Thursday, 18 September 2014

Devouring Books: Stoner by John Williams


Stoner has been on my radar for quite a while now, and let's not talk about the fact that I thought for a long time that it was going to be about drugs and, you know, a stoner, in spite of the fact that I had literally no evidence to back this up. I mean, look at the cover! It's got books on it! Stoners don't read books! (Or... probably they do. In a super deep and then unintentionally hilarious way. Ah, drugs.)

But anyway. Stoner is NOT about drugs, or stoners, if you can believe it. Much as I would have enjoyed that book (maybe I need to read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas again...) I actually think I liked this one even more, and it's tricky to pin down exactly what I liked about it. It's such a quiet book- not much happens, and it's not even that long; but somehow it manages to encapsulate an entire life- one that feels so real that you can't help but care about it.

That life belongs to William Stoner, a man who was supposed to be a farmer but went to University, fell in love with writing, and became an English lecturer. He also gets married, avoids two wars, gets involved in University politics, and, in short, does all the things that make up a life. It's so weird to think about now, because trying to sum it up makes it sound SO boring- 'there's this guy and he does stuff and it's all good...'- but when I was reading it I was like 'this is IT. This is life. This is truth' and all those other things that make me sound like a twat when I put them in writing...

Essentially, I think Stoner touched me especially because, you know, I can relate to falling in love with words, and right now I can relate to the beautiful idea of (maybe) being an academic for life, whilst also being nervous about all the politics involved in that. Or maybe it's just because Stoner is an incredibly human book- it really does cover all facets of life, and the fact that it begins at the start of the twentieth century does nothing to make it still wholly relatable- and the fact that I related so completely to a white male at the turn of the century surprised me more than it would surprise you, believe me.

I don't really know what else to say about this book- if I've made it sound horribly boring then I've probably failed to pass on the level of its impact on me. Quiet though it is, it's still so (is she going to say human again? She's going to say human) human and real and just really very very good. And if that's not a ringing enough endorsement for you, then I don't really know what else to say.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Bookish Questionnaire

This is it, you guys. Since I've apparently become incapable of writing anything on here other than 'OMG so busy', you're getting two posts from me this weekend whether you like it or not. Is either of them going to be a review or whatever? Noooooo, because that would require some effort and stuff, you know? (However, I do have 9 days off work stretching out gloriously in front of me, so SOMETHING COULD HAPPEN THIS WEEK. You know, if I get bored).

Anyway! Sarah and then Alley posted this bookish questionnaire and I felt all nostalgic cause I used to do these allllll the time back in the old days (like, 3 years ago. So long, man) so here I am jumping on bandwagons and whatnot. Enjoy!

1. What is your favourite fictional food or drink?
Today is Roald Dahl day, so I'm going to have to say basically everything in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory? I mean, I definitely mix up the book and the film (the first one. I actually like the Tim Burton one, but the sweets in the original movie really do it for me) but just alllll the chocolate and sweets. All of it.

2. How long did it take you to finish your last book?
I'm so not in a bookish place right now that I can't even remember what the last book I finished was. Records tell me it was Stoner, which OH MY GOD, took me so long to read. Not because I didn't like it (the opposite, in fact) but just because I have NO TIME. NONE.

3. How many times do you stare at your books or bookshelves each day?
I mean... They're in my room so I look at them a lot, but stare at them? Not so much. Sometimes I try to avoid looking at them because I have SO MANY BOOKS and remember that not enough time thing? Still applies.
4. How many Goodreads friends and books do you have?
Fun story that I might have told before: So, before I started this blog, I had only read a few other book blogs and didn't even know that Goodreads was a thing that existed. Had I known, I might have just joined that as a way to keep track of what I read, rather than starting this. So, it's kind of a good thing that I didn't know about it.

5. Do you ever quote books in public?
I probably have, but I'm not sure my memory is that good. I'm much more likely to quote Friends or The Simpsons, and once upon a time, almost everything I said was a quote from either Friends or Sex and the City (I know).

