Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator, Chapter 2

If you’re reading this it means that I’m staying well on track with getting these posts written and uploaded. The Ersatz Elevator is longer than the other books so far, which means longer chapters, and longer to read. It’s a bit of a challenge, but I’m enjoying it.

What Happens?

The Baudelaires continue to climb up the staircase and wonder what their life will be like with their new guardians. When they reach the penthouse they meet Jerome and Esme Squalor who are currently dressed all in pinstripes because that’s what’s ‘in’. While Jerome tells them a little about their new home, Esme gets a call to tell her that dark is out and light is in so sets about making changes to the house to be fashionable. Jerome shows the children the view and they worry about what will happen then they are no longer ‘in’.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter does open with a picture. It’s a very little square one which shows a coiling staircase which just seems to go on forever. It’s a little bit like one of those seashells with the coils that get smaller and smaller as it gets nearer the centre.

The opening for this chapter is just as good as the last one as well:

In order to get a better sense of exactly how the Baudelaire orphans felt as they began the grueling journey up the stairs to Mr. and Mrs. Squalor’s penthouse apartment, you might find it useful to close your eyes as you read this chapter…

I just love that suggestion. It also made me smile because the other night I was reading The Three Musketeers in bed when I suddenly realised that I wasn’t actually reading it at all. I had my eyes closed and was starting to doze off, so my brain was apparently just filling in the blanks for me. I’m not going to do that with this chapter though, despite whatever Mr Snicket is recommending.

It’s still dark on the staircase and as they pass each floor their hear something coming from through the wall. My favourite is “When they reached the nineteenth floor, they heard a woman say “Let them eat cake” in a voice with a strange accent.”. Along the way they wonder what sounds people outside their new home will hear. It’s been a little while since we’ve had this kind of repetition; Klaus predicts they’ll hear him reading, Violet predicts they’ll hear her working with her inventions, and Sunny says “Crife!” which we can assume means she’ll be biting stuff.

It’s hard going climbing up all the stairs and the children have lost count of which floor they are on. Klaus suggests that Violet invent something to help them go to the floor they need quicker, at which Violet points out that it’s already been invented. There’s a nice little bit of remembering here as the children reminisce about a time when their parents were so tired that they sat on the kitchen floor to prepare dinner, so they didn’t use the stove at all; something Josephine would’ve liked. Sunny sobers the tone by saying “Pomres” meaning “As it turned out, the stove was the least of Aunt Josephine’s problems.” Way to ruin the moment, Sunny!

They speculate a little about what the Squalors must be like, deciding on the fact that living here obviously makes them wealthy, and presumably none too concerned about heights. Then we return to the monotony of climbing up the seemingly never-ending staircase, until at last, at the bottom of page 24, we reach the penthouse.

The door is opened by Jerome Squalor, who wears a pinstriped suit and quickly gets the introductions out of the way and then offers the children a martini. These aren’t ordinary martinis, however, the current fashion is for ‘aqueous martinis’ which are fancy glasses of cold water with an olive in it. Jerome also explains that he was friends with their mother and they once hiked up Mount Fraught together. He’s about to tell them about a dangerous animal which came ‘swooping out of the sky’ when he is interrupted.

And thus they are introduced to Esme Gigi Genevive Squalor, also dressed in a pinstriped suit and with highly polished fingernails. She announces that orphans are now in, which is why they’re able to take care of them now as opposed to five books ago. She also confirms the children’s assumption that the Squalors are wealthy, the home is full of fancy furniture and pinstripes are the current fashion.

During this exchange we get the impression that Jerome is actually quite a nice guy, along the lines of Uncle Monty, whereas Esme falls more into the category of guardians like Sir and Vice Principal Nero. Jerome reassures the children that the doorman has been told about Olaf and has been warned not to let anyone who looks like him into the building. We know how well this has worked out for them in the past, but Klaus says it’s a relief nonetheless.

The apartment has seventy-one bedrooms which means they have more than enough room for the children. Esme is already fantasizing about adopting the Quagmires once they are found to make themselves even more in than they already are. Meanwhile the Baudelaires are introducing themselves and their respective interests, which we already know so won’t bother repeating here. Jerome assigns the children their rooms, allowing Klaus one beside the library (I love how everyone in this series has libraries, technically I have one too, but most of it lives in a cupboard upstairs).

They are interrupted by the phone ringing, which Esme rushes to answer. She’s annoying me already and we’re only on page 32, I’m not sure how I’ll stand a whole book of this! Anyway, she says that dark is now out and so they can turn the lights on again now. She’s off in a rush to brighten up the place before anyone realises that they’re deadly unfashionable.

This at least allows the children to get a proper look around the apartment; everything is coloured gold and silver. Outside the city looks tiny and they can see lots of the places that they have visited before in this series, like the beach in the distance where this whole saga started. Down below they can see the trees which used to line the Avenue are already being chopped down, which isn’t necessarily the most environmentally-friendly way of keeping up with current fashions.

Despite the fact that everything is looking up for the children at the moment, they’re in a nice home again and Jerome seems nice enough, even if Esme is more than a wee bit weird, they can’t help but feel a little bit worried:

The three siblings looked at one another, and then back down to Dark Avenue. Those trees were no longer in, so the gardeners were getting rid of them. The Baudelaires did not like to think of what would happen when orphans were no longer in, either.

That sounds ominous!

Book 17 of 2014: Discovering Words by Julian Walker

I made a little section of one of my bookshelves ‘Non-fiction’ with predominantly linguistics-related books. Discovering Words was the very last of these books that I had left to read. I have no idea where I picked this up, I’m guessing a charity shop. It’s a little slim book which talks about where words came from and how the English language has changed through influences of other languages, much the same as the many other books dealing with this topic.

As it’s a fairly short book, I’ll keep the review itself fairly short too. ;-)

I managed to read it in about two days. It’s only 128 pages long and is really the sort of book you could probably dip into when you’re wanting to learn more about a particular word or time period. It would’ve been handy to reference in a couple of my U211 essays.

It was an interesting read though I felt that it could’ve gone into a little more detail on some of the terms that it used. Obviously there’s a fine line between a quick informative little booklet and a more detailed and longer text but, for example, ‘inkhorn term’ was used multiple times without actually clearly explaining what it was, whereas simpler terms did get explanations. I suppose it depends on the sorts of things that you’ve read before. Lots of the terms I already knew but for someone who hasn’t read as many books in such close concentration as I have might find it off-putting.

Another off-putting factor was the number of typos, in particular there was a part where it talked about alternative forms and then gave the example of ‘drived and drived’. I suspect that, given the context the second ‘drived’ should’ve been ‘driven’. But it was frustrating because it made me wonder what other errors there were that I wasn’t able to recognise. For that reason it’s perhaps a good thing that I didn’t use it in any essays!

I did feel like I already knew a lot of what Walker was talking about and so I wasn’t surprised to see that the list of references included books like those by David Crystal and Bill Bryson, which I’ve read myself recently (well, relatively recently at the time when I was reading Discovering Words). While this book was an interesting and quick read, I can’t help but feel that the other books do it better because of the level of detail. I think it would be better to read this first and then consult the others for a more in depth look at the same topics.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator, Chapter 1

I did consider postponing the start of these reviews until next week to give myself a chance to stay on top of everything because as I said yesterday, things are getting busy in the Click house during the next couple of weeks. I’m feeling confident that I can do everything in time though, if nothing else, it’s good practice for NaNoWriMo!

What Happens?

The Baudelaires arrive at their new home on Dark Avenue to discover that dark is ‘in’ and that they will be living in the penthouse apartment at number 667 with Mr and Mrs Squalor. Mr Poe doesn’t have time to accompany them up all the flights of stairs as he’s got to go and catch a helicopter to try and find the Quagmires. This means the Baudelaires are forced to climb up to their new home alone.

Thoughts as I read:

As it’s the start of a new book it means we’ve got a new dedication:

For Beatrice -
When we met, my life began.
Soon afterward, yours ended.

And a new picture to kick off the story. This one shows a big gnarled tree trunk, it looks like it has another plant growing round it too. There’s two more of these trees in the background where we can also see the Baudelaire trio standing next to a sign which says DARK and has a fish shape above it. The fish images remind me of Chasing Vermeer with little hidden pictures in almost every picture. I love Brett Helquist.

