Saturday, 25 January 2014

Graphic Novel February

I read about this over on Heather's blog and thought it was a fantastic idea! The general idea is that during February you read only graphic novels. Although I won't be able to do this, because I have a course starting in February which requires other reading, the other reading is SF and Fantasy, so not a million miles away from a lot of the graphic stuff I have still to read! 

The primary reason to join in with this is because there are a silly amount of graphic novels on our GN shelf that I haven't read yet. Currently, Rhys has read more of them than I have (and he hasn't read Sandman or Fables) which just makes me feel... challenged, I guess! So, here are the things I have yet to read:

(Oh, and I accidentally ordered Volume 13 of Fables while I was in the new graphic novel shop up the road, so that should be in on Wednesday...)

So yes. There is Tank Girl Volumes 1,2, and 3 which my lovely friend and her lovely boyfriend got me for my birthday last June and I still haven't read, although I started the first one and it seemed really good but then I got distracted by something... You know how it goes! Then The Comical Tragedy or Tragical Comedy of Mr Punch by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean which we've had for years, I don't even remember when we got it, but since we're planning to go to this exhibition of Dave McKean's work during our week off in a week or two, I really should read it at the same time I think. I was talking to somebody on Twitter this week about Wonderstruck and how if I liked The Invention of Hugo Cabret (which I really, really did) then I'd probably love it and should probably read it, like, now. So I probably will do :-) It's one of the longer ones though, so will probably take a little bit longer than most of the rest. 

For somebody who adores Neil Gaiman's work, it's a bit silly how many of his graphic novels I've had sat on my shelf for literally years and not read yet. I've read the non-graphic Coraline, so that will probably take a bit of a back seat, but Black Orchid's been haunting the shelves for at least three years so I should really get on with it!

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge is a bit of a running joke in my family. When I was studying it at uni I loved it so much I read bits of it out loud to my family, which has led to people shouting (usually in completely random situations) 'unhand me, grey beard loon!' and 'wherefore stoppst thou me?', so yeah. It's kind of a travesty that I haven't yet read The Rime of the Modern Mariner, especially since Rhys bought it three years ago and read it the same day. He puts me to shame. 

The final two are more Gaiman, both of which I think will be quick reads. Harlequin Valentine is a recent purchase but I've wanted to read it for years so I think it will be top of the pile, and Midnight Days has been kicking around for years so it's time I found out if it's any good! 

Let's see if I actually manage to get through any of these :-p 

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

The Mark of Athena and some General Percy Jackson Related Chatter...

Before we start, let me just say that I think I'd forgotten how much Percy Jackson grows up between The Sea of Monsters and The Mark of Athena. In the first he's about thirteen, and in the second... I don't even know anymore. Older than sixteen definitely. 

So what I did this week was I tried to watch the second Percy Jackson film (The Sea of Monsters) while reading the third book in the Heroes of Olympus series, The Mark of Athena. If you're tempted to try it, really really don't. 


First let me talk about The Mark of Athena. I enjoyed the first Percy Jackson series, but honestly I'm enjoying the second a hell of a lot more. I think the first series reads as if it's for a lot younger kids than this series does and so I find this one easier reading as I feel less like I'm being talked down to. 

The basic idea of this series is pretty much that another (or pretty much the ultimate) godly bad guy (or girl... giving away nothing here!) is out to destroy the world and it's up to Percy and co to save it, again. This time there's an added twist though, which I won't talk about too much in case you want to read the series from the beginning, but basically there's a whole load of other characters involved in the whole world saving thing, including a guy called Jason, who is very Percy Jacksonesque...

If you've read any of the Percy Jackson books before we probably don't have to talk too much about what happens in this book. Some kids go on a quest. Various mythological figures appear, which is always fun because if you're like me you spend a good few minutes trying to remember who they are and why you know their name and what happened to them, and there's lots of action and cryptic clues and people having to face their worst nightmares. All very gripping stuff, I have to say, and The Mark of Athena was probably my favourite so far for how all the characters storylines from both this series and the last are coming together in unexpected ways. 

So that's the good stuff over. Now, The Sea of Monsters. I should have been apprehensive because my 13 year old brother lent me the movie and told me that it wasn't as good as either the book, or the first movie. I thought he was exaggerating, but he really wasn't. Honestly we stopped watching after about 20 mins, we just couldn't handle it anymore. 

