Monday, 30 July 2012

Mini Readathon Wrap up Post

I'm doing the wrap up post for this readathon, even though I barely participated. I do really love the button for it though - so cute and summery and BEES! My sisters and I had this thing for a while where we threw bees at each other whenever we were pretending to be annoyed... I think it was from one of the Robin Hood movies. I can never remember the full stories behind these things, though, and just end up looking mad...Anyway! Moving along, here are the wrap up questions!

1. How many books and/or pages were you able to read? 
Pathetically, I read about 50 pages of The Taste of Sorrow, and 10 of Yes Man by Danny Wallace. Even after I said I was going to start reading, I got distracted by Olympic swimming (yay, Rebecca Adlington!), so I really didn't get as much done as I wanted, but such is life.
2. About how many hours were you able to read for? (Were there many distractions, breaks, etc?)
I would say that in the end I only really read for approximately 4 hours. There were ALL THE DISTRACTIONS.. house cleaning, Olympics watching, dinner making, sleeping....
3. Do you have any likes/dislikes about the 12-hour readathon, compared to a 24-hour readathon?
If I'd remembered to start earlier in the day 12 hours would have been perfect I think. I really struggle with the 24 hour one although it is great, I would love to try the 12 hours again, hopefully with more success next time!
4. Favorite and least favorite books that you read today? Favorite / least favorite challenges? (Not that there were many, but if you want to comment about any of the ones from past mini-readathons feel free to do so).
I really like The Taste of Sorrow. I did have to stop reading it last night because it was depressing me, but in its' defence, it is about the Bronte's, and their story is pretty sad which I knew before I started. I'm having a bit of a hard time with Yes Man, which is weird because I love Danny Wallace but this one just isn't grabbing me like some of his others have. 
5. Do you have any suggestions for things you’d like me to do differently for the next mini-readathon?
It all seemed pretty great to me! :-) 

Despite my enormous failure in this readathon, it has had the great effect of making me inspired to participate in more readathons, which is something I'm always meaning to do but then I feel bad about neglecting my husband (who says he doesn't mind, especially at the moment, because it means he gets to watch more football/play Fifa on the Wii without anybody whinging at him that it's boring...), so I don't. BUT Ellie tweeted about the Bout of Books Readathon this morning, which is a week long, so I'm going to give that one a go I think!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

Summer Mini Readathon!

So, today is the day of Sarah's mini Readathon, for which all we have to do is read for a 12 hour block at some point starting today... I will be honest, I forgot about this until about 3pm, mostly due to being awake since 6am entirely against my will due to baby related kicking. Then we went to some car boot sales, and then I got home and thought, 'oh yeah, readathon!'. And so here I am. I am starting now, which means that I would be finishing approx 7.30 am tomorrow morning. Obviously due to pregnant (30 weeks today!) tiredness, I will not be reading the whole 12 hours, but I will be attempting as much as I possibly can! I've just started The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan, about the Bronte's and so far it's really great, so I'm hoping to make a bit of progress with that. 

For fun, and to set me up, here are my answers to the first mini-challenge questions!

1. Tell everyone three random things about yourself:
- I am obsessed with Mars Ice Creams and KitKat Chunkies
- I really, really hate coffee
- I go through very obsessive foody phases. This is one of them.
2. Is this your first readathon?
No, but I don't do anywhere near as many of them as I'd like! And so far I've only participated in Dewey's 24 hr Readathon twice, and never any longer ones. 
3. Do you have any specific goals for today? (# of books or pages to read?) No. I'm starting so late that if I get anything read at all it will be a huge bonus!! 
4. Do you have any specific snacks, drinks, or books planned? Books - The Taste of Sorrow (as mentioned above), and if I don't feel like that, Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties by Lucy Moore, which is great and which I've been reading for weeks, so it would be good to get closer to finishing that! No specific snacks, but I'm about to have roast dinner, and there are also Mars ice creams in the freezer... And then there's biscuits. Always biscuits. 
5. What hours do you plan on reading during? 7.30pm GMT - 7.30 am GMT. Not continuously, but at various points between... Next time I promise to start earlier!

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Catch Up: Mini Reviews!

I'm soooo bad at keeping up with reviews at the moment, so I thought I'd do another post with a few mini reviews to keep up to date with a few books that I enjoyed but don't have too much to say about. So, here goes....

