Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Devouring Books: If This Is A Woman by Sarah Helm

When I think about things I've read about the Holocaust, I come up with Maus, The Diary of Anne Frank, and that's kind of it. I honestly couldn't tell you if I've been intentionally trying to shield myself from reading about horrible things, or if I've just been a lazy scholar in this area. I learnt about the Holocaust at Secondary School (but that's it) and I've also been to a Concentration Camp and even the place where the final solution (uck) was decided upon*, but I've still remained pretty ignorant about most of the horrifying things that happened in the camps during the war.

Fittingly, If This Is A Woman is a really comprehensive book about the activities of the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, a camp that nobody ever really knows or talks about. I can't tell if this is because 1) it wasn't a death camp (as in it didn't have gas chambers until right at the end of the war, not that many many didn't die there because of the awful conditions) 2) it wasn't strictly a Jewish camp because the agenda for Jews was obviously death and so they didn't tend to stay at Ravensbruck long, or 3) because it was a camp, in fact the only camp, that was exclusively for women. I don't want to be cynical and say that because women are the only ones that suffered and died there it has been viewed as less important and not as worthy to discuss, but I guess I am saying that so please have some of my cynicism, it's free!

Ok, so. As I've already said, I have nothing really to compare this book to, but in my opinion, it was a really really good chronicles of the experiences of women in the camp. I can't say that I exactly enjoyed reading it because, come on, but there were times when I couldn't quite put it down just because I was filled with horror, and, quite frankly, I wanted to get to the end where, at least, some of the women would survive.** This book, however, is packed with information and research, and although there were points where I just wanted to not know anymore, I also felt like reading it was an important thing to do- not even for me, really, but for everyone to know how horrifying things were so that we don't let this shit happen again.

I think for me, the best thing about this book is that it's all about the women's stories. I think Helm interjects as the narrator only in the introduction and epilogue, and only to describe her feelings upon visiting the camp and also explaining how she tracked down some of the survivors. Other than that, it is only the women's voices we hear, describing the things they lived through and also describing the women they loved who didn't live through them. I still don't know if I've remained ignorant through choice or because, y'know, I've been reading other things, but I know for a fact that I've always tried to not hear about the medical experiments Nazis carried out on prisoners (if I go through my whole life not knowing what they were doing with twins, for example, I think I'll be good). This book, however, did not allow me to look away, and now I know about some horrifying experiments that I suspect don't even scratch the surface of the evil shit the Nazis were doing to people. It's not like I didn't know they were bad, but shit, dude. They were doubleplus bad, you know?

I think this review has mostly revealed my ignorance of the Holocaust before reading this book, but i guess that's ok. I read to entertain myself, mostly, but this was absolutely an instance of reading to educate myself. I feel as though it has opened a door to probably more Holocaust reading, but in a little while so that I have a chance to recover somewhat (I realise this makes me a total pansy compared to people who fought, hard, for their lives every single day, but hey, I gotta do self care). In my completely uninformed opinion, this is a really good example of a Holocaust chronicle, and if you want to look specifically at the women who suffered, then this is, I think, a really good place to start.




*It's this gorgeous house in the Berlin suburbs and it just does not deserve to be that beautiful. But it is. Sorry.
**Alas, the end is pretty grim- many women were killed in air raids just outside Ravensbruck after they'd been freed, and many many more were raped by soviet soldiers who were there to liberate them. Yay, men!

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Devouring Stephen King: Doctor Sleep

Of all the King books that have been released after starting my long voyage, Doctor Sleep is the one I was most apprehensive about. The Shining is a pretty iconic book (don't talk to me about the movie, but the book, yes) and if there was something I didn't think I needed, it was a sequel to it. I'm not sure that this book exactly convinced me that I needed a sequel, but I still really enjoyed it all the same.

Let's see. This book starts by taking us to Danny about 3 years after the events in The Overlook, where he is being haunted again by some of the gross things he saw there. Dick Halloran tells him how to get rid of them, and we are then transported through time (that happens a lot in this book which is one of its strengths- we'll get onto that later) to see Danny- now Dan- as an adult alcoholic, drinking almost all the time to try and dull the memories and the shining- less intense as an adult than as a child, but still irreducibly there. We actually get to see him hit rock bottom, stealing from a woman who quite clearly has nothing, and leaving a child in a dangerous situation.

It was at this point that I was worried about this book. I didn't want to see the destruction of Danny from The Shining, and I didn't know enough about the book to be sure that he wasn't going to go down a Jack Torrence path of destruction rather than going to AA. Spoiler, but reassurance- he goes to AA rather than on a killing spree so you are totally going to be able to read this book, don't panic.

Danny (Dan) is not even really the main point of this book, however. This is his story, but it's also the story of a long-living group of almost vampires, who live not off blood but off of whatever is produced by children who shine. It's also also the story of Abra, a little girl who does shine, and who shines extremely bright. These three elements combine together over time gaps and physical distances to make a story that's really intriguing and exciting and oddly road trip-ish, but you know. In a bad way.

In a lot of ways, I think the best thing about this book is the time gaps. What it allows is for us to see large cross sections of Danny's life, from rock bottom, to finally finding help, to then being able to help others. As much as The Shining was incredibly insular and takes place over a few weeks/months, Doctor Sleep takes place over decades, making it much more roaming and a whole overview of a person's life, rather than giving us a small snapshot of what Dan's life is like afterwards. King pretty much says that he wrote this book cause people always asked him what happened to the kid from The Shining, and so he got to wondering that himself. Here he answers the question not with a single event but with many, and you know what? It ain't such a bad life at all.

And so. The completely unnecessary sequel turned out to be pretty great, and definitely worth your time and attention. I like and root for Dan as much as I liked and rooted for him as a child, and I'm really glad that this book didn't do anything bad to the legacy of The Shining, even though I feared it would. It's good book, people. Good book indeed.

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Devouring Stephen King: Joyland

Joyland was, quite genuinely, a joy to read (groaaaaaan). It's another one of King's Hard Case Crime books (the last being The Colorado Kid) and it's just so great. Although, because it's King, there are a couple of supernatural elements to proceedings (a fortune teller! A psychic child! A ghost!) at it's core this is really just a good old fashioned whodunnit and, well, I can hardly resist one of those.

I'm finding it hard to think coherently about Joyland, because my brain just keeps going 'God, that book was GREAT!' and that's about all I can handle. So let's try and do some plot. Devin is a college student who has just been dumped by his girlfriend and has found a summer job at a carnival. Firstly, the carnival seems like an awesome place to work, and don't think for one second that I didn't want to run off and be a carny for most of this book because shit, those parts seemed like so much fun. This particular theme park, however, has a grisly past as a woman was murdered in (of course) the haunted house a number of years before, and it is solving this crime that is the basis of the book.

Except that, it also kind of isn't. I know I said this is a good old fashioned whodunnit, and certainly I got that rush of satisfaction when I found out who the killer was because, you know, it's very pleasing to have solved the mystery.* In many ways though, the mystery, just like the supernatural elements, are secondary to the main story, which is basically just the story of Devin himself. That's right, King has done it again, and made you believe you're reading a scary book, when actually you're really just reading a character piece. This book is all about getting over heartbreak, making grown up choices, and finding out who you are and who you want to be in life. All of these things are things I can get behind, and shit, I really loved this book.

Don't get me wrong though, it is still pretty scary. There were definite moments of peril where I couldn't quite breathe right, and I was also so engrossed by it that I made my boyfriend and I miss a train because shit, I just wanted to finish it, ok?! I gulped this book down in a couple of days, not only because it's short and I had some travelling time to read (both true) but also because, fuck, I really did  not want to put it down (see above re: missing train).

So to conclude. This book was aces and frankly I could read it again right now without any complaints. I don't even just recommend this book to you, I URGE you to read it, especially if you like crime fiction in any sense. I don't know what it is about these later King books, but to me it seems like he's gotten really really good over the last few I've read. All killer, no filler, all that kind of stuff. This makes me really excited for whatever comes next, and also slightly mournful that in just a few books, I'll have to wait for the next King book to be published like a total sucker. Alas, alas, woe is me etc. But also, not really cause I get to read more Stephen King!

