Thursday, December 31, 2015

My Year In books 2015

Hello, it's that time of year again. The end of the year in fact, when it's time to round up those book lists and reveal my year in books.

It's been a varied year, a year of firsts and seconds and final parts and farewells and classics and re-reads. January 2015 saw my first book ever read on the kindle, which subsequently led me to pilfer Andrea's kindle, whilst he bought a new one. I know, I thought I would never be corrupted into it but when you have shit all book shelf space, a kindle comes in handy. And especially when you read copious amounts of trilogies and series, it's good to have a virtual book shelf where they can sit quite happily but take up little space and they don't weigh a tonne. This year also saw my first audio book and I managed to smash my intended 100 books read in a year. So here goes nothing. 2015, my year in books:


  1. A Clockwork Orange: Anthony Burgess
  2. The Bane Chronicles: Cassandra Clare and Sarah Rees Brennan and Maureen Johnson
  3. Animal Farm: George Orwell
  4. Earwig and the Witch: Diana Wynne Jones
  5. Half a Creature from the Sea: David Almond
  6. Cold Spell: Jackson Pearce
  7. Coming up for Air: George Orwell
  8. The Winner's Curse (The Winner's Trilogy #1): Marie Rutkoski (1st book on the Kindle, ever!)
  9. The Monster of Billy Dean: David Almond
  10. 1984: George Orwell
Wow, what a start to the year. This list included 7 from the library, one borrowed, one gift and my first Kindle purchase. Obviously, there are quite a few classics in there. Finally I got around to the dystopian terror that is 1984. I also finally delved into the wondrous mind of David Almond. I think choosing a favourite of the month is horrendously tricky here, so I'm going to go for two favourites: 1984. I mean, wow. Not much more to say on the subject other than this is shit scary. And the YA wonder that is Marie Rutkoski's debut, the Winner's Curse. This book has everything and is incredibly written. You do not put this book down lightly. 

  1. Rosehead: Ksenia Anske (Kindle)
  2. Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone: J.K Rowling. (A re-read. Obviously.)
  3. The Castle of Otranto: Horace Walpole
  4. All Our Names: Dinaw Mengestu
  5. Love Hurts: Malorie Blackman and others
  6. Heart Shaped Box: Joe Hill
  7. Insurgent (Divergent #2): Veronica Roth
  8. Siege and Storm (Grisha #2): Leigh Bardugo
  9. The Darkest Part of the Forest: Holly Black
Another varied month with four from the library, three treats to myself and one re-read to mark Harry Potter Reading Night. February 2015 was about the second books in two trilogies I was reading. It was about exploring new horror writers and supporting a fellow writer whom I'd been following on twitter for some time. I had also been to the Love Hurts event at Waterstones Piccadilly to see Malorie Blackman, Patrick Ness, James Dawson and others speak about the YA compilation book of the same name. Again, choosing a favourite is tricky, but I think my first foray into Joe Hill's writing wins this month. A great book, so well written. I look forward to reading more. 

  1. Trust Me: Malorie Blackman
  2. The Sin Eater's Daughter (The Sin Eater's Daughter #1): Melinda Salisbury (Kindle)
  3. Shadow Forest: Matt Haig
  4. Half a King (Shattered Sea #1): Joe Abercrombie
  5. The Enormous Crocodile: Roald Dahl
  6. The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2): Marie Rutkoski (kindle)
  7. All Fall Down: Ally Carter
  8. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets: J.K Rowling (Re-read of course.)
  9. The Boy who Climbed into the Moon: David Almond
  10. Damned: Chuck Palahniuk
  11. Silver Lining's Playbook: Matthew Quick
  12. Skin and other stories: Roald Dahl
  13. My Friend's a Gris-Kwok: Malorie Blackman
This was a great month in terms of YA and Children's books read. Another great haul from the library and two books on the Kindle this month. Joe Abercrombie's Half a King is an outstanding book, and was closely followed by The Winner's Crime and The Sin Eater's Daughter in terms of my favourites, but I think he definitely deserved the title of best book of March. He doesn't so much insert you in his fantasy world, he drowns you in it. And what's more, you're quite happy about that. Highly recommended. 

