Wednesday, October 22, 2014

You've been drafted in the Skeleton War

Yes, I know that title will make very little sense to non-Tumblr people. Whatever.

So Australia doesn't really do Halloween, as I discussed in (slightly ranty) detail last year. But when Anna tagged me in her Halloween questions tag, I couldn't resist despite the fact that I only had a handful of years from which to answer the questions.

And besides, I didn't make a vlog in September, so it seemed only natural that I make two in October!

I apologise about the rubbish lighting through most of this. I totally forgot that there was a window behind me. This is what happens when you go to film a vlog and discover that your tripod is broken...

You're next, Sweeney, Katherine and Emmy!

Which is scarier: vampires or werewolves? I still can't properly decide...

K xx

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

TTT - New(ish) Series I Want To Start

It's time to link up with the Broke and the Bookish again!

This week's topic is otherwise known as "Why do I keep forgetting to add things to my Goodreads TBR shelf?". Because yeah. This was kind of a struggle, even though I know there's a BUNCH of different series that I want to start reading. Well done, Past Kirsti. Well done...

1. The Young Elites - Marie Lu
I've only read one book by Marie Lu (so really, I should probably finish the Legend series before I start another one), but this series sounds pretty damned fabulous and I really want to read it.

2. Talon - Julie Kagawa
I got turned down for an ARC of this, and I'm still a little bitter about it. I mean, a YA about dragons? YES PLEASE.

3. Burn for Me - Ilona Andrews
Look, I'm kind of torn about this one. The blurb sounds...pretty damned awful, to be honest. But I've loved everything else I've read by Ilona Andrews, so I'm going to give it a go anyway and hope it's better than it sounds.

4. The Lies of Locke Lamora - Scott Lynch
I've heard great things about this one, and it sounds like a hell of a lot of fun.

5. The Grisha - Leigh Bardugo
I keep staring at this series longingly, but I keep forgetting to request it from the library, and I'm not sure I can justify $36 to buy the whole lot on my Kindle...

6. The Lotus War - Jay Kristoff
Another one that I need to request from the library, especially now that the reserves list is down to only one or two!

7. The Archived - Victoria Schwab
I've heard amazing things about this series, and part of the reason why I've not read it yet is that it's not available on the Amazon Australia website. Sigh.

8. Between - April Genevieve Tucholke
I've heard mixed things about Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, but I JUST NEED TO FIND OUT FOR MYSELF, DAMMIT. Plus, the cover font is gorgeous.

9. All Souls Trilogy - Deborah Harkness
I saw this at Dymocks yesterday and was very VERY tempted to buy the first book because I've heard fabulous things. But it was $25, so obviously that didn't happen.

10. Not a Drop to Drink - Mindy McGinnis
Another one that'll inevitably sit on my Amazon wishlist until I have more money to spend on books!

What's on your list? Have you read any of these? Which ones would you recommend??

K xx

Thursday, October 16, 2014

London Bridge Is(n't) Falling Down

Previously: I went on a walking tour of London and saw some weird art at the National Portrait Gallery.

My second day in London commenced at 4.25am when my brain decided that four hours of sleep was more than enough. At 5.30am, I gave up on trying to sleep and started reading. At 5.40am, I got hungry but the kitchen was down four flights of stairs, so I ate a packet of gummi fruit salad and got sugar all over the bedclothes (whoops). At 6am, I tried to sleep again and failed monumentally. At 7.30am, I started to play a fun game called "At what time will my brother and all his housemates be gone so that I can wander around in my pyjamas like a zombie?".

I eventually dragged myself out of bed at about 8.30am, and did all kinds of fun things like adding huge wings to my eyeliner and twelve layers of mascara to make myself feel more awake. I also phoned the hotel where my parents were to stay that night (they were due to arrive in London at 5.30am, but their plane was delayed by fourteen hours) to say that they'd be late, and the guy on reception could not have been less interested if I'd tried to explain the Australian taxation system to him.

I finally left the house at about 11am and headed in the general direction of my brother's office, as we were meeting for lunch. I got there horribly early, so wandered across London Bridge to see this through the haze:

I wandered a little further, and stumbled across The Monument to the Great Fire of London, which was rather unexpected, then headed back across London Bridge to meet C at Borough Market. After perusing all the lunch options on offer, I settled for fresh spinach and ricotta ravioli with napoli sauce, and we sat in the grounds of Southwark Cathedral to eat. Because, you know, it's totally no big deal eating lunch in the grounds of a church that's been around four times longer than your country!

