Thursday, September 25, 2014

The things I won't miss

I'm getting into the pointy end of my trip now - this time next week, I'll be somewhere over Broome with less than three hours to go until I land in Melbourne - and that means I'm starting to get to the point where I'm a little bit exhausted and in need of a holiday from my holiday. So here I present to you a Complaints Ridden List of Things I Won't Miss When I Get Home:

1. Wearing the same clothes (and shoes) over and over again.
I packed a whole lot of long sleeved t-shirts just in case the weather turned cold. It's forecast to be between 18 and 21 for the rest of my stay. As a result, I've been wearing the same five shirts for the duration of the trip and OH MY GOD I AM SO SICK OF THEM ALL. The same goes for shoes - I've been wearing my runners nearly every day, and I'm at the point where I kind of want to leave them here and buy a new pair when I get home...

2. Black boogers.
Look, there's lots to see and do in London, and it's easy to get around. But I will NOT miss blowing my nose at the end of the day and having black stuff come out. YAY POLLUTION!

3. Eating at restaurants all the time.
I had a nice break from this while I was down in Portsmouth staying with Sara, but I'm definitely looking forward to restaurants being a sometimes thing rather than a twice-a-day thing.

3a. Having to specify that I want tap water.
In Portugal, tap water wasn't even an option at restaurants. In London, you have to specify that you want tap water or they bring you bottled water and charge through the nose for it. I just want to ask for water without having to think about it, dammit!

4. Having to navigate.
I've got an English sim card, which means that I have data and can access Google Maps at the drop of a hat. But that doesn't mean I can get where I need to go. Yesterday, I went to the British Museum. And getting the 0.3 miles from the Tube station to the museum took me HALF AN HOUR because I kept following the "British Museum ->" tourist signs, except then there'd stop being tourist signs and I'd check on Google Maps and I'd be even further away than when I was at the Tube station. If anything happens to me and the police have to check CCTV footage to see what happened, they'll laugh their butts off watching me walk in circles.

5. Any bed that isn't mine.
It's not that the beds I've been sleeping in have been uncomfortable or anything. They're just not MY BED, you know? I miss my bed...

6. Money that doesn't fit in my wallet.
What the fuck, Europe? Why is all your money so tall??

7. Things not working the way they were advertised.
For example, my travel money card. It has a pin number. The bank told me that pin number would work anywhere. Except I've had to sign for every single purchase I've made using the card. Also, I'm going to Buckingham Palace on Saturday. I ordered tickets two weeks ago and told them to send them to my brother's address. They still haven't arrived so I phoned to ask about them. Apparently my billing address in Melbourne overwrote the delivery address in London, so the tickets are probably sitting in my mailbox right about now. Which isn't very helpful...

8. Having to plan laundry days in advance.
"I have five clean pairs of knickers, but only three t-shirts, so I'll need to do laundry now because it will take two days to dry..." And then having to sit around for two hours because everyone in the UK has front-loaders and they take 3,000 years to run a cycle.

9. Museum Fatigue.
Look, I love museums like it's going out of fashion. But even I've hit the point of museum fatigue, given that I've been to a museum or a palace basically every day since I've arrived. But if I don't go and see All The Things, I feel like I'm not taking advantage of my time here. So I go to another museum and wander around aimlessly. At least it gives me an opportunity to play my favourite game: find the ugliest thing in the room.

10. This stupid British "no power points in bathrooms" law.

Things I WILL miss:
1. The possibility that I could bump into Tom Hiddleston on the Tube. (It hasn't happened so far. SIGH.)

So. What's news with you guys?

K xx

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Um. Hi?

So apparently somewhere in all the travelling I've been doing, I kind of sort of forgot that I have a blog. Because this is possibly the longest I've gone without blogging since about 2009...


I promise I'll tell you about it in full detail when I get home in a few weeks and things go back to normal, but for the time being? Here's some stuff that I've been doing, in photo-overload form:

Free walking tour of London, ending at Westminster

World War I installation in the moat of the Tower of London

The White Tower

Tower Bridge

I found myself in Lisbon Cathedral - dead and still reading

Lisbon's main square

The Library at Mafra's National Palace

Lisbon from the Castelo de Sao Jorge

Portuguese royalty loves its insanely ornate ceilings

Pastel de Belem. (aka extreme deliciousness)

Quinta da Regaleira, Sintra

Monserrate near Sintra

Obligatory cream tea

The Roman Baths
So there you have it! The basics, at least. Tomorrow, I'm off to the Harry Potter studio tour and I'm crazy excited about it.

What's new with you guys??

K xx

Monday, September 8, 2014

London, baby!