*For the record, I did not solve the mystery, and definitely allowed myself to be led down the wrong path just as King intended. I like detective/crime stories, I would just be really bad if I lived in one.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Things I Read In May

May was a preeeetty good reading month, mainly because I had so many sick days off work for various reasons (5 in total, which feels so naughty to write down, but... sick is sick!) I finished 6 books, which actually I don't think is a giant amount, BUT a couple of them were giant and so, you know, I read a lot of book last month.

JUST LOOK!

Amazingly, I have reviewed most of these books already (coming soon!) so this monthly wrap up will be mercifully short for once, don't say I never do anything for you.

Joyland by Stephen King
I had so much pure, unadulterated fun reading this one. It's a crime King, which is always excellent, mainly because there's not just a crime to solve but also some supernatural elements thrown in and just a lot of good, clean fun. You'll like it, I swear.

If This Is A Woman by Sarah Helm
This book looks at Ravensbruck, the only Nazi Concentration Camp that was exclusively for women, and it was hard to read. Not hard because the writing was bad (it wasn't) but because the subject matter is especially difficult and it's hard to reconcile humans treating other humans in such a way. I have already written a review for this, but rest assured it is worth your time and (I think) a good place to start if you want to learn more about the Holocaust.

Doctor Sleep by Stephen King
It's the sequel I didn't think I needed, but it turned out that I liked it quite a lot. Doctor Sleep follows Danny from The Shining (premise of the book: whatever happened to the kid from The Shining?) through alcoholism but then glory and even though I was worried about the legacy of The Shining I really shouldn't have been cause this was great.

A Wild Sheep Chase by Haruki Murakami
I think what I'm about to say might shock you, but I wasn't over enamoured with this book. It's an early Murakami, so it seems to me that, although it still contains many of his usual hallmarks (ears, foods, REALLY WEIRD SHIT) he hadn't quite worked out how to fit them all together yet to make a cohesive story. If his stories can ever be cohesive, I suppose... Anyway, it wasn't terrible because Murakami, but still was not at all my favourite.

A Feast For Crows by George R R Martin 
It's Game of Thrones. You know what you're getting. For me the real excitement with this book came from trying to work out where things came in the tv show, and also trying to work out what had been substituted for what because there are some real differences that are starting to emerge (although many of the essential plot points remain the same). I did enjoy this book a lot and it helped me while I was recovering from a medical thing, but I STILL LIKE THE TV SHOW BETTER I AM SORRY.

 Dietland by Sarai Walker
I finished this book in basically a day, which should tell you both that it was super easy to read and also excellent. I have written a full review of this one too (I KNOW) so I shan't say too much, but let's just say that the fact that it is easy to read is deceptive because it is feeding you so many important things you need to know about the diet industry and accepting oneself and ugh it's just so great. I can't recommend it enough, really.

And that was May! It's only the second of June and I've already finished one book, so I'm super optimistic about this next month already, I have to say. How is your reading going for the year?

Monday, 29 May 2017

Not-Quite-Sunday Sundries: Here Is A Pile Of Books

Bank Holiday greetings, friends and (hopefully not) foes! I'm definitely trying to cover for my lack of a Sunday post right now, but since today is a Bank Holiday it's basically still Sunday, amiright? I probably am not.

My bank holiday weekend weirdly kind of started on Thursday, but only because I had to go to the hospital and have a... thing done*, Friday I was all sore still so gave myself the day off and I've just spent a lovely weekend with my gentleman caller. So Monday it is!

Back to Thursday though: I woke up early because I always wake up early now (case in point: it's a bank holiday and I woke up at 6:45am! Woo! Not) and to prevent myself from stressing too intensely, I decided to tidy my room and watch Gilmore Girls because I find both of these things curiously relaxing. When I was tidying, I decided to put away the new books I have bought/received this year (aka the pile of shame) for the sake of having more floor space, and as I did so I kept seeing books I really wanted to read, and so a new pile was formed.

Behold!
Since I am me, this pile isn't really definitive and I will probably hate the idea of all of these books in a few weeks, but for now, these are the books I intend to read soonly. They are:

  • The Love of a Good Woman by Alice Munro- cause I have somehow accrued quite a lot of Munro books and managed to read exactly zero of them. This is the first one  bought, so seems like a good starting point.
  • Postcards by Annie Proulx- cause it's one of the only Proulx books I haven't read, and I find that she goes so well with summer.
  • A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson- cause I remembered that I had this the other day, and I really liked the preceding book to it. This one's time has come.
  • Torch by Cheryl Strayed- cause I love Cheryl Strayed and it seems ridiculous that I haven't read this yet.
  • Dietland by Sarai Walker- cause I really really wanted to read it (note: I have done now and it exceeded all my expectations)
  • On Beauty by Zadie Smith- cause like with Munro, I have many of her books and have not yet read any. Must do better!
  • Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart- cause I read a part of this in The New Yorker a long long time ago and I really want to get on it.
  • It Can't Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis- cause the world is a scary place right now and I need to read the worst case scenario to... I don't know, make myself feel better? Or something.
  • Mr Mercedes by Stephen King- cause the long journey continues, and also draws to a close. I'm also planning to read all his other books soon, but omitted them from the pile cause, you know, I know where they are if I need them.
  • Miss Buncle's Book by De Stevenson- cause it's my earliest Persephone buy and I still haven't read it. I'm getting on it.
  • Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson- cause it's the bloggess and her other book made me lol the most. Loling is super important.
And that is the pile of books! There are so many women on it, mostly because these are genuinely the books I saw that I wanted to read imminently, but also because I have been reading so much Stephen King this year that I don't want my reading stats to completely go to shit. At this moment, I'm pretty excited to read all the things, so we'll see how long that lasts.


Have an excellent second Sunday, if you get a second Sunday! Otherwise, just try to not hate your Monday, I guess.

*It's not a serious thing so don't worry, I just have to be kept an eye on because of reasons so I had to have a series of uncomfortable and slightly painful things done to me

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Devouring Stephen King: The Wind Through The Keyhole

I don't think it's any secret that I'm a big fan of Stephen King's Dark Tower Series. I can't get enough of his ka-tet's noble journey throughout different landscapes and worlds to try and save the very fabric of reality itself, and I'm also super excited for the upcoming movie (mainly cause, have you SEEN Idris Elba?!) However. I also don't think it's any secret that the parts of these novels that are pure fantasy, sans savvy New Yorkers and trips to somewhere resembling our own world, are not exactly my favourite parts. Wizard and Glass is my least favourite of the series, for example, purely because it's a story about Roland's past, set entirely in Roland's world and ugh please just no.

It's really unsurprising to me, though, that The Wind Through The Keyhole, King's addendum to his Dark Tower series (published last, but set between books 4 and 5), delves deeper into the mythology of Roland's world. It's clearly a place that King loves exploring and creating in, even if I find it kind of tiresome, so let us all praise him for doing a thing that he loves. For my part, I'm still a little sore at the events of the 7th book, so the way this book teases us with a glimpse of the main characters at the beginning on the end, but otherwise focuses on two other stories felt like a little bit of an insult, at least to my Eddie, Susannah and Jake loving heart.

To it's credit, this book is structured really interestingly. Roland begins by telling one story, and then tells a story from his childhood within that story. I actually found the folk tale the more interesting one, because it felt to me like a pure fairy tale- a genre that King doesn't tackle very often (if ever...) but here is very good at. I know what you're thinking though (or actually, what I'm thinking)- if I don't like fantasy (mostly), then why do I like the tale that is fictional, even within the fiction?

I don't really have an answer, except to say that I guess I kind of like fairy tales, but also this one was REALLY COOL. There's a tiger and some murder and a quest, and yeah, I just really liked it. Roland's additional backstory in this book really didn't measure up to this secondary tale, and even felt like a plot device in order to just get to this piece of folklore. I didn't like the Roland stuff so much, but it was at least shorter, and who am I to chastise King for wanting to return to his happy place in such a way?

