SUNDAY RUNDOWN – THAT’S WHAT SHE READ

book haul, books, currently reading, George RR Martin, Stephen King
Was going to write this earlier but was so tired when I got home from work that I had a quick nap. I’m so pathetically tired at the moment that I need to do something about it. Nothing much to report on the book front of late. I’m still buying more than I need and reading less than I should. It’s just that every time I sit down to read I fall asleep. Still, I’m at least getting back into Instagram after a brief pause for my feed. Sometimes I feel as though I’m turning a corner with my photos then I take an absolutely shocking selection that I just can’t make work. I guess I just don’t have a natural eye for composition. It’s all about wildly trying something until it works. Maybe one day it’ll all make sense.
Currently Reading
  • A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George RR Martin
I’m going to be honest with you all, I’ve been shitty at reading this week. For some reason, I’ve been fucking exhausted since I got back from London. I blame the increase in carbs and a decrease in exercise. Still, I’m resolved to turn things around and I’m at least getting back on the fitness train. I’m sure the eating and reading thing will follow.  

Recently Purchased
  • Hawksmoor by Peter Ackroyd
Saw this beauty in a charity shop one lunchtime and couldn’t resist. The Penguins Decades cover is lovely and I honestly couldn’t bear to leave it behind. I mainly know Ackroyd as a historian and have never looked into his fiction. So what better excuse than a gorgeous and cheap book? Also, a pretty dark and tense story. In the eighteenth century, Nicholas Dyer is hiding secrets in the Churches he has been commissioned to build. Hundreds of years later a series of gruesome murders take place at these Churches. Detective Nicholas Hawksmoor is investigating these crimes. We’ll see how this goes. 

  • Capital by John Lancaster

Another charity shop find that I instantly fell in love with. This beautiful hardback edition got me hooked without even looking at what the story was about. Although the story, revolving around the financial crisis and the residents of a road in London. It’s probably going to be a bit of fun.  
  • End of Watch by Stephen King
A late entry in the list of recently purchased as I bought it on a whim on my way home today. I’ve still not read Finder’s Keepers, the second in the Bill Hodges trilogy, but W H Smith’s were selling their gorgeous hardback at half price. I didn’t hate the first one that much but nor was I wowed by it. I find myself constantly disappointed with King of late but I always go back. I think I might start on these two if I ever manage to finish George RR. I’ll need something lighter at that point. 

Recently Watched
  • Dramaworld
Absent-mindedly browsing Netflix and I come across this series. There are only 10 episodes and they’re all really sort so I gave it a go. I’m not sure I enjoyed it per se but it was a good enough watch. Mindless fun. When Claire, a huge fan of Korean drama, gets sucked into the fake world of her favourite show she finds out she is the one needed to bring about a happy ending. It’s silly and not that complicated to follow. It’s nothing overly clever or surprising but I’d probably watch a second series. 


Tuesday’s Reviews – Sneaky Experience The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

films, Morgan Freeman, prison, Sneaky Experience, Stephen King

I’ve wanted to try Sneaky Experience for a really long time but have never had the opportunity until recently. For those not in the know, Sneaky Experience create pop-up cinema screenings to audiences in weird locations. They make the screening an event and dress the location to link to the film. It’s always sounded amazing but I’ve never managed to get tickets. There have been Harry Potter screenings at Kirkstall Abbey and Christmas screenings of Elf that have eluded me. However, I finally managed to find a screening I wanted to attend and could get tickets for. The fact that I was going with a co-worker who is definitely more attached to me than I am to him was a price I was just going to have to pay. On Saturday night, straight after an awful day at work, I headed to Leeds town hall to watch The Shawshank Redemption.

We started off pre-experience having to fill out a Prisoner Information form. It included things like name, photo (or a hastily and badly drawn picture), crime and my alibi. I spent much longer than I needed to thinking up a good alibi because, ultimately, nothing much happened with this piece of paper. Although, I was quite proud so I’m going to discuss it here. As I was being sent down for the crime Andy Dufresne was incarcerated for, I decided to use the plot of Bull Durham as my alibi. I couldn’t have committed the crime because I wasn’t Shawshank Tim Robbins; I was Bull Durham Tim Robbins.

