November Reading Roundup

I started this November out with some gung-ho reading habits.

Then I slowed down (way down, one book in two weeks down) and acted much more like a normal person; seeing friends, running errands and cleaning my house. Part of the reason I read so much, so quickly, is because I rented several library books all at once, and then realized I needed to read them all within two weeks. The thing about rented eBooks is that they return themselves when the time is up… both great and terrible. Needless to say, I learned my lesson, I will only be renting one eBook at a time from here on out. (Okay, maybe two. But never again four!)

November was full of nonfiction, but the reading was far from dry. I learned a lot about a huge variety of subjects (as I like to do), so I’m pretty happy with this month’s mental exercise. If I had to pick a favorite for November, then I’d choose Woman: An Intimate Geography. It’s a book that I can feel will stay with me for a while.

Ready to see the list? Take a look:

Throw Them All Out by Peter Schweizer

Nonfiction / Recommended

The topic is a fiery one: political corruption. The author does an excellent job of using both Republican and Democratic examples of corruption. I think we all know there are shady dealings at the top, but he spells out exactly how they happen, how they’re legal and why it’s not okay. At times, reading this made me sick to my stomach.

Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese

Fiction / Recommended

There were tears, smiles and vigorous page turns while I read this book. It’s fascinating because of its descriptions of Africa and it’s captivating in the way good fiction should be. Oh, and profound, quotable life lessons galore.

Lovely Quote: “In all things, especially when it cost little and did no harm to others, Ghosh was his own man.”

Thank you Steve from Twenty First Century Nomad for the recommendation!

Woman: An Intimate Geography by Natalie Angier

Nonfiction / Recommended

This was one of those rare books that really made a noticeable impact on my soul, I just feel different having read it. On my required reading list for every human on the planet, especially women, this book would be front and center. A top Amazon reviewer described the book perfectly: “scientific poetry”. Indeed.

Zen Under Fire: How I Found Peace in the Midst of War by Marianne Elliot

November reading roundup review zen under fire

Nonfiction / Recommended

Amazon says this book was over 300 pages, but it felt like a lot less. The memoir was interesting, emotional and a much-needed window into Afghanistan’s humanity and culture. And if you wanted someone to convince you of the benefits of yoga and meditation, I think you’ve found your book.

Tent Life in Siberia by George Kennan

Nonfiction / Neutral

Kennan recounts two years spent exploring Siberian Russia, living in tents, traveling on dog sleighs and spending time with indigenous populations. It’s an adventure book, with tidbits of fascinating information about what he saw, written in the late 1800s. I’m neutral on recommending it, just because adventure books aren’t really up my alley and I didn’t love it, but if you like this genre, then you’ll enjoy this book.

P.S. It’s free!

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Have book suggestions? I want to hear about them!

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iPhone Photoessay: St. Hilarian Castle in Cyprus

Did you know I went to Cyprus? And I barely even told you about it, shame on me. Almost a year later, I’m going to make this up to you. While I was in Cyprus, I wandered through the ancient ruins of Salamis (I just probably put those pictures up, too…) and spent lots of time with some family friends that live on the island. They introduced my mom and I to a gorgeous castle on a mountainside: St. Hilarian Kalesi. I can’t help but say the word “hilarious!” immediately following mention of the castle’s name. I dare you to try it and not do it ten times in a row.

Some history (thanks Wikipedia): the castle began as a hermitage site and then a church during the 10th century, and finally it became a castle. Once it was a castle, you know how castles with excellent lookout points go… people fight over them, over and over. Some 500 years later, people starting taking it apart to reduce the upkeep of the building. I presume the ceiling was about to fall in and they figured it was easier to just pull out the ceiling and give everyone winter coats than build a new one. Jerks.

