Throwback Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Take to a Desert Island

Surprise! I’ve decided that when I’m struggling with a Top Ten Tuesday topic instead of dropping something mediocre (my greatest fear) I’ll go back into the Broke and the Bookish archive and pick a previous topic instead. Won’t find me slacking, no sir.

Since the very first prompt was “Childhood Favourites” and I’m pretty sure I talked about mine not long ago, I’m going for the top ten “Books I’d Take to a Desert Island”. Commence!

On The Road – Jack Kerouac

on the road

If the words in On The Road were a drink, they’d be a good gin, just the right amount of tonic, bit of lime, ice and a sprig of mint. And I’d put my entire face into it forever.

The Singing – Alison Croggon

The Singing

Hello. If we haven’t already met, I’m the one that bangs the Pellinor drum at every opportunity I get.

The Singing is the final book in the series, but it’s my favourite. I finished The Crow on a train and spent some time furiously tagging onto crap WiFi to download The Singing with the last of my student loan money because I couldn’t bear the idea of having to WAIT and go to a BOOKSHOP before I could read it. It was a good decision.

I think I might need a Pellinor anthology just in case.

Radio Silence – Alice Oseman

Radio Silence

Radio Silence is the book I wish I’d had in school, when I was struggling with who I was and who I wanted to be. Plus I want to pick Aled up and put him in my pocket.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson was my introduction to YA, when I was a kid and I read the Wild at Heart series. One of my favourite series when I was younger, and I made A Loud Noise when I realised later – after I’d read Speak – that LHA was the author.

If you haven’t yet read Speak, please read Speak. USYA gets an unfairly bad rap as being Not Realistic and Not Relatable, but Melinda is a character that will get under EVERYONE’S skin regardless of whether you can relate to her trauma or not.

The Outsiders – S.E. Hinton

The Outsiders

The Outsiders is one of my favourite books of all time. Grubby, gritty, written by a teenage girl, I read the whole thing on the plane back from Florida last year. Essential reading for anyone with even the slightest interest in YA as a genre. Stay gold.

The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien

the hobbit

I’ve had the full LOTR set of books for like, EVER, and I’ve never managed to get stuck into them (high fantasy generally tends to not be my thing) so being trapped on a desert island with a finite amount of reading material seems like decent encouragement.

Insomnia – Stephen King

insomnia

The Shining is one of two books that has ever actually terrified me (the other is by Joe Hill, King’s son, so go figure) but I love Insomnia. I’m due a reread as I’ve only tackled it once, but it was lingering sinister…ness rather than outright freaky freaky, and it’s long so it’ll be good for afternoons if there’s sharks or something and I can’t go swimming.

The Disaster Artist

the disaster artist

The Room is the pinnacle of cinema. Nothing will ever compare. Second only to the viewing experience is the book about the making of the film by actor Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell.

Never has a book had me in full on tears of mirth like The Disaster Artist. Definitely watch the film first, but if you enjoy trying not to howl on public transport then this is the book for you.

I keep forgetting that there’s a pretty well rated film adaptation and I didn’t catch it at the cinema, so that’s on my list. Oh hi Mark!

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

hps

As if I’d ever not take a Harry Potter book. If I’m only going to take one, it’s going to be my signed first edition for pure nostalgia. Might be difficult to keep it in good condition on a desert island, though.

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What would you take to a desert island? Why are we on a desert island? Does anyone know how to build a boat? Let me know!

Book Review | Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the story of a quirky yet lonely woman whose social misunderstandings and deeply ingrained routines could be changed forever—if she can bear to confront the secrets she has avoided all her life. But if she does, she’ll learn that she, too, is capable of finding friendship—and even love—after all.

eleanor oliphant

This is a brief review, but for a good reason: I don’t want you to be reading it. I want you to go out of your house, go to a bookstore, BUY THE BOOK and read it instead. Go. Now.

If you’re still here, I can only assume you’re snowed in, gravely ill or temporarily incapacitated, so sure, read this while you recover.

First of all, don’t be put off by the fact that, for a decent chunk at the beginning of the book Eleanor Oliphant is supremely annoying. It’s immediately obvious that she’s an unreliable narrator, but it’s also immediately obvious that there’s a lot to unpick.

Her interaction with a number of other characters – Raymond (the IT guy at her work), Sammy (the pensioner they help in the street) and her mysterious musician, only serve to highlight the difference between being “Completely Fine” and Eleanor’s idea of Completely Fine. It’s a gut-wrenching, life affirming, thoroughly relatable masterpiece of a journey. I promise you that by the time you get not even halfway through, Miss Oliphant will break your heart, put it back together and then break it again.

