Nothing to see here... Move along please... YES THAT MEANS YOU MADAM... Keep things moving... :)

Thursday, 21 August 2014

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!

Monday, 18 August 2014

Bout of Books 11.0: Goals and Monday

Bout of Books
IT'S BOUT OF BOOKS TIIIIIIME!  And it couldn't come at a better point for me, just as I've finished getting my bedroom decorated and furnished and lovely.  Time for a break and some quality reading time at last - I haven't read a page in a week and a half and I'm starting to get twitchy!  I'm going to head into my reading corner and get started; as always, if you fancy joining us you can find all the information you need over at the Bout of Books blog.  The sign-up Linky's open until the end of tomorrow so you've still got time!
~ My Goals ~

 I'm currently reading Lamb by Christopher Moore, which has been on my reading pile since THE END OF FRICKIN' JUNE, so the absolute top priority for the start of the week is to finish that already.  I've got about 70 pages left, so hopefully by the end of today that'll be done and I can finally move on to a new novel.  I have some library books, as well as my entire book collection back out of boxes and installed in my new book nook, so I'm well set for choices!  My overall aim for the week is to maybe finish... five books?  That would be amazing - but then, I'm also planning on tackling some pithy, fast-paced and potentially SHORT books during the readathon to get my motivation back a bit after nearly a fortnight of not reading at all.  These are just a handful of the books I MIGHT pick up this week:

That's definitely my main goal - reading as much as possible - but I still have a few tiny side-goals that might be fun to achieve if I get the chance.  These include:
  •  Taking part in at least one of the Twitter chats.  I missed all of them during the last Bout of Books, and it made my week feel that bit less sociable and awesome, so I don't want to make that mistake again!
  • I'd like to do at least three of the week's challenges.  They're always fun for a bit of a break from all the reading, and it can be a good way of discovering new blogs too.
  • I really, really REALLY want to get my internet time under control and spend more time reading than messing around online.  It's just too easy to 'pop onto Twitter' and then realise you've been hopping around newspaper websites and blogs and Buzzfeed for two hours!  I say this every time though, and the results have been dubious thus far, so...
  •  I'd like to watch The Double at some point if I feel like a break from reading.  I read the Dostoyevsky novella back in April specifically for this reason, and bought the DVD last week when it came out, AND it's only a 90-minute film so it'd be a good way to tie into the week's bookish theme without reading ALL the time!
  • Ideally I'd like to start taking photos for a set of bookshelf-tour posts now that all my books are unboxed, organised and back within reach again.  The lighting isn't great on that side of the room now (because BOOKCASES!) so it'd be good to make a start in daylight!
  • I'll be updating here on the blog, as well as on Twitter.  My handle is @BlondeBookGirl, and I'll be using the read-a-thon hashtag #boutofbooks.

Good luck to all my fellow Bout of Books-ers - and feel free to leave your links, comments, encouraging words or random book-addled thoughts at the bottom of any of my posts this week and I'll do my best to return the visit!


Books I've read from:  Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore; Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
Pages read today:  102
Books finished today:  Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
Running total:  1 book; 102 pages 
The menu: Choc chip muffin, fruit (pineapple, apricots and raspberries), coffee, Domino's chicken strippers and garlic pizza bread, cookie, tea
Today #insixwords:  A satisfyingly (and surprisingly!) productive start

10am:  Starting off the day by PRETENDING to read while doing the informal intro challenge in my PJs, followed by a lengthy period of time gathering books for the Book Scavenger Hunt then scrabbling around on the floor taking pictures of them trying to get the lighting right.  GOOD START, ELLIE.  Now... actual reading, maybe?