6. Do you ever re-read books?
Less and less since I started this blog, but I used to kind of read the same, like, 10 books on rotation, so there are a few books (To Kill A Mockingbird, Little Women, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights...) that I know really really really well.

7. Do you judge a book by its cover?
Oh yeah. Normally it's more bad judging, but sometimes a cover will draw me in and I'll pretty much just have to buy the book. Like with The Newlyweds, which wasn't anything special but did have a great cover.

8. Instagram, Twitter or Tumblr?
Twitter is my greatest love, but I do like the ease and prettiness of just scrolling through other people's photos on Instagram, and making my own photos look pretty.

9. Which genres take you the longest to read?
Classics. Classics, classics, classics. Which means I hardly ever start them (because, lazy) but once I've finished them, I hardly ever regret it. Except for you, Robinson Crusoe.
10. Who are your favourite BookTubers (or Book Bloggers)?
Aw, all my guyyyys are my favourites. My guys know they're my guys. I hope.

11. How often do you pre-order books?
I almost never pre-order books because I don't want to own hardcovers, basically- my books are heavy enough already. In fact, forget almost never, I think I might just say never... Hmmm. I have been sorely tempted to pre-order Lena Dunham's book, but... Nah. I'll get it from the library.

12. Are you a shopaholic?
Um. I'm not rich enough to be. AND I get to points where I'm like 'I don't need any more stuff!!', so no.

13. How many times have you re-read your favourite book?
FAVOURITE book, you say? How dare you. But ok, quite a few. Like, a good 5 times. At least. I don't know.

14. Do you own a lot of books?
Have you read my other answers? We're all slightly scared that I'm going to break the attic with the amount of books I own. This is a slight exaggeration, except not really.

15. Do you take pictures of your books before you read them?
I don't, but I kind of want to start just because it's becoming so tricky finding a good book cover photo online to put on top of my posts. Plus those are probably copyrighted and blah blah blah...

16. Do you read every day?
Does twitter count as reading? If not, then no- not anymore, anyway.

17. How do you choose a new book?
To buy, or to read? I choose new books to buy on the basis of 'oh look, a book I haven't read. Someone said it was good. I'll get it!' With reading, I usually have a pile I'm 'reading from' (like my RIP pile right now) and I'll usually read one of them if I need something new to read or I'll just read something else. I HAVE NO SYSTEM, OK?

18. Do you always have a book with you?
Yes. Even if I forget a physical book, I always have my phone so I always have my kindle app. BOOKS EVERYWHERE.

19. What are your biggest distractions from reading?
Netflix. So much Netflix. Do you know what's easier than reading? Picking something on Netflix and then falling asleep watching it (seriously, happens all the damn time). Also, you know, my phone and its shiny shiny twitter and instagram and tumblr (and repeat) apps...

20. What is your favourite place to buy books?
You can't beat buying books in an actual bookshop, and I can spend literally hours in them before I'm forced to leave. That's my favourite place, but realistically I buy most of my books from charity shops (because, poor) which I don't hate because the price is right and the search is fulfilling and, most importantly, the price is right.
DIDN'T WE ALL HAVE FUN?! Not as much fun as Aaron Paul on The Price is Right, obviously, but still a lot of fun!

Sunday, 7 September 2014

Sunday Sundries: I'm not tired, I'm just busy

GUYS! I am super going to rush this whole update thing because I'm tired and I want to watch some Netflix and go to sleep, frankly, but, you know, I can't have the whole internet thinking I'm dead.

The title of this post is something my housemate said to me this week, after I went 'I'm tiiiiired', as I am wont to do. He's wrong, of course- I'm busy AND I'm tired, and that's just how it is. It's partially my own fault- I spent my ONE day off this week going to London and walking around looking for jeans (sooo hard to buy jeans) and birthday presents for my sister, and then I spent my other half day off buying a dress (I know, I know, my life is hard) and making a cake. Sorry, that should be REALLY TIREDLY making a cake (ok, this might have been when the 'not tired, just busy' thing happened. Who can say?)

