Tuesday 31 December 2013

End of Year Book Survey

Guys! It's the end of the year! Even though I sort of disapprove of the furore over there being a new year, and the pressure to make it the best one ever ever ever, I have absolutely no problem with looking back over the books I've read this year and remembering how awesome they were. That's just me.

I'm in what I think is a unique position for me for the first time in three years, in that, I'm writing this on the 27th December (not at all unique) and I MIGHT FINISH A BOOK BEFORE THE 31st AND OMG. I wouldn't even care about this SO much, but said book is The Goldfinch and I already love it so so much and I don't want to miss it out of anything but it's also 700-something pages long and, realistically I'm probably not going to finish it.

So, actually, I'll just tell you now: The Goldfinch is really good and I love it. You'll see when I write a million word review of it when it's finally done.

1. Best book you read in 2013?
This question is completely brutal. Let's see. Excluding re-reads (HARRY POTTER), I would say...
Tell The Wolves I'm Home- Carol Rifka Brunt
Ready Player One- Ernest Cline
Wild- Cheryl Strayed
Kitchen- Banana Yoshimoto
My Life in France- Julia Child
Fangirl- Rainbow Rowell
I don't even... I LOVE ALL THE BOOKS.

2. Book you were excited about and thought you were going to love more, but didn't?
I thought I'd like The Newlyweds more than I did (based on nothing but the cover) and I also thought Tolstoy and the Purple Chair would be my jam, but it kind of... wasn't. Bad books.

3. Most surprising (in a good way) book of 2013?
I'm going to say The Outsider by Camus- because I was kind of expecting it to go over my head, but I turned out actually being sort of riveted by/agreeing emphatically with it. It was awesome, anyway.

4. Book you read in 2013 that you recommended to people most in 2013?
This is going to have to be Ready Player One (which, by the way, I can't even believe I read this year, it seems like forever ago) because I've literally shoved my copy into people's hands because it NEEDS TO BE READ. So awesome.

5. Best series you discovered in 2013?
Um... I think the only series other than Harry Potter I read in 2013 was The Girl Who Had Stuff And Did Stuff Trilogy, and I wouldn't really describe that as the best anything. So, um, Harry Potter?

6. Favourite new author you discovered in 2013?
I actually read a lot of new-to-me authors this year, but I think I'm going to have to say that my favourite is Banana Yoshimoto, purely because Kitchen was SO amazing, and I love her so much that I've been hoarding her books to read 'later' because I don't want to gobble them all up at once.

7. Best book that was out of your comfort zone or a new genre for you?
Ehrrrrrm... I always want to say that graphic novels are out of my comfort zone, so in that case, Persepolis would be the best of that (SO good). But, I usually read a couple of graphic novels a year so it's not really true, even. So, let's say True Grit because Westerns? WUT?

8. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2013?
Dare I say Ready Player One again? I do dare, but I also had a hard time putting down Where'd You Go Bernadette and Rosemary's Baby because they were AWESOME.

9. Book you read in 2013 that you're most likely to re-read next year?
This isn't going to happen, obviously, but if anything I'd re-read Ready Player One (YAWN) and also probably parts of Tiny Beautiful Things because daaaaaamn, that's some moving advice.

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2013?
Can I say Fangirl even though I read it on the Kindle? I'm going to say Fangirl.
11. Most memorable character in 2013?
I seem to have forgotten all the names of all the characters in the books I've read this year, but thingy from Tell The Wolves I'm Home was pretty memorable (apart from her name, apparently. Wait! June! That's it) oh oh and Mattie Ross from True Grit OF COURSE. - Genuinely just had to come back to this question because MY GOD I love Levi in Fangirl so incredibly much. Like, I would MARRY him, much. He's the best character.

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2013?
This one's tricky because I almost want to say The Goldfinch, but as mentioned above, totally haven't finished it. So, let's say Kitchen OR possibly Tiny Beautiful Things, because MY GOD it's beautiful. Hey, why haven't you read it yet, again?

13. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2013?
I think On Writing might have a future-y knock on impact on me, but I'm going to say Tell The Wolves I'm Home for right now because my GOD the crying. Endless.

14. Book you can't believe you waited until 2013 to read?
Hmmm, this is a tricky one because, looking back at what I've read this year, I've leaned heavily towards fairly new books (I can't even believe this!) and re-reads, which means that books that have been on my shelves for ages haven't really had a look-in. Regardless, I'm going to say The Little Prince,  because it seems like I should have definitely read that years ago.

15. Favourite passage/quote from a book you read in 2013?

16. Shortest and Longest book you read in 2013?(finally, my book spreadsheet comes into play!)
Shortest: Cymbeline by William Shakespeare (76 pages in my complete works)
Longest: Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (1201 pages. OF COURSE THIS WAS THE LONGEST)

17. Book that had a scene in it that had you reeling and dying to talk to somebody about it?
This isn't really a thing that happens with the kinds of books I read (do I sound like a book snob? Shit.) but, just to borrow Alley's answer, I was VERY upset/alarmed by certain parts of Harry Potter and had to sometimes demand hugs from twitter because OMG. The crying.

18. Favourite relationship from a book you read in 2013 (be it friendship, romantic, etc)
I'm going to have to say Levi and Cath in Fangirl, aren't I? Although actually I wanted Levi to be MY boyfriend instead so... yeah. Instead, let's say Melly and Scarlett in Gone With The Wind because THAT deserves a mention and who knows when I'm going to read GWTW again and write about it here?

19. Favourite book you read in 2013 from an author you've read previously.
Oh, do I read by author more than by book description? I do? Well, shit, how am I supposed to answer this one? Let's say Hearts in Atlantis by Stephen King, because maaaaan, I really enjoyed that. (Although did I enjoy On Writing more? Difficult to say...)

20. Best book you read in 2013 that you read based SOLELY on a recommendation from someone else?
Um, um, um, tie between Tell The Wolves I'm Home and Ready Player One? Yeah, that.

21. Genre you read most from in 2013? 
My spreadsheet (yay, spreadsheet!) tells me it was... Non Fiction. Which is mental and has only happened because I lumped memoirs/food/travel non fiction all together. But non-fiction it is, apparently. Which isn't even really a genre, is it?

22. Newest fictional crush from a book you read in 2013?

23. Best debut book you read.
Tell The Wolves I'm Home or Ready Player One? Where'd You Go Bernadette wasn't half bad, either.

