Leaving Los Angeles

So. After almost three months I am saying goodbye to sunny California and heading to Chicago (on the train if anyone’s wondering). It was a bit anti-climatic, especially seeing as I had already technically left – I did a two week road trip through Californian national parks, Las Vegas and to the Grand Canyon. After 3 months though, you do definitely get a feel of a place.

Its safe to say that LA wasn’t my favourite city (congrats Berlin) but nor was it my least loved (hello Krakow). Instead it falls into a category that is definitely… middling. I still don’t quite know how I feel about LA. Thinking hard there aren’t honestly that many things that I could say to people that I liked apart from the weather, though that makes it sound awful. It wasn’t.

Naples. No not Italy, but fancy USA. #longbeach #LA #USA #sunset #nofilter #prettypretty

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Perhaps part of the problem was that so many people from LA seemed to detest LA. I had a variety of people tell me they couldn’t wait to leave, that they hated their own city, with one person remarking that, “So many people want to leave, they just don’t have the means”. Dislike for the place that you live is usually feigned – many people may joke about hating where they live, especially in Britain – but there was some real loathing of LA from some of the residents. If everyone hates where they live it makes it difficult to love the place when you’re merely visiting.

There is also, I felt, a lack of character in LA. I had never been somewhere where all the buildings lacked… something. They missed a special element, whether that is a lack of older buildings – a difficult feat for such a new city to have had accomplished – or unusual buildings. Even artwork – in most cities there is street art that gives a city a definitive feature. I love Birmingham but it isn’t the most character filled place on earth (not in a good way, anyway). But even Birmingham has the Bull Ring bull! LA was just so bare. It was depressing.

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I did, however, adore the weather. It’s so nice to be able to plan something weeks in advance and not having to have a contingency plan for if it rains. And I loved In and Out, which may seem like a strange thing to pick out of all the other things LA has to offer, but In and Out was like a camp ritual, and it represents so much more than simply a fast food joint for me.

Camp treasures #secretpal #calilife #mykidsknowmysenseofstylesowell #mufasa #dreamcatches

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I think that’s what I’ll take away from LA more than anything else – all the great memories I have of this place. Despite not liking where they lived, the people I met were incredible. If it wasn’t such a hassle what with visas and flights (and the pay for internationals was better) I would definitely have returned next year. As it is, instead I will be saying bon voyage to LA and California for the foreseeable future. I will remember you fondly (though not as fondly as Berlin).

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Most Disappointing Book: Part 2

Some of you may know that a few weeks ago I did a 30 day book challenge, the aim being that every day there would be a new topic and I had to pick a book to suit that challenge. Day 18 was a book that disappointed you.

Even when I was writing it I was torn. In the end I picked Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, the first book of hers that I truly struggled to finish. But since wrapping up my 30 day challenge the notable mention for ‘Most Disappointing Book’ has kept cropping up in conversation, or mentioned in things I read, and I decided that The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon deserved its own post, simply so I could complain about it.

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Major SPOILERS ahead for The Shadow of the Wind (or TSotW) and minor SPOLIERS for The Book Thief and The Spy Who Came in from the Cold.

I would like to start of by congratulating Ruiz Zafon on his style of writing. I was in no way disappointed by the manner in which he wrote. His prose are beautiful, surprising in a way as there usually feels as if there is something lost in translation (literally) with books not originally in English. Translated stories usually feel as if they have lost a little bit of their magic that was contained in the original text: not so with his writing style.

Moving in a more negative direction, we come to the plot. Its not that the plot was bad as such, more that I was expecting more. It was a bit boring. This may be a case of a book being so hyped up that I was expecting it to reach these unattainable standards I had set up in my head due to all its praise. However, we still have not come to the most disappointing aspect of the book.

So here’s where the anger lies (and the spoilers). This is the reason why when people say they want to read TSotW, or I see it on a school reading list, I feel a huge annoyance surge within me, mixed in with a side of (probably unwarranted) rage. When you promise that a character is going to die, have him f***ing die! (That is the first time that I have felt the need to swear on this blog, that is how strongly I feel about this.)

The Shadow of the Wind is not a Disney movie, it is not a fantasy novel where people rise from the dead. It isn’t Supernatural, where people die and come back to life all the time and you forgive the plot direction because they are so damn pretty. No, this is a serious book. Your heart stopping for 2 minutes is not the story of how you died, it is at best an unfortunate set of events, at worst a life threatening situation. Don’t build up an entire book to the way in which the protagonist’s life ends and then snatch the ending from us. More than disappointed, I felt cheated by TSotW. By preparing myself for the dire ending, the new ‘everything is awesome’ and ‘we all lived happily ever’ after conclusion felt as if the author was simply just not brave enough to take us to the dark territory where the good people die and the bad people sometimes win. Darker books are not bad books; in fact because you feel the pain they cause they can be the best of books. See The Book Thief or The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. They cut you, but at the end you feel satisfied despite being hurt, or even because you were. The Shadow of the Wind just made me feel hollow – and not in a good way.

Note: after writing this post I had ‘Everything is Awesome’ from The Lego Movie stuck in my head for hours. That song is so catchy!

Have you read The Shadow of the Wind? What did you think? Let me know below.

Image credit: Writing Therapy