The Book Junkie Trial’s Readathon – The Reading List.

I’m taking part in a readathon.

Did I know readathon’s existed before last year? No. Was that because I didn’t watch enough Booktubers? Probably.

I’m 27 years old – and I’m not going to lie, I had to think about it for a second. Time was people would read a book, and then find a select group of friends you could talk about that book with. These people would be the bread and butter of your recommendations and book chat. Without them, your creativity might starve. Or you’d spend a lot of time at the library skimming through things you may or may not actually enjoy reading.

Then came the internet, and an inter-galaxy of opportunities to give your opinion and share reading experiences. And, unfortunately, until now I’ve not had the time to enjoy this outside of ‘reading for half an hour before going to bed.’ But since I’ve become self-employed and I’ve developed a Book Review Blog with my mum, I’ve made the time to read more. Which is why I’m taking part in a readathon.

Last year I set myself the goal of reading (and actually finishing) 12 books. One a month. Shouldn’t have been too difficult except it was. Whilst I was teaching, I couldn’t scrape five minutes for a smoothie let alone the hours it would take for me to enjoy 12 books. I’m by no means a ‘speed-reader’ and it blows my mind that there are wonderful people out there who ‘read the whole of the Harry Potter series in a weekend.’

Just know I’ve seen you. I respect you. I also kinda loathe you.

So I didn’t reach my target. Not even close. But it’s a new year, and I’ve got a new job that works to my own schedule. So I’m taking part in a readathon.

Scribes Map

Naomi (@TeatimewithNaomi) suggested The Book Junkie Trials, which was going to be a fantasy style readathon run by her majesty, Rachael Marie. It was the perfect choice. Her majesty organised a quiz to put you into a team, and I became a scribe. She created a map for each team and little additional ‘trials’ like sharing photos of your TBR and tweeting about your Daemon. Before the readathon had even started, I’d found a thousand new people to follow (only slight hyperbole) and all these like-minded, wonderful people wanted to talk to me about books! Dream accomplished. 

So I thought I’d post this before the readathon starts, because I’m going to be posting more blogs as I work through my reading list. Below is what I’ve chosen and why:

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The Prompts

1. Dwarf Mount: You spot a fair tavern wench, however, the Dwarf Mines, grimey and dusty, didn’t evoke a very romantic feeling. Read a book with a hint of romance to get you in the mood.

I chose Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman. It has been on my general TBR list for a while, and promises passion and pirates! Seemed like the perfect place to start.

2. Apothecary Towers: Where the wizards dwell. Tricksters. They have blind-folded you and randomised all your books, choose a book at random from your bookshelf.

Technically, I didn’t choose this, but Scarlet by Marissa Meyer was recommended to me by a friend after I threatened to give up on the series after thinking the first book, ‘Cinder’ was meh. Nothing wrong with Cinder, it just didn’t hold my interest as much as I wanted it to. And my two favourite characters died so it left me with very little root for. I’ve been promised book two in the series is worth going back for.

3. The Great Library: Ahh the great archives, find and read a book that has been on your TBR forever.

I bought Cruel Prince during the great hype of 2018. Which might not seem like forever ago, but we’re five months away from 2020. Just give yourself a minute to let that sink in. I avoided reading it because those who read and finished it before I could get my hands on a copy did not review it highly. So I kept putting it off and reading other things. So I guess it kinda counts.

4. The Drowning Deep: The Whirlpool… is so…. mesmerising. Read a book with rich world-building that will suck you into its own world, instead.

Because I’m a Scribe, the weakness attributed to me was ‘I spend too much time documenting my findings, so my challenges take longer. I must read a book over 500 pages.’ Turns out I’ve read quite a few books over 500 pages, but not within a month. I needed something with incredible world building and staying power. So I chose The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson. Whilst I was on my MA course, I joined a creative writing group which focused on Fantasy called Moonrakers. So I got to spend a lot of time talking about fantasy with other fantasy nerds and just generally living my best life. Brandon Sanderson was quoted on a regular basis and even though I’ve read hundreds of fantasy books, I was promised by all that this was the author I needed to sink my teeth into. The hype is real, so I hope it delivers.

5. The Bookie Grail: Here you find a lost manuscript, delivered on this forgotten island by a fallen star. Read the group book: Stardust.

So, that’s my reading list. I’ve got 31 days to complete it. Wish me luck!

How long does it take for you to get ready?

Blogger's Daily Routine Timeline InfographicIf you’re one of those magical people who can wake up and just ‘be awake’ I’d ask which demon you sold your soul to and how can I get in touch?

