Wednesday 29 May 2013

Devouring Books: My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary by Rae Earl

"In other words, he is a bastard shag-about who wants to sleep around. I told her this, but she doesn't want to hear it. He, according to her, is a bad boy- which, according to me, means he is a twat."

I wouldn't have heard of My Fat, Mad Teenage Diary if it hadn't been for the Channel 4 series of nearly the same name (My Mad Fat Diary) which was really and truly excellent. Honestly- the cast, the situations, the way it could take me from tears to laughter and back again in about 5 minutes... I just loved it so much. Before I read the book, though, I knew it was going to be quite different- it's set in the late eighties rather than the mid-nineties (so, you know, the music is different), and, you know, real life just isn't ever going to be as neat, or crossing storylines-y, or just as good as the TV show was.

Because I just want to get that out of the way really quickly- the book isn't as good as the TV show. I know, I know, SACRILEGE, but the thing is, it is literally a teenage girl's diary, which I say not as an insult, but more as a compliment to the programme, which was able to go to much greater depths than this book because it's outside looking into a character rather than being someone looking out on, and reporting on what she sees in the world. Then again, maybe I'm just not so much a fan of reading diaries, because they have a fairly limited scope and stuff. Who knows.

Now. I really did want to get that comparison out of the way (for the maybe 3 people who have seen My Mad Fat Diary!) because I genuinely really did like this book. There were times when I could have seriously been reading my own diary, because SO many of the feelings and thoughts are ones that I've had myself because I have been a teenager too! It's terrible! The hormones and the self-hatred and the feeling totally alone and me-against-the-world-ish- I've been there, and with bells on! As, you know, have we all. But this book wouldn't be at all fun if it was just doom and gloom and depression, and it really isn't- you can tell when Rae's had a bad day because she starts reflecting on all the things that are wrong with her life, but mostly (and I think this is something we all try to do) she looks on the bright side of things and ends up being hilarious.

Sample bit about her mum:
"SHE still comes in when I'm in the bath and asks me if I have washed properly. Especially (and she always whispers this) 'my credentials'. She means my bits. JUST SAY IT WOMAN!! She can't even call sanitary towels sanitary towels. She calls them BUNNIES!! It's like the 1950s in this house."
I found this especially hilarious for some reason, and a lot of the book is like this- it's just that I'm pretty sure that Rae doesn't know how funny she is, and so it makes it heartbreaking when she focuses on her 'faults' (too fat, a bit mad etc etc) kind of all the time, and doesn't realise that she has all these excellent qualities that make the other things not really matter at all. Fortunately, there is a foreword to the book that kind of makes everything better- Rae is all grown up, and has perspective, and she's ok. Which is really really pleasing, and kind of makes you feel ok for sharing in some of her worst moments- because she's over them, so you don't need to worry about them either.
"I'm sharing it because these days it makes me laugh- and because I still see fat girls everywhere labelled as 'bubbly with a nice personality'. And I suppose I want to tell them (and everyone else) that in the end it's all OK. You can be fat and nuts and a virgin when you are 17- and things can still turn out OK."
 So yeah, this book has all the things- it's funny, it's sad, it's real AND true, and most of all, Rae just seems like the best kind of person, with the added benefit of being someone real. I feel like it's absolutely perfect for teenage girls to read, but maybe it's just funnier when you're past that stage of life and you can look back on it and go 'yeah, that really was shit.' Solidarity, guys. That's what it's all about.

Monday 27 May 2013

Devouring Books: Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

"He tried to remember how this happened- how she went from someone he'd never met to the only one who mattered."

I finished Eleanor and Park abouuut a month ago now, and I finished it on the day I started it (it was a 24 hour readathon day, admittedly, but I feel like I wouldn't have been able to spread it out much further if it hadn't been). Ever since then, I've had a weird review paralysis about it, which I put down to two things:

  1. I really and truly liked it an incredible amount, and it's always so difficult to know how to go into that without just spouting out loads of things I liked about it and potentially spoilering the shit out of it, or just quoting LOADS of the sweetest lines (because there are A LOT), and
  2. I made the mistake of reading some reviews on Goodreads because I didn't know how to approach my own, and just read loads of people going 'so it's better than blah blah YA book, but it still does blah blah THIS thing that's in a lot of YA books' and I sort of panicked and went 'I don't know what you're talking about, stop saying things!' And this is why I'm never reading reviews on Goodreads AGAIN.
So yeah. I don't read a lot of YA, but I do and will pretty much always read anything Rainbow Rowell writes because she's kind of magic. Attachments was SPECTACULAR, and Eleanor and Park was no different- the characters feel so real and also wonderful (but not PERFECT, because that would be dull), the relationship between Eleanor and Park, which the book pretty much hangs on, feels, if not real (no boy ever shared his comics with ME on the school bus [I never took the school bus...]) so so sweet and lovely and imperfectly perfect that I just wanted to keep reading about it all night long.

Which, I pretty much did! And then I ran out of pages and I was sad and THAT is how I ended the 24 hour readalong because I couldn't even face reading something else after that. And I don't know if this means I should read more YA, or if it just reconfirms that I LOVE RAINBOW ROWELL, but either way, I was very strongly infatuated with this book for a quite a few hours. And I guess I kind of still am a bit now.

And now! To cover up the fact that this has barely been a review at all, I'm just going to talk about A Thing that I really really enjoyed from Eleanor and Park. Because, you see, while I'm really fond of Park,  I was kind of in love with Eleanor- she's the kind of person who sticks out, and instead of trying to blend in, she kind of embraces the fact that she doesn't. Which doesn't mean that she WANTS to stick out, but since she does, she doesn't spend her time just trying to fit in, she just goes with it. This is basically all I need to like a character, and just a person in life, generally.

There's this one point in the book where Park's mother (who is a hairdresser and general beauty-person)  is desperate to give Eleanor a makeover, and Eleanor is pretty reticent about it. And during this, Park's mother asks her why she doesn't wear makeup, and Eleanor thinks (but doesn't say, because she's not an idiot) 'Because makeup is a lie.' And I was like... Wow. And this isn't even how I feel about makeup, really (I mostly feel like 'I am much too lazy for this shit') but it's absolutely something that NOBODY says, ever, and I'm like 'YESSSSSSS, women don't have to wear makeup, whose idea was that and LOOK at this character who thinks differently and YESSSSSSSS!' some more. And THEN Park figures out that he likes wearing eyeliner, and I'm like 'LET'S SUBVERT TRADITIONAL GENDER ROLES, YESSSSSSSS RAINBOW!!'
So there's that. And it's fab. And then there are all the other things that are awesome about it that I DON'T want to tell you about because discovering things for yourself! It's fun! But if you want to read about characters who don't quite fit in and who like things that are awesome-but-not-necessarily-mainstream, and who aren't grossly teenagery, then you should definitely read this. And if you don't like any of these things then you should still read it, because there's something for everyone to love. If they're awesome.

