Mary Shelley Retrospective – Let’s be frank, she’s not just a one-hit wonder

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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12 Days of Christmas Book Tag

12 Days of Christmas Book Tag

So Christmas is officially on 12 days away. I think I’ve got/bought most of my presents but I still need a few bits. I’m not nearly as concerned as I should be though. I’ll just find something online and hope for the best as always. But the 12 days thing has got me thinking about something that bugs me. It might just be me but I get incredibly irritated when people use the phrase 12 days of Christmas incorrectly. I see so many online sales pre-December 25th called the 12 days of Christmas and it makes me crazy. We all know the 12 days of Christmas starts on the day itself and goes on until 5th January. Stop misappropriating it. Advent is advent. We don’t need another thing that’s only half the length. If it’s just because you like the song then we’ll write a fucking advent song for you. Now, you may be sitting there think “why don’t you just chill out with a mulled wine?” Well, I’d love to but I can’t help it. It’s just not right. Plus, it would mean I didn’t have a convenient link into today’s bookish post. I don’t have anything to review or rant about (other than the my mini rant above) so I’m doing another tag. As it’s that time of year, I’ll do the 12 Days of Christmas tag… even though it’s before December 25th.

On the first day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
A Partridge in a Pear Tree  : The Partridge Stood Alone In The Pear Tree? What is Your Favourite Stand Alone of 2017?
I primarily read stand alone novels these days so, if I’m correct, all of the books I read this year have been stand alones. So picking my favourite of the year will be tough. I guess it is either Lincoln in the Bardo or And Then There Were None. As the Agatha Christie was a reread, I’ll give it to George Saunders’ Man Booker Prize winning novel.
On the second day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Two Turtle Doves : Love Is In The Air, Who Is You OTP?
I don’t really do the OPT and ‘shipping’ thing. I don’t pair characters with other characters but I do pair myself with fictional people all the time. So, in terms of my bookish OTP it has to be Jaime and Brienne from ASOIAF as usual. Yes, I love the idea of Tormund and Brienne having loads of ginger babies but she’s meant to be with Jaime.
On the third day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Three French Hens :  In The Spirit Of Threes, What Is The Best Trilogy Your Have Read?
As I already mentioned, I don’t tend to pick up series or trilogies these days. So, as unoriginal as it may be, I’ll have to say The Lord of the Rings. It’s a fucking classic though and I’ve loved it since I first read it. It took me ages to finish it but I regret nothing.
On the fourth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Four Calling Birds : Since Series Usually Consist of Four or More Books What Is Your Favorite Series?
Urgh, why is everyone forcing fucking series on me? I love a stand alone. What’s wrong with that? Erm but, to go with the spirit of this tag, I guess it has to be ASOIAF. I think George RR Martin is a great (if sometimes inconsistent writer) who has created something wonderful. God knows how he’s ever going to end it but I’m here for the ride.
On the fifth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Five Golden Rings : One Ring To Rule Them All! Who is Your Favorite Villain/Antagonist?
I love a good villain. I’m always interested in a book that takes things from the perspective of someone who is, in most senses, the bad guy. Like Lolita for example. Nabokov manages to present someone who is so heinous seem like a nice guy. Although, if I’m honest, my favourite villain is probably someone more like Sauron. I guess I just like my bad guys to be cartoonishly bad.
On the sixth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Six Geese a Laying : Creation Is A Beautiful Thing! What is Your Favorite World/World-Building?
It’s a definite toss up between Tolkien and George RR. Both of these writers are great at creating rich and full worlds for their stories. I love diving into them.
On the seventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Seven Swans a Swimming: Who Needs Seven Swans When All It Takes Is One Good Animal Sidekick To Make A Hero Rock! Who Is Your Favorite Animal Sidekick?
I don’t know really. Maybe Hedwig? I honestly can’t think of the many characters with an animal sidekick right now. Either my memory is going or I’m not reading the right books. No wait… Fawkes. I love that little guy. 
On the eighth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eight Maids a Milking: Milk Is So 18th Century! Which Book or Series Takes Beverages/Food To A Whole New Level?
This is a really odd question and I don’t think I have an answer. I guess the closest thing I can think of is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Who didn’t read that book as a kid and wish the Wonka factory was real? I guess it helps that I’ve just been flipping through Revolting Recipes as well.
On the ninth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Nine Ladies Dancing : Dancing is Just One Skill of a Lady! Who is Your Favorite Kickass Female Lead?
Brienne of Tarth… although she’s not really a lead per se. Well, she is a chapter POV character so it counts, right? I don’t care anyway. I fucking love her.
On the tenth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Ten Lords a Leaping: Leaping Lords? How About Who Is Your Favorite Leading Lad?
Does lad mean young boy or is it just a random synonym someone’s chucked in? I’m all for alliteration but I feel like a different word would have been better. I don’t know though because, despite being a raging feminist, I tend to read more novels with male protagonists. I guess, as it’s one of my favourite novels, I think Rob from High Fidelity is pretty cool. I mean he’s a bit of a dick but that’s even more reason to love him. I like my men to be flawed and have an encyclopaedic knowledge of popular music.
On the eleventh day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
Eleven Pipers Piping: Where Would We Be Without Music? What Is Your Favorite Book or Bookish Thing That Deals With Music? (It can be about music, reference music a lot etc.)
Can I just say Haruki Murakami? I mean the guy used to own a jazz bar and bloody loves jazz. Music is such a huge part of all of his novels that you can’t really ignore it. Take Norwegian Wood, one of my favourites; music is just a central theme to the novel. I love how he weaves everything together in the narrative.
On the twelfth day of Christmas
my true love sent to me:
12 Drummers Drumming: Drum Roll Please…………………….What Is Your Favorite Read of This Year?
I’ll have to take some time to think about this… meaning check back here soon where I’ll write a separate blog post on this very topic. Mostly because I want an idea for upcoming posts but partly because I need to remind myself of what I read this year.
Monday Rundown – That’s What She Read

