Catcher by Kalyn Nicholson Review (spoiler-free)

          It’s safe to say that Kalyn Nicholson is my favourite YouTuber – ever. I’ve been watching her content for a couple of years now and she has blossomed with her audience which I find beautiful and poetic in a way I think Kalyn appreciates too. So when I found out that she’s writing a book, a futuristic book about a girl who meets her dream boy, literally meets her dream boy I was instantly interested. I am a writer, my favourite YouTuber is a writer, this is amazing, right?

          I waited until her book came out, I even waited for it to go on sale and was bummed out when she delayed it. Then I got it, read 23% of it in one night and stopped until yesterday when I read the whole thing in one sitting during a readathon. This is not to say the book is bad or anything. For a debut novel, it’s actually quite good.

          The story of Carson and Grey is set in the future in a utopian society. Carson was four years old when she lost her baby brother in a car crash and due to her parent’s strict upbringing, she grew up very sheltered – except that she started dreaming of a boy she named Grey at four years old. It’s her 18th birthday and she is hoping to make it to Yorker, her dream university in the big city but her parents aren’t having it then a fire breaks out and engulfs her childhood home and she is relocated to the big city by her uncle, Char. There, on the first day, she meets Grey in a coffee shop called Koze and the story goes from there.

          To start with the characters, the first time I read it I began noticing the lack-lustre main character and the fact that I don’t like her parents and even her best friend, Mina. It took me ages to get through that 23% because nothing was happening to these characters. It felt like I was reading one of Kalyn’s morning routine videos (which are great in video form) rather than reading a fantasy romance that was meant to make me fall in love with the characters. Nothing truly made me didn’t care for Carson. Heck, I even forgot her name throughout the book because she’s simply not a character I care about. She does her morning routine and feels crappy about being held captive by her parents but she has no insightful thoughts and ideas, she has no set morals that drive her. In fact, nothing drives her throughout the book, she’s mostly going through the motions and letting everyone walk all over her.

          The more I read about these characters the more I realized that I don’t like them – Carson is boring and easy to walk all over, her parents are forgettable until the end of the book when they become despicable, her uncle Char is probably the most interesting character thus far and Mina, well, she had potential but we didn’t get to see it. I quite liked dream Grey and I liked Hale with his sarcasm and asshole-like behaviour because it woke Carson up, it made her snap back and be interesting. I think the thing that bothers me the most about Carson is that she feels like an insert-character to the point where I could almost picture Kalyn as Carson.

          I also disliked the songs at the beginning of the chapters, the repetition of basic words like “portal” and “kissed” and the few spelling mistakes throughout the book. Not to mention that she threw us into this new, futuristic utopia with no explanation. What’s a portal? What’s a lift? It took me a while to understand that a lift is a futuristic version of a damn car.

          On the other hand, I really enjoyed the storyline, even though nothing really happened at the beginning of the book. I liked the pace of the book and I liked the way Carson discovered things in a digestible way. And that twist, oh that twist was SO GOOD it blew my mind and made me shiver and it made me love the story despite the lacking characters. And if we’re really being honest, one of the things that Kalyn did really, really well is the way she described the dream sequences, those are the parts that really made the book enjoyable. It made me see the world she built as I was reading and it made me fall in love with Grey just as much as Carson did.

          In conclusion, Catcher is a good book. I gave it three stars on Goodreads – one for the storyline, one for Grey and one for THAT TWIST that still makes me shiver when I think about it. Sure, the characters are lacklustre but they can be improved in the second book which I’m looking forward to, especially knowing that Kalyn is taking writing classes.

          Anyway, have you read Catcher? What did you think about it and if not, are you going to give it a try?

          Thanks for reading!

          With love,        

          Sonny xx

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Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi Review

          This review contains minor spoilers! If you haven’t read the book I suggest reading it and coming back to this blog post later.

          Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi is that book that every Instagrammer has on their feed, almost like Milk and Honey and other IG poetry. Of course, that’s why I picked it up and why I was interested, plus the cover is super pretty so on an evening out with friends I picked up this book and it sat on my shelves for half a year before I read the entire book in one day. Let’s just say I enjoyed it enough to power through 390 pages – but that’s something usual for me.

