Friday, June 10, 2016

#20 Books of Summer Book Pile

I like lists, especially book lists, so I thought I'd make one for the #20BooksOfSummer challenge! Ideally I'd like to read a lot more than 20 books this summer, but this is my starting point anyway.

Middlemarch for Bex's read-along!

1. First and foremost, George Eliot's Middlemarch! If I read one book this summer, it has to be this, right? I picked up the cute Penguin English Library edition at my local library, because while I have it on my kindle I needed something prettier to get excited about, and discovered that it has 920 pages which is at least 200 pages more than I remember it having. Oh well, I also remember it being awesome, so it's all good :)

Books I've read already/am in the middle of

White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi   

2. White is for Witching by Helen Oyeyemi
I've already read this, but since the challenge started at the start of the month it totally counts, woo! Anyway, I loved this. Sort of neo-gothic not-quite-sure-what's-going-on house-might-be-trying-to-kill-you stuff.

3. Possession by A S Byatt
I've been reading this for what seems like forever, and I'm very near the end. I'm enjoying it, but perhaps a little underwhelmed after all the rave reviews that built my expectations so high. Still, it's about Victorian academics and that's a win for me. I'm looking forward to seeing how things end up.

4. The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff
Fun fact: when this movie was in the cinemas I was in the middle of a complicated essay about gender transgressions in the 1920s including talking about Lili Elbe. So that's why I didn't see it, as I was sick to my back teeth with her by the time I was done, lol. I'm better now. This is a fictionalised account of the life of Lili Elbe, who is generally considered the first person to medically transition gender. After this I can finally watch the movie, yay!

5. A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra
I'm going into this more or less blind, as I'm being guided purely by positive reviews and because it kept appearing in recommended lists. It's about Chechnya, and that's about all I know. I've only just started this.

Library books
(some of which are due back at the library soon and are non-renewable and therefore must be read ASAP!)

6. The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach- Another one I'm going into blind. Library books are good for that! Something about college baseball and coming of age. I've heard good things about it!

7. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson- Really looking forward to this one. It's about twins and there's LGBT themes and apparently it will make me cry.

8. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven- YA about mental illness is my crack. Will possibly also make me cry.

9. Ghost Story by Peter Straub- I'm trying to read more horror, as it was my favourite genre once upon a time. This is supposed to be a classic of the genre and I'm hoping it'll scare my pants off.

10. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins- Unashamedly jumping on the bandwagon. I'm not sure what to expect with this- I've heard very mixed things. My girlfriend recently read it and loved it though. So we'll see!

Books I own, some of which have been on my shelves, unread, for an embarrassingly long time:


Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill

11. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James- I just picked this up on a whim in my university's book swap- it's one of those classics I've always been meaning to read. Allegedly there's England vs. America stuff and ladies doing their own things and that's basically all I know. I love Turn of the Screw, but I have no idea how this will compare.

12. The Mammoth Book of Lesbian Erotica by various- Look, I'm a pervert. I read porn! I admit it! I actually started this a couple of years ago and kind of forgot I was reading it. But I'm going to finally finish it off. As with most compilations, the stories vary a lot in quality. I'm hoping there's a few good ones left.

13. Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeannette Winterson- In this case not unread but unreread. I haven't read this since I was in school. I keep saying I need to reread it soon but I never do! So this time, it's serious.

14. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson- I read Lumberjanes recently and absolutely loved it, so I'm excited to read more Noelle Stevenson. This is a fantasy graphic novel that has wonderful reviews- definitely need to get to this soon!

15. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd- This is another book my girlfriend loves. It's about 1960s and the Black civil rights movement, which I'm into, so I'm hoping this will be a good read.

16. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton- I have literally been on the verge of starting this book so many times when I get distracted by something shinier. I have no idea why! This is about high society New York at the turn of the century, which sounds intriguing.

17. Armada by Ernest Cline- I got this for my birthday not long after it came out (hardback and everything!) but I've been a little alarmed by some scathing reviews I've read- having loved Ready Player One, I'm worried this won't live up to expectations. Only one way to find out!

18. Valencia by Michelle Tea- I'm somewhat embarrassed that I've never read any Michelle Tea. So, this is my attempt to remedy that! This is her quasi-memoir about being a punk queer sex worker in San Francisco. So, pretty much ticking all my boxes there.

19. Brick Lane by Monica Ali- I know this was huge when it came out (um, about a decade ago...) so it'll be good to finally read it! It's about a Bangladeshi girl who comes to London through an arranged marriage in the 1980s and 1990s.

20. Only Ever Yours by Louise O'Neill- I mostly picked this up because the blurb on the cover describes it as 'Mean Girls meets The Handmaid's Tale.' Come on, who could resist?! This looks to be a dystopia with a feminist slant, so that's right up my street.