Monday Rundown – That’s What She Read

So, eagle-eyed readers out there will realise that I’m a day late with my weekly rundown. That’s because I only got back from London today. I’ve had a lovely but busy weekend visiting my friend so decided to leave this until tonight. The weekend has been great. I watched a terribly Christmas classic in Jingle All the Way on Saturday night but balanced it out by watching A Muppet Christmas Carol immediately after. I listened to some poetry, visited the design museum and went round an incredibly patronising exhibition about the North. As two Northerners we couldn’t help but cringe about the awful way the Somerset House exhibition portrayed Northerners. It was totally misjudged in tone and, really, only helped strengthen unhelpful stereotypes about the North/South divide. But I don’t want to get into that right now. On with the rundown.

Weekly Blog Posts

  • TUESDAY’S REVIEWS – Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond (2017)

I’ve been waiting for this documentary to come to Netflix for so long and, when it finally did, I couldn’t wait any longer to watch it. Was it worth it? Find out in my review here.

  • BOOK POST – The Guilty Reader Tag

Amazing! I finally have something to say for this section of my rundown. It’s not very inspiring but this tag might give you a little bit of insight into who I am as a person. Find out for yourself here.

  • TBT – Man on the Moon (1999)

I couldn’t not watch Jim and Andy and then miss the chance to (re)watch the original film. Did the behind the scenes view have an impact on my viewing? Find out in my TBT post here.

Recently Finished

  • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
It took god knows how long to get there but I finally have. I’ve got a fairly busy week but I’m hoping to post my review of this book on Wednesday. Check back later to find out if I manage it or not.