THIS, Instagram celebrities, is what #nofilter #nomakeup actually looks like.
1pm:  That's more like it.  I've read about 20pp of Lamb - so about 50 to go before I finish the book and hit my tentative goal for today - and I have Domino's pizza to celebrate day one of Bout of Books.  The world is good.  I really want to just power on with the book now, because I thiiiiink it's the ending that's been putting me off reading.  *SPOILER ALERT* You know it's not going to go well, y'know?  Like when I went to see Titanic when I was 12 and *MORE SPOILERS* got more and more anxious as the minutes went by because I knew it was all going to be traumatic.  COME ON, ELLIE.  READ.  YOU CAN HAVE A COOKIE AFTER.
Pizza-ordering restraint is a life skill I have yet to master.  Pizza for every meal!  For three days!  YES!
4:30pm: Chicken strippers and most of a garlic pizza bread eaten, two giant mugs of coffee consumed - and I FINISHED LAAAAAAMB.  So happy right now, even though Sarah totally fibbed on Twitter and said the ending wasn't too bad and it actually destroyed me a little bit.  You don't have to be religious to feel like you've been kicked in the gut when someone gets crucified and stabbed with a spear and DIES while his best friend is forced to watch.  It was hideous.  The epilogue redeemed the misery a tiny bit but I was still reeling from the preceding few pages so... dammit, Moore.  The book was amazing, by the way.  Funny and irreverent and warm, yet also strangely respectful for a novel basically inserting kung fu, exotic travels and all sorts of other fun stuff into the life of the most famous individual who ever lived.  *fist-bumps Christopher Moore* *goes back to glaring at him in faintly betrayed manner*
11:30pm: I am so pleased with how I've done today!  Not only have I finished Lamb and completed my first challenge of the week, I've also read about half of Ghost World by Daniel Clowes, which was completely off-TBR but felt right, and then settled in this evening with a bowl of fruit and a mug of coffee (and Millie the small ginger cat) to watch The Double.  It was trippy and stylistically beautiful and very dark, yet also blackly funny and managed to cram in cameos by two of Richard Ayoade's fellow IT Crowd cast members, three actors from his previous film Submarine, plus poet comedian Tim Key.  Oh, and Jesse Eisenberg's a frickin' tour de force, as always.  Very happy with my progress so far, especially given that I haven't read a single page in so long and have mainly been watching BookTube videos and New Girl this past week or two!

Quote of the day:  "Joshua went down the steps to a low-ceilinged room with a mosaic floor and small windows cut high in the walls.  Joshua's mother and brother James had joined the apostles.  They all sat there against the walls, their faces turned to Joshua like flowers to the sun, waiting for him to say something that would give them hope." - from Lamb, right before Joshua is arrested in Gethsemane and taken to trial

Book Scavenger Hunt
Hosted by The Book Monsters

Such a fun challenge to kick of the week!  This involved finding books to fulfil five prompts, either using our own shelves and a camera, or the magic of the interwebs.  Here are mine:

1.  A book that begins with 'B' (for Bout of Books!)
For this one I've gone for Battle Royale by Koushun Takami, one of the biggest books on my shelf but also one of the ones I think will be most exciting and easy to speed through like a maniac.  It's basically a bit like The Hunger Games, with a classful of Japanese students being abandoned on a desert island by a totalitarian government to fight to the death until only one is left.  I haven't seen the film yet, but as soon as I'm done reading I'll buy a copy!

2.  A book that has been made into a movie or TV show
I have SO MANY pairings to choose from on my book and DVD shelves, but I chose We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver.  My sister tried to put me off reading it after they were allocated it during a book club at school (whaaaat), but I finally read it last year and it was without doubt my favourite book of 2013.  Wonderfully written, completely absorbing, extremely thought-provoking - and the movie, starring the always-fantastic Tilda Swinton and Ezra Miller (two of my favourite actors full stop) is beautifully made too.  HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

3.  A series you love
I haven't read one of these in ages - and I haven't read beyond #4 full stop, in fact - but I LOVE the Southern Vampire Mysteries by Charlaine Harris.  I love the kooky humour, I love the darkness and sensuality of Harris's supernatural beings, and I am maaaaajorly Team Eric.  Obviously.  I used to read them on days off from work, curled up in bed, and really want to reread the ones I've already enjoyed and carry on with the series this autumn and winter!

