Saturday, 31 December 2016

End of Year Wrap Up and Whatnot

Oh well, hey. Look who's come to show her dumb face on the very last day of the year, as if she's anything like a real blogger anymore.

Well I AM SORRY, but look! Here I am to sum up all the reading I've done this year, cool thing to do, huh? I turned my computer on all ready to do Jamie's end of year survey (which is an excellent thing to do if you need, like, inspiration for talking about books) but then realised that so many of the questions don't really relate to how I read anymore so Imma just do my own thing, that cool?

But first, life.

2016 has been a shitty one for the world, almost universally, and whilst it's hard to not get bogged down in all the shit that's happening on a wider scale (and indeed, getting bogged down in all that shit is important and the only way to even begin to take steps to try and make things better), I can at least recognise that on a personal level, 2016 sucks less than 2015 cause I haven't lost any of my most beloved people. I probably shouldn't have just said that considering that I'm writing this on Boxing Day and there are still 6 days of this terrible fucking year left, but fingerscrossedtouchwoodalltheluckythings that is going to remain a fact.

But things! They happened this year! Let's see... I got a new job! Which has been, and remains, an adjustment in thinking and managing tiredness and actually working full time like a real human for the first time in my life. It has been a long time coming, and I'm actually more or less usually enjoying myself, so I'm pretty glad for this change (and like, I have a pension, and sick pay, and much more holiday and basically everything is the best). I also had some fairly crippling pain for a vast majority of the year, which I got magically fixed by modern medicine in October, and even if I now only have a partial left ovary, I do have a fair superior life, so that is pretty nifty.

If anything, I think this year has mostly been about friends. It freaks me out that practically every weekend I have had things to do and people to see, but only in the very best way. This has been exacerbated by having left my old job but actually having made real, true, and lasting friends there, and just by generally saying yes to many and most things where old Laura might have said 'nah, I want to stay home and not do anything'. This is not to say that there isn't joy in staying home and (obviously) reading, but I have been finding so much joy in people this year that I just feel really pleased to have collected such an excellent group of folk into my life. 
So really, 2016 hasn't been so bad in that sense. It's also been half a year of Pokemon Go, a couple of months of trying to eat well and move more (literally for my health) and of trying to be less dumb about boys, the last of which I think I'm finally starting to succeed at. It has, I think pretty obviously, not been a stellar year for blogging, and I'm just about fine with basically being an occasional blogger at this point. I'm not going to make any promises or plans about any kind of blogging schedule, but I will just say that 1) I really enjoy writing monthly wrap ups of things I've read so I'm pretty sure that will continue, and 2) Basically my only New Year's Resolution is to write more. I don't know whether to call that writing something every day, or just more than basically nothing, but more in a manageable, life-fitting-in way. Since this right here is a blog which, y'know, is made up of words, there's a good chance I could write more things here, but mostly my plan involves having a notebook with me at all times and generally trying to chase some of the vaguely interesting ideas that go through my head sometimes. 

But enough about me. Books, innit! I have read some this year and they have been great (the end.) But hey, let's start with this thing: remember how way back at the start of the year I decided to do Read My Own Damn Books? (no, of course you don't) Well fortunately, I DID remember, and I have been reasonably successful. Let's talk about this: 
Because I knew I was consciously concentrating on reading the books I already owned, I actually did really really well with this. Let's look at this stat: I read 75 books this year (wut wut!), and a whopping 50 of them (yeah that's right, FIFTY, bitches) were books I already owned. Of these, only 8 were re-reads, meaning I read 42 books I had previously owned but hadn't read before. Pretty proud, you guys. 

Along with this, I got rid of a fair few books that I just wasn't interested in anymore, and in terms of removing books from my house, I've done a pretty good job. However. I've also done a pretty good job of acquiring more, so the number of books I still haven't read is still not pretty. I'm slightly annoyed with myself for not writing the literal exact number of unread books I owned at the start of this year, but I said 360-ish so let's go with that. At this moment, I have 332 (which, actually, doesn't include Christmas presents... edit: 338 with Christmas books)- not an insignificant reduction, but not nearly enough of one to have made a real difference to the state of my bedroom, and also slightly disappointing in terms of haivng made a real effort to read my own damn books this year.

I think, then, this is it. This is the thing. The thing that I am very much not going to do this year is buy new books, EXCEPT at bookshop crawls, and y'know, I'm probably going to get some for my birthday, let's be real. I have actually managed to pretty much break my bad charity shop habit which is excellent, so I think this is a pretty achievable goal, and I'm pretty much trying to think of the money I'll save just by 'buying' off my own shelves. The especially excellent thing about this is that all the books I've just gotten for Christmas and some of the books I've put off reading this year because I acquired them, y'know, this year, are now fair game, and I am all about that. 

I'm realising that this post is obnoxiously long already (this is what happens when you don't talk to your friends for ages, GOD Laura) so let's do some stats and stuff and try to wrap it up (y'know, maybe)

2016 Book Stats

Books Read: 75
Pages Read: 20,900
First Reads vs Re-Reads: 67/8
Fiction vs Non-Fiction: 59/16
Women vs Men: 34/41 (dammit, Stephen King)
White vs Non-White: 60/15 (ugh, embarrassing af)
Translated vs Not: 9/66
Digital vs Physical: 3/72 (lol why do I even buy kindle books?)

I am, if I'm honest, not too terribly upset with those stats. Sure I want to read more women and men, and definitely less white people, but in terms of having read the books I already own, those are probably fairly representative of the books that were on my shelves. I also read 17 comic books out of all those books (thanks, Scott Pilgrim!) which has been a bit of a change for me (over the past few years so not really...) but omgggg I love them. 

I don't really want to go through favourite characters and favourite books of the year, because I think that's basically what I talk about in my monthly posts now. Just going through the spreadsheet of books I've read this year, it's interesting to see books I've pretty much forgotten and books which have become a part of me now, plus all the stuff in between. For instance, I read Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant way back in January, and now I think incredibly fondly of Anne Tyler, whereas I barely even remember reading Armada. The one Emma Donoghue book I read this year (Landing) still feels so vivid I can't believe I read it in May, whereas The Heart Goes Last (finished last month) was basically instantly forgettable (sorry, Margaret). Time is a funny old thing, I guess.

I do have a favourite book for this year, now I come to think of it, and that is Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman. These teeny essays literally touched all my buttons in terms of abstract thinking and lessons about humanity and really of truth within fiction, and this was an all round pretty excellent book that I'm still trying my mostest to get everyone to read. This has also been the year I started Game of Thrones, the year I recommitted to Stephen King (damn man stats...) and the year my commute gave me so much more time to read, for which I am oh so very grateful.

So yeah. In those ways, it's been a pretty good year, all things considered. I hope 2017 is even better for you and yours. 

