Bookish Would You Rather

For a while I’ve had it in my mind to do a bookish ‘would you rather’ post – something fun and care-free. The only thing holding me back was that it was something which I felt did not quite fit with the tone of my blog. I like my posts to mean something, even if they just mean something to me, and for a long time I was struggling to find a connection to the concept despite really wanted to do it. So, after much thought, I’ve tried to make the questions relevant to my bookish thoughts and reading habits, and here we are. Enjoy!

Would you rather:

 Read a kindle or read a print book

This question is difficult in that both are very different – each has their pros and their cons. I have brilliant books sitting on my kindle and not so brilliant ones on my bookcase, and vice versa. Ultimately though, I would have to say a print book. The feel of a print book adds to the enjoyment of reading and kindles are just lacking in that extra bit of personality for me, despite it always being in my bag, ready for travel.

Own a signed book or a first edition

This is tough but, on the whole, I think I would go for a first edition. As much as I love signed books and that, generally, if you have it signed you’ve probably met the author, there is nothing quite like having a pristine, first edition of a book, especially if no-one has read it. As well as being beautiful, it’s also an investment and a treasure. A signed paperback doesn’t quite mean the same thing to me. Although, if I did have it my way, a signed first edition would be glorious.

Professionally review books or write them

If I could afford to, I would write books, no question. As much as I love reviewing books, and I do, there is nothing quite like putting pen to paper and letting a story emerge. That being said, given I’ve had a few manuscripts rolling around in the attic-space for a while, it may be that I’ll be on just the reviewing side of things a little while longer. Again though, the dream would be to do both – review and write.

Lose your Goodreads account or your book database

This is a difficult one. Both have their advantages and disadvantages. I’ve had my Goodreads account the longest, and it includes a lot more of the books I’ve read. Yet, I’ve spent more time building my book database and, as well as including books I’ve read and own, it also includes the books I have to read, the books I’ve lent to other people and those I’ve borrowed. I think, having already lost my books database once and rebuilding it afterwards, I would probably say to lose that again. I have much more of a history with my Goodreads account and, to be perfectly honest, I actually really enjoyed putting together my book database for a second time. I’m pretty sure I’d enjoy a third as well.

Would you rather read a book adaption of your favourite TV show or watch a TV adaption of your favourite book?

I really enjoy watching adaptions of books (after I’ve read the book, of course) but then there is always the danger that it would be done wrong. I think, all in all, I would rather read a book adaption of my favourite TV show. It would be a different way of watching the show (and probably a quicker way to) and, if there’s a power cut or the apocalypse comes, I would be able to continue enjoying that show despite not being able to watch it.

Those are my five bookish would you rather questions and answers. I hope you enjoyed that, and feel free to let me know what your answers would be in the comments.

 

 

 

Q2 2017 Goals

Q1 of 2017 has come and gone, and, with it, the resolutions I made for that time period. I decided at the start of this year that, due the inflexibility of having year-long goals, I decided to create my resolutions on a quarterly basis, giving me a chance to reflect and set new resolutions accordingly. The reason this one is slightly later is because I decided part way through Q1 to shift each quarter by a month; this was to avoid the burst of energy which comes with new resolutions from clashing with the energy needed for all the quarterly reports and tasks at work.

These have been divided into three categories:

Creative Pursuits

  • My first resolution was to send off my manuscript to at least one agent.
    • This did not happen. I found that, in trying to achieve this, I was rushing what I was doing and not giving myself the time or space to get it right. This quarter, I am aiming to completed the final checks of the manuscript and complete the needed research before starting querying in the summer.
  • The next was develop my social media presence.
    • I have started picking up my social media a little bit – I try to tweet on a regular basis, although I am yet to reach at least once a day. I have also started picking up my YouTube channel again and building on my video editing knowledge. I will be continuing this at a similar pace this quarter, with the goal of bringing my twitter, YouTube and blog together into one central brand to work from.
  • The third was to get back into art.
    • My art did suffer a little this quarter. I encountered the problem where I would pick up one project, receive a burst of inspiration for another and so on and so forth. This has resulted in a lot of half formed ideas and projects. This quarter, I will take that list, determine which to focus my efforts onto and develop a plan for delving into them so that, by the end of July, I will have a number of projects completed; be it sewing, painting or general crafts.

