Monday, 27 August 2012

Baby Rant

I know I promised that I wouldn't let the blog become baby - central, and I'm doing my best not to but as the weeks go by it becomes more and more difficult. Not that I'm not reading - I am, but as I said in my last post I'm finding it difficult to focus my attention for long enough to write actual reviews at the moment. I'm now into my 34th week which means that if he's born on time I have a little less than 6 weeks to go, and it being a bank holiday today Rhys & I decided we should do what we've been meaning to do for about three months and switch the rooms around. All very boring but basically our bedroom is too small to fit a cot in at the moment and so we needed to move our bed into the spare room, so that what is currently our bedroom will become the baby's playroom (for the first six months) and bedroom (thereafter). 

We've been going since about 10a.m and along the way I decided that we needed to have a 'proper clean', as it's not something either of us is very regular at, so as we've been moving things I've been hoovering, cleaning skirting boards, deep cleansing rugs and generally giving everything a wipe down. I've now been made to 'go and have a rest' in the only room not containing the fumes of either the glue gun (Rhys is lining and fixing up my old toy box that my mum gave us), or deep cleanser for carpets (we were given a lovely rug for the baby's room but it wasn't that clean, so it had to be done!), and in the room I'm in, I can't sit on the bed because I decided it would be a good idea to clean the mattress and it's still damp, so I'm perched on the piano stool... All of these are things you are definitely supposed to be doing when you're pregnant.... 

Anyway, so the way that I'm justifying posting this - other than that I just needed to rant a bit about how much there is to get done! - is that I'm having problems with the relocation of my books. I already had quite a collection of children's books, plus the books I've been collecting for the baby and they are spread over a couple of small bookshelves in his play room. While I'd really like to have only his books in that room, there really isn't space for all of my books elsewhere, so we've had to move the big cabinet, which is four shelves of books plus two of board games, in there as well for the moment. It's giving me safety nightmares as it isn't the most stable and we are renting so I can't attach anything to the walls without getting permission (and did I mention there's just so much to do?!), and despite the fact that we've stabilised it as much as possible using odds and ends of carpet I still have nightmares about baby pulling it over on his head and getting squished. I know he'll be too young to notice for a while, but I feel bad that so much of our stuff is encroaching on his space... 

On the plus side, a lot has been achieved this week so I can be a lot calmer, as we've now bought the car seat (after the world's stupidest conversation in Mothercare about how our car, which is the MOST USELESS CAR IN THE WORLD has seatbelts which are too short for a car seat), and ordered the mattress for the cot so now whatever happens we will at least be able to get him home from the hospital and he'll have somewhere safe to sleep. Not, as my mother keeps suggesting, a drawer... 

As you may be able to tell, there's not too much of a point to this post except that I had the need to rant, and I am huge and knackered and feeling guilty for not being able to pull my weight with housework anymore! On the plus side it does allow all of you to feel good that you're less whiny than me....

Saturday, 25 August 2012

The Week I Failed to Read...

This week has been a little bit manic, to say the least. It's been my first week on maternity leave without having any distractions (we were at the Olympics, on holiday, at my mums, my sister was here...), and it's been... interesting. I've been trying to get the house under control but it seems like everywhere I look at the moment is a potential hazard. I think my husband is getting sick of coming home and me saying to him 'we have to get rid of x/move y/childlock z' in a high pitched panicky tone of voice. I've also been trying to pack my hospital bag for the past four days, but first I had to do some shopping, because I didn't have some of the stuff I needed, then I had to wait for some of the stuff to arrive, and then today I just lost my motivation, so it's currently sat on the bed with a pile of clean baby laundry and a list next to it and I'll get to it at some point. Meanwhile I'm trying to maintain some kind of a social life, but every time I try to go out I'm either knackered or suffering from a headache. Today, despite this, I am determined to leave the house!! I cannot complain that I never see anybody if I don't make the effort to at least try to go and see them!

In book related news, this week has also been a little bit of a fail. Because of the fact that I constantly seem to be managing to embroil myself in at least four different things at a time, I'm not getting very much reading done, and I seem to be reading at least three different books! Agnes Grey has disappeared into the ether of my house somewhere, which is very annoying as I was really hoping to get it finished and ticked off my Classics Club list this week. I'm hoping it will turn up soon although I don't know where it can be because my house is really ridiculously tidy at the moment, compared to how it usually is.

Our fantastic new super library finally reopened this week. They've been working on it for about a year now, which means we've had to make do with less than half their usual books, most of the library being closed at one time, and random periods of full closure lasting for 6-8 weeks, but now it's done and it is lovely. They have sofas and a little cafe area (tables and vending machines), and most importantly all of the books! It is really ridiculously exciting for me. Obviously I had to go down and visit, and while I was there I picked up a really eclectic pile of stuff, mostly just to confuse the judgy man who was glaring at me because I picked up Jenny Colgan's Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams - so I like to read something pink and fluffy every now and then, it's not a crime, judgy man! Anyway, so because he was staring at me (literally all the way round the library), I then picked up a few other, less pink books, to show that just because I am a woman, picking up a 'chick lit' book, it doesn't mean that's all I read. I know that I'm waaaay overthinking this, but what can I say? I'm very susceptible to the judgement of strangers, especially at the moment! Here's what I got:

The Time Machine by H.G Wells - because it's also on my Classics Club list, also tiny, and I thought if I couldn't find Agnes Grey that this would be another quick read. I started reading the first couple of pages and I *may* have been wrong about it being easy....

