Sunday 31 July 2016

Sunday Sundries: Big Life Things!

Happy Sunday, internet folks.
I hope you're having experiences that make you as happy as this cat.

I have news! Like actual news that isn't about books or like the food I've eaten this week, and although those are all viable things to talk about on here, they are not my news.

SO. This Friday was my last day at my job, not because of any kind of bad reasons but instead because I got a new job! A better one! That will involve what I hope are new and exciting tasks! (I might be overly optimistic on that last point, but we'll see, you dig?) It was so weird and emotional saying goodbye to the place I've worked for nearly 4 years, and for people I've worked with for nearly that long, and they really gave me a lovely send off.
 I literally got all my favourite things (red wine, chocolate oranges and, if you'll please see below, sunflowers!) and vouchers! VOUCHERS! I won't tell you how much I have to spend in Waterstones but it is A LOT and I was a little bit overwhelmed by the generosity of my colleagues, as well as impressed at how much attention they'd paid to, like, the stuff I like.
Everyone kept asking me if I was sad, and I was, if I'm honest, finding it really hard all day to be sad because I had so many lovely things, and people were saying lovely things, and there was food! It was like a party, and made me wish I was leaving work every day, if I'm honest!

But alas, my work there is now done, although the company owner is throwing a leaving BBQ for me in a couple of weeks that is definitely not going to see me getting ridiculously and upsettingly drunk, except that obviously it will. I'm now looking at a week off any and all kinds of work, which is a dizzyingly excellent prospect, and after that I'll be starting work at the local council in an admin-y position, and I feel like that's all I'm allowed to give you because this is the internet? But let's just say that it has the following advantages over my old job: sick pay, actually realistic amount of holiday days, closer to my house, actual chances of career advancement, flexible working hours (!!!), and other things I can't even think of right now. It's also the first time in my adult life I'll be working actual, proper full time hours (I know)  so obviously I'm going to be knackered all the time for a little while. But I think, and hope, it's going to be worth it.

So that's what's going on with me, how about you? Any big life changes I should know about? Tell me everything.

Tuesday 26 July 2016

Devouring Stephen King: Cell

Cell. What is there to say about Cell? I have mixed feelings about this King, because although I have quite a few problems with the story and its pacing and ughhhh the ending and the dull parts, it's also the first King book in a very, very long time to actually scare me. Doubtless this has something to do with the fact I've just come off of a run of re-reading, which is never as scary, but there were some truly chilling parts of Cell that made me want to leave the book somewhere far away and never return to it. Which is GREAT, and something that I never realise I miss from a King book until it's there again and it's like ahhhh. That's the stuff.

But, then again, there are the flaws.

Ok, so Cell has, I believe, been lauded as a kind of 21st century version of The Stand, which is frankly a crazy thing to say because it's nowhere near as good as The Stand, although equally as apocalypsey (yep, I just made that a word...). The book starts with this pulse that affects everyone who has a mobile phone switched on near them, making them literally lose their minds, going feral and injuring others and sometimes themselves. Anyone not in possession of a phone is in extreme danger, and in this first wave of suffering and horribleness, not only does a large portion of the population become dangerous, another large portion become victims of this new danger, killed by anyone standing near them with a phone.

This novel is very much of its time in the sense of being scared of mobile phones, in that it was written in probably at about the last point in history (2002, I think?) where we weren't all glued to our phones. It's vaguely technophobic in its sentiment, and definitely made me wonder what Stephen King (now with his own twitter account!) thinks about the fact that the majority of people now carry a tiny computer around in their pockets and how the internet has progressed in the relatively short time since he wrote Cell. Maybe Stephen King just sits around thinking everyone's basically a zombie these days, who am I to say?

Anyway. One of my main problems with Cell is the fact that it is so immediate-aftermath-y after the initial pulse, rather than taking a wider look at what would happen to society (such as it is) in the months and years to come. The entire book takes place in basically the first month after the event, and frankly I like my dystopias to have a little wider-ranging view than that (see: The Stand). The timeline is also ineffective because whilst it means that some things get resolved quickly, it also means that one of the major events in the books feels incredibly rushed, almost like King thought 'God I'm bored of this now, let's just get this over with'. It's very possible that more thought went into it than that (God, I hope so), but it still feels like a bodged job to get the book ended, essentially.

