Sunday, 30 December 2012

Project 365+1: Days 357 - 363

I can't believe I've nearly made it a whole year of taking a photo each day. There were a couple of occasions where I didn't think it would happen, but I think having this blog has helped. In the past when I've attempted Project 365 I've tended to keep the results to myself and I've never lasted longer than March.

Day 357: The Stockings Were Hung By The Chimney With Care
I hung our stockings up a little while before the rest of the decorations mainly because I wanted to ease Tara into the idea of having interesting things all around the house that she wasn't allowed to eat. It seemed to work (though she was fascinated with John's stocking, the one on the left, and kept trying to nibble the reindeer's scarf whenever he wasn't looking).

We don't actually have a chimney, well, there's actually two on the roof, but we don't have any fireplaces. The space under one of the windows in the living room lines up pretty well with where one of the fireplaces probably would've been, so it seemed as good a place as any to hang them. Unfortunately we couldn't put Tara's up because it was already full of treats and would've lasted about thirty seconds. I did leave it with the others on Christmas morning and she spotted it right away and knew it was hers!

Day 358: Three Years
Christmas Eve is also our third wedding anniversary and so we exchange a new Christmas tree decoration each year. This year's anniversary was leather, so Mr Click gave me this little leather heart, and I gave him a stocking trimmed with a little leather band.

I hope that when we have kids we'll be able to carry on this tradition so that over time, every Christmas tree ornament will have some little story behind it. As we started doing this before we got married, there are already quite a few up there.

Day 359: Christmas Present(s)
We had a lovely Christmas. We started the day by opening stockings in bed (Tara got her first present out straight away which kept her quiet while we unpacked ours). Then we bundled the presents under the tree into the car and headed to Mr Click's parents' where we all exchanged gifts there and finished the present opening.

The bags above are what we came home with (though Muppet Treasure Island was in Mr Click's stocking, we watched it that night and it got put there because I couldn't be bothered to take an extra five steps to put it away). All in all it was a very successful day.

I should also confess that these bags are more or less still there. Mr Click unpacked all of his stuff, but I've been a little bit slower to find homes for my bits and pieces. Today I finally cleared out the one on the left, so I should get around to the other one later on. It makes Christmas seem to last a little bit longer because it's like opening your stocking all over again!

Day 360: Polly and Roland
Now I've got an iPhone I can sit and get caught up online at my in-laws' house without having to get my laptop out, which makes it easier to sit and knit. Over Christmas I've spent a lot of time knitting, especially while we've been there because I can check stuff online, knit, chat and watch TV. This has proved useful for getting these little guys finished.

Polly is on the right (and has a slightly odd shaped head because I didn't follow the instructions correctly). Roly (short for Roland Junior) is the little fellow on the left. I'm really pleased with how they've turned out and I'm getting very quick at knitting them (which is just as well considering I've got to make seven in total, plus their parents and I've just had four new Jean Greenhowe knitting books delivered)!

Day 361: Wise Old Owl
This was one of the gifts in my stocking, and I love it. I used to wear necklaces all the time, but now I have to wear a security pass to work I don't tend to wear them so much. I keep on meaning to pick up a little clip so I can fasten my pass to my clothes and then I won't have to worry about strangling myself when the two strings round my neck get tangled up.

I've worn this necklace almost every day that I've not been at work over the holiday (and believe me, there have been lots of those days), it catches the light beautifully and has a good weight to it too. The one problem is when I bend over the rat cage, the owl pendant can slip between the bars and then twists so I'm attached to the cage! Nearly injured myself feeding the girls the other night.

One of the knitting books that arrived this week has a pattern for an owl in it, so I'm beginning to think that I'll have to give it a go at some point. This could be the beginning of a new collection!

Day 362: Snuff
When my Nan sent me some Christmas money, I knew I wanted to put it towards some books and Snuff was the obvious choice. It's one of only two of the latest Discworld books that I didn't have. Unfortunately Dodger isn't available in paperback yet, so I'm holding off getting that until some time next year. I put the rest of the money towards some knitting pattern books for making more toys and dolls with.

Just as soon as I've read Snuff (probably some time in the next couple of months) I'm going to have to have a big reorganisation of all my books on this bookcase. The Terry Pratchett ones have been up on it ever since I got the bookcase, so it'll be weird not to have them on it anymore.

We're hoping to get a new bookcase for our DVDs to go in the front lobby (at the moment they're in a little cupboard) so the cupboard will go upstairs, so hopefully these books won't need to go back into a box, they'll fit into the cupboard and it might even give us a bit more floorspace in the spare bedroom. And if I empty out one book box I'll either have to get rid of it, or perhaps find some more books to fill it up with...

Day 363: An Obsession Grows
It won't be long before Santa gets put away until next year, but it's probably just as well because the Roley Poley family are growing (quite amazing really when you consider that I've not actually made the parents yet). I'm having good fun making these little dolls anyway, they knit up very quickly and look cute too. I'm beginning to run into little mental blocks when it comes to picking what colours to make their clothes, but I think that's because I've got so much choice, I've just started asking on Twitter instead and letting them choose.

The one to the right of Santa, next to Scrat (who was snuggled at the top of my stocking on Christmas Day) is called Rosie and I just finished her yesterday. Each of the girls has slightly different hair and Rosie's is short and straight. There was a slightly nerve-wracking moment when I'd got her all finished and had to trim her hair to make sure it was all the same length, but I think I did a fairly good job. Each doll seems a little bit better than the next, by the time I get to number seven I should be able to whip them out in an afternoon!

And now we're almost at the end of the year. I've still got a couple more days off work so it's going to be a quiet New Year with family (and the traditional New Year's Eve thread on HTV). Hope everyone's all set ready for 2013!

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Christmas Present(s)

I hope that everyone had a lovely Christmas. I know I did.

Santa was very generous, above are just some of the presents Mr Click and I received.

This year I gave a stocking full of goodies to Mr Click (including the Back to the Future films on blu-ray), new oven mitts and lucky socks. I also got him a cute coffee mug and tin, the Shrek films on blu-ray and a shiny new coffee machine.

I was involved in two Secret Santas, a book one which I sent two Philip Pullman books for and one at work. I also sent my Nan an audiobook of Never Let Me Go and we got my in-laws a Marks & Spencer hamper as they loved the one I won at work last year.

As for me, I was very lucky. Mr Click gave me a stocking which included a new book journal, a Disney's Cinderella box set and a lovely little owl necklace. My main three gifts were the complete series of Scrubs, a lovely Winnie the Pooh nightie and socks set, and the complete series of Friends.

With some money my Nan sent me I've ordered Terry Pratchett's Snuff and some knitting booklets, I also got a set of BBC Dicken's adaptations from my in-laws. I think it's safe to say that between us we've got enough TV viewing to last us until next Christmas!

Aside from opening presents, it was a lovely relaxed day. I finished knitting another little doll, watched lots of good TV and went for several walks with Tara and Mr Click.

It was a really good day.

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Happy Christmas!

