Sunday, 31 May 2009

Weekly Geeks - Guilty Pleasures

This week's Weekly Geek question is:

What's your non-reading guilty pleasure?
Trashy TV?
Trashier movies?
Junk food?

Here's my answer:

Internet: I'm absolutely addicted to the internet. Whether I'm blogging, twittering, facebooking, youtube-ing, or spending hours on Wikipedia, I spend the majority of my free time on here. I like to think I'm the kind of person who wouldn't be too bothered if the internet was taken away from me for a week but, the truth is, I'd probably suffer from withdrawls after the first couple of hours. How sad!

Junk Food: I have a strict vegan diet which makes me feel wonderful, and I'm very good at preparing my own dinner full of vegetables, fruits, beans, soya, etc. But, there are those days when everyone needs their junk food fix. Chocolate (dairy free), Pringles, fried rice, cookies (dairy free), waffles, veggie burgers, toasties ... you name it, I'm there. I love the stuff! A girl knows what she wants and nothing gets in my way ;) .

Chat shows: The Jeremy Kyle Show and Maury fall into this category. I love them because they're so utterly ridiculous! I love seeing women turn up on the shows for the fifth time with the sixth and seventh man to try and get a DNA test that'll come out positive. Pure trash - brilliant!

Isolation: Whether it's locking myself away in my room or going for a walk in the park, I love having those rare moments to myself when I can be completely whisked away by my thoughts.

Reading: Summer 2007-December 2008

Here is a list I've manage to compile of all those books I recorded reading from the summer of 2007 until December 2008.

1) The Shining by Stephen King
2) Intensity by Dean Koontz
3) The Fat Girl's Guide to Life by Wendy Shanker
4) Growing Pains by Billie Piper
5) On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
6) High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
7) The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
8) The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl by Belle de Jour
9) Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
10) Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
11) The Curious Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
12) The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
13) East of Eden by John Steinbeck
14) You Drive Me Crazy by Carole Matthews
15) Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
16) Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus by John Gray
17) Anthropology by Dan Rhodes
18) The Beach by Alex Garland
19) My Forbidden Face by Latifa
20) Rage by Richard Bachman
21) The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
22) I Lick my Cheese by Oonagh O'Hagan
23) Feminist Fables by Sunita Namjoshi
24) The Memory Keeper's Daughter by Kim Edwards
25) The Devil Wears Prada by Lauren Weisberger
26) My Booky Wook by Russell Brand
27) Lady Chatterley's Lover by D. H. Lawrence
28) Keeping Faith by Jodi Picoult
29) First Love, Last Rites by Ian McEwan
30) The Best Awful by Carrie Fisher
31) Naked by David Sedaris
32) And God Created the Au Pair by Pascale Smets
33) Prozac Nation by Elizabeth Wurtzel
34) One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
35) Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
36) We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
37) The Books of Albion by Peter Doherty
38) Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
39) Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
40) Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne
41) Little Children by Tom Perrotta
42) Wise Girl by Jamie-Lynn Sigler
43) Stupid White Men by Michael Moore
44) Night Shift by Stephen King  

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Virginia Woolf's voice

Watching The Hours DVD special features, I came across an interview with Nicole Kidman where she is quoted saying that she didn't try to imitate Virginia Woolf's voice in the slightest; if she had done it would have been comical.

I was puzzled by this and quickly searched the web for any record of Virginia's voice (I don't know why I've never thought to do this). And, lo and behold, I came across this. This is the only survived recording of her voice and ... I'm gobsmacked. I would have never put such a posh, plummy voice with this:

On the other hand, the extract was recorded in 1937, when Virginia was 55 so I suppose there is some age added (but 55 isn't that old!!!). I had to listen a few times because I couldn't concentrate on what she was actually saying.

Alternatively, here's a radio interview with Sylvia Plath from October 1962. I may be biased because she's my favourite writer but I could listen to her all day. I love her voice.

Part 1
Part 2
Sylvia reading 'Lady Lazarus'


Necroscope by Brian Lumley

Title: Necroscope

Author: Brian Lumley

Year: 1986

Genre: Paranormal Horror

Plot: Harry Keogh is a necroscope -- he knows the thoughts of corpses in their graves. Unfortunately for Harry, his talent works both ways. The outer limits of horror are unleashed when Harry Keogh is recruited by the E-Branch (E for ESP) of the British Secret Service to combat his own evil counterpart, the deadly Romanian Boris Dragosani. Long buried in hallowed ground, bound by earth and silver, the master vampire schemes and plots. Trapped in unlife, neither dead nor living, Thibor Ferenczy hungers for freedom and revenge. The vampire's human tool is Boris Dragosani, part of a super-secret Soviet spy agency. Dragosani is an avid pupil, eager to plumb the depthless evil of the vampire's mind. Ferenczy teaches Dragosani the awful skills of the necromancer, gives him the ability to rip secrets from the mind and bodies of the dead. Dragosani works not for Ferenczy's freedom but is in the pay of an ultra-secret Soviet paranormal agency over which he means to gain power for himself with knowledge raped from the dead. His speciality is tearing secrets from the souls of newly dead traitors. His only opponent: Harry Koegh. Like Dragosani, Harry is a necroscope who can speak with the dead.But Harry is a champion of the dead -- and the living.

From the Romanian mausoleum where the undead vampire tests the limits of his bonds, the stage is set for the most horrifying, violent supernatural confrontation ever when Harry Keogh is recruited by the British Secret Service to take on Dragosani. To protect Harry, the dead will do anything -- even rise from their graves!

Review: Wow! It's nearly impossible to describe how I feel about this book. I was given it to read by my father - the pair of us share a mutual love of horror books and films. I'm always keen to read more vampire books but, good God, this is so much more than a vampire book.