          Emergency Contact is the story of Penny and Sam and how they became each other’s emergency contacts. Of course, it wouldn’t be a young adult novel without the parental issues, the insecurities and the coming of age plot but the reality behind these characters is what made the book for me. I enjoyed Penny’s self-introspection and the fact that she didn’t change to make Sam like her and I enjoyed Sam’s characterisation. We got to see inside the brain of the broody male protagonist and came to understand that he’s not broody for the hell of it.

          I also enjoyed that the resolution was realistic and didn’t tie all loose ends – real life is not that clean-cut and looking at the way Mary H.K. Choi narrates her story I think her aim was to portray these characters as realistically as possible, which in my opinion she achieved from the beginning.

          One thing I didn’t like was how the two protagonists took centre stage all the time. We have Penny’s mum and Sam’s niece and a couple of other useless characters peppered here and there but we don’t really get to know them. Sure, we know Penny’s mum is *ahem* young at heart and we know Sam’s niece is hyperactive and needy but we don’t get to form bonds with them so when Penny argues or neglects her mum I don’t really care about it?

          I feel like I could have given this book five out of five stars if it wasn’t such a quick and easy read. It’s 390 pages but it felt like 100 at best – although it was realistic and the protagonists were well written, the plot wasn’t. It dragged on at times and was redundant at others which put me off reading it at first.

          Overall I would say I enjoyed Emergency Contact and I am looking forward to Mary H.K. Choi’s future releases! Did you read the book? What did you think? Let me know in the comments and I’ll catch you next time!

 

         With love,

         Sonny xx

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Chat With a Grammar Nazi Serial Killer by Ryan Suvaal Review

I received this copy for review however, all my opinions are honest.

Given that it’s such a short story I can’t really review it the way I reviewed other books on this blog and therefore I will keep my thoughts concise and straight to the point. This is a no-spoiler review!

I couldn’t help but enjoy this story for what it is: a funny, interesting dissection of the human brain and how we operate when we’ve been wronged. Throughout the story the serial killer is blunt and straight-to-the-point, she doesn’t seem remorseful at all except for the little clues of her humanity which he sprinkles during her conversation with Corrigan.

I quite enjoyed the dialogue because how straightforward it was, probably due to the interview style. I also enjoyed the prospect of the story – the dark web interview was interesting and the main character is funny and unashamed which makes for a fun to read protagonist.

Although I do find it ironic that there are quite a few spelling and grammar mistakes throughout this short story given the prospect of the plot.

Overall, I definitely recommend giving it a read!

With love,

Sonny xx

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Exhaustion

I always joke around with my friends that exhaustion is a powerful drug. You know that feeling when your body is just so, so heavy that you can barely move? Or when your head is so full and your eyelids are constantly ready to drop that you can’t focus? You lose motivation to do things that you love or even things you don’t love but have to do anyway. So you end up procrastinating, spending hours watching YouTube and then even more hours trying to catch up on whatever work you were supposed to do and then your sleep schedule is all out of wack and maybe your diet is too and this keeps on going until you break down.

That’s not healthy. It’s definitely very common, sure, but it shouldn’t be. We live in a society in which we rarely stop to rest and when we do, well, we think about all the things we have to do when we get back to work. How exactly is that rest? It’s not. It’s tiring and exhausting and it doesn’t help anybody in the long run.

Now, picture your body and mind as a machine – it works perfectly when it’s out of the box and it serves you well for a while but after that, the wheels start rusting and you might need to do some work on it to restore it to its original form. That can take the form of what we now know as self-care which can be of many types but is mostly advertised as bubble baths and scented candles. Others like to say that self-care doesn’t have to be all bubble baths and candles and meditation which is fair enough, not everybody responds to these things in the same way and doing something pretty mundane can easily trick us into thinking about work so what do you do when the bubble baths don’t work and going for a walk just doesn’t seem feasible? You go back to the basics.

I finally finished the first semester of my second year of university. I started the month of September excited and ready to go to university and do my best then bad things started happening one after the other, ultimately snowballing into a massive depressive episode which lasted for the past three months or so. This semester has been exhausting, to say the least. I missed a bunch of classes because I was exhausted. I didn’t do some of the reading because I was exhausted. I focused on less important things to make myself and my anxiety feel better. I procrastinated and tried to catch up and it just didn’t freaking work because I was and still am exhausted.

