My To-Buy list – pre-holiday

Last week I booked my summer holiday. Hooray! I’m off to Barcelona for a week at the end of this month. Sean’s brother lives there, so it’s amazing that it’s taken me so long to book a trip.

I’m very excited, but I’m going to need reading material. Partly for the beach, where I will drag Sean against his will, and partly to stave off my plane anxieties. Here is what I have so far.

The Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock

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I know nothing about this book but I’ve seen enough people talking about it that I thoroughly want to read it.

Plus mermaids are cool.

The Cruel Prince – Holly Black

cruel prince

I really like Holly Black, but I haven’t read her books for years. Tithe, Ironside and Valiant were staples on my bookshelf when I was first getting into urban fantasy. The Cruel Prince sounds like my cue to get more involved.

Goodbye, Perfect – Sara Barnard

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Slightly ashamed of myself for not owning this already, particularly as I loved the other two Sara Barnard books. This might be an airport pick-up…

Whatever the first Sarah J Maas book is

court ofIt’s probably not this one.

I have no idea how many of these there are but in my head its about 600. I’ve never heard people be so conflicted about an author’s, so even if I hate it I’m going to buy one and I’m going to read it. And then I’ll probably read more because I have FOMO.

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If you’ve read any of these and there’s one or two in particular that I MUST get, let me know. Particularly if it’ll distract me from my fear of meeting a fiery end in a Ryanair plane.

The Ten Album Tag

You might have seen the Facebook meme “Post the artwork of one of your favourite albums that you still listen to every day for ten days”. I was tagged by my buddy Derek, but as I’d inevitably forget to post something for ten days in a row, I’ll whack ’em all in one blog.

The Facebook post also says “No explanation required” but GUESS WHAT we’re not on Facebook.

Automatic For The People – R.E.M.

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I waxed lyrical about this album here. Still has the same effect on me as it did seventeen years ago.

Oregon – Broadway Calls

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I discovered Broadway Calls when they were supporting Alkaline Trio in Glasgow. It’s the first time I’ve genuinely really enjoyed a support band. Their debut album is still one of my favourite pop-punk records ever.

The Sickness – Disturbed

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“Shout 2000” was playing on repeat when I got my first tattoo and it led me to the rest of the album. There’s not a bad track on it.

Take This To Your Grave – Fall Out Boy

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Call me a purist, but I really don’t like Fall Out Boy’s new stuff. I’m a pre-hiatus person. TTTYG is the absolute pinnacle of Fall Out Boy for me. If you want my high school aesthetic on one album, this is it. I love it.

Good Mourning – Alkaline Trio

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One of the soundtracks of my high school life. It’s dark and creepy and sinister and somehow really sweet in parts. Lyrically glorious.

 

Nevermind – Nirvana

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I was a classic disaffected, miserable teenager, and I discovered Nirvana at pretty much the right time. First Teen Spirit, then “Come As You Are”, but my favourite was and still is “Breed”.

Peter Bradley Adams

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I stumbled across Peter Bradley Adams on one of my first forays into World of Warcraft. It was autumn, the sun was going down, and I was sitting in my bedroom listening to Leavetaking. You know how some songs slam you back into the moment? “I’ll Forget You”, running around a cornfield saving things.

After the Party – The Menzingers

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The Menzingers are one of the best bands around at the moment, and this is a genuinely flawless album. It covers the awkward period around turning thirty, when you’re not young or old and feel lost, and includes “Lookers” –  probably my most listened to song on Spotify.

Heartland – Runrig

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I found this on vinyl in my house and it had an effect on me that very few albums ever had. Listening to “The Wire” on a cold, midwinter evening made all of my hair stand on end. Plus “Cnoc Na Feille” is THE creepiest song ever written. I accept no substitute.

Stunt – Barenaked Ladies

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My mum really started my love for Barenaked Ladies. Stunt is my favourite of their albums – it starts with the classic “One Week” and includes my favourite track, “Light Up My Room”. Everything in between is sweet and irreverent and pretty good fun.

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There you go Derek! If anyone else wants to do this, consider yourself tagged.

Top Ten Tuesday | Fictional Worlds I’d Like To Live In

I couldn’t think of ten book worlds that I’d actually like to live in. There’s a few I’d maybe like to go on holiday to…

I stretched the definition a little to cover all fictional worlds.

Hogwarts – Harry Potter

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Because OBVIOUSLY.

Edil-Amarandh – the Pellinor series

the singing

I mean, things weren’t always great in Edil-Amarandh but I’d LOVE to be a Bard.

Scotland – Outlander

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TECHNICALLY I’m cheating here because 18th century Scotland isn’t fictional. I’m also not entirely sure women were particularly well treated in Scotland during the clan era, although Claire never seems to complain. Regardless, even as someone who grew up in Scotland and spent time in the Highlands, I usually want to fling myself into the TV while I’m watching it.

