Nothing to see here, move along please... yes, that means you, madam, I see you lurking there...

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

My first few reads of 2016

 1.  Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (4*) - Probably don't need to say much about this one, right? Classic vintage children's fare: a charismatic yet dangerous young main character, a small army of assorted children, lots of adventures, some dubious attitudes towards women and Native Americans, a dose of tongue-in-cheek humour and plenty of magic. I actually really enjoyed it!

2.  Knots and Crosses (Rebus 1) by Ian Rankin (3.5*) - I've never read any Ian Rankin before, but I liked this! I especially liked John Rebus - an old-school British smoking, drinking, book-loving, slightly unstable detective - and the way Edinburgh became a character in its own right, from the bright touristy areas right down to the sleaziest bars and most dangerous neighbourhoods. The story itself wasn't the height of excitement, but it was only the first in a very successful series so I think I'll read on, see where the characters go from here.

3.  Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (4.5*) - Now, THIS one had me glued to the pages. It's an eco-pocalypse thriller in which the natural behaviour of animals across the globe starts to shift, including their hunting and feeding habits, and there is a corresponding rise in brutal attacks on humans. Jackson Oz, a young biologist, has been monitoring this for years, but as things escalate it becomes a matter of international importance to finally get the message into the public eye and try to work out what's causing the change. It's been made into a TV series, which I haven't seen yet, and I found the book gripping, infuriating, suitably shocking in places, and oddly plausible.

4.  Very British Problems Abroad by Rob Temple (2.5*) - I really like the VPB Twitter feed (hilarious AND relatable!), sailed through the first book, and then a TV series arrived, and now here's a 'Brits on holiday' book. To be honest all of the above could probably be enjoyed by anyone quite reserved, socially anxious, polite and well prepared - though being British definitely helps. This took me only an hour or two to read, and once again there are some dud entries and some silly editorial slips that really shouldn't be an issue in a book this easy to comb through, but it was fun!

5.  21st Century Dodos: A Collection of Endangered Objects (and Other Stuff) by Steve Stack (3*) - Another British-skewed humour book that could probably be enjoyed by other people too, at least in part.  This one is about objects and concepts on the verge of going extinct (or already long gone) in our modern life: mix tapes, dial telephones, milkmen, Opal Fruits, half-day closing, 10p mixed bags of sweets, chocolate cigars, Smash Hits magazine, Woolworths... Things I don't remember at all, things I must have only ever come into contact with as a tiny child, perhaps at my grandparents', and things that lasted all the way into my early teens and beyond and now wear the rosy halo of nostalgia for me too. Lovely.

6.  Newtown: An American Tragedy by Matthew Lysiak (4.5*) - Oooh, now, this one's a difficult one to talk about, especially knowing how many of my readers live in the US. As a Brit who, like most people here, has never even SEEN a gun that isn't being worn by a soldier outside an army barracks or by armed security in an airport, mass shootings are one of the few areas of life where America, so similar to us in so many ways, suddenly seems like another planet. I found this book fascinating, sad, respectful, compelling and gratifyingly well-balanced. It tackles Sandy Hook from multiple angles - the children and their families, their teachers, the Lanzas, the events of December 14 2012 and the subsequent days in Newtown - before looking at the roles of various elements such as mental health care, media, gun control and community, and the way these elements continue to impact on EVERYONE involved, from those at the heart of the shooting (victims and survivors) out into the town and beyond to the rest of the country. It was hard to read at times - so much loss, pain and rage - and sometimes I had to stop because I was in tears or just needed a breather, but I thought it was an excellent account and surprisingly fair and objective, albeit written in a slightly overblown style that betrays its author's tabloid newspaper roots. Definitely the best book I've read this year so far.

How is your reading going so far this year?  Any particular favourites already?

Sunday, 17 January 2016

24 in 48 Readathon: Sunday

*yawns and staggers in stage left*  Morning everyone!  Turns out yesterday was a great day for writing updates and taking photos and doing lots of other not-actually-reading things, on AND offline - but my page count suuuuucked.  OH WELL!  Today is another day, and with my headache mostly gone and my tooth pain sort of under control for now and my mum out for the day decorating at my grandparents' house, TODAY IS THE DAY FOR READING.  *hops up and down a bit, grabs books and runs out stage right*
Books I've read from: Disconnect: Find Balance in your Digital Life by Thomas Moen and Lars Bratsberger; Newtown: An American Tragedy by Matthew Lysiak; 21st Century Dodos: A Collection of Endangered Objects (and Other Stuff) by Steve Stack
Pages read:  4% of Disconnect; 54pp of Newtown; 4pp of 21st Century Dodos
Menu:  Blueberry muffin and mixed tinned fruit; coffee; vanilla rooibos tea; toasted English muffins with butter and honey; apple; bran flakes with sultanas
10am:  Hey, hey, you know how yesterday I went for a walk and everything was quiet and I came over all Lorelai Gilmore and said I could smell snow?  Well, I woke up this morning and...
NAILED IIIIIIIT.  Only a light dusting, but still...  I didn't get up super-early this morning because I was woken up in the middle of the night by what sounded like a mouse in the roof, busily doing lots of mousy chores like chewing things, running laps, and burrowing.  For an hour.  But NOW I'm up, and I have breakfast, so... let's do this!  I think I'll start with that e-book about balancing your digital life again while I eat, then it's straight back to Newtown after that.  It's not ideal readathon fare - non-fiction and all - but it's so compelling that I don't really want to start anything else!
4pm:  I finally worked up the courage to eat lunch after breakfast set my tooth off again nicely (dentist for me tomorrow, I think - I only had a checkup and clean a fortnight ago!), and I've been SO distracted again, hopping around on the internet - but I've been reading too, which is what matters!  Slowly but surely...
Shame I ended up in the Twilight Zone of my library corner for this photo without realising - it's not exactly a representative image - but look, there's an A.M. Homes novel there!  And Dan Rhodes.  And Stuart Maconie.  And Curtis Sittenfeld.  And a load of James Bond novels!  And a biography of Alfred Kinsey!  *sigh*

~ Wrap-Up ~
Oh dear.  This was NOT my finest weekend, was it?  Not only was I not particularly well prepared - no TBR pile or food stash to get me in the readathon mood - but the arrival on Friday night of an incessant toothache and the subsequent headaches and general annoyance of that didn't help my will to read one bit.  I went for a walk, I played online, I watched YouTube, and yes, I did a bit of reading, but nowhere near my usual readathonny standard.  Damn.

