Friday, 27 December 2013

Christmas Book Haul

So Christmas happened and it was awesome despite some ridiculous wind in Kent on Monday night while we were trying to get to London, but due to our ninja skills (for which read the fact that we know that the Congestion charge ends at 7pm and so went straight through Central London instead of sitting on the M25 which was at a standstill like everybody else) the journey only took about ten minutes longer than usual and we didn't blow off the road at all, so that was good. I got a lot of books this year, but actually I have something more important to tell you all. Some of you already know and some will have seen it on Twitter, Facebook or whatever, but this is my other big news and also part of the reason I've been a rubbish blogger lately!

The photo is horrendous because I took a photo of the scan photo on my phone, buuuuuuuut it's a picture of baby number two who is due mid June :-) Four days after my birthday, to be precise, so keep your fingers crossed it's either on time or late because I really don't want to spend my birthday in hospital! We're all very excited, as well as being slightly overwhelmed and terrified at the thought of how we will cope with a newborn and a 20 month old, but we'll cross that bridge when we come to it! Everything's going well so far, the baby has all the organs and limbs its supposed to at this point and I've just been feeling knackered, but so far so good!

So now onto the books! This picture is missing a couple, because I couldn't find them, but here's what I got:

From bottom to top:
  • The Quilters Bible by Linda Clements was from my Grandma because my mum and dad got me a basic quilting supplies set and because I obviously need another crafty hobby which takes up lots of space! I'll be blogging about it more on my craft blog, if you're interested!
  • The Green Fairy Book by Andrew Lang was from Rhys and probably the best present I got this year (and I got some pretty awesome stuff). It's beautiful and in a box and illustrated and just the most amazing thing. For those who are less into fairytales than I am, there's a whole series of these books, in different colours and each colour features different types of fairytales or fairytales from different parts of the world. They're also pretty hard to find so this was doubly amazing. 
  • The Book of Jewish Food by Claudia Roden was also from my parents. I have a bit of a problem with cookery book collecting and really like experimenting with making different types of foods so this will fit into the collection very well! I also got The Great British Bakeoff: Everyday from Ellie which isn't in the picture because it's already buried in my kitchen on the cookery book case!
  • Phantasies by George MacDonald I got from my sister, who thought it looked cool and basically bought it for me because she wants to read it, which is pretty much what we do for each other! It's also folklorey and has gorgeous illustrations so I'm excited about that one!
  • Then there's a tiny book of Christmassy knitting patterns that I got in my stocking and I can't see or remember the title, because I cleared my books up already but it looks fun!
  • The Search for WondLa by Tony DiTerlizzi looks really interesting and was also in my stocking. 
  • Black Thorn, White Rose by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling and The Giver by Lois Lowry were presents from the lovely Charlotte who must be telepathic because I've been thinking about them both lately and how much I want to read them! 
  • Babysitters' Winter Holiday by Ann M. Martin is a total blast from the past and I made Rhys put it in my stocking because I found it in a charity shop for 10p and had never read this one of the specials! As a teenager I was seriously obsessed with the Babysitters Club and to be honest it's still really easy, enjoyable reading even if it is ridiculously dated. It's kind of my guilty pleasure. 
  • Snuff by Terry Pratchett my sisters' got for me because I bought it for my dad just after it came out, read it then but don't actually own it, so that was nice. I also got Dodger in my stocking because that was my dad's present last year and I didn't get to test read it because Rhys was reading it instead! I've already started it and it's great so far!
  • False Gods of Rome by Robert Fabbri is a historical fiction book I think, it turned up in my stocking because my sister who is in charge of the book section in her local Oxfam shop, did a mystery Christmas book lucky dip thing and grabbed me one. It looks interesting!
  • The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald is the only Fitzgerald book I don't actually own I think, despite having read and loved it way back in college. I'm really happy I finally have a copy and thanks to my lovely sisters for getting it for me!
I also got and have already read but now can't find Attachments by Rainbow Rowell from Laura. Once I find it there will be a review, because that book is amazing. 

And that's it for now I think! I got lots of other stuff for Christmas which we're currently trying to fit in the house. If you want to see a picture of the gorgeous quilt my aunty made for Benji, pop over to the craft blog! I'm also ridiculously proud of myself for finishing A Tale of Two Cities just before Christmas and am thinking I might make reading Dickens in December a yearly thing. What do you think? How was everybody's Christmas and what books did you get? 

Sunday, 22 December 2013

A Tale of Two Cities Readalong: The Last Bit

This is it! I have officially done it and actually finished a Dickens novel for the first time (excluding A Christmas Carol last year) since university! I have to say that despite not posting last week, due to general crafty craziness and order overload, picture to be found at the bottom of this post for those who are interested, I'm really proud of myself! Aaaaand book 3 was so much the best of the three that it was just amazing. I didn't cry at the end, but I wasn't that far off, I will admit. Sydney Carton it an epic epic man. 