After we'd finished our pasta, I decided that seeing as how brownies are kind of my thing and C had been rambling since I arrived about how good the brownies were at this one store next to the market that I should check it out. Which is how I came to order a salted caramel and vanilla fudge brownie ("The Fudgepacker Brownie", which made C laugh hysterically) from Konditor and Cook. And holy Jeebus, it was amazing. Ugly, especially after being squashed in a paper bag, but utterly delicious:

After lunch, I'd been planning on going down to Greenwich but I decided that Greenwich probably warranted more time than I had left that day, so instead I walked back across London Bridge and down the river to the Tower of London. I thought that it would be a pretty quick visit, given that I'd been there several times as a kid. But I ended up spending all afternoon there. The World War I memorial installation is absolutely breathtaking, especially when you consider that what's currently in place is only about half the poppies that will ultimately be installed. Every night at sunset, a bugler (not a burglar) plays The Last Post, and approximately one hundred names are read out. I didn't get a chance to see it, but I imagine it's pretty special. The poppies alone are staggering.

I arrived with a little time to spare before the next guided tour, which meant I was lucky enough to see an American woman looking at the "Next tour leaves at" clock, and asking the other members of her party if time worked the same way in the UK as it does in America, a question I'm still giving a confused dog head tilt about. Luckily, the other members of her group seemed equally confused (I wonder if it's the fact that it was an analogue clock and she was used to digital??) and quickly explained to her that yes, clocks work the same way in England.

The tour was interesting, although sadly we didn't get to go into the chapel, which was closed for repairs that day. But I *did* get to see a teenage girl being made to delete the photos she took of the Crown Jewels from her phone, so that was fun.

I took a much needed hot chocolate break in the cafe, and seriously considered taking a nap on the table because I'd hit a fairly dramatic patch of oh-God-I-woke-up-at-4am-and-need-to-sleep-immediately. Luckily, it wore off after a while and I was able to drag myself up again and head into the exhibits in the White Tower. And I'm glad I did, because they were pretty damned fabulous. There was the stuff I remembered - namely, the armour of various kings throughout history - but there was also some fascinating newer stuff about the Tower's role as a mint, as a centre for training soldiers over the centuries, and as an armoury. It included this rather spectacular dragon made out of all sorts of weapons from a bunch of different time periods:

I left the White Tower just in time to see Tower Bridge being opened to let a ship pass through, which was excellent timing because apparently that now only happens once or twice a week. Well done, Kirsti. Good job.

By the time I'd finished at the Tower, it was 5pm, so I texted C to ask when he was going to be done with work. He said he'd be another half hour or so, so I decided that I'd walk back to his office across Tower Bridge and down the other side of the river. If I'd had more time, I would have gone to the Tower Bridge Museum, but unfortunately there was only time to walk across the bridge, stopping for a couple of photos along the way, because obviously:
Zombie Kirsti is a zombie. And may also be sunburnt.
I made it to C's office at about 5.35pm, and of course he didn't turn up for another 25 minutes. Until I sent him a text message that said "Come the fuck on, Bridget!" (because obviously), after which he decided to grace me with his presence. We headed back to his place, grabbed all of my stuff, and headed back to the station, stopping off at Chipotle to shove burritos in our faces (obviously I texted Gina to tell her all the ways in which it wasn't *quite* right). Then we headed to Earl's Court to meet the parentals.

Except that we needn't have eaten quite so fast, because they got there approximately forty five minutes later than we'd anticipated. Womp womp. Still, once they arrived we made it to the Hotel-of-the-Disinterested-Reception-Staff with no problems, dumped all the luggage, and headed out to the pub for a much needed drink. Then C headed for home because he had to work and was catching a much later flight the following day, and I got to spend the night on a surprisingly comfortable camp stretcher.

Next up, I continue to try and fit more than one day into a post (and I will probably continue to fail), but more importantly, we head to Portugal!

K xx

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Bookish questions, part the second

I was going to write the next instalment of my trip today but somehow it's already after 5pm and that's far too much like hard work at this time of day. So you can have tomorrow's post a day early instead - the second half of the questions from last week's bookish Q&A!

28. Favourite reading snack?
Chocolate, probably?? I would say biscuits, but then you get crumbs stuck in the spine and that leads to disaster...

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience.
I wouldn't say it RUINED my experience, but I'd heard so many amazing things about Elizabeth May's The Falconer. And when I read it, I enjoyed it. But it didn't QUITE live up to what I was expecting.

30. How often do you agree with critics about a book?
If we're talking critics as in the people who work for newspapers and magazines, then I have no idea because I tend to skim through the newspaper as quickly as possible, and the only time I read magazines is when I'm at the hairdresser. So, like, once a year.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
I know I should probably be nicer because authors have poured their heart and souls into these books. But sometimes, the book is just so awful that I have to tear it to shreds. ESPECIALLY if it's riddled with typos and grammatical errors. Good Lord, people. Get an editor...

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which language would you choose?
Um. Didn't we already cover this before with Gallifreyan?! If we're talking real languages, I guess it would be ALL OF THEM so I could read books in their original, untranslated forms. Because things always lose something in translation.