This will be a list of ranting. Firstly WHAT THE HELL, CHARLIE?!!! I thought, after seeing the awesomeness that was The Perks of Being a Wallflower and discovering that Logan Lerman can really act, that this film was bound to be better than the first Percy Jackson film, because why go backwards, right? But no. Never have I seen a brilliant actor so fully convince me that he can't act at all. Gah. 

Secondly (and you'll have to excuse my language, I don't often swear on this blog - reality is a different kettle of fish - but this calls for it) what the fuck is up with them sexing up all the female characters? That's entirely not the point of them. The thing I like most about the girls in Percy Jackson is that the focus is mostly on their personalities and how cool/annoying/clever/whatever they are, but when I saw the actress playing Clarisse I thought I was actually going to cry. As far as I can remember, her physical appearance isn't mentioned that much, but never ever did I imagine the girl who flushes people's heads down the toilet looking like this: 

It's like they were afraid to put a girl in this movie who wasn't perfectly groomed, pretty good looking and had a perfect figure. It made me seriously angry and was pretty much the reason we stopped watching in the end. 

I felt like they were trying to pull the same kind of attention for The Sea of Monsters as The Hunger Games did, and that was just never going to happen. I'm disappointed because I liked the first film and I hoped this would be good, and frankly if they bother making a third one I'll be warning everyone against wasting their time and money. 

Apparently this film made me angry.

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Things Which Have Been Happening Lately

Some of you will know about the recurring awful thing that's been going on in our family for the past couple of years, about which I am generally very mysterious and fairly depressed. We (by which I mean me) have dealt pretty well with the bulk of it, primarily because it involves a family member and so only really involves us indirectly, however about a year ago we had an unexpected event happen in connection with it and it left me feeling pretty powerless and scared, and in the last week we've had a totally unexpected recurrence of the same event which has left me a bit dazed. We're still waiting for the outcome of what's happened, which is always the worst bit because I spend my time convincing myself that the worse possible scenarios will definitely happen and generally stressing myself out more than I need to. Hopefully I've learned how to deal with it enough from the past two years to not have to absent myself from blogging this time, but if I'm more vague and all-over-the-place than normal then I hope you'll forgive me! Also for how totally cryptic I'm being!

So anyway, this is a really a reorientation post. I've been struggling with a review of MaddAddam for a few days so I'm taking a break from it to give you a little bullet pointed sort of post about what's going on around here! Firstly, for those who are interested, I'm now 17 weeks pregnant and in the annoying stage of being too fat for my normal clothes but too thin for maternity clothes, meaning I'm continually pulling my trousers up, which isn't the best look for work, but never mind! I heard the baby's heartbeat for the first time last week, which was pretty lovely :-) Unfortunately EVERYTHING (for which read this and this) that I'd really like to do this year is either happening just before or just after I'm due to give birth, but never mind!

Books wise, I finished MaddAddam by Margaret Atwood this week, as well as The Mark of Athena, the third in the second series of Percy Jackson books by Rick Riordan, and The Forgotten Affairs of Youth by Alexander McCall Smith. The latter two I probably won't review, because, well, Percy Jackson is Percy Jackson, really. They're very entertaining books, but there's not a huge amount that's new to say about them, and the Alexander McCall Smith is one in the Sunday Morning Philosophy Club series about Isabel Dalhousie, which I really enjoy and find mildly hilarious but again there's not a huge amount to say except they always make me want to go to Edinburgh. Again, probably something for next year! 

I've just remembered I'm also meant to be reading Macbeth before the end of the month for The Classics Club Twelve Months of Classic Literature Challenge I decided to participate in at the end of last year. I should probably get on that...

I also signed up for another Coursera course. After the epic failure that was me signing up for Modern and Contemporary American Poetry AND Comic Books and Graphic Novels, both of which had heavy workloads and quite a bit of reading AT THE SAME TIME as going back to work and then finding out I was pregnant again (so basically just a bad idea), I decided to sign up for another course which probably has waaaaaaayyy too much of a workload for the time I actually have available, but it looks really fun and has a cool reading list and as a bonus I'm pretty sure Hanna is doing it too. Because we have to do everything together now, I blame the Ninja Book Swap. So yes, this is the course and I'm super excited about it!

