Tuesday, August 26, 2014

TTT - Books I Want to Read But Don't Own Yet

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

I found this week's topic really tricky, because I've been hoarding books recently for my upcoming 22 hour flight to London. Plus, there are quite a few books that I want to read but not enough to pay money for them, so I'm waiting for my local library to get them in. Anyway, I managed to come up with ten in the end. Hurrah.

1. The Colony - Grace Karskens
A history of colonial Sydney, this one's available on Kindle but I imagine it's a lot better in hard copy as I'm fairly certain it's full of illustrations and plates and maps. But the hard copy version costs a small fortune. One day, I'll get hold of a copy. One day...

2. Sisters' Fate - Jessica Spotswood
This one's just been released in the US but it's not out in Australia yet. And I AM DYING. Because I neeeeeeeeeeeeeeed it. 

3. Blood of Tyrants - Naomi Novik
My library has every other book in the series, but they don't have this one despite the fact that it came out like FOREVER ago. Sigh. 

4. Life After Life - Kate Atkinson
I really want to read this, but the price for the e-book has been ridiculous up until now. $16??? I could get it in hard copy cheaper than that! And yet, every time I'm at the library or bookshop, I forget to look for it. 

5. The Crane Wife - Patrick Ness
I'm not sure why I've not bought this one yet because I've loved every single one of Patrick Ness' books. And yet...

6. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? - Maria Semple
I've heard AMAZING things about this one from a lot of people. But it's another one where the e-book is just sliiiiiiiightly too expensive for me to justify it at the moment. 

7. Masquerade - Kylie Fornasier
I want to read this one, but it's not at the top of my to-read list. It's more on the "I'll get to it someday" list. 

8. Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock - Matthew Quick
Another one that's on the "Hahahahaha, I'm not paying that much for an e-book" list. 

9. Whispers Underground - Ben Aaronovitch
This one ALWAYS seems to be out on loan when I'm at the library. Sigh. 

10. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
For some inexplicable reason, this one isn't available on the Australian Kindle store and my library doesn't have it. And I can't quite justify paying $20 for the paperback. One day, book. One day.

What's on your list?

K xx

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bout of Books 11 - Wrap Up

Er, whoops? This weekend ended up being really busy and I ran out of time to write an update post for the last three days. So I'll shove it all in here instead!

Books read: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith, Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Pages read: 206
Total pages: 1300
Total books finished: 3

Books read: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Pages read: 213
Total pages: 1513
Total books finished: 3

Books read: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
Pages read: 208
Total pages: 1721
Total books finished: 4

Wrap up
There were times over these three days when I felt guilty about not reading more. I mean, I managed a book a day on Monday and Tuesday, and then the remaining five days were taken up with two books. But considering those two books total nearly 1100 pages between them, maybe I didn't do so badly after all!

I just barely met my goal of reading at least 200 pages a day, aside from Monday and Tuesday, but I DID meet it on every day (except Thursday when I only managed 198 pages. But the next chapter was REALLY LONG, you guys, and I was really sleepy...). And every single one of these four books came from my to-read pile, so I smashed that goal out of the water.

I failed spectacularly on competing in a challenge though. This week ended up being a lot busier than I'd anticipated. Between two dinners out, two meals with friends at home, my niece staying over (and important discussions about which Hogwarts house she'd be in), making a 60th birthday cake, AND attending my uncle's birthday party, I'm kind of impressed that I managed to read over 300 pages more than my target!

I'll try again next time on the challenge front and hope that it falls on a week that's less busy!

All in all, it was pretty successful and I loved every single one of the books that I read.

How did your Bout of Books go?

K xx

Friday, August 22, 2014

Bout of Books 11, Days 1-4

Uh, whoops? I had grand intentions of posting updates more regularly than this. But somehow this week turned out to be busier than I'd anticipated. As a result, I haven't read quite as much as I'd planned, and I haven't yet met my goal of participating in a Bout of Books Challenge. But I'm doing okay on my other goals, so at least I'm not TOTALLY failing!

Books read: A Very Unusual Pursuit by Catherine Jinks
Pages read: 330.
Total pages: 330.
Total books finished: 1

Books read: Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Pages read: 359
Total pages: 689
Total books finished: 2

Books read: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Pages read: 207
Total pages: 896
Total books finished: 2

Books read: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith (J.K. Rowling)
Pages read: 198
Total pages: 1094
Total books finished: 2

I had grand plans for finishing The Silkworm yesterday, but was forced to abandon those plans just before midnight when I realised that I had to get up at 6.15am and I should probably get some sleep. Still, I'm enjoying the lower-key challenge this time around, and all three of these books have come from my TBR pile, so it's going pretty well!

How's your Bout of Books challenge going?

K xx

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Flourless chocolate cake

So I made a birthday cake for my mum over the weekend, and decided to try a recipe I'd not used before. It turned out pretty damned well if I do say so myself!

