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.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Mini-Reviews for Posterity (2)

So, I think we can all agree that last year got away from me horribly. My bad, I fucked up and went to the dark side and then had to wear a silly hat:
And it was awesome and difficult and tiring, and didn't leave much time for reading. You probably think I've said this all before, and I'm pretty sure I have, over and over again, not least in the last post I did containing mini-reviews for the few books I actually did manage to read during the Shakespeare time. So then what is this post? I hear you cry.

This, my friends, is for the very few books I read after the end of Shakespeare times, times when I thought I would just read all day and night and then have many thoughts about what I had read that I simply had to tell you all. That's not entirely what happened, something which I attribute not only to my tired tired brain, but the fact that I was out living life and meeting people and doing all the social things that Shakespeare left me no time for, as well as my strange and disturbing desire to make Christmas presents for basically everyone I knew, a noble endeavour that left neither my eyes nor hands available for reading (but my rewatch of Mad Men is going extremely well, thank you for asking).

What all of this means is that I haven't written full reviews for anything, but on the plus side there aren't very many things to write reviews for. I believe this means I'm winning or something? Definitely or something. Regardless, and without any further ado or anything, here are some teeny tiny reviews:

Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill

I was expecting great things from Heart Shaped Box considering how much I loved NOS4R2, and Joe Hill truly delivered, as I suspect he may always do. This is a kind of traditional ghost story in many ways, only where normal ghosts just scare you, this one seems like it could easily kill you. Whilst the ghost takes centre stage, there's also a lot to be said here about leading a life of quiet desperation, about mental illness, and about the effect you sometimes have on people's lives when you don't really mean to. It's not the absolute best book ever, and there are a couple of aspects of it I could have done without, but, and I think really pressingly when it comes to horror books, it gave me chills and actively scared me, even when I was reading it in a London park in bright daylight with many many people around. Full marks, then, for the immersively terrifying experience.

The Lottery and Other Stories by Shirley Jackson

I'd previously had a mixed experience with Shirley Jackson (The Haunting of Hill House is excellent, We Have Always Lived In The Castle less so in my opinion) but I can't get over how excellent The Lottery is as a short story and bought this collection mainly because I wanted a paper copy of The Lottery to keep (having previously only read it here, and please read it read it read ittttttt) and I figured why not?

So obviously The Lottery was still amazing. But this whole collection was really pretty great and made me wonder if the short story isn't basically the form Jackson should always have been writing in. Not only does the collection do that thing where they're connected in that, in almost every story there is a character with this one same name, (which is one of my favourite things for story collections to do) they're also connected in that, even if they're just talking about the most mundane things, there is always the sense that, if you changed perspective even a tiny bit, you'd see the seedy underbelly underneath, well, the world. I don't know how Jackson manages to tinge the normality of life with something that's just a little bit nasty so effectively, and frankly I don't even want to know, I just want to sit back and enjoy the craftsmanship. Which is exactly what I did with this collection.

Look At Me by Jennifer Egan

I can't write anything more about how disappointing I find all of Egan's books because they're not A Visit From The Goon Squad. Look At Me is definitely not A Visit From The Goon Squad, but it's probably my favourite of her three other novels. Following two characters named Charlotte, Egan looks at emptiness and performance, faces and what lies beneath them, and if it felt flat at times then I can only really relate that to the fact that it isn't Goon Squad. It's like with her books, I intellectually know that I'm reading a book by someone who knows what they're doing and is so excellent at writing, but I just... don't necessarily... like them? Which gets to be a problem when I'm reading for pleasure, really.

There was one part though that I had to read about three times because it set me alight with joy at how forward seeing Egan always always is. So, in the novel there's a website being set up for people with extraordinary stories to broadcast details of their lives and pasts to any interested readers- think a prototype Facebook but only for a select few and that you actually get paid for. So, in response to the whole concept, one character says, "'You're turning people into shopping malls'" and BOOM CLICK isn't that kind of what we're doing to ourselves whenever we post on social media? Like 'hey, here is a piece of information about me that I will give to you and now you may possess it' when we should perhaps think about what it means to be sharing parts of ourselves like that? Only, of course, we do it for free and what does that say about us too? And by us, I include myself OF COURSE because seriously, I'm a big facebooky facebooker at the moment. The main point, anyway, is that this novel was published in 2001, and so written before then, but how prescient does a person want to be?! I may not always actively like her work, but I will never not be impressed at her ability to forecast and predict the future.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Everyone is about to want to punch me. But. I read Alice in Wonderland and I kind of didn't really like it.

Ok, not liking it is harsh. I liked it plenty, but it's now one of those things that I believe gets a lot of praise and credit all the time without having done much to deserve it. I like to call this the 'Emperor's New Clothes' syndrome- Everyone has praised it and applauded it so much that everyone just accepts it as the truth without necessarily being honest with themselves about whether they really and truly like it or believe that to be the case.