Rules of Civility by Amor Towles pretty much because people were talking about it on blogs and stuff and I thought it looked interesting.

Pigeon English by Stephen Kelman because it was on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize 2011, and also because for some reason the synopsis reminded me of White Teeth which I found really interesting. I'm sure they're actually nothing alike but anyway!

So now all I need to do is actually read them! I may start on Rosie Hopkins' Sweet Shop of Dreams because it will be a quick read and I know I'll actually get through it! But then if I do that I'll feel bad because I should really be reading Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl, which I am really loving but which is also taking me ages. Or Anything Goes: a Biography of the Roaring Twenties, which for some reason I stopped reading about two chapters from the end a month or so ago, despite it also being brilliant. I honestly do not know what's wrong with my at the moment!!

On top of all that, I've been trying to get a review of The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan, the novel about the Bronte's that I recently read and loved, done all week and I just. can't. finish. it. So frustrating. Anybody else had these kind of problems? Any clues what to do about them?

Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Classics Club August Meme

I've been meaning to get around to this for a few weeks now but things have been (and still are, really) a little hectic around here! We're in full on baby countdown mode now- he's due to arrive in 6 weeks and 3 days and it's all a little bit terrifying! Anyway, The Classics Club has a new(ish) blog all of its' own, and I swear I could lose hours looking through lists of reviews, new members etc. I love it. Some people are making insane progress with their lists. I've been stuck half way through Agnes Grey for about two weeks now and I'm really not sure why because it's great and tiny, but that's just the way things go sometimes I guess. I'm thinking about starting on one of the children's series I have on my list soon, but I may wait until baby arrives and read to him while feeding or something.

The question for August is what is my favourite classic book and why? I've been thinking really hard about this, as my knee jerk response was (obviously) Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Any of you who read my blog will probably have heard me go on about how much I adore this book and there are a couple of reasons for it. Firstly, it was the first book that I ever read by myself in one sitting. It took me two hours and I was incredibly proud of myself. Secondly, my mum read it to us when I was about six or seven; she would sit in an armchair and we would all gather around her, much like they do when Marmee is reading their fathers' letter home in the book. There is something in Little Women which affects me. Every time I read it I get something different from it, and it is my comfort read. At least twice a year I sit down and read through all four books, and it always, always makes me feel better. The last time I read them, I started with Good Wives (I've finally, finally worked out why it is that American's think this is part of Little Women rather than a seperate volume; because in America, it is, so there we go) because the whole marriage and baby having and attempting to be an independent adult seemed to have more relevance to my situation, and that's pretty much the explanation for why I love the books so much I think. I can totally see myself in all of them. A lot of the time, they represent the way I want my life to be, and especially in the case of Little Women, how my childhood was. My siblings and I were very into imaginary games, outdoor pursuits and writing and acting our own plays. My younger sisters have just pulled together an amateur production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Jesus Christ Superstar, for which they directed, organised the band, did all the vocal work, stage managed, and created all of the props and scenery, to fundraise for their church. I would have been totally involved had we lived closer, so there we go. My love for Little Women will probably endure forever, and I will admit that one of my first thoughts when we found out we were having a boy was that he probably wouldn't love the books as much as I do, but you never know.

So that's the obvious answer, but I have another which I always forget to mention. I discovered To Kill a Mockingbird when I was around twelve, back when I was a Girl Guide. I bought the book from a sale we had at Guides for about 50p I think and immediately fell in love with it. I think originally it was the fact that the narrator is a child that I so loved; it makes the story so relatable. On re-reading it earlier this year I realised how absolutely beautiful and lyrical the writing is. Harper Lee sets such evocative scenes in your mind that you can literally see the story happen while you're reading it. I didn't read the book for years between ages 16 and about 22, because it was our study book for GCSEs which meant that I knew pages of it off by heart, and also that I'd annotated and highlighted my copy beyond all recognition. I remember being so excited when I heard we'd be studying it, because I already knew it so well and had thought so much about the issues and themes contained in it, and that's really the reason why I loved it so much. Atticus Finch is one of my greatest heroes. I'm the kind of person who's given up watching the news because it just makes me sad, and often I wish that I had the... willpower, strength of character, whatever you want to call it to fight more for the things that I know are right, and the concept of anybody having the strength to fight such a losing battle is just amazing to me. The hideous unfairness of what happens in the novel still gets me every time. It still makes me emotional, makes me angry, and makes me wish that I could change the world to be a better, fairer place.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Top Ten Tuesday - Top Ten Books I've Read During the Lifespan of my Blog

For anyone who doesn't know, Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. Every week has a different subject.

It's been ages since I've done a top ten Tuesday. I usually see other people's and think 'oh yeah, it's Tuesday', and then don't do anything about it, but the subject of this one is interesting and I'm interested to remind myself of some of the great stuff I've read since I've been blogging!

1. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern 

I didn't even need to look at my blog for this one. I would never have read The Night Circus if not for the fact that I blog (and that the Telegraph reviewed it and hubby happened to read the review on the train and go out and buy the book, but still!). Other bloggers were raving about it for so long and it sounded so good and it is. If you haven't read it, you should go and do so immediately!