In the end, then, I read a total of 117 pages, plus 18% of an e-book on my laptop, and took part in a couple of challenges.  Most of my page count came from Newtown: An American Tragedy by Matthew Lysiak, a book about Adam Lanza and the Sandy Hook shooting in December 2012.  I also read a couple of entries from 21st Century Dodos by Steve Stack, which is basically a nostalgic waltz through objects and concepts that are on their way to extinction in modern life.  Mix tapes, lighthouse keepers, milk deliveries, that kind of thing.  The final book I read from, the e-book, was Disconnect: Find Balance in Your Digital Life by Thomas Moen and Lars Bratsberger.  Ironic, given how much time I spent playing online this weekend - but I'm genuinely interested in paring back my digital life a bit, so hopefully I'll find some inspiration there!

So,  not a fantastic reading weekend, all things considered.  However, I DID manage to read a bit, despite the relentless ache consuming the entire left side of my head, and I went for a walk on Saturday before the snow arrived, and took a few pretty pictures, and watched a handful of BookTube videos each evening - so I think it was a good one overall!  I hope my fellow participants had a lovely time too!
Thank you so much to Rachel for hosting this readathon - I'll definitely take part again! - and do let me know how you got on and/or leave me a link to your updates in the comments!

Saturday, 16 January 2016

24 in 48 Readathon: Saturday

GOOOOOOD MORNIN' READEEEEERS!  Yes, another week, another readathon, this time of the slightly more intensive variety.  It starts this morning, runs through to tomorrow night, and is basically a 24-hour readathon except stretched to 48 hours so that people can actually eat and sleep alongside their bookish activities.  You can get all the details and sign up HERE.
It's a very good weekend for this here, because the temperature has dropped to below freezing which means BOOK SNUGGLING TIME, plus I've got a sore throat, which means TREAT YO'SELF, and I've also spent the last two days mostly blitzing my poor groaning YouTube playlists that have been slowly growing over about six years, so... looking at a page instead of a screen would be nice, to be honest.  Let's go!
Books I've read from: Disconnect: Find Balance in your Digital Life by Thomas Moen and Lars Bratsberger; Newtown: An American Tragedy by Matthew Lysiak
Pages read:  14% of Disconnect; 59pp of Newtown
Menu:  Blueberry muffin and mixed tinned fruit; coffee; toasted English muffins with butter and honey; apple; sweet tea; bran flakes with sultanas; vanilla rooibos tea
 9am:  Since I can't actually hold a big library book open while eating breakfast, I'm going to start with a book on the very-seldom-used Kindle app program thingy on my laptop.  I only really use it for books that aren't available in hard copy at all, or books that are published abroad that might be £16 for a hard copy and 99p on Kindle - so this is actually quite new for me.  I think it's the first time I'll have actively read a whole book on there!  It's called Disconnect: Find Balance in Your Digital Life by Thomas Moen and Lars Bratsberg, and sounds like just the kind of personal approach I need to try to get my own overwhelmingly time-consuming digital life into some kind of perspective!  Ironically.  *stares at screen while slowly munching a piece of tinned pear*
12:15pm:  Ohhhh.  I've had a nagging toothachey pain the last couple of days, like maybe I've nicked the gum with some sharp food or overbrushed or something, and as of last night it's now happily radiating across my jaw and into my ear and giving me a sore throat.  And it's the weekend, so there's nothing I can do except take painkillers and gargle antiseptic mouthwash and generally just try to distract myself.  ALL THE MORE REASON TO READ A GOOD BOOK, AMIRITE?! 
In readathon news, I've acquired a small ginger cat (she's normally on a radiator downstairs, so this is a rare treat!) and I'm reading Newtown: An American Tragedy by Matthew Lysiak, one of the reporters who was on the scene at Sandy Hook and who later moved to Newtown to research and write his book.  So far so... tabloidy.  I mean, I'm only one chapter in, but 'Newtown is a bed of roses and everyone there is perfect!' does feel like a manipulative opening gambit.  We'll see how it goes.  It's easy to read, at least.  When I fancy a break I'll be switching to Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd, a Persephone book about a lady who's been stuck on a desert island and now returns home, only to find that the country is at war and that it's going to take some readjustment to get used to normal life again.  I've only read a few pages so far but it feels very charming and well-written and right, so I have high hopes!
1.  Where in the world are you reading from this weekend?
My bedroom, in a nice house, in a village in Derbyshire, near the Peak District.  That's smack bang in the middle of England, for those reading across the globe!  Very green, very lovely, almost rural but not quite.
2.  Have you done the 24 in 48 Readathon before?
Yes, just once!  I don't tackle 24-hour readathons quite as well as I used to in my early 20s, so the 24 in 48 version is a nice way of readathonning without destroying my sleep pattern!
3.  Where did you hear about the readathon?
Probably around Twitter or the blogosphere a couple of years ago?  I was reading some old blog posts recently and stumbled across my previous 24 in 48 updates, so it was a good reminder to check the schedule and get the next one in my diary!
4. What book are you most excited about reading this weekend?
I... have no idea.  I'm afraid I'm not very well prepared for this readathon!  I'm just going to use it as an excuse to settle in and read whatever I'm working on right now - a bunch of library books, my January TBR, maybe something like Sex Criminals or Hawkeye if I want to really switch things up?