Sunday 26 May 2013

Sunday Sundries- It's a four day weekennnnnnnd!

Well hello there friends, and welcome to my good mood! Said good mood is mostly down to the fact that IT IS SUNNY TODAY
And today I have had CAKE and also READ IN THE GARDEN
It's a good time all round, is what I'm saying! And my understanding is that tomorrow is ALSO a public holiday in America? I like that, gives some nice cross-Atlantic synchronicity (and I think we all know that I like to pretend to be American. It's a thing.)

Anyway, this week just gone! It started off horribly with this big gross headache that kiiind of didn't go away until Thursday, or at least lingered at points up until Thursday. I had to have the day off work on Monday and everything, but I soldiered on for the rest of the week (awww, how brave am I? Hardly at all.) Nothing hugely groundbreaking happened, BUT I did go with a couple of my friends to watch live TV being filmed, which was REALLY EXCITING! I've been to see a few pre-recorded shows being filmed before, which was fun but kind of takes forever, whereas with this, it was, obviously, just like it is on the telly!

And also a light blew up juuuust above where I was sitting, but I was FINE and so was everyone else, so nobody panic! I don't know if you've ever been to see TV being filmed before, but they have kind of a warm-up person to chat to the audience and in this case get us ready for, like, applauding correctly and stuff (No retakes! Live TV!) and in one of the ad breaks the guy was like 'you're so lucky this wasn't a pre-recorded show because everything would have had to stop for HOURS while they were sorting the light out', and then David Mitchell was all like 'yep, we'll just continue to put your lives at risk instead' in a hilarious and sarcastic way and, oh yeah, I LOVE HIM.

So anyway, that was pretty much the highlight of the week! I'm willing to bet my anecdote just thrilled you there.
And yes, now I have this 4 day weekend thing! Yesterday I maaay have done a tiny bit of book shopping (BAD LAURA) and also made a cake for my Grandad's birthday (which is tomorrow, but we had the cake today-don't ask) and today has mostly just been a festival of eating and reading and laziness, and long may it continue, I say! Tomorrow I don't have many plans- I'm going to see my Grandad so we can give him presents, and I might be going shopping a bit, but also I'd like to catch up on some bloggerising, but MOST IMPORTANTLY I'm going to see Les Mis on Tuesday and I couldn't be more excited!
And by party, I obviously mean cry my eyes out to song, but we all have fun in our own ways, amiright?!

Quick note: Next Sunday is when I'm doing the Race For Life (still haven't seen a conceivable way to get out of it [I'm kidding. Mostly.]) SO *gentle nudge* if you wanted to sponsor me, you can totally still do that! I wouldn't mind, you know. Whatever. Ahem. And I think I've said this already, but if you have then THANK YOU so much! You're the loveliest, all of you.

OK! I think I'm out of here. I'll be off to soak up some more sunshine, or possibly to write some more blog posts (Ha!) and then watch the new (!) Arrested Development episodes! (I feel totally... Cheaty being excited by the fact that there are new episodes, because I literally finished the third series YESTERDAY, but still I am excited. Just try and stop me!!) So yeah. That's what I'll be doing! You?

Friday 24 May 2013

"'Stuff like that always sounds cooler than it really was... I've been trying to tell you that for years.'"

My understanding about this readalong group (other than our innate awesomeness) is that everyone hates the bit where they go camping in the woods for almost no reason. I might be wrong about this (SOMEONE might like it) but that's the impression I get, AND SO I am going to defend the camping with all my arguing skills and also, hopefully, wit.
But first, I think it's important to talk about what happens in the Ministry because oh HELLO one of my favourite set-pieces in Harry Potter! I mean, what DON'T I love about it? There's the nostalgia element (puking pastilles from OotP, Polyjuice Potion from CoS), the flushing themselves into the Ministry (I laugh at the bits ten year olds laugh at, obviously) Harry being a big scary man, the getting one up on Umbridge (who of course- OF COURSE- had the locket. Because why wouldn't she?) and just the general excitement of it all. Scenes in the Ministry=Pretty much the best.

While we're on the subject of Umbridge, who I believe has made her final appearance now (?) and that's ok, I just... What is WRONG with that woman? I feel like her character type is almost the one that scares me the most, because all that motivates her, and all she wants, is power of any type, at any cost. She doesn't care who the ultimate authority is, as long as SHE'S in a position of power over a lot of people. She's basically like a Commandant of a Concentration Camp who, after all this is over, would say 'but I was just doing my job!' and probably believe it, too. I just... UGH. UGH.
ALSO before we get to the camping (sorry...) I just want to talk about Dumbles and Harry for a sec. Because, even though I'm still not sure what good finding out all this stuff about Dumbledore does Harry/us, I feel like Harry makes a really good point when he finds out that Dumbles lived in Godric's Hollow too. I mean... Why didn't Dumbledore ever tell Harry that? Couldn't he have arranged for them to go there and see the monument to his parents and just to heal, a little bit? I get that it would be difficult for Dumbledore to go there because of all the Bad Things, but... I feel like Harry needed that kind of thing, or at least that he needs it now as something to hold onto about Dumbles. Instead, it really does feel like he sort of just used Harry for his own gain (and that of the Wizarding World, obviously, but still) and never really did anything just for Harry.

I'm hoping other things are going to happen that I don't remember about Dumbledore, because I hate thinking this way about him.
So, the camping! I can't say that it's my absolute favourite part of all the books, and it makes me slightly grouchy when THEY are grouchy, but the thing is... I feel like, firstly, it was an inevitable consequence of all three of them being in close quarters without a set goal, because my GOD, people do get sick of each other quickly enough. And yeah, they've been together at school for years, but in that situation, there's routine, and there's enough food, and there are other people around so they don't get as sick of each other. And the not having enough food leading to arguing thing? TOTALLY happens. It's just like real life, people!

And then, of course, Ron leaves.
Ron leaves because he's the least prepared for such an expedition (one where he might have to deprive himself of a meal, say) and because, I don't know, JK likes him the least? But the thing is- I LIKE that Ron leaves, because when he's gone, things don't feel right at all- Harry and Hermione are both miserable, nothing improves, A SNAKE IS HIDING INSIDE A DEAD PERSON (seriously- ew) and when he came back I was really really ridiculously happy? Which is really the reason for all bad things happening in books, so that when the bad time is over, things seem kind of excellent.

It doesn't hurt that Ron's return involves saving Harry's life, destroying a Horcrux (just fyi, the thing the Horcrux says about Ron being the least loved because his mother wanted a daughter has stuck with me as a massive Thing That Is True, which I know it isn't- other than, I'd imagine, that Molly did just keep going until she had a girl. But anyway.) And THEN you also have the thing where you realised that Dumbles must have known all along that Ron would probably leave, and then regret it and want to go back, and THAT'S why he left him the Deluminator. (Or is it? I'm not being cryptic, I just honestly don't know. AS ALWAYS).