2. How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran

This is the most hilarious memoir that I think I've ever read, and one of the most engaging books about feminism and what that means. Moran is a funny, funny woman and she talks about all the bits of being a woman that nobody ever talks about as well as all the other stuff. Parts of this book literally made me cry with laughter, and what's more, any time I read quotes from it online I still have to stop to giggle. Although this isn't meant to be a list of books we've read directly because of blogging, but this is another for which this is the case as it was sent to me as a present by the lovely Hanna of Booking in Heels.

3. The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

Another one that I finally succumbed to reading because of all the hype about it in the blogosphere. Despite the fact that I don't read YA and don't usually enjoy dystopian fiction, I so fell in love with these books. They were library reads and I so need to own them so I can re-read. I've not yet seen the movie but I plan to rectify that pretty soon. 

4. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

I.Love. This. Book. It's the first graphic novel I ever read that was just totally hilarious, and the first I read which wasn't about superheroes or other supernatural kinds of goings on. It made me realise that memoirs in the graphic form can be totally brilliant, and it was because of Persepolis that I discovered Alison Bechdel, who is also brilliant. I want to read more of Satrapi's work but I'm a little afraid as general consensus seems to be that none of it is quite as good as Persepolis, but we shall see. 

5. The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings

Yes I did buy this book because of the movie. Waterstone's had stuck it on one of their tables at the front of the shop, it had a pretty cover and was on special offer. What can I say? I'm very suggestible! I expected nothing from it but wanted to read it before seeing the movie (which I still haven't done because the cinema's heating had broken when we went and we decided we didn't really want to sit in an icebox!), but it was brilliant. Hart Hemmings' writing is quite beautiful and it helps that it's set in Hawaii which is a place I really want to go!

6. Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I read this for the Classics Circuit - it had been on my shelf for literally years and for some reason I'd never mustered the motivation to read it. However, reading it confirmed what I had suspected while reading The Great Gatsby back in college; I love Fitzgerald. Really. A lot. Now I just have to get around to the other two of his books that are sat on my shelf... 

7. Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi

Another memoir about Iran; I had a kind of phase of these last year, but this one was particularly brilliant. Nafisi was a university lecturer in Iran and the book is told in parts, each part titled after a particular forbidden book that the women were reading at the time. It's brilliant and inspiring. 

8. Godmother: The Secret Cinderella Story by Carolyne Turgeon

I read this for my Fairytale Feature (which desperately need resurrection, but I'm a bit distracted right now!) and it was just brilliant. So was her other book, Mermaid, and retelling of (you guessed it!) The Little Mermaid. Godmother is a really interesting take on the Cinderella story and I would seriously recommend it to anybody interested in this kind of thing!

9. The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

I just finished this the other week and it was lovely. It's another one that I read because of blogging (the Bookrageous Podcast in specific) and I'm now really excited for the sequel. Although technically it's a childrens book, it's really for anybody who likes pretty things and awesome fairytales. 

10. 1602 by Neil Gaiman

Having put a non-stereotypical graphic novel on the list, I felt the need to put a more stereotypical one on as well. 1602 is about superheroes and stuff, but it's also about much more than that. I just wrote about it last night so I won't say much here, except that Neil Gaiman is totally fantastic, especially for graphic novels. 

Monday, 20 August 2012

Review: - 1602 by Neil Gaiman

Please ignore the hideousness of the picture. I couldn't find one on Wikipedia and was recently scared into having to take all of my own photos by a post on somebody's blog about how you can get sued for using images from other places on the internet. Also I'm crap at photography and 33 weeks pregnant so don't do getting up once I've sat down so well anymore! Anyway, moving on!

It's not a secret that I seriously love Neil Gaiman. All my family do, and between him and Terry Pratchett I managed to get my husband reading again. The Sandman series is also the first graphic novel series that I ever read, and I love it hugely for its' awesomeness, but also for its heavy reliance on mythology and suchlike. Lots of you will know about my obsession with that. So anyway, somehow we've had 1602 for around... a year? And I hadn't read it until I decided that it really should go on my pile for the Bout of Books readathon last week. 

Here is the blurb from the back of my copy:

As twilight descends on the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, all is not well. England is in the grip of terror as strange, violent storms lash the countryside and the Witchbreed, beings with amazing powers, stalk the land - all the while persecuted by the Holy Inquisition!
A host of Marvel heroes and villains including Spider-Man, the X-Men, Nick Fury, Doctor Strange, Captain America, Daredevil, Doctor Doom, Magneto and more emerge during the dark days of 1602 and are drawn into a plot of treason and treachery - whilst the end of the world seems nigh!
So, on the one hand, yes it is one of those incredibly geeky graphic novels - probably part of the stereotype of graphic novels that I've heard so often, but then it's also an awesome story. You could read it without knowing who any of the characters are, although I doubt there are many people who wouldn't know who any of them were as so many of them have been made into movies recently! I have to be honest, my brother has always been the comic book nerd in our house; I never really thought of myself as being that geeky until I read this and realised that I could identify most of the characters even without the help of the blurb. But anyway, my original point was that you could read it without knowing the back stories of any of the characters, it's just one of those things that if you do know, you have a little giggle to yourself whenever you recognise somebody. If I'd read this back when we first got it I don't think I would have giggled quite as much; with the recent Avengers film (awesome, awesome film, go see it!) I've been somewhat immersing myself in watching all the films I hadn't already seen and so I'm fairly recently familiar with Captain America, Nick Fury and others. And then there's the X-Men, always my guilty pleasure, have been for years. Who doesn't love Hugh Jackman as Wolverine?!

