Saturday, 31 March 2012

And Now For Some Stats

I've been meaning to make a post about this for some time, purely because it's something that amuses me. Having managed to get more or less caught up on my book reviews, I decided that now was a good time to do this.

One of my favourite things about Blogger is that you can check your stats to see which of your posts are most popular, what search terms are bringing people to your blog, where in the world your visitors are coming from and even what operating systems they're using. Yeah, I know, other blog providers let you do this as well, but I'm familiar with Blogger having spent most of my earlier years playing with LiveJournal, which doesn't have that feature.

Now it's fun to see where your visitors are coming from, but honestly my favourite thing is seeing which search terms are bringing people to the blog. Checking mine regularly has shown me that most of my visitors come from Google, which doesn't mean that it's showing up on the main Google search site. Most of mine actually come through the Google Image search.

I think it's hilarious to see which of my posts are most popular. I imagine my posts about the rats, certain book reviews, perhaps my Project 365+1 photos which I'm particularly proud of. But that's not the case. Last December I was watching and reviewing Christmas films, unfortunately I ran out of time to review every film that I watched (it was very time consuming tracking down pictures, writing out all my thoughts and getting it posted when I had access to internet). Despite this, these Christmas posts are still among my most popular:

Cap of my stats on the 25th of March
As you can seen, in a single week The Grinch and Home Alone 3 posts are my most popular. They get a fantastic number of page views per week. It's bizarre considering the fact that we're heading towards the end of March now, yet people are still searching for those films, or more specifically, pictures from those films!

As an aside, I'm quite pleased that my Post Op post is getting a good number of page views, I hope that continues. In the run up to having my own done I was desperately searching for blog posts and forum threads about the procedure I was having done, wanting to hear first hand from people who had it done. Hopefully my lengthy post could give a bit more information to someone in the same situation as I was.

My other favourite thing to do is to check out the search terms that have brought people to the blog as well. It's quite enlightening.
Cap of my stats on 25th of March
As you can see, a lot of people from Russia have been looking for pictures from The Grinch this week. It's quite funny really, I was expecting the random searches for Christmas film pictures would tail off as the year moved on, but it hasn't. I'm feeling rather curious to see whether this trend continues in the next three months.

Also, my favourite image search term is "cute rat pile" which brings up this image:
The definition of "cute rat pile"
I'm fairly certain the post it's bringing up is the one which I recently posted introducing all the girls. I mention them making a pile of shredded paper. But this combination of words has let to Bell's little mugshot appearing on page 6 of the Google image search.

I'm looking forward to seeing how my stats change in the coming months, the geek in me loves looking at statistics. I've noticed that the Terry Pratchett reviews get little spikes, I'm curious to see what future posts will do to my stats.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Book 24 of 2012: Stuart: A Life Backwards

I'll admit, until I read Stuart: A Life Backwards, by Alexander Masters, I'd never even heard of the book, since then it seems like it's everywhere (honestly, every charity shop we went in to on Saturday had a copy on its shelves). I got it as part of the Stranger Than Fiction series with ten other books (which I'd picked up mainly because of two or three titles which appealled to me in the set).
It's told by man who worked with the homeless and came to know a homeless, drug-addict named Stuart Shorter through a campaign to release two homeless shelter workers who had been imprisoned due to the sale of drugs taking place at the shelter they ran (despite their attempts to involve the police). Masters tells Stuart's story backwards, starting with the man as he was at the time that Masters knew him, then works backwards towards his childhood in an attempt to discover what it was that made Stuart into the man he became. It's an approach which Stuart requested himself, wanting the story to be presented as a murder mystery type story.
It's really not the sort of book that I would've chosen to pick up myself. As I said, it wasn't one that I'd heard of before and I wasn't sure what I would think of it when I started. As it happened, I found it quite compelling and finished it in just a couple of days. I suppose I probably wouldn't have picked it up because I wouldn't be so sure about the subject matter. A book about a homeles man, his drug problem, his chaotic life, it's not the sort of book I would normally seek out to read.

I honestly think that if it hadn't clearly been about a real man, I wouldn't really have believed it. If it had been presented as fiction, I would have probably thought it was unrealistic. That said, it was really interesting, if that's the right word to describe it. It certain made me think about homelessness and the people you see on the streets in a different way. I try to be as accepting as I can of things but it can be really easy to forget that there's a whole history which has led them to that point. This book demonstrates that really well.

I was a little dubious at the beginning when I read about how the story was told backwards. I couldn't really see how it was going to work. In actual fact it wasn't told entirely backwards, there were little jumps back to the present. There were a couple of times when I found it a bit confusing but I adjusted quickly.

It was fairly easy to guess what happened to Stuart as a child, there were little hints all the way through, but that didn't lessen the tragedy of it all any more. It made me feel like there was another story in there which could have been told. If that was what led to Stuart's issues, what caused those of the person who caused Stuart's. It's just made all the more tragic by what happened to Stuart at the end (and beginning) of the book.

I'm not sure whether it's a book that I'm likely to revisit in the future, as I said, it's not really the sort of book that I would normally pick up and read. One thing that did feel a little bit superfluous were the cartoon pictures with little captions underneath. They weren't featured in the book with any sort of regularity and I just didn't really appreciate them.

It has been adapted into a TV drama featuring Benedict Cumberbatch which I would quite like to see, I'd be interested to see how they made it work. I don't remember it being on when it first aired, but I suppose it wouldn't necessarily have stood out to me as something I'd normally watch.
"Of course everyone thought it must have been suicide. There was a bitter, pessimistic satisfaction in thinking that his life had been melodramatic and tragic to its last split second. But in fact there was no good specific reason to believe that it was."
(Page 290)

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Book 23 of 2012: The Wee Free Men

I've been hurtling through the remaining Discworld books recently. The reading bug caught up with me again this March, presumably because I have an assignment that I should really actually be working on instead so therefore everything is looking much more interesting and fun instead. It makes me a little bit sad to think that I'm getting through them all so quickly because I get excited each time I come around to my top shelf and the next Discworld book.

Anyway, The Wee Free Men is the second of the young adult Discworld novels and the first featuring Tiffany Aching. Tiffany is a young witch (although when the book begins she isn't really yet) whose brother is stolen by the 'Queen' and who she sets about trying to rescue with the help of a host of small blue pictsies.
When I met Terry Pratchett, many, many years ago, The Wee Free Men had been published fairly recently (in fact, I think that perhaps it was part of the publicity for the book that he gave the talk I attended). I remember him talking about the idea of the pictsies but aside from brief mentions of them in other books in the series, I hadn't read this one before, so this was my first real introduction to them.
"Anything could make Wentworth sticky. Washed and dried and left in the middle of a clean floor for five minutes, Wentworth would be sticky. It didn't seem to come from anywhere. He just got sticky."
(Page 11)
I actually have a funny feeling that he read the first chapter to us when we met him. It was the strangest thing reading it for myself. Either I've picked it up and just read the first chapter on my own at some point, or he read it to us. I knew exactly what was going to happen before I read it.