When I started reading Necroscope, I couldn't help but notice that it was rather dated. From the summary on the back, and the rather slow and (unfortunately) clichéd beginning I had my doubts about what I was getting myself into it. Slowly but surely, though, the story began to pick up. I understood what Lumley was doing. He doesn't want you to miss a thing. He wants you to know the ins and outs of every character in his story because, the moment the drama begins, that's when things get complicated. Let me give you a checklist of what to expect:

  1. E.S.P. - (We're talking telepathy, future predictions, mind control, evil eyes and, of course, talking to the dead)
  2. Vampires (and their history)
  3. Zombies
  4. Time Travel (in a sense)
It's a hell of a lot of detail to cram into one book but Lumley pulls if off perfectly. How he manages this is by introducing you to the characters when they are equally as clueless and naive about these things as you. Despire the fact that his two central heroes, Dragosani and Keogh, hold these formidable powers, their characters and backgrounds are well established and written out which makes you truly believe that these two men are really human and could really exist.

The story itself is completely original - not what it would seem at first, so keep reading. We have Harry and Dragosani working for two seperate secret services - both of which run on E.S.P. talents. Then the vampires are thrown in. Then the talking (and walking) dead. And just before the story reaches it conclusion, elements of space and time travel are thrown in for extra measure.

It's so difficult to completely describe how imaginative, exciting, and spine-tingling this story is. The words speak for themselves and, as a result, I can't give a full review on why I loved this. It's written wonderfully and is clearly something Lumley has taken the time to put together for his readers, inviting them to explore every speck of his imagination. This is the first book in a long series - a series I will definitely be pursuing in time to come because the story isn't over yet. I want to know what happens to those characters that are left behind. All I can say is, if you like a fun and fast-paced story, don't mind a bit of gore, and enjoy anything out of the ordinary, read it for yourself. You won't regret it.

Rating: 5*****  

The Classics Challenge

This morning (er, afternoon), I've discovered a challenge through Amanda from The Zen Leaf, I'm joining in on. I've been quite sad that I haven't been able to join in any book reading challenges this year because my TBR list is far too big to allow me to buy anymore. But this challenge is made for me.

The Classics Challenge
April 1 - October 31, 2009

There are three different levels of the challenge. I'm going for Classic Feast - Reading Six Classics in six months. I better get cracking. I've counted Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen as my first read, as I finished it the other day and wrote a semi-review for it here.

Hopefully this'll get me through my classic books a lot quicker and will give me the chance to re-read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre as well as a spot of Dickens.

I'll be updating the list on this post as I read.

The Classics Challenge:

1) Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
2) The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

Friday, 29 May 2009

Friday Favourites, Finds and Fill-Ins

Excitement through the mail. Two new books from The Book Bag to review in the next fortnight.

Breaking Up Blues
Denise Cullington

Breaking Up Blues is much an indispensable, practical self-help book for those going through break-up and divorce.

Leaver or left, breaking up is much more painful that you'd ever expect. There are so many pitfalls that can leave you stuck in bitterness and rage, emotional emptiness, or in endless depression. Time on its own does not neccessarily heal all.

Written by a psychoanalyst, who has her own experience of break up, Denise Cullington is sympathetic but challenging. She takes you gently but firmly through the areas we would rather not think about - feelings of failure and of guilt; of hatred and envy; of sadness and loss ...

And I'm stopping that right now. Sounds like a real upper, eh? ;-)

Well, at least the second book, a children's book, will make up for it:

Will Jellyfish Rule the World?

Leo Hickman

What do a glacier and a canary have in common?

Why does it rain so much in Britain?

If you've ever wondered what's really happening to our climate, the Guardian's green expert Leo Hickman is here to answer all your questions. And to discuss issues like:

Hurricanes named Henri.
Frog Fungus.
Lizards sunbathing in Antarctica.
Driving a car on chip fat.

PLUS how you can help save the planet by thinking with your stomach.

So beware! The jellyfish haven't taken over the world ... Yet.

I can't wait to read these two. What a perfect contrast. The horrors and realities of dealing with relationships as an adult (FYI, I'm still with the boyfriend - no break-ups in the last two years for me), and the naivety and strength of youth learning about the world and trying to change it. As a 10-year-old our class learned all about the rainforest in school. We spent the rest of the year raising money for the WWF and that charity has been number one with me ever since :-) . Jellyfish looks like the kind of book I would have loved back then.

Moving on ...

As it's Friday, here's a round of my favourites of the week:

Website: Blogger (I've been spending a lot of time on here this week.)

Blog: A Striped Armchair for being all-out awesome. Melody's Reading Corner for having the most creative blog design.

Film: Star Trek. I saw it last week but I still can't get my head around how much I loved it.

Book: I haven't finished any this week but Necroscope has become a real page turner. I'm loving it! (In a non-Mickey D's way).

Song: The Shoot Out from the Thirteen soundtrack. Anyone who's seen the film will know how awesome that moment is - close ups of each of the girl's funky teenage style!

Food: Discovering Oat Milk is nicer than Soy Milk has been the highlight of my week :-D

And moving on to other people's Friday Memes:

What great books did you hear about / discover this past week? Share with us your FRIDAY FINDS!

1) I had the good fortune of discovering a series of YA books in Borders by the authors, P.C. and Kristin Cast. It's a series called House of Night and looks uber interesting about a bunch of supernatural teenagers. Not too teeny-boppy too. I never usually read YA fiction but for these I might make an exception.

2) I've been reading up on the Bronte sisters a lot this week. (Yesterday was the anniversary of Anne's death - 160 years). I've only read Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights but after seeing a great review for Villette on 5-squared, my interest has peaked. I'm going to make it one of my challenges for the year to read at least one book written by each sister that I haven't read (obviously I'll just re-read Wuthering Heights for Emily but I'm definitely going to try and branch out and read the lesser-known ones).

