Tuesday, 29 October 2013

The Moonstone Read-a-Long #readWILKIE - Signing Up



One thing I learnt when I sort-of-a-little-bit took part in Dewey's 24 Hour Read-A-Thon was that anything involved a multitude of book bloggers is the best.  So I'm following up the read-a-thon with a read-a-long.  Of The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins hosted over at Lit Nerd.

I haven't read The Woman in White so I'm a complete novice when it comes to Wilkie Collins.  As Ellie Lit Nerd (so many Ellies!) puts it, though, "What better time to read a Wilkie than November? It's dark and chilly and the nights are long - perfect for snuggling up with a Wilkie mystery"  Quite.

I actually meant to sign up way back when Ellie put up the sign-up post but then there was the faffing about with the moving and stuff and so I'm doing it mere days before it starts (because, if we're being honest, Hanna signed up and reminded me that it was happening...).  Because apparently my Thing is signing up for blogging events at the last possible moment when utterly unprepared.  I mean sure, I don't have the internet at the moment but installation is now at least scheduled!  For the 16th.  The mid-point check-in weekend.  See?  I told you - last minute everything is my jam.

If you also enjoy the thrill of jumping onto bandwagons just before they roll off down a hill, SIGN UP HERE.

Monday, 28 October 2013

WE MOVED (but don't have the internet yet...)


If you've happened across any of my ramblings this year, you might have noticed that I've been on-again-off-again moving since about January.  There was a disaster with a new build/part-exchange valuation way back at the beginning of the year, which didn't last very long and meant we had to put our house on the market the "normal way".  We were lucky and found a buyer within a few weeks and found a PERFECT house to buy (which, because this is a story with a happy ending, is the house that we have now moved into!). 

Then followed a ridiculously long and drawn out for no reason process, during which we pulled out once because of our buyer messing everybody around, got delayed for weeks for some reason to do with a scrappy plan that nobody cared about in the first place and generally got completely stressed out.  The best bit was when our solicitor told us that we would be completing at the end of the week and that we should pack everything (which we did, because we're well behaved like that...) only to later tell us that we wouldn't be moving until after we got back from our holiday.  Cue a month tripping over and swearing at boxes, not being able to find anything at all and having to cook from a very limited supply of non-packed ingredients.  Super fun.

BUT then it all got frantically pulled together and, after only a couple of nervous breakdowns each, Boyfriend and I moved into the perfect house on the 18th.  HURRAH!  And it was even more wonderful than we'd remembered and I love it so very much.  Even if only a handful of rooms are furnished and we have a ton of re-decorating to do. 

Sadly, the study/reading room will be one of the last to get finished because even though I know that its importance is well above silly things like doing the main living room, Boyfriend does not agree.  Plus, decorating the room plus fitting it out as a proper study/reading room?  Expensive.  STILL, there will eventually be a series of pictures to follow on from my Reading Room Wishlist posts earlier in the year.

ANYway, we don't have the internet sorted at the new house yet because Sky are appalling at everything (DAMN THEM for being the cheapest for what we want) so I can't do much in the way of blogging (I've typed this at work, because my office may not have many things but it obviously has the glorious internet).  I do have much more time for reading, though, what with all of the time that I previously spent faffing about on the internet now being free.  I came across a box of books that I haven't seen since I tucked them up since August and they looked like the most exciting books EVER.  You know when you forget how many amazing books you've accumulated and then remember and feel all giddy about the prospect of reading them?!  That happened and it was the best.  So I've read these out of the magical box of terrificness in the past week, which is sterling progress for me...


Because nothing says comfort reading like robots, food-themed cosy mysteries and letters to an man on Death Row, apparently.

And right now I'm reading Bel Canto by Ann Patchett and oh my WORD is it good!  Although I'm not suprised, because Ellie super kindly bought it for my birthday and her presents are always perfect.

So I've read a lot of pretty great stuff and I am excited to write about it all.  Soon, friends.  Soon!  Which was really the point of this post all along, actually...that I'm not dead, I just don't have the internet.

Hope you're all having a super October and are reading some suitably moody, creepy books during the dark, gloomy evenings!

