Thursday, 31 August 2017

5 Things I Learnt from 24 Hours of Kitten Fostering!

In August I became a volunteer for Cats Protection, with my main interest being fostering. I discovered Kitten Lady about a year ago but up until a few months ago I had a very old and defensive cat. It wouldn't have been fair to him to put him under the stress of kitten roommates. When he passed, it was unbelievably heartbreaking. But eventually I realised that I now had the opportunity to help cats find homes with people that would love them like I loved him. The adventure started with looking after three kittens for 24 hours, and here's what I learnt...



1. It's hard. 
Seriously, kitten fosterers who deal with orphan newborn kittens are warriors. The three tiny babies I was taking care of were maybe three weeks old and I probably got about four or five hours accumulative sleep while I was taking care of them. They needed feeding every two hours because they were so malnourished, and because they weren't used to a bottle it took about an hour and a half to get them fed and settled. Half an hour later, it started right back up again!

2. You have to recognise your limits.
These three-week old abandoned kittens were originally estimated at about five weeks. At five weeks kittens are starting to wean from the bottle to solid food, they're starting to use a litter tray, they're much less dependent and I like to think I could've handled it. But when I actually got them, they were much younger, hadn't been fed overnight and throughout the day I discovered they were far from healthy. They needed more help then I could give and that was tough! I felt like a failure. But kittens come before pride and I knew that there was a limit to my knowledge. They were taken back to the vet, then taken in with a more experienced fosterer and have since flourished!

3. Kittens are always cute, even when they pee on your hand.
Very small kittens can't pee or poop on their own. They need stimulation. Normally this is the mother licking them but luckily a paper towel rubbing also does the trick. Sometimes, though, there's a very full bladder and pee gets on your hand. I swear I washed my hands more times in those 24 hours then I normally do in a week. But- kittens! They were so cute, they could pee on me and I'd just be like- oh you little sweetheart! Good job!

4. It's lifesaving.
While the kittens I had were under the wing of Cats Protection and luckily there were fosterers other than me to take care of them, in certain areas and shelters- there isn't. Orphan kittens who require bottle feeding every two hours, heating pads and manual help to pee and poop, are put down in a lot of shelters because there just aren't enough people to do the work. And not everyone can do it! It's full-on and full-time for the first couple weeks. But it literally saves kittens lives and even though I was only keeping the little guys alive for 24 hours, it felt really great to be able to do that.

5. Boy names are tough!
Throughout this post, the kittens didn't have names because they were three little boys and I couldn't think of any for the life of me! And just as I thought of some, they were leaving. I have so many girl names but boy names? I'm lost. Luckily, the kittens I'm looking after now are a boy and a girl so it wasn't quite as tough. Esther and Gilbert are named for Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Literary names are the best.

Have you ever fostered kittens? Aren't they just the cutest?

Saturday, 26 August 2017

Required Reading Haul!

You know what's great about being an English Literature and Creative Writing student? The books you have to buy for your module don't count towards your self-imposed book ban. Right? Also, education and all of that great stuff. Anyway, I'm always interested in books that other universities set for required reading so I thought I would show the nine books I've bought for my next Open University module; A230 - Reading and Studying Literature!



The first few months of the module is looking at The Renaissance and the Long Eighteenth Century. So I might finally learn how to spell Renaissance without autocorrect! The books for this are Othello by William Shakespeare and The Duchess of Malfi by John Webster, looking at the treatment of love and death in tragedies. I haven't read Shakespeare since school so I'm a little nervous about that, but I love a good tragedy.

Oroonoko by Aphra Behn and Candide, or Optimism by Francois Voltaire


Then we'll move onto Oroonoko by Aphra Behn and Candide, or Optimism by Francois Voltaire, along with an autobiography of an ex-slave and accounts of mutinies. This is all about journeys and I'm really hyped for it. Does anyone else remember that scene in The Princess Diaries where Lily goes; "Voltaire, hair. I would personally like to learn about Voltaire." Now I finally get to!

