Friday, 30 October 2015

Book Review: Penguin Little Black Classics No. 01-04.

When I first saw the collection of 80 Penguin Little Black Classics, a little part of my brain said; Well that looks like a challenge! I love challenging myself, especially when it comes to reading. And I mentioned this to my parents who then bought me the set when I finished an important and super stressful piece of work because they're the best. So I'm reading them in order, and here are my reviews for #1-4!



Starting with...




No. 01 - Mrs Rose and the Priest by Giovanni Boccaccio
This little book has four stories in, three that I loved and one that I wasn't impressed with. 
The first is Andreuccio's da Perugia's Neapolitan adventures. Basically a 12th Century version of a sitcom where everything goes wrong for a guy, I found myself rolling my eyes a little but it was quite funny. 
This leads on to the funniest of the four; Ricciardo da Chinzica loses his wife. The moral of the story: Don't marry a young woman if you're an old man because they'll leave you for someone who puts out. Amazing. I was surprised at how modern this felt, but I guess my version of history is based on royal families, not Average Joe Pirates. 
Next was the namesake; Mrs Rosie and the Priest. Shady priests everywhere! 
And lastly was Patient Grisela. Call me new-agey but when a guy says he's going to kill your kid, maybe try and stop him, or leave him. Either way it kind of let down the book for me as it was pretty forward thinking until that.
But for my first Penguin Little Black Classic I was pleasantly surprised! I imagined that some of them, especially the older ones, would be a bit of a struggle but I really recommend No. 01!

No. 02 - As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Gerard Manley Hopkins
I'm not a big poetry person. I can appreciate it in small amounts and sometimes I can even find it beautiful, but it's not what I choose to read. However, I'm reading these Penguin Little Black Classics in order and after a couple days I finally got myself through the poems- which really didn't tend to make any sense, and then his journal- where if I'm going to read about the colour of the sky then I'd at least like some action! 
If these ignited any interest whatsoever, I might have done some research into the author, the meanings, other works, but I was just glad it was over!

No. 03 - The Saga of Gunnlaug Serpent-tongue

This was a little better, this mixed poetry with prose to tell an actual story but there was a lot of explaining. A lot of telling, rather than showing. The story of two young men travelling around Europe and fighting over the most beautiful girl in Iceland should be a little more interesting! But I read through it pretty quickly so no harm, no foul. My guess is that this would be much more interesting told to you, rather than read.


No. 04 - On Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts by Thomas De Quincey

I have mixed feelings on this one. For about a third of it, I was starting to be a little convinced! I watch a lot of TV shows, movies and read a lot of books with murder in and I can definitely appreciate a well thought out killing. I think this would be something that could be taken by modern authors and turned into something great; a group all coming together to talk murder- in fact one of my stories I wrote for my degree is vaguely like this. It kind of reminds me of the Real Murders club in the Aurora Teagarden books too. But there was a lot of references to people I didn't know, and the writing was very hard to follow, even with Siri by my side for quick googling and defining. The age of the references in this makes it a difficult read, but I'm glad I did.


Have you read any of these? What did you think?

Thursday, 29 October 2015

5 Things to do this Halloween!

This is Halloween. This is Halloween. Pumpkins scream in the dead of night- nearly. It's two days to go. I'm 96% resident of Halloween Town at this point and nobody can stop me. If you're not quite as prepared as I am, I have a post with 5 things to do to prepare for Halloween. And here are 5 Things to do this Halloween that will make your holiday fun and spooky!

Pumpkins, candles and books with the headline 5 Things to do this Halloween.


1. Carve up a pumpkin (And save the insides)!
Obviously, carving up a pumpkin is a fun way to spend an evening- and harder than it looks! Then you can pop in a tealight and sit it on a windowsill to spook trick or treaters. But! You can also roast up the seeds inside for a healthy and super tasty snack too. Pumpkin seeds are not cheap but my big pumpkin only cost me £3 and I'm sure as heck chopping it up into a pie after Halloween too.