Besides, at least it wasn't as long as Wizard and Glass.

As always, you should probably take everything negative I've said about this book with a pinch of salt, since I finished it in a giant gulp and wasn't even mad about it. Because, you know, it's Stephen King. Even when he's not at his best, he's still kind of the best.

ONWARDS to the next one.

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Films I Watched In April

Greetings, and welcome to a brand new blog part of my blog and whatnot. The function of this monthly post is threefold: firstly, to talk about films in general because I haven't done that for so long and I really like to do it, secondly, I have a limitless movie pass now which means I'm seeing more films than ever before (in theory) and thirdly, my friend who I basically just see movies with does a thing where she records all the films she's seen in a year, and you know, I wanna too.

Thus here beginnith all the films watched in my 29th year.

Raw
I feel like I must have known once upon a time that Raw was a french (actually belgian, but french language) film, but I managed to forget that before I saw it and so was faced with subtitles after a 9 hour day at work. No matter, because Raw was excellent- I was concerned before I saw it because I had heard horror stories of people throwing up in cinemas because of it, and because I'm really not good with scary movies, but this was not exactly what I would describe as a horror movie. The story follows Justine, a young girl who is a vegetarian and is just starting at vet school. Both of these things are relevant as the culture of hazing at the school leads to Justine's consumption of a raw rabbit kidney (a vegetarian! Eating a raw rabbit kidney!) after which point, things get WEIRD. Rather than a horror movie though, this is really just a coming of age drama with just the tiniest bit of cannibalism thrown in for funsies and also for some kind of symbolism that I'm sure I'd be able to decipher if I was a smarter person. Regardless, this film was excellent, and well worth the subtitle reading that it entailed. The general thing I learnt from the movie: Give a vegetarian meat, and it's just a matter of time until she's chowing down on some tasty tasty human flesh.

Monty Python and the Life of Brian
I shouldn't really count this cause I fell asleep abouuuut half an hour into this and only woke up for 'Always Look on the Bright Side of Life' (for similar reasons, I'm not counting Boys Don't Cry) BUT it's my Good Friday film, I'm trying to start a tradition where I watch it every year, and it is great.

Get Out

Get Out, however, I saw twice last month (and once the month before that, YES IT IS THAT GOOD and yes I really do have that cinema pass thing). You really need to see it to understand how good it is, but as well as exploring race relations and other big important issues, it's just genuinely an excellent story, thrilling and disturbing and omg how evil are white people? Sooooo evil, you guys. You really really have to see it thought because honestly, I just can't do it justice.

The Theory of Everything

Ah, The Theory of Everything is a sad one. Basically Stephen Hawking's life story, from his time at Cambridge/diagnosis of MND, it comes as no surprise to me that Eddie Redmayne won an Oscar for this role, even if I didn't think the film itself was perfect. It's a little oddly paced, and some of the events are not really fully explored, but this makes sense when one considers that the source material is from Hawking's ex-wife's memoir rather than his own words. Stunning performances, and well worth a watch, just not a perfect film (like, you know, Get Out is, for instance).

Bowling for Columbine

I have seen this film many many times, but I needed my boyfriend to see it and Netflix has it and everything. I haven't seen it for a while, so I was expecting it to be dated, but if anything its ideas about gun control and why Americans are so damn trigger happy are more relevant now than when it was first released. Always worth a watch, if only for the cartoon history of America (WHITE PEOPLE ARE TERRIBLE).

Beauty and the Beast

I mean. We all know the deal with Beauty and the Beast right? It's beautiful and magical and yes I am of course talking about the cartoon and not the live action version that I can't quite bring myself to go and see. White men are particularly terrible in this, but I sure had a fine time watching it and I'm still singing all the songs from it, tbh.

So. There we have April.
Films for the year so far: 6
Onwards we shall march!

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Sunday Sundries

Oh heyyyy, haven't done this in a while! I wanted to get back to writing a Sunday post each week, mostly because yay habit forming and yay writing about things that aren't necessarily books but also might be about books idk.

This week we had a bank holiday on Monday, then I was off work sick for three days because ugh throat and SO TIRED and there was snot and you probably didn't want to know that much, so basically yes, I did work for a grand total of one day. It's the thought that counts, right? From work on Friday I went down to my boyfriend's for the weekend where we managed to tire ourselves out going to Southampton IKEA without even buying any of the things*, which I'm putting down to ill tireds rather than, you know, being unfit and stuff.

This writing about stuff is harder than I remember, so here's a form thingy to get back into the swing of things!

Lately I have been...

Writing: Literally just blog posts (and shopping lists), but I'm pretty happy to be doing that with some kind of regularity again- it feels gooooood. I have also been learning to write Japanese, by which I mean that I sort-of know about 30 Kanji now and also the two other alphabets and also this week I learnt some new verbs so that's great and also I definitely can't write much in Japanese yet so please don't ask me to!

Reading: I spent quite a bit of my ill time reading this week and I am reading If This Is A Woman which is about a Nazi Concentration Camp, Ravensbruck, which was only for women (and so of course no one has heard of it). It did not make me feel any better to say the least, but it is excellently written and seems important to be fully aware of considering the right wing turn that the entire planet seems to be taking at the moment. I'm going to be pretty relieved to be done with it, I think, but I'm kind of glad I'm reading it.

Oh and also, all the Stephen King. Just so much. I'm so into him right now, and can't believe it's nearly over!

Listening: I have been in a fight with my phone ever since it kept shuffling all my songs even when that was a REALLY ANNOYING thing to do, especially when listening to the Hamilton soundtrack because DAMMIT those songs are in order for a REASON. Anyway, the other week I was complaining to my housemate about this, and he suggested there was probably a really easy solution and a quick google search revealed that he was in fact correct and I am reasonably ashamed of myself but also super happy because I can listen to the Hamilton Soundtrack properly again, which I am doing to a pretty excessive extent. It's awesome.

Watching: Again, ill from work so I've watched a few things- I finally saw the movie version of Room, which again did not make me feel better, and I finished season 3 of Transparent, got pretty bored by the first of the new episodes of Better Call Saul (do I even like that programme or do I just watch it because Breaking Bad? I'm really not sure) and finally watched some Gilmore Girls to try and cheer myself up (it worked pretty well, if I'm honest). My boyfriend and I are also making our way through all of Futurama cause, you know, its the best. We're currently on Season 4 and I'm starting to think it might be my favourite season because IT IS SO GOOD. Quality entertainment, you guys.

Looking: forward to Angels in America which I am seeing IN A MERE 6 DAYS, I actually can't cope with the fact that this is happening and sort of won't believe it until I'm sitting in the theatre, I think. So many excites!

Learning: a lot about the Holocaust from my depressing ass book, and, as also previously mentioned, Japanese. Confession: I am terrible at learning Japanese because I have basically no free time to commit to actually learning the things I am taught in the lessons, so my pattern of life basically involves going to the lesson, hearing things, forgetting everything progressively over the next week and frantically doing my homework in the time I have between work and my lesson on Thursdays. I don't really have a solution for this, because I like doing all the things I do that aren't learning Japanese, it's just a general comment on how shitty a learner I am.

Feeling: Tired as helllllll but pretty happy with life in general. Also pretty grateful that I have never experienced anything like conditions in a concentration camp, so generally happy with life in that sense (seriously this book has gotten under my skin).

Anticipating: See above, re Angels in America. Also hopefully, and FINALLY maybe possibly meeting Alice from the internets who is in England this week!!!!!!

Wishing: That time could just speed up a little tiny bit. And also that I had just a little bit more monies to do the things I really want to do. And also for more time so I can learn that goddamn Japanese goddammit.

Loving: It's gross to say my boyfriend, isn't it? But, you know that, and also having a job which pays me for sick days which is genuinely such a privilege for me that I still don't quite believe it.

And that is me at the moment. How about you?