I have enjoyed the previous glimpses of the Wee Free Men in previous books, but it was really good to learn more about them. Terry Pratchett has such a fantastic way of creating the whole Discworld, I loved the whole social structure of the pictsies, with the Kelda and all the men. I loved the way they spoke too. They're deliberately meant to be a bit of a mickey take of Scots and it's done very well. I love the way that the accent is reproduced in the book. There are a couple of points where Tiffany accidentally slips into their dialect, which is hilarious because I've been here for almost half my life and I find myself doing it still but I'm so English it sounds ridiculous.
"'We'd best move on. We lost some of the lads.'
'You mean they're dead?' Tiffany whispered. The sun was shining brightly again, the skylarks were back... and people were dead.
'Ach, no,' said Rob. 'We're the ones who's deid. Did ye not know that?'"
(Page 119)

As always, the humour is brilliant. I know that Discworld humour isn't for everyone, but it's so clever. I always like it when I get a little nod or reference to something in the real world. For example, the Wee Free Men make use of war poets, who recite (bad) poetry to scare off their enemies. These poets are called Gonnagles and the particular one who crops up in this story is called William, a little nod to William McGonagall (seriously, if you've never heard of him, Google him).
"But she thought there should be a word meaning 'a word that sounds like the noise a thing would make if that thing made a noise even though, actually, it doesn't, but would it if did'."
(Page 137)

I'm really looking forward to the next Tiffany Aching book (A Hat Full Of Sky) which I believe I started reading or at least skimmed through a few years back but when I realised it was the second in the series, I put it down. I love her as a character and as I'm a big fan of the Witches books, I'm looking forward to seeing how they progress. I feel like of like Equal Rites could have worked well as a young adult book. I think these would also be a good introduction to the Discworld books for someone who didn't know where to begin, starting with The Wee Free Men and then moving onto the original Witches books. It's a good bridge in the series, if you don't mind going backwards.
"Somewhere a voice went: 'Ooooooooooooeeerrrrrr...'
Rob struggled in Tiffany's grip. 'Quick, put me doon!' he yelled. 'There's gonna be poetry!'"
(Page 198)

And as a random, totally unrelated note. I very nearly picked up and American copy of the book while I was in Oban on Saturday. I had no reason to buy it but I did get very excited at first because Oxfam had a massive stack of Discworld books (which went more or less up to the same place in the series that I've got up to, so no cheap secondhand Discworld books for me). Having a totally different cover to all the others meant that it just stood out and caught my eye.
I've now finished the entire first shelf of my bookcase now, which means it won't be too long before I'm actually finished with all the Discworld books to date. Next up is one of my favourites, Monstrous Regiment which I've only read once, but absolutely loved. I'm also heading out of the familiar now. I think the most recent book I read in the series was Going Postal then I didn't have time to read them, or didn't have the books available, and then I made the decision to read the whole series in order. It won't be long until I'm done with them all. Which is a bit of a sad thought.
"'A few sharks were involved, that kind of thing,' said Not-as-big-as-Medium-Sized-Jock-but-bigger-than-Wee-Jock-Jock.
'Oh, aye, a few sharkies,' said Rob Anybody shrugging. 'And one o' them octopussies -'
'It was a giant squid,' said William the gonnagle.
'Aye, well, it was a kebab pretty quickly,' said Daft Wullie."
(Page 295)

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Project 365+1 Days 78 - 84

It's been another busy week here (is it just me or has this year just been one busy week after another?) but the days are getting longer, brighter and hotter so I suddenly seem to be feeling more energy for getting out and doing things. I'm going to try and challenge myself to get outside and take as many photos out there as I can this week (if nothing else, just to make people who don't live where I do jealous)!

Unfortunately, most of the pictures I took this week were taken indoors, well into the evening and often at the very last minute before I went to bed... they aren't particularly interesting.
Day 78: Locked Up Tight
This is how we've resorted to keeping Carol in the cage. Not only do we have cable-ties, we've also got some letter-clip type things. They don't actually fit over all the bars very well, they don't line up well enough for that. But they're an extra thing that she would have to remove before she could open the door again, so hopefully they'll slow her down. So far they seem to be working.
Day 79: Empty Plates & Full Bellies
Monday night, Mr. Click made himself a vindaloo. We've had the jar sitting in the cupboard for ages just begging to be used up (I don't eat the stuff myself, I can't handle anything spicier than a Balti). So while I was chowing down on leftover roast (and numerous yorkshire puddings, and some of his rice... I was hungry) he ate his vindaloo. The house smelt of curry until the next morning, but he seemed to enjoy it. ;-)
Day 80: Goodies
Won some goodies in a quiz, so now I've got another hot chocolate mug. I have practically one for every day of the week now. Especially as while shopping in Oban yesterday we picked out our Easter Eggs for each other, both of which came with mugs. I'm rapidly building quite a collection. We're going to have to drink some of the alcohol we've been storing up on a shelf in the kitchen, so we've got somewhere for all these new cups to go!
Day 81: Sport Relief
It was also Sport Relief this week. In true charity style, we had a sporty dress up. Unfortunately, I own no sporty gear. For a long time my two top choices were swimsuit, dressing gown, goggles and towel (so I could be a swimmer) or my Red Cross gear and a first aid books (so I could be on hand to help injured sportspeople). Then Mr. Click managed to find a couple of cheap football tops in a charity shop (99p each!) so I was set.

Of course I had no idea who the teams or names were. I wore my hair in plaits (because the last time I actually played football I was probably about eight) and ended up going for the black and white top with some unpronouncable name on the back. It was all for charity after all. ;-)
Day 82: Sequel
This week I've been reading Inkspell, and let me tell you, that's no easy feat. As much as I'm loving the book, it's an absolutely beast. My copy is a hardback and it's so heavy and big it just won't fit into my work bag (but obviously, I'll talk about that more later when I review it ;-)). But it is truly beautiful.

I couldn't quite get the picture I wanted for this one. My battery died shortly after trying to take my first photo and I couldn't get the lighting right. I wanted it to look a bit softer and I'd left it too late to play around with it too much, so in the end I just snapped a picture with the flash and went to bed.
Day 83: Shopping List
We planned a trip to Oban yesterday. It's been an absolute age since the last time we were up there (read: about 18 months!) so I had the trip planned with military precision. Morning was going to be for charity shopping, afternoon for doing the main shop and then on the way back we'd stop at Inverary and have fish and chips from Mr. Pia's (seriously, go there, best fish and chips in Scotland).

Now we never go shopping without a list. At some point I really need to write a post about how we're ever-so-slightly frugal (to the point that we don't have a phone line, or a TV, or internet access). But we have a way of making a list. I'm sure other people just sit down and make a shopping list. We make a list of what we've got first of all, on the back of the list, then we come up with some meal ideas (usually to use up whatever we've got left), then we make the list.

We've got it down to a fine art now. We used to also write down the prices from the receipts of a previous shop, so we could compare prices, but we don't do that so much now.

