It's autumn again, and that means it's time for R.I.P. IX, hooray! I'll be cramming in some spooky, supernatural, gothic and otherwise DARK books, short stories, TV shows and movies through September and October; if you want to see how I'm doing and what I've read/watched so far, check out my master post here. Happy (scary) reading!

Friday, 12 September 2014

August book and DVD haul

Another late 'August shenanigans' post...  I really suck at this in-a-timely-manner thing at the moment, oops.  I already posted my August mini-reviews, for books (including We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Ghost World and A Single Man) and movies/TV (including The Double and House season 2), so click here to check that out if you haven't already.  Today's all about the books and DVDs that came into my life last month!
First up, the mixed bag of random stuff I've picked up throughout the month.  I saw the movie trailer for Savages when I was on an Aaron Taylor-Johnson kick a few weeks ago, and suddenly remembered seeing the original novel by Don Winslow in the 'odd mix of old and new books' part of the book section in Tesco.  Since it was in the 2-for-£7 offer I also picked up the newly-out-in-paperback Panic by Lauren Oliver.  I've heard mixed things about it, but apparently it's gripping and fast-paced even if it's ultimately a bit unsatisfying, so I thought I'd give it a shot anyway.  With my bookshelves now up and arranged, I took the opportunity to add Hamlet to my little stack of Penguin Shakespeare plays. 
My pre-order of Dexter's Final Cut by Jeff Lindsay arrived, completing my series and giving me the tantalising prospect of a straight-up Dexter marathon at some point this autumn/winter.  Having failed to find a copy of The Martian by Andy Weir in Leeds, I preordered the paperback of that as well, and it dropped through my letterbox less than a week later.  The spine's damaged, which is annoying especially given the fact that it's suddenly everywhere and I could have picked up a pristine copy instead, but whatever.  And finally, towards the end of the month, I had a few minutes to kill in town and ended up popping into the British Heart Foundation shop, where I found a copy of If I Stay by Gayle Forman (which I want to read before I see the movie sometime), and more miraculously, a once-read copy of Burial Rites by Hannah Kent.  I've heard nothing but good things about this one, it's already being made into a movie with Jennifer Lawrence, and I've nearly bought it in Waterstones about four times, so... £2.  Bargain.

Aaaaand so to my little jaunt up to Leeds to see Hanna and Charlotte!  ("Don't worry," they said... "It'll be fairly quiet," they said... "A bank holiday's just like any other weekend," they said... OH HELLO YORK RACES AND LEEDS FESTIVAL!  Oooops.)  Crazy morning train aside, I had a lovely day, sitting in Charlotte's living room eating pizza and chocolate buttons and chatting for about six hours.  I love it when that happens, where you feel like you've been talking for an hour and it turns out to have been ALL THE HOURS.  Before that, however, we had a Costa-stop and a browse round Waterstones, because OF COURSE WE DID.  I was actually the most restrained of the three of us, for the first time ever, but I still came away with five books because there's so much more choice in a city branch than my little local one!

The first one I picked out was Carmilla by J. Sheridan le Fanu, which I've actually fancied reading for a while but was reminded of recently during my backlog-binge of RonLit's BookTube channel.  Veronica is soooo funny and cheerful and insightful, and had good things to say about this one, so... hello lesbian vampire Halloween reading!  Next up was Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of 'Psycho' by Stephen Rebello, which should be fascinating from what I already know about the groundbreaking nature of Hitchcock's work and the interesting but occasionally dubious methods he used to get scenes 'just right'.  It'll fit right in with my intended R.I.P. IX rewatch of the movie too, if I manage to get through with the Hannibal Lecter universe in time to give Norman Bates a look in! 

Next up was Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira, which Hanna bought too and furtively sneaked into my basket using a disgracefully successful "Look!  OVER THERE!" ploy that had me staring around like an idiot and Charlotte nearly falling over a table trying to helpfully clear my field of vision.  I found Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman on the 'in the media and reviews' shelf at the front of the store and FINALLY bought a copy, and rounded out my basket with a second wander through the classics section, where I picked out The Monk by Matthew Lewis.  A couple of people I watch/follow have read and enjoyed it recently and it has this super-striking PEL cover, so... yeah.  It sounds scandalous - all sex and murder - so how could I not, really?

And THEN, because clearly I haven't acquired enough books recently, I went to the library.  I was actually only planning on taking a couple of things back and maybe picking out a couple more, but as it turns out the big town branch was having a bit of an 'ALL THE THINGS ELLIE WANTS TO READ ARE MAGICALLY ON THE SHELF' kind of week, so I came back with... thirteen.  *coughs sheepishly*  These are roughly in size order, because NEAT PILE PEOPLE, so let's start with the biggies.  I got The Man Who Couldn't Stop by David Adam, about his life with OCD, which Hanna bought in Leeds and which I've wanted to read since the first reviews appeared, so... good timing.  Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley looks like a super-fun graphic novel-style food memoir. 

I spotted The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink by Olivia Laing in a bookshelf tour from Jean at Bookish Thoughts, and since it sounds fascinating but is also quite expensive, I was delighted to find it at the library.  I read Nora Ephron's I Feel Bad About My Neck last summer, so it seemed about time for some more Ephron fun in the form of I Remember NothingKetchup Clouds by Annabel Pitcher, about a girl who writes to a serial killer because WHAT COULD GO WRONG THERE, just sounds brilliant.  I also picked up the new little biography of Rasputin by Frances Welch, because not only do I feel like I should know something about him, but it also tempers my feverish need to have such a beautiful little hardback on my shelf already.