Also yay for Miss Pross, because Madame Defarge may have been a really cool character, but she was also kind of a lunatic...I think my favourite thing about this book was that everything played out exactly how I thought it would be at the same time not at all how I'd expected it to. In the beginning I expected Darnay to turn out the hero, and while certain aspects of him were quite heroic, he is clearly not as awesome as certain other people! There are going to be spoilers now, if you haven't read the book yet look away!

So, usually when people die because they love someone that much or whatever I sigh and roll my eyes and mutter something like 'Beauty and the Beast rip off' or 'Pokemon tears will bring you back to life'. Because I'm cool and all my movie references are really current, obviously. But this was just epic and brilliant and I loved it. I loved that Carton loved Lucie for years without ever mentioning it to anybody else, without anybody else ever suspecting and without being totally pathetic about it. I loved that he just accepted his own shortcomings, but then that he totally redefined his character in the last few chapters of the book, and that all of his basic character flaws which had been laid down in the first two books were reconstructed to enable him to perform his final heroic act at the end. Basically, I just loved it. 

That said Lucie herself didn't get much better over the course of the book. She still didn't seem to have much of a point except to be the perfect woman that everybody aspired to being with or whatever, but it stopped bothering me so much as we found out more about the Doctor's story and as events unfolded throughout book 3. I really enjoyed the backstory of the Doctor, and it gave a nice little twist just when everything was getting a bit predictable, plus it gave Madame Defarge a reason for her mentalness. 

So yes, A Tale of Two Cities in summary: quite slow moving with a few kind of pointless and slightly stupid characters (I'm an ex-aristocratic Frenchman who ran away and abandoned my estate but I know! I'll go back to France just when the Revolution is kicking off, nothing bad will happen!) but several fairly epic character and one who may have the greatest storyline and character development ever. I will keep you posted. How's your readalong gone? Do you all still hate it?

Monday, 16 December 2013

A Tale of Two Cities Readalong - Part 2!

Right, I've not written my actual post about this yet, but here's a linky so you can link up your thoughts about this week's bit!

Friday, 13 December 2013

Some Thoughts About Will Grayson,Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan

So I bought Will Grayson, Will Grayson on our epic blogger shopping trip in Leeds, because it's the last of John Green's books I haven't read/didn't own and because I really enjoyed Dash and Lily's Book of Dares (and really liked the film but haven't yet read the book of Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist) both by Rachel Cohn & David Levithan. On Monday I stuck it in my bag for the 3 hour (there and back!) bus trip to work, as an alternative to Dickens. I've been managing about 3 chapters of A Tale of Two Cities of a morning before I'm forced to look for a lighter option - he's a bit heavy for 7am most of the time! 

Anyway, suffice to say that Will Grayson, Will Grayson was done by the time I got back home again Monday night. It was much quicker reading than I'd expected and (this particularly for Hanna) much better than The Fault In Our Stars! It's kind of also a book about issues (one of the Will Grayson's is gay, the other is perpetually stuck in orbit to his larger than life gay best friend) but it's really not so much about that than the characters and their voices. The stories run parallel to each other and then reach a point where they kind of intersect, so you have two completely separate casts of characters who sort of mingle together at various points. 

One storyline is written by John Green and one by David Levithan and it really wasn't difficult to tell whose Will Grayson was whose, and they were both very different characters but they worked really well together. One of the Will Grayson's is quite an angry teenager (kind of like I was, so I related), whereas the other is just a bit of a doormat, but neither of them were annoying and despite it being about teen issues and relationships and all that drama it never got whiny. 

These days I find myself paying more attention to the parents, especially when I read YA, probably because I am one myself now! Will Grayson's mum features quite heavily in the story, and she's far from a perfect character; she's obviously struggling but I really liked that she was in a situation that a lot of people could probably relate to but she still managed to be a decent parent and have a relationship with her depressed teenage son. She was very accepting of him, and I really liked that about her. The other Will Grayson's parents were mentioned more than seen, but they had their moments. I particularly liked the fact that there's a scene where Will isn't feeling good and he calls his Dad to get him to call school for him and his Dad comes home just because he wanted to hang out with him while he was ill. Awwwwww. 

So yeah, basically it's just a good quick read with some really cool characters, most of whom I haven't even mentioned, but Tiny Cooper is great and so is Jane. Also I like the cover, because it's purple. Obviously not the most important thing to mention, but still!

Monday, 9 December 2013

End of the Year Readathon: Starting Off

Woohoo today is the first day of the End of the Year Readathon hosted by Juliababyjen's Reading Room and Dana Square! Because I work Mondays I have a 1.5 hour commute on the bus each way, I've spent approximately 3.5 hours (including lunch break) reading today, which is a pretty good start and probably the most by miles I'll read this week, although I am at work again Thursday so we shall see! Because of the epic commute I've already ticked off one of the books from the pile I posted in my sign up, which I'm pretty excited about, and it was really good :-) 

Monday Stats: (entirely copied from Ellie! Sorry!)
Books I've read from:  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
Pages read today:  326
Books finished today:  Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan
Running total: 1 book; 326 pages

I will probably add my daily stats to this post for the first few days at least to stop there being a million readathon posts and to free up space for review posts should I choose to write them! 

