Winter Book Haul || Book Haul IV

So I’ve sort of procrastinated doing this post because I have an embarrassingly large number of books to haul. So basically, I was really good from September, very few books were purchased however from January, I seem to have acquired a vast quantity of bookish goodness. So I don’t really know where to start, they’re all jumbled up, there’s no chronology to this whatsoever, I just made them look pretty in piles! This is going to be long so I apologise in advance!

 20150328_183622454_iOSWe’ll start with the general fiction I purchased the last few months. After reading Oryx and Crake I decided to buy the next book in the series from Atwood – I haven’t read this yet but I’m looking forward to it. Next up we have two books by Emma Donoghue – I previously owned The Sealed Letter in a large paperback which was too bulky so I bought the standard paperback when I saw it for about £1 in a charity shop and I picked up her newest book Frog Music in (quite shamefully) Tesco along with another book further along in this haul in their 2 for £7 offer. Finally we have my additions that I got in the buy one get one half price in Waterstones on campus; Elizabeth is Missing and Station Eleven. I’ve already read Station Eleven and my review can be found around here somewhere!

20150328_183714457_iOSSo I put these 4 books together as they have the theme of “not set in UK or America”. I’ve previously read Memoirs of a Geisha but I didn’t own a copy! So I remedied that as I would love to reread it. Sea of Poppies I admit was an impulse purchase because I just adored the cover. It is beautiful and I have no idea what it is about. The Kite Runner is a book I have long since wanted to add to my collection as I loved Hosseini’s other two novels so I found this for £1.99 in a bargain bookstore and I couldn’t resist! Finally, I’ve heard good things about Zafón so I decided to pick this up when I found it for 50p in a charity shop in good condition.

20150328_183749292_iOS Whoops. This is a little blurry! So The Secret History is a book I have heard nothing but good things about and, as I type this, I am 100 pages in to it and enjoying it so far. I picked this up as the other book in the 2-for-£7 in Tesco. Below that is Sister by Rosamund Lupton which is a book I’ve heard a lot about from a number of places. It’s not something I would ordinarily pick up so we shall see how I feel about it! IT was only 50p so if I don’t like it I don’t feel too guilty!

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Ali Smith time. So I’ve read a lot of these but the cost of them meant that I borrowed a lot of them from the library or owned the eBook. As I was going to the literary festival event I felt it was about time I invested in them. Over the course of February and March I managed to almost complete her bibliography, I don’t own the play she wrote and possibly one other thing but this is it and it looks beautiful together on the top of my bookshelf! Artful, There but for the, Free Love and Like I bought from various sellers on Amazon. Other Stories and The First Person I bought at the signing on the 17th!

20150328_184022171_iOSNon-fiction time! I read and reviewed Quiet within days of buying it. It is amazing and is seriously worth checking out for anyone of any personality type. It is enlightening, both about introversion/extroversion and corporate America

20150328_183821208_iOS Yes. My classics this haul comprise of a running theme. Virginia Woolf. I love Mrs Dalloway and I had an Amazon voucher come my way so I snapped up a few of these Penguin Modern Classics. I love the modern classics. I love the uniformity on my shelf. They look beautiful. So I’m intending to lose myself in some of these soon! I bought To the LighthouseOrlandoMrs Dalloway and The Waves. I already have a copy (or 3) of Mrs Dalloway but I wanted a uniform collection.

20150328_191230000_iOSFinally, we have the Little Black Classics that I bought. These are the 80p books that Penguin released for their 80th anniversary. Over the course of the few weeks they’ve been released I’ve managed to indulge myself in 23 of them and I don’t think I’ll be buying any more. I’m yet to read any of these but I’m really, really excited to get started on them.

Okay. So that’s my winter book haul. I’m thinking I bought more books. I must have. Anyway. If anyone could suggest which books I should start with definitely point me in the right direction!

Blog: Girls Do Science Too!