I've had Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan out of the library before but didn't get to it in time, so stumbling across a review video from the newly-discovered-and-fantastic Candace at librarianfanmail reminded me to pick it up again.  Shelf Life: How I Found the Meaning of Life Stacking Supermarket Shelves by Simon Parke just sounded like a fun read for anyone who's worked in retail.  I wanted to watch the movie of Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, so I thought it was about time I borrowed the book by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn so I could... y'know, get on that.  Harry, A History by Melissa Anelli, a book largely about the Harry Potter fandom, has crossed my radar a couple of times and sounds like it could be either really interesting or really awful, so... we shall see. 

I'd never heard of Woolgathering by Patti Smith, but Steve from Steve Reads Books reviewed it and read the 'note to the reader', which was so lovely and evocative in itself that I added the book to my library list on the spot.  If I love it I'll boost Just Kids up my mental TBR list as well!  Empire Antarctica: Ice, Silence and Emperor Penguins by Gavin Francis got rave reviews when it came out, plus it's been ages since I've read a travel memoir, and PENGUINS, so that came home with me too.  And finally, the book I actually picked up first, Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin.  I've heard it mentioned a couple of times recently on BookTube, and it just sounds wonderful, about a gay man in Paris and his obsession with an Italian barman, the titular Giovanni.  At this point I had aching arms and no space left on my library card, so I thought it was probably about time to check out.

Last bit, I promise.  As always, I'll just quickly mention the DVDs that wandered onto my shelves in August.  I bought The Double as soon as it came out and watched it immediately; you can read my mini review in my previous post.  It came with a set of cool postcards, which was a nice touch.  I might put one or two of them up when I decide where I want to start sticking stuff in my new room - maybe inside the wardrobe doors, or the ends of the bookcases???  We shall see.  I bought season two of New Girl after devouring the first season, which Charlotte bought me for my birthday.  I definitely get why everyone loves it so much, it's so warm and SO FUNNY! 

I found Liberal Arts in the Amazon Deals of the Week and snapped that up; I must have had a different edition on my wishlist because it never went below about £14 and this one was suddenly less than £5.  I bought The Last King of Scotland in Poundland because WHO KNEW they now do refurbed, resealed DVDs for £1?  NOT ME.  And very, very lastly, I finally caved and bought Orange is the New Black season 1.  As you may remember from waaaaay up the post, I bought the book in Leeds and honestly don't think I'll ever get enough time alone with the family TV to watch the series on Netflix, so I thought I might as well just grit my teeth and buy it already.  If it's as good as every other series I've caved and bought (Dexter, Hannibal, House...) it'll be well worth the money!

That's IT!  It's amazing how these posts mount up now I'm doing them on a monthly basis instead of more regularly.  You can suddenly see where your money's trickling away.  It's strange, because until I get a job I'm really TRYING to behave myself; you just don't notice when things are coming in one or two items at a time, a preorder here, a book with my groceries there...  MUST. TRY. HARDER. 

Did you pick up anything special in August?  Any long-awaited preorders or newly-released DVDs to recommend?  Let me know in the comments!

Monday, 8 September 2014

August mini reviews and what I'm reading now

Flying in late YET again with my August reviews and wrap-up, oooops.  Hello!  How was your late-summer reading?  I feel like mine finally picked up a bit last month; I finished Lamb at last and leapt head-first into some long-awaited novellas from the library.  The impending 'final deadline' really boosted me to drive hard at my reading towards the end of August, because I desperately wanted to read these books and I'd had them for so long I couldn't renew them any more!  It's amazing how much time you find to read when you have the threat of library fines at your back.  :)

I also FINALLY sorted a couple of my blog pages out this month; I've added all my mini reviews to my Review Archive - because really, they're just a more concise version of what I would have written in a full post anyway - and I've reworked my Books and Films 2014 page as well.  Instead of just being two lists, it now has all the book covers/movie posters in a kind of montage at the beginning of each section too, so you can either browse the images OR read the lists, or both.  It looks more fun that way - it's also more work but I like it!
~ What I Read ~
Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal
by Christopher Moore
My first priority in August was to FINALLY finish Lamb, which I'd been reading since I went on holiday at the end of June.  I'd put it aside for some frothy summer reading and to finish a non-fiction book I'd been struggling to get through, so it was about time!  Happily, it lived up to all the rave reviews and Moore-hype I've seen everywhere over the past few years.  The basic premise is that Christ's oldest friend Biff has been resurrected by an angel and locked in a hotel room to write his own gospel - the real story of Joshua's life, filling in the massive gap between 'born in stable' and 'thirty and preaching the Word'.  Christopher Moore being a clever and hilarious dude, this manages to incorporate everything from Buddhist philosophy and the wisdom of the Kings of Orient to kung-fu and a Yeti, as Joshua sets about learning how to be the Messiah.  It's such an absorbing read, very intelligent, very funny, yet surprisingly wise and poignant sometimes too.  Definitely a keeper - I gave it 4.5 stars - and I see many more Christopher Moore novels in my future!

The Forest of Hands and Teeth (TFoHaT 1)
by Carrie Ryan
I'd heard a lot of good things about this book, and had been looking for it at the library for AGES, so when I finally spotted it on the reshelving trolley I grabbed it!  A zombie novel whose synopsis reminded me a bit of The Village - human enclave, very insular and ordered, evil things trying to breach the fences - this sadly turned out to be a tad disappointing.  The actual zombie mythology of Ryan's world is interesting, and the book definitely kept me hooked, but I had some problems with it too.  I felt like it set up more questions than it answered, paving the way for future books in the series in a way that was more frustrating than enticing, and I really wasn't keen on the main character, Mary.  She is extremely self-absorbed and self-obsessed, playing with people's hearts and constantly putting herself and others in danger through her reckless need to follow her whims instantly instead of thinking them through.  Of course everyone around her pays the price, and yet she never seems to learn!  I've picked up the next book, The Dead-Tossed Waves, mostly because it has a complete character shift so... no more Mary and her stupidity!  Hopefully I'll like this one better, and it'll fill in some of those unanswered questions that bugged me in the first book...  3 stars.