33. Most intimidating book you've ever read?
A tie between Bleak House and Les Miserables.

34. Most intimidating book you're nervous to start?
I have For the Term of His Natural Life on my Classics Club list, and I've heard that it's really hard going. So I'm scared of that one. I also want to read War and Peace at some point in my life, but it's ENORMOUS OMG.

35. Favourite poet? 
Poetry's not really my jam. Maybe Wilfred Owen?? Which is really weird and morbid, I know, but I like war poetry a lot more than the romantics or sonnets...

36. How many books do you generally have checked out of the library at a given time?
Somewhere between eight and ten. I once borrowed fourteen and could barely carry them home, so I limit myself.

37. How often do you return books to the library unread?
Never. I've either already finished them, or I return the ones I've read and renew the ones I haven't.

38. Favourite fictional character?
WHAT IS THIS INSANITY. As Danielle from Ever After would say, "I could no sooner choose a favourite star in the Heavens".

39. Favourite fictional villain?
Do they mean favourite as in the one-you-secretly-like-a-little-bit? Or favourite as in I-want-to-murder-your-face-off? If it's the latter, probably Dolores Umbridge. If it's the former, it probably applies more to anti-heroes like Becky Sharp for me.

40. Books you're most likely to bring on vacation?
Anything that doesn't require a whole lot of brain power (so no classics). Probably quite a lot of contemporary YA, to be perfectly honest.

41. The longest you've gone without reading?
Four years, give or take. Since I learnt to read, the longest has probably been about twelve hours.

42. Name a book that you could/would not finish?
I have a whopping SIX books on my did-not-finish shelf in Goodreads. One turned out to be book 20 of a series, two were high fantasy that I just couldn't get into, two were sci-fi that I just couldn't get into, and one was The Mayan Priest..........................

43. What distracts you easily when you're reading?
The internet. Mostly Twitter...

44. Favourite film adaptation of a novel?
If we're talking favourite as in "most true to the book", then probably The Fault in Our Stars. But if we're talking favourite as in "brought a slow paced story to life", then maybe Jurassic Park. Or The Count of Monte Cristo.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation?
Ohgod. Will I find a mob on my doorstep if I say Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince? That was easily the worst of the movies for me. They left so much out of it. Or maybe the 2009 mini-series of The Day of the Triffids, which was TERRRRRRRIBLE. No. Wait. It's The Lost World. Because Steven Spielberg basically grovelled to Michael Crichton to write a sequel to Jurassic Park and then ignored three quarters of the book in favour of having a T. rex rampage around San Diego. (Don't see that movie, read the book instead. It's awesome.)

46. Most money you've ever spent in a bookstore at one time?
Probably somewhere over $200? But it was birthday money, so I'm not entirely convinced that counts.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Oh God, ALL THE TIME. I'm really terrible at flicking to the last page and reading the last sentence. You know, just in case I get hit by a bus. Which is why I like e-books - it stops me from doing that.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through it?
Frequent spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. Or a really terrible story. Or hating the characters. But to be honest, I'd probably just keep reading and turn it into #stupidbookisstupid on Twitter because I'm a bad person...

49. Do you like to keep your books organised?
DEFINITELY. If they're not alphabetical by the author's surname, it makes me twitchy. My little brother just shoves things on the shelf in random order and it was all I could do not to reorder his bookshelf while I was staying with him in London.

50. Do you prefer to keep your books when done, or give them away?
Keep them. Always keep them. Maybe if I didn't really enjoy them, I'll put them in the pile for the op shop the next time we have a bit of a cupboard clean out...

51. Are there any books that you've been avoiding?
I assume this means "avoiding but still want to read", because otherwise the answer is clearly Fifty Shades of I Will Never Read This Book Grey. Other than that, it's probably just a bunch of stuff that I ended up putting on my Classics Club list.

52. Name a book that made you angry?
Oh, so very many. Believe by Erin McCarthy because it features rape that's never called rape. The Selection because it was just horrifically awful. The Last Thirteen series because it felt a lot like a sci-fi Harry Potter and because the publisher bought all 13 books in the series before even one had been published. Side Effects May Vary because I JUST HATED THE MAIN CHARACTER SO MUCH, YOU GUYS. And many more.

53. A book you didn't expect to like but did?
I was a little dubious about Throne of Glass because high fantasy and I have such a messy relationship. But I loved every second of it. And of the subsequent books.

54. A book you expected to like but didn't?
Everyone told me I'd love A Game of Thrones. Instead, I was bored shitless for like 700 pages.

55. Favourite guilt-free guilty-pleasure reading?
I'm not sure they're guilt-free, but I have an unfortunate addiction to Pride and Prejudice sequels/alterna-plot line books. They're generally terrible, but I've read a couple that were actually pretty decent which has been enough to get me to keep reading in case there are more than are unexpectedly good. Sigh.