Recently I’ve been rather overwhelmed by the lack of female role models I have as a science student. In the chemistry department there are 5 female members of faculty, only one of which is a professor. There are more men with the initial J than there are women; these women are amazing, there just isn’t enough of them! It does seem that as a woman who is a scientist we have to work harder in what is considered a “man’s world” to get the equal recognition, we have to fight harder to be even seen, sexist jokes are common in the labs and, eventually, it comes down to a point that we have to choose – do we want a family or a PhD?

To do both as a female is hard; especially as a chemist. Working with chemicals can impact on fertility before you even try for kids, when you’re pregnant being in the lab is generally a no, then you take some time out to be a mother to a newborn and by the time you come back you’ve been out of the loop so long it’s hard to catch up. Recently in Chemistry World there was an article about women who have done this, but that’s only with a supportive institute and family behind you. This is generally a rarity as when it comes down to it, research is what brings institutions money whether they’re universities or companies like GSK or AstraZeneca.

From a young age girls are often told that science is for boys. They’re told that they should focus their energies on subjects like English and more ‘creative pursuits’ – this doesn’t come from schools generally, but sometimes from (somewhat antiquated in my opinion) parents or grandparents who think that girls should just ‘stick to the ‘soft’ subjects’. Recently LEGO announced that their Ideas Research Institute range, which was female characters in scientific settings, was limited edition. In saying that it was limited edition with female characters and continuing the range with male characters, they’re saying that females in science are a rarity. Kids notice these things and having female figures in something as simple as a LEGO set is a big thing, it gives a girl who likes science the chance to reach out and engage. Kids love paying pretend, they love playing houses and “mummies and daddies” – they enact their idea of a future through make believe and society is constantly putting pressure on young girls, giving the impression that being a scientist isn’t normal, it isn’t something they should even try to consider. It doesn’t stop them, but it does discourage them, simply because no-one – male, female or anywhere on the spectrum – want’s to be considered as an outcast at any time, never mind when they’re that young.

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Review: Jamaica Inn – Daphne du Maurier

JamaicaInnI didn’t think I had read this book before, but apparently I have! According to goodreads I read this in 2010 but I genuinely couldn’t remember it. The beginning was familiar, but aside from that it was like I was reading it for the first time! Does it count as a reread if you have forgotten the entire plot?

Firstly, I’m going to be vain and just say how beautiful the Virago Designer Classic is for this. A beautiful cover does make a book that bit more enjoyable, that is for certain.

The story is about Mary Yellan, who after her mother passes away goes to live – at her mothers request – with her aunt. But her mother had no idea of her sisters life and so, young Mary finds herself living with her aunt Patience and her husband, Joss, at Jamaica Inn.

As always, du Maurier’s writing is sublime. The atmosphere she created in this was just boggling. I cannot ever compliment her atmospherics enough – as anyone who reads these reviews will notice. Actually, going back and reading my review from 2010 I said that the atmosphere was good but didn’t quite match up to Rebecca. I lied, or was just young and an idiot, because the atmospherics in this book are just incomparable. Rebecca is great, it will be the bookish love of my life, but this book was just that little bit darker, that little bit ‘foggier’ with a little more mystery.

However, it isn’t a 5/5 from me. Even though I’d read this before, I couldn’t remember where it ended up and… while it was good the ending was a disappointment from all the building up that had been done prior to it. The plot was quite simplistic, the romance was rushed and somewhat out of character and… yes. Ultimately this is a 4/5 and that is primarily because of the writing, the plot itself is quite weak!

UEA Literary Festival: Ali Smith

20150318_180338877_iOSFor anyone who doesn’t know, I’m a student at the University of East Anglia. I’m from Norwich, I still live with my parents and the reason I didn’t move away is that Norwich has everything you could ever wish for in a city. Including, but not limited to, it being named as the first UNESCO City of Literature. The university itself has produced some amazing authors, including Ian McEwan, John Boyne and more recently, Emma Healey. Kazuo Ishaguro did an MA at UEA and the likes of Margaret Atwood and Ali Smith herself have done stints as visiting professors. I shared a lift with Margaret Atwood once (that’s a different, more awkward, story entirely) and, quite awesomely, she was in the lecture theatre on Wednesday night listening to Ali among the masses of us. It was like a double fangirl experience!

