Oliver Loving – Stefan Merrill Block

Now, let’s talk about Oliver Loving. This book has been a step out of my comfort zone in some way. I don’t usually read books like that, but since my boyfriend is called Oliver I thought I might give it a try. Also, the cover is quite beautiful.

Anyway, the story is about Oliver who has been gravely injured by an amok-attack in his high-school. Ever since then he’s lying in a hospital bed unable to move any part of his body.

At the beginning of the book, Oliver has been in that unchanging condition for ten years and is about to get yet another test, which should reveal whatever he is still somewhere in his destroyed body. As the story slowly progresses to that fateful day, the reader is also lead in the past. Oliver’s divorced parents, his younger brother Charlie, his high-school love Rebecca and of course, Oliver himself tell the whole tale from their different points of view. All of them struggle with the question as to why the accident happened and why Oliver was attacked. But not only do we discover the truth behind the amok-attack, we additionally find out a lot about the former life of the family. And in the end get to see a great example of how strong a mother’s love is.

Well, in my opinion, that book did certainly have quite some action to it, nevertheless, I couldn’t really warm up to it. To me, it was quite predictable and it is definitely an easy-breezy summer-read because it kind of has the habit of dampening your mood a bit. So although I’m glad I read Oliver Loving once, I probably won’t read it again.

Catcher -Kalyn Nicholson

It’s almost like I’ve known you my entire life.

Although I normally upload reviews on Sundays and Dear Reader-parts on Tuesdays I couldn’t resist uploading the review of Kalyn Nicholson’s book straight away. The book came out on August 7thand I’ve been reading it a couple of days later, basically in one sitting.

It’s a story about love, loss and family, with just the right amount of cheesiness and a hell lot of coffee. But let me give you an overview of the plot. (Spoiler-Alert!)

The book is written from the view of eighteen-year-old Carson Wallace. The girl lives with her parents in Thalia, a country in the future and is being homeschooled by her father. The story starts with a tragedy that happened to Carson’s family when she was about four years old. During a lift-crash (lifts being the futuristic transportation vehicles) her younger brother Axel dies, although Carson also nearly did not survive the accident. But while she is unconscious she meets a young boy with grey eyes who tells her it would not be her time to die yet. So, she decides to live and returns to her life. The boy, whom she calls Grey, continues to visit her in her dreams and together they have the most awesome adventures.

As the years go by, their friendship eventually turns to love, but on Carson’s 18thbirthday her house is set on fire, she and her parents merely escape and her world is turned upside down. Suddenly she is allowed to attend Yorker, a school which specializes in brain stimulation, something her parents have forbidden her before since the school is across the country in the capital of Thalia. Also, instead of Grey, Carson suddenly dreams about how she herself sets her house on fire with a pack of matches she found.

Things get even more confusing when she not only finds out that Grey exists in real life, but that she also is on top of a kill-list established by the government. Trying to escape from her fate, she discovers secrets about her world, she’d never thought possible.

Well, I don’t want to spoil you anymore, so I’m gonna stop with that.

Overall, the book is a nice read, which features a lot of almond lattes and notebooks. Nicholson’s style of writing is pretty good, although the characters do miss a tiny bit of depth every now and then. Apart from that I really enjoyed reading Catcher and cannot wait to read the sequel to this very exciting series.

My Recipe For The Perfect Text

I wrote my first short story when I was about six years old and before that, not being able to properly write yet, I would think of many stories in my head, most of which were about horses and other animals I loved. Writing has always had an extremely relaxing and therapeutic effect on me and my definition of fun was writing essays for classes. And with the encouragement of various teachers my style of writing, as well as my vocabulary, have improved over the years, and though I know that I’m far from being an expert in writing, I thought I’d share with you today a few steps that I’ve established back in High-School. It’s just a strategy that I’ve been following for years and maybe you could make use of those tips as well. So, let’s get started.

1.    WRITE A DRAFT

Write down every single thought that pops into your mind concerning the topic you are writing about. Don’t focus on structure, grammar, and choice of words. This first step is only for gathering your thoughts and opinions on the topic of your text.

 

2.     DO SOME RESEARCH

Nowadays information is accessible at any given time. Google your topic, maybe read some book about it, whatever fits best for you. This step is for getting comfortable and familiar with the topic.

3.    RESEARCH THE TYPE OF YOUR TEXT

There are some differences between Article, Essay, Open Letters, Colum, etc. Especially when it comes to structure and the opinion. Luckily, there usually are tons of examples for each type of text online, so all you have to do is read a few examples and keep in mind, what’s important for your text.