  1. Shift (Shifter Series #1): Kim Curran (Kindle)
  2. Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief (Percy Jackson #1): Rick Riordan
  3. There's a Boy in the Girls' Bathroom: Louis Sacher
  4. Only Ever Yours: Louise O'Neill
  5. Room: Emma Donoghue
  6. Just After Sunset: Stephen King
  7. Control (Shifter Series #2): Kim Curran (Kindle)
  8. This Book is Gay: James Dawson
  9. Suddenly in the Depths of the Forest: Amos Oz
  10. Where Angels Dare to Tread: E.M Forester
April was a fab month as Kim Curran's Shifter series was released at the end of March all in one go, which meant some fab shifting treats throughout April and May. I treated myself to Louise O'Neill's award winning and absolutely terrifying book, Only Ever Yours, and I got another fantastic haul from the library. You may be small Kentish Town Library, but you're pretty mighty too. The hands down winner of best book this month though, was the incredible: Room by Emma Donoghue. It was one of those books I'd been meaning to read since it came out, and boy am I glad I did. This book is written so carefully and beautifully, the plight of its characters weigh heavy on you and you cannot stop reading. I hope they get the film right because the book is amazing!

  1. Rock Wars (Rock Wars #1): Robert Muchamore
  2. Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha: Roddy Doyle
  3. Delete (Shifter Series #3): Kim Curran (Kindle)
  4. Moral Disorder: Margaret Atwood
  5. The First 15 Lives of Harry August: Claire North
  6. How I Live Now: Meg Rosoff (Kindle)
  7. Trouble: Non Pratt (Kindle)
  8. Grasshopper Jungle: Andrew Smith (Kindle)
  9. Brokeback Mountain: Annie Proux
  10. Poldark - Ross Poldark (#1): Winston Graham
Lots of treats this month in the way of a Kindle hoard of YA gems, a continuation of my slight Margaret Atwood obsession, the culmination of Kim Curran's Shifter series, and some great finds in the library. This month's favourite title had to be Grasshopper Jungle. This is utterly bonkers, funny, gross, diverse and full of fabulous characters and carnage. Wicked book. 

  1. Tell All: Chuck Palahniuk
  2. Tinder: Sally Gardner
  3. Night Shift: Stephen King
  4. Rebel Heart (Dustlands #2) Moira Young (Kindle)
  5. Pygmy: Chuck Palahniuk
  6. Manifesto on how to be Interesting: Holly Bourne (Kindle)
  7. Born Weird: Andrew Kaufman
  8. Heap House: Edward Carey
Definitely a treat month as I finally got around to organising my Reading Spa Christmas present from my wonderful friends, and I came away with six books from there, two of which are the last two on June's list. More treats on the Kindle and from the library, and this month Chuck Palahniuk takes the favourite book award for his Hollywood Tell All. A deliciously sneaky look at the Hollywood underbelly and what happens under all that fame and make up. 

  1. Dreams and Shadows: C. Robert Cargill
  2. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children: Ransom Riggs
  3. The Year of the Flood (MaddAddam #2): Margaret Atwood
  4. Raging Star (Dustlands #3): Moira Young (Kindle)
  5. Gone with the Wind: Margaret Mitchell
Not quite as extensive this month, but to be fair, Gone with the Wind took two of the four weeks of this month, to get through. Another two this month were from my Reading Spa, there was a Kindle treat to finish the Dustlands Trilogy and two absolute stonkers from the library. Hard to pick a favourite, but I think for its sheer epic nature, tiny print and over a thousand pages, I'd have to go for Gone with the Wind and the joy that is Scarlett O'Hara. What a great literary character.  

