Sunday, 7 February 2016

Sunday Sundries: The London Bookshop Crawl

Hi kids, tis Sunday again! Time to be deliriously happy for the opportunity to have a lie-in, and crushingly sad because, ya know, you (probably) have to go to work tomorrow.

This week has been pretty ok, and I'm sure that good things happened, but rather than talk about any of the week I'm just going to talk about Saturday and the London Bookshop Crawl because OH MY GOD IT WAS THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD EVER EVER EVER!

A little bit of background to the Bookshop Crawl- for many years now, Bex and I have been meeting up with many people from the internets to eat food and chat and buy books and generally be excellent people together. I know that a lot a lot of people do the same thing in maybe little groups, but after Bex, Katie and I went book shopping last Halloween (what else would a person do on Halloween?) Bex amazingly formulated and then only bloody executed the plan for mass blogger book shopping together, in London, on a Saturday, i.e. yesterday. So, whilst I only half jokingly now refer to myself as a founding member of the idea, I am fully in awe of what Bex has managed to pull together just by being an awesome and organised human being!

The day, though. It started for me a little bit late because I'm incapable of a) getting up in the mornings and b) remembering to set my alarm early enough that I'll have enough time to actually WALK to the station and not just magically be there. All this meant, though, was that I missed the assigned meeting point of Foyles, and caught up with everyone at Orbital Comics (an indie comic book shop near Leicester Square) instead. No drama! After locating our glorious leader, I was having a little browse when I MET ELLIE which was so awesome because I've been following her literally since she started blogging, and she's just as lovely as I thought she'd be.

Not long later, we were on our way to some secondhand and also really fancy bookshops (I'd look up their names but frankly I am much too lazy) where I got my hands on the Complete Brothers Grimm Fairytales and drooled over some signed Murakami first editions, and also met this Ellie who was also a delight to be around. I had slightly gotten separated from everyone else at this point, but Katie tracked me down and VERY sneakily suggested we go to Forbidden Planet- there's a bit of an in-joke here, but I've been yelling at Bex for MONTHS for the fact that the crawl wasn't officially visiting FP, hence the taking and sending of this photo:
Because I am consistently mature and graceful. Anyway. It would have been rude to leave Forbidden Planet after all that with nothing, so I obviously had to buy The Diary of a Teenage Girl before Katie and I went to get noodles for lunch.

After lunch, everyone reunited and took the long long walk to Persephone Books. I was pretty excited about this stop because Katie and Bex went there on one trip before when I had to leave to learn some Shakespeare, and it seemed so excellent, but it turned out to be even more wonderful than I'd expected. This lovely lady gave us a talk on the history of Persephone and how they work, and then proceeded to make every single book they sell sound completely amazing. Somehow I managed to only leave with one (I really don't know how!) but I now basically need all of the Persephone books in the world (to be fair, at present there are only 115!)- note to everyone I know.

After Persephone (I know) we headed off to the London Review of Books Bookshop, which is right near the British Museum and SUCH an adorable shop. To me, it felt like the perfect size (not too big, not too small, goldilocks style) and pretty much had all the books a person could need, hence why I bought my last couple of books there- The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, and the hilariously named I Love Dick because there is no sense in which I do not need that book. None. Needed it. I especially loved the LRB Bookshop because, thanks to Bex's amazing skills, they gave us 10% off our purchases AND a free goody bag so I now have an extra bag with which to avoid paying 5p for bags, as well as pencils and coasters and postcards... You get the idea.

So. By this point we were some very very tired book bloggers, so we slowly and creakily made the trek over to Waterstones Piccadilly, Europe's biggest bookshop and my personal favourite bookshop that isn't The Strand in NYC. By this point, we really really really needed cake, so whilst Bex got us a table (for two, that we managed to squeeze 5 around) I got us cokes and the biggest slices of cake anyone has ever had. Rejuvenated after cake and MASSIVE SIT DOWNS, we got up again (standing. Ugh.) to wearily look around Waterstones. I had personally, I think, shot my proverbial wad at this point, so more or less followed Bex and Katie around while they chose books, and then plaintively asked if we could find somewhere to sit down. We did! And whilst it was so great meeting all the other bloggery babes, it was also so lovely to have half an hour with just the three of us, founding members, I may say, of the day's expedition.