Ghost World
by Daniel Clowes
I loved the movie version of Ghost World as a teenager, so when Ellie (the Curiosity Killed the Bookworm branch of the Ellie Army) offered to send on her copy of the graphic novel, I eagerly accepted.  And I'm so glad I did!  To start with I wasn't sure I was going to like the style, either in terms of the art work OR the dialogue, but the further I delved, the more I appreciated it.  It's actually made up of several short and largely self-contained vignettes that fall along a linear timeline, rather than following one big story arc, which probably helped, because I could dip into it for light relief in between chapters of the Carrie Ryan novel.  It had its kooky moments, and its poignant ones, and it was a good excuse to watch the movie again for the first time in years.  I think I like the adaptation more, but it was still a lot of fun!  4 stars.

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
by Shirley Jackson
Finally, I read my first Shirley Jackson!  Jean over at Bookish Thoughts talks about her a fair bit, so I thought it was about time I gave her a go.  My local bookshops failed epically, but the library fared better and I picked We Have Always Lived in the Castle to start me off.  This book is more about atmosphere and character than plot, concentrating on an insular household comprising eighteen year-old oddball Merricat, her older sister Constance, her cat Jonas, and their eccentric uncle.  The rest of their family was killed in bizarre circumstances, the townspeople hate, ridicule and fear them in equal measure - all they have is their house, each other and their unchanging domestic routine.  Until a money-grabbing cousin unexpectedly arrives and brings their world tumbling down around them, that is...  The description and prose in this novella is beautiful, and the inside of Merricat's strange mind is quite fascinating.  It's fairly sedately paced, with the exception of one genuinely heartbreaking scene of chaos and misery that made me feel sick to the stomach, but it flows well and I never felt like it was dragging at all.  A hard one to describe all round, really... My best advice is just to read it for yourself!  4 stars - I'll definitely be reading more Shirley Jackson soon!

A Single Man
by Christopher Isherwood
Another beautiful little novella that's far more focussed on character, thought and ambience than it is on plot - and is thus difficult to describe or review in any meaningful way.  This was my first Isherwood - and again, most definitely not my last - and is pretty much a 'day in the life' of George, a British college professor living in Los Angeles.  He is still mourning the (fairly) recent loss of his partner Jim, and finds himself irreparably estranged from the world: from his neighbours and colleagues, because of his sexuality, and from his students, because of his age.  He spends his time perfecting his outer façade, searching for understanding, reflecting on life, and fielding the neuroses of his larger-than-life friend Charlotte.  It's gorgeously written and quietly devastating, and I plan to buy the film soon because if it's even NEARLY as good as this, it's going to be something special.  Another solid 4 stars.

~ What I Watched ~
The Double (2013)
Starring Jesse Eisenberg and Mia Wasikowska, directed by Richard Ayoade
This film was the reason I finally read my first Dostoyevsky novella back in April (jeez, was it that long ago?!).  The DVD was released in August and I bought it the same week, thanks to the winning (for me) combination of classic source material, 'what is real' mind-fuckery, and the combined talents of Jesse Eisenberg (who is rapidly becoming one of my favourite actors, he's amazing), the lovely Mia Wasikowska and the genius that is Richard Ayoade.  It was... slow, not in a bad way... extremely dark, blackly funny, strange and unsettling, picking up pace and getting simultaneously more coherent yet more warped as the movie went on.  The numerous cameos from Ayoade's fellow comedians (Tim Key), IT Crowd friends (Chris O'Dowd, Christopher Morris) and cast members from his previous film Submarine (Sally Hawkins, Craig Roberts AND Paddy Considine) were fun to spot, but felt a bit out of place in such a pitch-black film.  I definitely preferred it to the book and will be watching it again at some point to see how much more I get from it the second time around.  Cautiously recommended.  (watch the trailer)

Ghost World (2001)
Starring Thora Birch and Steve Buscemi, directed by Terry Zwigoff
I finished the graphic novel on the Sunday evening of Bout of Books 11.0, so it made sense to round off my BoB week by watching the movie, for the first time in YEARS!  It had so many little moments and snippets of dialogue that translated straight from the page to the screen (as you might expect, given that the screenplay was written by Daniel Clowes), but also gave the characters one film-friendly overarching plot which helped ease the transition between media.  The double act in the film is actually Enid and Seymour (a new character drawn together from several in the book) rather than Enid and Rebecca (who still has an important role, just... less so), but I didn't mind because the dynamic between these two soulmates-yet-polar-opposites was so much fun.  Seymour's a sweetheart and offsets Enid's confident feistiness a bit... it works.  The dialogue is still superb and the whole thing felt as warm and hilarious and full of heart as I remembered.  I also LOVE the music - lots of old blues and country rock, it's great.  Recommended! (watch the trailer)

House, Season 2 (2006)
Starring Hugh Laurie and Omar Epps
I actually watched most of this season aaaaages ago, then recently decided to rewatch it from the start so that I could finally finish it off and move on.  It's pretty much more of the same magic House formula as the first season - brilliant deduction, bucketloads of sarcasm, some nasty moments and lots of medical intrigue.  This season involves everything from a prisoner on death row to a famous doctor with possible TB, a woman with Munchausen Syndrome to an immuno-compromised heart transplant patient, all with a side dose of team bickering, hospital politics and House's ever-present leg pain.  Funny, brilliant, fascinating and moving by turn.  If, like me, you're a latecomer to this series and haven't started it yet, get on it - it more than lives up to the hype! (watch the ridiculously overdramatic US trailer)

~ What's Up Next ~
I finished my first book of September - Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist - on the first of the month, and moved straight on to my first R.I.P. IX read: Red Dragon by Thomas Harris.  It's my first foray into the world of Hannibal Lecter, so me being me I decided I might as well dive straight in the deep end and not only READ ALL THE HANNIBAL, but also watch the movies and both series as well.  I figured I might as well stick with Hannibal's storyline instead of veering off into the worlds of Norman Bates or Dexter Morgan again just yet.  Each serial killer in his own sweet time!  So far I've been very impressed by the book AND the new series; the book, in particular, is far more accomplished than I expected, and the series is every bit as addictive as the hype suggested.  Bring on the rest!