Waking up for me is an ORDEAL! Firstly, why do all alarms ring through your head? Why can’t they lull you awake, gently? And with enough time to become sentient, after that weird fever dream you were just experiencing? I’ve tried using different songs, phone ringtones, the radio. All of it hurts. So once I’m awake I like to lie awake and stare at the ceiling for ten minutes whilst I contemplate pretending to be dead or calling in sick. Eventually, the need the use the bathroom becomes overwhelming and I get up.

When it comes to breakfast, well, this is the laziest part of my morning. I’ll either have cereal or toast if I’m doing it myself. I’ve recently moved back in with my parents (because my MA in Creative Writing has rinsed my account), and my mum likes to have bacon and eggs on toast for breakfast. If she’s cooking, then I wake up to the smells of bacon and it’s a lot easier to be enthused.

Once I’ve eaten, it’s time to shower and brush my teeth. I don’t spend longer than ten minutes in the shower. My hair is quite long, but I find a simple wash once and condition every three days keeps it in good condition. I don’t douse it in hairspray or straighten it very often, so it keeps my hairdresser happy when I see her.

On a dry day, it takes me exactly eleven minutes to get dressed, make my bed, brush my hair and brush my teeth. It’s the only part of my morning where I feel even remotely efficient. Rarely does my underwear match. Rarely can I find two socks with the same pattern, so I tend to stick with at least the same colour. I’ve tried to only buy black socks to that I can pretend I have my life together. But I love a novelty sock. I will not apologise.

On a wet day, it takes slightly longer to get dressed because of the drying process. First, I have to enjoy a cup of tea, a bit of my book or a youtube video. It’s a must, without this part of my day everything else crumbles. Then I lightly blow dry my hair at the root, and towel dry the ends. If I’m sat at my desk/vanity table whilst this is happening, it’s about this time that my cat comes running into my room, screaming, and sits on my lap slowing the rest of my morning down. Whilst I’ve been working from home this hasn’t been a problem – but when I get back to a nine-to-five in September? Well, we’ll burn that bridge when we get to it.

Finally, Makeup.

I timed this bit, because it’s the longest part of my ‘getting ready’ process – which is why it only happens if I’m:

  • Sick – and need to hide how awful I look to the general public.
  • I’m on a date – and need to hide how awful I look to the poor schmuk sat across from me.
  • I’m on a night out with my friends – and I need to hide the fact I’m the Lena Dunham to their Taylor Swift(s).
    • This is a reference to Katherine Ryan’s stand up comedy AKA The hilarious retelling of truths too relevant to my life. If you’ve not seen her Netflix Specials – fix your life immediately. 
  • I’m bored and I’ve got time.

Seventeen minutes to do my makeup. I’m saying that up front so you know in advance that I have no idea what I’m doing. That’s not the expedient ‘I do my make up every day, bit of foundation, bit of mascara and away I go!’ nor is it the ‘Everything I learned from my professional MUA course I’ve put into bite-size chunks for Instagram and Youtube – you’re welcome’. It’s in the chubby middle section of ‘I learned from everything I know youtube and cannot get the cat-eye flick on even the sixth try’.

It happens like this: Wash face, prime face, foundation, concealer, blusher, eyes, face powder (I know this is wrong, but I make no apologies. I’m just doing my best!) eyebrows, mascara, lipstick, check for boogers, maybe take a selfie. Depends how good the light is and how much spare time I have. Filter it. Save for later. I don’t like posting too many selfies at once, I don’t want people to think I’m at that level of self-confidence because I’m not, and they might expect me to do confident things like show up to parties.

I only have one bag that I use on a regular basis, so it has phone, keys and purse already in it. If I need anything else then I’ve usually packed it the night before because, again, I like to pretend I’ve got my life together.

Things that will never be part of my morning routine:

  1. Painting my nails – it never dries in time. I always get it everywhere. If I’m going to make a mess it’s going to be in the cool afternoon time so that I don’t have to worry about spending too much time on.
  2. Exercise – my dad goes to the gym before work three times a week, swimming at the weekends. And this blows my mind. I don’t want to be damp and gross from sweating and then showering in an unfamiliar place. I don’t want to hurt and ache when I walk around the office. Who am I kidding? I don’t want to exercise if I can help it…
  3. Food Prep – there’s something exciting about wondering whether you’re going to eat lunch at a normal time or scrabble at the local supermarket to throw something together in the short break you have. Unless… does leftover Chinese count as food prep?

So what do you think? Could you improve my routine? Or does it sound all too familiar? Leave a comment below, share with your friends and I’ll see you next week!

