The Crystal Maze Live Experience – Review

If you’re like me, crippling anxiety would have stopped you from playing the real life televised Crystal Maze in the 90s. But you can’t deny that we all REALLY wanted a go.

Fortunately for us, there’s a place in Manchester that provides the experience without the peril of making yourself look like a dick in front of a TV audience.

richard o brien*Harmonica sounds*

The Crystal Maze Live Experience is exactly what it says on the tin: from the theme music following you as you sprint (literally) between the four zones to the iconic “WILL YOU START THE FANS PLEASE” Crystal Dome moment. I won’t spoil anything, but there’s several classic games from the TV show, a video cameo from Richard O’ Brien and a big slide.

A BIG SLIDE. What’s not to love, I ask you.

Biggest non-surprise of the day: for all the time we spent screaming at the TV while watching competitors struggle with seemingly arbitrary tasks, it’s a lot harder than it looks in real life. Particularly when you’ve got a timer running and seven of your friends shouting instructions at you.

Level 14 judgeWe did OK though. Team Level 14 Judge!

My one disappointment was that you’re not guaranteed a commemorative crystal. There’s a Wheel of Fortune style game that gives you a chance to win a free one if you fill in a feedback form (I failed). If you’re feeling particularly flush, you can buy one from the shop on the way out, along with t shirts, jackets and other assorted merch.

At £41 it has a reasonably steep entry fee, but you can live with that and are in Manchester with a bunch of pals, The Crystal Maze Live Experience is ridiculously good fun. Shout out to “Santa”, our hilarious guide for the experience, who I’m pretty sure has never met a bunch of people more chaotic and injury prone than us.

Speaking of which – my one tip is “watch the doors”. They’re quite low and one of my friends took the skin off his head, which resulted in him having a big dorky plaster on for the group photo at the end. Nice one Dan.

crystal mazeVictory!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books for when I’m sick of reading.

Nobody’s ever sick of reading, really, but the term “reading slump” makes my teeth grind involuntarily so…

Anyway, as I’ve spent god knows how many weeks now reading nothing but fanfiction, this seems appropriate. If you’re also a victim of this particular pit, my sympathies.

Since I’m rusty I’ve only done five books that I can pick up to get back into the game. I suggest reading it twice.

Knots and Crosses – Ian Rankin

knots and crosses

I can’t remember the last time I became so heavily invested in a series and a character. The only thing stopping me from reading this again right now is that there’s a whole series of them I haven’t read.

It definitely helps that the books are set in Edinburgh. As someone who works in the city I love trundling past places I’ve read about

Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

This is the most deliciously dark and all-consuming and evocative story I’ve read for a long time. Leigh Bardugo has created such a grubby yet gorgeous universe and set of characters.

The Disaster Artist 

the disaster artist

I’ve read this account of the filming of cult movie sensation The Room several times, and it’s still one of the few books that makes me actually wheeze with laughter. Knowledge of the movie isn’t necessary but strongly recommended.

Additionally, if you haven’t seen The Room, I’d thoroughly recommend gathering some of your closest friends and watching it. It’s the only time in my adult life I’ve come close to peeing myself.

Speak – Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak

Laurie Halse Anderson is my ride or die. She’s my idol. Speak is a book that not only shuts me up for at least a day, but it also reinforces my belief that YA is the most vital of all genres.

The Pellinor Series – Alison Croggon

the singing

Everyone’s heard me screaming about this series by now, but I love it so much and it’s my go-to when I really can’t be arsed reading anything else. I always have time for Maerad and Cadvan.

On the Road – Jack Kerouac

on the road

Jack Kerouac typed the manuscript for On the Road on a single, continuous piece of paper. In three weeks. Goals.

Because of this, the language feels like it’s dropped straight out of Kerouac’s brain into the pages, and it’s so authentic and glorious that every time I read it I feel completely alive with how great writing can be. Hugely pretentious sounding, but true.

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What other books are good for when I hit the wall? GO.