So that's my list! I may not get to all of these. I may have already deviated from the list quite a bit. Have you read any of these? Which ones should I definitely get to? :)

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

On summer plans and how to get out of a reading slump

Why, hello there. Things have been a bit quiet around here lately, mostly because my reading has really fallen by the wayside! I had such a good start to the year, and then by March things just sort of... stopped.

I'm blaming my Master's. It's pretty common for literature students to find themselves stop reading during term time because when you spend all day every day reading books for your course, you're much less likely to want to do it in your free time. I managed to avoid this for three years of a degree... but I think it's hitting me hard at Master's level. I have so much less free time as well, so when I do manage to scrape an hour or thirty minutes or less at the end of the day... well, a book isn't the first thing I grab.

But! Last Tuesday was my last day of uni and now I'm free until the end of September! Summer is here! I'm free!

Well, relatively. As I keep joking to everyone, it's so good to be only be working a full-time job! (As opposed to a full time job and 20-30 hours of studying a week). Said job is the reason that I've been stuck inside for the past week or so of good weather. I never thought I'd actually be jealous of people with sunburn, but there I am.

Anyway. When I'm not working, I've got big plans, like every summer. But this summer I'm determined to get some of this done!

So here's what I'm planning:

1. Moving out on my own
Yep, I'm finally going to be living on my own. No family, no roommates, just me. I can't wait to have my own space! I've had the keys for just under a week now and don't have to move in until my current lease ends at the end of the month, so in theory this should be plenty of time to gradually move stuff over, redecorate and basically make the place a home before I have to move in. In theory.

2. Read. Read. Read
Yep, this is a big one. I'm gradually reading my way out of the slump that I've been in for the past few months. I already had vague plans to go for twelve books a month until I go back to uni (which is my usual/former reading pace) but then I heard about the 20 Books of Summer challenge and I guess that's a good place to start! Plus with the added motivation of it being a group activity and that. I'd still love to hit my twelve books a month goal but we'll see how it goes! I might make a separate post with my big massive book pile, because those are always good.

3. Participate in Bex's Middlemarch read-along
I read Middlemarch about... four years ago? And I loved it and have been meaning to read it again, so it's so good that Bex is hosting this! Read-alongs are always great fun, and I can't wait for this.

4. Write more
Yeah, that's a bit vague, but purposely so. More blogging! More fiction writing! More poetry and songwriting!

5. Play more music
Vague again, but same idea. I want to spend more time playing the various musical instruments I have lying around. And maaaaaybe edge myself closer to finally getting the courage to busk?

6. Go somewhere
Haha, totally realising I fail in the idea of goal-setting as something that should be specific (Anyone else talk about SMART goals in uni? Specific, Measured, Achievable... I totally forget the rest. No wonder I suck at making goals.) I have very vague plans to maybe go over to England or Wales or take a roadtrip around Ireland or even just spend a night in Dublin. You know, something I can consider a holiday. It all depends on who I can get to come with me and what time I can get off work and that, but I really want it to happen!

7. Run/do yoga more
Look, I'm a nerdy girl. And like many nerdy girls, I've been exercise-phobic for pretty much my entire life. We were ranked in PE at my school as with every subject, and I was literally bottom of the year group due to my inability to run or catch a ball or understand netball. But I started running a few months back, and then I did a little yoga from tutorials online, and to my great surprise, I actually really enjoy it. I've been neglecting it a bit lately due to assignment craziness, but hopefully I should have more time now! (And I just bought a yoga mat, so, added incentive.)

8. Keep a bullet journal
I'm a massive time management/organisation freak. I kind of have to be, otherwise I'd never fit everything into my crazy life! I use Google Calendar and Habitica religiously, but I've got sucked into bullet journaling and I've actually found it more useful than I thought I would. My journal is nowhere near as pretty as the ones you see on tumblr, but I'm enjoying decorating my pages and getting a wee bit more in touch with my visual side.

9. Watch more Doctor Who
Remember that 50 years 50 stories project I have? The one I haven't updated in bloody forever? It's still very much a thing, even though I've stalled a bit. So I want to push ahead and keep watching, continuing my ongoing terrifying project of watching every single episode of Doctor Who since 1963. (For the uninitiated, there are currently 826 episodes of Doctor Who. I've watched maybe half.)

10. Be more social!
Last but definitely not least. Being a big introvert with lots of interests and hobbies and studying and working hours... my social life has really, really took a beating in the past few months. I want to use my new found freedom to hang out with friends even if it's just for a quick coffee once a week or so.

Dye my hair. I haven't done it in six months, since I shaved my head and let my natural colour grow back in. Teenage me is appalled. But never fear, I've got some purple dye ready to go ;)

So those are my summer plans! Hopefully I'll at least attempt some of these. What are your summer goals? :)