Hope everyone is having a lovely day, with the people that they love, and have received everything that they wished for.
One last Christmas song to share here, the ever traditional White Christmas.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Countdown: Beautiful (Christmas Version)

I'm a big Disney fan and I especially love Disney Christmas music, so when I found an album of Disney Princesses Christmas songs I knew it would fit the bill. The final song on the disc is a reworked Christmas version of a song originally written for the rerelease of Cinderella.

Christmas has always been a special time for me and Mr Click, his birthday is in the middle of December, his parents were married shortly before Christmas and we were lucky enough to get married on Christmas Eve. The words in this song have a huge amount of meaning for me, I think of it as 'our song' and as cheesy a Disney song as it is, I love it.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Christmas Countdown: From All Of Us To All Of You

Growing up I had collection of Disney sing along videos, my favourite was one which I was only allowed to have during December, Very Merry Sing Along Songs. It opened with From All Of Us To All Of You and I was really pleased when I found it on a Disney Christmas CD in Dunoon a few years ago.

Unfortunately I lost the video tape a little while ago, but I live in hope that they'll bring it out on DVD and I'll be able to get my hands on a copy of that. In the meantime, I'll just have to make do with the videos on YouTube.

Book 93 of 2012: Dictionary of Word Origins

I've mentioned before just how interested I am in the history of the English language, so I've put together a little linguistics section on my bookshelf and I'm gradually working my way through those books in that bit of my library. At the beginning of the month that meant I was onto Dictionary of Word Origins by Linda and Roger Flavell, another book from a dictionary set that I got from The Book People.

This one is similar in format to the Dictionary of English Down Through the Ages though instead of being presented in terms of when the words came into use, this was sorted alphabetically. Each word had an explanation of the meaning, examples of its use in literature or other written texts and then a detailed history of its use (where possible).
It was a really interesting book. I really enjoy learning where the words we use every day come from. There was a little bit of repetition between this and the English Down Through The Ages book that I read before, but no more than a handful of words.
It's not really the sort of book that you're supposed to pick up and read from cover to cover the way that I did. It says in the beginning that the book will probably be read in one of two ways; either dipped into when a person wants to look up the meaning of particular words, or skimmed with the reader stopping when they get to something that interests them. I think it would be better to just dip into it to find the meanings of odd words, but in doing that you'd miss out on some interesting word origins.
I was surprised that they couldn't have come up with one word beginning with 'X'. There seemed to be loads of words at the beginning, it took me ages to get to the end of C, but then there wasn't quite the same distribution with the other letters.
I've got two more books in this set to cover and I hope that they stick with this format. I like the way that they use quotes using the word, some of them are quite funny which helps to balance out the actual entries, some of which are quite dry. It's definitely a book I'm going to revisit in the future, especially if I'm still studying linguistics.
"Still later it fell victim to the American habit of creating verbs out of nouns, so that there is now a verb to alibi someone, meaning 'to provide an excuse of alibi'. There is also the rather neat expression an alibi artist, someone who is an expert at getting out of uncongenial or mundane tasks."Page 12

Prject 365+1: Days 350 - 356

Well, Christmas is nearly here! It's been a really busy week, but luckily I've finished work until after Christmas (and even then it's only for one day before New Year, so hopefully I won't find it too taxing). Hopefully everyone is all set for the holidays, I think I am, and if I'm not, then it's a little bit too late and everything'll work out even if something minor has been forgotten.

Day 350: Happy Birthday Oops
As I mentioned last week, it was Mr Click's birthday. I bought him some new slippers (as his old ones were getting a bit tatty, then Tara decided to help them along a bit and they got even tattier), a Pet Shop Boys CD that came out recently (Elysium) and one of my greatest gift finds; the blu-ray boxset of Indiana Jones films. I'd suggested a while back that I'd get him the Star Wars films on blu-ray because he's not seen the prequels and he mentioned that he'd liked the Indiana Jones ones. So when the time came to get his birthday presents, it just happened that Indiana Jones was just being released on blu-ray, perfect timing! And of course, I didn't say anything so he had no idea that was what he was getting. He was so pleased that we watched them all this week.

The day wasn't without a slight hiccough. I completely messed up my cards this year (well, I think I bought a card that never actually left the shop) because I ended up with two anniversary cards and no birthday or Christmas card! But a little bit of arts and craft work covered up the mistake, if I hadn't told him, he probably wouldn't have noticed. The card had red and black hearts with floral patterns on the front so it fitted in very well.

Day 351: Curious World of Christmas
This is the book was reading at the beginning of the week. I'll post a review of it at some point. I like to read Christmassy books in the run up to Christmas, this year I've read a lot more than normal thanks to Amazon having free books available which have some sort of Christmas element in the title, I went crazy downloading them all. I've got almost forty now.

The Curious World of Christmas is full of interesting little facts about various elemtns of Christmas, from the food to little traditions as well as little stories about memorable Christmases from people in different or unusual jobs. I think I've had it for a while but I've never read it before, but I'll probably read it again next Christmas.

Day 352: Polly Roley Poley
This week I finished the first of my Roley Poley dolls (after taking the photo above I added a little belt threaded around her waist in the same colour as her ties on her plaits). I'm really pleased with how quickly she's knitted up and I've made a good start to the next one.

I got a bit of money for Christmas from my Nan and so I decided to put it towards some of the Jean Greenhowe knitting books (which are really similar to the book I've been using for my Roley Poley family). I decided to go for three (Knitted Animals, Toy Collection and Knitted Hedgehogs), the Toy Collection one was a bit of a last minute decision. But then the other book-book that I wanted to get wasn't available so I spluged on the MacScarecrow Clan pattern book as well. I should be well stocked on knitting patterns until this time next year!

Day 353: Secret Santa
One of the forums I visit has a Secret Santa book exchange (organised by the wonderful Jen). I bought my gift and sent it off the other day and my own one showed up and is now waiting under the tree for Christmas Day to arrive. I can't wait to see what it is, there's nothing quite like getting new books at Christmas.

Day 354: Secret Santa Strikes Again
And then at work the next day we exchanged gifts in our team Secret Santa. We didn't do it last year, but this year it was lovely and a real laugh. I got a big box of chocolates (Lily O'Brien ones, the sort Mr Click used to get me when we were first going out). They're yummy, I'm saving them for a little while, but I think I might have to crack them open on our anniversary tomorrow.

Day 355: Underwhelmed
Tara has been very good with the tree, decorations and presents. I was half expecting her to try eating everything but she's been very well-behaved. In fact, she seems a little underwhelmed by the whole event. I'm sure she'll feel rather differently come Christmas Day when she gets to open her stocking (and when Mr Click was unwrapping his birthday presents she seemed very keen to help him with that).

Day 356: Christmas Cards
In the past I used to put up a string for hangings cards on at Christmas. What with Mr Click's birthday, our anniversary and Christmas we can end up with quite a few cards hanging around. This year I even got the right sort of pins for hanging up strings, but never got around to putting them up. We've got cards on almost every shelf of the bookcase, both windowsills in the living room, and on the speakers by the TV. This windowsill is just half of the cards from people at work.