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Devouring Stephen King: Duma Key

"Give me a choice and I'll take A Midsummer Night's Dream over Hamlet every time. any fool with steady hands and a working set of lungs can build up a house of cards and then blow it down, but it takes a genius to make people laugh."

Ohhhh dear. It has been such a significant amount of time since I read Duma Key that I can't remember anything about it which is worth talking about. Does this mean there wasn't anything worth talking about? Maybe so, but let's not jump to such conclusions just because we've all read The Tommyknockers. 

Ok, let's see. Duma Key was pretty weird, but a fairly decent read. I started it not long after I had my operation and still had a shit-ton of anaesthetic in my body, so clearly I needed something light and gentle to read, and to be honest this book kind of provided that. It's not a stressful King book to read with loads of shocks and little horrors, but more of a slow burner, that constantly hints at there being something vaguely wrong with the situation, and builds to a dramatic, and actually pretty traumatic conclusion. And ok, yeah, as I'm remembering it, I'm realising that I totally liked this book, I can hide it no longer!

Let's try and do some story, maybe. Let's see, the main character is... some guy, who is super rich but also troubled because he was just horribly injured at work and has lost an arm. This becomes vaguely important later, I think, so keep it in mind. He also has brain injuries which mean that sometimes he can't find the right words, and that he is filled with unbearable rage that leads his wife to leave him (nice lady), and after his near death experience he decides that the thing to do is go away to Florida to rest and recuperate. And, as it turns out, to paint.

The good stuff in this book really, I think, comes with the transformative power of art. It's true that in this book, there is a lot of supernatural stuff tied up with the paintings (paintings that make you murder! The whole island is cursed or haunted or something!) but there is also the part where art heals the main character who probably once had a name, both in a physical and mental sense. Even though his zoning out is part of a larger plan of, like, island spirits (or something), it's still the same kind of feeling that comes with all kinds of creation, and, for reals, art heals.

That's not really the resounding message to take away from this book (that one would be, 'art kills!') but it's apparently what I took from it anyway.

So. Yes. Duma Key was essentially not terrible, which is a really good thing for a Stephen King. It's not my absolute most favourite, nor is it my absolute most least favourite, but I enjoyed the ride and would not be mad if someone made me read it again. Onwards!

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Things I Read in November

*Removes the sheets covering the furniture*
*Dusts everything down*
*Lets some air in*

Well hello, young readers and friends! Did I forget, for the whole month of November that I even have a blog? I didn't, but I was really very busy making up for the things I missed recovering from my operation, and enjoying my now relatively pain-free life for about the first time this year. This is not to say that writing blog posts isn't enjoyable, but it perhaps doesn't bring me quite as much joy as things like eating food with friends, or going on walks with myself (why yes, I am still playing Pokemon Go, why do you ask?) and generally just doing all those living-ish things that are all lovely and good.

But more about that (tentative promise) tomorrow. First, let's do books. Because of all the aforementioned living I've been doing, it took until the middle of the month for me to even finish a book. Surprisingly, despite a slow start I managed to read 4 whole books this month, which I'm gonna take as a win, even though this is in no way a competition (except maybe with myself)

Books though:

A Storm of Swords II: Blood and Gold by George R R Martin
Lookit, I read another Game of Thrones book! I've been pretty much trying to spread these out because I don't want all I'm reading to be Game of Thrones, although that's kind of a throwback decision based on the way I used to blog than the shoddy job I'm doing now. Let's just say that I'm rationing them out because I don't want to carry the damn things around with me all the time (which is also completely true). Anyway. This was good! Like, really good. Pretty much all of the exciting things from seasons 3 & 4 happen in this book (or in this half of the third book, I guess) so it gets like 10 thumbs up. I still have literally no urge to keep or reread these books probably ever, which feels weird but also feels amazing to get rid of them straight away, so there's that.

Patience by Daniel Clowes
I'm never exactly sure how I feel about Ghost World, which is Clowes' most famous comic, but I don't have any similar doubts about Patience. I loved this comic, to the extent that I sat down with it and just didn't move until I was done with it. It's kind of a gritty, time-travel drama that gets super tense and horrible as Jack waits practically his whole life to go back in time to try and prevent the murder of his wife Patience. If Ghost World makes me kind of grumpy because nothing really matters in it, then the stakes (and emotions) are super high in Patience. Also the art is pretty ace, so there's that too. Read itttttttt.

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
I think we all know that I love a good work of dystopian fiction, and that I also love Margaret Atwood, but I did not love The Heart Goes Last. I didn't hate it either, and got through it in a couple of days, but this was a lot more focused on relationships and resentments and human oddity than it is on the REALLY weird society at large. Whilst you get to know the main characters pretty well (and my god, there are more than enough problems there to be going on with), I felt like the world itself could have been explored more deeply because there is some really fucked up shit going on within it. Like I say, I enjoyed it well enough, but it's not the kind of dystopia that will stay with me with crushing fear and horror (oh hai, Brave New World).

Daddy's Gone A-Hunting by Penelope Mortimer
Daddy's Gone A-Hunting is not, as my brain wants it to be, about a psycho-killer husband so much as its about the position of women in 1950s society. This, of course, makes it much better than the plotline I really wanted. Essentially focused on a woman and her teenage daughter, this book makes clear the struggles of women in the ridiculously unequal society of this time, starting with the ennui and depression of the mother and wife who only married her husband because she was pregnant, to the slightly wild teenage daughter who makes a mistake that she refuses to let her life be defined by in the same way. Whilst I read this getting upset about the hypocrisy of the dickhead husband who said that he'd turn his daughter out if she got pregnant out of wedlock when he literally had to marry his wife for that reason, I also came away kind of loving everyone and scared for them in equal measure. This was my second Persephone book, and it was every bit as good as I expected it to be (No book cover cause the internet is letting me down over here).

So that was November! Like I say, I don't think I had a whole weekend to myself for the entire month and I did so many things that I'm impressed with 4 books, even if one of them was a comic book. But enough about me, what did you read last month? Prizes for the best recommendation.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Things I Read In October

Please try to ignore the fact that it's already the 5th of November (remember remember!) and act like I'm more up to date with books and life and all of that good stuff. I have essentially spent the whole month so far trying, in my little pockets of free time, to finish building the furniture I foolishly had delivered on a Sunday and so didn't have time to build before the whole damn work week. However, it's Saturday lunchtime and I'm typing this at my brand new shiny desk (sitting on my brand new shiny chair) so everything's coming up Milhouse, really. 

Before I even get to books, allow me to just recommend a podcast. I have, for so long, been incapable of listening to shit- I think maybe because my old job literally just involved listening to shit- but now. A podcast for the ages. I needed something to listen to whilst trying to sort out the complete mess that is my life (room) and The Babysitters Club Club podcast was that thing. I'm in no way original in my recommendation cause Book Riot already wrote a thing about it, but it is so funny and silly and at this point I feel like I'm listening to a couple of my friends talk about something I REALLY love, which is excellent. Interesting fact: I literally discovered book blogs through a couple of Babysitters Club blogs I used to read (totally snarky but affectionate ones) and now I'm kind of like, have I discovered podcasts through the same route? Spoooooky. 

