So you haven't read the books?

“You’ve read the books?”
“I’ve seen the movies.”
Cath rolled her eyes so hard, it hurt. (Actually.) (Maybe because she was still on the edge of tears. On the edge, period.) “So you haven’t read the books.”
“I’m not really a book person.”
“That might be the most idiotic thing you’ve ever said to me”

I have quite a lot of feelings about Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl. I read her Eleanor & Park earlier this year and I loved it, so much, you don’t even know. It’s for that reason that I had quite high expectations for Fangirl. That’s a thing I do you see, I fall in booklove hard and fast and then set what is probably an unrealistically high bar, that the poor writer in question has to try and reach with all their future offerings. Few do. I’m a little sad to say, actually, that Rowell is not one of the few. Le sigh.

That’s not to say though that I don’t think this is ‘a good book’ because I do. I just don’t think it’s ‘as good as…’ and that’s irrelevant anyway because I’m not here to make a comparison. What I am here to say is that I read Fangirl and it made me feel all the things.

I think the beauty of it is, is that a lot of people will relate to the story and to its protagonist, Cath.

I could. I could because Cath is like an extreme version of me. She’s quiet and she’s introverted; she suffers from social anxiety; she prefers books to people and the written word to the spoken; things that are new make her feel sick and she lived off protein bars for a while because she was so scared of navigating the college canteen. I am that girl. Not to the extremes Cath is but still, so much of the way she feels about day to life made me just ache with familiarity.
Most of the time I let my phone go to voice-mail and then send a text right after because some days talking is hard and I hide from the doorbell and the thought of being in a room full of people I don’t know – or some days even people I know – is enough to make me come out in a sweat. Sometimes I have plans with people I actually really want to spend time with and right up until the moment I am knocking on their actual door I am coming up with excuses in my head, excuses that will mean I don’t have see them, and can instead just be home with my book and maybe fire texts back and forth for a few hours.  It’s not because I don’t love them – I do, I really do – and it’s not because I’m boring or miserable, it’s just because it’s hard. 95% of the time it feels like I imagine a parachute jump would: I have to gear myself up to do it – the being social – and once I do, I love it, and it’s fun and amazing and exhilarating. & then once it’s over I am drained and I have to go home and read a book and recharge. 

& so for that alone, Cath, of the world of Fangirl, LET ME LOVE YOU.

“Underneath this veneer of slightly crazy and mildly socially inept, I'm a complete disaster.” ­

And then, there is fandom because, as the title suggests, Cath is a fangirl.

“How do you not like the Internet? That's like saying, 'I don't like things that are convenient. And easy. I don't like having access to all of mankind's recorded discoveries at my fingertips. I don't like light. And knowledge.”

This part of the book was a delight. In a nutshell, Cath writes fanfiction about her favourite YA books, whereby the hero is in love with his nemesis. What Rowell has done here is so delightful it had me squealing; it was delightful because if you try and tell me that Simon Snow is not Harry Potter and this segment of the story was not born of Harry/Draco then I will laugh very loudly in your face. I may or may not have done a fair amount of unattractive snorting because God, it’s so damn obvious that Rowell knows her shit. I would love to know how active she’s been in her particular fandom of choice.

I – and if you know me then you probably know this – have been connected to fandoms previously: I’ve been on forums, I’ve read and I have written fanfiction (go on, judge me. I have not a care!); I know what you mean when you say ‘shipping’ (and that ‘you’re not talking about the delivery of a parcel); and if you ask me who my OTP is I won’t think you’re enquiring after my health. I’ll probably answer...maybe...perhaps. I might even rant at you about my feelings about canon (don’t talk to me please, about Nymphadora Tonks) 

