From My Bedside Table: Red Seas Under Red Skies

So! It seems my plan of reading at least ten books a month hasn’t exactly gone the way it hoped I would. Like most things that have gone awry in my life lately, this one can be chalked up to law school. Oh well.

However, since today was a holiday and tomorrow’s exam is more or less going to be a throwaway, I decided to catch up on my non-academic reading. I finally picked up my copy of Red Seas Under Red Skies, purchased last March, and got started. And I guess I was so starved for reading material that wasn’t a Supreme Court decision that I finished it in half a day.

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Forgive the tatty cover - I pretty much carried this book everywhere today. I really didn’t want to put it down!

Red Seas Under Red Skies is the second book in Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series (see my review of the first book, The Lies of Locke Lamora, here). Now, I’m gonna be honest - it definitely didn’t live up to the expectation set by Lies. Then again, sequels never do, do they?

Which isn’t to say that I didn’t love the book! Because I totally did. Lynch introduces a whole new facet of the magnificent world he’s built for us - the unfamiliar and uncharted territory of the city-state Tal Verrar. Whereas Camorr was a place of pomp and circumstance ruled by a sophisticated criminal network and a group of nobles living in an uneasy truce, Tal Verrar is operated by an even uneasier alliance between a council of merchants led by the mysterious ruler of a gambling den called the Sinspire and a military dictatorship ruled by a man called the Archon. The political intrigue leaves the reader on the edge of his or her seat as Locke Lamora and Jean Tannen struggle to walk the fine line between these forces (while fooling them both, naturally).

But Tal Verrar isn’t the only new environment our heroes are tossed into. As implied by the title, we also get pirate lore! Fantasy pirates are probably some of the best things ever (sorry, a bit of my inner five-year-old there) and Lynch pulls it off well, if not flawlessly. Some may say the character of Captain Zamira Drakasha, whose crew Locke and Jean find themselves joining, is wish fulfillment for Lynch’s older female readers. She’s a mother of two, in her late thirties, and still manages to be a swashbuckling badass. Wish fulfillment she may be, but Captain Drakasha, her lovely first mate Lieutenant Ezri Delmastro, and their crew of bloodthirsty yet lovable rogues and renegades definitely have a place in my heart.

Also, can I just say, I love how, in Scott Lynch’s world, gender and sexual preference have absolutely no bearing whatsoever on a person’s worth? As long as you’re good at a trade and keep up with your obligations and duties, that’s all that matters. We’ve got female officers in the Verrari navy, female pirate captains whose authority is never questioned on the mere basis of their gender, ruthless cutthroats who enjoy a tumble in the hay with a member of the same sex and are not thought nancies - hell, even the Sinspire master’s right hand is a disabled, disfigured woman, and she’s shown as having captured the heart of said wealthy Sinspire master at the end of the novel.

Be warned, though. About halfway through the book, it seems as if things are taking a turn for the better. I know began to believe in the hypothetical ending. But it seems Scott Lynch has learned well at George R.R. Martin’s knee, because that happy ending? LIES. THERE IS ONLY PAIN.

Sunday Serenity: July 27, 2014

Hi guys! Welcome to a new segment on my blog I’ve decided to call Sunday Serenity. For those who missed mention of it in my 11 Questions Challenge post, I am an agnostic atheist. However, I still do believe in the old standby that Sundays were meant for people to sit back, relax, and reflect. Take stock of what you’re feeling, of how you’re doing, of how your life is going. And that’s what I’m going to be doing here. 

My first Sunday Serenity post was inspired by this quote:

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This particularly resonated with me because - as you guys, I’m sure, have noticed, since I haven’t been posting a lot lately - it’s midterms season at school, and I can’t help but compare the way I prep for exams with my friends’ own methods. These people are some of the smartest, most brilliant students I’ve ever met, so naturally, I can’t help but wonder if I’m measuring up.

To my eternal shame, I am one of those people who avoids group study sessions like the plague because I can’t bear the thought of being made to look like a fool. I gamely acquiesce to meeting maybe one or two people to study together, but huger gatherings with people talking over one another left and right? No thanks.

Lately though, I’ve been working on improving my mindset regarding this. It’s been drummed into our heads time and again that law school is a competition only with yourself - after all, there’s no set number of students who can make the Dean’s List, or top the bar exam. It’s theoretically possibly that if everyone in a certain block made the effort, they could all graduate with honours. Plus, being made to look like a fool is not necessarily a bad thing, especially when it’s just in front of your classmates! Better to be wrong when answering questions during a study session than during recitation, after all. 

