Books

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Back in January I blogged about my resolutions for 2013. Since we are now hurtling into March I thought I’d revist them and reveal how much I’m winning (um, or failing) at them.

01. Read 51 books: Having a holiday always ramps up my reading and Morocco was no different. I devoured 6 books in one week and that included The Innocents by Francesca Segal  which will be very hard pushed to be defeated as my book of the year; a bold statement for February! I also rediscovered a favourite author; Erin Kelly. I read The Poison Tree  (recently made into an… okay… ITV drama) a few years ago now. It was my pre-kindle days and it was a beast of a book that I eventually had to ditch on a hotel bookcase in Massachusetts as I couldn’t fit it back into my suitcase, but I hope someone else went on to really enjoy it too. I didn’t realise Erin Kelly had released any other books so when I idly typed her name into Amazon, suddenly I had The Sick Rose & The Burning Air to read and I did; back to back. Her writing style is so poetic and she creates a real underlaying sense of foreboding, definitely an author if you like a prickle in the back of your neck and a page turner that keeps you awake into the night until you’ve finished. I’ve now hit a total brick wall though, I’ve been so busy since I returned that I haven’t read a single book. I have started The Blind Man’s Garden and whilst it’s receiving massive critical acclaim, I just cannot get into it. This is probably more to do with my work-drained state of brain, than the quality of the book. I also have a novel from one of my favourite authors Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell awaiting me, so I might just stick Nadeem Aslam on the back burner until I finish that. I am about to embark on an 11 hour flight… so maybe I’ll have time for both?

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Talking of reading.. last week the devastating happened. My kindle died! It’s been heading that way for ages; constantly freezing and crashing and randomly deleting everything. It had lasted 3 years (ish) and been fixed once, so I thought that was fair enough given it’s something I use everyday and don’t exactly look after. SO I took the plunge and bought a replacement Amazon Paperwhite. I ummed and ahhed but when I worked it out at cost per use, I think I’ll soon be getting my moneys worth and I don’t think my creaky back could bear to go back to a life of carrying anything heavier. Transferring all my books was so easy, and I am already so impressed with all the new features compared to my prehistoric (!) keypad kindle.

02. Learn to surf: Done & done!

03. Visit 3 countries (not including Europe) and 10 new cities: I can now tick off Africa & Agadir, so I’m down to 2 countries and 9 new cities. Tomorrow I wake up bright and sprightly and spend just over a fortnight working in America; one week in LA and one week in NY. I know, I am a very VERY lucky girl. I’m super excited about the travel (I get to go in the posh bit of the plane!) and the lush hotels, that I would never be able to afford on a holiday budget. However, I am less excited about the 30+ presentations and 15 important meetings that I need to battle with jetlag and an undecipherable accent. It’s the biggest thing I’ve ever done in my career and I have a lot to prove, so right now I am a nervous butterfly-y bundle of jitters. I’m still planning plenty of sight seeing in both places though and have the benefit of visiting both before, so I won’t be a total newbie. My cousin also lives in LA and he has promised to show me 4 things: a place where cocktails are served in tankards, a place that sells burritos as big as a cat, the creepy house from Mulholland Drive and the Museum of Jurassic Technology. I think this epic list really does prove how well he knows me.

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04. Climb Snowdon: I already know this is not going to happen as my climbing buddy had a change of heart about his mountain mission. I need a new number 4. Maybe it can just be to go climbing indoors, as last year I tried climbing outdoors and would like to compare.

05. QUIT caffeine: Totally DONE and I will never go back! I can’t believe the headaches, nausea, tiredness I had trying to quit the evil substance that I didn’t realise I was heavily addicted to. Now my life is just packed with roobois, decaf Yorkshire Tea and herbal tea. I do miss everything about coffee; making a plunger on the weekend, trying out the best coffee shops in London and using it to get through that crummy 4-6pm work day slump… but I couldn’t put myself through quitting again and I know that to avoid future surgery and make my treatment work the best possible, I have to remain squeaky clean & caffeine free.

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06. Finish knitting my scarf: I haven’t even looked at my knitting all year. To be honest I did so much of it when I was sick, that I think I associate it with a bit of a rubbish bedroom prison period and am now enjoying being out & about and not sitting still. However, I’m going to visit my 93 year old gran over Easter so will definitely be packing it in my bags and getting back into it, as she is the ultimate knitting guru.

