Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 | Book Challenge No.9

I don't know if I've enjoyed a selection of five books from this challenge more; two from childhood and one from teenagehood, with the other two being exciting character studies. With winter holiday in full flux, I've been reading virtually nonstop.

further reading: intro / part 1 / part 2 / part 3 / part 4 / part 5 / part 6 / part 7 / part 8

41. A book based on a true story - The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
Loosely inspired by the life of Lili Elbe, The Danish Girl is a highly fictionalised account of Elbe's life as the first person to undergo sex reassignment surgery. The novel walks the reader through the first moment Elbe discovered her need for transformation until nearly the end of her life, with moments largely imagined and not pulled from real life experiences. Because the book is so fictionalised, I found it odd that the book spent so much time focusing on Greta, Elbe's wife's viewpoint, rather than that of Elbe herself. Otherwise, The Danish Girl is an interesting, informative read.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Two Hundred Years of Emma

"The course of true love never did run smooth."

Jane Austen borrows Shakespeare's famous line in Emma - her fourth book, originally published in December 1815 - as an introduction to the romantic drama. Though I am not as attached to this novel as I am to Pride & Prejudice, I'm currently in the middle of my third re-read as a commemoration of Emma's bicentennial. 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

2015 | Favourite Albums

I pulled my album favourites from nearly all corners of the music market this year, from mainstream pop and electronic to jazz and soul. The ladies consistently killed it this year with long-awaited arrivals - Adele - and new twists on old sounds - Florence.

25 by Adele
Adele's third, highly highly anticipated, record-breaking album is everything I hoped for and more. From the opening melancholy-tinged "Hello" to the midtempo hopefulness of "Sweetest Devotion," 25 is an delightful, emotional rollercoaster. 25 features Adele experimenting with different contemporary styles but mainly showcasing her much-missed powerhouse vocals, particularly on tracks like "When We Were Young" and "All I Ask." 
Favourite tracks: When We Were Young, Water Under the Bridge, Love in the Dark

Monday, December 21, 2015

2015 | Favourite Books & TV Shows

Last year I put all of my favourites into one post, but with the sheer number of music-related things I loved this year I thought it better to separate books and television into one post and music into another (coming later this week). To make it easier on myself I narrowed everything down to pieces released this calendar year (except for All the Light We Cannot See).


All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I included Anthony Doerr's most recent novel even though it wasn't published this year because it was not only the best book I read this year, but one of my favourite books I have ever read. Set in World War II, All the Light We Cannot See follows two characters - a blind French girl and a curious German boy - and two timelines - their childhoods and their lives' convergence and subsequent consequences in 1944. Doerr won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for this novel, and there's no question that he absolutely deserved it.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

2015 | Book Challenge No.8

With finals week came a spare five day gap in between tests where, along with studying, I was able to cram in quite a bit of reading.

further reading: intro / part 1 / part 2 / part 3 / part 4 / part 5 / part 6 / part 7

36. A book with a number in the title - Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
I first read this classic comedy in my Shakespeare class freshman year - though I have of course watched She's the Man many times - and decided a re-read was in order. Also known as "What You Will," "Twelfth Night" centres around a set of twins, Viola and Sebastian, who are separated in a shipwreck. Viola disguises herself as a man and works for a duke, whom she falls in love with, yet the duke is in love with a countess, who falls for Viola, who the countess thinks is a man. Sebastian enters partway through the story, further mixing up identities, and all the confusion makes for a hilarious tale that few could pull off as well as Shakespeare.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

2015 | Fall Semester Rewind

Monday, December 14, 2015

Five Beloved Films

We all have those movies that we've seen time and time again and yet never get tired of watching them. They might not necessarily be our favourites, but there's something about them that's always enjoyable. I've gathered a few that I could - and have - watched over and over again and still haven't gotten tired of them.

Adapted from Neil Gaiman's novel, this 2007 film features a young Charlie Cox as Tristan, a teenager who lives in a village bordering a magical kingdom called Stormhold. In an attempt to win the love of one of the village girls, Tristan crosses the wall between kingdoms to retrieve a fallen star, which, to his surprise, turns out not to be a pile of sparkly dust but a woman named Yvaine. To make it back home to his love, Tristan and Yvaine must safely cross through Stormhold, full of evil princes, witches, and magicians that also wish to claim Yvaine's power. Stardust has a huge, fantastic cast and the musical score is incredible. While it is far from the greatest movie ever made, it is an endearing tale of love and adventure, and it is one of my favourite book-to-film adaptations.