Last night we also had my work Christmas party, which was basically a ceilidh with a buffet. It's been years since I've been to a proper ceilidh but I got up and danced to the Dashing White Sergeant which was a bit exhausting (especially because I was partnering two guys who didn't have a clue what they were doing!). I love ceilidh dancing, when I moved to Scotland and we started doing 'social dance' in the run up to Christmas everyone used to moan and groan about it, but I always loved it.

I'm pretty much crap at dancing which is why social dancing suits me so well, because there's set moves and everyone does them. The local ceilidh band is brilliant as well because they walk everyone through the steps to make sure you know what you're doing, and they're great about getting everyone up on the floor as well. I really hope we can organise a summer ceilidh or something because I don't want to wait a year to do that again.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Christmas Countdown: It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

It was tough trying to come up with a full month's worth of songs for my Christmas Countdown, not because I didn't have enough to fill it, but because I had to narrow it down to just twenty-five. When it started getting down to the last few days, I was seriously beginning to struggle and starting to think maybe I should have done two songs a day.

Anyway, in the end I settled for It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year, because like It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas, I think it sums up this time of year pretty well for me. I love Christmas, I like all the little Christmas traditions that we share as a family (though there aren't really any scary ghost stories told in our house at Christmas) and this song features in so many of our Christmas films so that helped to decide it for me.

Book 92 of 2012: Christmas Stories

In my search for Christmassy books to keep me going through the end of November and the run up to Christmas I basically downloaded anything which had the word Christmas in the title (and was free). One such book was Edward Berens' Christmas Stories, there weren't actually any reviews for this (or any information about what it actually contained) but I thought that it couldn't be too bad, and at 160 pages, even if it was bad, it wouldn't take too long to finish.

This is collection of three short stories, which seem to take place in similar settings/with the same characters. There isn't actually any real mention of Christmas which makes me think that this was originally published as some sort of moral tract to be given at Christmas time. It was originally published in 1823 before the really traditional Victorian Christmas stories started to appear.

The first two stories are virtually identical, one dealing with poaching, the second with smuggling. Both look at the impact that this could have no only on the person committing the crime, but also the people who buy the products, allowing the practice to continue. As can be expected from the beginning, neither of these end well. The third, and final story, focuses on the charity which is handed out to the poor in one community; two different landowners have the task of handing this out, one is stricter than the other, while the other is more laidback but also neglects other parish responsibilities because the money for these has all been given away.

Although they were written almost two hundred years ago, you could probably transfer the stories to modern situations quite easily. In fact, you could probably update the smuggling story to deal with illegal downloads from the internet and the message would remain the same.

I did find the stories to be quite preachy. There was a strong Christian message in there, which might put some readers off. It was an okay story, but it wasn't really what I was expecting from the title and probably wouldn't be one I revisit in the future.

"Tho' here again I must say, that I don't think either of these sorts of lawyers over-paid, when you consider how many years most of them work before they get anything, (many I believe, never get any thing at all)."Location 180

Friday, 21 December 2012

Christmas Countdown: Walking In The Air

One of my favourite memories of school, in the run up to Christmas, was all being gathered into the school hall to watch The Snowman on an ancient old projector. We never had The Snowman on video growing up, so I only got to see it a couple of times and both were when I was at school.

There's something magical about the film. It's like the pictures in the book have come to life. I used to have the boardgame when I was little as well. Now we've got the DVD we have to watch it every Christmas, singing along badly to the song of course.

Of course, being in Scotland I'm also a fan of the alternative Irn Bru version, especially as I've been to about half the places featured.

Book 91 of 2012: Tomorrow We Will Live Here

My friend Jen has been introducing me to some new poetry recently and leant me three books to see what I thought of them. The last that I’ve come to is Tomorrow We Will Live Here by Ryan Van Winkle and I think it’s probably my favourite of all three.

I always struggle to know what to say about poetry collections, especially the ones that I like a lot. I think that pretty much all of the poems in this book take place in America, they have an American sort of feel to them anyway and they seem to feature all sorts of people from all sorts of places and walks of life. These poems feel like that have a sort of depth to them, they have stories behind them and the more you think about them, the more you appreciate what that story is or might be.

Of all the poems there were four that were my very favourites, so I’ll say a little bit about them. The first is ‘The Grave-tender’ which is about a man tending a woman’s grave. He talks about the grave as though it’s the woman and say things about ‘her soil’ and ‘her polished head’. At a glance you might think that he’s talking about tending the flowers in someone’s garden. It’s a bittersweet sort of poem, at the beginning you find out how frail she was before she died, but there seems to be a lot of love in the way that the man takes care of her grave, but at the end the man mentions that his body is ‘going to seed’ so you wonder how much longer he’ll be able to keep it up and whether there’ll be someone who’ll look after his grave in the same way.

‘The Flood’ is a really simple, short little poem: “Furniture, photos, / petals floating in water. // It was spring and the river / bloomed and rose.’ At the time when I was reading this book there was a lot of flooding going on around the country and it just seemed fitting some how. I liked the way that the poem moves from talking about household things to nature. It’s so short and I can’t pick exactly what it is I like about it, but it’s just perfect somehow.

One that really stuck with me and made me think was ‘I Got Out When It All Went Down’. In the book this poem runs down one page and over onto the top of the next one, and at the bottom of the first page I thought ‘this could be talking about September 11th’. Which it is. It’s about someone who escaped from their life in the aftermath of 9/11, they were late for work that morning but they left and led everyone to believe that they were killed. Each time I read it, I notice something else that I’ve missed or which could be taken differently and I really like it. The man is not particularly likeable but I think he’s a bit guilty about what he did, it’s a very interesting poem, I’d love to read more dealing with the same thing.

There’s also one called ‘Also, It Is Lambing Season’ which I loved from the title alone, because I’ve been there, done that. It took me back to being on the farm, being out at six in the morning when it was a bit cold and there was dew on the grass and you’ve just delivered a steaming hot lamb. It conjured up all those memories and I loved it for that.

Ryan Van Winkle is definitely a poet that I’ll be looking out for again. There’s something interesting about the way that he writes. I just kind of wish that this collection had been longer.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas Countdown: Santa Buddy

I have to admit, I'm not a huge fan of the song Santa Baby. There are a couple of versions that I do like, but none of them enough to post on my countdown (though there is a Taylor Swift version that I like a lot).

Last year the local schools got together with the community band and a local choir and put on a fantasy Christmas concert (they did the same thing again this year, but without the schools joining in). One of the boys stood up to sing Santa Buddy, which I really liked but it's not until this year that I've actually looked it up to find that it's a more well known song that I was expecting (going to have to track down a CD with a copy of it on).

Book 90 of 2012: A Little Book of Christmas

A Little Book of Christmas by John Kendrick Bangs is yet another free Christmas ebook that I downloaded from Amazon for my Kindle. This method of finding Christmas reading material has been a little hit and miss so far, but this book fit my requirements exactly.