Finally, my Friday Fill-In:

1) It's cold and wet elsewhere in the world. We have a lot of sun :-)

2) I really love ketchup but I hate tomatoes.

3) My favourite health and beauty product is
currently my Nivea lip balm. Despite the warm weather I'm always prone to chapped lips and this is the only lip balm that helps.

4) I'm hoping that by the time next summer comes around I'll have a bicycle. It's days like today that make me want to go for a nice long ride.

5) Well, first of all I'm going to go and make some food, when I've finished this.

6) Robert Pattinson and an old friend from school; those were the cast of characters in a recent dream and it was very erotic.

7) And as for my weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to catching up with The Tudors and finishing my book, tomorrow my plans include shopping for food and Sunday, I want to be able to go out in the sun again.



Just a thought I've had to end the day.

Moving day's approaching. The day in which I leave this comfortable existence I've created for myself in the new suburbs of Cardiff and head back to the working-class town I came from. It occurs to me that I need a good shake of reality. In fact, I'm in deperate need of one.

I grew up relatively poor. We were never poor poor, to the point where we had free school dinners and lived in council houses. It was more of a budget-driven, hand-me-downs from your elder cousin, "no" the the latest craze in school thing. I grew up watching people work. Work. Work. Work. (Something I haven't been able to get for close to six months now). No-one was well-off which is why it was so important to do well for yourself. My brothers and I were taught from day one that in order to get your dream job, you should do well at school and go to university. Otherwise you'd be stuck in a "dead end" job you can't get out of.

Mission accomplished. I moved out of that small town and into the big city, meeting tons of new and exciting people from all around the world. I might be wrong but I struggle to think of one person who came from a "traditional working-class" town that I met in university or after. I don't resent those who've had the lucky breaks. I'm under no illusions that life is significantly more difficult for people with "less money." And I admire those who've had parents that have fought to get where they are in life.

I do, however, occasionally question why others can't be so open-minded when it comes to the "lower classes."

"It's not my fault he's in a minimum wage job. He should try and fight for a better one."

He can't. Did you know that the school I attended barely paid you any attention unless you were receiving 'A's and 'B's? That if you struggled with more than half your school subjects the teachers lost faith in you? That if you weren't really all that interested in learning about mitosis or William the Conqueror they'd glance out of the window at the town's steel works as if to say, 'You'll be there in a few years'?

This was a comprehensive school which no pupil had to fight to apply for. Anyone could attend it. Yet they chose to ignore any 'disadvantaged youths' (quite a considerable percentage given the backgrounds of most - the town isn't the safest) and concentrate on the few good eggs that would shine.

This is why that minimum-wage working man can't get a better-paid, higher-ranking job. Schools like that shithole! 45% of the pupils I started school with had dropped out by the time GCSE time came around. From the age of 12-13, so many children are brushed aside, not given the self-belief that if they wanted something hard enough, they can achieve it. If you grow up being told that you're thick, you'll never amount to anything, you'll never get anywhere in life, by your own teachers, is it any wonder that so many just give up? So many "settle for less"? And so many more don't even bother with that. What more is there to do in life? Waste time ... mess around ... break things ... do damage ... break the law ...

I don't condone this attitude for a moment but I do wish more people were aware of why this happens; why there are so many "chavvy scum" walking around.

As I've mentioned before, my hometown is very working-class. It has the steel works which provides hundreds and hundreds of jobs a year. They may not be curing Cancer but they're working. But my town also opened my eyes to how people turn out in the "lower class" spectrum. Spending four years away from it hasn't been good for me. I forget why there is such a class divide and why people end up miserable. I forget that every person is equal no matter what they do for a living, no matter what their educational background, or what they live like. I've been trying for so many years to find people who'll accept me as an 'unique individual' that I've forgotten how to also accept others for who they are.

I'm encouraged to "break out" of that working-class background, do something more with my life, achieve my dreams. And in the process of trying to do that and 'find myself,' I've become a snob. I sneer at those who claim benefits and love it. I scoff at those jobs I may be too 'over-qualified' for. I have no doubt that there are those individuals who genuinely don't give a shit about working if they can get 'free money' but I've forgotten about the others who end up that way; those who wanted more but were raised to believe they could never get it.

I need a heavy dose of reality. I need my roots. I need the old 'me'. I can achieve everything I want but still be that same person. And I suppose I'm glad I have the opportunity to get rid of this 'Holier than Thou' attitude while I'm still young and just hope my friends can re-accept the 'real' me, the working-class tomboy at heart, and forget about the farce.


Thursday, 28 May 2009

Memes and Upcoming posts

Today I've had the pleasure of coming across a wonderful book blog written by a great 23-year-old college grad who goes through hundreds of books a year. I usually find a big amount of good book blogs every day but the reason I mention A Striped Armchair is because she has a vast amount of memes under her 'about me' which I'm going to steal over the next couple of days to do myself while I finish off Necroscope.

I'll also be writing an extended review of the Cardiff Anarchist Book Fair in response to a recent Anarchist's message to me concerning what I mentioned in a previous post. That should be up in the next two or three days.

Oh, and *excitement overload* at Audrey Niffenegger's second novel, Her Fearful Symmetry, showing up on Amazon's book list for pre-orders. I can not wait for this to be released. I loved The Time Traveler's Wife and this one sounds just as interesting too:

Julia and Valentina Poole are normal American teenagers - normal, at least, for identical 'mirror' twins who have no interest in college or jobs or possibly anything outside their cozy suburban home. But everything changes when they receive notice that an aunt whom they didn't know existed has died and left them her flat in an apartment block overlooking Highgate Cemetery in London. They feel that at last their own lives can begin ...but have no idea that they've been summoned into a tangle of fraying lives, from the obsessive-compulsive crossword setter who lives above them to their aunt's mysterious and elusive lover who lives below them, and even to their aunt herself, who never got over her estrangement from the twins' mother - and who can't even seem to quite leave her flat. With Highgate Cemetery itself a character and echoes of Henry James and Charles Dickens, "Her Fearful Symmetry" is a delicious and deadly twenty-first-century ghost story about Niffenegger's familiar themes of love, loss and identity. It is certain to cement her standing as one of the most singular and remarkable novelists of our time.
I repeat: I CAN NOT WAIT! :-D (Though I do feel sorry for her given the pressure she's under. The Time Traveler's Wife was so successful, how do you follow that up?)