Currently Reading
  • Autumn by Ali Smith

When the winner of the Man Booker prize was announced I was really pleased because I loved Lincoln in the Bardo. However, that wasn’t the reaction of everyone. Some random on Instagram was poo pooing the winning book and saying this book by Ali Smith was the only deserving winner. In the name of fairness (and not because I’m really petty) I decided to see for myself. I started it on the train to London and it’s better than I was expecting. I didn’t get very far though. We’ll have to see.

Recently Purchased 
  • Cheap book haul

So I bought a couple of new books when I found them on offer on Amazon for Cyber Monday and I also snagged a few new Vintage Penguins. Amazing result.

  • Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie – I bizarrely don’t seem to have a copy of this book anymore so I couldn’t resist the gorgeous new (I think) hardback edition from Harper Collins. Plus, it was also only £4. Genius.
  • Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood – Another cheap buy and one that I’ve wanted for ages. Although, I’ve have a few of these Shakespeare rewritings on my shelf for a while and never got anywhere with them. The Tempest really isn’t my favourite play but this sounds really good. And if anyone can make it interesting then it’s Atwood, right?
  • Vintage Penguins – I bought a few more of these than I needed to but I can never resist a beautiful vintage penguin.
    • Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
    • Scoop by Evelyn Waugh
    • My Man Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse
    • One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
    • The Nuremberg Trials by R.W. Cooper
Recently Watched 
  • Netflix Binges: QI, Compete to Eat
I’ve not really watched a lot this week. I guess it helps that my days off have both involved me being really busy. I was either preparing for my weekend away or travelling to London. I did manage to watch a bit more QI, which is always a lovely way to pass the time. Then I binged watched Compete to Eat: a ridiculous cooking show where two chefs head to cabins in the Canadian wilderness and try to cook a 3 course meal with whatever they find in the cupboards. I love a good cooking show but this definitely isn’t one. I watched it whilst I was packing and only got the end so it wouldn’t show up on the ‘Continue’ section of my Netflix home page.
The Guilty Reader Tag

The Guilty Reader Tag

 Ah how foolish I was all those weeks ago when I promised an additional weekly post full of useful stuff. Turns out Jeff Goldblum was right and life, er, finds a way. I feel guilty with every passing Wednesday that I don’t post something bookish so I’ve decided to rectify this by posting a random tag I found on the internet. I thought the Guilty Reader Tag seemed appropriate. I’m a guilty blogger and a guilty reader, after all. As well as not posting often enough recently, I really haven’t been reading enough. I blame the fact that I’ve been ill but that was only really for a week. I’m just stressed and tired about work. So I can’t concentrate on the text. Plus, the chapters seem to be a lot longer at the moment. I don’t know what’s happened. Next week my intention is to have a review of The Underground Railroad up. I wanted to do it this week but I fell asleep mid-chapter last night. I should definitely have it done soon so will have a proper post up. If not, you can just expect easy/shitty tag posts from now on. Sorry.

1. Have You Ever Regifted A Book That You’ve Been Given?
I don’t think I’ve ever regifted anything ever. I have, however, bought a book for myself then given it to someone else as a supplementary present. I don’t know if this counts.

2. Have you ever said you’ve read a book when you haven’t?
Obviously. We’ve all been guilty of this when we’re younger. When I was at uni I pretended to read all the shit on my reading list. I also definitely lied about reading George Orwell books when I was a teenager. I had a super judgemental friend that I was really competitive with. What can I say? I was young and I’ve since rectified this fact by reading George Orwell.

3. Have you ever borrowed a book and not returned it?
Again who hasn’t done this at least once? I’m the kind of person who hates not getting books returned but am also the type of person who forgets to return them. It’s why I don’t really borrow books from people. Although, I think I’ve only kept one book that someone lent me. It was the same friend who I mentioned above and it was an Alice Walker book that I never actually read. Then we all just forgot I had it. I assumed I gave it to a charity shop eventually.

4. Have you ever read a series out of order?
I haven’t really done this for smaller series knowingly. Why would you? It’s madness. Although, with bigger series it  can be accidental or unavoidable. I don’t know if comic books count because I definitely have there. Also, Discworld. I mean Terry Pratchett’s series is so fucking huge and I’m not even sure it has an “order” as such. I just tend to pick and chose which books I read when.