I know that Mr. Gaiman doesn't do the artwork for the graphic novels he writes, but they are always so beautiful and 1602 is no exception. It's also a very cleverly put together story, which was nice and refreshing after reading the second novel in the Umbrella Academy series earlier this week - great, but incredibly violent and not too subtle, review coming soon! I do like some variation in my graphic novels, and as a genre I find it really exciting to read because there's such awesome diversity and it's so expressive, and as previously mentioned, because of the links to mythology etc that I'm obsessed with! The balance between action and dialogue in 1602 was just right as well, considering its' cast of superheroes I'd expected there to be much more rushing about, and while there was a fair amount of that, there were also enough clever twists to keep me more than happy. 

Also a couple of other things that made me happy about this; firstly, it's really long for a graphic novel - usually I can finish them in an hour or two but this one kept me going for a couple of days, and secondly it's a standalone. Don't get me wrong, I really love series, but graphic novels aren't cheap, and sometimes it can be infuriating to finish something you've really enjoyed and then have to wait ages until either you can afford the next one, or in the case of the Fables series I'm currently in the midst of, any bookshop near you actually has the next one you need. That was also the problem my sister and I had when we were jointly trying to collect the Sandman series. Yes, you can just shop online, but it's nowhere near as fun. Online doesn't smell like books. 

If you're not at all into superheroes please don't let that put you off reading this. The major characters may have superpowers, but it's really not about that at all. It's great from a historical viewpoint and fits ridiculously well into its' appointed time frame as well as just being a great story. 

Bout of Books Wrap Up

My first ever week long readathon is over, and despite having mixed results, I absolutely loved participating! I had an interesting week, as one of my sisters was staying with us from Tuesday - Friday, then on Friday my mum and some other siblings came down for the day and we went to the beach and suchlike. Friday morning they went to get in their car to come down and it wouldn't start so they had to bring a friend's (smaller) car, which meant that they couldn't fit the sister who was already here in the car to go back, but she needed to be at her house as one of her friends was coming on Saturday, so mum left another sister with us Friday night/Saturday and we drove her back after Rhys finished work Saturday night (handy, as they were having a housewarming party on the Sunday - free food? :-D). I know I have a lot of sisters and it all gets a bit confusing, but my general point was that my reading plans for the weekend basically completely failed. 

However, the major target of Bout of Books is only to read more than you usually would in a week, and I most definitely achieved that! My final stats are thus:

Total Number of Pages Read: 663
Books Finished: Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel, Baby Talk by Julie Walters, & Umbrella Academy: Dallas by Gerard Way and Gabriel Ba
Books Unfinished: Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte and 1602 by Neil Gaiman 
Reviews Written: The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente (not read during the readathon, but part of my bookish achievements for the week!), and started a draft of a review for The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan. 
I didn't quite hit my goal of commenting on 2 blogs per day. I was doing great with it at the beginning of the week, but as mentioned, my plans were somewhat disrupted. I did love how sociable Bout of Books is though, and discovered some great blogs through it :-) 

As previously mentioned, I really loved this readathon, and if anybody knows of any more happening soon (I'm looking at you, Ellie!), please let me know!!

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Books For Baby #4

I haven't done one of these for a while, and while I've only bought a couple of things for him, other people have been giving me stuff and when I looked back through, there's quite a lot I've not put on here, so here goes. As usual, this post will be full of pictures and lists. You have been warned...

There are only two books that I actually bought for him in this picture. The others are all second hand:

The Enormous Crocodile by Roald Dahl - this was one I bought, but it cost like 20p. We had a little bit of a Dahl collection going on even before we found out about the baby, but we've never had this one and it's one of my favourites. Also it has cool illustrations (of course).
The Beatrix Potter Treasury to go with the Beatrix Pottery Nursery Rhymes I bought before. This was donated by my sister :-) He also has a fair few of the individual Beatrix Potter books, but I can never bring myself to include them in a post as there's about twenty of them!
Fairy Tale Jigsaw Book - I found this in a charity shop the other day and it's brand new. It has lots of little fairy stories and then a jigsaw puzzle on the facing page. Obviously he won't be able to do it until he's a bit bigger but it was lovely so I couldn't resist.
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury (who also illustrated We're Going on a Bear Hunt). I know, I know, I have a bit of an Alice addiction... I think this is our fourth copy? But it was donated by another sister, and we didn't have a proper children's version as such. Also, it's rude to refuse when people offer you free books!
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame - this was my copy from when I was really little! My parents have just moved house and I was rummaging around their bookshelves as per usual while we were staying last week and found it, so I thought I'd bring it home for the baby. The dustjacket is a bit ripped, probably due to my phase of keeping books in the end of my bed, but it's got lovely illustrations and I remember being entirely in love with it for years :-)

So that's it for now. Anybody got any favourites that I absolutely must get for him right now?