What are you really bad at?

Oh God. So many things.

Ice Skating – We went as a group of friends to the Gillingham Ice Rink. I screamed every time I let go of the side. It was involuntary. Couldn’t stop myself. When my friend tried to pull me along, I screamed every time she tried to let go. Eventually, I just sat on the side with a slush-puppy and read my book. It’s a lot easier than trying to balance on razors whilst kids half your size and age do tricks in the middle.

Playing Musical Instruments – My mum tried to teach me how to play the piano, but wasn’t strict enough really, and I wasn’t interested so I gave up after three ‘lessons’. And I tried to learn the saxophone. But after two years I’d not really improved so my music teacher said to me, genuine quote, ‘I don’t want to waste your parents’ money anymore. Maybe you should give this up.’

Eating Healthy – Sorry. They invented cake. What was I supposed to do?

Keeping My Room Tidy – I’m one of those people who starts tidying their room and somehow manages to make it worse. I could have a weekly decluter and still manage to have a floordrobe. Currently on my desk I’ve got a roll of binbags, two bottles of nailpolish remover, my IPad, an acrylic organiser with all my sharpies and highlighters, a first aid kit, six prit-stick glues, a remote controller (not sure what for) a black tie, two cds, a pair of scissors, pink post-it notes, a pink hand bag and a blue plastic wallet. Not sure where to put any of it really…

Keeping My Mouth Shut – That filter people have where they don’t give their opinions on something straight away? Never heard of it.

Controlling My Temper – See above.

But hey – we’ve all got our little quirks, right? Right?! These are just the ones off the top of my head. I’m sure, given time, I’ll think of more…

 

Who are your favourites on Youtube?

Below are all the Youtuber’s which aren’t just my favourites – but I 100% recommend and why. So, in no particular order…

ListiclesWhat Culture 

Matt Holmes began What Culture as a direct response to Superman Lives being terrible in 2006. Since then, their web content has ballooned into covering Films, Television, Sports, Gaming, Comics, Science and more. They welcome new content from smaller names, paying per article and the team behind the youtube content know exactly how to keep you interested in films you thought you’d heard everything about already. They review, critique and list quirks about films into nice little bites of awesome perfect for those ‘in-between’ moments like bus-rides and toilet breaks. 10/10 would recommend.

Community Queen USAMeghan Tonjes

This Goddess is the epitome of the Hussle Hard. She’s founded body positive collaborations, appeared on The Ellen Degeneres Show, featured as Catherine The Great in an Epic Rap Battle (nominated for 2016 Streamy Award), has the voice of an angel, the wisdom to recognise trash and the compassion to explain why it’s trash eloquently. And who can forget #bootyrevolution? She knows what she’s about, encourages confidence, and makes me want to be a better human being. So yes. Flame Emoji. Heart Eyes Emoji.

Community Queen UKLex Croucher 

This wonderful human being always seems to predict exactly the content I was waiting for; whether it’s a rationalized and eloquent opinion on the politicised advertisements from Lush, Feminism, Sexy Darth Vader or discharge. She’s one of the few youtubers that I’ve seen encouraging her ‘community’ to engage by engaging with them via twitter on a regular basis – rather than just posting and not responding. She’s the most humane human being on the entire site. #Queen.

NewsPhil Defranco

If you’re ever feeling lost or exhausted by the constant barrage of anti-Muslim media, or Fox and Friends pretending the world isn’t fucking bleak – turn to the Defranco show. Before the PDS, there was SXEPhil. An opinionated hot-headed Italian boy with backward facing caps, too many volatile reactions, and clickbait titles. But over the last ten years or so, Phil’s let people into his world via the vlogs and BTS videos and become one of the few places I go for my news without worrying about ‘fake news’ or biased media. His opinions are still part of what makes his narration of events interesting, but the teenage angst has become something productive and considerate. And the team that works with him are second to none. I hope one day I can buy them all a drink to thank them for their service to the industry (as ick as I’ve made that sound).

“News, it’s what we do here.”

ComedyMike Falzone

I was (metaphorically) introduced to Mike Falzone through his time on SourceFed. He’d had a career as a muscian and youtuber previous, but he was coming into his comedy and stand up career which has since exploded. I’m just waiting for him to come to the UK so I can see him live. That’s the dream. He’s got a show called Mike in the Morning which is a parody of all those boring AF morning and daytime shows – which includes such elements as ‘Reading Tweets from Far Away’ and ‘Bad Furniture’. I’ve contributed to the latter with a gross sink I found on the road with a leaf in it. Mike responded by calling it ‘lovely’. Which made my day.

