Friday, December 18, 2015

I'm not dead! (Very belated November wrap-up)

Yeah, I kind of fell off the radar for a bit there. Like so many others, I took part in NaNoWriMo this year, and that kind of ate up my November as I had the feeling that if I was writing something, it should be my novel. But November is over, so I'm back to write occasional blogposts and Doctor Who ramblings and Sherlock Holmes fanfiction, if I'm so inclined.

As a side note on NaNoWriMo... I've taken part every year since 2010. This is the first year where I failed to make it to 50,000 words. And yeah, that sucks, and I'm kind of sad. It was partly that I just couldn't get into my novel like I have in past years, partly the fact that my life is kind of insane.

Honestly, it's helped me to realise that I need to sort of shift things about in my life to prioritise what matters to me. I do a lot of things. I'm studying a master's part-time, which is great and something I want to do with my life. Then I work full-time in fast food, which is not something I want to do with my life but I need the money. Then I have my writing and my music, which is my absolute biggest passion in life but sadly gets shifted to the side far too often. Then I need to make time for life things like keeping a clean house and my friends and girlfriend and family and social life, and try to find some time to you know, kick back and read and watch TV and that. That's a lot. And I haven't really been balancing that so well lately, which is why I'm writing my first blog post in nearly two months. So, I'm going to make an effort to readdress the balance and hopefully do more of the things I actually want to do in life.

So there's that. But all the same, I wrote more than 30,000 words last month and you know what, that's still pretty freaking awesome. So, no regrets.

Anyway. Here was my November! I read eight books, which was more than I'd expected. Towards the end of the month I finished a bunch of books I was stuck on for ages, and that kind of spurred me on to finish a few more.

The Amityville Horror by Jay Anson

So this was the tail-end of my RIP reading, when I was in the mood for something scary and trashy. Despite the fact that I've never seen the original The Amityville Horror movie (only the meh remake), I've always been kind of fascinated with the Amityville Horror story- a family moving into a house where a gruesome murder took place, only to find it's so badly haunted they leave, terrified, after a month. Of course, I don't believe that any of it really happened, but it's fun to pretend. Unfortunately, this was kind of badly written (which I pretty much expected) and really not scary, which rather defeated the purpose. Still, there's something vaguely trashy and enjoyable about this book all the same.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

Dramatic difference in quality now- this was really superbly written. It's about a family in 1970s Ohio after their daughter is found drowned in a lake. There's the mystery element of just what happened to her and all sorts of tensions in the family- as well as race stuff, as the father is a second-generation Chinese immigrant, and gender stuff, with the mother being deeply uncomfortable in her role in the family. The whole thing is just really excellently done and well-observed and seriously, just read this.

Spring Awakening by Frank Wedekind

I'm a huge fan of the musical of Spring Awakening, so I thought it was about time I read the original play. Written in 1891, it's about a group of adolescents and their sexuality and all the themes that come out of that- rape, homosexuality, abortion, death, masturbation. As controversial as it was when it was first performed, it's still pretty amazing how relevant it is today. I read an old, contemporary translation, but apparently Jonathan Franzen did one that I'd be interested in checking out. Sadly, I think my A Level German isn't up to scratch to read the original...

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J K Rowling

Don't mind me, just rereading this for the millionth time. I really do think this is one of my favourites in the series. It gives us Lupin and Sirius and hippogriffs and expecto patronum and Marauders and all those wonderful things.

Moby-Dick by Herman Melville

Yes, I finished this, despite sort of dropping out of posting the read-a-long updates! I'm not going to lie, it was difficult. I haven't had so much trouble reading a book in a very long time. The vast majority of it, I hated. There were little glimmers that stop me from writing it off completely, and maybe I will pick it up in a few years... but yeah, I'm thinking this is one of those classics I Just Don't Get.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Hey, look at me reading hyped books several years late! Yeah, this has been on my radar for a long time, but I kept reading negative reviews of it that threw me. I actually really enjoyed it- the suspense was good, it gave me the creeps in places, and that ending, dear god. I think I need to read the sequel.

All the Light we Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I really don't know what to say about this book. You know when a book is really hyped and gets outstanding review and everyone raves about it, and then you read it and you wonder if you've read the same book? Yeeeah. There was nothing wrong with this book, really. The setting was really interesting- France during the Nazi Occupation, so I enjoyed it from a historical point of view. But nothing grabbed at me. I just feel sort of indifferent about it. A decent read, but nothing to get excited about.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua

So this was actually... really good. It's a memoir type thing about a mother who prides herself in being the Stereotypical Asian Mother and how she raised her two daughters. And there's a lot of crazy. Chua's daughters weren't allowed to spend time with their friends and instead spent hours a day practising music, even when they were on holiday. By the time I got to the bit where Chua says her kids had to learn violin and piano, because other instruments like drums were the gateway to hard drugs, I was prepared to hate-read this. But as I went on, I found it's actually more complicated. Chua makes fun of herself, frequently, in very subtle ways that are easy to miss (I'm 90% sure her drums = drugs remark was satire. I hope.) Then there's that her hardline approach worked on one daughter but not the other... and she's okay with that. Or maybe I saw a bit of my own childhood in there- I too was brought up in a "Bs are fail grades!" house and also fought against my parents pushing me into classical music. Anyway, I really enjoyed this, for whatever reason.

And that's November! December/End of Year wrap ups will hopefully be up in a timely fashion, essays permitting :)

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Monk read-a-long, Weeks Four and Five, or Shit Goes Down At The Convent and I Finish This Crazy Book Once And For All

Subtly merging two posts into one, because sshh.

Theodore disguises himself to go to the convent and see what's really become of Agnes, because his master is too heartbroken to do anything. Theodore, you are the breakout star of this book. I love his ridiculous lies and weird stories about Denmark. Also, he gets results- in the form of a Secret Note. Oooh. Is Agnes secretly alive? (Spoiler: yes.)

