Sunday, 30 November 2014

Weekly Rundown: Back to Edinburgh

As you’re reading this I’m on my way back to Edinburgh, twice in as many months! This is some sort of record for me!

Photo from my iPhone at last year's market.
It’s a trip being run by my work and as I’ve done most of my Christmas shopping I’m just there to pick up one or two extra stocking fillers as well as with the intention of soaking up the Christmas atmosphere at the German market.
Another iPhone photo from last year's market.
I’ll tell you all about it next week.

In the meantime, I’m getting all geared up for Christmas. Tomorrow we’ll be putting up our decorations and to kick off the countdown to Christmas here on the blog we’ll have our first visitor with a guest blog post.

The schedule is looking something like this:

1st December: Mark from So It Goes
8th December: Melissa from My Creatively Random Life
15th December: Mr Click (my long-suffering husband, no blog because one blogger in the house is quite enough!)
18th December: Sammie from Sounds Like Sammie
22nd December: Katherine from The Socialized Homeschooler

Why don’t you pop over to visit their blogs and get to know them before their posts appear in the coming weeks.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Part 3

As you're reading this I'm frantically trying to get the house organised ready for putting the decorations up on Monday. I say this like we have a lot of work to do. We don't. The main task is clearing the windowsills of knitted toys in order to make room for knitted Santa and other assorted Christmassy things.

Tomorrow we're off to Edinburgh and I'm in search of yet another Christmas decoration to add to the collection as well. But you're not here to read about this, it's a post about Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince after all.

Last week Harry was rescued by the lovely Luna, Harry found a book that made him better at Potions than Hermione, Katie Bell got cursed and it was probably Draco that did it. Woooooooo!

This week Ron's not so bad at Quidditch, Slughorn has a party, Mr Weasley is the coolest dad in the world, and Harry can't get Slughorn to tell him about his memory of Tom Riddle.

61. Poor Hermione at Slughorn’s party, bringing up the dangers of Muggle dentistry.

62. Hehe, Harry’s sudden attack of etiquette at Ginny’s arrival.

63. Slughorn kind of has a roll of honour of all the students he’s ‘collected’. He’s quite open about which ones he’s hoping to collect from the current batch. And then the conversation turns to Voldemort and we’re reminded once more of similarities between Harry and Voldemort.

64. Poor Ron. You know he’s nervous considering how he usually tucks into his food.

65. Luna’s hat really is something else. I wonder if I could get away with one of those.

66. The liquid luck thing plays out brilliantly. It’s another of those snapshot type things that I love about this film and which I feel could’ve been done to better effect in the fourth film.

67. I do kind of wish they’d thrown in some of Luna’s commentary on the match, purely for entertainment value.

68. Hermione is totally busted on the Confundus charm. And oh look, Ron and Lavender sucking face. Poor Hermione.

69. So much of these teenage angst moments could be solved by just actually talking to each other. They obviously are destined to be together, they just need to say it out loud. I realise this would take away the conflict and stuff but still, I just like people who love each other to be together.

70. Ron and Lavender choose entirely the wrong moment to show up and Hermione does not take it well. Also, I really like her t-shirt/long-sleeve top combo she’s got on. It’s the sort of thing I’d wear.

71. And now we’re getting ready for Christmas. Ron is now apparently an expert in love and Hermione is rather upset about not having him as her date. Hermione is spending rather a lot of time hitting people with books and things in this film.

72. Luna is totally a cool person to invite to Slughorn’s party. And I like the random things she comes out with. Wearing shoes to bed is perfectly acceptable if you sleepwalk, doesn’t explain why she wanders around outside during the day barefoot though.

73. Draco’s working on the vanishing cabinet. Either it’s starting to work, or it needs to be fed apples.
Hermione is clearly regretting her choice of date. Cormac clearly regrets eating the dragon balls. And Snape is just generally Snape and wonderful.

74. Then Draco shows up and there seems to be some tension between he and Snape. And guess who is eavesdropping on this little scene…

75. Ron helps us understand the finer points of Unbreakable Vows. They can’t be broken apparently. Just in case you were struggling to figure that one out.

76. Oh and Ron is getting a bit fed up with Lavender. So’s Hermione as well… well, with both of them.

77. Oh Lupin, just listen to Harry. He’s usually right about these things and it’ll save time.

78. Mr Weasley is such an awesome dad, he totally knows that Ginny and Harry like each other. Ron, not so awesome, as he parks himself right in between the two lovebirds.

79. Speaking of Mr Weasley, I love his shed. Each time I watch this bit I spot other little bits and pieces that I’ve not noticed in there before; printers, blenders, radios.

80. One thing that we really don’t get to see enough of in either the books or the films is Lupin and Tonks. They’re a lovely couple and I always want to know more about them.

81. Considering Ginny goes out with like, half the boys in Hogwarts, she’s really not so hot at the flirting thing. Seriously? Shoelace! That’s not the best chat up line. Despite this they do go in for a kiss before Bellatrix and other assorted death eaters show up to ruin things for them. Ginny has to realise that running out after your boyfriend when there are people around who want to kill you maybe isn’t the most sensible thing to do.

82. Also why does Ginny need Harry to show up and protect her from Greyback. She’s awesome with the Reducto curse.

83. Seeing The Burrow on fire makes me so sad. Poor Weasleys. Though they’re all magic people so they should be able to just put everything right again okay. Still sad though.

84. Lavender is as annoying as ever. Won-Won. Really? Ron does not seem any more impressed about it than Hermione does.

85. Oh look, it’s the young serial killer again. I like how the fact that Riddle knew what Slughorn’s favourite sweet was gives us a little nod towards his Legilimency skills.

86. The idea of changing memories fascinates me. It makes me think of all those things that you think you remember in one way, but which when you go back to them again you realise you’re muddling them up. Anyway, Harry’s been tasked to retrieve the real memory.

87. Harry’s approach to get the real memory involves going to see Slughorn and repeating what Riddle said virtually word for word. This clearly raises alarm bells for Slughorn and when Harry mentions Riddle’s name he upsets the guy and it’s obvious that he’s not going to get anything else from him.

88. Doesn’t stop him trying though.

And that's where we'll stop for this week.

Next week is the penultimate part of this film's not-really-a-live-blog review where we will see Harry save Ron's life, almost kill Draco, and retrieve the memory from Slughorn. Bit of a busy spell for Harry there.

Friday, 28 November 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Hostile Hospital, Chapter 1

A slightly late start to these posts this week. I sort of ran out of time at the weekend to do everything that I needed to get done and so this was the one thing I chose to neglect. At least these posts are flexible enough to let me do that. I'm thinking this book will take us to mid-way through December and then we'll have a little break from these books until New Year, there's only five left after it and once I get myself organised (and I'm not spending all my waking computer hours churning out NaNo words) they'll come together quite quickly.

What Happens?

The Baudelaires find themselves standing outside the Last Chance General Store. With no other immediate options available to them they head inside to send a telegram to Mr Poe. And then it's just a question of waiting and hoping for a reply.

Thoughts as I read:

This book opens with the regular dedication to Beatrice:

For Beatrice -
Summer without you is cold as winter.
Winter without you is even colder.

That's quite fitting considering the fact that I'm reading this in the last week of November and things are slowly but steadily getting chillier. It's been a ridiculously mild month so far, there are still wasps flying around for crying out loud!

So then we have the traditional first picture of the book. This one is of the Last Chance General Store, which the Baudelaires are currently standing outside of. It looks like a petrol station and it's got all sorts of posters tacked up outside but I can't quite read them. I think one says 'Pig Boxes'. Behind the shop is a tree with one lonely crow in it, a little reminder of where we've been.

