Archive | January 2012

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest

THE TRIAL: Lisbeth Salander – outsider and apparent enemy of society – is charged with attempted murder. The state has also ruled that she is mentally unstable, and should be locked away in an institution once again. But she is closely guarded in a hospital, having taken a bullet to the head, so how will she prove her innocence?
THE ENEMY: Pulling the strings of the prosecution is the powerful inner circle of Sapo, the state security police. Determined to protect the secrets and corruption at Sweden’s rotten core, Sapo is not an adversary to take on alone.
THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS’ NEST: Only with the help of Mikael Blomkvist and the journalists at Millennium magazine can Salander avoid the fate that has been decided for her. Together they form a compelling and dynamic alliance. This final volume of the Millennium Trilogy is the culmination of one of the mesmerizing fictional achievements of our time.

I read the first two novels in the trilogy years ago. I got given this one for my birthday 18 months ago, but it’s been sat on a shelf since then and I had to force myself to read it this month (putting it on the list for the TNR Pile Challenge helped on that one). I really enjoyed the first two, but did find them hard going sometimes. I then watched the Swedish movie, and it totally put me off them. Oh, that and reading a micky take which was horribly accurate on the writing (e.g. Lisbeth walked down this road, then this one then this one, then stopped and lit a cigarette with a green lighter then carried on to another street! – way too much irrelevant detail). Also I was really threatened by the size of the novel. That’s a long time to be dedicated to just one book.

I’m really glad I picked it up though. It was loooong yes, but it didn’t really seem it. I read it in less than a week!

My problem really was remembering the details of what had happened in the previous novel. It literally follows on from The Girl Who Played With Fire and because it’s maybe 2 years since I read that, there were definite holes in my memory! Coupling that with my ‘issue’ of remembering who everyone is (both from previous novels AND new characters that were introduced in this book, just with similar sounding names) I found some bits a struggle.

Even though there were all these things that ‘detracted’ from the novel, I REALLY enjoyed it. The story is totally gripping, so much so I spent Saturday morning and ALL DAY Sunday reading it – I literally couldn’t put it down. I’m not a fan of the writing – Larsson totally TELLS not SHOWS – but when a story is this exciting, I can (almost) forgive it.

I went out on Saturday afternoon with my Swedish friend, and we were discussing the trilogy. I told her I hadn’t really enjoyed the Swedish film and she was really surprised. She thought it was brilliant. It made me wonder if the problems I had with both the books and the film, were more to do with the translation (or subtitles in the film) rather than the actual writing. Something I’ll never know unless I learn Swedish.

I’m gutted that Larsson died before these books were released as I think he had a great imagination and I would have liked to read more by him. Very sad. I’m really looking forward to seeing the American version of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

That’s book 2 for the TBR Pile Challenge and book 2 for the Mystery & Suspense Challenge (I haven’t yet reviewed Snapshot but will do tonight or tomorrow). I’m doing so well this year. If only my writing was going so well!

Chick Lit Reading Challenge 2012

Looky what I found a couple of days ago (probably the weekend actually, just not had a chance to do this until now). Chick Lit Challenge 2012. It’s like the Mystery & Suspense Challenge I’ve signed up to, only, obvioulsy, with chick lit novels not thrillers. Woop! That is so my kind of challenge.

12 novels, all chick lit. 2 HAVE to be debut novels which are released in 2012. Woop!

AND there’s prizes each month.

I totally didn’t have to think about this before I knew I’d sign up. I can’t wait. I’m going to have to cause I have a few books on my immediate TBR pile, but I don’t want to have to 😦 Oh well!

If you’re interested in taking part, or want to know more about it, check out Chick Lit Plus’ sign up page here.

Wednesday 25th Jan Check-in

I so have my priorities wrong. I’ve turned the laptop on, planning on having just an hour on it before I go to bed, and what’s the first thing I do? Write a blog. Sigh. I’ve opened the novel document though, and I can see it behind this page, so hopefully as it’s there I’ll work on it.