4.    FIGURE OUT YOUR TARGET GROUP

Now, that seems to me a bit of an underestimated step. But it’s actually your target-group that tells you whatever your text should be modern, sophisticated, humorous, … No matter what you are writing about, you want to draw your reader in right from the start. So, a catching headline and subhead are crucial. But the overall style has a great impact on how people are going to receive your text. Let me give you a quick example: Let’s say you are to write an essay concerning drug-abuse for 13- to 16-year-old teenagers. Your style of writing should be easy going and relatable, you may even want to throw the occasional joke in there, but keep your topic in mind, it should still be clear that the subject of your text is of serious nature. Now, you have to write an essay on the same topic of the parents of those teenagers. In that case, your style should be more sophisticated and business-like. You want your reader to see how competent and trustworthy you are.

You got to build a relationship with your reader. If you have trouble doing that, draw an imaginary reader. Write down their hobbies, their living situation, what they love, what they hate and then write the text for that person.

 

5.    STRUCTURE YOUR TEXT

Put your thoughts from Step 1 in order. Keep in mind Step 3.

6.    LET IT REST

I’ve always like to compare writing with baking. First, you mix all the ingredients together until you have a batter. Then you let it rest for a while before you form it and put it in the oven.

Writing is rather similar and in my opinion letting your draft rest is absolutely necessary in order to become an excellent text since it allows you to step back from the topic for a while and most of the time gives you a whole new perspective on the subject. Also, you are more likely to discover typos when you return to your draft.

How long you want your draft to rest is up to you. I like to lay mine down overnight, but when I’m in a hurry I try to get at least an hour in before editing it and putting together the final edition. There are also topics that challenge me more than others, then I sometimes let a text rest for over a week, if there’s enough time. Which brings me straight to the next point.

7.    START EARLY

When you are at school or university you are usually told when you have to hand in a piece of work and believe me when I say that not starting to write a day before the due date will improve your writing immensely. Simply because you can do a way better and thought-through structure, research more and, of course, let it rest. Naturally, that won’t be possible to do every time you have to write something, but the next time your professor tells you to hand in that essay Monday next week, start right on the day they tell you about it. Not only will you be more relaxed because you are on time with your homework, you will also find that you will receive a better mark on that particular text.

8.    DO NOT TRY TO BE PERFECT

Writing needs practice just as everything in life. If you are trying too hard to be perfect and put a lot of pressure on yourself, you are very likely to “over-edit” your text and end up with a decent result, but that’s usually not what you really have in store. The perfect text doesn’t exist, you’ll always find something to change, to edit so it’s important to just let go sometimes. And, as long as you keep on writing you are going to get better anyway. Try to be confident about what you have to say. Your thoughts and opinion matter.

9.    BY ALL MEANS, AVOID WORD-REVISIONS

Honestly, there’s hardly anything more upsetting than reading a text that uses the same word over and over again. Obviously, there are certain exceptions, but most vocabs have at least one synonym that you could write instead. Really focus on that the next time you write something. Your text will freshen up a damn lot if you try to use different words.

Also, there’s an awesome app for searching synonyms available for iOS and Android. It’s called “Thesaurus” and basically provides you with synonyms for English vocabulary.

10.  READ, READ, READ

There’s nothing I could tell you that improves your writing as much as reading. I haven’t really got anything to say about that one apart from: You get loads of new vocabs; find out about the different structures of a sentence; grow confident in the use of grammar.

That concludes my recipe for the perfect text. I know that my texts are far from perfect, but maybe that list here will help you write your next homework.

Eat, Pray, Love – Elizabeth Gilbert

I’ve had this book for at least three years in my bookshelf, but for some reason I kept putting reading it off. Well, actually, I started reading it right when I bought it, but Eat, Pray, Love didn’t really feel good to me back then. It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy it, it just felt as if I or something inside me wasn’t yet ready for this book. Does that make sense?

Anyway, now that I eventually managed to read it, I can tell you, I liked it, although I see why a lot of people don’t have that good an opinion on Gilbert’s most known piece. But, I guess that’s just part of the risk you take when you write and publish a book that features mostly personal experience, since there probably are tons of people who would have reacted differently than the author in certain situations, but that shouldn’t matter, really. Gilbert tells her story and how she felt during that period of her life and she deserves some respect for putting it so bravley out into the world.