5.  Tell us something about yourself.
Ummmm.  I like trees and water.  They make me feel calm and ALIVE.  I'm pretty good at naming British birds and am overjoyed that since we moved house we've attracted a little flock of about twelve goldfinches to our bird feeder.  My 'one meal' (that one dish everyone has that's THEIRS, that they know how to make really well) is a really good minced beef and mushroom stroganoff, made with soured cream and nutmeg and served with rice.  When I was little I was obsessed with Buddy Holly (no idea how THAT started), and Everyday is still one of my favourite songs.  Is that enough things?!

6.  Remind us where to find you online this weekend.
On here, obviously.  And occasionally on Instagram, because I love browsing through readathon pictures of where people are reading and what they're snacking on!

2:30pm:  WELL.  As it happens I'm really getting into Newtown; it's moved onto a chapter about Adam Lanza's life growing up, how he got on at school and coped with his Asperger's and the crippling effects of SPD, so the rose-tinted glasses have given way to a more neutral approach for the time being.  Time to go fetch a couple of toasted buttered English muffins with honey, and chop up an apple, and make coffee, and carry on reading!


5pm:  Ugh.  I feel well rubbish today.  After a few minutes of idly playing Puzzle Bobble (Bust-a-Moves, if you had a Playstation), feeling increasingly headachy and all-over-achy and generally crap, I decided that I'd go for a walk again after all.  I've been every day since LAST Saturday, trying to make it a habit and boost my mental health and general fitness levels, but I wasn't going to go today because it's freezing and I wasn't feeling great.  I felt bad indoors as well though, so I thought I might as well go out anyway.  I did a lap around the block - involving a downhill walk past some fields and then a swooping walk back UP the hill past the nearby primary school - and felt better, so I did a second go round.  I think it's going to snow.  Everything feels very still and very quiet, and the sky is very white.  My inner Lorelai Gilmore was inhaling deeply and smiling the whole way.


As usual, I'm reading from my bed, with my sunrise/sunset alarm clock radio lamp thingy on, and the radiator on, and the window open for a bit of fresh air.  I haven't made the bed properly yet so everything's a bit skew-whiff, but I have my books and my laptop and my cushions and somewhere to stash a mug of coffee, so I'm aaaaaaall good.

10:30pm:  Right.  Well.  It hasn't been a stellar day for readathonning, really, has it?  Between the relentless headache and the toothache and the wondering if I'm getting a cold and the walking and the Puzzle Bobbling and all the other non-reading things, I haven't done a whole lot of sticking my nose in a book.  On the plus side, what I HAVE read has been really interesting and quite absorbing, which is probably more important in the end.  It means today HAS been a successful reading day in its own little way - and it'll make it easier to dive back in headfirst tomorrow if all the other stuff has simmered down a bit!  I think this would be a good time to retrieve Millie from under the blanket, get MYSELF under the blanket, turn the laptop off and do a little after-hours reading until I fall asleep.  Until tomorrow, sweet readers!
How are my fellow readers faring today?  All ready to read again tomorrow - or even carry on through the night?  Good luck!

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

Double review: The DUFF

Well, well, well, here we are again.  My first review since leaving the blog behind last Christmas.  This might be a bit clunky - not least because I finished the book a few days ago and have read and watched quite a bit since then - but bear with me!

~ The Book ~

by Kody Keplinger (Hodder Children's Books, 2012)
My rating: 3.5 stars

When I first saw this novel doing the rounds a couple of years ago, I wasn't even remotely interested - mostly because where I'm from, "up the duff" means pregnant, so I thought this was just the latest in a wave of teen pregnancy novels.  I'd never actually looked at the cover carefully enough to see those little words explaining that DUFF actually means "designated ugly fat friend".

Once the movie arrived on the scene and I realised the ACTUAL premise of the novel, I was a bit more interested.  In Keplinger's world (and now everywhere, I guess), the DUFF is the person in any given group who is more approachable, less intimidating, maybe less high maintenance or less attractive.  Although the word becomes more nuanced by the end of the novel, at the beginning our protagonist Bianca is understandably horrified when mid-night out at the local underage club, The Nest, school man-hunk (and man-whore) Wesley casually refers to her as the DUFF and explains exactly what it means.  That cherry coke she dumps down his shirt is well-deserved, is all I'm saying.

The book isn't just about DUFFhood, however, although obviously it seeps into Bianca's life and view of herself in a fairly all-consuming way.  Bianca also has parental issues, with a divorce looming on the horizon and both parents coping badly, as well as friendship drama with her beautiful friends Casey and Jessica.  She escapes from all of this by snogging the face off Wesley, ending up sleeping with him on a regular basis as her conflicted attraction to him drowns out all the bad stuff happening around her.  In the end, of course, she has to finally face everything head-on in order to straighten her world back out in time for a happy ending.

It's clichéd, definitely, and predictable, and all those other things that can drag a book down - but it's also fun and frothy and despite some occasional eye-rolling moments that were probably meant to be clever (like Bianca's world-weary conversations with the bartender at the Nest, who has to 'cut her off' when she gets too maudlin.  IT'S CHERRY COKE, JOE), I did enjoy it.  It's literally the only book I managed to keep returning to while I was studying these last few months, even if it was only for the odd chapter here and there, so it did its job!

One thing I did like about it was the character arcs of the three main characters: Bianca, Wesley and B's father.  Again, this was hardly groundbreaking stuff, but sometimes a gradual reveal of different sides to a person, their darkness and their light, and the way they finally become rounded people instead of stock characters, is really satisfying.  I also loved the way sex was approached in the novel.  These are high school characters, but the sex was unapologetic and safe and real and enjoyable.  Admittedly Bianca is basically using Wesley to get away from her problems - but while the 'why' and 'who' are definitely areas of conflict for her, the 'what' is never questioned.  She's not a virginal teenager being magically deflowered by the high school hunk; she isn't raped; she isn't going to have fun sex then find herself pregnant - she's just having sex with a hot boy because sex is awesome, and that was INCREDIBLY refreshing for a young adult novel.

