sad songs

“We met at the wrong time. That’s what I keep telling myself anyway. Maybe one day years from now, we’ll meet in a coffee shop in a far away city somewhere and we could give it another shot.”

I’m sat alone in Letna park, in a patch of shade overlooking the Old Town of Prague. The three Australian girls I met in my hostel room last night have just left me, and for the first time in over a week, I have a chance to think. To reflect, to write. And in a way, to grieve.

Last night, I saw a man in a suit hand over the lead of a black lab puppy to a haggard-looking woman who was clearly on drugs. He paid her 100 CZK in cash and she yanked the dog harshly, holding the leash tight and dragging it upwards by the neck, making it yelp. Watching it all sort of broke my heart, and I wanted to cry. 

Some people might say I’m a pessimist, and a lot of the time I’d agree with them. But deep down, when it comes to it, I’m a dreamer. A hopeless wanderer, with itchy feet and an open mind prone to fantasies. I love adventures, and the idea of romance, and I want it all, together. I used to want it abstractly and from a distance; it was more of a “someday” sort of dream than an active one. Until I got a little taste. Just a drop—three days. But it was enough.

Enough for me to want more, and to realize I probably won’t get it. Not this time, at least. It’s odd, because I’d never really worried about being clingy before I traveled. I’ve always been pretty good at separating my feelings, isolating the annoying or unnecessary in the presence of someone who might not reciprocate them. And I’ve had flings, and even hookups, during the last three months abroad. They’re fun, and they don’t last. We go our separate ways. We might stay friends on Facebook, or we might not remember any more about each other than a blurry face and a first name. That’s the unspoken rule of travel: you let go. Everyone’s here to meet people and see the world, not to stay or settle down or fall in love. Not in a way that lasts, at least. But somehow, despite knowing all of this, I sort of did.

I don’t wish it didn’t happen, not really. He’s a good, good guy. One of the best I’ve met. In fact, I can only think of one other guy I’ve known, back home, who comes across as pure and lovely as this one. My cynical British friend insists I’m naive about it, too hopeful and foolhardy. But I know. I’ve met good guys, I’ve met decent guys, bad guys as well. But only a few are… tender and pure. I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s more of a feeling, that they respect you, treat you like an equal. They might be more reserved with touch because they’re a bit shy and don’t want to overstep your boundaries. They’re sweet and can express their feelings but they don’t overload you with them. They feel lucky to be with you, but not because they’re insecure. I’m doing a shit job of trying to articulate it, but like I said, when I meet one of these guys, I know.

I feel fortunate, really. It was a beautiful thing for me, and I’ll always have the memories. But it still hurts. It feels like I lost something that I only barely managed to grasp as the time slipped away. Part of it is lust, of course; I’m not entirely immune to that feeling, or the knowledge that it’s a factor in all of this. But for me at least, there was an audible click. And the hard part is not knowing whether he heard it too. Or rather, whether it was loud enough to last. Like I said, I’ve never worried about being clingy, but expectations are different with travelers. Snapchatting or messaging a few times a day at home would be normal, but I’m suddenly worried it’s too much. That maybe I’m a bother. This is all internal fear; nothing he’s done has implied as much. In fact, I was pleasantly surprised when he messaged me that day, after we’d said goodbye. I left expecting it to be over, and was prepared to resign myself to it. I prefer to leave rather than be left, so perhaps I’m overanalyzing the signs, preparing for the worst and to be the first person to take that step if need be. It’s such a long shot for anything to come of it… And yet I want something to. That’s what makes me a dreamer, and that’s what makes it hurt. Because in some parallel world or storyline, something like this could happen, and does happen, for people. The knowledge that, if feelings and motivation were mutual, something grand could emerge from a simple travel fling makes the leaving hard sometimes. Painful even. Because they often aren’t or maybe they are but the two people don’t know that they both feel the same way. Want the same thing. We’re too scared to be honest, to make ourselves vulnerable, and who knows how many opportunities we miss out on because of those fears. I fear rejection, because rejection ruins the dream. And if you let it, taints the beautiful memories. 

I’ve never had a breakup before, never had my heart broken. Not in love, anyway. This is probably the closest thing to it I’ve felt, and I don’t quite understand why. Why him, why now. I wasn’t even looking for anything that night, had worn a loose dress and little makeup and thrown my hair in a bun because I was tired of going home with someone. Tired of missing out on dancing with my friends because I’d met a guy. It’s funny how you find what you’ve been looking for when you finally stop searching for it. And it’s sad because the beginning was almost the end for us; we were both about to move on. 

