Friday, 27 December 2013

Christmas Book Haul

So Christmas happened and it was awesome despite some ridiculous wind in Kent on Monday night while we were trying to get to London, but due to our ninja skills (for which read the fact that we know that the Congestion charge ends at 7pm and so went straight through Central London instead of sitting on the M25 which was at a standstill like everybody else) the journey only took about ten minutes longer than usual and we didn't blow off the road at all, so that was good. I got a lot of books this year, but actually I have something more important to tell you all. Some of you already know and some will have seen it on Twitter, Facebook or whatever, but this is my other big news and also part of the reason I've been a rubbish blogger lately!

The photo is horrendous because I took a photo of the scan photo on my phone, buuuuuuuut it's a picture of baby number two who is due mid June :-) Four days after my birthday, to be precise, so keep your fingers crossed it's either on time or late because I really don't want to spend my birthday in hospital! We're all very excited, as well as being slightly overwhelmed and terrified at the thought of how we will cope with a newborn and a 20 month old, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it! Everything's going well so far, the baby has all the organs and limbs its supposed to at this point and I've just been feeling knackered, but so far so good!

So now onto the books! This picture is missing a couple, because I couldn't find them, but here's what I got:

From bottom to top:
  • The Quilters Bible by Linda Clements was from my Grandma because my mum and dad got me a basic quilting supplies set and because I obviously need another crafty hobby which takes up lots of space! I'll be blogging about it more on my craft blog, if you're interested!
  • The Green Fairy Book by Andrew Lang was from Rhys and probably the best present I got this year (and I got some pretty awesome stuff). It's beautiful and in a box and illustrated and just the most amazing thing. For those who are less into fairytales than I am, there's a whole series of these books, in different colours and each colour features different types of fairytales or fairytales from different parts of the world. They're also pretty hard to find so this was doubly amazing. 
  • The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden was also from my parents. I have a bit of a problem with cookery book collecting and really like experimenting with making different types of foods so this will fit into the collection very well! I also got The Great British Bakeoff: Everyday from Ellie which isn't in the picture because it's already buried in my kitchen on the cookery book case!
  • Phantasies by George MacDonald I got from my sister, who thought it looked cool and basically bought it for me because she wants to read it, which is pretty much what we do for each other! It's also folklorey and has gorgeous illustrations so I'm excited about that one!
  • Then there's a tiny book of Christmassy knitting patterns that I got in my stocking and I can't see or remember the title, because I cleared my books up already but it looks fun!
  • The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi looks really interesting and was also in my stocking. 
  • Black Thorn, White Rose by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling and The Giver by Lois Lowry were presents from the lovely Charlotte who must be telepathic because I've been thinking about them both lately and how much I want to read them! 
  • Babysitters' Winter Holiday by Ann M. Martin is a total blast from the past and I made Rhys put it in my stocking because I found it in a charity shop for 10p and had never read this one of the specials! As a teenager I was seriously obsessed with the Babysitters Club and to be honest it's still really easy, enjoyable reading even if it is ridiculously dated. It's kind of my guilty pleasure. 
  • Snuff by Terry Pratchett my sisters' got for me because I bought it for my dad just after it came out, read it then but don't actually own it, so that was nice. I also got Dodger in my stocking because that was my dad's present last year and I didn't get to test read it because Rhys was reading it instead! I've already started it and it's great so far!
  • False Gods of Rome by Robert Fabbri is a historical fiction book I think, it turned up in my stocking because my sister who is in charge of the book section in her local Oxfam shop, did a mystery Christmas book lucky dip thing and grabbed me one. It looks interesting!
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is the only Fitzgerald book I don't actually own I think, despite having read and loved it way back in college. I'm really happy I finally have a copy and thanks to my lovely sisters for getting it for me!
I also got and have already read but now can't find Attachments by Rainbow Rowell from Laura. Once I find it there will be a review, because that book is amazing. 

And that's it for now I think! I got lots of other stuff for Christmas which we're currently trying to fit in the house. If you want to see a picture of the gorgeous quilt my aunty made for Benji, pop over to the craft blog! I'm also ridiculously proud of myself for finishing A Tale of Two Cities just before Christmas and am thinking I might make reading Dickens in December a yearly thing. What do you think? How was everybody's Christmas and what books did you get? 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Tale of Two Cities Readalong: The Last Bit

This is it! I have officially done it and actually finished a Dickens novel for the first time (excluding A Christmas Carol last year) since university! I have to say that despite not posting last week, due to general crafty craziness and order overload, picture to be found at the bottom of this post for those who are interested, I'm really proud of myself! Aaaaand book 3 was so much the best of the three that it was just amazing. I didn't cry at the end, but I wasn't that far off, I will admit. Sydney Carton it an epic epic man. 

Also yay for Miss Pross, because Madame Defarge may have been a really cool character, but she was also kind of a lunatic...I think my favourite thing about this book was that everything played out exactly how I thought it would be at the same time not at all how I'd expected it to. In the beginning I expected Darnay to turn out the hero, and while certain aspects of him were quite heroic, he is clearly not as awesome as certain other people! There are going to be spoilers now, if you haven't read the book yet look away!

So, usually when people die because they love someone that much or whatever I sigh and roll my eyes and mutter something like 'Beauty and the Beast rip off' or 'Pokemon tears will bring you back to life'. Because I'm cool and all my movie references are really current, obviously. But this was just epic and brilliant and I loved it. I loved that Carton loved Lucie for years without ever mentioning it to anybody else, without anybody else ever suspecting and without being totally pathetic about it. I loved that he just accepted his own shortcomings, but then that he totally redefined his character in the last few chapters of the book, and that all of his basic character flaws which had been laid down in the first two books were reconstructed to enable him to perform his final heroic act at the end. Basically, I just loved it. 