Chapter One itself doesn’t actually begin with a picture, presumably because we just got a big full page one on the last page. It’s got a pretty cool opening paragraph though:

The book you are holding in your two hands right now – assuming that you are, in fact, holding this book, and that you have only two hands – is one of two books in the world that will show you the difference between the word “nervous” and the word “anxious”. The other book, of course, is the dictionary, and if I were you I would read that book instead.

I love these openings. Two of the threads on the NaNo forums I’ve been reading recently is ‘Adopt an Opening Line’ and the ‘First 200 Words Critique’, I can’t help but hold up the Series of Unfortunate Events books as an example of how it should be done. I mean, this tells me absolutely nothing about the story, the characters or what is likely to happen in the coming 260 pages, but I can’t help but read on.

Anyway, we get a bit of a definition on what ‘nervous’ and ‘anxious’ actually mean as well as some hints about where we can find the meanings of a host of other words too. I’m not going to quote the whole page here, but seriously, pick up the book and read it. I love it.

The story doesn’t actually kick in properly until the third page where we discover that the Baudelaires are being accompanied to their latest guardian by Mr Poe, once again. They’re standing at the end of Dark Avenue which is living up to its name. For one thing there are no street lamps. It amuses me that this bears mentioning because where I live we have no street lamps either, come to think of it, the road outside my house is lined on one side by trees, though these aren’t really much like the trees on Dark Avenue. It is pretty dark and spooky when you go out at night. It also doesn’t block out the sunlight in the middle of the day which is what happens along Dark Avenue.

Mr Poe is trying to reassure the Baudelaires and doing a bad job of it. For one thing he thinks the children are nervous when in actual fact they are anxious about their next run in with Count Olaf. I say ‘next run in’ as opposed to anything else because by this stage in the series it’s fairly obvious that sooner or later they will run into him again, because if after five books you’ve not worked out how these things work then you never will!

We also spend a couple of pages having a little recap of things so far. We’re reminded what Olaf looks like and of the fact that he’s currently got the Quagmires. Poe tells the Baudelaires that he’s actually got some good news about the Quagmires, to which Sunny asks “Gavu?” which I think means ‘have you?’ but is translated as “The Quagmires have been found and rescued?” which is more or less the same thing.

Instead it means Mr Poe has been promoted to Vice President in Charge of Orphan Affairs at the bank, putting him in charge of the Quagmires as well as the Baudelaires. In short, the Quagmires are doomed! As if to highlight how doomed the Baudelaires will be, Poe is off for three weeks to search for the Quagmires, during which time he will be completely incommunicado.

The Baudelaires’ new residence will be 667 Dark Avenue, not quite 666, and they will be living with Mr and Mrs Squalor. This all sounds a bit ominous. They’re struggling to find the door, but luckily for them there’s a helpful doorman who is able to show them where it is. Inside it’s still dark because apparently ‘dark is in’ so everything is lit by candles. This is the children’s first education in the concept of ‘in’, or in other words, what is fashionable for the Dark Avenue residents.

Unfortunately for the Baudelaires the elevator is ‘out’, as in not fashionable, and the Squalors live in the penthouse. It’s going to be a long climb. The staircase is just as dark which prompts the children to liken it to other dark places, like caves or “Pinse!” (which is Sunny-speak for “Or outer space!”). There are either forty-eight or eighty-four floors up to the penthouse and Mr Poe has a helicopter to catch so he’s not got time to hang around. As such, the children are told to head up there by themselves.

The children are a little hesitant about making the trek all by themselves and Mr Poe does consider putting off the search for the Quagmires in order to walk up the staircase with the Baudelaires. At this Klaus tells Poe that “finding the Quagmires is much more important” though Sunny isn’t so sure and adds “Obog”, presumably she has as much faith in Mr Poe as I do.

So we’ll leave the children heading off up a long, dark staircase and hopefully tomorrow when we come back they’ll have made it up to the penthouse apartment.

TV Series Review: Criminal Minds

We actually finished watching the Criminal Minds a couple of weeks ago but I reviewed The Persuaders first, then scheduled my ‘Limbo’ post last week so it’s taken me a little while to get around to writing this.

Warning: Contains spoilers for the first seven series of Criminal Minds!

I got Criminal Minds for Christmas last year from Mr Click. It was actually a show I’d heard of before, having seen it advertised and I noticed it for Mandy Patinkin and Thomas Gibson, who played Greg in Dharma and Greg. When I actually had a TV that showed programmes other than those you watch on DVD Criminal Minds was on later than I usually stayed up, or it clashed with something else, or I thought it looked too similar to all those other crime procedurals that I used to watch. Whatever the reason I overlooked it.

Mr Click presented it to me with a comment about how on Amazon it said that this was recommended by people who like CSI, and I like CSI so it had seemed like a good fit. Long before we started watching it I read up about it online, and I liked what I read. I was so excited when we finally started watching it.

And I’m so glad that I didn’t watch it ‘live’ when it was on. I loved being able to marathon two or more episodes on an evening (sometimes a few on a Saturday) and it seems that nobody does series finales the way the Criminal Minds does. I honestly don’t think I could’ve stood the strain of having to wait a week to see the second part of an episode, or worse, several months or more waiting for the next series to start! The occasions where we had to wait a day or two to find out what happened next were excruciating.

Some series have their weak points, but I didn’t really feel that way about any of the series of the seven in the box set I have. Each series had its outstanding, strong episodes. Sure, some of the episodes were weaker than others but honestly, even when they introduced a junior character, Seaver, to the team after Emily’s ‘death’, who wasn’t the most appealing character, I didn’t mind. That said, I didn’t notice until the end of the first episode of series seven that she’d disappeared, but she didn’t affect the quality or tone of the episodes she was in.

I was a little bit worried during the first series when I learned that Elle and Gideon were going to leave. I’m not a huge fan of change so when casts undergo shuffles I’m not always happy with the result, but it was all done in character and it had a ripple effect on the other characters. I hate it when shows have a big change and everyone is moved on within a couple of episodes. Stuff in Criminal Minds has knock on effects and they get referenced weeks or years later. I like that.

The resulting cast is awesome. I think I love each and every one of them in different ways. One of the main things I really love about the series is that it shows the characters interacting outside of work. That’s one of the things I always loved reading fan fiction about; I like to know who goes out for pizza with each other, who babysits the others’ children. In real life people do interact outside of work and I like that the BAU team is like a big family who just hang out together.


Without a doubt two of my favourite characters are Garcia and Reid. Garcia is so much like Abby from NCIS that I couldn’t help but imagine crossovers as I was watching the first series. And I think that Reid should really spend some time with Brennan from Bones because he’s as smart and clueless as she is. Oh, and I love Shemar Moore because, well, I’ll let this speak for itself:

*ahem* Where was I?

The subject matter itself is often pretty dark. They’re a team dealing with serial killers and profiling so it’s kind of a given. I’m glad that we’ve kind of swapped around the programmes we watch while we eat our tea and the programmes we watch in bed now. I prefer something lighter right before I go to sleep. As we usually watched the episodes in pairs I noticed that for each really dark and serious storyline, there was usually one which allowed for a touch of light-heartedness, which I appreciated. As I mentioned above, I did not appreciate the cliffhangers, particularly when it involved leaving members of the team in peril and having to wait to find out what happened to them. I must have ‘NOOOOOO’d so many times at the end of two-part or season finale episodes.

I’m really glad that series seven ended where it did. With JJ and Will getting married. Sure Emily is contemplating leaving, but as it stands, it ended with a party with everyone dancing together and having a good time. I’m looking forward to getting the next series, but I’m waiting for them to come down in price a lot, besides, in the meantime we’ve got Ripper Street and The Mentalist to keep us going as well.

And the longer we wait, the more likely are are to need to go back and rewatch the first seven series again. Something I’m really looking forward to.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Weekly Rundown: Texts to Myself

I’ve spent the last couple of weeks running through NaNo ideas whenever I have the free time to disappear inside my own head. On your average day I usually have far too many other things going on in there to focus on NaNo stuff in too much detail until I turn the lights off and I’m lying in bed at night. It usually works quite well for me and I can come up with some good ideas, and if they’re really good then they might even stop with me until the morning.

And sometimes strange things happen.

Like last week.

While I was having a shower last Sunday morning I received a text. Not a wholly unusual occurrence in itself. I know people, sometimes they text me. What was strange was the fact that this text had been sent by myself, to myself.