24. Most vivid world/imagery in a book you read in 2013?
Ready Player One was wonderfully vivid, but it has to be Harry Potter, definitely. Just... there's a reason I can't watch the films, you know!

25. Book that was the most fun to read in 2013?
Who's going to smack me if I say Ready Player One again? *ducks*

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2013?
I'm just going to give you them in order... Harry Potter (most of them), Desperation, Eleanor and Park, Wild, Les Miserables, Gone With The Wind, Bag of Bones, Tiny Beautiful Things, Tell The Wolves I'm Home. Damn.

27. Book you read in 2013 that you think got overlooked this year or when it came out?
*shrug* I don't really know how to answer this one. I read a couple that I think should have been overlooked but weren't! (The Millennium Trilogy, The Fault In Our Stars).

28. Did you complete any reading challenges you set for yourself at the beginning of the year?
I quite deliberately didn't set any reading challenges at the start of this year, because they stressed me out too much last year! I've been plugging away at reading Stephen King, though, so there's that. (Don't talk to me about The Classics Club. The classics and I haven't really been friends this year.)

29. Bookish events on your blog in 2013?
I'm just thinking and I didn't actually host anything this year, did I? Well, I suck! But, the most important thing that happened was the HARRY POTTER READALONG (I will never get over how amazing that was) and also there was The Corrections readalong, which involved a lot more complaining than the HP one. Because we're awesome.

30. One book you didn't get to in 2013 but will be your top priority in 2014?
I actually don't have an answer to this- I'm a bit all over the place with what I'm reading/want to read at the moment, and I think a shelf-reorganisation needs to happen early in the new year so I can actually see the books I haven't read a lot better. Oh, but I know I want to re-read I Capture The Castle soon-ish. There you go.

31. Book you are most anticipating in 2014?
Um. There are new books coming out that I have to think about? I don't know, let's just go with Landline (Rainbow Rowell) and be done with this question.

32. One thing you hope to accomplish in your reading/blogging in 2014?
Like I said above, I want to reorganise my shelves properly, and just generally have a more solid reading plan. Ever since I've moved, I've kind of just been grabbing the nearest/newest book, and I don't want to forget, you know, ALL THE BOOKS I own. I'm on it, though, it's fine.

Extra bits because this post wasn't long enough already

  • So this year, I had not one, but two outings with people from the internet and it was the BEST THING EVER. I am absolutely like a broken record when I say this, but I honestly never imagined in the slightest that when I started writing down the things I thought about books, I would end up meeting other human people in the flesh to talk with our mouths and I've just ruined this by making it sound really weird. But it's still true and it's amazing and many more meet-ups to come, I hope.
  • I did some readathons this year and they only drove home to me how much I bloody love just laying down and reading and whatnot. I'm going to try and make this happen more in the next year because ever since I moved, I haven't really set aside enough time to read at all. 
  • I'm sure there were more, extremely important things I wanted to say, but who can remember things? Not me! Finally, some stats:
Books Read: 75
Fiction/Non-Fiction Books Read: 58/17
Male/Female Authors Read: 35/40 (yaaaaaaaay, I won with the wimmins!) 
Rereads/New Reads: 15/60
Translated/Not Translated: 11/64 (I kept track of which books were translated cause there was a translation challenge of some sort happening and I was curious about how many translated books I read. Not that many, was the answer!)
Books read that I actually owned before this year: 42
Total Page Count: 27,965 (not including bits of other books)

Ah, stats. You were worth tracking my reading completely for a whole year. And I'll be doing the same again next year!

Friday 27 December 2013

Devouring Books: The Middlesteins by Jami Attenberg

"No one was entitled to anything in this life, not the least of all love."

The Middlesteins is one of those books that I enjoyed plenty while I was reading it, but it hasn't lingered in the mind enough for me to really have much to say about it *notes sighs of relief that this is going to be short*. It's also the kind of book that I'd happily send on to anyone who wanted it, because I liked it but probably won't read it again, but I read it on my Kindle and probably shouldn't have even brought that up as an option. Whoops?

Anyway. The Middlesteins is basically a book about family, about a family, even (can you guess their surname?) and, honestly, it's a pretty accurate family. All viewpoints are taken into account, and everyone seems reasonable to themselves, which I think is really the way people are- we act the way we do because we're fairly convinced that it's the right thing to do, or just the only thing we can do, even though, to other people, it seems selfish, or awful, or some other bad thing.

So. Pretty much everyone in The Middlesteins is sympathetic, and even if you don't like them, you can still appreciate their point of view, and understand why they hold it. But what do their points of view all centre around, I hear you cry? Well, the matriarch of The Middlesteins, Edie, is addicted to food and essentially eating herself to death, her husband, Richard, has left her, and their children and child-in-law are left picking up the pieces, or trying to ignore that things are even in pieces. 

And, I mean, that's pretty much it. This book relies very much on its characters, so it's fortunate that they're good and, more importantly, honest ones; and there are very much moments of comedy interspersed with all the worry and troubles that come along with being in a family (I found the daughter-in-law especially amusing, but I can't really deal with people who take themselves too seriously). 

In fact, now that I'm thinking about it, the main thing that I was sort of underwhelmed by with The Middlesteins was that it didn't have a huge amount of story, but that's not the book's fault since it's not really trying to be anything but character driven, and family-drama-esque. I think the problem, actually, probably lies with me- I haven't been reading enough books where THINGS HAPPEN of late, I feel, and sometimes that can mean that all the Literary Fiction kind of bleeds into each other. I feel a reading resolution coming on...

So. There is nothing wrong with The Middlesteins! I liked it a lot while I was reading it, even if I have found it sort of forgettable, but regardless, it has left me with a general feeling of 'awww' about it, and not a general feeling of 'ewwww'. So, I have decided to allow you to read this, and you can do what you will with that recommendation.

P.S. While I was writing this, I stumbled across this review that is both so succinct, and so perfect that I almost gave up on this one and just posted a link to that. So here it is. Oh oh, and take Kayleigh's review too, since it's the one that made me want to read it. Nice one, Kayleigh!

Sunday 22 December 2013

Sunday Sundries: Kindles and the Like

Guys! It's the last Sunday Sundries before Christmas, can you even believe it? (Probably, yes). Despite being in the Christmas spirit riiight at the start of December, I seem to have lost it now, so that's very fun for me (I lie. It's not at all fun for me), but still- 3 days off work and also presents and stuff? How bad can it be?
So anyway, since Christmas approaches and I've asked for more books than can possibly be healthy, I figured it was time to talk about the Kindle that I got the last time people got me presents (i.e. my birthday) and the way I feel about it. Because what could be Christmassier than that? (Probably a lot of things, tbh).