The trip to Oban was lovely. Scotland gave us a sneak peek of summer (16 degrees at one point during the day), in fact it's still mostly here today. We went to every charity shop (and bought something in almost every one), got lots of books and DVDs and generally had a lovely relaxing day. And did all our shopping in record time.
Day 84: Vital Spark
And then when we headed home, got as far as Inverary, parked up (yay for free parking between November and March) and got our fish and chips, or chips with cheese in my case. Then we strolled down to the front and ate them. As soon as I saw the Vital Spark I knew I had to take a picture of it. Neil Munro, who created the Para Handy series was born in Inverary, hence the boat being there. And our local drama group put on a performance of one of the Para Handy plays last year.

The water was so still and calm and the sun was shining. It was the perfect end to a perfect day. And then we bought sweets from the sweet shop which just topped it all off nicely.

We're planning another spontaneous trip back up that way in the next month, one Saturday when the weather is nice.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Book 22 of 2012: Inkheart

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke is a book that I've been wanting read for ages. I did start it once before but had a bit of a falling out with the person who bought it for me, set it aside and never really got around to picking it back up again. I did love the film and when I was rearranging my bookcase a couple of months ago I decided to pop Inkheart on there for when I'd finished with my Tolkien books.

For those of you who haven't read the book/seen the film, it's about a man who has the ability to read objects out of books. When he reads, things will appear in our world from the book he has read. One day, however, Mo accidentally reads his wife into Inkheart and brings three of the characters out. Flashforward and Capricorn, one of the bad guys he read out of the book is looking for Mo and his daughter, Meggie, gets swept into the whole scheme.
Now the first thing that I have to say about this book: It's a truly lovely looking book. I know you mustn't judge a book by its cover, but your really can't help but fall in love with such a lovely cover as this one. The book is also full of beautiful illustrations, a little decoration on the chapter heading and a little picture at the end of each chapter.

I really really enjoyed this book. It's clearly written by someone who loves books and reading. No one could come up with the descriptions used by Cornelia Funke without having a great deal of love for books. If I had read this book a little earlier I probably would have chosen this as my Book & Film Adaptation Tree book because I could quite easily have underlined the better part of this book to highlight my favourite passages. I could imagine the bits that other people would have liked, as they all share the same sort of love and books.

The quotes at the beginnings of the chapters were also a nice touch. All of the characters mentioned various books in the course of the story as well. As I read, I made a note of those which earned a mention and I've added them to my book journal in the 'To Remember' section I've give myself (my 'To Read' section fills up a little too quickly, 'To Remember' is a little bit more long term, I'm going to read them at some point, but maybe not as soon as those on the 'To Read' list). They really added to the story, you could kind of guess at what would happen in the chapter based on the quote which was used to start the chapter. Cornelia Funke must be very well read to come up with all those little links to the story.

I think it's also worth mentioning the fact that this book has been translated from the original German. Something needs to be said of Anthea Bell's work in translating such a lovely story. I should have mentioned something about translations when I reviewed The Diving-Bell and The Butterfly (translated by Jeremy Leggatt). Obviously, I've never read the original, and it's unlikely that I will ever be proficient in either language to do that, so I'm going to have to rely on translators to get the full essence of the story. It says a lot about the translator to be able to capture the story and make it all seem so magical. I just hope that the next books in the series will be translated by the same translator, or if not, that they'll stay very close in style.

As a Lord of the Rings fan, of course I picked up on every little nod to Tolkien's books. I was especially pleased at the fact that Meggie and Mo used Elvish letters from Lord of the Rings to send secret messages... I use the same letters for secret notes myself. I adapted the Dwarves Runes when I was about 14, and more recently I'd adopted a Tengwar script for the same purpose. It helps to keep private diaries private.

My copy of the book also has some extra pages in the back; little bits of information about the author, about the books that the characters had mentioned, other little facts and puzzles. It was geared towards children but I do enjoy getting a little something extra from a book. It did also have a couple of random chapters from Inkspell (the next book in the series) which I wasn't so enthused by.

I used to really enjoy samples of the next book. The Kathy Reichs Temperance Brennan series have the first chapter of the next book at the back and I used to like getting a sneak peek of what was to come, largely because I was going straight on to read the next book, so could read it at the end of the book then skip that bit of the next one. Now each time I read a book, I move onto an entirely new series, so by the time I come around to the next one I have to read that chapter again anyway to refamiliarise myself with the story.

The problem with throwing in (as far as I remember) Chapters 2 and 7 is that they're not really anchored to anything. I didn't really get into them because I wasn't sure what was going on, so I found myself skimming them more than anything. I'd rather have the first two chapters rather than two which don't follow on from anything and kind of give away bits of the plot (which are admittedly early in the book so won't give away too much). And I know, no one was holding a gun to my head making me read the teaser chapters, but they were there and I kind of felt compelled to read them.
"Meggie has inherited her love of books from her father. When she took refuge from a bad dream with him, nothing could lull her to sleep better than Mo's calm breathing beside her and the sound of pages turning. Nothing chased nightmares away faster than the rustle of printed paper."
Page 9

Monday, 19 March 2012

Project 365+1 Days 71 - 77

This week hasn't been a very interesting week photograph-wise. Mainly because once I'd had my op I didn't really feel in the mood for doing anything creative and I didn't have the energy to go anywhere which might yield a nice photo. Most of the week I didn't even carry a camera with me (normally I at least have my little Canon Ixus in my bag). As yesterday's post was rather epic, I'll keep this one a little shorter.
Day 71: Ready To Go
On Sunday night, full of nerves, I packed up my dressing gown, fluffy socks, a spare change of clothes and the letter from the hospital and dumped it all in a backpack in the living room ready for the following day. I was worried about running out of time the following morning, which was ridiculous because we ended up with oodles of time to spare.

My plan had been to take out whatever I needed from the bag to leave in my locker at the hospital, then leave the backpack with Mr. Click during the operation (or even get him to pop it back in the car until I was ready to go). But I ended up carting it in with me each time they called me through. Then it got stuck in my locker for the op anyway. Carrying it around afterwards while I was waiting to be discharged was not much fun, so if I ever have to have that done again, I'll make sure I have a smaller bag.
Day 72: ID
I kept my ID bracelet on for the rest of the day after my operation, mainly because I'd forgotten I had it on. I swapped it over to my other wrist for this photo. Swapping it over worked quite well for hiding my full name and other details which were on it. You can kind of see the hole on the back of my hand where they finally got the canula in, the first attempt was further down on my wrist.