Even stranger was the content of this text. It said CULTS!!

Apparently at some point in the night I had come up with a brilliant idea for my NaNo project this year and not having a pen or pencil to hand I had gone for the modern option. Why I opened the messages app instead of my notepad app, I have no idea. I’m guessing it was just the first programme that came to hand when I reached for the phone in my blurry-eyed state.

The funny thing is, as the week’s gone on, it’s helped to fit some pieces into place for my NaNo story this year. All I knew until that point was that my character was running away from something and the story would begin with her appearing on my other character’s doorstep. Now I know why.

I love it when you get little bursts of inspiration like that.

Aside from sending myself texts this week, I’ve still been working my way through The Three Musketeers. I’m getting through it a lot quicker now I’ve switched my Kindle background back to sepia instead of black (sorry Mr Click). Now I can read roughly 5% per night instead of just two or three. Next up will be Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince which works out quite well considering I’ve just been watching Order of the Phoenix ready for my next few weeks of film reviews.

We’ve also been slowly watching Ripper Street. I’m glad we’re not rushing through it too quickly because it’s a fairly short series. We’ve had several evenings out and as the episodes are about ninety minutes each we’ve only been watching them one at a time. I dug out all of our Christmas (and Not-Quite-Christmas) films this week and I’m fairly certain we’ll finish the series with just enough time to start on those. I’m so organised.

I’ve got a couple of busy weeks coming up now, so I’m in a rush to get all of my blog posts scheduled. Setting up the form for the Christmas Guest Bloggers has been particularly useful. Thanks to everyone who has send in replies to the questions. I’ll be getting everything scheduled in the next couple of weeks so look out for an email to let you know when your post will be going live.

If you’re still interested in taking part, the form is still open, here.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Part 4

We’re almost at the end of this series of Goblet of Fire blog posts now. Things are getting quite dark and exciting.

Last week’s post involved Harry’s first task which he made it through fairly unscathed and task 1.5 which involved trying to get a date to go with him to the Christmas dance which he was less successful with. Oh and Neville likes to dance.

91. Hermione and Harry are hanging out on the bridge. She’s telling him off for not having figured out the egg and now there’s only two days until the next challenge. Apparently she’s not discussed it with Viktor, he’s more of a ‘physical being’ although she corrects this to meaning he likes to watch her study, which she finds a little bit annoying. Harry’s wishing he could unhear this and I’m giggling because I’m the sort of person who comes out with random statements like this without thinking about how they’re going to sound until after I’ve said them, then have to backpedal.

92. They’re interrupted by Cedric who tells Harry that the Prefect’s Bathroom is a good place for a bath. Before Harry can think that Cedric is hitting on him, Cedric clarifies that Harry should take his egg there to think about things.

93. So the next thing we see is Harry taking a bath, watched by a stained glass mermaid window. The bath doesn’t help much though, the egg still screams when he opens it.

94. Moaning Myrtle shows up to suggest he put in the water, then mentions a little clue, though we probably won’t notice it as such; she spotted some Polyjuice Potion down the loo the other day and it made her think of him.

95. Underwater the egg looks beautiful and there’s a pretty song about finding what he’s looking for underwater. Harry figures it out, there are merpeople in the lake.

96. Myrtle’s a bit of a pervert, trying to peak at Harry through the bubbles. She’s basically fifty years older than he is, even if she is still a teenager.

97. Hermione and Ron are in the library trying to help Harry to figure out how Harry can stay underwater for an hour without needing to breathe. Their research is not going well. Moody shows up to send Ron and Hermione to see McGonagall and asks Neville to help Harry pack up to go to bed. Neville happily tells Harry about a plant called Gillyweed which’ll help him to breathe underwater.

98. So they head down to the lake, Harry accompanied by Neville who has given him some gillyweed. Harry’s wondering where Ron and Hermione had got to.

99. The champions all dive (or in Harry’s case, fall) into the water where Harry discovers he has grown gills and webbed feet and hands. For a moment Neville panics that he’s killed Harry Potter but Harry gets the hang of his new anatomy and starts swimming.

100. It’s quite eery underwater. We see Fleur for a brief moment and something seems to get her. A moment later we’re above the surface where we can hear that she’s withdrawn from this task.

101. Meanwhile Harry is swimming deeper and deeper. The mermaids’s homes aren’t the way I pictured them either, then again the water is murkier and it’s just generally more creepy than I imagine it when I’m reading the book.

102. Harry wants to rescue Ron and Hermione but the mermaids stop him. He’s almost taken out by a shark, which is revealed to be Krum who swims off with Hermione, leaving Harry alone with Ron and a little girl, both of whom are unconscious under the water.

103. Cedric and Krum return to the surface with Cho and Hermione but Harry’s still underwater and the gillyweed is wearing off. He’s got Ron and the little girl but he’s being attacked by grindylows who seem intent on dragging him down. Ron and the girl break the surface but Harry seems to be drifting downwards until he uses a spell to fire himself out of the water.

104. No one seems too concerned about wrapping Ron in a towel. He doesn’t really care anyway because Fleur has just kissed him for helping to safe her sister. And Harry’s awarded second place for ‘Outstanding Moral Fibre’ which Malfoy’s none too pleased about.

105. Harry’s taken aside by Crouch once he’s back on dry land. Moody shows up and warns Crouch about filching Harry for a summer internship. Something about Moody shakes up Crouch, could it possibly be the way he keeps darting out his tongue.

106. Hagrid, Ron, Hermione and Harry are strolling through the Forbidden Forest. And we get a brief chorus of the Hogwarts School Song which doesn’t last long as Harry stumbles upon Crouch’s dead body.

107. Harry heads up to Dumbledore’s office where Fudge and Dumbledore are arguing as Moody stands beside them. They all leave Harry in the office alone. Dumbledore has invited Harry to try a liquorice snap, they’re like little leeches and Harry drops his handful.

108. At that moment the cupboard contain the pensieve opens and reveals a sparkly blue shimmery light which is obviously going to be irresistible to a teenage boy. The next thing he knows, Harry’s fallen into a memory where Dumbledore looks much younger and Harry is apparently a ghost.

109. In the centre of the room is Karkaroff, held in a cage. All round the outside on benches are Crouch, Dumbledore and Moody. There’s a lot of paperwork too. Oh, and Rita Skeeter is there as well, looking a little bit younger and sans Quick Quotes Quill.

110. Dumbledore speaks up for Snape, saying that he was working for their side as a spy. As Karkaroff starts to name the person who tortured Frank and Alice Longbottom Doctor Who gets up to leave, he’s just now named as Barty Crouch Junior. Oh and he does this funny snake like thing with his tongue.

111. Then Harry’s pulled back out of the memory to find that Dumbledore is back in his office. He’s surprisingly not in trouble for his nosiness. Dumbledore seems annoyed about his inability to be able to figure out exactly what it is that is bothering him.

112. Harry reveals at this moment that he’s dreamt about Doctor Who Crouch Jnr. Dumbledore tries to get Harry to forget about his dreams, but he doesn’t look like that’s what’s best. He looks shocked at what he’s been told. Ooh, the plot thickens.

113. On the way back, Harry walks past a room where Karkaroff and Snape are arguing, with the former showing the latter a tattoo on his arm that looks suspiciously like the Dark Mark. Snape takes Potter into his potions store and threatens Harry with Veritaserum because he suspects that Harry has taken something from his stores, accusing Harry of brewing Polyjuice Potion. All the little clues are coming together now.

114. And we’re at the final challenge now. I don’t think they’ve actually done any real schoolwork all year, you know. I like the music in this scene and the instruments that the children are playing, they’re rather Seusian. I don’t think that some of those instruments would be very practical to transport around though.

115. There’s a big maze which the students will be going into and Dumbledore warns them that they will have to be careful not to lose themselves because ‘people will change in the maze’. Ooh, this is all getting very dark.

116. I love the way Dumbledore goes ‘On the count of three’, Filch sets the canon off and then kind of shrugs at Dumbledore, like ‘oops’.

And I’ll stop here so we can get all the really dark and dramatic stuff out the go next week. That post will be a little bit longer than these four so far.