07. Brush up my Spanish: I have now completed 8 weeks of Spanish classes and am really enjoying hablar Español. I didn’t realise that committing to an extra 2 hours working once a week and 2 hours homework would take it’s toll, but it’s worth it. After a long day I’d expect it to be more of a struggle but I’ve really bonded with my teacher and class, and as it’s something totally different to my job; it’s amazing the second wind I get. I can really notice my improvement, and so just signed up for another 10 weeks. My class puts me to shame; I am one of two British people, the rest are from all around the world – China, Russia, Cyprus, France and Italy, so they are all learning their THIRD language in their second language! Bizarrely; I started watching the incredible Community at the same time as enrolling and I can relate to it even more; as it tracks a random group of people joining a Spanish class at community college. Luckily my teacher is way more sane than Señor Chang, but it’s always interesting to get a random group of people forced to spend time together regularly and watch the dynamics! Last week I actually got asked to el cine (in Spanish!) by one of the guys in my class despite the fact I incessantly talk about my pareja estable guapo. I think I should have guessed he was heading that way, when in an exercise where he was meant to be describing me as his favourite sister, he said I was hot. It was really awkward but luckily he is leaving the country so hopefully he’ll soon move onto asking other (actually single) chicas out and I can go back to successfully evading male attention other than that of my one true nuevo.

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In the first class we had to do an exercise where we thought of a famous person at random, and both Ming-Ling (Chinese student) and I picked Sofia Coppola… which was very weird of all the people in the world to choose from? The class advertised that they use the most modern technology, but that turns out to be an audio CD which doesn’t work on my laptop! So I had to buy a £9.99 CD Walkman especially for Spanish time, which brings back a lot of nostalgic 90s memories to when this was the ultimate in cutting edge music gear. Despite the fact I am paying for the course and doing it for myself, it’s ridiculous the lengths I go to in avoiding homework! Procrastination still definitely applies, and suddenly that pile of ironing that’s sat unloved/unworn for months or hoovering around the edge of my bedroom becomes really appealing. On the whole though, Spanish is a wonderful language to learn.To try and improve my skills I’m going to start watching films in Spanish. I also have become really creepy; in London there are so many Spanish speaking tourists so I’ve taken to lurking near anyone I hear speaking Spanish and trying to pick up parts of their conversations.

 08. Write half of the secret-project: Still can’t talk about this. Shh.

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09. Blog more than 2013: I am enjoying blogging so much this year. I feel like I’m doing it for myself again and I think part of this is that I don’t collaborate with brands or have anyone else deciding on content except, well, me and what I fancy chatting about. The ravishing Rosie from A Rosie Outlook wrote a really interesting and refreshingly honest post on blogging being a hobby or a life sucker recently and ways to combat it, which really resonated with how I felt when I took a years break from blogging. Now I really look forward to settling down and tapping away but don’t care if 20 or 200 people read it really! One real confidence boost was that I got shortlisted for the Lomography Love Bloggers Awards, I didn’t make the winners list but it was exciting to be involved in the process and acknowledged. The winners list are all very much deserving too, well worth adding to your reader!

09. Alter my work/life balance: Hmm, this still definitely needs work! The incredible travel opportunity makes the long hours more worthwhile though and I am doing so much more in my spare time; football matches, gigs, parties, meals out, seeing friends, its both-end candle burning season.

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10. Be brave: I’ve had to do a few tough things this year, including some difficult medical conversations with my surgeon and some pretty grim tests and check-ups. So this is definitely a tick!

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11. Get back in music: Oh yes, after being sick to the back teeth of my itunes, I bought Spotify premium and instantly discovered some incredible gems like the Bon Iver Stems Project, new Tegan & Sara as well as a few trips down music memory lane. So far it definitely feels worth the monthly investment; but it seems easy enough to quit if for some reason I stop being so enamoured.

12. STOP saying “Oh my God”: I am worse than EVER. I sometimes have an Oh My Gosh variation but all in all it’s still bad vocabulary times.

13. Daily Records: I’ve filled out my Q&A book every day this year, even when I really don’t feel like it, it’s so short that it is manageable. I also have carried on taking a photograph every day, of which there are a few pepppered about in this post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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This time last week I thought I would be in London this weekend, pottering around a market or watching Django Unchained and zooming about on the tube. Actually, I am back home in Yorkshire! During the week I spoke to my Mum and had a sudden urge to pay her a post-birthday visit. I started scrabbling through the pages of my already-scrappy 2013 paper diary and with a heady combination of Morocco holiday, NY & LA working weeks, a 30th, an engagement party and two hen do’s (suddenly realising that I am so that age!) I wouldn’t have been able to get back to Yorkshire until April at the earliest, so quickly booked myself a ticket for this weekend and here I am.