But anyway. That's quite enough of shit I've been listening to, what did I read last month? Well:

Audition by Ryu Murakami 
Ah, the other Murakami. Not my favourite Murakami, of course, but he has his charms. Audition focuses on a guy (definitely can't remember his name) who, with his friend, decides it's a good idea to set up auditions for an imaginary film, through which he hopes to find a lovely new wife. Because it's (this) Murakami, you know things aren't going to go well, and the end is fairly predictably horrible and violent. I had quite a few problems with this book, namely that nothing really happens until the end (that the blurb handily hints at so it's not even really a twist), and all the things that do relate to it are kind of laughably heavy handed. It's all like "and in that moment I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN" "EVERYTHING WAS WEIRD AND WRONG but I didn't care because my girlfriend was pretty" and it not only made me sigh at a lack of subtlety but also (horribly) made me think that the guy kind of deserved his fate if he wasn't willing to be at least a little bit smart about, you know, life. 

Definitely not my favourite read of the month, let's just say.

Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman

From my not-favourite read of the month to what I can only describe as my favourite read of the year (so far... c'mon November and December!) I have reviewed this already, but to summarise, it's essentially 40 2-ish page musings on potential afterlives and it is too awesome for words. It's kind of philosophy and kind of fiction but it's all just excellent excellent stuff.

Horns by Joe Hill
Another one I've reviewed already (what even?!) and it has become my favourite Joe Hill, out of the three very good books of his I have read. If that isn't enough incentive, then it's also a little bit funny and heartbreaking and truly truly gripping and I read it in basically a day because I had to. Exactly.

Something New by Lucy Knisley
Ellie, aka the bestest person, sent me this as a pre-operation good luck/read this to recover please present because she knew that, essentially, I wanted it more than any other book at that moment. She is an excellent excellent person and I believe also she bought me Horns which is a weird and cool coincidence. I read Something New the day after I came home from hospital when I was in a fair bit of pain, really sleepy and headachey from anaesthetic, and feeling sick from the painkillers (I don't really get on with codeine, who knew?) and it made me forget about all these things for good ten minute stretches at a time! I do wish I'd saved it until I felt a little better cause I think I was not in a good place for reading at that point, but I still really enjoyed Knisley's take on being a kind-of reluctant (plus surprised!) bride. Her love story is so cute and weirdly exciting, and her viewpoint on weddings, traditions, and, of course, the food, is well thought out and interesting and, obviously, adorably and excellently drawn. I doubt I'm ever going to find a way to criticise any of her books, but this really was great, and I can't to read it again as a well person!

The Essential Dykes To Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel
One of my recovery days literally consisted solely of reading this book. It took a whole day to read because it's HUGE, but I was slightly miffed to realise when I was done that there's also a Complete Dykes To Watch Out For. I'm trying to take solace in the idea that the Complete version just has the strips Bechdel created on weeks where she had less time and put less effort in (i.e. the crappy ones), but damn I want to read them all! Which, really, should tell you something about how much I enjoyed this book. I liked it so much. Read all together, it's a pretty spectacular feat of, not only a 20 year chronicle of engaging characters and their relationships and lives (I genuinely kind of believe basically all of them exist in real lifenow? Because they should) but also a chronicle of the history of the end of the 20th and start of the 21st Century, told through an essentially left-wing, (mostly) lesbian perspective.

I realise that last bit sounds a bit overblown, but I genuinely believe that Dykes To Watch Out For is a piece of cultural history, and it deals with literally everything. Politics and cancer and GLBTQ rights and academia and underachievement and promotions and job losses and friendships and relationships and essentially all of the things that comprise lives? It's especially cool in that it tracks the recent developments in GLBTQ rights, so you have things like characters going to Vermont to get married (remember when that was a thing?) and then getting married again when it becomes legal in their own state, and other stuff that, reading it now, seems so outdated and such a weird thing to deny people. Set up against this, which I found really interesting, is one character in particular who essentially doesn't really want any of these rights, not because she doesn't think gay people aren't people, but almost because she thinks that having these rights means giving into a system that's corrupt and broken and that she doesn't want to be a part of. I found this a really interesting point of view (one I think I have heard before, but haven't seen such an extended expression of) and really the book itself, whilst tracking the growing rights of its GLBTQ community also shows a decrease in its radicalism- for example, the one year where none of the characters show up for Pride because it doesn't really feel like it means that much to them anymore. 

I think the length of this mini review proves that I should probably have written a full review of it, and maybe one day I will because I had a lot of thoughts but also too much pains to do anything about it. One day, though.

Duma Key by Stephen King 
I'm definitely going to review Duma Key because Stephen King books, you know how it goes. To be extremely brief about it though, I think I overall enjoyed it but it's kind of a strange book, in that it feels like it's telling two different stories at times- it's telling a family saga sometimes, and others it's going straight for the supernatural, and it feels like they don't always mesh well? But I'll (try to) unpick it in longer form. You know, maybe.

A Storm of Swords: I: Steel and Snow by George R R Martin
I finally got round to the third book in the Game of Thrones series (yes that's what we're calling it), except actually I guess it's part one of the third book and is this just one book in America? Enquiring minds want to know! (I think you can get it all as one book over here, but it's more commonly found in two) I don't have all that much to say about the story itself cause, y'know, I've seen all of this in the TV show, just saying. It's as readable as ever, as non-portable as ever, and AND here is where I saw its first real deviation from the TV show, in terms of pacing. To me, a veteran of the TV show, this book has unbelievable (in  bad way) pacing, and let me explain why. In just this half of a book, Jon Snow's story covers what takes two seasons of the TV show to cover, whilst Daenery's entire chapters are covered in literally the first episode of season 3. Maybe that's why Jon Snow's story in the show can sometimes feel dull as shit whilst Daenerys is always a fucking Queen, but even in the book it does feel as though Daenerys is getting nowhere whilst the other characters' narratives do actually progress. 

Of course, I do perhaps come to these books from the unfair angle of the TV series, but dammit this is my reaction to them so I get to say what I want, correct? Yes, good. IN SPITE OF THIS weirdness, I still had a pretty good time reading this so can I really criticise? Not so much. It's all good stuff.

And that was my October! I am already failing at reading this November in that I have basically read nothing except two copies of The New Yorker (a true commitment in itself, to be fair) but remember way back at the beginning of this post with the furniture building? Exactly. I'm only one woman dammit!

But tell me, I'm desperate to know. What did YOU read last month? Anything I should know about?

Thursday, 27 October 2016

RIP XI Book V: Horns by Joe Hill

Joe Hill remains a constant happy surprise for me. It would be ridiculous for me (especially me) to claim that I didn't start reading his books because, y'know, he's Stephen King's son and all, but he has in his own right paved a little pathway in my brain of happy-thoughts-about-Joe-Hill. Because his books are good- good for scary stories and good writing and good ideas and just generally goodly good good. Horns is the third of his books I've read, and it might just be my favourite so far.