In that epically long post we’ll see Harry and the other champions try to get through the maze, the discovery that the Cup is a portkey and the Return of the Noseless One.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Ersatz Elevator

This post is a little bit later in the day that I’d normally have it, because I decided to squeeze in an extra blog post this morning. As most of my Chapter-by-Chapter posts go up in the afternoon I figured it made sense to make this the afternoon post, rather than the morning one.

So here we are at the sixth book in the Series of Unfortunate Events. This one being The Ersatz Elevator. I remember when I got this, or maybe it was when I read The Austere Academy and saw the name mentioned at the end. I had to look up what ersatz meant. For the record it’s ‘fake’ or ‘pretend’ which is kind of backed up by the picture on the cover of this book.

We’ve got a lovely picture here of the three Baudelaires apparently falling down a lift shaft while someone, who could almost be Count Olaf in drag stands at the top. I know it’s not Olaf in drag, though I can’t remember exactly what relation to them this woman is. I know that they are going to end up at the top of some ridiculously high building with a crazy woman and her husband.

I remember things being ‘In’ and at the time that the Baudelaires go to live with them orphans are ‘in’. I also know that red herrings come into it somewhere, though I don’t know exactly how. This book was one of my favourites when I was younger so I think that’s why I remember it more than some of the others.

In terms of the look of the rest of the cover; the spine is a sort of dark mustard colour, not attractive at all. I can’t quite make out what the border is supposed to be. It’s a dark red colour and there’s things that look like hinges in a pattern all the way down. Oh wait! I’ve just figured it out, they’re the red herrings. That took me a moment to get.

This book is also one of the longest so far, clocking in at over 250 pages. Though it still has thirteen chapters, I think as the series goes on there will be fewer of those short ten page filler chapters I’ve gotten used to in the previous books. This means I’m setting myself up for the most reading work just as I head into NaNo.

I hope you’re ready for this!

Christmas Guest Bloggers Questionnaire Form

Just a little reminder about the guest blog spots I’m running throughout December. If you’ve signed up for a slot and haven’t received the list of questions, please let me know so I can send it along to you. If you’ve received them already, don’t forget to fill them out and send them back so I can get them all formatted ready to post in the run up to Christmas.

If you don’t know what I’m on about, well, read on.

I like to have a sort of Advent Calendar event in the run up to Christmas and this year I thought I would interview other bloggers/readers/forum dwellers/Christmas lovers with a series of nine quick questions about Christmas. How many questions you answer is entirely up to you, so long as you answer at least one, and when your post goes up it’ll include a little bit about you as well as a link to your blog/site if you have one.

In the interest of making things simple, I’ve set up a little Google form for you to fill in, to save the hassle of emailing lists of questions back and forth. If you’ve already received the list of questions via email and would rather fill in this form online instead, no worries, go ahead.

If you'd rather go for the form option then just clicky click this link and have fun.

The aim is to have as many of these to post in the run up to Christmas as possible, so go wild and if you’re not a huge fan of Christmas but you know someone who is, pass the link on to them.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Austere Academy, Chapter 13

And so we’ve come to the end of the five book in The Series of Unfortunate Events! Time to read on for the thirteenth and final instalment in this series of reviews… until next week when we move on to The Ersatz Elevator at least.

What Happens?

Mr Poe shows up and the children try to convince the adults that Genghis is Olaf in disguise. Eventually Poe asks him to take off his shoes, at which point Olaf takes off, revealing himself to be exactly who the children have been saying he is for most of the book. Olaf kidnaps the Quagmires, with the help of the two powder-faced women, and as they are driven away Duncan tells Klaus ‘V.F.D.’.

Thoughts as I read:

Judging from the picture that opens this chapter, I think it’s safe to say that Coach Genghis’s true identity is revealed here. At the top is what at first I thought was a bandage but judging from the round jewel flying above the word ‘Chapter’ I’m guessing that was actually the remains of his turban. On the left hand side of the page there’s a hand holding it, but I can’t say there’s anything about the hand which makes it recognisable as belonging to any particular person. At the bottom of the page are the sports shoes, so I guess we’ll learn the true about whether Genghis really has smelly feet here too.

Violet immediately begins questioning Genghis about where the Quagmires are. Genghis acts as though Violet is asking about their belongings and so hands back the hair ribbon and glasses he is carrying. He tells Nero that the children were in such a rush to get to their exam that they forgot their belongings, but that Sunny ‘just sat there like a sack of flour’ so he kicked her to get her moving. This evidently revealed that she was just a bag of flour.

This obviously led to Genghis discovering that the other two children were Duncan and Isadora, who he called twins, rather than the Baudelaires. Apparently getting other children to pretend to be them so they can study for exams is cheating, though Mr Remora does defend them, suggesting that perhaps the exams were more important than running laps. As vice principal Nero declares this cheating and uses this to expel them.

Rather than standing up for the Baudelaires, Remora and Bass just sort of shrug and accept what Nero is telling them. Then again, you can’t really blame them. Nero is so crazy they’d probably lose their jobs if they went against what he wanted. Sunny is then fired, something she’s none too upset about (“Rantaw!” meaning “I never wanted to work as a secretary, anyway!”)

By this point Violet is beyond caring, she just wants to know where the Quagmires are. Genghis reveals that they’re being punished for helping others to cheat. He’s left them in the kitchen. There’s something about the way he talks about them whisking until they’re ‘whisked away’ that’s just a little bit sinister.

Violet is just answering back and being ‘doubly expelled’ by Nero, when Mr Poe shows up. He’s got all the sweets and earrings that the Baudelaires were supposed to give Nero and Carmelita way back about six chapters ago. Apparently Nero sent him a telegram asking for them and Mr Poe didn’t question this at all, instead he just came along to hand them over in person. Presumably this enables him to take the children on to their next set of guardians in about ten pages time.

So Nero fills in Mr Poe about how Violet and Klaus have been cheating and Sunny is a failure as a secretary. Mr Poe is thankfully a little shocked at the thought of Sunny being made to work rather than being looked after, considering she’s , y’know, a baby and all. This is evidently the best time to tell Poe about the fact that Olaf has found them again, after all he already knows that Nero is more than a little bit strange, so Klaus fills him in.

At this point Genghis introduces himself to Poe, who clearly hasn’t gotten used to Olaf’s disguises yet and so points out to the children that this man can’t be Olaf in the most nonsensical way possible:

“Children, I’m surprised at you. Even without an advanced computer system, you should be able to tell that this man isn’t Count Olaf. Olaf has only one eyebrow, and this man is wearing a turban. And Olaf has a tattoo of an eye on his ankle, and this man is wearing expensive running shoes…”

Actually I think I’m going to start adopting this method of negating things in real life. My Kindle is in a purple case, and this one has the Angry Birds app downloaded. My labrador has a red collar, and this dog’s got a jacket on.

The children beg Mr Poe to get Olaf/Genghis to take off his turban and running shoes. After a brief discussion about how he cannot take off the turban for religious reasons, Poe actually comes through for the children when he asks Genghis to remove his shoes, happily using the phrase “I think we can all stand a little smelliness if it’s in the cause of criminal justice.” This is a sentiment almost nobody shares.

Genghis/Olaf declines to take off the shoes because he evidently needs them to help him make a speedy getaway. As he takes off he helpfully informs the Baudelaires that he now has a couple of prisoners, who have a small fortune too, and basically warns them he’ll be after them again soon. Lots of things happen in the next couple of pages. Two of the workers from the canteen are revealed to be the white faced women from Olaf’s troupe, and they’ve got the two Quagmire triplets bundled into the back of a waiting car.

Mr Poe is rather slow to cotton on to what is happening here but the Baudelaires are used to running now so they take off after the car and soon everyone else joins in. The Baudelaires reach Olaf first and Violet grabs hold of his turban which promptly comes off revealing the one eyebrow; Sunny undoes his shoelaces, causing his shoes to come off and reveal the eye tattoo. Mr Poe suddenly realises that Genghis is in fact Count Olaf, causing Sunny to say “Merd!” which apparently means “That’s what we’ve been trying to tell you” though I suspect a more literal translation might be ‘no shit Sherlock’.

Klaus is more focused on getting the Quagmires out of the car but the white-face women don’t let him. There’s a full on struggle here and in the midst of it all Duncan starts trying to tell Klaus about something they found out during their research. Apparently they never thought to mention this before now. At last as Klaus and the Quagmires lose the battle against the women Duncan just yells ‘V.F.D.’ sparking a hundred theories amongst Series of Unfortunate Events readers for the next few years. Ah, those were the days.