And the fact is, I’m still fangirling 2 days on. I still can’t quite get over it. I’m never going to be a girl who enjoys gigs (I love music, but seeing it live doesn’t particularly interest me, unpopular opinion there!) and movies aren’t really my thing but seeing an author, meeting her, having a conversation with her… it feels a lot more personal. Something she created connected with me on a personal level and that’s a really powerful thing.

The “in conversation” section of the evening was just my cup of tea. Listening to her read from How to be Both was just a different reading experience entirely; an audiobook is good but having the author read from a book, in the way they hear the characters in their head, at the pace they intended just adds different depth to what was already an amazing book. I want to reread it already and, if she herself read the audiobook I would buy it! I really wish I had recorded it because she spoke about so many things; art, inspiration, learning and the controversial topic of book-culling… so many things that just hit so many different parts of my mind with fresh insight. I’ve been in a slump lately, generally and reading, Wednesday night just… gave me new inspiration.

20150318_211414384_iOSObviously I then went to a book signing (and bought the two remaining books of hers that I didn’t own. It’s so hard to find them on the highstreet, a book signing in which they have her entire bibliography is prime opportunity to complete a collection!) I was torn as to which books to take to get signed; I asked the manager of my local Waterstones at the last minute on Instagram and he just said take all of them. I managed to get it down to two: my battered, very well loved & read, ex-library edition of Girl Meets Boy and How to be Both, though I had my entire collection (shown above) in my bag and I didn’t make my mind up until I was in the queue. She was lovely, I could have asked her to sign them all and she would have but I didn’t want to be that annoying bitch in the queue who held everyone up! Serious fangirl problems there! But I narrowed it down to 2 books that meant something and I’m happy with my outcome because Girl Meets Boy is one of my favourite books and she loved how battered & loved it was; I was just embarrassed.

If anyone has the opportunity to listen to her speak, or read, or anything grab it with both hands because she’s just so insightful. If you haven’t read any of her work, try it. Just give it a go because she is just so… lovely, her writing is something special and I still think she has been unfairly robbed of the Man Booker all 3 times she’s been shortlisted.

I hope that the university keep running the Literary Festival. It’s now run for 3 years, I wish I’d been to events sooner (I missed out on tickets for Atwood last year. Her event was on the day I shared a lift with her and did that awkward smiling thing you do in a too-small lift. It wasn’t until I left the lift I realised who she was. Awkward. I missed out on so much because I didn’t realise who I was in a lift with; imagine the things I actually COULD have discussed in that 50 seconds it took to get from floor 0 to floor 3?!)

Anyway, keep an eye out for Ali Smith where you are. She’s awesome. Pick up her books, they’re awesome. & I have to thank the UEA for offering these events because it was just awesome and really nice to be surrounded by people who love literature as much as I do (even though I was sat behind my old head teacher and in front of my old GP; I was there first and they sandwiched me! That was more awkward than the Lift with Atwood.)

Review: The Virgin Suicides – Jeffery Eugenides

TVSThis book frustrated me.

I struggled through it, assured by so many people that it was worth it and… nope. I just don’t understand the hype with this. The writing is great, I can’t fault Eugenides writing. I just really didn’t like this book.

The genius, and I think the attraction, lies in the fact that we’re observing these 5 girls from a very outside perspective. I think in a way it sates that curiousness that most people naturally have; that of being nosy in regards to their neighbours! I think that this candid outside view in is what the ‘addictive’ thing about this book is for people who like it. It was also the downfall in some respects, the girls were put on pedestals, their suicides glamorised – the girls were just under scrutiny for the boys to study.

Ultimately, this felt pointless to me. It was a slog, it wasn’t particularly interesting. It wasn’t a book that I was compulsively reading, instead it was a book that I carelessly threw in my bag and didn’t touch for two days. My main problem with this is it was just pretentious.

I will definitely give Middlesex a go. His writing was good. It’s just this book felt so out of touch with reality and I’d be lying if I said I enjoyed it. Sometimes, you just have to accept that you don’t fall in with the trend! 2/5

Review: Artful – Ali Smith

artful-by-ali-smithI love Ali Smith, she is one of my favourite authors and this book has been one I’ve debated reading or not reading because I didn’t really know what it was.

