New Year New Thing

The customary way to kick off a new update to this blog is to apologise for my lack of input over the last few months. To sum up in a way that won't take up too much of your precious time, life happened. I am heartily sorry for neglecting my little corner of the internet here. I hope that this thing I'm doing will make these updates more regular and less apologetic. 2016 was a tough old year, wasn't it? It was a year when a lot of stuff happened to me, both good and bad, that made me slightly re-adjust my focus in life (to put it oh so dramatically. It's not that bad I promise.) I started a new job back in September. New-ish, anyway. Still the same company. I was with Waitrose and now I'm at John Lewis. It's been a change for the better, I'm far less stressed and anxious now (that's a whole other rabbit hole of my psyche I don't want to extract into a Word Document right now.) I also increased my hours with my new job, which partly accounts for the lack of cricket updates across my range of social media. The summer was a rough time, I won't go into it, but I stopped thinking about cricket for a few months until the waters calmed and I could think a bit clearer. I'm still at Weight Watchers, still ploughing on with getting healthier and better, just before Christmas I was at 2.5 stone lighter than when I started in September 2015. I know I can push on and get even further. Just don't mention all the cheese and chocolates and biscuits I ate over Christmas. As for 2017? It'll be better and brighter. I'm in a happier place, I've worked out what the hell to do with myself, and I'm taking those steps one day at a time. As part of that, I'm forcing myself to write a weekly update with this blog in the form of a challenge I've set myself. Read 52 books in 52 weeks. Yup, really. Set the bar a little higher, Duncalf. It's a big one, I know, but its achievable. I read a lot when I was a kid, at school and at home, I'd read whenever I could. I fell off that wagon a long time ago, and still read occasionally but I've definitely slipped since I was at school. I own a Kindle, I was given one for my birthday a few years ago, and I found it last week in a box with a critical battery warning on it that required a hard reset and a few hours plugged in to the wall to fix. My house is basically a library, and I'm slightly ashamed that the books contained within it that I've actually read is just a drop in the ocean. I know I can read more, and this is a perfect way to make me do it and stick to a system. I've already told all of social media about it anyway, and as we know that stuff lasts forever. Reading is fun, reading is therapeutic, reading broadens the mind and exercises the imagination. Why on earth wouldn't I read a book every week for a year? I've set myself the following rules. 1) It must be a book I haven't read before. 2).....that's pretty much it. I don't want to cheat and take the easy option of reading a book for the second or multiple time. Which takes series like Harry Potter, HitchHikers and Lord of the Rings out of the question. However I'm not averse to reading other books by the same authors. Which probably means I'll try and read The Silmarillion at some point. We'll see about that. Handily, I started reading a new book last week, which I enjoyed so much I'm treating it as the first book in the 52 week odyssey I'm putting myself on. Don't laugh, but I read the novelisation of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. I saw the film a week before Christmas and I came out of the cinema in an awestruck daze (NO SPOILERS) and in this daze I wandered into Waterstones and saw the novelisation lying there in front of me, Felicity Jones' face staring back at me. I pulled my phone out, decided to spend an Amazon voucher on the Kindle version, and after the post-Christmas/New Year madness at work died down, I sat down to read it. (I'll try to not give too much away about the plot from here on in, but maaaaaybe watch the film first...) I really enjoyed it. Being a "weird nerd" (thanks Mum) I naturally gravitate to that sort of thing anyway. Star Wars was one of the first big movie franchises I ever saw. I have clear memories of being taken to the cinema to watch the 20th Anniversary cinematic rerelease of A New Hope in 1997, at the tender age of 8. I remember being so absorbed by the universe, the characters and the love grew from there and stuck with me all my life. If there's a New Star Wars Thing in the cinema, you can bet I'll be there. I have the kind of imagination where I like to explore around the subject at hand, thinking of how things happened, "behind the scenes" in the sense of the story. What events led to the sequence in this film, where was so-and-so when this was happening. Rogue One satisfied this appetite, filling in how the Death Star plans came to be in the hands of the rebels, an event so briefly mentioned in the title crawl of Episode IV. The post film awestruck buzz made me buy the book, and it wasn't disappointing. Alexander Freed captured the universe perfectly, delving further into the characters thoughts and motives behind their actions. Orson Krennic, in particular, is written in a wonderful way. Believing he's the bees knees in the building of the Death Star, convincing himself  that he's untouchable and the next big thing in the Imperial Military, his thoughts and feelings written on the page added to the snarling and egotistical character portrayed on the screen so well by Ben Mendelsohn. The way he absolutely believes he is the next major player in the Empire, with the knowledge in the readers mind that he isn't (thanks Episode IV!) is superbly done. The man is aspirational, power hungry, and clearly delusional. The film hints at this, the book expands and explores this more. Krennic is by no means the only character to receive this treatment, but his was one that stood out to me in particular. A nice touch of the novelisation is including short Supplemental Data "chapters" of correspondence between characters, often related to intelligence updates or back and forth discussions of the building of the Death Star between particular characters. For those weirdo nerds like me, I really enjoyed reading these, adding even more to development of characters, places and things in the story. Overall a very enjoyable read, enhancing and expanding small details in the already enjoyable film. So there we have it. The first of hopefully 52 updates on books I'm reading. Who knows what I'll be reading next week?   ....I do. I'm going to read Ben Aaronovitch The Rivers of London. See you next week. (Supplemental data - for those of you who've known me for long enough and remember me writing a post about Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice is on the list. Now you know I'm serious.)