2. Watch a horror movie!
Good horror movies are rare. They're like the unicorns of the film industry, and I know this because I have a buddy who is obsessed with anything scary and makes me watch bad horror movies with her. It's lucky I love her because I've seen Nazi zombies, growling sharks, and every bad trope you can imagine. There are some gems though; pretty much anything Tim Burton has been involved in, the Scream franchise, or embrace the bad and watch one of Ashley's 'Horrors of Netflix.'

3. Sneak some halloween candy just for yourself!
Chocolates just taste better mini. It's science. I'm doing my No Chocolate November again this year, even though it makes me miserable, because I eat way too much chocolate. And advent calendar chocolate tastes 87% better if it's been a while since you had chocolate. Again, science. So it's my last time to really make my veins run full of sugar.

4. Join my #Hallowreadathon!
I swear, I'll stop mentioning the Hallowreadathon in every post once it's over! But it is a lot of fun and it doesn't even have to be hardcore nose-in-a-book-all-day reading. If you have errands to run, kids to dress up, trick or treating to do you could even listen to an audiobook. Playster has recently added a bunch including Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, which is on my TBR pile!

5. Start thinking about what you want from the end of the year!
I'm a little freaked out that there are only two months left in 2015. Two months. 63 days as of when I'm posting this. Yikes! There was so much I wanted to do this year that I haven't, I've barely made a dent in my 30 before 30 list, and I haven't even left the country! I miss traveling! Okay, breathe. 63 days. 1512 hours. We can do something cool with that time. I'm sure of it.
What will you be doing this Halloween?

*Post sponsored by Playster. Money to be spent on halloween chocolate. That's what grown-ups do when they earn money, right?

Monday, 26 October 2015

Books I Want to Buy and Why #3

It's time for the third Books I want to Buy and Why! This is the series where I share eight books from my vast Amazon wishlist and say why I want to buy them. Then my readers can tell me if they've read them, if they're great or they suck, or if there's any they want to see a review on. My first post in the series is here, and the second is here!



So what made the list?



Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff
This book ticks a lot of boxes for me. MMO's and RPG's. Super cute cover. YA. Romance. Gender discussion. A book that sounds like it's going to be super nerdy. All good things! I have high hopes for this one, as long as it doesn't end up like Ready Player One. I really wasn't a fan of that book.

Hellblazer; Volume 1 by Jamie Delano and Rick Veitch 
I mentioned a last month that I was watching the show Constantine and had been reading the New 52 comic. Well, Hellblazer is John Constantine's origin story and I really want to try it! This is the first volume of a 300 issue comic book run, I feel like this is going to be an expensive but totally worth it read.

When in Doubt, Make Belief: Life Lessons from OCD by Jeff Bell and Michael A. Jenike
I struggle with OCD, I've mentioned it before and it's in a manageable state right now thanks to CBT. My therapist recommended this book to me and I know that I really should get around to buying it but I just haven't yet. Something about self-help books just puts me off, there's a stigma around them I think I picked up from 90's TV.

Fringe: The Zodiac Paradox by Christa Faust
Finge is one of my favourite shows that really just doesn't get enough love in my mind. I started showing it to my friend; Ashley a while ago and remembered my brother telling me about the novels so off to Amazon I went and onto my wishlist this went. Five seasons just wasn't enough.



Snooki's Baby Book by Nicole Polizzi
I really like Snooki, I've read one of her books before, and I like the way she grew up when she had kids. Her first child was a surprise so she had to do a 180 pretty quick, and it sounds like it's going to be a really interesting thing to read about. I liked watching it on Snooki & Jwoww anyway, and you get so much more depth from a book.

The Female Man by Joanna Russ
This is a Feminist Science Fiction book! That's pretty damn rare so of course I want to read it. Four women traveling into four different worlds with different gender conceptions, can anyone say awesome? I found this on a trip on Google for decent Sci-fi, and generally I like the SF Masterworks so I'm hopeful as heck about it being good.

