Thursday, 1 February 2018

September Reviews

Looks like it is time to catch up on my book reviews doesn't it! *Shame Face* In my defense, I have started a new job, which brings me to a much happier place in my head. However, it has taken some of my time for blogging away because I am actually working during work hours and not writing.

Still I am determined to catch up. :) Here are September's reads

The Girl on the Train
Paula Hawkins
Doubleday Jan 2015 paperback
Charity Shop

I had held off reading and seeing the film, for a few years because of the inevitable Gone Girl tie ins that I heard along with it. "If you liked Gone Girl you'll like this" and it's not that I didn't like Gone Girl, I think I am a stubborn when it comes to that kind of marketing, even from friends.
But when we added this to the pile in a 3 for 2 offer in a charity shop, one book for me, one for my friend and one we both hadn't read, I found my self getting first dibs on reading it.
I enjoyed the writing style immensely. It is lovely to read, and the voice of the narrator is appealing and off putting at the same time. The way the character describes the way she looks is really interesting because she really hates herself in a lot of ways, not just her appearance. The unreliable narrator is really well handled.
In terms of narrative, it just about makes it on to the plausibility spectrum, which keeps you guessing because you have no idea what might happen next. I didn't see several of the twists coming. Lost a point purely because it got a little muddled towards the climax and it lost focus a few times, maybe that was intentional.

Blackberry Wine
Joanna Harris
Black Swan 2000 paperback

Although I've read Blackberry Wine about 3 times before, I still cannot remember where I got this book. It was on my dorm room shelf at school and my mantle piece at Uni, my window sill at home and now in my bookcase. I never quite feel at home unless I have it, my interior design of any bedroom would be incomplete without it. The book itself holds nostalgia for me, the cover is bleached by the sun, the pages are too but only on two sides.
The feeling of a book like this in your life is unique and the thing I like the most about it is that the same nostalgic and warm fuzzy sensation I have from the book itself is the same thing I get from reading it. Joanne Harris, famous for her brilliant novels, largely set in France, is the Queen of the warm fuzzy.
The plot cannot by summarised, it's about a young boy and his relationship with a old allotmenter who introduces him to the world of gardening. And then it's about the boy grown up and struggling as a writer. No, further, it is about a small village in France. No wait it's about a mysterious neighbor family with an unusual tale. It is the puff pastry of narratives, so many layers woven together with buttery magic. An absolute delight.

The Red Tent
Anita Diamant
St Martin's Press 1997 paperback

Billed as the greatest love story ever told, the female love between wives and daughters of Jacob, I wasn't sure that it could live up to that statement. I liked the idea of the untold stories behind Jacob and his 12 sons, the mothers and sisters who raised them. Particularly, as I know the bible story well. I also have an interest in midwifery, which is a huge theme in the book.
We read this as a book club book, and I did enjoy it. It's not a difficult read and it's quite a good story. I know it is set in a different time...and partly reading it should be to highlight the position of women in historical and religious societies. However, I could not get over the slightly tedious toil of reading endless information about cooking, and births and babies and weaving and convincing men to make better decisions.
There was something of the superficial in the telling. I think the whole point was to celebrate marginalised characters, but instead the bulk of the book was evidence that there is a reason they were marginalised. The voice was absolutely spot on because those WERE the concerns of women at the time, but it seemed two dimensional and almost lacking in feeling which I do not think was the point. It is well and beautifully written, but it is not a favourite of mine.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

Reading Resolutions 2018

Ah here we are again, where I shamelessly air what I want to improve about my life this year. I have failed nearly all of my resolutions for 2017 so I want to give them another go.

1. Beat 2017's record.

2. Read books from more diverse authors.

3. Read all of the unread books currently on my shelves in Jan.

4. Reread 2 books I've enjoyed.

5. Read books from my original university reading list.

Other Resolutions

1. Lose 5KG/ Complete one fitness challenge.

2. Come in first place in a fixed freestyle category. 

3. Make more time for family.

4. Give up chocolate for 1 month (see how far you can go) 

Happy New Year

2017's goals and which I managed:

