The Christmas Song Book Tag

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Christmas is only 5 days away and I’ve only got 3 days at work until I have a whopping 2 days holiday. Woo! Yep, I’m on the late shift on Christmas Eve and then back in work at 6am on 27th December. I never get a Christmas break as I’m always called upon to do this gem of a shift. It sucks but my manager’s aren’t willing to change their ways. Still, I am desperately trying to get in the festive spirit by watching Christmas movies, wearing Christmas jumpers, and endlessly listening to festive jingles. It works some of the time but, as anyone who works in any kind of retail/hospitality job this time of year knows, it’s hard to not let the season of good will break your spirit. No matter how many times I play my favourite Christmas song on repeat. Speaking of, what is your favourite Christmas song? I read an article recently that made the bold claim that the best was officially All I want for Christmas is you by Mariah Carey. I really doubt the validity of their statement because I, for one, wasn’t asked my opinion. I fucking hate that song and, whilst I’m at it, I hate Fairytale of New York too. It’s not cool to like it because it promotes alcoholism and includes swearing. It’s a shit song that doesn’t promote the festive spirit. My number one? Christmas Wrapping by the Waitresses or anything featuring the Muppets. I’ve got simple tastes. As you’ll see in yet another Christmassy book tag.

1. “You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch”: Name a villainous character you couldn’t help but love.

What’s that It Crowd quote? “All women love a bastard”, right?! Well, in certain circumstances that’s true. Villains are just more interesting than most good guys. I mean look at Harry Potter. I’m far more interested in the likes of Bellatrix and Lucius Malfoy than I am in Harry himself. Harry’s a whiny, egotistical classic chosen one. I can’t stand him most of the time. I guess when it comes to the ultimate bad guy you can’t help but love I’d have to go with my traditional answer: Humbert Humert from Lolita. I’m not saying I actually love him but there’s something about Nabokov’s narrative that means you end up kind of sympathising with a disgusting paedophile.

2. “All I Want for Christmas is You”: Which book do you most hope to see under your Christmas tree?

There’s always loads of books I want but I don’t often get them because I’m useless at giving hints. I guess the ultimate goal is the second and third illustrated editions of Harry Potter and the Visual Editions’s version of Don Quixote. All very gorgeous and all over my personal book price limit.

3. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer”: Name a character that overcomes major obstacles and learns to believe in themselves.

I feel like my answer to this isn’t going to be that original but, when you think of character development, isn’t it Neville Longbottom than first comes to mind? Look at how far he comes from the scared loner with no friends other than his toad to a strong young man who is leading the DA in a Death Eater filled Hogwarts. He’s a great guy. A much more deserving hero than fucking Harry.

4. “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”: a) Which character do you think would be on the top of the naughty list? b) Which character do you think would be at the top of the nice list?

Naughty List: Is saying every literary villain ever a cop out? What a silly question. Anyone who is vaguely bad should be on the naughty list but how to you quantify naughtiness. Who would be the top? Some kind of serial killer like American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman? Or Sauron from Lord of the Rings? Nah, how about Ramsay Bolton from A Song of Ice and Fire? He organised the Red Wedding… there’s no way Santa can even try to forgive that.

Nice List: Again, every hero or nice person in any novel ever. But, purely in the name of playing the game, I’m gonna say Winnie the Pooh. Why? It just popped into my head but that guy always tries to do the right thing. He’s niceness personified.

5. “Frosty the Snowman”: Which book just melts your heart.

I’m not much for the melty-heart kind of books these days. I prefer my novels to be hard hitting and dark. So much so that I’m drawing a major blank on this answer. It probably says a lot about me. I’m a fucking ice queen. I guess, if I were pushed, I’d probably say the Sophie books by Dick King Smith. I was obsessed with those books as a child and they’re so adorable.

6. “Feliz Navidad”: Choose a book that takes place in a country other than your own.

Anything by Haruki Murakami. Let’s say Norwegian Wood. I know that I don’t have enough diversity in my reading material but I’m trying to be better. It’s just that my TBR is kind of full of books written by white men and women. It’s always a question of trying to clear that or be more adventurous. I’m just drowning in books. 

7. “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year”: Which holiday themed book do you use to spread the Christmas joy?

I think A Christmas Carol is a great read and, probably, a book that people won’t be as familiar with as they think. Dickens’ original tale is a lot darker than many adaptations allow. The scene with Ignorance and Want is actually quite disturbing. But, it can’t be denied that the Christmas message runs through and, let’s be honest, it provided the basis for the greatest Christmas film ever made.

8. “Sleigh Ride”: Which fictional character would you choose to spend the holidays with (doesn’t have to be a love interest!)