Books I Need to Read: Part One

I’ve been off the grid for a while, doing stuff. To get back into the swing of things, I’ve been thinking about what books I’m probably going to need in my life in one form or another. Some are new releases, some are old ones I haven’t gotten round to.

This was originally one blog post and then while I was uploading the images I thought of LOADS more so look forward to my bank account sobbing in a part two at some point.

Every Rebus book I haven’t read yet

knots and crosses
Not this one. I’ve read this one. It was excellent.

Even though I’m enjoying other stuff at the moment, I miss Rebus. I love his Edinburgh, and his take-no-shit attitude, and trying to work out whodunnit.

Ian Rankin has ruined other books for me though. All I want to do is read Rebus. And watch the TV versions. Help.

The Priory of the Orange Tree – Samantha Shannon

priory of the orange tree

Fantasy? Yes. Magic? Yesss. Dragons? YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS.

Children of Blood and Bone – Tomi Adeyemi

blood and bone

This is a funny one. I like the sound of it, but I’ve been burned so often by super hyped books that I almost…don’t want to read it. But I do. And I will. But I don’t.

If you see what I mean.

The Amber Spyglass – Philip Pullman

amber spyglass

My mum bought me the full set of the HDM 20th anniversary editions at the Edinburgh Book Festival because I was salivating over it. I’ve just finished with her slightly battered copy of The Subtle Knife, so when I’m emotionally stable again (two words: Alamo Gulch) I’ll crack on with the last in the trilogy.

Fault Lines – Doug Johnstone

fault lines

I asked for book suggestions on Twitter and picked one at random, which is how I was introduced to this book. I hadn’t heard of Doug Johnstone or Fault Lines, but it’s set in Edinburgh (score), albeit a reimagined contemporary Edinburgh (score) and it’s got a murder in it (score). All my boxes are ticked.

Are We All Lemmings and Snowflakes? – Holly Black

lemmings and snowflakes

I’m saving this one for last because I haven’t read any Holly Black before and if I mention that too early I risk shame.

I’ve been meaning to get to the Spinster Club, but in the meantime this book sounds awesome and I have high expectations.

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What else should I be reading? What’s on your TBR? How much trouble am I in for going back to the book festival tomorrow? (Lots, probably.)

Shit I Have Enjoyed Recently

Worst blog owner ever. Shout out to my friend Dan for holding me accountable

ANYWAY here’s some stuff that’s been occupying my brain recently. A spoiler:

heart eyes

Downton Abbey movie

When I saw this announced I made A Noise. I think the tech guys I work with thought someone was slowly letting the air out of me, like a balloon.

brandpBrando doing an impression of my actual face.

I’m refusing to let myself get too excited until I hear that Brendan Coyle is going to be in it. Please lord above, don’t do this to me.

Barcelona

Sean and I have been together for three years and this is the first trip we’ve been on together to visit his brother. I had an absolute BLAST in Barcelona – I’ll write another post on it specifically, but it’s a great city and I already want to go back. Patatas Bravas, I miss you…

patatas bravasGet this shit right into my face.

Mental Health

Not poor mental health as such, more poor planning and an inability to get hold of my GP. I ran out of Sertraline for nearly a week. It’s not the worst situation (my entire life doesn’t fall apart immediately) but the physical side effects of sudden withdrawal are HARSH.

If you’ve ever had brain zaps, you’ll know where I’m coming from.

WRITING STUFF

I’ve still been writing. I started what has the potential to be a novel-length…something, and I’m about 7000 words in. I’ve been messing about with various other wee things when I need a distraction. Some of them will see the light of day. Many will not. I don’t really care, I enjoyed myself.

Gaming

I made the mistake of downloading Pokemon Go in Barcelona. Now I’m hooked again. It makes the morning bus journey through Edinburgh more exciting.

pokwmon goEvery day’s a Pika Party in my town.

I’ve been getting into legacy games as well – we started playing Pandemic: Legacy, but we’ve taken a break from it so we can crack into Gloomhaven. I’m REALLY enjoying it – Sean’s been obsessed with it for a while so he’s quite thrilled that he can play it with me as well as his dungeon crew.