But anyway. My Kindle! I like it a lot. It travels well (obviously its biggest plus point) I can read it in a dark room without disturbing anyone else in the room (not really an issue now I have my own room, but never mind) and, maybe best of all, I can have a book delivered to it in about 3 seconds flat. This doesn't mean that I'm always in desperate need of a book that I must read straight away, of course, but it was really nice on the 10th September to wake up and be able to start reading Fangirl straight away, you know? (Yes, I memorised the date Fangirl came out. Didn't we all?)

So it's all good and hunkydory and so far I've only broken one Kindle and had to send it back to Amazon (This actually happened. It didn't survive the move, I'm afraid). Have I ever broken a book and had to send it back? No. But, some pages have fallen out of books and so on, so I think we can call that one evens.

I think the main problem I have with my Kindle is one that I'm particularly susceptible to, and not at all the fault of an electronic device. The thing with it is, I have quite a few books on there (I'm completely assuming everyone goes download crazy when they get one) but I never remember what they are, and I'm not sure I want to read them. So, at any given time, I'll probably have my Kindle AND a book with me, and I'm almost always going to pick up the book. It's not a planned thing, it just happens and I know I'm probably going to end up with a hunchback because of it, but I just... I still really like paper books.

This isn't even a book snob thing so much as a thing where I have SO many physical books to read that it almost makes me feel guilty to read anything on my Kindle. I still do, of course, but still, guilty. Having said that, when I was moving this year and had to get rid of some books or risk serious injury (or, ok, maybe a bit of a bad back) my Kindle was awesome in that there were a few books that I owned, hadn't read, wanted to read, but didn't care so much about having physical copies of, and those I downloaded (mostly for free) onto my Kindle. I still haven't read those, of course, but hey, I'm not the one on trial here!

So. Overall conclusions, I do not have. But I would say that I'd rather have my Kindle than not-have it, and when I am into a book, it doesn't matter if it's on paper, an ebook, or written on stone tablets, because all the important stuff is happening in my head anyway. THAT is where the real magic happens (and not a shred of modesty. None of that in my head).

If that has just convinced you you want a Kindle for Christmas but it's too late, then I'm really sorry. But, hey, how about if I let you help me name mine instead? I always forget that I want to give my Kindle a name until I see someone else calling theirs by name (looking at Charlotte and her Colin, here) but I really do, and I lack creativity in this area. HELP ME IN THE COMMENTS.

And, just before I let you go for your Christmas holiday, please accept these links with my deepest love and good Christmas wishes (all of them are excellent):

  • Here are 29 books to get you through your quarter life crisis. I'm not saying I'm having one of these, but I'm also not saying I'm not having one of these, so. Either way, it seems like a pretty solid book list!
  • Also on Buzzfeed, here are the 34 most important things Alexander Skarsgard has done this year. You probably don't know that he walked to the South Pole for charity, but he did because he's awesome and also he did a lot of other things. Worth it for the pictures, tbh.
  • And, finally, if you only read one thing from this whole post, let it be this review of Love Actually by Lindy West. Best best best best best best best thing ever. (Sample quotes: 'everyone in this movie is a fucking creep.' 'Colin Firth falls in "love" with Aurelia at first sight, establishing Love Actually's central moral lesson: the less a woman talks, the more loveable she is.' 'LOVE ACTUALLY SEES NO PROBLEM WITH TREATING ITS FEMALE CHARACTERS LIKE GIANT BIPEDAL VAGINAS IN SWEATER VESTS.' I mean, best, right?)
And now I'll really leave you alone. Have a very merry Christmas, everyone!

Friday 20 December 2013

Devouring Books: Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

"My experiences slowly flattened and blended together until it became obvious that there's a huge difference between not giving a fuck and not being able to give a fuck."

Sometimes it feels like Hyperbole and a Half (the blog) was written exclusively for me. I say this, not because I think I'm so amazing and hilarious that this entire blog is like my spirit animal, but more because, it was there when I needed it really badly, and continues to pop up at trying times in my life. 

Here's my story with the blog: nearly three years ago, I was having some really really bad anxiety and depression issues (actually, at that point more anxiety than depression) and I couldn't settle down or do anything or feel anything except freaked out and it was a truly truly awful time. It was also during this time that I started this blog, which makes me feel like I should be kind of grateful for being mentally ill, but... Even with how awesome this all is, I still would give it all up never to feel that way again.* But anyway, in this time, I found Hyperbole and a Half, and for the first time in about a month, I laughed myself silly, and actually thought about other things than feeling like shit.

It was amazing, and I've never forgotten that Hyperbole and a Half is SO FUNNY that it can actually drag you out of your own miserable head for at least some of the day and make you feel better. When Brosh disappeared from her blog for a looooong time, and then returned with a post about depression, I was kind of stunned, but also I felt the most understood I had ever been in my whole life. I think it's an almost impossible sensation to understand unless you've actually been there yourself (and that's ok. You don't want to go there), but Brosh does the best job I've ever seen at explaining what depression actually feels like. And so she is the best at being funny AND the best at being serious and this is why I love her the most.

So, she wrote a book! It's definitely a mixture of stories that had already been on her blog (The God of Cake couldn't not be there, right?), like the aforementioned posts on depression, as well as some entirely new stuff. I ate it allllll up- I basically finished this book in one sitting, and it didn't really bother me that some of the stuff I'd already read before, because when I read her entire blog over a weekend like my life depended on it (which, not to be dramatic, but it sort of did) I didn't exactly commit everything on there to memory. If you've read her blog before, obviously you need this book, and if you haven't then you should probably start right now and not stop until you're done. I mean, if it can make a horribly anxious person laugh out loud, then imagine what it could do to you? You might die of laughter!**

I realise this isn't even a review so much as a 'This is what Hyperbole and a Half means to me' post, but you know, it's not that often you get to show your appreciation for a website and this one really deserves it. I really mean it when I say you need this in some form in your life, and even if you don't buy the book, you have to go and read some blog posts. I recommend this one, and this one, and also this one. Happy reading!

