8 – 14 May 2017: Sun Awareness Week

It’s Sun Awareness Week in Britain!

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A picture of the sunset I caught on the way home from school one day…
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Stunning sunset at the Docklands in Melbourne!

Okay, I’m pretty sure everyone in the world is aware that there is a star really close to the Earth that we call the Sun, and that it keeps the Earth warm and lighted up in the day. Sun Awareness Week is a rather misleading term because it isn’t just about being aware of the sun. It’s about being aware of how harmful the sun’s UV rays can be.

Sure, we often talk about how being out in the sun is good because of Vitamin D and its benefits. But prolonged exposure to UV radiation can have extremely debilitative effects, beyond just sunburn and premature skin ageing. If serious, it can also cause sunburn and cataracts.

  • According to WHO estimates, 20% of the annual 12 to 15 million people who become blind from cataracts may be caused or enhanced by sun exposure.
  • An estimated 66,000 deaths occur annually from melanoma and other skin cancers.
  • Ongoing studies also suggest that UV exposure can suppress immune system responses, making us more prone to infectious diseases and limiting the efficacy of vaccinations.

These problems are increasingly worsened due to the depletion of the ozone layer.

We often think that dark-skinned people do not need to be concerned about these risks, but while it is true that darker skin has more melanin and hence a lower chance of skin cancer, the risk is still there. In fact, not only does skin cancer also affect darker skinned people, it is also often only detected at later, more dangerous stages.

So what can we do to help ourselves? Here are some ways:

  • Protective clothing, such as caps, specially designed sun-protective clothing which prevents penetration of UV rays (Uniqlo sells a lot of these!), and sun-protective umbrellas (some umbrellas still let UV rays through!)
  • Sunscreen which absorbs both UVA and UVB and an SPF of at least 15
  • Try to reduce tanning and even the use of tanning devices like sunbeds. Even though they claim to tan safely, there is still some risk behind them.
  • Eat food high in anti-oxidants, such as Goji berries, wild blueberries, cranberries, pecans, artichokes, even dark chocolate.
  • Protect your eyes with proper sunglasses! Don’t buy cheap imitations or low quality sunglasses. While they allow you to see into the sun without squinting, they are pretty much useless in blocking UV radiation. This makes things even worse than having no sunglasses because without squinting, your eye is exposed to even more UV radiation!

Hope everyone will spread the message about the harms of UV radiation and encourage your family and friends to step up their sun protection!

Let’s talk FANTASY: my introductory into high fantasy

Hellooo! Today I want to tell you guys about my very first high fantasy read.

I was 11 or 12 (or maybe younger?) when I was first introduced to The Gift (or The Naming) by Alison Croggon.

Back then, I had an English tutor whom I often bonded with over books, and the tuition centre had a mini library which we would all visit at the end of every lesson. It was my tutor who recommended The Gift to me; without her I would probably never have endeavoured to read such a thick book back then. (Side note: this tutor was also the one who first introduced Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club and James Patterson’s Maximum Ride to me… if not for her, I wouldn’t have discovered so many of my favourite books!)

Needless to say, I loved The Gift and every book in the Books of Pellinor series. But it wasn’t until 3 or 4 years later when something inexplicable compelled me to read the series again, and this time with better linguistic ability I found I appreciated the book even more. With her beautiful writing and detailed appendices, Croggon created a world so real, to the point where I actually believed that the events were true and that magic used to exist. (Sadly, that was short-lived because I did intensive research on Google and found out that it was foolish thinking on my part… haha.)

Nevertheless, I fell in love with the art of creating a fantasy world that clearly doesn’t exist, but feels so real that it could be plausible. The wit, ingenuity and planning needed to create such a world eluded me and I so admired the authors who were able to do so. And that’s how I came to love and appreciate high fantasy. Now, I have a long list of other reasons why I love high fantasy, but this was the very first reason that set everything in motion.