Reading

  • Reading gets its own section because it’s a big part of my life, not least because of the sheer amount of books I own. The first resolution with this was to have read at least one shelf’s worth of books on my to-read bookcase.
    • This is quite hard to judge. While I am fairly sure I have read a shelf’s worth of books, very few were actual physical books I own and I am nowhere near clearing a space. Most of my reading the last few months have been kindle-reads, audiobooks and borrowed books. This quarter I am going to continue the resolution but with the goal of actually clearing a shelf of to-read books.
  • The second resolution under reading was to read more variety in genres and diversity, reading at least three different genres a month.
    • With regards to genres, this was a success. I have read and am still reading a wide range of genres each month and am really enjoying it. I’ve felt like my resolution to read more diversity has not been quite so successful, and this will be my goal for Q2 2017.
  • Finally, my resolution was to restrict my book-buying to only buying one or two books a month maximum.
    • I have achieved this, simply put. The only times where I have bought more than two books a month were when the extra books were gifts, and I don’t think that counts. Despite achieving this goal, however, I am going to continue with it in Q2 as it’s quite an easy way to save money and I want to prove to myself that I can continue the buying-restriction.

 Personal Development

  • Improving health, both by eating healthier and doing more regular exercise, was the first resolution at this point. This was also the one goal I thought would be the hardest to fulfil, and I was right.
    • The first few months were, admittedly, a struggle. It didn’t help that it was dark outside. However, last month, I successfully completed 30 days of yoga and that has given me the motivation to continue; that, and the decision that I will go and trek up to Machu Picchu in the next two years. I have started Couch to 5K, am continuing yoga and have also continued my walking although on a more regular basis.
  • My second goal was about learning code. I hadn’t decided on which code to start learning at the start of the year, but I knew I wanted to go about learning one.
    • This particular resolution has been partially fulfilled in that I have decided which code I want to learn and have started it. As well as continuing to learn Excel VBA, I am also starting to learn Python. These will both be continued this quarter, with the goal of applying it either at work or at home, depending on where it would be most useful.
  • Finally, my last goal was, simply, get out the house more. I do enjoy ‘me-time’, where I’m curled up with a book or in front of a movie; but I do know that getting out and about, meeting friends and experiencing culture are all really important for a fulfilled existence.
    • I will admit, when the winter months were still upon us, I did not do this as much as I would have liked. That being said, now that the weather is much nicer, I have started doing a lot of these things, with the goal of doing one social activity and one film a week (I’ve got a Cineworld Unlimited card so I don’t have to worry too much about the cost of film)

Those are where I am with my resolutions from Q1. As you’ve probably noticed, I decided to continue them into this quarter as I did not get off to quite the head-start as I would have liked. That being said, I am hoping to have a achieved a lot of these by the end of this quarter which would allow me to change them up a little in the second half of the year. I have found that this way of doing things has given me a touch more flexibility in my approach which I am enjoying, although I’m not quite full-agile yet.

Here’s to the next few months!

 

Rosie Reviews: Jane Eyre – The Play

Last Friday was the anniversary of Charlotte Bronte’s death and it seemed only fitting to spend Saturday afternoon sat in the Oxford Playhouse watching an adaption of her novel Jane Eyre. This particular performance, the Polly Teale adaption, was part of the young players’ festival and was performed by the amateur Oxford Playhouse 17/25 Young Company.

On the whole, I really enjoyed the show. It’s been a while since I’ve read Jane Eyre, so my knowledge of the story was a little rough and I think I probably would have benefitted from a refresher prior to the play. That being said, the play did do a good job of capturing the main elements of the story, particularly the madness of the wife and Jane’s independent nature, even if it was lacking in the details.

The play did start on a peculiar note with two characters on stage playing Jane Eyre – one, the physical Jane Eyre; the other, her conscience or mental state. I did find this a little confusing to start with, especially as they interacted with one another and it took a while before the relation was made obvious. It did make for an interesting twist to see the mental storm inside of Jane compared to her outward appearance. This, however, did not last long and the character of Jane’s mind gradually evolved into Rochester’s wife, highlighting interesting parallels between the two characters particularly where it wasn’t clear who the person was playing – Jane Eyre, or Rochester’s deranged wife. The member of the cast playing these characters was the only one who was on stage the whole time and both cast members did manage to have the presence and acting ability to remain in character throughout. I did, however, think the first actress to play the role pulled it off better, being more wild and uncontrollable whereas the second actress came across as more cold and calculating.