I could have stayed another night. Thought about it, but not really. I was going to stick with my new friends and see another town, because after all, that’s what I’m here for. Not boys, but places. And the people I meet along the way. But then he came the next day, and stayed up all night with me, long after our friends had gone to bed, because I had to catch an early bus and didn’t want to sleep and didn’t want to miss a moment of this goodbye. I can’t say how much I appreciated that. To sleep with someone—twice—without any sex. Without feeling like I owe something, or that someone expects it from me. Not to say I didn’t want to, because I did. But I think it means more to me this way. It’s more special, rare, and therefore treasured. 

It’s hard right now to imagine meeting another guy. Charlie Puth’s lyric “Does it feel, feel like you’re never gonna find nothing better?” comes to mind. I’ve only thought that before about one other guy, the only other good, good one that I’ve known. (Known and been interested in, I should say.) And even with him, it wasn’t to this extent. That adds to the sadness, because I can’t help but wonder about the “what if’s” and the “might be’s”. Will the feelings fade? They have to, if nothing comes of them, because people move on from real relationships and breakups all the time. They survive, and thrive, and fall in love again. At the moment, I don’t understand how, but I guess I’ll just have to trust the journey. Travel is crazy, and can make you crazy, I swear it. Yet I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. 

After a week, I think that’s what I needed to say. To get it out of my system, or at least sort it out a bit in my head. Writing down my feelings helps me validate and understand them, and I’ve been in a bit of a limbo this last week having them bounce around with no sort of sense. This has been a stream-of-conscious post, which I love doing when I want to dump my thoughts and feelings onto paper (or in this case, the notes section of my phone) without worrying about making them sound orderly or pretty. Despite the fact that I’ll probably post this on my blog, it’s not for anyone else. If you can take something from it, all the better, but I wrote it for me, and I hope that if you’re reading it, you can understand and respect that. I’ve been pretty open and vulnerable, and I hope to God that doesn’t make me come across as fucking clingy. Or crazy. And that I can stop worrying about those words entirely. 

“So we’ll just let things take their course, and never be sorry.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

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This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz

13503109-1Novel: This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Díaz | Goodreads
Release Date: September 11, 2012
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Format: Paperback
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4 stars

On a beach in the Dominican Republic, a doomed relationship flounders. In the heat of a hospital laundry room in New Jersey, a woman does her lover’s washing and thinks about his wife. In Boston, a man buys his love child, his only son, a first baseball bat and glove. At the heart of these stories is the irrepressible, irresistible Yunior, a young hardhead whose longing for love is equaled only by his recklessness–and by the extraordinary women he loves and loses: artistic Alma; the aging Miss Lora; Magdalena, who thinks all Dominican men are cheaters; and the love of his life, whose heartbreak ultimately becomes his own.

In prose that is endlessly energetic, inventive, tender, and funny, the stories in This Is How You Lose Her lay bare the infinite longing and inevitable weakness of the human heart. They remind us that passion always triumphs over experience, and that “the half-life of love is forever.”

This Is How You Lose Her is a collection of short stories following characters from the Dominican Republic who have immigrated to the United States. The stories are centered around relationships, love, family, and the idea of being with someone and what that means. The collection is full of manipulation, both by males and females, strife, stereotypes, and foul language. I found it eye-opening.

The first story was by far my favorite. It chronicles the fall of Yunior and Magdalena’s relationship and I thought it was well constructed and well done. Díaz managed to portray the situation in such a realistic way that really reached out to me as a reader. The last story, “A Cheater’s Guide to Love”, was probably my second favorite and also the longest. Most of the stories follow or contain Yunior, but others branch off to follow different characters, all of whom are experiencing the hardships living in America brings and forming connections—both good and bad—with other Dominicans.

Overall, I really enjoyed This Is How You Lose Her. It sparked my interest in Junot Díaz’s other books and gave me new perspective on a facet of hispanic (mainly Dominican) culture and society, especially within the United States. The collection of stories is not beautiful in a happy way; it’s actually kind of a downer filled with tragedy, repeated mistakes, misery, and heartbreak. While some of the stories were dull, I thought the entire collection as a whole was cohesive and illustrious, and I recommend giving it a shot if the premise interests you. I’m glad I did.