So I'm currently sitting on the floor at Melbourne Airport next to the only power point I could find (I managed to drain my phone battery almost completely on the bus getting here) waiting to board my flight to London. Which is essentially code for "I may not be around much in the next couple of weeks". But rest assured, friends, I will return soon enough and tell you all about it.

For the time being, allow me to tell you that the worst part of travelling alone is that it requires taking EVERYTHING WITH YOU EVERY TIME YOU MOVE TWO STEPS. Seriously. I bought a(n oddly bacon-flavoured) vegetarian pizza earlier and when the little "your food is ready" buzzer thing went off, I had to pack up all my crap and carry it the five metres to the collection point. And in the time it took me to do that, someone stole my table. RUDE.

And right now? I could really use a wee and a large bottle of water for the flight and some kind of snack food to shove in my bag in case I wake up starving in the middle of the flight. But my phone needs charging and I can't really be bothered packing everything up right now. So I will be waiting until the last possible minute and then making a mad dash for the bathroom.

Aaaaah, the woes of the single traveller...

I apologise if this post makes no sense. I'm running on four hours' sleep because last night, my brain decided the best way to celebrate a forthcoming trip to London was to play the Doctor Who theme on a loop until after 2am. Thanks, brain. Thanks a lot...

Catch you on the flip side! Or, if you can't wait that long, you can always follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram!!

K xx

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Hobbit - J.R.R. Tolkien

This is the ninth book that I've read for Classics Club so far, and that means I'm 15% of the way through my list. Now, someone remind me not to leave all the ones I'm dreading until the end, yes??

Bilbo Baggins and I go back a long way. Back, in fact, to 1994 when my mum read The Hobbit to me and my little brother as a bedtime story over the course of several weeks. I've read it maybe twice since then, but the last time I did a reread was probably in about 2009, so it's been a while.

I'm pretty sure everyone knows the story of Bilbo Baggins and his adventure to the Lonely Mountain, whether it's from the book version or the two (soon to be three) movies that Peter Jackson's managed to drag out of a 350 page book. But what surprised me this time around was how obvious it is that it's a children's book. Maybe it's that I've been reading more middle-grade books since I started working in a primary school library, and so it's more obvious to me?? Whatever it is, there's something about the descriptions, about the language used, about the simplicity of much of the dialogue that just makes the intended audience incredibly obvious.

It shows through too in the fact that much of the violence of the story - and it IS a violent story. There's a dragon, trolls, giant spiders, and an enormous battle for starters! - takes place quickly and in very brief terms. The Battle of the Five Armies takes place over the course of seven pages, and at least one of those pages is basically Bilbo going "Oh shit, we're all going to die" and then getting knocked unconscious. Smaug being defeated takes about a page to describe, and the dwarfs have no idea it even happened until days after the event. It's all surprisingly low-key when compared to the story that Peter Jackson tells us.

I loved the story, as I always have. But what I loved most this time around were Tolkien's illustrations. Despite being simple, black and white line drawings, they really bring the story to life. Especially when it's apparent how much the illustrations have influenced the set designs in the films. All you have to do is look at Tolkien's drawing of the front hall at Bag End to see the similarities:
All in all, I love the somewhat childish story Tolkien weaves. It gives you this warm fuzzy sense of nostalgia while still being full of action. And I'll be very interested to see how Peter Jackson handles the remaining chunk of the book (I mean, he inserted that ridiculous dip-the-dragon-in-melted-gold scene to The Desolation of Smaug, so......) when the final film comes out at the end of the year.

In short, there's a reason this book is a children's classic and remains on bestseller lists across the globe - it's really freaking good.

Have you read it? What did you think? And are you equally intrigued by how Peter Jackson is going to turn, like, one chapter of a book into a two and a half hour movie?!

K xx

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Review - Heir of Fire

Heir of Fire
Sarah J. Maas
Bloomsbury Publishing UK & ANZ

5 stars

I stumbled across this series back at the beginning of the year because the first two books were part of the Kindle post-Christmas sale. I'm really picky when it comes to high fantasy - I either love it immediately or I hate it with a fiery passion, and the odds of me loving it are about 1 in 10. So I'm not usually willing to spend a whole lot on high fantasy books. So when I came across Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight for about $2 each, I figured it was worth a shot. It took me a while to get into the first book, but once I did, I was sold and immediately read Crown of Midnight, which I loved even more.

All of which is a VERY long-winded way of saying that I was indescribably excited when I got approved for an ARC of Heir of Fire. Right. Fangirl gushing aside, let's get on with the actual review, shall we?

