Mondaying

Right now, I am mostly…

Writing : I’m writing this on my tablet, rather than a computer, and it’s not the easiest thing in the world when it comes to adding photos. Apologies if it looks a bit odd!

 

Meeting : On Saturday, I toddled along to W4 for the Chiswick Book Festival, because Simon Mayo was giving a talk about his new book, Itchcraft (which I reviewed last week). It was a great talk, and then I got a book signed afterwards. Everyone jokes about me being obsessed with him, but the truth of the matter is that I jus think he’s a great DJ, and a pretty fine author, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet him in person. He was lovely, when I told him my name and that I’d already read the book, he knew that I was the blogger who wrote the review, and shook my hand. It was quite a thrill knowing that he knew who I was because of something I wrote, and he was very kind about the review (which of course, he would be, because it was very positive about his book!). To say I was pleased is an understatement.

Watching : I’m staying at my sister’s house for the week, and I’m taking advantage of the fact that she has better television than me, and therefore access to a much wider range of films. I watched About Time on Friday and Saving Mr Banks on Saturday, and cried buckets at them both. This isn’t a particularly good week to be watching films featuring dying parents, but I enjoyed both films immensely!

Going : I went to Hyde Park yesterday, to be part of Radio 2′s Festival in a Day. I had great fun, and there’s a blog post to follow, but I’m good for nothing today. I’m shattered, and I think I caught something, as I have a really scratchy throat!

Listening : I’m still making my way through the back catalogue of the Wittertainment archive, but my generic MP3 player is doing it’s best to stymie me, as it is malfunctioning! Very annoying, but it’s still working for now.

Receiving : Alice, someone I know from Twitter, and I have decided to swap postcards, and she got the ball rolling with this lovely one last week. Now I need to find one to send to her!

Submitting : Last week, Radio 2 were asking people to submit now and then photos of themselves in the eighties, so I sent one in, and it got into their gallery on the Facebook page. I know, I’m a bit of a bore about Radio 2, but I have to take my position as a megafan seriously. Just wait until you see my 33 Before 33 list!

The Joy of Tickets

A few weeks ago I wrote a guest post for Penny at Lillies and Love, about the importance, for me at least, of finding a balance between having lovely photos to remind yourself of all the wonderful times in your life, and not feeling the need to document every moment of your life. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how important memories are, and how big a comfort they can be when your life changes.

With that in mind, I’ve been trying to have as many experiences as possible. For me, this doesn’t mean abseiling down a building or jumping out of a plane (though I would like to do a skydive one day). I want to fill as much of my time with doing things that are going to create the best memories.

I don’t have a lot of disposable cash, and therefore I can’t afford to buy myself a lot of things. I have a phone that works, and I treated myself to a Kindle with some vouchers I had, but recently I’ve realised that rather than lots of things, I’d rather spend what money I do have on doing things. I’ve come to realise that I love buying tickets for things.

In March, I went on the BBC Broadcasting House tour, and then went to see Mark Kermode present a film that he loves. In June, I went to see Dr K again, chairing a debate on film critics, and I went to see Derren Brown’s live show. In July, I went to see The Shires in London. In August I went to meet Steve Backshall and get a book signed (no ticket necessary), and then I went to Singalonga Dirty Dancing. This month, I am off to a book event tomorrow, Hyde Park for Radio 2’s Festival in Day on Sunday, an Itchcraft event with Simon Mayo next Saturday, and I’m running* in Run or Dye the weekend after. In October, I’m going to see Singalonga Frozen, and then in November, I’m going to see The Shires and Ward Thomas in concert. No concrete plans for December yet, but there is talk of a West End show if we can all get together.

I know that an awful lot of those things seem to revolve around celebrities, but the truth of the matter is that more often than not, these famous people are talking about something I find interesting. And it may seem that I have endless funds for gallivanting around: I don’t really, but as I mentioned, I’ve realised that this is the way that I’d rather spend my money. Making memories, instead of buying things.

It helps, of course, that all of these things involve my favourite people. And I also think that in between these exciting events, there are the times when I am just sitting on a sofa, watching telly with those people, or having dinner. The downtime is just as important as the big plans, and I treasure those times too.

I’m not going to pretend that I don’t like new clothes – as long as Primark make t-shirts that flatter my figure and have cool designs, I’ll buy them. But when I’m eighty, and I’m looking back on my life, it’s the experiences that will count, not the fact that I had a Hogwarts t-shirt once (though I do have an unhealthy amount of love for that thing).