Olaf finally makes it to the car, shoves Klaus out the way, steals the Quagmire notebooks and drives away. Once again out of the lives of the Baudelaires, temporarily. Mr Poe starts squawking about calling the police, but Nero’s refusing to let him use his phone owing to his being completely nuts.

Understandably, at this point the Baudelaires just give up because the adults up until now have been utterly useless when it comes to catching Olaf and this time is evidently going to be no different. I really can’t blame them for bursting into tears right now, I’m imagining this is shear frustration at what the adults around them are like, as well as the loss of their new (and only) friends.

After a while Klaus reveals to his sisters what Duncan said and Sunny tells them “Ceju” meaning “We have to find out.” talking about what V.F.D. could mean. And so we end this book with yet another mystery. We still don’t really know who Beatrice is, we don’t know where Olaf came from, we don’t know where the Baudelaires will go next, we don’t know what V.F.D. is all about, we don’t know what Olaf will do to the Quagmires and we don’t know when the Baudelaires will face him next.

But we’ll start answering those questions next week when we move onto the next book.

First, the final few pages of this one. The last picture is of the two Quagmires being pushed into the car (a funky old-fashioned looking thing) with the archway in the background. Our only clue to the next book is a picture of a fish on the back bumper of the car. I also just have to point out the slightly Burtonesque socks that Duncan has going on, black and white stripes, I approve.

And then we get the letter to the editor telling us that the next book will be The Ersatz Elevator and dropping a few small hints about what will happen next. I’ll be looking at that in more detail tomorrow.

Wreck This Journal: Collect the Letter W Here

I’ve been so excited to share this page because it is definitely one of my favourites. I think this page is the one which helped me to come to terms with the general wreckingness of this book. I’m yet to do anything really truly destructive to this book, but this page helped me to start wrecking other things in order to get the ball rolling with this page.

This page seems quite innocent at first. The instruction is to ‘Collect the Letter W Here’. Now this sounds fairly innocent, you put the letter W all over the page. Easy.

Well, this kind of started an obsession for me. I started looking out for interesting Ws all over the place and have devoted HOURS to cutting them out of magazines, junk mail and random flyers I’ve picked up. I’ve actually taken free pamphlets home with me purely because they have an interesting W on the front cover.

You actually start looking at Ws on things you can't cut out and wondering how you can incorporate them into your W-ful page. Some people online had resorted to using letter Ms turned upside down, but it's not a problem I've had. Most adverts in magazines have a website address on them, so that's usually three Ws straight off.

Having stuck in a bunch of really big Ws I quickly started to run out of space so I've been cutting out really little Ws to fill in the big W on the page – with all the pages I’m trying to leave the instructions largely intact so you can still read what the page is supposed to be for. But even filling in the W with little ones didn’t help me with still finding bigger and better Ws but not having any room for them.

So I started on the facing page. I’ve got a little way to go before I fill in that page, though I’ve made a very good start to it.

Like most of the other pages in this book I’m just going to keep on working on this one, even after it looks like it’s done. You’ll probably see it again in the future when I’ve stuck in even more Ws and it might look much the same, just with fewer blank spaces, or it might look totally different. That’s one of the fun things about this book.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Austere Academy, Chapter 12

This chapter is pretty short which I’ve come to associate with sort of filler chapters in these books, like it’s there to help make up the thirteen chapter quota. Let’s see what we think of this one.

What Happens?

Nero shows up at the Orphan Shack with Mr Remora and Mrs Bass to test the Baudelaires. After a lot of stapling and questions about their respective topics, Bass and Remora announce that the children are wonderful and do not deserve to be expelled. However at that moment Coach Genghis shows up and it occurs to the Baudelaires that maybe things have not gone so well for the Quagmires!

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter has a sort of double image; at the top we’ve got a light hanging down in between the words ‘Chapter Twelve’ and then at the very bottom of the page there’s a table with a large ‘exam’ book on it. I’m guessing we’ll find out how the Baudelaires do in their exam here then.

Assumptions are dangerous things to make, and like all dangerous things to make – bombs, for instance, or strawberry shortcake – if you make even the tiniest mistake you can find yourself in terrible trouble.

Got to watch out for that strawberry shortcake!

Snicket goes on to warn us about making assumptions about things like, assuming your bed is where it always is because you might wake one morning to find it has drifted out to sea. He has a fair point there. While my bed has never actually drifted out to sea, I do agree with making assumptions about where your bed is when you wake up. When I was in Halls of Residence my bed was on the opposite side of the room from at home. Each weekend I would go home and forget and try to get out through the wall. I’d do the same thing when I’d get back to Uni. I spent a good nine months with bruises all over my knees!

I think this warning means that whatever the Baudelaires assume this morning, it’s going to turn out badly for them. Violet thinks they’ve made the last staple, therefore saving Sunny’s job; Klaus thinks he knows all the measurements and Violet knows all the stories, therefore preventing them from being expelled; and Sunny thinks “Nilikoh” meaning “And we haven’t seen either of the Quagmire triplets, so I think we can safely assume that their part of the plan went well.”

Then Nero shows up with their exams (and the paper for Sunny to staple). Instead of being a written exam it’s more of a sort of sudden-death test. The teachers will ask Violet and Klaus questions until one of them gets it wrong and then they get expelled. That’s the best way to ensure a child has learned their lessons after all.

Nero supervises Remora and Bass as they question the children, mocking them as they answer and then asking if the answer they’ve given is wrong. We get a full two pages of questions and answers, each one being answered correctly. Thankfully Snicket then moves on:

The comprehensive exams went on and on, and if I were to repeat all of the tiresome and pointless questions that Mr. Remora and Mrs. Bass asked, you might become so bored that you might go to sleep right here, using this book as a pillow instead of as an entertaining and instructive tale to benefit young minds.

At last the teachers turn to Nero and point out the children are doing a fantastic job and they should all just call it quits now. They actually praise all three of the children, that’s something the children probably haven’t heard from an adult since they were living with Monty! Even Sunny gets complimented on her stapling skills, being a modest child she replies “Pilso!” which Violet translates as “Thank you very much” but which actually means “My stapling hand is sore.”

As though things are going to go on getting better for the children, Remora actually suggests expelling Carmelita Spats because she’s not very nice and is a poor student to boot. Nero shoots them down and the conversation turns to what a wonderful person Coach Genghis is.

And speak of the devil, no sooner has Nero mentioned him, Coach Genghis shows up. And things have obviously not gone well for the Quagmires because he’s got the hair ribbon and glasses the Baudelaires loaned to them, oh, and his shoes are covered with flour, so it’s probably safe to assume that the fake-Sunny hasn’t faired much better either.

So presumably in the thirteenth chapter we’re going to find out exactly what has happened to the Quagmires. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess, nothing good!

Book 16 of 2014: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling

It seems like ages since I read the first Harry Potter book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, before the beginning of my Children’s Literature course. It seemed somewhat fitting that once I finished with my course I moved on with reading the rest of the serious, which by this point meant reading the third in the series, the Prisoner of Azkaban.

This book sees Harry learning about his godfather, Sirius Black, a man who has spent the last decade in the wizarding prison, Azkaban. Harry also has a lot to contend with this year at school, even without Voldemort putting in an appearance. When Black escapes from prison the school plays host to Dementors, the prison guards, which cause him to hear his mother’s death whenever they’re nearby; he keeps on seeing a large black dog, leading him to suspect that he’s going to die soon; and there’s something not quite right about the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher, well, as unusual as anyone at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry is likely to be.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban is easily one of my favourite books in the series. It has been ever since I first read it. I like that this one sort of starts to veer away from the pattern created by the first two by giving us a break from Voldemort being the bad guy of the story. I also love the way that everything gradually comes together within the story, like Hermione with the Time-Turner; I can see all the little hints there now, but I don’t think I caught what was going on during the first read-through.

One thing that really stood out to me while I was reading it this time was the fact that most of this book actually takes place within the same twenty-four hour timeframe, twice in some places. It seems like almost half of the book deals with the day of Buckbeak’s execution where the trio end up first ‘witnessing’ it and then heading into the Whomping Willow, and then going back with Harry and Hermione to see bits of it again as well as seeing what happened next. I think it just goes to show how well written the book is that I never really paid much attention to how much action is packed into such a short timeframe.