I don't really have any extra things to say in bullet points today, but I do just want to talk about this one thing that really annoyed me. Here: "[Harry] was staggered now to think of his own presumption in accepting his friends' offers to accompany him on this meandering, pointless journey." I see you all nodding at the meandering, pointless journey part (but what if the journey itself is the point? What then?!) but HOW MANY times did he tell them not to come? And how many times did they insist? Exactly! Stop blaming yourself all the damn time, Harry. Jesus.
Speaking of which... Death count time!
Death Count: 4- Gregorovitch, Bathilda Bagshot, Harry's wand (RIP), The Third Part of Voldy's Soul.
Death Count Overall: 8 (9 if you include George's ear. Which apparently we are.)

Tuesday 21 May 2013

No one really likes CS Lewis, right? Right.

Hey internet folks and folkettes! It occurs to me that I have neither 1) done a Sunday Sundries post, or 2) wrapped up Bout of Books (spoiler: my Saturday stats are pretty much it. I'm fine with it.) but THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT.

So basically, Alice of the Reading Rambo has written an awesome thing about George Eliot and the-order-in-which-you-should-read-her-stuff, and it is awesome (I mentioned that, right?) and it is a finalist in A Thing on Book Riot and it is not winning.
I know. It's just ridiculous. Instead some lady who wrote about CS Lewis in a much less entertaining (and actually, much less EVERYTHING) is winning, and THIS CANNOT STAND. Not only because George Eliot is clearly better than CS Lewis (She's a lady! And... didn't basically just steal The Bible to write books, as far as I'm aware, I AM LOOKING AT YOU, ASLAN!) but also, ALICE is clearly better than CS Lewis lady (who I'm sure is fine, but, you know, she's not my internet friend.)

So basically, this is me canvassing for votes. PLEASE GO AND DO IT. All you have to do is go here, and click on the little facebook 'like' at the top of the post and then Alice will win and BRING PRIDE to the group of awesome people (within which, of course, I include all of you.) Also, for the sake of... Something, I will link you to the CS Lewis post (DO NOT LIKE IT) just so you can see that it's clearly not as good. It just isn't guys, I'm completely serious about that.

So yeah. Go! Support good writing, and also the kind of person who would lovingly host a Harry Potter Readalong for 6 months. Oh yes.

Saturday 18 May 2013

Bout of Books: DAY SIX

Bout of Books
In spite of yesterday's early excitement (in that super brief post that, really, isn't even worth reading) I actually didn't do any more reading for the rest of the day. But, you know, Les Mis was CRYING out to me (crying being the main word of last night) and I had to read ALL THE HARRY POTTER posts, and that was basically my evening done with. TECHNICALLY, I was reading blog posts and then watching a book, so it's all the same thing anyway really, right? 
Today I have woken up with the kind of annoying headache where, as long as I'm laying down, I feel perfectly fine (seriously! I mean, my eyes just hurt a tiny bit, but apart from that I feel fine!) but as soon as I get up my head feels all swoopy and dizzy and horrible and UGH. So, basically, today will involve much laying down and not-standing, and probably some reading because of that. Every cloud and all that...

But first. I am going to try and have a little sleep to see if that makes me feel better. And if it DOES (which would be awesome) I will do a lot less reading because I'm supposed to be making a cake right now and yeah. So a gone-headache would be fab.

Pages Read: 573
Books Read From: 5 (just started Little Men)
Books Finished: 2
Snacks: No. I really don't care for food right now. But I had some delicious ibuprofen...
Blogs visited: I looked at a few last night, I think... Even if I didn't comment, I was probably there!

Friday 17 May 2013

Bout of Books: DAY FIVE

Bout of Books
Well, hello everyone! How is everyone on this soon-to-rain Friday? Good I hope! This is just going to be a really quick update because I have to go to work imminently and I haven't even made my sandwich yet, BUT it's very important for me that you know that I finished my second book of the week today and I'm very pleased about that! Admittedly, it was only 150 pages long, but STILL. It's something. 

So. I WILL be back. I actually really want to watch Les Miserables tonight, so I might actually do that instead of reading, but hey- I finished a book today! That's all that matters.

Pages Read: 553
Books Read From:
Books Finished: 2!
Snacks: I don't even know why I bother with this... But I did have some crisps this morning? But that was while watching Arrested Development, so... Whatever.
Blogs Visited: Um. Yeah. No. Bad Laura. 

"'Even You-Know-Who can't split himself into seven.'"

Oh, Deathly Hallows. You are so much more intense than your predecessors already, and we're only 10 chapters in! There's not only more ACTION in this book already, but, and I think we've all been feeling this, MORE OF THE CRYING. I just... Harry keeps thinking of his parents, and Sirius, and that's upsetting enough, and then there are other things about stuff that happens later and I don't even remember most of what happens later, but I still find everything really really sad. I literally started crying a bit at 'I open at the close', and nothing has happened with that yet! Or will for ages!

I'm really just not emotionally prepared for this AT ALL.
I don't know if this is just me, but the Bit At The Burrow felt kind of different to me in this book. I think that, in all other cases, I'm pretty much like 'GET TO HOGWARTS ALREADY' (I'm sorry, I really like Hogwarts) but this time it felt very calming and safe, almost definitely because what's coming isn't the other familiarity of Hogwarts, but the great unknown of the outside world, which, as is made extra-clear by Mad Eye Moody's death (WHICH I FORGOT ABOUT) is very very dangerous now. I mean, even the Malfoys are scared of Voldemort at this point. That can't be good.

It's bullet point time, I think, but first I'm going to start doing a body count for each section of the book, just so as, you know, we can keep track of who's dead. JUST LIKE VOLDY PROBABLY DOES.
Death Count: 4- Charity Burbage, Hedwig (NOOOOO), Mad Eye Moody, Rufus Scrimgeour. (And, let's face it, probably others at the Ministry, too).