I didn't realise it at the time but I was also still wearing one of the cardiac monitor pads on my left hand side. I managed to get changed at the hospital, then at bedtime and managed not to notice it until I woke up in pain in the middle of the night. I've saved both popper pad and ID bracelet for posterity. If I'd known I still had it I would've tried to incorporate it into this picture.
Day 73: Drugs and Dressings
Noticing a theme with this week's photos yet? ;-) These are my other little freebies from the hospital. Painkillers, anti-inflamatories and dressings. The fact that I was only given two dressings left me in a bit of confusion regarding my wound care because I didn't really take in all that I was told during the discharge (if I ever have to have an op under a general again, I'm really going to push to have someone else in the room with me when they go through all the discharge stuff)! Luckily my father-in-law has loads of funky waterproof dressings which he donated to me and the internet helped me to work out my wound care.
Day 74: A Life Backwards
My reading material following the op (on the day itself I was reading The Wee Free Men) but I'll post reviews and my thoughts later on. This picture was another of the ones I took during the last week where I just got into position where I thought whatever I was taking the picture of would look good, focused and took the picture. It was a bit hit and miss. There were several where the book was way at the bottom and some where nothing was in focus, but on the whole it worked well. It's a method I've also employed for photographing the girls; you end up with loads of crappy photos but occasionally (like my favourite photo of Bell) you get something that looks really good.
Day 75: Watching
When I started working at my current job, I decided I needed a watch. Mainly because otherwise I would be late back from my breaks because I didn't have any way of checking the time, or the clock in the canteen would be different to the clock at my desk and I'd be back ridiculously early. So Mr. Click got me a lovely little watch with a purple strap, which has been falling apart for the past few months.

The hole I used it on got larger and larger until it stretched and joined up with the next hole (meaning it was loose and spun around and often fell of my wrist). I lost it several times. The purple pattern started peeling off and then the coating on the fabric started coming off too (and now litters my desk at work). The watch is still fine, but the strap has just about had it.

To celebrate my first day back at work after my op, Mr. Click decided to treat me to a new one. This time it's digital (which does make it slightly easier to judge my breaks) plus it has a stopwatch (making it even easier because I can set the timer going and know exactly how long I've had). It has a light (I suppose I can use that if we have any more of those powercuts we had earlier in the year). And it beeps every hour... I think it might have an alarm too. I love it.
Day 76: Follow Up
And you thought I was done with all the medical/hospital-related photos, didn't you? At work on Friday I scanned through my schedule to work out when my follow up was likely to be. On the day I'd been told it would be about 6 weeks. Later that day this letter arrived and lo and behold, it was exactly the same day as I had predicted. We're planning a repeat of our last trip (the one before the op) with some shopping and a nice meal before we go through for the appointment to find out what the next step will be in treatment.
Day 77: And Another Delivery
Earlier in the week I got an email from saying that they had a buy-one-get-one-free offer on Disney blu-rays. Now we're huge fans of Disney; this Christmas our main presents to each other were Disney blu-rays (I got Mr. Click Disney Pixar ones, he was responsible for getting me animated films). We're still a little light on some of the Pixar blu-rays, so I took advantage of the offer and ordered two that I'd almost got Mr. Click for Christmas. Up is one of his favourites (and mine too) and A Bug's Life is one he's never seen but which  I love and have been wanting to rewatch for ages.

And that's my week in photos. Hoping that I might get a few opportunities for some slightly more interesting photos in the coming week. What with the longer days, a three-day weekend and my tummy button feeling more healed, I'm feeling slightly optimistic.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

A Rude Awakening

The usual Project 365+1 picture post has been delayed due to an unexpected visitor in our bedroom last night. It'll be posted as normal tomorrow (I'm writing it ahead of time now that I've solved the problem with the scheduled posts), in the meantime I'll share a little story about our rats.

I've never really written a post about the girls. They've cropped up in my photo posts and I've been planning a post about them for ages, but never gotten around to writing it.

When we got them, we never really intended to come away with four girlie rats. We'd wanted some company for Mikey and planned to get a couple of little boys who could live next door and come out for cuddles at the same time. We considered the possibility of getting three, if there were three needing a new home. So when we saw three snuggled up together, we knew it was meant to be. Until a fourth little baby rat popped up. By that point we'd fallen in love with the three and couldn't pick just two out of four. So they all came home.

I'm so glad we got them when we did, we lost Mikey a couple of weeks later and they filled the hole that he left. My first rats were girls, but I don't think they were ever anywhere near as crazy as these girls are now. Right from the start they've had really distinctive little personalities.
We've got Holly, she's our little fatty. She's white with a little orangey-tan coloured head but without a stripe extending down her back. She's got pink eyes and can be quite nervous of loud noises. She loves her food. She's inclined to nip through the bars occasionally and likes going up/down your top, but doesn't understand that it's not acceptable to dig skin out of the way when you get to an obstruction, like an armpit! Considering her size, she's very agile and likes getting up onto the back of the sofa and snuggling up in the hammock at the top of the cage.
Ivy looks very similar to Holly and when viewing them both front on (i.e. when they're just a little head peaking out of a tunnel) it can be tricky to tell them apart. Ivy is much skinnier than Holly, in fact, since Bell has bulked out a bit, Ivy's probably the smallest of the four now. She's got a tan head but she also has a little broken stripe down her back. Her eyes are pinker than Holly's and she's even more nervy of loud noises. She also hates the flash on my camera which means I don't have many photos of her because I hate to stress her out. She's a proper shoulder rat though, of the four, she favours the shoulder most and will happily sit up there when we get her out. The slight downside is that she usually gets tangled in my hair and needs help getting out.
Bell is the pretty rat. I feel mean singling out one rat over the others for being pretty, but everyone who sees Bell's marking comments on how pretty she is. She's white with a grey stripe down her back which forks at her head (it's also got a slight hint of brown in it as well). She used to be our tiny rat but a recent growth spurt has taken her into third place and she was also, like our old Mikey, a mousey rat; she looked more like a little mouse than a rat. Her face has filled out now and she'd adopted a grown up ratty walk now. She doesn't nip fingers through the bars (though she might give them a taste, just to check) and she likes to climb up your shirt and give you kisses (or lick your lips if she thinks you've been eating something nice and should share).
And lastly, there's Carol... Carol... Carol... Carol. What can I say about this little girl. She's white all over with a little patch of grey just in front of her ear (which you can kind of see in the picture above). She's always been the most forward of the girls. Right from the first day we had them, she mastered the art of jumping in and out of the cage. She likes to have her nose rubbed through the bars of the cage and she has amazing strength in her little legs - she's able to hang upside down and travel from one side of the cage to the other. She normally appears half asleep in the hammock, just a little white ball of fluff; she's the last to the food bowl in the morning because she's always so sleepy. She seems to think that she's a little person, right down to the way she stands upright on her back legs and watches the world going by. She's not quite like the others, though it's hard to say exactly why, she just isn't quite as 'rattie' as they are.

In the early hours of this morning our little Carol provided us with a rather rude awakening. I was woken at around 3:20am by Mr. Click anouncing "There's a rat in the bed!" The covers were thrown back and by the time I'd pulled myself upright (mumbling "what?!" and "is this a dream?") he'd switched the light on.

He then announced that it was Carol and that the cage was open. The whole thing felt very surreal and I was convinced I was dreaming. I frequently have very vivid dreams which feature our girls so I decided that this was clearly not real and all I needed to do was wake up. In the following hour I must have told Mr. Click that I didn't like this dream and that I wanted to wake up about a dozen times!

When I heard that the cage door was open I immediately panicked, with good reason. Bell was the only one with the sense to stay home. Carol had managed to get into bed with us, pretty amazing considering the fact that their cage is in a little alcove in the hallway between the bedroom and living room and to get onto Mr. Click's chest she'd had to scale the duvet where it hangs onto the floor. When he woke she'd been on his chest, but I suspect that she may have run down the bed because I vaguely remember the sensation of something moving alongside my back, presumably before she woke Mr. Click up.