Monday, 13 August 2012

Bout of Books 5.0 MASTER POST

I did originally have all this info on my Bout of Books sign up and goals post, but decided it was going to get ridiculously long what with mini challenges and my tendency to ramble, so I've moved my running daily updates here instead! My official goals are here, but here's a photo as a quick recap. 
The pile I'll be reading from this week!

Woke up this morning super excited for the readathon! I plan to do some baking today, but we're nearly half way through and I'm currently still in my pajamas with the biscuit tin so we'll see! So far I've been very distracted by the internet, and by managing to totally screw up my entry to my first mini challenge by trying to split my posts in half, but I have read a little bit of Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel which is great so far. I really didn't intend to read it this week at all but now I'm engrossed and so I have to! Once I finish sorting out this post, I'm going to get dressed and do some reading!! Come on, motivation! 

Mini Challenges
The first mini challenge I'm entering for this readathon is hosted by Reading in Texas and The Space Between. They want to know what I do with my books after I've read them. Up until recently the answer would have been, keep them! But I'm getting better, and so this answer has three parts:

1) If I love the book so much it immediately goes onto my five star books list, I keep it. Write my name in the front and put it on my shelf of favourite books. 
2) If I can immediately think of somebody who would love the book, it gets passed on. A lot of my books circulate through my family and friends this way. 
3) If none of the above applies, the book goes on ReaditSwapit, which is probably my favourite discovery of the past ten years. When my list for that gets too long (over 100 or so) and my shelves look like they're about to break, I pull out some that have been on the list for ages and take them to the charity shop!

So there we go. I used to hoard all of my books forever, regardless, but as I get older I think I have a more mature approach (i.e I've realised that if I keep every book I ever buy I won't have any space for new ones). 

Number of pages read today: 222
Number of books read today: 2
Total Number of Books Read: 1
Books: Goodbye for Now by Laurie Frankel, Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte (12 pages...)
Other Comments: I had a really good day today, mostly because I got really engrossed in Goodbye for Now, which hopefully I'll manage to review at some point later this week. Just started Agnes Grey, because my plans were foiled by a combination of accidentally napping for an hour and the need to make dinner! 


Slightly stressful morning so far - hubby's alarm didn't go off so we were in a rush to get him out of the door in time for work. I'm now trying to relax back into my morning routine (or what there is of it!). It's likely yesterday will be my best reading day, as my little sister is arriving this afternoon to keep me company and 'stop me freaking out while I'm on maternity leave' (Mum's words, not mine!), so we'll probably end up talking a lot and I'll be running round the house finding books going 'oh oh oh and you HAVE to read this one!' adding them to the tottering pile which will undoubtedly be in her arms already... Also, today I *will not* get distracted by Twitter. Or not as distracted anyway... :-/

Number of pages read today: 26
Number of books read today: 1
Total Number of Books Read: 1
Books: Goodbye for Now (finished Monday), & Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
Other Comments: I knew today would be worse, but it was worse than I expected. I got distracted by movie watching and then I fell asleep and then after I picked up my sister we spent the rest of the afternoon pretty much playing a Sherlock Holmes board game we found in a charity shop, and watching series 2 of the BBC Sherlock, because she hasn't seen it all and it's awesome.

Not sure how today will go. Rhys is off work as well as the sister being here, and it's folk week in town which means they have an awesome massive tent full of craft stalls, so I'll be getting caught up in that! I'll definitely try to get some reading done, but no idea how much!
Number of pages read today:110
Number of books read today: 1
Total Number of Books Read: 2
Books: Goodbye for Now, Baby Talk: The Secret Diary of a Pregnant Woman by Julie Walters
Other Comments: I got entirely distracted from what I was meant to be reading yesterday and read Baby Talk instead as I was freaking out about baby having and thought I should probably read something that would at least be funny. It was, and also fairly informative, so I'm feeling better! I've really not been getting much time to read with my sister here, because we've been out doing things. We went to see Brave today and it was awesome!


Woke up this morning with the MOST annoying One Direction song in my head (seriously seriously hate that band), and a gigantic headache. Doesn't bode well for the rest of the day, but hopefully I'll get something done at least! I'm still fairly proud of myself for the amount of reading I've done this week :-) 

Number of pages read today: approximately five... :-/
Number of books read from today: 1
Total Number of Books Read: 2 finished (Goodbye for Now and Baby Talk), 2 unfinished (Agnes Grey and 1602)
Books: see above
Other Comments: Did a lot of shopping and pointless TV watching today, hardly got any reading done except a few pages of 1602 on the train. I did however manage to buy The Norton Anthology of American Literature vol 1 for £5 in a charity shop, so I was very excited about that. The Norton Anthology of English Literature (both volumes) were pretty much the only text book I couldn't bring myself to part with after finishing my degree, and I've been saying to hubby that I'd love to take a class in American Literature since I know so little about it. However, this part of the country where we live is, in my opinion, where your brain comes to die if you move here and already have a degree, so there are no decent literature courses of any kind anywhere which are shorter than a full on BA (which I already have), so the Norton will be a good starting point I think!