4.  An anthology of poems or short stories
I don't really buy poetry anthologies - mostly single-author works - and I don't usually enjoy short stories either so I tend to get those from the library unless the book's something special, but I DO have this old copy of The Nation's Favourite Poems.  It's a BBC book from when I was much younger - ten or eleven, maybe? - and it contains some of my favourite poems of all time, including 'She Walks in Beauty' by Lord Byron (which I can happily recite on command), 'Sonnet 116' by William Shakespeare (ditto), 'Ozymandias' by Percy Bysshe Shelley (KING OF KINGS), and the rather less high-brow but bloody brilliant 'Please Mrs Butler' by Allan Ahlberg, which was a staple in my classroom in year 2.  We'd all join in on the last line with great merriment.  "BUT DON'T ASK MEEEEEEE!"  Ahhh, memories.  :)

5.  A book on your TBR shelf, or your full TBR shelves
This is more a hastily-grabbed mini-sample of my current TBR - which is pretty much every book on my bookshelves.  All seven new bookcases' worth.  I HAVE A PROBLEM OKAY?!  Anyway, here's a few from the top of the heap: A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby (because then I can justify buying the movie); Packing For Mars by Mary Roach (yay space!); Richard II by William Shakespeare (so I can finally start watching The Hollow Crown); And the Hippos Were Boiled in their Tanks by Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs (so I can watch Kill Your Darlings - are you sensing a theme here?); We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (which needs to go back to the library soon); A Single Man by Christopher Isherwood (ditto); The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan (same again); Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell (because I've had it forever and I LOVE the movie) and Geek Girl 2: Model Misfit by Holly Smale (because I read the first one in June and don't want to wait forever to read the second!).

How did you get on today?  Starting slowly, or firing on all cylinders?  Feel free to link up your update/goal post in the comments so I can return the visit!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

July book and DVD haul

So hey, remember when I posted my June book/DVD/library/ Harry Potter/birthday haul a month late and then promised to get my July one out within the next few days?  Yeaaaaaah, that didn't happen.  I have literally not read a page in well over a week, nor have I been near the blog, because life suddenly got BUSY.  I have spent a large amount of time sanding, wiping down, painting and glossing every surface in my bedroom, followed by lugging furniture around, a trip to Ikea, two days of putting up flat-pack shizzle, MORE lugging stuff around, getting every book and DVD I own organised and onto my new bookshelves, unpacking random boxes of crap from when we moved a year ago, and getting the carpet cleaned so everything was shiny and new and done. 

Time for a break?  NOOOO JOB APPLICATIONS.  I spent another two or three days intensively making over my old C.V., template cover letters and all that stuff, a further day emailing everyone because I was panicking about getting in too deep with a particular job, and ANOTHER day filling out the world's most elaborate online application for a DIFFERENT job as well.  Let's just say having Bout of Books week ahead of me is a sweet, sweet siren call to go back to my reading and relax a bit.  IN MY NEW LIBRARY CORNER.  Which I shall talk about more in a later post, but YEAAAAH.

This gives me so many happy feels, it's ridiculous

So, let's get into the new stuff, shall we?  First up, a few random things I picked up over the month.  I still haven't read A Game of Thrones, but because I plan to read it soon and I don't want to have to wait to buy the next one if it's amazing, I got ahead of myself and bought A Clash of Kings, the second in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, from Tesco.  £3.85 for a book this size?  NOT GONNA ARGUE WITH THAT.  The second book I bought in July was from one of those Book Depository 25-hour sales where they put a new book up at a crazy-low price every half hour; I snapped up Hatching Twitter by Nick Bilton, the story of the people behind Twitter and how it became the phenomenon it is today.  I think it's basically The Accidental Billionaires (or The Social Network, if you saw it in movie form) but for Twitter.  The reviews make it sound compelling, anyway! 

My other miscellaneous buy early on in the month was The Angel and the Soldier Boy, a vintage half-hour animation that's sort of in the same vein as The Snowman - no talking, beautiful music, gentle style, old-fashioned animation, appeals to everyone - only this one has a HAPPY ending.  It's about two little toys, an angel and a soldier boy, and their adventure trying to retrieve a girl's birthday coin after it's stolen by a gang of pirates from her new picture book.  It came out around the time I was born, and I watched it all the time at my grandparents' house as a child; it's so ripe with nostalgia for me that when I found in on YouTube about a year ago and heard that music again, I burst into tears!  I was actually tracking down a copy to buy for Bex and her boys as part of her 'yay new baby!' package, but I ended up finding a woman with a stockpile of the DVDs and bought one for myself as well.  If you want to check it out, it's also on YouTube; the first part is here.  It's well worth it!