Horns opens by introducing us to Ig Perrish, son of a famous musician, miserable and hungover, and newly sporting horns growing out of his forehead. As the story goes on, Ig learns that he can hear people's innermost thoughts and can make them do things- as long as he suggests things that they kind of wanted to do already- essentially the devil on your shoulder, only without a counterpart angel. Whilst we don't know why Ig has these horns, we do know that he is one sorry individual because his girlfriend was murdered a year ago and although he was never formally charged, everyone in the small town he comes from and lives in believes he did it anyway. It's not a very nice scenario to be in.

That's pretty much the gist of the first section of the book (Ig's visit to his family and hearing their innermost thoughts about him being a particular lowlight) and if the book had been so unrelentingly bleak throughout then I'm not sure I would have liked it nearly as much. The second section, however, goes back to Ig's teen years, and it's here the book really comes into its own. Ig's teenage memories are kind of lovely. HE'S kind of lovely, and you're left with the impression of a life that's strayed so horribly far from where it was supposed to be that it's pretty bewildering. If you get to see Ig at his worst in the rest of the book, then this is him at his best- innocent and kind but not perfect, because let's face it, that would be boring. This was pretty much my favourite part, and it makes the whole rest of the book worth it because Ig is so damn loveable that you somehow manage to excuse his devilish behaviour (which is still so much better than that of characters in the book who haven't been supernaturally endowed with horns).

I'm not going to say Horns is a perfect book, and even I got a little bit tired of Ig being made out to be a perfect sinless person even though he constantly proves himself to be anything but, but it was pretty much everything I wanted from a book when I read it. It's interesting and gripping and kind of scary, and there's a really cool bit in a treehouse that I think rivals anything King has written about creepy centres of mystical energy (I know). Horns may be even more interesting to anyone who knows anything about the Old Testament beyond, like, Adam and Eve existed; although on the flip side someone who actually knows the Bible might find it kind of trite and silly- I don't know because I am in the latter group and went 'oh sure, the devil and snakes- cool!' Either way, I liked the idea that the book was underlaid by some kind of Biblical precedent, even if that's not necessarily the case. More than that though, I just really fucking enjoyed the book- I read about half of the first section on a Friday, and by Saturday evening I had eaten up the whole damn thing.

Like I said, everything I wanted from a book when I read it.

If you want a kind of detective story with some biblical undertones and excellent childhood flashbacks, then this is the book for you. If you want to be kinda scared and kinda disgusted, this is also the book for you, and if you just want a really bloody good read, then, you've guessed it, you're gonna want to read this. It's my favourite book of Hill's so far, and the first one that I'm actually really excited to re-read at some point. Now you go.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Devouring Books: Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives by David Eagleman

It's been a few weeks since I finished Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives, and I still can't get over how much I just resoundingly, consistently, so-many-other-adverbs-ly enjoyed the crap out of it. I think it might just be one of those books that is so entirely my thing that it's almost too much, but also that I don't know is my thing until I'm actually reading it, when it becomes the best thing ever.

I think (know) I might be rambling, so let me start again.

Sum is a really difficult book to categorise because it doesn't quite fit into anything I've read before. It's fiction, but there aren't any set characters. Each chapter (or essay. Or scenario. Or, or, or) is only a couple of pages long, but it doesn't really fit the title of short stories either. To call the tales philosophical essays isn't strictly true because Eagleman isn't exactly trying to prove or argue anything, although maybe each one is a teeny thought experiment. Maybe it's best to just let the subtitle speak for itself- Sum is a book containing Forty Tales from the Afterlives, and that's what it delivers- forty different ideas of what the afterlife could possibly look and feel like, a topic which has as many possibilities as there are people on earth, and then some.

I didn't know I wanted forty different ideas of the afterlife until I read this book. My own assumption is that death is pretty much the end of consciousness, and since that's kind of depressing, I try not to think about it and just get on with my life. This book has left me far more open to the thought that, although I still don't really believe that there is anything more, just thinking about what there could be is an incredibly rich and interesting topic that I definitely haven't paid enough mind to. This collection of what-ifs manages to be thoughtful and funny and interesting, and strangely it's a lot more about how we choose to live and think than it is about death. For instance, there's the musing that the afterlife only exists for sinners and it's kind of a dull suburban nightmare because God (or whoever you like) knows how fucking boring eternity is and doesn't want to subject those who lived good lives to have to suffer it forever.


Whilst I was reading, and upon finishing this book, I pretty much spent all my days talking about it to people, relaying scenarios and saying 'wouldn't that be COOL' or 'isn't that SO WEIRD' or 'That would be so sad'. I could genuinely feel my brain expanding with this whole new way of thinking that I was absorbing, and brain expansion is pretty much my favourite feeling in the world. I'm sure there is a flip side of readers who would find this book maybe offensive (since it rarely sticks to any religious ideas of the afterlife- and if it does then it's still not what people expect) or not that interesting to them, but for me, it was everything. And kind of still is.

I think I've written this review in my head a hundred times better than it has actually come out, but I hope it still does justice to how much I FREAKING loved this book. If you're even a little bit interested in thinking differently and being entertained and just... interested about something, then this is the book you have to go for. It's basically the best thing I've read this year, even if it is so freaking hard to categorise and write about. Go. And. Read. It.

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Sunday Sundries: Back from the Not-Quite Dead

Well hello there, and thank you for joining me today! I'm baaaaaack and ready to grouch.

Did you miss me? You probably didn't miss me, but interestingly enough I missed me. Which is to say this: when I was considering my operation and the two weeks off work it would allow me, I thought great! I'm going to have this thing fixed which should also rid me of actual pain in my everyday life, PLUS I can read all the things and watch all the movies and generally have a great time with all these days all to myself!

As I'm sure you can probably tell, it didn't quite work out that way.
The only surgery I'd had before this was removal of my wisdom teeth, and after that I felt a bit sore in the mouth (obviously...) and kind of sleepy for a while, but mostly I remember watching a lot of Netflix guilt-free and being brought strawberry milkshakes and generally having a gay old time (ish). This was not like that. This was like... I felt so tired constantly, I was in a lot of pain and the painkillers made me feel sick, I had to stay in hospital overnight which FREAKED ME OUT (and all I can say about it is, thank god for internet friends in different time zones because if you think you're going to be able to sleep in a hospital then you are kidding yourself) and generally I did not have a gay old time at all.