And yet. There were still interesting parts. One of the most intriguing ideas I found from the book was the thought of what humanity means when the majority of it has moved on whereas a tiny minority stay the same. The characters speculate on what it means to be in the 1% of humanity unaffected by the pulse (and still alive) vs the 99% who, it becomes clear, are almost evolving into something completely different. The uncomfortable question arises of, if they're now the minority and humanity now looks completely different, if they try to hurt or kill the 99%, does that make THEM the bad guys? It's all very interesting stuff, and I would have liked to have seen that explored more than all the descriptions of walking, and, you know, how shocked people are and stuff (it's a lot. Obviously it's a lot. Duh.)

So, my mixed feelings remain, even if they lean more to the side of encouraging people to read this, if only for the scares elicited by the phone zombies. I read this on the coach back from Leeds, and genuinely had to keep stopping reading it because I couldn't quite cope, and you know what? That's honestly what I started reading King for in the first place. This isn't his best, but it's still pretty good for the scares and even for the thinks.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Sunday Sundries: Pokemon Go Has Taken Over My Whole Life and I Don't Even Mind

Happy Sunday, everyone!
I am taking it easy today for I have been hit with an infection and the antibiotics are wiping me out. Since this is basically what Sundays are for, I ain't mad. This whole week, however, has not been about resting AT ALL, but about Pokemon hunting, and maaaaaan. I am all about the Pokemon.

I mean, seriously. Monday, after work, I took a really really long route home so I could search for Pokemon in this park that's near my house. Tuesday, I finished work early because the office was hotter than the centre of hell (like seriously, dangerously hot) AND YET still went looking for Pokemon round my parents' area after dinner in the still scorching heat. Wednesday, I was going to go on a half an hour hunt for Pokemon, and returned home AN HOUR AND A HALF LATER, and only because I really needed to pee.

You get the idea. To say I am obsessed with Pokemon Go would be an understatement, but also kind of boring because I'm sure it's basically all you've read about on the internet lately. I get it, I do, but for me this is the absolute realisation of a childhood dream and it is everything. I feel like I didn't even know how much I wanted to be Ash Ketchum until I basically get to live my life like that every day, and daaaaamn, I wanted it badly. Five years of obsessive Pokemon watching and playing and reading (I still have my original 'Pokedex', a book basically just describing all 151 Pokemon [there are no others]) have culminated in this dream life I'm living now, or at least have been living for the past week and a bit.
Basically me all the time now.

Things that are bugging me- people being real downers about 'adults' playing Pokemon Go. I mean, this goes double for people in my age group, because I can't even begin to fathom how they aren't. Did they not watch Pokemon obsessively from the ages of 7-12, or are they just killjoys who hate fun, and also, let's face it, 20-somethings getting lots and lots of exercise? I'm surprised that anyone considers this a game for children, seeing as it was released for smartphones which children don't tend to have themselves, and also POKEMON IS MINE. IT'S MIIIIIINE. Kids can't have it, because it's mine.


Ahem. So obviously I basically just have one thing on my mind at the moment, and I'm pretty ok with that. I have done minimal reading, TV watching, and most other things this week, but I have caught more than 100 Pokemon* so everything is fabulous. Now tell me, tell me. Are you playing Pokemon Go? What have you caught? DO YOU HAVE A PIKACHU YET I WANT ONEEEEEE? Please let me know in the comments and have a fabulous Sunday.

*Not all of different types. I'm not a superhero.

Thursday 21 July 2016

Devouring Stephen King: The Colorado Kid

The Colorado Kid is, I think, one of the strangest King books I've read. It's not especially strange in subject matter (it's one of those that merely hints at the supernatural rather than enforcing it), but it's strange in the sense that, structurally, it's much more about the telling of a story than about the main event itself. Even now, it's a structure that I'm not entirely convinced I liked, but at the same time I still feel like I enjoyed this book a decent amount.