I have highly inappropriate fantasies about being in this particular man sandwich. NOT LITERALLY DR LECTER PUT THE KNIFE DOWN.
How was your reading month?  What was your favourite book of August, and what have you chosen to kick off September?  I hope you've all had a wonderful summer and are looking forward to some great autumn reading!

Monday, 1 September 2014

R.I.P. IX: Things are about to get SCARY

lavinia portraitRIP9275
Kudos to Abigail Larson for the gorgeous art work on this year's banners!

It's R.I.P. IX tiiiime!  This is my third year taking part; I always start to veer towards darker reading in the autumn anyway, so why not make it official and do it with friends?  Anyway, R.I.P. (that's Readers Imbibing Peril, by the way) is practically an institution around this little corner of the blogosphere, so I couldn't not join in really, could I?

Basically, the event runs until the end of October (because duh, Hallowe'en) and all you have to do is read and/or watch spooky, dark, fantastical or supernatural books, movies or TV shows.  That's it!  The range is pretty large - anything from Stephen King's finest horror novels to Wilkie Collins's gothic classics to Gillian Flynn's psychological thrillers.  You can link up your reviews on the R.I.P. IX review site, you can Tweet using the hashtag #RIPIX, and there's a group read of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson going on too, which I would definitely have been up for if I hadn't literally JUST read We Have Always Lived in the Castle... 

For more details, and to sign up, hop over to Stainless Steel Droppings by clicking here!

I'm hoping to complete PERIL THE FIRST - that is, reading at least four books that fit the R.I.P. theme between now and the end of October.  I think I managed seven last year (alongside other lighter reading), so that should be more than doable!  I was idly sitting in my library corner a couple of days ago staring around at my books, and realised I literally have R.I.P. contenders in every single one of the 48 Kallax cubes that currently make up my fiction section, plus a handful of true crime and other non-fiction books that would fit the bill, AND at least one horror-themed library book checked out right now...  Let's just say I'm definitely all set, whether I'm in the mood for dystopian menace or crime thrillers or all-out straight-up horror!  I'd really love at least one or two of my choices to be classics too - maybe Dracula, The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, or The Island of Doctor Moreau?  WE SHALL SEE.
  • Red Dragon (Hannibal Lecter 1) - Thomas Harris

I'm also signing up for PERIL ON THE SCREEN, which involves watching spooky or thrilling movies or television.  Again, I have quite a few contenders on my newly-arranged DVD shelves, plus some TV box sets (like Dexter and American Horror Story), my sister's and family DVD collections to plunder, AND we've just got Netflix, so I might manage to watch Bates Motel at some point.  Oh, and my long-anticipated copy of Only Lovers Left Alive should FINALLY be arriving sometime in September, so that's a must-watch.  I managed to tackle a fair few book-to-movie pairings during R.I.P. VIII so hopefully I'll be able to do that again this year too!
  • Hannibal season 1, episodes 1-8
  • Manhunter (the 1986 movie adaptation of Red Dragon)

I'm not usually much of a short story person, but I'm going to step up and aim to complete my R.I.P. IX experience with PERIL OF THE SHORT STORY.  I'd like to read The Birds by Daphne du Maurier so that I can watch the Hitchcock film, and I also have collections by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allan Poe and Ian Fleming that would count as dark, thrilling or frightening.  I'd really love this year to be the year I FINALLY step up and read some of these!

  • What will be first?  Check back and see...  :)
(I'll add book covers here as I go!)

Are you signing up for R.I.P. IX too?  What's on your Hallowe'en reading list this year?  And if you have a master post of your own, feel free to leave me a link in the comments so I can drop by every so often and see how you're getting on!

Monday, 25 August 2014

Bout of Books: Sunday and Wrap-Up

Bout of Books
It's the last daaaaaay!  I have a headache again - recovery from yesterday, I think - but I'm hoping with a mug or two of coffee I can zap that and get reading, and hopefully get at least a few pages read to add to my total for the week.  BRING IT ON, MOTHERFUZZERS.

Books I've read from:  The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan; Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Pages read today: 64
Books finished today:  The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan; Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Running total:  3 books; 475 pages 
The menu:  Choc chip muffin, two bowls of mixed fruit, coffee, strawberry laces, salmon pie with peas and sweetcorn, choc chip cookie, bran flakes with sultanas
Today #insixwords:  Finished two books... OVER AND OUT.

1pm:  A good start!  I've finished The Forest of Hands and Teeth, which ended in yet MORE unnecessary death thanks to Mary's recklessness with everyone else's lives (grrrr, Mary), but also a note of hope, at least.  This book was just so relentlessly bleak; I wanted some of the characters to have a hope of survival, and a future, but it was like being stuck in one of those nightmares where you're running slower and slower and the bad guys just keeeeep on coming.  I am, however, very intrigued by the next book in the series, which I think answers some of the questions that got raised but then ignored in this one, because it's from the perspective of Gabrielle, the Outsider turned Fast One.  I've requested it from the library already.  :)

I've also spent some time writing a belated post about yesterday and going to Leeds, yaaaaay, plus I've applied for another job, and withdrawn from one where SORRY but they've added loads more information now that's completely changed the job description and NO NOT COOL.  Soooo, yes.  A productive morning!

