Saturday 31 December 2011

Six months of blogging in 2011

I can't believe that it's already the last day of 2011! This year sure has sped by pretty fast. It's hard to believe that I've managed to fulfil six whole months of prosperous blogging, too. At the beginning of the year, I had a completely different blog which covered more general things – life, sports, films – you name it. Needless to say it never got very many followers and so I forgot about posting. But a few months later, I had a brain wave; what about books? I'm studying English lit anyway, and blogging about them will give me even more incentive to read, maybe even improve my writing skills.

Six months and 250+ followers on, my blog is still going strong. I never thought that I would stick to this for that long as I've been, ahem, known for giving up on things in the past quite easily. But I honestly think committing to this blog has helped my life in so many ways. During the times when I haven't been able to post as frequently due to university work and so forth, I've definitely felt deprived! This has turned into a healthy outlet for me to grow as a person. A great sign that I've finally stumbled onto something that can happily stay in my life for years to come!

It's also been amazing to meet so many like-minded bloggers, authors, publishers and friends to share my time and passion for blogging and for books with. I hope 2012 is equally prosperous and lucky for all of us. Here's to another six months and beyond!

Thursday 29 December 2011

Review: An Idiot Abroad by Karl Pilkington

Presenting the Travel Diaries of Karl Pilkington: Adventurer. Philosopher. Idiot. Karl Pilkington isn't keen on travelling. Given the choice, he'll go on holiday to Devon or Wales or, at a push, eat English food on a package holiday in Majorca. Which isn't exactly Michael Palin, is it? So what happened when he was convinced by Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant to go on an epic adventure to see the Seven Wonders of the World? Travel broadens the mind, right? You'd think so. Find out in Karl Pilkington's hilarious travel diaries.
'He is a moron. A completely round, empty-headed, part-chimp Manc.' RICKY GERVAIS
'He'd have been happier in medieval times in a village where you didn't travel beyond the local community.' STEPHEN MERCHANT (via

I started watching An Idiot Abroad only about a month ago after catching the repeat of the Taj Mahal episode on Sky. When it first aired, it didn't appeal to me at all – who wants to see an idiotic, narrow minded person go around the world and basically insult everything? Oh, but I couldn't have been more wrong! Yup Karl is an idiot, but he's also completely hilarious and will try almost anything (that isn't bungee jumping of course!) Much to his own chagrin, he gets involved in everything and is honest to everybody. Sometimes I have a hard time believing what he says isn't scripted because it's so offbeat, but apparently it's all just him. I love it!

The book is supposed to be Karl's travel diaries that he wrote as he stumbled across the world under the influence of Ricky and Steve's directions. It does recycle some things he says on the show, but there are quite a lot of new anecdotes in here as well including behind-the-scenes stuff. I don't think I've laughed quite as hard reading a book before! All of his deadpan humour is represented so well. In fact, I've bookmarked some of the pages I found most entertaining. Here's something of Karl's that had me rolling over with laughter:
'I had some toast and a bit of papaya. This was the first time I'd ever eaten papaya. It was okay, but if someone told me I'd never eat papaya ever again, I wouldn't be bothered. I feel like this about most fruit. There is too much fruit in the world, and I don't like buying a lot of it, as it goes off so quickly. Maybe that's why we're told to eat five portions a day, just to get through the stuff before it turns mouldy.'
Classic Karl philosophy! Ha.

I very much enjoyed this book. Though, saying that, it wasn't perfect. There were a few bits that upset me – like when he described people eating guinea pigs, frogs, and so forth. Oh, and especially the Chinese 'delicacies'. No offense intended to anyone reading this, but coming from the UK and being a big animal lover, I just don't agree with how animals are treated/slaughtered/eaten in these countries. But, apart from that, this book was a complete riot. If you watch An Idiot Abroad, you'll want to read this gem!

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Wednesday 21 December 2011

Watch the trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey!

The first trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is finally here! How exciting is this?! Oh, if only I had a time machine – I could go and watch this film now! I can't wait to see it in all its Middle Earth glory!

What do you think? Are you squeeing with anticipation like me?! I don't think I've ever been this excited about a film before!

Also remember to check out the newly launched official website – you can download the trailer and some fabulous desktop wallpaper.

Later, Hobbitses!

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Review: Carry On, Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse

There seems to be little Bertie Wooster can do without the help of Jeeves these days. Formidable aunts, unbidden guests, and other headaches are small potatoes for the ever-resourceful Jeeves. Here is another heavenly dose of humor and intrigue from "the greatest comic writer ever" (Douglas Adams). (via Goodreads)

When I bought this book, I was under the mistaken impression that it was the first in the Jeeves series; only because the description at the back of my copy begins by saying 'These marvellous stories introduce us to Jeeves...'. But, apparently, it's the third book. Slightly bewildered me, but nevertheless it hasn't mattered a great deal as the book is pretty easy to follow.

Carry On, Jeeves is actually a collection of humourous short stories, the majority of which are narrated by Bertram Wooster who is the employer of Mr Jeeves. In each story, he tells the reader about an unfortunate situation himself or his friends have gotten themselves into and how Jeeves craftily attends to them in said situations.

