Reasons to Stay Alive by Matt Haig (but not exactly)

Previously I posted about developing new routines and hobbies during quarantine, but I’ve found that those no longer appease my itch for face-to-face interactions and my anxiety about bringing work into my home. I recently picked up new things to do, including letting go of my old books and running in the neighborhood, but they’re quickly getting old. In an attempt to get myself out of a rut, I read Reasons to Stay Alive.

Although the book has a fair number of good reviews, it wasn’t for me. There was something about it (tone or style, perhaps?) that didn’t resonate with me. While I loved the intention of the book, I found that it fell short. I liked that the book dealt with topics and feelings people normally suppress. Talking about mental health has been taboo—these are not “real” problems—for a while now, but it’s time we acknowledged its reality. The pandemic is not yet over, and social distancing is still highly encouraged. People who don’t identify as depressives need to be come to terms with whatever the new norm turns out to be.

Because health includes not only one’s physical but also one’s mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Reasons to Stay Alive is a good way to get the conversation started. It’s not exactly my cup of tea, but it gets the job done. I’ll look out for more books that deal with mental health (not as a side-effect of a traumatic incident). Maybe I’ll find something I connect with better.

The Erstwhile by Brian Catling

The Erstwhile is the second book of The Vorrh Trilogy. The first book spent a good number of pages setting up the context for the trilogy, so by this book, we already have context on the world and its characters, and its events are easier to follow. Although a sequel, The Erstwhile doesn’t fall into the trap of being a sequel for the sake of a sequel. It is its own story, and it doesn’t end in a cliffhanger intended to make readers itch for continuity and closure. Well, suffice to say that I’m not the biggest fan of cliffhangers, so I appreciate when books, albeit sequels, can stand on their own.

With this book, I developed a newfound respect for some characters—and obtained confirmation of my feelings about some other characters. In particular, I enjoyed reading about Cyrena Lohr and Hector Schumann and how they handled the next phases of their lives. Plus, I like that other side to Ghertrude Tulp, and I feel like she will be back in The Cloven. I didn’t expect to ever be curious about her, but here we are waiting to learn more…

But there was something about the book that didn’t compel me to inhale it. Don’t get me wrong—I loved the book. It just took me a longer time (a month!!!) than usual to finish it. Maybe because it was slower? Or that it was dark? If it is because of those two reasons, that’s interesting because it is also for those two reasons that I liked the book: its pace and world is different from what I normally read. Huh.

Hobbies of Quarantime

A few weeks ago, I wrote about how my (newly developed) routines helped me cope with the ECQ. Whereas exercise and plant care were hobbies driven by necessity (I couldn’t allow myself to use ECQ as an excuse not to work out, and, well, someone needed to water the plants; otherwise, they would die…), I also cultivated other interests to keep positive during ECQ.

Books

This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. I love reading books, and I made it a point to read at least one chapter before sleeping as part of my night-time routine. (It was nice to end the day doing something I enjoyed since I was forced to welcome work into my home.)

During that two-month period, I read six books, including some that I didn’t love. I finally read books that had been sitting in my tbr pile for months (ok, years) and nonfiction books that I hadn’t gotten to for months (not years for this one at least).

Here are the books I read during this time:

Wine

Another hobby I unexpectedly picked up was learning about wine. It started off with an invitation to join an online wine masterclass hosted by AWC, and I got hooked. For some of the classes, I purchased the featured wines, but as I built out my stash, I began joining just to learn more about the lingo and culture.

I miss the days when it was so easy to drive to a winery. Since I lived in the SF Bay Area, I was spoiled with having Napa, Sonoma, and Livermore just two hours away (by driving). Well, anyway, I can still have my wine. On the plus side, I now have friends who have introduced me to wines from around the world.

Here are my favorite (non-California) wines:

  • Allan Scott Pinot Noir
  • Joseph Drouhin Laforet Bourgogne Chardonnay
  • Warwick The First Lady Cabernet Sauvignon

I’m still exploring though—I have more to taste! I recently downloaded the Vivino app to catalog the new wines I try, and I’ve been having fun with it.

Korean Dramas

Sometimes I can’t believe how hooked I am with kdrama. After I watched my first ever kdrama, Romance is a Bonus Book, (around this time) last year, I told myself that I should avoid them like the plague because I got too invested in the drama. In February of this year, I saw my sister watching Crash Landing on You (CLOY), and after seeing one episode, I decided to binge-watch it. I finished CLOY in 1.5 days… So, as I’ve said to myself before, kdrama is a trap. Yet do I listen to myself? Nope. I watched more.

Here are my kdramas of ECQ:

  • Goblin
  • Touch Your Heart
  • The King [in progress]
  • Itaewon Class [in progress]

Now that I’m deep into my kdrama obsession, try and stop me from watching more. Goblin is my current all-time favorite, but let’s see how The King turns out. Maybe I can live my kdrama life, too?