Carol was rather unceremoniously dumped back in the cage and once Bell was located (and Mr. Click had searched inside the cage for Holly and Ivy) the door was shut. He looked behind the cage, no sign of the girls. We both set about searching, calling their names and (in my case) crawling along the living room carpet looking under the sofa, behind bags and units. I checked the kitchen and had moved on to the bedroom when Mr. Click called that he'd found them.

Now we are very lucky in that as far as we're aware, there are no holes or boards they could have gotten under. It's highly unlikely they would have been able to leave the house and my main worry was that they would be under the bedroom furniture, which would be awkward to move without injuring them.

It turned out that they were in fact in the first place we'd looked. Hiding down the back of the cage. They point blank refused to come out, in the end it took some maneuvering of the cage before Mr. Click could grab Holly and I could grab Ivy and after a quick once over we popped them back into the cage. I should note here that crawling around on the floor and grabbing terrified rats before 4am when you've got stitches in your tummy is a little bit uncomfortable. Of course, at the time I felt nothing because I was panicking about my ratlets, by the time I got back to bed, I was really feeling it!

We sat and watched to make sure that no one was too traumatised by the events. Gave them a bit of cracker each and decided that obviously, when the cage was closed up it hadn't latched properly and so when one of the girls had climbed up the bars it had fallen open. When the door is open, it's an invitation to come out as far as they're concerned. As we watched Carol decided to show us her latest party trick, and it's a pretty good thing she picked then to do it because otherwise we might have had to go through the same routine at 6am!

Carol's latest trick involves climbing onto the front door of the cage (her prime position for begging to come out; she knows if she chews on the bars there for long enough I'll freak out about her teeth and get them out for cuddles). Now what she does is sticks her nose through the bars at a particular spot, and wiggles, and chews, and wiggles a bit more. And the then cage door pops open with her on it and she's able to waddle off to ratty freedom... or our bed... whichever.

We closed the cage up and she did it again. Not just a fluke. Not a problem with the door. It was perfectly secure, it's just that the rat has figured out what to do to open it!

I tried hooking one of the shower curtain rings onto the door, normally use them for hanging things in their cage as they're plastic and fairly durable against rattie teeth. No use, she once again demonstrated her little trick. By this point I was having visions of one of us having to sit up next to the cage all night making sure that she didn't keep popping the door open.

Then I hit on the idea of using a ring from a key ring. It worked to a point. We got back into bed. Lay there nervously waiting to hear if the door popped open again. Five minutes, ten minutes, nothing. I began to think about dozing off, by this time it was after all getting on for 4:30am - a full hour after the initial visit from Carol. And then, DING cage door opened again.

This time I got out and we fastened up the door with cable-ties, put a heavy transporting case on top and went back to bed. It was not a good night's sleep. We both kept dreaming that the rats were out. This morning I was kind of surprised to see them all curled up in the hammock, fast asleep. I counted them about three or four times. We managed to make it through the night with four rats!

Once I'd gotten over the shock I cable-tied up the back door and as soon as I got online I asked around and it was suggested that we use some metal clips and maybe modify the door clip slightly to foil any further plans Carol has for late night escapades.

One thing that I can't help but think of is the fact that Carol, the sleepiest rat in the world, when faced with freedom ended up going to bed. I just hope if she does it again, she doesn't encourage her sisters to go exploring with her. Finding one rat in your bed is quite enough excitement for one lifetime, thank you very much!
Carol, several weeks ago, plotting her breakout while waiting for a cage clean

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Book 21 of 2012: Grave Secrets

Today has been a good day for my belly button; I managed to get my trousers done up (and kept them done up all day) and I've been able to walk around with my back straight. This means that the swelling has gone down now which is very good. I was beginning to panic a little bit because my tummy was getting kind of firm and swollen, I was worried that I'd have to track down some larger trousers for work next week.

I've also managed to go the better part of today without taking any painkillers/anti-inflammatories. So I'm anticipating that my actual recovery time will be somewhere about the seven days recommended by the leaflet they gave me at the hospital. I can count the number of times I've sneezed this week on one hand, it's still very uncomfortable, but getting easier. The one thing I'm still finding is that I'm exhausted, the smallest thing seems to sap me of energy, I'm putting that down to the fact that I'm not able to bend/sit/stand/stretch, the way I normally would. It's tiring. I think if I'd taken the week off to recover I think I'd be feeling less wiped out by it all.

Aside from that, I'm doing well. I'm needing to do a bit of work to get caught up with my OU that I've sort of slipped behind on in the last couple of weeks. I have a big assignment due at the beginning of next month and part of it requires me to find a text to compare to one provided. This seems to have awoken an insatiable desire in me to read anything and everything.

I was looking miserably at my bookcase this morning thinking how many books I still had to read and how little time I had to get through them all. It's a little ironic considering the fact that I've already read over half of my book target for the year, I've nearly filled up the 'S' section of my book journal, and I've already read more books in less than three months than some people read in an entire year. Reading has become a bit of an addiction for me; I try to regulate myself, but sometimes I just get carried away!

So, onto Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs, the fifth in the series of Temperance Brennan books. This one sees her in an entirely new location (for most of the book); neither Montreal or North Carolina, but Guatemala. Of course, with Tempe, things are never simple. She's out there to excavate a mass grave, but in the process is sucked into a suspected serial killer case. My copy also has a note stuck in the front of it regarding a driving lesson that I'd booked many, many years ago.
Thankfully I've reached a point in this series of books where I've forgotten exactly what is happening in the books. Bits do come back to me as I'm reading, though not always the whole solution so I still don't know exactly what's going to happen. The last time I read this book was way back in 2007, so the last five years have done wonders at restoring the suspense in these stories. For the most part, I'm feeling like I'm reading the book for the first time.

When I'm reading one of these books for the first time (or if it feels like the first time because it's been half a decade since you last read it - seriously? where have the last five years gone?) one of the things that always stands out to me is the way Kathy Reichs does cliffhangers. I swear it's the reason why I was able to read this one so quickly. With the earlier books in the series I didn't feel that same urgency to find out 'whodunnit' because I could remember perfectly well thankyouverymuch.

When you've forgotten who the murderer is, it's so much easier to get lost in the tale. Kathy Reichs has this wonderful was of ending a chapter on a sort of dun dun DUN! moment, so after you've told yourself 'just one more chapter' you end up having to read on to find out what the outcome of the moment it. Of course, it's usually something which is quickly explained in the next chapter, although sometimes it's cunningly not revealed until the following page so you can't just scan ahead to find out the answer.

As I was reading, I did find a couple of bit a little confusing. My main problem with getting confuzzled with Kathy Reichs books is that there's always so many people involved in the cases that I find it easy to get a little muddled. Of course, that's also a good thing in one respect; in real life it wouldn't just be one person off solving the case. It just can mean a bit of back-tracking while you're reading to nip back and check on who it was who was running an analysis, or who was a suspect in the murder, or whatever. It was also dealing with a part of the world (and its associated history) which I know very little about, so I can understand that may have added a little to my moments of confusion.