I think this is a philosophy that should be applied in life, not just in law school. Too often when someone else succeeds we tend do one of two things: a) we wallow in self-pity give ourselves up as a lost cause; or b) we try to outshine that person. Both, while satisfying at the moment, won’t help your end game: to bloom. Focusing on self-improvement instead of self-pity or envy not only opens yourself up to becoming better; it also makes for better relationships with other people.

In life, your only competition is yourself.

Have a good week, everyone!

Kate’s Study Playlist: First Semester Midterms 2014 Edition

Before anything else, I owe the gods of blogging and my followers a huge apology. I have no other excuse for being so inactive other than the fact that midterms are slowly creeping up on us, and I’ve been doing nothing the past few weeks but studying my ass off. My first law school hurdle! Wish us all luck!

Anyway, since I owed this blog an update, I thought I’d post about my most recent study playlist. I’m one of those people who has a playlist for every aspect of my life, and study sessions are no different. This playlist is a fairly eclectic mishmash of current hits and old faves. I hope you like it!

1) Lost Stars - Keira Knightley

2) Lightning (feat. John Rzeznik) - Cash Cash

3) All Night Longer (feat. B.o.B.) - Sammy Adams

4) No Scrubs - TLC

5) I Wish (feat. T.I.) - Cher Lloyd

6) Love Alone Is Worth the Fight - Switchfoot

7) Gasoline - Karmin

8) Upgrade U - Beyoncé

9) Sleepless (feat. The High) - CAZZETTE

10) Latch (feat. Sam Smith) - Disclosure

A fan of any of these songs? Tell me what you thought!

I’ll probably have another entry like this posted by the time finals roll around. Ugh. Finals. *shudder*

I adopted a cat!
Meet Fiyero! He’s a six-month-old male grey tabby who likes climbing up onto high places, annoying my dog, and playing with plushie animals. I’m sure Wicked fans will know where his name came from!
I took this photo right before I hit the books last night, and as you can see, Fiyero’s does not look impressed. A very “Mom, stop taking selfies of me and go study” moment right there.
Thank you Razel Pabalan and the Philippine Animal Rehabilitation Centre for this wonderful opportunity. ♡

I adopted a cat!

Meet Fiyero! He’s a six-month-old male grey tabby who likes climbing up onto high places, annoying my dog, and playing with plushie animals. I’m sure Wicked fans will know where his name came from!

I took this photo right before I hit the books last night, and as you can see, Fiyero’s does not look impressed. A very “Mom, stop taking selfies of me and go study” moment right there.

Thank you Razel Pabalan and the Philippine Animal Rehabilitation Centre for this wonderful opportunity. 

A Bird, A Web

There’s a delicate web of feelings within you that you can’t even begin to untangle.

Most of it is pain. A dull, achy throb that goes away when you don’t think of it but comes back, hot and searing, when you’re alone and lost in thought and vulnerable to the trap of your own mind. You feel it when you go to bed at night and the tears slide down your cheeks, cold and drying sticky on your skin. You feel it when you see something that reminds you of him, of what you were like together, and it guts you like a knife and you’re left breathless and trying your best not to crumple in distress.

Some of it is exasperation. It’s the old cynic in you; the remnants of an embittered girl who loved no one. It’s a voice that scornfully tells you that you have no time for childish things like heartbreak. You have a life to live, and that’s not going to be done on your knees weeping for something you no longer have.

There’s also a tiny thread of contentment, backed up logic and reasoning, because you know deep down this was headed nowhere. Feelings were fading, keeping everything together was starting to feel more like a chore than something you actually enjoyed doing. You know you love him; you know you will probably love him for the rest of your life. But the coldly rational part of your brain realises that you can’t be what he needs; that he is no longer what you need. And because you genuinely believe that this is the right thing to do, there is that part of you that is glad you have finally gotten the courage to do it.

Encompassing everything is the pervading sense of loneliness, brokenness, that ugly, raw feeling of being incomplete. It is more than pain. The pain comes only sometimes. This sadness is everywhere, all the time. You feel it always, some times you feel it stronger than others. It defies everything you were taught to be as a strong woman. It defies your creed that you don’t need anyone to be complete. That you are complete all on your own. But it’s only human nature. You’ve spent so long being an ‘us’ that it’s hard to get used to being just an ‘I’ again.It’s not being weak or being silly. It simply…is. 

And somewhere, deep, deep, deep within the darkest recesses of your mind is a tiny, fluttering thing - the belief that you will be happy again, that you will love again. It is a bird with no voice and broken wings, struggling to break free from the oppressive bonds of despair. But it will fly again. It will sing again. One day.

One day.

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Written at 3AM during a study break.