*Not that that's what I'm going to do, and also I LOVE YOU ALLLLLL.
**Note: You will probably not die of laughter. Also, please don't die of laughter. 

Thursday 19 December 2013

Devouring Films: Good Will Hunting

I had never seen Good Will Hunting until the other week. When I told my housemates that I'd watched it, my friend Becci was shocked that I hadn't already seen it, because it's kind of the epitome of a film that I would have seen. She was right to be shocked- after I'd seen it, I wondered exactly what the hell had taken me so long, and also some other things that we'll discuss in this review.

One of the main reasons I think I hadn't seen it was because I got slightly confused about exactly what film it was. I thought it was that one where the guy is autistic* or something but is really good at maths, but it turns out I was thinking of (we think) A Beautiful Mind? But anyway- the point is that I was not at all prepared for what I was going to get out of Good Will Hunting, and that's a beautiful thing in itself.

Good Will Hunting is the story of (Good) Will Hunting (Matt Damon) and his generally fucked up life. An actual genius (as in, a genius without even having to try), Will is working as a janitor at MIT when we first meet him, and he solves a mathematical problem in about 5 minutes that took Papa Skarsgard FOUR YEARS to figure out (Papa Skarsgard being a maths professor but not an actual genius). When Will's talent is discovered, rather than running towards the opportunities this creates for him, he shies away from having to do anything at all meaningful with his life. Enter Robin Williams, therapist extraordinaire, Papa Skarsgard's old roommate, and all round good guy. Does he fix Will? You're obviously going to have to watch it to find out.

What I want to talk about, really, are a few key scenes from the movie that really really touched me in a number of different ways. I honestly feel like I learnt a lot about myself watching this film, and that doesn't happen too often, especially when I'm not expecting it. It disarmed me, and kind of made me cry a bit, because, well, you'll see. Let's discuss (mild spoilers here, I guess? But not massively bad):

  • There's this scene where Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are talking about Will's future, and Will's all like 'well, I could do this job or this job, but fuck it, I want to stay here with you guys.' And it's heartbreaking because Ben Affleck and all his other friends are the only family he's ever known, and are the most important part of the only life he's ever known, and of course he wants to stay with them. What happened next, though, surprised me more than anything. Ben Affleck says to him, that if he stays there, if at 50, he's still working in construction and isn't doing anything with his life, or his brain, then he'll kill him. I was so massively expecting him to just be like 'yeah dude, that's cool, you just stay here with us' that it was alarming that he actually had his friend's best interests at heart rather than his own selfish ones. This was actually probably my favourite scene in the movie because wow. Just, wow. 
  • There's another part where Matt Damon and Robin Williams are discussing Matt's (Will's... Whatever)** future job prospects, and Will says he doesn't want to work for the government because what if he cracks a code or something and people get killed and he inadvertently starts a war and it all just goes horribly wrong and GAH? And Robin Williams tells him that he'll never get anything done "in a world where you're afraid to take the first step because all you're seeing are the negative things that might happen ten miles down the road." And SHIT. That set off all kinds of synapses in my brain because of course that's something I do. Of course it is. Not that all these high risk places are begging me to come and work for them, but I think there are definitely things I've avoided doing because something might go wrong in the long run. And, you know, I should probably do something about that.*** 
  • Here's maybe the most important thing Good Will Hunting has taught me. It's not that, damn, I really love a Bawston accent (although I do) or that I really want an opportunity in life to use 'You like apples? Well, [thing I have done that the other person wants], how do you like them apples?' (but that's true too). No, I think it's that success isn't defined by what other people think it is, but merely by you believing that you have lived, or are living, well. It might be more important to you to find love than to be at the top of your chosen field, or the opposite might be true, but either way, figuring out what's important to you and then doing that thing is sort of what we should all be doing. Or, at least I think that's so. 
So, yeah. Life lessons aplenty, and really just a very very good film even if you don't need a good stern talking to via film. You've probably seen it already since it's about a million years old (or... 16?) but I think that for me, it's always going to be one of those things I've seen in the right place at the right time. And I'm really glad I did. 

*Excuse me, IMDb tells me that Russell Crowe's character in A Beautiful Mind was actually schizophrenic. So there we go.
**I realise I am doing this all wrong, but I really can't be bothered to look up all the character names, and I only know Will's because, you know, it's the title.
***After typing this paragraph, I genuinely started looking for a new job. The power of film, people.

Wednesday 18 December 2013

Devouring Books: The Edible Woman by Margaret Atwood

"I had broken out; from what, or into what, I didn't know. Though I wasn't at all certain why I had been acting this way, I had at least acted."

It's weird how sometimes you wait for a book for ages, only to be disappointed by it; and then sometimes you don't even care that much about a book, but it's cheap and you forgot to bring one with you (I know) and it turns out to be amazing.

You can probably guess where I'm going with this.

So. I got Maddaddam out of the library and accrued massive late fees because someone reserved it and I hadn't read it, and I didn't even like it that much. I mean, it was ok, but in no way deserved the build up I gave it, and it wasn't worth the late fees.* One of the reasons I couldn't really be bothered to read it was because, at around the same time, I found The Edible Woman in a charity shop and, because there are a few authors who I automatically buy the books of when I see them, straight into my hands it went. It was much more portable than the massive hardback of Maddaddam, but it was also a lot more interesting. At least to me.

The Edible Woman is Atwood's first published novel (although, according to the foreword, not the first one she wrote) and in some ways it shows. The symbolism is a tiny bit heavy handed, and there were parts where I thought she could probably have said the same thing with less words, but overall, it's still a better debut novel than, you know, most people could write, and I liked it so much that I'm completely willing to overlook any slight stylistic issues. Because, really, this book was so interesting.

So. The Edible Woman is about Marian, a 20-something woman living in Toronto, paying her own way and living away from her parents (gee, I can't guess why I liked it...) and all other independent woman things like that. Since this is the 1960s, it seems like kind of a radical thing to be doing, and of course it is, only it's** the kind of situation women live in when they're waiting for a man to marry them. Marian isn't really like that- she doesn't really know what she's doing with her life, and she supposes she loves her boyfriend, but he doesn't want to get married and she doesn't think she does either.