So, yeah. I didn't rest when I could have, and the rest of the time I worked. By which I mean, I did that extra morning AND THEN I worked this afternoon (WHY?!) because they needed someone to be in charge and I was that person. This was my first time of being in charge of people, like, ever, and I think I did ok! In that I gave everyone their jobs and then did mine and nobody mutinied or died or anything. Which, you know, I'm going to call a success so go me.

This week should be kind of quieter- I don't have things to buy or make, although I am kind of on call for an extra afternoon at work- but, an afternoon is not a morning, and that is the truth of that. My mantra for the rest of the week is basically 'five more days then nine days off. Five more days then nine days off' for I am having the week off work the week after next and it shall be too too glorious. Now just to get this pesky week out of the way...

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Sunday Sundries: It's the most wonderful time of the yearrrrrrrr...

I could write about my week right now (it's been lacklustre at best and I've got a cough/bit of a cold that's bad enough to be annoying but not bad enough for me to, say, not go to work, so booo) and I could tell you what I'm going to do this week coming (um... I'm getting my hair cut and I have to make a cake?) but instead, we're going to talk about the most important time in the blogging year.

That's right, it's time for mothereffing RIP. (RIP IX, that is).
Hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings, this is, I think, the one blogging event that I've taken part in every year since I started blogging, mainly because I ALWAYS have freaky books laying around unread, but also because if there's a better time than autumn to read scary shit, then I have not met that time of year. I'm hyper aware that in October I'm going to be starting that Masters that I keep mentioning but which is still light years away* so I'm probably not going to be reading anything except Shakespeare and articles about the same, BUT I can still have some fun in September, right? Right.

HERE IS MY PILE:
*Mutters something about nights drawing in and damn grainy photos* ANYWAY! Let's talk about the books because I've got some time before Orphan Black loads and, you know, I like to talk about books.

  • The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris- Two of my housemates have watched Hannibal (the TV show) and were alarmed that I haven't even seen the movie of Silence of the Lambs. No worries, I says, I've got the book. I'll just read that. Whether or not that happens, remains to be seen, but I'm optimistic.
  • The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith- This wasn't just on my pile last year, it was also on it the year before. If I'd made a pile in 2011 (that post reaaaally shows just how much I didn't know how to do these challenge things), it probably would have been on that too. Am I going to read it this year? *GIANT SHRUG*
  • The Collector by John Fowles- Someone, at some time, said this was really good and really creepy, so of course I had to have it, of course I haven't read it yet, and of course I now can't remember what it's about. But let's assume it's horrible and AWESOME.
  • The Woman in Black by Susan Hill- I think we all know that this is the most upsetting play ever, so I'm sure the book is just as delightfully chilling. Fingers crossed!
  • Kindred by Octavia Butler- My understanding is that this is sci-fi so I'm totally down with it. This and The Woman in Black were also presents from lovely internet people (ok, this was technically a prize) so how can I refuse to read them? Exactly, I can't.
  • The Road by Cormac McCarthy- I've mainly picked this because I know it won't take that long to read, even though it might not actually be that easy to read. I feel like I've come to the point of nearly knowing all about it but just stopped short of that, and I don't want to push my luck much longer. Also, this is me giving Cormac McCarthy one last chance because I did not appreciate No Country For Old Men, like at all.
  • Affinity by Sarah Waters- There are ghosts in this, and I think also lesbians, probably? So it sounds amazing, obviously.
  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn- Another one that should be really easy to read. Here's hoping. 
  • Laura by Vera Caspery- My dad bought me this because he thought I'd appreciate that it was called Laura (of course I do) without realising that Laura is actually a murder victim... Whoops! Anyway... This sounds very noir-esque, which is awesome, and it's especially awesome that it's written by a woman, in my totally not at all biased opinion.
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson- I nearly scared myself to death reading The Haunting of Hill House, so I have high hopes for this one. Really high hopes.
I said I was going to read so many of these books last year (I lied). This pile is way smaller than the one from two years ago (see what I'm doing here... Memory lane!) and yet I have so much less time now than I had then, so... how many of these books will I realistically read? Maybe... 4. Ridiculously, I haven't felt that much like reading recently**, which means that I probably won't be that into it in September and then AS SOON as I have to start reading Shakespeare all the time, I will only want to read creepy genre fiction. Of course.

