Sunday 28 February 2016

Sunday Sundries: Life, Lately

Oh heyyyy it's Sunday again! I'm probably at work as you're reading this because I make very bad life choices (like agreeing to work for money. Madness.) and THAT is pretty much how my life is going lately. I think I have probably worked more (for money, anyway) this February than maybe any other month in my life which on the one hand is like 'yay money!' and on the other is like 'oh... That's all the money?' because, I may have mentioned before, my job is not very good.

ANYWAY. I shall stop there LEST I write about my job on the internet and somehow get in trouble for it (plus yesterday we got free donuts and diet coke and prosecco so who am I to complain?) but it just feels like when it comes to recapping my life lately I'm just constantly saying 'yeah I worked a lot and on my days off I was tired so didn't do stuff'. BASICALLY I need some more excitement in my life, and if anyone knows how to get that without spending very much money then I am all ears.

So instead of talking about my week (summary: work, new glasses, weird weird sickness on Thursday that was terrible, the donut thing) let me talk to you about a revelation I've been having about life since last June and which is still ongoing in the sense of actually, properly, trying to apply this new knowledge to my life to make an actual difference to it. I know I'm not really making any sense here, so let me start from the beginning.

Last June I went out with this chef guy (he's not the part of this worth talking about, ya know what I mean?) and during a gay old time at London Zoo I was saying that I found his chef skills pretty impressive (flirting, innit) and how I can't really cook amazingly, and he kind of shrugged and said "it's just repetition, really".

It's just repetition.




Here's something you should know about me. I'm a pretty smart person, which I say not to brag but to later criticise myself. School was never really a struggle for me because I just kind of got it- I could learn the stuff and write the stuff and exams weren't really that stressful for me. I was always kind of just good at school stuff without even trying, and even as I'm writing this I know how much of a dick I'm sounding. But bear with me because I'm about to get to my point.

There are some things I've struggled with doing in life. I'm not naturally good at exercise, so I've given up on it a lot. I'm not naturally good at languages, so instead of learning them I pretty much just give up on them. I wasn't immediately good at driving, so I stopped having lessons and, ya know, I walk everywhere (I actually don't mind this one). Because it hasn't been a struggle to learn a lot of things in life, when something is difficult for me, I just give up on it. I just hide behind 'not being naturally good' at something like that means I can't actually do it, when in fact: it's just repetition.

Repetition doesn't come naturally to me. I'm not good at telling the same story twice because I get bored (genuinely. If I want people to know something I'll just tell one person and let it circulate) and I'm no good at being bad at something. I get frustrated easily if something isn't easy to me, and because I'm also naturally lazy (I really am) that means I give up. This is all a revelation to me because until that guy said 'it's just repetition' it was honestly like I didn't understand that if you just keep on doing something you get better at it. I was operating more on the idea that if I'm not immediately good at something then I never will be, so what's the point?

And I honestly feel like I get the point now! That one little comment sparked a whole brain revolution that has made me see that if you just do something A LOT then you'll naturally get better at it because how could you not? I try to apply it to everything I do now, good or bad, because run didn't go well? Do it more and you'll get better. You don't understand this paragraph? Read it again and see what happens. I'm trying to learn Japanese, and even though I feel like nothing is really sticking in my brain* and I feel like I'm really bad at it, I'm sticking with it because IT'S. JUST. REPETITION. Regardless of how long it takes to learn, repetition is what it is.

So there you have it. This guy definitely has no idea that he set a bit of a revolution off in my brain, but I honestly feel like I've uncovered my biggest weakness and I'm actively trying to change the way I think about learning and doing new things. I can't pretend that it's an easy thing to do, and more often than not laziness wins ('but why don't I just naturally know all Japanese? That's not fair!') but trying is all I can ask of myself and that's what I'm doing. BOOM life changes and all that.

*Seriously, do you know how hard Japanese is? You need to learn a whole new alphabet, plus the sounds that the symbols make, PLUS what those sounds mean in English and omfg

Thursday 25 February 2016

Devouring Books: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

"Hell is the absence of the people you long for."