All in all, I liked the idea of DUFF-hood and the way Keplinger pulls the reader to the realisation that everyone feels like a DUFF sometimes.  I appreciated the frank approach to sex, and the character development of Bianca and Wesley.  It wasn't a new novel, it wasn't ground-breaking or life-changing, but it was positive and fun and an interesting take on the 'regular girl realises her true worth' trope.  Tentatively recommended?

Source: I bought this book from my local Tesco.

~ The Movie ~

Directed by Ari Sandel, starring Mae Whitman and Robbie Amell (2015)
My rating: 3 stars

Weeeell.  This is one of those 'adaptations' that uses the main characters' names, key personality traits and maybe the overarching idea of the plot - but that's about it.  It's not The DUFF in anything but name.  All the sex is gone, the characters' backgrounds and motives are changed, a group of mean girls is added into the mix, and the whole plot is switched up into a makeover story.  It's She's All That except less manipulative.

Mae Whitman, happily, is always a delight, effortlessly pulling off Bianca's dry humour and 'real-girl' vibe as well as rendering some particularly cringey scenes in the middle aaaalmost bearable.  Ken Jeong basically plays Ken Jeong, as usual, and Alison Janney has a lovely time chewing the scenery as Bianca's motivational-speaker mother.  I wouldn't be rushing to recommend this movie, honestly, but the talented cast just about pulls it off and it did make for a fun, frothy, romantic 'rainy afternoon with popcorn' viewing experience, which is sometimes just what the doctor ordered!

Have you read this book, or seen the movie, or both?  What did you think?

Monday, 11 January 2016

Bout of Books: Sunday and Wrap-Up

Bout of Books

It's the last day of Bout of Books 15 - and as usual, it both feels like it's lasted forever, and like it's flown by in about twelve seconds.  Unlike usual, on this final Sunday I'm up early because NOISY CAT and HEADACHE and also JUST PLAIN AWAKE, so I might actually get a decent reading day in again, woohoo!  Let's get started, shall we?  *reaches for painkillers and coffee determinedly*


Books I've read from:  Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge; The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens; 21st Century Dodos: A Collection Endangered Objects (and Other Stuff) by Steve Stack
Pages read today:  156
Books finished today:  None
Running total:  2 books; 846 pages 
The menu: Coffee; pains au chocolat and mixed tinned fruit; Nutella hot chocolate; lasagne with sweetcorn; cocoa puffs with sultanas; vanilla rooibos tea

5:30am:  Yup, definitely an early start over here.  And on a Sunday too.  Ugh.  Aaaanyway, the sky is already starting to shift from navy black to that lovely pre-sunrise blue, and I have coffee, and Domino has ARRIVED, so I'm going to start reading Chapter 2 of The Pickwick Papers and have some headache tablets, and we'll go from here.  More sleep afterwards?  Breakfast?  More reading?  WHO KNOWS?!  When you're up at 5:30am, the options are endless.  Lovely.  :)

7:30am:  Weeeell, that 'going back to sleep' thing's probably shot to pieces at this point to be honest.  More coffee and the REST of Chapter 2 of Pickwick I think.  Also I need to make some review notes and copy down some notable quotables from Knots and Crosses so it can go back to the library, which is something else easy but productive to cross off nice and early.  Might as well start this last readathon day RIGHT.

1pm:  I switched to Zoo a bit ago, after I finished my chapter of Pickwick.  I was GOING to have delicious pains au chocolat for breakfast about two hours ago, but then we discovered a little stray piece of cat poo on the stairs (Domino's so fluffy she doesn't always notice these things while they're actually upon her person) and I accidentally stuck my finger in it when I went to clean it up, SO I kinda went right off the 'gooey chocolatey breakfast' idea for a bit.  I had a good long shower instead, washed my hair, shower gelled the shit out of the offending hand (literally), and NOW I've got pains au chocolat and fruit and coffee for a late breakfast-slash-brunch.  It's aaaaaall good.

So, I'm carrying on with Zoo, and it's getting very interesting as Oz and his fellow scientists try to work out what's going on with the world's mammals.  It skipped forward in time by five years a bit back, just as I was starting to wonder how the story could sustain itself as it was, and now it's getting scientific and political and weird and shocking, and I THINK my earlier theory about what could be happening just turned out to be correct.  Don't you love it when that happens?!

4pm:  Weeeeeell, look at me!  Despite a sore hip from yesterday's walk, I was determined to go out again, because it's a lovely day today, AND because tomorrow it's given rain all day so I probably won't go then.  Anyway, I found a mini route with slightly less steep inclines up and down and walked that.  The views across town were surprisingly good, the clouds were beautiful, the air was crisp...  it was nice.

I'm not gonna lie, my lower back and my hip are now cricked in such a weird way that I feel like I might not be able to move properly at ALL tomorrow, but every little walk should help counter that.  I sort of forgot it was Sunday, and that there would therefore be lots of other people out having a wander too, and I end up trying to walk more 'normally' (straighter, faster) around them rather than walking comfortably.  Ooops.  Still, it was a good excuse to make Nutella hot chocolate and sit down for a few minutes with my book when I got home!

5:30pm:  Yummy.  I set the books aside, and ate lasagne and sweetcorn, and drank coffee, and watched the episode of Being Human where Annie babysits and George tries to get his life in order and Mitchell breaks apart and sobs all over Doctor Lucy and totally gets in her pants.

*licks screen experimentally*

6:30pm:  Aaaaand I fell asleep.  Not to dream of Aidan Turner with his shirt off, tragically, and it was only for ten minutes, but... let's try that 'reading and being awake in the early evening like a normal person' thing again, shall we?  I might listen to Michael Ball's radio show on Radio 2 for a bit while I do a bit of internetty shizzle, then it'll be time to turn off the screen again for tonight's digital sundown.  I'll be ready to go back to my book by then for one last push towards the end of Bout of Books!  And I'll be back tomorrow to add the week's wrap-up onto the end of this post, of course.  Arrivederci, fellow readers!