It’s fiction. But it’s also essays. It’s a hybrid that you can’t quite distinguish between what’s real and what isn’t. It doesn’t really have any one genre, it is just a mix of literary criticism, essay and fiction. But the line is fine between what is essay/lecture and what is fiction as it’s just so beautifully interwoven. Once you get over the initial confusion it is just such a pleasure to read. It is by no means easy to get over that initial feeling and it does often require a sentence (or entire passage) to be read twice.

I’ve never read the essay form before and I thought maybe this would be a good introduction to it as it’s a more gentle dip rather than a full on plunge in to the waters of the essay! I’m so glad I finally read this. There are some bits, particularly where she’s talking about trees and it was just something I had to read two or three times because it was beautiful. I think actually there were several botany interludes and it was just so seamlessly integrated, it had such poignant relevance and this book, this book.

This is definitely not the place to start with Ali Smith – the prose is beautiful (possibly some of her best) but it’s just very difficult if you’re not familiar with her general style. Ultimately though is amazing – 4/5.

Tag: The TBR Tag

I found this tag via the absolutely lovely Lydia. It was actually my inspiration to try and do a blog tag so woo!

This tag does what it says on the tin – it’s basically evaluating my TBR. Genuinely, I’ve kept my head in the sand for far too long about the enormity of my TBR so this has been a bit of an eye opener & mighty also fun!

  1. How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
  2. Is your TBR mostly print or eBook?
  3. How do you determine which book to read next from your TBR?
  4. A book that’s been on your TBR the longest?
  5. A book you recently added to your TBR?
  6. A book on your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?
  7. A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?
  8. An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?
  9. A book on your TBR that basically everyone has read but you?
  10. A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?
  11. A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?
  12. How many books are on your Goodreads TBR?

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Review: The Hound of the Baskervilles – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

THotBI’m really uncertain as to what I want to say about this book. I’ve been putting off writing a review for about 3 or 4 days now and yes, I have had work to do but normally I can do a review in 20 minutes or so but The Hound of the Baskervilles has been an interesting ride and I don’t really know where to begin.

I guess I should say this was my first Sherlock book. I’ve been a fan of any adaptation as long as I can remember but this is my first foray in to the source material! That in itself is an exciting thing. I don’t really know why I’ve been putting this off? Maybe I was concerned I wouldn’t like it or it would be above my head… who knows?

What I can say is that this book – and the story itself isn’t very long – is a damn good read! It’s not the first in the series and I didn’t feel too lost, which is a good thing. I think having that familiarity with the characters through TV really helped in this instance because I didn’t feel too lost. Maybe reading an earlier Holmes book would have been a better move? I don’t know. This was good though! The actual scope of the book is quite broad for such a short novel, there was supernatural and science… it all came together quite brilliantly I thought!

But… while it was good it didn’t really live up to my expectations of Holmes. I can’t lie. It’s by no means going to be my last Holmes, I’m going try some of the shorter works, but I think I went in expecting more than I actually got. Still, it’s a solid book and worthy of 3/5!

Blog: A Very Good Day

Today was a very good day – in spite of full blown flu – and I just want to share it with the world.

Putting it in perspective, it’s been a really hard few months; I had surgery, my great-grandmother died and it really was a pretty awful start to the year with a funeral and finding out my godfather had cancer (just after losing my grandmother to it). My anxiety has been through the roof, depression has crept back in and I’d not felt that deflated for a very long time. But today just made it all worth going through. Today I saw a little bit of light in amongst all the dark and… I want to share it.

First off, I got an interview. I applied for an internship through the university at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC, so geeky!) and I’ve got a freaking interview! I applied last minute (genuinely, 12 hours before the deadline) with none of the prerequisite skills and my chances are so tiny but I don’t care, I got an interview! It’s only a week away too. I need some smart clothes now! Any ideas for good interview clothes and any tips you can give me I’d be grateful!