  1. Stone Mattresses: Margaret Atwood
  2. Live and Let Die: Ian Fleming
  3. Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3): Leigh Bardugo
  4. Department 19 (Department 19 #1): Will Hill
  5. We all Looked Up: Tommy Wallach (Kindle)
  6. California: Edan Lepucki
  7. The Girl with all the Gifts: M.R. Carey
  8. The Rest of us Just Live Here: Patrick Ness
This month saw my first Bond novel, some quality YA and more Margaret Atwood - of course. But winning the favourite book of the month had to be Patrick Ness. I ate that book for breakfast, lunch and tea. Plus, I love that guy! His words can do no wrong for me. A fabulous book. 

  1. Sabriel (Abhorsen #1): Garth Nix (Kindle)
  2. Fluent in 3 Months: Benny Lewis
  3. Ready Player One: Ernest Cline (Audiobook)
  4. Gone (The Gone Series #1): Michael Grant (Kindle)
  5. The Blind Assassin: Margaret Atwood
  6. Apple and Rain: Sarah Crossan
  7. Over to You: Roald Dahl
  8. Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bone #3): Laini Taylor
September was definitely a good haul in terms of library books. It also saw the beginnings of some series, the end of another and my first ever audiobook. Oh, and a non-fiction book - I know, almost unheard of - that may one day help in my approach to learning Italian. The Blind Assassin gets the best book award of this month, because let's face it, it's amazing and it's written by an absolute legend. 

  1. The Library of Unrequited Love: Sophie Divry
  2. The Giraffe, the Pelly and Me: Roald Dahl
  3. Prisoner of Azkaban: J.K Rowling (Re-read)
  4. Factotum: Charles Buckowski
  5. The Haunting of Hill House: Shirley Jackson
  6. Kill Your Friends: John Niven
  7. Astray: Emma Donoghue
  8. Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam #1): Margaret Atwood
I hadn't realised earlier in the year when I read Year of the Flood, that I was actually reading a trilogy out of sequence. But the way they are written means they are completely stand alone novels and they work singularly as well as they do together. It did not hamper my understanding or enjoyment of the series by reading them out of order, and Ms Atwood once again wins best book of the month, for her epic dystopian world. 

  1. The Hundred-Year-Old Man who Climbed out the Window: Jonas Jonasson
  2. Revival: Stephen King
  3. Uprooted: Naomi Novik (Kindle)
  4. Half a World (Shattered Sea #2): Joe Abercrombie
  5. Odd Apocalypse (Odd Thomas #5): Dean Koontz
  6. Mad About the Boy (Bridget Jones #3): Helen Fielding
  7. Red Queen (Red Queen #1): Victoria Aveyard (Kindle)
Some new authors for me this month, and some golden oldies too. I'm never too far from a Stephen King novel and reading Bridget Jones took me back to my teens. I'm slowly getting through the Odd Thomas series and still treating myself to a couple of Kindle books a month. Joe Abercrombie wins again as book of the month. Once again he drowned me in his shattered sea barely giving me a second to bob up for air. I need book 3 in my life. 

  1. Cat's Eyes: Margaret Atwood
  2. Lady of the Shades: Darren Shan
  3. The Incident of the Dog in the Night Time: Mark Haddon
  4. Blood and Ink: Stephen Davis
  5. Lorali: Laura Dockill (Kindle)
  6. Winter's Bone: Daniel Woodrell (Kindle)
  7. My Name is Mina: David Almond (Kindle)
  8. The Bell Jar: Sylvia Plath
  9. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies: Jane Austen and Seth Grahame Smith
What a month of literature to finish on. Such a variety and some absolute classics. I'm so glad I finally got around to reading The Incident of the Dog in the Night Time and the Bell Jar, long overdue. This was a tricky month to pick a favourite but in the end David Almond's wonderful creation: Mina, had to win. 

The final tally for the year was 105 books! Whoop! I smashed my intended 100 books. 2015 was a great year in books. And I can't wait to see what 2016 has me reading. 

Happy New Year everyone! 


Friday, December 25, 2015

Whilst Your Dinner Settles.......

