A Blogging Good Read - November

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Joining me this month for A Blogging Good Read are Liz from Distract Me Now Please and Charlie from Charlie, Distracted. I didn't pick them cos of their matching blog names - just a happy coincidence!

Liz went for Adorkableby Sarra Manning:

Adorkable been on my ‘to read’ list for ages until I finally found it in a charity shop a couple of months ago. I was expecting good things because I love YA fiction and several people had recommended Manning’s books to me. Plot-wise, it charts the love-hate relationship of a kooky blogger and the most popular boy in school. I groaned inwardly when first I realised this, anticipating 2D characters and cringey descriptions of life online but luckily the novel contained neither!

The characters are incredibly well-crafted; I loved the way that Manning plays on the stereotypes, slowly revealing information about the characters in a way that kept challenging my preconceptions. I think the characters are what make the novel work so well; I found that I genuinely cared about what happened to them (even the ones I didn’t particularly like). It’s one of those books that’s very hard to put down, and the plot kept on surprising me until the very end. The ending made me want to punch the air and celebrate the fact that I’m a bit weird (I’m not usually known for my unbridled enthusiasm so that’s a big deal). It also made me really glad that social media didn’t exist when I was at school! I want to go and reread it NOW.

What did Charlie think?

I first read a Sarra Manning book when I was 15. My best friend was on the cover of Guitar Girl so it was obligatory. Having this book as part of this challenge was also obligatory or I would never have gone near it. This is the YA entry point for girls who grow into women who read Cecelia Ahearn and Victoria Hislop (aka my mum). It’s teenage chick lit which is just a bit too mushy for me. I have to say that the main character being a blogger felt totally disingenuous. It reminded me of the main character in Eat My Heart Out (which is the worst book I’ve ever read, so don’t take this as a recommendation), where the author chucked every modern day cliché in there to be ‘relatable’ but totally misses the mark.

Am I allowed to squee like a teenage fangirl? Because this book is BRILLIANT. Despite loving Sarra Manning's other books, I didn't have high hopes when I started it. The protagonist seemed like a British ripoff of Tavi Gevinson and having just read a fairly rubbish book for BGR where the social media star heroine was not well written at all, I was anticipating more of the same. I shouldn't have worried. Manning really gets social media and more importantly than that, she gets consistent characterisation. With the aforementioned book, the main character seemed to have been given social media fame in order to give her some personality (it didn't work) and then it was forgotten about, but here Jeane rings very true thoughout (albeit with a forgiveable smidge of poetic licence when it comes to things like living arrangements).

It's hugely engaging - I stayed up far too late glomming it - and the story fairly rattles along. Yes, I'm a sucker for romance so I enjoyed that part of the plotline but the friendship elements were just as important and I must admit to having a proper cry near the end when Jeane was reading all the emails. It's a fab book and well worth your time.

And now for something completely different...I picked Cold Graniteby Stuart MacBride:

The usual quandary about what to do when your favourite in a series isn't the first book applied here, but I went for Cold Granite. Yes, it's the first of the Logan McRae books but it's a really strong start to a series and I personally think police procedurals make a lot more sense if you start at the beginning rather than with book 3 or 4. McRae has just returned to work with the Aberdeen Police after a year off and then the dead body of a child turns up and well, it all gets worse from there...

MacBride's books are on the grim side but they're also really funny - even 9 books into the series I'm still chortling at some of the descriptions he comes up with for DS Steel. I've worked my way through a lot of crime authors and I can safely say that I enjoy this series more than almost any other. The plots romp along and that's not always something you can say about police books. They should be fast paced and gripping but I've read a lot that aren't. You can't chuck that accusation at this author.  As an example of Tartan Noir, it's a really good 'un!

Did Liz like it?

As a Val McDermid aficionado, I’m no stranger to Scottish crime fiction, so I was excited about having the chance to try a new author.

I really enjoyed Cold Granite. I liked the way that McBride weaved the different plot threads together; the different cases gave the narrative variety and kept me engaged, without making the plot impossible to follow. I was surprised by some of the plot twists but I felt like they just about stayed within the bounds of realism. My only criticism is that I’d have liked more exploration of the main characters, because I found myself wanting to know more about their backgrounds and home lives. This might be something that will come with reading more of the books in the series though. I’m not ready to replace Val just yet, but I will definitely read the next Logan McRae book.

How about Charlie?

