Wednesday, 26 April 2017

My last 5 books: Horror, YA, and a classic

1. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. I had heard a lot about this book, mostly about how horrible all the events in it were. I didn't really like it, though. Could be that my Swedish translation messed it up for me, but this book didn't speak to me. I'm not protesting that the events in it were horrible, because they were, but to me there was nothing revolutionary about this book. Maybe when it was released in the 60s it was revolutionary, but for me in 2017 this is a theme I have seen over and over and over so many times in so many different contexts. I didn't really like any of the characters; all of them, even the "good" ones were too stubborn for their own good. I don't hate this book, but it felt bland.

2. The Phantom of the Opera, by Gaston Leroux. Oh, how I've wanted to read this book since I first saw the musical. Especially since I kept reading online that all the girls who kept romanticising the Phantom should read the book to find out how truly horrible he was and stop doing it. Well, yes he was horrible, but I knew that from the musical. But the book didn't change the fact that I simply felt sorry for him. Circumstance made him a psychopath, if he hadn't been born with a misshapen face he would've simply been a genius. Probably renowned for his work. Instead he was shunned all his life. The way people treated him because of his looks made him into a psychopath. Idiotic, short-sighted people were to blame for how he turned out. That's what I got from the musical, and that's also what I got from the book. In the book it was revealed that all the Phantom wanted was a normal house on a normal street with a normal wife and a normal life, just like everybody else. He was sick of being the Ghost, sick of hiding under the streets of Paris, he just wanted to be normal. And he wanted it so much that when Christine touched his face and kissed him on his forehead without being afraid he was so happy that he felt he could die happy, even if he never saw her again. I can't do anything but feel sorry for the Phantom.

3. Every Day, by David Levithan. This book was recommended me by a friend, and I loved it (most of the time). I couldn't stop reading it and it wasn't until I was finished and put it down that I realised how repetitive it really was. The story was unique, and I loved the whole idea, but the setting became repetitive. Today I woke up as... I'm this far away from Rhiannon... Let's screw this person's life up and go see her... I loved how the author showed life from every different aspect. Boy, girl, rich, poor, gay, straight, knowing someone for only a day vs. knowing someone for most of your life... Exploring the different aspects of life was amazing to read. I wanted more, though. I wanted to find out more about these others that are like A. I can only hope that there'll be proper sequel where A deals with these others more, even if he decided that he wants nothing to do with them I still want to find out more about them. And I want to read more about A and his life, despite how repetitive it becomes.

4. Kaninhjärta, by Christin Ljungqvist. Young adult fiction set in Sweden. I liked the language of this book, how it was written, but I didn't like any of the characters. While reading it, I thought the story was quite likeable, but a few days after finishing it I could hardly remember what it was about. Most of what I remember are angsty teenagers and adults with questionable judgement. Could be that the angsty teenager part hit a bit too close to home (Mary isn't too far from how I was ten years ago). But honestly, I liked this book much more while reading it, than I did reflecting over it afterwards.

5. Necroscope, by Brian Lumley. A few years ago I found a BuzzFeed list called Top 20 Vampires in Books, and I decided it was time to get through that list. The Necroscope series is mentioned on that list, so picking it up I naturally expected a vampire experience. While there are vampires in this book, it's not the main element. The story takes place during the 1970s (the book was written in the 80s) and feature a super secret Soviet spy organization that houses the necromancer Boris Dragosani. Circumstances lead him to Britain where we have the necroscope himself; Harry Keogh. Harry can talk to the dead and they like him, while they fear Dragosani and his forceful necromantic methods of getting what he wants. For years Dragosani nurtures an old, trapped vampire and after Dragosani becomes a vampire himself, the final battle between the necromancer and the necroscope are at hand. I love the twist at the end. And I love how this isn't a vampire story in the romantic, sexy sense, but in the sense that vampires are actual monsters that should be exterminated. This is the first book in a literay universe of sixteen, and I'm really curious to see what comes next.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Elder Scrolls Online: Jester's Festival and Second Anniversary event

This post was originally meant to be only about the Jester's Festival, but as time passed it also became about the Second Anniversary event, which ends today.

The Jester's Festival was the first event that I didn't fully participate in or for which I didn't complete all the achievements. Partly because work got in the way, and partly because I didn't feel it was as much fun as the other two events (Witches Festival & New Life Festival).

For the Jester's Festival you could purchase the free quest starter scroll from the crown store and then follow the directions to the starting point, which is always the first zone of your home alliance. I started outside Vulkhel Guard in Auridon of the Summerset Isles. The other two places were outside Daggerfall in High Rock and outside Ebonheart in Stonefalls, Morrowind. At these places you talk to NPCs dressed as jesters who pretend to be one of the three alliance leaders (Queen Ayrenn, High King Emeric or Jorunn Skald-King). They give you quests to liven up the people in the cities and cause some mayhem.