Thanks for reading.

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

15507958Novel: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes | Goodreads
Release Date: January 5, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Books
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.5 stars

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

Me Before You is a beautiful and thought-provoking novel filled with seemingly real characters, realistic problems, and British humor that I’ll openly admit I didn’t always follow. The story is set in a small tourist town in the English countryside. It’s told mostly in first-person from Louisa Clark’s perspective, with a few single chapters told from minor characters’ perspectives sprinkled throughout. And just as a warning before you read Me Before You: it’s not really a romance. It is an adult contemporary novel about all sorts of complicated issues and the interconnected lives of characters; a bit of romantic love develops slowly, but it isn’t what the novel is about. Rather, it’s a marketing tool that’s been abused as a selling point for Me Before You.

Louisa and I didn’t get off to a great start; I found her whiny and contrary in the first three chapters and actually put the book down for about a week. However, when I picked it back up I got right into her perspective and the story, so maybe I was just having a bad night initially. I really enjoyed Louisa’s wry voice, which is filled with humor, compassion, self-deprecation, and blunt honesty, about both herself and the world. I liked reading about her family dynamics, her lackluster relationship with Patrick, and her growth over the course of the novel. The one thing I found a bit disappointing with regards to Louisa is the way Moyes addressed her history with sexual assault. I thought it could have been dealt with more thoroughly and in a more impactful manner.

Our other main character, whose perspective we only see in the prologue from third-person, is Will Traynor. And he is a character. Will has a big personality; before his accident, he did everything big, with passion and intensity. He had designed a life he loved living, and now that his dream life is gone forever, he wants to commit suicide. He tries to, which is why Louisa is hired to watch over him. I really want to leave it at that, because the rest is for the reader to discover while reading. But I loved Will and found his life before the accident to be exciting and his life afterwards to be eye-opening. His perspective and philosophy on living is inspiring and he made a mark on my heart.

I’m always wary of hyped up books when I am late on the hype train. They’re almost always spoiled for me in some sense, and my reading experience and overall opinion of a book is altered—for better or for worse—because of its hype. If I had read Me Before You when I’d originally planned to—back a few years ago when my mom did, before all the movie hype—I think I would have been shocked by it. Its ending would have swept me off my feet and face-planted me into a pool of my own tears. That being said, it still made me said and my eyes did water a bit (I finished it at a swim team banquet and thus held in the tears that otherwise would have spilled down my cheeks). But my prediction of why everyone says it’s such a sad book and that “omg” they cried at the end was right. And I knew it would be right (without actually looking it up). So in that sense, Me Before You’s hype took away from my experience reading it, although I still found it fresh, heartbreaking, and wonderful. I would give it 4 stars based on my own experience and know I would have given it 5 had I not known what would happen. So I settled on a solid and, in my opinion, fair 4.5 star rating.

I highly recommend reading Me Before You. There is also sequel out for those interested; I felt very content with the first book’s ending because it is a complete story with no loose ends, but I may check out the second installment and review it. Let me know what you thought of Me Before You (or After You) if you’ve read either, but please keep any comments spoiler-free!

Thanks for reading.

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The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

11510533Novel: The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss | Goodreads
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Publisher: DAW (Penguin Group)
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.25 stars

In The Wise Man’s Fear, Kvothe searches for answers, attempting to uncover the truth about the mysterious Amyr, the Chandrian, and the death of his parents. Along the way, Kvothe is put on trial by the legendary Adem mercenaries, forced to reclaim the honor of his family, and travels into the Fae realm. There he meets Felurian, the faerie woman no man can resist, and who no man has ever survived…until Kvothe. Now, Kvothe takes his first steps on the path of the hero and learns how difficult life can be when a man becomes a legend in his own time.

Overall, I thought The Wise Man’s Fear was a good book. It’s a very long book, so a lot happened and Kvothe travels around much more than in The Name of the Wind. That being said, I preferred the first book to the second in The Kingkiller Chronicle.

I think pacing was the biggest issue for me in The Wise Man’s Fear. The book is nearly 1,000 numbered pages, so each part is at least 100 pages. It got tiresome and boring, and actually put me in a bit of a reading slump in April. It took me around two weeks to finish this book because I refused to read it on many occasions. Personally, I found the events in The Name of the Wind more interesting; in The Wise Man’s Fear, my favorite scenes were those at the university in the first 300 pages or so. I thought the sections with Felurian and the Adem were too long and dragged out, especially when nothing really happened. And we really got no resolution with Denna, which I’d been hoping to find after the first installment.

