Sunday 25 January 2015

Sunday Sundries: Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Oh, you guys.

I wrote my blog birthday post last Friday evening because I wanted to spend the weekend vaguely relaxing and maybe reading some Shakespeare because that's what I have to do. It started alright, I had some breakfast, was watching Gilmore Girls in bed and steeling myself to go for a run when my sister called me to tell me my nan had died.

My nan. Who wasn't ill. Who I hadn't seen for a few weeks and who I loved beyond all measure.
To call it a shock doesn't really begin to cover it, and I can't even begin to tell you how sad I am. Except that I kind of already did this, last year, and if there's just one thing more shocking to me than losing this nanny this way, it's having lost both of mine in just over a year. There are no words to tell you how unfair this seems to me, but I guess there is no good time frame within which to lose the people you love.

So, that's what happened in my week. Every day since Saturday has been a case of going about my normal everyday business but not really being there, staring into space a lot, and trying in vain to read Shakespeare (dude is HARD to read when you have no motivation and the sads). I'm hanging in there and being a trooper and all those other things one does, and it is the hardest thing ever. I'm trying to have these kind of feelings:
But mostly I'm feeling a lot more bitter than that. Lucky is so not how I'm feeling right now, but hopefully I'll get there in the end.

Life is pretty hard, you guys.

Sunday 18 January 2015

Devouring Texts is FOUR!

I realise this should be a Sunday Sundries post, but this isn't a sundry topic, it's kind of an everything topic, for today is this tiny little blog's fourth birthday!
Appropriately bookish.

I've just read through the last three years of blog birthday posts, and what strikes me the most is how different each year has been. Which is something that I say every year, of course (and bear with me, for there will be more repetition during this post, I'm sure!) but it's still true that doing this, and taking stock of where I'm at on one day each year, that isn't Christmas or my Birthday (which, although they come a year apart, are also weirdly suspended in time so they're almost the SAME day every year) is very clarifying, and also, you know, weird and scary.

So. Where I'm at. I'm busier and more tired than I've been possibly in my whole life (and definitely since I started writing here) and obviously this has been reflected in the amount I blog. Last year was so weird, and so sad, but so character building and life changing in a lot of ways, and it's just been a whole lot. There were times where I wanted everything to slow down, but, apart from a few impossible things, I didn't really want it to go back to the way it was, because the way it was kind of sucked a lot of the time. 

Even though I've posted so very sporadically here since starting my MA in October, I also feel like I kind of carry this blog, and you lovely people with me wherever I go with it because, if I hadn't had this one place to discuss books and constantly remember how much I just fucking love reading, I probably wouldn't have thought to go back to education at all. Even though I sometimes keep myself awake wondering what I'm actually going to do with a Masters in Shakespeare, I always just end up telling myself, well, even if I do nothing with it, I'll still have had the experience of doing it, and of reading some of the best stuff ever, and you know what, education is never a waste, you guys!

Just another thing I get to carry with me all the time. 

But YOU GUYS. You guys are the best. What would even be the point of (very occasionally) writing things and working through thoughts in the comments if you weren't there too? It's still so ridiculous to me that I have a whole network of people to talk to about almost anything, like asking Kayleigh about her thoughts on postgraduate study, or exchanging emails with Alley about Mad Men, or mass facebooking the only people I know will care about a feminist retelling of Harry Potter as much as I do. We've gone so far beyond the limits of our own blogs (quite literally, in the cases of Ellie, Hanna, Charlotte and especially Bex, whose house I have even been to!!!) I truly believe I have hunted down the best people that the world of book blogs has to offer, and so all of those sparkly YA blogs I had to sift through to find you people has been completely and utterly worth it. Good job being so excellent and making me spend all my money on books you say are awesome. You BEASTS.

The oven in my house is broken (don't even talk to me about it, I can't) so the tradition of baked goods for my blog birthday has been broken for another year, since last year I was too sad to bake. Which, considering that makes two and two, it isn't even a tradition anymore so much as that thing I did twice when I was 1) unemployed, and then 2) very underemployed. Having said that...

How does one end a post when it's on a topic that isn't finished? I'll be writing here, however sporadically (and it will be SO sporadically, at least till after March) for the forseeable future, and I'll be clinging onto you lot for as long as you'll let me. There are so many ways in which the internet and social media are unsatisfying and damaging and all that other stuff, but I can't ever really think that with a straight face because without it I wouldn't have you guys in my life, practically on a daily basis. I say it every year, and all the time, but I didn't expect to get actual friends from this whole blogging thing, but now I just think it's the whole point. Nothing else would have been as good, and this is really good. 