5. Have you ever spoiled a book for someone?
I probably have. I mean I try not to but I blurt things out without thinking all the time. It’s not malice; just stupidity.

6. Have you ever doggy eared a book?
Not on purpose but it’s inevitable that when you read and carry around a book it will get messy. I take a book to work so it’s in my bag and will obviously get a bit battered. I don’t mind so much though because it gives a book character. I love the look and feel of a used book. It’s why I collect so many vintage editions.

7. Have you ever told someone you don’t own a book when you do?
I don’t think so. I have very little shame anyway and I’ve read a lot of shit during my time at university. Heck, I even admitted to a fellow literature student that I was reading a book from the Richard and Judy book club many years ago. She was judging me but I didn’t care.

8. Have you ever told someone you haven’t read a book when you have?
Isn’t this the same question as before? Even if it isn’t it’s the same answer. Shame: I have none.

9. Have you ever skipped a chapter or a section of a book?
Obviously. If I know I’m not into a book or I’m desperate to finish I will skim read or judge whether certain paragraphs/speeches/chapters are strictly necessary to my enjoyment. I’ve skipped introductions and prologues at times. I skip the epilogue to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows every single time.

10. Have you ever bad mouthed a book you actually liked?
This is a crazy question. I mean who seriously does this? I don’t want to keep banging on about this but I have no shame. If I like a book then I’d say. No matter how shit it is. Reading is subjective and shouldn’t be an area of judgement. Life’s too short and I have books piling up around me.

Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

This week has been awful. Last Sunday I came down with a bit of a cold that quickly turned into the worst thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve spent this week at work feeling like I was submerged under water but at a depth that was causing me intense pain all over my body. There was genuinely a point when my headache felt like a bunch of tiny pixies were repeatedly stabbing me with their tiny pixie knives. Then there was the guy who was attempting to jab a screwdriver through my eyeball several times a day. It’s been dreadful. I tend to get a bit pathetic when I’m ill. I just lie down and accept death no matter what the affliction. So, I haven’t had a very exciting week. Especially considering I was expecting to have finished my current read by now. November and October were really shitty reading months for me. Must try harder in December.

Weekly Blog Posts

  • TUESDAY’S REVIEWS – Geostorm (2017)

I could have gone my whole life without seeing this ridiculous looking Gerard Butler film but, in a cold-induced haze, I watched it. It’s safe to say my life will never be the same. Find out more here.

  • BOOK POST

Again, I genuinely planned on writing something this week but, you know, ill. It’s amazing I managed to do anything this week. I will start doing this on a regular basis soon… I’m sure of it.

  • TBT – Left Behind (2014)

After describing Gerard Butler as the new Nicolas Cage I decided it was only fitting to watch one of the Cagester’s films for this week’s TBT. I picked the shortest one I could find on Netflix because that’s the kind of approach I have to this segment. It was another life-changing watch. Read all about it here.

Currently Reading

  • Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
As I’ve already mentioned, I’ve been so ill this week. I’ve been unable to do anything really so have let my reading get away from me. I’ve managed a couple of chapters this week so I really need to step up my game.

Recently Purchased 
  • Oxfam book haul

Another week and another couple of trips to the new Oxfam books in town. God I love this shop.