And we're thrown right into telegram jokes. That's a good place to start a story. Snicket begins by telling us about reasons why someone might start a sentence with the word 'stop'. On this occasion it is not because the author is writing a telegram but because they wish for us to slowly put down the book and step away from it. This command is obviously optional and we're going to ignore it.

When we left the Baudelaires they were walking out into a flat open plain with no real idea of where they were going, just that they needed to leave V.F.D. in a hurry to prevent their being burned at the stake. They've finally reached something, something being the Last Chance General Store and we get to find out what some of the posters on the outside of the store are about:

... the Baudelaires could see that fresh limes, plastic knives, canned meat, white envelopes, mango-flavoured candy, red wine, leather wallets, fashion magazines, goldfish bowls, sleeping bags, roasted figs, cardboard boxes, controversial vitamins, and many other things were available inside the store.

I'm curious about those controversial vitamins.

Once again we're reintroduced to the Baudelaires and their little idiosyncrasies. Just in case you've forgotten; Violet's fourteen, invents stuff, and ties her hair up in a ribbon when she's thinking; Klaus is recently turned thirteen, reads stuff and remembers almost all of it; and Sunny is a baby, has four teeth, speaks in gibberish only really understood by her siblings and is just learning how to walk. On this occasion Sunny says 'Agery!' which is translated as 'Well, we can't keep on walking forever' so they decide to head into the Last Chance General Store.

Klaus spots a telegraph wire and they debate about sending a telegram for help. However their options are somewhat limited having been orphaned, currently wanted by the police and not really having any friends or acquaintances since they're currently miles up in the air in a self-sustaining hot air balloon. It is Sunny who suggests 'Poe' which is probably the most pointless suggestion ever, but she can be forgiven since she is just an infant. Her siblings are exhausted so don't shoot down her suggestion, though Violet does point out that one of the worst things he's likely to do is just plain cough at them.

The person in the shop thinks that the Baudelaires are 'Lou' which I can't help but read as one of those names that Count Olaf is likely to use, even though it's only three letters long and there are plenty of names of that length containing some of the letters found in 'Count Olaf'. The shop is so packed full of supplies that the children can't actually see who is speaking, and they can't see the kids so continue to talk to them as though they are the mysterious Lou. And that's when the Volunteers Fighting Disease are mentioned.

And this makes the children's ears prick up. It's those initials again! Duncan and Isadora mentioned V.F.D. back when they were being abducted by Count Olaf and the last thing they said to them as they sailed away with Hector in the hot air balloon was 'volunteer'. Sounds like it might be a clue...

This is where the children bump into the man looking for Lou who quickly realises that the children are not who he thinks they are. This guy is a bit chubby and seems to be wearing most of his stock. He goes on to talk about the three dangerous murderers who have been hanging around but he doesn't know much about them since Lou hasn't arrived with The Daily Punctilio yet.

Klaus does attempt to point out that the paper might not be entirely correct, but he's shot down by the shopkeeper who then goes on to tell them that it's quite expensive to send a telegram. This is bad news for the Baudelaires who don't have any money on them at the moment, considering they were only taken into the Village of Fowl Devotees to be raised in return for doing all their chores and didn't earn any wages for it. Sunny says 'Sos!' which means 'It's an emergency situation'. Sos, SOS, get it?

The shopkeeper turns out to be quite nice since he agrees to send the telegram for free, then goes on to tell the children that the V.F.D. never get charged for fuel either, since they're working for a good cause. This V.F.D. would obviously be the Volunteers Fighting Disease and they go to the hospital to help keep the patients happy. I guess Daniel Handler was inspired after watching Patch Adams.

Violet knows exactly how to work the telegram device since she built one seven years ago. Klaus knows Morse code and Sunny just says 'Help!' so the shopkeeper just leaves them to it. Once they're alone Violet turns to wondering about if this is the V.F.D. they have been looking for, to which Sunny replies 'Jacques!' For those who remember, Jacques mentioned working as a volunteers, and for those who didn't Klaus fills us in.

Klaus is pinning rather too much hope on Mr Poe being able to help them here since he starts talking about 'After Mr. Poe' helps them. Sunny points out 'Trosslik' which means 'You mean **if** Mr. Poe gets us out of this mess' which is a very valid point, because when has he ever helped them out of a difficult situation before?

And this is the message they send:

To: Mr. Poe at Mulctuary Money Management,
From: Violet, Klaus, and Sunny Baudelaire
Please do not believe the story about us printed in The Daily Punctilio STOP. Count Olaf is not really dead, and we did not really murder him STOP.

After hearing this Sunny asks 'Arrete?' because apparently she speaks French now.

The message continues but since it's just a repeat of the whole of the last book. Sunny even takes a part in dictating the message 'Uckner' which means 'Meanwhile we discovered where the Quagmire triplets were being hidden, and helped them escape STOP. The Quagmires managed to give us a few scraps of their notebooks so we could try to learn the real meaning of V.F.D. STOP.'

Klaus sums it all up quite neatly with 'We are in grave danger.' This is very true and I'm guessing that this book is going to be mostly about how they end up in even graver danger, because that's how these things work. Klaus's comment does not reassure Sunny, who says 'Ilimi' which I think means that she's scared. She's not the only one, though Violet is rather foolishly putting all of her faith in Mr Poe to help them.

It takes Klaus to point out that until this point they've figured out a way out of every situation they've ended up in and Mr Poe is really useless. Except at finding terrible guardians for three orphans, he's altogether too good at that. This isn't enough to put Violet off. I think the stress has gotten to her and she's totally cracked now.

When Klaus asks what they'll do if Mr Poe doesn't get back to them Sunny says 'Chonex' which means 'Then we're all alone'. I hate to point it out but they've been pretty much alone since that first chapter of the first book when they saw Mr Poe on the beach and he told them their parents had been killed.

And so that's where we'll leave them until next week. In a shop crammed full of stuff, completely and utterly alone.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Wreck This Journal: Fill This Page With Circles

I know that I’ve already shared this page before but I’ve added to it since then so I thought I’d let you have a glimpse of how it’s looking now. I’d originally intended for this week’s post to be about the Finish This Book page but I’ve not got a photo of it to hand, whereas it’s much easier to snap a photo of this one. Plus I’m working to a very tight schedule.

Last time I shared this page, here, it looked like this:

Anyway, since my last post I’ve branched out across another page so at one point it looked like this:

And I've recently added to it a little more:

I’d intended to try to keep the circles from overlapping to start off with but realised that the page wouldn’t get nearly as full as I wanted it to without letting some of the circles overlap occasionally.

I’ve still got quite a few circles to add to the page, they’re sitting in a pencil case as I type. As with everything else at the moment, NaNo has been pushing all my normal evening activities to the sidelines. Also my glue stick isn’t very good at the moment. Not all of these circles are very well stuck down!

Hopefully next time I share this page it’ll barely have any page left showing through between the circles.

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Book 25 of 2014: The Ocean At The End Of The Lane by Neil Gaiman

Back last year I was a lot more active on Twitter than I have been recently. Neil Gaiman is one of the authors that I follow there and I kept on hearing talk about The Ocean At The End Of The Lane. There were a lot of people posting about how good it was, shortly after it was published.

I’d been promising myself more Neil Gaiman books for ages and was sure I would like this book, despite knowing pretty much nothing about it other than the name. Then my local bookshop did the blind date with a book thing and I picked up a book which was labelled as:

1. Fantasy
2. Childhood memories
3. Fable

I picked it up and low and behold, it was Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane so I hurriedly finished The Dead of Jericho and moved onto my brand new book.

