Tis Friday Again (It Comes Around So Quickly!)

1. I learned the value of backing things up when in a horrible moment my computer, after downloading updates showed nothing but a blank screen for ages. As I anxiously sat watching it, willing it to come back to life, all I could think about was the 25+ pages of writing that I HADN’T BACKED UP!! Needless to say, the moment the computer came back on the very first thing I did was locate a memory stick and back up those files. It’s horrible, losing something when you’ve put a lot of time into it.

2. The weather is finally getting better, and I cannot wait to get started on the garden and greenhouse this year, because I’ll have a whole season at it this time. My greenhouse was only put up in June last year, so I’d missed a lot of growing time for my seeds. This time I’ll be moth ahead of that. Just need it get a little bit warmer before I start spending great amounts of time out there.

3. I’m back on the Dark Tower again. Book 5, Wolves Of The Calla, is really holding my attention. I read something else in between 4.5 and 5,l and it just didn’t hold up. I had to will myself to get on and pick the book up, which isn’t good. I wondered whether I was just having an ‘off’ spell, as can happen with any hobby, but as soon as I picked up this latest book my enthusiasm has come back with a vengeance.

4. My car’s at the garage again – it’s been there so often it will soon be able to auto-navigate there by itself! Luckily this time is just for a service, and it’s only just a year old, so there shouldn’t be anything much wrong (famous last words!)

5. Almost the weekend everyone – hang in there, just a few hours to go!!

Books 4 & 5 – The Greatcoat by Helen Dunmore and Step Back In Time by Ali McNamara

4.  The Greatcoat – Helen Dunmore – finished 27/01/14

In 1950s Yorkshire, doctor’s wife Isabel finds an old greatcoat in a cupboard and uses it to keep warm at night.  She awakes to find a man looking in through the window, who seems to be saying her name.
This is billed as a ghost story, and in a way it is, but for me it was more ghostly romance than anything genuinely creepy.  The story follows the growing relationship between Isabel and Alec, who seem to exist together in another time, as we also see Isabel with her husband Phillip.
It wasn’t a bad story, but I didn’t find myself particularly drawn in either.

Rating – 3/5

5. Step Back In Time – Ali McNamara – finished 28/01/14

After being hit by a car Jo-Jo wakes up and finds herself in 1963. Not knowing whether it is real or a dream, Jo-Jo encounters several people he knows from her real life, and soon believes there are certain things she must accomplish in order to return to her own time. Just as things seem to be taking shape, she is hit by a car again, at exactly the same site of her initial accident, and this time she wakes up in the 70s. Again, the same familiar people are present, albeit in different guises. Each time it seems Jo-Jo is on the right track she has another accident, and each time she wakes up in a new time period – from the 60s right through to the 90s, and finally back to the present time where, having finally learned through her travels what is important, she embarks on a new path in life.

This was an enjoyable, light read. The Beatles and their hits are heavily referenced throughout, and I must admit a lot of this was probably lost on me, as I’ve never really been a big fan; I’ve never disliked them, but never been into them either. I got some of the more obvious references, but did feel some of it was probably passing me by, not that that took too much away from the enjoyment of the read. Strangely enough, just like Jo-Jo, I did find myself getting a Beatles Greatest Hits album as I read more of this book, so who knows, maybe after this I’ll become a fan?

Rating – 3/5

Books 2014

It’s that time of year again, so here are my reading goals for 2014:

  • To read 35 books
  • To read more books than last year on my Kindle
  • Re-read Harry Potter
  • Re-Read Jonathan Strange And Mr Norrell
  • Read 5 Stephen King Books (and only count The Dark Tower once, or this goal will be done just by finishing that series)
  • Find 5 new authors
  • Keep better track of what I read, and maybe write something about at least some of the books

Reads & Reviews

January

  1. Cockroaches – Jo Nesbo
  2. Carrie – Stephen King
  3. Wizard And Glass – Stephen King
  4. The Greatcoat – Helen Dunmore
  5. Step Back In Time – Ali McNamara

February

6.  The Wind Through The Keyhole – Stephen King

Book 3 – Wizard And Glass by Stephen King – Finished 22/01/14 – SPOILER HEAVY REVIEW

Wizard And Glass continues the story of Roland and his ka-tet who, at the end of The Wastelands were trapped aboard murderous monorail Blaine, hurtling towards death if they cannot outwit Blaine in a game of riddles. The story continues as the ka-tet escape Blaine and Roland finally opens up about his past before, in some other-world version of Kansas, the group reaches the Green Palace and come face to face with Marten, now going by the name Flagg. In order that they may continue their journey, Roland shares another secret of his past and the ka-tet continue ever onwards towards the Dark Tower. That’s a very very basic version of the plot of this sprawling epic of a book. Now for the bits that really stood out.

