Book Haul

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Hi, I'm Mel and I sniff books.

Well, now that I've got that confession off my chest we can do this thing properly. My reading mojo has well and truly departed but that isn't stopping me from eyeing up my "to be read" pile and thinking it should be bigger. I meant to buy just one book but then more kept creeping into my hands and they all smelt so good. Have you ever tried telling a book you're not going to buy it? It's hard! My bank account hates me.

Books to read

Where was I? Ah yes...sniffing books. The one book I actually truly intended on buying/sniffing was Colson Whitehead's The Underground Railroad. I have wanted to read this for months but couldn't find it in any bookstore so I waited and waited until my local Waterstones finally put the damn book right at the front of the store. There is a strong chance I was looking in the wrong place and all the bookstores I visited actually had it. I zone out a lot.

The Underground Railroad is about exactly what the title suggests and it was reviewed by Obama so you know it’s going to be good. I’m slowly but surely making my way through it and I can’t wait to see how the story unfolds.

Books to read

Thanks to The Underground Railroad having the "buy one get one-half price" sticker on it, I ended up with Irvine Welsh's newest book The Blade Artist. I had read about The Blade Artist a few months ago and the concept just did not appeal. A story about Trainspotting's psychopath that is Frank Begbie moving to America didn't sound all that great until I listened to an interview with Irvine Welsh himself. I've skimmed through The Blade Artist and it seems to be written in English unless Begbie is speaking so maybe I'll actually understand it a lot more than Trainspotting.

Following up on psychopaths, Child 44 by Tom Rob Smith was picked up as the cover intrigued my other half and I. You can't have a book haul without a detective story and Child 44 tells the tale of an investigation into a number of child murders in Joseph Stalin's Soviet Union. Why do we refrain from reading nice books?

I asked why we don't read nice books and then I hit you with a book on Cristiano Ronaldo. I feel like I should be ashamed to admit Cristiano Ronaldo is on my freebie list and is probably my most searched for subject on Pinterest but I'm not. Guillem Balague's book on Ronaldo was bought for me as a joke but I've skimmed through a bit of it and it actually seems like an interesting, albeit very easy, read. It has pictures too not that I'm looking at them or anything...

Books to read

A few months ago, Han Kang's Human Acts made my other half walk around for a few hours in a daze so, when we noticed The Vegetarian hiding on a shelf, we added it to the pile. My other half has since finished The Vegetarian and has confirmed it is in fact about a vegetarian. Who would've guessed!

Is there really a bit in Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis where he talks about how his dad showed him how to grow a fingernail to be used as a cocaine spoon because what? Scar Tissue ended up being purchased despite the fact we're not Red Hot Chili Peppers fans because it just seems like a crazy read and I’m down with that.

Books to read

The Power by Naomi Alderman was actually recommended to me by the sales assistant in Waterstones. We were having an in depth discussion about books when she mentioned she had read and loved The Power but didn’t have anyone to talk about it with yet. The Power is a Malorie Blackman Noughts and Crosses sort of deal but rather than reverse skin colour privilege, it’s reverse gender privilege so the women have the power. I’m curious to know how this story is going to play out as, from what I’ve read online, it seems rather hardcore at times.

I really wish I had read more of these books by now but I'm still sitting pretty on page 46 of The Underground Railroad. I've been too distracted by drawing recently to dedicate time to reading and when I do pick up a book, I get distracted by crisps. If I haven't made a dent in this haul by the end of September, I won't buy any more books...we all know this is a lie right? Don't hold me to a lie.

Books of July

Friday, 18 August 2017

I don’t know how it happened but I’ve fallen off the reading trolley. My reading challenge completely fell apart in June and the drought continued into July. I’m struggling to kick my reading horsey into gear and I’m adamant a certain young adult book that shall remain nameless completely threw me off! Maybe it will come back soon but until then 3 books a month is my total.

Books to read

I’ll be honest with you, I actually finished the first book in June but I couldn’t not (the English language is stupid) include it in this post as I loved it so much. *The Blind Side by Michael Lewis is the book that inspired the incredible Sandra Bullock film ‘The Blind Side’ (which you need to watch if you haven’t already) and is so incredibly fascinating for an American football fanatic like me.