French Lessons by Ellen Sussman
Set in Paris and divided into three stories, French Lessons is the story of three French tutors and their pupils. Over the course of a day it follows three characters whose lives seem very separate; Josie, an American French teacher mourning the death of her lover, ex-pat Riley, feeling isolated from her husband and with very limited French skills, and Jeremy, the husband of a wealthy film star. 

The cover makes it appear light-hearted and to an extent it is, but it also goes deeper. By the end of the novel, the stories have become intertwined, and it really is about the power that people have to help other people, even if they are strangers. French Lessons is fluid and well written and pretty absorbing - I read it straight through in pretty much one sitting and it made me happy because it was really about love, and I'm a bit sappy and secretly adore love stories, especially the ones with happy endings. 

A copy of the novel was sent to me by the lovely publishers, Canvas.  

The Patchwork Marriage by Jane Green

Jane Green is one of my favourite authors of the 'chick lit' variety. Her last novel, The Love Verb, had me in absolute floods of tears by the end, and while The Patchwork Marriage wasn't quite on the same level, it was still pretty great. Green's novels always have a great atmosphere of family about them, and this is particularly interesting due to the subject matter. 

When Andi meets Ethan, she thinks that she has met the man of her dreams but although his younger daughter, Sophia, is prepared to let her play happy families, his elder daughter Emily makes things very difficult. Just when Andi thinks she has had enough, a huge event shatters all of their lives and makes them all question what is really important to them.

The thing I enjoyed most in The Patchwork Marriage was the dynamic between the characters; all of the relationships, even the upsetting way in which Emily sometimes treated Andi, felt real to me, and throughout it seemed to be about people fighting for the things they loved and believed in, and Jane Green does passion very convincingly. She also portrays annoying, self obsessed teenagers in a wonderful way, which makes me think that she probably has some experience... Although hopefully not with any as awful as Emily is at various points! The book was pretty much what I expected, and I will definitely continue to be excited about everything she publishes!

I bought a copy of this book.

One Moment, One Morning by Sarah Rayner

I know you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but the cover of this made it seem like it was going to be much lighter than it was. Basically it is centered around the events which take place one morning on a train; a man collapses and the novel deals with the fall-out of this on three characters; his wife, her best friend, and the girl who was sitting next to the couple on the train. Through the events that take place, they become involved in each others lives, and basically, it's about the importance of friendship, and about letting people in.

Sounds a bit schmaltzy, I know, but it really wasn't. Although the novel hangs around  a horrible event, it really isn't as dark as it should be, and it is a pretty good depiction of people's reactions in an extreme situation. Sarah Rayner is also pretty good at showing how one event can have a ripple effect on various other people's situations, and how something pretty unrelated to your own situation can make you rethink your own life.

I was given this book as a birthday gift.

We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee

The film of this recently came out. I haven't seen it yet, but I do plan to at some point. I like this kind of memoir - where people do something other people see as being crazy and then write about it, and I like zoos, and I like Devon (where the zoo is), so it seemed like it would all be good from the get go, and it was.

The book pretty much does what it says in the title; Benjamin Mee and his family bought a zoo. A totally run down, failing zoo which was in tons of debt. The book is the story of how they turned to zoo from a failing wreck into a successful business. Also, it has tigers and escaping jaguars and wolves, so that's great. I really like animals, and Mee's writing style is very relaxing while still being quite immersive. I read the book pretty quickly and it's definitely staying on my shelves!

Thank you Hanna, first for reviewing it and making me want to read it, and secondly for sending it to me! :-)

Apologies for the awful book pictures (and total lack of picture for One Moment One Morning), I've done too much today and should be having a nap but just really wanted to get this finished and posted, as it's been far too long between reviews!!

Sunday, 22 July 2012

The Sunday Salon - Books for Baby #3

Yay it's finally sunny! This week's been pretty awful, as I've been stuck inside since Friday morning pretty much due to some dizziness/baby related problems. Hopefully it's all fine now, but I've been ordered to rest lots, which I hate because as soon as somebody tells me I have to do something, I immediately want to go out and do the opposite. Today I've finally managed to get out for a bit though and we went for a wander around shops and suchlike (bought shoes for the hubby, maternity clothes for me, all the fun stuff!), but it did inspire me to do another Books for Baby post, as it's been a while since I've done one! There are more books that I've been given but I haven't got the energy to find them at the moment, so I'll do another post at some point, catching up on all the books I've missed! 