I'll back up a little. The Colorado Kid opens with a lunch between two old, ollllld journalists from a tiny Maine newspaper, their 22 year old intern* whose name I definitely can't remember, and a hotshot journalist from, I wanna say, The Boston Globe**. This hotshot is down at the Maine coast to try and extract from the older men an 'unsolved mystery' kind of story to publish in his larger paper, and the men tell him that sorry, they really don't have anything for him. He goes back to Maine, the intern confronts them, and it turns out that, in fact, they have a GREAT unsolved mystery story (because of course they do) that they just didn't want the other guy to have.

This is pretty much the jumping off point of the story. From here, I expected it to be mostly mystery based, told in flashbacks and kind of ignoring the characters introduced in the first chapter in favour of the mystery. What I got instead was a glimpse into the workings of the newsroom of a tiny paper, a lesson in patience, journalism, and attempted mystery solving for the intern, with way less mystery than I was expecting. Whilst this very occasionally became frustrating because I wanted to knowwww what happened to the guyyyy (yeah that's how I phrased it in my head), I also became more interested in the journalist characters, their methods, and what happened to them, too.

The Colorado Kid is a teeny weeny book, perfect for carrying around and reading on the train and whatnot, but maybe not perfect at being either a mystery OR Hard Case Crime (which is the publishing house it belongs to, but also let's pretend that's a genre cause it sounds good) novel. It's a total deviation from what I was expecting, and there was hardly a policeman's voice to be found, but it was great at building characters who were as interested in the mystery as the reader, and is just, in general, pretty fun to read. Mainly (she says in jest... Kinda...) I was happy to read a really little Stephen King book for once, and I'd ask the guy to keep it up but I've seen some of the ones to come and maaaaaaan. It really makes you appreciate the littleuns.

*I say intern, I maybe mean 'fresh out of journalism school and in her first job' but intern is neater either way.
**It's been a while since I read this ok, give me a break.

Sunday 10 July 2016

Sunday Sundries: Right Now I Am...

Here's the deal with today- it's Sunday, I'm sleepy and I have to go out later which, you know, just ugh. I feel like I should be apologising for doing a kind of bullet point-y, update-y post, but a quick search through my blog (to find the categories to write about, obviously) suggests I haven't done one of these posts for TWO YEARS, so I don't really feel bad about phoning it in today!

So, here we go!

Right Now I Am...

Listening to: Hamilton. Non-stop. It's literally the only thing I want to listen to, and listening to it is practically all I want to do with my life at the moment. HOW IS IT SO GOOD, I LITERALLY DON'T UNDERSTAND.

Reading: As always, I am reading all the things. I had an uncomfortable couple of days at the end of this week where I didn't take a book with me to read on the train, mainly because I am only reading behemoths at the moment and can't deal with carrying heavy things an unnecessary distance. I just finished Cell by Stephen King which was fairly average, but I'm still reading the other books in my sidebar, with the exception of Middlemarch because apparently I just can't do classics at the moment, my brain has melted. But mostly I'm concerned with choosing a book that I can just carry in my damn bag!

Eating: I got some (more) red velvet oreos the other day so literally everything about my life is amazing. I'm trying not to eat them all (basically like 4 standard UK packets) in a week, but I'm promising NOTHING.

Watching: A constant problem in my life is that I'm not really watching anything at the moment. In many ways it's really good because it means I read more (and omfg I need to read more since I have all the books) but I do miss the giddy thrill of watching a series in like 3 days because that shit is the best.
So seriously, any recommendations?

Making: Again, kind of nothing (I know). I started this embroidery featuring Bukowski's A Lighthouse of Words in April (again, I know) but stalled for no particular reason and haven't got going again. I feel like summer is a time for gathering inspiration rather than creating anyway, and that is a sentiment I have entirely just made up, yes.

Planning: Ah, friends. I have some big life changes happening that I'm trying to prepare myself for at the moment, and I feel like I have to be coy about them even though I sort of don't but apparently I'm still not saying what this thing is? Again, I hate when people on the internet do this, but... Sorryyyyy!

Feeling: A little bit overwhelmed by life at the moment, but mostly in a good way. When I get a moment to breathe, I feel pretty good, so I think I'm doing ok.

Loving: Longer days, seeing friends, reading SO MUCH, HAMILTON THE MUSICAL FOREVER AND FOR LIFE.