This one does still manage to follow the usual format of a Tempe Brennan story, despite her being in a different country. Around about Chapter 30 she ends up being attacked and the end of the story is revealed mostly though the other people recounting things to her. It is a little predictable in that respect, but it's an easy read.

I'm pleased that I'm getting near to the end of the ones I've already read. As much as I'm enjoying rediscovering the ones I've read before, I can't wait to get onto the ones I've never read before.
"My grandmother used to say that God's tonic for sorrow was physical labour. She also felt toads caused infertility, but that was another issue."
Page 26

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Book 19 of 2012: Fermat's Last Theorem

Made it back to work, as aside from a bit of discomfort (and a slight 'I think I might pass out' sensation in the morning) I survived. Belly button is still a bit sore, and I'll be having a shower soon so will have to go through the ordeal of changing my dressings. I feel ridiculous getting all worked up about it but I just can't help myself!

And onto to book 19, which is Fermat's Last Theorem by Simon Singh. This one is the sixth book in the Stranger Than Fiction series that I'm now over halfway through (and kind of looking forward to finishing purely because it'll give me some room on my bookcase for some of the other piles of books I'm trying to get through).
I'll admit it, I wasn't really looking forward to this book. I did consider skipping it, I really would have if I wasn't so obsessive compulsive that I really have to read all of the books in the set (in numerical order). But I read the back and decided to give it the benefit of the doubt, I mean, surely I was just feeling unenthusiastic because of the subject matter; maths and I have never really gotten along very well.

I'm the girl who once got a grand score of 26% in a maths test (and was going to be refused entry into the GCSE maths class). I managed to overcome this, scored a 1 at Standard Grade (thank you Scottish education system) and then decided to quit while I'm ahead. Ironically, since giving up maths, I've become far more interested in it. I like discovering little mathematical tricks and quirks; my doodles at work often incorporate visual representations of the fibonacci sequence (yup, I'm a geek).

So I decided that actually, I might just fall in love with this book. Plus the blurb on the back said that you didn't need to be good at maths to read it. It really sounded like something I could get into. Plus, the day I started reading it was the day that the news was focusing on the fact that numeracy standards have slipped and many people can't do basic maths problems. It meant I could sit feeling smug and intellectual while I was watching it. History, maths, a centuries old puzzle; by the time I started reading it, I'd really talked it up in my mind.

Unfortunately, after all that, it was a bit of a let-down.

Despite the assertion that you didn't need to be a whizz at maths to read the book, you kind of did. To begin with I was kind of expecting the book to be a bit like those The Knowledge books (the general knowledge versions of the Horrible Histories series). It seemed to have a bit of a sense of humour and there were photos and diagrams (all reproduced very well I have to note, considering it was all black and white).

But I felt like I was missing huge chunks of the plot, there were aspects of mathematics which were explained in the minutest of detail, while other bits which were important to the solution on the Theorem were sort of glossed over. I don't think I ever truly understood the concept of the 'proof' anyway. Plus, you knew the outcome from the very start, it was going to be solved. I wonder if there could have been a better way of structuring it, considering the fact that the events of the book were highly publicised at the time it would have been tricky.

There were other bits of the history of the Theorem that I was a bit more interested in, and there was so little of the book which was actually devoted to Andrew Wiles' role in the discovery of the solution that I would have quite happily read about all the other people, rather than him. I'd quite like to know more about some of the other's involvement.

I did get through this book quite quickly, though it was partly because I just wanted to get to the end. I kept on hoping that I would get to a point where I would really enjoy it and everything would come together, but it never really happened. I'm sure someone more mathematican than me would enjoy the book more but it certainly hasn't inspired me to track down more maths-themed reading material!
"There was a typical dignified silence while I read out the proof and then I just wrote up the statement of Fermat's Last Theorem. I said, "I think I'll stop here", and then there was sustained applause."
Pages 270-271

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Book 18 of 2012: Night Watch

Still recovering from the op. You just don't realise how much you use your stomach muscles until every time you try to use them you get a stabby pain around your belly button. Showering yesterday wasn't much fun, I ended up a blubbering wreck in the shower (while trying to peel my dressings off).

I'm really not a squeamish person. I've dealt with broken bones (other people's) and bleeding bits (other people's) and projectile vomiting children (obviously, other people's). But when it's my own broken, bleeding or sicky bits, I'm less enthusiastic... and dissolve into tears. I managed to get the dressings off (and was disappointed to see the size of the lower incision, as I told a friend, I've had bigger zits). Then I came over all shivery and nauseous.

I was given two dressings to replace my original ones with, which I did yesterday, although the ones I was given by the hospital were about four times the size of the original ones. I figure I should save those for when I want to get the sympathy vote and make it look like I'm back on my feet after having 90% of my internal organs removed.

Unfortunately I can't remember the exact instructions regarding changing my dressings. When the nurse went through my discharge stuff I was still a bit whoozy and I was pretty much just desperate to see Mr. Click and my mind was on other things. So I wasn't really in the best frame of mind for taking things in. I know I was supposed to leave the dressings on for the rest of the day after the op, and change them because one of them had leaked right through. Now it looks like they've both leaked again since yesterday; the nurse said something about leaving them uncovered, but I can't remember when I was supposed to do that. I figure I'll keep them covered until they stop leaking because I'm petrified they're going to stick to whatever I'm wearing (and as I said, I'm terribly squeamish about things leaking out of my body).

Anyway, enough about that, you're here to read about books, not gooey belly buttons!

And book 18 of the year was Terry Pratchett's Night Watch which is the twenty-ninth Discworld book in my collection. This one was a reread; when I discovered the Watch series of books, I actively sought them out so I had come across Night Watch before. That's one of the great things about the Discworld books. You don't have to read them all in order (as I am doing right now), there's series within the main series; you can go for the Witches books (the first ones which I really got into, and thought there were only two of them until I read Lords and Ladies and discovered there were more of them!), you can read the Rincewind books, you can go for the Watch books. L-Space produced a wonderful little diagram which shows how they all link together and the order to read them in if you're just wanting to tackle one mini-series.
This one features Sam Vimes and a slight hiccough in time which results in his travelling back in time and assuming the identity of his own mentor. Oh, and there's a murderer who's gone back with him. It's a bit of a timey-wimey twisty plot.

This time around it made a bit more sense for me as previously I hadn't read Thief of Time (which introduces the History Monks who play an important part in smoothing out the time problems affecting Vimes). Of course, you don't have to have read Thief of Time to get what's going on here, it's all made perfectly clear, but Sweeper and Qu crop up again and it certainly helps knowing exactly what they're there to do.

I think that the time travel thing was a really good way to go back and explore an earlier period of Discworld's history. I'm not really a fan of authors going back and revisiting earlier periods of their works which results in books being published out of sequence (I'm looking at you, Bernard Cornwell). I'm one of those anal people who likes to read books in sequence, where possible, and there's nothing worse that starting a series, getting about five books into it and then discovering that there's a new book been released which slots nicely in between books two and three. Then you come up against a dilemma; do you go back and read book 2a? carry on with the series and then go back when you've finished and read it at the end? not bother reading it until your next read-through of the series and then read it where it belongs?