*ok we bought a few of the things. But basically none!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Devouring Stephen King: 11/22/63

People have been telling me for the longest time that 11.22.63 is the best. Whether it's their favourite Stephen King book, or merely the one they've just read and LOVED, it's maybe the book I've heard about most during my long, long King pilgrimage. 'I'm reading all of Stephen King's books!' 'OMG have you read 11/22/63?' 'No, but I've heard it's GREAT! I can't wait!'

But oh man, have I waited. 11/22/63 was published in the November of the same year I started reading all of the Stephen King in, I think, March. While I was back in his works of the 70s and early 80s, everyone was reading this book and LOVING it, while I tried not to whimper too hard or think about how long it would be before I could read this book. About 5 and a half years later, here we are, and guess what?

I LOVED it.

If I'm going to be entirely honest, I thought the start was slightly slow (and that is, quite literally, my only criticism of this whole damn book) and at that point I'll admit I panicked slightly. Not so much because I was worried that I was about to be crushed by the weight of my own expectations (always a concern, admittedly) but more because it is such a long book not to love, and I have imposed a weirdly strict deadline on myself for finishing all of the King and I'm just. So. Close. you guys. But as you can probably tell, I FINISHED THE BOOK cause, you know, review and everything. If this ever turns into anything resembling a review, that is. Ahem.

So. The plot of this book goes as follows: a man is called by his favourite diner owner one day who is mysteriously dying of lung cancer when he was fine the day before. It emerges that said diner owner has discovered a portal to 1958 in his stockroom and, having lived in the past for 4 years has contracted the terminal cancer now killing him. He asks Jake, our hero, to go back into the past for him (where, interestingly, every visit is a reset) and to wait from September 1958 until (amazingly) 11/22/63 (22nd November 1963 for, y'know, British people) to save JFK from assassination. It is an awesome premise, but where it goes from there is just so much better.

Because it's not really about JFK. It's not even really about time travel, even though I think King has a really interesting version of time travel that I don't think I've ever seen before, and that I would have liked teased out a little bit more. What it's really about is Jake, about overcoming impossible circumstances, about finding love in the weirdest places (and, let's face it, times), about heartbreaking decisions and impossible consequences and so many more things that you're really going to have to read to find out about. I have to give a bonus shout out to Jake's 1960's girlfriend Sadie, who honestly is one of my favourite King women now- so well fleshed out and interesting and feisty and oh god I loved her so much can I just read this book again right now?

I think this book gets extra points with me purely because it returns to Derry and It remains my favourite Stephen King book. King returns to so many places and scenarios in his books, and although Derry is mentioned fairly often, I believe this is the only time it has been returned to in a significant way. Jake visits just after the events of It, meets Beverly and Richie, and just generally describes the atmosphere of the place from an outsider's perspective that couldn't really be done in It (where everyone is inside). I ate it right up, and it tasted great. It turned out to not even be my favourite part of the book (ok, all the parts are my favourite) but it gave me certain excited thrills that's really all I look for when I'm reading, you know, anything.

So here it is. I can confirm, once and for all, that 11/22/63 is exactly as good as everyone has been saying it is. I would read it again in a heartbeat (if I didn't have so damn many other books to read, dammit), and I really just can't get over how good it was. There are no scary monsters, except for the past itself, (and of course the usual human ones) but that doesn't stop it from being one of King's finest.

In my most humble opinion, of course. Ahem.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Things I Read In April

Aprilllllllll! I love April, not least because it's my birthday month, but this year I really loved it because I had the first 10 days off work, and then we had easter, and ok yes basically I only worked one full week all month. This meant I had so much time for reading (and, I hope you've noticed, blogging!) and honestly, it has been fucking joyful, I've loved it.

As well as all the reading, I have: been to Kew Gardens, been to Brighton, been to London Zoo, eaten a LOT of sugar (working on that), spent many many hours and days with that boyfriend type person of mine, restarted Japanese lessons after a looooooong break, went to a Beauty and the Beast themed afternoon tea and (AND) managed to get tickets to Angels in America which I will be seeing merely a week from Saturday *dies of excitement*.

It's been a good month, is what I'm trying to say.

I'm also fairly resolved (although I hesitate to say it cause, y'know, it's me) to bringing back Sunday Sundries posts starting this month, so expect to hear a lot from me that you probably didn't even want to hear. Is that cool, ok good.

BOOKS THO (with bonus chocolate frog!)


The Music of Chance by Paul Auster
This book was weeeeeird. I think I'm pretty used to Auster books being weird at this point, but this seemed especially random and strange but I think that was kind of the point. A man is left some money by a dead relative which he uses to literally drive around America for a couple of years and abdicate all adult responsibility (he has a daughter who lives with his sister, for instance). Just as the money is about to run out, he almost literally runs into a poker genius who he decides to fund in a game against two REALLY rich weirdos, and things go very much awry. I'm slightly ashamed to say that I don't even remember the end of this book now (it's only been a month, I need to step it up) but I do remember liking it at the time even if I can't remember it now. I'm usually guaranteed to like an Auster book, and this one did nothing to break that rule, even if it was, I shall say it again, pretty weird.

Crazy Salad and Scribble Scribble by Nora Ephron
This was originally two books that were combined into one after her death, I'm going to assume so that poor people like me could have easier and more affordable access to some of her earlier writing. Thanks, publishers! This was obviously great because Nora is the bestest, and I could read her writing on anything, anytime, forever. Crazy Salad is a collection of her essays about women, and they are especially excellent because they were written literally as second wave feminism was hitting its peak. There's stuff about Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan (sort of nuts, apparently), but there's also stuff that isn't about prominent feminists but is tied into the entire movement anyway, including a stunning takedown of what I can only describe as vagina deodorant (Nora describes it better, of course). Scribble Scribble is a collection of essays about the media and, whilst Crazy Salad was my favourite because, you know, feminism, her takedowns of the media are pretty much as excellent as her takedowns of the patriarchy. Whilst there is an element of datedness to the articles (they are very much of their time) please see above re: reading anything by Nora ever. I believe I am rapidly running out of new-to-me Nora stuff to read, at which point I will simply be forced to re-read everything again because she is a complete and utter gem.

Full Dark, No Stars by Stephen King
Hey, I already reviewed this! But if reviews are a bit much for you, I shall summarise: four novellas, extremely dark stories (hence the title) read only when you're prepared for some very deep and dark stuff.

The First Bad Man by Miranda July
Let me preface this by saying that I think Miranda July is excellent. Her writing is great and her stories and subject matter don't shy away from difficult issues, and also issues that basically no one else writes about. I like her a lot but my god I found this book so stressful, essentially because you're trapped in the head of a character who quite clearly has a lot of mental problems. Her way of seeing the world is kind of warped, and being dragged into it as an outsider means that you both feel sorry for her and exasperated by her. The times that she has been isolated but can't quite, or chooses not to, see it are kind of upsetting, but the times she does really questionable things but can't predict the reaction of the person they relate to can be kind of disturbing. IT IS VERY STRESSFUL, and I probably wouldn't read it again, but I also wouldn't rescind reading it for the first time. It's a confusing mix of feelings, and allow me to conclude by saying, once again, that I really do think Miranda July is excellent.

Confusing.

11/22/63 by Stephen King
Oh hey, I've reviewed this too, and you'll be able to read it on Wednesday! EXCITING! Here's a spoiler: I loved it, I loved it, I loved it. Just in case you were worried.

Something New by Lucy Knisley
I have only read this once before, and it was when I was recovering from my operation last October. I liked it at the time, but only to the extent that I could like anything at that point, which is to say not very much. I reread it last weekend and ohhhh I love it. Knisley is basically my permanent favourite anyway, but her take on matrimony and weddings and cutting through all the bullshit that surrounds them to get to something beautiful and something she really wanted. I happen to know from instagram that she's currently inking a new book about babies and motherhood, and I can't wait to read her take on that, either.

The Wind Through The Keyhole by Stephen King
I managed to sneak this one in on the very last day in April, so I was pretty happy with that. I will be reviewing it because King, but let's just say that I feel very meh about The Dark Tower books that involve Roland's past, and this was one of those so sort of meh? But then also sort of not. You'll see (at some point, you know how it goes)

And that was April! TA DA! I'm pretty happy with my readings, and as I have literally no days off booked in May I don't at all expect to achieve anything like this this month. But we. Shall. See.

Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Devouring Stephen King: Full Dark, No Stars

I usually find with Stephen King that, even though there are scary things going on and things are kind of terrible, there are moments of brevity and lightness that give you some kind of hope about the world. Full Dark, No Stars does not offer this kind of relief to its reader. It really lives up to its title in that, in each of the four stories that comprise it, the characters really put themselves or find themselves in situations where not even the smallest bit of light shines through.

It's a bit much, is what I'm trying to say, but it's also a bit excellent.

There are essentially 4 novellas in this book, although I would argue that the third story is really just a short story at about 30 pages. Still, let's call it a novella for the sake of ease, and go through each story one by one, shall we?

1922- A man wants to keep his farm and his general way of life. His wife wants to sell the farm and move to the big city (pretty sure the big city here is Nebraska, but there you go). In order to get what he wants, man convinces his son that the best thing to do is to kill his wife, and from there everything turns (quite predictably) to shit. This was definitely not my favourite story in the collection because mehhhhh historical fiction can you just not, but it was extremely dark- there are no moments of light (as discussed) even before he murders his wife, but its after that that everything becomes fully terrible. It's maybe the most graphic of the novellas, and it's also very good.

Big Driver- This maybe was my favourite story in the book, even though it was incredibly difficult to read at times. A semi-famous novelist takes a shortcut home after a reading and ends up being subjected to a horrifying rape and being left for dead. I did not so much enjoy reading her anguish (like I say, so. Much. Darkness.) but everything that happens after this is jaw dropping and exciting and kind of made me want to punch the air with righteous retribution (cause that's a thing...) This is, in a way, a detective story as the novelist explores her own attack, and is so twisty and turny that I think I genuinely gasped at points. It's all very good, and very disturbing stuff, so obviously I highly recommend it.

Fair Extension- In many ways I feel as though this was the story that I found the darkest, or maybe just the one which upset me the most. A man who is dying of cancer essentially makes a deal with the devil (-ish) to take the bad stuff away from him and give it to someone he hates- and the person he names is literally his best friend. This deal being established, the rest of the story is essentially a recitation of all the good things that happen to the man who made the deal, and all the bad things that happen to his best friend in return. It's not so much the things that happen that disturb me (although they are genuinely horrible) but more that the man who made the deal feels no remorse. He doesn't try to take it back, he doesn't care that his (supposed best friend) has all these troubles, and at the end of the story, he basically has everything but is still quite literally wishing for more. It was just a way of thinking that I found really disturbing, and even though this book deals with SO MANY upsetting things (see the next story for evidence) it was this that really struck me, I guess because it's kind of how I believe a lot of people view the world. Disturbingly human, and also just plain disturbing.

A Good Marriage- A Good Marriage is, probably unsurprisingly, a really very dark story. It's essentially based around the idea that you can live with someone, marry someone, believe you know someone and then realise that, actually, you kind of don't and can't. Tale as old as time, I hear you cry, but in this instance, it involves a wife's discovery that her husband is actually a terrible, and terrifying criminal. The real strength in this story lies in the struggle of the wife between discovering these terrible things about her husband and trying to reconcile them with the man she (thinks she) knows. This is done so well, for instance, when she has just found out the terrible thing and her husband phones and she kind of hates him and is disgusted by him but he is also just the sweet guy who cares about her. It forces you to face the uncomfortable truth that, if you found out something similar about someone you loved, they would remain the person you loved AND the person who did the bad thing, and how does a person reconcile that? This story doesn't necessarily have an answer, just an exploration.

Just to reiterate, this story collection is not for the sad or pessimistic reader. I consider myself a fairly optimistic person and by the end of these I pretty much needed a giant hug and a drink. This doesn't mean that they're not worth reading and actually I feel like I've come to a really good patch of King-writing, it's just a bit intense and sometimes a bit much. Maybe don't read them all in one day like me, and break them up with some happy reading, but please definitely read them.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Devouring Books: Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class by Owen Jones

I come to my review of Chavs with a bit of a disclaimer- this book was, politically and socially and everything-ly, exactly what I wanted to read regarding Thatcherite politics and what they have done to the UK as a country and as a society. I have a hard time imagining that this is going to be interesting to anyone who doesn't care about politics, or doesn't know much about the ways that Thatcher has basically decimated the working class, or kind of doesn't care so much about UK politics and sociology, but then. This book is so well written that, even with no background, I think you could still be outraged, and horrified, and all of the other things that Jones wants you to feel over the course of this book.

Chav, for anyone who doesn't know, is a term used for an image of the kind of person that society doesn't like. Chavs are lazy, live off benefits, don't want to work, have loads of children to try and take advantage of the system, and essentially steal the money of hard working people to fund their self-indulgent lifestyles. Chav is a term often just applied to the working class en masse, so that people who are poor but work (i.e. the working class), terrified of being classified as chavs, move away from the identification of being this shitty person and, in turn, sell themselves short and allow for the problems of working class people to be ignored by the media and the government, and allow for the constant vilification of people on benefits.

Owen Jones really tries to dispel all of the current popular ideas about chavs, and he really does a stellar job. I can't get over how much I loved this book, and how insightful and straightforward it was, but I say this as a total leftie who pretty much think that the state owes its people the service of helping them out when they fall upon hard times. I'm sure someone with more right wing views reading this book would just roll their eyes and say 'well sure, but what about the chavs? They're an actual problem and they're terrible'. So said the man in Oxfordshire, who has never really met anyone from the working class, you know, ever.

Jones forms an argument in this book that traces a time line from Thatcher's destruction of all the manufacturing jobs in Britain and her selling of all the council housing in the 80s, to the state that the country now finds itself in. Combined with Thatcher's policies is the idea that is still current which suggests that people who fall upon hard times are entirely responsible for their own fates. Never mind that there are quite literally no jobs for people who are out of work, and never mind that there is quite literally no affordable housing anymore, people who are jobless and/or can't afford to pay their rent or mortgage are now considered to have failed somehow, rather than the government being considered as having failed them.

There's so much to talk about with this book that I definitely can't fit it all into this review, because for starters, you're all going to get bored. Fortunately, I've already ranted about this quite a lot with both my boyfriend and my best friend, so I guess I can trim the fat a little. One of the most interesting parts of this book to me was the role of the media in perpetuating the idea that working class people and people on benefits are terrible and lazy. It makes complete sense that politicians portray the working class as terrible because it serves their interests in being able to make crushing cuts to the welfare state (instead of, you know, TAXING THE RICH), but the media seems to willingly accept this too, for the pure reason that they literally don't know anyone who is working class. In order to work in the media, you need to both go to university and be able to afford to work for free for quite a while, and usually either one or both of these options simply aren't open to people whose parents aren't, well, if not rich then comfortable. The government and the media have become one circle of fear, telling working class people that they aren't good enough, and making everyone else believe it too.

It fucking sucks, is what it does.

Lest this become an unwelcome political rant, Imma stop right here. I will say that I think Chavs is a really important and eye-opening book, and I'm really glad I read it if only for some excellent statistics (did you know that Tax evasion costs the country 70x more than benefit fraud? Nope, and neither did I because members of the government and the media are much more likely to be doing the former than the latter so much better to focus on the poor, don't you think?) This book was originally published in 2012 and is only becoming more relevant as the current Conservative government continues to strip away the welfare state, replacing it with precisely nothing and, most recently, cutting £4 billion of welfare spending that's expected to put about 200,000 children under the poverty line.

But that's ok. They're only chavs, after all.

Saturday, 15 April 2017

28 Before 29

Oh hey, so I guess I had a birthday recently* which obviously means it's time for a list that nobody asked to see and that I actually kind of struggled to make this year, cause 28 is many many things. Before I show you this years list though, shall we quickly review last year's and see what I actually got done?