1. Beat my last year's record of 24 books in 12 months.

2. Read all of the unread books on my shelves. 

3. Purge books from my dad's house. 

4. Work on blog more. 

5. Read a classic every other month. 

Other Resolutions

1. Lose 5KG

2. Come in first place in a fixed freestyle category. 

3. Get a new job.

4. Take a photo everyday.

Monday, 1 January 2018

150+ Things I did in 2017

1. Whispered 'Happy New Year!" with F,M,N,E
2. Gave up chocolate for January.
3. Hip Hop visit to Wonderland ROH with Z,N,T
4. First Demo of the year at ISH
5. A Christmas Carol with M&Z
6. Return to therapy
7. Greenwich Planetarium
8. Changed my first nappy
9. Powerwalking with K
10. Applying to jobs again.
11. Ballet Barre Fitness class and Petersham nursuries with K&K
12. Grown up dinner party with M, K + V
13. Chinese new year dim sum with F,Z,E and N for Cake.
14. Big Idea brainstorming.
15. Birthday house party for H
16. Freestyling at The Bridge
17. Gatsby night out with Z and LULU!
18. Caught Gastroenteritus again.
19. Family meal at Berber & Q with I,D,K,P, P
20. Houseparty at M's house.
21. Private lesson with R,V, M
22. Big breakthrough in therapy.
23. Houseparty with D
24. Bristol Switch and baby bonding with F,M, E, Z, N
25. Sleeping Beauty Ballet with Z at the Royal Opera House.
26. Ceildh Dancing with Z Febuary AdventureZ
27. Big idea pitching.
28. Moved house with K&P
29. Meet S&T for first time in 4 months.
30. Blackpool World Modern Jive Dance Competition 6th place Intermediates with RS. 1st place in BOTS with N. Lots of dancing and time with E, F & M.
31. Demoing and leading for Beginners Plus workshop.
32. Trial of Hello Fresh boxes.
33. Dirty Great Love Story with Z, N, M, T followed by Snogs
34. Work Social at Hurricane rooms
35. Ballet Barre Fitness Class
36. Aquarium March AdventureZ with Z
37. Housewarming feast with K,P, D, I
38. Gatecrashing Mothers Day with F, E, M & N. Big Bath Bash.
39. First West Coast Swing Lesson
40. London Zoo April AdventureZ with Z Private lesson with R, V, M
41. Lindsey Stirling with Z
42. Spring Senses event with DA
43. Istanbul, Met M in town for wandering around Taxim.
45. Made soap! Made secular hot cross buns.
46. London Champs. Semi Finals Lucky Dip (RW), Semi Finals Pro-Am (DA), Third place <25 All Stars RS, Second place Great Escapee BW.
47. Market research w K, H, and T!
48. Bristol visit. baby swimming, sleep success.
49. Catch up with KE
50. Athens, Birthday Party, Family Gathering.
51. Ghost Dances show with T, S, M, N & Z.
52. Jamie's Wedding with The CREW! S,J,C,C & C. #MoreWine
53. Tenant Drama Week.
54. Demoing at E's Wedding
55. BBQ and Houseparty for my Birthday.
56. TURNED 26! Birthday cake with K in the park, pub lunch and bingeing Netflix.
57. First houseviewing!
58. Trip to Belfast. Rope bridge, Dark hedges, giants causeway, derry town walls, family time.
59. Double Trouble practice.
60. Vote and sorting out at DD.
61. Kinky Boots K, D, I
62. Picnic with K
63. Spoke on stage at The Moth storyslam #lifegoal
64. Ping Pong Dinner with M
65. Legs with A, M, K, P gave birthday presents.
66. K's 30th Birthday
67. Cooking Dim Sum with Z. June AdventureZ
69. Kelsey's other birthday
70. Pimlico with K
71. Using a mooncup for the first time
72. Camber. Teaching Double Trouble and Spotlight performance.
73. Housemate Dramas
74. Shitfaced Shakespere w/M,K,Z
75. WCS lesson with RS
76. Catch up with CU #CheekyNandos
77. Selling room, New housemate.
78. Job interview and Sent my first rejection email.
79. Hot dog date with Z. Pays to be keen.
80. Dinner at Tootoomoo with KE.
81. Rabble Games fitness.
82. Birthday pub/picnic in the rain. S,M,E,F,N,Z
83. Kew gardens w Z July AdventureZ
84. Don Quixote Ballet
85. Housemate Dramas continued. Moving in. Not moving in.
86. Many many tears at therapy.
87. Lesson learned do not go to a garden centre with AH.
88. CLMJ Summer Picnic. Back to the dating game. Pub Quiz. Poi dancing.
89. Throwing out junk at home. Seeking Joy.
90. learning BSL script for Z with RF
91. Dinner with K & P
92. Wedding in Windsor with P, M, Z, N, S, T, R
93. Cat sitting adventure begins. Wedding Brunch
94. Golf and Galvin Chapelle for Z's Birthday
95. Sick week that's not a sick week just can't face work.
96. Interview at PC
97. Impromptu day out to Reading to see E and F
98. Unexpected close up magic at the Magic Circle with N and LB
99. Last minute date night DT
101. PC Part 2!
102. Bristol hang out with E and F, Private lesson with M
103. PC Final round
104. Celidh dancing with D
105. NEW JOB!
106. Dinner double date with S,Z,N Chinese food.
107. Buckingham palace AdventureZ Z,F
108. Competed at Welsh Champs. Out of everything.
109. Over with D. :(
110. Start BSL course
111. Last therapy session
112. Shadowing at DueDil and GoCardless, Office Manager meetup.
113. Alice in wonderland ballet with J,M, F, Z
114. Mummy in London :) Dinner at Du Beauvoir Arms
115. Shipwrecked at RUMPUS.
116. Photoshoot at Bridge and Tonez
117. Roti king dinner with M
118. Catch up with H
119. Date night with T
120. Catch up with DS + L
121. Dimsum and chill with C,A,E
122. Dinner at Bao with K
123. Dinner and Tequila with Hurst girls. Impromptu dancing with RM.
124. Catch up breakfast with N at OZONE
125. Halloween at WBY
126. Featured as one of the most popular singles in London
127. Camber Bliss and double trouble showcase
128. Meditated on the beach.
129. Cinema night with Family.
130. Signed up for BSL level 1
131. Lord Mayor's Show and Adventures with N. So many happy memories. :)
132. Stratford slide with KKM
133. Signed contract for the house I have lived in for three years.
134. Deafinitely Theatre Play
135. Survived the Clerkenwell Fire. Did good fire wardening.
136. Cake and adventures with N in Lee Valley
137. Deaf meet up in Leicester square
138. Bridge dancing :)
139. Massis tea #letdown. O2 Arena Steps with Z, TGIF.
140. Deaf coffee meet up. Hyper Japan w DS
141. Rumpus, SO, MB, Z
142.Tower of London MB, Z
143. Dinner with family at Flour and grape
144. Sushi with S
145. Passion Christmas party
146. BSL carol service
147. Beauty and the Beast MB, AL, N, Z, F, T, FA, SO
148. First London snowfall - Poi
149. Monochrome painting viewings
150. Passion Christmas lunch
151. Frame debacle on Oxford street.
152. Panto with RK,JDD,BG, and CJ :D
153. Bristol visit
154. Nutcracker K, Z, MB, N
155. Great Gatsby immersive SO, MB,VP, MB, N, Z
156. Birthday hangout N,Z,FA,S
157. Christmas in Athens, dance outfits, Carols, Nutcracker, acknowledgement, love and support
158. Glorious days at home in Kurtkoy with mummy and Alan. Skinned a chicken.
159. Birthday surprise C, A, E
160. Seeing in the New Year with N, Z, S, SO,