Ambrosio is even more my least favourite person ever. Holy shit, what a dirtbag. He tries to rape Antonia (again) and then murders Elvira when she intervenes. At least he shows some guilt about it and it puts him out of his rapey mood. For that day, anyway. Holy shit.

Matthew Lewis continues his happy plagirism with a potion that will make Antonia seem dead, so that Ambrosio can happily rape her in the privacy of her own tomb.

This book. This fucking book.

Anyway, he rapes her in a seriously squicky scene and she dies, because obviously that's what happens. Lewis couldn't have let her live after she went and got herself raped, now could he? As for Lorenzo, he conveniently meets someone called Virginia- because she's a nice pure virgin who hasn't been raped, obvs- and he falls for her and they forget all about poor Antonia. Seriously, I know, product of its time and all that but blegh.

On a less depressing note, Lorenzo calls in the Spanish Inquisition. Were you expecting that? I sure wasn't.

Any excuse for Monty Python.

It's all for finding out what happened to Agnes, who, as we might have guessed by now, was being held prisoner in a dungeon and basically starved and left to give birth on her own. This is so nightmarish I can't even. Also, gotta love how the nuns are like "hey, we didn't want to leave her to die in the dungeon! We were going to poison her instead!"

I hate everyone in this book. 

At least Matilda and Ambrosio get their comeuppance? In a way that fits with the tone of the rest of the book, of course- Matilda being burnt at the stake and Ambrosio, umm, being dropped onto rocks by Satan. Nice one, Matthew. 

So that was The Monk! Holy shit, what a crazy book. It's absolutely terrible, but I think I sort of loved it? Thanks Alice for hosting! Here's some of my favourite Nevilles I never found room for. 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Moby Dick read-a-long: Weeks One and Two!

I think we've established that I'm pretty terrible at keeping to post schedules for read-a-longs. I can keep up with the reading, fine, but then I never seem to find the time to actually write the damn posts on time. Anyway, here's weeks one and two!

Week One

1) So, first impressions. What do we think of the novel?

I was wonderfully surprised to find that I got really into it straight away! Seriously, so much more readable than I expected. I have a touch of fondness for the nautical, so the idea of setting off on a sea voyage is awesome.

2) What about Ishmael's attitude to Queequeg? Is is tolerance ahead of its time of just a form of casual racism?

Ahhh, Queequeg. Right, I have a lot to say about Queequeg/Ishmael.

So, Queequeg is basically introduced as the stereotypical savage/cannibal and all those things that make you wince because holy racism, Batman even though this was pretty much exactly standard for the time etc etc. But I don't think it's really as simple as that- Queequeg is actually a pretty fleshed out, honorable character. (There's some complicated race and nautical themed stuff in Melville's Benito Cereno too, just to give that a shout-out.)

I like his and Ishmael's weird friendship. Actually, it's more than a friendship, right?

"... giving a sudden grunt of astonishment he began feeling me..."
"Upon waking next morning about daylight, I found Queequeg's arm thrown over me in the most loving and affectionate manner. You had almost thought I had been his wife."

Just to give a few examples. I ship it, what can I say.

3) Do you think Ishmael should have heeded Elijah's spooky warning?

Probably. I don't think he would though; he's much too determined to go to sea. Probably for the best, because then where would we be?

4) Captain Ahab! He's almost with us. What do you expect from him?

He's a bit of an enigma, isn't he? I have high hopes. I want him to be grumpy and cantankerous and full of rage towards all whales.

Week Two

1) We've met Captain Ahab now. What do you think of him? Did he meet your expectations? Who would you cast to play him in a movie?

Not quite as grumpy as I'd hoped, but surprisingly rather likeable, I thought. I can sort of understand his motivation; I'd be pretty pissed to lose my leg too.

I was curious to see what adaptations there were of Moby-Dick, and apparently there's a 1956 movie with Gregory Peck as Ahab. Not who I would have chosen, but how awesome is the poster?

I think I'd go for someone appropriately rugged and gruff. I keep coming back to Ciaran Hinds.

2. Some chapters seem to focus on action and attempt to move the story along, whilst others seem to ponder the concept of whaling and life. Do you find one type easier to follow than the other?

Hahaha. Yeah, I think we all know the answer to that. I'm glad I'm not the only one who struggled with this week's reading after last week was plain sailing (pun intended). I'm usually not even one to complain about books with a lack of action in them, but yeah, I'm not sure having so much musing on whaling was really necessary. I understand what he's doing (I think... I hope) but it sure doesn't make for easy reading. 

3. Keeping in mind everything we've learned about whaling this week, has it changed your views on it at all?

Not so much- I'm as against killing any sort of animals as ever, obviously. But I've enjoyed learning more about it- it's really freaking weird when you think about it. Let's hunt ridiculously large and dangerous animals in order to turn them into candle wax! That's some crazy shit. I think they're all crazy.

4. Why do you think Herman Melville suddenly branches off into lectures about how acceptable/difficult/clean whaling is?

I guess it's part of the whole thing where Moby-Dick isn't really about whales at all but Melville's own musings about life. At the same time, I really wasn't expecting him to go into quite as much detail about whales. I still don't know what that encyclopaedia-ish part was all about. Or how accurate it is.

5. Do the scientific misconceptions bother you at all? ie. that whales were fishes, etc. 

Not really. I've always figured taxonomical classifications of animals are a bit vague and useless anyway... I mean, a dimetrodon looks a heck of a lot like a reptile but is technically a mammal, and platypuses just ruin everything by somehow being mammals that lay eggs. Like, what.