My sister gave me her copy of Dear Me, a collection of letters written by celebrities to their sixteen year-old selves, because she didn't know enough of the names for it to mean that much.  Ohhhh Hannah.  Some of the more 'mystifying' examples she offered during my bemused questioning about this were Debbie Harry, Simon Callow and Baz Luhrmann.  BAZ LUHRMANN!  Clearly, she did not DESERVE to own this book, so it is now mine.

Around the same time, YALC happened as part of the London Film and Comic Con, and both Jess and Rachel were there hobnobbing with authors and befriending other book folks amidst the chaos.  They'd very kindly offered to take my copy of Matt Haig's The Humans with them to get it signed; unfortunately we didn't get that sorted in time, so instead they very sweetly bought me a copy of his new book Echo Boy while they were there and got it signed AND dedicated.  I was so overwhelmed when they 'fessed up, and again when Rachel arrived at my house with it, especially given how much work Matt Haig does for mental health awareness.  Did you know he tweeted me when I was super-depressed and struggling earlier this year?  DUDE ROCKS.  Thank you so much ladies, it means the world!  :)

This book should have been in one of the other pictures, but I FORGOT because I was already reading it - so instead, here's a photo of it with some delicious jellybeans, outside on my sunlounger, while it was still July and sunny instead of August and chilly/cloudy/rainy like it is now.  It's Caitlin Moran's brilliant new novel, How to Build a Girl, recently seen ALL OVER THIS CORNER OF THE INTERNET thanks to Emily's readalong.  I didn't take part officially, but I bought the book, read it, read all the blog posts and commented like a maniac, so... basically I was the world's laziest participant?  ALL THE READING FUN, NONE OF THE PESKY WRITING ABOUT IT.  As I said in my July wrap-up, the novel was hilarious and philosophical and just wonderful, I loved it!
Obviously, being a functional grown-up, the next books into my house were shiny new copies of Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.  Matilda's one of my favourite childhood books anyway, and I have a totally legit crush on Willy Wonka, so I was bound to acquire replacement copies sooner or later, and Tesco had a whole new shelf full of children's classics on a 2-for-£7 offer, so... DON'T JUDGE ME.  Another week, another 2-for-£7 deal (is it just me or do most of my books seem to come from Tesco at the moment?), this time in the form of The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey (highly recommended by Katie) and Little Beach Street Bakery by Jenny Colgan.  I already have (or have read) all of her other foodie novels, and Bex really enjoyed it, so it had to be added to my shelves eventually.  Lalala, no willpower ETC.
Aaaaand then I went to Meadowhall.  While my mum and grandmother literally scoured Marks and Spencer from end to end (vouchers to spend, THEY WERE IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL), I managed to hit numerous fun places by myself, including HMV, Waterstones and The Disney Store (like I said, GROWN-UP).  While I managed to resist the urge to buy a Pascal beanie toy or a glittery Princess cup (GROWN-UP), I did have a tiny splurge in Waterstones and an even tinier splurge in HMV.
First onto my mini Waterstones pile was Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell.  I actually already have a copy, but it's old and a bit nasty and I wanted the beautiful PMC edition to go with my others.  I think I'm going to love the book, if it's anywhere near as good as the movie (which is one of my favourites for a rainy day), so I didn't mind investing in a nice copy!  Next up was Barracuda by Christos Tsiolkas; I had it from the library but it had to go back before I read it, and I was faiiiiiirly confident I was going to like it, based on the synopsis (it's about a talented young swimmer who has a meltdown) and how much I enjoyed Loaded back in 2012.  I was actually done there, but the lady on the desk helpfully pointed out that I had one half of a BOGOHP deal and asked if I wanted to pick something else as well - so I did.  I decided to hit the YA table for my last choice and went for We Were Liars by E. Lockhart, a book I've seen buzzing like crazy around BookTube recently.  It looks pretty fast-paced, so it's definitely a potential read for Bout of Books this week. 
Finally, despite going into HMV with a list of movies I was looking for, pretty much the only one I found was Nowhere Boy.  It's a biopic of the young John Lennon starring the divine Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and it was only £3.99, which is a bargain even in an Amazon world.
That's it for my July buying!  I've been fairly good in August so far - just a handful of things trickling in, mostly because I've been so immersed in all my own books and DVDs while I've been organising my library - so I might include those things in my reading wrap-up for the month instead of giving them their own post, who knows?  There's still time for me to fall off the wagon yet.  :)
Have you read or seen any of these already?  Anything I should push right up the pile?  And would you all be interested in a series of posts comprising a full bookshelf tour, now that all my books are finally out of boxes and back on proper shelves again?  Let me know in the comments!

