Letters to Autumn, My Life

Letters to Autumn 17

Dear Autumn,

On average I can read between 20-40 pages in the time it takes me to get from my home station to the one I need to get off at to get to work. It’s just under 30 minutes if there are no delays.

I’ve always maintained the idea that if a book is under 400 pages and I’m in the right frame of mind that I can finish a book in a week. And I mean 5 working days in 10 half hour reading sessions. I’m a quick reader. And yes, for the most part I take everything in. Sometimes I’m just real tired and should not be reading anything at all, or doing anything that requires real brain activity because it just ain’t up for retaining information.

Last Monday I read 160 pages in roughly 2 hours. Which surprised me to be honest but it was just that kind of book that I could really get into and fly through the pages because I was having a right ol’ good time living in the world that had been created.

So then when I picked up my next book I decided to set myself a little challenge in terms of how quickly I could get through it. Please do not ask me why, these books aren’t officially counting towards this years Goodreads challenge yet, so really there was no need for that at all, but I like a challenge.

Not a real challenge, like a simple challenge. The kind that I can do without having to move all that much. (I sometimes like a real challenge that requires more movement than that.)

The first challenge was get to page 160 in a day. I managed that quite simply. So then the next day I was like, okay get to page 250. 90 pages doesn’t sound like too much to me. And it wasn’t. Within a few hours on Friday night I reached that and then read to the end of the part, meaning that come the end of the day I had read 110 pages. I could have read more, but I could feel myself starting to drift (whilst also simultaneously finding myself even more hooked) and I didn’t want to lose any of the narrative.

But that left me with just over 100 pages left to read and a 5 hour train journey the following day, which left me in a good place.

This is a thing that I’ve kind of always done. When I was younger I used to try and get myself to read a book in a whole day. Or in an afternoon. It’s not even something that I’m conscious of doing. Sometimes I get so lost in a book then I look at it and assess how much longer I have left and decide that I was gonna get it done by the day’s end (see the last two books in the Anna and the First Kiss series, and one Rainbow Rowell book, but I cannot remember which one).

I intended to take a 3 book deviation from my 2017 reading list (have I mentioned that I’ve done that at all recently…?) and I want that to last for as little as possible so I can get back to my mini autumn reading list and then the remaining 6 books that I have left to read. But I am also quite enjoying this little break and getting involved in some worlds that I deemed interesting enough to break this terribly upheld book buying ban.

And these random mini reading challenges that I am giving myself.

Love,

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Letters to Autumn, My Life

Letters to Autumn 12

Dear Autumn,

I was writing something to do with childhood books on Tuesday and had a weird flashback to being back at school.

At the start of Year 10 (or it could have been 11, I don’t remember. It was a GCSE year for sure) we had to give a book review of a book that we had chosen to read over the summer. For whatever reason I chose to read Dr Jekyell and Mr Hyde. I hated it. I hated everything about it. I hated the fact that I had to read it over my summer and so school work was a part of those 6 weeks off. I hated the way it was written. I hated how I didn’t really understand what the hell was going on for most of it. I hated the fact that it was considered a classic and therefore everybody was like ‘oh it’s good, you should give it a chance.’ Most of all I hated the fact that I would have to stand in front of an entire class of people and give a 90 second (it could have been longer, the details are fuzzy, it was almost a decade ago) oral review of this.

Which I did not finish reading. I frantically (and stealthily) Googled what happened in the book and figured that I could just blag my way through this task. Forgetting one very important thing (although it did play on the back of my mind). I am a terrible public speaker.

Truly, truly awful.

I freeze. I mumble. I talk too fast. I trip over my words. I forget how to read my notes. I get sweaty, I feel like I’m about to throw up. There is no part of it in which I feel comfortable and am good at. None.