The Ocean At The End Of The Lane begins with a man returning to his old childhood home following a funeral and remembering a girl he was friends with when he lived there. He goes back to her old home and finds himself sitting in the pond in her garden remembering the strange things that happened when he was much younger.

I absolutely LOVED this book! There is really no other way to describe my feelings for it other than complete and utter love. I gave it five stars in my book journal. I think for the whole year so far (out of the 49 books I’ve read) I’ve only given three books five stars; I’ve given quite a few books four and a half, but The Ocean At The End Of The Lane was only my second five star book.

I was thrilled when I unwrapped my book and discovered it was by Neil Gaiman because up until this point I had read and loved The Graveyard Book and Stardust. I’d intended to collect Gaiman books on my Kindle but since I own this one and I’d found Anansi Boys earlier in the year I’ve sort of resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to have to just buy them all and squeeze them onto my bookcase somehow.

It was one of those books that I didn’t want to put down. I could have quite easily read it in one go if I hadn’t started it at 10:30pm on a Sunday. I basically read it in four sittings.

It’s a difficult book to describe. I’m impressed that Print Point were able to pick the three points to describe it because even writing a vague plot summary is really hard. There were parts that were kind of creepy but at the same time it wasn’t that scary. Some of it was the way it was written and some of it was the events that were being described, you really got the sense of how the narrator felt about what was going on in his life at the time.

The premise itself was fantastic and I loved the way that it was written. The first and last chapters kind of act as bookends, introducing you to the past and bringing you back to the present day. It’s so very clever. I also like that it has a little question and answer section at the end; I like those, they’re like special features for books. It was interesting to read which of the events in the book actually happened to Gaiman in real life when he was younger.

I love magic realism and Neil Gaiman is becoming one of my favourite authors, even though at the time of reading this it was only my third book of his that I’d read (I’ve now read my fourth in Anansi Boys). I’m really looking forward to reading more of his books and no sooner had I finished this book I shared it with a colleague who read it almost as quickly as I did. I’ve since recommended it to several other people as well.

Definitely one I’ll be reading again in the future.

Monday, 24 November 2014

NaNo Talk: The End Is Nigh

November is known around the world as National Novel Writing Month, a time of the year when hundreds and thousands of people try to get 50,000 words down on paper in just thirty days. There’s something quite compelling about it and once you’ve taken part once it has a habit of drawing you back in, year after year.

This year while I’m taking part I’m also sharing some of my thoughts on the various stages of the month.

By the end of the day today you should have less than 10,000 words to go to hit 50k. Are you proud of yourself? You should be. Even if you’re not quite where you would’ve hoped to be, look at how many words you’ve written. Give yourself a pat on the back. Now write a few more. ;-)

Just think. This time next week NaNo will be over. Will you be returning to the pre-NaNo non-writing craziness? Will you keep pounding on the keyboard, determined to finish this first draft? Are you going to dive straight into editing? Or would you rather put the whole thing away somewhere and not look at it again for a very long time?

However you’re finding NaNo, you’ve done a good job to get this far. Now it’s time to start thinking about the end.

Do you know how you’re going to finish things? You might’ve had the end in sight since somewhere around about the middle of September when your novel jumped into your mind almost fully formed, or perhaps you’ve been just one step behind the next bit of action since you put pen to paper and what’s going to happen on Saturday is still a mystery to you.

Don’t forget that to get your purple winner’s bar and goodies on the site you need to validate your novel. Don’t worry about the site stealing your words, their word counting computer doesn’t read anything; it chomps up your words and spits out a nice shiny number at the other side. Hopefully it’ll say Winner and come with a pretty certificate for you to print out and show off.

Don’t be alarmed if their word count is slightly different from yours. Different word counters count things differently. If you’re lucky you might find the NaNo fairies have granted you some extra words that you didn’t know you had. If you’re unlucky, they might eat a few of them without giving you any credit for them.

This is why it’s always good to give yourself a bit of a buffer. Why don’t you write that buffer right now? Have two of your characters get into an argument or find something on the floor, a hundred words should do it and then you’ll be a little bit more covered when it comes to validation.

It’s also a good time to check out all the nice shiny winners goodies on offer on the site this year. You’ll be able to apply for a proof copy of your novel (someday I’ll actually apply for one of those) and also get discount codes for writing software like Scrivener.

When you win, remember to go and celebrate on the boards as well. You’ve been taking part in this crazy challenge with hundreds of other people. You’re not alone. They’re having a party over there. Why don’t you go and join in?

You never know, you might get an idea for next year’s NaNo. ;-)

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Weekly Rundown: This may have been a mistake...

Last week I posted about how I had technically completed NaNoWriMo and was tentatively upping my word count goal to 100,000 words. I’ve done it before, this time couldn’t be that much different, could it? Really?

I suspect I may have been wrong. At the time of typing this I’ve broken the 76,000 word barrier, which I think we can all agree is an impressive achievement in itself. In order to reach the target of 100,000 words I need to write 3,000 per day and most days I’ve been managing just over 2,000.
I’m beginning to have doubts.

I've also managed to write myself into a bit of a corner since Grandma Wiltshire put a spell on her granddaughters and then promptly died. In my head she was just going to get sick and go to hospital but instead she passed away leaving the girls to figure out how to get out of their predicament by themselves. Grandma Wiltshire is still hanging around as a ghost, but she won't be there for long and I have no idea how the girls are supposed to break the spell. It's going to be an interesting final week of NaNo figuring it all out!

While writing this post I also validated my word count. I'm still adding to it, but I did hit the 50,000 word mark back during the second week so I've got my winner certificate and other goodies. That's hopefully the burst that I need to complete this thing. Hopefully.

Stats as of 11am, today.
It also suddenly occurred to me, after I got in on Saturday, that I’m not going to be around to upload posts for next week. I’ve been merrily thinking that having a busy Saturday this week wouldn’t be a problem because I could get plenty of blog posts written next Saturday. Except I’m off to Edinburgh next weekend.

So I might have Saturday free to write blog posts, but I’m definitely not going to be around to upload them. Oops.

I have been pretty organised about the first of my guest blog posts which will go live Monday after next. That's scheduled to go up, the Chapter-by-Chapter posts are less pressing, we can draw those out through the month, so I won't be doing afternoon posts for the next couple of weeks. The Chapter-by-Chapter posts will be going up just once a day this Friday and the next, then I should be able to get caught up properly and go back to normal. My main target is to write as much NaNo as I can and make sure that I have something to post each day.

Speaking of the guest blogging posts, the first of those will be up on the 1st of December (featuring Mark from So It Goes) with the other following weekly, with a bonus post on the 18th.

When I’ve not been powering my way through my second NaNo story, which like the first one is not going to plan (one of my characters who was supposed to get ill and end up in hospital but instead died on me but is still hanging around as a ghost) I’ve been reading. I finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, read a short story/sampler of a Christmassy story on my Kindle, and now I’m reading The Bromeliad by Terry Pratchett.

The Bromeliad is the trilogy of Truckers, Diggers and Wings and I thought it would take me forever to get through, but it’s proving to be quite the quick read, not least because I’m finding it very difficult to put down. I’m going to need to start on The Hobbit soon if I’m going to get it read before I go and see the film (whenever that ends up being).

We’re still watching Christmas films too. We started the week with White Christmas and then ended it with that steaming turd of a Christmas film, Home Alone 4. It is truly awful, though I was more in the mood for it on a Friday night and it didn’t annoy me anywhere near as much as it usually does.