Like yesterday. Yesterday I wrote –yeeha! Get this – I wrote 1159 words!! Get me. That’s only slightly less than the whole week before! Ridiculous! Still, let’s focus on the good – I wrote 1159 words yesterday! Woop!

I still haven’t really worked out what my problem is with writing at the mo, other than I can’t seem to motivate myself to write ever in January. Or should that be ever unless I have a fixed deadline, or goal. I think that might be my problem with ROW80 – the goals I set are my own. With NaNo or even NovelPI (Novel Push Initiative – Kait from ROW80 fame ran a few years ago) there are set goals that I have to make, and I can’t change them when I feel like it.

Having said that, I know it sounded like it, I’m not quitting ROW80. I’m convinced without it, I would be writing even less than I am now, so it is helping. And it’s really helping with the non writing goals (exercise and reading anyway, today’s probably not a good day to talk about eating…).

And, the biggest reason for me, is the ROW80 community. Without it I wouldn’t have my buddy Laura (Little Rambling Angel), who I must admit I haven’t been in touch with as much as last round, but it’s still great to know she’s there. And I wouldn’t have everyone else in ROW80, the commenters, the like-ers, the bloggers who I read, there wouldn’t be sprints (for me to not join in with – I want to though). I love ROW80. This must be my 4th round now, and I know it won’t be the last.

Guess I should get on with the actual check-in/progress bit of the blog.

Here’s the chart:

 

*sorry, chart won’t upload, I’ll try again tomorrow!

So, since Monday when I last checked in, I’ve done ok actually.

No writing on Monday, but 1159 yesterday and I know I’ll get some today. I wonder if I should lower my ‘test mile’ to below 500 words. Maybe if I set it to 100, it would get me into the habit of turning the laptop on. That’s probably half the battle.

I read a lot on Monday, but yesterday and today it’s literally just been on the tube. This morning I didn’t even get as much reading done as possible as there were problems on the Northern line so I had to WALK to work. Not a problem cause it helped the exercise, but meant less reading.

Tonight though, I got on the tube two stops earlier than usual. I got my book out waiting for the tube, then carried on reading when I got on. After 2 stops I got off automatically (my usual journey is just 2 stops) and walked away from the tube still reading. It took me a good few meters to realise this wasn’t the right stop. Oops. Had to turn around and get on the next train (next one because I couldn’t bring myself to get back on the one I’d just got off!) Idiot. I should pay more attention, but shows I’m enjoying the book.

I’m reading The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest. It’s taken me 2 years to get to a stage where I feel like I can read it again. I loved the previous 2, but they are VERY long, and they’re VERY descriptive and SHOW a lot, so it is hard work reading them. But they’re good stories. The problem I’m having is I don’t totally remember what happened in the last one, so some things aren’t making sense to me. It’s not too much of a problem, because what I don’t remember the police don’t know either, so hopefully we’ll discover them together. The other issue I have with the books is the amount of characters, whose names are so similar (and Swedish, so it’s not like remembering an everyday English name – it takes much more brain power!). Regardless of all of this, I am enjoying it!

Ok, back to my progress.

I’m doing well on the exercise thing. On Monday I just did the usual walk to London Bridge from work – about 20 minutes. Yesterday I did the same, plus a walk at lunch and the gym after work. Today I walked from the tube this morning (as said before). Tonight I had my book club meeting so couldn’t go to the gym. Instead I walked over to the pub instead of getting the bus (3km). After it, instead of getting on at the nearest tube, or getting the bus, I walked to Waterloo, about 15 minutes. Very proud of myself for that.

