Category Archives: Review

Book review: Amanda Lindhout’s “A House in the Sky”

As a general rule, I avoid non-fiction books that I know will disturb me. If it’s fiction I can cope with horrid/terrifying subject matter because I know it’s just the spawn of someone’s imagination. The books I absolutely cannot bear however, are true crime and accounts of people who’ve been abused as children.

The reason I tell you this is because I wanted to give a background for how I felt before reading Amanda Lindhout’s “A House in the Sky.”

A House in the Sky is the memoir of Amanda Lindhout, a woman who travels the globe. In August 2008 she visited Somalia, “the most dangerous place on earth,” where she is abducted along with her friend Nigel, by masked gunman.

They are held hostage for 460 days, tortured, and kept in chains before finally being released.

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I’d seen that the book had rave reviews online, but I was selfishly a bit scared to read it in case it put me off travelling. (It didn’t, but I’m not in any hurry to go to Somalia now!)

The book was incredible. I gave it a rare five stars on goodreads. I couldn’t put it down, I HAD to know what happened. The account is incredibly harrowing, as you can imagine, but ultimately uplifting. Lindhout survives her ordeal by visiting a house high in the sky, a safe place she’s created for herself.

There’s a passage where she fantasises about waking up at home, going for a run in the fresh air and returning home for pancakes. On reading, I was suddenly filled with an enormous sense of gratitude. These are all things that I can do any time I fancy, and I’m so lucky to be free!

Lindhout faced criticism for even going to Somalia in the first place. She is seen as a rich Westerner whom can be held for a huge ransom. Governments don’t pay ransom money as it’s seen as negotiating with terrorists, hence how she was in captivity for such a long time.

What did I learn?

There’s a lot to cover, but what struck me most was her incredible will to survive, her inner strength, her choices, and her friendships.

I’m filled with gratitude for the lucky life that I’ve lived so far, and eager to see the world in all its colours.

Here is a quote from a goodreads review which I think sums it up beautifully:

“Go anywhere. Fall in love. Make mistakes. Be kind. Forgive. Know that you are strong enough. Make change. Be hopeful. These are the thoughts I am left with, after closing the book. There are others of course – the baseness of human brutality, cultural realities that scare me, how governments work in our lives, the role of women in society, the feeling that there is so much work to be done in so many places. In all this, Amanda leaves her readers with hope, hope for change and hope that despite what she has been through that life holds for her so much more yet.”

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Go read it!

 

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Book review: Rita Golden Gelman’s “Tales of a Female Nomad”

I’m still hunting for travel literature and devouring every single one I can get my hands on. My latest? Rita Golden Gelman’s “Tales of a Female Nomad”

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Golden Gelman is a children’s book author, who similarly to Elizabeth Gilbert (author of Eat Pray Love), goes through a divorce, sells her possesions and then takes off alone, with a dream of seeing the world, and living among people of another culture. To this day, (she’s now in her seventies) she lives as a nomad.

Nomad: a person who does not stay long in the same place; a wanderer.

During the course of the book, Rita visits and lives in:

  • Mexico
  • Guatemala
  • Nicaragua
  • Israel
  • Galapagos Islands
  • Indonesia
  • New Zealand
  • Thailand

(The above countries in bold are places Tom and I hope to visit.)

I loved this book. On goodreads, I gave it four out of five stars. (Had it been a mark out of ten, I’d have given it 9/10)

What inspired me most was how she lived with local people, became a part of their daily life, and paid back their favours by teaching English and helping them with writing.

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I loved how Golden Gelman met local people, many of whom she didn’t share a common language with, and experienced their way of life. I find this concept very life-afirming. At the end of the book she asks the reader to get in touch. I’ve just sent her an email.

I completely empathise with the sense of freedom that travel gives. I can’t wait to experience it again. Oh how my feet itch!

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Book review: Gretchen Rubin’s ‘The Happiness Project’

Slightly away from the travel genre, this is a book that has been on my amazon wish list for years but I only recently got around to buying.

DSC_0311(The Happiness Project, or, why I spent a year trying to sing in the morning, clean my closets, fight right, read Aristotle and generally have more fun.)

The Happiness Project is a year memoir by Gretchen Rubin, who had an epiphany one day whilst on a bus, and realised that “The days are long but the years are short.” and decided to dedicate a year to learning about happiness and focusing on the things that brought joy into her life.

Sounds a bit kooky, right? I LOVED it.

I found the book so inspiring, and I realised that in doing my 25 new things before I turn 25, I’m essentially already on my own Happiness Project.

Things I learnt from reading the book:

  • We are hardwired to absorb bad experiences more readily that a good experience. For example, if you were to loose £100, you’d be more upset than you would be happy if you found £100. Therefore we should always strive to appreciate the good things.
  • Taking notes is a good idea. Rubin dedicated a chapter to books and wrote about how she always takes notes when reading. I thought what a good idea! I’ve always got my nose in a book but I really struggle to remember what happens in the novels I’ve read. I decided to start a diary. Partly in preparation for keeping a travel journal, but also so that I can write down quotes and remember things from books that have inspired me. I’ll also use it to document my own sort of happiness project.

