Blog: Readers Guilt|| Blogmas Day 22

I haven’t picked a book up for a couple of days and, as someone who talks about reading a lot, this makes me feel guilty. It’s a weird feeling because it’s a completely unfounded notion. Noone is going to penalise me for not reading a book for a few days, noone is judging or actively harassing me but I feel I should be reading when I’m spending my free time doing other stuff. I have two shelves full of books, plus an overspill downstairs. I have so many books that I want to be reading but, right now, I just don’t feel like reading.

I’ve really been enjoying watching TV lately and that’s not a bad thing. I love watching TV, especially with my mum as it’s rare she actually enjoys a show that I do. This past couple of weeks I’ve got my mum hooked on one of my favourite TV shows – Major Crimes. I’ve had a tonne recorded and as she had a day off we genuinely sat and watched 6 episodes pretty much back to back today and it was fantastic. We rarely get to spend time just loafing about watching telly so it’s been really, really great to be able to do that. I also watched The Good Life Christmas special. Twice. 1970s comedy was gold, especially The Good Life, I just love it so very much.

But I have this pressure on me wherein I feel I ought to be reading. The pressure comes from noone but myself, which is why it’s especially annoying, but it’s fuelled by reading goals and targets I set myself. It’s fuelled by watching other people read obscene amounts and wanting to keep up with the best of them. Essentially, I have a reading inferiority complex.

Now, I’ve read 94 books this year and I want to make it to a nice, round 100. Can I do that? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I want to enjoy time with my family, I want to watch TV and make shortbread and sing Christmas songs (badly, I must add, as I currently have the tail end of flu and sound like a 96 year old man with emphysema). What I also know is this pressure I put myself under has me wanting to read less.

So, I’m not reading right now and I’m starting to feel okay about that.

Review: The Nutcracker – E.T.A. Hoffmann || Blogmas Day 21

the nutcrackerI bought this, and wanted to read it, because I saw the ballet. All I will say to compare the two is that this is essentially a Grimms Fairy Tale to a Disney movie. The performance is NOTHING like the source material. I don’t know what I was expecting, German children’s literature – especially classics – are notoriously dark and this was no exception of that rule.

The story itself follows seven year old Marie, who is given a pretty ugly, wooden Nutcracker from her godfather for Christmas. She has vivid dreams on that night about the Nutcracker and it follows that her godfather tells her the tale of the Nutcracker; how he was once a beautiful boy who was cursed to become ugly. Marie is determined to help her much-loved Nutcracker and wants to help him break the spell that made him ugly and we follow her adventure in to the doll kingdom! It really is the sweetest tale but is also quite brutal and gruesome in parts.

It really was a charming Christmas book. Having seen the ballet I feel I appreciated it more but that’s not to say you couldn’t get the same out of it if you haven’t seen the ballet, I think for me it just added a bit of meat to the bones! I loved this and will definitely reread it at Christmastime again.

Blog: Trips to the Theatre || Blogmas Day 20

I missed another day because of a migraine. I’m going to forgive myself, I hope you enjoyed the peace and quiet!

So today I’m going to talk about my trips to the theatre this year and trips I hope to take because I’ve really got in to theatre this year, I always enjoyed going to see something or other but I’ve actively tried to go see different things this year and I’ve loved it. Not many people realise that I’m a complete theatre nerd, but along with tea I think theatre goes hand in hand with reading books.

My local theatre used to be pretty poor when it came to touring productions, now it’s attracting a LOT of shows on tour which I’m so grateful for. It only started showing things after Les Mis sold out two weeks and the West End realised that people in Norfolk do want to see shows and the like. It’s a relatively small theatre which limits a lot of the shows we get but what it does get is usually fantastic. Anyway, what I have seen this year is a bit eclectic actually.  Continue reading

Review: Harry Potter Bulk Review 2 || Blogmas Day 18

As promised from my previous review, this is the bulk review of The Order of the Phoenix to The Deathly Hallows.

The Order of the Phoenix (3*)
This is my least favourite in the series. I know for a lot of people, this is the best but there are just so many things about this book that anger me. This book is really when it became a much more adult story and in some respects I struggle with that even now! The politics in this book frustrates me. Umbridge is one of the most deplorable characters in literature and really, really pisses me off. I find this book very challenging to read, it’s the longest filler book in a series you could imagine.

However, some of the good parts of this book are some of the best parts of the series. There is a lot of humour through this book that I do absolutely love and do mean that I keep reading but on the whole I don’t enjoy this book. The shining moments for me are the 40 lines of eye contact/sexual tension between Remus/Sirius (in addition to joint presents for Harry and general Wolfstar subtext), there is also McGonagall being her fabulous self and saying beautiful things like “have a biscuit Potter”.