Eating is kinna ok. Kinna. Monday was almost really good. If I hadn’t have had a yogurt, I would have had under 1400. As it is, I went over by 49. Not the worst day in the world. Yesterday I had a training course where there were biscuits on offer. I couldn’t help it, I had some. Then when I got home, boyfriend found some more. So I had another. Ok, another and a half. I had 1704 calories. All in all, that’s still under 1750 (which I think is my ‘level’ calorie allowance). Today I’ve not worked out. I don’t really want to after the nachos I shared in the pub, the chippy chips I stole of boyfriend’s plate for dinner, and the Chocolate orange I bought (they were in Tesco for £1, I couldn’t resist! Damn Tesco).

I’ve just worked it out. Not as bad as I imagined actually – 1862. Bad, but could be worse. If I do what My Fitness Pal does and subtracts the calories I burnt exercising, 337 I get a net calorie intake of 1525. It’s not the way I want to work it out (I want to have eaten the 1525 AND then have the extra 337 burnt), but still, it’s not bad. Not anywhere near as bad as I thought it would be anyway. I just need to be better tomorrow, and Friday, and for the rest of the month. I will be better. I will, I will…

**add on – I’ve done some writing tonight – 533 of the little things, that’s a GREEN! Woop!

A to Z Reading Challenge 2011

Ok, so I’m a little late doing this, sorry, but better late than never eh!

In late 2010, I heard some people talking about reading novels from A to Z. I thought, what a brilliant idea, and decided to set myself a challenge of doing exactly that in 2011. As I was writing a blog about it, it occurred to me that other people may have the same idea. I googled A to Z Challenge and found this site – A to Z Challenge I didn’t have to start one all by myself!

I started with no plan at all, except to read the A to Z (author surname) in order, and stick pretty much to just those 26 books. In 2010 I’d read about 24 books, so knew I wasn’t going to be able to read many more than the 26.

Of course as time went by and I made my way through the challenge, I found there were other books I really wanted to read that either were a letter way further down the line, or that had a letter I’d already read, or already planned what I was going to read for it. I let myself read a couple of other novels – but only if I REALLY wanted to needed to.

I did cheat a little. Kinna. I didn’t actually finish 26 novels. There were 3 letters that for different reasons I didn’t finish the novel.

Letter L was Girl with a One Track Mind by Abby Lee, I started it and was enjoying it, but it was all about sex, when this girl had it, where she had it and how much she thought about it. Nothing really wrong with that, but I do most of my reading on the tube, I felt embarrassed reading it on the tube, so picked up M, and told myself I’d read L at home. I never got round to it.

Letter O was a really good book – The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell. I got it from the library (a god send, I couldn’t have afforded 26 books in 1 year on top of the ‘really want ones’), and took it to Sweden when I went. I’m not sure if it was on the flight, at the hotel, or our friends’ house, but somewhere I lost it. Typical. I ended up having to pay it in the end anyway. I’d gone on to P while I was away, and just never got the opportunity to go back to it. At some point, I would like to buy it, or borrow it and finish reading it.

Letter Z was a hard one, which I started before a few other letters. I unexpectedly finished the novel I was reading on a Sunday and didn’t have a chance to go and get the next letter. Boyfriend came to the rescue and gave me a Z – Lord of Light by Roger Zelazny. It was sci-fi which isn’t my choice, but I’d borrowed a couple off him in the years previously which I quite enjoyed. Lord of Light was not another one though. I just couldn’t get into, or really understand it. I gave it 50 or so pages, but couldn’t go on. When I gave it back to boyfriend, he said he’d had a hard job getting into it. Sigh.

So, I didn’t make 26 novels, but I started them all. In my book I finished it – yay!

Also, I didn’t review all, or add any of my review to the site, but to be honest, I didn’t find the website too easy to navigate, and lets face it, all I need is a little excuse and I won’t do something. I guess technically if I didn’t check-in, I didn’t really do it. In my mind I did though!