That said Lucie herself didn't get much better over the course of the book. She still didn't seem to have much of a point except to be the perfect woman that everybody aspired to being with or whatever, but it stopped bothering me so much as we found out more about the Doctor's story and as events unfolded throughout book 3. I really enjoyed the backstory of the Doctor, and it gave a nice little twist just when everything was getting a bit predictable, plus it gave Madame Defarge a reason for her mentalness. 

So yes, A Tale of Two Cities in summary: quite slow moving with a few kind of pointless and slightly stupid characters (I'm an ex-aristocratic Frenchman who ran away and abandoned my estate but I know! I'll go back to France just when the Revolution is kicking off, nothing bad will happen!) but several fairly epic character and one who may have the greatest storyline and character development ever. I will keep you posted. How's your readalong gone? Do you all still hate it?

Monday, 16 December 2013

A Tale of Two Cities Readalong - Part 2!

Right, I've not written my actual post about this yet, but here's a linky so you can link up your thoughts about this week's bit!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Some Thoughts About Will Grayson,Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

So I bought Will Grayson, Will Grayson on our epic blogger shopping trip in Leeds, because it's the last of John Green's books I haven't read/didn't own and because I really enjoyed Dash and Lily's Book of Dares (and really liked the film but haven't yet read the book of Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist) both by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan. On Monday I stuck it in my bag for the 3 hour (there and back!) bus trip to work, as an alternative to Dickens. I've been managing about 3 chapters of A Tale of Two Cities of a morning before I'm forced to look for a lighter option - he's a bit heavy for 7am most of the time! 

Anyway, suffice to say that Will Grayson, Will Grayson was done by the time I got back home again Monday night. It was much quicker reading than I'd expected and (this particularly for Hanna) much better than The Fault In Our Stars! It's kind of also a book about issues (one of the Will Grayson's is gay, the other is perpetually stuck in orbit to his larger than life gay best friend) but it's really not so much about that than the characters and their voices. The stories run parallel to each other and then reach a point where they kind of intersect, so you have two completely separate casts of characters who sort of mingle together at various points. 

One storyline is written by John Green and one by David Levithan and it really wasn't difficult to tell whose Will Grayson was whose, and they were both very different characters but they worked really well together. One of the Will Grayson's is quite an angry teenager (kind of like I was, so I related), whereas the other is just a bit of a doormat, but neither of them were annoying and despite it being about teen issues and relationships and all that drama it never got whiny. 

These days I find myself paying more attention to the parents, especially when I read YA, probably because I am one myself now! Will Grayson's mum features quite heavily in the story, and she's far from a perfect character; she's obviously struggling but I really liked that she was in a situation that a lot of people could probably relate to but she still managed to be a decent parent and have a relationship with her depressed teenage son. She was very accepting of him, and I really liked that about her. The other Will Grayson's parents were mentioned more than seen, but they had their moments. I particularly liked the fact that there's a scene where Will isn't feeling good and he calls his Dad to get him to call school for him and his Dad comes home just because he wanted to hang out with him while he was ill. Awwwwww. 

So yeah, basically it's just a good quick read with some really cool characters, most of whom I haven't even mentioned, but Tiny Cooper is great and so is Jane. Also I like the cover, because it's purple. Obviously not the most important thing to mention, but still!

Monday, 9 December 2013

End of the Year Readathon: Starting Off

Woohoo today is the first day of the End of the Year Readathon hosted by Juliababyjen's Reading Room and Dana Square! Because I work Mondays I have a 1.5 hour commute on the bus each way, I've spent approximately 3.5 hours (including lunch break) reading today, which is a pretty good start and probably the most by miles I'll read this week, although I am at work again Thursday so we shall see! Because of the epic commute I've already ticked off one of the books from the pile I posted in my sign up, which I'm pretty excited about, and it was really good :-) 

Monday Stats: (entirely copied from Ellie! Sorry!)
Books I've read from:  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
Pages read today:  326
Books finished today:  Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
Running total: 1 book; 326 pages

I will probably add my daily stats to this post for the first few days at least to stop there being a million readathon posts and to free up space for review posts should I choose to write them! 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A Tale of Two Cities: The First Bit

Right, so some of you guys will know that I am no longer the greatest at writing reviews, and so the greatest thing about a readalong is that at no point do I have to write a review as such. These are just thoughts and questions. I did a little background reading for this post (by which I mean I looked up 'A Tale of Two Cities' on Wikipedia. Obviously) and discovered the following:

  • A Tale of Two Cities is Dickens' thirteenth novel (if you count all the Christmas stories as one thing, which they aren't really but I am for the purpose of this) published in 1859, but set before and during the French Revolution. This kind of messed with my mind, because it's Dickens writing what pretty much amounts to historical fiction. That was weird for me, because of him having been dead for ages and all. Does that make any sense?
  • It was first published, like pretty much all of Dickens' work, as a weekly serial between 30th April 1859 and 26th November 1859. 
  • It may have been influenced by Dickens just having begun his affair with eighteen year old actress Ellen Ternan. Apparently Lucie Manette looks like her...
So there's that... Judging from Twitter this week (and if you want to follow/join in with the debate use #dickensindecember) I am the only one who enjoyed Book 1 of this novel. I think it was starting off reading that famous opening, which has to be one of the most famous in literature surely? I think for me it just moved a lot quicker than the other Dickens novels I've read, and although there was a lot of description, I really enjoyed it. The second chapter of book one which is all about people travelling to Dover in a coach by night I found really atmospheric and quite gripping and  by the time we reached the end of book one I was quiet excited about the story. I liked how much had happened in the first six chapters. It was unexpected, to say the least. 

Having said that, the only character I really liked in book one was Madame Defarge. My knowledge of A Tale of Two Cities is pretty much limited to a general idea that it's about the French Revolution and also some character names are familiar, but for some reason I kind of feel like she might be the bad guy/the one who gets everyone killed? But anyway, I love how she just sits there and knits and says nothing and yet is clearly in charge of everything. It's awesome. The rest of them were a little bit meh to be honest. I liked the storyline and the description more than I did the characters, and that hasn't changed all that much in Book Two except that now there are some characters that I can't make up my mind about - mostly Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay, which is funny as they are clearly meant to be opposite sides of the same thing. I think we're probably meant to like Darnay and dislike Carton but I'm just not sure yet. I've avoided reading the character descriptions and synopsis on Wikipedia because it will ruin the fun of reading this back in two weeks and going 'oh my God how could I have got it so wrong?!'. 

