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30 Books For My 30th – Number 2

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dscn6968Dear Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone,

To borrow some words from Christina Rossetti (a woman with more command of language than I could ever hope for) “I wish I could remember that first day,/ first hour, first moment of your meeting me”. Yes, that’s more than a little melodramatic for a blog barely anyone reads but the sentiment rings true enough. I don’t recollect all of the circumstances of how you came into my life and it doesn’t seem right. You were a gift from my father, that much I do know, but I don’t know what prompted it. Was it a special occasion? Was it simply a consequence of everyone being Potter mad? Whatever the reason, one year after your initial release a copy with the adult cover was placed into my hands and an unbreakable connection was made.

I wrote my name in you because that’s what we did then. I took you to school and read you during reading time. I have a vivid memory of my form teacher rolling her eyes when she saw what I was reading and saying “not another one”. I was embarrassed. I felt like I’d got a question wrong even though I didn’t really know I was taking a test. Looking back now I’m just embarrassed for her. Yes, I was a 10 year old jumping on the bandwagon but I was passionate about reading. I’d always read as a child but you awoke something in me. You turned me from casual reader to book lover. You started me down the path that I’m still following to this day. The path of Bookstagram, buying more than I’m reading, and owning multiple editions of books I’ve not read for years. I’m stuck in a world full of things I need to read and cursed to live a life without the necessary years to finish the job. And it was you who created me.

You were the one. The Frankenstein to my bookish monster. I loved you. I consumed you. I lived you. This was the first time I’d experienced real, true book obsession. I read and reread you. I knew you inside and out. I craved the next instalment and I over-analysed ever detail in between. I discussed you non-stop with my friends and looked up theories on the internet. I read terrible fanfiction. I wrote terrible fanfiction. I loved your characters and I hated them. I loved you and I hated you. I needed you. You filled me with joy and you broke my heart. You pulled me in and never let me go. I’d never been through something like this before and, if I’m honest, no fandom has compared to this since.

But the course of true love never did run smooth. There’s no point pretending our relationship has alway been successful. As the years went by I grew up, as human beings are wont to do. But you, my dear Philospher’s Stone, remained as youthful as ever. You’re Peter Pan but I, my love, am Wendy. My memories of Neverland will never fade but, unfortunately, I cannot make repeated journeys back. In recent years, I’ve fully read you only once. I’m sorry but I can’t do it. You were never an example of groundbreaking and beautiful writing and that is more obvious now I’ve discovered examples of genuinely breathtaking prose. You are painfully naive and childish (and I’m saying this as a 30 year old who still plays with plastic swords). I can’t reread you as I once did. I’m sorry.

Don’t despair, though. You were never popular because of what you were but because of what you represented. You are a great story full of great characters. You are the feeling of being included and being part of something greater. You show us that no matter how bleak the outlook, there is always hope. There is always love. There is always you. I might never reread you or your siblings again but that doesn’t matter. I know that the person I was is still inside me. I solemnly swear that I’m still up to no good. I know the memory of our time together is still resides within. I’ll always shed a tear when I remember the pointlessness of Lupin’s death. I’ll always be angry about the way Snape ended up. I’ll always hate the fucking epilogue and The Cursed Child. I’ll always care.

I wish I could remember the moment we first met. That I could go back now and savour that moment when my life changed. But that’s the problem with significant moments: they’re only noticeably significant after the fact. For the sake of symmetry, let’s turn back to Christina Rossetti: “It seemed to mean so little, meant so much,/if only now I could recall that touch,/ first touch of hand in hand – did one but know!” It’s been quite a journey Philosopher’s Stone and, I’d like think, it’s not over yet.

Always,
Laura

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Book Review – The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

dscn69175_star_rating_system_4_stars1 Continuing in my recent spate of reading children’s books, I’ve just finished the book that was awarded the Costa Children’s Book Award last year. I bought it on the same Amazon spree that finally saw me grab a copy of Tin and, after it was recommended to me, I couldn’t resist. It sounded like a much less violent version of Lord of the Flies and, despite the fact that the violence is the whole point of William Golding’s book, that did sound quite interesting. I would have finished the book much quicker than I actually did had it not been for a particularly difficult week at work that saw me falling asleep mid-chapter a few nights in a row. Still, it didn’t exactly take months so I can feel okay about it I guess.