Then I had the hospital. I had my eardrum reconstructed in December. My surgeon took cartliage from my tragus and build me a new eardrum, and remodelled one of the bones in my ear – isn’t that amazing?! My chances for losing my hearing were about 25%. The aim was for it to remain within 10% of what it was – which was around 50% of a normal persons hearing. Normally, there is a slight loss in hearing. My hearing has improved. Damn. I hoped but I never expected that outcome. My hearing test today came back the best it has since I was 11. I personally felt it had improved but I didn’t want to get my hopes up, I thought it might be psychological but nope. Not all in my head!

I got some coursework back too, not going to complain at 79% in some stats. I hate stats with passion. That is a resounding success.

So I am celebrating tonight with pizza because I haven’t wanted to cry because I’m happy for a very long time. I don’t care I have flu. Things are looking up and even if I don’t get the placement and I don’t always get 1st in my coursework… at least I’m going to have my hearing. My hearing isn’t going anywhere! (The pizza, however, has disappeared to the deepest depths of my stomach. OmNom.)

Happy Wednesday!

February Wrap-Up & March TBR

I can’t believe it’s March already! Where is this year going, seriously? I’m blogging and I genuinely have work I really ought to be doing but… this is genuinely where my head is at right now, which is bad given how much work I ought to be doing. Alas, my skills of procrastinating is why I read so prolifically! I have 6 deadlines this month, so reading is going to be on the back burner before Easter break starts (March 20th!) as I really need to knuckle down. This post, like all of my wrap-ups is quite long (and wordy) so here we go

February Stats:
So February, I read 7 books. 5 of those were by females and 2 by males; this is more in line with my usual reading pattern! 2 of those were by Japanese (or an author of Japanese descent, in Ruth Ozeki’s case) which I’m okay with. I know my diversity ought to be on the increase but I’m reading what I’m in the mood for and I’m not going to be dictated by what I feel pressured to read.

My average rating was 3.6 – split across 2* (All Over Creation) to 5* (Moby Dick) ratings. I read a total of 2897 pages and I’m very happy with that! My favourite book was probably The Miniaturist or Station Eleven even though it was Moby Dick that got 5* – while not perfect from a literary perspective, they were probably easier reads and more enjoyable; which seems odd as I did give both of them 4*. My least favourite was either All Over Creation or Hard Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World – a 2* and a barely 3* respectively – which makes me sad because I love both Ozeki and Murakami and I had high expectations for both of these books!

I didn’t read one book on my TBR (Something Fresh) but I’m okay with that. I read more than I was hoping to, I just didn’t read exactly what I planned. But my TBR is only an idea anyway generally speaking.

March Goals:
2015-02-28 23.15.05So this is my March TBR. Have a few familiar authors there – Ali Smith, Michel Faber and of course, Daphne du Maurier!

I’m actually seeing Ali Smith in conversation on the 17th (I genuinely cannot wait!) and I’m hoping to get through a few more of her books in that time (ambitious, I know) so I can do a bit of an Author Spotlight type post after I’ve seen her!

If you haven’t worked it out yet, I’m trying to work my way through du Maurier’s bibliography – again so I can do a bit of an Author Spotlight post on her. I’m looking forward to reading Julius – I’m hoping it’s better than I’ll Never Be Young Again!

Then we have Eugenides, which I’m looking forward to finally reading – this was a book club book quite some time ago that I never read! Michel Faber is awesome and I’m sure I’m going to love this book (The Courage Consort) – I know very little about it but I’m sure I’ll love it. The Hound of the Baskervilles is my first foray in to Sherlock Holmes – can you believe it?! I’m hoping to actually have this finished quite quickly, it’s at most 150 pages long. Finally there’s Creation which is a non-fiction book on evolution – really looking forward to this as it’s technically two books in one. I bought it purely for the novelty that you can flip it upside-down and read the two books to the middle! Oh and I really love reading about evolution.

So this is my TBR for March. You can look forward to a a couple of tag posts, a haul and an “omg I met Ali Smith” post this month so I hope you’re not fed up of me! Thanks as always for reading.