So, of course, the two of them get engaged. (I know, spoiler, but I can't really talk about anything I liked about the book without you knowing that). What's really interesting about their engagement is that  it splits the book in two, with everything before and everything after, and in the first part, Marian's narration is in the first person, and in the second part it's in the third person. I realise that this sounds kind of gimmicky, and also a thing I think I have genuinely complained about in the past, but for some reason, in The Edible Woman this reaaaaally worked for me. Here you have a woman who is independent and thinks what she thinks about herself, until she agrees to marry a man and suddenly starts seeing herself as distant even from herself, almost as an object the world sees (a wife) as opposed to the subject and master of her own desires.

This isn't me saying that marriage is evil, or wrong, of course, but only that marrying a man because you feel like you might as well probably isn't the best way to make life choices. BUT I COULD BE WRONG.

I feel like I probably like the things this book made me consider more than I liked the actual story (it did take quiiite a while to read, I have to admit) but when a story makes you consider as many things as this one did, it has to be worth a read, right? And it's not that the story in itself is bad, it's just slightly less interesting than my own brain thoughts (I know) but still pretty awesome, and, you know, Atwood.

*However, I will probably still buy it when I see it cheap somewhere, cause I have the other two in the series and I like completeness. Also I'm INSANE.
**Or was, I guess. Or probably still is. I don't know!

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Top Ten Tuesday: A Triumphant Return

Guys! Remember how Top Ten Tuesday is a thing? Me too! *Shifty eyes*. No but seriously, long gone are the days I'd wake up early on a Tuesday to try and get my link up early, and when I'd get so so excited by my stats on that day because visitors! Yay!* I don't even remember the last time I did one of these, and I wouldn't have been doing it today but I saw Sarah's this morning, and I thought yes. I like this topic. Because, the thing is, I read a LOT of authors that I already know because I'm pretty sure I know what I'm getting with them, so I appreciate the opportunity to show some new-to-me authors some love.

Top Ten New To Me Authors of 2013

1. Cheryl Strayed- This is very very technically a lie, because I've been reading Strayed's Dear Sugar column for years now, BUT this year was the first I read actual books with her words in, and I loved them both so much. Also I just wanted to try and get everyone to read Strayed. Again.

2. Albert Camus- Camus is one of those writers that I'd always heard of but had never really read anything by. This year I read The Outsider/The Stranger (same book, different titles) and it really pushed a lot of my happy/interested buttons.

3. Carol Rifka Brunt- So far, Rifka Brunt has only written one novel, but Tell The Wolves I'm Home is so amazing that I would honestly read anything she's got. Anything. I love her so much that I sort of want to go to Devon and stalk her a bit, but I'll try not to...

4. Ira Levin- For the RIP challenge this year, I read both The Stepford Wives and Rosemary's Baby, and I was really impressed by both. It's not often that a story you feel like you know really well is still interesting to read, but somehow with Levin, it is.

5. Maria Semple- Where'd You Go Bernadette. 'Nuff said.

6. Piper Kerman- I don't know that I think Kerman is the most supreme writer ever, or whether I just really really liked Orange is the New Black, but either way, I would probably read more things that she's written, yes.

7. Ernest Cline- Ready Player One was so much fun (even if I can't believe it was only this year that I read it) that if Cline's next novel is even half as good, it'll be great.

8. Banana Yoshimoto- I also can't believe that I only discovered Yoshimoto this year, or that I've only read one book by her even though I keep buying more (They're so teeny that I don't want to run out of them!) I was truly really impressed by Kitchen, and excited to read more.

9. Lauren Groff- I read Arcadia near the start of the year, and even though I've found it to be sort of forgettable, I know that, when I was reading it, it was beautiful. Would definitely look out for more of her books.

10. Charles Portis- TRUE GRIT. It's amazing. I don't even know what other books Portis has written, but I know that I would give them a try any day.

There! Wasn't that fun for us all? Mostly I was impressed by how many new-to-me authors I've read this year, and I'm going to try and keep that up in the new year, too.

*I wish I was kidding about this, but nope. This was my life for a little while.

Monday 16 December 2013

Devouring Stephen King: On Writing

"Life isn't a support system for art. It's the other way around."

I've been really excited to read On Writing on my Stephen King journey ever since Alley reviewed it (TWO YEARS AGO. That is how long it takes me to get to Stephen King books, people) and has basically brought it up at every opportunity ever since. I mean, I loved this book, but Alley? She really loves it. And when someone I like a whole lot likes something that much, attention must be paid, and anticipation builds up a lot. Over TWO YEARS (did I mention how long that is? It's really really long).

So. Anyway. On Writing. As the subtitle says, it's A Memoir of the Craft, and ohhh boy, is it! It's basically split into two parts- the first of a selection of snapshot memories from King's childhood, and the second of actual writing advice or, not so much advice, even, but just a whole load of things that King does or doesn't do, and which he does or doesn't enjoy reading. I feel like, just from that premise, it sounds very dry and instructiony and just the kind of thing that would generally make me want to go 'noooo shut up, you can't tell me what to do! And hey, I like adverbs'* but it's not like that at all.

The reason it isn't like that, I think, is because it's Stephen King. Hey, did you guys know I like Stephen King a lot? I do. I do feel that way. Possibly one of the things that I like most about Stephen King is that he's utterly free of pretension- he accepts that he's not the ultimate greatest writer (although, I think he's better than he thinks he is, but that's another issue) and it's precisely because of that that you don't mind listening to him because hey! These things have improved his writing, why couldn't they improve yours?

Nowhere is this brought home to me better than in one of the appendices, where King shows an unedited opening of a short story (1408, if you're interested), and then the edited version, and reading both it's like you can literally see the place where the magic happens. This was especially eye opening to me because, when I read the first draft, I genuinely literally thought 'yeah, I could probably write that' (more or less...) but it's within the editing where everything really gets going, and where a story is formed. This was personally fairly illuminating because if ever I write (which, let's face it, doesn't happen that often) it doesn't go beyond the first draft because I'm too busy being mean to myself and/or not wanting to read back what I've written at all. If anything, then, On Writing may have given me the courage to actually go back, and reread some of the things I've written, because maybe I'm not as bad as I think I am? I don't know.

I realise I haven't really said much about the straightforward memoiry part of the book, and that's not because it's bad in any way, just that it's filled with much less practical advice than the rest of it. Regardless, it is still good AND interesting- each of the chapters forms a part of his life that's either related to writing, or has possibly influenced what he writes about in one way or another (having his eardrum repeatedly pierced by a needle, for example, was a particularly horrifying memory) and I learnt some things about King and his books that I didn't know before (I knew some of it because, let's face it, I like Stephen King, yeah?) So that was all good and interesting, albeit less applicable to ones own life. Possibly.