Monday, December 7, 2015

2015 | Book Challenge No.7

With my university's far less than sufficient number of reading days and the delightfully dreary weather outside forcing me indoors, I felt it apt to finally post the next set of books. This should have been up a few weeks ago but I've been horrible with remembering to write down the books I read, and consequently the rest of my posts are delayed.

further reading: intro / part 1 / part 2 / part 3 / part 4 / part 5 / part 6

31. A funny book - Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
The second I saw Mindy Kaling was writing another book I put myself on the library queue and impatiently watched my reservation move closer and closer to the top of the list. I was a little disappointed by it as I felt her first book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me was better and funnier, but Why Not Me? is still good, full of hilarious essays, looks into her business life and relationships, and lists of her favourite things, all interspersed by her self-deprecating humour.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Life Lately | November

Friday, November 13, 2015

2015 | Book Challenge No.6

After my absolute surety that I would finish the next set of 25 books before the end of the year, I hit a few consecutively busy weeks and only managed to read 5 books in the last month. Despite this little setback, I'm stubbornly holding on to finishing before the end of the year, even it means all I do over Christmas is read.

further reading: intro / part 1 / part 2 / part 3 / part 4 / part 5

26. A book you own but have never read - Jane Austen by Peter Leithart
Though I love Jane Austen's books and enjoyed Jon Spence's historically inaccurate Becoming Jane, I've never read a real biography about her. Peter Leithart's depiction of her is short - just over 150 pages - but provides a good general overview of her life and is filled with selections of Austen's writing and letters. I particularly enjoyed the sections about her sister Cassandra and niece Fanny as they were both important to Austen and her writing. For someone relatively uninformed about Austen's life, I liked Leithart's approach, but for anyone who already has a basic knowledge this book might be a little tedious.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Autumn/Winter Reads

Books, just like every other medium of entertainment, often fit a mood or a season. Late autumn and early winter has a dark, secretive feeling to me, and during the end of the calendar year I gravitate toward books that evoke mystery or a sense of things that are not as they seem. Below I've listed 10 books - some of them my absolute favourite pieces of literature - that I have enjoyed in the past or that I intend to re-read in the coming months, preferably curled up with a coffee and cozy blanket.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Life Lately | October

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

2015 | Autumn Favourites

I'm nearly halfway through my 16th year as a student, which means that for the past 16 years autumn has felt more like the advent of a new year than January ever does, with the start of a new school year and renewed season of busyness. Arguably my favourite part of autumn - aside from the cooler weather - is the return of fall television. I have been very happy with both the new shows that have started this year and the returning seasons of old shows, along with a few other miscellaneous finds.

Friday, October 23, 2015

American Roots Festival

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

10 While 20

Monday, October 12, 2015

2015 | Book Challenge No.5

With the semester picking up and midterms ever present in my mind, reading has taken a back seat in my life currently. But I'm now halfway through my book challenge; it took 3.5 months to read the first 25 books, and I'm confident with the upcoming holiday breaks I can knock out the next 25 before the end of the year - thankfully I'm a quick reader.

further reading: intro / part 1 / part 2 / part 3 / part 4

21. A book you started but never finished - Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
I finally finished Bad Feminist after starting and stopping three times, due to me always thinking I'll devote more time to reading than I actually do. Written in much the same style as celebrity memoirs, Bad Feminist is a series of essays focusing on Gay's own experiences as a woman of colour and how her background shapes how she views modern feminism and culture. It's a sharp yet humourous look at how culture shapes the way people behave and how we could all stand to be better.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Oktoberfest at Busch Gardens

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Life Lately | September

September was the month of finally, finally settling into a routine - the constant, familiar chaos interspersed by moments of calm, both accompanied by numerous cups of coffee. Autumn came a bit earlier than I remembered which has eased my frame of mind. With the start of exams it's nice to have some crisp air in the mornings and the excuse to wear my favourite Banks sweatshirt every evening. As with every September, a number of good bands put on shows in my area and I attended each with a few good friends. I finally felt like myself again, surrounded and slightly deafened by the glorious imperfection of live music. I did a bit of traveling as well, driving up to Virginia to enjoy Busch Gardens during their first weekend of Howl-O-Scream.

In the middle of the month I succumbed to the ever-present quarter life crisis - what am I doing with my life? what I am doing in this degree? can I get a job with this? - and when I had managed to talk myself out of my mental slump, an internship with an environmental nonprofit emerged.  My first week started the last week of September so there isn't much to say about it yet, but I'm excited to acquire some experience in a field within my major. September was, as always, a transitional month, and I'm excited for the adventures October will bring.