This book is an important book in the series, a lot happens and a lot of it is good but for me it’s just too political and the teenage angst pisses me off!

The Half-Blood Prince (5*)
The reason I love this book is that while there is the sinister undertone of what is going on in the world there is also the overwhelming normality of school, or as normal as Hogwarts can be! I loved the Ron/Lavender relationship, I loved Hermione realising that she had feelings for Ron even though I’m still not sold on them being endgame.

My opinion of Dumbledore was sealed in this book the first time around. I hate him. I know that it was thought he had good intentions but that man made so many really bad mistakes, omitted so many facts, that man was dangerous and most people see him as this hero of the series. I don’t. Albus Dumbledore was a manipulative bastard, to be quite honest.

I loved Riddle’s backstory this time around a lot more than I have appreciated in the past. I also love the first chapter of this book, it’s often overlooked but I love The Other Minister, even if Rufus Scrimgeour is a bumbling idiot!

The Deathly Hallows (5*)
This book always has me feeling a lot of things. I don’t think it’s the best in the series but it was exactly what the series was building to and was completely satisfying. I’ve always sobbed, quite a lot, while reading this book and even on my umpteenth reread it wasn’t any different. Dobby. Snape. Fred. Remus. Tonks. Every one gets me!

There are so many things I could say about this book. Every part of this book is incredible and Jo’s mind is wonderful, how she tied everything together like she did is awe inspiring.

When I finished this book I sobbed like a baby. I always do. As a wise woman once said, “Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home” and I couldn’t agree more. Every time I read this series I feel like I’m home, even if I have some big issues with the epilogue, I forgive Jo, she’s the queen and she knew what she was doing.

Blog: A Migraine is Not Just a Headache || Blogmas Day 17

I felt like a failure yesterday because I wasn’t able to blog. When I commit to something I intend to see it through so failing to blog on the 16th day of blogmas really had me beating myself up. It’s silly, it’s stupid but it’s the kind of person I am. All because I had a migraine.

I’m still unwell, I’m a little better than I was yesterday but still struggling. It’s taken me all day, in short bursts, to actually write this. I’ve slept most of the last 48 hours and when I’m awake it’s not just a headache, migraines completely drain you of all energy. They affect me by making me feel sick, in combination with the CFS symptoms I was pretty much bed bound for 2 days – needing help to just get from one room to another because I can’t walk straight and every movement had me near tears. It’s like being pissed without any of the fun!

There are so many symptoms that make a migraine more than a headache. Seeing stars isn’t just a myth. My senses all become very sensitive; smells make me feel nauseous. I become really sensitive to touch – both from people and stationary objects, just a blanket is enough to make me uncomfortable. Everything is stupidly loud, every noise is too much. There is nothing worse than being unwell and also being unable to do anything, which is pretty much what a migraine leaves me with. I can’t read, I can’t watch TV or listen to music, I can’t even use my laptop! Sensory overload.

So hopefully normal service will resume soon. Hopefully I’ll feel better soon.

Best Books of 2015 || Blogmas Day 15

Somewhat adapted from today’s Top Ten Tuesday topic I want to discuss the best books I’ve read in the year of 2015! This year has been an incredible reading year for me, while not many of these will be a surprise to those of you who have followed my blog over the year I want to just share these books and hopefully inspire one of you to read them.

My love of classics grew exponentially this year and I’m really no longer scared of the epic classic that spans over 800 pages. I started the year reading The Old Curiosity Shop – it was my first Dickens and even now, a year on nearly, it’s still as clear in my mind.

Another epic classic but a bit shorter at just over 600 pages is Moby Dick. It’s one I am so glad I read although it was difficult in parts; I felt I got something out of it. I’m not certain this book would be for everyone but I implore you to just try it because I was dubious about it too but I ended up loving it.

One that will come as no surprise is the epic of all epics, The Count of Monte Cristo, is on this list. This book took me by surprise in the best possible way and I cannot wait to read more Dumas next year. I implore anyone to read this book, I absolutely devoured it and even at over 1200 pages it really didn’t feel very long. That book is a masterpiece and I would really suggest to anyone to give it a try because I really think it has a little bit of something for everyone!

Slightly shorter is The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood. This is the best in the MaddAddam trilogy, in my opinion at least! I couldn’t put this book down and the world that she created was incredible. This was the book I connected with most in the series and I think that this and Oryx and Crake can be read in either order as they are essentially the same story through different eyes. The less I say about MaddAddam the better!