Around this time last year, when I was trapped in Shakespeareland without any sign of reprieve, everyone seemed to be reading Station Eleven and loving the pants off it. I say seemed to be because I can't really remember now (and only scanned blogs during that time anyway, SORRY I LOVE YOU ALL) but I know that Station Eleven made its way onto my wishlist and the lovely Hanna bought it for me for my birthday. I also know that it snuck its way into my brain thus: 
dystopia + Shakespeare + excellent writing=PERSONALLY WRITTEN FOR ME, LAURA
and basically, that's exactly what I got.

So. Station Eleven is kind of like The Stand, if in The Stand you replaced all the supernatural stuff (and most of the pages) with a travelling theatre that basically just performs Shakespeare. Now that I've written that sentence I've thought of about 100 ways in which the two are actually different, so I'm going to start again.

Station Eleven is kind of like The Stand in that they both take a devastating flu that wipes out around 99% of the population as their starting point, and from there go off in wildly different directions, of which I quite considerably prefer St. John Mandel's Emily's (sorry, Uncle Stevie). It's not just because of things like this:
"They'd performed more modern plays sometimes in the first few years, but what was startling, what no one would have anticipated, was that audiences seemed to prefer Shakespeare to their other theatrical offerings.
'People want what was best about the world,' Dieter said."
(although, COME ON!), but because Station Eleven really and truly thinks about WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE if 99% of the population died. She brings up things that I wouldn't have considered, like the fact that the internet wouldn't exist anymore (and if you think I can ever take the internet for granted again after that well then... You would be right, but I'm definitely more aware of its impermanence now), as well as heartbreaking realities that feel exactly like realities, like doing anything to survive, and doing even more to live ("Because survival is insufficient" is the motto of the Travelling Symphony in the novel).

What I especially liked about the book was the sense in which loss was covered. In so many dystopian novels, loss and grief in the personal sense is often overlooked in favour of what the living have to do to survive. Whilst it is in no way a central part of this book, either, there are still points at which the deep grief of losing everyone you've ever known and loved is recognised, appreciated, and attempted to be described. Knowing that the characters feel this grief (and I'll say again, it's not central and definitely not over-mentioned) makes the relationships between survivors so much more important, and yet not unrealistic- there is a whole chapter where SJM describes the personal hatreds of each member of the symphony, which is so true to human nature that you can't help but laugh at it.

Before I read it, I feared that Station Eleven might be pretentious, but it isn't even the tiniest bit. The storytelling is wonderful, the story itself is so real that I'm now really scared of getting a cold again, and I can't overstate just how much I loved this book. Even if it doesn't make you think about the weapon you'd adopt in case of apocalypse, it'll keep you entertained for the duration and probably make you cry some too. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Tuesday 23 February 2016

Devouring Books: The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

"You can think clearly only with your clothes on"

If I know anything about myself (and really, I surprise myself daily, I can't even), it's that I am a big fan of:

  1. Dystopian fiction
  2. Feminism
Atwood tends to be great for the feminism part of that always, and I still think a lot about how great, for example, The Edible Woman was; and she's also good at dystopias, most recently the Madaddam trilogy (which I like, but don't love). The Handmaid's Tale, though, combines both things at once, and does it with such a light touch that it doesn't have to matter that you're reading about the damaging potential of institutionalised misogyny (it's great without politics), but it's impossible to escape the implications that thinking like that can be really dangerous.

The book, then, starts in a world that seems to come just after ours- once empowered and wholly free are women are now categorised, and placed into roles that are most suited for them- some are cooks, maids, econowives, and the few women who have previously had children become handmaids, creepy vessels for the most powerful men to impregnate so that their genes might live on (and perpetuate the terrible world). It seems worth mentioning that this world is also environmentally fucked, so many people are sterile, which means that women who are not are both 'precious resources' and open to incredible exploitation.