I was never all that excited about Harry/Draco myself but I was active enough in the Harry Potter fandom that they crossed my path and that I recognised the similarities here. I also know enough to be able to revel in the fandom world that Rowell has created for Cath. I know what it’s like to ship a pairing that isn’t canon; to read between every single line,; to grab hold of every single look or glance or word; to wait desperately for the release of a new book and to devour it in one sitting; to send and receive texts along the lines of ‘what I think is about to happen better not happen’ and then figure out my own ways to right those wrongs. I know what it’s like to fall in love with a fictional world so much that there’s never quite enough of it.  I get it. I’ve lived it. Again, not to the extremes Cath does, but I get it all the same. 
Cath’s fandom life however, will it kind of eclipses her ‘real’ life – she has more friends online than off, her latest fanfiction has a worldwide following – people are wearing it on t-shirts, are accepting her version as canon – and if she has to choose between going to class/eating/seeing her sister-roommate-boy she likes and Simon Snow, then she’ll chose Simon Snow every time. Real life doesn’t hold the same appeal for her as this world she has created for herself on the internet and what started as a way to continue to let these characters she loves so much live on outside of the pages of the novel they were born of, has quickly become an escape: somewhere she can exist whilst real life carries on without her.

You only have to visit LiveJournal or Archive of Our Own or to realise there are probably millions of people in the world like Cath and that’s what really struck me: Cath is just a girl, she’s a girl that people will read about and think ‘she’s just like me’ because she’s normal and flawed and she makes mistakes; nothing out of the ordinary happens to her, there’s no great revelation or dramatic, well, anything really. There’s just this girl, like all these other girls out there, and she gets to write her fanfiction and eat her protein bars and fight with her sister and worry about her Dad and freak the hell out about growing up and branching out into the big old world and then, she gets to fall in love. 

What its saying this book, is ‘you’re ok. You keep doing what you’re doing and that’s fine, but look, do the other stuff too, because there are people out there who will enrich your life and they don’t live behind a computer screen, and, I know it seems scary but you can have it both ways and that’s OK You will be OK.’ & for people like Cath, like me, like those other girls reading this book – and I suspect you will only read this book if you’re a Cath yourself – that’s an important message. It’s nice to know that it’s OK to live in a world you’ve created or that has been created by other people like you; that it’s OK to find real life hard; that you don’t have to be like your extroverted sibling/lover/friend, because being like you is pretty fucking awesome. You don’t have to change, you just have to be. And also, you know, write your fanfic if you want, just don’t go all EL James all over the place.

It’s like Rainbow Rowell is writing to me, to you, to us and her insight is incredible.

Or maybe it’s not saying that at all. Maybe it’s just a book and I am over-analysing as per.

The point is, the message was there for me and I think I'd have loved the book a million times more if I’d read it ten years ago!

“Real life was something happening in her peripheral vision.”

And then there is the love story and as evidenced in E&P, Rowell writes first love really freaking well. Seriously though guys. THE LOVE STORY.

Ha. Honestly, I’ve just wanted an excuse to put that ^^ on my blog. Howeverrrrr, the lovely love story is lovely and Cath and her beau are adorable and the slow unfolding of their relationship is pretty damn sweet. It’s so refreshing to read a love story that’s real. It’s not OTT and dramatic, nobody watches anybody sleep in a creepy and inappropriate way, which, wait – I have a quote:

“Reagan was sitting up at Cath's desk when Cath woke up.
"Are you awake?"
"Have you been watching me sleep?"
"Yes, Bella. Are you awake?"

There are no dramatics, no overwhelming declarations, promises, heartaches. It’s all so refreshingly simple. Girl meets boy and to quote Kurt Hummel - damn, I’m totally still a fangirl aren’t I? – a touch of the fingertips is as sexy as it gets. Pretty much. The touches of the fingertips, the smiles, the glances, the holding of hands, those are the parts that matter at least. I loved it in E&P and I love it here: Rowell has this ability to write real, deep and intense attraction without the characters even needing to touch. In E&P the scenes where Park played with Eleanor’s sleeve made me feel like my chest was caving in. It’s the same here:

“…he tugged on her sleeve and looked down at their not-quite-touching hands. ‘It’s OK if you’re crazy’ he said softly.
‘You don’t even know-‘
‘I don’t have to know,’ he said, ‘I’m rooting for you.’”


It’s all about the slow build and that’s what makes it real because it feels real: it’s not ridiculously fast and on the other side of the coin it’s not overflowing with angst. It’s just life and it’s super.

