The Books I Read in October 2017

It is hard to believe that it is November already, and October has been and gone. As with every month end, I bring to you the books I read during the preceding month. Despite my decision to read mostly spooky/creepy books to fit in with the feel of the season, I ended up reading a reasonable collection of books. That being said, the general themes of the month did tend towards either superheroes or villains/murderers.

I was pretty pleased with the range of books I read, although most tended towards an middling rating. My top book of the month was easily Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco, with Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi in second place. Each were both really entertaining stories with captivating characters and brilliant writing. That being said, while only receiving a rating of 4, The Dark Phoenix Saga story-line is one of my all-time favourites, and has been since I first encountered it as a child. The lower rating for this particular book is that parts have not aged too well and, as it was a collection of comic books, there was a lot of repetition as past events were caught up on at the beginning of each comic.

Of the books I read, I don’t think I was disappointed with any. Some, such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies actually surprised me and I even found myself fascinated by the textbook Superhero Comics which I read on my kindle. The complete list of books I read and their ratings is below. For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Paperback

Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi – 4.5/5

Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood – 4/5

Because You Love to Hate Me by Various (edited by Ameriie) – 3.5/5

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith – 3/5

 

Graphic Novel

The Uncanny X-Men: The Dark Phoenix Saga by Chris Claremont and John Byrne – 4/5

Kindle Book

Superhero Comics by Chris Gavaler – 3.5/5

Hardback

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco – 4.5/5

 

Heading into November, I am reading The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I am also still (yes, still) listening to the audiobook Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. It is, unfortunately, one of those audiobooks that I just want to sit and listen to, but I simply have not been able to find the time to do so. I do only have about four hours left now, so if I don’t finish it in November I may need to re-evaluate my life. As for further November reading, I think I will probably aim to stick with my spooky/creepy theme from October as I am quite enjoying it, but also gradually move into those cosy winter reads as the days get shorter and colder. I am eight books behind in my Goodreads challenge to read 100 books this year, so these next two months will mean a lot of knuckling down, ignoring life-admin and reading (when I’m not writing, of course).

 

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The Books I Read in September 2017

For most of August, I was stuck in a reading slump. This September, I have been able to break out of that slump, at least partially. One of the main hold-ups was the 45-hour long audiobook I was listening to – while I enjoy long books, I don’t like feeling like I’m not making any progress and, with audiobooks, it is very easy for this to happen. Especially when they’re long ones. The lesson has been learnt, however, and I’m planning to stick to shorter ones from now on.

In terms of books, those I read were a fairly mixed batch. I enjoyed most of those I read although would not necessarily say I have found some new favourites. My favourite reads of the month were The Power by Naomi Alderman which was a brilliant novel exploring gender hierarchies with the added bonus of electrical powers, and The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson which, despite the sheer length, was a fantastic fantasy with multiple POVs and world I could really get into.

The main disappointment of September was, unfortunately, Hollow City by Ransom Riggs. I enjoyed the first book in this series although was not amazed by it; the second one just did not grab me and I did consider DnFing it once or twice. The saving grace was the final 50 pages or so where the story came together and the action picked up. From what I remember of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, it was a similar experience of a slow-moving start coming together towards a more thrilling conclusion.

Those books, with their ratings, along with the other books I read are below. For reference, the way I rate is as follows:

1-Unable to Finish ; 2-Did not enjoy ; 3-Liked ; 4-Really Liked ; 5-Loved

Audiobook

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson – 4.5/5 (audiobook)

Crown of Midnight by Sarah J Maas – 4/5 (audiobook)

Kindle

Yesterday by Felicia Yap – 4/5 (kindle)

Blood and Stars by Jaime Lee Mann – 3.5/5 (Kindle)

 

Paperback

Hollow City by Ransom Riggs- 2.5/5 (paperback)

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen – 3.5/5 (paperback)

The Power by Naomi Alderman – 4.5/5 (paperback)

 

It is now October, the month of Samhain/Halloween, when the veils between worlds are at their thinnest, and the colder, darker months start to creep in. As such, it’s a great time to get stuck into some of the more magical and creepier books on the bookcase. I’m still not completely sure what my reading plans are for the month, but I have three books on the go currently and, when they’re finished, I am fairly sure I’ll be choosing books with witches and ghouls and murderers in mind.

Going into October, I am reading the YA fantasy novel Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi; a non-fiction examination into the history of Superhero Comics by Chris Gavaler and I’m also listening to the grimdark novel Best Served Cold by Joe Abercrombie. The three of which, I’d say, are a decent way to start the month’s reading.

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