Just an excuse to share my love of platypuses, ridiculous creatures that they are.
So if you wanna call a whale a fish, be my guest I suppose.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Monk-a-long Week Three, or In Which Things Get Even More Ridiculous

Look, I suck at getting read-a-long posts up on time. I admit this. But I'm here now. Have a Neville.

Damn right.

This week's reading was short, but so much happened!

I'm starting to really hate Ambrosio. My god, what a skeeve. "I'm going to have sex with you! And then blame you for it! And then ditch you for someone else as soon as I get bored with you!" I'm probably not supposed to but I'm Team Matilda all the way. Okay, so she's tempting him or whatever because she's the devil, but I'm still blaming Ambrosio for the whole thing.

I had my suspicions about Matilda, but as soon as she said "I'm going to cure myself of this deadly poison, don't ask me how" I knew, yep, she's the devil. I think I'm actually disappointed? I went into this book with my lit student head on, looking for themes to do with gender and religion and to have Matilda as the devil just seems like a bit of a cop out. Anyone else get the sense M G Lewis is just making this up as he goes along?

Antonia and Elvira return. I can't think of Elvira without thinking of this Elvira.

Ambrosio would probably hit that.

Ambrosio reminds Elvira of someone, but she can't think who. HMMMM. Seriously, is there any doubt that Ambrosio is secretly her son? M G Lewis, subtlety is not your strong point. But, I guess we've already established that.

Ambrosio doesn't know this yet though, so now that he's bored of Matilda he moves swiftly to the next female shaped object under thirty. God, Antonia- her extreme naivety about love just makes Ambrosio's advances worse. And he knows full well what he's doing. Are we supposed to read him as possessed at this point? He's just coming across like an rapist asshole. 

Just... just fuck you, Amrosio.

So, Matilda is actually pretty chill with this and wants to help Ambrosio out with witchcraft, and he agrees, because again, he's an asshole. I suspect he knew all along what she was doing. I mean, he could have guessed. Aren't monks supposed to be on the lookout for things like this?

Thus concludes the section! I've already read next week's (okay, this week's) section so I know what happens. And damn, shit goes down.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Dewey's 24-Hour Readathon!

Yay, it's back! And for once I'm not actually working! Sure, I'm a little late to the party but the plan is to write this post and then get stuck in for the rest of the 24 hours.

Book stack pictures don't really work when you're mostly going to be e-reading, do they? Sigh. Okay, so the plan is:

1) Uni reading! That book on the far right is Orlando by Virginia Woolf. I'm about 100 pages from the end so I really want to get it finished! Then on the Kindle I've got Charlotte Brontë's Villette, which I'd like to get a good start on- maybe 100-200 pages. I also have random essays/academic reading I have to do which I'm totally counting in my page count, because why not?

2) I've got this week's section of The Monk to read for Alice's Monk-a-Long, so I'd like to get that done. Also on the kindle.

3) And on the purely recreational front, I've got The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson on the Kindle and The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson, both of which count as RIP reads. Yay!

See how I'm seamlessly able to combine uni work and other reading challenges with this readathon? That's the plan anyway...

Introductory survey!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?
I'll be reading from my parents' house in Armagh, Northern Ireland. It's warmer than my own house and has lots of cats roaming around to help/distract me!

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to? 
The Haunting of Hill House, because I've heard such good things and I feel like a good scare.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?
These Hallowe'en Starbursts. I was obsessed with them last year but forgot all about them until I saw them in a shop yesterday. So, I'll be devouring these until they disappear for another year...

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!
I'm Gemma, I'm studying a post-grad in literature while working ridiculous hours at a fast food restaurant. I like cats, coffee and denim and Halloween is my favourite time of year.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what's one thing you'll do differently today? 
For the first time that I can remember, I'm not working at all during the readathon! So, hopefully more reading will be involved than usual.

Update: 5:26 pm (Hours 1-5 and a bit)

Reading: Orlando by Virginia Woolf, "Context Stinks!" by Rita Felski
Pages read: 80
Books finished: Orlando
Snacks consumed: two cups of coffee, crisps, more Starburst than I'd like to admit...

I finished my first book, yay! Okay, so I didn't have all that much left to read, but still. Starting on my academic essays now, which are much slower going as I'm taking notes and looking up things and all that jazz. My dad's bringing home Chinese in a bit so it might be time for a break and maybe some The Monk before I get back to reading about criticism about historicism...

Update: 8.58 pm (Hours 6-8)

Reading: The Monk by M G Lewis, also two articles: "Context Stinks!" by Rita Felski and "The Unfinished Historicist Project" by J Kuchich
Pages read: 47
Total pages read: 127
Books finished: both articles
Total books finished: 1, plus 2 articles
Snacks consumed: a Chinese takeaway, more coffee, a little chocolate, and more of those Starbursts

Had my Chinese, read a little of The Monk, and then plowed into the two essays. Got them both finished, which means it's strictly fiction reading from here on out, yay! Weirdly, a readathon context is actually a good time to do academic reading- I'm in the mood for sitting quietly and focused reading. The plan now is maybe a little The Monk before I get stuck into Villette. 

Update: 12.24 am (Hours 9-11 and a bit)

Reading: The Monk by M G Lewis, Villette by Charlotte Brontë
Pages read: 190
Total pages read: 317
Books finished: none
Total books finished: 1, plus 2 articles
Snacks consumed: a cup of tea to wake myself up, plus some pick & mix

Had a great three hours and a bit, mostly reading Villette- I've read it before, a few years back, but I don't remember it being anywhere near this good. It probably helps that my French is much better now (so, so much French in this book) and that since my first read, I have experienced teaching French teenagers like Lucy Snowe. There's so much snark in this book too. I love it.

I will be going to bed fairly soon- I don't function well without sleep, and I have work tomorrow night, so staying up all night is out of the question. I'll see how I go though. I want to finish reading this week's portion of The Monk (which is such a weird book, seriously) and hopefully get started on The Haunting of Hill House before I fall asleep.