  • Surrender the Pink by Carrie Fisher – I bought this because, duh, I adore Carrie Fisher and this has one of the most intriguing openings I’ve ever read. “Dinah Kaufman lost her virginity a total of three times. Not because it was so large that it took three times to knock it out, but because she thought losing your virginity was supposed to mean something and it took her three strikes to feel that she was even remotely in the meaning ball game.” If you read that and didn’t think the phrase “three times to knock it out” was enough to make you buy it then we’re just too different.
  • Brighton Rock by Graham Greene – I bought another copy of this because it was a really simple but really lovely looking Penguin edition. You’ll definitely see it on my Instagram soon.
  • Sherlock Holmes: The complete illustrated short stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – I own far too many different copies of the Sherlock Holmes short stories but this illustrated book was an instant buy. It’s gorgeous and was so fucking cheap.
  • The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith – This was something of a guilty purchase because it was in the collectables section of the store. I’m talking locked in a fucking cupboard and everything. This is an illustrated edition of a novel of sensibility that I studied at university. It’s so beautiful and, despite being on the higher end of the charity shop scale, is still cheaper than a brand new paperback. I saw this and spent days thinking about buying it. I’m so glad I did.
Recently Watched 
  • Netflix Binges: Jonathan Creek, QI
To be honest, I couldn’t really remember what I’ve been watching this week. I think I’ve mostly fallen asleep trying to watch most things. I’m so pathetic at the moment. I’ll be better next week.
TBR? More like WTF.

TBR? More like WTF.

In my life as a member of the Bookstagram community the beginning of the month marks the moment where a large proportion of user share a shot of the books they intend to read in the coming 4 weeks. As someone who religiously follows a couple of photo challenges for my inspiration I am often expected to become involved in the TBR pile craze but every photo I’ve ever posted using that hashtag has proved to be a massive lie. I don’t think I’ve ever read any of the books that I’ve included in any of my TBR photos unless I’ve already been reading them at the start of the month. For me, one of the big problems with Bookstagram is the inevitable pressure that comes from comparing yourself to other people. Even though nobody is really competing with anyone but themselves it doesn’t necessarily feel like that. Over the years I’ve felt that my inability to follow a simple monthly TBR is a flaw and some kind of failure. Well, until I decided to just say “fuck it” and do what I like. After all, life’s too short to make and follow a TBR.

Next year I turn 30. I realise that this has nothing whatsoever to do with my TBR fails but it does mean that I’ve had a lot of time to come to terms with the kind of reader that I am. For the vast majority of my academic career I was expected to read the books that were set by other people. Obviously this is normal but it’s not necessarily the best way to get people reading. I much prefer to write essays about books that I’m not too fond of but it’s not always easy reading something that you’ve not chosen. I’ve had to read a lot of shit over the years but I’ve also discovered some of my favourite books. I’ve also not finished a lot of books that I should have read. Especially during my postgraduate studies when I was tasked with reading a bunch of novels of sensibility. I enjoyed the course but these books haven’t exactly aged well. There were a couple of longer novels towards the end of term that I never finished reading because I couldn’t get myself to do it. That’s the problem with not having power over your reading material.

So, when I finished university I decided I would indulge in only reading the books that I really wanted to. Unfortunately, because I’m too easily swayed by covers and hype, I tended to pick books that I really didn’t get on with. Back in those days I would never give up on a book until I finished it… or, as was more often the case, put it back on my shelf to never be touched again. I’ve finally reached a point in my life where I know there’s no point in trying to force myself to read books that I don’t want to read. There’s no sense in wasting what little time I have to indulge in reading on something that I’m not enjoying enough. So, in that case, why should I restrict myself every month to choosing between a handful of titles?

If you guys are anything like me you’ll have a few bookcases filled with books you bought on a whim and never read. I don’t know my exact unread book count because if I ever take the time to count it I know I’ll just start crying by how big it is. It’s such a huge amount that it can cause a lot of stress. I feel the pressure to decrease the number but, in turn, this pressure leads to the same reaction I gave my university reading list. When you have such a large range of books to pick from how can you possibly decide which is important enough to make the top of the list? Well, you can’t. It’s the same reason that I will, probably, never be able to state with any kind of certainty what my favourite book is. Different books work at different times. My tastes change based on so many ridiculous factors: mood; tiredness; hunger; season; time of day; time since last saw a dog; the list is pretty much endless. I can’t predict which books I’m going to be in the mood to read so how am I supposed to compile a TBR for each month?