If I were a better public speaker I probably would have been able to bullshit my way through the whole thing and raise no red flags that I hadn’t read it. But I did. And so the teacher called me out on it. And then it just got worse. I nothing to give other than I didn’t like the book. Under the pressure of it all I couldn’t even think why I didn’t like it. I just gave vague answers that were mumbled out and rushed and felt my heartbeat pulsing blood through my ears and my palms getting very sweaty.

The part that seemed to strike me the most with this random flashback was towards the end where all I really had to offer was that I didn’t like the book and my time was up, my teacher asked if I could name a book I actually did like. And I froze again. Every single book that I had ever enjoyed just left my head and I had to think frantically about what the last book I read was. I then lied and said I ‘liked this book that my dad had given me that I think was called Black Tattoo’. I was also halfway through that book. The reason I was halfway was because I didn’t like it. I didn’t really understand what was going on that one either. And I don’t think my dad did pick it up for me.

After that whole experience, where I felt kind of embarrassed and a tad humiliated (mostly at my own incompetence) I kind of never wanted to have to study a book and give a review of it publicly ever again.

Good thing I then went on to do an English Literature degree then isn’t it…?

Where I did have to do it again, but unlike in GCSEs were there was a sense of desperate importance in everything that you do, I was way more relaxed about it. In fact I had to do it several times. But it just felt like less pressure. And also by the time uni came around I was much more comfortable in the whole bullshitting thing. You say anything with enough conviction and provide evidence within the text to back it up then you’re golden. The beauty of literature is that it can be many things to many people. And look, the presentations that I did give were still a tad rushed and I still spoke down to the floor and occasionally mumbled with my sweaty palms and thumping heart. But they were a lot less daunting in that situation.

15/16 year olds judge and don’t let things go. You kind of stop doing that so much at uni and even if they are judging you, there are so many bloody people in your year that it’s easy to forget about them and actually never see them outside of a tutorial group. Don’t get that in GCSE, where people can taunt you about that shit presentation you once gave aged 15 for another solid two years…

Love,

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Letters to Autumn, My Life

Letters to Autumn 3

Dear Autumn,

Stay with me here, I’m gonna talk about books which I haven’t done for a while and am well aware that I am going to dedicate the whole of next month to, but I came to a realisation at the weekend.

I now have under 10 books left to read for this year. I am in the midst of reading book 43. It’s insane to me that I am actually almost at the finish line and can see it on the horizon. I have 6 and a half books left to read.

The problem is this. One there are 3 books that I have left that I physically cannot transport anywhere so I am going to have to read them on weekends and in the evenings when I’m not letting myself be mocked by a flashing cursor on my screen. Which leaves me with 3 and a half books that I are actually on my reading list. The half almost sent me into a reading slump and so I changed books to something that I knew I would like, and the option to do that again is open to only one other book. The other two are two books that I’ve already tried to read this year and wasn’t able to get into and so moved onto to something else.

Part 2 of the problem is that I have bought a lot of books this year. Books that I was not supposed to buy because I was supposed to go through all the books that I bought in 2016 that I shouldn’t have and so I imposed a booking buying ban on myself. And then promptly ignored at several points of the year. Now I only bought all of these books because I was intrigued by them and what they had to offer (and some of them had really pretty covers…I’m weak) which means that on some level I really want to dive in and read them.

I just can’t because I have all these other books that I also want to read, but that list is slowly getting smaller and instead of remaining fully focused on finishing that my mind is starting to wander. Over to the books that are in my future. Beyond the reading challenge.

This has basically come up because I go away next week for 5 days and as part of my travels I am going to spend a LOT of time on trains and such and I’ve started thinking about what books I am going to take with me, and none of the ones that I have left are appealing to me. But all the other ones that I’ve bought are…

And now I’m in a conundrum.

Do I veer off track and select a couple of books from my secondary reading list (why am I the kind of person who has a secondary reading list?) or do I stick with the reading list that has been planned out for me.