Speaking of the Ninja Book Swap, sign up info for the first ever Valentine's edition can be found here. Basic premise (for those who don't know) is that you sign up, are given a swappee, make them a nice parcel of a book or two from their wishlist (which don't have to be new, just in nice condition), a little gift and a card telling them who you are and then post it. Meanwhile somebody else does the same for you and it's just generally ridiculously fun, so if you haven't signed up you should and if you can't take part for whatever reason you should still definitely tell all your friends about it :-) Oh, and you should follow us on twitter for all the updates! @NinjaBookSwap

Finally, if you want to sponsor me for the reading I did for Great Ormond Street Hospital back in December (final page count is still to be determined, but I read A Tale of Two Cities plus at least one other book and some bits and pieces, so it's a fair amount!) it would be hugely appreciated and you can do so here.

And that's pretty much my life in a nutshell. I feel like somebody should be doing a drumroll....

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Announcing The Valentine's Ninja Book Swap!

Guys I'm so excited, the Ninja Book Swap is baaaaaack! :-D The awesome Hanna and I came up with this idea in the summer of 2013 because we couldn't wait until Christmas and Secret Santa to exchange parcels of awesome bookishness with our fellow bloggers. We've now decided that this will be a three-times annually event - at valentine's, summer and Halloween. Obviously there's no pressure for you to participate in all of them, you're very welcome to join in when you want and not when you don't feel like it/can't afford it or whatever. 

The basic idea, for those who haven't done it before and a reminder for those who have, is that you will express your interest (I'll explain how in a minute) and then we will pair you up with somebody who you will then make a little parcel for, containing a book or two (these don't have to be new but should be in a condition you'd be happy to receive yourself) and a little present plus a card revealing who you are and send it off and wait for the ensuing internet squeals. Meanwhile somebody else will be doing the same for you. Sound fun? It is! 

If you'd like to join us here's what you have to: 
  • Please send us an email at ninjabookswap(at)outlook(dot)com by January 30th. 
  • In your email you need to include the following: 
    • Your name and your postal address. 
    • Your blog link and a list to your wishlist, or if you don't have a wishlist, a list of 5-10 books you'd like to read
    • A short list of your likes and dislikes so that your person can choose a little gift
    • Whether or not you're happy to send your parcel internationally
    • If you want to you can sign up to send (and receive!) two parcels, please let us know if you'd like to do this!
  • We will then send you an email with details of the person you are sending your parcel to by February 1st and will need you to have sent your parcel by February 10th. 
  • **********SUPER IMPORTANT INFORMATION*********** When sending your parcel PLEASE get a proof of postage (I'm not sure what the international equivalent is, but basically you need to be able to prove you've sent your parcel on the date you said you did just in case it doesn't turn up!). There aren't usually any problems, but it makes it easier for everyone involved just in case your parcel should go missing, to have proof of postage. Thanks!
  • Once you've sent your parcel please send us an email at ninjabookswap(at)outlook(dot)com and another once you've received your parcel. This is just so we can keep track and make sure everybody's got their goodies!
That's it! If you want to post about the event on your blogs that would be great, to help us spread the word! To keep up with what's going on and have a look at other people's parcels of loveliness, come and visit us on twitter (@ninjabookswap) and you can also use #ninjabookswap. If you'd like to post about what you get that would be great - once the parcels start arriving we'll put up a post where you can link up your posts as well. Who doesn't want to get a parcel full of lovely bookish surprises, especially on Valentine's day? Come and join us, you know you want to!

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Some Thoughts about Attachments by Rainbow Rowell

Ok so to be honest my thoughts about Attachments are basically that I love it and it's the most awesome thing ever and I want to be all the characters.

So review done, that was easy!

In case any of you haven't read this awesomeness yet, here's the Goodreads synopsis:
"Hi, I'm the guy who reads your e-mail, and also, I love you . . . "

Beth Fremont and Jennifer Scribner-Snyder know that somebody is monitoring their work e-mail. (Everybody in the newsroom knows. It's company policy.) But they can't quite bring themselves to take it seriously. They go on sending each other endless and endlessly hilarious e-mails, discussing every aspect of their personal lives.

Meanwhile, Lincoln O'Neill can't believe this is his job now- reading other people's e-mail. When he applied to be "internet security officer," he pictured himself building firewalls and crushing hackers- not writing up a report every time a sports reporter forwards a dirty joke.

When Lincoln comes across Beth's and Jennifer's messages, he knows he should turn them in. But he can't help being entertained-and captivated-by their stories.

By the time Lincoln realizes he's falling for Beth, it's way too late to introduce himself.

What would he say . . . ?