After good pizza and good conversation, it was time for us all to make our various ways home- I left feeling slightly smug about only having a 25 minute train journey home, but that quickly evaporated when I realised how windy and rainy it was and how much I had to PRESERVE THE BOOKS. I was both exhausted and buzzing when I got home, so although I couldn't deal with watching TV or anything so strenuous, I could apparently deal with taking photos of my beautiful books:
and, well, writing this post about my day- I'm going to say, literally the best one of the year so far! Long may it continue.

So, to summarise- meeting people from the internet remains one of the greatest things you can do, Bex is an absolute legend for organising all of this, and oh man, I really fucking love books. I think Bex is planning on making this an annual event, so I recommend following her on twitter if you want to buy books amongst 20-or so likeminded people at some point in the future. ALSO ON TWITTER, I fully recommend checking out the #LondonBookshopCrawl hashtag to have a gander at everyone's shenanigans, and if you were there (I WAS THERE, MAN!) and have written a post about it, please post a link in the comments so I can relive the day through you, too!

Seriously. BEST DAY OF THE YEAR SO FAR!

Thursday, 4 February 2016

Devouring Stephen King: The Dark Tower VI- Song of Susannah

It may have been almost a year since my last Stephen King review, it may have taken me almost that long to finish this book, but dammit, I haven't forgotten my most important of all reading tasks, the Stephen King extravaganza that is my life.

Before I begin to vaguely talk about this book because it's in the middle of a series and so spoilers- I wouldn't recommend, if you were planning to, reading the last books of The Dark Tower series so far apart. King essentially wrote the books one after the other and that's kind of how they should be read. When I first read the series, I finished all 7 in about a month (unemployment is intense, you guys) and it was the greatest and I wouldn't have been able to tell you that it had any flaws because oh my god. The series is so good you guys (for the record, I still believe that, at least). Reading them so far apart not only decreases the dramatic tension that these last three books genuinely have, but mean that Song of Susannah, as a stand alone book, does not fare well under scrutiny.

So. Wolves of the Calla ends with the disappearance of Susannah (is that a spoiler? That's probably a bit of a spoiler...) and Song of Susannah picks up right after that. As far as I can tell, all of the events of the book take place over one day, albeit a different day for each group of characters, and it... Is... Long. It's drawn out, it brings up a great deal of unnecessary information, only a fraction of which ever becomes relevant, and I just... I didn't need most of it. The three narratives interwoven in this book could more or less have been 3 or 4 chapters of another book, and I would have been fine with that.

This is, of course, an opinion I've formed only with hindsight and actually, partially because I want to finish this series and move ON with my Stephen King journey (11/22/63 awaits!) and so I suppose in some ways its not the pacing of the book that's at fault so much as the pacing I've been able to read these books at. Had I been racing through the series as I did before, I wouldn't have noticed the giant flaw of the fact that nothing happens in this book because of the things that happen in the book before and the book afterwards. I guess this is a symptom of series in general- some books are just going to be slower than others because some bigger events have to be saved for later (it's notable that the Half Blood Prince is probably the least event-y of the Harry Potter books, basically BECAUSE it's Harry being prepared for the final one, and maybe that's part of what's happening here, too).

Essentially though, I will say this about Song of Susannah- whilst I previously thought that Wizard and Glass was my least favourite Dark Tower book, this one has now made my shit list by excruciatingly labouring a couple of points and making a book out of them. Regardless, it's still part of a series that I love enduringly, and I appreciate it in that sense, whilst also considering it a bit of a fail as a stand-alone book. Since it doesn't have to stand alone, I guess that's ok, but since I read it alone, it's definitely not.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Things I Read In January

I said I'd do it and I'm doing it and here is the thing. Here are the things I read in January that I'm not going to write longer reviews for (the things that I am going to write longer reviews for are incoming too, just you wait!)

Song of Susannah- Stephen King
In the spirit of all Stephen King novels so far, Imma review this one properly. But in short: I've been thinking about it and it might just be my least favourite novel in The Dark Tower series, even though I didn't feel like that about it until I re-read it. But we'll discuss that later *nods conspiratorially*

