Wednesday, 21 September 2016

How Do You Choose Yours?

Hello folks,

Today I just wanted to post about my book sourcing methods, and to be nosy about how other people find their next books. I have a few different ways, but I know there must be others!

1 - The Public Library

Lincoln Central Library, aka the Mothership
Ok, so most obvious first! Sometimes I go in and browse the shelves to see what jumps out at me. Other times I search the library catalogue online (last week I went through all 1700 new books that are spread between all the libraries in Lincolnshire because that's how I roll). I also order in a lot of books that I find elsewhere as I don't earn enough to buy all the books I read, and I'm a huge advocate of using your public library to ensure it doesn't get shut down!

2 - Pinterest

Because I pin my read books to keep track of them, Pinterest throws out loads of recommended pins based on what book I have pinned, and about reading in general. This is how I find list of books on Buzzfeed etc, and I often find good choices there although my library doesn't always have in some of the book that I think are maybe released primarily for a US audience and haven't quite made it over the pond yet. Super annoying when that does happen!

3 - Amazon

When I do buy books I always check out the "other people bought" part of the page,and can get truly lost down that rabbit hole for hours! It is my number one strategy for buying my OH books (and DVDs) that are by authors new to him. He says he loves the unknown books, and has started to offer up far less in the way of suggestions around birthday/Christmas time. So next time you're ordering check out other people's purchases, it really throws up a lot of good books!

4 - Podcasts

I listen to a great reading podcast called "What Should I Read Next" by the Modern Mrs Darcy.
Even when I am not interested in the type of books being discussed (think JoJo Moyes etc), I actually just get a big kick out of hearing people talk about reading. Sad? Maybe. But most of my IRL friends are not into reading in such a big way so I enjoy it. Best book I have discovered so far is "The Girl With All The Gifts" by M R Carey, and it also got me interested enough to read "The Martian" by Andy Weir which I was a bit on the fence about.

5 - Book Groups

I was part of my WI's book group, but due to a change in employment I now can't attend. May be a bit harsh but most of the books chosen were not my thing at all, and others were just plain crap! I did read Oryx and Crake as a book club choice which opened up the world of Margaret Atwood, but the good definitely did not outweigh the bad.
I am/was a participant in an online book group where the choices were around sustainability/environmental issues (Non fiction) but it seems to have fizzled out. I guess the problem with online book groups is that it is easy to forget to be logged onto Facebook at the right time. Hopefully it will rise like a phoenix out of the ashes, but I will have to wait and see.

So those are my methods of book hunting, do you have any to add? I am quite keen to expand upon my podcast library, so any reading or sewing podcasts, or even just really great podcasts about other stuff that you can recommend, I would be super grateful!

Sunday, 18 September 2016

July Reading

July was an 11 book month! 7 proper books and 4 graphic novels.

 But MORE importantly.... I REACHED MY 52 BOOK TARGET!!! Book 52 was Nailbiter Volume 3, and it was something I had been waiting to get my hands on for a while so it seemed like a fitting choice for #52.

On to the reviews -

Beloved Poison by E.S. Thompson - This was a random choice from the library, and not as much of a winner as previous random choices. The story is based around a hospital in 1850(ish) England where Jem Flockhart is a resident apothecarist with a secret, who uncovers a secret as the planned demolition of the hospital takes place. I probably mentioned earlier in the year when talking about The Devil In The Marshalsea that I'm not a fan of historical fiction. Beloved poison was a much better story, and I enjoyed the presumably accurate portrayal of an apothecary's work, but the Victorian setting was a dampener.

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood - A classic piece of fiction that lives up to it's reputation in my opinion. I loved it from start to finish and found the descriptions of the characters and their world to be incredibly effective in creating a vivid immersive story. I only wish I could have followed Offred and her story for longer. I would highly recommend reading this, and perhaps you too will wonder if Atwood was being mildly prophetic with her tale of female slavery at the hands of a fundamentalist christian male dominated new world order...

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin - I should imagine everyone is familiar with the term Stepford Wife, but many perhaps less familiar with Ira Levin's fantastic book. A thematically fitting follow up to The Handmaid's Tale, and no less sinister! I have only seen the recent remake of the film (and love it), and I believe the original follows more closely to the book with the fate of Joanna Eberhart being somewhat more unfortunate, and Walter not such a nice guy either. A short book which I read in one sitting, but still very enjoyable and didn't feel too short either.

Wonder by R.J. Palacio - This is a uplifting but tear jerking story about a boy named August and his horrific facial deformity which makes starting high school somewhat more difficult than it is for the rest of us. Told from the perspectives of different characters it is refreshing to address the negative feelings of the "normal" sibling alongside the feelings of the main protagonist, and it was dome in a relateable and sensitive way. We all know children are often tactless and sometimes cruel, but I think everyone reading the book will be that little bit kinder to everyone they encounter, disfigured or not.

