Blogmas (Or A Very Last Minute, Crazy, Decision)

So a number of people are doing Vlogmas on YouTube and, as I’m not a youtuber, I decided to use a bit of Goole-Fu and see if blogmas was a thing, and it is. So I’m doing it.

In the month of December, from the 1st to the 24th, I will upload a post every day! I’m hoping to get some good variety in. I’ve got a Book Haul, my TBR for December, undoubtedly I will have a number of book reviews which may or may not count towards my daily blog (depending on whether it’s a slow day!). I want to do a number of tags, I’d like to just do a few generic posts about things I achieved this year, things I want to achieve next year… Anyway, if you have any suggestions about what I should include in the next month I’d love to hear what you’d like to see!

I really want it to be good quality content, I don’t want to compromise that aspect. So I’m probably going to schedule a lot of content in order for it to slip.

I’m pretty excited about this up and coming month. I’m feeling mighty festive this Winter and I want to share that with you!

Review: Public Library + Other Stories – Ali Smith

Public LibraryAli Smith is probably my favourite living author. The way that woman can turn a sentence is just incredible and I honestly think her work just keeps getting better. Her short stories are always masterpieces and this collection is no different.

I will start with a simple statement; this isn’t her best collection, not by a long shot. But it is, nonetheless, amazing. I really liked the layout of this book in that each story is separated by an interlude from various people and how much libraries mean to them. The stories themselves were all perfectly readable but they were primarily 3* stories to start with and, in my opinion, the stories became stronger as the book moved on. The final 3 or 4 were amazing and if the whole book – or even just a couple more stories – were of that calibre I would very easily be able to give this 5*.

However, my final feelings with this book is that is was good, I loved it, it gave me everything I went in to it expecting but I didn’t feel it gave me much more which is what I was holding out for. Ali remains one of my favourite authors and I will read anything she writes, short story collections are notoriously hard for me as a reader to give 5* and this sadly just missed out (I gave it 4* if anyone cares!)

Final words are a big thank you to my lovely friend Sar for gifting me this for my birthday. It was very much loved & appreciated!

Blog: Living with ME

For anyone who doesn’t know, I have ME – Myalgic Encephalopathy – sometimes called Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I have blogged about this in the past at various points but it seems all the more poignant now as I’m in a relapse which is, pretty much, ruining my life right now. Yes, I sound melodramatic but how this disability impacts on me, it does ruin things. I don’t often like to be a negative person, I’m a relatively positive person, I have to be. But sometimes, it all gets on top of me and rather than internalise I thought I would try and explain briefly what it is and how it affects me. So, if you want to know carry on reading, if not then you don’t have to!

Continue reading

Review: Back Story – David Mitchell

back storyYes. It’s a book by THAT David Mitchell, the real David Mitchell, the one who has not previously written any books but what a great book it was. I am seriously on an autobiography binge, simply because I’ve discovered that I love listening to them as audiobooks. This was one of the best ones read, or rather listened to – it has to be said I haven’t listened to many but this was a good one that I will be making others listen to parts of.

Just imagine David, on a rant on say Would I Lie To You (I love that show, if you haven’t watched it seriously have a gander on YouTube) and make it a 9 hour long episode of just him. Occasionally it lulls a bit, is more about him (as you would expect from an autobiography) and it’s not as entertaining but there are interludes of him going off tangent and for me these were some of the best parts. It read more like a novel in some respects as every chapter is started by a thought he has had on a walk and it just gets further and further off topic in parts.

Like any memoir, this goes in to his childhood, how he struggled at school, his despair when he didn’t get in to Oxford university (he ended up at Cambridge, he became president of Footlights and that role was his goal), how his career in comedy really took off. There are exploits with many well known people, I particularly loved the insights in to his friendship with Olivia Colman, or Colly as she’s known to her friends.

For me though, the shining light has to be the penultimate chapter – his relationship with Victoria Coren (or rather Victoria Coren Mitchell as she now is). That woman is glorious, anyone can see it, and they are just so adorable. This chapter filled me with a lot of warm fuzzies. It’s available on youtube somewhere if anyone wishes to just listen to a bit, it’s totally worth it. It is pretty out of character, so to speak, it reads completely differently to the rest of the book but I think it’s a nice way to round it off.