Don't care, we're doing it anyway. I shall cross out the ones I've done, italicise the ones I've at least partially done, and laugh at the ones I haven't even nearly done...

27 before 28

1. Give blood regularly
2. Go to the dentist
3. Keep saving monies
4. Learn the Japanese
5. Do the Race for Life
6. Redo couch to 5k- I started but my womb wouldn't really let meeee
7. Surpass 500km in Nike Running
8. Don't buy ANY new books (kind of)
9. Continue being less sentimental about books

10. Read War and Peace
11. Read all the Stephen King- I made a REALLY big dent in it.
12. Blog at least twice a week
13. Do NaNoWriMo again

14. Make at least 10 beautiful things
15. Try one new Lush bath bomb a month
16. Have a Hummingbird Bakery Afternoon Tea
17. Go to Bristol Zoo- But I did go to London Zoo!
18. Go to the beach this summer 
19. Have many picnics this summer
20. Go somewhere new
21. Explore the Natural History Museum
22. Go to a Butterfly House
23. Go to the Shakespeare Exhibition at the British Library
24. See Titus Andronicus somewhere
25. Make Frances see Les Mis with me- tickets are booked for October, so kinda!
26. Go Vegan for a Month
27. Harbour Positivity and Expel Negativity- I mean, it's a work in progress but my main point was to not complain anymore that I don't have a boyfriend and I literally can't even do that anymore, so yeah.

So I completed 11/27, and half completed 3 more... I guess that puts me at about 50%? And I'm ok with that.

As I mentioned, I kind of struggled making a list this year, and it wasn't just because 28 things is a lot of things, but also because, not to sound smug or annoying or anything like that, but I feel like my life is in a place that I'm actually really happy with, so I'm slightly loathe to change it. 28 things IS a lot of things though, and I think next year's list (29 before 30!!!) is probably going to be my last one, both because 30 things will really be many many things, but also because I'm not sure how useful these lists are to my life now. They once used to be a sort of lifeline for me, making sure that I at least achieved some things, and even just had things to do, but I can really do that for myself in my everyday life now, and so yeah.

That being said, I kind of just enjoy these lists, and also I have made one and I will bloody share it with you YES I WILL. This year is all about me trying to form good habits, even though I am already  6 days into being 28 and I haven't reaaaally done any of the good habits... But there's still time! There's still hope! *dramatic arms*

28 Before 29

1. Read 75 books (that I already own)
2. Finish all the Stephen King (preferably by 21/9, aka his birthdayyyy)
3. Read (at least) 5 classics
4. Give blood
5. Get another tattoo
6. Leave the country
7. Blog (at least) once a week
8. Study Japanese at least one (extra) evening a week
9. Stop drinking Diet Coke for a month
10. Do some kind of exercise (at least) twice a week
11. Aim for 10,000 steps (at least) five times a week
12. Do the Race for Life again
13. Start saving monies again
14. Have a proper skincare routine
15. Read outside A LOT this summer
16. Don't buy ANY books (except on super special occasions, e.g. bookshop crawls)
17. Go to Marwell Zoo
18. Do a 24 Hour Readalong
19. Wear my unicorn shoes more (at all)
20. Go to Southampton IKEA
21. Go to the London Aquarium
22. Do a monthly blog post about movies
23. Go to Kew Gardens this summer
24. Dye my hair a ridiculous colour
25. Try to write letters to people in a more timely manner!
26. Actually read some Kindle books/start thinking of them as real books
27. Cook more and eat out less
28. Always be looking for ways to minimise my possessions

And there you have it! I am pleasantly surprised by this list (yes, I know I wrote it...) in that when I wrote it I thought that a lot of the things on there were kind of lame, but actually now that I have typed it I realise that these are all things I genuinely want to try and do, and so I shall! Self improvement, wut wuttttttt!

*It was the warmest day of the year so far, I had a beautiful picnic with my family and boyfriend, and I alternately wore a flower crown and a unicorn horn on my head. It was a good, good birthday.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Devouring Stephen King: Under the Dome

I started reading Under the Dome quite lacklustrely. It's a BIG book, which meant I didn't want to carry it round with me, you know, anywhere, and I found that my reading time at home kept being eaten up by other things I needed/wanted to do. After dedicating myself to it one particular evening, however, I found I couldn't stop reading it. I started reading before bed, in the half an hour I give myself to wake up in the mornings (mornings are so hard, you guys), and I even started carrying it to work with me because I NEEDED to know what happened.

So it's a little bit good, is what I'm trying to say here. Just thought I'd throw that out there.

Annoyingly, though, I'm going to start with a criticism because that's just the kind of person I am. I loved this book and couldn't get enough of it, but upon finishing, I realised that I kind of hadn't gotten to know any of the characters at all well. In, say, The Stand, there are a few characters who are really the main focus and you get to know them pretty well, and you would live and die for them, essentially. Under the Dome has its main characters, but I feel almost as though I didn't know them well enough to care about them as much as I would have liked to. I wanted to care, but I realised after I had finished that I had been gripped by so many other things, but not so much by a love and concern for the characters.

But that's ok because there were so many other things about this book that were SO GOOD. It is structurally so excellent, and each section ends with a shocking thing that happens, and when you think that was the most shocking thing, you come to the end of the next section and there is an even more shocking thing. It's the kind of thing that keeps me reading so hard, but it didn't feel like it was being forced upon me so much as it seemed like these were exactly the kinds of things that would happen in a town enclosed by an invisible dome, run by a complete psychopath (oh yeah, that's basically the jumping off point of the plot).

Let's talk about that psychopath though- Under the Dome is set in Chester's Mill, and Chester's Mill is run by Big Jim Rennie. Big Jim is one of the worst characters I've ever encountered, and by the worst, I actually mean the best worst. I became so frustrated with him that I can only compare my hatred to that I have for Dolores Umbridge from Harry Potter- he is incapable of listening to, not only criticism, but actual common sense that says being trapped under a dome is maybe not the best time to make a giant power grab, but maybe just to try and fucking help people. He is a tiny Hitler (tiny in terms of the amount of people he has to control, not his physical size) and he cares for nothing other than trying to control his (literal) captive township.

I feel like a lot of King's stock characters you would traditionally root for die really early on, and these deaths are always shocking because these are his people! These are the guys who should be fixing things, but by taking them out of the way, King ensures that Rennie's power grab goes much, much further than it should be allowed to. He fills the police force with mean, untrained teenagers, incites riots to make the town believe that they need strong leadership, and relishes all the opportunities that a fucking disaster bring. I feel like I need to stop talking now before I spoil some things, but rest assured that this book is darker than a lot of King's work, and it's because, apart from the dome itself, everything that happens in this book is as a result of human behaviour, rather than supernatural influence.

Scary stuff, huh?

So basically, in case you couldn't tell, I bloody loved this book. It was intricate and well thought out, and if I found 'the good guys' a little underwhelming, that was maybe only because they didn't even have the opportunity to be heroes like King's good guys usually do, but instead had to muddle their way through Rennie's tawdry wet dream. There are way too many things in this book to adequately cover in this one review, so I'm going to have to go ahead and recommend that you all read it, and then tell me all your feels.

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Devouring Stephen King: Just After Sunset

I finished Just After Sunset all the way back in (early) February, so I wouldn't expect this review to have anything substantial or interesting to it at all, if I was you. I know, I know, I'm being overwhelmingly positive here, but I'm just warning you, this is going to be a collection of vaguely remembered thoughts rather than anything else.

As if I have ever written in any other way...

Anyway! Just After Sunset is a collection of Stephen King short stories, and yay! We like those! I don't know if it was just because I hadn't read any for a while and had forgotten the quality of King's shorter work, but this collection really seemed especially good, with the exception of A Very Tight Place*, the final and most seriously disgusting story in the collection. And not even scary disgusting just, you know, disgusting.