As at the time I’d been reading this, Mr Click and I had just had a marathon session watching the films (this was just around Easter time). Snape’s response to Sirius, thinking it was Sirius who had betrayed Lily (and James, not that Snape was too bothered about him) really resonated deeper with me. I like that Rowling puts in all these little hints about Snape’s feelings all the way through the series, but you don’t really get the pay-off for it until Deathly Hallows. Having watched the films and seeing the ending before reading this book, it made me feel differently towards Snape.

I put a little note in my Book Journal after finishing Prisoner of Azkaban that I was ‘Looking forward to rereading the rest.’ Since writing that I’ve read Goblet of Fire and Order of the Phoenix as well as having rewatched the films as far as Goblet of Fire. I am enjoying rereading the books. In fact, as soon as I finish The Three Musketeers I’ll be onto Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Though at the rate I’m going you probably won’t get to read the review for that until about this time next year!

Monday, 22 September 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Austere Academy, Chapter 11

We’re on the final stretch of The Austere Academy now, just another three chapters to go this week. This first one is quite long, so let’s get started.

What Happens?

Duncan and Isadora head off to run around the track disguised as the Baudelaires and pulling a bag of flour (to act as Sunny). Meanwhile Violet and Sunny work together to create staples, while Klaus studies for his exam and reads stories to Violet to help her revise. The plan seems to work quite well, which leaves the Baudelaires feeling quietly confident that this time they might outsmart Olaf.

Thoughts as I read:

Remember how last chapter the Quagmires decided they would create an imitation Sunny using a bag of flour on a piece of string, well that’s what this chapter’s picture is. It’s a simple little image of a bag of flour, with a ribbon, and a smiley face complete with four pointy teeth. The resemblance is almost uncanny!

Snicket opens up this chapter with a description of an occasion when he dressed up as a bullfighter and it made him feel like a totally different person. This enabled him to do something that he had been unable to do before. He met Beatrice and tried to give her a message about Count Olaf. Unfortunately we will never know what that message was because the text breaks off here and Snicket tells us he can’t bear to tell us what this message was. I love these little Fourth Wall breaking moments in these books.

Anyway, back at Prufrock Prep, the Quagmires are finding the game of dress up quite exciting. Considering Duncan is wearing Klaus’s glasses, I’m wondering how Klaus will actually be able to see to study Isadora’s notebook. Luckily they were able to filch a bag of flour to play the part of Sunny, and Violet got hold of a fork, creamed spinach and a small potato in order to help make staples. I’m curious about what it is she’s going to make.

Unfortunately the disguises aren’t brilliant, owing to a variety of factors, the least of which being that the children are different heights, but it’s the best they can do at short notice and they’ll have to get by the best they can! They’re relying on the fact that Count Olaf won’t be able to tell the difference between them in the evening light.

Violet thinks that a better course of action would be for the Baudelaires to make use of their new found running skills to just run away. Klaus agrees that they could then call Mr Poe and Sunny adds “Zubu” meaning “Or attend a different school, under different names.” Isadora helpfully puts paid to these suggestions, after all, Mr Poe is no help and Olaf finds them no matter where they go. Besides, they’re friends, and what are friends for, if not to disguise themselves as you in order to spend the night running around a track under the supervision of a murderous criminal.

There’s a momentary hiccough in the plan as they realise they have nothing to drag the flour bag Sunny around the track. Duncan does suggest that they could kick it around, though Klaus points out that if Olaf thought they were kicking Sunny around it might give the game away somewhat.

Violet’s solution gives the knitter in me a sort of jolt. She grabs a loose thread on Duncan’s jumper and pulls it out to give her a bit of yarn to attach to the flour bag Sunny. To be fair she does apologise to Duncan for ruining his sweater and there’s no knowing if it was an actual handknit, but still, it’s a little bit upsetting.

The chapter just gets even more distressing after this. The Quagmires have to go off to play at being running Baudelaire’s and as the real Baudelaires wave goodbye to them, they’re reminded of the last time they saw their parents and waved goodbye to them. This isn’t ominous at all, is it?

Klaus is a little bit hopeful, pointing out that from a distance the Quagmires don’t look too bad. Sunny agrees with an “Abax” and they then turn their attention to the staple-making device. It turns out that the things Violet pinched from the kitchen are only part of the plan, she also needs the crabs in the Orphan Shack as well as the tap shoes she made. They use the shoes to get the biggest crab in one corner and then use the toe-shaped potato to make the crab snap his claws. The potato will be pulled away that the last minute and instead he will snap the metal rods into staple sized pieces. It’s so crazy it might actually work.

While Sunny and Violet are occupied with the crab, Klaus gets down to business with the studying. He has to not only learn all the measurements for himself, but also read the stories to Violet while she works. And so this goes on for the next couple of hours. I’m pleased to see that Klaus does struggle to read, but he gets by okay in the end. I’m surprised he doesn’t give himself a headache squinting at the notebook.

There’s a nice little moment where Klaus has his sisters test him. Sunny asks “Soap?” and gets the measurements of a block of soap in response (8cm x 8cm x 8cm, if you’re interested). Then it’s time to start bending the snipped metal into shape, while Klaus reads Remora’s stories to Violet.

Sunny asks “Shablo” which means “How are we going to do that?” referring to the staple bending issue. The answer is simple; the creamed spinach acts as glue to attach the fork to a bale of hay, then they put the metal over the fork, tap it with their shoes and it turns the rod into a staple. Sunny announces “Gyba!” meaning “You’re a genius! But what can I do to help?” and is promptly given the task of scaring away the crabs while Violet works.

And so the chapter ends with the Baudelaires actually feeling quite happy for once because this little scene reminds them of how they used to spend their time together at the Baudelaire mansion. They’re starting to think the plan might just work which once again sounds just a little bit too good to be true.

But we’ll have to wait until tomorrow to find out just exactly what’s going to happen next.

A Bit of Writing: Limbo

I've never actually posted anything I've written on this blog before. Well, that's kind of a lie, obviously I write everything that I post on here but I mean written-written.

And two weeks ago I decided that had to change, so I scheduled this post plenty of time in advance so I could pull it if I changed my mind. If you're reading this right now, I didn't.

Way back in 2008, in October, I was gearing up for NaNoWriMo and I was desperate to start but there were still nearly two weeks to go. So what's a girl to do?

Write AU fan fiction for your own story, of course!

I should probably explain. My NaNo began with Liv's return to work after being caught by the serial killer she was chasing (believe it or not, before I'd ever watched Criminal Minds, the team in my story are basically the Scottish version of the BAU). He'd held her captive and the team, lead by Stephen, found her just in time. Limbo is a 'what if' of what might have happened if they'd not made it in time.

Enjoy it and be gentle.


There were several night nurses working on Liv's ward. Stephen didn't know their names but he always nodded when they smiled at him and listened while they filled him in on Liv's status. They expected him to show up, long after visiting time had ended, and there was always a soft-seated chair waiting for him beside the hospital bed. He was grateful for this; he frequently fell asleep during these visits, the soft chair helped a little.

Today had been a difficult one. Any case involving children usually was. He was aware that he didn't look his best; unshaven, bags beneath his eyes, blood stains on his shirt. It was probably for the best that Liv was unconscious. She would have been worried to see how he'd let himself go.

Liv looked the same as ever. No. That wasn't right. She looked the same as usual since she had come to this place. She had been beautiful; petite, thick blonde hair, surprisingly strong for her build. If he hadn't witnessed the transformation first hand, Stephen never would have believed that he was sitting with the same woman. Now she looked so fragile. Her skin was thin and papery, her hair brittle, and her muscles wasted.

Some nights Stephen felt the need to talk to Liv, to tell her what was happening at work as though he could wake her up if he could just pique her interest with the right topic. Tonight he just whispered 'we got him' and knew that would be enough. He couldn't relive the events of that day again.

When it had first happened they had visited in shifts. Stephen had been adamant that when she came round there would be a familiar face waiting for her. They might have been doing it for Liv in the beginning, but as the time passed it was clear that their concern was for Stephen instead.

Alistair had been the first to stop taking a shift at Liv's beside. Stephen had been angry but he understood. Alistair barely saw his children anyway and things hadn't been brilliant with his wife; he didn't need to spend his free time beside the bed of another woman. Chris had stopped visiting soon after. That was easier for Stephen to understand. Chris and Liv had been close, it was hard for Chris to see her like that.

