Thursday, 31 July 2014

The Nerd List - June/July 2014

I know, I know… I forgot to do a June Nerd List, but this time I have a legitimate excuse: I was in New York (blog to come soon, hopefully). So for the second time in a row this will be a mash-up Nerd List… Yay!


Books I’ve Read:

Book of the month

My favourite book of this month (and probably this year) is Jennifer L. Armentrout’s ‘Don’t Look Back’. Honestly, it was just brilliant. Armentrout is phenomenal, and both this novel and the Lux series have a special place in my heart.

Character of the month

I’m going to have to award this to Samantha from ‘Don’t Look Back’, because even though she had amnesia (and probably because she had amnesia) she transformed from horrible Queen Bee to sweet and empathetic girl-next-door within, like, a day. That takes some skills.

Quote of the month

“Sucks to your ass-mar!”

(I reread ‘Lord of the Flies’ for my AP English exam and I swear I was about to write only this quote as my entire essay, but then I thought I would prefer to actually maybe pass and not get kicked out of school just yet.)


Fangirl moment of the month

As I said before, I went to Washington and New York near the end of June, and when I finally got there I nearly died from excitement (and jetlag but that’s irrelevant). I don’t know what it is about New York, but it made me want to throw what little money I have at a dingy apartment and get a dead end job at a bookstore and live there forever. Of course my apartment would have to have a fire escape, though, so that I could do that movie moment where I sit with my leg over the edge and a guitar on my knee and stare out at the stars for hours on end. I wouldn’t even mind being in a city filled to the brim with people all the time, and that’s saying something.

Facepalm moment of the month

I will most certainly do a blog on this in the near future (I’m thinking of titling it ‘The Visa Catastrophe’), but to cut an extremely long and emotional story short, my lovely mother checked my American visa wrong and when I had a nightmare the day before I was supposed to leave (as one does about planes and losing one’s bags etc.) we realized my visa had expired. Let me emphasize that in capital letters, in case you didn’t catch it: IT WAS A DAY BEFORE I HAD TO LEAVE, AND I DIDN’T HAVE A VALID VISA. And me being me, I had asked my mother to check my passport once a month, every month, since December. So I had to book an emergency visa appointment, and luckily I was able to get the visa and a flight for the Monday that my conference started (also a blog on that soon). But I had to fly alone (details in my flying blog) next to a smelly, sick, unhygienic Chinese man. Oh, and I went to the wrong baggage terminal when I got to Washington, and naturally the terminal I was at was literally on the other side of the airport to the one I was supposed to be at. And America being America, the airport was the size of a small town. So I had to do two more security checks, take a train, and collect my baggage about an hour later. Alone. Alone for the first time in an international airport. But I lived, so I guess that’s something to be grateful for.


Album of the month

5 Seconds Of Summer’s debut album finally got released when I was in America, and I am not even joking when I say I hacked into the hotel’s free wifi just to download it. It was worth it. I love it so much. It’s great because it’s the kind of music that you hear on the radio, except with real instruments being played by real people. It’s like a mixture of All Time Low, Green Day and MKTO (kind of… I don’t really know what artists are being played on the radio nowadays because of my strong opposition towards that synthesized pre-mixed stuff and poppy, Justin Bieber-ish blabber has invaded all the decent radio stations).

Song of the month

I’ve been listening to A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera’s ‘Say Something’ nonstop, and even learned how to play it on piano so that I could annoy my family to a greater extent by jamming it every thirty seconds. Sometimes I sing, too, but that makes the neighbors call the police because they think somebody’s drowning or dying or something.

Lyric of the month

“Take off your makeup and put down the camera. Choke on the drama that makes me want to tear up the pictures, the pages you’ve saved, creating a life of trends and make believe. Carry me home, back where I’ll be miles and miles away leaving you to be forever seventeen, cleaning up the messes that you’ve made.”
- All Time Low, The Girl’s A Straight-Up Hustler


Movie of the month

I haven’t watched any because it’s been exams and I actually want to pass school.