And there were two actresses for that role, as there were for all the others. The most bizarre part of this play, the biggest twist, was that the cast all changed roles in the interval. In the first half, one person was playing Mr Rochester and, in the second, he was playing a minor character. This was the same for all the cast. I don’t know why they did it, but it was really jarring and caused a lot of confused glances and puzzled whispers across the audience. Having got used to who played each character in the first half, it made the second feel more of a parody of the first. It didn’t help that, while the first Mr Rochester and Jane Eyre were very good, the second ones did not quite pull it off. I don’t think this switch was the best choice the director could have made and it would have been better to have the two line-ups on separate performances as it did make me enjoy the second half less than the first.

The peculiar start and the change-over at half-time were the main grievances I had with the play. The rest of it was enjoyable to watch and the cast did very well with limited props and a basic set. I enjoyed the decision to have the cast play the animals – the horse was quite entertaining to see, although I did feel a little sorry for the one cast member dressed up like a dog. It is a play I would see again and it’s a play which made me want to go back and reread the book. More so since the play left out the one, concluding sentence which should really be in any Jane Eyre adaption and which would have brought the play to a perfect close: “Reader, I married him”

Play Rating: 3.5/5

 

Things to do when you’re ill

Nobody likes being sick; it’s difficult to pluck up any kind of energy, things ache and there’s the guilt of not being able to do anything because getting out of bed is just impossible. Unfortunately, sick days also come with a touch of boredom – when you’re not sleeping, you’re awake but not really up to doing anything. That happens to me a lot – more so when I just want a distraction from being ill. So, here are some of the things I like to do when I’m not feeling well.

Read a book

Books are a brilliant source of escapism, even when you feeling perfectly well. I find a good fantasy story, which I can get into but isn’t overly complex, is usually just what I need when I’m feeling ill. Either that, or some easy reading. I’m currently reading The Best of Adam Sharp which is an enjoyable read that doesn’t require too much brain power.

If, however, reading hurts the eyes and the head too much, audiobooks are a life-saver. I have spent a number of hours lying in the dark with my eyes closed, letting my mind wonder into a world being described to me. I mostly use audible to get my audiobooks from but, for cheaper options, the radio can have a good selection if you look closely enough and there are always podcasts. One thing to be wary of though, audiobooks have a powerful tendency to lull you into sleep. I ended up missing about an hour or so of Truthwitch after falling asleep and ended up having to go back when I finally woke up.

Binge-watch a t.v. show

Sometimes, imagining an entire world is too much when you’re feeling ill, and movement is just not going to happen. In these cases, I find binge-watching t.v. to be a welcome time-passer. Netflix is usually my go-to site for this, but I’ve also made use of both Amazon Prime and my boxsets. Most recently, I’ve been watching Merlin – each disc contains three episodes which is about the maximum time I can watch something for and it’s a show I know inside out so I can appreciate it without actually having to follow the plot. I also find half-hour comedy shows to be great distractors as well, and these are incredibly easy to binge-watch. I got through five seasons of community in a couple of weeks and have now started on Brooklyn-99. Neither requires much thought so are great to watch when nursing a headache or just holed up beneath a blanket.

Easy fun

This one can be pretty much anything; it mostly depends on what kind of things you enjoy. I, for one, find that when I don’t want to look at a screen either colouring or a puzzle will take my mind off of things for hours. Something repetitive and mind-numbing also helps, so a game like bejewelled or something with a slight addictive quality such as the Sims. These are probably for those who are entering the recovery phase, as they do require a bit more thought, but they do pass the time pretty well and are fun in the process.

A touch of nostalgia

Everyone loves a good bit of nostalgia from time to time and when you’re ill, sometimes it’s all you need. Grab a blanket and some pillows and then curl up in front of your childhood films or tv shows, or read your favourite children’s book. When I’m ill, as I’ve mentioned before, I enjoy things which I already know the plot of, where I don’t feel the need to fully follow the story. Things with a touch of nostalgia allow that, but they also act a bit like a security blanket, or a warm hug. Rather than going out adventuring into worlds unknown, you’re back somewhere you know where everything is similar and where you can just relax. While I’ve mentioned books, films and shows, this really could be anything, from a teddy bear to a board game.