Basically, I read this book in about 2 days, even though I wanted to make it last longer so I could actually take in some of the advice and, you know, consider putting it to use in some way, maybe. But it's too good to read slowly, at least for the first time, and definitely makes me even more excited about the Stephen King books coming up that I haven't read because, you know, he's still got it! (or he did have it in, like 2000. I'm that far behind, yes.)

Unfortunately, Dreamcatcher is coming up next and I have read that one. It's not his best. Expect me to be scathing, when I can be bothered to read it.

*Injoke for anyone who's read On Writing. Or... Not even a joke, really, just a comment. Or a really really bad joke...

Monday 9 December 2013

Devouring Films: What Maisie Knew

Oh hey guys, remember when I read What Maisie Knew this summer because I was like 'there's a film! Skarsgard is in it!' and then I didn't see the film because it wasn't released anywhere and now it's December?
Well, that happened, but it's all ok because (US) Netflix came through for me like it so often does, and has it on there now (i.e. you can watch it toooo! If, you know, I can convince you to do so) so I watched it one quiet Sunday evening when I probably should have been sleeping. But, whatever, sleep can wait.

So, if you're an avid reader of this here blog (I know you ALL are, so well done for having fabulous taste) you'll remember that, after reading What Maisie Knew, I decided it would work really really well updated to modern times, and guess what? I was right! Shocking, I know. So, moved from 19th Century London to 21st Century New York, stripped of all that unnecessary language James uses, and involving certain Swedish Gods, What Maisie Knew really comes into its own.
But don't get me wrong- What Maisie Knew is still all about what Maisie knows. Onata Aprile who plays Maisie is in every single scene of the movie, and if she doesn't see it, then we don't see it either. As in the book, this can sometimes be frustrating because WHAT EXACTLY HAPPENED BETWEEN MAISIE'S TERRIBLE MOTHER AND LINCOLN?! but that's kind of the point of the story- when you're a child, things that adults do are confusing, and sometimes a mystery, and you don't always get the full story of what went on because no one ever thinks to explain it to you.

DAMN, it's hard being a kid.

Anyway. So Onata Aprile is amaaaaazing. I was pretty sure she was going to be, because everything I've read about the film has said 'Onata Aprile is amazing', and that many people can't be wrong (usually). But really- I don't know if she even knew what she was doing, or if she's just blessed with an incredibly expressive face, but damn that kid can emote. She makes it so easy to feel for her because every single thing she's feeling is written all over her face, and it's pretty wonderful to watch.
AND (I thought I was done with the kid, but apparently not) she's never annoying in the way that some children are kind of annoying. She's never too whiny, or wimpy, or tantrumy, or anything like that, but instead she just tries to deal with all the new and different things that are thrown at her as a result of her parents' divorce in the calmest and almost dignified way possible. It feels weird to call a six year old dignified, but that's kind of how she is- she's a child who's used to being alone, waiting for her parents' attention rather than demanding it, and that in itself is kind of heartbreaking to watch.

Let's see, there were other people in the film, I guess... Well, Julianne Moore was awesome because she's Julianne Moore, and she made me dislike her character the perfect amount, so that I could still feel sorry for her when she wanted Maisie's attention, even though that wasn't really something she deserved. Steve Coogan annoys me in general, but he wasn't in the film that much and definitely wasn't supposed to be likable, so that's fine. Joanna Vanderham was also really likeable as Maisie's nanny-turned-stepmother, and it was difficult not to feel for her as the woman duped into marrying this guy who isn't nearly good enough for her, so, I don't know, he didn't have to pay her to look after his child?

I feel like I'm missing someone out, who can that be?
Oh, Skarsgard. I don't think I've seen him in anything before where he's being all adorable and responsible and child rearing, and I have to say, I LIKE it. I would say that it made my ovaries ache but that expression is BULLSHIT and eurgh.  But, let's just say I would totally have his babies (obviously...) but now I can totally imagine that we raise them together and it's beautiful. AHEM. So basically, he's really sweet and lovely, his onscreen (and, actually, offscreen) chemistry with Onata is so lovely to watch, and the uniform he wears to be a bartender is so incredibly hot that I can barely look at him while that's happening. Ahem.

The point! You should probably watch this. If nothing else, it's beautiful to look at, but also? Everything else. All of the other parts. They're good. It stays close enough to James's novel that you can't accuse it of taking liberties, but goes far enough away from it to stand on its own and, actually, be better than the book (in my extremely unbiased opinion). As always, what Maisie knows isn't enough to stop her from getting hurt, but what I know is that this film is pretty great and I know I'll be watching it again.

Sunday 8 December 2013

Sunday Sundries: Stuff With Friends

Before I can even think about recounting things that happened this week, first I must say this:
Or... Maybe that was just me on Friday night. But SERIOUSLY, he's really on there and, you know, GO FOLLOW HIM.

Now that's out of the way... Hi everyone, how has your week been? Any of your ultimate humans joined twitter or anything? No really, I want to know.
Anyway. Onto things that didn't happen on the internet this week... I did things! Most days! It's alarming, I know, but try to contain yourselves, this won't happen every week. Realistically I didn't do that much- but I did stuff before work some days, and after work other days, and since I sometimes struggle to do either of those things, I'm calling this week a win. On Tuesday morning I did a little bit of Christmas shopping (and I mean a little bit. Like, tiny. Like, why am I even out shopping? small), and on Wednesday night I went to see Catching Fire (I already reviewed it, too! Kinda...) and on Friday night I went to the theatre with my friend Christina to see Let The Right One In, and it kind of exceeded all my expectations of it.

My expectations of Let The Right One In: I watched the Swedish film in preparation for the play, and I got so bored that I kind of, well, closed my eyes through parts of it. And it has subtitles, so I think it's fair to say I missed some stuff, but seriously. Bored. But, I watched the film after already agreeing to go to the play, so I couldn't really back out, and I'm really glad I didn't. What the play did was, take some of the most visually striking moments from the film, combined with the basic plot of the film BUT more of the book included too, and really just knocked it out of the park.
The set. I definitely got told off for taking this photo.
I was engrossed and enchanted and at one point VERY VERY FREAKED OUT (I honestly nearly fell out of my seat with fear so NICE WORK everyone) and the set! It's so beautiful, and looks like it wouldn't be nearly as effective as it actually was. Interesting fact: fake snow looks kind of like carpet in the right light. There were some parts I remembered from the book (and film) that I was thinking 'how are they going to do that..?' and they managed them beautifully and actually kind of excitingly. And then scarily (seriously, SO TERRIFIED.)