For the most part, I enjoyed these stories. I loved the way they're written – it's very posh 1920's sort of English, and Wooster is always using these funny words and phrases that I guess have become somewhat trademark/stereotypical over the years. I'm talking about this kind of thing:
'"Ripping! I'll be toddling up, then. Toodle-oo, Bertie, old man. See you later."
        "Pip-pip, Bicky, dear boy."'
Now, you may remember that I reviewed Alexander McCall Smith's novel The Dog Who Came In From The Cold, and commented about how I disliked the inauthentic, forced, pretentious way it was written. The thing about that was, though, that it was a novel set in the 21st century, not the 1920's like Carry On, Jeeves. But P.G. Wodehouse, of course, wrote these books in the 1920's and that's part of what makes it work. Plus, the way he writes is so charming and light that you can't help but enjoy it. But now that I look back on McCall Smith's novel, it appears that he was trying to attempt to replicate Wodehouse's attractive narrative, but with little success.

Anyway, you see my point. Though I thought that the plots of the short stories in Carry On, Jeeves had a few too many recurring themes to keep me entirely without boredom (most of them include exasperating wealthy aunts), there were quite a few pages that had me laughing out loud. So, if you want a warm, entertaining and classy read, these Jeeves books will probably be right up your street!

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Short Stories on Wednesdays – #3

Short Stories on Wednesdays is a weekly event hosted by Risa over at Breadcrumb Reads, where the aim is to read at least one short story a week.

I've read a few short stories this week, a couple of them being from PG Wodehouse's Carry On Jeeves, one by Ernest Hemingway which is so short it's perplexing, and one by Romesh Gunesekera. I'll take a raincheck on discussing the stories I've read by PG Wodehouse as they're part of a collection that I'm reviewing as a whole this week, so I will focus on enlightening you about the others.

In my first SSOW post, I told you about a couple of short stories by Thomas Bernard which are both just a paragraph in length. Well, would you believe that I've found something even shorter? Here it is:

Baby shoes by Ernest Hemingway
For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn.

And oh yes, it is indeed considered a short story according to my university course! Crazy, huh? I think that might possibly win the award for the shortest ever! To me, it seems more like a poem or just some kind of tiny part of a larger novel, instead of a story that stands all on its own. But it certainly is intriguing – there are so many possibilities within those six words if you think about it. For instance, whose baby shoes were they? Why were they never worn? Did something happen to the baby? Our imaginations can tell us that.

The other short story I read is more regular, and is called Storm Petrel by Romesh Gunesekera. It's about two friends from Sri Lanka who are both living in London. In May 1983 they bump into each other on the street and engage in a conversation about their homeland, with one of the men revealing that he's just returned from a visit and noticed many 'positive' changes to their country. It's a pretty thought-provoking piece which notes the development of things such as tourism, economy and quality of life. The real punch comes at the end, however, when the narrator reveals that all this promise washed away a few months after this conversation with the start of a civil war.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find the full version of the story anywhere online for you guys to read; only a preview of it on Google Books (scroll down a few pages to find it – it's part of a collection of several other short stories by Romesh Gunesekera called Monkfish Moon).

So some interesting pieces this week. Hopefully I'll be back next Wednesday with more short stories! :-)

Monday 12 December 2011

The demise of the big bad corporate bookstore?

I'm halfway back, everyone! I still haven't had much time to read, in fact I probably have even less now than last week, but here I am. ;-)

Anyway, back to business. I wanted to ask you all where you purchase the bulk of your books from? Do you buy them at a discounted price on websites like Amazon, do you prefer secondhand, or can you afford to pay full price for them frequently? Or are you a dedicated eBook buyer? Sometimes I wonder how big corporate bookstores like Waterstones and Barnes & Noble can keep going with so many competitors out there providing cheaper and, in the case of eBooks quicker, alternatives. A friend of mine told me that Waterstones is actually in some trouble at the moment due to falling sales, which may have something to do with them discontinuing the 3 for 2 deals and offering things like 25% off selected titles instead.

But is that even enough? Take my visit today, for instance. I was in Waterstones and saw An Idiot Abroad by Karl Pilkington had 25% off retail price, so I was seriously considering getting it. But then I thought, wait a minute – there's an Oxfam bookshop just a few doors down – what if they have it there? And you know what, they did and it was only £2! Yes, it's a used copy, but what a saving right? That's the thing – Waterstones don't offer any secondhand books, unlike charity shops and most independent bookstores, and this could be one more dagger the way I see it. Hell, even Amazon are starting to offer secondhand books now. There used to be a time when I'd say, 'forget it – I'll just pay full price', but what I tend to do now is try to convince myself otherwise, and I usually end up taking down the title and author of the book and looking it up online. I don't have the money to pay £9 for one copy now. Well, unless my impatience takes hold and I decide need it right away!

Then there are eBooks. Personally, I'm not a big lover of eBooks – I love cover art and the feel of paper in my hands, so I think I'm always going to be a paperback/hardback girl, but it's no secret that this market is growing in popularity. They're even selling eReaders in Waterstones now, which I find a little hard to understand. Why have eReaders in amongst all the shiny paper copies if you want people to focus on buying the latter? All I can see that doing is distracting.

What do you think? Will you continue buying books for full price, are you a secondhand purchaser or an eBook lover? Or what about getting loans from the library? I just think stores like Waterstones are becoming redundant, especially in the current economic climate. Don't get me wrong, I love browsing these big bookstores – all their different floors and neatly arranged shelves, their sofas and coffee shops. But, unfortunately for them, I'm finding myself feeling much less inclined to pay full retail price these days.

Sunday 4 December 2011

Where for art ...I?!

Apologies for not updating my blog in a while! It's been an unbelievably busy week because of assignments, and it's not going to calm down for at least another one. I have two week's worth of studying to squeeze into one week now, due to having neglected one of my courses completely to focus on this assignment. So, as you can guess, I haven't had time to do much leisurely reading, either. Hopefully I'll be back to my regular blogging schedule a week tomorrow when I've caught up with everything, and have some reviews in tow! See you soon, everyone! :-))