This is kind of why the book is so scary. In a world that is environmentally fucked, and reproduction is limited,  women's bodies become not their own to control, but someone else's to use for their own ends. It's so close to a reality that could potentially happen (the environment being fucked as it is) (women's bodies attempting to be controlled as they are, especially in America) that it makes it terrifying to consider, and Atwood helps this along by showing scenes from the past- where people were together out of love (or at least lust) and women had their own jobs, and lives, and finances, just like we do. The main character of the book, Offred, (or, Of Fred, get it?) even had a second-wave feminist mother, making her own situation just that little bit more horrifying. But that, of course, is what makes dystopian fiction so great and so gripping- it has to be close enough to reality to make it plausible, and horrible enough so that we make sure it never comes to pass.

What I know about The Handmaid's Tale is that when I first read it just over 5 years ago, it made me just that little bit more feminist (and so, so angry) and it also made me NEED to talk to people about it. I don't think I can give The Handmaid's Tale all the credit for the creation of this blog, but it's one of a select group of books that I read directly after uni that I NEEDED to discuss with people but didn't really have that outlet anymore, thus this space was born! I think some of you have told me that you read this actually AT school/Uni, and I'm kind of jealous that I didn't cause I think it's perfect for that (the THEMES! And the FEMINISM! And OMG THE WRITING) and because I've kind of put it on my mental list of things that should be required reading for all humans, along with To Kill A Mockingbird and The Grapes of Wrath and lots of other books that I can't think of at the moment. But please, let us discuss in the comments!

One final word on The Handmaid's Tale- at the end, there's a wholly skippable but interesting appendix comprised of an academic lecture on Offred's Tale and what it tells us about her society etc etc. I'm not completely sure what Atwood was trying to do with it (legitimise Offred's story? Provide clues for what happens to her after it?), but for me it serves as a contrast between the relative powers of fiction and academia. Whilst the main body of the novel draws you in, plonks you down in a world that feels incredibly real and immediate, the academic annex draws you out, making you look at the situation with intellectual detachment rather than pressing emotional immediacy. This isn't necessarily a bad things, but it's a big part of why I'm not convinced that academia is the place for me*, because the majority of what I want from a book is the emotional attachment, not pulling things apart to see how they fit together. But then again, maybe there's no reason why you can't have both, and maybe I have hugely veered away from my original point.

Which is, this. The Handmaid's Tale. Read it, be changed. 

*Please don't quote me on this if I ever do a phD...

Sunday 21 February 2016

Sunday Sundries: Quizzity Quiz Quiz!

I can't tell if I mean quiz or book questionnaire or what, but that's what this post is going to be. I have had an immense week of working, a triumphant (or terrible) return of diet coke to my veins after 10 days away (sorry Lent, I'm pretty much an atheist anyway) and and and an awesome day of Frances that probably deserves a whole post but suffice it to say that we went to London and had a time and went to Daunt Books and ooooh-ed and it was fully the high point of the week.

Anyway. This post should probably be about how much I love Harper Lee, but I'm not at all ready to accept the fact that she's dead yet and so am going to remain in complete denial for a little while, if that's ok with everyone.

And so, bookish questionnaire time, LIKE THE OLD DAYS OF LIKE 4-5 YEARS AGO.

1. What is your favourite fictional food or drink?
It's not exactly fictional, but every single food Haruki Murakami has ever written about sounds amazing and I want some now and gimme.

2. How long did it take you to finish your last book?
Ummm... I think maybe 3 or 4 days? But I wasn't very busy last week and didn't feel well on Sunday so all of that gave me time!

3. How many times do you stare at your books or bookshelves each day?
Ha, how much free time do you think I have?! I probably give them a lingering glance before bed each night though, and I did find myself staring a little this morning...

4. How many Goodreads friends and books do you have?
I think I've said this before, but I'm not on Goodreads because if I'd known it existed I probably wouldn't have even started a blog, I just would have written things on there. So, zero obviously.

5. Do you ever quote books in public?
There are about 3 books I can remember any quotes from and only because I had to learn them for exams- but to be fair I was quoting one of those (Wuthering Heights) at Frances the other day so I guess the answer is yes.

6. Do you ever re-read books?
Of course! Way less since I've been a blogger, but I used to just re-read the same stuff all the time, cause it's damn good stuff!

7. Do you judge a book by its cover?
Sure. Even if I buy a book I really want to read but it has a terrible cover, I won't reaaaally want to read it...

8. Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr?
Why not all three?! I have been meaning to start a proper Tumblr for ages, but since I have trouble keeping up with/remembering to post on the other two, I probably shouldn't bother...

9. Which genres take you the longest to read?
Classics. But I never regret the time taken, so there's that.

10.  Who are your favourite book tubers or book bloggers?
Ummmmm... *points to the right* but you're ALL my favourites, every single one!

11. How often do you pre-order books?
Basically never because I am like 10,000 years behind in book reading, and I don't even really want to own hardbacks. I have been known to put books on hold at the library before they're released though.

12. Are you a shopaholic?
(Hang on, I think I've done this quiz before...) I would say no, but only because I have to suppress my natural instincts because of money and also space. Otherwise, sure.

13. How many times have you re-read your favourite book?
*Questions the term favourite book*

14. Do you own a lot of books?
More than I should, more than I would be able to move, more than any other items I own. I'm trying to get rid as I go though...

15. Do you take pictures of your books before you read them?
I am actually trying to remember to do this, because it's getting so bloody difficult to steal borrow book cover pictures from google images. So yeah, a bit.

16. Do you read every day?
Preeeetty much? Usually at least a little bit on the train. Definitely yes if we're including the internet!

17. How do you choose a new book?
Judge it by its cover, innit? No, I usually deliberate in front of bookshelves and choose one that doesn't look too heavy for my bag, or finish a book on a train and choose one from my kindle app. I'm kind of a haphazard person (read: mess).

18. Do you always have a book with you?
*pats phone lovingly* Yes. Yes I do.

19. What are your biggest distractions from reading? 
Making things, having friends who want to do stuff (ugh), but mostly, Netflix. That beautiful bastard.

20. What is your favourite place to buy books?
*cracks knuckles* well. My number one favourite place is probably Waterstones Piccadilly, but maybe my favourite place ever is The Strand and also any of the many bookshops I have been to in London of late... it's all good stuff, as is the internet cause the books are cheaper (sorry, bookshops).

Actually, all of that is a lie and the real answer is charity shops. Where the books really really are cheaper. Ah, books... <3

Welp, that was fun. Even though I might have done it before. Who cares?! It's Sunday, go out and frolic whilst I go and work and cry and comfort eat my way through.

Sunday 14 February 2016

Sunday Sundries: Happy Valentine's Day, Internet.

I don't normally have feels on Valentine's Day because honestly, who has the energy to worry about boys, but this year, through a combination of various factors including going to work ('I wouldn't be here if somebody loved me!') and feeling poorly ('I just want to stay in bed all day and be cuddled') have got me feeling a little bit sensitive about it. 

But now it's basically bedtime, I'm having a tiny bit of medicinal wine (I HAVE A COLD OK?!) and counting up the things I do have, and it's a whole lot. My lovely parents let me lounge about their house all day while I wasn't at work (and my mum drove me there and back cause she's amaaaazing) AND bought me flowers and a heart lollipop- I have been joking that it's probably because they think I'll top myself otherwise, but really I think it might just be because they love me (and I love them, too).

And then there's the internet! I do love it, I really do, and the outpouring of Facebook romantic love is a-ok because I have all of you lovely people to talk to, plus people I know in real life that I can foster the awesome power of the internet to speak to, today and all the days. I may not have someone who loves me like that, but I've got a whole lot of other amazing people in my life, which I would do well to remember not just on stupid Valentine's Day, but on all the days, really.

SO. To summarise this tiny post, I love you all, I love the internets, and thank you for being in my life. Allow me to say heart emoji, and also heart eye emoji, and ALSO blowing a little heart kiss emoji. You are all my valentines, whether you want to be or not. MWAH.

Sunday 7 February 2016

Sunday Sundries: The London Bookshop Crawl

Hi kids, tis Sunday again! Time to be deliriously happy for the opportunity to have a lie-in, and crushingly sad because, ya know, you (probably) have to go to work tomorrow.

This week has been pretty ok, and I'm sure that good things happened, but rather than talk about any of the week I'm just going to talk about Saturday and the London Bookshop Crawl because OH MY GOD IT WAS THE GREATEST THING IN THE WORLD EVER EVER EVER!