Anyway, now to finish off the post with A Striped Armchair's own meme as the start of what will probably be many for the coming week:

Which book do you irrationally cringe away from reading, despite seeing only positive reviews? It's a horrible thing to say but any 'chick lit' usually gets a sneer from me. I do own a few 'chick lit' books and do read them when I feel as though I need to switch my mind off and relax into my reading, but I suppose it's quite taboo in some circles to be reading something easy like that. I think the attitude's very much rubbed off on me.

f you could bring three characters to life for a social event (afternoon tea, a night of clubbing, perhaps a world cruise), who would they be and what would the event be? Having just read Northanger Abbey, I'd have to copy Eve for my first choice and say Henry Tilney for any social event I feel uncomfortable going to (in the sense that I know close to no-one there). He seems to make anyone in his company feel at ease from playful teasing and seeming genuinely interested in what one has to say so he'd be a wonderful friend to have by your side.

The second choice is Henry De Tamble (The Time Traveler's Wife)because I am in love with that man. I suppose he wouldn't be great to take anywhere important because he could disappear through time at any given moment. As he's a librarian, I'd like to discover the ancient ruins of Rome or Egypt. He'd be a good scholar to have by my side and wouldn't complain about learning new things on holiday.

Last but not least, Robbie Turner from Atonement. I'd take him to the opening of a new library. ;-) Rawrrr!

(Borrowing shamelessly from the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde): you are told you can’t die until you read the most boring novel on the planet. While this immortality is great for awhile, eventually you realise it’s past time to die. Which book would you expect to get you a nice grave? The Grapes of Wrath. Thirty pages describing how a turtle/tortoise crosses a road was too much for me. Steinbeck suffers from diarrhea of the typewriter. Word vomit! Ugh.

Come on, we’ve all been there. Which book have you pretended, or at least hinted, that you’ve read, when in fact you’ve been nowhere near it? I've been nowhere near the Little Women books but, having seen the Winona Ryder film, have commented on them in quite a silly "I know all about the story" manner. :-P

As an addition to the last question, has there been a book that you really thought you had read, only to realise when you read a review about it/go to ‘reread’ it that you haven’t? Which book? I forget I haven't read Lord of the Flies because I saw it on stage for my Drama/Theatre A Level and did a bit of work about it. I'd like to read it properly one day though.

You’re interviewing for the post of Official Book Advisor to some VIP (who’s not a big reader). What’s the first book you’d recommend and why? (if you feel like you’d have to know the person, go ahead of personalise the VIP) The Time Traveler's Wife. I always tell everyone I meet they should read that book. It's such a wonderful modern story, one of my favourites, with characters you can't help but love. And the way it's written? Wow. So brilliantly.

A good fairy comes and grants you one wish: you will have perfect reading comprehension in the foreign language of your choice. Which language do you go with? French. I'd like to read more Victor Hugo, Simone De Beauvoir and the Marquis de Sade in their original forms.

A mischievious fairy comes and says that you must choose one book that you will reread once a year for the rest of your life (you can read other books as well). Which book would you pick? The Time Traveler's Wife. I'll probably be reading it once a year for a long time to come anyway.

I know that the book blogging community, and its various challenges, have pushed my reading borders. What’s one bookish thing you ‘discovered’ from book blogging (maybe a new genre, or author, or new appreciation for cover art-anything)? That I should definitely read more modern fiction. I seem to read too many classics or works by writers that have been dead for quite a while. I'd love to be able to find a modern author I can follow while they're still alive and writing. There are so many book blogs talking about the new release of this and that by their favourite author.

That good fairy is back for one final visit. Now, she’s granting you your dream library! Describe it. Is everything leatherbound? Is it full of first edition hardcovers? Pristine trade paperbacks? Perhaps a few favourite authors have inscribed their works? Go ahead-let your imagination run free. Remember that scene from Beauty and the Beast when he shows her his library? That's my dream. All my favourite classics would have first edition copies there and there'd be an endless supply of every book in the world :-D.


Tuesday, 26 May 2009

All-Time Favourites

As this blog has recently turned more book-focused, I thought it would be only sensible to make a post on my top ten favourite books. There're some great 'Favourite Books' videos on YouTube and I briefly considered doing one myself but quickly felt silly the moment I turned the camera on. This way will do for now. :-)

Top 10 All-Time Favourite Books (for now)

10. Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu.
I first read this delight for my Gothic Literautre module in university. It's one of the first vampire tales written and supposedly the inspiration for 'Dracula'. Anyone who's recently got into the vampire genre and is looking for more to read should definitely give this a try. It's only a hundred pages or so, so if you don't like the story, you won't feel as though you've wasted a lot of time on it.

9. The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka.
Another short story I read in university. This is the tale of Gregor Sampson, a young man who wakes up one morning to discover that he's turned into a bug. It isn't the most conventional story but I love stories that aren't what they seem. 'The Metamorphosis' is full of metaphors and symbolism to describe mankind, the state of one's life, and the human condition. Anyone who prefers their stories to be a little more straightforward should just avoid this altogether.

8. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Obviously. How could I not include this? It was the first book to ever make me cry and surprised me with how spooky it was in parts (a feeling I did *not* get from 'Wuthering Heights'), romantic, mysterious, and absolutely joyful. It is a tale of an orphan but not one that's going to extremes to depress you. It's a wonderful story of femininity and courage and love.

7. American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis.
Anyone who's seen the film should read the book. This book is amazing. It's about a young man who works on Wall Street. He's very successful, has a fancy apartment, lovely girlfriend, big circle of friends, flashy cars, flashy wardrobe, and ... likes to murder people. But, when it comes down to it, this story isn't as black and white as it may seem. It's more focused on the effect of materialism in a society and how we begin to see each other differently when we forget how to connect. (FYI, for those who have seen the film, the book is actually about five times more graphic and violent).

6. Howl by Allen Ginsberg. I can't really describe how this poem made me feel. When you've grown up feeling a little different from your peers and not really wanting to get into the 'conventionl' routine of life, the beatniks can feel like a Godsend. My fascination with the beats has started with this book of poems, a book I connected to so vividly, and made me feel - how should I describe it? - less 'alone', I guess.

5. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath.
Sylvia's probably my all-time favourite writer. The first time I read this I was 16-17 and enjoyed it. Having been through quite a bit in the last four years, this book takes on a whole other perspective. Sylvia writes from the heart about her experiences with depression and gives you a character to feel connected with. It assures you that you're not the only one that's had to go through this at one stage in your life.

4. Matilda by Roald Dahl.
My favourite book from childhood and the first book-to-film adaptation I saw (when I was 10) and spotted what was missing from the book. How could anyone not love this book? Roald Dahl has a wonderful way of speaking to children - never patronising them, and always casting grown-ups as the big, scary villains. Matilda, the story of a gifted girl who isn't appreciated by her family and fights for the right to prove that grown-ups aren't always right, is a wonderful story. I love it!

3. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.
This should be at number 2 but there's a reason it got beat down to number 3 (which I'll explain with the next book). This is one of the best written modern books I've ever read. This should become a classic in years to come. It's a wonderful story about a couple who struggle with their relationship - Henry has a time travelling gene, and finds himself flitting up and down timelines without a moment's warning. I fell in love with every character of this book and didn't want it to ever end. It's a must read for anybody. Not just a soppy love story.

2. The Journals of Sylvia Plath, 1950-1962.
The reason this book beat The Time Traveler's Wife to number 2 is because this was the book that inspired me to keep a journal. Not only did I get a glimpse into Sylvia's life but I got a big chunk of inspiration from it. These journals are wonderfully written: packed with average journal entries about life, pieces of poetry and prose, and quick streams of consciousness words. Any fan of hers *needs* to read this.

1. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.
Controversial but a wonderful way of asking whether it is better to be good out of free will or force? Most people will have seen the film but the book is a masterpiece. Written entirely in 'Newspeak' (a language not hard to understand after the first paragraph or so at all), it is the tale of one young brute's journey when he is no longer free to make his own deicisons. Read it, it's wonderful. How many classic books are narrated by a vigilante who loves to rape, rob, and murder during his free time?  

Monday, 25 May 2009

A New Week

Okay, so it's a new week and, as ever, my obsession with books has taken an even firmer hold. I find myself dreaming of book blogs these days. Yup ... Anyone know a good therapist? :-P

First things first. What a gorgeous weekend we had here in South Wales. Saturday saw a trip to the first Cardiff Anarchist Book Fair. Tables and gardens of punkish types with extreme views on ... well, everything. From politics to restaurants, these guys managed to have issues with anything you might mention. Did you know that the more extreme Anarchists believe restaurants are a form of slavery? Because you are walking into a building and demanding that a man/woman bring you food which another under-paid, anonymous person has worked to make for you. ("Under-paid" wouldn't be the term I'd use to describe the likes of Gordon Ramsey). But, overall, it was a lot of fun. I took great delight in seeing the stall dedicated to reinforcing the hunting ban in this country. Will definitely be looking more into it. And a lot of flyers floating around about how to eat Vegan in Cardiff which I found very useful. :-) So thanks to the Anarchists for that.

After the fair it was on to the National Museum Wales where my friends insisted on taking me into the Diane Arbus exhibition. Apparently I'm the last human being to discover this wonderful photographer and am now keen to get my hands on the (book) collections of her pictures.

The weekend was then finished off with an afternoon/picnic/BBQ at the park in the blazing hot sun. The result was as follows:

Whoever said I wasn't smart? :-S Ouch!

Anyway, finally, onto the subject of books.

I have finished the wonder that is Northanger Abbey by Miss Jane Austen. While it's clearly not the best-written of her six novels, it's certainly one of the most interesting. Published posthumously in 1818, Northanger Abbey was actually written twenty years earlier and ready for publication before her other stories. I say it's not the best-written because, as with any young writer, it's clear that Jane's still trying to find her own style. The story focuses so heavily on our heroine, Catherine, discovering the joy of reading and the excitement of Gothic novels, it's hard not to see her as a semi-autobiographical version of the author. Perhaps it is Jane who discovered these stories and felt inspired to write her own. Catherine's naivety and silliness at being able to spook herself from the haunting interior of the Abbey seems familiar and could very well be a reflection of Austen's own youthful discoveries of the world.

For these reasons though, Northanger Abbey is currently fighting to be my favourite of the Austen novels. The story of a girl who hasn't quite found herself yet and is taken under the influence by all of those she meets is something every young girl can relate to. Jane Austen was 22-23 - my age - when she wrote this and by diving into this 200-page story I've found a way of connecting to one of my favourite authors that I have never been able to do before.

On my current reading list is (still) Necroscope by Brian Lumley, Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist, and The Hours by Michael Cunningham. It isn't that Necroscope is taking a while because I'm not enjoying it - quite the opposite actually - but it's the way Lumley writes that leaves me feeling a little exhausted after 50 pages or so. There's a lot to take in with this story and, though I know I'm going to want to carry on with the series, I may take a few years to finish the whole collection.

