Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Try A Chapter Book Tag

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I'm back with the 'Try A Chapter' book tag that was created by Malia over at Book Paradise. The premise is to pick a selection of books that you have been meaning to read, read up to the second chapter of each and then use that experience to determine which of them you'd either like to read next or set aside for a later date. I love that this tag encourages you to dedicate time to books that you have been meaning to read for a while as I have a ton of reads that I'm always saying 'soon' to.


I picked out four books for this challenge. However, you can read more or less depending on your preference. I have been harping on about reading THE GIRLS for a fair few months so I'm using this as an opportunity to read it all instead of just the first few pages over and over again. SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS is a book that I discovered a few years ago on one of my many late night Goodreads hunts and I have read the first page multiple times and thought 'I think I'm going to love this' but never got any further due to its size. THE LITTLE STRANGER and FRENCHMAN'S CREEK, on the other hand, are two books that I have heard everybody discuss and rave about and that's probably why I have yet to settle down with them.  And so, it's now time to read! I'll get back to you after I've read each book in real time and let you know my thoughts as I go along...


special topics in calamity physics marisha pessl book blog vivatramp



SPECIAL TOPICS IN CALAMITY PHYSICS
MARISHA PESSL
At the centre of Special Topics in Calamity Physics is clever, deadpan Blue Van Meer, who has a head full of literary, philosophical, scientific, and cinematic knowledge, but she could use some friends. Upon entering the elite St. Gallway School, she finds some -- a clique of eccentrics known as the Bluebloods. One drowning and one hanging later, Blue finds herself puzzling out a byzantine murder mystery.


This is such a hefty book that it's difficult to really gather much from the first twenty or so pages that I read, however, I instantly felt as if this could be something I could really enjoy if I read further on. I warmed to the narrator, Blue Van Meer, and left the chapter without answers to questions that I am now genuinely interested and invested in. The first page was everything that it needed to be with a cracking first sentence and talks of a death. I'm a morbid little creature. There are elements of campus lit at play, so naturally I've already made comparisons to The Secret History, but I'm going to read it as if it were its own entity...which it is! I think I might read this during my recovery from surgery as I'll have longer blocks of time on my hands to read through it. A promising start...



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THE LITTLE STRANGER
SARAH WATERS
One post-war summer in rural Warwickshire, Dr. Faraday is called to a patient at lonely Hundreds Hall. Home to the Ayres family for over two centuries, the Georgian house, once impressive and handsome, is now in decline. Its owners-mother, son, and daughter are struggling to keep pace with a changing society, as well as with conflicts of their own. But are the Ayreses haunted by something more sinister than a dying way of life? Little does Dr. Faraday know how closely, and how terrifyingly, their story is about to become intimately entwined with his. 



This was the heftiest first chapter at 40 pages but, thankfully, it delivered quite a lot in the way of introduction by introducing a handful of characters and the crumbling Hundreds Hall. I am all for stories of big houses and decayed aristocracy so I've a feeling that this will totally be my bag. Luckily, Waters' writing style is something I'm entirely on board with already. Descriptive, and packed full of realistic dialogue, it was reminiscent of my bae Du Maurier. I could definitely carry it on from here. However, I'm thinking that, due to the length, I may, again, save it for when I'm recovering from surgery as I will have time on my hands. 

the girls emma cline try a chapter book tag vivatramp blog

the girls

emma cline
Northern California, during the violent end of the 1960s. At the start of summer, a lonely and thoughtful teenager, Evie Boyd, sees a group of girls in the park, and is immediately caught by their freedom [...] Soon, Evie is in thrall to Suzanne, a mesmerizing older girl, and is drawn into the circle of a soon-to-be infamous cult and the man who is its charismatic leader [...] As she spends more time away from her mother and the rhythms of her daily life, and as her obsession with Suzanne intensifies, Evie does not realise she is coming closer and closer to unthinkable violence, and to that moment in a girl's life when everything can go horribly wrong.

Cline captures the heady curiosity that comes with youth pretty perfectly within the first chapter and I'm looking forward to seeing where that takes her characters throughout the novel. The prose often dips into passages of lilting poetry and that, combined with the tone, makes me 100% sure that this will be turned into a film with a shit ton of lens flare in the near future. I'm waiting for things to get dark and I think this book is going to deliver...

This has made its way to the top of my TBR pile. I wish it was of mass market paperback size though for convenience!


frenchmans creek daphne du maurier book blogger vivatramp

frenchman's creek
daphne du maurier

Jaded by the numbing politeness of Restoration London, Lady Dona St. Columb revolts against high society. She rides into the countryside, guided only by her restlessness and her longing to escape. But when chance leads her to meet a French pirate, hidden within Cornwall's shadowy forests, Dona discovers that her passions and thirst for adventure have never been more aroused. Together, they embark upon a quest rife with danger and glory, one which bestows upon Dona the ultimate choice: sacrifice her lover to certain death or risk her own life to save him.