Apart from that though, there's really just some stellar work going on here. There's a longer short story (but not quite a novella!) called N in this collection that kind of links mental illness and demonic happenings and it all seems very symbolic as well as genuinely freaking me the hell out. The first story in the book, Willa, is the one King credits with getting him back into short story writing again, and he praises it for that fact whilst also suggesting that it's not-so-great. Predictably, because I always disagree when he says stuff like this, I feel differently. Willa perfectly touched all of my happy places (ooer!)- a mysterious beginning, creepy happenings, all building to the only possible explanation, that's still one you're kind of surprised by. I liked it a lot, is what I'm saying.

This collection also sees King's first engagement with 9/11, and he takes the interesting angle of not even trying to imagine the human terror, but the potential supernatural power of The Things They Left Behind (which is also, clearly, the title of the story). It's not one of my favourites of the collection, but it is interesting to see King engage with one of the most important events of recent times and try and make something out of it that has a kind of renewing quality (as the end of this story does).

There are quite a few really short stories in this book, and they have at least as much of an impact, if not more, than some of the longer ones. I think talking about these in any sense is slightly redundant, in that if you talk about it a little, you've really given away the entire story, but the one that stands out in my mind concerns a girl who is just about to graduate from high school, ruminating about her future, but then sees her future being wiped out in a matter of seconds. If that one's not a little bit about 9/11 too, then I don't even know how to read anymore.** But for it to have stuck with me for longer than any of the other stories in the book says something about it's impact when compared to the longer works.

So there you have it. I still have no idea if this was actually any better than his other short story collections, but I definitely enjoyed it a lot either way. There are 13 stories in this book, and I can only think of one that I really didn't like, and two others that were kind of meh. I will take a 75% success rate for a book of short stories, and I will take it with pleasure. You probably should too.

*Wikipedia is saving my life here, you guys.
** And, believe me, I still know how to read.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

Things I Read in March

Happy April, friends and internet peoples! Did I blog at all in March? I did, but only once and yes I am terrible still. But do I return once a month to talk about books a little bit? I certainly do, and I am here for that very purpose right now.

Firstly, some life things: I have been not-eating chocolate for all of March and it has been preeetty challenging (especially because it's been lent too so I've been coming up against people who say 'well I'm not eating chocolate for 40 days, sooooo...) and I'm so glad it's over. I may have already had some oreos and also some chocolate this morning and the day is still so incredibly young. The point, anyway, is that you can in fact sponsor me for my epic achievement if you so wish and you can do that riiiiight here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraisi…/dechox2017laurarowsell

Other March things: Actually, it hasn't been super eventful. I got an unlimited cinema pass in, let's say, February (I have no idea) so I mostly just go to the movies (don't see Power Rangers, it is trash) and see my gentleman friend on the weekends (it's so great). Japanese classes have finished for Easter break so you would think that would give me more time, but honestly I'm struggling to do all the things I need to do, let alone the things I would like to do (like blogging). I did, however, go to my first burlesque show (so great), bought a new bed, went to birdworld and generally had a pretty nice month, lack of chocolate aside.

But what did I read, I hear you cry? Well, these books:
I did in fact only finish three books this month, but MAN these books. I loved every one of them and actually (optimistically) may even actually write reviews of them I know I say that all the time but seriously just woah. Let's go through them briefly though:

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Well, obviously I already knew this one was good. I hadn't realised that I actually hadn't reread this book all the way through since it came out (I think I'd read the first 100 pages or so a couple more times) and well. I knew I loved it but I had forgotten how much and all the reasons why I loved Levi and just SIGH you guys. It was a really good book to read interspersed between the next book I read this month which was, may I just say, FUCKING INTENSE.

Under the Dome by Stephen King
Because honestly, when your town is enclosed in an invisible, seemingly unbreakable dome and is run by a psychopath, things turn pretty ugly pretty quickly. I've been excited to read this one ('that Stephen King book that's basically The Simpsons Movie') for a long time and I wasn't disappointed. I'll say more in real review, but this was honestly so good for Uncle Steve- so tightly contained and all loose ends tied up, all of the many many characters were kept track of and it was just stylistically so great even if I have a few reservations about stuff that I will save for a longer form review (*crosses fingers and hopes for the best*). But anyway, yes. Very good stuff.

Chavs: The Demonisation of the Working Class by Owen Jones
THIS BOOK IS SO GOOD. I really want to review it in a massive way because I have so much to say about it (mostly rants) but it's basically about the way that the working class has come to be viewed in Britain today, and how most people now consider themselves middle class rather than working class because they don't want to be associated with 'those people'. The book completely tears apart the idea that poor people are poor because of their own failures, instead pointing out the systemic and consistent government policies that have meant that the poor get poorer whilst the rich get richer (I'm sure you're familiar). It's an excellent look at Thatcher's politics, and the long lasting effects they have had on British society. I can't possibly comment on whether any of this book would mean anything to a non-British reader, but everything is explained so thoroughly  and written so clearly and accessibly that I can't imagine anyone not engaging with it, and getting mighty pissed off.

Annnnd that's what I read. I'm pretty impressed that I read anything other than the giant 880 pages of Under the Dome so I can't be mad that it was only three books. ONWARDS into April! I have the first 10 days (!!!) of the month off so plenty of time to read and eat chocolate and do all the fun, non-work things that my life desperately needs! Hope you have all had an excellent March, and let's do this April thing.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Things I Read in February

Oh heyyyyy everyone! Did you all see that one review I posted in February where it seemed like I might become a functioning blogger again and then I.. failed to do that? Yeah. Sorry. Or something. 

February felt both incredibly long and incredibly short, which is to say that the weekends flew by in mere seconds whereas the weeks were just... Incredibly long. Work has become a bit (more) insane and even though I don't get paid nearly enough to worry about work in the slightest, I forgot my general policy of go in>do a good job>get paid>don't stress for a little while last month and worked many extra hours and maybe burnt out a little bit.

I'm trying to do better now, in that it's the first of the month, I left work as early as is allowed and I have spent my evening doing yoga and washing my hair and cooking and and and all the things I usually don't have time to do (like blogging!) and it has been excellent AND I have a whole day off in lieu for all the extra time worked last month so yeah. I'm doing ok.

A thing I am doing less ok at is the not buying books thing. SO I was doing so well and then... The bookshop crawl happened and it was excellent and I should have blogged about it but obviously didn't and now it's now, but let's just say that I bought 10 books in February and not even all at the bookshop crawl because I got on a bit of a roll. Another way of saying that is that this month I bought more books than I have read all year and OH DEAR WHOOPSIE.

But what did I read this month, I hear you cry?
These things! Photo unfortunately taken in the morning with the curtains drawn cause I'm stupid and anyway moving on...

The Outsiders by S E Hinton
I have already reviewed this one, extremely surprisingly, but if reviews are a little bit TL:DR for you then this was even better than I was expecting and insightful and interesting and sensitive and kept me occupied all the way from Loughborough to London which is a really good thing. Two enthusiastic thumbs up.

Just After Sunset by Stephen King
As this is a Stephen King, I will definitely be reviewing it at some point because that's how I roll but this was short stories and I don't know if I just haven't read his short stories in a while or if these were especially good but they really did seem especially good! Scary and moving and excellent and yes. Yes.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
O.M.G. You guys. Do you know Rupi Kaur? I found her on instagram somehow, and was totally charmed by her excellence and awesomeness and poetry and feminism and omfg, how do I like this so much when I don't even like poetry? Anyway, my papa bought me this after I had my operation last year cause he likes stalking my amazon wishlist and then my best friend got it for (I think) her birthday and kept sending me photos of it which totally inspired me to read it and IT IS SO GOOD OMG. I just... It made me cry and nod in agreement and also quote it to my best friend so that she could go 'I KNOW' and yes. Just yes.

Did I mention that I don't even like poetry and this is still my favourite? Yea. That's right.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
This was a weeeeeird book. Weird weird weird. I don't know how to process how I feel about it, but I do think it's a very good book, if that's any help to anyone. The story centres around a woman who decides to become a vegetarian because of a, frankly, terrifying sounding dream she has, but when I say 'centres around' I really do mean that because we don't really get the viewpoint of the vegetarian at all in this book. Instead, the book is in three parts, each narrated (in the third person) by a character who is affected by this woman's choices, and her story is told via them. Narratively it's awesome and it's so interesting and also it's fucking weird as fuck and I don't even know how to cope with it, to be honest.