So basically, yes, it was excellent, and had I not seen To Kill A Mockingbird at the Open Air Theatre this year, I would have probably called it the best thing I've seen at the theatre all year. But seriously, To Kill A Mockingbird was the best thing ever, so. If you'd like to read a proper review of Let The Right One In, there's one here and I like it. It was such a good show, in fact, that I'm almost willing to forgive the two hours it took me to get home in the end (I honestly live half an hour's train ride from London at the most). In fact, I forgive the play entirely, but I will never forgive Waterloo Station for being IDIOTS.
And then yesterday (I know, so many things!) I saw my lovely friend Justine, who abandoned me to move to Bristol in September but was home for the weekend and yaaaaaay! I was SO tired that I'm not sure how good company I was, but the important part is YAY FRIENDS and also she bought me a MAGNIFICENT Christmas present so I love her forever and ever:
Technically taken weeks ago, but the point is, isn't it AMAZING?
Not, of course, that I didn't already. The present came at a tactically good time, too, cause after my sprightly burst of Christmassy feeling of last week, I haven't been that into it the rest of this week, BUT now I can wear my Christmas pudding hoody at any time and really feel it. Probably, that's how clothes work, right? Either way, hopefully by next week I'll be feeling like this again:

Friday 6 December 2013

Devouring Books: Orange is the New Black by Piper Kerman

"According to the CDC, cigarettes kill over 435,000 people a year in the United States. Most of us in Danbury were locked away for trading in illegal drugs. The annual death toll of illegal drug addicts, according to the same government study? Seventeen thousand."

So, some of you guys might have heard of this little TV show on Netflix called Orange is the New Black that I might have already watched twice this year even though I've NEVER done that with anything before. I say 'might have' because I know that I haven't reviewed the TV show, but how do you sum up THE BEST THING EVER in one blog post? You don't even try, that's how. Ah well, maybe on the next viewing (or maybe you just watch it and we discuss it and everything's awesome? Yeah, that one).

So anyway. Said best thing ever started its life as a book, and I had the good fortune of having Hanna as my ninja book swapper a couple of months ago and SOMEHOW she knew that I wanted this book reaaaaaally badly*, and just like that, it was mine. Somehow I managed to hold off reading it for even this long (probably a tiny bit of apprehension involved there), but as with all books, its time came and, you know, I read it.

So, the deal: Piper Kerman is an upstanding member of society with a slightly dodgy past, where she carried drug money for her girlfriend-at-the-time, but also enjoyed the high life of having a lot of (drug) money. Obviously, Kerman got found out about 10 years later, took a plea bargain and spent a year of her life in prison, where she found out things about herself and life that she would never have otherwise had the opportunity to learn. Not that, you know, prison is a good thing or anything. Apart from for self-discovery, I guess.

I'm not going to go on and on about the differences between this and the TV show because those things have been documented elsewhere (I would give you links, but... you can google as well as I can! I.e. Lazy.) but the main difference to my eyes is that the book is a lot less dramatic. And I don't mean that in a bad way, either towards the show or the book. It's just that, in real life things are often less dramatic than they are on TV, but in this one case, this doesn't detract from either version of events- the things that happen on the show are perfect for the show, and the things that actually happened are interesting or informative or eye-opening in their own way. What this really means is, so so many of the day-to-day details have been clearly transferred from the book to the show, and a lot of basic characters have been preserved, but events were definitely a lot less DRAMATIC on a daily basis in reality.
Like, as far as I know, no chicken

But this book, I like it a lot. Overly dramatic it may not be, but an excellent chronicle of a woman pulled out of her normal life and plunked into one where she gets no say over anything she does, but also where she comes to admit that yeah, what she did was wrong and why shouldn't she be punished for it? I definitely got a sense of Kerman overcoming her own idea of herself to understand that, actually, she wasn't untouchable and that she had earned her place in prison just as much as any of the other women in there. And I liked that.

I also liked Kerman's critique of the prison system. I know that she's a big supporter of prison reform, and that's really clear in her book, and she argues for it so effectively that you don't even really realise that's what she's doing. In fact, she's not- just by saying what she sees, and pointing things out about are kind of self-evident in their badness, it sort of makes you go 'hmm... Prison's not that great then?'** Added to which, stats like the one I quoted above are used sparingly and so effectively, that you start to go 'wow, maybe imprisoning people who are basically non-violent because their offence has anything whatsoever to do with drugs IS kind of insane...' But, then again, I already believed this so it was kind of an easy sell for me...

So basically. As long as you don't come to this book expecting it to be exactly like the TV programme, then you won't leave it disappointed that it's not exactly like the TV programme. Instead, you'll get a really interesting, really informative and just generally really real account of one woman's experience of prison, and won't even feel the tiniest bit cheated that the majority of the ladydrama didn't actually happen. And then, to celebrate reading this, you should probably watch the show again about 3 more times. Just because.

*As a testament to her excellent choosing skills, I have read both the books she sent me already AND eaten all the chocolate. She's the best.
**Because obviously I thought it was before... NOPE.

Thursday 5 December 2013

Brief Thoughts on The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

1. I would pay good money to watch Donald Sutherland and Jennifer Lawrence glowering at eacjh other on a continuous loop. Hollywood, take note.

2. God, this is harrowing. Why does something about people killing each other for entertainment have to be so harrowing?

3. Woody, you are doing interesting things to me with your face. Never stop. (Ellie thinks this is a weird crush. I say, NOPE. Perfectly normal.)


5. This is still so HARROWING. Must I cry more over Rue's death? MUST I? (Yes)

6. I am totally shipping this Johanna/Katniss thing. I mean, 'Love is weird'? COME ON!

7. I love Jeffrey Wright beyond anything that's reasonable. THERE HE IS, HI JEFFREY!

8. Finnick, I like your dimples, and your simple devotion to old ladies. Carry on.

9. I'm not sure how much I like this Plutarch- 'I'm going to help mastermind a revolution by encouraging the hurting and/or killing of the people who have already been hurt the most.' Hmmmmm... (But then again, since this is a major theme in Mockingjay, I guess I can deal with it)

10. Actual thought- I think this movie has done a really good job of showing Katniss's unwillingness to be a symbol, and the amount of personal responsibility this makes her feel for every death. She doesn't really get that things are happening around her rather than her being the cause of them because, you know, she's a teenager. Poor Katniss.