I'm going to be honest and say that I probably won't have a much better day today, reading wise. My family are coming to visit, and my sister and I are currently watching The Artist. I will do my best though, and hope to get through a bit more of 1602. And maybe write a bit more of my review of The Taste of Sorrow!

Number of pages read today: 10 of Agnes Grey
Number of books read from today: 1 
Total Number of Books Read: 2 finished, 2 unfinished
Books: Goodbye for Now  & Baby Talk finished. Agnes Grey & 1602 unfinished
Other Comments:


Number of pages read today:
70 of Umbrella Academy: Dallas by Gerard Way & Gabriel Ba
Number of books read from today: 1
Total Number of Books Read: 2 finished, 3 unfinished
Books: Goodbye for Now, Baby Talk (finished), Agnes Grey, 1602, Umbrella Academy: Dallas (unfinished)
Other Comments: An unplanned visit to my family to drop one of my younger sisters home took up some of the day, but I managed to read half of a graphic novel at my parents' in the evening, so it wasn't a totally unproductive day!


Number of pages read today:
220 (122 of Umbrella Academy: Dallas, and 100ish of 1602)
Number of books read from today: 2
Total Number of Books Read: 3 finished, 2 unfinished
Books: Goodbye for Now, Baby Talk, Umbrella Academy: Dallas (finished), Agnes Grey & 1602 (unfinished)
Other Comments: Graphic Novels seemed to suit the end of this week better. I think once my family were here, my reading ability got a bit disjointed anyway, and then unplanned attendance of my parents' housewarming party Saturday night/Sunday put paid to any big weekend plans I had! 

Review: - The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente

The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making has to win the prize for the title I've loved most in a book, probably ever. Definitely it was a great motivating factor in its' inclusion on my wishlist; it sounded interesting and quirky, and it was. It was also another recommendation from Bookrageous, and seriously, if you're not listening to this podcast you should be! They read awesome stuff :-) The book has a beeeeeautiful cover, and a little illustration at the start of every chapter and I loved them.

It started off as a serialisation online before being published in book form, and it's the first 'children's book' that Valente has written, although she has written a number of other novels and seems to be a pretty prolific writer.

I've been reading it this week while we've been on holiday and it's a lovely, relaxing read. To be honest I wouldn't call it specifically a children's book (hence the quotation marks) - it's more of a book originally intended for children but which is entirely readable by anybody of any age, especially if, like me (and Valente, apparently!), you have somewhat of an obsession with fairytale and folklore. Fairyland is the story of a girl called September who is taken from her home in Nebraska by the Green Wind into fairyland, where she has all kinds of experiences synonymous with the standard fairytale. The thing that makes this book so special is the style and the tone of the narrative. Valente manages to be both detached and involved at the same time, and while she tells the story from a third person viewpoint she still stays inside September's head enough to make you get quite attached.

In the author questions at the end of the book, she says that she wanted to write a book "about saying yes to magic, about seeing a new world, a new way of living and embracing it instead of turning away". In most novels of this kind, the defining characteristic is that eventually, the protagonist ends up trying to get home, but without wanting to post any spoilers, that never really happens to September. She knows herself enough to know that she in some way belongs in fairyland, and it isn't just that like Wendy etc in Peter Pan, she has forgotten what home is like, but more that she realises that even if she goes back, she will never really leave fairyland behind. I don't think that anybody ever should. 

I do see my adoration of fairytale and folklore as part of my fundamental inability to see myself as a proper grown up person, but I love it that way. I love that books like the Narnia series, Peter Pan, and now this allow me to temporarily suspend what I *know* to be impossible and go back to when I was six and used to leave my window open every night for Peter Pan. I once ran away to find Neverland (thank God my Dad is on the ball and came tearing down the road after me - I was less than 4 years old at the time and had somehow managed to escape from our back garden), and if I'm honest, there's still a little part of me that believes in Father Christmas. I'm not apologising for it, I wouldn't want it any other way. 

Stylistically, The Girl who Circumnavigated Fairyland reminded me a little of Lewis Carroll, but far easier to get your head around. I think that Valente has got me back into a bit of a fairytale/children's literature obsessive phase again, as I decided yesterday that I absolutely had to watch the Tim Burton version of Alice in Wonderland (if you haven't seen it and you're a fan of Alice/Johnny Depp/Tim Burton/pretty things, then do. It is seriously one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen.), and then while watching it I had a huge urge to read Through the Looking Glass, which, to be fair, is on my Classics Club list, but wasn't on my list of plans for this week. We shall have to see how long I hold out against it! 

I think I've done what I usually do when talking about fairytale related things, which is to not really review the book, but kind of meander around the subject and go off on random tangents, for which I apologise. I can't help it, it's some kind of compulsive thing I think. Anyway, another book to add to the favourites list, another one to tick off for the Telling Tales Challenge!

Sunday, 12 August 2012

What I've Been Doing While It's Been Quiet...

I may have kind of forgotten to mention here that I was going away for 9 days... so, I went away for 9 days, which is why it has been a little quiet around here. We haven't had a proper holiday for a very long time, and it was definitely much needed. We had Olympic tickets for the first day of athletics at the stadium, so we planned to go to London to stay with my mum overnight for that, then stay with some friends down in Devon for a few days, and then come back to parents for the final of the women's football which we also had tickets for, and then visit some other family friends on the way back to Kent over the weekend.

