Inspiration ~ BEDM

I can’t believe I’m so close to the end of BEDM! Today is the last real prompt as tomorrow is more of a summary of the month, so today is the last day that I am going to really struggle (because struggle I did) with what to write.

The prompt for today is Who Inspires You? I contemplated writing a similar post back in March, on International Women’s Day, but I found it really hard. Apart from the obvious answer of my mum, I couldn’t think of anyone else that particularly inspires me. So today, I’m going with a few fictional characters that I look admire.

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I’ve gone on and on about my love for Mindy Kaling, but for now I’m going to talk about my love for her character on The Mindy Project, Mindy Lahiri. She’s a successful gynaecologist, respected by her colleagues, she’s not always lucky in love but she always stays true to who she is, and isn’t willing to settle for any man who is not worthy. She knows that she should do more exercise, but she’s healthy (she “fluctuates between chubby and curvy”, dontcha know?), and she’s definitely someone to look up to. I adore her.

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So of course, it’s probably a bit of a cliché to profess love for Lizzie Bennet from Pride and Prejudice, but I don’t care. There’s a reason why she is so beloved, and that’s because she is awesome. She is spirited and independent at a time when women were expected to be anything but. She won’t marry Darcy when he first asks, because, well frankly, he’s a bit of an arse. She doesn’t take any crap from Lady Catherine, who is one of the most frustratingly irritating characters in all of Austen. She’s wonderful.

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If I can shoehorn a West Wing reference into a blog post, believe me, I will. I’m not going to get into a discussion here about Sorkin and women, that’s for another time and place. Here, I want to say that CJ Cregg is a force to be reckoned with, a woman who climbs to the top of her profession by being capable and kind and wonderful. She is funny, she is clever and she is clumsy. She is attractive and tall. And I still want to be her when I grow up.

Fictional Bucket List

How fun is this? Make a list of things you would do with your favourite fictional character or in your favourite fictional world.

Spend the day in Stars Hollow

Travel with a madman in a box

Go for dinner at Downton Abbey

Go to a ball at Netherfield

Work at the Navy Yard

Go to the library with Matilda

Be one of Bailey’s interns

Spend the afternoon at Central Perk

Take archery lessons from Katniss Everdean

Sit in Sheldon’s spot

Play poker in the Chief of Staff’s office

Read in the Beast’s library with Belle

Make Hotch smile

Find a golden ticket

Sit on the Winfield’s porch

Solemnly swear that I am up to no good

Stick them with the pointy end

Spend a summer on a boat with Pacey J. Witter

Make dresses out of curtains

Think, wink, do a double blink, close my eyes and jump into a chalk drawing

Eat at the Bayside Diner and use the hamburger phone to make a call

Be rescued by the Nazgûl by Strider

Sit on Arthur’s Bench

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~ I’ve already sat on Arthur’s Bench! He loved it here ~

I decided to keep them simple and not necessarily allude outright to the shows/films/books that inspired them. There are far too many there (the original lists I saw kept it to ten), but it was hard enough narrowing it down this far.

What would be on your fictional bucket list?

Link Love

It’s Link Love Wednesday again! Who’s proud of me for making it three weeks in a row?

The first thing I want to share this week is something I’ve been overexcited about! I wanted to share it as soon as I found it, but I decided to save it for a Link Love post!

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It is called The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, and it’s a modern re-imagining of Pride and Prejudice. It’s from the strange brain of Hank Green (of the Vlogbrothers), and it’s just fantastic. Each episode is around three minutes long, and is presented in the form of a video diary. The action (almost) never moves outside of Lizzie’s bedroom, but we do get other characters too, so far Jane, Charlotte (who is helping to make the videos) and Lydia (who is hilarious) have made appearances. If you like Pride and Prejudice, you should definitely take a look!

CNN Photos have just published some never-before-seen photos of The Rolling Stones on tour in 1972. I love rock and roll photography.

