From books and podcasts to keep you entertained as the days get colder, to the art of taking some time off and travelling on your own.
What I enjoy about summer is the time I have to read. This summer I had a good reading mood, here are three I have enjoyed the past few months.
Black Sun is the first book in the series Between Earth and Sky by Rebecca Roanhoarse and was recommended to me as a perfect summer read. It is set in a civilization inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and includes prophecies, political intrigues, forbidden magic and the fight for power. It had a great premise and as I was looking for fantasy that would be a bit different from the traditional fantasy I’ve been reading so far. It has woven together elements that I am truly found of, and also includes representation done in a way that does not feel forced, it's a natural part of the world.
The plot follows three storylines that all have the potential to become one of your favorites, unfortunately none of them manages to pull me in. I could not seem to connect to the characters (or at least the main ones who are supposed to drive the story), they simply did not have enough to them to keep me invested in their storylines. There were moments that had a little suspension building up, but instead of managing to get me there, it fell flat. The biggest issue was the romance, it came across as something that would have been great, if they actually had some chemistry, instead it came across as forced. Personally, this is not a series I will continue. I will recommend it as an easy read, an interesting and cool take of fantasy with a different touch than the traditional ones.
Neverwhere was the book I chose to bring with me at the last minute and it did not disappoint! Under the streets of London there is a world most people would never dream of. This London has monsters, saints, murderers, angels and knights in armor.
Neverwhere is the place where all who have fallen between the cracks end up. Once you have gone in to this London, you cannot return. Richard Mayhew crosses paths with a strange young woman named Door, when he decides to help her, he is suddenly stuck in this strange version of London. All he wants is to go home. Too bad. He cant. Neil never disappoints me! I loved this strange book, it was funny just when it needed to be, serious in the right places, an easy read that gives you so many layers of the story to love. It is going on my top 10 list of the best reads this year for sure.
Before They Are Hanged by Joe Abercrombie
Superior Glokta, Logan Ninefingers, Ferro, Bayaz, they are all back in book two of the series First Law by Joe Abercrombie, and what a book it is! I find it hard to pick favorite plot lines to follow in this book as they are all unique, intriguing and have a clear personality.
I love Superior Gloktas sense of humor, Ferro’s mood swings and insults and Logen Ninefingers tiredness of war, the phrases that have become part of their personality (Still Alive or Pink). This is an awesome sequel to an already awesome story. Before They Are Hanged is a grim dark fantasy book, but it's a joy to read, packed with humor, characters that truly draw you in and a plot that keeps you wanting more.
Stranger Things (Netflix). I’ve been binging Stranger Things lately. I was one of those who started on it, but then it became just too scary and I stopped. My travel buddy got me back into it and I have been catching up so I can jump into season four!
The Sandman (Netflix). This year has so many good series coming out, and Sandman was one I was waiting for. It has been really good (I am still not done) and I am impressed on what they have done with this awesome series!
Who Killed Daphne? This is a podcast about the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta. The story got news coverage all over the world and set off a team of journalists working to continue her work. Along the way they start to uncover clues that might lead to her killers and who ordered the hit. This was one of those podcast that I was curious about, because I remembered the story and did not really know what happened. It only has seven episodes, but I got really invested in this story, especially as her son was involved in the podcast and you get to know Daphne, not just as the journalist but also as a mother. Highly recommended!
The Official Game of Thrones Podcast: House of the Dragon The official podcast that discusses everything Game of Thrones related! The podcast kicks it off with the new series House of the Dragon, that premiers August 22nd on HBO. The latest episode is an interview with the man himself, George R.R. Martin. If you, like me, are still in love with this universe and can’t get enough, this is the podcast you need.
Self-Care and Mental Health
Knowing when to take time off is an art. It sounds so easy, but every time I have to do it, I find myself battling with a feeling of “I should be able to join this” or just plain FOMO. The past year and particularly this summer it finally clicked, it was not easier, but I finally noticed the difference in how my body reacted when I allowed myself to miss out on stuff.
This summer has been busy, now that everything is back to pre-pandemic, it felt really great and at the same time so tiring. The last festival that I went to, is when I truly noticed how tired I was. For that week I ended up deciding on going only half-days, picking out artists that I really wanted to see and having a quiet morning instead of rushing to the area to start off early. The last day I skipped entirely as I was just so exhausted. Instead, I got myself some sushi, some candy and snuggled up in bed with Persuasion on Netflix.
