Tuesday, 3 March 2015

London!

In my past couple of posts I've alluded to an excursion of epic awesomeness which occurred last week in London without actually telling you anything about it, but as I know you like to know details (especially Ellie) here they are. 

On Thursday I had arranged with my lovely husband that he would look after the boys (in preparation for me going back to work in a few weeks) and I would get an early morning coach up to London to meet up with Katie and Laura and do some serious book shopping. Firstly the coach was great. In the beginning there were only about two people on it so I managed to catch up almost the entire section of War and Peace that I was behind on the way there which led to me feeling very proud of myself as I made my way from Victoria to Waterstone's in Piccadilly, where we'd agreed to meet. 

On arriving I had to do a slightly creepy 'stand next to Katie and stare at her bag to check it's her' kind of dance, as all I had to go on was pictures from her blog and the fact that she was wearing a red hat, black coat and a bag with a Louisa May Alcott quote on it. Fortunately it was her and so I avoided being forcibly removed from Europe's largest bookshop. A few minutes later Laura joined us and the shopping commenced. 

I honestly have no idea how I've not been to Waterstone's Piccadilly before. It's massive and amazing and the door to the children's department is a circus tent. I'm going back soon. We didn't spend as much time there as any of us would have liked due to extreme hunger and the fact that Laura and I, when hungry, revert to being small children, but I did buy a couple of books - Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng for myself and Busy Bookshop for the boys. 

After a long trek in the wrong direction for any kind of affordable food, we ended up getting a train back to Leicester Square to eat noodles and debate politics, and I'd just like to add to Laura's point about telling off Katie and I for voting Lib Dem, that we're in the majority at the moment so really it should be us tutting and sighing in your general direction! Ahem. Anyway! Then we were full and giggly and I took these pictures:
Katie, hiding her fear really well (if you don't know why she'd be scared, check out the pictures in Laura's post, particularly the one where Laura and I are making the same face...)

Laura, holding...something?
and we headed off toward Forbidden Planet. Every time I go in that shop I end up with a pile and honestly it was fortunate that I was trying to avoid books from my wishlist or I'd have totally broken my self-inflicted rule of one book per shop! As it was I was all set to buy Marbles:Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me by Ellen Forney (as recommended by countless people during Nonfiction November) when Katie picked up Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh and told me I had to read it. Apparently it's that easy to persuade me, so I obligingly put down Marbles and bought it instead. Really glad I did as I read it (all of it) on the coach on the way home. It did get me some strange looks from my fellow passengers as I sat there giggling to myself but it was worth it!

Then Laura had to leave us, and after a slightly confused moment at Tottenham Court Road, and an equally embarassing bit where I fell down a fairly crowded train because I couldn't find a bar to hold onto, said I was going to hold onto Laura and then didn't which was just as well as she wasn't holding on either, so when I clutched helplessly at her arm while falling down the train she just fell on me instead, to the never ending amusement of the gentleman standing opposite. Oh and then Katie helpfully pointed out that I'd gone bright red, causing me to go even redder. Thanks guys! 

Anyway, after that Katie and I made our way to the Persephone Bookshop which neither of us had been to before and which turned out (unsurprisingly) to be really lovely, despite the staff talking about who had given who their winter vomiting virus.... My favourite thing about Persephone books, besides their beautiful endpapers, is that you have nothing to go on but the blurb in the front. Mostly I haven't heard of the authors and you can't judge by the cover because they're all the same. I tried to buy one (The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett, who I have obviously heard of thus disproving my previous point entirely but you know) but there was a 3 for £30 offer on so I picked up one of my previously discarded titles and I don't regret it for a moment! 

Our final stop was Foyles where we picked up a lot, put down a lot and I bought a beautiful copy of Rainbow Valley by L.M Montgomery, prompting a slight diversion down Anne of Green Gables lane. I really must reread those books and finish off with a first read of Rilla of Ingleside and Rainbow Valley! Honestly I always thought that Laura and I absolutely enabled each other in our terrible buying habits, but I think Katie and I were much worse! Our conversation around Foyles went something like this:

Katie: Do 80p books count as books?
Me: Nooooo. 80p isn't the price of a book. They're definitely not books. 
Katie: So if we wanted to buy some of those 80p Penguins they wouldn't count towards our limits?
Me: No, that would be totally fine. 

And later:
Katie: Does stationery count as a book?
Me: No. Stationery is essential for life and creativity and stuff. It's not a book. 
*Looks at all the stationery longingly*

So looking back on it, maybe it's just me who's the enabler! Sorry everyone I've ever been book shopping with!

