Believe it or not I do stuff other than read (well occasionally) so I thought it would be fun to start doing a post on all of the non book things I’ve been loving. I also spotted a similar post over on Kristin Kraves Books so decided to copy her idea and do a monthly non book wrap up 🙂 It was originally going to be non bookish stuff I’ve been loving but you’ll probably see pretty quickly that a lot of these do seem to have a bit of a book connection somewhere. Read More »
I have to confess that I mostly read Christmas themed books in the summer rather than during the festive period (I’m usually sick of it all by the time it actually arrives….bah humbug) but as it’s Christmas Eve Eve I thought it might be nice to post a list of some of my favorite Christmas reads.
These are books that are full of Festive spirit (no not eggnog) and just make me laugh and smile. So here we go…
My Christmas Book Recommendations
Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan (My Review)
I only read this for the first time last year but I think it’s possibly my all time favorite Christmas read. I swear I ended up highlighting about half the book. It’s about a boy (Dash) who finds a notebook left by a girl (Lily) in a bookstore daring whoever finds it to undertake a series of tasks. On completing the dare the boy returns the book with a dare for Lily and so begins a series of adventures across New York for both of them as they pass the notebook back and forward.
This is such a brilliant story. It’s hilariously funny (don’t read in public), super Christmassy and just so, so cute. There is a sequel, The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily, which is not quite as good but still worth a read.
What Light by Jay Asher (My Review)
This doesn’t have the impact of Asher’s more famous book 13 Reasons Why but as far as YA Christmas romances go it’s very well done. Unusually for a YA read the main character is not boy mad, is sensible, mature and has a wonderful relationship with her parents. She doesn’t want a boy to drag her down and at the first sign of trouble is willing to bail.
She’s a good girl who gets involved with a boy with a bad reputation but she goes in with her eyes wide open and trusts her own instincts rather than believing every rumor. This probably isn’t as much of a happy cheery read as some of the others on this list but it is candy cane sweet and packed full of the festive spirit.
My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins (My Review)
Let’s face it things can be a bit hectic at Christmas with all of the shopping and cleaning, spending time with family and friends and just generally falling into some kind of food coma after eating too much. This collection of twelve YA Christmas themed short stories is perfect for when you want to read but can’t find much more than a few minutes here or there.
There’s a really good mix of stories from some of the best YA authors including Holly Black, Ally Carter and Laini Taylor. My personal favorites however are Midnights by Rainbow Rowell and It’s a Yuletide Miracle, Charlie Brown by Stephanie Perkins. Both are super cute and very, very sweet.
Christmas at Tiffany’s by Karen Swan
Despite the cover and title I have to admit this isn’t really a Christmas themed book but I love it so I’m including it.
After Cassie is betrayed by her husband she decides to leave their home and spend a year staying with each of her three best friends in New York, Paris and London while trying to figure out who she is and what she wants to do with her life.
What I love about this book is how you get a real sense of every city Cassie stays in and how she re invents herself in each place, throwing herself into new experiences. The romance is a bit of a slow burn but it’s very sweet and a certain someone is one of my favorite book boyfriends.
Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan (My Review)
Sarah Morgan is the queen of Christmas romances for me and I think Miracle on 5th Avenue is probably my all time favorite book of hers. It has all of my favorite tropes, a hopeless romantic who loves all things Christmas but is all alone, a grumpy writer trying to get over an ex and avoid the holidays, New York, snow and a lot of chemistry.
I do love an opposites attract type story and Morgan does them so well. The highlight of this story was definitely the banter between them and the whole story just left me with such a big smile on my face.
A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
Obviously I had to include this in my list. It’s a classic for a reason and if like me you’ve always been intimidated by Dickens at just over 100 pages it’s not too scary and can be read in an hour or two.
I’m assuming everyone knows the story but I have to admit that having only seen the various TV and film adaptations it was different than I thought it was going to be and not nearly as hard going as I expected. I’m actually kind of tempted to make an attempt at a longer Dickens this year but as I’m currently listening to Frankenstein probably not immediately.