Friday, 1 August 2014

A Book a Day in July: 25th-31st

It's time for my last Book a Day post, based on a Twitter project called #BookadayUK, where bookish types tweeted their responses to a series of daily prompts.  Talking about the books here on the blog instead means I haven't had to worry about the 140-character limit, and I've been able to group days together; click on the links to read my answers for Days 1-6, Days 7-12, Days 13-18 and Days 19-24.  This post also contains the second 'lucky dip' day, in which Doubleday invited prompt ideas and then Tweeted the chosen question on the day itself.  :)

Here we go!  Feel free to leave your recommendations in the comments, and head over to Twitter to read other people's responses to each of the prompts...
July 25th: Book that is your guilty pleasure
I don't have guilty pleasure reading - just pleasure reading (or not-such-a-pleasure reading, as the case may be).  For the sake of this question, however, I'm going to assume 'guilty pleasure' means froth and fun, something light and super-easy to read when you need a pick-me-up.  This is actually quite seasonal for me; in summer my go-to is something like Jenny Colgan's 'food novels', and in winter maybe the Hannah Swensen mysteries by Joanne Fluke (also food-related, with Hannah running a cookie café and all!).  Click the links for my reviews of Meet Me at the Cupcake Café and Strawberry Shortcake Murder.
July 26th: The novel you wish you'd written
It's got to be the Harry Potter series, hasn't it?  It made reading cool, got kids immersed in books, changed people's lives, spawned massively popular tourist attractions, moved onto the big screen...  Just about everybody in the entire world knows the name of the Boy Who Lived, and it all started with one woman having an idea on a train, writing in cafes and a dingy Edinburgh flat, with no money and a baby daughter sleeping beside her, bringing this epic magical story into the world.  Amazing. (My mini reviews of the first two books)

July 27th: For National Parents' Day - the best/worst parents in fiction
Ooooh, this is a difficult one!  I think the 'best parent' award has to go to the iconic Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird (my double review).  He's a hero in every sense, and perfectly treads the fine line between helping Scout and Jem find their way in the world and allowing them to work things out for themselves.   The 'worst parent' award is trickier, but in the end I went for Eva Khatchadourian from We Need to Talk About Kevin.  Not only did she play a significant part in turning her son into a monster by quite blatantly detesting him from birth, she THEN had a second golden child and fawned all over her, rubbing her lack of affection in Kevin's face every day for years.  Ugh.  Special mentions go to Margaret White from Carrie (my review) for being a crazy child-beater, and Mr and Mrs Wormwood from Matilda (my review), who quite frankly just shouldn't have been allowed to reproduce.

July 28th: Favourite animal character
I'm going properly old-school with this one: I absolutely adore little Plop, from The Owl who was Afraid of the Dark by Jill Tomlinson.  He's a baby owl who gets frightened when his parents go off hunting every evening, so he goes on an adventure to find out all the cool things about night-time.  He meets all kinds of people and creatures, and by the end he isn't scared any more!  Our teacher read us this book in Year 2, and when it came into the shop nearly twenty years later it was so lovely reading it again and looking at all the beautiful illustrations.  :)
July 29th: Favourite likeable villain
Shiiiiiit.  Another prompt where I just can't settle on an answer!  Okay... I'm going to have to go with Dexter Morgan, from the Dexter series by Jeff Lindsay (my review of the first book), because 'serial killer who channels his instincts into destroying bad guys and has a wonderfully playful dark sense of humour' is about as likeable-villain as they come.  Outside of Tom Hiddleston's Loki anyway, and he doesn't count because FILM.
July 30th: LUCKY DIP - A book you've been inspired to read by #bookadayUK
For the first time, I actually don't have a single thing to contribute to this one!  To be honest, I haven't been keeping up with the Twitter feed that diligently, apart from occasional days when I've checked out other people's responses for inspiration.  It's been more fun being reminded of characters and books I already love, and books I definitely want to read sometime, rather than discovering new ones.