It is never a hardship for me to come back home. I’m fortunate enough to remain extremely close to my parents so any real-life time (rather than Skype time) is always much appreciated and only a 3 hour train ride away. I also still get massively homesick for the village, the city, the country and the NORTH that I grew up in and feel like I breathe easier the second I walk through the door to the home I have lived in my whole life. I’m sure nowadays it’s quite unusual to have only had one family home and I appreciate that I’m very fortunate to still be able to bluster in full of London stories and tense work shoulder stresses and dump myself on the sofa and be in the first and only proper home I have ever known. Now that I visit at the age of 28, being well and truly moved out for approaching a decade, it’s sometimes almost like going to a museum of memories. In every part of every room I have existed as a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager… and sometimes the ghosts of yourself in days gone past creep upon you when you least expect it. I’m a nostalgia sucker anyway and constantly pick the scabs of good and sad times gone by, but the anonymity and scale of London makes it far easier to avoid triggers of past times and constantly recreate yourself and your life. Once you are back in a land of everything familiar and covered in layer after layer of people and moments and heartaches and experiences it’s like opening the floodgates to everything that’s ever happened to you.

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So I seem to have transformed myself into a SNOW HUNTER! This time last week my whole weekend revolved around snow, and this weekend… despite London swooning away in positively balmy sunshine, I have been back out in the snow as about 7 inches fell overnight here. It was my mum who suggested taking the sledge (!) so we bundled up with some serious knitwear (and showing her increased intelligence, my mum opted for waterproofs too, whereas I typically had to slope home with a soggy bottom and jeans dripping in thawing snow). The amazing thing about this snow day was the bright blue sky overhead. I’ve got used to the claustrophobic low mushroomy London sky this week, so it felt like we were somewhere far more exotic and piste-like than Bradford. The snow was so incredibly deep that my first attempt at sledging involved me sitting on the snow, moving about a foot, and then sinking. Clearly my weekly 5k run/pilates/swimming regime has not shifted enough of those Christmas pounds yet!  We had to adopt a very scientific approach to creating a proper sledge route which involved compacting the snow down with our wellies and then sledging over and over again until it was super-speedy and slick. I am definitely a far worse driver than my mum though, as I kept nosediving into snow banks and twice the sledge stopped and I carried on going, getting some classy derrière friction burning.

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We even tried once going down together in the sledge and recreating Cool Runnings. Luckily there weren’t too many people around to see two fully grown women trying to fit onto a tiny piece of plastic and whooping down the hill! Can you see how hideous my wellies are? They are bright neon pink with yellow Mr-Blobby spots and I can very clearly remember buying them when I was 15, so its a good job my feet haven’t grown. That’s another thing I love about my family home, there’s always the odd old item around for emergency weather. After haring up and down our sledge track for a good half an hour, I was scampering about like an idiot and DROPPED my iPhone in the snow! The snow was so deep that it instantly covered the spot where my phone had fallen in, like a vortex. I am ashamed to say that I think I reacted with the speed and fear of a parent who’s child has just fallen in a lake or something! I dove head first and dug dug dug until I found my (white – helpful) phone and ripped the cover off, trying to get the melting snow to stop creeping into all the nooks and electricity ports. After giving it a big wipe with my jumper and blowing on it a bit,  it miraculously seems completely fine? I am aware that after 5 minutes buried in melting snow this should not be the case… so really hope that in a few days it doesn’t die a death, but its charging away and sending messages and happily posting my 1000th photo to instagram, so perhaps I got really lucky.

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As we were leaving there was a mum with two toddlers setting about a sledging session herself, and I was really tempted to point out to her that she could very well still be doing this in her sixties with her grown up kids if she was anything like us! Considering I had no idea or plans to be here this weekend, it’s definitely turned into a memory I’ll always treasure and never forget. I better go retrieve my clothes that are drying in various places all over the house and go get an afternoon bath (such a guilty pleasure) and attempt to finish my current book. I’m reading The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern which fits well and truly into the modern fairy tale genre that am a total fiend for (if you haven’t read any I’d recommend Of Bee’s & Mist, The Man Who Rained & The Snow Child). Sometimes a book comes along that just captures your attention and heart immediately, and The Night Circus is definitely one of them for me. The writing style is incredibly evocative and uses every sense to ensure you feel that you not just reading about the circus, but that you’re actually a part of it too. It so vivid that I’ve had three dreams about being at the circus from the book now, and quite like the way it’s dominating my sub concious slumbering (way more fun than dreaming about keynote presentations and VFX job jargon). I’ll be quite sad when I finish the book but I have to stop dawdling as I am falling way behind in my pesky 51 book challenge.

