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Update – Blogging in 2014

Hello! My blog has suffered a bit of neglect over Christmas and New Year, sorry blog! I’m hoping to get back on track for 2014, and have a few different posts planned. I think my blog is going to take a bit of a different direction this year, I still want to focus quite heavily on books, but I am also going to have some content relating to heritage, travel and lifestyle. 2014 currently a bit of an uncertain year for me, I’ll be finding a new job, but so far I don’t know what, where or when, which is scary but exciting! I also have lots of travel in store, so I’d like the blog to reflect what I’m doing in my day-to-day life. I do read everyday, but sometimes it can take a while to get through a book, and I don’t want to only be able to post after finishing a book.

I was thinking of setting myself a reading goal for 2014, I was tempted on reading something like 100 books. But I didn’t want to set myself something unrealistic that I would feel bad about breaking. So I am going to aim to just continue setting aside a good amount of time to explore the books I love. In a way, for me, there is no value in setting myself a numeric target, as I am hugely flakey when it comes to books. If I start a book and it’s not doing it for me, I put it down and move on. I do feel some guilt if I have bought the book instead of borrowing it from the library, and currently have a pile of seven books on my bedside table that I have dipped in and out of! But reading should of course be enjoyable.

I am currently enjoying reading ‘You Can Beat Your Brain’ by David McRaney, which is the follow-up to ‘You Are Not So Smart.’ I love books like this, that make us realise just how wonderfully imperfect we all are, and that that’s ok.

I’m looking forward to blogging in 2014 – Happy New year Everyone, and happy reading! 🙂

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A Literary Christmas

I just wanted to share an image of some of the book themed presents I received this Christmas. I was lucky to receive a Jodi Picoult novel, a travel guide of London, some Penguin postcard sets that I have had on my wishlist for a very long time, a badge made from pages of Alice in Wonderland and a British Library manuscript diary. I am looking forward to using the book cover postcards to decorate my bedroom walls. One of the postcard sets is photographs of famous Penguin ‘Modern Classic’ writers – it turned out to be a fun game to guess who was who, it was quite difficult though and I definitely got a lot of them wrong!

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I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

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Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky

“So this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.”

I have been wanting to read this book for a really long time, I don’t know why it took me so long to get around to it! I think most book lovers have heard of this book, and probably have a good idea what it’s about. It is about Charlie, a wallflower, who is naturally inclined to observe rather than participate. Throughout the book Charlie makes attempts to get more involved, encouraged by his new group of friends.

This book covers various themes associated with adolescence. In tone and style it reminded me quite a bit of the Catcher in the Rye. It had very simple sentence structure, and the way that feelings and events were explained was very straightforward. I think this may have been a way to show some of Charlie’s naivety.

The book is written in letter format, each addressed ‘Dear Friend’. We never find out who the letters are written to, but I did wonder about this throughout. I don’t always like it when books are written in letters, but sometimes it can work well, such as in We Need to Talk About Kevin and The Colour Purple. I think it works well in this case also.

I found the character of Charlie very endearing. I thought it was unusual how his response to upsetting things was to burst out crying, irregardless of if he was in a group of people. I don’t know how realistic this is, but it was interesting. We follow Charlie throughout a school year, as he goes through the trials and tribulations of being a teenager in an American high school.

I really enjoyed this book, and having finished it, I’m happy that I can finally watch the film!

Favourite quote? “And in that moment, I swear we were infinite.” That is the kind of quote that if I used Pinterest more often I’d want to find a little picture with this quote on. I think I may go and do that actually. IMG_1372

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Top Ten Books I’d Recommend to a Friend. Top Ten Tuesdays.

This weeks Top Ten Tuesdays is about book recommendations. I have chosen to do my top ten about books I’d recommend to a friend. I’ve already recommended most of the books I’ve mentioned on the list to friends. I love chatting about books and getting recommendations. I urge anyone reading this blog to try any of these, and to let me know if you like them!

1. One Day, David Nicholls. This book is simply brilliant. I passed this on to quite a few friends so my copy looks very well-loved. This is one of those books where you force people to read it so you have someone to talk to about it, and constantly pester them asking which bit they are up to. I got very attached to the main characters, Dexter and Emma, and didn’t want to leave them at the end of the book.

2. The Colour Purple, Alice Walker.
This is a classic, and for very good reason. Everyone just has to read this book.

3. The Help, Kathryn Stockett. I read this just before the movie came out, and loved both.


4. The Time Traveller’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger. I stayed up extremely late reading this book, and I remember crying a little too hard throughout the last few chapters. It was amazing.

5. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn.
Wonderfully written, interesting structure and gripping throughout, an excellent who dunnit.

6. You Had Me at Hello, Mhairi McFarlane. Fairly light and funny. This would be perfect for a holiday. Particularly recommend this to any fellow Mancunians as it is set in Manchester.

7. The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins. This whole trilogy just grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. It has it all. And of course, there’s a love triangle. I love all three of the books, and the last film was brilliant. I can not wait for the new film to come out, and have cinema tickets booked to see it! (3D Imax, too excited!).

8. A Thousand Splendid Suns, Khaled Hosseini.
Hosseini is a master story teller. It’s hard to put into words just how wonderful this novel is. The Kite Runner is also wonderful and nearly made this list. Unfortunately I don’t have an image of this book as I read a library copy.

9. How to Be a Woman, Caitlin Moran. This book is awesome. Moran’s honesty and humour is fantastic. A must read.

10. You Are Not So Smart, David McRaney. This book is a bit different from the rest as it’s non-fiction. It is a psychology book, and comically explains that we are all a bit deluded. It’s very funny and will leave you with lots of fun facts to share, who doesn’t love a fun fact?

I’m really enjoying Top Ten Tuesdays so far! Looking forward to reading what books will be recommended on other peoples blogs.