4pm: I had the yummiest salmon pie (a Basics one, no less - it's nicer than the expensive ones!) with peas and sweetcorn, and sat with it on my knee reading Ghost World.  Admittedly I did have one dicey moment where Millie was like "Oooh salmon I'll just completely coincidentally try to jump on the chair and OH NOES MY NOSE WENT IN IT how simply dreadful".  I think she THINKS she's being very subtle about it, but no.  Anyway, after I'd finished removing a small cat from my dinner, I FINISHED Ghost World, which is another book down, hooray!  I've really enjoyed dipping into the world of Enid and Rebecca and their snarky, completely realistic relationship with the world and each other.  I'll be happy now even if I don't read any more today!
9:30pm: Which, as it happens, I haven't.  I'm not sure where the time's gone - shower, Candy Crush, blog hopping - but GONE IT HAS, so I think I'm going to round out my Bout of Books week by WATCHING Ghost World.  I used to love the movie as a young teenager, before I even knew it was a comic/graphic novel first, so it'll be nice to revisit it again.  Obviously it's going to be different from the book, but since Daniel Clowes wrote the screenplay I'm hoping it'll keep the same tone and overall style.  I last watched it so long ago that I don't remember much about it!  Time to fetch some fruit and a cookie and a drink and settle in, I think.

~ Wrap-Up ~
We've come to the end of another readathon - so how did I do?  Not spectacularly well, is the answer, although I was out having funtimes on Saturday, I applied for a couple of jobs, watched two movies and vastly improved on last week's total of ZERO PAGES, so... it's all relative really!  And actually when you look at my original goals for the week, I didn't do toooo badly.
I didn't hit my goal of finishing five books, but I did end up (finally!) finishing the last chunk of Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore, before moving swiftly on to one of my nearing-their-deadline library books, The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan.  As a break from the relentless misery and peril of that one, I also picked up the quirky Ghost World by Daniel Clowes, which Ellie (Curiosity Killed the Bookworm) sent me at Christmas.  I finished both of those on Sunday, and also read the first few pages of We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson on the train to and from Leeds on Saturday.
 In terms of non-reading goals... *consults goal list again*... well, I actually DIDN'T take part in one of the Twitter chats, for the second Bout of Books in a row.  The second one was in the middle of the night, the third one was while I was on the train home from Leeds... and I read right through the first one.  My bad.  I completed three challenges, as per my goal, plus Saturday's but I did that late for fun, so I'm not sure it counts!  I watched The Double on Monday, completing one of the many 'adapted from a novel' book/DVD pairings lurking on my shelves, and also watched Ghost World last night - so a double page to screen success this week!  I did, admittedly, spend quite a bit of time online, and I didn't start taking bookshelf tour photos because I took a lot of OTHER photos for my challenges and updates, but those goals weren't too important so I don't mind.  :)
So, what DID I manage to accomplish this week?  In the end I read a total of 475 pages, well up from my usual vague weekly reading aim of 350 pages, and posted every day, with pictures, stats, challenge entries and reading updates.  I did the Book Scavenger Hunt Challenge (Monday), the One True Pairing Challenge (Tuesday) and the 'Like This, Try This' Challenge (Thursday), as well as putting together a late unofficial response to the Spell It Out Challenge (Saturday), just because it looked like fun!  I think my favourite was the Book Scavenger Hunt, because it was fun picking out the perfect book for each prompt and none of them were too obscure or hard to find.  As usual, you can read all my updates, see all my photos and GIFs, and check out my challenge entries in one handy package by clicking here!
I hope you've enjoyed coming along for the ride with me again, and that you've had a fantastic week of reading, whether or not you were taking part in BoB this time!  In the comments you can let me know what you've been reading and how you did, and feel free to leave me your links so I can come visit!  Until next time, read-a-thonners...  :)

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Bout of Books: Saturday

Bout of Books
I'm posting this late, because BUSY, but I didn't want to combine my weekend posts after all because I HAVE STUFF TO SAY.  I had a lovely day yesterday with Charlotte and Hanna, and since it was vaguely book-related I'm going to tell you aaaaaall about it for Bout of Books.  Sit down boys and girls, make yourselves comfortable...  THERE BE BOOK BUYING AHEAD!

Books I've read from:  We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson
Pages read today: 20
Books finished today:  None
Running total:  1 book; 411 pages 
The menu:  Water, aniseed balls
Today #insixwords:  Book buying and ALL THE CONVERSATION.

SUNDAY:  So, very little reading happened yesterday, because I WAS IN LEEDS.  I read a bit on the (very busy) train on the way there, and some more on the (surprisingly quiet) train on the way back, even though my head suddenly felt like it was going to explode because TOO MUCH TALKING NOT ENOUGH WATER... but it was only 20 pages altogether, so not much to write about really.  Although I haven't finished The Forest of Hands and Teeth yet, I ended up taking We Have Always Lived in the Castle with me instead, because TINY PAPERBACK.  It's interesting so far, nicely written and enigmatic.  I'm sure I'll get on with it better when I'm not trying to distract myself from epic headachiness and also not having my thoughts drowned out by a loud party of slightly drunk twenty-somethings on their way home from the Races.

I did, however, have a bookish time in other ways, because I was with Charlotte (Lit Addicted Brit) and Hanna (Booking in Heels) aaaaaaall day.  We had unknowingly picked a mad weekend to meet up - Leeds Festival AND the York Races were happening, meaning the train was packed with either people in wellies and scarves (AHAHA Blogger tried to correct that to 'willies and scarves'), or people looking like they were going to the world's least tasteful wedding - but MEET UP WE DID.  We hit Waterstones for coffee and snacks, then basically shopped the shit out of it for about an hour, which was predictably awesome.

Amazingly, I actually bought the least books of the three of us, which is positively unnatural, but whatever.  Part of the reason for this is that most of the books I really wanted just WEREN'T THERE (and Hanna promised me her copy of one of them - Horns by Joe Hill - so I didn't buy that either), and I was too indecisive to pick between the rest because my buying priorities were suddenly shot to pieces.  I did still buy five books, however, so I wasn't exactly the picture of restraint!  I ended up going for Carmilla by J. Sheridan le Fanu, Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of 'Psycho' by Stephen Rebello, Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman, The Monk by Matthew Lewis, and finally Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira, which Hanna sneaked into my basket using a highly original "LOOK! OVER THERE!" ruse that Charlotte and I BOTH FELL FOR.  Ohhhhh, the shame.