So that’s my Christmas book recommendations. Have you read any of these or are there any I’ve convinced you to try? Do you have a Christmas themed book you read faithfully every year? Or are you a bit of a Grinch like me and try to find the least Christmassy book you can?
I know, book blog but Halloween is fast approaching and I am a BIG fan of horror movies so I couldn’t resist doing a post on some of my favorites. This, the first of two posts (I couldn’t limit myself to one), is all about British horror films.
I’m very possibly biased but I truly think that Britain has produced some of the best ever horror films. They do tend to be a little low budget but they definitely make up for it with good story lines and brilliant dialogue. There are a lot of great films but I think these are my favorites.
5. Dog Soldiers (2002)
What’s it about – A group of soldiers versus a pack of werewolves in the Scottish wilderness.
Why I love it – There don’t seem to be many werewolf movies so that’s a big plus and this one while being pretty low budget is really well made. There are a few twists that I didn’t expect, great acting, a decent script and I really liked the military aspects. The werewolves themselves are kind of funny looking, it is low budget after all, but still very watchable.
Fear Factor – It has it’s moments but it’s difficult to take the werewolves seriously when they are so comical looking.
4. The Descent
What’s it about – A group of friends decide to go and explore some caves, but they’re not the only ones down there.
Why I love it – It’s dark, it’s claustrophobic, the things in the cave are properly scary and it’s very, very violent. The best thing though is that it’s really a survival story and it is brilliant to watch how each of them react to the situation, firstly when they realize they’re stuck in the caves and then when they realize they’re not alone. Some are all about the team work and others mean to survive by any means possible.
Fear Factor – Pretty high although that could be just me as I’m a little bit claustrophobic and you would never catch me down in those caves in the first place. There’s a lot of shocks, sudden violence and will definitely have you watching from between your fingers.
3. 28 Days Later (2002)
What’s it about – Zombies!!!! Kind of like the Walking Dead, bloke wakes up in hospital in London to discover most of the population has been infected with a virus.
Why I love it – Zombies!!!! I love a zombie film, they are the absolute best movie monster because they have literally no feelings, no conscience and no sense of self preservation. Also the scene where he initially wakes and is literally the only person on the streets of London is stunning.
Fear Factor – There are quite a few shocks and scares but it’s probably more gory than terrifying.
2. Severence (2006)
What’s it about – A group of sales executives on a corporate retreat in Eastern Europe somehow end up at the wrong cabin, the very wrong cabin.
Why I love it – There is a lot of bad language, nudity, sexual references, drug use and over the top violence but it’s hilarious. The humor is definitely dark but it just makes me giggle. Danny Dyer is fantastic in the lead but the other characters are also perfectly cast. There are quite a few who remind me of aspects of my co workers and I love all of the little resentments between them.
Fear Factor – Yeah, there are a few bits that will make you jump and it’s a little bit creepy in places but this is much more about the humor and the violence.
1. Shaun of the Dead (2004)
What’s it about – A man decides to turn his moribund life around by winning back his ex-girlfriend, reconciling his relationship with his mother, and dealing with an entire community that has returned from the dead to eat the living.
Why I love it – Simon Pegg and Nick Frost. Do I need to say anything else? OK, I love the humor and just how long it takes the pair of them to realize the world is being taken over by zombies. It definitely makes a very valid point about how we kind of sleepwalk through life not paying attention to the things going on around us. Although I would hope I would notice the end of the world. I also love just how crap their plan is. I’m fairly positive that should there ever be a zombie apocalypse I will probably be the first to go.
Fear Factor – It describes itself as a RomZomCom so pretty low. There is the odd creepy moment and quite a bit of blood and gore but it’s more funny than scary.
So that’s my five favorite British horror movies. Have you watched any of them? What did you think? Are there any you think should be included in this list or that you would recommend?
Today I’m thrilled to be doing a Q&A with Denise Mina, author of McIlvanney Prize winning book The Long Drop, as part of the Bloody Scotland blog tour.
For those of you who don’t know Bloody Scotland is Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival and possibly my favorite event of the year. I only managed to make it to a couple of sessions at the festival this year but had an absolutely brilliant time. The discussions were fantastic and it was so surreal to see my favorite authors wandering around, chatting to people or having a drink in the bar.