Quote of the day:  "What I was feeling wasn't even quite fear.  What I was feeling was the fear equivalent of when you're so sad you laugh.  The wheel of fear went around a whole turn, came out the other side.  I thought, well, this is it."
- from Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

~ Wrap-Up ~
We've come to the end of another readathon - so how did I do?  Well, pretty darn well, actually, now you mention it...  I read a total of 846 pages, including the second half of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, all of Knots and Crosses, the first Rebus novel by Ian Rankin, most of Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge, a big chunk of 21st Century Dodos by Steve Stack and two chapters of The Pickwick Papers.  Not bad considering that my 'daily page average' goal in previous years has been to read about 50 pages a day - this week I've averaged a whopping 121 pages a day.  Hooray!  I love getting a new year's reading off to a flying start.
Aside from the reading, I've posted every day, with pictures, stats, challenge entries and reading updates.  I took part in three challenges, the fun 'Would You Rather' challenge (Tuesday), the now practically traditional Rainbow challenge (Wednesday) and the cosy Comfy Reading Spot challenge (Saturday).  I also managed to squeeze in a couple of episodes of Being Human, watching Disney's Peter Pan for the first time since I was a child, going on a couple of nice little walks to start boosting me out of my agoraphobic backslide, a trip to the dentist and a potter round Tesco, amongst other things.  Not too shabby really!

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...  :)

Saturday, 9 January 2016

Bout of Books: Saturday

Bout of Books

Ugh.  Another night where I just couldn't get comfy enough to drift off to sleep...  I ended up having a lie-in until about 10am this morning, despite my alarm being set for 7am so I could get up and do something useful, but... c'est la vie.  It's more important that I get enough sleep at this time of year, potential for seasonal depression and all, so I'm never too worried about what time that sleep happens as long as it does.  Aaaaaanyway, I'm up now, so ON WITH THE READATHON!


Books I've read from:  Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge; The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens
Pages read today:  132
Books finished today:  None
Running total:  2 books; 690 pages 
The menu: Blueberry muffin, mixed tinned fruit and coffee; sweet tea; buttered toast with orange and ginger marmalade; apple; Graze 'chocolate pudding' punnet (sultanas, jumbo raisins and chocolate chips); my stepdad's amazing kedgeree with smoked fish, boiled egg, rice, peas and herbs; cocoa puffs with sultanas; vanilla rooibos tea
Today #insixwords:  'Ellie and Charles Dickens: The Reunion'

10:30am:  We begin the day, naturellement, WITHOUT the call of the laptop but WITH the readathon breakfast of champions: blueberry muffin, fruity goodness, and a small bucket of coffee.  I'm diving straight back into Zoo this morning, because I'm intrigued and worried and puzzled and I'm not quiiiiite sure what's happening.  The sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach (as well as the hefty remaining page count) is telling me that the animal-human conflict is probably going to get a lot worse before it gets better.  Always a good draw to keep turning those pages!

1:30pm:  Oooooh, things are getting really scary in Zoo!  I'm still reading, over a lunch of buttered toast with orange and ginger marmalade (my favourite), an apple and more coffee.  Our protagonist Oz, a young biologist, and his new friend Chloe have just returned from their scary trip to Botswana and are now up against government red tape, disbelieving officials and the awful possibility that the change in animal behaviour may have made it to the US.  Properly, not just the odd isolated incident.  What I like about this book so far is that it combines the best of all elements of a biothriller - intelligent theories, interesting characters, overarching menace and just enough shocking moments to remind the reader that the situation isn't just bad, it's outright terrifying.

4:30pm:  STOP THE PRESSES.  I HAVE BEEN FOR A WALK.  Yes, this IS news, in my world anyway.  Regular readers of this blog and people I've known from days of yore may remember that I left university due to crippling levels of agoraphobia which left me completely housebound.  Obviously things are not at that point any more - I don't have a panic attack every time I go outside - but I've noticed that over recent months I've been deteriorating again to the point where I only really leave the house to hop in the car and visit my sister, or go to Tesco or to the doctor's surgery for my prescriptions.  Even then it's not always voluntary.  It's not good.  My world has narrowed to my room again, and if I'm not careful it will stay that way.  And obviously, this has health implications for everything else too, including my weight, my cholesterol, my bad hip, my sleep patterns, my IBS, my potential for depression... EVERYTHING.

So, I decided to go for a walk.  Just one, little, fifteen-minute, round-the-block walk.  Even then I had to psych myself up for a few minutes first, and I thought about putting it off 'until another day' because it was raining a bit.  BUT I WENT.  Without my phone, but with my camera, because some of my favourite photos that I've ever taken have been a result of happening to have my camera in my pocket at the right moment.  Gently, at a relaxed pace, just enjoying the breeze on my face and the scent of damp trees and earth, for the first time in MONTHS.  I have a bit of a headache now (cold wind whistling in my ears, it's been getting me like this since I was a kid), and I think my dicky hip will feel the sudden switch from 'sitting still' to 'striding purposefully up and down hills', but... I went.  One step at a time, right?

8:45pm: Another readathon day draws to a close... I've kind of faltered a bit with Zoo as the day's worn on (I'm wondering if the title should actually be ZOO, as it's a government acronym in the book now, but whatever), but I HAVE spent a few sweet minutes diving back into the first chapter of The Pickwick Papers.  You may remember that at the end of 2014 there was a readalong of this novel going on, which I was really enjoying.  Unfortunately everyone else, including the host (*eyes Bex sternly*) was bored stiff, and the whole thing fell apart.  After several months of it just sitting there on my bookshelf, I pulled the bookmark on it, and I've decided to start again from the beginning.  This time I'll read one or two chapters a week instead of cramming a ton of them in there (all the better to appreciate the humour and the many stories-within-the-story), PLUS I won't have a blog feed full of weekly doses of hatred for it this time around.  So hopefully it'll be a more positive reading experience all round!

