Young Adult Fiction

Recently, I got into a debate about why I read Young Adult fiction (on account of not being a young adult, apparently). I’ve been thinking about this a lot since, trying to come up with a comprehensive argument. But I don’t need to argue, I just need to explain. And the best way? Eleanor and Park.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell; 2013

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell; 2013

I’ve had my eye on this one for a while and recently went for it. Best decision ever. This book is beautiful. It’s love, but not as you know it. It’s young and raw with a truth that I believe you can only find in young adult fiction. Good young adult fiction. Written by those who can find a teenage voice and make it real. It’s about, as they often are, a boy and a girl falling in love and finding out who they are. I’ve written a few versions of this post, and most tried to explain how formative truly excellent young adult fiction can be, the books that I’ve had for years and years, that I turn to when I need comfort or direction (and that’s become another post entirely). The stumbling block, was trying to explain why I still read them. Because that was at the crux of my discussion – why read something not targeted to you (me)? I read them because they remind me of being 14, 15, 16…, because the strength of feeling can be overwhelming as it can be now at 27 but which isn’t articulated in “adult” fiction (not sure how to phrase that without implying I’m writing about Fifty Shades of Grey), because they make me feel the way my favourite songs do – in touch, thoughtful, ready, emotional, free, willing and able. They speak of possibility, of the fact that bad things happen to good people. Because no parent should bury their child. And I am not yet a parent, but I have been a child. We have all been children and we can all relate from that direction.

Read Eleanor and Park.

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Excellent Things

I don’t get to indulge in many fancy hair products, on account of having a troublesome scalp which more often than not requires steroid-based potions to keep it under control. I do like to have a fling with new brands now and then; I’ve been quite attached to Charles Worthington, John Frieda, all the usual suspects. Recently though, I’ve been losing the battle against my skin and anything that wasn’t medicated irritated my head, and all the prescribed concoctions made my hair smell funny. Pretty fed up, I fancied a shampoo/conditioner-shaped treat and picked up the NAKED products in Boots.

BUY THESE. They will do wonderful things to your hair. The specific products I have are this shampoo and this conditioner. The shampoo smells of neroli, the same scent from lots of my decleor products. So whenever I shampoo my hair I get a whiff of spa treatments. And the conditioner! Try the conditioner. It is so silky. It smells faintly of olive oil (in a good way, not a weird way). It makes me so happy. Also, they don’t use lots of chemicals and like rabbits, or something.

To conclude:

Excellent Things

1. NAKED hair products

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Projects and Productivity

I’ve undertaken a few projects recently. It feels like I’ve been surrounded by people who have heard of someone who tries to learn a new skill every year. Everyone’s doing it. I don’t have such ambitions but I have been doing something productive with my evenings of late.

Firstly, I’ve taken up yoga. Actually, this should sit in 2013’s camp. I started sometime last Spring and went somewhat haphazardly for a while. Then we moved and I got more into it, until I found myself slightly uptight the week or so before the wedding because I couldn’t fit a yoga practice in. See, it’s kind of taken over my life. I rave about it to people who’ll listen, have lovely little yoga chats with a similarly inclined colleague and make myself go when I really, really don’t want to leave the house. When I definitely wouldn’t be motivated to go the gym – I’ll go to yoga. It’s good for my strength, my health and my sanity.

Interested? I go to yoga classes with Laura Fisher – she’s fabulous:  www.laurafisheryoga.com

Then I made a blanket. See:

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I can’t remember why I started, to be honest. I had a kit for making hand warmers but I’d never got further than taking it out the box and throwing it aside when I couldn’t decipher the instructions. I used to be able to knit many moons ago and decided to re-teach myself. I told a friend at work (incidentally the same yoga colleague mentioned up-post; she’s like my yoga/knitting guru) and she helped me see that my tiny needles and thin yarn was making the process challenging. Also that I needed a proper project. We went to a lovely, quirky little knitting shop / house and I chose some colours for making a blanket for my new niece. And so it started. I knitted at work, on the train, at home, in the evenings, over Christmas. I lost motivation a bit in January when I got annoyed with a miscalculation of wool. My yoga/knitting guru encouraged me onwards, took me to buy needles/yarn to join the squares together and Step 2 commenced. On the home stretch I got excited, I persevered, I got a bit precious, I got David involved, and I finished the blanket. Project started: December. Blanket gifted: February. To be honest, it was hard to part with.