Anyway! The books in the picture:

The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson was sent to me by the lovely Laura of Devouring Texts. She sent me a book for RAK and really kindly included one for bump! Thanks again! :-) 

We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen & Helen Oxenbury. I got this today from Waterstone's as I still had some money left on giftcards and I figured I'm not the only one who should benefit from having lovely relatives! Also, it's a board book, and so actually suitable for him from pretty much straight away! Rhys has never read the book, so I think he'll have a great time doing the actions and making all the noises :-p 

I know that a cardigan is not a book, but this is my first proper knitted garment. I've been making it over the course of the past week or so and I'm really quite proud of it. It isn't perfect, but for a first attempt from somebody who can't sew at all it's not at all bad I think! Also I love the elephant buttons - we discovered an awesome haberdashery lately which has just aisles and aisles of cool buttons and I fell in love with these!

I've not read too much this week, probably because of the feeling horrible. I'm still in the middle of Anything Goes: A Biography of the Roaring Twenties, which continues to be great and really informative, and I'm reading Danny Wallace's Yes Man, because I wanted something to cheer me up. Also today I'm going to start The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan, which is about the Bronte sisters. Lots of non-fiction, and lots of jumping from book to book, but I'm not feeling too settled at the moment (terrified of the imminent having of baby over 100 miles away from all family members and most friends!), and I think my reading is reflective of that!

In other news, all the silly Goodreads drama this week has made me want to switch to LibraryThing, and I'm currently in the middle of uploading all my books to it. If you've not heard about the drama, I'm not going to reiterate it as it's just generally ridiculous, but it was stressing me, so I've removed myself from the situation, and so far LibraryThing seems much more relaxed so I'm happy! 

Hopefully the wonderful weather will stick this week - it would be nice to be able to have a barbecue on the beach one evening, but that's probably wishful thinking! Hope everybody's Sunday is going great!

Friday, 20 July 2012

Review:- Maine by Courtney Sullivan

I am (sigh) at home, again. Resting, again. Waiting to see a doctor later today about my continual dizziness, which will undoubtedly be due to the way that the baby is growing or something, but we shall see. Anyway, in the mean time it seems like a good opportunity to actually get to reviewing the awesome that is Maine.

Maine is a book I bought for a couple of reasons; primarily that I had Waterstone's vouchers burning a hole in my pocket, but also because they were talking about it on Bookrageous a while back and it sounded like exactly the kind of thing I needed to read at the moment!

Basically it's about three generations of women in the Kelleher family spending the summer at their beach house in Maine. Currently, we are having pretty much no summer here in my part of the UK (yesterday, it was a bit hot and a bit sunny, and every single person I saw was wearing shorts and either eating ice cream or wearing a sun hat. I kid you not), so I loved the chance to sun myself vicariously which this book afforded me. I'm a bit annoyed because I'd already half-written this review once, but I did it on little scraps of paper and inevitably lost it and had to start again. Not happy, but there we go, turns out there is a reason not to write stuff on tiny scraps of paper!

Courtney Sullivan (published in the U.S & who is also on Twitter as J. Courtney Sullivan. Why?) is really, really good at writing characters and relationships. Really, this book didnt particularly need anything else. It pretty much just sticks a bunch of women from the same (fairly dysfunctional) family in a house together and leaves them to fight it out. I'm sure that a huge amount of effort went into making the story and characters seem so effortless, but they really do.

There are four central characters. Firstly Alice, the matriarch, an (ex?) alcoholic still attempting to recover from the death of her husband, a family tragedy from the past which she has never recovered from, and the fact that she never really wanted to be a mother. She spends the entire summer at the house in Maine, and is joined for various periods by various family members. Her granddaughter Maggie is the first to arrive; newly single and pregnant, trying to decide what she is capable of. Then there is Alice's eldest daughter, Maggie's mother, Kathleen, struggling to reconcile the raging alcoholic she used to be with the person she now is, and trying to come to terms with being back in the house which she swore she would never return to. Finally there is Ann-Marie, married to Alice's idolised son, Patrick, she has invested huge amounts of time and energy on being 'the daughter Alice never had' and fitting in to the Kelleher family.

There is another major player in the background of the novel, which almost deserves to be mentioned as much as any of the characters, and that is alcohol. Alice's children's childhood was pretty impacted by her drinking. To an extent, Kathleen's own children then ended up in a similar situation. Maggie doesn't allow herself to really drink, in case it has the effect on her that it does on her mother and grandmother. I was going to say that Maine asks us to question how much we actually have control over our actions and personalities, but the more I think about it, the more it seems that the issue really is not that but how difficult it can be for people to cope with situations and to control themselves. Is the way that we are as human beings - the way that we react to things, the way we interact with each other - purely dependent on how we allow ourselves to be?