This year for the first time we also have a Bloody Scotland book. Published by Historic Environment Scotland, Bloody Scotland – the book, matches twelve of Scotland’s best crime writers with an iconic Scottish building. The result is a brilliant collection of short stories.
Denise Mina is one of the authors who contributed to the book with a very disturbing story set in Edinburgh Castle (honestly I may never go there again). She was also the winner of the big award of the festival, the McIlvanney Prize for Scottish Crime Book of the Year, for her latest book The Long Drop. I’ve included a full bio below but this is the latest of many awards and nominations in a hugely successful and varied career.
Needless to say I’m thrilled that she was willing to answer some questions on my little blog. So without any more of my rambling, on with the Q&A.
(I should add that these questions were asked and answered prior to her winning the McIlvanney)
Q&A with Denise Mina
Setting always seems to be an important part of your novels, how did you feel about being asked to write a short story inspired by one of Scotland’s iconic buildings for Bloody Scotland: The Book? Did you instantly know what you wanted to do?
I was delighted to be asked.
But I was believe it or not (!), not really on the ball in the admin department and had agreed to do it but forgot to choose a building. The castle was chosen for me because I got last dibs. I was given a fantastic private tour of it for the book, saw into all the creepy corners and historic cells. It was pretty amazing.
Your story, Nemo Me Impune Lacessit, is set in Edinburgh Castle and is one of the most disturbing short stories I’ve read. Was there anything you found particularly challenging about setting a story in such a popular tourist attraction?
It’s interesting writing about somewhere as iconic as the castle because everyone there is in their own little narrative. It’s the highlight of a tour, not a stop off point. I was struck by the contrast between the bloody history of the place and the cheery atmosphere.
Bloody Scotland includes stories set in twelve different iconic buildings in Scotland. Is there another iconic building, featured in the book or not, that you’d love to use as the location for a story? Is there one you’ve considered in the past and decided not to use?
Glasgow Uni, Kelvingrove, Hill House, any one of the giant castles that are melting back into the land in the highlands. I could reel off a list of favourite buildings but I don’t know if I’d like to set a story in them, especially the ones I love.
Your novels are mostly set in and around Glasgow. What do you think it is about the city that makes it such a great location for a crime novel and what is it about Scotland in general that’s created so many brilliant crime/thriller writers?
It’s a story telling city. Everyone tells stories here and I think crime fiction is closer to oral story telling than literary narratives so it’s a perfect fit. It is also quite a chaotic city, violent and used to be very dark. A wonderful setting for noir!
Your most recent novel, The Long Drop, is a finalist for Bloody Scotland’s McIlvanney Prize [edit: it won!!!] can you tell us a bit about it and the inspiration behind it?
I read in a true crime novel that Manuel and the father of some of the victims went out for a drink together. It seemed so odd that I had to explore it.
This is the first novel you’ve published that’s based on real events and people. A lot of local people of a certain generation, my parents included, remember that time well. Did you feel a pressure to get the story “right”? Did this influence your writing process?
Honestly, only after it was published did I feel the pressure, so it didn’t affect me while I was writing it. I just got really lost in it. It is a contested story but not as much as I would have imagined. Most people are concerned about the ethics of telling a story so recent rather than the correctness of the facts.
You originally wrote the story as a play. What made you decide to turn it into a novel?
I was told in no uncertain terms that I had told the story wrong.
Pensioners stopped me after the show and told me that the story in Glasgow at the time was not the official story. The twist they told me was so much better that I had to write the novel.
As well as writing short stories, full length novels and plays you’ve also written graphic novels. What is it about these different forms that appeals to you? Is there one you prefer or find more challenging?
I love prose more than anything. It’s the most fulfilling for me and always feels like a home coming but all these other forms feed into that and help me think about narrative and storytelling in different ways.
Your stories tend to be quite gritty and dark and you really get into the heads of some very disturbing and troubled characters. How easy do you find it to switch off from your writing? Do you have a routine you follow when you’re writing?
I usually get up, drink coffee, strangle a cat and go for a run. Then I sit at the desk and squash ants and think about the work of the day.