I think my major problem is that I really dislike characters who are trying too hard to be good, and I kind of feel like Charles Darnay might be doing that a little, and Lucie Manette is definitely trying too hard and she is probably going to drive me totally mad in a few more chapters but we'll get to that I'm sure. Actually I feel like most of the characters are trying too hard. I'm hoping they're going to change my mind in the next bit! 

I have to apologise for choosing possibly the worst point ever to make you all stop reading for the week! Hopefully nobody finished on Tuesday or anything and has had to wait since then, if you have then I'm sorry, but I've got to say I'm kind of glad the Marquis is dead, because that guy was clearly a knob. 

And thus end my thoughts for this week :-) Eloquent, aren't I?

Link up your posts here, or put your thoughts in the comments! Thoughts are welcomed from those who have not read along with us but who have thoughts to share!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A Tale of Two Cities Readalong: Kick off!

Today is the day that the A Tale of Two Cities readalong officially starts. I'm actually quite excited - I read a couple of chapters last night just to get a jump on it and it's not bad so far, although there was quite a long description of the mist... But very atmospheric! Also I was reading the Prologue in my edition and it talks about how Dickens got the idea for the novel while he was helping with a family production of a Wilkie Collins play. I know it wasn't The Moonstone, but I think that's quite a nice tie in for those of you who have been doing The Moonstone readalong in November!

Also just as a kind of side note, my sponsored reading also starts today, for which I am asking you lovely lot if you would like to sponsor me some amount (be it xpennies per page or a lump sum) for the reading I am doing in December. The moneys raised are going to Great Ormond Street Hospital, and if you'd like to sponsor me per page I've read I'll be keeping a running tally in the sidebar of the blog and posting a weekly update in my weekly update posts. If you'd like to sponsor me any random amount as a lump sum, my sponsorship page is here. Seriously, any amount no matter how small will be hugely appreciated!

So yeah, #dickensindecember has officially begun! If you'd like to sign up to join us, you can still do so here and if you need a reminder of the schedule, it's here. Enjoy, my friends! See you next Sunday for the first discussion!

Friday, 29 November 2013

End of the Year Readathon

So with this what I've basically done is cave in to peer pressure. Ellie, Hanna, and Katie are all doing it and every time I've seen a post go up I've thought 'oooh that sounds like a good plan' and gone back to whatever I was previously doing. Not this time, however! This is me, publicly declaring my intention to actually read some books and what's more to also write about them! The End of the Year Read-a-thon is hosted by Jenny and Dana and it runs from December 9th - 22nd. The aim is pretty much to read some of the things we meant to read this year and haven't yet. Sounds like a good goal to me! 

Much of my reading will probably be centred around A Tale of Two Cities, because my readalong of it runs December 1st - 22nd and it's Dickens so aside from that I don't want to be too ambitious, but here are a few things it would be nice to get to: 

Kissing the Witch by Emma Donoghue was given to me as an RAK at least a year ago if not more and it's kind of a travesty that I haven't read it yet. The Virgin Suicides I really liked the film of years ago so I'm interested to see what the book's like. The Newlyweds Laura sent to me when she moved so it doesn't really count as one that's been waiting for me to read it for ages, but still it looks interesting. Till We Have Faces by C.S Lewis has legitimately been sitting on my shelves for at least two years and has been on all my TBR challenge piles and I've never got to it. LIke Kissing the Witch it's mythology based so it's kind of bad that I've still not read it. Might have to make it the first thing I read... and finally Will Grayson, Will Grayson was a Leeds purchase, so again pretty recent but I really like John Green (sorry people who hate TFioS) and I know it will be a quick read so it looks likely that I'll pick it up at some point before the end of the year!

Have you read any of my books? Any that I should definitely read, what should I avoid? 

Saturday, 23 November 2013

Saturday Stuff #1

This is that Saturday post I promised to write weekly about three months ago, and no I'm not that fussed that it takes me ages to get around to doing things I plan to do. Life gets in the way!

So. This week has been pretty uneventful except that I finally posted about our epic blogger meetup in Leeds and a schedule for my A Tale of Two Cities readalong which starts next Sunday and which you can still sign up for here. I also learned that people lie when they list things as being in 'very good condition' on Ebay. Several ranty emails later, I'm still waiting for a response from what are supposed to be a fairly reputable, well known company who trade on there. 

Blogwise, I'm in the middle of thinking about trying to write a review of The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult, but it's about the Holocaust and parts of it were great and other parts were a bit rubbish and I kind of don't want to say that in detail in case I get bashed for having negative things to say about a book about such horrific things. I did have trouble reading it, as I always do with Holocaust related things, because it was far too real. With fiction, even fiction about stuff that happens to people (like all of Jodi Picoult's books ever) I can usually distance myself from it because it's mostly not happened to me, but I can never do that with Holocaust stuff, and I guess that's a good thing because while people, even people who are totally unrelated to it like me, still feel it so deeply it makes us extra defensive against that kind of thing ever happening again, but still, not easy reading! So yeah, there may or may not be a review of that coming up!

The other thing I finished this week was waaaaaaay more light, thank goodness! Relish by Lucy Knisley is a graphic novelly food memoiry type thing, not dissimilar to Alison Bechdel's Fun Home, but about food. I discovered it through the Nonfiction November event that's going on at the moment and it was awesome. There is a great page of facts about cheese in it, so I was very happy. I am going to write something about it at some point. 