Obviously, not all series allow the writer to go back in time. But Discworld is one of those lucky ones where it's a perfectly acceptable option and it works really well. Terry Pratchett could probably have started the book with a two sentence prologue explaining that Vimes went to Unseen University and got transported back in time and I would have happily accepted that (it wouldn't be anywhere as eloquent or as engaging as what he really wrote though so I'm glad he did it the way he did).

And it was really good to look at the characters before we got to know them; CMOT-Dibbler, Mrs. Palm, Vetinari. And I liked the way that John Keel/Vimes influenced them. It was all very clever and there were little nods to other books (and who the characters would go on to become). The only downside is that now that it's been done, it can't really be done again unless it was with a different character and in a different way, which is a shame because I'd like to know more about the young Ventinari, the young CMOT-Dibbler and the young Sam Vimes.

As I said, I love the Watch books. I especially like the later Watch books, like this one, as they were the ones I became familiar with first. This one wasn't really like the other Watch books, because it featured the Watch before they became The Watch. But there are often moments in the other Watch books when Vimes thinks back about the way that things used to be done, it's good to actually see that up close.

The one thing that I sometimes find with the Discworld books is that I occasionally get confused with the action. It's almost always around the same point in every book; about three-quarters of the way through when the various plot strands have come together and the action is starting to come to some sort of resolution. I think this is partly my own fault, mainly because I either end up reading when I should be sleeping and so struggle to follow things because I'm trying to keep my eyes open; or because I'm desperately trying to read in between other things (working, housework, catching up online, whatever) and so I have to keep stopping and starting.

Terry Pratchett has this way of not quite explaining everything until it's absolutely necessary to bring the whole story together (I'm not sure that's the best way of phrasing things). There's always a little bit that's withheld until it all comes together at the very end. And I guess sometimes I get a bit confused before it's all revealled at the end. But it never spoils the story in any way and I think most of the time it's definitely me, rather than any fault in the story.

One thing that does make me very sad, is that I'm slowly getting nearer the end of the Discworld series. I've only got two more left to actually buy now (the two most recent ones) and about nine more still to read (is it nine? It might be eight now, I've lost count). At least when I get to the end of those, I'll still have some non-Discworld books to read. I just wish there were more hours in the day to get through all of my reading material!

Oh yeah, and quotes! I've managed to narrow it down to just two favourite ones (funnily enough, neither of them actually feature Sam Vimes, all of my favourite quotes for Vimes would've required me to copy out at least half a page of the book and my book journal just wouldn't have enough room for that). Both of these ones feature a character called Mr. Swing and (slight spoiler if you haven't read the book) DEATH.
"He sought, as he always did, to learn more about the new person by carefully examining their features.
'Um, your eyes are... er... your nose is... your chin...' He gave up.
Page 339
"'Not even time to finish my cake?'
Page 441

I would love that last one on a T-shirt or something. :-)

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Post Op: Laparoscopy & Hydrotubation/Hysteroscopy

Warning, this post contains talk about surgery (laparoscopy & hydrotubation/hysteroscopy) and lovely bits of info about 'women's stuff'. If you're not interested in that sort of stuff, enjoy this picture of a cute rat:

If you're still with me, read on...

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Project 365+1 Days 65 - 70

Tomorrow I'm off for my little operation (and I'm doing a pretty good job about not freaking out about it, in fact, the main thing that's bothering me right now is the fact that I can't have a cup of tea tomorrow morning... or breakfast for that matter - never mind not signing any legal documents for two days after the anaesthetic, I won't be able to function tomorrow morning without my cup of tea!).

But anyway, I've been busy taking photos this week. I can't believe that I've managed to keep going for 70 days. Apparently I'm now 18% of the way through my project!

Day 65: House Warming
On Monday we had a friend come round for tea. We'd not really see each other very much during the last year or so, and aside from odd messages on Facebook and text messages we'd not really had the chance to speak much either. So when we moved in, we invited her round. And what with one thing and another we didn't actually get to have her round until last week... only about eight months after we moved in. Oh well, better late than never.

Mr. Click rustled up some fabulous omelettes and we sat and chatted and chatted and chatted. For about five hours, until we realised how late it had gotten and we called it a night. My picture for Monday is actually a photo of a photo. Our friend got one of her photos framed, it's a lovely shot of one of the local lochs, all in blues and greys (she also brought wine, which is always nice, we've got so much in the kitchen that we're going to start looking a little bit alcoholic... though if we drink it all, then we really will be!). We've got to get another hook put up for the picture, I'm thinking it'll look nice opposite the front door, so you see it when you come in through the door.

A few months ago I signed up for an account with The Book People. In the past we've had books from them through someone else with an account, and I decided that, despite my promise to try not buying as many books (at least until I've caught up with reading the ones I already have) it couldn't hurt to get a few more. Well, we've been getting the little booklets with all the books they've had on offer, but there's never really been much that we fancied, so we've never placed an order.

Until this week.

Normally when it comes to books that everyone is raving about, I avoid them on principle. I'm always disappointed when the reality doesn't live up to the hype (as was the case with the Dan Brown books). It's the reason why I avoided reading the Harry Potter series for as long as I did (which, of course, I loved as soon as I first read them). One of those series I've been holding off on is the Hunger Games books. But I've been hearing things, and I've learnt my lesson after Harry Potter, so when I spotted them in the Book People magazine, I decided to go ahead and order them.
Day 66: Book List
And War Horse, and a book about sewing, and set of books about the English language. Which took me up to about £18.something, and it would only be another £7 for free delivery, so I let Mr. Click pick out a set of crime/mystery books that appealled to him. So that was enough to get me ordering, I know I'm ridiculous, I can't justify spending money on a Sky package or an iPhone, but I'm perfectly happy to drop £30 on reading material!

This week I've been on my favourite shift, it's an early start, but you have plenty of time in the evening for watching TV (now that Spooks series 9 has arrived), catching up on OU and reading. Now that we're back home we've also been playing with our new washing machine. There's a bit of a race to see who can get to it first... I'm wondering how long it will be until the novelty of the thing wears off.
Day 67: Before...
Day 68: ... And After
Seriously, laundry is my favourite of all the housework jobs. I love the fact that you can just sort the stuff, stick it in the machine and go and relax to do something else for a couple of hours. Then you sort it, hang it out to dry, then relax for a couple of hours until it's dry and you can fold it and put it all away.

One of the books I've been reading this week was Inkheart, it's something like Book 22 of 2012, so I should get caught up with the reviews for it soon. I won't say too much about it just now, but it is a lovely, beautiful book. There were nights this week when I stayed up far too late reading (considering how early the alarm was set to go off) purely because I didn't want to put it down. Of course, the best fuel for a late night reading is hot chocolate:
Day 69: A Hot Drink and A Good Book
And then yesterday we ended up with a mammoth postal delivery. You see, we've been waiting for things to arrive, but weren't really expecting any of them yesterday.
Day 70: Special Delivery
Firstly, there was our passes for Red Cross. We've been waiting for those for quite an idea and had an idea that they were on the way, but weren't sure when to expect them arriving. I've been paranoid that I'll get it muddled up with my work pass, but luckily the lanyards are different colours, so hopefully I'll manage not to.