Some other quick things: There's no Stephen King on this pile. I know. The thing is, I'm reading the last Dark Tower books at the moment, and they're way more fantasy than horror and I don't count that as being part of this. I will probably still be reading them, but they won't be part of RIP. As well as reading, I'm planning on doing some RIP TV (my own thing I just made up)- that is to say, I've just finished re-watching Breaking Bad, and I'm finishing Orphan Black, so I think my next big TV project is going to be Six Feet Under. Comforting? I doubt it, but dark? Totally.

So that's what I'll be reading for the next month or so, as long as my reading mojo comes back (come baaaack, mojo!) and if not then I guess I'll finish watching Six Feet Under waaaaay earlier than anticipated. Because, let's face it, I never get tired of TV. Never.


*Or, like, 4 weeks. But it's still taking so LONG to start. I know, I should appreciate not having to do anything right now, but I'm really just like 'I'm ready to start nowwwww'.
**Although I did read The Silkworm in like 3 days, but that was only because it had to go back to the library. To be fair, I'm totally counting it as my first RIP read though.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Devouring Books: Landline by Rainbow Rowell

After seeing Rainbow Rowell, I read Landline literally over two days (not the day after I saw her, because FRANCES was here which was awesome) because I didn't know how to stop reading it. I never really do with Rainbow, so this wasn't a surprise, but it was pleasing to know that, you know, she's still got it.

Now. I also read Landline about 6 weeks ago, so excuse me if my memory of it sucks. The story essentially goes like this: Georgie McCool (best name ever) is a woman whose marriage to Neal is in trouble because she has to work over Christmas and Neal is a whiny baby. Excuse me if I'm oversimplifying, but that's definitely how things seemed to me at the start of the book, but as it goes on, and we learn more about their relationship, we find out that things have not been right in the state of Rome for a while now. After her family leaves for Nebraska, Georgie finds a connection to the past through her old landline phone, and tries to retrospectively fix, well, everything.

It's actually a weird plot, now that I've written it like that, but it's definitely much better than I've just made it sound. There is SO much that I really loved about it, so let's just get right into that. Firstly, there's Georgie. She's really just trying to do her best, and I love that so much about her. The reason I say Neal is a whiny baby is that she's working over Christmas because this is LITERALLY her one shot at having everything she's ever wanted for her career, and it bugs me that he can't just go 'don't worry about it, we'll just do Christmas after you're done with the work.' PERSONALLY I'm pretty sure this story wouldn't have even happened if Georgie had been a man, and 'needed' to work over Christmas because George's (see what I did there) wife would have gone 'yes dear' and no one would have had a meltdown.

However. It's more complicated than that, and that's really a credit to the story. There are all sorts of elements coming into play, old jealousies and many things from their past that are widely explored along with the present day (which also turns into a storyline from the past... Hmmm...) narrative. And it's so good. Seeing how Georgie and Neal got together in the first place was a welcome shift from the fraught events of the present day, and it was also HELLA cute. You know how it goes.

There are SO many more things I liked about it but in the interests of keeping this short(ish) and sweet, I'm just going to say... It's set at Christmas! I do love an out of season Christmas book, but I love reading a Christmas book at Christmas, too. So what I'm saying is, if you haven't read this yet (and I know you guys, so I know you probably have) I recommend saving it for nearer Christmas time because, even though it's totally not happyhappy all the time, there are parts that will warm your heart so incredibly that you'll want to hug the book and never let it go. Not that I ever did that... Ahem...