So, Friday we got up at about 6am and trundled off towards Stratford. Despite signal failure on the Central Line and the fact that everybody on the train seemed to be incapable of standing, the journey was far less horrendous than I'd thought, and we were super excited about the athletics! The stadium was awesome although I did have to be physically propelled up the last few steps to our seats (in row 72 of the top of the stand!) - we were sat right over the finish line so we had a brilliant view! We took lots of pictures, but this is my favourite. It's one of the heptathlon 100m hurdle races - unfortunately it isn't Jess Ennis running her awesomely fast heat, but we were a bit distracted with screaming and arm waving while she was running! We also saw the heptathlon high jump, which was pretty amazing :-)

We were meant to be going down to Devon that night, but by the time we got back on the train we were so tired we thought it was probably better to leave the 4 hour drive till Saturday morning. Somehow (due to some weird navigating by yours truly and the decision to take a detour around Bath), the 4 hour drive became the 6.5 hour drive, but we eventually arrived. The house where we were staying is where my family used to have our annual holiday every year of my life until I was around 15, so I'm hugely nostalgic about it and with good reason. Isn't it beautiful?

We had four days down there, but only three days of really doing things as the day we arrived we pretty much sat around catching up with our friends and watching the Olympics. We did lots of active person things (crazy golf, visited an awesome ford in Exmoor, went to a museum full of old fairground rides, took a train which travels along the coast right next to the sea, went to an aquarium, bought lots and lots of books...) and had a brilliant time, despite typical British weather! On the way home on the Wednesday we went via Salisbury. Since working at one, I've turned into a total cathedral geek, so we had a bit of a wander around the grounds of Salisbury Cathedral and did a bit of awesome charity shop shopping, during which I didn't buy any books... (except the three books I bought *shifty eyes*).

Then we made our way back to my parents house, and pretty much just hung out that evening. The next day was one of my best friends' birthdays, so we took her out for lunch and then went to do some more shopping in the area I used to live in. Neither hubby nor I were feeling 100% after that so we gave our other Olympic tickets to my mum and one of my sisters, and they had an awesome time. AND THEN on Friday we went to the beach down in the New Forest with the family, and went to the place where Rhys proposed to me over two years ago! We had a lovely lovely day of swimming and splashing and climbing and trying to catch crabs and came home very very sunburned.

In book related news, I finished both The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente this week, and they have both gone on my five star book list. I also somehow managed to acquire eight books in nine days, which I'll post about at another point in time. Today, we've just been pottering about, stocking up on groceries, and I've been freaking out (as per usual) about baby stuff. 32 weeks today so we've really not long to go now and we still don't have a matress for the cot or a chair in which I can actually sit without getting stuck, but I'm sure it will be fine! I am now officially on maternity leave (just in time for Bout of Books this week!), so will have ample time for freaking out and stuff provided baby doesn't come early!

What has everybody else been up to while I've been away? 

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Bout of Books Readathon!

I was first alerted to this readathon by Ellie of Musings of a Bookshop Girl, who is pretty much the queen of several day long readathons. The only readathons that I've ever participated in are Dewey's 24 hour Readathon (twice,both times in a slightly failing manner), and recently I even more spectacularly failed Sarah's Mini Readathon. I've been thinking that a longer one would be less pressured, and indeed Bout of Books claims to be totally low pressure, as all they ask you to do is to read more than you usually would. Currently, what I would usually read in a week is not a lot, so it shouldn't be too difficult to beat that! If you're interested, here is a bit of information from Bout of Books about the readathon:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 13th and runs through Sunday, August 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 5.0 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. -From the Bout of Books 5.0 team

I don't really have many goals for the week. Currently it's been taking me over a week to read a book, so as far as I've planned is that I want to start (and finish!):
  • Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte (I'm on such a Bronte roll at the moment having just finished The Taste of Sorrow which was amazing!)
  • I also have Three Men in New Suits by J.B Preistley, which my sister has lent me so I should probably try to get to that as well.
  • 1602 by Neil Gaiman, as it's been a while since I read a graphic novel.
  • Comment on at least 2 other blogs a day
I will plan to update this post every evening, as it seems the easiest, most consistent way to keep myself motivated! At the moment, I'm also consistently hungry so my snacks will probably also feature heavily this week. First off, I really want to bake these as they look AMAZING!

So... Here goes!!

Friday, 3 August 2012

Review: - Hideous Kinky by Esther Freud

When I'm at the library, I seek out Esther Freud's novels with a vengeance. For some reason I've added her onto my 'authors to be collected' mental list, and I'm not really sure why this is. Although I've had some good experiences with her fiction, the last book of hers that I read, The Wild, was one of the most 'meh' experiences I've had with a book for a while. I do still have a couple of her books on my TBR though, so I'll persevere!

I don't want to make it sound like I have totally written Freud off, because obviously I haven't, and actually there was a lot that I liked about her most well-known novel. Hideous Kinky has been sat on my shelf for literally years, and it's such a small book that I really have no excuse whatsoever for not having read it before, but anyway. Sometimes I get so familiar with a book staring at me accusingly that actually taking it off the shelf and reading it can seem like a bit of a travesty...