Recommended for: anyone with eyes and feelings. Seriously. Read it.

Book Review | Late Night Partners by Fennel Steuert

Good morning folks! This time I’m looking at Late Night Partners by Fennel Steuert. I was provided with a free e-copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review – thanks Fennel!

late night partners

Late Night Partners is an urban fantasy novel set in an American cityscape, centring on Roger (an average guy looking after his paranoid great uncle) and Doris (pictured – a vampire who’s escaped from the slave trade). It’s really very refreshing to not have vampires painted as paler-than-pale Snow White characters that hang around in castles or sparkle a lot.

You know what I’m talking about.

Urban fantasy is in my top genres anyway, so I was already going in strong, but I found it creepy and full of heart. Roger for me was essentially the companion in Doctor Who. taking on the role of the reader in his confusion and eventual resignation as he gets drawn deeper and deeper into the strange new world that so closely resembles his own.

Steuert’s descriptions made the locations so real I could almost taste the dew in the air, and while there’s a lot of really sublime lines, the idea that “in this particular universe, managing to be OK was kind of grand” was my favourite, because come on, who DOESN’T feel like that at the moment.

Put that on my gravestone.

One thing I would have enjoyed is a more in-depth background on some of the characters, namely Mab and Argyll, as I found some of their scenes a little confusing. Mab, Argyll and Doris could definitely have a book each on their pasts and the journey that led them to cross paths with Roger. It’s a rich and sinister background.

Overall, I enjoyed it! Fennel Steuer is also the author of Reality and Me All Capeless, and I’ll definitely be picking that up at some point. If you want to jump into Late Night Partners, the Kindle download link is here.

That’s all for today. PBPR out!

Macs on tour: a weekend adventure.

I’m back! Did you miss me?

I’m writing this sitting in Gatwick with a double gin. It’s doing marvellous things.

gin

The past weekend has been spent in England with my sister. While talking to her work colleagues she accidentally made me sound like my granny’s Labrador, who frequently ambles off into the woods and gets lost. One of her colleagues even offered to come and pick me up from the town centre and take me to the office in case I struggled.

Really, it only took four people in three countries and two continents to help me find the train I needed to be on. I don’t see why everyone is so concerned. And in my defence, Reading station is horribly lacking in information.

rain

Anyway, once I’d FINALLY managed to navigate the travel infrastructure of Berkshire and meet Megan, here’s some fun stuff we did:

  • Played with Alexa the Amazon Echo. After a couple of beers I realised that Alexa would play songs on request, which is frankly delightful. Unfortunately every single song we asked for was also playing on Andrew’s phone…in South Korea. At 7am. We only found out when he asked us to stop playing dinner jazz. Thank you Andrew for not playing something horrifying into my ears at 5am in retort.
  • We went to Camden Market and I was allowed to be smug since I managed to navigate back to the awesome burger place I went to last time from memory. Honest Burger, everyone. They do gluten free AND cute cocktails in tiny cups.
  • Drank warm spiced cider. Because it’s warm, it’s spiced and it’s cider.

me and megan

  • Went on a great beret hunt.
  • Sat in Zizzi between two kiddie birthday parties and had two other random children chasing each other round our table. Didn’t harpy scream at any of them.
  • Carried out some wedding planning. By that I mean we watched a lot Say Yes to the Dress and bought two magazines in M&S to read while we went to the pub.

wedding planning

On top of all this, I managed to tick off something I called out in my 2018 Challenges blog. Flew from Gatwick to Edinburgh on my own for the first time ever, which was stressful due to a) my tendency to panic and b) the fact that I really don’t like flying. It went more smoothly than I thought it would. I didn’t get lost, didn’t get swabbed, scanned, flagged or felt up at security (as I frequently do) had enough time for a gin before the flight. Even when we hit a tiny bit of turbulence just before we landed I managed to refrain from having a nervous breakdown in the arms of the poor lassie next to me.

Thanks Mini Mac – see ya real soon!

see ya real soon

For the love of Dogs. | 500 Romanian dogs to be killed. Stand up for them!

Nothing staves off a spell of writer’s block like getting really angry. Gather round everyone, I’m about to get raging and make a small request.

You might remember a post I made a few months ago for National Dogs Day, about some dogs that I love. Namely my dogs. They’re all Very Good Dogs, but one of them in particular is a Very Good And Brave Dog.