Orlando I read twice in a handful of days. I finished it and went right back to the start. This book connected with me on some emotional level I didn’t know I had. I loved Virginia Woolf already but this only solidified that and put her up there as one of my favourite authors. Woolf can be hard to get in to, but I encourage everyone to try because her work is beautiful. If you want a good place to start, try Flush!

Finally, the only new release of the year, is A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan. This is the best short story collection I’ve read in a long time, maybe ever. Each story is linked beautifully by the thread that they’re being told to an unborn child by their mothers. I could easily have read this in one sitting. It’s really hard to find right now as it was a limited run by a small publisher in Scotland but I believe the paperback will be available next year!

So there we have it – my favourite books of 2015, or my stand out books at the very least! Tomorrow is a top 5 Wednesday and Thursday will be a review all being well. If you have any ideas I’d like to have some inspiration because I’m really running out of them…!

Books My Sister Has Bought Me || Blogmas Day 14

One thing I love about my sister is she has a beautiful taste in books and is normally drawn in by a beautiful cover. My sister is one of the most creative people I know, her own artwork is incredible and because she’s so artistic I think she has more appreciation for the artwork that goes in to a book than the words in the pages. Naturally, because of her appreciation for a beautiful book she has given me some corkers over the years.

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There are many more, I am sure, but these are the ones she has gifted me in the recent years… and she wanted to take the picture so included an apple. Because that’s how my sister rolls.

The Penguin editions speak for themselves. She tends to treat me to one of those a year but likes to find other beautiful books for me to have on my shelves. She also bought both The Bone Clocks and The Book of Strange New Things for me which are incredibly beautiful covers.

However, the two books I want to look at more are Black Beauty and Harry Potter Page to Screen.

Continue reading

5 Reading Goals for 2016 || Blogmas Day 13

In August 2014 I set myself a list of goals to work towards – they were all casual goals that didn’t really have any time limit on them, but were more personal goals I wanted to achieve with my reading. The full post can be found here but the main goals were set monthly TBRs, read more classics, read more diversely, rejoin a book club and for a lot of them I succeeded. I just feel that 18 months on I should set myself some new reading goals for the year ahead!

  1. Read 52 Books – I’m going to lower my goodreads reading goal this coming year. Between my final semester at university and planning to start teacher training in September, I want to just aim to read a book a week. I’ll have time in the Summer to read as much as I want (I hope!) but I’m a girl who likes to meet targets so in setting the goal lower, I’m more likely to hit it!
  2. Read More Classics – I’ve been really hitting this one but I want to explore classics further and challenge myself more. My classics collection has grown exponentially over the last year and I really want to just get through them. I’m wanting to read more Dickens, finish Charlotte Bronte’s bibliography… heck, I’d actually like to read War and Peace next year!
  3. TBRs – Aiming for one book a week, I do want to continue with a monthly TBR for at least the near future. I will be posting, in the near future, a list of 12 books I want to read in 2016 and will aim to read one of them a month but I realise that if my reading drops significantly if I start teaching then a monthly TBR isn’t really practical, a TBR with one book on it is pretty dull!
  4. Read More Non-Fiction – I’ve really enjoyed non-fiction this year and really want to continue reading more of it, or rather listening to it. Audiobooks I’ve found are incredible for non-fiction!
  5. Actually Join a Book Club – I still haven’t joined a real book club. I really need to do this. Graduating in the Summer I’m going to need something to fulfil my social needs and I want to find a good book club! It’s just finding the confidence to do that which is proving difficult!

So there you have it, five goals for 2016 reading. I’m not being nearly as ambitious as I usually am but if I give myself targets, I always want to exceed them so in setting reasonable goals, whatever I achieve above them I will be pleased with! Do you set yourself reading goals? If you do are they monthly or yearly?

Review: Jabberwocky and Other Nonsense – Lewis Carroll || Blogmas Day 12

jabberwockyToday I bring you a review, and it is of Jabberwocky and Other Nonsense, a collection of the poetry of Lewis Carroll. I’ve learnt one thing while writing this review and it is simply that reviewing a poetry collection is quite difficult. I’ll start by saying that I loved this book but I’ll follow that up with a disclaimer of I’m not good at reviewing poetry!

Firstly, I have to say the title of this book is somewhat deceiving – there isn’t all that much nonsense! A lot of the poetry is quite serious and melancholic and I actually really enjoyed it on the whole. It’s a nice blend of the nonsense and the serious poetry in this edition (Penguin Clothbound). Carroll was famous for making up words and what I really appreciated was the notes on the text which explain at least some of those words.