“You look so blindingly cute right now, I feel like I need to make a pinhole in a piece of paper just to look at you.”

in which it's a blustery day

I say blustery. I’m aware it’s considerably less blustery here than it is further south, and as such I am sending hugs and cookies to all the people that are not having a very happy Windsday.

I’m writing this from the point of almost-asleep actually, mainly because I had to get up at numbers starting with a 5 (a 5!!!) today to drop my boyfriend off at the airport. He’s gone to stop with some friends in Arizona for a week and you may colour me green. 
Can you believe the temperatures are in the high 80’s over there and I’m here wearing fleece lined leggings to the office because *brrrr* - not that I mind, really. I mean, I mind being cold and I am absolutely not a fan of the whole getting up in the dark and leaving work in the dark which is very nearly upon me, but I do love autumn. I love the colours and the smells; I love that I can dig out woolly jumpers and fingerless gloves (and fleece lined leggings); I love that somehow autumn just feels like fruit crumble and custard and reading under a blanket and getting ready for Christmas.  I just, I love it a little less when I am helping my boyfriend decide how many pairs of flip flops he needs to take on his holiday in the sun. (The answer was one, if you wondered. I swear that boy is actually Imelda Marcos – has anybody actually had eyes on her lately? No, I thought not….)

I think I’ll be doing a lot of reading-under-a-blanket whilst Ian is away this week. That is the plan at least. Pate on toast and reading-under-a-blanket. I have Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl on my Kindle which I have been saving especially for this week, and I’m very excited about it. Eleanor & Park is perhaps my book of the year this year, so I’m excited to see how Fangirl compares, especially as all I’ve seen of it suggests it might be a book I can relate to on several levels. Ha. Watch this space as I’m sure I’ll be back to tell you how much I adored/loathed it. 
First though, I must finish Caitlin Moran’s How To Be A Woman because I have a very bad habit of not finishing a book before I start a new one. Whoops. I feel a resolution coming on...

Ian’s autumn sun break is also the perfect opportunity to finish the scarf I am crocheting him for Christmas, it’s looking rather lovely if I do say so myself – a deep grey shade of aran weight wool made up of row after row of dc.  Lush. He will be handsome and snugly. I shall knit it up whilst watching lots of Once Upon A Time which is my current television love. I do love a fairytale re-telling and this show has Robert Carlyle popping up every so often as Rumplestiltskin which is awesome. I have a Pinterest board full of crochet ideas. It's my new love, I can see my house becoming overrun with wool if I'm not careful, and I already have at least 3 projects on the go: 2  scarfs and a purple and cream blanket for my bed. Again, whoops. 
I also have a big Granny Square project in mind, which might be my 'big thing' for 2014. Check me out with my 2014 plans already. Woop.

So, there we have it, my time boyfriend-less: a OUAT marathon; crochet; reading-under-a-blanket; a catch-up with my girls; and a beading workshop with my Mum and Granny. This week will fly by; he’ll be back before I even have time to miss him. 

I love you, I love you, I love you.

6 years ago today the cute boy with the long hair kissed me for the first time in a dark nightclub, 3 hours after meeting me and 2 hours after asking me, jokingly, to go to New York with him the following Christmas.

It was the moment everything changed.

He called me the next day and we talked for four hours on the phone. About nothing and about everything. 

For our first real date he took me to Sainsbury’s as he had run out of bread and then for a curry. I didn’t like spicy food and I was so nervous my stomach hurt; I couldn’t eat a thing.

I read two books a week, drank more coffee (even then) than is probably considered healthy and had grown up in a house full of songs and card games. He only read car magazines, hated the very thought of coffee, had never heard of the Court of King Caratacus and had a smile that made my stomach flip over. It still does.

He was chardonnay and fast cars and New York City dreams; I liked books and the seaside and I never strayed too far from home. We were so different. We were chalk and cheese and it moved too fast. His dance music made me cringe and where he wanted bright lights and wine bars, I was happy on my sofa with a blanket and his arms around me. We probably shouldn’t have worked but somehow we  just did.