Also, yes this is the thought that is the most pressing for me right now. Come Sunday night when I have to pack actual clothes I’ll probably be fine. But the books are the most important part and I don’t know how I’m going to approach it…

Love,

 

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Books, Reading Challenge

Autumn Reading

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It was ridiculous of me to think that I was going to go until November without talking about books once, and yet for some reason I thought I could…but I found it quite refreshing and it took a way a lot of the stress from having to pick my next book when I created my little summer reading list. And so, I decided to do it again for the next couple of months.

I am currently halfway through Book 38 (Brideshead) which means that I am now 12 and a half books away from the end of this reading challenge, which is crazy to think of.  At the beginning of the year there was no way I thought that it would be possible to basically read a book a week. But I am currently tracking at being 3 books ahead of schedule and I had a mostly productive summer in terms of reading.

As I’ve previously said, I typically average at about a book week as long as that book is under 400 or so pages. Most of the books that I have left to read are at that length or longer and 3 of them are not transportable so I have no clue at what point I am going to read them. Weekends, I guess. I’ll cross that bridge later. Due to the fact that all the books I have left are kind of heavy in terms of length and for that reason, even though there are 8 and a bit weeks throughout September and October I am only going to schedule 6 books for this period of time.

Which will (hopefully) put me at book 45 and then leave me with the final 6 books to read for the final two months of the year, including the 3 tomes…

But my reading list for the next two months is (after I’ve finished Brideshead):

1) Anasi Boys – Neil Gaiman 

I have been away from Neil Gaiman for too long and I have 4 books left of his to read and I’m gonna start with this one because I am also itching to get back to something that dabbles in the American Gods world. So I’m gonna get on that over the next few weeks.

2) Tales of the Peculiar – Ransom Riggs

I have never read anything in this world, I don’t know if this is going to be a good thing for not. I guess I will find out when I start reading.

3) Grimm’s Fairytales – The Brothers Grimm

These are all short stories, which will come in handy because it means that in theory I can just blitz a story at a time and get built in breaks. I love it when I don’t necessarily have to stop reading mid page, which I experience a lot.

4) Florence Grace – Tracy Rees

I did not read this over the last two months, I couldn’t get on board with it. So obviously I have to carry it over. It’s not the type of book that I thought it would be and it threw me and now I need to give it another shot. I know what I’m getting into this time, so hopefully it will be a bit easier.

5) Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime – Oscar Wilde

This book is so short. It should be a great quick read that will get me one step closer to my goal.

6) The Sleeper and the Spindle – Neil Gaiman

There are 4 books left by him on this list. Out of 12. Of course he was going to show up twice. I’ve just remembered the target demographic for this book as well as the fact that it is illustrated which means that it also might be quite a quick read and  I could therefore (in theory) entertain the idea of also reading Odd and the Frost Giants…

And those are my next reads. Like I said, I quite like having a lis of a list just so that I don’t add to the stress of having so many books to read and no idea how to choose my next book that I just shut down and end up falling into a slump.

I won’t need to do another one of these because come November time the only books that will still be on my reading list will be the ones that I haven’t read yet. But yeah, that’s my autumn in reading.

Parentheses count: 4. See you tomorrow!

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My Life

…is this thing on?

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Somehow an entire month has now passed since the last time I typed those words and pushed the ‘schedule’ button. It feels like a long time and yet it feels like no time at all. In those 4 weeks I did something crazy and actually went on a holiday. My first one in 3 years and the first time I had taken longer than 5 days off work (which for the most part meant I utilised back holidays and nothing else) in 2 years.

I went to Kos, Greece and the weather was divine (and sometimes a tad too hot). I did a lot of sleeping and relaxing. And eating and drinking. I had a day in which I spent hours in the sea. I lived my life in swimsuits, bralettes and shorts. I completely disconnected from everything around me and got to spend a lot of time with one of my favourite people. It was bliss, I left feeling mostly really zen and relaxed and at peace. Which made going back to work all the more difficult, but I forgot that I booked the Friday off before the bank holiday meaning that in the month of August I did a grand total of 1 full week at work. Winning.