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë 
I am pretty much obsessed with the Penguin English Library covers, I have most of them in my wishlist but highest priority is Jane Eyre. I read it for school way back when and I don't have a copy. In my entire house. Unacceptable. So why not get a copy with that velvety feel cover that's super pretty?

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman
There's a lot of apocalyptic books, movies and TV shows where humans are almost eradicated, and it's always been funny to me how front lawns are freshly mown despite being a year into the end of the world (looking at you The Walking Dead). This book looks at what would happen to the world if all humans disappeared by asking experts in various fields and investigating abandoned areas. Sounds pretty neat and something that might come in handy while I write a post-apocalyptic story!

What do you think of my picks? Have you read any of these?

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Beauty Review: Stella! Silver Screen - Lipstick Queen!

I've had an obsession with finding the perfect purple lipstick ever since I watched this video by Chloe Dykstra. I swear she influences like half my make-up buys, probably more since it was through her that I discovered indie makeup. Either way, bar flying to New York to go to the Bite Beauty Lip Lab (although that temptation only got stronger after Ashley went), I have to shop around for the look I want.



Stella! by Lipstick Queen was a present from my mum and looked promising. Along with being super luxurious as far as packaging goes, the Silver Screen collection is very old Hollywood, the colour in the tube is so dang pretty!



*heart eyes*




Here's the thing. It's a little too sheer for the look I'm going for. It's still lovely, but it mixes with my natural lip colour/ my lipliner and looks more pink than it does in the tube which is a bit of a bummer. I still really like it though because a sheer purple look is a little easier to wear and I think it suits me so- yeah. The formula is nice and smooth and it builds up a little but not a huge amount. It's welcome in my collection- but the hunt continues.

Want to pick up Stella!? You can get it here!

What do you think of purple lips? Have you seen anything like what I'm looking for?

Thursday, 22 October 2015

5 Things to do to Prepare for Halloween!

Halloween is definitely one of the easier holidays to prepare for. It took me a while to think of 5 things to do whereas my preparing for Christmas has already begun and is already freaking me out. Another reason Halloween is better! But here are 5 Things you can do to make your Halloween run smoothly (and give you all the more reading time for the readathon).



1. Buy your candy!
I love trick or treaters at Halloween. I think it's cute seeing all the little kids all dressed up and excited, and I think it's a shame that it seems to be less of a tradition these days. Either way, it's time to stock up and make sure no kid goes home without one hell of a sugar rush!

2. Get your costume sorted!
I'm not a costume gal since I spend Halloween on the couch but I'll pull on my Captain America jumper in solidarity. If you are a costume person, it's time to start organising to avoid any last minute scrambling at the shops. ASOS has some great things if you just search Halloween and there's still time for an order from Black Milk!

3. Decorate!
This is definitely more of an American thing than a British thing. My pals were talking about yard decorations and pumpkins for their stoop while I sit here so jealous! But they shouldn't get all the fun,  I'll be doing a little decorating around my room/desk to get into the spooky spirit.

4. Make sure to get a good pumpkin!
Pumpkins are in stock in supermarkets now, but they won't be for long. I didn't have one last year because I waited for too long to get one so it's definitely worth getting one early since they can last 8-12 weeks pre-carving.

5. Get your Hallowreadathon TBR ready! 
The Hallowreadathon approaches. You can read all about what it is and the reading challenges here! And I've narrowed down my TBR options to about 10 which is, of course, ridiculous for a two day readathon. I posted about it here in hopes of some help because I am terrible at deciding. And I wrote a post last year about Too Spooky Reads if you need some help!

So those are 5 things to do to prepare for Halloween! What do you think? Have I missed something?

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

My #Hallowreadathon TBR!

The #Hallowreadathon approaches and I'm still trying to pick what I'm going to read. I think, when it gets to it, I'll just pick up what I'm in the mood for. But that doesn't mean I can't narrow it down a little and maybe my dear readers can give me your opinions. Because a two-day readathon doesn't need a TBR pile of 7 books and 6 comic trades/ graphic novels!



So how does this ridiculous pile fit with the three challenges?