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This is the final bit of looking back over my 2012 shoulder and is a run-down of one of my favourite things: books. I’m sure tons of people, like me, got amazon vouchers or spending money (or a kindle/e-reader) for Christmas so hopefully a few book recommendations will be useful to someone. I wrote about my top 5 reads in 2010 and all of these still stand as recommendations too! For the past seven years my new years resolution has been “read 50 books this year” and the closest I have ever stacked up is 38. It’s a lot harder than you expect to plow through so many hunks of fiction, especially as I am very strict and still read the books I would pick even if I wasn’t doing a reading challenge (so I can’t just pick 50 thin-massive-printed choices!) and I never, ever give up on a book which is why this year I read 50 Shades of Grey despite it being horror of horrors awful.

I’m so proud to have finally read 50 books in a year, although wish there had been some type of Gladiators style paper-burst to jump through upon completing my last one as it felt like a bit of an anticlimax to just start my next book (51 books to read in 2013..!) Anyway, here are the 50 books I consumed in 2012 and my top 7 recommendations. Please note these aren’t all necessarily books that were published in 2012, I just happened upon them for the first time this year. Also, all of the books below are well worth a read, E L James aside. I couldn’t write about them all as this post would have taken a year in itself to read! But of the 50 below, none are below 3-star efforts so it was a great year for my book-worming.

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1. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell – Susanna Clarke

This was the first book I read this year and an instant 5-star smash that left me worried that I might have peaked too early.  I have no idea how, but the existence of this book had entirely passed me by until Nick recommended it to me. This is a massively ambitious work of fiction covering a plethora of genres; fantasy, magic, fairy tale, history, war, romance… but over and above any standard pigeon-hole this book could fall into, it’s basically a whole new genre of its own. It’s certainly one of the best books I have ever read. This isn’t a book to be rushed.

You need to set aside quality time and a nice pot of tea for this type of master piece, as the vast ensemble of characters are all so layered, the world you immerse yourself in so intricate and that isn’t even mentioning the footnotes… most of which contain incredibly detailed tales and add-ons that last page upon page in themself. I have since bought this book for my mum and two friends, and can’t wait to be the one to introduce it to new people. If you read ONE book this year, make it this one. There is a BBC TV series rumoured for later this year, so one to get in before that.

 

2. Dark Matter – Michelle Paver

My 50 reads weight heavily into my favourite genre of spooky (old houses, haunted boats, creepy dolls etc. I’m just a sucker for it all!) and this was another 5* read that kept me in the sweaty scared limbo between desperation to continue reading as the writing is so AMAZING but absolute terror at what will happen next. The story itself is set around a group of four young men taking part in a polar expedition. The narrative is told via their journal that slowly reveals the unravelling of their expedition, and their minds, as the isolation sets in…  I recommend this book even for those who aren’t strictly ‘horror fans’ as it is quite simply a master piece and sublime story telling. In fact, just writing this review has made me tempted to re-read it less than 6 months after finishing it!

 

3. Tell The Wolves I’m Home – Carol Rifka Brunt

Unbelievably this is a debut novel, which makes me extremely excited for anything Carol Rifka Brunt might write in the future. Tell the Wolves I’m Home takes place in a heart-tuggingly realistic 80s setting. Complex and poignant, it tells the story of June and her unusual friendship with Finn. I wouldn’t want to detail anymore about what makes their dynamic so precious and readable, as it really has to be read to be believed. This isn’t a ‘fun’ read, but it is a story and a world that will stick with you for weeks afterward. I always find the sign of a truly phenomenal reading experience when it evokes real emotions (there were tears, lots of tears) and when it makes you re-aseess your own life and family relationships, which this definitely did.

 

4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay – Michael Chabon

I LOVE comics and comic book heroes and the world of inky thumbs and storyboarding. Joe Kavalier, is a young Jewish artist who smuggles himself out of Nazi-invaded Prague to seek refuge with his cousin Sammy Clay in New York. Working together, Kavalier and Clay create a comic book featuring the Escapist, the Monitor, and Luna Moth (inspired by the beautiful Rosa Saks, who attracts both the cousins attentions in different ways). Kavalier and Clay definitely took me a good three chapters to get my head round and really absorb into their world, but as soon as I did it quickly became one of those books that you cannot bear to think will eventually be over. My heart ACHED when I finished it, as I was so desperate to back amongst the characters that I had fallen in love with and felt were almost my friends.