July 31st: The book that reminds you of someone special
I'm going to mega-cheat on this one, because I have three that immediately spring to mind.  The Life of Birds by David Attenborough was a Christmas present when I was a little girl because I was always mad-keen on birds and loved the TV series; my mum is a life-long Attenborough fan, so every time I see this on my shelf I think of her.  Dolphins by Jacques-Yves Cousteau was actually her book when she was younger and is now mine, and really speaks to my love of the ocean and sea creatures; I actually seriously considered pursuing marine biology at one time!  And finally, The Forsyte Saga by John Galsworthy, which my dad bought for me on my birthday trip of awesomeness to Scarthin Books years ago, where he let me loose for several hours and bought me a pile of books at the end as my birthday present.  I loved this TV series (with Damian Lewis and Rupert Graves), sailed through the novel, and the Wordsworth edition of the book is about the only one that keeps all three volumes of the saga together so I still have the same copy on my shelves all these years later.  Every time I see it, it reminds me of that birthday!
If you've enjoyed all this, the good news is that #BookadayUK has been taken up for another month, this time by the Siobhan Dowd Trust.  Check out their Twitter feed or follow the project hashtag to join in for August!  The first prompt is "most arresting opening line"...

Aaaand that's it!  I hope you've enjoyed my #BookadayUK posts this month - and tell me, what would you have picked for some or all of these last few prompts?

Thursday, 31 July 2014

July mini reviews and what I'm reading now

Good grief, another month's gone by already!  It's terrifying how fast the weeks are flying by at the moment.  This month's been a fairly slow one for reading, partly due to a duff book choice making me not want to read that much (oops) and partly due to a few long days spent prepping and painting my bedroom, usually finishing at around 7:30pm, by which point all I've wanted to do is flop down somewhere comfortable with a DVD.  Still, the next Bout of Books is coming up next month, and I'm back in the swing of things a bit now, so hopefully August will see more books being toppled from my ever-growing to-read list...
~ What I Read ~
The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave 1)
by Rick Yancey
This one took a really long time to read, for some reason.  I started it on holiday at the end of June and didn't finish it until about a week into July, even though it's really good and quite the page-turner.  Seriously, I don't know what happened this month!  Anyway, I've had the book for ages, the sequel's coming out soon and it's also being made into a film, so it seemed a good time to read it - and I wasn't disappointed.  It's a fascinating alien apocalypse story mostly focussing on an isolated survivor called Cassie.  Her parents are dead, her little brother has been taken to an army camp somewhere, and Cassie has no idea who are the good guys or the bad guys any more.  Instead she is focussing only on her goal of being reunited with little Sam, however dangerous that journey might be.  I really enjoyed this; I thought the characters were interesting, the extra-terrestrial invasion was well thought-out and compelling to read, the inevitable love storyline was pleasantly secondary to the wider plot, and the seeds have been sown for a complex and exciting sequel.  I've already preordered my copy!  4 stars.

How to Build a Girl
by Caitlin Moran
If you've been around this corner of the internet at all over the past few weeks you can't NOT have noticed the readalong going on right now.  I'm not officially taking part, but I bought the book and read it anyway (because CAITLIN MORAN), which means I can at least read everyone's posts and join in the discussion a bit every week!  This is a semi-autobiographical novel about Johanna, an awkward, bookish but wonderfully spirited teenager living on a Wolverhampton council estate, who reinvents herself as Dolly Wilde, a wild-child pop culture fiend, in order to get a job in music journalism and earn money to help keep her family out of abject poverty.  It's absolutely hilarious, brutally honest and deliciously earthy, and I've underlined half the book; there are so many brilliant one-liners, beautiful little philosophies and moments of painfully real political and social commentary.  Love, love, love. 4.5 stars!