Yorkshire – Downton Abbey

I am heavy obsessed with Downton Abbey. I have this probably romanticised view of working and living in a big posh Edwardian house that’s almost certainly because of this show. I might as well have been in this world to be honest, when the series ended I cried like I’d lost all my friends.

Kanto – Pokemon

Find me someone who grew up with Gen One Pokemon who doesn’t wish that they were real. Especially after Pokemon Go.

New York – The Great Gatsby

gggg

Also technically not a fictional world, but I can totally see myself in 1920s America drinking champagne in a swimming pool listening to jazz.

I’m not sure I can picture myself as a flapper though. Maybe if I could get away with it in jeans and Vans…

On The Road

on the road

Listening to jazz music and speaking in poetry and driving across the states with my friends sounds like an absolute dream. If I could go back ten years and get rid of my anxiety I’d drop everything and go.

Destiny

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Let’s face it, the world of Destiny actually sucks. Humanity is confined to one city and they’re always under the threat of attack from various space age beasties. I’d really just like to be a Guardian and be immortal, with a gun that shoots light bullets and the ability to throw fire from my hands.

The Famous Five

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If you read these books as a kid and you didn’t dream of running away to a deserted island with a dog and a picnic, you have more restraint than I do. As a kid who spent a lot of the time feeling lonely, all I wanted to do was go on adventures on my bike with my friends in this wild and rolling countryside.

Skyrim

I love dragons. Everyone knows I love dragons. I’d probably end up eaten by a dragon but I want to live in a house made of stone in Whiterun and worship Talos don’t @ me.

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Who’s coming with me? Where would you go? SPEAK WITH ME.

Book Spotlight | Guitar Girl by Sarra Manning

Fame never comes for free, and Molly’s about to find out what it costs.

Guitar Girl

Guitar Girl is one of my all time favourite YA books. An underrated classic.

Molly is a seventeen year old who, along with her friends Jane and Tara wants nothing more than to be noticed for something. Anything. Even if you’re as anxiety-ridden a teen as I was, that’s relatable. So they start a band, pick up a couple of rude and aloof boys on the way, and boom. Fame, success and Molly is suddenly, and increasingly reluctantly in the shoes of her grrrl rock icon, Ruby X. I was fourteen when this book came out and I’m pretty sure I was given a copy not long after it was released. Everyone knew my aesthetic, even then.

If you like YA and you haven’t read this book, I would thoroughly recommend it. Molly is badass and vulnerable in equal measure and her narrative is spiky and relatable and warm. It’s the dream of learning three chords on the guitar and changing the world, and the nightmare of losing control of everything you stand for. Plus there are mysterious terribly-behaved boys, the dangerous side of fame and excess, and a song about Hello Kitty. Every box ticked.

On that note, if you want a cool girl band singing songs about relatable shit, may I recommend “Hey Siri, Open Tinder” by Childbirth. You’re welcome.

Book Spotlight | I Was Born For This by Alice Oseman

For Angel Rahimi, life is only about one thing: The Ark – a pop-rock trio of teenage boys who are currently taking the world by storm. Being part of The Ark’s fandom has given her everything – her friendships, her dreams, her place in the world.

Jimmy Kaga-Ricci owes everything to The Ark too. He’s their frontman – and playing in a band is all he’s ever dreamed of doing. It’s just a shame that recently everything in his life seems to have turned into a bit of a nightmare.

Because that’s the problem with dreaming – eventually, inevitably, real life arrives with a wake-up call. And when Angel and Jimmy are unexpectedly thrust together, they will discover just how strange and surprising facing up to reality can be.

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I love Alice Oseman. Radio Silence and Solitaire are both books I wish I’d had when I was in high school. Instead of trying to look at them from the perspective of the current young adult audience, these books resonate with Younger Me in a big way, and it’s both heartbreaking and pretty therapeutic.

I Was Born For This is both completely different and exactly the same.

It’s the story of how pervasive and consuming pouring your heart and soul into something can be. A band, a TV show, a book…it’s an authentic look at how how important, and how destructive these things can be when they become everything. It’s also a testament to the friends and communities that build up around things can be to someone who’s lonely or struggling. It can save lives.

So why only four stars?

This didn’t resonate with me in the same way the previous two did, which is not a fault of the book. Most of my fandom adventures were solitary, borne of loneliness in school and mental illness, and I didn’t have anywhere near the experiences of Angel and Juliet. If I’d been more heavily involved? Hell yeah, I can see another version of me in this book.