I can’t say that not living my a TBR each month is making me any better at reading. After all, I’m still too exhausted from work to read and am, more often than not, distracted by something on Netflix. I know that I don’t read enough as I should but I really don’t see how a TBR could improve that. If anything it would make me less likely to read because I’d end up reading something I didn’t want to open. When it comes to books, I’m one of those people that has a super short attention span. By which I mean, whenever I buy a new book that becomes the only thing I think about. They would immediately go to the top of the list. Something that would be fine if I only bought books after I finished one. I don’t. I buy books far too often. By the time I finish my current read I’ll have probably bought or borrowed a couple of new books that will have replaced the previous acquisitions at the front of the queue. As I’ve been doing this for years, the books I bought unnecessarily years ago have got no chance of being read as I continue to spend.

Seen in these terms, having a definite list of unread books or books to read is actually a really scary idea. It suddenly becomes this towering monster that is threatening to engulf you the more you leave it. We’ve all seen how unstable book towers can be and I can’t believe that an imaginary one would be any sturdier. I’m nearly 30 years old, single, living with my parents, and in the same dead-end job I’ve had for years: I have enough to worry about without adding a never ending TBR pile to the list. So, despite my monthly posts that suggest otherwise, I do not nor will I ever have a TBR. I don’t have time for that shit.

THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

I had such great plans for today. I was going to write this early, get a head start on tomorrow’s post and watch something to review on Tuesday. By this point all I’ve done is tidy and rearrange my room. On the plus side, I’ve no longer got books stored on every inch of available floor space since I’ve taken over an unused bookcase. It does, however, mean I’ll be playing catch-up all week. We’re only in 2016’s second month and already my plan to sort my shit out is failing. I haven’t updated my blogging schedule in ages. At least I’m actually reading though. That makes shit easier. Although, I’m also still buying a fuck load so I still need to get quicker. Come on 2016. This is still THE year.

Recently Finished
  • The Widower by Fiona Barton
Finally finished this one and. have to say, it was as disappointing as I expected. To say that this was the new The Girl on the Train it a massive overstatement, and I say that as someone who really didn’t enjoy that book. The twist ending in Girl on the Train was shot but at least it existed. The Widower didn’t even try to be surprising. And the whole psychological thriller thing? The extent of the psychology on display was “women like kids y’all”. An dull and insipid novel that, at times, felt like it was written by a child. Not a fan.

Currently Reading
  • Things We Have In Common by Tasha Kavanagh (Kindle edition)
I swear this book has been following me around for months now. It’s fucking everywhere I turn. So I decided it was time to finally read it. Not sure how I feel about it so far but I’ve only read a tiny amount. I imagine it’ll be a slow burner.

Recently Purchased
  • This Is Where It Ends by Marieke Nijkamp (Kindle edition)
Saw this on my Instagram feed and was obsessed with the idea. Taking place inside a school during a mass shooting. It sounds dark and sad but an incredibly interesting prospect. We all know how I feel about YA though so I’ll probably moan it’s not deep enough. I worry I’m getting to predictable.
  • The Buried Giant by: Kazuo Ishiguro (Kindle edition)
Bought this in hardback but found myself unable to get into it. I decided that, as I’ve been finding Kindle reading so easy, it was worth the small price to buy a second copy. I really want to make it through this because I love Ishiguro so I hope this helps. 
  • The Martian by Andy Weir
I loved the film adaptation of this book and was desperate to read the novel before I saw it. That, obviously didn’t happen, so I’ve been putting off getting the book until now. My friends have told me its really good and I’m interested to see how the idea works on paper.

  • Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Another impulse buy because it was cheap. It keeps popping up in my recommended section and I’ve heard non-stop good things about it. Of course, this is mostly from YA fans so I’m holding out judgement until I’ve read it. It’ll probably take a while to get to it though.
  • The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Why did I get this book? It was free. Amazon have an ongoing deal that if you do something Kindle related before Feb 26th then you get a free Kindle book. This was the best one for me out of the 6. I know nothing about it so we’ll see. 