The big thing that I decided this week while pondering my lack of Christmas charitability (totally a word) in the past year or two is that I'm going to ask people, including all you lovely readers of my blog to sponsor me for my reading in December. To that end I will make an effort to read consistently and you can either sponsor me per page I've read (like, a penny per page or whatever) at the end of the month, or just an amount at whatever point you want. At the end of the month I will also be making a donation of my own. Originally I was going to match whatever I raise through sponsorship, and if that's £50 or less then I still will, but otherwise it will be an amount determined in discussion with my husband! All the money I raise will be going to the fabulous Great Ormond Street Hospital, who you can find out more about (if you don't know!) here. They're the people J.M Barrie left the copyright to Peter Pan to when he died and they do great things for sick kids, basically. 

If you want to sponsor me, now or later, you can do so at my fundraising page, here. For some reason Just Giving still think my name is my maiden name and I can't get it to change. Never mind. I know reading is something I'd be doing anyway and not particularly ground breaking or energetic of me, but I'm doing things of my own which are groundbreaking and energetic enough at the moment and this is a way to do some good so help me out! :-) 

So yeah, that was basically my week. Tomorrow we're having a lazy day and possibly going to a Christmas craft fair, which I'm obviously very excited about, in between knitting crocodiles and salami. My life is a whirlwind :-p 

Thursday, 21 November 2013

I Am Challenge Free in 2014, Except...

For this! I made my Classics Club list a couple of years ago now I think, but I've still failed to read very much from it and so when I saw Twelve Months of Classic Literature over on their blog I thought why not set myself a list of some titles from my list that fit in with the themes and get me back to being a more active member of the club again? Here's the plan

January : William Shakespeare - Macbeth 
February: Harlem Renaissance/ African-American Literature - Jazz or Paradise by Toni Morrison (not on the list but in my house & has been for years!)
March: Feminist Literature/ Persephone/ Virago Literature - A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
April: Transcendentalist Literature - Walden by Henry David Thoreau
May: Postcolonial Literature/ World Literature - The Stranger by Albert Camus
June: World War One/The Lost Generation - The Last Tycoon by F. Scott Fitzgerald
July: Post-Modernist Literature - Catch 22 by Joseph Heller
August: The Englightenment Thinkers - 
September: Romantic Literature - Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (re-read)
October: LGBT Literature - The Well of Loneliness by Radclyffe Hall
November: Victorian Literature - Something by a Bronte 
December: Freebie Month - James Bond!!

So there we go, hopefully not too much to deal with. I'm dreading Catch 22 as I've tried it before and had to give up, and I'm a little nervous about the Toni Morrison because aside from Beloved I've never really been able to get into her writing, but never mind. I'll give it a go! Is anybody else doing this? 

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

A Tale of Two Cities Schedule

A little while ago I announced that I would be hosting a readalong of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens during December, in an attempt to actually read another book from my Classics Club list. Quite a few people have signed up to read it with me and if you want to join us you can still declare your intentions on this post! So here's the schedule as far as I can work it out. My book is in three sections, I assume other editions are as well but just in case they're not I will give chapter numbers as well!

December 1st - 8th: Beginning of Book 1 - end of Book 2 Chapter 9 (first 15 chapters of the book)

December 8th -  15th: Book 2 Chapter 10 - end of Book 2 (chapters 16- 30)

December 15th - 22nd: Book 3 - end (chapters 31 -45)

Please let me know if this doesn't make sense to you! And I know 15 chapters a week is quite a lot if you're reading other stuff at the same time, but it's really not a long book and the chapters are quite short generally so it should be fine!

My general thought was that I will post about that weeks' chapters on the Sunday with a linky so you can link up your posts if you want to write one, or we can have a discussion about it in the comments of my post. Either way is fine and it's really up to you how much you want to commit to it :-) 

So yay, and once again if you want to sign up to readalong with us you can do so here, the more the merrier! See you on December 1st!

*Edit* If you want to tweet about the readalong, the hashtag I have at the moment is #dickensindecember but as it's quite long, if anyone can think of a better one, please let me know!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

THE NORTH, People Who Do Indeed Have Faces and (of course) Books!

Ok, so Ellie and Laura have both already written about this, which is great because it means that I can just do the short version. Not that I'm lazy or anything, but Benji's been up since 6 today and 4:45 yesterday and then I was at a craft fair all day yesterday (which went ok for those who want to know - we made back our table fee plus a bit of pocket money so better than we'd expected!) so I'm knackered! 

Basically, last Tuesday Laura and I headed up to the vast and ominous NORTH (which is only vast and ominous if you are one of those people who has never left the South of England ever) to see Hanna again and meet Ellie and Charlotte for the first time :-) This was very exciting for a number of reasons:

  1. I got to get a train for 2.5 hours with Laura, who is awesome and who, it turns out, I have much more than just books to talk about with. Seriously, we talked the entire way there and the entire way back and it wasn't awkward or boring or small talkey even once. That's a serious achievement considering we've only physically met once before!
  2. I got to go back to Yorkshire which we went to on our honeymoon two years ago but only got vaguely lost trying to drive around Leeds so it was lovely to actually visit the city, and it was so pretty and nice and people were lovely and friendly so that was good. 
  3. I got to see Hanna again
  4. I got to meet Ellie and Charlotte, and Charlotte has a face, which is great. 
  5. I GOT TO GO BOOK SHOPPING WITH PEOPLE WHO UNDERSTAND ABOUT BOOK SHOPPING. And I got to do it unencumbered by the push chair. 
It was an amazing day. If you want the long version you can read about it here and the slightly less long but with more of the train delayedness here

What I'm here for, though, is really to show you all (but especially Ellie who is particularly curious) what I bought! We were all in such a frenzy of buying books and being with other people who fully supported the buying of books that we weren't paying too much attention to what each other was actually buying, which was thus: 

That's a bad photo. Here are some more broken down ones:

This isn't a much better photo, but never mind we'll make do. On the top was my only charity shop buy of the day, Running with Scissors by Augusten Burroughs which I heard a lot about a while ago (can't remember why) and liked the sounds of, so I'm excited to start it. Plus it was bought in a charity shop where all the books were squished into one tiny corner and so we had to upset an old gentlemen trying to squish our five selves plus bags in to have a proper look. So that was fun. The three underneath were on the 3 for £5 offer in The Works. The two Jasper Fforde books were... heavily influenced by Hanna but I have been looking for more since I read The Eyre Affair way back before I started blogging, and The Carrier by Sophie Hannah (which I think Ellie also bought?) was because I needed a third book and Charlotte said it was great. I'm looking forward to it!