Video EssaysLindsay Ellis 

So, it’s no secret amongst my friends that I’m obsessed with video essays – and I blame Lindsay Ellis and her ‘Nostalgia Chic’ for getting me hooked in the first place. If you’re not sure if video essays are going to be your thing, have a flick through her content. I’d put money on you finding something worth your time. Nazi imagery in Star Wars maybe? Or the gender battles of Transformers? What about how Rent is the worst musical? Or the history of the Hunchback of Notredam? She’s got something for everyone, I promise.

So who are your faves? Leave me a comment below with any recommendations you’ve got!

Who is your favourite Director?

Okay, so, I did a bit of research into this because I thought the answer was going to be super simple and then it wasn’t. And the reason it wasn’t is that people aren’t super simple. Our tastes change as we grow and learn, but the styles and techniques of the films we love have been immortalised and don’t change. Obviously.

I’m not a film theorist, but something I do enjoy doing is watching video essays exploring film theory, specifically screenplay analysis and critical theories I’m familiar with within literature put towards the visual medium. I promise, if this isn’t the kind of thing you’re looking for, I’m not going to to go in heavy with this stuff (even though I love it!). But if you are interested, I’d recommend checking out the following youtubers: Lindsay Ellis, Lessons from a Screenplay, and Nerdwriter1. But it’s due to my over-zealous nerdiness that I found choosing my favourite director so difficult. It’s no longer about just watching a film and thinking ‘Good Job! – I enjoyed that’, because I’m more aware of the work they’ve put into it.

So here are some honourable mentions:

John Hughes: 

I went through a phase of only watching John Hughes films on repeat, and considering I’m a being with a very short attention span, I think that says a lot! It was all about the dialogue, the soft colours, (sometimes musical interludes) and the sincerity of the stories Hughes crafted. 10/10 John. Would recommend.

Wes Craven: 

“Wes Craven has become synonymous with genre bending and innovative horror, challenging audiences with his bold vision.” – that’s straight from his IMDB page. For me, it was the intelligence it invoked in the audience watching his many, many films and television shows. The Twilight Zone, Scream, Nightmare on Elm Street. His horror films make you feel intelligent with the dialogue and plotting, before pulling the rug from under you and scaring the living daylights out of you. And it’s psychological enough that you don’t have to worry about it not being terrifying on a second viewing.

Sophia Coppola: 

I would describe Coppola as an ‘auteur’ – AKA a director creating content that explores authorship in contrast to the ‘shallow superficiality of Hollywood’ (thanks Lindsay Ellis). She’s a great director, with a distinguished style and personality. And the interior meaning within the work is inherently feminine – which for me is important because I don’t believe femininity should be considered a negative trait at all. She was the first female director on my list when I started thinking about my favourites (which says something about the very heavily masculine world she’s working in). She was almost usurped by Patti Jenkins or Lone Scherfig who arguably have more works and more recent works worth noting, but she’s the queen for me.

Okay so – for the favourite directors:

I took a few things into account when curating this list. The first was the emotional and psychological impact these directors had on me as I grew up. The second was the adult analysis of their skills (with what little qualifications I have on that) and the third was, petty, but the sheer number of 10/10 in their portfolio.

3. Edgar Wright. 

I’ve not met an aesthetic I’ve liked as much as Edgar Wright’s. And if you’re unsure what I mean then check out this video that goes through it. The man is a genius. His style lends itself so perfectly to visual comedy (another video if you’re into it) but he’s also not afraid to let his audience feel. Baby Driver has some really dark moments, framed in bright colours with white noise so you can feel them without feeling rushed to move on with the plot. Hot Fuzz gives you the complete understanding of the main character’s isolation from a short montage of images. Wright spent days filming one shot for Shaun of the Dead because it had to be perfect. His detail orientated, character-driven stories and authenticity are what makes him so bloody fantastic! (in my humble opinion).

2. Joss Whedon. 

Joss Whedon is not a nice person. He’s “allegedly” fired actors for getting pregnant, cheated multiple times, emotionally abused his wife, he’s included rape subplot storylines that seem to be there for the pure conflict of it all, clearly isn’t as pro-feminist as he’d like to be, and his main characters might be female, but they’re tiny and they’re put through the absolute shitter. Excuse my language. But Buffy, Angel, Dollhouse, Firefly, Serenity, and Doctor Horrible are all a part of who I am as a person now. And he directed that shit so…

1. Ang Lee. 

I didn’t even know Ang Lee had such an important role in my film tastes until I looked into it. His subtle genius has given us the best adaptation of my favourite Austen story Sense and Sensibility, Brokeback Mountain, Life of Pi and Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. Do you know how good a film has to be to get a ten year old interested in subtitled films!? And before Marvel created the MCU, Ang Lee gave us Hulk – a film way before it’s time, science fiction and fantasy, action and intrigue. The man’s a genius and well deserving of all his awards an accolades. He is an auteur, and his films are classics for good reason. He’s my number 1.