So. Please tell me what books have made you angry so that I can avoid them like the plague. And tell me how you organise your books, because I like to live vicariously through others!!

K xx

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

TTT - Places books have made me want to visit

It's time to link up with the Broke and the Bookish again!

So apparently the last time I joined in with Top Ten Tuesday was in AUGUST, which is utterly insane... Anyway, seeing as I just got back from almost a month of travel, it seemed appropriate that I talk about all the places I want to go to thanks to books. This topic's kind of appropriate, actually, because I read a couple of books set in London while I was there, and everything made SO MUCH MORE SENSE when I was able to picture the places they were talking about and how you'd get between them. This is probably something that happens all the time for people who live in London and New York and other cities with a million and one books set in them. But when you live in Melbourne? Yeah, not so much... *sigh*

Anyway, here's my top ten:

1. Hogwarts! 
Please, like you'd say anything else. If there was one fictional place in all of time and space that I could go to, it would be Hogwarts. No contest. 

2. Italy
Every YA book that features a trip to Europe seems to feature Italy in some way, shape or form. I blame J. Meyers and her book Anywhere for this one. 

3. Scotland
Sure, it's grey and rainy like ALL THE TIME in reality. But I just want to gooooooooooooooooooo. And yes, Outlander may be partly responsible for this...

4. Discworld
Yeah yeah, another fictional place, I know. But despite all the war and the unexpected dragons and the murder and the general ridiculousness, I think Discworld would be a pretty fun place to hang out. 

5. Canada
I may have lived there as a kid, but I haven't been back in 20 years. I've read a few books set in Toronto or Vancouver recently, and reading about places that I only vaguely remember is making me want to go back. Like, a lot. 

6. San Francisco
This one is courtesy of Lola and the Boy Next Door and The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet

7. Prague 
This has been on my go-to list for a while, but I don't think there's anything that pushed it up the list faster than reading Daughter of Smoke and Bone

8. An island off the US coast
This is nice and non-specific, but between several YA books set in small island towns and one of the books I'm reading at the moment, I really want to go to an island. I'm not fussy about which one. 

9. Paris
You'd think this would be on the list courtesy of Stephanie Perkins, but it's not. It's because of Joanne Harris' The Lollipop Shoes (published in the US as The Girl With No Shadow), which is set almost entirely in Montmatre. 

10. On a crazy roadtrip
There are so many great roadtrip books out there, and I just love them. The problem, however, is two fold: a) I don't drive so going on roadtrips is dependent on the driving abilities of others, and b) in Australia, you have limited options. If you want to roadtrip from Melbourne to Sydney, your options are the Hume (twelve hours of indescribable boredom where the highlight is a submarine like 200km from the coast) or via the coast, which adds approximately a thousand hours to the trip and you go through a million small towns with practically nothing to see. 

There's definitely no getting to an intersection and being all "Ooh, if I go left, I can do a small detour and go through [historically significant or beautiful place] while if I go right, I'll have to go through [amazing city with fabulous food]!". Nope. And God help you if you want to drive to Perth, because then there's literally one option and it involves days of driving and nothing to see... So a crazy nothing-planned-out roadtrip with friends in a place where there's actually stuff to stop and see? Uh, YES. 

What's on your list? 

K xx

Monday, October 13, 2014

Things I've learnt today

So today I started doing some work for a family friend, tracking down articles that he needs for a super impressive medical textbook that he's working on. It's basically document delivery, but with a better job title (research assistant). Which is pretty cool. Except, you know, for the fact that he happens to be an eye surgeon and I kind of sort of have eyeball phobia...
Add caption

But that's not really going to be a problem until I get to the point where I have to photocopy articles from print journals. And even then, I'm sure I can do it with an extreme case of squinting to see as little as possible. But that's Future Kirsti's problem. Sucker.

For now, I present to you a list of things I learnt today:

1. Proquest is the enemy
Unlike the other databases I was using, Proquest is all "GUESS WHAT? THIS ARTICLE HAS PICTURES. SEE??????" in the search results. Obviously, I spent the rest of the day going "Please God let it be available in Not-Proquest.

2. It's easier than you'd think to type in a document title with one hand.
The other hand was covering my eyes so that I didn't see the medical pictures. And lest you think this only apply to eyeballs, NOPE. I did the same when there were weird pictures of intestines too.

3. Doctors will find it hilarious when you cover your eyes so you can't see the pictures.
I guess when you have to dissect a human corpse in class and you look at the insides of organs all day, pictures don't seem so bad. In contrast, when the most you do in class is play with nineteenth century ceramic fragments, medical pictures are pretty gross.