Recently Played
  • Lego Harry Potter
I had this for DS years ago but thought the use of touchscreen was clumsy and didn’t make for comfortable play. I gave up really early on despite my unbreakable love for all of these games. So I finally got it for PS3 and I’m loving it so far. Casting spells is so much easier and the whole thing is less of a mind-fuck. It’s also making really nostalgic for the whole franchise. I have a sudden urge to read the first book and watch the first film again, which is something I haven’t felt in years. Maybe the old Harry Potter fan is still in me somewhere. 
TBT – What Maisie Knew (2013)

TBT – What Maisie Knew (2013)

Recently one of my closest work friends left the business and I was put in charge of his leaving collection. This is mostly down to the fact that I’m fucking awesome at buying people presents. I’d love to be modest here but it’s the cold hard truth that I always find the perfect gift for any occasion. It’s a blessing and a curse. Once again, when the time came to present him with my offerings it went down incredibly well. Considering that much of our interaction at work came down to quoting Alan Partridge I knew what I had to do. Amongst other random shit, I managed to track down an Alan Partridge blazer badge, Alan’s big plate, some Kiss My Face brand soap and a chocolate orange with superficial damage to the box. Turns out there’s a lot of great shit out there for any fan of Steve Coogan’s most successful character.

The big curse of creating a character like Alan Partridge is that trying to do anything else is always going to be tricky. I admit that whenever I see Steve Coogan’s name associated with a film I always get a bit suspicious. I loved The Trip as much as the next person but I’m always disappointed when there’s a lack of Partridge-esque behaviour. Especially when he’s trying really hard to be a serious actor. There was nothing wrong with him in Philomenabut it just felt weird that he wasn’t being silly.
I also find it questionable when he’s cast as a Casanova because I just can’t see him as desirable. In the 2013 adaptation ofHenry James’ What Maisie Knew, Coogan plays a failing art dealer who marries his much younger nanny after his first marriage breaks down. Scott McGehee and David Siegel’s adaptation transports the novel to modern day New York City. Beale’s ex-wife is the dramatic and narcissistic rock star Susanna (Julianna Moore) and, as they take solace during their impending divorce, both neglect their young daughter Maisie (Onata Aprile). The story focuses on Maisie and her struggle to create some kind of family base.
What Maisie Knewis made thanks to it’s young star. The camera focuses on Maisie for the most of the narrative and Aprile is outstanding in the role. Maisie, at only 6 years old, is already world-weary thanks to her self-centred parents who treat her as something to hold over their ex. The film doesn’t quite get into the lessons Maisie learns about love and family in as much detail as the novel but it does paint a truthful and often uncomfortable portrait of modern family life.
With her parents ignoring her, it is down to Maisie’s new step-parents to take control of her well-being. Beale and Susanna both marry young and kind people (Alexander Skarsgård and Joanna Venderham) who love Maisie more than her biological family ever have. Skarsgård in particular has awesome chemistry with Aprile. In one sequence where Maisie and Lincoln, a bartender, have fun in the city I swear my uterus exploded it was so fucking adorable.
What Maisie Knewis an acidic portrait of a bitter divorce and modern life. It’s not quite as dark and bleak as the novel but it does well in it’s updated setting. The characters, whilst over-the-top and often grating, work perfectly within James’ original idea. There are some fantastic performances but many of the adult actors get lost within their one-note performance. Julianne Moore is a whirlwind but never really gets beyond the dysfunctional and egotistical rock star. It’s a disappointing turn from such a wonderful performance; though still not as shitty as The Lost World.