At the moment I like to write about books that I have an emotional response to, and i definitely responded emotionally to Maine. Probably because it is pretty much about mothers and their daughters, and obviously motherhood is something I spend quite a bit of time thinking about lately, but even outside of that the characters are just brilliantly created. None of them are simple; not even Ann-Marie, who seems like she should be. They are all very complex and driven by some very involved motivations. People harbour resentements and hold grudges over events which happened 20,30,40 years previously in a way that they only can in families, but equally there is a stage for every character in the story, where they realise that there are lots of things they don't know about the people they are supposed to know better than anybody.

I don't want to talk too much about specifics, as I don't want to ruin it for when you read it (which you should, becaue it's awesome), but it is kind of a redemption story in a lot of ways. All of the characters are, at the beginning o f the story, trapped, either by something from their past or by aspects of their lives in the present, which crushes them in some way. Throughout the novel they are, in their various ways, trying to work through their issues and become liberated.

I loved the complexity of the characters; how much of a bitch Alice could be, how entirely impossible and inappropriate Kathleen was at times, Ann-Marie's obsession with posessions... They were like people I know, who are brilliant and lovely and fun and awesome, except when something happens which they react to in an entirely unexpected way and you sit there thinking 'is this really x?' (x being the person in question). They were just the right amount of annoying that it didn't get in the way of the enjoyment of the story.

I could go on about Maine forever,but instead I will just say that it is definitely going on the list of favourite books of this year. It was both relaxing and stimulating and I really didn't want it to end!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Giveaway Winners!

I couldn't think of a way to draw winners for this giveaway, so in the end I resorted to literally writing people's names on scraps of paper various amounts of times according to how many extra entries they had, and then pulling names out of a hat! Some people have won things, some people haven't, but do not despair because I'm still not done with the book sorting, so I am SURE there will be another extravaganza soon. (Mostly just because I like the word extravaganza, although it's difficult to type. I always have to double and triple check myself...)

Anyway! Winners!

Prize #1 - Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult has been won by Judith

Prize #2 - The End of Mr Y and Popco by Scarlett Thomas has been won by Tanja

Prize #3 - The Other Boleyn Girl and The White Queen by Philippa Gregory has been won by Hanna 

The winners have been contacted by email and have until the weekend to respond so that I can send their books out! :-)

Monday, 16 July 2012

The Amazing Baby - Clearout Book Giveaway Extravaganza!

As many of you may know, we're expecting our first baby in October (woo! Yay! Awesomesauce! etc), and this means that I *sob* am having to finally bite the bullet and actually clear out some books. During the process of doing this I discovered that I have a few duplicates of books which I adore, so I thought I'd pass them on to some of you lovely lot! 

None of them are new, but all are in good condition, and they are all brilliant books!

The first book I have up for grabs (awful expression, always brings to mind crabs and their big scary pincers for some reason...), is a hardback copy of Lone Wolf by Jodi Picoult. I bought this because I love Jodi Picoult and just couldn't wait, and it was brilliant. You can read my review of it here, but I don't like to keep hardbacks as they take up too much space, so there you go! It has only been read once and is in great condition. Unfortunately this available for UK entrants only, as last time I posted a hardback to America it cost me about £12. That was way back last year, postage has gone way up since then, and I am just not that rich, sorry! Don't despair though, the next two prizes are open internationally!

The next two prizes are pairs of books by two authors that I love. 

People may have heard me going on (and on, and on , and on) about my love for Scarlett Thomas' books, and I have a habit of just buying her books wherever I see them. Currently we have three copies of The End of Mr Y  in our house, and so I am donating one of them, along with a copy of her codebreaking, anti-capitalist novel of awesome, Popco to one lucky person. They are both seriously worth reading - if you want a synopsis, titles link up to Goodreads!

Finally, people keep giving me Philippa Gregory novels that I already own, and so I'm sharing the love. The third prize I have available to everybody (ignore the terrible edge-of-table picture) is two of Philippa Gregory's novels; The Other Boleyn Girl, and The White Queen. I loved them both!