For me- I felt like it was a predecessor of Modernism in that it didn't make much sense, I can't quite cope with stories that end with 'and it was all a dream' because WE WEREN'T ALLOWED TO DO THAT AT SCHOOL, so why is this book allowed?, and oh my god there were so many songs. Nobody wants songs in books. Seriously. I barely even want the sorting hat's song in Harry Potter, and that's basically just really fun. Nonetheless, I liked Alice as a fun and slightly weird children's book, but remain ultimately annoyed at how overhyped it seems to be. *scurries away quickly*

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

I could tell you how I'm kind of annoyed that JK already seems to be pushing together her brilliantly named detective Cormoran Strike and his awesome assistant/partner (we're not wholly sure which) Robin. I could tell you that this is the darkest of JK's detective novels so far and the descriptions of, well, really you don't want to know, went too far at times even for me. But mostly I want to tell you that, as with the previous two Cormoran Strike books, I had a really difficult time putting this down once I started reading it, and I had a couple of sleepy sleepy days at work because of it. This kind of book devotion makes me think I should probably read more detective stories, and yet I pretty much just read JK's because it's her and how can I not? And how can you not? Seriously, I promise that you want to read this series because oh man. JK knows how to write a twist, just as well as she can write about, well, dismemberment and the like. So, to conclude, ew.

And there you have all the books that I read and didn't tell you about in the latter part of this year. You're so welcome. Up next, the graphic novels I read and didn't tell you about in the latter part of this year! One day, I might even get to the things I've read in 2016... Stranger things have happened, you know, probably.

Sunday, 3 January 2016


Honestly, I'm sure you're just impressed that I'm doing a Sunday Sundries post at all (THREE POSTS IN A WEEK, WHAT EVEN?!) but I am about to impress you EVEN FURTHER by showing off my skills and whatnot.

So. I think I mentioned in my last post that, in spite of not having to do Shakespeare anymore, I failed to read much in the last third of the year. This was not only because my poor brain needed a rest, but because for some strange reason, I decided to make (MAKE!) basically all my Christmas presents this year. This entailed a lot of truffle making and gingerbread baking, but I also wanted to make nice things that people could keep. These included a blanket for my cousin's baby, hats for some of my friends (I can essentially only knit blankets and hats, just btdubs), an iPad case for my mum, a box of recipes for my sister, and those are just the ones I don't have photos of!

Here are the things I do:
I made this embroidery for Alley who was my Secret Santa-ee in one of my internet groups this year, and I am really proud of it but looking at it also exhausts me because it took literally a whole day to make because I am a fool and made my letters too chunky because I forgot completely how time consuming embroidery is. ANYWAY, in case you didn't know, this is a quote from A Midsummer Night's Dream which I happened to know is Alley's favourite Shakespeare so that... is the reason for that.

I had learnt my lesson by the time I made this embroidery for my friend Christine (who like, really really really likes Harry Potter- I also made her a gryffindor hat) and only the snitch inside really took any time at all, the rest was easy as pie (side note: how easy is pie, exactly? Is pie super slutty?)

I made a Minion cushion for my cousin's kid, not because I like minions (I kinda really don't) but because he basically asked me to and I love the kind of inspiration where I don't have to think but merely have to find a drawing of a minion and then make one out of felt. I didn't even have to embroider anything!

I did have to embroider this for my best friend, and it was actually really fun to do, even though as I made it I had both my mum and auntie go "but... She won't be able to hang that anywhere!" I'm not entirely sure where Frances plans to hang it, but I'm sure you'll agree that the F-word makes a delightful addition to any home!

I am proud of all of these little made things, but no piece of work has inspired as much praise, nor am I as proud of anything else as I am of this:
IT IS A STORMTROOPER CUSHION. I may not have seen Star Wars (I know, don't start) but I know that this is a bloody good stormtrooper, and it had better be because its the only thing that took anywhere near as long to make as Alley's embroidery. This now resides in my sister and her boyfriend's flat (the cushion was for him) and I'm clearly going to admire it every time I go round there, for real.

So there you have it. You're allowed to just be super impressed with me, I know I am. My main aim of the enterprise wasn't really to save money (although I probably saved a little?) so much as to give gifts that I put time and effort into, and that meant a bit more than something I just bought from a shop. It also meant I could give a little something to all of my family- I don't normally get anything for my aunties or cousins really, but because I was making gingerbread, it made sense to make it for everyone rather than just my immediate family, because the extra effort there was minimal. The presents that maybe cost me the least, meant the most- for my sister and cousins (and myself) I made cushions out of my grandad's old shirts, so that even though we don't have him anymore, we always have something of his close by. I was really happy that I had even the basic skills (and cushion covers are as basic as it gets!) to make these so that we all have something of his to keep forever.