 

5. When Nights Were Cold – Susanna Jones

Grace Farringdon is a young woman fighting against her family and her Edwardian destiny to marry or stay at home caring for her strict parents. Grace harbours an obsession with the prospect of becoming a female mountaineer and so alongside 3 unlikely friends from university, she sets up the Arctic Exploration Society. We learn from the outset of the book that Grace is the only ‘surviving’ member of the society and what follows is an incredibly well written and believable account of single-white-level level female relationships, competitiveness and a chilling lesson in the lengths women had to go to in order to break social barriers we take so much for granted these days. This read started a Susanne Jones flurry with me (I read three more instantly afterwards) but sadly although they were enjoyable enough, I didn’t  find they compared anywhere near to this incredible work.

 

6. The Book Thief – Markus Zusak

The writing style make jar when you first pick up The Book Thief. It’s unique and swirling and very enigmatic which can mean you struggle to retain the characters and information (it’s probably best read in one sitting!). However this is another absolutely 5* read and a book that I instantly wanted everyone I know to devour so I could discuss it with them. Like Kavalier & Clay it’s set in a historical period so sensitive and loaded with emotion that it’s an incredible feat to still set realistic fictional characters in this world and for them to appear so genuine. The dynamics between everyone in the book are so tender and like with K & C, you find yourself slowly becoming part of the world and having to wrench yourself out of it at the end.

 

7. The Colony – F G Cottam

Since discovering this author in 2007, my yearly dose of the highest quality spook/paranormal writing, is always a massive bookworm highlight. If there was an Olympic record for Amazon one-click purchasing, I would have definitely bagged gold for the miliseconds passing between my reading the phrase “available to kindle users now…” and reading the first line of “The Colony”. All other books and social activities fell by the wayside for the past week, as F G Cottam’s writing is reliably addictive, all-consuming and gripping. The Colony tells the legend of New Hope; a remote Scottish Island that housed a colony in the 19th century who then appeared to vanish into this air. A ‘Mary Celeste’ style unsolved mystery, it is later investigated by a 21st century media mogul. He packs off a team of experts in various fields (paranormal, virology, little green men…) in an attempt solve the mystery once and for all, and in turn lift flailing circulation figures of his newspaper.

The most striking aspect of this ambitious novel, is the epic ensemble cast. With no single protagonist, the story is told through various characters. All of whom, however fleetingly involved, are rounded and realistic. Cottam has a phenomenal talent at drilling straight down to relatable, recognisable traits meaning that, particularly in The Colony, I regularly found myself rolling my eyes and thinking ‘they remind me SO much of x…’ (particularly the less likeable males!). As with all of Cottam’s novels, this book has creep, spook and sinister in bucketloads. I’m talking endless physical reactions; real life goosebump, spine tingle, hair on the back of the neck moments that barely any other author manages to weedle out of me. I found myself in cold sweats on a packed tube and breathless with fear in a busy cafe (during the great coal mine expedition particularly!) I enjoyed the very necessary moments of light relief provided by the complex dynamics between the cast of characters and experts, moments you cling to before the next fright hits. There were also a large dose of twists I wouldn’t have predicted, and in such a saturated genre I really respect an author who can truly still shock and surprise.

 

8. Honourable Mentions:

  • Gone Girl  – Gillian Flynn : I spent the MOST time talking to people about this book (including a feverish live-whatsapp conversation with my best friend Lol as we both reached various stages!) and in fact despite claiming not to like the (shocker) of an ending, it has stayed buried in my head for the rest of the year and definitely needs to be read for WTF moments alone.
  • Lamb – Bonnie Nadzam : An extremely skin crawling, uncomfortable read but fantastically written
  • The Believers – Zoe Heller : It’s no ‘Notes on a Scandal’ but was an enjoyable plane-journey read charting the dynamics of a larger New York family
  • Snowdrops – A. D. Miller : Perfect for a quick, satisyfing immersion into the Russain culture and a modern murder mystery.
  • The Snow Child – Eowen Ivey : A captivating, haunting modern fairy tale.
  • Eleven Kinds of Loneliness – Richard Yates : One of my all-time favourite authors
  • Beginners – Raymond Carver : Short stories that leave you gasping for breath

If, even after this, you want more bookworm suggestions – I eagerly await every GoodReads review and book pick by Blair. Here is her 2012 run-down with surprisingly few cross-overs given I instantly snap up anything she rates highly!