Let the Right One In is the Swedish book I've been wanting to read for a while now. It's actually my friend's copy. She read it a few years ago and raved about it, and it really did sound awesome. From what I'm told it's very dark, kind of disturbing, and has vampires in it. I can't wait!

I chose The Hours to read because it's only fair that, while I'm reading other people's books, I can try and get through the pile of TBR I already own. The Hours was supposed to be the 'light reading' which accompanied the two 'vampire' themed books but, as everyone who's seen the film will know, it's not the most cheery read.

Let's hope my boyfriend doesn't find me curled up and trembling, in the fetal position, a few days from now after an overdose of vampirism, 'undead' rituals and pure melancholy.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

A Second First Time?

Booking Through Thursday's Question of the Week is "What book would you love to be able to read again for the first time?"

This wasn't a hard choice so I've come down to three possible answers:

1) The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger. I wish I could go back to how excited and absorbed I was in reading this book. I couldn't get enough of it or recommend it to enough people. I fell completely in love with all the characters and was blown away by how well-written such a modern book was. I still love the book but that initial reaction was enough to make me want more.

2) Jane Eyre by Charlote Bronte. This was the first book to make me cry ***spoiler*** when Rochester finally confesses his love for Jane ... Ahhh *sobs*.

3) Mansfield Park by Jane Austen. This was my first taste of Miss Austen and one of the best books I've ever read. I'd only ever heard that Austen wrote silly girly classical romances so to discover that she wrote with such wit and intelligence and created wonderful characters was an absolute joy.


Friday, 22 May 2009

Book Review & Penguin's Top 100

My latest book review for The Book Bag is up here. I breathe a sigh of relief at being asked to review more for the website, especially after I was cautioned that I shouldn't indent so many of my paragraphs when submitting, and I should refrain from using the phrase "One" rather than "I". (I blame my university course and reading too many classics.)

Until I finish Northanger Abbey and Necroscope, I'm just going to post a little game in the meantime. It's one of those delightful memes that are going around. You read the list of Penguin's 100 Classics You Must Read Before You Die and strikethrough what you've read (thereby allowing any overlooker to criticise what you may have missed out ;-) ).

Top 100.

1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest - Ken Kesey
2. Diary of a Madman and Other Stories - Nikolai Gogol
3. Wide Sargasso Sea - Jean Rhys
4. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
5. Notes From Underground - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
6. Story of the Eye - Georges Bataille
7. Spy In House Of Love: V4 In Nin'S Continuous Novel - Anais Nin
8. Lady Chatterly's Lover - D.H.Lawrence
9. Venus in Furs - Leopold von Sacher-Masoch
10. The Canterbury Tales - Geoffrey Chaucer
11. The Karamazov Brothers - Fyodor Dostoevsky
12. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
13. Diamonds Are Forever - Ian Fleming
14. The Master and Margarita - Mikhail Bulgakov
15. The Secret Agent - Joseph Conrad
16. A Room With a View - E. M. Forster
17. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
18. Don Juan - Lord George Gordon Byron
19. Love in a Cold Climate- Nancy Mitford
20. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof - Tennessee Williams
21. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
22. Middlemarch - George Eliot
23. She: A History of Adventure - H. Rider Haggard
24. The Fight - by Norman Mailer
25. No Easy Walk to Freedom - Nelson Mandela
26. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck
27. The Age of Innocence - Edith Wharton
28. Notre-Dame of Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) - Victor Hugo
29. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
30. The Old Curiosity Shop - Charles Dickens
31. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson
32. Bram Stoker's Dracula - Bram Stoker
33. Frankenstein - Mary Shelley
34. The Castle of Otranto - Horace Walpole
35. The Turn of the Screw - Henry James
36. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
37. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
38. Baby doll - Tennessee Williams
39. Breakfast at Tiffany's - Truman Capote
40. Emma - Jane Austen
41. On the Road - Jack Kerouac
42. The Odyssey - Homer
43. The Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
44. Three Men in a Boat - Jerome K. Jerome
45. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
46. The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
47. Vile Bodies - Evelyn Waugh
48. The Picture of Dorian Gray - Oscar Wilde
49. The Beautiful and Damned - F. Scott Fitzgerald
50. Against Nature - Joris-Karl Huysmans
51. The Autobiography of Malcolm X - Malcolm X
52. The Outsider - Albert Camus
53. Animal Farm - George Orwell
54. The Communist Manifesto - Karl Marx
55. Les Misérables - Victor Hugo
56. The Time Machine - H. G. Wells
57. The Man in the High Castle - Philip K. Dick
58. The Invisible Man - H.G. Wells
59. The Day of the Triffids - John Wyndham
60. We - Yevgeny Zamyatin
61. A Clockwork Orange - Anthony Burgess
62. Hell's Angels: A Strange and Terrible Saga - Hunter S. Thompson
63. A Tale of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
64. Another Country - James Baldwin
65. In Cold Blood - Truman Capote
66. Junky: The Definitive Text of Junk - William S. Burroughs
67. The Moonstone - Wilkie Collins
68. Confessions of an English Opium Eater - Thomas De Quincey
69. Subterraneans - Jack Kerouac
70. Monsieur Monde Vanishes - Georges Simenon
71. Nineteen Eighty-four - George Orwell
72. The Monkey Wrench Gang - Edward Abbey
73. The Prince - Niccolo Machiavelli
74. Bound for Glory - Arthur Miller
75. Death of a Salesman - Georges Simenon
76. Maigret and the Ghost - Georges Simenon
77. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
78. The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler
79. A Study in Scarlet - Arthur Conan, Sir Doyle
80. The Thirty-Nine Steps - John Buchan
81. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
82. Therese Raquin - Ãmile Zola
83. Les Liaisons dangereuses - Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
84. The Scarlet Letter - Nathaniel Hawthorne
85. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
86. I, Claudius : From the Autobiography of Tiberius Claudius, Born 10 B.C., Murdered and Deified A.D. 54 - Robert Graves
87. Hangover Square - Patrick Hamilton
88. The Beggar's Opera - John Gay
89. The Twelve Caesars - Suetonius
90. Guys and Dolls - Hal Leonard Corporation
91. Treasure Island - Robert Louis Stevenson
92. The Iliad of Homer - Homer
93. The Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
94. From Russia with Love - Ian Fleming
95. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
96. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
97. The Diary of a Nobody - George Grossmith
98. Pickwick Papers - Charles Dickens
99. Scoop - Evelyn Waugh
100. Lucky Jim - Kingsley Amis