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Saturday, September 19, 2015

The Shindig

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Dealing With Reverse Culture Shock

Friday, September 11, 2015

2015 | Book Challenge No.4

I have finally, finally made it to the end of my library book stack... for now. I'm happy to have some extra desk space but I know in a few days I'll miss the pile of literature waiting for me. This latest set has been particularly good, and I had the chance to read a few of this year's most popular nonfiction reads.

further reading: intro / part 1 / part 2 / part 3

Image via ABC News
16. A book that made you cry - Ashley's War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon

Ashley's War - the true story of a group of women who in 2010 joined the US Army's Cultural Support Team in Afghanistan - was one I picked up on a whim at the library, never anticipating the impact it would have on me. The Cultural Support Team is a newly created group of female soldiers who work in connection with Special Operations; the women work to protect the women housed in compounds and question them about locations of insurgents and weapons, a task the men are unable to perform due to social barriers. Ashley's War goes through the creation of the group, the challenges the women faced as they went through training and and talked through some of the operations in Afghanistan. Most importantly, the book gave the individual perspectives of many of the women on the original team and really brought out their real-life personalities. I don't want to give away the ending, but I cried my way through the final few chapters. By the end it had hit me hard that these were real stories about real women, and I haven't had a war story hit me this hard in years.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

2015 | Summer Favourites

With the start of the new semester and the busyness that ensues, I nearly skipped posting this. I ultimately decided I would appreciate the effort in the future, and thus I've compiled everything I've loved the most in the months of July and August and the tail end of June. I've also diversified my list to include some items that I don't usually include, so this is more of a list of things I enjoyed this summer rather than the best of the best.


Via Pixar
Inside Out
While I enjoy Pixar films, it's been a while since I've fallen in love with one, so I went to the theatre not expecting much more than a cute kids' movie with some funny lines. Instead I was completely captivated. Despite being marketed towards kids I felt the film was better suited to teenagers/adults as it was emotionally deep - much more so than you would expect - and it hit me right in the feels. The filmmakers perfectly struck the balance of the emotional spectrum that moving away from everything familiar into an unknown place  gives while still keeping the movie fun and kid-friendly. The choice of actors for the voices was spot-on, the animation was incredible, and I am not ashamed to admit it was my favourite movie of the summer.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Carolina Beach

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

2015 | Book Challenge No.3

My library stack has continued to grow due to my inability to say no to a book. Consequently, I have to tear myself away from each book - currently Susanna Kaysen's Girl, Interrupted - to write about the previous reads.

further reading: intro / part 1 / part 2

11. A book set in a different country - The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid
It's been a while since I've read a book written as a frame story - the novel takes place during a single evening in a cafe in Lahore, where a Pakistani man named Changez relates his life and experiences in New York before and after 9/11 to an American visitor. The book is entirely one-sided; Changez's words make up the entirely of the prose, and though he often replies to questions the American asks, we never see the American's exact words. The Reluctant Fundamentalist is full of apprehension despite the lack of violence and the book ends on an uncertain note, leaving a suspenseful feeling long after the novel is finished.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Returning to the Known

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.”
- T.S. Eliot

It's a strange feeling returning to ordinary university life after eight months away. Everything is the same yet different; I'm living on campus again on the same side of campus but in a single dorm with new suitemates, my friend group has remained the same but each person has changed in their own ways, and my classes have familiar subject material but are more challenging. Though I've seamlessly slipped back into campus life, I feel like I have irreversibly changed. Not that I have really changed - in the words of a good friend, "you still wear black and your hair's always in a bun so you're still the same Kate" - but I feel as though I've grown more into myself, if that makes any sense. Living on my own in a foreign country, far out of my comfort zone, constantly experiencing new, unexpected things - both good and bad - made me realise my boundaries and what I must learn to adapt to. My time spent back in the States has not so much been "where do I fit now" but rather a re-exploration of what I already know. I can say it no better than T.S. Eliot; I am knowing my home, my starting point for the first time, and I cannot wait to see what the new semester brings.

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Friday, August 7, 2015

2015 | Book Challenge No.2

I currently have a monstrous stack of library books beside my bed waiting to be read and I've poured all my literary focus into those instead of writing about the ones I've already read (oops). With the fall semester fast approaching it's time to get through the posts sitting idly in my drafts folder and write about the remaining borrowed books on my shelves.

further reading: intro / part 1

6. A graphic novel - The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman
I had never read a graphic novel before but decided to try one of Neil Gaiman's as I have loved everything else by him that I've read. To my surprise I really enjoyed it and even read the next three novels in the Sandman chronology. Preludes & Nocturnes, the first of the series, follows Dream, one of the Endless, after he escapes the captivity of  a magician and tries returning to his home realm, only to discover that it has fallen to ruins and he must recover his totems of power. The illustrations are fantastic and the dialogue is dark yet comical, and the series once again solidifies Gaiman as one of today's great writers.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Day in New York City

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Amherst, MA

Friday, July 24, 2015

Life Lately | July

I spent the first 9 days of July at home, spending my spare time alternating between family and friends. I went to the cinema as many times as I could to catch up on all the movies I missed while in Germany and I read a book a day, working through my stack of novels borrowed from the library. The remainder of the month was spent in Amherst, MA in a position working with international students. It was an exhausting two weeks but I was alongside some great people - including my Mannheim buddy Shannon - and it was a rewarding (if hot and sweaty) time in New England.

