The Value Of Perspective

Have you ever had one of those days where things just aren’t going so great? You wake up with a headache, there’s no hot water for your shower, you’re out of milk, the car battery is dead, you miss an important phone call, you miss an even more important meeting, you get home to a messy house, your family is screaming for attention… and all you want to do is hide in a dark cupboard and hope for a better tomorrow? Well, we all have those days (though, hopefully not always with this particular sequence of events). It’s during times like this that I think the best thing we can do is find a little perspective; find some way to anchor ourselves in the knowledge that, yes, our day may have sucked… but we’re still breathing.

I was at work the other day and I wasn’t having the most perfect few hours. All I wanted to do was go home, bury myself under a blanket (with a block of chocolate), and only resurface again when I was feeling better. But then I heard something that shook me straight out of my funk.

One of my colleagues has a nineteen-year-old brother who I learned was involved in a car accident just over a week ago. He was riding a motorbike and was hit badly enough by the other vehicle that he broke every bone in his face except for his forehead. He also broke his collarbone, some ribs, bones in his arms and legs, and who knows what else. The doctors had to pull out what was left of his teeth and they also had to draw his eyes back into their sockets. Amazingly for all his injuries, he doesn’t have any brain, spinal or internal damage (that they know of). After eight hours of reconstructive surgery on his face alone, he’ll never look the same again, but thankfully he’s alive—and he should be able to walk out of the hospital in a few months on his own two feet. But at nineteen, there’s no ignoring the fact that this young man’s life is changed forever.

It’s stuff like this that makes you stop and think about what really matters in life. Even when things are at their worst, there’s always something we can be thankful for. We might be going through the roughest, toughest times in our lives, but the sun still rises each morning, it still sets each night, and we’re still here for all the moments in-between. Each day that we awaken with breath in our lungs is an opportunity for great things to happen. Sure, things could get worse—there’s no point in me sugar-coating the possibilities. We all know that life is unpredictable. We could be driving along and suddenly we wake up in a hospital with our faces smashed in and no teeth. That could happen. I may be an idealist who spends a great deal of time in happy-happy-la-la-land, but I’m not completely immune to the realities we sometimes have to face in this world. I’ve had to experience my own share of them, and I’m sure that I’ll have to do so again in the future. Because that’s just a part of life.

It’s beautiful—and it’s painful.

We live, we deal.

We survive.

And, hopefully, we learn how to thrive.

What I guess I’m trying to get across in this post is, perspective can be an incredibly valuable thing. It can pull us out of our situations, out of our circumstances, and it can open our eyes to what really matters. But it is challenging. Believe me, I know. But I want to leave you with one final quote as encouragement:

“A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes…”

Dreams are funny things. We all have them. They can last a moment, a day, or a lifetime. And they begin early in life. Ever since I was a young child I found myself imagining the different futures I might walk into. Some of them were downright ludicrous (because, let’s face it, the chances of my family being the long-lost heirs to some forgotten kingdom were slim to none—which meant that I was never going to be hailed as a princess and relocated to the castle from Sleeping Beauty).

My dreams changed as I aged, and while some remained ridiculous (sadly, I still haven’t figured out how to invent human wings, nor have I come up with a scientifically proven formula for a teleportation device), others have led to goals that have been somewhat more realistic. I dreamed of finishing school, of moving out of home, of graduating from university, of travelling overseas, of getting a good job… These are all dreams I’ve managed to achieve. They’re what I consider the basics, though. Because my other dreams are much, much grander. Some of them have come true too, like my most fervent desire to become a traditionally published author. In my mind, it doesn’t get much better than that. And because my publishing dreams are now becoming a reality, I’ve had to readjust my goals and come up with new ones to work towards—which is both exciting and extremely daunting.

Dreams, I believe, signify our deepest desires and our most honest hopes. That makes them scary. Because there’s always going to be that little voice in the back of our heads whispering things like:

“What if it doesn’t work out?”

“What if my dreams are too big?”

“What if people laugh at me?”

“What if I try my hardest and still don’t succeed?”

Negative ‘what ifs’ are dream-crushers. They’re hope-destroyers. They scream “YOU’RE GOING TO FAIL!!!” so loud that you’re terrified to even try. You may be paralysed by the thought of even beginning to work towards your dreams because you’d rather not lose the possibility of them coming true ‘one day’. It’s a hard truth to acknowledge, but there’s always the risk that if you try today, you might also fail today—which could mean the end of a dream. And that’s a totally justifiable fear. Because the best dreams are also the scariest. But do you want to know a secret? It’s the scary ones, the most challenging ones, that have the power to make a difference—in you, in those around you, and in the rest of the world.