I’m really glad I did the challenge, I read a lot of authors that I’d never had done otherwise, and you know me, I love a challenge. But, I’d never do it again. I found it WAY too constrictive, and because I knew I couldn’t really read many other books, I felt guilty when reading one that wouldn’t go towards the challenge. There were times when I just HAD to read other books – like The Ugly Sister by Jane Fallon and Faking It by Lotte Daley – and there were many, many more times when I wanted to read another book, but just couldn’t. There were also quite a few letters where I was so torn over which novel to read. M was a good example, I had about 3 books with the letter M on my TBR shelf at home. So what did I do? I went out and bought another. Typical! It was New Moon (Twilight) by Stephanie Meyer.

I discovered some brilliant authors because of the challenge though – Jeff Abbott, Allison Brennan, Ilana Fox Rob Ryan, Nancy Taylor Rosenburg and Minette Walters. Weird – most of the new good authors write thrillers… what does that tell me? I say I prefer women’s lit (chick-lit), but it’s a close call. I did discover new chick-lit authors, but when I discovered them, I read them out of sequence and out of the challenge because I just HAD to read them there and then (Ali McNamara and Lotte Daley)

I know all the books are listed on my ‘Books’ page, but here’s a list of them – from A to Z. Just for fun, I’m putting a comment and rating out of 5 after each one – not something I usually do. The ones which I have reviewed have the links to the actual review.

A Kiss Gone Bad by Jeff Abbott – brilliant. Can’t wait to read the other ones in the series – 4.5/5

The Book of Tomorrow by Cecelia Ahern – Prefered her earlier stuff, but still pretty good – 4/5 (I couldn’t choose between the As, so read them both)

Fear the Worst by Linwood Barclay – Loved it, love his work – 5/5

Fear No Evil by Allison Brennan – So happy I discovered her. Can’t wait to read the rest of the series 4.5/5 (ditto the comment re A for B)

The Famous Writer’s School by Stephen Carter – Not what I imagined. 2.5/5

Ex-Girlfiends United by Matt Dunn – Little slow 2.5/5

Past Mortem by Ben Elton – Good, he’s done better, but still good – 4/5

Spotlight by Ilana Fox – Didn’t expect to, but loved it 4.5/5

The Love Verb by Jane Green – As usual loved it – 4.5/5

This Book Will Save Your Life by A.M. Homes – Slow 2/5

A Pale View of Hills by Kazuo Ishiguro – Couldn’t get over the cultural difference – 2/5

The Truth About Melody Browne by Lisa Jewell – Once got into it, really enjoyed – 4/5

The Ice Cream Girls by Dorothy Koomson – Loved every second – 4.5/5

Girl with a One Track Mind by Abby Lee – what I read was good. I will finish it at some point 3/5

Twilight: New Moon by Stephanie Meyer – Not as great as Twilight, but still good. 4/5

One Day by David Nicholls – Took a long time to get into it. Had me crying like a baby at the end though. 3.5/5

The Hand That First Held Mine by Maggie O’Farrell* – I need to finish this – 3/5

Still Thinking of You by Adele Parks – as always a brilliant read from Ms Parks  4.5/5

Every Last One by Anna Quindlen – took ages to get into the story – 2.5/5

Trans Am by Rob Ryan – fast paced, gripping – 4.5/5

Jessie Hearts NYC by Keris Stainton – loved. Better than her first (and, you know –New York) – 4.5/5

Mitigating Circumstances by Nancy Taylor Rosenburg – Brilliant 4.5/5

Die for You by Lisa Unger – Not what I expected in a really good way. 4/5

The Birthday Present by Barbara Vine – slow, slightly boring. 2.5/5

The Sculptress by Minette Walters – Excellent – 4.5/5

The Lost and Forgotten Languages of Shanghai by Ruiyan Xu – Really enjoyed it 4/5

Amrita by Banana Yoshimoto* – again, couldn’t get over the cultural differences 2/5

Lord of light by Roger Zelazny – just couldn’t get into it – sci-fi really isn’t my thing – 1/5

All in all, it was a good year, but I’m glad it’s over and I can read what I want to read, not what’s next on the list!