My arms and my brain ache as I’m typing this blog post, that’s how freaking tired I am. I sat down to write for one of my stories and I just couldn’t gather the energy to think about this whole other world full of energetic and diverse characters. I feel like there’s this fog clouding the inside of my skull and a cold well inside of my chest and I honestly don’t know how to repair any of those things in a way that will still get me the results I want. I keep saying that I’ll get my shit together, that I’ll figure a way out but I never do because, in the end, there’s rarely one answer to all of our problems. Sure, I can buy a new planner and sit down to write my new year resolutions and goals or I can clean my entire room until it sparkles but that’s just a band-aid solution to the bigger problem which is the fact that I strayed so far from the basics that not even bubble baths and planners can help me feel like a well-rested, well-adjusted member of society.

I aspire to a great life, we all do. I want to live comfortably, to travel and to… uh, well, I don’t know what else I want because I’ve been stuck in this loop of exhaustion and trying to fix things with band-aids that just won’t hold things together. I’ve been so caught up in fixing the petty stuff that I forgot that the world is not just the small bubble that I created around me, that in fact, it’s an ocean of dreams and ideas and opportunities for learning and adventure. I can only describe this as walking around with my eyes closed because this is how I’ve been living my life for the past twenty years or so. I want to open my eyes and finally feel that fire in my chest, instead of an empty, cold well and I want my vision to be clear so I can fully understand what I want from life and effectively work for it without getting so exhausted (we’ll get exhausted no matter what, after all, but it should never get this bad) that I end up procrastinating and covering it up with a dumb band-aid. Now, mind you, if bubble baths and planners work for you then that’s great! I thought they worked for me too and in a way they do but for me, to fully recover I think I need to get back to the basics.

What are the basics you ask (you probably didn’t)? Eating a healthy, balanced diet (keep in mind that I’m not talking about your weight-loss diets, but diet in general) at specific times of the day, drinking enough water, sleeping eight hours per night, getting enough sun, etc. I don’t do these things even though they are the bare minimum, basic things everyone should do. I make a healthy meal plan I never follow and I say I’ll go to sleep early tonight but I never stick to it even though these things have been proven to make me feel less exhausted. Instead, I slap on a band-aid by taking a bubble bath and getting right back to procrastinating.

Now, I’m not here to tell anybody what to do. In fact, during these three months, I realized that although I started this blog with good intentions, it turned into something I don’t enjoy. Sure, I like music and what not but this is not what I want to do with this platform. Instead, I’m putting this out there as a form of self-care. I am writing my thoughts down and working through them as I type the words and if this is inspirational to anyone then it is, if it’s not then whatever, it helps me.

Thank you for taking the time to read through this long word-vomit. The short version of it is that these past few months have been very difficult for me and I have finally found a solution to the problem which is to go back to the basics. Work on setting up a strong foundation for myself and then go from there, or at least that’s the plan – I’ll keep you updated.

I am planning to revamp this blog during the winter holiday which means new content and possibly a new look. I want this blog to be more ‘me’ and less every other lifestyle blog out there so I’ll work hard on that over the next few weeks! Thanks again for reading and I hope you’ve had a great week!

With love,

Sonny xx

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Chrome Extensions I Find Useful

Inspired by Rowena Tsai’s video (I’ll link her video at the end of this post) on the Chrome extensions she finds useful, I decided to take a look at my own extensions and how I use them to boost my productivity. Now, I realize that this blog post might be a bit niche but as someone who is constantly using her laptop for all kinds of things; university, this blog, writing and reading, I like geeking out about things that make my laptop work better. So while I learnt about a couple of extensions from Rowena which I began enjoying as of late, I am not going to talk about those because I don’t have a well-developed impression of them.

The first extension I find useful is Grammarly. I have been using this extension for a while now since college actually. I have always been proud of my spelling and grammar, especially because English is not my first language, however, we all make mistakes and as someone who studies literature and whose passion is writing stories, Grammarly is so helpful. Grammarly is an extension which corrects your spelling and grammar mistakes and tells you why your original text is wrong.