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Fear and Reading in London

It's that time of year where autumn leaves are losing their crunch and we're moving into the soggy, mulchy, grey/black of winter. Suddenly, the seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness hands over to something more depressing and more sinister. Death, ghosts, magic and frost is definitely in the air.

Halloween of course looms at the end of the month, the day when the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is pierced by those that dwell on the other side. You can tell I've been reading...

I have never got into horror as a genre because I give my self nightmares don't see the point in gratuitous fear. But a few years ago I set my self a challenge that for Halloween I would be reading something fitting for the season. This year I am reading The Woman in Black, and it is early days in the book. It's not too bad yet, though I fear something bad may happen to Spider. Don't tell me anything.

The point is I have loved almost all the books I have read so far, but still do not make an effort to make horror/thriller/gothic books part of my everyday diet. People like what they like, and while I think everyone should branch out occasionally, to get a taste of something different and change habits and ruts in their reading, there is nothing wrong with having a favourite or least favourite genre.

Telling ghost stories is an old tradition of celebrating the success of the harvest and buckling up for a long winter. A mindful preparation for the darkness in the world that is coming for us... Telling us to stay close to bonfires and family during the coming months and to treasure them. It is also a fun party game at Halloween to tell a tactile ghost story.

Have fun everyone! Whhooooooohhooo

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Reading List for Halloween

This year I am reading The Woman in Black for Halloween. Since I started this blog I have made sure to read a gothic/scary novel during October to terrify my self as much as possible. Every year I have to think about what to read and so I've decided to put together a reading list to refer to.

I don't usually read horror or scary books, because I am a wimp. I always choose this time of year to make an exception and change my reading habits.

Frankenstein. Read my review of Frankenstein here.
The Monk

Mrs Poe
Heartshaped box
Seven Gothic tales
The Turn of the Screw
The Printer's Devils Court
Poe's short stories

Bonus Podcast. 
I can't listen to this podcast at Halloween or late at night because it is too spooky so if you want chills, down load an episode of LORE.

If anyone has any suggestions of other, perhaps more modern, books to read for Halloween please recommend them to me on twitter @storiesinbooks or in the comments below.

Thursday, 28 September 2017

August Reviews

Bumper crop of reviews this month, I've really got the itch back for reading in bed, that plus a long weekend!