In order to get to the castle (located in Northern, Turkish Cyprus), you need to drive there and past several military installations and soldiers. If they’re doing training in the mountains, you may have to choose another day to head up to the castle. If they’re not, you’ll probably have the entire place to yourself, except for the random Brit that seems to show up at all those deserted European sights, alone. Uncanny.

dog st hilarian castle north cyprus
When you get there, they’ll probably be a castle-residing stray dog that’s both super friendly and desperately in need of a bath.
architecture hilarian castle north cyprus wall
Looking up, it’s amazing to see arches that (hopefully) won’t fall on your head as you walk through.
north cyprus mountain climb hilarian castle
No, no, I’m not climbing rock formations at the top of a really tall and sheer cliff.
north cyprus hilarian castle view photo
But at the top of unsafe climbing await breathtaking views of the island.
north cyprus hilarian castle interier photo
Oh boy, these people even had interior design skills. Look at those stripes!
north cyprus hilarian castle mountain photo
If you get stuck at the bottom with fear, or only climb half, you can still enjoy the view of that top section instead of actually going there.
north cyprus st hilarian castle climb photo
Or you can climb, don’t worry, there are safety railings!
north cyprus st hilarian castle cliff landscape photo
Sheering cliffs, coastline and a panoramic view? Yes, please and thank you.
north cyprus st hilarian castle watch tower photo
A gorgeous old watchtower that was just a little out of reach for my hiking skills.
north cyprus hilarian castle wall mountain photo
The building blending in with the mountain makes it simultaneously beautiful and confusing. Am I on the mountain now or still in the castle? Hmm…
north cyprus hilarian castle photo
It’s best to climb immediately next to “danger” signs and live voltage.
north cyprus st hilarian castle cliff landscape photo
Because it’s prettier at the top of those rocks.
north cyprus hilarian castle view photo
The view is definitely breathtaking.
north cyprus hilarian castle interier window photo
I feel like a princess with really long, braided hair is missing from this photo.
north cyprus hilarian castle mountain photo
Goodbye, it’s been terrifying and fun!

Looking back, I really wish I would have bought a DSLR camera already, my iPhone does zero justice. I guess I’ll have to return! And to anyone thinking of visiting the Turkish side of Cyprus, it’s highly recommended and although Wikipedia describes it as “illegal and internationally-unrecognised”, I can assure you it’s also quite safe.

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Foreign Movie Pick: “Friend” (2001)

Recently, I’ve been trying to watch some Korean movies. Mostly they’ve been okay, maybe a little too bloody (cough, cough, Tazza) or a little unrealistic, but enjoyable none-the-less. But this most recent movie really surprised me. Not only was it not way too bloody (just a little bit), but the story was pretty fascinating. Somehow, I actually enjoyed a movie about Korean gangsters, with little to no love story involved. Miracle.

The movie follows four friends as they grow up in Korea, and what they do with their lives (and how they diverge). Which is why the film is called “Friend” (or in Korean, 친구 / Chin-goo), of course. An obvious title for a not so obviously awesome movie.

Friendposter

So, I’m passing this movie on to you. Why would you watch it? Well…

Gangsters

I don’t know if you’re into gangsters or not, I’m not really, but Korean gangsters are interesting. When you think of seedy organized underground crime, you don’t really think about coordinated bowing and respect, but it’s actually a huge part of the gangster culture. At the same time that they bow to leaders, they also terrify me poopless. Impressive.

Historical References

You know how Korea went through that huge economic boom in like 50 years and it was crazy? Well you can watch a little bit of that transformation and really see the implications of it in the film. It chronicles friends growing up together, so you see bits of the 70s, 80s, 90s and a little of the new millennium. Maybe it’s just the nerd in me, but that’s COOL.

A Cool Girl Band Named ‘Rainbow’

Okay, so the scene is less than five minutes, but girl bands are freaking awesome. That’s all.

It’ll Make You Cry

I know, there’s no love story, so how will it make you cry? The movie is still fully based in relationships, but they’re just between friends. It gets deep. I don’t want to spoil anything for you, so I will say no more.

It’s Based On A True Story

The director wrote the film about his own friendships growing up, which sounds plausible now that you haven’t seen the film. But once you watch the movie, your mind will be blown that it really happened. Blown!

So, if you’ve never seen a Korean movie, then check this one out. It’s a little bloody, but still gets my vote, especially because it doesn’t revolve around a love plot. A breath of fresh movie air, yes? And to top it all off, you get a nice, interesting slice of Korean culture with it. Done deal.

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