A Match to the Heart: One Woman's Story of Being Struck by Lightning
by Gretel Ehrlich
This would be the duff book I mentioned.  I've been reading it since MAY - it was that month's choice for my TBR Challenge - and jeeez, it's been hard going for such a tiny book.  It sounded so fascinating, but sadly what I EXPECTED from it turned out to only be a small part of the book as a whole.  When Ehrlich is talking about the science of lightning, about the mechanics of a lightning strike, about its effects on the human body, about the medicine behind recovery from such a devastating electrical surge - all this is SO interesting.  Unfortunately a large proportion of the book is instead devoted to restless, self-indulgent, self-absorbed, faux-spiritual wallowing, and in these moments the author often plunges into prose so purple it actually made me laugh a few times.  It was like reading bad teenage poetry.  I've included an excerpt below to illustrate the kind of moment that literally had me laughing aloud - suffice it to say, I wouldn't recommend this one.  2.5 stars, purely for the on-topic interesting bits.

"Our large sleeping tent, staked farther up the slope, was shaken by the glacier's detonations and echoing thunder all night.  I wrote in my journal by flashlight: "I feel as if I were a fish feeding at the crumbling edge of the universe."  I wanted to wear clothes made from that place - perhaps an auklet feather skirt - and sleep on the white fin of an orca."

LOL, whatever.

~ What I'm Reading ~

Now that I've finally finished slogging through the Gretel Ehrlich, I've switched my attention back to Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore.  I've got about 120 pages left and it's SO GOOD.  Philosophical and hilarious and tongue-in-cheek and naughty and just utterly fantastic.  After that I have a couple of library books on their last possible renewals (oops), and after THAT I'm probably going to read Keep the Aspidistra Flying by George Orwell, which I've mentally earmarked as my next TBR Challenge choice.  I've seen the Richard E. Grant adaptation a few times - it's one of my favourite rainy-day movies - so it's really about time I read the original!
How was your reading month?  What was your favourite book of July?  And what are you reading to kick off August?  I hope you're all having a wonderful summer!

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

A very belated book, DVD, library, belated birthday AND Harry Potter Studio Tour haul!

This post has already been through two incarnations - as a June haul that didn't get posted in time, then as a June/July bumper extravaganza that got too long...  In the end I decided to just make this a very belated June post, and my July version will be up in a few days!  So, June... not only did I get three belated birthday gifts, but I also hit the library for a new armful of books, bought some shizzle myself, and went on the Warner Brothers Making of Harry Potter Studio Tour, which obviously included a browse round the giant gift shop!  Let's dive straight into the goodies, shall we?

First up was the arrival of a mystery Amazon box from Charlotte, who was on holiday over my birthday and sent this amazing parcel when she got home!  Quite frankly, more celebrations should be spread out over a lengthier period of time - it just makes the fun last longer.  She sent me A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, which sounds HILARIOUS, The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker, which has had rave reviews across the interwebs, and topped it off with season one of New Girl on DVD, which I'm all set to start as soon as I've finished my current on-the-go box sets.  I've seen occasional episodes on TV and enjoyed them, but E4 mixes sitcoms up so much that I usually end up buying a box set just so I can see the story arc in order!  Plus I feel like a fraud every time I use a New Girl GIF here on the blog without having seen it properly, so... y'know, no more guilt there.  Thank you Charlotte!  :)

Sometime early in the month I hit the library in Chesterfield again - more choice there - and picked up a bunch more books.  I've already read and loved Boys Don't Knit by T.S. Easton (read my mini review here), and am looking forward to the upcoming sequel.  I snapped up And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks by William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, both as a complementary read to set against watching Kill Your Darlings, and also because Tristan at Tattered Reader serendipitously good-reviewed it around the same time.  I really enjoyed Loaded by Christos Tsiolkas (review here), so I picked up his latest, Barracuda - but that's since gone back to the library and been replaced by my own copy, as you'll see in my July post!  I'm fairly sure I've had We the Animals by Justin Torres out of the library before, but for some reason didn't read it.  And finally, I picked up Sane New World by Ruby Wax, about mental health and mindfulness, which has had rave reviews everywhere but which I was a tad sceptical about buying until I'd checked it out and read some of it for myself.