4. There are some weirdly named diseases out there. 
I'm looking at you, Alice in Wonderland syndrome.

5. But they're oddly fascinating.
I WANT TO KNOW ALL ABOUT IT. But I don't want to read the articles because there might be pictures. (As far as I understand it from the abstracts, you think that your body is much bigger or smaller than it actually is.)

6. Phantom Eye is a thing.
It's like Phantom Limb, but with eyes. WHO KNEW?!

7. If an article title features the words "self-inflicted", stop reading.
Seriously. You don't want to know. The rest of the title will be traumatic. Don't even think about reading the abstract.

8. You will misspell ALL THE WORDS. 
Ophthalmology. Schizophrenia. Munchausen's. Just to name a few...

9. You'll find articles you REALLY WANT TO READ. But ohgod the pictures.
For example, I stumbled across one with some sensationalist title like "She bit off more than she could chew". It was about a woman who ate some sushi, then ended up with a gastroenterological condition. I started reading it because I really wanted to know what she ended up with. But then page two featured a thousand pictures of her intestines and I had to cover my eyes and click away. And then of course when Ness was all "SEND IT TO ME, I'LL READ IT!!!", I had no idea what journal it was in, so now I'll never know. Sigh.

10. Ridiculous text message conversations with old friends are the best.
This may seem unrelated, but I promise it's not. Somehow, a "how did your day go?" conversation turned into mock-writing a Mills & Boon style romance novel involving phantom eye:
"Stand back," Brent cried in his manly voice, "It might explode!"
"Honestly, Brent," Tammy replied. "You really must see someone about your phantom eye."

"No Tammy," he whispered whilst gently tucking a stray hair behind her ear. "I can't go back to that place. The flashbacks of my eye surgery are just too painful." A single tear dropped from his deep blue (good) eye and coursed through the dust on his face. Dust from the explosion he predicted, despite having a phantom eye.
"Oh Brent!" Tammy cried. "You've saved us all! Thank Heavens your phantom eye came with clairvoyance!"
"Oh Tammy," Brent murmured whilst nuzzling her neck, "You have no idea..." 

You're welcome, internet. You'd never know that between us we have over 12 years of university education, would you??

So. How was your day? Did you learn anything new and unexpected?

K xx

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Look ma, no safety net!

Previously: I flew to London and it took 5eva. 

So after having gone to bed at 10pm in a state of slightly delirious cannot-keep-my-eyes-open jetlag, I woke up at 5.45am with Defying Gravity stuck in my head on an endless loop. So obviously, I did what any self respecting blogger would do - told Twitter about it. Then I checked my emails, read a couple of blog posts, and passed out for another three hours. And obviously had nightmares about my teeth falling out because that's what sleep deprivation does to you.

I went downstairs to find that my little brother had decided that Jetlagged!Kirsti wouldn't be capable of locating the Lonely Planet guide to London on his bookshelf, so instead he'd placed it in the pantry in front of the bread. What, you think I'm kidding? BOOM:

Yup. That happened.

Then I spent the better part of an hour trying to figure out how to get the sim card out of my phone. I ended up having to Google it and watch a video on Youtube. You know how you get the sim card out of my phone? YOU PUSH IT IN AND IT POPS OUT. A two year old could work that shit out. But not me. Sigh. Then I realised that if I was going to make it to a 1pm walking tour of the City of Westminster, I had approximately 45 minutes in which to shower and get ready. Obviously, I spent twenty of those minutes on Tumblr, because I make good life choices.

Anyway, because of my EXTREMELY GOOD LIFE CHOICES, I ran out the door at 12.30 with no time to panic about navigating around London on my own, speed walked the 10 minutes to the Tube station, managed to get straight on a train (it was even going in the right direction! Good job, me) to Kings Cross, changed to the Piccadilly Line at Kings Cross (and got straight on ANOTHER train going in the right direction), and made it to Covent Garden station by about 12.53pm. Which gave me seven minutes to get to the tour. That would have been plenty of time to get there AND buy a bottle of water/snack if it hadn't been for the fact that half the lifts at Covent Garden station were out of order and there was a queue ten deep for the lifts.

So I took the stairs. All 197 of them. And it was as horrible as you'd imagine. (It doesn't sound like that much, but it's apparently the equivalent of a 17-ish storey building. So...yeah.)

Still, I made it to the top and found the tour by 12.59pm because I AM A STAIR CLIMBING CHAMPION. However, I had zero time to buy water or food and therefore spent the rest of the afternoon fighting the urge to drink the Thames. My walking tour itself started thusly:

Guide: "Hey guys, how're you going? As you may have guessed from the accent, I'm not from London. I am, in fact, from Melbourne."
Me: "...of course you are."