Another Bad Weekend

I was quite tempted not to write this blog, and to skip yesterday’s check-in for ROW80. But, that would be cheating in my book, so here goes.

Thinking about it more, my weekend wasn’t THAT bad. Just bad on the important things. My goals are:

Eat less than 1400 cals

Exercise more than 30 minutes

Write 500-1000 words

Read (still not decided on a measurement for this).

This is how I did (I know it would be a lot easier if I had the chart, but I forgot to copy or send it to myself at work this morning).

Eating – Pie & Mash Friday lunch, Chinese Friday night and a bucket full of vodka (all with DIET coke though…) so not even going to go there. Saturday I had a crepe at the market, then Indian for dinner (most calorific one I could – Korma!), again lets not go there. For breakfast on Sunday I had a poppdum and popcorn. I made lasagna for dinner with lots of veg, but also had a ton of bonbons. Lets just forget this goal this weekend!

Exercise – this isn’t AS bad. In fact probably pretty good. On Friday, after work and before the pub I walked to the gym, then spend half an hour there (yep, I made the effort before the pub – showering and getting ready there!). Total cals: 370 cals , 52 minutes. Plus, on the way home we got off the tube at the further away stop – so an extra 12 minutes walking – woop! On Saturday we spent a few hours walking round Camden Market. That’s totally going down as at least 30 minutes exercise in my book. Yesterday I walked to Tesco and back. I think it’s about 22 minutes. Still, it’s walking so happy with that.

Writing – next (nothing to say ’cause I did NOTHING!)

Reading – I rented Snapshot by Craig Robertson from the library on Thursday night. I started reading it on Friday morning. I finished it yesterday afternoon. That says SUCCESS to me – woop! Also – brilliant book!

In my head eating and writing are the most important. I guess exercise is up there too, but reading is less so (only because I spend so much time reading anyway). This week, I’m going to concentrate on these three. I was supposed to be going out tonight, but I’m really tired so am not going to bother. I’ve had my main meal today too, so when I get home I’ll hit the laptop and write!

It’s nearly the end of January – my second goal for finishing The Man of My Dreams was the end of January (having not made the first goal of the end of December). I don’t really know how much more I’ve got to write because I’ve kind of changed the direction it’s going in. Still, I COULD get it done in a week. Would be a struggle, but I’m going to try…

I was actually thinking a lot last week about editing the novel. Unlike my usual self, I’m actually really looking forward to it. I think that’s because at the moment I’m a little lost on when the days are – I think they might all be week days with hardly any weekends in between – so want to read it to get it straight in my head. I guess I wasnt to read it then more than edit it. I think I want to edit it too.

If I’m honest, I just want to finish writing it now. I’m not bored of it, but I just want to skip to the next part of this process. Why oh why do I have to work? I bet it would be finished now if I was at home all day! 😉

The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht

‘Having sifted through everything I have heard about the tiger and his wife, I can tell you that this much is fact: in April of 1941, without declaration or warning, the German bombs started falling over the city and did not stop for three days. The tiger did not know that they were bombs…’ A tiger escapes from the local zoo, padding through the ruined streets and onwards, to a ridge above the Balkan village of Galina. His nocturnal visits hold the villagers in a terrified thrall. But for one boy, the tiger is a thing of magic – Shere Khan awoken from the pages of The Jungle Book. Natalia is the granddaughter of that boy. Now a doctor, she is visiting orphanages after another war has devastated the Balkans. On this journey, she receives word of her beloved grandfather’s death, far from their home, in circumstances shrouded in mystery. From fragments of stories her grandfather told her as a child, Natalia realises he may have died searching for ‘the deathless man’, a vagabond who was said to be immortal. Struggling to understand why a man of science would undertake such a quest, she stumbles upon a clue that will lead her to a tattered copy of The Jungle Book, and then to the extraordinary story of the tiger’s wife.