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Dewey's Read-A-Thon Wrap-up


I think that went as well as I probably should have anticipated when I randomly decided to sign up yesterday lunchtime.  It turns out that activities that span 24 hours do require a little more planning than, "Hey, look! Everybody's reading! I want to read too!".  I don't think it helped that all of my books are packed away ready for me to move house, most of my furniture is dismantled (which meant that I had to read in the living room, where Boyfriend was playing on his PS3 and watching TV) and I had barely any food in the house when things kicked off.

As it is, though, I really enjoyed the bits that I did take part in and next year will almost definitely be holding my eyes open into the early hours of the morning and drinking coffee like its going out of style instead of worrying about all the things I have to do today as a fully-functioning, sociable human being.  Also, it turns out that jet lag is very much a thing so I'm sort of half trying to keep "normal" hours so that I don't die when my alarm goes off at 5.45 tomorrow morning.

ANYway, let's wrap this read-a-thon up!

PAGES READ:  263 ePages

1.  Which hour was most daunting for you?

I think maybe the last couple of hours, actually.  I had some stuff that I needed to get done before going out for the afternoon but I really wanted to be reading Bellman & Black.  I'm pretty much done and will probably read it on the way into town for late lunch/early dinner.

2.  Could you list a few high-interest books that you think could keep a Reader engaged for next year?

I *loved* the book I was reading but I don't think I'd recommend it for a read-a-thon - I've mentioned it a thousand times but the writing deserves attention so it was hard to really power through it.  So don't read Bellman & Black.  I've recently read Dark Places by Gillian Flynn though and that was a definite page-turner so I'd recommend that.  Also, I think some Rick Riordan would be fantastic for a read-a-thon...

3.  Do you have any suggestions for how to improve the Read-a-thon next year?

Hanna mentioned this too but I think a couple of lighter challenges - I haven't a clue how people manage to do the challenges that require more preparation/thought, tweet, update blogs and actually READ.  If I'd done any challenges, I'd have done even less reading than I actually did!  Or maybe if I was really ploughing on with reading, they would seem a lot more doable?

4.  What do you think worked really well in this year’s Read-a-thon?

Twitter!  I think it's the same for every read-a-thon but it's fab being able to do a quick Twitter update and see so many other people across the world reading!

5.  How many books did you read?

That would be most of one...good, eh?!

6.  What were the names of the books you read?

Because I haven't mentioned it enough around here?  Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield.

7.  Which book did you enjoy most?

Don't make me say it again!

8.  Which did you enjoy least?

Technically, the answer remains the same but I love the book so I'll just move swiftly on...

9.  If you were a Cheerleader, do you have any advice for next year’s Cheerleaders?

I wasn't but they do such an amazing job that I wouldn't presume to give them any advice!

10.  How likely are you to participate in the Read-a-thon again? What role would you be likely to take next time?

Say, 90%?  Because I *really* want to but I have no clue what might be happening next April (April?).  I'll do my absolute best to clear my whole weekend though so that I can do it properly next time.  Maybe even finish a book!  ;)

I hope your read-a-thon went swimmingly and that you got through everything you wanted to!  See you all next year!!

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Dewey Read-A-Thon Hours 6 to 10: 19.00 to 23.00

I think that maybe my focus is waning :|  I was making some really good progress earlier today but I've not read a great deal since my last update.  I *have*, however, had a lovely dinner considering that most of my spices and herbs are all boxed up ready for our impending move, had a couple of glasses of very nice red wine and (here's the main distraction culprit) caught up on the two episodes of Downton Abbey that Boyfriend and I missed while we were away on holiday.  I could of course have left that until tomorrow evening when I wasn't read-a-thon-ing but Boyfriend suggested it and I am not strong enough to resist the lure of Downton.  Not even nearly.  Even though it breaks my heart regularly.

STILL, I did a bit of reading so let's talk about that...