You’ve probably already seen it, but the cover art for J.K. Rowling’s first adult novel, A Casual Vacancy, was released yesterday. I like it; as this Telegraph article states, it doesn’t need to do anything other than tell you that the author of the Harry Potter series wrote it, but at the same time it needs to look as different from that series as possible. I think it achieves that rather well, and I’m intrigued to read it even more now. (I just reserved it at the library, just in case I can’t afford to buy it on September 27th, and I’m only number nineteen, which seems odd!)

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Lena Dunham remembers her friend Nora Ephron, (who gave us When Harry Met Sally, and for that, I will always be grateful to her) in the New Yorker.

Some amazing body paint optical illusions by artist Chooo-San, some of which look so real, it’s unbelievable! Also, some rocks that look like food.

Lastly, two posts from Swiss Miss that I love. A Sunshine Map of Europe, which shows you just how cold we have it compared, weirdly, to some countries that are further north than us (what’s that all about?). And a wall of rocker switches that would be awesome for making sure a message isn’t missed.

Oh, and Happy Independence Day to all who celebrate it, and Happy Birthday to my beautiful friend Vicky!

Books Q&A

Hello all

Terri-Jane over at twoninethree answered this questionnaire on Friday, and I thought I’d do the same!

The Rules:

1. Post these rules

2. Post a photo of your favourite book cover

3. Answer the questions below

4. Tag a few people to answer them too

5. Go to their blog/twitter and tell them you’ve tagged them

6. Make sure you tell the person who tagged you that you’ve taken part!

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What are you reading now?

This morning I started reading Parade’s End by Ford Madox Ford. I got it from the library to read before the television dramatisation airs, but I have to say that I am struggling a little bit with it. I don’t know if I’m going to continue with it!

Do you have any idea what you’ll read when you’re done with that?

I have Kind of Cruel by Sophie Hannah to read, also from the library. I heard about it on the radio when the author was on the Simon Mayo book club, and I reserved it. It has taken ages and ages to come, but I have it now!

What books have you always wanted to read but haven’t got round to?

Currently there are about fifty books on my bookshelf that are unread, so there are lots and lots! Labyrinth (Kate Mosse) and Gone With the Wind (Margaret Mitchell) are two that spring to mind as having been there for a while though.

What magazines do you have in your bathroom/lounge right now?

I’m not a huge magazine reader, but I often get passed copies of The Lady to read, and I like having a flick through that. Other than that, if I can afford it, it’s Empire or Total Film.

What’s the worst book you’ve ever read?

I’m not really one for persisting with books I am not enjoying; if I don’t like it then I will probably give up. There are too many books in the world that I want to read to waste time on ones I am not enjoying! Having said that I read May Day (Scott F. Fitzgerald) earlier this year, and it wasn’t really my cup of tea. It was only a novella though, so once I was about halfway through it seemed silly not to finish it.

What books seems really popular but you actually hated?

I recently read The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes. I waited for ages for this one at the library too, because it was awarded the Man Booker Prize, and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. Obviously it’s a very well written book, and who am I to say that I didn’t enjoy a book that was singled out for one of the most important and prestigious literary awards in the world? But I didn’t really enjoy it.

What’s the one book you always recommend to just about everyone?

I don’t think that there is one book that I would recommend to “just about everyone”, simply because I know people have such widely different tastes when it comes to reading. But I will always recommend American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld if I think it’s going to be a welcome recommendation.

What are your 3 favourite poems?

Where do you usually get your books?

If I’m buying, it’s charity shops. I can’t afford to buy new books these days, unless it is something that I desperately want or need. But I actually use the library far more than charity shops now, because it’s free! I reserve lots of books; as soon as I hear about a book that I think I might want to read, I add it to my reservations list and wait for it to come in. It may take months, but there are plenty of other books to read in the mean time, and I’m happy to wait in most cases! A library is honestly one of my favourite places to be.

Where do you usually read your books?