I know it says one character but I’m just going to say the Weasley family. Imagine spending Christmas at the Burrow? It would be so cosy and full of love. Molly rushing around preparing food. Fred and George pulling pranks on everyone else. Arthur enchanting some muggle fairy lights. It’d be brilliant. If we’re talking romantic Christmas then I’ll have to leave the bookish world and say Chief Hopper from Stranger Things. My passion for that man is so strong. I’d spend Christmas with him in his cabin finding fun ways to keep warm!

9. “Baby it’s Cold Outside”: Which book that you didn’t like would you sacrifice to a fire to warm yourself up in the cold?

Which book would I burn? Now normally I’m against damaging any book, no matter how terrible, but there is one book I’ve read this year that leaps to mind. One of Us is Lying is the most offensively bland and unoriginal book that I’ve ever read. It deserves to be destroyed in a horrible way just for being so fucking blatant. Urgh, I’ve never hated a book this much and I did a whole course on novels of sensibility. Those books are super sexist.

10. “Do you hear what I hear”: Which book do you think everyone should read?

Oh loads. The one I’m always pushing on people is The Monk by Matthew Lewis because it’s fucking crazy. I love it. However, my books of 2017 have to include First Love by Gwendoline Riley and Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders. I’d recommend reading First Love and listening to the audiobook of Saunder’s Man Booker winning novel. I adored them both in very different ways.

12 Days of Christmas Book Tag

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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.

Haruki Murakami – where to start?

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I never have a definitive answer for the question “who is your favourite author?” but I guess Murkami would always come close to the top. There’s something about his weird and wonderful worlds that just capture my attention. Whenever I showcase my Murakami editions on my feed, the question I am asked most frequently is “which would you recommend to read first?” As a result, it is a question that I have thought about a lot more than I ever really anticipated. The act of picking your first book by an established author is a weird one, isn’t it? I mean you would instinctively want to go with the most critically acclaimed or most popular novel. However, especially with an author like Murakami, that isn’t always advisable. It is also a question that is deeply personal to the person you ask. I could very easily tell you to read one novel whilst someone else would suggest an entirely different starting point. However, following on from last week’s vow to post something potentially useful, I’ve decided to set forth a few ideas of how to get into the works of Haruki Murakami. Even though, I should point out, I’m no expert and cannot claim to have read everything he’s ever written.


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After last weeks mega book haul I managed to keep myself to a slightly more acceptable number of 2 new books this week. I still didn’t technically “need” them but, really, I did need them. I don’t know why I can’t stop myself buying books. I have so many to read that I never know where to start and I’ve run out of convenient places to store them. Every sign is pointing me towards not buying any more but, as soon as I’ve had a bad day at work, oops another book comes home with me. I kind of feel like those crazy people who hoard loads of cans in their basements in case of nuclear apocalypse. Of course, in the event of the apocalypse my huge personal library will provide little in the way of practical assistance. I mean, in an incredibly dire case, it could provide some heat but that feels a bit too Fahrenheit 451 for my tastes. Maybe I could make some sort of rudimentary shelter with them but, again, it doesn’t seem like the best start to my post-apocalyptic life. Although, fingers crossed, it might be a good time to finally put a dent in my humongous TBR pile.
Currently Reading

  • The Answers by Catherine Lacey
I’d definitely have finished this by now if I hadn’t been so bloody tired. I’ve ended up doing a fair few early shifts so have been drifting off in the middle of chapters. If all goes well I should finish this in the next few days. Now I just need to pick what I’m reading next.

Recently Purchased 
  • A Lover’s Discourse by Roland Barthes

Since finishing The 7th Function of Language at the end of last month I have found myself drawn to read more of Barthes’ work. I’m becoming obsessed with his writing in a way that I wish I have been at university. He definitely came up in my Literary Theory class but I never really gave him a second thought. I’ve always been pretty stubborn in my love of New Historicism and tend to not look too far beyond that in my analysis. Anyway, I decided to start with this because it’s the kind of thing poncy people in airy fairy relationships like to quote when they talk about their connection. I’m sure the cynic in me is bound to hate it but the young girl who grew up on Disney movies will no doubt swoon.

  • 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

I’ve still not got beyond the first book of Haruki Murakami’s epic tale and, if I’m honest, I have no plans to finish it any time soon. However, I’ve been taking a lot of photos of my Murakami collection recently and it’s starting to feel incomplete. There are still a couple of old books that I don’t have (A Wild Sheep Chase, After Dark, What I Talk About When I Talk About Running) and I still need to buy Men Without Women and Absolutely on Music. But, getting one step closer, feels good and I can convince myself that I’ll finally start Book 2, which I won’t.

Recently Watched 
  • Netflix Binges: Modern Family, Westworld
You know the drill by now, Modern Family rewatch is still going strong. Still lovely and fairly amusing. All good. However, the big news is that I’ve finally started watching Westworld. Honestly, I’m not sure what to think of it. I really want to like it but I can’t help but feel a bit detached from it. I don’t know. It’s not as amazing as I wanted it to be but I’m only on episode 4 or 5. We’ll see how it goes.