Mid-event survey!

1. What are you reading right now?
I was reading Villette, but I'm going to go back to The Monk to finish this week's read-a-long chapters.

2. How many books have you read so far?
I've read from three, finished one, and also read two academic articles. Yay for combining uni work and readathons!

3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-Thon?
The Haunting of Hill House, still!

4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?
I haven't actually had many! By happy coincidence my family got takeaway Chinese so I didn't even need to cook dinner. Also, I'm 'doing uni work' so they haven't really been bothering me, lol. There's been a few times I've had to get up to tend to my cats, but even they're being surprisingly good, and are currently curled up sleeping under my bed :)

5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-Thon so far?
How I've actually been able to sit down and read! I figured I'd get bored/distracted by hour 4 or so. But no, I'm actually pretty focused today for some reason.

Update: 1.15 pm (Hours 12-24)

Reading: The Monk by M G Lewis, The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Villette by Charlotte Brontë
Pages read: 256
Total pages read: 573
Books finished: none
Total books finished: 1, plus 2 articles
Snacks consumed: cereal, orange juice, yet more coffee, yet more Starburts

It's the end! I finished my section of The Monk and then read The Haunting of Hill House until about 3 am or so. My cats woke me up early (I knew they were being suspiciously quiet last night...) and I got some more Villette in this morning before the end. It's been a blast.

Closing meme!

1. Which hour was most daunting for you?
Probably at some point this morning, when I wanted to go back to bed but also wanted to read more Villette... so I made some coffee and ploughed on through. Worth it.

2. Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a reader engaged for next year?
See, I always end up reading difficult/long books for readathons- I don't necessarily agree with the wisdom that short books are best for readathons. But The Haunting of Hill House is a good one I guess- it's quite short and definitely high-interest. I really want to go back to reading more!

3. What do you think worked really well in this year's readathon?
The challenges- I didn't participate in any of them personally but I liked looking at other people's responses.

4. How many books did you read?/5. What were the names of the books you read?
- last 78 pages of Orlando by Virginia Woolf
- article: "Context Stinks!" by Rita Felski
- 79 pages of The Monk by M G Lewis
- article: "The Unfinished Historicist Project" by J Kuchich
- first 195 pages of Villette by Charlotte Brontë
- first 184 pages of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson

So, I finished one, read two articles and read from three others.

6. Which book did you enjoy the most?
Probably The Haunting of Hill House- I'm dying to get back and finish it. Villette was also unexpectedly awesome.

7. Which did you enjoy the least?
If we're including articles, the Kuchich. If not, The Monk. I'm never sure whether I love or hate that book... it's just getting steadily more ridiculous.

8. How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-Thon again?
Oh, I'm sure I'll be here again in April, no matter what! I had a great time. It was nice being able to do it properly and not having to work for once. I'm so happy with how much reading I got done!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Moby-Dick Read-a-Long: Week Zero

I'm late to the party! I started this post ages ago, but I'm only getting to post it now. Better late than never though, right?

In the time since I started writing this post I've actually read most of the first week's reading... but let's pretend I haven't, sshh.

1. What were you expecting from the novel? Do you have any preconceptions?
I've heard two things: that it's really good, and that it's really boring. So, I'm not really sure what to expect. I've read some of Melville's other stuff (Benito Cereno and Bartleby the Scrivener) and really enjoyed those though, so I'm hoping we'll get on okay.

2. What do you already know about the plot or character?
1) There's a guy called Ishmael
2) There's a guy called Captain Ahab
3) One of these characters (?) is obsessed with hunting a whale.

That's... basically it.

3. This book, unlike War and Peace isn't a translation? Do you think that will make a difference?
Although the War and Peace read-a-long was before I had a blog, I was reading along at home. Consistency of character names is one thing that comes to mind! Plus, we'll be judging Melville more than any translator. So no room for excuses like, "Well, it probably sounded better in Russian..."

4. Have you read Moby-Dick before? What prompted you to read it now?

I've been considering reading it for some time, but was always scared off by all the reports that it's really dull and full of whaling terminology. I downloaded it in a free Kindle book binge about a week before Hanna put up her poll, so it seemed like fate.

5. Show us a photo of your book!

Y'all have such pretty editions, but as I said, mine is just the free Kindle edition.

Blah. But, having it on the Kindle is actually a good thing because it lets me look up any obscure nautical/whaling words that will inevitably come up. 

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Monkalong, Week 2 or Yes, This is What I Signed Up For.

Hey! Well, it didn't take me long to fall behind in updates, but better late than never, right? This week I started my MA and worked eight days in a row. Five of which were overnight shifts.

Literally me this week

I enjoyed this week's reading! A lot of you seemed pretty bemused by Raymond's 'let me tell you how I tried to seduce your sister and ended up pledging my love to a ghost, whoops' but I really liked it. Bands of murderers and creepy ghost nuns are far more up my street than hormonal monks. I have a thing for the slightly-OTT gothic, what can I say. Though I TOTALLY saw the Agnes/ghost switcheroo coming. If your loved one is in a costume, check it's them first before you do anything drastic.

If Vivien had read The Monk, a lot of shit could have been avoided.

Raymond's name is bugging me. Matthew Lewis, you should have just stuck with Alphonse for his name, if only because it goes with Lorenzo better. I have an uncle Raymond. He's in his fifties, wears jumpers and rarely leaves his farm. Raymond is not the name of a Marquis's son.

Also, I think Raymond's a bit of a drama queen. So, he gets in the carriage smash and dislocates his arm and breaks two ribs and his "left leg was shattered so terribly, that I never expected to recover its use". I mean, that's pretty serious stuff. But he seems to recover remarkably quickly from such serious injuries and doesn't even mention his leg again. I'm guessing he scraped his knee and the peasants were just like, humouring him.