But, let’s focus on the content of the book. Eat, Pray, Love is a non-fictional, motivational book that tells the story of the author and how she lost her husband, her house and herself, but found the path to her innerself or awakening (as Rebecca Campbell calls it) through traveling from Italy, to India to Indonesia. It’s a story about healing, learning and finding back on track. Very motivational and be warned, after reading this you are going to want to jump onto the next plane and travel the world, just like Gilbert.

I found Elizabeth Gilbert’s sense of humor rather refreshing, although her style of writing and her world-view take some time to get used to, but apart from that Eat, Pray, Love is a highly inspiring, motivational and also very interesting book to read, since it features three, well actually four entirely different cultures with Italy, India, Indonesia and the USA.

So, in case you are looking for a book you want to read outside in the warm sunlight of early-summer, you may very well have just found it. I highly advise you to give Eat, Pray, Love a go.

I Did It! – Conquering My First Spartan Race

A few weeks ago I posted a blog-post about how I started training for the Spartan Race in Vienna on May 12th. And yes, I did it, I actually made it through.

But let me tell you the whole story. First of all, I didn’t race alone, but with a friend of my boyfriends who had done some races before.

Our start time was 13:45 and after warming up properly and watching the race for a bit we lined up for starting. The atmosphere and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect and we were even lucky enough to get a few raindrops during the race.

Anyway, let’s talk about the real stuff. Before signing up for the race I had watched numerous youtube videos about Spartan Races around the world, just to get a little insight of which obstacles were to expect. And honestly, I was pretty confident that I would at least be able to tackle a few of those. But, yes here comes the but, that made this whole experience REALLY challenging. So, you need to know I’m not a huge fan of heights, never was so having to somehow get over an 8 feet wall certainly is not as easy-cheesy for me as for some other people. Besides from that, my arms are definitely my weakest point. Long story short I had some huge respect for those walls.

Well, that being said let’s get back to race. As some of you may know before you even get into the “venue” if you can call it that, you have to get over a wall. It’s not a super high wall, but it’s a wall nevertheless, soooo there we or more I had the first problem. I couldn’t get over that wall. I just couldn’t. Whether that was because I was afraid, or simply don’t have the strength necessary, I don’t know but fact is, that I couldn’t even have started the race if my boyfriend’s friend hadn’t been kind enough to give me a lift. We are not going to talk about what that did to my pride and honour, but I guess you can imagine anyway.

Well, after that incident the race commenced and off we went. During the first couple of kilometres we didn’t come across many obstacles and if we did they were definitely on the easier side. But then the famous Barbed Wire came and since we were in the Military Academy we did not only have to crawl under the barbed wire, but also under an enormous tank. I don’t know why, but I found that actually pretty exciting. Then we went on to the rope-climb where we had to make the first of many, many burpees. 🙂

With the next obstacles, neither of has had that much of a problem, except of course for those goddamn walls. Somehow we tackled them though and came to the area where the obstacles were placed more frequently. There have been the Tyrolean Traverse, Inserted Wall (Burpees for me) and a container filled with ice-water, which was surprisingly very refreshing. Naturally, we had to conquer more than that but they went by rather unspectacularly.

The venue in Vienna was so set up that if you went to the start you had to pass the finish, therefore I had already seen the last obstacle even before we started. And what could that have been? You guessed it. A f*ing 8 feet wall. I seriously had no idea how I should ever get over that thing and I still hadn’t figured out a way when we approached it, tired and dirty as we were. Honestly, there hadn’t been any other obstacle I was afraid of, but that wall drove me nuts for like the entire race. Nevertheless, we got closer to the wall and then I realised just how high 8 feet are from close up. Admittedly, the thought of quitting didn’t occur me once, but if I had waited just a moment longer I’m sure I would have given up at some point. But, I’m not that kind of person who runs 9k just to throw the towel, because things might get a bit challenging.

8 feet wall

Sorry, I haven’t got a better picture, but that was that last wall we had to get over.

My racing buddy helped me up and things were going rather well until I could see over the wall and with that suddenly found out, how much I disliked being up in the air. I tell you, the ground was just so far, far away and that was the exact moment I panicked. I remember saying I can’t do this. I just can’t. And I think I would have had a serious problem, if not another racer simply put my leg over the wall so that I could at least sit up there. And then I had to make a simple decision because I had to get down there somehow, so I chose that side that would get me farther and with whatever power, I all of a sudden had in me, leaned forward, pulled my other leg over and let myself as awkwardly as humanly possible down. And that’s how I got over that thing. My boyfriend and his brother were watching the whole scenario and cheered us on as we tackled the last few metres including the fire-jump. Truth to be told, I was very glad seeing those two standing there, so close to the finishing line because it’s just a good feeling knowing that someone is supporting you, so that kind of restored my scared mind a bit and in the end, things weren’t even that bad.