Then there was just time to make our weary way back to Victoria where we just had time for tea/coffee and cake before I had to get my coach and Katie had to meet her sister. Oh and it turns out nobody even tried to attack me on the way home so I didn't need to utilise War and Peace as a weapon. Thankfully. 


The top and bottom books were for the boys and Rhys respectively. I had to buy him Castle Waiting Volume 2 after I slightly tricked him into buying the first volume last time we were in Foyles....


Basically what I'm  saying here is that book bloggers are pretty much the best people ever and if you get a chance to meet one, you should, especially if it's Laura or Katie (or Hanna, Ellie or Charlotte). 


Sunday, 1 March 2015

War and Peace Readalong: Week Four


I actually can't believe I'm about to say this but I caught up! As of this time last week I was pretty much a week behind and never actually posted on last week's chapters or read any of the other participants' posts due to warnings about spoilers (for which I owe much thanks to Charlotte - I would have been pissed if I'd found out about certain events before they took place!). Because this book is so long and there's already so much going on I'm just going to answer this weeks prompts and let last week go. 

It's only because I had a 5 hour (there and back) coach trip to London on Thursday that I have been able to catch up and I'm so excited that I'm where everyone else is now - I really didn't want to give up on this book as it's really good and I'm still really enjoying it. 

On to this weeks prompts:

1. Do you feel the tone of the novel changed this week? 

Honestly, this week and last week have all blurred into one for me so I don't think I can really answer this question. Was all the stuff about Denisov last week? If so then this week was less military and more of the personal, social, gossipy stuff (which I really like). 

2. Do you think that the story is uniquely Russian, or could it have been set somewhere else?

I feel like a lot of this is possibly down to the translation... My copy feels like it could just as easily have been set in England in the same period, except that there seems to be slightly more going on in Russian society than there would have been in England at this time. 

3. How about Andrey and Natasha's nuptials? Will they ever get married and do you think it will work out?

After my hatred of Andrei (in my edition) for the first two weeks I actually find myself really liking him now. He seems to have grown up quite a bit and thinks a lot less of himself now than he did in the beginning. I think he's had a bit of a shit time of it to be honest and I don't have a great feeling about whether he'll actually make it back to Russia alive, but I hope he does. I want them to get married, I think Natasha will be good for him. And I hope it works out, but so far the track record on marriages in this book isn't great, is it? 

4. Could Rostov have done more to help out his parents with their financial situation?

More than yelling at the steward guy and then getting more dogs? Yep, probably. It's like he did that and then considered his financial duty done and just carried on with his life as it had been up to that point. I totally get wanting to marry who you want to marry rather than some random rich girl, but I do think he could have lived up to his responsibility as a grown up slightly more and been a bit less childish about the whole thing. 

5. How do you feel about the lengthy hunting descriptions? Did you read the whole thing?

I could have done without them in all honesty. I tried very hard to make myself read them but I felt my eyes glazing over a bit during the whole bit with the wolf getting caught and getting away and getting caught again and the discussion about where everybody was standing. Maybe a little unnecessary!

And once again, I can't believe I caught up! And am nearly 50% through War and Peace. Major life achievement I'd say!

If you'd like to read other people's thoughts on the book you can find them here.

Friday, 27 February 2015

On The Lack of Browsing...

Hi internet! I feel like it's been aaaages since I've posted anything and I miss it. I've been really tied up trying to catch up with War and Peace (I have hopes of reaching where I'm meant to be or just a couple of chapters off by Sunday) so I've not had a huge amount of time for anything else! However yesterday I met up with Laura and Katie in London to visit some bookshops (because we'd never met Katie before - she's lovely- and because Laura and I don't really need an excuse at this point..) and while browsing around Foyles with Katie I was thinking (and talking) about how I don't really just browse in bookshops like I used to before I started blogging anymore.

Image result for hyperbole and a half book
Example: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh which I bought 
just because Katie told me to. (Thanks Katie, I finished it on the 
coach and it's hilarious!)

I know I've read other people's posts on this subject, but I'd never really thought about how blogging has changed my buying habits before and the more I think about it, the more it interests me. For instance, before I started blogging I would walk into the library or bookshop and literally just pick up anything and everything and have a look to see if it sounded good. As a teenager my favourite kind of book haul was lots of authors I'd never heard of before. Now, I tend to stick to authors I already love, stuff that's on my wishlist - generally because it's been written by an author I love or because someone I know, in real life or in blogland or both has recommended it, or authors/books I've heard a lot about on twitter and blogs. Honestly, while my eyes were skimming over titles yesterday I was very conscious that they would only stop when they hit something that sounded familiar for some reason and it unnerved me a little.