Aaaand then we got drenched because UNEXPECTED RAIN STORM, and went back to Charlotte's for pizza and garlic bread and chocolate and tea and basically talked for the next six hours about everything under the sun, until we realised how late it was and that we should probably give Charlotte her house back at some point.  We discovered, for example, that Hanna's passport photo looks disturbingly like one of those penetrating lady serial killer mugshots from the sixties.  Charlotte apologised for EVERYTHING, including major friendship deal-breakers like the rain, the fact that a bird had pooed on her car, the colour of her living room fireplace, and the crispiness of the pepperoni on our pizza (like crispy pepperoni isn't THE BEST PEPPERONI!).  Also, I don't know quite what we said, but at one point Hanna was laughing so hard she was literally face-down in a sofa cushion trying to stop, which was simultaneously slightly worrying and very infectious.  I don't know what they learned about ME, but I hope it wasn't anything too awful.  It was such a wonderful day... though I'm slightly worried about that last part now I've thought about it.  :)

Aaaand then I came home and had a late supper and watched BookTube videos and went to bed.  Yaaay!

Spell It Out Challenge
Hosted by KimberlyFaye Reads

I'm not officially entering this challenge because 1) I'm too late and 2) I don't have an e-reader anyway so the giveaway is a dud for me, but it looks like fun so here goes nothing!  Now that all my books are out and shelved instead of crammed in boxes all over the house, I've decided to go ambitious and spell out my blog name.  So ambitious did this plan turn out to be, in fact, that the book piles wouldn't actually fit in one photo.  Go with it...  :)

B eauty Queens - Libba Bray
O thello - William Shakespeare
O n the Road - Jack Kerouac
K insey: A Biography - Jonathan Gathorne-Hardy

A ttachments - Rainbow Rowell
D ark Places - Gillian Flynn
D own Under - Bill Bryson
I t's Kind of a Funny Story - Ned Vizzini
C hoke - Chuck Palahniuk
T rouble - Non Pratt
E nduring Love - Ian McEwan
D awn of the Dumb - Charlie Brooker

B eneath the Wheel - Herman Hesse
L ord of the Flies - William Golding
O bsidian - Jennifer L. Armentrout
N orthanger Abbey - Jane Austen
D arkly Dreaming Dexter - Jeff Lindsay
E cho Boy - Matt Haig

Just a few more hours to go...  Are you feeling good about your progress this weekend?  Feel free to link up your updates in the comments if you're a BoB-er too!

Friday, 22 August 2014

Bout of Books: Friday

Bout of Books
*stumbles onto blog* *stretches and looks around blearily*  ANOTHER morning where I didn't want to get up, dudes.  Partially because the sounds coming from the other side of my window sounded suspiciously like rain, partially because it's suddenly gone COLD, and partially because said cold possibly means I've been scrumpled up in bed all night and given myself cricked ALL THE THINGS.  It pains me to say it, but it may be time to break out the cold-weather pyjamas.

AAAAAANYWAY, let's get down to some Bout of Books reading, shall we?  I might not get that much done tomorrow because SURPRISE!  I am going to see Charlotte and Hanna to buy more books (big Waterstones, yaaaay!) and also lounge around on a sofa being a lazy wench.  Still bookish, and hopefully I'll get some reading done on the (hour each way) train if I'm not wedged in someone's armpit in the vestibule again, but I might combine my Saturday/Sunday posts if I don't have much to share.  WE SHALL SEE.

Books I've read from:  The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Pages read today:  68
Books finished today:  None
Running total:  1 book; 391 pages 
The menu:  Choc chip muffin, two bowls of mixed tinned fruit, coffee, Indian mini bites (samosas, pakoras, bhajis), chocolate mousse, lasagne with sweetcorn
Today #insixwords: Such an eye-burny, sleepy day, ugh...

2pm:  Not a bad start to the reading day!  Yes, I spent my semi-awake breakfast time watching BookTube instead (what can I say, I have a lot of subscriptions pouring into my email inbox these days!), but I had an unexpected reading boon during a bit of a cake disaster this lunchtime.  It's not a very interesting story - my stepdad made a cake slightly wrong, left it in the oven then went out, leaving me in charge.  Nearly an hour and a half later, this bloody cake was black on the top but still soggy inside, and the lengthy amount of time I spent sitting at the kitchen table, testing the cake with a skewer every ten minutes before finally giving up, dumping it on the worktop and putting my dinner in the oven instead proved MARVELLOUS for kickstarting my reading. 

I've read about 50 pages of The Forest of Hands and Teeth so far today, and it's still... a bit much of a muchness?  There's constant peril from the zombies and lots of rending of garments with the melodramatic love affair of Mary and Travis, but there aren't really enough twists or carefully doled-out answers to keep my interest really gripped.  One unexpected death (NOT THE DOG ARGOS IS THE BEST) or different twist or revelation of something that answers one of the many questions thrown up in this post-apocalyptic zombie world would be enough, but I'M STILL WAITING.  There was a nice moment where Mary discovered some old newspaper articles from early on in the Return, with pictures of New York City as it once was, but it doesn't answer any of the questions about how the world became the way it is, or why the Sisterhood were so frickin' creepy, or any of that stuff.  I NEED ANSWERS, RYAN.  DON'T YOU DARE LEAVE THEM ALL FOR THE NEXT BOOK.  In the meantime, I hate to say it but there's a slight hint of...