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(Look, I already started!)

  • Tackling a nagging task is such a satisfying thing to do. I’ve made a list of them and I’m beginning to cross them off. Bliss.
  • There’s also something wonderful about clearing out. It feels like such a relief to get rid of unused clothes and clutter.
  • There were a few seething reviews on Goodreads, stating that the Happiness Project is introspective and selfish, doesn’t benefit the starving children in India etc etc… but
  • “One of the best ways to make myself happy is to make other people happy. And one of the best ways to make other people happy myself.” – So striving to be happy isn’t as selfish as they made out.

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In other happiness news, I’ve been listening to “Hardwiring Happiness” on audible. It goes into the psychology of what makes us happy, and teaches how we can take in the good. Interesting.

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Book review: Michael Palin’s Full Circle

I’ve still got my head stuck in every travel book going. My friend Luke lent me this one. (Luke is also in the throws of quitting his job and going off to see the world. I’m especially jealous of his planned Trans-Siberian express and Route 66 trips)

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I grew up watching Monty Python, so I know Michael Palin, but I must admit I haven’t got round to watching his TV shows.

Full Circle is the book Palin wrote to accompany the documentary made when he took a 10-month, 50,000 mile (80,000 km) around the rim of the Pacific Ocean in 1995 and 1996.

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On his journey, Palin and the film crew visit Russia, Japan, South Korea (they were not allowed to travel very far in North Korea), China,  Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, AustraliaNew Zealand, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Mexico, the United States, and Canada.

(The above bold countries are the ones that we will definitely visit next year, so were of particular interest.)

It was a slow read, and at points I did find it heavy going. This was mainly due to the fact that I’m not used to non-fiction, and a journal layout.

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The book was an interesting insight into the lives of the people living and working on shores of the Pacific. I gave it 3/5 stars on goodreads.

Although there were enjoyable moments that made me giggle, I feel that the trip lends itself better to the visuals of television rather than the written word.

Let the wanderlust feeding ever continue!

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New thing 1) Watch ‘Life is Beautiful’

Well hello there.

There’s been a bit of a blogging break here whilst I got my camera sorted – I needed a new charger, and wanted to start this blog off with decent photographs, as the ones from my phone were a bit fuzzy and pants-looking!

I’ve added a list of twenty five things to do before I turn twenty five – you can see it on the left side of the page. Some of them are mundane, some challenging. The main aims of this to get myself out of my box, try some new stuff, and to keep myself occupied in the lead up to our travels in September.

So here we go: number one! Watch ‘Life is Beautiful.”

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This is a film that I’ve had on my shelves for years, yet somehow never got round to watching.. mainly due to it being in Italian, and I was putting if off because I’m usually doing some complex knitting, which makes subtitles a bit hard!

If I gave it a mark out of ten, it’d be a full 10/10 and I’d highly recommend.

It starts out as a daft slapstick comedy, think Basil Fawlty in pre-world war two Italy.

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The beautiful main characters then start a family, and World War II breaks out. I won’t spoil it for you. But it was one of the most happy, yet harrowing films I’ve ever seen. I laughed, I cried.

 


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Guido: [pretending to translate] “The game starts now. You have to score one thousand points. If you do that, you take home a tank with a big gun. Each day we will announce the scores from that loudspeaker. The one who has the fewest points will have to wear a sign that says “Jackass” on his back. There are three ways to lose points. One, turning into a big crybaby. Two, telling us you want to see your mommy. Three, saying you’re hungry and want something to eat.”

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Book Review: Rosie Swale Pope’s ‘Just a Little Run Around the World’

 

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Those who know me will know that I am, and always have been, a massive bookworm. Since planning our travels, all I’ve wanted to read is books about adventures and travelling. I’m planning on doing regular travel book reviews on the blog.

In my hunt for my next read, I came across Rosie Swale Pope’s ‘Just a Little Run Around the World.‘ – A non-fiction book about a woman who tragically loses her husband to cancer, and then decides to literally run around the world over five years in order to raise awareness, encourage regular health checks, and to grieve her husband.

 

It’s a bit unclear in the above photo (I’ll get my camera sorted soon, I promise) but the tagline reads: ‘5 years, 3 packs of wolves and 53 pairs of shoes.’

I loved this book. I normally read fiction, so it was a bit of a change of flavour for me, but I found it so inspirational! It’s one of those books that reminds you to never take anything for granted, and (excuse the expression) to grab life by the balls!

The book was an incredible read on many levels:

  •  Rosie begins her run aged 57. (!)
  •  She runs alone
  •  She covers huge distances each day – putting my twice weekly 5k plod to shame!
  •  She sleeps outside in minus 20 and worse.

I could go on forever, but what struck me most of all was her incredible positivity, even when being chased by wild dogs, harassed by drunken men and at one point, even waking up to find a naked bloke wielding an axe outside her tent!

I was also taken by how she meets the most kind strangers.

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“Never miss the chance to be happy.”

The above quote really stayed with me after reading the book. I love the philosophy that life is just one big opportunity that you can grab.

You can follow me on goodreads here.

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