Following queueing in the cold for a while, we were ushered into a room where a couple of actors dressed as inmates and prison guards interacted with as many people as possible. Unfortunately for them there were too many people to get around and it got boring quickly. Still, the actors got very into their parts and were entertaining to watch. Although, I was one of the more uncomfortable ones and tried everything I could to limit my time with them. Then we were forced to have our photo taken in a manner reminiscent of a police mugshot, which we were told we could purchase at the end. Spoiler alert: I didn’t.
Then the experience really started. In pretty large groups we were ushered into a courtroom and got to live through a brief rendition of Andy Dufresne’s trial. It was fun but a bit ‘blink and you’ll miss it’. Before any of us knew what was happening we were then forced down into the old cells in the town hall’s basement and locked-up for the night. Okay, were weren’t strictly locked in but we were in the dark in an old cell for at least 30 seconds. It was fun.
We were then sent up some stairs and outside onto the street. Here, a man dressed as a prison officer proceeded to shout at us as some very concerned pedestrians and restaurant patrons looked on. We were marched back inside and taken to a room… where we waited. The unlucky ones at the back waited for a long time but at least there was Jenga to keep them entertained. Fortunately, I got through quite quickly and, less than an hour after I was sent to prison, was facing my parole hearing. I had to answer one question, which I obviously did quite badly as I was rejected. Well, at least that confirms my suspicion that Morgan Freeman and I are quite alike.
Then, we had to wait in the screening room whilst the rest of the people made it through the experience. We weren’t one of the first but we still must have sat for about half an hour. It sure made me glad we’d turned up when we did. As the final groups made their way around, more of the actors from the proceeding sections turned up to cause havoc with the waiting patrons. The guards terrorised the people willing to get involved, the prisoners threatened the newcomers and Andy Dufresne himself handed out library books (actually he was incredibly attractive so I wouldn’t have minded some interaction there). Despite nothing much happening here there were some fun moments as the actors involved really got to go crazy with their characters. I was one of many who were closely followed back to their seat by an angry guard.

Whilst I ultimately enjoyed the whole experience I have to admit there was a lot more waiting around than I’d expected. Obviously there was a fuck load of people to get through the whole thing but there wasn’t a great deal to it. There were only about 4 stops on the whole tour and the interaction in each section was limited. It was fun, yes, but it could have been more substantial. I mean, the prisoner information form suggested we would have our fingerprints taken at some point but that never occurred. The price is pretty hefty and, I can see why. I was just left feeling that my money could have been put towards something greater. I didn’t need the shitty photobooth and felt that the money could have been used better.

I once saw a production of The Merchant of Venice in Lancaster castle where the action moved around the rooms using what the building had on offer. For example, the courtroom scene was set in the old courtroom. It was one of the best Shakespeare productions I’ve ever seen because you were fully immersed in the plot. I sort of expected Sneaky Experience to feel a bit more like that but it was just a bit of a lame duck in comparison. I mean there were scenes lifted straight from the film and acted out in real life but it just felt like something was missing. Something I realise isn’t fair as you’re freer with a play than a film. Still, part of me thinks Sneaky Experience would benefit from a smaller scale and a more personal experience.

Although, if the right film comes along I’ll definitely be up for another Sneaky Experience. It is something I won’t forget and gave me the chance to see a wonderful film. I’ve never seen Shawshank on a big screen and, as it’s still one of the best films ever made, I was able to experience it in a way I never had. It’s a beautiful film and well acted. The film is powerful, emotional and, ultimately, uplifting. Morgan Freeman is just outstanding and his chemistry with Robbins is great. My only possible criticism would be that it’s a tad long but that probably has more to do with how long I’d been sitting and waiting for it to start.