10pm: Okay, so I may have spoken too soon - in the very next chapter shit got REAL - but I'm too tired to talk about it now so HAHA NOPE.  I've had all my tablets tonight so that hopefully I'll be relatively calm and pain-free for tomorrow's shopping jaunt, only at least two of them are drowsy-making which means I AM NOW HALF ASLEEP.  Soooo, no more reading tonight.  I didn't quite finish the book, but I'll start something new on the train tomorrow anyway (something in paperback instead of hardcover, and that I'm not 90% finished with obviously) and carry on with TFoHaT when I get home.  So long readers, back tomorrow!  Hopefully with POST-SHOPPING BOOK PICTURES!  :)
Did you have a lovely bookish Friday?  Looking forward to the weekend?  As always, feel free to link up your update posts or videos in the comments!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Bout of Books: Thursday

Bout of Books
Hello, hello!  A quieter day in Ellie-land today, which should mean more reading again, yaaaaay!  Also I had a really good night's sleep last night and got up quite late this morning, which should improve my concentration a bit.  Let's get this thing going!

Books I've read from:  The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Pages read today:  99
Books finished today:  None
Running total:  1 book; 323 pages 
The menu:  Choc chip muffin, two bowls of mixed tinned fruit, coffee, Indian mini bites (samosa, pakoras, bhajis), chocolate mousse, strawberry pencils, a couple of squares of Cadburys' Marvellous Creations chocolate (the popping candy one), cottage pie with peas and sweetcorn
Today #insixwords: Still procrastinating - but I'm reading too!

12 noon: Not quite as quick a start as I'd originally anticipated, thanks to another late-to-rise kind of morning, followed by some more BookTube watching and skipping around a few updates from today's Bout of Books linky (something I'm notoriously bad at during readathons)... but I'm reading now!  I'm hoping to just keep diving back into The Forest of Hands and Teeth today, in the hope that I can at least NEARLY finish it by the end of the day.  I'd so like to cram in another novella or two by the end of the week, especially with library deadlines looming!  Best get cracking...

9pm: Okay, so I didn't do too badly today; I've been sitting in my library corner most of the day reading, with meal breaks watching BookTube videos (to keep with the bookish theme), and I've read nearly 100 pages, yaaaay!  The book's definitely interesting, but the forward momentum seems to stop and start and the main character, Mary, is becoming a tad self-absorbed for my liking.  Some of this is explained away by the unprecedented 'are we the last humans?' situation in which she's found herself, and the fact that until the fence breach she's basically been backed into a corner by the Sisterhood in the village with regards to her entire life and future - but she's still a bit annoying.  We'll see how the last chunk of the book goes - in the meantime, I'm off to watch another episode of New Girl before bed, because NICK IS MY SPIRIT ANIMAL.  :)
Quote of the day:  "Who are we if not the stories we pass down?  What happens when there's no one left to tell those stories?  To hear them?  Who will ever know that I existed?  What if we are the only ones left - who will know our stories then?  And what will happen to everyone else's stories?  Who will remember those?"
- From The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

The 'Like This, Try This' Challenge
Hosted by Writing My Own Fairy Tale

This challenge pretty much does what it says on the tin: you recommend a book based on another book, TV show or film, and explain why they go together!

If you like Blackfish, the increasingly high-visibility documentary about the plight of orcas at SeaWorld (in particular Tilikum, a male orca now implicated in three deaths at the Orlando park), you should try the book Death at SeaWorld by David Kirby.  It explores various trainer deaths in their fuller context, including the ramifications of keeping and breeding adult killer whales in a captive environment - for example, how their temperaments and lethality towards humans are markedly different to wild orcas.
How's your Day 4 looking?  As always, feel free to link your update post or video in the comments so I can return the visit!

Bout of Books: Wednesday

Bout of Books
Hello fellow readers!  How are you all getting on as we barrel towards the mid-week point of Bout of Books?  All good?  I had another decent reading day yesterday - though not as good as my Monday kickoff - but I'm not sure how much reading I'll get done today.  I'm shopping for my new room at some point today, and applying for jobs as well, so it might be a functional kinda day rather than a good one for bookishness, we'll see!  Let's get cracking...

Books I've read from:  The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan; Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Pages read today:  38
Books finished today:  None
Running total:  1 book; 224 pages 
The menu:  Choc chip muffin, two bowls of mixed tinned fruit, coffee, leftover Domino's vegetarian supreme pizza, cookie, fisherman's pie with peas and sweetcorn, cookie
Today #insixwords: A more practical day... READING FAIL!
11am: Okay, I was up a bit late today (oooops), but I've done a bit of catching up over the READATHON BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS (muffin, fruit, coffee, for those of you as yet uninitiated into Ellie's Readathon Rules) and read my first chapter of the day.  I think we're off to Dunelm Mill now to buy some bedding and stuff so my bed vicinity actually matches the rest of my new room décor, then it's back to the reading...

4pm: ... Ooooor it would have been, if I hadn't then got caught up eating lunch, watching some of the hilariously wonderful The Book Junkie on BookTube (seriously, Veronica's brilliant and enthusiastic and reads all sorts of great stuff, check her out!), then finished filling out the ginormous form and personal statement for a job application... only to find that you attached your CV at the end anyway.  Which has pretty much the exact same information, in a far more concise and intuitive format, and would have taken five seconds to upload on its own rather than the fifty minutes it took to fill out the rest.  DAMN YOU, GENERIC ONLINE FORMS!

9pm: Okay, I give up for today.  I've basically spent too much time doing other shizzle and then playing Candy Crush in between, and even though I've made an effort this evening to read some more of both my on-the-go books, my eyes are getting tired and I'm feeling like internet time is going to happen now.  Ah well.  TOMORROW.  TOMORROW IS FREE AND I SHALL READ.

