Book Challenge Week 2 and 3 – Magic Cops, Foxes, Alcohol.

Bit late on the update again, my apologies. Working alternate weekends might cause this to happen more often. After finishing the Rogue One novelisation, I moved on with eagerness to read Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Based on a few recommendations from my Twitter friends to read the book, and seeing the Amazon reviews describing it as CSI meets Harry Potter, I was easily convinced. I.....mostly enjoyed it. While I loved the idea of a police officer discovering he has magical powers and can take witness statements from the undead, I didn't quite sink into the book as much as I thought I might. It had everything I'd enjoy from literary genres; magic, detective fiction and murder mysteries, I had a really difficult time finishing the book. Forcing myself to finish reading something for the sake of saying I had didn't appeal. Not my favourite book and I'm disappointed because it had everything going for me to like it. I might revisit it at a later date, and maybe the rest of the series. Disappointed by the second book in my challenge, I eased myself back into enjoying reading by reading a very short story by Michael Morpurgo. I've loved his books and writings since I was a child, and The Fox and the Ghost King was absolutely no exception.  A fox cub and his father make their way home from a Leicester City football match, dejected and saddened by their team losing yet another football match, when they hear a ghostly voice asking for help. In return for helping the mysterious voice be found by archaeologists and restored to his rightful resting place, he'd help their football team win the league. The rest, well, you know what happened. My favourite thing about the book is how Morpurgo captured the way the fox cub and his father talk to each other about the football they'd seen in exactly the same way a human parent and child would talk to each other. Their team is the greatest ever, they may not play very well but they'd support them to the bitter end. It could easily have been a conversation between a human father and his son coming home from a sporting event, football or otherwise. The parent might take their child out for some food after a game, the same way the fox and cub scrounge for food out of bins on their way home (onions on pizza is their favourite!). I love children's books that appeal to both children and adults, and this definitely ticked all those boxes. The book didn't take me long to read, I polished it off in about half an hour, and decided to get ahead of myself and read ANOTHER BOOK. Whaaaat. When I decided to make myself do this challenge, I wanted to stop myself sitting in front of my computer or iPad watching YouTube videos every evening. Switch off the computer, take some time to myself and read a book. So of course, I picked up a book written by a YouTuber. You Deserve A Drink is a collection of true stories collated by mixologist, comedienne and YouTuber Mamrie Hart about her life leading up to and beyond internet fame. If you don't know her, she makes semi-regular beverage tutorials on her YouTube channel dedicated to a celebrity she feels deserve a drink that week. Often times, someone in the news, mostly people she can create a clever pun for, with equal measures of swearing, innuendo and fart jokes. I bloody love Mamrie Hart. She has a wonderful writing style, way with words, is hilariously funny, and can absolutely make you a superb cocktail or three. Each chapter and story is preceded by a cocktail recipe inspired by the story she's about to tell. The girl knows her drinks mixing, she's good at it. Next week? Not sure what I'll read. Guess you'll find out. Book Tally 21/1/17 Rogue One: A Star Wars Story Alexander Freed Rivers of London Ben Aaronovitch The Fox and the Ghost King Michael Morpurgo You Deserve A Drink Mamrie Hart

An attempt at a book review, followed by a long overdue explanation.

As I’m sure you’re now well aware, I have a fractured wrist, and as my audio post from yesterday will tell you I had to go to hospital for another check-up and cast replacement. In the slight rush to leave the house yesterday afternoon to walk into town I forgot to pick up a book to take with me to while away the inevitable wait to be seen. So, instead, I swung by a bookshop to find something to read and picked up Aggers’ Ashes, which I have been meaning to buy for a while (initially as a birthday present for Dad which I would then later steal and read after he had, a principle that has been in place for many years now). I did indeed have a long wait in York District Hospital fracture clinic, but I quickly realised an hour had gone by between my checking in at the desk and being called by the nurse. I had been so engrossed in the book and reliving the five Ashes tests I hadn’t noticed the time. I am dealt with fairly swiftly at the hospital and am soon on my way home, arm encased in purple, slightly cheesy smelling rubber for another fortnight. I am now writing this less than 12 hours later and I have finished reading the book.

I will now divert from this veiled attempt at a book review to offer you the following, long overdue explanation. As you’ve also probably guessed from reading my various existences online, I am a cricket fan. The humble beginnings of my support of the sport beginning with That Ashes Victory in 2005 when I was just 15 having spent the previous decade and a half of my existence disliking cricket as much as I could. Anyone who knows me and has spoken to me in Real Life since then will testify that this is the polar opposite of my current state of mind. I sleep in my ODI shirt for goodness sake (don’t judge me, it’s comfortable) and I have a summer job at Lord's to look forward to.

And so, when November 2010 rolled around and the start of another Ashes campaign began I was quaking with anticipation. Over the coming weeks I would ruin my sleeping patterns and required extra strong coffee to stay awake in lectures the following morning. Wrapped in my many blankets and wearing a potentially record breaking number of socks, I lay awake at night listening to Test Match Special. I was checking the antics of cricketing personalities on Twitter on my phone, striving to complete chapters of my undergraduate dissertation, and trying to cope with a Yorkshire winter reigning down outside. I’d often fall asleep with the radio on and wake up at odd times to hear the voices of many TMS regulars in my head, which is VERY odd. By the time we won the Ashes in Sydney I was down South (where it wasn’t any warmer) and had access to Sky Sports. I was awake until way past 4am listening to TMS and generally getting excited about the fact we had won The Ashes on Aussie soil for the first time in 24 years. The excitement was similar to Christmas when, on Boxing Day morning, I woke up to the sounds of various family members gleefully exclaiming the words “98 all out!”