Aaaanyway, I read the first little chapter - reintroducing myself to the key four Pickwickians: honourable Mr Pickwick, romantic Mr Tupman, sporting Mr Winkle and poetic Mr Snodgrass - and now I'm going to turn the laptop off (as per the rules of a digital sundown, which I'm trying in an attempt to counter my ongoing inability to get to sleep at night), read a bit, maybe do some colouring in the fancy Secret Garden artist edition thingy my sister bought me for Christmas?  One more day left, fellow readers!  UNTIL TOMORROW!

Quote of the day:  "Turns out an apocalypse actually comes on pretty slowly.  Not fire and brimstone but rust and dandelions.  Not a bang but a whimper."
- from Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge

Hosted by Once Upon a Chapter

I have two comfy reading spots, kinda.  The most obvious one is, of course, my library corner.  It's got a bright light and books and lots of cushions - including my two new ones, based on Psycho and Beauty and the Beast (the Gemini in me is strong - Disney and death, that's the best way).  HOWEVER, the Ikea chair is not as comfy as it appeared in the store - it tips me backwards so my head's at the wrong angle to read, and it pulls on my bad hip - so I don't sit there often at the moment.  I might have to admit defeat and buy a new chair sometime soon.  Does anyone have a Poang chair?  Are they comfy for reading?

My favoured reading spot at the moment is on my bed.  See the picture of my library above?  Well, on the left hand side there's another set of Kallax cubes, forming the last part of a square 'U' shape of shelving.  On the other side of THAT is my bed.  The library side of the shelves are filled with more books, and the bed side houses some of my DVDs, my sunrise alarm clock lamp radio thingy, my current reads and a heap of backlogged Graze boxes.  I have more cushions, my 'Bee Happy' canvas from our local honey farm, plus lots of natural light from the big window.  Also it's nearer the radiator, which comes in quite handy at this time of year.  :)

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, 8 January 2016

Bout of Books: Friday

Bout of Books

OH HAI LOVELY READERS!  Another day, another frenzy of reading... hopefully, anyway.  I had a better night's sleep last night than I've had in WEEKS (more comfortable, the heating didn't come on and fry me in the night, the cat left me alone), and I've got a fast-paced thriller to return to, so... what are we waiting for?!


Books I've read from:  Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Pages read today:  119
Books finished today:  None
Running total:  2 books; 558 pages 
The menu: Blueberry muffin, mixed tinned fruit and coffee; buttered toasted teacakes; apple; cheese and bacon quiche with peas and sweetcorn; Terry's chocolate minis
Today #insixwords:  Reading sprint increases page count beautifully.

1pm:  Another laptop-free morning in which I read over breakfast, kept going for a while, then had a nice hot shower before heading downstairs to make lunch.  Now I've got a couple of hot buttered toasted teacakes, an apple and a big mug of coffee, and I think I'm going to play a little game of 'see how many pages I can read in an hour'.  The font in this novel is quite big, and the pace quite quick, so I wonder if I'll improve on my average 28-35 pages an hour (which I know from a fair few Dewey's readathon stat updates, haha)?


2:30pm:  Well, whaddya know, I managed to sail in at around 55 pages read in that hour!  And that includes occasional pauses because I was eating teacakes at the same time.  The book is nearly 500 pages long so it's unlikely that I'll finish it today even with the best of intentions, but I enjoyed that little sprint - and it's heartening to know that I can read at a decent clip, with the right book and the right conditions!

Things are getting a bit exciting in Zoo, it's all quite intriguing.  Our hero, a young biologist called Oz, has flown out to Botswana to document aberrant behaviour in the local lion population as part of his theory that some environmental shift is occurring that is pitting animals and humans against each other in increasingly brutal ways.  Naturally, when he gets there, the shit royally hits the fan as he and his guide reach a safari camp to find the place all but deserted and reports of bizarre lion behaviour in the immediate vicinity.  Ooooooooh...

9pm: Or at any rate, it WOULD have been good if I hadn't pissed away the rest of the afternoon playing on the internet.  Well, playing was part of it.  I used to play Bust-a-Moves on my old Playstation as a kid and now I've found Puzzle Bobble, the online version, and it's so easy to play 'just one more game'...  But I'm also doing a bit of a blitz of everything on my laptop/online at the moment, while I have some free time, so I also spent a couple of hours sorting through bookmarked sites and starting to deal with my picture files, both of which are overflowing.  Not reading, but necessary!  I've read enough today anyway, so I'm happy with that.  :)

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, 7 January 2016

Bout of Books: Thursday

Bout of Books

The last couple of days have had their fair share of distractions and I haven't read THAT much - though still way better than recent weeks, obviously - so today I'm going to make a concerted effort to really read.  Laptop off, book open, the way I like it.  :)


Books I've read from:  Knots and Crosses (Rebus 1) by Ian Rankin; 21st Century Dodos: A Collection of Endangered Objects (and Other Stuff) by Steve Stack; Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge
Pages read today:  180
Books finished today:  Knots and Crosses (Rebus 1) by Ian Rankin
Running total:  2 books; 439 pages 
The menu: Blueberry muffin, mixed tinned fruit and coffee; sweet tea; cheese and bacon quiche, peas and sweetcorn; apple; buttered toasted teacakes; cocoa puffs with sultanas; vanilla rooibos tea
Today #insixwords:  Reading thrillers is a GREAT strategy!

12 noon:  I've had another great start to the day, reading over breakfast, ploughing on through the morning, alternating between Knots and Crosses and 21st Century Dodos every time I needed a change of style.  Things are all kicking off in Knots and Crosses - there's been a sudden colossal break in the murder case which has sent the pace rocketing - and I'm on the 'newsagent' section of 21st Century Dodos, which is bringing back lots of memories of old sweets and magazines that I used to get as a kid.  And NOW I'm going to carry on reading with half a cheese and bacon quiche and a heap of peas and sweetcorn, and see if I can finish this book today!