Everyone else picked up on the diatribe about writing: "In short, to enter the lists of literature is wilfully to expose yourself to the arrows of neglect, ridicule, envy, and disappointment." I'm taking that as permission to poke fun at this book as much as possible. JK, Matthew Lewis, I like you really, despite your ridiculousness.

Some stuff about families allowing/not allowing the marriage blah blah, and then we find out that Agnes is dead! Or is she? I'm guessing either she's not dead at all or the nunnery has had her quietly disposed of. Either way, it's all very suspicious.

That's it for this week! I've already read next week's reading so hopefully my post will be up on time. Because I have feelings about it. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

September mini reviews

I read nine books in September, which is pretty good! I was helped a lot by Bex's re-readathon and a nice run of high-interest library books which kept me reading. My MA starts this month so I'm expecting life to get crazy again, but here's some mini-reviews of things I read in September!


Four of my nine books were re-reads- the first two Harry Potter books, as I reread the series pretty much every year, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, which I only read a couple of years ago and is still wonderful, and Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, which I read when I was fourteen-ish and was desperately overdue for a reread. So that was great fun, and hopefully there'll be another re-readathon before long! 

The Blind Assassin, Margaret Atwood

I'm working my way through Margaret Atwood's books, and while I didn't like this one quite as much as Oryx and Crake or The Handmaid's Tale, it was still a great read. As I wrote in my post back when I was still at the start of it the plot is really hard to describe- a woman's sister dies and the story is a remembrance of their upbringing during the Depression and her unhappy marriage, interspersed with newspaper articles and extracts from the sister's famous novel- which is itself a story within a story. Wonderfully unique and interesting.

Where'd You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

I still maintain that this book is really badly named, since Bernadette doesn't even disappear until two-thirds of the way through the novel, but there you go. It's a satire on the hipster-yuppie life of a family and a community in Seattle, where the characters are concerned about the appearance of each other's backyards and who participates more in the PTA. It's weirdly interesting. It's also told in a mixture of emails and Bernadette's teenage daughter's point of view, and there's parts of it set in Antarctica. Definitely an interesting one.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

So this is one of those books that I kept hearing about, and even though it sounded a bit rom-com-ish for me I eventually had to check it out. I actually really liked it! In case you've somehow managed to avoid hearing about it, it's about Don, a very socially awkward/ambiguously disordered geneticist who tries to find a partner by way of a detailed compatibility survey. Of course, as you can probably expect the Rosie of the title shows up and predictably fails the survey in every way. But it managed to avoid being too formulaic due to the subject matter and it made me laugh, so, pretty great actually.

My Real Children by Jo Walton

Ohhhh, this book. So, if you've spent any time on my blog at all, you'll know that I love Jo Walton's Among Others more than life itself, but I hadn't read any of her other books. I picked this up from my local library and it probably wouldn't even have interested me if it was by another author, so I wasn't sure what to expect, but I loved it so hard. It's about Patricia, an elderly woman suffering from dementia who remembers two different lives, branching off from a proposal in her early twenties- in one, she says yes and is Trish, housewife, and in the other she says no and is Pat, who goes to Italy with a friend and becomes a travel writer. And at first you think Pat's life is clearly the better of the two- Trish's marriage is definitely not a happy one- but both of their lives are so full of good things and tragedy and just, life things basically. Pat and Trish also live in subtly different alternate universes- like, in one JFK is never assassinated and the Cold War is a much bigger deal, in the other JFK is assassinated by a bomb. Little things like that were really interesting. And, yeah, this whole book was just life-affirming and made me cry so much. Highly, highly recommended. I have a couple of Jo Walton's other books lying around that are now going to have so much to live up to, whoops.

An Abundance of Katherines by John Green

Honestly, this was a little underwhelming. I love John Green and this was the last of his books that I hadn't read, and I think I get now why no-one talks about this one as much as Looking for Alaska or The Fault in our Stars, say. So, Colin is an ex-child prodigy who has been dumped for the nineteenth time by a girl called Katherine, so he hits the road with his best friend and ends up in a tiny town in Tennessee, where he works on a mathematical theorem for break-ups. I liked this book- some of it was quite funny and I liked seeing Colin being called out on his bullshit in the end (seriously, Colin is the worst) but there was nothing very special or memorable about this book, to me anyway. And all the maths just made my eyes glaze over. Tut tut John Green, I expected better ;)

At the moment, I'm reading The Monk by M.G. Lewis for the readalong, The Martian by Andy Weir (which I've had for ages but have finally started since I want to see the movie but I want to read the book first!) and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace. I'm expecting my life to get basically swallowed up next week when my MA starts, but hopefully I'll still have a bit of time for reading!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Monkalong- Week 1, or What The Hell Am I Reading?

The Monkalong is hosted by Alice at Reading Rambo. Join us!

Before we begin, can I just mention first of all the author's name?


I just keep thinking of this sexy bastard. Though I'm sure he would never write something like The Monk. Probably.

First impressions? This book is crazy.

So, in our first chapter, we get Antonia and her aunt and Lorenzo, so I'm all, okay, these are our protagonists, except it turns out Ambrosio is the actual protagonist. Which, I suppose, makes sense given the title of the book. Kind of a shame though- I was enjoying the banter compared to the sheer ridiculousness that is chapter 2.

Well, then again, chapter 1 does have mysterious gypsies. Hooray for that!

Speaking of which, there are a lot of songs so far, aren't there? I wasn't expecting this. Now I want it to be a stage musical.

Anyway. Chapter 2 is scandal and controversy. We've got a nun who turns out to have a lover and be pregnant, and then we've got a monk who is secretly a lady and seduces Ambrosio. Is there some sort of theme here about women and religion? It's the lit student in me that's drawing these conclusions. But we will see!