  • Have we talked before about how Hitler and Voldemort are not exactly dissimilar? Cause how's this one- Voldy's all like 'ONLY THE PURE BLOOD ARE ANY GOOD' and the dude toootally has a muggle father. Hitler's all like 'BLONDE HAIR AND BLUE EYES ONLY' and I think we all know that's not what he looks like. Just... I don't know, guys, crazy murdering assholes are stupid.
  • It's gross how much Bellatrix is like
with Voldemort. I just... NO BELLATRIX. You evil bitch.
  • I definitely didn't remember all this Dumbledore history. Am I right in thinking that it's not strictly  relevant to the story, but it IS really interesting? Or it's the most relevant ever and I'm just bad at remembering? 
  • Dudley! Has he redeemed himself for YEARS of bullying? He has not. But it's nice to think, as Harry and the Dursleys part ways forever, that at least one of them doesn't think he's the shittiest person ever to have lived. AND HE WANTS HARRY TO BE SAFE! Oh, it's just adorable, really.
  • Harry is very very much back to his not-wanting-people-to-risk-their-lives-for-him ways (which is very similar to his saving-people thing). And yes, it's all adorable and noble, but it is just extremely tiring. Because the thing that he doesn't at all get is that their not so much risking their lives for HIM so much as for the one thing that can stop Voldy. And yes, that is his burden, but it's not AT ALL one that he has to carry alone, obviously.
  • The Seven Potters is both EXCELLENT and ENTHRALLING and seriously, my heart was in my throat the whole time. And I have read it before! More than once! So so awesome.
  • Accio Hagrid? Accio HAGRID?! Can you even do that? Because I LOVE IT. And, oh man, Hagrid shouting at Lupin to leave Harry alone when he gets all rough with him. I just... I love you, Hagrid.
  • "The measures they had taken to protect their families made him realise, more than anything else could have done, that they really were going to come with him and that they knew exactly how dangerous that would be. He wanted to tell them what that meant to him, but he simply could not find words important enough."
Please. You're killing me.
  • Oh Dumbledore. You and your unexplained bequests. Oh, Scrimgeour. You and your annoying Ministryness. 
  • Ron had no idea who Luna was before OotP, but sure, let's invite the Lovegoods to Bill and Fleur's wedding! On the plus side... LUNA! We all need quality Luna time, I think.
  • There are some GREAT wand jokes in this section. I mean, really. "'You'd be surprised, it's not all about wandwork, either.'" and also "'I had not realised I ever discussed my vand vith fans.'" See, JK knows how to bring the funny still!
  • I want an evening bag like Hermione's. I need to carry a lot of stuff with me. And also, HOW CLEVER IS THAT?! I'm so glad Hermione's there to sort everything out.
  • I like that Harry is all sickened by Draco's fear and horror. I realise what this means from a Drarry viewpoint, but my thought is- would Draco feel the same way if he somehow had visions of Harry being all mistreated by Voldy? Because my gut feeling is that, no, no he would not. Or at least he wouldn't have before he started feeling all scared. And this is why Harry's the hero. 
As always, there is LOADS more to say, but I feel like I've already made you read ENOUGH. Go about your LIVES again, people!

Thursday 16 May 2013

Bout of Books: DAY FOUR

Bout of Books
Bout of Book-ers! (And, everyone else). Hello! I am still alive, despite the fact that I haven't readalongly updated for over 30 hours (shut up, I know you missed me)- I meant to update last night before Mad Men but I watched it an hour earlier than I'd anticipated and then I just crawled into bed. And slept FOREVER, and was still tired when I woke up. Sigh.

Anyway. It's today now! (Technically, it's this evening now) and I don't have much to report on the reading front, but that's only because I spent my morning book shopping, which I think we can all agree is a legitimate activity. And because it has to do with books, that makes it a legitimate readalong activity too, right? So let's talk about what I bought!
So! I got a Rough Guide to Japan because I'm optimistic and also Oxfam were doing a buy one, get one free promotion on books, annnnd that was my free book. 
Above that, is The True Deceiver by Tove Jansson who, you probably don't know, is the lady behind The Moomins, but she's also written a load of adult books that I have not at all read but you know, I want to start! 
My other Oxfam book was Blindness by Jose Saramago, which I want to say... Megs? read probably ages ago, and I pretty much forgot about it until I saw it today and I was like yes, yes I will buy you. So yeah.
The other three I also got as a '3 for £5' dealie. Of these, The End of Mr Y by Scarlett Thomas was the most wildcard-ish, and I nearly bought The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver until I saw this and remembered that Bex and Hanna both LOVE Thomas, so I was like, yeah, ok.
And THEN I still nearly bought the Shriver book, but I saw The Keep by Jennifer Egan, and... I genuinely like Egan, as opposed to vaguely disliking Shriver, and the back involved A CASTLE and also ADDICTION TO A WIFI CONNECTION, and so I obviously had to have it instead.
AND (I know) finally I got Love and Friendship by Jane Austen, which, as I understand it, is a collection of her really early writing and juvenilia and I kind of didn't know it existed, so obviously I needed it. Oh yes. 

And that was my morning, in book form! I did read maybe 20 pages of Kitchen with my lunch (haha!) but that's kind of it for today, so far (and I have to write about Harry Potter later tonight, so... there goes the rest of my evening!) but, you know, oh well! I'll make up for it this weekend. Perhaps.

Pages Read: 469
Books Read From: 4
Books Finished: 1 (still just the one!)
Snacks: Yeah, I'm still not really doing that. *shrugs*
Blogs Visited: Remember that sleeping thing? That was what I was doing. But I'm still at least trying to keep up with my book ladies!

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Bout of Books: DAY THREE

Bout of Books
Day Three of Bout of Books, and I am STILL DOING IT! That's... pretty weird. But good. Deeefinitely good. I was just about to say that it's probably because the weather is so gross, and I can't be bothered to do anything else, but really I'd MUCH prefer it if the weather was nice and I could read outside alllll morning. Stupid England.

Anyway. READING UPDATE! I... Really didn't read anything last night. Well, I think I read 2 chapters of Harry Potter 7, but then I went to watch TV which was really stupid because I ACTUALLY wanted to go to sleep. Stupid TV. (I watched Mary, Queen of the High Street, if anyone's interested. It was actually pretty good, which is why I stayed up. Stupid everything.)

But this morning, I've been allll over Harry Potter. I've nearly finished this week's chapters, which is awesome, and once I'm done with them I can read something else, and just do ALL THE READING EVER. Which, I believe, is the point of this thing? The drawback to all this reading is that it's nearly 1pm and I'm not dressed yet, BUT don't let that sentence fool you because this is basically ALWAYS the time I get dressed. I'm an absolute slob, you guys. But I really had better get dressed now.

Pages Read: 353
Books Read From: 3
Books Finished: 1
Snacks: I just had some diet coke? Seriously, I don't really snack...
Blogs visited: I did just go around my friends blogs, AND I commented on a new-to-me one (HA!) Go me!

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Bout of Books: DAY TWO

Bout of Books
Oh. My. Gosh. You guys, it's very nearly 9pm and I HAVE JUST FINISHED LES MISERABLES. This is genuinely a life event that deserves attention, and yeah. WOAH. That was a lot of pages, you guys. I think I'm still kind of in shock that I've finished it, really, but there's definitely a tiiiny bit of a weight lifted off my shoulders right now.

Obviously I'm going to review it with the proper attention it deserves at some point, but for now I'll just say... There were times when I was completely and utterly frustrated by it and wanted to just RIP IT IN HALF, but at this point? I'm going to say I would read it again- especially now that I know with confidence which bits I can happily skip. (Seriously, you have to skip bits. You just... Yeah.)