Moominvalley in November- Tove Jansson
Believe it or not, I actually started reading Moominvalley in November in, you know, November. Considering the fact that it's a children's book and a whopping 158 pages long, I think you'll understand me when I say that I really haven't been setting aside actual time to read until this month. Anyway. I've been trying to read the moomin books because I feel bad just loving their physical form but not really knowing their tales, and this was a bad one to start with because it has no moomins, just their absence and what it means and how it feels for the other residents of moominvalley. Which, to be fair, was an interesting and growing experience for many of the characters in this book but I wanted slightly more of moomin being adventurous and slightly less of characters I didn't really know having learning experiences. Still, it's more philosophical than your average children's book, and worthy of being read in a shorter timescale than two months.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World Series- Bryan Lee O'Malley
Scott Pilgrim really deserves a full post considering how much I enjoyed the comic book series, but, you know, I'm a terrible human. That actually leads me in really well to these 6 volumes because Scott Pilgrim is kind of a terrible human, but actually also you root for him and want him to win always? I'm being really non-descriptive of the plot because I (almost definitely erroneously) believe that everyone has seen the movie (which I also kinda love) but essentially Scott Pilgrim, who is broke and totally unemployed, but in a band, falls in love with this girl, Ramona, and has to defeat her seven evil exes if he wants to be with her. THAT, though, I think, is really just a cover for a look at the aimlessness of life in ones early twenties these days and the struggle to figure out what anyone is doing, or supposed to be doing, and oh man can I relate. Nobody mention the fact that I'm in my mid-late twenties, ok? 

The point, anyway: It's a solid story, I really liked the art, the characters are so great (even if you kind of hate them) and I read all 6 books in about 3 days, even though I definitely had loads of other stuff I had to do. Special mention to Bex for lending them to me, be nice to her and maybe she'll lend you some books someday too!

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant- Anne Tyler
I only heard about Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant because it was on one of those lists of 'books that are amazing but kinda forgotten' (obviously the exact title) and, honestly, I'm pretty glad I found that list. It's not exactly an amazingly intricate plot or anything, but in the way of literary fiction the characters are so wonderful and human that I honestly felt that I was reading a real family chronicle (except I don't think anyone is that honest about their feelings) instead of fiction. In the way of truly excellent fiction, as well, it helped me understand things about myself that I didn't even know I felt, and whilst that's obviously a personal reaction to literature, it doesn't mean that it won't move you too, and even if it doesn't, you've still got a novel about a family trying to hold themselves together through everything, everything being life in a general sense. 

The Handmaid's Tale- Margaret Atwood
Reading The Handmaid's Tale was genuinely one of the reasons I started this blog, because I read a book that shook my core so dramatically, and I didn't really have anyone to talk to about it. Since I started this a couple of months after that, though, I never reviewed it here ever, and so now (or in a little bit) is the time for doing that, I think. In short form, though- this is one of my favourite books, one of my favourite dystopias, and should be required reading for everyone who doesn't think feminism is necessary anymore.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire- JK Rowling
My first, my last, my everything. Obviously as great as it has always been, still my favourite book of the series.

Station Eleven- Emily St John Mandel
I feel like I deceived you slightly by saying I was going to let the books from January go, because I definitely feel the need to write a full review of Station Eleven. I can't escape the love of dystopias, ok guys, and this one is truly spectacular. Just hold on for some more interesting thoughts, I promise they'll be good.

Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World- Haruki Murakami
I started off kind of hating this book, but in the end I'm almost at the point of calling it my favourite Murakami? Here's the deal- unlike other Murakamis, which start with normality (more or less) and slowly drop you into a sense of increasing weirdness, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World drops you straight into the weirdness and it doesn't feel like it's going to let you go. I like to be eased rather than rocketed into my Murakamis so I wasn't pleased, but once I got through the first few chapters, the book evens out and becomes a meditation on the nature of the mind, with side helpings of criminal conspiracies, delicious sounding food, and musings about ears. It's Murakami as we love (and/or tolerate him) but as one of his earlier novels, I couldn't help feeling as though, in many ways, this was more of a complete story than some of his later works. Even though the circumstances are increasingly strange, the plot was one that was almost conventional- learning how to deal with the things you are going to lost and working out which things are the most valuable to you. 

But, don't get me wrong. It's still weird as fuck. 

BOOM January, you've been great. Let's see what February has in store, shall we?


Sunday, 31 January 2016

Sunday Sundries: A Little Bit of This, A Little Bit of That

Happy Sunday, people of the internet!

I'm wholly aware that my recent (i.e. for the past year) contribution to words on the internet can be boiled down to the following format:

  1. I haven't been here for a while, my bad
  2. I've been doing some things, I guess
  3. Imma do better soon, honest
And the same applies again here, I guess! I don't really have any excuses to offer, I've just been working and trying to cook more things from scratch (I've totally been making an effort with food, and it pays off with the yummies) and last weekend, when I could have conceivably been writing things, I did so much reading for pleasure that it was unreal and I'd kind of forgotten how good it was to set aside proper time just for fun reading. Clearly, the days are gone when reading used to immediately pave the way for blogging, but, in the nicest possible way, I'll take the reading over the blogging any day.