In the finish-area, all racers get some drinks and protein-bars to restore their energy and you also get to pick up a medal and a Finisher-T-Shirt. And then it’s on to showering and picking up your stuff before you grab a beer and talk about your experience on the run.

That concludes my very first Spartan Race. It’s been an awesome experience and I’m already looking forward to the next one in September. Also, I want to point out the great community on the trail. Everybody is so incredibly helpful and supportive and just stands up for each other and that alone has made the experience unforgettable. Apart from that, there’s hardly a better way to gain self-confidence and trust in yourself than participating in a race like that. Sure, it’s challenging and exhausting but once you’ve made it, it’s highly rewarding and I have to admit to actually sometimes tell myself that I’m Spartan now, and therefore I can achieve anything. It’s pretty helpful and makes me push myself further out of my comfort zone.

After The Race

That are my Spartan-Buddy and me after the race. Also, please note that I managed to run the entire race with my headband upside down!

As you can tell, I’ve enjoyed racing very much and would recommend doing the same to you. It’s so worth all the dirt and bruises.

Frankenstein – Mary Shelley

Having been published in 1817 Frankenstein is now the epitome of gothic books. Mary Shelley was only 19 years old when she wrote this dark tale of monstrosity, the rules of science and death.

Victor Frankenstein is a highly intelligent striving young man from Switzerland with an enthusiasm for alchemy. When he sets out to attend a rewarded Universtiy, it soon becomes clear that great things are to be expected from him. And doesn’t take long that he commences a project that will last far longer than he could have ever imagined. After endless hours in his labour he succeeds in the middle of the night when the creature he put together from lifeless limbs suddenly opens its eyes. But his creation is a wretch, a Monster and Frankenstein flies from his labour in fear. To his Desperation that’s not the end to the tale, in fact it’s only the beginning. For some time, Frankenstein doesn’t see or hear anything from the wretch, but when he murders Victors younger brother, it becomes clear to him that he made a huge mistake in bringing that miserable creature to life. The monster hunts him and takes revenge for giving him this pleasureless and miserable life by tormenting him with the murders of Frankensteins beloved ones.

The creature is feared and rejected by every human being because his appearance is hideous and he never meets a genuine hand. Tough, he longs for companionship, for a fellow creature, with whom he could share his lonely life with. Therefore, he sets out and seeks Frankenstein in person to demand from him to produce another wretch, just like him. If he, Frankenstein, would fulfil this task the monster and his partner would forever leave him and all humans in peace. But Frankenstein dares not to put another monster in the world and refuses the demand. Filled with rage and hatred for his creator the daemon thus makes his purpose of life to put Frankenstein into as much misery as possible. Innocent people have to give their lives in order to torment the troubled and despairing Frankenstein, who then vows to destroy the monster and sets out on a journey that will eventually cost him his life. The monster, after Frankenstein is dead, dies from his own hand, and the claims to not be the only devil in this tale. He says all he wanted was the be happy and to be content. He wanted to interact with other people, but he was left alone by his master, who feared him solely for his appearance. He claims to have emotions just like a person has and he felt the injustice and he wanted, in his misery, Frankenstein to feel the same pain he had to endure. The death of Frankenstein can also not satisfy him, because now his life is robbed of its only purpose of life, which was to torment his creator. Thus, he sets out and takes his own life.

This is how the Story of Frankenstein and his Monster Ends and I believe that book is an astonishing read. It’s about how pushing too far never equals a good outcome and how revenge and hatred lead only to more misery and that sometimes forgiveness and admitting one’s own mistakes and giving a helping hand to those who need it, may go a very long way.

I do not really believe that Frankenstein’s monster was evil from the beginning, nothing ever is evil on its day of birth. But being abandoned by his creator and rejected by everyone made him take the actions of a Monster. If he really was evil, I don’t know, but I think he could have come out alright if someone had taken proper care of him. This might be very naive, but I just have trouble believing that something is entirely evil or entirely good.