We spent the afternoon yesterday watching Disney Christmas cartoons and animations. Those were film numbers eight, nine and ten of the thirty-three on our list this year. Hopefully powering through them this quickly will mean we might actually get to watch them all before Christmas.

There won’t be a proper Weekly Rundown post next week as I’m going to be in Edinburgh enjoying the Christmas market. Things should get back to normal with my posting schedule in the week following that though as NaNo will be over. I’ll let you know what my final word count is.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Film Review: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Part 2

I hope everyone who is taking part in NaNo this year are almost ready for their last full week of writing. This is your chance for the final push. Good luck and remember you're a winner no matter what you end up with.

Now it's time for the second part (of five) in my sort of live-blog of the sixth Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.

In the first part of this film we saw things getting very dark as Harry made a return visit to The Burrow (via a meeting with Professor Slughorn), Fred and George were doing a roaring trade, and Draco's even more dark and moody than he was before (because he's got A Very Important Job To Do). Wooooo!

This part sees Luna being wonderful (as usual), Harry gets good at Potions (much to Hermione's displeasure), mini-Voldemort is really creepy (as if we expected anything less), and Harry is sure that everything really is Draco Malfoy's fault this time. Woooooo!

32. Harry doesn’t appear to be going anywhere this year, as Draco’s covered him up with his invisibility cloak. Luckily for Harry Luna is on the case with her funky Quibbler glasses on. Harry is not a pretty sight, he’s all covered in blood.

33. Aww Luna, “It was like being with a friend”, Harry: “You are a friend.” Aww.

34. Luna has got to be one of my favourite characters. I love her reasoning that noses aren’t so different from toes so they can’t be that hard to fix.

35. Ginny always sounds kind of flat when she’s speaking. I always wish there was a little bit more emotion or pause in her lines.

36. Snape’s the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher. That’s an interesting change.

37. We don’t get any time to dwell on it though. Instead Dumbledore is giving them all a little history lesson on Tom Riddle, reminding them all that he went to the very same school that they all currently attend. It’s really not such a cheerful opening speech for the year. Ron says as much.

38. See that corridor they’re all walking along. I’ve been there! When I went to my cousin’s wedding we went to Gloucester Cathedral for a little wander around and I recognised it as soon as I stepped in.

39. While I’ve been squealing about recognising the corridor Ron and Harry have been identified as having too much fun so sends them off to Potions with Slughorn.

40. Why’s Lavender Brown in this class? She’s not in this class in the book, gives her more chance to moon over Ron though.

41. I like Hermione’s little moment with the love potion. Spearmint toothpaste, huh? ;-)

42. I like the sound of Felix Felicis. I’d find some of that quite handy sometimes.

43. Scenes like this are done really well, with all the students trying to make their potions. It reminds me of the Dumbledore’s Army scenes from the last time. Hermione’s hair getting steadily frizzier amuses me too. I think that’s what I look like when I’m trying to cook.

44. Hermione is not impressed by Harry’s potion being better than hers. It’s okay to not be perfect all the time Hermione.

45. I like the time that Harry and Dumbledore spend together in this film and the book, like here when Dumbledore asks about Harry’s love life. I think Dumbledore should’ve played a much bigger part in Harry’s upbringing and kind of wanted to. He’s very much a father figure for Harry.

46. You can probably tell this is one of my favourite Harry Potter films, but I love these trips into the Pensieve. Despite missing out some bits from the book it’s almost exactly as I remember it.

47. I like all the little nods to things that will come up later; the seven stones on the windowsill, the postcard of the cliffs. And the boy who plays Riddle is brilliant. He really does look like a little mini serial killer.

48. Dumbledore had no inkling that the person he was speaking to was a dangerous little boy, otherwise perhaps he might have shoved baby!Voldemort into the burning wardrobe and ran away. Oh, and Slughorn was good friends with Riddle, hence his reappearance at the school. Could be handy.

49. That has got to be one of the least practical birdcages ever.

50. Oh look, it’s the Room of Requirement. And Draco’s found another of those big cupboardy things.

51. But lets have some Quidditch first instead. Harry’s Captain but apparently he needs Ginny to get everyone to listen to him. Also if being on the team last year doesn’t guarantee a spot this year, why is Ginny standing behind him instead of with the other people trying out in front?

52. This is another of those scenes that looks really good in this film. I love these little montages because they give you lots of quick little glimpses into characters and the magic world.

53. Apparently Hermione has mastered wand-free magic, which she uses to give Ron the edge on the competition, smarmy Cormac McLaggen. All the same she’s a little bit bitter about the fact that Harry’s getting all his potion skills from the Half-Blood Prince.

54. Now she’s found out she’s pestering him to find out who the Prince was. Oh and it’s winter and snowy and there’s lots of nice knitwear.

55. Gotta love Ron’s reaction to seeing Ginny making out with Dean. And then his face when Hermione asks what Ginny would do if she saw Hermione and Ron snogging, hehe.

56. Slughorn is so dippy. Poor Ron, or Wallanby, who does not get an invite to Slughorn’s Soiree.

57. This bit is quite creepy and it all happens in daylight as well which makes it creepier because we can see what’s happening. Katie Bell’s been cursed by something. Something that appears to be a necklace. It’s quite pretty really, though the ability to kill you kind of limits its wearability.

58. So many great lines in this film: “Why is it, when something happens, it is always you three?” And then Ron saying that he’s been wondering the same thing for the last six years.

59. Harry’s accusation of Draco would maybe carry some more weight if he didn’t follow it up with “I just know”. Doesn’t really back you up there.

60. Yay, it’s the Marauders Map again. Ron’s going on about Dean and Ginny. Harry’s digging a hole for himself, which leads to Ron contemplating Hermione’s ‘nice skin’. Just ask her out Ron! Harry can’t take the awkwardness any longer and tells Ron he’s going to sleep, hehe.

Next time on Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince: Slughorn has a party, Ron needs some help to get on the Quidditch team, everyone celebrates Christmas, and Harry has an important job to do in the quest to defeat Voldemort. Wooooooo!

Friday, 21 November 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Hostile Hospital

I nearly didn't get to this post today, I got completely distracted by my Edinburgh Zoo photos (having a great time editing them all and making pretty collages) and then I suddenly remembered that I had to get this done.

Speaking of getting things done. I've sent out emails to let you know when you'll be able to see your post, if you've sent in your survey and I've not sent you an email telling you when it's going live, let me know I don't want to overlook anyone. I was hoping to get that done sooner than I have but things have got on top of me. coughNaNocough

Let's start off looking at the front cover of the next Chapter-by-Chapter read. This one is book eight in The Series of Unfortunate Events and is called The Hostile Hospital. Our front cover shows Klaus and Sunny, in full hospital gear looking over a patient who may or may not be Violet. We can't tell because of that big smiley face, heart-shaped balloon over the patient's face. From what I remember, I think it is Violet.

This time the book's spine is a nice shade of blue and the little boarder down the side is in red with a pulse monitor pattern. I like this one, it's so simple but immediately recognisable. Very clever.

I thought that I remembered quite a bit about this story, but on reflection I remember very little. I know that the Baudelaire's end up in a hospital and obviously from the clue at the end of the last book the Last Chance General Store is going to come into things somewhere.

I think they become some sort of volunteers, and that's where the balloon comes into things. Olaf disguises himself as a crazy doctor and want to do some sort of operation on Violet. And I think there's a fire at the end.

Ack! I really don't remember much more than that.

It's going to make reading it fun anyway. We'll get stuck in next week.

Edinburgh Trip: Part 3 - Going To The Zoo

The other major event during our weekend away was our trip to Edinburgh Zoo. I've wanted to go for ages but have never really been able to justify all that expense (both time and money) to travel all the way to Edinburgh, spend at least two nights in a hotel, and give up three days (including travel time) just to wander around a zoo.