I really don't like to think of myself as a restrictive reader in any sense of the word, hence the nonfiction and diversity challenges I've set myself this year and my very loose participation in the Panels Read Harder Challenge. If there's a genre I'm conscious of not reading I will go out of my way to push myself towards finding a book in that genre which interests me and give it a go. I like to say I'm an eclectic reader and actually mean it, and because of that it worries me slightly that I'm limiting my reading choices, even unconsciously. I know there are so many published books in the world that even if they stopped publishing books today I'd still never be able to read them all (I really do know that now, ok mum?!) and I know that because of that I need to be selective about what I read and only read things which really appeal and that I really want to read, but what if, among all those titles I'm skimming over without taking in, there are hundreds of books I do want to read except that I just don't know I want to read them because I never picked them up to see if they sounded good?

A small selection of the books I've bought totally randomly. This isn't all of them but there were nowhere near as many as I expected. Most are based on recommendations or previously loved authors. 
I picked up a short pamphlet about this a while ago called The Unknown Unknown by Mark Forsyth which I know a lot of others have read as well, but he talks about good bookshops as being "a room (or two) where you can find what you never knew you wanted, where your desires can be perpetually expanded." All of the bookshops we went to yesterday were this, but I feel a bit like I'm not using them like this anymore. Don't get me wrong I'm not knocking blogging as an influence on my reading life - without it I'd probably never have read The Night Circus or any Rainbow Rowell, unspeakable thought! - I'm just... trying to be more conscious of how I'm shopping and why. I think I was thinking about it yesterday because I was actively trying to avoid buying things that were on my wishlist as I'm still waiting on my Ninja Swap parcels to arrive and didn't want to accidentally end up with duplicates, and honestly I was finding myself a bit lost with where to start!

You'll see when I post about yesterday's excursion why this won't be a problem for many months, but when I do eventually buy books again, maybe I'll just try to keep it in mind and make my eyes stop on an author I've never heard of before, just to see what happens...

What influences the books you buy? Has blogging changed your buying habits?

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Currently: 22/02/2015

I am not posting as regularly as I'd like to be the last few weeks but I'm busy and life takes priority so oh well. I'll get back to it at some point! The format for my Currently posts I borrowed from Sophisticated Dorkiness.

Time and Place 18:58 on Sunday evening, sat in my armchair (a different one from the one the blog is named after!). 

Reading I am so behind on War and Peace that I'm not posting this weeks update until I have caught up with where I'm meant to be! Charlotte has very kindly warned me of the danger of being spoilered so I'm steering clear, but I plan to have a big binge read of the thirty chapters that I'm behind and catch up! I'm also reading Gratitude Works by Robert A. Emmons. I've been going through it slowly and trying to take it all in and apply some of the stuff to my life. It's interesting reading. Finally I'm also reading Fables: Rose Red by Bill Willingham. This (and The Astronaut Wives Club by Lily Koppel which I just read for book group) may slightly be responsible for how behind I am with War and Peace but I just love the Fables series and they're always good, quick reads so it's hard to turn them down!


Watching My parents stayed this weekend and we watched Topsy Turvy yesterday, which is about Gilbert and Sullivan. Rhys and I are big fans (both of G&S and the film) as we met doing am-dram Gilbert and Sullivan (Patience in case anyone is interested. He was Archibald Grosvenor, I was in the chorus of lovesick maidens. Let the ridicule commence - Ellie I may be looking at you :-p). 


Rhys and I have also been rewatching Our Zoo after our visit to actual Chester Zoo a couple of weeks ago. I really love that series - I don't care if they have no more story to tell, they should make a second!

Listening to the wind outside. It's crazily windy tonight! Kind of makes me wish the estate agent would come and take the sold sign down from outside already....


Blogging This week I posted about how behind I was with War and Peace (nothing changes) and about my February prompt for One Little Word

Recommending this post by the ever awesome Andi of Estellas Revenge on how we should all cut each other some slack and stop competing to be perfect and have it all. Although I'm not too caught up in the pressure to be honest, I do feel that particularly on Instagram I probably come across as having time for everything, whereas what you don't see is that while I was baking chocolate chip scones, my mum spent an hour driving the same car (which didn't fit) up and down the ramp in Ben's garage, and that while I cast on for yet another big knitting project the previous twenty big knitting projects are still stranded, unfinished in bags upstairs. Personally, I'd rather be friends with a person who has occasionally crap days, whose house isn't perfect, who doesn't 'have it all' but who knows how to support people when they're having a hard day or when they feel like all they've done all day is scream at their kids and the house is a mess and they just want to cry. So yes, that. You should all read the post. 