Overall, not my favourite Alice Oseman book because it didn’t hit my buttons in the specific video-game-puzzle-solving order like the previous two, but still a gr8 book. Alice Oseman is one of the very best YA authors around, and I have absolutely no doubt that pretty much everyone who’s ever used the internet will see themselves in the pages.

Rating: ****

The Notebook

I found something on the train a few weeks ago.

I’d been deliberating on my way to the station about whether to buy a new notebook – I’d had an idea for a story, and it had taken hold like a limpet. It seemed like the fates had aligned to make a decision for me when I found one down the side of a seat.

When I flicked through it, I saw it wasn’t newly-bought,  an escapee from a plastic bag. It was full of what looked like study notes, tiny doodles of creatures I didn’t recognise, and intricate, swirling letters, scripted over and over again in various shades of ink.

It was suddenly awfully heavy in my hands. I was holding someone’s notes, sure, and it’s awful to lose them midway through a semester, but it was more than that.

I felt like I was holding someone’s soul as well.

notebook

I’ve got more notebooks than I really need, all because I thought I needed blank pages to be the conduit for what I felt. Most of them are half-filled, bought for some project that never came to fruition, one burst of creativity that moved me so fiercely that I felt I might die if I didn’t transfer it to paper.

I tend to want to keep them pristine. One smudged line or poorly formed letter and it takes me out of the mood.

This is why I mostly write on the computer. Mistakes are clean.

But in those scribbles on the train I saw more than just notes and doodles from a dry class. I saw that place where things come from, a place deep in your soul. Whoever owned that notebook had bared themselves on the pages, moved by some force that I can’t explain or even adequately describe, a force that transcends brain and mouth and motor function. And mistakes.

I’d forgotten what that felt like.

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Looking in that book was like being caught in someone’s bathroom when you’re not supposed to be there. But it reminded me that those notebooks that I have stuffed in drawers aren’t just taking up space. I bought them because something was in me that was fighting to get out, something bigger than I am, and I wasn’t taking advantage of it. I was too bothered by making sure it was a work of art. A sign of one of my biggest flaws: if I don’t do it perfectly first time, it isn’t worth doing at all.

Which isn’t the way this game works. So thank you, whoever lost it, for reminding me of the beauty of filling a notebook, of carrying one around for when I need to catch my feelings.

I’ve got mine.

Swim Until You Can’t See Land.

What if I’m never thrown that rope?/And what if that tear in my side just pours and pours and pours?

Scott Hutchison’s songs are intertwined with miserable nights I’ve spent disassociated from the rest of the world. Yes, I Would when I thought things would never get better. Candlelit when I thought I’d never be loved again. Swim Until You Can’t See Land when I’d come out into the sun like some newborn baby animal, blinking at the future. The Twist when it was all too much.

The songs were a revelation in times of trouble, a twanging cord of kinship between me in my bedroom and this man who was able to articulate every nuance of emotion I was feeling but couldn’t speak.

It’s a lonely experience when you struggle with your mental health. It hurts in places you can’t put your hands on to heal, places you can’t even pinpoint, leaving you chasing ghosts. I’ve spent the past two days thinking about all the times I’ve listened to the same Frightened Rabbit song on repeat because they’ve spun my feelings into a fine silk thread and used it to stitch up my wounds.

I’ve feel like I’ve lost a friend. I never met him, but Scott Hutchison knew me better than I knew myself. He told me what I was feeling when I couldn’t unravel it, helped me lay it out and work through it. I hope that, wherever we go after we die, he is at peace now. And I hope that somehow he’ll know that everyone who listened to Frightened Rabbit carries a tiny piece of his music in their soul. I know I do.

And while I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to earth.

Book Spotlight | The Sun Is Also A Star by Nicola Yoon

Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

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Do you ever read a book that you just know you’d have LOVED in high school? The Sun Is Also A Star is one of them. The journey of two teenagers over the course of one day, brought together by fate and rippling their way through New York City, it’s one of my. favourite reads so far this year

Normally the “instalove” trope is one of the things that makes me want to peel off my own face in frustration, but TSIAAS made it work, through science and poetry. It was the epitome of the heady, intense love of teenage years, when the world shrinks to the point of two people. It should have been tacky, but it wasn’t. It was heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

There were a couple of scenes that I didn’t really enjoy, mainly because they seemed unrealistic to me and kind of pulled me out of it, but the rest of it was pretty spot on. Full of hope and joy and the real tugging sadness of growing up. Thoroughly enjoyed it. Shelve it under “Books I’d Give My Kids To Read”.

Plus Natasha listens to Nirvana and Soundgarden. MY GAL.

Rating: ****

Book Spotlight | The Northern Lights by Phillip Pullman

When Lyra’s friend Roger disappears, she and her dæmon, Pantalaimon, determine to find him. 