This is Isla.

isla 2

Isla was a stray from Romania, where she spent time in a public shelter in the county of Valcea. These public shelters are…not very nice places at all, to put it mildly. Fortunately there’s a group of heroes, both in Valcea and the UK, who work to rescue these dogs, keep them healthy, and keep them safe and off the streets.

One of the biggest cheerleaders for these poor doggos is a charity called Rags 2 Riches, who bring dogs over to the UK for rehoming, and work to reduce the number of strays on the street in the first place through spaying etc. They do a lot of good work and help a lot of Very Good Dogs. Like Isla!

Cute Isla with ballA Very Good Dog.

If you follow me on Twitter you’ll currently be seeing me doing something I never do and asking for retweets. The dogs of Valcea are in limbo, as the Mayor of Valcea has ordered that a vet is to euthanise the 500 dogs currently in the public shelter.

No, that isn’t a typo. FIVE. HUNDRED. DOGS.

Why? God only knows. You can read one perspective here. Needless to say, the whole thing is a shitshow and these poor dogs and the volunteers who devote their lives to saving them are the victims.

This obviously hasn’t gone down well with anyone who has a soul.

Three amigos in seaOnce a public shelter dog, now playing in the sea with her friends.

Currently the ladies who work for the NGO “Save Valcea Dogs” have been prevented from entering the shelter after they created a petition to oppose the decision. These are the main caregivers for the dogs, so now there’s nobody to feed the dogs or administer any medicine. Literally nobody.

Five hundred dogs, either starving to death or being put to sleep. Try and picture five hundred dogs.

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So what can you do? Share this blog post. Share the petition I’m going to link at the bottom. If you have a Twitter account, tweet about it. Bonus points if you work in the media or know somebody with a large reach on Twitter, regardless of location. Make this a Big Deal everywhere. Five hundred dogs. Five hundred Islas. Deprived of a chance of love, killed for no reason.

Isla on leaves

If you’re considering getting a dog, why not consider a Rommie? They’re very cute and often look like bits of different dogs all stuck together. Plus, you’ll know that you saved it from what was at best a horrendous life in a miserable place – and at worst, something like this.

Put them on blast. Save the dogs of Valcea.

isla

If you want to find out more about Rags 2 Riches, why the work that they do is so important, read some happy stories about dogs they’ve saved or support the work that they do, visit their website.

Please sign this petition and this petition to support the dogs, and the people who care for them.

Thank you.

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Books I Meant To Read In 2017 But Didn’t Get To

So this is a bit of a cop out for me. Mainly because my previous Top Ten Tuesday of “Books I’m Planning on Reading Over Winter” sees me knock about…three off the list, namely A Christmas Carol, Blackbird and A Shiver of Snow and Sky.

At the risk of repeating myself, I suggest you go back and read that post. However, to make up numbers, I’ve got another three books that have been glaring at me for months until I want to die from the shame.

Wing Jones – Katherine Webber

wing jones

I’ve got a signed copy of Wing Jones that I picked up at the Edinburgh International Book festival this year, because a) I’ve heard literally NOTHING but good things about it, and b) I love signed books and sprayed edges. It’s been “next on my TBR” for so long and I always end up with something else that I want to blog about or want to read for a Twitter chat, but not this year because this year I am actually GOING TO READ IT.

Orangeboy – Patrice Lawrence

orangeboy

I’ve heard SO many good things about Orangeboy. And Patrice Lawrence in general, actually. This one is a book I picked up as part of a mad spree and it’s been sitting in my bookcase for a shamefully long time. I’m going to read it, and them I’m going to buy and read Indigo Donut too.

Babylon Berlin – Volker Kutscher

BABYLON BERLIN AW.indd

I’d never heard of Babylon Berlin until not too long ago. Apparently it’s a major TV series, which shows how on the pulse my finger is. Or isn’t. I’ll hold my hands up and say I wanted to read this for AGES before I even found out what it was about purely because it’s got a really cool title. I’m a marketing team’s dream.

Fortunately it only got cooler when I read the synopsys. Plus the English language version has been released by a Scottish publisher, Sandstone Press all the way up in Dingwall! Marvellous.

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Thus begins my TBR list for 2018. What else should be on it? Hit me!

Friends Reunited: The Lost Book

Gather round everyone, it’s time for the heartwarming story of a boy who loved a book, and why occasionally the internet isn’t a total cesspool.

A couple of years ago, while on a weekend away in Peebles with Sean, the conversation turned to a book he’d read and loved as a child. He couldn’t remember the title or the author, just a few fragments from his memory. The front cover, a young boy doing his homework while scenes from the game dance around him. The main characters. Plot points.

