On Relaxation

The theme for today’s ‘Blog Every Day in May‘ post is Pampering. What is your ideal way to pamper yourself and relax? I don’t really do the whole ‘pamper’ thing. I don’t own a bath. All my candles belong on a cake. Most of my cosmetics have sealed themselves shut. But that’s not to say I don’t indulge myself, because I do. In just under four weeks (following my final exam), my season of self-indulgence will commence.

My self-indulgence takes a number of forms:

TV – I like to spend the summer catching up on entire seasons of the TV shows I love. I tend to avoid watching things on a week-by-week basis, I’m not patient enough for cliffhangers. This summer I have the latest seasons of Revenge, Game of Thrones, Vampire Diaries and Bones  to entertain me.

Arty Stuff – See this post for more information on the classes I’m taking this year.

Leisurely Reading – As an English student, a lot of my term-time reading can be pretty heavy. It’s not that I don’t love Classic literature, because I do, but you can’t really kick back and relax to Les Mis can you? I came across a ‘reading for fun’ challenge yesterday on Books, Biscuits and Tea that I’m going to have to take part in…. the idea is to work your way through all of the books on the Richard and Judy Summer Book Club list:

Tigers in Red Weather – Liza Klaussmann

The Age of Miracles – Karen Thompson Walker

Close My Eyes – Sophie McKenzie

This is How It Ends – Kathleen MacMahon

Natural Causes – James Oswald

The Light Between Oceans – M. L. Stedman

The Sea Change – Joanna Rossiter

The Universe Versus Alex Woods – Gavin Extence

The Girl Who Fell From the Sky – Simon Mawer

The Sea Sisters – Lucy Clarke

[Click on the links to read the Amazon blurb/reviews]

The good thing about this challenge is that I would never have picked any of these books myself, so hopefully I should be introduced to something new that I’ll really love (as they all sound pretty good). To sign up for the challenge, visit this page.

So tell me some of the ways you like to relax.

D x

Whimsical Reading – Illness

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Hello, hello, and how are you today?

I’m back for my weekly feature of sharing some reading suggestions inspired by my whimsical reading challenge. When I started planning what to read for each category I remember there was one that stuck out to me: illness. Unless you’re going to read a non-fictional book about an actual illness then it’s a bit tricky trying to find one suitable. However, after racking my brains for a couple of weeks, and employing a little poetic license I have come up with a few for you:

1. Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
TO BE READ. This one seems like the most obvious choice for this category (and I say this because it’s the only one I could think of to start with). I bought a copy of this a while ago because it’s supposed to be one of the greats, but I find myself feeling a bit ‘meh’ about actually reading it. In fact, I carried it around in my handbag for a week without getting past the third page.

2. Frank Sinatra has a cold and other stories by Guy Talese
You may or may not have noticed that I generally condemn short stories. Often they annoy me beyond belief. This book, however, is a gem. Although technically these are more like essays or articles, I’m counting the book as a win for the short story movement. For more of my (undoubtedly profound) opinions check out my review.

3. Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby
This is one great author. He’s down to earth, he’s hilarious, his writing style sucks you in so that before you know it you’re almost done. Fever Pitch is good, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not my favourite of his books. I loved About a Boy, but my favourite has to be High Fidelity and luckily for me, there are still a decent amount I haven’t read yet!

4. Plague of Hearts by Patrick Whittaker
TO BE READ. This is a book set in Wonderland and I’ve read about a quarter of it. I think I downloaded it for free from feedbooks.com when I first got my Kindle, but I ended up getting distracted by set books and never ended up finishing… From what I remember, the story was pretty good and the characters were great, but the writing style seemed a little iffy in places.

5. That Mad Ache by Francoise Sagan
TO BE READ. One of my favourite books of all time is Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan, and this one promises to be more of the same. There’s just something so melancholic, so nostalgic, so FRENCH about her writing… I just can’t get enough! I’m scouring all my favourite second-hand bookshops for this one, if I don’t get lucky soon I may even have to brave Waterstones!

So, have you managed to come up with any book titles with an illness in the title? If you have, or if you’ve been taking part in the reading challenge with me, leave me a comment below. Remember there’s no time restriction wih this, so you can join any time!