The ensuing quest leads them to the bleak splendour of the North, where armoured bears rule the ice and witch-queens fly through the frozen skies – and where a team of scientists is conducting experiments too horrible to be spoken about.

Lyra overcomes these strange terrors, only to find something yet more perilous waiting for her – something with consequences which may even reach beyond the Northern Lights..

northern lights

Confession time: prior to this month I hadn’t read any of this series. I’d picked up bits and pieces of this book, and I’d seen the film (which put me off completely for several years, that shit was BAD), but everyone from Twitter to my mum has been telling me to read it for years so THANKS UKISA BOOK CLUB for giving me the push I needed.

Thus I borrowed my mum’s copy (which I’m pretty sure was mine, once upon a time) and read it, and boy do I have thoughts.

First of all, I want to know exactly what Philip Pullman is.

I like to think I’ve got a vivid imagination. Fantasy authors in general blow me away but this was on another level. Books like this make me feel like a dribbling mess. The worldbuilding so deep and the characters are so deliciously evocative that I’m led to the conclusion that Mr. Pullman either isn’t human or can see some otherworldly shit that mere mortals cannot.

Second of all, this is the darkest effing book. They kidnap kids and rip away their souls so they can make a magic bridge to a hidden world? They keep their souls in a room in little cages?

Damn.

Lyra is a great heroine, not least because she has no superpowers, she’s “The Chosen One” but she’s not allowed to know it, and therefore neither are we. It makes a change from Harry Potter, for example, where we find out bits and pieces of Harry’s fate at the same time he does, but there’s a nice little undercurrent of menace on top of all the other dark stuff because we know something Lyra doesn’t. DELICIOUS.

In conclusion: disgustingly creepy villains, an incredible world, ARMOURED POLAR BEARS and a flawed heroine. I loved it. Now I want a daemon, although god knows I’ve got a cat with separation anxiety so I have some idea what it’s like. I bet Pantalaimon doesn’t rip up carpets or pee in Lyra’s washing basket though.

Final thought: Iorik Byrnison is a BAMF and I love him. Please come back in a later book Iorik.

Rating: ****

Six for Sunday: Favourite Books People Never Seem To Know About.

MY DUDES. My time has come.

Six for Sunday is a weekly book meme hosted by Steph at Alittlebutalot. There are so many books that I never see getting any love, so strap in, I’m about to take you on a trip through six of them.

The Entire Pellinor Series – Alison Croggon

I found these books in a charity shop and have been heavily obsessed ever since. I love all of the characters, I love the plot, I love the setting, I love how heavily the arts influence the world and the lives of the people who live there and it’s just GLORIOUS.

Guitar Girl – Sarra Manning

Guitar Girl

This was one of my first, if not THE first YA book I ever owned, and I love it. My dream as a fourteen year old was to be in a band, despite having only the bare minimum of musical talent, so I lived vicariously through other mediums. Molly, the lead protagonist (and singer) of Guitar Girl writes songs about Hello Kitty and working a dead-end job and is pretty much a straight up BAMF. All the characters are so flawed and precious and it’ll break your heart and make you want to form a three-chord band. AND SO YOU SHOULD.

The Impossible Knife of Memory – Laurie Halse Anderson

The Impossible Knife of Memory

Laurie Halse Anderson is my hero. Speak is a book I bang the drum for at every opportunity, but The Impossible Knife of Memory is a brilliant book. It’s the story of Hayley and her war veteran father who suffers from PTSD and traumatic flashbacks, and the struggle as they move back to their home town after a nomadic life. LHA’s books are always so authentic, and her characters so acerbic and vulnerable and Hayley is no different.

What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows – Nora Raleigh Baskin

What Every Girl (Except Me) Knows

Nora Raleigh Baskin is also a QUEEN and one of the staples of my early YA reading. WEGEMK is a book about a young girl who has grown up with her father and older brother and is desperate for a stepmother so she has someone to teach her the things that all the other girls learn from their mothers. It’s a gorgeous wee book about friendship and growing up as a girl and finding out who you are. I loved it when I was eleven and I love it now.

Dogger – Shirley Hughes

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This is a book that very few people seem to remember. I loved Dogger when I was really young, although it BROKE MY HEART because I was an overly sensitive child. Thank god it has a happy ending.

Based on the name people seem to assume that I’m making this book up but I’m not. Promise.

If Only They Could Talk – James Herriot

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I basically swallowed these whole as a child. I’m pretty sure everyone will have heard of James Herriot, but I’m not sure how many people have read his books. They’re incredibly sweet, a glorious trip through the Yorkshire countryside, and they’re so hysterically clever and witty that I challenge you read this without at least cracking a smile.

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I’m now in the mood to read all of these again. Except maybe Dogger. Probably not going to pull Dogger out on the train.

What books haven’t I heard of that I should have? Please open my eyes.