After spending all but 3-4 weeks of 2015 constantly surrounded by international students, I can honestly say it's strange thinking about returning to university and being once more surrounded predominantly by Americans. I've enjoyed learning about new cultures and I'm not ready to say goodbye to the continuous learning and go back to the old familiar. My time in Europe has changed the way I think about daily life and I know my adjustment of focus will carry on. But with the summer coming to an end, it's time to finally put the last 7 months behind me and look on to the next great thing.

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Thursday, July 16, 2015

2015 | Book Challenge No.1

As mentioned in this post, I hope to read my way through a book challenge by the end of 2015. I've decided to break the list up by groups of five, and the books listed below are the first of ten sets.

1. A memoir - It's What I Do: A Photographer's Life of Love and War by Lynsey Addario
After reading an interview with Addario in the New York Times a few months ago and learning that she published a memoir of her career, I was instantly intrigued. It's What I Do briefly covers her childhood before exploring her beginnings as a photographer and the burden her career places on her personal life. Equal parts exhilarating and heartbreaking, Addario's firsthand account of her experiences as a conflict photojournalist is a must read for anyone interested in photography, journalism, or modern wars.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Hozier Tour

Friday, July 3, 2015

2015 | June Favourites

Between finishing my last semester of sophomore year and moving back home to the US from Germany, June has been a crazy ride of a month. Despite the busyness I still had plenty of time to find various forms of entertainment to enjoy.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Life Lately | June

June was a month split exactly into two halves: the first 15 days were my final moments in Germany, my chance to say goodbye to the people and places I've loved the last five months in Europe. The second 15 days were spent at home, reconnecting with my family and revisiting all my familiar haunts in my hometown. Though settling back into my old life has been surprisingly easy I miss my life in Germany, where I could hop on a train and be in another country in less than two hours, where I could immerse myself in different cultures in a matter of hours, and where every day was a new chance to explore something I didn't know or understand but knew it was another story with another memory of my time abroad.

Of course all good things must come to an end, but there are also more adventures ahead. In less than 2 weeks I will be heading north for a new job in Massachusetts where I will stay for the remainder of the summer. In the meantime I have two term papers to finish, a stack of library books to read, and all the iced coffee in the world to drink. It's the most unusual summer I've ever had yet it's been full of its own moments and memories.

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Saturday, June 27, 2015

Exchange Goals | Part 2

About a month ago (give or take a few weeks) I posted part one of the exchange goals I hoped to accomplish during my remaining time in Germany. I can happily say that I finished the rest of my list with a few days to spare, and I've written a bit more about each one below. (I forgot to post this much earlier and I just found this is my drafts I'm sorry.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Auf Wiedersehen Deutschland // Goodbye, Germany

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

2015 | Book Challenge

The year may be nearly halfway over but it's never too late to set goals. I recently stumbled upon this reading challenge and thought the categories were fun and a little, well, challenging. I'll do a little write-up after every few books I finish to keep track of my progress, and hopefully I'll be able to complete the list before the end of 2015.

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Sunday, June 14, 2015

Life in Photos | Final Days in Mannheim

Saturday, June 13, 2015


Friday, June 12, 2015

Maifeld Derby

East India Youth

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Leben in Berlin // Life in Berlin

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

2015 | June Albums

Barely a week of June has passed but four musical artists have already released material that I've been waiting months to hear so I couldn't wait until the end of the month to talk about them.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Berlin Berlin

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Recent Reads | May

During the month of May I read 11 books, far more than I've managed to finish in a month in a very long time. I picked a few of the most noteworthy ones to talk about here, but a complete list of what I've read can be found on my bookshelf.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Prag // Prague: A Tour With an 80s Punk Rocker

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Life Lately | May

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Prag // Prague: Got Love? Czech.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Exchange Goals | Part 1

A little over a month ago I posted a list of 7 goals that I wanted to accomplish during my remaining two months in Mannheim. I've timed it well so far - halfway there and half of my goals have been fulfilled. Here's just a little bit about each of the ones I've done.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Brüssel: 10 Stunden in einer Weltstadt // Brussels: 10 Hours in a Cosmopolitian City

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