Although I’m aware there are many other high fantasy books with more original plotlines and more unique magic systems than Croggon’s books, the Books of Pellinor will always, always be my number one high fantasy series and will always retain its special place in my heart, much like a first love.

The Surprises You Find in Books #2

As mentioned before, I’m starting on a series of biweekly posts on my serendipitous discoveries (e.g. poems, songs, movies) I found from reading.

This week, I have a poem from Amy Harmon’s book Making Faces (more about the book at the bottom of the post):

If God Makes All Our Faces

If God makes all our faces, did he laugh when he made me?
Does he make the legs that cannot walk and the eyes that cannot see?
Does he curl the hair upon my head ’til it rebels in wild defiance?
Does he close the ears of the deaf man to make him more reliant?
Is the way I look a coincidence or just a twist of fate?
If he made me this way, is it okay, to blame him for the things I hate?
For the flaws that seem to worsen every time I see a mirror,
For the ugliness I see in me, the loathing and the fear,
Does he sculpt us for his pleasure, for a reason I can’t see?
If God makes all our faces, did he laugh when he made me?

Amy Harmon

This is an exceptionally woeful poem from a self-conscious girl who finds herself flawed and inferior to others. I love this poem not because of the meaning behind it (for it is a very sad poem), but because of its poignancy and how clearly it conveys the bitterness and distress that the writer is feeling.

We all have that part of ourselves we sometimes loathe and want gone (or at the least, hidden)… but, well, here’s a quote from the same book that I think is important to keep in mind whenever we are reminded of that “ugly” part of us:

True beauty, the kind that doesn’t fade or wash off, takes time. It takes pressure. It takes incredible endurance. It is the slow drip that makes the stalactite, the shaking of the Earth that creates mountains, the constant pounding of the waves that breaks up the rocks and smooths the rough edges.

And from the violence, the furor, the raging of the winds, the roaring of the waters, something better emerges, something that would otherwise never exist.

And so we endure. We have faith that there is purpose. We hope for the things we can’t see. We believe that there are lessons in loss, power in love, and that we have within us the potential for a beauty for magnificent that our bodies can’t contain it.

 


More about the book:

Making Faces

It’s been a while since I read Making Faces so I honestly can’t say much, except that this is a powerful and insightful book that has taught me a lot about beauty, love, loss, and self-acceptance.

Although this book was not my favourite of Harmon’s, I still highly recommend it. Harmon’s writing here is, as always, poignant and bittersweet, and I don’t think you can ever find another book similar to this.

Books I’m Anticipating in May 2017

Well it’s nearing the end of April, and I’m looking out for quite a number of new releases this May, so I thought I’d share them here with everyone 🙂

(Side note: I can’t believe it’s going to be May already?!)

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

ACOWAR

Expected Release Date: 2 May 2017

This is the third installment to A Court of Thorns and Rosesand I’m dying to know what’s going to happen next, as well as craving more time with the amazing cast of characters that Sarah J Maas has brought to life. Already, I’ve read the second book A Court of Mist and Fury at least 3 times, and I’m pretty certain this upcoming book will blow my mind!

[7 June 2017 EDIT: it did not blow my mind 😔]

Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han

Always and Forever Lara JeanExpected Release Date: 2 May 2017

This is also the third book in a series, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. But I’m a little more apprehensive about this release, because while the first book was amazing, the second was slightly underwhelming and I do kind of feel that this series is dragging out longer than necessary. I just have to hold on to the hope that this book is going to redeem the series rather than spoil it!

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

Expected Release Date: 16 May 2017Flame in the Mist

A new fantasy series from the author of The Wrath & The Dawn! I’ve heard many good things about The Wrath & The Dawn, but unfortunately haven’t gotten to it yet. But the synopsis of Flame in the Mist sounds even more appealing to me and what’s more, it’s a Mulan retelling! In addition to a lot of action & romance & awesome characters, I’m hoping to see pieces of Japanese culture weaved into the story, as I’m a quite fan of cultural stuff heh.