Who knew, that love could be like that?

I have loved him since that day; he has loved me without ever letting up.

It’s been hard. There have been trials and there have been tribulations but somehow, at the point that other people might have given up we’ve just held on tighter, digging in our heels and riding it through, believing wholeheartedly that whatever awaited us on the other side would make it all worthwhile. Perhaps there’s a stubborn streak in both of us, an ingrained need to not be defeated; perhaps it’s because somehow we both know how precious life can be: you have to live in the moment and take what you can and so we did.

We do.

Sometimes he kisses me and it’s like a promise: I will always love you.
Sometimes he kisses me and it’s like a point to prove: I will always love you.
Sometimes, he kisses me.

I am grateful for him, grateful for love, and so very aware of how rare and precious a thing it is. I don’t ever plan to let that – or him – go.

Happy 6 years, Boy Racer.  Here’s to the next six, and the rest of forever. Your face is my favourite of all the faces.

[And we made it to New York; he always comes good on his promises!]

It Starts and Then It Ends

The Top Ten Tuesday this week - as seen on The Broke and the Bookish deals with the top ten opening and closing line[s], which is a topic that made me go 'ooooh' because whilst the body of a book is obviously of great import, it's how it starts and how it finishes that counts. If it starts awfully then you might not read past that first line and likewise if the ending leaves a bad taste in your mouth then it can taint the whole experience. Also, it made me have to do thinking and remembering because it's not just 'oooh that was a book I liked' it's 'how did it start and how did it finish and were either of those things better than all the other books?' 

What a fun way to spend a lunch break, hey?

And so (never in any particular order):

1.       I Capture The Castle – I write this sitting in the kitchen sink
Best opening to a book ever. Possibly. Not only is it a super opening, because let us be real here, who doesn’t want to know what happens after that, it’s also a really great quote. It’s really a really great book too, which helps.

2.       A really great book with a very good end: Only the margin left to write on now. I love you, I love you, I love you.”

3.       Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. 
It’s an opening that hooks you in, because you want to know more about these Dursley folk and what it is about them that makes them feel they need to proclaim their normality.  More than than though that it’s what it represents: the first sentence to a series of books that has changed lives; that changed mine.

4.       Life of Pi  Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger."
I loved Life of Pi; I loved the journey the book took me on and I loved how the conclusion made me question everything I’d read. The ending just felt right.  

5.      Looking for Alaska: "Thomas Edison’s last words were: 'It’s very beautiful over there.” I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful'."  
John Green, you’ve done it again and I love you. Looking at this book as a whole, making the last words 'last words', is genius and these last words are perfect.

6.       The Graveyard Book “There was a hand in the darkness, and it held a knife.”
I love you Neil Gaiman, talk about building suspense from the very first second.

7.       Deathly Hallows: All was well."
*uncontrollable sobbing* [FYI the epilogue will forever displease me but these three words? God, the first time I read this book they slayed me.]

8.       TKAM: He turned out the light and went into Jem's room. He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning."
I just love the whole thing, honestly. Wouldn’t change a word.

9.       The Book Thief: "A LAST NOTE FROM YOUR NARRATOR. I am haunted by humans."
I am haunted by humans.  I will never be over this book. If you haven't read it, then read it. You need to have read it, and felt it, and lived it to understand why this ending is so heart-hurtingly perfect.

10.   The Blind Assassin: Ten days after the war ended, my sister Laura drove a car off a bridge." 
 A good opening line makes you want to know the story. Even now, when I know the story, this opening line makes me want to read on. I love this book so hard.

Top 5 books of 2013 so far.

Can you even believe it's almost the end of  June already? Seriously, where does the time even go? I am loving the summer at the moment, now that it's actually here. We're just back from a glorious week in Portugal which was the most fun and this weekend we're off to Scarborough. It's Wimbledon fortnight (and Federer is out which makes my heart sad) and it's warm enough when I get home from work to be able to sit in the yarden with my Kindle and a packet of Drumstick Squashies (erm, yummy) and life is pretty good. Next week Jen is doing an event for More Weird Things in Cheshire and I have booked the day off work to go hang out with her. I shall have a lie in and then drive over and maybe we'll do lunch - Jen, are we doing lunch? - and then hang out with her in the bookshop in the afternoon. I am excited. I haven't seen her face in real life for over a year. Damn geography. Everything that matters is pretty darn rosy.