A little bit of background to the Bookshop Crawl- for many years now, Bex and I have been meeting up with many people from the internets to eat food and chat and buy books and generally be excellent people together. I know that a lot a lot of people do the same thing in maybe little groups, but after Bex, Katie and I went book shopping last Halloween (what else would a person do on Halloween?) Bex amazingly formulated and then only bloody executed the plan for mass blogger book shopping together, in London, on a Saturday, i.e. yesterday. So, whilst I only half jokingly now refer to myself as a founding member of the idea, I am fully in awe of what Bex has managed to pull together just by being an awesome and organised human being!

The day, though. It started for me a little bit late because I'm incapable of a) getting up in the mornings and b) remembering to set my alarm early enough that I'll have enough time to actually WALK to the station and not just magically be there. All this meant, though, was that I missed the assigned meeting point of Foyles, and caught up with everyone at Orbital Comics (an indie comic book shop near Leicester Square) instead. No drama! After locating our glorious leader, I was having a little browse when I MET ELLIE which was so awesome because I've been following her literally since she started blogging, and she's just as lovely as I thought she'd be.

Not long later, we were on our way to some secondhand and also really fancy bookshops (I'd look up their names but frankly I am much too lazy) where I got my hands on the Complete Brothers Grimm Fairytales and drooled over some signed Murakami first editions, and also met this Ellie who was also a delight to be around. I had slightly gotten separated from everyone else at this point, but Katie tracked me down and VERY sneakily suggested we go to Forbidden Planet- there's a bit of an in-joke here, but I've been yelling at Bex for MONTHS for the fact that the crawl wasn't officially visiting FP, hence the taking and sending of this photo:
Because I am consistently mature and graceful. Anyway. It would have been rude to leave Forbidden Planet after all that with nothing, so I obviously had to buy The Diary of a Teenage Girl before Katie and I went to get noodles for lunch.

After lunch, everyone reunited and took the long long walk to Persephone Books. I was pretty excited about this stop because Katie and Bex went there on one trip before when I had to leave to learn some Shakespeare, and it seemed so excellent, but it turned out to be even more wonderful than I'd expected. This lovely lady gave us a talk on the history of Persephone and how they work, and then proceeded to make every single book they sell sound completely amazing. Somehow I managed to only leave with one (I really don't know how!) but I now basically need all of the Persephone books in the world (to be fair, at present there are only 115!)- note to everyone I know.

After Persephone (I know) we headed off to the London Review of Books Bookshop, which is right near the British Museum and SUCH an adorable shop. To me, it felt like the perfect size (not too big, not too small, goldilocks style) and pretty much had all the books a person could need, hence why I bought my last couple of books there- The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera, and the hilariously named I Love Dick because there is no sense in which I do not need that book. None. Needed it. I especially loved the LRB Bookshop because, thanks to Bex's amazing skills, they gave us 10% off our purchases AND a free goody bag so I now have an extra bag with which to avoid paying 5p for bags, as well as pencils and coasters and postcards... You get the idea.

So. By this point we were some very very tired book bloggers, so we slowly and creakily made the trek over to Waterstones Piccadilly, Europe's biggest bookshop and my personal favourite bookshop that isn't The Strand in NYC. By this point, we really really really needed cake, so whilst Bex got us a table (for two, that we managed to squeeze 5 around) I got us cokes and the biggest slices of cake anyone has ever had. Rejuvenated after cake and MASSIVE SIT DOWNS, we got up again (standing. Ugh.) to wearily look around Waterstones. I had personally, I think, shot my proverbial wad at this point, so more or less followed Bex and Katie around while they chose books, and then plaintively asked if we could find somewhere to sit down. We did! And whilst it was so great meeting all the other bloggery babes, it was also so lovely to have half an hour with just the three of us, founding members, I may say, of the day's expedition.

After good pizza and good conversation, it was time for us all to make our various ways home- I left feeling slightly smug about only having a 25 minute train journey home, but that quickly evaporated when I realised how windy and rainy it was and how much I had to PRESERVE THE BOOKS. I was both exhausted and buzzing when I got home, so although I couldn't deal with watching TV or anything so strenuous, I could apparently deal with taking photos of my beautiful books:
and, well, writing this post about my day- I'm going to say, literally the best one of the year so far! Long may it continue.