Hamlet by William Shakespeare - I read this 10 or so years ago, and probably enjoyed it more the first time around. I don't particularly go for plays, exception being Euripides whose work I am rather fond of, and it just seemed a little more drawn out than I remember. I may try re-reading others which I enjoyed in the past to see if it was just that story in particular.

Geek Love by Katherine Dunn - A garishly covered book containing one of the more odd stories I have ever read. Based around the life of a family of circus freaks in a traveling circus, the book explores the messed up realities of the human condition as told by the albino hunchbacked dwarf Olympia. Where the book could have simply been a peek at the grotesque, it really makes you question life, love, and the universe. Much more profound and insightful than one could predict from a book titled after someone who bites the heads off chickens.

The Girl With All The Gifts by M.R. Carey - This was a book which caught my attention on the "What Should I Read Next Podcast", and I was fortuitous in picking it up from the library when I did as it has been made into a film due to be released soon! It was quite a long book, but it kept me captivated from beginning to end. Set in London/Outer London after a fungal virus has turned most of the population into zombie like 'hungries' who only spring to life when a uninfected human is smelt, the book revolves around a girl called Melanie, her teacher Miss Justineau, a scientist, and two military men thrust into a dangerous situation in this dangerous world. The ending was unexpected and made for the perfect dystopian novel, I would very much recommend it!

And now for the graphic novels which were the last 4 that I read, although it would have been a nice way to break them up anyhow.

Nailbiter Volume 3 by Joshua Williamson et al - The third trade paperback installment of one of my favourite comics, and the plot thickens! With plenty of time spent with the enigmatic Nailbiter himself this had me delighted and desperate to know what happens next. The fourth volume is out so hopefully it won't be too long before I find out more about the real reason for the Buckaroo Butchers.

Outcast Volume 3: This Little Light by Kirkman and Azaceta - This volume did not seem to move the story on in a significant way in my opinion, compared with the first two anyway. I am curious to watch the TV show but also do not wish to spoil the story!

Postal by Bryan Hill - A new to me story, and one I really enjoyed, about a town called Eden which is basically populated by criminals, and there is a zero tolerance attitude to any illegal activity as the town is meant to be the second chance that serious criminals would not otherwise be able to get. The character of Mark (not a criminal, the mayor's son) is in charge of the postal service, and his position on the spectrum drives him to great lengths to solve the mystery of a murder that happens in Eden. I am very interested to see how this story develops, and am enjoying the frank but sympathetic portrayal of Mark.

Saga Volume 6 by Vaughn and Staples - My favourite of all the graphic novels I read, and the sixth volume did not disappoint. *Spoiler Alert* The Will getting fat was probably the funniest part of the story! I love the bizarre and unusual characters and the bizarre and unusual situations they find themselves in. But more Lying Cat next time please!

So that is July all wrapped up, August's books will be on the way soon.
Have you read any of July's books? What did you think? Or maybe you are considering picking up one of them - I would love to know!

Monday, 8 August 2016

June Reading

Nearly caught up now thank goodness!

June was another poor month for books quantity wise, but I did enjoy them!

In A Dark Dark Wood by Ruth Ware was a book I saw on a Buzzfeed list I think, probably in the vein of 'if you loved Gone Girl then try...' and whilst it was no Gone Girl, it was a decent thriller, I hadn't worked out the ending before it happened which is always good! Some of the characters are a bit annoying, and I didn't entirely warm to the protagonist Lee/Nora. The basic premise of hen party in the middle of nowhere may be a little bit eyerolly but where else would you make it so ruddy mysterious....

We Have Always Lived In The Castle by Shirley Jackson (told you there was more S J!) was a brilliant story, again with the house as a character. Didn't predict the twist, and I shan't spoil it! Jackson really exquisitely paints the characters of the two sisters and their senile uncle, although you do forget that Merricat is supposed to be 18, perhaps because of a combination of intentional child like characteristics, but also because 18 year olds today are much different.

Make Some-Thing Up by Chuck Palahniuk really does contain things you can't unread. The book is a collection of short stories and one in particular, Cannibal, is stomach churning. The new "Guts" I should say. I actually had to put the book down for a while after I read it which is not really something I do! Overall a good assortment of stories but I really prefer his full length stories.