It’s a collection of four Christmas stories, with a handful of little poems thrown in as well. Most of the stories deal with people who find the spirit of Christmas or find a way to make Christmas special for other people. In one a man who is a bit of a Scrooge finds out that life for someone dressed as Santa collecting money on a street corner isn’t exactly easy; another has a little boy getting lost and a Santa helps him get home; yet another has a group of men stranded at their club in New York due to bad weather, when a frozen orphan is brought in by one of their friends and they set about making a good Christmas for the boy. There is also another one which breaks from the pattern slightly by having a man visited by a Christmas spirit who takes him to the house of a very rich child who is suffering at Christmas.

Three of the stories were very similar with various men assuming the role of Santa Claus and helping out others, but I didn’t find it repetitive. Although the outcomes were often similar the characters were very different and so it wasn’t really something I thought about much until after I’d finished the book and I was trying to write about it. I think the inclusion of the little poems helped as well, because they broke up the book and so you didn’t really notice the similarities between the stories at the time.

My very favourite story was the one that broke from the pattern, ‘The Child Who Had Everything But –’. The narrator of the story suggests that in the past a spirit has visited him and taken him to see the poor and the needy where he has done what he can to help, but this time the spirit takes him to a fancy house where a wealthy child lives. The little boy has everything, all manner of toys, but something is missing for him. It was a sweet little story and kind of sad. That said, I did love the three others as well, I think this one just stood out because it was so different from the others.

It was a very quick read. I started it at bedtime and I think I finished it the following morning. When it comes to books to read at Christmas time, I don’t really want anything that’s too long or that’ll be too heavy going, so this one was perfect. There was a healthy smattering of humour in the book as well, ‘The Child Who Had Everything But –’ had a little in-text nod to A Christmas Carol which was good. I ended up highlighting quite a few little bits as I was going along because they made me smile.

It’s definitely one that I’d recommend. It’s a nice quick read and sums up Christmas really well, it’s a time to be with people you care about and to do your bit for others. Although it was written in 1912, it doesn’t seem to have aged badly and I think it’s definitely one I’m going to hang onto for next year as well.

Whene’er I find a man who don’t
Believe in Santa Claus,
And spite of all remonstrance won’t
Yield up to logics laws,
And see in things that lie about
The proof by no means dim,
I straightway cut that fellow out,
And don’t believe in him.

Location 24

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas Countdown: Christmas Music Be Something More

I'm a bit of a fan of Taylor Swift, I love the sound of her music, so it's nice to see that she's done a few Christmas songs.

This one is in a similar sort of vein to Maybe This Christmas. It's basically about finding the true meaning of Christmas, it's more focused on the religious aspect of Christmas, but it's got a good catchy tune.

Book 89 of 2012: I Shall Wear Midnight

I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett is the very last of the Discworld books that I currently own (never fear, this won’t be the case for long, as soon as I’ve gotten Christmas out of the way I shall be ordering Snuff and Dodger which’ll mean I’ve got another month or so before I need to worry about removing the entire Discworld collection from my bookshelf to make room for something else). I actually bought this copy in Oxfam in Dunoon on the day that we got Tara, when I was reading the very first book in the Tiffany Aching series.

This one is the latest in the series featuring Tiffany Aching, in each book she’s a little bit older, putting her around fifteen or sixteen now. She’s back on The Chalk now, where she grew up, and she’s their witch. She’s like a little mini Granny Weatherwax, but there’s something going on that seems to be turning people against her and so, with the help of the Nac Mac Feegle, she’s got to deal with the Cunning Man (and with the fact that Roland is going to get married).

The problem with getting angry at Nac Mac Feegles was that it was like getting angry at cardboard or the weather; it didn’t make any difference. She had a go anyway, because by now it was sort of traditional.
Page 41

I kind of dragged out reading this one, mainly because it’s the last one of the Discworld books that I’ve got and I’ve not found the others in charity shops yet so I’ve been holding off buying them. I guess I wanted to make it last. That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it, I did. A good sign of that is the number of quotes that I’ve squeezed into my book journal, and also the fact that I had to keep on reading out random chunks of the book to Mr Click (I’m going to have to get him reading the Discworld books, it’ll save me so much time).

As she rolled up her sleeves, he said, ‘You’re not going to turn me into anything unnatural, are you, miss? I wouldn’t want to be a spider. Mortally afraid of spiders, and all my clothes are made for a man with two legs.’
Page 124

This one is quite a bit darker than the other Tiffany Aching books. I got the impression that this was something different right from the very beginning which has Tiffany dealing with the thirteen year old girl who has been beaten by her father, causing her to lose the baby that she was carrying. Tiffany’s come a long way from when she was a nine year old girl, beating up the Queen of the Fairies with a frying pan, and I suppose the readers who have followed Tiffany since then have grown up too. It took a little bit of adjusting to at the beginning.

‘Oh… well, only a tiny wee lie, ye ken, hardly a lie, just something that wouldnae be good for ye tae know.’
Tiffany turned to Mrs Proust, who was grinning. ‘The Nac Mac Feegles feel that the truth is so precious that it shouldn’t be waved about too much,’ she said apologetically.

Page 178

I really would have liked to have seen more of Nac Mac Feegle. Since The Wee Free Men there just never seem to be enough of them for me. I’d quite happily read an entire book just about them, so unless that happens I’ll probably never be satisfied. I liked that there was a trip to Ankh-Morpork in this book, and that we got to see the Watch, especially Mad Wee Arthur. Eskarina Smith from Equal Rites also crops up in this book. As I was reading it I was thinking ‘is it? It’s not. It won’t be. Ooh, but it might be’ and I was right.

Roland was staring at Tiffany, so nonplussed he was nearly minused.
Page 257

There was also a new character, at least I think he’s new, I don’t remember seeing him before, in the shape of Preston. He’s really smart and funny and a perfect companion to Tiffany, they complement each other. I really hope that there’s another Tiffany Aching book because I’d like to see more of them together. Though it wouldn’t surprise me if there wasn’t another one, the way this one ended seemed quite a good place to leave Tiffany and I don’t think I would be too disappointed if we didn’t see Tiffany again.

They landed by the pigsties, to the usual ferocious screaming of piglets, who believed that no matter what is actually happening, the world is trying to saw them in half.
Page 380

The copy I’ve got has different covers to the other ones I have in this series so far, and I really like it. The inside back cover shows all of them and each one has Tiffany in her green dress looking a little bit older. When they’re all shown together like that it has a good effect; though the cover of this book kind of gives away the ending, when you know what happens or if you look at it very carefully.

It is important to know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then you don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.
Page 423

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Book 88 of 2012: A Christmas Greeting, A Series of Stories

A Christmas Greeting was a free ebook that I downloaded from Amazon because you can never have enough books featuring Christmas stories. It was just a short little thing, only 85 pages, which I probably could have read in a day had I not started it last thing at night and struggled to get into it.