Oh, and I knew going in someone in this book was secretly crossdressing, so I was suspecting everyone until hey, it's Rosario/Matilda. Slightly disappointing, I was holding out for Ambrosio. Or Antonia.

Ooh, and I have two suspicions/predictions:

1) Someone's told their son is dead and then Ambrosio is mysteriously found at the convent as a boy? I think we all know where this is going.

2) Let's leave aside the implausibility of Matilda sucking the poison out of a wound and curing Ambrosio, and let's not forget that she was the one who suggested he pick a rose in the first place. I'm suspicious of that. Admittedly, I'm not really sure what she was trying to do, but I think she was doing... something. We'll see.

That's all for this week!

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Re-readathon #2- Week 2!

Monday and Tuesday

The past couple of days have been a depressing WORK-SLEEP-REPEAT so I haven't had the chance to update... or even read all that much, really. I've slightly lost track of my page numbers too... so the figures are my best guess! I've started on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, which is so wonderful. I've read these books basically every year since 1999, and I'm still finding little things that are making me want to write fanfiction. Like, how did Petunia find out about her sister's death? Was it really just opening the door the next morning and finding her now-orphaned nephew? I like to think someone came to see her during the day when Vernon was at work- maybe Lupin or someone, because everyone else was doing stuff- and told her, and she just kind of absorbed it and didn't say a word to her husband. Because my favourite headcanon is that Petunia was secretly very fond of Lily, although she'd never admit it.

On the non-re-reading front, I've started reading The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion. It's one of those books I've been hearing a lot about although I never thought it would be my cup of tea- but I'm actually really enjoying it. It's funny and sweet and just a nice, easy read.

Reading: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Pages read: 150
Total pages read: 663
Books finished: none
Total number of books finished: 2
Non-reread pages read: 198


I finished another book!

Philosopher's Stone is such a quick read- I always forget that. The mystery's solved and they go through the trapdoor and BOOM, it's over. There's a bit at the very end where the Trio are talking about wait, did Dumbledore know that this was going to happen? And in hindsight it's actually really sinister. I never noticed that before.

I'm planning to finish The Rosie Project before I move on to Chamber of Secrets

Reading: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Pages read: 73
Total pages read: 736
Books finished: Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
Total number of books finished: 3
Non-reread pages read: 64

Thursday and Friday

 I spent Thursday mostly at work or finishing The Rosie Project, so not much to report on the re-reading front. But I finished it, yay! I swear, this re-readathon is doing good things for my normal reading too. I started Chamber of Secrets late on Thursday night and it's going well. It was actually my favourite book of the series for quite a bit, and I can remember why- the whole mystery of the Chamber and the petrified people is just so, so good. Also, Lockhart, who we all love to hate. And maybe love just a tiny bit.

Reading: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Pages read: 121
Total pages read: 857
Books finished: none
Total number of books finished: 3


Work was extremely busy today, so I had to stay late, and of course when I got home Doctor Who was my priority- the new series started tonight. It was great but ended in a very cruel cliffhanger. I'm not going to be able to think of much else all week...

Anyway. I've started reading Jo Walton's My Real Children, which I'm absolutely in love with so far. It's about an elderly lady with dementia who remembers two different lives and doesn't know which one is real. I'm loving the mystery of it as well as the historical perspective. So, that's distracted me a bit from Chamber of Secrets... but I still got a bit read today, as far as the Polyjuice Potion incident. I'm hoping to finish it tomorrow to wrap up the readathon nicely!

Reading: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Pages read: 48
Total pages read: 905
Books finished: none
Total number of books finished: 3


I got Chamber of Secrets finished and I decided to finish reading My Real Children instead of starting Prisoner of Azkaban. It made me cry! Seriously, such a good book. 

All in all, a really successful re-readathon! I read a total of 987 pages of rereading, and something similar in non-re-reads. It's much more reading than I've been doing lately, so it's been great to dedicate some time to some great books! Thanks to Bex for hosting, we should do this again some time :)

Reading: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
Pages read: 82
Total pages read: 987
Books finished: Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
Total number of books finished: 4

Books finished:
  • Ready Player One - Ernest Cline (I was about two thirds in at the start of the rereadathon, but ssh!)
  • Good Omens - Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone - J K Rowling
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets - J K Rowling

  • The Blind Assassin - Margaret Atwood (again, about the last 100 pages)
  • Where'd You Go Bernadette - Maria Semple
  • The Rosie Project - Graeme Simsion
  • My Real Children - Jo Walton

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Re-readathon challenge! - Favourite re-reads list

So Bex has challenged us to make a re-read list- either books that we re-read the most, or books that you want to re-read in the near future. To start with books I re-read most often:

Harry Potter series, JK Rowling: Yeah, no surprise to anyone who knows me. I've read the whole series almost every year since there only were three books in the series. There's something weirdly comforting about being able to come back to Harry Potter and the words I first read at the age of six that have followed me my whole life.

Among Others, Jo Walton: I read this book in January 2014, read it again several weeks later, and then reread it again recently and it still holds up wonderfully. And that's not to mention the many times I pick it up just to browse through it and read a few favourite bits. I have trouble articulating what this book means to me- I happened to read it at a time in my life when I desperately needed it, and it's been a strange source of comfort to me ever since.

Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, JRR Tolkien: I've read the LoTR series... six times? And The Hobbit a few more times than that as well. I was a massive LoTR nerd around the time the movies were coming out and I've read them again in recent years. The Hobbit is just wonderful.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte: Kind of my favourite book of all time, sort of, depending on the criteria. I love Jane Eyre- I couldn't even say how many times I've read it. I also studied it at GCSE, A Level and at undergrad. And I'm still not sick of it. I still notice different things in it each time.