Du Maurier consistently draws me in hook, line and sinker. Frenchman's Creek has, so far, been a celebration of the moody moonlight and the shadows amongst the trees that are to be found on the Helford coast. The promise of grown up Famous Five-like adventure, involving pirates, is so exciting to me especially as I have read two of her other novels, Jamaica Inn and Rebecca, and fell head over heels for them. 

The same dark resonance that cloaks those stories seems to be present in this too, one of her later novels, and I'm looking forward to a restless reading experience. I may read this first as, lets face it, I will probably read it quickly and with ease. Also, I cannot resist a bit of Du Maurier. If you have yet to read any Du Maurier, pick up Rebecca and thank me later. 

All in all, I'm hailing this experiment a success! It has affirmed that I have at least 4 unread books on my shelves that I could quite possibly fall head over heels for. I've had a little think and I've decided to carry on with The Little Stranger because I quite fancy a longer read and I've been wanting to try out some Sarah Waters for years now. I'd be more than happy to read any of the others though. Thoroughly impressed!

I think, if I were to do this again, and do let me know if you'd like me to, I would maybe pick four books on my shelves that I wasn't entirely sure about in order to get a sense of whether or not they really were for me. I've tagged a few specific people below but I'm also tagging you. Message me if you decide to participate! Will you be giving this bookish experiment a go? Would you like me to do some more of these challenges?


[edit: Since putting this post together, I have gone on to finish The Little Stranger and hollllllllly shit I loved it. Review to come, of course. I definitely want to attempt this challenge again!]

I TAG: 
Becky from Becky Bedbug
Sarah from Sarah's Chapter
Candice from candysomething


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Saturday, 27 August 2016

The Writer Tag

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I often get questions about writing and yet I don't really have a post dedicated to just that so I have attempted to compile a tag using your questions, my own, and others that I found on the internet, in the vain hope that it will prove to be useful. If you've got any further questions, fire them at me. If you'd like to do this tag yourself, feel free! 


1. what do you write? what genre? any reoccurring themes? 
I tend to write a little bit of most things - be it prose, poetry, flash fiction, creative non-fiction - and I like the freedom it affords me. At the moment, I'm on a poetry kick. 

I wouldn't say I stick to a genre, as such, but my work tends to be about very real things with a fantastical lean. Re-occurring themes/images are mental health, loving something or someone with your entire being, and space. 


2. WHAT OR WHO INSPIRES YOU to write? 
Inspiration seems to just hit me unexpectedly as opposed to being a thing that I know I can wake up via a person or a time of day or whatever. However, I am inspired by: the night sky, coastline, space travel, end of the world scenarios, botanical prints, Victorian categorization, and the contents of my own heart. 

3. where do you write, when and with what?
I write from anywhere, be it spread eagle on my bed, pen-to-paper in a supermarket carpark, finger-to-screen in a waiting room, or tapping away on my laptop. I would love to wax lyrical about an inspirational writing space that I adjourn to from early in the morning til late at night, where I use the same type of pen every day on the same type of paper, but that's not the case. I do, however, have a specific soft cover aquamarine Moleskine that I presently write in.

4.  sound or silence when writing? 
Sound, always. I think. I don't deal well with silence. I'm one of those people that will try to fill every silence they can find with sprawling anecdotes, little coughs or singing. I tend to pop on some music, usually something ambient, and just see where it takes me. Tycho's last couple of albums are usually my go-to's for writing.


5. HAVE YOU STUDIED WRITING? IF SO, WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? IF NOT, WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOU LEARNT YOUR CRAFT?
I have an undergraduate degree in English with Creative Writing. I, of course, don't feel as if you have to go to university to learn. Writing is a very personal craft and I think it's up to you as an individual to work out your own path. I did, however, really enjoy my degree and it gave me many tools to work with. It also helped my confidence and introduced me to whole new worlds of literature and creative thinking that I had never really considered before. It's not the easiest of things to study because writing, and what makes a piece of writing good, is very subjective but I'm glad I did it. 

 I shared some tips on studying a creative writing degree a while back so check that out if its of use to you. 


writer bloggers uk


6. what do your family / friends think? 
My little network are all very supportive of me and my writing. I don't think a lot of them actually read it, or if they do they feel a bit lost because they aren't particularly literary, but they are supportive of what I want to do and believe in me. Luke, however, often reads what I write and I find it really useful to have his perspective. 