SO. That's one Bout of Books goal down! And don't let the fact that I'm going WILD on the internet right now make you think I'm not going to keep reading, because I totally am! After I finish this post, in fact, I'm going to unplug from the internet and read me some Harry Potter (which I forgot to include on my pile! But Friday IS Harry Potter day, and I need a post, dammit!) but I'm just basking in the glow of having finished a FUCKING MASSIVE book. Oh yes. It's very glowy.

In other news, I went shopping this morning and then to work this afternoon, so I've really only had this evening to read- a pattern that looks like it's going to carry on for all the rest of this week, despite the fact that I normally basically do nothing apart from work afternoons in the week. This... is very typical. But, whatever, I will carry on and just read in the evenings and it will still be awesome. Oh yes.

9pm Update
Pages Read: 235
Books Read From: 2
Books Finished: 1!!! Yesssssss!
Snacks: I did actually have this oreo cornetto thing that was awesome this evening. Mmmm...
Blogs visited: Um. Ask again tomorrow?

Monday 13 May 2013

Bout of Books: DAY ONE

Bout of Books
Bout of Boooooks is here! And I've already read about 33 pages! Annnd... Now I'm on the internet instead of reading. But OH WELL. I have, at least, made a book pile which I can tell you all really want to see, so I'm going to show it to you! 
I'm really happy with it, actually! There are kind of 3 sections to it (although the books aren't stacked in these sections... Whoops.) Which are:
  1. Books I've already started: Wizard and Glass by Stephen King and Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. I would REALLY REALLY like to finish them, but mostly I just want (NEED) to finish Les Miserables. I have less than 200 pages left. I can DO eeeeet.
  2. Books that have something to do with Little Women: I've sort of managed to acquire books about Little Women without really meaning to, and I feel like I should probably read them! So those are March by Geraldine Brooks, The Little Women Letters by Gabrielle Donnelly and Little Men by Louisa May Alcott. These are kind of my 'A' books (after Les Miserables).
  3. All other books: These are basically books that I had ready for the 24-Hour Readathon but haven't read yet (The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, and Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto) and also a couple of books that I KNOW are going to be good (At Home by Bill Bryson, and Wallflower at the Orgy by Nora Ephron). I guess they're kind of in reserve in case the Little Women books suck, OR I finish all the other books. Although they're also SORT OF the books I actually want to read the most, so... That might happen too. 
And, I guess I should have some goals and stuff? Ok, so basically all I want to do is:
  • Go to bed early this week to read some (and by going to bed, I mean turning off mobile devices, too).
  • Read, say, 1000 pages (is that too many? I just don't know...)
  • See what everyone else is doing, but also don't spend TOO much time doing that. 
Those are reasonable, right? I think so. Right! Well, I'm off to read before I have to go to work, so I'll probably update this evening. Have fun reading, fellow participants!

11am Update:
Pages Read: 35
Books Finished: Come on now...
Snacks consumed: Nah, just breakfast.
Blogs Visited: I'm just about to! Leave me alone, me.

8pm Update
So, since I last updated, I read some Les Miserables, to which I say AWESOME, and also GO ME. I now have about 140 pages to go, which I feel like I can do tonight, as long as 1) I don't spend too much time on the internet after I've updated here (AS IF I WOULD) and 2) I read like a motherfucker. There are a few obstacles, which are mainly that this book is a Penguin Clothbound Classic, which means that I can't 1) read it while I'm eating watermelon (as I am doing now) or 2) take it in the bath with me, which is something I'll be doing later. 

But NEVER MIND, because I will read it. It is my cross to bear, but so help me god, I will buy myself that damn present I promised myself if I finished it today. So, ok, yeah, I'm off now, and this was a really sucky update. I will try to be better at the whole internet part of this readathon tomorrow!

Pages Read: 70
Books Read From:
Books Finished: Nope. Ask me later.
Snacks consumed: Like... The watermelon? Although it's basically just dessert from dinner. So, not even a snack, really.
Blogs visited: Um... Just blog friends' blogs at the moment... Leave me be, I'm shy!

10.45pm Update
BIG news- I have DNFed my first book of the week. NOT Les Miserables, obviously (I've made it this far, there's no turning back!) but The Little Women Letters, which... Was not good.
I wanted to like it SO BADLY, but the characters kind of talked like English wasn't their first language? And it actually was supposed to be? And I skipped riiiight to the end, and Jo March had written a letter to her great-great-grandaughter which was such bullshit that I could just smack everyone. And it was like set out so that in the present, the oldest sister was Meg, and the middle sister was Jo, and the youngest sister was Amy, and I just... No. Please stop it now.

In happier tales, I read about 50 pages more of Les Miserables! I'm going to read a tiiiny bit more before I sleep, but I'm definitely not going to finish tonight. So, NEW RULE- if I finish it before my DVD of the movie arrives (which was NOT today because, come on, I'm obviously not going to pay postage for anything, ever) then I can still have a present. Just... Maybe a smaller present than the one I was anticipating.

Anyway! I will be back in the morning (ooh... Maybe not in the morning... Going to the shops with my mum and nan... Hmmm. Well, maybe in the morning!) so... read read read everyone! (Even if you're not doing Bout of Books! Just read!)

Pages Read: 145
Books Read From: 2
Books Abandoned: Just the one...
Books Finished: Also 0 (think how good these sections are going to look by Sunday!)
Snacks consumed: Noooo. I think I should probably just take this part out...
Blogs visited: I cannot, for I must sleep. I'll do better another day. Maybe Wednesday.

Devouring TV: The United States of Television- America in Primetime

I definitely don't write about it enough here, but the amount that I love TV is ridiculous. I love really bad TV, but if you can believe it, even more than that, I love really really good TV. And, apparently now, I like really good TV shows about really good TV, and this is getting really meta and I'm getting confused about my own sentences.

Let me start again. British friends! On iPlayer right now, there are 4 1-hour documentaries about American TV from the fifties to now, and they are SPECTACULAR (American friends, you already got these in 2011. But if I'm really convincing about how good they are, you can buy them on DVD.) More or less my entire purpose for writing this post is to MAKE YOU WATCH THEM, because the whole series is on the internet until the 18th May (that's Saturday, guys) and it's kind of the best thing I've ever seen, or at least the best thing about American TV that I've seen.

The documentaries break American TV down into 4 separate themes, or sets of characters- The Man of the House, The Misfits, The Independent Woman and The Crusaders, and then explores how each of these things have developed from the beginning of TV right up to the present (ish- it was originally broadcast in 2011...) day, and the answer in basically all cases is that They Have Changed A Lot and That Is A Very Good Thing. I feel like it's a fairly established viewpoint now that we're living in 'a golden age of television' and for me, Breaking Bad ALONE confirms that. But these documentaries don't take the view that all old TV was terrible and everything new is wonderful, more that previous programmes were groundbreaking at the time, and because of that they've influenced new and wonderful things (like Breaking Bad. How many times can I bring it up? You don't even KNOW.)