Hideous Kinky is told from the point of view of an unnamed five year old girl, and is the story of her life on the road in Morocco with her mother and her sister, Bea. As the novel begins, they have left England and are travelling towards Morocco in a van with a man named John and his wife Maretta, who doesn't speak and has some fairly serious psychological problems. The only words that the girls have ever heard her say are 'hideous' and 'kinky'.

I found that the narrator was what made this novel compelling for me. Because the viewpoint is such an unusual one, every event in the story is presented as a kind of adventure; even when they have no money and are eventually forced to beg on the streets, it comes across with a sense of excitement and wonder. Also the reason why they are in Morocco is never made clear. Obviously the mother and the girls' father aren't together, but it's never clear if they have left England because of that, or for other reasons. They are constantly waiting for their money to arrive, but where said money comes from is never explained. The book is pretty much full of slightly unexplained things, which makes it interesting to read. The naivety of the narrator is lovely as well - part way through she decides that her mother's current boyfriend, Bilal, must be her daddy, because nobody corrects her when she says so. 

A sense of mystery seems to be one of the defining characteristics of an Esther Freud novel. Sometimes it works better than others, and this was one of the better times. There was enough which was tangible to hang the story around, such as the narrator's relationship with her sister, Bea, which felt very real to me; full of awkwardness and fighting and private jokes. The narrator is constantly trying to grow up - her two major aims in life appear to be to go to school like Bea, and to look like a boy. Her most prized possessions are a pair of patched trousers, and when her hair turns orange through an unfortunate henna related incident, she revels in the fact that she can wear a hat and look even more boyish. 

My complaint about Hideous Kinky is that for me, it lacked drive. At the beginning of the novel, they are going to Morocco. During the novel, they travel around Morocco, not, seemingly, for any sort of reason, and while I know that there doesn't have to be a valid reason for escape, surely if you are taking small children with you there should be some kind of motivation? At the end of the novel, they return to England again, pretty much, it seemed to me, because the money has run out. I would have liked there to be a solid reason for them leaving in the first place, even if not one for returning so much, but I guess that's just me. 

With every Esther Freud book I read, I become less excited about reading her others. Hideous Kinky wasn't bad, and it certainly wasn't as passive as The Wild, but I was still a long way from loving it. 

Thursday, 2 August 2012

RAK July Wrap Up

June was an amazing month for RAK for me, and it really fired me up to send out lots in July. Unfortunately my imagination is limited by my financial reality, so here is what I sent out:

The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath to Justine. I have a huge love/hate relationship with Plath - I loved this when I read it, I hate a lot of her poetry, and it took me many many years to realise that to appreciate her wriitng, I didn't have to admire her personality. I hope it's as interesting for Justine as it was for me!

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald to Laura at Devouring Texts, because Fitzgerald is amazing. I haven't read this yet but it's on my shelf and I'm hoping I'll love it as much as I did Gatsby and Tender is the Night! Also we discovered that she lives quite near my parents, which is totally awesome as no bloggers ever live in areas that I know well. I may have become inordinately excited about it...Anyway!

Ellie posted last month about how she tries to pick from the non - YA participants of RAK, and I have to admit that I do the same thing. I do feel that the YA readers take care of each other very well, whereas the rest of us can sometimes get a little left out! If I'm having a rich month, I try to pick one person entirely at random to send a book to, and then a couple of others based on my interest in their wishlists. What can I say, I like to send people things that either I already love or that I want to read myself!

I have had another lucky month in July. I'm a little worried that when the baby comes, I'm going to have to cut back to sending out one RAK a month, which kind of sucks but one is still one, right? :-)

Here's what I got this month:

From Marika at Living for Books:

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente. This book sounds really awesome. I first heard about it on the Bookrageous Podcast, and then saw it again on a trip to Forbidden Planet in London last month, and now I finally have it! I will be reading this soon, as it goes towards the Telling Tales Challenge! Thanks!

From Laura (who is awesome) at Devouring Texts (which is also awesome):

Bossypants by Tina Fey, which I've been dying to read for a really long time, so I hope it's as great as I want it to be!


The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson & Axel Scheffler for the baby!! I am so excited about children's books in general and have been even since before I got pregnant, which is probably a bit weird but oh well. The other day I was complaining about how the baby didn't have this book in his library yet, and here it is! it's like she's a mind reader! :-)

Thank you so much Laura!

I'm not going to be signing up for RAK officially this month, as I've had to start my maternity leave early and so am freaking out a little about money! Hopefully I will be back to it next month, once I've managed to save a bit more!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Telling Tales Challenge August Link Up!

More than half way through now, and reading seems to be slowing down a bit over the summer! Hope you're all having great holidays and enjoying the sun, if you're getting any! I'm off to Devon for a week in between watching Olympic events, so hopefully I'll get to do some reading for the challenge, but we'll see!

Please make sure that you are linking up all of your reviews in the appropriate month, even if you are putting all your reviews on the same post for the challenge. I don't have time to go through everybody's blogs checking for reviews, and I really want to make sure I've added all of the reviews to the master list!

If you want to talk about the challenge on Twitter you can do so using #TTChallenge :-) For some reason Mister Linky is playing up, so please leave links to your review in the comments and I will add it to the list!

Happy reading! :-)