My former self would have guilt tripped me into going full days and not missing a single concert. I can even hear the arguments I would have told myself
- "You paid so much money for the ticket, the flight and the hotel"
- "You are here, you SHOULD go"
- "You can snuggle up in bed any day at home. This is it! This is when X and Y are preforming"
The one rule I had for myself this summer, was to not shame myself if I found that I needed some time off. Skipping the last day was hard, and I did end up texting a few friends to get some perspectives, and not just battle with myself on my own. The beauty of being honest with yourself and those around you, is that you do get some great responses and help to make decisions that can, sometimes, be experienced as hard. I skipped the last day and it was freaking amazing. The tension I had been carrying around, the sore muscles, the tiredness, it was all gone the next morning and I had a moment where I told myself: You did good!
The art of being alone
Going to a festival alone - will anyone notice?
Being alone is something I treasure. I love to spend time on my own and just doing my own thing. However, I realized that I have never travelled anywhere on my own. It has always been a plan of staying and/or visiting friends, gone on backpacking group tours or traveling with a friend. But never actually completely on my own.
I got a ticket for a festival this summer and since I am a huge fan of Florence and the Machine, I decided this was the time to try out solo-traveling. For the festival I had no idea if anyone I knew would be going, but I assumed I probably would find someone as its one of the biggest in Oslo.
It was a bit scary to suddenly be so alone, but after the first dinner alone, I started to ease into it. It was actually quite nice being in a restaurant and enjoying a dinner alone. Eating in silence is something I never do at home, but I found it relaxing. The festival itself, made me a little nervous. Would people notice I was there alone? Would I feel awkward? The insecurities followed me all the way into the area itself, but they slowly disappeared. Nobody notices, nobody made comments and I found myself enjoying being there without a group to follow.
Five days later and I could honestly say I had a really great time. I did meet up with people who were there, I was lucky enough to meet up with three friends from the bookstagram community, one friend from back home and even got some new festival friends. Three girls who also where there on their own, just vibing and enjoying the music.
There was a feeling of complete peace and freedom that followed me throughout this particular week. I had nobody to be mindful of or making arrangements to meet up, agreeing on what we wanted to do next or not do, even when I decided to skip the last day I did not have to make an argument for it to someone.
This is not to say that I dont enjoy being with friends, but I don't think I have realized how much I used to compromise because I did not want to leave people alone if I chose to go home early or disappoint them. Thats not on them. It was freeing to only look after myself. The best of it all was the sense of being at peace with myself, I was in the serene state at the end of the week. Tired yes, but also in a good place mentally. Taking a break from your environment and friends/family can be a good reset mode.
I am going on more of these solo trips in the future.
Things I learned this summer:
- take some time off when you need to
- congratulate yourself when you have done something good to yourself.
- travel alone, go on a data alone or simply find a way to spend some time completely alone.
Where to go if you're a bookworm in Rome
Above: Audrey Hepburn while filming Roman Holiday (1953) in Rome
After two years of not going anywhere, I was in heaven when I got to go to Italy! What a great country to visit! So much to see, eat and experience! My favorite part was to discovering and exploring all the bookstores and stationary shops. We simply do not have the same options here back in my hometown.
Five things I would recommend to all bookworms to visit while in Rome:
Otherwise Bookstore A bookstore we popped by in Rome on our last day. An English language bookstore in the center of Rome, this little store has a great selection of books and I found myself buying more than one. It is also a place that hosts regular events with authors - so ask if they have any upcoming events!
Open Door Bookshop (Via della Lungaretta, 23). A cute little bookshop that has a selection of used books in English, Italian and French. It has been run by the same family for over 40 years! Its quite small, but filled to the brim with books. It can get really hot inside on warmer days, so remember to take breaks in the heat.
Cartoleria Pantheon (V
ia della Maddalena, 41).
Moleskine Store (V
ia della Maddalena, 45). If you love stationary, it is worth paying a visit to one of the Moleskine stores in Rome - there is one within a 3 minutes walk from the Pantheon. I ended up not buying anything there, but when I got to the airport I found a smaller Moleskine shop where you could personalise your notebooks and calendars. I got mine for 2023 ready while waiting for my flight.
- Walking in the footsteps of Angels and Demons. This was a lot of fun for my travel buddy and myself. We did not go on any guided tours, just walked around by ourselves and discovered places that are in the book and through that we found some really nice reading spots. The Fontana di Fiumi or Fountain of the Rivers is a really nice place, pick one of the restaurants or cafes in the shade and enjoy a few hours here with a book. Bonus: The quaint Otherwise Bookstore is just around the corner.
This blog post was written by Gabriela Saez. You can follow her reviews on Instagram @bookstrider