Station Eleven
Emily St.John Mandel
Knopf 2014 Kindle
Amazon Gift Voucher

I have never been a fan of post-apocalyptic stories in books or in films, and have a serious fear of Zombies. When I heard that this book was based on a theoretical pandemic that resets the world to ground zero, I was sceptical. First off, this is a fairly short book and an easy read. Although Mandel jumps around in time a fair amount it is delicately handled and not confusing at all.
the story follows a handful of characters that are all connected to an actor who died of a heart attack on the night that the pandemic broke. How they all fit together is not immediately obvious and the hints and teasing story lines kept me reading into the night. The dangers of developing a new society with new laws and systems without infrastructure or government is very well thought out and the dangers of a new world are certainly very real. It is exciting and thought provoking and interesting and definitely something that I will be recommending to everyone.

Joanne Harris
Penguin 1999 Paperback
Charity Shop

I would rank Joanne Harris among one of my favourite authors. However, I have only read one other book by her: Blackberry Wine. But once again I was enchanted by the writing and the story of Chocolat. There is something comforting and fecund about her writing. food and nature play a huge role in her descriptions which wraps the reader in a cloak of feel-good-ness.
It's literary and beautiful and just a touch on the flowery side it's lovely. It is by no means a 'serious' book, there's no awful story line of tragedy, rape or paedophilia which everything seems to have now. But the story is captivating with interesting and complex characters with solid character arcs and gentle plot twists.
I had the benefit of having seen the film and it is interesting how much MORE I enjoyed the book while able to read it in the narrators soft french lilt. I enjoyed reading this and ripped through it. It's beautiful.

The Power
Naomi Alderman
Penguin 2017 Kindle
Amazon Gift Voucher

Tied winner this month. I read this for a feminist book club at work. But it was also recommended to me by several people. The idea is that one day women discover a power with in them, similar to the electricity of an electric eel. And what they do with that power is explored.
What I found brilliant about this book is that EVERY element of society is explored and with the idea that women hold power rather than men. There is an interesting exploration of sexual power being used for rape or between consenting partners.politics and newly forming nations, rioting and the media. It's incredible.
For anyone who thinks it's too scifi for them, it doesn't feel like science fiction at all. It's a tiny concept. Women have a physical power that they did not have before and everything changes. The world is the same and there it nothing else to suspend your imagination over.
It was an incredible way to get the reader thinking about the structure of society and the arguments that people have regarding the hierarchy of the genders.

Tipping the Velvet
Sarah Waters
Riverheadbooks 2000 Kindle
Amazon Gift Voucher

Recommended by several people and a book that turns up on LGBTQ recommended reading lists. I've read Fingersmith by Sarah Waters before and loved it, so I don't know what I expected but it was definitely more lewd than I was expecting and a step on from Fingersmith. Although I enjoyed reading it, I would have reservations about recommending this to other people. I think it's the prude in me. On the other hand maybe everyone should be confronting their feelings about sexual relationships and sexuality.
But it started beautifully, the writing is glorious throughout, describing Nancy's home life in Kent and her simple cares. Falling in love and heading to London for a host of adventures was exciting to read about and definitely a page turner. I was very interested in the attitudes of society and people of the time, as portrayed in the book. There was an odd mix of terror of being discovered and quiet acceptance from other people of your choices. It's a interesting story and does not go the way that you think it will at all, which is typical Sarah Waters.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

One Word. One Week. One Writer

Last month I mentioned as one of my favourite ways to get myself writing. It reminded me that I had not visited the website for a few years and I've decided to give my self a writing challenge. Every day for 1 week I will write for 60 seconds from a prompt on Oneword and publish the results here! I have recently discovered they only update the website every OTHER day, but I have still done 6!

The gray metal nose of the barrel swung towards him as if sniffing him out of the darkness. Twin holes gleamed with oil. The barn door seemed to creek endlessly as it hung heavily on its hinges. The muscles in his legs jumped and strained along with the sound as he crouched low in the cab of the tractor.

Hakuna Matata or is it the other one?
Beatles hair cuts and barbershop voices in the jungle.
The 'what do you want to do?' conundrum,
that's what friends are for.

Hacking desperately on the tube, and turning away to choke as quietly as possible (impossible) into a sleeve, the girl looked exhausted. She gave a weak smile to a friend as she tried to draw a full breath. Her thumb popped the lid of a water bottle, but before she could raise it to her lips the cough was back.

The man was built from wood and wicker, standing, legs spread in the desert. Ready to burn in the darkness, under endless stars. He is everyone, leaving ash and dust on the winds and hardly a mark on the earth.

The bar of chocolate lay beside her right wrist, unopened. Rebecca imagined that the smell of the peppermint fondant in its milk chocolate shell escaping its vacuum seal. Her mouth watered as she pounded out the words. Another 50 and a bite of the bar would be her prize.

Something in me cracked when we ended things and I feel everything deeply. There's something unlocked in my heart, you taught me how to feel and then broke me. Kintsugi. With a new love, I am mended with gold.