In the bath! That’s where I do most of my reading, though I do read before I go to bed too, and on the train. I try to read on the bus, but I can’t do it for long before I start to feel really ill.

When you were little, did you have any particular reading habits?

I read a lot; I was reading before I started school, and I’ve never stopped. I don’t think I had any particular habits as such, just that I did a lot of it!

What’s the last thing you stayed up half the night reading because it was so good you couldn’t put it down?

It was probably The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest by Stieg Larsson. It was a great conclusion to a fantastic trilogy, and I couldn’t stop until I’d finished!

Have you ever “faked” reading a book?

Similar to Terri-Jane’s answer (and probably anyone who has ever done a degree with a literature element), I am ashamed to say that I have! Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to read all the books that you have to, and you have to cheat a little bit. I always told myself that it was much better to use an online aid rather than turn up to the class without having any idea what the book was about!

Have you ever bought a book just because you liked the cover?

I’ve never bought a book just because I liked the cover. I do think that a good cover is very important, but if I pick up a book because I like the cover and then read the back and discover it’s probably not my thing, I won’t buy/borrow it. It’s needs to be the full package!

What was your favourite book when you were a child?

I’ve written about this in blog posts before; I was (and still am) a huge fan of Shirley Hughes’ Alfie books, along with Enid Blyton’s Malory Towers series. I also liked the Puddle Lane books, and Roald Dahl’s Matilda and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

What book changed your life?

I don’t think a book has ever changed my life, as such. Mansfield Park changed my reading habits, because I had never even thought about reading Jane Austen before I read it for my A-Level English Literature class, and that led me to find Pride and Prejudice. The seven Harry Potter books changed my life in a way, I suppose. Not to sound too cheesy, but my best friends and I love them deeply, and I think they provide a bond between us that we will always have. When we are eighty, we will look back on the years when they were being published and released (along with the films), and have very fond memories.

What is your favourite passage from a book?

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

“I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort of secret homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers.” The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

“She was the reason I was a reader, and being a reader is what had made me most myself; it had given me the gifts of curiosity and sympathy, an awareness of the world as an odd and vibrant contradictory place, and it had me unafraid of its oddness and contradictions.” American Wife by Curtis Sittenfeld

“The pause makes you think the song will end. And then the song isn’t really over, so you’re relieved. But then the song does actually end, because every song ends, obviously, and THAT. TIME. THE. END. IS. FOR. REAL.” A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan

“And I thought about how many people have loved those songs. And how many people got through a lot of bad times because of those songs. And how many people enjoyed good times with those songs. And how much those songs really mean. I think it would be great to have written one of those songs. I bet if I wrote one of them, I would be very proud. I hope the people who wrote those songs are happy. I hope they feel it’s enough. I really do because they’ve made me happy. And I’m only one person.” The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

“In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.” Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

There are loads more, but I’m going to restrain myself!

Who are your top five favourite authors?

I simply can’t, and won’t, restrict myself to just five favourites. But here are five that I like.

  • Jennifer Egan
  • Curtis Sittenfeld
  • Agatha Christie
  • Enid Blyton
  • J.K. Rowling

What book has no one heard about but should read?

I wouldn’t deign to suppose that I know about many books that are especially undiscovered, but The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a good book that a lot of people seem to have ignored.

What are your favourite books by a first-time author?

  • Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky (sorry to repeat myself here!)
  • Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

What is your favourite classic book?

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

5 other notable mentions?

  • The Lost Art of Keeping Secrets by Eva Rice
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
  • The House at Riverton by Kate Morton
  • Divergent by Veronica Roth

Let me know if you do this Q&A!

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My Life in Books

Hello all

Today is World Book Day (also St David’s Day, and both my sister-in-law and my step-great-niece’s birthday), and to celebrate I thought I would bring you My Life in Books. I’m taking inspiration from the television show, hosted by Anne Robinson, which is running at the moment on BBC2. It invites celebrities to talk about themselves, and the role books have played in their lives.