And books I want to reread soon, which I won't get to this fortnight but will hopefully get to soon:

High Fidelity, Nick Hornby I loved this when I read it more than four years ago, but I don't remember it very well. I also don't read enough about music despite being a big Music Person.

The Crimson Petal and the White, Michel Faber: I've been meaning to reread this for ages, but I think I'm always put off by the size of the damn thing! I absolutely loved it when I read it though. It ticks so many of my personal boxes: evocative descriptions of the Victorian era, prostitutes, women.

Notes on a Scandal, Zoe Heller: It's weird, because I never even expected to like this book. It was assigned reading in first year of uni, and for some reason bits of it keep coming back to me- mostly Barbara stuff. She's so subtly sinister, and there's all the unreliable narrator stuff that I love.

The Casual Vacancy, JK Rowling: Because more JKR, why not? Seriously though, ever since the TV adaptation came out I've been craving a reread of this. The TV show was good, but nowhere near as good as the book. Or so I remember.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Re-readathon #2

It's here! Bex is hosting another re-readathon, this time over two weeks.

I'll be taking part probably just a little bit, as I have library books and stuff to read, but I'm sure I'll be able to fit in a few old favourites. 

This is my humble book pile:

I'm keeping things pretty simple. I happen to be already most of the way through my second reading of  Ready Player One, so finishing that off will be the first order of business. Then I plan on reading Good Omens, which I haven't read in a stupidly long time and for some reason slipped my mind for the last re-readathon. Seriously, when I first read this book, I hadn't read any other Neil Gaiman except for Sandman. THAT's how long ago it was. Then I just plan on reading as much of the Harry Potter series as possible, as that's also long overdue for a reread. I'm excited!


5.45 pm: I spent most of today playing with my cats and fighting with my laptop, which has been acting very weird lately. I did manage to finish The Blind Assassin, which I wanted to get out of the way before I got stuck into rereads. I've got work tonight even though I'd much rather be reading more Ready Player One- still, I'll hopefully get a little bit read in my break and when I get home. 

Later: I not only managed to finish Ready Player One, but I got started on Good Omens as well! I realise I remember virtually nothing about it except some memorable character names- you don't forget names like Wensleydale and Thou-Shalt-Not-Commit-Adultery. 

Reading: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Pages read: 109
Total pages read: 109
Books finished: Ready Player One


8.00 pm: I'm off today, so I read a bit of Good Omens in bed over a nice leisurely breakfast. Then it turned into a nice afternoon so my flatmates and I headed down to the library to read/study. Although, I actually brought a library book with me- Where'd You Go Bernadette? by Maria Semple- which isn't a reread but so far I'm really enjoying it, so, shh. It'll be back to Good Omens for the rest of the day though, hopefully.

Reading: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Pages read: 55
Total pages read: 164
Books finished: none
Total number of books finished: 1
Non-reread pages read: 96


1.58 am: It's technically Thursday I suppose. I work weird hours- sometimes my shift starts at 6 am, sometimes it finishes at 6 am. This week is more along the line of work nights/sleep mornings, so plenty of unsociable hours.

I thought I didn't get much read today but I actually did, just in my break at work and for a little while when I got home. Good Omens is as hilarious as I remembered- little bits of it are coming back to me now, wonderful things like "Have you got your ane scissors?" and "They'd come here to spoon and, on one memorable occasion, to fork." And the footnotes! I never thought I'd be giggling at a footnote about firelighters. 

Reading: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Pages read: 104
Total pages read: 268
Books finished: none
Total number of books finished: 1
Non-reread pages read: 15


2.02 am: So, I actually read quite a lot this morning... the problem was, it wasn't a reread. I can't help it; I'm really enjoying Where'd You Go, Bernadette? - although the title seems pretty inaccurate to me- I'm two-thirds through it and she's only just gone missing. It's told mostly through emails and letters which is such a quick, easy, way to read and I'm just charmed by it all, basically.

So, Good Omens has fallen on the back burner a wee bit... but I am planning to read more of it before I go to bed. Which will be around 4 or 5, because my job has made me a vampire.

Reading: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Pages read: 51
Total pages read: 324
Books finished: none
Total number of books finished: 1
Non-reread pages read: 99


8.26 pm: I really need to get my chronic procrastination under control before I go back to uni. I got up at about 1, went into town, faffed about on the internet a bit, made dinner, faffed about some more... and now it's an hour before I have to leave for work and I've hardly read anything. Oh well. Hopefully I'll get a bit read during my break and when I get in in the morning if I'm not too tired... although I suppose that will technically count as Saturday reading. Night shifts, you are confusing.

Reading: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Pages read: 58
Total pages read: 382
Books finished: none
Total number of books finished: 1


8.43 pm: Between when I got home this morning and when I woke up this afternoon I managed to finish Where'd You Go Bernadette?, yay! It was great, I'm glad I'm finally cracking into my library books. It's strange that it took a re-readathon to make me do it, but there you have it... I got a bit more of Good Omens read today too, but only a wee bit- I'm back off to work now soon. Off tomorrow though!

Reading: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
Pages read: 25
Total pages read: 407
Books finished: none
Total number of books finished: 1
Non-reread pages read: 


12.33 am: I finished Good Omens today, yay! I've gone back home for the night as I'm off and have been sitting reading beside two cute kitties all night. It's bliss. Except when little six-week-old Checkers tries to walk over my keyboard... he's adorable though, so I forgive him. I'm going to read some library books for a bit now but I'll hopefully make a start on Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone tonight or tomorrow!

Reading: Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling
Pages read: 106
Total pages read: 513
Books finished: Good Omens
Total number of books finished: 2
Non-reread pages read: 93

Sunday, September 6, 2015

What I'm reading now, adventures in tattooing, and some challenges!

Hello! It's been a full two weeks since Bout of Books, so I figured an update was due.