Technically, the knitting was a 2013 project too. 2014 has only really just begun and I’m already caning the new skills theory. February = skiing AND learning German. Skiing was slightly accidental, in that we went to Switzerland for much needed rest and respite and for David to get back on some skis after 7 years. I was to sit around reading and drinking hot chocolate. Somehow I found myself with skis attached to my feet.

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I’d like to think I was mostly fearless, partly frustrated, and better at it than anyone expected. I was pretty jealous of all the small children surrounding me flying down slopes with no need for control because their parents would catch them, and the fact that I wasn’t amazing straight away. But I think I can do much better next time. YAY for skiing and more importantly, how absolutely beautiful Switzerland is at that time of year. I fell in love all over again.

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View of Zurich lake from a cute park in Thalwil

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Zug at sunset

And my latest obsession? Rosetta Stone. It’s a subject of conversation in the office (as my access is provided through a training initiative at work). We’re all getting carried away, sitting there for hours on end clicking through, marvelling when we realise we’ve learnt something without evening realising; without taking notes or sitting in a classroom. I am attempting German from scratch to assist with the Swiss visits and am finding myself eager to get home and crack on. I’d do it in my lunch hour if I thought I could get away with shouting the German for “a white cat” into a headset.

I know for lots of the people I’ve spoken to this “learn something new” ambition stems from wanting to feel they’ve achieved something, pushed themselves, got the most out of life, can chart time in terms of skills learnt. For me, I just like doing.

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“Yay for commuting and the time to read my Elk book”

You know you’re reading a good ‘un when you can’t wait to get on a train. Since my last post, the constant consumption of books continued. Obviously caring about wedding shoes and envelopes and such as so forth has finished. Mostly, I’ve needed something to do with my time. Also I’ve taken to the train for my daily commute and nothing gets me through it like a good book. I keep raving about you must read this and that and the other so I thought I’d do another snap shot of my “just read” list.

Picture me Gone – Meg Rosoff

YA. I forgot this was Meg Rosoff pretty quickly. That’s not a bad thing, or a good thing, either. I really like Meg Rosoff. It was just more of a straightforward story than her others. It still had the depth of feeling I appreciate and a strong teenage lead. I really enjoyed it and got pretty absorbed. 

The Circle – Dave Eggers

I avoided this for a while; it’s pretty well known I’m an avid fan so you wouldn’t expect me to be reticent but I read a few less than wonderful reviews and it made me a bit nervous. But I did enjoy it, and I got into it. It was a fascinating look into a future ruled by a technological giant (*cough* Google *cough*) and that side of it was fascinating. I even liked Mae and her kayak to start with. But I felt that at times the characters didn’t react realistically (i.e., as you would expect given how Eggers’ had developed them) in order to further the story and the conclusion of the story. Bad, Eggers! That’s not the way it works! Still, it was worth a read for the premise alone.

Love, Nina – Nina Stibbe

LOVED THIS. Love how she wrote, loved the stories, loved the unfettered glimpse into the literary 80s. 

Here’s Looking at You – Mhairi McFarlane

Good chick lit. Almost sounds like a criticism, or a reduction of its achievement. It’s not, it’s just the best way to describe it. When so much of the genre is kind of okay, consumable, this is a gem. I read it on the back of how much I enjoyed another by McFarlane (You Had Me at Hello), and this was close to as good. If you like “good chick lit”, give this a go.