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

When Dimple Met RishiExpected Release Date: 30 May 2017

This sounds like a really cute YA rom-com with a unique premise (Indian culture!). Light, fluffy romance novels are my go-to whenever I’m in a book slum, and they’re my favourite kinds of book to read over and over again. Really hoping this becomes a new addition in my list of favourite books to re-read!

[Edit: See my review of When Dimple Met Rishi here!]

Sad Girls by Lang Leav

Expected Release Date: 30 May 2017Sad Girls

Words cannot express how much I adore Lang Leav’s way with words in her poetry, and I’ve been anticipating Sad Girls, her debut novel, since the very first mention of it on her social media. I look forward to having my heart wrenched out by her tragically (in the best way) beautiful writing!

Are any of you looking forward to these same releases?

What other books are you anticipating or intending to read this May? 🙂

T5W: Authors I want to read more from

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme originally created by Lainey, and now hosted by Sam. You can read more about it on the Goodreads page. This week’s topic is on the top 5 authors I want to read more from!


 

1. Alison Croggon

Alison Croggon wrote my favourite fantasy series, the Books of Pellinor (which I shall do a review of soon). So obviously, I’m going to want to read more of her novels.

As a poet, Croggon has great linguistic skills and this is definitely shown in the Books of Pellinor where there are beautiful but verbose paragraphs about the landscape and scenery in her fantasy world. Unfortunately, this is also a reason why many people dislike her writing, finding it too wordy or slow-paced. So she has the kind of writing which you either love or hate (and clearly I love it).

Croggon also wrote Black Spring, a fantasy retelling of Wuthering Heights. It only has an average rating of 3.28 on Goodreads, but that’s not going to put me off from Croggon.

2. Brandon Sanderson

Sanderson is perhaps most known for his Mistborn trilogy, but he also has a ton of other fantasy books that deserve reading. I’ve read the Mistborn trilogy and love it, and I think he’s one of the most ingenious authors I’ve encountered. His plot twists are never predictable, and almost always unthinkable. No doubts to why I’d want to read more from him.

3. Sarah J. Maas

It’s true that Sarah J. Maas is predictable and writes slightly cliched stories, and it’s not like her stories and plotlines are flawless, or that she has a unique writing style. Still, there is a good reason why her books are so popular: she knows her target audience, and she knows what they want. Simply put, if you like YA, fantasy, and/or romance, then you’re bound to like her books.

Maas is always keeping me on my toes looking out for the next book of hers and I’m seriously hoping she continues writing more even after her two ongoing series, A Court of Thorns and Roses and Throne of Glass, are complete.

4. Amy Tan

I just love Tan’s storytelling. Although simple, her writing exudes a somewhat melancholic yet hopeful quality distinctive of her. I’ve only read three of her books so far: The Hundred Secret Senses, The Joy Luck Club, and The Valley of Amazement, but all three of them have made it to my favourites.

Tan’s writing focuses a lot on the relationships between characters and on finding hope amidst despair. She uses plain, everyday words to convey profound meanings. Her books are my go-to if I want to read something meaningful and deep.

5. Sophie Kinsella

Chick-lit is like my dessert of books. Also known as, the kind of book I’m always secretly craving to read, and the kind of book I would not hesitate to wolf down when presented in front of me. And Sophie Kinsella is undoubtedly the ULTIMATE Chick-lit author. Okay, truthfully, I haven’t read much chick-lit other than Kinsella. But that’s how good Kinsella is: I don’t even want to bother reading other chick-lit when I haven’t even read all of Kinsella yet.

So that’s the top 5 authors I want to read more from! There were other authors I thought of as well, but decided to leave out so I could make this list a little more diverse.

Have you or are you planning to read from any of these authors? How do you find them? 

The Surprises You Find in Books

One of the reasons why people (or at least I) love reading is the serendipitous discoveries we encounter in books. I’m not just referring to quotes of profound wisdom, but random things like songs, poems, movies and people which you’ve never heard of, that are referenced in books.