Those are a few of the ways through which I avoid the monotonous sick-day and make my recovery that little bit speedier. If I’ve set myself up right, it’s possible to do most of them without ever having to leave the safety of my bed, or my sofa. Normally, when I’m ill, I’m really only up to one or two things in the above, and they get chosen wisely (i.e. migraines mean nothing involving the eyes, so mostly audiobooks are used). What kind of things do you do when you’re ill? I’d be interested to hear your suggestions.

This has been a bit of a different post from me but, as you may have guessed, I was ill and that’s what the inspiration wheel landed on. I am trying to inject a bit more variety into this blog, so this was a step in that direction. I’m still deciding how I feel about posts which are more life-based than book-based, but I suppose only time will tell.

Rosie Reviews: A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

a-mothers-reckoning

Title: A Mother’s Reckoning

Author: Sue Klebold

Publisher: Ebury Publishing, Penguin Random House UK

Genre: Memoir

Source: NetGalley

Review

Sue Klebold is the mother of one of the Columbine shooters. In A Mother’s Reckoning she looks back at her time raising Dylan Klebold, exploring behaviours and discussing both the lead up to and the aftermath of the shooting, as well as bringing to front her own research and work on the causes of such tragedies.

This book was an incredibly powerful read – I found myself thinking about it when I wasn’t reading it and long after it had finished. The confusion and grief over what happened projects clearly from the pages, while each word is a careful examination of everything that unfolded before, during and after the shooting. Klebold does not stray away from the darker details, or tries to shield herself. She explores her own actions in raising Dylan, trying desperately to find out why the boy she thought she knew turned out to be someone else entirely.

More than that, however, she uses the book to highlight what to look out for in young people who could be depressed or in danger of suicide, in the hopes it could prevent further grief. Klebold goes into a lot of detail about the research she has done surrounding the role of mental health in these kinds of tragedies, from attending events to meeting with psychologists and other experts who can shed even the slightest bit of insight. The research isn’t at an end either and Klebold will be donating all her profits from the sale of this book to charity and research focusing on mental health issues.

However, the book itself is not a complete breakdown of what happened and why. We will never truly know the complete reasoning behind the two boys’ actions, but it does help answer some questions and give a small glimpse into the horrors that all those who were connected in any way to the shootings would have experienced. There are sections which do feel like they’re missing something and the book only really focuses on Dylan, as would be expected. I, for one, would be interested to read an account from Eric Harris’ family to see if there were any similar behaviour changes between the two, or if their experiences with him were any different, especially given that, while Dylan was believed to be depressed, experts believe Eric to have had psychopathy.

That being said, this book is a compelling memoir, one which captures the grief and horror of a mother who discovers her son has both died and killed on the same day, while also taking a look at the reasons why such a tragedy occurred, shedding light on something which is prevalent even today. It’s a personal project by a woman who could have easily shied away from the public eye, but instead used her immense bravery to face her critics and talk about something that obviously means a lot to her, in the hope it will help save someone else. It’s a book that I would recommend reading if you are even the slightest bit interested in mental health, or even if you’re not. It is easily one of my top reads of the last year, despite being difficult to take in at times, and I will still be thinking of it for days, weeks and months to come.

A Mother’s Reckoning will be released in the UK on the 9th February 2017.

Rating: 5/5

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25937671-a-mother-s-reckoning

The Book Depository (affiliate link): https://www.bookdepository.com/Mothers-Reckoning-Sue-Klebold/9780753556818/?a_aid=rosienreads

 

 

My 2017 Goals

It’s that time of year again, the time for resolutions to be made. Normally, at this time of year, I would set aside grand goals for me to fulfil before the year is out; however, this time I’m going to do something a little different. I have often found that it is quite difficult to keep to those grand, year-long goals, especially if they involve large life-style changes. A year is a long time for things to happen in, and plans can be derailed and surprises can happen so sticking resolutely to those first goals can be quite difficult.

I’ve decided to do something a little different this time around. I’m going to split the year into four and set myself four sets of resolutions at the beginning of each quarter. This will give me a chance to reflect on the last three months and set my new resolutions accordingly. My first set of resolutions have been divided into three categories of three.