I don't have any proper photos of it because I was busy making the recipe into a vlog for VEDA at the time, but I DO have a photo of the finished product, which is probably about all you really need. It's a really simple recipe and it turned out surprisingly well, so I figured (in light of the fact that it's been incredibly quiet around these parts recently) that I'd share it with you guys.

4 oz (115g) dark chocolate
125g unsalted butter
3/4 cup caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 eggs
1/2 cup cocoa

Chop chocolate and butter into small chunks. Melt together in a double boiler. Remove from heat, stir in caster sugar and vanilla. Allow to cool slightly, then whisk in eggs one at a time. Add cocoa and mix until just combined. Pour into a greased and lined 8" cake tin and bake at 190 degrees C (375 degrees F) for 20-25 minutes or until a thin crust forms on the top. Cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack. Dust with icing sugar to serve.

I'll be perfectly honest, the hardest part about this cake? Was getting it out of the tin. In the future, I think I'll be doing what several people said they do in the comments and making 1.5 times the recipe in a 9" springform tin!!

Does this sound like something you'd make?

K xx

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy

Eight books down, fifty-two to go...


I had a small heart attack this morning when I went to cross this book off my handwritten list of Classics Club books and couldn't find it. I instantly became convinced that it wasn't on my list at all and that I'd read this 850 page whopper for no reason. Luckily, it was just a case of not being able to read my own writing. I think I would have cried otherwise...

I first read Anna Karenina in year 11 literature, and we had a pretty rough time together, Anna and I. Still, with the exception of the big train station scene, I'd forgotten practically everything about the story and managed to convince myself that my vaguely remembered dislike was just because I didn't enjoy the assignments I had to write on it. Unfortunately, my vaguely remembered dislike proved to still apply 15 years after the fact.

I...did not enjoy this. There were elements of it that I enjoyed, to be sure. But for the most part, this was a long hard slog. I found myself tuning out and reading the same page over and over again, and had to force myself to pay attention to read it in 30 page blocks to actually get through it.

I think the main problem for me was that I didn't find any of the major characters engaging. I didn't like Anna or Vronsky at all, Oblonsky drove me nuts, Dolly was kind of a wet blanket, and the most interesting of the lot - Levin and Kitty - became dull as dishwater once Kitty had their first child. I mean, I get that Anna was miserably trapped in a loveless marriage. But her story felt, to me, like the epitome of #firstworldproblems. And while Levin's proposal to Kitty was pretty much the most adorable thing ever, all the tangents about Russian peasants and their ties to the land or politics or horses or election processes reminded me far too much of Victor Hugo's hundred page tangents in Les Miserables: probably fascinating to people at the time, but not even remotely of interest to me.

I honestly think the thing that annoyed me most about Levin's character was the last 50-odd pages in which he's clearly suffering from depression, but everything is made right when he finds religion. Because uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuugh. SERIOUSLY??? I know Levin is clearly the counterpoint to Anna's character - they both love passionately, have serious trust issues, struggle to bond with their children, and have mental health problems - but did we HAVE to have a "JESUS FIXES EVERYTHING!!" storyline?! Blurgh.

I did appreciate the complexity of his characters - there's no villain, no hero. They all inhabit the moral grey areas, they all experience jealousy and hatred and humility and kindness. But ultimately, I didn't care about any of them and wasn't engaged in their stories.

One thing I *did* find interesting was all the ideas about giving additional power to the peasant classes, and making them invested in the land and their work. One line only pages from the end made me flip to the front to check what year the book was first published because I felt sure it must have been not long before the Russian Revolution:
"Twenty years ago we should have been silent, but to-day the voice of the Russian people is heard, ready to rise up as one man and sacrifice themselves for their oppressed brethren." 
In that little speech, Koznyshev is talking specifically about Russia going to fight for the freedom of Christians in Serbia, but it could easily be applied to the workers uniting to free themselves from the rule of the elite in 1917. In all honesty, though, I was desperately hoping for the Revolution to happen 50 years ahead of schedule during this book just so that there would be something worth paying attention to in the story...

I know I'm well and truly in the minority in not loving this book. But I was firmly on the "HOW MUCH MORE??" train from start to finish. And no, the irony of being on the "kill me now" train is not lost on me. Final verdict? 2.5 stars, and the half star is for the adorableness of Levin's proposal...

Have you read Anna Karenina? What did you think?

K xx

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bout of Books 11 goals

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Bout of Books is going to be pretty low-key for me this time around. Because it's VEDA (Vlog Every Day in August), which is taking up a huuuuuuuuuuuuuge chunk of my time. But in addition to it being VEDA, I managed to burn myself out monumentally last time around. I read nine and a bit books and over 3,000 pages in the course of a week, and then read almost nothing for the next week. So I'd like to avoid that this time around!