That's pretty pathetic for a self-confessed bookworm.

I desperately need to sign off now. I've just been given news that I tried to pull a 'Sylvia Plath' and left the gas on downstairs. As a result, the whole house smells of it. Yikes! :-S

(Oh, and thankyou to Forgetting to Forget for name-checking me on her blog today. :-D )  

Quote of the Day

"Books have the same enemies as people: fire, humidity, animals, weather, and their own content." - Paul Valery, French poet, essayist, and philosopher.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

'Tis at last finished.

I've finally managed to finish reading The Stolen by Jason Pinter. I found out it's actually a pre-release copy which makes me feel flattered that The Book Bag would actually trust me to review one of their new deliveries. I'm not going to go into details about it on here because my review is for them but I will post a link to it when it's done. All I can say is that I will never judge a crime/thriller book in a negative way again. I've only ever read one other crime novel and that was The Know by Martina Cole in 2005. I read it all on a journey from Paris to South Wales because I'd finished the Flowers in the Attic series I'd brought along with me. I enjoyed that but knew that crime wasn't really for me.

However, if there's one book that would make me turn back to crime it would be The Stolen. Consider it my action blockbuster for the summer (because we all know I avoid those films like the plague!). It has all the elements you want to keep you entertained, though I do find it frustrating when authors let the reader know what is happening before the characters. (I remember being taught that technique in university as a 'clever ploy' to make your reader feel smart. It just annoys me!) Even though The Stolen is the third in a series of 'Henry Parker' books (a series I have not read), I enjoyed it five times more than I expected. I even debated trying to find the first two books and reading those! I can't wait to review it properly.

I'm still working my way through my father's beaten up copy of Necroscope by Brian Lumley. A hundred pages in and it finally starts getting quite eery. The main Russian character, Dragosani, insists on talking to a strange 'undead' creature for five chapters straight and I can't stop myself from hearing the creature's voice as the possessed Regan MacNeil, which means that I will never let the boyfriend leave me alone in the house for the next couple of weeks!

To balance it out, I'm also reading Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen - one of two Austen novels I have yet to read but quickly turning into one of my favourites. Isn't Miss Austen simply devine? I cannot fault her. And I cannot attempt to write like her too. Erg.  

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Bookathon Update - May 2009

Just a quick update on how I'm doing on my "50 books in 2009" challenge. :-)

Books Read (so far)

1) The Danish Girl by David Ebershoff.
2) Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis
3) Dracula by Bram Stoker
4) Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee by Meera Syal
5) Bitten by Kelley Armstrong
6) In Between The Sheets by Ian McEwan
7) The Wise Woman by Philippa Gregory
8) Twilight by Stephenie Meyer
9) She Came to Stay by Simone De Beauvoir
10) The Good Mayor by Andrew Nicoll
11) A Lover of Unreason: The Life and Tragic Death of Assia Wevill - Ted Hughes' Doomed Love by Yehuda Koren & Eilat Negev
12) New Moon by Stephenie Meyer
13) Digging to America by Anne Tyler
14) Asa, As I Knew Him by Susanna Kaysen
15) The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
16) Howl by Allen Ginsberg
17) Love, Janis by Laura Joplin

Books I've tried and failed

1) The Monk by Matthew Lewis

Currently Reading

1) Necroscope by Brian Lumley
2) The Stolen by Jason Pinter
3) Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

Wow, look at Ceri being all Vegan and stuff ...

After six dedicated years of Vegetarianism, I think I'm going to try my hand at Veganism. Dairy and eggs have started giving me that 'ergg' feeling that meat and fish do and I don't think I can eat it anymore. Especially after seeing this. That video is the stuff of nightmares. I had to keep looking away and could barely finish it. I dare anybody reading this blog to watch it all the way through with a clear conscience.

I made my first vegan meal last night after buying some new vegan-friendly books (Vegan Cooking for One and Skinny Bitch). Potato and Lentil Bake. Very yummy. Also bought some soy milk (*yum* - everyone says it's icky but it's soooo not) and vegan butter. Look at me go with my vegan self. I'm making sure I ease myself into veganism this time round rather than go completely cold turkey like I did with vegetarianism (which eventually led to anaemia) so I'm finishing off the cheesy pastas I have in the cupboard and my milk chocolate from Christmas and Easter (don't judge me, I can't afford to throw away food) before I reach 100% veganism.

Three things are making me a little uncertain on this venture though:
1) Going home. I'm moving in with my parents and I can only imagine it's going to be a little awkward to accomodate me for the meals. My Mum's a vegetarian but I'm ten times fussier than her. Veganism is going to aggrovate that. On Thursday when I meet up with Mum for shopping and lunch, I'm going to lay it on here. And also explain that I've found a wonderful vegan website which seems to have just about everything that'll meet my culinary needs. That's still going to be awkward as hell when it comes to dinner together.