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Back in November, I got my knickers in a twist about the kindle, and posted a blog about my disdain. I felt like my happy wormy world of musty libraries and beautiful books was being elbowed out the way in favour of something sanitised and anonymous. However, at the time, I was talking from the position of someone who not only never seen a kindle in real life (!) but also hadn’t really spoken with anyone with one, about the merits. The lovely KrisAtomic commented with some really interesting arguements against some of my concerns but I still thought I remained the last person in the world who’d add a kindle to their owned items list.

Until, I got one for Christmas.

I felt a sort of proud love and affection for my kindle from the moment I opened it, which I hadn’t expected! In the same way I am fond of my favourite books, I felt really excited and protective of my kindle. And instantly I think the main feature that I’d felt icky about, was not there… Which was that I expected the kindle to be backlit. Like an iphone or ipad, I thought the screen would be glaring and artificial looking. I feel like I spend enough with my square eyes fixed to my PC at work/Laptop/Phone that I didn’t want reading to become another eye-straining experience. But the kindle screen looks so close to paper, you can barely believe it isn’t! It looks like you could just peel the paper layer off. But it’s just a very clever form of screen which reflects printed paper as authentically as possible. This means that the experience on your eyes is just the same as reading a real book, and also it is just as readable in bright sunshine on holiday etc.

Now I have had my kindle for almost a month I thought I’d just do a bit of a run-down of the Pros (and Cons, yes there are still a few! I’m not an absolute convert)

Pros

+The kindle is SO light. It’s probably not much heavier than my iPhone! And very thin and streamlined. This is fantastic for two reasons; first being that I am no longer suffering shoulder strain from carrying round a stack of heavy paper backs. And second, reading a thick book can get mega uncomfortable. How many times do you have to shift position, move around and lie down/sit up/stretch out just to comfortabley be able to hold the book still enough to read?! Reading is meant to be relaxing… but it’s hard to relax when your arm is throbbing under the weight of a book and the pages won’t stay back when the weight of pages is massively on one side or the other. The kindle obviously does not have this problem and it makes the reading experience so pleasurable!

+The battery life is phenomenal. I think we are use to machines that do everything (camera, email, phone, games etc) and so of course the battery juice get sucked down to nothing in a matter of hours. Because the kindle is black & white, and simply has one function, the battery life is unbelievable. I charged the kindle for 3 hours when I first got it. It then lasted over a WEEK and that was with me reading 30-60 minutes a day on it. Wow!

+The navigation is very simple. Click a button for forward, click a button for back. Also other features which I love about ‘real’ books include knowing how far you are through the book; well the kindle displays this in percentage so you can always tell. Although it does make me become a bit compulsive and addicted to reaching ‘just 10 more percent’ leading to me missing my tube stop and staying up far too late!

+It’s really easy to download books. Perhaps it’s easier because I have the amazon kindle, and it’s literally just one click to get on the kindle store, and since your bank details are already saved if you have an amazon account (LETHAL!!) you can search for your book and in another click you’ve bought it. Through the power of freakish technology, by the time you’ve gone back to your kindle homepage…. the title has been delivered.

+Cost. There are absolutely loads of free books on the kindle, in particularly classics and older novels. This will help the calibre of my reading habits no end!

+It has really cute ‘screen savers’ for when your kindle is sleeping in between uses. See the fish at the top and the birds below. It makes me smile everytime I turn it on or off. Although some of the more literary themed author portraits are down right creepy and I’m looking at you Emily Dickinson !

+There are lots of nice cases out there to a) stop your kindle getting scratched or smudged and b) maybe make it look a bit less hi-I’m-a-shiney-piece-of-stealable-technology when using it in public! Mine is a hot pink (of course) leather number from amazon.

Cons

-I know it’s gross, but like most leisure activities, whilst reading I like to eat whilst doing it! Pretty much all my books have crumbs embedded in the spine, mucky finger prints on the corners and the odd splash of coffee and stuck together pages. There is no way I am getting food or greasy fingers anywhere near my kindle… which does cut out rather alot of time when I’d like to be reading, such as munching cereal in the morning. This probably isn’t a problem for less-messy kindle owners who actually have brain/hand co-ordination!

-Bath reading. Again, I’m a BIG fan. But trying to read my kindle in the bath turns into some sort of Olympic acrobatics routine as I stretch to hold the kindle out of the bath but keep my body in there. Not relaxing! I know Kris mentioned you can put the kindle in zip lock, but I’m still very unsure! I have found these more jazzy creations which might do a better job and also mean I can spill food on it to my hearts content.