As I was already spending time in a hotel and travelling all the way to Edinburgh it seemed like the perfect opportunity to visit the zoo and due to the nerves I was feeling for the ceremony, I was actually way more excited about the zoo than the graduation.

I spent my free minutes in Edinburgh working out which buses we needed to catch, where we could catch them from and what time we would need to leave the hotel to get there. I planned it perfectly and navigated us to the exact bus stop. We had a bit of a wait but we were still at the zoo before it opened.

We'd prebooked our tickets online, which saved us about £3 and enabled us to book our slot for the Giant Pandas, we were scheduled for 10:30am which we had figured would give us enough time to get into the zoo, get our bearings and then find our way to the pandas with time to spare.

Mr Click also convinced me to take my big DSLR camera with me on the trip, which I'm so pleased that he did. He bought me my nice new Samsung camera for completing my course but while it's a nice compact, it doesn't give me quite the same control over my photos as my Canon does. I went in with my short lens but quickly realised that for the best photos I should switch to my long lens. It meant I could get some beautiful close up shots of animals which I might not have otherwise been able to get.

Mr Click's photos of me
And because Mr Click was largely in control of my Samsung, I also got some photos of myself. It so often happens that because I'm the one behind the camera, I never wind up in any pictures. We've got loads of pictures that Mr Click took of me taking pictures and I'm really impressed with lots of them. I'm going to have to give him charge of the camera more often (though he did drop it in the Koala house which I was slightly less than impressed about... I made him touch the koala's bottom bit of the display as a punishment).

Mr Click's punishment for dropping my camera!
The zoo is really well laid out, though it is built on the side of a hill which means your legs will be aching within an hour or so of entering the site. Mr Click and I were both suffering from the day before; sore backs, sore legs, and a grand total of about seven blisters between us (though six of them were on my feet). At various points around the day I could feel my blisters popping, a bit unnerving really.

The weather was quite blowy so a lot of the animals were snuggled up indoors, but that wasn't a problem because most of them have both indoor and outdoor viewing areas. The one animal that we couldn't see was the painted hunting dogs because their indoor viewing area was cordoned off.

One of our first stops (after admiring birds and some random squirrels that had snuck into the enclosure) was the Monkey House. I love all the monkeys and apes and had a great time going round saying hello to them all. Some of them would come right up to the glass and put their hands on it. There were also a few babies; twin lemurs and a little l'hoest's monkey which were fun to watch too.

We also headed over to the penguins which are one of my other favourites and happily live right next door to the monkeys. They have king penguins, gentoos and rockhoppers and I think the latter are my favourites. They just march around the enclosure like little thugs. So cute.

Edinburgh Zoo also has a penguin called Snowflake, a gentoo penguin who is grey where he should be black. I'd read about him online before I went and was determined to spot him but missed him on the first walk round. Once we'd seen everything we decided to head back to the penguins and I spotted Snowflake right away and managed to get a few nice photos.

That's Snowflake in the centre.
The giant pandas also need a mention. Considering they're 'giant' pandas, they're quite small. And although I realise that they could quite easily rip your face off with one of their (admittedly quite large) paws, they are very cute and cuddly looking. The female one got into a bit of a yoga pose while we were there.

I can't really write about every animal I saw, but I took loads of photos. Quite a few of various animals bums, which wasn't really intentional, I was just snapping whatever bit of them they were presenting to me.

On the whole it was a brilliant, if chilly and slightly damp, day. The gift shop on the way out was slightly disappointing, I'd hoped to be able to find an interesting book about the zoo or something kind of crafty. It was all either panda stuff or things you could buy anywhere, but Mr Click convinced me to get a funky notebook (made out of stone, no less) and I picked up a pen to go with it. I'm glad I did because it's nice to have a little physical reminder of the day.

Will I go back?

Definitely, we're tentatively planning a birthday trip for me next year.

This is the last of my posts about our trip to Edinburgh, but it's not the last of the photos, I expect I'll be showing those off for months to come!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Vile Village, Chapter 13

And so we’ve come to the final chapter of book seven of the Series of Unfortunate Events books. This chapter is a bit of a long one so get ready… Here we go.

What Happens?

The Quagmires and Baudelaires start to escape up the rope ladder into the hot air balloon but Luciana shows up with a harpoon gun and starts firing. The Quagmires get into the basket, but the Baudelaires are forced to climb back down when she severs the rope ladder. The villagers then turn on Olaf and Esme when they injure a crow and continue to use mechanical devices; the two escape and the villagers rush off to tend to the crow, leaving the Baudelaires alone as they realise that, as they are wanted criminals, they are well and truly on their own now.

Thoughts as I read:

This is one of those pictures that goes round the whole page. At the very top we’ve got a crow looking slightly annoyed at the harpoon that has just speared a notebook sending bits of pages flying everywhere. You can’t quite make out exactly what the pages say on them, there’s definitely one that has a ‘V’ on it and I think I can see one with an ‘F’ near the bottom of the page. I think it’s safe to say the the Quagmire books are toast.

If you remember, we left the children being chased by a crazy mob. It’s being led by Officer Luciana and she’s got the kids trapped. Sunny’s still hopeful for a way out, saying “Machina!” but Violet has to break it to her that there is no deus ex machina for them now. Except Violet is wrong because there’s something up above.

And yes, it’s the self-sustaining hot air mobile home. We get a fairly detailed description of it here, there’s twelve baskets, all sorts of pipes and cables and lots of balloons. The one fault with it is its inability to land, which means that in order to save the children Hector must throw down a rope ladder to them. Duncan and Isadora start climbing up it straight away, introducing themselves to Hector in the process.

The Elders immediately start bleating about all the rules that Hector is currently breaking. This means that they’ll need to get more firewood for his fire as well. It’s going to be quite the bonfire at this rate. Up in the air Hector’s feeling brave and is finally able to answer back. The first thing he summons up the courage to say is how wrong it is to burn people at the stake, took him long enough!

Hector then tells them that he doesn’t want to live in V.F.D. any more and he’s taking the children well away from there. The Elders are thinking about the important implications of this, like who will make their hot fudge sundaes. Things actually start looking quite good for the Baudelaires at this point as the trio start climbing up the ladder. It kind of looks like they might get away right now, except we’ve got about twenty pages left to go so it’s highly unlikely that things will go so smoothly.

At this point Luciana reveals that she’s holding a harpoon gun, the plan being to pop the balloons. This will make a smooth getaway difficult so Violet tells Hector to fly higher to get out of range. He goes higher but the harpoon pierces Hector’s supply of cranberry juice. Poor Hector, he’s going to have spend the rest of his life flying around with no cranberry juice to drink! Next to go is the whole wheat flour and extra batteries, this is rapidly becoming a disaster!

By this point the villagers are feeling conflicted. Luciana is using a mechanical device and is breaking rules, this goes against everything they believe. The best course of action is evidently to go to the town hall to have a meeting about what’s going on. Then Dupin/Olaf arrives on his motorbike:

“Dupin isn’t a citizen,” another member of the Council pointed out, “so he’s not breaking Rule #67.”
“But he’s riding through a crowd of people,” Mr. Lesko said, “and he’s not wearing a helmet. He’s not showing good judgment, that’s for sure.”

Hehe, I love this.

Now that the Baudelaires seem to be getting away the villagers are having to direct their anger at someone else. They’ve turned their attentions to Luciana and the man their know as Dupin. Now it’s Luciana and Dupin/Olaf against all the villagers as well as Hector, the hot air balloon and the children. And then we’re told the sky has filled with the crows as they’ve headed for Nevermore Tree for the night. This is exactly what the children and Hector need to get away because it stops the bad guys from seeing them.