HMV was next, and I haven't seen a HMV with as many books as they have in the Leeds one for quite a while! I kept picking stuff up and putting it down again and finally ended up with these. Last Orders by Graham Swift is another I heard a lot about from various people (possibly a sister or two?) a while ago and it sounded fun plus I quite like the front cover and it was only £1.99 so how could I not? Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe is a brilliant film so I'm super excited about reading the book. I will be thinking about Mary Stuart Masterson throughout (not in a creepy way, although kinda cos I want to be her in Some Kind of Wonderful. She is all the awesome), and Bed by David Whitehouse for no reason other than that it was 99p and sounds kind of cool. 

We made a quick stop at Candy Hero, where I bought a load of Jelly Beans that you can see in my main picture, and where I resisted buying more chocolate Tea Pigs, because we already have 8 types of tea in our house and that really should be enough, right? Anyway! Then it was time for Waterstone's! I haven't bought a new book in a while, and despite having left my £10 gift card in Kent (because I'm stupid), I got swept up in the excitedness of the moment and ended up with this lot:

The picture lies a bit, because Moon Over Soho actually came from the Canterbury Waterstone's the night before. I was reading Rivers of London and was nearly at the end of it with a 2 hour coach journey coming up, so some emergency book shopping was needed! So only the bottom four are actually from Leeds, and only three are actually for me (stop rolling your eyes, Laura!), because Raising Steam is my Dad's Christmas present. It's an annual tradition that I buy him the newest Terry Pratchett and then 'test read' it (carefully, obviously) before giving it to him. So that just leaves Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan, Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel and The Engagements by J. Courtney Sullivan which I had to have despite it being hardback because Maine was so good, and I did start reading it on the train home!

Those were my books, and here are a few pictures of various of us in various places :-) 

Hanna and Charlotte, having faces before shopping

All of us, photo by Charlotte whose arm may have nearly broken off trying to get a decent one!
Laura with her books and mine at the station... we have no idea how there came to be so many...

So basically I had a great day! Those I had previously met were as lovely as remembered and those I hadn't were as lovely as I thought they'd be :-) It was amazing to meet people and instantly feel so comfortable with them and like we'd known each other for ages, which I guess we have! And really nice to be able to put faces and voices to blogs and tweets. It must be done again soon. 

Friday, 8 November 2013

Wolf Hall, or How My Love of all Things Tudor Will Never Die

I thought about reserving Wolf Hall at the library a year or two ago when everybody was talking about it, but I had so much to read (nothing changes, clearly) at the time that I thought I might as well just leave it until the hype had died down, as I would've been 35th on the list anyway, and the day the hype died down was last week. I was browsing in the library when, behold! Wolf Hall, sitting on the shelf casually minding its own business. 

There's a bit of a disclaimer on this post, which reads thus:
I grew up approximately a half hour walk from Hampton Court Palace. Age 6 I begged my grandparents to take me round the palace by myself. They thought I would never walk round the whole thing, but I did. Because I'm cool. We used to go in the gardens and the maze with my mum and siblings every single summer holiday and most Easters until they started charging silly amounts to get in. When I was young, the gardens were free and the maze was about 50p. It was awesome. We also used to get the boat there all the time. As well as all this we went on school trips to various parts (just the kitchens in Infant School, the kitchens and great hall in year 3, the whole palace in yr 5 or 6, the whole palace again in years 8, 9 and 10), so while in some ways I'm all Tudored out, in other ways I have a deep and abiding love of that period of history which will probably never die. My mind still boggles at all the chimneys. 

File:Hampton Court Palace 20120224.JPG

So yes, basically what I'm saying is that when I heard that Wolf Hall was about that period of history which I've recently been revelling in reading Philippa Gregory's various books, but actually about Thomas Cromwell and Cardinal Wolsey (the man who originally build Hampton Court) as well as being about the whole thing where Henry VIII was a massive egotist and created the Church of England so he could marry some random woman whom he decided, three years after having finally married her, he didn't actually like enough to keep alive anyway, and obviously for all the above stated reasons, I had to read it. And it was goooooood. The book is massive, but I read it in three days which is entirely unheard of for post baby me. I am very proud of myself. 

There's no point in comparing this with The Other Boleyn Girl et al, but on the whole I did feel a lot less like Hilary Mantel was just making up what she thought could possibly have happened, at some point, somewhere, and more like she was basing her writing around things which a few people agree have actually happened. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy Philippa Gregory's books very much, and of course it's great fun to imagine all the things which could have happened as well as the things that did, but reading Wolf Hall I felt a lot more submerged in history than I ever have reading Gregory. 

So now that's over, pretty much what I'm saying is that I really enjoyed Wolf Hall. It has a lot of characters, but they are pretty much all well developed (or well developed enough to suit their purposes) and Mantel did a great job of making everybody very human. There weren't a lot of people I hated in this, which I liked because there was too much else to keep track of to allow time for hating people. It is pretty well written and very pacy and despite its massive size it was a very quick read for me. 