-Cost. Although the cost of a lot of books seems to be half the price of a paperback, for new-er titles you can be paying in excess of £10 which still feels mighty steep.

-Comics look rubbish on them! I mean they are readable, but very pixelated. Maybe this will improve with time as I’ve noticed there aren’t many titles available at the moment anyway.

-Beautiful covers! I love book covers (yes yes I know, but asif everyone doesn’t judge by them + blurb anyway!) and with the kindle you don’t really see the books artwork. Also, I love having a right sticky beak when I’m on the train/bus/tube at what everyone is reading. If everyone becomes a robotic kindle-head like me… then this will be eradicated. And that would make commuting a less fun place.

So there we have it. As you can see the pros outweigh the cons and I am some what besotted. However I would say I am still reading 2 ‘real’ life books for ever 1 kindle book. That’s because I still love the reading experience of your average book and won’t be quitting that anytime soon, so for now they work in happy unison together and I can see now it doesn’t have to be a case of either or.

Did any of you get a kindle for Christmas? What are your thoughts?

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Is everyone getting a little sick of Christmas chat? I thought I’d have a  day off, since strictly I can’t really feel in full festive swing until my plane lands safely tonight in Northern Ireland and my two weeks of lie-ins, boardgames, FOOD and family fun starts! And I’m still at work today, poor me.

So; this is just a shameless excuse to talk about my all time favourite thing growing up, and put out a plea to see if there were any fellow obsessives like me.

From the age of 9 to about 12, I was single-mindedly obsessed with one thing and one thing only. Both myself and my sister were in fact, regularly pooling pocket money and Christmas present opportunities and tag-team scouring car boot sales and charity shop shelves. No it wasn’t Sylvanian Families, or cute Care Bears or wholesome Enid Blyton stories. Our lives were consumed with the world of POINT HORROR BOOKS!

  

   

The Point Horror phase of my life (yes it deserves official ‘phase’ status) started when the portable book library came to school. I’m not sure if this was just a Yorkshire, Northern or UK thing but once a year, this glorified shelving unit on wheels would pitch up to your school and you could purchase cheap books from it. I guess it was an initiative to encourage reading, and it was definitely one the most exciting days of the school year for freaky bookworm kids like me.

I was still stuck in the lame old land of Babysitters Club books, but my older and way cooler sister picked up a copy of The Boyfriend. It was a book that basically took a pretty weak storyline and stretched it over an entire 80 pages! I would describe the storyline, but only the amazingly cheesey blurbs (that used to make my heart leap!) can do it justice:

Wealthy, beautiful, spoilt Joanna Collier has it all, including her boyfriend Dex. But then she breaks up with him – the gorgeous Shep seems more her type. When Dex dies in a terrible accident, Joanna’s sorry, of course, but it’s not her fault is it? She never loved him anyway – he was just another toy to be used and thrown away. But now Dex is back – from the dead. And he wants one last date with her…

What is there not to love! The mega-cool American names Dex and Shep (so exotic), the romance, the passion, the TERRORRRRR!!! I remember we passed this book between us until it was literally falling to pieces. And then we discovered that this book was not a glorious once-off, but part of a collection of books in the Point Horror genre.

   

   

Various different authors published under the genre, the most profilic being R.L.Stine, Caroline B Cooney, Diane Hoh, Carol Ellis and Sinclair Smith. I don’t think we were fussy about the author, although the randomness of seemingly anyone being able to write Point Horror books did mean you occasionally got a real STINKER by some newbie, such as The Phantom by Barbara Steiner… run on Babs! You’re no RL Stine!

It is seemingly worrying that at such a young age we were obsessed with books based around sereal killers, death, horror and terror! But the books seemed to mainly focus on a girl with an issue to solve (not pretty enough, not popular enough, no prom date, no boyfriend, too many boyfriends, too popular, too pretty… you get the picture) and I guess alot of the appeal hinged on this more than the spook-factor.

My favourite trilogy of books was The Cheerleader, Vampires Promise and Vampires Return; although they actually were just one storyline rehashed for three seperate books. In them a plain, unpopular, unattractive girl is desperate to be a cheerleader and popular. She moves into a new house and there is a vampire living in the shutters of her bedroom (I know, I know) who offers her the chance to become beautiful; but she has to chose an already beautiful/popular girl to lose their looks and ultimately; life. I mean COME ON! When you are 12 and a pretty uncool, not particular popular girl  (me) of course a book where the character gets to become instantly popular and hot is going to appeal… as you sort of spend 90% of your life fantasising about the exact same thing.