This is such a mediocre Nerd List but I was drowning in exams until about four hours ago, so I haven’t actually done much in July. I have a lot of good blogs planned about what I did in June, and I go on school holiday in a week and a day (it’s actually one week and eighteen hours from now but who’s counting, right?) so hopefully then I can write about ABSOLUTELY EVERYTHING and get on top of my reading and reviewing once again. I’m so excited. STAY TUNED. BIG THINGS ARE HAPPENING.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Don't Look Back - Jennifer L. Armentrout

Date finished: 26 July 2014
Rating: 5*

Well, Armentrout, you've done it again.

It seems that an oncoming trend in the Young Adult Fiction genre seems to be the topic of amnesia. It's a fascinating concept, really, but it honestly takes a strong imagination and an incredibly talented writer to be able to pull off just the right amount of suspense, confusion and deeply intriguing mystery when trying to write from the perspective of a person who knows just as much as the reader. And if anything is a fraction of a unit off, it fails. Often.

But somehow, Armentrout has pulled off yet another phenomenal novel that simultaneously goes along with a new trend and totally defies it because it is that much better than anything else of the same genre that is currently on the shelves. Don't Look Back was absolutely breathtaking, and as with all of her other novels that I've read, I could not bear to put it down. Even eating and sleeping and studying for the looming exams seemed to be silly things of little worth when I was tangled up in the story.

Armentrout's writing is flawless. Her characters are so real I feel like I could run into them on the street, and that's not just the partially psychotic fangirl part of me dreaming of meeting them in real life. Her knack for suspense and mystery had me second- and third- and fourth-guessing all my predictions for the outcome of the novel, and even then I still never expected what would happen in the last fifteen pages. By the time I'd finished reading, I felt like I'd been dragged onto an emotional roller coaster that twisted and spun until I was so exhilarated that I felt a bit sick at the end, but still screeched: "Again, again!" And I'm extremely annoyed about that because I'm physically fighting myself not to pick up the damn book and read it all over again - I still have loads of work to do before I can just reread books willy-nilly.

I highly recommend 'Don't Look Back'. I was beginning to lose hope in the Teen/Young Adult Fiction of this generation (come now, all those ripoffs of Twilight are getting really old, and so are most of the supernatural stories that all seem the same in essence) and then I went through a deep, dark phase where I was stuck in Exclusive Books trying to find at least ONE recent fictional adult book that didn't have some sort of arrogant narrator or soppy, disgusting love affair (hardly any luck, despite over three excursions to different branches). This book was a saving grace, although I doubt anything I read now for the next few months will be able to measure up to it.

P.S. Forgive me, I'm trying to upload this from my iPad because my laptop's battery is dead. I apologize for any errors... I'll edit this as soon as my exams are over.

P.P.S. Look! I finally finished a book AND then reviewed it somewhat professionally! Hopefully this marks the end of my Dark Phase and not the beginning of another one. Stay posted for the Nerd List tomorrow: THIS TIME I WILL NOT FORGET I PROMISE.

100th Blog?!

Well, hello there.

I was just about to post my latest review (I know, it took me long enough, didn't it?) and I realized that my next post would be my 100th. Apparently that's a big deal, right? It kind of marks my first step into serious blogger-dom, like a coming of age ritual. (I was just struck by an image of people dancing around a burning laptop and chanting internet slang... What is my life coming to?)

Anyway, I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank everybody and anybody out there in the big wide world who cares enough to read anything on this blog. I know there are some people who do it religiously, and then there are some who log on every once in a while to laugh at my stupidity or read my latest review where I end up embarrassing myself anyway. I love all of you, and thank you for caring to read about a dorky teenage girl who dared to put her opinions and dreams on the internet just over a year ago. This blog really means a lot to me, and it means the world that people read it. We've been through a couple of rough patches (some tears and freak out sessions over a couple of things if I'm being completely honest) and then my occasional and unreasonably long patches of silence, but I feel like if we could've made it this far, it could carry on and turn into something beautiful.