5pm: YEEEES, I FINISHED IT!  It certainly kept me turning the pages towards the end, even though it wasn't the most gripping or earth-shattering finale I've ever read.  One more review to write when this week's over, hooray!  So.... what next?  I was contemplating starting We Were Liars, but I was flicking through the pages and not feeling it so instead I've moved onto Zoo by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge.  It's about a global animal uprising against humanity, it's already been made into a TV series, it's got big font, it's super-easy reading... it screams 'readathon', in other words.  If I can sail through it by the end of tomorrow there'll still be two days left to cram in another book!  I'm going to make some hot buttered toasted teacakes and get stuck in.


9:30pm:  Blech.  The lingering headachy feeling I had this morning has grown and to be honest I'm not feeling amazing - hopefully I'm not succumbing to whatever my family's had, which we've established is probably a bug but mercifully sans vomiting, to my overwhelming relief.  Anyway, I'm still weirdly hungry despite feeling icky, so I'm going to fetch some cereals and tea and watch an episode of Being Human for a bit.  Each one's only an hour long, so I might still have time to read before bed, and hopefully the distraction and something in my stomach will leave me feeling better by the time it ends.  Also, Aidan Turner ALWAYS helps.  Obviously.  :P


Quote of the day:  "Sometimes it was hard to hold onto reality when that reality was overpowering.  The shield came to protect you.  The shield of the breakdown, of forgetting.  Laughter and forgetting." -
from Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

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!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Bout of Books: Wednesday

Bout of Books

Hello, hello, hello.  Well, I'd hoped to read some more last night, all de-internetted and snuggled up, then ended up just zonking out and going to sleep instead, oops.  The perils of a late-night reading plan, I guess.  Today we have just one errand to run - to Tesco's - plus I have a load of laundry to do, and then I SHOULD be able to spend more time with my nose in a book again.  Isn't it nice when your little appointments and things are done for the week when you're readathonning?!


Books I've read from:  Knots and Crosses (Rebus 1) by Ian Rankin; 21st Century Dodos: A Collection of Endangered Objects (and Other Stuff) by Steve Stack
Pages read today:  74
Books finished today:  None
Running total:  1 books; 259 pages 
The menu: Blueberry muffin, mixed tinned fruit and coffee; cold leftover pizza with a little Thornton's toffee fudge dessert pot thingy; vanilla rooibos tea; buttery mash with baked beans; Terry's chocolate minis
Today #insixwords:  "The second star to the riiiiiiight..."

10am:  Helloooo lovely readers.  As has become my habit this week, I've been reading over breakfast today instead of turning my laptop on - and once again it's worked beautifully to get some early pages under my belt before the internetty distractions kick in.  I should definitely keep this in mind once Bout of Books is over, it's been so satisfying.  I don't think I could have managed Knots and Crosses so early, but 21st Century Dodos is PERFECT for not-quite-alert-yet reading!  Domino's been reading with me, which makes it even NICER.

12 noon: I'd hoped to do some reading in the car outside Tesco, since I usually shop so fast that I'm done 20 minutes before my mum and stepdad, but alas, I was thwarted at the final hurdle.  I got onto a till just fine, but the old couple in front of me produced about 12 vouchers at the last minute, several of which WOULD. NOT. SCAN.  So I was in the car all of three minutes on my own.  Dammit.

I did, however, buy two things in there.  I was looking for You by Caroline Kepnes and couldn't see it anywhere, BUT it turns out that So You've Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson has just come out in paperback, so I bought that instead for a bargainous £3.85.  I also bought Disney's Peter Pan on DVD, to celebrate having finally read the book, which proved a bit confusing when the checkout girl was deciding whether or not to ID me for my alcoholic purchases.  Responsible grocery shopping, sensible book, the general demeanour of an 80 year-old woman - yet with the complexion of a 14 year-old and the movie habits of a small child.  :)

3pm: Uh oh.  After my sister had a queasy 24 hours a few days ago, my mum's now got an upset stomach and keeps feeling faint and dizzy - a sure-fire sign that she's picked up a bug of some kind - and now I'm feeling a bit... off... too.  Kind of tender and headachy.  Nooooooo!  I hope fervently that it's just the leftover pizza I had for lunch sitting funny on my stomach or something.  See, not only am I an IBS sufferer, which means that recovery from a tummy bug lasts about four times longer than for most people, but I'm also emetophobic.  My nightmare at this time of year is neatly encapsulated by the word 'norovirus'.  I've managed to avoid it since a run-in with it when I was about 17, but once it's in the household there's only so much you can do... *crosses everything and hopes to high heaven that it's ANYTHING BUT THAT* 

This, only about 80% more urgent.  Possibly with crying.

4:20pm: I have been captivated by #DrummondPuddleWatch.  What even is my life, Jesus Christ.  Someone set up a Periscope webcam on a big puddle across a path in Newcastle, and 19,392 people are literally sitting watching people try to cross it.  Walking across it.  Jumping across it.  Tiptoeing across it.  One guy brought a lilo.  Someone added a 'slippery when wet' sign which a thief just ran past and nicked.  Oh, and it's back.  The comments on the side are ranging from 'fall in, FALL IN' to '#prayforthepuddle' to 'This is a great day out in England'.  I CAN'T LOOK AWAY.  It's even made it into the news.  Oh Britain, never change...

9:15pm: Weeeell.  I ended up reading a titchy bit more this afternoon, then made myself a bowl of buttery mashed potato and baked beans, cracked open the Terry's chocolate minis, and watched Peter Pan.  It was every bit as charming and funny as I remembered, the music is wonderful, and the flying sequences are still a joy, so much more exuberant (and obviously less CGI-y) than the live-action version. 

I also realised that despite not having seen the film since I was about 10, a couple of my vocal 'things' - random phrases I use all the time - come directly from little Michael, cadence and all.  I've done this before, watched something years later and found that I've adopted bits of it into everyday speech without ever realising.  A certain line, a certain phrase said a certain way, and when I stumble across its origin years down the line it's very strange and surprising but also wonderful!  Anyway, I had a lovely time reconnecting with an old favourite, and NOW I'm going back to my book for a little while before bed!