Hector tells the children he plans to fly even higher which makes Sunny yell “No!” which seems rather self-explanatory but which is defined nonetheless, this means “I’m not sure that’s the wisest plan – we won’t survive a fall from such a height!” No sooner has she said this than Luciana fires another harpoon and severs part of the rope ladder. Looks like the children aren’t going to get out of this one so easily.

It’s Violet who realises that there’s no way they’re going to get up the ladder before the rope comes completely unravelled. She breaks this news to her siblings who do not take it well; Klaus immediately argues with her and Sunny says “Yoil!” They do as they’re told however and they make it down a little way, causing them to fall but it’s only a short drop and they survive. Well, they survive for now, they’ve still got an angry mob and Olaf to face.

There’s no going back down for the hot air balloon, despite Duncan begging Hector to do just that. I do have to admit that that’s a pretty big design flaw, I mean, going down to earth occasionally wouldn’t always be a bad thing if it enabled them to restock on the essentials or perhaps get medical treatment or something. Klaus is still desperate to get to the basket but his suggestion of climbing the tree and jumping in won’t work since the tree is steadily filling up with crows. All they can do is watch their friends sail away into the distance and try to find them in the future.

Keen to help them out Duncan tosses down their notebooks, promising that they contain everything they need to know about V.F.D., Jacques and Olaf. We know from the image at the chapter opening that this isn’t going to work, that was a bit of a spoiler wasn’t it.

And over the page we find out that I was right. Luciana looses another harpoon and it spears both of the Quagmires’ books. So the children don’t receive notebooks, they just get a lot of bits of paper. Oh and they get one word as well, someone yells ‘volunteer’ at them, which is probably what the V in V.F.D. actually stands for. Sunny immediately says “Tesper!” meaning “Let’s try to gather up as many pages of the notebooks as we can!” showing that as usual she’s the glue holding the little band together.

Olaf chooses this moment to reveal that the Baudelaires are on the front page of the paper, except they’re calling them Veronica, Klyde and Susie and they’re described as having murdered Count Omar. Given what ‘Omar’ put them through I think they would be quite justified in actually murdering him, but alas it’s only going to mean that they’re wanted for a crime they didn’t commit and everyone will think they’re safe from Olaf.

Speaking of Olaf, he still wants to know which Baudelaire is going to get away to enable him to get the fortune. Personally I would say Sunny should get away, because if she’s the last remaining Baudelaire then surely he’d have to wait for her to come of age before he could get the money. Plus Sunny’s got the smarts and could probably figure out a way to escape from her guardian before that point. Obviously this isn’t the ideal situation because it would mean losing her older brother and sister… this is why I don’t make big decisions like this.

Remember that crow from the picture at the start of the chapter. Well it wasn’t looking annoyed. It was looking worried, because right after the harpoon hit the notebook it hit the crow as well. Not hurting crows is rule number one, and despite Luciana and Olaf being ready to shrug it off, the villagers are not so willing to let it go. Bad move that!

The next bad move occurs when Olaf/Dupin takes off his sunglasses and reveals that he’s only got one eyebrow. The villagers decide to burn him at the stake along with Luciana, after all they’ve got all those flaming torches and it seems like such a shame to let them go to waste. But Olaf isn’t going to go quietly so he hops onto the motorbike and yells for Esme to join him.

Oh yeah, Luciana is Esme Squalor. I had a funny feeling that it was her the whole way through but I didn’t like to keep calling her Esme just in case I was wrong. But I was right. And Esme and Olaf are dating now, can you imagine if they had a child? It’d just be a complete devil:

She climbed aboard Olaf’s motorcycle and tossed her helmet to the ground, showing that she cared no more about motorcycle safety than she did about the welfare of crows.

Poor crow. :-(

The mob have no mechanical devices so can’t chase after them, and besides they have to get the crow to a vet (I hope the poor thing is okay). And just like that the Baudelaires are sort of abandoned by all the villagers.

Well, not entirely, they still intend to burn the Baudelaires at the stake just as soon as they’ve made sure the crow is okay. Bizarrely the Baudelaires do not turn tail and start running, they do as they’re told and kind of hover around, picking up odd pages of the Quagmire notebooks, after all this is the only way they’ll figure out all these mysteries. “Phelon!” says Sunny, clearly regarding their status in the eyes of the law at the moment. This is translated as “And of proving that we’re not murderers!”

They’re not doing too well at collecting the scattered pages though. The wind blows many of them away so that in the end they only have twenty-two, but it’s more than they’ve had before so hopefully we’ll get some answers soon. They can’t really afford to hang around really though, after all, when the villagers come back they’re planning a bonfire. Violet’s not sure where they should go and it’s Sunny who suggests “Burb” meaning “Anywhere, as long as it’s out of town.”

This time they’re all on their own. They’re wanted criminals now so there’s no going back to Mr Poe to ask for help. It’s all up them to survive now. Klaus points out that they’ll have to be just like the hot air balloon, as in self-sustaining, and Sunny says “Like me” then take her very first steps. Aww, poor little Sunny, she’s growing up and she’s all alone in the world with only her big brother and sister to look out for her.

But looking out for each other isn’t really anything new since they’ve been doing that for the last seven books and they’re getting quite good at it now. So they start to head out of town, all alone, as criminals at large.

This is not a happy ending to the story.

Our final picture of the book shows Sunny (standing by herself) and Violet in the distance, while right in the foreground Klaus tries to catch a slip of paper with an eye drawn on it (much like the one on Olaf’s ankle). There are other little bits of paper all over the floor, along with the copy of The Daily Punctilio. You can just see the picture of Violet, Klaus and Sunny (or Veronica, Klyde and Susie) and on the back of it is some sort of advertisement with ‘LAST CHANCE’ splashed across it. I’m guessing this is where we’ll be going next.

And this is confirmed by the ‘Western Bunion’ telegram pictured across two pages at the end of the book which has been sent from ‘Last Chance General Store’. I’m not entirely sure how the General Store will play into the next story though as the next book is called The Hostile Hospital and while I vaguely remember how it ends, I don’t actually remember anything about the beginning.

We’ll take a look at the cover tomorrow and start reading it next week but check back here tomorrow morning to hear about my trip to Edinburgh Zoo.

Wreck This Journal: Add Your Own Page Numbers

I’ve been looking forward to showing off this page for ages because it’s a little bit like my W page and I’m quite proud of it. I think next to my W page this is probably my favourite.

The direction for this one is to quite simply add your own page numbers and it points to the bottom corner of the page with the instruction to ‘start here’. I guess that it could basically be telling you to number the pages, but just writing a number in the bottom corner of each page is a little boring.

It was with this page in mind that I started cutting out numbers from all of the junk mail that I received. I’d thought about just sticking random numbers on the bottom corners of each page in the book. In fact, that’s still something I might do because I’ve got a pencil case full of little scraps of paper with numbers on, then again, I’m still adding to this page occasionally so I might wait until this one is full before I start numbering any other pages.

I was fairly indiscriminate about cutting out numbers; I’ve got whole numbers, percentages, fractions, words written in numbers and words written in letters. I was going to sort them out into numerical order and then decided that would be ridiculous so just started sticking them in all the way round the page. And so it became the page you see today.

You see that number 39 in the centre of the O in ‘YOUR’. That actually gave me a bit of a dilemma. I forget where it came from but I couldn’t decide exactly where I should put it. It’s round, and I have a page for circles; it’s got white on it, and I’ve got a page for white things; it’s a sticker, and I’ve got a page for stickers; and it’s got a number on it, and as you can plainly see, I’ve got a page for that too.