Damned by Chuck Palahniuk was, in contrast to Make Some-Thing Up, a light and fluffy read! The story revolves around a 13 year old girl called Madison, who dies and goes to hell, and whilst in hell decides to take over and rule it. The book is insanely satirical and funny, and if you have ever been a 13 year old girl you will cringe at how well it captures the slightly narcissistic nature of teen girls.

Sometimes The Wolf by Urban Waite was a library random choice. I was drawn in by the McCarthy comparison which obviously it did not live up to because McCarthy is God... It was a bit of a slow starter but it was good once it gained momentum. I think it would make a good film, in the style of No Country For Old Men. The wolf part of it isn't really as much of a thing as you would expect given the title.

Well there you go, that's June wrapped up. I know that there is barely anyone who is reading my posts, but I wondered if it would be preferable to include more of the story of each book as well as my thoughts and random ramblings? I'd love any feedback readers have the time to give, and thanks in advance!

Friday, 5 August 2016

Patchwork Elephant Cushion For MIL

Towards the end of last year I made a cushion for my MIL (I also entered it in a "just for fun" competition at WI since it fit with the theme of "Indian Summer") which incorporated a badly patchworked elephant design appliqued onto a sun design, which in turn was appliqued onto a turquoise cushion cover. I found a perler bead design for an elephant on Pinterest, and converted that into the patchwork design.

 I had originally planned to make the sun patchwork too but it was too much hard work ha ha.

I cut out loads of utterly piddly little squares from scrap, decided I must have been slightly insane to think it was a good idea, then decided I was actually insane for continuing on with it!

It wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be and soon enough had a vaguely elephant shaped design.

As you can see it is quite honestly a terrible job. I normally choose EPP for a reason ya'll ;) Next step was to attach the elephant to the sun, and add some sparkly accents to give it a bit of a special touch. And an eye, just to stop it looking more  weird.

I then attached this to a turquoise fabric which was then sewn into a cushion cover with some velcro to secure it closed.

I can't find a picture with the cushion pad inserted but it probably shows the design better like this anyway. Despite it being incredibly poor patchwork, my MIL was thrilled with the cushion as she loves elephants. I'm not in a hurry to repeat the mini patchwork experience but I was pleased with how well the design translated into fabric.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

May Reading

Another book catch up, sorry!

 May was a slightly better effort with 7 books read.

The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson was a really good read. I have seen the film version (The Haunting) with Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta Jones many years ago when it was out at the cinema, and it goes without saying the book is better! I had never read a book by Jackson before and I really got the bug. I loved her gothic storytelling, and the use of the building as a character which maybe sounds odd but if you've read this then it makes sense I swear!

The Martian by Andy Weir finally provided an explanation about the film (which I haven't seen) being nominated as a comedy. It is really rather humorous, and you cannot fail to fall in love with the character of Mark Watney the disaster attracting, wise cracking, regular Joe. I absolutely cannot imagine having the internal strength to survive being left on Mars, and I was on the edge of my seat right up to the end. I also may have cried a tiny bit at the end.

The Encyclopedia of the Dead by Danilo Kis was a birthday gift, and sadly I didn't really enjoy it all too much. Short stories are always hit and miss for me, but this was just not really my jam. My other half enjoyed it though so not all is lost! Kis is Yugoslavian, and his translated work is likened to Borges and other Eastern European writers I would not be interested in picking up. Mostly it was just a bit boring.

We Were Liars by E Lockhart was one that had been on my radar for a while and finally picked it up at the library. A group of kids spend their summers on their Grandparent's private Island and are spoiled and rich. One of the group suffers from a kind of temporary mental illness and finds it hard to remember what happened on the island one eventful summer. It was a quick read, I didn't work out the ending until quite near the end - an all round enjoyable YA read.

Devotion by Ros Barber was spotted on the shelf at the library and called to me. I totally judge books by their covers (well I get compelled to pick them up) and this had my name all over it! I love the beautiful watercolour skulls in a big way. The story is set in the near future (specifically ten years after the death of Richard Dawkins) where religious fundamentalism is considered a mental illness. The most interesting part of the book is the concept that a medical procedure can give you a religious experience of the "God spoke to me" kind. I really enjoyed the story, a very happy accident!

Clock Without Hands by Carson McCullers is an interesting read, slightly eccentric characters make the novel more interesting than it would be if the characters were normal. Sadly I cannot help but compare all of Carson's work to "The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter" which is one of the best books I have ever read, and this book isn't as good. The racial injustices described within the story are still relevant today and really are rather saddening, an odd but poignant read.

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn is a very short story originally published as part of a collection. It is enjoyable, but ultimately I would have preferred it expanded into a full length novel which I think it very easily could have been. It also relies on the atmosphere of the house in which the story finishes off to enable it to have a little bit more punch to it, which I did enjoy especially after the Shirley Jackson.