I’m 100% sure that if I wasn’t such a wuss, I’d have loved this book. The reason I’ve never read any Stephen King or watched many horror films is because I convince myself it’s real. The thing is, this story could be real and that just upsets me. I wanted to do a Joey style ‘book in the freezer’ thing at one point. Despite this, it did make me chuckle in places and I can see why people would read more in the series as the protagonist is a miserable sod but ultimately good with it.

Charlie chose The First Fifteen Lives of Harry Augustby Claire North:

There’s something about time travel books that has a neverending appeal for me. It leans towards dystopian but doesn’t quite hit fantasy which is the perfect middle ground. This book is just magical. Somehow it is completely believable even though it’s literally impossible (or so I presume!). The main character has a back story and real heart that helps him really grow as a character, despite the fact that he’s technically hundreds of years old. The mortal enemy part is a bit James Bond but it does provide some much needed action. The whole thing is bizarre but beautiful; I’m totally obsessed!

I enjoyed this book, but with reservations. Most authors going with a time travel style plot are going to struggle to make their world and rules really stand out from the norm and although this made a good stab at it, it was ultimately a bit too reminiscent of quite a few other novels. The overall pace and plotting did noticeably dip after the halfway mark as well.

But having said that, I still whizzed through it and it was a good, entertaining read. Harry isn't exactly a likeable character but his lives and the way they unfold are very interesting to read about. You do really root for him to overcome the big bad as the world spins further and further into chaos. I just wish it had been accomplished in a way that matched the first part of the book.

What did Liz think?

Time travel books make my head spin, and this one wasn’t any different! I feel like I have a lot of unanswered questions about how the time travel rules work in the context of this book (although that might well be down to my own stupidity, rather than the explanations given by the author!). I thought the concept was absolutely brilliant, and the notion of ‘kalachakra’ (people who live their life over and over again) really excited me. Ultimately though I found the plot a little disappointing. For me the ending fell a bit flat; it didn’t live up to the promise of the concept and the build-up of the first half of the novel. Overall I thought it was good, but it could have been a lot better.

I now find myself constantly wondering, ‘What if I’m a kalachakra and this is my first life so I’m not aware of it yet?’ Just me..?

Thanks so much to Charlie and Liz for joining in!

Next month we'll be reading The Rules of Attractionby Bret Easton Ellis, Rivers of Londonby Ben Aaronovitch and The Shepherd's Crownby Terry Pratchett.

I Dislike Halloween

Saturday, 31 October 2015

I am really not a fan of this time of year. Bonfire Night is my autumn event of choice. Halloween is just hectic and exhausting. It's super busy for us at work and that's kinda sucked most of the fun out of it for me.

I do join in with the spirit of things occasionally though. Wizardly robes and a wand over a mildly themed outfit and I'm good to go.

I do enjoy this jumper a lot.

And the trusty orange tights with brown fishnets over the top combo always cheers me up. Tis also good for distracting the eye away from how dirty my trainers are!

Dress - H&M
Jumper - The Orphan's Arms
Converse - Spartoo
Cape - work
Wand - borrowed from Luna Lovegood

Happy Housewarming

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

I seem to be at that stage in life where everyone is buying houses. Sign of the times when you hit 30, I suppose. It's better than everyone being pregnant. I know what to do with houses and I am excellent at helping paint, decorate, buy cushions and haul lots of crap to the tip (I've had a lot of recent practice). I can also be relied upon to be v. enthusiastic about decor schemes and all things house. Babies I have zero idea what to do with. The whole process baffles me. I once distinguished myself by writing "Have a good baby!" in a card for a colleague about to go off on maternity leave...

However I think you'll agree it is much easier to buy a present for a baby than a house. All cute tiny things are automatically great so you're never short of options. I find housewarming presents much more tricky - trying to judge other people's taste in homeware is a lot more fraught than picking clothes, jewellery and the like. Hopefully you know their taste in most things but if there's a whole new house to decorate, you don't always know what look they're going for. There's nothing worse than landing someone with that deeply misjudged horrible present that they despise but have to hide in a cupboard and get out when you're due to visit. *shudders*  I don't ever want to be that sort of giftgiver. Especially not when all my pals did so well buying me lovely (green) things for my place!

The obvious place to turn is somewhere like Not On The High Street but they're a smidgen predictable for my tastes. I prefer sites like Etsy and Uncommon Goods (especially as the latter has a cracking sustainability policy which you can read about here) for the personalised touch and can merrily spend hours browsing through random things I've never have discovered otherwise. The more mainstream shops shouldn't be left out though - I'm a total convert to The Range (shop in store btw - their online CS is pretty dire) and have you been in Asda or Matalan recently? Woodland animals ahoy!