11. CINNA, NOOOOOOOOOO (did I mention how harrowing? So harrowing.)

12. Tick Tock, this post is a clock. If you read one point on the hour, every hour. But why would you? Weirdo.

Wednesday 4 December 2013

Devouring Books: Maddaddam by Margaret Atwood

"There's the story, then there's the real story, then there's the story of how the story came to be told. Then there's what you leave out of the story. Which is part of the story too."

There was a time, earlier this year, where I may have said that Maddaddam was my most anticipated book of the year. And it was, because apparently I didn't know about Donna Tartt's new book (which I still haven't read, of course) but also just because, you know, Margaret is my homegirl and also I really liked Oryx and Crake AND The Year of the Flood when I read them last year. Maddaddam is the last of the Trilogy, and I was expecting great great things.

What I got was... Well. First of all, it's important to note that, no matter what else I say about it, this is still a Margaret Atwood book, and what that means is that, even when it's not so great, it's still better than most other books. She's a pretty awesome writer, you know? So the writing in Maddaddam is as fabulous as you'd expect*, the story, actually, is pretty solid, and interesting to a point, and that point was right where it became annoying for me.

To try and put this in any kind of context at all: I think that, when I finished the other two books of the trilogy, I was very much in a MOAR PLS kind of place, but obviously I had to wait a year (and a half, apparently) for this one, by which time I was a lot more like 'oh, is it time for this now? Well, ok then', because, you know, excitement fades. PLUS I got this out of the library after I'd paid to reserve it, and then neglected it for WEEKS until that troubling day that I think we all know where I tried to renew it and couldn't because someone else had reserved it so I had to read it reallyreally quickly and, well, that's never great.
BUT. In addition to the conditions of my reading it not being great, I had some problems with the book  itself (sorry, Mags). Some of these were because of my expectations of what I wanted it to be like- I kind wanted Maddaddam to focus entirely on the present, and the rebuilding of society and whatnot- which it did, to a certain extent, but there was also a lot set in the past which I really really think had been adequately covered in the previous two books. Or maybe it hadn't been, and I just can't remember why the past bits in this book were important, but either way, that kind of bugged me.

AND THEN- a lot of this book focused on the Crakers, the 'perfect' race that Crake sort of (whoops!) wiped out the majority of humanity for, and... They're SO ANNOYING. It's not really their fault- they were built in a lab and didn't really finish off their education or anything, but at the same time, it's difficult not to read about them and go REALLY? This is what was better?!** Their simplicity isn't so much endearing as irritating, and really it just makes them seem super simple. In a bad way. It's really not great.

And, much as I wasn't enjoying the bit that much, there's a whole CONFRONTATION bit towards the end (which is about the only interesting thing that happens in the present day story, honestly) which is really exciting, but just as it gets all juicy and interesting, the narration switches to a Craker which means that you get a simplistic and not at all dramatic retelling of events, at which point it was decided that this review was going to be pretty negative because DAMMIT, keep up the dramatic tension for the love of GOD, even if you can't meet any of my other expectations! DAMN BOOK.
I don't really know how to end this, because in spite of everything I've said, I did manage to read this in about 3 days (library fines can suck it) without any trouble, and I truly believe that if I'd read it straight after the other two, I would have had much more positive feelings towards it. But, at the same time, shouldn't all books be the kind of books you can read at any point and think that they're kind of the best thing ever?*** I think, really, what I want to say is this: You're going to want to read this if you read the other two books in the trilogy, but you're also going to want to read it before you get too many ideas about how you'd like it to end, because otherwise you might be sorely disappointed. Which pretty much sums up how I feel about it.

*You'd expect it if you read a lot of Atwood, that is. If not then, you know, you probably don't have any expectations of her. Carry on.
**A lot of which was Atwood making a point, so, you know, right on.
***That might be too much to ask of ALL books... But you know what I mean.

Sunday 1 December 2013

Sunday Sundries: Just a Quickie

Bet you thought I'd forgotten about this today, huh? (Or maybe just hoped, I don't know, HEY, WHY ARE YOU SO MEAN?!) I hadn't forgotten but was kind of lacking the time to blog today because I spent all of it with my family (yay!), my computer stayed at my house... There wasn't time. But I turned it on even though I wanted to go to bed because I'm just that dedicated to the cause/because my dad and sister both bugged me about it and, hey kids, peer pressure works.

SO! Now that I've got you here, I must have some interesting things to say, right?
 Um... Let's see... Well, I did two different lots of baking this week, rediscovered the restorative power of exercise and started the season of having a teeny bit of chocolate every morning? Which, frankly, is a pretty good week, if you ask me. So the Christmas season is upon us, and THAT'S pretty awesome, right? I was worried that I was going to be kiind of grumpy this Christmastime (just a feeling I had, nothing specific was making me grumpy) but something awesome has happened and I don't know if it was wrapping presents last night or listening to Christmas music this morning, or somewhere in between, but I'm definitely feeling some Christmas mojo.

Actually, I've just remembered. It was watching half of The Muppet's Christmas Carol yesterday. That's what really did it.

Along these lines, then, I wanted to ask you about Christmas reading, mostly, do you do anything special? And also, please tell me about some awesome Christmas books? The deal is this- I finished a measly three books in November (I know. I don't even know what) and I feel like I'm just starting to get some reading mojo back, and I really really want to do some seasonal reading. Last year for most of the Christmas period I was reading Nelson Mandela's autobiography, which was actually a really good read but possibly not the most seasonally appropriate one ever. But then, I also read The Christmas Mystery by Jostein Gaarder which was totally seasonally appropriate and it made me feel happy inside.

So. Seasonal reading, what can you recommend? I'm going to go ahead and tell YOU all to read Little Women, even though I'm probably not going to read it myself (well... maybe just the Christmas chapters...) I am going to reread A Christmas Carol and the other Dickens Christmas stories in my edition of it, and also Nos4r2 by Joe Hill which says it's about Christmas on the cover... But what else should I be reading? Any recommendations would be appreciated, and if there's a Christmas film I should be watching, then you can totally tell me about that too (although if it's Elf, I'm waaay ahead of you).

After all, tis the season and whatnot.