 So. I don't really know how to talk about the series, so... I'm just going to talk about each episode and talk about things I liked about them and stuff? Yes. That.

The Man of the House: This episode basically talked about the shifting role of the father in American TV, and how it's evolved from him being this fairly perfect, idealised man who came home at seven on the dot every night to his loving family or wife, to becoming much more complex (this is a common theme...). Possibly the most interesting of the shows featured in this part was Mad Men, in that it's set in the same time as a lot of these idealised sitcoms, but the father figure (i.e. Don Draper) is a highly conflicted figure who seems to be living the American Dream, but is actually always looking for a way out of the family life that he's supposed to want.
Since this episode also featured The Sopranos (ostensibly a family driven show, in both senses of the word) and Breaking Bad, I was obviously hooked RIGHT in. And then, we had

The Misfits: Going from The Addams Family in... whenever that was on, through Twin Peaks and right up to 30 Rock and Glee, this episode looked at the outsider in American TV, and how the role of the outsider has evolved and changed, and that things have shifted so much that now everyone is almost an outsider, which of course means that no one is. I think this was the episode that had the most TV shows I coveted (Taxi, Six Feet Under, Seinfeld, Freaks and Geeks- and now I even want to watch Curb Your Enthusiasm) maybe because it also featured so many TV shows I like- True Blood, Arrested Development (!!), United States of Tara, and MY GOD, Twin Peaks...
I doubt it will come as a shock to anyone at all that I'm a fan of the outsider, but as a character thing, it's really come a long way (baby). But just... Yeah, it was so good. SO. GOOD.

The Independent Woman: There wasn't even a chance I wasn't going to like this episode, but it did make me want to watch a lot more of the older shows featured than any of the others, basically because... The Woman's Movement, man. That was awesome. So basically I now need to watch all of I Love Lucy and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, but I was also SO interested by the route women have taken through the TV world- from perfect wives and mothers, to women who are still probably wives and mothers, but who have a lot more going on with them too, and even if those things turn out to be self-destructive then, well, why aren't women allowed to do those things, too? (I'm pretty much thinking of Nurse Jackie and Weeds here, just so you know.)

The Crusader: I was actually a little bit disappointed by this one, and I'm not sure if it's because I've seen hardly any of the shows featured (just The Wire and M*A*S*H) or because it genuinely wasn't as good as the others. My main problem with it was that, whilst there was a tiny section about women crusaders, involving Diablo Cody (who I ADORE, by the way) saying 'I guess there aren't as many female crusaders because people assume that these are characters that only men are interested in' in a clearly sceptical-of-this-view way, and then for their female crusader to focus on, they picked Scully from X-Files. Which, don't get me wrong, I'm sure she's an excellent crusader to look at in all her own ways, BUT she does work alongside a man so... You couldn't have looked at Buffy The Vampire Slayer? REALLY? (Basically this is all I'm bitter about. But it just seems like SUCH an important show to miss out!)
Anyway- Bitterness aside, I really did enjoy the The Wire segment of the show, because it gave a really compelling argument as to why I love Omar SO much. I think I understand it better now. I will bring this up again when I finally write about The Wire...

So. Clearly this is the best thing that's been on TV for AGES, and the shows it talks about are basically the best things that have been on TV EVER. It has its limits- each programme was only talked about in one of the documentaries, so things like the female characters in Mad Men weren't discussed in the Independent Women one, and I feel like Breaking Bad could easily have been talked about in ALL the shows, AND I felt like there were a few notable omissions, like Buffy, and also The West Wing, which really didn't fit into any of the themes but WAS kind of an important programme (or maybe that was just for me.) I also wouldn't have minded a 5th programme where people talked about cartoons.

BUT. They were still awesome, especially for someone who watches as much TV as me. Having watched the last one and not totally loved it, I'm not sure how interesting people who haven't seen a LOT of the programmes would find them, but I feel like, if you've seen at least some of the shows, you're going to enjoy it when they talk about those, and you're going to add most of the rest to your 'MUST. WATCH.' list (because I know we all have those. Or is that just me, AGAIN?) So basically you have to watch this, so you can watch everything else, and then we can talk about TV together forevermore.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Sunday Sundries: It's back!

I know how much y'all must have missed Sunday Sundries, so I know you'll be excited that it's back. Cue Moomin dance!
There. I think we've all adequately celebrated now.

So. I didn't really have much of an excuse for NOT having done Sunday Sundries, other than week 1 I missed was after the Readathon, and last week I kind of forgot and then I went to the cinema, and just yeah. Life things. You didn't really miss much, BUT here are a few things that happened:
World Book Night! I left books in random places and hoped they would improve people's lives! This one I left in a changing room- wouldn't you just LOVE to find a book when you went to try on clothes? (Or is that just me..?)
I went to Ascot Races with my friend Justine! It was pretty awesome, even if I did get sunburn that's still peeling now (about 10 days later). I had one bet and MY HORSE WON! It was awesome. (Even if I'm sort of vaguely against horse racing. But this was flat racing which looked fairly un-strenuous.)
I bought my first pair of trainers in about 10 years (and this isn't really an exaggeration- I have about a million pairs of Converse, but no ACTUAL running trainers.) to do a 'run' in 3 weeks (I'm obviously going to walk. Obviously.)

SPEAKING OF WHICH- Hey guys, I'm doing the Race for Life in 3 weeks, and if you would like to sponsor me/give money to Cancer Research, which is important to me for, you know, really obvious reasons then that would be totally cool and you can do it here.
Awkward asking for money bit out of the way... How about some cool things I've seen on the internet lately?

  • I don't know if you watch New Girl, but even if you don't, Nick Miller's facial expressions are the absolute best. Unrelated: I'm completely in love with Nick Miller.
  • Ross is definitely my least favourite Friend, so these 35 Reasons Ross Geller is the Worst made me really happy. Also awesome? 27 Ways You Are Not Carrie Bradshaw.
  • This is truly old (as opposed to the above, which are just old for the internet) but it's the best. Literally the best thing ever: Joni Mitchell. Enough said.
  • I enjoyed this post about how NO ONE understands that you can have the best friendships online. Also, I MUST MEET ALL OF YOU.
  • I'm kind of obsessed with Arrested Development, and the Bluth Banana Stand has been spotted in London! I'm genuinely considering taking the day off work on either the 15th or the 21st of May so I can go and see it and get a freaking banana! No, I'm not insane.
Wow, so those links were practically all about tv, huh? I might have a problem. But it's a problem that's AWESOME, so who really cares?