1. Read a book with orange on the cover! 
I've picked out five options for this challenge just from flipping through one of my boxes of stand-alone novels. Who knew there were so many books with orange on the cover?! Here was me thinking this would be an easy choice for lack of options.
My first pick is Frankenstein by Mary Shelly, a true spooky classic and a book I haven't actually read cover to cover despite studying it at school. Oops. I have the Penguin English Library cover with the classic Penguin orange on the spine.
Then there's the most orange cover I found; Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick, I really feel I should have read this by now, a true Sci-fi must read.
Another is the first book in a trilogy I've wanted to start for a while; True Fire by Gary Meehan*. I won this on Goodreads a while ago and keep meaning to start it, especially since the author is from my town. But I'm bad at procrastination.
At 470 pages, my most unlikely pick is Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn but it's calling to me. I'll get to you Gone Girl, someday.
And lastly, Under The Skin by Michel Faber. My dad read this and  it spooked him so it sounds like a good Halloween read and Bethan liked it, so that's two for two. Also, knowing that Scarlett Johansson is in the movie. I love her!



2. Read a book you're scared of.
I left this pretty deliberately ambiguous so people weren't too closed in with their choices and I still found it tricky to find books that filled the challenge. I have a pretty well documented big book fear but it's a readathon! I don't want big! So my 'scared of' reason is another fear; expectations.
World War Z by Max Brooks has been mentioned on my blog before. Not once, not twice, not three times, but four separate times. And you know what? I've hyped myself up so much I'm scared it's not going to match my fond memory.
My other choice is Dead Reckoning by Charlaine Harris. It's pretty widely thought that the Sookie Stackhouse books drop off in quality towards the end of the 13 book series and I'm a lil' scared because I love the first ten books of this series.


3. Read two books.
Two days. Two books. I can do it! We can all do it! Along with those I'd also kind of like to read some of my comic trade paperbacks that I just bought and some I've had for a while.
Captain America: Man Out of Time is new to my shelves and is calling to me. I just love Steve Rogers!
I am Legend is one of my favourite books, I raved about it this time last year! And I've had the graphic novel in my collection since I was 16. I bought it in Borders, in New York, while I was reading World War Z for the first time. Hello, random detailed memory. Anyway, it's been a while since I picked it up.
Then there's American Vampire Volume 1. Vampires, Halloween, it mixes.
Marvel Zombies Destroy! is another that's just joined my shelves and I'm pumped to read this. Marvel and Zombies!
The Walking Dead Book 1 and the rest of my Walking Dead Comics have been calling for a re-read ever since the new season came out and I'm ready to listen.
Shout-out to Amazon for reminding me I bought Chew Omnivore Edition Volume 1 on the 9th of January 2012! I don't think I've read it since the first time way back then so it's time. Who knows! I'm bad with decisions!

What do you think I should pick? What's on your #Hallowreadathon TBR?

Monday, 19 October 2015

Barbara Nadel: Research Trip on a Budget!

I love travel, and I love when books take me away to places that I've never visited. Barbara Nadel writes detective novels based in Istanbul and she's here today to talk about her last research trip and her experience travelling on a budget. Her new book is Land of the Blind, the 17th Inspector Ikmen mystery!


Every so often my life falls apart. It’s nothing to worry about, that’s just the way that it is. I’m accustomed to frequent upheavals and so it’s probably better that they happen to me rather than to someone who is used to a more even keel.

So it was last year, we hit the financial rocks again just as I was planning my next research trip to Istanbul. I’m always budget conscious when it comes to flights and so I will often fly at bizarre times to save a few pounds. My flights were fine. I frequently stay with friends and so accommodation is generally taken care of too. But this time I had to find a place to stay and pay for it. It was then that I discovered that even my usual haunts were now beyond my etiolated pocket. So I picked a cheap place that was in an area I know and crossed my fingers.

