Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

Sunday Rundown – That’s What She Read

You catch me on day 4 of my new blog project that sees me writing a letter every single day. So far, I’m finding it okay. I mean I’d hoped to get a bit ahead of schedule by now but I’m not worried. I have about 10 days off work from now so I’m going to use my time wisely. Meaning I won’t get anything done and by this time next week I’ll be stressing out big time. Still, by the time I’m back at work I’ll be almost halfway through the 30 books and that’s something. On the plus side, all of this writing has meant I’ve virtually forgotten that tomorrow is actually my 30th birthday. Not that I’m too bothered by the age thing anyway. I’ve sort of been stuck at 16 for the past 14 years and I can’t see me growing up much any time soon.
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30 Books For My 30th – Number 3

30 Books For My 30th – Number 3

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dscn6980Dear The Monk,

January 25th 2018. Mark it in your calendar, my friend. That was the date I openly said, for the first time, those three little words: “Is my favourite”. I don’t know what came over me to be quite so bold. I’m normally not good at making the first move but, after 11 years in each other’s lives, it felt right to make it official. You are my favourite book … for now at least. I’ve never been decisive enough to have a favourite before so I can’t exactly promise it’ll be forever. But it’s for now. And for someone as uncomfortable with commitment as me, that means something.

I have to be honest with you, this has come as something of a shock to me. Particularly because you didn’t make the greatest first impression on me. It was sometime in the academic year of 07/08. I was in my first year of University and you were part of my Romanticism module’s reading list. I was a typical undergraduate: too much fun and not enough reading. I also had a massive crush on my tutor so wasn’t exactly concentrating on the books for most of my seminars. I read most of you and, from what I remember, I liked you. I mean, I enjoyed you enough to write about you in my final exam so you must have made something of an impression on me. But not a huge one.

It wasn’t until my postgraduate degree some 3 years later that I truly started to love you. In fact, and I hate to tell you this, I don’t think it was completely because of you that I fell in love with you. I mean you’re great and everything but it was your history that interested me. I came back to you because of 3 pieces of criticism that were written about you or linked to you. The first, by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, praised you and critiqued you in equal measure. The other two hated you and your kind. One, by Thomas James Mathias, was outraged that an MP and had published something so scandalous. The second, an anonymous letter entitled ‘The Terrorist System of Novel-Writing’, hated all books of gothic horror and related them to the French Revolution. (Incidentally, that letter is, by far, one of the greatest pieces of correspondence that I’ve ever read.) It is from those 3 pieces that my postgraduate dissertation was born and my love for you cemented.

You scared the shit out of people, man. How could I not love you? You were described as politically dangerous. You’re not even that good a book in the grand scheme of things! Yet everyone was up in arms about you. I adore you for that. I’m not sure what it says about me that I see myself in a book but I see myself in you. You’re melodramatic, misunderstood, and a bit of a mess. Just like me. You mean well, you’re fun, and you make an impact. A bit like me. I’ve never believed in the idea of a human soul mate but book soul mates? You’re the one I’d been looking for.

Yes, you’re a bit all over the place and there are bits of you that don’t make sense or simply don’t fit. Coleridge was right that you had more potential that you don’t quite live up to. Your language is as times poetic and brilliant. At others, it’s abysmal. But you’re clever; you just hide it really well. You have a great political message regarding the aftermath of the French Revolution and the scene where an angry mob storm a convent is mesmerising. I could have written my entire dissertation on that passage alone.

Reading you is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. You’re insane. These days, you won’t be as widely read, which is unfortunate. I’ve bonded with people over you better than I have with most books. When you meet someone who has also read you there is an instant connection thanks to memories of your “beauteous orb” and wanking monk. I’ve had conversations with an ex-colleague about you that have left our co-workers visibly scared and confused. We’ve a history of inappropriate Facebook posts on each other’s walls inspired by your pages. Not many books can do bring people together like that. But you can. I’m so glad I read you. I’m just sorry it took me so long to realise what had been staring me in the face this whole time.

You are mine, and Heaven itself cannot rescue you from my power,

Laura

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30 Books For My 30th – Number 2

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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30 Books for My 30th – Number 1

30 Books for My 30th – Number 1

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img_4338Dear Lord of the Flies,

How are you? It’s been a while since we last spent any real time together. That doesn’t mean I’ve forgotten you. I appreciate that these days I only come round if I want something (more often than not, a worn or well-loved book for an Instagram post) but don’t think for one second that I no longer care. We’ve known each other for about 15 years and that means something. Like every other young person, we first met when I was studying for my GCSEs. Your pages were already bent and you were full of notes but that didn’t matter. My sister may have claimed ownership of you once upon a time but now you were mine. And, if I have anything to do with it, you always will be.

I’m always shy around people I don’t know so I was a bit wary of you at first. I was at an age where I was good at studying literature but I didn’t love it yet. I warmed up to you pretty quickly. You were intense and powerful. I’d read important books before, of course, but nothing that was quite so fiery. Nothing that was quite as beautifully written whilst being so devastating. I found myself enjoying working my way through your pages and analysing everything in front of my eyes. I was getting excited about your symbolism and your allegory. Every inch of your blank pages became a notebook of pencil scribbles. I wanted to discover who you really were: I needed to see you properly. And I believe that, during those GCSE years, I did.

But we’ve grown apart since. I’ve barely opened your pages since then and have left you languishing on a shelf. It’s scary, you see, loving a book so much as a teenager and, inevitably, stopping being a teenager. What would I do if you were no longer the book I thought you were? What if I’m no longer the reader I was back then? The young, naive girl with an insignificant personal library. What if I no longer deserved you? I couldn’t bear that. Not after you meant so much to me.

So, yes, you can call me a coward because I am. But you shouldn’t care for me any less. The thing about real friendship is that you can see each other’s flaws but it doesn’t matter. I see your flaws as I, probably, saw them then. You’re a little bit cynical, a little too on-the-nose. Your allegorical narrative is wonderful and painful but, you have to admit, it is anything but subtle. Your writing may be exquisite but it’s a little stilted at times. There are better books out there, many of which I’ve actually read but more that I haven’t.

But that doesn’t matter Lord of the Flies. You were the first book to show me the potential power of literature. You were making a real and important point and trying to teach us all something about ourselves. Something about myself. You made me care about studying literature. You made me fall in love with my subject. You made me fall in love with you. So, I’m sorry if I don’t call you much anymore but, never forget, that you’re always with me. We’re always together.

Maybe it’s only us

Laura

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30 Books For My 30th

30 Books For My 30th

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dscn6959-1Question: if you could write a love letter to any book you’ve ever read which would it be?

Are you sick of me banging on about turning 30 yet? It’s already been 2 months meaning there’s still a full 10 to go. So if you aren’t now then I guarantee you will be. March, of course, is special because it’s my actual birthday on the 5th. I decided to mark the occasion by starting my biggest blog challenge yet. It’s something I’m already kind of dreading and I haven’t even started it yet. However, I’m equally pretty excited about it. It’s something I’ve been thinking of for a while and now seemed like the best time. It is also super fitting that I’m launching this on World Book Day. I love when life works out like that.

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Book Review – The Explorer by Katherine Rundell

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

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

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

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. Read more

Book Review – Tin by Pádraig Kenny

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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