The Rules
  • To win Lone Wolf you must live in the UK. For the other two prizes you can live anywhere in the world
  • You can enter to win any or all of the prizes
  • Enter by leaving a comment on this post including your email, which country you are visiting from, and which prizes (1,2 and/or 3) you want to win.
  • You can get an extra entry by following me (@fairybookgirl) on Twitter. Include your Twitter handle in your comment!
  • You can get another extra entry by tweeting about the giveaway. If you do this, please include my Twitter handle in your tweet so that I know you've done it!
  • I will contact the winners by email on Thursday 19th July. They will have until Saturday evening to respond, when I will pick a new winner. 
Spread the word! Tell your friends! I really need the space!

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Sunday Salon - Fact or Fiction?

At the beginning of January I made a ton of great resolutions (who doesn't?). I really did intend to keep them, but I have to admit that I haven't looked at the list at all between when I made it in January and now. Some, such as my book buying ban, I have drastically failed at (I think I made it three weeks this year...). Others, like the Amazon ban, I am still doing brilliantly with, although the missing of Amazon (which I hate myself for) has started to kick in, purely because I often wish I could afford to send people more books than I can, and nowhere else is quite so cheap as Amazon for new books, but oh well. There are worse things. 

The one I really want to do better with in the remainder of the year is reading more non-fiction than last year. In 2011, I read a grand total of 10 non -fiction books, most of which were of the memoir genre, so they made up approximately 6.5% of my total reading. This year I've so far only read 1/3 of the amount I read last year (I blame baby having and other such disruptive things in my personal life), but still eight of my 55 have been  non-fiction! This is astonishingly better than I though, and Alison Bechdel is mostly responsible for making me read non-fiction without realising :-) 

While I've been sorting out my books to make space for the baby, I've discovered that I've got some awesome non-fiction on the shelf that I really want to read. I figure the only way to effectively work it into my reading is to run a non-fiction book alongside whatever else I'm currently reading. I'm not sure if this will work, but I plan to try it this week. I'm currently two thirds through Maine by Courtney Sullivan, which I bought with some of my birthday Waterstone's vouchers, and which is brilliant, and alongside it I want to start reading Anything Goes: a Biography of the Roaring Twenties by Lucy Moore.
This is a fairly sizeable hardback with a beautiful cover which I bought while we were on honeymoon back in September. I got a little bit obsessed with the twenties last year when I read Tender is the Night and then again after reading Their Eyes Were Watching God earlier this year, and I also really want to read this for the Mixing it Up Challenge, so I'm going to start and see what happens!

Here's a little list of the non-fiction that I already have and would like to get through in the next few months, more as a reminder for me than anything else:
- Yes Man by Danny Wallace (currently reading)
- Join Me by Danny Wallace
- Under the Tuscan Sun by Frances Mayes
- Books, Baguettes, and Bedbugs by Jeremy Mercer
- J.M Barrie and the Lost Boys by Andrew Birkin
- Mrs Beeton's Household Management by Isabella Beeton
- Toast by Nigel Slater
- At Home by Bill Bryson
- Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction by Tom Raabe
And finally one which doesn't yet count, as I don't currently own it but am DYING to read it,
- Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl by Donald Sturrock

Also just as a by-the-way, I'm going to be running another awesome giveaway of books this week. While sorting out for the baby, I've found a fair few duplicates in great condition, plus another book which is pretty much brand new and which I just don't have space to keep, so keep your eyes open! :-)

Rhys is at work until about 9pm, so exciting plans for the rest of the day include; finishing my first person shaped piece of knitting and hoping it ends up looking like a hoodie, not a mouse hideaway, cleaning the house, doing laundry, and many other such exciting things! If I can find the inclination, I may even go visit the sea. Hope you're all having a great Sunday!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Review:- The Cookbook Collector by Allegra Goodman

This is not a review of any of the things I *should* be reading, but just of a book that I picked up totally on spec from the library and fell in love with. You have been warned. 

I've recently discovered that I'm truly awful at writing synopsis (synopses? plural?), so here's one I borrowed from Goodreads:
Emily and Jessamine Bach are opposites in every way: Twenty-eight-year-old Emily is the CEO of Veritech, twenty-three-year-old Jess is an environmental activist and graduate student in philosophy. Pragmatic Emily is making a fortune in Silicon Valley, romantic Jess works in an antiquarian bookstore. Emily is rational and driven, while Jess is dreamy and whimsical. Emily’s boyfriend, Jonathan, is fantastically successful. Jess’s boyfriends, not so much.
National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author Allegra Goodman has written a delicious novel about appetite, temptation, and holding on to what is real in a virtual world: love that stays.