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Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

You find me writing this Sunday Rundown in an unusually good mood today. Even though it’s already after 11pm and I’m only just starting to write this. But I’ve always enjoyed the pressure of a deadline drama. The reason I’m so positive today? I’ve spent a lovely chunk of it eating amazing food and spending time with wonderful people. As I’ve made abundantly clear on this blog already, I’m turning 30 in just over a week. As part of the ongoing celebrations some of my work-friends and I went to a Michelin star restaurant for lunch today. It was so wonderful that I don’t even care how unproductive I’ve been. Head to my Instagram for some sensational (even if I do say so myself) example of food porn. Maybe this whole “turning 30” thing won’t be that bad after all?
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Book Review – War Horse by Michael Morpurgo

IMG_42645_star_rating_system_2_and_a_half_stars If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll be aware that last week I was lucky enough to see the stage version of the book War Horse. It was an absolutely amazing experience that I will never forget and one that left me an emotional wreck for days. I don’t understand it but the deaths of massive wooden puppets was super traumatic. As a huge literary nerd and a bit of a history geek too, World War 1 has always been somewhat fascinating for me so I’ve been interested in War Horse for a while. It wasn’t until I watched Steven Spielberg’s film in 2012 that I became familiar with the story and, if I’m honest, it left me feeling more than a little critical. As I suggested in my review, I felt sad that society could only become emotionally invested in the story of the Great War through the treatment of horses. I mean I’ve got nothing against horses but why do we need to make a film about a horse when loads of innocent, young men died as well? Human beings care more about animals at times than they do about strangers. It’s ridiculous. Going off topic for a second, I once heard a story (probably not true) about a charity that went around giving food to the pets of homeless people. Now I have nothing against this kind act on its own but the same people were (allegedly) only giving food to the animals. Now, I realise dogs that live on the street deserve food but what kind of fucked up person would not also give food to the owner? Anyway, I’ve had my misgivings about Michael Morpurgo’s story of a magical fucking horse since I laughed my way through Spielberg’s film but the stage show had me changing my mind. Maybe there was something there after all?

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Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

This has been a tough weekend work wise if I’m honest. It’s been super stressful so I’ve been avoiding reading. Well, I’ve managed to do some reading but it’s not been great. I still haven’t finished War Horse which I started this week with the intention of finishing before I saw the stage version. Even though I didn’t manage that I absolutely adored the play. I mean, I was in floods of tears but it was exquisite. So well realised and mesmerising but, also, so good at capturing the real consequences of war. It was so much more meaningful and powerful than Steven Spielberg’s film version. He completely lost his way with that film and I spent most of my time laughing. I really hated that film and, if you’re interested, you can hear more of my rants in my review from 2012 here. Continue reading

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Book Review – Tin by Pádraig Kenny

IMG_42355_star_rating_system_4_stars1 My Instagram is mostly made up of me following the prompts of certain photo challenges so I am encouraged to post a wrap-up at the end of every month. This is a chance to show people the great pile of books that you’ve managed to consume throughout the previous four weeks. The only problem is, my piles never end up being that impressive. I have every intention to read loads each month but, depending on how dejected work leaves me, I don’t always manage it. I love being a part of the Bookstagram community and, despite how little my friends understand the appeal, I enjoy taking photos each day. The only problem I find with the whole endeavour is the underlying competitive spirit. No matter how ridiculous, I always feel guilty when I see how much other people are achieving in their spare time. It’s a feeling that makes me want to give up on complicated books and just read easier/shorter things. Which is perhaps one of the reasons that I became so obsessed with my last read after I first heard about it. It came to my attention through an email from Waterstone’s where it had been named children’s book of the year. It looked and sounded so good that I stopped reading the wonderful Amiable With Big Teeth in order to get through it. Considering I’ve had Claude McKay’s newly discovered novel on my TBR for about a year now, it kind of feels wrong to be reading a book written for kids but, to be honest, I’ve not been this desperate to read anything for ages.