Merry Christmas rantees of the world. If you celebrate Christmas, I hope you've had a lovely day with family and friends. If you were unfortunate enough to have to work, then I hope it wasn't too stressful. And if of course you don't celebrate Christmas then I hope you've had a relaxing break.

So, whilst the turkey settles and the fuzziness of whatever tipple you've been troughing like it was going out of fashion, takes over, why not sit back and take in a blog. 

Random tidbits.

This year I managed to avoid the John Lewis advert completely. Win!

This year I managed to not eat a Mince Pie until 13th December, despite them being in the shops before Halloween. Win!

This year I could not be arsed at all with tags on presents. That was my ultimate can't be faffed item of this year's Christmas prep. I enjoyed wrapping, but ribbons and tags and all that shit when you know people take one look and rip it to shreds just didn't appeal. Besides, I did splash out on awesome paper this year a la Paperchase, so who needs tags and fancy shit when you've got sprouts with googly eyes on the wrapping paper and a Sharpie pen?

Festive Observations

This year I noticed how much kids really don't care about eating. They want a meal to last for roughly ten minutes and then 'playtime'. They don't care about multiple courses and after dinner chats. Eating is just an excuse for adults to not play with them and to sit around wasting valuable game time chinwagging and stuffing their faces. 

This year I realised just how difficult it is to buy books in another language for presents. Most of the books you want to buy aren't translated and then even if they are they cost about triple what they would in the UK. I decided to use Italian amazon and one book came in German - though granted that could have been my mistake - and one was bashed to buggery, so I had to spend half an hour queueing at the Italian Post Office to return the items, and they were not available to replace in the bookshops. So then I had to just buy any random books and hope the recipients didn't already have them. Urgh!


I'm not sure I've ever regretted something quite as much as not getting the anti glare coating on my glasses. Talk about seeing things. Lights, shadows, movements. Evil opticians actually make this a £30 extra. But it should be included with the lenses because, fuck, no one can deal with this extra world at the side of their glasses. Peripheral vision simply consists of the glare of all the things you can already see, but they hang around and move and blur and interrupt your vision. What a mistake. Can't wait for my two year check up and new glasses in 2016. I'll be getting all the coatings. Two years seeing things is quite enough. 

Done for another year.

Well that's it, Christmas done for another year. Food having taken hours and hours of prep - or in the case of the Italian family, days and days, possibly weeks - devoured in mere moments. Presents opened. Crackers cracked and terrible jokes read out. Washing up lining every surface and most of the family asleep on the couch. Enjoy an evening of crap TV and some leftovers even though you're so full you couldn't possibly eat another thing...............oooo, Christmas Cake. 

This blog had no particular rant value or purpose or direction, but hopefully it at least aided your digestion. Merry Christmas and enjoy the last few days of the year. 


Thursday, December 10, 2015

It's That Time of Year.......

Ah, it's that time of year when everyone starts showing the pictures of their kids dressed as a shepherd with a tea towel round their head, or a king with a crown, or a little white dress and tinsel. I always wonder where the photographs of the sheep or singers or narrators, are? No? Was everyone just lucky enough to get a big part? No one's kids had a shitty bit part? Well good for you and your amazing kids. Clearly no one is made to be a narrator because they have a loud voice, are slightly overweight and not blonde, any more. Clearly, I am still bitter about this. And always will be. I hold on to that bitterness forever, because it's a part of who I am. And to be honest, I quite like it.

It's that time of year when you hate crowds, and all the people in them, and all you want to do is get your shopping done before a reasonable date, so you have time to wrap everything and leisurely write your cards, without having to do them on the freakin' plane or train, or in the car as you're travelling to wherever Christmas is for you this year.

It's that time of year when you just want to curl up and never leave the house and just watch heart-warming movies and wait for the snow that will inevitably not arrive because it's so freakin' mild out there. Come on December. Happen!

It's that time of year when all the reports are due for music class, and I spend hours and hours of my life - unpaid, I'll add - writing about the kids and what they've been up to, which sucks all the time out of writing and editing. I don't need to do this. I chose to do this, which makes it even worse, as I only have myself to blame. Damn it!

