with therapy. Carolyn (my acupuncturist) asks me about what has been happening my life in between the sessions, how I’m feeling mentally, physically, every kind of way, and then feels my pulses ( we have more than one and I never knew). She feels my heart pulse, lung pulse, liver, kidneys, all through my wrists. She then puts the needles wherever she feels that it would most benefit me on that particular day.

I go to acupuncture for all sorts of reasons, but mainly for my overall well being and health, but you can go for anything, from an injury, aches and pains, problematic skin, mental health… the list goes on. The main motive for me is to just have some time to myself, where I can say anything without being judged, to someone who doesn’t know everyone in my life, while giving me brilliant advice in a peaceful environment and using the needles to improve my sleep, stress, and how my body functions and heals.

I always look forward to my appointments and I can’t imagine not going now, as I really feel revived mentally after I leave. I never knew anything about it before I started going, and I might have thought it was all a bit hippy but I have felt the benefits and I could not recommend it more. In the busy world we live in, she always reminds me that taking time for myself is not selfish but necessary and the people who may appear to have their shit together running on 4 hours sleep actually might be crying out for some time to iron their jeans and devour the latest crime thriller.