Loving The Ninja Book Swap. Despite the hassle of actually pairing people up and dealing with broken wishlist links and delays and the occasional non-responsive person, I love the swap and I think it's definitely one of the best things blogging has inspired in my life. Without fail it restores my faith in humanity - this time we had over seventy people sign up to spend their hard-earned money making a beautiful parcel for a stranger. How could it not be totally heart-warming? 


Also my family. As I mentioned, my parents were here this weekend, and as we only had the last lingering few boxes blocking up the conservatory and preventing it from fulfilling its planned use (a playroom for the boys) my dad watched Sam while Benji helped my mum and I to unpack the boxes, clean, rearrange and sort all the toys from the living room to the playroom and now both rooms are usable and gorgeous. Without the help it would have taken us about two weeks to get it sorted! 

Making Chocolate chip scones from The Great British Bake Off Everyday. I love the Bake Off books, they always have such deliciousness in them and this recipe really didn't disappoint! I've also cast on for my first jumper for myself. Of course I've picked the most complicated pattern I could 

Anticipating Book shopping in London this week with Laura and Katie! It's always really exciting to meet a blogging friend in real life, and Laura and I usually have silly amounts to talk about. Also we have plans involving Waterstone's Piccadilly (which I still haven't been to!), Foyles (which I love and adore), and the Persephone Book Shop (how have I never been?!). If that wasn't enough I also get four hours (there and back) on the coach on my own to read. 



Thursday, 19 February 2015

One Little Word: February

Some of you may have read my previous posts about my One Little Word for this year, Gratitude. I am posting my thoughts about how my word is impacting my life on a monthly basis and these posts will be a little more personal than normal so feel free to skip them and come back next time (when there will be some books I promise!).

Each month there are prompts to help us think about our words and this months' prompt was a vision board. I used to do these all the time at school but haven't done one in years so it was actually really fun to do one again. It may also have slightly led to a bit of a magazine buying binge, but the less said about that the better! (Plus I discovered some new magazines to be grateful for - see what I did there? It's driving Rhys nuts :-p) Basically the idea is to go through magazines or newspapers or whatever and pull out words and images which you are drawn to. I ended up with so much stuff I could easily make another three of these and I'm hanging onto the rest in anticipation that it will be useful at some point in the not too distant future.



While I was making the board I found myself thinking about my childhood, during which my parents and siblings and I used to do loads and loads of collage making, painting and general craft activities. I started thinking about how grateful I am to have those moments of learning how to express myself creatively when I was a young child, before I became so aware of what I was 'supposed' to think about things and how I was meant to react. Also those craft sessions are where I learned to really talk to my mum and sisters. While we were all distracted doing something else we would chatter away about things - often not anything particularly deep and meaningful - but it helped me to know that these were the people who would listen to me when I needed them to. And also listen to me when I talked (and am still talking) vast quantities of crap.

When I first read about this prompt I was lukewarm towards it. I didn't see how it was going to help me to focus on my word and implement it more into my life, as January's prompts did, but now having done it and stared at it and taken a little time to let it sink in, I'm starting to see a lot of things in it that I didn't notice before. As I was cutting out words I was thinking 'oh great, these are all the things I need more of in my life, this will help remind me to calm down, breathe, make art, simplify etc', and then while sticking everything down tonight I looked at it again and thought yes, these are the things I need more of, but more than that these are all things I already have in my life and need to make space and time to be grateful for them rather than taking them for granted.

Also, on a trivial note, the making of my board itself did not go entirely to plan - first the carefully arranged images fell on the floor as I was transferring the board for sticking, then the spray adhesive was running out and didn't stick properly, and then I couldn't find any decent glue to attach the words with so I had to use PVA which ended up all wrinkly despite my epic efforts to only use the tiniest bit. I decided to embrace it though, and use it as an exercise in being grateful for what I already have! It's not perfect, but not much in life comes out the way we mean it to and a lot of the time it's awesome despite that.

To find out more about One Little Word check out Ali's website.

Tuesday, 17 February 2015

War and Peace Readalong: Week Two


Guuuys, I'm late and I'm behind! I am officially the best at readalongs, although I'm doing better with this than I did with The Pickwick Papers as I've not given up on War and Peace yet! 

I'm thirteen and a half chapters behind where I should have been on Sunday, although that does only equate to just over fifty pages which isn't actually too bad. For this book anyway. Regardless, I'm still enjoying it, just for some reason I've hit that mental block this week which tells me to do anything and everything I possibly can aside from read War and Peace. I think it's something to do with 'having' to read it - my brain still rebels against being told to do things and so as soon as I impose deadlines it refuses to play ball. It's why I have twenty unfinished knitting projects lying around the house. 