As an innately curious person, I always make it a point to search up these references and get to know them. Sometimes these references end up taking a special place in my heart, and I find them worthy for sharing, so maybe this will be a weekly or biweekly thing.

This week, I have a William Ernest Henley poem, Invictus, which I discovered from the book Mafioso by Catherine Doyle (more about the book later).

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be,
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

William Ernest Henley

I’ve never taken literature and I know nothing about the rhyme, rhythm and structures of poems, but I feel this poem conveys a lot of strength and fortitude, making it a new favourite.

I also found a website explaining the poem in depth and in context of Henley, which you may want to check out to understand it better (if you’re a poem noob like me): https://invictusexplained.wordpress.com/

Tell me how you find this poem in the comments below!


More about the book:

Mafioso is the third and final book in the Blood for Blood series (see first book: Vendetta). This is a YA Contemporary about a girl who falls in love with a boy from a mafia family… but things get a lot more complicated when she finds out a secret about her own family. It’s kind of a Romeo and Juliet meets The Godfather story.

Overall I think this series is a four-star read. Not the best, but worth a read, if you want something light and easy to read, yet with mildly dark themes, bits of both action and romance, and somewhat thought-provoking.

I think the books get better as the series progresses, so don’t be too put-off if you’re reading it and don’t like the first book!

The Woes of A Book Addict

Any of you feel like you’re having a perpetual hangover? Not the kind of hangover you have the morning after you drink about a gazillion shots and embarrass yourself in front of everyone you know, everyone who knows you and everyone who didn’t know you until then, but a hangover where you just can’t. Stop. Thinking. About. This. Book.

It’s 4 in the morning, you’ve been reading since 8 last night. Your head’s pounding because of your lack of sleep, you have dark circles under your eyes, and you still need to go to work or school the next day. But sleep’s the last thing on your mind. All that’s on your mind is: How could the author make him die?! What’s going to happen next?!!? I NEED TO READ THE NEXT BOOK NOW. or What in the world?! Did that just really happen?? This author is a freaking GENIUS. or Rhysand and Feyre. Rhysand. RHYSAND. I LOVE HIM SO MUCH.*

Or something. And all you want to do is go on Youtube, on Goodreads, on WordPress, on Tumblr, on Pinterest, on Instagram, on Twitter, etc., to find what went through other people’s minds when they read the book. You need to find some other kindred spirit to share all your thoughts and feelings with. They’re clawing at your brain, fighting to be let out. You’re not going to sleep well (if you even sleep), and you’re not going to function well the next day; you’re never going to until you discuss it with someone. Even after that it’s still lurking in your mind, like some sort of insidious, dark mist curling around every inch of your cerebrum and somehow finding its way to take over your every thought. The only way to escape is to pick up your next book to devour.

And devour it you do, but the book’s not the prey. You are. And the cycle repeats.

I refer to this quote from William Feather:“Finishing a good book is like leaving a good friend.”

I’d agree, except it’s too simplified. There’s no mention of the adrenaline that rushes through you and refuses to let you go to rest. There’s no mention of the emptiness, the incompleteness you feel because it’s become a part of you, and to close the book is like letting go of that. There’s no mention of the need you get every few weeks or months to read it again, and again, and again. And of the need to pick something else up to cover up the loss, and how you self-destruct over and over again in a vicious, mercilessly unending cycle.

I’ve been……… dying. I can’t stop reading book after book, every day, all single sittings, usually in the middle of the night so I have a horribly wrecked body clock where I only go to sleep sometime between 3am to 6am, and I haven’t been exercising. This has been happening for the past 8 days. I know I should develop healthier habits, but damn it, I can’t stop.

Please tell me I’m not the only one this crazy.


*sorry for the spoiler, for those who haven’t and are planning to read A Court of Thorns and Roses.. But they are the ultimate couple. Or at least, Rhysand is THE ultimate male.