* Running may be putting it a little optimistically. Taking part is probably slightly more accurate.

Book Review ~ Itchcraft by Simon Mayo

When Itchcraft arrived a couple of weeks ago, I was terribly excited. The first two books in the series were rip roaring fun, and when the second book ended with a sense of denouement, I was curious as to where the story would go next.

Itchingham Lofte, known to his friends as Itch, is an element hunter and chemistry fanatic. Prior to the events of the first book, this fanaticism got him into no more trouble than blowing up elements in his bedroom and scorching his eyebrows, but when he comes across the previously undiscovered element 126, a highly radioactive and therefore very valuable set of rocks, he soon finds his life in danger. Itchcraft picks up some time after Itch and his family think their troubles are over; while the villainous Nathaniel Flowerdew is still at large, the rocks aren’t, and Itch and his sister Chloe start the book on holiday in South Africa with their father.

Of course, no book about someone’s troubles being behind them is ever going to be particularly interesting, and it’s not too long before Itch finds himself in trouble again, dragging Chloe, his cousin Jack and potential love interest/new friend Lucy along for the ride. I read Itchcraft while I was also embarking on a Harry Potter re-read, and it occurred to me that Harry has nothing on Itch when it comes to getting into scrapes! When a school trip to Madrid is mentioned, it’s obvious that it will not be smooth sailing, and Itch and the gang end up getting caught up in riots, caused by people protesting the mysterious case of exploding Euros. The last third of the book finds the four teenagers in mortal peril, and although I was sure that our titular hero would survive, I was never convinced that Mayo wouldn’t decide that one of the three girls was expendable for the the sake of the story.

When I reviewed Itch Rocks, I mentioned how much I enjoyed that Itch is surrounded by fantastic female characters. Itch is brilliant, knows just about all there is to know about chemistry, but to get out of all the scrapes in which he so often finds himself, he relies on his three female cohorts. Chloe, Jack and Lucy are all brilliant in their own way – Chloe is pretty fearless, much cooler than Itch, and utterly loyal, Jack is more often than not the voice of reason, and tries (mostly in vain) to stop Itch from getting into trouble, and Lucy is almost as brilliant as Itch when it comes to chemistry.

We are also introduced to a group of formidable women who are out for revenge. Six women who are proficient divers and friends of Shivvi Van Took, they are ruthless and efficient, and it’s not clear for most of the book if they are going to turn out to be the good guys or the bad guys. Simon Mayo has proved himself as an author who has no qualms about writing strong female characters.

He also has no qualms about killing off characters the reader has become attached to, and in doing so, he finds himself with a grieving main character on his hands. The scene in which Itch and Lucy discuss how Itch is feeling, and the way he tries to cope with his sense of grief and his feeling of culpability for the death is beautifully touching.

On an aesthetic level, I love the Itchcraft cover. It’s probably because I like the colour blue, but I think it’s the best of the bunch, and it will look great on my bookshelf with the other two books. It teases the story perfectly, full of explosions and fire and madcap chases. It’s perfect!

Itchcraft is easily my favourite of the three novels so far. It takes the story to the next level, and has moments where you genuinely don’t know if your favourite characters are going to survive. It marries tragedy, action and adventure together perfectly, and has left me with more questions about the motives of some of the characters. The science might go over the head of those not well versed in the contents of the periodic table, but the relationships between the characters are so well written and believable, and the action set pieces so exciting, that in the end that doesn’t matter one bit.

Itchcraft by Simon Mayo
First published: 11 September 2014
ISBN: 9780857532954
Doubleday
Review copy provided by publisher

Blog Hopping – Why Do I Write?

It’s not often I take part in blog hops. To be honest, most of them involve topics I don’t normally write about (beauty, usually), so they aren’t often relevant. But when Bex at Futures tagged me in this one, I decided to jump on board, because I can most certainly write about writing!

Why do I write?

Honestly, I write because I think I’m quite good at it. I don’t paint, or draw, or do gymnastics, because I can’t, but I know I can write. I’m not saying that I’m the most talented writer there ever was (that would be Aaron Sorkin*), but I can certainly string words together in a way that makes sense. I like having the ability to think about something and easily translate it into words, so other people understand what I am thinking.