Anyway, to the point. Around this time of year I like to make a note of the best 5 books I've read so far and see how much the lists changes come December; are the books I read in the first half of the year better than the ones I read in the second?

Here I am, doing just that! So, the bestest books of far.

     1: Eleanor and Parkwhich I talk about here

     2. TFiOSagain, already reviewed 

     3. The Night Rainbow

This all began when Maman came back from hospital last summer, but she didn't bring back a baby like she promised, she left it at the hospital, along with her happiness
The Night Rainbow makes my heart happy. It’s a little piece of magic, simple and beautiful and sad and perfect. I didn’t want it to end.

The story is told by Pea. She’s 5 and a half. Her Papa has died and her Maman is heavily pregnant and grieving both the loss of Pea’s Papa and a baby she recently lost. Pea and her sister Margot – aged 4 – are left to run wild in the French summer, they’re desperate to make Maman happy again bur she barely realises they’re there. The girls befriend a man from the village and his dog. He becomes exactly what they need but he has his own past that’s as haunting as the story told in the present. It’s beautiful I think because Pea’s account of her summer is so simplistic; her lack of understanding makes the story that much more poignant although never straying into over-sentimentality. Your heart breaks for Pea and for Margot, but it breaks for Maman too.

The beauty lies in the language. I wanted to read every page twice, just to savour it. You need to read it just to see, because I can’t explain it to you otherwise. To quote Jen ‘it takes you somewhere new’ and it does. What Clare King does with words in this novel just blows me away.

Here. Look.

"A blown kiss is not a proper kiss. Hugs and kisses should be hugs and kisses, not breaths of air. I am tired of breaths of air and not enough hugs and kisses."
 Also, it has a trailer; watch it.
     4. Wonder – which is reviewed here

     5. The Silver Linings Playbook:  Heartbreaking and heartwarming, like Perks for grown ups, this book is a good good book. I don't want to give too much away, except to tell you that Pat's search for his happy ending will stay with you for a long long time.

And I guess that's that? This post makes me happy inside; this year has been a good year so far, for books. I hope it continues. Also, if you have not read these books thne probably you should do something about that.

The Great Gatsby?

The thing is, I’m not so sure. I love Fitzgerald’s novel, as in, really love it and I was so excited about this film. It’s funny because it’s exactly what I expected it to be and yet still somehow I came out of the cinema feeling oddly disappointed. I am aware this makes no sense.

Is it amazing? No.

Is it terrible? Also, no.

It falls somewhere in between and I can’t quite put my finger on why that should be. I think maybe it’s because it’s been such a long time coming and there’s been so much build-up that I allowed myself to have ridiculously high expectations. Perhaps I just set myself up for a fall.

It stays faithful to the novel, which I liked – and I loved how they kept Nick’s narration, (although the flash forward from the action to Nick’s random therapy sessions felt a little bit jarring sometimes, and the whole typing out of the story, erm hello Moulin Rouge reference.)  There’s plenty of Fitzgerald’s original content and dialogue in there too, which I also liked so what did I not like?

Baz Luhrmann obviously has a particular vision and a particular style of directing which has served him well in the past. Take a look at Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge: he is not aiming for subtle. I adore Moulin Rouge. It’s a spectacle, the story is  a spectacular spectacular and it makes perfect sense for the film to be one too. It’s so flamboyant and so over the top and so unique that it’s wonderful. I wonder if Luhrmann has tried to recreate that here when in actuality Gatsby doesn’t need that; sometimes, like here, less is more. It felt like too much sometimes. It felt like Luhrmann was actually trying to recreate what he’d done with Moulin Rouge and that frustrated me because The Great Gatsby could have been great on it’s own merits if given half the chance. Also, the modern hip hoppy soundtrack, which whilst fabulous in it’s own right, didn’t work for me. I felt like the film tried too hard and in doing so took away from the actual story it was trying to tell.  I felt like I was being bombarded with these bright over the top visuals and it made my head spin.  That said, parts of it were glorious: I loved loved loved the costumes, practically squealed at them and at times the portrayal of New York in the 1920’s made me very happy: you could really feel the vibe, especially in the party scenes.