But anyway. I don't really mean to dwell on the unpleasantness of it, and I really do feel a lot better now (although, because I am me, I have now somehow picked up a cold and I can't really breathe out of my nose at all. But I'm not in operation-related pain anymore!) I guess I've just been thinking about how weird it is that I thought that recovery would involve a lot of reading and Gilmore Girls and movies when in reality I couldn't concentrate on books OR EVEN Gilmore Girls (I know) and it was kind of a struggle staying upright for any prolonged period of time for a while there. I'm also the worst because when I feel ill like that I feel like it's never going to get any better ever, even though DUH that's what recovery is all about.

Like honestly, I need help.

But anyway! From about Thursday I started to feel more like myself again, which actually did mean binge watching Gilmore Girls, reading most of a Stephen King book in a day, watching the whole new series of Black Mirror over two evenings (have you seen it? I have THOUGHTS) and yesterday going to see Aladdin onstage which is actually even better than a normal day out that normal me would normally have (say normal again). Things are looking up, is what I'm saying.

I hope your Sunday is improved with the amazing discovery that recovering from surgery is not really very easy. I am signed off for another couple of days this week, then I'm back to work trying to figure out if I remember how to do this whole life thing (let's hope so, cause I gotta). I've had so many lovely texts and messages from people while I've been recovering and it's been important to me to ask the people who care about how I'm doing how they're doing to. So tell me, how have you been?

Wednesday, 12 October 2016

Devouring Stephen King (As Richard Bachman): Blaze

Oh, Blaze. I could cry just thinking about it and maybe I'm gonna. Who can say.

I don't always read introductions to books (because more often than not they are riddled with spoilers), but the introduction King has written for Blaze was pretty much crucial to my enjoyment of the book. From it, I learned that Blaze is essentially the fifth of the four early Bachman books, never published but written even before Carrie. This meant that any instances of clunky writing (and there were a few) and anything I didn't really like I could essentially overlook because, hey, the kid was young, give him a break! He ALSO, however, says that the story is a kind of homage to Of Mice and Men, and even though I might not have made that connection myself, I fully read it with that in mind which made every single page of it fully poignant and just sobbbbsiiiiiigh.

So, the book. King's Bachman books tend to be more psychological than his horror ones, so even though they can still be horrible, there's not really anything supernatural going on in them (think Misery, not The Shining). They also tend to be a little bit social justice-y something which King, again in the introduction, sounds a little bit ashamed of, but there's no need to be. Rarely when he gets up on his high horse does he overdo it, and in my opinion he doesn't overdo it in Blaze either.

Now, the story I guess? We are introduced to Blaze as he's in the process of stealing a car, a thing which you think would make him a bad guy but in fact, as we are to discover through the whole book, he's really just a kinda nice guy who does bad things because he's not too bright. We also discover that he's not too bright because his dad threw him down the stairs a few times when he was little, and this is just the first of many things that make Blaze's actions not really his own fault.

Blaze is the kind of guy who is easily coerced into things, but also the kind of guy who really should be being taken care of by the state. He's not smart enough to remember to change his underwear, and he's not smart enough to not hold up the same gas station two nights in a row. His closest friend George has recently been killed in some crime related drama (if you're thinking I can't remember exactly why, you would be 100% correct) and Blaze is completely alone, reliant on the life of crime that he's learnt to be reliant on to get by.

Like genuinely, it's really fucking sad.

The story is pretty much told both through Blaze's present actions of his one big score, and his past upbringing that explains exactly how he's got into such a position in the first place. This means that, even as Blaze is doing very morally questionable things (and, rest assured, he does quite a lot of that) there's always an overriding feeling of sympathy for him because the odds seem as stacked against him as they have for all the rest of his life. The thing you come away from this book with, is that Blaze is essentially a good guy, it's just the world that has been so consistently shitty for him because (and here's the Bachman book part) the world is basically just a pile of shit.

So yes. This is maybe not the best book to read if you're feeling kind of shitty about the world, but regardless it is a pretty good one. I'm tempted to call it my favourite Bachman book but I don't think that would be fair considering I read the other 5 literally 5 years ago (yeah. Wow.) and can hardly remember them. So let's just say, I liked this book and will allow you to read it.

Monday, 10 October 2016

The Master and Margarita-along, Weeks 1 & 2

GUYYYYYYYYS! So I definitely dropped the ball last week, but I am here now to join in the readalong-goodness with a vengeance (except not a vengeance, something much nicer, like... glitter? Let's go with that)

Glittery cat for literally no reason

Anyway... As well as failing to post last week, I also read, like, two of the readalong posts (I know, I'm the worst, let it go) so I have to ask DOES LITERALLY ANYONE KNOW WHAT'S HAPPENING? I mean, genuinely, I've read some strange books in my time but all I can fathom from this one is that the devil's in town and everyone's going crazy (or, I guess, seems to be going crazy when in fact actual weird things are genuinely happening to them) and, like, people are being teleported thousands of miles away in seconds for some unknowable reason?

So no, it's not confusing at all

Having said that, the devil has a vodka-drinking cat so I guess that in that case everything is fine and, I mean,

I can have the kitty that understands my soul? No?

*Puts on actual analysis pants* I suspect I don't really know enough about either communism OR religion to understand a lot of what The Master and Margarita is trying to say, but I imagine the kind of whiplash I'm getting from the story throwing me ALL OVER THE PLACE has something of the feel of living in a country where, just as you think you're learning the rules, new ones overtake them immediately and you're right back to where you started. ALSO I guess that in a country where atheism is the state religion (religion being the opiate of the masses and all, at least before TV was invented, sorry Karl) it would be pretty easy for a theoretical devil to run riot because literally no one is going to believe you've seen the devil. Like, at all. 

And so. We've met the Master now, every minor character seems to be being institutionalised, and the devil and his buddies are... Putting on shows and pranking everyone so that they find themselves outside naked? THAT'S NOT VERY NICE, DEVIL. We ended this section on another trip back to Jerusalem and that's a Jesus thing, right? Like Yeshua is kind of Jesus and we're all ok with that? (I'm genuinely asking here, people, because I have close to no idea what's going on omg)

So yeah. In case any of that sounded like I'm not enjoying the book, I kind of really am, I just have no idea what's going on or where anything's headed, just like MY WHOLE FREAKING LIFE. It's a feeling I'm comfortable with, is what I'm saying, and I'm cool with finding out wth is actually happening here (even if I suspect we may not, which I guess I'm also ok with). 

Friday, 7 October 2016

Devouring Stephen King: Lisey's Story

As I mentioned in my round up of last month's reads, it pretty much took me three months to finish Lisey's Story. If you want to get super technical about it, it took me about two months to read about a quarter of it, before I finished the whole thing in September. Part of it is definitely to do with its size- it's a hefty 650+ pages, so I didn't really want to be lugging it around with me, ya know?- but that wasn't it's only problem. I mean, come on, I read all 800 pages of A Game of Thrones in like a week because I cared, so obviously I'm capable. But this book. Whoa.