The other time suck I'm experiencing at the moment is job hunting. It would be fair to say that this is my least favourite thing to do in the entire world, but I'm so sick of being so poor all the time that it has to be done. And by 'has to be done' what I actually mean is, I've basically spent one day doing it and I'm already so over it. Frankly, the fact that I don't just get job offers daily just by existing in an aura of awesomeness is so ridiculous to me that I don't know how to accept the absolute slog of finding anything at all that I want to do with my days. 

But anyway. There's that thing and those other things, and all of them add up to a life spent doing things that don't always involve the internet. And that's ok, but I still want to make an effort so here is my Sunday plan (subject to a change of mind in, you know, about 5 minutes)- Kayleigh said in a start of 2015 post that she was not going to stress about writing reviews for EVERY book, but she was going to do a sum up of all the books she's read each month at the end of that month. So. I find that it's the 31st January and I have written NO reviews for any of the books I've read this month (an impressive total of 14, by the way [7 graphic novels. But still.]) so here is my plan- mini-reviews tomorrow. Start afresh. Get my shit together and properly blog (I know, I know, so she says. Whatevs.) Find a new job, make soup, do yoga, continue to be an excellent person. All of that isn't so hard, amiright? 

And there you have the grand example of how to turn a blog post into a to do list! Just what everyone wants to read, I'm sure. But anyway. I've done some stuff and I'm going to do some more stuff and that's sufficient for everyone to know, right? 

Monday, 18 January 2016

Growing Older, Or Just Better?

If my blog was a child, it would have started school by now. Since I have a blog but not a child, it's ok to not get freaked out by this, but still, 5 years... Woah.

The first, I'd say three years of blogging, this place was incredibly important to me- real life wasn't really going as expected (which is to say it was mostly dull and sometimes really terrible) and the internet, and this blog especially was somewhere that I could reach out, and talk to and find people I really liked, and wanted to share my thoughts with. I don't think I'd ever felt as home anywhere as much as I did on the internet and I can't tell if that's sad or if it's awesome, or maybe it's a little bit of both.

Anyway. Not long before my third blog birthday, my nan died and kind of changed everything in my life. It was, at the time, pretty much the worst thing that had happened to me, but it also made me a little bit fearless. This fearlessness meant that I applied for a Masters, I started letting people in where previously I might have shut them out, and in a more general sense, I had things to do with all of my spare time that meant blogging fell by the wayside. Except that it was always there, because I think one of the most important things I had already gotten from this was the fact that actually, I can talk to people! And they sometimes like me and think I'm awesome! (Trust me when I tell you that this has not always been my attitude towards other people).

So. The internet has weirdly taught me real life social skills, but it has also provided ample opportunity for real life socialising too. Just in the past year, I've hung out with Bex and Katie in London (twice! Three times? Twice..?), been to see Bex (yes, her again) in Canterbury, and in a wonderful twist of fate, in the space of one month, when I really very much needed them, I took Tika to Hampton Court Palace and Harry Potter Land, I took Kayleigh around London and (ahem) to Harry Potter Land, AND THEN spent the greatest afternoon with The Other Kayleigh in Piccadilly Waterstones. My screen people became real people for a few magical days and I can't even describe how it's the greatest when people you've talked to for YEARS become real and huggable and oh my goodness the love for all of you is immense.

Here's the deal. Last year I wrote a total of 34 blog posts. Lots of the people who were around when I started blogging don't really blog ever anymore, I clearly have dropped it to a part time activity, and who knows how much I'll write this year. But the deal (as promised) is that none of that matters because the people I have picked up along the way, who are really important, are still here. All of those meet-ups, the email threads (THE EMAIL THREADS), the Facebook messaging, the twitters- the medium doesn't matter, but the people are irreplaceable. I've always said it, and I'll say it again and again- I never, in a million years, thought that writing some words on the internet would lead to real life... anythings, but those real life somethings have often been some of the Best Things in my life at the time.

To put it another way: I'm really proud that my blog has made it (limping) to another blog birthday, but I could give it up in a minute (if I had to for some really weird reason) as long as I could keep the people it has connected me with over the years. Here's to another great one, and hopefully, another year of making excellent friends and excellent connections.