*wells up happily*  IT'S SO BEAUTIFUUUUUUL!

Quote of the day:  "These tourists spent so much time photographing things that they never actually saw anything, unlike the young people milling around, who were too busy enjoying life to be bothered capturing false impressions of it."
- from Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin (ohhhh, how things have changed since 1987!)

Hosted by Ranty Runt of a Reader

I'm going to do both of these challenges - the cover colours rainbow (picture) and the author names rainbow (via an acrostic-type situation).  ALL THE RAINBOWS!

R owell, Rainbow - I've read and loved Attachments so far.*
O rwell, George - I've read Animal Farm and Down and Out.
Y ancey, Rick - I've read The Fifth Wave - soon to be a movie!
G askell, Elizabeth - I adored North and South.
B ryson, Bill - I've read and loved a bunch of his books.
I sherwood, Christopher - I cried at A Single Man!
V izzini, Ned - I have It's Kind of a Funny Story on my TBR.

* Do I get bonus points for managing to cram a third Rainbow in?  :)

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, 5 January 2016

Bout of Books 15: Tuesday

Bout of Books

*flits into the blogosphere merrily*  Afternoon all!  Yesterday was a really good day for me readathon-wise; I finished my first book of the year, and read more than I have in months.  Today has a couple of distractions mixed into it, but should be another relatively open day for reading, so we'll see how far I get with my next novel by bedtime!


Books I've read from:  Knots and Crosses (Rebus 1) by Ian Rankin; 21st Century Dodos: A Collection of Endangered Objects (and Other Stuff) by Steve Stack
Pages read today:  50
Books finished today:  None
Running total:  1 books; 185 pages 
The menu: Blueberry muffin, mixed tinned fruit and coffee; Goodfella's deep pan pepperoni pizza; bran flakes with sultanas; Graze toffee apple punnet; vanilla rooibos tea
Today #insixwords:  A busier day - but reading happened!

11:30am:  HALLELUJAAAAAAH!  I had a dentist's appointment this morning, which always gives me serious anxiety despite the fact that the dentist and his nurse are just lovely, and I WAS OKAAAAAAY.  One very painful but satisfying scale and polish later, and I was set free for another year or so, yaaay!  Anyway, before this appointment I countered my anxiety somewhat by reading over breakfast, and then when I came OUT of my appointment I made the most of the peace in the waiting room to read a bit more while Mum had her checkup.  So far, so productive!


1:45pm: PIZZAAAAAAA! Yes, I realise I'm doing a lot of excited shouting in this post, but ssssssh.  I'm definitely enjoying this Rebus novel so far, though the fact that this seasoned policeman doesn't think to so much as tentatively link a massive abduction/murder case in the city with the cryptic letters he's started receiving is kiiiiind of irritating.  I'm only 40 pages in though, so I'm sure he'll catch on soon enough!

5pm: My reading detoured off a cliff a bit this afternoon, because I was on the radio, wheeee!  Every day on BBC Radio 2 they do a 'non-stop oldies' half hour (during Steve Wright in the Afternoon) where a listener picks the music, and today it was me!  I actually submitted my list a few months ago, so my little bio was a bit out of date, but I still got major household brownie points for mentioning 'my lovely mum'. 
They managed to squeeze eight songs into my half hour - you submit about twenty-five for them to choose from - including two I used to sing in the car with my mum (Circle in the Sand by Belinda Carlisle and I Just Can't Stop Loving You by Michael Jackson), one from car trips with my dad (Keep the Customer Satisfied by Simon and Garfunkel), one my mum detests (Jumping Jack Flash by The Rolling Stones), plus four more that have made it onto my favourite songs playlist over the years!  They kicked off with this one, which I first heard in an episode of Dexter.  Season 1, when Dexter, Rita, Rudy and Deb clear his dad's house and he brings some of the records home?  LOVED IT.  Now I can head off for a shower and go back to my book!

8pm:  Weeell, I think that's my internetting done for tonight.  I've done a bit more reading, eaten bran flakes and watched an episode of Being Human, so I think it might be time to switch off and go back to my book before bed.  Happy reading all!

Quote of the day:  "It was everywhere, crime.  It was the life-force and the blood and the balls of life: to cheat, to edge; to take that body-swerve at authority, to kill."
- from Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin

Hosted by Writing My Own Fairy Tale

Would you rather:
Lend books to someone who dog-ears pages or to someone who reads with cheesy Cheetos fingers?
Dog-ear pages, definitely.  The book might look a mess at the end, but at least it wouldn't be dirty!

Would you rather:
Be able to meet one character of your choice or meet one author of your choice?
One character, I think.  It'd open the possibilities up to all the wise and magical characters out there, people who've had incredible adventures or have intriguing world views.  Obviously, this all comes from the author to begin with, but... what about the things that don't make it onto the page, the things the character could tell you that even the author doesn't know about?  I may be overthinking this.

Would you rather:
Never be allowed in a bookstore again or never be allowed in a library again?
Bookstore, sad though that would be.  A library is ever-shifting, convenient, free, has great facilities, can order books in, is fantastic for the most expensive books and fleeting interests as well as more mundane stock... why would I ever want to be without that option?!

Would you rather:
Have to choose one of your favourite characters to die in their book or have to pick one of your favourite couples to break up in their book?
Oh, break up, definitely.  Life goes on, more fish in the sea, etc etc.  Unless... UNLESS... the character I was killing off was already on that road anyway.  Maybe someone in a terrible situation, or very ill, or 105 years old.  Then maybe, MAYBE, I would think about saving love over life.

Would you rather:
Be required to read Twilight once a year for the rest of your life or The Scarlet Letter once a year for the rest of your life?
I haven't read The Scarlet Letter yet, so I'm going to have to say Twilight.  I really liked it when I read it all those years ago, and it's a quick read, so it wouldn't take up a massive chunk of my reading life even if my feelings about it shifted upon rereading.

How's your Day 2 going?  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!