June was also the month of my mini road trip down to London with my sister to go on the Making of Harry Potter tour at the Warner Brothers Studio, Leavesden.  We were meant to go in February but had to rearrange because I just wasn't up to it - depression and all - so we were both so happy to finally be there!  Aside from all the props and costumes and general wow-factor, this obviously also entailed a good scout round the huge gift shop, yaaaaay!  As well as our pre-bought souvenir guides (which are really lovely by the way, gorgeous pictures) and the cool character tickets (mine had the basilisk on it), I also bought a pretty and seriously heavy-duty Time Turner keyring, a Ravenclaw postcard, chocolate frogs for me, Hannah and my mum (they're huge!), and a hardback copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.  I've been meaning to buy hardbacks of the earlier books anyway, and this one has a Studio Tour seal on it which makes it a nice souvenir.  The bookshelves were so awesome too, piled high with everything Potter in multiple different editions!  I was going to buy a house cushion as well but there were no Ravenclaw ones left - fortunately WB has just revamped its online shop so now there's loads more to choose from, including the cushions, so I might get my hands on one yet!

Next up, the second of three belated birthday parcels to arrive - this one all the way from Kayleigh in Australia, yaaay!  She sent me a tea birthday card (because ENGLAND), a lovely letter, a Luna Lovegood sticker (she looks like a really cool fairy, actually) and a beautiful Indian leather notebook.  Not only that, but she went out of her way to find an interesting Australian book that I wouldn't be able to get hold of easily here, and sent me Trouble: Evolution of a Radical / Selected Writings 1970-2010 by Kate Jennings, even though she mentioned that she'd have loved to have read it herself.  KAYLEIGH YOU ARE SO LOVELY.  I'd never even HEARD of Kate Jennings, but I do love me some smart lady-writing and this collection looks fantastic.  Thank you so much!

I picked up a few things for myself as well, of course.  I bought The World According to Clarkson vol. 5: Is It Really Too Much to Ask? by Jeremy Clarkson, because despite him being deliberately controversial and letting his mouth run away with him on television, he DOES write very funny columns and his WAtC collections are great for dipping into when no other book will do.  I gave up trying to find a copy of Filth by Irvine Welsh - I bought the movie in May and wanted to read it first - and ended up ordering it from Amazon, and while I was at it I also ordered Mean Girls and Dracula season 1 on DVD.  I'm sure I've seen Mean Girls before, years ago, but didn't really appreciate it at the time, and Dracula just looks so... decadent.  I couldn't resist!

Aaaaand lastly but definitely not least(ly), I got another birthday parcel!  A really heavy box arrived and Mum was like, "Oh heeeeeeeell no what have you bought now?" and I was slightly worried that I HAD bought stuff - but then I opened it and it was actually a big shoebox (naturally) crammed with stuff from Hanna!  Obviously she won me over immediately with THREE DIFFERENT BAGS of Jelly Belly jellybeans, two of which I can't get for love nor money down here away from a big city.  Ice Cream Parlour flavours and CHOCOLATE DIPPED BEANS?  Oh yes.  Not only that, but there was a cheery little solar-powered daisy (he's so happy!), Teapigs chocolate flake tea, AND two books.  HANNA YOU HAVE OUTDONE YOURSELF. 

The first book-shaped parcel contained Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, a rave-reviewed YA novel about two loftily-named boys who meet by chance, instantly bond, become best friends and - I'm assuming - have some sort of adventure.  The second was Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son by Lori Duron, which documents her journey towards accepting and embracing her young son's rejection of male gender stereotypes, and her subsequent personal and political battles to encourage others to follow suit.  I've read excerpts of the book before, and also stumbled across Lori's blog, and being hugely interested in gender issues and the futility of shoving people into perfect little boxes, I can't WAIT to get stuck into this one.

Thank you so much to the three wonderful friends who managed to extend my birthDAY into more of a birthMONTH - don't you just love those?! - and as I mentioned, my July book shopping will be laid bare for you sometime in the next few days...  In the meantime, if you've read and enjoyed any of these already, do let me know in the comments!