You can probably tell by now that I get a little passionate when it comes to talking about dreams and goals and hopes and all that, so when I was contacted by the community manager at Kabbage.com yesterday with the suggestion to write a post on this topic, I jumped at the chance to put pen to my thoughts. I can’t help it—I’m just an eternal optimist with an unshakable belief in happily-ever-afters. But I’m also not completely oblivious to the realities of the world. Yes, things can happen in life to crush and ruin our dreams. It’s happened to me before, and it sucks. But that’s when we have to dream new dreams, set new goals, nurture new hopes. And there’s beauty in that—so much beauty. Because each new day has twenty-four hours of potential for us to work with. And in that time, it’s up to us to decide if we’ll begin to step into our dreams… or if we’ll just wait for a ‘better time.’ I love the quote by Earl Nightingale that says, “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.” That’s so true. And it’s up to us to use our time wisely.

Let me encourage you today with a final, well-known, often overused (but still appropriate) quote:

What are you waiting for? Put your shoes on and start walking into your dreams!

The Beauty Of Purple Prose

So, here’s the thing. I wrote a post not so long ago claiming that I’ll rarely name a book unless I can give it glowing accolades, and that’s because I don’t want to write anything less than amazing about another author’s work. I think honest reviews—positive and negative—are important, but I also think there’s a time and place for them. I read a lot of books, and let’s face it, very few of them can rock my world. So I like to be careful about what I recommend (and what I don’t recommend) through this blog.

I still stand by my words. But over the weekend I read a trilogy that actually did rock my world, so for this post I’ll be going on and on and on about the awesomeness of this book series, a series so wonderful that it truly deserves to be named. I hope you’re ready for a gushing review, because that’s what this is. Five stars doesn’t cut it—a galaxy of stars wouldn’t even do it justice. It’s simply, mind-bogglingly, that good.

To clue you in, I’m talking about The Juliette Chronicles by Tahereh Mafi.

The first book in the series, Shatter Me, has a Goodreads average of 4.04 (out of 5) from over 91,500 ratings. The second book comes in at 4.33, and the third at 4.48.  That kind of average is insanely impressive, especially considering the specifics of this series. And by ‘specifics’, I really mean the writing style. Because Tahereh Mafi literally paints pictures with her words. Her prose is so purple that it’s dripping with every shade from indigo to violet and all the others in between.

(more…)

Bookshop Dreams

I visited my favourite bookshop while I was asleep last night. That sounds weird, right? Well, that’s because it is. But it’s literally the bookshop of my dreams—because I only go there when I’m sleeping. And last night wasn’t the first time I travelled to the magical place. It’s one of those recurring dreams, you know? The kind that, when you wake up from them, you feel an overwhelming sense of déjà vu. And it was doubly weird last night, because my subconscious dream-self knew the place wasn’t ‘real’, but I also knew I’d ‘been there’ before. Totally mind-bending, believe me.

Regardless of the whole ‘Twilight Zone’ feeling, whether I’m awake or asleep, I’m not the kind of girl to let a fabulous opportunity go to waste. So, what did I do? I shopped, of course! I spent ‘hours’ perusing the infinite collection of books in the beautiful, endless store. I read blurb after blurb and chose so many that I actually had to go and get a trolley-thing. And that’s because there were what seemed like entire galaxies of young adult books (happy place!), let alone all the other genres. Colours, shapes, sizes… You name it, it was there. In fact, it was almost as if every book that has ever been written and every book that is yet to be written was available for my purchase. (Yes, I did actually have to pay for said books… But I did also state that it was a magical bookshop, not a magical library.)

… But speaking of libraries… Funnily enough, my recurring dream bookshop looks an awful lot like the Klementinum library in Prague:

Pretty, huh? No wonder my subconscious mind likes visiting the place so much! Can you really blame me? And on a side-note, if anyone wants to shout me a trip to the Czech Republic so I can see this gorgeous library in person, I’d be more than happy to take you up on your generosity! ;-)

Okay, now that I’m done asking for free holidays (lol), here’s a little gem which perhaps explains why I keep dreaming about bookshops:

2

Time for honesty: does anyone else ever visit libraries or bookshops in their dreams? And, come to think of it, I’ve heard people say that we’re not supposed to be able to read in our dreams, but I definitely can, since I very acutely remember some of the dream-blurbs I read last night—none of which I’ve read in real life. Am I just weird, or can anyone else relate?

Traumatised By A Paperback

I’ve been in a crazy reading mood of late, but no matter how many books I read, nothing has really had that ‘wow’ factor I’ve been looking for. That all changed today with a seemingly innocent book I picked up on a whim from the local library. Torn and tattered (not to mention, suspiciously stained), there was nothing about the cover that drew my attention. Indeed, not even the blurb was that fabulous. But it was the title that drew me in. It read almost poetically, really, and it jogged a memory, since the moment I saw the paperback sitting on the shelves, I remembered hearing a number of recommendations in the past from other fellow book-lovers to give it a go.