I am eagerly awaiting the third (and final) installment to The Kingkiller Chronicle, as I think it is a unique and interesting adult fantasy series. The books are well-written and Kvothe is an entertaining protagonist and narrator. Overall, my problems with the pacing in The Wise Man’s Fear did not detract enough from the story for me to give the book a lower rating. I highly recommend this series to hardcore fantasy lovers and those who wish to delve into adult fantasy. I doubt you’ll be disappointed.

Thanks for reading.

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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

6266872Novel: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss | Goodreads
Release Date: March 27, 2007
Publisher: DAW (Penguin Group)
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.75 stars

MY NAME IS KVOTHE

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature–the story of a hero told in his own voice. It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man’s search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.

The Name of the Wind is an adult fantasy novel that is 1) not convoluted, 2) easy to read, and 3) well worth the hype. The Name of the Wind is so good. SO. GOOD. I wanted to give it 5 stars. I resisted mainly due to a fair few typos and the author’s annoying use of commas instead of semicolons, a petty pet peeve of mine. There were also a couple parts of the novel (mainly the beginning, in which I was confused, and the few days of little action that Kvothe spent with Denna near the end) that I found a bit lagging, but that’s me really nitpicking. The book is good.

Now, be forewarned. I am absolutely dying to read the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear. It is taking everything in my power to sit down and write this review, rather than pick up the next installment and dive right back into Kvothe’s tale. So please forgive my all-over-the-place review. I feel like a Denner addict. (If you’ve read the book, you know.)

The predominant storyline in The Name of the Wind is the first portion of a three-part story, which will span across three books in a series titled The Kingkiller Chronicle. For the most part, the book is narrated in first-person by Kvothe as he recounts to a Chronicler his life from the ages of eleven to sixteen.

Kvothe is such an awesome character to read. He’s clever, witty, brilliant, talented, cultured, curious, and an excellent storyteller, just to name a few traits. I loved his storytelling, and his remarkable memory made it easier not to scoff at the details any normal person would likely forget. I tend not to like books in which a character is telling a story; I’d rather see the action unfold in real time. I found the beginning of the novel confusing because it’s not told in first-person and I didn’t know who anyone was. It was purposefully crypt, but just know that the novel doesn’t begin with Kvothe telling his tale. Patience, young grasshoppers.

That being said, I took the book for what it is, knowing I don’t particularly like this method of storytelling, and I ended up really enjoying it. The narration style is a nice balance in that the fact that Kvothe is telling his story is noticeable in all the right places; it doesn’t hinder the reading experience. The interludes were well-placed, as well. I am already concerned about the final book, though. I am hoping we will come back to the present and there will be some resolution there, as Kvothe is leading a sad life in a miserable world, still at quite a young age. I want to see him be awesome in the present!

All right, let’s talk love. It’s not really love yet in The Name of the Wind, but it most likely will be in the future. Kvothe cares deeply for Denna. I do not. I don’t dislike her, per say, but I don’t like her either. I think I might understand her more if I knew more about her past and why she’s always disappearing, but as it is, I find it supremely annoying, probably because I wouldn’t deal well with such an unreliable and secretive person in real life. And then Kvothe puts her on a pedestal and I’m just like sigh, okay. I do admire Kvothe’s respect for Denna and his acceptance of her nature and behavior. For me, Denna is whatever in The Name of the Wind, but little is revealed about her so I am expecting that to change in future installments.

The best part about The Name of the Wind, other than Kvothe himself, is its descriptiveness. There are some awesome magic scenes, detailed action sequences, and vivid images of life. I felt so much that Kvothe seemed to feel, so props to Mr. Rothfuss. When Kvothe was confident, even in a scary situation, I wasn’t afraid. When he was nervous for his admissions to the University, my stomach was rolling over. When he was living on the streets of Tarbean, I could see his hardships crystal clear. It was absolutely incredible.

In summary, I loved The Name of the Wind. It wasn’t quite perfect, but it was darn near close to 5 stars for me. I am looking forward to more character development, more imagery, more world-building, and, most of all, more of Kvothe’s story in its sequel. All of these elements were excellent in the first installment of The Kingkiller Chronicle and I cannot wait to read more. I highly recommend giving The Name of the Wind a go.

Thanks for reading.

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