Saturday, 31 January 2015

what I've read this month (January)

First round-up posts of the year - feels like the blog has got off to a slow start. I haven't posted as much as I intended, nor read as much as I expected.

But, here is a list of what I have read:-
1. Madeline Miller, Song of Achilles (re-read, review here)
2. Lee Child, Never Go Back
3. Steven Saylor, Roma 
4. Tom Rob Smith, Child 44
5. J.K Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone  (re-read)
6. Warren FitzGerald, The Go Away Bird 

The worst novel of the month was undoubtedly Never Go Back racist, sexist and formulaic. I highly suggest you skip this, and read one of the earlier books in the Jack Reacher series.

Of course, I had to read Harry Potter after visiting the studio tour, I'm going to put up some more pictures from my visit next week. I also started the year by re-reading my another one of my favourite books of all time The Song of Achilles, I feel emotionally moved by this beautiful love story every time I read it.

Out of the new (to me) books I read, Child 44 was the best, but to be honest it was out of a rather weak bunch. I found out recently it's going to be turned into a film, and it is part of a series of books. I doubt I'm going to read any of the others though, because it's strength was that it introduced me to a period of Russian history I'm ignorant about, and it would probably be a better idea just to read some non-fiction about this period.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

'comfort women' small webcomic

When I lived in South Korea I had the privilege to go to the House of Sharing and meet the Halmonis (grandmothers) who live there. The Halmonies survived the most horrific abuse during World War II, they were forced into sex slavery during the Japanese occupation of Korea. These remarkably brave women are still campaigning for justice, for the Japanese government to formerly acknowledge, apologise and redress this war crime.

picture source

There is a short webcomic available here, The Story of a Comfort Woman - Tattoo, by Sun-Woong Park I urge you to take a quick look.

I know it's not really something I usually blog about, but its really important to raise awareness.

Please also consider donating to the House of Sharing here

Tuesday, 27 January 2015


Though I far far too many unread books on my shelves at the moment, I'm always browsing books shops and the internet for my next purchase. Here's what on my current wishlist:

1. Maggot Moon, Sally Gardner 

This one sounds really unusual, it's about a totalitarian state, determined to beat it's enemies in the race to the moon. They thing that really grabbed me, is that it is narrated by a young dyslexic boy, this could either work really well- or be a complete disaster.

2. The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr I. Solzenitsyn 

After reading Child 44 I've come to the conclusion that I'm ignorant about the Soviet Union. This is a memoir of the authors experience in a gulag (prison labour camp) for criticising Stalin on a postcard. For reviews, it sound like a pretty harrowing read, but I think its important that these historic events are recorded and widely read.

3. Nervous System: The Story of a Novelist Who Lost His Mind, Jan Lars Jensen 

Another memoir, this time about mental illness. I noticed a trend recently for more fiction and biographies discussing mental health (for example  The Shock of the Fall) which I think is a really positive thing, as it's still such a taboo.

4. The Girl on the Train, Paula Hawkins 
There's so much buzz about this one, it's going to be the next literary phenomenon and is being touted as the next Gone Girl, so I need to read it before I'm left out.

What do you think of my choices? Have you read any of them?

Monday, 26 January 2015

5 top tips for visiting The Making of Harry Potter, Warner Bros. studio tour

For Christmas my sister gave me a brilliant present, a trip to The Making of Harry Potter, Warner Bros studio tour.

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It totally lived up to me expectations, and I'll be posting some pictures of my visit in a couple of upcoming posts, but first I wanted to share some tips, so you can plan your own visit.  

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

if there is a book you want to read

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it, Toni Morrison, quotes, inspiration, writing

If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.

–Toni Morrison

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Tom Rob Smith, Child 44

Crime isn't really considered to be a highbrow genre, and I am also guilty of looking down on it, I think it's partly because there is a lot of really crap crime-fiction out there (Martina Cole, I'm looking at you).

Popular authors tend to bash them out, sticking to a tried and tested formula, which enables the reader to solve the crime before they've even completed the first chapter. Good crime-fiction though is truly impressive, the ability to spin a tangled plot and eke out clues and suspense is a rare and beautiful thing.

With Child 44, Tom Rob Smith gives crime-fiction a decent attempt, and manages to deliver on some fronts.

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The Plot: 1933 Russia, near dead from starvation Pavel hunts in the nearby woods desperate for a meal, absorbed in his task he is unaware that he is also been hunted. 1953 Moscow, Leo is an investigator for the MGB, it his job to root out dissidents and enemies of the state, a task he performs ruthlessly and without question. When a colleges' son is found dead, Leo is sent to remind the grieving parents that murder does not officially exist in the Soviet Union. However, Leo's loyalty to the party and the country is tested when his own wife is investigated for crimes against the state. The bodies of mutilated children are discovered, and Leo begins to question is blind obedience and his role in the MGB.  

Rating: 3.5/5

Monday, 19 January 2015

Steven Saylor, Roma

My spate of reading trashy books continues with Roma by Steven Saylor. However, unlike Never Go Back  this is the good sort of trash: uncomplicated, swords-and-sandals escapism.

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The Plot: Following the fortunes of the Potitii family and the history of Rome, as the city changes from a campsite on a trade route to an impressive metropolis,  Roma covers 1000 years of history.

Rating:  3/5

Monday, 12 January 2015

Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward theatre

It's my mum's birthday so we treated to her to a trip to the see Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward theatre. The play is based on the hugely popular 1998 film of the same name, that stared Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes.

It tells the story of a young William Shakespeare, who is suffering from writer's block and struggling to write a comedy entitled Romeo and Ethel the Pirates daughter. Viola de Lesseps, is a wealthy woman, obsessed with the theatre, disguised as Thomas Kent, she auditions for Shakespeare's new play.  When Shakespeare discovers Viola's real identity they embark on an affair, which inspires him to write his most enduring and tragic play.

Rating: 3.7/5
full review under the cut:-

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Lee Child, Never Go Back

I'm starting the year of with a complete trashy read, Never go Back. 

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The Plot: Jack Reacher is a loner. Ex-military he is a rootless vagabond who hitch-hikes around the USA, who manages to run into trouble wherever he goes. He arrives in Virginia hoping to rendezvous with Major Susan Turner, commanding officer of his former unit, who he has spoken to a couple of times of the phone. She is not there, her arrest is soon linked with Reacher, has he charged with a crime from 15 years ago.      

Rating: 1/5

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

winter walk

It's tradition to go for a walk on boxing day. Most of the photos I took were of my family and I messing about, climbing trees etc. and this blog is faceless,  but I have a couple to show you:-

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Monday, 5 January 2015

library haul

Although I've currently got heaps of unread books on my shelves, I really didn't fancy reading any of them. Instead, I picked up an old faithful Song of Achilles, which is one of my favourite books of all time. 

To get me out of a reading slump I took a trip to my local library and gathered the following:-

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Thursday, 1 January 2015

My Top Ten Books of the Year 2014

Happy new year everyone! Personally, I'm not fussed about new year, it's nice to have the time off work, but I've got a thing about looking at people while counting - I just find it awkward.

Anyway, as promised in my post yesterday I've put together a countdown of my top 10 books of the year. It was so difficult to come up with this list, firstly to cull the list from 103 to 10, then put them in some kind of order. The closer to number one it got, the harder the decision process was, the final 4 are pretty much all on equal billing.

drum roll please......