Anyway, the tour was full of random historical information and one annoying Canadian guy who wouldn't shut up about how pointless royalty is and also the following sites:
  • Trafalgar Square
  • St. James' Palace
  • Buckingham Palace
  • St. James' Park
  • The Horse Guards parade ground
  • 10 Downing Street
  • The Houses of Parliament
  • Westminster Abbey
After the tour, I quickly found the nearest Prêt à Manger because I was freaking STARVING, and rapidly shoved some food into my face. Then I headed across the road to the National Portrait Gallery where I saw some truly ridiculous paintings:
Disturbingly thin legs for days
Apparently Queen Caroline was the cornucopia
of the Hanovarian line because she had tons of kids. Ew.
Babies wearing stupid outfits make me happy.
Lord Kitchener? OR. David Bowie with a killer mo?
That night, C and I headed to dinner at a Peruvian restaurant near his house. It was a little on the pricey side for a regular Wednesday night dinner, but they had this, so it was a total win from my perspective: 

And then I collapsed into bed. Because jetlag, yo.

Next up, I try to fit more than one day into a post. And also go to the Tower of London. 

K xx

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Bookish questions, part the first

So approximately forever ago (read: July), Cait and Mime answered these questions on their blog. And I was like "Oooooh, that's fun! I should do that!". So I hit the handy little "save for later" button in Feedly and, as I always do when I hit the "save for later" button, promptly forgot about it. (Seriously. I have stuff in there from 2012... It's scary in there.)

Today, I saw someone on Twitter talking about a bookish Q&A, and it rang a little bell in the back of my brain that sent me digging through the depths of Feedly for the questions because answering questions about books seems like an excellent way to spend a gloomy Wednesday afternoon!

1. Favourite childhood book?
Oh, please, like I can just pick one. When I was about five, it was Robert Munsch's The Paperbag Princess. (Or, really, anything by Robert Munsch EXCEPT A Promise Is a Promise, which was terrifying, or I Love You Forever, which gave me Feels. And Little Kirsti did not like having Feels.) When I was about seven or eight, it was pretty much anything by Laura Ingalls Wilder. And when I was about ten, it was anything by Brian Jacques. Holy crap, I loved the hell out of the Redwall books...

2. What are you reading right now?
I'm rereading Terry Pratchett's Monstrous Regiment, and I'm reading Dracula for Classics Club. It seemed appropriate to read Dracula during October!

3. What books do you have on request from the library?
At the moment, none. Which is scandalous, I know. But I rarely request books from the library. I prefer to buy the books I'm really REALLY excited about, and pick up the others from the library when I happen to see them on the shelves.

4. Bad book habit?
Um. Reading too much?? OH WAIT. Reading books that I know I'll probably hate so that I have fodder for #stupidbookisstupid on Twitter. The internet asks, I deliver. Even though I probably shouldn't.

5. What do you currently have checked out at the library?
Considering I just got back from three weeks overseas, nothing. Unless you count the library where I work. In which case I have Neil Gaiman's Suddenly the Milk, which Little Miss A and I are slowly working our way through at bedtime when she stays over.

6. Do you have an e-reader?
Yes. I have a Kindle. And I love it. (Although I don't love the prices. Or the fact that I can't borrow e-books from my library...)

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time or several at once?
Generally one at a time. But seeing as classics can be pretty dense, I've been moving towards a one Classics Club book and one other simultaneously. Sometimes that morphs into one new book, one reread, one Classics Club book. But more than that makes my head hurt.

8. Have your reading habits changed since starting a blog?
I don't think so? I think I read more young adult books than I used to back in the day. But I'm not sure if that's because of blogging or if it's because of my librarianship degree...

9. Least favourite book you've read so far this year?
I'm torn between The Selection, which made me incredibly angry, and Winter Be My Shield, which was a Kindle Deal of the Day book that dragged on FOREVER and which I hated with the fire of a thousand suns.

10. Favourite book you've read so far this year?
Oof. I'm limiting this to books I've read for the first time this year, otherwise this would be impossible. It's a tie between Alysia Grey Painter's Fairwil, and Sarah J. Maas' Throne of Glass series. ALL OF THEM.

11. How often do you read outside your reading comfort zone?
Well, I'm doing the Classics Club challenge, and my list is filled with stuff I'm a little bit scared of, so I guess at least one book a month??

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
These days, probably YA. Back when I was living in Canberra, it was more a mix of crime and fantasy.

13. Can you read in the car?
YUP. I can read pretty much anywhere. Except the shower. Well. Until someone invents a waterproof e-reader, and then you'll never get me out of the shower again. MWAHAHAHA.

14. Favourite place to read?
Pretty much anywhere, really. I'm not fussy.

15. What is your policy on book lending?
As long as I've made sure my name is written in the front of it, sure! Just be prepared for me to not-so-subtly say "Hey, did I lend you _____? I can't seem to find it..." if you haven't given it back after like a month.

16. Do you ever dog-ear books?
Accidentally, yes. Intentionally? NO. That's why post-it notes and bookmarks were invented.