The Blind Side predominately focuses on Michael Oher’s story and how he became the player he is today but there is also a nice bit of NFL history intertwined with his life. I practically lapped this book up and conveniently, Sky Sports were showing one of the games from the Joe Montana era that The Blind Side covers while I was reading it. If you have any interest in NFL or even the NCAA (Michael Oher’s NFL career isn’t covered in The Blind Side) then you need to read this book!

I followed The Blind Side up with *Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting. I only saw the film adaption of Trainspotting at the beginning of this year and was eager to read the book once I’d seen T2. Despite being Scottish, I have a hard time understanding Scottish slang so reading Trainspotting took me far longer than I would have liked. It’s mostly written in Scottish slang so I stumbled over a few words (particularly when Begbie was speaking) and I applaud any non-Scot who has managed to read and understand Trainspotting without any issues.

The Blind Side. Trainspotting. Nineteen Minutes.

Admittedly, I didn’t enjoy Trainspotting as much as I thought I would. It’s a great book that explores the never-ending cycle of a junkie but I felt like nothing really happened. I think watching the film first desensitized me to a few scenes in the book so I wasn’t really taken aback by any of it. I’m also tempted into blaming Nikki Sixx’s The Heroin Diaries for my lack of “shock” at Trainspotting as nothing can ever be more disgusting than what he does in a bathroom.

The last book of July is *Jodi Picoult’s Nineteen Minutes. I had wanted another Jodi Picoult book for a while and found Nineteen Minutes in a charity shop for 99p so obviously I had to buy it. Nineteen Minutes made me so incredibly sad and I still don’t think I’m over it yet. It focuses on 2 characters who were once great friends as children until an incident caused them to drift apart. The female character became popular while the male character was bullied throughout his childhood and into his teens. As a result of the bullying, he decides to shoot up his school and Nineteen Minutes explores why someone would want to respond to bullying in the most violent way possible.

The Blind Side. Trainspotting. Nineteen Minutes.

I didn’t pick up on it at the time but thinking back over Nineteen Minutes, I realise how many obvious clichés are tied to the story. The clichés haven’t removed my overall feelings towards the plot but I’d be lying if I said certain ones didn’t annoy me (in particular the guy being a fan of heavy metal which always seems to be the thing the media blames for school massacres). There is also a glaringly obvious hint as to how the story will end which again, I didn’t pick up on. I was so eager to find out what happens next that I didn’t fully analyse the book like I usually would. Jodi Picoult is such a compelling storyteller to the point where my pedantic and analytic ways can’t compete.

I think for the first time in months I’ve managed to avoid reading any duds. Trainspotting may not have been what I thought it would be but I’m happy I finally found out what all the fuss was about (and I now have Irvine Welsh’s new book The Blade Artist to read) and could maybe read it again one day. The Blind Side and Nineteen Minutes are my favourite books of July and I’m tempted into reading The Blind Side again just to ensure all those football facts are firmly embedded in my brain. I’m never going to hit this reading target!

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Prague: A Photo Diary

Thursday, 10 August 2017

If your partner is anything like mine, you’ll know that buying presents for them is about as much fun as pulling out your nose hair. When Christmas rolled around last year I had no idea what to get my fiancé. When I asked him if he wanted anything he had no suggestions and I was left scrolling through the most random websites in hopes inspiration would strike. Fortunately, an idea hit me while I was daydreaming about where we should go on our honeymoon (we haven’t even started planning our wedding but I’m already planning the aftermath) and thus a holiday to Prague was booked. I’m getting really good at giving my fiancé presents that involve both of us.


Our holiday was for a week and I will be the first to admit that a week in Prague is too long; even the receptionist at our hotel commented on the length of our stay. We had read a lot of guides on things to do in Prague and had pretty much done everything by day 3. We’re used to holidays where you rent a car and drive up and down the country so a city break is foreign territory (pun not intended) for us and I think we overdid it.

Jan Hus Memorial Prague
The Jan Hus Memorial in the Old Town Square.