So what have I been buying/drooling over recently?

You don't know how hard I wish I'd known about this mixtape doormat back when my brother and his wife last moved house! (It's customisable, which is a good job, cos their surname isn't Smith).

These coasters are on order for a Game of Thrones-loving pal of mine. Not too in-your-face.

I don't know where these little bear tumblers from Asda will end up but they were too cute not to buy! Someone will love them.

Is it weird to buy someone a clock as a housewarming gift? It probably is. But it's so lovely! Told you The Range were great at the mo.

I think I'm fighting (and losing) the age-old battle of buying things you secretly want for yourself. Must...resist...

Whilst I'm talking house, it occurs to me that although I moved in nearly a year ago, I never did do any celebratory welcome-to-the-new-abode posts. I've got this week off work and am attacking all those pesky little DIY jobs that I was too exhausted/lazy to do after moving in. It may well be ready to take some photos of by the end of the week!


Meet Phil

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

I went to the RSPCA cattery a couple of weeks ago for a wander round and rather lost my heart to this little fella. It's been nearly six months since Oscar went and although I'm still not over that (you never really are, are you? I'm going to miss my ginger bundle of fluff forever), the house needs a cat in it and I need something to spoil rotten.

Apparently poor Phil was very shy and bewildered about why he was in for rehoming. Everyone said he would take ages to settle in and probably be hiding underneath things for weeks. HA. Yeah, right. Took him about 20 minutes to get his paws well and truly settled in once he was through the front door.

His favourite things are:

Catnip mouse. Kills it dead at least three times a day.


Sitting on me.

Not standing still long enough to have his photo taken.

Lounging around.

He's quite the dude.

A Blogging Good Read - October

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Hello! Joining me for Blogging Good Read this week is AJ from Writer's Block and Broken Lenses. Unfortunately our third person wasn't able to take part this month but we read her book anyway, so carry on to see what they all were and what we thought of them.

AJ picked The Martianby Andy Weir:

My boyfriend doesn't read but this is possibly one of the only books he has gone out and bought off his own accord. After hearing his feedback I recommended it for this. The Martian (as some of you may know because of the film) is about an astronaut being stranded on Mars. Any other person would probably just give up and wait to die. Not Mark Watney. Despite circumstance (and the occasional explosion), Mark Watney has a surprisingly positive attitude on his situation and doesn't give up.

What I love most about this book is how it read like a film script, if that makes any sense? It was tense in all the right places and as I was approaching the end of the book, I had to keep putting it down so I could breathe and calm down. It's just brilliant. Even if you're not into science and stuff. Read it.

I vaguely knew that a film version of The Martian was about to be released when I read this - good timing as I always prefer to read the book first! Other than that, I knew virtually nothing about it and was totally blown away by how inventive and enthralling it was. As you might imagine with a plot featuring someone stranded on Mars and battling to stay alive, there's a lot of science involved but I can honestly say that it's never done in a boring way. You're always utterly fascinated as to what engineering or botanical jiggery-pokery Mark is going to come up with to solve the next problem.

Not only does it do the virtually impossible for me and make science genuinely interesting, this book manages to be really funny too. Mark is such a great protagonist: brave, resourceful, clever but a wee bit narky and feisty and sweary enough to be just the sort of person I like. The format of the book (told mostly in mission reports to start, then branching out to share the story from Earth and also touching occasionally on his colleagues in space) could run the risk of getting a bit tedious but even when Mark is essentially reporting on himself for long stretches, it's still told in such a way that keeps you completely hooked.

ps - ignore the quote on the cover. Gravity was awfully dull. This is brilliant.

I chose H is for Hawkby Helen Macdonald:

I missed out on hearing much about this book when it was first released but Becks was engrossed in it earlier in the year and she's always a good book barometer, so I pounced on a copy when I saw it in a charity shop. It's not an easy read, being as it is about the dual topics of training a hawk and mourning the loss of your father. I haven't experienced either of those things but the author really makes you feel the pain and bafflement of both of them. It's shockingly visceral in its grief but so beautifully written that my overwhelming feeling when reading it wasn't sadness, it was a sort of hopeful admiration that one person can feel that deeply yet be so eloquent in the way they share it with the world.

I'm always especially fond of books which feature something you don't really think you care about, then end up completely intrigued by. The Martian had me hooked on space exploits and this book plunged me deep into the mysteries of hawking and the natural world of the fens. I found it absolutely compelling.

What did AJ think?