The Cookbook Collector was one of those books that I saw on the shelf and suddenly knew I just had to read, and I knew that if I didn't take it home with me then I would start seeing it everywhere until I did. So I did, and I started reading it, and about three quarters of the way through I stopped and added everything Allegra Goodman has ever published to my wishlist. That's how much I loved this book. 

It isn't that the plot of the novel was entirely outstanding or totally unique, or that the characters were the most impressive I've ever come across, but just that this was the first book that I've read in a while where it all just came together seamlessly and felt true. I had no disbelieving moments with The Cookbook Collector, and that is very rare for me. I could envisage everything that happened, and the fact that I have little to no knowledge of internet security companies, which form pretty much the entire background to the Emily half of the story, didn't matter. 

I liked the Jess/George parts of the story most, even though I could predict the ending pretty much from the beginning, because I liked how much Jess was fighting the predictability. Also, they involved a rare book store, and a huge number of old cookery books, so obviously that appealed. Also, most of you will know that I am a little obsessive about books containing lots of descriptions of food, and this had them in abundance! 

The relationships in the novel were really well developed and three dimensional – there was a lot to keep track of. Although the ‘everybody persecutes Jess who is just trying to live the dream/work out what she wants to do with her life’ model is a little overused, I didn’t mind it here. Mostly because I do like the idea of being an ‘eternal student’, but I can’t afford it, so at least through books I get to live vicariously. Which is kind of the entire point I’m making I think; for me, The Cookbook Collector was just under 400 pages of vicarious living. Jess has the ideal job. Getting to spend all day reading old books in a beautiful house? Yes please!

I love that people in this novel got to get up in the morning and sit under a blue sky, without backache or sleep deprivation, and eat beautiful food (not a leftover Cadbury Brunch Bar because the milk went out of date yesterday and they forgot to buy more yet), and feel that the world was full of discoveries and possibility. Bitter about the side effects of pregnancy? Me? Never... 

But in all seriousness, the book dealt with some difficult issues as well; the fallout of 9/11 for one, and issues with family identity, and did it in a very sensitive way, so that these huge events just blended in to the already existing story rather than standing out from it in a hysterical manner, as has been the case, especially with 9/11, in some things that I've read. I felt a little sorry for Emily, as she kind of gets the rough end of the deal, but in the end I felt that it was a more accurate representation of real life because of that. Not everything goes well all the time for everybody. Sometimes things are really bad, and then when you think they can't get worse, they do. Other times, everything is totally brilliant, like this book. 

So there we go. The Cookbook Collector; go read it :-) 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Sunday of Domesticity...

I feel especially domestic this Sunday - I've not read much today so I thought I'd share some of the other things I've been doing, especially as I've been doing them:
a) while wearing a dress
and b) with an increasingly (and I'm talking bigger by the day here) big baby bump
I'm actually starting to feel like a pregnant person in the last week or two, and bump is getting heavier and more obvious. I tend to get stuck if I bend down now, which means it takes me at least twice as long to put my shoes on, but at the same time I've never appreciated chairs quite so much before, so there's silver lining!

Lady with a bump!

We were supposed to be up in London today going to opera, but Rhys had an emergency trip to the hospital on Friday (it turned out not to be serious, just with alarming symptoms!), and has been sat at home with antibiotics the past couple of days, so instead of gallivanting, we're resting which is kind of a mixed blessing, because although I always like experiencing new things, and love going to new theatres, I'm still not too sure how I feel about opera... 

Currently there is a Victoria sponge in the oven (after my entire life of using the recipe from my mum's beaten up old 'Food Processor Cookbook', I've succumbed to the beautiful pictures in The Great British Bake-Off Cookbook. I figure there must be a reason why Mary Berry is Mary Berry and I am not...), so we'll see how that turns out. I'm very excited about cake as there has been a slight deficit in the past week or so, and also we got some awesome raspberry preserve when my parents were here, which is going to be the best thing ever in the middle of the sponge.

I've mentioned briefly before that I'm quite into crafts and knitting, and I've been sorting out the craft corner (yes, we have a craft corner, because I'm especially cool) today. This is good, as it means I now know what I actually have and will spend less time rebuying things I already have. Also, I have embraced my childhood love of turning things into other things, and have turned a Bisto gravy pot into a holder for my knitting needles! I'm quite impressed as it's now vaguely pretty, although it does mean my needles smell a little bit like gravy :-s  However, it is obvious that I haven't covered anything with pretty paper in a fair few years, so it's a little bit wrinkly but I can keep all my needles together and actually be able to find them when I need them :-) 

Pot, needles, and the lego cake toppers from our wedding. I forgot to move them!