The really short version of this post: I'm really glad I found you guys. Let's never lose each other.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

24 in 48

Saturday morning greetings, kids! I didn't really have much planned for this weekend other than remaining close to my bed and reading a lot because it's supposed to be reallyreally cold, so it felt fated when the lovely Ellie mentioned that the 24 in 48 readathon was this weekend. The idea of this readathon is like a slightly less intense Dewey's, where you read for 24 hours over 48 hours (which means sleeping! Without feeling guilty!) and... I'm definitely not going to read that much. But, I have of late spent weekends staring at things I'm not sure I want to watch, or knitting things so my hands are not free, or doing many chores, and... you get the idea, reading hasn't been my main thing-to-do, so for these couple of days, it's going to be my number one hobby again (and not just because I feel bad for having binge-watched Making A Murderer this week instead of, you know, anything else that needed doing in my life).

SO. I don't even have any snacks sorted because I was so unprepared for this, but I'm planning to get a pizza later so everything will be awesome, and tomorrow my mother will feed me. Here is a pile of books I have made, because I still remember how to do that, at least:
BAM! I am in the middle of about half of these so should probably start with those (but probably won't) or, alternatively, I might just pick any old books from my shelves and read those because why the heck not?

Because it helps my life to be super casual with myself, I'm not counting pages or stats or anything like that, but I will probably update a few times over the readathon just because I know how everyone wouldn't be able to continue living if I didn't. For the record, the readathon is nearly 12 hours down and I have read a bit (and that is a BIT) of Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant. So obviously I'm doing better than anyone has ever done at readathons, and now I'm going to buy food for the week, so yes. Winning.

Update 1: (12:45am, Sunday Morning)
GUYS! I did so much reading and now I am SO tired. Reading takes a certain amount (small) of effort, huh? Madness! So I finished two books (that I had already started...) Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant which is great, and The Handmaid's Tale- which was a reread, but also one of the books that made me want a blog in the first place so I could have people to talk to about THIS DAMN BOOK when I didn't really know any of those people in real life. The point being, gosh I hope I can think of smart and important things to say when I review it. So. Obviously I'm going to sleep now, tomorrow I'll be at my parents' so may not get much reading done, or perhaps I will surprise us all. We. Shall. See.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Sunday Sundries: Back to the Norm

Sunday greetings, lovely internet folk!
I don't really have much to report from this week, but as part of a concerted effort to something something blog or something I'm writing a post anyway (also it's technically Saturday night and I may have accidentally gotten a little bit pissed watching telly. QUITE the life I'm leading.)

ANYWAY. This week has basically all been about returning to work after 12 days off, and may I just say,
By Monday evening I'd had more than enough what with the puddle of shit outside my office, the lack of heating inside and the fact that nobody had done any of the work I'm responsible for* so I had to, you know, work hard, but things improved minimally over the rest of the week (i.e. I had slightly more of a will to live). I still have Wednesdays off so with this one I went to the Tate Modern to see this Pop Art exhibition that I've been planning on seeing for months now. I can't really claim to know anything about art (other than, you know, books and TV and stuff...) but the exhibition was really interesting cause it was all about Pop Art in other countries and how it was used to express political protest and feminism and all sorts of other tasty things.

So that was cool and then I came out of the exhibition and discovered this awesome balcony with an awesome view and was all over how awesome London is:
I mean. What a babe. So basically, if you want a good view of London, you want to go to the balcony through the gift shop on level 3 of the Tate! Bloody beautiful.

So that was really the highlight of the week. Otherwise it's mostly been a case of drinking a lot, feeling sad because I have no money, watching the two Godfather films (there are only two) and the ever dreaded work. My Saturday plan was to update my CV and apply for jobs and generally get things moving to try and improve the job part of my life, buttttt mostly I just ate a lot of doritos and finished reading the Scott Pilgrim comics and did I mention the accidental drunks? I mean, whoops. But I'll get there, you know, eventually. Any volunteers to find me an awesome job will be accepted with great pleasure, however. Let me know!

Anyway. This week was mostly boring, so I hope yours was better, and that mine improves over the next week so I actually have something to write about for next week. But, I'm not holding my breath...

*This makes my job sound all official and shit when in fact it is really very lame. BUT there are things that basically only I do, and they're supposed to be finished at the end of each month but were left, presumably because 'Laura will do it when she gets back'. Ugh.