It features about seven stories which are told in the standard Hans Christian Andersen style. If you’ve ever read any of his other story collection, you’ll understand what I mean by this. Some deal with people but many of them feature animals or inanimate objects (like a tin solder or a lamp light). I’d got it expecting the usual fare but happening at Christmas, but instead it’s really just a small collection of his stories, probably originally published around Christmas time, hence the name.

Some of the stories were a little bit weird. There was one about a couple of rare snails who adopted a common garden snail as their son, then they found him a mate and died, and another about a family of swallows where the mother dies and one inherits the nest and is killed in a fire and the others meet up in a rose bush much later. They were whimsical but didn’t really have much of a point, you got to the end and were left wondering what the point of it was.

Most of the stories did have a strong moral or religious message, like the story of the red shoes which a girl spent all her time thinking about in church and ended up cursed to wear them and dance until she has her feet cut off. I remember reading that one in a collection a couple of years ago and thinking how gruesome the stories were, this time I found myself thinking more about the messages about church and things which seemed quite strong in this collection. Perhaps that’s why they were chosen for a little Christmas book.

There was the story of the Little Match Girl which I’ve always thought of as being a Christmassy sort of story (mainly because a variation of it features in Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather) so I was surprised when I was reading it to discover that it’s actually taking place on New Year’s Eve. The Red Shoes was also something of a favourite (probably because it’s quite dark and scary for a children’s story) and also Little Tuk because I like how he puts his school book under his pillow to help him learn the lesson, it’s something I used to do when I was much younger, hoping that the information would just leak out into my head during the night.

While I was reading this collection I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Tales of Beedle the Bard, I guess books like this were a strong influence in the writing of that so it’s not a huge leap to that. Of course, thinking of that made me want to read Harry Potter, so I guess I’ll have to dig those books out now.

He therefore put his geography-book under his pillow, because he had heard that was a very good thing to do when one wants to learn one’s lesson; but one cannot, however, rely on it entirely.
Location 650

Monday, 17 December 2012

Christmas Countdown: Maybe This Christmas

I'll confess, I'd never heard of this song before I watched the film Nativity! You hear it really briefly during the film, but I recently picked up the soundtrack and finally got to listen to it all the way through.

Normally I like my Christmas songs to be upbeat and jolly but this one is a little bit more sombre, but it's nice and hopeful. It's nice and gentle and the words are lovely.


Book 87 of 2012: Candide, or Optimism

Written by Volatire in the 17th Century, Candide, or Optimism is a satire of a popular philosophical concept of the period known as Optimism. The basis of this theory was that God does everything for a reason and only wants the best for mankind, therefore everything He does is for the good of man, even the bad stuff, because we mere mortals cannot begin to understand how a bad event will fit into the bigger picture. The book was also one of my OU course books for A230 (and I get to write an essay about it, woo hoo!) so there was no getting out of reading it.

It follows the character of Candide who is kicked out of his home by his girlfriend’s father and travels around the world going from one calamity to the other. Along the way he meets up with his former tutor, Pangloss, a proponent of the philosophy of Optimism and gradually run into everyone that they used to know back home, all of whom have been having an equally hard time of it.

I was surprised when I started reading this because I found Oroonoko a real drag and everything about this book suggested that it would be too. It’s about philosophy for a start, one of my least favourite subjects on the planet, it’s from the same sort of period as Oroonoko and deals with similar sorts of subjects. I was expecting this one to feel much the same as Oroonoko. But it was actually kind of good.

It’s amazing how funny Candide has remained today. There were a few moments when I was reading it and found myself thinking ‘am I taking this the wrong way, or is that actually meant to be funny?’ To begin with I thought that I was misunderstanding it, but it is actually that funny. It’s very tongue-in-cheek and is written a little like a fairy story or children’s tale. When you begin it there’s a sense that there’s going to be a moral outcome and it even begins ‘Once upon a time'…’

The notes were useful, though not entirely essential. There was surprisingly little that I struggled to understand, most of the important notes dealt with history and geography that I didn’t know about, so I was grateful for those. I did have the same problem with this book as with Oroonoko in that all the notes are in the back and when you’re reading it’s a little awkward to keep flipping back and forth. The book is divided into chapters, most of which are very short, and I think a different format, like footnotes or end of chapter notes would’ve helped there.

As much as I enjoyed it at the beginning, towards the end it did begin to drag. I get that Voltaire was making a point about how silly it was to say that all bad things happen for a good reason, but everyone just went from one really bad event to another really bad event. Each time another character appeared (or an old one reappeared) you had to go through all the horrible things that had happened to them. Things started to get a little boring for the last quarter of the book.

The philosophy kind of went over my head when I was reading it. I can’t help it, I seem to have this in-built resistance to the subject. I blame the year I had to study it at University when it was done in the most boring way imaginable and we only had three tutors for about ten classes so we were largely left to try and figure things out on our own. We had a very helpful lecturer who when you asked a question would ask it back at you prefixed by ‘what do you think…’ which if you’d known the answer to, you wouldn’t have asked the question. Anyway, enough of my philosophy rage. Once I studied the chapter in the course book, which rather surprisingly dealt quite a lot with the philosophy angle, I think I actually appreciated it a little more. Perhaps because it looked at the historical aspect as well as the philosophical one – I actually found myself explaining it to someone at work one Saturday, which I suppose shows that I’ve taken something in (or that I was seriously sleep deprived after getting up ridiculously early on a Saturday).

It was actually quite a quick read as well. I think that was helped by the really short chapters. You’d think ‘just one more’ and realise that it just finished over the page, so you’d read another and another. I read it in about three days, which took me by surprise as Oroonoko took me longer than that and was a much shorter book. I also found a lot of good quotes in this book. So far I’ve struggled to find quotable passages for my book journal, but this one had loads, which I think shows how much I enjoyed it compared to the other books so far.

‘There goes another one,’ said Cunegone. ‘There will be no pardon now; we are excommunicate, our final hour is at hand. What on earth has got into you, who were born so gentle, to do away with a Jesuit and a prelate in the space of two minutes?’ – ‘My dear young lady,’ replied Candide, ‘when you are in love, and jealous, and have been flogged by the Inquisition, there’s no knowing what you may do.’
Page 22

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Christmas Countdown: Christmas In The Sun

This one is especially for my husband (who's birthday it is today, Happy Birthday Sweetheart).

It falls under that heading of cheesy Christmas fare, but it's good fun, and it's kind of making fun of itself, which I like. It's about what Christmas is like on the other side of the globe and it riffs on Status Quo as well which is funny.

Project 365+1: Days 343 - 349

I've failed ever-so-slightly at taking photos this last week. I'm blaming this mostly on the fact that I've been working on my assignment to get it all submitted and when I've not been doing that I've been obsessive compulsively knitting or reading various Christmassy books. Hopefully this week I'll make up for it with some more interesting photos (which aren't all taken on my phone).

Day 343: What's in Santa's Sack?
This is my Santa totally finished, complete with Santa sack. Unfortunately, midway through knitting up the sack I realised that I was getting very low to the end of my ball of brown wool (which was less than 50g before I started and I used part of that on Santa's belt). Not wanting to be defeated I decided on a slight design alteration and made the top half striped.