Anway, Frankenstein, though brilliant, could not see the line where science may be too much. His pushing too far over the edge kind of reminds me of Moria in Lord Of The Rings. The dwarves, just like Victor, stepped over a line and woke a monster that was far out of their league. The same happened to Frankenstein and I think no one can blame him for running away, that night when his Monster first opened its eyes. Nevertheless, he had to spend the rest of his life trying to destroy what his very own hands brought to life, but in the end, he only lost everything that was dear to him and of course his own life.

Frankenstein is an astonishing read. Shelley fills the head of her reader with the most grotesque images, that are so dreadful, I would not advise reading this book at night when you are alone at home. But I would certainly recommend reading it. Frankenstein may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is definitely worth your time.

The Pleasure Of The Mountains

“Although I deeply love oceans, deserts, and other wild landscapes, it is only mountains that beckon me with that sort of painful magnetic pull to walk deeper and deeper into their beauty.” – Victoria Erikson

Every mountaineer will probably be able to relate to this quote. There’s something so unique and fulfilling in the tranquillity and silent majesty of the mountains, that once you’ve been lucky enough to taste it, you only want more.

Growing up in a small village in Upper Austria, surrounded by mountains and hills, I’ve come to take mountains for granted when I was a teenager. Although I loved hiking as a child, over the years I lost the pleasure in conquering a mountain and couldn’t understand why people would voluntarily sweat like sh*t in the blazing sun just to be able to say they have climbed an enormous pile of rocks.

Hiking for me was an activity you do with other people, never alone. God knows where I got that idea from, but so it was. The idea of going on a hike on my own never even occurred to me since I was like 18 years old. And there actually lies the reason of why I quit hiking as a teenager –> I didn’t want to spend more time than absolutely necessary in the company of other people. Also, I didn’t want to be seen with a sweaty, tomato-red head and a pumping chest. In case, you are wondering, yes I did suffer from social anxiety, though I believe it was a very low form of that illness, nevertheless, it got in my way. Anyway, I simply couldn’t bring myself to go on a hike with my family and rejected them so long they eventually stopped asking me to accompany them. Years went by and I started my therapy and after a few months in I started to read “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed. ( In case you are interested in my Review click here). And in the midst of reading, I thought I want to have that feeling as well. I want to be in the mountains, completely by myself and only surrounded by trees, without any permission to interact with my fellow human beings. So, I bought myself a pair of proper hiking-shoes and went on my first ever solo-hike. I conquered the “Kleinen Sonnstein” in the middle of Salzkammergut, where after an hour of a rather steep ascent the hiker gets rewarded with a breathtaking view of lake Traunsee, the mountain Traunstein and Gmunden.

Kleiner Sonnstein

That’s a small portion of the view you get on the top of Kleiner Sonnstein.

Thus commenced my love for hiking and the mountains. After Sonnstein, I tackled “Grünberg” and a few others, at this time already in the company of my beloved Australian Shepherd Hercules.

Hercules

Meet Hercules. He loves hiking, playing in the snow and cuddles. Lots and lots of cuddles.

Anyway, that’s the Story of how I got into hiking and spending time in the mountains.

But, doing it more frequently now than ever before, I started to ask myself why exactly so many people are drawn to the beauty of the mountains and want to stand on top of one. Of course, there’s always the glorious view, but could that be the only reason hundreds of people in the world set out every day to climb a mountain? I believe not. Hence, you’ll find a list of some of the advantages of hiking below.

  1. Freedom –> There’s hardly anything that makes you feel so free than standing on top of a mountain
  2. A challenge completed and the sense of achievement that comes with it –> the feeling of success and having made it is quite unbeatable and something everybody needs to experience every now and then
  3. According to Health Positive hiking has helped provide so many new benefits to mental health that experts now prescribe it as a supplementary for ADHD and chronic depression. How astonishing is that? And how wonderful?
  4. There’s no better way to get away from the every-day stress and to unwind. All you gotta do is put your phone in your Rucksack and try to take not too many Pictures. Hiking provides you one of the best opportunities for escaping your stress and the constant pressure of today’s Society.
  5. You get a nice workout in. It may be a bit more time-consuming, but therefore there’s hardly an exercise you could do at home or in the gym that works your core, your cardio and your strength at the same time.

To put it all in a nutshell, spending time in nature and seeing the beauty of your home country is worth, sweating (and peeling yourself out of your sports-bra afterwards ;)) and getting dirty. Those five benefits are only the peak of the iceberg if you will when it comes to hiking.