In Auridon it was all about throwing flower petals on people so they got flower crowns above their heads. In Daggerfall you had to go through two delves to collect a couple of ingredients needed to make fireworks and then fire off fireworks at certain places in the city. In Ebonheart you had to steal some apples to feed to a pig and then steal the pig from under the butcher's nose and bring the pig safely to the Jester without being spotted by the butcher.

After every completed quest you got a container reward in which you could find collectables, new recipes, and some new housing items. To get some extra achievements you could throw flower petals on other players to give them flower crowns, use a total of 50 fireworks, and also fire off some fireworks at each of the Undaunted Enclaves. There was also a pie of misrule memento that you could use during the festival for an XP boost.

The Second Anniversary event started on the same day the Jester's Festival concluded on April 4th. It's an odd name for the event. It's ESO's third anniversary, but since it's only the second event to celebrate it's anniversary, then that's what you get ;) It was basically the same as the last event, which means buy the free scroll from the crown store - go talk to the chef - get the ingredients - get the cake. The cake became a memento just like last year and using it gave you a 100% XP boost for 2 hours, at which point you could eat some more cake and get some more boost. A new thing for this year was that the daily and weekly quests gave you one extra reward in the shape of a container. In this container you could find most anything; crafting items, household items, recipes and crafting motifs. I had a lot more fun combining my daily crafting writs with these reward boxes and finding out what was in them than I had with the Jester's Festival.

The fact that the anniversary event was almost exactly the same this year as it was last year is a little bit of a hint that the old festivals from last year are going to come back in mostly the same form later this year, which I'm actually looking forward to!

Monday, 17 April 2017

What I did for Easter holidays

On Thursday I got up at 6am to get to the train station and get on the train south to Malmö. During the 4+ hours on the train I read Necroscope by Brian Lumley and also slept a bit. My mum picked me up at the train station in Malmö where I greeted her with tulips and a gift (it was her birthday). Picked up the dog from my dad's office to bring her home with us and then spent most of the afternoon and evening watching TV and reading my book. Fell asleep around 10pm completely exhausted.

Got up early on Friday to tag along on one of my parents' traditions. Well, not really theirs, but around Easter it's tradition for artists in the county to show off their works and hopefully get some buyers. The tradition originated on the eastern side and I'm told that over there it's so packed with people that you can hardly get anywhere. So we stayed on the less crowded western side. I'm not all that interested in art and I hardly know anything about anything on art, so I just looked around and went with my instinct in what I liked. Some places didn't have many interesting things, but it was a great opportunity to look at some really old places (don't care about art but old things are great, lol!), and also to make me realise that the one thing I miss from home living up here in Stockholm is the wide open spaces. Being on the road up here means your view will be mostly obscured by thick evergreen forests or rock walls, while back home it's acres upon acres of fields and farmland, or airy leafy forests.
When we got back home we played a round of Ticket to Ride (my parents favourite board game, they've hardly even put it away since I gave it to them about 6 years ago). In the evening we celebrated my mum's birthday a bit more, by going to a somewhat fancy Italian restaurant. Started off with escargots, which was followed by amazing steak, and I had some pannacotta for dessert while my dad had ice cream and mum just a cappuccino. After that we went to a bar close by and had a drink before going back home.

On Saturday I slept for as long as possible (11am) and then got up to get ready for when the grandparents and my sister with bf arrived at 1pm. There was a lot of talking and a homemade three-course lunch. When al the people left around 6pm, none of us really felt like eating, but we had some sandwiches, and then sat ourselves in front of the TV. I read Necroscope while watching the second Jurassic Park movie.

Sunday was a relaxing day. Spent most of the day reading my book, which I finished, played some more Ticket to Ride, and then in the evening we watched the third Jurassic Park movie on TV.

Today my dad drove me to the train and during the 4+ hours of travelling home I started reading my next book; A Game of Thrones. I arrived home around 4.30pm and collapsed in front of the computer.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Thoughts and feelings after the first day back at work

Today was my first day back. Back at the tourist information desk at the department store. I couldn't sleep last night; I was so nervous and worried about how it would feel to be back.

I was there 30 minutes earlier than usual because we had to clean a bit, get information and go to the meeting set up by the department store managers. The atmosphere was subdued and heavy throughout the day, but mixed with a fierce determination to try our best to pretend it was just any other Monday. At the meeting the managers spoke and introduced us to a crisis group that would be available for us at the store throughout the day if we needed to talk, they also encouraged us to talk to each other, and everyone in the staff were very keen to provide hugs and support to each other. During the meeting and during the day I saw several employees burst into tears, probably they shouldn't have been there so soon after, but we all knew that the longer you wait to get back to it, the harder it will get. So we were there, doing our best to move on.

The building still smelled of smoke, sort of acrid, but the hole in the wall had been covered up. Apart from the smell and the heavy atmosphere there was nothing on the second floor (where we are) to remind us of what had happened.

At noon there was a national silent minute. They announced it on the speakers just before it happened, and it felt unreal to watch everyone just stop and be silent. The whole shop came to a standstill. Just for a minute. When it was over they announced it again on the speakers, and everyone continued about their day; for a little while afterwards everyone was quieter than usual.