My arrival at the Hotel Blah (name changed to protect the guilty) was hardly auspicious. The man in front of me in the immigration queue at Ataturk Airport fell to the ground fitting and, despite the best efforts of a nurse, died in front of me. Now I’ve worked in a hospital and so I’ve seen death before. But this was death of a sudden, out of context nature and was a deeply distressing incident all round mainly because the poor man’s wife could speak neither Turkish nor English. So no one could communicate with her. She just howled.

I arrived at my hotel in a bit of a state. Luckily for me a friend was there to meet me and whisked me off to a local restaurant for many calming cups of tea. Only when I returned to the hotel later that night did I realise that it was semi derelict. There was a vast hole in the wall beside the staircase which allowed for excellent views of the house next door and was a wonderful source of draughts. But I was tired and skint and so what the hell?

My room, which was basic Turkey circa 1978 was comfortable and clean. It was a pity that the sexual athlete next door, an imposing Russian man, was so noisy in his congress with several women but I assumed he wouldn’t be doing that every night.

And so day dawned on a creature more zombie than human which I attempted to revive with a bit of breakfast in the breakfast room or garden shed out the back. It had a wonderful view of the Sea of Marmara and the food was good enough to set me up for a day of relentless walking. I needed to visit a cemetery in one of the northern suburbs of the city and had decided that, rather than use up valuable cash on my Istanbul Kart travel pass, I’d use my legs.

They didn’t like it, my legs. Six miles on a right leg held together by plates and pins that stick in your flesh when you exert yourself too much isn’t a whole load of fun. I had to get the metro back after limping around cemeteries talking to cats and finding some very disturbing statuary. Night-time in the hotel was once again a lively Russian themed event so, again, it was a good job I was knackered.

The other problem was food. Breakfast was taken care of, now in the company of many large women from somewhere in the Balkans, all very jolly. But what of the rest of the day? When you’re really skint you eat weird stuff. If you’re at home you can cobble together a meal from a load of old lentils and tomatoes. But out in the ‘wild’ you have to graze where you can. So it was things like a cup of coffee with a complimentary biscuit, chocolate bars and a plate of rice with some veg. Long gone are the days when I could get a man to buy me a meal. The amount of scaffolding and paint needed to hold my face up and make it respectable looking do not exist in this galaxy. But I did have a very nice cuppa with a priest and a lovely meal, at the end of my stay, with friends.

The Russian next door was on a sexual roll for all of that week. But human beings are adaptable and so I learned how to drop off to the sound of multiple orgasms. As I checked out, the police arrived to shut the place down which was a shame. Cheap, clearly doubling as a knocking shop (for those who don’t speak East End this is a brothel) it was clean, if cold and when you returned at night you did feel a bit like you were living in some sort of espionage novel. Did I mention that you had to knock and then show you face to get in? You did, it was wonderful.

So no Rolls Royces for me. But then I’m not really a Rolls kind of a girl. My life’s a bit more back together now and so I expect if I go to Istanbul again soon I’ll bung a whole load of cash on my Istanbul Kart and eat some protein. But maybe not. Maybe that would be too much like tempting fate...

Thank you to Barbara for this post! It sounds like it was a very interesting trip. Land of the Blind is available now here!

What are your budget travel tips? 

Friday, 16 October 2015

Series Review: The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries by Charlaine Harris!

You know that feeling when you pick up a book and you're so drawn in that you just want to be the character and live their life despite all the... Murder. Well, Aurora Teagarden is that character for me. I couldn't stop myself being drawn to these books and it took me about ten months to read the eight books despite how much I tried to spread them out.

Real Murders, A Bone to Pick, Three Bedrooms, One Corpse, The Julius House, Dead Over Heels, A Fool and his Honey, Last Scene Alive and Poppy Done to Death by Charlaine Harris.

There are eight books in The Aurora Teagarden Mysteries by Charlaine Harris! Here are all my original reviews; Real Murders, A Bone to Pick, Three Bedrooms, One Corpse, The Julius House, Dead Over Heels and A Fool and his Honey, Last Scene Alive and Poppy Done to Death! And here are the reasons I love the series so much.