THAT’S WHAT SHE READ – SUNDAY RUNDOWN

Aziz Ansari, book haul, books, currently reading, rundown, Stephen King
Ten days into the new year and I’m still falling into old habits. I’m very motivated to keep up with my new blogging plan and have even bought a diary to keep my schedule in. I feel so fucking grown-up right now. However, I still find that I read way less than I should. I got through a Literature degree so I know I’m a quick reader who should be able to get through at least one book a week. I shouldn’t be struggling this much. However, being a grown-up with responsibilities and a tiring job is too much. I’m so far behind with everything I want to watch and read that it’s taking too much energy to start tackling it. Plus, after putting it off forever, I’ve finally discovered Skyrim and that is taking up a hell of a lot of my spare time. I mean where else can I learn how to pickpocket without risking my steadfast moral code?


Currently Reading
  • A Bad Character by Deepti Kapoor
I feel like this section isn’t really necessary any more. I’m still reading and still loving it but just not quickly enough. I think the problem is my co-workers. When I was happy to head out to some nearby solitude or just sit silently in the corner reading I could get through books in no time. Now I actually want to spend my breaks talking to my colleagues. Liking people is such a pain in the arse.


Recently Purchased

  • The Ghost Network by Catie Disabato
I very nearly got away without buying any new books this week but relented and bought a book that had been in my Amazon cart for a while. This is the story of the disappearance of a Lady Gaga esque pop star and the two women who set out to find her. The deeper they go the more they realise how dangerous their quest will be. It sounds outrageous, it sounds trashy, it sounds ideal to get me out of my January slump.
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari
Aziz Ansari is the kind of guy you can’t help but love. He’s a funny, adorable chap who also happens to say a lot of intelligent and good things. This book has been a major hit since it was released and I have been lusting after it for a while. It was only after a conversation with an old friend of mine about her dating life that I was finally compelled to go for it. A someone who should probably have been boon pre-1960, I’ve always found modern dating to be a huge mystery. I’m really bad at it and have stumbled blindly through every romantic encounter I’ve ever had. Maybe Aziz can push me in the right direction?

  • The Bazaar if Bad Dreams by Stephen King
To be honest I think I should have included this one in last weeks but, as it was such an unplanned decision to buy it, completely forgot about it. As I seem to be forever pointing out in this blog, I have a strange relationship with Stephen King. I want to give in to the hype but he seems to be losing his edge these days. I’ve been disappointed by the endings to most of his recent novels. However, I love a good short story collection and this one has a fucking beautiful cover. Could be everything I need to convince me King is still worth my time.


Recently Watched

  • The Good Dinosaur
Won’t say too much as you’ll just have to wait until my dedicated review day. However, I will say, there were so many feels. Tears everywhere.

TBT – Joyland

books, meh, murder, review, Stephen King, TBT, theme park

The thing about reading Stephen King novels is that it will always bring about memories of other Stephen King novels. During Mr Mercedes the writer name checked a couple of his most well-known tales by referring to the big screen adaptations of two of his novels, It and Christine. (Fun fact: in my first year of University, I dressed as Christine for Halloween. I taped torches to my legs as headlights. It was fucking amazing.) King has spent years creating an intricate fictional universe where many of his novels can connect with each other. Like watching John Hughes films in the 80s, catching the subtle references to other stories is one of the fun things about reading his books. When I read Revival last year, I was more overjoyed that I should have been to discover a reference to another of his recent works. I think I audibly squeed when a character mentioned a certain North Carolina amusement park: Joyland.