So reading Aggers’ Ashes I remembered all the excitement and high points of the 2010/11 Ashes series. From watching Swanny’s Diaries I can recall the moment The Sprinkler was unleashed and giggling like a child when Aggers performed this dance on the radio (John Cleese’s Silly Walk, anyone?) The astonishment and awe of Alastair Cook’s multiple centuries over the course of the 25 days, the disappointment when we lost in Perth and the frequent explanations of “No, we haven’t won them we just can’t lose now” after Melbourne. Reading the chapter on the fifth test and reliving the final day in Sydney brought a tear to the eye, and remembering that at the exact moment Tremlett took the final Aussie wicket, Radio 4 had cut to the Shipping Forecast. I urge all you cricket fans to read this book if you enjoyed the Ashes and the sport as a whole as much as I do. I have read, or plan to read, previous material by Aggers and his TMS collegues and this is as enjoyable as those, and being a penniless student I find myself listening to TMS more often than watching the TV coverage. TMS offers a highly informative and entertaining view on the days play, and Aggers' tour diary as detailed in the book provides some behind the scenes views and antics of the victorious winter in Australia touring with the media teams covering the event and his own valuable views on what's going on. All served with some nice picture pages at regular intervals in the book, incase you forget what The Spinkler looks like.

So thanks, Aggers. Can I get my copy signed at Lord’s in July? I promise to bring cake.

It is a truth, universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a supercar.

Right. This might actually be construed as a serious blog entry, here goes.

I’ve just finished watching the Culture Show special by the superb Sue Perkins on books and literary habits. In the programme, she discusses the merits and fan bases of thrillers, crime novels and romantic fiction, meeting people such as Ian Rankin, Sophie Kinsella and Ruth Rendall along the way. It was very insightful, well presented (it’s Sue Perkins, so…) and interesting, and has caused me to believe that the time is right to make the following admission, which may come as a shock to some people.

I, Liz Duncalf, am 21 years old, female and an avid reader. But, I have never read Pride and Prejudice. I’ve never read any Bronte novels and I have read no Jane Austen works.

…I’m just gonna let that sink in for a moment.

I can hear the female readers of this blog recoiling in horror. I am awaiting the gasp of shock from my housemate when she reads this (Steph – I’ll put the kettle on and we’ll talk about it) and I know I’ll get abuse for the next few days.

Consulting the BBC Big Read list, there are quite a few other books I haven’t read which puts me in a minority. From the top 20 alone, there are 13 books I haven’t read (the 7 I have include The Lord of the Rings, Hitch Hikers and Winnie the Pooh, just for the record…) The rest of the top 100 is similar, according to the majority I am not as well read as I thought I was.

It’s not that I haven’t ever had the opportunity to read them, anyone who has visited my home down South will realise that we have an extensive book collection courtesy of my Dad, and I even studied English Lit at AS Level. As part of that I read Frankenstein, A Streetcar Named Desire and Hamlet (and a lot of poetry.) Hamlet I love, Frankenstein I didn’t get on with and I have written essay upon essay of the imagery and metaphors of Streetcar (basically, she just wants to be loved and he’s a bastard). Earlier years in school I read To Kill A Mockingbird, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, Of Mice and Men and The Hound of the Baskervilles to name but a few. Love Baskervilles, hate the Shakespeares and am a bit “…meh” about the Steinbeck. Naturally, being a teenager of the Noughties, I’ve read every single Harry Potter book. I have never had, nor have I any inclination to do so, read anything by Stephanie Meyer.

I’ve also read half of 1984. I read half of it before someone told me what happens at the end, so I stopped reading. And I started reading The Phantom Tollbooth at primary school when a teacher took it off me for reading above my literacy level. My Mum told me to read it, what was I supposed to do?

The latest book I read was Thanks Johnners by Jonathan Agnew, before that were two more cricket autobiographies, and I’m reading James May How to Land an A330 Airbus at the moment. I’ve also been reading a Bernard Cornwell book for what seems like a lifetime. I will finish it one day.

I often feel I should read Pride and Prejudice just to say I have, but where is the fun in that? I want to read something because I want to read it, I want to be entranced by the characters and sucked into the world they’re in. I think of reading as being something you do to escape from Real Life for a few hours, not to tick off something on the list of classics to give you more kudos with your peers. Should I prove I am worthy of being a girl by being into reading P&P? I’m quite happy having not read them, and I’m not judging you if you have. I understand why girls love them (apart from the obvious wet shirt scene in the TV adaptation, which I have seen bits of) and why my friends soak up any period drama going.

I guess some people can imagine themselves roaming the grounds of a country estate and taking high tea and larking about in that manner. The character I most identify with from fiction, and I’m still not sure why, is Ford Prefect. I guess we’ll never know. I probably will read Pride and Prejudice one day. I might wake up one day and find myself purchasing the Downton Abbey box set. I’ll one day prove myself worthy of the female sex. Meanwhile, give me cricket autobiographies, science fiction and motoring journalism and I’ll be a happy person.

I’ll still never read Twilight.