A Study Abroad update and 6 Book reviews all in one.
I’ve read six books since I left New Zealand. It’s only been four weeks and I have read 6 books.
The first month of living somewhere new is rough. I miss my family, my friends, my grumpy cat and the comforts of my bedroom. My bed here contains big nasty springs, the room resembles a sterile hospital room and the cheap nylon sheets I picked up? They’re scratchy. My class schedule is light, barely 1 hour per day. So I have a lot of free time on my hands. In my first week I went to see every good spot in Sheffield, instead of spreading it out like I should have. The rain was drizzly and the clouds consistently steel grey. I’m thankful for the friends I’ve made thus far, an easy going American girl (also a study aboard student) and a sincere couple from my Congregation. My weekend getaway to London and Brighton was marvellous. Yet I still miss home.
To distract me from my homesickness and a little bit of loneliness, I picked up books.
My book binge began on the flight over. With 2 flights and one long stopover in Singapore, my travel time amounted to a hefty 38 hours. Plenty of time to read a book and get a ridiculous amount of sleep. I read No Exit by Taylor Adams. No Exit is a thriller about a college student who is forced to wait out a storm at a remote highway stop with a few strangers. She discovers that in the back of one of these strangers van is a little girl in a crate. Dodgy. The book follows her trying to figure out who the kidnapper is and well, thrilling events ensue. While I don’t think it’ll win any prizes for depth, I enjoyed this read as it has great plot twists and kept me hooked till the end. Thrillers are always action packed making them, in my opinion, the kind of genre to get you reading again. After reading the book I slept endlessly. When I arrived in Manchester I had missed all three meals on my 14 hour flight and as a result was SO hungry. I got on the 1 hour bus to Sheffield, dumped my stuff in my new room, showered without a towel to dry me and mished it to the nearest food place. Subway. No offence to English people, but Subway here is bad? It doesn’t deserve the slogan Eat Fresh. And they didn’t have coke, only pepsi. The subway man gave me my sub with a smile and said “here you go luv”. A term used often but the people of Sheffield. “Luv” is the “Bro” of Northern England.
The next few days were a blur. I went to uni events, sorted my classes, got all the stuff I needed to make my room liveable, met Madz and some other cool study abroad students. My next read was White Oleander by Janet Fitch, a new favourite. I choose it to fill a requirement on the Popsugar 2019 Reading Challenge, a book with a plant in the title or on the cover. So I googled which books fit that and there bam, recommended by the one and only Oprah was White Oleander. White Oleander follows Astrid, the daughter of a chaotic poet who kills a man and goes to prison. These events lead to Astrid being in the foster system and we read about her experiences in 5 different foster homes. It’s written like a lyrical dream and rips your heart out the way only a first love can. This book is exceptional. If you want to read something that unlocks strong emotions within you, read White Oleander. With White Oleander on my mind the homesickness hit hard. I spent this week waiting for classes to start. I went to local art galleries and bought myself coffees and stationary. I started journaling. I wish I could write as magnificently as Fitch. Maybe if I willed it I could do it.
“But I knew one more thing. That people who denied who they were or where they had been were in the greatest danger. They were blind sleepwalkers on tightropes, fingers scoring thin air” – Janet fitch.
The start of October was a downpour. I felt stupid for picking England in winter. But on a positive note, my reading enthusiasm grew as I watched more booktube videos. Listening to Leo Reads, an Auckland Girl, gush about books felt like listening to a friend over coffee. I definitely recommend her channel. The rain and delayed purchase of a rain jacket resulted in me catching an unforgiving cold. Snot dripped incessantly from my skin flaked nose. Colds are gross and not the kind of thing you want to be inflicted with before a trip. But there I was, with a cold and on a train to Brighton. On the train I started the Gilmore Girls read-a-thon and dove into Being Friends with boys by Terra Elan Mvvoy, as it filled in the requirement of “a book with food on the cover”. It was trash. It’s about a girl who writes songs for a band and how she’s friends with boys, only boys, as she hates girls and has terrible relationships with 99% of the females in her life. This had a lot of girl hate which I don’t like in books and I didn’t find the main character very likeable. It was an easy read as the writing was so simple. If it hadn’t have been for the read-a-thon I would’ve put it down earlier. Brighton was not trash. I was a delightful place where I was in the company of a couple I adore. A Zimbabwean man (who grew up with my father) and a Polish women whom of which fell in love in London. It was soothing being in a home for a few nights. Then I caught a train to London to meet my soon- to-be married friend who was ending her Europe trip. We had a blast. Rode a ride near the London eye, gawked and giggled over squirrels and ate to our hearts content. Our 1st day in London was filled with hustle. That night I was kindly hosted by friends of hers in their home and slept like a log. The next day we meet triplet artists, identical in DNA and close in affection. They were lovely and locals who took us to Wetherspoons and showed us the engaging Natural History Museum. We talked about books and I’ve added their recommendations to my “To Read” section on GoodReads. That night I called my mother while waiting for the train back to Sheffield.
In Sheffield classes started up. I got into a routine. I did laundry. All mundane in comparison to the lively weekend I’d just had. I read Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson over two days. I rated it 5 stars. I loved it. Truly Devious is a mystery set at a boarding school (a favourite setting of mine) and tells the story of a determined amateur detective as she tries to solve a decades old case and gets to know those who attend the boarding school as well. I loved the characters, the pacing and the plot! Three aspects that are rarely all covered well by writers.
That week I also went to a board games evening and learnt how to play complex board games with other students from overseas and went to all my classes. It was good to be busy. I powered through Final Girls by Riley Sager and finished it in 3 days. Final girls is another thriller that was engaging but with more depth and complexity than No Exit, you are reading it questioning every characters motives and the truth isn’t revealed right until the end. I really had a good time reading it.
I had a dream that my mother and father had arrived in Sheffield and I was mad in the dream because they had interrupted my solo adventure but I woke up disappointed that they weren’t here.
On a Sunday after my meeting I was hosted for dinner and enjoyed the company. That Monday I started Down and Across by Arvin Ahmadi. A coming of age story about a boy who runs away in search of grit. It was a funny and light hearted read with life lessons worth writing down (and across haha). It made me think of my time in Sheffield as my own search for grit, one of which I would come out of glad for the experience. In my free speech class that day I learned about the intense political climate in the UK. It’s very different from back home. I also took a walk and found the recently re-opened library, Weston Bank Library, nestled amongst the orange trees and in the park. I love it. Dubbed the place for hipsters of Sheffield Uni by the Facebook page Sheffessions. It makes me laugh. What’s wrong with wanting to study amongst the greenery?
Today I sat in the Autumnal Park, near that library and observed it, a task set in my poetry class. I breathed in the fresh air held onto my notebook and knew the grey sky had parted.
I am going to be just fine.