Wanting: For certain things to hurry up, and for other things to slow down. I know that both things at once is basically literally impossible, but some things you want to be over, and some things you want to savour, you know?

Thinking: About the fun I had last weekend and the fun I'm bound to have next weekend and how it's all thanks to the internets. Thank you for everything, internets.

Looking forward to: The thing I can't talk about! But also a week off in August, sleep (always), and Shit Faced Shakespeare, which is the show I'm going to tonight which promises to be hilarious. INTO IT.

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Devouring Books: A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin

I feel like the first time I heard about A Game of Thrones (or A Song of Ice and Fire blah blah I know that's what the book series is actually called) I didn't think it was my thing at all. Fantasy is not where I automatically gravitate with reading, and I heard there were dragons and just, nah, I'm ok thanks. I also didn't really fancy the TV show for the same reasons, until my work-friend-who-gives-me-a-lift-from-the-station-because-she's-amazing started getting wholly enthusiastic about it every morning last year, and I just wanted to be right there with here.

And so, I watched all 5 seasons of the show in less than 4 weeks last summer when I was supposed to be writing my dissertation (hashtag YOLO I guess), and it was spectacular. Probably one of the best binge watching experiences of my life, and I say that as someone who used to watch 4 episodes of The West Wing a night, every night til I was done, in my second year as an undergrad (how did I ever get any degrees?!) It's now been about a year since being completely consumed by the characters of George R R Martin's world in TV form, so obviously this summer felt like exactly the right time to start reading the books.

And so we come, at last, to the point. I read A Game of Thrones in about a week, which is a really impressive rate for a book that I absolutely couldn't carry anywhere with me, for fear of spinal injury. I was led to believe (by a snooty journalist, to be fair) that GRRM's prose would be not-so-great, but I found the book immensely readable, and I am picky about prose. More than that, it made me want to be reading all the time. I was reading with my breakfast, straight after work, before bed, after bedtime... I can't overexposes what I mean by all the time. In the end, the only reason it didn't leave the house with me is because I did fuck my spine up last November and there's no way I was aggravating that shit again.

Until I really get into A Clash of Kings, that is...

In summary, it's an immensely readable book, even when you know that's going to happen. Maybe surprisingly, though, it's not necessarily a book I would want to read again, and that is entirely the fault of the TV show. Regardless of how much I read the book, and regardless of how much I enjoyed it, I couldn't help feeling like the TV series is just... better. Now I really really don't want to start a debate about which is actually better, and doubtless this is almost all a result of seeing the TV show first, but in spite of the book's 780 pages, there are many ways in which the TV show just feels... fuller.

I think most of this has to do with the way the story is told in the books. Each chapter is told from the perspective of, arguably, the TV show's most prominent characters, and whilst this allows for an excellent amount of development for these characters in the books, it also sometimes means that the other characters, whose inner monologues we do not encounter, sometimes feel flat. Although the TV show does not, in my opinion, do anything to rectify the dullness of Robb Stark's character (unsalvageable, that one), the Lannisters are the ones who suffer most in book form. In the book, Cersei, Joffrey, and to a lesser extent Jaime, are all seen through the eyes for characters who dislike them, and whilst this makes them clearly disliked by the other characters, it is not always clear why we as the audience should feel the same way. The TV show makes this so much clearer, and with the perspective of Cersei so clearly included, her motivations and general horribleness are made a lot more explicit. I was actually really surprised that she doesn't have a voice in this book, considering how dominant and consuming she feels in the TV show, but that doesn't necessarily make this a failing of the book so much as a very welcome addition to the TV show.

There are many other ways that the TV show benefits over the book(s) in being able to show even more multiple perspectives, but I won't bore you with all of them right now. Suffice it to say that although I'm definitely going to read all of the books, and probably in record time, once feels like it's going to be enough for me, which I cannot also say about the TV shows, which I already basically want to watch all the time. And really, isn't that the defining feature of their various successes for me as their audience? I think yes.