Sunday, 8 December 2013

A Tale of Two Cities: The First Bit

Right, so some of you guys will know that I am no longer the greatest at writing reviews, and so the greatest thing about a readalong is that at no point do I have to write a review as such. These are just thoughts and questions. I did a little background reading for this post (by which I mean I looked up 'A Tale of Two Cities' on Wikipedia. Obviously) and discovered the following:

  • A Tale of Two Cities is Dickens' thirteenth novel (if you count all the Christmas stories as one thing, which they aren't really but I am for the purpose of this) published in 1859, but set before and during the French Revolution. This kind of messed with my mind, because it's Dickens writing what pretty much amounts to historical fiction. That was weird for me, because of him having been dead for ages and all. Does that make any sense?
  • It was first published, like pretty much all of Dickens' work, as a weekly serial between 30th April 1859 and 26th November 1859. 
  • It may have been influenced by Dickens just having begun his affair with eighteen year old actress Ellen Ternan. Apparently Lucie Manette looks like her...
So there's that... Judging from Twitter this week (and if you want to follow/join in with the debate use #dickensindecember) I am the only one who enjoyed Book 1 of this novel. I think it was starting off reading that famous opening, which has to be one of the most famous in literature surely? I think for me it just moved a lot quicker than the other Dickens novels I've read, and although there was a lot of description, I really enjoyed it. The second chapter of book one which is all about people travelling to Dover in a coach by night I found really atmospheric and quite gripping and  by the time we reached the end of book one I was quiet excited about the story. I liked how much had happened in the first six chapters. It was unexpected, to say the least. 

Having said that, the only character I really liked in book one was Madame Defarge. My knowledge of A Tale of Two Cities is pretty much limited to a general idea that it's about the French Revolution and also some character names are familiar, but for some reason I kind of feel like she might be the bad guy/the one who gets everyone killed? But anyway, I love how she just sits there and knits and says nothing and yet is clearly in charge of everything. It's awesome. The rest of them were a little bit meh to be honest. I liked the storyline and the description more than I did the characters, and that hasn't changed all that much in Book Two except that now there are some characters that I can't make up my mind about - mostly Sydney Carton and Charles Darnay, which is funny as they are clearly meant to be opposite sides of the same thing. I think we're probably meant to like Darnay and dislike Carton but I'm just not sure yet. I've avoided reading the character descriptions and synopsis on Wikipedia because it will ruin the fun of reading this back in two weeks and going 'oh my God how could I have got it so wrong?!'. 

I think my major problem is that I really dislike characters who are trying too hard to be good, and I kind of feel like Charles Darnay might be doing that a little, and Lucie Manette is definitely trying too hard and she is probably going to drive me totally mad in a few more chapters but we'll get to that I'm sure. Actually I feel like most of the characters are trying too hard. I'm hoping they're going to change my mind in the next bit! 

I have to apologise for choosing possibly the worst point ever to make you all stop reading for the week! Hopefully nobody finished on Tuesday or anything and has had to wait since then, if you have then I'm sorry, but I've got to say I'm kind of glad the Marquis is dead, because that guy was clearly a knob. 

And thus end my thoughts for this week :-) Eloquent, aren't I?

Link up your posts here, or put your thoughts in the comments! Thoughts are welcomed from those who have not read along with us but who have thoughts to share!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A Tale of Two Cities Readalong: Kick off!

Today is the day that the A Tale of Two Cities readalong officially starts. I'm actually quite excited - I read a couple of chapters last night just to get a jump on it and it's not bad so far, although there was quite a long description of the mist... But very atmospheric! Also I was reading the Prologue in my edition and it talks about how Dickens got the idea for the novel while he was helping with a family production of a Wilkie Collins play. I know it wasn't The Moonstone, but I think that's quite a nice tie in for those of you who have been doing The Moonstone readalong in November!

Also just as a kind of side note, my sponsored reading also starts today, for which I am asking you lovely lot if you would like to sponsor me some amount (be it xpennies per page or a lump sum) for the reading I am doing in December. The moneys raised are going to Great Ormond Street Hospital, and if you'd like to sponsor me per page I've read I'll be keeping a running tally in the sidebar of the blog and posting a weekly update in my weekly update posts. If you'd like to sponsor me any random amount as a lump sum, my sponsorship page is here. Seriously, any amount no matter how small will be hugely appreciated!

So yeah, #dickensindecember has officially begun! If you'd like to sign up to join us, you can still do so here and if you need a reminder of the schedule, it's here. Enjoy, my friends! See you next Sunday for the first discussion!