Hours 6 to 10: 19:00 - 23:00
Total pages read: 196
Hours spent reading: I've definitely lost track of this now...
Hours since last sleep: A very grown up 12 and a half, thank you very much!
Books finished: 0 (Two thirds of one sounds better...)
Beverage count: 2 mugs of coffee, 2 mugs of peppermint tea and 2 glasses of red wine

To prove I know how to
snack properly...
Wow - that really wasn't a good spell for me!  The snacks were good, though...the picture looks like I've gone insane and started eating the world.  I've actually only had a handful of midget gems and the few squares of Dairy Milk that I was able to snaffle before Boyfriend ate the rest.

So I'm really only checking in because I did a "long blink" thing a little while ago where I was "resting my eyes" like an old lady and figured I should write something before I go and read in bed.  And by "read in bed", I obviously mean read about 10 pages before I succumb to sleep.  

Boyfriend is actually going into work tomorrow morning, though, so I'll have the house to myself for a couple of hours before I need to hop into the city for a late lunch with Boyfriend's parents.  I'm pretty sure that I'll use that time to bolster my lacking page count but I could also decide to go for a run and start to get back in shape after being on holiday for a fortnight...I have a 10k in about a month that I really want to get a good time in and I'm worried that my training (such as it is...) will have been thrown way off by two weeks of consuming too much generally.  But maybe that's a concern for another day and tomorrow morning should be for the read-a-thon?  I CAN'T DECIDE!

What I do know, however, is that Bellman & Black is terrific.  It's quietly ominous rather than out and out scary and I love that.  It's running hot on the heels of the also superb Dark Places by Gillian Flynn so I'm enjoying its subtlety at the moment!

If I fall asleep soon, GOOD LUCK to the read-a-thoners that are bravely facing the night - I am in awe of you and am sending page-turning thoughts your way!

SEE YOU IN THE MORNING, FRIENDS! 

Dewey Read-A-Thon Hours 3 to 6/7ish: 15.00 to 19.00

Let's talk STATS, read-a-thoners!  And hummus.

Hours 3 to 6: 15:00 - 19:00
Total pages read: 128
Hours spent reading: Haven't a clue...probably about 3 hours properly concentrating
Hours since last sleep: 9
Books finished: 0
Coffee count: 2 and 2 mugs of peppermint tea

Because I at least wanted to
*start* on the right foot
Good things about the past few hours: Hummus and carrots and celery for being delicious and nutritious; the caramel shortcake slice that I scoffed a couple of hours ago with a mug of peppermint tea for being delicious even if it wasn't nutritious; Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield for being absolutely brilliant - the writing is outstanding and I am so rooting for William Bellman!

Bad things about the past few hours:  Having to walk through the drizzle to get to the shop to acquire the yummy snacks; 

Anticipated highlights of the next few hours:  Red wine; Boyfriend cooking me dinner; more Bellman & Black; maybe a challenge?

ONWARD, READ-A-THONERS!

Dewey Read-A-Thon Hours 1 and 2: 13.00 to 15.00

After randomly deciding to join in at 13.05, I've had a good couple of hours.  Obviously I got a little bit distracted by Twitter (reading with a smartphone on your lap can be counter-productive...) and by stopping by some of my bloggy friends to offer supportive/overly-enthusiastic comments but I also READ.  I probably won't post every couple of hours but I'm about to head out to stock up on provisions so it seemed kind of a good time to sneak an update in.  I'm a big fan of how Ellie @ Curiosity Killed the Bookworm does her updates so I'm hoping that she won't mind me copying taking inspiration from her!

Hours 1 and 2: 13:00 - 15:00
Total pages read: 55 
Hours spent reading: 2 (if by "reading" we are also including reading Twitter and blog posts...)
Hours since last sleep: I woke up at 10.00am this morning (jet-lag...) so 5 hours, just.
Books finished: 0
Coffee count: 2

I started Bellman & Black by Diane Setterfield and I love it.  It's not super creepy yet but I adore the writing and the characters already so things are looking good.

Sadly now my tummy is rumbling and I can avoid the call of the shop no longer.  The next couple of hours will hopefully include: shopping for delicious motivation, drinking peppermint tea and coffee to keep warm/awake, tweeting (too much, probably) and READING!

See you soon, read-a-thoners!