Luckily Mr Click had bought some Terry's Chocolate Orange Segsations which filled it up perfectly. He's been standing on the back of my chair all week and we've been helping ourselves to chocolates as we go past (so he'll be needing to replenish his supplies soon). Finishing him has really motivated me to try some more stuffed toys, as you'll see below.

Day 344: Under the Christmas Tree
This is the view under our tree earlier in the week (when Mr Click finally brought down my presents to add to the collection). The ones wrapped in brown paper on the back right are actually Mr Click's birthday presents (which he unwrapped earlier on and loved).

I love how the presents gradually start to appear under the tree from the time it goes up until Christmas day. Our presents went under it a little earlier than usual because my cousin was visiting with her kids on the 1st and so I wanted to have their gifts under the tree. It would've looked a wee bit bare with just four wrapped parcels, so I bulked it out with Mr Click's birthday presents. I'm amazed that Tara hasn't taken it upon herself to try unwrapping any of them yet - she was very keen to help Mr Click unwrap his presents this morning!

Day 345: Heffalumps & Woozles
The last few weeks I've been revisiting some of my favourite childhood books. One of these was Winnie the Pooh which I've had a copy of on my bookcase ever since I was very small. Obviously, I'll post a review about it later on, but suffice to say, I love this copy. It's got a fairly plain cover but it's got lovely little illustrations in it (by E.H. Shepard, of course). I was surprised at how many little bits there were that I missed when I read it as a child, I get the impression they were there to amuse the adults reading the book to their children.

Day 346: Twelve Twelve Twelve
I felt like I had to take a photo to celebrate the special date (the last one that we'll get for quite a while, though 2013 will be notable for being the first year since 1987 where none of the year's numbers are repeated within itself). This one kind of diminishes the impact though, since there's only one twelve, but it's got Winnie the Pooh in it, so at least it's cute.

Day 347: Roley Poley Kid
This is my latest knitting project, which is now almost finished. This pattern is from the same book as my Santa one; when I was nearing the finish of Santa I asked Mr Click to pick what I should do next, so he picked the pattern which called for a rotund family with seven equally spherical children. This is actually a really good pattern for using up my random balls of wool because it's basically just asking for two contrasting colours for their clothes, plus a bit of black for their feet and something else for the hat. The parents will take a little bit longer, but if you had a day to spare you could easily make a kid in one day. I think it took me about three days (only having an hour or so at a time) to get to this point.

Day 348: Santa & Friend
I'm beginning to realise that my house will probably end up looking like it's been yarn-bombed or something before too much longer. Luckily after Christmas Santa will disappear into the cupboard with the other Christmas decorations (making room for more members of the Roley Poley family to hang out).

I wasn't sure which of the Roley Poley children this one was going to be (though I was sure it was a girl), so I got Mr Click to pick from the picture which one I should make. He picked the one with possibly the hardest hairstyle. It doesn't look like much here, but wait until you see what I did next. (By the way, those funny little sausages by her feet are actually her arms, they're one of the last things to be sewn on).

Day 349: Hair Today
And this is the next stage. I was a little bit sceptical when I was reading the instructions for the hair (not helped by the fact that I read this first half of one particular hairstyle, and the second half of another which made absolutely no sense at all). It's amazing how a bit of thread wrapped around a bit of card can actually take shape into something like this. It looks a little bit strange, but once the doll's got a hat it should look really neat.

The doll now has a face as well and I did start work on the hat, though completely messed it up so frogged it to start over.

Today has also been Mr Click's birthday so we've had a lovely day of presents and nice food and walks. It's going to be a busy week in the run up to Christmas so I'm hoping to get ahead with my OU (so I can relax over the holidays) and reorganise my knitting bag so I can bring it with me when I go out over Christmas to see if I can get the rest of the Roley Poley clan finished.

Book 86 of 2012: The Veiled Detective (The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes)

This was one of two Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes books that I got Mr Click for Christmas/his birthday last year. It was actually one of the first ones that we found when we discovered the series of books – they’ve mostly been published previously, but they’ve all been collected together under the Further Adventures title (with a really funky cover design), they all feature Sherlock Holmes but are written by modern authors.

The Veiled Detective begins with a Doctor John Walker, in Afghanistan, being disciplined for being drunk on duty. He is sent home in disgrace, during this journey he meets with one of Moriarty’s crew, who has a little job for him. A quick change of name and Doctor John Watson is ready to take on his first job, spying on one Sherlock Holmes, to prevent him from getting too close to Moriarty.

This book took me a little while to get into. It’s fairly obvious from the very beginning that John Walker is Watson, I actually read the opening chapter in an earlier book (where it was included as a sneak preview at the end of the book) and I figured it out back then. It’s kind of written like it’s a secret, but the blurb on the back gives it away so I don’t think it’s really a spoiler mentioning it here.

The plot kind of dips in and out of several of the original Conan Doyle stories, which I enjoyed. I like the books in this series that have done that. It’s clever the way that it linked into the well-known stories and sort of showed them from a different perspective. This book is told partly in third-person (following the main characters/criminals) and partly through extracts from Walker/Watson’s journal. I liked how in his extracts Watson mentions how he’s going to have to edit the events for publication, it’s a neat little handwave to get away with changing things around.

At some points it kind of annoyed me though. Holmes and Watson are kind of sacred literary characters, you shouldn’t mess around with them too much. I’ve got this mental picture of how they behave and the sorts of things that they do based on the original stories, so it was difficult to make that fit with the characters I saw in this book. As much as the book linked to what I’ve read previously, I didn’t like how it changed the character of Watson and also some of the things that Holmes did (which Watson also tidied up for publication). I think of them as ‘heroic’ (not really in the Greek sense, more of a general everyday sort of hero) and they weren’t particularly heroic in this book.

It was also a little confusing at times how the book jumped from Watson’s point of view to the third-person and back again. There was usually a heading announcing when the text was coming from Watson’s journal, but occasionally I overlooked it, or one chapter ended with Watson’s journal but the next one began from a different POV. It was just a little jarring and made it a little trickier to read quickly. There were a few little typos/printing errors as well which I just found annoying.

On the whole it was a good little read, Mr Click certainly seemed to enjoy it. Perhaps I just struggled with it a little more because I’ve read quite a bit of Holmes-related material over the last year or so and while I was reading this we were also watching one of the TV adaptations. I’ve developed quite a fixed image in my mind of how Sherlock Holmes and John Watson should behave and they didn’t quite meet my expectations in this book.

“It would be a miracle if it were true.”
Holmes grimaced. “Miracles are the work of God. I function at a more practical level.”

Page 30

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Book 85 of 2012: The Abbot's Ghost or Maurice Treherne's Temptation, A Christmas Story

At the beginning of November, wanting to get into the spirit of Christmas, I did a little search for free Christmas ebooks for my Kindle. I wasn't expecting to find a huge number of books, but it turns out that there are quite a few. I decided to go ahead and download all the ones I could find and sorted them into alphabetical order by author to read in between my proper book-books.