THIS WEEK- Monday was a Bank Holiday so I got to sit in the garden a fair bit and chill and be happy that I wasn't working, but I also worked two full days AND stayed late another day at work and so managed to work MORE hours than in a regular week. Because I'm smart. Saturday I would have rested, but instead I walked for 3 hours and sort of got a tiny bit lost whilst training for the aforementioned run-walk. That was ALSO smart, and really I should win some kind of award for being the smartest. 
What I'm saying is- I'm tired. And I have a bet with myself that if I finish Les Miserables (the book) by tomorrow (when the DVD comes out) I get to buy myself a present, but like I say, I'm tired. And I might be TOO tired for Hugo's bullshit. We shall see.

NEXT WEEK (or this week coming... whatever): I have decided to sign up for Bout of Books!
Bout of Books
Bout of Books is, from what I understand, a week long readathon where obviously you don't read for every available minute (unless, I don't know, you REALLY want to) but just make a bit of an effort to read more and, I guess, read something every day. Which, I think, is an admirable goal and I want to do that! And so I shall. I don't really know how I'm going to play the updates, but I might just have one GIANT post that I update throughout the week (if anyone knows how to do that thing where you keep one post at the top of your blog for a bit, then I wouldn't mind knowing that...)

I don't really have any goals, apart from to read SOMETHING every day, but I WOULD like to finish these two books that I have that are like offshoots from Little Women, because I feel like they're going to be books that I can read once and then get rid of, and right now, those are the best kinds of books for me. Callous, but true.

And that is what I'll be doing! You all better have spectacular weeks too, or ELSE. 

Friday 10 May 2013

"The only surviving woodcut shows that he had an exceptionally luxuriant beard."

When I signed up to the Harry Potter readalong of true awesomeness, I was expecting the usual- awesome discussions, arguments about various characters (*COUGH* Sirius *SPLUTTER* Snape), and mutual agreement that Luna and Neville are The Best. I've definitely gotten all of this and more, but the one thing I wasn't expecting was to get EXTRA HARRY POTTER- apart from, you know, the viewpoints of many people, I thought I pretty much knew what was what in the Potter-verse.

BUT. Clearly, I missed a crucial part of it.
The Tales of Beedle the Bard! This book is actually way better than I was expecting it to be, possibly because I didn't even know about Dumbledore's notes (GUYS! Dumbledore's notes!!) after each story, but mostly, I fear, because I'm an idiot. But anyway- the problem has been rectified now, thanks to Alice, and we can all rest easy now knowing that I have read Beedle the Bard.

I don't have a clue how to go about this post, but I'm just gonna take each story and say things about it (ok, I'm mainly going to say things about Dumbledore's notes. Yeah.)

The Wizard and the Hopping Pot
BE NICE TO PEOPLE is the clear message of this story, but also, you know, SHARE your skills if you can use them to help others, ok?
It IS nice to be exposed to stories that wizard children are told that teach them to be nice to muggles though, because sometimes it feels like the whole wizarding world kind of hates us, and that's just not cool.
ALSO, that witch who rewrote the stories in a GROSS way? Love her. Or, more specifically, this: "Mrs Bloxam's tale has met the same response from generations of wizarding children: uncontrollable retching, followed by an immediate demand to have the book taken from them and mashed into pulp."

The Fountain of Fair Fortune
Ok, so this story was kind of like The Wizard of Oz? You know, that end bit where they get symbols of the things they wanted because they actually already HAD them? And also no magic was really involved anywhere? This story was like that, at least in my brain.
I don't know... All I really care about is That Story about the ill-fated Hogwarts pantomime (Seriously. SERIOUSLY. That was amazing.) and also the fact that Lucius Malfoy's vendetta against Dumbledore started when he tried to get a book banned? I mean, REALLY, now he's just scraping the very bottom of the evil barrel. DON'T BAN BOOKS, MALFOY.
Also: "This exchange marked the beginning of Mr Malfoy's long campaign to have me removed from my post as Headmaster of Hogwarts, and of mine to have him removed from his position as Lord Voldemort's favourite Death Eater." Shit, Dumbledore, I think I love you...

The Warlock's Hairy Heart
I seriously dug this story because it has the kind of gruesomeness that I'm never not going to want. (Talk about a stupid sentence. I clearly mean 'I like tales of gruesomeness.' Duh.) It also hits all the Dumbledore-loves-Love buttons and yes. I like.
I was also REALLY pleased with JKR's footnote re: Warlocks, because did we have a discussion where we didn't know the difference between a Wizard and a Warlock? Or did I just have that conversation with myself? Either way- a Warlock is basically just a Wizard who is extra awesome. Which, I think we'll all agree is a very good thing to know!

Babbity Rabbity and Her Cackling Stump
Now THIS is pretty much The Emperor's New Clothes, amiright? Or at least it is to begin with, and then it turns into a kind of 'Haaa, aren't muggles silly?' kind of story. Which, I'm sorry, but how is a witch turning into a rabbit more likely than her turning into a tree? Exactly.
The notes talk a little bit about wizard-death and things, but Alley and I have been discussing how the paintings work (as in, are they a little bit alive after they're dead? Or just a kind of imprint of the dead person? Or... Something else?) and even though they're brought up here, they're still not really fully explained, so that was slightly disappointing.
BUT- it was all ok, because Professor McGonagall is the current Headmistress (we must assume) of Hogwarts! And that is just awesome.

The Tale of the Three Brothers
This story obviously has the most direct relevance to Harry Potter, even if it does kind of start off like The Three Billy Goats Gruff. (Juuust had to link to that because, what if you don't have that story in America?!) But yeah- technically it's the most interesting of the book because of that, but in a way it was also the least interesting, because I pretty much knew the story anyway.
BUT- One of my favourite parts of all of Harry Potter, I think, is when Harry, Ron and Hermione are discussing the Deathly Hallows and talk about which of them they'd choose, and their answers are SO reflective of their characters that it's just excellent. I just...
And then, of course, Dumbledore's thoughts on the subject are veeeery interesting, especially the potential existence of the Hallows (!!!) and their various dangers, and also the fact that even he (the greatest Wizard, maybe EVER) would find it easiest to refuse the Invisibility Cloak of the three. I feel like there's some kind of lack of bravery associated with the Invisibility Cloak, perhaps, but actually I think it's probably the one I'd choose... And the Elder Wand would be my last choice, if anyone wants to know! (Really not interested in Power. Really really.)
Favourite Footnote: "No witch has ever claimed to own the Elder Wand. Make of that what you will."
Nice work, JK. Nice work.

So, The Tales of Beedle the Bard! I will never miss it out again when I read Harry Potter. Aaaand, now I can read the Deathly Hallows, right? RIGHT?! (How can we only have one book left? I will be bereft after this. BEREFT.)

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Top 5 TV

I recently finished watching The Wire (which... I should probably write a post about. But how do you sum up 5 seasons of TV that were pretty awesome, but that EVERYONE has pretty much praised to death already? Exactly) and ever since then, I've been slightly... adrift in my TV show viewing. I've watched some Arrested Development (which, by the way, is exactly as funny as everyone says it is) and Parks and Rec has finally made its way over here, which means I get two episodes of it a week, but as of now, I don't have anything to obsess over at all times.