Seriously, I just think in quite dark terms. I’m not one of those lovely people who doesn’t spot the violent undertone of conversations, or the crime story at the edge of the page of news about Kate Middleton.
In addition to being a finalist for the McIlvanney, you’ve won three awards and been nominated for many more. It must be great to get recognition for your work but what do you personally consider to be your biggest achievement? What are you most proud of?
A sentence I wrote for a give away book called ‘Scotland’s 100 best books’ about Orwell’s 1984. It had perfect rhythm and concision.
Is there anything you regret or wish you’d done differently in either your career or writing?
Enjoyed it all a bit more. I’m very shy and being in the spotlight was incredibly uncomfortable. Some people do it so well and I should have accepted that ambivalence was my natural state and gone with it instead of pretending.
What advice would you give to an aspiring writer?
Read good stuff and keep writing. Write every day.
Can you tell us anything about the projects you’re working on just now? What’s next?
It’s about a woman who becomes obsessed with a true crime podcast and goes off to try and solve it. It’s about why these stories captivate us.
Finally, what are you reading right now?
A biography of Derrida by Beniot Peeters.
Thank you so much Denise for taking the time to answer some questions. Bloody Scotland the book was launched at the festival over the weekend and is available from Amazon UK here.
I’ll post a review later this week as I haven’t quite finished reading it yet but I can honestly say I’ve been really enjoying it and would definitely recommend.
The blog tour for Bloody Scotland is running from the 7th September till the 18th and includes guest posts, Q&As and other fantastic content from those involved in the book so it’s worth following along. I’ve included details of this, the book and an author bio below.
Denise Mina – Bio
After a peripatetic childhood in Glasgow, Paris, London, Invergordon, Bergen and Perth, Denise Mina left school at 16 before doing her law degree at Glasgow University.She subsequently studied for a PhD at Strathclyde.
Her first novel, Garnethill, was published in 1988 and won the CWA John Creasy Dagger for Best First Crime Novel.
She has published 12 novels including the Garnethill series, Paddy Meehan and Alex Morrow series’. She has been nominated for many prizes including the CWA Gold Dagger and has won the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award twice.
In addition to novels, Denise has also written plays and graphic novels including the graphic novel adaptation of The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo. In 2014, she was inducted into the Crime Writers’ Association Hall of Fame and was a judge for the Bailey’s Prize. She has also presented TV and radio programmes as well as appearing regularly in the media. She lives and works in Glasgow.
Bloody Scotland – The Blurb
In Bloody Scotland a selection of Scotland’s best crime writers use the sinister side of the country’s built heritage in stories that are by turns gripping, chilling and redemptive.
Stellar contributors Val McDermid, Chris Brookmyre, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, Louise Welsh, Lin Anderson, Doug Johnstone, Gordon Brown, Craig Robertson, E S Thomson, Sara Sheridan and Stuart MacBride explore the thrilling potential of Scotland’s iconic sites and structures. From murder in an Iron Age broch and a macabre tale of revenge among the furious clamour of an eighteenth century mill, to a dark psychological thriller set within the tourist throng of Edinburgh Castle and a rivalry turning fatal in the concrete galleries of an abandoned modernist ruin, this collection uncovers the intimate – and deadly – connections between people and places.
Prepare for a dangerous journey into the dark shadows of our nation’s buildings – where passion, fury, desire and death collide.
Happy Father’s Day everyone!!!
I was originally planning to do a post on great father’s in books but my list would probably not be that long (Atticus Finch and Arthur Weasley) as there are unfortunately way more books with bad dads than good ones. Instead I’ve decided to do a post highlighting the books and authors my Dad recommends.
My Dad is a big reader and is to a large extent responsible for my book obsession. Like me he can quite happily sit with his head buried in a book all day long (something which drives my Mum nuts). Our tastes are a little bit different, he exclusively reads thrillers and murder mysteries, but he’s definitely influenced my reading. So here’s a list of the authors he has or is still trying to persuade me to read.
Ten Authors My Dad Recommends
The first three authors on the list are all Scottish authors and are actually three of my favourites too.