So as another one-small-step-for-bloggers-one-large-step-for-bloggerkind, I've decided to expand this little blog to greater proportions (due to endless begging from my friends and family to make it more accessible - apparently Google + isn't very good at, well, much). As soon as I get a spare second, All Things Amy will have a Facebook page (despite how it makes me cringe) so that you can like and share my posts more easily, and we can get even more people to join this weird and great friendship-cult thing we have going on here. I'll also make a Tumblr account for all those special hipsters that are too cool for socially "normal" websites like Facebook. Okay, and you know what? I'll even make a Twitter account where I'll post one-liners of reviews and links to my blogs so you can follow my blog there, too. Yay, social media!

Once again, thank you for all your support. This blog would mean nothing without people to read it. Thank you for being incredible.

Amy xx

(Also I'm sorry for any errors. I'm trying this on an iPad because my laptop's battery is dead and we all know how exciting it is to type on a screen where everywhere you accidentally tap practically launches a small nuclear missile in North Korea. I promise to edit it ASAP.)

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Amy’s Adventurous Adventures in Europe: Italy

Europe Arts Tour: Days 9 - 14

Maybe in an alternate universe I wouldn’t have been excessively lazy and would have actually completed my series of blogs on my travels around Europe within a month of when I got back…

The final three stops on our fabulous, magical escapade were Venice, Florence and Rome, and seeing as they are all in the same country (Italy for all you non-geographers who live under rocks in the Serengeti) I have decided to combine them into one great big blog. Note that this is entirely unrelated to the fact that at this point in the trip I was so lazy that almost all of my entries into my travel journal were little more than: “We did this. It was fun. I am tired.”

 Anyway, one very long, cramped and unsanitary train trip swept us into Venice. Of course, the sightseeing was pretty much filled with every single teenage girl grumbling about how hungry she was and how all she wanted was to have a long shower, but even then the complaints were interrupted by sighs of amazement at the stunning city. Eventually, we were taken to lunch and given a proper Italian welcome: A full plate of lasagna for a starter and then a massive salad and then some chicken and then tiramisu. You could’ve rolled me back to the hotel, I swear.

Although the Venetians are fantabulous at cooking, I have to say that their drama – or at least the one play we had the unfortunate luck of seeing – is… Terrible, to put it lightly. The only part of our trip that was meant to satisfy the drama students was going to see a play on the history of Venice – in English, thank goodness. While it was intended to be humorous, I don’t think I heard one person laugh for the entire performance. You know when a play is so bad it’s funny? Well this play was so much worse than bad that it wasn’t even amusing any more; it was just plain bad. Luckily on the way home we discovered a stall that sold ‘Pizza Wraps’ (which are basically just rolled up pieces of pizza) and were immediately cheered up once again by the genius of Italian cooking.
Me shamelessly posing by a river

The next day consisted of even more sightseeing and another art museum – the Peggy Guggenheim collection, which was phenomenal, even coming from a person who does not understand art or the intention behind it whatsoever. Then the highlight (after the food) of our stay in Venice: the gondola ride. Our gondolier refused to serenade us, though, but it was enchanting and stunning all the same.

At this point we had to take another train to reach Florence, which I didn’t mind so much at first, because it was a fairly nice train and my iPod was fully charged. It ended up being a nightmare when our train came to a halt in the middle of the trip. We had to wait on the stationary train for police to come and investigate the scene, because apparently a woman had tried to commit suicide on the rails (it was truly awful and saddening, but the bigger issue amongst the passengers seemed to be that we were running out of food). And incredibly enough, the group of girls on the train behind us (our group had to be separated – I’m not sure why) had a drunken stowaway on board, so they too had to witness a police investigation. We reached Florence just before midnight, over five hours later than we’d expected to arrive.