Essentially, this: deciding to make almost all of my Christmas presents kept me almost fully occupied over November and December, was pretty tiring (but not to a Shakespeare level!) but ultimately so rewarding that I reckon I'll be making at least some of my Christmas presents for years to come. Now I just need to learn how to do things that aren't cushions, or hats, or embroideries...

Friday, 1 January 2016

Read My Own Damn Books

Before I say any words, may I just say A HAPPY NEW YEAR, one and all! I think I've said before that I don't really accept a new year as a thing, and I definitely think of my birthday as a better time to be setting goals and stuff (if only because it's in the spring rather than THE DEEP MIDWINTER) but I'm really glad to see the back of 2015 and am (stupidly, ridiculously, with no evidence to support it) cautiously optimistic about 2016.
Form of my evidence-less optimism right now. Although, there is another Hyperbole and a Half book out this year so we know that everything's going to be ok. And hilarious.

I realise that it was but yesterday that I said I wasn't going to talk about my reading life of last year, ridiculously weighted to Shakespeare as it was, but having just made my last entries onto my spreadsheet (oh yeah, I'm one of those people) I thought I'd briefly share some stats with you *salivates gently over stats* and then move on to what I'm thinking for this coming year. 


Total Books Read: 53 (this doesn't include allllllll the articles and essays and chapters I read so I could write essays and a dissertation and whatnot)
Total Pages Read: 11, 792 (which, in context, is 7,000 less than last year, but about 16,000 less than my last completely non-Shakespeare year. Of course I probably did more reading in 2015 than any other year of my life, but leisure reading? Not so much.)
Shakespeare/Non-Shakespeare Split: 21/32
Male/Female Split: 40/13 (ooooof, thanks a lot Shakespeare...)
Graphic Novels/Books that are just words: 23/30 (I read so few books with words this year)
Fiction/Non-Fiction: 48/5
Books I already Owned/Books I didn't Own: 23/30

I haven't even included any kind of diversity stats because, quite frankly, there wasn't any in my reading, and I think it's fairly clear that diversity in my reading in general just didn't happen this year. Which is fine! Obviously my main concern was actually getting my Masters, and even after it was finished, my brain was so tired that it mostly just wanted to read comics if anything at all.

I think I'm getting better now.

The stat that I most want to address for now is the final one. Last year, I only read 23 books that I had owned pre-2015. That doesn't sound too terrible unless you think about how many books I actually own, but if we consider that 10 of those were Shakespeare plays, 6 were re-reads, I essentially only read 7 books out of the *mumbles* about 360-ish books that I already owned. Everything else I read was either bought by me last year, given to me as a gift, or taken out of the library (because, guys, comic books are so expensive I can't even).

Now. I'm not one to get all regimented about what I'm reading because it's my hobby and it's supposed to be fun and not like schoolwork. But, the thing is, when a person is creeping up on the 400-unread books mark, something has to be done to, I don't know, actually read the books she already has instead of seeking out greener pastures, even if those pastures are the library so no money is being spent. That is why Andi of Estella's Revenge has become a godsend. An angel of joy and goodness. Introducing: 
This is more of a reading event than a challenge, and the fact that it doesn't really have any rules makes my soul happy. The idea, obviously, is pretty much just to read the books you already have. Basically exclusively. And not to acquire new ones because 'hey, I just finished one!' or 'that has a pretty cover!' or any other reason that a new book finds its way into my house. The easiest way to do this would be to install a blanket book-buying ban, but that kind of command seems designed entirely to FORCE me to go out and buy 57 books at once. So a new way must be found.

With that in mind, here is my tentative plan for, I guess, the year:
  • Read books from my own shelves pretty much exclusively. I bought them, therefore I must have wanted to read them, therefore I should read them. Logic.
  • If I don't want to read them anymore, they must go. 
  • No book buying in January. At all. This prevents any books from entering my house, but is also going to be helpful for my life because my bank balance is already looking a little bit desperate and it's only the 1st...
  • Limited book buying until my birthday- The only time I can think that I will actually need to buy books is on the bookshop crawl that Bex is organising (are you in/near London? You should come!) which I believe is in February, but other than that... I don't need any more books. I won't be short of a book to read for a really long time, and I can't really afford books. I think I'll be ok.
  • I'll probably need to read some graphic novels, and so I shall turn to the library, or, you know, read the ones I actually already have on my shelves, oh my god Laura why is this so difficult for you?
So anyway. This is what I'm going to do. It's pretty much my only reading goal of the year, except I want to read a lot more Stephen King because he has been so neglected for so long now, and I also actually truly want to blog more... LET'S SEE HOW THAT GOES, shall we? (I'm aiming for one Sunday, diary-ish post per week, and one actual book post, anything more than that will be a surprise even to me!) Once again, HAPPY NEW YEAR YOU GUYS, let's all just sit and read books and eat all ur Christmas sweets together until winter is over, shall we?