So, to summarise- meeting people from the internet remains one of the greatest things you can do, Bex is an absolute legend for organising all of this, and oh man, I really fucking love books. I think Bex is planning on making this an annual event, so I recommend following her on twitter if you want to buy books amongst 20-or so likeminded people at some point in the future. ALSO ON TWITTER, I fully recommend checking out the #LondonBookshopCrawl hashtag to have a gander at everyone's shenanigans, and if you were there (I WAS THERE, MAN!) and have written a post about it, please post a link in the comments so I can relive the day through you, too!


Thursday 4 February 2016

Devouring Stephen King: The Dark Tower VI- Song of Susannah

It may have been almost a year since my last Stephen King review, it may have taken me almost that long to finish this book, but dammit, I haven't forgotten my most important of all reading tasks, the Stephen King extravaganza that is my life.

Before I begin to vaguely talk about this book because it's in the middle of a series and so spoilers- I wouldn't recommend, if you were planning to, reading the last books of The Dark Tower series so far apart. King essentially wrote the books one after the other and that's kind of how they should be read. When I first read the series, I finished all 7 in about a month (unemployment is intense, you guys) and it was the greatest and I wouldn't have been able to tell you that it had any flaws because oh my god. The series is so good you guys (for the record, I still believe that, at least). Reading them so far apart not only decreases the dramatic tension that these last three books genuinely have, but mean that Song of Susannah, as a stand alone book, does not fare well under scrutiny.

So. Wolves of the Calla ends with the disappearance of Susannah (is that a spoiler? That's probably a bit of a spoiler...) and Song of Susannah picks up right after that. As far as I can tell, all of the events of the book take place over one day, albeit a different day for each group of characters, and it... Is... Long. It's drawn out, it brings up a great deal of unnecessary information, only a fraction of which ever becomes relevant, and I just... I didn't need most of it. The three narratives interwoven in this book could more or less have been 3 or 4 chapters of another book, and I would have been fine with that.

This is, of course, an opinion I've formed only with hindsight and actually, partially because I want to finish this series and move ON with my Stephen King journey (11/22/63 awaits!) and so I suppose in some ways its not the pacing of the book that's at fault so much as the pacing I've been able to read these books at. Had I been racing through the series as I did before, I wouldn't have noticed the giant flaw of the fact that nothing happens in this book because of the things that happen in the book before and the book afterwards. I guess this is a symptom of series in general- some books are just going to be slower than others because some bigger events have to be saved for later (it's notable that the Half Blood Prince is probably the least event-y of the Harry Potter books, basically BECAUSE it's Harry being prepared for the final one, and maybe that's part of what's happening here, too).

Essentially though, I will say this about Song of Susannah- whilst I previously thought that Wizard and Glass was my least favourite Dark Tower book, this one has now made my shit list by excruciatingly labouring a couple of points and making a book out of them. Regardless, it's still part of a series that I love enduringly, and I appreciate it in that sense, whilst also considering it a bit of a fail as a stand-alone book. Since it doesn't have to stand alone, I guess that's ok, but since I read it alone, it's definitely not.

Monday 1 February 2016

Things I Read In January

I said I'd do it and I'm doing it and here is the thing. Here are the things I read in January that I'm not going to write longer reviews for (the things that I am going to write longer reviews for are incoming too, just you wait!)

Song of Susannah- Stephen King
In the spirit of all Stephen King novels so far, Imma review this one properly. But in short: I've been thinking about it and it might just be my least favourite novel in The Dark Tower series, even though I didn't feel like that about it until I re-read it. But we'll discuss that later *nods conspiratorially*

Moominvalley in November- Tove Jansson
Believe it or not, I actually started reading Moominvalley in November in, you know, November. Considering the fact that it's a children's book and a whopping 158 pages long, I think you'll understand me when I say that I really haven't been setting aside actual time to read until this month. Anyway. I've been trying to read the moomin books because I feel bad just loving their physical form but not really knowing their tales, and this was a bad one to start with because it has no moomins, just their absence and what it means and how it feels for the other residents of moominvalley. Which, to be fair, was an interesting and growing experience for many of the characters in this book but I wanted slightly more of moomin being adventurous and slightly less of characters I didn't really know having learning experiences. Still, it's more philosophical than your average children's book, and worthy of being read in a shorter timescale than two months.