Overall this has to be a 4*. It was a great listen, I did enjoy it, but while I love David it was no better than the last autobiography I listened to (Revd Richard Coles).

Review: The Story of Antigone – Ali Smith

antigoneThis is a retelling of Sophocles’ tragedy about a young girl, Antigone, who after a brutal battle has lost both her brothers. One is declared a hero, the other a traitor.  The king of Thebes decided that his nephew, Antigone’s bother Polynices, was a traitor at the time of his death and as such doesn’t deserve a burial. Young Antigone can’t bear to leave her brother and, fully aware that the penalty for honouring her brother’s remains will be her own death, Antigone still goes out of the city to find his body and bury it.

Ali Smith reworks myth so well. Rather than rework this and give it a modern twist, as she did in Girl Meets Boy, she retells the original myth from the perspective of a crow. This, I have to say, is a stroke of genius on her part. It makes the events a lot more interesting and, in a way, more understandable. She even gets interviewed by the crow at the end which is a really great way to insert more back story. It is worth saying that this is aimed at children and I think the perspective it is told in really helps make it approachable for that younger audience – it’s still gory but not quite so gruesome!

I listened to this as an audiobook, Ali herself narrating it, and it was glorious. It really heightened the experience for me. It wasn’t a long audiobook by any stretch at just over an hour and was perfect to curl up and listen to before bed. I do, however, really want the physical book because I have seen it is beautifully illustrated.

This was easily a 5* book. I loved it.

Review: A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens

taleoftwocitiesThis is my third foray in to Dickens and I’m quite glad it wasn’t my first. I may be about to be quite controversial here but… I didn’t really like this.

Now, don’t get me wrong this book was good in many ways. It met the expectations of what I have read of Dickens so far in terms of the writing, if anything this book was easier to follow the flow of in some ways. But I just didn’t like this book whatsoever on the plot front. I ended up getting it as an audiobook as I was finding it hard to engross myself in, which helped a little and got me through it.

The opening paragraph is possibly one of the best known in literature and I really thought I was settling down to something incredible and, in some ways, it was but it just didn’t capture me like his previous works have. I found this such a slog and, for me, there were very few shining moments. Honestly, if it wasn’t for part three this would probably have been a 1* for me. The last book of this novel made the slog of the first two parts almost worthwhile, almost. The characters on the whole were detestable, Lucie especially was infuriating; simpering fool of a girl, why everyone found her so wonderful I don’t know.

I hate to give a book a low rating but this one I have to. So it’s a 2* read. I’d only suggest this book if you’ve read Dickens in the past, in my opinion it’s not one to pick up as your first foray!

Review: Fathomless Riches – Richard Coles

Fathomless Riches

So I’ve wanted to read this book for a long while, and I actually ended up picking this one up as an audiobook. I had some audible credits and I was absolutely sold on it after listening to the taster. Richard reads it himself which, I find, adds a lot more depth to an autobiography

For anyone who doesn’t know, The Reverend Richard Coles has an insanely interesting life; from popstar in 80s group The Communards to a CofE priest turned comedian. As I said, I wanted to read this for a good period of time before I actually picked it up because Richard’s appearances on shows like QI and Have I Got News For You have turned him in to one of my favourite TV personalities. This book was not a disappointment, it made me laugh, it was interesting and also gave me a little spiritual lifting.

This book is brutally honest, but still respectful of the others involved, and I admired that. There is an insane amount of drugs, sex and rock and roll, especially in the first half. There’s the rise and fall of The Communards, his life through the AIDS crisis in the 1980s, where he lost of many friends. The years that followed where he drifted and then found himself turning to religion, going to university to study theology and his subsequent path to the pulpit.

It does end quite abruptly, just has he has been ordained, but I have been assured that there is a part 2 to come, as to when that will be I don’t know! I look forward to reading, or listening, to it because I’d quite like to hear about his life after being ordained!

Overall I’m going to give this a 4/5. It was great, I loved it, the audiobook was a brilliant decision (I whizzed through it in two sittings) and it affirmed that this man is as great as I thought he was. Highly recommend it!

Review: The Drum Tower – Farnoosh Moshiri

drum towerI have to say this book surprised me quite pleasantly! It was one I bought in IBW in June, it was one I bought purely on instinct after reading the back and it is one of those books that makes me very happy I went by my gut as it’s not something I would have probably found otherwise. I’ve been mulling over how to put this review in to words because this book was one of those I’m finding hard to do that for.