Occasionally Stephen would find flowers beside Liv's bed. He knew that if he was to speak to the nurses he would know for certain who they came from, but he was already sure that they came from Chris. Probably marking some significant date for the pair. He couldn't ask her, he wasn't sure if they knew he still came here every night and what their reaction would be if he made it known.

He wasn't even sure why he still came every night. In the beginning he had clung on to the tiny ray of hope that Liv might wake up. Gradually the doctors had stopped suggesting that she might come round and instead spoke about keeping her wasted body comfortable - whatever that might mean.

A tiny part of him, the part that he tried desperately to ignore, thought that perhaps things might have been better for all involved if her attacker had been successful. The vital evidence needed to catch the guy wouldn't have been destroyed in a bid to save her life. She wouldn't have been forced to suffer this long, undignified death. He would have been able to grieve for his fallen colleague, come to terms with the loss, and move on.

Stephen hated to find himself thinking like that. What ifs consumed him. What if he'd been stronger? Faster? Smarter? What if he'd saved her? They never got him anywhere. The latest one was what if I don't come tomorrow? It could be easily justified; busy day at work, tired, going out with friends. Liv probably wouldn't even know.

He pushed the chair away from the bed, stooped, and planted a gentle kiss on the back of Liv's pale hand. He couldn't stay tonight. He was tired and there was no way he would function properly after another night in that chair. As he approached the door Stephen had almost made up his mind. There was only so long he could keep this up. Tomorrow would be different; he would go for drinks with Russell, a meal with Hannah, invite Chris to a movie.

But at the door he paused. Another what if at the back of his mind. A familiar one. What if she wakes up alone? And he knew, tomorrow he would be back, and the day after that.

Maybe then he would be ready to let go.


Sunday, 21 September 2014

Weekly Rundown: The Bathroom Saga

We’ve been having some bathroom issues this week. No, nothing quite like that. Just that the shower appeared to come to the decision to drain via our kitchen ceiling!

We had this problem a couple of times before, about 18 months ago, when we had to get get sealant put around the bath to stop the damp patch that had appeared on the kitchen ceiling. Luckily our landlord is fantastic and both times sent someone out to deal with the job. On the last occasion I mentioned that when we turned the shower on there seemed to be a small trickle of water running out the bottom, I was reassured that this was nothing, and after all, it was a teeny tiny trickle so we ignored it.

There were no more puddles on the bathroom floor, so the sealant obviously did the trick and the damp patch on the kitchen ceiling dried up. All was right in the world again.

Until a couple of weeks ago.

I couldn’t help but notice that the mark on the ceiling from the last leaky shower incident seemed to be more visible. I pointed this out to Mr Click but we decided that it was the same mark as before, that maybe the light was making it look different. As we usually have showers and go straight to bed, there’s not much time for kitchen-ceiling gazing in between times. There were a couple of times when I jumped into the kitchen to try and catch the damp patch looking, well, damper. It was sneaky and never did.

Until I noticed that it had brought a friend along who was hanging out directly underneath the far corner of the bath. This was definitely a new damp patch. So once again the plumber was called out.

And he spent about half a day hanging out in our bathroom, dismantling things, drying things out, putting things back together, scraping bits off and resealing other parts. Turns out that teeny tiny trickle (which had become more than just a teeny tiny trickle over the last few weeks) was also trickling down the inside of the wall and coming out into the kitchen ceiling.

The next morning we decided to tackle the funky mark on the ceiling but managed to brush off a piece of paint and found a hole where it came off. Another call to the big house which was swiftly followed by another visit from the plumber who had received a message about our kitchen ceiling falling in. Luckily this is not the case and rather than rebuilding our kitchen we just need a bit of filler and a lick of paint.

Suffice to say everything is now pretty much dried out and there have been no more leaky bits this week.

We’ve also been having a bit of a belated spring clean at home. We cleared out two cupboards in the kitchen to make a box to go to charity – we’ve had a ‘junk cupboard’ in the kitchen since we moved in, most of the things in it haven’t been used in the intervening three years so the time has come to make way for things we actually want to keep in it. Like food.

I’ve also finally gotten around to listing loads of things on eBay. I’ve been hanging onto my OU books from my last couple of courses. The Reading and Studying Literature books because I might have wanted to refer back to them whilst doing Children’s Literature, and the Children’s Literature ones because it seemed a bit premature to get rid of them before I had my results in. Well, it’s been a few months so the time has come to wave goodbye.

It was actually quite interesting listing them all. I’d forgotten I’d studied some of the texts! I don’t really mind what they go for, but I’m hoping to put whatever I get from them towards Christmas, because it’s not long to go now. I’ve already bought Mr Click’s present as well as a couple of other little gifts. Let’s hope I can stay ahead of it all.

In other news, I’m still reading The Three Musketeers. I’m enjoying it, but since I switched my Kindle screen to white text on a black background I keep dozing off while I’m reading. I should finish it this week and then I’ll be going onto Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. TV-wise, we’ve started watching Ripper Street and I’m enjoying it so far. I do have to admit I’m missing Criminal Minds a bit. I’m looking forward to rewatching that already!

And this week? Well, we’ve got to reorganise the spare bedroom (which is currently full of things that should be in the upstairs cupboard but which I’d left out in order to reach the OU books I wanted to eBay) and I’ve got even more books to get listed as well. It’s going to be another busy one.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Part 3

We’re about halfway through the film now, hope you’re enjoying it.

Last week Harry became the fourth (of three) Triwizard Champions but can’t get out of it because it’s a binding magical contract, this established that someone at Hogwarts probably wants him dead. He’s also discovered that his cause of death is likely to be by dragon. In other news, Malfoy makes a good ferret.

57. Harry’s been told to play to his strengths and a second later we’re shown the stadium where the first task is taking place. All that we know it Harry’s method of dealing with the dragon is going to involve flying.

58. I like this next bit. Hermione stands outside the tent giving Harry some last minute advice. Unable to contain herself she rushes in and gives Harry a hug, caught by Rita Skeeter who is evidently planning her next article.

59. I do like the way Dumbledore looks at Hermione and then asks “What are you doing here Miss Granger?”

60. The champions each pull a miniature dragon out of a little bag. I’d quite like me a little mini dragon. They’re quite cute.

61. The champions are told that they will have to collect an egg guarded by their dragon. And everything gets underway. Soon Harry is the only one left waiting in the tent.

62. There’s no sign of the dragon at first but as Harry runs towards the egg the dragon appears. I have to admit, all the reaction shots of the audience gasping and ducking kind of make me laugh.

63. Hermione reminds Harry that he kinda needs to use his wand so he summons his Firebolt which thankfully does not get eaten by the dragon on its approach. So Harry is off and apparently this who bit is supposed to make up for the lack of Quidditch in the film.

64. The dragon escapes from its chains which means that not only is this challenge deadly for the competitors, it’s not such a good thing for the spectators either. Harry and the dragon end up flying all round the castle, landing on turrets and causing all sorts of damage as they go. At least they’ll probably be able to repair these bits with magic.

65. There are a couple of hairy moments, like when the dragon nearly catches Harry on the roof or the dragon almost takes out the bridge but there’s not really any doubt that this will end well.

66. Apart from the people in the stadium who for a while are just sitting there twiddling their thumbs waiting for Harry to return.

67. Everything happens quite quickly after that. Harry comes back, grabs the egg and suddenly we’re in the Gryffindor Common Room watching the party.

68. Harry opens the egg and all we’re able to hear is a horrible screaming noise. Ron’s the first person to speak afterwards. Harry’s a little bit snitty with his friend but they basically make up, with Ron telling Harry that he actually passed on the message about the dragons. And then they’re best friends again. Even Hermione is baffled.

69. Another transition with an owl flying around the castle and into the Great Hall. The Patil twins says hello to Harry, but he’s more interested in Cho, so interested in Cho that he dribbles his juice down his front.

70. Hermione meanwhile is complaining about the write up she’s received in the Daily Prophet about Harry and herself. Ron’s got mail too, it’s a box containing something brown and frilly which Ron assumes is a dress for Ginny. Hermione explains that it’s not a dress at all. They’re dress robes. For what? Ron asks.

71. McGonagall is about to tell us. Filch is setting up the largest gramophone in history. There will be a night of ‘well mannered frivolity’ in the guise of the Yule Ball. This is a dancing lesson.