  • Mindhorn
Love Julian Barratt so, with the release of his recent film, I decided it was time I finally watched him as the greatest fictional detective from the Isle of Man and discuss it my Tuesday review.

  • The Parole Officer
Then, to counter that lovely experience, I decided to watch an long forgotten film from 2001 for my TBT post. It wasn’t pretty.

My Little Monotony or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Hate my Bookshelf

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Something happened to me whilst I was reading Haruki Murakami’s first novel Hear the Wind Sing recently. I was over halfway through the story when I suddenly realised that I was picturing the main female character as a traditional Hollywood beauty. You know the sort, blonde, thin aloof: in other words every single Sienna Miller character. I was on a train at the time and was so freaked out by my personal discovery that I stopped reading for the rest of the journey. Then, thanks to my endless neuroses, I then spent the rest of the day partly ashamed and partly annoyed with myself. It seemed disrespectful and narrow-minded that my brain was subconsciously changing the Japanese setting to a more familiar Western backdrop. What did it say about me as a reader and a person that I couldn’t even imagine the novel as its writer had intended?

Of course, this could just be an inevitable side-effect of translating works in other languages. Whether we like it or not, Murakami’s original text had to have been somewhat Anglicised when it was rewritten in English. It has always been an argument that you lose something important from the original novel when you read a translation. It all comes down to the languages you are switching between, the social differences of the countries involved, and the individual context of the person translating. Every translation will bring something different and every translated novel will be read in a different way. 
So perhaps the process of writing Murakami’s first two novels in English for the first time meant that they lost most of their Japanese heritage? Of course, Murakami isn’t exactly what you call overtly Japanese when it comes to his writing. He is heavily influenced by Western writers and is still critisised in Japanese literary circles for his writing not reflecting the Japanese style enough. Maybe translation just tips the balance even further to the West’s favour? Is translating an already vaguely Western novel about Japan into English just a recipe for disaster? Could I have read the novel any differently than I did?
However, I refused to believe that this was the only reason behind my inability to process the events as the writer had intended. I love Murakami’s work and have read enough of his books by this point to understand what’s going on. Looking back, I don’t think I had this problem when reading the likes of 1Q84 or Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage. Although, how can I be sure? I admit that I’m not the most well-traveled of people and I grew up in a town that doesn’t exactly scream diversity. Is the reason that I imagine the characters the way I did simply a consequence of my inability to understand anything outside of my own culture?
I guess, in some ways, it’s natural when you don’t have prior understanding of a situation or idea to transplant it into a setting that you’re comfortable with. It’s not like I know a great deal about Japanese culture, geography or social practices. My brain simply took the narrative and presented it in a visual that I would understand. Yes, it’s not ideal but did it really hurt my overall impression of the novel? It’s not as if Murakami was writing a deep social critique of Japan. As a story mainly about individual characters and relationships surely it could easily have been transposed into any setting? 
Analysing my little problem in this way did very little to comfort me though; it simply added to a fear that I’ve been facing for some time. I’m always worried that I’m not diverse enough with my choice of reading material. Yes, I’ve the done the literary student thing and read the big names in foreign literature: Nabokov, Dostoyevsky, Voltaire, Hugo, Zweig. Hell, I was a student of Romanticism so I’ve read enough writing from Revolutionary era France to last a lifetime. But it’s never felt like enough. 
I’m horrible at accidentally falling into the same routine of masses of white, male authors. It’s not something I do purposefully but it’s a worrying trend within my bookshelves. Saying that, I’ve always felt comfortable with the amount of female writers that I pick up. Considering how much I bleat on to my clueless colleagues about women’s rights, I’d be a pretty poor excuse for a raging feminist if I didn’t. Undoubtedly though, there is as little ethnic diversity on those shelves as there is in the sleepy Yorkshire communities nearby. 
I guess part of that comes down to fear. Will I be able to fully appreciate the work with my personal history? Will the novel be the same in it’s translated form? I wouldn’t want to do the author a disservice when I wasn’t able to fully appreciate their work because of a little difference in background. Of course, it’s easier to pick up a novel by a white, male author because you know what to expect. It’s nothing to do with an inferred superiority but just a familiarity, 
That’s the problem. Reading lists in English classes are filled with male writers from all centuries with a few lucky women dotted around the place. As a nation, we are incredibly proud of our literary heritage and, in most cases, quite rightly. I’m not suggesting you strike Shakespeare, Dickens, Orwell and Golding from the syllabus. I just think we need to start championing more diverse writers. You know, like the Man Booker prize is mostly failing to do. 
Or maybe, once again, this all comes down to me as a person? Am I so clueless about my inability to embrace other cultures that I’m willing to make all this shit up to justify my actions? Is this actually a problem for anyone else? This isn’t the right thing for an overly neurotic individual like myself should be thinking about before bed. I’m never going to be able to sleep tonight as this rate.