A quick post on Facebook solved my problem, which is why I like my Facebook friends, they always have the right answers. A colleague reasoned that it wouldn’t necessarily look round when it was stuck on a page, it’s also technically black as well as white, and the sticky bit wouldn’t be obvious when it was attached to the page. Therefore the only place it could go is on the page numbers page.

How would you decorate this page? Or if you’ve got a copy of Wreck This Journal share how you wrecked it.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Vile Village, Chapter 12

I can’t believe that I’ve nearly finished this book and I still managed to make it to 50,000 words for my NaNo, I seriously did not think I was going to be able to do that! I was toying with not moving on to the next book until after Christmas but I’ve decided against that. I’m going to squeeze these posts in around my regular posts and the guest blogger posts but it might mean taking a little while longer to get through because I’m trying to limit myself to no more than two blog posts a day.

Just a heads up.

Oh and in other news, I’ve decided to aim for 100,000 words for NaNo this year, seeing as we’re a little over halfway through the month and I’m a little over halfway to that target. Seemed like a good thing to aim for. We’ll see how well that one goes too.

On with the penultimate chapter…

What Happens?

The Quagmires fill the Baudelaires in on all the things that have happened to them since they were separated, this includes explaining how they were able to send the couplets via the V.F.D. crows. The children are then spotted by the villagers and chased through the town. They all end up heading for Hector’s place to escape in the hot air balloon, but when they arrive there’s no sign of Hector or his invention.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter image gives us another shot of what a host of villagers holding flaming torches might look like. It’s seven arms all holding a torch, one of them even has a fashionably pinstriped sleeve. There’s not really much else I can say about these so we’ll just move on with the next bit of the story, shall we?

If you have reached this far in the story, you must stop now.

Obviously, we’ll disregard Snicket’s advice. He reminds us of how miserable things are about to get, if you thought things were depressing before this, well hold onto your hats because it’s about to get worse. On the other hand, if you’re feeling a bit miserable these books are the perfect thing to read because compared to the Baudelaires, your life will just look peachy. Not that I’m miserable right now, I’m happy, I’m on target for 100,000 words and I’m watching the Dixie Chicks DVD Mr Click got me for my birthday while all my pets sleep beside me, but I thought I’d just through it out there as a recommendation if you’re feeling a bit low.

Violet suddenly realises that danger is approaching and is forced to end the happy reunion. Klaus then chooses this moment to fill in the Quagmires on the fact that Detective Dupin is really Count Olaf. The Quagmires cut him off though, they already know this as well as everything that’s been going on with the Baudelaires. This is convenient because it saves us from another recap of what’s happened during the last two hundred pages.

When the Baudelaires were cleaning the fountain the Quagmires could hear them, but they couldn’t make themselves heard in return. They’ve been gathering information in their notebooks, even though they’re both soaked their notebooks have stayed relatively dry. Perhaps they’ve got those notebooks made out of stone like the one I got in Edinburgh Zoo the other week (apparently it’s waterproof but I don’t really like to get it wet to test how waterproof it really is).

This is when we learn that the real V.F.D. is not the Village of Fowl Devotees at all. So their decision to come here was wrong entirely. They’re still standing there talking, Duncan’s about to tell them about Jacques but the Council of Elders has just spotted the massive hole the Baudelaires left in the side of the jail. This is where I forgot for a moment that I’m reading The Series of Unfortunate Events right now, not Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (which I was reading a couple of hours ago) and I wonder why they didn’t just Reparo the wall or something. Then I realise that wouldn’t work in this book anyway.

It’s ironic that the town even has a rule about not escaping from the jail. Who’d’ve thought it?!

The villagers also go on to notice that the Fowl Fountain looks different now, so it’s assumed that the Baudelaires are just running riot in the village with wanton acts of vandalism all over the place. Luckily the villagers go off to find Detective Dupin and alert The Daily Punctilio leaving the children safe for the time being.

Sunny sums it up well when she says “Cose” meaning that it was a bit too close for her liking. They’ve only got one place to go now, they’ve got to get to Hector and the hot air balloon, it’s about their only hope for escape. Sunny says “Scylla!” meaning “It’s either the self-sustaining hot air mobile home or being burned at the stake!” I feel it’s also worth pointing out here that Scylla was also a monster in Greek mythology, I’m not entirely sure what the connection is between this monster and a self-sustaining hot air mobile home.

Having googled this I’ve discovered the idiom “between Scylla and Charybdis” which is a bit like being “between a rock and a hard place”. Wikipedia says it means “being between two dangers, choosing either of which brings harm”. Well said Sunny. See how educational these books are!

As they head for Nevermore Tree Klaus brings up the question of how they were able to deliver the couplets, which leads to the Quagmires telling them everything that has happened since we saw them last. Basically they were held for a while in the Baudelaires’ old bedroom at Olaf’s place, then Olaf got the fountain built (he already seems to have inexhaustible wealth which does make you wonder why he needs the Baudelaire fortune as well), and the Quagmires were hidden inside.

The couplet riddle was Isadora’s idea and they managed to send them to the Baudelaires each morning by wrapping a soggy couple round a bird’s leg, knowing it would fall off when it came to roost at the end of the day. Evidently it worked really well.

Then they bring up Jacques and we get a bit of a revelation that I had completely forgotten. Jacques is actually Jacques Snicket. Ooh! I remember reading this for the first time and getting really excited at this bit. When Violet thinks his name is familiar Duncan is unsurprised, after all “Jacques Snicket is the brother of a man who –” but who he is we never find out because once again Duncan is interrupted as one of the villagers spots the children.

As the villagers rush towards them we hear them wondering who the two additional children are. They don’t have a clue who the Quagmires are but decide to burn them at the stake too since they’re probably more accomplices. Plus they’re breathing so they’re probably breaking at least ten of the village’s rules.

Once again Sunny is the one to get everyone to snap out of terrified paralysis and says “Lililk!” which means “Let’s go! Don’t look behind you! Let’s just try to get to Hector and his self-sustaining hot air mobile home before the mob catches up with us and burns us at the stake!” I am rapidly coming to the decision that Sunny is one of my favourite characters in the series in this read through, she’s kind of the glue that holds everybody together. And she stops them getting caught quite a lot of the time too!

So the kids run, with all the villages chasing after them:

Occasionally they had to retrace their steps, a phrase which here means “turn around and run the other way when they saw townspeople approaching”…

Eventually they make it back to Hector’s place and can’t see any sign of Hector or the hot air balloon. So they start to panic a little bit. Luckily Sunny is still with them so she says “Vireo!” which means “Let’s run – or, in my case, crawl – as fast as we can!”. Violet points out that even running and crawling they’re not going to be able to get away as the villagers are closing in on them all now.

There’s a mention here of ‘an enormous root vegetable’ which I didn’t immediately get the reference to until later in the paragraph. Earlier in the book we heard about ‘small potatoes’ well the attack of the villagers is not small potatoes at all. This is great big, giant scary potatoes.

And the Baudelaires are trapped.

And there’s no way out.

And that’s the end of the chapter so you’re going to have to wait until Thursday to find out how it ends!

Book 24 of 2014: The Dead of Jericho by Colin Dexter

Normally I read Mr Click’s books after he’s read them. It’s like there’s something sacred about a book that belongs to someone else and you shouldn’t let anyone else read it until you’ve read it first, otherwise whatever magic is in it might go to the other person instead of you. I realise that sounds kind of weird, but if you’ve been reading this blog for any period of time you’re probably already aware that I’m a bit strange.