2) Going out for dinner. I don't think this'll be too bad with my friends. They're very open-minded people and wouldn't care if I ordered something *my way* ("Excuse me, could you make sure there's no dressing on this?"). But going out for birthday dinners with my family might be a pain in the ass. Whatever. I'm sure they won't mind. Veggie burger with fries is actually quite vegan friendly (to my surprise).

3) Probably what I'm most worried about is the in-laws. It's one thing to fuss over what your parents cook you. But to fuss over what the boyfriend's parents cook you? Bless their hearts. They already do so much for me when I visit, making sure I have more than enough vegetarian food, but what's going to happen when I refuse the cheese sauce? Or a piece of cake (filled with egg or milk)? Yikes.

Oh, well, we'll have to see what happens. In other news, I recently applied to be a reviewer on this website by sending them my review on The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl. They liked it and sent me a book to read (The Stolen by Jason Pinter) for a 'trial review'. Before I'd even received The Stolen, my original Call Girl review is up on the site! This has to be a good sign. I'm over the moon about it.

On the subject of films, I was going to write up a review of The Orphanage after seeing it for the first time the other night but I couldn't be bothered. Amazing film. One of the best scary films I've seen in years. Though, I did have one issue with it: When I sit down to a scary film, I expect to be scared. I was scared but I didn't expect it to turn into a weepy during the last ten minutes. I haven't cried so much in months! Oh, and Roger Princep (Sim
ón) should be locked away for being too cute.

Signing off to get a life now. Really getting into Phantom Planet this week - why is it that bands take an extended hiatus the moment I start getting in to them?  

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

RIP Dom DeLuise :-(

Just a small blog about the loss of a very funny man who will be missed.

Most people my age will remember Dom as the beloved voice of 'Tiger' in the American Tail films, 'Jeremy the Crow' in the 'Secret of NIMH' films, 'Itchy' in the 'All Dogs go to Heaven' films and many more. Then, as I got older and discovered Mel Brooks' fabulous films, I got to see his wonderful comedy roles. (Blazing Saddles, Spaceballs, Cannonball)

Dom's voice is one of the main voices that I associate with my childhood so to lose such a legend is utterly tragic. He passed away in hospital yesterday - it's said to be kidney failure. Thankfully he was sleeping so he slipped away peacefully. He was 75.

Rest In Peace Dom. We'll remember you and treasure you.  

It's Official!

As of July 1st, I'll be leaving Cardiff and moving back in with the parents. As a 22-year-old university graduate who hasn't really lived at home for at least four years, you'd think I'd be a bit more miffed at having to go back. But I'm actually looking forward to it. It'll be nice to see my little brothers every day and, at last, my Mum will get to see another female more than once in a blue moon. Plus, my parents have mentioned they're considering redecorating my old room and getting new furniture for it before I move back. God, I'm spoilt. hehe. We'll see how long this excitement lasts. Give it two or three days and I might be ripping my hair out.

Until then, I'm going to enjoy every moment of having my own space and my own house. I'm definitely going to miss the shops in Cardiff. All the shops in my hometown are half burned out or have gone out of business. Let's hope I get a nice job here that I can travel back and forth to until I find a new house in the city.

I'm desperately looking forward to the 30th-31st weekend. My best friend in the world is coming to stay (at last) for a good girly weekend before I'm off back home and she (finally) moves to Cardiff. Our timing couldn't be more off. We're talking gossip, wine, munchies and the whole shabang! (Did that sound sexual?)

Finally finished my Swine Flu article which is up on the website for a whole week. Definitely should do some more for that site. Gives me such a thrill to see my writing on there. (Do I say 'definitely' too much?)

I don't really have much to blog about today. I've started on a new book (one of my Dad's) called Necroscope by Brian Lumley. Loving it so far. It's book number 18 (I think). Think I'll post a progress report on my bookathon later.


Sunday, 3 May 2009

"Get it while you can ... 'cause it may not be there tomorrow."

Finally finished book #17 - Love, Janis by Laura Joplin. What an incredible read. And what an incredible woman. Why have I only now discovered her?

Like many before me, I feel inspired and really connected to Janis' story. She didn't conform to society's rules, didn't connect easily with most people, and, as a result, became an outcast at her school, her town, her state. She finally did find a group of friends that were accepting - those who opposed the rules that dictated black and whites must live apart, and that it was important that one should only love the opposite sex, and one should settle down into family life as soon as possible without questioning authority. Janis was a teenage beatnik, and a twenty-something hippy. And all that time she was never truly happy. Like most of us, she had a destructive soul that she found hard to control. She was happy doing what she loved but she quickly got caught in a whirlwind she couldn't get out of. Her life ran passed her and she found it impossible to catch up. It probably didn't help that she desperately needed people to like her - she always craved that love and acceptance from her fans, and, consequently, overworked herself to her grave.

Laura's written a beautiful account of her sister's life. Funny, poignant, and full of truth - never leaving out the gruesome bits for sentimental value. Laura isn't afraid to mention when Janis' head began to get too big for her. Janis knew she was famous and, if she wasn't cooed over frequently, would quickly lose her temper and begin to doubt herself again.

It's the truth in the biography that makes it a wonderful thing to read. And I recognised some of my own flaws through discovering Janis' own. This book's definitely a keeper.

Onto other topics, I can't believe I've spent the day reading. It's been wonderful but I haven't completed any work and it's now 11.30pm. I must now spend the early hours of the morning writing a feature article for The Sprout's website on swine flu. Eeek. And remember to feed myself. Erggg. Wouldn't it be brilliant if there was a machine that could just print out everything in your brain, no matter how scrambled the words were? It would save so much time and effort.  

Saturday, 2 May 2009


This is getting ridiculous now. Even I'm worrying myself about the swine flu. I've woken up with a sniffley nose, sore eyes, and a tickly cough. Yeahhh ... it's hayfever. Stupid summer weather.