Plus Magic: the Gathering continues to dictate my life from multiple angles. I played in my first competitive event for years at the weekend, I’m going to be on staff at a comp event for the first time next weekend, and in between I’m usually talking about it, organising it or playing it.

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Tell me what you’ve been up to recently. GO.

Book Talk | My First Ever Unhaul!

I’ve never done a book unhaul before. If you could see the bookcases in my parents’ house this would be immediately obvious.

Unfortunately as we have a ton of Magic: the Gathering and gaming stuff I don’t have the option to line the walls in my own house with bookcases. Most of these books aren’t ones I hated, just ones that I feel I can bear to part with, and that will be better off in a school library rather than languishing on my spare room.

Most of them.

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The Truth and Lies of Ella Black

truth and lies

I hated this fucking book. I hate DNFing but oh boy did I come close. I know that it’s probably not aimed at my cynical 26 year old ass (and that’s the only reason I’m donating it instead of binning it) but 16 year old me would have hated it as well.

The Square Root of Summer

square root of summer

This book was…fine. It was just fine. I haven’t got room in my house for Just Fine, I’m afraid, and thus it’s off to be consumed somewhere else.

The Fandom

the fandom

This was one of the most highly anticipated books of last year, but because of this it ended up not lighting my fire at all. But I know how much fandoms can save lives and carry afloat the miserable, so this is going to reach someone at exactly the right time.

The Sun Is Also A Star

Yoon_9780553496680_jkt_all_r1.indd

Really enjoyed this, but if I’m going to be harsh with myself I’m probably not going to read it again. Sorry Natasha and Daniel. You live in New York though, so someone is going to love you they way you deserve.

The Art of Being Normal

art of being normal

This is absolutely not a bad book. I thoroughly enjoyed it. But as a book with some sensitive and important trans representation, I feel like it’s better off in a school library than sitting on my bookshelf.

Far From The Tree

tree

I liked this, but it ticked so many boxes that I feel like it is could tick those boxes for someone else. It’s wonderfully and sensitively written, and deserves a wider audience.

Blackbird

blackbird

This disappointed me. I think my crime-y tastes are too strong for YA. It’s not a bad book in itself though, so I’m sure someone else will enjoy it.

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Someone please tell me how to get rid of the crippling guilt that comes with taking books OUT of my house instead of the other way round.

The eight worst things about being gluten free

Let’s get straight. I hate describing myself as “gluten free”. It makes it sounds like a lifestyle choice I’ve willingly made, rather than a means to avoid playing body fluid roulette with every meal.

It’s true, I feel much better now that I’ve cut it out, but boy is it miserable. Here are the eight absolute worst things about having to avoid gluten in everyday life.

Bread SUCKS

Bread REALLY SUCKS. It tastes weird and has the structural integrity of the Brexit negotiations. I’d probably kill a man for a decent crusty loaf.

breadHello darkness my old friend.

It’s hella expensive

Like I get it’s dearer to make it and the demand for it is lower, but I still hiss pantomime-style when I pick anything up.

You get to play “hipster or death?” with people when you order food

I’ve seen The Look. The one people give you when they’re trying to work out if you have an allergy or if you’re just pretentious. Particularly if it’s somewhere that doesn’t have a dedicated menu and it becomes a team effort to work out what’s edible.

I’ve find myself frequently dropping hints that I’m intolerant during these times, which is daft because it shouldn’t make a difference, but my embarrassment is strong.

There’s gluten in more stuff than you think

I thought okay, bread, pasta, pizza, cakes. Miserable, but seems easy enough. Then I accidentally ate a stir fry sauce with “barley malt extract” in it and sat on the couch feeling like death.

barleySATAN

Turns out it pops up in the most unexpected places. “Malt vinegar” seems obvious in hindsight, I suppose. Maltesers were unexpected. McCains oven chips? COME ON.

Office snack days get a lot less fun

At my old job, birthdays meant bringing a cake in. Leftover sandwiches from a board meeting meant two lunches. Unfortunately food in the office is now a spectator sport for me.

cakeNOT ANY MORE.