AND (I know, but I'm nearly done) oh my gosh the secondary characters. I think we ALL know that Rainbow can write an excellent secondary character (Reagan, anyone?) but Georgie's mum and especially her sister are GREAT, her writing partner Seth is ridiculously smooth (and awesome) and even her kids are chock full of personality. I know that I giggled (OUT LOUD, no less) when I was reading this, and there were so many awesome lines that I just couldn't write down because I couldn't put it down.

So basically- of course this is good. It's better than good, it's awesome, and on the scale of Rainbow Rowell books, it comes... near the top? THEY ARE ALL AT THE TOP (seriously, I don't even know how to rank them or anything because I love them all for different reasons, like how you love your children, I guess). Basically, you've got to read it. Obviously.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

RAINBOW ROWELL DAY

Hey, remember when I met Rainbow Rowell and it was basically the best day ever but it was a month and a half ago and no one cares anymore?
Well, exactly. But, it's a Monday night, I'm not as ridiculously tired as I normally am at this time, and The People need to know what went down, or maybe I just need a blog post for this week. Either way, this is what you're getting.

SO. The day didn't exactly get of to an auspicious start- I meant to go running but spent the morning tidying my room in preparation for Frances's stay (for she came with me to the glorious event) and then I DID go running, and ended up cutting up my knee so badly that I still have a little patch of new pink skin there now. It was not my finest hour.

Anyway. I pulled myself together enough to get up to London, and since I arrived before Frances, who had to work like a poor poor sucker (I had the whole week off... It was amazing. I should try that again sometime) I went to Waterstones Piccadilly to scope out the joint. And ohmygod. It's pretty spectacular.  According to the Waterstones website, it's the biggest bookshop in Europe (!) and I literally didn't even know it was there until I got tickets for this event. To which I say, SHAME ON ME.

Anyway... I didn't really have ample time to explore it properly so that will be happening in the future (obviously) but I DID buy Fangirl, because I only had the kindle version, and Landline, because, you know, I didn't have it yet. I read Landline that same week, in, like, a day, but of course I haven't reviewed it yet because I'm me. Better luck next life, me. After that, I had to walk all the way to Leicester Square* to pee, also because I'm me (honestly notorious for having to pee at inconvenient times) and Frances and I managed to miss each other before we were finally, gloriously reunited in a glorious way (um... we hugged? It was nice?)

AND THEN there was the event itself. It was awesome (of course) but it was especially good because it was set up in a Q&A format so that Rainbow didn't read exerts and it wasn't just queuing to meet her, there was actually some onstage banter between Rainbow and Bim Adewunmi (who is excellent on twitter, and in real life, by the way) and then, obviously, audience questions. I had nothing, not because I'm not interested in Rainbow Rowell (I'm SO interested in her!) but because I can't think of things on the spot and also, I was a tiny bit awed. Rainbow did talk about the Eleanor and Park movie (she was like 'Shailene Woodley can't play Eleanor!' and oh how I loled) and about how the book she's writing now is going to be set in England (yesssssssssss!) and just generally, it was all very informative and fun.

AND THEN (I know, I'm nearly there) we got to go up row by row to queue and meet Rainbow and it was the besssssst! I was very excitedly twitching the whole time, and then when I got to the table she was like 'hi' and I was like 'Hi! I'm Laura from the internet' because I'm a massive nerd and ALSO because when I was being excited on twitter earlier she told me to introduce myself and that was the best way I knew how. And SHE KNEW WHO I WAS (I know, I told you- nerd) and she ALSO knew the members of (one of) my online gangs, and so there we were, having a conversation about Alice and Tika and Megs and Alley and it was so awesome. At this point, it shouldn't have really surprised me that meeting someone I've had not inconsiderable amount of communication with online felt like meeting an old friend, but it still did, probably because said person is a totally awesome and famous author, no less.

Basically, everything you probably think Rainbow Rowell is going to be, she is that and more, and I love her and could totally have stayed and talked to her all evening. Yet, I moved on, with my four signed books, my free fangirl bag (!!!) and a bazillion loves and joys in my heart.