Sticking with my whole 'this isn't a review' thing, all I will say is that if you have anything like my love for the Tudors, you should probably read this :-) 

Saturday, 2 November 2013

Things That Happened in October

Hi everybody! It's me, you might not recognise me because I've been a totally crap blogger recently, but I've been busy!! Lots happened in October, starting with this: 

Benji had two parties for his first birthday, because most of our family and friends are still London based at the moment, but the picture is from his second party at my Aunt and Uncle's house, who now live just up the road from us. It ended up being just a little gathering, with my cousin and her partner but you wouldn't have known it from the amount of sweets and cupcakes my Aunt made (yes, made from scratch, by hand and they were yummy). We were eating them for a while :-) That took up a couple of weekends, and then there was this, which I have already blogged about

That's a very blurry picture of the Neil Gaiman event from where we were sitting. The view was much better than it looks from this, and I'm really glad this was such a great event because it's really inspired me to try to go to more author events next year!

Also this month was the Halloween Ninja Book Swap, and although I'm still waiting for one of my parcels to turn up I think I've waited long enough so I wanted to put this up and thank the lovely Becky of Becky's Barmy Book Blog for sending me this parcel of awesomeness!

In case you can't see, it contains a 4 pack of Dairy Milk bars, a 4 pack of Flake bars, Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher which I read loads of great reviews of during Banned Books Week this year, and some awesome Harry Potter magnets plus a lovely card :-) The chocolate disappeared veeeeerrry quickly and I'm waiting for the right moment to start on the book! 

Finally this month I decided to bite the bullet and host my first ever readalong in December. If you'd like to join in and read A Tale of Two Cities with us, you can find the details and sign up link here

In bookishness this month, I have actually read quite a bit for me! Books I've finished are thus:
I am hoping to write about Good Omens, Fables and The Fearless Treasure in the next week, but we shall see how it goes. My first craft fair is sneaking up on me ridiculously quickly and I've also had a few orders to work on, which is nice, but has left me no time to do much else! So that's it from me and this is something I've made this week that I love :-) 

Monday, 21 October 2013

Awesome Short Stories! Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales

This week has been a bit manic. It was Benjamin's first birthday party at the weekend (photos to follow as soon as I get them from my friend), and we had tickets to see NEIL GAIMAN on Tuesday in London but I had to work in Kent on Monday, so we were up to London Thursday night, party on Sunday, back to Kent Sunday night, back to London Monday night, up to London Tuesday afternoon, back to Kent Wednesday morning. It was tiring. However when we got in on Sunday night (without Benji who stayed with his grandparents for the night, very quiet house, very very weird) I found a parcel waiting for me from the lovely lovely people at Headline, who I had contacted a while ago about my undying love for all things Gaiman, and this fell out:

I will admit I squealed a bit and started reading it immediately, which worked out really well because it meant I had the tail end of it to read in the queue for the Fortunately, The Milk event on Tuesday. So yes, this is a collection of new versions of classic tales type book, but unlike the books of this sort I usually read, this isn't just twists on fairy tales.

There are some really great authors in this collection, and some really interesting interpretations, and it made me want to get hold of the things that I hadn't read and read them immediately. Although it was the first thing that caught my eye, and very good, Neil Gaiman's version of Sleeping Beauty, entitled The Sleeper and the Spindle wasn't my favourite tale I don't think. It did have a bit of an Ocean At the End of the Lane feel to it, though, which can never be a bad thing. 

Actually I think my favourite stories in the collection were probably Millcara by Holly Black, whose short stories I still have a half read volume of which I will now be making haste to finish, and which is a vampire kind of story inspired by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu's story Carmilla, which I had never heard of before, and Awakened by Melissa Marr which is a really cool reinterpretation of The Awakening by Kate Chopin with selchies. There were others that I loved as well; Losing Her Divinity by Garth Nix whose Keys to the Kingdom series I used to have a few of but have never read, and which was inspired by Kipling's The Man Who Would be King which I struggled through and hated a while back was really great and very interestingly told, New Chicago by Kelley Armstrong, and The Soul Collector by Kami Garcia, a reinterpretation of Rumplestiltskin in a modern setting to name just a few. As well as the gorgeous complexity of the stories, each one is followed by a short note from its' author explaining why they chose their particular tale for inspiration and giving a bit of background to its' creation, so it's really interesting from the point of view of thinking about the creative process as well as for enjoying some great writing (which this isn't, I'm sorry, I'm tired and hungry and just needed to write about this book because it is so good). 

I really loved how every couple of tales or so there was an illustration by Charles Vess, based on a story with a facing page of explanation about why that particular story inspired him. It made the book even more interesting to read and means it will stick in my head for the beautiful images as well as the incredibly high standard of writing, and I'll be recommending it to people for ages. 

Rags & Bones is going straight on my five star list and my keeper shelf (after it's circulated all my family and friends!) and if you have chance to read it, you should. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Sunday Sunday Sunday

This was going to be my Saturday post, but then I posted about Neil Gaiman instead, so it's now a Sunday post instead. This week was eventful.... Most of it was pretty hectic, as we were in London for Benji's birthday party on Sunday, then back to Kent so I could work on Monday and then back to London Monday night so we could go to the Neil Gaiman event on Tuesday and back to Kent Wednesday and I was at work again on Thursday. In between that I had a gigantic row with the library due to them randomly telling me I was 'barred from using the library' after I placed a reservation on a book which took my fines over £10. Because we'd been away and I tend not to pay too much attention to my overdue books, I hadn't realised that my fines were anywhere near that - the last time I'd been to the library previously they were about £5, also on the day that all this happened I'd been up since 5.30am with Benji and so inexplicably read 'barred' (which I still think is a bit harsh and unnecessary) as banned and flipped out. I didn't find out that the reason it was barred was because of the fine being 23p over £10 until I'd conversed with a couple of (to give them their due really lovely and understanding) librarians and at no point did they tell me it was a temporary suspension. It was like somebody telling you you're banned from your local pub that you go to every night and where you meet all your friends. The library's my safe place, and lack of sleep didn't help me to be calm about the idea of that being taken away. 

Anyway, once I'd resolved that by paying my fine on the way home from work Thursday night (with a very amused librarian who knows Benji and I laughing at me for having such a massive fine) and dragged 15 library books back on Friday, there wasn't much time left for anything else! Having said that, though I did manage to somehow post twice this week, once about the Neil Gaiman event and also a sign up for my A Tale of Two Cities Readalong in December. If you've not yet signed up, you should!