I first read Joyland after I completely fell in love with the cover. I knew very little about the book aside from the fact it was a fucking babe. It didn’t really matter, to be honest, because every time I saw that B movie babe looking at me from the shelf my eagerness to read increased. With it’s pulpy styling, Joyland promised a terrifying but potentially trashy tour of life at the fun fair. For, despite all its quaint ways and quirky characters, Joyland is a fair with a dark secret; something that new recruit, Devin Jones, is eager to get to the bottom of.
A few years before Devin joined the ranks of Joyland’s purveyors of fun, Linda Gray was murdered within the Horror House. They never found the mysterious man who accompanied her on the ride, slit her throat and left her body inside but it is said that her ghost still haunts the park to this day. Recovering from a heartbreak that will continue to haunt Devin into his middle age, the young student becomes entangled in Linda’s story and discovers that she may not be the killers only victim. With the help of his new work friends, Devin begins investigating the gruesome events.
From the look of it, Joyland has all the hallmarks of one of King’s cliché-ridden horror tales: a haunted amusement park, a disabled child with psychic powers, and a crazed killer. However, Joyland isn’t exactly chock-a-block with scares or shocks. For a book that asks it’s readers “who dares enter the Funhouse of Fear?” is really isn’t that fucking fearful. In fact, there isn’t really much of plot to enable King to bring in the frights. The interesting crime mystery that sets Devin’s tale in motion is quickly replaced by an exploration of the paranormal when he meets a young clairvoyant. This change isn’t something likely to put-off the long-term King fans but it just feels a little half-hearted.
What saves Joyland, of course, is King’s mastery of language and his literary tour of the carnival world is a sheer delight. The dialect of the fair’s workers is part invention and part carnival tradition but there can no denying that it is the little details that make the novel. The carnival language that at first seems so jarring soon becomes second-nature as you, along with Devin, become familiar with carnie life. What this novel lacks in a horror-fuelled plot-line it more than makes up for with its insights into the recent history of this new and exciting world. King’s writing opens up Joyland’s rules and language to his readers.
Who are, let’s face it, the reason Joyland is the way is. Rather than not judging a book by its cover, I say Joyland is exactly the kind of book that you should judge by its cover. Placing itself in a certain type of low fiction, it is a short, simple and incredibly readable novel. King isn’t exactly pushing himself as a writer or you as a reader: he’s just creating something that people can and should enjoy. It’s not perfect but it never claims to be.
Joyland won’t necessarily interest readers hoping for sheer terror and villainy. Instead of chills it offers an emotional and interesting coming-of-age tale. King is a master when it comes to characters and he creates a whole host of great ones here. Despite older Devin’s irritating narrative, you find yourself wanting to immerse yourself in his story. It’s the kind of book that would utterly fall apart in the hands of a less skilled writer but King’s firm grasp and love of his material keep things on an even enough keel. Joyland probably won’t stay with you once you close the cover but, from the second you open it, you will want to read it. Then, when you’re done, at least you can delight in how pretty it looks.

Mr Mercedes by Stephen King

books, meh, review, Stephen King, thriller

Those of you paying attention will notice that for the first time in 13 weeks I missed a TBT. I don’t even have a good excuse: I was just super tired and couldn’t think of anything good to write about. Although, the reason for my tired state was because I had been staying up too late to get to the end of my sixth (I think) book of the year: Mr Mercedes by Stephen King. Regular readers will know that I’ve been burnt by King before so I went in with limited expectations, which, considering the hype when it came out, was fucking difficult. With the second book in the Bill Hodge’s trilogy coming out next month, I had to find out if I’d be making another purchase or carrying on with my mission to decrease the number of unread books on my shelf.

 

Revival by Stephen King

books, death, drugs, religion, review, Stephen King

 I never really know what to think about Stephen King. I have a great deal of respect for him as a writer and for his attitude towards the publishing world in general. However, the last few of his books that I’ve made my way through have never quite delivered the promise that his reputation makes for them. I fell in love with the gorgeous, pulpy cover for his 2013 book Joylandbut found the final twist to be really fucking dull. Am I missing something? Or is this King of contemporary horror just a little pedestrian these days? Not terrible by any means but nothing to get excited about. Although, he always has this way of drawing me back in. My fucking huge TBR pile has prevented me from buying Mr Mercedes so far, his first 2014 release, but every time I see it on the shelf I get a little bit closer. It was the connection to Frankenstein and HP Lovecraft that persuaded me to break my book buying ban for Revival. If something connected to Mary Shelley then I’d probably be tempted to break anything to try it.