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë


After that is Romantics and Victorians where the coursebook has a lot of the materials; poems by Wordsworth and Shelley, short stories by E. T. A. Hoffman and Robert Louis Stevenson. This is also when the chunky Victorian novels I'm really excited about come into play; mainly Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. The other books I'm to read are The Sign of Four by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle which I've coincidentally already read this year! And Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, which I have several copies of because it was one of my A-level texts and I've struggled to read it for fun since then.

The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon, Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel and The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald.


And if I get through all that, it's into The Twentieth Century. The focus starts with Cities, there'll be a bunch of New York based poems along with Dubliners by James Joyce. I actually mentioned this in Books I Want to Buy and Why #10. My university actually recommended this copy but I'm a sucker for the Penguin English Library covers and they had the same contents.

Then it shifts to Migration and Memory which just sounds fascinating! Especially with the time period; the wars and decolonisation. The books I bought are The Lonely Londoners by Sam Selvon, Dancing at Lughnasa by Brian Friel (I forgot to photograph this) and The Emigrants by W. G. Sebald but I'll also be studying poetry by Elizabeth Bishop and James Berry’s Windrush Songs.

Overall, it's a really interesting bunch of books and I'm going to (hopefully) read most of them in advance before my module starts in October because I hate getting behind on set reading as a mood reader. I hope this was interesting!

What do you think of my haul? What was your favourite book you were required to read?

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Books I Took to Norway!

In a little bit of a last minute decision, I ended up spending the last two weeks of July in Norway. I'd never been before and it really is such a beautiful country! Of course, I had to overpack on the books as well. I ended up reading quite a bit- I finished six books while I was out there, but five of them were digital because I discovered my local library has an app and went a little out of control. But these are the books I intended to read...

Books I Took to Norway in a pile with the Norwegian flag in the background


Othello by William Shakespeare
In an attempt to get as far ahead as I can in my next module before it starts and I inevitably fall behind, I brought one of my set texts away with me so I could really get my head around it. I mean, it's Othello, what can I really say? He actually made a two hour flight go by in a flash!

Farewell to the East End by Jennifer Worth
This was actually the first book I finished on my holiday, reading it on the train from Oslo to Bergen. After starting this series in October of last year and really enjoying the first book, then being really disappointed by the second book in May, I wasn't sure what to expect. I just really wanted something with short chapters that I knew I could put down and pick up a lot without losing too much of a continuing plot.

My Mothers Shadow by Nikola Scott
This is a slow, savouring read that I've been really enjoying for a while now. I didn't want to leave it at home for a fortnight. I even saw a woman in the airport looking at a copy in WHSmith and after dithering about in shy anxiety for a minute, was that person and told her it was really good.

Night Shift by Charlaine Harris
Now, I took this to Corfu along with the first two books in the trilogy and read those. But I didn't get around to this one and decided to save it as a holiday treat. But it didn't fit with Norway. I know, I know, mood reader nonsense! I adore this series so I'll finish it soon I expect.

The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
There's a tiny reference to Norway in The Hithhikers Guide to the Galaxy. But also, this is one of those books that I haven't read yet but know that I'll really enjoy. I was just delaying reading it for some reason or another. And with one of my reading goals for 2017 being to stop this, why not bring it along? I didn't get around to it, but I have one more holiday this year and this is coming with me.

Empire and Dominion by Jennifer Ridyard and John Connolly
I am determined to finish this series this year. 2017. The year Imogen finally finishes the Chronicles of the Invaders. Even if I have to drag them all around the world with me.

Yesterday by Felicia Yap
This is being released in a couple days and I am so excited! I actually headed down to London last week for the launch after meeting Felicia in February and getting a sampler of her debut. I wanted to finish it after starting it at home but couldn't find the focus while I was away. This of course, came back as soon as I touched down on British soil but the book went on a nice holiday I guess!

The Swimmer by Joakim Zander
So, out of the 800+ books I own, none of them are set in Norway! The closest I could get was this, which is a mystery/spy/thriller that starts off in Sweden then continues around Europe. I've been meaning to read this for a few years but still haven't. Maybe a trip to Sweden is in order.