Friday 1 July 2016

Things I Read in June

Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
Joan Didion is a spectacular writer, and I doubt she's ever written anything that could make me question her writing gifts and skills and all that other good stuff. So, Play It As It Lays is spectacularly written and Joan is great at the writing thing, but. But. For me, this book was kind of like reading a Bret Easton Ellis book without the horrific yet numbing violence, in that these horrible things were happening to the characters except I didn't really care, because they were kind of awful anyway? But then again, this is a book about Hollywood, so actually I suspect that was the reaction I was supposed to have. Either way, this was fabulous to read because Didion is a fabulous writer, but I'm not sure I would want to read it again. 

The Dark Tower VII- The Dark Tower by Stephen King
I have already reviewed this, amazingly! It was wonderful to finish the series at last, and this might, might, just be the best book of the seven, except maybe for The Drawing of the Three. *ponders this issue for hours*.

A Game of Thrones by George R R Martin
I'm not going to say too much about A Game of Thrones because I have fully written a review of it, it's just on paper and hasn't gone digital yet cause I'm too lazy! Needless to say, I was enthralled and it's the book that started the reading rampage I'm now on because I literally couldn't stop reading it. NOW TO THE COMMENTS to talk about the end of Season 6, because OMG. OMGGGGG.

Bitch Planet by Deconnick and De Landro
I had a strained start with Bitch Planet. I got it in October last year and was so excited to read it, started it and was a bit... unimpressed. This month, I resolved to read it so I could at least pass it on to Bex when I saw her, but this time I could not get enough of it, and was desperately sad when I realised Volume 2 isn't out until October. Bitch Planet, I'm so sorry I didn't immediately grasp your genius, but I'm very happy to have you in my life now.

It's feminist-y, and comic-y, and basically everything I ever wanted in my life but didn't know I did til now. I fully get the non-conformist tattoo trend now, and damn I want to join that crowd of cool kids, I can't lie.

The Colorado Kid by Stephen King
Another one I don't reeeeally want to talk about because I have a thing where I want to not only read all the Stephen King, but properly review it, too. Still, this was a portable little lovely, and even though I'm not sure now how I feel about it structurally, I still feel as though I was thoroughly entertained by it when I was reading, which is all you want, really. 

Moranifesto by Caitlin Moran
Ah, Caitlin. Light of my life, fire of my loins and all that other good stuff. Moranifesto is essentially a load of Moran's newspaper columns (Moranthology presumably being successful enough that they decided to print more of them) and there's a lot of good stuff in here. Politics, feminism, Lena Dunham, Bricklebunch Cumbersnatch, etc etc. I got a little twinge every time Moran mentioned Bowie because SHE LOVED HIM SO MUCH SHE MUST HAVE BEEN SO SAD WHEN HE DIED (etc) and I was pretty excited that I could recycle her interview with Lena Dunham that I had so lovingly kept because I just love them both so much, ok? 

Essentially, Moranifesto is everything you would expect from a Caitlin Moran book, and is exquisite in its very Caitlin-ness. I am a fan, as you might expect. (Special thanks to Katie for getting me this for my birthday!)

Letters to my Fanny by Cherry Healey
Ughhhhhh, this book. For background, I bought it because Frances mentioned that it existed the last time I saw her, I remembered that I kind of liked Cherry Healey because she did some good BBC3 Documentaries, and then WE COULDN'T FIND THIS BOOK ANYWHERE. Its lack of availability made us obsessed with finding it, and I held onto this obsession until I went book shopping with Bex where I did find it and then bought it.

I was soon to regret this purchase. I wanted Letters to my Fanny to be a lot of things- insightful, interesting, groundbreaking, open, honest, and so on- but even though it opens with an apology to Healey's parents because of its 'shocking' nature, it was actually pretty... tame. It's structured as a series of letters to Healey's body parts (starting with, yes, her fanny) and covers her life experiences and attempts to look at the wider world and maaaaan is it dull. This book can't decide if it wants to be a memoir or a series of essays, and it's about as cohesive as Healey's writing, which rambles on and goes off on tangents until I just didn't give any fucks anymore about anything she was saying. She has a real knack for making her life sound boring, and a real knack for trying to be insightful but actually falling far short of that goal.

Essentially this book was really disappointing, and by about 100 pages in I was pretty much hate-reading it. It didn't teach me anything new about myself or make me feel anything other than pretty annoyed and literally the best thing about it was that it was light enough to carry in my bag to work. That's literally its only advantage in the world. Read with caution, avoid if at all possible.