The highlight of the Florence trip was definitely our bike ride through Tuscany (technically not in Florence but whatever). Even though I am even less coordinated on a bike than I am on foot, I would even go so far as to say it was one of my favourite parts of the entire tour. Except for the part where I almost rode into a – stationary – car and my music teacher almost crashed her own bike because she was laughing so hard at me… The sights were stunning though, and we stopped for lunch at a little restaurant right in between all the hills for the best meal of the trip – but maybe that’s just because we’d been riding bikes all day. Eventually, it started raining, but that was good because it meant we didn’t have to ride up this huge hill to get back to where we’d started – instead the tour leaders brought down trucks to fetch us all. After that we toured this beautiful little castle where the owners of a wine farm lived, and I’ve decided that when I’m a famous multimillionaire I’m going to buy it. (HAH. Amy as a multimillionaire… Good one…)

Second highlight of Florence: ice cream cone as big as my head and the Disney store, because we are all secretly children at heart and can’t resist a life-size Simba toy and ice cream no matter how much we say we “like” salad and makeup.

Thank you, Pantheon, for being so photogenic
And our final stop: Rome. Rome is absolutely incredible. Of course we saw all the major things like the Coliseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps and the Pantheon. We also ate a bucket load of ice cream because it was so incredibly hot, and then pizza because when in Rome… (See what I did there? Wow I am hilarious, good job, Amy.) If we thought Rome was busy, we were in for a shock when we went to the Vattican. Oh. My. Word. After that trip I was almost sure that I would be perfectly content if I never saw another human being again in my entire life. (Okay so I was kind of like that before I went… But after the trip I was even more convinced.) It was still pretty, but so, so tiring.

I was almost relieved to get on the flight to Paris, and then another flight home. Scratch that – I was REALLY relieved to get on the flight home. Even though the trip was amazing, there’s only so much sightseeing that you can take. Also, there’s only so much teenage girl you can take. (Yes I realize I am also a teenage girl, but I like to think I am part of the elitist group that prefers to listen to Green Day rather than One Direction and is more concerned with their reading and internet habits than how much lipstick they should wear to appear “sexy but not slutty, yah know?”) You won’t be surprised to read that the last entry in my travel journal is: “I can’t wait to get home. I just need some SPACE,” with “space” in huge bold letters and underlined several times…

On the whole, though, it was a phenomenally magical trip and I would just about cut off my finger to be able to go back to those places (probably only with a small group of super duper close friends if I’m being entirely honest). Yeah, the awesomeness of these places is really not expressed very well in my blogs (as you can tell) but I highly recommend going there anyway. Well, I recommend going everywhere. Keep travelling until you find somewhere where there are no people or bugs or scary, weird animals, but lots of food and free wifi and an abandoned bookstore nearby. Then you can call me and send me a coded message with instructions on how to get there, and then you can erase it from your memory. That would be really great.

Thanks for reading, if you got this far. (It was really long but we all know how lazy I am so I probably won’t cut it down…)

I think the number one thing we’ve learned about this experience is that I should never ever become a travel writer. Ever.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

How Not To Be Known As "That Moron" (Or Other Less Family-Friendly Derivatives) On A Plane

Yeah let's just pretend I didn't forget to blog about my excursions across the world again…

Basically (as some of you may know) for the past ten days I have not been stuck in sunny South Africa, but rather on my second World Adventure of the year, this time at the Global Young Leaders Conference in Washington D.C. and New York City. (I'll post more of Amy's Adventurous Adventures soon, as well as finish my series of blogs on my April Tour... Wow I really am spoiled rotten. I have too many tours to blog about #CommonWhiteGirlProblems).

Anyway, as I type this I am sat on a cramped plane on my way back to the land of accents I can actually recognize, and due to the fact I had to wake up at about 5:30 this morning to come to the airport, I have realized the many aspects of flying that I despise with every fibre of my being. Unfortunately, all (with the exception of the fact that my TV never works) are due to the extreme annoying-ness of other passengers. So I have decided to compile a list of things I believe NO passenger should EVER do on a plane. In other words, the top ten things you should not do if you don't want other passengers (such as myself) to daydream about stabbing you to death with a pen.