“Let’s Google it!” Said I, because obviously Google has all the answers.

We uncovered a plethora of books vaguely matching the description. None of them were the right ones. We spent a long time trawling the internet, me adamently refusing to believe that this book could be impossible to find, but it certainly looked that way.

peebles
You’d never guess we’d been up half the night on a book hunt.

Every now and then in the following months and years it would come up in conversation and we’d look again, dozens of different search terms, wording them slightly differently, scrolling through Goodreads and forums and Google Images. Sean had started to wonder if the book was something he’d made up, a writing prompt that had snaked its way into his subconscious. I wasn’t so sure. The details he could reel off to me were too precise.

It was hugely annoying. I’m a stubborn crow and I have great faith in the internet, both of which were being tested strongly by this bloody nameless, formless book.

After it raised its head again late last year, I suited up and went in. But this time, I had a different plan: Reddit.

There’s a subreddit called r/tipofmytongue, where you post things you can’t remember the name of with a few descriptive details and hope that someone will recognise what you’re talking about and enlighten you. Reddit can be a…questionable place, so I wasn’t sure how well this would work. Or if it would at all. Or if I’d be soundly flamed.

But would you believe it, within a few hours I had a single, solitary response, from a user called GitaTcua.

It must be Gameplayers by Steven Bowkett.

I looked it up. Immediately checks out.

gameplayers 2

If I’d been alone, I would have screamed. As it was, I was with my Granny, and I didn’t want to give her nervous breakdown.

For the grand total of £3.72, I was able to secretly acquire a copy (HUGE shout out to Abe Books and The Children’s Bookshop for stocking it and delivering it so promptly) and present it to Sean as a belated Christmas present. He’s notorious for not doing big emotional displays but the level of carefully contained joy he exuded was high.

Basically, tenacity pays off and I am the best fiancée ever. Happy Christmas Seanathon!

gameplayers
His childhood book with his childhood teddy bear. Glorious.

TTT: Top Ten New-To-Me Authors I Read In 2017

It might be 2018, but I read so many good books last year that I’m not done talking about them yet, so let’s live in the past for a moment.

This Top Ten Tuesday is going to be an easy one. As I said yesterday, the biggest reading slump ever came to an end, so almost every book I read in 2017 was by an author new to me. The only difficult bit was picking ten!

Alice Oseman

radio silence

Fun fact: I stumbled across Alice Oseman because I was in the process of lightly planning a book that I’d tentatively been calling “Radio Silence”. I Googled it to see what came up, and was quite distraught to discover I’d been beaten to it. I’m OK with it though, because it’s one of my favourite books, and one that I wish I’d had when I was in school. This book was my introduction back into the UKYA scene and I’m very fond of it.

Sara Barnard

beautiful broken things

Want to have your still-beating heart ripping out and solidly wrung? Read anything by Sara Barnard. A Quiet Kind of Thunder spoke to my anxiety-riddled heart and Beautiful Broken Things was so relatable that I wanted to take it out for coffee and tell it everything was going to be OK in the end.

Angie Thomas

the hate u give

The Hate U Give was my favourite book of 2017. Powerful and well-written and unforgiving. The other side of the Black Lives Matter movement, what it’s really like to be black and American. It’s a must read.

Charles Dickens

a christmas carol

I’ve always found the classics to be impenetrably dull. Likely a side effect of learning some of them in school. To christen my new Kindle at Christmas I downloaded A Christmas Carol, so I could be on flavour, and I ended up really enjoying it. Some of the lines really tickled me, particularly the one about the houses playing hide and seek.

Lisa Lueddecke

asosas

You can read my review of A Shiver of Snow and Sky here. I read it before Christmas when the weather was something like -7 degrees, there was frost on the ground so thick it looked like snow and every word was steam in the air, the Skyrim soundtrack on in the background. The ultimate experience.

Chloe Seagar

Editing Emma

Editing Emma was one of my favourite books on 2017. It was funny, it was brilliantly written and it had me simultaneously cringing for Emma and cringing for myself because, well…we’ve all been there.

Rainbow Rowell

Fangirl

I LOVE FANGIRL. So brilliantly written, everything was almost tangible, the characters felt like my best friends by the end and I wanted to move in with Cath and Reagan. It was the first Rainbow Rowell book I’ve read, but it won’t be the last.

Alice Broadway

ink

I hadn’t even read the blurb of Ink when I picked it up. I looked at the front cover and the title, went YUP and bought it. Easiest way to my heart is a cool front cover. Really enjoyed the book as well – I’m sure I read somewhere there was going to be a sequel, so I’m looking forward to that.