So many things were great about this book:

The realisation that upon escaping Blaine the ka-tet have arrived in the world decimated by The Stand’s Captain Tripps flu virus. I read The Stand a while back because I’d read somewhere else that Randall Flagg also featured in The Dark Tower, so I wanted to know more about the character before I started the series. It was strange and good to think of Roland travelling through that same land as all the survivors of the flu, drawn to either Flagg or Mother Abagail.

Roland’s backstory. I’ve been intrigued for a long time about the Gunslinger’s history. Up until now there have been mere glimpses, and Roland seems so changed (damaged?) by what happened that I always wanted to know what had happened, and in this book King provides this narrative in great depth. Cuthbert and Alain are brilliant characters, and I found myself dreading the latter stages of the story, as I was convinced they would end up dead, knowing that in the main narrative Roland is with a different ka-tet, in which these two characters do not feature. By this books conclusion though we still don’t know what became of either of them, so there’s still some mystery to be resolved.
I loved the scene where they intervened on behalf of Sheemie against the Big Coffin Hunters. Talking of them – great villains, and in this category Susan’s aunt deserves an honorary mention too – what an awful woman. Equally as vile – Rhea of the Coos, the old witch who becomes enslaved by the Wizard’s Glass and eventually orchestrates Susan’s murder. King does know how to write a good (or bad) villain.

The battle of Eyebolt Canyon. I was so engrossed in the story by this time that I almost felt I was there with Roland, Cuthbert and Alain as they led Latigo’s men in a chase into the box canyon, from which there would be no escape. The conclusion of that scene, Roland looking down on the men trapped between the fire at the mouth of the canyon and the thinny, which devours all that goes near it, was really good.

The awful way Roland realised he had been tricked by the Wizard’s Glass into leaving Susan vulnerable, and the torment of watching her burned alive by her crazed aunt and evil witch Rhea, unable to intervene to save his love, and feeling all the while that it’s his fault it is happening.

The whole Wizard Of Oz interlude and the confrontation with the Tick Tock Man and Roland’s oldest enemy Marten. Also, the way we realise that Marten is now going by the name Flagg. Sound familiar? (I was glad I’d already read The Stand). The combining of worlds again. King has a knack for this, including settings/characters from his other works, which I always feel draws you in and makes you want to read that book too, if you haven’t already.

The final reveal that Roland unwittingly murdered his own mother. I found it incredibly sad, the way he was tricked into believing she was Rhea, and only at the last minute realising that actually she had made him a belt as a peace-offering, and that she died smiling, killed by her own husbands guns in the hands of her son. So sad!

I can’t wait to see what else lies in store for the ka-tet as they venture on towards the Tower.  Rating – 5/5

My Noisy Week

1. Why is it that the moment you decide to start a diet, you feel absolutely ravenous?!? ALL THE TIME! I decided this week I would try and cut down for a week or two. You know, you have that point at which you feel that you really shouldn’t put on any more weight because your clothes feel just that little bit too tight? I’m almost at that point, so want to make an effort for a couple of weeks. It’s so hard, with the temptation of so much chocolate still around from Christmas, but I will try.

2. I just finished reading The Wizard And Glass, book 4 of The Dark Tower by Stephen King. There’s definitely going to be a full, long entry about this book, but I’ll just say for now that I absolutely loved it. The Dark Tower is turning out to be a brilliant series.

3. It’s been like a building site outside the house all week. I think they’re doing work to replace some cables or other, so the road is being dug up and it’s all SO noisy. The workmen don’t arrive every day, and that’s the only time there’s any peace. It’s usually a really quiet area, so that makes the noise seem even worse. I’ll be glad when it’s done and they’re gone.

4. Just started watching American Horror Story Asylum. As with the first series during the first episode I sat there thinking “what the hell is this? What’s going on?” and wondered whether to carry on with it, but by the end I was drawn in yet again, even though it’s probably by far the weirdest thing I watch. Jessica Lange is very good as Sister Jude, and a couple of other actors from the first series are in this one too.