My shift ended at 2pm and that's when I went outside to have a proper look around. There were crowds all around the flower places and I noticed that people were still putting up flowers. Three days later. So I decided to do the same and bought a small bouquet of yellow roses. There was no condemnation anywhere, just notes of love, courage, encouragement, sorrow, and condoleances. Most of the wall of the department store, next to the covered up hole, had been covered with coloured notes written in many different languages. Two police cars were covered in flowers, the stone lions put up to hinder traffic on the pedestrain street were also covered in flowers, the street in front of the hole in the wall were covered, and the steps to the square across the street even more so. Swedish flags were everywhere along with candles and outdoor torches, gone out in the wind and rain.

 The street in front of the hole, and the covered up hole
 Two police cars covered in flowers
 Post-it wall, and the steps to the square across the street

Saturday, 8 April 2017

The day after it happened

I feel surreal. Still.

When I woke up today it was the same old Sweden, but yet something is different. Maybe it's because I was so close. Maybe something hasn't changed and it's just the way I feel.

Fact remains that the hijacked lorry crashed right into the building, the department store, where I work, where we have our tourist information desk. Less than an hour before it happened my shift had ended and afterwards I bought a big coffee and sat on the square nearby looking at the people. Around 2.30pm I left and walked the 5-10 minutes to the central station to get on my train home. Got on the train at 2.45, the crash happened at 2.50-ish. The train was late leaving the station. I didn't think nothing of it, they gave us the ordinary reasons of train queue and people running on the tracks. It's only afterwards that I started thinking that maybe we were late leaving because of what happened. Possibly I was on the last train allowed to leave the central station.

I didn't check my phone until after I got off the train and was waiting for the bus. My phone had exploded with notifications as well as texts from my parents and my sister and a missed call from my boss. It didn't feel real. What had actually happened didn't hit me until after I had gotten home. All my thoughts and feelings whirled around inside without me being able to get a grip of anything. I went from being terrified of the thought that if I had decided to take a walk before going home I would've been in the middle of it, to worrying about my co-workers who were there, to irrationally thinking about the people whose bags were in our luggage storage and how they would get them out of there. I tried to call my boss to know if the girl who'd taken over after my shift was alright, but the phone lines were overladen and I couldn't get through. When she finally got through to me and could tell me that they were all ok I felt like a huge weight had been lifted. Everyone I knew was ok.

After that I started following the news. Read about our government and parliament and royal family being brought to a safe place and the parliament building being closed down. Read about terrified people trying to get on trains out from Stockholm only to have the trains be locked down. Read about the metro being completely closed down and about police telling people to stay out of the city. Saw tasteless pictures of run-over people being spread on the internet and a picture of the burning lorry lodged in the department store's wall.
(Picture from Aftonbladet)

And through all of this horror I saw and read about people's solidarity. Shops and restaurants stayed open to become refuges for people who couldn't get home. Schools, campuses and churches opened up to accommodate stranded people. People who opened their homes to strangers. Preschools that stayed open to care for the children until their parents could get there. Even a Facebook post from a supermarket telling parents to encourage their children to call them or go there to get food if their parents couldn't get home. And the fact that the French shut off the lights of the Eiffel Tower in support. It made me feel warm and happy despite everything horrible that had to happen for people to show solidarity. Check out the tag #openstockholm on Twitter.

The lorry drove full speed at the largest pedestrian shopping street in the Swedish capital of Stockholm. It could've been so much worse. The death toll has stayed at four even over the night. It's horrible, but it could've been so much worse and that's what I'm holding on to.

Today is the day after and I was supposed to be at work today. At that same department store. But because of what happened the place is closed today. Probably tomorrow too, but the only thought in my head today is how it'll feel to go back there to work on Monday.

Today I woke up to seeing condoleances from practically every leader in the Western world. I also woke up to seeing hundreds of tweets, blog entries, Facebook posts, and articles about how they won't break us, how we are united against them and we are not afraid.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

March favourites 2017

Books: Four books + one manga (in Japanese) in March. Really good work tbh. Favourite has to be Barnbruden (The Child Bride), because even now, weeks later, the plot still sticks in my mind and I find myself thinking about it at the most random times.

• Dark Sarah - "Dance With the Dragon" & Abney Park - "The Derelict"

• Aerosmith - "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)" & Black Veil Brides - "Die For You"

• Bowling For Soup - "Don't Be A Dick" & brentalfloss - "Donkey Kong Country"

• Buono! - "Early Bird" & CNBLUE - "Diamond Girl"

• Cold - "A Different Kind of Pain" & Cradle of Filth - "The Death of Love"

Games: ESO, Civ 6, Mystic Messenger and Pokémon Go. Favourite spot goes to Mystic Messenger this time :)

TV shows: So many. But favourite spot goes to The Vampire Diaries. The show finalised this month and I loved how they brought back everything from the earliest seasons for the series finale.

Other: Well... it's been a pretty quiet month. Not much out of the ordinary.