The prose in this book is just beautiful. For me, it was very similar to Khaled Hosseini’s work, it was rich, vibrant, lyrical and was just a delight to read. It’s both realism and not, there is heavy influence of Iranian folklore, mythology and fairy tales which I really appreciated.

The Drum Tower follows the story of Talkhoon, a young girl growing up in pre-revolution Iran. She suffers from mental health issues and I have to just commend Moshiri for how well, and beautifully, she dealt with that. Her family lock her away because of these issues, and in her reclusive cell, she carefully takes in, learns and practices the lessons of life. She protests in her own way, wears men’s clothes and falls into deliberate silence to deal with her situation.

My issues, and why this was only a 3* read for me, are that there were multiple different strands of the story and for me they just didn’t connect very well. While it was beautifully written, I put it down for two days and didn’t have any urge to pick it up in that time. There was just something that didn’t immerse me fully and, for that, I can’t give it more than 3. I’d recommend people pick it up and give it a go because the prose is beautiful, just the story as a whole didn’t click with me. I’ll definitely be looking for more by her because her writing has definitely piqued my interest!

October Wrap-Up & November Goals

Happy November! Firstly I just have to say I love Autumn, October went far too quickly and I’m really not okay with it being November. It’s now only 24 days until I turn 22 and I’m not sure how I’m feeling about that, also, Christmas isn’t far away at all either – it’s terrifying but exciting all at once!

October Stats
Reading was more productive this month but, once again, a TBR went out of the window. I’ve been more emotional reading or reading what my mood takes me to. I’ve also been suffering with migraines this past month so I would probably have read more had I been able to – but as it stands I managed 6 books but, on page count, this was the worst month of the year for me! The 6 books totalled 1609 pages and averaged at 3.7*. There were 3 male and 3 female authors, one person of colour and a nice mix of genre. My favourite new book of the month was, obviously The House on the Strand by my beloved Daphne du Maurier however, I really think my favourite book was the illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone but I feel picking that would be cheating!

November Goals
For November, I’m going to have goals rather than a TBR. I want to re-read the remainder of the Harry Potter series, I also want to read at least 5 books other than Harry Potter which is ambitious given my poor reading the last few months! I have 4 bits of coursework to write up this month so most of my time is going on to that but I need to relax some how!

One book I definitely want to read this month is The Public Library and Other Stories by Ali Smith which is published on Thursday and I have on pre-order!

I’ve already surpassed my GoodReads goal of 75 books for the year – I’d like to make it to 100 but I’m going to focus on page count rather than book numbers!

Anyway, if anyone has any recommendations for good books to get you out of a bit of a slump I’d love to hear them!

Review: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Illustrated) – JK Rowling & Jim Kay

HP&tPS

Everyone knows the story of Harry Potter, so this isn’t really going to be a review of that. This is going to be more of a review of what an incredible experience rereading it with illustration was because I’m in love with it, I really am.

This has been a long time in the making, but the wait was really not a disappointment. Jim Kay has added a new dimension to the story and I really cannot wait to see what he does with the rest of the series. The illustrations he’s created are definitely more what I imagined when I first read the books, but there is a bit of influence from the movies (how could there not be?!).

The story hasn’t changed any, but the illustrations boosted this book significantly in the enjoyment levels. I would even go as far as to say it’s now my favourite in the series, simply because of the illustrations. The first movie was weak, the kids were poor actors and significant portions were cut and this just gave the insight in to some of the better scenes that were cut with beautiful illustrations. I really want the panorama of Diagon Alley on my wall, I loved the sorting hat, I loved the little inserts of dragon eggs and trolls… I just loved everything about this.

My only peeve is that it’s in columns of text rather than blocks, but after a few pages I got used to that. It was just jarring at first. But otherwise this is just perfect and I just want the entire series now. I cannot wait for The Chamber of Secrets to be released, hopefully sooner rather than later. Needless to say this is easily a 5* book now, before it was a 3/4.

One final note, this would make a beautiful Christmas present for any Harry Potter lover or even a child who is ready to be introduced to the wizarding world. Or just a present for yourself!