This is mostly my own fault, I have to admit, because there are just SO many TV shows I want to watch that I don't even know how to settle on one. Probably I should just finish Arrested Development and then settle on the next one, but... I sort of don't want to finish Arrested Development. Because, in case I haven't made this clear yet, it's actually the best. But anyway! These are the top 5 shows in the running to be the object of my affections for a month or so:

 Top 5 Shows I want to watch

1. Six Feet Under- This is the show I really want to watch the most most most, only it involves buying the boxset and I'm not sure I'm ready to part with that much money right now. But... Alan Ball!! I know it's going to be so awesome, so all this delayed gratification is going to be fine, right?

2. Pushing Daisies- This is mostly just because Kayleigh and Alley have both said how awesome it is, but I hear it involves pie so I. Am. Sold. (I have seen Waitress SO many times, mostly just for the pie porn. Actually, that movie is just generally pretty awesome...)

3. Firefly- Joss. Freaking. Whedon. That is enough to make me ashamed I haven't watched it yet. It's on Netflix so it will definitely be watched. Maybe next. Maybe.

4. Dexter- I don't know if I WANT to watch this so much as it's so so easy to watch because it's also on Netflix that it seems like it'd be a crime NOT to. All I know for sure is that 8 seasons (or whatever it is) is a hella big commitment, so... It'll have to be really really good.

5. A Gifted Man- There is absolutely no mystery to why I want to watch this- Patrick Wilson. Patrick Wilson. Oh yeah, and Patrick Wilson is in it? This may not seem like a good enough reason to watch a TV show that, even I'll admit looks kind of ridiculous but... It's Patrick Wilson. I'd watch him doing anything. Also,
(ok, Patrick Wilson is married. But his character isn't...)

That was actually a really difficult list to make because SERIOUSLY, guys- there are SO MANY TV shows I want to watch! I have to give honourable mentions to My So-Called Life and Freaks and Geeks (both of which I want to watch quite badly, but I've also had a hard time finding them anywhere) and also to It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and The Killing which I do have access to, and so will probably watch sooner than I watch, say, Six Feet Under or A Gifted Man.

SO TELL ME, friends! What should I watch first? What else should I WANT to watch? Tell me all your TV secrets (and by secrets, I really just mean TV shows that everyone is able to watch. So not secrets at all, then).

Monday 6 May 2013

Devouring Books: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

"I didn't feel sad or happy. I didn't feel proud or ashamed. I only felt that in spite of all the things I'd done wrong, in getting myself here, I'd done right."

I have been a tiny bit in love with Cheryl Strayed since before I even knew her name. Her previously anonymous Dear Sugar columns are so wonderful that they can SHATTER me and make me cry and then make me laugh and feel better in the space of about a paragraph, and even if her advice has absolutely no direct bearing on my life or problems, just reading one of her columns- any of them, really, makes me feel like she's helping me directly anyway. (I think it goes without saying that I'm going to read Tiny Beautiful Things- a collection of some of these columns- very very soon).

The point is, anyway, that I had ridiculously high expectations for Wild, both in terms of how I wanted it to be written, and what I wanted it to say. I wanted Dear Sugar, only better, and you know what? I got it. I loved this book beyond words, and so much that I had the really rare reaction (for me) of wanting to spread out reading it for as long as possible because I didn't want it to end. This involved renewing it at the library and all sorts of other obstacles (Actually... That was pretty much it) but the fact is, when Strayed finishes her epic journey in the book, ecstatic as I was for her, I was also kind of sad because there was no more book left to read. But I can't say that it didn't leave me with a lot, because, believe me, it really did.

'But Laura!' I hear you cry. 'What even IS this epic journey you're talking about? You haven't actually said anything about this book you know?' To which I say: Ah. Yes. You're right. Well. Wild is kind of two books in one- a memoir about her journey hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (or PCT) for 100 days in 1995, and also a memoir about the reasons behind her decision to do so- ostensibly the death of her mother 3 years previously, and the complete shitheap she'd made of her life ever since then. I feel like this going between the two sounds like it has the potential to be a hot mess, but somehow Strayed manages to avoid this entirely- when she segues away from the trail to think about her past, I was always ready for it, and I was always ready for her to go back to it, too. I don't know if this was just because I love her so much, or if it actually is that well done, but everything felt very smooth and, dare I say it, perfect.

The two intertwining stories (that are really just the same story) are pretty inseparable in the book, but I'm going to talk about them separately anyway. Parts of Strayed's experience of the PCT felt pleasingly familiar because I've read A Walk in the Woods, and the fact that I now have an opinion of the merits and challenges of the PCT vs the Appalachian Trail (AT) is both pleasing and ridiculous to me. Strayed really really made me feel like I was walking along with her, as her even- her every pain my pain, her horrendous feet issues MY horrendous feet issues. Every difficult and heavy and horrible step is now mine too, and I feel like this is incredible since Strayed basically wrote this thirteen years after her quest. It must have pretty much felt like she was walking alongside her former self while writing, so to make me feel like I was actually there... Wow. Seriously. Wow.

Much as I enjoyed the walking parts (and believe me, that was A LOT) I think I got more out of the flashbacks to the things that got her there. I can't say that I enjoyed them more, because that would be pretty messed up (to summarise: death, family breakdown, adultery, heroin, abortion, divorce... basically all the things you can imagine from someone's life imploding) but reading about those things and then getting to see Cheryl finally, crucially, letting them go is such a wonderful feeling that I can't even describe it. All I know is that it gives the book such a feeling of hope: that no matter how difficult things get, and they almost definitely will get very very difficult, you can always turn things around, do something that you absolutely didn't think you could do, and become the person you were supposed to be.

In Bex's review of this (which I have to credit with finally getting my butt down to the library to find Wild), she refers to it as a 'stunt memoir' which is a term I hadn't even heard before (I am out of all kinds of loops) but which I can absolutely identify as being A Thing that I really really enjoy in a book. I'm thinking of this, and Julie and Julia and... (I can't think of any more examples now, but I know I've read some others) I think I just really like the idea that, by doing something completely different to what you normally do, and by having a goal and really focusing on it, you can change your life, and not JUST by getting a book deal. I want to believe that it's possible for people to do things that they find challenging, and come out the other side... better. And with a clearer idea of how to make their lives, and themselves better. I want to be one of those people, if I'm honest, so... I just need a challenge now.

Basically, what I'm saying is, I was ridiculously predisposed to love this book, in all the possible ways. But that doesn't mean that you shouldn't read it, because I truly believe that everyone could get something out of it. Even if it's just a desire to walk the PCT, or even just a blissful gratitude that you haven't decided to do that, that's still something, right? So yes. Read it please, but just be ready to feel like you've been on an epic journey too. It's worth it to feel like this about a book.