I've also read Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales, a collection of various awesome authors' interpretations of classic stories, which was sent to me by the lovely people at Headline, who had obviously remembered my love of all things Gaiman after I sent them an extremely fangirlish email regarding review copies of The Ocean at the End of the Lane (there were none left, obviously). It was amazing and I'm in the middle of writing my thoughts about it, which will hopefully appear later this week. I've also almost finished The Fearless Treasure by Noel Streatfeild and started Mothers Raising Sons by Nigel Latta (the book which caused all of the library fiasco), which is brilliant so far. 

In non-book related things, I've been making things for my first craft fair in November. This week I've mostly been making balls, they're great for little babies but it's been difficult keeping Ben away from them! I've made various colours but this is my special favourite at the moment :-) 

And because you haven't had one in a while, here's a picture of Benji enjoying his birthday cake:

Taken by my wonderfully talented friend Maria. The London based among you should use her to photograph all your events, the girl makes everyone look good!

Happy Sunday everybody!

Saturday, 19 October 2013


File:Methodist Central Hall (5133289769).jpg

Last Tuesday Rhys and I went to see Neil Gaiman do a reading of Fortunately The Milk, courtesy of one of my lovely sisters who had bought him tickets for his birthday and instructed me to tell him they were tickets to 'a boring science lecture'. Needless to say I caved before I'd even finished the sentence and told him what we were actually going to see. The picture is of the Methodist Central Hall in London where the reading was held. I'm pretty sure I went there for an A Level Psychology Conference, but anyway! 

So! Rhys and I set off from my parents house, leaving Benji safely ensconsed with his grandma and biscuits and headed up to Westminster. We arrived really early (4pm for a 6.30pm start) but thought we'd check out the place to make sure we knew where we were going. Having duly confirmed that despite the lack of signage, we were actually in the right place for the talk, we went off for a wander down the South Bank and I finally had my first experience of Wagamamas! It was pretty good, except that I remembered I can't use chopsticks and we didn't really have enough time for me to learn, so I had to be the person who asks for a fork.... Never mind. About 5.15 we got back to the hall to find that the previously unoccupied streets had become home to a massive queue, which we eventually ended up joining pretty much opposite the front door, but along the back wall. We were lucky, though, because by the time we got to the front door to be let in, the back of the queue had met the front! Next time we will just stay there at 4! 

Rhys has some pictures of the venue from inside but he isn't here at the moment, so they will be in my next Gaiman related post, coming in a few days. We were sitting up in the balcony, but with a pretty decent view from the sides and it was full of interesting people. I was particularly impressed with myself for recognising Joanne Harris sitting a few seats away. Eventually, after all the people in the world had finished coming in, and after Rhys had abandoned me several times to go and get signed copies of Fortunately The Milk (for us) and The Graveyard Book (as a thankyou for my sister), and to go to the loo and left me defending his seat from potential invaders, the stage was taken by Andrew O'Neill, who was the MC for the night. He was hilarious and had the whole room doing that thing where you put your finger in your mouth and pop your cheek, mexican wave style. A very satisfying sound. After that some people sang some songs which involved many high kicks, and then Neil appeared, along with Chris Riddell, the illustrator of Fortunately The Milk, who drew as Neil was reading. After a bit of chat, the reading began, and it was pretty brilliant. With voice talent from various of Neil's friends, and a surprise appearance by Lenny Henry who then stayed to ask some questions people had tweeted. Finally, Amanda Palmer appeared on stage and sang a song about a ukelele. I feel that it would have been brilliant if I could have heard the words properly but it was great nonetheless. 

If you want to read a much more coherent account of the event, you can read Neil Gaiman's here

Basically, we both had a great time and can't believe we haven't been to more author events! This will be rectified in the future!

I can also tell you that Fortunately The Milk is hilarious and brilliant and full of aliens and pirates and wumpires (see if you can spot the veiled Twilight reference that had the audience in stitches) and although it's a children's book you should all definitely read it. The best bit was when Neil shouted 'aha' for some reason and a small child in the front row also shouted 'aha' about five octaves higher and incredibly enthusiastically. I will have to wait a while to read it and honestly part of me doesn't actually want to now for fear it will erase the amazing songs, dances and voices of Neil and his host of friends. From this experience my advice would be, if you get the chance to see Neil Gaiman, no matter where he is or what he's doing, take it. An amazing evening and so worth it even though all the books were pre-signed due to a wrist injury and there was no time for photos afterwards so we didn't actually get to meet him but we plan to change that in the future!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

A Tale of Two Cities Readalong!

As always, I totally suck at making buttons and the like, however a little while ago I asked you which of a choice of Dickens books from my Classics Club list people would be interested in reading with me, and this was the clear favourite. Thus I am announcing the A Tale of Two Cities readalong, and since December is a brilliantly atmospheric month for reading Dickens, that is when we shall be doing it! If you are interested in reading about the best of times and the worst of times with me, all you have to do is mention your intention to do so in a post on your blog, twitter, tumblr or whatever else you use to communicate your bookishness to the world and then link up to it below! Feel free to create your own buttons or to nick my slightly crap round the edges picture and I will put up a schedule closer to the time :-) In the meantime, feel free to spread the word, because the more people involved in a discussion about a book, the more fun it is!