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Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

Today has been a bad day. Worked absolutely sucked and I’m absolutely exhausted. I had every intention of getting home and finishing the last few pages of Tin but, instead, I got through one chapter and fell asleep. Now I’m super groggy and slightly irritated. I’m probably not going to be getting much, if any, reading tonight. This is why I have so many problems getting stuff read. I was hoping to have Tin finished by now because I want to try to get through War Horse before Thursday. We have tickets to see the stage show and I thought it would be fun to re-familiarise myself with the book beforehand. Plus, as I’m now realising, children’s books are a great way to get my total book count up without much effort on my part. If I was into competitive reading then I’d be all over this shit.

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Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

This week has been one of ups and downs. I had a really great day at work on Thursday and left in a really good mood. Something that was still with me at the start of Friday before an inexplicable change occurred. I spent most of the afternoon switching between nearly bawling or getting super irritated. It was definitely one of my worst ‘dark days’. Then Saturday started badly but slowly got better. I’m just in one of those funks at the moment where I don’t know how I’m going to be feeling from one minute to the next. I blame my changing mood on my decision to buy a load of new books I didn’t need and for the desire to buy more. As much as I will appreciate this buying ban in the long run it’s pretty difficult to fight my natural bookish urges.

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Book Review – When the Serpent Bites by Nesly Clerge

I’ve been blogging since September 2011 and I’ve been on Instagram since December 2014. I don’t think it’s too big-headed to say that I’ve improved in both areas since then even if I’m still a bit shit at sticking to my schedules occasionally. In the last 7 years, I’ve managed to keep my online persona fairly secret and it’s only recently that people in my life started to find out about it. It kind of feels like I’m a superhero and everyone has suddenly seen through my secret identity. It’s weird to have it out there even though it’s still only a select group of people who know. It’s one thing to write for strangers (or nobody) but the idea of someone I see on a daily basis reading it… still can’t deal with that. I only bring this up because one of my work friends was so impressed with my Instagram following that she started talking about how much money I could make. I was super quick to shoot her down on this idea because I’m still a small fish in a fucking huge pond. Although, after spending years trying but never quite succeeding as much as I wanted to, I can’t deny that things are starting to change for the better. In the last few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to be approached by authors to get involved in marketing their books. You’ll be aware that earlier this month I was involved in the cover reveal of the upcoming Above the Stars book and I was also sent an advanced copy of Your Creative Career by Anna Sabino to share on Instagram. I realise that I still have some way to go before the big gun publishers would even think about approaching me but, as someone who is interested in getting into the marketing world, this is a fairly big deal. In keeping with this, two weeks ago I was given the opportunity to review the 2015 debut novel of writer Nesly Clerge. I said yes, because I’m not really in a position to turn these chances down, but I wasn’t sure this novel was going to be for me.
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Mary Shelley Retrospective – Let’s be frank, she’s not just a one-hit wonder

This January marked the 200th anniversary of the first publication of Frankenstein. Mary Shelley’s masterpiece of science-fiction and horror has, quite rightly, become something of a classic since she anonymously published the book in 1818. The book went through several different editions over the years but the 1818 is still, in my mind, the definitive version of the story. If only because it so closely resembles the story as it was first ever told. We all know the story of how Mary Shelley came up with Frankenstein and it is, in all probability, part of the reason the story has endured for so long. One Summer in 1816, Percy and Mary Shelley, Byron, and John Polidori all gathered at Byron’s villa Lake Geneva in Switzerland. They propose a writing competition to create horror stories to tell each other the next night. The idea for Frankenstein came to Mary Shelley in a waking dream:

I saw with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life …

After some work and editing, the idea that Mary came up with that Summer in 1816 became one of the most important novels to come out of the Romantic period. After all, it has spurned a monstrous number of film and television adaptations and has inspired many more writers. Shelley is praised for her vivid imagination and modern thinking. She went far beyond the science of her day to imagine something that has withstood the test of time and changed the landscape of gothic horror. It’s a book that I have countless times now and have enjoyed more and more with every read. It featured in my both my Undergraduate coursework and my final Postgraduate dissertation. I bloody love this book and am happy to commemorate it’s 200th anniversary.

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