I read most of the books on my Summer Reading list but I hit a bit of small reading slump and that affected how quickly they were read and also I was thrown a curveball with Florence Grace which meant that I just currently get on board with it right now, turns out I need to prepare for that. But I’m making my way through Brideshead Revisited which means that I read 8 (and a half) of the books that I wanted to and also means that I am actually nearing the end of this year’s reading challenge. I mean literally all the books that I have left are pushing over 400 pages so I’m not going to declare that it is do-able quite yet, but I am amazed that I haven’t found the 51 books that I set myself at the beginning of the year a huge mountain to climb and am still on the wrong side of half way.  I might go back to Neil Gaiman after I’ve finished Brideshead because I’ve still got 3 books of his to read and I’m feeling the need to revisit the American Gods world before I finally binge the TV show. I’ll tackle Florence Grace again another week.

In terms of this blog, that whole month that I took off proved to be just what I needed and I have now actually got a plan for the REST of the YEAR. Because that is way closer than I would like it to be, but there you go. September is going to be a bit of a mish mash of things because it is going to be whatever the hell it wants to be. There will be prompt based posts, there will be whatever random things come out of my head, there may even be no posts at all. It’s gonna go how it goes. October will be the return of Letters to Autumn because I love doing that and it keeps things fresh because they can basically be whatever I want them to be and that eases some of the pressure. Moving through to November and it’s going to be book based. Yes, book based. This is mainly because come November I am going to have a LOT of books that need reviewing (as I write this I have books 33-37 saved as drafts) so I’m going to do a sort of a binge and then supplement that with some other book based posts. And then finally because by that point it will be December that month will be that thing that I cannot bring myself to talk about yet because it’s August (as I write this at least it is) themed. And then we reach the end of the year and hopefully by that point I will more ideas to get me through 2018.

Couple of other things, for now I am retiring my monthly playlists because I spend most of my time right now listening to the same songs over and over again and they rarely changed all that often, although sometimes a new one joins the rotation. And then I just listen to a lot of musical soundtracks. It really doesn’t change that much, so instead of doing a monthly one, I might just do one when the mood strikes. If it strikes. Also I’m getting rid of Summary Saturday, which may not be all the surprising given that it just sort of slipped away quietly already but yeah, that’s officially no linger gonna be a thing if only because it kind of feels like a wasted post. And also, I’m not gonna hold myself to such a tight schedule. If I can’t think of a post, then I’m not gonna force one out. That shouldn’t be that much of a problem in future months, but for this one, it’s most likely gonna happen. I have ideas sure, but sometimes life happens and those ideas don’t come as easy.

Other than that, I can now officially say that I’m back with a renewed sense of excitement for things and feeling more creative than ever. Maybe it’s something to do with the fact that autumn is slowly creeping in and that’s always sort of been my season.

Parentheses count: 3. See you tomorrow!

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Books

The Books I Shouldn’t Have Bought

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I’m being bookish again because when all else fails I still have books to talk about.

Now I’ve mentioned once or twice that I am on a self imposed book buying ban. There are exceptions to this ban, for example for some reason I have decided that pre-orders don’t count (because you know that is future me’s problem). Actually that is the only exception really.

Except for the two binge book buying sessions I have been on this year, one in April and one in July. And the fact that I intentionally went into Waterstones on Sunday for the sole purpose of buying a book (and it was nearly more than that, but the other book had a dent in the cover and I need to be the only person who damages a book so that was put back where I found it).

The first time it happened in April I blame R almost entirely because she was with me when it happened. (I mean I also do not have a leg to stand on because I was the one who told her to meet me in Waterstones Piccadilly and nor did she actually make me buy anything, but we ended up mooching around the floors (and I think it was all the floors available to us, except the top one) together and well we both have book addictions and so we both left with books we really shouldn’t have bought.) The second time it happened, I was on my own and once I picked up one book I couldn’t stop and there was no one telling me to stop. And so I didn’t and I had a whole other haul of books in a bag that I dare not look in out of fear of all the books that I now own and shouldn’t have bought. This year at least.