#1. Don't invade another person's personal space

This may seem like the most obvious thing ever - even in everyday life - to all the considerate people out there, but surprisingly on planes people seem to lose the ability to tell that the people sitting next to, behind, or in front of them do not actually want to be able to feel another person's sticky plane skin slowly caressing their arm like the clammy fingers of a two-year-old. Look, I completely understand that there's absolutely NO space whatsoever on a plane, but every person can at least try and be a little considerate and keep in their own chair. The way I see it, the arm rests and seat backs are there for a reason. Don't drape your arms over into another passenger's space, and DO NOT EVER do what this idiot keeps doing to me as I type this.

Okay so this picture doesn't show the full extent of it,
but at one point his hands COMPLETELY COVERED
the screen.

I can't tell you how many times I have looked over to my friends on my right and pretended to shove my ballpoint pen through his hands. I don't think it occurred to him that as the self-absorbed, obnoxious, arrogant teenager that I am, I would actually like to maybe see some of the TV screen in front of me so that I can further corrupt my revolting mind and overthrow his generation. For crying out loud. Is it that difficult to keep your arms and legs inside your allocated seat?

#2. If you are sick, abide by the laws of general courtesy as you would in the "real world"

Firstly, if you are sick with cholera or swine flu (as I suspect the man I was sitting next to on the way to D.C. was) you should not be flying anyway. But if for some odd reason you are flying, please understand that an aircraft is an enclosed environment. We all breathe the same air for 18 hours or however long the flight is, and it's generally revolting without people coughing and sneezing into it. And if you cannot refrain from contaminating the air any further, COVER YOUR FREAKING NOSE AND MOUTH WITH YOUR HAND. Honestly, my seat-mate or whatever that I previously mentioned just coughed into my face until I physically had to move for fear of catching The Plague, or worse, Inconsiderate Idiot Syndrome.

#3. Please mute your children

This is a controversial one. I completely understand the reasons behind traveling with a baby, I really do. Perhaps a sick relative passed away and you didn't have time to call a baby sitter, or you could not possibly stand the idea of leaving your precious angel in the hands of another human being so you dragged him/her along with you to parade around Disney World where he/she will be scared out of his/her mind by those people dressed up as animals. Whatever. But as a parent, you need to take responsibility for your baby's health, alright? And as somebody who's heard far too many screaming children on planes, I think I can safely say that the majority of children from the ages of one week to four years old do NOT like flying. And I believe that it is cruel towards both the child and the other passengers on board to put your baby through an eighteen hour plane flight. So please just take this into consideration if you are considering flying halfway across the world with your baby. It may not be worth the hassle, and maybe you should wait a few more years before taking that family vacation. Hey, maybe then your kids will actually remember the details for longer than a few months, right?

#4. "Sit tight and enjoy the ride"

Honestly, the prospect of sitting in the same position doesn't appeal to me, and I'm sure it doesn't to many other people either. But I'm not saying you should sit completely still in one position for hours at a time - just don't do the annoying kangaroo-bunny thing where you jiggle around in your seat and disrupt EVERYBODY ELSE AROUND YOU. Because I swear to you right now, I will use my super limbs and kick you right back. Believe you me, you will not ever want to mess with a sleep-deprived teenager on a plane. They are dangerous beings, and will probably resort to gnawing on you, especially if they weren't able to smuggle food or some sort of wifi onto the plane.

#5. Be quiet / Pipe down / Shut the holy happy meal up

If you hear any of the following phrases being hissed at you, especially the last one, I strongly advise you to shut your large Texan mouth and hold your tongue between your teeth until you exit the plane. Although this may also seem very obvious, evidently some people are utterly oblivious to the volume of their own voices. I don't think there's anything worse than being startled awake by somebody chortling loudly from the other side of the plane. And you know how I feel about happiness, so please try and keep your voice below the shrill, manic hysteria of Maleficent's love child.

I hope you abide by these five simple rules when flying, and I would just like you to know that I give anyone reading this full permission to cause minor physical abuse to any passenger who falls under any of the following sins. Seriously, sometimes people just need a little "motivation" to be considerate if others, and if punching them does the trick, so be it. (Kidding, kidding... But a little verbal abuse doesn't hurt.) 

Feel free to share your own traveling nightmares in the comments below so we can be empathetic towards each other and form a sort of Anti-Idiot campaign. They must be stopped.