I’ve mentioned before that I picked up the complete set of Colin Dexter books for Mr Click a few years ago and since then he’s been working his way through them in between all of the other books he’s got on his bookshelf. This was actually one book which I read before he got to it, but only because he told me he’d already read it, then once I started it he realised that he hadn’t read it at all. It’s ironic that this post is going live just a few days after he actually finished it.

The Dead of Jericho has Morse meeting a woman named Anne Scott and hitting it off with her quite well but then never seeing her again. Not alive at least. Morse manages to get onto the case investigating the woman’s death and finds connections between Anne and a family who live on the same street as her. Obviously, being Morse, things get quite complicated and more of her neighbours come to Morse’s attention as he tries to get to the bottom of the death.

I have to admit, I found the way that Morse became involved on the case a wee bit contrived. I couldn’t help but think that he wouldn’t have been allowed to get involved with the investigation if he’d known the dead woman. His behaviour wasn’t exactly great either, at one point he was basically breaking into someone’s garden which I imagine would have been frowned upon.

This book actually formed the basis of the first episode of the TV series and as such I’ve watched it a couple of times because I’ve tried watching the complete series at least twice (never getting further in than about ten episodes). I vaguely remembered it but I couldn’t remember specifics so it made for a fairly enjoyable read because much of it was new to me, but the more I read the more came back to me.

I know I repeat this with each of the Colin Dexter books that I read, but I don’t think that he gives you everything that you need to be able to solve the case on your own. Plus he always has loads of characters who come in and out of the story (which I do like, because that’s probably far more like a real police investigation than what you see in shows like CSI where it’s one of about three people), they all add something to the mystery and have their own secrets and things to be worked out. But it does make things a little tricky to keep track of who’s who. That’s why I think these books are best read in a few sittings, if you draw them out too long you can start getting muddled by the characters.

I did like the map showing the area. I like books that include maps in them. I like to know where things are taking place. When I read I get a very vivid picture in my mind and maps definitely help me with that, it avoids those moments when you’re jarred out of the text because your visual map is different to the author’s. At least with a printed map you’re both starting on the same page, so to speak.

Check back next week for my review of Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, a book which I absolutely fell in love with and will try to write a non-gushy review of.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Chapter-by-Chapter: The Vile Village, Chapter 11

Thank you to everyone who filled in the questions for the Guest Blogging feature I’m running in the run up to Christmas. I’m getting it all organised as you read so look out for an email shortly to let you know when your post will be going live. I’m really looking forward to it.

And for now, on with Chapter 11 of The Vile Village.

What Happens?

Klaus is able to figure out the hidden message in the couplets which tells them the Quagmires are in the Fountain. Violet then comes up with a new plan to help them escape from the cell. This works and soon they our at Fowl Fountain trying to work out how the Quagmires could be in there. It’s Sunny who inadvertently triggers the button which opens the bird’s beak enabling the Quagmires to climb out, just as Olaf shows up in the distance.

Thoughts as I read:

This chapter image is, I think the brownies that Hector mentioned in the last chapter. They look like chocolatey yummy goodies and they’re still steaming hot. Actually just looking at this picture made me crave chocolate so much I had to get Mr Click to bring me a Ruffle Bar (they’re yummy raspberry coconut chocolate bars). I think I have a bit of a chocolate problem. Anyway, on with the chapter!

We’ve got another couplet:

Inside these letters, the eye will see
Nearby are your friends, and V.F.D.

And Klaus has figured out just what the couplets are trying to tell them. He’s all pleased about this though his sisters haven’t read ahead in the book so they don’t know what he’s so happy about. “Wibeon” says Sunny, meaning “It’s more confusing than superlative – we still don’t know where the Quagmires are.” But Klaus does!

So we get yet another recap of all the couplets thus far, with the latest one tacked on at the end. Can you tell where the Quagmires are yet?

Violet’s not so hot on the whole poetry analysis thing so Klaus spells it out to her. The first line of each couplet spells out FOUNTAIN. It takes us about three pages to get to this point. And even then the children aren’t sure how the Quagmires could be in the fountain and how the messages were transported, but it’s more of a lead than they’ve had in a while.

Things are looking up for them at last. Now they just have to escape from jail and avoid the villagers who want to burn them to death. Sunny says “Mush!” meaning “The mortar is almost dissolved – just a little bit longer!” reminding them that it’s about time they get back on task. This prompts Violet to tie up her hair again, she’s got to come up with something else to help them get out of there quicker.

The new plan is to use the bench, which until now has been used as a ramp, as a battering ram. “Honz?” Sunny asks, after all, she’s just a baby and doesn’t know what a battering ram is. They’re going to ram the bench into the wall where they’ve been dissolving the mortar and hopefully burst out of the cell. It’s while they’re doing this we learn that Sunny counts by saying “One, two, minga!” That’s quite cute.

After a few shots at it a brick falls on Klaus’s foot, which is cause for celebration, despite the whole pain thing. Bricks falling onto people’s feet obviously proves that the wall is beginning to give. Meanwhile outside they can hear the crows beginning to move to their afternoon nesting spot. Sunny tells her siblings to hurry, except it comes out as “Hurol!”

A huge cloud of dust is not a beautiful thing to look at. Very few painters have done portraits of huge clouds of dust or included them in their landscapes or still lifes. Film directors rarely choose huge clouds of dust to play the lead roles in romantic comedies, and as far as my research has shown, a huge cloud of dust has never placed higher than twenty-fifth in a beauty pageant.

The dust cloud romantic lead is definitely a missed opportunity. Why has Hollywood never realised this?!

The reason this is raised here is the fact that the dust cloud created by the falling wall is a beautiful thing for the Baudelaires to see, coming as it does to herald the wall of the Deluxe Cell collapsing. Violet immediately starts to celebrate but her brother points out that she may be getting ahead of herself. They still have to get the Quagmires out and get away before the villagers show up.

“Wock!” Sunny says “The fountain looks as solid as can be” which suggests that it will be very difficult for anyone to be hidden inside the fountain but that’s the only place they could possibly be. It’s Sunny who tries to shed some light on this for them. “Jidu!” meaning “Surely Isadora has given us a hint about how to rescue her!”

And so it’s back to the couplets again. This time Violet spots it, “this sad beak” must be the way in and out of the fountain, after all, that’s where the water comes from. By this point they’re at the fountain so they stand on each others’ shoulders to enable Sunny to peer in at the top of the beak. This is neither particularly comfortable nor safe for any of the children involved. When Klaus asks Sunny what she can see she replies “Shize!” which I’m guessing means nothing.

It’s at this point that Klaus realises that Isadora wrote ‘inside these letters the eye will see’ which prompts him to wonder what this could mean. Sunny says “Sabisho!” which seems to mean something about the fact that she can’t hold on anymore and is about to fall. Things are heating up too, there are the shapes of some of the Elders starting to get close. Just after she’s spotted them they all end up collapsing, just as Sunny yells “Took!” which I don’t think means she’s just seen a hobbit.

They all fall down, apart from Sunny who is left clinging onto the fountain with her teeth. Now she’s saying “Heni!” as she slides down the fountain. She’s very little and she’s got quite a way to fall, she’s obviously a little bit worried about this. Luckily as she slips down she manages to find the little hidden button that makes the bird statue’s beak open and as this opens it helps Sunny drop safely into Violet’s arms. Phew!

And guess who climbs out of the statue?

Yup, it’s the Quagmires.

And this would be a good time to start celebrating, if it wasn’t for the figure of Olaf/Dupin walking towards them with a torch!