Creative Pursuits

  • My first resolution is to send off the manuscript to my novel to at least one agent. I am nearly finished with the editing process, and still need to work on a query letter, but even though it is quite a large task, it should be achievable.
  • Next up is to develop my social media presence. This will include both my blog and my YouTube account. For the first few months, my plan is to post more frequently and try a few new things with them.
  • While the first two goals are more focused on specific areas, this final one is simply to get back into art. I did not do as much art as I wanted to last year and I have a number of projects I would like to try this year from sewing to painting to crafts.

Reading

  • I have a lot of books which I own but have not yet read. So many that I have an entire bookcase dedicated to them. I would like to start using the bookcase for other things, such as having specific shelves for classics and writing books, but at the moment there are just a lot of unread books. By April, I would like to have read at least one shelf’s worth of books, if not two.
  • I would like to read more variety in books in genres and diversity. Fortunately, I have quite a variety of genres on my to-read pile which is what I will be reading in the first three months, with at least three different genres a month. As I don’t really know much about the books on my that list, it’s hard to tell if they will help fulfil the diversity goal, but this is definitely something I will be looking at in later months.
  • I am going to severely restrict my book-buying for the first three months. I do tend to buy books a lot so my plan is to put a stop to the compulsive book-buying that I do. While I’ve found complete bans difficult to uphold, I will restrict my buying to one or two books a month maximum.

Personal Development

  • A bit of two in one here but: improve general health by eating healthier and doing more regular exercise. I’ll admit, I let myself slip a bit in 2016. But in 2017 I am going to try to make a difference. This will probably be the hardest goal to fulfil as it will involve the largest lifestyle change, but I will do my best. The exercise for the first three months will be gentle, mainly walking, yoga and tai chi to build myself up for later months. Eating healthier will mostly mean less snacking and more cooking.
  • I’d like to start learning code. I haven’t decided which code yet, but SQL, R and Python are all contenders, as well as improving the HTML and VBA that I already know. Not only would these help with my job but they just seem really interesting and would be quite fun to be able to do.
  • Get out the house more. While this seems to be quite an easy one, I do find myself spending a lot of time curled up in front of a movie or with a good book in the evenings. So, this month I’m going to try and get out a bit more, be it seeing friends, seeing shows/films or exploring the local culture (and the not-so-local ones as well) a bit more regularly.

Those are my resolutions for the first three months of 2017. While they may not seem that specific, I do have a vague plan on how to achieve them but want to be a bit more flexible in my approach. Here’s to achieving them this year and not continuing the bad habits of previous years!

 

My Top Books of 2016

The end of 2016 is nigh and, with it, comes the conclusion to another year of reading. My reading this year has had its ups and downs. I have read a huge variety of books from non-fiction to romance to high fantasy of which I’ve given ratings from 2 to 5. I’ve not had any books that I did not finish (but that’s more due to my refusal to let Tess of the D’Urbervilles defeat me than anything else). According to my Goodreads challenge, I have read 141 books this year, but including a book that is not actually on Goodreads (gasp!) and the one I am currently reading and hoping to finish by New Year, that’s 143. Either way, that’s a lot of books I have read this year.

Which brings me to my top reads for 2016, which was decidedly difficult to decide on as I have read a good number of excellent books this year. So, with that in mind, I decided to break it down by the format I read the book in. These aren’t all books that have been released this year, just ones I have read this year. They have, however, all been given 5 star ratings by me.

So, without further ado, here are my top paperback, hardback, audiobook and kindle reads of 2016:

Paperback

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard

The Kappilan of Malta by Nicholas Monsarrat

Winter by Marissa Meyer

Illuminae by Amie Kaufmann and Jay Kristoff

 

Hardback

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

Eleanor by Jason Gurley

 

Audiobook

The Edge of Nowhere by C.H. Armstrong

Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

The Harry Potter Series by J.K. Rowling

 

Kindle

Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

 

Note the Harry Potter series being combined. This was the first time I had listened to Stephen Fry’s telling of the series all the way through – I had never really got into them before. This made me experience the whole series in a whole new light so I decided to combine them for this rather than pick out any individual one.

So, those are the top books I have read in 2016. There is quite a mix there, so I wouldn’t compare one to another, but each one has impacted me in different ways – be it making me see things from a new perspective, inspiring me with my own writing, or even just been completely enjoyable.

Hopefully, 2017 will be an even better for reading and I will discover an even greater range of brilliant books.