The Deception Artist – Fayette Fox

I read this while on honeymoon, a fair while ago now. It was a super absorbing story (not that I spent my honeymoon reading, but we did do 1200 miles…)  about a little girl with a vivid imagination. Joined my “read this” list that I trot out when asked for my latest recommendations.

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? – Maria Semple

Quirky. 

May We Be Forgiven – A. M. Holmes

Excellent.

The Last Letter from your Lover – Jojo Moyes

Too sad. (Not like, too sad in a good way, you know, the ones you enjoy sobbing all the way through, just TOO SAD. I got to the end and I was sad and I didn’t like it.)

Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Ann Fowler

Wonderful. I’ll elaborate for this one. If you’re a fan of Fitzgerald or the 20s or books or people you should read this. I loved it. I wasn’t sure how I’d take to the novelization of the life of the Fitzgerald’s but it works really well and inspired me to want to read more – fiction and nonfiction. I’m keen to give Mrs Hemingway a go now (out now, by Naomi Wood who, by the way, tweeted me about it when I expressed my wavering over whether I’ll love it as much as Z…especially given Hemingway doesn’t come out of that particularly well. I’ve decided to give it a shot.)

Frances and Bernard – Carlene Bauer

Fun, letter-format book about the relationship between Frances and Bernard. I enjoyed it, but I’m not sure the styling (beautiful cover (I have the hardback) and fun typewriter typography) was matched by the content. As with books like this, where the exchange of letters forms the narrative, you can’t help but get swept along. And who doesn’t love a love story? Especially a complicated one.

 

Okay. I’m done. Next time: the “Elk book” (which I got very carried away telling everyone at work about today (led to some slightly weird conversations and the circulation of the picture of a baby elk)).

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If in doubt, read.

I’ve been voraciously reading lately. When not obsessing about shoes or envelopes or other such wedding-related things, there have been books. Here’s my reviews of books I’ve read in the past month:

The Rosie Project – Graeme Simsion

I think I’d built this up a bit too much. I spent a while looking at it before I decided I deserved a shiny new hardback in my life. It was good. I got more involved than I expected. Bit short, maybe.

The Old Man and the Sea – Hemingway

Hemingway makes me happy. I love this story. David read it! You should read it, too.

The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro

I’ve been battling through this one for a while now. Not because it’s hard to read, it’s not, but maybe I wasn’t particularly invested. Something clicked nearer the end and I couldn’t put it down, but I’d like to read it again and concentrate. It reminded me of something else I’ve read, but I couldn’t tell you what. Annoyingly.

Instructions for a Heatwave – Maggie O’Farrell

I really enjoy Maggie O’Farrell. If you do too, you’ll love this. If you don’t I’m not sure. I just really get in to the descriptions and the relationships and the feel of it.

The Wedding Night – Sophie Kinsella

Good work, Sophie Kinsella. If you know me, you’ll know I love ‘good chic lit’. I mean, I consume it all regardless (and some of it’s really bad) but I rave about my favourites. Sophie Kinsella is a good egg and this was enjoyable – probably enhanced because of its relevance!

Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy

Another one that’s taken a while. I’ve been reading it concurrently with The Remains of the Day but I got there eventually and loved it.

The Accidental Husband – Jane Green

Probably the most awful thing I’ve read in a very long time. I turned down pages of the particularly awful passages but failed to take pictures of them to share before I returned it to the library. There was no subtly. It’s all ‘they embraced, she was sad’. So. Bad. I tried to write in a similar style to illustrate my point, but my passages all seemed quite heartfelt.

Paper Towns – John Green

Picked out because it was written by the author of The Fault in our Stars which was amazing. This one was good – story stays with you and while it’s not always subtle (I think teenagers are hard though – maybe they aren’t written melodramatic to be unsubtle but because teenagers are melodramatic) it still draws you in. I’ve got more John Green on reserve.

I continue to consume books.

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When did you last go to the cinema?