First and foremost, this book is called Lisey's Story. This mistakenly made me believe that the book would be about Lisey and her struggles and life and whatnot, but really the book should be called 'Lisey's dead husband Scott's story, told through Lisey's memories of things he told her before he died'. This isn't necessarily a criticism, although making Lisey the one with an interesting/devasting past would have been JUST FINE too, Steve, but the title makes it seem like her life is going to be more central to the plot when really she's almost the passive receptacle for her dead husband's memories. Which is obviously real nice. Putting that aside as much as possible though, the book just starts SO slowly. Lisey is recalling and recounting a particular incident in her and Scott's lives, and it just seems to take so freaking long to tell. I honestly felt like she told the same thing in three different ways, and after that I wasn't so keen to pick the book up again for any real length of time. Because ughhhhhh.

The book does pick up though, and it kind of runs along two paths- the stuff that happened in the past, told through Lisey's memory, and the stuff that's happening now. The way I see it, the stuff that's happening now (which, by the way, is also mostly to do with Scott and not Lisey) is kind of dull and boring even if murder is threatened, whereas the stuff that happened in the past seems a lot more vital and interesting (and, indeed, it does become the most vital to the plot in the end). Please note once again- the story in the past belongs to Scott, whereas the story in the present belongs (mostly) to Lisey. I guess housewives don't get to be interesting on their own merit in King's world?

But anyway. Like I said it picks up, and I finished it in a rush after being reluctant to get into it. King's world building is pretty special, and he has created within Lisey's Story a pretty special world that I could instantly and vividly imagine. In one sense, the way I feel about that world and about the book in general reminds me pretty much of how I felt about The Night Circus- the setting is fabulous, but the story isn't all that. And yet, I still think there might be something in Lisey's Story, that I'll come back to it in a few years and find it better than I did the first time round, in a way I don't think is true for, say, The Tommyknockers or Dreamcatchers, or any of the real stinkers King has written.

Lisey's Story isn't a REAL stinker, is what I'm saying.

Probably my favourite parts of the book involve Lisey as a sister. She really comes alive as a person in her own right when she's interacting with her sisters, and its when the book shows the human reality of family and obligation and of what that sometimes has to mean. It's this kind of shit that makes it pass the Bechdel test (not that that applies to books but whatever) and it's not like that's just thrown in alongside a romantic storyline, basically all the living love in this book is between Lisey and her sisters, even if it doesn't always look the way it's supposed to.

And so. The conclusion. This isn't one of King's books but it's far from my least favourite. I could have done with a real woman's story rather than a pseudo one, but setting that aside, it is still a pretty good story. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but I've really been enjoying all the King books since the last Dark Tower one being new to me, because I feel genuinely scared by them- another reason I finished this so slowly is because I couldn't bear to still be reading it when it was very dark outside. The King pilgrimage continues, my devotion is still unwavering.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

RIP XI Book IV: The Collector by John Fowles

I'm having a bit of a weird RIP this year, because none of the books I've been reading have been purely based in horror. They're all a little bit chilling and undoubtedly horrible, but apart from The Silence of the Lambs, none of them have really made me jump in the way I associate scary things to do. But that is not to say that they haven't scared me.

The Collector is maybe the best example of this so far. The book starts off fairly innocently with the first person narration of a man who would probably describe himself as 'a fairly normal bloke'. His lack of normalcy is probably best defined by one of the three following features: 1. He has no friends, 2. He collects butterflies, or 3. He has just won the pools, and it is the last of these three that really puts the whole story into motion. He describes, as if it's the most normal thing in the world, his interest in, and then obsession with, AND THEN kidnapping of art student Miranda. 

It's really that fact that he thinks that everything he's doing is completely normal that makes the story so scary. Given access into his mind, we understand that he truly believes he's creating a wonderful home for Miranda, buying her everything she could possibly want or need, and just omitting from his mind that he's creating an terrifying underground dungeon for a woman who he kidnaps and takes away from her friends and family and everything she's ever known. It's as if, winning this money and being able to buy everything he wants makes him feel entitled to having literally everything, even people, who, as the book makes pretty clear, he believes he can collect as easily and painlessly as he does butterflies.

Since his narration is so entitled and calm, you almost get lulled into believing with him that what he's doing is sort of ok. He isn't violent OR sexually violent (or sexual. At all) with Miranda, and because we're in his head, his thoughts that she should maybe just be nice to him because he isn't really doing anything that bad sort of start to permeate your own thinking until you start to wonder whether you're an ok person or not because Jesus, you really can't be. BUT THEN (and I guess this is sort of a spoiler, although it's a large chunk of the book so I wonder how much it really matters but if you're like 'omg tell me nothing about the book ever' then look away, yeah) the story does a 180 and you get Miranda's side of the story and it jolts you back into the mindset of a normal human being, making all of this guy's actions look messed up and horrible, as they always should have been.

Miranda's narrative is really the best of this book, at least for me, because it draws into focus how we should have been seeing her kidnapper all along, and also how she manages to cope with life in his dungeon. The contrast between them is dazzling, and made most clear when you realise that Miranda lives, at least while under his control, mostly within her mind and memories and ideas, which only helps to make it seem clearer that he has almost none of these, or at least none that we are privy too. It is through Miranda that Fowles is able to talk about class and gender and art and it all seems perfectly reasonable that she is thinking about this stuff because, you know, what else is there to do down there? Exactly.

I obviously can't really talk about the ending (my disdain for spoilers doesn't go quite that far) but let's just say it's good. It's really good. It's so good, even if I forget all the rest of the book, it's definitely the part I'll remember. It's pretty much the only way the book could have ended, and is just so fitting and oh my god I have to stop because I'm going to blurt out what it is because I really just want to discuss it and ok no, I can't do that. No.

But did I mention that it's really good? Cause it is.

So, in the end, is this book. Chilling in how normally everything is treated, and then interesting, and just lots of good things to recommend it to prospective readers. It's definitely scary enough for a RIP read, but it's also interesting enough for a read at just about any other time of year too. Definitely worth your time and attention, if you care to give them to it.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Things I Read in September

Is it just me or did September feel really long? I think something screwy happened with time because my sister's 30th birthday was at the start of the month and seemed to take up SO MANY days, but by the time it was over it was only the 7th but it felt like the month was basically over. Am I complaining about September? Not reeeeally, but it felt like a lot of days for nothing that remarkable to happen. I am ready for October to be happening as it is, is what I'm saying.

September was, however, a really good month for reading! I managed to get through 8 books which is ridiculous, AND even more ridiculously, I have reviewed 5 of them and actually plan to actually review the other 3 as well. I KNOW. Who even am I? 

But wait, doesn't that make this post kind of redundant, I hear you cry? Well, maybe. But these are easy and pleasant to do, and it's nice to reflect on my months reading with a little trip through the books, so that's exactly what I'm doing. 

Spinster by Kate Bolick
The more I think about this book, the more I'm not sure how much I liked it at all. The stuff about the lives of five famous spinsters was pretty great, the autobiographical stuff I could have done without. Review is here, for what its worth.