The second extension I find useful is Forest. Forest is an extension that blocks sites you don’t want to utilise (such as YouTube, Netflix, Twitch, etc.) for a specified amount of time. When the timer goes off you have a pretty tree in your little garden and coins which you can spend on more pretty trees. If you decide to use the sites that cause you to get distracted anyway, you tree dies and leaves an ugly dead tree in your little garden. This is especially useful for me when I’m reading for my classes, writing assignments and writing for my stories. Whenever I run out of ideas for my stories or the reading material is giving me a headache, I immediately run to YouTube so this extension is super useful to keep me focused and on track.

The third extension I find useful is AdBlock which is pretty self-explanatory. I personally find it hard focusing on articles I’m reading and even when I watch videos because ads are constantly blinking in my face. Not to mention all the ‘indecent’ ads that pop out of nowhere.

Lastly, the extension I’ve had for the longest time is Momentum. I don’t really use this one is for productivity reason but rather because it looks nicer than the usual Google search bar and all the bookmarks under it. It also has a to-do list and really beautiful pictures so that’s a bonus!

So here it is, my favourite Chrome extensions! I hope you found these useful or even just a little interesting. Thanks a lot for reading and make sure to check out my last blog post!

What are your favourite Chrome extensions, do you even use extensions?

With love,

Sonny xx

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Hogwarts Houses Study Tips: Hufflepuff

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The third part of my Hogwarts Houses Study Tips is all about helping hufflepuffs finding different and maybe even better ways of studying. This week I will be focusing less on study strategies such as ‘teach it to others’ and ‘ask for help’ and more on the reasons why some of us have a hard time concentrating on our studies. I think we can all agree that as students in this modern age, our attention span gets shorter and shorter as technology and social media gets better and better. I personally have days in which I sit down at my desk, ready to read a text from the 18th century and I just can’t seem to focus – or I focus for the first five minutes and then I suddenly catch myself staring at the wall and daydreaming about Sandra Oh. It’s not like I am underprepared, I have all my essentials right next to me – a notebook to jot down notes, coffee/water, snacks and my phone is far away on my bed. Still, I can’t concentrate.

I think people deal differently with this situation. Some of us get annoyed and take a nap, others persevere, maybe they even find ways to make the content fun and interesting. But I genuinely think that before we do any of that, we should come to terms with the reasons why we’re having such a hard time studying. Here are a couple of tips that might help with that.

Hufflepuff

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Patience

Loyalty

Dedication

Kindness

Unafraid

Be patient and kind with yourself

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You know how some older people tell us that our generation is lacking independence and focus? Well, don’t listen to them. Times are changing, society is evolving and technology has a very big impact on our day to day lives, even though we might not realize it at the moment. Back in the day, people had to buy newspapers to get their news, now it’s all at our fingertips. Back in the day research was done in libraries by reading tons of books, now it’s at the push of a button. Of course, we would find it harder to focus, we don’t have to sit down for hours just to accomplish one task. So be kind and patient with yourself, don’t stress too much and you will succeed.

Spend some time understanding why you’re having trouble

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Instead of just diving into whatever you have to do or study, take some time to analyse the situation. Why do you lose focus so easily? What’s distracting you and how can you make sure you keep focused for as long as you need to. Naturally, our minds can only focus for twenty minutes before our minds start to wander. I personally found out that because of my very active imagination, I tend to slip into this land of daydreams whenever I lose focus. So instead of sitting down for hours, trying to concentrate on a subject that I might not even like, I study in bursts of 20 minutes and take 5-minute breaks in between. This way I can give into my wandering mind and keep focused for those 20 minutes.

Don’t be afraid of change

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I wrote a blog post about how I stopped fearing change which you can read *here*. Change is such a natural phenomenon and it’s normal to be afraid of change because it means stepping out of our comfort zone. But change is essential to living a productive and active lifestyle – a life worth being proud of. If you really, really want to get that degree or become a doctor/lawyer/photographer/etc. then being a proactive learner is worth changing your habits for. Instead of resigning yourself to bad study sessions and going to class confused, take this opportunity to change the way you study and focus in order to achieve your dreams and your goals!

So here it is, the third part of my Hogwarts Houses Study Tips series. I hope these tips helped you understand and work through the frustrations of not being able to hunker down and learn. Thanks a lot for reading and make sure to check out my last blog post which is a list of my favourite kpop groups as well as the other parts in this series: Gryffindor and Ravenclaw!

With love,

Sonny xx

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