5. I watched a Youtube video on hair braiding and have learned how to do a new style of braid in my own hair. I think it would be easier to have someone else to practice on, but, failing that, I’m making do with trying it out on myself. I don’t often do anything at all in the way of hair styles, but I’ve seen people with their hair braided that way and thought it looked nice, but very difficult. As it turns out, once you know what you’re doing, it’s quite easy.

Books 1 & 2 – Cockroaches by Jo Nesbo and Carrie by Stephen King

1. Cockroaches – Jo Nesbo – Finished 02/01/14

Another early case for detective Harry Hole sees him venture to Bangkok when the Norwegian ambassador is found murdered.
I did enjoy this book, but the first books I read in the series were the later ones, starting with The Snowman, and I was totally engrossed in everything from the writing to the story. I didn’t find this book quite as gripping as the later novels but I was glad to read it as part of the series.  Rating:  3/5

2. Carrie – Stephen King – Finished 06/01/14

Carrie White has a special power; she is telekinetic and can move things with her mind. Caught between a fanatically religious mother at home, and relentless bullies who humiliate her at every opportunity, Carrie is miserable, and so hones her secret power.

All Carrie wants to be accepted, and to live her life the way she wants, without her mother’s strict religious beliefs influencing her every decision. When she is asked to the school prom by the handsome and popular Tommy, Carrie can’t believe her luck, but hardly dares believe that this is the first step towards social acceptance.
She is right to be suspicious, and as the bullies plan one final humiliation for Carrie she finally unleashes her power upon them, with devastating consequences.

This is a short novel, and the narrative includes various reports into the ‘Carrie White affair’. The suspense builds towards the events of prom night, and the section just before this builds really nicely, taking in the viewpoints of Carrie’s mother, Sue Snell (a girl from school) and Carrie herself as she makes her own dress for the prom, all the time wondering if yet again she will be the victim of some awful joke.
There’s something terribly sad about the extremes towards which Carrie is driven, which is felt all the more as she is just a girl who wants acceptance, both from her mother and her peers.

I enjoyed the book and am now going to watch the film.  Rating:  4/5

My First Five Things

In order to be a more regular blogger, I’ve decided that if I don’t write anything else each week, I’ll do a post of five things – anything and everything that’s caught my attention during the week.  And so…

1.  Image

http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Ghost-Hunters-Neil-Spring/dp/178087975X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1386849877&sr=8-1&keywords=the+ghost+hunters

I just finished reading this.  It was a great read and grabbed me right from the first page.  I loved the mystery surrounding Borley Rectory, and the way you could never be sure whether the haunting was a true ghostly happening, or whether some of the characters were actually involved in creating the ominous atmosphere for various self-serving reasons.

2.  I took a trip down to Birmingham to have a look at the new library and visit the Christmas market, which is a bit of a tradition.

IMG_1261 IMG_1263 IMG_1267 IMG_1269 IMG_1274

3.  I think I am becoming a bit of a book hoarder again.  It’s one of the perils of working in  a library; all those lovely brand new books, never before loaned out, which I just can’t resist bringing home even though my TBR pile is already massive.

4.  I wish I could draw.  Of all the talents, this is one I have absolutely NONE of at all.  I am hopeless.  I see some really beautiful art on the internet, and wish I could do something similar myself, but there’s no way it’s going to happen.  No way.  I think that may be why I like cross stitching; in the end you can produce some really detailed work, which looks artistic in its own way, so it’s creativity without the need for natural artistic talent.  I do still wish I could draw though!

5.  I was in the supermarket the other day and it was evacuated!  All quite dramatic.  There I was, minding my own business, when alarms started roaring.  At first, no one did anything, just carried on shopping as if nothing was amiss.  Quite strange, how people don’t tend to bother.  Next moment, an announcement said that everyone should leave their shopping and evacuate immediately.  Cue sudden panic as it finally registered with everyone that the alarm might actually mean something.
After standing outside in the cold for ages it seemed that it had all been something and nothing.  I heard someone say that one of the staff had come in and somehow triggered one of the alarms.  So, it wasn’t quite as dramatic in the end as it first seemed, but I don’t think it’s ever happened to me before.