Then there was the Professor Layton game which Mr. Click has ordered me. I've been a massive fan of those games ever since I discovered the first one. They really appeal to me, I love puzzles and I love the sense of satisfaction when you solve one (I'm holding off playing it tomorrow, so I've got something to look forward to when I'm feeling all nervous before the op and uncomfortable afterwards), so I decided to crack out the first one for a play yesterday (I have this terrible habit of putting DS games away in the wrong cases, and it took me ages to track it down, of course it was in the last box that I looked in). Mr. Click had been sent a message to say it wasn't going to be delivered until the 13th, so it was a very pleasant surprise; he'd also got it gift-wrapped for me as well. Which was lovely.

And then there was the Book People order. Again, wasn't really expecting that. When I'd placed the order on Tuesday it'd said that due to our location it would be 3-5 working days. So I figured it'd get here on Monday. When we'd ordered from them before, I was sure it'd come by courier rather than by post, so it's arrival yesterday with the postman was a big surprise.

Of course, now I need to find a home for all those books. We've got our bookcase absolutely jam-packed right now. I rearranged it a little while ago when I realised that I'd read a great deal of the books on the shelf and so needed to get some that I was wanting to read. Right now I've got about nine more of the Terry Pratchett Discworld books to read (though I still have to get hold of Snuff) and then there's still a bunch of other Terry Pratchett books left to read after that (so they won't be going anywhere soon); there's the Stranger Than Fiction books, still have about five of those left to read; it's not even worth mentioning the Kathy Reichs books because there's so many of those still to go.

I've finished working my way through the Tolkien books now (so some of those can go away I suppose). I can probably squeeze Hunger Games and War Horse onto the bookcase, but perhaps we should just suck it up, take some measurements and order a new bookcase.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Book 17 of 2012: The Lord of the Rings The Ultimate Critical Review

I've had a lovely relaxing day today. After being on the early shift this week, it was lovely to wake up, see that it was getting light outside and be able to roll over and go back to sleep. Then I sat in bed and read for an hour (current book is Inkheart and I'm having a bit of a dilemma about what to read next).

We relaxed and watched Disney films and caught up on our OU and got a fantastic delivery from the postman (which I'll probably post about tomorrow when I've taken a photo of all the goodies). We also had pancakes for lunch, just a little bit late.

Anyway, back to the book. Mr. Click picked up The Lord Of The Rings - The Ultimate Critical Review from a charity shop, having spotted it and immediately thought of me. It's a book containing two DVDs which I'm yet to watch (so I can't comment on my view of them just now, I'm sure I'll come back to them in the future).
It's a beautiful little book. Hard cover, to help keep the DVDs safe, glossy illustrated pages, filled with artwork by The Brothers Hildebrandt. It does have one of my favourite pictures of Tolkien, which I've only been able to find online as a book cover:
It's Tolkien, pipe in hand, chatting to a Dwarf. It's a lovely picture and one which I remember seeing in another little booklet which came with a DVD about Tolkien and his influences. It's strange that I can't seem to find another copy of it online, my google-fu is clearly failing me tonight.

I really like the Brothers Hildebrandt's artwork. Remember the jigsaw puzzle that we completed earlier in the year:
Yup, that one's by them as well (though that is one picture which doesn't seem to have made it into this little booklet). They're ever-so-slightly cartoony, but they capture the essence of Middle-earth well. With the except of a couple (the one of Faramir springs to mind as he looks a little bit more like Robin Hood than the way I would picture Faramir) they're basically the way that I imagine the characters of The Lord of the Rings. I'd love a copy of The Hobbit filled with their illustrations; I think that would lend itself really well to their artwork.

It was an interesting look at the books. I wouldn't necessarily say that it's The Ultimate Critical Review but it's definitely worth a read. The one thing going against it was the fact that I've read so much about Tolkien and his influences in the last few months. There wasn't really anything new here. It did go about it in a better way than Tolkien A Look Behind The Lord of the Rings; this in The Ultimate Critical Review there is a summary of the three books of the trilogy, but the critical comments are interspersed throughout, looking at the characters, the places and influences. It's a much better way of organising things, rather than an info-dump summary of the story which it can be assumed most readers will already know.

It's a nice light little read; I read it in a day (it's only about 74 pages long and many of those are taken up with the illustrations) and I imagine that it is largely meant to complement the DVDs, which I'm intending to watch as soon as I get the chance.
"Mercifully, not all critics go as far as author Michael Moorcock who was particularly scathing in his criticism, slating the book as a "pernicious confirmation of the values of a morally bankrupt middle class," with a final flourish he famously went on to describe The Lord of the Rings as "Winnie-the-Pooh posing as an epic...""
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Thursday, 8 March 2012

Book 16 of 2012: Fatal Voyage

Just a quick book review tonight because I'm supposed to be off to Red Cross in about five minutes. The next Kathy Reichs book in the series I'm reading was Fatal Voyage which involves a plane crash and Tempe Brennan's involvement in the investigation. Of course, with Tempe things can never be that simple, an unexplained foot turns up, Tempe is thrown off the investigation and that's just the beginning of the problems.
I vaguely remembered bits of this story but I wasn't entirely sure which elements were from this book and which were from later ones in the series, as I went through this one, I remembered them but normally just as I got to them. It made it feel a lot more like reading a new book, which really added to my enjoyment of it.

When I'm rereading these crime books, I like to have forgotten who the killer is. That way I can read it without wanting to scream at the characters because I know who did it and they're missing all the blantantly obvious clues telling them what I know.

Obviously, I don't know that much about the American procedures for these sorts of disasters/events (come to think of it, I don't exactly know much about the UK procedures either), but I got the impression that Tempe's dismissal was a little bit far-fetched. I'm sure that they wouldn't have allowed her to continue to do what she did, even though there were many people who supported her. But I can't get too hung up on it really. I mean, these are good books which you can just lose yourself in. I imagine that (if things were a little bit stretched) it might have frustrated people who did know about those things, but for me, I'm not really bothered. I can overlook that.

By this book I've found that Kathy Reichs has found a formula that works and sticks with it. Tempe is faced with a case (and a sub-case, which may or may not be related in some way, and if not related then one will influence the other at an important moment). She comes up against some problem, usually in the form of someone who doesn't agree with her/her way of working/her thoughts/etc. She continues to work on the case anyway, finding a huge breakthrough. Someone attacks her/tries to kill her/she is otherwise put out of action (usually around Chapter 30). Then the case is summed up afterwards with Tempe making the decision to make some change, embrace some moment or be a better person in some way.

And I like it. It's predictable, but I don't mind. I like that you can kind of predict what will come, but it's always done in such a way that (when you're reading it for the first time at least) you're not always expecting things to go down in that way.

It's just good that I've not read these ones further on in the series as often as the early ones, because I'm enjoying the surprises that I'm getting from the twists.