The first of these was The Abbot's Ghost, or Maurice Treherne's Temptation A Christmas Story which is by Louisa May Alcott. I was quite pleased that this was the first for me to read because I really enjoyed Under the Lilacs when I read it earlier in the year.

It follows a group of characters who come together for the holiday. The character of the title, Maurice, has been injured in an accident while protecting his cousin. He should have been the heir to a fortune but the money instead has been passed to the cousin he saved. His other cousin has been helping to nurse him, and in a slightly Downton Abbey-esque move has sort of fallen in love with him. He's fairly in love with her too, but her mother has convinced her not to go for a crippled man and so the only way he's going to get the girl he loves is if he can learn to walk again.

This book was a lovely little quick read. It's only 66 pages long, so it doesn't take very long to get through. I think I started it first thing in the morning before work and then finished it off in bed that night. I could have quite easily read it in just a couple of hours had work, NaNoWriMo and Open University course work not gotten in the way!

It was a suitably festive book. Exactly what I was looking for. It's set around Victorian times in the run up to Christmas so the focus wasn't entirely on Christmas, but it did get a little mention here and there. In fact, as the story built up, Christmas became more important to the story. To begin with I honestly thought there had been a mistake as it didn't seem very Christmassy at all, but it all worked very well in the end.

To begin with I was a bit confused about who was who and what was going on at the start. The story sort of jumps right into the middle of the action when everyone is gathered for the traditional family get-together, so lots of things are just explained as they go along. As confused as I was at points in the beginning, it certainly kept me reading and everything was revealled as the story continued. By about half way through I knew what was going on and all the confusion had gone away.

Normally I'm not a fan of ghost stories, but the fact that this was written by Louisa May Alcott kind of reassured me that this couldn't be anything too bad. It was a little bit creepy, especially the part of the story where they share ghost stories. For a long time I couldn't understand why the Abbot's Ghost got a mention in the title because it didn't seem to fit into the story at all, then around the middle it becomes a big plot point.

Like Under the Lilacs, there's a bit of a moral story here. I suppose part of that is due to the period that it was written in. Normally I read A Christmas Carol each year and I think that this book fits into a similar sort of category. I think that it might be one I'll have to revisit in the run up to Christmas in the future.

""Pity, with women, is akin to love, and she pities her cousin in the tenderest fashion. No sister could be more devoted, and as Maurice is a handsome, talented fellow, one can easily foresee the end, if, as I said before, no one interferes to disapppoint the poor lad again.""
Location 27

Christmas Countdown: Merry Christmas Everybody

I always think of this one under the same sort of umbrella as Wizzard's I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday, if fact I still sometimes get them muddled up. It's another one that you can't help but sing along to, that you find you know all the words, even if you only get to listen to it for one month every year.

It's such a shame that no one makes Christmas songs like this anymore, yeah, they're cheesy but they're so much more fun than the X Factor output.


Friday, 14 December 2012

Book 84 of 2012: Oroonoko

Somehow when writing in the number that each book has been this year, somewhere around The Hobbit I got a bit confused and somehow ended up with two books labelled as #83. I only just realised this as I was writing up my reviews and I noticed that something wasn't tallying up right. Hopefully now I've got it all straight.

Oroonoko is another of my course books for my A230 OU course. This one tells the story of Oroonoko, an African prince, who is captured and sold into slavery. When he is captured he is reunited with his love, Imoinda, and due to his royal status is able to avoid doing any actual work. However everything goes bad when he tries to lead an escape attempt.

I found this quite a difficult book to read. I'm not sure exactly what it was about it, but something about the way that it was written just seemed to make it very hard to follow. I think that part of it was probably to do with the age of the text, it just seemed to have great long paragraphs of description which doesn't normally bother me, but the language was old-fashioned which I think just made it that bit trickier.

The notes in the back of the book were definitely useful. There were things that I probably wouldn't have been able to understand without them. In a book of this age there's a lot of historical context that you need to be aware of, which are all important points to appreciate the story. Most of them were quite short and I think they might have worked better as footnotes. It's a petty little point but the book is quite thin and because I was using a brand new edition and it was kind of stiff, so it was really awkward flicking back and forth from the front to the back.

There was a LOT of history and geography to take in. For a long time I wasn't actually clear about what was happening and where it was taking place. Luckily studying the course materials helped to make it clear and the assignment is dealing with a passage from the text that I feel quite happy writing about now. In my book journal I wrote 'hopefully I'll appreciate it more when I understand the context' which I think I do, I still don't particularly like the book though.

The final point to make is that the introduction and notes kind of give the ending away. It doesn't really bother me when I'm reading a course book, but if I'd been reading it for fun it would have been really annoying, especially as I don't like holding off reading the introduction until after I've read the book. Sometimes I think that books like these should let the text speak for itself and put all the additional information in at the end.

"A poet is a painter in his way, he draws to the life, but in another kind; we draw the nobler part, the soul and mind; the pictures of the pen shall outlast those of the pencil, and even worlds themselves."
Page 3

Christmas Countdown: I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday

This is one of those songs that you have always known all the words to. It's on every Christmas Greatest Hits CD going and I was lucky enough to see Roy Woods performing it as the support act when I went to see Status Quo a few years back.

You've not really lived until you've heard around 3,000 Scottish people singing along to the chorus!


Thursday, 13 December 2012

Book 83 of 2012: Northanger Abbey

Somehow, in my youth, I managed to miss out on reading lots of these classic books. I was more into fact and fantasy than anything too old-fashioned, and as interested as I was in history, I just couldn't seem to get into anything by the Bronte sisters or Jane Austen. But over the last couple of years that's changed. Recently I've read Persuasion and I've read Wuthering Heights in preparation for my course, and it seems to have awoken something in me.

So when I needed a suitable book beginning with 'N' to complete my Autumn Challenge, I browsed through the free classics on Amazon, spotted Northanger Abbeyand thought 'what the heck'.
This book follows Catherine who comes from a well-off but not overly-rich family and who goes away to Bath with some family friends for a little break. While there she makes friends with Isabella Thorpe and meets Isabella's annoying older brother. She also makes the acquaintance of Henry Tilney, who is blatantly a much better make for Catherine than Thorpe. It's a nice little story, bobbing along as Catherine goes from Bath, to stay with Henry and his sister Eleanor, dealing with a bit of family drama before coming to a satisfying conclusion.

I was surprised by how much I actually enjoyed this. I really got into it and could have quite happily read it much quicker than I did. It's not really a very long book - mine was on the Kindle and it was only 171 pages. If I'd had a good quiet day to read it, I'd probably have done it in that time. I really liked the character of Catherine. I think part of the reason why I avoided these books when I was younger was because as a young teenager I wasn't really all that interested in boys and I thought that 90% of these stories were about girls moping after boys; while that can be an important part of the story, it's not the whole story.