How often do you go to the cinema? Have you counted down to a release date? When did you last take a trip down to Blockbuster? Ever leave torrents downloading overnight because of a shoddy internet connection?

I’ve got caught up in a few discussions about cinema recently and blustered my way through, but now I’ve decided it’s about time I wrote about it. Personally, I believe people either love films or like them. Enjoy a trip to Odeon once in a while but don’t mind waiting for the DVD  or planning which film to see when and where weeks in advance? I’m definitely in the latter. I can’t see everything, time and money just won’t allow, but then I’m ridiculously luckily to have a plain magnolia wall and an epic projector to make my very own cinematic experience.

The thoughts and conversations I’ve been having mostly centre around cost and value. Worth. What is going to the cinema worth? Orange Wednesday anyone? Who’s going to the cinema on the other days of the week? Are they really paying £10 a go?

Last Wednesday David and I headed to our local Odeon to watch Skyfall. Which, by the way, has one of the best opening credit sequences I’ve ever seen. It is BEAUTIFUL. Anyway, off we went. David had nipped in straight from work to buy tickets, knowing full well how busy it gets down there. And it was. SO. BUSY. I’d guess the queue snaking around the dividers, out of the entrance area and back around meant around an hours wait. We breezed through avec tickets when I decided, rarely for me, that I needed a coke to keep me going. I’m one of those who’ll smuggle in my popcorn to avoid the prices but I was shattered and wanted some sugar-caffeine mix. The queues were, again, ridiculous. People were fractious, servers were slow, time was ticking on, I WAS GOING TO MISS THE TRAILERS (the “best” bit).

As (finally) we walked into the cinema, took our place in our seats and watched the obligatory DON’T FILM THIS MOVIE IT’S BAD messages I couldn’t help wondering whether they thought the kind of experience we were having was really the way to elevate film-going to the kind of “it’s about the EXPERIENCE” status that these anti-piracy warnings alude to. Quite frankly, these big, cattle-market-esque cinemas are shooting themselves in the foot. I left having enjoyed the film, but thinking that the only way for cinema-going to survive is in the small, independent cinemas we usually go to. If at all possible, we visit Harbour Lights Picturehouse. It’s smaller, comfy, relaxed, serves nice wine. Or, if it’s a real treat, the Everyman in Winchester with extortionately priced cashews.

A friend’s argument was that we should all stop going, boycott the cinemas until they have to reduce their prices. But surely the prices are so inflated because fewer people are paying for the privilege of watching a film on the big screen. It’s easier to steal, or download, and watch at home on our fancy tellies. But I do still LOVE the cinema. But I think if it’s going to cost that much, you need to be getting more. No muppets who end up getting thrown out in The Dark Knight Rises for bringing a grumbly todddler, or the couple who took it in turns to take their babe in arms out during a late night showing of Super 8, or the couple of girls who spent the entirety of The Descendants on facebook, once pausing to ask who George Clooney is. On that note, why are they paying for the experience?!

 

[Lord knows why I didn’t publish this when I wrote it, way back in November 2012. Anyway, it’s here now.]

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It’s 2013!

Oh my word. It’s 2013. It’s over a year since I posted anything. I honestly do not know how that happened. I mean, I do, I just… don’t. For a while, I lost interest. The cake thing wasn’t happening, life was. Yadda yadda. Then things got a small amount of crazy and now it’s 122 days until I get married. EEK. I have funny / ridiculous / crazy stories galore. Sometimes I think wedding planning is making me go slightly mad. Then I think it might be the new job / wedding / moving flats combination. Then I remember something else that I need to do and start thinking about THE LISTS instead. So many lists. I have the MOST AMAZING wedding spreadsheet. Honestly, I feel like I should pass it on to someone when I’m done. The beautiful wedding planning folder I bought is… I was going to say lying forlornly on a bookshelf, but it isn’t, because we just moved (which I totally remember doing), so it’s in a box somewhere. Anyway, it’s sad and empty. Spreadsheets are the way forward.

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