Let's see, how to finish this post...
No, wait. Less sarcasm, more genuine emotion...
I really do.

Saturday 3 January 2015

2014 End of Year Book Survey (Almost in 2014 and Everything... Wow.)

It is ridiculous to me that it's even 2015 already, but the calendar I got today (which is amazing in itself! I normally get a calendar in, like, February) and all the shitty go-on-a-diet-and-exercise-or-you-should-just-crawl-into-a-hole-and-die adverts on TV suggest that it may, in fact, be a brand new year. Which is cool and all, but I just have these essays to write (obviously, why else would I be writing a blog post?) and THEN I can accept that a new year has begun. I'm in limbo until the 12th January basically, guys.

I want to say something here about how ridiculous 2014 was as a year, but I've probably made that pretty clear over the last 12 months anyway. It started terribly and ended somewhat disappointingly, but all the stuff in between was very... stuff-like, and overwhelming, and exciting, and horrible and there was just a lot, a LOT of stuff. I am not the best with change, so, had I anticipated most of the things that happened I would have been like 'NOOOOOO', but mostly it all happened around me and I just kind of worked with it and around it and I'm pretty ok, I guess.

Apart from those essays. Should probably do something about those.

Anyway. This survey is, as always, hosted by The Perpetual Page Turner, and I am grateful she does this and I don't have to think up my own categories and stuff for a yearly wrap up. Having said that, if I don't like any of the questions, I'm totally not answering them. And I'm adding in my own stuff. So there.

2014 Reading Stats

Number of books I read: 60
Number of re-reads: 8 (huh, I assumed I'd have re-read more because Shakespeare)
Male/Female: 33/27 (I was doing so welllll reading women!)
Fiction/Non-Fiction: 45/15 (This is probably invalid considering all the academic essays I read)
Books In Translation Read: 10 (mainly because of that Japanese phase I had in the summer)
White/Non-White Authors Read: 49/11 (ooooof)
Total Pages Read: 18,117 (again, a total lie because of all the essays and shit)

So, my stats suck, and I mostly blame Shakespeare apart from the lack of diversity thing, because that was pretty much all me. But look at all my non-fiction and translated books! I try to do stuff, man.

Best in Books

1. Best book you read in 2014?
Hmmm... This is a very very difficult task when you've been reading Shakespeare for three months and can't really remember other books. Ok, ignoring Shakespeare (I know, right?) I'm going to give a shout-out to NOS4R2 by Joe Hill (really good work baby King) but probably choose World War Z, because that book is properly excellent.

2.  Book you were excited about and wanted to love more?
I'm going to say We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson. LOVED The Haunting of Hill House, this... less so. Also kind of lame? The Keep by Jennifer Egan. PLEASE WRITE MORE GOON SQUAD CALIBRE STUFF, J!

3. Most Surprising (in a good OR bad way) book you read in 2014?
Oooh, yes, I've got this- I really really enjoyed Franny and Zooey which is ridiculous because I hate Salinger. Or, ok, I hate The Catcher in the Rye. But this was all good.

4. Book you pushed the most people to read in 2014?
I don't know, but I think it's important you know that I'm the worst pusher of books to my housemate and I don't think he's finished any of them yet. Also he returned Twin Peaks without watching it, so I worry about him, really.

5. Best series you started in 2014? Best sequel of 2014? Best series ender of 2014?
Um... are we onto films now? I don't know, leave me alone. Harry Potter is the answer.

6. Favourite new author you discovered in 2014?
Ooooh... I should probably say Yoko Ogawa cause I read TWO of her books! In the same year! But actually I'm going to say Joan Didion because she broke my heart and I need to read all her books ever.

7. Best book from a genre out of your comfort zone?
Well the two best books about running (totally a genre, right?) I read were Running Like A Girl and What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. Also, the only books I've ever read about running. Like, ever.

8. Most action packed/thrilling/unputdownable book of the year?
Um... ok, yes, The Silkworm was really pretty good. The fact that I HAD to read it to take it back to the library didn't mean that it was any less difficult to put down.