I really don't know what to say about Attachments. It was lovely and so so sweet and uplifting and it's staying in my house forever, possibly right next to You've Got Mail and the Ben & Jerry's ice cream (which obviously don't actually all live together, but do on my imaginary 'happy shelf' in my mind). I think this post is going to have to go to bullet points before it completely drifts off into the realms of fantasy. 

  • Even though it was told mostly in email/instant messaging format, which is a format which has annoyed me since adolescence, I still was instantly engaged in the story between Jennifer and Beth. Their friendship felt really real to me, like I know I've had friends like that in the past. 
  • In the beginning I had a certain impression of Lincoln, but throughout the novel I changed my image of him several times, which was really great actually. He had a brilliant character evolution and I was really hoping everything would work out in his favour. 
  • Nobody was perfect. Everybody was a little bit quirky and a little bit weird and it made them so much more likeable. 
  • I don't want to ruin anything for anybody, but there is a discussion of how people feel about having children and I just loved the whole storyline relating to that. It was so real. 
  • Although the ending was kind of exactly what I expected it was also not at all what I expected and that was my favourite, I think. 
I am immediately writing my name in the front cover of this and it is never leaving the house again just in case I need it!

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Best Books of 2013

I have a slight problem with doing a 'Best Books of 2013' because I really don't believe that what Goodreads thinks I've read this year is the full total of everything I've actually read. As you may have noticed, my internet presence this year has been somewhat... sporadic this year and so I've only listed things as 'currently reading' on Goodreads when I remember to, thus I'm pretty sure some important stuff has been overlooked!

However, ignoring that I do just so happen to have exactly ten books on my Five Star list for 2013, and they are as follows (in kind of the order I read them):

  1. Maus by Art Spiegelman (review) - Brilliant, quirky and very important. Awesome graphic novel which I should have read sooner. 
  2. Wild by Cheryl Strayed (review) - The best memoir I've read in a while. Totally inspiring and beautifully written. I need to buy myself a copy so I can read it again. 
  3. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (review) - This was a re-read of a series that I thought was great as a child, and it really stood up to re-reading. Not easy reading because it's about difficult issues, but very well written and really well told. 
  4. Full Frontal Feminism by Jessica Valenti (review) - Lots of people kind of hated this book, and I think having read their thoughts that it's probably worth a re-read because I tend to get carried away with people making points that are brilliant and which I agree with and gloss over the other stuff. That said, this book does make many brilliant and important points and has a lot of great reasons why feminism should be important to everyone. 
  5. Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales edited by Melissa Marr & Tim Pratt (review) - This was a brilliantly timed arrival, as it turned up the day before we went to see Neil Gaiman, whose publicist is responsible for sending this collection to me, as he had written one of the stories in it, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty which was, of course, brilliant. There were a lot of stories in it which were particularly great and it was nice to read something which had some fairytales but also some other classic tales as well as some lesser known ones. 
  6. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky - I never got around to reviewing this for some reason, I think because I loved it so much it was difficult to talk about it, and also probably because I watched (and also loved) the film at around the same time so it was a bit of an overload. I wish I had written about the book now because to be honest, the film is kind of overriding it in my head. All I really remember is that I prefered the ending of the film, which is totally ok to say when the director of the film is the guy who wrote the book, right? 
  7. Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green & David Levithan (review) - I only read this a couple of weeks ago after picking it up on our epic book buying spree in Leeds, and it really didn't disappoint. It was full of awesome characters and didn't play out at all the way I thought it was going to. 
  8. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell - Also didn't get around to writing about this, again because I was overwhelmed by the awesome. Eleanor and Park were both awesome, and it was so well written and beautiful and the ending was totally not what I expected. Loved it. 
  9. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (review) - If I had to pick a favourite book of the year, just one, this would be it. It's my favourite of his books as well I think, and basically it's just beautiful and brilliant and you should all read it. 
  10. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell - Yes I did just put The Ocean at the End of the Lane in the middle so you wouldn't notice there are two Rainbow Rowell books on this list, but I just finished Attachments and I adored it. Such awesome, gorgeous, quirky characters who I totally love now, and such a lovely, romantic, unusual plot. Rowell for the win. 
An an honourable mention needs to go to This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz, which has to be the cleverest and most beautiful collection of short stories I've read this year. 

So there's that. This post took me a looooong time to write as I've been totally flat out with a horrendous cold/flu type thing and unable to take anything for congestion or do much about my horrible cough except drink honey and lemon :-( Once I've recovered I hope to be back to blogging more regularly!