Quote of the day:  (Enid, on personal ads) "... I remember when I first started reading these I thought "DWF" stood for "dwarf"... I could never figure out why so many dwarves were placing ads..."
- from Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
I hope you all have a great day 3, and as always, feel free to link up your progress in the comments so I can come and cheer you on in return!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Bout of Books: Tuesday

Bout of Books
Mornin' all!   After a pretty good first day of the readathon - I fulfilled my goal for the day, to finish Lamb by Christopher Moore, plus I read half of Ghost World AND watched The Double, based on the Dostoyevsky novella - I've woken up with a headache this morning, so... not such a great start.  I'll do my best, however, and hopefully do another challenge as well because FUN.  For any of you still hovering on the sidelines, this is the last day you can sign up for the week, so if you're sailing in late get on over to the Bout of Books blog, quick!

Books I've read from:  The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
Pages read today:  84
Books finished today:  None
Running total:  1 book; 186 pages 
The menu:  Choc chip muffin, fruit (raspberries, apricots, pineapple), coffee, Domino's vegetarian supreme pizza, cookies, some kind of red juice with pomegranate, grape, apple and other stuff in it
Today #insixwords: Damn you, readathon headache! DAMN YOUUUUU!
10am: Lalala, breakfast, lalala, just gonna watch a few minutes of BookTube while I'm getting rid of this headache and eating, lalala...

11am: Phew, okay, that went well.  Probably time to read now...  Oooh look, Candy Crush!

11:30am: Okay, no more Candy Crush lives.  Ooops, Mum just sent me an email with some jobs to look at.  I can just apply to this one really quickly, it sounds good.

12:30pm: I could probably eat a slice of pizza now, maybe watch another BookTube video, read a couple of blog posts... then I'll be nicely ready to read.  Definitely.


1:15pm: This level sucks.  No lives.  That headache's coming back, I haven't applied for the second job yet because GINORMOUS FORM TO FILL IN and I think I might want a shower now.  (These things aren't related, by the way.)

1:45pm: I made myself leave the laptop alone and stop following the cat around demanding cuddles, and have forced myself to actually pick up The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan before I will allow myself to go shower.  Good call, Ellie, because even though I've only read ten pages (the first chapter) I'm already intrigued and it'll be sooooo much easier to keep reading now I've begun.

4:15pm: FINALLY, I have something worthwhile to report that doesn't involve putting pizza in my face or clearing jellies from an inconveniently tricky board.  I've now read abooooout 30 pages of The Forest of Hands and Teeth - which is already proving very compelling and has these wonderful little "well, that was nicely put" moments, which I always appreciate in a novel.  I'm also showered, so... go me?  I now plan to take some more tablets for my STUPID HEADACHE, eat something cookie-shaped (because you have to feed a headache, everyone knows that) and THEN carry on reading.  So far TFoHaT is a bit of a cross between The Village (the M. Night Shyamalamalamalaman movie) and I Am Legend (the Richard Matheson book), so... yay.

7pm: Maaaaaan, my eyes are tired and that headache's never really gone away.  I HAVE now hit about 70 pages down in The Forest of Hands and Teeth though, and things are getting very interesting.  Our rebellious and intelligent young heroine is in love with a man she can't have, the Sisters that reign over the village enclave are turning out to be crazy sinister under all the praying/tending to the sick and injured, and an actual human bean has just ARRIVED through the never-used gate leading onto the Forest path.  Oh yes.

9pm: Okay, I give up for today.  The headache's still lurking, my eyes are burning and my brain's gone fuzzy, so I think it's time to grab me a drink and a snack and maybe watch an episode or two of New Girl before bed.  I've got to the "Wow, Nick looks like a great kisser... lucky, lucky Jess" segment of season 2, so it's all very addictive.  Night all, get your reading oooon if it's still daytime where you are!  :)

Quotes of the day:  "I return to staring at the fence.  Watching the light slide down the sky, casting crisscrossed shadows on the ground at my feet.  I blur my eyes, throwing my surroundings out of focus.  The fence does not exist when I do this.  As if we are all one world."
"Outside, pure white snow covers the trees and fence, blanketing the Unconsecrated.  It is a bright clear day, the sun sparkling off the ice crystals.  One of those days when you can't understand why there is such beauty in a world that is nothing but ugly."
- both from The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan
One True Pairing Challenge
Hosted by Infinite Ink
For this challenge, we have to share our OTP - the couple we love most and ship hardest in literature, regardless of whether or not they actually pair up in the book(s)!  I definitely have a bunch of favourite ships - mostly from film and TV - but I don't really have an OTP.  I tend to just pick a pairing that I like and run with it for a while.  I do have rules for my fanfic consumption though: the individuals have to be (mostly) in character and in the same fictional universe - no high school reimaginings, for example - and I definitely prefer the M-rated fics because, let's be honest here, you want your ships to get it ooooon. 

Probably the closest I've come to literary shipping (as opposed to a favourite literary couple, which is completely different) is a complete mental mix-up of the Harry Potter universe.  When I first discovered fanfiction this was the obvious place to start, and there are so many characters that it's kind of addictive playing matchmaker with different pairings.  Remus x Sirius would be an obvious one, for example, Draco x Harry (Drarry) is ever-popular, and Hermione x Draco (Dramione) was an early discovery for me (because every good girl needs a bad boy, opposites attract etc etc).  My absolute favourite HP pairing is Remus x Hermione, because AWWWWW.  There are some really good 'Hermione goes back in time and meets the young Marauders' and 'Hermione as an adult falling for her old professor' fics out there, and I LOVE THEM.  Remus is possibly my #1 Potter crush anyway (plus I'm a bit of a Hermione, SO IT ALL FITS), and I like the fact that they're both highly intelligent, bookish and lovely people who've been through some heavy stuff and come out the other side.  They'd make a great couple.  I ship them WAY harder than Lupin and Tonks!
How's your Day 2 looking?  Settling into the pace nicely?  Tell me what you're reading in the comments, and as always, feel free to link your updates so I can return the visit!