Have you ever been to Norway? What do you think of the books I packed?

Monday, 7 August 2017

Book Review: The White Road by Sarah Lotz!

The publication of any new Sarah Lotz book is cause for celebration in my mind, and The White Road is no exception. Ever since staying up way past my bedtime to read The Three, it's been my go-to recommendation for a book that will hook new readers. And while I didn't love Day Four as much, I recently went on a boat trip and it freaked me the heck out. So thanks for that Sarah Lotz!


Adrenaline junkie Simon Newman sneaks onto private land to explore a dangerous cave in Wales with a strange man he's met online. But Simon gets more than he bargained for when the expedition goes horribly wrong. Simon emerges, the only survivor, after a rainstorm trap the two in the cave. Simon thinks he's had a lucky escape.

But his video of his near-death experience has just gone viral.

Suddenly Simon finds himself more famous than he could ever have imagined. Now he's faced with an impossible task: he's got to defy death once again, and film the entire thing. The whole world will be watching. There's only on place on earth for him to pit himself against the elements: Mt Everest, the tallest mountain in the world.

But Everest is also one of the deadliest spots on the planet. Two hundred and eighty people have died trying to reach its peak.

And Simon's luck is about to run out.


I'm a fan of the 'found footage' genre, more the horror movie type than the sometimes more disturbing real ones.  It's always fascinated me that your last moments could be caught on film forever. The video of the man running in a panic around the catacombs, only to drop the camera with his only light source and continue on into the dark? Terrifying. Well worth a Google deep dive if you're in the frame of mind to be spooked. So I was interested to see how Sarah Lotz would take a very visual medium and adapt that for a novel. 

However, it's pretty difficult to transfer an event from one media to another- comic books work well as movies because they're very visual, book adaptations on film don't generally work because they lack detail, and a describing a viral video in words... I'm not sure it worked seamlessly. The writing didn't manage to put me in the shoes of Simon. It's definitely a book based on plot and that creepy vibe that's hard to pin down. That is definitely where Sarah Lotz excels, she is the master of the prickling at the back of your neck, from a cave in Wales to the top of Mount Everest.

Another thing that hooked me from the blurb was the fact that Simon is a blogger. He's more of a Buzzfeed kind of clickbait content creator than anything I would follow personally (yeah, I said it) but- I'll take it. At the beginning, when he's struggling for page views, oh boy did I empathise. 

And lastly, the OCD representation in the book was interesting to me as it's manifestation was similar to how my OCD is. And I appreciated that when Simon says it's "quite sweet", the character gives him a "'don't patronise me' look", because real mental health problems are anything but sweet. Later when Simon's own mental health deteriorates, he takes on the same coping mechanism. The representation is accurate, but shallow, showing only the surface of the problem with no conclusion which I know some readers don't like. But for me, I took this at face value. Sometimes mental health problems have no conclusion. I've read books before where OCD has been given to characters to make them more 'interesting' and that's gross, but this felt to me like a well-rounded but background character who has an obsessive compulsion disorder. 

Unless you're a climber, in which case your hobby might be ruined forever, The White Road is out now and can be bought here!

I was certain I could make out words hidden in the watery clamour; it was tantalising like listening to a conversation through a wall.

Will you be picking it up? Who's the author who gets you really excited? 

Friday, 4 August 2017

Books I Read in June!

Ever forget to post something and don't remember until you look for the post to link in next months wrap-up? Yeah, less said about that, the better. My reading in June can be categorised into two; kids books and Charlaine Harris. And it was a really good reading month! Everything I read, I gave a four stars or more and I'm always excited to get some more Charlaine Harris in my life. Even if they is the last series I have to read before I've finished her entire works, I took them to Greece and they were exactly what I needed.



Wonderboy by Nicole Burstein
You can read my full review of this on Sabrina's blog here!
They looked like the kind of school kids I read about in old adventure books, who drank ginger ale and solved mysteries in their half-term holidays.