D x

Mirror, Mirror

This is the book I picked for the “something metal” category of the whimsical reading challenge.

Mirror, Mirror

This book was written by the brains behind Wicked (Gregory Maguire), which I haven’t read yet, but I do have on my shelf somewhere. I am an absolute junkie for reinterpretations of the classics. This one, as you might guess from the title, is a retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.

I want to start off by saying that I absolutely loved this book. As in loved it. He made some really original alterations (such as casting Lucrezia Borgia in the role of wicked stepmother) and yet still remained faithful to the arch of the story. His treatment of the dwarves can only be described as epic… little stone men that burrow through anything and live forever… Doc, Grumpy, Bashful, Sneezy, Sleepy, Happy and Dopey become Blindeye, Heartless, Deaf-to-the-world, MuteMuteMute, Bitter, Tasteless and Gimpy. Politically correct? Probably not, but still massively entertaining!

My one criticism, and it’s only very minor, is that I found the character of Snow White quite two-dimensional in comparison with the others. She was just a bit…. Nondescript. But in a way, I’m quite glad he refrained on focussing entirely on Snow White, because that’s exactly how the story is usually told. By bringing the rest of the ‘cast’ he highlights different angles in the story, which I found really enjoyable.

His narrative tone takes a couple of chapters to get used to as he alters it depending on who the chapter is about, but once you get stuck in it really just adds more depth to the characters. He has this way of describing things that just transports you to the dusty Italian farm or the creepy woodland or the decadence of Rome. It really is a fairy tale for the modern reader HOWEVER there is a mention of sex with an eel, so it’s not really a book for the younger modern reader.

Hope you’re all having a great week so far! If you’ve got any book recommendations or whimsical reading updates for me, then leave me a comment below,

D x

Teaching the Pig to Dance: A Memoir of Growing Up and Second Chances

This is the book I picked for the ‘Farmyard Animal’ category of the whimsical reading challenge.

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This is a memoir written by Fred Thompson (actor, lawyer, politician). I'm completely torn about whether I like it or not. The first few chapters centred on clichéd 'words of wisdom my father/grandfather/toothless neighbour told me', and the middle section was also not to my taste (anecdotes of a troublemaker… the kind of boy I would have loathed at school). However, I found the later chapters much more interesting- the development of his career promised a much more unique story, he was involved in so many fascinating things! I just wish there had been more of a focus on that part of his life.

It's very hard to criticise someone's memoir, because it's their life… literally! There's no way you can do it without getting personal. Unfortunately I was expecting a bit more from this book… I thought that with a title like 'Teaching the Pig to Dance' it would be hilarious. I imagined that there'd be a scene where someone actually tried to teach a pig to dance, but there wasn't. However, after briefly mentioning a few of the cases he worked on he prompted me to do a bit of Wikipedia research; as usual I ended up stuck in a link pit…

He does however get a giant gold star for starring in Curly Sue.

If you've read any books with 'Farmyard Animals' in the title leave me a link in the comments below!

D x

Whimsical Reading – Numbers

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Today I feel sooooo free! This is the biological reaction I seem to have whenever I press the ‘submit’ button for an assignment… and as this one was about one of my least favourite subjects (‘representations of women’) I think I got a double dose. I’m definitely giving myself a couple of days off from anything even remotely academic! I’ve decided to share a few more reading suggestions for my whimsical reading challenge, this week on the theme of ‘numbers’:

1. Number9Dream by David Mitchell
TO BE READ. I’ve downloaded this on my kindle as I intend to read everything the mastermind behind Cloud Atlas donates to the world. Described as a ‘Dickensian coming-of-age’ set in the Tokyo underworld, how can I not give it a try?!

2. One Day by David Nicholls
I love, love, loved this book. I saw the film before I read it, so I knew what was coming… but I still had to reread the ending just to make sure! You really can’t help but fall in love with the characters, and the story is so grounded and believable that you feel like you’re living it.

3. Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab
TO BE READ. I was given this book, and I’m umming and ahing about whether to read it or not. As a general rule, I don’t enjoy current day war stories, for me to enjoy any battley books they need to be set around the time of the Vietnam War or before. This has recently been adapted into a film that my boyfriend promises is great, so I may read a few chapters to see if I get into it.

4. Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott
I adore this book. I have read it probably at least once a year since I was eleven, and it still brings a tear to my eye. In my opinion this is FAR superior to Little Women, but sadly doesn’t seem to receive as much recognition. If there’s one book I’d bully people into reading, this is the one. Indulge my nostalgia… try it and let me know what you think!

5. Three Ways to Capsize a Boat: An Optimist Afloat by Chris Stewart
TO BE READ. This is by the same guy who wrote Driving Over Lemons etc. I don’t think I’ve ever read a single one of his books, but I seem to have ended up with a copy of all of them… this one chronicles his attempts to captain a boat (having never sailed before). Apparently he is a really funny writer, so I’ll definitely try him out when I need a bit of uplifting.

So what about you guys? Picked any ‘number’ books yet?

D x

Whimsical Reading Challenge – Colour

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Apologies for my absence, I’ve been locked in a world of critical essays and Harvard referencing for the past few days, but now I’m back!

Today I’m going to share a few more suggestions for my Whimsical Reading Challenge, this time on the topic of ‘colour’.

1. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
This is my next set book for AA316, my current Open University course. Apparently it’s quite Gothic and scandalous so it should be a good read, plus it comes highly recommended by my Grandma!

2. The Red Tent by Anita Diamant
ON MY TO BE READ PILE. This is a retelling of the story of Dinah, a barely hinted at character from the Book of Genesis. I think reinterpreting bible stories can be a bit of a hazardous way to go, as some people can get a bit sensitive… but I’m fascinated by the historical aspects so hopefully I won’t be disappointed.

3. Roses are Red/Violets are Blue by James Patterson
ON MY TO BE READ PILE. I think James Patterson is a genius (as should any diehard fan of crime fiction) but I’ve never got round to reading either of these. I can usually get through one of his novels in about a day, so if I get a weekend to myself in the near future I might treat myself!

4. Scarlet Feather by Maeve Binchy
I will not apologise for loving Maeve Binchy, it just comes naturally. I have read and reread this book so many times that I feel like I know all of her characters. You will laugh, you will (try not to) cry and you’ll do both all over again. To me that’s the sign of a great book, the willingness to put yourself through it all over again!

5. Rose Madder by Stephen King
ON MY TO BE READ PILE. (For those of you who do not paint, ‘rose madder’ is a shade of pink.) I’ve never read a thing by Stephen King, but somehow I’ve ended up with a complete collection staring down at me from the shelves. He’s not on the top of my reading list right now, but the day will definitely come!

So tell me, have you come up with any ideas for your ‘colour’ inspired reading?

D x

Let’s call it a treasure hunt – Reading Challenge 2013

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Last year I tried to take part in a couple of reading challenges. They were ok, I managed to stick to them and everything, but they weren’t particularly challenging. I kind of just ended up reading what I would have read anyway…
So this year I’m proposing a reading challenge of sorts that pretty much involve judging a book by its cover.
Basically I’m going to give you a list of topics, and you have to read a book with each of those things in the title. (I’ll be doing it too). There is no time limit for this challenge, and there will be no prize, it is simply a whimsical way to get through those stacks of books you’ve ‘always’ intended on reading. If you want to leave me a comment, or send me a message about the books you’ve picked for each category, please do. If you want to leave me a link to your blog, go for it, I PROMISE to come and check you out. So without further ado, here is your list of scavenger hunt clues:
– Weather
– Something you’d find in space
– Geological formation
– A colour
– A farmyard animal
– A zoo animal
– A type of building
– A profession
– An illness
– A month
– A country
– A girl’s name
– A boy’s name
– A body of water
– A mode of transportation
– A kind of food
– A kind of drink
– A feeling
– A flower
– A hobby you have
– A hobby you don’t have
– Something made of metal
– Something made of wood
– Something made of plastic
– A toy or game
– A family relationship
– A number
– A mythical creature
– A shape
– Something you’d wear
– Something you don’t like
– Something scientific
– A question mark
– A precious stone
– A bird
– A time of day
The whole point is to have fun with this, and maybe to read something you wouldn’t usually have picked…. If you think you might like to play along leave me a comment or a link below and I’ll come over for a visit!
D x