Scott Pilgrim Vs The World Series- Bryan Lee O'Malley
Scott Pilgrim really deserves a full post considering how much I enjoyed the comic book series, but, you know, I'm a terrible human. That actually leads me in really well to these 6 volumes because Scott Pilgrim is kind of a terrible human, but actually also you root for him and want him to win always? I'm being really non-descriptive of the plot because I (almost definitely erroneously) believe that everyone has seen the movie (which I also kinda love) but essentially Scott Pilgrim, who is broke and totally unemployed, but in a band, falls in love with this girl, Ramona, and has to defeat her seven evil exes if he wants to be with her. THAT, though, I think, is really just a cover for a look at the aimlessness of life in ones early twenties these days and the struggle to figure out what anyone is doing, or supposed to be doing, and oh man can I relate. Nobody mention the fact that I'm in my mid-late twenties, ok? 

The point, anyway: It's a solid story, I really liked the art, the characters are so great (even if you kind of hate them) and I read all 6 books in about 3 days, even though I definitely had loads of other stuff I had to do. Special mention to Bex for lending them to me, be nice to her and maybe she'll lend you some books someday too!

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant- Anne Tyler
I only heard about Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant because it was on one of those lists of 'books that are amazing but kinda forgotten' (obviously the exact title) and, honestly, I'm pretty glad I found that list. It's not exactly an amazingly intricate plot or anything, but in the way of literary fiction the characters are so wonderful and human that I honestly felt that I was reading a real family chronicle (except I don't think anyone is that honest about their feelings) instead of fiction. In the way of truly excellent fiction, as well, it helped me understand things about myself that I didn't even know I felt, and whilst that's obviously a personal reaction to literature, it doesn't mean that it won't move you too, and even if it doesn't, you've still got a novel about a family trying to hold themselves together through everything, everything being life in a general sense. 

The Handmaid's Tale- Margaret Atwood
Reading The Handmaid's Tale was genuinely one of the reasons I started this blog, because I read a book that shook my core so dramatically, and I didn't really have anyone to talk to about it. Since I started this a couple of months after that, though, I never reviewed it here ever, and so now (or in a little bit) is the time for doing that, I think. In short form, though- this is one of my favourite books, one of my favourite dystopias, and should be required reading for everyone who doesn't think feminism is necessary anymore.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire- JK Rowling
My first, my last, my everything. Obviously as great as it has always been, still my favourite book of the series.

Station Eleven- Emily St John Mandel
I feel like I deceived you slightly by saying I was going to let the books from January go, because I definitely feel the need to write a full review of Station Eleven. I can't escape the love of dystopias, ok guys, and this one is truly spectacular. Just hold on for some more interesting thoughts, I promise they'll be good.

Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World- Haruki Murakami
I started off kind of hating this book, but in the end I'm almost at the point of calling it my favourite Murakami? Here's the deal- unlike other Murakamis, which start with normality (more or less) and slowly drop you into a sense of increasing weirdness, Hard-boiled Wonderland and the End of the World drops you straight into the weirdness and it doesn't feel like it's going to let you go. I like to be eased rather than rocketed into my Murakamis so I wasn't pleased, but once I got through the first few chapters, the book evens out and becomes a meditation on the nature of the mind, with side helpings of criminal conspiracies, delicious sounding food, and musings about ears. It's Murakami as we love (and/or tolerate him) but as one of his earlier novels, I couldn't help feeling as though, in many ways, this was more of a complete story than some of his later works. Even though the circumstances are increasingly strange, the plot was one that was almost conventional- learning how to deal with the things you are going to lost and working out which things are the most valuable to you. 

But, don't get me wrong. It's still weird as fuck. 

BOOM January, you've been great. Let's see what February has in store, shall we?