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‘You Had Me at Hello’ by Mhairi McFarlane

I have been obsessed with my Kindle lately. One night last week I was flicking through my recommendations on the Kindle store. I was looking for something a bit lighter than the murder and crime stuff I’ve been reading lately! Then ‘You Had Me at Hello’ popped up and I liked the title. It seemed a bit cutesy but smart at the same time. After downloading a sample, I knew I was going to enjoy it. Sometimes all it takes is a few pages. I love that you can download samples, it makes me feel more inclined to give a book a go.

‘You Had Me at Hello’ is about Rachel and Ben, who met at university and were very good friends/could-be-more-than-friends. However, during uni Rachel had a boyfriend. Despite liking Ben, she kept missing the signs that he really liked her. Ten years pass, Rachel is newly single and a not-so-chance bump into Ben brings back the feelings she had pushed aside for so long. However, Ben is now married. Once again the pair can’t be together. They are a bit like Ross and Rachel from ‘Friends’, the timing just is never quite right. A bit frustrating I suppose, but if it were easy there would be no story!

Perhaps the story line sounds all too familiar, but what makes this book stand out is the gentle humour throughout. The novel also flicks between present day, and back to uni days, so we learn more about their relationship then/now as the book goes on. It is also set in Manchester, which for me (with Manchester being my closest city) was a huge bonus! McFarlane really used the setting well, and I loved that Rachel and Ben saw each other for the first time in years at Manchester Central Library! Other places around the city and uni were so well described, I felt like I could really get involved in the story. McFarlane mentions Manchester’s ‘special’ rain that ‘manages to be both vertical and horizontal’ which made me chuckle. Too true.

This novel reminds me a bit of ‘One Day’ by David Nicholls, which I was also a huge fan of. If you liked One Day, give this book a go! I don’t think you’ll regret it.

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Top Ten Covers I Wish I Could Redesign. Top Ten Tuesdays!

I’ve been reading Top Ten Tuesdays on other people’s blogs for awhile now, and thought it would be fun to do my own. This week’s theme is about the covers that I would most like to re-design. This is quite tricky for me. I had a wander over to my bookcase thinking I would easily pick out a few books that I would like to redesign, however, I must choose books with nice covers, as I could barely find any bad ones! I’ve done my best, most of these are books that I’ve enjoyed but feel that they could do with more exciting covers.

1. Nicholas Sparks novels. All of them. I really like Nicholas Sparks as an author, I think he writes about relationships and emotions really well. His writing has brought me to tears, and made me rejoice with happiness. However, I think his book covers let him down. They are predictable, and could just do with more spark ;).

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2. The Revenge of the Demon Headmaster, by Gillian Cross. I was obsessed with the demon headmaster books, and the tv series, but this cover is just horrible!

3. Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I don’t have my own copy of this as I got it from the library, but I remember the cover being a bit dull.

4. The Go-Between, by L.P. Hartley.

5. Strange Meeting, Susan Hill.
Slightly unremarkable picture on the front.

6. The Casual Vacancy, by J.K. Rowling. Considering the amount of resources that were probably put into this book design, I think it could have been much much better!

7. A Woman of No Importance, Oscar Wilde.
This is a brilliant play, but I just don’t see the relevance of the cover at all. Its quite garish.

8. Oliver Twist, by Charles Dickens. Definitely not the most exciting cover.

9/10. As the picture includes more than one book this can count as 9 and 10 (maybe I’m slightly cheating but this is hard!). Generally, I don’t like having books that are TV or movie tie-in editions.

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Which book would you like to redesign?

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Dark Places, by Gillian Flynn

After being so impressed with ‘Gone Girl’ by Gillian Flynn, I recently downloaded one of her other novels, ‘Dark Places’, to my Kindle. I generally don’t use my Kindle very often, but it’s been practically glued to my hand while I’ve been reading this novel. It was that good.

‘Dark Places’ begins with Libby Day, the anti-heroine. Libby’s two sisters and their mother, Patty, were brutally murdered at the family home in Kansas 25 years previously – the subject matter and setting show a definite nod to ‘In Cold Blood’ by Truman Capote. The killer was suspected to be Libby’s brother, Ben. At the time, seven-year old Libby testified in court that Ben had committed the crime. As a result, combined with rumours in the town that Ben was practising satanic rituals, among other accusations, Ben is imprisoned. But years on Libby begins to doubt her own memories of the murder. Ben Day has built up quite a fan club of people who believe him to be innocent, and they encourage her to trace down people who may shed light on what really happened that night.

Libby was a really interesting character, she believes herself to be a bad person – the opening line of the book reads ‘I have a meanness inside me, real as an organ’. Libby steals things, uses people, and pushes away those who have tried to help. I enjoy the way that Flynn creates characters that aren’t particularly likeable, but are really intriguing. We learn so much about them that we begin to understand why they behave the way that they do. I’ve watched a video of Gillian Flynn talking about the book on YouTube, and found it interesting that she initially wrote most of the first draft with Libby as a ‘nice normal girl’. She then significantly rewrote the character as it is unlikely that Libby would be completely unaffected after the murders. I am glad that she did this as I think it added more layers to the character.

The narration of the book switches between Libby in the present day, and Ben and Patty 25 years ago. This gives the book momentum and there certainly isn’t a dull moment. The reader is constantly discovering new clues, and I kept changing my mind about who I thought was the killer. It wasn’t who I initially suspected, but I’ll say no more as I don’t want to spoil the plot.

I found the ending of the book very satisfying, as all the fragments came together. It was definitely a good book to be reading around Halloween time. I have also downloaded ‘Sharp Objects’ which I’m looking forward to starting on soon – I think I may read something else in the mean time so I don’t compare it too much to this novel. IMG_1278