Goodknyght! by Steve Barlow and Steve Skidmore
Hello very battered copy! I find it so funny that I'm so protective of my books now whereas young-me just did not care about anything. Ah youth. This has been so obviously dropped in the bath as well as losing the cover.
Anyway, this is a fun kids book where you can also tell that great care has been put in so that adults reading to kids can be entertained too. Humpfrey the Boggart completely went over my head as a kid, as did the reference; "I think thish ish the beginning of a beautiful friendship." But as a grown-up? Loved it!
This also isn't a straightforward one-adventure-and-done kind of tale. The twists and turns of this rival some plots of the fantasy books I've read for the YA/adult market. And it had been so long that I had forgotten how this ended, so even I was surprised by the ending. I remember the reason I liked these books so much when I was younger was that while I read a lot of fantasy and adventure as a kid, there wasn't a lot of female characters that were physically strong and involved beyond using their wits. It's great to use your wits- I just wanted the occasional fight too. And this gives me at least one female character, and she's super strong and regularly gets the main male character out of all sorts of bother. So, not superb but overall, it's a great little book from its time.
"Well, the fact is, I don't want to be eaten. It's bad for my health."


Midnight Crossing by Charlaine Harris
I took the plunge. I finally started Charlaine Harris's latest and only series I haven't yet read, starting with Midnight Crossing. And unsurprisingly, I loved it. Since I've read everything else she's put out, I know a few of the characters and a lot of the lore already. Because of that, reading this was like getting into clothes fresh out of the dryer; soft, warm and fits like a glove.
The story is a murder mystery which is, in my opinion, what Charlaine Harris revolves her best books around. However, as always, it's much, much more. I fell in love with this little community in this tiny roadside Texan town. It's very early Welcome to Night Vale feeling with more neighbourly caring. I loved getting to know the inhabitants and seeing how they deal with a murder in their midst. And as always, I loved the writing. It might not be to everyones taste but the cosy crime paranormal domestic drama thing Harris has going on is exactly what I need to curl up with at the end of the day.
I will say, my one issue, and this is more an editing thing, is the use of the word 'hermaphrodite' which is wildly outdated. That should've been picked up by someone because the character clearly meant intersex and it wasn't being used as an insult, just a little note to future readers. These are decidedly anti-hateful books which is why it's so out of place, as Bobo says; "I'm pro-gay marriage, pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-whales and tuna and wolves and every damn thing you can think of." Are book boyfriends still a thing? Can Bobo be mine?
-their lives altering as this body toppled all their pursuits in a domino effect, and she was profoundly sorry that she was the finger pushing the first tile.


Day Shift by Charlaine Harris
I think it took me all of twenty seconds after finishing Midnight Crossing to pick up Day Shift. I was on a roll while I was in Corfu.
This was another murder mystery, but had a mini side-plot that doesn't really come to a conclusion and another side-plot that put a bit of pressure on the story. And that might've been what made this slightly less enjoyable to me then the first book. I like the slow pace that Charlaine Harris can take with her cosy mysteries. I like the fact that this small town is generally not busy- so making it busy feels very strange. However, it's very much more of the same. The little Texan community pulling together to support their own, domestic drama and it was good to meet an old favourite from the Sookie Stackhouse books again!
I think the side plots will end up playing out in the third book as well, and just thinking about it has me itching to pick up the last book in the trilogy. I can't believe after Night Shift that I'll have read every series by Charlaine Harris. I need recommendations for an author that can fill the gap ASAP.
He's too much rose, not enough thorn-


Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by JK Rowling
What is there to say about the Harry Potter books that hasn't already been said?
For those who don't follow me on Twitter, I tweeted some thoughts as I re-listened to this and can basically sum up my entire experience into a complete confusion of how the wizarding world works. And also, I forgot how scary the monster was in the Stephen Fry audiobook! I'm a grown-up and was spooked, kid-me must've been much braver.


What did you read way back in June? Can you remember?

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