I just wanted to throw out there that I'm reading the dreaded edition with all the French in it (Vintage) and once you get used to it it's actually kind of nice. It would be easier if people would just stick to one language (especially during the military bits where they throw in a bit of German for good measure) but it does give you a nice sense of atmosphere in terms of the kind of setting the characters are in. 

I will finish this novel though, I'm determined, so I'm updating for this week even though I've not finished the chapters!

1) Do you feel that the tone of the novel has changed this week? Has that affected your enjoyment?

At least for the first few chapters it did. The military stuff is fine once I get into it, but because it's just stuff about logistics and battles my brain goes 'urgh, borrrrrrrring!' and refuses to engage so I end up doing that thing where I read the same sentence five times and still have no clue what it's about... (are you getting that my brain is like a petulant child? I think it's the house move and all the being an adult involved in owning your own house. The rest of my life has suddenly become very childish)

2) Do you feel comfortable telling other people that you're reading War & Peace?  

Absolutely. Far too comfortable. The other day we were at dinner with friends and my friend passed me my bag and commented on how heavy it was and I was all like 'it has War and Peace in' and pulled out the book, all marked up and everything. 

3) How do you feel about Helene and Pierre's marriage? Happily ever after or mildly doomed?

They haven't got married yet at the bit where I am, but definitely mildly doomed. Mostly because when your father in law proposes for you, that's got to be a problem. Also because of Pierre's constant internal monologue about how much trepidation he has about it. It's like Tolstoy is in the background shouting 'THIS ISN'T GOING TO END WELL!'. 

4) Should Marya have married Anatole or should she have stayed at home with her Father?

Again, this is just about to happen where I am, but probably stayed home with her father because, let's face it, Anatole's a bit of a knob. 

5) Andrei has featured in a lot of the war-related chapters so far. Do you think he'll ever make it to military greatness?

I kind of hope so. I really disliked him in the first bit but I like him a lot more in a military setting. He's still not my favourite but he seems to be less of a twat when he's actually doing something. 

It's probably safe to say that I'm going to be at least a bit behind for the rest of the readalong, but I'm going to do my best to at least vaguely keep up. With other people is definitely the way to read this! (Also blame The Astronaut Wives Club for being really good and taking all my attention!).

Sunday, 8 February 2015

War and Peace Readalong: Week One, Book One


This week was the first week of Hanna's War and Peace readalong and I just managed to finish the chapters in time! Despite that though I'm actually really enjoying it, and, who would have thought, War and Peace, actually quite fun reading. 

Answering Hanna's questions as I'm doing three things at once and totally exhausted! One little quibble though - I really don't like it when they translate people's names. A name isn't a word you have to understand so why translate it? If someone's name is Lise it's Lise, not Liza! 

1) What pre-existing ideas did you have about War & Peace?
That it was going to be reeeeally long and dry with a lot about peasants. 

2) On that note, is it as bad as you'd expected? :P
Nowhere near. I'm actually really enjoying it so far. I've heard it described as the soap opera of the age and I can see that. I love all the gossip and weirdly love the amount of characters -there are enough who appear through a few of the storylines to keep it together but enough diversity that I don't feel like I'm just reading about the same people page after page after page!

3) What strategies are you employing?e.g. reading in short bursts, using your Kindle on your commute, taking notes about the characters...

Reading a few chapters a night. Honestly though I'm finding I actually want to keep reading!

4) How are you getting along with your translation?
Initially I hated it. I'm reading the Vintage edition some people have been having issues with as it's constantly in French so you have to read from the footnotes and it's a little bit disjointed. I thought I was going to have to switch but then my uni brain kicked in and I'm ok with the footnotes thing now. 

5) Most and least favourite characters?

I really like Lise but agree with Hanna's point about Tolstoy's constant reference to her facial hair. Why, Tolstoy? Just leave her alone! I also quite like Pierre and Natasha Rostov.Dislike most of the Princes... Vassily, Andrei, Anatole (is that his name?), Andrei and Marya's dad. He sucks quite a lot. 

6) How do you feel about the way women are treated in the book?
I'm not in love with it. So far the women are the characters I like the most (except Anna Mikhailovna - apologies if I've spelled it wrong - I feel like she's probably a bit of a conniving bitch) and I don't like how people keep treating them like eye candy. And I particularly dislike how Tolstoy patronises Lise/Liza. Poor girl, she's so nice to everyone, can they all just stop patting her on the head and being mean to her?!

I'm excited about next week!