And just to really share the shame (not really) here are all the books that I’ve bought this year whilst being on a supposed ‘book buying ban’, which is going well despite these slip ups…which are quite big slip ups because I’m very much a ‘go hard or go home’ kind of person (I’m really not). My general rule for the year is that pre-orders don’t count, regardless of when I made the pre-order (because I’ve done a lot of that this year…) so these are just the books that I currently have in my possession and am pretending that I don’t.

Ready Player One, Ernst Cline – I’m gonna start with the smallest binge. I bought this on Sunday intentionally because I watched the trailer for the film from Comic Con on Saturday night and I saw the Dolorean and some other pop culture references that intrigued me and reminded me that I really wanted to read this book but for whatever reason hadn’t done so yet. And then I just felt sort of compelled to go out and buy it? Why I do not know. The book is still gonna be there when I finish this year’s reading challenge and yet I felt like I needed it in my house so I could just jump straight to it if I get the chance. I don’t understand me either.

London Fields, Martin Amis – This book started the whole problem and is what first prompted me to break the damn ban in the first place. First of all I love Martin Amis and his writing style even though I was introduced to it in my final year at uni and had to analyse the hell out of him. And then secondly, this book is called London Fields. I work in London Fields. I felt compelled to buy it. I don’t even really know what it’s about, so that’s good.

The Girl of Ink and Stars, Kiran Millwood Hargrave  – I think this had just won a Waterstones award when I was there and so it felt a bit like I couldn’t escape it because it was so on display. I mean I’ve heard great things about this book, so that was also a deciding factor. But yeah, it’s omnipresence as I walked around is what really swayed me.

Fight Club, Chuch Palahniuk – Part of me thinks that the reason that I haven’t watched this film yet even though it’s on Netflix is because I haven’t read the book yet. I liked Choke and always wanted to read more Palahniuk but just hadn’t picked any up. Until this day in April. I think it was the only one that I saw of his, but it will do.

Sharp Objects, Gillian Flynn – Give me anything by Gillian Flynn. Although I think with this book I now own everything she has written, which I’m not sure what to do with…

A Darker Shade of Magic, V.E Schwab – Does somebody want to explain to me why I thought it would be a good idea to buy the first book in yet another book series? Because that is what I did when I bought this. I knew as I stacked it into my left hand that it was a bad idea because it was a commitment and yet I did it anyway. Because I am a sucker for anything set in my home city.

Shockaholic, Carrie Fisher – So we have now moved onto my latest proper binge. I saw the Princess Leia on the cover, my heart panged a little in upset and then I picked it up and started something.

Postcards from the Edge, Carrie Fisher – I miss her and I want to have all of her work in my possession. This was also the last copy that Waterstones had. It was a sign. Plus the font on the cover is set like the beginning of every Star Wars film ever. I am weak. You can only expect so much of me.

Big Little Lies, Liane Moriarty  – I watched the TV adaptation and loved it. It was so well done and the cast was stellar and the final few scenes were just something spectacular. And unlike my parents who do not see why I feel compelled to read the book, I do in fact need to now read the book. The cover is so calming to look at and I cannot wait to delve inside when that eventually happens.

the princess saves herself in this one, amanda lovelace – At some point last year I legit spent ages looking for this book in Waterstones Piccadilly and could. not. do. it. And then just as I was about to turn and pay for the other books that I should not be buying I saw this just nestled in a corner and it felt like I sign that I should snap it up while I still could. And so I did. (I then also had to refrain from picking up another Christina Henry book based on Peter Pan because that felt like a step too far…).