And yes this photo is only half of our collection circa 1997; at that point we owned every single one that had been published up to that point. I kid you not. In each new purchase; we would proudly cross off each one we had from the full list of released titles that they printed on the opening page! We would also write ‘helpful’ marks out of ten and little reviews of each one next to the title; in case we leant them to friends. It got very messy if we both wrote reviews, especially if they weren’t in agreement.

I think my alltime favourite Point Horror was The Babysitter. Hardly the most original plot (OR blatent rip off of the babysitting urban myth about crank calls) but still, a classic!

I’m not sure what happened to Point Horrors. How me and my sister didn’t SOLELY keep them in business I do not know! For a time there were Point Crimes (bit weak), Point Romance (too slushy and WAY racier than Judy Blume – Forever, which is really saying something) and Point Sci Fi (snore). They then began a series called ‘Unleashed’ which was marketed as a slightly darker, edgier genre of Point Horrors. I remember excitedly getting the first one of these books called At Gehenna’s Door and it was so scary I started crying whilst reading it and it had a bit about eating someones brain from a skull and I was like woah woah woah where are all the cheerleaders? And dates? And the pizza parlours? It definitely went over my fear-limit at that age and they never published anymore non-Unleashed Point Horrors so the dream was over.

I have to confess, I still have quite a hefty chunk of the books at my parents house, so often whenever I’m home in my old tiny bedroom, with my single bed, I sneak a few in and re-read my favourites such as: The Invitation (RSVP or DIE!), The Snowman (A cold-blooded killer.), The Funhouse (Hear the fear!), Camp Fear (The past can’t hurt you, it can kill you.) and Dream Date (Sweet dreams and rest in peace…) absolute guilty pleasure.

 

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Usually my blog (as you may have noticed) is a pretty fluffy random mess of outfits and zombies and nice cakes and cute places. I don’t often get serious. I don’t ask the BIG questions, wax lyrical on the serious matters or make earth shatternig statements. But lately something huge has been bothering me (and maybe the world), it leaves me in a cold sweat at night, it gives me papatations whenever I hear about it. And that is…

TO KINDLE OR NOT TO KINDLE?

Kindles have been a creation banded around for a while now but with the launch of ibooks on iPhone and iPads and not really knowing anyone who jumped on the kindle band-wagon, I was starting to think of them as the mini-disk (aw) of the technology world.

Until this strange shift in the universe happened where suddenly every day I hear someone talk about them as the ultimate object of desire! Every Christmas wishlist I see uses the K word multiple times. Every magazine I open has them leaping out at me. When did this happen! When did kindle stop being something you use to fuel a fire? I feel like a dinosaur as all my nearest and dearest suddenly have a very “duh yeah kindles, everyone has/wants one” attitude whilst I clutch to my (big, smell, heavy) books and frown in the direction of something so clinical and well… the opposite of everything I love about books!

I am a huge bookworm. I have been ever since books were used as a treat (over sweets) when I was growing up and this has groomed me into much preferring to tuck into a good novel than a Wispa. I love absolutely everything about books, and by that I mean physical book object. The smell! The clean, crisp paper/ink smell of a new hardback Vs the old, musty, plastic smell of an old library reject. I love the text and the comfort of holding a book close and the change in weight as you move the bulk of pages from left to right as you wade through each chapter.

Don’t get me wrong, as someone attending PHYSIO partly because I have really irritated my back by carrying around a mini-lending-library for most of my life, I can see the perks of the kindle. The ease of having so much in such a small, light place. I too am dazzled by the technology and the almost sci-fi-real-future-stuff that you could condense an entire lifes collection of novels into one tiny device. As I said recently, the pure bulk and weight of one book has left me only able to read it at home. Ahhhh the kindle sneers at me, not a problem with me!  I also never thought I would be comfortable replacing CDs with an iPod but look at me now – selling my lifes CD collection on music magpie to pay for Christmas presents!

But, I think there is something different with books to CDs. I haven’t got emotionally attached to the CD case you know? Or the sleeve! Just the musical content which is identical if you play it on mp3. But with books, each of my collection has absorbed memories and I can pinpoint the exact location or time and year I read it. Sand in the spine, chocolate fingerprints, phone numbers scrawled on pages, inscriptions for birthdays and Christmas…

Until a kindle can offer me this (don’t think chocolate finger prints and technology work really; probably why my laptop went to PC heaven!) I think I’ll stick to my bulky, pain inducing real books thanks.

Please tell me your views. Top of your wishlist? Why? Perhaps I’m alone in my world of resistance!

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