I have always been a big reader, I learnt to read before I started school, thanks to having lots of older siblings who were, of course, reading at school themselves, and a mum who was willing to sit down and teach me to read.

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I wouldn’t like to say for sure that the Puddle Lane books were the first that I read, but there is video evidence of me reading them! Ladybird books were big in our house, and Puddle Lane were particular favourites of mine.

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Moving on slightly, and as I got a bit older I absolutely loved the Malory Towers books. My sister had an omnibus of the last three books in the series, which I borrowed and read to death. I then managed to get my hands on the first three in the series, and they are all still on my bookshelf, as beloved as ever. I’m not sure what it is about these books that appealed to me so much more than any other Enid Blyton books; maybe it’s the school setting (much more appealing to me than the adventures of the Famous Five), or maybe it’s just the character of Darrell Rivers, who is so wonderful. I’ve blogged (at length) about Malory Towers before; I don’t think I’ll ever stop loving these books, and I don’t think the urge to read them again and again will ever leave me!

Mansfield Park

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Mansfield Park isn’t the best novel Jane Austen wrote, and nor is it my favourite. But it is the first one I read, and because of that, it holds a special place in my heart! I read it for my English Literature A-Level, and at the time I just loved it. I loved Fanny, I loved the story, and I loved the humour. I don’t know why it had never occurred to me to read Jane Austen before, but it honestly hadn’t. I knew about her, of course, but I had never even thought about picking up one of her novels. Now, I have read them all (except Northanger Abbey), and I know that, whilst Fanny is an enjoyable character, she’s nothing compared to Elizabeth Bennett or Emma Woodhouse. But Mansfield Park, and my English teacher at the time, are responsible for opening the gateway to my love for all things Austen.

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It would be remiss of me to write a blog post called My Life in Books and fail to mention Harry Potter. I’m sure, when it comes to conversations about great literature, the Harry Potter novels probably still have their sniffy detractors, but I don’t care. I started reading the books in about 2001 (yes, I know I was way behind everyone else), when my friends Jen and Vicky kept going on about them. When it came to the final three books being released, my friends and I were there, queuing at midnight with all the other losers, to get them as they came out, and there was a definite sense of loss with the publication of the final book (my favourite of the series). I can’t imagine a time when I didn’t know about and love the books, and, as pathetic as this sounds, I am truly grateful to J.K. Rowling for them.

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I was trying to think of some of the books that I studied when I was at university, and for some reason most of them have eluded me. This one, however, seems to have been a constant. I actually first studied it for my English Literature A-Level, and then again twice at university. I seem to have a strange relationship with The Great Gatsby; I appreciate its brilliance, and I am drawn to the era that he writes about, but I can’t seem to match this appreciation with an actual enjoyment. It may be because I’ve only ever really studied The Great Gatsby, as opposed to reading it for fun. I have a novella of his, Mayday, from the library to read, and I have actually started it, but I got waylaid with another book (see below), so haven’t got very far with it. One day I will go back and read Gatsby for fun, and see if that changes my opinion on it.

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As a bonus, this is the book I am reading now. I am not suggesting, however much I am enjoying it, that it is going to pass into my all time favourite book list. I am just including it because I am halfway through it. I am very much enjoying it though! It’s ever so good, and draws you in from the minute you start reading it. I have wanted to read it for ages, but I can’t afford to buy new books at the moment, and I had it reserved at the library, but I was number 56 or something, and it was getting to the point where I was just desperate for it (especially as the film is out this month and I want to read it before I see it). Anyway, I had been sufficiently enthusiastic enough about it for my friend Jen to buy the books, and she has now lent it to me. I thoroughly recommend it, even though I am only halfway through!

On My Life in Books, the celebrity is invited to pick their favourite book at the end. I can’t do this. There are too many books out there, and I can’t pick just one, as I enjoy so many. Obviously (obvious if you know me) I would be inclined to pick Pride and Prejudice, but I am not going to, because I don’t have to.

What about you? What books would feature in your list?

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