9. Book you read in 2014 you're most likely to re-read in 2015?
Possibly either of the running books, but more likely probably many of the Shakespeares, depending on what I write my dissertation on (NO IDEA). To be fair, I've already re-read King Lear this year, and I'm going to have to re-read at least parts of As You Like It... Ah, life.

10. Favourite cover of a book you read in 2014?
Oh my god, I have no fucking idea. Hang on...
The Landline cover is pretty great. RAINBOW ROWELL SHOUT OUT.

11. Most memorable character of 2014?
It disgusts me that I'm going to say King Lear. But, you study a guy for 10 weeks, stuff starts to happen... Especially when you're in the middle of writing an essay about him and all...

12. Most beautifully written book read in 2014?
Come on, this isn't fair- I can't answer Shakespeare for everything but the bastard can write. OK, putting HIM aside for a minute, Let's say Stoner. Damn, that was a good book.

13. The most thought-provoking/life changing book of 2014?
Because of how I felt at the start of the year, everything felt life changing and thought provoking. I was a mess, but I was totally evolving or something. It was weird. But, in a more practical sense, I say the two running books (see above) as well as The First Twenty Minutes. Exercise is cool, yo.

14. Book you can't believe you waited till 2014 to FINALLY read?
Hmm. I didn't really read any books this year that I've been holding onto for years and years, but I can't believe I finally read my first (full) Dickens last year in the Bleak House Readalong. Also that the Bleak House redialing was only last year, didn't we do that about 4 years ago?

15. Favourite Passage/Quote from a book you read in 2014?
Seriously? I don't have a fucking clue. I'm sure I read some great stuff. Let's go with "though she be but little, she is fierce" from A Midsummer Night's Dream, because how is that not great?

16. Shortest and Longest book you read in 2014?
Shortest was I Murdered My Library by Linda Grant (Hmm... Should probably write something about that...) and longest was Bleak House by Dickens. Because that was clearly 10,000 pages long.

17. Book that shocked you the most?
Ok, I thought this was going to be difficult, but actually the book that has most made me feel like I'm going to throw up (like, I don't think any book has ever made me feel like that before) is In The Miso Soup by Ryu Murakami. I feel like I only didn't throw up because I was on the Tube and would have been totally embarrassed. DAMMIT MURAKAMI, YOU'RE GROSS!

18. Redacted because it's annoying.

19. Favourite non-romantic relationship of the year?
Um, the one with my mum? I don't fucking know, all the women in The Women's Room? Yes, that.

20. Favourite book you read in 2014 from an author you've read previously?
The Goldfinch? The Goldfinch. Also there are quite a lot, so.

21. Best book read in 2014 solely because of a recommendation?
Probably World War Z, which I basically read because Alley doesn't shut up about it. Thanks, Alley!

22. Redacted for annoyance.

23. Best 2014 debut you read?
LOL I think the only debut I read this year was (wait for it) The Comedy of Errors which is widely believed to be Shakespeare's first play, I think (but don't quote me on that).

24. Best world building/most vivid setting you read this year?
I'm going to go with Coraline, that shit was well set up and also terrifying.

25. Redacted because I don't read fun books.

26. Book that made you cry or nearly cry in 2014?
Um. I was very emotional at the start of the year. But The Year of Magical Thinking made me cry in Public. As did Running Like a Girl. It's been a weird year.

27. (seriously, is this still going on?) Hidden gem of the year?
Um um um I kind of want to say The Women's Room because I don't think enough people know about it, but at the same time I don't really know how I felt about it. So let's just say The Housekeeper and the Professor.

28. Book that crushed your soul.
King Lear has killed me. In a bad way. And Endgame killed me in a the world is dead kind of way. I am supposed to be writing an essay about both of these things at this very second.

29. Most unique book you read in 2014?
I'm going to say Life After Life because daaaamn that was an interesting concept and I've never really read anything quite like it before. I didn't necessarily LOVE it (after I'd finished it, anyway) but it really was very unique.

30. (is this the promised end?) Book that made you the most mad?
See above re: all the mentions of King Lear. I will hate it until the essay is done, then I will remember it fondly. Basically.

God, that was longer than I remember it being. Don't ask me anything about books again for, like a whole year. Please. Also links to basically all these reviews are going to be in the book tab at the top. I am definitely too lazy to do them myself. PEACE OUT KIDS.