And these are the results of my book buying binges. And just because I’ve realised that my pre-orders haven’t been that bad so far (it’s gonna really hit the fan come September-October time). Now I Rise, Kiersten White, which seemed like a given considering how much I loved And I Darken All that She Can See, Carrie Hope Fletcher,  the opening chapters intrigued me. And finally, I bought a Hufflepuff 20th anniversary special edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone because I am weak and will collect all things Potter related until the end of time.

13 books in 6 months is pretty measured for me I feel. It definitely could have been worse (and yes I am going to keep justifying this to myself like this…).

Parentheses count: 10. See you tomorrow!

 

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Books, Reading Challenge, reviews

2017 Reading Challenge Book 32 – The Hope Family Calendar

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I was so aiming for a perfect week this week and then I got distracted on Wednesday night and pushed Thursday’s post back to 9pm and then I got stuck on a train for 3 hours on Thursday night so that post didn’t get written until Friday and then my hopes and plans were just rained all over and so here we are. I am now aiming for a perfect one this week before I then take a little (and complete) break because I am actually going on a holiday. But more on that in a few days.

But onto the post in question for today. I am coming at you yet another book review because I breezed through this book and well I had a lot of time to kill on Thursday night and was given the chance to finish this book up then. The book is The Hope Family Calendar

I actually forgot that this was signed by the author so when I flicked to opening page and saw that it was nice surprise and it also gave me the kick up the butt that I needed for something else, so that was also nice.

This book is just pretty much borderline the perfect piece of chick lit. It would be the perfect beach read. As it were I read it on trains and it was still just as frothy and perfect as I would like. I really needed something light and breezy after the heaviness (and brilliance) of Nevernight. It’s not a book that tried to reinvent the wheel and to be honest I didn’t need it to.

It was not without it’s faults, in fact I could probably give you a whole list of reasons as to why on some level I actually hated this book. But as it were I didn’t hate this book. It was pleasant. It was passable. Like I said it was exactly what I needed.

The plot is simple. A widower is forced to get his life back on track and be a father to his children after his previously live in mother-in-law goes off to Australia. He fails at first and then rises to the challenge and surprise surprise starts to enjoy being an actual parent to his two daughters, dealing with all the joys that come with having a teenage girl and losing a parent at a young age. It ebbs and flows and deals with the mild horror of maybe realising that you are moving on from a lost spouse. It has love, it has revelations. It has a somewhat happy ending.

It’s literally a rom-com in book form.

Tom was a bit of a nothing character for me. I mean I liked him and on some level I understood where he was coming from, but then also he was somewhat annoying. Maybe it was because from the narrative/reader perspective you could kind of see where things were going with him and you just kind of wanted to tell him to snap out of it. Linda was equally kind of annoying. The way she reacted to things annoyed me. I gotta be honest I didn’t really care about anything she did. I mean again, I understood where she was coming from but like…don’t be so annoying about it?

I found the Tom love story arc kind of lacking. And the Linda one actually, but I think that’s because in the grand scheme of the book so little time is spent within these points of view that as reader you don’t really see where these feelings are coming from and so the story kind of falls flat.

One ‘twist’ I saw coming from a mile away and I saw where the revelation was going to come from as well, but the other caught me slightly off guard which I liked. I always like it when something manages to surprise me when you think you’ve mostly got it figured out.

Look, we all know how I feel about endings. This one kind of fell flat and I don’t know if it’s just because when I finished it I was mighty pissed off with the fact that I was stuck on a train or if because it just wasn’t very satisfying I do not know. But I do know that it kind of felt like everything was wrapped up, but then it also kind of felt like the last few chapters were just sort of pointless because obviously it was going to go the way that it went.

Like I have said, I did like this book. It was pleasant enough. But it is your standard chick lit so if you don’t like that kind of thing I would not recommend it. However if you are looking for the perfect beach read, then this could be it.

3/5 stars

Parentheses count: 2. See you tomorrow!

 

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