What Maisie Knewis beautifully shot and handled with great care by McGehee and Siegel. It often verges on the edge of, and occasionally well into, cloying sentiment. It is a successful adaptation that flourishes in its new setting. However, no matter how cute its lead actor may be, there is no escaping the sense that something was missing. That it just wasn’t as great as it could have been. 
Boo by Neil Smith

Boo by Neil Smith

The dust jacket of Boo reminds me of the ‘Travel Writer’ episode of Black Books. You know the one where every quote on the back of Jason Hamilton’s new book says he’s charming: “Every one of these blurbs says he’s charming: ‘I was swept away by a wave of charm.’ ‘I was immolated in a firewall of charm and charisma.’ ‘I almost exploded from the concentration of charm on the page.’” The one thing everyone seems able to agree upon regarding Neil Smith’s first full length novel is that it’s charming. Nothing like creating a little bit of pressure for yourself, is there. Still it was a novel that I’d been keen to read for some time: an incredibly charming novel that’s reminiscent of The Lovely Bones? Is it any wonder I lost sleep over this thing?

Boo is a novel that takes us into a whole new realm in this story about thirteen year old Oliver Dalrymple. Oliver, known to his classmates as Boo thanks to his pale skin, is an outsider who finds it easier to recite the periodic table than to make friends. Oliver lives a quiet, lonely life until he dies in front of his school locker: something he attributes to a heart condition he’s had since birth. A short while into his stay in Heaven, Oliver is joined by fellow student, Johnny, who informs Boo that they were actually killed in a shooting by the mysterious “Gunboy”. With the two boys suspecting that their killer is hidden amongst, the pair team up with their new friends to track him down.
Neil Smith’s novel is an interested concept that is part murder mystery, part bildungsroman, part afterlife narrative. Smith’s Heaven is perfectly realised in great detail. Oliver is a scientist and reacts to his first real brush with spirituality with a rational mind. He carries out experiments on himself and his surroundings: working out how long it takes both him and the buildings to heal when broken. Through his narration we learn everything we need to about the afterlife; what kind of toothpaste the dead use, what their houses look like and what they eat. There are plenty of differences between life in Heaven and life on Earth but occasionally oddities make their way through to remind residents of their past.
Heaven is set out fairly logically with age-groups and nationalities being kept together in their individual towns. The residents remain at the age they are at the time of their death but get 50 years before they “redie” and pass on. They are watched over by their omniscient God who they call Zig. He sends them food and supplies whenever they need it and sends a few exciting objects every few years when technology advances. Smith’s Heaven is quirky certainly but there is no denying that, despite it’s sad premise, is as charming as promised.
There isn’t a great deal to Boo‘s narrative but, thanks to the character of Oliver, there is enough detail to keep you reading. The overall reveal of the ‘murder mystery’ isn’t exactly ground-breaking or hard to figure out. However, the journey to get there is heart warming in its own way. Oliver goes from a friendless, weirdo to someone who finally finds his place. He makes new connections and finds a best friend in Johnny. It is the strengthening of their friendship that keeps the story moving forward.
The novel is beautifully written but there are moments when Smith’s indulgences causes the pace to lag somewhat. Oliver’s narration is littered with off-hand remarks and witty interjections which feels a bit forced and unnecessary. There are plenty of references to science and literature which don’t always seem relevant to the plot. The narrative, though streamlined, does drag in places and I was eager to rush over some of the middle sections. I did enjoy reading Boo though but I was a little put off by how often it feels too simplistic. Smith sometimes stresses his points so much that the reader doesn’t need to think for themselves. There are a great deal of clever insights into the life of young people but it doesn’t always translate in the writing style.
However, the novel is still a great success and has the right kind of emotional pay-off when the time comes. When Smith leaves Oliver to explore and feel free within his surroundings the narrative soars into life. There are plenty of important issues to jump into play as Oliver gets further into his new world. Some of these are handled better than others but all raise valid points. The novel handles difficult subjects sensitively and manages to ensure that the sadness that hangs over every page doesn’t engulf the reader. There is just as much to be joyful within Boo as there is to lament. It’s something readers of every age should experience.