You better hope you don’t get hungry when you’re out

If you’re on the way somewhere and you want something to eat on the train you better make sure you have time to search so you don’t end up with a miserable Pret salad.

Feeling like a diva

I dunno if people who are vegetarian or allergic to peanuts ever feel like this but when I’m round at someone else’s house I cringe myself inside out when the topic of food comes up. I will sustain myself on coffee and fruit, PLEASE don’t offer to make me something.

Accidental torture from your nearest and dearest

The number of times I’ve been offered a slice of pizza or a bit of cake by one of my friends only to watch their faces collapse halfway through when they realise what they’re doing to me…I forgive you all, but you’re killing me.

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Please send recommendations for good bread, restaurants in central Scotland and possibly a cure. TA.

 

Book Spotlight | Knots & Crosses by Ian Rankin

knots and crosses

Detective John Rebus: His city is being terrorised by a baffling series of murders…and he’s tied to a maniac by an invisible knot of blood. Once John Rebus served in Britain’s elite SAS. Now he’s an Edinburgh cop who hides from his memories, misses promotions and ignores a series of crank letters. But as the ghoulish killings mount and the tabloid headlines scream, Rebus cannot stop the feverish shrieks from within his own mind. Because he isn’t just one cop trying to catch a killer, he’s the man who’s got all the pieces to the puzzle… 

As someone who’s spent most of her life living in Fife, I’m ashamed that it’s taken me so long to read an Ian Rankin book. In my defence, I’d have done it sooner if I wasn’t a stickler for chronological order and the first book wasn’t the only one that my parents didn’t have in their house.

Never mind. Better late than never, and I LOVED IT.

I loved Rebus. He’s a cynical, divorced Detective Sergeant who drinks and smokes and is generally pretty sardonic. Should be so far, so cliche, but Ian Rankin’s writing of him makes him an absolute revelation.

I loved Rebus’ Edinburgh. It’s not the tourist’s Edinburgh, with the castle and the Mile and the Old Town. It’s Lothian Road and the seedy bars you only go into if you’re local, and the difference between the upper crust and the grotty bits.

I loved the story, which was intense and dark and full of unsavoury characters, but so clever and evocative that it was an absolute joy to read. Rankin’s writing style is gloriously dry and witty and Scottish I actually audibly snorted on the train.

See possibly my favourite line in any book ever:

“If you buzz down to him, I’ll come back up and kick that telephone so far up your arse that you really will be able to make internal calls. Do you get my drift?”

Magnificent stuff. I’ve not read a lot of crime fiction, but this has set the bar pretty high. You could have set it in any city and it would have been great, but the fact that it was set in Edinburgh, on streets that I see on my way to work every day, made it even more fun

Also Ian Rankin was only 25 years old when he wrote this. Man’s a genius. I am suitably intimidated.

Top Ten Tuesday | My Ten Favourite Words

ttt

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl.

I already sort of did a summer TBR post, so I went back into the archives and pulled a random topic. Here are ten of my favourite Scottish words.

Well, okay, there’s eight and one that isn’t a Scottish word.

Haar

A Scottish word I only recently learned when my mum pointed it out on the Forth. It refers, according to the Edinburgh Evening News, “specifically to the coastal fog which typically forms in Spring and Summer over eastern Scotland and England.” So there you go.

haar
Its haar, not fog. I mean, it is fog, but it’s haar. Ya ken?

Drumnadrochit

This is a place name rather than a word, but my god it’s fun to say, isn’t it?

How?

Not a Scottish word, you might say. Well, you’re right, but I’m not sure anywhere else has swapped it for the word “why” over time. It didn’t ever occur to me that we do this until it was pointed out by a few baffled non-Scots. It’s probably my favourite cute little quirk of language.

Crabbit

As a self-professed miserable cow, I use this one quite a lot. Incidentally, it was also one of the first colloquialisms we taught my friend Tackle before he came to visit. An excellent descriptor.

