Weekly Round Up #7

Weekly Round Up #7 (08/09 – 14/09)

The week started with the Running Club 5 year anniversary. Which meant a nice sedate walk rather than a run, which suited me – my legs were still aching from the 7 miler the day before. We then ate some food and cake, and listened to a talk by one of the runners about the cycle they did round Australia. Which was really inspirational and interesting and somewhat upstaged by a dive-bombing beetle that decided to get tangled in Mum’s hair.

During the week, Taylor and I got started on our costumes for Comic Con next month. It’s only a small, local con, but we thought we’d have a go at making some outfits. We have absolutely zero talent when it comes to sewing, but some problem solving and logic skills between us. So, with two metres of brown and one metre of black leatherette, a roll of wallpaper and some chalk, we set about designing, prototyping and then making our outfits.

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Cutting strips of leatherette

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Taylor modelling the prototype

The wallpaper was really thick and cut to a really sharp edge, hence why Taylor is turning her head at a really funny angle in this picture – it kept slicing into her neck.

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The not yet finished bodice

So that’s where most of my energy has gone this week, and will probably go next week. We have to get the two armours finished before Taylor goes back to Uni next weekend. We’ve got the two bodices done and the skirt of Taylor’s designed, cut and pinned, if not sewn. So hopefully it’s just a case of cutting the pieces for mine and then spending several hours sewing through serious hand cramp to get them put together.

(There will be a full post of the design, how we made it and the finished product once the armour is fully made.)

Cover Lust #30 – Station Eleven

Cover Lust #30 – Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Station Eleven proof

Fran at House of Blog is running this as her monthly book club, and as soon as I saw it, I wanted to read it. I’m a bit of a sucker for these construction paper covers – the layering and the use of colour is simple, but works really really well to create a striking image.

The lamp overgrown with ivy, the deer juxtaposed against the cityscape – it sort of reminds me of the trailer for I Am Legend. Even before I read the synopsis and saw ‘end of the world’ that was definitely the vibe I was getting. The way the white foreground closes in around the background speaks of nature fighting back, and is strangely claustrophobic.

I also love the garish pink colour of the title. In an otherwise quite muted cover, the pink stands out really effectively. This would definitely catch my eye on a bookshelf.

What covers are you lusting after this week?

Review: Found by Harlan Coben

FoundTitle: Found

Author: Harlan Coben

Series: Mickey Bolitar #3

Genre: YA Crime

Summary (from Goodreads)

It’s been eight months since Mickey Bolitar witnessed the tragic death of his father.

Eight months of lies, dark secrets and unanswered questions.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, Mickey’s sophomore year of high school brings on a whole new set of troubles. Spoon is in hospital, Rachel won’t tell him where he stands, his basketball team-mates hate him . . . and then there’s Ema’s surprise announcement: she has an online boyfriend and he’s vanished.

Whilst searching for Ema’s missing boyfriend(who may not even exist!), Mickey gets roped into helping his nemesis, Troy Taylor, with a big problem.

All the while, Mickey and his friends are pulled deeper into the mysteries surrounding the Abeona Shelter – until the shocking climax, where Mickey finally comes face-to-face with the truth about his father.

Review

One of the things I like about this series is that it feels very authentically ‘teen.’ I’ve seen some reviews criticising that Mickey is basically a carbon copy of his uncle, Myron. I can’t comment on this, as I’ve never read any of Harlan Coben’s adult novels, but even if Mickey is a carbon copy – the themes explored in the story are very teenage.

While there’s the mystery of Ema’s missing boyfriend and a case of a failed steroids test, and the ongoing case of the Abeona Shelter and the work done by the mysterious Bat Lady, the story is much more to do with the struggle to find your identity – something I think many teens will really relate to.

Mickey wants a taste of what it’s like to be a part of a team, one of the lads. Ema struggles with the duality of online relationships – the intimacy of being able to talk without identity, but the knowledge that it could all be fake. And Spoon has to deal with the fallout of the previous novel, and the impact that has on who he is.

I really like the central trio’s changing relationships as well, particularly between Mickey and Ema, and the new role that Spoon has to play. Their interaction is awkward, self-centred at times, and just authentically teenaged. Their voices were so well done – even when the story strayed into cheese territory, I couldn’t help but love the characters. And to the story’s credit, it’s not afraid to show that bad things happen to people trying to do the right thing.

I’m not sure if this is intended to be the final instalment in a trilogy or just another in the series. Certainly things were wrapped up (a little cheesily) in a way that suggested an ending, but enough was left open that the potential is there for further instalments.