French Milk by Lucy Knisley
I nearly made my way through this twice before the month was out because I just. Love. It. So. Damn. Much! Pretty and interesting and you really can't do better than many many descriptions of food, can you? Or, at least, I can't. Review is here.

The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
This is definitely one of the books I've had on my shelves the longest, and it was absolutely definitely worth the wait. If some of the thrills were removed by having seen the film last year, then that was made up for by a wonderful lady friendship that the film omits, and by basically being able to carry the film around in my pocket and watch (read) it on the bus. Yes, I understand that there are magical devices that let you actually watch films on the go now, but shush up and recognise what I'm trying to say. This book is well worth the read, even if you know what's coming. Review is here, along with disturbing(ly attractive) Anthony Hopkins gifs.

Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Slightly chilling, mostly upsetting, pretty great. If I maybe didn't enjoy Rebecca as much as on previous readings, that's only an indication of just how much I loved it beforehand. It's still pretty good reading, and I think DEFINITELY worth having a first read of because of reasons *all the significant eye movements*. Review is here.

Blindness by Jose Saramago
Epic and disgusting and heartbreaking and absolutely not easy reading. I'm read Blindness because I wanted a good old fashioned dystopia, and whilst it kind of is one of those, it also doesn't have anything resembling any kind of society because take away everyone's sight and what do we have left? If nothing else, this book made me think about all the things we take for granted because we can see, and has done nothing to quell a very specific fear I have about going blind someday because omg all my favourite activities involve seeing in some way. But anyway. Longer and slightly less panicking review here.

The Collector by John Fowles
And on to the books I haven't reviewed yet! The Collector was very odd, and not at all the book I was expecting, but in the end it was exactly the book I wanted to read. I wasn't too sure at the beginning (which is made clearer by the fact that I read the first twenty or so pages years ago and then stopped) but the middle and end more than make up for it. I'm still a little bit haunted by it.

Limey's Story by Stephen King
I just realised that I started reading Lisey's Story in July, which should give you some indication of how I felt about it. I had a really hard time starting it off, and had a hard time liking Lisey (which is annoying, since it's her story [kind of]) but in the end, I feel confident in saying, I kind of pretty much liked it quite a bit. But more on that later, just give me time, yeah?

Blaze by Stephen King (ish)
And, of course, after like 3 months of Lisey's Story, I finished Blaze in less than a week. It's a previously unpublished Bachman book that King would have published before he was outed as Bachman but didn't get the chance to. And it kind of shows, in that it's a little rusty, but it's a pretty endearing and upsetting book, and for a King scholar like me (ho ho) it was fascinating to read an early work at this stage and actually be able to firstly see how much his writing has improved, but also to see hallmarks of his later (scarier) work in this earlier (only scary in a social issues way) novel. A good time was had by all, let us say.

And that was my September! I started the month of really strongly and just lost it a bit in the last week of the month because I started Japanese lessons (!) and have to dedicate some time to, you know, actual learning now rather than just reading fun books for fun. Sigh. As I have already mentioned, I will be having an operation in October, so in allllll those lovely days off work (apart from the writhing in pain and whatnot) I suspect I shall be mostly reading and watching all the things on Netflix I should have watched already (Stranger Things and Luke Cage, I am coming for you!)

What have you read this month? Anything I should know about?

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

RIP XI Book III: Blindness by Jose Saramago

Blindness is not an easy book to read. It was my bus and work book for about a week (because, at a slender 300 pages, it's perfect for carrying around) and I started realising that I was having a hard time with it when I neither wanted to go for lunch nor home because oh my god the trauma. That isn't to say it's a bad book, nor a book you shouldn't read, but simply one that was essentially very emotionally stressful for me.

It's a book that touches a lot of my reading hotspots, like dystopian fiction and unrelenting and crushing misery (gotta have some of that crushing misery to get you through the day!), and the story starts off basic and becomes a shitstorm (almost literally) of horror and fucked-upness. The story begins with a man going blind whist driving, experiencing a tiny tragedy that pretty rapidly becomes a national one. The blind and those suspected of being infected with blindness are taken to a defunct asylum to try and prevent its spread, and the story is told through the eyes of a doctor's wife, apparently the only woman in the entire (unnamed) country who is unaffected by the condition. And it. Is. Awful.

What Blindness really seems to be about is showing how fragile the bonds that hold society together really are, and how easily things could become completely and utterly shattered, to the point that life doesn't look anything like it used to before. I have a personal fear of blindness anyway, probably because my eyesight is already so shocking, but I've never really considered the implications of an entirely blind population before. If you think about it, the entire world is built with the idea that everyone living in it is able to see (and for those who can't, the seeing either help them, or they develop ways of 'seeing' with their other senses), and once that sense, probably the most vital one we have, is gone, all that's left is chaos. Saramago explores this really widely in this book, and manages to present the bleakest possible vision of the kind of world that would exist if everyone was blind.

Unfortunately for the reader, we do get to see it, through the eyes of the doctors wife. She has the hardest time in this book, because she has to see the kind of things that the blind cannot help, but also do not have to look at at the end of it. The rivers of excrement both in the asylum wards and in the streets, the human corpses laying unburied because no one can see to bury them, the millions of other tiny and massive indignities that the blind still have to experience, but at the very least don't have to see. It's difficult to read this book and not feel generally bad about everything that's happening in it, but it's also difficult to know who to feel worse for- the blind, or the woman who has to see it all, and can't really do anything about it because she's just one woman.

To get any more into plot detail would be kind of naughty because you need some kind of surprises in your life when you get up the courage to tackle this book (which, weirdly, I do think you should do in spite of my, well, horror), but let's just say that there are parts of it which made me feel physically ill, mostly dealing with the idea that, in all situations there will always be people who take advantage in whatever way they can, and in all situations it's the women who get fucked. Saramago is also a huge fan of giant sentences and paragraphs, which made it really difficult to know where it was safe to finish reading and get back to my real life sometimes, and I'd also convinced myself that it was written in maybe the 1940s or earlier but actually it was published in 1995. I can't tell if this is a complaint or not, but it annoyed me that it was such a recent book and terms like 'bloke' and stuff were used, but I think maybe that has more to do with the translation than anything else. I guess that helps to make it kind of timeless, but for me it actually set it more in the past than anything else.

As far as dystopian/disaster fiction goes, Blindness is very much a highbrow version of, say, The Stand, which is to say that it feels more realistic than something written by, say, Stephen King, which makes it so much scarier than a lot of books along the same lines would be. I'm not sorry I read it but I will be happy going through my whole life never reading it again, trying not to fear a worldwide epidemic of blindness that is now clearly the thing I'm going to be scared of for the rest of my life. If you had any doubts whether this book was suitable for RIP, then that enduring fear should be enough to clear things up for you. Read at your peril.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

RIP XI Book II: Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier

I always think really fondly of Rebecca for a couple of reasons. The first line- "Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again"- is very beautiful and also made a big deal of in Bag of Bones which is one of my favourite Stephen Kings, so I think of it as a very lyrical and beautiful book, more thoughts on which later. The other reason is THIS Mitchell and Webb sketch:

Because Frances and I basically wet ourselves when we saw it, and because David Mitchell is the absolute and ultimate Mrs Danvers. He just is.