- Stuart MacBride – probably most famous for his Logan Macrae series which follows a police detective on the murder squad in Aberdeen. They’re a little bit gruesome and quite dark but there’s a lot of humour too.
- Chris Brookmyre – has written a few different series but the most famous is probably his Jack Parlabane books. These follow an investigative journalist who gets embroiled in murder mysteries, hacking, political espionage and all kinds of other cases. Personally my favourite series of his is the Angelique Xavier series.
- Ian Rankin – most famous for his Rebus police detective series set in Edinburgh, this is probably one of the first authors my dad convinced me to read. This year is the 30th anniversary of Rebus so he’s been in the murder business for quite a while.
The next three authors also have a Scottish connection but I have to confess so far Dad hasn’t convinced me to read them yet.
- Peter May – born and raised in Scotland he writes three main series, the Lewis trilogy, the China thrillers and the Enzo files. I actually own the Black House but I haven’t had a chance to read as yet. We have family in Lewis so I know it well and think it will make a great setting for a mystery.
- Ann Cleeves – OK technically she’s English but she writes a murder mystery series set in the Shetlands so that’s good enough. My Dad has been trying to persuade me to read her books for years but so far I haven’t
- Val McDermid – McDermid is another author who has been in the business for a long time and is most famous for her Tony Hill and Carol Jordan series about a criminal profiler Tony Hill who works with the police. This was turned into a TV show, Wire in the Blood, which I watched and loved so I have no idea why I haven’t read the books.
The final four authors are a little more geographically spread (some are even outwith the UK 🙂 ) but the mystery/thriller trend continues (one of these day’s I’ll succeed in getting him to read a sci fi or fantasy)
- Jo Nesbo – a Norwegian author most famous for his Harry Hole series. He’s an autobuy author for my Dad who has been trying to persuade me for years to give one a try.
- Lee Child – I know, it’s absolutely ridiculous that I haven’t read a single Jack Reacher book (confession: I haven’t seen any of the films either) but for some reason they’ve never really appealed. He has managed to persuade my Mum to get into them but so far I’m holding out.
- Harlan Coben – an American author this time, and one he has persuaded me to try. He seems to mostly write stand alones and while I’ve enjoyed the ones I’ve read they haven’t really blown me away.
- Mark Billingham – Another writer my Dad raves over but hasn’t yet convinced me to read. Billingham’s Tom Thorne series is about a police detective who investigates stuff (can you tell I’m struggling to describe books I haven’t read).
Anyway, that’s ten of the authors my Dad recommends. There are actually many, many more (Jeffrey Deaver, David Baldachi, James Patterson, Clive Cussler to name a few). I’ve read a few but still have so many to try.
So let’s chat, have you read any of these? Are there of my Dad’s recommendations you agree that I really should read?
As my Dad is stuck in a little bit of a reading rut (honestly it’s impossible to persuade him to try a new author) are there any books or authors you think I could persuade him to read?
So yep, I kept seeing all of these lovely book subscription boxes popping up all over the place and it was just too tempting so I ordered my very first box from Fairy Loot.
Fairy Loot are UK based and offer a fantasy focused monthly subscription (or single purchase) box containing a Young Adult book and some hand selected bookish goodies. As I have a serious lack of bookish goodies and an obsession with YA fantasy it seemed like a pretty good fit.
I ordered the August box a couple of months ago so needless to say I was very excited to find out it was arriving today. After some stress over no one being home to accept the delivery and the delivery driver leaving it out in my back garden in the rain I finally got my hands on a slightly damp and dirty box.
So what did I get…..Read More »
It’s been a while since I did a list so in honour of Valentines Day I thought I’d do a romance related one today. However being the bitter and twisted singleton that I am, I’m not going for any of that slushy nonsense. Instead I’m going for a list of some of the worst book boyfriends. These are the guys who you know are trouble and will break your heart.