It's that time of year when you just want to see all your friends in one room at the same time and just hug and dance and drink and eat and exchange presents, when in reality, you'll be lucky if you even manage to see them all due to the spreadage of adult hood. All your friends are in different parts of the country, or different countries. They all have their own Christmas schedules which of course all conflict, because life's never simple and you end up spending Christmas zooming around trying to see as many people as you can, in the short time you actually have, whilst never fully consuming as much crap TV as you want, or watching all the Christmas specials you want until the New Year, when you watch them on catch up, which is so not the same, because it's January and January is dull as fuck!

It's that time of year when lots of people go a bit nuts on the festivity, and then some of course go the other way and complain about everything. I don't know why you're pointing the finger at me, this is a rant, not a complain, and I haven't ranted in so long it's overdue. And I don't have to explain myself to you.

It's that time of year when you consume so much sweet stuff, without even thinking about it. You put on weight without really noticing - until the spillage over the belt - and you end up fearing for your teeth, as they start to ache. They are literally screaming at you to suck on a carrot.

It's that time of year for everyone to go on their Christmas parties and post their pictures everywhere so you can see how much fun their having, but when you're self-employed and mostly work with kids under the age of 7, you don't really get a fun, booze-filled festivity, you get a slobbery kiss if you're lucky and a hand-made gingerbread man that probably has equal ratio of smarties to snot buttons. Okay, I'm being slightly harsh there, the kids make me some awesome stuff I just sometimes miss people a little closer in age to me. Not that I don't appreciate the humour and conversation of a 6/7 year old, we talk about all sorts of crap, but it's just not quite the same and we definitely can't chat over cocktails.

It's that time of year when time goes faster than usual because you have 50,000 more things to do a day, and the world thinks it's funny to watch you fail.

It's that time of year for watching Love Actually - don't care what anyone says, I love that film - the Nightmare Before Christmas, especially if you didn't manage to watch it over Halloween this year, which we didn't, and one of my favourites: Grounded, about a load of kids that are stranded at the airport without parents. Cheesy, but good.

It's that time of year when you think, I want to get a tacky Christmas jumper, but then you see lots of other people wearing them and think, they look a bit twatish, so instead you just pop on your Christmas tree earrings, and headband - which sings and lights up - and you think, sidestepped a hole there.

It's that time of year when you make a mistake when writing a note in a card and you think, why didn't I just do the obvious Happy New Year? Why did I have to embellish? And then, even though you've written a nice long note, all you can see in that card is the glaring mistake, that you either try to cover up with a Christmas sticker, or you cross out - last resort - or you go over it and try to make the wrong letters into the right ones, something which never works no matter how much you wish it would.

It's that time of year for bad jokes and paper hats, with crappy plastic items of little use nor ornament, and yesterday I had a couple of pun intended. I lie. It was totally intended!
So one of my kids yesterday was trying to tell the classic: Why did the chicken cross the road? joke, but basically only knew the question and not the punchline. Bless her, she's only two, almost three. So I told her the whole joke and explained it to the slightly bemused children. Then one of the other kids pipes up, 'I've got a joke.' Here we go.
'How did the whale fly?'
'I don't know, how did the whale fly?'
'Because he was bouncing on a trampoline.' The kid pissed himself laughing. I forced a giggle or two and resumed the lesson. But later when he was leaving, he said he would give me a joke instead of a high five. Oh dear, here we go again.
'How did the elephant fly?'
'I don't know, how did the elephant fly?'
This time the kid was laughing the whole way through the delivery of the punch line as though it was so funny he couldn't get the words out:
'Because he was bouncing on the trampoline with his friends.'
Hilarious, I'm sure, if you've just turned four.

Well, as it's that time of the year when I have 50,000 extra things to do a day and I'm failing miserably, then I'd probably better skoot off. I hope your run up to the Christmas break is relaxing and enjoyable. Ha ha. What am I saying, you're not five. Enjoy it as much as you can.