What is your favourite smell?

Good morning!

I think we can all agree, of the five main senses, smell is the most underrated. It can tie us back to nostalgic memories. Hold onto those heart strings. Remind us of good positive things. Which is nothing to be sniffed at! (Spoiler alert, not sorry. I love a pun and I’ve got a couple more lined up below).

So here’s my compilation of favourite smells!

My first perfume: 

  • DNKY ‘Green Apple’ Be Delicious: £74 (Boots)

A girls first perfume is important. It’s the scent you’re going to have tied to every ‘first kiss’ or ‘puppy love’. All of those formative, pubescent years.

That’s what Green Apple was for me. Before I got my first proper perfume, it was all about ‘So…?’ and ‘Charlie’ body spray. Being given a first perfume was a milestone. Especially as this was a favourite amongst my favourite boys, who described the fact I always smelt nice as a ‘super power’. Nothing super about it, tucked in this orb of deliciousness was the secret. I’ve still got some, for those moments when I want to remember night walks, camping in a broken tent, drinking at the coastal park, kissing in treehouses.

 

My ‘Dress to Impress’ Perfume:

Burberry Touch for Women: £64 (Debenhams)

This perfume was on the other end of the spectrum. Also a gift, a much more subtle smell. I imagined I’d wear it in the vast office of a marketing company, high heels and blazer. Instead, I wore it as a teacher, wearing jeans and a long top so my boss wouldn’t see. Stretching over a whiteboard because I’m only 5’5 and I can’t reach the corners.

I don’t go on a lot of dates, but there’s something about the bottle and the smell that makes me feel – when I wear it – that I’ve got my life together. Even if my socks don’t match and my writing feels stunted.

Smells like my mum:

Most of my favourite smells are linked to my mum. She’s got a fantastic perfume collection, but she always relies on the same two. Paul Smith ‘Rose’ and ‘Dolce’ by Dolce and Gabbana.

For a long time, she wore nothing except Kenzo flower, or Poppy as I called it as a little girl. It’s the smell that, whenever I catch it in the air it makes me think of her. Which is good. I should call her more.

  • Kenzo Flower (Poppy): £64 (Boots) – the original
  • Dolce & Gabbana ‘Dolce’: £49 (Perfume Shop) – what she wears now
  • Paul Smith Rose: £30 (Boots)
  • Jean Paul Gaultier ‘Classique’ for Women: £86 (Boots)

My 2018 Favourites:

  • My Expensive: Prada Candy Florale: £81 (Boots)

Christmas had come and gone, but my birthday was still weeks away. My mum and I were wandering through a department store, wafting all the perfumes on those little sticks and I kept coming back to Prada Candy. My mum saw me pining, and pointed at a gift box that had both the perfume and the body lotion. Reduced to £54.

She made me promise not to open it before my birthday, but didn’t hold me to it.

  • My Cheap: Avon’s Little Black Dress: £7.50 (Avon)

Same year, same birthday, I was given a box of Avon goodies that I was too much an entitled, spoilt brat too appreciate. Inside was Avon’s perfume, little black dress. I refused to wear it. Admittedly, I refused to wear anything that wasn’t Prada Candy at the time. But when I went on holiday, it was the only bottle of perfume small enough to take on a plane. Now the smell is intrinsically tied to adventure for me, and it’s a really soft sweet smell. Which’ll teach me not to be such a scent-snob in future.

Not Perfumes:

Tarte palette In Bloom (Tarte – £41) is Blooming Lovely! (There it is!) Every time I open this palette it has me salivating. Chocolately smells and gorgeous colours. Delicious.

MMMelting Marshmallow Moment B – Bath Melt and Oils. £2.50 (Lush) – If, like me, you’re obsessed with Lush products but are restricted by not owning a bath, then here’s a little life hack for you. The bath melts can go in anything and make it smell incredible. I leave them in my make up case, memory boxes, underwear drawers. So I’m greeted with that sweet sugary smell every time I open them.

I’m not ashamed to admit there’s a strong theme of ‘sugar’ in my favourite smells. I’ve got a sweet tooth, it’s who I am.

But I’d love to know what your favourite smells are! Comment below and let me know if they match any on my list.