My favourite sections were those from Alice (both the first book and Through the Looking Glass) and the poetry that I was already familiar with. I remember loving Mouse Tails as a child because I adored the formatting! There are also a lot of riddles in this book which I had fun with and made me think. While a lot of this poetry is nonsense and a little childish I got just as much out of it as an adult – in fact I thoroughly enjoyed it!

I’m not a poetry expert by any stretch of the word. I just like reading it once in a while and this book was pretty good for me. It was fun and really quite charming to read. I think this is really a book that the whole family could enjoy as kids love rhyming poetry and nonsense! I have to give this a 4* review because I really enjoyed it, even if I have very little constructive to say about it.

Tag: Winter is Coming || Bogmas Day 11

Happy Friday people! This is late as today was crazy, it was the last day of uni for the semester and was a lot busier than I anticipated.

Today, as promised, I am bringing you a tag. This tag was created by Katherine Barka and when I watched it over on Sam’s channel (Novels and Nonsense) I really wanted to give it a go. It’s been on my To Do list since this time last year and I discovered it in my notebook and decided that, as it’s nice and festive, it was perfect for the 11th day of Blogmas! Without further ado let’s get on to the questions…

1. Snow: It is beautiful when it first falls, but then it starts to melt. A book/book series that you loved at the beginning, but then, at the middle of it, you realized you don’t like it any longer.
Wuthering Heights. Unpopular opinion there. I always feel blasphemous when I say I didn’t like Wuthering Heights. I’ve always enjoyed it to about page 150 and then I just get really frustrated and angry with it.

2. Slowflake: Something beautiful and always different. Choose a book that stands out, that is different from all the other books you’ve read
countofmontecristoThe Count of Monte Cristo. I talk about this book a lot and I think the reason I do have such strong feelings about it is that I went in to it not really expecting much. I picked it up on a whim, even though it was a classic is was very far away from my usual comfort zone. It opened my mind to try new things, it’s a book that has just stuck with me and I find myself thinking about it a lot. I have these really vivid memories about it and a book hasn’t haunted me like that, ever.

Also, Miss Perigrine’s Home for Peculiar Children… that book was very out of my comfort zone full stop and I loved it!

3. Snowman: It is always fun to make one with your family. Choose a book that a whole family could read.
It would be very easy to say Harry Potter here, and while I have said that I will also pick something different and say The Oz series by L Frank Baum. It’s a great read for any age and, also, has a good balance of male and female characters so there is someone for everyone to relate to!

4. Christmas: Choose a book that is full of happiness, that made you warm inside after reading it
Harry Potter?! No, an alternative answer to this is probably Ballet Shoes, I love that book. It’s heartwarming and really deserves more recognition!

5. Santa Claus: He brings wonderful presents. Choose a book that you’d like to get for ChristmasDr Jekyll
One that I know is just a pipedream is the VMC Designer edition of My Cousin Rachel. It’s out of print and so hard to find, if you do it’s extortionate but I would so, so love that book to add to my collection.

Failing that, I’d be happy with any Penguin special editions – clothbounds, english library, drop caps, christmas series… I love them all! Also, there is a new range of Penguin books designed by Coralie Bickford-Smith that are a rubber cover and they are beautiful as illustrated by the picture to the right. There are 10 books in this series and they are just to die for – but at £20 a piece they’re going to have to remain beautiful!

6. Snow bowling: It can be painful to be hit by a snowball. Choose a book that hurt, that made you feel some strong emotion, like sadness, or anger.
The last book that made me angry was actually Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix… That book enrages me quite a bit. It’s the least favourite in the series for me and yes, it infuriates me!

An answer that isn’t Harry Potter… The Dumb House by John Burnside. That book was creepy as hell, I loved it, it was like Criminal Minds in the written from but it really gave me some strong emotions!

7. Sledding: We all loved it when we were younger. Choose a book that you loved when you were a child.
So many! I’m going to have to pick the book I remember reading most as a child which was Owl Babies. I’m going right back to my early years here as I read this when I started primary school. It was one of my favourite books and I actually bought it for a friend as a joke gift last year!

8. Frostbite: Choose a book that you were really disappointed in.
Middlemarch. I’m saying no more.

9. Reindeer: Something that is dear to us. Choose a book that is of great sentimental value to you.
orginaljaneeyreI have several books that are very high on the sentimental list. For me it has to be Jane Eyre. It was the first classic I read as a teenager and I, sadly, have lost the copy I read originally but I loved that book literally to pieces; it was falling apart on the last read. I had the really ugly edition that I’ve put in a picture of, it was really thin paper and not well bound but I remember reading that book and being so grateful that my uncle introduced me to that book. I’ll have to thank him one day!