Essentially, meeting authors? I recommend it. Meeting Rainbow Rowell? Best idea in the world. If ever you have the opportunity, I say take it, you fools!
Signings! My favourite is the Attachments one (the book that brought us together indeed!)
My not at all creased Fangirl bag that I definitely didn't break the first time I used it. I WILL FIX YOU, BAG! (And then use you responsibly. And lovingly.)

*Note: Not actually that far.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Sunday Sundries: Some Things I Forgot

This week, I went for a run for the first time in five and a half weeks. I'd been building up to it for a couple, psyching myself up to get back out there whilst simultaneously telling myself that yoga was quite enough exercise for one person, thank you.* Thursday morning, I woke up at a reasonable time, and I wasn't horribly exhausted. It was a good start, and it was a really good run- I outran the fear of falling over (the tragic end to my last run attempt), I outran the fear of not being able to run properly after so long away, and I enjoyed myself just because I was actually out there and not just laying in bed like a lazy lazy Laura.

The rest of Thursday I felt pretty knackered, but on Friday I felt AMAZING. And I realised that there was a time when I felt that alert and good pretty much all the time, and that it was directly linked to the amount of running I'd been doing. I was so awake on Friday that work dragged on rather than passing me by in a foggy haze,** and I was still awake enough that evening to watch about 4 and a half hours of Breaking Bad, which may or may not have been ill advised. But it was awesome.

I don't really know where I'm going with this, other than to state, once again, that running is sort of amazing. Like, seriously, endorphins might be my favourite thing on the planet. But I guess it's just sort of as a reminder to myself, that things are always going to crop up, but I'm still going to need to make time to move my body because it makes me feel the best I know how to feel. And the fact that this is me typing this makes me feel like I don't even know myself anymore, but I guess that's ok because, you know, people gots to change.

(For more exercise-praise, please see Frances's blog post here. It's pretty much everything I want to say about it, without exactly knowing how. Good Frances.)

Here's another thing I forgot- When something new is going to happen, I do my best not to think about it until I absolutely have to think about it, which is at the last minute. I am, of course, talking about my return to education, and yeah. Really not thinking about what it's going to be like, but I also think that subconsciously it's on my mind all the time. It's not that I'm trying not to think about it, I think it's more that there are things that are more immediate that need my attention (like, you know, life) but every so often I'll go 'OMG I AM GOING TO HAVE TO WRITE ESSAYS' (like I don't write you guys essays all the time) and I get a little bit freaked out.

I think I'm going to be fine. In fact, I know it's going to be fine, but until it actually gets started I'm not going to know what it's like, and what it's going to be like juggling a job and a full time course and everything else, so yeah, I'm a little bit nervous. Here's a thing that I don't mean to do but I always do- I think I get more scared about things than excited about them, so that if they don't work out I can pretend that I wasn't that excited about them anyway. It's the saddest thing about myself, I think, and I should probably be in therapy or something, but it's why I didn't tell anyone when I applied for the MA and I think it's why I'm ignoring it now- as long as I don't think about how much I want it, then I won't want it as much as I do.

You don't need to tell me how fucked up this is, I'm telling myself right now. But you know what, I've identified it, I'm working on it... I'm going to be ok.

As for the rest of my life? It hasn't really got much quieter, but I haven't been so tired that I've fallen asleep on the arm of the sofa this week (neckache. Serious neckache) which is good. I also basically haven't read anything, which makes me wonder WHO AM I? but this might be one of those things I also return to when I just can't bear not to anymore, and then read about 10 books in a week. Hey, it could happen (sort of).

You're going to want to excuse to confessionary nature of this post, it just turned midnight into Sunday so I'm sleepy (running!) and apparently very honest at this hour. And everything in the world is as it should be. Now tell me, how was YOUR week? What personal truths would you like to share with me?

*Don't get me wrong, yoga's amazing. But that's not really the point here.
**Which is worse? You decide!