So I did.

And now…

Well, honestly? I feel like someone’s taken a cheese grater and shredded my veins. I think I’m metaphorically bleeding emotion. That’s just how gripping this book was. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting, devouring the words like they were the air I needed to breathe in order to keep on living. Sounds dramatic, right? Well, that’s nothing compared to the book itself. I’m not sure if I need a tub of ice-cream, a box of tissues, or an unending hug. Perhaps I just need all three at once. Because right now, I’m pretty much like this:

But you wanna know the funny thing? There was nothing really all that awesome about the book. Nothing even all that amazing about the writing. But somehow the author just manages to grab your attention through the beauty of her storytelling. She manages to draw you in until you’re invested in the characters. You don’t want to know what happens; you need to know. It’s almost obsessive. And it’s not just that you need to know what happens next, but the whole way through you find yourself wondering what happened in the past. Because you know something had to have happened. There are little hints the whole way through, little snippets of information that set your mind whirling on possibilities. But as soon as you think you have the answers, something changes and you realise that you still have no idea what’s going on. Add to that, there are two main characters and two different POVs being told, and I still don’t know who I feel sorry for more. All I know is that I wanted to jump into the pages and give them both a hug. But while my act of affection would have been intended to seem like this:

… I’m pretty sure it would have been received just as well as this:

Let’s face it. No one wants a hug from Voldemort. And the two main characters in this book were definitely not the kind of people who would have been overly receptive to the whole ‘healing hugs’ gig. *Shrugs* Their loss.

… Anyway…

It was also interesting because everything about the two of them was destructive. And when they finally started to become ‘better’—and I use that word extremely lightly—they were still so emotionally messed up. Even when they started caring for each other, they were practically a ticking time bomb with all the secrets of the past lingering between them (secrets that we, as readers, still didn’t know about until the very end). Their relationship was pretty much this in a nutshell:

It’s kinda a funny image… but it’s also very true. They did more damage to each other than anyone else did. It was fascinating to follow their lives and see just how inescapably messed up everything became. But there was also a certain amount of beauty in the mess. And boy, there’s nothing I love more than a beautifully redemptive story.

… And that ending! Omigosh. Those two final words stole my breath and had me beaming like an idiot. No joke—beaming. Who beams? Smile? Sure. Grin? You bet. Laughing, giggling, chuckling? No problem. But beaming? What is that? I’ll tell you what it is: it’s what I was doing after reading the absolutely perfect ending to an emotionally shredding paperback. It’s been a loooooong time since I’ve read a book with such an amazing ending. Often after the climax is over, things usually either wind down or just rush to finish. You’re either left reeling, despondent, or unsatisfied. But this ending was, as I already mentioned, perfect.

Okay, okay, I know you’re all wanting to know what book it was now, right? Well, I’m not going to tell you, sorry. Not here, anyway. And that’s for a number of reasons, most of which are that I don’t like pushing my opinions onto others. Everyone is entitled to their own likes and dislikes, and just because I think something is amazing, certainly doesn’t mean it is. (Plus, I openly admitted earlier that the writing and the story of this book wasn’t, in fact, amazing… And I feel like it’s not fair of me to name the author or the book if I can’t give it a solid five stars). If you’re dying of curiosity and really want to know so that you can read it yourself, you can either email me or PM my Facebook page. But otherwise, all I can recommend is that you just sit in silence for a moment and think about some of the beautiful books you’ve read over the course of your life and how much they’ve tugged at your heartstrings. You never know—perhaps you’ll find yourself beaming as well.

Book Cover Excitement

Guess what? Guess what? Guess what!?!?!

Okay, wait, let me take a few deep breaths here… *In*… *Out*… *Repeat*…

Right. That’s a little better. But… GUESS WHAT!?!?! My publishers sent through the designers’ first concepts for my book cover!!! YAY!!! I honestly can’t begin to describe the level of excitement I felt when the email came through. I was at work at the time and, regardless of that, I may have had a moment a little bit like this:

… And that moment may have continued repeating itself sporadically over the next few hours. (Oh, the shame. Thankfully, the people I work with are used to my random displays of excitement by now…).

But seriously, I couldn’t be more thrilled with what the designers have come up with. I’ve been so worried about being disappointed that I never really allowed myself to imagine what I actually wanted the cover to look like, but now I have proof that it is in fantastic hands, because they’ve done an amazing job! And that’s just on the first draft! We still get to refine it and change things and… oh, *happy sigh*… I’m just so relieved, you know? And now that I’ve given my feedback (likes, dislikes, etc.), I can’t wait to see the next round of changes!

Okay, this is just a short-and-sweet update because I wanted to share my excitement. (I’m not kidding when I say I still look exactly like crocodile-Louis here; though, I’m perhaps a touch less co-ordinated…)