So my goals this time around are pretty simple:
1. To read over 200 pages a day. I was averaging around 250 pages a day before Bout of Books 10, but in recent weeks, that's slacked off to around 100-120. I'd like to get it back up again, because I feel like a total slacker at the moment.
2. To work through my to-read pile. I have a stack of books that have been sitting on the floor next to my bed for AGES and I've yet to make any progress on them. Bout of Books should be a prime opportunity to rectify this situation and stop me from tripping over them on a daily basis!
3. To compete in at least one challenge. Last time, I was so focused on getting through a book a day that I didn't participate in any of the community activities. I'd like to rectify that this time around.

Are you joining in the Bout of Books fun? What are your goals?

K xx

Monday, August 11, 2014

Movie Monday: Guardians of the Galaxy

Several things to note before we get this properly underway:
1. This will contain no spoilers. Well. Not unless you click through the jumpcut, anyway.
2. Movie Monday is going to become a "when I feel like it" thing rather than a regular weekly post. Because it's starting to get really hard to find movies that I love but haven't talked about yet. And a lot of the ones I have left that I want to talk about are movies that you need to be in the right headspace to watch (like The Shawshank Redemption or To Kill a Mockingbird)...
3. Sorry it's been crazy quiet around here recently. VEDA is taking up all my time and creativity. But, you know, you can go watch my videos if you really want to see what I've been up to lately. (Warning: may contain me humiliating myself)

Right. That's the housekeeping stuff out of the way. Let's talk about the latest piece of Marvel fabulousness, shall we?

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

TTT - Books I'd Give to Readers Who've Never Read YA

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

This week's topic is about the books we'd recommend or give to people who'd never read anything from a particular genre before. This list, I should add, isn't my "OMG THESE YA BOOKS ARE AMAZING YOU HAVE TO READ THEM" list. Because if people haven't read anything from a particular genre, the chances are they'll be a little reluctant to try it. So instead, this is my list of gateway books. Like a gateway drug only not. 

1. Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein
One of those books that's technically young adult when you consider the age of the protagonist, but which REALLY doesn't read like YA. It's a gut-wrenching historical fiction, while also being the story of an adorable friendship. An excellent starting point for those who love historical fiction.

2 and 3. The Fault in Our Stars - John Green, The Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
I know a few people who would deny wholeheartedly that they enjoy young adult books, but they'll happily go out and watch The Hunger Games or The Fault in Our Stars or Divergent at the movies. And once they've seen the movie and are interested in the story, you can say "Oh, have you read the book?". BOOM.

4. Sabriel - Garth Nix
This series feels a lot more like fantasy than it does young adult. It's a brilliantly developed world filled with characters who are moving into adulthood. So for those who love paranormal/high fantasy books, this is an excellent transition into the world of young adult fantasy books. 

5. Pointe - Brandy Colbert
Much like Code Name Verity, this is a YA book that I'd be hesitant to hand to anyone younger than sixteen. It's the story of a teenaged ballet dancer with a big fat secret in her past. The secret emerges slowly over the course of the book, and I had knots in my stomach trying to finish it. 

6. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
This book seems to polarise people quite a lot. Personally, I adored it. Considering it's a book about a young girl, the choice of narrator is REALLY interesting. And my mum - who's all "Pff, YA" most of the time (HI MUM) - loved it too. 

7. Saving Francesca - Melina Marchetta
This book is feels-tastic, and yes, it's kind of the epitome of teenage girl problems. BUT. It's also an excellent insight into how the actions of adults and the events that are happening at home can impact on the lives of children and teenagers and affect them in unexpected ways. 

8. Dodger - Terry Pratchett
A delightful retelling featuring classic characters that we know and love. Filled with historically accurate awesomeness and an excellent gateway book for lovers of historical fiction AND classic novels. 

9. A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness
Technically more of a middle grade book, this is such a powerful story that it can be enjoyed (in as much as one can enjoy such a cry-tastic book) by practically all ages. Plus, it's really short, so it's pretty easy to convince people who are reluctant to give it a try! 

10. Tomorrow, When the War Began - John Marsden
Full of action and adventure and wartime sabotage and I don't even know what else. Yes, the characters are teenagers. But when it comes to books set during a war, the age of the protagonists is kind of irrelevant. 

What books would you give to people reluctant to read YA? 

K xx

Friday, August 1, 2014

Bout of Books 11

Remember back in May when I participated in Bout of Books and read nine books in a week? Yeah, Bout of Books is happening again in a couple of weeks, and I figured that even though I'm going to be spending a ton of time on Youtube this month with VEDA, I'd join in again!

I'm fairly certain that my goals are going to be a lot more low key this time around, because I pretty much burnt myself out last time and only read about 200 pages in the week that followed - over 3,000 pages in a week was clearly too many pages. But I'm still going to join in the fun!

Anyway, here's the official blurb:

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda @ On a Book Bender and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 18th and runs through Sunday, August 24th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure, and the only reading competition is between you and your usual number of books read in a week. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 11 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. - From the Bout of Books team

Will you be joining Bout of Books? If so, head here to sign up!

K xx
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