Either way, this was a really enjoyable read.

Rating: 4/5

 

5 Reasons I’m Glad I Missed Last Week’s List

Sometimes it’s hard not to drop the ball. Sometimes life gets in the way of things like scheduling blog posts. But though I wouldn’t mind having more chance to sit and update the blog and to feel more like I’m on top of things, I’m also glad for various reasons that things sometimes get a little out of hand. Here are those reasons:

1. I like to be busy

Being busy keeps things interesting. Although it can be frustrating at times to try and squeeze in a few minutes of writing time between the various different commitments I have, I love having lots of things going on in my life.

2. I like having a lot of opportunities to do things

I’m not the sort of person who spends four hours a day in front of the television. Not all the time anyway – on a lazy day I love watching lots of telly, but I can’t do it all the time. Recently I’ve played the main stage at a beer festival and run seven miles with some very fit (in more ways than one for some) army boys. It keeps things interesting and gives me plenty to talk about, and plenty to write about.

3. I like that my blog isn’t everything

As much as I love updating here, talking about my life and about books, it isn’t all consuming, and I like that I can feel relaxed about it. I think it’s important to get a good balance between virtual and ‘real’ life – otherwise both sides will end up being dull.

4. I like a certain degree of spontaneity

I’m not exactly the most spontaneous person in the world, but I like having the flexibility to do things without much notice – spend an unexpected evening with my family, go out for a drink. It eats into writing time, yes, but it’s good to have that freedom.

5. Even though I don’t always have the time to update, I still have a lot more time

I remember sometimes going for a month without updating the blog because things got so manic. So far I’ve been busy, but I’m busy doing extra things that I wouldn’t have been doing in my old job. I’m filling my time by taking on more stuff. And I still mostly have time to keep up to date with things here – I’ve not missed more than a couple of posts in a week, and I’ve got plenty to write about because I’m doing loads of stuff.

Themes in Fiction #12 – Chaos and Order

Picture by Sebastien Wiertz

Picture by Sebastien Wiertz

“According to the philosopher, Ly Tin Wheedle, chaos is found in greatest abundance wherever order is being sought. It always defeats order, because it is better organised.” ~ Terry Pratchett

About

Order and Chaos are a little like good and evil, only less clear cut. One is usually posed as fighting against the other, but there are usually arguments on both sides that seem ‘right.’ The ‘bad guys’ in Order vs Chaos stories are usually doing things for good reasons, though they may have at some point strayed from the righteous path somewhat. Therefore, the theme of Order and Chaos often poses difficult moral questions about the need for balance between the two. How much freedom to do what you choose is too much? And when does control over the populace stop being for the ‘greater good’ and become about power?

Examples

Delirium by Lauren Oliverdelirium

In which love represents the great chaos that the government is trying to control. Love makes people do crazy, unpredictable things. Love overrides common sense and lawfulness. So the government of a future America creates a cure for love.

But is it better to live without it? Does the sort of life you lead without love make things better? Or without love is life not worth living at all? Oliver’s trilogy explores all these questions, and doesn’t pose any easy answers. While the narrative does suggest that Love should ultimately be the choice, even though it comes with a load of problems, it’s the exploration of those problems that makes this a powerful tale. You can see the arguments from both perspectives, and it’s surprisingly difficult to chose between them.

the cat in the hatThe Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

In this classic children’s tale, the titular Cat represents Chaos. He comes into the children’s lives on a boring, rainy day and proceeds to make all sorts of mess and chaos, playing dangerous tricks on the poor fish.

Again, there’s no clear cut right and wrong here. While the Cat is a problem, and does make a mess, he’s funny and brightens up the day for the children. Without him, they would have had nothing to do. Order is returned in time for their mother to come home to a house as she left it, but it’s the Cat who tidies away the mess he made, eliminating the chaos he caused.

Everything Is AwesomeThe_Lego_Movie_poster

It’s hard to talk about Order and Chaos without discussing the runaway hit The Lego Movie. In the film, the evil Lord Business wants everything to be perfectly ordered – following the instructions to the letter. To make things this way, he superglues all the pieces together and has his townspeople destroy everything creative and unique, replacing them with uniform buildings. It’s an example of how Order – usually perceived to be good – can go much too far.

Without going into overt spoilers, the reason for Lord Business’s behaviour is explained, and in a touching finale is persuaded that a little bit of chaos can be good. Once again, there’s no clear cut here – order is shown to be good in that everything looks good and runs smoothly, but it’s boring, and a bit of chaotic creativity is needed to make things fun.