Catherine seemed like a good strong character. She was quite complex, torn between what was right socially and what she wanted, as well as what other people wanted her to do and what she wanted herself. She desperately wanted to be liked and so was inclined to go along with what Isabella, Thorpe and her brother wanted, even though it wasn't necessarily what she wanted to do herself. It reminded me of situations I've been in myself and I thought I could relate to her well. It's funny considering how much I avoided Austen's books as a teenager, because I think this one would have had an important message for me.

Catherine is a bit flawed at times. I suppose part of that is because she's living in an era where there were certain standards and things that you could and couldn't say or do. She reads a lot and gets some funny ideas about things, in particular regarding General Tilney and his wife. It was kind of funny, but all the same, while I was reading it I was cringing, in a good way, because I was a bit embarrassed for her. It's probably a bizarre comparison, but she reminded me a bit of Mia in the Princess Diaries books, hehe.

Austen has a way of making the characters seem really real. You pretty much know as soon as the male love interest is introduced that he is going to be 'the one'. Henry Tilney is definitely that man; as soon as he appeared on the scene I kind of fell in love with him. In the same way, I totally disliked Thorpe from the start. I suppose in a way they were almost charicatures; one super nice, the other a huge creep, but I think it worked well and if I wasn't married and Henry Tilney showed up in my life, I'd be away with him in a heartbeat! Brand new fictional crush right there!

The ending felt a wee bit rushed, after all the build up, but I wonder how much of that was due to the posthumous publication of the book. Apparently it was the first book Austen completed for publication, but the bookseller it was sold to decided against publishing it and sold it back to Austen's brother, it was then revised and then published. I can't help but wonder if there was something missed out or changed at the end. All the same, I really loved it and I think this might actually be one of my favourite books that I've read this year!
"No one who had ever seen Catherine Morland in her infancy would have supposed her born to be an heroine."
Page 1

Christmas Countdown: Stop the Cavalry

I'd never actually seen the video for Stop the Cavalry until I started looking for it for this series of blog posts. Having watched it through to make sure it was the right version of the song, I have to say I think that it goes really well with the song.

I like the story that this song tells, I'm a big fan of songs with stories. Until now the only visual image I've had of this song is the version that my friend's younger brother did which involved the kids marching and then shaking their bums from side to side at the 'duba-duba-dum' bit, hehe.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Book 82 of 2012: The Hobbit

The Hobbit is a much loved favourite of mine, I reread it every year although normally I'd read it before The Lord of the Rings, knowing that I'd be wanting to see the film before it came out, I decided to hold off reading it for as long as I could this year.

For those not in the know, it follows the story of Bilbo Baggins, a Hobbit from the Shire who finds himself the reluctant participant in the adventure of a band of Dwarves who are off to try to reclaim their mountain from the dragon Smaug who has taken over. They're helped part of the way by the wizard Gandalf, who leads them through escapades with trolls, takes them to meet the Elves, and sees them safely through Goblin invested tunnels where Bilbo picks up a small golden ring which probably isn't anything too important.

As I was reading this I couldn't help but wonder what they were going to do with bits of it in the film. If anything it's made me more excited, because while I was reading it I kept on imagining what the film version might be like, kind of merging it with the pictures I already have in my head. I'm equal parts ridiculously excited and rather nervous. I'm sure it'll be great.

I've got about four different editions of The Hobbit and this was the first time that I read this particular copy, I've got an old favourite that I normally turn to, occasionally reading the big illustrated edition if I don't have to take it out of the house with me while I read. This copy came from a charity shop and has a lovely inscription on the front page: 'To Rosalind, Merry Christmas 1988 Lots of love, Nigel. (I'm sure it's a good book).' It seems pretty well read so I like to think that Rosalind liked it. This copy has Tolkien's own illustrations through the book as well which is a nice touch. I think it's really interesting to see how the author himself pictured the scenes he was writing, I've not seen many of those pictures before so it was nice to see that lots of times what I was imagining was similar to the pictures he'd included.

This is another book that I can't wait to share with my kids for bedtime stories. Each chapter is more or less a self-contained little adventure within the overall story; Bilbo meets the Dwarves, Bilbo leaves on his adventure, they all meet the trolls. It's nice and simple, and I love the descriptions in it as well. It's written in a lovely way, definitely one of my favourite comfort books. The only problem is, as soon as I finished it I wanted to go on ahead and read The Lord of the Rings!

"In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit..."

Christmas Countdown: Sweet Bells

I realise that I've rather neglected proper Christmas carols in my countdown so far. I suppose this reflects my upbringing, the only time I really listened to or sang them was at school during the run up to Christmas, they weren't fun in the same way as most of the others that I'm sharing here.

That's not to say I don't have my favourite carols, but I tend to listen to the other songs more. Anyway, this one is a proper carol, I mean the video below appears to come from Songs of Praise, so that's a pretty good indicator.

It's by a Yorkshire singer, Kate Rusby, who I first discovered singing the theme song to Jam & Jerusalem. She's got a brilliant voice and you can hear her accent when she sings, which is something I love. It makes her music really quirky and distinctive and this is one of my favourite songs of hers:

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Book 81 of 2012: The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories

The Melancholy Death of Oyster Boy & Other Stories is a very short collection of poems written by the film director, Tim Burton. I saw it in a charity shop in Ayr and the fact that it was by Tim Burton immediately caught my eye (as did the fact that it was only about 50p). It's a collection of poems about children who are all a little bit strange or weird or different; there's a girl who has lots of eyes, a boy who is a robot, and a boy who is an oyster. These poems tell their sad little stories.

I decided to read this for All Hallow's Read, because I'm a big baby and I really can't handle scary books, but I thought this was a good idea for a quirky Halloween read. It wasn't a long read, I was watching TV at the same time as reading and if I'd just sat and read it I'd have finished it much quicker. The poems were very funny, there were quite a few that I had to stop and read out to John.

I think that the first half of the book had my favourite poems. I especially like 'Stick Boy and Match Girl' (about a boy made out of a stick, who falls in love with a girl made out of a match, it doesn't end well), 'The Girl With Many Eyes' (about a girl with lots and lots of eyes) and my absolute favourite 'Robot Boy' (about a boy who is born made of metal and wires because his mother had an affair with something mechanical); it contains the brilliant verse 'The Smiths' lives were now filled / with misery and strife. / Mrs. Smith hated her husband, / and he hated his wife. / He never forgave her unholy alliance: a sexual encounter / with a kitchen appliance.'

Most of the poems rhyme, which I quite like because it reminds me of the poetry books I used to like when I was at school. They work well when they're read aloud, but some of the rhythm in them is a little bit irregular, perhaps it's to do with accents. I imagine some of them would sound better if read with an American accent.

The pictures in the book were also done by Tim Burton as well. They're really exactly what you'd expect of him and reminded me of the characters from Halloween Town in The Nightmare Before Christmas. Something about the poems reminded me a little of Coraline by Neil Gaiman as well.

I picked it up expecting it to be a book geared towards children, but it's definitely more of an adult's book. It's not a long read, but it's quirky and fun to pass a bit of time in between longer books. It's the sort of book I'd give a friend as a jokey little gift, but I'm glad I got it and I'm sure I'll read it again in the future.