17. Do you ever write in the margins of your books?
My textbooks, yes. And the books I studied in high school English have scribble all over the pages. But a regular, run-of-the-mill novel? God, no.

18. Not even with textbooks?
Didn't we just cover that?

19. What is your favourite language to read in?
Gallifreyan. (Who the hell wrote these questions?!)

20. What makes you love a book?
I need to like the main characters, for starters. Other than that, it's all based on gut feeling.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Pretty much anything. I'm a librarian, it's what I do. Just because I don't like it, doesn't mean someone else won't love it!

22. Favourite genre? 
A tie between contemporary and urban fantasy. High fantasy can, as a general rule, go jump in a ditch.

23. Genre you rarely read but wish you did?
Biographies. I've enjoyed the ones I've read, but most of them are JUST SO LOOOOOOOONG. Can't they just skip over the boring bits?!

24. Favourite biography?
How appropriate. Easily Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened.

25. Have you ever read a self-help book?
Not that I can recall. OH WAIT. I read He's Just Not That Into You, but that was because I took insufficient books with me to Thailand and literally read my way through everything that all three of us had in our possession... (I rolled my eyes the whole way through it.)

26. Favourite cookbook?
Um. Probably the Australian Women's Weekly's Bake?? It's certainly the one I've used the most...

27. Most inspirational book you've read this year (fiction or non-fiction)?
I'm not really sure I'd consider anything I've read this year to be inspirational. Unless it counts that I was inspired to not live in a dystopian world (1984, The Day of the Triffids) or get scurvy (Scurvy) or cholera (The Ghost Map)...

Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand that's probably quite enough for one blog post. So I'll post my answers to the remaining questions in the next couple of days.

Until then, what are your favourite and least favourite books of this year?

K xx

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Review - Whisper the Dead

Whisper the Dead
Alyxandra Harvey
Bloomsbury Publishing UK & ANZ

4.5 stars

I read the first book in this series, A Breath of Frost, back in January and I LOVED IT OMG. So needless to say, I was pretty excited when I got approved for an ARC of the second book. I read a decent chunk of it on a bus from Mafra to Lisbon, and polished it off on the train from Lisbon to Sintra because I just couldn't put it down.

Basically, this is the middle book in a trilogy about three cousins in Regency London who discover that they're witches. Each has a different power, and together they have to try and stop a group of insanely evil sisters (who just happen to have died like 200 years ago) from destroying London. They're pretty clueless, but luckily there are some cute and knowledgeable boys to help them out. Score. (Yes, I'm aware that's a terrible synopsis, but it's kind of hard to recap the plot of a middle book without listing a bunch of spoilers, so...yeah.)

Anyway, I loved pretty much everything about this. It didn't seem to suffer any of the dreaded middle-book syndrome that so often plagues trilogies at the moment. And I think a big part of that is the fact that each of the books is dedicated largely to one of the three cousins. Book 1 focused primarily on Emma, and this focuses on Gretchen. So while we're still getting the overarching narrative slowly unfolding and building towards the big finale in Book 3, we also get Gretchen growing into her powers and learning what's really important to her.

I liked Emma in the first book, but I adore Gretchen. She's ridiculously sassy when she wants to be and isn't afraid to break the rules when they're endangering the people she cares about. And before you ask, YES. There's some serious swoon in this book. I loved the relationship between Gretchen and Tobias. He needs someone to bring him out of the cage he's got himself locked in, and she needs someone a little out of the ordinary but who still knows when the rules should apply, so Tobias fits the bill perfectly. And yes, there's still a healthy dose of swoon from Emma and Cormac, with a side of squee.

Honestly, I think my only issue would be the cliffhanger ending. Because I don't know how on earth I'll wait until I-have-no-idea-when-but-my-money-is-on-next-year for Book 3. And OMG book 3 better feature lots of Penelope and Cedric squeeing or I will have serious words with Alyxandra Harvey. Because of reasons...

In short, I loved this. It was a great middle book that upped the intensity and the action, and which overcame a lot of the minor niggles I had with the first book in the series.

Does this sound like something you'd read?

K xx

Disclaimer: I received a free ARC from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. Whisper the Dead will be available on 9 October 2014. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

A good idea at the time

Back in about June, I went to book my tickets to London and discovered that Qantas was in the process of changing their daily flight from Melbourne to London. Instead of leaving at like 3pm, it was moving to an 11pm departure. This seemed pretty much perfect for me, because I was planning on working on the 8th September and then flying out on the 9th. But now? I could work on the 8th AND fly out on the 8th! GENIUS.

Except then the 8th September actually arrived, and it suddenly seemed like not such a fabulous idea...