72. Ron is volunteered by McGonagall to take the part of her dancing partner. I love how uncomfortable he looks. This reminds me so much of Social Dancing classes at school.

73. Neville’s really into it at least. He’s got some good moves.

74. Harry’s struggling to get a girl on her own long enough to ask her to be his Yule Ball partner. He’d rather face dragons than ask a girl to the dance.

75. Meanwhile Hagrid is flirting with Madame Maxime. Krum is showing off to Hermione down by the lake, with a gaggle of girls trotting after him.

76. When they should be working on their homework Ron, Harry and Hermione are discussing the Yule Ball. Ron’s chat up lines need a bit of work “Hermione, you’re a girl...” She takes offense to this and already has a date for the night. Snape has been pushing the boys’ heads down throughout this whole exchange as they refuse to do their work. I do love the way he pulls up his sleeves before shoving their heads down for the final time.

77. Another transition, once again we follow an owl up to the owlry. And it’s all snowy, all I can see in the right hand corner is the smiley face made by the standing stones beside the entrance to the bridge!

78. Harry’s heading up to the owlry where he runs smack into Cho, they do that funny little dancing thing where they both move to the same side at the same time so can’t pass each other. Aww.

79. He invites her to be his partner but she’s already taken. Oops. They both look a wee bit disappointed. So Harry goes and lies in the common room hugging his egg.

80. Ron’s not had any more luck. He tries asking Fleur out. This is going to be one of those awkward family stories in the future. At this moment the Patil twins walk past and apparently they’re still taken because a second later the boys are getting ready for the ball.

81. Ron’s outfit does not look good. Harry’s looks okay though he does look a little bit like he’s about to pull a rabbit out of a hat. Meanwhile Ron complains that he looks and smells like his Great Aunt Jessie.

82. Ron’s convinced that Hermione isn’t going with anyone to the dance. That she’s crying alone in her room. McGonagall chooses this moment to break it to Harry that he has to start the dancing with the other champions.

83. And then Hermione shows up. She’s got a lovely dress on and she’s done her hair and everything. And Krum meets her at the bottom of the stairs. I love her little geeky giggle as she waves at Harry. She might be all polished up but she’s still regular Hermione.

84. The Great Hall looks totally magical. All ice and snow and everything. So pretty.

85. Luckily the champions don’t have to dance alone long. Before long the teachers start joining them on the dance floor. Filch is dancing with his cat and Neville is partnering Ginny. Ginny’s dress is kind of little girlish.

86. The proper dancing doesn’t last long. Within a few minutes there’s a wizard’s mosh pit going on down by the stage. The Patil sisters are obviously disappointed by their choice of dance partners but Hermione is having a great time. Ron’s obviously annoyed with her, claiming she’s fraternising with the enemy. Poor Ron, every time he opens his mouth he puts his foot in it.

87. Proper Christmas dance really. Ron and Hermione end up having a fight, leaving her in tears. Christmas dances at school often ended like that, though never for me I should add.

88. I like the little moment where Hagrid is dancing with Madame Maxime and she has to readjust his hand on her back. I’ve never noticed that before. Bad Hagrid!

89. It’s all dark and we’re outside now, sort of zooming around the turrets. Inside Harry is having another bad dream. There’s a graveyard in the snow and he’s in the house from the beginning of the movie where Doctor Who is showing Voldemort the Dark Mark on his arm before someone gets Avada Kedavra’d.

90. Neville’s had a good night. Dirty stop out! He’s still dancing even now.

And we’ll leave them all there in their nice Christmassy post-party glow/depression.

Next time Harry leaves figuring out the next clue until the last possible minute and is almost completely unprepared for the second task, there’s a murder in the grounds of the school and Doctor Who is revealed to be a very bad man.

Friday, 19 September 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Austere Academy, Chapter 10

Despite thinking that I would've get all these posts written this week, I've actually done pretty well and got them all written up fairly easily. I'm pleased that I've managed to get this far ahead of myself now because I want to be far enough ahead that blogging time won't eat into my NaNo time too much. After all, I'm writing almost 10,000 words a week some weeks already so I shouldn't have any excuses come November!

Now for Chapter 10 of The Austere Academy, it's a pretty short one after the longer chapters we've been up against this week.

What Happens?

Together the Baudelaires and the Quagmires try to come up with a plan to enable the Baudelaires to study for their exams. Eventually the Quagmires decide to imitate the Baudelaires and spend the night running, whilst loaning them their notebooks in order to study. However it's unlikely that fooling Count Olaf will be as simple as this.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter picture is kind of intriguing. It features a pair of boots with a fish in each one. I have no idea what this means, why there are fish in the boots or what on earth is going to happen in this chapter. Are the Baudelaires going to lose their plate privileges and so have to carry their dinners in their shoes? Are they trying some new crab-repelling tactics? Is this a visual representation of just how bad Coach Genghis's feet smell when he removes his footwear?

We'll just have to read on to find out.

We don't have any apt truisms to kick off this chapter, oh no, we're straight into the action now. All five children are hanging out in the Orphan Shack which is slightly more habitable now that they're all armed (or at least footed) with tap shoes to ward off crabs, and the salt has dried out the fungus. Hopefully this has inspired them to get thinking of a way out of the Olaf-situation.

They're currently bemoaning the fact that they didn't work out Olaf's plan earlier, except they're still calling him Coach Genghis despite knowing who he really is. I guess this is to make the book easier to follow and I'm wondering if perhaps I should have done likewise in these reviews, meh, if he's really Olaf I'm just going to call him Olaf!

Duncan and Isadora's approach to figuring out Olaf's plan was kind of the approach we see in some episodes of Criminal Minds; work out what made the bad guy a bad guy. They've been looking at old papers to see if he did any nefarious deeds before he set his sights on the Baudelaires. It's possible that he did because they found a man who strangled a bishop and then escaped from prison, a man who pushed a wealthy widow off a cliff and someone from the Baudelaires' home town who did something which could be an important clue, but we don't learn what it is because Isadora interrupts.

While the Quagmires and Klaus are discussing this, Violet is trying to work out a way to make staples for Sunny and worrying about remembering the stories Mr Remora has told. Luckily the Quagmires come to the rescue again by offering to loan the elder Baudelaires their notes to study. This would be really useful if it wasn't for the fact that they have no time to read notes what with their impending S.O.R.E. session that night. "Tarcour" Sunny says, meaning "You're right, of course. S.O.R.E. always lasts until dawn and the tests are first thing in the morning." just in case we'd forgotten that little nugget of information.

They all take a moment to consider what their heroes would do if they were available to help them. I'm amused by their list of role models: Nikola Tesla, Dorothy Parker, Hammurabi, Lord Byron, and, in Sunny's case, "Shark". At first this train of thought seems unlikely to help them much, but then it sparks something for Duncan, shoes.

In short his plan is for the Quagmires to disguise themselves as Violet and Klaus so they can run laps in order to let the real Baudelaires study for their incredibly difficult exam. The shoes come into it because they will need to swap shoes in order to sound the same as they are running in the dark, to prevent Olaf from becoming suspicious.

There's only one flaw in the plan. Somehow the two Quagmires are going to have to take the place of three Baudelaires. They might be triplets but there's only two of them available to help right now. Isadora comes up with a solution to this little problem, Sunny's about the size of a bag of flour, that'll do as a substitute Sunny. Sunny's response is "Denada". This has me thinking of a book I read where the children at a school were given bags of flour to look after and treat like a baby for a week.

Violet is a little anxious about this plan because it could get them all into trouble. Which I think it's safe to say it will, after all, the very next paragraph contains this nugget of foreshadowing:

This, as it turns out, was a question that would haunt the Baudelaires for quite some time, but the Quagmires gave it barely a thought.

This plan means that there is going to be some grand scale snitching going on. They need to steal a bag of flour (to act as Sunny), string (to pull aforementioned sack of flour along the ground) and staple-making invention equipment (for making staples, obviously). With a "Nidop" meaning "Then let's get moving" they all head out to put the plan into action.

And as they head out to set things in motion Snicket warns us that the children were not quite as nervous as they should have been about the coming night. Obviously they're nervous, but they apparently didn't grasp just how serious things are going to get for them all. This does not sound very good at all.

But we're going to have to wait to find out just how serious. See you there on Monday!