So I started a new job during Bout of Books and I'm settling in pretty well, I think. It's actually quite nice working again- I'm so much more productive when I'm working. When I'm off I tend to just lie about watching reality TV and browsing Reddit, while if I'm at work all day and come home with just a couple of hours before bed I'm far more likely to actually want to play the ukulele or read a decent book. So that's good.

That said, I hardly read anything last week- for two days in a row I read absolutely nothing, and on the third day I managed about 10 pages. That's pretty shameful for me. A day when I read nothing at all just feels wrong.

I did finally finish NOS4R2 though, after reading it for far longer than I should have. Weirdly, that happened to me with Joe Hill's Horns as well, I think I was reading that for about the entirety of October... Overall I liked it, but I think I ruined it for myself slightly by taking so long to read it and having too high expectations after reading so many rave reviews. Still, I'd definitely recommend it if it sounds like your thing.

I've been a bit better about reading in the past few days, though- I've finally been able to give The Blind Assassin the time it deserves as well, and I'm really enjoying it. It's so hard to describe, and not really what I thought it'd be at all. Mostly it's the story of Iris Chase growing up in the Depression which is pretty fascinating, but then you've got extracts from her sister's novel (the 'The Blind Assassin' within the book) which is sort of a fantasy story within a story... it's odd and interesting and I'm looking forward to seeing where it goes.

In an effort to pick myself up out of my recent reading slump, I started rereading Ready Player One which I read and loved a couple of years back. It's still so good- maybe even better than I remember, as I understand more of the references this time around. Also, I'm terrible at remembering plot intricacies so I can't remember how it ends, which is working to my advantage. In case this one slipped your radar, it's set in the future, where a sort of MMORPG called OASIS has essentially usurped society. When the creator of OASIS dies, he leaves his fortune to whomever can solve the puzzles hidden all around the world. Just everything about this book is so good- the world-building, and all the geeky references and the character. I can't put it down.

In other book-related news, I got my first ever tattoo on Tuesday! I mean I'd been totally sure what I wanted for well over four years, but I finally bit the bullet and got it done.

Yep, I finally have words from Harry Potter branded on my arm forever, and it means so much to me. I've had an obsession with Harry Potter from the age of six, and 'expecto patronum' means so much to me. I've struggled with depression for most of my life, and the Dementors = depression metaphor has always resonated strongly with me. 

Professor Lupin continued, 'The Patronus is a kind of positive force, a projection of the very things that the Dementor feeds upon - hope, happiness, the desire to survive - but it cannot feel despair, as real humans can, so the Dementors can't hurt it.' Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, p. 176

That, tied in with how books have helped me in my darkest times, all basically adds up to words that I'm proud to have on my arm. 

There's also various stuff happening on book blogs in the next few weeks, which I'm looking forward to taking part in. First up, Bex at An Armchair by the Sea is doing another re-readathon, this time over two weeks! I had a wonderful time during the last one, but I'll be taking a pretty casual approach to it this time- I've got library books and I want to finish The Blind Assassin, so I'll be rereading just a little on the side. I'm thinking I'll start with Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, and then see how far I can get in the Harry Potter series :)


Then there's R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril, aka RIP X, which is an event running between 1st September and 31st October encouraging reading gothic/horror/supernatural/suspense etc books. I'm a big fan of seasonal reading, so I definitely want to take part in this to some extent. The problem is, I don't have a whole lot of things on my shelves that would fit into this category! So we'll see what I can rustle up at the library, if anything.

Also, Alice over at the wonderful Reading Rambo is hosting a read-a-long of Matthew Lewis's The Monk! I study 18th and 19th century literature so I've heard a lot about this book and how influential it has been but I've never actually read it, so, time to change that with my first ever read-a-long! Also, the Amazon summary made me laugh out loud (the devil is disguised as a woman disguised as a monk, wut), so there's that.

So yeah, that's all my news! I'll be back tomorrow, hopefully, for Bex's Re-Readathon!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Bout of Books 14: Saturday, Sunday and Wrap-up, with bonus cat pictures

Reading: The Blind Assassin
Pages read: 25
Total pages read: 329

Hey, it's better than yesterday! I don't think I did too badly today. I worked from 10.30 to 8.30, read for a bit, and then managed to doze off :P I've been really tired lately, between the early starts and starting a new job and all that. Oh well, it's the effort that counts in these things, right? :)

Reading: The Blind Assassin
Pages read: 80
Total pages read: 409

Pages read so far: 69

Today was my last day at my old job, which was... actually surprisingly sad. I did love working there; but pizza delivery pays under minimum wage, I wasn't getting enough hours and coming back to Armagh all the time was doing my head in. Onwards and upwards.

So as well as saying goodbye to my old job, I actually managed to get some reading done today, yay! I'm getting into The Blind Assassin properly now. I really like the style of it, even if it is a bit confusing at the start: all the different narratives, newspaper articles, excerpts from a novel one of the characters wrote... it's interesting. I think I have the potential to become a very big fan of Margaret Atwood- this is the fourth book I've read from her, and they've all been great so far.

Wrap up
Books read from: NOS4R2 by Joe Hill, The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
Books finished: none
Total pages read: 409

So, this week didn't exactly go to plan- I had to work 43 hours instead of my estimated 24-ish, and the craziness of starting a new job pretty much exhausted me. Also, I had to deal with these two:

Cat on the right gave birth to kitten on the left three weeks ago, and kitten is now old enough to run around the house and basically cause mischief and be cute. So they're just the biggest distraction of all. (Note my sadly neglected The Blind Assassin in the second picture.)

Still, it wasn't all that bad. I got a good chunk of NOS4R2 read and will hopefully finish it today, at long last. What I've read of The Blind Assassin was great too, so I'm looking forward to reading that too.

Until next time then! It's been great.