The Protagonist. 
Aurora is normal. An honest hard-working normal American librarian. She loves reading and old murders, her small town and her mom. She's just hugely relatable and I like reading about her reading nooks, her glasses choices, and her domestic troubles because it really grounds the story. Aurora is a normal women who is skewing the odds of how many people know somebody murdered.

The Writing.
I've read 18 books by Charlaine Harris in the past year. I really like her writing. She is to the point. She is the perfect example of showing, not telling. She doesn't sound like she writes with a thesaurus by her side making her work so easy to read. Honestly, I think she's one of my favourite authors and I am slowly and steadily working my way through all of her books.

The Murders.
I love a good conclusion. And every murder in the Aurora Teagarden series gets a conclusion with every loose end tied up. I loved trying to figure out who the murderer was and more often then not, I was completely blindsided and amazed at who actually did it. With few exceptions it is satisfying to close the book and know how the story played out.

The Aurora Teagarden series is actually being continued. Charlene Harris announced on her Facebook page that two more books are joining the series and you can bet your life savings that I'll be picking them up as soon as they hit the shelves! And there's a TV movie series too that I'll be reviewing soon- a little different from my usual but hopefully you'll like it!

Have you read this series?

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

Books I Want to Buy and Why #2

Welcome to my second instalment of Books I Want to Buy and Why where I am true to the title and pick several books from my wishlist that I haven't bought yet and say why I want to buy them. Then my dear readers can weigh in on what I should or shouldn't buy and tell me what's on your wishlist! The first post in this series is here!



So what's on the wishlist these days?



Openly Straight by Bill Konigsberg
A while ago I discovered Cece (Problems of a Book Nerd) on Youtube and marathoned her videos, at some point she mentioned this book and I immediately looked it up, read the synopsis and added it. I've been really interested in LGBT+ fiction lately and this book has some great reviews.

Dead Ever After by Charlaine Harris
The last Sookie Stackhouse novel and the only one I don't own. This book has some pretty terrible reviews but I can't really get so far into a series and not finish it. I want to know what happens to Sookie, and I don't want to google.

The Misinterpretation of Tara Jupp by Eva Rice
I recently read The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice and loved it. You can read my rave review here and since then I've not been pulled into a book in quite the same way where I want to savour it and not rush to the end. It seems to me like if Eva Rice can do it once, she can probably do it again and this was just the one that stood out to me most of her published books.

Murder Most Unladylike by Robin Stevens
A while ago I finished the Aurora Teagarden series and started on the hunt for a new cosy crime series to fill the gap. This popped up on my Amazon recommendations and the cover drew me in. Then I found out it's a murder mystery series set in an all girls school and I'm a sucker for that kind of thing. There are other books I want to read first though.



Fun Home by Alison Bechdel
I first heard about this on the Books on the Nightstand podcast and then saw it on Cece's Favourite LGBT books video. This is a graphic memoir set in a funeral home that sounds super interesting and seriously- when two separate people who you respect the opinions of, both tell you to pick up a book, the least you can do is add it to a wishlist.

The Purity Myth by Jessica Valenti
I went on a bit of a spree a while ago looking up books that would make me smarter about society and feminist issues. The Purity Myth was one that made the cut, as it looks into America's obsession with female sexuality and virginity. Most of my media consumption is American, I have a lot of American friends and while I think that there are vast differences between America and Britain- each has a lot of influence on the other. I think this would be a really interesting read.

Deja Dead by Kathy Reichs
So Bones is a TV show I never really watched until the guy who sold me my phone told me I looked like Emily Deschanel. I don't see it, but I watched about 7 seasons of the show in a month and that is enough to know that I love it and want to read the books. This is the first in the series.

Harry Potter Und der Stein der Weisen by J. K. Rowling
One of the recommendations people always give when you're learning a language is to read a book you know well, in the language. So Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone in German is my pick since I pretty much know it word-for-word in English. My German is pretty weak though so I'm not sure how far I would get. The German covers are so pretty and playful too.
What do you think of my picks? What's on your wishlist?

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