I was unsure about Nick: film Nick is much more innocent than book Nick, he wanders around these mental scenes of excess looking awed and overwhelmed and almost childlike whereas he isn’t like that for me in the book. Also, the party Tom takes him too, when he meets Myrtle, that was all wrong – Nick’s a little sneery at that party; he’s a little judgemental of Mrytle and her sister. He looks down his nose at it all, he doesn’t think ‘oooh wow a party. I’ve never been to one of those before GIVE ME ALL THE ALCOHOL AND ALL THE WOMEN.’ He leaves with a man. I think Nick is one of my main issues with the film actually. I don’t know if that’s down to Tobey Maguire or the direction he received, but it annoyed me nonetheless. Nick is more worldly wise than the film shows him to be, he’s tougher, he’s not a shrinking wallflower and it’s Gatsby he views through rose-tinted glasses and not the whole world.  He isn’t that naïve. The way Nick is portrayed has a knock on effect when it comes to the rest of the film and that is an issue.

Talking of Nick and Gatsby, I always thought Nick was gay, or bisexual: he’s clearly in love with Gatsby (The first time I read the book I remember thinking, in my best Chandler Bing thought-voice, ‘Jeez Nick, could you be any more in love with him?’ ) and there’s the implied night he spent with the guy when he goes to the party with Tom and Myrtle. They meet at the party and later leave together and whilst it’s never explicitly stated that anything happens, there is a lapse of time, and the next time we see Nick and this chap Nick is standing beside the bed and the other man is in it, wearing only his underwear *shrug*

I don’t know if it’s just me, or if it’s a common interpretation, because I’ve never spoken to anybody about it at length but to me, Nick’s sexuality and his feelings towards Gatsby always seemed perfectly obvious. The bedroom scene isn’t in the film, interestingly enough and Nick is shown with a woman so maybe it is just me, but a lot of what Nick says throughout the book about Gatsby has been kept in, and whether you view it as platonic or not, that whole relationship interests me as much in the film as it does in the book. Nick is the ultimate unreliable narrator because his feelings for Gatsby make it hard for him to see the other man as anything but great.  He can’t see his flaws and if he can he doesn’t care, he wants to see the world the way Gatsby sees it, he wants to be a part of that blind optimism and hopeless romanticism, feels it probably himself, about Gatsby and as the reader, (or the viewer) your own opinion of Gatsby is shaped by that fact. It’s less obvious in the film, or rather, whilst he is still massively unreliable you feel like Nick’s opinions are based more on his general naivety than his feelings about Jay specifically. Maybe that's why you feel a little less sympathetic towards Gatsby? It’s easier to see Gatsby’s flaws because you’re not as naïve as Nick seems to be. Does that even make sense? It does in my head!

That said, Leo was great as Gatsby. I happen to think Leonardo DiCaprio is a very good actor,  and I really think he did well here. Some of his scenes were golden – waiting to meet Daisy for the first time, although the set up was verging on ridiculousness, Leo really expressed Gatsby’s vulnerability. The scene where Gatsby walks into the room and sees Daisy for the first time was lovely in it’s simplicity and they kept the ‘I’m certainly glad to see you again’ exchange so hurrah for that.  The following scenes with Gatsby and Daisy together were achingly touching and the final showdown between Gatsby and Tom was so tense. Leo played Gatsby’s slowly crumbling façade perfectly so that when he finally loses it you can totally understand Daisy’s – and to a lesser degree Nick and Jordan’s – horror.

It’s not the best film, it’s not the best adaptation and yes, I was disappointed but still, I’m glad I’ve seen it.