Finally, I have started knitting what will eventually hopefully be a teeny tiny hooded cardigan for Mr. Baby. This is my first attempt at making anything that involves joining several parts together and I'm more than a bit nervous, but I have a pattern which purports to be for Beginners, and it doesn't look too awkward, so we'll see. So far I've almost finished the back and it's been easy, but to be fair it's basically a big square...
Purple. turquoise and blue wool, and almost the back of a teeny cardigan!

So there we go. No books (except cookbooks!), and I guess after that I'm going to have to embrace the fact that I'm rapidly descending, at the grand old age of 25, into middle - aged domesticity... Not sure how I feel about that, but oh well. It's been a lovely day so far despite the incredibly weird weather - sunny one moment and torrential downpour the next, but that's England for you I suppose. I'm in the middle of watching Andy Murray in the Wimbledon final, and there's roast dinner and cake on the way! Life's good.

What are you doing with your Sunday? :-) 

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Telling Tales Challenge July Link Up!

We're more than halfway through the year now, which is a bit scary! But a lot of people still seem to be going strong with the challenge which is great. June was undoubtedly my best month so far - I managed to review 6 books for the challenge! Admittedly 3 were mini reviews of the Fables series, but still, I feel like I achieved a lot! 

I've finally managed to create a master list of everybody's reviews, which is here, and is really interesting, as there are only a couple of duplicates. We're reading pretty widely!!

If you haven't signed up for this challenge yet but still want to you can do so here, and if you want to talk about it on twitter you can do so using #TTChallenge.

Here's the link up for this month, happy reading!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Half of the year is Gaaaaawn!

Apparently, it's July. I have literally no idea where the time has gone. It seems like about five minutes ago it was January and I was finding out about the imminent person I'm growing and freezing my feet off on the way to work and making all my many resolutions for the year... 

Now it's July, I'm a lot fatter, I have a small person (who so far likes to kick me; early in the morning, late at night, whenever there is tennis/athletics/football on, and during musicals...) in my stomach, and.... it's still quite cold. Summer doesn't seem to have really reached us here yet, but ah well. I've not done as much reading as I'd have liked, but I've done more than I really should have what with all the life-changing insanity. of both positive and negative kinds, that has been taking place. There's only one challenge I signed up for that I've yet to read anything for, so I'm fairly proud of myself!

Lots of people have been doing half way through the year wrap up type posts, but I was particularly reading this one (by Laura from Devouring Texts) today and it inspired me to do a little round-up of all my challenge progress with my favourite and least favourite reads from each. This is probably going to be one of those posts that nobody will read but me but I feel the need to write it in order to sort my thoughts out, so here goes!!

I updated on the Mount TBR Challenge the other day, and haven't made much progress since then. I did finish One Day though, which I really enjoyed. Eventually I'll get around to writing a review of it. I've also (just barely) started North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell this week, which will bring my total up to 11 of 25 books. 

For the 50 States Reading Challenge I've currently read 7 (eek) of 50 books. Favourite so far has probably got to be The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings. I never got to writing a review of it, but I expected absolutely nothing from it and so it was hugely better than expected. Most disappointing was Bleeding Kansas by Sara Paretsky, which I didn't finish purely because it had to go back to the library and I couldn't work up the required motivation to finish it in time. I don't know why - it wasn't particularly bad, it just wasn't very good, either. 

Last year I failed so epically at the Back to the Classics Challenge so this year A Classics Challenge instead, for which I need to read 7 books. Currently I've read 2, the best of which was The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte, but The Awakening was also really interesting, so no disappointment from this one so far!

The New Author Challenge has probably been the easiest challenge to participate in - I've read a fair amount of new authors without trying very hard - 17 of 25 for this challenge already, so I'm definitely on track to complete this one which makes me all kinds of happy! I've also reviewed 6 titles, so not great, but better than none! Most unexpected was The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua, which came from the library totally on spec and which was brilliant and really gripping! Most disappointing was The Finkler Question by Howard Jacobson which was just kind of meh....

The Mixing It Up Challenge is probably one of my favourite challenges of 2012. I've pretty much done the easy reading and now I'm really having to break out of my comfort zone for the rest! I'm standing at 6 of a hopeful 15 now, having only reviewed one (eek). I'm excited to read Danny Wallace's Yes Man next, because he is truly hilarious. 