When I used to dream about being a writer, I used to imagine myself as a journalist, or a novelist. Blogging didn’t exist then, so I didn’t know that I could carve out my own space and just write for me. I consider myself a writer, even though I don’t technically earn a living from it, because I write every day, and other people read it. The dream, of course, is to earn a fabulous living from writing, and I think I’ve probably got a book or two in me. But times have changed, and earning a living from writing novels isn’t necessarily the easiest thing in the world.

What am I working on?

I’m always working on my blog; I try not to put pressure on myself to post once a day, but I like to post regularly. I’m so proud of it, because I know how much work I’ve put into it, and I’m pleased how well it reflects me and my life over many years. I’m constantly trying to improve it, and think of new things to write about, and not just because I want to stand out a little bit in a crowded blogosphere. I also want to continue feeling proud of that, and the only way to do that is to keep working hard on it!

In terms of other writing projects, I think I am finally at a point where I have a proper story that I want to get written down for a novel. I’ve felt this way before, but always wondered if the story was exactly the one I wanted to tell. I’m feeling much more confident with this one, it’s just a case of making a start. Obviously I’m going to need a new notebook.

I also write a column for Essex Life magazine, on (what else) books. It’s a lot of fun getting a lot of books by local authors thrown in my direction, and while sometimes I have to read some horrors, mostly I love what I get to read, and I love the fact that I have an actual column in an actual magazine! it’s a dream come true, and though it’s not a paid position, it’s great exposure, and actually great training in terms of deadlines and word counts.

How does it differ from others in its genre?

I assume that this question refers specifically to my blog. It’s a difficult question, because I think it’s both easy and hard to differ from other blogs in the same genre. Even the biggest, most popular blogs I read aren’t that different from the others in the same category, except to say that the best ones are different just because the blogger’s personality shines through. I can’t honestly say that my lifestyle posts, book reviews, film posts, life update posts and occasional OOTD posts are different to the next blog you might read. But hopefully when you read my posts, you’ll think, “Oh yeah, that’s Jane, she loves Radio 2,” or “I remember, Jane is scared of whales.” If my personality shines through, and I like to think it does, that makes me different to the next lifestyle or book blog you read, because I’m me, and (thankfully) nobody else is quite like me.

How does my writing process work?

I noticed that this question was missing from Bex’s post, but it was in some earlier carnations, so I’m including it! My writing process is basically to sit down and write. I jot down ideas whenever I have them, either in a notebook or on my phone, and sometimes I make myself a to-do list if things feel as though they are getting out of hand, but generally, I just sit at a computer, and let the words flow forth. I love the idea of having a proper calendar that I use religiously, but although sometimes I try, it never sticks, and I prefer to just play it by ear and write as and when I need/want to.

This blog hop was started by Katy at Folly & Bloom, and has been completed by such lovely bloggers as Mathilde Heart Manech, Belle Du Brighton and Hook, Line and Sink Her. I’m tagging the beautiful and wonderful Nicki at Nicki Kinickie. She’s my hero, because she manages to write a fabulous blog while taking care of her wee bubba and looking spectacularly glamorous at the same time. Check out her answers next week!

* I’m only half joking about Aaron Sorkin.

Mondaying


Using
: When I was at my brother’s house the other day, me and my nieces were playing with kaleidoscope apps, ones that take photos like the above, and drawing ones. I got a bit obsessed!

Watching : I decided the time was right for a rewatch of The West Wing, so I’ve been making my way through Season 1, and I’ve just started Season 2. I know I am probably boring about my love for The West Wing, but I do love it so much. It’s like pulling on my favourite pair of socks or pyjamas, it just feels so comfortable to sit and watch!

Reading : I made a long list of books from 1982 that I need to read if I’m going to complete my 32 Before 32 goal of reading ten by my birthday. I’m running slightly behind, having only read 2 so far! What a disaster! My 32 Before 32 list has not gone well, but I do really want to complete the books and films goals, at least. Major push for the next two months!

Playing : I can’t stop playing Temple Run on my Kindle. Seriously, I’ll start playing, and then half an hour later I have to force myself to stop! I know I’m slightly behind the times with getting addicted to the game, but that’s me all over!

Anticipating : I have a most exciting weekend ahead planned, most of it taking place in London. September is full of exciting plans, most of which involves tickets and friends and London and the odd famous person!

Wishing: I wish I had more to write about today; I feel as though I have done nothing recently! I also like to pepper these Mondaying posts with Instagram photos, in lieu of writing a dedicated Instagram post, like many bloggers do. But aside from my FMS Photo a Day photos that I take every day, I haven’t taken anything of any interest. I’m making a resolution to change this!

1 2 3 197