7. what do you find challenging? 
I think finding a writing routine that works for me is one of the things that I find most challenging. As I said earlier, I don't have a Romantic set up when it comes to writing and it's not really something I'm looking for right now but I would like to have more of a structure. Maybe I will trial a new writing routine and bring you guys along for the ride...Eyes peeled, pals!

8. what's your favourite thing about writing?
Being able to read over something that I've written, particularly if I've struggled with the final edit, and feel proud of it and happy for it to then be shared with others. There's no better feeling. 


9. any tips for writers block?
Writer's block is rough. I have 3 things that I usually resort to when stuck: 

one. take time away from what I'm writing because pushing it does not help 
two. read lots, watch lots and immerse myself in as many other worlds as possible 
three. set myself the challenge of writing a page a day of poetry - no matter how awful - because it helps to get the brain ticking 

10. WHAT ARE YOUR LIFE-LONG WRITING GOALS? WHAT ARE YOUR WRITING GOALS FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR?
My life long goals are to have published a menagerie of things, from a children's book to a poetry collection. Rest of the year wise, I'm hoping to finish my poetry collection entitled Panacea



That hopefully covers everything! If you do, however, have any further questions regarding writing then do ask away and I will endeavor to respond with something vaguely helpful. And, of course, I tag anyone that wants to do this themselves.


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Wednesday, 24 August 2016

The Office: Top 10 Episodes

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The Office, US as opposed to UK, is my favourite TV show of all time and, as this is a space where I share my passions, I have decided to bin what little dignity I have left in order to dress as Prison Mike and share some of my favourite episodes with you. Spy the Prison Mike pin on my jacket from Heartificial

There are a lot of episodes that I would've liked to have mentioned on top of the ones that I have featured but I've restricted myself to the following 10. If your favourite isn't included, do tell me in the comments which ones you'd have shared and why! I've missed out some of the bigguns so I imagine a lot of you will be disgruntled! This post does contain spoilers as to what happens in the episodes that I've picked so do keep that in mind. And if you've yet to watch the show, make it your aim to watch it before the summer is through! It is so worth it.


stress relief s5
Dwight's too-releastic fire alarm gives Stanley a heart attack. When he returns, Michael learns that he is the cause of Stanley's stress. To remedy the situation, he forces the office to throw a roast for him.

Watch Stress Relief, I'm counting both parts as a whole, and tell me that it isn't the funniest episode of The Office of all time. Between the opening fire drill, Dwight wearing the face of the First Aid doll, and the Roast of Michael Scott, it is an absolute corker. I have absolutely no idea how the cast and crew filmed it without collapsing every single second. Despite this episode being five seasons in, I always recommend it to people wanting to introduce their friends / family to the show because it just encapsulates everything great about it. Altogether now, numma numma numma numma numma nuh, stayin alive, stayin alive!

MICHAEL SCOTT: 'Jim, you're 6'11", and you weight 90 pounds. Gumby has a better body than you. Boom. Roasted. Dwight, you're a kiss-ass. Boom. Roasted. Pam, you failed art school. Boom. Roasted. Meredith, you've slept with so many guys you're starting to look like one. Boom. Roasted. Kevin, I can't decide between a fat joke and dumb joke. Boom. Roasted. Creed, your teeth called, your breath stinks. Boom. Roasted. Angela, where's Angela? Well, there you are. I didn't see you behind that grain of rice. Boom. Roasted. Stanley, you crush your wife during sex and your heart sucks. Boom. Roasted...Oscar, you're gay...Andy, Cornell called. They think you suck and you're gayer than Oscar. Boom. Roasted'



the injury S2
Michael's "injury" from a George Foreman Grill distracts the staff from Dwight, the one with the real injury.

If ever there was an episode that explains everything you need to know about Michael Gary Scott, it is present right here. I can only applaud the writers for the ways in which they used Michael as a vessel to explore ignorant attitudes towards issues such as racism, ableism and mental health, across the show. Michael's lecture on what it is to be disabled after accidentally grilling his foot on a George Foreman Grill is just stunning. I could not love it more.


billy merchant: 'Hey everyone, I'm Billy Merchant, you may have seen me around here before, I'm the properties manager of this office park'  
MICHAEL SCOTT: 'You are so brave. You are so brave'
BILLY MERCHANT: 'Thank you. Actually, I've been meaning to come by here for a long time...'
MICHAEL SCOTT: 'But it's hard for you! Right? Because you're in a wheelchair. 
BILLY MERCHANT: 'No. I just have a lot of properties to manage'
MICHAEL SCOTT: 'Let me ask you something, how long does it take for you to do something simple, every day, like brush your teeth in the morning?'
 BILLY MERCHANT: 'I don't know, like 30 seconds?'
MICHAEL SCOTT: 'Oh my God, that's three times as long as it takes me' 


fun run S4
Michael accidentally runs over Meredith in the parking lot, and his guilt causes him to organise a 5k run for her. Dwight and Angela have a falling-out after he kills her cat, and Jam and Pam's relationship is discovered.