I wrote a post about my obsession with libraries lately, so my participation in the Support Your Local LIbrary challenge shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone! I just want to defend myself before I reveal my stats for this one; our library has been being refurbished since February, and was entirely closed until the beginning of April, and has only been less than half open since then, so that's my excuse for why I've only read 9 books of an intended 37. The best of these is actually probably Yossarian Slept Here: When Joseph Heller was Dad and Life was a Catch 22 by Erica Heller, the first book I read for the challenge, but I've just started This Isn't the Sort of the Thing That Happens to Someone Like You by Jon McGregor, who is one of my favourite authors ever, so we'll see...

I should mention the challenge I'm hosting - The Telling Tales Challenge. I am enjoying hosting this so much, and this is actually the month that I've done the most reading. So far I've read 11 out of 15 books for this challenge, which is amazing :-) But I've only reviewed  5, so I really need to get a move on with that. The best thing I've read is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, although I don't think it can count as a best because it was a re-read, but there we go. Nothing at all has been bad. 

The Graphic Novels Challenge is the only challenge I completed last year, and I look set to do the same this year! So far I've read 9 of 12, and reviewed 4 so overall it's been great. The best read for this was The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, which was just beautiful and inspiring. Also, you should see the film because it's pretty brilliant. 

The last thing I'm even vaguely succeeding at is The Classics Club. Not a year long challenge, but I've only started recently and have already read two books from my list and am currently collecting some of the series so I can read them back to back. 

Everything else I signed up for I'm pretty much failing at, and I don't want to depress myself rehashing how badly I'm doing. If I end this post here then I'll feel really positive about my reading despite the fact that my reviewing generally sucks this year. I'll be writing some mini reviews soon to try to catch up! 

So there we go, sorry if I've bored you to tears, and if you've actually read the whole post you have my eternal gratitude!! 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

RAK June Wrap Up & July Sign Up

So, RAK is amazing and I was really excited to get back into the swing of things this month. Here's what I sent out:

Amy and Roger's Epic Detour by Morgan Matson to Claire. I loved this book, and I don't really read YA, so I hope that she loves it too!

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern to Book Flame. As some people will know I am on a bit of a personal crusade to get everyone to read this book, so I pretty much go through the RAK list and just look for people who have it in their top 5! IT IS THE MOST AMAZING BOOK :-)

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them by Newt Scamander to Looney Books. I have to admit I haven't yet read this or Quidditch Through the Ages but we have both of them and I will get to it, so I hope that this one is enjoyed!

And here's what I received: 

From the wonderful Ellie
Flappers and Philosophers: The Collected Short Stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I have some serious Fitzgerald love going on at the moment, and with the sunnier evenings it just seems like the right time to go on a binge and finish the collection. So far I've only read The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night, so I was incredibly happy with this and also with....

The Beautiful and Damned  :-) 

Just for the record, Ellie is lovely and her blog is wonderful so you should all go and have a read if you haven't already!!

From the lovely Claire:

Paper Towns by John Green. One of the first YA novels I ever read was An Abundance of Katherines and I loved it, as I seem to love many YA authors despite constantly telling people I don't read YA... Anyway, very excited to read this!! Thanks Claire! :-) 

It was also my birthday this month, and I got a surprise birthday parcel from the ever - awesome Hanna. She sent me:  
 Fables Volume 6: Homelands by Bill Willingham. I love this series and I can't wait to read it!
 We Bought a Zoo by Benjamin Mee. I put this
on my wishlist after reading Hanna's review and 
I really want to see the film too so I'm hoping the 
book will be great!

She also got me a copy of The Prestige by Christopher Priest, which I can't find a decent picture of but which I'm super excited about because I adore the film and I didn't even know there was a book, again, until I read her review! 

This month in particular I have realised how lucky I am to be part of the wonderful book blogging community and how many wonderful people I have to good fortune to know because of it! Thank you all for being lovely!

The only problem I have with RAK is that the more I send, the more I want to send and I can almost never afford to send books to all the people I wish I could :-( That said, it is such an amazing feeling to know that somebody you've never met, and often have had no previous contact with is willing to spend their hard earned money on books for you. Getting an RAK always makes my day, and if they make other people half as happy as they do me then I shall continue to send out the maximum my wallet can afford on a monthly basis! 

Needless to say, I will be participating again in July, and if you're interested, my wishlist is here, or here if you want one with pretty pictures!