We did the obvious touristy things first. Our flight got us in for 10 am on Friday so we immediately went to the Old Town Square for some people watching and food. There is a strong possibility I was drunk by 12 pm but that just made the one and only torrential downpour that occurred during our stay a lot more tolerable.

Prague park
I have no idea why there are shoes hanging over the park we drunkenly stumbled into but there you go.

After we'd watched enough people, my drunken self was dragged out of the square towards the bridges and we somehow found ourselves wandering up a disgusting amount of steps towards a park. I can’t for the life of me remember if this park had a name but I can tell you it features a lovely portaloo that is dirtier than the toilet in Trainspotting.

Prague castle
The only way you can get a picture of Prague castle without tourists is to point your camera up.

Our Saturday was spent exploring Prague Castle (more stairs!) which gave me the most overwhelming urge to watch Lord of the Rings. It’s the largest castle in the world and you can easily spend half a day there. We refrained from buying tickets for the exhibitions so we wandered around the outside of the castle and also around the gardens. Thanks to our lack of knowledge we had no idea what each building was for so a tour guide would’ve been beneficial but, as organised tours stress me out, we muddled our way through the history instead.

Zizkov TV Tower Prague
Seriously why?

Sunday was my other half’s birthday and it was spent at the Zizkov TV tower and playing mini golf. We were staying quite far out of the centre of Prague so the tower was only a 5-minute walk from our hotel. The tower is a prominent building in the Prague skyline and it looks completely out of place. It also has 6-foot babies crawling up and down it which is just as random as it sounds. We spent an hour at the tower and then the rest of our time was spent in the restaurant below and on the mini golf course. I got my ass handed to me by my other half during our game and I have officially lost my self-given mini golf champion title.

Top Gun Prague
Look at my other half acting like he's a badass!

The following day was spent doing something I never thought I would. I had found a couple of shooting ranges during my research into Prague and we decided to book a slot at Top Gun. We went for the Full Monty package so we were shooting with a Glock 17 pistol, a Magnum Revolver, a shotgun, an M16 rifle, a 9mm Uzi, an AK47 and a Dragunov sniper. I was dreadful with the pistol and didn’t hit my target once but somehow I was perfect with the shotgun despite the fact it practically sent me flying. My other half still beat me in the end but I’m adamant I looked cooler with the guns (just ignore the fact I couldn’t hold most of the guns for more than a few minutes without my arms getting tired).

Prague zoo polar bear
The polar bear reminded me of my dog because apparently I think polar bears and black Labradors are similar...

The hottest day of our holiday seemed to occur the day we had decided to go to the zoo. I am too Scottish to be wandering up and down hills in 39 degrees and probably looked like a minging sweaty mess all day. The zoo was surprisingly quiet (considering it’s the 4th best in the world I was expecting it to be full of people) so at least very few humans saw me completely drenched in my own sweat.

Prague zoo flamingos

Usually, I get quite upset at zoos because the majority of animals look really sad and bored but they all seemed quite pleased with themselves at Prague zoo. The orangutans were having a fight with their blankets and a hedge, the elephants were enjoying a nice swim, the otters were playing with each other and the penguins were enjoying waddling around in the only way penguins can. The only things that didn’t look pleased were the snakes and that’s probably because they could sense my fear. Needless to say, I never want to walk into a dark room and see an anaconda staring at me from a tank ever again.

Prague zoo birds

Thursday was technically our final full day in Prague but somebody (not me for a change) got too drunk at a cocktail bar 2 doors down from our hotel on Wednesday and spent the whole day in bed with a hangover. I did tell him ordering 10 beers was a bad idea but at 99p per beer, he couldn’t resist. It did give me a good opportunity to sample a lot of cocktails that I’d been meaning to try for a long time. Apparently, pina coladas are my new favourite drink.

Other than New York, I don’t think I’ve ever fallen in love with a city before but Prague has totally captured my heart (prepare for a sloshy power ballad moment). It’s such a beautiful city – just ignore the crap graffiti that the buildings are covered in - and it’s a place I'd totally live in. I would happily go back just for the food alone and now I’m doing everything I can to stop myself from booking another holiday there just so I can have more spinach, bean and walnut burgers!

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