It probably didn't help that the day didn't get off to a great start - I got up to discover that I hadn't successfully cancelled our food delivery as I'd thought, and that there was a bag sitting on the front doorstep containing four litres of milk, a loaf of bread, 500g of beef mince, and a packet of cheese slices. Luckily, everything except the milk could go in the freezer or survive unopened until I got home, but I had to cart the stupid milk to work with me. And it turns out that four litres of milk is surprisingly heavy...

Work, thankfully, went smoothly. Although I feel like this contextless post-it note that I found on the floor summed up my feelings about the day quite well:

After work, I raced home, spent half an hour on the phone to Little Miss A while she did her reading, watered the gardens (of course Melbourne would experience flash floods the following day, meaning that I could have saved myself 45 minutes of watering. SIGH.), finished packing, showered, realised I was going to miss the tram, frantically Googled the bus timetable, ran out the door with my suitcase, ran back when I realised I'd left my laptop cord behind, shoved the cord into my backpack while attempting to lock the front door, ran to the bus stop (which, thankfully, is outside the house next door), and spent the next five minutes wondering if I'd missed the bus or not. Thankfully, I hadn't.

Once on the bus, I promptly began panicking that I'd left 15,000 things behind (I hadn't) and that I'd forgotten to put the alarm on (I hadn't). I got to the train station without any issues, and reorganised my backpack while waiting for the train. Once in the city, it was off to the airport bus. Luckily, there weren't many people heading that way, so I could practice standing on the right of the escalator in preparation for the Tube.

Eventually, I made it to the airport and checked in without any issues. Then I headed to McDonald's and bought some chips because I couldn't make it through emigration and security without eating SOMETHING. Once through all of that nonsense, I got Rickrolled by Melbourne Airport Duty Free, then went and ordered some proper food, which turned out to be a vegetarian pizza that tasted like bacon, something that really shouldn't be a thing...

Eventually, I was on the plane and ready for almost 24 hours trapped in a metal cylinder. WHEEEEEEEEEE. Luckily, Qantas apparently loves Marvel almost as much as I do, so I spent a decent chunk of the trip watching Marvel movies - X-Men: Days of Future Past, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I also could have watched Captain America: The First Avenger, Iron Man 2, or Iron Man 3. But I figured three Marvel movies in a 24 hour period was probably enough. (I did also watch non-Marvel stuff, but most of it wasn't worth mentioning. Except Chef. That was great.)

The flight was...rather more exciting than anticipated. There was a 20-something girl sitting across the aisle from me who turned out to be insanely claustrophobic, so a couple of hours into the flight, she had a full blown panic attack and spent the next two hours of the flight lying on the floor by the bathrooms while her parents hovered awkwardly. Eventually, they decided to move her and her parents to a bulkhead row so that they had some more space, but because the flight was basically full, this meant having to move some people.

Said people were flying on staff tickets, one of the conditions of which is that you can be bumped at any time. But despite this, they threw a massive hissy fit and complained for like 20 minutes at the top of their lungs. At 3am while the entire plane was trying to sleep. Even after one of the staff had coldly explained to them the conditions of their tickets and informed them that everyone was trying to sleep, they still complained for another 10 minutes or so at the top of their lungs. So that was suuuuuuuuuuper fun. Still, I managed to get about five hours' sleep, which wasn't too bad, all things considered.

After approximately a hundred million years and a two hour layover in Dubai, we landed at Heathrow, where I promptly discovered that in the 27+ hours since I left home, my mascara had gone from freshly applied to this:
"Who the hell is Bucky?". Also, source.
Luckily, I realised before I went through passport control or they may not have let me in the country... From there, I walked approximately a thousand kilometres to the Tube and made my way to my little brother, C's, office. I don't think the fancy pants receptionist downstairs was expecting someone in day-old clothes dragging a suitcase, because she looked a little perplexed before reluctantly giving me a visitor's badge. And then the receptionist at C's company had to try and get in touch with him by 14 different methods because he wasn't answering his phone. (It turned out he was shooting the breeze by the photocopier. Obviously...)

Eventually, we headed back to C's place and I was able to shower which was possibly the most exciting thing of ever. And then we headed out for a walk along the canal in the hopes that the last remaining sunlight of the day (after landing at 1.30, I didn't get to C's office until 4.00) would help my body clock to adjust. After nearly being run over by bikes for half an hour, we abandoned that plan in favour of food, and headed to a nearby pub for dinner.

Once there, I promptly decided to kickstart my holiday in fine form:

Which backfired once I realised that I'd just drunk most of a pint of cider without having eaten in about 8 hours, and I rapidly hit fight-the-urge-to-sleep-on-the-table territory... I rallied with the help of cheese fries and managed to stay awake long enough to get back to C's house and watch some TV before collapsing into bed at about 10.00.

And really, I think that's quite enough for one post! Next time, I brave the mean streets of London without a safety net.

K xx
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