I tried desperately hard to like this book. It's the first book in a while that I have had to force myself to read. I really didn't enjoy it.I couldn't connect to the character in anyway as it felt like she had absolutely no personality whatsoever, nothing to engage me and want me to read and MY GOD WAS IT SLOW. 

It's probably because I'm more of a fantasy girl and prefer the works of T.H White rather than rambling, what sounds like hatred, of his work and his life. In fact the character's attitude to White generally upset me.

I honestly couldn't finish this book. I had heard good things but was so disappointed that I stopped making myself try to read it. It felt too much like a chore rather than reading for pleasure.

Our final pick for the month was Carsickby John Waters:

This book has a simple enough premise: John Waters hitchhikes from Baltimore to San Francisco. Or so I thought until I read the last page of the intro, after which point it launches into two fictional novellas about the fantasy good rides and bad rides he could take on the journey. I got through about four of the former before coming to the conclusion that his fiction isn't my cup of tea and happily moved onto the final section which was about the actual journey itself and was much more interesting! I'd have preferred for the whole book to be a travelogue rather than this odd mish-mash of fiction and fact but it would have been a short book in that case as I don't think it could realistically have been stretched out any further. Anyway, that's how he chose to write it and I'm probably in the minority when it comes to not liking the format.

Did AJ enjoy it?

I hate being that person who doesn't enjoy certain books just because they're not what I would normally read but this is a memoir and automatically my brain switched off. I have multiple memoirs and biographies at home but the majority of them have been left unread (except fo How to be a Woman by Cailtlin Moran). 

I know of John Waters as a director but never knew about his plans to hitch hike across America let alone that he had written a book about it. This was the only swaying point to encourage me to read Car Sick.This didn't read like other memoirs I have tried and genuinely made me laugh. Compared to H is for Hawk this was a much more compelling read.

Thanks AJ!

Next month we'll be reading Adorkableby Sarra Manning, Cold Graniteby Stuart Macbride and The First Fifteen Lives of Harry Augustby Claire North.

A Bit More Knitting

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Operation Get Less Shit At Knitting continues.

After the successful snood, I tried out a much more complicated scarf stitch pattern thing (I'm totally down with all the knitting lingo) which has gone quite bizarrely wonky. Yup, still shit at knitting.

Check out the slant on that!

I know I went wrong right at the very beginning because I was doing it on a train and people kept distracting me, but I recovered that and I don't think it was enough to cause such epic slantiness. Ho hum. Maybe it'll sort itself out when I eventually finish it.

(nb - old women LOVE young(ish) knitters, don't they? Actual quote: "It's so nice to see lovely young girls like you knitting." Bahahaha. Thanks lady. I will take the young compliment and run merrily into the distance with it.)

Anyway, Project Wonky Scarf is on hold for the time being. It's taught me how to do slip stitches and passing stitches over and digging up a stitch from the loop and all that jazz. I'll finish it at some point. 

I decided to do something quick and easy to boost my spirits in the meantime, dug out the special needs needles and lovely chunky wool and whizzed my way through this chunky drop stitch cowl pattern. It was so quick and easy to do.

It's pink so it's obviously not for me but you've got to model your creations, haven't you?

New skill added to the list: drop stitches. I'll definitely make it again but will probably play around a bit and make it thinner and longer as it does seem perhaps a smidge too wide and short. It's cute though!

Never one to massively overface myself with a project or anything, I've now started work on a Weasley jumper as a Christmas present. Current status: stocking stitching my life away.

Gasp...I'm Wearing Something That's Nearly Pink

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Oh hey, what's this? An outfit post, in the new house? Woohoo!

Now admittedly it's not the best photography in the world as I still have to get to grips with the lighting - the green chandelier I absolutely *had* to have in the library is amazing but doesn't cast the most consistent glow in the world! But hey, how much better are LOADS OF BOOKS than a boring plain white wall? Pshaw, stylish bloggers, books will always win!

Actual house blog posts will follow at some point in the future. I know I moved in last November but I am a) extremely untidy and b) a world champion procrastinator so there are still plenty of bits that need fixing and/or tidying before I can record them for posterity on t'blog.

I felt rather sassy today though, so wanted to snap some outfit pics, dodgy lighting and all. My wardrobe has been somewhat lacking in #wardrobezoo recently and a horse print top is always a very welcome addition to the clan. It's verging on being pink but I won't hold that against it!

Love a good long top!
Shirt - from Char
Cardi - Hawkshead
Skirt - H&M
Heels - Dorothy Perkins
Ring - MerCurios