It was a bit of a struggle narrowing it down so I’ve chosen a mix of classics, recent reads and popular stories. Be warned though if you haven’t read them (or seen the movie) there may be spoilers. [Note: the links will take you to Goodreads]
1. Jace Wayland (The Mortal Instruments)
OK so he’s kind of hot (or at least Jamie Campbell Bower definitely is) but as a boyfriend he’s an absolute nightmare and definitely to be avoided at all costs. He has possibly the biggest ego in the world (he could never love anyone as much as he loves himself), he’s reckless, has a dangerous job and it’s safe to say his father is a power hungry psychopath. For Clary there is also the issue that he is potentially her brother so that leads to a whole world of angst that in my opinion is best avoided.
2. Todd Hewitt (Chaos Walking Trilogy)
Chaos walking is a pretty accurate description when it comes to Todd. He seems to be a magnet for trouble as it follows him everywhere he goes. From the very start he has the local religious zealot after him. That soon becomes a town and eventually a whole army is chasing him. It’s kind of sweet how he and Viola look out for each other but saving him seems to be a full time (and very dangerous) job. There is also the added complication that he doesn’t actually know what a girl is at the start and treats them like an alien species.
3. Edward Cullen (Twilight Saga)
Bella may be “irrevocably in love with him” but she is clearly a bit of an idiot with no sense of self preservation. Firstly he’s a vampire who is a couple of hundred years older than she is. This means that not only is he older than her great, great grandfather (eww) he’s also technically dead and therefore a re animated corpse. He has killed a number of people in the past (serial killer) and kind of wants to kill Bella. He regularly breaks into her house at night to watch her sleep (creepy) and doesn’t mix with any of her friends.
4. Christian Grey (Fifty Shades)
I probably should have lumped him in with Edward as let’s face it they are pretty much the same character but Christian does at least have the benefit of being young and alive. He is however also a controlling, stalker who thinks nothing of running a detailed investigation into everyone he gets involved with. He has violent tendencies and is extremely secretive.
I honestly don’t know how Anastasia puts up with it 🙂
5. Edward Rochester (Jane Eyre)
Just to prove it’s not just modern men that are the issue I thought I should include one from a classic. I know that Jane isn’t exactly a catch for that time period but I’m fairly certain she could have done better. From the start he treats her atrociously. Pays her attention and makes her feel attractive before rudely dismissing her. He flirts with other women to make her jealous and impersonates a fortune teller to try to trick her.
When they do finally get together it turns out he already has a wife who he keeps locked in the attic, looked after by an incompetent alcoholic. His relationship with Jane isn’t the first time he’s been unfaithful to his wife. He’s already travelled the world hooking up with women all over the place. Apparently he’s not even that good looking (although I was a big fan of Michael Fassbender in the role).
6. Miles Archer (Ugly Love)
I don’t think I’ve ever really come across a character more able to mess with your head. In flashbacks he seems like a really sweet guy but in the present, not so much. Tate first meets him when he is passed out drunk in a hallway outside her flat. That should have been the first sign to run for the hills but no apparently he’s quite good looking so all is forgiven. They get involved but due to a past trauma he doesn’t want a proper relationship, he just wants to hook up occasionally. He never smiles, refuses to talk about his past or the future, gets jealous of any other guy, disappears for work for days at a time and generally just leaves you feeling used and abused.
7. Kaz (Six of Crows)
Yet another seriously messed up character with issues relating to a past trauma. He is clearly in love with Inej but refuses to admit it to himself or her. He’s a crook and a schemer, who treats her like a bit of a skivvy. To top it all off he has a fear of being touched and seems to be a bit OCD about it. Not the best basis for a happy relationship.
8. Will Traynor (Me Before You)
Lets face it any relationship with Will was doomed from the very start. He’s rude, miserable and generally a bit of a snob who tries to push everyone away. In fairness he’s dealing with a lot having recently been in an accident that left him a paraplegic but you’d have to be nuts to get involved with him.
It could only ever end in tears and sure enough it does.
So that’s my list. I kind of feel like I’ve been a little unfair picking on the guys. There are plenty of terrible book girlfriends too (Queen Levana from Fairest & America Singer from the Selection I’m looking at you) but that may be a topic for another list.
What do you think? Are these the worst ever book boyfriends or do you think there is anyone who should be on the list but isn’t?