I don’t think I would have chosen this book myself – when I read what it was about I thought it would be quite depressing (set in the Balkans during and after the wars there), but it was chosen for my book group. Each month one of the four of us chooses a few books and the rest of us decide which one we want to read. The other 2 choices were kicked out by other people, so this it was.

I loved it, but then what isn’t to love about a book that has a man getting his arm chewed off by a tiger in the zoo in the first chapter? I don’t think of myself as someone who like anything like that, but for some reason it really drew me in. When I think more about it, some of the thriller novels I love are pretty graphic (Random by Craig Robertson anyone?). This wasn’t a thriller though, it was a literary novel.

I loved the characters, especially the MC’s Grandfather, who you know as a cute little boy with a new found love of tigers, through when he was a young doctor, and then to when he was an old man, with a life long love of tigers.

The story jumps about a lot, so when you start each chapter you have no idea which story it’s going to be telling. I found that off putting to start with, but got used to it pretty quickly; it was good for stopping reading at bedtime – I couldn’t carry on with the next chapter to find out what happened next, because the next chapter was leading on from another story.

This was Tea Obreht’s first novel, I hope it’s not her last. I totally can see why it won the Orange Prize for Fiction in 2011 and I’d totally recommend it to anyone (in fact I have already).

Wednesday’s Check-In – 18th Jan

I really should be writing, but seeing as a check-in is due today, I’ve decided to write a blog instead of my novel. Naughty me. Still, writing is writing, right? (I don’t believe that myself, but hopefully you will!).

I finished The Tiger’s Wife by Tea Obreht tonight. I was reading it for my real life book club (as opposed to online one at www.novelkicks.co.uk). We take it in turns to choose the novel we read, and this one wouldn’t have been my choice. However, I really enjoyed it. Book review to follow! On Obreht’s website, the novel is described as a mystery why the MC’s Grandfather left home when he did and visited the place he did. Going from that description, I could use it for the Mystery & Suspense Reading Challenge. I didn’t think of it as a mystery really, so am torn on whether to count it or not. Maybe I will, but make sure I read 13, you know, just to make sure!

I’ve also been to the gym tonight. I burnt 350 calories in 28 minutes. Result!

My eating today has been pretty good – 1455 calories – only 55 more than my goal. Add that to the 350 burnt at the gym and I’m well under (maybe that explains why I’m so hungry).

Looking at my chart for eating over the last few days, I can see I’ve had 3 yellow and 1 red day. I was quite unhappy about that because I really want more green days (below 1400), but then I thought about what it really means. Yellow is 1400 – 1750 calories. Apparently, because I’m short, I need 1750 calories a day to maintain my weight, therefore every yellow day where I’m eating less, I lose a little weight. Woop!

Exercise is going very well this week too – green days Monday – Wednesday. Since the beginning of the year I’ve now lost 4lb. It’s not masses, but hopefully because I’m doing it slowly, and using exercise AND a healthy diet – rather than a faddy diet – I’ll lose more and keep it off. Maybe I could even get back down to 17lb lower – where I was in spring 2010!

Reading’s going ok this week. Green today and yesterday, yellow on Monday. I need to chose a new book to read to carry on with this – another really good book would be awesome, I’ve had 4 really good books this year. No, 3 sorry. 3/4? I can’t remember. 3. That’s good!

Writing then. Well.

I wrote 591 words on Monday night. I totally didn’t have time before bed, but I thought maybe I’d just write 100 (my test mile) before boyfriend came to bed too. He faffed and I got 491 more than I planned. Woop. Last night we’d had dinner, I was just reading and about to come to the bedroom to write, when… we had a power cut. Oh no! It lasted an hour, by which time I’d gone to bed. When everything came back up, I was too cold to get back up for the laptop. I read instead.

Tonight I gymed, ate, washed up, showered, and now I’m in bed. Writing a blog. I’m going to write some of my novel – at least 500 words. I know I can do it.

How’s everyone else’s ROW80 going? If you’re not doing ROW80, how’s everything else going?

*Update – 590 written tonight – that’s a green day!*