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon: Sign-up and Introductory Questionnaire


This may be the least prepared for anything that I have ever been but I was idly hanging out on Twitter a few minutes ago and my timeline went wild with sign-ups and introductions and I figured that I would be a tag-along and join in too.  Completely on a whim.

As it happens, we're recovering from arriving back home yesterday from the US, haven't any plans for today and it's a miserable day.  What better way to spend that day than with a read-a-thon?!  None.  Plus, Boyfriend got a new game for his PS3 yesterday so I'm not envisaging much out of him for the next couple of hours.  I will get stuck into some reading today and will read this evening but almost certainly won't be pushing on into the wee hours because we're going out for lunch tomorrow with Boyfriend's parents and I don't really need to do that with a read-a-thon hangover.  I'm not a good person when tired.  STILL, I still have a good...ten hours before I'll start getting sleepy.  Let's do this!

1) What fine part of the world are you reading from today?

West Yorkshire, England.  It's gloomy, wet and perfect for reading a ton.

2) Which book in your stack are you most looking forward to?

I haven't really made a plan or stack or anything at all but I'm just about to start Bellman and Black by Dianne Setterfield and I've been looking forward to that for ages.  I *loved* The Thirteenth Tale so I'm hoping for more gothic goodness.

3) Which snack are you most looking forward to?

We've just got back from holiday so we don't exactly have a great volume of food in but I do have some blackberries that we picked before we went and are defrosting right now so let's say those.  Or maybe I'll brave the rain for a snack run later.  Probably not though.  Come on blackberries!

4) Tell us a little something about yourself!

I'm 27, live in a village in West Yorkshire with my boyfriend and am a solicitor in "real life".  I am terrified of cows and dogs and just quite scared of pigeons.  I am a massive food geek and would cook and eat all day, every day if I could without jeapordising my health.  I run to compensate for being a massive food geek.

5) If you participated in the last read-a-thon, what’s one thing you’ll do different today? If this is your first read-a-thon, what are you most looking forward to?

I've done other read-a-thons before but never this one.  I've always had Dewey read-a-thon envy because it looks like one of the most sociable so I'm looking forward to reading some great books, making the most of it being bleak and having an excuse not to be doing anything and tweeting about it as @LitAddictedBrit.

COME ON READ-A-THON!

Friday, 11 October 2013

RIP VIII Review: 'The Never List' by Koethi Zan

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

There were four of us down there for the first thirty-two months and eleven days of our captivity. And then, very suddenly and without warning, there were three. Even though the fourth person hadn't made any noise at all in several months, the room got very quiet when she was gone.For a long time after that, we sat in silence, in the dark, each of us wondering what this meant for her and for us, and which of us would be the next in the box.

NEVER GET IN THE CAR...For years, best friends Sarah and Jennifer kept what they called the 'Never List': a list of actions to be avoided, for safety's sake, at all costs. But one night, they failed to follow their own rules.

NEVER GO OUT ALONE AFTER DARK...Sarah has spent ten years trying to forget her ordeal. But now the FBI has news that forces her to confront her worst fears.

NEVER TAKE RISKS...If she is to uncover the truth about what really happened to Jennifer, Sarah needs to work with the other women who shared her nightmare. But they won't be happy to hear from her. Because down there in the dark, Sarah wasn't just a victim.

NEVER TRUST ANYONE

Review


If you'd asked me a few years ago whether I'd ever read a book about a girl that is abducted while at university and held captive with three other girls for months on end and tortured, I'd have laughed in your face.  The story of four girls who have been abducted and kept prisoner by a man that tortures them?  BLEUGH! And yet, along came RIP VIII and an opportunity to read well out of my comfort zone.  Am I glad I did?  I'm not sure, really.  But not for the reasons you might think. 