Weekly Round Up #6

Weekly Round Up #6 (01/09 – 07/09)

Despite barely being able to walk on Monday, I decided it would be a really good idea if I went on a trail run with my mum and the running club. It was lovely, and to be fair, did do my leg a lot of good (after the first mile when I honestly considered sitting in the middle of the road crying, waiting for a car to run me over).

The Boyfriend told us we wouldn’t need our trail shoes, so I didn’t wear my shiny new trail shoes. Which meant I was up to my ankles in mud in my normal running shoes… Okay, it wasn’t quite that bad. But I did poke fun at the Boyfriend for his misunderstanding of the email we’d been sent. Unfortunately, he can run a lot faster than me, so I’m not sure it really sank in.

Afterwards, we had chip butties. These went down incredibly well.

On wednesday I did try out my trail shoes, very briefly. My leg was still killing me, making me slightly concerned for sunday’s seven mile multi-terrain race. Trail shoes were very comfortable though!

On saturday, I made the most of my new, lighter schedule to go to a local beer fest. Taylor works at the farm that hosted it, and she’d been asked to play some acoustic sets in-between the main acts, so she invited me along to sing with her and we got Mr T and Mum in on our guest passes. The guest passes included a strip of beer tokens which – given that Taylor and I don’t really drink beer and Mr T was driving – Mum got a lot of joy out of.

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Our cute little acoustic stage

We were all set to play on our tiny acoustic stage when they bumped us up to the main stage because one of the acts hadn’t turned up. We were very underprepared (acoustic is VERY different to main stage amped up) but we winged it and I think people enjoyed!

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The slightly more intimidating ‘Main’ stage

On Sunday, we set off early for the seven mile multi-terrain run. I wasn’t nervous, because I knew I could walk seven miles. Running would be hard, but if I had to stop, I’d have to stop (I had to stop a LOT). What I didn’t anticipate was that Mum and I would be the most rubbish runners there – her slightly ahead of me!

I don’t say this to be a downer on myself. I am a better runner than a huge majority of people because I do it. But in the running community, Mum and I are always happy volunteers to be ‘back markers.’ It’s become something of a running joke.

There are usually some people who struggle more than us at events. There are usually people entering who don’t run regularly or who are doing it for the first time, or even are planning on walking. I’ve come 29th out of 32 in a ParkRun before, but in a field that small, I felt this was quite an achievement!

I don’t know if it was the prospect of running seven miles, multi terrain (multi terrain is MUCH harder than road running) or if the thought of being shown up by all the army boys put people off, but there was no one there who was worse than me. So I knew I’d be coming last. I made a slightly hungover Mum promise not to leave me behind!

The race was amazing. A really challenging course, with plenty of scaling what felt like cliff-faces (which were a welcome break, as you had to clamber, not run up them). Somehow the Boyfriend managed to do it in less than an hour, despite declaring in the morning that he didn’t feel well. He came in just ahead of the first woman, which made me laugh – they were apparently calling ‘First Woman!’ as he crossed the line!

He came back for me at the end, running about another mile on top of what he’d already done. I didn’t much appreciate his encouragement at the time (on account of feeling like I was dying) but I do always love that he comes back to make sure I get over the line. His support keeps me going, as much as I want to punch him at the time.

The entire field of runners was waiting for us to finish. I would have maybe been embarrassed if I’d had the mental capacity to think about anything bar putting one foot in front of the other. I couldn’t breathe – my throat was so tight I was squeaking every time I tried to take a breath – and I would have been crying had there been enough liquid in me to generate tears. Hugely emotional, and feeling so proud to have accomplished so much, I crossed the line. Last place.

Last place has never felt better!

Cover Lust #29 – Lies We Tell Ourselves

Lies We Tell Ourselves by Robin Talley

lies we tell ourselves

This cover is GORGEOUS. Hats off to whoever designed this, it’s one of the best covers I’ve seen in ages.

You can probably guess from that rather evocative tagline that this is a book about an interracial lesbian relationship during the civil rights movement. Talk about juicy conflict.

I love how both girls are in silhouette so it’s impossible to tell which is which – a reference to the fact that we are all the same underneath? And does it deliberately echo all the covers of books about Africa? A hint of the culture clash and the division of that time? Either way, I really love the dramatic orange of the sky and the contrast of the solid black cutout of the foreground.

I’m really glad I got sent a copy of this for review – I have a feeling it’s going to be incredible.

What covers are you lusting after this week?