But it's good! I think. Give it a try, we'll compare notes. (*whispers* I clearly don't have any notes...)

Soppy by Philippa Rice
Philippa Rice is an illustrator who I also discovered on the internet and she is excellent, as is this book. Soppy is formed by the sometimes adorable and sometimes waaaaay too real moments that make up relationships, and it is basically the cutest book I've read. It's not really narrative based, although it follows Rice through meeting and moving in with her boyfriend, but it's more centred around all the tiny everyday moments that make up a life together like who's going to make the tea and cooking together and sleeping together and and all the cute and real things (have I said cute enough times yet, let me just add one more... CUTE!)

Basically I loved it and am so happy to own it. If you want to throw up, then I would like to let you know that I read this whilst cuddling my very own boyfriend, and if you think that's why I like it so much then you are at least partially correct, but it is really rather excellent by itself, I promise.

TA-DA! I know it seems like a lot of books, but if we're being realistic then Milk and Honey and Soppy each took about an hour to read (if that) so I really spent a negligible time reading this month. I'm trying to be a better human this month and spend at least a little bit of time at night and in the mornings reading, but usually my brain is too lazy so my eyes just look at instagram for hours instead. But I'll do better, I tell myself. Maybe.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Devouring Books: The Outsiders by S E Hinton


I always thought of The Outsiders as a book I knew a lot about but had just never gotten around to reading yet. I know it is referenced in Fangirl, I thought it was referenced in Donnie Darko (it is not) and I know Rob Lowe was in the film version because I read his (actually surprisingly good) memoir. From this really sketchy evidence,, I thought I had a super clear idea about the storyline of The Outsiders, but as the structure of this sentence suggests I actually had no idea.

In its most basic details, The Outsiders was the book I expected. Ponyboy Curtis (the actual name of our narrator) is one of a gang of Greasers, sworn enemies of the Sons, and in a really simplistic sense, this sets up tension and danger and badness between poor and rich, and have-nots  and haves (respectively). It's what Hinton does from this jumping off point though, that keeps The Outsiders from being cliched and dull, and makes it a novel that deserves attention and analysis.

Here's a thing, for instance: Ponyboy is a reader. This makes him so much more interesting than a general hoodlum, because it means that he things about the world around him in a different way to his brothers and his buddies and makes him a really engaging character to hang out with. Although Ponyboy has come to see being tough and fighting as a part of life that he has to deal with, it is made clear that really he prefers reading and art and watching sunsets to fighting and violence and being shitty to people. He's really a pretty great kid.

As a result of Ponyboy being a great kid, the novel gains the majority of its depth. My very favourite thing about The Outsiders is that, as a result of Ponyboy seeing the world differently, he starts to see that everyone thinks of themselves as outsiders, and that everyone has a hard time, regardless of social class. As a result of this, Ponyboy begins to see people as individuals rather than as a part of their group, and so he begins to understand that 'socs' are actually individual people, as diverse in character as all the members of his own friendship group. THIS is my actual favourite thing for people to start to understand about the world, because I think that basically all problems arise from seeing entire groups of people as sharing the exact same beliefs and lifestyles and using that as a way to subjugate that whole group and just aghhhhh no. Ponyboy comes to understand that people are individuals, and should be treated as such, rather than immediately dismissed because of (in the case of this book) their social class.

That's really the good stuff in this book, and even though the storyline is also pretty engaging and exciting and kept me entertained on a train journey, I'm really all about the understanding that literally everyone has individual experiences and ideas and can't be treated as a mass idea. So, come for the cult novel, stay for the engaging story, appreciate the awesome world view and be grateful that I told you it's totally ok to read The Outsiders. You're so very welcome.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Things I Read in January

Diiiiid I fail at blogging in January? Of course I did. But did I read some things? Well sure, a few. I actually only finished three books all month, about which I will only say that getting a boyfriend is really really good for happiness, but pretty terrible for reading. Actually, I'm going to say more things because he can't be held fully responsible- I have also had a terrible cold/flu type thing that meant I had to have all of last week off work, and just, you know, life things and stuff.

I also may only have finished three books, but I also read the majority of my next Stephen King, I just couldn't quite finish the last story in it, so that totally counts, right? Of course it does.

Anyway. The books!
Such a tiny pile... But anyway! Reading yay! Have some descriptions:

Real Artists Have Day Jobs by Sara Benincasa

Sara Benincasa is really just such a delight, and I asked for this book for Christmas immediately after finishing Agorafabulous. I got it on Christmas day and started reading it not long after, and it is pretty great. It's essentially 52 essays about being an artist, and life, and ways you can live well and think about yourself and your actions and basically just generally ways to be a better human, or to deal with other humans better. It's Benincasa so there is of course some autobiographical stuff, but it's mostly all good life advice from someone who definitely sounds like she knows what she's talking about. I wouldn't say that every single essay was a killer but there's a lot more good than bad, and I really want to give this book to everyone I know to make them feel better about the world and life and stuff.

Man Walks into a Room by Nicole Krauss

I think Nicole Krauss is a beautiful writer, but I also have a thing where I remember enjoying her books as I consume them, but can't remember much about them if I try to think back. This is pretty ironic considering the narrative of this novel, which involves a man who has complete memory loss post age 12. It's an interesting book because it's told entirely from the amnesiac's perspective, so there's no sense of his wife's loss and sadness, and that means the novel can really focus on the nature of memory, and what it means for a person's place in the world and sense of context about the world. Very interesting stuff that is already fading in my memory I AM SORRY NICOLE.

Strange Weather in Tokyo by Hiromi Kawakami

This book is great. This is a Japanese love story, which to me essentially means that two fairly lonely and sort of strange people work through their feelings and manage to somehow get it together, all whilst eating amazing sounding food and going to markets and mushroom hunting and just generally having a fairly whimsical time. I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that I like Japanese literature, and this was no exception- it's much weirder than it needs to be, and as a result is much more interesting. I would say short and sweet, but it's much more odd than it is sweet, and that is probably why I liked it so much.

So yeah. It wasn't a huge reading month, but I enjoyed all the things I read AND I have a 100% female reading record so far this year which, for me, is obviously a giant win. Onwards through the year, my friends.

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Whose Birthday? My Birthday

Or, to be more precise, my blog birthday!
Yeah, that's right, I've been blogging with various degrees of, you know, effort, for SIX WHOLE YEARS now. Even I'm pretty impressed with myself, even if the way I blog has changed so drastically over the last six years. For instance, I'm writing this in literally a stolen 15 minutes before work at 6:45am, whereas for my first blog birthdays I baked actual treats for an inanimate internet thing.

I would say oh how the mighty have fallen, but really I think it's probably a good thing that I didn't at all have time to make the above cake. But shit, I wish I had made it, because it looks freaking delicious...

Anyway. I probably say it every year (I definitely do) but there are so many wonderful things in my life that just wouldn't have happened without blogging. I had so many wonderful experiences last year, which were topped by going to Haworth with Nahree and Bex (ultimate readers trip!) but also included two bookshop crawls, an actually really important heart to heart with Katie, and one little night where I was in a hospital and pretty freaked out and couldn't sleep even the tiniest bit but I had friends on both other sides of the world to comfort and distract me, and really who could ask for more than that?

And this year is bringing even more blogging goodness, with another bookshop crawl in mere weeks and I believe some more foreign visitors at some point of the year, and oh man, who knew being depressed and aimless and wanting to write about how bad the last season of Brothers and Sisters was (so bad I didn't even finish it, and I realise I have not even thought about that programme for YEARS other than to mention it every year on this day) could lead to such wonderful, off internet things? Definitely not me.

In summary (because, you know, work and stuff)- if you have been here, in any capacity whatsoever, then thank you. I love you and I kiss you and Imma try to write about books for as long as it's fun, which, no matter how infrequently I do it, it does continue to be. Y'all are fabulous, keep being you.