Everything goes on in Fun Run. Michael runs over Meredith, Dwight kills Sprinkles and everyone (well, nearly everyone) participates in Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race For The Cure. This episode is so silly and that's what I love about it. Also, it sees the beginning of Jam sooo...



MICHAEL SCOTT: 'You don't know me...You've just seen my penis'


the dundies S2
Very much unlike his staff, an overeager Michael can't wait for this year's annual Dundies awards.

The Dundies is such a heart warming episode, despite its ridiculousness, because it's where we start to realise how much Michael genuinely cares about his employees, and it's almost as much as he loves appropriating songs like Tiny Dancer. It's the first time we see Pam really seek out and stand up for her own happiness and that brings me to another of my favourite episodes...

pam beasley: 'I feel God in this Chilli's tonight...'


beach games  s3
Michael uses 'beach day' at Dunder Mifflin to find out which employee would be his most capable replacement, just in case he receives the promotion to the New York office that he's applied for.

I'm gonna try and not get on my soapbox here but I have a habit of doing so every time I watch this episode so I cannot make any promises. Ironically exempt from the day's tasks designed to find Michael's replacement, Pam really steps up in this episode and is the only employee that even remotely displays the qualities of a great leader. Up until this point, we've seen her be quite a passive figure. However, spurred on by the fire walk, we see Pam speak for her happiness and for the things that she wants in life and that's a huge thing for someone who is essentially in an abusive relationship. I cannot help but harp on about Beach Games. Sorry not sorry. 

kevin malone: 'I just wanna lie on the beach and eat hot dogs. That's all I've ever wanted'

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DIVERSITY DAY S1
Michael's off colour remark puts a sensitivity trainer in the office for a presentation, which prompts Michael to create his own.

Diversity Day is the first episode where the show really comes into its own as the pilot very much followed that of the UK version. It signals the kind of big topics that the writers wanted to discuss through the lens of a group of employees at a small paper company and it does so with perfect results. You get to see the cast begin to form the chemistry that drives the show and it still holds up as one of the funniest episodes for me.


KEVIN MALONE: '[In an Italian accent] ...maybe some spaghetti'


the convict S3
Michael learns that one of the new employees at Dunder Mifflin Scranton has a criminal record. Meanwhile, Jim helps Andy make a move on Pam. 

Michael will go to the ends of the earth to prove a point and the introduction of yet another of his alter egos, Prison Mike, further cements that idea. Great stuff.

michael scott: 'Close your eyes. Picture a convict. What's he wearing? Nothing special - baseball cap on backward, baggy pants. He says something ordinary like, "Yo, that's shizzle". Okay, now slowly open your eyes again. Who are you picturing? A black man? Wrong. That was a white woman. Suprised? Well, shame on you' 




drug testing | S2
Dwight plays the role of Volunteer Sherrif after finding half a joint in the parking lot leading to an investigation. 

An episode that asks us whether or not we find doing alcohol cool, Drug Testing isn't just about lighthearted humour. It comes with sobering warnings on the perils of drug abuse. May none of us ever forget that this year more parents will do cocaine than will read to their children...Haunting.

dwight schrute: ''Oscar visited Mexico when he was five to attend his great grandmother's funeral. What does that mean to a United States law enforcement officer? ...He's a potential drug mule'



safety training | S3
Andy returns to the office after weeks of anger management training, determined to make a fresh start with all the Dunder Mifflin employees. Meanwhile, it's safety training day in the office, and Michael and Dwight are on a mission to illuminate the dangers of the workplace.

In this episode, Michael prepares to jump from the top of Dunder Mifflin to prove that the office environment is just as dangerous as the warehouse. I just...can't.

MICHAEL SCOTT: 'Baler? I hardly know 'er'  


finale | S9
One year later, Dunder Mifflin employees past and present reunite for a panel discussion about the documentary and to attend Dwight and Angela's wedding.

So many television shows, particularly those with a long run, really struggle to end in a way that feels fulfilling for the viewer. The Office, in my opinion, ended in a pretty perfect way. It tied up loose ends, respected the context of not only ending the show but ending the documentary, and was well balanced in its humour and its warmth. A perfect end to a pretty perfect show. 

andy bernard: 'I wish there was a way to know you're in '"the good old days", before you've actually left them'.  


There are so many more episodes that I could have included and that's a testament to this show. It's stunning. What are your favourite episodes of The Office or, alternatively, what TV show would you recommend that I watch next? 


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