Overall I enjoyed most of the books I read during the month, and spoiler alert - I got more Shirley Jackson out from the library because I loved her style so much!

Sunday, 3 July 2016

April Reading

Very late getting these up!

 April was a busy month, and I didn't get much in the way of reading done.

So that's two "self help" books, two graphic novels, and a non-fiction about chopped off heads...why yes, sometimes when I look at my life I do feel like it's a wee bit on the eccentric side of things!

The Happiness Project by Gretchen Reubin  was a birthday gift that I had been holding off from buying. Having discovered the Happiness podcast, I was desperate to dive into Gretchen's books and it didn't disappoint! I found the account of Gretchen's year long project to increase her happiness to be honest, funny, and relatable. I am not one for self help type books, but this one read more like a funny year long memoir than a cheesy "you can do it, and I will show you how" style book.

Better Than Before by Gretchen Reubin was  snapped up no sooner than I had finished the previous book. Again I was familiar with the sort of content and things like the four tendancies from the podcast, but it is a useful text to consult when wanting to change your habits. I find the subject of habit formation very interesting and Reubin goes into just enough detail to be informative, but not so much to swamp you. More self help than the Happiness Project is, but not cheesy/cringy about it.

The Wicked + The Divine Vol 1 by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie was a birthday gift.  Most people who read graphic novels have probably heard of this series, but if like me you were put off by the premise of gods sent down to Earth reincarnated as "rock stars", please give it a go anyway! This is a funny read - obviously a bit over the top given the celebrity status of the characters - with a more interesting plot than the premise of the series eludes to. Lucifer is my favourite character so far, mainly for the hilarious Daily Mail burn.

ODY-C Vol 1 by Matt Fraction and Christian Ward
was also a birthday gift. This is one of the most insane graphic novels in my collection, its bright in your face illustrations, coupled with the fact it is a retelling of Homer's Oddysey but set in space and genderbent, makes for one hell of a crazy read! I liked it, but mostly felt like I wasn't sure what was going on...maybe I should read the original story before going back to it.

Severed by Frances Larson promised a weird and compelling read and completely delivered! I cannot tell you just how interesting this was - I mean severed heads span a lot more fields than one would imagine. The book is not really very morbid or gross*, and each chapter discusses a different area of severed heads from the history and significance of shrunken heads, to skulls as war trophies during Vietnam. Educational throughout, and will provide you with enough fun facts about heads to trot out at dinner parties for the rest of your life!

*I am morbid and interested in "gross" stuff so my judgement may be skewed haha!

Well 5 books may be poor compared to previous months but they were a great selection nonetheless.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Panto Prep

I had meant to post up the second part of my embroidered Ginger Jeans next but I haven't got round to any photos yet.

So one of the reasons I was not blogging over the winter is because I was busy beavering away with preparations for a panto which really eats away at your time *insert oh no it doesn't joke here*.
One of things I love most about being involved with a theatre company is the fact it throws you curve ball after curve ball and no request is ever too weird!
Do excuse the terrible photos, many of which were just taken off my instagram feed.

There was copious amounts of blinging to do, costumes to make significantly bigger, collars to make, and a million miles of ruffles to be made and added to a flat looking costume.

Mop caps and bonnets were two of the completely new to me tasks! Needless to say I had to work it out on the fly, but the results were fine.

Bloomers were made based off of a pj bottom pattern, I made them looser than intended and elasticated the leg holes.

One of the more unusual tasks was to take a comically large jacket (think Lurch from the Addams Family) and make it into a regular sized jacket and a matching tie. This is one of two ties I made for that character, the other was in a fetching blue sequin fabric.

This is a picture of it in action! I chose to keep the collar of the original jacket and work the smaller one around that. Guesstimating the sleeve cap was a bit nervewracking, I didn't have enough fabric to re do them if it went tits up, so I was relieved when it went according to plan!

Making two copies (copy shown above) of a dressy type of shirt was probably the second most nerve-wracking thing! I literally just had to spread out the fabric on the floor, draw round each piece of the existing shirt as best I could whilst it shifted everywhere, and hope for the best! Collars, facings, elasticated cuffs....not perfect results, but perfect enough for panto!

I sadly don't have pictures of everything I made, but other bits off the top of my head are:

* 28 tabard style knight costumes edged in handmade gold lame bias binding (not my idea of fun!)
* sashes and cummerbunds galore
* cropped trousers
* harem style trousers
* tutus
* sparkle tanks
* ballet costume style bodices
* ruffled poncho

I'm sure there was more, but I started with it in October so my memory isn't exactly fresh!

Stay tuned for the next part of my panto recap!