I LOVED IT. It's long, yes, but it's worth every single second that it takes you to get through those 565 pages. The story this time around is split between multiple characters in multiple locations, which I think was part of why I loved it so much. We still get Celaena's story - she's abroad learning about her own kind and how to use her fae powers. And, for the first time, we see what happened to her between finding her parents dead and being rescued from the river. Celaena's opening up properly about her past for the first time, and we can see just how broken she really is.

But we also get narration from Chaol, who's struggling with the idea of going home. We get Dorian's story, who's learning more about himself and what his father's been doing, and making new friends along the way. And we get the story from Manon Blackbeak's perspective, which was definitely the most interesting for me. Look, I know that the witches are antagonists in this world, I know that. But Manon is such an AMAZING character that I couldn't help but love her. Yes, she's cold and brutal and part of a really messed up society. And yet I still found myself cheering for her time and time again. I can't wait to see what the rest of the series has in store for Manon and her wyvern, Abraxos.

We also get a new major character, the fae prince Rowan Whitethorn. I'll admit, I had a tough time with Rowan to begin with. He was all broody and demanding and kind of a jerk. But as we learn his story, and as he and Celaena bond, I came to really like him. Celaena + Rowan = BroTP, you guys. I love that there's no hints of romance between them. They're just two soldiers thrown together by circumstances, and they form a really significant friendship as a result. It's pretty great to see that kind of non-romantic relationship in young adult fiction.

It's darker than the first two books, and the ending was pretty mindblowing. The writing felt cleaner and more developed, and the changing narration worked beautifully. It's very action oriented - moreso that the previous books - and there are few signs of the "which pretty dress shall I wear today?" Celaena that we knew in Ardalan.

In short, fabulous new characters, awesome new settings, incredible character development and darker, more compelling writing. Heir of Fire is definitely a strong contender for my favourite book of the year. And given that I've read over 170 books this year, that's really saying something...

Does this sound like something you'd read? (Hell, even if it doesn't, you really should. Because it's amazing. If I could give it more than five stars, I would.)

K xx

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Heir of Fire is available in Australia and the UK on 11 September, and is already available in the US.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Packing is hard, yo

So I leave for London on Monday night. And let me tell you right now, I am WOEFULLY underprepared for this trip. Have I started thinking about what I want to do/see in London? Nope. Have I thought about what clothes and shoes I'm going to take that will adequately cover me for all possible weather conditions? Not even. Have I gone to the supermarket and stocked up on miniature toiletries? LOLNOPE.

My suitcase is out of the cupboard though, so I guess that's a start?

I'm slightly nervous about getting from Heathrow to my brother C's office in the middle of London, especially when jetlagged and dragging a suitcase behind me. It will involve changing trains and remembering to stand on the right so that I don't get murdered (or at least sighed at excessively) and generally going up and down escalators with a suitcase.

C's given me detailed instructions on how to get to his office which will hopefully prove to be idiot-proof. He even included a street view picture of his office so that I know what it looks like. And if I prove too jetlagged to follow simple instructions, he's informed me that I should ask the staff at the tube station where McDonald's is, and use the free wifi to let him know that I'm an idiot and to come rescue me.

All I know at this point? Is that I'll be taking a lot less luggage than the last time I went to England. Admittedly, I was going to England for several months to study. But I'm still not sure it warranted 40kg worth of luggage...

As for the rest, I foresee this gif coming in handy next Tuesday:


K xx

*Obviously, I have already packed the Tim Tams and Kraft mac and cheese that C's requested.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Goodbye, VEDA

Back in April, my 101 in 1001 came to an end, and I put together my Life List. One of the things on that list was to complete VEDA again. Not only did I do that yesterday, but Emily and I organised the whole stinking thing. So I think it's safe to say that I kicked that goal's arse.

Once again, I have a VEDA hangover. Except this time, it comes with oh-God-I'm-like-ten-days-behind-on-watching-videos, and considering I was VEDA co-captain this year, I feel...obligated?? finish watching everyone's videos. God even knows how long it's going to take me...

ANYWAY. That's why I haven't been around a whole lot over the past month. That, and I was working on backlogging about 20 posts for Snark Squad...

I think my editing and camerawork improved between last year and this year, as evidenced by the fact that when I went back and watched my videos from last year, at least half of them were out of focus. Well done, Past Kirsti. Well done... As always, you can check out the entire playlist here (you know, if you have a spare hour and eleven minutes. Which is a vast improvement on last year's hour and twenty-eight minutes). Or, if you'd prefer to just watch me make a fool of myself for three and a half minutes, you can watch my outtakes video. You're welcome, internet.

K xx
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