This was, I believe, my third reading of Rebecca, and served to show me that I basically didn't remember anything about the plot beyond about the halfway point of the book, and that *whispers* it maybe isn't as well written as I thought it was. Don't get me wrong- I still enjoyed reading it, and that lyricism and beauty is still definitely present in the book (sooooo many gorgeous nature descriptions) it's just mainly there in the first half. Reading it this time, I noticed just how oddly paced it is- the first half is very slow and winding and takes a while to get anywhere, while the second half is all drama and speed and getting to a conclusion as quickly as possible. If you know the story, you'll know that this is fitting to what actually happens, but the effect this had on me was that I felt like I was almost reading two different books, where it seems impossible that the first half leads to the second, and where the styles of both are almost completely different.

Speaking of the story- I had forgotten quite a lot about the second half of the book, maybe because all of the character development and lush descriptions of the first half seem wildly superior to the cheap thrills of the second (for me, anyway, you might be into reading for the cheap thrills and that is fine with me). I remembered its basic point, but there were journeys and characters and plot twists that I remembered nothing about, just a vague feeling of unease about what was to come. It seems strange to me, then, that even though I think of Rebecca as a thriller, and even read it for RIP basically because of its thriller status, it's those parts of the book that mean the least to me.

For me, the book is all about the second Mrs De Winter. She's from such anonymous upbringing that she doesn't even get a first name, but nonetheless she's the character we see everything through, and that's important because, viewed through any other character's eyes, she would seem like such a drip. Even from the inside of her own head, she is an incredibly frustrating character at times, so passive and quiet that you want to shake her and have her TAKE COMMAND FOR ONCE FFS,  but then she'll come up with something like this:
"I wondered why it was that places are so much lovelier when one is alone... How lovely it was to be alone again. No, I did not mean that. It was disloyal, wicked, it was not what I meant. Maxim was my life and my world."
These are the second Mrs De Winter's thoughts after her husband goes away and leaves her with Manderley herself for a couple of days, and it's the perfect tension between being thrilled that you're alone because you can fully be yourself, and being concerned that such thoughts constitute a kind of disloyalty to other people. I can relate, but maybe not as much as I used to. Reading Rebecca this time, I grew increasingly frustrated with Mrs De Winter's passivity and shyness, whereas I'm sure that the time before, I was pretty much like 'yep girl, I feel ya.' Just another way that we change and the books we read change with us, because I can't really relate to that kind of passivity anymore (translation: I now have kind of a big mouth).

I don't regret rereading Rebecca and I will probably do it again at some point because damn, Daphne knows how to get you to turn pages. I will probably always prefer the parts that are less thriller-y, more beautiful, and I'm comfortable with that, but you might have a completely different reading experience than me, that's kind of how reading works. Either way, I fully recommend it as a read, and even though it won't scare the pants off you, I think you'll have a good time reading it and really what more can you ask for? Exactly.

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

27 Before 28: #18- Go To The Beach This Summer

Since summer is now officially over, I guess it's time to sum up my beach trips. To summarise: There were not nearly enough of them, but as there were more than last year, I'm officially calling this a success. A triumph, even, if you will. I still haven't visited Katie at the Isle of Wight like I keep promising (SORRY I AM TERRIBLE, KATIE) so that will probably be my next foray to the seaside, but for now, here are the trips I made this summer.

May 1st- Southsea, Hampshire

If you want to get truly technical, my first trip to the seaside this year was to Margate in April, but Southsea was the first time I sat on the beach and the first time I had a bloody good ice cream so we're starting our tale of the seaside here. This trip wasn't perfect by any means- it started with my desperate need to wee and then horror for having to pay for the privilege, continued through the discovery that I had basically no cash and errrrrything in southsea is cash only (lame) and even further through my sister making me walk THE LONGEST walk from pier to pier for no discernible reason. But still. There's something to be said for getting some sea air in your lungs, and even more to be said for eating chips on the beach. The amusements were amusing and I paid a full 40p for the privilege of carrying out a natural bodily function, thank you very much you opportunistic bastards.
Overall, it was good, but I think I can do better.

July 16-17th- Margate, Kent
I'm not sure if I should count my trip to Margate to do the Race for Life with Bex as a trip to the beach at all, because there was no sitting on the beach, and no going in the sea (although, to be fair, I didn't go in the sea all summer so that's not really a deciding factor). I did however see the sea:
And then saw it some more whilst doing a really painful walk because of my womb:
AND went to the amusements (seriously Dreamland is waaaaay cool!):
And left with the most excruciating case of sunburn and dumb tan lines:
So really, a great success all round. Except for the sunburn part, which I admit was pretty awful. Why sun, whyyyyy?!

August 5th- Brighton, East Sussex
Before this trip, I had only been to Brighton once, with my family, on a day when we were all unreasonably grumpy, and then we got hangry, and everything was terrible. I have, since then, associated Brighton with grumpiness in my mind, and since grumpiness is my least favourite state, I have been reluctant to go back there.

But. This day in August was my last weekday off in between old job and new job. I wanted to do something special because who could say when I would have another day off (a couple of weeks later, as it happened, but that's another story) and I had recently discovered that Brighton is basically less than an hour and a half from my house on the train. Sold on the idea of beach goodness, and, well, chips, I followed my heart and found myself in Brighton at the start of Pride weekend. In Brighton. The gayest place in the country. Yeah.

So the giant crowds and AGAIN my desperate need to wee (I don't know why 1) I need to pee so much when I go to the seaside or 2) why there are so few toilets) did not get my trip off to the best start, and honestly I was nearly ready to remain grumpy about Brighton forever and ever until I realised how many freaking excellent Pokemon there were to catch there and everything was better.
I found my people.
But Brighton isn't just bursting with Pokemon! There's also ice cream to eat on the beach:
A bookshop with a pretty awesome staircase and yet not a single book I wanted to buy:
This one time where these seagulls attacked this one kid while his friends stood to the side and laughed:
And, of course, Brighton Pier:
I also had a little look at the Brighton Pavilion which is beautiful/tacky and none of my pictures of it were any good. My phone tells me I walked 17km that day (thank you, creepy phone that tracks all of my movements) and I barely felt it at all which I think goes to show the magic that is Brighton. I will definitely be going back there, and more importantly, I will stop associating it with grumpiness because it is a place of pure joy and also Pokemon.

BOOM. The seaside is cool, I'm pretty glad summer is done because there are a few days I thought I was actually going to melt to death there, but also I kind of can't wait for more beach next summer.