Cassandra Clare

city of bones

I’d heard of the Mortal Instruments serious because I knew it was a film, and it had somehow escaped me that it was a book too. I picked up City of Bones to give it a go and…I don’t love it. I know that I’ll probably get slaughtered because it’s so well-loved but it didn’t light my fire at all. I’ll restart it at some point in the near future and give it another go, and hope it doesn’t feel like a slog to get to the end.

Raymond Feist

magician

This was a Sean recommendation. Sean loves high fantasy novels, whereas I can’t be doing at all with a book that takes five pages to discuss what the countryside looks like. He tried to persuade me with two books: Magician and Daughter of the Empire. Both of them I abandoned halfway through, but as I hate DNFing any book, like City of Bones I’ll likely feel compelled to have another go. Maybe I can skip the lengthy descriptions of all the trees in the garden…

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This year I’m going to be a book consuming machine, which is great in a lot of ways…but it might make next year’s list harder. Challenge accepted.

2018

Happy New Year!

Time for the annual reminder that New Year’s Resolutions are a sham. Lose weight. Go to the gym. Reinvent yourself. Change your life. The new year is like a brand new notebook, crisp and inviting, begging you to mark it with black ink and perfect handwriting. But the moment you make a smudge, it’s blemished. You can turn the page, but you know it’s there. It’s ruined. Give up.

 

In lieu of Resolutions, therefore, I’m setting myself Challenges. Any progress towards them is movement in the right direction, and it appeals to my grindy stubborn nature.

Learn to cook

Maybe “learn” isn’t the right word. I have no doubt that I can cook. I just hate it. I hate the mess, the cleaning up. I hate the feeling of my hands being sticky and dirty. I hate the time it takes to do the actual food preparation. Me vs. my lack of patience.

My mum used to put the radio on while she was baking, and I’m considering following her lead. I’ve had a few podcast recommendations, which would take me over the “cooking is boring” hurdle.

Now if I could find one that would stop my hands from getting grotty…

Scare myself

I’m notoriously feart when it comes to leaving my comfort zone. It’s an anxiety thing. Years ago when I was in CBT therapy one of the techniques was to set yourself tiny challenges that scared you and overcome them. I’m going to start doing this again.

First up: I’m planning a trip to my sister’s house near London, which involves me flying on my own for the first time ever. Gins away!

Drive on the motorway

Sure, I’ve passed my driving test. That doesn’t mean I feel like I can drive. I just project the illusion, as long as I don’t have to park or go anywhere I’ve never been.

One of my biggest stresses is driving on the motorway. In theory it’s just going at 70mph on a straight road and keeping an eye on the car in front of you. That part I can do. Overtaking? Nervy, but I can do that too. Merging from a slip road onto the motorway? Panic attacks for 1 mile.

See previous “doing things that frighten you”. If you see someone screaming in a Honda Civic, it’s probably me.

Organise

I’m constantly stuck in the awkward place of loving everything to run in military organisation and having a brain that haemorrhages information rapidly. Such is the conflict in my life.

When my sister asked me what I wanted for Christmas I said a diary, so I could at least make sure I knew where I was meant to be and when. She delivered. Look how cool this is.

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Coming up also: a great big house reorganisation, deleting all my junk emails, sorting all my writing into folders, organising this blog. And while we’re on the topic…

Organise (most of) my wedding

I can officially say I’m getting married next year. That’s TERRIFYING. We’ve booked the ceremony and reception venues, been to a wedding fair, and not done much else. I have no idea what planning a wedding involves or how to go about it. I predict several phonecalls to my mum over the coming months.

Read more

I’ve been in a monster reading slump for years. I blame two English degrees. Reading and analysing books that you don’t enjoy in minute detail will do that to you.

This year I’ve rediscovered reading for fun, and it’s a trend that I’m hoping to continue. My Kindle Paperwhite that my parents got me for Christmas (thanks parents) means that I can take advantage of some of the free-to-read classics, as well as downloading books to my heart’s content without having to worry about where to store them in the house. My goal of having my own physical library continues to elude me.

Have something published

This is the one goal that stands a chance of tripping me up, as I know how brutally difficult it is to do. Nevertheless, it’s been a goal for years, and I’m stubborn. I really haven’t got the faintest idea of where to look, and my low self-confidence will no doubt appear, like a loud and obnoxious Buckfast drinker at a house party, but let’s go for it.

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I hope 2018 is exactly the year you want it to be. May your books never be disappointing, your video game loot drops be bountiful, and your hair do exactly what you want it to.

happy new year