The Never List opens with Sarah, survivor of said barbaric treatment, trying to get through life in the wake of her experiences.  Isolated from the world almost entirely, she works from home, gets food delivered to her crisp, white apartment so that she doesn't have to brave the streets and relies heavily on house visits by a psychiatrist.  Basically, she's decided that she no longer wishes to take the risks that fully engaging with society entails and so has retreated.  Her captor is in jail but, tragically, was only convicted on lesser crimes that could be proved and probably won't face nearly as much time behind bars as society might have hoped.  The novel starts with the agent that worked on the original investigation visiting Sarah and dropping the bombshell that her abductor is facing a parole board and may soon be released.  His intention is to ask Sarah to appear at the parole hearing and counter his Delivered Criminal performance with a Traumatised Escapee one.  Somehow, she hears that as, "Please go back out into the world and prove that he is also a murderer so that we can extend his sentence instead of just getting his parole refused".

And that right there is my main gripe with The Never List.  I am all in favour of strong women and of triumph over adversity.  Who isn't?  What I'm not as much of a fan of are characters who suddenly overcome very serious psychological conditions without much in the way of a realistic explanation.  When the story starts, Sarah has severe agoraphobia and is dealing with a number of other phobias, only some of which are a result of her horrendous treatment (and even though "horrendous treatment" doesn't really seem strong enough, we'll go with it for now). Understandably, she is terrified of leaving the familiar confines of her apartment and straying into the world in which she was abducted and held captive for years.  Faced with the potential release of her former captor, however, Sarah decides that she will no longer be agoraphobic and/or afraid of flying and such like and will play amateur detective.  There are vestiges of her phobias that are apparent in some of her actions and interactions but mostly she seems to function pretty well.

I just don't know if I ever bought into the insta-recovery, to be honest.  I think I could have got on board with Sarah being spurred into action if she'd done it in a bit more of a realistic way.  Say, by keeping in touch with the psychiatrist that she had apparently been seeing and speaking with very regularly in the years between her escape and the novels events?  By keeping a clearly sympathetic police agent in the loop while she was following leads and breaking and entering?  She's clearly driven by the need to honour Jennifer's memory but I thought that there was an element of laziness in having Sarah suddenly breaking free of the shackles of her mind to chase down clues and indulge in a little late-night, leather-clad investigating at a secret BDSM club.  Really?  Flying across states, approaching a stranger for information, driving to a club in the middle of the night, dressing in leather and conversing with BDSM club members before so much as visiting the local shop for a pint of milk? Too much, too soon and something that really stopped me throwing myself into the story.

Speedy moving on aside, the novel does touch on some interesting psychological points when looking at why Sarah's captor might have done what he did while she's searching for answers about what really happened to Jennifer.  I actually think that there could have been a little more made of that.  It seemed a waste to have a professor who specialises in deviant behaviour and the possible causes and not to really make the most of it.  I think the novel would have been stronger with that focus and tightness.  As it is, it's a neat tie-in and link between the secret life of Sarah's tormentor and his public one but little more.

For all my moaning, there is pace to the story, with twists thrown in at regular intervals that were enough to keep me from acknowledging how unrealistic their revelation might have been.  If you just go with the fact that Sarah is managing to stave off imminent panic attacks long enough to conduct an unofficial investigation, the story is gripping and has very few lulls in terms of timing.  Most of the characters are pretty damaged and have secrets that are exposed in excellent moments.  The ending did surprise me and I spent a few minutes gaping at my eReader in a most undignified fashion but I'm not sure that I really bought it.  I mean, I understood it well enough, but I'm not sure that it was explained sufficiently to really make me believe in it and spend more than a few minutes gaping before I'd finished reading and moved on to thinking about something else.  

Overall:  The Never List is a reasonable enough thriller and is very dark.  There are some holes in the plot and some questions that you will almost certainly never get answers to but it should appeal to those looking for something that straddles the mystery/horror line.  A word to the wise: if you don't want to read fairly regular allusions to torture that can be pretty grim indeed, you may want to skip this.  Seriously.

Date finished:  30 September 2013
Format:  eBook
Source:  Received from the publisher via NetGalley - thank you, Harvill Secker!
Genre:  Thriller; Mystery
Pictured Edition Published: by Harvill Secker in August 2013

This is the second of three books that I've read so far for RIP VIII but the one I felt most like reviewing this evening.  Couldn't tell you exactly why but it MIGHT BE because I want to plead with anybody who's read it to let me know because I am *dying* to talk to somebody about one particular aspect of the book but don't want to get too spoiler-y!