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A Quick Chat About This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz

I've given up calling them reviews cos they're kind of not. I mean, I know to some extent all reviewing is just some person's opinion, but I feel like mine are extensively that recently, and more to the point, if I don't call it a review I don't feel pressured to talk about a book in any coherent sort of way. So this is what I thought about This is How You Lose Her

Actually it was really great. I remember liking The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (when something has a title that awesome it's very difficult not to want to like it, at least), but then I didn't get around to reviewing it, so my sister did that instead. Apparently the major character from that novel is also the protagonist of Diaz's first book, Drown, which I've yet to read, and most of the stories in this collection are also about him, which is kind of really cool because you start off the book feeling like you already kind of know him, and then the rest of it just adds to that. It's sort of like it's just about Yunior's life, except that it's interspersed with other stories about other people. Typically I've taken it back to the library and so don't have it on hand for actual reference purposes, but the biggest thing I loved about it was that it was a book that was actually about something and I literally devoured it. Since having Benji the books that I read really quickly are mostly romancy/chick lit type things which have never taken me very long and I struggle and struggle through things which would once have taken me a couple of days, but This is How You Lose Her was in and out of the house before anyone even noticed it. 

Although I have quite a lot of books that don't feature English or American narrators, I can't remember the last time I actually read one, and this was similar to The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao in that I really reveled in it being so much about the experience of being an immigrant and having so much about Dominican culture in it, as it's not a culture that I'm very familiar with. That is probably one of the best things about reading; it can literally take you anywhere and this really did - not just to other countries, but Junot Diaz is absolutely brilliant at putting you inside other people's heads as well, even people who aren't necessarily very nice. Actually, there aren't a lot of people in this collection (I don't want to call it a collection because it really feels like a novel, just in short story form) who are very nice, but a lot of them are trying to be nice, Yunior included, which kind of makes you forgive them. 

As you can probably guess from the title, This is How You Lose Her is primarily about affairs of the heart, and mostly about Yunior's various relationships and the many different (but often very similar) ways in which they fail. It's also all about him wanting to write a book, but being unable to because he is constantly distracted by the women, or lack of women, in his life. It's not just about women, though, it's also very much about men and male role models in particular. There's a lot in it about relationships with fathers and with older brothers and how their behaviour can influence a younger child's behaviour. It's very interesting and incredibly well written and I really want to re-read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao and go out and buy Drown now. Well done Mr. Diaz. 

Apparently this not calling it a review thing works. 

Other reviews which are actually reviews and will tell you more about the book can be found here:
The Guardian
Radio Boston (really interesting audio discussion with Junot Diaz)

Sunday, 6 October 2013

Anybody want to read Dickens with me?

Basically what it says in the title. I've been transferring all my TBR books onto a list on the blog and while doing that I got stuck for an unearthly length of time listing all the Dickens that I own but haven't read. Also I have put a fair few Dickens novels on my list for The Classics Club and it's really time I did some reading for that again. However, last year I tried to read Bleak House on my own and failed miserably and I know from previous Dickensian experiences that it would be really helpful to have some moral support during the first half (at least) of the book, so I wondered if anybody would be interested in reading along with me? 

The books I have on my Classics Club list are thus: 

  • A Tale of Two Cities
  • Nicholas Nickleby
  • Oliver Twist
  • The Pickwick Papers
If you'd be at all interested in my hosting a readalong for any of the above, please let me know in the comments along with which you'd prefer to read! :-) And spread the word, because let's face it, the more the merrier for the first bit while he's talking about what the smoke looked like and how miserable everyone was.

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Saturday Stuff

Hello! It's Saturday and earlier this week I promised that there would be a Saturday post, and so here it is. However, the Saturday post was nearly foiled by the fact that I have the mother of all disgusting headaches. It hurts. Nonetheless I will try to write something vaguely coherent about my week.. Here goes!

So this week I returned to work after fifteen months off. Ask anybody who was at work with me on Thursday how long I've been off for and they will all be able to tell you the exact number of months, because I didn't stop going on about it. All day. If anyone I work with is somehow mysteriously reading this, then I apologise for my complete lack of appropriate social conversation on Thursday. I talked about how long I'd been off, and breastfeeding, pretty much, but I'm sure the ability to make normal conversation will come back in time! Aside from that it was pretty good actually - nice to have time to myself on the train in, absolutely blissful to be able to read whole chapters at once without wondering why the baby was being so quiet and feeling like a bad mother for putting on the fifth back-to-back episode of Chuggington, and generally great to see all the people that I work with and be back interacting with people in a non-baby-related way again. Also it was lovely for Rhys to have a day with Benji without me telling him he was doing things wrong. All in all, I think it's going to work out well for all involved :-) 

I finished a great book this week, How I Lived for a Year on Just a Pound a Day by Kath Kelly. I didn't think it would be great when I started, because a pound a day is a bit extreme even for me and my love of thrift (and yes by that I do mean 'thrift' not 'being a tightwad'. I like to think I'm very generous with money, time and gifts but I genuinely get a thrill out of turning an old shirt into a bag. I can't explain it), but yes, very good. I wanted to talk more about it here actually but the behind my eyes, 'you haven't had an eye test or worn your glasses in three years during which time you've been pregnant and your eyes have probably changed loads' headache won't let me be coherent enough to do it justice, so I won't. I'll just say, it's on my list of 5 Star Books, and there haven't been all that many of them this year! 

This week I also got my allocated people for the Ninja Book Swap and the Trick or Treat Ninja Book Swap, so I've been thinking about what to get for their parcels, and doing a little bit of shopping/getting lost on Etsy. I'm really looking forward to it!

Currently I am reading The Fearless Treasure by Noel Streatfeild (lent to me by my mums neighbour who has a massive house literally full of books. Floor to ceiling, it's like my childhood dream house, plus she has a big interest in children's literature of the same period I'm into and actually met Noel Streatfeild!), The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul by Douglas Adams (because I can't believe I haven't already read it!), The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti (which I've had out the library waaaaaayyy too long!), Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert and The Historian by Elisabeth Kostova, and staring longingly at Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver and (for some unknown reason) The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han, as well as trying to get some stock made for the three craft fairs that are coming up in the next two months, and making a set of Hungry Caterpillar finger puppets for somebody. 

Now if only this headache would go away I could get on with my reading...

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Telling Tales Challenge October (and August & September) Link Up!

You guys I am SO SORRY I've been a totally crap host the past few months! I am back now though, so feel free to link up everything you've been reading since I've been rubbish!