Shoogle

Roughly translates to “wobble” (“that chair’s a bit shoogly”) but can also mean to shake something. Giving someone a shoogle means to swing them around in a manner that may induce motion sickness.

Shan

In Edinburgh, “Barry” and “Shan” are used to mean “good” and “bad” respectively. I think shan is a brilliant word, which is just as well as since I started working in Morningside I’ve found myself picking it up from my colleagues. Definitely not shan.

Ken

I really want to know if anyone’s ever come away from a conversation with a Scottish person wondering who Ken is, and why he’s so popular. It means “know”. Ya ken?

Dreich

This is a good one to learn if you ever come to Scotland. It’s used to describe miserable weather, and as we have a fair few dreich days in all seasons,

And one that isn’t Scottish…

Bleach

This might be my favourite word and I have absolutely no justification for it. I just love the way it sounds.

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Gimme your favourite words in your local dialect. I love them.

Book Spotlight | Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

six of crows

A convict with a thirst for revenge.

A sharpshooter who can’t walk away from a wager.

A runaway with a privileged past.

A spy known as the Wraith.

A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.

A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Six dangerous outcasts. One impossible heist.

Yes! Rejoice! I’ve finally read this book after buying it last October. I’m not going to lie, it took me a while to get into, but OH BOY was my initial disappointment blown away.

It’s an edge-of-your-seat story about a heist, about feuding and crime, but that’s not even the best bit. The more I found out about the six characters – criminals, a barbaric hunter, a privileged boy – the more my heart grew and broke at the same time.

 

It had love, it had drama, it had a world so dark and grubby and evocative that I wanted to have a bath at multiple points. The characters shine through it like diamonds.

Basically, I loved it. I’ll be buying the sequel for my holiday.

Oh and also, “I will have you without armour, Kaz Brekker, or I will not have you at all.” Hold me.

Rating: *****

The Mystery Blogger Award!

mystery blogger award

“This is an award for amazing bloggers with indigenous posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging and they do it with so much love and passion.” – Okoto Enigma

I was nominated for this by Jemma @ Fantastic Books and Where To Find Them. She has a gr8 blog so go follow it nerds. Thanks Jemma! ❤

Rules

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog.
  • Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
  • List the rules.
  • Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  • Nominate 10 – 20 people.
  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.
  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice, with one weird or funny question (specify).
  • Share a link to their best post(s).

Three Facts About Me

  1. I work for a company that manufactures and sells tartan fabrics and kilts.
  2. I have three scars – two from Typhoon Lagoon in Florida and one from the worst bout of sunburn I’ve ever had.
  3. Last week I held a baby for the first time ever and I was terrified. She cried. I don’t blame her.

Jemma’s Question

Which fictional world would you live in?

When I answered Kelly’s Fandom Frenzy prompt I said Hogwarts, but it’d be toss up between there and Pellinor, from Alison Croggon’s series.

If you were a fictional character and had an animal companion tell me about them, they can be a fictional creature too.

I know most people will expect me to say dragon, but I think I’d like a really clever dog. A big fluffy one. In reality I’d probably end up with a cat like my own actual cat: a bit of an idiot and totally unreliable.

What book do you wish you could read for the first time all over again?

PELLINOR.

What is your biggest bookish peeve?

Is movie tie-in covers a peeve? I think they’re U G L Y.

Where is your favourite place to be?

In my house. On the couch. With a G&T and my laptop.

I Nominate…

Malanie @ Malanie Loves Fiction
Kristina @ Books and Dachshunds
Life With All The Books
Laura @ Reading Sanctuary
Sara @ The Bibliophagist
Luna @ Bookish Luna
Asha @ A Cat, A Book and A Cup of Tea
Justine @ I Should Read That
Kate @ Reading Through Infinity
Hannah @ I Have Thoughts on Books

My questions for you

  1. Hardback or paperback?
  2. If you could have any book cover ever printed blown up into a poster for your wall, what would it be?
  3. How do you feel about sprayed edges?
  4. Do you dog ear your pages?
  5. Would you rather have a duck the size of a horse or ten horses the size of ducks?

PEACE.